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How to Excel vs. Accelgor + Getting the Most out of Zeels and Darkrai Decks

I want to start this article off with a spotlight on a hitherto largely unhyped deck that a select group of talented players did well with at this year’s U.S. Nationals:

Accelgor DEX/Mew Prime/Chandelure NVI/Vileplume UD

All of the post-Nationals talk of Klinklang’s unexpected win in the Master’s division has eclipsed discussion of this deck, which was even more off-the-radar than Klinklang and did amazingly well in its own right. Our very own John Kettler took the deck to the top 16, losing only once before that to – wouldn’t you know it? – another Accelgor player, Harrison Leven, who emerged from Swiss with a perfect 9-0 record. He also made it to top 16.

On paper, the deck seems like it would fail in this format for a number of reasons, from early-game frailty to the reliance on dual Stage 2s. How did it manage to dominate Swiss and then go so deep into the cut?

Well, I’m sure Kettler plans to talk about the deck (and his Nationals experience with it) in his own upcoming article, so I don’t want to steal his thunder and do an extensive analysis of Accelgor’s matchups or secrets here. Instead, I want to talk about some different ways to approach beating it.

General approach for any non-Vileplume deck

As is always the case when facing a Vileplume deck with one that relies on Items, you should look for any chance you get to either deny Vileplume’s entrance into play, or remove it once it has hit the field.

Rush decks like Speed Darkrai have the best chance to KO Oddish/Gloom early on and cut Vileplume off “at the roots,” so to speak, because they are specifically designed to start dealing big damage on turn 1 more reliably than, say, Zeel, which only occasionally will hit the turn 1 Mewtwo + DCE to apply early pressure.

If you are going first and can KO an Oddish turn 1, you put the Accelgor player into a perilous situation. If he has an Oddish in the Prizes, the game is probably already over. If both of the remaining Oddish (most lists will run 3) are still in the deck, he needs to get them both into play at the same time, and soon, or Catcher will allow each individually-Benched Oddish to be taken out before it can evolve.

Darkrai is great at denying Vileplume for another reason, aside from its turn 1 capabilities: it can KO 2 Oddish at the same time, which not only cuts off Vileplume, but also delays Twins until it is too late. This is a bit harder to do against Accelgor since anything you hit with Night Spear is getting OHKOed, turning Twins on, but it can still be done with the aid of Tornadus EX/Sableye DEX/Terrakion NVI/even Smeargle UD.

The strategy is to simply hit one Oddish with any of those aforementioned attackers (only use Tornadus is there is no Stadium in play, of course) to soften it up. Then, on your next turn, Catcher up a fresh Oddish and hit both it and the one you softened up with Night Spear, taking them both out. If you can pull this off, you have probably won the game.

Of course, you can’t always rely on your opponent to depend on Twins to get Vileplume out. Sometimes, he won’t need it, and then a play like this won’t work. You can try to gauge the likeliness of a “natural” Vileplume drop via Smeargle or by observing things like the absence of a Supporter drop from the opponent (which may mean the hand is dead, or may mean there is dynamite in it such as Rare Candy and Vileplume).

One thing players have a hard time with when facing Vileplume is recognizing when not to go for an Oddish KO. If the opponent has 2 Oddish in play and is certainly holding either a Twins or the pieces for a Vileplume next turn (which, again, you can spy with Smeargle), it makes no sense to take out one of those Oddish and leave the 2nd to freely evolve.

You actually help the opponent out a bit by doing that, by clearing off a valuable Bench space for something like another Litwick or an emergency Shaymin drop later on. (Accelgor is a deck that often likes to work with a big Bench, and it can get clogged early game with stuff like the 2 Oddish, Pichu HS, Litwick BLW Promo BW27, Relicanth CL, Darkrai EX.)

If you know or sense an imminent Vileplume that you can’t stop, target down something else, particularly Litwick/Lampent/Chandelure. You don’t have to worry about Pokémon like Pichu, Relicanth, or even Mew (well, you will “worry” about Mew eventually, but your opponent is going to be running 4 of them, so KOing one isn’t usually game-breaking). In fact, if you’re running Darkrai, you want Pichu on the Bench because you can get a double-KO with Night Spear that way.

The reason you want to set your sights on the Chandelure line in particular is because Chandelure is actually what lets this deck maintain its permanent lock. Without Cursed Shadow, Deck and Cover eventually leads to KOs that come at the end of the Accelgor player’s turn, giving the opponent a chance to attack once before the next lockdown.

If the opponent is given that one turn to attack after each KO, Accelgor easily finds itself in a bad spot since it can’t withstand hits like Vanilluxe and can be forced into a Prize exchange that it can’t win (especially if a few Prizes had to be given up early game, as is usually the case with Accelgor).

Against sound players, you shouldn’t expect to see Litwicks on the Bench before Vileplume, but you might; for example, the opponent is going to Juniper and would rather force the Catcher on Litwick than do your job for you and discard it himself.

