Metagaming, Practice, and the Quest for the Perfect Sixty!

Hey PokeBeach readers, Ciaran here with my second article. I thought I would tackle a subject I get asked about a lot; how do I pick my deck (and list) for a tournament? There are a plethora of different factors that go into how I choose what to play, including my familiarity with a deck, best of one vs best of three, round times, and what I expect the metagame to be. I will go over all this and more in this article — hopefully by the end, you will have learned a thing or two about selecting the best 60 for your next event!

Play What You Know

If there is only one piece of advice you take away from this article, I hope it is this one; only play decks that you are well-practised with, and know inside out! Pokemon is a game where it is better to be a master of one than a jack of all trades. Each deck has unique strategies, matchups, and builds, and it takes a lot of practice to achieve a high level of proficiency with a new deck. A Tier 2 deck played at 95-100% proficiency will always outperform someone playing a Tier 1 deck at 60-80% proficiency. So if you have a deck you’ve been playing for months, you know all the matchups, cards, and sequencing, I suggest sticking to it for your next tournament. Now let’s say you have time you can dedicate to practising before your next event… then I think it is ok to switch decks, but if you are switching decks at the last minute you are asking for trouble.

If you have time, I do suggest playing some games with other meta decks so you understand what they are capable of and their win conditions. This will help you formulate your plans when you go up against them! Focus on mastering your deck first, however, if you have limited time to practice.

I am only considering two decks for my upcoming regionals; Chien-Pao ex and Gardevoir ex. Those are two decks that I know I can play at a high level, and I know all the matchups like the back of my hand. Even though I think decks like Roaring Moon ex and Giratina VSTAR are poised for success, I know I don’t have the time to learn them to the level where I would feel comfortable bringing them to a major tournament.

Tournament Structure and Time

The type of tournament you attend should also factor into what deck you play. The main difference between playing a large tournament, such as a Regionals compared to a League Cup is the best-of-one versus best-of-three format. Some decks that struggle to play three games in a 50-minute best-of-three format thrive in a 30-minute best-of-one format.

For example, Gardevoir ex is considered to be one of, if not the strongest deck in the format, but it is tough for the deck to finish three full games in 50 minutes. I took a look at the results from the most recent Regional Championships in Liverpool, and the players in Day 2 playing Gardevoir ex averaged 2.78 ties per player. Not a single one of the 18 players had zero ties either! When we look at a faster deck such as Mew VMAX, we see it has an average of 1.8 ties per player. While a tie is better than a loss, it is difficult to make Top Cut with a multitude of ties. Especially since the bubble can be as high as 36 Match Points at some US Regionals!

Now let’s consider a League Cup where it is 30 minutes best of one, and the Top Cut is normally 60 minutes best of three. It is rare to tie a round at a League Cup since you only play one game, and once you get to the Top Cut there is normally more time. Even if you go to time in Top Cut, the game goes to the person who has taken more Prize cards after three turns of time, so you don’t need to worry about a tie.

If you are looking to play a slower deck to a Regional that’s ok, but make sure you are well-practiced at playing with the clock. Whenever I test for tournaments, I play with a timer to get an idea of how long my average game/matches are. Linking back to my first point, if you are well-practised with a deck you will be able to identify plays/lines easier, which allows you to play faster!

Moreover, best of three is generally a more forgiving tournament structure for decks that are a bit more inconsistent. Chien-Pao ex and Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX are both extremely powerful decks when they are set up, but both struggle with consistency more than most of the other meta decks. A game where you can’t get set up will result in a loss in a best-of-one format, but in best-of-three, you still get two more chances to hopefully execute your set-up!

I generally favor more consistent decks for League Cups since I value being able to consistently set up and execute my strategy! For the past few months that has been Gardevoir ex. This isn’t to say you can’t bring a deck like Chien-Pao ex to a League Cup, I play it sometimes since I enjoy it, but I accept that I’m introducing a bit more variance into my run.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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