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Marc Costa

One prize, one story

Do you want to take the win? Read about the situtation of the OP in Spain, my top 10 deck choices for US Nationals and Worlds, a brief comment on several Ancient Origins' cards and more in order to take all the prizes!

07/02/2015 by Marc Costa

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December. Twelve are the months of a year and twelve are the fortunate persons that will be able to participate in the final round of 60 Cards’ #WriteYourWayToWorlds contest, even though I don’t see it like a competition. Every single writer who has entered the competition has contributed some interesting articles that are worth reading, so I’m going to highlight some of them, because all of them deserve to be the winner. For me, it's a unique opportunity to contribute to the same online community that has helped me so much, especially when I started taking the Pokémon TCG seriously.

Sorry for the not so creative introduction, but starting an article is the hardest thing to do. Today I’ll write about 6 topics that I found worth writing about. Before diving into what’s going to be the longest article I have ever written, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Marc Costa, I’m 20 years old and I’ve been playing the trading card game since 2008. I won’t say the typical “and I started playing competitively in XXXX” because, now that I’ve grown up, I see that I’ve never taken the game seriously enough to consider myself a competitive player. Also, as some of you know through my “Spain (finally) exists!” article, I’m from Spain, a country without Organized Play, and the only official event I have ever attended was the European Challenge Cup in 2014, where I made the worst metagame call of my life by choosing to play a Ninetales/Munna/Keldeo EX deck in a field full of VirGen, with a final record of 4/3/2, with all three loses and one of the ties being against VirGen decks. Of course, I’ve won lots of tournaments in Spain, but I only want to highlight my standing in the last three unofficial Spanish Nationals, which were held at a store called Metrópolis Center, in Madrid. I achieved first place in 2012 (20 players), fourth place in 2013 (39 players) and eleventh place in 2014 (66 players). Many friends of mine have traveled to tournaments outside of Spain, mostly to Italy and France, in order to try and earn championship points, but I didn’t go with them because of university reasons. I hope this changes the next season.

That being said, let’s go with the main focus of the article. I’m going to divide it in six little stories, each of which will mention some of the writers that won one of the qualification rounds while relating its content with the topic of the story I want to write about and highlighting the good things of each article. Each story will give us one prize, until we win this abstract game. So trainers, shake hands and start the game!  Are you ready!?

0) Doing the set up: Honorable Mention

Round 1 – Steffen Eriksen with “Curses and Bubbles”

The first round was won by a friend of mine which I was fortunate enough to meet back in the European Challenge Cup in 2014. In his article he discussed two things that need to be either fixed or improved on the current system.

First of all, he suggests changing the points earned in each round of a tournament in order to decrease the number of players bubbling on tournaments because opponent’s win average or because every other person on the top tables IDs. He suggests this: if players are tied 0-0 or 1-1 after the time limit (50 minutes + 3 turns), they continue playing until one of them has a prize advantage, then the winner on overtime will receive 2 points and the loser 1 point. This should decrease the number of people not making top cut because of a bad opponents win percentage and also decrease the number of people time stalling.

On the other hand, he wants the tournaments with 32 players or more to have a top 8, and with 31 players or less just a top 4, mostly because every player who makes it into the top cut deserves some Championship Points, which is not happening right now if attendance is 21 or bigger, because there’s a top 8 but only the top 4 earn CPs.

I extended so much the comment on this article because I totally agree with him and I want more people to read these ideas Steffen brought to us. In addition, his article was very well-written and the pictures were totally hilarious giving some laughs to the reader which I fully enjoyed (by the way, the “noob” on his article who happens to be his brother is the current Denmark National champion, ha-ha).

 

1) Prize #1: Organized Play in Spain?

Round 2 – Marc Costa with “Spain (finally) does exist!”

Hey, that’s me! I was the winner of the second round with an article that discussed our way to the Organized Play, which was supposedly confirmed to us back on November 2014 for the 2015-2016 season. I also wrote about my run into the unofficial National Spanish Tournament, where I managed to achieve eleventh place with Yveldor; if you are curious you can check it out.

So yeah, you might be asking, “does Spain have OP now?” The answer is a cold and heartbreaking “no”.

During the Salón del Manga event, one of the most important manga events of Europe, one of the employees of Asmodee (the company that is in charge of the distribution of the TCG both in France and Spain) announced that Spain would be able to access the organized play program in 2015. The announcement was also streamed so that everyone was immediately hyped about it. So many years of fighting finally had had their reward! This is the result of some Spanish players going to another countries in order to make people aware of our presence (mostly at the European Challenge Cup since 2012 and City and Regional Championships in France and Italy), the capability of the Spanish community to remain as one and still believe in our dream, and the work that many individuals did by contacting people of Asmodee or TPCi.

But dreams are dreams; they aren’t real but we want to make them come true. After two or three months since the announcement from a member of Asmodee, nothing really has happened. Despite this, we still believe in our dream and we won’t stop fighting until we make it come true.

Someday!

As a personal quote, from what I’ve heard and what I think, I hope that we will have Organized Play for the next season just after Worlds 2015 ends. Yes, I’m that kind of person who is always positive, but I’ve been involved so many years in the game, and now I feel it’s the right moment to get the OP back to Spain. I will summarize the reasons why I hope so in order to get our first prize of the game:

-          Since the release of XY: Base Set, more players have joined the community and sales have experimented a 300% increase, according to Metrópolis Center, probably the most important store in Spain when it comes to the TCG.

-          The official prize for our booster packs was 3€/pack, but since Roaring Skies’ release the prize has gone up to 4€/pack. This difference might fund the arrival of the Organized Play.

