By Nick Kowalski
Since I am a first-time contributor to SixPrizes, I feel a brief biographical introduction is in order:
From Base to HeartGold SoulSilver, I have been playing the game for over 10 years, competitively since February 2004. My biggest accomplishments include: 2005 World Championship participant; 2-time Top 16 qualifier at U. S. Nationals (’05, ’07); 2nd at Regionals (’06); 2nd at States (’05); ranked 14th in North America (after City Championships in ’07). Through playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game, I have networked and interacted with people from around the world, earned several thousand dollars in prizes, and even met William Hung!
This month, I played in two State Championships: Indiana and Michigan. My deck of choice was Dialga G/Garchomp C/Blaziken FB, given my past successes and intrigue with a deck half-focused on the “Deafen” lock strategy (I played Dialga-Palkia lock throughout most of the City Championship season). I believe Dialga/LV.X are both fantastic cards, and when coupled with Garchomp LV.X, can prove overwhelming for any opponent.
Alright, onto the actual report…
Week 1: Indiana State Championship
Date: Saturday, March 13, 2010
Location: Park View Field in Fort Wayne, IN
Attendance: 142 (Overall); 97 (Masters)
Tournament Format: 7 Rounds and Top 16 (Masters)
I started with Dialga. Once I saw Hoppip, which wasn’t until a few turns into the game, I fetched Blaziken. From there, my deck was set on cruise control. I managed to take a four- or 5-Prize lead once she had promoted Jumpluff and KO’d Dialga for her first and only prize of the game. Next, I sent up Blaziken, leveled up, and used Jet Shoot a couple of times FTW.
Round 2: Vs. ? with Breloom/random
I powered up a Dialga early and went to town. He did not have an answer to my offensive. Poor guy. In his defense, he had an energy drought. By the time his wheels began turning, it was all but over, given my absolute board control. I admire the creative concept of his deck, though (too slow to compete with SP variants, Gengar, Gyarados, etc.)
Round 3: Vs. Mike O’Donnell with Dialga/Palkia/Claydol
I saw Palkia and Dialga, which meant that I could not consult the services of Blaziken, for at least a bulk of this match. I drew the first prize or two, but then I hit a wall. I could not draw into anything. At this point, I played Luxury Ball for an Uxie, knowing that if he could stop Set Up with a Power Spray, I would probably lose, given his then-control of the field. Luckily, he claimed that he had one in-hand the previous turn, but “had to” put it at the bottom of his deck in order to draw another card with Cosmic Power.
Boy, did that risky choice come back to bite him. I proceeded to draw into a nice hand of six new cards. I benched a few pokes and even pulled off another Set Up that same turn, knowing well that he would grab a ‘Spray the following turn. Later, I had an intriguing choice to make as to what I should KO with Dragon Rush – a damaged Palkia with 2 energies and an Energy Gain attached or a Claydol. After a bit of pondering, I wisely chose the Palkia. From then on I had control of the game for good. I won by 2 Prizes, at the end, with another snipe-KO with Dragon Rush.
Round 4: Vs. Rich Olsen with CurseGar/Nidoqueen/Flygon LV.X
Kudos to Rich for the original (at least in my mind) Gengar variant – in addition to the 2 Looker’s Investigation AND VS Seeker! I had firm control for much of the early- and mid-game. I had managed to damage his Gengar LV.X, but to my disbelief, he retreated it, benched a Nidoran + Rare Candy into Nidoqueen (Maternal Comfort) and kept it there until it was fully healed. Nice! Once I finally got my Dialga LV.X out, shortly thereafter it left the field, via Gengar LV.X’s PokéPower, which I could not stop due to the then-active Spiritomb. (Oh, it is worth reiterating that I could not prevent Maternal Comfort once my Dialga LV.X was shuffled back into my deck; I had no way of getting it back, either, since I could not use trainers thanks to the active Spiritomb.)
