Experts' corner

Nico Alabas

EU to NA: Comparing Regionals

Nico compares his Denver regional experience to European Regionals

04/17/2019 by Nico Alabas

Nico Here

What’s up guys, I’m Nico and in this article, I will share my experiences on how European and North American Regionals differ from another. As some people might now, I recently went to the United States to play Pokémon. For the first time it wasn’t to play in the North American International Championships or the World Championships. Instead I finally chose to go to the US to participate in a regional Championship because we don’t have a lot of those over in Europe and Denver was also relatively cheap to get to. In the end it turned out to be a great experience both inside and outside of the tournament, but we’ll get to that later. I decided to split up this article into three parts, the travel, the experience outside of the tournament, and the tournament experience itself.

The Travel

As you might’ve already guessed, I probably had the longest flight to Denver (both distance and flight time wise), but I feel like I should still talk about my travel in a little bit more detail to fill you in on how I travelled from Germany to the US. Normally the travel itself isn’t as exhausting as the path that I took, so keep that in mind as some kind of disclaimer that not every flight to the US is horrible. Initially my flight would’ve just been a straight flight from Frankfurt Airport to Denver International Airport but due to some screw ups with my booking I ended up with no Denver flight the week before the tournament. Since I was still very interested and also excited on going, I kept looking for flights and ended up finding a flight from London Heathrow that was roughly the same price as my initial flight from Frankfurt. Luckily my home city (Cologne) is one of the cities that has an airport with very frequent Ryanair flights. For those who don’t know Ryanair, it’s a European airline that offers a lot of cheap flights to slightly suboptimal locations and basically none existent service, which is absolutely perfect if you just want to get somewhere cheap. After checking Ryanair flights from Cologne to London I found an 8€ flight to London Stansted, which meant that all I had to do now was finding a way to get from London Stansted to London Heathrow. Thankfully getting around in big cities, especially London, is super easy so I didn’t take me too long to figure out a combination of trains and subways to figure out how to get to my final destination in London. Unfortunately, my flight from London Heathrow to Denver was at 6am which in return meant that I would have to go to Stansted the day before, travel to Heathrow and wait there for 12h until my flight would leave. For some people that might’ve been a reason to cancel the travel and forget about Denver, but I figured I’d just hang around at the airport, watch some videos on Youtube and do a bit of university work. After doing way less university work than I had hoped for, I was finally able to board my flight to Denver (and get some sleep, after using the on-board entertainment to finally watch “into the Spider-Verse" and “Crimes of Grindelwald”). Once I arrived in Denver, I had to wait one more hour for a German friend of mine that also went to play in the Regional Championships (he was on the Frankfurt flight that I initially wanted to take) and we went to our hotel to finally get some rest. He decided to go to an ice hockey game and visit a friend that night which meant that I was on my own for the first night in Denver. I really tried to stay up until some of the Americans arrived, but eventually my body just couldn’t stay awake anymore and I feel asleep.

Experience Outside of the Tournament

Once I woke up the next day, I messaged Rahul who I knew got in pretty late the day before to check what his plans for the day were. He told me that the just woke up so I decided to go to Walmart before taking an Uber to their hotel. Once I arrived at their place, the first thing I had to do was getting some cards because, since I was playing in an American Regional Championship, I wasn’t allowed to use any of my cards in European languages. Thankfully I try to buy most my cards in English anyways, so It didn’t take too long to get all the cards I needed to play. By that point it wasn’t just Rahul and me anymore, but also Jose, Jeff, Regan and his dad. Since some of the other guys were still missing cards, we decided to go to Regan’s hotel room where he had all of his cards. It took some time searching through an entire suitcase full of Regan’s cards (I’m not joking), but in the end everyone had all the cards for their decks. Because we all had our cards out anyways, we played a couple of games before going to the venue to check it out, and also to register. The venue even being open on Friday is already a very big difference to European tournaments. European venues always open up barely before check-in starts on Saturday (sometimes even after), which always causes delays in the tournament schedule before it has even started. It’s also cool to have a room to hang out in or play games, that’s not a tiny hotel room that barely fits five people. The venue itself wasn’t that much different in size, but mainly because Denver was a TCG only Regional, and Europe always fits TCG and VGC in the same room. Not a lot was happening in the venue so eventually we decided to grab dinner and head back to our hotels. Back at the hotel was also the first time I used Rk9Labs’ online deck list submission feature and aside from the annoying part of having to create a new google account (the Authenticator for my account is still on my old phone) it was a super quick and easy to use feature, that I really hope will eventually also be used for European tournaments. After that it was time to sleep, to hopefully get 8h of sleep before the tournament (which I almost did aside from waking up for a couple of minutes due to jetlag). All that was left now was getting a shower, eating breakfast and packing the bag before going to the tournament.

