Looking to qualify for the World Championships this year? Who isn’t! The most prestigious event of the year is a little easier to participate in this season, and much of that is due to the Championship Point payouts of League Cups. Whether you’re traveling halfway across the country for one, or simply walking down the block to your local game store, League Cup events are everywhere, and they are arguably the most important events you’ll participate in all season.
If you can’t do well at League Cups, then you’re not going to play in the World Championships, it’s that simple! After Regional Championships, the skill and prestige of events dip much lower, but many League Cup events (the next step down from a Regionals) find themselves in the middle of a competitive stomping ground that’s home to many of the nation's best players. I play in the Chicago area frequently, and it’s not a surprise to see top players like Ross Cawthon, Xander Pero, and more competing.
While these events were designed to be entry-level, in many cases, what starts as casual fun can turn wildly competitive in the blink of an eye. To many players, League Cup events are their only realistic chance to get the bulk of the points needed for the World Championships, so you can run into Cups that reach almost a hundred players! With the game being so accessible right now, and no time like the present to grind out as many tournaments as you can, it is imperative that you perform as best as you possibly can at every opportunity possible, especially at League Cups.
Purpose of This Article
I’ve had a lot of success at the League Cup level myself. If you’d like to view my record, as well as winning percentage, head over to this link! I would like to share with you some of the things I’ve done to make the events go smoother for me, and share the process I go through when selecting a deck. Additionally, if you get better at making top cuts at League Cups, you’re basically going to have to be winning three rounds of single elimination play to get first, so I’ll touch on that challenging aspect, too. Let’s get started!
Going into a League Cup, you want to always choose a deck that either has solid matchups against everything (although this can be “risky”), or choose a very metagame-dependent choice based on what you see others playing. Personally, I try to bring multiple decks to every event, and walk around a few times to see if I can gauge the field a little better before narrowing my options down.
Generally, I have a very good idea of what others may be playing. This said, I’ll strategically bringing (at least) one counter deck, as well as what I consider the best deck, to each and every League Cup event. To make this clearer, for instance, if I were heading to a League Cup right now, I’d likely be bringing Gardevoir-GX (the “best deck”) and Metagross-GX (the “counter deck”). These two options are very solid right now, and obviously, the Metagross-GX choice comes with its own set of potential consequences. Gardevoir-GX is likely to be a solid choice for any event, since it can realistically beat anything, so it will always be an option for me (at least in the foreseeable future).
Using the two options I’ve mentioned, let’s explore a scenario where I get to an event early, and try to scope out the metagame…
I walk into the venue, and begin to casually browse over what others are using. Now, most top-level players try to keep their deck a secret, and for good reason, and that said, this surveying has to be taken with a grain of salt. Try to think about what other strong players may be thinking:
- Are there other events that have taken place in the area recently?
- Have any bigger tournaments (Internationals, Regionals, etcetera) taken place recently that may give me a better idea of what to expect?
- How did the results look at those events?
- What did the top players in the area use at the last tournament?
… and last but not least …
- What are my friends thinking?
Number five can be taken as aggressively, or as passively as you choose, but for all practical purposes, let’s assume you know what your friends are playing. Are they consistently performing players? Can your deck go toe-to-toe with their deck? Do they talk to other people in the area? All of these questions can be collectively used to form a more substantial idea of what to expect at a local (or semi-local) League Cup event.
I could very well be missing something when it comes to all the ideas that I’ve shared, but this is the jist of the sequencing that I go through when choosing a list for an upcoming League Cup. If you have some of your own techniques, you can just add those to this pool, and have an even more expansive way to figure things out. Above all else, any potential surveying of decks you can see before the event starts is the biggest advantage you can really get, aside from being thoroughly prepared and tested, of course.
While Internationals, Special Events, and Regionals require more testing than smaller tournaments, League Cups are still important. If you’re a player that’s newer to the game, or someone that hasn’t seen too much success so far, it’s essential that you play a decent amount per week. League Cups are a grind, without a doubt in my mind! I understand this completely, since I’ve been playing my tail off these past few weeks trying to scrape together some better finishes than the ones I’ve accumulated thus far. With my schedule being packed outside of Pokemon, it’s also been a real challenge to adequately test as much as I would like to.
I’ve been playing a game or two every other day or so, with some days consisting of sometimes as many as ten games, but those days are rare. If you’re someone with a small pool of free time as well, a good rule of thumb is just to play three games a day, especially when practicing for League Cups.
“Three games a day will keep the 0/3/0 drop away”, you could say. Three games are a perfect number, a number that you can fit into a single hour of your time. At the end of the day instead of watching television, or playing video games, you can invest some more time into Pokemon (obviously if those things are your priority, then by all means continue to do them, I’m just speaking to those that care about the game but have a hard time committing to it here)! Three games will keep the rust away, and you should be able to have enough experience with a few decks with that sample size such that you’ll be ready for a Cup that could be upwards to seven Swiss rounds. Don’t sleep on testing, no matter how good you think you are!
