Going into State Championships this season, I wasn’t quite as optimistic as I have been. Outside of Cities, my season has been a bust so far, missing cut at both Regionals. Since their inception in 2005, I had not missed a cut at Regionals (9 straight tournaments), so it was kind of a reality check failing at two in a row. Heading into this portion of the season, I sat at 235 points, needing a solid performance at a few tournaments before I could see myself having a shot at a Worlds invite. Although I hadn’t missed a cut at States since 2006 (11 straight tournaments), it has become tougher than ever to succeed at events, and I knew that.
When you factor in the sheer number of players, the improved skill of the average player (thanks to the abundance of online resources), and the direction the game is heading, it’s just tougher to win consistently nowadays. That’s not to say that the great players aren’t winning anymore; they certainly are. But the reality is that it has become more difficult to have repeated success in today’s environment. In a way, it’s like professional poker now. Yes, there are stars of the game that we know are incredible players. However, for every “pro” that wins a tournament, some guy comes out of nowhere to win. We live in the Internet era, and that’s just the way it is. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. But as a competitive player, you have to learn to accept that there are certain things you can’t control. It’s not easy to lose, but all you can do is try to put yourself in the best position to win and let the cards fall as they may.
For the first week of States, I didn’t really like any decks. With the addition of Hypnotoxic Laser and Black Kyurem EX into the format, everything felt more simplified. Turn 1 Laser + Virbank is incredibly powerful, and there’s no denying that. Plenty of decks can take advantage of it, too. When I’m playing, I feel like there is very little leeway in games. If your Pokémon gets stranded with Poison just one turn, you’re going to lose an EX. If you miss an Energy drop, you miss your response attack, and you’re going to fall behind. Yes, N can even the score, but obviously it’s not reliable; it all depends on what your opponent draws. In addition, Black Kyurem EX gave Blastoise an option to OHKO everything for just four Energy. In today’s EX focused metagame, that means the game can end in three attacks once Blastoise gets rolling. With 180 HP and an obscure Weakness, it’s a nightmare to deal with.
Overall, the top two decks for me seemed like Darkrai and Blastoise. While Darkrai was consistent and able to abuse Hypnotoxic Laser to the maximum, Blastoise had the sheer strength to overpower anything. I knew that the Big Basic and Garbodor decks existed, but I’m not really comfortable using decks with no Energy acceleration. Klinklang was strong, but everyone was going to have Fire counters in the first week. For some reason, Rayquaza/Eelektrik continued to test well amid the hyper aggressive decks that spawned with Laser, but I couldn’t get over the fact that it’s so easy to lose on the first turn. I had some other silly options in mind, but in the end my choice was between Darkrai and Blastoise. Since I favor consistent decks, I chose Darkrai for the first week. By now, the deck is well known and simple to build, so I don’t mind sharing my list and explaining my choices.
|Pokémon (9)||Trainers (40)||Energy (11)|
|4 Darkrai EX||4 Professor Juniper||9 Darkness|
|3 Sableye||4 N||2 Fire|
|1 Keldeo EX||4 Ultra Ball|
|1 Victini (V-Create)||4 Pokémon Catcher|
|4 Hypnotoxic Laser|
|4 Dark Patch|
|3 Energy Switch|
|3 Random Receiver|
|2 Dark Claw|
|2 Virbank City Gym|
|1 Computer Search|
|1 Energy Search|
|1 Max Potion|
Since I didn’t feel like the Victini hurt my consistency too much, I decided to play it in the first week to deal with any Klinklang decks. Obviously it’s a very hit or miss card; it won’t help against anything except Klinklang. For that reason, I considered a middle of the road card like Terrakion instead, but I figured the hard counter was the best way to go. The main thing I hated was having to cut a Sableye for it, which does reduce consistency a bit. Also, the Fire Energy is horrible in opening hands. It doesn’t fuel Dark Patch, it doesn’t give free retreat with Dark Cloak, and it doesn’t let you use Junk Hunt – gross. Looking back, I probably would play it again because it seemed likely that Klinklang would be used in the first week, and I didn’t want a terrible matchup against it in 2/3 matches. No regrets.
Everything else should be fairly standard. Laser and Virbank are too strong not to include, but I wish I had room for a 3rd Virbank. Dowsing Machine was a consideration over Computer Search, but I felt that CPU was better overall. At the last minute, I decided to cut the 3rd Dark Claw for an Eviolite, figuring it would be useful against Landorus EX. Also, Jason Klaczynski talked me into running a Bicycle over the 4th Random Receiver, and I figured it was worth a shot. Max Potion was a powerful card that seemed too good not to play, so it got a spot as well. Overall, the deck seemed to make sense to me, but it did seem to get more clunky hands than I liked. Still, I was as comfortable with this deck as I would be with anything else.
