Experts' corner

Nico Alabas

The European Grind

Nico talk about the journey of getting your invite in europe and how it feels like to go all the way for the Day 2 stipend to the World Championships.

08/09/2019 by Nico Alabas

What’s up guys, this is Nico and today I want to talk to you about the journey of getting your invite in Europe, and taking part in the grind of getting into the Top 22 to get that much desired Day 2 invite to the World Championships in Washington D.C. I feel like now is the perfect time to talk about it, because the regular tournament schedule of the 2018-2019 season is done and people are already playing in Cups and Challenges for the 2019-2020 season. I’m going to start off by talking about the regular invite and how invites are distributed by countries to give a clear picture on how different countries deal with their lack, or they’re blessing of having only a few cups, or cups at every weekend. After that I will take a look at last year’s Top 22, this year’s Top 22 and how people grinded their way into it. Lastly, I’m going to compare Europe’s Day 2 invite to the one in North America as much as I can, since I have never taken part in the NA grind myself. 

The Invite

 The regular invite in Europe for this season was 350 Championship Points which, compared to the US with its 550 is Championship Points significantly lower, but we will get back at this in the comparison part at the end of this article. For those unfamiliar with Best finish limits, there is only a specific number of tournaments that will count towards your Championship Points for the season, and for local tournaments this Best finish limit also applies for each quarter in which you can earn Championship Points. For League Cups and League Challenges the Best finish limit per quarter is 2, which leads up to a total of 8 League Cups and 8 League Challenges that will count towards your worlds invite. Each of those tournaments awards Championship Points based on the attendance number, so the more players you have at your tournament, the more players are able to earn Championship Points. The number of Championship Points earned is not affected by the number of players (First place will always get the same amount of Championship Points, no matter if you’re 10 or 30 players) Realistically you will be able to earn Top 4 Championship Points at League Challenges and Top 8 Championship Points at League Cups, unless you take part in a League Cup at a Regional Championships, where Championship Points will usually be distributed until Top32, sometimes even Top 64. For simplicity sake I will just take Cups and Challenges into consideration with local attendance numbers around 30 players. The Championship Points for local tournaments adds up to a total of 520 which is actually very, especially if you compare it to last season where it was only 400 when League Cups and Challenges still shared their best finish limit. So let’s just assume someone can’t really take the time off to travel to a lot of regionals because of having to work in a job, study for school or simply because you don’t want to travel too much just to play Pokémon, just by placing Top 8 at 2 Cups per quarter and two Top 4s at Challenges you would already end up with 280, not even 100 Championship Points short of getting your invite. Personally, I think that’s way too much local Championship Points, because I feel like you should have to get at least some Regional level Championship Points, because we’re still talking about the qualification to the World Championship. Sadly, not every country is put on an even playing field when it comes to Cups, and that shows a lot in how invites are distributed within Europe, so let’s take a look at those numbers. The overall number of invitees for the 2019 Pokémon TCG World Championships in the master division is 212, out of which 57 are from the United Kingdom, followed by 28 players from Spain. Those two are followed by Germany with 19 and Italy and France who both have got 17 each.  Compared to last year, where the invite was 250 Championship Points and the Best finish limit for Cups was shared with the one for Challenges, there is basically no change in the number of invitees for those countries (UK 57, Spain 25, Germany 19, France 18) except for Italy which had 24 which is seven more than this year. Those numbers get more interesting when you take a look at the distribution of tournaments. Even though the UK lost their biggest tournament (the International in London) there was no change in the number of invited players which can only be explained by most people relying on getting their invite by local tournaments anyways, especially if you take into consideration that they didn’t only lose the IC, but the invite was also increased by 100 Championship Points. It might seem weird at first that Germanys number didn’t go up a lot compared to last year even though Berlin was the host for this year’s IC, but that’s easily explained by Germany not having three Regional level events like last year, but two plus the IC instead. I can only speak for Germany in detail since I’ve only heard bits about the other countries, but a lot of people tend to give up on their invite after the first two quarters if the tournaments don’t go to well, especially because Cups aren’t distributed in large enough numbers for people that just casually want to get their invite. I’ve heard the opposite about Spain where you apparently are able to choose which Double-League Cup weekend you want to attend on a given weekend, but I can’t fully confirm that. 


