Another tournament, another week of reactions. This back-to-back-to-back cycle was something we saw throughout the 2015 and 2016 tournament seasons, and I know that I, for one, did not miss the effect they create. It’s now going to be a rushed near-frenzy for players as we flip from Standard to thinking back to Fort Wayne’s Expanded results.
Or, at minimum, it might be that way if Fort Wayne hadn’t proven Expanded’s reality once again: the more it seems to change, the more it stays the same. With the lone—albeit, very notable—exception of the Turtonator deck that rose out of Fort Wayne, we saw very little change in terms of the actual metagame. I know a slew of good players already committed to the idea of playing Turtonator this weekend, which is a telling statement in of itself.
First, I do want to talk a bit about Hartford today. While my experience was as mediocre as could be, I think it brings up some points about Bo3 and Standard that I wouldn’t mind exploring a bit—and that I think can help with Vancouver preparation—so we’ll touch that quickly before getting into the issue of the hour: Daytona Regionals.
I’ve had to find a lot of Fire imagery recently for use on 6P, which is probably telling in regards to the state of the format in my and others’ minds. As Alex and I observed on the last podcast episode, neither of us were really all that much fans of the archetype last season, but we’ve definitely been far more appreciative of it this year. We’ve played it heavily so far this season, with a particular emphasis on Volcanion and Salazzle respectively. Fellow writer Xander Pero has also played a lot of it this year, to decent success at Cups.
It’s that background that brought the three of us to Hartford. Xander had made his choice awhile ago, while Alex and I spent most of last week testing a lot of different things. From Metagross/Solgaleo to strange Golisopod lists, we tried a lot. Ironically, I don’t think we played a single game with the deck we actually ended up playing. (Editor’s note from Alex: we actually tested exactly 2 games of a Salazzle list with Gumshoos-GX. It was bad.)
I found Golisopod was probably better than I gave it credit for on that podcast episode, but still not quite something I would want to play to a large scale event. I simply thought the Gardevoir matchup would be too perilous for my comfort, especially given things like Metagross could finesses wins against it. Adding a Fire matchup that was dubious made it too uncomfortable for me. Similarly, I felt Alolan Ninetales just had too many holes to be a solid strategy, and I left it at home.
I never seriously considered Tapu Bulu, as it’s just not a deck I believe wins enough games off paper in aggregate. It was interesting to see one Top 8 this weekend, but one of my fundamental theories about the game is that bad decks do perform well a given percentage of the time. Similarly, other Garbodor variants never really crossed my radar as a play because I believed Garbodor to be a bit too weak for this format. I may have been proved somewhat incorrect by the results we saw, and certainly Ian Robb’s Top 4 run had to feature a number of Gardevoir wins, but I’m not too crushed in my lack of consideration for the deck.
My final real alternative for the event was Metagross. I was considering a weird list with Solgaleo, but in the end, I decided it couldn’t deal with Garbodor BKP enough to be worthwhile. That left me pretty optionless, so when Xander sent along his latest iteration of a Fire list that was only a few cards off what he and I had worked on over the last few weeks, I took the excuse to make the comfort play.
For whatever it’s worth, my analytical devices favored Ho-Oh, Greninja, and Metagross, with Gardy a somewhat distant 4th. Metagross was higher than it should’ve been, obviously, and it missed on Drampa and others. I refuse to play Greninja and didn’t want to engage in Gardevoir mirrors all day, so Ho-Oh it was.
An important aside: I’m under the impression, true or not, that matchups in this Standard format are significantly less polar than some of our past ones. That is, more matchups can tilt either way within the confines of a single game, meaning Best of 3 would result in more ties. It’s not yet a body of evidence, but the tie rate in Hartford was just over 21%, which is a solid 3–4% above what we normally see (and the solid 4% over the rate we saw in Fort Wayne). It doesn’t sound like much, but in all actuality, that’s a lot more matches ending in ties.
A number of things could explain this, but I don’t really believe sample size to be one—with over 5,000 matches of data in the event, it’s a fairly healthy data source. More likely, in my mind, is the effect I mention above: more matches are ending in 1-1 ties vs prior 2-0s, meaning more ties. Alternatively, Standard might just be a slow format right now. I’m eagerly awaiting the results of Daytona and Vancouver to see if they fall in line with this pattern or not, and am in the process of seeing what data I can salvage from last season for similar analysis. Stay tuned.
