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Justin Sanchez

The battle to be the (second)best!

A 2nd place Houston Regionals report

09/11/2014 by Justin Sanchez

Greetings to all of the 60 card readers!

Three weeks of the new regional tournaments have just passed and we have seen a lot of Pokemon played. Many of the expected decks seemed to climb to the top during these grueling tournaments as most would have expected, but we did see a couple unexpected decks rise to the top. I will say that I did not expect a solo Darkrai/Sableye deck to even be in the top 8 of one of these regionals, much less win two of them. But that is the game of Pokemon for you, if the cards fall in the right place at the right time you can achieve anything. I was fortunate enough to tag along with a couple friends and attend the last week of these regional tournaments to try and get a feel for the new format, as well as chase the big W. Doing well at Regionals will be a big part of any worlds contenders season, so going to as many as possible is key. Below you will see exactly how my weekend went, what my thoughts on these new regionals tournaments are, as well as detailed match description of the games I played.

Going into this Regional tournament, I was fairly familiar with what the good decks did and how to play against them. Many thanks to my friends who helped me playtest a couple games before I went out. I certainly felt that a Team Plasma deck was the best choice for these tournaments as they are capable of taking a quick win, winning a long game and rarely get KO'd on turn 1. One huge misconception with this deck is that it needs to be played as an aggressive deck to win games. That is definitely not the case. Many of the games I won over the course of the weekend were won with slow starts and patience. In a format with little consistency support you must accept the fact that you won't always get off to the crazy starts that you are capable of and understand that your opponent may miss some key cards later in the game as well. I would rarely concede games because I knew that if I made the correct plays every turn I was a favorite in just about every matchup, if the cards came to me at the right time.
After arriving on Friday, I saw that there was quite a bit of Team Plasma decks roaming around, and the mirror match isn't exactly one that is very fun to play. Often the game comes down to N and drawing energy at the right time. I ended up making three key changes to my decklist the night before that definitely payed off in their own respect: +1 enhanced hammer, +1 max potion, and +1 blend energy. My decklist ended up looking like this:

I was very comfortable in my deck choice for the weekend as you should be when entering a tournament. Feeling comfortable with your deck is a huge part of being successful. Knowing the ins and outs of your deck not only allows you to play better but faster as well, which is a big advantage with the new time limit. With the best 2/3 being implemented players need to know how to play at a healthy pace if they want to win matches.
Going into saturday, I was admittingly a little nervous. Going a mediocre 4-4 at Texas Regionals last year definitely kept my confidence at bay. But at the same time I could not wait for round 1 to start, I was excited for what was in store. The tournament got off to a slow start, but eventually the pairings for round 1 were posted. It had begun.


Round 1: VS Darkai EX/Sableye


Game 1: In this game, I get off to a very slow start. My opponent gets a turn 3 night spear, and thanks to my slow start it was very effective. There were a couple times in this game where I N him hoping that he won't draw dark patch/energy, but he ends up getting them every time. There was a small window in which I saw myself winning this game if I drew into energy/colress machine at the right time, but unfortunately I did not and I lose a fairly long game 1.

Game 2: I am very nervous that I may not be able to win 2 games before time and fear starting the tournament with a draw. Luckily, he opens sableye and a dead hand, to which I quickly finish him off in two turns with frost spear.

Game 3: Feeling better about the quick win, i quickly shuffle sufficiently and set up. My opponent goes first with another supporterless hand, to which I am very grateful for. I quickly defeat his two darkrais in four turns to take the W about 15 minutes before time is called. Phew.


Round 2: VS Terrakion EX/Victini EX/Entei EX


Game 1: In this game my opponent flips over Victini EX, Entei EX, and Terrakion EX as he goes first with a turn 1 Turbo Charge, putting two energy on his Entei EX. That move ended up being a costly mistake, as I frost spear with a bangle on the first turn to KO his victini EX and put 30 on his terrakion. Now, his only means of dealing damage is an entei ex which I can OHKO with Kyurem. He ends up attacking me for 90, in which I respond with a KO. On his next turn, he gets a KO on my kyurem but at this point it was far too late. I end up KO'ing his terrakion ex two turns later for the game.

