2016 Australian TCG Nationals – Top Contenders


This weekend, Melbourne will play host to the 2016 Australian National Championship for the Pokémon Trading Card Game and Video Game. Saturday July 2nd will feature the Swiss rounds from 10am, with Sunday July 3rd holding the TCG finals from 10am and VGC finals from 1:30pm.

Over one hundred competitors are expected for each game, vying for the coveted top eight positions, rewarding their efforts with Championship Points, prizes and prestige. For the TCG, there are some clear outliers to keep an eye on, any one of which would be of no surprise to take the whole event out. Below follows a brief introduction to some of the TCG’s top contenders, introduced in no particular order:

Michael Kan – The Legacy

There’s little surprise to see a Kan top the list of contenders in Pokémon; each family member is extremely well versed at both VGC and TCG, each with multiple top cuts across both platforms. Should Chris have been playing more this season, he would surely be amongst this list. Michael Kan’s play is exceptional; don’t expect to be able to capitalise on mistakes to take matches as you won’t be given the opportunity. A thoroughly methodical player with an excellent poker face, Michael has been a mainstay at the top tables for as long as he’s played. Part of what makes Michael such a fearsome opponent is his tendency to find a deck he works well with in the format, and to play it to perfection for its lifetime. This comfortability with his deck and list means that he knows his lines of play and his matchups well. Whilst he often likes to sit on a deck for a while, he’s proven that he can pick up any deck and do well with it, having top cut a Regionals two years ago with Greninja/Miltank, essentially a novelty deck. Michael’s straightforward play and focus on consistent, powerful play is downright scary. Watching him pilot Night March shows the difference between a deck’s power and a player’s ability.

Notable Achievements:mkan

  • 2014 ACT Regionals – Top 4
  • 2014 VIC Regionals – Top 8
  • 2014 Australian National Championships – 4th Place
  • 2015 NSW Regionals – Top 8
  • 2015 New Zealand National Championships – 3rd Place
  • 2016 SA Regionals – Top 8
  • 2016 NSW Regionals – Top 8
  • 2016 TAS Regionals – Top 4
  • 2016 WA Regionals – Top 2

All this, along with a slew of City Championship wins and multiple World Championship invites.

Jordan Palmer – The Prodigy

Having possibly the most dominant season ever demonstrated by an Australian player, it’s no surprise Jordan is a face to look out for. Jordan’s knowledge of Pokémon is insane: he lives and breathes the game. Being one of my personal testing partners and fellow SAbleye team member, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness Jordan’s play through deck conception, to playtesting, to teching for match ups, and his reasoning for card inclusions and play is always exemplary. Jordan is one of the few players you can never second guess, as every card he plays is deliberate and well thought out. Assume you’re missing something if you go to correct him. Jordan has piloted multiple decks throughout the season, and his ability to identify when a format is weak to a particular approach is key to his success. Starting the 2016 City Championship run with the relatively-unplayed Mega Mewtwo/Zoroark “Black Cat” deck was an interesting play, a powerful deck that few had tested against and attests to Jordan’s keen metagaming skills. Jordan’s particular skill level is painfully rubbed in your face when you enter multiple tournaments playing identical lists that you’ve worked on together, to watch him top cut and win each one whilst you bomb out to dead hands. He is a player who can always get to where he needs to because he sees more outs than you do. He is a definite contender and a worthy contender for National Champion.

Notable Achievements:jpalmer

  • 2013 National Championships – 2nd Place (Seniors Division)
  • 2013 World Championships – Top 32 (Seniors Division)
  • 2014 National Championships – 2nd Place (Masters Division)
  • 2014 World Championships – Top 32 (Masters Division)
  • 2015 ACT Regional – Champion
  • 2015 TAS Regional – Champion
  • 2015 National Championships – Top 4
  • 2016 QLD Regional Championships – 2nd place
  • 2016 SA Regional – Champion
  • 2016 VIC Regional – Champion
  • 2016 TAS Regional – Champion

Along with multiple City Championship wins and a prestigious Day Two invite for the 2015 World Championships.

