Exeter Cities – Sat 14th Jan 2012
I got the feeling I had become a tad boring being a teacher and all, so while my girlfriend and many of my friends popped down the road to Sutton Coldfield for Cities, I decided on what I would coin as my “epic Cities journey,” taking in Exeter on the Saturday and Cardiff on the Sunday.
This involved leaving my house at 4 AM on Saturday to get the 4:20 bus, then waiting in Leicester for an hour before the 5:49 train. Not ideal, but I needed some fun! The night before I got a message from Tom Hall (he of Underground fame, well, he hasn’t written in a while, let’s hope he comes back soon!) offering to pick me up from station and give me a lift to the card shop to save me walking. No agenda, just a good, old-fashioned good deed. Very nice too.
So we arrived in plenty of time to find a field of……seven! Knowing that four would get Championship Points and one was a very new player who wouldn’t be getting any, it basically meant two people missing out. I did not want to be one of them.
After the failure of Chandelure in Nottingham (I may include this report later, I may not – let me know if you’re desperate to read it) I went back to a deck I had been working on since Noble Victories came out. It was CoKE but with Kyurem, Cobalion, Terrakion, and Virizion. I called it “Pokémon the 15th Movie, the Official Deck”. You can guess why. Also, it’s not really official.
Round 1: Alex (Chandelure)
Alex is a lovely local guy who doesn’t travel much. I played him one time before at Nationals where I felt horrible for donking his lone Sableye SF with my Donphan Prime when his Gyarados SF should have destroyed my Speed Donphan. Still feel guilty for that one. Saying that, I did not want to lose to a Chandelure, especially right after abandoning the deck.
So I lose the flip and then turn over my cards to see possibly the worst opening hand I have ever seen. So bad in fact that I committed it to memory: Virizion NVI, Electrode Prime, Rainbow Energy, Rainbow Energy, Junk Arm, Junk Arm, Junk Arm. Now you might be thinking that this is ok because I can use Virizion to “Dual Draw” for a bunch of cards and get started okay. I do this for three turns and eventually on T4 I am able to get an Electrode. I then “Energymite” for…zero Energy.
Alex’s start had been ok and he’d gotten a quick Chandelure NVI/Vileplume UD/Dodrio UD combo and even had Energy on the Chandy, but he only had the one Chandy so I knew that taking this down could give me a way back into the game. With this in mind, I used my second Energymite. I hit zero Energy. From here he can sweep pretty easily.
On the upside, I get to go first this game and it can’t go any worse than the last one!
I start lone Terrakion with four Energy, no Supporters, and two Pokégear. I figured this would at least give me the Collector I needed. I used the first Pokégear and found…nothing. I used the second and found…Cheren. I got a T4 Electrode and was able to Glaciate once before he was really set up. Then he used “Luring Light” to bring my Terrakion active. You know, the one that has a CCCC Retreat Cost. I didn’t want a Terrakion in this game (for this exact reason) but starting with him alone gave me little choice!
pokemon-paradijs.comFrom here my absurd bad luck continues as I fail to find the Catcher for his only Oddish (the other two were prized) and he then proceeds to topdeck a Twins (my earlier Glaciate having killed a Cleffa) to get the Vileplume. I finally get some attackers out, but I run zero for four on Confusion flips and I can’t win.
So, let just remind ourselves of the things that happened over the two games:
– No Supporter T1 either game
– Two Energymites in one game for zero Energy (I run 16)
– Two Pokégear used for just a Cheren
– Failing four out of four Confusion flips
– Opponent topdecking Twins when he only had one Oddish
– Starting lone Terrakion Game 2
Let’s face it, I was never going to win that game!
Round 2: Phil (Ampharos/Beartic/Vileplume)
I’m embarrassed to say that, for the first time in a long time, I cannot remember the name of the guy I played this round. I don’t know that his name wasn’t Phil so we’ll go with that. He was here with his younger brother and was a newer played with a thrown-together deck. He also swore when it didn’t go according to plan. He swore a lot this game.
pokemon-paradijs.comI go first and start lone Cobalion to his lone Mareep. I attach, do a few more funky things and pass. He attaches to Mareep and then uses “Static Electricity” to attach a second Energy. This meant that Cobalion’s two-Energy attack would do 60 damage, less 40 for Resistance, and grant me the first KO. I got a third Energy on Cobalion on T3 and as he only had two Cubchoos the game did not last long.
