The Fincastle Gym Leaders took 2 very different paths today at Day 1 of the World Championships, 2 paths that ended up at the same destination.
Day 1 of the TCG World Championships sported over 830 players all after one goal, achieving enough wins to make it through to Day 2. The Junior Division had 155 entrants who would play 6 rounds of swiss. A record of 4-2 would be required to make it through to the 2nd day. The Seniors had 205 players chasing the exact same goal, a record of 4-2 over their 6 rounds. If needed (which it was not), Pokemon said that they’d fill in the spaces needed to even the Day 2 numbers with the best of what was left (which they did not, so we are not sure why they said it). Both Gym Leaders, Logan and Georgia, fought to 3-3 records, missing the cut. We’ll look briefly at their days and then reveal the list that we were holding for Day 2 to put in the hands of whichever leader made it (or both if they both made it, as we had 2 copies built and ready to go).
We’ll start with Gym Leader Georgia. If any of you followed the standings throughout the day, you likely saw Georgia’s name at or near the top all day. That’s because she dominated her early opponents and by early afternoon, we thought she was a shoe-in. Georgia played a defensive twist on “Vespiquen/Night March” (which we will explain in 1 of our next 2 posts). She opened w/Ethan Del Rosario (US) who was playing “Night March”. After losing an “energy-less” opening game, she swept the next 2 games with relative ease, netting her a 1st round win. In her 2nd round match, she faced Liam Hyatt (US) who was playing Genesect/ Bronzong. Georgia won a quick Game 1, followed by an equally quick loss in Game 2. Game 3 was a bit back and forth, but Georgia took her last 2-prize KO on turn 1 of the “plus-3 turns” portion of the game. Now at 2-0, ranked 3rd overall, Georgia faced her 3rd American opponent, Kelsey Brown, who was playing some form of Darkrai EX deck. We say “some form” because the entire match did not last long enough for Georgia to see all of Kelsey’s deck. Her opponent only took 1 KO over the course of the match, as Georgia set up quickly and won 2 straight games in less than 20 minutes. Now at 3-0 on the day, Georgia stood atop the rankings, which was great, but the high-ranking means that remaining matches from that point on would be against the highest rated players at that time. We knew that things would get rough, but hoped she could squeak out 1 more win to seal the deal. Unfortunately for Georgia, she landed right in the middle of what we like to call the “Japanese Dilemma”.
Let us explain, as this is in no way a slight towards any Japanese players. If anything, we hope it is conveyed as a huge compliment. It has been our understanding, since our 1st Worlds experience in 2011, that the number of automatic invitations received by Japanese players has always been small in comparison with other regions, ours included. This has meant at past events (as we observed in San Diego in ’11 and Hawaii in ’12) only a handful of very skilled players made the main event, while many others had to try to “grind” in at the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). With no more LCQ, that contingent is now heaped into the Day 1 field. To us, that seems to load the field with many strong Japanese players that are as skilled, if not more so in many cases, than those receiving the automatic Day 2 invites from areas like North America and Europe. That contingent, logically so, always seems higher in numbers on years that Worlds is held on the west coast, like this year. The two-fold “dilemma” seems to be both, an undue amount of pressure on many of the best Japanese players to gain entry into the main event and, an environment where a handful of players from the US and other countries are forced to face top 8 quality players (who should, by rights, probably be automatic Day 2 players) throughout Day 1. With all of that being said, have any guesses who Georgia played over her last 3 rounds?
Georgia opened against Asaki Hasegawa (JP), playing Darkria/Giratina, who punched his 4-0 ticket by defeating her in straight games. Georgia stated that a slow start in Game 1 combined with the fact that he played 2 flawless games doomed her in this match. As all of the 4-0 players were now removed from the standings, Georgia remained ranked #3 and was rewarded with a round 5 match-up with Iori Kato (JP), playing “Night March”. She opened with a lone Shaymin EX and was “donked” in Game 1. Georgia played game 2 down to a 1-1 prize card count, but as in most “March” mirror-matches, she was behind a turn and therefore, lost by a turn. Now at 3-2, Georgia was in a must-win situation. However, with all of the 4-win players again being removed this round, Georgia stayed at the top tables to face Hajime Imura (JP), playing “Night March”.
