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Justin Sanchez

Enjoying yourself on the way to 300

Play it safe. Give yourself the best shot at leaving with something.

01/28/2016 by Justin Sanchez

Hey again, everyone, I know that it's been quite a while since I've written an article but I promise not to disappoint! This will be an informational article on how to enjoy yourself as you cruise your way to 300 as I know many experienced players plan to do this year. Last season, I accumulated 300 Championship Points in ten total tournaments, with zero playtesting or stress. I learned many things playing in tournaments last year that I had not learned in my past couple seasons of competitive Pokémon and I hope that some of the things I learned can help you as well!

To start this off, I want to mention many of the wonderful things that Pokémon players got to experience last year. For the first time, I think we can all say that the Championship Point system was finally where it needed to be to be an effective system for a World Championships invitation. With the split of a Day 1 invite and a Day 2 invite, it truly showcased both players who were the best or who tried the hardest by attending enough events to accumulate points that got them into the top sixteen of their countries cutoff. On the other hand, Day 1 allowed in enough competition to where the best players and deckbuilders in the room would leave with a Day 2 invitation. Not to mention the crazy amount of Pokémon tournaments held last year! The game is simply growing at a faster and better pace than any of us could have imagined. Maybe it's the increased prize structure or the lax nature of our competitive scene, all I know is that whatever we're doing is working. With that being said, it was just announced that this season will basically be a copycat of last season. Don't fix what works, right? I think that's about right. There isn't much to be said in a negative manner about last season.  

But that season is over and we're on to a new one. Tournaments have already started kicking off all over the U.S., and players are competing their hearts out for that heralded Worlds Invitation. But there are some of us who are simply too busy to drive one to four hours every weekend to attend two city championships. Taking off work that many weekends in a row is absolutely a problem for any of us who currently aren't working a 9-5 Monday through Friday job and must work weekends primarily, so you need to make your tournament experiences count. Luckily, after last season, I did learn some tips that might help you make the best of your limited season.

Going into last year, I started off with a second place at a League Challenge on a random Sunday. I made my deck choice solely off the fact that I simply wanted to place high, even if it meant not winning the tournament. I have always believed that there are decks that will give you a better shot at doing well in a tournament, but will lower your odds of winning said tournament. Typically, I find that the safer choices are always brought down towards the end by a counter, often one of the lucky people who made a risky choice and made it through thanks to matchups. In my opinion, these are the people with the best odds of leaving champion. Now, yes, you can top 8 one cities and top 4 the other, gaining the same amount of championship points as the guy who did poorly at one cities and won the other. But you are maximizing your chances of getting any points by playing it safe, and you could even end up winning with a little luck on your side. 


Play it safe. Give yourself the best shot at leaving with something. 

What decks even give you the best shot at doing well? This year and the last, Yveltal is the answer. It always executes its strategy even with a poor hand and it also gives you a chance to stay in games with proper play. Frank Diaz showed everyone on stream just what kind of window Yveltal decks give you for skillful play. I played Yveltal at basically every tournament I attended last year minus the World Championships, and funny enough that is one of the few tournaments I did not get Championship Points from. Making smart metagame choices is another big factor in always doing well. If you show up to a 20-player Cities with Yveltal and five of the best players are playing Manectric, it's not a wise choice to play the deck. Always keep a second deck choice in mind when you are limited to the number of tournaments you can play. Now, I’m not saying to switch from a deck if one or two people are playing something to beat you. One example of me sticking with my choice despite knowing that someone was playing a counter to me would be at a cities that I made top 4 at last year, where a friend of mine was playing straight Mega Manectric while I was playing Yveltal. There was tons of Donphan in the room, so I just trusted that the Donphan decks would knock him out before he got a chance to play me, and fortunately I was right.


Think about Pokemon when you get a chance.

