The Pokémon TCG European International Championship was host to a classic underdog story today, as constant runner up Alex Schemanske won out against four time IC champion, Tord Reklev. After a nail-biting three matches, Schemanske was able to defeat his ‘final boss’ and claim victory in the Masters division. This unusual and exciting series all revolved around a single, unassuming Pokémon card: Alolan Vulpix VSTAR.
See, whereas Reklev was playing a Gardevoir ex deck, using the shiny new Scarlet and Violet Gardevoir ex to load up psychic energy for big hits, Schemanske’s list relied on a bunch of cards aimed at countering the current meta. A key piece of the deck, Duraludon VMAX, shuts down the ever-popular Lugia-Archeops combo, for instance. The deck also runs one single copy of Alolan Vulpix VSTAR, which, as long as it can use Snow Mirage each turn, can’t be damaged by Pokémon that have an ability.
As it happens, that is just about every card in Reklev’s deck, with the exception of Cresellia, who can’t hit hard enough to make a difference. This meant the matches were destined to revolve heavily around the card. If Alolan Vulpix VSTAR came down, Reklev’s only hope of victory was to rely on his few outs, like Ralt’s Memory Skip attack or the Supporter card Boss’s Orders. Every move in the three matches that followed was made with the little Vulpix in mind.
In the event, Reklev was able to generate a swift and overwhelming lead in game one, pulling ahead with the absurd card draw three Kirlia’s can bring. In game two Alolan Vulpix VSTAR came out and after a series of quickfire plays and counterplays, Reklev was forced to concede.
A massive groan went up from the crowd when in game three, Alolan Vulpix VSTAR was revealed as one of Schemanske’s prize cards, and it became clear that a hugely important strategy to the player was now that much trickier to pull off. Alex actually chose to bench Alolan Vulpix V, despite not being able to evolve it – and it was promptly knocked out, pulled into the fight with Boss’s Orders.
However, this distraction cost Reklev his Zacian V on the crackback, after which he soon began to run out of strong attackers. Now it was Reklev’s turn to fall victim to unfortunate prize cards, as his Pal Pad was locked away. This could have fetched him his spent Miriam supporter card, which would then let him bring his powerful Pokémon back from discard.
In the final few turns, Drapion V was Schemanske’s MVP, able to swiftly deal with Psychic Pokémon weak to the Darkness Pokémon card type, and close out this final, tense match.
Overall, this was a series of super tight, complex games. The Alolan Vuplix card didn’t quite decide the series in the end, but it certainly threw a Snorlax-sized spanner into the works, giving both players a hell of a lot to think about.
Elsewhere in the competition, Rune H won the EUIC Senior division in a clean sweep with a very different Gardevoir list. This Pokémon deck relied on a sneaky double Klefki to shut down opponent’s abilities and slow the enemy Lost Zone Box deck down for long enough to pull off a victory… and then a second victory!