06/30/2019 by Mark Dizon
“One taught me love
One taught me patience
And one taught me pain
Now, I'm so amazing
I've loved and I've lost
But that's not what I see
So, look what I got
Look what you taught me
And for that, I say
Thank you, next (next)”
Defining words from one of the top songs of the past year. I think the lyrics almost sum up how Pokemon seasons feel as they can go by so fast. I feel that it was just yesterday that I had clinched my first World’s Invite and here we are preparing for the world championships in Washington DC. I felt that this season went by so fast but at the same point it dragged on at points. I can’t believe that tomorrow the new season starts already and we have league cups this upcoming weekend. Does the grind never stop? At least last year we had a little sort of off-season but this year NAIC was just last week and two weeks later we are back on the grind. To some this is great news, it brings apart from the goal of being able to qualify for Worlds. To some, it’s a reset that you had just gotten to the top of the mountain and now we are back on the bottom making our way back up. How did your season end? How did you make out? What does the new season have in store for you? Here are some of the biggest things I learned this season with the outlook looking for the next season.
PLAN PLAN PLAN
I definitely would have not reached the points threshold if it weren’t for prodigious planning. I attended Philidelphia, Roanoke, Collinsville, Toronto, Greensboro, Denver, and Hartford Regionals. I attended one International being North American Internationals. I achieved points at Philidelphia, Collinsville, Hartford, and NAIC. I lost playing for Points in Toronto and Denver. The traveling can take a toll on you so you need to be able to spread out the season. Being able to plan in advanced is able to take the stress off your plate. Being able to divide your points per quarter and try to piece it together lets you break down your goals and figure out what you need to attempt per regional. I absolutely believe you need to attempt to play in the first regional of the season, as well as Collinsville. These are generally the largest regionals and have hit the top 256 point threshold for the most part. For most players, the season is not a sprint but a marathon, so being able to capitalize at these regionals due to a large number of entrants will help you throughout the year. I played in the expanded regionals trio of Toronto, Greensboro, and Hartford. I achieved points in one of them being Hartford as the last one. I played three different decks. Had I planned on just learning one deck I would have been able to probably scrape some more points. One event I went 4-3-2 where it was supposed to be 5-2-2. One tournament I went 0-2 Drop and the other tournament I went 5-2-2. Fellow 60cards writer Zach Lesage could attest to being a specialist in Expanded. He went the first half of events not doing well, but after he discovered Hitmonchan he went on a run in the format.
Practice Practice Practice
And if you can’t practice, fall back on something you trust or have someone to follow off of
Let's face it life gets in the way and sometimes you can't test like crazy. Don't be afraid to ask for help. There will always be better players so reach out to them The regionals I played this year had the following decks.
Philadelphia - Zoroark Lycanroc - Igor Costa -Top 64
Roanoke - Spell Tag Malamar - Igor Costa
Colinsville- Zoroark Lycanroc - Henry Brand - Top 128 Day 2
Toronto - HItmonchan - Zach Lesage
Greensboro - Zoroark Lycanroc - Myself
Denver - Zoroark Lucario - Stephane Ivanoff Deck - Lost Playing for 128 started (5-1)
Hartford - Drama Garb - Andrew Martin Base - Andrew Estrada Tech - Top 64
NAIC - Zoroark Dewgong Stinger - Henry Brand Top 128 Day 2
I needed a lot of help. I didn’t get to practice much due to work but I was playing a lot of cups every weekend getting those reps in. If you see regarding expanded, I played three different decks, when I should have just stuck to a garb variant in the format because I felt very safe with the playstyle. I got help and asked for help from a lot of better players than myself. Gaining that valuable information from those who are able to play the game more really helped. I generally don’t enjoy practicing the night before the event that way I don’t get cold field on the deck but depending on the meta sometimes you must have too. I remember playtesting like crazy versus Pikarom in the lead up to Hartford. I had whiffed points at the last three regionals and I had to have a finish at this event to close out on my invite. Drama Garb versus Pikarom, over and over again for three hours versus players better than me. I kept losing, because he kept playing around Sigilyph, however by playing with someone better than myself, I was able to see lines on how an average player might play the matchup and it really helped improve my understanding of the matchup. Though I might not practice on PTCGO much, I really enjoy going to league as I have said in some of my previous works. One of the main reasons to go to league is to try decks in an environment that will replicate early rounds of a regional. You can play against almost any random deck while going to a cup would be harder and simulate more closely that of rounds 4-7 at a regional, league really helps simulate rounds 1-3. Your deck really needs to be able to go 3-1 at league that is four rounds. If you can go 6-2 in eight rounds at a regional you will probably day 2. Playing these matches and understanding your goals and if your deck can beat random decks will help you feel more comfortable in your matchups. People are willing to try new decks from the last event and jam them.
