And I'm grindin' 'til I'm tired They say, "You ain't grindin' 'til you tired" So I'm grindin' with my eyes wide Looking to find A way Through the day A life For the night Dear Lord, you've done took so many of my people but I'm just wonderin' why You haven't taken my life? Like what the **** am I doing right? Pre-Worlds Testing: After a disappointing Nationals performance, I was eager to earn an invite I had wrapped up, (for those that are curious, I went 5-4 with Blissey, dropping my premier ranking below the threshold needed to earn an invite). From the moment I returned to Texas, I operated under a very strict testing schedule: a daily ten game minimum. Since I was very much open to testing different decks, yet realized how good Gardevoir/Gallade would be, I split this “quota” into two five game quotas - one for using Gardelade, and another for using other decks. I considered numerous options for my Gardevoir/Gallade list, when I settled upon a very interesting tech combination: Jolteon*/Absol ex. Testing proved that together, they were a superb way to surprise and outplay against the opponent. Many of our longtime readers/experienced new readers are aware of how useful Absol ex is, but let me discuss Jolteon*’s uses a little: -It operates as additional damage to help you score a clinch KO, especially versus mirror. -It “creates” damage out of thin air, whereas damage addition techs such as Pluspower requires you to deal damage. -If you have a Pokemon with ten HP left early game, you can drop Jolteon* to deliberately KO your own Pokemon in order to activate Scramble Energy. These reasons – and so many more – are why Jolteon* was invaluable to me. It never left my regular list, and was removed only in lists that utilized Cessation Crystal. For those who are interested, here were some of my other non-Gardevoir contenders for the Last Chance Qualifier: Ho-Oh/Togekiss Banette Variants Magmortar/Leafeon Empoleon was also under consideration, but never of the “serious” kind. As good of a deck as it may be, I never felt that it had that much of an edge against top-notch Gardelade, and that it was too much of an underdog in a 30-minute scenario (both HUGE grinder concerns). Slowly but surely, I also left behind those other choices. While all of them were fast , strong decks with a considerable ability to outspeed and outluck the opponent, the games that I lost with them were outright awful. Each of them also had their own individual issues (Ho-Oh died to Cessation, Banette wasn’t “too” strong versus Gardelade, and Magleaf dealt horrible hands at times). So, with Gardelade in hand, and tons of experience against some of the best players, here was the list that I used for the Last Chance Qualifier: Pokemon (23): 3 Ralts (Secret Wonders) 1 Ralts (EX: Dragon Frontiers) 2 Kirlia (Secret Wonders) 3 Gardevoir (Secret Wonders) 1 Gardevoir Lv.X (Secret Wonders) 2 Gallade (Secret Wonders) 2 Baltoy (Great Encounters) 2 Claydol (Great Encounters) 1 Chatot (Majestic Dawn) 1 Jolteon* (EX: Power Keepers) 1 Absol ex (EX: Power Keepers) 1 Holon’s Castform (EX: Holon Phantoms) 1 Jirachi ex (EX: Crystal Guardians) 1 Duskull (Diamond and Pearl) 1 Dusknoir (Diamond and Pearl) Trainers (21): 4 Bebe’s Search 4 Rare Candy 4 Roseanne’s Research 3 Team Galactic’s Wager 2 Lake Boundary 2 Warp Point 1 Celio’s Network 1 Night Maintenance Energy (16): 4 Double Rainbow 3 Scramble 4 Call 4 Psychic 1 Cyclone Many may question my lack of counters overall; however, I felt that considering this grinder metagame lacked cessation/beach decks, I was comfortable running this. I was completely happy with what I ran. The grinder field was split into two pods: yellow and blue. So, I and 185 other competitors were ready to duke it out for a mere six spots in the blue pod. Although the odds were against any one person making it in, I felt ready to go at least 6-2 in this event. Round One: VS Laura Lathem (Empoleon/Omastar) Since I played Laura over three years ago, I was familiar with her background as an on-off player/judge and league leader in Ohio. At that tournament (Nationals 2005), I had a relatively good game with her, and I was hoping we would have the same. Anyways, I started Baltoy to her Piplup with her going first. Having no supporters in my hand, I was forced to prematurely bench Ralts “and” Duskull in order to Psychic Balance for one. Apparently I played my odds well, because this led to me drawing a Claydol. From there on out, she evolved Pip to Prin, and issued an Aqua Shower. The following turn I evolved to Claydol and Cosmic Powered into pretty much what I needed (Kirlia), but still could not access the deck. The next