The Junior Jaunt

A Look Back at a Year of Junior Competition, NAIC Nuggets, and Poképarent Open Profile

Hello again 6P readers and Poképarents! I’m happy to be back writing another article after a long hiatus. My intent was to write about Juniors every quarter, but during Q3 I really lacked inspiration to write anything interesting. We attended a few events, but nothing noteworthy really jumped out that I wanted to share.

Fortunately I was reinvigorated at NAIC when a fellow Poképarent told me my first article of year helped him and his son plan out their season in order to achieve a Worlds Invite. It’s rewarding to know that I can pass on the knowledge I’ve collected to parents who are just starting their own Pokémon journey.

Today I’m going to analyze the results of the year long Top 16 Juniors chase, wrap up my family’s own journey, and talk briefly about connecting with other parents at the Poképarent Open.

Editor’s Note: Dillon wrote this before the 2019 Championship Series and its related details, including quarterly stipends, were announced. Due to some difficulties on our end, you are reading it a bit later than that, but we’ve done our best to clean up the edges with the new insight. In addition, as always, opinions expressed are those of the author.

A Look at NA Juniors’ Top 16

The 2018 Championship Series saw only slight increases in attendance at the Regional level, but the number of Worlds qualifiers in North America doubled from 66 last year to 126 this year. The lowering of the invite threshold to 350 CP, guaranteed Top 4 points at League Cups, and four quarters of Cups put an invite within reach of many more players this year. For reference, though, 126 invites is still lower than 2015 (157) and 2016 (154), which had a very different series structure known for City, State, and National Championships.

An increasing number of invites means more competitors in Day 1-of the World Championships in Nashville, more rounds to play, and a better record to qualify for Day 2. The big prize of a Top 16 placement in the North America rankings at the end of the season is getting to automatically skip Day 1. Skipping Day 1 eliminates the grind of playing what is essentially a Regional with the best players in the world and avoids the in-game variance (or luck) that could end your Day 1 early regardless of your deck choice or skill.

Last year Benjamin earned his first Worlds invite and I learned the Day 1 tournament structure firsthand. Players had to win 3 rounds out of 5 to move onto Day 2 (certainly more wins will be needed at Nashville). As soon as a player had 3 wins they qualified for Day 2 and were dropped from the tournament. The result was a shrinking pool of players in each round after dropping of those who qualified.

Benjamin lost his first 2 matches to start off Day 1, which meant his day was over if he lost or tied any more rounds. Effectively every match from that point on was an elimination round for him and his opponent. It’s important to understand that in the Day 1 format a tie is not a win, and therefore is 100% equivalent to a loss. Benjamin managed to win his next 2 rounds, but it meant ending the tournament, and season, for each of his opponents. Round 5 was the win-and-in for every player still practically in the tournament, as they were all looking for their 3rd win. It was uplifting to know Benjamin had battled back from the brink of elimination to have a chance for Day 2, but nerve-racking to watch the game play out. He ended up losing his last match, as he was playing and paired against Greninja. It was a disappointing feeling to get so close, but lose to a terrible matchup.

I came away from Anaheim thinking to myself that a Top 16 spot could help Benjamin get over the hump of qualifying for Day 2 and provide a competitive advantage in the hardest tournament of the year. I started to research and plan the level of commitment it would require from our family to travel and play in 2017-2018, and the rest is history for us. Along the way, I started tracking Juniors CP earned and tournament results of the top players to see what I could find.

