The Last Chance Qualifier
The Last Chance Qualifier, otherwise known as the LCQ or the Grinder, is a tournament that is hosted in the days before Worlds. The winners of the LCQ are awarded an invite to Worlds, making it one of the most competitive tournaments out there. While most well-known players have already secured their spots in Worlds, there are still plenty of big-names and skillful players who are hoping to grind in and play at Worlds. Below is an all-inclusive guide to the Last Chance Qualifier, and what you can do to help increase your chances of victory, and move up to the big stage.
Last Chance Qualifier Information
- The Last Chance Qualifier will start on August 12th 2011. Registration will be first come, first serve.
- There are a prospective 500+ Masters playing in the Last Chance Qualifier.
- The Last Chance Qualifier will be held in a Best 2 Out Of 3, Single Elimination Format.
- Eight invites to Worlds have been guaranteed as prizes (With more speculated due to Japanese Nationals being cancelled).
With such a large pool of players and the change in format from Swiss to Single Elimination there are going to be some drastic changes in the ways that people are going to be going about this tournament. The biggest story at the LCQ this year is the switch to Single Elimination, which can send great players packing early on due to an unfavorable matchup, or a matchup against another great player. Now the Grinder is less about being the best of the best, and more about being lucky and consistent. Players are going to be making changes to their decks in order to reduce their chances of getting donked, and increase their chances of having an effective start. Players are going to have to make sure that their deck can win six or seven rounds without losing, which means that they are going to be playing decks that have the fewest auto-losses, even if that means not playing the best option for a deck.
So what does this all mean, to me?
At this point there are two major groups of players who are going to be competing in the Grinder. The first group are those people who have already decided on what deck they are going to play. They have tested this deck, they have been tweaking this deck for weeks, and they are certain that they are making the best choice possible for this tournament. The second group is comprised of players who have an idea of what they are going to play in this tournament, but they aren't exactly sure, and they definitely haven't settled on what deck they are going to play yet. They are going to wait until later testing before they decide on what to play. Either way you can still benefit from some further preparation so keep reading...
What decks are the best play for the Last Chance Qualifier?
We all know that the three decks that are receiving all of the hype right now are Yanmega/Magnezone, Reshiram/Typhlosion/Ninetales, and Yanmega/Donphan/Zoroark, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to be the best choice for Grinding in. There are a few important things to look for in a deck if you are going to be playing in a Single Elimination tournament with such a large number of players.
You are going to want to have:
A deck that has even or favorable matchups against the most common decks in the format.
A deck that sets up quickly so you can avoid early game losses.
A deck that doesn't have too many bad starts.
A deck that you have tested and become familiar with.
You are going to want to avoid:
A deck that has too many severe auto-losses.
A deck that can stall out and fail to set up.
A deck that can be donked easily.
A deck that has too many techs and therefore has become inconsistent.
A deck that is extremely unfamiliar.
So with that information in mind not all of the best decks are going to be the ideal play for Grinders, in the same way that some of the less lucrative decks in the format can make for a great play in Single Elimination. People are going to be making changes to their decks in order to avoid unwinnable situations and get an overall better level of consistency in their deck, even if that means foregoing certain additions to your deck that give it more options in certain situations.
So how are the big three decks going to do in the Last Chance Qualifier?
The big three (MegaZone, DMZ, and ReshiPhlosion) are the three most popular decks in the format now. They are all expected to be played in spades, in both Worlds and the LCQ. Below is how you can expect these decks to do in the LCQ, and my overall expectations for them...
MegaZone (Yanmega/Magnezone): After winning US Nationals, MegaZone skyrocketed in popularity, with that boost in popularity you can expect two things, first more than a handful of players are going to be playing this deck, and second there are going to be players who hope to counter this boost in popularity by playing decks that perform well against this deck. MegaZone doesn't have too many, if any, auto-losses in this format although it does have some trouble against Donphan/Zekrom/Reshiram and Kingdra/Yanmega/Jirachi. Both of those matches can be played around by a skilled MegaZone player. With Yanmega and additional drawpower support from Magnezone this deck also sets up relatively quickly, and with relatively few bad starts, this deck does have quite a few things going for it while going into the LCQ. Overall I see huge success for players hoping to use MegaZone in the Last Chance Qualifier, but with any hype that this deck gets, there are going to be people hoping to capitalize on that hype by playing a deck that does well against it.
