After defeating former World Championship finalist Ian Robb in the Pokemon TCG North American International Championships (NAIC) finals, Cyrus Davis becomes the first ever trans player to win an international championship by piloting her off-the-radar Urshifu/Inteleon deck.
Pokemon is a global phenomenon, spearheaded by the immense popularity of the mainline video game series alongside its other properties like Pokemon Go!, the Pokemon anime, and importantly, the Pokemon TCG. What many do not know is that the TCG has a robust and intense competitive circuit where players compete for prize money, prestige, and the champion title.
Players compete in a year-long circuit in order to earn Championship Points to qualify for the World Championships. Events range from very small and local (like League Challenges) to international events like NAIC. Each year, each major region (South America, Oceania, Europe, and North America) hosts an International Championship, which boast the highest prize and championship point payout of the entire circuit.
As the last event of the competitive season prior to the World Championships, NAIC in Columbus, Ohio was the largest event in western Pokemon TCG history, boasting 1,897 players in the Masters (15+) age division. On the line was over $60,000 in prize money, promotional items, booster packs, a large number of Championship Points, and the coveted Pikachu trophy.
The International Championships format is as follows: players play nine rounds of Swiss (in which you are paired against another player of similar standing in every round) and all players with 19 match points or more advance to Day 2, where players play six more rounds of Swiss until cutting to a Top 8 single-elimination bracket. All matches are best-of-3, with 50 minutes on the clock and an additional three turns of overtime should players exceed that time limit.
Leading up to the event, the two deck archetypes on most players’ radar were Gardevoir-ex and Lost Box. Gardevoir ex aims to flood the playing field with energy cards in order to launch consecutive high-damage attacks with added draw power from its Kirlias and Gardevoirs. Lost Box aims to maintain complete control over the game by using Comfey and Colress’s Experiments to accumulate cards in the Lost Zone, giving it the ability to use cards like Mirage Gate and Sableye in order to deal either high damage against high HP opponents or pick off smaller Pokemon using damage spread.
Cyrus Davis’ deck, Urshifu/Inteleon, was an under-the-radar pick. It aims to utilize Inteleon VMAX’s Double Gunner ability in addition to Medicham V’s Yoga Loop to easily knock out low HP Pokemon and take consecutive turns, while Urshifu VMAX seeks to clean up when the opponent’s guard is down. Cyrus’s choice proved to be successful, as her deck took a favorable matchup to both Gardevoir-ex decks and Lost Box decks, which have low HP Pokemon that can easily be dealt with by Inteleon, Urshifu, and Medicham.
Cyrus Davis is no newcomer to the game, she is an accomplished player with multiple major event Day 2 finishes in her time, but no major title. She’s come close before, earning a Top 4 finish at Dallas Regionals in 2019. While she is definitely a fierce competitor, and one to keep an eye on, she was considered an underdog leading into the event. This, in combination with her unique deck choice, led to a dark horse run of a lifetime.
Cyrus Davis started her NAIC run at 7-0 before her Day 1 run was halted by two other eventual Top 8 competitors, Victor Aung and Christian LaBella. At 7-2, she went into Day 2 only being able to afford one loss, or else she would be out of contention for Top 8.
She proceeded to go 5-1 in Day 2, only dropping one round to Loc Nguyen’s surprise Arceus/Regidrago deck, in order to meet Victor Aung, one of her Day 1 losses, in Top 8. She would enact revenge against Aung’s Lost Box before easily dealing with Calvin Connor’s Gardevoir-ex in Top 4, earning her a spot in the finals against current NA Rank #5 Ian Robb and his Arceus/Duraludon deck.
The matchup for Cyrus Davis against Arceus/Duraludon was thought to be fairly shaky, as Duraludon VMAX is immune to attacks from opponents utilizing special energy, as Cyrus’s deck does. As game one started, Ian opened with a lone Duraludon V, and had no plays to make in his opening hand, forcing him to pass without much progress. Cyrus pounced on the opportunity to take a quick lead, and Ian was unable to recover from the rough start. In Game 2, Ian was able to establish his board with Arceus VStar’s Trinity Nova and Duraludon VMAX, which proved too much for Cyrus to handle, as she dropped Game 2.
With the tournament on the line in a final game 3, Cyrus went first and established an Urshifu V with an attached energy. Ian was unable to find another Pokemon, leaving his lone Arceus V exposed. Cyrus took full advantage, finding another energy and an Octillery in order to switch her Urshifu V into battle, knocking out Ian’s Arceus to win NAIC with a total 15-3 record.
Throughout the International Championship’s existence since 2017, no trans or genderqueer player has ever won the competition. Cyrus Davis’ win marks a huge accomplishment for the game’s trans community, which has grown immensely over the past few years. The establishment of more safe spaces, alongside the community’s welcoming atmosphere compared to many other card games, has worked wonders in boosting the game’s queer scene.
After the event, Cyrus signed with the Shuffle Squad as a sponsored player, and will be competing in the Pokemon World Championships in Yokohama this August. She can be found on Twitter @CyrusDavisTCG and coaches the Pokemon TCG on Metafy.