Hey Beachgoers! I’m back from U.S. Nationals with another awesome article for you guys. I’m sure “post-nats depression” is hitting you guys hard as you are home from an incredible weekend with your best friends and the rest of the stellar Pokemon community. I hope you took a chance to say hello to myself or any of the other writers. This will be a bit of a technical article about dealing with this off period between Nationals and next season. I know some of you guys are going to Worlds, so I will make sure to appeal to those of you who are attending or playing the Worlds format.
The first part of this article will be more of a “how to earn your Worlds invite” article. A lot of people are looking to start fresh next year and to push themselves even harder than last year. The second part of this article will cover some plays for Worlds that I’ve been considering.
So You Wanna Be a Pokemon Master?
A lot of people are of unsure how difficult, time consuming, and expensive it can be to earn a World Championship invite. Pokemon’s bar at 300 Championship Points is difficult, but not impossible. The biggest key to earning a Worlds invite is to travel and gain experience. In addition, the most important practice when working towards your invite is networking.
The Power of Networking
Much like getting a job in the real world, Pokemon is very much about “who you know”. I can’t stress the importance of introducing yourself to others in this game. Pokemon is a social game, so make sure you make some friends at every tournament you go to! Friends and other players pick you up when you’re down, hook you up with lists, and they give you insight into the format by discussing what they’re testing. Even more important than making friends is forming a testing group with them, or to have decent players to talk to over Facebook or Skype. Most Pokemon players are open to giving advice or discussing their thoughts outside of articles such as this one.
I’ve made many friends in this game that are fairly skilled and I rarely test alone. I also rarely make deck decisions alone. I get a lot of insight into the format by asking my friends what they are testing. Most of my friends play across the country, so I strongly encourage you to make friends outside of your own area and get a gauge of what is popular country-wide. Perceptions and ideas tend to stay uniform amongst players in a specific area.
A lot of what goes into my decision to play a specific deck requires a lot of playtesting, question asking, and conversations about the testing of others. I don’t necessarily mean to form a team or anything like that, but I mean make friends with others at your tournaments. Befriend the big names in the game. We’re all friendly people. Every decent player that I know speaks to other players or has a support group of their own that they keep in contact with.
So make sure you introduce yourself to the winners of events in your area, or people that you know are high profile players. Sending them a message on Facebook will most likely give you a response and a ton of insight into the format. I personally love talking Pokemon, so whenever a newer player or someone who is going for an invite messages me on Facebook, I happily talk about my thoughts.
The number one way to earn an invite is by traveling to a lot of tournaments. Primarily around Cities season (we’ll get to that later). The schedule for the last two years has remained relatively the same for each type of tournament (Cities, Regionals, Nationals, etc). I heard that there may be big changes coming up this year, but for now let’s simply go over our current structure.
I’m going to break down each kind of tournament and when they normally happen. I’ve been traveling to Pokemon tournaments for five years now, so I’m familiar with how these tournaments go and how important they are to earning your invite.
Of course, if you’re in a different country than the United States, this is going to be drastically different for you than it is for the Americans that are going for their invites. I have never competed internationally, so I cannot speak for you, but this should still be somewhat interesting for our international readers!
League Challenges (All Year)
League Challenges happen all year and they are an excellent source of points if your area runs a lot of them. I know some areas that run one every weekend at the multitude of different stores at that particular area. League Challenges offer a small amount of points, but they really do add up. With a best-finish limit of six, you can earn a potential 90 points from them!
Each League Challenge will usually only have about 10-15 players at each one. If you show up with a somewhat decent deck, these should be easy points for you. You’ll want to go to these early in the season and get the finishes out of the way. I finished my season this year with two first place finishes, two second place finishes, and two third place finishes. This netted me a total of 74 points, which is even more than getting Top 4 at a State Championship!
These tournaments are very important. I’d attend as many as you can in your local area throughout the year. They’re cheap and free points, and, even if you have your invite, they will help you earn a stipend.
Autumn Regionals (October)
Other than League Challenges, Autumn Regionals are when everyone gets back together after the off season. It’s the first tournament where any major traveling happens and it’s where all the rust from the long break gets shaken off. This is where most friends reconnect and is everyone’s first real opportunity to earn points.
These tournaments are important, but they’re larger events with a lot of players and aren’t a great source of Championship Points unless you expect to perform well at them.
This means that you probably won’t dash your chances at an invite if you choose to skip these. It’s the first big tournament series of the season, so you will have many more opportunities in the future.
City Championships (Late November – Early January)
Cities are both numerous and profitable for those looking to earn an invite. These tournaments tend to be small, with 20-50 participants at each Cities. If you’re serious about getting the invite, these tournaments are crucial. There are a lot of these each year, so it is relatively easy to earn Championship Points at these events.
