The Underground Lens: Article Criticism (and Miscellaneous Decklists) for the Month of November

We’ve got our eye on you.

The most controversial thing about a Pokémon TCG website is its content. Be it free, paid, or paid for by the glory of Google Ads, we’re always reading it…Observing it…

…And criticizing it.

Be it constructive (“I think X person could have made Y article better by implementing/removing z element”), or just downright nasty (“you suck!”), it’s always happening. I see it all the time on, as well as my own site, The main point of this article is constructiveness: me treating fellow authors with respect for their hard work.

However, I’d like to give my readers their subscriptions’ worth, so rather than just criticize, I’ll be offering alternative ideas, as well as some miscellaneous decklists near the end (since the latter are just devices to illustrate certain points, they won’t be full-blown articles in themselves).

I will be examining main site articles only; articles seen by the public. Even though this is analysis of material you aren’t paying for, it helps your City Championship preparation by analyzing what these authors are saying – what’s a winning strategy? What’s valid?

I will not examine cards of the day, nor will I examine other Underground articles. Dakota’s CotDs are amazing reads, but they don’t really lend themselves to criticism. As for the Underground criticism, we already have a pretty solid system in place, and that’s the forum! I may use some articles as reference points for main site content, but they don’t need to be the main focus.

Since the articles these past three weeks have covered a whole range of topics, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a range of material to enjoy. I hope that this puts each article in a new light, and mixes things up beyond what’s simply there already. So let’s give these articles an extra look through a different lens…

Something Like “Colin’s Corner”, But Better #1: Machamp’s Last Stand / Rumor Has It…
Regice may not be needed in Colin

One thing that’s common is for the same general concept to be addressed by two or more authors. If that’s the case, then we just compare the two, see what advantages one has over the other, and – if applicable – fill in the blanks left by both. Both of these articles were great analysis on an equally great deck, and since there’s overlap with Fulop’s article, I don’t have much to talk about on this one.

On the surface, both players have a lot to agree about: same engine, several similar counts, etc. However, they have several differences as well. Between Colin’s 2 Ditto and Graham’s 1 Ditto/1-1 Umbreon, I would defer to Colin’s choice. Unlike a thicker line of Umbreon, 1-1 is rarely enough to break through your hard matchups, and might not even see the light of day. Between their two takes on deck thinning (Colin’s 4 Drawer/4 Pokédex versus Super Scoop Ups/Max Pokémon Communication), both are effective, but could be optimized: Colin’s 4 Pokédex could be taken out for Junk Arms and other solid consistency cards so that you can reliably set yourself up, and Graham’s Super Scoop Ups could be replaced for Seekers.

As for the two most substantive issues, Machamps and Regice, I would be more inclined to agree with Colin’s 3-1 line of Stormfront/Triumphant, but perhaps – perhaps – cut the Regice. If you run Seeker in Colin’s list, then keeping it becomes a simpler issue, but the fact of the matter is that Regice is a bigger target than Regirock, but does less to help you in matchups outside of Spiritomb or Vilegar (admittedly troublesome matchups, which is why I’m not totally positive on that cut).

Awesome reads, though. Graham offers us a nice take on traditional Machamp, and as I said on the thread, Colin’s been one of my favorite authors for a while.

J-Wittz’s Live Match Coverage: Top 2 Rantoul, IL Battle Road

One very important thing I’d like to direct to your attention is 2:27 of the third video, where Josh asks for a take-back. No, I’m not picking on him (I’ve done the exact same thing before!), but instead using this as an example of the importance of take-backs. Granted, it’s not perfect (the take-back was between friends and was minor; my suggestion is universal and deals only with major misplays), but it gets the job done.

