11th Place at a Regional or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the TCG

pokemonworldchampionships.comHey guys, my name is Paul – aka makiri – and I am a long time VGC player now entering my second year in the TCG. I finally got the courage to write about one of my tournament experiences here for SixPrizes. I attended the Northern California Regional a couple weeks ago and to be perfectly honest my finish was a bit of a surprise to me. But first a little bit of an introduction of my TCG career versus my other love, the VGC.

While I do fancy myself as an accomplished VGC player (3 Regional wins, 2 other Top 3 placings, Top Cut Nationals), I started dabbling in the TCG in 2011 after Worlds, and after a slow start to my TCG career I had a good run toward the later part of the TCG season going undefeated in Swiss (9-0) and ultimately finishing 3rd at California States and 2nd place at two different Battle Roads.

At 2011 Nationals I piloted my choice deck at the time to a 4-1 Day 1 Record (with my only loss to 2-time World Champion Jason Klaczynski), and I was stuck with a difficult choice. I had loads of faith in my deck but I am also primarily a VGC player.

pokemon-paradijs.comWhat my decision came down to was confidence – my deck was Darkrai EX/Smeargle UD and I had been running amazingly well with it, but I was not nearly as confident in my VGC team (which is entirely forgettable). I played some practice matches with my VGC team prior to Day 2 of TCG and I just was not feeling it – I decided to play TCG for the rest of my Nats.

I finished Day 2 with a 2-2 record which put me at 6-3 overall and 73rd in my flight, not enough for Top Cut. While I can look back and feel some remorse over choosing TCG for Day 2, I can’t, I made the right choice considering the circumstances and my position.

Now this brings us to Fall 2012 Regionals. I still play the TCG and my season has not been going so well, as I only went to two Battle Roads and only managed a 3-3 record at both. I chose a deck I liked, but it didn’t yield results I was looking for, so this turned into a big inner-struggle for me when Regionals rolled around.

I knew I had to choose a new deck for Regionals since my Battle Roads deck was not up to snuff. While I was not entirely confident in it, the deck I chose had everything I wanted in a deck.

The Deck

Pokémon – 9

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Mewtwo-EX NXD

2 Terrakion NVI

2 Sableye DEX

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Bianca

3 Random Receiver


4 Ultra Ball

4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Dark Patch

4 Energy Switch

2 Switch

2 Tool Scrapper

2 Eviolite

1 Super Rod

Energy – 15

8 D – Basic

4 Double Colorless

3 F

This deck has everything I wanted out of a deck for Regionals. I have Energy acceleration with Dark Patch and Energy Switch, I have lots of consistency with Sableye and a glut of Supporters, I have a fast attacker who can take advantage of some Evolution decks in Mewtwo, and a Pokémon that can handle 2 of the most popular decks with Terrakion.

I chose this deck the night before between several other Darkrai variants because of all the aforementioned things included in this deck. There are a few changes I would make to this deck though since my lack of playtesting did reveal some minor holes during tournament play.

1. Drop Super Rod

pokemon-paradijs.comThe theory behind this card was sound – my Terrakions and F Energy are limited, and if I need them back this card would help me out of jams. While the theory was sound, actual play proved it was largely useless. Terrakion is important enough to want to put on my bench when I get it.

Generally I never needed more than one Terrakion to turn the tides of a game, so Super Rod just never saw use.

2. Add Bouffalant DRX

I already play Double Colorless Energy so powering up Bouffalant isn’t difficult, but where it shines is its anti-EX properties. The built in Eviolite and 120 damage attack really causes problems for Pokémon-EX like Darkrai-EX, but also after two Night Spear snipes, most Pokémon-EX are now in range of Gold Breaker, netting some easy prizes.

3. Add Energy Search

I had too many problems trying to get Terrakion attacking – I whiffed a few important F Energy drops that certainly could’ve won me a few games easier. Energy Search provides deck thinning along with “extra” copies of my Energy when I need it.

The Tournament

Well tournament day was upon me and I was pretty nervous. I hadn’t playtested my deck very much, so I had to pick up on its strengths and weaknesses really fast if I want to do well. Sorry for some of the short recaps, but Regionals took place 2 weeks ago and I’m just now getting around to this report.

Round 1 vs. Ellon

Ellon was using the deck I expected to popup most, RayEels. This deck is scary because of the unlimited damage Rayquaza-EX can do making KOs on other Pokémon-EX relatively easy, but I knew through experience that if you take out Eelektrik you edge the game in your favor.

That is how this game went – I was able to power my Pokémon up quickly and take out his Pokémon in quick succession. Since he can’t get Rayquaza-EX attacking he can’t take any prizes and I take this match easily 6-0.

Win – 1-0

Round 2 vs. Alex

Alex was also using RayEels, except this time Mewtwo-EX reared his head and KO’d Alex’s only Pokémon on the field, netting me an easy win on the first turn. I played this deck almost exclusively for games like this. Mewtwo-EX can end games before they even begin, putting any deck with evolutions in serious trouble.