Game 2: My opponent must not have played vs many plasma decks as he was very surprised by the sheer power of my deck. In game 2, my opponent is off to a similar start with a turn 1 turbo charge, except this time on his Terrakion EX. I am off to a very slow start, which includes thundurus ex as my opening basic. Things are not looking too good as my thundurus is KO'd turn 2, but on his third turn he ultra balls away an energy switch, which is not a legal card for the regionals format. I call over a judge and unfortunately for him he is dealt a game loss which means I win the match. I do feel very bad for the person he beat the previous round as they lost to someone with an illegal card in their deck, but that is knowledge a player must have to do well.


Round 3: VS Genesect EX/Virizion EX/Drifblim


Game 1: In this game, I open with an OK start, but my opponent is off to a slow one. It is very hard for virizion to open poorly, but when you don't have supporters plasma will run through you very quickly. He gets virizion out but I just catcher and KO his genesects and he never really stands a chance in this game.

Game 2: In this game, he actually surprises me with a plasma badge colress machine for a turn 1 attack with virizion. I figure going second AND his turn 1 virizion would be too much to overcome, but I play it out anyway. Deoxys EX is a very good attacker in this matchup and proves to get me some crucial KO's on his genesects thanks to smart catchers on his genesects. By catchering the genesects, I would hit them for 50 with thundurus or 120 with deoxys to butter it up for the eventual KO before they could even attack. It proved to be a very useful strategy and I actually end up winning this game by dropping a skyla for a catcher. I was very surprised that I won this game, but it goes to show the power of plasma. His drifblims really didn't do all too much because he did not run enhanced hammer. Since he was rarely knocking things out, my thundurus would keep his shadow steal drifblim at bay.



Round 4: VS Blastoise


Game 1: I open up with a turn 2 catcher KO on his only squirtle, which is a very good thing vs a blastoise deck. He benches another squirtle turn 3, in which i skyla for catcher and KO it again. Turn 4, he is not able to get a squirtle out and it allows me a turn of free damage on one of his exs. He then benches a squirtle turn 4, in which I do have the catcher and KO on the squirtle. Turn 5, he benches his last squirtle and plays an N with the hopes that I do not have access to my last catcher. I draw a colress for a big 9 cards and luckily do draw the fourth catcher for the KO on his last squirtle. He does not run super rod and it is only a couple turns before i finish off one of his EX pokemon for game.

Game 2: In this game, he opens up much better with a turn 2 blastoise and a KO on my kyurem with a Secret Sword from Keldeo EX. I play this game out to figure out the rest of his decklist, in which I find he runs max potion and scoop up cyclone. I eventually get steamrolled here.

Game 3: In this game, we both have the worst possible starts. In a crazy turn of events, we both end up using tropical beach for a total of 10 turns straight before time is called. None of us had used a single attack and because of that, we could not end the game. The game ends in a tie although I may have actually been able to win this game if we still had the 4 prize rule, while I would have lost it had the game been played out to a finish.


Round 5: VS Blastoise


Game 1: In this game, my opponent gets just about every card he needs at the right time. He gets the turn two blastoise going as well as a chain of superior energy retrievals and black kyurem ex to make this game a quick sweep. I honestly did not stand a chance in this game and knew if my opponent did this again I would be out quickly.

Game 2: In this game, my opponent has a similar start with another turn 2 blastoise and a very good opening. Just when I think there is no chance for me in this game, I get a nice N to 4 that leaves my opponent struggling for resources. I swiftly make my comeback with kyurem and thundurus and get the game to about 2/2. My opponent had just hit and used a juniper, so I played an N that I hoped would be the crucial turning point in the game to give me the win. Thankfully, he does not play an N of his own, and I end up using a professor juniper to draw 1 of the 3 remaining pokemon catcher in my deck for game. I was extremely surprised to see this go to game 3.

Game 3: Thanks to a drawn out game 1 and a long game 2, there is not enough time in this game to even get close to finishing. I believe we ended the game at 6/6.


