Super Trainer Showdown: Analyzing East
Hi everybody! Well, now that the East Coast STS is all wrapped up, I thought Iíd do a quick analytical survey of the Top 24 decks. What was hot? Whatís not? Which cards are more powerful under Prop 15-3C? Which cards are useless? Iím sure youíve formed your own opinions by now, but the following report might surprise you. ;)
For those who havenít check it out yet, the main Wizards wrap-up on the STS is here:
And why are there 24 people total who placed 1st-8th? Well, the Top 8 winners & decks were split into three age categories. If you want to see all those decklists, check out these sub-pages!http://www.wizards.com/pokemon/main.asp?x=NJ00/10underdecklists http://www.wizards.com/pokemon/main.asp?x=NJ00/11_14decklists http://www.wizards.com/pokemon/main.asp?x=NJ00/15plusdecklists
(And, as Iím sure most of you know, you canít under-estimate a young, skilled player just because sheís "Just a kid"; do that, and youíre likely to get your butt kicked. So of course, the decks of the youngest players are just as important as the decks played by adults!)
So How Do We Analyze the Prop 15-3C Game Environment?
What I did was this: I analyzed all 24 of these decks, and I took a close look at which players used which specific cards in their decks. Since these 24 people could easily be considered some of the best players in the world, their opinions on which cards to use, and which to ignore, are pretty interesting, IMHO.
Then, I set up a matrix to calculate what percentage of players decided to use each card. So, for example, 12 of the Top 24 players played with Jiggly & Wiggly; that means that both of those cards scored 50% in this survey. The higher the percentage score, the more players relied on that card. Simple!
To look at the results, and what they mean, Iíve split this report into three partsÖ Basic Energy, Colorless Stuff & Trainers, and finally, Colored Pokemon. Letís take a look, eh?
PART ONE: Basic Energy
This is important, because it shows us which color everyone had the most success with, and which colors were rarely used. Whether that means the #1 color is better than the #6 color, thatís up to you; but it does mean that you can expect to see the #1 color player against you a lot more than the #6. ;)
MOST USED (1st) Lightning Energy (used by 67% of the players)
2nd Fighting Energy (used by 42% of the players)
3rd Fire Energy (used by 25% of the players)
4th Psychic Energy (used by 17% of the players)
5th Water Energy (used by 13% of the players)
LEAST USED (6th) Grass Energy (used by 8% of the players)
(This totals more than 100% because most people used 2 colors.)
The Good News:
So what can we say in favor of the mix?
The Bad News:
A few problems:
PART TWO: Trainers, Colorless Pokemon & Non-Basic Energy
I piled these 3 categories of cards together for a very important reason Ė every single player has access to them, no matter what color theyíre playing. No matter what your strategy, you can use these cards to fill in the holes. And, itís when you see a specific card being played by ALL players, no matter what their strategy is, that you can start to scream "Broken!" and have people believe you. ;)
100%: Computer Search, Professor Oak
92%: Double Colorless Energy
75%: Gust of Wind
63%: Full Heal Energy, Item Finder
50%: Chansey, Ditto, Jigglypuff, Nightly Garbage Run, Wigglytuff
33%: Scoop Up, Super Energy Removal
25%: Clefable, Clefairy
21%: Bill, Mistyís Wrath, Potion Energy
17%: Energy Removal, Erikaís Dratini, Pokemon Breeder
13%: Dodrio, Doduo, Narrow Gym, No Removal Gym, Rocketís Sneak Attack
8%: Chaos Gym, Kangaskhan, Lickitung, Pokemon Center
4%: Aerodactyl, Brockís Lickitung, Challenge!, Defender, Erika, Goop Gas Attack, Mysterious Fossil, Pewter City Gym, Pokemon Trader, Rocketís Trap, Secret Mission
Computer Search and Professor Oak (100%): Literally everyone used these. Thatís a problem, because it IMPLIES (but does not prove!) that these cards are hopelessly overpowered. The good news is that, under Prop 15-3C, Super Energy Removal (the card voted "most degenerate" by almost every player earlier this year) is not in the 100% bracket. Since all of these cards are controlled by the limit of 3 each, and no more than 15 Trainers per deck, the reality hurts less; but still, itís not good. What is most interesting, though, is to note that these are not "kill cards"; theyíre both Deck Manipulation cards Ė meaning theyíre both used to get specific cards out of your deck. That implies that the single most important Trainer strategy to every player, under Prop 15-3C, was to control the randomness of their deck, and draw specific cards. (Why? Because itís so much harder to get the cards you want when you donít have 40 Trainers!) So, at least we donít see SER or PlusPower here!
**Good News**: No Pokemon scored 100%, and only 2 Trainers did. Thatís pretty cool. ;)
Full Heal Energy (63%): At 63%, this made a very strong showing. Why? Well, with the Trainer crunch, everyone found that their Pokemon were MUCH more vulnerable to status effects. Full Heal Energy was the overwhelming answer to this problem.
Ditto (50%), Clefairy & Clefable (25%): Since the Trainer limit makes it a lot harder to give your deck versatility, lots of players liked the "doppelgangers" Ė those Pokemon that copy the abilities and attacks of their rivals. But, these Pokemon didnít appear everywhere, even though everyone had the chance to use them! They seemed especially popular with the older players, however.
Jigglypuff & Wigglytuff (50%): Many players swore by these cards; but taken as a whole, only 50% of the players used them. That shows us that even though J&W are extremely powerful, they arenít so overpowering that everyone feels compelled to use them. In other words, thereís more than 1 deck type out there. ;)
PlusPower (38%): All the way down at 38%, and obviously weakened by the fact that you can only have 3! They take up valuable Trainer slots, and the odds of drawing 2 or 3 in your first hand are slim indeed. This is all good news, because it means that PP is still a good surprise card, but is virtually useless if all youíre trying for is a cheesy 1st-turn win.
