-A Tournament Report by Ian Asplund-
Before I really begin, I want to take a moment to introduce myself, since I’m a fairly unknown player at the moment.
My name is Ian Asplund. I’m 22 years old and currently living in Missouri, although if you asked me where I’m from, I might tell you Utah instead, as that is where I’ve spent all but the last 2 years of my life.
I’ve been playing the Pokemon TCG for about 3 ½ years now. My first tournament was 2010 Utah States where I went 3-3 with a slightly modified theme deck, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I have no real notable tournament finishes aside from winning Idaho States in 2012, and Top 4 at Utah States that same year. I’ve made a handful of other Top Cuts, but nothing major.
Regionals has probably been the tournament I’ve struggled the most to do well at. I’ve made Top Cut at tournaments from States level down, but never at Regionals. I seem to bubble out most of the time. I never do awful, but I’m always just short of the cut. As such, I was very happy with my 13th place finish at Ft. Wayne this past weekend. It’s nice to finally break through that mental barrier and go far at a Regionals.
How I got to that 13th place finish was quite interesting, however. This was one of the first events to use the new best 2 out of 3, 50 minute time limit format, and it was also one of the first Regionals this year to reach high enough attendance numbers to have a day 2 of Swiss. This makes me one of a very few who has experienced most of what this new tournament format has to offer, and so I’d like to offer my opinions on the changes.
First, however, let’s talk about my preparation for the event, and the games I played.
I had been testing lots of decks for months before the event. Knowing I did not have access to Tropical Beach, however, really limited what I could actually play. Eventually, about a month out, I was still trying to decide between 2 decks, Darkrai/Garbodor and Plasma. However, they both had problems.
Plasma was extremely powerful, but between the release of Silver Mirror and the increase in play cards like Enhanced Hammer and Drifblim were seeing, I just didn’t feel comfortable taking Plasma to a major event. Yes, if I got lucky, I could see success, but I didn’t want to have to rely on pairings all tournament long. I also didn’t feel comfortable using Plasma decks with basic energy; I simply felt they were too clunky. So Plasma was out.
Sadly, I didn’t feel much better about Darkrai/Garbodor either. Due to its success at Worlds and the Klaczynski Open, it really had a target on its back, much like Plasma. People knew it was out there, they knew it was good, and they expected lots of it. As such, I feel like people were really going to be prepared for the deck. Most players were playing at least 1 Tool Scrapper, probably 2. Landorus EX and Terrakion were also beginning to be played more, and even Mr. Mime was showing up in most lists I was seeing. I felt like the field was stacked against Darkrai in general.
Still, with no other real ideas, I settled on Darkrai/Garbodor.
That is, until Arizona Regionals.
As I said before, I’m originally from Utah, and really call that state my home. As such, I talk with some Utah players fairly often. I had heard from one of my friends, Alex Gardner, that the Utah players were all testing Virizion/Mewtwo. I had heard of the deck before from a Battle Carnival in Japan, but never thought a lot of it. Alex thought it was very good, however, and had been passing the idea around various Utah players. A lot of them played it at NorCal Regionals, but none of them had major success there, all falling short of Top 8.
That changed week 2, however, with Karl Kitchin and Brandon Jones making 1st and 2nd seed at Arizona. While they both lost the first round of Top 8, I think they really proved the power of the deck, and people started taking real notice of it, myself included. After hearing of their success, I started to test the deck myself.
And I really, really liked it.
I built a pretty straightforward list and played something like 30 games with it on PTCGO, losing only 2 of them, 1 due to the disconnect. While I recognized that testing results on PTCGO had to be taken with a grain of salt, that is still an incredible win percentage. I also was finding that I really enjoyed playing the deck. It was just a lot of fun. Immunity to Hypnotoxic Laser was great, and I’ve always enjoyed Mewtwo EX.
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of playing Virizion/Mewtwo. So I did.
