So this past weekend was the 2010 US National Championship for the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Held at the wonderful Indianapolis Convention Center, the venue provided more than enough room and accommodations for the thousands of competitors and supporters. With over 850 competitors in the Masters division, I believe this was the most well attended US Nationals ever. With 9 Swiss rounds over 2 days leading up to a top 128 that would span into day 3, this was sure to be one crazy Pokémon filled weekend.
pokemon-paradijs.comI came prepared with 3 different decks: Luxray/Donphan which previously found me success in the form of a 3rd place Battle Roads, Tyranitar/Spiritomb, which I was probably the most comfortable with, having been play testing since Unleashed was released, and a Rogue deck involving Exeggutor LA and Donphan Prime. In the end, I went with the deck I felt best with, TyraniTomb. After adding a super secret tech for the Donphan matchup (arguably the deck’s worst weakness), I was ready to turn in the list and start the tournament.
I won’t go into much detail involving the matches, but I will go over some of the highlights and low-lights. Round 1 was against a girl playing Kingdra/Kingdra Prime. I saw a lot of people playing this card over the course of Nats, some with Gengar SF and others with Donphan Prime. The prize count was her 1 to my 2, but there was an Expert Belted Kingdra Prime with 10 HP left on her bench that I would kill next turn with “Darkness Howl”. However, she topdecked the Warp Point to win the game, as I didn’t have a benched Pokémon that could stand up to a 60 damage hit. GG.
I got lucky and played several Gengar matches throughout the first day, which is arguably my best matchup. The psychic resistance and lack of powers makes it an uphill battle for Gengar, making them rely almost solely on cheap Pixie kills and “Fainting Spell”. I took 2 victories over Gengar, but received my 2nd loss of the day to another Gengar with a Nidoqueen tech. The Nidoqueen healing in between turns made it very difficult to get Gengar to the right amount of HP where you can kill it with Uxie’s “Psychic Restore” to avoid “Fainting Spell”.
A great play during that game was calculating damage so that by the time it got back to my turn, Gengar would have 50 HP left, then I retreated T-tar with Moonlight Stadium in play, promoted Spiritomb, attached a Special Dark, and “Will-o-Wisp” for the KO. (He flipped tails anyway, after all my effort!) Anyway, the game ended on a crucial “Fainting Spell” flip in which I was forced to kill it with a belted Tyranitar. He flipped heads for the game, taking his last 2 Prizes.
So by this time I am 3-2 and know that I have to win out from this point on to make top cut, (my resistance is horrible). The last 2 rounds of the day were both Donphan matches. Now, you might be wondering how Tyranitar can beat Donphan, well, I will explain. Both rounds I used the exact same strategy. Set up T-Tar to fight the good fight, spreading, attacking, maybe even taking out a Donphan himself with “Megaton Tail” and 2 Special Darks.
pokemon-paradijs.comNearing the end of the game, however, when it looks like all hope is lost with all 3 T-Tars in the discard, you promote Shedinja SV to sweep up. Sniping for 30 a turn for a single C energy, Shedinja makes quick work of the benched Pokémon Donphan himself hurts with “Earthquake”, or that you hurt with “Darkness Howl”. Donphan is stuck in the Active Spot, as most of the SSU’s and Warp Points will be used up late in the game, and he can’t touch Shedinja due to his “Marvel Shell” Poké-Body.
It might sound farfetched, and a Nidoqueen tech will make it virtually useless, but it single handedly won me the only 2 Donphan matches of the day.
After a long day, I felt confident being 5-2 and having a whole night to finally get some sleep and rest up for the day ahead, knowing I still had to win out to make top cut. Round 8 started right on time and I was paired up against a potentially good matchup, Jumpluff. Spreading right off the bat could be game winning, taking cheap prizes off of the low HP Pokémon clogging up their bench, or alternatively, gaining a prize lead and rolling through Jumpluffs faster than they can roll through you. I also know that a Spiritomb start would be key, shutting off Jumpluff’s trainer-heavy engine.
Unfortunately, I start with a lone Nidoran and am forced to go first. He opens with Crobat G and a few benched Hoppips. He runs through his resources to get the donk, but thankfully isn’t successful. I Roseanne’s for Spiritomb and Larvitar, attach Special Dark, retreat Nidoran, promote Spiritomb and “Darkness Grace” for Pupitar, knowing I need to get T-Tar rolling right away so I can keep up with Jumpluff when he inevitably takes the first prize off of Spiritomb.
Sure enough, by the time he gets a few Jumpluff into play, I am fully setup with a T-Tar ready for “Megaton Tail”, and T-Tar with Memory Berry ready for “Rage”, and even an Expert Belted Nidoqueen healing between turns. Strangely enough, my only 2 misplays of the entire tournament both involved Nidoqueen. One turn after him using “U-Turn” to switch out to Crobat G, I play my turn and announce “Mega Punch” instead of “Ruthless Tail”……. I accept the misplay, and he is then able to Poké Turn the ‘Bat for just the right amount of damage to “Mass Attack” for the 2 Prize KO.
I got the revenge 2 Prize KO with T-Tar, and from then on I controlled the game with adequate breathing room. He couldn’t 1HKO T-Tar, but I could 1HKO his Jumpluffs. 160 HP is too beastly for Jumpluff to deal with. As I took my last prize he regretted not using Luxray more often and I concurred.
