Experts' corner

Alex Wilson

Let Me Help You Prepare for Nats!

Alex gives readers some advice in testing for the biggest tournament in history, going over three decks that are good choices in testing for Nats, including his favorite deck!

13. 06. 2017 by Alex Wilson

Hey 60cards readers, I’m stoked to be back to discuss my favorite topic with you guys, Pokémon! My last article was on my thoughts of slow playing and the negative impact it has on our beloved game. I received a lot of feedback from you guys and I can’t express how much I appreciate it! It’s really uplifting to know that you read and appreciate the time and effort put into writing these articles, so thank you. Now getting into the article I have for you all today, I’m going to touch on many topics: My Madison Regionals Experience, How to Prepare for the Biggest Tournament in History, and What to Test for Internationals. All the while, I’m including multiple tips, pointers, and miniature life lessons in each paragraph that can help everyone become the best player they can possibly be.

My Madison Regionals Experience

Never Limit Yourself to One Deck

The week in preparation for Madison, I had put a lot of testing into Sylveon. I fell in love with Sylveon during a couple of League Cups the weekend before, and was sure that it could do well after 24 of the Top 32 decks in Seattle were Garbodor variants. However, closer to the event, it became clear that Garbodor hate was everyone’s plan for Madison. Decks that beat Garbodor include Lurantis, Volcanion, Vikavolt, Metagross, and Vespiquen. It was clear that all these decks would see representations in Madison, none of which are good matchups for Sylveon, other than Bees. After messaging a few friends around the country, I decided that Vespiquen and Volcanion would be my two “go-to” choices for the event, and immediately began working on deck lists and testing. What I mean by “go-to” decks, by the way, is my way of saying that I always travel with at least two preconstructed decks for an event, but never actually limit myself to those decks alone. I have those decks knowing that I’ll more than likely play them, since they’re good calls for the weekend, but will always play a “third” deck at the last minute if that deck is the best call for the tournament. The majority of players I see at these events, even League Cups, choose a single deck before even seeing what competition they’re up against. If you want to be the best player you can possibly be, I suggest you start this practice. The last thing you want to do is show up to an event, see that a large portion of competitors are playing decks that give yours a hard time, and lose to those decks enough times that it knocks you out of contention for top cut.

Relax and Have Fun Before a Big Event

I flew into Madison early Friday morning, the day before the tournament. I met up with my friends Rahul Reddy and Azul Griego, we hung out all day at the zoo (which was free!) and checked in to the event at the convention center later that afternoon. We met up with Jimmy Pendarvis amongst other friends and tested multiple matchups for a couple of hours before going out to eat. Now while I myself have a weird belief in play testing the day before an event, I have nothing against watching other’s test, and feel that I learn a lot from it. We found an awesome cantina, ate, then headed back to the convention center before they closed up for the night. After the venue closed, with nowhere else to go, we headed to a hotel some of the guys were staying in. We sat in the lobby and tested some more, where I decided to test Volcanion against Igor Costa’s Garbodor deck. (Pro tip: don’t discard five items on your first turn in this matchup.) Now I know I just said that I have a weird belief in testing the night before a big event, but I was curious as to how one of the best players in the world played “the deck to beat.” My friends, who drove thirteen hours from South Carolina, soon picked me up and made our way to our hotel. I wrote out both deck lists for Volcanion and Vespiquen, tested the Vespiquen mirror match out of curiosity, and passed out around 2am. (Typically you’d want more sleep than this!)

Play the Deck You’re Most Comfortable With

The morning of the tournament, I still couldn’t choose which deck to play. But in the end, I chose to play Vespiquen as I felt I knew how to play the deck better than Volcanion, and I felt it had better matchups than Volcanion did, considering I saw more than twenty Greninja decks in the League Challenge on Friday. Going into the first round, while the voices of Ash Ketchum and Brock narrated the player meeting, my opponent revealed a Dartrix from his hand due to a mulligan. Right off the bat, I had regretted my deck choice for the day, but pulled away from the matchup with a tie after two insanely close games. I then hit a Darkrai deck in round two, and lost to it thanks to their Sudowoodo, and my Double Colorless Energies insisting on staying in the prizes. For the second time in my life, I started a Regionals run with zero wins going into the third round. While I was upset with both myself and my deck choice, I kept my cool, walked around by myself for twenty minutes, gathered my thoughts, and went on to winning my next five rounds! With only two rounds left, and a 5-1-1 record, winning one more and IDing the next guaranteed a spot in day two.

