Among the pitfalls of scheduling oneself for an article the Monday after a big event: when you fly home that Monday, it makes things a bit… interesting. As such, while I’m typing these words, Xander and Pablo are still in the midst of Top 4 matches that could set up quite the final table. It’s been a solid weekend in the game, and Vancouver ended the BKT–BUS format pretty cleanly. We saw two singular archetypes absolutely run through this tournament in a way that I don’t quite think has happened in recent memory. Many players, regardless, seem happy to see this format go.
Personally? I rarely love formats, but this one was far from the worst that I can remember. In many ways, I believe the format simply is what it is, and no matter what, we have to work within the confines of the cardpool. Or, we usually do: this weekend, the augmentation of the tournament structure by attendance added some twists as well.
It’s fascinating that, at any other Regional this year, half of our semifinalists wouldn’t have even been in contention for Top 8—they’d have been artificially eliminated by a tournament structure that’s decided 32 is the magic number for Day 2. Of Top 8, only Hale, Sam, and Mark definitely would’ve made Day 2 at all during every other event this year (see: Fort Wayne, Top 33). And yet, this event counts the same as every other, where the bar is so much higher.
It seems, to me at least, some sort of change ought to be considered. This event is solid proof that 19 match points is more than capable of making Top 8 after the 5 additional Swiss rounds, and seriously raises the question of why the structure is executed in the manner it is—why do we eliminate people that can still win?
With that aside, I’m here today to talk about what happened in Vancouver this weekend. Gardevoir and Garbodor ran the table, comprising more than 2/3rds of Top 32. While we ended up with a Gardy mirror in finals, Garbodor’s presence was still definitely felt by many (myself certainly included). Given the format is quickly coming to a close, there’s only so much left to be said about the decks themselves.
Conveniently, I’m going to be able to drop a link here in a few minutes and have someone smarter than myself tell you all about the 60 cards I played, so we’re not going to spend much time going over that today. I’ll look at my tournament a bit, discuss some overall trends we saw on the weekend, and maybe get a bit into what I might consider at League Cups over the next few weekends. I have read exactly zero Crimson Invasion cards, so I’m definitely not qualified to have that conversation today.
So, without any further musings, let’s get into a look at what went down this weekend in Vancouver.
The Evolution of the Guard: Gardevoir in YVR
Heading into this weekend, I played an underwhelming amount of Pokémon. My games were exclusively played with Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt. On paper, it seemed good against Volcanion and Gardevoir, which seemed like the solution to this format. Of course, nothing is ever that simple with Stage 2s, and as I tested the deck, I was simply underwhelmed. Even so, despite being much maligned, I can’t say it was completely off the table for my personal consideration until Wednesday, and I know my brother considered it right until the end.
I intended to spend my layover in Chicago considering different decks, and potentially playing some games, but the aircraft on the way out of Detroit had different ideas. Some quick thinking and a lot of discussion got us on a different flight to Chicago (incidentally, one that was coming off a 9 hour delay itself…), and we were able to make the connection sprinting through O’Hare—but, my time with cards was cut short. Ergo, when I got to Vancouver, I was pretty much dead on ideas, experiencing a 27 hour Friday-the-13th, and found myself with nearly 0 time to decide on a deck.
Vancouver, I knew, would be unique in its lower attendance. This meant that 6-2-1 would pretty solidly make cut, and that 18 could even sneak in with a high enough rate of ties (which, as Hartford foreshadowed, we saw this weekend). As such, I didn’t need a world-beating play, and given my overall lack of preparation for the event, I didn’t really have any intelligent meta calls to make.
Xander hit me with the idea of Garbodor/Drampa/Espeon as I got off my plane, and Garbodor was definitely something my math analysis (the only Pokémon thing I could really do in the air) considered decent. I knew the safest play was Gardevoir, but Garbodor definitely had a lot of merit as well. Ultimately, given I’d be going into either deck with zero games recently logged, I concluded that I was more comfortable playing Gardevoir’s mirror untested than I was trying to work my way through Drampa’s.
In addition, I had no doubt that most of the upper-echelon Americans making the trip would be playing Garbodor. I decided to take my chances with Gardevoir rather than try to beat good players that had far more of an idea of what they were doing than I did in the mirror—and, for that matter, in all aspects of the deck.
So, I was playing Gardevoir, but had no real basis for where I was starting with it. Fortunately, Mike Fouchet hit us with one of the best articles in recent memory last week. I built the exact 60 he provided and called it a night. The only card I thought about at all was Super Rod over Rescue Stretcher, but given my lack of testing background with the deck, I rolled with the Stretcher on his advice.
