Winter Challenge Tourney at Nagoya - Report, pictures & info on Japanese metagame!

Discussion in 'Feature Articles' started by Tego, Nov 25, 2007.

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  1. Tego

    Tego New Member

    Today I went to the first Pokémon TCG "Winter Challenge" ever held in Japan (and the world, for that sake), in Nagoya.

    Winter Challenge Nagoya
    Sunday, November 25
    Nagoya, Japan

    The Winter Challenges are a new series of major events in Japan, and meant to fill up the long space between the Summer Battle Roads/Summer Champion's League and the Spring Battle Roads/Spring Champion's League. If you're already lost by now, I will explain it in detail:

    Battle Road Spring
    There are about 8 of these tournaments each year, from mid-March to early April, and they're held all over Japan. Or, to be precise, in 6 different areas of Japan. Some of the more densely populated areas in Japan can have GIANT Battle Roads. For two areas in Japan, this means that they have two Battle Roads for the area. These two areas are the Kansai area (where I live, and where you can find such cities as Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto all very close to each other) and the area of Kanto (where you find Tokyo, 'nuff said :p). Each Battle Road selects a Junior, Senior and Master champion. The Battle Road Spring Winners gain entry to the Spring Champion's League.

    Champion's League Spring
    The Champion's League is basically Japan's National Championship. The only different is that it's held twice a year. While our (Pokémon USA's) tournament season last from September to August (Worlds), with the final event of a country being in May - July (July for the US, May for some European countries), Japan's tournament season is much shorter. It's basically one month of Battle Roads, followed by a Champion's League, the season's final event where all the best players in the country meet. The winners of Champion's League win a trip to Worlds, just like we do at tournaments called "National Championships". This year, Yamato won this tournament in Masters.

    Battle Road Summer
    There are about 8 of these tournaments each year, and they're spread over a longer time period than the Spring Battle Roads. From mid-July to early September, these events are held to select the players who can go to the Summer Champion's League.

    Champion's League Summer
    Held in September, this event once again selects Japan's Number One Player, and decides who will get to go to the next year's World Championships. Yes, Japan already has some players qualified for Worlds 2008! Unless I'm misunderstanding something ... Noteworthy results in September's Champions League included Yamato going second in Masters, losing his final to a Japanese Masters veteran known as "Mon" on the internet, and the absolutely incredible Hiroki Yano winning Juniors.

    Yano is in my opinion now without doubt the best Junior player Pokemon has EVER seen. Yano won Worlds 2006 and thus got a free trip to World 2007, where he to everyone's astonishment went all the way to the finals again, going second at Worlds 2007 and qualifying for Worlds 2008 right there. And what does he do only one month after making Pokémon history as the first player every to play the Worlds final two years in a row? He wins his country's National Championships and thus secures a double-invite to Worlds 2008. Incredible.

    ... back on topic. The Winter Challenge!

    The Winter Challenge events are not big tournaments designated to find the best player in a region. In fact, they don't crown a "winner" at all. The Winter Challenges have several "corners" where you can participate in various activities. The corners are:

    Beginner stands:

    <img src="">
    "Learn how to play"
    This area is designed like a classroom, where instructors show you how to play, and let you try your very first matches.

    Random stands:

    <img src="">
    "Pokémon Snap"
    When I first saw this, I was puzzled and suprised, then excited: "Wow, they're making a Wii sequel to the 7 year old N64 game Pokémon Snap, and letting Winter Challenge visitors try it before the game is even released?" I thought. It turns out the game's just being re-released for Wii's virtual console. They had intense marketing for it, though - I wonder why. All day long, there were announcements about how everyone should go and check out Pokémon Snap on the Pokémon Snap stand. Curious.

    <img src="">
    There was also a stage, with very enthusiastic live entertainers that made me remember King Rah and made the Winter Challenge even more reminiscent of the good old Super Trainer Showdowns. The screen on stage was running various commercials - mostly for Pokémon Snap (!), but there was also a very cool new TCG/OP commercial that showed close-up footage of the faces of various players (like a cool shot of Tom Roos' face in deep in concentration in a match against Yamato) at Worlds 2007 in Hawaii, with taglines such as "go beyond language, beyond country [border] - Pokémon TCG". I liked it.