With all of that said, I had a 4-1 lead on prizes due to my swift beginning advantage. However, I could not draw my last prize FTW! The 2 Looker’s Investigation + VS Seeker (translation: a third Looker’s Investigation) certainly kept him in the game. As he was building up a colorless Flygon on the bench, I was building up a second Garchomp C. In fact, I came within one turn of winning – if it weren’t for the third Looker’s (he saw my hand which contained the Bebe’s Search which would have sealed it). Naturally, I did not re-draw it or the Garchomp C LV.X in my new hand of five cards or the card for my turn.
Thus, I was unable to level up and KO a benched Azelf or Claydol FTW. Instead, he proceeded to promote the charged-up Flygon, leveled up just for fun, and KO’d my active with Power Lariat for his last prize. All that in fewer than forty minutes! This game was, by far, the most exciting of the day.
Round 5: Vs. ? with Charizard/Ninetales/Rapidash
I did not expect to play against an all-fire deck. Admittedly, I did not know what Charizard’s body did – “all of your fire Pokémon’s attacks do plus 10 damage for every fire Pokémon you have in play,” or something along those lines. She drew the first prize. Luckily, my Quagsire and water energy were decked. So, I fetched them with Roseanne’s and set up shop. Once my Quagsire had a water energy, another energy, and an Energy Gain attached, I was in good shape.
I use its attack and swapped him with Crobat G for several turns, as she could do nothing to stop it – kind of like the CurseGar + Spiritomb combo, sort of. Late in the game, she promoted Rapidash, which I had not previously seen. Its body prevented Pokémon SP from attacking it. So, I sent up my fully-loaded Garchomp C, leveled it up, and sniped a benched Ninetales HGSS FTW.
I started with Dialga and set up pretty nicely. She started with Mr. Mime, which was null and void as soon as I had leveled up. She had a relatively slow start; she drew into a Nidoran, another Mr. Mime, and a Gastly – all of which, I believe, I ripped through at some point with Dialga LV.X. It was apparent that energy obtainment was an issue for her. Either way, she could not muster enough offense to counteract my SP onslaught. I won this one going away.
At this point, I felt comfortable with my position. However, I had a justified feeling that not all 5-2’s would clear: an assumption that proved to be accurate (just ask Foisy). My deck seemed to be running well, firing on all cylinders…
Round 7: Vs. Brandon Runyon with CurseGar
So I got paired up versus the lone undefeated at table 1.
Flashback: the last time I faced Brandon was at one of the last City Championships in December or January. I had decided to run Beedrill, for whatever reason, giving my Dialga-Palkia deck to one of my younger siblings for the day. I faced Brandon in Round 1 which was the beginning of a long-but-brief day. (I lost my first three matches, but redeemed myself with three straight wins to finish 3-3 :).)
During the here and now, I started with Quagsire, I think. I Poké Turn’d it into a Dialga on my second turn and proceeded to have my way. I got a nice set up relatively early in the game and rolled right through his Spiritomb, Ghastly, etc., with Dialga G LV.X, for which he had no answer. It appears that he momentarily forgot what Dialga LV.X’s body did (he played it in the fall), hence his incorrect belief that Spiritomb’s body remained in-play. He scooped when he realized it was a losing cause.
I am glad that I won my final round, seeing how poorly some of my opponents finished: two of them had abysmal records, while two more tanked. Time and time again, the littlest of details, which are often rooted in pure luck (i.e. opponent randomization, especially early rounds), can have the biggest impact on players’ chances of qualifying for elimination rounds. In essence, having one loss is much better than having two, in a seven-round, less-than-25%-of-players-advance situation.
Anyway, I am the sixth-seed heading into the Top 16.
