Originally this was supposed to be a write up of 2 different Expanded League Challenges (Southampton & Bournemouth) however due to family commitments I wasn’t able to make either of them. So instead I’m going to give a quick run down of Standard vs Expanded and which might be best for your community.
A disclaimer: I’m not that worried what format is played per se, I’ve got 2 copies of most relevant ACE Spec. cards and can field most meta-relevant decks in each format. So it’s not a case of ‘waagh no cards’!
Standard & Expanded
Since 2014 the Expanded format has been from Black & White onwards which covers a fair range of cards including the infamous ACE Spec. cards. Any given newly released set might only have a couple of cards relevant to Expanded, cards which are sometimes ‘unusable’ in Standard format can find life in an expanded deck.
Standard, by contrast to Expanded, rotates about 4 sets every year – I would imagine by August 2018 that we’ll jump to Sun & Moon (SM1) onwards. Additionally each new set tends to shake up the metagame significantly, although not all sets are created equally. Guardians Rising’s Tapu Lele-GX significantly shook up things as did Gardevoir. Buzzwole from Crimson Invasion is possibly the only relevant Pokémon in the set!
Our local league is Expanded format. The reasoning given is that it allows for more variety of deck and a wider range of cards to be played. Supposedly this makes it easier for new players to play. However most of the people who turn up don’t have meta-relevant decks anyway and those that do tend to be geared towards Standard format. Those who do bring really old cards are still told that they can’t play them. Additionally newer players will not have bought any non-Standard cards so now in order to compete they need to search for things like VS Seekers, Battle Compressors, Blacksmith, Dark Patch or whatever makes their deck work. Most do not have these.
The store that hosts the league also sells Standard format cards, with the exception of Zoroark-GX boxes, nothing is massively relevant to the expanded format. While the current top Expanded decks have many similarities to Standard meta decks (namely the Pokémon) the supporters and trainers are usually quite niche and not available in store.
Accordingly, I don’t think that expanded is actually more accessible for newer players. Most new players only have more recent cards and then they have to start looking to get ACE Specs, VS Seeker, Blacksmith, Dark Patch or whatever is needed to make a viable deck. Most of our players do not have these except the competitive people who only turn up to events.
Additionally the shop that hosts us doesn’t have cards for Expanded, only standard so it hits their sales since if I was a Expanded only player there’s very little I need so am less likely to buy cards. Essentially we’re selling them Standard cards but supporting an Expanded format.
As well as this, the expanded metagame doesn’t change as much as standard (which may or may not be a good thing depending on a person’s view) whereas standard is shaken up by each new set. So while I like Expanded since it allows for more crazy decks, it also is less accessible at a competitive level for newbies.
Add to this decks like Seismitoad or Trevenant which lock down items and it can lead to a less than fun experience for players. These decks can seriously lock down your opponent while you slowly chip away at their Pokémon (and will to live!). All in all not a fun experience for newbies. Additionally a lot of expanded decks are so well developed in the meta that there are distinctive counter-tech/hate options available that can totally destroy a deck.
Case in point one week before a League Challenge last year I rocked up with Night March and obliterated every opponent I played, only to bring Volcanion for the actual event because I knew everyone would then hard-tech hate against Night March. Also it wasn’t fun for my opponents to play against Night March because it outclassed most of the decks quite dramatically.
Hopefully that’s given some food for thought, sorry that it’s not the cutting edge analysis that you’re used to here! While I like expanded, it’s hard to break into for a lot of people and the format is a lot more brutal when you have things like Siesmitoad, Trevenant and so on. Additionally the Expanded metagame as of today is extremely similar to Standard (Zoroark, Zoropod and BuzzRoc) which defeats the argument of a more diverse meta!
Don’t get me wrong, a bit of expanded is good to shake things up – it’s faster, has a more high stakes and intense style of game with more kooky techs and plays available. However for newbies the better balanced, more accessible and affordable Standard format is the option I’d be pushing to grow a community.
