With the World Championships finally over and done with, I think it's fair to say that not much really went as I expected. If you had asked me a week before the event what I thought would do well, I would've predicted a Night March mirror in the finals. I certainly wouldn't have brought up Mega Audino. I also wouldn't have been suddenly trying to play four Talonflame in everything. I decided to play a very streamlined Night March deck for day one because I thought it gave me the best chance to make it to day two. With that said, here's a look at how my weekend in San Francisco went.
Here is the Day One List:
4x Lampent PHF
4x Pumpkaboo PHF
4x Joltik PHF
3x Shaymin EX ROS
1x Galvantula STS
1x Mew FCO
1x Pokemon Ranger
4x VS Seeker
2x Dimension Valley
4x Trainer's Mail
4x Ultra Ball
4x Puzzle of Time
4x Battle Compressor
1x Startling Megaphone
1x Target Whistle
1x Fighting Fury Belt
1x Float Stone
1x Escape Rope
1x Pokemon Catcher
I sat down for the players meeting on day one across from a friend I met earlier in the season, Cody Walinski. Cody and I had a Top 8 match during a cities, where he was playing what I considered to be an auto-loss to what I was playing. The match we had was very brief, but we've stayed in touch since then and have bounced ideas around back-and-forth. I asked him during the meeting what he was playing, and he just made his signature grin and told me I would find out.
Round 1: I see I am paired against Zach Lesage. Zach is one of the bigger names in the Pokemon community, and is one of the higher ranked Canadian players. I'm obviously a little nervous, but what did I expect? Zach is playing straight Metal. In our first game, I open Pumpkaboo and six other cards I can't even play and Zach eventually benches me with Bronzong's Hammer In. Game 2: I start rolling. Eventually, Zach has a sick three-prize-turn with Bronzong BREAK, but it wasn't enough to seal the deal. Game 3 was the same story. 1-0.
Round 2: I get Carlos Machado, a player from Mexico. Carlos gives me my first taste of Greninja/Talonflame, and I learn it's pretty dismal for me. I get taken down twice after two really close games, because starting Talonflame both games is just really hard to deal with. 1-1.
Round 3: my first game against a National Champion- Alessandro Cremascoli. I don't want to misquote him, but I believe he said two time Italian Champion and multiple other large event top finishes and something like ten Worlds appearances. To top that off, this guy definitely knows how to play the mirror. His Night March list is very similar to mine, aside from Galvantula. Alessandro was very attentive to where he kept his Shaymins, knowing that they were not safe in the discard due to my Target Whistle. Keeping tabs on Joltiks is another story. I know I squeaked out of the first game with a double KO from Galvantula on two Joltiks. Game 2 was fast, with everything going against me. Game 3 was even faster, with Alessandro's deck just not giving him anything he needed at all, we ended up going to time and he conceded to me due to a winning game-state, and a loss was no different than a tie for either of us. Really awesome meeting such a cool guy from over the pond, anxious for a rematch next year! 2-1.
Round 4: I have another mirror, but this one was notable because of something I absolutely did not expect: Archie's Octillery. Kal Higdon, a player from Texas (99% sure that's what he said), has been playing Night March all season, and he understands the pain when you get N'd to no hand late in the game. To solve this problem, Kal threw in Octillery. It was really cool seeing someone do well with what seems like such an underwhelming concept. His list was very similar to lists I saw earlier in the season that played a Maxie's Gallade. I knew if I wanted to have an advantage I would have to target down the Octillery somehow, and that usually meant Galvantula. Getting a KO every turn is really important for a Night March deck, but knocking out the energy in a mirror is equally paramount. The fact that your opponent has to find the DCE on their next turn and the chance that they MIGHT NOT get it, is worth holding on to. The play I tried for multiple times per game against Kal was to Double Thread onto a Joltik and Octillery (for 60 due to Grass weakness). The optimal play then, was for Kal to have just attacked with Joltik, allowing me to Catcher something else to the active spot, allowing me to use Double Thread knocking out the Joltik with DCE, and setting up a 2HKO on Octillery, or a Sky Return KO later. This often meant playing a Catcher on a Shaymin, because that meant that he either needed some way to switch, or he was going to use Sky Return. Although knocking out those Shaymins might have looked appealing, it was important to not lose sight of the big picture. 3-1.
Round 5: we're running hot. I sit down across from Adrian Mamaril, a player from southern California who I find out is playing Greninja BREAK. I know I have a plan for this deck, but it's really not the best. I was fortunate to go first in our first game and I start Joltik. I have an awkward starting hand, because I open with two Puzzle of Time, a Sycamore and a Compressor. Knowing I needed to make the most of these Puzzles, I Compressor away two Lampent and another Compressor. Then, Puzzles for two Compressors and play them both, just trying to streamline everything before I play the Sycamore. I get another Joltik down before passing, and have the Galvantula in my hand ready to roll for next turn. Adrian does exactly what he thought he had to do, get down two Froakie on the bench, leave Jirachi active to take the hit, and pass. I evolve into Galvantula, attach a Double Colorless, and Double Thread, taking a double on both of Adrian's Froakie, leaving him with just the lonely Jirachi. Next turn, he gets another Froakie down and uses Stardust to knock off my Double Colorless. I Target Whistle one of the Froakie I had recently KOd, attach another Double Colorless and Double Thread again. Adrain scooped, realizing that game wasn't worth playing out. Game 2 wasn't exciting and just another case of Greninja beating itself. 4-1.
