This past weekend Pokemon players descended upon the Sunshine State to participate in the Orlando Regional Championship. The tournament was the largest Regional Championship in the history of the Pokemon Trading Card Game, with 641 players participating in the Masters Division.
It appears that most players had a very positive experience at the tournament, with many players remarking in social media that this was the best run Pokemon tournament that they have ever attended. This is a good turnaround from tournaments like the Arizona Regional Championship and the Pokemon World Championship that fell short of many player’s expectations.
However, it wasn’t all sunshine and buttercups down in Florida. The tournament took a very dark turn as a force of destruction made its way through Orlando. No, I’m not talking about Hurricane Matthew, but instead Azul Garcia Griego’s Yveltal EX/Garbodor BPT deck which he used to send his opponent’s to oblivion on his way to his championship win.
In this edition of Weekend Report we go over all of the action from the Orlando, Florida Regional Championship.
Darkness Triumphs in Florida
It probably should come as no surprise at this point to say that Yveltal EX won a big tournament. The deck has found ways to be successful across many different meta games, so when it rises up to claim some more Regional Championships wins, the phrase “Yveltal won Regionals” is not a phrase you’re shocked to hear at this point, as Yveltal always seems to find a way.
As a whole, Yveltal EX was the third most successful deck at the tournament, taking three of the Top 32 spots for 272 Championship Points and a 15.53% share of the Top 32 Championship Points. Just outside of the Top 8 were Jorge Feliciano with his 10th place finish and Kyle Warden claiming an 18th place finish with his Yveltal EX/Hammers deck.
Azul was the only Yveltal EX player to make Top 8. He chose to pair Yveltal EX with multiple Fright Night Yveltal as well as Oblivion Wing Yveltal. He then paired the Yveltal flock with Garbodor BPT to give the deck Ability Lock allowing it to shutoff powerful Abilities like Greninja BREAK’s Giant Water Shuriken, Volcanion EX’s Steam Up, and Vileplume AOR’s Irritating Pollen. Finally, Azul gave the deck acceleration with Max Elixir.
There wasn’t anything too flashy about Azul’s deck, but flash isn’t important when you have a well constructed deck with proper outs to a wide variety of matchups, which has always been Yveltal’s calling card. Some small things like playing two copies of Enhanced Hammer provided him the right outs to get out of some sticky situations.
On his path to the championship crown, Azul took out Daniel Lopez and his Volcanion EX deck in Top 8, Ryan Sabelhaus and his Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Garbodor BPT deck in Top 4, and then finally Alex Schemanske and his Vileplume Toolbox deck in the finals.
You can actually watch Azul play his way to the Regional Championship win thanks to Team Fish Knuckles YouTube Channel streaming and recording the event. Here is the link to the video of Day 2 of the tournament. You can find Azul’s Top 8 match at the 6:24:00 point in the video and you can find the finals match at 8:16:00.
Keep a look out for Azul’s list to get posted to Pokemon.com sometime this week.
However, that wasn’t the only Dark deck to perform well in Florida. There was also Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Garbodor BPT which was the most successful deck overall with five Top 32 finishes for 384 Championship Points and a 21.92% share of the Top 32 Championship Points.
This was a deck that got a lot of hype for this season before the season started as it was a deck that didn’t lose too much from rotation and which had some success at tournaments like Origins Game Convention and US National Championship. The deck lost hype as the actual format approached. The World Championship may have played a role in this, as not only did the deck fail to make Top 32 at the tournament, it also failed to be picked to be played by any of the Day 2 competitors.
However, come tournament time it became clear that the deck shouldn’t have lost its hype. Most notably, three players, all using the same list made it into the Top 8 of the tournament. Brad Curcio would finish 3rd, Ryan Sabelhaus 4th, and Rahul Reddy, the leader after Swiss of both days of the tournament, finished 5th after losing his Top 8 match to Ryan in the mirror. Beyond that trio, other finishers included Russell LaParre clocking a 21st place finish and Christian Velazquez taking home 25th.
Here is the list that the Top 8 trio used for the tournament:
Pokemon – 12
Trainers – 34
Energy – 14
via The Chaos Gym
Here’s the deck profile and tournament recap that Rahul did with his YouTube Channel the Chaos Gym.
There are some small meta game factors that appear to have contributed to the deck being able to take not 1…not 2…not 3…not 4, well actually just 3 spots in the Top 8 (still more Top 8 spots than Championships that Lebron won in South Beach).
