The Other Side of London

Xander’s Thoughts on his London Experiences and the State of Penalties

Greetings, readers. European Internationals has concluded, and with that comes stories of success, but also those of failure. Christopher’s stellar Top 4 performance makes me extremely happy, not just for the success of SixPrizes, but as the success of a friend. In his report a few days ago, he made an inquisitive observation about tournament reports. He wrote that takeaways from tournaments vary based on performance, and that it’s much easier to write stuff about misfortune. Perhaps it’s my pessimistic mood, but I find it true. My Vancouver, Worlds, Mexico City, and Dallas reports have different moods than this one. Sure, they both detail my pre-tournament experiences, deck choice, and important round reports, but the emphasized points are focused on failures rather than successes. With that aside, here I go.

The reason I thought of writing a report after my mediocre performance came from a Heyfonte thread: Garbodor’s flop. Someone asked me to explain the lack of Garbodor, despite my confidence with the deck beforehand. With a summation of my report in a single sentence: Garbodor decks can’t compete with the newer cards because they’re efficient in trading and managing Item usage.

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Pre-Tournament Thoughts

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Leading up to the tournament, as usual, a majority of my “testing” comes from discussing ideas in group chats and reading articles. I don’t have much interest in dedicating myself to creating perfect lists for new archetypes. However, I find it incredibly cool how innovative Tord’s winning list is compared to list standards of the past. I’m glad that deck building is a skill within Pokémon because it adds another element to the competition.

As I said in my past article, Drampa/Espeon/Garbodor (with an interchangeable focus) and Gourgeist were my two plays for the tournament. I had brought the cards to build any other deck had the idea been spread, but I probably would have stuck with Garbodor anyway. I spent the majority of Thursday playing games with Gourgeist to mild success, but also with repeated failure. Gourgeist can’t continuously win its good matchups, but can somehow manage to lose its bad ones 100% of the time. Unfortunately for me, I chose the wrong deck for what opponents I’d play. Gourgeist is 8-1 on paper vs. my opponents below, but I’d expect 6-3 to be the true outcome because of variance and luck.

R1: Alolan Ninetales/Zoroark WW
R2: Golisopod/Garbodor WW
R3: Drampa/Espeon/Garbodor WW
R4: Zoroark/Decidueye WLT
R5: Espeon/Drampa/Garbodor LL
R6: Silvally/Metal LL
R7: Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu WW
R8: Greninja LWW
R9: Buzzwole/Zoroark/Lycanroc LL

The massive failures came from rounds 4-6 where I couldn’t pick up a win. On stream vs. Daniel Altavilla, my goal was to 1-0 him with about 25 minutes left, but that was a poor strategy. This left me with little time to finish Game 3 where I would have won convincingly had I allowed myself more time. I should have scooped Game 2 after I failed to establish Garbotoxin within the first few turns of the game.

In the round after, I can’t give any reasons for my loss other than my awful style of play. I completely lost focus in how to play the mirror match, and made a plethora of stylistic mistakes. At that point, I hadn’t eaten anything all day and was starving. During Round 6, I hit a bad matchup and didn’t have the luck required to win. I failed to find a Psychic Energy on the first turn of the games both games, which led to my Double Colorless being shred by Kartana-GX. There wasn’t much I could do in Round 9 vs Pedro because he could effectively transition to from Buzzwole-GX to Zoroark-GX to combat my attackers.

Looking back on my performance, I realize that Drampa/Espeon/Garbodor is past its time in the meta. Just as I believe Gardevoir-GX was printed as a means of balancing Garbodor, I see how Zoroark-GX is the final nail in the coffin.

Item based format -> Garbodor -> Golisopod/Gardevoir -> Zoroark/Silvally -> Buzzwole

It’s even noticeable that most of the leaked cards for SM5 are Metal type, examples being Magnezone, Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX, Solgaleo-GX, and Prism Solgaleo. It’s crazy how obvious the card creators can be.

From the rounds that I won, all of them featured “old” decks that Drampa/Espeon/Garbodor dominates against. The only exception is Zoroark-GX in Round 1, but Po Town + Berserk for 210 total is enough to topple over 2 Zoroark-GX. Another thing to note is the lack of Gardevoir-GX in my tournament report, which saddens me. I find that the matchup vs Brokenvoir is easier than against the Sylveon-GX version because Magical Ribbon is OP. There’s no “lose condition” of missing an N for the first two turns of the game. Max Potion is annoying to deal with for retaining Devolution damage, but I also find it alright. Shining Jirachi is a great inclusion for this matchup that I never had the chance to try. Had I played against 1-2 Gardevoir, I’d expect a 5-2-2 or better record that awarded me CP.

