mortalkombat.wikia.comEvery metagame has its top tier decks, and then there are always the other decks that are playing catch up, trying to tech against them.
The top tier decks are always the most popular though, so going in to any tournament using one of them, you must always be prepared to the possibility that as the tournament progresses, your odds of getting paired against a mirror match increase dramatically.
I think it’s safe to assume that if you are reading this article you are pretty well informed on the metagame – what has and hasn’t been doing well this current season.
First and foremost we have the most successful SP variant: LuxChomp. I know we have had countless articles about this deck, and you must all know its ins and outs pretty well by now. I myself used LuxChomp in a total of 4 State Championships for a combined total of 23-6, where 4 of those 6 losses were to other SP variants or mirrors.
The next 2 SP variants that have been causing ruckus this season are DialgaChomp and SableLock. These two decks have a less aggressive approach than LuxChomp, but are still pretty deadly. Fresh off week 2 of States, our very own J-Wittz took the aggressiveness of LuxChomp and the disruption of SableLock and combined them into a new monster: LoxChomp, which he took to 2 States finals and I’m sure would’ve done just as well or better than me at States had he gotten more opportunities.
Even with the different strategies employed by each SP variant, they all have one thing in common when it comes down to battling against each other: The Colorless War. I don’t know who coined the term ‘The Colorless War’ but I think it’s the most appropriate way to describe what goes on during an SP mirror match.
When this ‘war’ starts, all of the 4 previously mentioned decks set aside their main strategies, be it aggression (LuxChomp), tanking (DialgaChomp) or disruption (LoxChomp and SableLock) and put forth all their resources into having enough colorless Pokémon powered up and ready to do respond to OHKO’s.
Of course there are other components to the mirror match which influence such as TGI Poké Turn counts, TGI Power Spray counts, TGI Energy Gain counts, running Twins or not and tech Pokémon like 1 or 2 Crobat g, Drifblim f, Bronzong g and Toxicroak g DP41 that I will elaborate further on in the article.
To start us off I will use my last LuxChomp list I used at States as an example of a list geared specially against mirror matches, which my metagame was filled of when I headed into States.
I feel I was only missing the 1 Twins to make my list the safest possible against mirrors, but given the consistency of the list, I was never behind in any mirror matches where having the Twins would have helped.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 29
Energy – 12
That is pretty close to what most good and competitive LuxChomp lists will look like at the moment, with some variation in the form of Twins and Expert Belt, depending on the popularity of Gyarados in your area, or Dialga g LV.X if VileGar or VileLostGar are popular.
Compare this to the DialgaChomp list Fulop shared with us in his Indiana States report, which should be pretty close to what Pooka dominated with (1st Place Illinois States) and what most standard DialgaChomp lists should look like:
Pokémon – 20
2 Dialga g
Trainers – 28
4 Cyrus’s Conspiracy
Energy – 12
The key thing though is, the different cards will affect the non SP matchups, but the real key players when approaching the SP mirror will be detailed below:
Garchomp c & LV.X: 3-1 or 2-2?
pokemon-paradijs.comThe metagame pretty much revolves around this guy. People will decide (when applicable) between 2 different Stage 1’s for their Stage 2 deck solely based on if they have enough HP to withstand a Dragon Rush, and not based on Retreat Cost or attacks.
Most SP variants differ only on using either a 3-1 line or a 2-2 line, and this is crucial in being able to win the colorless war.
The prize trade off in an SP mirror usually beings with Garchomp c LV.X sniping an opponent’s Garchomp c, with the one’s having energy obviously a premier target. This is why running 3-1 is always better if you expect a lot of mirror matches.
As you can see my list has 3 different ways (5 if you count Junk Arm and VS Seeker) to recover a KO’d Garchomp c LV.X with Premier Ball and Aaron’s Collection, where as most DialgaChomp and SableLock lists, which are the ones that usually run a 2-2 Garchomp c line, do not even use Premier Ball.
Even though 2-2 is superior and more consistent when playing against any other deck, in an SP mirror you are already significantly behind against another player who is using 3-1 since Earthquake is the best resource to OHKO opposing Garchomp c’s and Dragonite f’s.
