A week ago I had the opportunity to play in a Play! Pokémon Team Challenge, which is an interesting online-based competition building on Players Cup tournaments in months past. In a nutshell, stores will be running tournaments, the winners of which will form a ‘team’ to compete against other ‘teams’ regionally/nationally/globally.
Being that the east coast of Australia is uniquely positioned towards the international date line, I had the opportunity to compete in the very first Pokémon Team Challenge tournament in the world.
The night before, I signed up via R9K, Pokémon’s web-based tool for tournament registration, deck list creation/submission and handling/publishing tournament pairings (A process which I’d become accustomed to thanks to Player’s Cup 2). I also joined the store’s Discord channel through which the tournament organiser and judge staff would be running the tournament. A beauty of this online format is that I was able to handle all of these things the night before and digitally at that (no more hand written deck lists). Creating the deck list was a breeze as the tool accepts deck lists generated by the Pokémon Trading Card Game Online (PTCGO) – the platform for which the tournament is run.
On the morning of, I signed into Discord and greeted our tournament judge for the day as well as the other players participating. A paltry sum of nine players, but I was excited to play games in any case. As I spoke to in a recent youtube video, the online game often leaves you to create your own goals when it comes to the game and so being presented with a tournament with interesting stakes to motivate high level players to compete is to me a tantalising proposition at this stage.
Even so, one of my number one priorities with Pokémon cards is to have fun – a goal which is sometimes easy to lose sight of as is in anything with a competitive nature. Today I decided I would give Drednaw VMAX another run – a less than threatening archetype in the overall landscape of the metagame with a focus on tanking damage. The deck is supported by Frosmoth to attach energy and has access to Buff Padding and Hyper Potion to lean into the ‘tanking and healing’ theme which defines Drednaw VMAX.
After a middling run with the deck during Player’s Cup 2, I decided to play it again with Snorlax VIV leading the charge. Snorlax provides a sorely needed turn 1 option in its ability ‘Gormandize’ which allows me to draw until I have 7 cards in hand and ending my turn in the process. Despite the draw back, it is a great way to prepare yourself for a turn following where you need to see as many cards as possible to reliably set up and Snorlax would prove to be an important puzzle piece.
Before long, they announced via Discord the beginning of the first round. Checking the pairings, I take note of the username of my opponent and we add each other as ‘friends’ in PTCGO and begin our game.
Round 1 vs. Coalossal VMAX
Coalossal VMAX is one of the new entrants to the metagame with its release in Vivid Voltage. This Pokémon and the popular way to play it (by attaching to it and using its first attack to accelerate energy) is very reminiscent of Primal Groudon.
Game 1 was over very quickly Unfortunately for my opponent they did not open the game with any way to get a second Pokémon into play before I was able to knock out their lone active Pokémon.
Game 2 went a bit more how the match up should. We each opened with Snorlax which has quickly become my favourite card from Vivid Voltage. It is a great opener providing a zero-investment means of drawing up through your deck after playing down your hand with ‘Gormandize’. It’s great in a deck which does not expect to meaningfully attack on the first turn and each of our decks represent this.
I began to pull ahead in my setup, establishing 2 Frosmoth a Drednaw V and a Drednaw VMAX early on. In the mid game, I tried to set up a play to make use of Hyper Potion, however my opponent was still lagging behind and not attacking, so I used Marnie in an effort to continue establishing my board. My opponent, whilst not attacking was stalling behind Lille’s Poké Doll to set up while minimising prize losses.
Once set up, Coalossal VMAX is quite scary. This one was facing me down with 3 Stone Energy attached and my opponent’s access to Mallow and Lana made it difficult to pile on enough damage. As I’d established multiple attackers, I was able to eventually topple it. As I’d noticed that my opponent’s hand was starting to run low, my strategy was to not allow my opponent to take prizes when possible in an effort to keep options out of their hand.
This made things very difficult for my opponent as they weren’t able to establish another Coalossal VMAX in time. The game became quite close as I only had 4 cards left in deck and my opponent had multiple Lillie’s Poké Doll to stall out the game. I couldn’t risk losing due to being unable to take the requisite prizes in time so my only option was the use Boss’s Orders on the Coalossal V they benched and attempt to knock it out with a heads flip on G-Max Headbutt. I flipped heads and took the remaining 2 prizes for game.
