Hello readers! The Pokemon TCG World Championship is right around the corner, and I could not be more excited. I’m writing this article as I wait in the airport for my flight home to Chicago. I was hanging out with my main testing group and friends on the East Coast, both having a good time and playing some Pokémon now and then too.
Worlds is always a special time of year. I imagine most players competing in Worlds this year will have accumulated some points before COVID, and likely have competed in Worlds before, but either way, I hope to shed some light on some things to keep in mind before an important tournament. I’ll also cover what decks I expect to see at Worlds and the Open, as well as lists for my top two decks I’m heavily considering for Day 1.
Before you get started, if you are unfamiliar with the Worlds structure, check out Natalie’s article from late last month, which covers the structure and some other talking points about tournament preparation.
It’s now less than a week until the tournament; what should you be worrying about? Most of your deck preparation has already been done, and now you’re wrestling with the final cards in your deck list or even debating two or more decks to play. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years.
Deck choice and deck list optimization
- Don’t feel the need to come up with the most insane deck that beats everything. Often, these decks sacrifice consistency or matchups towards unexpected decks (Arceus/Duraludon, Miltank, Regigigas) that you might face, especially in the Open. The counter decks likely don’t even have auto-wins vs. what you are trying to counter. Arceus/Inteleon, Palkia and Mew can steal games against their supposed bad matchups.
- Any meta deck can make it through Day 1 or do well enough in the Open to net Championship points. Meta decks are in the meta for a reason; they have some good matchups and some bad matchups. Hitting enough good matchups with enough luck will get you a solid finish.
- Playing a deck that you know is more important than playing the “broken” deck. A common mistake I’ve made in the past is switching last minute to a deck that I was unfamiliar with but had the best matchups on paper for the expected meta. In those tournaments, I didn’t do all that well because I made mistakes throughout the day, even losing a match or two to my supposed good matchups. In my most successful season, 2016 to 2017, I quite exclusively played Mega Gardevoir and Espeon/Garbodor.
- Innovation over invention. This ties into the “don’t build a deck that explicitly counters two-thirds of meta decks.” An appropriate way to shake up your deck is to find ways to improve it in ways that people might have missed. An example is the shift to four Battle VIP Pass in Palkia, played by Isaiah Bradner and crew at NAIC. Another innovation is Bird Keeper and Starly/Roxanne/Path in Dialga to flip the Mew matchup.
Universal keys to success
- Get a solid night of sleep before the tournament so that you’re focused. The extra time spent practicing a matchup or fiddling between the final card in a list is not worth the loss of sleep.
- Pack a snack to eat between rounds. It’s likely that there’s a lunch break during the tournament, but the later rounds are the most grueling, and there will not be a break then.
- Take time to clear your head to between rounds, especially after a loss. I like to walk around the tournament hall or sit outside for a few minutes.
What I’ve written above can be best summarized as don’t overthink things. If you’ve done some preparation, that’s what you should trust!
An important component of deck list optimization is predicting the meta. NAIC is the best representation we have because there haven’t been any tournaments with the new Pokémon GO set. Even so, the tournament should be a somewhat accurate representation of the overall meta. Breaking down the Top 16 decks from NAIC, there were eight Palkia, seven Arceus variants (six Inteleon, one Bibarel), and one Mewtwo V-Union. Obviously, people will play decks other than these three. However, it paints a clear message: Arceus variants and Palkia are the decks to beat.
If we scroll down the Limitless page, we come across many more decks. A Vikavolt variant, Blissey, Regigigas, Dialga, Urshifu, Ice Rider/Palkia and loads of Mews populate the rest of standings. These are also viable decks, but certainly aren’t ones you should expect to hit more than one of, if any, during your tournament, besides Mew. More on that.
Mew is a strange one; it’s incredibly played, a decent number of them make Day 2 and then they fill the bottom half of Day 2 standings. This has been the case with most American tournaments – I know that Mew performed well in Bremen, and perhaps well in other regions as well. Anyway, Mew is not a deck that does particularly well, but you will likely face at least one in your tournament. I’d expect a lower percentage on Day 2 of Worlds, simply because most top players dislike Mew.
The big question to think of is how the Pokemon GO set will shake up the meta. Other authors have written about this: most recently, Stéphane’s Radiant Charizard deck. If you scroll back a few pages, there are deck profiles on Melmetal VMAX, LunaSol and Mewtwo VSTAR. Of these, I’d be most concerned with Radiant Charizard and previously established decks that make use of Pokéstop. Blissey and Regigigas that can make use of Pokéstop because they fuel from discarded Energy. Radiant Charizard isn’t super splash-able into anything besides Arceus/Inteleon, but can be powerful as its own deck, replacing the traditional Galarian Moltres/Inteleon archetype in past set’s formats.
