City Championship Tournament Reflections (Part 7/7)

As promised from my last entry, I will conclude the City Championship report arc with a few seemingly miscellaneous, yet totally-relevant issues…

#1: Why Did I Drop Out of My Last City Championship?

    Reason #1: Ratings. For those who aren’t aware, one of the major battlegrounds to determine World Championship invites is the ELO ratings and rankings system. Essentially, the premise behind it is that if you win games, then your rating goes up; if you lose games, your rating goes down. The catch, however, is that the higher your rating gets, the harder it is to earn points: you are given less for playing low-rated players. While this system makes a great deal of sense in a game of pure skill, it is imperfect in a game such as Pokemon, where luck can and will be a huge factor. Many, such as Ian F. (“NoPoke”), have proposed a ‘Bayesian luck modifier’ to accommodate this luck variance, which has recently picked up some steam in the community.

    However, the true issue with ELO is not its direction application to a luck-based game; instead, it’s due to its consequences. Since it’s possible to lose very big points even when making top cut, players have been known to “drop” from events, either upon swiss’s conclusion, or even earlier. My drop, motivated by ratings, was based for all of the following sub-reasons…

*High-risk/low gain. Had I taken losses in the top eight or even top four, my gains on the day would have completely evaporated. This was not the case at any prior event I had played, where my rating had not achieved a high enough status to warrant such drops.

* The round one bye watered down my rating gain relative to my record on the day. Even at “5-1,” the reality was that all I had were five rated matches, which was a big reason why the “high-risk” point became an issue.

*I had to stop the bleeding. I felt throughout much of the day that my playing was not as sharp as it should have been, and – given the shaky side effects I had from my Ambien the night before – I was certain that I’d have trouble with a top cut. Furthermore, I’ve been constantly complaining about the issues in my list, which I felt would have ultimately caught up with me in top four or top two.

    Reason #2: I didn’t want to play anymore for that day. For many of us competitive players, it’s easy to get too wrapped up into things, but at the end of the day, you play the game for fun, and you don’t play it when you don’t see prospect of fun. I simply wasn’t thrilled with the idea of playing for what could’ve been at least three more hours, having to switch venues away from the library it was being held at, fighting the rat race for a title I definitely didn’t need, and – most importantly – losing the rest of my afternoon.

 Also, with Cameron and Alex F. in the top cut, I was eager to maybe see one of them take the title after our rivalries this season. While that didn’t happen, I would have been an immediate barrier to Alex’s shots of pulling off the win, as I was to be paired with him in top eight had I not dropped.

    Would it have been cool to pull off a fifth win in a row? Yes. Was it possible to do it? Most certainly, especially in hindsight…But did it really matter?

No, not really. Say what you will, but I think that between this and the ratings, I had some rock-solid reasons to not play anymore. These two, in addition to emergencies, constitute the main reasons why people ever really drop from events, or why they don’t attend them at all.
With just five tournaments, I stand at an extremely comfortable 1777 ELO. Unfortunately, Play! Pokemon’s rankings are unavailable, but by conservative estimates, that puts me in the top thirty-ranked North American players. Granted, that isn’t enough by itself to achieve a Worlds invite, but all it takes at this point is a solid showing at States, Regionals, Nationals, or a combination of the three.

#2: What was the Metagame like?

As I said in my previous post, I was able to find out the main contents of 34 of 37 decks from the event. They were:
Luxchomp x5
Vilegar x4
Gyarados x3
Tyranitar Prime x3
“Speed Gengar” x2
Scizor x2
Steelix x2
Donphan x2
Magnezone x2
Shuppet donk
“Random dark deck”
“Random water deck”
 (Unaccounted for x3)

Think the metagame for this event looks really spread out? So do I.

Between the “big four” (Luxchomp, Dialgachomp, Vilegar, Gyarados), we saw somewhat-reasonable representation. However, one could easily make the claim that these four decks were underrepresented: considering that Dialgachomp was the darling of last week’s Cities all over the country, and considering that Luxchomp is the winningest deck of the whole season, it’s somewhat wild that they were only played in quantities of one and five, respectively. Most shocking to me this whole season is how unpopular the former is in the Dallas area…In a field of fifty (Plano), only two people used it, and in a field of forty (Dallas), only I did! But yeah, take it however you will that only a third of the field was the big four: do you think this was a good thing, or a bad thing?

