Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

2018 NAIC Tournament Report

I Piloted Ultra Necrozma/Malamar In Columbus For The NAIC, Find Out How It Went!

07/17/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello everyone!

It has been awhile since I have been able to bring you one of these: A Tournament Report! :O This past weekend I played in the North American Intercontinental Championships help in Columbus, Ohio. I was disappointed last year being unable to play in the NAIC as I didn't register early enough and the event sold out and I wound up staying home. This time I made sure to avoid that mistake and signed up well ahead of time.

I drove down Thursday with my friends Dan, Mike and Joey and shared a room with my other friends Alex, Jarrett and Lonnie. I was also smart enough, when arranging the room situation, to demand one of the room keys and half the bed ahead of time. I've paid my dues sleeping on floors and in corners, and one time even in the closet of PTO Heidi Craig's hotel room. I've had my share of that to last the rest of my life time. It was nice staying in the Drury since it was attached to the Convention Center. I'd also like to point out how absurd the word "Drury" is. Seeing the sign all weekend didn't really showcase how weird it is, but typing it really brought it to light.

We end up heading to the Convention Center to check in and get our swag bags full of fairly uninteresting merch and our Competitor badges. Next in line was checking out the vendors, Yeti Gaming and Collector's Cache. I didn't find much with Collector's Cache, but I decided I had no real interest in having extra spending money all weekend and picked up a fairly beat up Latias Star from Yeti to start re-building my 2006 LBS deck for a nice crisp 160 dollars. I was hoping to haggle the price down a bit but the guy next to me literally also stated his interest in the card and tried to offer a lower price and I just wanted to secure the sale and paid up. It wasn't in great shape, but it was far from how bad a lot of Deoxys set cards can end up. There was no peeling or notable warping.

The next step was procuring the cards for my deck. I hate last minute scrambles. I actually have a fairly reasonable collection at the moment, but the one deck I own very few cards from is Malamar, as I didn't expect myself to ever want to play it until after rotation. Of course, as I tested more and more, I was quickly coming to the conclusion that I was actually, in fact, very likely to play exactly that.

I originally was a big fan of the straight Psychic Malamar list, but the more I started to test against Zoroark Golisopod, the more I realized that Ultra Necrozma was just so stupidly good against them. Psychic Malamar needs to use Necrozma GX ( or a Mewtwo GX with some aid ) to OHKO either of the deck's 210 HP attackers, and that leaves you super soft to a counter attack from Mew EX. Ultra Necrozma is guaranteed to soak up a hit in the matchup. Beast Ring also does a lot of work. Going into the event, I expected a lot of Zoroark, and I preferred Ultra Necrozma against all the different builds of it.

I originally was pretty much locked in on playing a Buzzwole deck, but the week leading up to the event gave me some truly horrific results while testing on PTCGO. First off, I had close to a 35% win rate with Buzzroc. Secondly, every matchup felt either super close, or saw my opponents all playing a ton of cards just to beat the deck. It felt like I had no good matchups left. I had very close matchups, and then people just going overboard to beat me. As a result of how competitive every game felt, I was struggling to feel confident in my ability to navigate the games. I wasn't liking my performance, and certainly wasn't liking the results. I still liked the deck, but I was clearly not experienced enough with the deck to green light playing it so I was off the deck.

I ruled out Greninja right out of the gate. I didn't like the deck in the first place, and the increase of Zoroark decks ( and Golisopod in particular! ) made the choice seem horrific. I was so confident the deck was bad I was willing to throw it right out the window entirely when evaluating deck choices and card inclusions.

If I was struggling to learn the intracicy of Buzzroc's matchups, I was even less excited about getting the necessary reps in for any of the Zoroark decks. By the time I realized I needed a new deck choice, I simply couldn't learn one of the more difficult to play decks in time.

