Hello SixPrizes! I have for you today a Nationals report. I know you’re thinking it’s late, but this one isn’t quite late as that. I also thought you might like to know a bit about one of the less well-known Pokémon TCG-playing countries.
Let me begin with an introduction. My name is Tyson and I live in Cape Town, South Africa. I first played Pokémon during the Base Set days (although rather unsuccessfully) before moving on to a number of other trading card games. Other games I have played include Magic (although that was a long time ago now), Yu-Gi-Oh!, Duel Masters and UFS. Altogether I’ve been playing TCGs for over 10 years, so I consider myself a seasoned TCG player.
I haven’t played Pokémon consistently since I first started, but I did play back in the old EX days for a few years and took the game up again most recently at the beginning of this year. I can’t give a long list of premier events in which I’ve done well, but I’ll talk more about the state of organised play in my country in a moment. I did take 2nd place two weeks ago at the first Battle Roads to be held in Cape Town.
The Pokémon TCG in South Africa
Not going into licensing and distribution of the game in South Africa, which I am not sure of the details of anyway, it suffices to say that a new company took control of the distribution of the game in the country some number of months ago. This also means that someone new is in charge of Organised Play in the country.
Overall it looks like we are making progress: This season is the first one for which we have Premier Events, starting with the Battle Roads I mentioned.
We have been behind with the availability of new sets. Often one had to resort to importing the cards oneself from America or Europe, because it was the only way to avoid getting into a situation where you were 2 or 3 sets behind. That situation is changing. Our release of Boundaries Crossed will fall only a week after the international release and after that we should remain up-to-date.
If you think it’s not too big a deal, think about the fact that you always know what’s coming in the next set because it’s already been released in Japan. Now imagine those cards were available in English, but you couldn’t get them yet and a new set had already appeared in Japan. Well, my point isn’t to complain, but to say things are getting better! So let me get on with the article.
en.wikipedia.orgI’m not sure how well South Africa is known globally, so let me go over a bit of geography. There are currently 14 leagues in the country. Looking at how the players are distributed around the country, there is firstly Cape Town at the Southern tip of Africa.
We have one established league which has been around in some form on-and-off since Base Set days as well as a few new leagues that have started up or are going to start up soon. I usually attend the former league.
The other main concentration of players is in the North of the country in Johannesburg (the largest city) and Pretoria. There are also leagues on the East Coast in Durban and East London. More leagues are intended for the larger inland cities.
Returning to the National Championship I was talking about: It wasn’t an official National Championship in that winning it didn’t earn you a Worlds invite or even Championship Points. It was hosted by the person in charge of Organised Play in the country, and players from all over the country earned invitations and attended. You can think of it as our late Nationals for the past season, which could not take place at the correct time.
The Format and the Deck
pokemon-paradijs.comThe format for the tournament was Black & White to Dark Explorers. Dragons Exalted hadn’t been released in the country at that time.
I’m glad that they made this decision, since the only way to get the new cards would be to order them from overseas. I’m sure you realise the difference that having access to those cards would make to a player’s success in the tournament if they were allowed. Of course one needs to invest in cards to be successful, but Dragons Exalted was just unfairly out of reach of most players.
Alright, so without Dragons Exalted, what archetypes (metagame decks) did that leave available? There was Eelektrik, the kind with no Rayquaza. Darkrai EX decks could also be played, but it would have to be without Hydreigon. Empoleon and other less-often played decks from previous formats were still around. Garbordor and Garchomp were out.
What I was expecting was a field made up mostly of Eelektrik decks. As you’ll see in a moment, I was completely wrong about that and I didn’t face an Eel the whole weekend.
I had been seeing nothing but Eels around at local tournaments for a long time, and I saw no reason for that to change. I also had information from someone who had been at a Battle Roads in Pretoria a few weeks before that they were also playing a lot of Eelektrik.
What I missed was the obvious, everyone was itching to play the new deck on the block: Darkrai.
