My name is Dakota Streck and I have been playing Pokémon for 10 years. Some of you may know me from my Card of the Days or How to School the Competition articles, or you may not, it’s all the same.
For my first Underground article, I deliberated for a long time over what the focus of it all should be. I desperate for “that” idea. You know what I’m talking about, when an idea pops into your head and you just know that it’s a really great one.
After much thought I had a come up with a few ideas, but nothing that really got me excited. When I’m really into what I’m writing and really believe that it’s good, helpful information, the finished piece can usually be held to a much higher standard.
I received an email from Adam saying (among other things) “The point of Underground is to help players do better at tournaments.” Even though I already knew this, I guess just hearing it again helped jog my memory. I decided to take the statement literally; I was going to write a full-blown article to help you succeed at States. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so we best get started!
Do you remember taking Guidance or Health classes in Middle School? One thing that is brought up quite often are goals. Setting a goal means to pick something you want to achieve, set the time limit in which you want to achieve it, then make it happen. Just like Goals are important in real life, they’re in Pokémon as well.
Whether we know it or not, most of us have set a goal for the season. For some, its to win their first Battle Road while others want a Worlds Invite. Granted your goal is appropriately based on your skill level (meaning Chris Fulop’s goal for the season shouldn’t be top cutting at only one Battle Road Event), it will take a lot of hard work.
For a new player, winning their first Cities event is just as special to them as Tom Hall winning Nationals (okay, maybe not quite as special, but pretty close).
Even if your goal isn’t to earn an invite to Worlds, I’m sure you’d still be happy to receive one (even if you don’t go, just for the bragging rights alone). Now, there are three ways to earn an invite; Premier Rating, Top 4 at Nationals or going through the Grinder.
If you don’t want to travel potentially hundreds of miles for only a chance to get into Worlds (via the Last Chance Qualifier), that only leaves you with two ways to earn your invite. Betting everything on Nationals is risky, to say the least.
Last year, there were over 700 people in attendance at the US Nationals, so your odds of placing high enough to earn a Worlds invite is quite low. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from trying to win their respective National Championships, merely trying to steer you toward a less-risky way to attend Worlds: Premier Rating.
Not only is it the way that the most invites will be given out, but it also puts less pressure on you. Let’s say that you decided to try and win your invite by way of your National Championship. Since Nats is the last event (not counting Worlds) of the year, if you lose there, you’re out; there will be no second chances. On the other hand, if you bomb at a single City Championship, there will be plenty of other chances to make up those points.
The next event in the 2010-2011 Tournament season are the State Championships. For those of you who’s Premier Rating isn’t as high as you would like it to be, your performance at the State Championship(s) you attend will be crucial.
Cities and States are very different, most notably because of the scale. City Championships are much smaller that State events and thus are much more vulnerable to local influence. What I mean by local influence is, in some City events, as little as 16 people will show up. The turnout for States could never be anywhere near this low (maybe if there was a blizzard or Judgement Day or something).
pokemon-paradijs.comI’ll use the small City Championship event with 16 players as a good example. Let’s say that four of those players are brothers. Sitting at home a week before one says “Hey, let’s all play Jumpluff decks at Cities next week!” Because of this impulse those brothers had, your meta could easily look like this:
2 Other Random Decks.
If this was the only Cities event you went to and used this information to try and predict what would be used at States, you’ll be pretty far off the mark. Preparing for 25% of the meta to be Jumpluff lists will mean running a lot of bad tech choices in place of ones needed to combat the actual metagame.
On the other hand, if those four brothers were to go to States running Jumpluff, it would hardly have any effect at all. With that said, I do think the general meta from Cities will carry over to States but with the addition of any new decks made possible with Call of Legend’s release.
While I’m on the topic of new cards, I would also like to discuss something that I call a “ripple effect”. To help me better explain things, I’ll use a great example. Very recently, Lost World was released, which immediately became a key card in LostGar.
Most players are expecting LostGar to be a popular deck during States, so planning for its effect on the metagame is a smart move. When I say this, I don’t mean about obvious things like Gyarados’ expected drop in play, but less noticeable effects such as Steelix Prime being more playable.
While Steelix generally has good match ups, if your opponent was playing Blaziken FB, which wasn’t uncommon, you would certainly lose. To prepare for LostGar, most players have taken Blaziken FB out from their lists in favor of a Pokémon such as Honchkrow, Absol G LV.X or even Dialga G LV.X. With Luxlock gaining considerable popularity in recent weeks, Chenlock’s presence should drop, which is great for Steelix users.
As a Pokémon player, knowing how to counter the expected metagame as well as having an advantage over others who are doing the same is a huge advantage. It’s a lot like counting cards in Poker, the person doing it has a major advantage.
Disclaimer: I am, in no way suggesting you should count cards. While it can earn you a whole lot of cash, it is widely frowned upon in casinos. It can result in security asking you to “come with us”, taking you to a back room and “talking” to you.
With all this being said, here’s what I believe the metagame will look like the 2011 State Championships.
It can be expected that the new deck on the block, LostGar, will see a lot of play during States. Being one of the most (over)-hyped decks in the history of the game, how can it not see play?
It seems the majority of players who once hailed this deck as the next SP have turned against it, saying it just doesn’t live up to expectations, thus, it won’t see much play. I completely disagree.
First things first, with LostGar being a very new deck, not many players have “broken” the deck. When I say broken, I mean most players are only using and testing out lists that are mediocre at best, which is why a number of the Pokémon elite believe it can’t see massive play. Even if it hasn’t been “broken” yet, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t players out there convinced they’ve broken it enough for a good showing.
pokegym.netNonetheless, the following are the most common reasons in which players are shying away from using LostGar:
1. The time issue – Because LostGar usually doesn’t win by taking 6 Prize cards (though some lists are being created with that option), the only way for you to win a best 2 out of 3 match is to win the first two games before Time ends the game.
If you lose the first game, the odds of finishing the second and third game are next to nothing. Granted your opponent has some knowledge of the meta, they’re fully aware not rushing each turn will make it albeit impossible for you to win the third game.