At Illinois States, it would be a two day event with 130+ Masters. On the first day, we would have eight rounds and cut to a Top 16. The field was full of top level competition, including big names like Jason Klaczynski, Ross Cawthon, and John Roberts II. But hey, that’s to be expected at this point. The competition is fierce. But without further adieu, let’s jump into the tournament.
Round 1 – Tornadus EX/Landorus EX/Bouffalant (Brandon Zettel)
Last year Brandon went undefeated through Swiss at Wisconsin States with a Durant/Mewtwo deck, so clearly the guy knows what he’s doing. Have you ever had one of those games where you look at your opening hand and you know things aren’t going to go well? Yeah, that’s what happened here. I opened up with a hand of no Supporters, some Pokémon, and a lot of Trainers that I couldn’t use. In the first few turns, my opponent was beating me down with Tornadus EX and Bouffalant, and my only defense was to Poison him with Hypnotoxic Laser and Junk Hunt to get it back. Unfortunately, just about every time I did, he had a Switch or flipped Heads on a Super Scoop Up to get out of it. However, because he kept using Super Scoop Up, he had very few Energy in play and a very large deck. If I could KO his only Pokémon with Energy and N him down to 1, I could make a 6-1 comeback quite easily. I have to sacrifice a Darkrai with no Energy to buy time at this point, but the game was not out of reach. I had one Energy on my benched Darkrai and plenty of Dark Patch left in my deck. After he KO’s the active Darkrai, I can N him to 1, get a couple Dark Patches, and KO the Bouffalant to start my comeback. I have a chance.
Unfortunately, before he takes the KO on my Darkrai, he plays a random Crushing Hammer – HEADS. With that, he discards my only Energy in play, making it very improbable for me to pull off an attack next turn. I am left confused and wondering if this is an omen for the rest of my day. Really, a Crushing Hammer in that deck? I do N him to 1 and get the double Dark Patch, but I can’t attach to my active to retreat and still have enough Energy to use Night Spear, so I have to pass. After taking another Gold Breaker for 120, I finally pull off an attack, but he shows me the Catcher to seal the game. Not a good start to my day.
Starting 0-1 in an 8 round tournament isn’t exactly great, but there are plenty of rounds to recover. I’m just left to wonder if my whole day will be filled with strange losses like that. Oh well, have to move on.
Round 2 – Landorus EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX
In this round, I start with my beloved Victini, and I have a bad feeling that this is going to be a short day for me. You see, my opponent starts with a Mewtwo EX, puts down a Double Colorless Energy and a Virbank City Gym, and says “Let’s go for it.” If he gets a Hypnotoxic Laser from the Juniper, I lose before drawing a card, and I swiftly begin my tournament at 0-2. Between the 40 from X-Ball and 30 from Laser/Virbank, poor Victini never has a chance to live. So, I sit there and await my fate…
No Laser! At the very least, I survive the turn. Unfortunately, I’m starting with the Victini, and I did get hit with an X-Ball early on. On the bright side, I have my Max Potion in hand, so I’m able to heal off the 40 damage right away. Against a big Basic deck like this, I want to have Max Potion in my discard pile so I can access it easily with Junk Hunt. After sacrificing a Sableye to Junk Hunt for resources a few turns, I power up a Darkrai, and the exchanges begin. Since neither of us really OHKO the other (except for Land’s Judgment with Landorus EX), Max Potion plays a huge role for both of us, wiping tons of damage off the field completely. Of course, Hypnotoxic Laser makes things hectic, adding up quick damage for both sides of the field.
