Regional Redux

Recapping the Toronto Emergents

Some many months ago, we set out on the journey that’s become the 2016-2017 season. It’s been a weird one in more ways than one, but now, part of it’s come to a close: finally, the sun has set on the last Expanded event of the year! Toronto brought us that final major Expanded event of the season, and to say the least, it was a departure from the rest of the season’s ideas of the format.

With a field dominated by Giratina, Seismitoad, and sheer chaos, it was a new reflection of the chaos we’ve come to know Expanded as. As you may’ve heard, I was fortunate enough to take 2nd in Canada with Groudon. Coming off Portland, which was dominated by the likes of Yveltal and Darkrai, it was logical to expect some changes. Quite frankly, Dark has never had the hold on the East Coast that it’s enjoyed out West, but even with that in mind, it was likely in the minds of most that it’d see some level of play in Ontario.

There was certainly a lot of Night March talk coming from influential corners of the American contingent going into the event. Expanded is notorious for the presence of myriad decks, but there was notable coalescence in the rumor mill over Night March’s potential. I wanted to consider it myself, but was hesitant given the sheer number of Item lock options present in the format.

Since the last time I discussed Expanded, where I went over my Portland adventures with Groudon, I hadn’t found any decks to get especially excited about. After some testing Friday night to minimal effect, the rumor mill began to point toward Giratina-EX. Admittedly, this was more of the Dark/Giratina variety than the Toad/Giratina that we eventually saw take hold, but upon the revelation that Giratina was seeing any sort of hype, my plans to default to Night March took a decided downturn. I considered a version with Maxie’s for all of about 10 minutes, but decided in the end it’d be too sketchily inconsistent to overcome.

The Formula for Success: Finalizing the List

My brother, Alex, dispensed with even the minimal testing that I did and resolved early in the evening to simply play Groudon. My testing yielded nothing to unseat that idea, and once Night March was tabled by the seemingly imminent rise of Giratina, I was left to return to Groudon myself. The list, though, was a matter of intense debate between Alex and I (and, once he got on board, Sean Foisy).

Since our experience in Portland, Alex has been insistent on including a Hex Maniac to shore the Darkrai/Giratina matchup. Personally, I believed the energy denial we included was sufficient to deal with the Giratina problem, but he was adamant in disagreement. Alex cut his Bunnelby in favor of the Hex, which turned out to be rather important later in the weekend.

The final change to the list came Saturday morning, when Alex Hill incredulously noted the continued presence of Weakness Policy in the deck. In hindsight, there really was no use for the card outside of Accelgor, and we were right to drop it. In its place, a 2nd Enhanced Hammer came onboard to help counter the Giratina and Night March surges. With that said, this was the final list:

This list should look familiar from not only my prior article on Expanded, but also my post-Ontario Regionals 2016 article. In fact, this list was only 3 cards off that one, which featured Ultra Ball (since succeeded by Nest Ball), Healing Scarf (a pseudo-Trevenant counter), and Battle Compressor (deemed unnecessary, though it was certainly my 61st card). That article also has the beginnings of the Night March list that I’ve played to a plethora of CP over the last year, so to say the least, the lists developed there have put in some work for me over the year.

Tournament Tour: Recap

This list was piloted by Sean Foisy and I, while my brother played a Hex Maniac over the Bunnelby. In addition, MI Senior Quintin North piloted a close derivative of the list. My day was as follows:

Toronto // 345 Masters // Primal Groudon

R1 Decidueye-GX/Vileplume/Toolbox (2-0)
R2 Trevenant BREAK (0-2)
R3 Trevenant BREAK (2-1)
R4 Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR (2-0)
R5 Yveltal-EX/Darkrai-EX/Lasers (1-1)
R6 Night March (2-0)
R7 Yveltal XY/Gallade/Zoroark BKT/Druddigon FFI (2-0)
R8 Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX (1-1)
R9 Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor (2-0)

Day 1: 6-1-2, 11th Seed.

The end of Masters Day 1 saw my brother land 1st seed, Sean 4th, and myself 11th — certainly a welcome conclusion, all things considered. The metagame definitely had some stranger stuff than I expected, including a good amount of Trevenant and things like the monstrosity I hit Round 8. I shouldn’t have been shocked, as Expanded certainly is the poster child for “strange,” but it was nonetheless surprising. Among the 3-of us, the only losses taken were mine to Trevenant and Sean’s to Lurantis/Vileplume. That, too, will be a fact to remember later.

