Turning Up the Heat — Steam Siege and a World Championship Preview

What’s up PokeBeach? Steve here, and I’m back with more exciting material for all of you! How have you all been since last month? Things have been going great here! Summer has kicked it into high gear and it’s shaping up to be bigger and better than ever this year!

Yours truly with Maria from In This Moment.

One of my favorite things about summer is all of the metal shows that take place. Whether it’s thrash metal, modern metal, symphonic metal, or even just hard rock, I absolutely love going to these concerts. Some of my favorite bands have recently toured the United States, while others are on their way back here soon – this is a big deal when you consider that a decent chunk of them are from Europe. Over the past few years I’ve had the privilege of seeing Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Delain, In This Moment, Halestorm, The Dead Deads, The Pretty Reckless, Epica, Scar Symmetry, The Agonist, Amaranthe, and Within Temptation play concerts, just to name a few. These concerts are an absolute blast for me, as I lose myself in the music and the energy of the performance. I almost always end up close to the stage, which makes it even better! Of course, I have my own special set of guidelines that pertain to concerts, which I will share with you.

  • Always arrive with plenty of time to spare.
  • Upon admittance, head straight to the floor in front of the stage – you’ll get closer this way.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated! You’re going to be there awhile and you don’t want to get too thirsty mid-show.
  • Engage with the band and the crowd! Help to support those who are crowd-surfing, and try it out for yourself if you like.
  • Cheer each band when appropriate, even if you think the opening acts aren’t too great.
  • Try to learn the songs beforehand so you can sing along! It makes the shows that much more enjoyable!
  • Support the artists! Buy a CD, t-shirt, or poster from the merch stand if you liked a particular band. I’ve discovered lots of bands by seeing them open up for my favorites! Many of these bands struggle early on and could really use your support! You may even get to meet them!
  • Have fun!

Also, don’t be afraid to bring earplugs if you’re not comfortable with it getting too loud. For me, the combination of excitement and adrenaline from concerts is enough to keep the volume from bothering me, although I typically listen to loud music as it is. Professional musicians almost always have earplugs in when they’re on stage, though, and for good reason. If you don’t have earplugs, you can also stand further back from the stage if you’re concerned about the volume.

So what happens when my favorite acts are not touring? Well, if they’re off touring elsewhere, I might see if I can check out a local concert, as those gigs are usually cheap to attend. Musicians also need time off the road to rest, just like anybody else. The positives that fans get out of this are both a chance to check out new music as well as knowing that our favorite bands are likely working on new material, which means they’ll be hitting the road again around the time it is released! Sometimes, if I’m going to see a band live just days after a new single or album comes out, I’ll be sure to take the time getting to know their new music, as I’d expect to hear some of it live once it’s been released. Last September, for example, I had less than a week to learn the most recent Five Finger Death Punch record in time for their show down in Cincinnati. While my top highlight from that show was Papa Roach bringing Maria Brink onstage to perform “Gravity” with them, knowing Five Finger Death Punch’s new album made it more enjoyable when the headliners inevitably played some of that material during their set. Simply put, knowing the new music made an already-incredible show even more amazing for me to experience.

I believe this experience can also relate to the Pokemon TCG. Let’s start with the basics.

Enjoy Yourself

The most important aspect of Pokemon to me, and the reason I play it to begin with, is because it’s fun! Much like being in the front row at a Nightwish concert, a massive Pokemon tournament like Regionals, Nationals, or Worlds provides me with an opportunity to simply lose myself in the festivities. Unlike a concert, however, these tournaments last multiple days and can make for an excellent weekend-long vacation as well.

Between the community and getting to see all my friends at these events, being able to travel and see new places, as well as the joy of simply playing Pokemon, I’ve really come to love large-scale tournaments in general. Several people will have cards to trade, which is a boon for those of us to like to collect certain cards or simply enjoy trading in general. These events also allow me an opportunity to meet new people, which is something I’ve always loved. Anybody who knows me knows I love being around others and trying new things. If you see me at an event, don’t hesitate to come say hello!