Here are some key points that could help you when planning your family’s season:

  • Only 20 Juniors entered the Top 16 throughout the entire season
  • For Top 4 travel awards and Top 16 stipends, the rankings were captured on November 30, 2017, February 15, 2018, May 3, 2018. Only 4 names changed from the beginning in November to the end in July. The players in Top 16 are some of the most competitive and well travelled Juniors. Everyone in the Top 16 earned CP in at least 4 Regionals/Internationals; each one showed they were able to travel and perform.
  • There is no snowball effect from stipends at the beginning of the year
    • The snowball effect is cited as an issue with the tournament structure for Masters, where those players in the Top 16 at the beginning of the year (set by the rankings at the end of the previous year) are paid to attend the next International. When Top 16 players earn outsized CP at foreign internationals, they continue to increase their lead over players who don’t go overseas, creating a “rich gets richer” system that keeps the Top 16 in place.For Juniors, it does not look like it applies. For one, many of the best Juniors age-up to become Seniors, and they take their travel awards for the first IC with them to their new division. Only 5-of the 2016-2017 Top 16, who earned a stipend to EUIC in November 2017, were still juniors at that event. That opened a window of opportunity to Juniors who performed well at Regionals early in the year, and players who went to the first International without a stipend. Benjamin entered Top 16 at 10th during Q1 with a strong season start that consisted of a Top 8 placement at Hartford (100 CP) and a Top 16 at EUIC (200 CP).
  • Placing at Internationals is important!
    • Of the final Top 16 Juniors, only 1-of those players did not earn CP at an International. Many of the players on the list placed well at Regionals throughout the year, but Internationals payout 2.5× the CP of a Regional, and those few tournaments have a huge impact on the standings. Benjamin earned 680 CP from a Top 16, Top 4 and Top 32 at three IC’s, which with a potential of 400 CP from Cups would’ve put him into 12th place of the final standings without attending any Regionals. If you have a limited budget and can only attend a few events, consider attending any of the IC’s over a comparable regional if you want the biggest CP payout.
  • League Cups might be the difference between 16th and 17th place
    • Almost everyone in the Top 16 earned their full CP allotment from League Cups, with a few exceptions for players who were so comfortably ranked in the Top 16 they could stop attending. Of the final Top 16, 13 earned their full 100 CP from Q1 cups. In Q2 again 13 players earned their full 100 CP. In Q3 and Q4 we see the numbers diminish as the CP difference between a winner (50) and Top 4 (32) has little effect on players who earned CP from major events. For our family, Benjamin’s Top 16 place was secured after a Top 4 at Latin America IC, so we only attended one Q4 cup, and only because I organized and ran it.
    • It is interesting to look at a few “what-if’s,” where players could’ve jumped or stayed in the Top 16 if they had maximized their Cup points. Three players in the 17th-22nd final standings earned less than 300 CP from Cups. If any of them had earned their maximum of 400 CP from Cups throughout the year, they would’ve finished in the Top 16. The take-away is Cup points matter if you’re on the fringe of Top 16, so earn all of the points you can until you have a comfortable position.
  • Top 16 requires consistent results.
    • Four Junior players won Regionals in North America last year and didn’t make the final Top 16. A single big finish at the Regional level is not enough to secure a spot. Those chasing Top 16 must place highly at multiple events to have a chance. The lowest amount of CP earned in Top 16 at the Regional/IC level was 500 CP, which was a Regional Top 2, Top 8, Top 16 and IC Top 32. Going back to the last point about Cups, two players earned more than 500 CP at Regional/IC’s (520 and 550 CP), and one placed in 5 Regionals, but neither earned enough Cup points to stay competitive and get into Top 16.
  • The CP threshold for Top 16 in each quarter of 2017-2018 was:

Q1: 324

Q2: 450

Q3: 650

Q4: 870

  • This 2018-2019 season looks to be more difficult for Top 16 than last year.
    • Only 8-of this year’s crop ages into Seniors, down from 11 last year. For anyone trying to break in, the Nashville Open is a huge opportunity for those who want to get a leg up on next season if they don’t make Day 2 at Worlds. It awards Regional-level CP, and it’s likely one of the easier tournaments of the year because the existing Top 16 and all other Day 2 qualifiers will be playing in Worlds while the Open is happening.
    • To put it in perspective how important the beginning of the season is for Top 16, consider that last year there were only 3 events that occurred before Sept 3rd 2017: Liverpool, UK Regionals, Anaheim Open, and Ft Wayne Regionals. By that Sept 3rd date, 13 of the eventual Top 16 had earned CP at one of those 3 tournaments. My guess is success early in the season encourages families to plan to attend more events, which leads to those players having more chances to play throughout the year. If you plan to attend events and think your Junior wants to pursue Top 16, definitely plan to attend the Nashville Open and 2-of the 3 Q1 Regionals (Philadelphia, Memphis or Portland).