The drawback bench damage can be later healed off by the LV.X and so with 3 of these, you can effectively OHKO your opponent’s 2 and their Dragonite f, while still having your own Dragonite f left intact.
Despite Garchomp c LV.X’s effectiveness in every other matchup, it’s best to have different ways to get the single copy out when using 3-1, rather than compensating for the chance of it being prized or getting Lost Zone’d by Gengar Prime with a 2-2 build.
I assure you it will almost never make a difference when it matters in other games, while your chances in an SP mirror will be highly increased as you have an extra reliable attacker in the colorless war.
Still have doubts? Re-read my 4 States reports, where I went 7-0 against DialgaChomp builds and 3-3 against SableLock, but 2-1 in games where I wasn’t completely shut off on turn 1 and the game actually went on further.
Dragonite f: I wish I was more useful!
pokemon-paradijs.comDragonite f is the next most reliable way to OHKO Garchomp c’s, or pretty much any non LV.X SP Pokémon with Mach Blow. This guy is invaluable in SP mirrors for its versatility, as often times you will much rather OHKO with Mach Blow an active Pokémon, while keeping your Garchomp c LV.X safely on the bench ready to snipe something else behind.
This guy shines toward the end of an SP war, but is still a vital player. If Dragonite f manages a KO and doesn’t get KO’d back, it can be recovered with TGI Poké Turn, along with the energies and most likely TGI Energy Gain on it to be reused later on.
Another key aspect of Dragonite f is it does enough damage with Mach Blow to not require a Crobat g’s Flash Bite in order to OHKO a Garchomp c LV.X unlike Garchomp c, which means you need to spend one less resource than Garchomp c to obtain the same result.
And if The Colorless War begins early, you might be pressed already to find DCE’s, TGI Energy Gains or just having enough energy on the field to ALSO have to worry about getting Crobat g’s Flash Bite past an opposing TGI Power Spray.
All of this considered, you might be asking yourself why not increase the count of Dragonite f to 2 or 3 if it is so reliable during an SP game?
The answer is simple: not everyone is using SP. Against any other deck your standard non colorless war applies and thus, you will never want to risk a flip for 100 damage with such a high energy cost, nor will you want to do 20 for CCC. If you ever find yourself in this situation against any non SP deck, you are probably very close to losing the game anyway.
Still though, as you can see by J-Wittz’s SableLock deck he went on to get 2nd place at Illinois States, it usually doesn’t run it, so having it allows you to be ahead against your opponent before you even shake hands and draw your starting hand. If the game plays out normally, you will have Dragonite f as a wild card colorless attacker.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 27
Energy – 13
The one key ingredient though that I personally think J-Wittz’s SableLock list is missing is Ambipom g, which brings us to our next point of discussion.
Ambipom g: I can mess with your mind.
pokemon-paradijs.comAmbipom g is a much more versatile card than Dragonite f is. It’s not a direct SP counter, but it can certainly get some easy KO’s on unaware Garchomp c LV.X which get stripped off their energy after a Dragon Rush and for fewer resources (single energy and TGI Energy Gain as opposed to a DCE/two energy and TGI Energy Gain).
This card is best left unplayed until very last minute, or else the opposing Garchomp c player might hold off on using Dragon Rush and leaving Garchomp c LV.X without any energy after a Dragon Rush despite having a TGI Energy Gain attached.
Unfortunately having an energy on any of these Pokémon negates the damage output and reduces it to a measly 20 which is no good, and this is the main reason why Ambipom g has to be sneakily played and held on to until you can surprise your opponent.
Using Pokémon Collector for it and not making use of it that same turn greatly reduces its effectiveness.
Snap Attack also brings the ‘donk’ factor to the table much more easily than a Garchomp c’s Earthquake, because it can do 10 more damage, and is not limited to TGI Energy Gain + a DCE, instead it can combine TGI Energy Gain and any of the other energy cards, or a single DCE, no TGI Energy Gain necessary.
During my States run I only accomplished this ‘donk’ once, simply due to lack of opportunities but as we all know and love: ‘donking’ is the nickname of today’s format, and will most likely be the official name after the new Black and White Pokémon TCG set gets released, but that is another subject that my fellow UG writers will talk about later on in the month.