2. Bad Lists – If you want to build a strong LuxChomp list, there are tons of semi-playable lists as well as some really strong ones that you can find online. On the other hand, while there are a lot of LostGar lists floating around, the majority of them don’t fix many of LostGar’s problems.
Because of this, each player who would like to run LostGar will have to construct their entire deck on their own with very little outside help.
While these factors will certainly decrease the amount of LostGar you face, I still expect there to be a high number of LostGar decks because: A) Many players who plan to bring LostGar to States don’t know their list is bad and/or haven’t thought about the time issue B) There are bound to be players who have found ways around the issues I mentioned above.
Week 1, I would expect sizable amount of LostGar. Granted it does well during the first week, you can bet that it will see a massive surge in popularity. This situation is very similar to what takes place at a lot of City Championships or Battle Roads; if LuxChomp wins, you’ll see a rise in players using LuxChomp the following week.
On the other hand, if LostGar falls far short or expectations, it is safe to say that its popularity, as well as its influence on the format, will shrink exponentially.
pokemon-paradijs.comApart from a rather large LostGar showing, it’s a good idea to prepare for a high amount of LuxChomp and DialgaChomp decks. Be sure to factor in LostGar’s ripple effect as we discussed above. Pre-Lost World, the majority of 1-1 tech lines that were run in SP belonged to Blaziken FB, Dialga G or perhaps Entei & Raikou LEGEND or Honchkrow.
Now that Lost World is out, you can expect 90% of those 1-1 (or in some cases, 2-2) tech lines will be devoted to something that counters LostGar, such as Absol G, Honchkrow, or Dialga G. I’ve seen Weavile G being added to DialgaChomp or LuxChomp lists as well.
Other decks that you can expect to see a decent amount of play are Sablelock, Chenlock and the newer Luxlock. The sheer amount of disruption these decks can unleash on your opponent gives them good match ups across the board. However, they probably won’t be quite as popular as some of the SP variants.
To reach the level of skill with these decks necessary to feel comfortable about your odds at States will require a massive time commitment on the part of the user as well as a certain degree of skill needed, which simply puts it out of reach for some players.
During Cities, VileGar was one of the most popular deck choices, but LostGar is bound to turn many away from the deck, due to it having a very touch time against it.
Note: I do have a friend (two time Worlds Qualifier) who has built a VileGar list that has a solid LostGar match up, especially when facing “Turbo”-type builds which has a heavier reliance on Trainers. However, I’m still not convinced VileGar is a good play.
Machamp SF has been in the format since the 2008-2009 season. It is affectionately called the “SP killer” because of its ability to 1HKO any Basic Pokémon for a single F Energy (which got even stronger when Unown G left the format). Machamp was an integral part in FlyChamp decks, drastically increasing its ability to go head-to-head with SP decks. During Cities, Machamps performance was less than stellar, not taking down a single event.
Since Gyarados and VileGar, two of Machamp’s trickiest match ups, are expected to drop in play, you would think it would become more playable. Unfortunately, that is not the case. First of all, a lot more SP decks are running Honchkrow SV, a strong counter. Secondly, Machamp has difficulty taking down a good SP deck, even if they aren’t running a counter.
Note: Machamp and Machamp/X decks still have a very strong SP match up, but it isn’t a guaranteed victory like it used to be either. This is largely due to SP players getting stronger and stronger and evolving their lists to a point where it can combat Machamps more easily. On the other hand, there isn’t much Machamp decks can do to their lists to increase their SP match ups without making their chances against the rest of the field harder than they already are.
Tyranitar is very similar to Machamp in a lot of ways, most notably how its match ups look; they each have a few very strong match ups, but there are a few decks in the format that give it a lot of trouble. I would argue, however, that Tyranitar has less bad match ups as well as its auto-losses being less common (Donphan and Machamp vs Gengar). In addition, its strong match ups (LostGar and VileGar) are at least as strong as, if not stronger than, Machamp’s (LuxChomp and DialgaChomp).
I think you can definitely expect to see a few Tyranitar builds at States. However, the problem that most Tyranitar builds are facing is a sub-par SP match up. I predict that Tyranitar builds incorporating a decent number of anti-SP cards will make it considerably farther (hint hint to those who plan to use Tyranitar at States).
Another deck that you’ll probably see a few of is Steelix. This deck has gotten a lot stronger thanks to the ripple effect Lost World has created. Since so few decks will be running Blaziken FB LV.X, Steelix has a lot less to worry about it. A lot of people don’t think this card has a chance in this format. If you’re one of those players, you should note that Steelix not only won a City Championship this year, but it was at the Georgia Marathon.
LostGar wasn’t the only deck that was made possible with the release of Call of Legends; Palkia Lock 2.0 was born. The idea is still the same, use Mesprit along with Power Spray (although more and more lists have been omitting this card) to maintain a continuous Power Lock. Palkia G is used not only as one of the three Pokémon SP for Power Spray, but it also keeps your bench clear for continuous Mesprit drops.
With the release of Call of Legends, the deck now has a very powerful main attacker in Lucario, which gains strength as you fill your Lost Zone with more and more Pokémon.
pokegym.netI don’t think Lucario/Palkia Lock will be a huge deck during the first week, mainly because of the feared auto-loss in LostGar (although with the proper teching, it turns into a much fairer fight). If LostGar doesn’t do too well or a Palkia Lock deck achieves notable success, you should definitely prepare for a big jump in popularity.
Sablelock was a deck created by a highly skilled team of Pokémon card players which included Stephen Silvestro and Aaron Curry. When they first unleashed Sablelock at the State Championships in Florida, they took two of the top 4 spots.
Having twice the K Value of Cities, (and eight times that of Battle Roads) States are a perfect time to rip out that rogue deck for those who are serious about earning their Worlds invite.
Having said this, you can definitely expect to see some rogues at States. Even though facing the next Sablelock is unlikely, even a bad rogue deck can win if you don’t know how to play against one.