In the end, my opponent has a bunch of damage on his side of the field, and I have only three Catchers in the discard pile. With two prizes left, all I have to do is Night Spear one more time on a heavily damaged Landorus EX for the win. On an earlier search, I saw that I had none prized, so my last Juniper will allow me to draw the rest of my deck and get the game winning Catcher. However, I’m quite tired, so I decide to use Ultra Ball to check my deck first. To my surprise, there isn’t one in there. I would have lost if I had just used the Juniper to draw my deck! Now I’m in some trouble, though. Without a Catcher, my opponent can rotate between attackers and dodge a KO for a while. Eventually he runs out of real estate, though, and a Night Spear picks off a benched Landorus EX with 150 damage on it. After the game, a spectator grabs a card next to me on the floor and hands it to me – Pokémon Catcher. Turns out it dropped on the floor as I was shuffling during the game. I would have been sour if I lost that game…
Round 3 – Blastoise/Keldeo EX/Black Kyurem EX (Karen Moskow)
Karen is a very nice lady who comes along with her kids and husband, but she isn’t a very competitive player. Still, I know better than to take people lightly. Anything can happen in Pokémon. Overall, this game was fairly uneventful. My start was actually pretty slow, but that doesn’t always matter with Laser/Virbank on your side. My opponent got a Blastoise out fairly quickly, but nothing else really followed. To give you an idea of how slow this game was, I was able to KO it with Poison damage alone. Once I got a Darkrai powered up, I swept through everything with Night Spear. Just one of those games where someone doesn’t draw anything.
Round 4 – Infernape
Much to my surprise, my opponent flips over two Chimchar this game. To my knowledge, my opponent actually played nothing else besides Infernape. The only Basics I saw the entire game were Chimchar, so he was just going straight ahead with the big guy. Since he got a T2 Infernape going first, I was under a ton of pressure early on between Torment and Malevolent Fire. He did play Giant Cape, which allowed him to avoid an OHKO from Dark Claw + Laser/Virbank, and Plasma Frigate kicked my Virbank out of play. All of these ended up just being minor annoyances, though. Unfortunately, Infernape just doesn’t stack up well against Darkrai. Eventually Night Spear overwhelms him with the bench damage, and I stabilize fairly quickly for a solid win.
Round 5 – Darkrai EX/Terrakion/Lasers
I noticed that I was paired down this round, which was unfortunate, but oh well. Basically a standard Darkrai/Lasers mirror match plays out. I’m able to get the first Night Spear on a Darkrai, which ends up making all of the difference. My opponent struggles to get anything going, and my Keldeo EX saves me from Hypnotoxic Laser a few times. Honestly there isn’t much to say about this matchup. After a few Night Spears, damage adds up quickly, and the game ends in four turns or so. When he dropped down Terrakion, I was scared for a bit, but it was too little too late. My lead from getting the first Night Spear was too much to overcome, and I get another fairly comfortable win.
Round 6 – Blastoise/Keldeo EX/Black Kyurem EX (Colin P.)
Colin and I have played a few times by this point, and he’s a pretty solid player. However, once again I was paired down, which started to annoy me. What are the odds of that happening two rounds in a row? Now my tiebreakers were shot for sure, and I’d need to win out to make Top 16. Once again, my opponent struggles to set up, but I am able to capitalize with a quick Night Spear finally. From the second turn on, I’m able to attack with Darkrai EX, and he never gets a Blastoise into play. Instead of going after Squirtles, I decide to attack into the EX’s and set up a four prize turn to win. After I take down the first Keldeo EX with two Night Spears, his Black Kyurem EX has 60 damage on it. I hit the next Keldeo EX for 140 with Dark Claw + Laser, putting the Black Kyurem EX up to 90 damage. Next turn a Night Spear KO’s both, and I collect my four prizes to close out the game. Sorry about the lame game, Colin.
Round 7 – Darkrai EX/Zebstrika (Zach Zamora)
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I got paired down for the third round in a row! Something must be wrong with the software. The odds of this happening are astronomical. Anyway, I’m up against Zach this round, who is known for putting Zebstrika on the map. If you haven’t already, check out his deck breakdown from Mississippi Valley Regionals where he shows off his Zebstrika/Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck. Now he’s switched up his strategy a bit, going with Darkrai instead. The idea is to take advantage of Laser/Virbank with Disconnect, locking a high retreat Pokémon in the Active spot and doomed to die from Poison. This is especially useful against something like Landorus EX, who cannot escape with a giant three retreat cost. With Dark Patch and Energy Switch, you can power up Disconnect in an instant. As Zach told me, “Subtract six cards from meta deck, add Zebstrika.”
