With the conclusion of the 2018 Latin American International Championships this weekend, we’re headed into the final stretch of the 2018 Championship Series. The final pre-IC travel stipends have (basically) been set and the stage is set for Columbus to crown the season’s final champions.
All that’s between us and then? A long list of Regionals, Special Events, and League Cups. Once I’m back settled from my own Brazil travel, I’ll endeavor to get the events hub at SixPrizes.com/events updated with the latest in international Special Event and Regional madness. Unfortunately, Pokémon.com hasn’t quite kept up to par in this area, which makes life difficult for a number of players.
I’m sitting somewhere in the vicinity of 13th in North America’s Top 16 heading into this final stretch of the season, and while 13/16 doesn’t sound particularly secure, I’m cautiously optimistic about the chances. The reality of this year’s Championship Point standings is such that 99% of competitors will enter the North American International Championships eliminated from Top 16 contention in the region, with only a handful being able to win-and-in with a 500 CP shot. I’m at 160 CP over 16th, and while that’s likely to change over the next few months, it seems to me as though our race has largely shifted into 14 players that need to perform at a relatively adequate level over the next few months to secure spots and ~5 players in a shootout for that last two spots.
Of course, when 17th, 19th, 20th, and 21st combine for the Top 4 in Columbus, that’ll shoot my theory dead. I illustrate all of this to make the point, though, that all Latin America’s International really achieved was a “rich get richer” effect in terms of Championship Points. This was true last season too, but with their even more exaggerated stature in this year’s point structure it’s even more the case. The quartet of Alex Hill, Isaiah Williams, Jose Marrero, and Zach Lesage technically gained on 16th, but with most of the rest of Top 16 earning points this weekend, did not gain any on the higher-ups in the point situation.
If you’re thinking about making a run at Day 2 Worlds next year, the International Championships are effectively a mandatory part of the event. Nobody currently in the Top 16 has attended less than 2/3 so far, and all will plan to make that 3/4 or 4/4 in July.
As it happens, it looks as though some jaunts through Mexico might be a mandatory part of the United States+Canada zone chase as well, which is disheartening—but reality nonetheless. That’ll be a recurring theme in many of our writers’ upcoming pieces, though, so I’ll dispense with that in the here and now.
Today, I’m going to recap the Latin America International Championships from a few different perspectives, partially with an eye toward Toronto’s Regional Championships in two weekends. I have not read much of Forbidden Light—ordering that set is tomorrow’s project—so I won’t weigh in on the Mexico City, MX and Tours, FR Special Events that lie just past Toronto. There are some important non-deck related issues to discuss out of São Paulo as well, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t hit on them too today.
Moreover, I can’t say I’ve put a ton of thinking about Expanded at this point, as I was without the appropriate cards to test for the format in Brazil. Fortunately, Travis had a great guide to the Salt Lake City format last week. I’ll touch where my testing this week is going to take me a bit at the end, but if you have any particular Expanded questions to run by me, always feel free. Otherwise, without further ado, there’s a tournament to recap.
São Paulo Takeways: Buzzwole/Lycanroc
I’m going to start off looking at my personal run in the tournament this weekend, then later get into some of the stickier more judge-side issues that players should be aware of and consider heading into future events. Going into this event, the most important goal was simply to earn some points to keep pace in the Top 16 race (we could discuss all day the health of making that decision over considering the goal to simply be winning the tournament, but I’ll just pass on that).
With that in mind, riskier plays like Greninja BREAK, Tapu Bulu-GX/Vikavolt, and any crazy rogues were not on the table. The former two simply ask for too much to go right too often for me to feel comfortable playing them, and I definitely wasn’t feeling inventive going into the tournament. For every Tapu Bulu in Top 8 this weekend, there were multiple more that dropped with dreadful records as a result of coming up short on the consistency front. I believe it’s a legitimate pick for a tournament, but it’s not something I personally was going to take a chance with on.
Essentially, cutting out the above left Zoroark decks and Fighting decks—and the intersections thereof. I’ve not played any games with Zoroark in a major tournament to date, which is pretty crazy to think about, but I was close to changing that this weekend after some successful testing on Thursday. I was pretty impressed with Zoroark/Lucario through some testing on the day, but was dissuaded from the deck after some conversations with friends reflected that I was probably more getting lucky than seeing sustainable results. Zoroark/Lycanroc was also on the table, as the strengths of those two cards are individually incontrovertible and entirely combinable.
