Happy September everyone! I hope you were able to close out August on a better note than I. As of writing this I’ve been sick with an upper respiratory infection over the Labor Day weekend.
As bad as this may sound I was at least provided the opportunity to watch all the Swiss and Top Cut rounds of the Klaczynski Open, Pokémon’s first large-scale unsanctioned event with the winner getting a case of Plasma Blast, a nice trophy, the 15th anniversary Pikachu set, a Top Cut playmat, and an invitation to the Top Cut Invitational where they will get the rights to battle the best of the best from all over the world.
This event featured new stylings that mirrored what we can expect to see in the future of our sanctioned events including best-of-three matches in Swiss with a 75 minute time limit and a top cut of eight with 90 minute best-of-three quarter and semi-finals.
The tournament organizer, Jason Klaczynski, decided to deviate from the norm and went with an untimed best-of-five to determine the winner. I for one love watching and playing Pokémon, but watching Ross Cawthon (notoriously the game’s slowest player) play in a finals match that took three and a half hours was excruciating. There was even a bathroom break allotted before finishing the final round.
That being said, those that stuck around till the end of the match were given a gem of a game with Lex D’Andrea, a 13 year old (no, that is not a typo) from New Jersey, taking the event undefeated. Lex played Darkrai/Garbodor and Ross played a surprisingly standard Blastoise list.
I will not go into much detail about the event because I know that The Top Cut will do a fabulous job of putting all the matches I watched on YouTube with stellar commentary from Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich.
One thing that I do want to reflect upon is what I learned from watching upwards of 12 hours of Pokémon this weekend. This event gave the viewer a unique opportunity to scout out what will be popular going into League Championships and Regionals at the end of October.
1. Genesect is not as bad as we thought it was.
Ever since the Megalo Cannon translations were released people were crazy about this combo. The sheer power of Genesect EX when paired with G Booster was insane. Hitting for 200 damage for the cost of 2 Grass and a C Energy was only rivaled by its inherent synergy with Virizion-EX, a card that prevents all Status Conditions on Pokémon with G Energy attached. In theory, this would be the best deck in the whole format.
Move forward to Plasma Blast’s release and players are soon discovering that Genesect is not as good as the hype had lead us to believe. Sure, doing 200 damage is amazing, but as soon as your opponent gets rid of your Genesect you are left with not much to work with. A Genesect player has to put so many resources into setting up a Genesect EX that when it gets Knocked Out the number of turns it takes to set up another attacker is not cost-effective.
Against a deck like Darkrai or Plasma, where they were able to stream attackers, Genesect is not able to keep up. After realizing that the formula Genesect EX + Virizion-EX = BDIF was no longer the case many players began to give up on the deck.
But not Henry Prior. I don’t think he was the first one to rationalize that Genesect needed a secondary attacker or that Drifblim could be that partner, but he was the first person I’ve seen with the gusto to run a heavy 4-4 Drifblim line with an equal mix of Drifblim DRX and Drifblim PLB. He was also able to make a consistent list that could set up under the pressure of Darkrai and Blastoise.
As a 6P Underground member I have access to a decklist similar to the one that Henry ran at the Klaczynski Open and I don’t think he would want me sharing it here. Needless to say, Henry’s list is really good, but can still be improved. Henry’s deck ran really well against Plasma and Blastoise, but lost in both Swiss and the top cut to the eventual winner Lex running Darkrai/Garbodor.
The deck may have benefited from a harder Darkrai counter, like Landorus-EX or Terrakion BCR, but this would mean sacrificing the consistency that made this deck so potent. As this season progresses it will be interesting to see how this deck develops, especially if Energy Switch is re-released in Legendary Treasures.
2. Darkrai/Garbodor is the deck to beat.
Darkrai was one of the only top tier decks to suffer with the rotation to NXD-on and the release of Plasma Blast. With the rotation of Energy Switch, the release of Virizion-EX to weaken the all powerful Hypnotoxic Laser, and the release of Silver Bangle, Darkrai seemed to be cut off at the knees. Many began to wonder if this would be the first time since the sinister Pokémon was released that it would not be a featured deck at the top tables of big tournaments.
While it cannot be argued that Darkrai lost a lot of its power, the innovation of players prevailed as Darkrai proved itself to be a contender at the Klaczynski Open. The secret to Darkrai’s success was that it had found a new partner to help. We’ve always known that Sableye was Darkrai’s best friend, but, with the release of Float Stone, some crafty players began to run Garbodor with Darkrai.
What sounds like a bad idea (Why would you want to turn off Darkrai’s Dark Cloak Ability?) really begins to make sense upon reflection. Garbodor slows down the pace of play immensely to where you can truly abuse Sableye’s Junk Hunt and set up a Darkrai without the need of Energy Switch. The goal changes from setting up that T2 Darkrai to disrupting your opponent with Enhanced Hammers, Lasers, and Catchers until you have the board position to wipe them clean.
