Portuguese/Spanish Nationals Full Report
This year's Nationals in Portugal were the all-time biggest and the Spanish were there to toughen up competition - this article will tell you all about what happened there in a descriptive, full-length manner. Enjoy!
06/27/2016 by Paulo Mimoso
This past 18th June was the advent of the biggest Nationals Portugal has ever held, in account of the new rule that took place allowing our Spanish brothers to also take part. Not that it wasn’t completely off-putting for them to register to past events anyway, but this time the denomination was also directed at them. Expectations were really high then, and the chance that this was probably the last Nationals ever to be held in our ground only increased significance for this particular event. Much was at stake: many of our top-notch players needed to secure at least Top 8 position to earn Championship Points that would allow them to gain their Worlds invite; Filipe Cardoso was the single person eligible for the tournament that still had a shot for Top 22 but, sitting at 540 CP, had to make his way to winning the whole thing (and he actually did it, the absolute madman!!); and the Spanish wanted to make sure that their presence were noted and were dedicated to a good showing in their first Nationals, jointly organized by our country’s Organized Play and, therefore, still occurring in Portugal’s capital city Lisbon.
Many of the players prepared accordingly and spent full days playtesting and trying to either predict the meta or themselves choosing something that would break it or guarantee results. My playtest group, in particular, had expanded from my regular hometown League companions to a more organized, dedicated group put together under the banner of For The Win eSports Club, an organization who took the bet to invest in the Portuguese TCG scene in order for us to gain visibility through many other accounts in an attempt to try to evolve the game within Portugal. This new team already had an original member, the defending National Portuguese Champion David Ferreira who has been achieving amazing results due to his insane regularity in obtaining Top Cuts in practically every single event he enters. The organization eventually recruited me to manage the TCG section whose position was vacant and from there, 4 others players followed: my good friend João Dionísio, who I consider to be an incredible talent in the game but still with plenty of margin to evolve and step up their play level; Oscar Batalha, one of the most influential players within the Portuguese community and incredibly effective; Telmo Pinto, in my opinion the 4th best national player at the moment (after mighty Igor Costa, Filipe Cardoso and Gonçalo Ferreira) with a really exponential skill level and host of YouTube channel PokeDecks and also the Theorymon podcast, shared with the remaining member of the team João Lopes, probably the most experienced of the lot and with a huge reputation of being an excellent deck builder. Formed just few weeks earlier, the group has since then discussed many of the format’s aspects as well as Nationals’ results as soon as they were being played but eventually stuck out to initial planning – at least most of us – to play decks we were most comfortable with. David and Dionísio went on to play Waterbox, a divine inspiration drawn from Marc Lutz’s shocker list that allowed Chrisowalantis Amanatidis to win German Nationals; Telmo and Oscar played the then-new Metal Genesect/Bronzong that met his zenith in Simone Zucchelli’s finalist endeavour in Italian Nationals; Lopes piloted the most perfect Greninja list I’ve ever seen all the way to Top 4; and as for me, I chose my signature deck that made me win the entirety of my CP throughout the season and therefore trusted in it for one last standing in the biggest event of the year in lusitan ground: Seismitoad/Giratina.
The team in its full glory during the big day.
Sometimes I joke with myself telling people I’m the best Toad/Tina player in Portugal mainly because it was the only deck I could ever play with and nobody else actually did here, but it was, indeed, my safe choice due to the experience I had playing with it ever since my Expanded ventures in Central Europe, when I achieved Top 4 in Hannover Regionals with a slightly modified TheTuffPuff list (which I consider still to this point the most godlike deck I ever played – reminder that I only play since Primal Clash) and several top finishes in smaller events up to a Top 2 finish in Sines Regionals back in Portugal with a Standard list that when I look back now seemed pretty subpar. That list already included Latios-EX as an idea originated by João Dionísio and I firmly believe it was pioneer when it first entered that tourney (although another guy who I eventually faced and won had the same idea – Spanish player Javier de Blas built the deck in a similar fashion but much more bent on energy disruption and eventually paid the price against me under item lock which led him to dead draw) and the addition of a single 1-1 Garbodor line to help hard matchups inherent to Toad/Tina such as Greninja.