When it came to deck choice, I was also deciding between the big 2 of the format: Eelektrik or Darkrai. I tried Darkrai EX decks every which way I could think of, but I couldn’t get comfortable with it. Of course, I wasn’t getting enough testing done to really get used to the deck. In the end, I went with what I was comfortable with, Zekrom/Mewtwo/Eelektrik, and focused on the mirror match.
Here’s the list that I played:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 31
Energy – 13
The main difference between this list and one including Dragons Exalted is the lack of Tool Scrapper.
I’ve seen similar Supporter lines in other lists here on 6P and there’s not much point in discussing it since Skyla’s going to mix things up anyway. I’ll just say briefly that I want Juniper or N on the first turn every game, and the Supporters are set up to give me that.
I’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions on Bianca, but the more I play it the more I like it. It has really been pulling its weight and it’s great in the late game. I just don’t want it on the first turn.
If you do want my (entirely untested) five cents on Skyla, I’m going to be giving 4 Juniper, 4 N, 2 Bianca, 3 Skyla, 2 Random Receiver a try and seeing how that goes. I see it as being similar to the old EX days when I would play about 10 draw Supporters (although they were straight draw like TV Reporter and Steven’s Advice in those days) together with 4 Celio’s Network or Professor Elm’s Training Method for search. Doesn’t match exactly, but it’s a starting point.
The other thing that probably stands out are the free retreat Tynamo. As I said, I wasn’t expecting too much Darkrai… but the main reason I play them is to get a first turn Thundurus. With this Pokémon line, it’s very easy to get going fast on the first turn. The only bad starters are the Zekrom.
I’ve noticed a move toward using Paralysis to stall a bit while you set up. I really don’t like it since it’s not aggressive at all. It may just be the way I like to play the deck: It has already got great mid to late-game consistency, if you focus a bit on getting consistent offensive starts, you can pull ahead into a situation your opponent can’t recover from easily.
In putting this deck together I focused very much on consistency. The Supporter line and the use of free retreat Tynamo and Thundurus go a long way toward ensuring that the deck starts smoothly and continues to hit hard.
On the other hand, the attacker line in the deck is actually a bit clunky and I would change it. Dropping the Zekrom would give more focus and ensure a good start, while also making space for a third Eviolite. It’s not something I would like to do – Zekrom is still a great card. It’s an issue of giving the deck more focus.
I would have played just 2 free retreat Tynamo if I had known there was going to be as much Darkrai as there was. I used the Spark Tynamo thinking that I might be able to get a 2HKO on a Eelektrik by combining the bench damage with a Disaster Volt, but when you play free retreat Tynamo you never end up using them to attack.
If you have any other questions on the list, you can feel free to ask. I spent a bit of time discussing it since the core ideas guiding the deck haven’t changed too much in the new format.
The tournament was in Johannesburg and taking place at rAge, which is as far as I’m aware the largest electronics and gaming expo in the country. This meant that I was flying up on the Friday morning to get there for the Swiss rounds… which were taking place on Friday.
I met up with the rest of the Cape Town Masters at the airport in Johannesburg and we managed to just squeak into the venue on time for the first round. There were about 30 players, and we would be playing 5 rounds of Swiss followed by a cut to Top 8.
(Excuse me if there are a few inaccuracies, as I waited a while before writing this and didn’t take any notes)
Round 1 vs. Nelis with Terrakion NVI/Mewtwo EX
pokemon-paradijs.comI won the coin toss but was not happy at all when I turned over my Thundurus to his Terrakion. I wasn’t sure what I was facing so I started to set up my Eels while Charging. He started manually powering the Terrakion. When he benched another Terrakion I began to suspect he was playing Quad Terrakion and decided to go heavy with Mewtwo EX.
I used Thundurus to start to deal some damage so that the Mewtwo wouldn’t be exposed to too many hits. Later he benched a Mewtwo and attached Exp. Share to it, but he seemed to be having difficulty getting Energy into play. I made sure to keep his field that way and catchered his Mewtwo to take two easy prizes with my Mewtwo.