Grinding for Top 22

Chasing Championship Points becomes a much different story when you enter the grind for the automatic Day 2 qualification for the World Championships. As you might already expect, you need to play a lot of tournaments throughout a year to get the necessary Championship Points and this usually means that you have to decide very early in the season if you’re going to take the grind, because you can’t really afford to skip any major tournaments. To show you how hard the Top 22 grind gets when you make the two “mistakes” of skipping tournaments and not having too good of a start to your season, I’m actually going to tell you about my season this year, because that’s exactly what happened to me, so I figured I can give you some very detailed views on the topic. The first tournament we had in Europe was the Special Event in Valencia which was just a week after the 2018 North American International Championships in Columbus Ohio, so I decided to not play it because I didn’t really feel like taking a 14-hour car ride just one day after getting back from the US. I also didn’t expect the first two quarters of my season to turn out as bad as they ended up to be, especially because I already knew I was going to play the International in Sao Paulo which would’ve already been a huge boost in Championship Points that early in the season. In the end I ended those quarters with barely above 200 Championship Points which was a very big disappointment to me, especially after how much Championship Points I was sitting on just a year before that. People that have seen my season overview (which I will also put in below) will notice that I played a lot of different decks during the first half of the season which was simply caused by me not putting in enough work into testing for tournaments, but also by not having a go-to deck that I really enjoyed playing. Going into the last two quarters I was still very eager to get the Day 2 invite for Worlds and so I started to put in more work, because I knew time was running low and a lot of Top 22 spots were already basically on lock by Europeans that consistently kept performing well, played the two ICs in Sao Paulo and Melbourne and got some points at those and also players that not only did decently at Regionals and ICs, but took away some very big placements like Bert Wolters and Stéphane Ivanoff who both placed incredibly well in Melbourne, but also got a lot of points from the Special Event in Valencia.


