How a “rogue” deck won the Pokémon World Championships
February 24, 2023
Elena (Gaia Storm)
Helloeveryone! Mynameis Elena and welcometoanotherarticletoday at Ultimate Guard Blog. Yousee, I’veseenmany memorable thingssince I startedplaying Pokémon TCG more than a decadeago (like, forinstance, the time in whichanemergency ban had to be announced in themiddleoftheformat) butperhapsoneofmy favorite oneswasthe time a veryunexpecteddeckcameoutofthe blue and becometheWorldChampionships.So join me in this particular storyofhow a completelyoverlooked Pokémon madeitswaytothe Hall ofFame and provedmyselfparticularlywrong.
A cardunderthe radar
Let me startbytellingyou a little bit about Mega Audino, thecharacterofthis blog entry. I mustsaythat I have a difficultlove/haterelationshipwiththiscardfor a numberofreasons I am goingto be explaining, and writingthisarticleismaking me go back in time.
Mega Audinowasfirstreleased in 2016 in theexpansion Fates Collide, fromthe X&Y era. Thiswas a moment in thegamewheretheformatwasvery diverse and every new Mega Evolutionthatwasrevealedcaused a lotofhype. Mega Audino, however, sparkedtheoppositereaction and I have no problemadmittingthat I wasoneoftheplayersthatalmostimmediatelydismissedthecard.
Mega Audinowas a colorless-type Mega Evolution Pokémon, whichmeantsome positive and some negative things. ThegoodthingwasthatAudinohad a lotof HP and wasverydifficulttotakedown in one hit exceptwhenfacingsomethingthatcould hit themforweakness (Fighting in this case butitwasnotvery popular back then).Ontheotherhand, being a Mega Evolution, itrequiredtohavetheSpirit Link Tool cardattachedtoavoidlosingtheturnwhenit hit thefield. And honestly, ifyoulooked at therestoftheattributes, Mega Audinowasnothingextraordinary and firstsight.
Itonlyhadoneattack, magicalsymphony, thatrequiredthreeenergies and couldpotentially deal 110 + 50 damageto a Pokémon onthefield. Thedamage output wasnicebutwasnotjust quite enoughtothreatenthefaster and more consistentdeckswehadavailable. As such, Mega Audinobecameoverlookedbymanyplayers, includingmyself. In fact, duringmy set Fates Collide review video I literallysaid “Mega Audinomight be interesting at somepointbutitisclearthatitis a cardthatwillneverwintheWorldChampionships.”Eventhoughshortly after I recorded a deckprofileexplainingthat “itwasactuallynotthatbad after propertesting”, myfollowers use that clip tomakeallthe memes and jokes in theworld (rightfully so).
Buttherealityis (and thisisnot me excusingmyself) that Mega Audinoreallydidn’t look verystrong and therewere so manybetteroptionsoutthere:Volcanion EX couldliterally KO everything in one hit. Night March wasthefastest and scariestdeck in format and Vileplumefacilitated a deadlyitemlocksituationfromturnone.
Ifyou look at everyone’spredictionsduringtheweeksbeforeWorlds, no oneincluded Mega Audino in thelistofpotential candidates. No onesaw Mega Audinobeingplayedduringthepreparationtournamentsthatwere run so, in thecollective competitive mind, itwasjustanotherforgottenroguedeck.UntiltheWorldChampionshipstarted and wewereprovedwrong…
From Zero to Hero
I have a very vivid memoryoftheseWorldChampionshipsevenif I wasnotabletowatchthemlive. Thethingisthat I wasspendingthatsummerweekvisitingmygrandparents, wholive in a smallvillage in thenorthofSpain and who, ofcourse, don’thaveany internet connection. I wasreallystrugglingtowatchthestream so in theend I admittedmydefeat and reliedonmyfriendstokeep me informedofwhatwasgoingon.
At somepoint, myboyfriendtexted me thatsomeplayershadbeenspottedplaying Mega Audino in combinationwithdarkness-type Pokémon likeYveltal. I didn’tthinktoomuchaboutitbecausethe top players, theones I wasmonitoring, hadoptedforotherstrategiesliketheones I hadjustmentionedabove. I wascertainthat a top deckwouldend up winning. And I was, as themajorityoftheworld, wrong.
Next morning I woke up, checkedmyphone and listenedtoan audio. Myboyfriendwasliterallyshoutingsayingthat Mega Audinohadreachedthefinals. I rememberstaring at myscreenfor a fewseconds. Wasthat a joke? Was he, as always, makingfunof me? But no. JapaneseplayerShintaroItomadeittothefinals and wasgoingtofacethe American contender Cody Walinski.Youdon’twanttoknowhowmy timeline lookedlikethatday, with so manypeoplesending me drawingsof Mega Audino. Butthatisanothertopic.
Now, thethingisthat Mega Audinowasnottherejustbyluckevenif, undoubtedly, whenyouplaysuch a bigtournamentthereis a certainpercentageoffortuneyouneedtohaveonyourside. Thereissomething I alwayssay: A cardisonly as good as theformatallowsitto be and Mega Audinohappenedto be oneofthemostefficientdecksconsideringthemetagame.