Regarding the other duplicate decks, we see some surprises. The “speed Gengars” were basically more classic versions of Gengar, featuring Crobat G, Poke Turn, Mewtwos, and Nidoqueen to go for aggressive kills. Also represented were two Scizor decks, two Steelix decks (one of which directly inspired by the marathon), and…Three Tyranitar? I didn’t see that coming at all, but when you think about it, it makes some sense if players are wanting to go “rogue,” yet still want an easy Vilegar game. Assuming you can get your SP matchup down, this thing can be pretty nice to use. Last of all, we had some surprise amounts of Donphan and Magnezone, which I don’t feel I can really explain. Given all of the Gengar, the one Dialgachomp, the Steelix, the Scizor, and even some of those rogue decks I listed at the bottom, Donphan just didn’t seem like a good play at all.

Last of all, we have some of the zany rogue decks. I don’t think I need to explain the “random” decks too much – they’re just prolific among new players, are a step above theme decks, and barring the best events, always going to show up in some quantity. The Blazechomp seemed like it had certain advantages in a metagame like this, but didn’t look like too great of a choice compared to Luxchomp, Dialgachomp, or even some Sableye variant. Charizard, Vespiqueen, Shuppet donk, and Mamoswine…Have their own issues.

But that Kyogre deck? That was my brother, who deliberately wanted to use something rogue for this event. While it didn’t go so well for him, sometimes you do things not because it’s the optimal move; sometimes you do them because they’ll maximize your interest in the game. And while I did my best to discourage him from playing it, sometimes you just have to cede when a man’s just trying to have fun with his critters. That's what the game is about, after all.

Here were the top nine decks in the field, both before and after my drop…First, the “after” seeding:

Top Eight:

1st Seed: Cameron H. (Luxchomp/ERL) VS 8th: Chris (Blazechomp)
4th:  Ron (Vilegar) VS 5th: Michael (Tyranitar)
2nd Seed: Robert O. (Gyarados) VS 7th: Matt S. (Vilegar)
3rd: Desmond E. (Luxchomp) VS 6th: Alex F. (Steelix)

Top Four:

1st Seed: Cameron H. (Luxchomp/ERL) VS 5th Seed: Michael (Tyranitar)
2nd Seed: Robert O. (Gyarados) VS 3rd Seed: Desmond E. (Luxchomp)


5th Michael (Tyranitar) VS 3rd Desmond (Luxchomp)

Some commentary:

*I’m obviously not surprised at all about Cameron and Alex doing well: they’ve succeeded all season, so it doesn’t surprise me a bit that their decks – no matter what they’d play – would make it into cut.

*Thanks to finally choosing a deck that works for him, Robert has gone from a low success season to two consecutive top cuts. By relinquishing rogue, and instead playing a very solid Gyarados list (feat. Black Belt and other slick plays), he was actually able to survive against his rough Vilegar matchup.

*While I predicted Luxchomp taking the event after I left, I was surprised to see that Desmond’s did instead of Cameron’s. What’s in his list, and what carried him to the end? That I can’t tell you: I haven’t  played against him yet this season.

*With better bracket placement, I feel like Ron’s 2-1 Mewtwo would have carried him to some very easy wins against any of the SP that cut. Could he have won the whole thing? Perhaps, but all I know is that getting Tyranitar Prime in the first round of cut is about the worst thing that could have happened to him.

*Perhaps the biggest thing that surprised me was Michael’s rebound after losing to me. If I recall correctly, he took a loss right after that game, and then won every game until the finals of the whole tournament…And with a Tyranitar Prime deck? WOW!

*Matt Shepherd, who’s been trying to get back into the game lately, saw his first top cot since he started back up at Tom Bean. His list is good, and he’s even taken down a well-known name in the process (Martin), but one thing or another has led him to just not quite getting there. Today changed things for him, though.

*And last up is Chris, whose unorthodox Blazechomp build would have bubbled had I not dropped. Perhaps due to his Looker’s and colorless techs, he was able to bring Cameron to a third game, but ultimately, he couldn’t get past Cam.

The ultimate upset for this event was Cameron losing to the Tyranitar, which ought to get steamrolled by Luxchomp in most games. However, Michael’s high draw and search counts helped him persevere and destroy.

Now, my decision to drop severely screwed up the natural order of things. Had I been a 4-2 with high resistance, it wouldn’t have been quite as bad…But because I was second seed, it shifted the whole bracket (sans Cameron) up a spot, thus radically changing the matchups. Here’s what would have been had I not dropped:

Universe B

1st Seed: Cameron H. (Luxchomp/ERL) VS 8th: Matt S. (Vilegar)

4th: Desmond E. (Luxchomp) VS 5th: Ron (Vilegar)

2nd Seed: John K. (Dialgachomp) VS 7th: Alex F. (Steelix)

3rd: Robert O. (Gyarados) VS 6th Michael (Tyranitar)

Alex and I both knew that I had the edge in our would-be matchup…But that definitely didn’t mean that I had a decisive edge for the next cut round after that. My prediction is that Robert would have beaten me in top four…Which, given his past tournaments, would have meant a rating nosebleed. From there, it would have been a toss-up; however, I get the vibe that Vilegar would have won the whole event, given the fact that it has several  natural advantages versus Gyarados (sans time), as well as the 2-1 Mewtwo factor. If Desmond did not run a counter, then I feel this is definitely what would have happened, and so – despite the time disadvantage Vilegar is constantly put at – he would have persevered for a legitimate win in the event.