In game one I opened Snorlax to their Zacian V. I had a great first turn (going second) where I establish a board of two Drednaw V and two Snom, with a full hand to boot. My opponent plays a Marnie on the following turn which turned my very good hand into something quite unplayable instead. Fortunately my opponent didn’t achieve much off the Marnie either and I was able set up thanks to Snorlax.
Their following turn sees Arceus & Dialga & Palkia GX (ADP) hit the board finally. In this turn they manage to attach energy, use Energy Switch for another and use a Switch to move it to the active spot and use Altered Creation GX.
I use Professor’s Research on my turn in order to hit a switching card and to start attacking, however I do not see one in the next seven cards. This gives my opponent enough of a head start that the usual game plan of attacking and taking knock outs easily outpaces me.
In game two I choose to go first, however my opening hand is empty of options to search for Pokémon. I end my first turn with just a Snorlax in play using Gormandize. My opponent has a rough first turn as well, having to settle for using Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword ability to draw three cards and end their turn after being unable to piece together a turn two Altered Creation GX. My following turn ends up being equally slow again, whilst their following turn does result in an Altered Creation GX whilst hitting me with Marnie. They also had a Zacian V with 2 energy on the bench to boot.
Off the Marnie I have Boss’s Orders and Dedenne GX. I target down the Zacian with multiple energy, scoring the knockout with Drednaw VMAX’s attack and on the following turn I’m able to land a similar play getting very close to a win with two prizes left to take.
On the last turn I played Dedenne GX to try and land the last Boss’s Orders. I do not see it and have to play Marnie instead. They use their Dedenne GX on the following turn to find their own Boss’s Orders and attack for game.
Round 3. Vs. ADP/Zacian
Game one commences and I win the flip to go first.
The start was average. I do not see a Drednaw V, but do manage to bench a Snom before using Gormandize with Snorlax. My opponent starts with an active Zacian V, attaches water energy to a benched ADP and plays Marnie followed by using Intrepid Sword.
I do not have a very good hand after the Marnie. I use Boss’s Orders on Dedenne GX (which was the only good target I had in this board state) and used Gormandize. My opponent continues to set up, using Energy Switch to retreat Dedenne manually and puts together the energy to use Altered Creation GX. In the mean time I’m still trying to set up – there was a line of play I could have gone for to try and attack with Snorlax and go for the paralysis, however the odds of pulling it off were too low for me to want to try.
On the following turn, my opponent seemed to want to (perhaps greedily) attack with Zacian V instead of ADP and used Boss’s Orders on my benched Drednaw V in an attempt to knock it out before it can evolve, however they’re unable to hit the Metal Saucer needed to pull it off and have to settle for an Intrepid Sword.
I setup and attack into the active ADP. On their turn they get the saucer and attack for a KO on my benched Drednaw V via Boss’s Orders. I return the KO on their Zacian V, but whiffed on any hand disruption (ie Marnie) and so my opponent was able to Boss’s Orders something with less HP for the knock out and game the following turn.
Game two starts and I lead with Snorlax. Once again I don’t have Drednaw but I do have a Snom on the bench. I Gormandize per usual and am hit by a Marnie as usual in my opponent’s turn. This time I have a Dedenne GX and Drednaw V in hand afterwards. My opponent ends the turn with Intrepid Sword.
I decide to dig deep into my deck for a Frosmoth to try and use Drednaw V’s attack to trap my opponent’s Crobat V active (my memory is hazy here but I assume the Crobat V was active since the beginning of the game). However, in my attempt to go for the trapping play, I end up discarding a lot only to miss what I need. Gormandize shows me the cards I was after were just a little further into the deck as I draw into them too late.
My opponent whiffs on being able to attack and the turn passes to me. I position to knock out the Crobat V with my Drednaw VMAX, however despite having Glimwood Tangle in play, I manage to flip tails twice in a row and fall 10 damage short of taking the knock out.
My opponent responds to this turn with a KO on my benched Dedenne GX with Zacian V, however they concede shortly after I posture to KO their Zacian V without anything in the back to follow it up.
In game three I lead with a Drednaw which makes for an awkward opening. Going second and playing a Professor’s Research I bench two Snom and Snorlax, but am unable to move the Snorlax active to assist with the setup. This is also unfortunate as I don’t have any draw options present in hand either.