Top 16: Vs. Justin Czapek with CurseGar
Game 1: Haven’t I versed enough Gengar variants already? Apparently not! Justin and Co.’s CurseGar list had been running well, with all three of them – + Eddie (see next match) and Gillespie – qualifying for the top cut, so I knew that I had to be on guard. If I am not mistaken, he opened with Mewtwo – but failed to get out the LV.X. My Dialga-Garchomp combo panned out nicely in this game. Dialga/LV.X was used, effectively, to negate Spiritomb’s Poké-Body and to implement a “Deafen” lock – preventing him from playing any trainer cards. When the time arrived, Garchomp was called on to snipe his Claydol and something else for easy KOs. Next up, Game 2…
Win, 1-0 (match)
Game 2: I open with Unown G, him with Spiritomb. I go first and attach. He puts 1 damage counter on Spiritomb with its first attack. My turn, I attach again to Unown G, and KO the Spiritomb. Later in the game, I promote an Uxie, level it up, attach a DCE, and KO something. How’s that for power supply – Unown G and Uxie LV.X got ‘er done! He made a late push, managing to take out my Dialga LV.X, but I responded with a beefed-up Garchomp in two turns’ time. With that said, I cruise to a relatively easy victory prior to time being called. Good games, Justin!
Win, 2-0 (match); 7-1 (overall)
Top 8: Vs. Eddie Czarniak with CurseGar
Game 1: So Eddie is playing the exact same list as my previous opponent (and Snowball). I had done well vs. Gengar up until this point, with the exception being my lone loss against Rich which was by a single Prize card. In this game, however, the tables had turned against me. He managed to get an early Spiritomb going vs. my lackluster start, thereby preventing me from using the plethora of trainer cards that happened to be in my possession. Boo.
I knew that Dialga G/LV.X was my only out in the game, so I attempted to take that route. To no one’s surprise, though, once Dialga G LV.X was out, he used Gengar LV.X’s power, which I could not stop, that made me shuffle it back into my deck. Boo. CurseGar can be very effective against any deck that either a) relies heavily on trainer cards and/or b) cannot get to/attack the bench. I scooped once he benched yet another Spiritomb (I had KO’d the previous 2) with a fully-powered Gengar LV.X equipped with an Expert Belt. The prize count was only 5-4 in his favor, if I remember correctly; I felt that if we had played it out, I would have lost in about half-an-hour.
Loss, 0-1 (match)
Game 2: I open with Uxie opposite his Spiritomb, the last thing I wanted to see. I got nothing going early game, whereas he managed to fill his bench and began loading up a Gengar. I gave up toward the end; though I kept playing because I wanted to see more of the deck in action. I could have moved a fire energy off of a nearly-KO’d Dialga (active) onto my benched Blaziken FB with Bronzong G, however I simply didn’t care so much as to do it. It was evident that I had written myself off completely.
Loss, 0-2 (match); 7-2 (overall)
Final Standing: 8th Place
… But then again, if I didn’t scoop so early in Game 1, I could have hoped for a quick win in Game 2 and then tried my luck in a shortened Game 3/sudden death scenario. Ah well – In hindsight, I think I made the correct choice, given the situation at hand. With an overall record of 7-2, a points-boost of about 70 (now 69th or so in North America’s Masters Rankings), the day can be ‘deemed’ (no, not like the Congressional Democrats’ sly parliamentary technique known as ‘deem-and-pass’ for which they, fortunately for them, opted not to aid the implementation of their health care takeover scheme) a successful one – at least for me, personally: My younger sister did not T4 in Juniors, one of my brothers missed cut in Seniors, and the other lost in Seniors’ Top 8. Well, there’s always next week!
Week 2: Michigan State Championship
Attendance: 118 (Overall); 70 (Masters)
Tournament Format: 7 Rounds and Top 16 (Masters)
My list was similar to the one I played the previous week. In hindsight, the changes helped some, though they were made primarily to aid the CurseGar match up (responsible for both losses in previous week), of which I did not play against :(.
At first, the concept of his deck did not appear sensible, though after several turns, the idea came together. Admittedly, I was impressed by the idea, but it is just not viable in this format, on account of the necessary set-up time – and cards! – required for it to function smoothly. Fire weakness didn’t help, but it didn’t negatively hurt him either, because I just couldn’t get it going early, which is not to say that I lacked a way to draw Prize cards. Dialga and Garchomp both contributed. A rather easy win for me.
