The Sydney Double (Part 1): Chatswood by Ellis
Cast your minds back to Christmas of 1999. While the world was wrapped up in Y2K fever, I was unwrapping Pokemon Yellow version- blissfully unaware that the game might implode in 7 days time due to the Millennium bug.
I can remember my ‘real-world, wouldn’t send me away when I was 10 with only a yellow mouse that hates me’ mum reading the manual and advising me to “‘watch out for hordes of Rattata and Zubat.” To which, 6-year old me replied “mum, please, I know how to Pokemon.” Needless to say, I was then met by 10 consecutive Rattata battles and a smug “I told you so.”
While this is not exactly an Aesop’s Fable, I feel like there is something to learn from this story. For example, always listen to your parents. Or perhaps, never listen to your parents when it comes to Pokemon. Sixteen years later, I’ve decided that the moral is- #Zubatforlyf. Now, those who know me would definitely say that I’m more of a cat woman than batman but when the process of trying to determine what deck to play for the Sydney city championships double was threatening to send me to Arkham, I remembered that it is impossible to escape from a Zubat- so why even try?
So Landorus/ Bats was tested. But it seemed as hit and miss as Shanan Kan’s sleeping patterns or Jake Cruwys’ relationship with flips. Apparently Jordan Palmer didn’t get that memo, as he piloted Landorus/ Bats to a top 4 and a city championships win over two consecutive days (spoiler: that means I didn’t win).
Ultimately, I strolled in to the tournament venue (and by strolled, I mean- ran from the train station because fashionably late was quickly turning into round 1 game loss) with a Ryan Sabelhaus inspired non-rigid construction (see: M-class Blimp, particularly armaments) that had survived a little bit of testing against Night March and a sub-par VirGen.
Most importantly, the deck felt comfortable to pilot. In all seriousness, that element alone inspired me with a lot of confidence.
CHATSWOOD CITY CHAMPIONSHIP (07/02/15)
Tournament: 35 Masters, 6 rounds, Top 8 cut, Top 8 points
My deck: Manectric EX/ Seismitoad EX/ Drifblim
Round 1 vs Jonah Tuineau (Seismitoad EX/ Slurpuff)
I suspected this match-up would be an up-hill struggle. If he was able to start with a Seismitoad EX Quaking Punch and a couple of Swirlix on the bench, it would be difficult for me to set-up as the onslaught of crushing hammer and enhanced hammer would ensure I wouldn’t gain any momentum, and Lysandre’s Trump Card would keep it that way.
So the only solution was to fight the same way, with Toad on Toad.
Fortunately (and I never thought I’d say this), in game 1 my opponent went first with a Seismitoad EX active and a couple of Swirlix on the bench as expected. I responded with my own Seismitoad EX, DCE, Enhanced Hammer, Head Ringer, and a couple of other benched pokemon. Perpetual Quaking Punch kept any significant response at bay and I took 2 prizes off his Seismitoad EX.
My opponent drew in to a Xerosic, causing me to miss a Quaking Punch and allow him to bring his own disruption cards back into the game. I saw most of my energy fly into my discard pile and realised how few, if any, were left in deck. To make matters worse, a clutch Cassius scooped up one of his heavily damaged Seismitoad EX.
It was now, 35 minutes into the first game that my opponent checked his discard pile, then scooped to go to game 2. His deck was running very low (perhaps 6 cards left due to having to Professor Juniper multiple times to find cards early on through my Quaking Punches), and his Lysandre’s Trump Card was prized so he reasoned that he could not win.
I had only taken three prizes, and (unknown to my opponent) had no energy left on board or in deck. Talk about luck.
Game 2 went to time and with Seismitoad EX’s low damage output, my opponent would not be able to take the remaining 4 prizes in two turns.
Round 2 vs Nathan Nguyen (Fairy Box)
Nathan is a player from Sydney who is incredibly skilled at hi-fiving loudly. Oh, and winning at Pokemon. My game plan here was to throw head ringers everywhere, discard special energy whenever dropped( in order to limit the number of his pokemon that could actually attack), and attack with Drifblim. Remember though, nothing ever goes to plan…
Game 1 was a 40 minute affair. Of note, I played my one Xerosic 3 times (courtesy of VS seeker)- once on a rainbow energy and twice on Manectric Spirit Links the turn after they were played, followed immediately by two head ringers.
To be honest though, I was a bit lost in this match-up. Assualt Laser-ing many times spread damage across the board and Quaking Punch gave me time to set up a Drifblim on the bench (when he had three rainbow energy in the discard pile) but he Lysandre KO’d my Drifblim the moment it was ready to attack. At this point, I was stuck for an attacker on his Suicune (the other drifloon was prized) and stopped Quaking Punching too soon (giving him an opportunity to Max Potion much of the spread damage, and to Mega Evolve to Mega Manectric EX).
