Hey everyone! As the holidays grow closer and closer, I always experience a notable improvement in my moods and I hope that a lot of you feel the same way. Not only does the homeliness and kinship of December seem to make me a more excitable and enjoyable person, but I also associate the month with City Championships, which are without a doubt my favorite events of the year! The length and size of the events tread the fine line between relevance and insignificance and I always get a nice sense of accomplishment in competing in the events. They’re so frequent and have been incredibly important in the invite chase since the switch to Championship Points that winning a Cities large enough for a top eight cut always ought to leave one with a powerful feeling.
Something else to be said about Cities is that they always seem to have an agreeable format. Far too often, the masses in this game complain and complain about the staleness or lack of skill in a format as the year goes by, but Cities tend to get a free pass out of such whining. I think that this can actually be attributed to the amount of events and spread of said events across the country (and internationally) rather than the format itself. The more and more events that are played, the further the metagame will advance which will allow some decks to come in and out of popularity without invoking thoughts of dominance or a total lack of skill.
When Regional Championships roll around, I think many (often myself included) are overly focused on results and timing of the victors and allow our opinions on the format to become incorrect. For instance, recall Spring Regionals in 2011 and I believe that Eelektrik-based decks won about 80% of these events. From this, it may be said that the deck is too powerful or that the format is stale and so on, but as noted above, I believe this to be incorrect.
A few months prior to these events, the results for the year’s City Championships were much more diverse. Decks like Six Corners, Chandelure, Durant, Magnezone, Electrode and so on were all fairly dominant. So what happened between the release of one set (Noble Victories to Boundaries Crossed) that made every hate the format so quickly? Was it the cards themselves or the quantity of events? I am in strong favor of the latter.
If we played as many Regionals as we do Cities, results would be far less streamlined. With Cities, the metagame shifts at a much different and less predictable pace because of the sheer amount of results to analyze. Regionals, contrastingly, only have zero to two data sets to observe, so it seems natural that the results would be stale and predictable.
2011 is a great example for my point, but I believe that the trend of loving Cities and hating following formats is something that happens almost every year and will undoubtedly follow us this year. The current format has enchanted me accordingly as so many decks appear to be viable. Analyzing the results compiled by Andrew Wamboldt’s Charizard Lounge, we can see that Donphan and Yveltal decks are the decks with the top results. Such a statistic seems to be expected, but these decks are not terribly ahead of everything else.
The following three decks (Virizion/Genesect, Seismitoad and Pyroar) are all very close to each other and not out of shouting distance of the top two. Below these decks, however, the race grows even closer and I’m sure that by the end of January, the charts may end up looking a bit different. With time, decks come in and out of popularity and become countered and teched against which I’m sure will become the case for the top spots (if it has not entirely occurred already).
From there, the counters may themselves become countered and by the time we get to Regionals, it is possible that the format may begin to repeat itself and Donphan ends up dominating again. Only time will tell! Does everyone agree with my tiny argument here or am I overlooking something obvious about the love for Cities and hate for most other formats? I am curious to hear what you have to say!
As always, I try to focus my writing here at SixPrizes on a broader topic, delving into more deeper and substantial issues, but for this article, I couldn’t quite think of one particular thing to devote my article to. Instead, I have to decided to break up my sections into a handful of “buzz topics” that have recently occupied my thoughts on the game. I saw it fitting to introduce the article with those thoughts on Cities, but I have several more to write on, all unique and different, so I hope you look forward to getting into some hot and potentially controversial topics here in the Pokémon Community.
As always, my arguments are my own opinion and not entirely sufficient to prove my own rightness on the issue and I look forward to conversing with many of your contrasting opinions.
The Dreaded Bubble
It goes without saying that no one wants to bubble. Playing your heart out and being rewarded with that 9th place is not what anyone wants to go through. However, as Cities continue to occur and I have thought more on the “bubble,” I have come to a conclusion that I think all should embrace.