In this game, my opponent goes first, which is a very scary prospect. Sure, Darkrai is great against the zebra, but not unless it already has three Energy on it to use Night Spear. Just look up at my list and look at how many Items I have. Yes, over half of my deck is comprised of Items, which I will not be able to play under Disconnect lock. Knowing this, I opt to attach and Dark Patch to my Darkrai instead of using Junk Hunt for the turn. I want to have two Energy on it in case he pulls off a Catcher + Disconnect. Then I can respond with a Night Spear. Fortunately for me, he isn’t able to pull off a Disconnect, and his deck crumbles from there. I make it a priority to get Keldeo EX into play to stop any Laser shenanigans, and it really gives his strategy a rough time. He tries to counteract it by Catchering up the Keldeo and attempting to put it to sleep with Laser, but he fails. From there, Darkrai just kind of overpowers Zebstrika, and it’s basically a Darkrai mirror with me ahead on prizes and Energy attachments. He struggles to mount any offense after the slow start.
At this point, I’ve rattled off six straight wins, but I know I need to win the last one still because I was paired down three times for some reason. When you enter the last round at 6-1 and have a 50/50 shot at making the cut, something seems wrong. But I understand the situation and have no suspense at least. Win = in, loss = out.
Round 8 – Darkrai EX/Terrakion/Lasers (Adam Vernola)
Adam and I have played numerous times over our careers, and I think the series is probably about even. As I look at my hand, I realize that my tournament is probably over unless a miracle happens. Just like the first round, I have no Supporters and no useful cards. To make matters worse, my only Pokémon is Sableye, and Adam is going first. On his first turn, he’s able to pull off a Dark Patch and an attachment onto Sableye, basically guaranteeing a T2 Night Spear unless I disrupt him. I draw another worthless card, and I do the only thing I can do – try to put him to sleep with Laser! I have two shots at it. I play the first one – TAILS. I play the second one…
HEADS! Maybe I have a shot here! I Junk Hunt for the two Lasers and cross my fingers. The flip for sleep is… HEADS. Sableye wakes up, and Adam just Night Spears me to bench me out. My next card was a Juniper. 😛
So I know I’m out at this point, and it’s a very empty feeling. I talk to Jimmy Ballard about getting paired down so many times, and he acknowledged that it’s a flaw in the tournament software, but there’s nothing that can be done about it. As the final standings go up, the bad news is confirmed – 19th.
After making the cut in 11 straight State Championships, this one was a reality check. I wasn’t too happy about it, but there was no use being upset; that won’t change anything. I did what I could, but sometimes it’s out of your control. So, I came back the second day to stream the Top 16 through the Finals, and we captured some great moments on camera for everyone to watch. Thanks to everyone who tuned in. I feel like my playing career is coming to a close, so I hope the streaming and recording can begin to take off since I do enjoy it a lot. We’re a long way from that, though. Ross ends up winning the event with his Garbodor/Landorus/Mewtwo deck, and he basically seals up his invite in the process. Congrats to him! I believe he’s the only player to qualify for every World Championship dating back to 2002.
For the second weekend of States, I was a little deflated, so I wanted to try something new. Pram had been pestering me to try out the deck he had been using, Gothitelle/Accelgor. In theory, you can get a permanent lock on people using Deck and Cover and promoting Gothitelle for Magic Room (to shut off Switch). However, I knew it was not a great tournament choice. When you combine its inconsistency, weakness to Keldeo EX’s Rush In, and time issues, it doesn’t seem like something that can win. But hey, I build it and try it out. The night before the tournament, I play about 7 games against my friends, and I end up going 6-1. Maybe it was worth a shot.
I recognized all of the problems with the deck, but I figured it gave me a decent chance at winning if I got the right matchups. I expected Garbodor to rise in popularity and Darkrai to fall, so that would work in my favor. Although Garbodor seems like a bad matchup, once you discard their Tool with Tool Scrapper, they are unable to play a new one thanks to Gothitelle’s Magic Room. If they can’t shut off your Abilities, you should win. Blastoise/Keldeo was my worst matchup by far, but it was winnable if you got Gothitelle out before Blastoise came into play. Plus, you don’t really lose until three Keldeo EX hit the board. One isn’t a problem (you just Paralyze it), and two isn’t the end of the game (you can manage to KO one and lock the other), but three is unbeatable. I was willing to accept that, though. Darkrai with Keldeo is difficult as well, but you can beat that by Catchering out the Keldeo EX and knocking it out. Once you do that, Gothitelle isn’t even necessary because Darkrai decks normally don’t play Switch. Since I never plan on playing this deck again (and you shouldn’t either), I’ll just post the list for this one, too.
