On Saturday 7th October Cat & I went to our first league challenge. We’d previously been to a League Cup in nearby Portsmouth. Although I placed mid-ranking (3/2/0) with Metagross-GX it wasn’t a strong showing. However I learned a lot from that in terms of how tournaments actually run in terms of timing and organisation. The 2 main things lessons learned from this were;
#1 – Make sure your opponent is aware that they have hit time and are on turn 0/3 – because if only you know then it’s not time (apparently). I couldn’t read my opponents mind to know that they didn’t know, so you have to verbally confirm basically.
#2 – Even if it hits time, don’t rush because it isn’t over. In the same game we missed resistance from my Metagross-GX on damage from Necrozma-GX so it should have survived and the game be a tie. Although it should have been over a turn earlier and thus a loss and thus a matchup to Volcanion and thus a 2nd loss… and so on and so forth!
Secret Lesson #3 – Don’t ruminate. Yeah I screwed up badly in terms of missing the resistance, (so did my opponent) but the key is to remember it, learn it and move on rather than letting it fester.
Thankfully these lessons were implemented in the slightly smaller (16 adults, 2 kids) local League Challenge. I had been playtesting Night Marshadow with success except via Trevenant. Online anything with Karen proved difficult too. Although if they hadn’t those cards it was an almost guaranteed win, if they did have them and played sensibly that went down to maybe a 20% win rate. With both Karen and Oricorio (sensu) being popular and literally only needing to be a 1-of in a deck I reconsidered and went for ‘Toto & The Blacksmiths’. It sounds like a bad band from the 70s but is basically Volcanion/Turtonator. (Turtonator-GX being the eponymous ‘Toto’)
Round 1 – Andrew – GolisopodGX+Lurantis
Unfortunately Andrew had prized 2/3 DCE and was universally weak to me. I accelerated rapidly with Kiawe and began to power through his grass Pokémon until he ran out after I had taken 3 prizes. He did try to put my main Pokémon to sleep to buy some time but I woke up and burned through to round 2
Round 2 – Litten – GolisopodGX+Garbodor
My opponent was convinced that I was running Night March so when I flipped over a Volcanion-EX it was a surprise. There was a little horse trading and we came quite close on prizes. I had a stuck Volcanion-EX who was unable to attack next turn but by Lysandre-ing my Shaymin-EX for 2 easy prizes it meant I could promote my powered up Turtonator-GX and Bright Flare to victory.
Round 3 – Cat – Trevenant (Forest’s Curse)
Not being fans of IDing we proceeded with the game despite playing each other a lot! (You can read about Cat’s deck in this article) Cat started strong and proceeded to evolve to Trevenant to item lock me and overall had a strong start. We had a couple of turns where I could only Shell Trap and accumulate useless items in my hand! However I managed to pull back before Necromza-GX hit the field with a Prof. Sycamore discarding an 8 card hand of mostly useless items. Turtonator-GX managed to Bright Flare away one Trevenant BREAK after another until I had won. Unfortunately for Cat her hand stalled out and my deck managed to pull out ahead once I hit the draw supporter.
Special mention must be made to Rob who loaned us a Trevenant on the day. We only had 3, my attempts to procure one resulted in ‘Trumbork‘ (a German language Trevenant) which we were told (incorrectly) was not valid for play so Cat was looking at a sub-optimal deck for the day. This was made extra frustrating once we found out that any EU language cards (French, Spanish, German etc) were to be allowed!
My opponent won the flip and we knew that we had 90% similar decks (I had 2 Shaymin-EX and Acerolla, he had 1 Shaymin-EX, 1 Tauros-GX and no Acerolla)
He opted to go first and setup with Kiawe for 4 energy onto a Volcanion-EX. I managed to Ultra Ball dropping 2 energy and then using Blacksmith to attach them onto my Volcanion-EX for the knockout. There was a bit of horse trading and I had injured his Tapu Lele-GX for 100 damage with baby Volcanion. At one point my hand of Blacksmith and energy was N-ed away but each exchange was carefully measured. There was a benched Tauros-GX waiting to sweep in late game so I had to be careful and soon we were down to 2 prizes each.
