More Event Coverage
By Ellis Longhurst, Contributing Writer
For the second consecutive year, the Pokémon International Championships series travelled to Melbourne, Australia for the Oceania International Championships. Across three days of intense competition, hundreds of players battled to be crowned the Pokémon Trading Card Game Oceania International Champion in three divisions. Earning the title included a $10,000 grand prize and 500 Championship Points, enough to automatically qualify for the 2020 Pokémon World Championships.
Historically, players from Europe and North America have dominated the Oceania International Championships—all three of the past winners hailed from one of those two regions. However, continued success was no certainty. This event attracted skilled competitors from around the globe, including those from the North America, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania rating zones who received a Travel Award to Melbourne because of their success at tournaments earlier in the season.
With so much talent in attendance, the stage was set for an exciting event. Read on to find out which players and strategies found success at the 2020 Oceania International Championships.
Exploring a New Format
This year's event came with a couple of twists. For the first time, players could compete in the Standard format using cards from the Pokémon TCG: Sword & Shield expansion. Excitement surrounded the debut of Pokémon V and Pokémon VMax in the competitive scene, as well as the return of powerful draw cards like Professor's Research and Pokémon search options like Quick Ball. These cards promised to shake up the metagame. The challenge for players was to figure out how.
An additional challenge was the reintroduction of a previous game rule: the player who goes first in a game is not allowed to play a Supporter card on his or her opening turn. It's the first time this rule has been in effect at an International Championships event. This meant that decks utilizing Pokémon Abilities—instead of Supporters—to draw cards and set up in the early phases of the game were more prominent. For many players, being able to take advantage of Abilities like Dedenne-GX's Dedechange, Zacian V's Intrepid Sword, or Oranguru's Primate Wisdom could prove the difference between winning and losing.
Intrepid Trainers Kick Off Day 1
Given the hype surrounding the Sword & Shield expansion, it wasn't surprising that the most popular deck at the Oceania International Championships relied upon a Pokémon V. Over 130 players—almost one third of the field—competed using a deck that paired Zacian V with Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX.
Their strategy was to use Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX's Ultimate Ray attack, the Metal Saucer Item card, and Zacian V's Intrepid Sword Ability to flood the field with Energy and start achieving Knock Outs as early as possible. With the damage increase provided by Vitality Band and Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX's Altered Creation-GX attack, Zacian V's Brave Blade can Knock Out most Pokémon-GX and TAG TEAM cards in one hit. As a bonus, Altered Creation-GX allows players to take an extra prize card when they achieve a Knock Out with an attack from any Pokémon in this deck!
Despite being an unproven deck in the Standard format, Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX with Zacian V turned out to be a wise choice for the Oceania International Championships. Nearly half of players who progressed to Day 2 of the competition brought this deck to battle. Of those, Bert Wolters of the Netherlands, Ian Robb of the United States, and Natalie Millar of Australia all managed to secure a place in the Top 8.
New Strategies Unearthed on Day 2
Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX was not the only TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX to dominate at the top tables of this event. Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, and Reshiram & Charizard-GX featured in the vast majority of other decks that progressed to Day 2 of the competition. These decks may seem like old news, but the inclusion of new attackers like Indeedee V, Tapu Koko V, and Victini V have made them more powerful than ever before. Tord Reklev of Norway even piloted his Mewtwo & Mew-GX deck to a place in the Top 8 at the event; in so doing, he and Bert Wolters become the only two players to have placed in the Top 8 in two different Oceania International Championships.
There was one deck that caused concern for even the strongest TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX—the Galarian Obstagoon deck. At first glance, Galarian Obstagoon and its 90-damage Obstruct attack does not appear to be terribly threatening. However, Obstruct also prevents opposing Basic Pokémon from dealing damage to Galarian Obstagoon in return. If your opponent includes only Basic Pokémon in his or her deck, using Obstruct can be a game-winning strategy very quickly. Tim Bartels of Germany was one of only a few players who recognized how effective Galarian Obstagoon could be at the Oceania International Championships; his unique take on the deck carried him all the way to a place in the Top 4 of the competition.
James Williams of Australia went in yet another direction, putting his faith in an unusual strategy. Rather than aim to Knock Out his opponents' Pokémon, James designed his deck to discard all his opponents' cards. With Cinccino's Make Do Ability, it's easy to find the Bellelba & Brycen-Man Supporter card in the deck, which is key to executing James' strategy. Importantly, the deck also includes cards like Lillie's Poke Doll to prevent his opponent from being able to take Prize cards, as well as Oranguru to recycle resources. With this deck, James was tantalizingly close to becoming the first local player to claim the title of Oceania International Champion in the Masters Division. Instead, he had to make do with a place in the Top 4.
Masters Division Final
Despite the best efforts of the disruption decks, it was ultimately TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX that reigned supreme. In the Masters Division final, Nico Alabas of Germany pit his Mewtwo & Mew-GX with Welder deck against Canadian Zach Lesage's Reshiram & Charizard-GX deck. This matchup may seem very familiar—these two decks (albeit from different competitors) also featured in the final of the 2020 Latin America International Championships. In that battle, Reshiram & Charizard-GX was victorious. This time, both decks had access to a little more firepower in the form of Victini V.
The result was a fast-paced series in which neither player could afford to miss a Knock Out on their turn. In the end, it was Nico's masterful use of the Item cards in his deck that made all the difference. In the first game, Nico's Great Catcher trapped Zach's Heatran-GX in the active position. This caused Zach to miss a turn of attack and he fell behind in the Prize race. In the second game, a perfectly timed Reset Stamp left Zach with a two-card hand and lacking the resources he needed to secure a victory. Nico Alabas became the third European player to win the Oceania International Championships in the Masters Division.
Junior and Senior Division Finals
The most talked about deck of the tournament had an opportunity to earn a Championship title in the Junior Division when Lucas Oldale of Canada brought an Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX with Zacian V deck to battle against Pedro Augusto Cavalcanti of Brazil and his Mewtwo & Mew-GX with Malamar deck. Initially, this outcome did not look likely, as Pedro used the new Marnie Supporter card in combination with Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX's Night Watch attack to disrupt Lucas and eventually empty his hand. However, a lucky top deck of his own Marnie allowed Lucas to turn a dire situation into a game-winning position. In the second game, Lucas made a strong case for the inclusion of Absol in every Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX with Zacian V deck when he successfully used Dark Ambition to disrupt Pedro's setup. Lucas went on to dominate the rest of the game and earn himself an International Championship title.
Sobi Kwak of Australia remained Oceania's last hope of crowning a local Champion in the Pokémon TCG. Sobi's Mewtwo & Mew-GX with Malamar deck would need to overcome the Reshiram & Charizard-GX deck piloted by Christian Moreno of the USA in the Senior Division final. Both players delivered a masterclass in how to play their chosen archetypes. They secured one game each and set up a thrilling decider. During the third game, the crowd watched on with bated breath as Sobi pinned his hopes on Marnie and Jirachi's Stellar Wish ability to draw the perfect combination of cards...and he did! Sobi Kwak adds Oceania International Champion in the Senior Division to his growing list of achievements.
Looking Ahead to Germany
The second International Championships of the season is now over, but there's no time to rest. In a couple of months, the Europe International Championships will take place in Berlin, Germany. And of course, more Regional Championships and local events are happening as well.
Be sure to check back at Pokemon.com to follow the latest Pokémon TCG news and updates!