-          Different cities from Spain are more united every month and the walls that might have separated us in the past are totally down nowadays.

-          People have never stopped believing and won’t stop. The desire of each Spanish player to have the OP in Spain grows every day, every week, every month, and every year.

-          This last year two dedicated Youtube channels were born following The Top Cut model, but obviously in Spanish; these are Tri Attack and Gaia Storm.

-          In addition, Laboratorio Pokémon, my own blog where I write when I can (but less than I would like to), is growing in popularity, and there are more writers with whom I will share the project. We have some big plans for the next season, one of them being a complete change of the blog with new content and resources and starting a new Youtube channel.

-          Pokéxperto, a videogame-centered website, was recently interested in the TCG, and it has published a huge TCG database both in English and Spanish that we are proud of, while also reporting on the latest news of the TCG.

-          The main forum and webpage of the country within the TCG, Cartas Pokémon, is also making great changes even though they are not public yet, but they have already translated the official Compendium to Spanish, jointly with Pokéxperto.

-          Metrópolis Center, the biggest store and the most involved with the game in Spain, is also getting more players, organizing more events and sponsoring and supporting all the points mentioned above.

-          And finally, what’s more important: all (and when I say all I mean all of them) these initiatives are united; we aren’t competing against each other, we collaborate and together we have everything we need in order to provide to all Spanish people (and also people from South America) most of the content they need to properly enjoy the game.

 

2) Prize #2: Interview with Roberto Sánchez

Round 4 – Zachary Siddiq with “Interview: Dustin Zimmerman”

Zachary Siddiq brought us an excellent and interesting interview with Dustin Zimmerman, one of the most well-known players of the United States with a good Pokémon curriculum. On the interview Dustin shares how short he was of being the World Champion on 2013 (he ended on Top 4 being beaten by Jason Klaczynski, who managed to won it for the third time) and admits that he doesn’t consider himself a great deckbuilder, but he always tries to find the perfect list for each certain deck. Pursuing perfection.

Who also doesn’t consider itself a great deckbuilder is Roberto Sánchez, one of the best players from Spain who this year has been the first Spaniard to win a Regional Championship, a City Championship and a League Challenge, while also placing second on another City Championship, all of them in France. On this little chapter of the article I’ll be interviewing Roberto, who is going to share with us the feeling of being so close to the Worlds invite despite being from a country without Organized Play, share his thoughts about the current situation of the game and what he wishes for the upcoming season. 3, 2, 1, jump into it!

Roberto (Poker playmat) and me (astonishing playmat)

 

1) Take your time to introduce yourself Roberto:

Hi there, my name’s Roberto Sánchez, I’m a Spanish eighteen-year old guy, I’m currently studying Biomedical Engineering and in my free time I enjoy practicing sports and playing Pokémon TCG.

2) When did you start playing Pokémon TCG and how where you introduced to it?

I started playing back in May 2012 when Next Destinies first came out here in Spain (while in other countries Dark Explorers was already released).  I got introduced to this game by some friend who I used to play Pokémon videogames with, his name is Juan Carlos Millán, but unfortunately he doesn’t play this game anymore due to lack of time.

3) Do you have some hobbies outside of Pokémon TCG?

Yeah, indeed I have lots of hobbies, most of them are sports (football, cycling, snorkeling, etc). I also play Hearthstone and some board games (Settlers of Catan, for example).

4) Tell us a little bit about your European expeditions… what was better, winning so many tournaments or sharing such amazing and sometimes long trips with your friends?

Honestly, I don’t consider I have won “so many tournaments”. The part I enjoy the most about playing Pokémon is hanging out with lots of cool people or meeting new one, without that I don’t think I’d be playing this game anymore.

5) On February you were at 255 CP, you had the European Challenge Cup and a Regional in the spotlight to close your invite… what do you think were the main reasons you couldn’t close your invite?

I don’t think I’m good enough at this game, that’s why. I won Montpellier Regional piloting an Yveldor deck, and placed well in a couple of cities playing Donphan and Toad/Puff. I think I made good deck choices which had advantage against most of the decks in the format. It also helped that, those being early season events, they had low attendance. Both in the ECC and in the Spring Regionals I piloted a VirGen deck which I hadn’t tested properly, and that’s why I think I actually failed. With that I don’t want to say that  if I’d played another deck I’d have got my invite, since the average level in those tournaments was really impressive. Even without having sealed my invite I’m happy about having played in places I had never played before and having met lots of people who enjoy the game as much as I do.

6) Were you discouraged after realizing you weren’t achieving the main goal?

Not really, I expected it. As I said before there are lots of great players out there, and I’m simply not as good as them. Hopefully next year I can perform better.

7) What plans do you have for the next season? Do you think you are good enough to earn a Worlds invite?

I plan to keep playing until I get bored of it. So yeah, I want to attend more events than I did this season, and hopefully earn the invite. Whether I’m good enough or not is a question which answer I don’t know yet, but I’ll put all my effort into it.

8) What’s the best part of travelling? Would you encourage other people doing so or it’s a waste of time?

We always manage to have fun while going into an event, last time I remember we were singing “How I met your mother” songs in the car. I’d encourage everyone to give this game a try, it’s not only fun but also has a great community built around it.

9) Do you consider yourself a great deckbuilder and player? If not, what aspects of yourself would you like to improve in the future?

I don’t consider myself any of those. I just netdeck and playtest. Having access to some resources is great in order to be a competitive player. I’d like to improve so many aspects of myself, such as playing methodically (ensuring damage dealt before attacking, counting my discard counts before playing a certain supporter, and so on) and think plays twice instead of once.

10) What deck do you guess will win the incoming US Nationals?