Good luck to every family that’s looking at competing at the highest levels in the 2018-2019 season. With some travel, lots of practice and a little luck, your Junior might find themselves ranked atop the leaderboards to start this next year.

Looking Back at Our Season

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In my first article of the year I talked about planning ahead and setting goals. Our family goals were:

  • A chance at Top 16 North America and an automatic Worlds Day 2 Invite for Benjamin
  • A Worlds invite for my younger son, Brady.

I’m happy to say Benjamin finished 7th in the NA rankings with 1447 CP and Brady got his Invite with 443 CP. It feels great to have made a plan and for it to all come together nicely, but the adventures we took travelling and playing all over as a family are more important than just the end result.

Events Attended

For anyone curious about what it takes to get an Invite or make Top 16, here’s some numbers on what our season looked like.

Looking at the event breakdown, Benjamin had a very solid and consistent season where he earned CP at almost every event he played in. The two he didn’t place at were losses or ties in the final win-and-in match for Day 2 (Anaheim Open, Daytona). There wasn’t anything spectacular about his finishes: just solid Top 8 and Top 16s, until he placed 4th at LAIC in Brazil.

I attribute the consistent results with picking good decks and sticking with them for long periods of time until the meta shifts. Starting at Worlds 2017, Benjamin played Gardevoir in 4 straight Standard major tournaments (Worlds 2017, Hartford, London, Memphis), and later in the year he played 3 straight decks (Charlotte, LAIC, Roanoke). Interspersed were Expanded decks, which were usually a struggle to decide-on—the most interesting being Wailord (which I previously wrote an article about).

Maybe switching deck choices more drastically to counter the metagame could’ve netted bigger success with a high risk, high reward play, but Benjamin doesn’t regret any deck choices he made all season.

Brady stuck with Buzzroc for the entire year once it became popular after Memphis Regionals last December. Even as the meta shifted, he was happy to stick with Buzzroc and just adjust the list to mirror what was popular in Masters. Keeping the deck choice consistent helped all of his practice focus on one game plan that he could execute every time. Fortunately, Buzzroc was the best deck all season, which meant it was almost never a bad meta choice, and it only got better with Forbidden Light’s release.

Lessons Learned from NAIC

We took a laid-back approach to NAIC as Benjamin’s Top 16 place was locked up going into the event and Brady already had his invite. We had moved to a new home in town a few weeks before the tournament, which disrupted most of our testing, so we were just happy to play at all. The final US Nationals in 2016, also in Columbus, was one of the first events we ever attended, and its spiritual successor NAIC always has a special significance for me.

Benjamin didn’t want to pick a deck in the meta triangle (, Zoroark, Buzzroc) so he ended up playing Christopher Schemanske’s Mexico Regionals BuzzGarb list. Although the deck was well situated in the meta, he wasn’t very comfortable with it, as he didn’t play a single or deck the entire year until that tournament. His inexperience showed as he ended up using Wonder Tag twice under his own Garbotoxin in two different rounds, which earned him a Double Prize Penalty and later an escalated Quad Prize Penalty. I scratched my head how he did it twice, since the entire deck literally has only 1 Pokémon with an Ability, but it happened.

After an up-and-down day, Benjamin was 4-2-1 going into the final round. He was out of contention for Top Cut, but a win would put him into Top 32 which was the lowest cutoff for prizes ($500, 160 CP). The final round of most any tournament with prizes on the line can have extra pressure, but especially NAIC since it’s the final tournament of the year and last chance to earn a Worlds Invite. I was extra aware of the pressure to get an invite since I had played in the Masters Day 1 on Friday, the day before Juniors played. A couple of my opponents let me know they were trying to get Top 256 to finish their invite, a subtle but socially accepted way to imply that if I didn’t need the win, I could help them achieve their goal by giving them the match.

