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Franco Takahashi

What Happened in Kyoto, Didn't Stay in Kyoto

Franco goes over Japan's recent Champions League 2018 that happened in Kyoto, explaining its tournament structure and what decks were present and did well in Kyoto.

05/15/2018 by Franco Takahashi



Hello 60 Cards readers! In this article I’d like to go over the Kyoto Champions League event that recently happened in Japan which is the same equivalent event as our Regional Championships, and since some of you guys might be wondering what the scene in Japan is currently looking like, I figured I decided to write an article about it based on what I was able to see.  Hopefully this article can be something entertaining and interesting for you guys to read, so let’s take a look at Japan’s current tournament structures and their meta prior to Kyoto Champions League and after Kyoto.



Tournament Strucutre 

About Champions League 2018 and Invite Strucutre in Japan

The Champions League events are the same equivalent event as our Regional Championships in Japan.  In this event, generally over 1000 players show up to compete in order to earn their championship points for their Worlds invite.  As far as I know, there were only 4 Champions Leagues this season.  For the 2018 season, players needed to earn 400 championship points to earn their “Day 1” invite to Worlds. Just like our system, they also have a Championship Points rankings system, which means that the top 8 players from that ranking will able to receive their “Day 2” invite to Worlds at the end of the season. 

So this year Japan has a very similar invite structure to ours, but what makes the difference is that aside from their Championship events, there are other events such as “City League” and “Trainers’ League.” These events are very similar equivalent to our League Cups and League Challenges.  Along with another event called “Pokemon Station League 2018 1st,” which was an event where they held the preliminaries at several locations then eventually gathered the winners from those that made through to determine the true winner of the event. Of course those events provided Championship Points as well during the preliminaries and at top cup. 

So there are several events and opportunities where you can earn a decent amount of Championship Points.  However one of the major differences between Japan and our events are that Japan has much less regionals and cups that we do.  For example, as I just mentioned, Japan only has 4 Champions Leagues this entire season, and unlike how we have 4 different quarters for League Cups here, Japan only really has one quarter to play and earn their cup points.  Not to mention that many players in Japan struggle under this system due to high numbers of attendance in certain areas, and some stores have caps where they even have to do a “lottery” to earn your spot to participate at those events rather than having pre-registrations. 

In addition to this, yes, Japan has a tournament called “Japan Championship 2018” in June, which is the equivalent of National Championships but because their Championship Points are exclusive to the Japanese invite system, even if a Japanese player travels to another country to play an event there, those points that were earned will not count towards their Championship Points in Japan.  Therefore, all Japanese players must earn their points within the events that are hosted in Japan to earn their invites.  Another difference is that points distribution for the kickers, where in events like Champions League the points are rewarded fairy high for the top finishers, but the points given to the lower finish such as Top 128 and Top 256 are lower than our regionals, and since there are only 4 of those major events, I personally heard that many players were struggling to earn enough points due to this.


**The Event will not fire if there are less than 15 participants




Champions League Tournament Structure


So now that we have a better image of Japan’s invite structure for this season, I’d like to quickly go through the tournament structure of Champions League events.  The tournament structure is very simple -- Format is XY-on and basically there will be 9 rounds of Swiss, then there will be a Top 16.  Unlike our Regionals which are 2 day events, the Champions League events are only 1 day events, therefore all the matches, including finals, will be best-of-1.  Also, each game is 30 minutes +3 turns, and unlike our Regionals, if no winner was determined after the 3 turns, it will become a double loss for both players during Swiss Rounds; then in top cup it’ll be determined based on whoever takes the first prize,  so there’s a major difference there compared with our regionals here.


The Meta 

The Meta Before Kyoto

As many of you guys may know, the Champions League that was held before Kyoto was in Nagoya and it occurred about a month and a half ago.  And during Nagoya Champions League, there were 6 Buzzwole Lycanroc decks in top 8;  (top 4 ended up being all Buzzwoles) and there were 2 Zoroark Lycanroc in the Top 8 as a result.  Since Buzzwole Lycanroc proved to be a very strong deck in Japan, the meta before Kyoto was in a huge debate over whether players should play something that could beat Buzzwole such as Trevnant, Mega Gardevoir, etc., or simply join the Buzzole bandwagon.  While despite that, Buzzwole has a good matchup versus Zoroark Lycanroc, so choosing to play Zoroark Lycanroc was still not a bad choice to consider -- the deck proved its consistency ever since the deck was debuted at events and it also had good matchups to decks that were trying to counter Buzzwole as well.  As a result, there was this triangular scenario between Buzzwole, Zoroark, and Counter Buzzwole decks.  In the end, the Kyoto event started with each player choosing what they thought could be the optimal deck choice, hoping that they could avoid their bad matchups. 

The Meta During Kyoto Champions League

So now that the event started, here are the decks that made noticeable appearances during the Kyoto event despite its final results. 