252 points was my tally before Nationals and a Top 16 finish was all I needed to gain my Worlds invite in my full first season playing the game. At this particular point, my Portuguese counterparts still didn’t view me as a frontal threat to their intentions in obtaining Top 8 to which I considered an advantage since they wouldn’t be preparing themselves for a duel against my deck which, although relatively badly positioned within the metagame, had outs to all matchups within the considered major decks. My weakness was, indeed, random decks that eventually showed up – and those actually cost me an eventual Top 8 finish. But I’ll get to those in time.
I drew some inspiration in my current Toad/Tina list after the brilliant performances put out by Fabien Pujol and Robin Schulz in their respective Nats and asked the German powerhouse for advice on my list which eventually helped define my final choice. Other important contributes were given by another German friend of mine, Nico Sutter, who had an impressive evolution curve in the second half of the season and also my mates at the local League during our playtests that showed me where I could improve my consistency and effectiveness. I still had the thought in mind that Toad/Tina had the best items available in Standard and the combination of Super Scoop Up and Crushing Hammer is just too overwhelming for many decks to deal with. The final list eventually turned out this way:
- 2x Seismitoad EX
- 2x Giratina EX
- 3x Shaymin EX
- 1x Hoopa EX
- 1x Latios EX
- 1x Trubbish
- 1x Garbodor
- 4x Professor Sycamore
- 2x N-supporter League Promo
- 2x Lysandre
- 1x Skyla
- 1x AZ
- 1x Xerosic
- 1x Team Flare Grunt
- 1x Hex Maniac
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x VS Seeker
- 4x Trainer's Mail
- 4x Super Scoop Up
- 3x Crushing Hammer
- 2x Fighting Fury Belt
- 2x Muscle Band League Promo
- 2x Float Stone
- 1x Escape Rope
- 2x Team Aqua's Secret Base
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
- 4x Double Dragon Energy
I had a defined plan for every single big matchup:
- Against Greninja, the deck I expected the most throughout the tournament, Latios was my biggest weapon: even when I failed an eventual Fast Raid donk against a highly likely lone Froakie or Jirachi, the goal was to power him up in 2 turns to set up a Muscle Banded Light Pulse hitting for 130 and OHKO Stage 2 Greninjas while having Garb on bench to prevent Shuriken shenanigans. If anything else failed, there was always last resort put in by cycling Giratinas through Super Scoop Up and forcing them to waste resources upon Stadium lock and taking them out of heals and free retreats with Team Aqua Secret Base which is extremely difficult but doable.
- Trevenant was another big deck that I expected and although I didn’t run Rough Seas, strategy was set in setting up Giratinas as soon as possible with Fighting Fury Belt and hit for 110 while enabling them out of Dimension Valley, Float Stone, Bursting Balloons and Mystery Energy. Giratina is, in fact, pretty fatal against this deck but also highly vulnerable to energy denial, fact that recommends caution. If they get the T1 Wally though, things get much harder and only a good start with draw supporters and/or energies available can get you up to speed to their pressure; avoiding placing down Shaymin stupidly also helped a bit.
- Waterbox was definitely one of the major contenders and even though this matchup was really bad on paper for me, my playtesting suggested otherwise; I almost always had the upper hand due to the deck’s major consistency engine that allowed, moore often than not, a more effective field control over my opponent who relies on items to gain momentum. A banded Giratina paired with a Garbodor really wrecks their intentions as placed Aegislashes, Shaymin, Regices, Articunos and Manaphy are all at reach for Chaos Wheel that enables them out of Rough Seas and Belts and has a much higher damage output against a deck with very limited energy denial which forces them ultimately to break Toad’s lock with either Grenade Hammer or by powering up a Regice.
