Howdy ‘Beach goers. I just got back from the Origins Gaming Convention win-a-trip competition and I have a lot to talk about. In this article, I will analyze what happened at the Origins win-a-trip competition, and give my final thoughts on the progression of the metagame before the U.S. National Championships.
For those of you that don’t know, the Origins win-a-trip competition was a tournament held in Columbus, Ohio in our current U.S. Nationals format. The stakes of the tournament were extraordinarily high considering only 64 masters were in attendance. First of all, the cost of entry was $45, $25 to purchase a day pass for the Origins Gaming Convention and $20 to enter the tournament. This weeded out a lot of casual players who may have otherwise entered the tournament for fun. Next off, the tournament offered State Championship level Championship Points, so players in the 200-299 CP total range were in attendance looking to score their invites and players in the 400-500 CP range were in attendance looking to solidify a position in the Top 16 of U.S. and Canada to ensure their automatic qualification for day two of the World Championship. Third, the tournament boasted the largest monetary prize of any U.S. tournament so far this year, offering a paid trip to San Francisco to the winner and three friends. And finally, and perhaps most enticingly, this is the first time in recent memory that a large scale National’s format tournament was held in the U.S. prior to the U.S. National Championships themselves. Many players, myself included, saw this tournament as an indispensable opportunity to test for the U.S. National Championships.
Because of the high stakes, players overwhelmingly showed up guns ablaze for this tournament, piloting what they considered to be the best deck in the Standard format. In fact, numerous players have expressed disappointment in the fact that their “secret” deck for the U.S. National Championships, Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor, was leaked at this tournament, snatching three out of the Top 8 placements. Despite the deck’s domination in the swiss rounds, it was Jimmy McClure’s Darkrai-EX / Yveltal / Garbodor deck that claimed the top spot and earned him a free trip to Worlds! Congrats to the Jimmy McClure, the Coach himself!
It’s also worth mentioning that my friend and testing partner, Andrew Wambolt, claimed a Top 8 finish with my Night March / Vespiquen list which I published here. The only alteration he made was substituting the Xerosic for a Startling Megaphone. Congrats to Wambolt on the strong finish and a big thanks to him for trusting my deck building! Though the tournament only had 64 participants, many in attendance were calling it the most competitive 64 player tournament ever held. Some laughed as they said the experience was like getting dropped into day two of the U.S. National Championships from round one!
The final standings for the competition were as follows:
1. Jimmy McClure – Darkrai-EX / Yveltal-EX / Garbodor
2. Aaron Tarbell – Trevenant BREAK
3. Alex Hill – Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Latios-EX / Garbodor
4. Russell LaParre – Water Toolbox
5. Chris Schemanske – Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Latios-EX / Garbodor
6. Alex Croxton – Genesect-EX / Aegislash-EX / Zoroark / Bronzong
7. Sean Foisy – Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Latios-EX / Garbodor
8. Andrew Wamboldt – Night March / Vespiquen
What Showed Up
The tournament was comprised primarily of people playing Dark / Garbodor, Trevenant BREAK, Vespiquen / Vileplume, Metal, Water Toolbox, Night March, and Greninja BREAK. However, in addition to this core meta, I also saw players piloting Dark / Vespiquen, M Sceptile-EX, M Manectric-EX, Zygarde-EX, and Carbink BREAK / Medicham. The field was ripe with players fielding new ideas. Relatively few opted to play either of the three decks that I consider to be the founding archetypes of the Standard format: Trevenant BREAK, Night March, and Greninja BREAK, but of these three, Night March was still the most popular. This jives with my theory that most competitive players do not enjoy the interactions between Greninja, Trevenant, and Night March and wanted to find something with more definitively positive matchups.
Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor seemed to be the resounding answer to the format at Origins, with at least seven players across three different friend groups opting to pilot the “secret” deck. Of those seven players, three finished in top cut and one bubbled out of cut at ninth place overall. Considering the very competitive nature of this field, it’s telling that four of seven Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor players finished swiss with a record of 4-1-1 or better. Two of the players I attended the tournament with played this deck and I have spent a good amount of time testing against it, so I will be sharing my thoughts on the deck later on in the article.
