Experts' corner

Zach Lesage

A New Beginning: My OIC Experience

Gain some experience in Standard as I share my thoughts from Australia heading into Collinsville / Cannes.

02/22/2019 by Zach Lesage

Flying Home

“Passengers, please use your seatbelts as we experience some turbulence”, those are the words echoing through my mind as I endure my flight from Melbourne to Vancouver. I guess my mind works by drawing lines between parallels to help myself understand Pokémon to a whole other level this season. Between hitting turbulence during my flight and rough patches during my tournament at OIC, I am looking to pivot my quarter three season into positivity. For those of you on the outside, you might be wondering why Zach Lesage, the professional player, thinks that he has hit a road block on his Pokémon world tour. Well, with that person being me, I am here to fully explain my thoughts in an effort to see self growth. In this article, i will be going over my experience in Australia, share my thoughts on the metagame heading into Collinsville, and showcase some tips for self growth within the game. With only a few hours until I land, let me flesh this article out and jump right into it. Enjoy. 

Oceania in a Nutshell

After winning the Mexico City Special Event, my goal was to flesh open the format, figure out the best decks, and ultimately see success at OIC. Well, that kinda happened, but I also had a few setbacks too. I was involved in an accident that left my car totalled, had some family come to my house out of the blue, so I generally stuck to what I knew. That isn’t saying that I didn’t test, but I wish that I had another week or so to test for the event. Oh well, you can’t win them all, and that’s why I went in with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52) . I know the deck inside and out, I know how it works in any given metagame, and it is a simple comfort pick for me. Here is the list that I played:

This is the list that I settled in a few weeks back, wrote about in my FREE article here and went a bit more in depth with my deck choice in my PREMIUM article here.

Going into the tournament, I felt super confident in this deck to be a neutral pick and if I had the opportunity again, I have no complaints about my choice. Let’s look at the matchups that I faced throughout Day 1 of Swiss.

Round 1. Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  WLT 0-0-1

Round 2. Charizard (TM; 14)  / Alolan Ninetales GX (LT; 132)  WW 1-0-1

Round 3. Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95)  / Malamar (FLI; 51)  WW 2-0-1

Round 4. Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  WW 3-0-1

Round 5. Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95)  / Malamar (FLI; 51)  LL 3-1-1

Round 6. Passimian (SUM; 73)  / Tapu Koko (BW; 31)  WW 4-1-1

Round 7. Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95)  / Malamar (FLI; 51)  WW 5-1-1

Round 8. Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jirachi (TM; 99)  WW 6-1-1

Round 9. Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jirachi (TM; 99)  LL 6-2-1

Beyond facing a star filled day including games against Scott Langford, Sameer Sangwan, Alex Silva, Blake Davies, Caleb Gedemer, and Daniel Altavilla, everything went fairly smoothly. I was personally surprised to come out with a positive record considering random decks like Charizard (TM; 14)  turned out to be more powerful than I originally thought, but my perseverance ended up taking me into Day 2. Looking at Day 2, my day didn’t go quite as intended, but what else was I supposed to do? Every tournament isn’t meant to go your way and that’s kinda how my Day 2 went.

Let’s peep it out.

Round 10. Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  LL 6-3-1

Round 11. Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  LL 6-4-1

Round 12. Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  WLL 6-5-1

Round 13. Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jirachi (TM; 99)  WW 7-5-1

Round 14. Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  ID 7-5-2

Another star filled day had me playing against Pedro Torres and Sam Chen, but the real issue was my poor draws all day. Well, maybe not just poor draws, but Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  seemed to spell my doom. Like I said before, I have no complaints because I earned 160 CP and cemented myself with a stipend to Germany. That being said, I don’t see how I can play Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  in this format comfortably anymore. The next portion of this article fully explains that. 

Bye Bye Blacephalon?

With myself earning over 700 CP out of my 1000+ CP with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52) , I don’t think I need to state that I am the best player with this deck, it should be cemented by now. I enjoy this deck because it’s basic at its core, but that same line allows you to focus on other overlooked in game skills. Look at it like this, anyone can pilot this deck, use Burst GX, and win. The way that I look at it is that I bought myself valuable time throughout my games. I don’t need to think as much about my in-game actions or come up with a multi-layered plan for attacking. Mind Blown, Mind Blown, Bursting Burn, Turning Point, Mind Blown. Throw in a few copies of Beast Ring (FLI; 102) , Guzma (BUS; 115)  up some annoying threats, and you have yourself a typical game. While it is true that my typical match is within the same vein as stated above, I play the deck on a different strategic plateau. 

