At the 2015 Pokémon TCG World Championships, one winner from each age division will leave Boston with a $25,000 scholarship award, a Travel Award to the 2016 World Championships, and the title of World Champion! But it's a long journey to get there.
To compete in the World Championships, players had to earn an invitation by racking up Championship Points at Play! Pokémon Championship Series events. Over 1,200 TCG players worldwide have qualified this year, potentially making this the largest Worlds tournament to date. And with so many great competitors, it's going to be even tougher to take home the gold.
For a tournament of this magnitude, preparation is more important than ever. Players will spend countless hours testing ideas and trying to come up with the perfect deck to use. Typically, that preparation starts with an analysis of which decks have done well at recent major events. After determining what strategies are likely to be popular, the next step is figuring out how to beat them. Let's go through that process!
After its big showing at the US National Championships, Seismitoad-EX is the card to beat. Whether it's paired with Crobat or Garbodor, this disruptive Pokémon has been dominating tournaments all season with its Quaking Punch attack. At this point, everyone knows that Seismitoad-EX will be popular, so it will affect how players choose their decks.
Several decks will probably fade away due to the prevalence of Seismitoad-EX . For example, strategies that focus on Landorus-EX tend to struggle against the Water-type Seismitoad-EX, so don't expect to see many of those. In addition, any strategy that relies too much on Item cards will be a risky choice, because Quaking Punch shuts those down. That means decks like Night March aren't expected to see much play either.
On the other hand, players can expect to see more decks that counter Seismitoad-EX. Primal Groudon-EX is a popular choice, since its Ω Barrier Ancient Trait provides protection against disruptive Trainer cards such as Hypnotoxic Laser and Crushing Hammer (XY—Kalos Starter Set, 34/39). Other options for taking down Seismitoad-EX are Primal Kyogre-EX and Mega Manectric-EX. Both are high-HP Pokémon that Seismitoad-EX has a hard time dealing with, especially when the Rough Seas Stadium card can heal the damage done by Quaking Punch every turn.
Going a step further, players might consider using a deck to beat the decks that beat Seismitoad-EX. The deck that combined Virizion-EX and Genesect-EX won last year's World Championships, and it might be a sleeper pick for this year's tournament. Primal Groudon-EX and Primal Kyogre-EX both have Weakness to Grass-type Pokémon, so if Genesect-EX has a Muscle Band to pump up its Megalo Cannon attack, that's enough to Knock Out either of the Primal Reversion Pokémon. Mega Manectric-EX is a little trickier to deal with, but G Booster combined with Deoxys-EX's Power Connect Ability gives Genesect-EX the power to attack for 210 damage—just enough for a Knock Out. On top of it all, the Virizion/Genesect deck itself has a great matchup against Seismitoad-EX. Don't be surprised if a few players revisit this old strategy.
Even though Seismitoad-EX was the most successful card at US Nationals, there are several other strategies that players need to keep in mind. For instance, decks focusing on Bronzong and its Metal Links Ability surged in popularity after the ban of Lysandre's Trump Card. The primary attacker for this deck can vary widely, from Dialga-EX to the Colorless-type Mega Rayquaza-EX (XY—Roaring Skies, 76/108). The plan was to use Bronzong's Ability to power up big attackers and eventually overwhelm the opponent, and it was very effective.
The biggest Bronzong deck to emerge at US Nationals was one that used Klinklang. Pokémon-EX have been major players in the Pokémon TCG since their debut in Black & White—Next Destinies, and the Plasma Steel Ability shuts them down hard. Also, most non-EX Pokémon rely on Special Energy cards, so Aegislash-EX perfectly pairs with Klinklang to pick apart many decks. Players who want to use a lot of Pokémon-EX will have to adapt, either by adding more regular Pokémon to their decks or by using Garbodor's Garbotoxin Ability to shut down Plasma Steel.
One under-the-radar deck that could make a splash at Worlds focuses on Keldeo-EX and Blastoise. With the use of Archie's Ace in the Hole, it's possible to get Blastoise into play on the first turn of the game. Then the Deluge Ability can power up Keldeo-EX's Secret Sword attack in one turn, putting on pressure quickly. This strategy is extremely powerful, but it's all or nothing—it needs to fire on all cylinders to succeed.
Raichu didn't have a lot of success at US Nationals, but it did perform well at National Championships in other parts of the world. Since the Sky Field (XY—Roaring Skies, 89/108) Stadium card allows players to have up to 8 Pokémon on their Bench, the Circle Circuit attack can do massive amounts of damage for a low Energy cost. This card might be overlooked heading into the World Championships, but players shouldn't underestimate the mighty Mouse Pokémon.
What About Wailord?
The talk of the town at US Nationals was the Wailord-EX deck. The deck with no Energy was an effective surprise, but most players think it was a one-hit wonder. Now that people have had time to practice, they've figured out how to beat it. And if a deck can't beat Wailord-EX, Bunnelby can fix that easily. The Ω Barrage Ancient Trait allows Bunnelby to use its Rototiller attack twice per turn, meaning its owner should never run out of cards. Plus, it uses Colorless Energy to attack, so any deck can use it.
But it may not be that simple. If the creators of the Wailord-EX deck were innovative enough to come up with the concept, perhaps they'll find a way to make it even better. Some players have added Landorus-EX: as a quick way to Knock Out the pesky Bunnelby, and others have started to include Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym to generate some offense in the deck. The Wailord-EX deck very well may have been a flash in the pan, but dismissing it completely could be a mistake.
After gathering and analyzing all of this information, players are left with one extremely difficult decision: Which deck is the right one to play? With so much on the line, many players won't make a choice until hours (or even minutes!) before the tournament. And thanks to the format of this year's World Championships, there's yet another layer of complexity to that decision.
The Tournament Format
For the first time ever, the World Championships will be a three-day tournament. On the first day, hundreds of players will compete to determine who advances to Day Two of the tournament, and 64 of the world's very best players in each division will join them. On the second day, roughly 128 players in each division will battle all day until only two remain. And on the final day, the new World Champions will be crowned.
If the Wailord-EX deck taught us anything, the next big deck could be out there waiting to be discovered. In the past, we've seen players take the World Championships by storm with creative new ideas that nobody expected. For example, a deck featuring Nidoqueen was a surprise winner at the 2005 World Championships, and a shocking deck built around Team Magma's Groudon dominated the 2004 World Championships. The element of surprise has been a key factor at Worlds many times.
This year, there's a twist—everyone starts fresh on Day Two. All records are wiped clean, and players who advance from the first day can switch to a different deck on the second day. So if players have a surprise deck, will they reveal it on the first day of the tournament? Doing so would give the other players a chance to react and adapt before Day Two. Perhaps it's better to save the surprise and hope to make it past the first day with a different deck.
No matter what happens, it will be interesting to watch how everyone reacts to the results of the first day. Will players try to beat a deck that dominates the first day, or will they stick with the strategy they've already prepared? It's difficult to predict what will happen.
As always, the Pokémon TCG World Championships will be filled with excitement and excellent competition. If you can't attend in person, join us for our live streaming coverage over the three-day event! We'll see you in Boston!