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Kenny Wisdom

Prepping for the Players Cup

Kenny Wisdom breaks down why the Players Cup is going to be an event the likes of which we've never seen before.

07/10/2020 by Kenny Wisdom

Hey everybody, Kenny Wisdom here again, excited to bring you another article on If you've followed my writing for any amount of time you'll know that in addition to bread and butter deckllists and strategy articles, I also like to write about community issues, current events, and generally subjects that may be a little more off the beaten path. Today, we'll be doing a little bit of both. I'll be covering a handful of the reasons why I'm personally very excited about the next stage of the Players Cup, and near the end of this article I'll also briefly go over some of my top picks for the event and talk a little straight-and-narrow metagame analysis. Hopefully this combination will play to my strengths and your interests, and either way I expect that we'll play around with this format, going bakc and forth until we find that sweet spot, so to speak, for the rest of my time writing here (which will hopefully be a long time coming!). We've got a lot to cover today, so lets get right to it.

(As a quick aside, and in the interest of full disclosure: I will be commentating the Players Cup all summer long. Everything I'm writing here would be true whether or not I was working the event, but obviously I can't deny that I am inherently biased. That being said, I would hoppe my decade plus history of writing and being part of the community has shown my true colors as an honest, objective person, regardless of who is paying me.)


The First of Its Kind

Right off the bat, one of the most exciting parts of the Players Cup is what it means for the game itself. More than being a player, writer, or even commentator, I consider myself a historian of the game. I always try to look at the game, the cards, the tournaments, and the communtiy from an outside perspective in the hopes to learn and absorb as much as I can as someone who is both heavily involved, but also somewhat of an outside, objective source. The fact that we have an online tournament series compromised of some of the best players in the world and some players who might not have had the opportunity to compete as much as they would've liked, and that there is a real prize on the line, and that it's all being officially put on and streamed by Pokemon, is a dream come true. If you would've told me ten years ago, back when we didn't even have Worlds coverage, that this woluld be the case, I straight up would not have believed you.

Obviously this event is a product of the curent pandemic situation impacting each and every one of our lives, and I would be lying if I said that I was more excited for this sort of event than NAIC, the World Championship, and the regular season as we know it. With that being said, if we're going to be in this position I am going to choose to look at the situation with optimism, and celebrate what we have rather than mourn what we do not. I hope that we return to live tournaments and a more traditional season as soon as it becomes safe to do so, but for now I'm going to enjoy this tournament series and the potential it offers for for the future of our game.

Earlier today, my good friend and casting partner Jeremy Jallen remarked to the coverage team that this could be ushering in a new era of the game. We've had the WOTC era, the first decade or so of the TPCi era, the cash era, and now the online era. While it remains to be seen if the online era will last long enough to truly cement itself in the way those other classifications have, I can't say I'm not excited to see where we go from here.

The Competition - New and Old

The other major thing that I'm excited for is the potential for this game to amplify stars of our game, whether that means the current best players proving why they're at the top, or new up and comers battling it out with the best to make names for themselves. The way I see it, it breaks down something like this:

From the perspective of the current top players, they have been given the opportunity to play in a high EV tournament from the comfort of their own homes, the value of which is not only all of the glory that comes with winning a major tournament, but also will directly contribute to making their next season a little easier financially, which I'm sure a lot of them are looking forward to after losing a good chunk of their livelihood with the cancellation of the current tournament season. They are the best players in the world for a reason, and are being given a chance to showcase that in an environment where things like jetlag, cheating, and physical play errors (drawing extra cards, accidentally revealing cards) are not an issue. I expect many top players to perform well, and I'm excited for them to solidify their legacies.

From the perspective of up and coming players, now is your chance to prove to the world whiy you deserve to be here. Qualifying for the bracket portion of this event was more a testament to dedication than skill, and I'm sure it feels intimidating to know that, especially with the double elimination bracket system, if you're going to take home the W in this event and qualify for the finals, you're going to need to beat the best in some capacity at some stage. For a lot of these players, this is also a chance to prove their prowess at the game without having to deal with things like traveling, not having events in their local area, and maybe not having the ability to make time for two or three day live events. I know first hand how difficult and costly traveling from some areas of the country and world can be, and the way I see it, the Players Cup is acting as an equalizer in that respect.

New vs old, established vs hungry. No cheating, no traveling, no social worries, no sleeve errors, no dexterity errors, no scouting. Just good, old fashioned Pokemon played on a platform we've never seen before with a format we've never seen before, with some players we may have never seen before, but won't soon forget. How can you not be excited for what the next month and a half will bring?

On the qualification system

I don't want to spend too much time on this subject, as it is one that has been discussed to death within our community. But I do want to touch on the fact that the qualifcation system has proven to be much less difficult and much more fair than many (including myself) ever thought. People smarter than me and have done the numbers, and plenty of players have posted that they qualified for the event starting from near zero tournament tickets. I appreciate that the Pokemon community is vocal when they're displeased, but it seems that we were wrong on this one.

The system isn't perfect, as tournament rep is a dubious test of skill at best, especially when it's not properly updated. Addiitionally, many players didn't have time to build PTCGO collections or learn the ins and outs of the program, and as I said before the whole structure definitely rewards dedication to the grind rather than pure skill. It's clear, however, that the tournament ticket system was a lot moe fair than the community at large had originally thought.

Top Picks

In my opinion, the top decks in Standard look something like this at the moment:

1. Combo Zacian

2. Dragapult

3. Blacephalon

4. PikaRom

5. Spiritomb

With LucMetal, Mill/Control, and a handful of other archetypes competing for tier 1.5/tier 2 spots. I expect that we'll see a good mix of all of these decks throughout the event, as certain big name players have made their preferences known, and I'm sure a lot of the less confident folks will just jam whatever got them the most tournament rep throughout June. 

I'm not sure how big of a factor card availability will be in this tournament as I don't have a good guage of how easy it is to build up a collection, how many players own multiple decks online, etc. but I would expect slightly inflated numbers of Blacephalon and PikaRom, and slightly lower numbers of Dragapult, just because of the costs associated with each. Maybe this will end up being a non factor, but I believe it is something to consider.

Lastly, if I were playing in the Players Cup I would focus heavily on learning how to beat, if not how to play, Combo Zacian, as I think that deck is poised to be the best and most well represented deck of the entire tournament, and it's not one you can afford to go against blind. 


Thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed my perspective and as always, I'm more than happy to answer any questions or clarify anything you'd like to know. The easiest way to contact me is via twitter, where I can be found @kwisdumb. Until next time!


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