While you might think it’s impossible to test against a deck you’ve never even heard of, there’s still certain tactics you can use throughout the game. One such tactic is you shouldn’t be taking many risks, since you have no idea what you’re playing against (and only get an idea of the list when the game is near its conclusion), risks will probably screw you in the end because you have no idea how your opponent will react, making the odds of it paying off pretty low.
The final few decks that you could run into is Regigigas. With the release of cards such as Twins and Junk Arm (back in Triumphant), Regigigas decks gained a lot of power. Whether you’re facing the standard variant or the No-Basic-Energy version detailed here (link the word “here” to my “An all inclusive gamers guide to Regigigas” article please), you’re facing a very powerful deck that when taken lightly, will cost you the game.
Like any tournament, there’s always the chance you could come across those “fluke” decks such as Scizor, Magnezone, Nidoking, Mewperior or Feraligatr variant. While these decks will certainly be outnumbered by the other decks in the format, you should still keep an eye out for them and make sure you know how to play against them.
Metagame – By the Numbers
Next I would like to present some actual figures of what decks you should expect to face at States. This way, you’ll have some hard numbers instead of sometimes vague statements such as “a lot of play”.
Note: The first number listed is how much I believe the National meta will cause certain decks to be played. The number in the parenthesis is my prediction of how the Local meta could influence the presence of each deck.
For example, LuxChomp is 30% (+15%), which means I expect the minimum number of LuxChomp decks to be in attendance to be 30% of all the decks played at the tournament, but it could be as high as 45%.
LuxChomp 30% (+15%)
LostGar 15% (+15%)
Sablelock/Chenlock/Luxlock 15% (+/- 5%)
DialgaChomp 10% (+10)
Gyarados 5% (+/- 5%)
Regigigas 5% (+/- 2%)
Steelix 5% (+/- 3%)
VileGar 3% (+/- 3%)
Other 10% (+ 8%)
Before anyone goes on to have a full-blown hulk-like rant, I would like to remind you once more of the local influence. Despite how accurate I am in foreshadowing the meta, I can only predict what the NATIONAL average will be, which means it will be up to you to figure out the local effect (I did include the range of what most local influences will be, though).
Now that you have a pretty idea as to what you can actually expect to face at States, I would like to show you a few decks that I have been working on (what’s an Underground article without decklists, right?). Each of them have been gruesomely tested for many hours to ensure they are can hold their own at a tournament.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 27
3 Bebe’s Search
Energy – 14
pokegym.netFor those who claim Steelix is too slow or is made unplayable by Blaziken FB, I would like to remind you of something I said earlier in this aricle; Steelix took down a City Championship at the Georgia Marathon, which were attended by many of the strongest players in the country, so how can it be unplayable?
Now that Blaziken FB is bound to see less play, Steelix gains a lot of strength. The Chenlock match up is still grizzly, but many who once used it have fled to Sablelock, which can accompany thick Honchkrow lines more easily or Luxlock, a new Lock variant that has become popular in recent months.
I originally ran a higher count of Twins, but since LostGar doesn’t really take prizes, I decided to cut it down to two in favor of having less dead-draws.
If you don’t include Blissey PL in a Steelix build, I’d think you’re crazy. Not only does it provide a good way to get Energy into the discard pile for “Energy Stream”, but it has a multitude of other uses as well.
Along with Regice, I’m able to easily dump Trainer or Pokémon cards from my hand for when I’m facing LostGar or VileGar. No matter what I discard, they both go a long way in making “Set Up” much more effective in drawing into exactly what I need.
Running only two Poké Healer + may seem a bit noobish, but with my running so many cards that can search out Trainer cards coupled with my ability to maximize Uxie’s usefulness, getting these two when I need them is rarely hard to do. Being able to remove 8 damage counters as well as all Special Conditions is such a powerful effect.
Side Note: If you’re facing DialgaChomp and really need to use “Poison Structure” but you don’t want Steelix to stay poisoned (Dialga G LV.X is in play), use “Poison Structure”. After that, play a single Poké Healer + to remove the Poison. It’s a nice little workaround to an annoying problem (at least, it is for me).
pokemon-paradijs.comWhile I’m on the topic of Skuntank, I’d like to mention that it and Crobat G are included as a means to ensuring 1HKOs, which is necessary to win games nowadays. If you’re facing Gengar Prime or Luxray GL LV.X, even with an Expert Belt you’ll need a way to get that extra 10 damage: that’s what Crobat G and Skuntank G are for.
Conductive Quarry certainly does help as a means of recovery, for the most part it’s included in the deck as a way to activate “Poison Structure”. Including more than one in the list isn’t really necessary because it can easily be searched out.
While it does allow your opponent the ability to replace it with their own stadium and make Skuntank G useless, the number of games where this has been an issue is minimal. Even in those that it is a problem, I still had Crobat G to fall back on.
This may seem like it isn’t worth the loss in flexibility, but I often found myself wanting to use Twins to get Seeker so I can reuse Crobat G only to realize I can’t play another Supporter that turn.
Matchups (using this list):
LuxChomp – Favorable
DialgaChomp – Slightly Unfavorable
Sablelock – Slightly Favorable
Chenlock – Highly Unfavorable
Machamp (2/2 SF/Prime) – Even/Slightly Unfavorable
TurboChamp – Favorable
LostGar – Slightly Favorable
Garchomp C/Honchkrow “Hybrid”List #2 –
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 29
1 Aaron’s Collection
Energy – 12
As you’re glancing over the list, you’re probably thinking “It’s Sablelock, but where’s all the disruption?” (not to mention no Sableye :P).
If you’ve tried Sablelock, but for whatever reason couldn’t/didn’t want to use it (perhaps it was too complex, didn’t have the right cards or it just wasn’t your playstyle), this could be another option for you.
While it lacks the disruption of Sablelock, its strength comes in it being a great counter to the current meta. Garchomp C and Ambipom G are able to fight the “Garchomp War” and Honchkrow allows for quick 1HKOs on Gengar Prime.
If you read my LuxChomp article, you’ll know that I am a strong advocate for the 2-1 and 3-1 SP lines. However, like a good player must adapt to the format, so must their deck.