However, I did a couple of thing differently than my Utahn brethren. Here is the list Karl Kitchin used in Arizona:
|Pokémon – 8||Trainers – 38||Energy – 14|
|4 Mewtwo EX||4 Professor Juniper||10 Grass Energy|
|3 Virizion EX||4 N||4 Double Colorless Energy|
|1 Bouffalant||4 Skyla|
|1 Computer Search|
|4 Pokémon Catcher|
|4 Hypnotoxic Laser|
|3 Ultra Ball|
|2 Virbank City Gym|
|1 Super Rod|
|1 Max Potion|
|1 Float Stone|
|1 Energy Search|
|1 Town Map|
I really did like how straightforward and consistent this list was, but I felt it went overboard. This is actually a trap I see a lot of my Utahn friends fall into. Maybe it isn’t the wrong way to build a deck, but it doesn’t quite mesh with my style, so I made some changes.
Here is my Regionals list:
|Pokémon – 9||Trainers – 38||Energy – 13|
|3 Mewtwo EX||4 Professor Juniper||9 Grass Energy|
|3 Virizion EX||4 N||4 Double Colorless Energy|
|2 Bouffalant||4 Random Receiver|
|1 Mr. Mime||2 Colress|
|1 Computer Search|
|4 Pokémon Catcher|
|4 Hypnotoxic Laser|
|4 Ultra Ball|
|2 Virbank City Gym|
|1 Super Rod|
|1 Max Potion|
|1 Float Stone|
|1 Tool Scrapper|
My list is quite different, so let me try to explain some of the changes and my logic behind them.
For the Pokemon, I decided to cut down to just 3 Mewtwo EX rather than the 4 the Utahns played. I felt like I would never need to use 4 Mewtwo EX, and I wasn’t so scared of prizing them that I felt running 4 was worthwhile. I also added a second Bouffalant, because I felt like it was much better than people were giving it credit for. The math with Virizion EX matches up perfectly. You do 50 with Emerald Slash, drop some energy on Bouffalant, and then next turn you do 120 to finish off a 170 HP EX. If they have 180 HP, all you need is a Hypnotoxic Laser at some point and you accomplish the same thing. Add to that that Bouffalant is a non-EX and has a great Ability in Bouffer, and you get a really fantastic card. Finally, I added in a Mr. Mime. Darkrai, Plasma, and Landorus are all very popular and Mr. Mime gives them fits.
Trainer wise I made a lot of changes, the biggest of which were in the Supporter line. I’m one of those weird people that hates Skyla; I can’t tell you exactly why, I just don’t like the card. As such, I like to try strange Supporter lines that don’t use Skyla at all, and that is what I went with here. Just 4 Juniper, 4 N, 2 Colress, and 4 Random Receiver. I wasn’t really ever in danger of running out of Supporters due to the speed of the deck, so it seemed smart to try to draw as many cards with the most powerful Supporters each turn as I could. This worked out really well in the end. I drew through my deck very quickly and rarely dead drew.
I also decided to add 2 copies of a card almost nobody plays anymore: Eviolite. Eviolite really lost a lot of its power when Hypnotoxic Laser and Black Kyurem EX came out. There really wasn’t much of a reason to play it when people could just Laser you to ignore it, or Black Ballista you and KO you anyway. However, with Virizion EX shutting down status conditions, Eviolite becomes very good again, and it won me a lot of games. Turning 2HKOs into 3HKOs is always a big deal. It’s also very good paired with Bouffalant.
With my list ready, I showed up at Regionals feeling very confident. More confident than I had felt in a long time, really. I have tended to be a very standard player in the past. I was always playing standard decks with standard lists. However, I felt like I was finally being more creative this time around. Not only was I playing a fairly new deck, but I was also playing some fairly unique techs. I’ve noticed over that past few years that creativity is a real key to success in the game, so I felt like I had finally crossed that bridge.
I didn’t really have many friends at this event, so I kinda just walked in, registered, and waited around for the rounds to start. Eventually, it was announced that we had over 350 Masters at this event (!), so we would have a Day 2 of Swiss, and a Top 8 cut. Then, finally, we began play.
