Experts' corner

Ryan Sabelhaus

"Warning! Ghosts Gather Here" - A Look at the Format and Analysis of Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX

Ryan's back and takes a look at the current state of the format, along with discussing creativity in deck-building and analyzing one of his favorite decks, Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX/Garbodor!

09/19/2018 by Ryan Sabelhaus


What’s going on, 60cards readers?! It’s been quite a while since I’ve gotten the time to write an article, but I’m finally back and ready to share my thoughts with you about the current format and state of the game. Many things have changed for competitive Pokémon in the recent months, including a new point system that allows all players with 19 points to advance to the 2nd day of competition. I’ve signed up for multiple articles throughout the next couple of weeks in order to go over my entire thought process with the Pokémon community. I’ll be starting a string of articles that will discuss the current state of the format, how deck-building has progressed, and go over one of my favorite decks in each of these articles so that players can also come away with something to try out and work on for upcoming tournaments.

For my first article, I’ll be going over the 19-point system and how it can change the way people should view these tournaments. It’s a completely different concept compared to tournaments of recent past where there wasn’t a direct cutoff point that needed to be reached. I’ll also go over how I believe deck-building has changed in the recent months and how it has progressed into something that is truly unique when compared to decks that have won other tournaments before the rotation. Finally, I’ll discuss one of my favorite decks in the format that I would have played if my flight wasn’t cancelled to Philadelphia, which was the Zoroark-GX/Banette-GX/Garbodor GRI deck that Xander Pero piloted to a Top 4 finish. Let’s jump into this article!


For anyone that is unaware of how tournaments have traditionally gone in the Pokémon Trading Card Game, players usually play out all 9 of their Swiss rounds and the Top 32 players with the best records move into the 2nd day of competition. This would mean that if the player that got 32nd place had a record of 6-1-2 and had a very high opponent’s win percentage, they would make it into the 2nd day of competition over other players that had the same record as them. With the new point system that was enacted by the updated tournament pairing program (TOM), all players that complete the first day of competition with a record of 6-2-1 (19 points) or better will proceed into the second day of competition. Regardless of the win percentage of any opponents that were played, competitors just need to reach that cutoff of 19 points. Many players have been questioning this change, especially after what we saw at the recent Philadelphia Regionals that occurred. Instead of the normal 32 players advancing, we had a massive field of 78 players making it to day two.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this system:


- All players will have the same chances of making the second day of competition, regardless of opponents' win percentage coming into play. This will remove the negative effects that come from early round opponents dropping and destroying a player’s win percentage, which can be unavoidable and detrimental to anyone that is on the bubble. All competitors just need to reach that goal of 6-2-1 or better, regardless of whom they have played.

- With no bubble, there is a nearly endless amount of room for players to make the 2nd day of competition. With a higher chance of getting to play in the 2nd day of competition, more players can climb from the lower ranks and even finish in the Top 8, rather than be eliminated from playing in the second day. Dean Nezam is a great example of this, as he should have been eliminated from Philadelphia Regionals after the 1st day of competition from being placed in the 34th seed. With the new point system, Dean had 19 points and proceeded to day 2 where he was able to win five games and make the Top 8 as the overall 6th seed! This would have never been possible without the new point system allowing Dean to play in Day 2, where he was able to prove himself in the extra 6 rounds that occurred.

- A great quote that was seen in a thread about this topic was from Ross Cawthon, who posted “More games will on average have more skill-based results, and less variance.” This statement is true and is another good reason for the new system. With more games to be played, there will be less variance and skill-based results SHOULD be higher, which would show that players with the most skill should make higher results on average given the opportunity to play more games in Day 2.

- With a lower cap to make it into the second day of competition, players aren’t immediately heartbroken after a second loss on the day. In tournaments before this new system, players would be extremely stressed after their second loss and would have to play very fast to avoid tying another game and possibly getting eliminated from contention. Now, players can still afford to lose twice and also have the breathing room of a tie on their record, as long as they can win the rest of their games.

- This system can also be very helpful in a matchup-based format of Pokémon, as some matchups are just unwinnable and may not be representative of the entire field. What I mean by this statement is that some players may just be very unlucky and hit an awful matchup that isn’t being played very much, when they made a correct call and had good matchups all around them. This player doesn’t deserve to be eliminated from contention for just hitting a bad matchup when they made a good deck choice to have favorable matchups around them. There will obviously be variance and luck in what matchups are being hit, but this system should make losses less detrimental and allow for players to squeak through the first day even after hitting some unfavorable matchups.

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