I expect Kyogre EX to be a good option, since it counters Bats really well if they aren’t running Leafeon. I also expect Metal to be in top spots (Straight Metal and Metal/Rayquaza EX), Raichu/Bats and Toad/Bats.

11) Who is the player you have learned the most of?

Probably Heddi Brahmi, not only is he a great friend of mine but also a great player and his game attitude couldn’t be better.

12) Card you kicked more asses with?

Seismitoad EX.

13) Deck you enjoyed playing the most?

Trevenant/Accelgor.

14) Are you hyped for some specific card from the upcoming set XY: Ancient Origins?

I think Hoopa EX is a great 1-of in Rayquaza and other decks playing lots of EX’s. I also like Ace Trainer, Hex Maniac, Eeveelutions and Vespiquen.

15) Is there something you want to say to all the readers to close up this productive interview?

I’d like to encourage everybody to have fun with this game, in the end that’s what it is made for, isn’t it?

 

3) Prize #3: About drops and demotivation

Round 5 – Kamber Kirchmeier with “Cute but deadly”

I think Kamber was the only girl that won one of the qualification rounds of the contest, and I wish that encourages more and more girls to write as well. I don’t know why most women consider themselves not good enough to make a good writing, when I strongly believe women are way better at writing than most of the guys out there and they can play at the same level as top male players. I’ve read awesome articles from women, for example Nicholena Moon, Sorina Radu or Denise Van Wijk, and I’ve watched Martina Canto and Mia Violet playing live, and they are all really good.

But hey, the protagonist of this round 5 is Kamber Kirchmeier. In her article she shares with the world her love for Eeveelutions and why she always tries to fit some Eeveelution in her decks: because she pursues the spirit of the game. She prioritizes having fun with her beloved Eeveelutions rather than playing the normal version of a deck which is probably stronger and more powerful than her version.

That inspired me to talk a little bit about our goals and motivations to keep enjoying this game. I usually find some player disappointed because he or she didn’t achieve the top cut at a certain tournament. Well, do you really play Pokémon Trading Card Game just for reaching glory on each championship? I hope not. Of course many of us, myself included, have been really disappointed by our run on a certain tournament, but you must think about it, take things calmly and put on a smile on your face. So in this chapter I’m going to talk about what I consider two major flaws of the Pokémon TCG: dropping and demotivation.

I discovered dropping on the only official tournament I’ve attended in my life, the ECC 2014. I was clearly out of top 32 with 2 rounds remaining, but I decided to continue playing, and then was when I discovered how devastating is people dropping.

Back in the ECC 2014, from the left to the right: Álex Felices, Marc Costa, Damián Broens and José Luís

Back in the ECC 2014: Álex Felices, Marc Costa, Damián Broens and José Luís

 

Arnhem, 15th February 2014, 22:15, and a girl sat next to me waiting for her opponent… which, as many of you may have predicted, never came. The girl blamed herself for not going back to her hostel, it was so late, she was hungry (like the 99% of the players I guess) and she looked tired. My opponent and I talked  to her for a couple of minutes, and she finally admitted why in the world she was still there: she had travelled from the UK in order to have some great games with European players, because she loves playing Pokémon in a non-competitive atmosphere without any kind of pressure. But, oh well, her opponent probably didn’t think the same way, so she sadly stood up, was given a free win and waited for the next round.

I managed to win my round and, out of sheer chance, the girl was sitting again next to me. We joked a little bit, and I wished her luck… not luck on the game, she just needed a soul to play against… which again never showed up. She got completely angry and after that she leaved the site really disappointed even though she had “won” the last two rounds, but I could completely understand her feelings.

So I asked myself: “why do so many people drop at tournaments? In Spain this never happens…” But now I have the answer:

-          It’s late, your family is waiting for you, you have some work to do at home and you don’t have anything to do there. Respectable decision.

-          You have some friend or familiar with possibilities of making something big at the tournament so you opt to encourage him/her. Respectable decision.

-          You are mad and angry because you can’t achieve your goals, so you decide to leave the tournament without telling the organizer. Questionable decision.

If you someday happen to take the third decision, just think about the repercussions of such action. You just leave someone without having a player to play against, and I mean play and not compete against because there’s a whole world outside of making cut at events. Note that this game won’t provide you any kind of satisfaction even though you win in it, that you can also play some interesting games that make you grow as a player, that you may have some good talk and laughs with your opponent and, in the best case scenario, that you can even make a friend. Isn’t that worth it?

The next topic is going to be demotivation, a thing that, unlike dropping, I’ve directly suffered myself.

Let’s go back to last year, 2014. We are in March, and I’m completely tired of having to show my value as a player to others in each event I attend to. I take every tournament like I must win it, my obsession is so big that I end up winning some of the tournaments, but I don’t feel any kind of satisfaction. April comes and I decide to leave the game for a time, I can’t deal with it anymore.

I wish none of the readers have never felt the same way as I did. I completely forgot why I was playing Pokémon TCG, so I found myself forced to make one step back in order to make two steps forward in the future. We started playing for different reasons, but most of us continued playing because of the community and how amazing is having friends who share more than just thoughts about some deck. I needed to take the game more as a hobby than as an obligation.