So the Portsmouth ‘Guzzlord’ League Challenge last Friday had 18 Masters and we played 4 rounds of swiss, best of 1 game.
Round 1 – Giratina/Lunala-GX
Game 1 was against a quite but nice newish player. Although he was running a psychic deck there were several misplays that I could capitalise on (Nest Ball for Lele for Brigette but had already played a supporter type events).
The Spiritomb that hit me for weakness and prevented my basics from attacking was a bit of a scary thought, but a quick Guzma and Lycanroc managed to get rid of it. The Giratina and Lunala-GX also resisted fighting but my deck was much too fast.
While I was happy with the win I kind of realised that my resistance wouldn’t be great as a result of the deck.
Round – 2 Silvally/Ho-Oh
This was one of the toughest games I’d played in a long time. Ho-Oh obviously resists fighting being a bird thing but Silvally was weak to fighting.
We each started with a Lele and my 2nd Lele was prized meaning that it was much harder for me to get setup. In the opening exchange I took 160 damage on my Lele before retreating it away and getting a Buzzwole up and running. I managed to hang onto an Octillery until I got a Brooklet Hill for Remoraid. Despite the slow start my opponent took a risk to play Kiawe powering up a Ho-Oh.
The crux of the game came when I had to hit an elixir and hard retreat to knuckle impact for a KO on Ho-Oh putting me on 1 prize. However my opponent had his last Lele to fetch a Guzma and pull in my injured Lele. He’d previously managed to get an Elixir off and attached onto Type:Null who did it’s claw slash to KO my Lele and take the game.
This was the only match I’d lost and although I recovered from the terrible start I felt a bit prize screwed as I had a Guzma for game but he just managed to draw into what he needed. This is why I prefer best of 3 – it stops random flukes from influencing the outcome!
Round – 3 Empoleon/Octillery
This round I was paired down (opponent was 0-2-0) which I knew would effect my resistance again. Oh well at least it’s only a challenge!
A couple of these deck types were featured on the evening, this ladys variant had Manaphy and 2 lines of Octillery. My Brooklet Hill obviously helped her but I reasoned that I could get set up much more quickly – which I did.
The main issue arose when the Empoleons could OHKO my Buzzwoles (or anything really!) resulting in a 2:1 prize advantage. Thankfully I’d sniped away at Piplups and taken out the Manaphy early. She needed to go fishing for a 2nd floatstone but N-ing us both to 2 cards meant that she didn’t get it and I could Lycanroc up a Lele and then Knuckle Impact with Superfly for the win.
A lot closer than I felt it should have been mainly because I’d not played against the deck before.
Round -4 Turtonator/Volcanion
This was against Po Town regular Jamie who’s always lovely to play. The deck was a fairly standard Volcanion/Turtonator build with Oranguru for draw support.
I immediately went after the Orangurus because I know if Volc can’t draw into the energy it needs it can stall out. A Strong Energy + Regirock-EX meant that Knuckle Impact was hitting for 60 before weakness – just enough to OHKO an Oranguru!
Jamie recycled some energy and Oranguru before fetching it again via a (Secret Rare) Nest Ball. I promptly apologised before Guzma-ing it up again and putting it down once more.
After that I’d managed to get powered up much more quickly and it was just a case of Guzma-ing out a Shell Trapped Turtonator and hitting a Volcanion for Knockout.
3-1-0 was 10 points but pretty poor resistance overall in this League Challenge.
As luck would have it I came 5th (3-4th on 10, 1st-2nd on 12) so just missed out on prizes. However 4th places was Southampton’s own Shakil and 1st place was Ace Trainer Sarah. She’d apparently not come along to win…. but swiftly did anyway!
I’m glad I didn’t run the Shampay deck since I was less confident with it and stuck with what I knew. I will however be testing it for the next events that I’m going to. The 3rd place Alex Hill deck looks a lot more skill intensive (only 1 Lele!) and I’m not sure if I’d have the courage to try it in an actual event but it might just we worth a shot too.