- Good ol’ Night March was still present and always a dark horse in Portugal; a deck that never fully lived up to its potential and results achieved everywhere else because of the pure hate there is here against it, but everyone still counted on it and prepared accordingly. Not an issue for me: Toad/Tina enjoys a near auto-win feature against Night March and both Quaking Punch and Chaos Wheel are brutal against a deck that desperately needs its items to keep their pace – or its energies, and it’s really hard for Night March to break either lock which forces them to waste many of their resources with not much more than minimum repercussion for the Toad/Tina player to effort themselves out of the tantrums they eventually put, unless draws are really, really bad which is, nevertheless, really rare in a deck with such draw solutions.
- Metal was the new rising star among its meta pals and this was indeed one of my worst matchups within the highest regarded deck groups. There’s not much I could do about it as soon as my Garbodor goes down, and powering up a Genesect is really easy and with huge flexibility. Aegislash, Bronzong and Genesect together all provided special effectiveness against my arguments but it was too late for me to change my deck intentions since Metal showed up catching me unaware and unprepared for it, but I never got to face it during Swiss rounds anyway. Early Quaking Punches and hopes for bad draw were my only opposition rather than the trash can, but I really hate relying in luck to win matches (ironic, since half my deck is flip-based heh).
The day had come and that little bit of nervousness I felt a year before shivered its way into me once again, watching the hotel where the venue was located starting to get crowded with pretenders for the new title of Iberian Champion; the Spanish contingency proved itself to be really resilient, consisting in about half of the total players present for the event. A major reason to be proud for them and indeed an excellent indicator of the promising future they hold for the Organized Play in Spain as the next season slowly appears in the horizon. Everyone signed up and made the final preparations, I drank my Monster energy drink and ate a cereal bar - a usual ceremony I always do since my first Top Cut in that memorable Hannover Regionals where I snatched one from Steffen Eriksen’s group due to almost falling asleep and repeated it ever since as an omen for good luck – and sat at my table upon call from the Tournament Organizers: there were 85 Masters present, the highest number ever in a Portuguese Nationals, highly aided by Spanish presence. Competition looked tougher than ever and there would be no breaks; I had to focus to at least achieve my Top 16 goal and make it to Worlds after the opportunity had slipped from my hands in so many separate occasions before. Thus, it was time to play.
Everything set up and ready to go.
Round 1: Tiago Teodoro (Greninja) LW – 0-0-1
Things have started rough for me since I lost the initial flip and couldn’t quite make it over to avoid Greninja pressure from Tiago’s part. Tiago is a really experienced player who has participated in Worlds campaigns before, and having to face him in the first round kind of hit me in the gut as I was hoping for an easier opponent for me to lift off and avoid random matchups, but this duel was a well fought one. I eventually had no speed to outpace him and as soon as he put all of his three Greninja BREAK on field I thought this was game over but managed to stay alive as much as I could, relying on the donk in game 2 and holding off as much as I could to at least aspire for a tie, seen that his list was really well built and would provide no chance to play with him frontally if I ever intended to. And it really happened. Game 2 I pulled out the donk with relative ease a bit to his surprise and managed to pull off Game 3 with few remaining minutes in order to guarantee a tie that was really close to become a loss. I was sad nevertheless because starting the event with a draw was a blow to my aspirations.
Round 2: Nídia Quintela (Manectric/Pyroar) LW – 0-0-2
I played Nídia for several times before and she is the girlfriend of renowned Portuguese player Bernardo ‘Soul’ Dias. In all of those occasions, she played with her signature Fairybox deck and I was actually terrified to see myself paired against her since Fairy is a hard counter against Seismitoad/Giratina since it can cripple off Toad due to sheer damage and OHKO Giratina with ease. My intuition tricked me though, and she revealed a…Manectric deck? That was unexpected but still worrying. Especially because I had the worst start ever with just an active Shaymin and absolutely nothing to dive my way through my horrible hand for two turns to which she had the easiest win of her life by just manually attaching two energies to her Manectric and Assault Lasering me to oblivion. Truly anti-climatic. In the 2nd game I put out all my Toad/Tina arsenal into battle and dominate the whole game snatching off Shaymin prizes and preventing any Manectric shenanigans by strategically not attaching any tools and waiting them to evolve to fully develop Giratina’s immunity. It would be the same in Game 3 after snatching the win but her Pyroar turned out to be the Phantom Forces one!!! This was crucial and brutally unexpected as she started winning the prize war and even Hex’d my Giratina to death and left me in a really bad game state but could manage it off to hard earned draw which was yet another drawback but still really close to being another loss.