First off, I think that we need to stop putting such a priority on bubbling. That is, lamenting the 9th place should not be something that we continually support. 9th place may “seem” better than 10th, 11th and so on, but at the end of the day, it’s really no different. You had a record and opponent’s win percentage deemed unsatisfactory and are unable to continue playing in the top cut. Excluding scenarios where the tiebreakers came down to .10% or lower, I see no reason why 9th place should cause more ‘saltiness’ than another place that earned the exact same payout as you. The closeness is arbitrary and the tiebreakers are out of your control, meaning there is little to nothing to gain by being worried about them.
Secondly, I want to dismiss the notion that bubbling is unlucky. The numbers are clear evidence that your performance was unsatisfactory. Being the “unlucky bubbler” is obviously based in nonsense and we should stop talking like it’s an actual phenomenon. I would say that a majority of the time, you should have a pretty clear indication of what your resistance looks like so bubbling in or out of cut should not be a surprise and certainly it does not make you unlucky.
For instance, I attended the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon and at the second tournament, I was seated at 4-2 at the 7th round, as was my opponent. Not too far from the top tables, we established that only one 5-2 would be making the top eight and after glancing around, I saw that the person who beat me was nowhere to be found, allowing me to conclude that he had a worse record than myself and had possibly dropped long ago. My other opponent I knew had drawn his last round so I had an unknown but bad and 5-1-1 as my tiebreakers. My opponent noted to me that his resistance was 5-1-1 and 6-0-1, which obviously was a much stronger resistance than my own. To this end, I decided to give my opponent the win knowing that a win for me would mean little to nothing. Not too surprisingly, my opponent earned the 8th seed and ended up taking second at the event.
Of course, my point here is not to gratify myself, but to make it clear that I think you can figure out whether or not you will be able to make cut and lament the unluckiness of your scenario at 9th place is nothing short of petty. After all, the foolproof advice to not bubble is to lose less. You should always want to perform to your utmost potential and relying on the bare minimum will never improve you as a player.
While this opinion may be coming almost a year late, I am a bit proud to say that my position on IDs has shifted quite a bit. If I recall correctly, my initial opinion on the matter was a bit apathetic. I recognized it to be a necessary evil, but it did not see anything wrong with it outside of the clear flaws in the unintentional draws that occurred in wretched 50+3 events. I still stand firmly behind that scooping to anyone for the sake of someone else’s benefit should not be acceptable, (outside of a select scenarios). I find myself now in a position entirely against IDs. What has led me here?
I think that this opinion of mine is largely motivated by a flaw in the system itself rather than the concept as whole. I absolutely despise how TPCi has lowered the threshold for an event to have top eight. In the past, you needed 32 players in a division in order to earn top eight and 33 players would tick you over to a sixth round and I believe that this is the way things should be.
However, as of last year, they changed this threshold to be mere 21 players for top 8 while keeping the other number the same. At a minimum, this means that about 40% of players will make the top eight. Such a number, in my opinion, cannot adequately display excellent performances out of a tournament.
Compare this to say, a traditional Regional Championship where less than 5% will make the top eight. Certainly, I don’t think that the cutoff for Cities should be the same as Regionals, but you are only rewarding mediocrity when you flirt with allowing close to 50% continue to the next stage of an event.
IDs play a large role at these smaller events as the match point requisite for making top eight is lower and lower based on attendance. In the 21-person tournament, 3-1-1 (10 points) will automatically qualify someone for cut while potentially even a 3-2 can bubble in. With only five rounds, this means that all one needs to do is win three games to make cut, which through IDs will give someone a way to opt out of playing roughly 40% of the event. In a way, IDs make the tournaments effectively shorter since you are likely to only play 3-4 rounds of the event.