My opponent uses Marnie on me (a recurring theme). Despite this I am able to set up a reasonable board minus the Vmax. I settle for a Powerful Bite. My opponent manages to use Switch to escape the effect of Powerful Bite and use Brave Blade on my Drednaw V which narrowly survives due to having Buff Padding equipped. I use Hyper Potion on my turn to heal up some of the damage, and use Evolution Incense to grab a VMAX and evolve. I use energy retrieval to return the energy back. Although I haven’t captured it in my notes, I would frequently attach one extra energy to my Drednaw VMAX in order to be able to use Hyper Potion, discarding two energy, and then being able to manually attach to it whilst active which I assume is what I did here. I attack with G-Max Headbutt and flip heads for the knock out on Zacian V.
My opponent’s board at this point had only one energy in play and they had to use Intrepid Sword. I play a Marnie and attack into the currently active ADP. My opponent has not used Metal Saucer yet so I am weary about their comeback potential. My opponent uses Boss’s Orders to force a Dedenne GX active and I’m unable to retreat due to my lack of options in hand. I use my own Boss’s Orders on an ADP to stall as well, but my opponent manages to hit everything they need to keep attacking with Zacian V.
I attack into Zacian V and bring it to 10 HP, leaving it active to force my opponent to have the Switch in hand to attack again (by resetting Brave Blade). My opponent tries to stall, but perhaps misplays by using a Boss’s Orders on my Frosmoth with an Air Balloon attached.
I use a Pal Pad on my turn, returning a Boss and a Marnie to my deck and knock out the Zavcian V. My opponent decides to concede the game at this point having been unable to establish anything else on the board.
Round 4 vs. ADP/Zacian
I won’t spend too much time running through this as this is the third (of four) times I will face ADP/Zacian.
Game one ends as an extended donk on my opponent – they lead with Eldegoss V and get an Oranguru onto the bench. However they’re unable to find anything else this game while I slowly attach to a Drednaw VMAX and take the knockouts.
Game two is a little more normal. They get a turn 1 water attachment to ADP and use Intrepid Sword. I get a Snorlax active on my turn two with two Drednaw and two Snom. Before I Gormandize I remove their Viridian Forest with my Glimwood Tangle in an attempt to stop their access to energy, but they had access to the energy anyway. They attach, use Marnie and use Altered Creation GX.
After this they use Boss’s Orders on a Dedenne GX for three prizes and despite me utilising Giovanni’s Exile to try an remove options for Boss’s Orders the turn following, my opponent was able to target my benched Drednaw V with Boss’s Orders and take the win anyway.
Game three ends in a similar fashion, except I have an even weaker start with Dedenne GX active and only manage to get a Snom & Snorlax on board on my first turn.
Because my fourth round opponent managed to go undefeated, I managed to sneak into top cut at 2-2 (Two wins and two losses). One of my goals each year is to make top cut in at least one event and it would seem that in the twilight of 2020 I was able to achieve that (even if the tournament had only a paltry nine players in attendance).
Top Cut and Finishing the Day
My first round opponent in top cut would be a rematch of my last round opponent. I did not take any notes during this game as I wanted to focus on the match more than recording the outcome of the games, however from memory the matches played out fairly uneventfully and as usual, favoured the position of the ADP/Zacian player. I lost in top 4, but I put the big blue tortoise on the map.
So that was my experience with the worlds first Team Challenge tournament. I came, I saw and I faced ADP/Zacian four out of five matches. Even so, I was awarded a handful of Vivid Voltage booster pack codes for my efforts and had some fun chatting with the other participants. At one point we were even visited by Carlos Pero – co-founder of R9Klabs who are responsible for the online tournament registration software utilised for Pokémon events – who wanted to check in on this world first.
As a more casual alternative to the Players Cup events, I found I was able to stress less about what to play and even the registration system was simpler (unlike the Players Cup, this event did not require using Battlefy to run the tournament). It was a fairly straight forward event and the stakes were low so I found myself having a good time. With chances for competition having been rare this year and perhaps even moving forward, I was really happy to have this and the upcoming chances to compete in the online-based events which themselves also suit me and my lifestyle at the moment too.
The next event is coming up on Sunday 27 December 2020 – just a few days from now and I intend to compete again. As to what I’ll be piloting, I am sure it is time to put Drednaw VMAX to rest. I have a few days to figure out whether I want to play something more competitive, or perhaps something spicy? True to the nature of plenty of players out there, I’m sure I’ll decide at the eleventh hour.
Until next time.
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