The Junior Circuit

One Family’s 2017-18 Season So Far and a Look at the Makeup of Junior Top 16

My name is Dillon Bussert and I’m proud to be writing a guest article for 6 Prizes about being the Poképarent of a Junior (or 2) in this first quarter of the 2018 season. I have 2 boys playing in Juniors, and I stay busy running our local league and judging at Regionals wherever I can.

It’s fitting I’m writing an article now, as our journey started around this time 2 years ago when I bought my kids a Latios and Latias Trainer Kit and Red Genesect Theme deck for Christmas. We were instantly hooked, and I wanted to learn more about the competitive aspects of the game.

Luckily I came across Brent Halliburton’s excellent articles on SixPrizes about life as a Poképarent. Like me, Brent has 2 sons, and I found myself living vicariously through his tournament reports recounting the highs and lows of their tournaments. His writing inspired me to get involved, and I’m lucky enough to now share my own thoughts on this season, some of our family’s personal journey and things I’ve learned along the way.

2018 World’s Invites and Travel Planning

Initially, the 2016-17 invite CP Requirement for Juniors was set high at 400 CP. With only 3 quarters of League Cups accounting for a maximum of 300 CP, a Junior had to make Top 8 at a Regional or place at an International to get an invite. Fortunately, TPCi adjusted the requirements midway through the year, lowering the threshold to 350 CP and slightly bumping up the points earned at different events. This allowed more Juniors to make Worlds and relieved the pressure to have to place at a major tournament or have no chance of getting an invite.

Fast forward to this season: the threshold for an invite is still 350 CP and the temporary points bump from last year is gone, but getting an invite is now far easier. We have 4 full quarters of Cups and the kicker was eliminated for Top 4 points—merely entering League Cups with low attendance will earn a Junior at least 32 CP. Three 1st place and five 2nd place Cup placements throughout the year is good enough for an invite.

While some Junior cups are more competitive than others, it does give everyone to chance to earn an invite purely through play at the local level. The other significant change was a reduction of the kicker for Regionals Top 16 points from 64 to 48, meaning one good showing at most Regionals earns you 80 CP—only 20 CP less than Top 8! Globally, 193 Juniors earned 90 or more CP in the first quarter, which is the pace one needs for an invite in North America.

For our family, the 2017 season went as I had hoped, with my oldest son, Benjamin, finishing with 457 CP to earn his first World’s invite. Anaheim was an incredible experience for us, the venue was great, weather was perfect, and there was a lot of added excitement between the Anaheim Open and big crowds of Pokémon GO players. I came away from the event excited for the 2018 season and optimistic about Benjamin’s chances to achieve bigger goals in the next year.

We set goals for the 2018 season right after World’s: a chance at Top 16 North America and a automatic Worlds Day 2 for Benjamin and a Worlds invite for my younger son Brady. I created a plan for the first quarter of the year to the attend 2 League Cups, the two East Coast Regionals (Hartford, Daytona), and the European International. Hartford and Daytona were easy choices because they required shorter travel for us and I was brought on staff as a Judge.

We decided early to attend the EUIC in London because the CP for Internationals significantly outweighs Regionals (2.5×), making the cost-to-CP better than attending even two Regionals. For example, Top 16 at EUIC (16th was a 4-2-1 record) awarded as much CP as winning an entire Regional (minimum of 7 wins, including Top Cut).

I create a spreadsheet every year that tracks the events we plan to go to, expected CP won per event, and required CP to meet the goals for each kid. This helps me see if we’re attending enough events to meet our targets, and if we’re on track for the year. This planning helped me see my younger son could not get his invite from League Cups alone because both boys have to fight for the same League Cup points.

Both of my kids maxing out 100 CP a quarter was unlikely since we can typically only attend 2-4 in our area, and variance with 3 Swiss rounds can be brutal. My younger son can’t get an invite off eight 2nd places, so we know he has to make Top 16 at a Regional or better to reach 350 CP.

If you’re helping your Junior achieve a Worlds invite and you’re not already planning and tracking their events and best finish limits, start with a simple Google Spreadsheet. Put in rows for 4 quarters worth of Cups and the Regionals/Internationals you plan to attend. Then fill in each event with projected CP based on placements and see if they have a good chance to reach the 350 CP threshold. If they don’t, you might plan to attend more events, or spend more time preparing for the events you can attend to try and place higher.

London Recap

Our London preparation was entirely focused on Gardevoir. Benjamin played Gardevoir at Worlds and made Top 8 at Hartford, and we saw no reason to switch to any other deck. In both of those tournaments we used Alolan Vulpix as the setup engine, but after seeing Pablo Meza win Vancouver, we started testing the “Optimal” Gardevoir list with Sylveon GX. Something lost on all the publicity of the “Optimal” list was Mark Garcia came in 3rd at Vancouver with a hybrid list of 1 Vulpix, 1-1 Sylveon GX and 2 Max Potions. If Mark had won, everyone might have been copying his list instead.