Malamar was the easiest choice to play. I had played Bronzong and Eelektrik decks, of which the name sake cards are spiritual ancestors of Malamar. I played Blaziken in 2004...which is also basically the same deck, you just have to add a Stage to each of the Pokemon! This was a style of deck I was just naturally very, very attuned to playing. Ignoring that, both builds of the deck are extremely powerful and proactive. The intricate plays for the deck fall more on the opponent of the deck than on the Malamar player themself. I logged about 10 games with the Psychic version of the deck ( I felt it had a lot more space and was less clunky ) and had far better results with it than Buzzroc. A switch to Ultra Necrozma wouldn't make the deck play fundamentally much different.

The last deck I still had on the table ( and one I owned the cards for! ) was Buzzwole Garbodor. I liked the Schemanskes' list for the deck a lot and it had done very well recently. I spent a bit of time talking to people to get the basics down on the deck and played a few games. The deck was also pretty linear, and part of the challenge of the matchups with it fall on the opponent to correctly navigate past the disruption. There was not a lot of deviation in the game plan from my end.

At the end of the day, I managed to obtain the cards for Ultra Necrozma Malamar, and I spent the rest of the night logging some games in. Here is the list I wound up playing:

I looked at a lot of lists from prior tournaments, and played some games with Malamar before settling onto this list. Here are my reasonings for my choices.

4-3 Malamar (FLI; 51) : I'd seen some lists with a 3-3 line, and some with a 4-4 line. The 3-3 lines were basically all in Ultra Necrozma lists, and they were able to justify this due to the presence of Beast Ring to help mitigate the demand on Psychic Recharge some. I really, really liked playing a pair of Rescue Stretcher, though, and with that I found the 4th Malamar unnecessary. Stretcher lets you recover lost Malamar parts, but also lets you really leverage a wider array of attackers.

2 Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 127) : Having just mentioned the important of Rescue Stretcher, one of the best parts about the card is that it lets you trim to 2 Ultra Necrozma. You don't really need a 3rd copy as these are pretty hard to KO for most decks. This card IS your "main" attacker against a lot of decks, though. For 3 Energy it is pretty much KOing anything, and with 190 HP and a weakness to Fairy ( a type that basically sees no play now due to the disappearance of Gardevoir decks. ) it is usually being two hit. Zoroark decks can't hit a OHKO here, meaning it often gets 2 KOs for 4 prizes. Buzzwole can deal with it, but you can kind of play around that by picking your spots correctly. On top of that, Dawn Wings Necrozma and Hoopa are simply better attackers in Buzzwole matches so you don't need to use Necrozma here. It is...interesting in the mirror match, as it isn't particularly "strong" ( the Psychic type Necrozma GX can KO it for PPP, but in turn will die to Hoopa, so it ends up being more of a net zero exchange than advantageous ) but it is an important threat in the matchup. The big selling point of this over the normal Necrozma GX is that it doesn't just get nuked by a Mew EX out of Zoroark, or any other deck with Mew in it.

2 Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63) : Dawn Wing Necrozma is a primary attacker against Buzzwole decks, and is important in the mirror match as well. With 180 HP, a Fighting Resistance and an attack that OHKOs any Buzzwole, it does so much work. It is also an Ultra Beast, and thus can benefit from Beast Ring and Beast Energy. With a Beast Energy and Choice Band, it's first attack can hit 180, and it's GX attack can hit 240! In the mirror match, playing around the GX attack's "wall"ing is actually very crucial, and adds a different dynamic to the match beyond the standard "Take the first prize" game plan with a potential subgame of "hope to keep the opponent off of Malamars". ( A strategy I found fairly unsuccessful due to Beast Rings )

I haven't touched on Dawn Wing's Ability yet, which is even more important than it's options as an attacker ( The card would still be played even if it did not have an Ability at all, for what it is worth. ) Doing it's best Keldeo's "Rush In" impression, this Necrozma benches your active Pokemon to be able to Psychic Recharge to while also being used to re-set Hoopa's attack's restriction. You really want to apply pressure as soon as possible with this deck, so getting it benched with a Psychic Energy on it means you can use your 2nd turn's attachment plus only one Psychic Recharge to power it up to attack without needing an Energy to retreat with or a Float Stone.

