The Fall Battle Road season has come to an end, and we are faced with a fairly well-defined metagame. The format has been dominated by SP decks, ranging from LuxChomp to DialgaChomp and to Sableye variants. Beyond that, the two most successful decks were Gengar/Vileplume and Machamp decks. These could be straight, speed-based Machamp decks, or paired with other cards, such as Kingdra.
With the metagame being more defined, I had personally taken quite the liking to Machamp/Kingdra due to its favorable matchups against the rest of the tier 1 archetypes. Of course, heading into the City Championship series, things aren’t going to just be another round of Battle Roads, as we get an influx of new cards from the HS: Triumphant expansion.
Now, we have an established metagame, and a bunch of new, exciting cards to look through. I addressed what cards I felt had potential in my brief review of the set the first weekend of Prereleases, but since that point, I’ve had a chance to actually test a lot of the cards, and get a more refined view of which of them I feel will actually make an impact in the metagame.
Seeker is clearly the best card in the set. The ability to repeatedly bounce your benched Pokémon to your hand enables a lot of strategies. Any card with high Hit Points and a low Retreat Cost, like Kingdra or Gyarados, really stands to gain off of this card alongside Broken Time-Space. I really feel that the existence of Seeker has helped to reduce the strength of Rare Candy even more because you want to have the Stage One Pokémon to repeatedly abuse Broken Time-Space after using your Seekers. Spiritomb already took a chunk of power out of Rare Candy and, now, Seeker makes it a little bit less ideal as well.
Seeker also allows you to abuse any Pokémon that has a coming-into-play effect. While it obviously has synergy with Uxie, it also makes other, less abused Pokémon much more threatening. Mesprit, from Legends Awakened, looks to gain an impressive amount of strength. I’ve personally been waiting to dust off that card again after putting it back in the binder after Palkia Lock became less viable last format.
Blissey Prime is another card that has an abusable power, which can be activated from the bench. Blissey has always been one of the stronger Primes printed, in my eyes, but has never really found a home quite yet. I really feel that Seeker has changed that, and think that it is a card that stands to gain a lot of ground as a result of it.
When dealing with Seeker, we have to not only look at it as a tool that we abuse, but also as a tool we want to abuse when our opponents use it. Having a Mesprit or an Uxie on my bench when my opponent plays their own Seeker allows me to get extra mileage out of those cards as well. I think it is wise that any deck plays at least one Pokémon that can be abused as a bit of a counter-measure to my opponent’s own Seeker game plan. If every time they use a Seeker, you are able to Psychic Lock them in return, it really hinders the strength of that Seeker.
Junk Arm has proven to be a pretty powerful card. Not only is it great for allowing you to get extra copies out of key Trainers, but it also lets you get extra copies of Supporters when combined with a VS Seeker. This allows SP decks to run more than 4 copies of Poké Turn, and decks looking to abuse Seeker could theoretically run 4 Seeker, 4 VS Seeker, and 4 Junk Arm, though not advisable.
Junk Arm is also being used in decks as a discard enabler. With the rotation of Felicity’s Drawing, decks had a void to fill, and Junk Arm is one of the better options for getting key cards in the discard pile if needed. The card of course fits great within SP decks as well, allowing you to get extra copies of key Trainers like Power Spray and Energy Gain.
One of the lesser noted uses that I have found is also in decks desiring to get an extremely fast start. It gets back Rare Candy, Pokémon Communication, Poké Drawer +, Pokédex, Luxury Ball, and other Trainers while also reducing your hand size so that Uxie can really maximize the number of cards you draw off of “Set Up.” Often you’ll see hands clutter with extra energy or unusable Supporters, which reduce the number of cards you can dig through, and this helps to undo that.
Twins has also tested really positively in slower decks. The card’s power cannot be denied, but, unfortunately, I really do not condone the use of slower decks in this format as they are a bit of a handicap; the raw power they offer isn’t really that much higher than those decks that can come out of the gates quickly. This is a card that was intended to give those slower decks some extra consistancy, and it certainly goes a long way in helping do that, but I’m just not sure that it really evens the gap well enough.
Rescue Energy has tested pretty well, mainly in SP decks. I had tested it in Gyarados a little bit, and it actually came up being pretty underwhelming. Gyarados has evolved into a deck that really wants to be able to abuse Seeker, and that requires the use of Warp Energy.