I loaded a Mewtwo to the point where it could 1-hit his Terrakion and started taking KOs. Eventually he had no Terrakion left and I took the game.
He started with Groudon EX and I was worried about getting Tromped, so I Catchered and 2-hit a Kyurem EX while setting up. He got off one or 2 Tromps but was never really in the game. He benched and even promoted his Kyogre EX so that I could take the last 2 Prizes with my Zekrom.
I started Mewtwo with the Spark Tynamo on the bench to his Mewtwo. I was going first and had a Double Colorless in hand. Since he would need to bench Darkrai, get a Dark into the discard, then play Dark Patch and Energy Switch and have the DCE, I figured I’d give it a go. I attached and hit his Mewtwo for 80.
He thought for a bit, then Catchered my Tynamo and passed. I had the Switch in-hand, so I switched and attached a Lightning for game. It was a lucky win as I had nothing else going on in my hand.
Round 4 vs. ? with DMT
(I’m really sorry I don’t remember your name!!)
This was a relatively close game with him making me work for it, but I don’t remember the details very well. I think I set up 3 Eelektrik quite early and was able to apply enough pressure to take the win.
Raikou-EX played an important role in this game and allowed me to put my opponent into a position on the final turn where he had no move that could stop me from taking a prize off a damaged Darkrai on the bench on his next turn. It seems to me that Raikou can be a big deal in this matchup, even if the only thing it does is act a an extra Pokémon Catcher in the last couple of turns of the game. But if you’ve been playing with Raikou you probably know that already.
Round 5 vs. Curtis with DMT
Curtis is another player from Cape Town and only started playing recently. That said, he picked up the game really fast and is an excellent player.
I started somewhat slowly with him taking the first 1 or 2 Prizes. I did get a few Eels set up and KO’d a Mewtwo for my first 2 Prizes. He wasn’t benching another Mewtwo unless he was sure of the KO, so I figured I needed to take some KOs on his Darkrai.
I used N to keep his hand size low. I need to stress how important that was to winning this match. Even a 3 card N can be a struggle for a deck as reliant on items to keep running as DMT is. It’s a natural advantage that Eels has over DMT and a good thing to keep in mind if you are ever facing this matchup.
From there I supercharged a Mewtwo while getting another one ready to take the revenge KO if he used his own remaining Mewtwo to KO it. He played carefully, making sure that his Darkrai had Eviolites and just too few energy for me to take the 1HKO.
I think that I managed to get enough Energy and a Catcher to KO his Darkrai with 2 Energy that had been hiding on the bench. On the next turn, after a bit more juggling, I was able to get enough Energy to 1HKO another Darkrai and take my last prizes.
That put me at 5-0 at the end of Swiss. Two other Cape Town Players were at 4-1, the one being Curtis and the other Gershwin, our league leader, who was also playing DMT. Gershwin had lost to Curtis in Round 4.
On Saturday the other divisions were playing their Swiss rounds, which meant that I could wander around rAge for the day. We had had Cape Town team shirts printed and I didn’t want to wear it while I was playing since it had a Pikachu on it, so I wore it on the Saturday. I kept and eye on what was happening in the tournament and Cape Town was dominating in the Juniors and Seniors as well.
Top 8 vs. Nelis with Terrakion/Mewtwo
pokemon-paradijs.comI was worried about this match because theorymon-wise it was not going to be easy. Between Terrakion and Mewtwo he could hit everything in my deck for weakness. If he got set up.
And that was really the lesson I took away from this match: Countering the metagame is nice and all, but you’d better make sure your deck runs smoothly and consistently so that you can do it every game.
Another thing to keep in mind is that he wasn’t stopping me from carrying out my game plan. I think there is a big difference between anti-meta decks that lock down your opponent from completing their game plan (something like Gothitelle or Garbordor) and decks that merely hit popular types for weakness.
I’ll lump these two games together because they were quite similar. I used Thundurus to put a bit of damage on the table in the beginning and then transitioned to Mewtwo and mopped up with X Ball. These two games came down to pure consistency. I had it and he didn’t.