Here’s the Drampa list I played, and the Gourgeist list I would’ve played:

Drampa/Espeon/Garbodor

Pokémon – 16
3 Trubbish BKP

2 Garbodor BKP

2 Garbodor GRI

2 Drampa-GX

1 Eevee SUM

1 Espeon-GX

1 Espeon-EX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Shining Jirachi

Trainers – 32
4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

3 Guzma

1 Brigette

1 Lillie

 

4 Ultra Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Field Blower

4 Choice Band

4 Float Stone

 

4 Po Town

Energy – 12
8 Psychic

4 Double Colorless

I chose to stick close to my Vancouver list. I went for -1 Guzma, -1 Field Blower, +1 Choice Band, +1 Shining Jirachi. I slightly lowered my Volcanion and overall matchups in hopes of raising Gardevoir specifically. Judging off of Vancouver’s results, it was a fair assumption that I would play AT LEAST 2 Gardevoir on Day 1, meh.

Gourgeist

Pokémon – 18
4 Pumpkaboo CIN

4 Gourgeist CIN

2 Remoraid BKT 32

2 Octillery BKT

2 Tapu Lele-GX

4 Klefki STS

Trainers – 38
4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Brigette

1 Guzma

1 Lillie

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Rescue Stretcher

3 Field Blower

2 Pokémon Catcher

2 Special Charge

4 Bodybuilding Dumbbells

4 Choice Band

4 Float Stone

Energy – 4
4 Double Colorless

The Gourgeist list changed quite a bit to better stream knockouts, sort of like Night March. Brigette, Special Charge, Field Blower, and Pokémon Catcher were added in replacement for previous cards to create a more accurate start. Guzma clogged the hand, which meant Pokémon Catcher was the replacement. The 2nd Brigette was there to ensure it T1. Moving forward, I’m going to try a 3-3 Octillery with hopes of even further promoting that engine. Maybe Zoroark-GX would work as an early backup attacker, but there’s little to discard with Trade. In that variant, Gourgeist would act as a means of OHKOing, while Zoroark is to 2HKO.

The New Meta

Never in my wildest dreams would I see the day that Garbodor GRI is outside of Tier 1 in Standard.

Now that my initial shock is aside, let me try and describe how this happened. The Vancouver meta was a power struggle between Drampa/Garbodor and Gardevoir/Sylveon, both of which being strong decks at the time. However, it turns out that Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion were better sets than many people imagined at first. I saw so many posts with headlines of “Crimson Invasion sucks.” Many of those authors may have been underwhelmed with the lack of immediate change seen within the printing of all other Sun/Moon sets. Usually about 70% or more of the field is comprised of old archetypes with new flavor: take Worlds for example. Moving forward, I don’t know if EUIC was a statistical anomaly overall, unluckiness in my pairings, or if that percentage is changing as more players have access to lists and communication online.
Here’s how I view the meta moving forward into League Cups and Memphis:

  1. Golisopod/Zoroark, Brokenvoir, Buzzwole variants
  2. Silvally/Metal, Zoroark/Decidueye
  3. Trashalanche variants, Greninja
  4. Everything Else

Unsurprisingly, all of the top decks include new cards, aside from Gardevoir. I’ve ranked Trashalanche at Tier 3 because it has pretty favorable matchups against everything else below it. Its Zoroark/Decidueye and pure Buzzwole matchups aren’t terrible either. The problem arises when Buzzwole-GX and Zoroark-GX are paired together, like Pedro’s deck from Round 9. I noticed he ran a 1-1 Lycanroc-GX too which was cool, since it gave the deck a good GX attack.

Volcanion could reappear with a spot in the meta paired with Silvally-GX; it won the 300+ person League Cup on Saturday, beating out a plethora of Buzzwole and Golisopod/Zoroark in Top 8. I ultimately went 6-2-1 in that tournament with Brokenvoir, tying Drampa/Espeon/Garbodor and losing to Buzzwole/Zoroark/Lycanroc and Golisopod/Zoroark.