A quick warning about my game summaries: I really don’t remember the games super well. As such, I’ll try to focus more on the decks being played and the unique cards played in them. Hopefully, I can give people a good insight into what the meta looked like at this event.
Round 1 vs. ??? w/ Flareon
This was a kind of strange round. He was playing Flareon, which normally would be a poor matchup for me, but his list was fairly strange. He played Stunfisk rather than Terrakion, and he played none of the Shadow Steal Drifblim. Once I realized this, I began going very aggressive with Mewtwo EX, being sure to KO Drifloons quickly. Game 1 was somewhat close, but I pulled out the win. Game 2 he really didn’t draw anything, and I quickly ran over his stuff with Mewtwo EX before he could set up.
Round 2 vs. Andrew Wamboldt w/ Virizion/Mewtwo/Genesect
Andrew was one of the very few people in that room that I actually knew somewhat well, so it kinda stunk being paired against a friend this early. He was playing a fairly unique version of Virizion/Mewtwo; really, it was a Virizion/Genesect deck with Mewtwo added in. Thankfully, however, he didn’t run Bouffalant, and when that is the case I feel my deck has the advantage, and that proved to be the case. Game 1 was fairly close, but I just targeted down Genesects before they could get a G-Booster on them and played the Mewtwo war very carefully, and so I came out ahead.
Game 2 on the other hand… well, he should have won. He really should have. Ultimately, however, time was called with him at 1 prize and me at 2. I knew there was no way I could take enough prizes in time considering my board state. However, I realized that if I brought up a fresh Virizion EX with an Eviolite, he had no way to KO it before the end of +3, which consequently meant that the 2nd game didn’t finish, I was awarded this win.
This was my first major encounter with the effect the new tournament format had on the game. Game 1 was a long one, and consequently, Game 2 never finished. While I felt badly that I won the match in this way, I also recognized that I very well could have won a Game 3 if we had more time. The match felt a bit prematurely cut off, and left a sour taste in my mouth, but I don’t feel like it was really unfair in any way. Just a bit off-putting.
Round 3 vs. ??? w/ Darkrai
This round I was playing against a player in his first year as a Master. He had apparently seen some success in Seniors, but was nervous about playing in Masters. I reassured him he’d do fine, and our games began.
Honestly, I felt like I had an advantage in this matchup, but I just couldn’t set up Game 1 quickly enough, so he beat me in a very close game. Game 2 was a different story entirely though. I set up pretty quickly and kept one step ahead of him in the prize trade the whole game. At one point I even got to OHKO a fresh Darkrai with a Mewtwo, which was quite fun! I ultimately win this second game.
However, we both realize as we set up for Game 3 that we do not have anywhere close to enough time to finish it. This ends up being the case as time is called before any prizes are drawn, so we just end it there and call it a tie.
Once again, I encounter another new aspect of our tournament format, ties. At the time I didn’t like it, but in hindsight I don’t mind it at all. It let me come back from a poor start and get at least 1 match point, which ultimately helped me greatly in making Day 2 of the event. Would I have liked to finish Game 3? Probably, but I don’t really mind the tie either.
Round 4 vs. ??? w/ Plasma
Coming off of a tie, I really wanted to win this one. I knew I couldn’t tie too many times, and I sure didn’t want to add a loss to my record. Thankfully, this game goes pretty well for me. The Plasma matchup is pretty 50-50, but I came out ahead here. He did scare me a few times with Kyurem and Silver Bangle, but I managed to edge out at least one game here at get the match win.
Round 5 vs. ??? w/ Virizion/Mewtwo/Bouffalant/Flareon
I knew what this guy was playing going into the match, as I sat by him the previous round. However, what I didn’t see coming at all was some of his odd techs. He played Flareon for mirror, and he played Silver Bangle to drop onto his Bouffalants! Both techs scared me, but I managed to win the match. Again, I can’t remember how many games finished, but I do know I won.