Therefore, due to the competition for energy drops between looped Warp Energy and Rescue Energy, I actually feel that Pokémon Rescue is still superior in that decks. I think Rescue Energy is a card which will continue to see play as a one or two of in certain decks, but likely won’t really change the way decks are built.
The Pokémon brought us, as usual, very few powerful cards outside of the Primes and LEGENDs. The cards I felt showed a lot of promise were Machamp Prime, Magnezone Prime, Gengar Prime, Mew Prime, and Celebi Prime. The LEGENDs are all a bit lackluster. Palkia & Dialga LEGEND is interesting, but the handicap of having 2 weaknesses and giving up 2 Prizes, while also being Basics, really makes any deck revolving around LEGEND pokemon hard to justify.
Gengar Prime is an all right card, and might make its way into some Vileplume/Gengar builds, but really only works if you want to try and rehash the old CurseGar deck. Mew Prime actually turned out to be rather bad, which I was afraid of. It has too few of Hit Points to really work, and the fact it gets mauled by both Machamp and Dialga G LV.X really hurt it.
I’d say it will get better once SP rotates, but at that point all of the good cheap attacking targets rotate as well. Celebi Prime is all right but really awaits a good Grass-type to really get abused, but I expect it to eventually see play. Magnezone Prime has tested very well, both as an attacker and as a draw engine. The card is very strong with Judge.
The card I wanted to focus on, though, is Machamp Prime. Machamp has gotten quite a bit of negative stigma over the past couple of seasons. The card has always been “good”, but it played a role in a bit of a rock-paper-scissors game. It was fantastic against SP decks, and rather subpar against everything else.
As a result, people who were using SP or those who got killed quickly by “Take Out” are bitter because they don’t feel that Machamp is a “legitimate” deck when it has to acknowledge that it should lose to every non-SP deck. I’ve always been on the fence about that, not necessarily condoning Machamp as a deck, but really liking it as a supporting evolution line. Pairing it with Gengar, Kingdra, or Flygon as your answer to SP decks has proven strong.
The problem was always that the card, barring Take Out, was underpowered. It had a lot of Hit Points, but never really had reliable attacks. “Hurricane Punch” isn’t a bad attack, but it is unreliable. The flippy nature of the attack is a major turn off. At three different points at Worlds 2010, I have the opportunity to win a game if I hit 2/4 on Hurricane Punch. Of course, I end up flipping 1/12, and lost all 3-of those games as a direct result.
The card has an impressive 150 Hit Points and two great attacks. The first, for a Fighting and 2 Colorless, does 60 damage and discards a special energy card. That attack is strong as a lead-in attack, and very disruptive versus a lot of decks. Its second attack is really where the power comes in. It deals 100 damage plus 10 more for each Pokémon on your bench with any damage counters. This allows the attack to deal up to 150 damage! If you put an Expert Belt on Machamp, it clocks in at an overwhelming 170 Hit Points, dealing a base damage of 120!
Its best trait is its Poké-Power, “Fighting Tag.” It lets you, once during your turn, promote Machamp Prime to the Active Spot and attach all F Energy cards that were on the active to Machamp Prime. This is pretty good at letting Machamp slide active and power itself, but you really need to look at what happens when you get two of these guys in play alongside a chain of Seeker.
You end up getting the F Energy on Machamp Prime, and, when it takes some damage and is nearly killed, you play your second one and use Fighting Tag, sticking it active. You now do 110 damage with your attack, 130 (a very key number) if you have an Expert Belt. They hit you again, and you then use Seeker on the benched Machamp Prime. Using Broken Time-Space, re-evolve and use Fighting Tag to come active again. It makes it very difficult for your opponent to ever kill your Machamp, and it gets even more threatening when you realize you can start one-hit killing most Pokémon they may throw at you.
Unfortunately, this combo requires the use of a lot of Energy, and repeated use of Poké-Powers. Therefore, the card would likely be too slow and too disruptable when paired against a good SP deck. Luckily, the entire line comes fully equipped with a fantastic answer to that in the form of the Stormfront Machamp.