    Battle stands

    "Free Battle"
    Basically just a free play area where you practice with your deck and maybe trade some cards.

    <img src="">
    "Battle Team Galactic and Gym Leaders!"
    People with colorful wigs dressed up as characters from the DS games take on challengers.

    <img src="">
    "Challenge Arena"
    This was basically where I spent all my time. When you want to enter the Challenge Arena, you first get in one of three lines: Junior, Seniors or Masters. The lines are, naturally, very long. Once you reach the end of the line, you get to enter the tournament area, and you meet a tournament staff member which shows you to your table, where you get seated across a person with one win. Once you lose a match, or win two, you get bounced off the tournament area and have to stand in line again.

    If you manage to beat the person with one win that you were assigned to, you take his/her place on the table and get a new challenger from the line. Once you get two wins, you get a stamp for your double-win and have to start over again. The first two stamps (first 2 double-wins) mean nothing, but on the third one you actually get a Time-Space Distortion. By this point, you've won at least 6 matches, possibly more in case you won one and then got knocked out.

    <img src="" align="left">After having won a TSD, you have to get 4 more stamps for something new to happen: With your new stamp total at 7 (14+ won matches, in other words), you get to go to the "Premiere Stage", where there's a special, big table where you battle against a fellow successful player, with PCL and an audience watching your match. If you win this prestige match, you get the winner card, a Mysterious Pearl (see picture on the left)

    What does this in short mean? It means it's not a tournament (no best player being chosen) and it means that you can actually lose as many times as you want, but still be able to get to the "finals", maybe win the #1 prize card, and become an admired player whose match everyone wants to follow from the sideline.

    But in effect, the time limits of the event leaves very little room for losing. The Winter Challenge begins at 9 AM and ends at 5 PM, so if you want to have any chance of getting those 7 double-wins (14 wins) done in 8 hours, you better go undefeated or near-undefeated, or just try to not waste any time on eating lunch or chatting to your friends. After every two matches you win, the queue will be long to get back into the action. Winning game 1 and losing game 2 can be crucial, because you waste so much time on it. However, everyone is almost guaranteed to get the Time-Space Distortion, as long as they're an above-average good player.

    After winning my first 2 double-matches, and being undefeated at 4-0, I was already really tired and hungry, so I just had to take a break. But I was not the only one. As I left the tournament venue for my break, none other than Yamato was leaving too. Yamato, famous among this board's members for being a unstoppable Pokémon marathon player (Worlds 2004 in particular springs to mind), told me: "I'm tired, I need a break now" after his undefeated 6-0 roll of 3 double-wins. For anyone already curiously wondering what the Pokémon TCG Legend is currently playing: I don't know. All I saw of his deck was that it included Fighting and Fire Energy. It might or might not have been the Claydol/Magmortar deck I explain later in this report.

    The format for the Challenge Arena was FRLG On with 4 prize cards. I chose to go with a speedy Banette ex deck, and went 13-3 with it. I got 6 double wins, taking a quick loss two times (on my first match, not second) along the way, and won the first match of the 7th double-match. But right in the middle of that match, which was the final one I needed to win in order to get to the Premier Stage, a PCL judge came over and called time. He let me and my opponent know that unless I could win the match on that very turn, the result would be "no result" for both of us. Since I was playing versus Blissey, it was quite hard to take 2 prizes in one turn, and I gave up. none of us won, and I had been one shot away from the Premier Stage ... maybe next time? :)

    Here's the Banette ex list I went 13-3 with, a record I'm quite satisfied with:

    Speed [of light] Ban

    11 Pokémon
    4 Shuppet (CG)
    4 Banette ex
    1 Solrock (DX)
    2 Lunatone (DP4)

    35 Trainers
    3 Holon Mentor
    2 Holon Adventurer
    1 Holon Scientist
    3 TV Reporter
    2 PETM
    4 Suzy's Lottery (DP4)
    2 Admin
    1 Scott
    4 Holon Transceiver
    4 ER2
    2 Reversal
    1 Warp Point
    1 Pokémon Retriever
    2 Crystal Beach
    2 Moonlight Stadium (DP4)
    1 Windstorm/things/random stuff (the list slightly changed during the day)

    14 Energy
    4 Rainbow
    2 Recover Energy
    8 Psychic Energy

    This deck has a lot of room for improvement, but I just made it really fast with the cards I had access to. So this is not a super-list, but I figured it would be interesting for readers to see how a deck looks in Japan's current (and big) format anyway. So basically, my idea behind this deck was to draw 4 prize cards as fast as possible. I dropped things like the Castaway engine and the many Reversals I used to play in Banette ex last season, and just maxed out on Supporters.