Round 6 vs. ??? w/ Plasma
Once again, I was playing a player using Plasma. This game actually went very differently from my last game against Plasma. He kept trying to set up Deoxys EX to KO my Mewtwo EX, but I refused to ever attach more than 1 energy to Mewtwo, and then I’d Catcher up a Deoxys and either Laser it when it has 2 energy and X-Ball to KO it, or I’d drop a DCE then Catcher and Laser to KO it when it had 1 energy. He was also plagued with poor draws, and so I edged this match out in both games, I believe.
Round 7 vs. Colin Moll w/ Landorus/Mewtwo/Garbodor
Colin is another one of the very few players I knew in the room, and I also happened to know he was very, very good. He was playing a deck that I feel is very 50-50 against mine. Really, these games just come down to Mewtwo wars, and anything can happen in those. Sadly, these games go very poorly for me. In game 1 I never see a basic aside from a lone Virizion EX so I lose after only a few turns, and in Game 2 he gets the better of me in the Mewtwo wars. After about 10 minutes I lose the match.
At this point I am very hungry, so I book it over to Wendy’s to grab a bite to eat. I make it back in plenty of time for the next round.
Round 8 vs. ??? w/ Virizion/Genesect/Deoxys
This was a very interesting series of games, and he was playing a very interesting take on Virizion/Genesect. Normally, I feel like I have a fairly large advantage against Genesect. Virizion EX + Bouffalant really destroys their 170 HP EXs, and Mewtwo fares well against Genesect as well. The Deoxys really throws a wrench in things, though. It let him hit better damage numbers, and gave him an attacker that could efficiently KO Bouffalant, something he normally wouldn’t have. It also really stopped me from using Mewtwo most of the time, since I knew he played a fair few Psychic energy and could probably return any Mewtwo KO, while shutting down laser with a Grass energy to stop my return KO.
Thankfully, Bouffalant and Eviolite really are still quite good in this matchup, and he makes one fatal misplay where he leaves just 10 damage on a Bouffalant with an Eviolite, so I win the game. Game 2 never finished. I realized about halfway through this game that we were very, very short on time. As such, I kept attaching Eviolites to fresh Bouffalants and passing. He just couldn’t take prizes quick enough, so time runs out as I win the match.
This was the first match where I intentionally played for Game 2 not to finish. Let me be very clear: I did not play slowly. Other than sitting active with Bouffalant to try to deny prizes, and some extra Random Receivers and other unnecessary cards being played, I didn’t take an excessive amount of time to do anything. Still, it was very odd to win in such a way, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.
Round 9 vs. Justin Phillips
You may notice I didn’t say what deck Justin was playing. That’s because we didn’t play this match at all. All the 6-1-1’s were talking before this round started, and we realized we could all intentionally draw and guarantee making it to Day 2 of the event. So we did. It was a very odd experience. They began the round, we all signed our match slips, stood up, and left. Just like that, 3 tables were empty just seconds into the round.
Still, I honestly liked being able to do this. I had done pretty well the whole day long, and getting to play one less match was really nice. This may be an aspect of the tournament structure I like quite a bit, but more on that later.
And with that, I made it to day 2 of Swiss at 13th place. I felt really good about how the day had gone. I only lost 1 real match, my deck had functioned very well, and I had gone further than I ever had at a Regional. Still, it was midnight and I still had 5 more rounds to play tomorrow, so it certainly wasn’t over yet.
I only got about 5 hours of sleep before I had to wake up and head back to the event. Having only gotten 4 hours the night before, I was very tired at this point. However, I know I wasn’t alone in this. A lot of the players in Top 32 were exhausted after so many games, so we were all feeling about the same.
Soon enough we are sat back down to play some more Pokemon, and I find myself facing a very intimidating opponent.
Round 10 vs. Dustin Zimmerman w/ Virizion/Mewtwo
Not only was I playing against Worlds Top 4 finisher Dustin Zimmerman, but it turns out he was also playing the same deck as me. This matchup can be pretty volatile, but I felt like a lot of the time I had an advantage, as my opponents were teching a lot more than me, and my Eviolites helped out a lot.