With most game plans being so simple, I can actively figure out what cards are in my Prize Cards, I can sequence my cards better, and I can use math to try and exploit what I will draw. Every single turn, I am able to use Ultra Space (FLI; 115)  to thin my deck by grabbing an Ultra Beast, I can make executive decisions on what cards to discard from Ultra Ball (SLG; 68) , and I can start piling up ‘useless’ cards in my Discard Pile. All of those micro-strategies allow me to determine the odds of hitting cards off Cynthia (UPR; 119)  / Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140)  which means that I can hit into my copies of Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  / Guzma (BUS; 115)  more easily. The issue is, I am no longer sure if my strategy of playing a ‘less-skilled’ deck and using advanced in-game skills is a viable route for me throughout the rest of the season. Let me explain.

Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  has been a great card since it’s inception and hopefully I proved that it could still be viable after the release of Team Up. It has received some tough competition in the form of Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  decks and the new OIC winning Zapdos (TM; 40) / Jirachi (TM; 99)  decks that are floating around. I have two ways to view this: I find a way to beat these new Lightning decks or I grow with the metagame. Both strategies are fine, but with the theme of self growth, I am currently in the process of making Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jirachi (TM; 99)  a better deck. You see, I want to expand my knowledge as a player, I want to make bolder plays, and I want to taste the same victory that I did in Mexico City. While this strategy may not net me as many Championship Points initially, my goal for this season has basically been met. With my prediction of a T16 Day 2 invite hovering roughly around 1400 Championship Points, I am feeling pretty safe. I need a rough 350 CP to complete my goal and I have two full quarters to do that. Looking at my lowly projected 100CP from League Challenges / League Cups per quarter, that means I need to earn a remaining 150 CP from Regionals / Internationals / Special Events. Let’s just say I am sure that I can get there as long as continue to show up to events (and my plan is to attend as many events as possible). Ok, ok, I know that I am a bit off track from my original point, but give me a second to pull this all together...

I am now solely viewing Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  as a middle-of-the-road approach; it can offer neutral / favourable match-ups which means you can always do relatively well with the deck. Look at Collinsville for example, we don’t know where the metagame will fall... It can either be Zapdos (TM; 40) / Jirachi (TM; 99)  everywhere or it can be Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  to counter those decks. If it goes one way or another, Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  is either a bad play, a neutral play, or a great play. With the mean being neutral, it looks like it is an ok play for Collinsville. The issue for me, and personally me alone, is that I can’t play ‘ok’ decks anymore. I have juiced Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  dry now, I don’t see how I can earn anymore large CP with the deck comfortably, I just can’t see the end of the tunnel. Collinsville will have T256 CP, Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  can and will get there, it is just scary to think about how the deck will go further. 

I guess you can get lucky or play the deck perfectly or something, but for me, I think I wanna find a new deck to breath success into. With my love of turbo decks / basic Pokémon decks, I wouldn’t be surprised if I played Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  or Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jirachi (TM; 99) . I have been feeling awful since coming back from Australia a day or so ago which has seriously cut into my testing, but I will certainly test all day today, tomorrow, and Friday to find the correct play. While it is sad to put away my favourite deck, Blacephalon GX (LT; 52) , it is exciting to look at new cards and find my new happy place. If you are looking to pick up some ‘free’ points in Collinsville, my OIC Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  deck will get you there, just don’t be upset when you can’t make T32 due to the metagame shift. I guess we could look at the metagame now, yeah, yeah, let’s go do that...

The Collinsville Metagame

Between looking at the obvious results of my Dead Draw Gaming teammate Isaiah Williams winning with Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jirachi (TM; 99)  and Stephane Ivanoff coming second with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  / Lucario GX (BW; 100)  there isn’t much else to look at. There are going to be splashes of Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95)  / Malamar (FLI; 51) , Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74) , Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) , and maybe even Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  ‘control’ will come back. From being at the venue myself right now as I type, all of the metagame trends listed above are accurate. It looks like it’s going to be the Day 2 metagame of Oceania with a heavy splash of Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks added into the mix. 

The Grind Continues 

After arriving home from Melbourne, I started to feel very ill, but I am recovering pretty quickly. I am just gonna play whatever my player intuition leads me to and be fine with it. I am at a point in the season where I don’t necessarily need to perform at the same level I have been lately in order to maintain my Top 16 placement in North America to get it. Don’t take that as I will be taking the rest of the season off or that I won’t be trying as hard, I am just learning more about myself as a player. I’m hoping that Collinsville goes well, I’ll be posting my EXACT list later tonight, so be sure to check that out. If worse comes to worse, it’s been a solid season so far and I have no complaints. Whenever you are in doubt, follow your heart, play your best, and remember to have fun. 

Follow me on my Twitter to see wherever I am in the world and what I am up to. I always post my lists for FREE after each tournament and I occasionally provide expert tips. It’s my passion so I hope that you enjoy it. Oh, it’s zlesage_pokemon haha.


[+25] okko


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