    I think Banette ex is pretty good at the moment, DP4 gave us Suzy's Lottery and Lunatone which both are insanly good with Banette ex. With this list, it's very easy to pull of a T2 80 or 90 damage with Shadow Chant. If you start with Shuppet, that is. Moonlight Stadium lets me abuse Banette ex' Poké-Power more, and Recover Energy is for any Darkrai or Flariados.

    Solrock was completely useless in the deck, since I - to my surprise - never got to use it's Pokébody. There were almost no Pidgeots in this tournament, and I didn't meet any of them. There were 0 Delcattys. It seems like Claydol has taken completely over the role of card-drawer for every deck. And speaking of what everyone else played - that's what you really wanted to know, isn't it? What are the Japanese players using?

    What seemed to be popular today was:

    Magmortar DP4/Pachirisu DP4/Claydol DP4
    This deck was everywhere. Having two Claydol in play gaves you an insane card acceleration. Magmortar is apparently even more loved among Japanese top players than among ours, it's the main attacker of choice for many decks. I have to admit don't really know how this deck works, though - I only played against two of them, and while I donked the first one, the second one, which got a set-up, had his Magmortar KOd turn 3 by my Banette dealing 110 damage in one turn (with two Poké-Powers)

    Leafeon lv X
    So it actually works. I saw this played in so many ways. Some play it with almost nothing else, and just let it power up its own attack with its own Poké-Power. Others play it with lots of different Pokémon.

    Some lock and bench damage deck
    I never saw more than a few seconds of matches where this deck was played. But I saw it several times with different players during the day. It had Honchkrow and Wobbuffet (LM), and seemed to lock the opponent's active Pokémon while killing the bench.

    New-Age LBS
    Basically LBS without Steelix, but with Alakazam *. Your Pokémon in play are always Pidgeot and Blastoise ex, and every turn your Mentor grabs you the following three Basics: Holon Castform, Alakazam * and Lugia ex. Place the Alakazam * on the bench, retreat the Pidgeot for it, and deal 200 damage. When the opponent proceeds to knock out your active Alakazam, he/she only gets 1 prize card, as opposed to the 2 a regular Lugia ex would have given. With the help of cards like Pokémon Retriever, the trick can easily be repeated next turn.

    When opening my DP4 displays, I thought the new Eeveelutions were really weak. What I didn't think of was that Japan still has UF Eevee. A first-turn Water or Fire Energy gives you a really good T1 one-energy attacker in Glaceon or Flareon, which you can continue to create early havoc with before Blissey finishes the job.

    Garchomp lv X
    It's still there, but it seems to be less popular than before. Still, DP4's Lunatone is another great addition to the deck, and it still works wonders.

    And that concludes my Winter Challenge Nagoya report. I hope you enjoyed my little report on what's going on in Japan at the moment.

    <img src="">
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2007
  2. DragonairMaster8

    DragonairMaster8 New Member

    thnks for the updates!! imglad you had fun, and won a tsd while doing it!
  3. Croatian_Nidoking

    Croatian_Nidoking New Member

    Hmmmmm....not much in the Japanese metagame that could be useful in the American/European metagame. One of my friends will be happy that the Eeveelutions in GE are all they're reported to be, and the Magmortar/Pachirisu/Claydol deck may be worth a try.

    Man, now I just wish there was something like this over here in the States.

