Hello everyone! Kenny Wisdom here, happy to bring you another article on SixPrizes. As I sat down to write this piece, it struck me that there were a number of things I wanted to write about. After trying and failing to pick one topic to go deep on, I decided that it would be disingenuous for me to stretch out my thoughts on one subject to the point that the article would suffer from it. Therefore, what you’re going to read today is going to be a mixed bag of thoughts that I’ve been having about the competitive game as whole, including each format, the Worlds structure, recent events, and everything in between. Hopefully you enjoy what I’m putting together here and this article can spark some discussion! It’s been a while since I’ve written something that wasn’t a deck list/deck analysis article, so I’m excited to try something new.
Starting from the oldest news and working our way forward, I obviously have to start with the news every competitive player has been waiting months for: The 2019 World Championship CP threshold.
As anyone reading this certainly knows by now, the bar is set at 550 Championship Points. While this isn’t the number I would’ve guessed going into the season, I think it’s a sensible one. It presents more of a challenge while managing to stay in the range of what I feel is “reasonable.” Most players who dedicate themselves to playing well, staying disciplined and traveling to events will be rewarded with an invite. Inevitably there will be some who come up short, but that will happen no matter the requisite number.
To diverge just a bit: While I think the CP necessary to qualify for Worlds is reasonable, I’m not sure I can say the same about how we’re expected to earn the points. Especially as someone that lives on the west coast, traveling to events can be time consuming and expensive. I’m all for rewarding dedicated players, but something just doesn’t sit right with me about needing to fly to multiple Regionals in order to compete at the highest stage the game has to offer. I’ve talked about this before, but I would love a return to a system that encouraged and rewarded participation at the local level. That being said, most competitive players aren’t too fond of Cups as they are, so I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a good solution. Either way, it’s clear that this is the direction TPCi wants to take the game, as it seems to be working for them so far.
I crashed and burned at the Portland Regional Championship with Olliver Barr’s Drampa-GX/Garbodor list I wrote about shortly before the event. I know that no one comes to 6P to read tournament reports written by losers, so I’ll keep this one short. Although I definitely would’ve benefited from more practice with the deck, most of the day I just felt like an idiot for bringing a very “fair,” grindy deck to a field of Zoroark Control and Trevenant. While I understood this was a risk coming in, I was not quite prepared for how degenerate the format had become. In a very general sense, my advice for Expanded tournaments going forward is to play the most unfair, degenerate thing you can think of. The format doesn’t reward playing ABC Pokémon, and if you take that path you’ll more than likely feel like a sucker.
As to what to do about the format going forward, I’m approaching the point where I think it might just be best to outright ban Zoroark-GX. I’ve thought a lot about the potential of banning something like Lusamine, but at the end of the day it always comes back to Zoroark allowing for constant, absurd levels of card advantage and draw. I’m not exactly sure what the format would look like without Zoroark at this point. It’s possible banning it would open up a can of worms that would only lead to more bannings. I honestly couldn’t say. But I don’t know a whole lot of people having fun playing Expanded right now, and isn’t that supposed to be the whole point? We haven’t really seen Lost Thunder’s impact on the format, so it’s likely best to hold off on doing much of anything for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot fewer Trades in our future.
On the bright side, I really liked this Groudon list from a guy I also happen to really like, California’s Joe Sanchez:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 39
Energy – 9
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 12
* 4 Wobbuffet PHF 36
* 1 Groudon-EX PRC 85
* 1 Groudon-EX DEX 54
* 2 Primal Groudon-EX PRC 86
* 1 Regirock PR-XY XY49
* 1 Oranguru UPR 114
* 1 Buzzwole-GX CIN 57
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
##Trainer Cards - 39
* 4 Korrina FFI 95
* 3 N FCO 105
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 2 Pokémon Center Lady GEN 68
* 2 Lusamine CIN 96
* 1 Guzma BUS 115
* 1 Lysandre AOR 78
* 1 Steven's Resolve CES 145
* 4 VS Seeker PHF 109
* 1 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 1 Max Potion GRI 128
* 1 Switch SUM 132
* 1 Escape Rope BUS 114
* 1 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124
* 1 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
* 1 Professor's Letter BKT 146
* 1 Beast Ring FLI 102
* 1 Scramble Switch PLS 129
* 2 Focus Sash FFI 91
* 1 Hard Charm XY 119
* 1 Wishful Baton BUS 128
* 1 Float Stone BKT 137
* 4 Tropical Beach PR-BLW BW50
##Energy - 9
* 4 Strong Energy FCO 115
* 4 Fighting Energy EVO 96
* 1 Psychic Energy EVO 95
Total Cards - 60
****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
Groudon is probably my favorite deck in the format (with Trevenant a close second), but I simply didn’t think it was viable for this event. My initial dismissal of the deck along with the way that I chose to prepare for Portland meant that it was never a deck I would put any significant time into, which I obviously regret now. I’m still not sure of this deck’s viability going forward, but it’s one of the most fun decks I’ve ever played and I’m glad it’s able to remain competitive. Congrats to Joe for the solid finish.
Next up is the LAIC, which will have happened just over a week ago by the time you’re reading this article. Despite being different formats, Zoroark Control managed to take down this event in the hands of Daniel Altavilla, proving the dominance of Zoroark as a card and the control archetype as a whole once again.
As the event has come and gone and I’m sure you’ve all watched the coverage and poured over the decklists, I’d like to focus on something a little different in this portion of the article: cheating. As most of you know, a player was DQ’d from the event before the finals due to video evidence of improper randomization in earlier rounds of the tournament. Sadly, this is not something that is all that uncommon in our game right now, as a very similar thing happened at the World Championship (although that player was DQ’d after the fact). It seems that there’s some sort of cheating scandal during/after just about every event now.
