Happy fall, SixPrizes! I hope everyone had a good summer and a great time at Worlds, despite the issues stemming from lack of space. It’s time to start a new competitive season, and this time around we’re going to be dealing with a competitive structure that’s much different from what we’ve seen in the past — something I’m very excited for. In this article I’ll be discussing how to best take advantage of the new tournament format, and afterward I’ll dive into a metagame analysis of Phoenix Regionals, as well as two of the decks that I believe would be strong plays at the event. But first, let’s talk about how to best qualify for Worlds!
Is 500 CP Too Much?
After last week’s announcement that we’ll be required to earn 500 Championship Points this season in order to qualify for Worlds, I saw a smattering of posts on Facebook and Twitter from disheartened players who now believe that their chance of earning an invitation to Worlds is much closer to zero than in previous years. Before you jump to the same conclusion, there are several other factors I believe we should be looking at in order to judge this season’s competitive structure in comparison to those of past seasons.
Factor 1: Higher Regionals CP Availability
We’ve already seen that several of the smaller Regional Championships (Edmonton, Vancouver, Kitchener, Kansas City, New England) from last season have been cut from this season’s competitive structure. We’ve also seen the complete disappearance of State Championships, though according to some rumors, the ever-mysterious ‘Special Events’ may take their place. Personally, I’m going miss traveling up north for Vancouver Regionals, as the tournament has generally been well run, and I’ve always enjoyed an excuse to get out of the country.
What makes up for the smaller number of Regional and State Championships is the new Regionals schedule. Regionals are now happening around twice a month, with no tournaments overlapping each other. Not only will this encourage more travel and higher attendance at these events — something that’s great for the future of the game — but players will theoretically be able to attend more tournaments overall. Attending more events simply equates to having a higher chance at earning Championship Points, and as such I think that the new Regionals schedule is a move in the right direction.
In addition to the new Regionals schedule, the Best Finish Limit for Regionals has been raised to 8 this season, which is purely a boon for anyone attempting to earn a Worlds invite. Not only do players have a higher chance at earning CP by being able to attend more Regional Championships, we’re now also able to simply earn more CP overall. I wouldn’t overlook this part of the equation, as even a handful of moderate Regionals finishes could end up turning into a fifth or more of your Worlds invite.
If you have yet to take a look at the Championship Point breakdown per event on the Pokémon website, I’d urge you to do so in order to see some of the differences from last season. Regional tournaments have a higher payout this season, and I believe that this is also a step in the right direction. I predict that this year’s Regionals are going to be larger, longer, and harder than before, and I’m glad that TPCi has decided to reward players accordingly by giving away more CP at these high-level events.
Overall what these three characteristics encompass is the fact that we now have a higher CP availability from Regionals tournaments. Instead of simply looking at the number of tournaments we have this year, I would encourage you to judge the competitive structure based on how many CP we have available per type of Best Finish Limit. If we’re looking at Regionals alone, an individual has the ability to gain 1600 CP from this year’s Regionals structure, whereas last year the cap for Regionals CP was only 600. Of course it’s very unlikely that a player will cap out their Regionals BFLs, but what this shows us is how much more CP are available — there’s definitely enough to go around.
Factor 2: League Cups & Other Tournaments
We’ve also seen an increase in other tournaments this season — specifically, League Cups (which are now replacing City Championships) and International Championships. Though I’ve yet to see any League Cups scheduled for the first quarter of the season, we still see a higher CP availability from these events than from last season. We’re now theoretically able to earn 400 CP from League Cups and League Challenges, whereas last year we were only able to earn 290 CP overall. League Cups are also going to be scheduled year-round, which again only increases an individual’s ability to attend such events.
International Championships are similar, if we take these to be replacing National Championships from last season. Players are now able to attend as many as they would like despite their country of residence, and of course this again means a higher chance at earning Championship Points. Overall I believe that this will lead to players earning more CP than previous seasons, without having to attend too many more tournaments than before.
Perhaps the most glaring negative to the new competitive structure is that even though players won’t have to attend more tournaments in terms of numbers, we will have to travel further from our homes. The main issue here for most competitive players is that of money — how can we afford to travel to two Regionals a month, especially when most of these tournaments are going to require cross-country travel?
This is a question I’ve been considering for a while, and I was hoping it would be answered by the new Regionals payouts, which looked very promising before the specifics were announced. What’s most troubling in my opinion is how top-heavy the cash/travel award prizes are. I was hoping Pokémon would extended cash prizes a little bit further down the chain so that good players would be able to fund their travel to all of this season’s Regionals simply by doing well at previous events. It unfortunately looks like this won’t be the case, unless you place very well at certain events. What’s more troubling is that for Regional tournaments that have 227 or more players, the cash payout for 3rd and 4th place is the exact same as for 16th or 32nd place — an issue that I think most of the community has had a negative response to.
