Reflecting on Failure, and Learning from Defeat

Hey guys, Phinn again. Philly Regionals did not work out; as I write this, it is 7:54 AM on Day 2 of the event, and I’m waiting for Top 32 to begin. My friends Nathian Beck and Jimmy McClure are going into their Top 32 rounds. I have the privilege of playing cheerleader. These free hours give me time to reflect on what led to the worst record I have seen in months.

My list was refined, my testing was extensive, and my play was… subpar. A bit ironic that I just wrote such a long piece about good play, and then used little of what I talked about in the fifth (and, as I’d said, most important) section.

More than anything, I would love to spend your next couple minutes explaining why I got unlucky, or why I was tilted, and why this tournament was bogus. Instead, I’ll explain why things did not go well from my side. There were certainly problems that I could have avoided, had I prepared in a better way. In this piece, I cover what I learned from the event, a tournament report, and my new list.

If you guys did not see my list from the last article that I wrote, this is what I posted:

Pokémon – 12 Trainers – 37 Energy – 11
2 Yveltal BKT 3 Professor Sycamore 4 VS Seeker 7 Darkness
1 Yveltal XY 2 N 4 Trainers’ Mail 4 Double Colorless
2 Yveltal EX 2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick 4 Ultra Ball
1 Darkrai EX DEX 1 Lysandre 4 Dark Patch
1 Shaymin EX ROS 1 AZ 4 Battle Compressor
1 Jirachi EX 2 Float Stone
1 Archeops NVI 2 Muscle Band
2 Gallade BKT 1 Computer Search
1 Sableye DEX
2 Silent Lab
1 Tropical Beach

Two days ago, I was almost certain that this was the perfect sixty cards for me. On Friday night, Nathian Beck convinced me to make two changes.

First, I dropped AZ for Olympia because it seemed to provide as much use in the mirror as AZ did, and was much more helpful against Sableye/Garbodor. I liked the fact that it provided healing utility and kept energy in play. To be honest, I used Olympia quite frequently on Day 1, and I am still unsure if AZ was better or not. Both were solid calls.

The second change to the list was dropping the one Tropical Beach, in favor of one Parallel City. Israel Sosa told me to make this change as well. When Jimmy McClure and Jon Eng also decided it was better, I reluctantly swallowed my pride and sleeved up the Parallel.

Throughout the day, I found one instance where Parallel was stronger that Beach. However, in my other 20 games, I wished I had played that beautiful Worlds Promo.

And while the deck did not get me any Championship points, it did score Jimmy McClure a Day 2 placing. In some hours, I’ll be able to see how far the deck actually took him. He decided to play the exact sixty that I used, including the Olympia and Parallel additions. So what went wrong for me? Why did the person who spent over 100 hours perfecting the list and practicing matchups end up with more losses than wins? Why did I have such a poor run after practicing the same deck more than any other list in my history?

The primary reason is, I had too much fun.

In a life full of working, working out, and dieting, a Pokemon tournament is more fun than Chuck E Cheese is for an 8-year-old. I do not take much time for myself to have fun. Even in testing, I treat it more like work than I do a hobby.

Because of this, I started a roller coaster of insanity for my first five rounds or so. I was thrashing around and shouting like a psycho ward escapee. This is the most fun I have had in month, and I was going to take advantage. Where a normal 19-year-old might enjoy a party or a concert, a Pokemon tournament is where I find my excitement. I was throwing my new braids, I was shouting profanities, I was talking about girls… and I was not focused on my play.

Round 1 went very smoothly as I faced the mirror – as I should, I crushed.

Round 2 was certainly a little more difficult, as I faced one of the very few Mega Alakazam decks. For those who are not aware, Mega Alakazam is a hard counter to Yveltal. The Psychic typing decimates Gallade. Wobbuffet stops Archeops and Fright Night. Four Dimension Valley stops Silent Lab from being in play for more than one turn. Four Super Scoop Up makes Pitch Black Spear somewhat useless, and EX’s are easily squashed by the combination of Kenesis and Zen Force.