Win – 2-0

Round 3 vs. Gabrial

I was feeling good about my deck now, I just wrapped up 2 quick wins over the most common deck, but now my next match was going to be a problem. Crushing Hammer is an exceptional card, and if the Hammer user can get heads consistently, the game really becomes an uphill battle for his opponent.

Well, combined with my opponent almost never flipping tails for Crushing Hammer and me not drawing anything that I needed, I lost pretty handily.

Loss – 2-1

We have a lunch break here but nothing exceptional happens except experiencing terrible San Jose traffic trying to get somewhere to eat.

Round 4 vs. Recco

When my opponent flipped over Stunfisk DRX I knew I was going to be in for a weird game, and it turned progressively weirder with each Pokémon he played down. He played a Fighting/Electric deck that didn’t have any Eelektriks for Energy acceleration, but he was able to stay in the game because of his amazing luck with Battle City (he probably flipped only a couple tails for Battle City) and a very timely Mewtwo-EX.

Darkrai-EX was next to useless in this match because of all his Fighting Pokémon, so I had to rely heavily on Mewtwo-EX and I lost my first one to his own Mewtwo-EX. The game came down to the wire with my Mewtwo-EX loaded with 7 Energy taking a KO per turn while he tried his hardest to get a Mewtwo-EX down. He couldn’t do it in time and I eked out the win.

Win – 3-1

Round 5 vs. Justin

wizards.comAfter that close match I was ready for something a bit less mentally intensive and came across another RayEels. Normally I am a very easy going guy and don’t let poor opponent’s mannerisms get to me, but Justin had quips for every situation that just continually put me on tilt, and combined with some of his ridiculous luck drawing into the cards he needed I just wasn’t having this match anymore and lost in something resembling a game.

Loss – 3-2

Round 6 vs. Beatrice

I find out prior to this match that X-2 is the dropoff for top cut, so if I want to make cut I need to win the rest of my matches. Beatrice was using a Darkrai/Sableye deck with a ton of Tools that became difficult to play around. She was able to take out my Terrakions with Dark Claw powered Darkrai-EXs which put me in a tough position.

She had what I felt were a few misplays, and late in the game I Junk Hunted for 2 Pokémon Catchers that would enable me to pull out the win.

Win – 4-2

Round 7 vs. Simon

Simon had come from Canada to play and was using another RayEels deck. This match went a lot like the other RayEels matches in that I was able to take control quickly and he just couldn’t recover. I felt bad for basically eliminating someone who came from so far, but it had to be done.

Win – 5-2

Round 8 vs. Demitri

pokemon-paradijs.comI’ve known Demitri for awhile now and this match was basically for top cut – the winner would move on and the loser would bubble out. He was playing Darkrai/Hydreigon with a Reshiram-EX tech, however I was able to set up exceptionally fast and put him on his heels.

His Reshiram-EX tried to mount a comeback late, but my setup was just too much for him and I claimed victory. Demitri would later go on to bubble in VGC as well, so it was not the best of weekends for him.

Win – 6-2

The final standings are displayed and I made top cut at 19th with a 6-2 record and my opponent for tomorrow would be Reed, a former Worlds runner-up. Top cut won’t be played until Day 2 of the Regionals and will conflict with the VGC tournament, so I have a big choice to make.

Do I continue in TCG with a top cut spot assured or do I take my chances in VGC where nothing is guaranteed. If I drop TCG I will be starting from square one again and have to work for a new top cut spot. A friend in Texas dropped after getting Top 16 in TCG at his Regional and was then faced with some terrible luck in VGC, finishing out of top cut at 4-3.

I decided to go for the sure thing and not tempt fate. I was going to try my best at TCG top cut, and if I end up losing early I do have a chance to make it into VGC.

Top 32 vs Reed

As I mentioned Reed is a former Worlds finalist so I have my work cut out for me right off the bat. Reed was late coming in and almost suffered a game loss, but he was able to narrowly beat the start and we were going to have a full series.

Game 1

Reed was playing Darkrai/Hydreigon and the speed of my deck showed in this game – I was able to attack turn 1 with Mewtwo-EX versus a Deino. He is forced to bench Shaymin-EX just to try to stay in the game, but Mewtwo-EX just continually pounded him turn after turn and he could not withstand the assault. He scoops early so time isn’t a huge disadvantage for him.


Game 2

pokemon-paradijs.comI don’t remember much of this game, but there was a lot of back and forth action and at one point I had a huge opening if I was able to Retaliate with Terrakion. I think my only Supporter was N and we were both at 4 Prizes, but I needed the F Energy to attach to Terrakion and take a Retaliate KO on his Darkrai-EX.

I end up having to waste that turn by not getting the F Energy and passing. His Sigilyph DRX is a major problem throughout this game as my only Pokémon that can KO it is Terrakion and I was having difficulties getting it going. I lose this one and prepare for Game 3.