Another big surprise was Metal’s solid representation at the tournament. The deck was piloted by a handful of players, specifically earning Alex Croxton a Top 8 finish. It’s worth noting that Croxton’s list played a Zoroark line, a card that was excluded from Simone Zuchelli’s Italian National Championship finalist list. I spent a good amount of time testing Metal leading up to the tournament and love the way that the deck plays. I think that the deck has a lot of potential, just like it did at last year’s National Championships, so I’ll be reviewing Metal in the latter part of my article as well.
Greninja BREAK was the biggest loser of Origins. As I stated during my last article, many testing groups were finding Greninja to be the deck with the most potential out of the big three archetypes in Standard. That being said, many competitive players, including myself, didn’t like the deck’s inconsistent nature. That led players to counter Greninja rather than play it themselves. Consequently, players showed up with serious Garbodor lines intent on defeating any Greninja players they may have encountered. Garbodor also happens to counter the newly popular Metal deck, making its inclusion in top lists even more warranted.
What’s troubling about Garbodor is that countering the card will not be as easy as including a Xerosic or a Startling Megaphone for Greninja players. Greninja needs many consistent turns of Water Shuriken late in the game to pull games out. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Greninja cannot slow down Darkrai-EX / Garbodor with Jirachi‘s Stardust, a strategy it employs versus most speedier decks. The only line of defense Greninja has against a quick Darkrai-EX is an unreliable Bubble attack from Froakie. By the time the Greninja player manages to set up any Greninja BREAK, they will need to focus all their resources on Garbodor, be it with Xerosic or Lysandre / Muscle Band. Neither strategy feels legitimate, however, since they are almost entirely thwarted if the opponent sets up two Garbodor, something they will have plenty of time to accomplish by turn three or four. Greninja thrives the most in a metagame composed of Night March and Trevenant BREAK, but with all three of the big archetypes on the decline, I don’t think Greninja will have strong footing heading into the U.S. National Championships.
My Origins Experience
My experience at Origins was a rough one. Unfortunately, In my case in particular, I learned exactly what not to do at the National Championships. I did not sleep the night before the tournament, instead, I stayed up stressing about what to play and testing fervently. Two of my friends, Justin Boughter and Athavan Balendran were both testing the recently hyped Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor deck, which was routinely destroying the Night March / Vespiquen deck I had intended to play for the tournament. Without a clear backup plan, I was pretty freaked out.
My friends and I drove into Columbus the morning of the tournament, leaving my apartment at 3:45 AM to arrive right at 6:00 AM. We were told to arrive early so that we would be able to sign up for the tournament on time, but this proved to be almost completely unnecessary. When I arrived at the tournament, I learned that my friend and fellow Beach writer, Steve Guthrie was also planning on playing Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor. Minutes later, I learned that my friends from Michigan were all playing the deck themselves as well. At this point I decided that I needed to rethink my plan. I had only beat Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor with one deck the night prior, Metal, and I didn’t own the cards necessary to play a Metal deck. My testing also revealed that a single Xerosic in Night March was not nearly enough to thwart Giratina-EX’s Chaos Wheel.
I warned my friend Andrew Wamboldt about the Dark / Garb deck. Wamboldt was unfazed though, and said he wasn’t going to change his deck this late in the game. I, on the other hand, decided to flop back to a straight Night March deck with Pokémon Catcher and an Enhanced Hammer for Giratina-EX. My past experiences had shown that I have a better chance of beating Giratina-EX decks if I can attack them early on with Pokemon Catcher. I also decided to play one copy of Mew at the suggestion of pretty much everyone I test with. I ended up loving the single copy of Mew, especially since Night March needs to hit higher damage with more consistency now. It’s also great to have a free retreater that can be attained with Ultra Ball.