Update/Tweak deck for next Cups – try Alex Hill and if not that then Natalie Shampay variants.
Stick to best of 3!!
Get ready for the two Expanded format League Challenges – next Saturday locally and then Sunday in Bournemouth. However due to family commitments (medical stuff, so we have to be on standby) I might not be actually able to attend but it’s only expanded which I’d planned to bring my troll Sableye lock deck to anyway.
The venue for the League Cup was our local League’s Nerd World- Southampton’s only independent nerd store and first time running a Cup last Saturday, the 10th Feb. As usual, Ace Trainer Sarah did much better than me too!
There were 23 masters and 7 Juniors/Seniors too. Quite a few locals, some from Team PoTown and a couple of outsiders who had travelled quite far.
For my 3nd League Cup I was still running Buzzwole/Lycanroc (aka ‘Superfly’) with lessons learned from Reading – this time the deck was more streamlined and included a one of Zygarde-EX to help against any Mew/Mewtwo/Mew-EX counter-tech’s that seemed highly popular. (You can grab a text file of the decklist here)
I brought Buzzwole because I didn’t have practice with anything else. Ace Trainer Sarah was also running the deck (I was using her list) since we both practice together and the only difference was that she had a Lillie and I had a Zygarde-EX – to counter against any sort of Mew/Mewtwo tech that crucified me at Reading.
Overall the list was similar to Reading except streamlined to be slightly more consistent version with less, crazy techs. The exception being Zygarde because I used to run a Zygarde/Lucario list before rotation and it so was a comfortable inclusion. The deck rotation with really aggressive very similarly played anyway so that’s what brought.
As before with very little Psychic in the format and quite a bit of Zoroark (who’s weak to Fighting) it is a good deck to run. Aggressive and relatively simple to handle. Having been violently ill most of this past week I didn’t get any testing done aside from a half-dozen games online (which went well) and I was almost considering not going to the event since I haven’t been sleeping well as a result of illness. However, in the end I decided to stick with it and I’m glad I did go – read on to find out why!
League Cup – Swiss Rounds
Round 1 – Volcanion (Jacob)
So we kicked off the first Southampton Pokémon League Cup on time. We got going and I was on T13 against a guy from Cardiff. Adjacent to me on T14 was Sarah against his friend who I’d seen at Reading – they travel quite a bit and were clearly competent players.
Game 1 – My opponent was playing Volcanion with no Kiawe. I got rapidly set up and took four prizes, then he caught up by a bit but then I hit into my Guzmas and managed to finished him off.
I used the usual sort of approach like pulling in targets with Lycanroc to get the KOs. The Max Elixir and Multi-Switch spicy tech is good for breaking up expectations in the tempo too.- Win
Game 2 – I managed to win the second game with time to spare which was good considering that the rounds were 45 minute best of 3 –Win
Round 2 – Zoroark/Lycanrock/Tech (Tyler)
This round was against Tyler who is a local, but new to our league. I haven’t played him before so was unaware of what he was running or quite how good he was until we started playing. Turns out he’s very good!
Game 1 – A Benchbarrier Mr Mime was among the first things found by Brigette but there was no Mewtwo – it was stuck in prizes! (And it turned out to be the last prize too!) Aside from the minor annoyance of Juggle Boy, the game went relatively smoothly and I was able to build on 4 early prizes to power up a buzzwole for a final KO – Win
Game 2 -Somehow, again, the Mewtwo was prized and wasn’t drawn during the game and it went similar to the first one. I was able to do my usual technique of rushing ahead but thankfully my deck is now consistent enough that I can then recover to claim the last prizes. – Win
Round 3 – VikaBulu (Craig)
Craig is another local who is quite good competitively. I have beaten him in a Volcanion Mirror to win a Challenge and similarly have been beaten by him in a Nightmarch Mirror for him to win! So I wasn’t going to be complacent in this League Cup!