So I kept my Yveltal in a safe place and didn’t play a single tournament from April to June. 2 months that helped me find the basics and the spirit of the game, which I will explain as briefly as I can:

a) Don’t focus on results. Be mentally prepared for a tournament and to win it, but don’t blame yourself if you don’t make it to the top cut.

b) Trade some cards. This is a Pokémon TRADING Card Game. It might sound stupid, but the satisfaction you get with just trading some cards (even if you trade some commons like Joltik) is great. You also have a talk with the trader and hang out a little bit. One day I even traded a random rare card for a snack!

c) Make close friends. You have the community, but you should make some close friends in order to share games, decks, opinions and trips, or anything else outside of the card game.

d) Enjoy the game. Take some minor tournament to try that nasty deck you have in mind, defy luck with a Ninetales/Malamar EX deck, discard all your opponent’s deck with Ninjask/Bunnelby or go crazy with Kyurem/Milotic/Dusknoir to spread some damage around.

 

4) Prize #4: Ancient Origins top cards to have in the spotlight

Round 7 – Bernardo Dias with “Theory vs. Practice”

On the seventh round Bernardo Dias gave us one of the simplest articles but also the one with the more content out there. He properly differentiated the cards between “theoretically good” and “in-game useful”. One of the examples he told us was the hype around Gourgeist from Phantom Forces, which can reach 200 HP but in the end isn’t that useful, and in contrast how practical Jirachi EX is by allowing the player to search for a Supporter that can make him remain in a good board position or even search that Supporter that swings the game in his favor, and however didn’t receive much hype when it was released.

Moving on, we are here to take our fourth prize of the game, and to be able to do so we must be aware of the set that’s coming on 12th August, and will be legal some days after Worlds takes place. I know many of you are preparing for US Nationals or Worlds, so maybe you want to jump to take the next prize card and reserve to take the fourth prize after your last official tournament of the year, but I feel the need to share my thoughts on the next set (assuming that the format it’s going to be XY-on) with the release of “XY: Ancient Origins”.

Let’s go on and discuss which cards are going to be good in theory or in practice:

Vileplume: one of the most relevant cards of the upcoming set. It’s a reprint of the good old Vileplume from HG&SS: Undaunted set, which also didn’t allow both players to use Item cards. With the Giant Plant Forest stadium, we should be able to get our Vileplume in turn 1, what can be devastating for our opponent. I can see Vileplume being played with other Grass Pokémon in order to take advantage of the stadium, such as Ariados, Mega Sceptile EX, Shiftry and so on, in a deck prepared to run without needing lots of Items in order to keep rolling. There’s also the possibility of playing some copies of AZ in order to break the Item lock on our turn, use our Items and then play Vileplume down again in order to bring the item block back. In my opinion, this is a practical card that’s going to see at least some testing and may outclass Trevenant.

Ariados: oh my god, if that had come some sets earlier Seismitoad EX would’ve been a monster… Ariados is one of those examples of practical cards. Neither Plus Power nor Hypnotoxic Laser, just an Ability that poisons our opponent placing some nice counters to the opponent’s Active Pokémon, and together with Giant Plant Forest and some Dragalge with a Grass attacker can be really tough to play against. We’ll have to wait some weeks to see if it’s good in action.

Sceptile EX: talking about Ariados? Sceptile EX and Ariados have an obvious synergy together, making Sceptile EX hit for some big numbers with only a two energy cost. In some cases it might be helpful for giving an OHKO to a Pokémon with 140 damage remaining.

M Sceptile EX: Sceptile EX was okay, but its mega evolution doesn’t fall off any short. The damage output of the attack is quite short at 100, but the effect can be devastating, accelerating some Grass Energies and healing the Pokémon the Energies were attached to. I think this card is theoretically good, mostly because you need to have 2 Energies in hand and some Pokémon to heal off the damage and only does 100 damage to the opponent’s Active Pokémon, which nowadays seems pretty low.

Vespiquen: “20+ damage. This attack does 10 more damage for each Pokémon card in your discard pile”. Did we read this before or am I the only one? Vespiquen shares Flareon’s attack, but they have some big differences. Vespiquen has free retreat, while Flareon does not. Vespiquen can easily evolve and hit in turn one thanks to Giant Plant Forest, Flareon cannot. Vespiquen will come with a Level Ball on its wings, Flareon didn’t come with such a great Item. The only good thing about Flareon is that it has 10 HP more, but I think most of you would rather prefer Vespiquen. We must also keep in mind that the format Vespiquen is going to face will be completely different, but I think that the queen bee will shine. Vespiquen is a practical card and I guess one of the best cards of the set. It’s going to be exciting to discover with which partners it will be played with.

Flareon, Jolteon and Vaporeon: For starters, Vespiquen has some awesome partners such as the new Flareon (against mirror matches, Vileplume decks or other Grass decks), Jolteon (against Yveltal EX, Rayquaza EX, Shaymin EX, and so on) and Vaporeon (against Fire decks, that will hit our bee for weakness) also from Ancient Origins, that can help Vespiquen hit for weakness to a high quantity of decks, and if they aren’t useful on a certain match up, they can go to the discard pile in order to increase the damage output.  These are clearly practical cards that may fit in any decks revolving around Stage 1 Pokémon.

Entei (regular art): I’ve been asking myself which Entei would be more useful in practice, and finally the regular one caught me. The half art Entei needs so much in order to take OHKO’s on Pokémon EX (4 Energies, 2 Muscle Band, DCE, maybe Blacksmith if you want to charge it up in one turn… it’s hard to pull off), but the regular art is like Absol of Plasma Freeze; not a broken card, but of course a good one. For just two Fire Energies (e.g. a Blacksmith) you are doing 20 plus 20 for each of the opponent’s benched Pokémon. Remember Vespiquen’s weakness? Have you noticed that lots of decks usually fill their benches and some of them also play Sky Field? I’m going to include at least one Entei in my next Fire deck, you never know when it’ll be coming in handy.