Round One: Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor
Sure enough, round one I am paired against a friend, Dimitri from Michigan, who is playing Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor. He wins the first game when he goes first, I win game two when I go first and then he goes first again in game three. He gets a Giratina-EX powered up with a Dark and Double Dragon Energy. I am able to Enhanced Hammer the Double Dragon Energy and KO his Active in the process, feeling pretty confident about my turn one. He promptly responds with another Max Elixir and a second Double Dragon from hand and begins using Chaos Wheel. Without a way to access my Teammates for Puzzle of Time to retrieve Enhanced Hammer, I am in a lot of trouble and am forced to start passing. He slaps a second Double Dragon down on his Active Giratina and I begin trying to stall him out with Lysandre and Pokemon Catcher. He rips Float Stone for all of his heavy retreaters and keeps the pressure on, but right when it looks like he is in the clear, time is called and he doesn’t have enough time to close the series out, so it ends in a tie.
Round Two: M Manectric-EX / Jolteon-EX / Sceptile-EX
I’m pretty frazzled about my first series but keep my head on straight and sigh in relief when I am paired against a M Manectric-EX deck round two. He plays Jolteon-EX but it never matters and I end up completely routing him.
Round Three: Seismitoad-EX / Garbodor
Things go right back to stressful when I get paired against a Seismitoad-EX / Garbodor deck round three. I think back to the World Championships and remember that I used to have a positive Toad / Garb matchup, but a lot has changed since then. Now, Seismitoad-EX has Fighting Fury Belt at its disposal. I also don’t get to tank with Mew-EX like I used to. Things go terribly this series and I am not able to get more than three Night Marchers in the discard on either of my turn ones. I promptly lose a quick 0-2 series and begin wishing I had stuck with Vespiquen / Night March. At 1-1-1 with no sleep, I enter win out mode.
Round Four: M Sceptile-EX
Round four I get paired against my friend Deon who is playing M Sceptile-EX. This is another layup for Night March so I am pretty excited. I go second and get a turn one Pokemon Catcher on his Shaymin-EX. All Deon can do is shake his head and laugh, since this is exactly how our matchups played out at the Ohio State Championships just months ago. Despite a rocky start, Deon drags the game out and makes a case for a comeback with a couple of N and a M Sceptile-EX wearing an Assault Vest. I am patient though, and decide to never swing into a Sceptile without KO’ing it, since I know he will just heal it. I am able to put myself in a situation where my deck is small and all I have to do is hit a Professor Sycamore off of an incoming N to hit my Startling Megaphone and last DCE or Dimension Valley to seal the game, OHKO’ing his Active M Sceptile-EX. I have a Double Colorless Energy on my Benched Pumpkaboo and a Joltik in the Active which I anticipate him KO’ing to put himself at two Prizes remaining and me at 11 Night Marchers in the discard. Instead of N’ing and KO’ing my Active like I predict, he goes for Lysandre on my benched Pumpkaboo with the DCE and KO’s it. Since I keep my hand, I am able to promote my last Joltik, attach DCE from hand and Lysandre a Hoopa-EX for game. We consider going to game two, but Deon scoops and drops since game one lasted a long time and he realizes that he will not have an opportunity to close out two more games for the win.
Round Five: Night March
At this point I only need two more wins for a chance to make Top 8, but my body and mind are seriously beginning to fade as my lack of sleep catches up with me. I get paired against Ryan Grant round five, who is also playing Night March. Grant wins the flip and opts to go second, knowing that he is in a mirror situation. I don’t really agree with going second in the Night March mirror, since going first offers a more stable board set up, especially if something bad happens like a Shaymin-EX start, but both have their merits so I don’t mind either way. We both start Pumpkaboo and use Professor Sycamore, looking for a Dimension Valley but fail to find them. A couple turns pass both ways, I Enhanced Hammer a DCE on a turn where he attached but failed to attack, but he rips the first attack on my benched Pumpkaboo with a DCE attached. I had used Escape Rope to protect this Pumpkaboo on a previous turn that I went for the Stadium and missed.