|Pokémon (20)||Trainers (31)||Energy (9)|
|4 Gothita (Hypnotic Gaze)||4 Professor Juniper||4 Double Colorless|
|1 Gothorita (Hypnoblast)||4 N||3 Darkness|
|4 Gothitelle (Magic Room)||4 Skyla||2 Blend GRPD|
|3 Shelmet||4 Rare Candy|
|2 Accelgor (Deck and Cover)||4 Ultra Ball|
|3 Mew EX||3 Pokémon Catcher|
|2 Darkrai EX||2 Level Ball|
|1 Keldeo EX||2 Tropical Beach|
|1 Virbank City Gym|
|1 Tool Scrapper|
|1 Super Rod|
|1 Computer Search|
I don’t think I would change anything, but a Max Potion or two would have been nice to heal off Gothitelle. Not very many things KO it in one hit, so that turn of healing can make all of the difference. Otherwise the deck just aims to use Mew EX to copy Accelgor’s Deck and Cover every turn to constantly Paralyze the opponent, puttingGothitelle active to lock down Trainers. Darkrai then gives you free retreat to repeat the cycle. Tropical Beach allows you to set up and recover from N. Virbank allows you to change some numbers on Poison to either speed up the damage process or have your opponent get KO’d by Poison coming back into your turn. The most notable example is Darkrai EX, which takes 30 damage from Mew using Deck and Cover and 30 from Poison with Virbank in play. After two rounds of Deck and Cover, Darkrai will have exactly 180 damage coming back into your turn, allowing you to get a free shot at something new.
After a night of no sleep due to Jason continuing to talk until 6 AM, we head out to Wisconsin States for a long day of Pokémon. Since we’re going to get there with hardly any time left, I’m locked into my decision to use the deck. My cards are in the trunk of the car, and the list is already filled out. Let’s hope for the best. Wisconsin States had around 110 Masters, falling short of 8 rounds. So we’d have 7 rounds and a Top 16 for the event.
Round 1 – Klinklang (Peter Eiche)
I’ve played against Peter a few times, and I’ve been able to get the best of him so far. When he flips over a Cobalion EX, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I don’t mind my matchup against Klinklang. On the other hand, it takes FOREVER to KO anything because of Klinklang’s Plasma Steel. Although you can Poison/Paralyze with Mew EX, you do no base damage. I also notice that Peter is using Prism Energy, which means he probably uses Darkrai and Keldeo. A timely Rush In could wreck me if I have to discard my Catchers early on. Although he starts off quickly by knocking out my Shelmet with two hits from Cobalion EX’s Righteous Edge, the game slows to a screeching halt after that. I’m able to get Gothitelle into play, and the lock begins. I decide to target down the Klinklang, assuming I can win quickly once Plasma Steel is gone. Since it has such a large retreat cost, I don’t even have to Paralyze it every turn. Once I Poison it, I can just use Tropical Beach with Gothitelle active to refill my hand. The math works perfectly for him to get KO’d returning into my turn by Poison, and I’m feeling good about my position. However, he evolves a benched Klink into Klang, so now I have to worry about him evolving into the Shift Gear Klinklang, shifting all the Energy active, and retreating. Now I have to Paralyze him again every turn.
When he gets up to 100 damage from Poison, I don’t have a DCE in my hand to use Deck and Cover. I’m forced to play an N to go for it, otherwise he might be able to retreat. Much to my dismay, I miss the DCE and am forced to use Tropical Beach for the turn. As luck would have it, he draws the Shift Gear Klinklang, moves three Energy active, and retreats the Klinklang, basically undoing my past five turns. He decides to attack with Darkrai EX this turn, hitting the Gothitelle for 90 and a benched one for 30. With time running low, I realize that I need to take prizes, and I need to drop down the Virbank. Since Darkrai isn’t a Metal Pokémon, Mew EX can hit it for 30. After two hits with Deck and Cover, he will be knocked out from Poison coming back into my turn, and I’ll get a free shot at something new. Unfortunately, I don’t find the Virbank, so the math won’t work out like I want it to. Eventually I take down the Darkrai to go up 4-5 in prizes 25+ minutes into the match.
Now he has to promote the Cobalion EX, and he takes down an already damaged Gothitelle with Steel Bullet. Since I knew this game wouldn’t finish, I was discarding pieces of my Gothitelle line throughout the game with Ultra Ball to increase my odds of pulling off Deck and Cover every turn. However, I was down to one Gothitelle at this point, so a Keldeo EX using Rush In would beat me. I had to hope that he wouldn’t draw into it (Magic Room shuts off Ultra Ball). After putting Virbank in play, I hit the Cobalion EX with Deck and Cover from Accelgor because I cannot find a Mew EX. Time is called during his turn, so I’m turns one and three of time. Basically I’m able to KO the Cobalion EX and promote a Gothitelle, up 2-4 on prizes at this point. Since Magic Room shuts off Catcher, there’s no way he can take two prizes on his turn, and I win a scary game in my first round.