Gyarados (half art): sadly, the playability of the card isn’t at the level of the artwork, which I’m in love with. It can hit tons of damage with a single DCE, but hey, do you really want to have each one of your Magikarp at 1 damage counter from being Knocked Out? And how are you going to hit them? Beautiful card in theory, but you won’t be constantly hitting for 180 every turn (if you manage to reach it some day).

Regice: just in a sentence; is it going to be another annoying version of the Safeguarders like the old Sigilyph/Suicune or the newest Beautifly? I don’t think so because it relies on an attack, so you must charge it up before being able to wall and hit with it.

M Ampharos EX: What!? Always paralyzing and doing 170 damage but only hitting itself for 30? It seems broken at first sight, but the card is pretty balanced. The attack requires 4 Energies, which may work with the aid of Mega Turbo and DCE (I think M Manectric EX for acceleration isn’t worth it, 2 Mega Evolutions in the same deck would be overkill), but the damage output caps at 170, not enough to OHKO 180 HP Pokémon EX nor Mega Evolutions. Of course Paralysis is something great, but a Switch or Escape Rope can remove the special condition. Besides, if you knock out the Defending Pokémon, paralyzing has no use. It’s a good card, of course, but there are many ways to counter it, so I don’t see it being a top tier deck.

Unown: Remember the similarities between Vileplume from XY: Ancient Origins and the one from HS: Undaunted? Unown R from DP: Legends Awakened is back from the dead! The effect is basically the same, an awesome way to get an extra card if Unown is on the Bench and you choose to discard it. This could work as a late game extra draw and I can see it being one of Vespiquen’s best friends.

Hoopa EX: The legendary Pokémon follows what Bernardo Dias taught us: that it’s a practical card, just like Jirachi EX. It allows us to search up to 3 Pokémon EX when we put it on the Bench; it might have been a Supporter card but it’s not. I think it can work as a one-off in some decks such as Rayquaza EX (see the video below).

M Tyranitar EX: That’s the card I was most hyped about when I saw the scans. Basically a Pokémon that destroys EVERYTHING in the format for 4 Energies if the Defending Pokémon has 2 or more damage counters on it. Can you believe it? I started to realize some ways to play it: first I thought about Bats, but that wouldn’t let room for some sweet techs, so I immediately thought about some baby Yveltal for acceleration and a pair of Absol to help spreading damage. That seems legit, so Yveltal could put some pressure on the opponent’s Pokémon while charging the benched Mega Tyranitar EX… see the similarities with baby Landorus charging a Primal Groudon EX? Groudon can do the same job but it can’t be affected by any Trainer played at it and still OHKO’s anything with the help of Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium while having a Wobbuffet active bothering the opponent’s set up, not to mention how Korrina helps to set up Primal Groudon EX. Mega Tyranitar EX can be charged with DCE and have one or even two Hard Charms attached to it in order to make it bulky, but it can be Lysandre’d to the active spot, for example. However, Yveltal, Yveltal EX, Absol or some other nasty stuff may make it shine like Primal Groudon EX now, because I foresee a decrease of Primal Groudon EX with Ancient Origins due to how Grass Pokémon are going to come like a storm with the Giant Plant Forest.

Sableye: Vileplume, Unown, and now Sableye!? What’s wrong with you Pokémon? Okay, we’ll take that back. Sableye from Stormfront was an absolutely broken card in its format, mostly because it let us start the game, attacked for no energy cost and the Supporter was searched in our deck. The new version of Sableye requires one Darkness Energy and the Supporter must be in the opponent’s discard pile. It won’t be played as much as the good old Sableye, if not at all, because you rely on your opponent’s Supporters and the format is so speedy right now that you can’t be sacrificing one prize.

Giratina EX: Here we have the new wall concept; Giratina EX prevents all effects from attacks, including damage, from the opponent’s mega evolved Pokémon. In addition, its only attack, which costs 4 Energies, does 100 damage and doesn’t allow our opponent to play any Pokémon Tools, Special Energies or Stadiums. Beautiful in theory, but hard to charge it up in practice, even though I can see it being played as a 1-of in some dragon decks.

Porygon Z (both versions): I had the same personal dilemma as with Entei, but this time I didn’t come up with a clear resolution. Both cards aren’t competitive ones, but they have their nice effects. The regular art Porygon Z, for a single colorless energy, can discard all the opponent’s special energies. Enhanced Hammer spam? Porygon Z does it for you. The half art version also has an awesome attack, which is yet to discover its real uses. With a single Colorless Energy we can take back to our hand the highest evolution card from as many of our Pokémon as we want. This means that we’ll be able to reuse those pesky Crawdaunt, spread more damage counters with Golbat, Crobat and Forretress, search our discard pile for any card with Milotic, completely heal off another of our Pokémon with Dragonite or continue charging our Pokémon with Togekiss. There are plenty of possibilities with Porygon Z, but what’s the issue with the card? It’s a Stage 2 Pokémon.

Lugia EX: I only want to highlight this card to clarify something; it won’t be the new Mewtwo EX. When Mewtwo EX came out his X Ball was completely broken for the format we had, Pokémon weren’t as powerful as they are nowadays and the format was completely different. Of course Lugia EX may see some play with decks that run Double Colorless Energies, but it won’t have a whole deck dedicated to it, at least with the cards we have today.

Finally, as I like to do when writing in my own blog Laboratorio Pokémon, I’m going to briefly share my thoughts about the new Trainer cards that Ancient Origins brings to us (excluding Spirit Links):

Eco Arm: An Item that shuffles 3 Pokémon Tool cards back into the deck. This could have been broken with Life Dew or Rock Guard in the current Standard format, but the card is still useful. I can see it making its appearance as a single copy in some decks in order to recycle the powerful Muscle Band, Hard Charm, Spirit Links or any other tool you can think about.