The very clear downside to this card is that it is horrifically weak to Zoroark's Riotous Beating. The deck has no trouble providing attackers against the deck ( Ultra Necrozma is an absolute house against them. ) but it does struggle to replace your ability to fluidly move your Pokemon around. It takes a bit of time to learn how to adjust your play to minimize the downside of losing this flexibility.

1 Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60) : This is a big deviation away from stock lists, and a last minute decision and actually one I do regret making. This is a deck that really does not want to leave 2 prize liabilities sitting around in certain matchups, and you'd rather NOT play down a Lele if you do not have to. The deck doesn't run a tremendous amount of Basics, and I wanted to reduce the odds I started with one. One of the biggest mis-evaluations of this deck I find people making is that it is really a Brigette deck. Don't get me wrong...I love playing Brigette on the first turn of the game. It IS great. Yet with 4 Inkay, and 8 "Balls" the deck honestly does not need to play Brigette most games. I actually had the option to search up Lele on the first turn and play a first turn Brigette in a lot of games and opted not to because I didn't want to bench Lele early, and I'd rather see a critical mass of cards early. I not only need a big bench of Pokemon, but hitting Energy drops and getting additional Energy discarded early is too important. Being able to play cards from your opening hand ( whatever Pokemon you can get, plus ideally an attachment ) and then seeing a new 6-7 cards to do this is often better than playing Brigette. You often can't get more than one effective Malamar going on the second turn anyways, so a bench full of them on the first turn does have some diminishing returns. Actually getting enough discarded energy, multiple Malamar, a means to get an attacker active, and hitting both of your attachments is hindered pretty heavily when one of your Supporters is locked in on Brigette.

The one Lele also ends up being a bit more tolerable because of the pair of Rescue Stretcher, too. You do wind up being hit by Parallel City fairly often with this deck, and being able to pitch an early played Lele is ideal. Normally I use Stretcher to put a card back into my hand immediately, but a lot of times, if Lele is in the discard pile, it is correct to shuffle it back into the deck at the first opening. ( Unless you have reason to believe Stretcher will be better served in another role ) Once N starts flying, you'd much rather convert all of your "Balls" into Lele outs than restricting your outs to the actual Stretcher count, which will almost always be lower.

Finally, I actually use Tapu Cure more than I'd like to admit. Against Zoroark decks, they struggle to hit more than 150 damage a lot of times. Ultra Necrozma is always a two hit for them, and sometimes I'd wind up getting some heavy damage on multiple GX Pokemon. Since Tapu Lele's 170 HP is also hard for them to hit, Tapu Cure can heal off your attacker to re-use. The reason this comes up against Zoroark more frequently is because you can't really bench Dawn Wing Necrozma due to it's weakness. As a result, if Necrozma OHKOs an attacker, it will get hit for 120ish damage, and if you don't have a Guzma to use, it will have to retreat since you can't Recharge to it. Promoting Tapu Lele for Tapu Cure gives you your turn to re-power the Necrozma while also making sure it isn't just vulnerable to a Guzma OHKO the next turn. Tapu Lele's HP also means unless they have a Choice Band and can use Golisopod's GX attack ( Or they run Prof. Kukui ) that it won't be KOed. While I didn't play against the decks, a number of strong players brought Decidueye Zoroark or Yveltal spread to the event, and Tapu Cure would certainly have played a big role in either of those matchups.

1 Hoopa (STS; 51) : The deck clearly wants at least one one-prize attacker, and Hoopa got the nod here over Giratina ( Promo ), Mewtwo, and Dawn Wing Necrozma. There are a number of roles you want this attacker to be able to perform, and Hoopa is the best at checking all of the boxes. Clearly all of these options are great at OHKOing Buzzwoles, but there is one criteria that the Buzzroc matchup does force you to meet. They will often try to win the game by "gusting" you off of Malamars while getting ahead on the exchange. They are very equipped to do this. You really, really need to pull off a turn two attacker. You can usually expect one turn 2 Psychic Recharge. The plan is to send up your non-GX attacker early and use it for KOs while they are KOing Malamars. As a result, you need this attacker to meet two conditions. First, it needs a 3 Energy attack, ruling out Giratina despite it's better weakness and an attack with an upside. ( I won't even count it's Ability since even if I feared Greninja, I would need an additional counter card to actually beat Shadowstitching I think. ) Since I'm looking for the card to beat people killing my Malamar, I don't want it to be discarding Energy for it's attack, ruling out the Dawn Wing option. Even if I could expect to be able to narrowly keep it powered, the goal is to advance your board of Energy while losing Malamars, not just breaking even.

