The Fincastle Pokemon Gym, in its 3rd trip to the Pokemon World Championships, made the short trip (for once) to our nation’s capital on Thursday. We went early, to give us time to check in and relax and even do a little sight-seeing before diving into a weekend of intense pokemon competition. Once settled in, it was early to bed, as the Gym’s original Gym Leader had to get up early on Friday to check in for the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), which was to begin at 9:00am on Friday. Thanks to the convenient location of this year’s Worlds, 2 of the Gym’s trainers were also able to try their hand at their 1st ever World Championship competition. There is a lot to cover from this weekend, so lets get right to it.
The LCQ is exactly what it says…. a single tournament granting players of all levels of skill and success a chance to play their way into the main World Championship event on Saturday. There were events for both the TCG and VG on Friday with the card event starting at 9:00 am and the video game event beginning at 1:00pm. Each tournament was a best 2-of-3 match, single elimination event, guaranteeing 4 finalists admittance into the main event. As a way of pre-planning for the LCQ and streamlining the process, Play!Pokemon required pre-registration for the event back in late July, so that all you would have to do is check in, wait for match pairings to go up and start playing. They limited the #’s of entrants for the events so that there would be an even number of players that would fit into a elimination bracket-style playoff. The plan was for the Senior Division to begin with 128. Emphasis on the word “plan”……
We will preface the following description of the morning with this disclaimer: we know what an undertaking an event of this size is and how one or two stumbling blocks can lead to some pretty big ripples in the overall plan very quickly, so this is not a complaint, just what we saw. The pre-registration idea did not go as planned, from a combination of players not showing up and the subsequent last-minute sign-ups for addition competitors to keep the numbers even, not working out. Somehow, players were placed in the wrong age groups, throwing all of the numbers off, eventually leading to an opening round of competition for about 18 players to qualify for the last chance qualifier. Long story short, the 9:00am event did not kick off until around 11:45am.
Joining the LCQ from our very own Fincastle Gym were 2 of our best trainers, Brycen F and Hunter H. While Brycen has attended a few State Championships, which are large events, Hunter had never tried anything outside our local level, so this would surely be an experience for both players. Hunter, playing Empoleon/Miltank, opened against Tony Santos (US?), playing Yveltal/Garbodor. Hunter’s experience was, unfortunately, a short one. He lost the opening game, then came from behind to take the 2nd game and even the match as time was winding down (a 50 minute timed match). Tony took a lead as time expired and that was all he need as he defeated Hunter by the prize count in the 3rd game. Brycen’s event was equally short, but at least he got the chance to play an international competitor, Sumika Yanagida from Japan. Brycen played a speed-Plasma Lugia deck that screeched to a halt, as Sumika used an assortment of “hammer” cards to remove virtually every energy card that Brycen put into play. Brycen was defeated in straight games, putting pressure on her in the 2nd game before eventually falling. We at the Gym were thrilled that Hunter and Brycen made the trip, especially knowing that this event may never be this close to home again. We hope they enjoyed the rest of the weekend in DC.
Gym Leader Logan entered the LCQ with the deck (which we will showcase later this week) that almost carried him into the top cut at this year’s National Championship. Logan got in many practice hours leading up to the LCQ and we know from playing and testing against him how strong he is with his build. His competition learned the same thing very quickly. Logan opened against Mark Bramblett (US), who was playing Yveltal/Darkrai. Logan jumped out quickly, setting up back-up attackers while rolling with his active, leaving Mark to only watch. As game 1 was almost over with a sweep by Logan, Logan noticed something a little fishy as he checked his opponent’s discard pile. Lots of “Professors”, both of the “Sycamore” and “Juniper” variety (only one of the two “Professors” can be in any one deck). A quick call to a judge resulted in a game loss for Mark (which was about to happen anyway). After fixing the problem in his deck, game 2 began and rapidly unfolded in the same manor. Logan set up and rolled his opponent again, taking to the match in straight games. Onto the round of 64.
In the round of 64, Logan faced off against Tyler Freier-Ritchie (US), who was playing a Darkrai/Drifblim/Hammers deck, a deck built as a counter to “Fairy-box” decks and Plasma decks, both of which were apparently hyped as “the” plays on various deck sites. Logan plays no special energy cards in his deck, so this game went as expected. Logan cruised again, winning both game 1 and game 2 with relative ease, being slowed only slightly by a few “Crushing Hammer” flips during game 2. Onto the round of 32.