One of the ways that I would keep up with what is going on around me would be by dedicating one or two hours a day to go online and see what everyone is talking about. Heading into Florida Regionals last year, I did a lot of research as to which decks people were hyping up and made metagame assumptions based off of that. Although it didn't play out exactly as I had imagined, it still played out well enough for me to fall just short of being Florida Regional Champion with a heartbreaking second place. To give you more insight on what was going on in my head in the days leading to the tournament, I'll give you a rundown on what I was watching happen through my eyes.

With the fresh release of Primal Clash and no tournaments in the books to help give players some knowledge on the format, it seemed as if most inexperienced players were flocking towards Mega Gardevoir-EX. After talking to other experienced players, I had a hunch that the decks that were going to be popular were fast and aggressive decks that could overpower the slow to set up Gardevoir. With that in mind, I imagined Landorus/Crobat would be a deck that would be doing very well on the first day. I had previously played an Yveltal/Seismitoad deck with FOUR Head Ringer at Virginia Regionals to a close but not close enough 5-1-3 record, so I was feeling optimistic that it might once again be the play. Head Ringer is an extremely strong card against Landorus-EX and Lucario-EX, and it helps against some of the newer hyped decks in Gardevoir-EX and Groudon-EX as well. I figured that with Yveltal-EX's strength and the obvious utility of Head Ringer I could make a strong run at day 2. Analyzing the metagame not through testing, but through predictions put me in a spot where I could take advantage of the matchups presented to me.

Birth your deck, mold it.

After birthing and molding your deck, wear a mask that makes you sound funny and try to take on the Batman. All jokes aside, find a deck that you feel at one with. Something that makes you happy to be playing the game, for whatever reason it is. One of the things that really gets my juices flowing during a match is playing a game that could go either way. Knowing that you just barely squeaked by with a win is a very fulfilling feeling for me. But that doesn't have to apply to you. Essentially what your goal should be is to find a deck that has quite a few good matches and its bad matches aren't completely out of reach. Decks that often fit this description are decks that aren't TOO reliant on abilities and decks that don't have a specific damage cap. For example, Night March is a deck that has a hard time facing stuff like Crobat and Baby Yveltal when playing in Standard, but due to the deck’s speed and ability to explode as early as turn one, those decks do not beat Night March easily.

One of the best examples that I can give describing birthing and molding your deck would be when a friend of mine by the name of Dustin Zimmerman played his Metal deck to a Top 16 finish at U.S. Nationals and made it through Day 1 of the World Championships despite people hyping decks that would likely have a favorable matchup against it. Heading into the World Championships, I had often asked Dustin for advice on my Metal list, but after asking around and listening to which decks people were talking about, I decided to scrap the idea of playing Metal for the tournament. The day before the first day of the World Championships, I approached Dustin asking him what he was thinking about playing. He confidently told me that he would be playing Metal due to being comfortable with the deck. I'm sure he knew that I thought he was crazy for considering it, due to the fact that Toad/Garbodor had just won the U.S. National Championships, and a deck that made it into the Top 4 (Mega Manectric) was a competitive and easy counter to both Toad/Garbodor AND Metal. In such a large tournament though, you can't rely on word of mouth. You should expect to play a large assortment of decks, and his deck clearly had some very good matches that he would love to play against. Surely enough, Dustin made it through Day 1 with his tried and true Metal deck.

Those are the three major steps that I took which led me to success last season. So to summarize what you just read, what I did was utilize what little free time I did have to "theorymon" my deck, make sure it grew as the format developed and kept my deck choice on the safer side. To show you visible examples of what a safe deck looks like, look at the differences in the following two decklists:


As you can see, the card counts of all of the important cards are fairly thick and there isn't really anything that I run that would be considered "techy" or metagame dependent. The upside to a deck list like this is that it will be more consistent in most of its games. It will do what it is supposed to do more often than not. This gives you the opportunity to play out matches and hopefully decide games through your play.

