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Recapping PCIV, Prepping for the Swiss Rounds & Pablo’s Best Decks

Recapping PCIV, Prepping for the Swiss Rounds & Pablo's Best Decks

Hello Pro members! The qualifying phase for Players Cup IV just concluded and boy what a ride it was. With the announcement by Pokemon about a Swiss-style tournament for the Regional Qualifiers, along with extra cash prizes for the Players Cup Finals, you all knew going into this that the Tournament Keys would be harder and more brutal than the previous iterations of the tournament.

I decided to do the 50 Keys 50 Decks challenge once again for this Players Cup IV, as it provides quite a challenge in terms of skill to pilot 50 different decks and qualify with them. The excitement of 50 different strategies being showcased, along with the luck and variance that comes into play in these best-of-one elimination tournaments made this a great but stressful experience for me. I started out with just six points out of nine Keys. Hardly the two points per Key average that is ideal to “guarantee” qualification (no region requires this, but it’s what you should always aim for to be in a very comfortable spot no matter what).

After those nine Keys though, I went on a rampaging streak where I achieved 76 points out of the next 40 Keys, achieving almost the ideal two points per Key ratio, but with 40 different decks. I am very proud of this achievement and if I had started with that momentum, I might’ve even achieved a higher point total than the previous season (90). Regardless, I attained my goal of qualifying, which I’m happy to say would be incredibly easy otherwise if I simply focused on playing one or two meta decks which is what the players ranked at the very top usually do. Our very own Mike Fouchet from the Trashalanche podcast finished first place in North America and tied first place globally with Tord Reklev, both players focusing primarily on one deck only.

I personally felt a huge increase in the level of skill from my opponents, whereas in the previous tournaments the first round might’ve featured non meta decks, this time around I only remember two instances out of the fifty Keys where that happened and pretty much every round featured a top deck, albeit with quirky inclusions in lists sometimes. From the people I’ve talked to, they mentioned they felt the increase in competitiveness as well throughout the Tournament Keys.

Playing 50 decks was sure to lead to many surprising results and just like last season, you had some very interesting decks do well, whilst top archetypes failed to perform. This doesn’t mean these less popular decks are hidden gems though. Rather, it shows how much variance comes into play in the Tournament Keys and how skill does play a role in the game as it can help compensate for a less powerful strategy if you are minimizing mistakes and misplays throughout the games (plus a little bit of luck of course).

The decks I managed to win Keys with, were the following:

  • Eternatus VMAX: No surprise at this one, anything less than a finals would’ve been disappointing.
  • Psychic Mewtwo & Mew-GX: Again, this deck is a strong tier one archetype that has consistently shown its strength.
  • Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX / Gengar & Mimikyu-GX: A very surprising deck, given how it relies on opponent’s hands for early game damage but just as Psychic M3w, shows the strength of the underrated Horror House GX.
  • Salamence VMAX: I understand if you had to read that one again. Yes, Salamence VMAX took a win out of nowhere, as I gracefully dodged Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks in the three rounds. I honestly really enjoyed playing this deck and wish it were more competitively viable.
  • Pikachu & Zekrom-GX: Another unsurprising five-pointer, as the deck continues to perform and is arguably the best deck in the format.
  • Spiritomb: This one wasn’t as surprising as Salamence VMAX, but still not the result I expected. However, it turns out that Escape Rope really puts the deck on the map and managing to get eight damage counters in a single turn on a Spiritomb can be broken.
  • Whimsicott: Our own Alex Schemanske mentioned this deck as a sleeper pick with all the Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Urshifu VMAX decks going around, so I was pleasantly surprised to find his hope on the deck very justified. Great metagame call for sure.
  • Centiskorch VMAX: Even though Centiskorch VMAX is often overshadowed lately by Victini VMAX, the deck still felt very strong and versatile, and the lack of damage cap compared to Victini VMAX was very important for the Key that I used this deck for.