Mewtwo is nice in that it's a difficult KO with it's Ability, and it also prevents bench damage, but the damage output is too low. I don't believe anyone actually ran Dawn Wing Necrozma, but I did want to be able to hit the 130 mark to be able to assure I could KO them in the mirror match. This also applied to being able to actually OHKO a Giratina ( Promo ) in the mirror match, as that card can actually be a bit of a pain.

Finally, and it isn't the most relevent, but being able to spread some damage with it's first attack isn't useless. I actually led with the card quite a bit against Zoroark decks just to get some damage on the field to soften up for future OHKOs.

1 Mimikyu (GRI; 58) : Mimikyu was another last minute addition, and previously had been the 3rd Field Blower. I wanted a Clefairy type effect for the mirror match, and having already trimmed a Tapu Lele, I was honestly just out of ideas on what to cut. I feel like Clefairy is the better card overall, but Mimickyu performed most of the same roles while offering a few important strengths that helped to offset the loss of a Field Blower. It's attack Filch is actually a really nice safety net to make sure you do not dead draw while under Garbotoxin. More importantly, it is very strong against Buzzwole GX. Since you can't expect to rely on Psychic Recharge most of the game, Mimikyu having a 2 Energy attack cost is a HUGE upgrade over Clefairy's Metronome. I really didn't want to give up the 3rd Blower or the Clefairy but the Mimikyu was a concession to that in that it fulfilled both cards' functions despite being worse at either role. In hindsight, it may have just been worse than the 2nd Tapu Lele.

8 Psychic Energy-3 Metal Energy-1 Beast Energy: Beast Energy is clearly great, as it is your "Metal" source for Ultra Necrozma and has a built in Choice Band as well. Letting Necrozma hit 210 damage for 3 attachments is absolutely incredible against Zoroark/Golisopod/Lycanroc GXs. Even with the Beast Energy and 2 Prof. Letter, you need 3 Metal Energy to be able to reliably be able to use the Ultra Necrozma. 8 Psychic Energy is the minimum you can get away with, and even with "14" Energy total ( Counting the Prof. Letter, which upon use does thin the deck's ratio of Energy for future draws ) I felt like I wanted a 9th Psychic. These decks are super Energy hungry, and you can't afford to miss an attachment. You also really have incentive to pitch as many extra copies as possible early to Sycamores or your "Balls". Most of the struggles I had with the deck stemmed from not drawing enough Energy. I'd say in hindsight I'd run the 9th Psychic, but I'm not sure how I'd fit it so I think I'd just suck it up and keep it at 8.

4 Professor Sycamore (XY; 122) : Sycamore is the best Supporter in the deck by a large margin. It draws the most cards reliably, but it also is another means to discard Energy cards to enable Psychic Recharge. One of the main reasons I am so excited to play 2 Rescue Stretcher is because due to them I'm not even concerned with having to discard Pokemon anymore, making Sycamore even better.

3 Cynthia (UPR; 119) : While Psychic Recharge gives the deck some on board sustainability, the deck is still not running any Pokemon that give you a source of draw. A lot of lists ran 4 Sycamore, 2 N, 2 Cynthia, but I wanted the 3rd Cynthia just to make sure my end game draws were stronger. I actually value the 3rd Cynthia over the 2nd Lele because it works under Garbotoxin. It also isn't as hindered by Parallel City. Benching Lele is really a big issue for the prize exchanges you try to craft with the deck.