Take-backs are your one chance to make up for an error, so while playing right in the first place is optimal, in case you do make a critical, game-impacting mistake, it does not hurt to ask for a reversal of the play. Your opponent is well within his/her rights to deny the take-back, but you’re well within “your” rights to request it. If your play that you just made guarantees a loss, then it’s the rational decision to ask for it to be taken back on the simple premise that you increase your odds of winning the game – positively speaking, you’re redeeming a suboptimal decision with an optimal one. I’ve seen excellent players ask for take-backs, and I’ve seen excellent players both receive and reject them, so there’s certainly no shame.

The only catch is that this may lead to an implied obligation to give your opponent a take-back in the future, possibly as soon as the current game that you’re in.

Kenny’s Wisdom #2: Do Right and Kill Everything Part 2

Regarding “Never Give Too Much Information,” I’d say that I agree…But only with an asterisk*. Why? Because sometimes giving too much information is favorable! Like I talked about in my mind games article, the primary source of all legal mind games is leading your opponent astray based on his or her own faulty assumptions. In the exceptions to Kenny’s Azelf/Uxie tutoring, sometimes you know when your opponent is more likely to Power Spray or not; if I need an Expert Belt to win the game, then my opponent is much more likely to let a Set Up for one go over a Set Up for 2/3.

By emphasizing the “one” part, I give my opponent more room to fall into it (he doesn’t know if I can do anything else just yet, such as Azelf Time Walk into another Uxie for more cards), and thus actually have a shot of pulling off the only shot I have of winning the game.

Interestingly enough, his point that follows, “No Takesies Backsies,” is oddly relevant to my comment about Josh’s video. More or less, his view is consistent with mine on all fronts except the strategic one: the idea that a take-back request should be used as a last resort. Also, he seems to disagree with the notion that take-backs have an obligation to return the favor. Although this may hold up at most State or higher-level events, in a limited community environment, you’d have some nerve to not return the favor. By being a jerk, you’ll feel negative utility in ways you couldn’t even imagine (never being permitted take-backs again, not having people to trade with/borrow from), so remember that the obligation is there.

My last thing I’d like to comment on in this article is the note-taking aspect. This is hardly being abused in the way it ought to be, but a more efficient, time-saving way to juggle vital game information around is to use acronyms or abbreviations instead of the full names of cards. For example, if Uxie is in your prizes, then in over 95% of your games, writing down a mere “U” on your notes to represent “Uxie” will suffice. Also, don’t get too much ego going on with your memory skills – you aren’t perfect, and could very easily let something slip. By and large, this is good for everybody, and not just those who haven’t been bothering to remember where the cards are for Time Walk.

A Grizzled Veteran’s Guide to the Pokémon TCG

Unfortunately I can’t comment much on this article since it deals with more basic concerns. However, what I will say is that many strong cards throughout the game’s history have been both Setup/Consistency “and” attacker rolled into one. Gardevoir Secret Wonders, Ludicolo Deoxys, and now (potentially) Magnezone Prime…All superb instances of power in combination with setup.

Vergel’s Philosophy: Prepare Like a Pro

Ryan’s referencing the LCQ (“Last Chance Qualifier”) is more spot-on than you can imagine. As one of the few people who has actually won two invites through that brutal tournament, all I have to say is that you need a minimum of six (preferably seven or eight) hours’ sleep. By going to bed early enough the night before, you really do feel a difference, and avoid precisely what Vergel’s talking about. This is a proven method, folks.

As a side note, it’s a very fascinating point to suggest that you shouldn’t quit smoking/coffee/etc. the day of a tournament, but it too is spot-on. Our bodies don’t need to be thrown out of equilibrium when we want to be at our peak condition, be it for Pokémon, tests, a major work presentation, or what have you.

One last point of deviation, though: it sometimes doesn’t hurt to chug a dose of caffeine in certain circumstances. Our Regional Championship went until nearly 4:00 AM last season, but one thing that gave me a huge edge in alertness and focus was a Pepsi that I bought prior to my top four match. Although the crash from the caffeine was sure to come, it lasted me long enough to get the job done, and win the tournament.

