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Chase Moloney

Failure is the Best Teacher: Lessons from my losses at Worlds

Chase discusses his Worlds 2015 experience and the important things he learned from his run, as well as a brief look at a couple plays for Expanded.

09/21/2015 by Chase Moloney

Introduction

Hello again, guys! After a hiatus of nearly three months, I'm back to writing again. A lot's happened since. I entered Canadian Nationals completely blind with a Metal deck I built the morning of the event and ended up winning the whole thing. Following that, we saw a wide variety of decks perform well at U.S. Nationals, including a couple Metal lists similar to the one I piloted. In the end Jason Klazcynski won with Seismitoad/Garbodor, shaping the metagaming leading up to Worlds. Skip forward to Worlds and the meta's shifted quite a bit. While I performed very poorly at worlds this year at 2-4-1, my good friend and testing partner Jacob Van Wagner ended up winning the whole event!

Outside the Pokémon world, I spent a good part of my summer volunteering at a summer camp, isolated from the wonders of internet access and Pokémon cards and the ability to write articles. And while I had a great time away, this left me less tested for worlds than I ever have been before.

This article is going to be somewhat all over the place, as we're at a strange time in the game with Worlds freshly completed. On one hand, the Worlds format of BCR-on is no longer going to be played. It's smaller than the Expanded card pool, larger than XY-on, and didn't include Ancient Origins. I still think it's very important to look over the results of Worlds in detail, though, and compare what dominated the conclusion of the season with what was popular at the National Championships leading up to it. The common trends and principles behind what did well apply beyond one format, and carry over to a new season as and all the way to the next year's World Championships. While the same deck may not be legal, decks that are popular, decks that underrated, and decks that are overrated will always be around. The art of predicting what people will use is a tricky one, however one of the best methods to figure it out is learning from the past.

To this end, I'm going to be sharing with you my entire thought process from Canadian Nationals up to Worlds.  My initial thoughts, my experiences from testing. Things I noticed, things I overlooked, and my less-than-successful run. I don't intend to take these experiences as wasted; in fact, I consider them highly valuable for my learning, and hope that through this you can also learn from my experiences, and maybe even how to learn from your own.

After this, I'm also going to share my thoughts on Expanded and a few lists that I think are solid considerations for week one. I won't be covering Standard as I haven't put any time or thought into it since North America won't have any events with it besides League Challenges until Cities, so my focus is on the Regional format.

Choosing my Worlds deck

Following Canadian Nationals I had a natural liking of Bronzong decks that made me favor them, but certainly didn't want to ignore other options. A couple days before a lot of our friends played at U.S. Nationals, Trevore Read was trying to convince me that Seismitoad/Garbodor with a bunch of Energy removal was the best deck. His logic was that people weren't very prepared, and that without Trump Card, you could literally run lots of decks out of Energy. It was also good against my Metal list. I was eventually persuaded by his argument, and we tried to convince our American testing partners to play the deck, but it was the night before by this point and none of them had enough faith with no time to test, so they stuck to the decks they'd been practicing with leading up to the event. Amid an event with a very wide field that included a good amount of Metal, Toad, and Manectric, as well as the formidable Wailord deck, Jason ended up winning the event with a deck very similar to what I would've played had I been in attendance.

This was sort of a double-edged sword when it came to affecting my thoughts on the play. On one hand, it affirmed for me just how good the deck really was. On the other, the deck would now have a huge target on its back after the major win. At first, this made me want to shy away from it, even to the point where I expected it to be countered out and not played, and so I considered decks like LandyBats. I was off for camp at that point, though, and didn't really have anything but my musings for a few weeks.

Once back, I got to work testing. My testing group honor roll was liking Archie's Blastoise. My limited testing with it found it was strong, but it had a near autoloss to Toad/Garb, so I essentially dismissed it. We were still looking at Toad/Garb, and also the Bunnelby deck that Harrison Leaven played at U.S. Nationals. The Bunnelby deck was quickly dismissed due to the trouble mill decks naturally have with time. All this time, I was testing Toad against what I assumed would be tougher matchups to see how it fared. I started with Metal variants running Xerosic and AZ on top of the Cobalion-EX I already played, but the games still ended up in Toad's favor thanks to the power of Item-lock, Energy removal, and Garbodor.