Round 6: VS Garbodor/Cobalion EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX
Stinky pokemon, stinky matchup


Game 1: In this game, I am playing against a friend who I traveled with all the way from Florida to play in the event. We are both dissapointed in the fact that we have to play, but quickly turn serious as we both want to win. I do not really open with a great start, but she opens with a supporterless hand. Due to this, I am able to get key knockouts and avoid catchers for a fairly decisive game 1. I end up finding out that she runs asperita city gym and eviolite, which was a problem for my thundurus to two shot her tornadus and a problem for a deoxys to return ko a mewtwo.

Game 2: Once again, she opens with a mediocre hand that she cannot get very far with. In this game she uses cobalion, but he only does so much before getting swamped by blizzard burn. I get another quick victory due to her lack of supporters. I am very thankful of this because I truthfully feel that it was a problematic matchup for my deck.


Round 7: VS Darkrai EX/Sableye


Game 1: Well, I don't really have much of a chance in this game. I open very poorly and basically just look for oddities in my opponents decklist that may help me base a decision in the next game. Drawing and passing was a common trait for me in this game as my opponents darkrai ex simply wipes my board up.

Game 2: My opponent opens with a lone sableye, which I am happy about due to going first. Luckily, I somehow manage to get a turn 1 frost spear with 4 deoxys ex in play for a turn 1 KO on his lone sableye!

Game 3: This game ends up being better than the first two. I open with another mediocre start, but he sort of plays into my trap. He attempts to try and put all of his resources into one darkrai to attack with instead of junk hunting until he can power up two which gives me a slight chance to be able to turn this game into a win. I end up retaliating with a blizzard burn KO on his darkrai, which puts him in a very tough spot. He needs a dark patch/energy attachment/laser all of which he had a couple in his discard. I knew he had laser from a junk hunt a while ago, but he ends up actually playing the pokemon catcher from his junk hunt which catches me off guard. I figure he does not have the dark patch to attack, so he is attempting to bianca for more to try and hit it. Although, if he does this, I will certainly KO his darkrai ex and seal the game off if he cannot draw into a second catcher along with the dark patch. He ends up dropping the laser in his hand assuming he will be forced to attack into the deoxys and plays a bianca for 4. He ends up drawing into the third dark patch, third laser and the second catcher to make up for his mistake and KO kyurem. I will admit it was very disheartening have this happen but it is a part of the game. I end up making a couple good moves here and there but from this point on he has me in a chokehold and there is nothing I can do but prolong his win.


Round 8: VS Virizion EX/Mewtwo EX/Bouffalant


Game 1: I am very skeptical of this deck being playable, but it seems to be doing well all around me. In this first game, my opponent doesn't open very well. He has virizion with two grass, but once I catcher and Ko his bouffalant that he attached to with virizion, he has nothing else to attach to. I win a very decisive game 1 due to his mediocre start.

Game 2: In this game, I sort of begin to understand why this deck choice is viable. He once again opens with a mediocre start, but his deck is able to perform even while drawing mediocre hands. With just one dce, he can attack with a mewtwo on turn 1, and with just two grass energy he can attack with virizion and power someone else up. Despite all of that, the deck holds no advantage over team plasma decks and i run him over pretty easily with kyurem and deoxys ex.



Round 9: VS Landorus EX/Drifblim


My opponent and I decide that it would be in our best interest to intentional draw this game to secure our spot in day 2. We are both comfortable enough with our resistance that we can do this safely. We end up being the players with the highest resistance at 5-1-3 at 19th and 20th place.


I end up getting right to bed as my friends and I get back to our friends house. The next day only my friend Jose and I have to wake up so the rest of our crew gets to sleep in.




Round 10: VS Genesect EX/Virizion EX


Game 1: I end up getting to the first round of day 2 just in time to have adequate time to shuffle and set up. Unfortunately, it's all for nothing. I open with an extremely poor hand. I get bumrushed pretty bad and have no chance at winning. Genesect EX runs me over in this one.

Game 2: In this game, things are much different. I open very well with a turn two blizzard burn KO on his genesect ex. I then follow up with a second blizzard burn KO on the genesect EX that he just attached to with virizion. He ends up conceding after seeing he had no chance of winning.