One more game and I am guaranteed to make top cut. It was another Kingdra Prime/Gengar SF deck. Again, a great matchup for me. Keeping my hand small prevented the “Poltergeist” threat, and no Nidoqueen tech made it easy to bottom deck Uxies for the safe Gengar kill. It may have seemed like he had the lead toward the end of the game, as 2-of my 3 T-Tars were prized, but I wasn’t worried with a benched Nidoqueen and Shedinja.
I easily took the rest of my prizes with Shedinja, as the only thing he could do was double “Spray Splash”, which was healed off by the end of my turn thanks to Nidoqueen. Shedinja saves the day again!
So I put my deck in order knowing I made top cut. It feels good making it this far in my first Nationals. There was going to be a 2 hour break before the next rounds started, so I take advantage of it and drive to the Major Taylor skatepark just outside of town for a quick session. It was 90 degrees outside, but the fresh air was such an awesome contrast to the artificial air and lighting we were all overly exposed to the whole weekend. I got back to the convention center with time to spare, and I’m ready for my first top cut match. I am the 36th seed in the yellow pod’s top 64.
pokemon-paradijs.comIt was against a guy who immediately set up sort of a nativity scene of plastic figurines featuring the two main Pokémon in his deck: Gardevoir and Gallade. This good luck charm was a dead giveaway to his deck, and all I could think right off the bat was, I need to kill that Gallade. Sure enough, when he sees me start to set up a Larvitar, he immediately goes the Gallade route, having only to flip 1 measly prize to 1HKO the 160 HP Tyranitar.
I begin to set up Nidoqueen to get the revenge KO on Gallade, which would have easily given me enough momentum to win the game. He asks how many cards were in my hand, knowing there was a good chance I was holding an Expert Belt, which I would need if I was going to revenge KO his Gallade. After revealing I had 7 cards, he plays Judge, shuffling away my Expert Belt.
He then “Psychic Cut”s to kill my T-Tar. Ripping the Expert Belt off the Judge, I confidently push up Nidoqueen, and attach Expert Belt. I manage to Rare Candy into another T-Tar on the bench, and smile knowing he has no backup once the Gallade goes down.
Unfortunately, this is where my second Nidoqueen misplay occurs. You see, I had attached a Psychic energy a few turns before, followed by a Special Dark energy. Apparently, I must have mistakenly thought the Special Dark was a DCE, because I attached my energy for the turn to the benched T-Tar I just Candied into. I announce “Ruthless Tail” for the KO, to which he responds I don’t have the necessary energy requirement.
I reveal the energy, and alas, the “DCE” was just a Special Dark. So as per the rules, I am forced to either pass or announce another attack, in this case “Mega Punch” for 90 damage. He 1HKOs Nidoqueen next turn by flipping his remaining Prizes, and rolls through the rest of my Pokémon with his belted Gallade. This misplay surely cost me the game, and I have been running it through my head non-stop for the past 3 days. Major face-palm moment to say the least.
The 2nd game was an absolute slaughter. He got the unbeatable set up. Benched Palkia LV.X, Garevoir LV.X, and Gallade. With Moonlight Stadium in play, he could gust up any of my Pokémon every turn with “Restructure”, then “Teleport” to Gardevoir, and retreat to kill with Gallade or Mewtwo. This game lasted about 35 minutes and started out pretty even, but once he got the combo he rolled through 5 Prizes in 5 turns for the win.
So that was that! I felt embarrassed knowing that my misplay in Game 1 could have very well cost me advancing in the tournament, but at the same time I felt good that I had made it that far in the first place. Getting a major misplay like this out of my system might even force me to play more carefully in the future. All in all I had a great time and deducted that T-Tar was a good play for Nats. I know the defending World champ Stephen Silvestro also played it and made top cut, though I have no idea what his list looked like. Here is mine verbatim:
4 Spiritomb (AR)
3-2-3 Tyranitar (UL)
2-2 Claydol (GE)
1-1-1 Nidoqueen (RR)
2-1 Uxie LV.X (LA)
1-1 Shedinja (SV)
1 Azelf (LA)
4 Roseanne’s Research
3 Bebe’s Search
1 Palmer’s Contribution
1 Lucian’s Assignment
3 Rare Candy
2 Expert Belt
1 Memory Berry
1 VS Seeker
1 Luxury Ball
2 Broken Time Space
2 Moonlight Stadium
4 Double Colorless
3 Special D Energy
I think this deck is a force to be reckoned with. Post rotation survivability is questionable because of the loss of 2 key cards. Claydol GE makes it hard to grab tech cards like Memory Berry, Lucian’s Assignment, or a DCE when you need it, and no Moonlight Stadium means hard retreating T-Tar or packing the list with 2 or 3 Warp Points. One key logical choice for this deck is VS Seeker and Palmer’s Contribution.
If you were to “Megaton Tail” your only recovery card (Night Maintenance or Palmer’s), you would left out to dry late game if you need to get energy or Pokémon back. With VS Seeker, you can recover Palmer’s (but not Night Maintenance) from your discard after “Megaton Tail”ing it into the discard. To maximize it’s efficiency, it can be used to get a 2nd Lucian’s or a 3rd Judge which could also be crucial.
So there you go! That’s my first Nats experience with my Rogue T-Tar list that actually became very successful. It was awesome to see so many friends in one place and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I even got to meet the man himself, Adam Capriola. Congrats to everyone who competed, can’t wait to see you guys again next season! And to those that got the invite, good luck at Worlds!