Round 3: Elena Gómez Fidalgo (Greninja) WLW – 1-0-2
It was truly funny that Elena was going to be the single Spanish player I’d face for the whole event though the venue was filled with ‘nuestros hermanos’ and yet another Greninja unveils to me as I lost another initial coin flip and start blaming my darned luck. It all changed in a sudden as she had incredible bad draw and no way getting out of it so I could set a Giratina and knocking out Froakies at ease after seeing at least 9 cards in her hand and still no way to make it through. Tough luck on her part but a huge relief on my side since it meant a huge advantage for me. Game 2 was less unorthodox and she had a really big lead over me and prevented me from applying any sorts of tactic since it was my turn of having bad draw after an equally poor start. Game 3 was where really my deck ought to shine against this matchup: even after a less-than-optimal Hoopa start, I manage to place a Shaymin and SSU the active Hoopz into searching a Latios and other Shaymin, enabling me to draw into Muscle Band, Float Stone, and finally a Double Dragon Energy without even using the supporter. She was devastated after that – the loss meant the end of her aspirations and losing like that must be a hard blow. I almost felt ashamed of that donk. But competition does work that way and I had to make it through to make it to my goals.
Round 4: Paulo Silva (Vespiquen/Zoroark) WW – 2-0-2
Paulo is one of the most easily recognized faces within the Portuguese community due to his astonishing Top 4 finish in 2014 Worlds in Washington D.C. and one of the players I feared the most being paired with: besides this being a Nationals and Paulo needed at least Top 8 to receive his Worlds invite as well, he was also carrying the Vespiquen/Zoroark he devastated me with at Sines Regionals and later achieved Top 4 in Lisbon Regionals so these were all decisive factors in intimidation as I recognized his top-level ability and the match meant one of us would be eliminated from Top 8. I played my game well though and took advantage of Giratina’s Chaos Wheel to hold back his DCE’s until he took out his big gun Zoroark BREAK which was his biggest counter against me; ultimately it didn’t work because I did a smart move in late game, after all his resources were down, to put a Garbodor in front of him to deny him the Chaos Wheel and for me to gain the upper hand in the following turn with a well-placed Lysandre for the final two prizes in a benched Shaymin. Game 2 was truly dreadful for Paulo as he drew into an opening hand of one Zorua, one Zoroark, three DCE, a VS Seeker and a Sycamore. Poor guy had no choice but to discard everything to avoid himself from getting killed next turn and put himself in a serious handicapped position where I just had to control his dark energies and let him deck out to win the game, which eventually happened while Quaking Punching him to avoid any kind of undesired outcome. Truly evil and it was the end for him in these Nationals and with it, his wish to be in these year’s Worlds.
Me and Paulo are consistently the coolest kids in the block tho.
Round 5: António Sá (Jolteon/Glaceon/Regice) LL – 2-1-2
António is a new player on the scene – started playing in November – and I was impressed at seeing him with such a positive record at this stage of the event since he was still very inexperienced when I faced him just this month before in Porto for a small tournament. But he was there and with the straight goal of hitting Top 4 to accompany his younger brother all the way to Worlds – for that, he had to beat me first. And he did, with the likes I’ve never experienced before. I couldn’t even smell anything resembling a win; all he did was placing lone Jolteons, charge them, let the active die or retrieving him and start Flash Ray’ing me down to smithereens. Since my deck has no evolutions and no heavy hitters, Jolteon and Regice together were actually heavy counters. In Game 2 I had the upper hand with Giratina and tried to cut off energy supply out of Jolteon until he put in a Regice and started feeding him with Elixirs. Team Aqua Base was placed and Jolteon was active with no energies, and I had a Lysandre to snatch Regice off but no Muscle Band on Giratina and no way to search it without wasting the Supporter and Escape Rope was depleted. I relied on the Stadium lock and energy placement obligation until he revealed… Super Scoop Ups. My very own poison used against me. Two of them were enough to blast me off and the lone Regice finished me off as my Team Flare Grunt was prized. Good game. I was gutted that my Top 8 dream had ended there, in such a way that I couldn’t do a thing about it, but was pleased to see António growing that much and eventually making it to Top 16 in his first Nats; he truly has the potential to become a really good player if he continues to evolve in this manner.