Paint Roller: Item that allows us to draw one card by discarding the Stadium card in play. It’s a nice card to play, but I prefer to counter Stadiums playing my own ones, don’t you? Also drawing only one card off isn’t very helpful.

Level Ball: OH. MY. GOD. We missed you, buddy! An Item card that lets us search for any Pokémon with 90 HP or less. Raichu/Bats is going to love this, as well as Vespiquen.

Lucky Helmet: Tool card that gives us 2 cards whenever an opponent’s Pokémon attacks the Pokémon with Lucky Helmet attached. I can see its use mostly with Theta Double Pokémon (as they can have up to two Tools attached), giving us 4 cards for each time they’re hit, but I don’t see Lucky Helmet being very used.

Ace Trainer: Supporter card that can only be played if we are behind in prizes: we draw 6 cards and the opponent only 3. This can be a replacement for N and I see it being a standard one of in most of decks as a way to disrupt our opponent. But we will miss N anyway!

Hex Maniac: Supporter card that disables the abilities from all the opponent’s Pokémon until the end of his or her turn. To be honest, I love this card. We can break Item lock from Trevenant or Vileplume, attack Beautifly with our Pokémon EX, stop Shaymin EX from helping our opponent to set up… it has a handful of possibilities. I think it’s going to see play as a single copy in some decks, especially the ones that rely on Pokémon EX or on Items (Vespiquen, Night March…).

Color Drained City: Stadium card that places 2 damage counters on each mega evolved Pokémon in play. Nice way to counter them, but I guess there are more interesting Stadiums to help our decks.

Giant Plant Forest: Stadium card that allows us to evolve our Grass Pokémon on the turn they were put into play. Yes readers, we can have a Vileplume in turn one! Ariados turn one! Venomoth turn one! Sceptile turn one! Shiftry turn one! Vespiquen turn one! Now that’s a metagame changing card! Thank you Pokémon for reprinting the Broken Time Space from Platinum even though this time the Stadium only works for Grass Pokémon. Also note that Pineco (Grass Pokémon) will be able to evolve to Forretress (Metal Pokémon) with this Stadium card too.

Flash Energy: Our Lightning Pokémon won’t have any weakness with this card attached to them, but hey, Donphan and Landorus EX will be leaving… will Flash Energy be useful? It is susceptible to Enhanced Hammer and Mega Manectric EX can’t accelerate with them… I don’t see it being used at the moment.

Bad Energy: When the Pokémon this energy card is attached to is hit by an opponent’s Pokémon EX’s attack, place 2 damage counters on it. Not useful at all, and baby Yveltal cannot recycle them.

Finally, we have the full art shiny versions of Mega Rayquaza EX, Primal Groudon EX and Primal Kyogre EX with the trait of healing off all damage on their respective pre-evolutions. The ancient traits of the original versions are way better, even though I would give them a try as a one-off with the purpose of having another alternative while mega-evolving.

To close up and finally taking our fourth prize card, I’m going to say that I’m pretty excited for the upcoming set, lots of new mechanisms will be brought to us, and it will have a huge impact in the future Standard format (which I assume will be XY-on).

 

5) Prize #5: Top 10 decks for US Nationals and Worlds

Round 10 – Gonçalo Pereira with “Thinking outside the box”

The Portuguese Gonçalo Pereira tried to fit in our heads another way to properly tech our decks. Obviously you can improve your decklists teching some cards here and there because this is easy to do, but how about thinking outside the box and trying to play each match-up in a different way so you gain an advantage just by changing the way your deck is supposed to run? Check it out if you haven’t done so yet, he explains how he managed to face some hard match-ups with VirGen in the European Challenge Cup 2015.

I know some of you weren’t very interested on the XY: Ancient Origins set review because you are focused on the current Boundaries Crossed-Roaring Skies format. So here I’m going to give you some playtested decks that, in my opinion, would be nice choices for both US Nationals and Worlds. I hope they can be of some help!

 

Top 10) Seismitoad EX/Manectric EX/Garbodor

This deck has been around for months but never performed really well at any tournament, but this can be its time to shine. The format, as it was shown at Canadian Nationals, it’s full of decks with Bats, but thanks to Garbodor and Rough Seas this deck can stop them and make 11 or more spots of our opponent’s deck pretty much useless. We have Seismitoad EX and Garbodor to disrupt and M Manectric EX to put some pressure while also charging our other benched Manectric. Raichu and Night March will have a hard time OHKO’ing our M Manectric EX, and Metal decks won’t be any problem thanks to M Manectric EX and Garbodor, which I expect it will be somehow popular. The worst thing about this deck is its consistency and most games are decided within the first two turns if we aren’t able to set up properly.

Top 9) Yveltal EX/Garbodor

The good old Yveltal! It has been living amongst the shadows these last weeks, but I think it deserves a chance. I think most of you have played an Yveltal deck someday, and it doesn’t have any good match-ups, but it can beat any deck as well. Only Lightning Pokémon completely destroy Yveldor, but that’s why I have added a thin line of Drifblim in order to get some prizes when some Special Energies have hit the discard pile, while also having Seismitoad EX to stop their set up and Darkrai EX as an alternative attacker. Also Garbodor has been forgotten by most players (no more Startling Megaphone nor Xerosic) and it can make a huge comeback in the next big tournament.

Top 8) Night March

I can even explain it in one sentence: “be as fast as a Lamborghini, take care of your Energy and Stadium counts and destroy”.

