It’s been almost two full weeks since the conclusion of what is probably the biggest Pokemon TCG event in Malaysia for at least a decade. I had the absolute blast of a privilege to provide commentary for the Rainbow Wing stream alongside Darren and Malik during that awesome weekend, and here I am with a special Aaron’s Choice where I will go over the Top 5 centerpieces of the Malaysian Regional Championship 2017.
A summary of the event can be found here inclusive of a detailed deck breakdown as well as fun facts for the weekend.
#5 The People
So we know the event was big, but do we know exactly how big? 151 players big!
Attendance at Malaysian events have skyrocketed in recent months, with League Challenges this quarter so far easily in the average 50+ player mark since January, and there are at least 4 active leagues within just the Klang Valley area; a testament to how quickly the game has grown. The turnout to Regionals 2017 was no surprise to most – even as a cap of 128 Masters had been imposed due to venue constraints, it didn’t stop a huge number of players hoping to do a walk-in registration and many more had further enquired via online channels on more slots for the event.
A total of 134 Masters, 9 Seniors, and 8 Juniors participated in what is now probably the single largest Pokemon TCG event in recent memory. Nationalities were diverse as well, with at least 8 countries being represented, even from as far as the Middle East and North America.
At the rate it has been progressing, perhaps another tournament of this scale a year from now could break the 200-player mark?
#4 The tech of the weekend – Espeon EX
We know Decidueye/Vileplume is one of – if not the – best deck in format. While our stream was treated to Decidueye versus other decks, the Grand Final was the first time we had a pseudo-Decidueye mirror. But why pseudo?
That’s because while eventual champion Kaiwen Cabbabe went with the traditional DeciPlume deck, his opponent, finalist Lim Jit Min, ran Decidueye without the somewhat traditional Vileplume line – and instead included other key cards and Big Basics to supplement Decidueye GX (i.e. Decidueye Toolbox).
Yet while their decks differed (and you can catch the matchup right here) there was one special card in common: Espeon EX (BREAKPoint #52).
Why is Espeon EX a good card in Decidueye-based decks? Two words: efficient knockouts. Let’s take an example where you are playing DeciPlume in a mirror match (i.e. against another DeciPlume). Both you and your opponent are playing monstrously huge 240HP GX main attackers. Even if you have four Decidueye GX in play to deal 80 damage via four Feather Arrow Abilities, you will still need four full turns concentrating all damage onto ONE Decidueye GX to take a KO – ignoring damage from other sources, of course. But let’s take into account what exactly is the Stage 1 of the evolution line of this bulky GX Pokemon – Dartrix. This little guy has only 80HP. Which means either four total Feather Arrow or a Razor Leaf attack from Decidueye GX is adequate to efficiently ‘activate’ Espeon EX’s Miraculous Shine, which devolves each Pokemon on your opponent’s side of the field. Time this right, and you could easily swing the tempo of the game to your favour and take multiple knockouts in a row.
As much as I would like to explain more about this card, for just this one time I implore you to check out the video of the finals to see for yourself the power that this once-forgotten Eeveelution packs especially in a spread deck like Decidueye. No spoilers from me!
#3 The Atmosphere
Running both the TCG Regionals and the VGC Regionals concurrently created a setting that Malaysians had probably not had in years. Sure, the overlapping sounds and agenda may have been messy, but in essence the local Pokemon scene could not have asked for a richer experience if it had the chance to.
There’s really not much to divulge further here, but if you were lucky enough to be there at the venue during the course of the weekend, you would probably know what I mean. Perhaps the next event will be as exhilarating if not better, eh?
#2 The Meta
The run-up to Regionals 2017 saw Malaysians swing from between decks very naturally. DeciPlume, Mega Rayquaza, Mega Mewtwo, Volcanion, Quad Lapras, and Turbo Dark had all seen play from the weeks since the Melbourne International Championships. A detailed breakdown of the recent popular decks can be found here (shoutout and credits to Malik for impressive data and analyses on the events, including Regionals!).
So what showed up at Quill City Mall Kuala Lumpur on the 6th of May? Our initial thought was that the Mega decks – both Ray and Mewtwo – had somehow showed up in much larger numbers than we had expected (we even mentioned this during the livestream). As the rounds progressed on Day 1 it became much clearer that while there were more Mega decks than usual, most of the field was by and large the trinity of the format – Volcanion (23), DeciPlume (16; with an additional 4 non-Plume Decidueye variants), and Turbo Darkrai (15), to be exact. In total there had been 14 (yes, FOURTEEN) notable archetypes present, with another 10 decks classified as ‘Others’. Diversity indeed!