Game 3: My opponent goes first and actually discards a grass energy with a juniper because he did not have a virizion in play. He wanted to be able to get an attachment on virizion this turn so he can use it's attack next turn. My opponent DOES get a virizion, but only has a plasma energy to attach. Normally for him this would be ok, but I was lucky enough to open up with my enhanced hammer which basically sealed my opponents fate. The fact that he could attack on turn 3 at the earliest combined with my kyurems being set up left no chance for a comeback on my opponents end. Blizzard burn quickly becomes his demise.



Round 11:Darkrai EX/Sableye/Garbodor


Game 1: Right off the bat my opponent seems like a cool dude so I figure i'm in for some fun games. After seeing my opponents poor hand going first, I figure that may not be the case. He literally gets the definition of a dead hand and I quickly KO his only three pokemon as he continues to draw dead.

Game 2: I am quickly staring down two sableye in this game, but not much else. He opens up with a supporter but it does not net him another one to follow up with. I KO two of his sableye and a trubbish, and if he cannot draw a supporter here I will bench him again. He does end up topdecking a juniper to stay in the game, but being 3 prizes ahead before he could get anything going was his undoing. An interesting note is that he did not run enhanced hammer in this deck which would have been a powerful ally for him to slow my deck down.


Round 12: VS Plasma


Game 1: My opponent was a very cool guy and recognized me for one of my past tournament finishes which was funny. We both open slow, except I am lacking supporters and he is lacking many energy drops. Although I get a big KO on his deoxys EX with one of my own, a couple turns later he ends up closing the one window I felt I had to win this game. I believe he needed to draw a combination of two cards to get a KO and he did, which sealed my fate. I play the game out anyway because the mirror match can be unpredictable, but I do lose this one decisively.

Game 2: Similar to game 1, I open up dead. At this point I have opened with Deoxys ex an incredible amount of games and it is really slowing my deck down. I needed to draw a supporter in this game to make sure he doesn't bench me, and thankfully I do. I actually manage an interesting comeback due to a couple of his energy whiffs and manage to pull this game out of the bag. Deoxys EX and clutch Thundurus EX plays steal a game for me.

Game 3: Due to two drawn out games, we are not able to finish the third game. We both had mediocre openings with not much going on so I'm not sure who would have won this one.



Round 13: VS Blastoise


Game 1: This is certainly my least favorite deck to play against in this format, so I am not happy having been paired against it for a third time. I do get an ok start with a kyurem and some good frost spears, but my opponent not being able to draw rare candy and blastoise in the same hand really hurts him here. I actually take 6 prizes on three ex's without him getting a blastoise out which goes to show how poorly he drew here.

Game 2: My opponent is definitely off to a quick start here with a turn two black ballista on my active kyurem. Although, my opponent seemed a little too eager to get KO's as he constantly fell for the traps that I set for him. I was very close to winning this game off of some hopeful plays where I would guess that my opponent would continue to use his catchers on my kyurems instead of trying to seal off a win on my EX attackers. Due to this, I am able to N him and am one turn short of making the full fledged comeback. He ends up drawing the superior energy retrieval at the right time to win the game.

Game 3: On my opponents first turn, he skylas for a level ball to grab a squirtle. I nearly N him, but I feel like he is probably just bluffing having a supporter. Thankfully I was right, as I get a turn 1 frost spear and my opponent just passes his next turn with two squirtles. I KO one and it's all down to whether he can draw another basic. He drops a candy and blastoise, but concedes as he see's the blizzard burn KO staring him in the face.



Round 14: VS Plasma


My opponent and I agree that we have a great chance at making it into the top 8 if we just intentionally draw, so we do. We both end up making it into the cut safe and sound.

Top 8: VS Plasma


Game 1:Of course fate would have it that I play my only good friend in top cut right at the start of top 8. We are both visually distraught about it because top 8 doesn't get a trophy and one of us is going home without some glass. I wasn't about to let it be me though!
I open very poorly though, so maybe I'm mistaken. I quickly get beaten in a very uneventful game 1.

Game 2: This game is similar to game 1, except I am providing the beating. Jose draws nothing and eventually concedes as he realizes my kyurem is going to seal the game for me.