The fastest deck of the format is always a good choice, even though it has never managed to win any important Nationals. Its success will be inversely proportional to the amount of Bats and Trevenant decks but it can perform really well if it hits the right pairings.

Top 7) Primal Groudon EX/Wobbuffet

Groudon took Denmark Nationals recently and it’s a really annoying deck. This deck causes some trouble to the opponent thanks to Wobbuffet while we start building up our Primal Groudon EX. We have good match-ups against Pokémon EX centered decks, and against potential decks like Raichu/Bats or Night March against which we run Hard Charm and Super Potion (idea brought thanks to Denmark National champion, Simon Eriksen) to avoid being OHKO’d when Primal Groudon EX comes to action. It’s always a good choice mostly because VirGen decks are nearly extinct, so it will be an okay choice for your next championship.

Top 6) Trevenant/Gengar EX/Shaymin EX

This may be a surprising choice for such a big tournament, but most of the time we will get Trevenant in turn one, destroying our opponent’s set up, while having more walls to annoy our opponent. Gengar EX is the main attacker of the deck, but we have four more attackers, and diversity is always welcomed. Dark decks aren’t having its greatest days after a while and Item-lock based decks aren’t as popular as before because the decrease of Seismitoad’s kingdom, so that will caught your opponent out of guard.

Top 5) Primal Kyogre EX

On fifth place we meet the riskiest inclusion I made on this top 10 list. Because of the exaggerated amount of decks playing Bats nowadays I’ve thought about Rough Seas, as well as Seismitoad EX/Manectric EX/Garbodor, because it practically nullifies Bats' damage counters. In addition, Primal Kyogre EX also benefits from Mega Turbo (it can be ready by turn two) and it’s really hard to knock out. It has Kyurem for spreading damage and hitting hard giving a single prize, whilst Suicune can cause some problems to our opponent, and Keldeo EX functioning as a great attacker as well as a great way to retreat our Pokémon thanks to its ability and Float Stone. We won’t be taking many OHKOs, but Kyurem can finish them off, or we can just take cheap prizes targeting some Shaymin EX or Jirachi EX. Finally, saving Water Energies with Primal Kyogre EX's attack can be great setting up the next attacker without having to wait some turns to charge it up.

Top 4) Metal

Chase Moloney took the deck to Canadian’s top, so it’s a deck to take into account while discussing which deck to pick. It has hard attackers but also annoying ones. Aegislash EX has proven out to be the MVP of the deck because of the high amount of decks relying on Special Energies, and it usually KO’s non EX Pokémon in one hit. The deck is hard to set up, but by turn 2 or 3 it can start putting some serious pressure.

Top 3) Raichu/Leafeon/Bats

We have made it through the top 3! The bronze medal goes to Raichu/Leafeon/Bats, the third deck I would pick for US Nationals or. It gained more popularity in Canada’s Nationals, so maybe people will start teching against it. It has an incredible damage output and it sets up so quickly that our opponent will need to start killing our Raichu as soon as it can. The hardest problem of this deck is running out of DCEs, but here we have Leafeon to help out taking some cheap prizes for one Energy cost as well as turning the Primal Groudon EX/Wobbuffet and Primal Kyogre EX match-ups into our favor. It also has the type advantage against Yveltal EX and Rayquaza EX, some of the biggest forces of the metagame, specially the second one which we haven’t talked about yet…

In order to make you enjoy a little more the article, I’ve chosen a video from Gaia Storm, a really well-known Youtube channel from Spain, where they play with their Raichu/Bats deck against a Raichu/Leafeon deck (Lysandre’s Trump Card was legal when they made the video, but you can get some new ideas for your Raichu deck). Hope you enjoy the game and make sure to follow Gaia Storm on Youtube if you think they deserve it!

Top 2) Lando/Bats

And as a direct counter of Raichu/Leafeon/Bats we have Lando/Bats. Bats can take care of their Pikachu, Zubat and any other low HP Pokémon, while Landorus EX take some easy prizes from Raichu. Lando/Bats is that kind of easy deck that needs so little to start putting so much pressure that it’s a force to take seriously heading to an important event. It only needs one attacker and a Fighting Energy to start doing some work, and if we manage to set up a good field of Bats, the opponent’s Pokémon will be in huge trouble. I’ve also seen this deck with Korrina and Shaymin EX so with Korrina you can search a Fighting Pokémon and an Ultra Ball for Shaymin EX to help us to set up, but testing it I’ve found that the Bench space is really tight, and wasting a Bench spot for a Shaymin EX, which is a sweet candy for our opponent, can cost us the game. Finally, I want to mention the high Hawlucha count as it takes Jirachi EX and Shaymin EX down like a boss, while also standing a chance against Yveltal and Rayquaza decks, and Focus Sash, because Hawlucha has such low HP that it’s too fragile, and it will be able to attack twice in some cases (the Hypnotoxic Laser has also been forgotten by most tier decks).

Top 1) Metal/Rayquaza EX

And finally, the best of the best, for all of you… Mega Rayquaza EX! It hasn’t seen any huge success these past weeks, but I think it’s time for it to shine again even with the Lysandre’s Trump Card ban. Its toughest match-up was Seismitoad EX, who was the main force of the pre-ban format, but now it’s in a clear decline and Rayquaza must take some advantage with it. In order to have some nice late game I thought the Metal version with Bronzong would be the perfect choice, as well as including Aegislash EX which will take care of the opponent’s Raichu. You might want some Mega Turbo there, but I think we can be somehow patient until turn 2 to start hitting hard with Mega Rayquaza EX, don’t you agree?

After the decklist I leave you with the latest video of Tri Attack, the most well-known Spanish Youtube TCG channel, where they talk about what they consider the three best options to run with Mega Rayquaza EX (it’s obviously in Spanish, but you can take a look to their decklists and subscribe if you want to).