Semi-finals vs. Curtis with DMT
I get nothing. I play out a couple of turns to see if I can get rolling but eventually realise there’s no chance, so I concede Game 1 to have more time in the other two games.
Game two and 3 were quite similar, so I may get the details a bit mixed around. We both get reasonable starts and I again use N to my advantage once we get down to 3 or 4 Prizes apiece. From there he draws dead for a number of turns, allowing me to take the advantage and the game. I used Mewtwo aggressively and took at least one KO on one of his Mewtwo.
This game was similar to Game 2 but closer. I managed to pull out a narrow victory.
Finals vs. Gershwin with DMT
pokemon-paradijs.comI draw nothing again and try to get something going with a limited number of Eels in play. I can’t keep any Eelektrik in play nor get any attackers going without them. After a while I can see it’s going nowhere and decide to move on to Game 2.
I get a great set-up and lure him into a Mewtwo war in which I have the advantage. I eventually have a Mewtwo with a huge number of Energies on it which I use to finish off the game, keeping another ready on the bench in case he tries to get back into the war.
He went first, starting with an active Terrakion. He attached, benched something else (Darkrai I think) and passed. I had a Mewtwo active with a Tynamo on the bench.
My only Supporter in-hand was an N. Now, normally I’d happily play N on the first turn, but the question was whether he had a dead hand or was holding on to something. Of course, I had no way of knowing which situation he was actually in and I didn’t want to take the risk of giving him a new hand when his hand was dead.
I had a mediocre, but not bad, start and I would have liked to play the N. My instincts were telling me that it would be right to play the N too, but I over-thought it and misplayed. It turns out that he was holding onto something (I found that out from him later) and on the next turn he continued to set up and had a Juniper.
I would like to say that it was a miscalculation that didn’t pay off, but that just isn’t true. The fact of the matter is that I wasn’t handling the stress of playing such an important match well, over-thought the situation and made the wrong play against my own better judgement.
I set up one Eel early on and decided to go with Mewtwo again so that I would have the option to use DCE as an additional source of acceleration, given that I had sacrificed the explosive start by not playing a Supporter on my first turn. I forgo setting up more Eels and focus on the Mewtwos, which was probably also a mistake. He’s learned his lesson after my all-out Mewtwo tactics in the previous game and doesn’t even bench a Mewtwo.
Despite all that, I manage to get prizes and we eventually have 2 Prizes left each. His Darkrai have Eviolite and I don’t have time to KO two Terrakions before he wins. With not much Energy in play I don’t have many options.
During my last turn, I needed 2 Prizes to win, but I don’t have any way to get them. My benched Mewtwo has accumulated 160 damage from Darkrai hitting it on the bench. Even though it has an Eviolite, it isn’t enough to save it. I’ve got no way to take the prizes I need (His Darkrai are 2HKOs at best) or stop him from KOing the benched Mewtwo, so that’s the end of it.
pokemon-paradijs.comSo I ended in second place. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but Gershwin played really well and I’m glad that another player from Cape Town took the title. My misplays in the final caught up with me in the end. Cape Town took first, second and third place, and also took the top spots in Juniors and Seniors.
I learned a lot about the game at the tournament. Playing at a higher level forces you to perform at a higher level and that was something that I really enjoyed.
But I realised something else outside of what I learned about the game. That is the awesome community that we are part of. This was my first time taking part in such a large Pokémon tournament and everyone was just so friendly! I’ve taken part in large tournaments in other trading card games, and it’s just not the same.
This was without a doubt one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It’s not just about the game, it’s about the people fighting against you and alongside you. I might be starting to sound a bit sentimental, but you know what I mean if you know what I mean.
I can’t end off the report without a special thank you to our sponsor. Our accommodation and the flights of many of our players were sponsored by the father of one of our Junior players. It was an amazing contribution and something for which I am very grateful.
And of course thank you to the rest of the Cape Town players, the other players from all around South Africa and the judge and tournament organiser and everyone else that contributed to the running of the tournament. You made it an awesome experience!
Alright, see you next time!