The question is now how do we balance the two in order to make sure you have enough access to Take Out to beat SP decks while also abusing the Machamp Prime loop against other decks. Here is the most recent list that I’ve come up with, and it has been testing pretty well against every deck in the format, barring two.
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 26
Energy – 10
The deck is armed with a lot of different weapons. The deck combines a focused speed engine, complete with 4 Unown R to get Machamp going online as quickly as possible. Unown R also helps to inflate your Basic count so that you don’t lose illegitimate games by being killed before you set up.
The Seekers are used primarily with looping Machamp Primes, but the deck has a number of tools at its disposal that key off of it as well. It helps to keep the deck consistant with extra uses of Uxie, but also increases the value of both Mesprit, who is very disruptive, and Combee, who gets back whichever Machamp is better in a specific matchup.
The Regirock lets you get back F Energy, and, when you want to use Machamp Prime, you can promote it active, and use Fighting Tag to soak them all up. It is a cheap way to gain energy manipulation in the deck. By using the F Energy off of Regirock, plus one of the Double Colorless Energy, you can power up one of Machamp’s attacks.
That brings up the issue of fitting the energy in the deck. Both Machamp enjoy using Double Colorless Energy, although clearly the Prime needs it more. You also need to run enough F Energy to reliably get them quickly, especially for Take Out. To make matters worse, since the deck intends on being fast, it can’t afford to get a clunky hand clogged down by a hand full of energy, reducing your Set Up strength. So, I don’t want to run more than 10 energy, and the best allocation of those 10 slots has turned out to be the 7-3 split that I have in the list.
The deck has some pretty positive matchups across the board. If you look at the biggest decks coming out of Battle Roads, you see the SP decks standing tall at the top of the heap. They won a vast majority of events, and also put the largest percentage of decks into the top 4 and Finals. In addition to this, SP decks have been the favorite of the top players for a while now. Therefore, having a strong matchup against SP decks is huge in that not only does it give you an edge against a large portion of the field but a large portion of the best players.
Luckily, this deck’s major strength is that it is, by far, the best deck in the format against SP decks. Nonetheless, let’s break down some of the matchups.
LuxChomp is always going to be a dangerous deck. It is fast and disruptive, and better than any other deck in the format at stealing undeserving games. Due to the popularity of Machamp, many builds are running Lucario GL in order to give Machamp x2 weakness. Therefore, an Uxie LV.X can do 120 damage with a Double Colorless Energy. Toss in a Crobat G, and thats a Machamp getting taken out in one shot.
Decks are running more and more outs to be able to attack with multiple Uxie LV.X as well, so this is going to be your toughest SP matchup. Nonetheless, this build is built with consistancy and speed in mind, so it can override LuxChomp’s disruption fairly reliably. If they do not take you completely off balance early in the game, you are in pretty good shape. The 2 SF Machamp are going to be your primary attackers, and you need to work on getting to them as quickly as possible. Combee is useful for getting a 3rd Machamp back, and, with Seeker, you can get a 4th copy or more.
Machamp Prime is a strong card against the deck, but it is very difficult to get powered. Best case scenario, the game plan should be to apply early pressure with Machamp and slowly transition yourself into getting a Machamp Prime up and running. Despite its x2 weakness, the 150 Hit Points it provides is nearly impossible to 1-shot from LuxChomp’s side of the field, even with Uxie LV.X. So, even if they manage to deal with the swarm of SF Machamp, you do have an end-game plan in the form of Machamp Prime. It ends up one-hit killing anything in their deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comOne of the major issues you have to worry about in this matchup is the number of Power Sprays they run. Most builds run anywhere from 2-4 copies of Power Spray, and this count could wind up inflated based on the number of Junk Arm they have at their disposal. Power Spray can stop Uxie early and take your legs out from under you, and that can cause you to lose if you simply do not set up. The 3 copies of Uxie, plus all of the Unown R, help to make these sort of losses unlikely. Seeker, allowing you to bounce an Uxie, also helps to give you extra Set Up options.
Uxie LV.X is another interesting card in this matchup. The primary attacker that LuxChomp will turn to in this matchup is their own Uxie LV.X, so you can use your Uxie as an attacker with Zen Blade to Knock Out their LV.X. This lets up the pressure on your need to repeatedly replace your Machamp if the exchange is heated. As consistant as the deck is, it isn’t easy to put a Stage 2 Pokémon into play every turn without Claydol.