The Grind, and Patience
League Cups can be an acquired taste, since sometimes it takes a ton of them to get the results you desire. Personally, I try to win the maximum number allotted, per Best Finish Limits, each quarter (two wins for 100 Championship Points). If you’re looking to just get 400 Championship Points this season, the perfect number for qualifying, then your sights might not have to be set as high as mine are. This said, you could instead shoot for 50 Championship Points a quarter, even, if you have a plan to fill the remaining 200 that you’ll need to make it to Worlds.
I try to be as patient as possible when it comes to League Cups, since it’s a bit of a lottery a lot of the time. You need to always make Top Eight to even be in contention to win, and from there, you’ll need to grind it out through (usually) three rounds of single elimination games. It can be stressful to repeatedly lose in Top Eight, whether it be from a crucial misplay, or a bad matchup, but if you go to as many Cups as you can, you should eventually get the results you’re looking for, it’s just a matter of persistence and repetition.
Driving all over your state, or even into other ones, can be a pain after consecutive weekends, but once you get used to it, it becomes more routine. I try to go to anything within a 250-mile radius of my city of residence, so that means I’m doing some major travel on weekends, often on minimal rest. Part of excelling in the Pokemon circuit is just as much physical as it is mental (surprisingly enough). If Pokemon is something you want to do well at, you need to commit to it (I can’t say this enough)!
Winning in Top Cut
As I just mentioned, single elimination games can be seriously frustrating, especially when immediately paired against a bad matchup. Part of this can be maneuvered around, since you can choose not to intentionally draw when the opportunity is presented (when applicable). For instance, at a recent League Cup, the following situation played out for me:
4/0/0 going into Round 5 of 6
- Intentional Draw Round 5 against a bad matchup
Played out Round 6 against a favorable matchup
- Rationale: avoid playing the bad matchup that I tied with in Round 5 (had I not played it out and won, a loss or even a tie would have landed me with a Top Eight date with an auto loss)
Here is another situation, so this concept can be hammered in:
5/0/0 going into Round 6 of 6
Concession against 4/0/1 opponent to avoid being the first seed
- Rationale: first seed always plays the eighth seed, and the potential eighth seeds were all bad matchups for my friend’s deck (in this instance)
- Concession against 4/0/1 opponent to avoid being the first seed
Sometimes there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Top Eight matchups, and you should always consider possible scenarios that can land you a favorable matchup, or even favorable Top Four matchup, assuming you win in the Top Eight, too.
This type of intuition can take a while to develop, and starting out, you can try to ask your local math guru (hopefully you have one) to make things easier for you. Hopefully the cards fall in your favor if you’re unable to sequence your matchups like this!
The Standard Format Right Now
Before I head off, I’d like to touch on the Standard format, which happens to be the most commonly used League Cup format, and the format of the next upcoming Regional Championship, in Hartford, Connecticut. I’ve played in four League Cup tournaments now in this format, and I can very confidently say that Gardevoir-GX is the best deck. Now, it does come with a set of weaknesses, especially to its Weakness, Metal. Metagross-GX is a dangerous outlier in the format, and has been seeing some League Cup success on occasion.
Favorable pairings are essential to widespread success in this format, since we’re starting to see something more similar to an RPS (rock paper scissors) format of old. Let me show you what I mean by this in the current format:
This graphic shows exactly what I mean. This go back and forth, and really, between these decks (just for example), it’s super hard which to choose when going into a tournament. All can do fantastically well, but it largely depends on what you play against. Now, don’t get me wrong here, there are other options that are very solid. Alolan Ninetales-GX, Garbodor variants, and Tapu Bulu-GX / Vikavolt are all solid options, just to name a few.
There’s just so much out there that it makes it hard to choose what to play, so in this type of a situation (at least for bigger tournaments), it’s always a good idea to play what you know best and are most comfortable with. Conversely, League Cup events are less punishing if you choose something to counter the field, and they serve as a great platform to try things out like that, as I mentioned in earlier sections in this piece.
I’ll wrap this portion up with a deck list for Alolan Ninetales-GX, a very safe, and solid deck right now with some super cool options:
Pokemon -- 16
Trainers -- 32
Energy -- 12
1 Alolan Ninetales BUS
3 Alolan Ninetales-GX GRI
4 Alolan Vulpix GRI
1 Espeon-EX BKP
1 Octillery BKT
1 Remoraid BKT
1 Tapu Fini-GX BUS
2 Tapu Koko PR
2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI
4 Po Town
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Aqua Patch
3 Choice Band
1 Field Blower
2 Float Stone
1 Rescue Stretcher
4 Ultra Ball
8 Water Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy
League Cups are certainly the building blocks of a qualification to the World Championships this season, so performing well at them is essential to success. I hope some of the points I touched upon in this article can help you along in your journey to doing the very best you can. Standard is wide open right now, and nearly every deck can do well. This said, metagaming is more important than ever! Good luck out there folks, and before you go, be sure to browse over some of the sweet deals you can find here on Dead Draw Gaming. Follow this link to like my Facebook fan page, and don’t hesitate to like Dead Draw Gaming, too, to follow along with our Pro Team. See y’all next time, thanks for stopping by!