Game 1 – I opened with an N to disrupt his hand while chipping away at a Bulu. Despite his attempts to set up I Leled for another N to keep the disruption going and was even able to take a cheeky KO on a benched Grubbin with Jet Punch. Having been beaten soundly by Bulu at Reading, and having studied and played it extensively I knew that the trick is to prevent their setup at any cost. By the time a Vikavolt was online I was just able to Rogue-GX the Bulu for game – Win
Game 2 – We had plenty of time left for game 2 and it started quite similarly although this time Craig had a curse of the dreaded ‘bulu-hands’. I’m not even use he got a Vikavolt online although he managed to attack with one which had gotten 3 manual energy attachments! His spicy baby Mew tech couldn’t really work without the energy from Vikavolt and his Tapu Koko was weak to Buzzwole meaning that I secured game 2, thanks in large part to his terrible luck – Win
During lunch, prior to Round 4 I had been approached by a random player (also on 3 wins, but as it turns out I wasn’t paired against him) who asked for an ID if we were to play and to be honest I would rather have played to ensure that there was no way someone could get 4 wins and out-score me. Although it would still mean Top 8 I guess. Either way my actual Round 4 opponent needed a win to Top 8 and I was keen to play so we cracked on!
Round 4 – Sylveon/Gardevoir (Tony)
This opponent was from Po Town, although I only vaguely recognised him but the day was getting on. He seemed nice and informed me that I had the favourable match up which I must admit I was skeptical of since I know how brutal Garde can be!
Game 1 – I unapologetically went for the Remoraids and made fish fingers out of them. I know that Garde needs to draw cards to get the energy and by sabotaging this early I would be able to win a war of attrition. Being able to hit the bench allowed me to soften up any Ralts/Kirlias before they evolved into Gardevoirs putting them in a OHKO range. He also had a spicy Mewtwo tech but it was prized in this game.- Win
Game 2 – Similar to the first although although much closer. He managed to get a couple of Gardes up and running, Mewtwo came out but Gallade was prized which didn’t help him and quite like the first and again I hunted the draw support. Although it got recycled his tempo was disrupted by my playing of N and my deck was just more consistently able to keep dishing out damage. When I got Lycanrock-GX online he played a clever Parallel City targeting himself to shrink his bench putting me out of OHKO range with Rogue-GX! There was a point where he went Sycamore fishing for a DCE but with 2 in the discard and 1 on the field it didn’t happen. I N-ed away his DCE during time so avoided the OHKO on my Buzzwole – Win
The deck was regular Gardie and with no crazy techs so it was a case of just punch the little guys and keep knocking things out.
Of note was also the pair on table 1 beside us who IDed and one sat there literally studying my deck as I played it. It seemed a little gamey but on the other hand I was glad that I was considered a substantial threat!
Round 5 – ID
I don’t even know what my opponent was playing but we Intentionally Drew meaning that we each got a point, got into top 8 and more importantly got a 45 minute break. It was nice to get a break, taking paracetamol for a headache and get some food to keep my sugar level sustained for the Top 8. Getting to use the loo was good too!
Swiss result: 4-0-1 (13) = #1 seed! I was quite happy with that result and to achieve my goal of making the Top 8 cut. Interestingly, my first 2 opponents also made top 8 as did Sarah (seed #7)
League Cup – Single Elimination
So I’d managed to make the Top 8 and hadn’t lost a round during the Swiss either 🙂
#1 – Buzzwole/Lycanroc (Me) vs #8 – Volcanion
#2 – Gardevoir vs #7 – Buzzwole/Lycanroc (Sarah)
#3 – Vika Bulu vs #6 – Vika Bulu
#4 – Gardevoir/Zoroark vs #5 – Zoroark/Lycanroc (Tyler)
Overall there was a good standard of skilled players present as well as a few ‘known names’ from around. (Although the biggest were probably abroad in Austraila!) Three locals making Top 8 was also pretty good showing that we didn’t get stomped.
