The North American International Championship took place this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. I was a little sorry that I was unable to attend due to multiple other conflicts as it is only two hours up I 71 for me. Unfortunately, I was driving in the other direction. This was the largest tournament ever – I don’t know the exact number but I know it was more than 1500 Masters division players. I had attended both of the previous largest tournaments in Collinsville earlier this year and NAIC in Indianapolis a year and a week ago. If they had it the same weekend as Indy a year ago, I would have been able to keep my streak alive and attended each of the top three tournaments ever.
But anyways, going into the tournament, the talk was focused on the big three archetypes:
- Zoroark GX and whatever you happen to have laying around to throw in a deck
- The Squids and whatever Psychic Pokemon you have laying around to throw in a deck
- Buzzwole (oh yeah and maybe a couple of copies of Buzzwole GX too… eh but maybe just one might be all you need)
Personally, I thought people were crazy for playing Zoroark GX. I had actually stopped counting Zoroark GX as a meta deck until about the third week of last month when I kept hearing people talk about it in preparation of NAIC. I couldn’t help but wondering if they might have forgotten about the big ol’ Protein Shake when they were discussing Zoroark and its possibilities. I just shook my head and quickly disregarded any conversation regarding Zoroark. How could you possibly play Zoroark GX with so much Buzzwole (Baby and Big Daddy) running around?
The answer was brilliantly simple: tech in Weakness Policy.
D’OH! I saw that in the first match Friday morning and instantly realized I had completely missed the boat on that. Buzzwole decks were unabashedly, blatantly (and in hindsight erroneously) refusing to play Field Blowers. I remember looking at either Wisconsin or Sheffield and NONE of the Buzzwole decks carried even a single copy of Leaf Blower. I’ll bet they’re going to start teching them in now though.
You know an idea is good when you wish that you had thought of it. I haven’t played Zoroark much in the past couple of weeks. I played it once week before last because I had a dark deck challenge on PTCGO, and I faced two Buzz decks in the three games I played.
But clearly now with the addition of Weakness Policy – coupled with the hubris of Buzzwole players choosing NOT to carry Field Blower – Zoroark GX is playable again, and it resumed its place as the BDIF.
Zoroark something decks comprised twenty out of the top 64 decks. Buzzwole made up 22 out of the top 64, and the Squids (Malamar FLI something) were nine of the top 64. Here’s a list of all of the top 64 decks from ptcgstats.com:
Here’s the top eight though:
- Stephane Ivanoff – Zoroark GX Garbodor (both)
- Tord Reklev – Zoroark GX Control
- Jimmy Pendarvis – Zoropod (Zoroark GX Golisopod GX)
- Adam Hawkins – Malamar Psychic Toolbox
- Ryan Antonucci – Zoroark GX Lycanroc GX
- Edward Kuang – Malamar Ultra Necrozma GX
- Fabien Pujol – Zoroark GX Garbodor
- Aaron Tarbell – Yveltal Break Hoopa SHL
So I’m wondering where all the Buzzwole went!?!?! Sixteen of the top 32 decks in Mexico City – just two weeks eariler – were Buzzwole, five of the top eight. Sheffield – the week before Mexico City – had three Buzzwole in the top eight (Tord played Buzzwole!). Madison: a whopping eleven of the top thirteen.
Columbus: goose egg. Nada. Nil. Ingenting (as Tord would say).
The other big surprise of the weekend was that there were actually FOUR Yveltal Break decks in the top 64, and one even made top eight. How does that happen? How does a card go completely unnoticed and then put four in the top 64 in the last open tournament of the season? I tried Yveltal Break some months ago and never got past mediocrity with it. I can’t wait to see some of the decklists to see what they did with those lists.
There were some Hoopa SHL decks (again, not exactly sure how they survived Buzzwole but I bet they did great against the Zoroark decks that weren’t running Garbotoxin Garbodor). Although I will say that the first match streamed Saturday morning was a Hoopa match, and I came away from that game thinking, “Wow that deck is REALLY good at getting ties. Hoopa is definitely making a case for playing tournament matches on PTCGO and not IRL.” I would recommend skipping that first match on the twitch stream on Saturday’s broadcast, I felt like that was about an hour of my life I’ll never get back again.
And I would definitely check out the matches on twitch, there were a LOT of really good matches on that stream… that Hoopa match just wasn’t one of them. The final was somewhat one sided. The first match was close, but then Tord had a Greninja hand (BTW ZERO Greninja decks in the top sixty four) in game two and BKP Garbodor did its Garbotoxin thing to Zoroark, shutting him down and forcing him to pass for two or three consecutive turns, powerless to do anything to improve his situation. I could see exactly what was happening, I did the same thing to a Zoroark player in Collinsville. They rely so heavily on Trade that when they can’t use it, their development completely grinds to a halt.
That Zoroark Garbodor deck was one that had gotten some attention in the weeks leading up to Columbus. I watched a couple of videos where the youtubers piloting the deck struggled somewhat with its clunkiness. I think it requires a significant amount of tactical prowess to figure out the archetype – the commentator mentioned that there’s a checklist you have to go through before turning Garbotoxin on, and I think that’s a big part of it. You have to play this deck A LOT to get familiar with how it works and how to successfully navigate it. It might just be the most difficult archetype to play right now, but it certainly rewarded Stephane Ivanoff with a huge win this weekend.