If ever there was an 8-year-old who was mentally prepared for a real marathon, we’d like to see how they stack up against the Fincastle Pokemon Gym’s youngest Gym Leader. The Gym Leaders arrived in Philadelphia at around 8:30pm on Friday to a hotel that was sub-standard at best for a downtown hotel next to the city’s convention center (we’ll spare you the details). Straight to bed and then back up Saturday morning and at the convention center just after 7:00am, as Gym Leader Marthe had to report to help set up and prepare to judge in the Master Division in what would definitely prove to be an interesting new format. Play in the TCG event, which was to begin at 10:00am kicked off just prior to 11:00am. One of our gym leaders walked away with “top 32” prizes. More than 12 hours after play began, minutes before midnight, one of our gym leaders walked away as Regional Champion.
The Philadelphia Fall Regional Championship boasted impressive attendance, with over 470 competitors, more than anticipated in the 1st round of events where Masters competitors had to pay an entry fee. After a lengthy registration, this is how Saturday/Sunday was to shake out. The Junior Division was to play 6 rounds and then “top cut” to an 8 player playoff. The Senior Division was to play 7 rounds, also cutting to a top 8. Masters…. (this is still hard to fathom…) were to play 9 rounds on Saturday, with the top 32 returning on Sunday to play 5 more rounds and then top cut to an 8 player playoff. The major change for this event for all age groups is that every round is now a best 2 of 3 with a 50 minute time limit and the possibility of a “tie” at the end of a round. Prizes for the Juniors and Seniors are basically the same as last year, while the prize support for Masters basically tripled with the addition of the entry fees (complete breakdowns for each age group can be seen on Pokemon.com).
Gym Leader Georgia ran into trouble early as in Round 2, she faced a deck that we have not tested much with her, Darkrai/Hydregion (we will update missing player names when we can, our notes are scattered as we were all pretty occupied) and it gave her fits. She lost the opening game and then struggled her way to a win in game 2. Her opponent took game 3, leaving her with a 1-1 record only 2 rounds in and in early danger of not making the top cut. Georgia rebounded with a 2-0 match win over a basic “Plasma” deck. Round 4 paired her with the competitor that would run through the field without a loss and finish as the #1 seed in the top cut. The only flaw on his record in the swiss rounds came in this round. Georgia fell to his “speed-Darkrai” deck in the 1st game. She rebounded to take game 2 in what was a very long game. Both players squared off again, but not with enough time to resolve the match. “Time” was called and after the “+3” turns, there was still no winner. Georgia and he received a “tie” on their record. Georgia, now 2-1-1, was definitely pumped up after this very competitive match. Unfortunately for them, her round 5 and 6 opponents were on the receiving end of this 8-year-old on a mission. Georgia cruised through round 5 with a 2-0 match win over Suicune/Keldeo, then through round 6 with a 2-0 match win against Darkrai/Garbodor. When the smoke cleared, Georgia held a 4-1-1 record and the #4 seed going into the top 8 playoff.
The top 8 was a seeded playoff with each round consisting of best 2 of 3 matches in the traditional format where match resolution would be determined by prize counts, as opposed to the ties possible in the swiss rounds. The 1st round pitted Georgia into a rematch with her only loss from the swiss round, the Darkrai/Hydregion deck. I guess saying that Georgia is a quick learner may be a bit of an understatement. Georgia won game 1 very quickly. She suffered a slower than average set up in game 2 which led to a close loss. In game 3, Georgia took 3 turns to shut the door and take 4 prize cards, eliminating his entire field. On to the top 4… another rematch, this time with the #1 seed, the Darkrai player that she tied earlier.
This was another tightly contested match. Georgia took game 1 by taking all 6 prize cards. She lost a close game 2, needing to take only 2 prizes (1 KO) to close the match. With not much time left again, this match was destined to come down to prizes, which it did. Georgia got a quick start and took the prize card lead (to his “0”) before time was called, enough to net her the win. On to the finals.
The championship match was quite the story, on several levels. Tristan P, her opponent, traveled from Canada to compete (allowed in Regionals, but not at Nationals). The 2 very skilled players dodged each other in the swiss rounds. Tristan was the #2 seed entering the top cut. As an interesting side note, Tristan is the younger brother of the player that Gym Leader Logan defeated in round 6 at the World Championships in Hawaii 2 years ago. I guess that would make this a grudge match-once-removed? At any rate, this match kicked off at about 10:45pm, right at 12 hours after play began. A short attempt to allow them to return Sunday morning to play was quickly shot down, so away they went.
Georgia won game 1 in a well-played, back and forth match that was down to a 2 to 1 prize count at the end. Game 2 played out much the same, this time with Tristan coming out on top, forcing the decisive game 3. Georgia got a tremendously fast start, which combined with Tristan finding some key cards prized at the beginning of the game, led to a fairly quick victory for Georgia, crowning her Regional Champion.
Georgia took home 2 booster boxes (72 packs) of cards, a trophy, a playmat, play sleeves, a hat, a binder and 120 championship points. She added another 9 packs of cards by taking 14th place in the video game tournament on Sunday. Not a bad outing, huh? We were amazed, as was the event staff, at how both Georgia and Tristan played and kept their focus through such a long day. Great job, Georgia!!!!
Not to be over-shadowed by Georgia’s win was the day put together by Gym Leader Logan, competing in his 1st tournament entering his 2nd year in the Senior Division. The easiest way to sum up this division is to look at this summer’s Klacynski Open (run by 3-time World Champion Jason Klaczynski) in which several Seniors competed in the open field against Masters and a Senior competitor won the entire event in very convincing fashion. Needless to say, the Senior Division is brutal. Logan opened the day with 2 convincing wins, followed by 3 back and forth matches in which Logan eventually fell, bringing his record to 2-3 after 5 rounds. Logan found another gear and rebounded to take both his final 2 matches and close the day at 4-3.
Logan may have been the only player in the convention center that went without a “tie” for the day. His round 5 match against the only Blastoise/Keldeo/Black Kyurem deck that he faced was his tournament breaker. They split wins in the 1st 2 games and almost went to a tie in the 3rd game. While the win in this round would have surely put Logan into the top 8, the tie (over the loss) would have put him close. Regardless, his record netted him a strong point total which in the end landed Logan in 23rd place. Logan took home 9 booster packs in what was a strong 1st tournament for him. Both we and Logan feel confident that he can build on this finish for the rest of the year. Logan battled his way to the top tables in the video game event but eventually fell to a 4-3 record, outside of the prizes. Great job to Logan on 2 very hard-fought days!
Lets take a quick look at Gym Leader Joel’s tournament. After 6 rounds and almost 8 hours of play, Joel held a 1-2-3 (yeah, that’s right, 3 ties). In the single game format (based off of the 1st game of each round), Joel would have been 4-2… but that’s not the format. Joel was 1 of many Masters who played the majority of the day to only see ties all over their record. The Masters event was brutally long, to say the least. Once Georgia enter the top cut rounds, Joel did the “dad” thing and dropped from the competition to cheer on Georgia. I think its safe to say that Joel is not a fan of the best 2 0f 3 in 50 minutes format. That’s a topic for another day.
Great job again to both Gym Leaders Georgia and Logan. They both battled like warriors through an exhausting weekend and did the Fincastle Pokemon Gym proud. What more can you say? See you at the Gym!