Hello SixPrizes community! We’ve finally had our first large-scale tournaments of the season: Philadelphia and Phoenix Regionals. I’d like to talk about what my team ran this past weekend in Philly, what was popular at the event, and some thoughts on the the current format and tournament structure.
Going into Philly this year, my friend Adrian and I tested the format extensively. We narrowed the format down to a few big decks that we expected to see at Autumn Regionals: Fighting/Big Basics, Virizion/Genesect, and Yveltal. We believed that Yveltal would not be too high in presence due to its poor performance against our Big Basics list, but that ended up being a large oversight on our part.
During the week before Philly, Adrian started testing a deck that focused on using Crushing Hammer and Team Flare Grunt to cripple the opponent’s board. After refining the list, we thought that the deck would be a great play for Philly. It had great Fighting, Pyroar, and Virizion/Genesect matchups, but only an average matchup against Yveltal. Here’s the list we both played:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
The basic strategy of the deck is to slow down the opponent by disrupting their Energy attachments. Successfully discarding Energy always puts Virizion players in a tough spot (especially when you block them from using Emerald Slash), and Big Basic’s reliance on Special Energy makes it an easy target for Drifblim. Yveltal ends up being the deck’s worst matchup due to the high damage output Yveltal-EX has and its ability to recycle Energy though Yveltal XY, but it is by no means an auto-loss.
Here’s a quick rundown of my W-L-T per round:
R1: Seismitoad/Dragalge (W 2-0; 1-0-0)
R2: Virizion/Genesect (L 1-2; 1-1-0)
R3: Fighting (W 2-1; 2-1-0)
R4: Virizion/Genesect (W 2-0; 3-1-0)
R5: Yveltal (T 1-1; 3-1-1)
R6: Donphan (T 1-1; 3-1-2)
R7: Yveltal (L 0-2; 3-2-2)
R8: Virizon/Genesect (W 2-0; 4-2-2)
R9: Big Basics (Landorus, Seismitoad, Mewtwo) (W 2-0; 5-2-2)
My run stopped there for the weekend, coming in at 50th for a T64 finish. The deck worked well in most of my matches, but sometimes you just have bad luck when you rely on flips. Looking back on the deck and the event’s metagame, taking out a 1-1 Drifblim line and cutting something else to fit in a 2-2 Raichu line could have helped against Yveltal.
Even though I didn’t make day 2, the dream wasn’t dead — Adrian made it into T32 as the 32nd spot! We didn’t have much time to celebrate, though, because we had to figure out what he was going to play for the Expanded format. After a lot of ideas and deck switches, Adrian decided to go with the Big Basics list that we had tested extensively before Regionals, but we both decided to throw Enhanced Hammer into the list to help against the Plasma matchup. Here’s our list:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
Going into day 2, Adrian was 6-2-1 and the 32nd seed. He would need to win 4 matches to have a chance at making top 8. Here were his matches:
R10: Yveltal/Seismitoad (W 2-0; 7-2-1)
R11: Yveltal/Seismitoad (W 2-0; 8-2-1)
R12: Yveltal/Seismitoad (W 2-0; 9-2-1)
R13: Yveltal/Seismitoad (L 1-1; 9-3-1)
R14: Yveltal/Seismitoad (L 1-2; 9-4-1)
You may have noticed that he only played two games during round 13, and that is the unfortunate truth. After round 12, the judges took a look at Adrian’s deck and found that a few sleeves had dings on the side which could potentially lead to a marked card situation, so he was unfortunately given a Game 1 loss for the next round. Moral of the story: always check or change your sleeves after playing 9+ rounds of Pokémon.
Adrian’s run falls short of top 8, but he finished in 12th place – a large climb from the bottom spot going into day 2. The Enhanced Hammers that he teched in for the Plasma matchup were not nearly as useful against Yveltal, and Adrian told me after that if he knew he would face Yveltal every round he would have kept the 2nd PCL and thrown in 1 Dedenne FFI.
What We Learned from Week 1
1. Yveltal is not dead!
With the loss of Dark Patch and Sableye, Yveltal decks were thought to have lost a lot of their power. However, the emergence of Seismitoad-EX has given the deck a new partner that helps slow down opponents while it sets up. Yveltal-EX is still a powerhouse in this format, and it should definitely not be overlooked. Raichu XY is still a powerful counter for the feathered fiend, and Dedenne FFI can be a great addition to any deck if you’re looking to only invest 1-2 spaces for a Yveltal counter.
2. Creativity is king.
I believe that the current format is one of the best that we’ve had in a while. While Yveltal decks did dominate the top tables at Philadelphia, there was no shortage of creative deck building throughout the event. I never thought I’d use Team Flare Grunt in a competitive deck, but its success taught me one thing: any card can be powerful. There was even a Mega Heracross deck that made day 2 in Arizona! Don’t dismiss an idea just because you think it sounds stupid, because you could have the next big thing on your hands.
3. The Expanded format is truly expansive.
While Adrian ended up facing five Yveltal decks on day 2, there was no shortage of variety around him. It’s important to keep in mind that the Expanded format brings back old threats like Rayeels, Klinklang, and Accelgor, allowing for some creative card combinations. Most decks won’t be able to deal with the wide range of threats that the Expanded format holds, so choosing the right deck to play is a battle of its own.
4. 50-minute, best-of-three matches need you in order to work.
I am a big advocate of the best-of-three system we have in place for larger tournaments. I usually have no issue with the time limit being only 50 minutes, and many people have no trouble finishing three games in that time. However, I have heard a lot of negative feedback about the system that is not a problem with the system itself but with the playerbase as a whole.
The fact is, some players are much slower than others when it comes to making decisions in a game. For those who play at a slower pace, I urge you to practice playing with a timer. Practice playing with friends or at League using the official Pokémon TCG time guidelines (section 7.4) to speed up your play. For those who do not know them, here they are:
- Performing the actions of a card or attack: 15 seconds
- Shuffling and setup, game start: 2 minutes
- Shuffling and deck search, mid-game: 15 seconds
- Starting the turn after opponent’s “end of turn” announcement: 5 seconds
- Considering the game position before playing a card: 10 seconds
While these are only general guidelines, practicing under these time constraints will help you play faster and make better decisions under stress.
For those players who encounter slower players, I urge you to not be afraid of respectfully asking your opponent to pick up their pace.
If they continue playing slowly, you are allowed to call a judge over. The Pokémon community is very friendly, so calling out slow players can be awkward. However, tying due to a slow opponent can cause you to go on tilt and make bad decisions in future matches. There are also players who will play slower to get a tie instead of a loss. If they do not pick up their speed after you ask them, calling a judge over should put a stop to that behavior.
That’s all I have to say for now! I hope everyone who attended a Regional tournament last weekend had a great time, and I wish good luck to those who are attending the upcoming Regionals in the next few weeks.
– Greg Stempien