Stage Ones (Yanmega/Donphan/Zoroark): Another deck that sprung to life after US Nationals, Stage 1's is a deck with a wide array of options for any matchup, making it relatively hard to beat easily. Although this deck doesn't have any auto-losses, it does have rougher matchups against Yanmega/Magnezone and Kingdra/Yanmega/Jirachi. Both of those matches will be close, but the MegaZone matchup isn't too terribly difficult, and Kingdra/Yanmega/Jirachi isn't expected to see a huge amount of play in the LCQ. Stage 1's is a fast and consistent deck with respectable matchups, but it does have to worry about bad starts, as you can get stuck with the wrong Pokemon for a matchup as your starting Pokemon. Having a Phanpy stuck up front at the start of a game could spell disaster if you don't have the needed Switch/DCE to get out of the way. Overall this deck is still another solid choice for the Last Chance Qualifier, and the fact that this deck is difficult to counter may be one of its greatest assets as it keeps your odds of having a winnable matchup high.
ReshiPhlosion (Reshiram/Typhlosion/Ninetales): Having always had moderate buzz surrounding it, ReshiPhlosion gained further notoriety after being backed by a number of popular players. Due to the buzz that follows this deck around, and the vast availability of the cards needed to make this deck I forsee this deck being the most common deck out there at the LCQ. However that doesn't mean that ReshiPhlosion is your best choice for the Last Chance Qualifier. With the decks noticable popularity it wouldn't be out of the question for a player to build a Water based deck and just hope to work his or her way up the ladder by simply hitting good matchups. Yes ReshiPhlosion has one thing that neither of the other decks in the Big 3 have, an autoloss. Any pure Water deck (except Kingdra) is going to spell doom for a Reshphlosion deck, and in Single Elimination it is scary to think that your entire run could be stopped short in an early round by a newer player just getting the hang of their Blastoise/Floatzel deck...ReshiPhlosion also has slower starts than most of the other common decks in this format, which means that the deck can stall out and lose you a key game. Although the deck does have good matchups against most of the format, it just is not the safest play for the Last Chance Qualifier.
So what other decks might I expect to see having relative success at the Last Chance Qualifier?
There is no way to predict everything that you are going to see at the Grinder, nor is there any way to fully predict what will do well especially with so much turmoil in the tournament what with the change to Single Elimination and the influx of Japanese players who will be competing in the Grinder. Nonetheless the same few decks that have always been performing well should have some level of success in the LCQ. Below are some of the other popular decks in the format that will definitely make a showing at the LCQ.
ZPS (Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin): Zekrom has an impressive level of success backing its name. Having taken both Mexican and Canadian Nationals, Zekrom has proven that it has the ability to win. However this deck does boil down to a lot of luck, and if it doesn't grab the early win it is going to be having trouble. Should Zekrom have its strategy go off without a hitch, you are going to more than likely win, but the deck would have to go off ideally more than ten times in a single tournament, which does seem unlikely. If the deck doesn't work as it should, then it is forced to battle its way out, and against any deck that plays Donpham, and any deck that has any way to knock out Zekrom in one hit, this deck is going to have a rough matchup. Overall I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two of these decks do well, but it just doesn't have the consistency for me to be able to expect much more.
Donphans and Dragons (Donphan/Zekrom/Reshiram): One of the most prominent counter decks in this format, D&D has an impressive set of matchups, with relatively few bad matchups. Being able to effectively counter a big deck such as MegaZone, while not having much to fear in most other matchups makes this deck a decent prospect. A quick set up and a solid draw engine only further my faith that this deck will make for a safe performance at the LCQ. Unideal starts would be the one thing that a D&D player would have to fear if they were to play this deck at the LCQ. After everything has been said and done this deck is one of my overall favorites for the LCQ, it has all of the necessary characteristics that a deck should have in Single Elimination, and I hope that it sees play.
KYJ (Kingdra/Yanmega/Jirachi: Another deck that has seen some play since Nationals. However this deck does have an autoloss against Zekrom, making for some skepticism regarding how well this deck will actually do. Although it has trouble against Zekrom, KYJ is has solid matchups against the Big 3, and it is a relatively quick and consistent deck. Although a good deck with a decent chance at doing well at the Grinder, I doubt that this deck will see any spectacular amount of play due to the more popular choices and the sheer difficulty and time that it takes to play this deck. This deck doesn't have the easiest time in Single Elimination with a handful or rough matchups, and what could be described as a flimsy level of consistency.
