The Fincastle Gym Leaders are finally back home after our vacation that included a weekend stop at the Pokemon TCG National Championships, sandwiched between visits to the roller coaster heaven, Cedar Point (OH) and the relaxing Mammoth Cave (KY). We had hoped to post from the event, but this is the busiest Nationals that we have attended as we had competitors in all 3 age groups. Gym Leader Marthe volunteered all 3 days in the main event and top cut rounds. Marthe also competed in the Professor Cup, a special rules tournament for Pokemon Professors with extra prizes for them. Gym Leader Logan was invited to be one of the Senior-aged judges for the Professor Cup. The Professor Cup began and then resumed on Saturday directly after the close of the swiss rounds of the main event. As you can see, we had someone doing something from the start until the close of events each day. Makes me tired thinking about it. We will add some photos if we can ever find our camera (hopefully not flying around Mammoth Cave hooked to a bat).
The main event of the National Championship had another huge turnout. As far as attendance goes, there were 232 competitors in the Junior Division, 344 players in the Senior Division and 927 players in the Master Division. Juniors played 8 rounds with a top 32 cut. Seniors played 9 rounds with a top 64. Masters split into 2 flights and played 9 rounds in each with a top 64 cut in each flight. The most notable # for the Gym was the Junior division attendance. Had their numbers reached 256 or more, championship points would extend to the top 64. Gym Leader Georgia entered the Junior Division event with 334 championship points, 66 shy of the 400 necessary for her 1st invite to Worlds. Georgia would either need to finish in the top 12 to pick up the points all at once or finish in the top 32, picking up a portion of the 66 pts and then enter the Last Chance Qualifier tournament on Sunday, which would give any player within 200 pts a shot at earning an invite, or in Georgia’s case, hopefully pick up whatever was necessary for her to finish her climb to 400.
Georgia got off to a strong start, going 2-0 (including her 1st round bye from winning a State Championship). Like fellow leaders Logan and Joel, Georgia entered with a unique rogue deck. With her “tank” deck, we knew that the longer she was in a game, the more likely she would come back with a win. Her next 2 rounds unfortunately went a little too quickly, as she came back reporting losses in which she could not get set up before Junior “sheep” piloted their copies of Kyurem/Deoxys/Thundurus (aka Plasma Sheep) past her deck (I’ll explain the “sheep” thing in a minute). Georgia went on to finish Friday’s games with a record of 3-3, not in a good position for Saturday and the last 2 rounds of swiss.
Georgia opened on Saturday with a win, extending her record to 4-3. She entered the final round trying to top out at 5-3, which with points through 64 would have been excellent. However, 5-3 would likely still leave her out of the top 32. This final round is the hardest to describe without spouting negativity, but here goes my best attempt. Georgia opponent was playing a deck featuring Cobalion EX. At 4-3, I would find it hard to believe that opponent did not know how his main attacker’s attacks worked. We can only speculate that he, as many junior players do, tested Georgia to see what he could get away with, and in this case, she did not catch what he was doing until later in the game. That being said, her opponent was applying “weakness” on an attack that says explicitly in its text that you do not do. Despite this advantage throughout the game, Georgia worked her way to within 2 prizes of winning, only needing to do 30 more damage to a Cobalion EX and finish the game. Georgia sent up her undamaged 230 HP (we did say tank, remember) Pokemon that was weak to Steel. Her opponent attacked with “Steel Bullet”, claiming that it did 200 damage, which in addition to the “laser” he played, would total 230 damage, the KO and his last prize card. Georgia asked to see the card and called one of the junior division judges. The judge arrived, looked (apparently very briefly) at the situation and said that Georgia was wrong, awarding the KO and the game to her opponent. The players picked up their game and she came to where I (Joel) was seated to tell me what happened. I immediately escorted her back to the judge (already knowing that it was likely a lost cause, as the game was already picked up). I confronted the judge and got an “oh yeah….” look and then was escorted to the head judge, who after hearing the situation, apologized and then told me what we already knew…. that nothing could be done after the game was picked up.
Come on, people! That is why parents sit off to the side and leave games in judges hands. Especially in the junior division, where more supervision is required. If it was a complex ruling, it would be a little easier to stomach, but IT SAYS WHAT IT DOES ON THE CARD!!!!!! Shame on her opponent for taking advantage of something that he surely knew was wrong. More importantly, shame on the Junior Division judge for blowing that one. That is an easy ruling and if you can’t make it correctly….. GET OUT OF JUDGING! You don’t belong, especially in the country’s biggest event. Ridiculous, utterly ridiculous……
The loss, if you care to call it that, dropped Georgia to 4-4 for the event and into 96th place. The loss meant that Georgia would have to make the top 8 of the Last Chance Qualifier held on Sunday. We looked at other deck options, but with no time to get comfortable with something different, Georgia jumped back in her tank and plowed back into battle. The event was single elimination from the start. Georgia battled into the top 32, but that was the end of the road, as a speedy Lugia-based Plasma deck got an early advantage on her and stayed on top for the game. Despite her efforts, Georgia finished right where she started in terms of Championship points. Great job, Georgia, on a strong year for an 8-year-old. She came home $500 richer, as she collected her “travel reward” for her 1st place finish at the Maryland State Championships. We are not hearing any complaints from her on that front.