I personally earned 150 points from City Championships alone, half of my invite. After attending eight Cities, I was able to achieve a win, a second place, and three Top 4s, with a best finish limit of four.
You want to spend just about every weekend in December attending these tournaments. The cap for Cities is four finishes, so once you place well at four of them, you can probably call it quits for that particular series.
If you’re serious about your invite, these tournaments are where you earn it. I’ve seen players not attend a lot of Cities and still earn their invite, but it’s hard. Cities are far from free points, but they tend to be local tournaments where your competition may not be too difficult, so you want to reap these Championship Points while they are out there.
There are also Cities marathons in places like Texas and Georgia, along with other various states throughout the country, where events are held every day for a span of roughly five days. If you can spare a week of work, feel free to attend a City Championship every day for a full week!
By the end of Cities you’ll be pretty Pokemon’d out, so take your break before going to Winter Regionals.
Winter Regionals (Late February – March)
These are the midpoint of the season where it breaks off from the small, casual tournaments to the larger-scaled and more serious ones. You want to be about halfway to your invite by this point. It’s still feasible to earn your invite if you are a little under 150, but you should shoot to have around 120 points if you have few League Challenge finishes — or more than that if you have a lot of finishes at League Challenges.
Winter Regionals are fairly similar to Fall Regionals. You see a lot of the same faces, plus ones from farther away areas. This is a great time to network and talk to others in areas farther away from yours. For example, St. Louis Regionals had players from Wisconsin to Nebraska to Georgia, which would make it a great opportunity to meet the best players from those areas.
These are still difficult tournaments, but the format shouldn’t be too drastically different than Fall Regionals.
Things get more serious after this point as tournaments get larger and points become harder to obtain. After this point, you get a lot more points for higher finishes, but earning those finishes is much more difficult.
State Championships (Late March – April)
My bread and butter. These tournaments award points to players down to the Top 16 and this is where the majority of Worlds invites are finished. After States, it’s difficult to seal in your invite outside of League Challenges, since Spring Regionals and Nationals are larger and more challenging events.
States are wonderful tournaments since they aren’t overly large, but some States give out huge points regardless of their size. Take Nebraska States for instance: we usually have 40-60 people show up, yet the point payout is still the same as a larger States such as Texas. Almost everyone has a State Championship like that in their area.
These events are fairly similar to the Cities format, so most players will have some experience with it. There’s usually a new set involved with States, so there’s a slight difference when shifting from Cities to States. Additionally, these tournaments are played in best-of-three, 50-minute rounds, so you must be mindful of time and know when to concede.
The Top 16 of a States gets a whopping 30 points, so it’s totally worth playing through all of the way for the chance to increase your point count.
What’s more, there are usually a States in every area all four weekends of the month. So if you can travel Easter weekend, that’s four different opportunities to earn some huge points. I highly recommend traveling to all four States if you have the opportunity.
Spring Regionals (May)
Now it’s really crunch time to earn your invite. This is your last big opportunity before U.S. Nationals. This is also near the end of the season, and the last chance to earn points towards a travel stipend to help pay for Worlds.
By this point in the season, a few additional sets have released since the previous Regionals and have changed some things up, so don’t necessarily expect things to play out the same way as they have at the other Regionals.
This is also the last Expanded event before next season, so if you have any awesome plays, pull them out now.
United States National Championships (July)
This tournament is the biggest Pokemon event in the entire world and probably one of the most challenging. This is your last shot at earning your invite and it will be grueling. Hopefully you’re close, otherwise it will be extremely unlikely you will get that invite.
We normally have close to a month to prepare for U.S. Nationals, but since it’s so competitive and challenging, there’s plenty of other things we look forward to doing at U.S. Nationals, such as being with our friends. That doesn’t mean it’s less competitive, however. Qualifying for day two at this tournament is incredibly difficult. You have to win seven rounds on your first day and lose no more than two. You’re also competing with close to 1,000 other competitors that want to win just as badly as you do.
World Championships (August)
Hopefully by this point you have your invite or else you won’t be competing at Worlds! The most competitive tournament of the year for everyone, Worlds is an incredibly challenging tournament, but a more rewarding experience. I highly recommend going even if you don’t have your invite just to soak it all in and enjoy yourself.
[Insert City Name Here] Open (August)
The Boston Open took place on day two of Worlds and I expect there to be a San Fransisco equivalent this year. This is a Regionals held at Worlds where you can earn Championship Points for next season. That right there is huge! You’re pretty much competing for next season at Worlds before the rotation. Don’t miss out on this excellent opportunity to earn some early Championship Points and use your Worlds testing to the best of your ability.
So there you have it. Earning your invite to the World Championships is a year-round commitment. If you want to reach that 300 Championship Point mark, you have to put your all into it — it’s no easy task.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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