Next up were Manectric variants. I was sure these would be the end of Toad. You had so much HP, the ability to Mega Evolve to remove Poison, Rough Seas to remove damage and counter Virbank, and even Grass attackers in some lists. None of these proved the end of Toad, though.  We found the games went close to 50-50 with Toad even having a slight edge. The deck managed to find ways to win. Though a lot of them were what you might call "stolen wins" through good flips or Manectric being unable to set up under Item-lock, they were still wins and the testing once again favored Toad.

At this point, we were afraid other people had discovered this and wanted a deck to hard-counter Toad. We broke out a Groudon list, thinking surely, it would have to beat Toad. They can't Laser or Hammer Primal Groudon. We even ran Hard Charms with four Korrina and a Pokémon Center Lady. Even this went unfavourable against Toad, though. We found that thanks to Quaking Punch shutting off their Items and slowing their setup, it wasn't even bad. It usually took five or six turns rather than four for Primal Groudon to get going, sometimes more with Head Ringer, and by that point, you could have at least one Grenade Hammer up. As long as we played four water energy so two Grenade Hammers could be powered and coupled with N's to try to get them to miss the Stadium, Toad won more than Groudon.

It felt as if everything we threw at Seismitoad/Garbodor would crumple to it, and this view was definitely biased in that me Trevore both highly enjoyed its playstyle. Our experience with it led us to keeping the deck as our play. The Thursday night before Worlds, the five players in my room were selecting their deck choices. Dustin Zimmerman settled on a Metal list similar to the one he took to 11th at U.S. Nationals. Clifton Goh opted for a spooky Raichu deck that ran Landorus-EX and Victini-EX. Travis Nunlist and soon-to-be World Champion Jacob Van Wagner, were both settled on Archie's Blastoise. Trevore was between Toad and Archie's, but ultimately settled on Seismitoad/Garbodor. Here's the list we played:

My Worlds report

Skip forward to the following night, Travis and Trevore had both missed at 4-3, Dustin got in at 5-1-1, and Jacob and Clifton both squeaked in at 5-2. These results did nothing to turn me off of Seismitoad/Garbodor, despite Trevore losing to two Night March decks, and Jacob making it in. Clifton made it in with Raichu but opted to switch to a Bronzong/Mega Rayquaza deck for the second day of Worlds. I slightly debated switching to a Metal deck like Dustin's, but decided on Seismitoad/Garbodor due to its familiarity and early pressure. Without any more delay, let's get to my report!

Round 1 versus Long Bui—Manectric/Genesect

Long's a friend of mine from Texas, so I was a bit annoyed that we had to play each other so early. I also expected him to be playing Manectric/Genesect, as he'd played it all the way back at the Texas marathon, and almost always played some creative variant of Virizion/Genesect. While it's a winnable matchup, Manectric combined with the Genesect's ability to hit for Weakness make it pretty close, so I wasn't looking forward to it.

Game 1: He wins the flip and goes first, discards two Grass Energy, and ends his turn with a Manectric active with a Lightning and a Spirit Link. I know if I don't remove that Energy this turn, I'm about to get swept, so I dig through my deck to go for Energy removal and a Quaking Punch. I end up with a Quaking Punch, but had to play a sycamore for cards so I can't use a Flare Grunt. After playing all the draw I can, my last hope is to play Computer Search for Crushing Hammer and hope it comes up heads. Tails, he almost certainly Turbo Bolts and powers up a Genesect, which in the end would be too much Energy for me to remove and too much damage to win the Prize war. I roll the die and...HEADS!  I've bought myself another turn. From there, through the combination of a couple other flips, Grunts, Xerosics, Head Ringers, and Lysandre, I manage to run him out of Energy, forcing him to concede once eight or nine were in the discard and his Manectric with one Energy had a Head Ringer on it.

Game 2: He starts Jirachi with a mediocre hand. I'm able to get the turn-one Quaking Punch and Knock Out the Jirachi quickly. From there, I'm able to buy time with Hammers, Xerosic on Plasma Energy, and Ringer such that I Knock Out a Genesect-EX. And before he can even attack, I'm able to Lysandre and grab the last two Prizes (off either a Shaymin or a damaged Manectric—I don't remember).

