Hey everyone, Kenny Wisdom here again. Today we’re going to touch on two major subjects: this weekend’s Utah Regional Championship, and the recent slowplay and declumping issues that have been talked about everywhere in the wake of the Latin America International Championship. My hope is to provide interesting, unique analysis of both using the word count I’ve been allotted, so let’s not waste any more time.
Salt Lake City
Although passport and visa issues have prevented me from casting most of this season’s major events, most of you know that I first and foremost consider myself a caster. I don’t really have aspirations to be one of the best players in the world, and if given the choice, I would always choose to provide coverage of International and Worlds-level events. It’s where I think I’m better suited and, most importantly, what I enjoy the most.
With that being said, I love playing in Pokémon tournaments, and I try to make it out to the west coast Regionals that are convenient for me. My position in the game specifically allows me to kind of have the best of both worlds—I want to do well in the event because I enjoy competing and winning prizes, but I know that a bad event isn’t really going to cost me anything, as I have no real goals going in. I want to play my best and doing well would be nice, but it’s not as if there’s a Championship Point threshold to commentate (thank goodness).
The last Regional I’ll be able to attend this season is this upcoming weekend in Salt Lake. While I’m not excited about the Expanded format, I haven’t gotten to play the format at the highest level in quite a while, and my enjoyment of Pokémon increases exponentially when I’m playing in a large, competitive event with something on the line.
My top choice going into this event is the Gardevoir-GX/Gallade deck that Travis wrote an article about recently. His list is just about what I would settle on, and he explains the concept of the deck well enough, so I suggest you read what he has to say to get the basics on Gardevoir. To touch on a few points that he didn’t make:
The deck, in my opinion, is much more of a Gallade deck than a Gardevoir deck. Gardevoir is a very powerful card that opens up a lot of different ways for us to play the game, but let it be known that Gallade is the shining star of the deck. Being able to trade 2-for-1 in prizes versus Zoroark-GXs can be a big deal, and you even have Sudowoodo and Focus Sash for additional road blocks. A reasonable Zoroark matchup, along with decent matchups across the field, are the main reasons I want to play this deck. It’s obviously risky to play any Stage 2 Pokémon in the current Expanded format, but I think Gardevoir and Gallade are powerful enough to take the risk.
Since Travis has already written about and provided a list for the Gardevoir deck, I’ll go over my second choice for the event (and the deck I could very well end up playing), Drampa-GX/Garbodor.
My current list is as follows:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 35
Energy – 10
I primarily based my choices off of Igor Costa’s Costa Mesa list, and I don’t think you can really stray too far from this base in the current Expanded metagame. The only real judgement calls I’ve made throughout my testing are as follows:
- The Garbotoxin split is something I probably spent too much time thinking about. The conclusion I came to was that both were defensible under the right scenario, and it would end up mattering such a small percentage of the time that I might as well go for a split. I think the split I’m playing or just two copies of the Breakpoint version are defensible.
- I like keeping both of the tech Pokémon in Sudowoodo and Oricorio in. While I kind of hate playing with a card like Sudowoodo, I think you need as many barriers (to steal a term I heard from Jon Eng tonight) against the Zoroark deck as possible. Oricorio is very powerful against Night March, but is also just a better attacker than most probably think in it’s own right, so I don’t feel comfortable cutting that, either.
- Lastly, I cut a Super Rod from the stock list for more Energy. In my experience, you need Energy in the early game more than anything. I don’t often find myself hurting for it in the mid or late game. I’d rather give myself more outs to it when I feel it’s crucial than to be able to recycle it, especially when I already have Rescue Stretcher to bring back whatever Pokémon I need. In a perfect world I would just play both, but I’m most comfortable cutting Super Rod going into Salt Lake City.
Outside of Gardevoir and Drampa, I’m not seriously considering anything else. I simply don’t want to play infinite rounds of Zoroark-GX mirror, and I didn’t feel I had enough time to properly test the Trevenant deck. I wish Primal Groudon and Durant were good enough, but I simply do not think they are.
To hear more of my thoughts on the Expanded format, be sure to check out the newest episode of the SixPrizes podcast. (Editor’s note: Unfortunately, technical difficulties are going to prevent that, but look for a Toronto episode next week!). We go over basically every deck and talk about most of our major concerns about the format. In short: I think Zoroark is a real problem and something likely needs to be done, but it remains to be seen what exactly that something should be. If I’m right and Zoroark continues its dominance through the next few Regionals, maybe I’ll write a more in-depth piece about how I think the issue should be solved. We will see!