PokémanDan’s Pokéclass Episode 9 – Allergy Flower (Vilegar Analysis)

Almost every point of contention I have with this solid resource has already been addressed, indirectly or directly, by my own Vilegar article, but one thing I will say is that I am not fond of Judge in the deck. While there’s a time and place for it in other decklists, it’s not an appropriate play in here due to the superiority of Looker’s in granting knowledge you need, as well as an inferior use of the deck space.

Priming the Lost Zone with Absol and Mew

This is a cool variant on Absol/Mew, but it requires a great deal of effort to setup: either a conditional two energy attack with Absol, or a single energy attack with Mew that Peter plays only two energy for. Garchomp C LV.X, Luxray, Gengar, and Machamp won’t sit idly by while you try pulling this off, so I feel like this list needs to accommodate the contingency plan more. So, to avoid whiffs on See Off, and to make Absol Prime more reliable, I suggest playing 2 Rainbow Energy and an Unown [Dark] (Undaunted). As Peter states, Collector is the most important Supporter in the deck, so why not make it more important, and give yourself easy access to energy? Also, with 2 Rainbow, you up your See Off count to four, and while you bring your basic attackers to dangerously low HP levels, it is worth the sacrifice if it means actually getting your setup.

As a last note, since this list runs 4 Seeker, there’s no reason “not” to run a tech Mesprit LA. Mesprit, whose Psychic Bind is a proven winner with such decks as Gyarados and Machamp, can do a solid job of buying you time versus the noticeably speedier decks in the format.

The Elite 4 Decks Part 2/4: Gyarados

The fact that Gyarados is an “Elite 4” deck is debatable, but it and the other three decks that Zach lists will certainly be popular. The skeleton is more or less appropriate, although I have my differences with it: max Collector, max Junk Arm, and Seeker in lieu of Super Scoop Up are all things that I advocate.

My main points of elaboration and disagreement deal with the “extra” options. In one of my HeyTrainer Apprentice tournaments last year, Pablo Meza did particularly well with a Gyarados utilizing Mankey SV, so I’ve seen it do well; however, that was the pre-DCE, pre-Expert Belt era, so Mankey’s been a very easy to counter-KO ever since. As a result, I would not recommend it over Toxicroak G Promo. I’ve Donphan have limited success for the SP matchup in Gyarados lists, but I definitely would not recommend Machamp. Although it “is” the ultimate Basic Pokémon killer, simply getting it out is challenging enough. In testing versus a Gyarados/Machamp list, I found its consistency to substantially drop, and as a result, was able to beat it consistently with Luxchomp.

The Gyarados counters are proven to work, with one Ditto being the optimal choice (two is too much since you already run Combee, Rescue Energy, and Pokémon Rescue). The Dialgachomp counters are less effective than just running Gyarados as consistent as possible; Blaziken FB LV.X is an easy response KO, and –as mentioned previously – Machamp is unreliable and inconsistent.

As a final note, I definitely do not recommend running Pokédex in this list. If you want to “mix it up,” then a much more Gyarados-appropriate way to do so is go with Poké-Drawer+: it irons out the flow of the deck in comparison to Pokédex, and combos admirably with Junk Arm (i.e., when you have to play a single Poké-Drawer+, Junk Arm counts as your 5th-8th Drawers).

Okemos, MI BR – An Extended Layoff to a Fine First Place Performance

Regrettably, I can’t comment too much on the deck content since he leaves his list a mystery beyond: A) tweaks made to it mentioned in paragraph 3; and B) mentions of particular staple cards throughout.

He mentions some important concept-related info, though. One such point, “the clunk factor,” is accurate to an extent: many Stage 2 lists do suffer from slow, “clunky” starts, but it isn’t usually by fault of the deck concept, so much as the precise way the player executed the list. Counts of Broken Time-Space/Rare Candy matter! Counts of Bebe’s, Collector, Luxury Ball, and Pokémon Communication matter! While I have no clue what Alex’s list was like (and therefore have no certainty if Nick Kowalski’s statements apply to his list), I have seen the same deck executed near-flawlessly.

