Experts' corner

Mark Dizon

Level One - Defeat

Mark didn't have a great run at Virginia. Could he have done better? Learn from his mistakes in this edition of Level One as we look ahead to Anaheim Regionals.

11/27/2018 by Mark Dizon

“When there’s nowhere else to run. Is there room for one more son? One More son. If you can hold on. If you can hold on, hold on.”

I’m writing this level one from the floor of Roanoke regionals day 2. I had a pretty disappointing tournament and a lot of it was in my control. I took my time to get up today and listened to the Killers song quoted above that always helps me refresh and reset my mind. I made quite a few mistakes on the lead up to this tournament and I want to make sure that you can learn from them. I was watching an interview that involved Kobe Bryant and they asked him if he was a player that “loved to win” or “hated to lose” and he said neither was “he a player who played to learn”. I think that’s what we have to take from our bad tournaments and my tournament was a recipe that pointed to no success.


I playtested the week leading up to the event, however, I had not really focused on the event. I had been focused on a company change and had not really gone to league because I did not have a lot of time to go to league. I barely tested on PTCGO and I thought that I would just be able to pick up a deck and use my technical skills to do well at the event. My old soccer coach used to say all the time that Hard Work beats Talent when Talent doesn’t work hard. Most of my testing came in the days before the event and the night before the event. While this could have worked in the past, I had played very little Pokémon before the event and neither had my testing team. Moving forward this cannot be the process I take if I want to succeed at Regionals.

The good thing is I had a great understanding of the metagame coming from the event in Brazil. The problem about new events is that you really don’t know how the metagame share will shape up for the following event. While decks such as Granbull had a great showing in the top eight of Brazil, we would not be able to extrapolate the data to see how it would fare at the event. In my head, I felt that Zoroark Control would not be played much and that Buzzwole and Blacephalon would be the big decks on the weekend. If a Zoroark deck would be played, it would be Zoroark Lycanroc as most players who have been playing the deck for a long time, have not put the deck down yet. Lost March was obviously the deck that surprised the most people with its success and Mill/Stall Strategies also brought about a showing as a rogue deck for the tournament. The Zoroark deck with the most success seems to be Zoroark Decidueye Ninetales. The amount of variety that the deck brought in its strategies caused a lot of novice and seasoned players to play this deck. Not being able to predict that metagame also highly influenced my performance and deck choice.



I had initially thought narrowed my deck choice down to Buzzwole Ninetales with Custom Catcher as it seemed to have no bad matchups or a Zoroark Variant. Before an event, I would always default to Zoroark because it was the deck I knew the best. Unfortunately for this event I had not tested much Zoroark and had mostly devoted more time to testing decks like Lost March and Stall. I had already dismissed Granbull due to the mental fortitude required to play the deck, so I put some time into playing stall by playing it at one league. The deck actually hurt my head to play as trying to figure out your resolve targets every turn and when you should lusamine loop became hard to figure out. It is never wrong to admit that some decks are more difficult as your brain will need to spend more time with you figuring out that it lowers some of your edges when you are trying to win. In a game that involves so much variance, you surely want to try to gain as much of an edge as you can legally. When we circled back to Buzzwole Custom Catcher, the problem was that again, I was not confident in the mirror and could not devote too much time to trying to play the mirror and learn how to beat it. Regionals are huge and you can only expect to play a matchup between two to three times in a tournament max. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the amount of Stall that would be at this event. Blacephalon was a favorite due to the high roller status of the deck.
Going into the night before after doing my research and reading a bunch on the deck, I sleeved up Zoroark Stage Ones that was piloted by Xander and Rahul in Brazil. I felt that Banette would be great versus the expected Buzzwole Metagame and that Weavile had a lot of uses in multiple matchups. Knowing my possible matchup spread the deck seemed well prepared for everything other than Zoroark Control which seemed to be on a decline. The matchup you were really scared for was the coin flip versus Blacephalon but having played Zoroark in the past I felt that I could find a way to maneuver the matchup. Non-Zoroark Control Mirrors seemed favorable due to the main deck Lycanroc and Weavile as your Zoroark opponent would have to play around two threats.
One thing as you grow as a Pokémon player is that sometimes you will be given the opportunity to try decklists that you are told are broken. More often than not, the deck is not truly broken. However, with networking, you will eventually befriend players who might break the format. I was able to obtain a list around 11:30 at night from a very good player. In the past, my friend had given me decks that I was able to achieve wins with and even make day twos. I trusted my friend with the decklist and proceeded to play the tournament with it. The deck was a Malamar variant that ran spell tags and multiple Giratinas. The deck was super smooth and extremely powerful in testing. Chimecho was a broken Pokémon card that had a lot of utility versus the field. Not letting your opponent profitably set up Zoroarks, Ninetales and Nagandels allowed you to build your board position with Malamar and amass attackers for you to try to take over the game. The deck played both Marshadow engines as well as being able to attack with Giratinas as your one prize attacker. Being able to control the prize trade in most matchups gives you a distinct advantage if you know how to push it into your favour.

My tournament went as follows 

Round One: Loss to Quagsire Lapras Nagandel
I lost game one to a misplay and a sequencing error because I had never played Malamar before this event. I was still tired and had not gotten enough sleep. This one mistake led to losing game one and with it basically the match.

