The World Awaits

Thoughts on the Events of Memphis and Moving Expanded Toward Texas

The largest TCG Regional in Pokémon history, both in terms of Masters and overall players, is in the books. Whether it’ll hold that title through the end of the year is still something to be seen, but with the number of new things this event tried out, I believe it was a truly evolutionary weekend in the history of the game.

We saw the first chapter in what’s hopefully an era of online decklist submission—and, by all accounts, it went pretty well! While the event had about 50 no-shows in Round 1, it should be noted that travel in New England was difficult Friday evening. A good number of players’ absences were directly attributable to travel issues of that sort. I didn’t personally utilize the system, but folks generally seemed to feel it went pretty well, which is always great. Hopefully it’s something we see more of in the future.

Card-wise, rumor has it Zoroark-GX is pretty good. Michael Pramawat took home his 7th career Regional with Lycanroc-GX/Zoroark-GX, and on the whole this weekend, it seemed that much of the room was Trading its way to the top. There were a few straggling Gardevoir and a surprisingly healthy fire contingent on Day 1, but largely, players seemed to move toward Fighting and other Zoroark concepts.

As I mentioned would be the case in my last article, I was unable to play in Memphis due to a Friday night conflict. But, I ended up making the trip anyway to set myself up favorably airline-wise for next year. To the surprise of more than a few—I’d guess I got at least 150 “Wait, what?”‘s this weekend—I ended up judging this weekend. It wasn’t quite my first time doing so, but it was the first-time-in-a-long-time, and a great experience.

Judging gets a lot of criticism in the game sometimes, and I’ve been previously criticized for being too easy on “poor” judging, but after this weekend, I’m only going to double down on everything I’ve previously said in defense of the institution. Corey, who I ended up directly under this weekend, discussed a judge’s day a few weeks ago, but I honestly don’t think it quite underscores the level of dedication doing this on a regular basis takes. I can’t give enough credit to the people who do this often. And, many thanks to Jimmy and his top staff for having me—it was a great time and learning experience.

I could probably write all day about some of the things I witnessed this weekend, though I somewhat preempted myself last time in that respect. In an effort to not bore you—and to avoid saying anything I shouldn’t!—I’m going to keep my thoughts on the weekend to one fairly simple point that sticks out to me above all else. It falls perfectly in line with last week’s article as an activity that has zero personal cost to perform and offers potentially infinite benefit.

The Match-In-Progress: Match Slips!

I want to introduce some of you to a match slip, as I get the impression you may not be properly acquainted. This is the best example we have in the 6P system:

Now, this wasn’t the specific type of slip in use this weekend, but it’s going to help us get to the point of the matter here just as well as any other. Any match slip will have your name, Player ID, current record, table number, and some other useful information. In addition, there’ll be a place to mark Win or Tie, as appropriate. Most players know this and use it accordingly—though, it seems every round at every major event there’s one or two that don’t quite get the circling memo.

There’s one more detail, though, and on this slip it’s hiding neatly between “Tie” and “Win” for each player—a spot to mark the winner of each game as the match progresses! On this weekend’s slip, it was an even-more-conspicuous box that was just waiting to be adorned with a check mark, x, or whatever pen motion you most prefer.

For whatever reason, most players apparently don’t mark this. I suspect this is at least partially a social stigma—it could be made to imply that you don’t trust your opponent and feel he/she are up to something shady. I would suggest we get away from that concept and look at it as a necessary task as part of playing in the tournament.

There are a wealth of reasons to adopt this habit, but I’ll take the big two: first and foremost, it does make sure your opponent doesn’t try anything suspicious. We don’t want to assume anyone will do that, but the reality is that there’s probably somebody out there willing to claim that the Game 1 you just donked in never actually happened. This one is just common sense.

There’s another big one, though: slow play. I can’t tell you how many times I walked by a game this weekend and wanted to know whether play that seemed a touch on the slow side was a potential attempt to 1-0, someone trying to stall for a tie in a bad matchup, etc.—the reality of malicious slow play is that it’s going to make an effort to take advantage of a situation. When you make it harder for the only people that can actually help you with the issue to see what’s going on, you don’t do yourself any favors.