Round 6: I run into Mat Masefield, a player from Australia who is playing Yveltal/Zoroark/Druddigon. I consider this a rough matchup for Night March, because there is nothing I can really exploit on his side, while all he has to do is keep up with me. I take the first game from Mat after he unfortunately starts with Yveltal EX and I'm able to get a very optimal start. In Game 2, Mat kills me with Ns before taking the game with Fright Night Yveltal on a three-prize-turn. In Game 3, we go to time, but Mat is in a clearly advantageous position. I take the opportunity to pay forward the generosity that Alessandro showed me earlier, and scoop the game to Mat. 4-2.
Round 7: I see my first AquaBox I've ever played against, being played by Dominic Bargardi, one of the Michigan players. This was Dominic's first Worlds as well, and he was a fairly new player, despite having his World's invite. Long story short, Galvantula remained MVP. Galvantula forced so many awkward positions for Dominic that his board was just unrecoverable both games after a couple Double Threads. I believe Dominic ended his day 5-3 though, so high-fives to him for an awesome World's debut. 5-2.
Round 8: I know I'm playing in another win-and-in scenario, which is nerve-racking enough, but then I see I'm paired against Jimmy McClure, another big name player from North America. Most recently, Jimmy knocked down Origins with his Yveltal/Darkrai just before US Nationals. He was another player playing AquaBox, so here I am going into a win-and-in match against a deck I have only ever played against once, playing against someone who is extremely good, and I'm praying for a solid opening hand.
In Game 1, I play similarly to how I played against Dominic in my previous match, but Jimmy wasn't having that. Even after a great opening turn, I just get Quaking Punched and N'd to death. I was still able to take a few prizes off Jimmy that first game. More importantly I was able to learn most of his deck. He played an Enhanced Hammer, so I knew to not attach unless I was attacking, and his only non EX was Articuno. Nothing ground-breaking, but every little bit helps.
In Game 2, I go first. I use Battle Compressor six times on my first turn, thanks to Puzzle of Time. I pass my first turn with 22 of my 26 items in the discard or attached to my Pokemon and all of my Supporters either in my deck or hand except for the Sycamore I had played earlier that turn. I kept 2 VS Seeker in my deck, and had prized two items. Basically, I make Quaking Punch nothing more than an attack that does 30 damage. Not much for Jimmy to do at this point, quick game.
Game 3, Jimmy opens Manaphy EX and Articuno on the bench and hits three straight Max Elixirs onto Articuno before passing. My turn is very similar to my opening from Game 2, but I Escape Roped up the Articuno that Jimmy had loaded up and take a KO. Jimmy draws and passes. We check his next few draws and it was just energy and garbage. Unfortunate end to his World's trip.
I end Day 1 at 6-2, qualifying me for Day 2. I was excited, more than anything, to have made it so far my first full season playing...
Day 2 of Worlds, I really just don't know what to expect. I mean, presumably just an extension of Day 1? I thought I would have more time after Day 1 concluded to discuss tech options, but by the time I got back to the hotel I get greeted by Carter Anderson and Dan Garman jumping up and down on the sidewalk outside our hotel.
The only change I make from the Day 1 list is dropping Xerosic for Delinquent. I didn't use Xerosic once during Day 1, but there were several opportunities for me to use and abuse Delinquent. I suspected similar cases for Day 2.
Round 1: I am paired against Pablo Alonso, you might also know him as Tablemon, one of the bigger Pokemon players on YouTube. Pablo is also the second Nationals winner I played against at Worlds. I suspected Greninja, since that's what he won Mexico Nationals with, and that's exactly what I got. I know I still have the Galvantula option to try to steal a game, but he was prized both games we played. Not the ideal start. 0-1-0.
Round 2: I get my first of what would turn out to be a stretch of mirror matches. I'm playing against a Canadian player, but I can't think of his name. I lose the first game after a really long, drawn out few turns. Second game I take fairly quickly, mainly due to a rough start for my opponent. We end up tying in time, but I really want to remark on how mirror-driven this players deck was: This player played several copies of Unown, and elected to play Muscle Band over Fighting Fury Belt. This seemed particularly strange to me, until I had a Joltik get KO'd by an Unown for no energy. Another note I want to make, this was my first match of the day when I was able to use Delinquent to drop my opponent's hand to zero. 0-1-1.