Round 6: Rodrigo Sousa Machado (Night March) WW – 3-1-2
The ever happy PokéManiacs TCG YouTube channel host greeted me in his usual contagious cheerful style, and matches amongst us are always fun – but this time it meant my all-or-nothing for Worlds qualification and I won’t hide I made a huge sign of relief when I saw it was Night March (!!). He himself admitted the match was practically lost from the start and it did happen so as I didn’t have to apply too much effort to control both his hand and the board. Night March has to be my most tested match-up so I knew exactly what to do against it in order to avoid any surprises and so the duel went calmly and steadily in my favour to guarantee myself the win still at an early stage of Round 6, leaving me with more space to think about my last, decisive round.
Round 7: Bernardo Mocho (Quad Zoroark) W – 4-1-2
After minutes of being extremely nervous for thinking this one final match meant the outcome of the whole season and Luca Schuhstar sending me Shia LaBeouf GIFs with his kind intent of supporting me, it all had come down to this. Bernardo is a brilliant player that had already secured his invite but had a lackluster performance in Nationals and so the match meant nothing to him – during Lisbon Regionals in April, he said he’d scoop for me in Nats if I needed so but I never thought he’d go through with it let alone the occasion actually taking place in real life. I never expected it though and seated at my table and preparing my deck, fully focused and awaiting for his arrival. He never did and, after ten minutes, I was declared the winner of that match, a bit inglorious for me since I wanted to win the invite as a result of my own effort but happy nevertheless for making it through as players from both sides congratulated me while sweat was dropping from my eyes. When I exited into the lobby, he was there sitting on a couch, and he said to me he went to his car and got back so late it wasn’t worth it. I thanked him for the gesture but wasn’t conformed and promised myself I’d beat him another time fair and square to make up for it. It marked the end for my regular season after so many amazing experiences both in Central Europe and in Portugal, in the best year of my life so far.
My sweaty Top 16 placement and remainder Top Cut candidates.
The Top 8 eventually was settled like this:
Champion – Filipe Cardoso (Trevenant)
Finalist – Gonçalo Ferreira (Darkrai/Giratina)
Top 4 – João Lopes (Greninja)
Top 4 – Miguel Vicêncio (Mega Manectric)
Top 8 – Alejandro Felices (Mega Sceptile)
Top 8 – David Ferreira (Waterbox)
Top 8 – Gonçalo Pereira (Trevenant)
Top 8 – Oscar Batalha (Metal)
Three members of my team eventually made it out to top cut, and Telmo bubbled in 9th place, in a brilliant performance for all of us that mostly achieved our goals. With Lopes, Pereira and Miguel earning their invites alongside me in this event, a total of 13 Portuguese players qualified for Worlds this year, which is the highest number so far in a single season, demonstrating the brilliant season we all had that is meant to be followed in San Francisco. I was somewhat frustrated by not having reached top tables or engaged in duels with any of the Top 8 players but overall pleased with my sound performance and achieving what I wished the most: a ticket to the place that matters.
The true champions and a wannabe!
Final note: Shout out to my friend Rui Sampaio, who has placed in Top 4 in Norway Nationals using my Toad/Tina decklist and securing himself a trip to Worlds as well! He absolutely stole my title as the best Portuguese piloting the deck haha! Totally well deserved :) See you all in Worlds!
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