Brilliant Arrow – 2nd Place Pokémon TCG Tournament Report

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Hot off the back of the Pokémon Oceanic International event almost a month ago, this past weekend in Australia saw a number of Pokémon League Challenges which took place in various cities. A League Challenge is an entry-level, official Pokémon Trading Card Game tournament. Although the prizes are relatively meagre and only feature Swiss rounds (no top cut bracket), they do offer much coveted ‘Championship Points’ which go towards qualifying for the World Championship.

I decided to attend one of these League Challenge events a couple of weekends ago – this one being in Toowoomba, Queensland. For myself, Toowoomba is nearly two hours away and so our journey began early in the morning, a long drive down Warrego highway.

I’d decided earlier in the week that I would try a Gardevoir deck which mixes the two M Gardevoir-EX cards in format. The archetype had done well recently at a regional championship internationally and I played a list that was only two cards difference from that one.

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The two M Gardevoir-EX function very differently. The Primal Clash card’s attack deals an increasing amount of damage for each Fairy energy you have in play, whilst the Steam Siege M Gardevoir-EX’s attack allows you to amp up the damage by discarding Pokémon from your bench.

This aspect of the attack isn’t what’s particularly valued – it’s the card’s dual-type characteristic which allows it to efficiently deal double damage to Psychic-weak Pokémon, namely M Mewtwo-EX. The rest of the deck is designed around setting up and accelerating energy into play. I only played one of the Steam Siege M Gardevoir-EX as opposed to the original list which ran two.

Here is the list:

3 Gardevoir-EX
3 M Gardevoir-EX (PRC)
1 M Gardevoir-EX (STS)
4 Xerneas (STS)
1 Xerneas BREAK (STS)
1 Shaymin-EX
1 Hoopa-EX

4 Professor Sycamore
3 N
2 Lysandre
1 Skyla
1 Lillie
1 Hex Maniac
1 Brock’s Grit

4 Ultra Ball
4 Max Elixir
4 Gardevoir Spirit Link
4 VS Seeker
2 EXP Share
1 Super Rod

4 Fairy Garden

10 Fairy Energy

To simply describe your game plan:

  1. Search for Hoopa-EX as soon as possible to put multiple Gardevoir-EX  into play.
  2. Lead with Xerneas‘ Geomancy attack to put energy into play quickly.
  3. Evolve into your M Gardevoir-EX and start attacking with Brilliant Arrow/Despair Ray.
  4. Use EXP Share to keep energy in play – Xerneas BREAK also provides a single prize attacker.

The tournament was held in a store named ‘Neo-Tokyo’, a curious Japanese pop culture store with an awesome array of Anime, Manga and related merchandise. The AstroTurf covered playing area filled with tables and chairs offered plentiful space. With deck lists handed in and decks shuffled up, round one was under way at 10:45 AM.

Round 1 – Win Vs. Eeveelutions

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This deck leverages the powerful new Eevee evolutions Umbreon-GX and Espeon-GX. The Eevee from Sun and Moon helps set up with its Ability and the deck has access to the trio of Jolteon, Vaporeon and Flareon to provide extra type coverage.

Unfortunately for my opponent, the attackers in my deck are all weak to steel and so he must play the 2-hit KO game whilst I am able to ramp up for 1-hit KO turns. In the second game he is very unlucky and cannot reach his Double Colourless energy, with them seemingly towards the bottom of the deck the entire game.

Round 2 – Win Vs. Decidueye/Vileplume

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One of the reasons I decided to play Gardevoir, aside from just wanting to try a new deck, is the maxed out count of ‘Fairy Garden’ in the deck and the versatility it lends to Gardevoir to always be able retreat out of bad situations. This is particularly useful in this matchup and the Decidueye matchup due to their high Lysandre counts which usually enable them to snipe with Feather Arrow whilst stalling.

I can’t remember too much about these games but I think my opponent had a very rough time setting up and so I was able to keep to the game plan.

Round 3 – Loss Vs. Quad Lapras

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Quad Lapras is as the name implies – a deck with just 4 Lapras and no other Pokémon. It has a great early game attack in ‘Collect’ which draws cards into hand whilst its two other attacks are quite potent. The negative effect of Lapras’ second attack is easily mitigated with access to switching cards and the space freed up by the lack of Pokémon is filled with consistency, options and disruption.

I was able to keep up somewhat in the first game but still lost out in the end. In the second game I was starved of resources and couldn’t keep up at all.

My biggest takeaway from playing against this deck was that you couldn’t expect to keep your options in hand, especially if the opponent knows you need those cards. On one turn I needed to play a Skyla for ‘Brock’s Grit’ and his response was to play Judge, wasting my supporter on that turn and setting me behind.

Round 4 – Draw Vs. Decidueye/Vileplume

Similar to round 2, a lot of this matchup comes down to how your opponent sets up. I won the first game, but had to scoop the second when I fell behind and felt I wasn’t going to win. A highlight in one of the games was that I was able to one-shot a Decidueye-GX at full HP. It takes 8 Fairy energy to amount to the 240 damage needed.
I wanted to try and power through game 3 which was off to a blistering start – I finished my second turn with two Gardevoir-EX with two Spirit Links, but my draw ran dry and the game stalled itself long enough for time to be called.

Round 5 – Win Vs. M Mewtwo-EX

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This match-up was quite favourable for me as long as I was able to take the initiative with my singular Steam Siege M Gardevoir-EX. Despair Ray hits for exactly 220 damage with weakness whilst limiting its own energy (making one-hit KO’s very difficult).

In both games I was able to sweep with M Gardevoir-EX. In the second game I even had the luxury of mega evolving without a Spirit Link attached (ending my turn before attacking) because I knew that it would easily take successive knock outs.

After Swiss, I finished on a 3/1/1 record. Despite there being four players on that record I managed to place 2nd.

The final top 4 was:

1st Quad Lapras (which I lost to)
2nd M Gardevoir-EX (Mixed)
3rd Darkrai-EX
4th Decidueye/Vileplume (Whom I drew with)

Playing M Gardevoir-EX was at once fun and frustrating. The fun part came when the deck played out exactly as I envisioned, but the frustrating reality is that mega decks can sometimes just fail to give you the cards in the order you need – you need to start with the EX basic, attach a Spirit Link and then mega evolve. On the day I felt the MVP of the deck was the single Skyla favoured by the original pilot of the deck. It was useful in a variety of situations to get specific trainers such as Spirit Links or Fairy Garden.

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If I could go back and change something about the deck, I would swap a single Professor Sycamore out for the 11th Fairy energy. Having energy is really important and the games I lost often came down to either a lack of energy, or an early Sycamore discarding an M Gardevoir-EX. I would also strongly consider cutting Brock’s Grit for a second Super Rod.

From a price perspective, it’s also not too heavy on the wallet – Shaymin-EX is notoriously expensive but at least as a one-off it isn’t too bad. Many of the staple cards in the deck are also universally needed across many decks so it is a worthwhile investment.

I can definitely recommend the deck to anybody looking for something new to play or even to people wishing to get into the game. Its strategy is straight forward and rewarding, but at the same time the deck features a number of different parts making it less susceptible to Pokémon which punish linear strategies (such as Jolteon-EX and Glaceon-EX). For its faults it is at the very least fun to play and rewarding in its mid to late game when you are hitting for big numbers.

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