But, much to my surprise, Dustin is also playing Eviolite! We joked a bit about how we didn’t think anybody else was playing the card; we were both very surprised to see each other play it down. It played a pretty big part in our matches, though, and made for a pretty close couple of games. I manage to squeak out a win Game 1, but he gets ahead in Game 2.
Time is called with him having 3 prizes left and me having 4. He KOs an EX to bring him to 1 prize on turn 1 of time. I panic and just bring up a Mewtwo EX to KO his, and then he returns that KO with a Mewtwo EX of his own to tie the match. I realized right away that I had made a mistake; I could have just brought up a fresh Virizion EX and passed. I knew he didn’t have a Catch in hand, so it was possible he couldn’t Catcher up my damaged Mewtwo EX on the bench to win, and I would have won the match due to game 2 not finishing. He did have a Supporter at very least and not many cards in deck, so he likely would have won anyway, but I wish I had at least given myself that small chance of winning. Oh well.
After that close series, I starting trying to figure out how many points I’d need to make the Top 8, but it quickly became apparent that almost anything could happen on day 2. If the right people won and the right people lost, even those who were at the bottom of the standings at first could have made it. So I quit worrying about it and just tried to win the rest of them.
Round 11 vs. Andrew Wamboldt w/ Virizion/Mewtwo/Genesect
One odd side effect of the way they pair up day 2 is that you can play the same opponent again in Swiss. So, once again, I was up against Andrew. These games were fairly uneventful. I managed to get ahead early both games and Bouffalant really won the games for me. There were some close moments when he played N to put me at low hand sizes, but I managed to draw out of those tough situations and keep my momentum to win 2 games and the match.
Round 12 vs. Evan Baker w/ Plasma
Evan is a player who I have heard a lot about, and I even played against him at a side event at Nationals a few years ago. I knew he was a great player, and I knew anything could happen in this matchup, so I was a little nervous going in.
It turns out I was right to be nervous. Neither game goes well for me. Game 1 I actually start pretty well, but can’t find a 2nd basic so I lose very quickly. Game 2 goes just as badly for me. I was forced to discard all 4 Catcher right away, so that sealed the game right there. I have to wonder if playing more conservatively would have let me stay in that game, but hindsight is 20-20 I suppose.
Round 13 vs. Omar Reyhan w/ Darkrai
Before the match began, I took a quick look at the match slip to check the record of my opponent, and I am very surprised to see that he is 6-0-6 at this point. That’s right, he has 6 ties. Wow.
These games go pretty poorly for Omar. Game 1 he dead draws for a few turns but has Sableye to Junk Hunt a bunch. This keeps him in the game, and after 2 turns of double Dark Patch he is right back in the game. The game gets very close, and he puts me down to 2 with N. I get lucky and draw a DCE to win off the top. Game 2 goes very poorly for him. He just passed turn 1, I play a Laser, Virbank, and drop a Grass on Virizion. He draws, looks at his hand, and concedes, as he has no basic, no supporter, and will die from poison no matter what. A terrible way to lose, but he was very graceful in defeat, so props Omar!
Round 14 vs. JW Kriewall w/ Virizion/Mewtwo
After doing some asking around, I find out that if I win this match I’ll be put at 30 points, which is guaranteed to make Top 8. However, if I lose or tie, I will for sure not make it, so there is a lot of pressure put on this match.
Despite the pressure, I had a lot of fun playing these matches. JW was an all-around nice guy and I really enjoyed playing against him. As I said before, the mirror is pretty volatile, and anything can happen. Game 1 goes very well for me, getting a T2 Emerald Slash onto a Bouffalant and I manage to win pretty quickly. Game 2 is a lot longer. I again get a good start, but he manages to keep up. At one points I felt like I had the game, but he played Scramble Switch to put a bunch of energy onto a Mewtwo to KO a fresh Mewtwo from me, and I couldn’t find a 2nd one, so I ended up losing.
