The End That Marks the Beginning: The Conclusion of the Player's Cup and the Start of the 20-21 Season
Hello Flipside readers and happy September! This month is always reminiscent of new beginnings as some of us return to school or transition out of the summer. It is also the time when the yearly rotation hits the Pokemon TCG and the next competitive season begins. That said, the 2020-21 season is upon us, and despite the freeze on live events due to the global pandemic, there has been no shortage of tournaments. The Players Cup, an official TPCi run online circuit, came to a conclusion this weekend as the top 16 battled it out all weekend in our newest standard format (Team Up - Darkness Ablaze). Today we are going to look at four of the top placing decks and discuss how this new meta is going to be moving forward. Let’s go!
I applaud the players who prepared well for this tournament because the meta seemed to be a moving target. Unlike a large regional, this event only had 16 players who had to compete in several weeks of tournaments prior in the previous format to earn a spot at this invitational. This means a high skill cap, but also a certain degree of uncertainty when it comes to competing in a new format. Also, with only 16 decks in the meta pool, each player had to be careful to select a deck that can hold its own in different matchups and not just against the perceived best deck. Preparation was key here and it ultimately paid off for the two highest placing decks.
Looking at the tournament meta from a broad lens, we saw many of the most expected decks get played. Unsurprisingly, ADPZ took up almost 40% of the meta with 6 players playing the deck. Following it was Eternatus VMAX, a new front runner from Darkness Ablaze, which had about a 25% meta share with 4 players playing the deck. The rest of the format consisted of other different archetypes like LucMetal Zacian, Centiskorch VMAX, Inteleon VMAX, and even a rogue Decidueye/Obstagoon deck. Overall, the meta was more or less close to what was expected with a few interesting twists.
Speaking of twits, we saw LucMetal Zacian tear through both sides of the bracket and take both spots in the grand finals - despite Eternatus VMAX and ADPZ making up almost 65% of the meta. We also saw Tord Reklev show up with an unusual deck to snatch a top 4 placement for the tournament. To see how exactly these twists happened, let’s take a look at the top 4 placing decks from the tournament.
Lucario Melmetal Zacian (AKA LucMetal Zacian)
About the list
As previously mentioned, this deck took both first and second place in the Players Cup by Jack Millar and Matthew Burris respectively using the same 60 cards. In a format where swinging for heavy numbers in the early turns is the norm, it is interesting to see a defensive deck like this outperform the meta by just taking hits and chipping away at your opponent’s Pokemon. This deck aims to use Lucario Melmetal’s GX attack “Full Metal Wall” to reduce damage done to all metal Pokemon by 30. This combined with Metal Goggles can reduce damage up to 60 which is actually very impactful when considering how high HP even regular V Pokemon have to begin with.
This deck also incorporates several “barrier” Pokemon that take advantage of the meta. Zamazenta V has a special ability that prevents it from taking damage from Pokemon VMAX. As you can imagine with the release of many VMAX in the format, this pokemon can be useful for putting pressure on your opponent’s VMAX pokemon and can even make some matchups unwinnable if they are without a good answer to this card. In the same vein, we saw an inclusion of TEU Bronzong who’s ability prevents itself from taking damage from fire Pokemon. All of this combined with the healing from Mallow and Lana made this deck a potent threat and allowed this list to take down the tournament.
About the list:
I’m sure this deck has already been discussed ad nauseum by this point, but this is one of the first builds we have seen of the post rotation format. This is the list that Victor Freitas used to get third in the tournament. In case anyone is unfamiliar with ADPZ gameplan, you aim to use Altered Creation GX to boost the attacks of their pokemon by 30 damage and take an extra prize card for each knockout. You can then use ultimate ray to power up Zacain’s Brave Blade attack in order to close out the game in the next few turns. While most builds we have seen have relied on a very fast and aggressive start that tries to pull off the GX attack for full effect in one turn, this build that Victor decided to go with is much slower and uses Tag Call to search out various pieces of the deck.
This build also features two Zamazenta which we previously discussed can be great for countering VMAX centered decks such as Eternatus or Centiskorch VMAX. This deck also had a few other niche cards teched in to help with different match ups. Giant Bomb is not a card we commonly see in ADP lists but it can be very effective when you need to soften any of the large VMAX pokemon that can KO your ADP after using Altered Creation GX. The deck also played a copy of Red’s Challenge which can be used to search out any piece of the deck while thinning out dead cards from the hand. All in all this was an interesting take on the deck and I look forward to seeing if people adapt this build going forward.