Despite the previous Buzzwole hype, the presence of Zoroark / Lycanroc was still very strong in Kyoto, mainly due to the fact that the deck is very consistent with its ability Trade from Zoroark-GX, and the ability to be able to one shot many things (Riotous Beating with Sky Field can pull many strong knockouts along with Lycanroc’s Blood Thirsty Eyes).  I believe another factor that made significant appearance during Kyoto was also that it was the most popular deck since the beginning of this season in Japan, and due to its strength, many players felt comfortable to play something that is consistent, strong, and familiar.  In addition to that, it also had fairly positive matchups to counter Buzzwole decks, therefore, many players chose this deck with the belief of as long as they play well and dodge or beat a few Buzzwoles, there might be a chance to make it into the cut. 


Despite how this deck dominated last Champions League and it became “obvious” among the players to counter Buzzwole for Kyoto, the deck’s strength is a true force indeed.  The addition of Beast Ring and cards like Korrina give so much strong synergy for Buzzwole to set up consistently. The support of other cards such as Beast Energy, Diancie Prism Star, and Teammates makes the deck very explosive and very strong since it has many pin-point search cards that allow you to set up the board better based on the situation. A fully-charged Buzzwole is very strong and can deal high damage, which also has a nice synergy with Lycanroc-GX (also fighting type and can utilize its Blood Thirsty eye very well as well). In addition to this, the baby Buzzwole was also great in the deck.  As I mention, due to the fact that it dominated last Champions League, many players believed that Buzzwole was just too good not to play and so many players decided to join the bandwagon and hoped that they would dodge many counter decks. Many players chose to focus on the Zoroark and mirror matches instead. 

Night March


Night March is a classic at this point for many of us.  The deck is very explosive and can deal very strong pressure really quickly.  However, just like in our recent expanded regionals, Night March wasn’t doing so well in Japan -- mainly due to the fact that it was struggling to beat Zoroark decks that had counter cards to Night March (such as Alolan Muk and Oricorio). As a result, many players were starting to drift away from Night March recently, but due to the fact that some time has passed, and Buzzwole made a dominating appearance, Night March was surprisingly becoming a decent choice. Since some decks were beginning to cut Alolan Muk and Oricorios from their decks, the Zoroark matchup was becoming slightly better for Night March players.  As a result, Night March wasn’t heavily played in Kyoto, but it made a significant appearance at the event and gained a little bit of a spotlight. 


Sylveon-GX was also another force that was spotted in Kyoto.  The deck initially had a positive matchup against Zoroark decks, since cards like Oranguru (Prism Star) or Bunnelby are heavily played in Japan. Plus, since Sylveon focuses on decking out, it does not have to worry about triggering Buzzwole’s Beast Ring as long as the Sylveon player can manage to deny their energies and board state.  It also was shown during Swiss rounds that it was able to put up a fight and defeat decks like Trevenant. Sylveon was one of those decks that was somewhat around always, but it never was as popular as Zoroark or Buzzwole, since the deck can also struggle from turn 1 Hex Maniac and lose. Plus since it is a best-of-1 game, if time runs out during Swiss Rounds, it can become a double loss for both players instead of a tie, so piloting Sylveon had some risk.  Despite this, some players decided to play the deck with the hope that they would play well on time and that things would turn out for the best, and as a result it was able to manage somewhat of an appearance during Kyoto. 

Trevenant BREAK

With the release of Mysterious Treasure, the deck became even more consistent with better access to Tapu Lele-GX for the turn 1 Wally to item lock your opponent instantly.  Trevenant decks initially lost popularity when Zoroark-GX was released, since it was hard for Trevenant players to keep up with Zoroark, however with the consistency boost it gained (and how Buzzwole became extremely popular), Trevenant was able to gain a second chance from many players. Since Trevenant can shut down many of the key items to slow down Buzzwole, Tree Slam can hit for significant amount of damage against Buzzwole due to weakness, and has resistance to fighting type, it was looking good. So what many Trevenant players decided to do was to play Weakness Policy and several energy removal cards such as Enhanced Hammer, hoping those cards can slow down Zoroark decks enough to eventually de-evolve and knock them all out with Espeon-EX. Or, they would utilize cards like Necrozma-GX and Magical Swap Tapu Lele to pull several knockouts also.  Nonetheless, it took some courage to play the deck at a large event where you need to go x-1 in order to make top 16 cut. Many players decided to pull the trigger, hoping they would mainly face Buzzwole decks throughout the day, or maybe not be good enough to make cut but at least good enough to earn some championship points.  Since it was a well-known Buzzwole counter deck, it had a significant appearance at Kyoto as well. 

Ultra Necrozma-GX/Malamar

Despite the fact that Buzzwole made its big dominance in Nagoya, many players still believed in Ultra Necrozma’s strength.  It’s attack, Photon Geyser, is a very strong attack due to the fact that it has a base of 20 damage, plus it deals 80 for each psychic energy discard which it allows Ultra Necrozma-GX to pull enough damage output to play the two-shot game or the one-shot game.  Not to mention that the card has a very good synergy with cards like Malamar that can charge up energies from the bench and Beast Ring that can charge up energies from the deck.  Once the deck sets up, it becomes fairly difficult for many decks to deal with attackers like Ultra Necrozma and Dawn Wing Necrozma, since they have the ability to one-shot you. Dawn Wing Necrozma has a strong GX attack and Dark Flash is a nice damage output attack as well that can play the two-shot game and can one-shot a Buzzwole for weakness.  In order for the deck to function consistently, it requires several things such as setting up the Malamar and having energies in the discard to be able to generate follow up attackers.  Therefore, the deck sometimes can have times where it can’t apply strong and fast pressure right away, which it makes a tricky matchup against Zoroark decks since they can apply pressure fairly quickly and can disrupt your setup. 