2 N (FCO; 105) : I want 9 good turn 1 Supporters, and at least 2 of them need to be N because it is such a strong late game disruptive play. This deck doesn't usually need it, as you don't usually get to KO Octillery vs Buzzroc and Zoroark decks are pretty resiliant to N, but it is really important in the mirror matches.

3 Guzma (BUS; 115) : I was torn between running 3 and 4 Guzma, but had to settle on 3 due to space. One of te big selling points of a deck like this is that you want to KO their attacker when you can since you naturally have an edge in energy acceleration and raw power. You don't want to pick off utility Pokemon all that often. On the flip side, you do need to bench your own Pokemon, so Guzma as a "switch" actually offers arguably more value to the deck than Guzma as a "gust of wind".

1 Brigette (BKT; 134) : I covered a lot of my feelings on Brigette earlier, but I couldn't bring myself to cut it without the time to test the deck more without it. Having played an entire 9 rounds with the deck, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to replace it with something else.

4 Ultra Ball (DE; 102) -4 Mysterious Treasure (FLI; 113) : These are automatic playsets for me. They are discard outlets and consistency. Playing less than all 8 is a mistake.

2 Rescue Stretcher (GRI; 130) : I've pretty much covered the strength of this card in passing already, but there was a period where I debated the 2nd Stretcher being a Super Rod. Being able to put Metal Energy back into the deck is a selling point, but I felt like I had enough copies that as long as I was paying extra attention to the numbers and being conservative that the Rod would overall be worse than the 2nd Stretcher.

3 Float Stone (PF; 99) : Needed on Dawn Wings Necrozma, and also just to retreat in general. I've considered a 4th copy, as it was often one of the most important cards I needed to try and hit during games.

2 Field Blower (GRI; 125) : This is a deck that hates playing against Parallel City and Garbotoxin both. I was really, really happy with 3 copies, but had to trim at the last minute. I'm not sure 2 is correct. Whichever number is better, it is marginally so.

2 Choice Band (GRI; 121) : Choice Band seems like a silly card to include in a deck with Ultra Necrozma who is capable of a cap-less damage output, but against Zoroark you really want to be able to hit 210 damage for only 3 Energy. If you set up perfectly and everything is rolling, nothing beats this deck. You can run some cards that enhance your game plan for the games where it is struggling or when you are playing from behind. Choice Band is one of the best for those games.

2 Beast Ring (FLI; 102) : Beast Ring is another card similar to Choice Band that is really a "win more" card when you are set up and winning confidently, but is fantastic when you are struggling. I don't think I need to sing the praises of Beast Ring in this day and age, though. 2 is an awkward number, though. You don't want to clog your deck with too many of the card as it has a very time sensative window for use, but you also want to be able to draw them frequently enough to get use of them. I think 2 is the correct balance on that front. It is one of your better cards against Zoroark decks too. That is the matchup where "hunt the Malamars" actually is at it's best, and it is also a matchup where Beast Ring really, really punishes them for it. With Zoroark gaining in popularity, perhaps a 3rd copy is worth it.

Anyways, onto the actual tournament! I woke up at 6 am to deal with the giant line of people in my room waiting for a shower. I finally get out of the shower at 7ish, and grab some "nice" hotel breakfast. Despite the huge turnout ( 1500ish in TCG Masters alone! ) the whole event ran really smoothly. With how unhappy I am with how Regionals often play out, seeing these huge events run well is always nice. Unfortunately with "only" 1500ish Masters, we fell short of a nice CP/prize payout boost. I had a lot of friends who needed to pick up just the lowest bracket of CP from this event to get their invite, and finding out they were less than 100 players away on attendance was quite the dagger to them. This event was split into an Orange and a Blue flight, with myself in the Blue Flight.

Round 1 vs Wade Barbera ( Rainbow Road )

I get paired against Wade, who I recognized but do not believe I had ever really spoken with before. I want to give Wade a big shout out for being an extremely fun opponent to play against, especially considering he had some extremely atrocious luck in both of our games. Wade was on Rainbow Road, a matchup that should be absolutely horrific for me. I do not run enough non-EX attackers and with the release of Diantha, it is really difficult for them to not be able to chain Xerneas against me.

