Reading League Cup 28/49th

So this past weekend I went on a bit of a binge with Pokémon. Fellow TCG player Ace Trainer Sarah offered a ride to the local league at Po Town on Friday and also to Reading League Cup on Sunday. So in a fit of madness I said yes to both! (Also you can read her after action report here)

Po Town Warm Up

Friday night at Portsmouth (Po Town) resulted in 2W-2L-0D for Volcanion without elixirs, only loosing by 1 prize in each game. I always seemed to be a turn behind. I lost to the lovely Jeff’s Gardevoir-GX in a really great, close game and finally to a rogue Lycanrock-GX deck. Lessons were learned and my deck was adjusted to include Octillery – but still no elixirs because I’m a fool. Brief testing online convinced me that it was somewhat more consistent. (ha!) Anyway onto the cup!

Literally Portsmouth
Reading League Cup

The venue was Eclectic games – Readings only gaming/nerd store. There was approximately 50 masters and about 12-16 Juniors/Seniors. Two judges who were well organised and epitomised everything great about the game. Some early trades during the dreaded waiting phase, catching up with familiar faces and meeting new people.  Sarah & I were adopted into Team Po Town for the day since they’re our nearest competitive league, and we began Reading League Cup.

R1: The Mirror (but better)

A Volcanion mirror with elixirs. I lost lost game 1 by 2 prizes, I blitzed ahead getting 2 KOs but then couldn’t catch up. In game 2 I was setup to win but couldn’t draw one of seven energy from about 25 cards with a Sycamore so my attempt to pull a draw was to no avail. Secret Sushimaster tech was nowhere to be seen. So 2 game loss for Round 1

0-1-0

R2: Gardevoir GX

A nice gentleman with Gardevoir GX. However once again couldn’t get my engine going sustainably without elixirs and again Octillery didn’t turn up. Similar to R1 I could blitz the first 4 prizes but then stalled out like in my previous 2 games for another loss to the powerhouse that is GardevoirGX!

0-2-0

R3: Pimped Out Drampa/Garb

Undeterred by being on the scrub bench of the League Cup (table #29/30), I faced a really lovely local guy running a fully pimped out Drampa/Garb deck (in his words ‘mistakes were made’.) I managed to get Octillery deployed but was under garb-lock and succumbed to the consistency of the fabled Drampa/Garb combo. However in game 2, true to form I blitzed the first 4 prizes like panzers over the Rhineland (sorry France!) and then he wiffed his support so I could pull ahead to win game 2 for a match draw overall.

0-2-1

R4: Vikivolt/Bulu

This player was slightly newer than my previous opponents and his deck wasn’t too consistent. It did let me see in hindsight just how absurd my deck was. His prizes didn’t help him in game 1 (ran out of energy/recycling) and overall I won both games for a round win.

1-2-1

R5: Golisopod/Garb (aka GoliGarb)Tapu Fini GX

We were all getting tired and my laconic opponent was running Golisopod/Garbodor/TapuFini/TapuKoko. I expected a lot of Guzma but I was hit by Fini’s GX attack and Aqua Ring for weakness. I had a terrible start in that I had to Kiawe onto volcanion to bait out the GX attack early, but it slowed me down and required a lot of resources on my part. I won the first round (just) due to hitting for weakness with 2 steam-ups vs a benched GolisopodGX all while watching for the threat of trashalance.

Game 2 I started with a remoraid and again he had a Tapu Fini start, so while no Tapu Storm, hitting any of my fire pokemon for 100 with a choice band and switching was good for him. By the time I got established he was set up and then time was called. He had 2 cards in hand and 2 prizes left so I took the gamble that if he had a Guzma/Acerolla in hand I didn’t want him to have them, and if he had them in deck it was only 2 cards (of about 30) and played N. However I’m not very lucky and of course he got the 1 in 15 odds of Guzma and took game 2 for a match draw.

1-2-2

R6: Team Po Town Gardevoir

In the final round I was paired against Jeff from Team Po Town. As you may recall, I had just lost to him on the previous Friday League Challenge. Jeff is a lovely guy and a tough opponent to beat. However this time he was having terrible luck in game 1 with no Brigette and my Octillery was online which meant I could pull ahead. Game 2 was even crazier for him in that his prizes were plain bad and my deck finally hit its own stride to win 2 games for a round win.

Final Standings: 2-2-2 (~28/49)
Post Cup Analysis
GardevoirGX
YOLO!

Firstly the frustrations: loosing the first game against the mirror was frustrating especially given the massive dig failing to hit one energy from a Sycamore. I would have felt contented with a tie there. In hindsight I was massively underprepared for Gardevoir. My secret Parallel City tech only popped up a couple of times and Gardevoir-GX is just better. I should have taken my Metagross deck with which I was more familiar. However the fire deck was a hold over from the expanded challenge that I’d won so I was on a bit of a fiery path and thought I’d ride it to the Cup!

My primary excuse is that locally we don’t have a competitive meta (yet). We’ve had good players but they’ve gone afar and locals don’t turn up to the casual events so finding good players to test against is difficult.

Accordingly, being in a room of 60+ people playing Pokémon competitively is an experience worth repeating.  Everyone there is passionate about the game, Pokemon and trying to be better players. I’m only sorry that our own league isn’t competitive or organised in any approximate shape at the moment. Having come out of nowhere I’m happy to have went 2-2-2 with a sub-par deck.

Next Stepsmew2

My next tournament is a League Challenge in Standard in November which is part of Gaming vs Cancer and held at the University. Shining Legends will be legal but Crimson Invasion will be not. It will be interesting to see what emerges particularly with Mew, Jirachi and possibly Mewtwo-GX in the format.

I’m planning on literally bringing the best decks in the Standard format that I am most comfortable with. The trick will be trying to get in practice against good opponents with quality decks!

League Challenge – 1st Place!

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’)

League Challenge DeckLeague Challenge Toto List

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!

Round 4 – Craig- Volcanion-EX/Turtonator-GX/Tauros-GX

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

Lessons Learned

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!)

Closing Thoughts

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!