As we set up for Game 3, we both recognize that we have almost no time left, and that if we tie, neither of us makes cut. As such, we both played very, very quickly this game, desperately trying to finish. Again, I get ahead early and feel like I’m going to win, but again he gets a Scramble Switch onto Mewtwo and KOs my only attacker, plus he Ns me. I draw and pass, he KOs another EX, and goes down to 1 prize. I only have 2 prizes left and a Mewtwo on board, but I have no hand. I basically have to top deck a DCE to win. I go draw my card and… it’s a Float Stone. Ah well. I congratulate JW and tell him to win the whole thing (spoiler: he did). It also turns out we finished Game 3 with only a minute to spare, so that was really a close one!
I’d like to highlight an important aspect of those games against JW. In every single game I was winning, and in every single game Scramble Switch let him come back and win. In hindsight, I feel like Scramble Switch is by far the best Ace Spec to play in Virizion/Mewtwo. It allows for huge plays and comebacks that Computer Search just doesn’t bring to the table. The deck is already pretty consistent, so it probably doesn’t really need Computer Search. So props to JW on playing the card. I really feel it’s the reason he won the whole event!
Ultimately, I end in 13th place, just one spot above Pooka! I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t make the Top 8, but at the same time, I was very happy with my performance. This was by far the most difficult event I have ever played in (yes, as hard as Nationals), and to do so well was really gratifying. The booster box and 45 CP helped a lot, too.
To end with, I want to talk a bit about how I feel about the current tournament format and the state of the game. As I said before, I’m one of only 96 people to have played a Day 2 at a Regionals in this format, so I feel like I am in a fairly unique place to discuss this topic.
I’m going to go down the list one by one and talk about each aspect of the current tournament structure.
Best 2 out of 3, 50 minutes – I like best 2 out of 3 a lot more than best of 1. It’s too easy to get a bad start or lose quickly in Pokemon, so it’s nice to have that chance to come back and win a a round. However, 50 minutes does feel a tad short for best of 3. Sadly, with day 1 ending at exactly 11:30 PM, I don’t think any more than 50 minutes is feasible. We just don’t have that kind of time available. Regardless, I like this change.
Ties – I think I like this change as well. Yes, it sucks to lose a match because Game 2 didn’t finish, especially since if the game was close. However, it’s really, really nice to be able to come back from losing a Game 1 and know that you will, at very least, get 1 match point. You don’t just lose it all, and ultimately ties were very relevant in making day 2. I also like IDs. Being able to draw into a day 2 or a Top Cut due to doing very well the whole day is really nice, especially considering how long these tournaments are. It also helps reduce the effects of luck on your record.
Day 2 of Swiss and Top 8 cut – I like this change as well. The atmosphere in the room for day 2 was fantastic and I really had a lot of fun that day. While it makes the tournament very long, it also gives everyone a shot at making that Top 8 cut, and keeping the cut at Top 8 only helps reduce the time needed for the event. I didn’t feel like I was shorted anything by not having a Top 32.
So all in all, I quite like the changes. Going into the event I expected to hate them, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I also really liked the format as far as decks being played go. There was a lot of variety and a lot of creativity going on. I mean, a Klinklang and a Victini/Terrakion/Drifblim made Top 8, and only 1 Blastoise made Top 32! The only thing that surprised me was just how popular Virizion/Mewtwo was; it was everywhere at this event. It’s interesting to see how quickly a meta can change when just one powerful new deck pops up.
And with that, I think that about does it for this report. I want to thank The Top Cut for all they do for the game, and Pooka in particular for all the work he does. The Top Cut has done a lot to help me improve in this game, and I thank them for that (also, thanks for complimenting my The Top Cut mat, Pooka!). I also want to thank my Dad for driving up to Ft. Wayne with me. I didn’t have anyone to carpool with and I didn’t feel comfortable driving 8 hours by myself, so thanks for coming with me, Dad! And thanks to the Utah players that helped me make my deck choice, in particular my good friend Alex Gardner. Of course, I can’t forget the event staff, either! You guys did a great job keeping the event moving smoothly and quickly, so thanks guys!
And finally, thanks to all of you for reading this monster of a report. Seriously, this thing is incredibly long. Why are you still reading this?