Your Guide to Day 1 of the Pokemon World Championship

Hey everyone! Registration for the Pokemon World Championship has just started, and everyone is beginning their preparation for the most important tournament of the year. Since this is the first World Championships back in the new season, a lot of players are likely unfamiliar with the structure of the World Championships since it is very different to all other tournaments. The area of the tournament where these differences are most notable are with Day 1 of the World Championships, as it uses a completely different system to qualify its players into Day 2.



Header - Day 1 Structure

The structure of a normal Pokemon tournament is that, if it has 230 players within that division, there will be an additional day of swiss rounds. The players who make it to the additional day will be either the top 32 players in the standings or all players with at least 19 match points (six wins, two losses, one tie) or better and everyone’s Day 1 score stays with them for Day 2.

However, it’s completely different at Day 1 of the World Championships. In Day 1, all players with an X-2 record will advance to Day 2 and the player’s records do not advance with them. Whenever a player reaches a point where they are guaranteed to have an X-2 record, they’re dropped from the tournament as they are automatically advancing to Day 2. This means that if Day 1 of Worlds is eight rounds, if you start 6-0, you won’t have to play out your remaining rounds as you’re automatically in Day 2 and there is no advantage to playing out the remaining rounds.

This means that there is one goal for those playing in Day 1, which is to make Day 2. There are no championship points on the line for players who get close, like at the North American International Championships where players who lost their win-and-in to get into Day 2 still walked away with top 256 and some championship points. This can change the way you play and the way you prepare in several ways, but most importantly with how you value a tie.


Header - Time is of the Essence

Ties in Day 1 of the World Championships are valued very differently from a regular tournament. While usually you can afford to get a tie in addition to two losses, in Day 1 of Worlds, ties are only relevant if you manage to get three of them without a loss. If you tie while already having a loss, you have essentially gotten another loss.

This significantly decreases the value of a tie compared to normal tournaments and will change the way most players prepare for and play in Day 1 of Worlds. If we had an upcoming Regional Championships in this format, Mewtwo VUNION and Blissey V / Miltank would likely be decks high on player’s radars, but with how likely it is to tie, it becomes significantly less viable for Day 1 of Worlds.

Mewtwo V-Union (Set of 4)Blissey V (183/198)

This also makes players less likely to respect those decks, as they are unlikely to do well in a tournament so punishing to ties. It becomes more important to play an aggressive deck which can win a quick Game 3, like Mew VMAX or Palkia VSTAR. This was especially apparent in Day 1 of the 2019 World Championships where Malamar FLI was the most played deck in Day 1 but had a poor conversion rate into Day 2, in large part due to many players tying in the mirror match.

Malamar (51/131)

It’s important to consider the time remaining while playing your rounds as well, conceding games quickly becomes very important to give yourself more time to play out a full Game 3. It also becomes incredibly important to take more risks instead of settling for a tie, it’s very common to see players play defensively while in extra turns if they believe they have a low chance to win the round and will do things like keeping their board clear of multi-Prize Pokemon. While this gives them no chance to win a longer game, in certain situations it will guarantee that they walk away with a tie for the round. In Day 1 of Worlds, making concessions like that will be incredibly rare, as taking risks to walk away with a win become more beneficial. You might not take a line which has a five percent chance to win over a line which has a 100 percent chance to tie in a regular tournament, but that is often the best strategy for Day 1 of the World Championships.


Header - Keeping Secrets

A big factor at play in Day 1 of Worlds is that several of the top ranked players in the world aren’t even playing in it, they have a direct bye into Day 2. This creates an interesting dynamic as the players directly in Day 2 often will want to keep their deck hidden for when they start playing. We have seen this in the past, with Pidgeotto Control at the 2019 World Championships being nowhere to be found in Day 1 but played by several top American players in Day 2. Because of this, most players in Day 1 don’t tend to take risks with their deck choice, either for comfort or to protect their teammate’s secret deck.

However, there are sometimes surprises present in Day 1 but these tend to be very rare. The one instance of this I can remember is at the 2018 World Championships where several groups of players (including me) brought a single-Prize Buzzwole FLI/ Garbodor GRI deck with Shrine of Punishment. This worked well both as a surprise deck and an aggressive deck, so it was the perfect choice for Day 1,

Buzzwole (77/131)Garbodor (51/145)Shrine of Punishment (143/168)

Discovering a deck like that is incredibly rare though, and to my knowledge has only occurred once in the five World Championships held in this structure. Most players in Day 1 will stick to the well-known aggressive decks from that season. This year I would expect most of your opponents to be playing Mew VMAX, Palkia VSTAR or an Arceus VSTAR variant so it’s important to have a game plan for all three of those.

Mew VMAX (269/264)Origin Forme Palkia VSTAR (208/189)Arceus VSTAR (184/172)

Day 1 is an interesting field in terms of the level of players to expect. I think it’s significantly harder than Day 1 of a Regional Championships but slightly easier than Day 2 of a Regional. You won’t play against any newer players or someone who isn’t very practiced – I would expect most of your opponents to be very committed players. I also wouldn’t expect to play against many weird decks, most players will be trying their hardest to win.

At NAIC, I played against several Regigigas decks and a Darkrai VSTAR deck in Day 1, but I wouldn’t count on that to happen at the World Championships. However, this is also true in Day 2 of a Regional Championships. At Day 2 of a Regionals, I would expect most of my opponents to be highly practiced players playing competitive decks, but you also have the chance of running into players who are qualified straight into Day 2 of Worlds, while this cannot happen in Day 1. Overall, I would expect many testing groups to keep their decks hidden for Day 2, and aggressive decks to make up a majority of the field.


Header - Conclusion

Day 1 of the Pokemon World Championships is a very different tournament to prepare for than most others and comes with different priorities than a regular tournament. There is only one goal: to get an X-2 record and qualify for Day 2 of the World Championships. Day 1 requires unique preparation, avoiding ties is imperative and you can likely bank on most players bringing tried and true decks. Thank you for reading and good luck with your Worlds testing!

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