The first is an underwhelming presence of Fairy type decks, which were some of the darlings of the pre-season period. M Gardevoir EX STS (which I profiled here) did have a presence in the tournament taking 4/32 Top 32 spots and Rainbow Road took 2 of the 32, but that was it for Fairy decks. While M Gardevoir EX STS would project to be strong against Darkrai EX/Giratina EX, Rainbow Road is actually pretty poor against it as it is dependent on Double Colorless attachments, draw Abilities, and Sky Field, all things that Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Garbodor BPT is built to counter.
The other two Fairy decks projected to be part of the meta game, Xerneas BREAK/Giratina EX and Xerneas BREAK/M Gardevoir EX PRC, didn’t take a single Top 32 spot and don’t appear to have been popular at the tournament.
The other minor factor contributing to its success was the card inclusions in M Mewtwo EX decks. M Mewtwo EX isn’t a card that has to have a bad matchup against Giratina EX decks, but which can quickly find itself with one depending on how its built. For Orlando, many M Mewtwo EX players chose to play Garbodor as their only form of Ability lock, opting not to play Hex Maniac. This made the win condition in this matchup being able to Lysandre the opponent’s Garbodor and use Chaos Wheel. From there, the M Mewtwo EX would be unable to damage Giratina EX because of Giratina’s Renegade Pulse Ability. If the M Mewtwo EX players had chosen to play Hex Maniac as well, then they could use Hex Maniac to get through Renegade Pulse.
The Non-Dark Part of Top 8
Moving beyond all of the Dark there were three other archetypes that made it into the Top 8.
Wasting no time to make an name for himself in the Masters Division was Alex Schemanske, the little brother of Chris Schemanske, who went all the way to the finals in his first large Masters Division tournament.
Alex used the Vileplume Toolbox deck, with the most recent Standard iteration for Florida being crafted by Team Poliswag. In addition to Alex there was another Alex, Alex Hill, bubbling out of cut at 9th with the deck and Sean Foisy taking 14th with the deck.
The deck played a wide range of attackers for various situations. Jolteon EX to counter Basic Pokemon, Glaceon EX for Evolution Pokemon, Regice AOR for EX’s, and Jirachi Promo to remove Special Energy from an opponent’s Pokemon. In addition to these, other inclusions were Magearna EX and Lugia EX, and of course Vileplume for it’s strong Item Lock opponent.
This deck has had solid performances across Standard and Expanded tournaments since last Spring, so at this point it’s probably time to start considering this deck a permanent fixture of the meta game in both formats.
A pair of M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor BPT decks made Top 8, with 2012 World Champion Igor Costa finishing 6th and John Orgel finishing 8th. M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor BPT is one of the benchmark decks for the format as anything that can’t reach 210 damage on a M Mewtwo EX or which can’t get around Mewtwo EX’s Damage Change in some other way is mostly unfit for competitive play as M Mewtwo EX/Garbodor BPT is one of the most popular decks in the early season, and there doesn’t appear to be much reason for that to change with the release of the Evolutions expansion.
The other deck to make Top 8 was Volcanion EX, piloted by Daniel Lopez. This isn’t too surprising as Volcanion EX was expected to be one of the most popular decks for the tournament. With a tin promo set to come out making Volcanion EX very accessible for players of all financial situations, I would expect Volcanion EX to be a popular deck all season.
Gyarados Makes a Splash
About a week before Florida multiple groups of people started messaging me about the secret deck that they had prepared for Florida, which was Gyarados from Ancient Origins with its Theta Double Ancient Trait and its Full Retaliation attack. None of these people ended up playing the deck come tournament day. I think a lot of players got turned off from Gyarados because it became a known entity among the higher level players prior to Florida and they may have become scared of players teching against it after it became a known entity.
Gyarados’ Full Retaliation attack does 30 damage plus 30 more damage for each damage counter one your benched Magikarp. As Magikarp has 30 HP, it can comfortably take two damage counters on it, which is the perfect amount as that’s all you can get out of the Team Magma’s Secret Base Stadium Card. This card from the long forgotten Double Crisis mini set says to put 2 damage counters on any Basic Pokemon a player benches from their hand (except Team Magma Pokemon).
The deck is fairly straightforward. Get Team Magma’s Secret Base in play, then play your Magikarp down putting 2 damage counters on each of them. Then you evolve into Gyarados and use Full Retaliation. The deck uses cards like Buddy Buddy Rescue, Puzzle of Time, and Super Rod to keep the flow of Magikarp coming throughout a game.