Finally, Ambipom g’s Tail Code attack is nothing to scoff at, especially in locking decks such as SableLock and the very weird and low energy counts in decks these days. I don’t think I can fully put into words when Tail Code is useful and when it isn’t, as it is entirely dependent on the game state, your hand, your opponent’s hand, your field, your opponent’s field, prizes taken, etc.
All of that factors in to the usefulness of Tail Code, but I can attest to it’s usefulness as it will usually mess up with your opponent’s energy placements, and I observed quite a few SableLock games during the 4 State tournaments I went to where Tail Coding a Fighting Energy off of a Machamp SF or a Psychic Energy off of a Gengar SF drastically turned games around, allowing the SableLock player to regain tempo and buy enough turns to make sure they won the game.
Garchomp c, Dragonite f and Ambipom g are the 3 key players in the colorless war I mentioned previously, and as you can see they all suit different roles, both against SP mirrors and against other decks.
I strongly believe (and many others agree) the best possible combination of these 3 to give you the best odds against other SP mirrors when considering a diverse but strong metagame is the following:
If for some reason you knew or predicted more than 50% of the playing field using SP (highly unlikely given how players these days are bored and tend to ‘hate’ these decks) you could possibly run 2 Dragonite f, but I do not recommend it at all. These counts allow for a healthy deck that can fit everything else it wants to accomplish its main strategy, while also being properly equipped to deal with opposing SP threats.
pokegym.netYou will notice a lot of lists forego Ambipom g which I think is a big mistake, because if you do use it you have an extra resource and can even do some tricky Tail Code plays which you couldn’t do otherwise in other matchups (recall ‘Switcheroo’ by J-Wittz in his States report to know what I’m talking about).
So now that covers ‘The Colorless War’, but what about other key cards once it’s over? Luxray l LV.X has an inherent advantage over Dialga g as it has a Metal resistance and does generous amounts of damage for a low cost, while Dialga can at best hope to 3HKO the yellow cat.
Honchkrow SV is also weak to Luxray l, so despite LuxChomp being arguably the top deck in the format right now, how do other SP variants try to deal with Luxray l LV.X to make sure their other strengths is what gets them through a match?
With Luxray l being the most popular card for a while now (and it’s current price is a clear indicator of that), SP mirrors can usually be defined solely on if you run Toxicroak g DP41 in order to KO the opposing Luxray l LV.X in one hit.
Toxicroak g: Luxray KO count: millions, other Pokémon: not applicable.
Almost just like Dragonite f, Toxicroak g only serves a single main purpose: OHKO Luxray l LV.X right after it has KO’d something else. Granted it’s usefulness increased naturally as Magnezone Prime variants become more popular.
pokemon-paradijs.comNever the less, every SP variant possible should run it. Luxray l LV.X is even used in other decks, it is by far the most popular card out there so even though KOing it is this card’s only purpose, you can safely assume it will become useful throughout the course of a tournament, specially if you are doing good and run deeper and deeper into the top cut of the event.
Granted maybe I’m exaggerating a bit that it is never useful against other Pokémon. 60 + poison is certainly good if it can score you a KO on a Basic or an already damaged Pokémon. The poison damage can be especially useful if you can make sure the opposing Pokémon dies at the end of your opponent’s turn, effectively giving you a free attack.
Unfortunately for Toxicroak g, as popular as Luxray l is, in SP decks so are Psychic Pokémon to try and counteract the ever-present Machamp threat, this means Toxicroak will rarely ever survive for more than a turn, so you must make sure you get the most out of it when you play it.
On the contrary of Ambipom g though, using Pokémon Collector for Toxicroa g early on could possibly mean your opponent has to change his plans in fear of his Luxray getting easily OHKO’d and buy you some more turns, although if you wait until last minute it could catch your opponent off guard and they could not have a proper response ready in the form of Uxie LV.X most likely.
Bronzong g: I do all the dirty work…
We all know Psychic Pulse is the best clean up attack in the game… No seriously, Galactic Switch is in my opinion the single most important Poké-Power in SP, even more so than Bright Look or Flash Bite.