N

N is one of Accelgor’s greatest enemies, which is good news for non-Accelgor players, as N is a staple in almost every deck. You don’t have to do any special teching to deal the deck a potentially harsh blow.

N hurts Accelgor by disrupting the constant flow of DCE + Mew needed to stream Deck and Covers. Accelgor wants to get its deck as low as possible, ideally low to the point of containing nothing but Mew and DCE, but it also wants to keep cards like Sage’s Training, Juniper, and Collector on hand so that it can repeatedly pull out the Mew and/or DCE it needs to attack. When N reduces the hand to 1 or 2 cards, it becomes more likely that Accelgor will whiff on the resources to pull off Deck and Cover.

Not being able to Deck and Cover every turn is of course bad for Accelgor, as it gives the opponent a chance to attack. Against Darkrai, this can be especially bad due to Night Spear’s “reach”; depending on the board state and how many previous snipes there were in the game, a single Darkrai attack could net 2 big Prizes. In other matchups, Chandelure can act as a buffer during turns when a Deck and Cover isn’t possible, but not against Darkrai – Night Spear deals an excessive 180 to it.

Watch what you promote

Chandelure allows the Accelgor player to KO anything either going back into his turn, or during his turn, so it may not seem to matter what you promote after a certain point in the lock. However, this isn’t true. Common 70 HP Pokémon like Smeargle and Sableye are usually bad choices to bring Active because they are naturally KOed by poison going back into the Accelgor player’s turn, with no help from Chandelure, which means that Cursed Shadow is instead going to be used to soften up other things.

When you bring up a 70 HP Pokémon, you’re basically giving your opponent a free Prize and a free Cursed Shadow. When that Pokémon goes down, you are still promoting something else for the opponent to lock.

The exception to avoiding bringing up a 70 HP Pokémon is when you’re trying to get your opponent down to a lower number of Prizes (preferably 1) so you can hit him with a more devastating N. You accept that the 70 HP Pokémon is going to be KOed and that your next Active is going to be locked for a turn, but you are banking on dropping a devastating N and getting out of the lock on your next turn, hopefully for long enough to win the game while the opponent repeatedly whiffs DCE and/or Mew.

The hard counters

The two big “hard counters” to Accelgor (and also Vanilluxe or any other status-effect deck) in the current format are Unown CURE and Espeon DEX. Vanilluxe NXD is another card that lets you escape from any status condition while also giving you board disruption, but it is harder to run (as a Stage 2).

Unown CURE is riskier than Espeon for a few reasons: you can open with it (meaning you get no use out of its Power, plus you’re stuck with a bad Active at the start of the game), and it only bails you out of the lock once. The pros for using it over Espeon are that it only takes up one spot in your deck, and it can be searched out with Collector.

Unown gets a lot stronger with Seeker. That card isn’t common, but it is a staple in the Mismagius/Vileplume deck that has done well at various Nationals around the globe (including a top 16 finish in America).

Espeon is much more devastating than Unown because its effect lasts as long as it remains in play. Accelgor doesn’t even get the +10 from Poison that Unown at least allows. (Deck and Cover hits and inflicts Poison; the Poison at the end of that turn leaves 10 damage, then Unown cures it off.) Eevee is a better opener than Unown, too, with its Call for Family attack and ability to paralyze in a dire situation.

It is also a bit harder to donk due to its lack of a weakness to Mewtwo (meaning X Ball alone isn’t enough to OHKO it). The cons to running Espeon are that it takes up 2 slots in a list, and it isn’t as easy to get into play as Unown, particularly under Item lock.

As good as Unown and Espeon are/can be against Accelgor, some people have the misconception that either card included in a deck means that any status-effect matchup becomes an “autowin”.

Let me start off by saying that both Unown and Espeon are a lot more effective at beating Accelgor if they have the element of surprise behind them. If you can drop an Unown “out of nowhere” and unexpectedly launch an attack midgame, you catch your opponent off guard, and it is unlikely that he has done anything to prepare for it. Espeon is impossible to truly surprise an opponent with since Eevee telegraphs its imminent presence, barring those games where the opponent is just baffled by Eevee and doesn’t have any idea what it leads to.

Still, the Benching of Eevee is itself a surprising move, and even though it does give the opponent at least one turn to prepare for Espeon, that isn’t as good as your opponent knowing you run it from the outset (as he will in a best of 3 game, or if words gets out about your list’s techs).

If the opponent knows about Unown/Espeon, the smart thing to do is prepare 2 Chandelure. This isn’t easy, but it can be arranged if it is made into a goal immediately (so parts of the line aren’t discarded by Sage’s, so Twins fetching is prioritized, etc.).

Having 2 Chandelure in play lets the opponent drop 6 damage counters on the field at least once in the game, which is enough to OHKO Unown and either take out an Espeon that was previously Cursed Shadowed, or set it up for a KO from the next Chandelure usage. With only 1 Chandelure in play, Unown can be saved from a KO with Seeker repeatedly and reused to break the paralysis lock. Espeon is also allowed to sit on the field for an additional turn, shutting off Deck and Cover’s effects for that extra turn and allowing an extra attack to go off for the Espeon player.

