In a change of pace, Autumn Regional Championships this season are split up into three weekends. The first of those would be the one held in Pleasanton, CA. Since it’s the first Regional Championship (and first premier event of the season), it sets the bar for a lot of things. Not only is it a testing ground for the new format, but it was the first event to implement the new 50 minute + 3 turns best-of-three Swiss rounds. Thanks to the stream from On the Bubble, all eyes were on this tournament.
Unfortunately, less than 227 players participated in Masters, meaning there would not be two days of Swiss. Under the new system, that means there would be less rounds than the previous seasons. Instead of eight rounds and a Top 32, now there would be eight rounds and a Top 8. Clearly this is a downgrade, losing two whole rounds! Perhaps this was an oversight in the system, but it made for a brutal tournament. Let’s take a look at the Top 8 after the Swiss rounds.
Photo taken from On the Bubble’s Facebook page.
Just by a quick glance, one thing should stand out to you – lots of ties. Look at how many players on that list have ties on their records! One of the players in the Top 8 has three of them, and one poor soul finished the event with a 1-0-7 record. Lots of players were apprehensive about the new system, and this is why. An initial estimate shows that approximately 20% of all matches finished in a tie, which is an absurdly high number. One in five matches ended in a draw! From what we’ve seen so far, the system just doesn’t work properly. 50 minutes isn’t enough time, and players are under lots of stress to play as quickly as possible. It will be interesting to see if TPCi adjusts it as the season progresses.
As for the decks that performed well, there was a lot of speculation on what would and wouldn’t survive through the 50 minute time limits. As is the norm for California, we saw a strange mix of decks over the weekend. In some ways it felt like Pleasanton was the Twilight Zone. For some reason, there was a big resurgence in Landorus/Mewtwo/Garbodor, a deck we really haven’t seen since State Championships from last season. On top of that, we had a throwback to the old Big Basics deck (Landorus/Tornadus/Bouffalant), this time featuring Virizion EX as well. Otherwise, the decks seemed fairly standard with a mix of Darkrai, Plasma, Blastoise, and Virizion/Genesect. Here’s the list of the Top 8 players and their decks.
1) Israel Sosa (Darkrai/Sableye)
2) Anthony Ramos (Plasma)
3) Kian Amini (Virizion/Genesect/Drifblim)
4) Dallan Fell (Landorus/Mewtwo/Tornadus/Garbodor)
5) Ravyn Pollock (Virizion/Genesect)
6) Jason Martinez (Blastoise)
7) Stefan Tabaco (Landorus/Mewtwo/Tornadus/Garbodor)
8) Luis Belmontez (Darkrai/Garbodor)
Just about every top tier deck was represented in the Top 8. Perhaps the only surprises were the Big Basic/Garbodor decks and the straight Darkrai deck coming in as the first seed. As the tournament progressed, the Top 4 ended up being Plasma, Blastoise, Darkrai, and Virizion/Genesect, which is pretty much a microcosm of what most would consider Tier 1 at the moment. However, this Darkrai deck did not feature Garbodor, so it seems that straight Darkrai is alive and well.
In the Finals, it was a matchup between the “undefeated” players Israel Sosa (7-0-1) and Jason Martinez (5-0-3). To the surprise of many, Israel’s straight Darkrai was running through the competition. However, the deck historically has a poor matchup against Blastoise with Black Kyurem EX, so everyone expected his run to come to an end. As Jason took the first game, the trend seemed to continue. But then Israel came roaring back in the second game with a tech Frozen City, and we were all tied up heading into the final game of the tournament!
For most of the third game, it seemed like Jason was going to win. Israel couldn’t find a Dark Patch in the opening turns, and he was forced to Junk Hunt with Sableye repeatedly as Keldeo EX kept chopping them down with Secret Sword. But during all of this, Israel was doing something subtle that would turn the tide of the game. Each turn he put a new Virbank City Gym into play, forcing Jason to counter it or else take massive damage from Hypnotoxic Laser’s Poison. Eventually Jason was down to three prizes, and he got hit with a big N from Israel.
Night Spear took down the Keldeo EX, leaving Jason with just a Black Kyurem EX (40 damage) and a Blastoise. Although he was able to draw the Energy necessary to use Black Ballista, a new Darkrai came up with a Dark Claw, and Jason got hit with another N to 1 this time! Israel missed the Hypnotoxic Laser to get the KO, but now he had an opportunity to KO both Blastoise and Black Kyurem EX on the following turn with a Pokémon Catcher. Jason drew nothing but an N off his two cards, putting himself at one card, which was a Black Kyurem EX. With a Catcher on the Blastoise, Israel took down both the big Shellfish and the Black Kyurem, going down to one prize and taking away the Energy acceleration. Just like that, straight Darkrai won the first Regional Championship of the season in an exciting series! Congratulations to Israel!
What did we learn from this tournament? Well, the general consensus from most of the players at the event was that ties are no fun, and neither is 50 minutes. As for the metagame, it’s pretty much wide open at this point! Right now there are tons of viable decks, and it will be interesting to see how the other Regional Championships play out. Good luck to everyone attending one in the next few weeks!