Mesprit is also a huge card here. Psychic Bind makes it impossible for them to one shot a Machamp by taking away their access to Crobat. While they can, in turn, Crobat you again the next turn, it still gives you an extra use of Take Out. If you are able to chain Mesprit with Seeker, it can really overwhelm them. This is another card you need to try and time correctly after Power Sprays. You have a lot of cards that you really want to stick, so make sure to really get good at baiting out Sprays in order to force through your most important powers.
If you really wanted to improve your LuxChomp matchup, you can add 1 Spiritomb. This gives you protection from Spray between turns, and early-game while you are setting up. It is an interesting trick, and I’ve really liked it in a number of decks. This matchup is still very favorable, so I don’t think that the extra help is needed, but it is still worth addressing.
This matchup is actually far easier than LuxChomp is. It is usually less focused on having access to Uxie LV.X swarms, and rarely runs Lucario. They have less Power Sprays and are unable to be fast enough to really keep up. They do often run the ToxiTank combo, which isn’t very useful anymore. Uxie LV.X and Machamp Prime both punish that card, and it isn’t even able to kill a Machamp Prime.
Most of the tricks that apply to playing against LuxChomp apply here as well. They are too slow, and the Dialga G line doesn’t really do enough against you to make this all too challenging.
This is an interesting matchup. The deck is better suited at stealing wins off of early kills and by killing your hand. If you get set up and established, the matchup is very easy. The key here is to simply guarantee you get developed and you should be in pretty good shape. They run a lot of Power Sprays, so that is something to always remain mindful of, as that is one of SP’s best weapons against you, because, if both decks do what they aim to do, Machamp overruns them easily. They really need to force your game to faulter or they won’t win.
Due to the higher number of cards they run for disruption, they are not usually as well equipped with their Uxie game plan, so that is a bit of a relief. At the Battle Roads I won with Sablelock, I ran a 3-1 Uxie line with 2 Premier Ball and a Lucario GL, so I was pretty well fit for it, but I had to make a lot of sacrifices to the list to fit that. With the metagame opening up with more threatening decks, such a commitment is even harder to make.
Vs Gengar Vileplume:
This matchup is a disaster. You are probably going to lose. Not only are you very weak to their Trainer lock, but Gengar is able to casually KO your Machamp, even the Primes. Toss in the fact that you really are not armed with anything to deal with getting past “Fainting Spell”, and this matchup is so hopeless that I really decided to write it off entirely when building the deck. I felt that Gengar was a subpar deck during Battle Roads, and I think it gets even weaker. It has very poor game against SP, which is a fatal flaw in my eyes, so it is an all right deck to “take the loss to”.
No deck is good against the entire format, and I feel Gengar is one of the “tier 1 decks” that is best to take the loss to. Regirock is good in this matchup though as a discard outlet for your Trainers. If they try to focus on killing it, you can use Seeker to “save it” and try and gain some form of advantage there. If they flip very poorly it is possible to win, but I won’t be dillusional.
One possible solution to this matchup might be the inclusion of a Luxray GL LV.X. It allows you to gust up Vileplume and kill it with Uxie, or even your Machamp. At that point, if you can keep the Trainer count in your hand down, you might be able to take enough cheap kills to pull it off and push past the Fainting Spell flips. Luxray GL ends up also being a decent choice in a few other matchups. At that point, though, if you add Luxray GL, you need to find a way to get the Luxray active without having to rely on getting your Machamp killed. I’m not sure that I have the solution for that issue yet, but I’m sure there is a good enough way.
This is a hard matchup to discuss really. If they don’t run the same Machamp Prime package you do, looping those two is a great tactic. This becomes more interesting if they run Machamp LV.X, as they can one shot your Primes. You have the edge of running Uxie LV.X as well. Mesprit is a great counter to them too if they go for the LV.X. If you run Mesprit, and they do not, you can almost lock them out of their Seeker loop entirely. Every “Psychic Bind” prevents Fighting Tag, which makes it impossible for them to heal.
Machamp Prime’s first attack is useful for getting rid of Double Colorless Energy as well, and can really lock them down on their energy attachments. Regirock gives you an inevitable energy attachment advantage so that gives you an edge. This build looks to be pretty well-armed to win the mirror match. There isn’t really a defined “Machamp list” yet, so it isn’t that easy to know for sure.