In the end, though, I stuck with what I consider the prototypical “consistent” deck of the past few formats: Buzzwole/Lycanroc. I’ve written extensively in the past about its nature as a conservative play, which is something I’m perhaps lured by a bit too much, but it’s certainly not without upside as well. As the results this weekend showed, it’s probably not unfair to consider it strictly the best deck in the format, too. My brother and I expected heavy play of Zoroark/Fighting things, Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, and the mirror, so the list was designed with that in mind.
The only crazy thing about this list was including a 1-1 Alolan Muk. This was done for a combination of reasons, but among them was Hoopa SLG. Having an answer to the Safeguard menace was attractive given we knew nothing about what the local players would favor. Furthermore, being able to disable certain aspects of decks like Ho-Oh-GX had high potential to be useful given the region has always shown a proclivity for Fire decks. Otherwise, though, it was useful in turning off Regirock’s added damage when dealing with Lucario-GX and Tapu Lele-GX in certain Zoroark-GX deck endgames.
For reference, the complete list:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 31
Energy – 13
Some differences between our list and some others that’ve seen success recently:
- The Oricorio we pioneered in Charlotte made its way out in favor of the Muk slot, as we didn’t expect mirror to be too significant a player and Mew was handled already by Muk.
- 4 Float Stone has been invariably useful in all the tournaments we’ve played it, and the 4th Choice Band only missed marginally. I’d guess I’d be happy playing this split 9/10 times if we were able to simulate tournament results, but I definitely acknowledge there is merit to the 4th Choice Band. With that said, I do believe 7 Tools is the sweet spot and couldn’t see playing more being especially wise.
- I would never, ever cut a Strong for a Basic Fighting. Furthermore, I believe the Super Rod is a good way to finesse having “more” Fighting to facilitate later game Elixir hits, while also insuring against ugly early game situations with Remoraid or Rockruff. I can see an argument for more Fighting, and it’s something to test over the Super Rod, but I’m relatively comfortable with where we ended up on it.
- We didn’t play Zygarde-EX, which almost ended very badly given the amount of Espeon in the room. I happened to beat the one I hit, but others with the list weren’t quite as fortunate. Worth exploring how much it improves the Espeon matchup heading into Toronto.
R1 Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX GRI (2-0)
R2 Golisopod-GX/Zoroark-GX (0-2)
R3 Vikavolt SUM/Tapu Bulu-GX (2-0)
R4 Lucario-GX/Regirock-EX (0-2)
R5 Magnezone UPR/Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX (2-0)
R6 Espeon-GX/Garbodor (2-0)
R7 Lucario-GX/Buzzwole-GX (0-2)
R8 Lucario-GX/Zoroark-GX (2-1)
R9 Buzzwole-GX/Lyrcanroc-GX (2-1)
It was a very up-and-down day for sure, and I definitely wasn’t too excited with any of the Lucario losses. Things just got away from me in each of the games in Round 4, and I compounded my own issues with some bad thinking in Game 2, but it happens. To be honest, the end of Saturday was such that if I hadn’t written down what I played against, I’d be able to say almost nothing about the Round 7 match—alas, it shouldn’t be too poor of a matchup, but it worked out poorly.
Otherwise, I can’t especially complain about anything that happened. Losing to Golisopod is a known risk sometimes with this deck, and while I almost pulled off Game 1 before some Energy denial shenanigans on my opponent’s part closed the door, Game 2 was definitely an exhibit in ugliness. Overall, the deck did as I expected, and moving forward into Toronto I don’t think you can go wrong playing it. Even its worst matchup, Espeon/Garbodor, doesn’t get the job done often enough to be considered a true hard counter. Otherwise, the consistency and raw damage is simply unparalleled in the format—and the perfect antithesis to months of a format solidly run by Zoroark-GX. No regrets on my deck choice, as I believe it was simply the best option for this tournament. The results seem to back that.
São Paulo Takeaways: State of Tournament Affairs
Other than Buzzwole taking the day in both Masters and Juniors (and, honestly, Seniors was just strange), there isn’t a ton more to cover on the strategy side of the game after this weekend. On the other hand, in terms of actual tournament function and participation, there’s a lot to dig into. If it says anything, I planned this to be a section in my article even before the controversial Slow Play Double Prize Penalty in Game 1 of the Masters Finals, so there’s a lot to think about.
First and foremost, this weekend was the most high profile exhibition of declumping in recent memory. Here’s my bottom line on declumping: it isn’t against the rules, and it probably isn’t going to be against the rules ever. Nevertheless, it is a bone-dead stupid activity to engage in because it makes you look suspicious as a player. If you genuinely believe it is helping you perform better, you are genuinely intending to cheat. If you are doing it with no illusion of aiding performance, you are making a poor optical decision.