Logan was within sight of his ultimate goal, where 2 more wins could potentially put him in reach (as 4 spots were guaranteed, but a top 8 finish could get in if they opened any additional spots for the main event). Standing in his way was Justin Boughter, sporting a Plasma Kyurem/Lugia w/Mega Kangaskhan deck. Logan tied both Plasma Lugia decks that he faced at Nats, which ultimately lead to his narrow miss of the top cut. This was not his best match-up, but one he could control if he could control the energy on the field with his “Enhanced Hammers”. During game 1, Logan could not get the “hammers” out early, which allowed Tyler to set his field. As the game reached the end, Logan was set to win on his next turn if he could avoid giving up 2 prizes. Tyler played a “Catcher” and flipped a “heads”, bringing a Zorua active and getting a double KO with it and a damaged Zoroark on Logan’s bench with a “Frost Spear” from his Kyurem.
Logan recovered and dove into game 2, this time finding the “hammers” and putting them to work. While Logan controlled the energy played, he set up and began wearing down and eventually getting multiple KO’s quickly. Logan wrapped up game 2 by taking out Kangaskhan EX for his last 2 prizes. Onto to game 3. Knowing what he had to do, Logan dug into his deck with “Juniper” trying to get the “hammers” into play, missing them early while Tyler set 2 Lugia EX’s. Logan burned so many resources digging for those cards, he was slow to set any attackers. The missed searches and slow start was too much, as Tyler was able to take the lead and keep it, as Logan began to come back but was just too far behind. While making it to the final 32 was an accomplishment, Logan was disappointed to not go all the way.
To compound the disappointment, the registration debacle from Play!Pokemon that morning rubbed the proverbial salt in the wounds of Logan and several other players at Friday’s events. Logan also registered for the LCQ for the video game, spending an equal (probably more) amount of time prepping his VG team over the summer for this event. Logan’s TCG match ended somewhere around 2:45pm. At this point, the VG event, which was also experienced a delay, (though not as lengthy) was underway. Logan missed the entry time for his game by about 15 minutes (10 minutes results in a double-game loss in the VG format). Had the TCG event began anywhere near its intended start time, Logan would have been done in plenty of time to play the VG event. Logan would have to wait for VG side events on Saturday to get any time with the team he spent months building. Speaking of waiting…..
From there, we waited until the 5:00pm competitor check-in for Georgia, where she would verify that she was there and pick up her packet of coveted World Championship goodies. After check-in, the merchandise store was immediately open for competitors to enter and purchase additional items before they went on sale on Saturday. According to the plan, we would have ample time to do this before the mandatory competitor player meeting at 7:00pm, where deck lists for the main event would be collected.
This “streamlined” process consisted of waiting in an enormous line consisting of all age groups for both the TCG and VG events. After winding around the convention center in this line for almost 1 hour & a half, Georgia was checked in and picked up her packet. Now (about 6:30pm), we headed for the merchandise store. Here we found a line about twice as long, winding around the center in the opposite direction. Knowing that we’d never make the store in less than 30 minutes, we headed into the ballroom for the mandatory meeting. 7:00pm came and went. At about 7:20pm, an announcement was made that they would just have the meeting in the morning after the opening ceremony. Nice.
The ballroom emptied, kind of like when King Kong breaks out of his chains in the movie, and the line for the store doubled in a matter of minutes. Given the facts that 9 year old Georgia needed to eat dinner and then get to bed so that she could play a 9:00am on Saturday, we bypassed our “chance” to access the store. I guess if we want any “extras”, we (and you) can go to Ebay and buy it from the event staff and volunteers (pretty sure they were not competing) for 3X the price, as we saw droves of them leaving the store with multiple bags stuffed under their arms like looters, post-Katrina. What can you do. Would you like a side of greed and selfishness to go with your planning? Mmmmm, yummy…..
We know that Play!Pokemon does not enter weekends like this with the intent of having their plans go haywire, but it unfortunately seems to be more the expectation than the exception. We like to try and convince ourselves that weekends like this are for the players that support the game with their time and hard earned money. What we witnessed on Friday makes that a pretty hard point to argue. Here’s to the hope of a better Saturday! Stay tuned.