Round 2: Vs. Anneliese McKeown (AJ’s girlfriend) with Mother Gengar
I open with Unown G, opposite her Gastly. Great – here we go again. But, thankfully, I have my techs! Wrong. I attach a Call Energy to Unown and use it. Next turn I retreat it, send up Crobat, and pass. For whatever reason, I was not thinking that she could Knock Out my benched Unown – But she did, via a Rare Candy + Gengar. The main thing that prevented me from attaching the Unown once it was benched was that I only had 3 Pokémon in play – all of which were ideal SP attackers – and wanted to save room for Energy Gains, I suppose.
She proceeded to get out a Claydol, and later she leveled up to Gengar LV.X, and had a Maternal Comfort ‘queen on the bench. A lot of uneventful maneuvers occurred throughout the match. Bottom line: it went to time, with her up by a few prizes with an opportunity for an additional KO, if need be.
Round 3: Vs. ? (Tracy’s friend) with Kingdra
He flipped over Horsea and I sensed trouble. In my previous match versus Kingdra, I was brutally defeated (at a City Championship). Fortunately for me, his start was far from stellar. He has an early energy and sustained supporter drought. Let’s put it this way: I played 9 supporters before he played his first (similar to one of my matches at Nationals last year, except, I didn’t manage to play a single one :O) Ouch. He managed to draw a prize via an allowed Crobat KO. Aside from an early scare – his Kingdra versus my lone Garchomp – I sailed to an easy win.
After the match, Tracy informed me that it was his first tournament. I believe he finished 3-4 – not bad, for a first timer, especially at States! He made a couple of misplays against me, but on the whole, he did alright.
Round 4: Vs. Ron Marlow with Shaymin/Jumpluff
He had a rocky start, opening with Shaymin. I began my offensive assault with Dialga, saving Garchomp for later. I opted not to kill his active Shaymin LV.X with Blaziken when I had the opportunity, with the reason being his ability to return the favor with Jumpluff the following turn. All he had in play ‘pluf-related was a Hoppip. (Mental lapse: I had forgotten that ‘pluff is a Stage 2, not a Stage 1, though he could have had a Rare Candy in hand…) At the moment, he had only 3 cards in his hand – and neither of them was an energy card.
He top decked a Skiploom, evolved his benched Hoppip, retreated his Shaymin LV.X, and promoted something (I can’t remember). With my questionable choice to forgo a Shaymin LV.X KO early on still fresh in mind, I decided to end its run with Garchomp LV.X (it already had 50 damage on it). His energy drought continued to aid my decision-making process, to an extent. Late-game, I was able to KO a Belted ‘pluff with Blaziken: a game-changer. You see, though, he was compelled to attach the Expert Belt in the first place because he really needed the KO at that point in the game. From there, I cruised to a victory.
Round 5: Vs. Tracy Key with Luxray/Garchomp[/Dialga] => eventual Tournament Champion
Tracy is currently the highest-ranked “Master competitor,” as the State News has dubbed her, in Michigan. I enjoy playing against her; our games either come down-to-the-wire or are over right from the start, per se. I believe our last competitive-play pairing was in the Finals of a City Championship – or was that our second-to-last meeting? – that was decided in a Game 3 sudden-death (1 Prize) format, with her taking the crown. We had gotten some quality play-testing in prior to IN States, which was nice for me, since up until that point, I hadn’t touched a deck of cards in nearly two months.
Back to the action…
I figured she had the game in hand after just the third turn – a hunch that proved to be correct, for two reasons: 1) She managed to have an early KO, opposite my rough start, and 2) She had an ideal bench in place, with a prepared answer for any one of my threats. After falling behind by a few prizes, I made an attempt to claw back into it over the course of two turns: first, in response to a KO by something (I can’t remember), I promoted my Promo Croak, attached a P Energy and an Energy Gain, and placed heavy damage on it.
Next turn, I Poké Turn’d Croak, promoted Garchomp, leveled up, attached a DCE and an Energy Gain, and took out a benched guy; her active fainted in-between turns due to Poison. But from that point forward, she proceeded to have her way with KOs, field control, etc. Perhaps, I will end my losing skid against her next time?
