Top 8 Madrid Special Event Report with Espeon/Garbodor
The biggest ever Special Event took place in Madrid this last weekend and Paulo shares his views of the deck he piloted to a Top 8 finish ahead of the big North American Intercontinentals taking place in Indianapolis in the upcoming days.
06/27/2017 by Paulo Mimoso
In the weeks prior to the Madrid Special Event I was torn between two decks: Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, which I first noticed in the Birmingham and Madison Regionals being piloted by Matthias Luppa and Phillipp Emmerich and later by Charlie Lockyer respectively; and Vespiquen, that met recent new-found success with Jeffrey Cheng, Rahul Reddy and Michael Pramawat. Both were really valid options but with some blatant weaknesses I couldn't really overlook. While testing (thank you Diogo for correcting me in English, you're a true RN) I found that VikaBulu wasn't that favourable against the main threat of the time, Garbodor/Drampa, despite hitting the right numbers a good Garb player could still turn around the match pretty easily with a well-timed Garbotoxin forcing Bulu to play items to get out of a sticky situation. I loved the ability based engine that in itself is an N-counter and provides for really fast hard KO's but it being an ability in itself combined with the frail 180HP of your 2-prize attacker had me drop the idea. As for Vespiquen, I talked to some players about it but we all reached the conclusion that it was getting a lot of hate and the deck punishes you a lot for miscalculated microdecisions while becoming really hard-countered (not by Oricorio but by the meta itself) and thus not a wise decision for a 8-round tournament.
3 days prior to the event, I took a heavy interest to Espeon/Garbodor concerning recent results by Xander Pero and the Schemanske brothers and wondered why I hadn't considered it earlier having in account that if effectively topples most of the meta by one reason I failed to take granted and that I always upkeep as my standard rule for deckbuilding: consistency. Espeon/Garb is incredibly consistent and very rarely puts itself in a bad spot whether in starting hands or late game N's and that strategic thought immediately made me build a list more prepared to deal with one-prize low HP attackers expected in the meta after Daniel Altavilla introduced FoxyDrampa to the world in Ciudad de México.
Espeon/Garbodor with Spicy Koko
- 4x Eevee
- 3x Espeon GX
- 1x Flareon
- 4x Trubbish
- 3x Garbodor
- 1x Garbodor
- 2x Tapu Lele GX
- 2x Tapu Koko
- 4x Professor Sycamore
- 3x N-supporter League Promo
- 2x Lysandre
- 1x Brigette
- 1x Hex Maniac
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x VS Seeker
- 3x Choice Band
- 3x Float Stone
- 2x Field Blower
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 8x Psychic Energy
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
The list draws much inspiration from Xander Pero's original list and I adapted it just enough to be more prepared for the Zoroark and Greninja matchups which ultimately both proved being really useful. Everyoby questioned why I was using 2x Tapu Koko Promo as it didn't seem to make sense but the fact is that it was a really great starter that didn't need a tool attachment and provided an excellent early pressure against low HP basics and mirror Stage 1 GX's as it helps obtaining more accurate numbers for both Psychic and Trashalanche. Better examples of the success of these modifications will be explained in detail in my matchup descriptions.
I ruled out Oricorio since I already predicted the apparent decline of Vespiquen usage and the all-around flexibility (my #2 rule in deckbuilding) of Koko having 110HP (forcing Zoroark to 2hKO in 3-benched situations), free retreat to expand my initial play (normally to Espeon-Psybeam) and provide more certainty of numbers since it's actually quite uncommon to even hit good numbers with Oricorio. I also preferred a straightforward supporter and item line, not too shabby or flamboyant, so I can hit the right pieces whenerever I want them to. 4 Sycamore and 4 VS Seeker just seemed completely necessary to me and my late game N endurance proved me right as thinning out what you don't need to save space to these late game outs (assuming you have a built field which you should probably have by the time you're down to 1-2 prizes) is a fairly standard tactical rule to avoid losing to yourself, which sucks to high heavens.