My fellow Texan friend, Kyle St. Charles, was able to carry the same deck concept to the final four of the U.S. Nationals last season by focusing HEAVILY on consistency, thus “de-clunking” his deck as much as possible. The same thing goes for his commentary on Machamp: the lists are clunky only because they’re executed imprecisely. If you really want to make your deck work fast, you can do it.

As a final note, I agree with him wholeheartedly that Prereleases have been “nerfed” beyond belief! As a matter of personal preference, I haven’t liked going to these events for more than a good time with friends and trading.

Kenny Wisdom #3: Triumphant Set Review Part One (Water, Metal, Colorless, Grass, Trainers, Energy)

It’s actually enjoyable to hear somebody go over the entire set – not just what you like. Not everybody gets that there are some cards that just don’t even factor into metagame evolution, so it’s good to actually lay it out for people: not all cards are created equal!

However…Wailord is 1/5?



Okay, so maybe it isn’t a metagame force by any stretch of the imagination, so the above reaction is exaggerated. BUT, it “is” at least better than bad. So much better than bad that I decided to prove it!

Pokémon – 23

3 Wailmer SV
3 Wailord TM
2 Totodile HS
2 Croconaw HS
2 Feraligatr Prime
4 Spiritomb AR
2 Uxie LA
1 Smeargle UD
1 Mesprit LA
1 Unown Q MD
1 Crobat G
1 Regice LA

Trainers – 20

4 Seeker
4 Bebe’s Search
4 Pokémon Collector


2 Pokémon Communication
2 Expert Belt
1 Luxury Ball


3 Broken Time-Space

Energy – 17

14 W
3 Warp

Wailord isn

I dealt this deck out some versus the top decks, and it proved to be pretty decent! (The fact that it brought Gyarados of all things down to the wire was impressive enough.) It may not be the best deck in the format, and the list may be far from perfect, but it’s an alternative idea for Cities. This is centered around a card capable of so much more than “1/5.”

Magnezone’s Gyroscopic Balls / The Magnetic Metal Monstrosity

I disagree on the Pokégear. This card, like Pokédex in other decks, requires a high level of justification – why use a valuable space on this as opposed to, say, a 4th Spiritomb, and/or a third Broken Time-Space. Plus, I think Pokégear targets the wrong problem: the biggest issue with Engineer’s Adjustments isn’t whether or not you can draw into it, but if you have the energy to discard!
The main positive to Alex’s list is that it’s very, very consistent. If only it had Magnezone Prime…!

…Which is where Tony “Sarah Palin” Smith’s article factors in! Like Alex, there’s a lot I agree with in this list: more Prime-y Magnezone lineup, a Regice for the Vilegar/Spiritomb matches, and a higher count of BTS/Rare Candy. But my concern with this take is that it runs such a low amount of search: 2 Bebe’s, 2 Communication, 2 Collector, and 1 Luxury ball. Given the fact that your Spiritomb is shutting off three of these cards, your odds of getting a setup become much, much less likely.

Both authors bring a lot to the table, so the solution is simple: take the best elements of each when building your testing list. Therefore, keep Tony’s Magnezone line, Alex’s Blissey, something close to Tony’s Rare Candy/BTS count, something close to Alex’s Energy line, and do what you will with the remaining spots. I’m very happy that these two articles came out at roughly the same time, because they both offered starkly contrasting ways to play the same deck.

Prof-It! Episode 32: Top Emerging Decks from Triumphant

Josh is right to address each and every one of these decks: Nidoking, Mew Prime, Regigigas, Magnezone, Machamp, and Gyarados are all capable of creating a major splash in the metagame this season.

As a matter of fact, let’s give that first idea a try, shall we?