The second games against my first two opponents were more difficult – they clearly learned more about my than I had learned about them and it was tougher although I guess I was confident since I’d already beaten them before.
Top 8 – Volcanion (again!)
Game 1/2 -I was paired against Volcanion again and hit no max elixirs and started to brick loosing game 1 relatively quickly. In game 2 I stupidly put down a Remoraid and meant to play a Rockfuff (to Lycanroc next turn) but my finger was off it (apparently that’s a thing, like in chess) However I drew into an Octillery which gave me the recover power I needed. Karma’s a bitch! -Loss/Win
Game 3 went to time and we couldn’t finish so with 1 win each, we went to Sudden Death. I had to take a 2 hit KO and take a risk – he needed 3 steam ups on his baby Volcanion and used Sycamore, only hitting 2. He possibly could have powered up a Volcanion-EX but I think he missed that option thankfully. It was the biggest gamble of the day but my only option to win so I had to take it. Sudden Death is a bit scary as it can be highly luck dependant, however I felt that my hyper-aggressive deck had the edge here.
Top 4 – Zoroark/Lycanroc/Tech (again!!)
Game 1 – This time Tyler had a mewtwo and it was one of the first pieces fetched by Brigette. It made my life difficult hitting for 120-ish damage while only yielding 1 prize for me. The problem was compounded by it being recycled with a Super Rod, however I managed to make the deck work consistently and take knockouts on his 1-of Buzzwole-GX and Lycanroc-GX. Certainly a lot tougher than the first time around! – Win
Game 2 -Again Mewtwo was back with a vengeance! We went to time with my Regirock just having being pulled out via Guzma. But with 1 prize to take, 11 cards in my deck -which I knew contained the 2 each of the Float Stone and Choice Band I needed to win – I evolved Lycanroc to pull in a Zoroark, Ultra-Balled for a Remoraid to get my deck down to 10 cards and then used Prof. Sycamore. Even my luck isn’t that bad so when I’m drawing 7/10 and only need a pair of cards I managed to retreat the Regirock and hit for weakness with a Choice Band on Lycanroc for game. A lot closer than the first set of games! – Win
This also meant I was onto the final!
Top 2 – 59 Card Mirror – Sarah
We sort of had a suspicion we’d have to face each other at some point in the day, but I don’t think either of us imagined it would be in the final playoff of the League Cup.
Beforehand we agreed to split the prizes (booster box + ETB = 22 boosters each, she got dice & I got sleeves) so would be playing for the 50CP, Playmat and the Glory! I did have a suspicion that Sarah’s deck tweak would prove superior in the mirror and I know she’s practiced a lot more than me!
Since I was facing a friend at this point we didn’t really matter what happened – one of us would win and the other would still get 40CP and we were both really happy with hitting Top 8, let alone the final! Me especially since my abysmal Reading performances and I know Sarah was gutted to miss her ‘win & in’ last time.
So as mentioned Sarah and I had 59 card identical decks except my Zygarde-EX instead of her Lillie.
Game 1 – I started with Zygarde and Sarah managed a turn 1 Lillie. I did play Brooklet Hill to increase the Zygarde damage and KO a Remoraid but it also helps my opponent prevent me donking them. However that extra Lilly consistency and my inability to find a single Guzma meant that Sarah took game 1.- Loss!
Game 2 – I started a lot better and Sarah’s deck basically bricked, I didn’t have a swimming start but managed to recover and get so far ahead that she scooped to get the full time in game 3 (none of us wanted sudden death!)- Win!
Game 3 – This game was obviously quite intense (in a good way) and my tempo was a bit behind my opponents. The crux came when there was a point where I could have possibly used Rogue-GX for a KO but I didn’t because I would have been beaten next turn. So I focused on staying alive and used Guzma to buy time, but Sarah already had a counter-Guzma in hand as well as a back up attacker anyway. So with that she took the final KO and became the Southampton Cup Champion. I thus emerged 2nd with 40CP!