This seems ridiculous to me and I am not really sure why I did not contest it before. Elo was removed as the main ranking system for Pokémon because it rewarded people for not playing (by dropping before cut and even showing up to events late in order to be seated in a theoretically easier bracket) and IDs seem to be partially rewarding the exact same thing. I understand that IDs are a necessary evil, but not having to play the whole event seems like a fundamental flaw to me. I have read some arguments that IDs encourages scooping and allows for players to control the top cut more effectively and I would like to make it clear that I do not have a problems with such concerns and generally disagree with them. However, I would like to hear arguments for why we should be okay with not playing the entirety of an event. Surely IDs do not exist in professional chess, which I understand is not the best comparison but things like Elo are derived from such a game.
I think a strong solution to this would be to remove the capacity for draws at anything below Regionals and only allow them to exist at the highest levels of play. My argument about not playing still remains, but I am a little more okay with the idea the longer the tournament becomes, especially since Regionals and Nationals force you to play a new tournament on the second day.
On one hand, I am certainly a bit of a hypocrite as I have ID’d at many of the City Championships that I have attended, but victimizing myself does not seem to be a proper solution. Certainly, I am not advocating that you don’t ID; they are such a convenient advantage. However, it is an evil that I believe we can do without though I do not imagine that they remove them anytime soon from play.
Any ideas or suggestions to this? Perhaps someone like Kenny who is versed in Magic can elaborate on how often they are used at the professional level.
One of the most discussed things in the Pokémon world right now is surely Israel Sosa’s Yveltal deck. Many are buzzing about whether or not he truly plays Hard Charm, Scoop Up Cyclone and many other wacky cards. I am fortunate enough to have be given his initial list and I can honestly say yes to all of your quandaries! I have attended a handful of City Championships now and have played my take on Israel’s (and notably Chris Collins’, the original creator) deck and was able to win both events where I played SosaRai. I do not feel comfortable giving out Israel’s initial list, but as my own list is a grand departure from the original, I would like to talk about it below. Here is the list that I am currently 13-0-3 with:
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 39
Energy – 12
Briefly, here are the tournament reports to go with them:
Hot Springs, Arkansas 12/6/14
R1: Fighting/Garbodor – W
R2: Bronzong/Dialga/Aegislash/Raichu – W
R3: Donphan – W
T8: Yveltal/Landorus – WLW
T4: Donphan – WW
T2: Donphan – WW
Mukilteo, WA 12/14/14
R1: Virizion/Genesect/Manectric – W
R2: Yveltal/Manectric – W
R3: Bronzong/Dialga/Aegislash/Beartic – W
R4: Yveltal/Seismitoad/Lasers – W
T8: Bronzong/Dialga/Aegislash/Mewtwo – WLW
T4: Donphan – WLW
T2: Bronzong/Dialga/Aegislash/Beartic – LWW
The only difference between the list at these events was that I played two copies of Bicycle in Arkansas and then cut one of them for Team Flare Grunt in Washington. I am generally hesitant to use articles as a decklist dump, but I couldn’t help but share this list here. For one, I am quite confident that mindlessly netdecking it will not provide good results as the deck is complicated to play and I believe that it is shifting out of favor in the metagame.
I can’t remember the last time that I played a deck that felt as controlling as this one. It plays very slowly and attempts to deny Prizes while not placing a priority on just doing as much damage as possible with Yveltal-EX. It certainly is very unique and a ton of fun to play with many tricks up its sleeve but I’ve found that regular Yveltal-EX decks with Muscle Bands and Lasers can be difficult to play against as well as anything with a Manectric focus.
Donphan is perhaps a 90-10 matchup (my loss in top 4 against it being the result of seeing one Pokémon and zero Supporters over four turns), but I am unsure how it will fair against the Fairy deck that is increasing in popularity. I am more than happy to field other questions about the deck!
Professor Henry’s Not-So-New Theory
Recently, fellow UG writer Henry Prior wrote an interesting piece applying game theory to Pokémon. While it is a very interesting read and akin to my application of philosophy to things Pokémon related, there are a few things that I believe incorrect that I would like to dispute. To note, I was briefly a math major and have dealt with a lot of mathematical theory via logic and philosophy, so please do not think that I am firing from the hip in this response. Certainly, I am not saying that Henry does not know what he is talking about and will say with confidence that he knows more about economics than myself, but I will make my points nonetheless.