Pokémon – 24

4 Nidoran + RR
3 Nidorina RR
4 Nidoqueen RR
2 Uxie LA
1 Azelf LA
1 Spiritomb AR
1 Unown Q MD
1 Nidoran > TM
1 Nidorino TM
1 Nidoking TM
1 Whismur SV
1 Loudred SV
1 Exploud SV
1 Chansey PL
1 Blissey PL

Trainers – 23

4 Bebe’s Search
4 Pokémon Collector

3 Copycat


4 Rare Candy
2 Expert Belt
2 Pokémon Communication
1 Luxury Ball


3 Broken Time-Space

Energy – 13

4 Double Colorless
4 Rainbow
3 P
2 F

Consistent, techy, and fun. It isn’t exactly “too” focused on Nidoking, but it definitely abuses it. Exploud’s needed to make Gyarados and Uxie LV.X bearable; Blissey is there to accommodate heal. In case you don’t like the Blissey, it can easily go toward a larger ‘King line.

How to School the Competition – Luxchomp

Since this is just analysis of how to play Luxchomp, I’ll just add details to certain matchups. By and large, I feel like Dakota did a superb job of going over the matchups. However, a couple variations:

-Versus Dialgachomp: utilizing Luxray GL LV.X is important, but make sure this conforms to a handle on board control as well. In order to get closest to the ideal of “a prize each turn,” you sometimes need to be conservative in case you suspect a Toxicroak G Promo revenge KO would put you at a disadvantage.

-Versus Machamp: I’m pretty much in agreement with this matchup also. The one thing that’s unsaid is how useful the regular Uxie’s Psychic Restore can be in bringing down a Machamp. Assuming you aren’t having to use an Uxie to help engineer a Flash Bite/Zen Blade/Lucario GL play, Psychic Restore is just enough to wear down a Machamp, and thus bring it into Dragon Rush range.

-Versus Sableye SP variants: I think one major thing Dakota leaves out of the analysis is how much weaker Luxchomp’s early game is compared to a Sableye SP variant’s when up against each other. Often, all that it takes is one Judge or a Cyrus’s Initiative Heads to permanently cripple the hand of a Luxchomp player. Often, the solution is not to be found in your playing, but in your list: is it consistent enough? Do you have a way to recover in case you do get hit by a nasty Initiative/Chatot G/Judge? Always have a contingency plan, especially in the list that you bring to an event.

Kenny’s Wisdom #4: Triumphant Set Review, Pt.2 (Just the Good Stuff)

Never say never.

Unfortunately, Kenny took the bad cards out of the article –a pity, since I love bad cards.

Anyway, even though I made it sound otherwise, Kenny’s last article was very much on point, as is this one: Solrock is almost never worth the two bench spaces for it and Lunatone; Absol Prime’s and Gengar Prime’s dynamics may change greatly if/when Lost World comes out in February; Electrode Prime has untapped potential; and Magnezone Prime is not a Claydol “replacement” at all.

Never say never about Grumpig, though: when Jirachi ex was first released in 2006, I’m sure nobody would imagine that it would eventually become the linchpin in the Gardevoir mirror match almost two years later. I don’t claim that a similar occurrence will happen with ‘Pig, but my point is that it could.

Mew Prime actually has some neat variations to it – not just Machamp. Don’t forget that Jumpluff, Gyarados, and Rhyperior LV.X all combo with it to a degree, and while his point is exactly right about Gyarados and Machamp (why not just take the time to properly develop a sturdier attacker?), Rhyperior LV.X doesn’t quite apply. After all, how else are you going to easily setup a Stage Two LV.X? Simple: it’s either going to be with Mew, or…Not at all.

Last of all, I don’t think that Nidoking is hopeless; otherwise, I wouldn’t have made a decklist for it! Rather, it could revive Nidoqueen the deck: a mildly popular concept back in late 2009 that centered around Nidoqueen as the main attacker, featuring cards such as Poké-Healer and Blissey Platinum. Theoretically, this deck could be revived, only now it would feature the extremely sturdy, powerful Nidoking.

