The Pokémon TCG North American International Championships Masters final today had a lot riding on it for both the players and the Pokémon community at large, as this match will affect the meta for the World Championships in just over a month’s time. Surprisingly, neither Gardevoir ex or Lost Box made it into the final despite being widely considered to be the best decks in format.
The Masters final instead saw former regional champion Ian Robb piloting an Arceus Duraludon Umbreon deck against Cyrus Davis and her underdog Inteleon VMAX and Urshifu deck. Robb’s deck choice has consistently done well at regionals, special event, and internationals this season, but Davis’ deck, which she only picked up a few days ago, has yet to make waves, with its highest placement being 6th at the Lima Special Event which only had 123 players.
Both players had strong Pokémon TCG resumes before the finals match, but it was Davis who went on to win the three-game set and claim her first major victory. She is also the first Canadian player to win NAIC since internationals began in 2017 and shouted out her fellow Canadians in Top Eight alongside her.
In game one, Robb went first and began by simply attaching to his Duraludon V and passing, which usually isn’t a good sign. Both players had slow starts, with Robb continuing to pass his turns once he established Duraludon VMAX in the active. This card’s Skyscraper ability prevents all damage done to it by attacks from Pokémon with special energy attached, and Davis’ deck relies heavily on Rapid Strike Energy. With a start this slow, many players might have decided to scoop, but given the 75-minute match time in finals, Robb had plenty of time to take it slow and hope to draw into something good.
Both of these decks use chunky, three-prize Pokémon with massive amounts of HP, making the first game a slug-fest. Davis was able to use Cheryl, a supporter card that fully heals your Pokémon but forces you to discard all energy attached. Luckily, her Pokémon didn’t have any energy, so she essentially healed over 200 damage for free and then was able to take the first knock-out. Inteleon VMAX is a spread damage deck, so after this initial knock-out, many of Robb’s remaining attackers were also left weakened.
Despite this, he was able to take out one of Davis’ ginormous VMAX Pokémon and take three prizes, but Davis responded with a second KO using Medicham V’s Yoga Loop, a move that lets you skip your opponent’s turn and immediately take a second turn. This gave Davis the momentum she needed to take the final two prizes off of Robb’s board and close out game one.
Robb chose to go first in game two and once again had a rocky start, prizing two metal energy that would make it hard for him to set up Duraludon V without taking a KO first. Despite the rocky start and Davis’ explosive set-up using Battle VIP Pass, Ultra Ball, and Melony, Robb was able to get an initial two-prize KO using Arceus VSTAR, claim his metal energy from the prizes, and chain together the attacks he needed to reach six prize cards in very few turns.
With the set tied, Davis chose to go first for the final game of the set. She started Remoraid in the active, a weak single-prize Pokémon that evolves into Rapid Strike Octillery, the draw engine of this deck. She was able to bench a Rapid Strike Urshifu V and attach a Rapid Strike energy to it, but with no way to move Remoraid from the active, that’s where Davis’ turn ended. Robb started a lone Arceus V and all he could do was attach Double Turbo Energy and use Trinity Charge to accelerate a Basic Energy to Arceus V and end his turn.
Getting to six prizes before your opponent is the most common way to win a game of the Pokémon TCG, but it’s not the only win condition. You can also win by decking out your opponent as we saw in the EUIC Juniors Final, or your opponent loses if they are unable to promote a Pokémon when their active is knocked out. Seeing Robb’s empty bench, Davis knew what she had to do.
Davis evolved her active Remoraid into Octillery and used Rapid Strike Search to find the Tower of Waters stadium card, which makes the retreat cost of all your Rapid Strike Pokémon cost two colorless energy less. She then attached a Basic Water Energy to the benched Rapid Strike Urshifu V, powering up its Hundred Furious Blows attack. Arceus V is weak to Fighting-type Pokémon, so by retreating the Octillery, Davis was able to hit it for 300 damage and the knockout. Figuring out what was happening as Davis quickly played her cards, Robb extended his hand to concede and Cyrus Davis became the 2023 Pokémon TCG North American International Champion.
Davis stood alongside Juniors champion Drake Z and Seniors Champion Bodhi R to accept her first-place trophy. None of the three champions played Lost Box or Gardevoir ex, solidifying Inteleon VMAX, Arceus Duraludon Umbreon, and Arceus Regidrago VSTAR as deck archetypes to look out for in the upcoming Pokémon TCG World Championships in Yokohama, Japan.