Looking Forward – Analyzing the Structure of the Players Cup III
Hello everyone! I’m happy to once again be bringing you an article considering the state of the game and looking into the one event on everyone’s mind right now: Players Cup III. Before that, though, I also wanted to touch on what else has been happening lately. As of now, not a lot of notable decks and events have been popping up, aside from the ever present Players Cup III and Team Challenge. This past weekend, I had events connecting to both of those, with the VGC side of Players Cup III (I did rather mediocre, unfortunately) and then I had a local Team Challenge Qualifier, in which I played Decidueye / Galarian Obstagoon, which I will also be covering rather in-depth in the latter portion of this article. Unfortunately, I narrowly lost one of my rounds, getting me a 3rd place finish, narrowly missing my team once again. With that introduction and recap out of the way, let’s move onto what we are here for: preparing for Players Cup III.
As I am sure most readers are aware, the Players Cup III (and the previous two) is broken into three phases: Qualifiers, Regional Brackets, and he Global Finals. Each of these sections is structured differently from each other and, as a result, require different mindsets when playing in them. My intent here is to better explain how each of these work, how to think about each of them, and then also possibly provide a basic deck for each level of competition. Some of this may start to sound like fellow writer, Blaine Hill’s article Third Time’s the Charm, so I also highly advise checking out his article, as it is brilliantly written with concrete reasoning behind each of his suggestions.
Phase One: Qualifiers (Tournament Keys)
Phase One is by far the most overly complicated part of the event, and it is an extremely effective way of making the competition pool smaller. Leading up to the Qualifiers, which are about a month long, each player’s Pokemon TCG Online account will be given 50 Tournament Keys, which can be used for a single entry into a Players Cup III Qualifier event. These events are eight people, single-elimination, best-of-one, and played in the Standard format. As a result, they are extremely quick events that realistically do not take up much more than an hour of your time if you win the whole thing. Based on your performance, you are allocated an amount of Tournament Rep (similar to Championship Points in the traditional circuit) and you move onto the next event, trying to amass as much Tournament Rep as possible.
With this in mind, I believe that the best way to prepare for the Qualifiers is to practice playing decks with extremely linear game plans that are consistent and effective. This is because, in a best-of-one and single-elimination, you simply cannot afford to draw badly, so the best plays are decks that seldom draw poorly. As a result, this usually weeds out decks built around Welder, as their low Supporter and high Energy counts are inherently inconsistent and give the decks problems in games where they cannot find Welder to attach Energy or Energy to play Welder at the right time. Going into the Qualifiers, I would tend to think a deck like Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V or Lucario and Melmetal-GX / Zacian V are the strongest because they are both extremely consistent at doing what they do and Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword provides a powerful way to guarantee that you can at least draw some cards every turn, reducing your chances of bricking.
A Basic Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V Deck List
This list is an extremely straightforward build of Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX / Zacian V that is built to both be consistent and less vulnerable to prizing copies of key cards, with extra copies of cards like Water Energy and Zacian V. Additionally, I included Oranguru as the deck’s pseudo answer to cards like Altaria in order to not take a definitive auto-loss while also not harming consistency too much.
Phase Two: Regional Brackets
The second phase of the Players Cup III, the Regional Brackets, are significantly dialed back in terms of its complexity, but I also consider them to be much harder to prepare for.
In order to move onto the Regional Bracket phase, you need to place in the Top 256 of the Tournament Rep Leaderboard of your, non-Russia and non-South Africa, TPCI Rating Zone (Top 128 in Oceania) in the Qualifiers phase, which is no simple task thanks to the Qualifiers’ volatile nature. During Players Cup II, players in the United States and Canada Rating Zone ended up needing 88 Tournament Rep to safely qualify, with a few people that had 87 making the cut and some missing. In other Rating Zones, this number was a bit lower, but there were also significantly larger ties at the border placings than seen in the United States and Canada.
As for the phase itself, the Regional Brackets are played over the course of two weekends, in a 256 (or 128 in Oceania) player bracket that is best-of-three and double-elimination. However, in order to move onto phase three, you also do not need to win your regional bracket, you just need to place in the Top 4, which is only slightly more manageable. The ideal route to this would just be winning seven consecutive matches, but it is possible that, if you lose round one, you may have to win over a dozen consecutive matches in order to make it into the Top 4.
When looking at the Regional Brackets, there are a few different routes that a player could take. Option one is to continue with the same strategy that we saw in the Qualifiers where a player plays a hyper-consistent deck like Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX in order to minimize poor draws and be able to compete in every game. This option also gets a bit more flexible now, as you can make your deck slightly less consistent thanks to best-of-three and double-elimination by including a few more tech options into your deck such as Cobalion-GX to handle Raichu and Alolan Raichu-GX or Aegislash V as more of a hard-counter to Altaria , Decidueye, and Galarian Obstagoon. Alternatively (and my personally preferred route) is to play decks that are less consistent to set up, but are far more potent when they do set up. Examples of this include Centiskorch VMAX and other Welder decks. This particular thought process is heavily influced by a thought process that fellow writer Michael Catron has used in the past where you “only have to set up in 66% of your games,” meaning that you can play decks that are much less consistent because you can always afford to take one loss per best-of-three.
A Basic Centiskorch VMAX Deck List
Typically, most people prefer to play the reliable straight Centiskorch VMAX lists with Jirachi, Scoop Up Net, etc., but since Blaine also covered that particular style over in his article Third Time’s the Charm, I will instead cover the version that features Silvally-GX, which also happens to be my preferred build.
I prefer the Silvally-GX style of Centiskorch VMAX because I think it is more consistent throughout the game, not relying as heavily on hitting Scoop Up Net and Switch every turn after digging for Welder, or any other Trainer cards, with Jirachi. Additionally, I think the inclusion of Silvally makes using cards like Mallow and Lana or Boss's Orders more viable each turn because you are able to consistently draw cards after using their effects unlike in most other decks. Lastly, I also like the attacking option that Silvally-GX provides. Although it is not the most powerful card in the world, Silvally-GX’s Brave Buddies attack is nothing to scoff at. It is consistently able to take one-hit Knock Outs on support Pokemon like Frosmoth or Jirachi as well as some single-Prize card Pokemon like Blacephalon.
Phase Three: The Global Finals
At last we reach phase three, The Global Finals. In this phase, we see the Top 4 from each Regional Bracket combine into one 16 player, best-of-three, and double-elimination bracket to face off and become the Players Cup Champion. This phase is essentially identical in terms of the structure of the event, with the only change being a 16 player bracket instead of a 256 (or 128) person bracket. As such, a lot of the strategy could be considered the same.
However, The Global Finals does have one really complex side, that being the consideration of how well you want to do. Obviously, the goal of any competition is to become the winner, as designated by the famous phrase “if you aren’t first, you’re last,” but in the case of the Player Cup, the person that gets fourth and the person that wins the tournament get and identical prize, being a travel award to any international Championship, aside from the title of champion, so this warrants two different game plans for the event: play for Top 4 and play to win.
Going into The Global Finals, I would personally choose the play for Top 4 option, as the prospect of traveling to a foreign International Championship is awesome to me as a person who has never left the United States. However, I am sure that there are plenty of people that are on the other side of that, where they only want the title, so I intend on looking into both sides of things.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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