Okay I have a decent idea as to what I am going to play, any last minute suggestions for what I should put in my deck?
In the LCQ you are looking to hit the perfect balance and create a deck that is simple yet strong and able to set itself up as often as possible. You are also looking to avoid anything in your deck that could lead your opponent to an easy win, and an easy elimination for you. With that in mind I suggest dropping your Cleffa for Manaphy, giving you a bulkier and therefore safer option for drawing. I would also suggest giving up on Tyrogue, it had major success at Nationals due to a certain level of surprise, but now the format has shifted away from babies, and Tyrogue is just as much of a risk as it is a card worth playing. Tyrogue may be able to grab you a donk or two in the LCQ, but do you really want to risk your entire tournament to just end a couple of games quickly? Also if you have any one-of cards in your deck that you aren't sure if they are going to help or not, I would suggest that you cut those cards too. Sure a well timed Lost Remover would be great to have, but it is better to be set up and attacking early than it is to be hoping for a single key card later in the game. With any of this fat that you may have trimmed I would say that you should bulk up your draw supporter counts. If you opened up one or two spaces, then make sure that you beef up your counts for both Professor Oak and Juniper. Also if you are still dead set on playing a deck that has a definite autoloss you may want to consider dedicating a space or two to tech against them, although whether or not that will be effective enough or not is still up for debate.
Okay I have my decklist made and I like what I see. I know what I should be seeing at the LCQ, so now what?
Now you have to play. You have to make sure that you play your deck over and over again and that you know your deck inside and out. This is one of the most forgotten steps, but it is also one of the most important. You ever wonder why netdecking is rarely effective? This is why, just copying a list off of the internet and then trying to play it is not going to end effectively. You need to know your deck and all of its caveats. Also right before you are going to go play in the LCQ, make sure you get yourself some sleep. As hard as that may sound with all of the excitement you may be feeling, sleep is going to keep your mind sharp, and if you plan on going far into the Last Chance Qualifier you are going to be in for one long day.
Okay I am ready, but what about you? What do you think is going to happen?
Well making predictions has never exactly been my strong suit, as I normally end up being about as far away from the truth as imaginable. However that never does stop me from making my predictions, as I love taking a shot and seeing if I really do understand this game. So I will take a stab at creating a plausible outcome for the Top 8 based on what I know will be happening at the Grinder.
3rd Yanmega Magnezone
This is solely based on what decks I foresee doing well overall, coupled with what decks I know will go far just due to how many of those decks will be in the tournament to begin with. In the end I see Yanmega/Magnezone being the deck to beat, giving it two spots in the Top 3, while I gave second place to Kingdra/Yanmega/Jirachi as I feel that a skilled player can take this deck far, and it has the matchups against the rest of the big decks in the format. Yanmega/Donphan/Zoroark rounds out the Top 4, with another place in the Top 8 as well, but both ended up losing out near the middle of the T8 due to bad matchups against KYJ and MegaZone. ReshiPhlosion ended up making it to the Top 8 as well, although that is mainly due to its foreseen heavy usage, coupled with decent matchups and the fact that a number of skilled players are still contemplating as to whether they are going to use this deck or not. I rounded out the Top 8 with Donphans and Dragons because although the deck may not have the numbers or popularity when compared to these other decks, it still has some of the most favorable matchups around, and it does have the consistency to work its way up into the Top 8, however I feel that most skilled players are going to be able to play around it.
Well there you have it, an in-depth breakdown of the Last Chance Qualifier, and what you can expect to see. I hope that this has been an informative and helpful article, and I thank you for reading. I hope that the coverage at the Last Chance Qualifier will be well done so I can see exactly how right or wrong that I was. Sadly, I will not be making it to Worlds this year, what with college starting in a couple of weeks and me not having the money to spend on a hotel room. Since I cannot make it to Worlds I would like to post the decklist that I was planning on using to Grind in, and if this article has shaken anybody's faith in their deck or someone still isn't sure on what they are going to play then I would be happy if you decide to use it. However, this is not the point of the article, so I would prefer if everybody avoided commenting too heavily on the list. Also remember, for those of you who don't manage to make it through the Grinder, you will have plenty of other opportunities for fun at Worlds, so don't let a loss ruin what should be a great weekend.