The Regional Qualifiers will take place on June 19 for all four regions and thankfully the structure for these is now up to nine Swiss rounds instead of the previous double-elimination format. you don’t know any details yet as of writing this article, as to where the tournament will be held or what changes will entail, but you should find out soon. The Top 16 players in each region will advance to the corresponding Regional Finals. Assuming a best-of-three format, it will be interesting to see how potential draws come into play and if round timers are enforced more strictly than in previous Players Cup Regional tournaments which were essentially untimed events.

Just as I expected the Key tournaments to be the most competitive out of all Players Cups so far, I think the Regional Qualifiers will follow suit. In past tournaments, there have been quite a few no shows in the early rounds and higher qualified people enjoyed a small advantage by having a bye or two in the first rounds. However, with the increase in prizes I assume most people will show up to play on the day of the event, along with the better tournament structure playing a role in being a more attractive experience for anyone to dedicate their day to.

Adequately preparing for the Swiss portion of the tournament will be very important and I cannot emphasize enough how I expect timers to be stricter, essentially simulating a Regional or International tournament with nine best-of-three Swiss rounds. Whilst playing online I can tell a lot of players are slower with their decisions, as everything else is automated, giving you more time to plan out your plays and focus on the decision-making aspect of each turn. However, tying too many rounds will likely leave you without any chance to make Top 16 and advance to the Regional finals.

Also, the newest set, Chilling Reign, comes out on PTCGO just two days before the Regional Qualifiers, meaning the ladder won’t be a good place to test and refine the last techs or slots of your decklist, as you’ll start to encounter cards that aren’t relevant to the tournament. Making sure you have a group of friends or playtesting partners to test will be more crucial than ever for the toughest Players Cup yet.

Alongside a good group of players to play with, the online tournament scene is arguably one of the best places to practice as well. The tournaments are exploding in attendance, popularity, and skill. The best-of-one Swiss structure adds variance to the daily cups but playing in them should provide a very good testing ground to see if your deck can perform but also, they can be a good test of endurance and focus as they do take a lot of time to be completed. If you expect to do well in the Online Regional Qualifiers, at the very least you’ll be playing for nine hours, one for each round and when you factor in downtime between rounds, it could easily be a 12-hour day of playing competitive Pokemon TCG at the highest level.

As far as the metagame goes, the Team UpBattle Styles format seems well figured out and our weekly power rankings proves this, but it is rare that you see a new inclusion in them. Usually, it can be a new variant of a deck, such as Galarian Rapidash V being included in Victini VMAX decks or Mewtwo & Mew-GX being combined with Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, however, the top decks remain essentially unchanged.

At the time this article is being written and will be published, there will be a little under three weeks for the Regional Qualifier. What I will be doing and recommend doing is choosing a deck right now, today, as you are reading this article and stick with it for the next two weeks. Honing it, figuring out all the ins and outs and intricacies of matchups.

For example, if you chose Spiritomb as your deck, make sure you figure out all the perfect sequencing to maximize the damage counter placement on them based on the outs you have (Bird Keeper, Switch, Escape Rope, Hiding Energy, Scoop Up Net). Or if you chose a Welder-based deck such as Tempozard, it’s essential to figure out your best course of action to decide the order of your attackers (Reshiram & Charizard-GX, Cramorant V or Blacephalon) along with the sequencing to maximize your Jirachi’s Stellar Wish and Dedenne-GX’s Dedechange to help secure a Welder for turn.

I’m personally leaning towards Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX / Zacian V or Eternatus VMAX for my deck of choice for the Qualifier. I went with the former for the first Players Cup, and I botched my “win-and-in” into the Finals, which I was very disappointed in myself for. The deck also took me to Top 8 of the Pokemon Online Global 2020 tournament in August, so I’m seriously considering giving it another run as I’m expecting Players Cup V to feature the next format post-rotation, so this might be its last time to shine in the global scene.

As of today, this is the list that has been working well for me so far:

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