Small Tournaments vs. Big Tournaments: Preparing for the ECC

Hey guys, this is Mathias Lunnan Bjørnstad back with another article. I have had some tournament success this season and am currently sitting at 300 Championship Points which is why I feel quite comfortable discussion this format and haven chosen to appeal to the European readers and talk specifically about a large upcoming event: the ECC.

european cup photo

For the people who do not know, ECC stands for European Challenge Cup and is the Pokémon equivalent of a European Championship. It takes place in the Netherlands and this year the tournament starts on Saturday 9th and ends Sunday 10th of February.

While the Points given away aren’t more than that of a Regional tournament, with more than 200 players from all over Europe, the tournament is quite prestigious.

For Norway, the ECC is a pretty personal tournament. Last year five Norwegians made it into top 32 and Benjamin Behrens took 2nd, Tord Reklev acquiring 4th, and Stian Nilsson with 5th. We do of course hope to not only replicate last year’s placements, but do one better.

The ECC is a big tournament, last year attracting 228 players in the Master division with 8 Swiss rounds and a top 32 cut. With the Netherlands being a pretty inexpensive country to travel to and the Pokémon TCG ever growing, I expect even more players to attend this year.

Going into a tournament of this magnitude requires a different thought process than Battle Roads, City Championships, and Regional tournaments. In order to do well, it is important to realize the differences between a smaller event and something as big as the ECC.

The Basics

1. Long Days

snorlaxMost tournaments last only one day and depending on how well organized they are, the events will usually end soon enough for people to get home before too late.

Larger tournaments are different. They are guaranteed to be 2 days long, and with 7 or more Swiss rounds and the log in period always being delayed by a couple of hours, because of the large amount of players, day one might end late at night.

This will cause a lot of sheer physical stress, which is important to pay attention to.

2. Stay Satiated

Simple factors such as staying hydrated, getting a good night’s rest, and being focused are important. This might sound dull or redundant, but I see a lot of players that actually forget such things and lose games because they are tired or let their ego get the better of them.

Buy drinks and snacks before ever starting playing, and for goodness sake, sleep! This is something that you will benefit from in both small and big tournaments though, but for something as big as the ECC it’s quite important to consistently drink and eat throughout the entire tournament.

3. Mindset

dark-kadabra-team-rocket-tr-39pokemon-paradijs.comEntering the tournament with the right mindset is another important thing. This is perhaps the most underrated factor in the Pokémon TCG.

Whenever you enter a tournament, try not to think about the mass of players or how it is to hold the winner’s trophy. Think about your next match and what you are to do in case the worst case scenario comes through.

Also, never get angry because of a lost match or a bad draw. This will only hinder you win further matches.

4. Take Notes and Research

Bringing a notepad might not be a bad idea when entering such a large event with players you may not have seen before. Try to finish Swiss round 1 as quickly as possible and then go around noting down decks in order to assess the ECC metagame is a smart plan. Of course, you must exit the playing area after finishing the match, but watch the other games on your way out and from the stands.

A notepad is also good for writing down opponents’ hands from mulligans or noting weird tech cards and such. It is a good way to keep focused and notice things you might not without it.

Research and playtesting are incredible tools that I use a lot because I do not think of myself as a naturally good player, and instead I pride myself on being a good researcher and deck builder. This is extremely important in order to succeed at a large tournament like the ECC.

In smaller competitions I feel that you should research and playtest in order to figure out a deck that can effectively beat the most competitive and popular decks.

In bigger events, like the ECC, there are going to be a lot more players and the chance to meet weird decks is always a possibility. Therefore, when preparing for this tournament, figure out what the most played decks in Europe are and play a deck that is consistent and has a solid matchup against them all.

In case you meet something unexpected, at least your deck will set up and be playable.

The Metagame

I am a big fan of our current metagame, believing it to be the best one since I came back to Pokémon TCG last year. While the truth is that games end a bit quickly and the starter rule is stupid, skill is much more important than before and there is a lot of variety. There is a little bit of everything for everyone:

landorus ex boundaries crossed 89– For the sweet tooth who wants something fast and over the top, we have Big Basics like Mewtwo EX/Landorus-EX, Tornadus EX/Landorus-EX or Ho-Oh (appropriately named Skittles). Fast, furious and consistent is the name of the game for these decks.