Against decks like Kingdra/Machamp, Kingdra isn’t that useful because it isn’t able to kill your Machamp in one shot, so it falls victim to the Seeker loop still. Gengar/Machamp isn’t as bad as it sounds, as they do not run Vileplume, so you can safely stay out of 1HKO range.
Gyarados is one of the decks which is getting a bit of hype as being stronger with the release of the new cards. Gyarados is a challenging matchup, and it really does depend on what they run. If they run Luxray GL LV.X, then you aren’t even able to attempt to run the Machamp Prime loop. They will just gust around it. They, effectively, have 170 HP against you with an Expert Belt, so it isn’t very easy to kill. The matchup starts with Machamp going ahead on prizes early, and then stagnates mid-game with both sides unable to kill anything at all. Unfortunately, it seems that, in the long run, Gyarados lists run more cards to loop and heal themselves than you do.
pokemon-paradijs.comThere are some cards that you can add to help this matchup if it proves to be popular. Running a Giratina to use “Let Loose” can really disrupt them. It also shuffles away Seeker effectively. Some of my friends have been running the Giratina and it has apparently been very successful versus Gyarados. Running the proposed 1-1 Luxray GL LV.X is also huge for this matchup. It lets you score cheap kills off of benched Pokémon, and, if they run their own Luxray, it lets you gust and kill it before it does the same to you.
Unown P and Rainbow Energy are cards that I looked at as well for the list. Unown P’s Poké-Power lets you place a damage counter on one of your Pokémon. This allows you eventually reach that 170 damage output with Machamp’s second attack. The base 100, plus 20 from Expert Belt, and the additional 50 from each of your damaged Benched Pokémon. This allows you to start one hitting Gyarados. Unown P is a great card for this matchup. Gyarados is of unknown quantity; the deck can be played around more successfully if it proves strong and popular. The build I have above is a little underprepared for it, but not hopeless.
Vs Other Decks:
Unfortunately, the format doesn’t look to have too many major decks with proven success. Machamp excels against most of the other decks that could be built. It is fast and aggressive and can be very disruptive. It has a hard answer by looping between Machamp with a high damage output. Most decks are unable to 1HKO a 170 HP Pokémon, and it is able to one hit most of them in return.
Magnezone, one of the decks I really enjoy at the moment, has issues against Machamp due to the weakness issue, at least until it becomes a LV.X and hopefully tanks itself with Metals. Machamp is fast and full of high damaging attacks, so I feel it is favorable against Magnezone, although what they run in return may or may not change things. Outside of the above decks, there really are no proven quantities in this metagame, so it is hard to really analyze specific matchups.
Machamp looks to have a powerful matchup against most of the other potential decks, and is a good choice for an undefined metagame.
Looking past the matchups, let’s look at some of the other cards that look to be worth including in the deck:
1-1 Luxray GL LV.X with switching effects: This will help against Gyarados and against Gengar/Vileplume.
Unown P: This card gives the deck more control over bench damage. If decks exist where 120 or 130 damage isn’t KOing most of the threats in the format, Unown P could be a great choice for self-inflating your damage output.
Rainbow Energy: This works in the same train of thought as Unown P.
Trapinch/Vibrava: Trapinch and its “Gather Sand” Poké-Power can replace Regirock. It doesn’t discard cards to get around “Poltergeist” and it can’t stock up energy on the bench, but it does have a cheaper Retreat Cost and gives you access to Vibrava, whose one Colorless attack can unleash a huge amount of damage late in the game.
Machamp LV.X: This increases your damage output but requires you to cut a SF Machamp. If you do this, you really need to add cards to recycle SF Machamp because your SP matchup will take a massive hit.
Spiritomb AR: Spiritomb will help against SP decks by forcing your powers through, and it is also a great fall-back plan to force through your evolutions, especially under Trainer-lock.
The deck is nice and focused, but able to add plenty of flexibility if need be. This is a great choice headed into City Championships because it is custom-made to beat the best decks in the format. It is fast and disruptive and offers a lot of raw power. In such an undefined metagame, this is a great weapon to test the waters with and is a deck I am confident will stand the test of time and remain a potent force throughout the City Championships season.
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