Penalty Discussion

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Just before this tournament, the penalty guidelines for drawing an extra card were changed. It used to be reveal and replace with the consequence of a warning, but it was changed to a reveal and reshuffle with a prize penalty for higher tier events. For more information, see Christopher’s article here. I think that it’s great that penalties are going to have greater consequences, solely because there’s so much leniency in it now. At the very least, Prize Penalties and further consequences will encourage players to be more careful and attentive to the game.

Regardless of intent, the goal from a judge’s perspective is to force ALL players to stop making gameplay mistakes. Palming, stacking, etc. are in an entirely different realm of penalty enforcement that I’m ignoring here.

A problem with the current Warning-based penalty system I see is that there is very little point in calling over a judge for a minor mistake. Before the rule change, there was no incentive for either player to call over a judge for a simple error the players could rewind easily. At best it’s a Warning, but at worst it takes up time that an extension isn’t given for. What’s scary is that given this logic, the same error could happen continuously throughout the tournament, without the player ever being penalized. The “sloppy player”/cheater will continue to make the error until it’s enforced, because there’s no risk. Take this example: if police never enforced the speed limit, what’s stopping you from going over the speed limit? Nothing!

Even with the rule change stated above, the point above still holds value. Think about all of the other “small” gameplay errors, such as 2 Energy attachments, 2 Supporter cards, Evolving twice, using “Once per turn” effects twice, etc. There are so many minor errors—as minor but important as drawing an extra card—that still have a warning as the level of penalty (when caught immediately). This is why I believe the gameplay errors should be Prize Penalties.

As a reiteration of the point; the idea of a prize penalty for the first offense is not because players don’t deserve a warning; it’s because otherwise there’s no incentive for players to call a judge over to record the warning. If players would call over judges when these instances happened with warnings given, then the current system would be fine.

At the very least, with stricter penalty guidelines, the game will be cleaner. I cringed watching the stream from last weekend when incorrect damage counters were placed, false accusations of evolving twice were tossed about, and players having their deck/discard pile oriented incorrectly. It’s preposterous how often these small errors are made at the highest level of play. I don’t think there should be a penalty for these mistakes, but it’s a player’s responsibility to maintain the game state in a clean and orderly fashion, and even more so on stream!

Lastly, I’d like to discuss the potential overuse of penalties given on-stream. Just to be clear: penalties should be as frequently given on-stream as they are off-stream. During the Top 4 match of Tord vs. Xiao Xiao, Xiao Xiao received a prize penalty for something unbeknownst to me. The best guesses I’ve heard are for rushing by holding damage counters before Tord attacked, or that he somehow took damage counters off a Pokémon and didn’t replace them after evolving. If it’s the latter, fine, but for the former, I think that’s an overextension of a penalty. While it made no difference in that game, it could have easily made the difference had they had more time left. I believe he was holding damage to save time so he wouldn’t lose in Sudden Death. Penalties should not be given to players trying to avoid the clock.

The other prize penalty I saw issued was during Seniors finals. I originally thought it was for slow play, but it was actually for using Brooklet Hill with a full Bench. This penalty was fair.

Regarding slow play, I believe there could be a different, legitimate way of judging it. It’s easy to judge intent if there’s an obvious play, such as someone holding a Professor Sycamore as their only card in hand. There’s no question that it will be played, so there’s no need in taking 5-15 seconds to do so. On the other hand, there are puzzling turns that require a fair amount of time to process. Within a regular game, I and other players are understanding of that and allow ample time to make a decision. On stream, there’s little leniency in pace other than the 15+10 second rule, etc.

Some turns may play out with someone sitting there thinking for 30-45 seconds then executing their entire turn, while others may take 3-5 seconds per decision. Both take up the same amount of time, so why does one deserve a penalty while the other is considered fair?

Conclusion

The penalty discussion is largely my opinion, I can’t speak for other players and how they wish the game would be enforced. I know some people lean toward a zero tolerance policy, but that could result in an unhealthy community with rule-sharking. Another thought to consider is that we’re all playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game—a game aimed toward children— who are quick to make mistakes.

I hope this article intrigued you in a sense, and I encourage you to voice your opinions in the comments. Logistical discussion on how to improve the game is something I enjoy doing, so I’m all ears to people’s suggestions and opinions on the topic.

Farewell,
Xander

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