The rest of the list should be pretty self explanatory. I never really considered running a 3/1 Special/Basic D Energy split because it would lower my Basic Energy count down to two. I’ll see a lot of SP lists running a very little Basic Energies and I’ll always wonder what the heck is going on in their heads?
Cyrus’s Conspiracy is the root of the TGI Engine, being able to search out a Supporter card, Team Galactic’s Invention Trainer and a Basic Energy. By running so little Basic Energies, you’re reducing Cyrus’s power by 33%.
One exception to this rule is in certain DialgaChomp decks. While it only runs two Basic M Energy, it runs two Energy Exchanger allowing me to shuffle the basic Energy back into the deck for another one. The Energy Exchangers sort of act like a 3rd and 4th Basic Energy.
When Lost Remover translations first appeared online, I wasn’t too fond of it. The single most powerful way to use Special Energies is Garchomp C’s “Dragon Rush”, which discards the Double Colorless Energy.
Despite this, I include it in my list as more of a counter to certain decks. Being able to discard a key Rescue Energy to prevent my opponent from setting up another Gengar Prime; removing a Special M Energy off of Dialga G to put it within KO range; get rid of a Double Colorless Energy to prevent Tyranitar from attacking the following turn; lowering the M Energy count on Scizor Prime so it’s low enough so my Pokémon can avoid being KO’d.
These are some of the many reasons why I won’t be taking out Lost Remover anytime soon.
Despite how fast, powerful and disruptive your deck is, there will be games where you fall behind on Prize cards. That’s where Twins comes in. Being an SP deck, I can easily fish out a lone copy via Cyrus’s Conspiracy. While this card is most effective in the mirror match, it’s great in a lot of other games as well, such as when facing Machamp.
Note: Before I built this deck, I had been testing out a Sablelock list for a while. If there’s any interest in seeing the list, just let me know and I can post it in the comments section for this article.
Matchups (using this list):
LuxChomp – Even
DialgaChomp – Even/Slightly Unfavorable
Sablelock – Even/Slightly Unfavorable
LostGar – Favorable/Highly Favorable
Machamp (2/2 SF/Prime) – Favorable
Tyranitar – Highly Favorable
Gyarados – Favorable
VileGar – Slightly Favorable
Tyranitar Prime/MachampList #3 –
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 26
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comI believe this deck, or at least a concept very similar to it, shows a lot of promise in the format. Just like the Hybrid deck, this is an anti-metagame deck, meaning it is built to counter the decks that are currently the top decks in the format.
At States, I predict the most popular decks to be SP and LostGar, so by creating a deck that has at least a 50% chance against those decks, it puts me in good shape for the tournament.
This deck originally started out as a Tyranitar deck but after a few games against SP, I realized something would have to be done to have a chance in this format.
To solve the SP problem, I added in a 2-2-2 line of Machamp from Stormfront. While one certainly argue that a 2-2-2 line doesn’t ensure an auto-win against SP, I would then say that it’s enough to swing the match up into your favor.
Also, once you have a Tyranitar powered up, it isn’t exactly a dead-weight either (especially with some SP lists cutting out Toxicroak G).
Of course, Tyranitar is included in the deck to combat anything that isn’t SP or Regigigas, most notably LostGar (VileGar too, I suppose). Since Tyranitar will be used in every single match up whereas Machamp is only a couple, I knew a thick line would be necessary.
Unfortunately, with a thick line also came the issue of a high Pokémon count, which caused my LostGar game to be harder than I wanted. Looking at my Pokémon line, there wasn’t anything I could comfortably cut, so I decided to solve this problem in a more indirect way which was done by making the following changes:
Note: These changes are included on the list.
pokemon-paradijs.comBy making a few minor tweaks, I had lowered the lethalness of “Hurl into Darkness” a bit, but I was still vulnerable to Seeker because I run no fossils. One of the main reasons I need to get Tyranitar out and swinging as fast as possible is so I can start KOing Gengars.
In the many games I have played both with and against LostGar, I have realized that the first few turns of the game are their weak point. Most turbo lists focus on getting that first Gengar Prime out asap, so if you’re able to 1HKO it right away, you’ll often have 1-2 turns to collect some easy prizes.
Some other changes I made to help with the high Pokémon count as well as a lot of other matches was adding in a second Junk Arm as well as running Judges, which allow me to easily shuffle away a Pokémon full hand for one that is much more useful, not to mention the disruptive advantages it provides.
Matchups (using this list):
LuxChomp – Slightly Favorable/Favorable
DialgaChomp – Slightly Favorable/Favorable
Sablelock – Even/Slightly Favorable
Regigigas – Favorable/Highly Favorable
LostGar – Favorable
Gyarados – Slightly Unfavorable/Unfavorable
List #4 – LostGar
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 29
2 Bebe’s Search
Energy – 10
pokegym.netI originally hadn’t planned to add a LostGar list to this article, but after making headway on multiple fronts, I decided it could be beneficial to those of you who are planning to run it at States.
Instead of going through the entire list and giving an explanation as to why each card is included, I decided to just present a number of problems most LostGar builds face and how this list tries to address each of them.
Time: All it took was minimal testing for me to learn the non-Trainer locking variant just didn’t work. When Turbo lists are having trouble with Time, how can a much slower variant be any better? I like the fact that Vileplume helps remedy a few problems LostGar faces, but until a non-Timed tournament is created, it just won’t work.
With Gengar/Vileplume not being an option, I decided that a fast list would be necessary to have a chance in best 2 out of 3 matches. While this list isn’t as fast as some Turbo Lists that have appeared, I think the slight sacrifice in Speed is justified by having answers to almost every major problem.
Dialga G LV.X: The Dialga G LV.X counter most VileGar lists ran throughout Cities was Gengar LV.X. If you check out the Mike on the Metagame articles, you’ll see that VileGar won a large number of City Championships, so the idea must work at least somewhat well. After some testing, I decided that it would suffice. Also, since I’m not using a Trainer Lock version, “Time Crystal” is less of a hindrance.