Round 2 – Darkrai EX/Keldeo EX/Bouffalant/Zoroark/Lasers (Michael Slutsky)
When I looked at my hand this round, I figured I was in for a quick loss. I had absolute junk, but maybe I could get a T2 Gothitelle if my Gothita survived. Unfortunately, a quick Bouffalant and a Catcher took down my Gothita. I used an Ultra Ball for another one, but that Gothita met the same fate as the first. Finally I topdeck a Tropical Beach, but I’ll have to sacrifice one of my Darkrai EX to buy enough time to set up. Before I can do anything, I’m down four prizes, but I am able to set up finally. I know I have a good shot at coming back because nothing in Darkrai can OHKO a Gothitelle. Also, thanks to Bouffer, Bouffalant gets KO’d by Poison coming back into my turn with a couple Deck and Covers. I get everything set up and start to mount a comeback.
When my opponent drops down a Keldeo EX, I’m a little discouraged, but I manage to Catcher that out and KO it in two turns. I can use Mew to hit it up to 70 with damage + Poison, and then I can finish it off with Accelgor, which hits for Weakness. Eventually I hit enough attacks in a row where I’m able to KO all of my opponent’s Pokémon that have Energy attached. With no acceleration from Dark Patch and Trainers locked, there’s no way for him to power up attackers. He counters my Beach with Virbank and plays an N, which I struggle to draw out of. I do miss a couple attacks at the end, but I actually power up a Darkrai and use Night Spear to take my last KO for the game. Somehow I make a huge comeback this round, giving me hope for the deck.
Round 3 – Darkrai EX/Keldeo EX/Lasers
Everything runs smoothly this game. I’m able to lock down Items starting on the second turn with Gothitelle, and I never really look back. Once I begin the Deck and Cover cycle, my opponent is powerless to stop it. He does drop down Keldeo EX one turn to break the lock, but that gets Catchered out and knocked out in two turns. I accidentally leave myself vulnerable at the end when I use Accelgor to Deck and Cover one turn, giving him an option to Night Spear my Shelmet twice for a KO. If I don’t draw an Accelgor from my Juniper, I lose the Shelmet, taking away my option to use Deck and Cover any time soon. Fortunately I hit it, and I continue to lock him until I win. Overall, I got a fairly convincing win this round, and I’m feeling good about my chances.
Now I’m 3-0 heading into the lunch break, and I’m starting to wonder if the deck might have some hope. Realistically I’ll have to win two more games to make the cut, three to be safe. Once I make it there, anything is possible. I’m also running on no sleep, so the lunch break is a killer for me. It’s an hour of nothing happening, which makes me lose focus and become extremely tired after the adrenaline rush of playing is gone. Oh well, have to keep on truckin’.
Round 4 – Tornadus EX/Keldeo EX/Mewtwo EX/Bouffalant (Tyson Stephan)
Tyson and I have known each other for a while, and we’ve played each other a few times over the years. Although he started up quickly with a first turn Blow Through with Tornadus EX to KO a Gothita, I was able to weather the storm and get a Gothitelle up on the second turn. From there, I got off a lot of Deck and Covers, but I was starting to run out of steam. Every couple turns, though, I would miss an attack, which causes two problems. First of all, he can retreat and force me to KO a fresh Tornadus EX. Obviously this is bad because it takes a lot more effort to KO him then. On top of that, he gets a free shot at my Gothitelle, which ended up hurting me a lot. Over the course of the game, he was able to KO three Gothitelle, and eventually my Trainer lock was broken. Also, he dropped down two Keldeo EX, which threatened to break the Paralysis lock at any time.
Even though I ran out of Gothitelle, I was able to send up things like Darkrai to take hits because I could just Rush In with my Keldeo EX and retreat for free. There was a huge turn where he needed an Energy to use Power Blast for a KO, but he had access to Items again. After a couple Bicycles, the last card in his hand was an Ether. If the top card is an Energy, he can KO me. If not, I’ll survive and end up winning. So, he flips over the top card dramatically… Water. Now I’m in some trouble.
