This weekend will see hundreds of players from around the globe descend on Washington, D.C. to compete in the Pokemon World Championships 2019. The Pokemon Trading Card Game part of the event is of special note for having the largest cash prize, with $25,000 going to the winner of the Masters division, so players can expect fierce competition as they battle their way to the top. However, due to some unexpected shakeups heading into the contest, this year’s Worlds will be especially challenging for players.The cause of all this tumult stems from the set rotation announced for the upcoming 2019-2020 competitive season. Normally, older cards are rotated out to make room for the new after Worlds, but this year The Pokemon Company International threw a curveball so Worlds will be the first event to use the new format and a brand new set, Unified Minds. Players usually depend on getting to practice their decks in big tournaments leading up to Worlds, but this changeup means there will be no major events to give them an idea of what the Worlds metagame will look like. There’s no data to analyze and no decklists to study, at least not in an official capacity.
It’s important to point out how this year’s rotation was especially brutal when it came to culling the cardpool. The loss of Double Colorless Energy was a hurdle for many players given how it was the keystone for numerous otherwise unplayable decks. No more Guzma suddenly made switching and “gusting” Pokemon a chore while simultaneously boosting the power of Status Conditions. The Pokemon-searching Ultra Ball had been around for years and was a staple in virtually every competitive deck, but now it’s gone, forcing players to depend on inferior options. That cut, along with the loss of Nest Ball, Great Ball and Timer Ball, has made the simple notion of finding your Pokemon a tricky endeavor.
Unified Minds did introduce the GX-searching Cherish Ball, but that still leaves almost all single-Prize decks out in the cold and out of the competition. Like Thanos snapping his fingers, the rotation snuffed out half of the most commonly played decks from existence. With a majority of mill, stall, and spread decks rendered inert, the metagame is now a less diverse place, creating a format that’s all about big Tag Teams attacking one another for big damage and not much else.
While many cards are going away, quite a few are being introduced in Unified Minds. Too many, if you ask some players. The expansion just happens to be the largest Pokemon card set ever released, giving competitors that much more to digest in order to properly prepare for Worlds.
It’s understandable why some players would be frustrated by all this. They’ve devoted the past year to practicing with friends, traveling far and wide to tournaments, and spending quite a bit of cash to make sure they always have the latest and greatest cards — essentially turning their Pokemon hobby into a full-time second job — all so they could earn enough Championship Points to qualify to play in the Super Bowl of Pokemon events. Coming up with the right 60 cards to take into the competition is already a gargantuan task. They just want to do it on a playing field that’s as even as possible.
But as we are all forced to do when circumstances are less than ideal, the players will have to look on the bright side of things. Despite the collective shock to the Pokemon community’s system, one could see these changes as a positive. Having a fresh format where familiar tools are gone adds an element of unpredictability to the competition that typically isn’t there. Everyone will be going into Worlds equally uninformed on the metagame and instead of leaning on hard data they will rely on natural skill. There will be no chance to “netdeck,” which rewards those with a knack for inspired deck-building.
That said, players do have a general idea of what to expect in the field at Worlds based on their own personal testing, online discussion forums, and from what competitive YouTubers like OmniPoke and Tricky Gym share on their channels. Decks like Pikachu & Zekrom, Reshiram & Charizard, Blacephalon, and a handful of Malamar variants are the obvious frontrunners because they are pre-established archetypes that came through rotation mostly intact. There are also newcomers like Dark Box and Mewtwo & Mew Box to consider, as well as off-beat picks such as Breloom/Frosslass, Whimsicott/Porygon Z, and Shedinja Control.
This is very much a fuzzy view of the metagame, so there’s ample opportunity for players to come armed with secret techs that the masses haven’t discovered and use them to take the tournament by surprise. No one will forget how Japan’s Shintaro Ito won Worlds 2016 with Mega Audino — a Pokemon card that was considered binder trash before he unexpectedly used it to slice through the competition. This year’s Worlds is, if anything, an opportunity to make an impact.
So while the competition is a bit more complicated than normal, it’s safe to say that the players already have what it takes to adapt. After all, nothing is more second nature to Pokemon fans than evolution.
For more from the world of Pokemon, be sure to keep an eye on IGN this weekend as we report from the 2019 Pokemon World Championships where players will compete to win over $500,000 in prizes in tournaments for Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Pokken Tournament, and of course the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Joshua is Senior Features Editor at IGN. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.SOURCE: IGN.com