The inaugural North American International Championships has concluded at the Indiana Convention Center, wrapping up the largest—and one of the most exciting—Pokémon competitions ever. On the Pokémon TCG side there was a lot of hyping going into the event, with top players from around the world expected to play. And if previous tournaments were any indication, the action was sure to be wild and unpredictable.
Junior Division Champion
Junior Division Runner-Up
It all turned out to be true: the star-studded competition featured an unparalleled assortment of high-potential decks. Spectators at the event and watching the livestreams were treated to some the best Pokémon TCG action in memory. For two full days, the one goal everyone shared was to play their last match on Sunday.
When the battles finally began on Day 3, it was the Junior Division kicking off the action. The first match featured Regan Retzloff and his colorful Xerneas deck versus Jared Chapman and his Greninja BREAK deck. Jared got off to a hot start with a well-timed Water Duplicates attack, letting him quickly fill his Bench with Frogadier. From there, it wasn't long before his Greninja BREAK was picking off Regan's vulnerable Benched Shaymin-EX.
The second match was a dramatic shift, with Regan getting going fairly quickly, while Jared had to hang on for several turns before getting to full strength. It ended up being too little, too late—Regan kept the pressure on to tie the match at one game apiece.
The third and decisive game was much more balanced. Regan set up well, but struggled to get Xerneas into the Active position. Jared was unable to capitalize, however, and as soon as Regan started striking with Xerneas' Rainbow Force attack, it was game over. Congratulations to Regan Retzloff as our first Junior Division International Champion!
Senior Division Champion
Senior Division Runner-Up
Quickly after the Junior Division Champion was determined, it was the Senior Division's turn to crown a winner. This was a true highlight event, featuring former World Champion Rowan Stavenow and his Garbodor deck against Oceania International Champion Michael Long with his Greninja BREAK deck. It took quite a while for the action to heat up in their first game—it was clear that both players were playing it cautious and waiting for the right moment to get aggressive. Rowan was able to effectively shut down Michael's Giant Water Shuriken attacks by using well-timed Hex Maniacs or via Foul Play to copy the effects of Greninja's Shadow Stitching attack. But Rowan struggled to do serious damage and began to run thin on the cards he needed. Eventually Michael was able to use Lysandre to choose his targets and start knocking out Rowan's Pokémon at will to win the first game.
Michael began the second game with Staryu, highlighting an uncommon aspect of his deck. Few Greninja decks include Staryu and Starmie, but they turned out to be huge. Starmie's Space Beacon Ability can help keep Energy flowing and Giant Water Shuriken going turn after turn. But first Michael had to weather the possibility of the lowly Staryu getting Knocked Out early for a quick loss. His concern wouldn't last long, as Michael quickly filled his Bench with Greninja. Rowan could never quite get his footing and Michael was able to execute his Greninja deck to perfection, picking off Rowan's Benched Pokémon and putting together quality direct attacks with Greninja BREAK. In the end, Michael Long picked up his second victory, as well as his second title as International Champion.
Masters Division Champion
Masters Division Runner-Up
Finally, it was the Masters Division's turn to take the stage. John Kettler and his Decidueye-GX /Vileplume deck faced off against Norway National Champion Tord Reklev and his Drampa-GX/Garbodor deck. Between the inability to play Item cards thanks to John's Vileplume, and the locking out of Abilities due to Tord's Garbodor, this match was certain to be interesting. As expected, the first match quickly turned into a chess match, with players having limited options and looking for any opening. Tord slowly built up an arsenal of Tapu Lele-GX on his Bench, and used Supporters effectively to circumvent Vileplume's Irritating Pollen Ability. Soon, the sheer force of Tapu Lele-GX and its Energy Drive attack was able to push Tord over the finish line.
In the second round, Tord found more success with Garbodor. But this time, it was the other Garbodor featuring the Trashalanche attack, taking advantage of all the Item cards John had played. Knowing that Irritating Pollen could soon be in effect, both players tried to empty their hands of Item cards early on. That played right into Tord's strategy, allowing him to hit early and often with the Trash Heap Pokémon. It was a brilliant performance by Tord, demonstrating the keen intellect necessary to claim the title of North American International Champion.
If the action we witnessed at the North American International Championships are any indication, we're in for an incredible World Championships when they kick off in Anaheim, California this August. Look forward to seeing our champions and many more of the world's top players battling it out.
Congratulations to all of our competitors at the largest Pokémon live event ever! And keep checking Pokemon.com for information on the upcoming 2018 Championship Series!