Energy drops and energy manipulation has always been a huge focus in every deck in every format, and Bronzong g allows you to abuse being able to power up Pokémon and after they have served their purpose, keep the energy in play by using Galactic Switch followed by a TGI Energy Gain.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis simple combo gives SP decks so much versatility and makes their energy drops arguably more powerful than other decks, as well as allowing room to misplay a bit and be able to compensate or rework strategies and plays on the go.
All of these assets become invaluable in a mirror match that is mostly filled with OHKO’s and so every energy drop is important.
A good tactic for SP mirror matches is usually attaching an energy to a different Pokémon than the one that will require it one turn prior, while also having that Pokémon on the bench, so your opponent has to decide whether to snipe for example a Garchomp c that is unpowered or the Crobat g that has an energy attached to it.
This becomes incredibly important in making sneaky plays, as you might be baiting your opponent into KOing Garchomp or targeting the energy, depending on what you have in your hand and that is unknown to your opponent.
Despite its usefulness though, I would not run more than 1 Bronzong g in any SP deck, but there sure are times where I wish I had a second one because it got Power Sprayed or KO’d early, only due to the versatility it provides to SP decks.
Crobat g: I’m BATMAN!
Think for a moment how many crucial KO’s you have barely achieved by a single damage counter. That is why you run Crobat g in all SP decks (and a lot of non-Sp’s as well!). Crobat g is just like Bronzong g, it adds versatility to the deck and allows for creative plays and math behind attacks.
pokemon-paradijs.comOne special technique I found extremely effective when a mirror match seems to get complicated or you are lacking resources to keep up the colorless KO exchange is to Bright Look (when applicable depending on SP variant) the plethora of Uxie’s that will surely be on your opponent’s bench and Flash Impact them for 60 damage.
Why not use Crobat g’s Flash Bite to nab an easy prize? Well every energy drop is crucial in SP mirror matches, and having a Pokémon active that cannot be TGI Poké Turn’d really messes up with plans as if Unown Q isn’t available immediately, they have to waste an energy to retreat or risk you using Flash Bite next turn and grabbing that prize AND having a free shot on whatever is promoted active.
Not to mention even if they have Unown Q readily available, maybe forcing them to use a Pokémon Collector messes up with their Cyrus’s Conspiracy chain and limits their resources in the form of TGI Power Spray to deny your Uxie’s or the very same Flash Bite, or not being able to fetch a TGI Poké Turn to make sneaky plays of their own.
With all of this in mind, Crobat g suddenly complicates your opponent’s life a lot more than simply having to worry about +10 damage on his Pokémon. The big debate though is whether to use 1 or 2, and in my opinion either option is good.
If you have the space for it I would definitely use 2, as apart from sneaky plays it increases your odds a little bit to score first turn KO’s to win a game, but the reality of things is there are most likely other more useful cards you need to find room for first, although running 2 in SableLock especially is what I would recommend.
Drifblim f: Hidden gem.
I must admit I was relatively blind to this cards potential as an end game attacker in SP variants. This combined with Lucario l becomes a hassle to deal with in the lategame of SP mirrors as it can single-handedly guarantee you at least 2 prizes which could turn around a game, especially thanks to Drifblim f’s Poké-Body: Pump Up.
This card has only seen play in very few successful DialgaChomp lists as far as I know, as Dialga can definitely struggle late game when running dry on resources but I personally think this guy would shine the most in SableLock.
If SableLock allows the opposing SP deck to set up, it is in a world of trouble as it has inferior attackers to say LuxChomp when comparing cost/benefit of their attacks and the weakness.
Even though Honchkrow can be a great late game clean up, it is very fragile and easily OHKO’d by either of the main Pokémon, so Drifblim f could certainly be good to play catch up by sniping the Uxie’s which is what most likely allowed them to set up in the first place.
I basically picture scenarios where SableLock gets ahead early on by 2 or 3 prizes before LuxChomp is out of the lock, it then transitions the game into a colorless war where SableLock decks are almost always at a disadvantage by not running both Dragonite f and Ambipom g.
Finally you want to hopefully clean up with Honchkrow whatever comes up next, but sometimes Luxray l is still left standing after the prize exchange and so Drifblim f can actually guarantee you the 2 prizes as it is unlikely the LuxChomp player will have any way to OHKO it.