Honestly, I struggle to find sympathy for those that become entangled in allegations of this nature, as it’s an entirely self-inflicted, preventable wound. I’ve written extensively on the topic in the past, so I’ll leave it here for now on declumping—suffice to say, I believe it’s simply unintelligent as a practice.
This weekend, it seemed as though the judge staff engaged in a fairly aggressive anti-slow play measure, with time extensions given in accompaniment with slow play Warnings. This is a completely positive step for the game, as it helps narrow the gap in match outcome when judges are unable to decide between a situation being intentional slow play or merely a slow player.
As I’ve written previously, intentional slow play to manipulate the time left in a match has nothing to do with the “15 second” guidelines outlined for governing slow play—intentional time manipulation falls under unsporting conduct, and yields a Game Loss right off the bat. This is an under-appreciated point in the community, and is why I believe we have so much confusion over what does and does not constitute proper application of slow play guidelines. Regardless of intent, perceived benefit, or other factors, violation of the time guidelines laid out in the Penalty Guidelines merits penalization under the rules. It’s that simple.
This issue reared its head, obviously, on Sunday with Azul Garcia Griego’s penalty in the final match. There are a lot of factors that came together to create a particularly rough situation for all involved parties in this scenario, but at the end of the day, I believe the judges applied the rules as written—and cannot be faulted for doing so. Both players received Slow Play penalties, but as a matter of a prior penalty, Azul’s escalated to a Double Prize Penalty—obviously, a significant event in the match.
I entirely understand the frustration many have exhibited toward this situation—in appearance, Azul was the only one penalized in a match where his pace contextually may or may not matter. However, I think the issue players ought to be taking is with the rules, not the staff in São Paulo.
Fundamentally, I believe a significant problem in the game right now is a disconnect between what certain individuals believe the rules should say and what they actually do say.
One angle I’ve seen taken on this argues that players should be allowed extra time to consider things in a match as important as this. I think that has potential to be a fine argument, but the same players who criticize Tord Reklev’s seemingly amorphous pace of play don’t look entirely great turning around and making this case. Most importantly, it’s a great example of the rules not matching these individuals’ expectations: the judges followed the book, not what certain individuals think the book should say.
In an era where players have crowed for consistency in judge rulings, this is a step that should be praised. In another incident this weekend, a player was hit with a game changing Double Prize Penalty for insufficient randomization of their deck—with no prior warning. According to the Penalty Guidelines, presenting an insufficiently randomized deck is a Game Play Error Major, and at a Tier 2 event, that merits a starting Double Prize Loss.
According to the rules, the judges were right! According to the expectations of many players who have heard this story, things were out of line because such a game-changing penalty was handed down with no prior warning on a call that isn’t clearly defined (the Guidelines fail to define “insufficient”). It’s going to be a hard pill to swallow for some, but with the advent of Double Prize Penalties, many games are going to be changed because of a corrected error. It’s that simple.
In my view, the problem here isn’t the judges, and trying to blame them is a silly endeavor that only serves to further insulate cheaters in the future by instigating distrust among the player base. The conversation that is productive and healthy: one about the nature of Double Prize Penalties, Top Cut time rules, and the slow play rules in general. Double Prize was a huge change—maybe it’s too much. Maybe there should be extra time allowance in Top Cut—but, as of now, that’s not something in the rules, and therefore not something to be held against judge staffs.
There are issues to discuss, and it’s sorely disappointing to see the gut reaction being an assumption of incompetence on behalf of the tournament’s staff. I could’ve written this article entirely on little things that I observed just as a player that served to make this event one of the fairest I can remember participating in. It’s a serious shame to have that marred by players that don’t want to think more deeply about the issue.
One final thing to discuss: the staff this weekend seemed to liberally offer time extensions for all issues that they could be relevant, and I believe that played very well with the tournament as a whole. Players were able to call judges knowing they would not be shorted time on the match, which makes for a better interaction for everyone. The event finished in a prompt manner, which rejects the oft-held notion that frequent extensions are a drag on operations. I hope to see some American staffs take notice and adopt some of what we saw this weekend, as I believe everyone would be better for it.
In any event, that brings me to the end of this recap of the Latin American International Championships. We have a busy month ahead of us both as players and a site. I’m excited to announce that Isaiah Williams is joining our writing staff from this point forward, and believe he’ll have a lot to offer as we head into the home stretch of the season.
Otherwise, as always, if you have any questions about the site, anything I’ve written, or otherwise, feel free to reach out on the forums or Twitter.
All the best,