11/19/2018 by Mark Dizon
Hey 60 Cards Readers,
What a weekend! The Latin America International championship unfolded in Brazil last weekend, with a rejuvenated Standard format, Controversy and new records of stream views from around the world.
A diverse and new Standard field was showcased by the top 8 results which showed seven different archetypes in the top eight. This was a snapshot of the field which has multiple different Archetypes in day two with Zoroark variants leading the way.
Recent Regional Champion Daniel Altavilla faced off against Canadian All-Time Great Zach Lesage in the quarterfinals. Though Zachary would lose his quarterfinals, he is now tied with his brother for International top eights. World’s top Eight Competitor Nicholas Galaz became the story of the tournament with his innovative and appealing Granbull deck. Alex Schemanske and Caleb Gedemer continued their torrid pace this season adding another top eight under their belt while Asian Pacific Representative Clifton Goh, showed you can never count the region out with his top four finish.
Outclassing the players yet again, was Daniel Altavilla, proving that a correct meta call and methodical play was what he needed to see off all the challengers and add the title of international champion to the rest of his accomplishment. Though his win is marked by controversy he marched through the top eight confident in his play and ability. Congratulations to Daniel Altavilla a much deserved Latin American International Championship.
I want to bring to you my five big takeaways from this weekend’s international. The weather was definitely hot there and the action was too. With the first appearance of Lost Thunder, many decks were looking to make a splash in the format, with new cards such as Alolan Ninetales GX, Blacephalon Gx, and Granbull looking to catapult them into the Metagame. Players from all around the world converged in Sao Paolo Brazil to try to take down an international championship. A lot of predictions were made involving the unknown Meta and this is what came out from it
ZOROARK'S DEMISE WAS GREATLY EXAGGERATED
Just when you thought it was on its way out, it always seems to prove you wrong. Zoroark decks were on a decline, but it came roaring back to prove that we were all wrong about it. The last American regional In Memphis contained absolutely zero Zoroark decks in the top 8 and only one in the top 16. At the last standard regional in Lille, France there were zero Zoroark decks in the top 8 and not even one in the top 16. Decks like Malamar, Buzzwole Lycanroc and Rayquaza seemed to be the best decks in the room relying on powering out their strategies instead of trying to outmanoeuvre their opponents as Zoroark does.
Whether this is an anomaly or an indicator on the future of the format, Zoroark reigned supreme in the top sixty-four of the Latin American International Championship putting thirty-one Pilots into day 2. For a break-down of the Zoroark variants, you can see below.
Zoroark Decks: 31
12 Zoroark Lycanroc
6 Zoroark Control
6 Zoroark Decidueye Ninetales
2 Zoroark Ninetales
1 Zoroark Ninetales Weavile
1 Zoroark Lycanroc Weavile
1 Zoroark Buzzwole GX
1 Zoroark Glaceon
Zoroark Lycanroc reigned supreme as a trusty choice with the largest meta-share from the Zoroark Builds. The top-performing Zoroark Decks in the top 16 were Zoroark Decidueye Ninetales with four finishers and Zoroark Control with Two, with both decks putting in two players in the top 8. One of the Zoroark Decidueye decks chose to not run Ninetales at all and just play the consistency ball engine with Lillie to thin the deck out quickly to find the cards they were looking for. The ability for Ninetales to provide Zoroark with another way to find the cards they needed provided a consistency boost which the deck has not had in recent times. The other huge addition to this format was the recent release of Professor Elm, functioning as a Brigette replace the card allowed the Zoroark decks to catch some more footing when going second allowing to keep up with the explosive starts of some of the other new decks in the format.
Zoroark Control which was unveiled last year at the North American International Championship was seen by the Dead Draw Gaming team as the counter to the Zoroark decks they expected. The ability for the deck to have a good matchup against almost fifty percent to of the day two field really helped propel the deck to three spots in the top seventeen. Zoroark Control recently won the last expanded regional in Portland so no reason that the strategy would not be applicable to the current standard format. Zoroark has always come full circle no matter what the format. At the start of the Sun and Moon on format, Zoroark put eighteen out of the top seventy-eight decks in Philadelphia. This accounted for twenty-three percent of the field, way less than the fourty eight percent that showed up in Brazil. The question moving forward will be can Zoroark continue its pace moving forward in the format?