Round Two: Win vs Blacephalon
One of the major reasons to play the deck was a great matchup versus the expected field with a lot of Blacephalon. Being able to use Dawn Wings Necrozma GX attack after your opponent uses Burst GX. By being able to use the ability of Giratina for ten damage and spell tag for fourty damage, you are then able to knockout a Blacephalon with Giratina lets you trade the One Prizer for the Two Prizer. Chimecho also has a great use in this matchup by using the bell of silence ability vs a Poipole stops the deck from setting up Nagandels. After absorbing an attack from Blacephalon, if you are able to trap another Blacephalon in the active, they will not be able to take a knockout with Energy Switch or Guzma. This allows your deck to by enough time to use another Giratina Attack.

Round Three: Loss Vs Decidueye Ninetales Zoroark
Initially, I thought this would be a good matchup. The Chimecho plan was what I went for but the problem with is they the water Alolan Ninetales. You can keep them off Zoroarks and Decidueye’s but eventually, they will knockout all your Malamars with Ice Blade and you will struggle to keep up. I was able to get to having one prize remaining but it wasn’t good enough as I was short of one damage counter from winning the game. At this point, I could not afford anymore losses to qualify for day two.

Round Four: Loss Vs Buzzwole Lycanroc Ninetales
Unfortunately, we took another loss here ending our hopes for day two. I actually lost to a friend and this was a game where I got extremely unlucky and wasn’t able to set up any malamars to defeat my opponent. I was obviously upset at this point. Only one of my losses were due to my play. The last two were to a bad matchup and dead drawing. After achieving day two in Philadelphia in my first and only regional of the season, I felt that it would be easy to just achieve another day two. This was a mistake because nothing in Pokémon is ever guaranteed. I gathered my thoughts and reminded myself there was still a lot to play for with championship points still on the line.

Round Five: Win Vs Zoroark Lycanroc
I thought my tournament was finished after losing game one with four psychic energy in my hand. I was able to pull off a reverse and win the match. I must have said bell of silence seventeen times in those two games to prevent his set up and set up mine. Having Marshadow GX be able to take at least four prizes on average per game versus Zoroark really swung the Matchup in my favour. Using Let Loose Marshadow was also a way to be able to aggressively swing the game to try to slow down Zoroark.

Round Six: Win vs Blacephalon
Another Win versus Blacephalon. It was a very simple matchup to navigate because of Dawn Wings GX attack again. If I had been able to hit more Blacephalon , I think it would have been a better day for me.

Round Seven: Loss Vs Decidueye Ninetales Zoroark
Here is where my day ended. I thought I would be able to crawl back at 3-3 and try to win three in a row. However, it was not meant to be. Another Matchup against my auto loss and we were done for the tournament. I actually felt utterly helpless vs Alolan Ninetales and its Ice Blade.

Many people would have been disappointed by this tournament and I really was but referring back to the start of this article, there were many lessons to take away from Roanoke as a player. With both Playtesting and Deck Choice I could have changed my tournament immensely. The fact that misplaying round one changed my whole tournament is something you need to be able to understand when playing Pokémon tournaments. Had I not made that mistake my whole tournament would have been different. Playing Zoroark as well might have been the better decision. I just understand how the interactions with that deck work and familiarity might give more percentage points that just true power. Just knowing when to trade or how to take knockouts consistently would have provided some extra percentage points especially in the Zoroark matches.
I know that rest is generally hard to get at these events. When I day 2’ed both Hartford 2017 and Philadelphia 2018 I went on about four to five hours of asleep. When I top 16d NAIC I had about seven hours of sleep. One thing about this event I can say is that I was fatigued from when I woke up. Routine brings about a huge amount of percentage points as if you can play at your fullest capacity you will make fewer mistakes and misplays. When it came to finally waking up and having a full mind was around the fifth round. Playing four rounds not at a hundred percent really hindered my event. Eating clean also helps, packing snacks and drinking water at regionals is better for your body than drinking pop and eating convention center hot dogs. Throughout, all the losing all I could focus on was the next round and after the tournament the next tournament. Initially, I was looking at going to Anaheim but due to starting a new job, it will now either be Dallas or St Louis. I also now have to review and change what I need to do to hit my worlds invite. Getting zero points at Roanoke has made me want to put more effort into upcoming league cups. The format is very wide open right now and any deck can win. 

I hope you learned something from the mistakes I had at this event. Feeling defeated always stings but the best thing about the game is there are always more tournaments to prove ourselves and looking forward to those is one of the best ways to overcome that downswing. I have an expanded league cup this weekend and I was hoping to play Wailord but now it will be Best of One instead of Best of Three. Time to prepare for that.

I had a great weekend in Roanoke despite my result. The best thing about Pokemon is the friendships you had. Huge shoutouts to the two kids I coach Benny and Tyler for finishing top 8 and top 32 respectively in the Junior and Senior Division. Shoutout to one of my testing partners Rowan for his top 4 in Seniors and to Aidan Ulian for winning the Senior Regionals. On the Masters side, congrats to Marcus Guy for his top 64 and to Zach Lesage for his top 16 after a top 8 in Brazil. I hope to gain the consistency they have as the season goes on. I had Red Robin for this first time and it was overrated. 

Until next week,

[+29] okko


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