I start Virizion and use Collector to grab, amongst other things, Terrakion (couldn’t start with him this game could I!?). From here I used a combination of Terrakion, Cobalion, and Switch and, as I had finally had a successful Energymite in this game, I had enough Energy and resources to win comfortably in a very short amount of time.
So I got my win but my deck was not filling me with confidence. Add to this the fact that my resistance was not great now and that with seven people, one per round was getting a (perfect resistance) bye. I knew now that I would not get one.
Still, it’s three rounds so if I win the next one I get points. Wish me luck!
Round 3: Mike (Eelzone)
Mike is a guy I play at most tournaments. He’s a lovely man but, even though I’m a more serious player who needs the points more, he never lets me win! I often come out on top but he ruined my day in Nottingham so I’m wary. In theory my double-Terrakion should allow to win this game quite easily. Yeah!
pokemon-paradijs.comI went first this game and immediately started building a Kyurem, thinking I could wipe out the Tynamos and Magnemites before they became particularly bothersome. Unfortunately he got an early kill on a Voltorb and then I had to use Energymite, putting him 2 Prizes up very early and cutting off my emergency second Electrode that I like to keep for emergencies.
Luckily the Energymite was all I needed to charge my Cobalion fully and with Twins activated I was able to grab a Catcher and KO his only Magnezone. He was able to cycle Magnezones fairly quickly but I was able to take them down while he was forced to get easier two-Energy KOs from my bench due to only having a single Eelektrik out.
Late game it became apparent that my second Terrakion was prized and I was starting to run low on Energy while his side of the field seemed involved in some kind of fancy Energy party. Luckily I was able to get rid of his Magnezones and, knowing he could not keep up the prize exchange with Zekrom or Tornadus, he scooped.
This doesn’t really do justice to how close this was. It really did come down to him running out of attackers just before I ran out of Energy. Tense isn’t the half of it.
Seeing as how close the last game was I was very keen to try and make it a bit easier for myself this time. I start with Cobalion and, seeing his slower start, I decide to hold off on Electrode until I’m desperate. This denies him the free prize, as well as an easy Voltorb KO and should make the prize race a bit easier.
I am able to get a quick Terrakion this game (god bless Switch and Shaymin) and as my second isn’t prized I get him primed and ready for a revenge KO. As soon as the first Terrakion died the second one came up for the Revenge KO and then was off rolling, getting a 1HKO on anything he had.
The big thing I did differently this game was to target the Eels. In the previous game I stopped him getting a Magnezone but he got a T2 Eel and was peppering Energy around all game. In this game I stopped him having one all game (for more than 1 turn) and, though he did sometimes have a Magnezone and was able to get some KOs, he was starved of Energy and was unable to KO the high HP Pokémon regularly enough. Maybe had I given him the easy prizes with Voltorb/Energymite it would have been a whole different story.
I also played my Energy extremely tight this game, keeping just enough on each Pokémon so I had attack options and could Switch into a better attacker when needed, as well as not seeing myself screwed when my attacker got taken down along with all my Energy.
The two Terrakions, along with the lack of Energymite and taking down his Eels, made this game slightly more comfortable than the last, but that’s like saying being hit in the face is slightly more comfortable than being hit in the Poké Balls. Ouch! Fun games……
So I take the win and end up fourth, winning four Championship Points and four packs for my trouble. I’m not sure how much I really deserved it though. My deck didn’t feel all that great throughout the day and I was very lucky that I missed the two Durants. Still, I won’t say no.
As it happened it was good that I lost the first round as, had that happened, I would have played Tom Hall’s Durant, then lost, then played Alex’s Durant, and lost again. Worked out ok in the end I guess.
In the end Tom Hall took this tournament 3-0 beating a Typhlosion in the final round, after a particularly tense disagreement after his opponent knocked his own damage counters off and, as far as anyone could tell, put them back wrong. Alas he was always going to lose the disagreement. Luckily everyone was smiling in the end.
We all played a few games after and then I was planning on sitting in a pub for a couple hours getting happily drunk. As it happened Tom invited me back for tea with his parents. Which went further beyond the call of duty but was absolutely gorgeous and better than sitting alone in a pub for a few hours. I couldn’t tell you the motivation behind the kindness but I would love to implore everyone reading this: Show the love to your fellow Pokéfans! One of the many things that make this game great!