1-0

Round 2 versus ??? (Malaysian National Champion)—mirror match

Game 1: He wins the flip and starts first.  I open Shaymin. He Ringers my Shaymin, plays a Laser, attaches a Water and a Band onto his Toad, Computer Searches for an N, and passes with a couple cards in hand. I have a Toad and a Juniper, but two Double Colorless. Not wanting to get my DCE Hammered off, I elect to pass and hope that his N finds me a better hand. In hindsight, that was definitely a misplay, as it gave him a guaranteed turn of more Items, and if he finds a Virbank, he can even loop my Shaymin so it dies to Poison going back into his turn. Unfortuntely, he has both DCE and Virbank after his topdeck. Because I didn't play a Supporter, he holds the N and just puts my Shaymin up to 100. I attach a DCE and Sycamore, far too late, but don't hit another Pokémon. I have to pass and promote my Toad as my Shaymin dies. He draws, attaches another Water, and plays the N for four. If he hits Laser, he Grenade Hammers for an exact knockout after Poison. I hope his own N might just allow for my comeback, but sadly he hits it. Though I was definitely off my game, I realized it and realized I had to play properly and calmly if I wanted to take Game 2.

Game 2: We both open decent, not dead, but not with everything. It turns into a back-and-forth with Energy-discarding Supporters, where we both occasionally missed the Quaking Punch. Sadly, the this shifted midgame, when he was able to maintain the lock while I had a fully dead hand with no Energy or Supporters. He took a commanding lead at this point. I tried to make my way back in, but I'd lost so much Energy. I still had one DCE left, so there was a slight hope, but by the time I actually drew it, it was too late. At one point, I had a deck of about ten cards that contained four Sycamore and a DCE, but couldn't draw them. By the time I actually drew the Sycamore, I couldn't play it since I'd deck out. Eventually he got me in a loop using Sky Return into a Pokémon with a Float Stone since all my Lysandre, Xerosic, VS Seekers, and Lasers were gone. My play was completely optimal this game, but sometimes that isn't enough.

At this point I knew I'd have to win out, though I wasn't that phased, as I'd lost Round 2 at Worlds every year in Masters. I was nervous still, but ready to do it.

1-1

Round 3 versus Alex Hill—Trevenant/Gengar

I was pretty upset when I saw the pairings since I knew he made it in from Day 1 using Gengar/Trevenant, the one deck that I'd consider to be a strictly bad matchup. Their deck isn't affected much by Item-lock compared to yours, they do so much more damage, and I didn't have a way to remove Poison aside from Retreating. I knew I'd have to get lucky to win this one.

Game 1: I go first, get a Trubbish and a Toad, but miss the Float. I am able to VS Seeker a Lysandre that I discarded with Sycamore, though. He draws and is able to get the turn-one Trevenant by Retreating Gengar with a Mystery Energy. He passes and on my turn, I know I need to slow his opening and hope that I get lucky and break the lock. I Lysandre his Gengar with two Crushing Hammers in hand. I play the fist one—tails. Unfortunate, since I'll need these later, but as long as I hit the next one, I'm in a solid spot. I play the second one and...TAILS! Ugh. From there, he's able to set up far too much. I end up with a dead hand and he's just two-shotting every Toad.

Game 2: I opt to go first, of course, and this game I'm able to hit the early Trubbish-Float. This game ends up a lot closer due to me having Items, but I'm not able to charge a Grenade Hammer due to only drawing Waters before a Sycamore when I have to play another Energy. I flip even on Hammers but it isn't enough to win it for me. I have one last chance with a Lysandre-Laser-Punch on a Gengar. If I can get a heads on the flip then have him flip tails on Sleep, then I can 2HKO the Gengar and go down to one Prize, killing his only Pokémon with Energy and have a good chance of winning. I've got my last two Lasers, but would much rather save the second. I Lysandre then Laser...tails. I then drop the second one, the only card with a chance of keeping me in the running for top cut and...tails. RIP the dream. I wish Alex good luck and go process my elimination from cut.