What does that mean for you picking a deck? If you’re a fast player that feels comfortable scooping quickly to facilitate getting 3 games in each round, probably not much. If you aren’t, it might be better to look at decks with more polar matchups (like Metagross; though it’s a bit slow) than ones that tend to trend more 50/50ish (like, I would argue, Gardevoir). Hit-or-miss concepts like Greninja might be a solid bet in that case as well. While it may not be a good thing to base a deck choice off this sort of effect, it’s something to be cognizant of if you’re trying to tiebreak between a few concepts in your mind.
While playing the game, it seemingly implies that people need to pick up the pace! So that we’re all absolute clear, the latest word I’ve heard after some confusing messaging out of Hartford is that it is explicitly not a legal maneuver to ask an opponent “Do you want to agree to decide Game 3 on prize lead?” because it’s equivalent to asking for a concession. You’re allowed, in principle, to offer “I intend to concede based on the prize lead” and see if an opponent reciprocates, but that agreement is unenforceable. For what it’s worth…I generally don’t engage in the verbal theatrics of the agreement at all. It’s a minefield.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 31
Energy – 14
Pokemon ParadijsThere’s a lot of weird here, and I’m a little unnerved to honestly be telling you that I don’t really have the ability to defend some of it. Field Blower made its way out of the list, as I mentioned I was conisdering in my last article. In hindsight, this list lacked a counter to Parallel City, which was a debacle for at least me personally. N was something of an issue with the deck, because it’s so unbelievably bad in the late game.
We decided (or, in fairness, Xander suggested) Judge was the best option to fix that issue. If nothing else, it was funny how many of my opponents didn’t even know the card existed. Otherwise, I lost a few games to Judging myself to a Turn 1 4, so it was dubious. And furthermore, I earned myself my first penalty since 2014—better yet, visible for the whole world to see—as I drew 6 off the Judge on stream in Round 3. These things happen.
I’m not even going to bother with the full-length report, as I went a dismal 4-5. One of my biggest reservations about the deck was the Gardevoir matchup, and sure enough, I went 1-3 against the deck. However, and this plays perfectly into the “matchups are way, way closer than they were last year at this time” category I mentioned, I went a far-less-bad 5-6 in individual games against the deck. Between my family and Xander+Alex, we went 19-16 against the deck, but 8-8 in Bo3 sets. In Bo1, that’s technically a favorable matchup overall. In Bo3, it trends far closer to even—while that 5% may not seem like that much, it really is the world in terms of playability.
In essence, it was a mediocre call for a field of Gardevoir. Its mediocrity was pretty thoroughly demonstrated in the 6-3, 5-4, 5-4, 4-4, 4-5, and 3-3-2 records its pilots played to. Though, I’d note that I’m not sure I know what led to the 2 ties—the rest of us didn’t even, to my knowledge, go to time—let alone tie. Fire was a fast deck in a format of a slower pace this weekend.
As we look forward, I’m lost on Standard. I’d be lying if I said this weekend didn’t take a lot out of me in terms of the format. Someone I speak to once in awhile at events that generally keeps me pretty intellectually honest has noted that I’m prone to saying “the deck was just bad” when big tournament plays go awry (or, when they’re Metagross). When I call a deck bad, it’s usually a function of me misjudging its ability to execute its basic strategy pre tournament and simply expressing that in simple terms afterwards. I’m pretty sure that this deck actually, in fact, is not “bad” in that sense—it executes its strategy quite effectively, honestly. Simply, the call itself was just bad. This deck was a poor choice for this event, and that’s on my preparation.
As I alluded above, Turtonator is definitely the deck to beat in this format. What I want to do today is go through Fort Wayne’s big players, discuss their playability, and give some general thoughts. I’m pretty sure decklists are around for all of the decks in this format, and I don’t have anything world-breaking to share, so we’re going to stick to the narrative discussion rather than the lists today. With that said, if you’re struggling for a starting point on a list or are just curious which of the five-zillion Night March lists should be looked at, I’m always happy to give that sort of direction via PM.
Turtonator-GX: I know many players that have basically locked in with this deck for next weekend. The performance by Rahul Reddy’s list in Fort Wayne was certainly dominating, and the deck took home the Bilbao Special Event this past weekend as well. Either of those lists would be a fine point to start with, and for that matter, I’d comfortably play either directly to the event. I think the others have plans to cover this a bit more in depth this week, so I’ll move on.
Night March: For all the Turtle hype, Night March did win the event. I’m comfortable saying Night March will beat Turtonator enough of the time that I’d consider playing it. What concerns me is that one of the more natural Turtonator counters—Seismitoad—is a pretty annoying sight for Night March, too. Night March is far more equipped for the situation than it used to be, but nonetheless, Item Lock is annoying.