I was playing well. I used time to my advantage, and stole the second game by bench-out. He started Wobbuffet, and didn’t bench anything else. So I proceeded to Maxie into my Gallade and then one-shot the poor guy. As planned, I worked that match into a tie that I was very satisfied with.

Round 3 is more relieving as I see Connor flip over Sableye. It’s either Sableye/Garbodor, or the mirror, both of which I am extremely well-versed in. I get turn one Archeops and win a 30-minute first game. I’m in no rush to finish a second game. I take the set 1-0, and sit at 2-0-1. I wantt o briefly explain this matchup because I notice that many people struggle with it.

The first thing you need to do is get your Sableye in play. If your opponent Trick Shovel’s away your Sableye, you lose. To avoid that, Ultra Balling for Sableye is very worth it. The next priority is using Battle Compressor to get Olympia and Archeops. Archeops is really important in this matchup because once Dark Cloak isn’t countered, your chances of winning go up very significantly. Even if they play Hex Maniac to get Garbodor in play, getting Archeops is worth it. Eventually you will be able to find a turn where you can Lysandre the Garbodor, take a prize, and then get your Dark Cloak back.
You also need to make sure you almost always have access to VS Seeke. I Junk hunt for VS Seekers very frequently. You never know when you will need to use Olympia.
Then you need to remember that Delinquent will ruin your game plan anytime you aren’t aware of the number of cards in yout hand. If you Junk Hunt and then have a hand of 3 cards, it isn’t even worth Junk Hunting. Your opponent will certainly use Delinquent and counter your Junk Hunt.
I also like to attack with Darkrai whenever possible. The 30 damage on the bench is nice for knocking out Trubbish, and setting up damage to knock out Shaymin EX later on. There really isn’t much of an advantage to attacking with Yveltal EX because the extra damage doesn’t matter.
Another thing I want to note is to just stick with one attacker or another. Once you start suing a specific attacker, it’s going to hurt if you leave one or two energy on it and switch to a different attacker. Make sure you only switch to a different attacker if your opponent has removed all the energy from it. You never want to have a spare dark energy on Yveltal EX.
In the match, I do all of the above. I know the matchup inside and out so I was not surprised to take win.

I walk to lunch. I’m feeling good. Up until then, I had been playing very well. No misplays, my time management was tip top, and my list still seemed great.
I narrowly make it back to my table for Round 4. (Thirty minutes for a break just isn’t enough. Come on Mr. TO, I need more time than that!)

For Round 4, I see that I am playing Josh Fernando. He’s the newest addition to Otterchops. UGH!
Josh is playing a Groudon list – one that he had posted in our chat yesterday. My list was also in the chat, so there were no surprises with our lists.

He wins the flip and goes first. Frankly not his best start: opens Groudon, and then Beaches for a couple cards after he plays Hex. I play pretty well through this 13-minute game by taking advantage of the bad start. He scoops up to save time for games 2 and 3.

I go second and power up an Yveltal BKT by my second turn. I rarely take this route, but my hand forced me. For seemingly no reason, I just pass. I could have either Beached for one card, or used Pitch-Black Spear. For reasons I still don’t understand, I did neither. However, this mistake wasn’t that important because I would have only Beached for one card, which probably wouldn’t have mattered much. Still, a mistake is a mistake.

As the game progresses, I make big Yveltals, and I mean BIG. I stack five or six energy on these guys to make sure I can one-shot Wobbuffet repeatedly. This actually is exactly how the matchup should be played in the early game. I stand by the strategy that I used.

Long story short, I actually pull off the second game as well because of some very smart Battle Compressor plays, and a little luck on my last turn. The matchup is about 55/45 in Yveltal’s favor. People don’t believe me when I say that, and I don’t know why. I think it’s probably because there are only about three people in the world who actually know what to do against Groudon when you play Yveltal.