At this point, I was quite discouraged. I'd actually also started Worlds 1-2 back in 2013 and managed to win out, but with this year's tournamnet format, only x-1-1 could cut, meaning I was completely out. This hit me fairly hard as it would actually be my first time not cutting at Worlds. Not that I believed I deserved it, but things tend to just barely work themselves out at Worlds, and this was a new experience. My friend Dustin Zimmerman and I both share in our salt as he's 1-2, wishing we could've swapped opponents as he just faced Archie's Blastoiste with his Metal deck, and would've much prefered Alex's Trevenant deck. Our hopes on a teammate doing well now rested on our friends Jacob and Clifton, who were both 2-1.

1-2

Round 4 versus ???—Donphan/Primal Groudon

Game 1: With all hope of top cut lost, I set my sights on the scholarships and points offered to the Top 16. My opponent flips over Hawlucha and Korrinas for Phanpy to open, so I know what I'm in for. I get a quick lock on him and hit the pieces I need, and begin to take control. He tries to answer it with the one Primal Groudon, but it proves too slow and I quickly take the first game.

Game 2: This game, my opponent managed to pull off the turn-three Primal Groudon due to Korrina, some solid draws, and a tails flip on my part. I didn't even have Lasers to hit the walls down first or a Lysandre for the Basic Groudon-EX, so it was at full HP and swept me in three turns.

Game 3: I get an okay start, but had to lose a DCE and a Water turn one, which made my Energy tight. I'm able to sink a Lysandre on his Benched Groudon-EX to deal with that, but he had one Energy already and attached another to use Rip Claw, hit heads, and removed my Double Colorless. I was able to find another, but could only remove a single Energy, so my opponent was able to Rip Claw again and...tails. Thankfully, I was able to keep that DCE, but after killing Groudon, his Donphan and Hawlucha started putting in work on me. Eventually he managed to take out two of my Toads and I was left without a DCE for the third and couldnt find my Waters. I was slowly Spinning Turned to death while passing. I almost made it a tie or even could've decked my opponent thanks to Lysandre on a Donphan with no Energy, but my opponent had just enough left to take his last Prize.

1-3

Round 5 versus Jack Stensrud—Donphan

Game 1: We both start fairly well, with me opening with an early Quaking Punch to him chipping away at me with Spining Turns and Flying Presses. I end up hitting Lysandres and LaserBanks, though, along with some strong flips, and eventually his offense falls to the dead hands caused by Quaking Punch.

Game 2: Jack opens with a poor start and isn't able to do much, which I take advantage of with an early Quaking Punch. I end up clearing his board before he can get anything going.

2-3

Round 6 versus Jordan Nelle—Night march

Game 1: Jordan wins the flip and opts to go first. His start explodes with eight Night Marchers hitting the discard on the first turn. I'm able to Quaking Punch with a Laser to hold his offense off, but I miss the Muscle Band to hit for enough damage to knock his Mew-EX out in two hits. He responds by copying my Quaking Punch to block me from playing Muscle Band down while at the same time softening my Seismitoad up for a KO by Night March. Following that, I get Virbank and Quaking Punch to put him at 110 damage so he'll die from Poison coming back into my turn. Because of this, my opponent opts to use Sky Return with Mew and sends up Pumpkaboo while bumping my Virbank with a Dimension Valley. I'm unable to respond to one-hit it because I miss a Laser and my opponent is able to Night March me for a Knock Out. From there, I begin to lose an unfavorable trade. I get it down close, but my opponent ends up having his final DCE to respond to win.

Game 2: I opt to go first, opening with Shaymin as my only Basic. I play a Sycamore but don't hit anything and have to pass after Benching a couple Seismitoad with no Energy. Jordan was able to get six Night Marchers in the discard and Knocks Out my Shaymin with his Active Pumpkaboo and a Dimension Valley. On my turn, I'm unable to get a Double Colorless and can't get the Quaking Punch lock. I put a Trubbish down and pass again. Jordan has the Compressor to get more discarded and is able to Knock Out my Seismitoad and go down to two Prizes. I try to make the comeback, but am unable to after his Prize lead and my weak start.

2-4

Round 7 versus ???—Bronzong/Seismitoad/Mewtwo

As many Japanese players do, my opponent brought a really interesting and creative deck. His deck's primary strategy was to combine the disruptive nature of Seismitoad with the power of Mewtwo and Bronzong, while playing Hypnotoxic Lasers both to reach better numbers with Toad and to reach for a one-hit KO with Mewtwo-EX.