Game 3: Unlike game 1 & 2, this here is a game. I definitely open up a little better than Jose, but not by much. I did not have a commanding opening which really means that we are just about even. It looks like I constantly have an advantage but I do forsee myself giving up some ground in the later game, which ends up being the case. After a couple back and forth trades we are tied at a steady 2 prizes a piece, Jose left without kyurems to score one hit KO's with and I am left without resources to get the correct KO's with kyurem. I eventually get a blizzard burn in on a thundurus which means if I can catcher it at some point I will win with my own thundurus. Jose has a crucial turn off my N where he draws a Juniper, if he cannot draw his max potion in deck he will lose. He would be max potioning two energy off of his Deoxys ex, which he does. To be honest I think we may have all missed the fact that you cannot max potion a pokemon without damage, but who knows if it had damage or not. I end up Ko'ing a pokemon to go down to 1 prize, in which he N's me. I draw catcher as my 1 card, needing a switch as well to seal the game off. I draw into juniper and catcher/play the juniper. I draw the switch and win the game!


Top 4: VS Plasma

Game 1: This is a rematch vs my round 12 opponent. This top cut round went very similarly to the 12th round as well. I draw dead here and pretty much just get owned the entire game. Honestly I stood no chance in this game but played it out to confirm the counts on some of his cards.

Game 2: Here I am basically expecting to lose as I open up worse than the first game. Thankfully, I draw a colress machine/enhanced hammer/prism energy to get a crucial KO on a turn late in the game where I finally topdecked a juniper. Due to this play, I was able to make a neat comeback with blizzard burn that allowed me to pull this game out of the bag. Not even I expected to be able to win this one, but after this game I was inspired to win the match.

Game 3: This time my opponent is the one to open up with the slow start, and I have a good enough start to take a big lead. Deep in the game I juniper for a switch to win the game but end up whiffing. On the next turn, I colress for 10 for a catcher but end up whiffing as well. My opponent N's me and thankfully I draw into another colress for 10 that nets me the catcher for the win. Here I am mindblown that I won the series.


Top 2: VS Victini EX/Terrakion EX/Drifblim


Game 1: I go second here which I think actually causes me to lose this game instead of win it. He opens with Victini EX and Terrakion EX and gets a turn 1 turbo charge onto his Terrakion EX. I get a turn 1 frost spear for 80 and 30 on his Terrakion EX which had I gone first ends up being a KO on victini EX and 60 on his Terrakion EX before he even gets a chance to attack with it. Anyway, he has 80 on his Victini and 30 on his Terrakion going into his second turn and he uses pump up smash for 90 on my Kyurem. I know if I can draw a silver bangle or two more Doexys I will score the KO and likely be in a position to seal the game off. Unfortunately, I whiff on both combos and end up leaving him at 160. He KO's me with Terrakion and I continue to draw dead after. I score the two KO's on his damaged EX's eventually but not nearly early enough to try and win the game.


Game 2: I open up with another turn 1 frost spear, except this time I get 3 Deoxys EX on the bench and KO his victini before he can even attack with it. Due to this and a mediocre hand of his I win this game very easily.

Game 3: In this game he opens with a mediocre hand and while I have a good hand, one crucial thing will keep me from winning this game. I am forced to discard two special energy on turn 1 with professor Juniper to try and get some much needed damage on the board, and it ends up coming back to bite me. Some point in the game he is able to Ko me with shadow steal drifblim and I attack it with thundurus to prevent it from getting another KO on one of my exs. He does the smart thing and skyla's for enhanced hammer to get the KO and wipe my board of energy. I know i'm finished at this point and play it out to my eventual loss.

All in all, it was a great experience. I have won US nationals which is said to be the longest tournament ever, but this tournament certainly felt longer. I will admit that 2/3 and extra rounds saved me many times in this weekend and I think Pokemon did a great job with choosing those aspects of the tournament. The time limit is fragile and should definitely be fixed, so hopefully within due time that can be arranged. I loved my deck choice and I felt it was a great weekend from a playing standpoint. I played well and it payed off.

Thanks again for reading guys and I hope you will enjoy my future articles here on, until next time!



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