Last season – or the season before – AJ handed me my second loss which, in the end, prevented me from making top cut (finished 4-2). This season, he would do the same…
From the beginning, I knew it would be an uphill climb, seeing as my opening hand consisted of an Uxie and SIX trainers/supporters. To boot, I had to go first. He starts with Chatot MD, Toxicroak Promo, and fetches Dialga and Baltoy with Call Energy. Early on, he decided that Dialga would be his go-to attacker, with a benched Garchomp handy in case I had a threat – which I did. On the second turn after I had benched my Blaziken, it was sniped by Garchomp LV.X. Great – there goes my chance at getting back into the game (I found myself behind due to my slow start).
With a Dialga + three M Energies (all Special) attached, I knew that Blaziken was my only out. Unfortunately for me, I had slid my Aaron’s Collection from my hand into my prizes when using Time Walk. D’oh! I simply could not draw into any other card that could retrieve Pokémon from my discard pile. Adding insult to injury, he Chatter-locked me toward the end. I played it out, anyway, hoping for a misplay on his part – but it was not to be.
Of note, we began a few minutes late for an approved reason. I thought we had received a time extension, but in the end, I suppose that was not the case. It did not matter in this instance, but such a problem may arise again in the future, and if it does, I plan to negotiate with the head judge prior to beginning, to be certain.
Clearly, I did not fair too well against the AJ-girlfriend combo on this day.
Well, I figured I hadn’t a shot at making top cut. I was wrong; in actuality, I had a slim chance, as one 4-3 ended up sliding into the elimination rounds. Either way, I was certainly deflated after just losing my second in a row, though both losses were at the hands of two quality opponents. As a result, I end up playing my final match half-focused, in a cordially “fun” manner, if you will.
I start out alright. When I went to sniff out my Quagsire, I realized my W Energy was prized. So I had to Time Walk in order to rearrange it in my prizes, so I know which prize to draw first. I believe that I allowed him to take the first prize off of a Crobat KO at the mercy of Magmortar. Once I had access to the Water, I powered up Quags, and placed heavy damage on his water-weak Pokés. If I remember correctly, I, foolishly, focused on using Garchomp’s Dragon Rush attack to kill stuff on his bench instead of attacking his active Magmortar, so I fell behind by a prize or two in the process.
I know, it sounds a bit fuzzy – and rightfully so. Remember, my mind wasn’t all there, though it should’ve been, given the slim-but-existent chance at making the top cut and ratings points implications. …So it came down to a flip; it was a battle for the final prize. As the time limit was nearing, and he was in a position to draw his final prize, I needed to promote Garchomp in order to pick off a benched foe. I had Promo Croak active with 80 damage on it. Since I hadn’t a Poké Turn in my hand – or any way of searching one out of my deck – I had to rely on a successful “Leap Away.” (N. B. I only drew into a single Poké Turn throughout the length of the game.)
Essentially, I was rolling for the game: heads I win, tails I lose. And it was…a heads. With that, I sent up Garchomp (with an energy already attached), used Aaron’s to get back the LV.X, leveled up, and attached an energy + an Energy Gain FTW. Good game!
I did not care to check the final standings for awhile. When I did get around to it, I was shocked to find out that a 4-3 finished 16th – but it wasn’t me.
Final Standing: 22nd Place
-My brother for winning Seniors: his fourth State Championship in five years
-My sister for winning Juniors, in her fifth tournament (first-year playing)
-My five-year-old brother for finishing with an impressive 3-2 record in his third-ever tournament
-Losing to a Spiritomb-less Gengar list
-Consistently poor starts versus Tracy in competitive play (ironically, I tend to begin with strong opening hands, draw in our practice matches)
-The media (I have a feeling this will remain on my ‘slop’ list for the foreseeable future)
Hopefully, I will play well enough at Regionals to warrant another tournament report. Best of luck to all at Regionals!
P. S. If you wish to correct or fill-in any missing aspect of my report, please feel free to leave a comment.
P. P. S. If you found my tournament report helpful or entertaining, pleasurably witty or insightful, I suggest you check out my blog @ nicholaskowalski.wordpress.com, become a fan on Facebook (Nick Kowalski), and follow me on Twitter (@NKowalski).