About the list:
You have to appreciate the way Tord Reklev builds decks. This deck has quite a few pieces to find and get its gameplan going and I thought that this list strikes a great balance of those parts. Inteleon VMAX’s Max Bullet is a great attack for setting up multiple knockouts on not only VMAX pokemon but also smaller bench sitters. Frosmoth provides powerful energy acceleration by allowing the player to essentially cheat and attach multiple water energies to their benched water pokemon during their turn. While this can be tricky to navigate at times, the deck has a very efficient engine that allows you to streamline your attacker. My favorite part of this deck is how meaningful the damage to the bench can be from Max Bullet. The extra 60 damage can be used to soften up future attackers, pick off small pokemon for easy prizes, or to set up multiple knockouts in one turn. While it might not seem like much, I find this to be a very refreshing strategy compared to the hit hard and fast decks that the format has to offer.
Anyway, I digress...There is more than just Inteleon VMAX to attack with in this deck. As mentioned in the past two lists, Zamazenta was a huge threat to all the VMAX centric decks in the field. To get around this, Tord made sure to include several alternate attackers that could hit Zamazenta as well as be used to offset prize trading in certain match ups. Lapras V and Suicune both share a similar attack that returns two water energies attached to it after attacking. This can be great to not only get damage on the board but also to have energies to power up new attackers the following turn. Suicune can also be used to get through Decidueye’s “Deep Forest Camo” ability that prevents damage from GX and V Pokemon.
In short, I thought this was one of the most interesting decks in the tournament and I was excited to see Tord place in the top 4 with it. I hope this deck continues to find success in the future and I look forward to testing it more myself.
Meta moving forward:
While rotation did not affect deck building as drastically as it has in the past, there are still changes that we as players are going to have to adapt to. With the current drop in both PikaRom and Baby Blacephalon, we are seeing the meta begin to shift in different directions as players are discovering different decks that are now viable. ADPZ is still widely considered a gatekeeper for many decks, but there have been grumblings of banning it in certain unofficial events so I will be interested to see what becomes of the meta if that were to happen. Assuming nothing changes however, ADPZ will continue to battle Eternatus VMAX for the most played deck in the format. The meta is fairly new and I have a feeling that we will see many big shifts as players figure out how to build certain archetypes and adapt their gameplans to deal with the biggest decks in the format. The decks that we have seen perform well will most likely stay on top while the meta develops, however if people figure out how to revive certain archetypes or discover new ones with the changing meta then I would expect to see big shifts. Until then we will have to wait and see how things develop.
With the Player’s Cup coming to an end, we have to wonder what will be coming next in terms of official tournament play. While we have seen new features added to PTCGO in the form of “Tournament Keys”, we are left to only theorize what TPCi has coming up next. While the Player’s Cup was far from a flawless system, I think it shows promise and hopefully pushes TPCi to prioritize their online client more - especially during this pandemic.
Aside from TPCi, we have seen a rise in indepently run online PTCGO tournaments and I would expect those to continue being popular as this IRL event freeze carries on. Something worth considering is the amount of influence the community has at this moment on the game. Most events are curated independently at this moment and some organizer’s have talked about experimenting with addressing certain problems with the format head on in their own tournament. The biggest case has been banning ADP from tournament play in order to promote diversity in the meta. Whether players are for or against this idea is a different subject, but I think it’s interesting to say the least that these decisions are feasible and could be implemented independent of TPCi. What the fallout will be is up in the air, but we are living in a very unique time and I think it’s wise to at least acknowledge the unique position that the community is in because it could influence the game in different ways.
With everything said, I want to thank you for reading this article! While we are unsure what future events will look like going forward, the Players Cup was a step in the right direction that hopefully will be improved upon as time goes on. For now, I plan to keep testing and participating in the many online tournaments that are available as well as watching to see how the community continues to adapt to this new environment. If you want to keep up with me on social media, you can follow me on twitter @TheSkyPillar. Be sure to check back in to FlipSideGaming.com for more articles as well as your Pokemon TCG product needs. Stay safe out there and I will catch you all next time!
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