BLACEPHALON OR RAYQUAZA
Last format if you wanted to play a high-roller deck you chose to run with Rayquaza. The deck's ability to create inevitable board states was a simple as turn two Vikavolt rare candy and taking multiple knockouts. Rayquaza’s ability to ignore what your opponent was doing is the reason it had a high meta-share last format as Zoroark struggled to be able to defeat it. Being able to fight through the variance of the storm wind ability was one of the only cons of the deck. Strong Charge plus energy recycler provided a redundancy that was unmatched by anything other than Malamar. The Rayquaza problem itself was solved by the introduction of the Buzzwole Shrine deck winning Philadelphia. This really didn’t slow down the deck before the end of the format, when Malamar was seen as a counter to Buzz Shrine it allowed Rayquaza to put two decks into the top eight in Lille.
Blacephalon is the new High roller deck on the block. The deck tries to set up multiple Lost Thunder Nagandel who do their best Malamar impression by bringing energy back from the discard. The Nagandel looks to bring back multiple energy per turn allowing Blacephalon to take quick knockouts and big knockouts. The question now is does this deck now become better than Rayquaza?
Blacephalon put in five decks in the top sixty-four with Zachary Lesage finishing in the Top Eight. Rayquaza put in four decks in the top sixty-four with Marcelo Magalhaes finishing in tenth place. Both decks had a similar Meta share and were trying to accomplish the same thing.
From early information, Blacephalon had a great matchup versus Zoroark decks other than Zoroark Control, due to the fact that Zoroark Control could control the energy in the active Blacephalon. Raqyuaza does not run into this problem due to Strong Charge allowing you recharge literally if energy is discarded. In a battle between the two decks, however, Nagandel becomes the better one prize attacker as it attacks for one prize less, does not discard energy and has the ability to one shot psychic weak attackers. There is absolutely no need for a Dhelmise calibre attacker in Blacephalon because of the consistency of Nagandel. The Nagandels can take longer to set up than Vikavolt to attack but once you have multiple set up you can stream the attackers.
(indent) If this type of deck appeals to you, I would recommend testing them both to see which one you would enjoy playing more. Learning the game plan of both decks, though similar is important to how you approach your matchup spread at Roanoke Regionals and League cups. High Roller decks also afford for a greater chance to win coin-flips in best of three while also sporting a larger win-percentage at best of one events due to the sheer power of the decks and they’re able to maintain their redundancy once set up. I guess the only other question left, is do you want to be knocking Pokemon out with a legendary dragon or with something that is reminiscent of a Starbucks Coffee Dessert?
IS GRANBULL THE NEW GRENINJA?
Putting five decks in the top sixty-four provides Granbull with the same Meta share as Blacephalon and Rayquaza above. The biggest difference is Granbull is a one prize deck. While the pre-Latin American international championship forecast showed lost march as the possible deck that could take the one prizer slot in the Metagame, but consistency issues plagued the archetype allowing Granbull to take the limelight at the tournament. World’s Top Eight Competitor Nicolas Galaz became a crowd favourite piloting the deck on stream multiple times. Do you want another reason to play the deck? Tord Reklev finished ninth at the tournament playing the deck. Yes, you read that correctly, Tord Reklev finished ninth place at an international tournament not playing Zoroark. For Tord Reklev to not be trading the deck has to be good.
Granbull provides a consistent engine when it has finished setting up and has the ability to take multiple strong knockouts. The main drawback when the deck was originally brought up, was the requirement to have zero cards in your hand to attack with Granbull. It turned out that this was much easier than originally thought with both the Europeans and Latin Americans coming up with their own list. The deck is very similar to Greninja that once the deck has established the cycle it wants to loop the deck is almost unbeatable. The difference here is the use of Diantha versus the use of Splash Energy in Greninja. Diantha plus Macargo and Oranguru allow the deck to set up the multiple needs required to take constant knockouts. The deck does not have a counter specifically for it like Giratina, however the tech piece in Zoroark decks was to add Alolan Muk. Alolan Muk slows down the deck due to turning off Oranguru and stopping Granbull loop. Diantha allows the deck to bypass this.
