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“ETC”: Europe, Testing, and Correcting

With the results of the recent European Challenge Cup tournament, the competitive environment in North America is now shaken up somewhat. From the freshman outings of two new decks, to the latest in techs, the metagame is now coming full circle. What does this all mean? Today, we will try to dissect that question, attempting to understand why the top decks did well, and what this can mean for the rest of the world.

This isn’t the only subject that I will be addressing, though: I also have several play-testing results to share with you all, thoughts about various techs for States, suggestions for planning your trips, and a new, finalized top ten list. We have a lot to talk about, sure, but everything discussed here should help with your State/Territorial/Provincial experience, and make for the best time and the best results.

European Challenge Cup Analysis

The European Challenge Cup (“ECC”) had some very interesting results this year, showing not only how some of Europe’s best play the Pokémon Trading Card Game, but what a large-scale tournament using a BLW-NDE format really looks like. Given that, coverage of this event makes perfect sense right now, considering that much of the world (including areas in Europe itself) will be playing State, Territorial, Provincial, and Regional Tournaments soon.

To begin, we should take a quick look at the top 32 Masters Division top cut placers. Thanks to Pokégym, The Top Cut, and all those who reported to them for getting out a complete list of names, as well as a nearly-complete list of decks they used.

  1. Stian N. (Thundurus EPO/Terrakion NVI/Zekrom EX/Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik NVI)
  2. Tom H. (Zekrom/Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik)
  3. Mikael J.
  4. Anders L. (Cobalion NVI/Kyurem NVI/Kyurem EX/Terrakion NVI/Electrode Prime)
  5. Maxime R. (Zebstrika NDE/Mewtwo EX/Zekrom EX/Eelektrik NVI)
  6. Isto J. (Zekrom/Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik NVI)
  7. Robin S. (Zebstrika NDE/Zekrom/Eelektrik NVI/Techs)
  8. Simon E. (Chandelure)
  9. Matteo L. (Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EPO)
  10. Christian G. (Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik NVI/Terrakion NVI)
  11. Pablo M. (Zekrom/Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik NVI)
  12. David B. (Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EPO)
  13. David M. (Donphan Prime/Dragons)
  14. Simone S. (Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik NVI/Zekrom EX)
  15. Gawein W. (Typhlosion Prime/Magnezone Prime)
  16. Joshua V. (Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik NVI/Zekrom EX)
  17. Alex S. (Zekrom/Eelektrik NVI)
  18. Esa J. (Celebi EX/Mewtwo EX)
  19. Alessandro C. (Celebi EX/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EPO)
  20. Mees B. (Mew Prime/Chandelure NDE 20/Crobat Prime/Jumpluff HS/Yanmega Prime/Terrakion NVI)
  21. Björn R. (Zebstrika NDE/Zekrom/Eelektrik NVI/Techs)
  22. Matijs M. (The Truth)
  23. Benjamin B. (Thundurus EPO/Terrakion NVI/Zekrom EX/Mewtwo EX/Eelektrik NVI)
  24. Miguel G. (Zebstrika NDE/Zekrom/Articuno NDE/Eelektrik NVI)
  25. Jouni L. (Zekrom/Eelektrik NVI)
  26. Marco E. (Durant NVI)
  27. George B. (Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik NVI)
  28. Fin L. (Yanmega Prime/Magnezone Prime)
  29. Gunter van R. (Durant NVI/Shaymin EX)
  30. Tord R. (Magnezone Prime/Mewtwo EX/Eelektrk NVI)
  31. Steven M. (Typhlosion Prime/Reshiram BLW/Reshiram EX)
  32. Cristophe C. (Durant NVI)

Once you pick apart the decks, this top cut field then translates into the following breakdown of decks:

  • 11 Zekrom/Eelektrik variants (One 2nd, one T4, three T8, one T16, five T32)
  • 5 Magnezone/Eelektrik (one T4, two T16, two T32)
  • 4 Celebi/Mewtwo EX variants (One 1st, three T16)
  • 3 Durant (one T16, two T32)
  • 2 Chandelure (one T8, one T32)
  • 1 Electrode variant (T32)
  • 1 Donphan/Dragons (T32)
  • 1 Typhlosion/Magnezone (T32)
  • 1 The Truth (T32)
  • 1 Yanmega/Magnezone (T16)
  • 1 Typhlosion/Reshiram (T32)
  • 1 Unknown (T32)

Finally, from these statistics, I can derive a few assumptions, conclusions, and opinions about the field, as well as the resulting metagame…

Eelektrik was represented in a very big way

Although none of them took the first place title for this tournament, half of the top cut is represented by Eelektrik variants. Of that half, 9/16 went on to win at least one top cut match, 6/8 comprised the elite eight, and 3/4 made the final four. This shows me that regardless of the first place result, it is clear that the most successful card of the day was Eelektrik, and all of its variants.

Zekrom/Eelektrik saw a great variety in techs

Of the Eelektrik/big Basic variations, there were two camps: one with consistency-oriented builds and another with considerable teching. Now this is typically the case with all decks, but I want to point out some very interesting issues pertaining to how the two performed – issues that usually are not crystallized to this extent.

First, tech had a far greater showing than the more standard builds. Of the 11 top cut lists, six of them either featured the cumbersome high-retreater Terrakion, or the Item-locking Zebstrika. In fact, it was these decks that seemed to shine through during Swiss the most, with 3/8 of the top eight going into the top cut being of this kind.

Second, and perhaps more telling, is the fact that of the two teched lists, one form clearly prevailed, while the other did not. Whereas the Terrakion variants continued to excel in the top cut, placing second and fifth, all of the Zebstrika lists collapsed, since none advanced out of the sweet sixteen. To me, this can mean one or more of the following:

1. Editing the core formula of a deck is riskier than a simple slight edit. Although Terrakion is by no means useful in all matchups, and can seriously hinder a Zekrom/Eels list if it is your starter at inopportune moments, it is simply less space used than a 2-2 or even 3-3 Zebstrika line. In its day, Disconnect was a powerful attack, but is it really worth up to 10% of your whole list?

While it could possibly be used as part of a larger strategy, such as luring Mewtwo EX out of dampening the effectiveness of a Stage Two list, it still stands that 90 HP on a stage one is uniquely brittle in this format. You ought to receive some very special bonus for this disadvantage, and it seems like what Zebstrika offers is a mixed bag to an aggressive deck like this.

2. The other high-performing decks had other strong points to them aside from the techs. If you notice, both of the Terrakion builds also had Thundurus as a starter: an interesting, albeit common play used to accelerate Lightning Energy discards by aggressive Disaster Volting early game.

3. Terrakion is just really good in the mirror, or against Zekrom/Eelektrik variants in general. As true as the other two points are, I believe that this could be the biggest individual reason why these two lists excelled at the ECC. In the United States or some other metagame with more Durant or pure Fighting than this, I would suspect a less focused build to suffer somewhat; however, Terrakion was an awesome metagame call for the many Eelektrik mirrors, and appeared to be just the best overall tech option.

Finally, beyond the showings of teched builds, it appears that the regular “super consistency” builds ended up somewhere in the middle, mostly performing at a respectable level. This is the sort of list that was piloted by both Tom Hall and Pablo Meza, who both finished in the top eight of the tournament thanks to high counts of consistency cards, Smeargle UD, and heavy attacking options.

Before we move on, let’s take a brief look at my ideas for what those Zekrom/Eel variants could look like –

Version 1 – Zebstrika Focus

Pokémon – 17

2 Blitzle NVI

1 Blitzle NDE
3 Zebstrika NDE
2 Tynamo NVI #38
2 Tynamo NVI #39
3 Eelektrik NVI
2 Mewtwo EX
1 Zekrom EX
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 29

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Juniper
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
2 Sage’s Training

 

4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Pokémon Communication
2 PlusPower
2 Switch
2 Eviolite

Energy – 14

10 Lightning
4 Double Colorless


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