Slowplay in São Paulo
As you’ve probably heard, there was a pretty major slowplay penalty given in the final of this past weeekend’s International Championship in São Paulo. While I don’t really care to discuss whether the penalty was warranted or not, and if you’re looking for that kind of analysis, I’d recommend you check out Christopher’s newest piece. As usual, Christopher says it better than any of us could.
The discussion I would rather have is about slowplaying in general, and how you can avoid it. I’m of the opinion that pretty much every competitive Pokémon player plays too slowly, and I don’t think most of it is nefarious whatsoever. While I would never deny that there are some out there who manipulate the clock to gain an advantage, I believe that most players simply don’t have the necessarily tools to drastically improve their pace of play, or don’t see doing so as valuable. I’m hoping I can help with both today.
Firstly, playing faster as many tangible benefits. The biggest of which: you have a better chance of getting to finish a three-game match, and having more legitimate games in general. With the current state of the tournament time structure, we’ve all been in awkward positions because we simply couldn’t finish the games. Some of this is inherent to the rules, and is a whole other conversation to be had, but I believe we have more control over it than we might think.
The other very real benefit of playing more quickly is the amount of time you’ll (ideally) have between rounds. I don’t know about anyone else, but my tournament is experience is completely different if I finish most of my early and have time to eat, drink, use the bathroom, relax, whatever. Constantly going to time or finishing just before the round ends isn’t good for anyone.
I understand that it’s not as simple as telling you to play faster, though. You probably play at the pace you do because it’s what you’re comfortable with, or you believe that you’re playing as fast as you can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to tell you to play so quickly that you make obvious mistakes just to shave a few seconds off the clock; obviously that wouldn’t do you any good. I’m hoping that, by using the following techniques, you can improve your pace of play while still being able to make good decisions as often as you do now.
The most important thing is to spend all of your “downtime” thinking about what you’re going to do next. Typically, you have a lot of downtime during your opponent’s turn. While things like N can disrupt this, and obviously what your opponent does is going to have an impact on your choices, I still think you want to be trying to come up with a game plan mostly on your opponent’s turn, and simply use the time in your turn to physically play the cards and go through the motions. If you know the cards in your hand aren’t going to change and you know you need to find a Garbodor this turn, start thinking about what cards you’ll discard off the Ultra Ball while your opponent is making actions. This may seem like a small edge, but get good at and do it often enough, and it will definitely add up over the course of a long tournament.
Along with that, I think the number one mistake that players make is reevaluating things too often. Let’s go back to our last example. You know that you need to Ultra Ball for Garbodor, so you decide on two cards to discard during your opponent’s turn. Obviously, the card you draw will have an impact on this, and might make you reconsider your decision. However, some of the time, it won’t. Be mindful of the cards that you can draw that will actually make a difference and which cards won’t, so that you can streamline that process entirely. Additionally, even if the card does make you rethink things, it’s very likely the only decision you need to rethink is what combination of cards A, B, and C you want to discard. Drawing an irrelevant Float Stone doesn’t mean that you need to spend fifteen seconds thinking about your game plan for the turn.
This can be a difficult concept to grasp, but essentially: Going into your turn, there are certain things that you know because you’ve evaluated the board state, the cards in your hand, etc. You don’t need to let every change impact every evaluation you’ve made. You don’t need to re-think about everything that just happened because there is slightly new context. Be sure to think about what might cause things you think you know to change, but don’t be constantly reevaluating, as you’ll be eating up precious seconds on the match clock (not to mention mental energy).
alakazam02.tumblr.comSpeaking of mental energy, know when it’s important to think through something and when it’s not. In a perfect world, we would all have the brainpower necessary to make the optimal decision quickly every time. We all know that’s not how things work in practice, though. Certain turns and decisions are going to be harder than others, and if you use your time wisely when the decisions are straightfoward, you are essentially “banking” time to use on a more complicated turn.
A good example of this is your first deck search. Typically, on the first turn, you’ll use a lot of the clock determining what is prized. This is absolutely crucial, and something time should be spent on. However, on your second turn, you know you’re just going to play the Frogadier in your hand and Water Duplicates, so why waste time doing anything else? That time can certainly be better spent elsewhere.
You can improve all of these skills by practicing them in playtesting. When it’s the night before Regionals and you’ve already selected your deck and know what to do in all of the most popular matchups, spend some time trying to do the things I’ve outlined above, instead of just playing games in which you’re not going to learn much. These will all take a lot of practice to get good at, but they’ll majorly pay off in the end. Especially with the stricter penalties being put in place, you can’t afford not to be playing as efficiently as possible.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in Salt Lake!
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