Friday, January 01, 2016

Pokemon TCG City Championships 2015-2016: Loves Park, IL

The following is an interview with Nick Foltz, who won the 2015 Pokémon TCG City Championship in Loves Park, IL (Standard format) with an Entei deck:

Where are you from, and how did you get into playing the Pokémon TCG?
I am from Rockford, IL and spent my formative years living in Loves Park (a neighboring city). It was very exciting to bring home the gold in my hometown. I'm an old man in Poke-years (28) so I actually played (non-competitively) during the Base Set days. I took about a 15-year hiatus before regaining an interest in the game thanks to the children in the after-school program I run. What started as a joke amongst me and a few friends has become a fun way to spend time together and travel around in hopes of earning an invite to the 2016 World Championships.

What made you choose to use this deck for this tournament?
It was sort of a last minute call-I had some success the prior weekend with an original deck of mine, Toad/Zoroark, netting me a second place finish in Tecumseh, MI, so that seemed like the safe play, but as I walked through the play area I noticed a lot of Night March being written out on deck lists, and Entei pretty well crushes Night March thanks to Assault Vest, so I figured I'd give it a go.

What's the basic idea of the Entei deck?
The goal is to quickly draw through your deck with item draw and Scorched Earth, discarding Fire energy along the way to fuel Blacksmith. By attaching a DCE, using Blacksmith, and attaching two Muscle Bands (thanks to Entei's Theta Double Ancient Trait) you're able to use Heat Tackle for 170 damage on the first turn more often than not. Conversely, if the matchup calls for a more conservative, defensive style, you can opt to attach Assault Vest and use Entei's Flame Screen attack, which reduces your opponent's attack by 30, plus another 40-80 from the Assault Vest cards if they have a Special Energy Card attached.

What were some of the other Pokémon in your deck, and what were they used for?
Besides the four Entei, the deck only plays a single copy of Charizard EX (FFI 12) and three Shaymin EX. As mentioned before, the deck relies on drawing as many cards as possible in order to maintain a steady stream of Blacksmith throughout the game, and no card does that better than Shaymin EX. The Charizard EX is more or less a “last resort” card when setup doesn’t go as planned, and functions as a less versatile version of Entei. It's able to do 170 damage like Entei, but only requires one Muscle Band. Unfortunately, Charizard EX’s Combustion Blast can't be used the following turn, plus it gives two prizes when KO'ed because it's an EX.

In the Top 8 match, you ended up having to play a sudden death match to resolve game one. What led to that, and how did you approach the single-prize game?
The Head Judge, Chris Dreksler, always “accuses” me of keeping his tournaments interesting, and once again I did not disappoint. I was facing a straight Mega Manectric EX deck, which, in my opinion, is not a great matchup for me-Rough Seas messes with my math as I'm not able to efficiently slow down their attacks with Heat Tackle/Assault Vest, and I'm not able get OHKOs because of its massive 210 HP. He had one remaining prize on the board, compared to me with two. My last Entei had incurred 120 damage but was fortunately fully powered up to do 170 damage with its two Muscle Bands. I played Lysandre to bring up his Hoopa EX, used Heat Tackle for 170, effectively KO'ing it and earning my final two prizes. Unfortunately, when Heat Tackle is used you must flip a coin: If tails you do 30 damage to yourself. Naturally, I flipped tails, causing a double KO. This sent us into a one-prize sudden death, with the winner of that match being declared the winner of game one.

In the actual Sudden Death, there wasn't really any way for me to strategize for the match as I started lone Shaymin EX while he had a Manectric EX. He attached twice while I essentially drew-passed, and thanks to Shaymin's Lightning Weakness, I was quickly taken out and put in a 0-1 hole. Fortunately, I was able to win the two other games and advance.

What worked well for the deck in the tournament overall?
Just about everything worked well during the tournament. I was able to effectively manipulate the two very powerful tools in the deck to optimize each specific matchup. I faced a lot of non-EX decks that rely on DCE to attack (three Night March and a Raichu/Crobat), so Assault Vest does an incredible job of forcing those decks to two-hit KO while only receiving one prize.

Are there any changes you might make to improve it?
I think I made a fairly optimal version of the deck for the given meta. Should Seismitoad EX become more popular (as I already witnessed the following day), there are a couple items I may cut in order to maximize the cards I can effectively use under item lock, such as a fourth Scorched Earth and a fourth Blacksmith. I've also heard of players using a Parallel City to minimize Seismitoad's damage output (which seems pretty clever to me) as well. It all comes down to reading your meta properly.

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