With Target Whistle already in hand, his first attack presents me with an awesome opportunity to Teammates for a Pokémon Catcher and a Double Colorless Energy. I have three Puzzle of Time in my hand, so I know I am about to pull off something crazy. I Target Whistle and hit the Catcher to bring up his Shaymin-EX and take the lead, but first I make an egregious misplay with my Puzzle of Time. I have three Puzzle in my hand and I think that my fourth is left in deck, when in fact it is already in the discard. I am tired and losing my mind so I don’t even check for it, I just go ahead and play double Puzzle to get my Enhanced Hammer and a VS Seeker for next turn. I remove his DCE which is now on the Bench while taking Shaymin-EX, and plan on using my VS Seeker to Teammates next turn, which will allow me to grab my last Puzzle piece and another VS Seeker to get two DCE back from the discard and setup my route to win the game. I see that Ryan already has two Puzzle of Time and his Target Whistle in the discard with one Puzzle and one DCE prized, so I know that it will be hard for him to piece together the rest of the game with the pressure I apply with Enhanced Hammer.
Ryan asks to see my discard and I realize as he is checking through that I just shot myself in the foot. I have three Puzzle in the discard, not two, leaving myself with only two DCE in deck to take four Prizes. Oh boy. I am an idiot. My tired brain starts trying to figure out if I still got a shot at this one, and I decide that I can do it if he benches another Joltik, which he does. The game dwindles down to a point where I have one DCE left and three Prizes to take. I have a hand with a couple Shaymin-EX and a Lysandre, I just need to Lysandre both Joltiks and Sky Return them both, using my Mew as a free retreater, before taking my last Prize with a Night Marcher. I have no Shaymin-EX in the discard and I am still technically leading the Prize-race so if I can string the two plays together with my very small deck, I can get it done. I Lysandre Joltik and bench my Shaymin-EX, using set up for four in a seven card deck, but whiff my DCE, leaving me completely vulnerable. I whiffed, but I am mad at myself for even putting myself in this silly situation. I should have been more careful with my Puzzle of Time but at this point I am so tired and delirious that its a miracle I’m still piecing plays together at all. We start game two, but at this point I know that we won’t have a chance to complete a third game anyways, so I know its a loss.
Game two I go first and start Shaymin-EX. Great! I am able to get it out of the Active but it sits there on the Bench until Ryan takes it. Ryan sets up a commanding lead and just routes me this game. There’s nothing I can do about it. Ryan is a good player though and his list was very solid, so I didn’t mind ending my tournament run there. I congratulate him on the win, drop from the tournament, and go with my girlfriend Kirsten to sleep in my car for an hour while we wait for our friends to finish up. Ryan ended up finishing with a 4-1-1 record as well, whiffing cut at 10th place.
What Did I Learn?
My biggest regret of the tournament was that I didn’t get enough sleep. I know better than this. Sleep is imperative to thinking clearly and making the best decisions over a long day of tournament play, and I can honestly look at my misplay in round five as a direct result of my lack of sleep. My reasons for no sleep were twofold: I didn’t get a local hotel the night before the tournament and much of my testing was happening last minute. This whole tournament was supposed to be a testing experience anyways, so I’m glad I was able to jam hours of testing with my friends, but I wish I had done so more responsibly.
I am disappointed in myself for not having a better plan laid out with what I was going to play beforehand. I should have had two or three decks at the ready that I felt comfortable with, but Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX / Garbodor completely threw me for a loop. I had one plan of what to play and I cast it aside. I think its ironic that Wamboldt just went in confident with the deck I threw out at the last minute and ended up doing just fine, while my stress got me nowhere. I was able to pilot Night March at both Ohio and Michigan States to Top 8 finishes, but I am realizing now that the format has progressed in a way that playing Night March flawlessly won’t always get me there anymore. I think it is time to move on. I am thankful for my experience at Origins. This could have easily been my Nationals experience, but instead, I got to treat this as a test run. I’m glad I was able to learn my lesson about being prepared and keeping my cool before Nationals this year. I’m feeling more prepared now than ever!
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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