– For the meat lover, where substance and simplicity is in order, Blastoise and Empoleon are safe bets. One allows you to constantly keep a full hand and the other one turns the game into 52 pickup midway in where all the cards are W Energies.

– If you are a connoisseur, who only dines on special and fancy foods, then there are plenty of wildcards to be picked as well. Klinklang, Sigilyph, and Garbodor are not decks I would call “solid,” but they counter various matchups surprisingly well and can overturn most of our current metagame. They are fragile though, and if something goes wrong then you have a tendency to be in a lot of trouble.

– The picky eater has a tendency to enjoy the same old things and the metagame provides. Multiple Darkrai EX and Eelektrik variants still exist and work well. Of course, both heavy hitters were severely weakened by the introduction of Landorus-EX, but they are still very playable.

When preparing for the ECC or large tournaments in general, trying to assess the specific metagame for that tournament is a great skill.

Last year Next Destinies came out right before the tournament and few people had the opportunity to get new cards. This year, Boundaries Crossed came out about 3 months ago, so most players will probably be able to acquire the cards they want.

Even though Europe do not have the same coverage that the United States has, I am fairly certain that the biggest decks at the ECC are going to be Darkrai EX variants and Big Basics. Darkrai EX, Mewtwo EX, Sigilyph, Terrakion and other cards like that have been out for quite a while and players have had more time to aquire them and, even more importantly, get used to them.

Of course, because of this tournaments sheer size, there are going to be decks from all walks of life present, but I believe that Darkrai EX variants, Mewtwo EX/Landorus-EX and perhaps even Ho-Oh will be the most plentiful.

Choosing the Right Deck

decision ash prof oakpokemon.comFor smaller tournaments choosing a deck is usually based on one of two reasons. Either the deck is just too good to not play, like with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX, or the competitor is able to assess the metagame and use a something which counters it, like Garbodor variants.

For large tournaments other rules apply though. The entire day is going to be filled all types of decks and factors such as consistency and good matchups become way more important than anything else.

You might enjoy the Quad Sigilyph deck more than anything, but with at least 8 Swiss rounds and a top 32 cut, maybe even 9 rounds and top 64 cut if enough players attend, the chance of meeting multiple opponents running non-EX attackers is simply too great.

Therefore, a deck competing in the ECC should be consistent, have a lot of good metagame matchups, and be prepared for the unknown in case something rogue appears.

I have compiled a list of decks I believe to be the top five contenders. These are not necessarily the best decks in the format, but rather the ones with the ability to do well in a large tournament. In no particular order…

1. Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik

mewtwo-ex-next-destinies-nde-54A somewhat underrated deck that has had some success, but people still look down on it because of Landorus-EX. This doesn’t change the fact that that it is incredibly consistent and has plenty of valid tech options like Raikou-EX, Zekrom BLW, or Zekrom-EX.

Mewtwo EX does a good job against Keldeo-EX and other Mewtwo EXs and because the deck is fast and consistent I chose to add it to the list.

The reason why this is on the list rather than Rayquaza EX/Eelektrik is because Mewtwo is less reliant on Eelektrik and can manage with DCEs for a little while at least.

Landorus-EX is therefore not necessarily a counter as long as the Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik player makes the right plays.

2. Blastoise/Keldeo-EX

This deck speaks for itself. All you need is a Blastoise and the rest of the match is pretty straightforward. The thing with Blastoise is that there are no solid counters against. Therefore Blastoise/Keldeo-EX has no bad matchups and its victory depends on how many Energies the deck can acquire in a single match.

With Tropical Beach it can be quite consistent as well and is a great choice for the ECC.

3. Mewtwo EX/Landorus-EX

I chose this deck for the list because of its consistency and matchups. Landorus-EX does a great job with Darkrai EX and Eelektrik decks and Mewtwo EX can manage Blastoise and other Mewtwo EXs. It can also tech in cards like Terrakion, Bouffalant, or Tornadus EX in order to handle certain decks.