Unfortunately, he draws really poorly both games, falling far enough behind that even with favorable exchanges he couldn't keep up once he finally got going. On top of this, he whiffed multiple Max Elixir and couldn't draw into DCEs. Wade also ran a really interesting combo in his deck. In order to help with type diversity for damage, he ran the Grass/Lightning hybrid typed Galvantula. Paired with a Mew EX, he could copy Galvantula's 30/30 split attack...which specifically DOES apply Weakness even to Benched Pokemon. That allows him to KO two Inkay at once!

The games were not good. I was really fortunate to actually sneak past this deck. None the less, Wade was really enjoyable to play against the whole time. I actually was fortunate to have really good opponents all day long. I'm not saying that no one got frustrated by the game, but it is pretty important to realize that this is a game involving a lot of luck and some pretty reasonable stakes. People can be upset or disappointed, and I think it is important to give some leeway to players. None of my opponents came close to crossing any lines

W 2-0 ( 1-0 Overall )

Round 2 vs Jeremy Castro ( Buzzroc )

Jeremy was on Buzzroc. This was the matchup I tested the most headed into the tournament so I felt pretty good about it. For the second round in a row, I lost the opening flip. The first game ends up being really competitive for the majority of it, but once he gets lower on prizes and can't use Beast Ring anymore, I'm able to keep him off of Energy. One of the key things to do in the match is play around Dangerous Rogue GX, which is honestly not that hard since they usually are preening your bench of Malamar towards that end anyways.

The second game was a bit more anemic as he wasn't able to get out Octillery, and never drew a Brooklet until later into the game. I got one of the rare games where I was able to take the first prize and jump ahead, and that is almost impossible for Buzzroc to actually come back from.

W 2-0 ( 2-0 Overall )

Round 3 vs Emmet Hurley ( Zoroark Golisopod )

Alright, the next three rounds admittedly blur in my mind a bit, and if I flipped one or two of the matches/rounds, I am honestly sorry. I am MODERATELY CONFIDENT that Emmet was my Zoroark Golisopod opponent. I lose the opening coin flip ( again ), but have a pretty good start in the first game. I set up pretty well and am able to leverage a pair of Ultra Necrozma to take 3 GX KOs for the win.

The second game is really close as I start out in a good position, but he is able to use Counter Catcher to pressure Malamar while using N to enable a comeback victory. I actually took the first KO on a Zorua, which was simply a mistake. That odd prize doesn't factor into the exchange, and just gives them Counter Catcher equity while making N more lopsided for them. It is better to approach the game slower if you set up well. When under pressure you have to keep up, but there is minimal incentive to force the issue as progressing the board on even footing favors you. The third game I get to finally be on the play and I set up well, and slow down just a bit to avoid overextending into potential N disasters.

W 2-1 ( 3-0 Overall )

Round 4 vs Tristen Roundtree ( Malamar )

I'll be honest, I was pretty thrilled to be able to start off 3-0 in this tournament. The week headed into the event I was really struggling to find something to play, so to convert that into a good start is not something I took for granted. Tristen was ( I HOPE ) on straight psychic Malamar. I lose the flip again, but his start was not the best. I'm able to take the first prize, and start hunting his Malamars. He gets to use his Dawn Wing's GX attack, but I Guzma around it and take care of it later with an Ultra Necrozma. I found out later that he did in fact run Clefairy, but was unable to leverage it this game at all.

The second game he also stumbles a little bit, missing his Energy. Again I'm able to jump ahead a bit, and despite having to play around Dawn Wing's GX again, I'm able to close it out to start 4-0. I hadn't tested the mirror match that much, but I certainly felt like I was at a slight disadvantage. Mimikyu wasn't bad, but it was worse than Clefairy for the matchup. I didn't run anything like Parallel City to try to gain an edge. I was hoping to be able to leverage what I felt was an above average level of consistency plus tight play to be able to navigate mirrors. I felt like the average player was way too aggressive about benching Tapu Lele for Brigette in the mirror, and that doing so was a true liability.