An Aside on Preparation
In the era of back-to-backs, honesty: few players prepare as much for Regionals as they used to. There simply aren’t enough hours on the calendar. One of the game’s best, who I’ll leave anonymous because I’m not sure if the comment was intended as such, remarked this weekend that he tests much less than he ever has simply because Regionals are more frequent, more often, and as such, more demanding. Players are playing more Pokémon than ever—just, more of it is taking place within the confines of tournaments. Consider May 2018:
Salt Lake City (BLW-SM5)
4 different formats in 5 weekends. Spoiler alert: nobody attending all of those tournaments is going to have logged enough games on their own to be a master of all. 3/4 of those tournaments are drivable for me, so I ought to be hitting at least the latter trio, and I already have a headache thinking about it.
I’ve observed before that the game has changed a lot in how information flows, but here’s the highlights for those who haven’t read it before: with the growth in YouTube/article/etc. content production, and the fact that the same player base is at every tournament, essentially players are working together in true “teams” in ways not seen previously. In essence, not every player is covering every single deck in their own testing, but all are relying on others to augment their own knowledge.
Now, more than ever, I stand by our model of having more authors talking at more times to help create the most complete and dynamic picture we can.
This was my day in Vancouver:
R1 Golisopod-GX/Octillery BKT (2-0)
R2 Gardevoir-GX (2-0)
R3 Gardevoir-GX/Sylveon-GX (1-0)
R4 Gardevoir-GX/Sylveon-GX (1-1)
R5 Drampa-GX/Espeon-GX/Garbodor (1-2)
R6 Volcanion-EX (2-0)
R7 Golisopod-GX/Garbodor (2-0)
R8 Vikavolt SUM/Tapu Bulu-GX (2-1)
R9 Drampa-GX/Garbodor (0-2)
So, here’s the caveat to the above discussion: while reading is great, and information can be absorbed quite well through osmosis, there is no substitute for actually playing the game. My lack of experience with the deck was not a problem through 3 rounds, but in the 4th, things got a little iffy. In Game 2 of that series, I got sloppy, attacking a Gardevoir with a DCE+Fairy+Choice Band with my own DCE+Fairy+Choice Band. I know this will be breaking news to you all, but your opponent’s Choice Band does not count as an Energy for the purposes of your attack.
So, I hit for 210, feeling like an idiot as the Fairy Energy to complete the KO was chilling in my hand. Had I taken that knockout, my opponent was almost literally without option, having no Ralts and merely a Sylveon on his board. The game was all but assuredly in hand. Game 3, as happens in Gardevoir mirror, was never close to finishing. Fortunately, I didn’t do anything else cosmically idiotic the rest of the day.
My Round 5 loss was disappointing. Having never played the matchup before, Game 1 was disheartening as he annihilated my field, but he likely played Game 2 overconfidently and I capitalized. Game 3 came down to some weird Ns and Confusion Flips, but it was certainly enlightening. I hit the same matchup in Brad Curcio during Round 9. This time, I “probably” made the wrong play in Game 1 by not burning Stretcher+Candy to setup another Gardevoir before playing N. The theory was that I’d force him to find the Field Blower off N to KO my Active Gardevoir. In reality, I should’ve just sacrificed that Gardevoir as a matter of certainty in favor of better board state after the likely knockout. He had the Field Blower, and I never reestablished a board. Game 2, though, was not close.
Thanks to the low attendance, 6-2-1 put me in Day 2, which went as follows:
Lots and lots of Garbodor. As I remarked to Brad before we left the table after Round 9, if this hadn’t been an event in Pacific Time (i.e., my body thought it was 3am after eating) and I’d not been off 4 hours of sleep, I probably would’ve dedicated a good chunk of time to testing the matchup Saturday night. As it was, I bounced between winning and losing, with the crux of my day being the double-jeopardy loss to my Round 4 during Round 12. I believe I executed that as well as I could, as I put the game on Ns to 4 and 2 that required him to find DCE+Fairy to respond each time, but he pulled it out.
The day culminated in another double-jeopardy experience, as Brad 2-0’d me pretty unceremoniously in Round 14. Both of us were coming off poor days, but the series was pretty much typical of my experience in the matchup—the games were somewhat close, but in the end, it just didn’t work out.