In addition to this, despite that it has a fairly good matchup against Buzzwole decks,  Buzzowole can still use Beast Rings and can manage to set up multiple charged up Buzzwoles to do the one-shot prize trade game and can potentially steal the game as well.  Yet, still players believed in their own playing skills and the deck’s strength which ended up making a bright appearance at Kyoto.


Ho-Oh GX/Lycanroc GX

This deck was actually piloted by Team Torchic players in Kyoto, therefore it wasn’t really an existing archetype that was known or somewhat popular before.  So basically this was one of the “secret decks” of this event, I would say.  The deck is pretty straight forward; your main attacker is Ho-Oh-GX, since a Phoenix Burn with a Choice Band or Steam up can deal 210 damage which can knock out out most of the GX Pokemon in the meta.   With cards like Blacksmith and Kiawe, it becomes fairly easy to charge up Ho-oh-GX.  In addition to the fire attackers and supports, this deck also played Lycanroc-GX, which has a nice synergy with the heavy-hitting attackers. The deck also ran Korrina to help set up Lycanroc-GX and Sudowoodo easier.  Since Korrina can also search for an item, it helps you get a VS Seeker, or a Nest Ball so you don't lose steam on setting up your board. 

The other interesting card that was played in the deck was the Energy Grace ability Milotic from Flash Fire.  Since Energy Grace won’t allow you to attach the basic energies into EX, but the effect still does goes through GX Pokemon, this helps you to be able to set up your attackers consistently and helps you to instantly fully charge a Lycanroc-GX out of nowhere as well.  The concept was really cool, and despite not winning the event, it still managed to make Top 64 in Kyoto, therefore I think it deserved a spotlight in this article.


Kyoto Champions League 2018 


After Swiss Rounds


So here are the results after Swiss Rounds, as you can see since there are no ties there were 15 players 8-1 and 2 of the 7-2 was able to squeeze into the top 16 cut.  However in reality there were approximately 46 or 47 players that ended with 7-2 record therefore, there were 44 or 45 players that end up not only bubbling out from top 16 cut, but also some players were cut out from the top 32 cut as well despite of having the same final record at the end of the day.  Luckily despite that Shintaro lost his final round, he was able to squeeze into the top 16 just as it is shown.




Final Result


So here’s the final result, Top 4 been Night March versus Zoroark Garbodor and Ultra Necrozma versus Seismitoad Decidueye, then finally Shintaro Ito piloting Ultra Necrozma was able to take the crown squeezing into the cut as 16th place with 7-2 record, but despite that Shintaro himself was very upset about his misplay that cost him the win at the last round of Swiss, however as 2016 World Champion, Shintaro was able to show his quality as a player and be able to get the crown of winner in the end.



Top 4 Decks lists 

 So here are the deck lists from Top 4:

4th Place by Rui Takimoto


3rd Place by Takayuki Motoki


2nd Place by Kosuke Uogishi


1st Place by Shintaro Ito




In the end, Japan’s last regionals Kyoto Champions League came to an end.  Surprisingly it is a very hectic one-day event that requires players to go 8-1 or better to secure their top 16 cut, and every game is a best of one.  Due to the fact that Buzzwole showed up and proved to be a very strong powerhouse during the Champions League in Nagoya, it was heavily discussed whether the meta in Kyoto was going to change a little bit or remain the same. Six out of 8 in the final cut were Buzzwole Lycanroc decks in Nagoya, because it had a positive matchup against Zoroark / Lycanroc that was known as the most consistent deck.  Therefore, it was unknown until the day of the event whether players should play a deck that can counter Buzzwole and risk their Zoroark matchup, join the Buzzwole train, or simply play Zoroark to counter the counter decks and hope for the best.  As a result, it seemed like many players had their own beliefs and played their decks based on what they believed, and as a result there was quite a variety of decks that made top cut in Kyoto, unlike in Nagoya.  In the end, the 2016 World Champion Shintaro was able to take the crown by piloting Ultra Necrozma Malamar and that’s how Kyoto Champions League came to an end. 

Japan will be having their final major league called Pokemon Japan Championships 2018, which is their National Championship, and anyone is able to participate -- unlike previous years where players were required to earn their invite to play at Nationals, so it is expected to be a large event and it will be the last chance for players to earn their Championship Points to decide whether they secure their Day 1 invite or remain in the top 8 rank to earn their Day 2 invite.  This event will be on June 9th and 10th and I’ll be looking forward to see how it will turn out as well.  I hope that this article was something different from the usual articles and that I was able to entertain you or inform you some of the stuff that is going in Japan currently at their events, but thank you everyone reading this article and see you guys next time!


-Twitter @FCTakahashiINFO


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