W 2-0 ( 4-0 Overall )

Round 5 vs Jerry Xue ( Buzzwole Garbodor )

Jerry was 4-0 and playing Buzzwole Garbodor. I opened with a dead draw, and conceded game 1 after a few turns despite "technically" being live to be able to win. Not only was it a time issue, but I didn't reveal anything to let my opponent know that I was on the Ultra Necrozma version of the deck and really valued that concealed information.

The second game I set up really well and am able to hit a Field Blower to Lele for Guzma and take him off of Garbotoxin. The game really derails from there. The third game was also really lopsided as he didn't get a turn 2 Garbotoxin and by the time he did get Garbodor out I was really set up. This matchup felt pretty comfortable because they really have to use Buzzwole GX. Worth noting is that he was playing the Trashalanche build of the deck, with a thicker Trubbish line. As such he ran a combination of Strong Energy, Beast Energy, Rainbow Energy and Double Colorless Energy. This meant no Max Elixir OR Beast Ring, which made it really difficult for him to keep up with my KOs.

W 2-1 ( 5-0 Overall )

Round 6 vs Adam Hawkins ( Malamar )

Adam was from...I believe he told me Nottingham. We had the "random prematch deck check" so we got to take a few moments to chat, which really just kind of devolved into me asking which of my UK friends he knew. Both of our decks passed the deck check, and we got to playing only a few moments after the official start of the round. We wound up with a very unnecessary 2 minute time extension.

We both get fairly decent starts, but I'm struggling to find Energy cards, and then wind up with a brief supporter drought. When I do finally get something going, he has a Giratina attacking, KOing my Malamar, while also forcing random discards. He plucks a Cynthia out of my hand midgame, forcing me to Ultra Ball for a Tapu Lele GX to keep going. I was likely too far behind for it to have mattered, but the Giratina discards really closed the door on any potential comeback. This was going to be a difficult match either way because I prized my Hoopa, which is a really important card for being able to not expose myself to a lot of two prize KOs.

The second game actually goes very similarly to me. I hit an early game Supporter drought, and get Giratina'd back to the stone age. That was a pretty humbling bloodbath, but its better to get two bad draws out of the way in the same match, and after starting 5-0 isn't a bad time to have to do it. I would have liked to have given him a better series though. Adam was really enjoyable to play against, and he finished the day 9-0, before starting 10-0 and eventually going as far as the top 4! Congrats!

L 0-2 ( 5-1 Overall )

Round 7 vs Emre Erel ( Buzzroc )

Emre was on Buzzroc again. I don't remember a ton of the details of this match, but I do remember falling behind in the first game, before hitting a really good series of draws midgame to come back and actually take the first game. I'd also like to mention that by this point I was 0-7 on opening flips. The second game I had a bit better draw, while Emre drew a bit poorer. Not exactly premier tournament reporting, I'll admit.

W 2-0 ( 6-1 Overall )

Round 8 vs John Kettler ( Zoroark Golisopod )

For Round 8, I get to play against John Kettler! Assuming we acknowledge that the NAIC is the spiritual successor to US Nationals, this is the third time I've had to play John, as I managed to beat him in round 1 of both US Nats 2007 AND 2008. ( Imagine the odds of those pairings ) I was hoping to keep the streak alive!

John was on Zoroark Golisopod, and I had a pretty good start. I take the first KO, and when he eventually gets down to 4 prizes as well, I Beast last 4 prizes were my remaining 3 Psychic Energy ( I'll admit with the time limit being such an issue, I'm certainly not taking the time on turn 1 to check for my remaining Psychic Energy. ) and my second Rescue Stretcher. Had I had any of those Psychic left in deck, I get the KO and am super far ahead. I manage to eventually re-power up the Ultra Necrozma as John aggressively hunted my Malamars once I stumbled. I get a KO and need to hit the Rescue Stretcher to get Malamars back ( I had Mysterious Treasures in hand ) and likely win, but I hit both Psychic Energy and lose a very close game.

