The Fincastle Pokemon Gym is winding down its weekend at the 2014 National Championships. All of the gym leaders took part in different competitions throughout the event. Overall, we had mixed successes, falling short of the top spots, but earned some valuable experience as the World Championships approach. As for the event itself, the overall numbers were down only slightly from last year, which was expected as this was the first year with an entry fee in addition to the Play!Points requirement. For the TCG, there were 195 competitors in the Junior Division, 295 in the Senior Division and 889 in the Master Division. Juniors played 8 rounds over 2 days with a top cut of 8. Seniors played 9 rounds on day 1 with a second day of Swiss for the top 32 finishers, plus a top cut of 8 after that. Masters split into 2 flights and played 9 rounds each on day 1, with the top 32 from each flight playing a second day of Swiss (6 more rounds), and a top 8 out of each of the 2 flights that has not concluded yet (it will on Sunday). I hope you can follow that, because I just typed it and still have trouble grasping it. Matches in all 3 age groups were a best 2-0f-3, 50 minute match.
Gym Leader Georgia started out the day for the Gym as the Junior competition was the 1st to begin. Juniors played 5 rounds on day 1, with 3 more on day 2, then top 8 immediately after. Georgia played a rogue deck, identical to Gym Leader Joel’s deck choice for the Master Division. The deck choice made Georgia’s odds a little longer than the rest of the field, which was a good test for her playing ability, as it is one that very few juniors could navigate their way through with any success. Georgia cruised along to a 3-1 record over her 1st 4 matches. In her 5th and final round of the day, Georgia won game 1, lost game 2 in a long game where she was a prize away from winning. Georgia jumped out quickly in game 2 and was ahead by prizes as time expired, but unfortunately under the new rules this amounted to a tie for the match. At 3-1-1, Georgia was in a good position, but one with little-to-no room for error on the 2nd day, as a top cut of 8 would only likely only let in undefeated and 1-loss players. If the division had only 5 more players (making an even 200), juniors would have cut to a top 32. What a difference a car load of kids makes, huh?
Knowing what she had to do in her last 3 games, Georgia (as instructed) entered day 2 with a very aggressive style of play. Perhaps a bit too aggressive (Gym Leader Joel claims responsibility for that one….), as she (from talking with her afterwards) took a few too many chances, losing 2 of her 3 final matches. Georgia won games in all 3 matches, but discarded a few too many resources overall, hurting the consistency of her deck. Georgia finished day 2 in 68th place with a 4-3-1 record. Not a bad weekend’s work. What she did not take home in prizes, she will hopefully make up for 10-fold when Worlds comes around, thanks to this experience. Georgia did not leave empty-handed by any means, as she collected $800 in prize money for her year’s efforts. Not too shabby for a 9 year old!
Gym Leader Logan, while spending long hours training & breeding characters for his VG team, tested out a few decks in his spare time as Nationals approached and settled on what, in this format, is considered a bit of a rogue, or if not rogue, perhaps a bit old fashioned. Logan’s choice served him well, as he had the best day of all of the Gym Leaders in the main event. Logan lost his 1st match, then went on a tear, running his record to 5-1-1. The tie came against a “plasma” deck that he was dominating until a stretch where his active fell victim to the “sleep” condition, from which it did not wake, forcing a 3rd game where we was leading and the same thing happened. The loss of turns made the game end in a tie. In his final match of the day, he faced another “plasma” deck and from the way it sounded, the match played out almost identically to his previous “plasma” match-up. Logan dominated the game, but his opponent stalled the game out by using “lasers” on Logan’s active, which again, stayed “asleep” as Logan could not hit the coin flips to wake up. Logan took game 1, scooped game 2 after falling behind due to the flips and the prize count and was a KO away from taking game 3 in the extra-turns portion before running out of turns. This, the 2nd tie, dropped his record to 5-2-2, landing him in 64th place. A win in either of the tie-games would have vaulted him easily into the top 32.
Logan entered the VG competition on Saturday. We did not collect the full numbers for the event, but the Senior Division played 8 rounds with a top cut of 8. Logan’s day went back and forth, winning and losing early games. Logan finished the day with a 3-5 record and in 137th place. He had hoped to do better, but it sounded like most of his games were tightly contested and that he had fun battling with his new team.