I’m not promising you’ll magically have judges helping you out either, and I suspect some would argue that situations should be considered mostly context-neutral in terms of pace. Could a judge ask “what game is this?” Sure, and I did on a few occasions, but this inherently identifies to a potential offender that a judge is watching. This is just a zero-cost move. Therefore, even the tangential idea that this could help you should be enough to convince you to begin the practice.

Plus, in the event you turn a slip in without circling the proper result, at least the game tally gives the people in charge some idea of what’s going on. More documented information is always better than less. Please, get on board.

Moving Forward to Dallas

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Dallas’ Venue, the most convenient on the circuit.

In conjunction with spending the day judging on Saturday and not being involved with the tournament Sunday, I genuinely had little idea what was going on much of the day—to say the least, I’d watched enough Pokémon for the weekend. I’m told my brother played a Lycanroc/Buzzwole to Top 256, and Alex Hill & Xander each took Zoroark/Lycanroc lists to points-meriting finishes in the main event. Moreover, I hear Michael Pramawat won yet another Regional, while Azul Griego lost a finals for once. Rumor has it many people were happy at the discovery of something big, but it’s always disheartening in my mind to see bad things happen.

From watching a lot of Pokémon, it was apparently that Zoroark was “the” big card on the weekend, but I don’t think that’s a particularly unique insight. We saw some surprises with Venasaur, and a few other interesting concepts made their way into Day 2, but on the whole we now have a very strange situation for Oceania. By nature of that event’s size, this was the last major Standard event for much of the playerbase. Therefore, I’m going to leave most of the recap on this tournament to the people that actually played in it—Xander and Jimmy have us covered on that front this week.

The next major events: Dallas and Leipzig Regionals, January 27, 2018. North America will be playing Expanded, while Europe gives us one last look at BKT–CIN before the showdown in Sydney. I’ll be in Dallas, meaning most of my attention at this point is now Expanded-focused. So, I’m going to spend the remainder of this article looking at that.

Exploring Recent Expanded

The prior two Regionals are only North American ones I haven’t played in for quite awhile—that it’s two in a row is all the weirder! I’m feeling a bit disconnected, as I haven’t picked a deck for a high-stakes tournament since London, but San Jose left us with another reminder of one dominant fact of Expanded: as long as Night March is legal, it’s going to do well in some form.

While some people have long wished to believe that Seismitoad-EX/Karen solves the matchup, I think Night March’s overall endurance in San Jose ought to put that myth to bed. I know that it won’t—people will continue to believe—but I will not hesitate to label it a foolish point of view.

You can view San Jose’s Top 8 here. Other than Night March, Zoroark/Lycanroc was basically the “new” deck of the weekend. We saw a few variants of Zoroark decks fare well in the Sky Field format, with partners from Lycanroc to Alolan Muk SUM. It definitely isn’t surprising to see Zoroark take hold when its damage cap is 180 instead of 120, with an Ability as useful as its. While Expanded has always been somewhat cyclical, and even Japan saw a drop in Zoroark after its initial dominance, I’d expect this Zoro-trend to carry through into Dallas.

Turbo Dark is possibly the biggest loser in this meta shift, as Zoroark is extraordinarily effective against it. In addition, Zoroark puts Fighting on the map as a desirable typing to hold, which isn’t the best news Darkrai’s ever heard. Night March continues to pummel it as well, meaning Darkrai probably should take a pit stop at a local beach somewhere until the card folks decide it’s been long enough that they can print it yet another broken iteration.

The other Top 8 decks in San Jose were Wailord and Gyarados. Both are highly intriguing moving forward. Gyarados gained a new, improved Magikarp via Crimson Invasion, which was sure to help it. While I can’t imagine Sudowoodo GRI’s presence in the meta (which is only sure to increase further) is a boon to the deck, it’s not the end of the world either. Gladion is a boon as well, meaning we’re no longer reliant on things like Rotom Dex to retrieve Magikarp or other critical resources from the Prizes.

