The beginning of July saw the Australian competitive Pokémon Trading Card Game season culminate in its final large scale event – The National Championships held in Melbourne, Victoria.
For some, it’s a last ditch effort towards earning championship points which are required to qualify for the World Championships in August, for an elite few, its a chance to earn the necessary points needed for an all-expenses paid invitation for the World Championships. For plenty, it’s about aiming for the glory of the coveted title of National Champion, but for everyone it’s just a chance to play, catch up with old friends and meet new ones along the way.
The event took place at the Melbourne Park Function Centre, just a small distance from a number of well known Melbourne sports arenas such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The venue was a spacious affair with seating for players (of both the TCG and the video game) as well as spectators. This is the second year in a row the event has taken place in this venue and looks set to continue with the combined TCG and VGC event. With Nationals no longer being a road show, it might be a little disappointing to me as a Brisbane player, but it would bring the event in line with other countries like America which do not typically change the location. It makes sense to me as a player who thirsts for large scale opportunities to prove myself – a tournament carrying the ‘National’ title should be held where it is likely to attract the largest player base.
The event changed in other ways from previous years as well, with one of the main changes contrasting it from last year in particular being that the event was shortened from three days to just two – likely due to the event not falling on the Queen’s Birthday weekend like last year. It didn’t seem necessary for there to be three days for the event – swiss finished up before 9PM on Saturday, however it did also mean there was no chance to break for lunch, with players having to make do with on site catering between rounds for food.
The real caveat which has persisted for two years now, is the noise. I and many who play are used to playing out rounds with reasonable quiet with only the murmer of players speaking through their actions and the occasional judge call cutting through the venue. Nationals on the other hand had a constant Pokémon music playlist running, sound from the featured VGC matches (I became quite acquainted with Talonflame’s entry cry) and the constant MC’ing from the VGC side (from a lovely and enthusiastic Nintendo employee mind you) which just became overwhelming after a while.
Criticisms aside, the event has been wildly successful and fun the past couple of years. With the bigger venue and space dedicated to side events on day two (featuring ‘on-demand’ tournaments in multiple formats including booster draft), it has felt more like an ‘event’ bringing people together with a passion for Pokémon. The event proved to be the largest Australian tournament in history, attracting 160 players to the Masters division alone, consisting of players from every corner of Australia. This made for a tournament featuring eight rounds of swiss (for the Masters division), with the top eight players playing out ‘top cut’ the next day.
I signed up with the deck I had been playtesting like crazy all month – Bronzong/Genesect – a deck whose popularity had spiked just three weeks prior to the event when it finished in second place at Italy’s National Championships and a deck I highlighted in my Fates Collide set review over a month ago. My list was not too different from the one that shot to popularity:
3x Bronzor FCO #60
1x Bronzor BKT #95
3x Broznong PHF #61
1x Bronzong FCO #61
1x Bronzong BREAK FCO #62
3x Genesect EX FCO #64
2x Aegislash EX PHF #65
3x Shaymin EX ROS #77
4x Professor Sycamore
1x Hex Maniac
4x Ultra Ball
4x VS Seeker
3x Max Elixir
3x Fighting Fury Belt
2x Float Stone
2x Startling Megaphone
1x Super Rod
1x Battle Compressor
2x Sky Field
11x Metal Energy
The deck itself is reasonably straight forward: Attack with Genesect (or Aegislash if the situation suits) and recycle/accelerate your energy with Bronzong PHF. Max Elixir seems like an odd choice in a deck which can infinitely cycle energy onto your Pokémon, but it gives the deck the extra early game oomph to keep up in a metagame filled with decks which hit hard without needing to set up a Pokémon like Bronzong.
The two card counts I consider ‘odd’ (and most do) are the second Aegislash and the second Startling Megaphone. Put simply, these were Metagame call cards as I’d expected to face Night March and Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor in droves. This would ultimately not be the case – but may have been if I’d been able to convert more of my draws into victories.
In swiss I played the following matches:
R1: Zoroark/Mega Scizor – Win
R2: Trevenant BREAK – Win
R3: Vileplume/Vespiquen/Jolteon EX – Tie
R4: Waterbox w/Jolteon EX – Tie
R5: Bronzong/Genesect – Loss
R6: Mega Sceptile – Tie
R7: Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor – Loss
R8: Mew/Zoroark/Yveltal EX – Tie
I finished on a record of 2/2/4 which is an unusual amount of ties resulting from playing out two full games before the final game of each round – meaning a tie is all but inevitable.
The top eight players after swiss ended were:
Michael Kan – Night March
Sameer Sangwan – Bronzong/Genesect EX
Blake Davies – Night March/Gallade
Jordan Palmer – Speed Dark
Matty Masefield – Zygarde EX/Vilepume
Brendan Vagg – Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX
Shane Quinn – Bronzong/Genesect EX
Daniel Collins – Jolteon EX/Glaceon EX/Garbodor
Jordan Palmer would eventually defeat Shane Quinn in the final match to take home the Masters Division title – surprisingly his first National title after being a dominant player for so many seasons.
In retrospect, the mistake I made with the list I played was making space for ‘tech’ cards (the extra Aegislash and Megaphone) instead of putting more consistency cards in (such as Trainer’s Mail). It was a sobering experience to fall short as I did and remembered that in a diverse metagame (as my match-ups above depict) it is often better to simply make your list as consistent as possible. This is at odds with the metagame the year prior which was overrun with just one archetype, making counter techs a very good idea.
The diversity made for a very enjoyable metagame to compete in and made for some rough defeats with good players biting the dust perhaps earlier than they might have expected. Despite the disappointment I had as a competitor who had been practicing hard, I was also happy to be a part of the event, and as always I enjoyed catching up with old friends whilst making new ones.
For now, we have the World Championships to look forward to in August and with it a new set in ‘Steam Siege’ which will be tournament legal for the World Championships. This will make it an extra special event for players and spectators as it will be an entirely unproven metagame. Steam Siege pre-release events are slated to happen in just a couple of weeks so be sure to check with your local game store for times and pre-registration.
It is the end of the season for many, which brings a mixture of forlorn and relief now a year’s worth of hard work comes to a close. But it never takes too long to want to pick up cards from the next set and start strategising for the next season. I am at once looking forward to the next time I need to write out a deck list and relieved that I know it will not be for quite some time. For now, I’ll continue to attend regular Pokémon events at my local stores and I urge you, the reader, to do so as well.
Until next time, thank you for reading!