Hello Underground, and welcome to my newest article! By now, you’ve all seen the full scan list of Call of Legends, and I’m sure you’re all weeping the same pool of tears that I am. It’s a genuine statement that Pokémon does not spend time or marketing efforts geared toward increasing the quality of Organized Play.
For big time players (as I’m sure many of you are), this is a bad sign to come. This means that we likely won’t see an increase in prize support, set design, or advertising for tournaments and leagues.
And while a member of the TPCi staff offered a noble explanation, another truth is that States will be replacing our trophies with medals as prizes this year. While they say these medals are twice the size of the ones we get at City Championships, it just isn’t the same “big prize” to aspire for as a trophy is.
So what will our prizes for States be? The packs awarded for the high cuts will be Call of Legends (a low value, mostly unplayable set) and the physical prize is now a medal (a fraction of the pure size that a trophy would take up). Oh yeah, and points.
Now is make or break time, and we’re entering the “Big Four” of events (States x2, Regionals, Nationals). While things have been different in the past, most people don’t realize that all four of these events are worth the same amount as each other.
Because Call of legends barely changes the format and effectively introduces one playable deck (Gengar Prime, and MAYYYYYYYYBE a very well-teched Lucario), things are going to be very much the same. Here are the big decks that you’re going to see at States:
– Dialgachomp (Has a decent Gengar Prime game, especially with the ToxiTank + Stadiums lineup.)
– Sablock (My baby.)
– Gyarados (Has a bad Gengar Prime game and will decrease in play a bit.)
– Vilegar (Still a decent play. Has an inherent disadvantage vs. Gengar Prime because of the high Pokémon count, but Trainer lock can frustrate speed-based builds.)
– Gengar Prime (The new and only hidden factor coming into States.)
… and possibly:
– Tyranitar (Strong Gengar Prime matchup, but struggles vs. other mainstream decks and will need to be teched for other matchups.)
What is my opinion on Gengar Prime? Personally, I see it as a deck that will not swarm the first week of States. This is part of plenty of social factors, including:
– Bad lists circulating, even on “smarter” communities like HeyTrainer. People just don’t seem to grasp concepts that help the deck’s universal matchups, such as Mew Prime lines and Machamp techs to deal with Deafen lock.
People also overhype techs like Palkia, which are definitely not “the play”. We still have a month for these lists to develop, but I think that bad lists are already turning people away from the concept.
– Losses due to time. People are nervous as it is with a regular games going to time. A Gengar game that ends in the third turn of +3 pretty much automatically goes to the non-Gengar player. Even if lists might eventually be developed that can win fast enough, this fear of such a silly way to lose will turn people away from the idea.
– Unfamiliarity. People are resistant to change in this game, and will usually turn to a deck they are familiar winning with than a new concept. People just don’t want to play the “new fangled win with the Lost Zone” deck. They might test it briefly, but because of my first problem (bad lists) they’ll drop the idea fairly quickly.
Now I know plenty of good players are hard at work developing Gengar Prime, such as Fulop and Aaron Curry. It’s the same way that SP decks in 2009 were developed. Week 1 it ended up winning a decent amount, and by week 2 the hype train has spread like wildfire, and SP took over.
Now with SP, there was much more of an instant gratification with testing — things went well right away for players who tested SP based builds. For Gengar, many are currently frustrated. What I feel will happen is most players will duck out and avoid “taking that risk” in order to leave the results to the players who are experienced and are ballsy enough to try it.
If it does well week 1, it’ll spread like crazy week 2. However, I see it as a lower play for week 1 based on what I know right now.
So why all this talk about Gengar Prime in a mostly Sablock article? My point, if anything, is this:
Gengar Prime needs to be accounted for, but it likely won’t be a big deck week one.
So… what does this mean for Sablock? Well, the deck already runs a Dark attacker, has donk potential, and can potentially win any game through disruption. Pair this through the use of the SP engine and it’s a solid deck for sure.
Is it tier one? Maybe. I argue that you can make it tier 1 through testing. It has no auto-loss and no auto-win — which means that practice, testing, skill, and luck will be your primary factors of win or loss. I’ve taken Sablock to about 10 events now, and the worst I’ve ever done with it is 2 games above .500.
It might not be the deck for you, but it’s the one I know the best, and because I’ve made many changes to my build, and I feel it to be a good time to take you through them.