Also, since the entire deck is centered around Basic Pokémon, consistency is not a problem.

4. Darkrai EX/Terrakion

terrakion-full-art-noble-victories-nvi-99pokemon-paradijs.comDarkrai EX hits hard and can be set up quite quickly with Dark Patch and Energy Switch, but Landorus-EX is a pretty sizable problem. Terrakion is able to take out difficult Pokémon like Keldeo-EX, Mewtwo EX, and Landorus-EX in 2 shots, and with 130 HP it’s quite difficult to 1HKO.

The deck is also highly consistent and has a great matchup against other Darkrai decks.

5. Darkrai EX/Hydreigon

This is a deck that I personally do not like, but I will acknowledge its strength. Since the deck can function alright even without Hydreigon because of Darkrai EX, and since it has the ability to tech in a lot of strong cards, I chose to put this on the list.

It may have some issues facing a deck with a strong focus on Terrakion and Landorus-EX, but play it correctly and these issues should be manageable.

Honorable Mentions

Now there are plenty of other decks, and I actually mentioned quite a few before, but there are too many of them I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing at a large event such as the ECC.

Essentially, their problems are that they are far too weak against large metagame decks or have consistency issues.

Since the ECC covers so many countries and so many different players, completely predicting the metagame is impossible so I think that playing a deck with as many good matchups as possible is a safe bet.

These decks are not bad, but I feel like they have too many issues for a large tournament:

ho-oh ex dragons exalted drx 22– Ho-Oh is Weak to Water, and the more matches you play, the bigger the chance to open with one. The deck also plays Landorus, so there are two Pokémon you really don’t want to open with against a popular deck like Blastoise.

– Darkrai EX/Landorus-EX has no solid Blastoise counter and has issues if it opens with Landorus-EX.

– Rayquaza EX/Eelektrik is far too reliant on Eelektrik, and Landorus-EX is way too big of a factor to be ignored.

– Klinklang has a tendency to instantly lose if it is paired up against decks that can 1HKO the Klinklang, and a lot of rogue decks like Garbodor and Hammertime give it a hard time.

– Garbodor is a bit too fragile, where Mewtwo EX or Tool Scrapper can completely ruin the entire strategy. You are also never guaranteed to set up, and if you go second and your Trubbish gets Catchered out, the match might be over.

– Hammertime is way too reliant on hitting Crushing Hammer heads and surprise Terrakion can really mess it up.

– Sigilyph can get destroyed in so many ways. Terrakion, Zekrom, Garbodor, Bouffalant, other Sigilyph, and so many other Pokémon can get through its defenses.


season2_ep3_ss2-machoke-hitmonchanpokemon.comWith there being about a month until the ECC starts, I feel like it’s about time to start preparing for it. Keep in mind that the bigger a tournament is, the more important things like consistency and good matchups become.

Kyle Sucevich is the perfect example of this, since he is notorious for doing well at American Nationals, a tournament with an incredible amount of players, and consistency is his bread and butter.

Playtest like your life depends on it, research Europe’s top finishes, and get ready for war!

Reader Interactions

5 replies

  1. Twan van Vugt

    I have been considering 2 or 3 decks myself for the ECC, being mewtwo/lando/tornadus and darkrai terrakion (w/ and w/o hammers). I think the top tier decks will be played the most and with Hammertime. It is good to note though, that many cities have had a lot of blastoise and that 3 blastoise in T4 was nothing out of the ordinary.

    I do agree that you need a consistent list with 1/2 surprise techs to do well. Also note that Garbodor did well at Philly Regionals in the US so people might play that (hype train etc).

  2. Ryuu

    u could combine garbodor and long as u cover its weakness. But u can’t chance the 50/50 chance on hammers, even If u play 2or more(75% at most) if they came out with an ace spec card that was a uber hammer that took all there energy away. (rumor called Thors hammer In the genesect set) that would be a broken deck..sableye the ace spec back and repeat, but the sets might rotate by then. The only other option is put In. Umbreon (DEX) with Shadow shutdown (two heads=no energies on there active) paired with Fliptini (Victini with ability) but the deck would be slow @ best.

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