We tested Pablo’s Gardevoir list and cut the Acerola for a Mr. Mime to tech against devolve decks like Ninetales/Zoroark and Buzzwole/Garbodor. In testing we found the Mr. Mime underwhelming and bench-clogging. The Ninetales/Zoroark matchup was usually an auto-win because of Gallade, while against Buzzwole, Garbotoxin shut down Mr. Mime’s ability anyway. We tested Mark’s deck with 2 Max Potions, but we were on the fence with the 1-1 Sylveon when the 2-2 was extremely consistent and we wanted consistency for such a big tournament.

The week before EUIC, Facebook groups were blowing up about the “Broken Deck” Gardevoir with 4 Max Potions. It was hard to tell if it was a joke or not due to the over-the-top hype, and we were already on our way to London at the time. Mike Fouchet’s article 2 days before the event went into detail about the “Broken” version of the deck and provided a skeleton list, but we were locked into playing a standard Sylveon/Gardevoir list after a month of preparation.

Masters started a day before Juniors, and I saw the Top 32 for Masters had both Christopher and Alex Schemanske in Day 2 playing Broken Gardevoir. Christopher posted on Facebook that he was using a version based on Mike’s article, so I reached out for some advice on card choices to build out the skeleton list and he graciously provided some guidance. The big change that got me interested was a 2nd Gallade, which gave the deck a huge boost against Zoroark-GX and Silvally-GX decks by hitting them for weakness and diversifying the deck’s own Weakness.

We decided the next morning to switch from Sylveon to Broken Gardevoir, swapped out the cards (thankfully I brought a 2nd Gallade with us) and turned in our lists without playing a single game. It didn’t actually feel like a risky decision since Benjamin had only ever played Gardevoir with Alolan Vulpix in a tournament anyway.

Round 1: Gardevoir — Caroline G. (DN) — W (1-0)

We play the first of 3 mirror matches on the day, which is good since our deck is running 4 Max Potions.

Benjamin informs me after the match that I left an extra card on his decklist, and he’s receiving a game loss in Round 2. I’m kicking myself, thinking after months of planning and testing, and I put 61 cards on the list. Advice for everyone: do not reuse a decklist when you’re changing more than 1 or 2 cards. I changed so many counts on his list the morning of the tournament that I forgot we cut Float Stones entirely, and left the line on there. Get a blank decklist and start it from scratch based on the exact 60 cards you’re playing.

Round 2: Tapu Bulu-GX & Friends — Rohan S. (UK) — W (2-0)

Fortunately Benjamin wins both games and the match, even with the Game loss.

Round 3: Gardevoir — Fabi K. (DE) — W (3-0)

Another mirror that goes in our favor.

Round 4: Volcanion/Turtonator — Roan G. (US) — W (4-0)

Benjamin is paired with Roan in a rematch of their Top 8 match from Hartford playing the exact same decks (slightly different lists). Benjamin fortunately avenges his loss at Hartford in some extremely close games and takes the win.

Round 5: Metal Toolbox — Walker H. (US) — L (4-1)

At this point Benjamin and Walker are the only two 4-0’s and they’re destined to play each other. Walker is playing a Metal toolbox as a anti-Gardevoir counter and it’s been working out nicely for him up to this point. Our best option to win is to stream 2 Gallades and hope the metal attackers have to 2HKO since being a non-GX screws up Celesteela’s math without Choice Band. Benjamin manages to win a game, but loses the match, as expected.

Round 6: Gardevoir — Joao G. (BR) — T (4-1-1)

Another mirror match, except this one ends in a tie under odd circumstances. The match ended with a Double Game Loss in Game 3 because both players forgot Parallel City was played in the middle of the game, and only caught when they were both down to 1 Prize each. Since the game state was so confused, a the double loss seemed appropriate. We’re happy with a tie—it just means Round 7 is a Win-and-In!

Round 7: Genesect/Celesteela — Liam H. (US) — T (4-1-2)

I cringe when I see Benjamin’s final pairing, as he’s playing another, and maybe the only other, Metal deck at the top tables. I’m a bit melodramatic, thinking how he started 4-0, and if his 5th round pairing was anything else, he could’ve won and ID’d Round 6 and 7 to make cut. Now he’s staring at the possibility of getting no points at all by losing 2-of his last 3 rounds.

My only hope is, like Round 5, he can use the 2 Gallades to put pressure on the Metal attackers and cleanup the game with a huge Gardevoir. He’s able to win Game 1, loses Game 2 and Game 3 doesn’t finish, ending in a tie. It’s weird to be excited after the last 3 rounds are Loss-Tie-Tie, but when faced with an auto-loss, it was cause for celebration.

Our tournament ended on a good note, the deck switch paid off, and we spent the next day watching the finals and playing Pokken Tournament.

Q1 Top 16 North America Analysis

My older son was fortunate: a Top 8 Regional and Top 16 IC finish, plus 2 Q1 Cup 1st places and 2 Q2 League Challenge 1st places put him at 10th place in North America for the first quarter.