If you are preparing for Roanoke, you need to be ready to play against this deck. Not only is it a crowd favourite, but it is also not a cost prohibitive deck making it a motivating reason for many to pick it up. We saw this after Philadelphia when players rushed to build the budget-friendly Buzz Shrine deck and I have absolutely no doubts in my head that many players will do the same this very week regarding it.
TEAM DDG REIGNS SUPREME – NORTH AMERICA RETURNS TO THE PODIUM
Philadelphia, Memphis, Portland and now Sao Paolo have been taken over by Team Dead Draw Gaming. The testing and Meta-prediction of this group has begun to rival that of the year Team Limitless had last year. I don’t know what they are doing behind closed doors but they are obviously doing something right. For them to bring a “surprise deck” into the tournament that was also a known quality if people looked a little deeper allowed them to take advantage of the Zoroark heavy field that Brazil presented? With Roanoke approaching this week, the question now is, they played Zoroark Control in expanded, and in standard, are they building the counter for it for Roanoke or can they just win the mirror better? It will be interesting to watch as the year goes on if they can continue their torrent pace of innovation as well as winning.
On another note, the victory of Daniel Altavilla at this tournament after his win in Memphis has provided not only another win for Team Dead Draw Gaming, but also a second international victory to North Americans. Not since the all North American Final in the first International in London between Michael Pramawat and Jacob Lesage has a North American been Victorious. With Stephane Ivanoff winning North American Internationals and Robin Schulz winning Worlds, It is very nice to take another trophy back to above the equator and west of Greenland.
CONTROVERSY IN BRAZIL
Twice in the past calendar year has that international in Brazil been headed by controversy. Earlier this year the final was decided by a slow play warning to Azul Garcia Greigo awarding the tournament to Dyego Rathje. The call basically deciding the outcome of a major tournament caused an uproar in the online Pokemon Community. This uproar was only further pushed by the eventual disqualification of Dyego at a future regional for alleged cheating. This year’s tournament did not even have a final played due to the suspected cheating of finalist Pedro Henrique. It is very simple, do not cheat, especially on stream. The game of Pokemon is and has experienced huge growth. The player base has steadily been growing in the modern era especially due to the new prizes that incentivize players to cheat. It is interesting to see the consistency of players that do well and can win on stream. When I played Magic the Gathering, they simply caught cheaters by monitoring players that would qualify for the top eight of events but lose constantly on stream. Streaming games is extremely important to be able to watch what players do on stream and learn how they play their decks. If a player is cheating blatantly on stream it means they are so used to cheating they don’t even second guess what they are doing. Another simple situation, always cut or shuffle your opponent's deck, it takes less than fifteen seconds of the clock and prevents the game from being disrupted. I actually even hate when players do not cut during testing because I want the full randomization. As we go to Roanoke keep this in mind when you are playing.
With multiple occurrences of cheating coming to light in recent events, I want you to know that most players playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game are genuine and enjoy playing the game to play the game. I think it is better to err on the side of caution when playing but be extremely courteous to your opponent nevertheless. If you are cheating and haven’t been caught, I hope you realize the pain and disappointment it brings to the game and the community. If you don’t stop you will eventually be caught. If you are not having fun when it comes to playing other than winning you might need to change your approach. Trust me, if you are cheating you will slip up eventually and not be allowed to play anymore. When you are caught cheating every person you have played will question you and how they lost that game. That player could quit the game, I know as a cheater you probably do not care, but maybe just maybe you will decide to play the game the way it is.
Well there you have it, those were my big takeaways from the event going into Virginia Regionals. I hope you stay warm on your ride there as the weather is getting quite chilly. I am really excited to see how the Metagame moves forward in this event and if it will shift. I would certainly be prepared to play versus Zoroark and Granbull decks as players will flock back to something they feel safe playing and something new and budget conscious.
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