PokémanDan’s PokéClass Episode 11 – Regigigas (Ultimate Lock & Disruption)

I’d like to talk about this more, but…We have an article coming up on that soon, so stay tuned! As for this video, it’s a nice starting point, and offers a nice outline of how the deck works.

How to School the Competition – Deck Building

Hahaha…Funny picture to choose for the front page!

Anyway, although this article is targeted toward newer players, it still has relevance to Underground – not every player on our section of the site has been around for forever, after all.

First off, as a player progresses in his or her deck theory, you can occasionally throw “focus” out the window. This is consistent with Dakota’s model, though, because sub-point “A.” simply becomes “I don’t have a focus other than just Knocking Out things in a variety of ways.” For example, Kyle Sucevich’s 2009 Nationals-winning list, Luxray GL/Infernape 4, had no discernable strategy other than just being SP, and the deck, by his own admission, had no substantive synergy.

Second, goals are always very important to consider at all tiers of skill. You can also have dozens of goals at work, but just be sure to not overstretch yourself.

Arceus/Celebi/Garchomp C Deck Analysis

“EvilHamster” brings us an extremely creative concept, and I’m glad somebody made the attempt to abuse Celebi Prime (he does a solid job at it, too). But I think the list is off on a couple of points. First, it’s surprisingly clunky for an all-Basic list; it feels like it needs strong shuffle draw (Copycat/Professor Oak’s New Theory) and/or a 3-1 Uxie/LV.X line. Also, Energy Exchanger could be a powerful addition to this list, seeing that Double Colorless, Warp, and Grass are crucial at a variety of moments.

As a side note, I was originally considering Arceus LV.X #95, but after further testing, it generally doesn’t matter which one you go with. The only time that it does is if you’re running a tech Leaf Refresh Arceus – then it’s optimal to run the Omniscient LV.X.

Kenny’s Wisdom #5: The Face of Modified – City Championships 2010 – 2011

Vilegar is one of the better decks out there.

The biggest point of debate in Kenny’s article was actually what was left out: Vilegar. Since I recently wrote an article on Vilegar, I’ll reference my own opinion on this front. It is “…a deck with reasonable expectations for success, yet few for outright dominance;” it “has a long way to go before it actually becomes king of the Majestic Dawn-on Modified format,” but is still in the running. Given that, I disagree with some of the posters who said that the deck is awful, but I also agree with Kenny that Tier Two is a decent home for it (the bottom of Tier One could also be appropriate).

Outside of Vilegar, it’s a very fair claim to say that SP, Machamp, and Gyarados stand at or near the top right now.


First off, thanks to all of the authors for working hard on their articles – they were excellent reads the first time around, and even more enjoyable the second.

Secondly, thanks to everyone for reading. I hope that my commentary expanded the scope of the main site content, and was useful to your preparation for Cities.

As a final note, I’d like to leave you all with one last “rogue” concept I’ve been messing around with. It hasn’t been addressed anywhere, but it’s a great donk list, and is actually capable of winning games against a four-Pokémon board on the first turn of the game. Introducing…Uxie Donk (post-Triumphant):

Pokémon – 17

4 Unown R LA
4 Uxie LA
4 Crobat G
1 Dunsparce HS
1 Unown UD
1 Sableye SF
1 Unown Q MD
1 Azelf LA

Trainers – 40

4 Pokémon Collector

3 Seeker


4 Poké Turn
4 Junk Arm
4 Poké Drawer +
4 Poké Blower +
4 PlusPower
4 Super Scoop Up
3 Pokémon Rescue
3 Pokémon Communication
2 Expert Belt
1 Luxury Ball

Energy – 3

1 Special D
1 D
1 Cyclone

(Yes, it auto-loses to Dialga G’s Deafen; yes, it auto-loses to Vileplume)

Naturally this article lends itself to a lot of questions, so here’s to a good dialogue on the forums!

-John Kettler

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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