Gyarados has uniquely capable damage output, and very interestingly, is one of the few cards at this time in the format that can repeatably mow through Wailord-EX. Given its finish at San Jose and people’s seemingly-insatiable appetite for it as a meme, I’d expect to see a not-insignificant whale contingent in Texas. I don’t think it’s particularly good (Night March can hit 250 nowadays), and therefore would not expect many top level players to play it, but some folks definitely will succumb to the temptation.

List-wise, I’m way too early in the format to have really thought about anything, so instead I’m just going to go through each of the major decks I’m going to be testing as we get closer to the event. Hopefully this gives you a sense of what could be worth exploring, and when I’m back in January, hopefully one of these has blossomed into something I’m able to plan on running with.

Night March

I played Night March at every Expanded event I could for a number of weekends two seasons ago, so I definitely have a lot of history playing it. The current iteration has even more draw power than its predecessors, meaning there’ll be even more opportunities for broken combos to make their way out. Zoroark is also a solid attacker against situations like Seismitoad, and overall did a lot for the deck in San Jose.

The list Azul, Michael, and others played in San Jose is probably just about perfect. Dowsing Machine has basically established itself as the proper choice at this point, and while my more enjoyable cute techs (Pokémon Catcher, for example) don’t fit in this list, that’s mostly because they don’t make sense. This matchup, and this list, is a litmus test for anything going into Dallas.

If your deck cannot beat Night March, and especially this iteration of it, you should either find a new deck or prepare for a rough day.

Night March has never had the player base that certain Dark decks have, and I imagine Zoroark/Lycanroc will probably be bigger than Night March, in terms of sheer volume, in Dallas. But, Night March is likely to be played heavily nonetheless, especially among some upper echelon circles, which makes it the biggest priority in my mind.

Lycanroc/Zoroark(/Alolan Muk)

I think the Alolan Muk variant that some of the Pacific Northwest cooked up for this deck is super intriguing, and while it may be a bit extraneous in a lot of situations, could be very important as the mirror match looms. This deck isn’t something I’ve tested yet, but it reads as having a lot of options. It has the ability to do a lot of raw damage, inherent draw power, and the ever-powerful ability togust and N in the same turn. That’s a combination that’s always good to have, and is what takes the deck to the upper level in my mind.

I could see this deck falling flat heading into Dallas just based on how meta cycles tend to work, but I’m not yet in a position to make that call. I’m not yet completely sure how the Night March matchup goes, which is the key to work out. But, like the above, it’s something you probably want to be able to beat.

Gyarados

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Gyarados hits hard, heavy, and isn’t that hard to play. Something to be considered both as a deck to play and a foe to deal with. It’s like Night March, but trades the vulnerability to Karen for having to setup a Stage 1, a Stadium, and slightly better damage output. Probably not a better play than Night March in many situations, but it’s far from bad and is definitely something I expect a good number of players to look at. It’s potentially vulnerable to things like Oricorio, but should be pretty decent nonetheless.


The preceding 3 decks are all fairly decent plays no matter what, and are all things you should be worried about beating to various degrees. The next two are broader, exploratory concepts that are… much less sure to be good.

Primal Groudon

Trust me, I can hear the jeers from here. But, it’s in a spot where Wobbuffet would do some interesting things to the format and free Prizes sit on every bench in the format. Speed Dark has been marginalized, Vespiquen is completely out to lunch—the biggest issue is, like with everything else, how the Night March matchup goes. The conventional list I’ve played is no better than 50/50 against the Night March we’re seeing these days, which isn’t going to get it done in Dallas. Going to have to explore a number of ways to improve this situation.

Trevenant BREAK

If only Head Ringer worked on GXs, we might have a conversation. As it is, some blend of Counter Energy shenanigans might be enough to work with Zoroark, but even that concerns me. I think this would be super great if Zoroark wasn’t in every deck, and will explore it just because there are so many tools to exploit, but I’m not feeling it—even in an exploratory regard.


Dallas is going to be interesting to say the least, and with so many cards in format, I’m sure there’ll be something crazy popping out of the woodwork. It won’t be the behemoth event we saw this weekend in Memphis, but it won’t be 300 people either. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next few months work out. As always, all the best with your efforts heading forward, and I’ll see you in January.

Christopher


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