With 3 damaged Magikarp on the bench, Gyarados can hit for 210 damage. With only two, 150 damage, and one, it hits for 90. Prizing Magikarp can be an issue, but you can play Town Map to draw any Magikarp out of your prizes. Luckily it’s not too hard to knockout the popular Shaymin EX, so it’s usually not too hard to take an early knockout with a single Magikarp prized. Multiple Magikarp are prized in such a lower percentage of games it’s not worth worrying about.
The deck can be inconsistent at times simply as there is an order of operations that must be followed, needing to get Team Magma’s Secret Base in play before you start benching Magikarp. This is only an issue in a small amount of games though, but it is a minor knock on the deck. The deck does help make up for this little bit of inconsistency by giving itself the great 1-prize attacker trade-off against EX decks, as well as a very high damage cap allowing it to trade 2 for 1 fairly easy with many EX decks.
The Meta Deck did a deck profile on the Gyarados deck that their team of players played at Florida. The best performing member that played their list was Franklin Arrarte who finished 32nd in the tournament. Here is the list he used, which is the standard variant of the deck that most players were testing prior to Florida.
Pokemon – 11
Trainers – 45
Energy – 4
via The Meta Deck
Here is the deck profile they did of Gyarados.
Some cards they chose not to play, which I saw quite a bit of before the tournament were Absol ROS and Mr. Mime BKT. Absol’s Cursed Eyes Ability allowed you to move damage from somewhere else on your opponent’s field to help smooth out knockouts. As your opponent would often be forced to bench stuff while Team Magma’s Secret Base in play, there would usually be two damage counters on a wide variety of Pokemon that could be moved with the Ability.
Mr. Mime protects your benched Magikarp from spread attacks aimed at knocking them out. As they only have 10 HP left while sitting on their bench, they’re very vulnerable to knockouts. Prior to Florida there was a lot of talk about playing Spinda PRC to counter Gyarados decks, but most players chose not to play it. One tech that did show up was Hoopa STS, which some M Mewtwo EX players included as they found an additional purpose for it to help with knockout math in the M Mewtwo EX mirror match.
The other, higher performing Gyarados deck that made Day 2 is a bit more mind blowing. This variant was used by Addison Powell, who finished 16th place. Here is his list:
Pokemon – 11
Trainers – 45
Energy – 4
The craziest thing about this list is the Meowstic EX, a card that almost no one would expect to be in a Top 16 deck at the largest Regional Championship ever. Meowstic EX’s Shadow Ear Ability lets you move 1 damage counter from 1 of your Pokemon to 1 of your opponent’s Pokemon when Meowstic EX is active. So when a Gyarados is knocked out, you can promote Meowstic EX active to move a damage counter onto one of your opponent’s Pokemon to help hit the right damage numbers. There’s plenty of damage counters to go around for you to use with Meowstic’s Ability. You can take it off Meowstic EX itself, Shaymin EX’s, or the Magikarp that you’re about to evolve into a Gyarados.
One thing that has received some discussion is Addison playing Shaymin EX in the deck over an Octillery engine. While both are valid ways to build the deck, I think the Shaymin EX route is probably more effective in the long run. While you give up a complete non-EX prize trade, you do maintain one for most of the game. Basically think of this deck being similar to a Night March deck, which also used Shaymin EX for consistency purposes, but still had a non-EX prize trade with its actual attackers.
The other surprise deck of the weekend was the Raichu XY/Golbat PHF deck which Matthew Brower used to finish 29th place with. This is a deck that was popular towards the end of the 2015 season and then during City Championships last year, but most players thought this deck was dead, as Crobat PHF rotated out of the format leaving players without a full Crobat line to evolve through. Even without Golbat, the deck proved to be pretty solid as Matthew piloted it to a Top 32 finish.
Here is the list he used for the deck:
Pokemon – 22
Trainers – 34
Energy – 4
This deck is really cool and appears like it has some good potential if the right meta develops. I think it probably has some issues dealing with Giratina EX decks, but if the meta moves away from Giratina EX, then Raichu could be fairly well positioned.
Without Muscle Band, Raichu XY maxes out at 160 damage, but it can get that last 20 damage with a Golbat snipe. While 180 damage used to be good for OHKO’s on EX’s, that can no longer be the case because of Fighting Fury Belt. That’s where Banette comes in. Its Tool Concealment makes each Pokemon Tool card have no effect, which gives this deck a way to play around the opponent’s Fighting Fury Belts and put Pokemon back down to their original HP.
Banette is also very strong against Mega Pokemon, as it shuts off their Spirit Link making them have to waste turns to Mega Evolve.