Starting of the third quarter was the Special Event in Cannes, France, where I decided to go with a Malamar (FLI; 51) / Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95) version because, back then, I felt like the matchups vs Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) and Zapdos/Ultra Beasts were in its favor and most mirrors were easily handled by Tapu Koko (BW; 31) . As it turned out the matchup against Zapdos (TM; 40) was much worse than I anticipated but I was still able to win against one of the Zapdos (TM; 40) I played against and take a tie against another. Unfortunately, I lost my win and in against Alessandro Cremascoli with his stall deck because I went to greedy on my early energy discards and I got punished by him just naturally having Tate & Liza (CLS; 148) , Girafarig (LT; 94) and the Energy in his opening hand. On top of that I lost my Top 16 game to myself bricking but that still left me with a decent amount of Championship Points for Top 32. After Cannes I slowly discovered my love for Zapdos (TM; 40) and I kept on testing the deck a bunch, until it was finally time for the next big tournament, which was the Special Event in Bolzano, Italy. Until the night of the tournament I had the list sleeved up that Bert Wolters used during his finish in Melbourne but I really felt like there were parts of the list that I didn’t really like too much, primarily the line of Zebstrika (LT; 82) . I also had some cards that I really wanted to include like Marshadow (SLG; 45) and Energy Loto (GRI; 122) who I think are amazing cards for the deck and to some degree even mandatory. I also really liked Pedro’s version of Zapdos (TM; 40) with Jolteon GX (BW; 173) , but I really wanted to still play cards like Buzzwole (FLI; 77) and Nihilego (LT; 106) so I thought about ways to make both work in one deck. I decided to cut down on cards like Absol (TM; 88) and Ultra Ball (DE; 102) in favor of Eevee (SUM; 101) and Jolteon GX (BW; 173) , as well as putting in Thunder Mountain because that made usage of Jolteon GX (BW; 173) much easier compared to just having Tapu Koko Prism Star (TM; 51) as a way to get Jolteon GX (BW; 173) powered in one turn. In the end all my playtesting and deck theorizing was rewarded with a Top 4 finish in Bolzano and I felt like I was on a really good way to somehow still make it into Top 22. After Bolzano I also decided to book my travel for the Regional Championship in Denver, because getting Championship Points there would not only get me a step closer to Top 22, but also put me in a great spot for a stipend to the North American International Championships in Columbus.  After a very fun weekend with the NA boys I was able to take away some Championship Points for Top 32 which in combination with Cup Championship Points put me into 3rd place for the NAIC stipend, before Berlin. After losing my win-and in in Cannes, my Top 4 match in Bolzano and my win-and in for Top 8 in Denver to some kind of stall variant I was not feeling too confident in playing Zapdos/Ultra Beasts at EUIC which turned out to be a very big mistake. Instead I went for Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) just like the rest of my testing squad and ended up dropping the tournament after round 7 which left me with no Championship Points at all for the tournament and pushed me down to a 17th place for the Top 16 stipend to NAIC by just 1 Championship Points. The last quarter was relatively short, especially when it comes to League Cup, but we still had a lot of big tournaments in this period. Going into Q4 I knew I had to get about 350 Championship Points, which meant I would have to get around 100 Championship Points from the Regional in Bristol, the Regional in Jönköping and NAIC each. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I didn’t lose my hopes and tried my best to get there. After my bad deck decision for EUIC I want back to my trusty Zapdos (TM; 40) deck for Bristol and Jönköping where I was able to get a 2nd place and a Top 16 which with my Cup finishes put me at 349 Championship Points for the quarter before NAIC and basically guaranteed my spot in Top 22 unless some of the Europeans that weren’t close to Top 22 before NAIC would get unexpectedly high finishes to pass me. In the end I was able to grab another 100 Championship Points at NAIC to fully guarantee my second Day 2 invite in a row. This year's grind was much more exhausting than last year, but it also felt much more rewarding to grind hard towards the end of the season instead of sitting on a bunch of Championship Points all year. Overall you can definitely say that grinding for the Day 2 invite is not something for everyone since it gets very exhausting and sometimes frustrating, which doesn’t leave me very surprised that a lot of people in Europe, but also in North America took a slower approach to their next season after getting the Day 2 invite in the season before. 

Na vs EU comparison

Overall the difference between North America and Europe isn’t too different when you’re speaking about the grind in general. Both regions have to grind a lot of local tournaments and attend most, if not all major tournaments; if you look at the number of tournaments that this actually means, North America becomes a completely different beast all together. Pokémon free weekends basically become non-existent things as they are usually one to two Regional level events per month and Cup and Challenges in between. Some players even traveled to Special Events in South America to increase their chances to get a lot of Championship Points even more by playing an additional four to five tournaments throughout the season. If you take a look at the players that got their day 2 stipend in the 2017-2018 season followed up by another one this year, you’ll notice that both regions have a lot of players that just keep on continuously being in there. Most people that are only represented in either of those seasons took a break or decided to take a slower approach the following season. I think we will see a similar evolution for next season, unless The Pokémon Company decided to change the way on how the auto qualification for Day 2 works, or maybe even get rid of the concept of a Day 2 all together, like it used to be until 2015. I think the current structure is working very well as you can see that people that keep grinding for the Day 2 stipend are usually rewarded by said stipend at the end of the season.  

I would’ve really like to talk about the other regions as well but I didn’t pay too much attention to how their ranking developed, but if people are enjoying this kind of content I could see myself doing some more research to make an article on all the Day 2 qualifications in each region, for all the seasons that this structure has been a thing. I really hope you liked my insight on how grinding for Top 22 feels like. If you want to keep updated about my tournaments, streaming or coaching, make sure to follow me on Twitter @LimitlessNico.



[+28] okko


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