Fossils: The card suggested to alleviate this problem in Chris Fulop’s LostGar article was Luxray GL LV.X. While I’m not sure if it’s the best remedy to a potentially big problem, I certainly agree the concept behind the idea is flawless. By dragging the Fossil to the Active Spot, they are forced to discard their own card.
At first, I used Froslass GL, which worked but often left me missing a key chance to attack with Gengar. I spent a lot of time working on a solution to this problem, and found one that works very well: Poké Blower +. Since I’m able to run a high Twins count, I can easily run just 2-3 copies of them and have little trouble getting them when they’re needed.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe concept behind Poké Blower + is the same as Luxray GL’s, bring up the Fossil to prevent them from using it as a Seeker shield. The advantage Poké Blower + is it still lets me follow up with a “Hurl into Darkness” or “Cursed Drop”
One nice thing about Poké Blower + is my opponent is often caught off guard when a LostGar player is using it. Because of this, I’ve found myself able to take advantage of some very good board positions.
One time, I used Poké Blower + to drag up an Uxie, leaving nothing left on my opponent’s bench but two Stage 2 Pokémon (I had killed an Azelf the previous turn).
I then proceeded to use Seeker which forced my opponent to pick up a Stage 2 Pokémon (they didn’t use Rare Candy, meaning the Stage 1 was picked up as well). After that, I attached a second P Energy to my active Gengar and used “Hurl into Darkness” to send two Pokémon to the Lost Zone. It should be no surprise that I won this game.
“Deafen”: To tackle this problem, I include a Froslass GL in the list. When I have 6 (or sometimes 5) Pokémon in my opponent’s Lost Zone, they will often try and keep me in a “Deafen” lock, causing me to lose due to having taken less prizes than my opponent, which is usually the case when you’re using LostGar.
However, by using “Sleep Inducer”, I can repeatedly drag up my opponent’s benched Azelf or Uxie. Many times, my opponent will simply attach an Energy to it and Retreat. However, there is a 50% chance the Pokémon I bring active will stay asleep, so granted you don’t drag an Pokémon SP active (which you shouldn’t), the only way they’ll get to maintain the “Deafen” lock is by playing a Warp Energy.
There is a chance my opponent can just keep Retreating/Warping out of the active slot until Dialga kills Froslass GL with its x2 Metal Weakness. But there will be many times when they cannot get Dialga active once again, allowing me to drop Lost World for the win. Also, in the event that Froslass is KO’d, I can use Poké Blower + to act as another “Sleep Inducer”. Between these two cards, I rarely have trouble breaking the lock.
Darkness Attackers: With the massive popularity of LostGar, you sure as heck can expect some Darkness attackers being teched into lists in an attempt to counter Gengar Prime.
The two most common workarounds to Gengar’s x2 Darkness weakness have been Azelf LV.X and Exploud. Exploud is a Stage 2 Pokémon with a heavy Retreat Cost and no useful attacks. By adding even a 1-1-1 line, not only am I slowing down the deck considerably, but I also leave myself vulnerable to a potentially devastating “Bright Look”.
Azelf LV.X is faster than Exploud and requires you to add only one additional card to your deck, but has proven itself to be too fragile to do much good. Instead of using Honchkrow to 1HKO Gengar, they’ll just use “Dragon Rush” + a “Flash Bite” to 1HKO Azelf so they can follow up by killing Gengar next turn.
The solution I have been fiddling around with is Bubble Coat. While it may seem a big noobish, it hasn’t given me much to complain about. It doesn’t provide me with everlasting protection, but by dropping it on key turns, I can make sure Gengar Prime stands when I need it to the most.
In addition, since Bubble Coat is a Trainer card, I’m able to easily recover it via Junk Arm. When I first tried out Bubble Coat, it didn’t work; being protected 1-2 turns in a game just wasn’t enough. To compensate for this, I added a lot of recovery to the list: 1 Palmer’s Contribution, 3 Rescue Energy, additional P Energy (to help power up the Gengars recovered via Rescue Energy).
Matchups (using this list):
LuxChomp – Even/Slightly Favorable
DialgaChomp – Even
VileGar – Favorable
Turbo-LostGar – Even
LostGar + Vileplume – Slightly Favorable
Picking the correct deck for a tournament is very important. While you can add tons of techs and counters, if you’re taking Machamp to a VileGar filled environment, the odds are already stacked against you. Your overall goal when you’re picking your deck should be choosing the one that gives you the best odds of winning right off the bat, before figuring other factors into the equation, such as match ups.
I’ve talked quite a bit about the States metagame and how preparing for it will be massive if you want to do well. While the metagame should certainly be important when you’re choosing your deck, but there are a lot of other things that need to be considered as well.
If your only goal going into States is to win, you may want to choose a different deck than someone who’s planning to drop out after Swiss.
I won’t go too deep into this aspect as it has already been touched upon in an Underground article, but I would like to remind you that different decks suit different goals. If you want to take home the whole tournament, you’ll want to run something that has solid match ups with very few auto-losses and does well in best 2 out of 3 match ups. A few decks that support this type of play includes LuxChomp or Sablelock.
On the other hand, if all you need is a solid record during Swiss and then you plan to drop out, picking something that plays a big slower, such as LostGar, is perfectly acceptable.
People don’t like to admit they can’t do something, thinking it’s a sign of weakness or whatnot. In fact, it’s just the opposite, admitting you have a problem and/or need help is a sign of strength (or if you’re at a 10 Step meeting, half the battle).
When you’re trying to choose your deck, you need to be able to ask yourself “How efficient of a player am I?” If you’re aren’t someone who can consistently make very complex moves in a short amount of time, then you may need to select a simpler deck.
It won’t matter if you built the best deck builder on the planet, by taking a deck along that requires you to plan very slowly is really going to hurt you. By playing slowly, you take away a lot of options from you with comebacks being one of them.
When someone tries to make a comeback, the game will often become very close which will force the player who’s trying to catch up to make somewhat quicker moves. Your opponent, who wants to prevent this and stall out until time, will be playing in a very slow and calm manner because they have nothing to gain from rushing. By mastering efficient play, you open yourself up to winning a lot of otherwise unwinnable games.