Brent Tonisson – The New Breed

Brent is one of the few first year Masters players who has aged up and continued his success. A notable head of a relatively successful testing team, Brent’s deckbuilding is characterised by speed and aggression. Brent is a scary contender as once he and his team have tested a deck and a list they’re happy with, it’s released to the world and floods a tournament. Being likely to hit multiple copies of a particularly tested list in a tournament is concerning, as you can’t just fluke your way past it once. Fresh off a World Championships Top 4 placing in the Senior Division, Brent is another strong contender for the APAC Top 8 position and the coveted Day Two invite. Brent’s 2016 season started with a particularly strange Vespiquen/Lugia/Bronzong build that handled btonnisonsome of the Cities run, then he moved into Night March after the absurdly broken Puzzle of Time got added to it. Seeing him play down a fourth Shaymin EX and thin his deck to under 10 cards in his first turn is always impressive. He finished his Regionals run with a particularly techy YZG deck that utilised the often-overlooked Max Elixir option to throw out powerful Yveltals.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2015 World Championship – Top 4 (Seniors Division)
  • 2016 NSW Regional – Champion

Sameer Sangwan – The Perpetual First Seed

Sameer is a softly spoken, polite and exceptional player that I manage to pair first round at most tournaments. Sameer has had a long and illustrious career within the TCG, dating back to at least 2011. Sameer has been the par excellence of consistency, spending most of the 2014 season as the first seed going into cut at so many events I now just expect to see his name at the top of every list. Along with his brother Robin, another excellent player, Sameer has strong testing partners within the community and consistently hits events with calculated decks with interesting tech choices. Hearing Sameer explain his choice of moves or deck inclusions is always rewarding, as his straightforward sensibility is refreshing in a game that often chases its own tail around new, hyped and unproven concepts. Sameer’s a difficult opponent to read, an excellent strategist with whom you know that they’ve considered every play and it’s up to you to know why. I’m personally excited to see how Sameer does at Worlds this year.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2011 National Championships – 2nd Place
  • 2013 City Championship – Winner
  • 2014 NSW Regional Championships – Top 2
  • 2014 National Championships – 10th Place

Along with a number or other top 8 and top 4 performances.

Matty Masefield – The Dark Horse

Matty is a close personal friend of mine and another fellow SAbleye team member. He’s one of the experienced SA players that I came into the game respecting, and was excited to finally meet and get to know. Matty brings so much fun and laughter to the game, and is one of the few team members I let get away with not playtesting, as despite much testing, his track record speaks for itself. Matty’s motto is “risk it for the biscuit”, and it shows in his wild deck choices, ridiculous techs and confusing consistency. I’ve watched this man not flinch when he N’d himself to one card to draw his only remaining Catcher, and flip heads, to win the game which he would have surely lost the next turn, all as if he knew it was going to happen. This confidence is amazing, and allows Matty to go deep with decks others wouldn’t consider and accordingly haven’t tested against. Interesting deck choices include Mega Khangaskhan in an Yveltal deck around the Flashfire release to counter Pyroar, playing Pyroar/Ninetails at 2014 Nationals and Wob/Bats at 2015 Nationals, as well as legitimately entering Worlds 2015 and Regionals 2016 with Mega Dragon Ray. Garyotensei.

mmasefieldAlso, once a year I drink a bottle of Matty’s scotch and he still comes back to playtest occasionally.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2011 Adelaide City Championships – 1st Place
  • 2013 Adelaide City Championships – 1st Place
  • 2015 NSW Regional Championships – 1st Place
  • 2016 SA Regional Championships – 2nd Place

Along with a bunch of City and Regionals top 8 and top 4 placings, and four Worlds invites.