For those of you guys who haven’t seen my latest episode of Prof-It!, go check it out (Episode 36). Both me and my brother won back-to-back Cities in Illinois with Sablock builds, which is nothing to scoff at (Rockford, IL ended up being the second biggest CC in the US!). We both used the same skeleton for our Sablock, so I’ll present you guys with that and I’ll go over the changes from previous builds:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 26
3-4 Pokémon Collector (He played 4, I played 3)
Energy – 12
Free Space: 7 cards
This is the basic list of Sablock, and should be used to help you get started if you’re interested in making the deck.
pokemon-paradijs.comWhen starting with Sableye, use Impersonate to grab a Supporter. If my hand is good, I like to start with Cyrus’s Initiative to try to cripple my opponent early. If my hand is bad I either use Judge to disrupt and refresh my hand, or just use Pokémon Collector to set up.
The main idea is to use your disruption cards to slow your opponent down, while taking quick prizes with Garchomp C LV.X. Different techs add to your power/disruption, but this is your core strategy.
Before I delve into the 7 cards we both used, I’ll discus some of the major changes made to the last build I presented near the middle of cities. Many of these changes were suggested by Chris Fulop a while back when I showed him my list, so I’ll give credit where credit is due. I will take credit for some of the changes, though. :P
– No more Unown Dark. It’s a bad starter, and only worked as a gimmick for quick donks when I started with Smeargle and Portraited for a Collector. In the end, I put the statistics to the test and found that the combo just didn’t work as often as I felt it was worth. I made space for a 5th Energy with him.
– Only 3 Poké Turn. This was an idea that Fulop backed, arguing that with all the trainer lock, plus no real urgency to use Poké Turn for healing in a format full of one shots, that 3 turn would work out. Because my metagame is VileGar heavy, I cut the 4th Turn in an instant and have hardly missed it.
– No more Chatot G. This one was a harder one to cut because it had won me so many games, but Fulop told me it had to go. I defied him for a while before reading some old tournament reports. I love reading old reports from past winners.
I feel that it’s important to understand what worked for previous players because what worked for them might work for you. I came to the realization that Con Le won Nationals 2010 without Chatot G, as well as placing 9th at Worlds.
I was always under the assumption that he had one, and this was very startling to me. I decided that if you can win Nationals without it, you certainly don’t need it.
– No more Smeargle, 4 Sableye. This one was suggested by both Fulop and my brother, and I couldn’t agree more. I really liked the hype behind Smeargle, but the more games I played, the less he delivered in the long term.
Playing 3 Smeargle helped me win a Battle Road, but when I played 2 Smeargle he hardly helped at all at the City Championship I went 4-2 at. I decided that because he was either failing due to Supporterless hands, or just clogging up bench space, that Sableye was the better option for consistent disruption.
Running 4 Sableye also promised the chance of a donk versus Vilegar — a popular deck in my area that I really wanted to beat.
So what were my 7 cards, and what were my brother’s? Here’s how both of our lists broke down:
My 5 Energy:
3 Darkness (Basic)
1 ? — I honestly couldn’t figure out the 7th card. I think it’s possible he DID run 2 Bebe’s Search, so that could be what it is. I do know that he chose to not play a Garchomp C LV.X counter other than Garchomp himself, though.
His 5 Energy:
My list went 4-2 day 1, and X-2 day 2 to win. Here’s an overview of my games if you decided to not watch my video:
Win vs. Crobat Prime
Loss vs. Vilegar (4 Initiative tails + 2 Fainting Spell heads on Honchkrows) :(
Win vs. Machamp
Win vs. Vilegar
Loss vs. Luxchomp (Donked by Ambipom G, didn’t draw a card)
Win vs. Tyranitar
Win vs. Gengar/Donphan
Win vs. Feraligatr/Wailord
Loss vs. “Lox”chomp (Vs. my brother — lost in 2 turns after a Supporterless hand)
Win vs. Vilegar
Win vs. Sableye/Weavile/Slowking hand disruption
pokemon-paradijs.comLoss vs. Gyarados (Flipped 4 Initiative tails, one of them that would have won me the game, against him flipping 4 heads on Super Scoop up) :(
Win vs. Gigas
Win vs. Steelix
Win vs. “Lox”chomp (My brother again—payback!)
I don’t remember my brother’s entire order for his games, but here is how his performance went:
Win vs. Vilegar
Loss vs. Vilegar
Win vs. Luxchomp
Win vs. Mew+Gyarados
Win vs. Tyranitar
Win vs. Regigigas
Win vs. Luxchomp
Win vs. Luxchomp
Win vs. Luxchomp
Interesting to note here is that he won all three of his Luxchomp games, despite not playing Ambipom G or Dragonite FB. He also said that the Toxicroak G Promo wasn’t used in any of his games, and that he mostly won through straight disruption.