Trubbish BKP is superior to GUR in almost any situation as the 10 damage (potentially 40 or even 80 for weakness against Espeon for one energy) allied to a Crushing Hammer is a super strong stalling effect and my friends know how much I love cards like Crushing Hammer and Super Scoop Up. I also prefer Brigette over Pokémon Fan Club by a mile since Brigette offers a better bench fill and bypasses Team Magma's Secret Base; Hex Maniac inclusion to offer turn 1 disruption opportunities that can be very important against mirror and Zoroark/Drampa; and the Flareon to ease up Decidueye and Metagross matchups. I chose not to play Super Rod since the 8-4 energy line gives you enough flexibility to handle your resources and I personally never found myself needing the energies not to lose the game, but that goes with personal preference and confidence in your deck management skill.
Madrid Special Event Top 8 Report
Upon my arrival in Madrid I was showered with warm hospitality from my good friend Javier de Blas, who I first met in Sines Regionals in 2016 in a win-and-in Toad/Tina mirror match for Top 8 that I eventually won and got me to 2nd place thereafter. He invited me to some really great homecooked lasagna in his family home in Torrejón de Ardoz, outside Madrid, under a blazing 41ºC heat, just before meeting to some friends and heading out to Arkania Juegos for a League Challenge the day before the Special Event, that counted with 27 Masters and saw me doing an unimpressive record of 2-2-1 after 40-minute 5 rounds in which I got a couple of bad matchups and powerful opponents like Fabien Pujol and Mehdi Hafi, including facing 3 Decidueye/Ninetales in a row from the French contingent preparing themselves for the big tourney. I did not let myself get affected by it and sticked to the plan knowing that in a larger pool the outcome would be different as per my specific testing for the event.
Round 1 - Pablo Poole [ES] (Greninja/Talonflame) - WW - 1-0-0
Pablo had just only recently started playing Pokémon - 5 months - but he was actually a really worthy opponent as his Talonflame really gave me a hard time trying to win a matchup which in itself is already really difficult. I was forced to N and use Koko in multiple instances to avoid him setting up more than a few Greninjas but ultimately I had to rely on Garbotoxin to stop further incursions to my bench. I ended up winning due to a late N after he hunted me down for prizes and had to use items to replenish his Greninja lines after a well placed Divide GX and Psychics beating Ninjas worn out by early Flying Flips. The deck's thickness failed to bestow upon him a way out against ability lock and I eventually took the game with Garbodor cleaning up the scraps. I sensed some inexperience on Pablo's behalf in the way he approached the matchup but I felt he had potential and reminded me of me when I started playing so I told him he will be a good player in the future -- and my scouting proved correct since he effectively made Top 32 in his first big tournament because of his resistance in which I greatly helped. I was really happy for him.
Round 2 - Elena Gómez Fidalgo [ES] (Espeon/Garbodor) - WLT - 1-0-1
I played Elena once before in the Portuguese/Spanish Nationals exactly one year ago and at the time I defeated her with a double Latios donk on her Froakies, after which she decided never to touch Greninja again. Such decision provided her with good karma since she actually placed really well (10th place overall) in the event. Elena actually didn't start her game in the best way as she made some misplays allied to some poor drawing and my good luck in coin flipping and I took game 1 with some ease; her resilience went way up in game 2 as she gained advantage in the prize race and I was forced to discard items to keep up enabling her enough momentum to deal with whatever threat I presented her. As game 2 dragged on and I tried a defensive stance to preserve my result, I wasn't able to avoid the draw deceptive to us both but greeted her nevertheless on a well-fought match.
Round 3 - Julien Dallé [FR] (Espeon/Garbodor) - W - 2-0-1
Julien was also playing Espeon/Garbodor and was bent on taking a good result but I learned from my mistakes against Elena and approached the matchup more decisively - Flying Flip towards Trubbishes followed by Divide GX for 50+50 proved to be an amazing strategy and granted me enough of a head start to overcome Game 1. This time, however, I was able to control the timer since Julien played really slowly and didn't account for the minute factor playing against him, eventually timing out with still 3 prizes left to take on the board and myself being conservative enough from 10 minutes downwards enough not to be surprised by a draw once more after a well placed N to 1 in the final round after time.