    - Croatian "challenge yourself" Nidoking
  4. Jason

    Jason New Member

    whoa... Great report, Eskil :D

    *wants to play magmortar more*

    Back to back posts merged. The following information has been added:

    i think you actually mean Fione, not Pachirisu since you can get Magmortar or Claydol out T1 ready for T2 beatdown :)
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  5. hitmonchan93

    hitmonchan93 New Member

    That's a very interesting format, so many deck possibilities. Especially the Claydol/Magmortar deck. I haven't had a look at Claydol yet. Thanks for the updates. :)
  6. Tego

    Tego New Member

    No, it's actually Pachirisu. Everyone I saw playing that deck used Pachirisu - in fact, all kinds of decks used Pachirisu, but I didn't see one single Fione all day long. Which surprised me, because I think Fione seems like a really good starter too.
  7. Jason

    Jason New Member

    i wish vaporeon uf stays in the format along with eevee uf :/


    vaporeon uf + leafeon lv.x = BEAST
  8. Tego

    Tego New Member

    By the way, the Winter Challenge had the Entry Pack 08 for sale, 5 days before the official release date! I own one Entry Pack 08 now and can write a spoiler if there's interest for it. But first I want to know it it's worth all the work - if people really want it and if there's nobody else currently writing a spoiler.
  9. Jason

    Jason New Member

    hey i still wanna see the spoilers.... pretty please, justtell me the trainers and energies if havent seen before or at least a decklist. Thanks

    Back to back posts merged. The following information has been added:

    also how did the 5 invitation comes from in Japan?

    I asume two comes from CL's Spring and another two come from CL's Summer...but what the last one is for?

    I assume that it the same for each age division?
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  10. Tego

    Tego New Member

    I'm actually wondering the same, I want to find out.

    But please also remember that Japan's age divisions are not the same as ours, so some players actually change age division between their Champion's League win and Worlds. For example, Riona Doi won the Junior Summer Champions League 2006, and qualified for Worlds 2007, where she played in Seniors. Similiarly, Hiroki Yano won the Junior Summer Champions League 2007, but will play in Seniors in Worlds 2008.

    Since Masters is from 1991 in Japan right now, I expect many 1992 players to win Seniors in Japan and qualify for Worlds, where they will play in Masters.
  11. aade8

    aade8 New Member

    I wish our format was FRLG on...oh, well. It would really make things more interesting though.

    I really like reading reports, and this one is definitely a welcome change to the usual (being that this is from a different country and different playing field).

    What is an 'Entry Pack'? I'd like to see spoilers...for whatever it is.
  12. SeiferA

    SeiferA New Member

    I love it whenever you do these reports, Tego. It's just awesome to hear how much fun the japanese events are over there.

    All you really need in all honesty is camcorder footage more often with this stuff :p

    Either way, great report!:thumb:
  13. ultimatedra

    ultimatedra New Member

    Great to hear from you Tego. Awsome report.

    i wish we had tournaments like this here in the US.

    BTW- i still want one of the PCL's neck ties-i will go into the hundreds to get one.

    ~Professor ultimatedra~
  14. bulbasnore

    bulbasnore Administrator Staff Member Trader Feedback Mod

    Wow, the format is FRLG on? What about for their BRs?

    This event is neat! I wish we could add back some of these types of features at Nats and Worlds! I prefer our regionals to 2x year STS, but I miss King Rah Rah and the other features of those events.

    This is front-page material!
  15. (TYranitarFReak)

    (TYranitarFReak) New Member

    Nice thread Tego! It's always interesting to hear from the japan metagame.

    I'm still kinda confused with the tournaments. There's soooo much different tourneys. :confused:
  16. pokemonmike

    pokemonmike Active Member

    WOW! It looks like a blast to go to one of those events. I wish we could get something like that around here. Very nice job on this report Eskil.
  17. Jason

    Jason New Member

    POP, please bring back the good ol STS-style events !!!!!

    lol yeh, getting to know tthe japanese tournament events were always interesting.
  18. Black_jirachi

    Black_jirachi New Member

    Great report Eskil!
    Are you coming home before march, so you can show of all your cool japansese pokemon stuff? :p

    Anyway, do anyone have spoilers for the DP4 cards mentioned?

    Black_~Haven't posted in too long~_Jirachi
  19. Heatherdu

    Heatherdu New Member

    Thank you for posting this! It sounds like a great time. And the pics add so much to the event. OH, my boys will love Snap on the Wii.
  20. Grandielle

    Grandielle New Member

    Why is bansol still legal there??

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