Yet what transpired in the end in terms of conversion into Top 16 places was an insight quite unique in its own right: out of 23 Volcanion decks, only 2 made it into a Top 16 spot – a poor 8.7% conversion rate. DeciPlume on the other hand nailed 4 Top 16 places from 16 – a whopping 25%! One can only assume that while Volc would have been the best play on paper for MY Regs 2017, a run of sticky and tricky match-ups against other much more powerful anti-Volc decks (like Mega Mewtwo) and/or a field of well-prepared Decidueye GX players collectively ripped the most represented deck to shreds.
#1 The Finals
Intense. Engaging. Nail-biting. A slight fizzle at the end. Everything you could ask for (and not) out of a 75-minute BO3 finals, all here for you to enjoy.
In the end Australia’s Kaiwen Cabbabe snagged home the Regional Champion title, and we have for you an exclusive interview with the man himself:
Exclusive Interview with Regional Champion Kaiwen Cabbabe
- First up, something not TCG related at all. How would you say was your overall experience playing in what is now Malaysia’s largest Pokemon TCG event in the last decade or so?Playing in Malaysia was incredible! I have a lot of really great friends in the Malaysian and Singaporean communities so I really felt comfortable and welcomed to play. The community also seems very inclusive, which is a real asset when it comes to bringing new players in and keeping old players and I saw that pretty clearly before and after the event. Also, the event overall (besides the start) was run smoothly and the judges were very friendly throughout the day (Bert, Aaron, Athavan fam). Every opponent and person I met throughout the two days showed reverence and subservience which really illustrates the true quality of the SEA Pokemon community.
- Decidueye/Vileplume has been the ultimate deck of the PRC-SUM format thus far. While we are aware you played Mega Gardevoir at the Melbourne Internationals, why and when did you decide to switch to the deck that eventually won you this tournament?After internationals, I reviewed my mentality defining the ‘best deck’ and why I was unable to break a top 64 finish at the tournament. I always want to play the best deck and classify the best deck by three main components: consistency, lack of contradictions and autowins. At the international, I concluded from my theory that Gardevoir was the best deck due to its ability to utilise cards such as Shaymin EX and Hoopa EX (the most powerful Pokemon in the game) as engine cards as well as consistency cards. So while most decks would want to utilise more copies of these cards, they just couldn’t with a limiting bench space, a problem which Gardevoir fixed. It also had no contradictions between card interactions, whereas a card like Garbodor or Vileplume limit yourself from making more plays so your inherent ceiling would be lower as you wouldn’t be able to do everything you’d want to do. Lastly, I thought that Gardevoir had a lot of potential of drawing certain combinations of cards that would just autowin you the game. Such as versus Darkrai if you’re able to draw a Kukui+Sky Field+discard 7 turn you ‘basically’ won since you’d be so far ahead.Unfortunately, my analysis had a few problems. The percentage of autowin-capable hands were simply too low in Gardevoir to have a significant impact to gain ‘free wins’ and being combo-based the deck drew many unfavourable combinations of trainers. I found myself drawing hands where I was able to get my engine going with an ultra ball, but with so many Shaymin draws digging for more resources, mis-matched combinations meant that I had to discard valuable extra resources such as VS Seeker, Sky Fields and extra supporters which I would’ve liked to have late game.
After that event, I went back to the drawing board and saw the potential of Decidueye/Vileplume, a deck that I originally wrote off due to it conflicting with my inherent thought that it has too many contradictions after Vileplume is setup. However, I quickly realised that it doesn’t matter how much your own ceiling is lowered, as long as your opponents is also lowered by a larger amount you’re going to have a huge advantage. I also realised that whilst Decidueye’s consistency is rather iffy at times (you will lose to yourself more often than you will lose to your opponent), the percentage of getting a turn 1 Vileplume+Decidueye or even just a turn 1 Vileplume is worth the sacrifice of some consistency to gain a much higher autowin percentage.
From this realisation, I almost exclusively (with the little time I do have to play the game) tested different versions of Decidueye and ultimately decided to play a rainbow variant with Jolteon EX, Beedrill EX, Lugia EX and Espeon EX as techs as i figured that each tech would help me gain significant advantages against matchups that mitigate the autowin potential of my deck. For example, in the mirror you lose that autowin advantage since you both play for the same autowins, but Espeon EX adds to your ceiling thus giving you an advantage. Same thing for Jolteon EX against Volcanion and Darkrai and Beedrill EX against Mega decks and Garbodor.