Round 4 - Fabien Pujol [FR] (Decidueye/Ninetales) - WW - 3-0-1
I drew against Fabien in the LC the day before but only because the rounds were 40 minutes so I was determined to take the 3 points home this time around. The deck didn't fail me while his list (I think the same 60 cards as Mehdi Hafi) took some to lift off and I aided in that longing by N'ing away his Beaconed lines. Eventually I was able to get rid of his single Alolan Ninetales and instating Garbotoxin and slow him enough by Dividing GX a Dartrix only allowing him to have 1-2 Decidueye at most. As soon as he needed to have draw power to keep up with my pressure, Trashalanche Lysandre'd some targets to finish off Game 1. Game 2 had Flareon as the MVP, as I eventually OHKO'd all Decidueyes by going after them with Lysandre and I didn't allow him the opportunity for a Ninetales setup for him to get rid of the Firefox (Ha!).
Round 5 - Simon Jouanolou [FR] (Metagross) - LWT - 3-0-2
I was impressed by Simon as he proved to be a really good and intelligent player and I paid my dividends towards my ingenuity by conceding Game 1 with ease as he setup Metagrosses like breezes and had a counter to all my initiatives, whether them be Flareon or Garbotoxin. Starting first in Game 2, I executed the same strategy as I did with Fabien and Flying Flip his Beldums while N'ing his beacons gave me enough time to set up KO's on benched Metangs with Divide GX and having me in a much better position to trade KO's having full rely on Flareon without a target on its head since he had to focus efforts in evolving Beldum lines just to lose them away to overpowered Fire-alanches. I was really sad that in Game 3, time was short enough not to predict he had a horrid starting hand and I had it all to win the match but he always succeeded in having an out - Rare Candy to a single Metagross in field, followed by Max Potion next turn, followed by a top deck Sycamore that gave him the draw he needed. Ultimately I didn't mind because the following pairings were favourable to me and we both achieved Top 8 after that. Simon, actually, ended up in Top 4 losing to the eventual winner.
Round 6 - Bernardo Dias [PT] (Zoroark/Drampa) - WW - 4-0-2
I was depressed when I saw the parings because Bernardo is kinda my executioner and succeeded in throwing me off several top placements as has happened multiple times this season. I did test this particular matchup with him the day before as we were in the same flat and I was surprised at how balanced it actually his provided Zoroark isn't the most consistent deck when compared to Espeon/Garb. Lack of Field Blowers on his part meant he had no way to stop Garbotoxin and no access to Stand In so I could Psybeam way more effeciently on his Drampas. On top of it, the Koko/Divide GX strategy once again bore fruits while his hands were dying dry for Game 1. In Game 2, however, he managed to get a much more firm setup and we exchanged prizes frontally, eventually coming down to a 2 vs 1 prize scenario where he N'd me to 2+1 and I needed to draw the Lysandre for a Lele to win-or-lose, which I did since I thinned out the deck enough beforehand to gain more likelihood -- nevertheless a really lucky endeavour that grabbed me the win rather than another sour draw.
Round 7 - Francisco Javier [MX] (Zoroark/Drampa) - WLW - 5-0-2
Francisco is in Spain as an exchange student and reminded me of my Erasmus days in the Czech Republic so I was quite sympathetic to him but this match meant my future in the competition and I had to focus veemently to gain advantage. As a result, I didn't write as many notes as I should that would have recorded data to put in my report, but I remember that he drew absolutely dead in Game 1 and scooped withim minutes, returned strongly in Game 2 and was worn down by late game N's in the 3rd duel that didn't allow him to recover Zoroark lines and pushed me further to win it all. He was very conservative in his item play and held everything to avoid fueling Trashalanche but attempts to do so were foiled by N after Big Wheel GX, Divide GX upon weakened Zoruas after Koko Promo insurgencies and Psybeams onto un-Stand-able-In actives with Garbotoxin. I played really well in Game 3 and took the game fairly against a strong and worthy player to secure a Top position for CP/prizes.