The rest of my MI friend group split between a M Rayquaza list primarily of Sean’s devising and Alex’s Decidueye/Vileplume. I’m honestly unclear on the circumstances that led to Alex concluding that deck would be a good idea, as the first I heard of it was a 2:30am plea for Oddish/Gloom BCR. Unfortunately, he fell short of Top 32, but Chris Derocher made it with the same list as Alex.

There wasn’t anything else especially remarkable about Day 1 in my mind, other than perhaps the sheer diversity of the Top 32 decks. Day 2 featured the following slate of fun:

Toronto Day 2: 20 Day 1 Match Points

R10 M Rayquaza-EX (1-0)
R11 Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX (2-0)
R12 Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX (2-1)
R13 ID
R14 ID

Final: 9-1-4, 2nd seed.

I knew going in that 11 match points would be a necessity if I wanted to attain complete safety. Even then, I probably would’ve considered playing Round 13 under most circumstances, but as it was, I got paired to my brother. Since the ID put us both in a position to Top 8 with another tie in Round 14, it wasn’t much of a debate. I was fortunate to get paired to a willing opponent in the last round, and was off to Top 8. Unfortunately tiebreakers didn’t go quite as I liked, as Alex and I were on a collision course for Top 4:

T8 Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX (2-1)
T4 Groudon (2-0)
T2 Lurantis/Vileplume (1-2)

In order to have that match, we still had to get there. Fortunately, it worked out. I lost a Game 1 in Top 8 that I probably should’ve won by simply being more conservative by dedicating my last Energy to a Bunnelby play. Instead, I tried to N-proof myself and found myself N’d out of the game anyway. Fortunately, I pulled the last two out, though they were truly excellent games. Top 4, of course, featured the mirror match that I’d been dreading all weekend. My Bunnelby made the game simply too difficult for him to win, though, and in the end I pulled the series out.

Finals was where things got particularly interesting. As mentioned earlier, Azul had the experience of playing against Sean Foisy on Day 1. On the other hand, I was completely flying on intuition — and, to tell the truth, that intuition was telling me I was going to be in for a rough run. Game 1 did nothing to alleviate that preconception, as my anemic start was easily overpowered. Game 2 was a much more compelling run, and I was able to take it in the end.

Game 3 was looking dire until some convenient Tromp+Giant Claw math led to me finding a pair of Wobbuffets — and then the game was on! It was a remarkably close conclusion, and one that surprised me a lot given my initial expectations. Given those expectations, I’m not exactly devastated at the loss, but it’s discouraging knowing the extra turn it took to find the Energy was all it took to allow Azul to setup Vileplume’s Solarbeam and cinch the game.

In finality, the Groudon list managed 2nd, 3rd, and 10th in Masters, while also taking 2nd in Seniors. In essence, the list itself earned over a Worlds invitation worth of CP this weekend! Can’t really ask for much more than we got out of it. Congrats to Azul on the win as well.

The Land Beyond: Reflections and Impressions

The big story of the event was definitely the resurgence of Seismitoad, and in close companionship, Giratina-EX. After being absent for the last several Regionals, the pair made a storming comeback. I’d say this is at least partially due to the Night March hype many players heard — which led to a lot of “in-the-know” players selecting Seismitoad to answer that hype. As this is the final major Expanded event of the season, it’s hard to make any solid projections as to the format’s future. Guardians Rising will be legal whenever it has its next Regional, and really, it’s not inconceivable that August’s set could hit the scene before the next major Expanded event as well.

With so much uncertainty, it’s truly hard to get a read on the future, and I wonder if we could see a significant shakeup the next time players turn toward Expanded. Of course, there’s a chance of a summer Regional utilizing the format, so I may yet be overstating this meta’s imminent demise. Whatever the case, Expanded does have a funny way of coming full circle in the end, so I don’t doubt we’ll still be having similar conversations a year from now.

With that in the books, all eyes are focused on Seattle and the launch of Guardians Rising. We’re kicking off our coverage of the set in depth this week, with articles from Michael Slutsky, Alex Hill, and yours truly. While I’m personally much more muted than my counterparts in my feelings on the set, it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how things shake out.


Reader Interactions

14 replies

  1. Dillon Bussert

    Is it an issue that Tropical Beach is near-unattainable if you don’t have connections to someone that does have them? Looking at tcgplayer, there is only 8 available for sale at an average of $220/ea, making a Groudon deck $880 for just the beaches. That type of exclusive deck, one that can smash a Top 32, is an outlier in Pokemon.