Game 1: I open with a pretty good start with early Quaking Punches.  He hit back and traded with Mewtwo, Seismitoad, and his own Toads, though. I end up holding a decent amount of control over the game, but am unable to set up a Garbodor with a Tool due to discarding a lot of them to Sycamores. Because of this, my opponent had continuous access to Metal Links, which meant Energy-locking my opponent out wouldn't be possible, so my only way to win was with slight disruption and trading. Near the end of the game, we were tied at two Prizes, and the only Toad I had was damaged and didn't have a Muscle Band, so I opted for an alternative approach. Instead of going for Quaking Punch, I attached a Double Colorless to a Trubbish, played a Laser, played N, and hit my opponent's Mewtwo for 70 (after Poison). My opponent didn't have any response, and due to flipping tails on Sleep had to just pass, and I used Pound for game.

Game 2: My opponet gets a fast setup and an early Quaking Punch to hold me back, and I'm not able to keep up with his offense, and end up getting edged out on Prize cards.

Game 3: This game starts out slow for both of us, with me getting an early Quaking Punch, but not much else. I end up with a lead, but unfortunately time was called and I had no way to finish the game in two turns, and we tie this one.

2-4-1

Conclusions from my Event

Needless to say, I was pretty upset with my results. It was my first World Championship missing at least Top 16, and that shook me. While I could just blame poor luck here, I believe in identifying the ways I could've improved rather than focusing on luck. Self-reflection is incredibly valuable both in Pokémon and in life, in that it allows you to properly understand past failings and successes in order to have a better future.

To this end I've identified three lessons I learned from it that could be helpful to anyone looking to improve. I'd also urge all of you to analyse your own results in a similar way down the road.

1.  Don't let expecations make you nervous

Going into Worlds this year, I was ranked first in North America. On top of this, a lot of people drafted me as their first overall pick for Worlds. There were a lot of peope expecting greatness from me. While I'd been considered pretty good before, I've never had very much hype at all behind me going into Worlds. At first, in the time between winning Canadian Nationals and playing at Worlds, this gave me a lot of confidence going in. I'd never done badly at Worlds, and I hadn't missed cut at anything above a Cities all year. I let that make me cocky leading up, and that on top of a busy scheduale led to significantly less testing than in previous years.

The second effect that people expecting greatness had on me was nerves. Of course, I'm always nervous for Worlds, but I never had an expectation of doing well going in. In all other years, no one would be that surprised to hear I went negative in the event. I didn't think that pressure would get to me, but it did. I liked being thought of as one of the best, and the pressure to maintain that brought me to a place where I was a lot more stressed than I should have been. I wanted that $25,000 and allowed that to cloud my mind.

Contrasted completely with that is this past season where I hardly cared and had no expectations going into any of the events. While it was my best season yet, it was also the season I was trying the least to achieve it. It's not the lack of effort that I think contributed to this success, but the fact that my attitude allowed me to take risks in my deck choices as well as pilot them without any fear of failure.

Now I realize that not everyone has these kind of expectations on them from others, but a lot of people have some. Whether its to prove to their friends that they know what they're talking about, or from yourself to find identity in your success. Don't lose your desire to win, but don't be afraid to fail either. We often think it's pressure that motivates us to do well, but in my experience, it only lessens the objective and calm mind needed to properly play this game. The primary reason we play this game is for fun, and when we lose sight of that, we lose not only fun, but the clarity that leads us to victory.

2.  Don't get tunnel vision for a deck

The greatest mistake I made this year was overlooking decks. I put far too much time into testing Seismitoad/Garbodor and not nearly enough into looking at other options. I saw the control it had and loved the way it played, so I rationalized that it would win and was biased in my analysis of its matchups. In doing this, I had too much faith in a deck that I really shouldn't have had any faith in. Not that it wasn't a good deck, but it won U.S. Nationals, and history tells us that whatever does well at U.S. Nationals won't take Worlds. This isn't due to chance alone; whatever wins the largest and last Nationals in the world is going to be on people's radars and because of that, it will be tested against heavily. Everyone will know their matchup to it inside and out and a lot of people will be ready with decks that beat it.