Here is an example of a deck list that I would consider risky:

Now, the problem I have with this list is that the deck is fairly teched out. In my opinion, deck lists like these are trying too hard. The numbers on a lot of the key cards are thinned out to try and fit cards to beat all of the popular decks. Neither of the deck lists that I posted are optimal deck lists in my opinion. I believe that you can have a consistent deck that can be tweaked and teched without hurting consistency. The key would simply be to not overcompensate. Let’s take a look at a deck list that I would consider if my area contained a good amount of Yveltal/Archeops, Night March, Mega Manectric, Toadbats and ArchieStoise.

I managed to keep the cards that help me do what Toadbats does best while also making sure that I have an attacker that can aid me in some of my more tricky matches. The consistency of the deck is still available and I should have no problem getting through my deck to grab crucial cards. This is the process that goes through my head when I am chiseling out ideas to make my deck fit in to whatever metagame I am entering. 

One common trend you will see throughout this article is my obsession with consistency. To me, this is the bread and butter of a successful deck. I'll be honest, I actually adopted this idea from one of the greatest players in Pokémon History, Kyle Sucevich. While I may have stopped him from winning his second US National Championship, it does not mean he was not a better player or deck builder than me at the time (and probably still to this point). I have always seen Kyle as the Tim Duncan of Pokémon. For those of you who don't know who Tim Duncan is, he is an amazing NBA Basketball player who is still playing basketball at a high level even after 15 seasons. The key to his success has been his dedication to the basics of the game, which is much of what I believe Kyle did throughout his career. He mostly played safe, consistent decks and simply tried to play better than his opponent. While I completely understand that playing perfectly is a goal that every player should have in mind, it isn't an easy task to achieve. Playing well takes patience mentally and physically. You have to be willing to go through the scenario's going through your head more than once to truly decide on the right play. Sometimes you will simply overlook something that you think of right away and this trait is what separates the Kyles from the guy in all of those promotional videos they do for the TCG over in Japan(seriously, if you don't know what I’m talking about, look up some Japanese TCG promotions on YouTube. You'll see the same guy get devastated over and over by the newest sets biggest and baddest combinations).

The bare minimum

How many tournaments should you be able to attend realistically to collect 300 Championship Points? Well, I would say that you should attend 5 cities, 5 league challenges and at least 3 Regionals (forget states completely, they're not worth it). Honestly, Cities are probably the most important tournaments that you can attend as they offer the highest amount of CP for the lowest amount of competition. The only reason I only list 5 is because a lot of people like myself can't get weekends off so consistently in the same time period. League Challenges are an easy way to fill in the gaps that the larger tournaments hand out Championship Points in with little to no competition. The reason that I list Regional Championships as more important than State Championships is that both tournaments have become nearly as competitive but Regionals offers a higher point payout(and typically will award points deeper into the tournament, I had 15 kicker points from Virginia Regionals that put me at 302 after my finish at Florida Regionals). Now, if you don't get your invite through 13 tournaments, you should not be discouraged. Luck is often involved with how well players do and I feel that some players take their losses too seriously. Just relax and remember that this is just a game where we're all trying to have our own kind of fun. 

With all of that being said, I hope that this article has provided you with a way to alter your game and hopefully take what little time you have and turn it into a World Championships invite. This method can not only be used to aid those who have very little time, but it can aid those who have a lot of time and are simply looking to make a splash in the scene by having their name on top cut posts worldwide! What makes a big name player is simply seeing their name often when looking at the top cut of a larger tournament. How they finish after that matters, but not as much as simply making it there in the first place. While I may be taking a break this season, I try to stay updated on how all of my friends are doing and I hope that I can make a return to competitive play sometime soon. For anyone who would like to simply speak with me, you can always send me a message on Facebook as I am always willing to answer questions and often I am willing to take a look at decklists. I will be judging Florida Regionals this year, so I hope to see you guys there. Have a great and wonderful New Year readers!


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