Super Energy Removal (33%): Only 33%! Yay! No Removal Gym and the 15-Trainer limit put a nice wrestlerís hold on the merciless Energy Removal strategy.
Bill (21%): Clearly, under Prop 15-3C, few people thought that the extra deck manipulation was worth the crucial Trainer slots. Everyone vastly preferred Search and Oak to Bill.
Dodrio & Doduo (13%): Old favorites return! Hardly anyone expected to see these guys tearing up the field; it almost makes you nostalgic enough to wish there was a Farfetchíd!
Rocketís Sneak Attack (13%): Just like PlusPower, an unfair 1st-turn game "hoser" has been effectively neutralized. Itís still great in specific tactical situations, but it no longer allows you to beat your opponent over the head before they even get out of the ring!
Aerodactyl (4%): Clearly not the threat that some people thought it would be; probably due to Scyther and the vulnerability of the Mysterious Fossil.
PART THREE: Specific-Energy Pokemon
These are Pokemon that belong to a specific color, which means of course that fewer people used them. The exception being Scyther, of courseÖ hehehÖ
58%: Rocketís Zapdos
29%: Magmar (Fossil)
17%: Mewtwo (Movie Promo)
13%: Articuno, Blastoise, Brockís Rhyhorn, Lapras, Mr. Mime
8%: Squirtle (Base Set II)
4%: Arcanine, Brockís Sandshrew, Brockís Sandslash, Bulbasaur, Dark Blastoise, Growlithe, Ivysaur, Lt. Surgeís Electabuzz, Machop (Base Set II), Machop (Team Rocket), Rocketís Hitmonchan, Rocketís Moltres, Rocketís Scyther, Squirtle (Team Rocket), Venusaur, Wartortle
Scyther (83%): Obviously the clear favorite in this category, because heís deadly no matter what color of Energy youíre using. I chose not to list him in the Colorless section because you can "flame" him pretty easily!
Electabuzz (67%): IMHO, the strongest Pokemon in the game. This guy was single-handedly responsible for the preponderance of Lightning decks.
Rocketís Zapdos (58%): Clearly, this one is deadly; but the Energy investment involved kept him from popping up everywhere at once.
Hitmonchan (42%): Since day 1, heís been the champ; but since he is clearly more specialized in the early game than Electabuzz, heís a much more balanced card.
Mewtwo (17%): Good olí Movie Promo M2 makes a relatively weak showing, simply because if you canít cram your deck full of Trainers, heís not nearly as easy to support.
Blastoise (13%): One of the biggest problems with Prop 15-3C is that it makes it VERY difficult to play with Stage 2 Pokemon. But since some classic Raindance decks made it into the running, itís obvious that you can still win with Stage 2s and only a few Trainers Ė IF you devote your entire deck to making your strategy work.
Everything at 4%: This was the most encouraging thing for me. Look at all the different Pokemon that people experimented with, and they all made it into the Top 8! One of the best signs of a healthy environment.
FINAL ANALYSIS: THE GAME ENVIRONMENT OVERALL
The good news:
No one deck type beat all of the other decks. The 1st-Place finishes went to:
Jonathan Brooks Ė 1st Place, 10 and under, using Raindance
Rudy Rodriguez Ė 1st Place, 11-14, using Wiggly/Lightning
Tom Hanley Ė 1st Place, 15 and up, using BBPs and "doppelgangers" (Ditto, Clefairy, etc.)
Three Champions, three different decks.
Congrats to all the winners, and all the Top 24 players!
And, since every kind of Energy was used, we can see that there is a lot of variety possible, even at the highest level of competition.
The bad news:
A few Trainers and a few Pokemon were used by almost everyone. Thatís not healthy for a fun, balanced game environment! Even more troubling, only 76 different cards were used, in total, by these 24 players. Thatís a dangerously narrow field of top card choices.
My final analysis:
Prop 15-3C is not the ultimate solution; it limits the use of Stage 2 Pokemon, encourages the use of Basic Pokemon, and somewhat limits deck design. Weíre still stuck with some of the same old problems.
BUT, (and this is huge), Prop 15-3C is obviously much better than the pre-existing environment, in which exactly 2 deck types (Haymaker & Wiggly) were viable. There were LOTS of "2nd-tier decks" (meaning, decks that could win against most things, but not very often against Hay & Wiggly), but only 2 real choices. So, since things couldnít get much worse, Prop 15-3C is clearly a MAJOR success Ė when you consider it from the point of view, "Yup, the environmentís variety sucked really bad before we tried this."
Overall, I would give the "no limit" game environment (4 of any card, any number of Trainers) a D- for fun, creative strategy and variety; and Iíd give Prop 15-3C a C+ in the same areas. Better, but we have a long way to go.
So what do I think this all means? I think that Prop 15-3C is a major step in the right direction Ė WotC need to encourage the play of as many different deck types as possible. Itís great to see the environment improve, and some diversity at the top levels. But Prop 15-3C is not the "Be All, End All" way to play Pokemon; it is, shall we say, an important Evolutionary Stage in the play of tournament Pokemon. Things can only get better.
Has the game environment reached its ultimate stage of evolution? Of course not! And is there any better system of deck design and fairness? Do we need to resort to Bannings and Restrictions? More on that later, I have an article in the works if anyone wants to see a wild solution. It could be the answer, or it could be a disaster. The players will decide! HehehehÖ