If you look closely my default deck was Zoroark. I just always knew what I was looking for when it came trading and trying to set up the combos in the deck. That doesn’t mean I didn’t try Charizard, Gardevoir and Zapdos to test decks at different points of the season. Try these decks in your playtest situations so you understand what your opponent is trying to do.
Don’t be afraid to try new things
This is something I need to try more often. I find it very easy to dismiss deck ideas and not pay any attention to them. The only time I played non-Zoroark Decks was once during Quarter 1 and for the most part of quarter 2. For the rest of the season, I was a one trick pony when it came to decks. During quarter one, I actually made my own Espeon Garb deck during the advent of Rayquaza GX and Buzzshrine. I wanted a chance against those two decks and found that Zoroark was too busy coin-flipping the matchup. League cups In my areas are very stacked, so the best way to win them is by either playing perfectly or try a deck to surprise people. It is much easier to try to surprise people than play perfectly. Espeon Garb actually brought me a top 4 at a 40 plus person cup but the deck had issues. 4 Cynthia, 4 Judge and a let loose are a far cry from the consistency of 4 Sycamore 4 N. During quarter 2 I could not find a way to beat Blacephalon consistently with Zoroark and with Zach Lesage as one of our local end bosses, I didn’t want to take the chance with the deck. I switched my time to learning Gardevoir Swampert and Solgaleo and promptly got two seconds not being able to move onto a win. Another Local End Boss Chris Venier adapted Chimecho to his Malamar decks and the other Malamar players followed suit, making my chances of winning with Gardevoir a hard proposition. I ended up winning a cup with a deck I never thought I could win with and that was Attacking Steelix. Sometimes I just like to browse through limitless and look at foreign deck concepts and this was one of them. Side note: I really want to eventually learn how to play Stall this year. That concept hurts my brain as I don’t always know what to search for. Attacking Steelix was a great meta call in a field full of Blacephalon and Granbull and thing clicked right and I took down the 50CP. Had I not been willing to try something new, I might have never won a cup that quarter. The deck was so smooth and practicing with it really changed my outlook and how some one prize decks played out.
Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
The Season is long. The season is arduous. The season is fun. The Season involves a lot of time traveling and spending that time traveling with friends is important. Having a great time is something you need to have if you aren’t having fun, then you should probably be taking a break. I remember my heart breaking losing 3 straight win and ins and then losing out on points in Denver, I was devastated. Had I not had a friend and mentor in Rick Annaert there to give me a hug and tell me that it’s okay, I would have been more broken. Times are going to suck. Things aren’t going to go your way. There is a lot of luck and variance involved in the game we play and sometimes are mental states will be rattled by it. Having a great support team, having amazing friends is one of the number one reasons to play the game. Your success shared with them, their success shared with you should help motivate you. I see the work that players such as Carl Barone are doing on twitter and it is amazing to see.
This year alone I wouldn’t have gotten to worlds without the support of my fiancee, my brother and my basically brother Damion who were there every step of the way. I wouldn't have been able to bounce ideas every day without someone like Zach Lesage. I wouldn't have understood all the decks I played without the help of Igor, Henry, Andrew. I wouldn’t have been able to travel to events without the Annaert family and Billinger Family and my sponsor Untouchables. My testing partners with Ciaran Farah, Andrew Estrada, Rowan Stavenow, Tyler Annaert week in and week out really helped that season go through. Everyone, I made friends with throughout the season that I could talk to at events. Thank you so much. I couldn’t have done it without you. Marvin Lu Banzon, always able to give great advice in the middle of the night and even players who have taken breaks from the game such as Richard Halsall who was willing to talk to Zoroark any night of the week. Our tournament organizers and judges in Ontario who are able to keep us going with League Cups. It takes a village to push for a community and we are so lucky to have one here in Ontario.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from last year was that it is extremely important to understand you will lose and that the invite does not define you. You can still have a great season without your invite, we saw that at NAIC. In the 2018 season, I was so desperate for my invite because I felt that was what it was all about. I would drop the hints at matches on how important the invite was for me. I definitely lost friendships because of this and I never understood why. This year I saw a lot of it at NAIC and I finally understood why this was such a big deal. We need to earn what we can earn and there are people who will bless us from time to time when it concerns this, but we shouldn’t pressure anyone. It takes nothing to be a nice person in the game. I can recall two really salty games I had during regionals, but by NAIC I had people asking me how I won the game and being surprised when I told them I had actually lost. I got extremely clapped by Nicholas D'Angelo at a match and my friends thought I had beaten him, however, we had so much fun, it didn’t matter and I think that having fun with what you’re doing comes before everything else.
Well, there you have it. Some of the lessons I learned from this Seasons grind. I had a great time and I hope that has you excited for the next one too. So Thank you and here's to the next season!
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