I took some time to analyze the event attendance by the Top 16 Juniors in North America to see if there was some themes that Poképarents can take away. Using the RK9 Live Rosters of all the US Regionals, data from social media, and reverse engineering of Cup Best Finish Limits I was able to reconstruct the composition of the Top 16 points.

The range of CP for Top 16 is very large, with 1380 leading at the top, and the final spot at 324 (based on the Nov 30th leaderboard). The median CP for Top 16 was 460. For reference, a Regional Top 4, Regional Top 8 and 2 League Cup Wins could’ve secured a spot in Top 16 with 330 CP.

The biggest points come from Tier 2 events (Regionals and above), which make them vitally important to ranking highly on the leaderboard. The table below shows the participation in events. Three juniors were able to make Top 16 attending 2 or less Tier 2 events, one of them only attended the EUIC. It shows you don’t have to attend many events, but you do have to place well. Of those 3, one won a Regional and the other 2 made Top 8 at the EUIC.

Sixteen players from North America attended the EUIC (12 American, 4 Canadian), and 8 placed in the Top 16 of the event to earn CP. Seven of those 8 ended up making Q1 Top 16 for North America, in part because of the large amount of CP given at Internationals. I can’t stress enough how big the points are for an International. If you can’t travel to London, Australia or Brazil, at least try to attend the North American IC. Not only is the NAIC the biggest event of the year (and, usually, ever), it’s high level competition and a good chance for CP and prizes.

Of the Top 16, 13 maxed out their Q1 two Cup Best Finish Limit and earned 100 CP. This is a no-brainer and every Junior wanting get a Worlds Invite should be trying to maximize CP earned in their local area.

At each Regional and Intercontinental in Q1, 7 to 10 of the Top 16 were playing in the event. The highest count was 10 at Ft. Wayne/EUIC and lowest was Daytona with 7. The competition at these events is stiff, but fortunately the lower kickers for Top 16 points mean more CP to go around than last year.

Of the 14 Top 16 Juniors who placed in a Regional, all of them made at least one Top 8, and 12 placed multiple times at a Regional. Half of the the Q1 Top 16 received CP from a Regional Top 16 placement, with every Regional except Hartford and Daytona (the only two we attended, of course), reaching the kicker of 48 Juniors.

Analyzing the CP breakdown of the Top 16 basically showed what we already knew: most Juniors need to go to multiple events and do well multiple times. The big outlier was EUIC placement having a huge impact because of the CP is 2.5× that of a Regional.

Looking Ahead to Q2 and Beyond

We’re a month into the second quarter of the season, but it feels like we’ve already hit the high point. With Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion making a huge splash at EUIC and San Jose back-to-back weeks, we’re looking at just a few more events until Ultra Prism is legal in late February. The only regionals left for the Crimson Invasion block are Memphis (Standard) in a week and Dallas (Expanded) at the end of January.

Come February, the Oceania IC will be the last major tournament for Crimson Invasion. It’s possible the fabled Tapu Lele promo will come out in January and shake up both Standard and Expanded, but don’t hold your breathe waiting to find out if it will actually be released.

With so few Regionals coming up, League Cups will be on everyone’s mind to ensure they can get 2 finishes. TPCi threw everyone a curveball for this season’s Cups by shifting the Cup scheduling window from November 17 to February 15, rather than the typical full months of November to January. I think only TPCi knows their reasoning for shift the Cup dates, but it’s certainly caused confusion for players. It was not clear which Best Finish Limit a Cup in early February would apply to, potentially causing players to miss out on Q2 points if it actually applied to the Q3 BFL.

Fortunately TPCi did update the Best Finish Limit text on the League Cup page to explain that Cups in early Feb will still count to the Q2 BFL. They explain:

Note that sanctioning dates may not match Best Finish Limit quarters. For example: an event held on February 10 will count for the November through January Best Finish Limit.

According to the website, Q3 and Q4 will also have the 2 week shift to Cup sanctioning dates. Based on the schedule, Q4 Cups can start May 18th, and probably run until North American International, which will probably be in late June or early July. That leaves only 6-7 weekends to run an entire quarter’s worth of Cups. If you assume most stores aren’t proactive to run a Cup in the first 2 weeks of the sanctioning window, that’s even less dates to pick from.

Expect a lot of overlapping Cups in Q4, or even some stores not running them due to the limited window to schedule it. The biggest takeaway for Cups I can offer: don’t wait to get your final points for a World’s Invite in Q4. Don’t push off getting CP until later, or you might be stressing out and traveling to far away Cups in Q4 just to give your child the chances they need.


Thanks for reading my first article, and I hope some of my analytical approach and data parsing was interesting—and maybe even a little helpful. My wife, Leah, and Benjamin will be attending Memphis, while I sit this one out. It’ll be my wife’s first event as a solo Poképarent, so if you see her, introduce yourself and say hi. My next big event is Dallas, where I’ll be judging, so hope to see many of you then!

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