Cardiff Cities – Sun 15th Feb 2012
So, with Exeter in the bag I ended up in Bristol with my friend Tom (neither Hall nor Roberts) where curry was eaten, beer was drunk, and I caught about six hours sleep on a sofa. Then I got up early and caught another train to Cardiff.
Tom Hall (need to use second names with so many Toms!) met me at the station, but this time it was me doing the favor as Cardiff is almost impossible to find as a venue. It’s in the back room of a house accessible from an alley between two terraced houses and isn’t really signposted. So he came and got me and we found the venue.
I should give big props to Cardiff here (and not just because they told me they’d be reading this) because it’s a lovely venue run by friendly people and you can even buy cheap burgers and chips and such that they make there and then. Lovely.
There were 16 people so we had four rounds and, though it wasn’t initially planned, we added a top four at the end. Though I had Zekrom, Chandelure, and Magneboar with me, I kept the deck from yesterday because it felt like we had unfinished business.
Round 1: “My Good Friend” Tommy Roberts (Reshiphlosion)
We play at League every Tuesday so we know each other well and it’s always destined to be a rather nice matchup. He is ranked number one in the world when we start though so it’s not going to be easy. Before we start I tweet how I’m getting ready to beat Tommy and he tweets a picture of my face claiming this is the face of a man about to lose. One of us is going to look stupid at the end of this game.
pokemon-paradijs.comI win the flip and Collector for a Kyurem and a couple Voltorbs. T2 I get myself an Electrode and, although it only netted me a single Energy, that was enough to get Kyurem going with Glaciate. I use a Twins to grab a Catcher to get a 1HKO on Cyndaquil and a benched Cleffa as well as doing 30 to another Cyndaquil, a Vulpix and a Reshiram. On Tommy’s turn he is unable to get any evolutions (the first turn he would be able to evolve) and so on my T3 I use Catcher to get a 1HKO on a freshly bench Cyndaquil as well as the half-dead Cyndaquil and Vulpix.
For those people keeping score, that’s 5 KOs in two turns. Finding himself 5 Prizes down by his third turn, Tommy carried on like a trooper, but he was forced to bench a Vulpix and Cyndaquil just to try and get something going. Unfortunately for him I had used my earlier Twins to ensure that I had enough Catchers to finish out the game.
Tommy went first this game and got himself a T2 Ninetales as well as a Quilava and a Typhlosion. This meant we had a game on our hands! Again, as is customary, I used Kyurem early and often this game to put a lot of pressure on his side of the board. I was unable to spam the 1HKOs of the previous game but I grabbed a couple where I could and, as he did not play Eviolite, I was able to spread a fair amount of damage to his Reshirams and Typhlosions.
As he set up properly this game I had to use two Electrodes to keep enough Energy in play and make sure that I did not run out of viable attackers, but as I had the inherent advantage with Kyurem it seemed like a viable strategy. In the end we came down to 1 Prize each and everything on Tommy’s side of the board has a fair amount of damage.
I had a Terrakion benched with the intention of using “Revenge” for my last prize but without enough Energy Tommy was able to Catcher it, causing me problems as I had no Switch or Junk Arms left this late in the game and Terrakion had a monumental CCCC Retreat Cost.
pokemon-paradijs.comTommy was then able to get his final KO on Shaymin. Unfortunately, even though Tommy is my good friend, I had to call a judge and, to be blunt, I told on him. The reason was: after we had a warning that we had 10 minutes left he took a six-minute turn and won the game with one minute left, ensuring that time would be called before we set up and we’d go to sudden death.
Crucially, it would mean flipping to see who went first rather than it being me automatically. Now I don’t blame him for this and there was no intentional slow play, he was just thinking things through very thoroughly. There’s a reason he’s ranked number one in the world. Even so I told on him and the judge granted us a five-minute extension and we got ready for a short Game 3. I got to go first.
Thankfully I started Kyurem and started setting up with Collector and attaching Energy. T2 I was able to attach a Rainbow Energy and Catcher his only Vulpix, cutting off his draw supply and gifting me an early KO with Outrage. Seeing as we had five minutes to play the whole third game I couldn’t afford to give away a prize with Electrode so I had to play like a traditional 6 Corners build, being very careful with my Energy attachments and spreading them out so that I couldn’t be left without any Energy on the field.