Andrew Tan – The Returning Champ

As the returning National Champion, Andrew Tan definitely deserves a spot on the list of players to look out for. He’s been a little quiet on the travel for this season, but is still keen to compete for Nationals and Worlds. Andrew’s play is characterised by long periods of heavy consideration, followed by a flurry of actions and very little speaking, for when he’s got his line of play identified, he’s more than capable of carrying out complex, multi-turn spanning plans. Tanpai has been a mainstay of Nationals top cuts, coming from the respectable stable of the WAilords testing team, home of many of Australia’s best players. Andrew’s deck choices are always interesting, as he enjoys having tech options and multiple responses in decks over more linear strategies, despite having played Night March for Worlds 2015. Worlds 2014 saw him play an interesting Team Plasma/Fairies deck with an insane amount of tech attackers, amazing amounts of ball search and an uncommon ACE SPEC choice. Several times Andrew and I have entered tournaments running secret mirror lists, including a teched out Toad/Slurpuff list for SA Regionals 2015, a strange Donphan/P Groudon list for Perth Regionals 2014 and of course Andrew Tan becoming 2015 Australian National Champion with a Toad Min list we worked on heavily, right down to a last minute pen on ink printed deck list change I had been haggling him about for days.

atranNotable Achievements:

  • 2013 National Championships – Top 16
  • 2014 National Championships – Top 4
  • 2015 WA Regional Championships – Top 8
  • 2015 Vic Regional Championships – Top 8
  • 2015 Perth City – Champion
  • 2015 SA Regional Championships – Top 8
  • 2015 National – Champion
  • 2015 World Championships  – Day Two final standings around 40th Place
  • 2016 Perth City  – Champion
  • 2016 NSW Regional Championships – Top 8
  • 2016 WA Regional Championships – Top 4

Aaron Van Der Kolk – The Rat Child

Aaron is another of the new breed of first-year Masters Division players whose success in Seniors has carried over. Aaron’s playstyle is characterised by reckless aggression, both in deck choice and manner of play. Aaron isn’t afraid to dig deep through decks at speeds most players wouldn’t consider, putting on pressure most matchup testing wouldn’t usually prepare you for. What may sometimes come off as reckless often has the advantage of gaining pace and overwhelming opponents. Aaron’s resource management has also come along in bounds in the past year alone. One of Aaron’s particular ingame skills involves identifying alternate win conditions. Aaron is renowned for taking wins away from clearly advantaged opponents by running heavy Lysandres and Lysandre stalling for deck out wins. Bunnelbys and surprise deckouts have helped this strategy a lot before. Run at least as many AZ or switches as he runs VS Seeker. Aaron’s had a successful first season in the Masters division, showing he’s a competitive force despite his young age.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2015 National – Champion (Seniors division)
  • 2016 Werribee City – Champion
  • 2016 Adelaide City Championships – Top 2
  • 2016 ACT Regional – Champion

Alex Bray – The Bridesmaid

Alex is the perpetual underdog, which is ridiculous when you consider his skill level. Some were surprised when he played his way through Day One of Worlds 2015, but after staying up the night before and playtesting with him, I was confident in his choice, his build and his skill. Another excellent player out of the WAilord camp, Alex is a great player at identifying outs and important midpoint goals to have achieved throughout certain matchups. His knowledge and understanding of what should play out between decks speaks to his strong theorymoning skills and helps him gauge his builds and ingame resources accordingly. The WA team often complain of being affected by the bridesmaid curse, always getting second place but rarely clinching victories, but this really just speaks to the consistency of achieving top cut that most of the WAilord players are known for. Alex is known for playing competitive matches in near silence, concentrating hard, and following up matches with an amazingly concise two sentences summary of the key turning points of the game. This skill in following a game’s narrative makes him an interesting player and a great commentator as well. Expect no quarter from Alex at Nationals; one of the biggest tournaments on the calendar would be a great place to start taking firsts.

Notable Achievements:

  • Three City Championships – Top 2s
  • Three City Championships – Top 4s
  • Two Regional Championships – Top 8s
  • One Regional Championships – Top 2
  • 2015 World Championships – Day Two

Make sure you look out for these famous faces at the National Championships this year! Of course, there are a lot of good and talented players in the Australian community, many of whom would be no surprise if they took the title down. These just represent some safe bets for a solid run on the day; any of whom with a decent draw and reasonable luck will provide great adversaries for anyone who pairs them. Good luck to everyone listed and all those competing, and a huge thank you to all those mentioned for being so obliging in assisting me with gathering their results and participating in this brief write up.

See you all at Nats!

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