Mew EX gives the deck some versatility, giving the deck an easy means of knocking out Glaceon EX as well as being able to hit M Mewtwo EX for weakness.
Here is the interview and deck profile that Matthew did with Robbie Ector:
- Garbodor had a large presence on the tournament. 75% of the Top 8 included Garbodor and at least 12 of the Top 32 decks included it. I wouldn’t expect Garbodor to go away any time soon as it’s a necessary component of the format until we get other counters to Greninja BREAK decks. Greninja BREAK has a busted Ability and is the cause of there being so much Garbodor in the meta game. Even though the field was very much composed of Garbodor, Greninja BREAK decks still managed to be the 6th most successful deck taking three of the Top 16 spots.
- It looked like most Greninja BREAK players opted to go back to Octillery BKT builds instead of using Talonflame STS. One factor that could have played a role in this change is that Battle Compressor is not legal in Standard and any Talonflame left in the deck are dead cards waiting to be drawn into with late game N’s.
- The Rainbow Road variants that did well at the tournament all appear to have been the EX variant of the deck that used Hoopa EX as a setup engine for the deck. Popular EX inclusions (other than Shaymin EX) were Genesect EX, Flygon EX, and Volcanion EX. They still chose to play Galvantula STS. It shouldn’t be too surprising that this was the variant that ended up seeing success as it’s far more consistent than the full non-EX variant that plays both Bisharp and Galvantula, and the more consistent variants of decks are usually the ones that do better.
- Olympia was the biggest emerging staple card of the weekend. Players were able to use Olympia not only as a pseudo AZ replacement (that is a Switching effect that could be searched for with VS Seeker), but were also able to mess up damage numbers with its healing effect. I’m not sure on the construction of every Top 8 deck, but I know that it was played for certain in Azul’s Yveltal EX, all of the Darkrai EX/Giratina EX decks, and Daniel Lopez’s Volcanion EX.
Re-Adjusting the Tier List
Now that we have a large tournament entered into the books, we now have a better idea of what the actual meta game is. Here is what the current Standard Tier List looks like after Florida:
- Darkrai EX/Giratina EX/Garbodor BPT
- M Mewtwo EX (Y)/Garbodor BPT
- Yveltal EX
- Vileplume Toolbox
- M Gardevoir EX STS
- Greninja BREAK
- Volcanion EX
- Gyarados Theta
- Rainbow Road
Everything not included in these first two tiers has to be considered rogue or Tier 3 at this point.
European Special Event
In addition to the Orlando, Florida Regional Championship there was another tournament that took place this weekend and that was a Special Event, the SPIEL Special, played in Europe over the weekend. Special Events are basically the same level of tournament as State Championships and Provincial Championships in the past.
Here were the Top 8 decks for that tournament:
1. Steffen Eriksen – Yveltal EX/Mew FCO
2. Philip Schulz – Yveltal EX/Garbodor BPT
3. Robin Schulz – Giratina EX/Garbodor BPT
4. Philipp Leciejewski – M Mewtwo EX (Y)
5. Mees Brenninkmeijer – M Gardevoir EX STS
6. Sandro Pirkheim – M Metwo EX (Y)
7. Marcos Marin-Galiano – Volcanion EX
8. Tomas Just. – Volcanion EX
You can find all of the decklists for the Special Event at Mudkipshore. The M Gardevoir EX deck that Mees used should be very similar to some of the high performing ones at Florida, if not the same.
Tournament Results and North American Power Rankings
As stated previously, this season I will be keeping Regional Championship results for the entire season all on one page. This should make it much easier for players to find the results page when they want to. Here is a link to that page, which can also be found from the navigation menu at the top of any page.
Additionally, the North American Pokemon Player Power Rankings have been updated with the results of the Orlando Regional Championships. These are player rankings aiming to determine who the best Pokemon player in North America is at any given moment and they are updated after every major tournament. There was quite a bit a movement from Florida, so make sure to check them out now and continue to check them out throughout the year to see whose moving up the rankings.
The Florida Regional Championships gave us our first hard look into the Standard Format meta game. We will re-visit this format again with the Fort Wayne Regional Championship at the end of November, however that Regional will be after the release of Evolutions. The next tournament on the schedule is Philadelphia Regionals at the beginning of November, which will be played in the Expanded format. There may be some League Cup tournaments in between, but nothing has been announced about that, so we shouldn’t assume anything about when they may start yet, it could be awhile.
Also, here’s a video of one of the best Simpsons scenes, The Garbage Man Can song, in honor of Garbodor’s big weekend in Florida.