The next topic I would like to talk about is a bit touchy, rogue decks. When I say touchy, I mean that what I say could easily be taken the wrong way, so “listen” carefully.
Rogue decks are a very powerful force; since the majority of a player’s strength comes from having tested their deck’s match ups until their fingers bled, using a deck that your opponent has little to no experience playing against is a massive advantage, not to mention your opponent probably won’t be running a lot of useful techs against your deck.
Unfortunately, there is another side to this coin, there are a few of the disadvantages as well. First of all, your deck hasn’t been proven tournament effective (or ineffective), which means your deck could just as easily be a huge train wreck as it could be a strong deck.
While some could say this is the risk with any deck, I think the train wreck factor is significantly higher when using a rogue.
One of the smaller discussed disadvantages is you won’t be able to get very much outside help, from useful resources such as online Forums. If your deck is truly a new invention, there won’t be any threads on PokéGym about it, meaning the only information you can use to build your list will be what you learn in your testing.
In LuxChomp, every single Pokémon, Trainer, Supporter and Energy card has received a ton of testing to verify it’s a good card. On the other hand, a rogue deck doesn’t have this knowledge, which means you’ll have to figure it all out yourself.
If you decide to pursue this course, I suggest getting a few friends to help you out (make sure they’re trustworthy and won’t leak anything). Not only will this ease your work load and allow you to have a lot more fun, but if your friends are equal to or greater than your skill level, the deck should end up considerably stronger as well.
While you should incorporate as many tactical advantages into your deck choice as possible, you should also remember that moral plays a big part in your odds of success. If you’re using a deck that you hate using, you’re going to be board and irritated throughout the tournament and won’t be focusing on the actual game.
By running a deck that you really love and enjoy using and working through every possible game scenario with, you probably achieve much more at the tournament you go to, not to mention you’ll actually enjoy your day.
The final aspects that should play a part in your deck selection is the degree of experience you have with each deck. There will rarely be a time where you’re better off going with a deck that you just picked up a week before the tournament over one that you’ve been using for the past six months (granted they’re both on similar Tiers of competitiveness).
Some players have been playing with a single deck for over a year, so if it has good odds against the expected metagame and lines up with your goal for the tournament, it should provide you with a great chance of doing well.
You can spend weeks trying to figure out the meta, spend a few more picking out your deck, but if you haven’t done the proper amount of testing, more likely than not you will crap out. This rule doesn’t just apply for larger tournaments either, even for a tournament as small as a Battle Roads, testing is important.
The first thing you will need to accept in order to be successful at Pokémon is no deck is unbeatable. No matter how good of a player you are, no matter how good your deck is, I can promise you there will be games that you cannot win. Beginners will often build a deck, but as soon as it looses a single game, they will give up on the idea.
More advanced players, on the other hand, have long since accepted that no deck is perfect and instead strive to make both themselves and their deck the best they can possibly be. What you hope to achieve from testing should not be perfection, instead you should be aiming to have the best chance against the field possible.
When you’re looking to build a new deck, the first thing you’ll be testing out is the list. You’ll probably start with a rather basic list, slowly evolving it into a force that is much stronger than when you began.
During your testing, you should soon realize that your deck typically fares much better against certain match ups than others. When two decks play, the odds of either deck winning can be very close, such as during a mirror match. However, when decks utilizing completely different cards battle, the cards can “react” in way that puts either player at a sometimes massive advantage (like how VileGar has a big advantage over Machamp).
While you’re evolving your list, you should be doing so in such a way that increases your bad matches to 50-50 or higher as well as not ruining your good ones. Obviously there is no “perfect” list for any deck, so it will be up to you to test out every possible combination to find the best one that works for you.
Another thing you should keep note of while working on your list is your level of play. Some techs require a lot more complex thinking on part of the user than others. For example, Dragonite FB is essentially easier to use than Ambipom G. While you have to navigate around its high Retreat Cost, you don’t have to worry about the opposing Garchomp C LV.X having an Energy left after “Dragon Rush”.
Side Note: It may seem whether Garchomp C has an Energy still attached to it after using “Dragon Rush” is out of your control; that’s BS. While you don’t have 100% power you can, to an extent, direct and control the game so your opponent won’t have that meddlesome Energy attached when it matters most.
Other Side Note: I’m not saying Ambipom G is better than Dragonite FB either, just that its easier to use. As for which I believe is superior, I would have to say it varies by list. Ones that include Bronzong G along with an Energy Exchanger (to get DCE) and/or a teched in Warp Energy probably want to go with Dragonite FB, the more “powerful” of the two.
The next thing I would like to suggest is a bit unorthodox. At least, I think it is. Most players will create their list, then test the deck against other players. If it works, they might use it at a (few) tournament(s). If it does not, they’ll pick a different deck, rinse and repeat.
While this method takes a lot of time, it is very effective; learn how to play EVERY deck in the format. The extent in which you do this is up to you, but even if you only do so with the five most powerful decks, you’ll notice a big improvement in your in-game and deck building skills.
By really knowing how to play so many decks well, you really open yourself up to a much larger selection of decks come tournament time. Also, by learning every deck inside and out, you learn how to exploit the smallest weaknesses in the toughest of match ups.
While it will certainly take a lot of time when you first begin, once you’ve learned the majority of the decks in the format, it just becomes matter of picking up a few decks each time a new set is released. This strategy has guided me to a ton of success and I strongly encourage others to at least try it.
Some people simply cannot master (I use the term loosely) so many decks without devoting a huge chunk of time, but for those who are able to quickly and effectively utilize this technique, it is well worth it.
Note: Since it requires a sizable amount of time in order to be even semi-useful, unless if you already have experience with many decks in the format, there simply may not be enough time to put it to use before States. If you decide to try, start with the most popular decks and work your way down the Tiers. Also, make sure this does not take time away from conditioning the list you actually plan to use at States.