turn she is still struggling, but already out and running with a turn three Empoleon Dual splash. I was feeling pretty confident, as she only had a helix fossil benched…Unfortunately, the first time I searched my deck, I found that both Gallades were prized. What a way to start the day! I was content, though, with starting a Psychic Lock swarm, and within three turns, her Empoleon was gone. The turn before its KO, she had misplayed an Absol ex drop versus Psychic Lock, but this fortunately worked heavily in her favor, as I was forced to triple Psychic Lock it. This continued on for a while until I eventually drew into a Gallade; however, the game had progressed to a point where if I broke Lock, then I would be Primal Swirled. This lock continued until the very end – with our prize count at 4-4 (I had called my opponent for play pace) , I simply dropped Absol ex to Curse Eyes and secure a time win. (1-0) Game Two: VS Matt Alvis (Gardevoir/Gallade/Claydol) Matt is a solid player from Illinois who has taken a long break from the game, but has made a strong rebound in the Midwest tournament scene. I would say that he was one of the stronger people I could have faced so early in the event. Anyways, he starts Chatot to my Ralts, with me going first. I get setup very quickly with a turn three Psychic Lock, while he is struggling to get to me. By about turn three or four he has a benched Gallade with Scramble, which I promptly Warp Point out to hit for a clean 80. While a timely Sonic Blade helps him out, I promote Jirachi ex and Shield Beam him to secure my Scramble advantage. With little going his way (his own Jirachi ex was prized), he promoted Chatot, evolved his benched Ralts to a Kirlia, attached Scramble, and passed. I then used Jolteon*’s Yellow Ray to KO the ralts, and then later that turn dropped Lake Boundary to Psychic Lock his Kirlia for game. (2-0) Game Three: VS Michael Stephens (Gardevoir/Gallade/Claydol) Unlike the other two games, my start was poor: both Jolteon* “and” Absol ex in my opening hand. Since I figured Absol ex would be critical late game/a bad ex to open, I chose Jolteon. I attached Call Energy to my opener, and went into overdrive, receiving a turn three claydol. I don’t recall, but I believe he went with Gardevoir, to which I retorted with double Shield Beams. This left him ruined/handless, and forced him to promote Claydol, attach Cessation Crystal, and Spinning Attack me. This doesn’t matter, though, as this two-three turn window of opportunity was enough for me to setup beyond belief. From that point on, I never broke Psychic Lock until the game’s last turn, where I Warp Pointed and scored a final knockout with Hard Feelings for the win. (3-0) Game Four: VS Paul Kingsley (Ho-Oh/Togekiss/Budew) My opponent goes first, opens with Budew…And subsequently confuses me beyond belief. I thought to myself, “Budew???” Unfortunately, I was about to realize just what was behind this… Anyways, he used Budew’s first attack to find a Dusk Ball, and passed. With a Baltoy and not much else in my hand, I was forced to again bench a Pokemon in order to Psychic Balance. His second turn from there proved to be obscene. He played: Two Duskball, receiving a Togepi and Togekiss Two Master Ball, receiving a Ho-Oh and a Togepi …Aaaand then benched them all, rare candied a Togepi to a Kiss, and Serene Graced the second turn of the game going first. Fortunately for me, he only received _three_ energy from his Serene Grace, forcing him to attach them all to Togekiss, as opposed to Ho-Oh. He then promoted the ‘Kiss for what might have been the loss of my Baltoy T2, but again, I was lucky beyond belief and he flipped tails on Scroll, leaving my Baltoy with ten left. This then allowed me to send up a newly-found Jirachi ex, evolve to Claydol, and start going. I continued the power lock from there on out, giving him a window of opportunity later in the game when I had Gallade out, tearing through his setup (I believe he ran no Claydol). Eventually, he promoted a manually-powered ho-oh and hit me for heavy damage. I then Psychic Cut for the KO, and from there, this game suddenly got more interesting: “Will you draw one of your flipped prizes first, or do I flip for Phoenix Turn first?” Unfortunately, neither of us knew the answer. While I was dead-set on grabbing a Ralts (I had two prized this game), he was operating from single-blind logic, knowing that the Phoenix Turn flip “could” affect my choice. So we began to stump judge after judge, until after fifteen minutes they finally ruled that Phoenix Turn came first. I forget the flip, but after that giant time extension, I took firm control of