Georgia jumped out to a lead in the 1st game and held it to win Game 1. Choosing to go 2nd, Hajime jumped out to a lead and held it to win Game 2. Likewise, Georgia chose to attack 1st in Game 3, setting her out into the lead of the decisive game of the match. They traded KO’s down to 2 prizes cards left for Georgia vs 1 left for Hajime. Georgia had the game winning KO waiting in the form of Vespiquen & “Lysandre” (to catch one of his Shaymin EX), while Hajime need an energy to attack and 1 KO to win. He played an “Escape Rope”, forcing Georgia’s benched Combee into the Active spot and then played “N” for 1 card. This card was another Shaymin EX, which he benched (using “Set Up”) to draw 6 cards, including the DCE for his Joltik to get the match winning KO. One card… and it was a Shaymin EX… really?
It’s no comfort to Georgia, who desperately wanted to play in Day 2, but she got the whole Worlds experience on Day 1. She played a mix of American and Japanese players, felt the tension that can only be experienced at such an event and witnessed a key game come down to 1 card. We know that there were match-ups adjacent to her games over the last 3 rounds that she could have cruised through, but the match-ups fell as they did and that is a factor out of her and our control. If anyone in the field can defeat, in consecutive games, the 3 players who gained entry into Day 2 at Georgia’s expense… more power to you. Georgia’s final place at the end of Day 1 was 38th out of 155 players. Of course, on the sidelines of this roller coaster of a day was Gym Leader Joel, who may or may not have had a stroke (he wasn’t right to begin with, so its hard to tell), especially once you couple Georgia’s day with Logan’s day. Joel’s afraid to take of his beanie, for fear of there being no hair left after today.
Logan had a very shakey start to his day, as he, like Georgia, opened with a string of American opponents. Logan played Darkrai/Garbodor (a list we will also share soon). Logan split games with Austin Saby (US), who was playing “Waterbox”, before losing the match. Frustrated by opening with a loss to Seismitoad EX, Logan made a few careless mistakes in his 2nd round “Night March” match against Ryan Antonucci (US). He again split the 1st 2 games and was in position to take all 4 remaining prize cards (off 2 damaged Shaymin EX) with 1 more “Pitch Black Spear” attack, which he needed to do on his next turn, as he was about to deck out. Ryan dug and found a “Float Stone” to retreat the Active Shaymin, leaving Logan to KO 1 of the benched targets, only taking 2 more prize cards before decking out and losing the match. At 0-2, Logan’s day seemed over, but he is as good as anyone we know at digging out of a hole in big tournaments.
Logan needed a good match-up this round and he got one. Logan faced Noah Sakadjian (US) who was playing Greninja/ Seismitoad EX. Logan kept abilities locked down for most of this 3 game match, allowing him to win the 1st and 3rd games and his 1st match of the day. Now at 1-2, Logan drew another “Night March” deck and his 1st foreign player, Oliver Newson (GB). Logan again controlled this match, winning the 1st and 3rd games to even his record at 2-2, still needing to win out to make Day 2 (Joel’s blood pressure reading at this point, 6000/250). Logan needed another good match-up, but drew his 2nd “Waterbox” deck of the day.
This “Box” was in the hands of Damian Jakubowski (US). Damian hit on every “Max Elixir” played, granting him quick starts and quick “item lock” in both games. Logan had KO’s set up throughout the match that Damian erased by recycling the Supporter “AZ” again and again with “VS Seeker”. Logan described the match as one where everything fell into place for Damian. The 3rd loss basically sealed Logan’s fate with one round to go. The “dream match” for Damian did little for him, as his luck ran out next round in a loss. Logan played out the day, running over another Greninja deck, evening his record at 3-3. The finish landed him in 76th place out of 205 players. Both Logan and Georgia had days that we are proud of, but they are both too competitive to accept that as any consolation.
Now, as neither player will have a chance to use our Day 2 deck, we will share it with you. This was our thinking on Day 1 deck choices and then our Day 2 deck. We knew that “Night March” would be played heavily in both divisions, meaning that those who chose not to play it would likely be armed with a deck that was proficient in beating it. Logan’s Darkrai/Garbodor list proved to be a very efficient “March” killer as we tested it over the last month. His 2nd round loss to “March” is the game he will look back on and regret, as with a cooler head, he would’ve won that match 9 out of 10 times. Georgia favored our “teched” Vespiquen/March list as it was not only strong against every deck in the format, it played out about 65/35 in mirror matches with other “March” decks.
Our prediction was that as many “Night March” decks were eliminated on Day 1, many players would shy away from it on Day 2, opting for decks that beat it like “Waterbox”, Trevenant and Darkrai/Giratina. Anticipating that kind of Day 2 meta, this is what we put together, as it rolls all 3 of the above decks and plays well against “Night March”. Here is the “Man-deer” deck, “Mononoke”.
