Some of my best memories from playing this game so far were made during the Georgia City Marathon last year. City Championships are my favorite part of the Pokémon season, not only because of the intense competition surrounding a new format, but because of the dynamic of the Marathon itself.
For those of you who may have never attended a City Championship Marathon, it’s a series of City Championships scheduled day after day, each one (usually) not far in location from the last. It is fascinating to see each player’s mindset change from day to day, everyone trying their best to decipher the metagame based on the previous day’s results.
This is, without a doubt, the most interesting part of a Marathon. Regardless of the perceived meta elsewhere, the metagame during a Marathon can bring out some very unexpected decks. Players may try unorthodox concoctions in order to be as well-prepared for other players as possible, even if that means playing some previously unseen cards. One instance in particular I can remember is the inclusion of Spiritomb LTR in Empoleon and Plasma lists for a day or two last year. By limiting Genesect-EX’s ability to use G Booster, these decks could potentially buy a turn or two to get ahead and ultimately win the game. Silver Mirror in Empoleon was also an important tech in order to swing the Genesect matchup, consequently making 2-Tool Scrapper V/G lists viable.
This brings me to some very interesting topics. How do you prepare for a marathon? How do you get in tune with a rapidly-changing metagame? Should you change decks from day to day?
Just like running an actual marathon (26.2 miles), a Cities Marathon requires a lot of preparation, determination, and endurance to make it through. Let’s get to it!
Put in the Training
The Georgia Marathon during the 2013-2014 season was my first one ever. I had no idea what to expect, which made the entire trip that much more captivating. I did, however, have a decent amount of prior experience with the format.
Prior to driving down to Newnan, GA for my first tournament of the 10-event chain, I had attended two City Championships and was lucky enough to place into the finals of both of them. I had experience with a changing metagame, but the timeline was from one weekend to the next — much different from day to day.
Unlike many people who had not attended any events leading up to this Marathon, I had a rough idea of what worked and what didn’t. Plasma, Virizion/Genesect, Gothitelle, Empoleon, and Emboar were the most played decks, but many of these lists were not refined yet. Near the beginning, there weren’t many specific techs or lists tailored to handle a specific threat.
One example of an advantage my friends and I had going in was that we had played a lot of the format already. A deck known as “The Yeti” (a Plasma variant) was popular, as well as other Virizion/Genesect variants and Empoleon. Because of this, including Enhanced Hammers and healing options went a long way in dealing with the opposition. Potion was incredibly helpful in combating opposing Emerald Slashes, healing damage from Frozen City, and messing up Empoleon’s math. Enhanced Hammer was a good card to swing the Plasma matchup as well.
I feel like I can attribute early success to rigorous testing early on in the format, when many players didn’t quite have things figured out yet.
Have a Realistic Idea of the Competition
Players would expect to see certain decks at any of the Marathon tournaments, but learning to accommodate accurately for the amount of each deck to be seen is a skill that can only be learned from “doing.” For Newnan, I decided to go with the tried-and-true V/G, a consistent choice that I was familiar with enough to scout out the current field in order to help me make a choice for the next day. One of the most important things I learned was: Don’t metagame for a small group of players or specific decks.
Right off the start, I noticed multiple Emboar decks. While not an overwhelming majority, its presence was still there. I began to worry about running into them throughout Swiss and if I had made the correct deck choice. I stuck with V/G, and it’s a good thing I did. Had I switched decks before the tournament to something else, my run would have been dramatically different. While there were 4 or 5 people in a field of 40-something with Emboar decks, Genesect had good or winnable matchups against everyone else. Don’t let the decisions of a few players have a large impact on your deck choice. Assess the field for what it actually is, not what it appears to be.
It’s a fact that any good tournament run requires a little bit of luck, and I was able to make it through the six Swiss rounds without hitting an Emboar. I landed into top cut, where I again was able to make it to the finals and ironically lose to Dustin Zimmerman’s Emboar.