Ifyoucheckedwhattheformatlookedlikethatyear, youwillseethattherewere a lotofdecksthat revolved aroundStage 1 Pokémon. In thatsense, theyneeded time to set up multiple copies and evolve. Mega Audinowastheperfectweapontocapitalizethisturnof set up becauseitcould KO the active Pokémon and then KO somethingonthebench, gettingtwoprizesahead in justoneturn. Somethingthatnotmanydeckscouldsurvive. In othercircumstancesthesewouldhaveneverbeenanissuebecauseitisverytypicalthat Pokémon givesussomesortof “benchbarrier” shield, thatis, a Pokémon or a cardthatprotectsyourbenchfromgettingdamaged.But, sincebenchdamagewasnot popular, no onebothered running somethinglikethat.
In 2016, someofthemost popular deckswereGreninja Break, Vespiquen and Night March. Allofthemfall in thesamecategorythat I justdescribed: set up small, low-HP Pokémon and thenevolve. In the case ofNight March, itwaseven more problematicsincetheirmainattackersdidn’tevolve at all and youreliedon 30-HP Joltikor 60-HP Pumpkaboo. Not ideal. Not ideal at all. So, ifyou look at itfromthat angle, Mega Audinowasactually a veryinterestingplay.Pilotedbytherightplayer and justwiththetinnyhelpofgooddraws, itwas more than a roguedeck. In fact, twoJapaneseplayersreachedthe top 32 withthisstrategy.
And then, itwasthemoment Mega Audinohadbeenwaitingfor so long: thefinals.
Thesaddestfinals in thehistory
Theworldheldtheirbreath. Japan versus North America. Mega AudinoagainstGreninja. The final battletobecometheWorld’sbest. I can not stress howhypedeveryonewasaboutseeingthegames. I thinktherewas a goodpercentageofplayersthatwererootingfor Mega Audinojustbecauseitwas a veryout-of-the-box kindofdeck. ButgoingagainstGreninjawasnotgoingto be aneasyfeast…orwasit?
Butwhenthe time came, wedidn’tsay a proper final in thestrictsenseoftheword. Theentire round lastedlessthan 30 mins. WeknewthatGreninjawas a verypowerfuldeck, buthadonemajorproblem: itsometimeshadproblemssetting up properly. Evenwiththistendencytobrickfrom time to time, theboardstateitreachedwas so powerfulthatitwasoneofthe top picksforthattournament. ButGreninjahad a panicattack and hidduringthefinals. In fact, itdidn’teven show up. Cody wasjustunableto do anything and hadtopassturn after turnuntilShintarofinishedwithevery Pokémon onthefield. And theworstthingisthatthisdidn’tonlyhappenduringthefirstgame, thesamesituationwasrepeated in thesecond. I can only imagine howthatmusthavefeltfor Cody and everyonethatwastheresupportinghimbutthat’swhathappenswhenyouplaythegame. Sometimesyoujustcan’t do anythingwiththecardsyoudraw and itis ok. Youneedtounderstandthat, all in all, we are allplaying a game and thatbrickingis a possibility. Ofcourse, no onewantstobrick at suchanimportantmomentofyourprofessionalcareer, butitisnotunderyour control.
Thesaddestaspectaboutthisisthat, ifyou look at thelistthat Cody played at theeventtriedtomaximizeconsistency, playing 4 copies ofProfessorSycamore, N and VS Seeker. And notonlythat, italsorunned 4 copies ofTalonflame and just 3 Froakies, in orderto open up withTalonflame. Thefunnythingisthat in bothgames, Cody openedwithFroakie.
As such, Mega Audinogotcrowned as thebestdeck in theworld. After thetournamentended, peopletriedtoplayitbutto be completelyhonestitssuccessdidnotmirrorwhatwehadseen in theWorldChampionship. In fact, theformat after a whilehadalreadyevolved and wehadotherstrategiesemerging, nottomentionthatpeoplealreadyknewAudino and howthestrategyworked. So, in theend, after a while, Mega Audinosimplybecamelessrelevant. Butittaughtthecommunity a veryvaluablelesson.
1) Don’toverlookcardsjustbecausethey are not as powerful as others. Theymightonlyneedtherightformattoshine.
2) Be open to try new ideas and thinkoutofthe box, especiallywhenpreparingfortheseverybig and largetournaments. Thesurprise factor issometimes more importantthanthetesting.
3) When Elena saysthat a cardisbad, go and buy a playsetimmediately (at least, thatiswhatmycommunitydoesnow. Thankyouverymuch, guys, I loveyou as well).
As I said at thebeginning, Mega Audinowasoneofthemostincredible and unexpecteddecksthat I can remember.
Withthat, wereachedtheendofthearticle. I hope youenjoyedthisjourneywith me butdon’tworry, therewill be more entriesofthistype.
Elena (Gaia Storm)
Elena has been playing Pokémon Trading Card Game since 2011 and has never stopped. With her partner, she runs Gaia Storm, one of the largest Pokémon TCG Youtube channels in the world. She has a problem remembering the names of all the Pokémon but tends to open the most broken Pokémon packs.