The second game goes a lot better as I get a near perfect draw. I get two Malamar and two Ultra Necrozma out early and end up winning in about 10 minutes. This left us with about 13 minutes on the clock for game 3. This game goes pretty quickly as we both set up pretty well. It ends with John at 4 prizes to my 4, with me pretty set up when time is called. He ends up retreating to a non-GX Pokemon and I do not have a Guzma to take two GX KOs, so the game ends in a draw. With one additional turn I am pretty confident I win, although if time wasn't an issue, John would take a different line there clearly rather than playing for a draw, and maybe he could have pulled it off even though I was pretty favored. The draw left John live for Day 2 with a win, and myself in with a win as well, and POSSIBLY in on a draw because of my 5-0 start and all of my opponents having incredible records. ( Spoiler: John his last round to make Day 2! )

D 1-1-1 ( 6-1-1 Overall )

Round 9 vs Chris Venier ( Zoroark Golisopod )

No pressure on another win and in, right? I lose this coin flip as well, going 1-8 on opening flips. Chris, from Canada, was also on Zoroark Golisopod. Game one starts off well enough, but Chris sticks an early Parallel City. It isn't that hindering, as I keep my bench 2 Malamar and 2 Ultra Necrozma. I get down to 2 prizes, but end up getting N'd and Counter Catchered/Enhanced Hammered, and fail to hit a number of outs which could give me the win off of a Cynthia. He N's me again, and I dead draw off that one too and lose a very close one while stuck under Parallel City the entire game as I never drew a Field Blower which would have very likely given me a win.

The second game I am on the play. This is another game where I just set up first and am really far ahead. I win this game in about 10 minutes as well. The matchup is just so difficult to lose when going first. Going 2nd, they are able to get the jump on your Malamars and the games are close.

Game 3 was extremely frustrating. Now admittedly, Chris got very unlucky by opening with his Mew EX. I get another good start while his is a little slower. I end up starting up 4 prizes, with my 2 to his 6. He already has a Parallel in play limiting my bench, and still has a Mew EX stuck on his bench. I have 3 Malamar in play and 3 Guzma left in deck. I see a stupid number of cards and just never see the game winning Guzma at any point. ( There was also a more convoluted series of draws I could have had that would let me get an Ultra Necrozma KO too, but that admittedly was asking for a lot of cards. ) Instead, he slowly comes back and takes all 6 prizes fading my Guzma to win on turn 3 of time. More frustratingly, had the match been a draw, my insane tie-breakers ( over 70% ) would have put me in 31st place at 20 points, a full 7% higher on breakers than the top 20 point player who did sneak in.

It was a really heartbreaking end to what started off as a really good event for me. Absolutely no ill will towards Chris either! He played a really good series, clearly doing his best to play around the horrific luck of having to open with is Mew in such an important game. I ended up in 38th place in the Blue flight, for...some arbitrary number of Championship Points which make no difference what so ever. If I had known that there were no additional prizes at all besides CP I would have dropped after my round 9 loss so that other players could sneak up a spot in the standings rather than allocate 100 points to myself to rot. On the opposite end of things, I want to give a huge shout out to my friend James Arnold for going 7-2 and making Day 2 and securing his World's invite!!!

In closing, I really like this deck, and think it is well positioned going forward. I really like it's Zoroark matchup which is a big selling point going forward. I like the idea of cutting the Brigette and the Mimikyu for two other cards, but I'm not positive yet what those cards would be yet. Playing in the event really did do a lot to remind me why I enjoyed playing competitive Pokemon, though. I may travel to World's since it is within a reasonable driving distance if I can find a cheap enough room. If not I'll be playing next season! I won't chase top 16 because that sounds miserable, but I'll certainly go for my Day 1 invite! Also next article, I'll be discussing a really out of left field deck that I almost played for the NAIC, but just couldn't pull the trigger on it. Until next time!

[+22] okko


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