It’s clear to see why: The game is offering a ton of incentive (both financially and otherwise) to it’s top players right now. It’s not an exaggeration to say that winning $5,000 or $10,000 would be life changing to a number of players, especially those who are younger, in school, or who are solely relying in Pokémon for their income. When there’s both pride and money on the line, it’s easy to see why someone would be tempted to bend the rules in their favor and increase their likelihood of taking home the big check.
Slightly below the surface there lies another reason, though: There’s almost no incentive not to. Although TPCi has tightened up penalties for drawing extra cards and such over the past few seasons, it still clearly remains a problem. While I’m happy that the rules are more restrictive and that we are catching and punishing cheaters more often than ever…there are most certainly still people out there cheating and getting away with it. Almost all of the people who have been DQ’d recently have been caught because they cheated on camera. Think about how much cheating they did off camera. Think about all of the cheats they ran on newer, unsuspecting players who just tell them “it’s fine” and don’t call a judge (on the off chance the player even notices the cheating). It’s great that we’re catching cheaters, but the fact that there are cheaters in the first place is still a major problem.
The fault doesn’t solely lie with TPCi though. It’s important that we as a community take a zero tolerance policy to cheating as well. If a player in your local area cheats, talk to them, make sure they know it’s not okay, and if possible, file a support ticket about their behavior. If you believe someone to be a cheater, or if they’ve been banned and have not expressed remorse for their actions, stop being their friend. We won’t be able to discourage cheating until we can convince people that it comes at a real cost. While losing friendships over a card game may seem extreme to you, it’s important to remember that cheating is theft. Plain and simple. Every cheater who has ever won any amount of money, booster packs, or Championship Points, has directly taken those prizes from the hands of clean players. This is unacceptable, and it’s time that we start treating it that way.
Of course, cutting contact with cheaters after they get caught is one thing, but I think it’s most important to try to make sure they either get caught or clean up their act in the first place. Doing this successfully is something that will take effort from all of us and requires a true shift in the culture of the game. With that being said, it’s very simple: call judges. Whenever you’re unsure about anything, call a judge. Even if the error seems irrelevant to the game state, call a judge. If your opponent attaches an extra Energy, you may be tempted to just tell them they already attached and accept that they made a mistake. While this seems like the nice thing to do, it is only cultivating a game of cheaters that believe they can pull these kind of things and get away with them. If you double attach every match and the worst thing that happens is your opponent makes you take it back, what incentive do you have not to cheat? No, not everyone who double attaches is a cheater and sometimes it’s a genuine mistake. In those cases, the judge will probably just give a caution or a warning, and the game will continue. However, if you call a judge and it turns out it’s the fifth time today that player has tried to run that cheat, we could be significantly closer to cleaning up the game.
I know that none of this is easy and a lot of what I’m suggesting here is uncomfortable, but I truly believe it’s what we need to do to ensure a fair game for everyone. I love Pokémon and the competitive community more than anything else in my life, and all I want is to support those who feel similarly, and exile those who would cheat, lie, and steal. Doing the right thing is rarely easy, but I believe we can do it.
To move on to a brighter topic, the Roanoke Regional Championship has just concluded it’s final day as I’m writing this section. Our own Jimmy Pendarvis took down the event with the Gardevoir-GX/Alolan Ninetales-GX deck that has been getting some hype lately. Congratulations to Jimmy for taking down another Regional! There are a few big takeaways from this event, in my eyes:
- The Dead Draw Gaming collective is unstoppable. They’ve now won every North American Regional of the season as well as the Latin America International Championship. I don’t know what they’re doing, but whatever it is, it’s working. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this kind of domination of the competitive scene, and I look forward to how the rest of the season goes for these players. Maybe they’ll finally dethrome Limitless as the consensus best team in the game? Only time will tell.
- The Standard format is still somewhat fresh and has room to grow. Lost March, a deck that was written off by a number of top players, managed to take the first seed going into day two and end with a Top 8. There rest of the Top was more or less what we’d expect from the format, so I’d like to highlight the Lost March list that Charlie Lockyer took to the quarter finals.
Pokémon – 25
3 Natu LOT
Trainers – 27
3 Net Ball
Energy – 8
After playing a few matches with lists similar to this, I’m a big fan of this deck. I originally expected that it would be the classic archetype that was built into the set and turned out to be overhyped, so it’s safe to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I don’t have an event coming up for a while, but if I were to sleeve up a Standard deck it would definitely be between Lost March and Gardevoir.From what I understand, this list is largely derivative of Kirk Dube’s “Snax March” list that he has been incessantly tweeting about, writing about, and streaming with, with credit to Noel Totomoch for the Marshadow innovation. As an aside, Kirk has done a great job of associating himself with this deck and this list, and I think a lot of the would-be “influencers” in the community could learn something from him.
The other takeaway from Roanoke was the power of the Unown HAND stall decks, a handful of which ended up making the second day of competition. I’m not sure this sort of strategy is really what’s best for the game, but at the same time it appears these decks might have a difficult time converting the day two finishes into top 8 appearances, so they’re likely not something to worry too much about for now. I do think it’s something to keep an eye on though. Right now those types of strategies are just unfun to play against and competitive, but if they someday become unfun to play against and outright oppressive, maybe it’ll be time to ban Lusamine in Standard.
That’s all I’ve got for today. Thanks for reading and as always I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.
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