A less common and surefire way to deal with Espeon is Lampent NVI. An Accelgor player can take a risk and bring it Active with Luring Light, hoping that the opponent won’t have the energy to immediately retreat it. If he doesn’t, he can OHKO it with Deck and Cover (Mew does 100 to it due to Espeon’s weakness), removing it and its prohibitive Ability from the game. This isn’t a likely scenario though, and can be prevented with a simple energy attachment on the Espeon.

I brought up Slippery Slopes Vanilluxe earlier and I’ll say a bit more about it now. It isn’t popular in this format because Stage 2s aren’t popular, thus there’s no way to slip a 1-0-1 line into most decks, let alone reliably get the tech into play. Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini is an exception since it already runs a full Vanilluxe line. Klinklang could run it, but it already has Kyogre EX to aid that matchup, plus it can sometimes use Rainbow Energy to break the lock by KOing an Active with that 10 damage.

However, in the upcoming format, Vanilluxe might be more viable. We are getting several great Stage 2s that are already receiving major hype – mainly Hydreigon and Garchomp – and some others from the past, such as Emboar, may see new life. These decks could all run Vanilluxe if Accelgor/other status lock decks became too prevalent and overpowering; if people actually pair Accelgor with Mew EX and Gothitelle, as has been discussed in some quarters, Vanilluxe becomes even better, as it can potentially break the Magic Room lock as well, unless there is a 2nd Gothitelle in play.

Aside from breaking these locks, Vanilluxe is also great for disruptive purposes in any matchup. A Warp Point option every turn can create a lot of problems for a lot of decks. The ability to switch your Active out at will is also good.

Other counters

Kyogre EX and Raikou EX are two other good answers to Accelgor, although both of them do run the risk of being locked out of the game due to the lock on other Pokémon never letting them come up and attack.

If Kyogre EX beats the lock, though, it can give Accelgor a quick loss by Dual Splashing two Oddish, or two Litwick. Accelgor should virtually always lose to either of those double-KOs, if not immediately then eventually.

Raikou EX can come out more quickly than Kyogre EX due to the support of Eelektrik, but it unfortunately will always take a Prize – and only one, so no double-KOs here – and undesirably activate Twins. It is better late game, if you ever have a chance to get out of the lock.

If you had the opportunity to set up Vileplume for a Volt Bolt with double Spark/single Outrage earlier when it was still Oddish or Gloom, you can take it out and regain your natural right to use Items. If you manage to buy several turns of freedom from the lock due to the opponent whiffing Mew and/or DCE, you may even be able to 2HKO Darkrai or Chandelure.

The dreaded clock

Another enemy of Accelgor is the clock, particularly in the cut when there is the possibility of a Sudden Death game 3. Let me just issue a disclaimer up front: I am not advocating that you try to illegally stall a player out here when I bring up the issue of time. It is simply a fact that Accelgor has problems occasionally with time due to the fact that it is a set up deck, and thus it almost always has trouble in game 3.

Once the lock does get rolling in a game, that game can devolve into “Deck and Cover. Pass. Cursed Shadow, Deck and Cover. Pass”. But any game that comes down to the wire and eats up a lot of the clock puts the Accelgor player into a dangerous spot.

What should you do with this information? Well, again, don’t try to illegally stall. For one, it’s, uh, illegal, and for two, it’s horrible sportsmanship. On the other hand, legal “stalling,” or doing things like playing a Supporter even though you don’t need any new cards, or taking the time to consider where you attach an Energy even though it doesn’t matter (say you put it on a Smeargle), can be done to eat some time off the clock, but be careful that you don’t slip over into the illegal territory.

Doing something like extensively shuffling your opponent’s deck after every Deck and Cover or Twins in game 2, when you never shuffled his deck at all in game 1, is going to be a red flag to an official, and/or your opponent.

If you win game one, you also should avoid scooping in game 2 even if you think you stand a good chance of losing. That way, you force the game to drag on longer, giving your opponent less time to play game 3. Don’t let game 2 go to time, of course, since you don’t want the start of the finale hinging on a coin flip. (Accelgor is a slower deck, but it can still have sick openings, such as turn 2 Vileplume, or turn 2 Deck and Cover, and both of those are potentially lethal in Sudden Death.)

If time is getting close to being called, then you should scoop so you can go first for sure in the 3rd game. Just don’t give up after 10 minutes of play.

Getting the most out of your deck

Now I want to take 2 decks that a.) are extremely popular/good right now and b.) will remain extremely popular/good going into the upcoming BLW-on format, and analyze some of their “hidden” features. Some of the analysis is naturally going to be based on HGSS-on interactions, but even if you’re officially done with this format, I’ve learned that it is never a bad thing to learn or remind yourself of game history.

Testimonial here: I’ve recently been playing a lot of 2005-06 decks as an exercise and because I love that format, trying to play them as perfectly as possible, and I can say that this time spent with “dead cards” does aid me in the present.

Deck #1: Zeels


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