In the end I had taken 4 prizes, but the match was by no means close.
Not enough time to play out game 2.
Round 3 vs Mitchell Dowling (Manectric EX/ Pyroar)
There was a lunch break after round 2 and Mitchell and I were walking back to the venue together, discussing our current match record and joking about how we could be facing each other next round. It happened.
As much as it would be fun to play against Mitchell, Pyroar was certainly not a deck I was interested in facing. My counters were Drifbilm, LaserBank and Seismitoad EX— and even then, they were more like luck-based auto-loss stop gaps.
Game 1 was not what I anticipated. Mitchell started Mew EX active and Litleo on the bench. I started active Mewtwo EX and benched Manectric EX and dropped a Seismitoad EX off the draw on my turn. I OHKO’d his energy-less active Mew EX through energy, muscle band, and using his dimension valley stadium— that was all I could do with the cards that I had (taking EX KO’s were good in this match-up but taking them early on might prove costly pending a late-game N). He came back with a return OHKO using versatile for assault laser. I intended to Quaking Punch my way through his active Mew EX and throw down some head ringers but the cards did not fall correctly and I was forced to overrun the Mew EX and the benched Litleo. I was not in a bad position.
Then I stopped drawing energy, had a hand of Ultra Ball and two other items, and he started using versatile to Quaking Punch. I was now in a bad position.
Suddenly he stopped Quaking Punching, the Litleo turned in to a Flare Command Pyroar and I was back in the game.
I used Ultra Ball to find Jirachi EX for a supporter, threw down some head ringers and muscle bands, hit Mew EX with assault laser for the KO and was 4-2 in favour on prizes. My opponent tried to come back with an assault laser for the KO but forgot about the head ringer and was only able to overrun. A Lysandre became a KO on a benched pokemon EX which sealed the game in my favour.
Simply put, my opponent drew dead and could not respond to the overrun/ assault laser and head ringer pressure.
Round 4 vs Shanan Kan (Plasma)
For those who don’t know him, Shanan Kan is like the Jon Snow of the pokemon Kans- dashing, well dressed, lives in the middle of nowhere (but by no means a bastard). In conversation he brings up innocent topics like bubble tea and fun train trips to Melbourne, but in game, he has the kind of steely exterior that would make Whitewalkers defecate in their pants (see: member of the public on a related train trip to Melbourne). Shanan’s poker face causes you to think carefully about and second guess every single play. He could make his hand of only two ultra ball seem like a Lysandre/ VS seeker with 50 000 options. In any case, Shanan is a very good player and regardless of what he was playing, I knew this would be a difficult match.
For me, head ringers and enhanced hammers were the MVPs in this game. Both cards helped to delay Shanan’s set-up. We both missed crucial damage- increasing cards at one point during this game to achieve a critical KO so it certainly was not a one-sided affair. At 2-2 prizes left each, I played an escape rope to bring up one of his benched Deoxys EX to hit for weakness with Drifblim and take the last two prizes. Interestingly, Shanan had the win in hand for next turn.
This game was much more one-sided. Shanan could not set up multiple attackers at once or accelerate energy in any meaningful way (due to a dead hand) so it was simply a case of shutting down any energy that did come in to play.
Round 5 vs Syahmi Razak (Virizion/ Genesect)
A win in this round would secure a place in top cut.
I started Manectric EX and was forced to play Jirachi EX for Professor Juniper which resulted in a hand of supporters and no energy. I had to settle for multiple overruns, giving him an opportunity to set-up and dominate. Ultimately, he took 3 prizes at once off an active Drifblim and benched Jirachi EX for the win.
This was a better match. An early head ringer on an active Virizion EX slowed my opponent’s set-up a little and a pre-emptive G-booster on Genesect EX was discarded by a Xerosic. However, energy whiffs meant I was only able to attack with overrun and spread damage everywhere. This was not a terrible play, as my own Mewtwo EX was lurking on the bench to clean up any EX with overrun damage. At one point, I needed a DCE (of which there was 1 left in deck) off a Professor Juniper to KO an active Genesect EX and have board dominance- with Syahmi being left with only heavily damaged Virizion EXs on board and the remaining Genesect EX prized.
I missed the DCE. Syahmi took his last 2 prizes.
In hindsight, the KO could have been achieved through an assault laser if I had placed the head ringer on that Genesect EX instead of a Virizion EX a couple of turns previous.
Round 6 vs Matt Bridges (Fairybox)
Matt and I were on the cusp of top cut. Whoever won this match, would have a chance at making cut (as three 4-2-0s would make the last three seeds in the top 8).
We only played one game (it was 50 minutes long). Matt started with a Xerneas and a couple of Spritzee, played a fairy garden, and a Fan Club which he retrieved from a computer search. He discarded two fairy garden from the computer search, having decided that my deck would not run any counter stadiums— this would prove to be significant later in the game.