#3: Ultimately, What Went Right (and Wrong) for Cities?

As previously stated, I went a 31-4 record: an absurd count to go by any means, and a number that could even defy variance.
So first, I’ll start with some of the things that went well:

*I used reliable decks. I had the urge to use some pretty far-out decks, but in the end, I “cratered,” going back to SP every time. At the moment, I’m not comfortable with how any other deck plays out, and so feel almost obliged to stick with SP. This opinion may very well change come States, what with the arrival of Lost World and all, but for this period of the season…Consistency was the way to go, and SP is what brought it.

*I made a successful deck switch halfway through cities in order to account for the changing metagame. While the end result of my two lists were far from anything that could be considered “perfect,” my  life became so much easier when it was Dialga doing the dirty work for some matchups in place of Luxray GL and Garchomp C.

*Simply put, I got lucky. Every tournament I used Luxchomp, I – without fail – had at least one game every event where I would go  up against the grass deck of the week, which tends to have a very, very rough game against Luxchomp (my opponent in Tom Bean admitted this quite openly). And even if my Dialga switch was a good metagame choice, the fact that I was pairing against Yanmega and Tyranitar so much prove just how much of a lucksack I can be. Some of my play-testing friends would be very quick to decry these matchups as “soft,” and they may be right on the mark.

*I definitely made some good plays across these five tournaments, and knew my SP mirror match very well by this point. Regardless of where you're playing, if you don't know your SP matchup, then you're going to sink fast.

However, I can’t possibly keep patting myself on the back…After all, I did lose four games, and let three potential wins slip away due to convincing myself to drop. Let’s consider where I could have improved upon:

*Regarding my swiss loss at College Station, TX, with Luxchomp (read Part 2): while Double Power Spray is a terrible situation to get stuck against, I admittedly could have made one or two tweaks to my list at this event that would have made it better. The extra Crobat G was entirely unnecessary, and could have easily been  a 4th Call Energy, a 3rd Power Spray, or something better that would have advanced my mirror hopes.

(Moral of the story: every space is crucial, so make them all count.)

*Regarding my swiss loss at Tom Bean…There’s nothing reasonable I could have done for that at all. When you run four Call Energy and fifteen basics, it is beyond absurd to get first-turned by an opposing Garchomp C.
(Moral of the story: don’t get worked up – you’re bound to lose some games for less-than-desirable reasons that are largely out of your control.)

 *Regarding my swiss loss at Plano, I should have been on plans within plans within plans in order to recover that match. (specifically, one of my decisions for Aaron’s Collection was very sub-par). Had I done that, I probably would have won even in spite of the horrid hand. A slightly different deck tweak would have been sufficient, as well.

(Moral of the story: even seemingly “minor” misplays can make a world’s difference. If you want to improve, then you need to consider where all you went wrong, and how much you can improve it. The tighter your playing is, the further you’ll advance/ There are MANY players I know who are too proud to admit that they make mistakes…And because they’re too proud to admit it, they’ll never get what they want done in this game. So please, don’t be this player, and start being open about your mistakes to people instead of saying “oh, I got unlucky.”)

*For the Dallas tournament, I should have just run Luxchomp with 1-1 Dialga…Seriously, that’s all I needed to do in order to win this event. While some fringe matchups (Donphan) would have become worse for me, it would have been at the gain of greater consistency, a probable win against Cameron H., and wins in every match of the top cut. I felt that good about Luxchomp in hindsight, but it was still valuable insight to see what a different take on Dialga could do.

(Moral of the story: if your purpose is to win, then play the deck that you know gives you the best shot at it; if you want to learn something new or have fun, then feel free to get outside of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a little – i.e., switching SP variants.)

 So while I did some things right, I also did some things wrong, too – it's natural, and it's human. However, in spite of this, at least one loss was outside of my control for the most part, so I was deliberately leading my more careful readers on when I suggested I could have turned 31-4 into a 38-0…Sorry! 


In Conclusion…

  I’d like to thank everyone for reading this entry, and I’d ESPECIALLY like to thank everyone who read this entire tournament report arc from the beginning. Next time, I intend to shift gears into less dense, more concise discussions, so If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear about them on the boards. We have a busy month ahead of us…

‘Til next time,