Team CGC Cards Dominates San Antonio as Azul Garcia Griego Wins His Sixth Regional Championships

Posted on 12/20/2023

Grant Manley mounted a massive comeback in Round 15 to reach a Team CGC Cards showdown in Top 4.

At the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, Team CGC Cards pulled off a commanding performance for the final Pokémon Regional Championships of 2023. While the weather was cool and crisp, the team’s deck of choice, Charizard ex, was burning hot and blazing through the competition. All three members in attendance made their way to Top 32 of the largest regional event to date in the history of the Pokémon Trading Card Game.

With 1,985 Masters Division competitors in attendance over the weekend of December 15-17, the Team CGC Cards members — Azul Garcia Griego, Caleb Gedemer, and Grant Manley — arrived without a clear game plan. While their data said to play the Rapid Strike deck, Azul pushed the team to play Charizard despite making wisecracks about wishing to play the Klawf deck on X.

Click images to enlarge.

The group decision to bring back Charizard revealed itself to be the right meta call, with all three team members finishing Day 1 of the event in the Top 16. Although Charizard ex was also the deck of choice for the team’s dominant performance at the Toronto Regional Championships earlier this season, this version included the newly released Stellar Veil ability Jirachi and the reprinted item card Counter Catcher from Paradox Rift.

“We felt this list was very well refined,” said Caleb, mentioning that the team is understandably “really happy with the result” of the event. Although he was unable to win his Round 15 match to make Top 8, Caleb finished the event in 19th place, with a 9/0/6 record and taking home $1,000 in cash prizes.

Caleb Gedemer (left), Azul Garcia Griego (middle), and Grant Manley (right).

On the stream’s feature match for Round 15, Grant mounted an astonishing comeback in Game 1 against Fusion Mew to secure a 2-0 victory against competitor Christian LaBella. After being down 6-1 in prize cards, Grant held Christian off with skillful plays and a bit of luck in draws, before getting the last pieces he needed to knock out the two Mew VMax cards on his opponent’s board. “Just unbelievable that that all came together,” shares Grant in his winner’s interview. “That was awesome... all the luck just came right back to me.”

However, the team’s luck started to run out as Azul and Grant faced off against each other sooner than they had hoped. With both team members winning their Top 8 matches, they moved on to the Top 4 and were paired up for the semifinal feature match. With the crimson of the Team CGC Cards jerseys shining as bright as Charizard’s burning flames, both competitors were ready to give it their all against their friend-turned-foe.

Team CGC Cards Stream Showdown in Top 4

As the commentators quipped about Grant having never beaten Azul previously in any Top Cut showdowns, castor Ethan Hegyi shared his support for Grant’s strength and accomplishments, stating, “In my opinion, he’s one of the most deserving and accomplished players without a major title win.” However, after a hard-fought set of games, Grant fell to his “bracket demon” as Azul leveled up his cut match win record against Grant to 6-0 and moving into the Finals against competitor Grant Hays.

While on paper, many consider Lost Zone Giratina to be advantageous against the Charizard deck, there are many trainers who do not believe in the deck’s viability in competition — most notably Azul himself. Would this be the match to make Azul eat his words or would it be the one to give Azul his sixth regional championship win?

After a full 75-minute game plus three turns, the heart of the cards guided Azul to victory with a clutching top deck of Boss’s Orders. Keeping true to his humorous character and Lost-Tina hating heart, the freshly-crowned regional champion managed to tweet out “Tina still mid” almost immediately after the game's conclusion, to the irk of many.

Check out this recent interview with Azul on our weekly show, Card Connection!

Despite the 2024 San Antonio Regionals being the final event of 2023, the competitive season is not even halfway over, and Team CGC Cards will be back in action soon at the 2024 Portland Regional Championships in January 2024. As the competitive scene continues to blossom and the metagame continues to develop, only time will tell what strategies and synergies the team will craft and compete with at their next event.

Team CGC Cards was assembled by Danny Oesterreich in 2022, and is comprised of seasoned players Azul Garcia Griego, Caleb Gedemer, Grant Manley, Kidd Starck and Remi Lorenz. The team will compete next at the 2024 Portland Regional Championships, at the Oregon Convention Center, in Portland, Oregon on January 5-7, 2024.

Please join us in wishing the team the best of luck throughout the upcoming season and keep an eye out for new updates on the team’s performance by following them on Instagram and X/Twitter, @teamCGCcards, and the CGC Cards social channels, @CGCcards. You can also watch the players do battle by checking out the events live on the official Pokémon YouTube and Twitch channels.

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