Experts' corner

Malik Hisyam Zaihan

Qualifying For Worlds From Asia

Malik shares the journey to qualifying for Worlds, from an Asian perspective.

08/08/2019 by Malik Hisyam Zaihan

Hey guys! My name is Malik Hisyam and I am a long-time Pokémon TCG player from Malaysia. Since this would be my first time writing for 60cards, I’ll give a quick introduction about myself. I’ve been playing the game on-and-off since 2007, qualifying for Worlds in my first season via the Last Chance Qualifier. Over the years, I’ve managed to clinch 4 Worlds invites, attending 3 of them with my best finish being a Top16 finish back in 2008. I’ve also spent some time living in Canada during university, managing to play a full season where I enjoyed some success which included 2 Top4 Provincial finishes and a Top32 (Day-2) finish at a US Regionals (Virginia).

Currently I involve myself more with the local community in Malaysia, being part of Team Rainbow Wing, being made up of a network of professors, judges, and players alike as we pour our efforts into providing support locally. 

Enough about me though; I’m here to share the Asian perspective of qualifying for Worlds. I’ll be writing this article from two perspectives, qualifying for a Day-1 invite and grinding for a Day-2 invite (Top8 in Oceania), which my friend and testing partner Colin Tang managed to achieve this season. So let’s get straight into it!

Tournaments in Southeast Asia

I’ll start by explaining how often we get tournaments in the Southeast Asia region, with more emphasis on Malaysia. Every month, there are 4 League Challenges in the country, 3 of them in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and 1 of them being in the northern state of Penang. League Cups are scarce. In the ’18-’19 season, Malaysia had 3 League Cups and Singapore, a 5-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, had 5 League Cups.

In terms of Regional-level events, the current trend is that each country with organized play in Southeast Asia hosts 1 every year. Malaysia has consistently held a Regional Championships for at least 3 years now, with the numbers growing each year. SPEs are held in Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand.

Day 1 Invite

I’ll be completely honest, this season was a chill season for me and I didn’t travel as much as I had wanted to, mostly after not being able to attend the Oceania IC and Perth Regionals, due to my visa to Australia being declined. Hence, I didn’t quite clinch an invite (not that I was trying!) and ended the season with 244/250CP from only 2 Regional-level finishes (Jonkoping Regionals and Nashville Open). So for correctness-sake, I’ll be writing with my previous season as an example.

As a trend in Southeast Asia, Regional-level events don’t usually occur until after the 2nd IC of the season, which to date has always been the Oceania IC in Australia. As a result, the most competitive action we do get are League Cups at most, up until February.

In the ’17-18 season, I ‘kick-started’ my season at the Oceania IC in Sydney, managing a Day-2 finish in Top32, netting me a whopping 160CP, which already places me close to a Worlds invite. I followed-up this performance with a Top8 finish in a League Cup in Singapore at the tail-end of the month, earning a further 25CP. At this point, even a Top16 finish in a Regional-level event would have allowed me to clinch a Worlds invite.

Malaysians in Day-2 with Malaysian judges at the 2018 Oceania IC

At this point in the season, I wasn’t quite able to shell out as much cash to travel and did not quite think that I could be in contention for a Day-2 invite. Hence, I made the decision to sit out the Philippines and Thailand SPEs, as it was too costly for tournaments with no cash payout, and only made plans for the Indonesia Regionals, Malaysia Regionals (of course!), and a drive to the Singapore SPE to cap off the season and have some fun.

My next tournament would be Indonesia Regionals, where I managed to make Top8 as first seed out of approximately 80 players. This meant that I had clinched a Worlds invite in as little as 2 tournaments (even discounting the 25CP from the League Cup). I ended up losing out in Top4 to the eventual winner Sam Chen, netting me 130CP, putting me at 315/250CP and suddenly in contention for Top8 in Oceania at that time.

Top8 of Indonesia Regionals

Top8 of the Indonesia Regionals

Malaysia Regionals came up next, with an attendance of 199 players, making it the biggest event in Asia at the time. I fell slightly short here and only managed to finish in the Top32, earning some 60CP and an additional 20CP from a Top16 finish in the League Cup on Sunday. At the time, this meant I had 395/250CP before taking League Challenge finishes into consideration, which I purposely did not include yet to simplify calculations.