    • Christopher Schemanske  → Dillon

      As someone with a, uh, vested financial interest in the situation (I own more than my requisite playset), my perspective may be biased. For awhile they’d fallen back into the $125 range, but it definitely does seem as though they’ve hiked back up. Is it a problem? Sure, but that’s maybe the type of philosophical tangent pertaining to the game that I don’t like to get into.

      As for solving it? I’d like to see, most ideally, the restrictions on foreign language card use eliminated for Regionals and above. This would have the effect of making leveling the playing field in a number of ways, and not just related to Tropical Beach. As it is, when a foreign player comes to the US, it’s ambiguous at best what languages they can use at a Regional event (well, I don’t think it’s ambiguous, they aren’t by the letter of the rules — but the fact that some have been allowed to use foreign languages clearly implies that someone else disagrees). We’d remove that ambiguity, approximately double the supply of available Tropical Beach, and level the playing field.

      Say we had an Expanded International Championship. Currently, the guidance is to allow players to only play with cards legal in their home zone. In this event, a European player would have a distinct advantage in being able to acquire cheaper German/French Beaches. As it becomes an international game, it’d be the consistent thing to do—and it’d solve the Beach problem.

    • George North  → Dillon

      Let me throw my two cents in here.

      I like the response Chris gave for the solution to tropical Beach. I think that solves several problems.. But I don’t think he answered your question….

      Let me first rephrase your question and then take a stab at an answer

      Question: Is it a problem in Pokemon that to build a truly competitive deck you have to spend hundreds of dollars?

      Answer: Unfortunately as with many competitive events the best players usually have an advantage that is helped along with access to money. Say your in to running… Adidas hot new running shoe costs $450.
      Golf – TaylorMade custom fit golf clubs $3,500. Bicycling- Pinarello racing bike $13,000
      Car racing – NASCAR ready stock car $140,000
      Sailboat racing – Americas Cup AC72 sailboat $8,000,000. It’s a harsh fact that sometimes money makes the difference.

      But perhaps this will make you feel better.
      Chris took 2nd place in masters and my son took 2nd place in Seniors. Both played with that Goudon deck that had a retail cost of around $1200. Both lost to decks in the finals with an average cost far far less. So yes it’s a problem… but in my opinion not a horrible one because in Pokemon lower cost decks often do quite well too.

      • Dillon Bussert  → George

        Your rephrasing is not my question, as I and I’m sure all sixprize readers who pay $15/mo subscriptions are ok buying a $200 Pokemon deck. My question is specifically about the availability of Tropical Beach and having a T1 deck card that had artificial barriers to obtain, and now as its further from its distribution is reaching near-impossible to obtain levels.

        It’s one thing to tell a racer that they need a $140,000 stock car, but another to say only 4 people can buy one and everyone else has to race a Mustang instead. That’s an outlandish example, but it gets the point across, there’s only 2 playsets of Tropical Beaches immediately available. I’d venture to say your son would not have played Groudon if couldn’t have borrowed them? Fortunately we do not widely have this issue as Yu-gi-oh does (from what I’ve read), but it does jump out when the deck does so well at a Regional.

        • Christopher Schemanske  → Dillon

          I will say: if Seattle was Expanded, I wouldn’t touch Groudon. For one thing, West Coast Yveltal is infinitely more hostile an environment for the deck than anything on the East half of the country. But more importantly, Expanded has moved so cyclically that I don’t think Groudon would be playable just based on simple meta trends.

          This is the first really strong performance for a strictly Beach-enabled deck in a number of years. I don’t think it’s something to sound too loud an alarm about at this time. I do still somewhat question your characterization of just how limited the supply is, though.

          This argument is almost 6 years old, and from Beach’s very existence until now, it’s been a contentious one. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it got the axe when we get to the next quarterly announcement, sad as it’d make me. Different game from when this argument last mattered. I’m not going to debate whether it’d be inherently good or bad.

        • George North  → Dillon

          Forgive me.. I read more into you question then was actually there. So in looking at just Tropical Beach I did a little research.. Chris is correct.. Tropical Beach is not that dominant in the format in terms of stadiums. I went and looked at the 5 regional’s that were expanded (Phoenix, Philly, San Jose, St Louis, Portland) and counted up the stadiums used in the top 8 decks. (I had real work to do but this was more fun).

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