If prizing was readjusted to trickle down a bit further, I think we could expect players to be able to travel more this season for their invite. Unfortunately we have the same issue now as past seasons, which is that only those players who are able to pay to travel to Regionals all across the country can take advantage of the higher availability of CP that I mentioned previously. I hope that this is something that changes in the future in order to really take Pokémon to the next level of competitive gaming. As it stands now, it looks like TPCi wants to have the tournament structure of a highly competitive game, but is as of now unwilling to give out prizes that match such a structure. Ultimately most players won’t be able to travel as much as they would like to in order to give themselves their best chance at earning a Worlds invite, whether that be for Day 1 or Day 2 of the tournament.
International Championships themselves are also going to be a luxury for most competitive players. I highly commend TPCi for giving the top players from last season stipends to these events, but realistically most players won’t be able to attend any that are outside their continent, as international airfare tends to be expensive, and international travel itself requires a lot of time.
Overall, the competition this year is going to be tougher as well. Since Regionals no longer overlap, I believe that we’ll see an increase in size for most tournaments. So even though there might be more CP to go around, we’re going to have more high-caliber players attending these events. Higher attendance also usually means longer, more stressful tournaments, and that’s something that I would consider you take into account, especially if you’re expecting to travel monthly or even bi-monthly to events across the country. The new structure is going to be grind, and unfortunately the top-heaving prizing doesn’t do much to alleviate the kind of effort and dedication needed in order to attend all of these events.
My recommendation for anyone who believes that earning 500 CP is too difficult this year is to travel to as many Regionals as possible, and to spend the majority of your time focusing on and preparing for these events over almost anything else. It’s best to attend whichever tournaments you think are going to be smaller in order to increase your likelihood of having an easier time. I would also suggest that you take advantage of League Cups whenever you have the ability to, but to disregard League Challenges overall. At the very least for my area, League Challenges have been as competitive as Cities, and since they’re going to be going to the same BFL, it seems to be like they’d just be a waste of time. Other than for this first quarter, for which I haven’t seen any League Cups scheduled, I would suggest skipping League Challenges altogether.
I believe it’s important to have a strategic plan like this in place for your season simply so that you can maximize your efficiency when it comes to how many tournaments you’re playing vs. how many CP you can get out of those tournaments, as well as how much money you’re spending on travel. It doesn’t make sense to get burned out early on by spending too much time traveling to League Challenges, or to choose to go to a larger Regional Championship over a smaller one. Choose which tournaments you go to strategically so that you’ll have a higher chance of getting the outcome that you’re after.
. . .
Below you’ll find what my personal plan looks like for this year’s competitive structure. I tend to do better at Regionals over smaller tournaments, but I think that this year I’ll have to focus a bit more on doing well at League Cups. Overall, I plan to get the majority of my points from Regionals, and to top off my invite with League Cup CP.
Regionals — one top 8, three top 16s, four top 32s | 328 CP
League Cups — two top 8s, two top 4, two top 2 | 180 CP
Of course this plan requires some pretty good finishes, but it’s something that I believe is doable. I like to start off my season with a plan like this and adjust it as time goes on depending on how I do at the events I go to. I suggest that you try and formulate a similar plan in order to get a better idea of what you need to accomplish this season. It’s also helpful later on in the season when you can adjust some of you goals depending on how well (or not well) you end up doing at tournaments in the earlier season.
Los Tres Grandes: Metagaming Phoenix
There a few key components to doing well at a tournament, but I believe that one of the biggest and most often under-valued skill for large tournaments is metagaming. Metagaming tends to be even more important at big tournaments because it’s more likely that you’ll be playing against the same decks more than once (as opposed to something like a League Challenge, where metagaming could be pretty difficult if almost every other player is playing a different deck). Something that I tend to see less-experienced players doing is choosing a deck regardless of what the general metagame looks like, which is a strategy I strongly advise against. Your odds of doing well at Regionals increase so much if you simply choose a deck that you know has good odds against the majority of the metagame — something which I’m hoping to help you with below.
In my discussions with various players from my area, it seems that most people are in agreement that the metagame for Phoenix Regionals is primarily going to be made up of:
- and Night March.
This is a similar metagame to some of the tournaments I’ve seen last season, but there are a few things I’d like to take into consideration that are specific to Phoenix Regionals.
Earlier in the month, the deck I heard being discussed most in terms of what could be a really good play for Regionals was Trevenant. I would suggest you all check out Aaron Tarbell’s article if you would like an in-depth discussion about this deck. I think that Item lock would a really strong play for Regionals, and Trevenant is a lot more powerful in Expanded than it is in Standard. Though I’ve heard a lot of people saying that they’re looking to play Trevenant at Phoenix, this might be something I would recommend against due to its Yveltal/Dark matchup.
Something that I think most out-of-state players tend to not take into consideration about playing in the general West Coast area is the high prevalence of Yveltal/Dark decks. I know that this deck tends to be a large portion of the metagame regardless of where you go, but I think that we tend to have it in higher proportions out here. This is specifically why I don’t think Trevenant would make the best play for this weekend. If this tournament was anywhere else, I would definitely say that your chances of doing well with Trevenant would be higher.