Ultimately, the Singapore SPE, which was the final event in Asia, up to an extent, determined the outcome of which Southeast Asian players would end the season in Oceania’s Top8. It came down to a win-and-in for Top8 between myself and Klive Aw, who ended up winning the match after a disappointing third game where I mostly draw-passed. Klive made a run all the way to the finals, netting a hefty amount of CP which put him in a decent spot for Top8 of Oceania, considering North America IC results go his way for Oceania players in attendance. I did end up finishing in Top16 of the SPE and took a 4th place in the Sunday League Cup, putting me at 507/250CP before factoring in League Challenges throughout the season, which add up to 543/250CP.

The 2018 Malaysia Regionals saw 199 players in attendance

I did make a last ditch attempt to try and make up the difference by attending the North America IC, as I had earned a stipend to attend the event. Unfortunately I did not manage to clinch any points after a disappointing performance and had to settle with 543/250CP, placing at 12th place in Oceania for the season.

With that, it shows that with some travel even within the Southeast Asia region, a Worlds invite is quite attainable with a couple of decent finishes. A win at a Regional-level event already puts you 50CP away from an invite, which could easily be completed with League Challenge and League Cup finishes.

Day 2 Invite

Next I will be shifting the focus over to my friend Colin Tang, who is currently ranked 2nd in the Oceania rankings for the ’18-’19 season, earning himself a Day-2 invite to Worlds. A little background on Colin, his first competitive season in Pokémon TCG was the one prior to this one, in ’17-’18 where he also managed to clinch a Worlds invite. Among his achievements back then was winning the Perth Regional Championships, a major event triumph in his first ever season playing competitively. Since then, he’s done himself one better by qualifying for a Day-2 invite in only his second competitive season.

Similarly to the previous season, Southeast Asia did not see any action once again until February, at the Oceania IC in Melbourne. Hence, up till then, the only events accessible to us (without breaking the bank) were League Challenges and a few Cups in Singapore, where Colin racked up a total of 101CP. The Oceania IC was the event that kick-started Colin’s season, where he finished in the Top64, earning himself 130CP which placed him at 231CP.

The 3rd quarter is where Colin took a big step in the race for a Day-2 invite, placing in the Top4 at Perth Regionals, Top16 at Indonesia SPE, and Top4 at Philippines SPE, where he netted a whopping 340CP. A couple of League Challenge finishes meant he racked up a total of 363CP in this quarter, earning himself a travel award to the North America IC in Columbus by virtue of being Top4 in the region for the quarter. By the end of the 3rd quarter, Colin was in a strong position (594/250CP) to challenge for Top8 in Oceania, with quite a number of events lined up for him to attend.

Colin & Yuki in the Singapore SPE finals

Colin Tang & Yuki Fujimori in the 2019 Singapore SPE finals

The 4th quarter saw him continue his streak of points-placements, finishing in Top16 at Malaysia Regionals, Sydney Regionals, and Thailand SPE. He also managed to cap off his consistent finishes with a win at the Singapore SPE, solidifying a spot in Oceania’s Top8. He earned himself 440CP from these events alone, as well as another 27CP from League Challenges, for a total tally of 467CP for the quarter before the North America IC. This put him at a total of 1061CP for the season, which was more than likely the safe zone for a Day-2 invite.

The North America IC turned into somewhat of a free vacation for him, as he had more than enough CP for a Day-2 invite to Worlds. This, however, didn’t stop him from earning CP, as he still managed to win a League Cup at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus as well as finish in the Top128 at the North America IC, earning himself an additional 150CP, to put his total for the season at 1211CP.

Colin at a League Cup in the Origins Game Fair

The main takeaway from Colin’s grind for a Day-2 invite is that consistency is key, as he noticeably managed to earn CP at all the Regional-level events he attended, only missing out on attending the Melbourne SPE at the start of the season, Brisbane Regionals in December and New Zealand SPE at the tail-end of the season.

Closing Thoughts

It is, however, a taxing grind in Southeast Asia, as every destination requires flying with the exception of Singapore (which you’d rather fly anyways due to how cheap it is!). Events in Australia are often too expensive to attend, especially with the higher currency and cost of essentials.

If you are in Southeast Asia, since many events are staggered in the 3rd and 4th quarters (due to reasons not known to me), often times you’d be spending a lot in this period to catch up in the race for Day-2 at tournaments that do not net any cash payouts, as compared to 3 Regionals and 1 IC in Australia. This makes grinding for Day-2 a big investment in Southeast Asia, before you start to reap the rewards (in the form of stipends and travel awards). That is, considering you do well enough to achieve those rewards.

That’s it from me. I hope that this has given an insight on how things are in Southeast Asia, a region that is often under-looked and I feel has lacked the support that it truly deserves.

[+28] okko


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