Ultimately, my downfall for this game was being forced to discard all of my Catchers on a dreadful turn. When his Tornadus EX retreated to the bench, I wasn’t able to bring it back up, and time was called on an unfortunate moment. Basically I played an N to put him at one card, and then I used Mew EX to copy his Blow Through for a KO, bringing me down to two prizes. With the Virbank City Gym in play, I would be able to Deck and Cover his Keldeo EX for 50 + 30, and then I could attack with Accelgor for the game as long as he didn’t draw a Switch. But with time being called, I would end up a turn short of being able to take the KO, and he was ahead by a prize by the end of the three turns. He had no way to avoid losing, but it didn’t matter. If I had a Catcher left, I would have been able to KO a Tornadus EX with 80 damage on it using Power Blast. Surely it was a frustrating loss, but time limits are a part of the game.
Round 5 – Darkrai EX/Keldeo EX/Hammers (Jason Klaczynski)
Throughout the day, Jason was berating me for my terrible deck choice, but I did manage to beat him two or three times the previous night in this matchup. We both knew what we were getting into, and the outcome of the game largely depended on my start. While I was able to get a Tropical Beach in play quickly, I was faced with a Night Spear on the second turn, which meant a lot of pressure coming my way. If I could just get a Gothitelle out, though, I would be able to prevent Catchers and stabilize just fine. After two or three turns of playing Supporters and using Beach, though, I never managed to get RC/Gothitelle in my hand. By this point, I was down three prizes with 30 damage on a Gothita, so I was in trouble. Once again, I miss the Gothitelle, and I’m forced to N him down to three cards. Still no Gothitelle. However, I can come back as long as he doesn’t get his fourth Catcher off this N. Coming back is possible when you’re down four prizes, but it’s impossible to come back down five because of Keldeo EX coming down at some point. So, I use Tropical Beach yet again, hoping that Jason doesn’t hit his last Catcher…
But, to my dismay, he plays a Juniper, and he hits the last Catcher. If he didn’t, the game may have been extremely close. I finally got a Gothitelle and Accelgor out on the following turn and began to use Deck and Cover. Even though I was losing the entire game, one turn could have changed everything. Without Max Potion, though, there was no way to come back from this one. Sure, I can KO a Darkrai perhaps, but eventually he gets to attack again and take a prize. When he drops down the Keldeo EX and hits my Gothitelle up to 120 damage, I know there’s nothing I can do. Just one of those games where nothing gets going.
Round 6 – Darkrai EX/Keldeo EX/Lasers
Now I need to win out to have a shot at Top 16. For the fifth time today, I’m up against a deck with Keldeo EX. Where are all the Garbodor and Big Basic decks? 😛 Once again, I’m faced with a quick Night Spear. To make matters worse, he drops down two Dark Claws before I can lock Items as well, which makes it much easier for him to KO Gothitelle. In this game I start locking him around the fourth turn, and things are looking okay. Unfortunately, I did lose a couple Gothitas and Gothitelle in the early parts of the game, but I would be able to stabilize with some decent luck. At a crucial moment in the game, I have his Darkrai Paralyzed and taking massive Poison damage from Virbank. He doesn’t have his Keldeo EX in hand, and Ultra Ball is shut off by Magic Room, so he has to draw into it manually. As long as he doesn’t draw the Keldeo and Energy off his Juniper, I’m going to be in great shape. He plays the Juniper…
And, yes, he gets the Keldeo and the Energy. He’s able to Rush In, get rid of the Paralysis, and KO my Gothitelle because I haven’t found my Tool Scrapper to discard Dark Claw yet. I don’t have a way to get Gothitelle in play anymore, but I’m still okay. I can Catcher out the Keldeo EX, hit it with Deck and Cover to Paralyze it, and then KO it the following turn. Since Darkrai decks traditionally run Keldeo and no other switching cards, I shouldn’t need Gothitelle to pull this off. So, I target down Keldeo and hit it for 50 + 10 with Deck and Cover from Mew EX, sending out Darkrai EX. Next turn I can KO him with Accelgor, and I’ll be free to Paralyze him the rest of the game. At this point, my opponent has three prizes left, so a comeback is definitely in reach. But, as the day has been going after the lunch break, my opponent looks at me and says, “Surprise!” He drops a Switch to get out of Paralysis, and I roll my eyes. Not only does he play a Switch, but he has the one copy at the right moment. Looks like it isn’t my day.