Don’t Use an Unfamiliar Deck
One of the biggest mistakes I saw a lot of my fellow players make during the chain of tournaments was a tendency to “over-metagame.”
For example, say Emboar wins an event one day. The next day, you can expect many people to either play that deck themselves or find a way to counter it. Emboar itself will see a rise in play, and most likely Empoleon will as well. As such, many players would not play Virizion/Genesect due to a near auto-loss to Emboar and a tough matchup against Empoleon. In theory, this makes Gothitelle/Accelgor a very strong deck choice. Your only bad matchup should be quite sparse based on the previous day’s results, and you have strong matchups against the two main decks you predict to have an increase in play.
This comes with one major caveat, though: a good deck choice does not mean you will auto-win your way into top cut. Solid predictions about a metagame on a given day is certainly important, but when your thought process persuades you to play a deck you are not familiar with just because it’s “the play,” you can’t simply expect an easy road to the top.
Too many times people would scramble the night before (or even the morning of) a tournament to put together a makeshift list because they were convinced that its inherent matchups were so strong that much testing was not necessary. This quickly backfired. Having favorable matchups only works well if you misplay rarely and have the correct the tools at your disposal within your list. It’s important to ask yourself if switching to a certain deck one day is actually the correct choice for you or if you are merely trying to convince yourself that it is. Take it all in stride.
I actually played the same deck for all three days of the Marathon that I attended, winning one, placing top 2, and another top 8 with Virizion/Genesect. I played the deck I was most familiar with, but changed a few spots from day to day to deal with emerging threats. Some days may require Enhanced Hammers, other days you may want an extra Max Potion or a heavy Tool Scrapper count. Consistency and familiarity with your list can sometimes trump playing a direct counter to a popular deck. Think hard about what you are actually trying to accomplish.
Sound Body, Sound Mind
Another incredibly important point about preparing for a Marathon is to get enough sleep the night before. I know some people who may be able to go and perform well at an event with only a couple hours of sleep the night before, but I wouldn’t put money on them being able to keep it up for days in a row.
More often than not, everyone settles for fast food when on the road for these tournaments. There is usually a brief lunch break and you can’t always sit down for a balanced meal when you have to be back at the venue for the next round in twenty minutes. It may serve you well to bring some snacks and water in your bag to stay fresh throughout the day rather than depending on the McDouble to keep you alert and in top condition for eight hours.
Sleep and adequate nutrition is something very commonly overlooked by players. The fact of the matter is that rest and eating healthy food throughout the entirety of the Marathon will only do you good. We’re playing a very thought-intensive game, so you need all the brainpower you can get. If you find yourself two days in and are taking naps between rounds, I would not doubt that your ability to perform well is being tested.
It can be very easy to start off a tournament with a losing record, become discouraged, and eventually drop or become indifferent to your placing. Don’t give up! Keeping a positive attitude will do you a lot of good during a Marathon. Also, just because you start off poorly doesn’t mean you can’t turn it around.
Play for one round at a time. Don’t worry about making top cut or how many more rounds you need to win to make it in. Just play the game. You’ll find that this will do wonders for your mental health and stress levels, which are definitely put to the test when you are playing in these intense tournaments. Also, the whole point is to have fun and enjoy the game. If you find yourself viewing these tournaments as a more of a “job” and less for your own enjoyment, it may be time to step back and take a day off. You will come back the next day refreshed and with a more positive outlook.
City Marathons are an intense and rewarding experience. I am fortunate enough to live close enough to an area with great Tournament Organizers that set one up, but I strongly suggest traveling to one if you have never been. Playing in so many tournaments over such a short period shows you a lot about the thought processes of other players, as well as showing you more about your own play style and ability. You are able to potentially earn valuable Championship Points and grow further as a player.
I hope you all can attend a Marathon this season, and if you are able to head down to Georgia, I’ll see you there! Thanks to everyone for reading and please join into the discussion on the forums if you have any questions or comments.
Stay based and rare,