Round 3: I get to play against another Jimmy, this time Jimmy O'Brien. Jimmy O'Brien went on a rampage earlier this season during Fall Regionals playing the same 60 cards and almost getting his invite off that deck alone. Jimmy remarked during our game that he literally played Vespiquen all season long in some fashion, so it wasn't surprising to see him playing his version of the US Nationals winning deck: Vespiquen/ Night March. My favorite thing about Jimmy's deck was his Town Map. There were a few points I could've hit Jimmy with a hard Delinquent, but I didn't want to tip him off to how trigger-happy I am with that card. In fact, I don't use Delinquent until Game 3, which didn't take us long to get to, since our first two games were both very one-sided. There was a point mid-game when Jimmy plays his hand down to one card, that I knew was a VS Seeker, because he had retrieved it with Puzzles earlier that turn. Jimmy knocks out my Shaymin EX and takes a Double Colorless and another VS Seeker. I immediately bite at the opportunity to rid his hand of such valuable resources, only for Jimmy to draw into something like a Sycamore or N and be right back out of it. Game 3 was worth the price of admission on it's own, but ultimately, me and my Delinquent take a back seat to Jimmy and the Bees. 0-2-1.
Round 4: This is where I start to get fuzzy, but I am very certain this is the round I played against my first Japanese player. Regardless, it's another mirror. Game 1 we stretch out really long and I end up with a clutch N to a single card on my opponent and he just can't draw out of it. Game 2, I open a lone Pumpkaboo and six other cards I can't even play; my opponent had elected to go second, so this one was over pretty quickly. Game 3 starts as time was called, so we just agreed to take the tie. 0-2-2.
Round 5: I get seated across from Tamao Cameron, the winner of UK Nationals. At this point there wasn't much to be nervous about, since I was already out of contention for anything, but I still was not excited to be playing against Vileplume, which is what Tamao used to win UK Nationals. Lucky for me, I get yet another mirror-match! However, calling this game a mirror-match is very questionable. Several tech options that I eventually dropped from my list ended up making their way into Tamao's. Several basic energy (all Psychic), Latios EX, Seismitoad EX, Muscle Bands, Ninja Boys, Multiple Mew- all in Tamao's deck. Tamao wins the flip and chooses to go first. I start with a lone Joltik; Tamao starts with Mew and immediately uses Ninja Boy and drops the Latios EX out of his deck and Psychic Energy from his hand and that was the fastest game I played all weekend. Game two, I choose to go first and I get a decent enough start, I couldn't ask for much more in the mirror- but then I get Enhanced Hammered and Quaking Punched by a Mew, copying Seismitoad EX on the bench with Dimension Valley in play for just one Psychic Energy. I know I'm in for a haul at this point- dealing with the Mew is fine, but a random Seismitoad really messes this whole thing up. Eventually I am in a position to attack the Seismitoad directly for 80 damage from a Night March, so I promote Joltik with the thought that I can hit for 80 now, let Joltik go down, then 100 next turn. That whole plan pans out really well, and Tamao and I are now tied and two remaining prizes each. Tamao promotes a Mew, plays N and Night Marches for a KO. I had drawn a Teammates off the N, so I play it and grab two Puzzle of Time, play them for Galvantula and a Lightning Energy, evolve my Active Joltik and attach, take a double KO on his benched Joltiks. Tamao's face was priceless- that was one game he absolutely was not expecting to lose. Game 3 I got donked again, bringing me to 0-3-2.
Round 6: I meet another Japanese player, playing Vespiquen/ Night March. We were really close to the bottom table, so I guess we were the worst players that made Day 2 at Worlds, for whatever that's worth. This was a much more typical mirror match - back and forth KOs, timely Ns. Both games ended with me Puzzling for Target Whistle and Catcher and hitting the Catcher. 1-3-2.
Round 7: I meet Alex Koch, one of the premium writers for Pokebeach. We both knew we weren't playing for anything, so we just had a fun game. His game plan against Night March was to simply not play against Night March. Alex was playing Mega Manectric/ Techs/ Mew. Early on, Mew could copy Manectric's attacks at a discount, thanks to Dimension Valley, then Mega Manectric would swoop in later and steal some KOs while loading up subsequent Mega Manectrics and abusing the high HP that Mega Manectric has. All game I don't think Alex hit a single Max Elixir, there was a point I Startling Megaphoned off three Spirit Links, and Alex was also tagged with a hot Delinquent to zero. Regardless, really fun game, and a real pleasure to meet such a cool dude! 2-3-2.
My record of 2-3-2 really doesn't represent some of the awesome games I played throughout the day. All of the games were really close, and all had something really unique happen during them. Highlights of my day included a total of five times using Delinquent to drop my opponents' hand to zero and being able to say I made Day 2 at my first ever World Championships. It was an amazing way to cap off my first full year playing Pokemon!
See you next year in Anaheim!
-Cody Michael Graham