- Who would you say was your ultimate opponent at the entire event?I definitely think my top 8 match against Jason Yong was probably one of the most stressful, but also one of the best matches of Pokemon I have ever played. I was playing for my invite and we got to a game 3 situation where I had a Shaymin EX on the bench with 60 damage and he had access to two Decidueye GX after I used Espeon EX’s Miraculous Shine to devolve his other two Decidueye GX’s. He promoted a Dartrix and read its attack and suddenly shaked with excitement. He evolved into two Decidueye GX and announced both Feather Arrows onto my Shaymin and tried to use Dartrix’s attack to deal 20 to a bench Pokemon, but he couldn’t since he evolved which was a mistake on his part. I had to dodge a Lysandre out for the game and I believe he had one left in a very thin deck, so I was very fortunate to have come out of that game alive. I honestly thought my tournament run was over after he evolved into a fourth Decidueye GX towards the end of the game. Jason is a fantastic player and definitely worthy of the title of a former National Champion and I wish him the best of luck going for his invite this season.
- What was the key card from your deck that you felt swung your matches to wins – especially in the mirror matches – and what was a card (from your deck as well) you had doubts on as you entered into the tournament?Espeon EX was without a doubt the best card I played over the weekend. It won me almost all my mirrors and really swung the matchup around. I don’t think it is a surprise that the two finalists at the event, myself and Jit Min, ran Espeon in our lists as it is just a huge difference maker in the mirror. Dealing 60 to a Decidueye rather than 240 is massive in mitigating the amount of turns needed in order to close out a game. It also adds the ability to make ridiculous comebacks in the mirror as you can just blow up your opponents board as the game wears on, especially after hitting them with a late game N.It also helped me against mega decks, where I would combo Beedrill EX with Espeon EX to continually devolve my opponents mega so that they’d be stuck in a constant loop of evolving without doing anything. I remember my round 5 game against Hafizuddin Mohamed where he exploded turn 1 with Rayquaza, almost playing 75% of his deck and setting up two M Rayquaza EX. I was able to lock him and use Beedrill to scrapper his tools and followed up with Espeon which just locked him in a situation where if he attacked with Rayquaza’s second attack he would risk decking out and discarding useful supporters which he cant get back due to item lock, or he would have to skip turns mega evolving in which I’d just loop him with Espeon continually.
I had no doubts about any card coming into the event, since I was quite certain that all my cards would carry weight for me.
- As someone who also clinched a Worlds invite from the Regionals, where would you say a casual player should improve on if they feel the desire to play competitively?I believe that the game is heavily based around your fundamentals. If your fundamentals are strong, you won’t have a problem. I always like to emphasise that currently, the way Pokemon is heading based on cards being released, technical play does not gain you as much as building the best list (best list does not mean most consistent, means best for the meta). If you go into a tournament and play technically correct in every scenario, it doesn’t necessarily win you any given game because there are so many factors that you must consider at any given time. Your play might not be 100% perfect since you don’t know your opponents hand, your opponent might play 100% perfectly so you’re both basically playing a ‘who draws better game’ etc. If you, however, have the ‘best deck’ in the room, that’s a concrete advantage that no one can topple. I think if you get deck building right, you REALLY get it right whilst in comparison if you get technical play right you still might not reap the benefits due to chance. Nonetheless, technical play is still important but to a lesser extent, in my opinion. So my advice is, get good at deckbuilding, and find another person/team of people with the same motivations as you to talk to about the game. Group testing and discussion is very helpful 🙂
- Final thoughts?Wanna give a shoutout to my testing group Honor Roll, brainchild of Kenny Wisdom and a great think tank, and especially to members Travis Nunlist for the motivation and Ethan Bateson for the extensive theorymon. Special shoutout to Clifton Goh since the list I played is also his list we have been testing together online for the past month. These guys are basically the catalyst for all my lists and ideas for what I play for events, so I want to give them credit for the win too 🙂
Thanks guys and I’ll see everyone at worlds!
So there you have it! The five key highlights of Malaysia Regionals 2017. The videos to the live stream can be found here.
Thank you very much for following The Rainbow Wing, and we hope you enjoyed the read and coverage. Feedback and comments are always welcomed, so keep them coming.
This is Aaron, signing off.