This past weekend, Richmond was one of 8 host sites for the first ever combined Pokemon Trading Card Game/ Video Game Championships. These events have, in the past, been run on separate dates and in separate locations. Also new to organized play this year is the order of events. In the past, Regionals have not taken place until the spring and occur nationwide on the same weekend. The advent of the Autumn Regional gives players a chance to potentially attend this event in addition to Regionals in the spring (which will not be held in Virginia). At stake this weekend was paid travel and accommodations to the National Championship in Indianapolis this summer, up to 72 booster packs of the Noble Victories set and the much coveted Championship Points that will determine invitations to the World Championships in Hawaii in August 2012. The scholarship structure from last season has been restructured but we do not know details at this point.
The Fincastle Gym took 8 of its best competitors to vie for the title and the points. Entering the Junior Division were Gym Leader Logan and his younger sister, Georgia. The Senior Division was joined by Gym Leader Austin, Brycen F., Caleb Y. and his younger sister Tessa Y. Gym Leader Joel and Angela Y. took on the Master Division. Gym Leader Marthe passed on playing in favor of judging in the Senior Division on Saturday and running side events (Noble Victories booster drafts) on Sunday. Their were 228 entrants total, definitely making this the largest event ever attended by most of the members of the Gym. Juniors played 5 rounds and then top cut to 4. Seniors played 6 rounds and then top cut to 8. Masters played 8 rounds and then top cut to 32. Junior and Senior Division top cut matches were all completed on Saturday immediately following the completion of the swiss rounds. Masters, after cutting to 32, would play 1 round on Saturday evening and then return to finish the remaining top 16 playoff on Sunday morning. In top cut matches, players enter a tournament bracket and are seeded based on their rankings after the swiss rounds. Each match in top cut is the best 2 0f 3 and is an elimination match. On to the results.
Georgia, one of the days youngest competitors, had high hopes considering she already has 1 Battle Roads 1st place finish and 3 2nd place finishes under her belt. She started the day in strong fashion and cruised to an easy 1st round victory. Then the wheels fell off. She faced her worst match-up deck in 3 of her next 4 games, Donphan. With quick set-ups, she still can compete with the deck, but it was not meant to be on this day. She finished 22nd overall, which still netted her 7 booster packs for her efforts, but Georgia was hoping for a better day.
Logan returned to the Junior Division to defend his title from last year. If there is such a thing as a favorite to win events such as these, Logan was definitely in the mix. As he as done many times in high level competition, Logan delivered. Logan ran through the competition, finishing the swiss rounds as the day’s only undefeated player (5-0). This included a 4th round victory over Blaine H., who is one of Logan’s greatest rivals and friends in the game. Both players won their way into the 2011 World Championships in San Diego earlier this summer. Logan entered the top cut as the #1 seed, followed by Blaine at #2. Logan faced Jonathan C. in his first best 2 of 3, 60 minute battle. Logan won this match in straight games, as did Blaine in his opening match against Garrison B. The rematch between Logan and Blaine in the final match was, as described by both the head judge and the Pokemon International representative overseeing the event, the most intense and high level match that they had ever seen between 2 junior players.
Logan jumped out to and early lead in game 1 and was able to maintain his advantage and take the 1-0 lead. Game 2 saw Blaine get an early edge while Logan struggled to set up. Logan tried to battle back but could not as Blaine evened the match at 1-1. As the majority of the time limit was already spent, the final game was likely to go to the plus 3 turns very quickly and be decided by prize cards remaining. The set-up required by Logan’s deck proved to be his downfall as time ran out. Blaine took a quick lead as Logan was setting up and time was called. While Logan was poised to take over the game at that point, there was no time to do so. Blaine won a short game 3 by his prize card advantage. Logan stated after the match that we wasted too much time in game 2 trying to come back in a lost game. He believes that if he had “scooped” that game and preserved the time for game 3, he would’ve won the match. These are the lessons learned at this level. It was a great match by both players and hopefully is one of many more to come. It is a very intense but friendly rivalry which makes the whole experience a great one for all involved. For his efforts, Logan took home 72 booster packs of Noble Victories (720 cards) and more importantly 8 Championship Points. Logan will also receive a 1st and 2nd round bye at the 2012 National Championships (2 automatic wins).
The Senior Division competition was the first of this magnitude for all of the Gym’s entrants and the 4 Gym members had a great day. Brycen F. entered the day with a rogue deck in a field loaded with “meta-game” decks and fought hard. After a rough 1-2 start, Brycen battled back to even his record at 3-3 on the day and finish in 34th place, 2 spots out of the prizes (missing the top 32 by 4 percentage points in the computer tie-breakers). Gym Leader Austin’s day mirrored Georgia’s to an extent, as he ran into a series of match-up problems after winning his opening game. He fought through it and still finished in 42nd place, not where he wanted to end up, but still a great effort and learning experience. Tessa Y. opened with 2 losses and, as we at the Gym know very well, you do not want to play Tessa after a loss (especially 2 in a row). A very determined Tessa went on a tear trying to fight her way back into contention. She won 4 in a row, including a victory over a tough match-up deck (Gothitelle) for her and a close last round victory. At 4-2, her record was even with those squeaking into the top cut of 8, however, the early round losses dropped her computer tie break %, or “resistance”, low enough that she missed the cut. Tessa finished in 22nd place on the day (in a large pack of 4-2 players) and took home 7 booster packs. Had the Senior Division had 1 more competitor, Tessa would’ve earned 2 Championship Points for the finish, but the “kicker” for the additional points requires 64 entrants in the division (Seniors had 63).