The Gardevoir/Garbodor matchup ended up being the crux of my tournament run, and while I definitely didn’t do myself any favors exposing myself to trial-by-fire as a learning mechanism, I don’t think I should’ve reasonably expected to go much more than 3-3 (or, on a really good day, 4-2) against the deck in my 6 Rounds. I was curious if I was the only one suffering from Garbodor issues, so I constructed the following summary of Day 2’s Gardy vs Drampa/Garbodor matchups:
Overall, Garbodor and Gardevoir split the 22 series played on Day 2 exactly evenly—10-10-2. Notably, Pablo Meza, en route to winning the event, went 3-0-1 in the matchup. There wasn’t really much of a correlation between the success of those playing lists with Max Potion (Hale and Mark, at the minimum) and those without, which surprised me a bit, but goes to show the matchup is more volatile than that.
Overall, the Day 2 breakdown there makes it pretty clear that the matchup is close on paper when assuming average skill and average lists from each player, but it’ll be interesting to see if anyone comes up with a way to tilt the matchup either way in the coming weeks of Cups, and especially as we head into London.
I haven’t done a ton of reading of the new set (or, for that matter, either of the new sets), but nothing has jumped out at me as new-archetype material already. Either way, Gardevoir and Garbodor both have universal strengths (heavy damage and the whole Item thing, respectively) that generally suggest they’ll endure into the next format. I’d be unsurprised to see these two at the top of the game most of the year.
Overall, a finish outside the Top 16 is pretty disappointing, but given I played a list as vanilla as possible, with a deck as vanilla as possible, I can’t really complain. It would’ve been nice to hit one of those Fires on Day 2, but that’s how things go.
Speaking of Fire, I wanted to briefly touch on its Day 2 success… or lack thereof. A few made it to the second day of competition, but within short order, they were relegated to bottom-table dwellers. It had a much better yield rate into Top 8 in Hartford than in Vancouver, to say the least. But even still, given overall Top 32 rates, this has been a theme throughout the first two Standard Regionals of the season. For instance, Ryan Allred has played Fire to Day 2 of both Standard Regionals this year, but has not finished inside the Top 16. While some of that comes down to luck, it also comes down to the nature of many of Fire’s matchups in the formats we’ve had this year: often, it begins to suffer against players that have a better understanding of how to play against it.
Yesterday was a bit of an anomaly, though, in that the available pool of good matchups for Volcanion was simply nonexistent. I don’t know what games, other than against the precious few Golisopod, a Fire player could’ve expected to sit down and win yesterday. Ryan remarked (either to me or to someone next to me, I honestly don’t remember) that he acknowledged the deck was not great on Day 2, but pointed out that it did competently get there. This is definitely a fair assessment of Volcanion’s prospects in a tournament like yesterday, and part of my consideration in playing Gardevoir as well: it wasn’t boom-or-bust in any way; in most scenarios I believed I’d safely end up with some number of points from the event.
As it happens, of the decks that did well, I don’t think there was a “risky” play this weekend. Greninja is what it is, and Golisopod was a bit of a surprise appearance, but not honestly anything too shocking. I, though, was unsurprised to see Hale Obernolte’s 2-2 Sylveon, 2 Parallel, 2 Max Potion list mow through Xiao Xiao Long in Top 8. Whatever you make of that situation, rumor has is it that “Greninja hands” reared their ugly head in that series—either way, I imagine it would’ve probably been close at the very least.
I don’t want to take away from either of Xander (who is definitely writing for Wednesday) or Pablo (who I’ve heard will be writing a special edition report for the weekend), so I won’t talk about either of their experiences here. I do know, though, that Pablo’s list was remarkably close to one published in a certain article here last week.
We’re going to have a few critical weeks of Cups as we move between here and London. For many, it’ll be another dose of points toward that Worlds invitation once the calendar flips to November. For some, that November 30 deadline for Australia Stipends will loom large. For all, it’ll be another set of weekends in the Pokémon calendar. I’m not personally all that impressed with Shining Legends, and personally will probably play either Gardevoir or Garbodor for the remainder of my League Cups. I’d suggest the same to you—pick whichever you think is more likely to suit your fancy, and roll with it. Neither has any particularly terrible matchups, and as such, should be decent plays in almost any scenario.
We should have the November calendar together pretty soon for your consideration, and Alex/I should have a podcast out this week (or the next at latest) wrapping up this format, so stay tuned there. Otherwise, this week will have Xander and Brit wrapping up the format, and maybe delving a bit into the new stuff. Otherwise, we’ll get there next week.
As always, all the best.
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