In putting too much faith into the Trashy Toad, I overlooked other viable options. I didn't take Night March, Toad/Bats, or Archie's Blastoise into consideration enough. Especially the latter. The fact that the winning Archie's Stoise was built in my room while I watched, and yet it never entered my mind as a legitimate consideration goes to show just how dangerous tunnel vision is. I saw the deck as a gimmick that couldn't be consistent enough to win Worlds. I didn't value the opinions of my friends highly enough and thought I knew better because I had more accomplishments. Looking back, that was incredibly prideful and narrowminded, and I'm glad I took a bad loss if it will teach me humilty. Don't get so sure you're right or so comfortable with a certain deck that you won't let your mind freely consider another.

Archie's ended up being an incredibly fast, hard hitting deck with great matchups. Looking back, I feel it was definitely the play. But hindsight is 20/20 and too late. I didn't want a deck that's plan is to go for turn-one Secret Swords to be viable, so I convinced myself that it wasn't. If I'd been open to whatever won the most against everything in testing, regardless of how it got those wins, maybe I would've made the correct call. As you look forward to Regionals and beyond, don't get narrowminded because you like a certain deck or ignore a deck's potential because you see the mechanics behind it as "gimmicky".

3.  Accept that whatever happens, happens

This may sound too obvious or unrelated to winning games of Pokémon to be my final point, but its something thats really helped me keep a clearer head and have a lot more fun. Three years ago, when I'd just aged up into Masters, I took losses far worse emotionally than I do now. I criticized myself for any in-game errors a long time after, and losing even at a tournment that didn't really matter all that much felt like failure to me. The problem was in how I perceived failure. It isn't something to be feared, but rather a great teacher to learn from for next time.

A lot of the time players are even upset about that which is outside of their control. What good does that do? Isn't it far better to accpet what is than to wish for a flip to have gone another way. Don't take Pokémon so seriously that you forget we're traveling around the world to play a card game and make friends and compete to achieve our dream of being the best. Even if we fail at that, we're doing something awesome. People who know me well could honestly tell you that I'm still very guilty of an overly competitive attidute, but the more I grow and mature the less I carry it with me. Take the time after each loss to accept that things will be the way they will be, and that that's okay.

A couple quick Expanded lists

To supplement these musings, I thought I'd leave you with two interesting plays for the first week of Regionals. They're all theory at this point, as I haven't had time to test, but I think both could be very effective to counter some of the popular decks right now.

Virizion/Gensect



This deck simply refuses to die despite bad matchups, and I think a solid case can be made for it due its positive matchups versus Yveltal, Seismitoad/Giritina, and certain Accelgor decks. The three Enhanced Hammer are to really shore up those matchups. Its definitely risky, as decks like Night March just roll you, but if you don't expect high counts of such decks, I'd definitely consider the trusty Grass deck. 

Manectric/Empoleon



This deck remains powerful despite the larger format due to its Yveltal and Seismitoad matchups, as well as just being very consisent overall. I'm not 100% on the direction this build is going; I think depending on the metagame, a more Item-heavy a list or a different partner for Manectric might be good. The Evosoda is for Archeops, and the keldeo is for Accelgor. Again, its risky versus night march, but I'd still consider it if the metagame seems right. 

Some suggestions and closing thoughts

The nature of a game like Pokémon is that a majority of people who enter into a tournament won't do well. You all pay for these articles because you wan't to be in that top percentage that finds success. I hope after reading this article, you've also found some value in how you proccess the unsuccessful runs for the future's sake. I also hope you've found value in me sharing my thoughts and experiences and views leading up to Worlds. Maybe identifying the good and bad thought processes that led to me having the event that I did will lead you to examining your own thoughts and deck choices and biases better.

My general style is still to provide decklists and content relating to what I believe the optimal play to be, but I felt this had more far more value than me trying to speculate on how good Seismitoad/Giritina is for Expanded or provide another Vespiquen list. The articles that do so are very useful, but enduring ways of thinking are possibly even more valuable if recalled and applied.

Thanks for taking the time to read through. I'm likely going to be playing less than in previous seasons this year due to moving to greater Vancouver for Bible college. After a week here and seeing how busy I am, I don't think I'll be able to hit as many events as I'd like. I'll still be attending Vancouver Regionals this October, though, so if you're going feel free to come say hi! And of course I'm going to keep up with more regular content for 60cards in the future for you all!  See you soon!

-Chase

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