He got a KO on my Kyurem with Reshiram but this took two turns, allowing me to set up another Kyurem as well as getting a decent hit on Reshiram with Outrage (I couldn’t spare the Energy for a Glaciate). I then got the KO on the Reshiram with an Outrage from the second Kyurem and he was unable to get the revenge KO as he played his last turn of the game.
He had only managed to get one Typhlosion out and on his penultimate turn he had forgotten to use Afterburner. When I got the final KO on his Reshiram (who had a DCE attached) I emptied his field of Energy and with no Cyndaquils or Quilavas he was unable to get more than two Energy onto the field in his final turn. This was only enough for an Outrage and meant he could not get the KO needed to tie the game.
So I win and I tweet my victory and Tommy ends up looking a little silly. It was a terribly close match though and there’s a pretty good chance that had he not forgotten to Afterburner on his penultimate turn that it could have all be different. End of the day though, I felt good about my win and moved onto round 2.
Round 2: Mike (Zekrom)
pokemon-paradijs.comMike is a lovely guy who I play at every tournament (see above!!). It’s getting a little silly. I have the wins on my side so far, including the previous day in Exeter but he ruined my day in Nottingham at States when he destroyed me (so easily it wasn’t even funny) so I know not to take him lightly.
I get to go first in this game, which is huge. I figure if I can avoid the early loss I have a good chance of lasting out and seeing a win. I use a Collector to grab two Voltorbs and a Cobalion, to add to my starting Terrakion and hope he doesn’t get any KOs too early. Unfortunately he does as he’s able to get the T1 Tornadus and take out one of my Voltorbs. On my second turn I am able to get the Energymite but I’m then 2 Prizes down and not only am I playing Zekrom, king of the donk decks, he hasn’t even had to burn too many resources to get his 2 Prizes….
Luckily I had my T2 Cobalion ready to go and using “Iron Breaker” to stop his Tornadus. He is unable to do anything other than pass on his turn and I take out his first Tornadus. My Shaymin was prized this game so I had to make sure I played carefully, placing Energy on other Pokémon and ensuring he was focussing on my Cobalion as I used many Catchers to grab his attackers with Energy and stop them attacking.
A couple prizes later I had my Shaymin and used this to set up double Cobalion. During this time he had been taking some easy prizes but I was almost keeping up now and was down to my last 2 Prizes while he had only one to get. Luckily I had only my two Cobalions and both of them had Eviolites/Special Metal, making it especially hard for him to KO anything. From here I used Catchers to take easy prizes and win the game by a single prize while he was able to 1HKO neither Cobalion.
pokemon-paradijs.comWell, I started lone Shaymin this game and, after he was prized last game and I play no Seeker or Super Scoop, it was clear that Shaymin was not destined to feature heavily in this match.
Luckily, although Mike went first, he had a lone Zekrom and was forced to pass without doing, well, much of anything really. I had a T3 Energymite for three Energy and got going nicely, ensuring that Cobalions were up and running to take out his Tornadus that he got going with his T2 Collector (the threat of Terrakion being enough to stop any serious Zekrom presence).
As is customary, I went behind by 2 Prizes but I was able to get a Cobalion to take out his Tornadus. I then stopped him attacking much by constantly hitting the Tornadus with Energy and forcing him to waste Switches, Junk Arms and Energy to get another up to attack.
As with the previous game I managed to get a Cobalion tanking nicely, this time with an Eviolite and three Special Metals, meaning he could not even be 3HKO by Tornadus. I had a second Cobalion and a Terrakion lying in wait on the bench and although he tried to use a Catcher to slow me down, I had enough Switches to avoid being caused problems and I was able to use Shaymin (after he dies and was Super Roded into the deck) to recycle Energy and stop KOs by putting a fresh Cobalion up.
By the late stage of the game I ensured that I had 3 Prizes left and he had two half-dead Tornadus and a Shaymin on the bench. I had used Twins to stock up on Catchers and took my last 3 Prizes, losing only one in the process.