To begin, let’s look at his very first example. He writes:
“Both players have 2 Prizes left, and it is Player 1’s turn. Player 1 has used their Supporter for the turn and has a decision to either Knock Out the opponent’s non-EX Active Pokémon or pass. We have two more pairs of scenarios here: Player 1 can either have a Lysandre in their hand, which guarantees a win, or not. Player 2 then has the option to either N or Professor Juniper. Professor Juniper has a chance of winning the game, but if Player 2 doesn’t win after the Professor Juniper Player 1 will have the win.”
In this scenario and the preceding statistics applied, I do not believe that the plethora of options is analyzed properly. I will concede that based on the writings alone, what Henry is saying is certainly true, but the numbers provided, in my opinion, are far too linear and do not adequately account for the interworking of the game. The trees used only account for a handful of options — either the player has Lysandre or he does not — but the statistics surrounding, say, the percentage that the Lysandre is topdecked is not account for nor is every single card detailed in his deck. For such probabilistic talk to work, I believe that every single card would need to be accounted for which is not a realistic concern for any player.
Briefly in this example, Henry also talks about how bluffing would play a role in this probability and while I do think that mind games should play a great role in high levels of play, I advocate that there is no way to quantify this. For instance, you can conceivably come up with a matrix for the scenarios your opponent knows you need the Lysandre and bluffs having the N. Branching off from this, you would have a box where he has the N and a box where he does have the N, but for this to be properly accounted for, you would also need a box based on your read of the bluff. From there, you enter the complications of double bluffs and triple bluffs and so on, which becomes increasingly more difficult to quantify and surely would beg an ad infinitum response.
The following two examples (the matchup matrix and making top cut) again have correct mathematics but are ultimately not really pointing at anything. Between the three decks calculated (Yveltal, Virizion and Donphan), it can be determined that one of them is the most optimal play over the rest. However, the calculations that Henry provides are so menial that it throws the entirety of the conclusion into question.
The statistics only provide numbers based around three decks and while they may be the most popular, a proper analysis would feature many, many more numbers as there are many more decks that will appear at a given tournament and many other variables to consider. Three variables quickly become 10 variables and these variables are only rooted in statistics, which are a kind of best guess.
In Pokémon, for instance, we are plagued greatly by variance and so while you may at any given point have a certain percentage to accomplish X, such numbers only point toward possibility and not actuality. For example, I could learn everything there is to know about flipping a coin and have my precision with flipping down to an art to ensure absolute randomness and flip the coin for a testing period of 24 hours. With each flip, I do have a 50% chance of heads or tails, but conceivably, I could flip 100% of one of the options. Naturally, this would elicit an even further statistic, but its possibility remains the same and the distinction between possibility and actuality remains murkier.
My grand point here, similar to the one I made in my “The Good, the Bad, and the Willgen” article, is that there are ways of talking about things do not fully capture the actual happenings. Henry’s not-so-new theory is oversimplified for sake of practicality, but I think requiring it to be practical requires too much. There really is no way to “know” who is going to play what deck, if the meta will shift and how much results will affect future events. You may be able to formulate a best guess, but then we’re back to guessing which is generally unreliable.
Statistic are important and I of course use them regularly, but I think game theory, in terms of actual games, is best left for solved games and nothing with the level of variance as Pokémon.
I have made a wide array of points today and I hope that they are all understandable. I look forward to any following comments and will try to answer them to the best of my ability. There are many more Cities to attend and I believe I will be able to make a handful of other ones. Look more forward, I will definitely be at St. Louis Regionals and perhaps Florida as well. If you see me there, I hope to get to meet many of you! I look forward to writing more articles and Power Rankings for everyone, so keep looking out for them!
Until next time,
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