Scooping to an opponent you don’t know is a very personal and touchy subject in the Masters community. You’ll see opinions ranging from “I never scoop, they need to earn it” to “it depends if they’re friendly and we have an enjoyable game.” Pokémon’s rules are very clear: a player cannot ask for the opponent to concede, but penalties are enforced after repeated requests. There’s language opponents will use to carefully skirt around the tournament rules and penalty guidelines, but some people pressure their opponents anyway and blatantly ask for free wins.

Conceding a Match: Players are not permitted to request an opponent’s concession. Repeated requests of this nature may be perceived as coercion and penalized as such.

Unsporting Conduct Severe: Determining the outcome of a match by random means, through the use of bribery or coercion, or via other choosing methods/games.

I thought to myself, if I was in a situation where I had to decide whether to scoop, Benjamin might too. While we were walking to get food during the Junior’s lunch break we talked about being asked to scoop, was it legal from them to ask, and how he should respond. All the intricacies of delicate language and social norms in Masters is nowhere to be found in Juniors. From my experience judging at the local and Regional level, most kids will “say the darndest things” without a second thought due to ignorance or willful disregard of the penalties.

We decided that Benjamin should not scoop to his opponent if asked in the final round. My rationale was that it is not legal for the opponent to ask, Prizes were on the line, and if the opponent offered anything like a bribe (e.g. “I’ll give you the money if you scoop to me”), Benjamin could be disqualified himself for agreeing to concede after such an offer, even if he didn’t want anything in return. To me, it wasn’t fair for a child to have the added in-game pressure of deciphering if it was appropriate to scoop to someone who needed their invite. While I feel comfortable making that decision myself as a Master, I don’t believe that should happen for Juniors.

I usually don’t watch Benjamin’s matches, but in the final round, he was the last one playing due to a long time extension due to an in-game deck check. Everyone was waiting for the last match to conclude, and I noticed his opponent was clearly upset from his body language. When the match concluded I walked over to the table and asked Benjamin what happened. He said he won the match, but his opponent was in tears because he didn’t get his invite. He relayed the opponent asked him multiple times to give him the win, even after Benjamin responded with a firm “No.” Mid-way through the match the opponent desperately continued to ask if they could just ID instead (which would’ve knocked both of them out of Top 32 anyway).

I walked away feeling bad for the Junior who didn’t achieve their goal of an invite, but also thinking that without our earlier conversation, maybe Benjamin could’ve been manipulated into giving in. Later that night I was even more concerned when I found out the opponent had a family member who placed highly in their own age division at NAIC. It made me upset to think that the repeated requests to scoop could’ve been a coached behavior that was taught to the Junior.

After this experience, Benjamin and I discussed in the future if an opponent asks for a concession to tell them it’s illegal to ask and that if they do it again he will call the judge. My recommendation to all Poképarents is to talk to your Junior about the rules, fair play, and how to handle tough situations. These kind of requests don’t only happen at NAIC when an invite is on the line; it can happen at Cups and Regionals too. Whether it’s being asked for a concession, to ID when someone will bubble, or not to report a penalty and fix it themselves, you are better off having those conversations together before the match, rather than hearing the outcome afterward. If you are a newer Poképarent and don’t feel like you know all the ins-and-outs, find families with experience that you can learn from and soak in the all wisdom they can pass along.

The Poképarent Open at Worlds 2018

Bulbapedia

If you’re new to the Poképarent scene, or just trying to get more connected, check out the Poképarent Open being held at World’s 2018. The Poképarent Open is a fun side-event tournament at Nashville that gives parents a way to kill time while their child plays in Day 1-of World’s. The idea started between Will Post, Nabeel Hyatt and myself last year at World’s 2017 in Anaheim as a fun way for parents from all over the world to meet each other and play some budget decks in a made-up format.