Another technique that I have found to be very effective is something I call Speed Games. Like I discussed earlier, different players are able to play at very different speeds. Some people can play an SP mirror match with less than 30 seconds per turn (and win, without making any play errors) while others will take 4-5 minutes (and make a ton of errors).
I’m not just talking about new players either, if you’ve been playing for 5 years, you could be playing less efficiently than someone who’s been playing for two months.
A lot of people have asked me “how do you make your turns so fast without making any play errors? Can you teach me how?” Speed Games were the answer I came up with.
You start with something simple, choose a deck that you know well playing against a match up that you have a lot of experience in. Your opponent should be someone of equal or greater skill level. Put a time limit on your turns.
Start with something high, like four minutes per turn. Each time you win a game, reduce this number by 30 seconds. If you lose, increase the time by 10 seconds.
Slowly move on to using decks you have less experience with, playing against decks you haven’t battled as often. Eventually, you should slide toward playing against decks you’ve never heard of (aka rogue decks). Not only will speed games increase the speed in which you’re able to play, but it will also decrease the number of mistakes you make.
1. Your opponent does not need to be timed. In fact, it is better if they are not; you want your opponent to be making very little, if any play errors.
2. You shouldn’t be doing timed games using a deck you don’t know how to use. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to play at a high, fast level using a deck you have no idea how to play.
3. If you’re playing Uxie Donk or a similar deck, Speed games won’t be very effective because they’re designed with the goal of going through their entire deck on the first turn (which means a long turn)
4. If you’re playing a Speed Game, but are having trouble making any progress, don’t feel bad about taking a break from them, nail down your deck more, then try coming back.
5. Speed Games are only effective if you’re making good turns without any mistakes. If you’re consistently making mistakes, you need to slow down and think your turns through.
Virtually every card game in existence relies on luck to some extent. Perhaps in the future a TCG/CCG will be created that doesn’t rely on luck (I can’t even fathom how it would work), but until then we’ll have to make do with the luck based card games of the 21st century.
What is consistency? Some would say that it is being able to reliably get what you need out of your deck at any given time. My personal definition is how much you’re able to reduce luck’s hold on your deck and make it about skill.
If you’ve ever used a Starter deck, they come with a card ratio that’s something like; 26 Pokémon, 18 Energy*, 16 Trainers/Supporters/Stadiums. Most competitive decks use a ratio that much closer to: 20 Pokémon, 12 Energy, 28 T/S/S.
The idea behind this different ratio is to increase the ability in which you’re able to reduce luck’s effect on your game. Instead of including 4 Unown Q to max out your chance of drawing into it, play one and run four Pokémon Collector.
In addition, by adding in these consistency boosters, you’re able to make your deck much stronger at reacting, and in turn countering, your opponent’s every move.
*Starter decks used to come with 24 Energy per deck, but that number was lowered to 18 (not sure why, perhaps the PCL finally realized that 24 Energy was WAY to high). Unfortunately, the Trainer count wasn’t increased very much and instead the extra space was put toward inserting more (generally bad) Pokémon.
Assumptions are everywhere; in everything you do, everywhere you go, you’re being judged. While assumptions aren’t always true, they can be of great use in Pokémon.
Throughout the game, you’re learning more and more about what deck your opponent is using. Eventually, there will come a time where you figure out what deck you’re facing, which can be located anywhere in the game. If your opponent starts with a Magicarp, you know Turn 1 you’re facing Gyarados. On the other hand, if it’s something neutral such as an Uxie, you won’t be sure until you see more cards.
You may or may not know this already, but knowing what you’re facing is a huge advantage. Let’s say that you’re playing against LuxChomp. You’re 10 damage away from getting the KO and you have a Crobat G in your hand, but you’re afraid they have Power Spray.
Right off the bat, you can check your opponent’s discard pile. If you see three or more Power Spray there, you have a very high chance of “Flash Bite” going through.
Quick Note: Most non-Sablelock SP decks never ran more than three Power Spray to begin with, but what with Junk Arm being run by so many players, it would be 1 to 1,000,000 odds to come across a LuxChomp lists that uses four Power Spray.
By knowing what resources your opponent has consumed in the game and what’s on the field combined with the types of moves your opponent has made in the game thus far, you’re able to largely predict what your opponent will/can and cannot do.
Next I would like to say something that I’ve said before, but is important enough that you should hear it at least once more: MEMORIZE YOUR Decklist! Just as you should be keeping track of what tools your opponent has used in the game, you should be doing the exact same thing with your deck.
However, you have the advantage of not only knowing what cards are in your hand, but also the exact resources your deck contains; you don’t have to assume anything, but only if you know your list!
It’s important to really grasp as many of these things that I’ve shared with you as possible, which needs to be done during testing. Don’t start doing all of this when you get the tournament, you’ll just be overwhelmed and your focus won’t be on the game.
I would like to note the importance of experimentation. Every single tech, deck or strategy had to be tried. Someone didn’t just say “That card looks amazing, I’m going to build a list and take it to Regionals.”
Even when it’s really obvious that a card is good, you don’t just add it to your deck. You experiment with it, test out a lot of different ways the card could work and then incorporate one that works the best into your game plan.
It’s crucial that each player experiments and tries out different things, even if you don’t come up with anything worthwhile, it still helps you develop as a player because you learn what types of things don’t work.
In this section, I would like to discuss things that you should be doing both before and during a Tournament. Not only will these tips help increase your chance of success and achieving your goal(s), but they’ll also help you and the players around to enjoy your time there.
The Day Before
What you’re doing on this day can vary quite drastically depending on how responsible you’ve been the past few weeks. If you have done little to no testing, you could be pulling an all-nighter desperately trying to get your list in a position where it’s tournament ready. On the other hand, if you have been preparing for some time now and your deck is already completed, you can relax a bit.
If possible, take it easy this day. Instead of spending another day gruesomely trying to learn something that will push you to the next level, you’re better off reviewing what you already know. For example, play match ups that you know pretty well and have at least 50% chance of winning.
The day before a tournament is important for keeping your nerves down and your moral up. If you walk into the tournament having gone 8-1 the day before, you’ll be a lot more confident than if you had lost four games.