The Tournament

The scheduled starting time was 9am, but being used to European tournaments I wasn’t expecting it to start before 10am. To my surprise everyone actually managed to be seated and set at 8.45 which meant we actually started on time. In my first round I actually immediately faced a player from the North American Top16 – Justin Kulas. He played Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  and after some very close games I was able to come out on top. My second round was against Blastoise (TM; 25) ">Blastoise which made me pretty confident to win this round as well. Unfortunately, my deck wasn’t as confident as I did, which ended up only getting a tie for me after two bad openings. Round Three was against a Lost March player that I beat 2-0 in 10minutes, which meant that I had a decent break before going into the last round before the lunch break. In that round I faced a Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jolteon GX (BW; 173)  player that I was able to beat pretty easily thanks to Buzzwole (FLI; 77) ’s Sledgehammer that always gave me an edge in prize racing my opponent. A lunch break is also not something we’re used to in Europe which is why I didn’t grab something to eat since I’m so used to getting food after 9PM on tournaments. I still joined the Americans at KFC to hang out for a bit and to my surprise, most players actually went to use to lunch break to grab real meals, not just some snacks. The one-hour lunch break passed pretty quickly so we all got ready to go back to the venue. In my next round I would face another very well-known American player, this time even on stream. You can check out my games vs Kian Amini on CriticalHitTCG’s Twitch channel, or later on their YouTube channel. With my first loss of the day I was now at 3-1-1 which meant I could afford one more loss and still make Day2. Round Six and Seven were both very uneventful mirrors that I both won to be standing at 5-1-1. Going into the last two rounds that meant I would have to win at least one of those to make it into the next day of swiss rounds. After facing seven rounds of doable or favorable matchups, the “ Zapdos (TM; 40) hate” of the tournament finally caught up to me when I had to play against Celebi & Venusaur GX (TM; 1)  in my first win and in. The matchup itself Is already very unfavored for any kind of  Zapdos (TM; 40) deck, but the extra amount of healing items in his list made it even harder. I was almost able to win the first game after setting up a huge ko on his Celebi & Venusaur GX (TM; 1)  with Tapu Koko GX (GRI; 147)  and five damage modifiers (that I had all previously set up in my hand over multiple turns), but I wasn’t able to get my last Electropower (LT; 232)  with a Cynthia (UPR; 119)  which caused me to lose the game. The next game went even worse for me so I scooped it up after a couple of turns when I knew I couldn’t win anymore. Winning the next round was going to be super important, because a loss would mean that I went all the way from Germany to Denver for nothing. I sat down for my final round and to my surprise my opponent chose to go second after winning the coinflip. That made it pretty obvious to be that he was playing a Zapdos (TM; 40)  variant, because for some reason some people want to go second with Zapdos (TM; 40) decks (which is wrong). Since I was pretty confident in the mirror match, I wasn’t too worried about losing the matchup. In the end I ended up winning which meant I was moving on to Day 2 at my first American Regionals. It was a pretty good feeling and after everyone was finished, we went to eat Dinner and I head to the hotel shortly after to get enough rest before Day2. This is the deck that I played:


My first round in Day 2 was against another Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  player. Much like Justin in Day1 the games were pretty close but I was able to come out on top. The next round was against My first Dead Draw Gaming opponent of the day – Jimmy Pendarvis. I had heard a lot about their Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) Control deck during the first day, and I knew it was going to be a super hard matchup. In the first game we both got basically everything we needed which, for me, meant that I was able to ko his Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  multiple times, without his Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  I was able to execute my strategy as I wanted to, I was able to come out on top. The second game was over very quickly after he got his ideal set-up turn two with a Judge (FLI; 108)  on top. That Judge (FLI; 108)  left me with nothing so I scooped the game to try and win the third game with going first. The last game went horrible for Jimmy, he got absolutely nothing which allowed me to Guzma (BUS; 115) KO every Alolan Grimer (TM; 83)  and Zorua (SLG; 52)  on his Bench until I eventually won. Up next was another mirror match that I won, leaving me at a Day 2 standing of 3-0-0 and an overall record of 9-2-1. 28 points meant that I was already guaranteed for Top32, meaning I would get at least two chances to try and go for Top 16 or maybe even Top Eight. Unfortunately my next round was against the next DDG player, Caleb Gedemer, who played the exact same deck as Jimmy. Of course, this game also had to be on stream so that everyone could see how the matchup goes if you don’t get as lucky as I did versus Jimmy. Of course, you can also watch my games vs Caleb on CriticalHitTCG’s YouTube and Twitch. After talking to my European friends that were still watching from home, we figured out that my tiebreaker would still be good enough to make Top8 if I won my last round. After sitting down for the final round of swiss, my opponent flipped another Jirachi, which turned out to be yet another mirror match. As I already said previously, I was super confident in the mirror so I figured I had a very good shot at making it to Top8. Unfortunately, all the bad luck that I avoided during all the previous mirror matches finally caught up to me and led to me losing two completely unwinnable games.

I knew I should’ve been happy to finish in Top 32, but not even getting Top16 after a very strong start in Day2 left me pretty frustrated for a bit. Thankfully a lot of people both at the event, and also on Facebook cheered me up. We spent the rest of the day playing Mafia with a big group of people which was a lot of fun and reminded me a lot of how we almost play Super Smash Bros. After European events. My travel back to Germany was much less stressful than the travel to Denver which was very nice after an exhausting tournament.


My conclusion on the difference between European and American Regionals is not going to be very long, mainly because they’re actually very similar. The biggest difference is on the event’s organization side. For someone coming from Europe, Denver felt a lot more organized than any tournament that we had in recent years. The location was chosen very good. Being 15 mins away from an easy to reach airport is something that we haven’t had in a very long time, if even at all. Normally you need to go to separate cities or take trains to finally get to your final destination where the tournament is held. The next thing is starting the tournament on time. Having the venue open on Friday in addition to online deck list submission makes everything go by so much more smoothly, and it shows. Being able to have a one-hour lunchbreak during the tournament and still finishing earlier than any 9-rounds tournament in Europe clearly shows that there is much room for improvement over here. I didn’t have any judge calls throughout the tournament so I really can’t say if there’s any difference in that.

I really hope you liked my insight on the difference between European tournaments. If you want to keep updated about my tournaments, streaming or coaching, make sure to follow me on Twitter @LimitlessNico.

- Nico

[+23] okko


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