- 4 – Manectric EX (PHF 113)
- 3 – M Manectric EX (PHF 120)
- 2 – Xerneas EX (XY 146)
- 1 – Raikou (BKT 55)
- 1 – Hoopa EX (AOR 89)
- 1 – Shaymin EX (ROS 106)
- 4 – Manectric Spirit Link
- 4 – Max Elixir
- 4 – Trainers’ Mail
- 4 – VS Seeker
- 4 – Ultra Ball
- 4 – Professor Sycamore
- 1 – AZ
- 1 – N
- 2 – Lysandre
- 1 – Hex Maniac
- 1 – Startling Megaphone
- 1 – Float Stone
- 1 – Battle Compressor
- 2 – Fighting Fury Belt
- 2 – Parallel City
- 1 – Rough Seas
- 8 – Lightning Energy
- 3 – Fairy Energy
Both Gym Leaders Logan and Georgia are very skilled with Manectric EX based decks. Manectric‘s toughest task is surviving the opening 2 turns against “Night March”, which is why we shelved it for Day 1 (a decision that we do not regret). As far as everything else goes, either M Manectric EX or Manectric EX with a “Fury Belt” (same HP either way) out-speed and out-hit Giratina EX, Seismitoad EX, Darkrai EX, Hydregion EX, as well as 1-hitting the likes of Vespiquen, Trevenant, Yveltal, Yveltal EX, Rayquaza EX and its Mega, and everything in “Night March”, including Shaymin EX, along the way. The list above is very close to the deck Joel played at Nationals. Joel’s list played 2 “Hex Maniac”, 2 Jolteon EX in place of the Xerneas EX and no “Startling Megaphone”, a card that would have swung his 2 ties at Nats into wins. So why Xerneas EX, you might ask? Here’s why.
Kids in the Junior Division are obsessed with Dragons, especially Giratina EX. We’ve played this list over and over against variants of Darkrai/Giratina and this list beats it like a set of drums at a Taiko demonstration. The Fairy-type Xerneas EX hits all of the Dragon-types for weakness and resists Darkrai EX’s Darkness-type attacks. When timed properly, you can devastate a “Night March”, by using “Lysandre” to grab either of the “March” pokemon (Pumpkaboo or Joltik), leaving a Jolitk on the bench, and taking a double KO with Xerneas‘s “Break Through” attack. If done at the right time, you may leave your opponent with nothing but Mew and Shaymin EX on their field.
We’re probably explaining the obvious to most of you, but “Parallel City” is invaluable in this list. We use it early to dump both Hoopa EX and Shaymin EX after they are used to set up. It can also really jam up decks that need bench sitters like “Waterbox”, Genesect, Rayquaza and Giratina. It also can swing “March” drastically your way if you can play it and lock a couple of Shaymin EX on their bench, thus preventing them from benching additional “March” pokemon.
We could go on about this deck, but we hope you get the point. Anyone who saw Gym Leader Joel, whether they knew it or not, was looking at a teaser of the deck, as he sported his “Mononoke” shirt at the Day 1 event. The Junior Division should thank the trio of Japanese players above for taking out Georgia. We feel this deck, in Georgia’s hands on Day 2, could have very likely made its way to the shelves at Target this winter, with her name on every card. Logan favored it as well, although he might have swapped a Xerneas EX for a Jolteon EX (that or the Raikou), as the Dragon-types are not played as heavily in Seniors.
We don’t know, and unfortunately will never know how “Mononoke” would have done. We also do not plan to watch what shakes out tomorrow at Day 2 (we’ll read about it when we get the chance). We did not travel to San Francisco to watch other people play or play in side events. Instead, we will return into the depths of this fabulous city for another 2 days of site-seeing, a gift that is a pretty decent consolation for today’s disappointments. We will, however, in our hearts, be cheering for the small group of Japanese “warriors” who fought their way in, as we greatly admire the precision and humility with which they play the game. Why Georgia drew 3 of them in a row is a question that perhaps only a higher power has the answer to.
Thank you to all who checked in on the kids via the internet today. We know that they felt your support from across the country and they are both (as are we) deeply disappointed that they could not take their skills all the way to the top for themselves and for you.
Check back later for more photos from the weekend and a look at the lists the kids used on Day 1. See you soon at the Gym!