Finally, I think it’s important to enjoy the deck you are playing, especially at a large event where you’ll be playing eight or nine rounds of Swiss on day one alone. For events like this, pick something you think is good, but also something you really like to play. For example, I’m a very aggressive player who loves to take OHKO’s, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve played Night March for a good portion of this season. At one point last season, I tried playing the Seismitoad-EX / Slurpuff deck when it was all the rage. Although I did decent with it, I noticed how monotonous and boring I found it to be, and how much more frustrated I became whenever I lost a match with it. This could easily create a downward spiral after losing once, where my frustration clouded my thoughts and, as a result, I ended up playing poorly the following round and taking another loss. This mostly stemmed from the fact that I simply didn’t enjoy playing that particular deck, which my wife pointed out to me when I finished venting my frustration at the end of the day. I don’t remember the entire conversation, but I do remember the end, where she said to me “Steve, you like to one-shot things.” That was the truth, and we both knew it. Less than a month later, my first draft of Archie’s Blastoise was born.

Although my earlier drafts of the deck were inconsistent and the deck itself tended to be a bit streaky, I enjoyed it a lot. I hadn’t had so much fun playing a particular deck all season, and I wanted it to work so badly. By the time States rolled around, I decided I was going to play simply for fun that weekend and see if I could make this crazy idea of mine work at a tournament.

Know the Format

I’m not going to go into the details of my Blastoise story any further, since I’ve written about that for you guys before. Instead, I’m going to make our next comparison. When going to a concert, it is infinitely more fun if I know the music that is being played and can sing along or just plain rock out to it. With Pokemon, I feel it is equally important to know the format you’re playing in. This includes the pool of legal cards that can be played as well as what decks you think have the potential to do well at an event. Knowing the metagame is crucial as it allows you to choose and construct a deck that can handle the current meta and isn’t loaded with bad matchups all over the tables. Many games are decided before the opening handshake, when certain decks get paired up against each other or one deck draws a much better opening hand than the other. A prime example of this would be Trevenant, which can win games almost automatically against decks like Night March or Vespiquen variants by simply opening up with a Phantump and Wally in hand. While plenty of bad matchups can be overcome based on a certain level of skill and a bit of luck, there are times when one player runs so hot that the game simply can’t be stolen, and that’s when it’s best to simply scoop to game two and save yourself some time in order to avoid a tie.

When picking a deck, you’ll want to consider what decks you expect to see in your meta and how you think each deck will fare in the expected meta. For example, if you think Greninja BREAK will overcome a field full of Night March and Trevenant, try to keep yourself in a good situation against at least two of those three, but make sure one of those positive matchups is Greninja. We recently saw this happen at the Origins win-a-trip tournament with four Garbodor-infused Darkrai-EX decks making it into the Top 8. Making a meta call like this can range from picking an entire deck for the meta or simply teching in a card or two to tip a certain matchup in your favor. Both methods can be effective, but remember to playtest first and make sure your deck is working the way you want it to.

Lastly, know card rulings. If you are unsure of a specific card ruling that may affect you at a tournament, ask around or do a bit of research to try and figure out how it works. After all, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of a tournament and lose a game you think you would’ve won because a ruling was different than you thought. This happened to some people at Origins in regards to whether or not the effects of Greninja‘s Shadow Stitching could be countered by Bronzong‘s Metal Fortress Ability or Bent Spoon being equipped to a Pokemon with an Ability. With rulings such as these, you’ll want to make sure you have the correct ruling down if you’re playing any of the affected cards. In fact, I’d recommend knowing these rulings even if you aren’t playing any of the cards in question, as you never know when it might come up in the future.

Keep an Eye on Upcoming Releases

As I mentioned earlier, musicians often go on tour around the same time they release new music in order to promote it. Get to know the new songs and you can enjoy the full show, rocking out to both the older tunes and the new ones.

In Pokemon, new sets are released at three-month intervals. When a new set is revealed, be sure to check up on the new cards to see how they work, and be ready for them when they become legal for tournament play. Personally, I like to keep up with the Japanese releases when the translations are uploaded to PokeBeach, so I know what to look for in new sets when they are released. I’ve been actively doing this since the middle of the Black and White arc of the Pokemon TCG, and it’s helped me greatly with my preparation for tournaments and deck construction overall. In a way, this is like looking at three formats: Standard, Expanded, and the game after the addition of the latest set. In this case, that set is Steam Siege.

Steam Siege

With that segment out of the way, let’s address the mastodon in the room, Steam Siege. Steam Siege is the next expansion to be released in the Pokemon TCG, and to (mostly) everyone’s surprise, it is going to be legal for Worlds this year! This means Worlds will have its own format, as a rotation will likely take place immediately afterwards, so XY Steam Siege will be exclusive to this event. So that begs the question: What cards from Steam Siege should I be on the lookout for? Let’s find out!

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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