To sum up my thoughts about the current metagame, I’ll post them here together. I think Raichu/Bats may see some decrease of play, and because everyone has already seen how popular Bats are, the format may change to decks that abuse Rough Seas (see Primal Kyogre EX and Seismitoad EX/Manectric EX/Garbodor decks) or even Garbodor to stop them. I also have high confidence in Rayquaza EX decks, in special the “pure speed” version with Altaria or the metal version. Finally, I would try to test some Enhanced Hammer or Startling Megaphone copies in your decks, as they are such powerful Items and they can be game changing, and also Pokémon like Drifblim (for decks that abuse Special Energies, which amount to almost an 80% of them) or Absol (moving 30 damage can take your opponent off guard).

You nailed it, we are only one prize away to win this game, trainer!


6) Prize #6: Past, present and future

Round 11 – Matthew Townend with “Not your daddy’s game”

It has been a long way to take the last prize card of this long game… but we are finally here! The last prize is going to be shorter to take than the previous ones, because I understand some of you might be tired for such a long run. Let’s do this!

Past

Okay, everybody has its own story about how did he or she joined the game, and every story has its differences between the other ones. Mine isn’t an exception.

I was a young kid who was fascinated by the Pokémon world. At 6 years old my father bought me the Game Boy Color with the Pikachu theme all around the console. I was so happy to be playing Pokémon Yellow!

Years passed. I just played the videogame for fun, like most kids, but one day, at the hospital where my beloved sister was trying to cope with a complicated sickness, my mother bought me the Nintendo Acción magazine, which talked about Nintendo videogames and it came with a little magazine exclusively Pokémon related (that was the main objective of young Marc). There started my serious run into Pokémon VGC as an individual soul, taking the game seriously, training my Pokémon and battling with my friends and players around the world. But all of this changed when I read in such magazine about the existence of the IV’s and how important they were. I think that Platinum videogame was the last I’ve ever played, I didn’t want to waste so many time training my Pokémon just to enter in the competitive scene!

After some months, my mom came out at home with a backpack full of Pokémon TCG booster packs that were given to her at the school where she still teaches. My sister and I started opening all the packs like kids, exactly what we were, and we obviously completed the collection. After that, my interest in Pokémon cards grew until Diamond and Pearl: Base Set came out in Spain and I got involved in Pokémon TCG. First I found the Spanish community, with only 10 people active in a regular basis, but fortunately they were from Barcelona (the city where I live) so they organized tournaments twice a month. That was perfect for me! I remember I started winning tournaments really soon, partly because the community wasn’t any competitive, partly because we didn't have any resources to look at, and besides only half of the expansions that came out in the English-speaking world made it to Spain and neither of us bought at international online stores. We also didn’t have Organized Play, but my young soul decided I would stay at this funny game.

Present

Nowadays the situation is way better than it was before. The community increased exponentially, the most important cities do organize weekly tournaments and we have built a whole Spanish TCG structure we are proud of, and the only thing that we are missing is the Organized Play. Some of you may have noticed that Spain has some of the best VGC players around the world that have achieved awesome performances at Worlds (some of them have won some National tournaments outside Spain, which is possible to attend in the VGC), but in the TCG we haven’t achieved any major goal outside of a Regional Champion (Roberto Sánchez), a 21th place by Álex Felices in Masters division in the ECC 2014 and a 6th place by Pol Romanet in Junior division in the ECC 2015, which isn’t enough. We have to try really hard in order to reach the level that our neighbors of Portugal have, and I think that getting the OP would contribute to this because we would put more effort on the game and also I’m pretty sure some Portuguese would come to Spain to try to earn some CPs, and they would be more than welcomed.

Future

Over the years the Spanish community has become a well-established one, that has kept growing from 2012 onwards and every year we see more and more people getting involved in it.

We have reached such a high level of preparation and dedication to the game that we want more goals. For example, most players from Barcelona are going to start travelling all around Europe in order to earn some Worlds invite, mostly France, Italy, Portugal and of course the ECC in the Netherlands, where every year Spaniards from all over the country come to have the greatest experience of the year. For us is way cheaper to travel to France and Italy than for other Spaniards for geographic reasons, so we are more than ready to start our trips around these beautiful countries and also meeting some friends in the road. I must note that even if none of the Spaniards earns its invite to Worlds, our goal will be achieved, because the main part of it is meeting new players and friends, we look forward to meet you guys and girls! We might be from different countries, but we love and play the same game, turn down the walls and let’s enjoy this game together!

 

7) Shake hands: Conclusion

The game has come to an end, we have taken all six prizes but we are still missing something. Always shake hands after a game, even if it has been a disappointing one. Every game makes us grow as a player but also as a human, so we must show respect for our opponent, who is another lover of the game like we are.

So, finally, I effusively shake hands with you, the reader, for making this long writing worth the time dedicated to it. I show you all my respect and I look forward to meet you someday, better sooner than later.

If in your opinion it has been a good game, don’t forget to give the article a positive feedback in the “OK” button, it may be the only opportunity for me to attend Worlds of my life. If I happen to be the winner I would like to take the opportunity to interview some of the most well-known players of the world while also doing some awesome videos about the Worlds Championship atmosphere in order to make you feel as if you had been there.

Maybe some day I can pick one of these in person!

Thanks for all, I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to be in the final round and write for all of you, and I wish I have given to you some tools to make you grow as a player, and more importantly, as a human soul. Always remember who you are, where you came from and what your roots are.

Take care trainer.

Yours sincerely,

Marc Costa

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