This changes the Blastoise matchup (depending on how many Tool Scrappers the Blastoise player runs) from unfavorable to a near auto-win, and tilts both the Plasma and Genesect matchups more in your favor.
I think that Darkrai/Garbodor is much more skill-intensive than a standard build of Darkrai as you have to know when to attack, when to Junk Hunt, and when to activate Garbotoxin. One thing that the Klaczynski Open showed us is that this deck isn’t going anywhere and is sure to be with us for quite some time. The inclusion of more Tool Scrapper in decks is sure to help in this matchup, but it’s no guarantee to victory. There is one game in which Lex D’Andrea was playing against a Blastoise deck that played 3 Tool Scrappers and still came out on top.
3. Blastoise is still scary.
The other slightly surprising tidbit that was gained from watching the KO was that Blastoise/Keldeo/Black Kyurem can still go the distance. This deck was known to be good after Worlds (obligatory shout out to 3rd place finisher and teammate James Good) and going into the next season, but some argued that Virizion/Genesect would just run through this deck. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Granted, if the Virizion/Genesect does KO the only Blastoise on the field and there are no means to get another one out, the Blastoise player can be hindered immensely.
The one thing that Blastoise does better than any deck is rapidly power up heavy hitters. The focus in recent format has been using Black Kyurem EX to 1HKO EX attackers and Virizion/Genesect mainly runs these to get the job done. I’d say that the bigger concern would be Darkrai/Garbodor as it can take away the Abilities that make Blastoise so powerful.
Blastoise made quite a showing at the KO due to the tournament’s rule of allowing any type of Tropical Beach (including the promo found in Ross Cawthon’s World Champion deck that Ross ended up including in his own deck) and the best-of-three format.
While Ross ran a very simple list we did get to see one other list in The Top Cut’s coverage of the event. In Round 5, Ross Cawthon got paired against the man that handed him one of his few losses in the 2011 World Championship, Josh “J-Wittz” Wittenkeller. Josh ran a much more “fancy” version of the deck including the consistency tech of Jirachi-EX paired with the almost absurd ACE SPEC choice of Scoop Up Cyclone.
Jirachi-EX, with his Stellar Guidance Ability allows you to search for a Supporter when you play Jirachi from you hand to your bench. This card played a big role in the final game when J-Wittz started with 2 Ultra Ball and no Supporter. Sadly, Jirachi-EX was prized (such is the nature of the game), but this card did give Josh an out to a zero-Supporter hand.
Scoop Up Cyclone should not be that outrageous to not warrant play as it gives the Blastoise player much more in the way of outs and synergy in pairing Blastoise’s Deluge and Keldeo’s Rush In Abilities. In the words of Kyle Sucevich, “It’s like playing Max Potion except you get to heal off all the damage and keep all the Energy.”
One other thing to note is the heavy lines of Tropical Beach used in the Blastoise decks of this tournament. There was not a single Blastoise player that I saw that used less than three Tropical Beach in their deck. While the more relaxed rules on the Tropical Beach meant an increase in play I would not consider playing Blastoise without the inclusion of 3 Tropical Beach.
I do realize the absurdity of this statement (I myself only have 2 of these $120+ cards), but I believe it to be true. You need that added draw power turn one and no other card does it quite like Beach. Darkrai has Sableye and Blastoise has Tropical Beach.
4. Seniors can hang with (and beat) Masters.
If there is one thing that this tournament proved more than anything else it is that Seniors are on level with Masters in this game. There were two age divisions, one for 14 and under, and one for 15 and older. In the older age division there was a total of 129 players and out of these players 5 were under the age of 15.
These players went against recommendations and participated in the older age division in a class of competition that rivaled that of a state or regional level tournament. Out of these 5 “Seniors” four made it into the Top 8, and one, Lex D’Andrea, won the whole tournament.
After facing these facts you have to humble yourself (if you are a Master) and come to the conclusion that Seniors are just as good as the Masters. This has been a long-time coming as the trend of young Masters bucking the stigma of there being a “learning curve” in the transition to the highest level has been evident in the past few years as those who have recently aged up have gone on to win Worlds (Igor Costa and David Cohen) two of the last three years.
Indeed, all we have to do is look at the Japanese age divisions that use 13 years of age as the line of demarcation. They obviously realize the potential of these younger players and have acted as they see fit. I do not want to model the Japanese in this regard, but I would like for some actions to be taken. I think it is time that we get rid of the idea that Seniors are not an accurate representation of the game state when analyzing tournament results and that they should get more than the next-to-none coverage that they have now.
I really enjoyed watching the Klaczynski Open and would like to thank The Top Cut (especially Pooka) for their great coverage of the event and Jason Klaczynski for facilitating this landmark in our game’s history. I hope that this will be incentive for the game to grow in subsequent years into something that rivals Magic: The Gathering, but never loses its sense of fair play and fun.
I would like to thank Alex Hill and Josh Wittenkeller for their contributions to this article in the fact checking process. The Klaczynski Open has replaced what would normally be a downtime in the Pokémon season and has reinvigorated me and I’m sure many of you who have read this article.