Gym Leader Logan entered the event with a not quite last-minute deck change. His deck choice was a strong one, but we hoped that lack of playing experience with it would not turn out to be a handicap. Logan opened with a close loss, followed by a painful loss in round 2, where Logan took the 1st 5 prize cards and then was “N’d” into that painful 1-card hand. His opponent climbed all the way back to take the game while Logan top-drew, hoping to hit something good, which never came. Logan rebounded, running his record to 4-3 by Friday’s close, putting himself in position to reach 6-3. From what we’ve seen in the past, somewhere between the top 1/3 to 1/2 of 6-3 records usually make the top 64 in Seniors. Unfortunately, Logan’s deck had that 1 bad set up game in the 1st game on Saturday, as he fell behind and did what he could but ultimately lost to another Kyurem/Deoxys/Thundurus deck (baaaaaa… I’m getting there). Logan played out the last round, knowing his shot was gone and finished the tournament at 4-5. Great job and great run at getting into the tops, Logan! Logan concludes a good first year in the Seniors, definitely full of its ups and downs.
Way down the list of outside shots at anything was Gym Leader Joel. Knowing that going in, Joel returned to his favorite deck for at least one more ride before set rotations are announced. Depending on the cut, Joel’s Rayquaza/Emboar, which by the way, has horrible match-ups against the Plasma-sheep decks, may or may not survive another rotation. “Ray-Boar” much like Gym Leader Joel, is slow to set up but once running, can power its way through just about anything. Through the opening 7 rounds on Friday, Joel played 5 Plasma Sheep, 1 Gothitelle/Accelgor and 1 Coballion EX/Klingklang deck. The 2 non-sheep games were slaughters in both directions. The Klingklang player was super nice, but the Emboar and Moltres (teched in for this match-up) of Joel’s ran through the Steel types. One the other hand, against Gothitelle, Joel went 2nd and saw his opponent set the “item” lock on turn 2. Game over for Joel. In 4 other games against identical Plasma-sheep decks, Joel split wins and losses, simply out-playing his opponents in 2 of the games, missing the win by a turn in 1 game and getting beat hands down in 1. Still, at 3-3 with a deck that should not have beat anything but perhaps the Klingklang deck, Joel entered the last round of Friday against another “sheep”. Joel got a slow start but hung in long enough to take the game to 2 prizes each. Joel was 1 Fire energy short of getting the KO on the EX of his choice (w/catcher), but could not dig it out. He ended the day 3-4. Much like Seniors, we knew 6-3’s would get into top cut. 4 losses was out of the running, so he dropped in favor of watching the kids and playing in side events on Saturday.
Joel returned on Saturday and won several 8-man pick up side events, placing in a few more and winning multiple packs. Gym Leader Marthe opened 2-2 on Friday in the Professor Cup, but fell to 3-5 by the event’s close. From these games and from all of her work on the volunteer side, she brought home a boat-load of supplies for league. Logan netted over a box-worth of packs from his involvement in both judging and playing in side events.
Alright, on to the sheep thing. With this last release before Nationals, Pokemon definitely killed the variety and creativity in the format for the moment. Hopefully upcoming sets will balance it back out a little. With over 1500 competitors entering Nationals, it would be very safe to say that at least half (probably closer to somewhere between 3/5 and 3/4) of the decks were Kyurem/Deoxys/Thundurus. Thanks to the myriad of deck-list websites that have been spewing out lists and declarations that it was THE play for Nationals. Between games in the main event and side events, game after game against seemingly identical decks really became tedious, if not annoying and lets face it, boring. Especially in the side events in which Gym Leader Joel played many players from the Senior divisions and perhaps 1 from the Juniors, this deck surfaced again and again. The thing that stuck out to Joel when playing the younger players was that none of them acted like they enjoyed playing it. It was like playing a game against a 4 and 1/2 foot-tall robot. To us this begs the question, why play it, especially if you don’t like it, unless you were told by someone who you had to play it? That’s not up to us to answer, but maybe it’s not a bad question to ask yourself. Or would you rather just say, “Baaaaaaa.”
Overall, we had a good time at the 2013 Nationals. We always enjoy the time together and enjoy helping behind the scenes. We were disappointed that we could not extend our Gym’s streak of 3 years in a row of sending a player to the World Championships. While there is a Last Chance Qualifier event at Worlds, we are not making the trip to Vancouver to try our hand on a small chance at best. We look forward to the rest of the summer at league and events that will be coming to Fincastle. We will try to get that information together for everyone as well as another exciting announcement about our league that we will share (when we are told it is OK to do so officially). Until then, see you at the Gym!