Unfortunately, I hit Igor Costa playing the Vespiquen mirror match, and I lost. Knowing that only a few players would squeeze into day two with a record of 6-2-1, I kept my head up and won my ninth round. While I knew my odds were slim with my round two opponent dropping from the event, I expectedly bubbled out of Top 32, finishing in Top 64 with 44 more championship points, half a booster box, and $250. Overall, I was pretty proud of myself coming back from an 0-1-1 record, and on top of that, Rahul bubbled in at 32nd place piloting the same deck.

I had a hard time cramming everything I wanted into this deck, and some cards may have worked out better than others, but overall I enjoyed it. Vaporeon was for the Volcanion matchup and Flareon was for Lurantis and Metagross. I wanted to play two Eevees in this list, but decided that one sufficed since it’s not needed in half your matchups, and it isn’t absolutely necessary in the matchups they’re meant for anyways. I played a Parallel City in place of the second Eevee to help get more Pokémon in my discard pile, while having the option to limit my opponent’s bench space or damage output. I would have much preferred playing three Klefki over two, and would take a Float Stone out for a second Revitalizer or Rescue Stretcher. This list was two cards off Pramawat’s winning list, which helps me feel that I played the best deck for the event.

How to Prepare for the Largest Event in History

Now I’d imagine for most of you, I’ll be seeing you at the North American International Championships, the largest Pokémon tournament in history! Whether it’s your first time competing at a National event or not, I’m sure you’ll be able to take some of the advice I’m about to give, and use in your testing prior to the big event. As this is only my third truly competitive season in Pokémon, this will be my third time competing at “Nats.” My first year, like many people's, was quite pathetic, finishing with a 5-4 record. And last year, I finished with a record of 5-2-2, even though I was given a two-round bye thanks to winning a Regionals last season. This year, I’m aiming for day two! If this tournament is like previous years, players will be split into two pods, and the Top 32 players from each pod will move onto day two, totalling a Top 64 in day two. With numbers expected to reach close to 2,000 TCG masters, finishing with a record of 6-1-2 might not even be a guaranteed spot in day two!

However, I’m expecting this tournament to be the first time we see all x-2’s move onto day two. Why do I say this, and what does it mean exactly? When a tournament reaches such a large turnout, there’s a possibility that there will be players with a record of x-2 bubble out of day two. Pokémon has stated previously that they’ll never allow this to happen. Meaning that all players who finish with a record of 7-2, or better, will move onto day two. Obviously meaning that there will be more than 64 players competing in day two. Either way, whether there are 64 day two competitors or more, this year’s Nationals will be the toughest yet. So, in order to help you prepare to be the best you can possibly be, here’s some tips.

Be Prepared for a Long Day

Like Regionals, Nationals is a nine-round tournament, and considering the number of players that are expected to compete in this event, rounds may take longer thanks to the possibility of match slips not getting turned in. Typically, when all goes well, a nine-round tournament can finish by 9pm, just like Madison Regionals. But be more than prepared to finish the ninth round close to midnight. Bring snacks, or have a “food runner,” lunch breaks are never promised, even if the tournament is running smoothly and on schedule, the tournament organizer may choose to not have a lunch break. I prefer to keep a few honey buns and granola bars in my bag, as well as a bottle of water that I can refill throughout the day. Staying hydrated is one of the best compliments you can give your body.

Don’t Spill Salt on the Tables

Try not to get to salty or tilted, not only can it ruin someone else’s day, but “going on tilt” early on in a tournament can mess up your game. The unfortunate part of tournaments, is in order for players to start 3-0, on the other end of the spectrum, players have to start 0-3. If that happens to be me, I’ll take it as a learning experience, look back, and figure out where I went wrong.                                                                                                              


Make sure you get enough sleep the night before the big event! I know I’m not your mom, but getting a sufficient amount of sleep is uber important if you want to play at your best throughout the day. As far as I know though, I’m not your mom, so sleep however much you want.

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