I was feeling REALLY good now that I was sitting at 3-0-1. However, this is when I started acting atrocious. I walked out off from the match with a couple loud F-bombs and jumped around for a minute as my teammates laughed at my insanity. Victory is a drug that can be hard to find. For someone as addicted as I, it can be hard to contain myself while induced. Fortunately, my play was not very affected at this point. I did have the one mistake against Josh, but other than that, I was playing very well. I am almost certain that I made no other mistakes aside from it.

Round 5 is weird. I face Grafton Roll.

This guy has a long history with evolution decks, so I know that Archeops will probably be the bird that I pay attention to. I win the flip. He starts Zygarde EX, so it might be Zygarde/Vileplume, but it could just as easily be Zygarde/Carbink, or even some rogue deck.

I notice that I can Maxie with the hand, and decide to trust my gut and go for Archeops. With a well-received draw/pass, I start to work on killing this monster of an attacker. Zygarde has been the bane of my existence, giving me multiple ties at Nationals and even a couple losses. I hate the card, but know what to do about it.

Grafton gets to dead-draw for a while, maybe six or seven turns. He can attack a couple times, but does almost nothing. He does bench a Carbink, which gives me a little hint about his deck, but doesn’t tell me anything too big. I end up benching him out after a little while.

Game 2 goes well for him. I honestly don’t remember much from the second game other than losing. Hard.

Game 3 is close. I mean “high school freshmen school dance” close.

The game goes as it should, with me struggling to keep up with Zygarde’s damage output and healing, and Grafton going through the motions of destroying anything I throw at him. Somehow, I end up making him stumble a little and get down to four prizes. My hand consists of a two VS Seeker, and two other cards which ended up being dead. I would guess something like Ultra Ball or Battle Compressor. On the previous turn, I had Junk Hunted to make sure I had access to all of the Dark Patch that I needed. Grafton had N’d them out of my hand. With four cards left in the deck, I know that I need to hit either two Dark Patch, or my last Muscle Band plus a Dark Patch. If I can, I’m going to take the game, winning me the match. I do have two prizes left after this knock out, but I have a VS Seeker to seal the game on my next turn after.

After playing the Seeker for N, there are seven cards in my deck. One is a VS Seeker, 3 of them are Dark Patch, one is Muscle Band, and the last two are dead.

I draw the four cards.

No Dark Patch.

I flip over my three card deck to reveal the three Dark Patch.


I scoop up right there, sign the slip, and storm off. Before I go, I apologize to Grafton because I realize that my reaction was quite rude. He’s a nice guy, and I don’t like making players feel guilty for winning. However, I do explain the story countless times to all my friends and tell them “HOW STUPID MY GAME” was.

NOTE: If somebody could run the stats on what happened, that would be cool. I really want to know what my chances actually were. I do know there were only two combinations of card left in my deck that could make me lose, which were:
Dark Patch
Dark Patch
Dark Patch
Dark Patch
Dark Patch
Muscle Band

Any other combination of cards left in my deck, would leave what I needed to win.

I run around the room, doing my normal eccentric obnoxious routine that half of my friends hate, and the other half love. I’m certainly digressing mentally. Normally it takes people 70 or 80 years – guess it only took me 19.

I’m sitting at 3-1-1 before the next round goes up. A little salty, but VERY confident.

I sit down for Round 5 and notice a Fairy energy and a Psychic in my opponent’s deck as he shuffles. Probably means Rainbow Road. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a bad matchup. If I had to attach a number, it is 55/45 in my favor.

Game one is fun. Getting Maxie on turns one and two is always a good feeling. With a board full of non-EXs and deck stacked full of good cards, I find it hard to imagine losing. The game goes pretty back-and-forth, which very good considering how much less I have to dedicate for the kills. There eventually is a crucial turn where I have to decide between throwing my last VS Seeker on top of my deck or a DCE. I carelessly throw the DCE on top for reasons I can’t recall. Oops.

Now I can’t N on the next turn. Guess that’s game, plus 27 minutes wasted.