So he hits my Darkrai for 90, putting 30 on my Keldeo EX. As strange as it sounds, I’m actually not out of this game quite yet. I have another Catcher in hand to bring out the Keldeo EX once again and KO it with Accelgor. However, I still don’t have Gothitelle in play, so there is the potential for him to do some crazy things with Items now. As I take a look at his discard, though, he did have to discard a ton of useful cards early on with Juniper, so maybe I’ll be okay. I N him down to 3, hit the DCE, Tool Scrapper the Dark Claw, drop another Shelmet, and Deck and Cover for the KO. In a strange situation, I have to promote Mew EX here. Basically if I promote my Darkrai, I sacrifice two prizes, basically ending the game because he has a Catcher left. If I send out my Keldeo EX, a Dark Claw will set it up with 140 damage, leaving it as a sitting duck for Night Spear later. If I promote the Mew, I can take a hit and just shuffle it back in with Deck and Cover, which is fine. I’ll end up winning then. The only way I’ll lose is if he hits his last Laser and last Virbank (or 3rd Dark Claw).
Well, you guessed it. Off the N to 3, he hits the last Laser and Virbank, knocking out my Mew EX and hitting my Darkrai up to 150. Now he’s down to one prize to my four, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Since he already has damage on his Darkrai from a previous Deck and Cover, the math with Virbank no longer KOs him coming back into my turn. So, that means he’ll have another opportunity to Night Spear, putting the final 30 damage on my Darkrai EX. If I didn’t have to discard a Catcher earlier, I would have been able to set up a double KO with my own Darkrai using Night Spear (since I had a lot of earlier turns to use attachments on). But with no Catcher and no way to prevent a KO on my damaged Darkrai, there was nothing I could do. Yet another close game slips by on the slimmest of margins.
At this point, I’m out of the tournament, and it’s pretty discouraging. I felt like those games were well within reach, but it certainly wasn’t my day. There’s one round left, but I’m not really playing for anything at this point.
Round 7 – Garbodor/Landorus EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion
When I’m up against Garbodor decks, normally it’s a fairly solid matchup as long as Tool Scrapper isn’t prized. Alternatively, I can get Gothitelle before they can play down any Tools. If they are able to get Garbodor out with a Tool AND Scrapper is prized, then I lose. As I search through my deck with Skyla, the first thing I look for is that Tool Scrapper… You guessed it; it’s prized. Of course, he also went first and got a Garbodor with a Tool on it, so I was in a horrendous position. I don’t play Dark Patch to power up Darkrai, and Mew EX’s only attack is Replace when the Ability is shut off. I can Deck and Cover with Accelgor, but my deck isn’t built to keep getting those back. My only option was to power up Gothitelle with a Blend and DCE to use Madkinesis for a KO on his Garbodor. In the process, I had to discard a DCE with Juniper fishing for the Blend. I do manage to pull everything off the KO the garbage pile and give myself a shot at winning, but it cost me. The bad part is that I’ve now lost two DCE, which I need to keep up my Deck and Cover lock. One is permanently attached to Gothitelle, and the other is in the discard from Juniper. To make matters worse, I have one prized, leaving myself with one DCE for the entire game. I make it close, but I run out of steam eventually, never getting that DCE out of the prizes. Oh well.
What started off as a great day ended up as one of the most depressing tournaments in my life, but that’s just how the game goes sometimes. I don’t feel like I played poorly at all, and I put myself in the best position to win every time. Sometimes you’re just not meant to win. I was able to record some great matches from the tournament, and I’ll upload those as soon as I can. Joe Baka ended up winning the event with a Darkrai/Hammers/Lasers deck. Not bad for a first year player! After Jason gets knocked out in Top 16, we play a few games with decks from the 05-06 season. I end up owning his Mewtric deck two games in a row, making me the unofficial 2006 World Champion now. Then we start the long drive home, all of us extremely exhausted. Pokémon players lead a rough life.
At this point, I sit at 245 Championship Points. Since I was unable to attend the third week of States due to illness, my chances at an invite are slim to none. Even if I win Spring Regionals, I would be at 365, needing to do very well at Battle Roads. Top 8 at US Nationals would be my best hope now. It’s disappointing to know that I probably won’t be playing in Worlds this year for the first time since 2007, but I can’t really complain. I’ve had a good run of luck over my career. To be honest, my passion is shifting away from playing the game and more towards covering it. I hope we can continue to expand our fan base and make competitive Pokémon as big as some of the other games out there. If we could stream Nationals and Worlds, it would be a dream come true. While my chances at an invite are pretty much gone at this point, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve learned that it’s best to keep moving forward when things don’t go the way you want them to. No use dwelling on what could have been. There’s always another opportunity out there.