Win vs. ???
Win vs. ???
Win vs. ???
Win vs. ???
Win vs. Donphan
Win vs. Regigigas
Win vs. Gyarados
Win vs. Gyarados
Loss vs. Sablock (Me)
So why did I choose my 7 and why did he choose his, and which build was better? Here’s an analysis of both:
This came out of a conversation that me and my friend Carver had. I talked with him about how I loved Honchkrow and just hated how after it got KO’d there was no reasonable way to recover it.
The first idea tossed up was Rescue Energies, but I didn’t like it because you ideally want to attack with Honchkrow using 2 Energy — one Double Colorless and one Darkness. The second idea was Palmer’s Contribution, but I didn’t like that either. In the end, I decided to do something very uncommon — run a 2-2 Honchkrow line.
I’ve been on the fence about Honchkrow for a while now. I originally put him in to aid my Gyarados game (by using Darkness Restore to bring Magikarps out of the discard pile) and supplement my auto-losses (Machamp and Mewtwo LV.X).
In the City Championships that I took the 1-1 line to, I lost to Jason Klaczynski on time before I was able to get honchkrow set up. I did use Honchkrow to beat another Gyarados later that day by taking the last prize, but 5-of those prizes were taken by Garchomp C and the last prize could have been taken by him a turn later as well.
The only game it did help me win was one against an old lady playing Donphan/Gengar. So why the movement to 2-2?
The 2-2 line helps you get one of the pieces in your hand off an uxie or your opening hand, decreasing the trouble of getting your usual 1-1 line out. It also allows you to use 2 Honchkrow in one game, which is something I did more often than you would think. I think it’s a great addition to the deck because it offers a solution to your low damage output as well.
Both Garchomp and Blaziken hit for a maximum of 80 damage, which is great, but sometimes getting a 1HKO on your opponent’s active Pokémon puts you at a much better advantage. On average, I’ve found that your opponent will have 3-4 basic Pokémon on their bench. With your own bench of 5 basics, that puts you at a base damage of 110-120 before adding Special Darks or Crobat drops.
One thing that I noticed after my episode was that for the first time, people began making decks around my video. While I was honored that I saw forum posts putting in 2-2 Honchkrow lines to their decks, I need to stress something: It’s a metagame-based tech.
It’s in there as a 2-2 line to deal with Gyarados, Dialgachomp, and Vilegar. My area sees little Luxchomp compared to others (I only faced one pure Luxchomp deck out of both days, and twice played by brother’s Sablock/Luxchomp hybrid).
Luxchomp is probably your worst matchup with the Honchkrows because of its Lightning weakness. However, against decks heavy in my metagame (Gyarados, Dialgachomp, and Vilegar) and auto-losses (Machamp and Mewtwo LV.X) it was very helpful.
The 2-2 Honchkrow line is also going to be a good play against Gengar Prime. With only 4 basic Pokémon on your bench, you can 1-shot Gengars and Mews every single turn, while also dodging a KO if they run a Machamp tech.
The question is — can you get it out fast enough?
Is Honchkrow “THE” play? Not necessarily. In a Luxchomp-heavy metagame, he probably won’t be able to fare very well. Against the decks listed though, I’ve found him to be an invaluable tool.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe 1-1 Blaziken line is used as a quick counter to Dialga (they were running wild, but I happened to dodge them all in the last two tournaments : /). I also really like the attack “Luring Flame” as an out to disrupt your opponent — possibly slowing them down more than you.
Because my metagame is so Trainer lock oriented, I felt that Luring Flame is often a faster way to pull up Vileplume than Luxray GL’s “Bright Look.” Luring Flame helped me against almost all of the Stage 2 decks I played, and “Jet Shoot” turned my game against Steelix into an auto-win.
To be honest, I’ve been debating whether or not Blaziken is needed. I like Luring Flame, and I like how quick Jet Shoot is, but it’s possible that he could be rotated for something else, even a 1-1 Luxray, or a Toxicroak G plus a Psychic energy.
Right now, Blaziken is just the tech that I know — and because I’ve tested so long with him, I make the best in game decisions playing him right now.
Ambipom G RR1
You would think that this one doesn’t need to be discussed, but the reality is I wasn’t able to use ambipom G’s smack attack once. I did use tail code once in an attempt to stall out machamp while I built up honchkrow, but even that wasn’t a factor in the end. While I believe ambipom to be very useful in the SP mirror, I only played SP games 3 times, and two of them were donks. It might not be needed in my metagame, but it’ll definitely be a safe play coming into states if you’re worried about other SP decks.