I am also thrilled to have been the top seed with 13 points and no losses. By contrast our Champion had 2 early draws and no losses which got her 7th seed.
I came away with 22 UPR boosters and the ETB sleeves which was good since I haven’t opened much UPR (7 packs from pre-release). Overall it was a tough day, a bit stressful at times and quite long – my timing/pace of play was good (lots of people’s games went to time, but most of mine didn’t).
I’m not half as disappointed at not winning (I hesitate to call winning all but one match loosing!) as I should probably be, but it’s easy to be happy at 2nd place when you know that it is a friend and extremely strong player who beat you. I knew that she’d play tested a lot more than I had and knew the deck a lot better than me so am really happy for my friend. Additionally I’d also been quite ill the preceding week and consequently had little opportunity for playtesting so was a bit surprised to do as well as I had done!
I’m sorry to say that could have been better. At times it was hard to hear the TO especially when things like Time was called. In addition the Seniors/Juniors were on the higher tables which were seated for adults, pushing adults down to the smaller chaired and more cramped tables.
In game 2 the constant warbling of 2 kids who kept interrupting my game and the games behind them caused me to call a judge to get them to shut up. I get that focus for kids is difficult, but don’t interrupt other peoples games because that’s just rude. In game 4 a local just walked in (which is fine) but again I’m in a game I don’t want people hovering near me when I’m trying to concentrate.
Lack of Match slips caused numerous re-pairs (3 or 4) and the reason given was that the shop didn’t want to waste paper which I think is a pretty pathetic excuse. I wouldn’t mind but I actually offered to bring a printer along or print blank match slips for the event before hand (since I already do the table numbers) so there was literally no excuse. Planning didn’t happen =(
I managed to convince the TO to print out the pairings so that he wouldn’t have to attempt to call out the pairings and have a load of people unsure as to where they needed to be. Printing them out and sticking them up proved to be the correct approach.
I’m biased towards the assistant judge since she’s my beloved but her judge calls on the day were correct, and despite subsequent discussion, still proved to be correct. She however has been put off from judging due to the event and the subsequent reactions of the TO. Her only mistake was mishearing a result which forced a repair and she was annoyed about it (and is now getting a hearing test as a result!). But if there were match slips it wouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. I don’t think it’s fair to force your assistant judges into positions where mistakes like this can happen when there are systems in place to prevent mistakes from happening. To further go and undermine them by then double checking everything they’ve already done, (while the TO has made 2 mis-pairs themselves) is means that there won’t be a second judge for the next League Cup. Additionally doing 9 hours of judging at a League Cup and giving up your Saturday to receive: a foil counter catcher.. doesn’t seem right.
The judge calls made on the day were accurate although the TO almost caused a double game loss by misinforming a Senior who was in time. The Senior asked if he could win the game since they were in time and was down a game and was told that he couldn’t and was about to scoop!! I took a risk to intervene and explain that if he won then they’d have won 1 each so the round would have been a draw.
23 masters and 7 kids meant that people had Byes, and with only 3 rounds for kids it meant that 3 of them only got 2 rounds. I would have ensured that there were even numbers (say 22/8) to allow for better pairing and more rounds.
Prizing was a bit odd, while I’m not complaining to have gotten the better end of the deal in some respects I think that they are heavily balanced towards 1st and 2nd place. I would rather spread out the boosters a bit more since the CP are the goal and ensure that everyone who made Top 8 got at least something. With 7 Junior/Seniors 6 of them got prizes which again was odd.
However that all being said, this was the first League Cup and I hope that by cataloging these failings and addressing them at the next planning meeting that we can move forward and that the next one will be a lot better and more smoothly run. I hope that anyone who has opinions or feedback gives it as it’s very difficult to get the TO to change his mind about anything.