I was trying not to give my hand away by pokerfacing until my opponent had taken his turn as once again sitting on Blacksmith and energy meant that I was in a strong position to pull ahead. It felt as though there were many parts to a puzzle and I had sufficient resources to solve it once I had figured it out. Of course I knew my opponent was thinking the same thing!
However I managed to VS Seeker to retrieve Guzma to pull in the Tapu Lele-GX and swap my Volcanion-EX who had attacked in the previous turn (meaning he couldn’t attack again this turn) for my Shaymin-EX who rapidly retreated to reset the Volcanic Heat on Volcanion-EX to hit again for weakness and KO. I also had a Ho-Oh-GX who I was thinking about using to snipe away at his injured Lele but as it was 110/170 I would have had to have attacked twice which probably would have been a turn too late. Thankfully getting the VS Seeker enabled me to close the game for a 4-0-0 victory!
Wrapping Up the League Challenge
Less fortunate were the pulls from the Tsareena-GX box that I won! Do’h! Still I got delicious delicious victory points* and some semi-useful stuff including a Raichu-BREAK and a Heavy Ball. More importantly were the trades and
Not bad for my 2nd ever Pokémon event!
Just for full disclosure I have played other CCGs including Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh but never at a serious level. I have played some MTG pre-release and FNM style events but again never did very well because I tended to use decks I wanted rather than good meta calls.
Similarly having an amazingly supportive partner (and worthy opponent!) also helps. Finally being part of a community where people support and are for each other is amazing. Case in point; Rob had played me once before (he was the fire player that stomped my Metagross-GX at the last Po Town Cup event!) and happily offered to loan us the Trevenant for the duration which made Cat’s day a lot better! I find that I have made more friends from Pokémon than other CCGs which seemed more combative by comparison – but that’s a rant for another day!
*deliciousness may vary on your tastes
Consistency is key! There was a point in game 2 where my 2nd Shaymin-EX was prized and it was what I was Ultra Ball-ing for. Similarly in game 3 I needed a Tapu Lele-GX to get Blacksmith and I almost didn’t find the ‘Lele (it was on top of my deck!) Ideally I’d have a 2nd Tapu Lele-GX if I had the space but fortunately it wasn’t prized in a single game. Thankfully only in 2 games was one of my Shaymin-EX prized but I drew them early on and so it wasn’t a massive issue in the grand scheme of things.
Patience – Pokémon is odd in that it expects you to do things almost continuously. I prefer to take an extra 30 seconds or a minute to think about everything I’m going to do and then do it all at once. I find it frustrating in the online version when the timer ticks down despite me having lots of time in my timer! It expects you to do things one after the other quite rapidly.
If someone starts pressuring me then I loose my train of thought, have to tell them that they’ve interrupted me and that I just need a minute to think. Most people are OK as long as you don’t exploit it to stall the clock. In real life Pokémon you can take a little bit more time than online to plan out your moves and consider the options and then do things quickly.
Online is often slower since there’s clicking and animations and stuff, although it’s quicker for things like shuffling and damage calculations. So some and some!
Sportsmanship – all of my opponents were brilliant and friendly. The last game, while tense (purely in terms of the thinking!) at times, was also marked by periods of calm too. We gave each other the time and space to think so that we played our best game possible which was simply brilliant.
The spectators were interesting too as some were about to clearly discuss tactics or strategies which of course isn’t allowed within proximity to the game. Maybe I’m paranoid, but if being watched from behind I tend to play with my hand of cards almost horizontally so that no-one can see my cards and accidently (or otherwise) give away what I have or am about to do. I’m sure it didn’t matter but it made me feel better!
I know often that spectators comments are motivated by the desire to help but unfortunately it disrupts the game and is against the rules. That being said I know that our judge was vigilant about ensuring there was no coaching! (Not that any of my opponents needed help, they were formidable by themselves!)
Next Friday (13th Oct) sees another League Challenge in the Standard format in Portsmouth (aka Po Town). I am unsure weather to go strong or bring a more ‘rogue deck’ for the experience. At the moment I’m thinking that if I’m going to go the effort of getting a lift from a friend to get there I should probably bring my A-game and so may try and take a Standard variant of this deck. Watch this space!