I applied pressure early on with two enhanced hammers on his rainbow energy and head ringers on his Landorus EX and Aegislash EX. Matt responded with some geomancys and fan clubs (four times in total!) to get the pokemon he needed and try to thin out his deck and draw the remaining rainbow energies but stalled on drawing any coloured energy and put up Suicune and Sigilyph as blocks. I hit some bench pokemon with overrun while my opponent was idling and played Ultra Ball to search for Jirachi EX. It was prized. What a mistake. I now had a hand of zero and was in top deck mode.
Matt took advantage of this by using Lysandre on a benched Mewtwo EX- taking the OHKO with his own Mewtwo EX with four fairy energy. I promoted my Drifblim EX and prayed to top deck a Professor Juniper so I’d have a hand to work with and hopefully draw the energy to OHKO the Mewtwo EX for my first two prizes. I drew the lightning energy off the top deck. Wow.
Drifblim OHKO’d the Mewtwo EX! And muscle band and Jirachi EX were the two prizes (thanks for the help prize gods!). Drifblim also put in the hard yards by KOing Matt’s Suicune, before being knocked out. We were at three prizes taken each. Significantly, I had played a Virbank City gym to replace his final fairy garden, meaning he would have to forfeit some of the few fairy energy he had left to manually retreat or play a switch to attack with a new pokemon.
I came back in to the game with a Seismitoad EX 2HKO’ing his Landorus EX and locking off items (most importantly, switch) for a short time. Seismitoad EX was swiftly knocked out by Aegislash EX which had Matt’s final rainbow energy attached to it. We were 1-1 on prizes. At this point, it was vital to remove the DCE from my benched Mewtwo ex through retreating so that his Sigilyph could not take the OHKO and the game. I played a switch, and retreated the Mewtwo EX to keep it safe. Matt had a turn and time was called.
Turn 0: Ultimately I was looking for a Lysandre to win, as there was an overrun damaged Aromatisse on the bench that could be knocked out with assault laser. It wasn’t in hand. In the meantime I had to switch between EX Pokemon that could take a hit, knowing that his maximum damage output was 80 as he was down to only two rainbow energy and Aegislash EX was burdened by a head ringer (relevant because it prevented the muscle band).
Turn 1: Matt played an N. I drew 1 card. I needed a switch or escape rope to bring my own Manectric EX active (because there were no energy left in deck), and a Lysandre to bring up his Aromatisse.
Turn 2: I drew a card for turn. What was in my hand? An escape rope and a Lysandre.
Top 8 Match vs Syahmi Razak (Virizion/ Genesect)
Being 8th seed, I was due to face the first seed in top 8- and that was my round 5 opponent Syahmi Razak. Having played against him already, you would think I’d have come up with some way to beat Syahmi but nothing really came to mind. This was probably one of my worst match-ups.
And then this happened…
For those playing along at home, that’s my lone Jirachi EX facing Syahmi’s Virizion EX at the beginning of the game. It was no longer an up hill battle, it was more of a 30 foot warped wall. And Jordan Palmer would be waiting for me at the top of it.
As can be expected, I did my very best to try to win but was beaten convincingly in both games. Syahmi is a very good player, with an excellent grasp of how to pilot his Virizion/ Genesect list. He went on to win the Chatswood City Championship— Congratulations!
What did I learn?:
First and foremost, play a deck that you are comfortable with. It’s not enough to know that it has good match-ups and that you can recite every card in the list. If the deck doesn’t feel right or flow freely when you play it, then it probably doesn’t fit your play style.
Jamming Net may be a better option than Head Ringer when it comes to facing Virizion/ Genesect. Skilled VirGen players will not be slowed down by an early Head Ringer on their VirGen, as they can switch and energy switch to emerald slash turn 2 as per usual. Jamming Net on a Genesect EX continues to make the G-Booster option difficult and reduces MegaloCannon Damage to 80 which could make KOs a 3 shot.
Invest in a play mat and some decent sleeves. At the end of the day, my cards had begun to stick together and this may have contributed to the dual lone Jirachi EX start both games in top 8. In hindsight I should have bought some new sleeves for the top 8 match.
How not to make my articles shorter.
I met so many awesome people at the Chatswood City Championship- players from all across the country made the 9.30pm finish (and the commute home) very enjoyable!
Shout outs to Blake Wightman (alias: Lightning), my pseudo-tutor Scott Howard for lending me his lucky Manectric EXs, Matt Bridges for providing me with one of the most stressful and yet entertaining games of Pokemon I’ve ever played, and Stephen Jones for being convinced to enter the tournament and then being unfailing positive and supportive. Oh, and to the South Australian and Queensland crews- sorry for failing at public transport use in Sydney…