Round 8 - Luca Clavadetscher [CH] (Greninja) - LWT - 5-0-3
Luca didn't know me but I knew him well from being the Swiss National Champion in 2016. His reputation was well earned as his play style was superior to most of my previous opponents and the way he handled with Greninja reminded me of the times I lost against Filipe Cardoso, João Lopes, and Gonçalo Ferreira's Greninja decks, all of them Day 2+ Worlds Level Portuguese players and all of them huge lessons to be learned. We were sad to be forced to play for a win-and-in - so we thought at the time because 18 points didn't guarantee Top 8 - and we headed out for confrontation as Luca gained huge advantage with the inclusion of Skyla which enabled him immediate access to useful items such as Max Potion and Field Blower without investing too much in it. In Game 1 he actually ran me over with a succession of Shuriken barrages after stripping me out of Float Stones on Garbotoxin and I didn't have the tempo to follow the prize exchange as he never invested too much in items; rather than using ball searches, he just N'd away what he needed to renew his lines. In Game 2, with half the time through, I opted for a different strategy in one of my probable best plays I've ever had in the entire game to overcome such a difficult matchup for me. Having started first, I aggro'ed the Froakies and Frogadiers as my Koko went untouched and I could spread 40 damage to each frog without Rough Seas interference. Setting up 3 benched Frogadiers was actually fatal as he only evolved 2 Greninja and left other 2 Frogadier and a Froakie in reach for Divide-GX which happened at 30+30+20 plus leftover damage on active Greninja for 3 prizes and a huge obstacle for Luca to overcome as he expected I eliminated immediate active threaths but instead I went to strike out to reserve frogs and leaving him with few offensive choices, allied to Garbotoxin to shut off Starmie and there wasn't much he could do thereafter on, dragging the game to a win for me just seconds away from time being called and having to settle for a draw that saddened us both. I recognized his mastery in play though and was happy I was given such an opportunity to prove myself against such a good player, and reward came when we both were confirmed for Top 8 and hugged each other in joy. He then went to win the event with some good matchups throughout Top Cut the next morning.
Top 8 - Eduard Luque [ES] (Zoroark/Drampa) - WLL
I was extremely confident for this matchup having beaten 2 Zoroarks earlier on, but I was warned that Eduard, a Catalan that actually lived in Lisboa for 6 years and knew a fair level of Portuguese, played spicy techs such as Captivating Poké Puff and Field Blower as well as his own Tapu Koko Promo. I was ever more certain of victory after Game 1 went so bad for him he scooped after 3 turns and me Flying Flipping his Zoruas away to certain death upon dead draw. It didn't last long, however, as Eduard proved to be a resourceful and skilled player and managed to knock me out in the two remaining games by getting ahead in the Prize trade and preventing me to take KO's. In Game 3 especially, he caught me red-handed by forcing me to attach a Choice Band to my Garbotoxin to stop those pesky Stand In's and Psybeam with effectiveness towards his Drampas and Leles but to my despair he Lysandre stalled it rather than forwarding his own field in an attempt to make me misplay which eventually happened. I couldn't afford to lose time so I Field Blower'd my Band away and played my only supporter N for 4 in hopes of getting one of my remaining 2 Floats which didn't happen and he had an opened paveway to strike out for victory and eventually eliminated all my Trashalanches and all outs I had. I finally admitted my first defeat in the tournament, and a harsh one after I had the win so close, but was happy for Eduard as he was visibly exhausted for the monumental match he made in this Top 8 and went on for a deserved finals losing against Luca.
It was the end of this event for me, but I'd rather see it as a beginning of something wonderful: for myself as a Pokémon TCG player, now that I've finally had my international breakthrough and can start building a name for myself; for the Portuguese players present (7 out of 11 managed Top 32+!!!) that amassed to a huge amount of success in the event and once again proved that Portugal is arguably the country with more high-level players per capita; and for my team, For The Win eSports, now renewed with new and welcomed additions of Diogo Santos and Gonçalo Ferreira, who also faired really well at the event (Gonçalo was 11th overall and won the League Cup in the following day while Diogo Top 8'd that same event) and inaugured a pleasant beginning for us to be continued in Liverpool Regionals for me and Diogo and in Day 2 of Worlds for Gonçalo so stay tuned!
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