The format was loosely designed for parents to be able to take cards from their children’s bulk collection and make a semi-competitive deck. We had 24 players last year and it was a blast. I’m proud to say I came in 2nd place with a terrible Grass Trevenant/Heatmoor deck that was entirely the wrong meta-call. For more details and tournament results check out last year’s site.

This year, we’re expecting many more participants, as there are far more Junior players, and parents of players, attending Nashville. The Poképarent Open is run during Day 1-of Worlds in a Best-of-1 format and is designed to be fun and low stress so parents can take care of their child’s needs first. The tournament is using this specially designed format:

Deck Construction Rules:
40 Card Deck
No more than two of each named card, basic Energy excluded
Legal Sets: Sun & Moon, Guardians Rising, Burning Shadows, Shining Legends, Crimson Invasion, Ultra Prism, Forbidden Light, Celestial Storm
Legal Promos: Sun & Moon Black Star Promos only

The following cards are BANNED from the tournament:
All GX cards (and EX, although the format restriction should eliminate those anyway)
Double Colorless Energy
Beast Ring
Buzzwole FLI 77
Metal Frying Pan

If creating decks in a made-up format intimates you, there’s some good resources out there. Poképarent Wes Shiver has been making a series of YouTube videos with his son, that can be found on his channel. He summarizes the key cards in the format in this video that I highly recommend for anyone who wants to build a deck. A great site for searching for cards in the format is PkmnCards, where you can pick the legal sets and filter by type of card.

If you’re really competitive and want to be the best, like no one ever was, here are some tips that might help you out:

  • Since Double Colorless is banned, the decks that can accelerate basic energy look to be the best. Metal Magnezone and Psychic Malamar are my 2 front runners because they can use big 3-energy attacks and respond to KOs immediately.
  • Metal has the best variety of attackers, which is huge in a format that only allows a maximum of 2-of each card. One-of attackers like Solgaleo p and Celesteela make the metal deck able to hit 160 easily. Metal also resists Psychic, giving you a natural advantage against Malamar decks.
  • Mill decks are not strong against the Energy recovery decks (Mt. Coronet and Malamar), and they lack a reusable mill Supporter like Team Rocket’s Handiwork. Personally I’ve discounted mill as a winning strategy, but if someone can make it work they could surprise a lot of players.
  • Fire decks seem like they should be strong as they hit Metal and Grass for weakness, but Fire attackers require so much energy, and aside from a lucky start with Kiawe, the decks can crumble within a few turns. I’m going to work on a few Fire type ideas, but my initial build for a Turbo Reshiram/Shining Ho-oh deck would instantly lose if its Wishful Batons were Blower’d off before a KO.
  • There are likely some crazy ideas no one has publicly talked about yet. Some of my crazier ideas that I haven’t tested are a Xurkitree/Magnezone deck with Aether Paradise, a Goomy stall deck that attacks, and an energy control deck using Carnevine from Shining Legends.

If you want to join in, check out the Facebook Event for more details. Official registration will be done through RK9 Labs. You’ll need a spectator badge to get into the venue, and unfortunately Spectator badges have officially sold out. Hopefully you have one already from your Junior getting one with their invite, but if not, you might need to find someone with an extra who’s willing to part with it. I hope everyone who wants to play can make a deck and meet some other Poképarents!

Closing

Good luck to everyone participating in Worlds and those looking forward to the 2018-2019 season. This past year has been a fantastic adventure for our family travelling to tournaments, meeting new people and growing in the game. We’re looking forward to the new season’s tournament structure announcement and International Championship schedule to start making our goals for this new season.

I hope you’ve started planning out your upcoming year, whether your Junior is aiming for a World’s Invite, Top 16 or just getting deeper into the game. Feel free to reach out on Facebook or in-person if you ever have questions or need some insight. I hope to see you in Nashville, or somewhere on the circuit in the future.

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