I’m not trying to sound like your mom or anything, but the day before the tournament you shouldn’t be eating four Double Bacon Cheese Burgers, a side of Fries, two Large Sodas, 1/2 Gallon of Gatorade and six candy bars.
While it certainly would be great if you ate a Ceaser Salad with low fat dressing, I know a lost cause when I see one. My point is, don’t completely crap out the day before. By eating healthier foods, your brain will be in top shape and ready to solve complex in-game problems that arise.
Another thing that makes all-night cram Poké-sessions a bad idea is the sleep you loose. Larger tournaments such as States, Regionals and Nationals can often go past 11 pm (especially if you’re playing in the Masters Division).
Assuming you woke up at 7 am the day before, you could easily be looking at a situation where you have to function at a very high mental level with only two hours of sleep in the past 48 hours.
The Morning Of
If you went to sleep at a reasonable time the night before, you should be able to get up, eat breakfast and drive to the tournament in a comfortable time setting.
Unless if you need to, I don’t advise playing a ton of games at this time. If you make it to the Top 2 of the tournament (which is the general idea), you’ll easily be playing over 15 games during the day. You’re better off saving your energy for those.
I also advise printing out your decklist before hand instead of doing it at the tournament. By doing so, not only do you avoid the trouble of forgetting to add a card to your list or some other error, but it allows Tournament registration go much faster.
There isn’t a whole lot of other things you need to do before the tournament starts. I would like to suggest arriving early, it doesn’t have to be three hours, but early enough so if something comes up that sets you back time-wise (such as wanting to grab something at a 7/11 on the way there), you aren’t tailgating any old ladies on the way there.
I would also advise not making last minute rash changes. Generally, any sudden impulse you get right before the tournament is just that, an impulse. By letting a second of fear or nervousness overrule a decision that you spent hours making is generally a bad idea.
This next section is comprised of tips to help you during the tournament. By really taking these to heart, you’re following through with the final step in maximizing your chance of success.
Round one matches go up, you find you’re playing against Sarah C. You go to your table, shake hands and set up your cards. You confidently put down your starter Pokémon as well as a Pokémon on your bench to ensure you aren’t donked. You flip over your Sableye while your opponent reveals a… Snover?
At this point, you could be doing one of two things; freaking out because you’re up against a deck you never even heard of, much less tested against OR thinking this is going to be a walk in the park since they’re using some lame Tier 4 deck.
If either of those thoughts popped into your head, you would be wrong. In the first case, you’re getting too nervous. Just stay cool, you put in a lot of time and hard work to win, just play your best and you’re in a very good position to win.
If you’re thinking the latter, you’re underestimating your opponent. While its possible you could be right on the mark, you could also be facing a Sablelock in the making. Just because you’re unfamiliar with a certain card or deck doesn’t mean you have a sure-fire win.
During Swiss, time isn’t super likely to come into play, but when you’re playing in the Top Cut, it decides the winner or looser of a large portion of games. This is especially true if you’re using a slower deck such as LostGar or VileGar.
Something you should be on the look out for during any tournament you go to are Mind Games. In Kettler’s article, he goes into far more detail than I will be about the benefits of using Mind Games on your opponent as well as how to counter them.
Since any advice I could give you about them would only pale in comparison, I will just say be on guard for them at all times. Even if your opponent appears to be a beginner who is going to his/her first tournament, you still shouldn’t take possibility of your opponent using Mind Games off of the table.
As unfortunate as it is, there have been players who pretend to be a beginner in hopes of being underestimated.
Risks are a funny thing in Pokémon. On one hand, they can lead to a massive comeback that wins you the game. On the flip side, you could be neck and neck with your opponent, but the risk doesn’t pay off and you come up short of victory.
The best advice that I can give you pertaining to risks is, before you take one ask yourself this “Do I need to take a risk?” When you’re answering this question, there’s a ton of factors you need to take into account; board presence, prizes taken, hand sizes.
Here’s the funny part: not only do you need to consider what’s happening in the game right now, but it is also crucial that you know how the risk could benefit you for the REST OF THE GAME. That’s right, if you’re on turn 3, you’ll need to make a good estimate as to how much the risk will pay off/hurt you 10-15 turns into the game.
To do this accurately, you’ll need to check things like your ability to consistently KO your opponent’s Pokémon, if you have ways to keep getting resources out of your deck, draw engines in play, etc.
The last factor that should be taken into consideration when pondering the pros/cons of a potential risk is what deck you and your opponent are using. If you’re running Machamp against Gyarados, you were at a major disadvantage before the match even started. The odds of you not needing to take some risks are quite low.
Granted you’re able to effectively master the art of risks, you’ll have quite a fearsome weapon in your arsenal for tournaments to come.
I would like to wrap up this section by reminding you of your goals and their relation to quitting. Your whole life, you’ve always been told to never give up, keep going, never surrender, etc. In the case of Pokémon, sometimes it is okay to quit or “drop” out.
If you’re in a bad position rating wise and want to earn your Worlds invite, you should not be dropping from a single tournament here on out. On the other hand, if your rating is stellar and you only need a few more points to secure your invite, it might be a good idea to drop out, especially if you’re using a deck that isn’t well-equipped for Top Cut.
I’ll finish this article by mention of one last, but important thing: development. Every day in your life, whether you notice it or not, you’re developing.
When you’re a baby, a major step in your life is when you take your first step or say your first word. In Pokémon, it’s when you buy your first deck, win your first game, top cut at your first tournament. In the grand scheme of things, these are all rather small accomplishments (even if they feel big to us at the time).
If you crash and burn, ask yourself why? What can I do next time to turn my luck around? If you come in 2nd place, figure out why? What did I do wrong and where can I go from here.
I can guarantee not a single Pokémon World Champion would be where they are today if they didn’t learn from their mistakes. By analyzing their weaknesses, figuring out what went wrong, they learn to prevent it from happening again.
I will take this time to congratulate in advance those of you who accomplish their goals this year at States. Good luck to all, I wish you the best.
Until next time,
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