3 Darkness/2 Fire Energy
3 Darkness was to increase the basic energy count, as well as provide more fuel for Honchkrow. The 2 Fire seems like it might be a little high for a 1-1 tech, but it’s there to prevent prized Fire issues as well as add to the basic energy.
The one card I’m looking to fit is a single Psychic to open up options.
Luxray GL LV.X RR, Lucario GL RR3-1
pokemon-paradijs.comWhile I believed that Honchkrow was the right way to deal with Gyarados and Vilegar, my brother believed that Luxray LV.X could do the trick as well. A 3-1 line seems extremely heavy, but his reasoning was that it would both 1) make your odds of starting Luxray, Garchomp, or Sableye VERY high and 2) would increase the amount of turns where you’re able to get 3 SP pokemon in play for a Power Spray.
The Lucario combined with the Luxray gives the deck serious speed and offensive game against Gyarados that Honchkrow can’t provide. While I use Blaziken FB to bide for time and Honchkrow for late game, Luxray can help you take the offensive right away.
Luxray offers the deck a heavy disruptive element through Bright Look, and Flash Impact is a great follow-up for taking cheap prizes. As I mentioned earlier, he’s also a big fan of using Bright Look followed by a key “Lock Up” with Azelf LA to bide for time or leave your opponent in a helpless state.
In the end, Luxray ended up being a great play for him, and helped him go an impressive 16-2. However, because Gyarados is going to see a decrease in play due to Gengar Prime, a full 3-1 line probably isn’t needed.
Drifblim FB SVToxicroak G Promo/
The Toxicroak G Promo is a pretty standard tech that we all know about, but I might as well go over it since I haven’t run it in any sablock builds since Nationals. Toxicroak gives you an easy return KO on Luxray GL LV.X, as well as help with random matchups like Regigigas and Tyranitar.
In the end though, Cody said he barely used it against the 3 Luxchomps he played in top cut, saying that he won all of his games through disruption and defeating his opponent after taking an advantage in speed. Dissatisfied with the Toxicroak G, he decided to try another tech recommended by Fulop, Drifblim FB.
Drifblim FB is interesting in that he can become a great wall in a losing game, and can also pick off easy prizes off pixies when you have Lucario GL out already. It ended up being a much bigger use to him than the Toxicroak, and he used it to take the needed prizes to beat a Regigigas deck, as well as an interesting scenario in sudden death.
In sudden death, when you start with Drifblim, you automatically get 120 HP through “Pump Up” because your opponent only has 1 Prize card remaining. His 120 HP wasn’t enough for gyarados to KO him, and he proceeded to use shadow ball with Lucario out to Knock Out an uxie the next turn.
Drifblim is definitely interesting. I can’t comment on it too much because I need to test with it more, but I definitely like him.
Cody’s 3 Lightning and 2 Psychic were pretty standard — the second Psychic just let him have that Azelf LA option if he has used his Psychic Energy already.
He did, however, decide that 3 Special Dark was a poor play for a deck that only used Sableye as a Dark attacker. He said it did come in handy when it came to 1-shotting Mew Prime in one game, but otherwise just provided an unsearchable energy. He said that replacements he’s looking to test are both Call Energy and Warp Energy.
So, that’s the basis of both of our lists at the end of City Championships as many of you have asked for. Want to hear a funny fact? Both of our lists run no cards from Call of Legends (well, duh), Triumphant, or Undaunted!
In theory, I could have run my exact list at Nationals last year. I think this, in part, is the reason that Sablock isn’t seeing heavy “tier 1” play — people just feel strange playing a deck with no new cards in it.
Sure, there are definitely cards like Seeker, Junk Arm, and Energy Exchanger that could find a home in the deck, but I don’t feel like I’ve needed them so far. In a way, it’s kind of impressive that this dinosaur of a deck can still function about as well as it used to.
Sablock isn’t for everyone, but with a lot of testing, I feel like it’s such a solid option. I don’t go into games feeling like I’m going to lose based on matchups anymore, and that is an invaluable trait to have. It needs a lot of testing, and the only way to get experience is by racking up as many games as you can against the top decks.
Because Call of Legends barely changes our metagame, chances are high I’ll be sticking with Sablock for this first week of States. I know it might be boring reading about Sablock for the 3rd time now, but having played the deck for close to a year now, I feel that this is the best advice I can give to make your UG subscription worthwhile (plus, Call of Legends brings almost nothing to the table that we didn’t expect).
Good luck testing, and be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions about any specific scenarios. Only 40ish more days till States!
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