Now I can’t really come back for a win. I snap out of my happy, careless, benevolent play, and swap to Israel-Sosa-level speed. I play fast enough to give my finger tips whiplash, in an attempt to possibly pull out the win.

To sum up a blurry combination of decent plays, we end up with Time +3 and I have 1 prize left. I consider scooping up my stuff because I know that I cannot take a knock out on my next turn. For seemingly no reason, my opponent decided to drop three energy on his active Pokemon. Hmm, think I actually win now. Dark Patch, Muscle Band, DCE, Evil Ball… heh. So I guess I get tie from that; cool.
Now I’m sitting at 3-1-2, and I’m feeling pretty lucky. Let’s win out.

For Round 7, I’m against Eels. This is the matchup I am the least confident in, aside from Wobbuffet Accelgor. I know that if my opponent does not play Gallade, I do have a chance by rushing Archeops and using Darkrai as much as I can. My opponent plays his first Compressor to get rid of Gallade, and immediately I know that I need a miracle to make this game into a win. The funny thing is that it actually doesn’t matter a whole lot what happens with my opponent, because I simply dead draw for most of the game. That one turned into a loss pretty quickly.

Game two goes well. Got the turn 1 Archeops, my opponent dead drew a little, and I keep Lab down for most of the game. Took a somewhat slow win, but a win nonetheless.

Game 3 is similar to Game 1, but I try to rush the Archeops as best I can. I even avoid playing Trainers’ Mail any time I can, to maximize my chances of getting Archeops off of a future hand. While I stumble over the brick hands, Mr. Eels gets 3 Eelektric out, and a Gallade. An attempt to two shot Gallade is met with Float Stone and a 7 energy Raikou. GG.

Now I know that I cannot make Top 32 at all. I go into drop mode. My friend TJ convinces me to play the last round to go for the 16 points. Thanks man, now I can lose to another awful matchup. I get SLAMMED by a Rainbow Road player. He did play Xerneas Break though, which is really cool. Shout out to him for that.

So what can we take from this, Phinn?

I’m glad you asked, Phinn. I’ll tell you.

The first thing I realized is that I needed to play two Lysandre. There were five games where I prized my one copy, and there were certainly games where I struggled from a lack of VS Seeker. More Lysandre means more access to VS Seeker, because with just one Lysandre you have to VS Seeker for it more often. Basically, don’t play one Lysandre even if you need to maximize your chances of getting Maxie’s.

The second thing I realized is that Parallel City is still super lame! All of my friends told me to play Parallel, but it was only helpful once. I think even in that situation, I would have won the game. After I put Beach back in, I immediately started getting use out of my third stadium again. I do not understand why Parallel has been such a popular inclusion in this deck; it never does anything for me. I need a counter stadium to Lab, and Beach is the best one for it.

The baby Yveltal is an interesting choice. I faced no Toad Bats decks, and I saw no Toad Bats decks throughout both yesterday and today. The card was in the list simply to benefit the matchup, and to help a little bit against Night March. Not sure if there was a way to know that Toad Bats was going to be smaller than a baby Cleffa, but I am sure that I did not use Oblivion Wing once. I wish the spot was a third BKT Yveltal. I would have been almost as good against Night March, and much better in mirror. More BKT Yveltal is also strong against Rainbow Road, and overall just the Pokemon you want to start with in pretty much every matchup.

Deck list aside, I realized that I need to contain myself when I am excited. These tournaments may be the best thing in my life, but I need to remember to stay focused so that I can keep them fun. Losing while having fun is not as fun as winning while being a little more serious about the game. I’m mostly saying this when thinking about the match against Rainbow Road where I could have won the first game. Never get cocky or careless when you play; make every play feel game-deciding because it really is, in many cases.

I also think I was too afraid of Greninja. I saw that it had won, so I tried to focus the deck on getting Archeops a little more than I needed to.

With that experience behind me, I have adjusted my list to this:

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