He did make two misplays in the late game which might have changed things though. Firstly he used Junk Arm to grab a Catcher when he should have gotten a Switch, which would have allowed him to attack that turn whereas he then had to pass. Secondly he used Seeker to grab his Shaymin when he meant to get his half-dead Tornadus. I don’t think they would have stopped me winning but having lost too many games to being nice when I started playing I denied him the opportunity to take them back. He understood. Which is nice.
So I’m 2-0 and I know that one more win is likely to put me in top 4 and give me some Championship Points. I’m 2-0 though which means facing another 2-0 and there’s a few good people in attendance today.
Round 3: Tom Hall (Thunderdome)
pokemon-paradijs.comYep, he who has shown such hospitality this weekend. My only previous game against him was at Nationals where I pulled out a win in the best game I ever played. Today I was worried because I can beat Thunderdome, but I didn’t know if I could beat this Thunderdome.
Right, appears that the last report got a bit long so I’ll try and keep this one a little shorter.
He went first in this game. On my first turn I didn’t have a Collector. I did however have two Pokégear. I still didn’t have a Collector! He got a T2 Magnezone and then a second Magnezone on T3. I managed to get off an Energymite but I hit only one Energy and that was that quite frankly. It wasn’t even close.
I started Terrakion in this game and managed a T2 Energymite for three Energy! This got me going pretty darn quickly and, along with a nice little Twins, I was able to start picking off his key Pokémon from the Bench using a couple Catchers.
Unfortunately for me, Tom played Terrakion. In Thunderdome! Against a regular Thunderdome (in fact, any other list I’d seen!) I would have swept nicely with Terrakion as I had a second in reserve. Unfortunately, as mentioned, Tom played Terrakion. This meant I could choose between taking out his regular setup (Eelektrik/Magnezone) or take out his Terrakion (which would need to be a 2HKO). I chose to disrupt his setup and I did, taking three early prizes, but this gave him the opportunity to take out my Terrakion with his.
When I promoted my second Terrakion, Tom had managed to build up a Magnezone and got rid of all his remaining Energy to KO my Terrakion. From here I was low on Energy and I ended up losing by 2 Prizes. I could have maybe focused on Kyurem more for some cheap prizes but it would have taken a second Shaymin and, at the end of the day, the techs he had were too good.
Tom did play another very inventive tech in this deck but, as it didn’t factor into our game, I’m not going to tell you that it is. Tom, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome!
Disappointing but at the end of the day I was undone by a better deck. Thunderdome is a winnable matchup but with his silly-good start in Game 1 and the Terrakion tech there was nothing I could do. Still, I didn’t need to win this game. I just needed one more win and I was in the points baby! There was a straight Thunderdome at 2-1 as well as a Chandelure so I wanted one of them. Will I be lucky?
Round 4: Stefan Rou (Reshiphlosion)
pokemon-paradijs.comWell, Reshiphlosion is a winnable match (as proven in Round 1) but it depends on their start. The consistency of the deck is unrivalled and that’s the problem here. I should also point out here that Stefan went to Worlds last year (don’t ask me how a French Worlds competitor ended up in Wales). Yes, that’s right, I went to a Cities in Cardiff with 16 people. In 4 rounds I played three Worlds Competitors. Balls.
Well, this was eerily familiar. Once again I’m playing a World’s competitor. Once again I go second. Once again I can’t get a Collector for love nor money. Once again they get effectively completely set-up on T2. On T2 he’s got his first Typhlosion and from then on he’s rocking constant Reshirams and there’s nothing I can do.
This game however I get to go first and I get the T2 Electrode and the T2 Glaciate. I also had the Twins in hand so I could get a constant stream of Twins, Catchers and anything else I needed. He actually has a pretty decent hand but he can’t find a Collector so every turn he benched a Cyndaquil and every turn I Catchered it, got the 1HKO and spread damage to his Reshiram. I played this game very well and got the win one turn earlier by playing around with Shaymin to get a Terrakion to finish the game, rather than risk him getting any other Benched Pokémon.
He started slowly this game and I got another quick Glaciate. On T3 I took 2 Prizes from a Cyndaquil and a Cleffa but he was able to bust out a PlusPower and get the 1HKO on my Kyurem as I was unable to find either a Twins when I used Electrode or an Eviolite since. I set up a second Kyurem with a second Energymite but he ran two Eviolites and for the second game he got both of them out in the first few turns.