My expected meta for Day 1 of Worlds is two Arceus/Inteleon, one Arceus/Bibarel, two Palkia, one Mew and two wildcards. Of these wildcards, I’d expect one deck to one to be Arceus, Palkia or Mew, and one to be something different. This is because some people will be concealing their secret deck for Day 2, but also because these are the most popular meta decks. Many people enjoy playing their Arceus and Mew decks. Palkia is the BDIF. It follows that these will be the most popular.
Here are the two decks I’m considering for Day 1: Dialga and Palkia. It’s no secret that I love Dialga, so obviously that would be one of my choices. The other choice, Palkia, is one that I think I can safely go 6-2 with if I don’t hit too many counters. I’m slightly worried that everyone will be prepared for Palkia, but the deck is strong enough that I don’t expect it to flop, even if people are prepared.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 14 * 1 Starly DAA 145 * 2 Crobat V SHF 44 * 1 Dialga CEL 20 * 2 Origin Forme Dialga V ASR 113 * 1 Zacian V SSH 195 * 2 Origin Forme Dialga VSTAR ASR 114 * 4 Mew CEL 11 * 1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46 ##Trainer Cards - 35 * 4 Metal Saucer SSH 170 * 1 Avery CRE 130 * 2 Training Court RCL 169 * 3 Ultra Ball PLB 90 * 3 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 3 Bird Keeper DAA 159 * 4 Quick Ball FST 237 * 1 Roxanne ASR 150 * 1 Air Balloon SSH 156 * 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Energy Switch BLW 94 * 1 Hisuian Heavy Ball ASR 146 * 1 Path to the Peak CRE 148 * 2 Energy Search BLW 93 * 4 Trekking Shoes ASR 156 ##Energy - 11 * 11 Metal Energy Energy 8 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
The list here is slightly different than the one I wrote about last month. The notable changes are dropping Rowlet, Pumpkaboo and an Avery for Air Balloon, a Trekking Shoes and Ultra Ball. I’ve decided to cut back a bit on the techs and instead opt for more traditional turbo cards. Rowlet was useful vs. Palkia but wasn’t pulling its weight. Air Balloon is an add-back-in like Escape Rope, but lets you pivot Zacian reliably against Arceus in the early game. Pumpkaboo is strong, but realistically only against Arceus variants, which I can alleviate by adding another copy of Trekking Shoes. Finally, you only need one copy of Avery, and I found that the third Ultra Ball is a luxury I sorely missed with only two copies.
If you want to read more about the matchups, check out the article I wrote last month. The main points in each matchup haven’t changed.
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ****** ##Pokémon - 17 * 1 Galarian Zigzagoon SSH 117 * 1 Manaphy BRS 41 * 3 Origin Forme Palkia V ASR 39 * 1 Radiant Greninja ASR 46 * 3 Sobble CRE 41 * 3 Drizzile SSH 56 * 1 Inteleon SSH 58 * 1 Inteleon CRE 43 * 3 Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR ASR 40 ##Trainer Cards - 36 * 3 Evolution Incense SSH 163 * 1 Training Court RCL 169 * 1 Boss's Orders RCL 154 * 4 Cross Switcher FST 230 * 1 Echoing Horn CRE 136 * 3 Quick Ball FST 237 * 1 Melony CRE 146 * 1 Roxanne ASR 150 * 2 Level Ball BST 129 * 3 Scoop Up Net RCL 165 * 1 Choice Belt BRS 135 * 4 Battle VIP Pass FST 225 * 1 Marnie CPA 56 * 1 Hisuian Heavy Ball ASR 146 * 4 Irida ASR 147 * 1 Path to the Peak CRE 148 * 3 Capacious Bucket RCL 156 * 1 Pal Pad FLF 92 ##Energy - 7 * 7 Water Energy Energy 3 Total Cards - 60 ****** Deck List Generated by the Pokémon TCG Online www.pokemon.com/TCGO ******
There are no surprises here. The Palkia list Isaiah and the group came up with is the list I like the most, and that hasn’t changed. The one change I’ve made to the list is dropping Pal Pad for Quick Shooting Inteleon. This change is good against random things that can appear like Miltank and Regigigas.
Isaiah wrote a great article about Palkia which you can read about here.
Keep a level head when it comes to making last-minute decisions about your deck choice for Worlds and the Open. It’s more important to stick with what you know than the supposed best deck. I wouldn’t expect anything super spicy on Day 1, especially since the number of invites for Day 2 players was greatly extended relative to past years.
I’m excited to compete again, even though I was just short of getting a Day 2 invitation. Even if I miss, I’ll have the pleasure of trying to defend my title at the Open!