I need to test the Turtonator/Trevenant matchup more, but my inclination says it’s not going to be a pretty thing for Trevenant, which should be good for our bug heroes. Not that I’m biased or anything by my general, well-noted appreciation for Night March, but I think it could be a good play. Concern: Oricorio.
Golisopod/Garbodor: I really don’t think this is a very good deck, and am almost certain it’s poorly positioned with Fire set to be big again. I also don’t think it has half as much of a prayer against Night March as it wants to think it does—if people stay away from that Oricorio card. If Oricorio were to be teched here, it probably could cause problems, but I personally cannot see a situation where I want to play a deck that loses to Fire.
Gardevoir: Oddly positioned, as I believe the general argument would be that Turtonator is best-equipped in the format to simply destroy GXs without leaving much Energy for Gardevoir to work off of. If you think you have a way to beat Turtonator, you could do very well. Otherwise, I’d steer away because I think Trevenant could be positioned to rebound (mainly because of my next opinion).
Speed Dark: For all the representation it had in Fort Wayne, it didn’t do very well in the end. I think Dark will always be big in Expanded because people love it, but I believe Fire will probably cut into its meta share as we look at Daytona. I believe it’s fairly close with Fire, though, and could accordingly see it being a halfway decent play. I’d want to consider Karen or Oricorio to help look at the Night March matchup, though, and would especially note that losing to a Focus Sash’d Marshadow-GX would be a crying shame.
This deck is the raw standard for consistency in Expanded, though, and is likely to see play anyway. In my post-Fort Wayne article, I got into the weeds of how to play the Espeon/Garb matchup with the deck, and for anyone considering the deck for Daytona, I think the principles there can be applied to any Garb matchup—and, all things considered, I could see Garb being big this weekend.
The Enigma Known as Garbodor: I think the potential for this card in Expanded is still super strong, but am simply unsure what the best fit is. Espeon obviously didn’t do me too badly in Fort Wayne, but I don’t think I can see myself playing it again. Drampa underwhelms me greatly in Expanded. That leaves the options pretty thin, especially given my thoughts on Golisopod. If there’s a partner to be found, Item consumption will never be higher than in Expanded.
Primal Groudon: Don’t tempt me.
Archie’s Blastoise: I oddly could see this being halfway decent. I’m sure my friends are going to PM me angrily after reading this, and remind me of the 101 reasons this deck isn’t a great idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it actually was a good call for this weekend. It should do well against the Fire concepts of the day, and things like Gardevoir are less of a threat when you can openly OHKO things all day. The raw power is something unseen elsewhere in the format.
The obvious weaknesses continue to remain: reliance on Items, reliance on the early Setup, and more. But, all events require a bit of a luck, and I could see this being a good vehicle to ride to success this weekend.
Primal Groudon, for real this time: I somewhat wonder if Dark potentially falling back into the shadows couldn’t make Groudon a playable concept this weekend. The Fire matchup feels razor-thin as you play it, but I believe it falls your way in most games. Focus Sash is simply a lot to overcome. This weekend could make Super Potion a good inclusion, along those lines—making a random Volcanion STS chip attack null and void is a decent effect.
There are still legion issues here—namely that you aren’t allowed a 63 card deck—but if Dark were to fall off a bit, there could be an opening. If you wanted to try your hand at a list, I would still go back to my Toronto one and consider minimal changes.
Overall, I’m excited to see what comes of Florida next weekend. It’s going to be interesting to see what players come up with, and I’m eager to be along for the ride for it. It’s going to be a whirlwind few weeks getting coverage out on 6P, as we bounce from format-to-format, but I hope we’re able to help you as well as possible.
The “title” portion of this article roughly translates to “never decide to settle for mediocrity.” It’s not only an aversion to the idea of mediocrity, but the idea that one will not make the conscious decision to be okay with that result. We all play the game for different reasons. Some of us play for the pursuit of winning, some of us play for the fun of it, some for the people in the game, and most for a combination of all.
I’m certainly in the latter group, as no single factor is enough to keep anyone around in the long run, but the spirit of the title is the personal reminder that the weekend was: players do this for different reasons. At 3-5, it was truly humbling how excited my opponent was to play against “one of the Schemanskes.” He promptly wiped the floor with me in Game 1—with Golisopod—and scooped the match so that he and his son could leave, but for him, it was apparently about the experience.
Deciding not to be mediocre need not be about tournament success, but can be about all aspects of the game—as long as someone is thoroughly enjoying their time in the game, that’s something to be celebrated. Do whatever it is you do to the fullest.
As always, all the best.
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