Caleb Y. turned in the performance of the day in the Seniors. Caleb won his opening 3 games in fairly easy fashion. Round 4 paired him with eventual semi-finalist, Ray R. Caleb was an energy card away from victory in a very tight game that went to Ray. Undeterred, Caleb won his next game and was poised to enter the top 8 as one of the top seeds. Unfortunately, that “bad match-up” game came for him at the worst time (you guessed it, Gothitelle) Caleb said that despite his efforts, he never had a chance in this game. A round 6 loss dropped him to 4-2, still with a chance to make it in. Caleb’s “resistance” was less that 6% behind the 8th place finisher, leaving him in 11th place on the day. Caleb won 18 booster packs and 4 Championship Points. All of our seniors had outstanding performances in this their 1st ever Regional.
Angela Y. started her day in the Masters Division with a bye (a win, which we at the Gym have not yet figured out whether or not is good or bad for tie-breakers) and then 2 losses, not what she would have preferred, but as she played a very unique “rogue” idea of her own, it may have taken those opening rounds to feel out the competition. She apparently got a good grasp of how to face the field, because Angela rolled off 4 wins over her next 5 games, disrupting the most popular decks in the field as she went, all the while quietly climbing back to a 5-3 record. Her only loss in this stretch was a very close game where Angela said a misplay probably cost her the game. With a “resistance” of 51.79%, Angela stood less than 3 percentage points away from the top cut of 32. 1 more win by any of her previous opponents would have likely been enough to push her into the top cut, but that is unfortunately part of the game that is out of your control. Still, the amazing performance landed Angela in 38th place out of 139 Masters.
The last performance to check in on is that of the author, Gym Leader Joel. Joel’s tournament was definitely one of feast or famine, and in a few key games left him wondering if he had somehow angered the “prize card gods”, if there are such things. Joel opened with a game in which he quickly discovered that both copies of a key set-up card were prized. An attempt at a comeback was close but still failed, so he opened 0-1. He took his next 3 games in dominating fashion and then the deck failed again. At 3-1, Joel started with a single pokemon handful of energy. The turn 2 loss was followed by a crushing victory over eventual 5th place finisher, Rahul R. At 4-2, Joel matched up with eventual champion, Kevin N. However, Joel never could set up owing to almost all of his main attackers being prized and once Kevin started rolling, there was not much that could be done. At 4-3, Joel rebounded as he faced his favorite deck to abuse, Gothitelle (a deck that you either match up well against or are completely shut down by). The easy win left Joel also with a 5-3 record over 8 rounds and a strong “resistance” as all 3 losses were to players who were among the top players on the day. Final standings after the swiss rounds showed Joel in 30th place, squeaking into the top cut of 32 but faced with an immediate battle with Ryan W. Ryan finished the swiss rounds with a 7-1 record and was the #3 seed entering top cut.
The opening round of game 1 quickly revealed that Ryan played Reshiram / Typhlosion. As both players set up, Joel revealed one of the tricks up his sleeve for this match-up to get a key early knockout and take the advantage. From there, Joel “judged” away Ryan’s hand time and again and cruised to a game 1 win. In game 2, Ryan chose to go 1st and both players set up rather quickly. They exchanged several knockouts over the next few turns, but the disruption that Joel continued with let him take the advantage and win a very close game 2. Ryan was obviously a very skilled player and he exited the tournament very gracefully despite only losing twice on the entire day. With the straight victories, Joel went to recover from a long day (mostly to eat) and return to face his top 16 opponent on Sunday morning.
On Sunday, Joel arrived and matched up with Nicholas K., the #14 overall seed. In game 1 Joel saw that he was up against a quick deck that looked to abuse the card “pokemon catcher”. Thanks to this card, Nicholas jumped out to an early lead. Joel saw that trying to recover in this type of game would simply waste time in the very short 60 minute time limit. Joel “scooped” game 1 and moved onto game 2. In game 2, Joel set up and proceeded to steamroll Nicholas, taking all 6 prize cards while losing none. Nicholas, however, was smart enough to realize that even though game 2 was lost, to play it out and burn as much time as possible, putting him in a position to try to take game 3 on prizes. Nicholas began game 3 with a solid set up. Joel did as well until he searched his deck for basics with a “pokemon collector” to realize (to his terror) that 2 Magnezone and 2 Floatzel were all in his prize cards! Argggghhhh! (Played at least 50 games, if not more with this deck and has never seen that happen)! This made set-up virtually impossible, and as the few remaining minutes ticked away, all he could do was sit and watch as time was called. Nicholas was a very friendly competitor and a very savvy player.
The all or nothing day ended with Gym Leader Joel taking 16th place overall. It is his best finish to date in any of the 3 major open tournaments (States, Regionals and Nationals). He was very pleased with his performance but also knew had the cards fallen a little differently (literally), he could have taken his rogue deck much deeper into the playoffs. He won 18 booster packs and 3 Championship Points for his efforts.
For the weekend, the Fincastle Gym Members won a combined 122 booster packs and 15 Championship Points. It was a very long but very exciting weekend. We invite any and all to come by the Gym and train with us, as there are many events still to come this year. We may not be able to claim to be THE best place to learn the game and improve your skills, but we feel this weekend shows that we can help put forth some great competitors in an amazing and very fun game to play. See you at the Gym.