the game with Dusknoir, and never looked back. (4-0) Game Five: VS Daniel Atannasov (T2 Blissey) This was an annoying game that would ultimately result in my single Friday loss. He got out a very fast Cessation Crystal/Crystal Beach lock by around turn one or two. There isn’t much to tell about this game: while I kept it very close, he secured the win by my constant whiffing of my Lake Boundaries. (4-1) Game Six: VS VS Tomas (Gardevoir/Gallade/Claydol) While my setup was not excellent, my mirror strategy was super effective: fast Jirachi ex lock to his turn one Gardevoir, and then later-game Scramble. This worked out beautifully, as he went agro Gallade around turn three-four, and this gave way to a timely Jolteon*/Lake Boundary/Gardevoir play. From there, I safely won the game, never breaking Psychic Lock until the final turn. (5-1) Game Seven: VS “Papa” (I don’t know his first name) Suzuki (Banette/Blissey) This talented older player happened to be the father of two younger Suzukis, one of which would T8 masters two days later. Turns out they were using the exact same list. Anyways, he started with an Ascension to my flailing start. He got out early, but was lacking a fast Banette discard, thus giving me the window of opportunity to hit him for 50 with Psychic Lock without a Spiteful Pain to answer back. The next two turns then illustrated to me why Jolteon* “with” Absol ex was the smartest move I could have made with this list: the turn after I hit for 50, I moved 3 counters from Banette to his benched Shuppet with cursed Eyes, and hit for an overkill-free 60 with Psychic Lock (I attached Castform that turn). Then, rather than promote Chansey, he sent up Shuppet, hoping to get the 110 on me...Unfortunately, he whiffed, so rather than counting on Jolteon*Claydol to score the KO, I was presented with a beautiful opportunity to Jolteon* KO his Shuppet, forced him to send up another Shuppet, and KO’d that one too. Now I was up 5-3. Since I was still very much lacking setup, and stuck with Cessation Lock, his Blissey became a huge pain. Luckily, I had an army of Warp Points and Cyclone left to help me edge out this game. Thanks to Gallade, I scored a KO on his Blissey, but that was immediately met with a KO from his second Banette (his fourth Shuppet). At that point, I had a Dusknoir almost built up, so I sent up Absol ex to give me a little extra time. While this gave me the opportunity I needed to secure the last two prizes, time was called; so rather than get to pull the last two prizes, I received an unfortunate time win. (6-1) Game Eight: VS Luke Reed (Zapdos/Bronzong) Awww man, I’m a little bummed about the pairings, but on the other hand, numerous old friends (Ben Richlin, Alex Brosseau, Robert Weidman, Ross Cawthon, etc) were all at the top tables, so it had to amount to playing versus a friend. Oh well. Anyways, his start screamed “average,” while mine was decent . Thanks to Jirachi ex, I began a turn three power lock, crippling him beyond repair. Although he was able to hit an early Sheet Lightning Flip before the lock, as well as an Energy Removal 2 flip a couple turns later, this was essentially 25 minutes of me power locking, and him finding ways to respond. Both Jolteon* and Absol ex made this a comfortable win, with a Bronzong OHKO to give me early board control, and a Cursed Eyes drop to seal the deal on prizes. (7-1) With a record of 7-1, I comfortably made Day Two of Worlds with an invite in hand. While there was some question if a 7-1 would miss in our pod, Alex Brosseau quickly squashed that notion by beating a Gardelade. For the sake of the readers, here are all of the names of grinder players and decks that earned invites: Yellow Pod: -MK Choy (Gardelade) -Clay Carney (Empoleon/Bronzong) -Brent Siebenkittel (Gardelade) -Mauro Bianchi (Magmortar/Togekiss) -Akita Kazuki (Gardelade) -Kevin Bennett (Eeveelutions) Blue Pod: -Me (Gardelade) -Alex Brosseau (Empoleon/Bronzong) -David Atanassov (Blissey) -Jimmy O’Brien (Empoleon/Bronzong) -Robert Weidman (Empoleon/Bronzong) -Ross Cawthon (Gardelade) Worlds deck choice: GG with Absol ex, Jolteon*, Jirachi ex, and Holon's Castform as techs (same as grinder) Round One: VS Kevin (Plox; win) Round Two: VS Luca (Plox; win) Round Three: VS Mauro (Magkiss; loss) Round Four: VS Lars (Empoleon/Omastar/Cessation; Win) Round Five: VS Karl (Magleaf with 3 Cess/4 Beach/4 Warp Point -___-;;; ; loss) Round Six: VS Ian (Toxicroak/Scizor/electrode with 4 cess/4 beach -___-;;; ; loss) Round Seven: VS Ulysis (Plox; win) Overall: 11-4 record for the weekend, with all four losses due to crystal beach. Step One: 4-3 Step Two: ...??? Step Three: Profit!