Gym Leader Joel entered the endurance test now known as the Master Division with no aspirations other than surprising some of the top players with his deck. To that end, he was successful, as he sent several opponents away to tell their friends how they couldn’t believe they lost to that deck (as it did not come off of a forum or post on 6 Prizes or the Top Cut, I guess). Joel knew his deck had 1 probable auto-loss match-up going in. Luckily, over the 1st day, he avoided that deck. However, in the opening round of swiss, Joel discovered his other auto-loss, Flygon/Accelgor/Dusknoir. Long story short, match 1 resulted in a complete shutdown for Joel and a loss in 2 straight games. However, Joel responded by completely plowing over his opponents in straight games in rounds 2 and 3. Then came round 4, in which the Gym Leader had to commit seppuku, according to his own personal bushido honor code (and no, I’m not samurai, but believe in doing the right thing). In round 4, Joel faced a friend from North Carolina who he faced in the Winter Regionals. During the last round of the Regional, Joel won game 1 and was about to lose game 2 as time expired, forcing a potential tie. His friend scooped rather than forcing the tie (allowing Joel to make top 32, rather than knocking them both out with the tie). Fate is a funny thing, I suppose, as this time, Joel lost game 1, won game 2 and then time ran out on game 3. Taking the tie might have helped Joel out a bit, but would have hurt his friend’s chances (as he was in reach of a World’s invite, while Joel was not). Joel scooped the game, taking the loss, rather than hitting them both with a tie. The 2nd loss meant Joel would have to win out on day 1. While that took the wind out of his sails, Joel went right back to work, as he’s always been a bit more of a battleship than a sailboat. Joel responded by crushing a Virizion/Genesect deck in straight games and then beating a Landorus/Pyroar deck like a baby fur seal, also in straight games. Too much…? Sorry… okay, how about…. like dough in the hands of a chef at a pizza bake-off….better? (the opponent was a bit of a jerk and the gym leader couldn’t help but take a little pleasure in the win).
Round 7 pitted Joel against a very sharp but awesome-to-play opponent who, much like Joel, steers away from net-decks and sported a very interesting rogue. Joel got a horrible start in game 1 and eventually scooped the game to preserve time, forcing himself to have to win 2 games to take the match. Game 2 went back and forth down to 1 prize card each. Prior to the KO that evened the game, Joel played “N”, leaving his opponent with 1 card and a field with 2 attackers which both needed a DCE to attack and take the game. Joel forgot to ask, so he doesn’t know if the 1 card from the “N” was a DCE or if his opponent drew it on his next turn. Either way, he got the DCE for a “Revenge” KO from his Druddigon. This loss, with his Rd 4 sacrifice, dropped Joel to 4-3. It had been calculated that 3-loss players would not make the top 32, so Joel dropped, as it was already after 8pm. Joel signed up for the Last Chance the Championship Points event on Saturday and jumped back into the mix the following morning.
Saturday was another 9 round, best 2-of-3 event, this time with a championship point payout on the same tier as the Regional Championship series. The $20 entry fee also netted all competitors an exclusive National Championship playmat (which was Joel’s main reason for entering). Rd 1 was a match that left both his opponent and the surrounding players and judges in awe, as Joel took all 6 prize cards in 2 consecutive games in a total of 8 turns (that’s 3 EX’s in each game, starting on the 2nd turn in each game). His opponent was very gracious in the loss (despite being denied his request for Joel’s list). Joel dominated a Rd 2 match with Empoleon/Dusknoir, taking it in straight games. Rd 3 pitted Joel against his other auto-loss deck, Yveltal/Garbodor, in which Joel almost snuck out the win in game 1, but eventually fell in straight games. Joel again ran away with Rd 4, taking it in straight games against another excellent opponent who couldn’t help but shake his head a bit as Joel continually 1-hit his EX’s. At 4-1, Joel hit what he had thankfully avoided all weekend, the stall player.
This competitor from Washington was one of those “let me see your discard pile” 3 times a turn players, who shuffled his deck for egregious amounts of time and shuffled Joel’s deck every time he got something out of it. Joel lost an almost 40 minute game 1 by a prize card and then steamrolled “The Evergreen” state player in game 2, causing the staller to go into a higher gear of stalling. Game 2 went to turns, where Joel had to take 3 prizes or KO his opponent’s 2 remaining pokemon. Joel took a prize each turn, but his opponent was able to bench an additional pokemon, leaving him with 1 in play. As the turns ended, Joel had 1 prize card left, while his opponent had 5. Despite dominating game 2, the match went to the staller, as game 2 was not completed. It was now dinner time, so Joel exited this event in favor of food. The 2nd loss in this event with a top cut of 8 would miss the cut.
Short rant time. Ties need to go. Period. They were implemented as a means to prevent matches from ending in a donk. The same thing can be accomplished with the same format (2-0f-3, 50 minute), where game 3 is decided by the prize card advantage. The current set up is forcing players (like the staller, of which there are hundreds), to play not to lose, rather than to win. I know that as a nation, we are unfortunately being indoctrinated with a “play not to lose” mentality, but in a competitive game, the push should be to play to win. If you, as a player, are satisfied with a tie, then you need to stick to league play. As it stands, many matches are ending with the less talented player walking away with the same number of tournament points as the more dominant player, and in some cases, eliminating him/her from top cuts by simply forcing the tie. If they want the competition to be removed from the game, then perhaps we should just all drive to Indianapolis each year and knit a giant quilt of Pikachu hugging small children, or washing oil off disabled seagulls. Then we could all go out for vegan. Kill the ties, please. Rant done.
We may post our lists from this event in the following weeks, depending on Gym Leader Logan and Gym Leader Georgia’s wishes on that front. We are currently reviewing these lists and others and will be making some decisions about plays for Worlds in the coming weeks. That, in addition to upcoming rotation news, will likely decide what we do.
We’ll post a short update about Sunday to catch up with Gym Leader Marthe and see how Gym Leaders Logan and Georgia fair in Sunday’s Last Chance Qualifier event (I guess that makes Saturday’s tourney technically the 2nd-To-Last Chance Qualifier). Until then, see you at the Gym!