Experts' corner

John Kettler

Metagame Matchups: A Method of Approaching the Worlds Metagame

John discusses his approach to Worlds 2017 preparation, and gives opinions on 15 major decks!

12. 08. 2017 by John Kettler

Hey, everyone! For those who don’t know of or remember me, my name is John Kettler. I’m a long-time competitive player of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and previous author over here at 60cards. More importantly, I’m returning today to talk with you guys about a very special subject:

Tournament Preparation!

Today we’ll be talking solely about matchups: conceptualizing matchups, which decks to consider, and of course what might be favored going into arguably the most important tournament of 2017. I’ll mostly be doing this through a visual tool – a metagame matchup chart, to be specific. While this is certainly a Worlds-centric piece, I’m going to write it and discuss it in a way that should be useful to anyone preparing for any major event, including the upcoming Regional Championships. So even if you’re not going to Worlds, the rules and concepts I display here should be readily applicable to you.

The Great Metagame Matchup Chart

One thing I’ve often found myself doing from time to time is taking the whole known metagame, and then breaking down all of the decks’ matchups against one-another. Doing this has revealed some pretty good deck choices to me in the past, as well as identified several impressive dark horse picks for major events among the known field. Finally, breaking down decks into pure theory lets us easily identify what we need to beat in order for our rogue creations to do well. It’s this sort of process that blocks out the noise of other people telling you what’s good, and is a very internal exercise in which you’re really forced to think about all angles of a format.

On Making a Matchup Chart

My starting point for any matchup chart, including this one, is trying to list all of the decks that had some success in recent history. Additionally, if a new set has just come out, I try using whatever combination of theory and/or practical game experience to include projected archetypes into the mix. Finally, I place each deck name in an Excel file twice: once on a vertical line, and one on a Horizontal line.

From there, I’m ready to start picking winners and losers! Based only on normalized lists and no crazy techs that can tilt matchups radically, I assign each matchup one of three outcome predictions: favorable, unfavorable, or even. While most competitive players including myself usually forecast matchups by percentages (e.g., Garbodor is a 60%/40% favorite over Decidueye), a chart like this is only supposed to guide you to overall favorable plays – it’s not supposed to bog you down with millions of unreadable percentages. If percentages are how you understand the game, then let’s define those three categories:

Favorable = Any matchup percentage above 55%
Unfavorable = Any matchup percentage below 45%
Even = Any matchup percentage between 45%-55%

Understand the limitations and advantages of approaching a personal shorthand like this, especially for decks with lots of “even” matchups. Vespiquen, for example, may have a ton of even matchups, but your real-world experience and testing may show that those even matchups all trend positive, making it a great choice. Or they could all just trend negative and make the deck a horrible choice. At any rate, remember that this is only a preliminary tool, and because of that there are inherently some limitations to it.

To the far-right you’ll notice I’ve designated a final score for each deck. I arrived at those scores by awarding two points for every favorable matchup, zero points for every loss, and one point for every even matchup. Although actual tournaments award three points a win and one per tie, giving relative value to even matchups by bringing down the significance of favorable matchups lets us more closely find a deck’s actual metagame strength. For instance, if a deck has solely even matchups, that by no means suggests that a player will actually tie most of their games; in fact, the deck could be very speedy and never go to time! The “ties” or even points simply show that the matchup is not as strong as it could be.

You’ll also notice I didn’t give any extra weight for decks with positive matchups against popular decks. That’s in part because charts like these are used best as starting points, but it’s also because we’re not at a good point yet to predict what matchups should be given more emphasis for the Worlds format. These are where your metagaming skills become important, because obviously some of these favorable matchups are more significant than others. You’ll find that for some of my recommendations I go outside the limitations of the chart, suggesting more limited splits such as a five-deck or even two-deck Worlds.

Additional Considerations

Finally, here are some more thoughts about reading this chart before we discuss the actual matchups that define the 2017 World Championships:

- For matchups you don’t know but think should be pretty winnable for either side, call them “even” – at least in the beginning. That’s because we want to keep these decks in play for consideration, but not give them special preference.

- Prepare to discover lots of personal bias. That isn’t necessary a bad thing, but it’s important to understand your preferences so you can adjust accordingly.

- It’s okay to eliminate some decks from your initial chart. My original chart had more decks, but after identifying some decks as so awful or irrelevant, they had no place.

- I don’t include variants of the same deck (e.g. Garbodor, Decidueye) because those are ultimately metagame calls. So even if different versions will play out differently, and even if my predictions are made with particular versions in mind, it’s easier to stick to one card as your overall guidepost for a matchup. Decks which are significantly impacted by this approach are Garbodor (Drampa vs. Espeon vs. something else), Decidueye (Vileplume vs. Ninetales vs. Golisopod), and Golisopod (Zoroark vs. Eeveelutions vs. something else).

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