Game 3

Game 3 was really tight. It started like Game 1, but he was able to withstand my assault and get Sigilyph out to wall my Pokémon-EX. I keep track of his Blend Energy because they are extremely important in this match since either Hydreigon or Sigilyph attacking me causes major trouble.

At one point he has to discard 1 Blend for Ultra Ball so that was 1 down. The next 2 Blends were placed on Hydreigon, so I play extremely risky and power up a Mewtwo-EX with enough Energy to KO his Hydreigon. He not only loses those 2 Blends, but one of the most important pieces to his deck synergy.

The game continues to go back and forth, and finally that last Blend appears on Darkrai-EX. He makes the mistake of placing it on Darkrai-EX because if he had placed it anywhere else I think he would’ve won. I am able to not only power up Terrakion, but I Catcher his Darkrai-EX with the Blend and 1HKO it.

He is visibly upset as he knows he made a mistake and that he lost the game right there. We go through the motions but there is nothing he can do and I win it.

Win – 7-2

Even after that series of games, VGC has not yet started and I can still make it into VGC if I choose to drop prior to my Top 16 match. However I am stricken with guilt – I can’t just beat someone, especially on a misplay, and drop. I’m sure Reed wouldn’t have enjoyed that at all. I stick with my guns… again who knows what could happen to me in VGC?

Top 16 vs. Chris

Chris and I have traded blows a lot recently. We met in two top cuts of Spring Battle Roads and I’ve had one of the greatest games in my life against him. Chris is a great guy and I can’t say enough good things about him, but once again, we are enemies.


Chris is playing a Darkrai/Mewtwo deck with Roserade DRX 15 support which should make for a good matchup. I contemplated playing a deck just like his prior to the tournament, but I wanted Terrakion too much.

Game 1

This game was very one sided. I took KOs early and often with Mewtwo-EX and he scoops extremely early in the match not wanting to risk going to time.


Game 2

A much better game and we trade KOs often. I don’t think I whiff anything important during the match, but his deck’s consistency really showed in this game. He got set up into a game winning position that I recognized was unsurmountable for me and I decided to scoop.


Game 3

This was also a close game – the end of the game was really going to anyone. He has 1 Prize left and I have 3, I have a Darkrai-EX with no damage and a Sableye with 30 damage on my bench. He has a Darkrai-EX active that I am about to KO, a Roserade with 30 damage and a smattering of other things that don’t pose an immediate threat to my Darkrai-EX.

I play N which brings him to 1 card and Night Spear to take 2 Prizes and put 30 damage on Roserade which now stands at 60 damage, 30 damage from a KO. Basically no matter what he can do – barring Catcher and an Energy – I should win this game by KOing that Roserade with a Night Spear.

Just my luck, he draws Catcher and a Dark Patch to attach to his Darkrai-EX, Catchers my Sableye and wins the game.

Loss – 7-3

I am pretty heartbroken over that loss, it was a game I should’ve won, but just like VGC, TCG can often come down to some luck and it just wasn’t with me on that play. VGC is well into Round 2, so my Pokémon Regional is done with an 11th place finish in TCG.

The Reflection

en.wikipedia.orgSo after it was all said and done, what did I get out of my experience? I certainly don’t regret my decision to skip VGC and finish out my TCG tournament. I was 1 play away from reaching Top 8, and who knows what could’ve happened from there.

I was confident in my decision to go with the for sure thing, and looking at a friend’s decision to drop TCG and then not make top cut of VGC, it reaffirmed my decision to go with what was working. I could always look back and think “what if?” but I feel thinking like that is just not good for a Pokémon career.

Everyone has ups and downs playing Pokémon. One tournament you can go X-0 and win it all, and the next you could languish in the basement. I will probably continue to flip-flop between VGC and TCG just because both communities of players are filled with amazing people and the game experiences are totally different.

If the allure of VGC sparks your interest make sure to check out our up and coming website NuggetBridge – we would love to spread the love and get more people interested in VGC. Heck, maybe sometime you will have to fight some inner conflicts about which game to play day 2!

Reader Interactions

11 replies

  1. Adam Capriola

    Nice going Paul. I think you definitely made the right decision – most people would be ecstatic to make top cut in the TCG, let alone top 16! You made it that far, so you might as well have kept going.

    • Paul Hornak  → Adam

      Thank you for the chance to write for SixPrizes and yeah that seems to be the consensus among my friends, keep going where I’m winning.

  2. Jordan Saba

    Love the movie ref lol. Congrats on the top cut for Regionals(!) and thanks for posting your VGC site. I’ve been looking for somewhere to go to improve my VGC skills. Smogon has been pretty helpful so far but their VGC community seems fairly small compared to how many players go by their established metagames.

  3. Anthony Ramos

    Wow I topped with so many celebrities and I didn’t even know it! Wish I knew before so I could tell you good luck! But anyways great job on topping and good luck in the future!

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