I got out a Terrakion as well and was able to kill his last Typhlosion, leaving him with only his two Eviolited Reshirams. When time was called I ahead on prizes with one remaining to his two and had just benched a Victini, as well as having Terrakion out and a couple attackers left in my deck. He Catchered and killed my Victini and, because of the Eviolite, I was just short of a revenge KO with Terrakion.
I was then guaranteed to win as long as he could not get the 1HKO on my Terrakion on his final turn. So I put an Eviolite on Terrakion. At which point he used Juniper to draw his entire deck and then Junk Armed away his entire hand to triple-PlusPower for the 1HKO.
I am not going to lie, I was gutted. This is one of the worst losses I can remember. Now don’t get me wrong, Stefan played a hell of a game but the way I played I think deserved a win. Maybe I got unlucky with my horrendous start in Game 1. Maybe he got lucky with his start and his Eviolites. Maybe I didn’t play as well as I could. Who knows?
What I do know is that a win would have comfortably gotten me into Top 4. As it was, I got sixth, behind the four people who went 3-1 and the 4-0. Well, four more Championship Points I could’ve gotten. But didn’t.
In the end Tom Hall went 4-0 with Thunderdome before losing out to George Boon’s Typhlosion/Magnezone in the final when we ran a top 4. Michael Richie went 3-1 but missed the top 4, which was pretty harsh on him.
So, what to think about this tournament? Well, I went 2-2, played well and my deck worked. One of my losses was to a fantastically teched-out deck and one was to a very close game that I feel I should have pipped. I also ended up playing three of my four rounds against people who played at Worlds last year! Then again, at the end of the day, it was another tournament from which I went away empty-handed.
Actually, that’s not strictly true as the lovely people who run the Cardiff tournaments (about whom I cannot speak highly enough!) make sure nobody goes away empty-handed when they give everyone a booster just for playing. Still, no Championship Points for me.
almostrad.netSo, to conclude, I am almost good enough. At States I was one win away from cut where all three of my losses were kinda flukey. At Nottingham Cities I was one win away from cut. Now in that tournament I didn’t play that well and my deck was not as good as it could be but I still had two very bad, unlucky games. Then I went to Exeter and (somewhat undeservedly) pipped four (out of seven people!) before losing in the harshest and closest of circumstances in Cardiff.
Basically, at every tournament, I was almost good enough. I genuinely believe I should be on 14 Championship Points right now. This is irrelevant however as I am on six. This makes Worlds qualification from CPs almost out of the question. Not that I expected to qualify from CPs mind, just would have been nice.
So, what can I do? Here’s a couple small ideas:
1. Play better
I think I’m playing ok in tournaments but little mistakes creep in. In my final game of Nottingham cities I used Communication to grab an Oddish rather than a Pichu. It wouldn’t have made much difference I think but still, it may have helped.
2. Build more consistent decks
Classic one this but a good one. It’s very hard nowadays to make a truly consistent deck in this format but there are things we can do to up our chances. Maybe I’m not doing enough of this. Usually my decks work fine but every so often (see Nottingham States!) it fails. Then it’s bad news bears.
3. Funky Techs
I refer you to Round 3-of Cardiff Cities and Tom Hall’s Thunderdome deck. If it wasn’t for his Terrakion tech I would have won Game 2. But I didn’t. There’s a reason players like Tom go to Worlds every year.
4. Play proper decks
My good friend Tommy Roberts plays proper meta-decks. He has so far played a lot of Gothitelle, Zekrom and Reshiphlosion. He is currently ranked number 1 in the world with 45 Championship Points. Now he’s a good player who uses them well but he takes what works and learns how to use it. This is how good players qualify for Worlds. I have so far played: Stage 1s, Magneboar, Chandeleur and a weird 6 Corners / CoKE variant. Partly this is due to my distaste of mirror matches. Maybe I need to get over this.
5. Test more
I go to league every week. I play online. I test with my girlfriend. Shall we say my regime is not as robust as some good players? This could be a factor.
So, there we have it, some reasons I may not quite be good enough. I’m not saying they’re all true (if they were all true I would not be doing well at all!!) but they’re things to be thinking about. Maybe one day I’ll know the answer.
When it comes to it, you just need to think: Are you really good enough?
P.S. Follow me on Twitter for Pokémon related thoughts and UK News: @thewossy