In general, players tend to play less Trevenant when they expect higher Yveltal/Dark decks to be played at a tournament, and I feel like this happens almost every time we have an Expanded tournament on the West Coast. What this then leads to is the opportunity for Night March to come in and take over. Night March loses almost immediately to Trevenant, but if players are being scared out of playing Trevenant because of Dark, Night March definitely has the chance to rise to the top. Its Yveltal matchup is even to favorable. Many people are also going to choose Night March because it’s relatively inexpensive and mostly easy to pilot.
Despite this kind of interplay between the big three decks I expect us to see at Phoenix, what’s most important is simply to understand that it’s likely that these decks are going to make up the majority of the metagame. At the very least, don’t choose a deck that you think has a bad matchup against two out of three of these decks. With large tournaments like Regionals, you’ll have to play the odds and gear your deck toward what you generally expect to see.
Yveltal for Expanded
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
Everyone who is even somewhat familiar with my playing history should know that I tend to heavily favor Yveltal-EX and Dark decks in general. I’ve always liked the Dark archetype for its consistency and versatility, two factors which I believe are sometimes under-appreciated by players when deciding on a deck for a large tournament like Regionals.
I’m the kind of player that doesn’t get bored from playing the same deck over and over again. In fact, I like to do it so that I can continue to build on my knowledge and experience with the deck so as to learn how to play the deck better. Perhaps my past experience that I have with the Dark archetype has led me to have a biased opinion of the deck, but I still maintain that its consistency remains unrivaled — a thought that I believe other top players would agree with.
The list I have above is most likely going to be very close to what I’ll be playing at Phoenix Regionals this weekend. Though it doesn’t have a particularly great matchup against any one deck (except perhaps certain variations of Trevenant BREAK), Dark’s consistency allows it to have even, or close to even, matchups against almost anything else that you’ll see on the field. I know that this is a statement that players have been making time and again, but I think it’s particularly important to remember this for Regionals. Having the security to know that you’ll be able to beat most decks that are ‘random’ or out of left field can be crucial.
In general, I haven’t seen Dark lists change too much since Spring Regionals, so the deck’s general strategy is going to be the same. The ideal first turn combines Ghetsis and Silent Lab in order to disrupt your opponent, and from there you can continue to build your board using Dark Patch and Max Elixir.
There are two new cards from Steam Siege that I’ve included in this list, which I’d like to discuss more in detail:
I think many people might be writing off Yveltal BREAK, but I couldn’t be more excited for the card. It’s extremely powerful and fits in seamlessly with the rest of the deck. I don’t like this card in a Standard version of Dark because I think the deck operates a bit differently, and it can be difficult to attached three Dark Energy to Yveltal BKT manually or using Max Elixir. However, access to Dark Patch in Expanded makes this strategy quite easier, and thus gives Yveltal BREAK a chance to shine.
I really like the versatility that Ninja Boy adds to the deck. Not only can it save you from bad starts with Shaymin-EX or Jirachi-EX, but it allows you to swap out your attackers late game in order to choose the one that’s best for the kind of damage output that you want. This is especially helpful when you would like to do any Bench damage but don’t have either a Darkrai-EX DEX or an Yveltal BKT powered up yet.
Night March for Expanded
Pokémon – 16
1 Mew FCO
Trainers – 40
1 Town Map
Energy – 4
I’ve come to realize the power behind Night March as I’ve been playing more and more of it in Standard, and I’ve come to a similar conclusion as with Dark variants. The deck can easily win against almost anything that you might not be expecting, and when it comes to big tournaments like Regionals, this shouldn’t be overlooked. Its sheer power makes the deck very appealing. Unlike most decks, including Dark variants, it has the ability to start one-shotting almost immediately. You can often out-speed your opponents, and that’s one of the most important parts of playing in Expanded.
The oddest part about this deck list is most likely the three copies of Pokémon Catcher. I’ve found that a high count of Pokémon Catcher improves so many matchups that you should, at the very least, consider testing with them. You have high odds of hitting heads on at least one Catcher (87.5% if all three are played), which could be a game-breaking play if you’re able to pull up a Shaymin-EX or any other EX you’re able to one-shot. This makes the card very good in the mirror match as well, assuming your opponent isn’t playing as many copies (if any).
My concern with playing Night March in Expanded is that the deck could easily lose to Item lock, and depending on how many players decide to pilot Trevenant BREAK, it might end up being a poor choice. Having Pokémon Ranger is helpful, but it’s hard to draw the Supporter exactly when you need it. The deck is also susceptible to a turn 1 Ghetsis, which is going to be a popular strategy in Expanded. Regardless, the biggest draw to Night March in my opinion is its ability to win games regardless of bad matchups or Ghetsis simply. I would suggest running this deck if you’re confident in your ability to pilot it, and you don’t expect to see much Trevenant BREAK in the metagame.
If you’re planning on coming to Phoenix Regionals and want to chat, please say hi! I’m looking forward to seeing how much bigger the tournament will be considering the changes that have been made to the competitive structure. I’m also excited to see friends from outside of the Pacific Northwest/West Coast area, and I’m sure it’ll be a great time. Best of luck!
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