Fan Rotom: Yes I really do exist!
I can honestly say I was not even aware of this cards existence until States were finished. I am however a big fan (pun intended!) of its inclusion in any SP decks that can afford the space. It being able to transform into a colorless type is incredibly useful to have another attacker in the colorless war.
pokegym.netThis is an extra guarantee Pokémon that you can use to surprise KO something in the colorless war, not to mention it’s colorless resistance which makes it KOing it with Dragon Rush next turn more resource intensive as you need a Flash Bite in there as well.
Another obvious advantage is the Lightning type that can do wonders for decks that could perhaps struggle against Gyarados, so this card truly shines in non Luxray l SP variants.
The biggest issue with this card though is it is quite resource intensive. To be able to surprise someone with it, you must make sure neither Galactic Switch NOR Fan Shift will be Power Sprayed, or else you’ll be left with a bench warmer that is not useful that turn.
This is why I would not use it in LuxChomp, as it will also most likely take up a precious Double Colorless Energy you might want later on for Garchomp.
Air Slash is its main attack, but Spin Storm has its merits as it could potentially get you out of a tough situation against say a tanking Steelix which you might sometimes struggle against, but is definitely not the main reason as to why you should debate on including this card or not in your deck.
I think that pretty much covers up the most influential SP mirror Pokémon cards. There are other techs in the form of Froslass l and Roserade l, but these are mainly used for other stalling techniques as opposed to try to give you advantages over opposing SP decks.
The next set of potential cards that can change the flow of an SP mirror match are the different amounts each deck runs of the Team Galactic Inventions cards.
Many SP decks run anywhere from 1 to 4 TGI Power Spray, but the unpredictability of this is what makes it such a powerful card. I’ve seen LuxChomp lists run anywhere from 1 to 4 TGI Power Spray and this has a direct effect on what your opponent decides to fetch off of a Pokémon Collector, or if he can safely plan his next move around 1 crucial Galactic Switch or Flash Bite.
I myself have lost a few games where I miscalculated and wrongly assumed my opponent did not run 4 TGI Power Spray, only to see my Poké-Powers denied and not having a back up plan in case this happened.
This is another key point as to why consistency is incredibly important in your lists, as the earlier it is in a match, the less likely your opponent will be able to use a TGI Power Spray either by not having drawn one or not having 3 SP Pokémon in play, so maximizing Pokémon Collector and Uxie LA counts can guarantee you get off to a strong start early on without fear of having your Set-Up’s denied.
You must also always pay attention and make sure you see what your opponent fetches during his Cyrus chains, as having that extra bit of information can help you out. Of course this is all depends on the current game state and field, but if you see your opponent immediately using the cards he Cyrus’s for, he might not have a TGI Power Spray readily available in order to use it, whereas if he is not using those cards immediately, then it more likely he is trying to lead you on to using a crucial Poké-Power by hiding a TGI Power Spray in his hand.
There are a lot of mind games involved with this card, and I run 3 myself in LuxChomp but I would love to be able to run the 4th one, and by using Junk Arm I am at least giving myself the option to plan ahead and have a potential 4th TGI Power Spray.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe next important card is TGI Energy Gain. Being able to cut down on energy costs is huge, and having these readily available is very important for the inevitable colorless war in an SP mirror.
I have already mentioned the importance of energy drops and resources in these type of matches, and so saving up on energy costs is just as important as having the actual energy to attach.
This tool effectively becomes an extra energy drop and so even though I can see why people might run only 3, the one tournament I ran 3 I regret it every game and thus I do not endorse running anything less than 4.
This holds true specially in SP mirrors as you are usually hard pressed to find Power Spray’s to deny Uxies and Poké Turns to reuse Flash Bite to get KO’s AND you need energy to be able to KO your opponent, so having 4 maximizes your chances of drawing these without the need to search for them directly with Cyrus’s Conspiracy.
Nevertheless the card is extremely useful in all the other matchups in the current metagame and so you cannot cut down on these further than 3 as you will surely suffer in your other matchups.
pokegym.netThe other last but not least incredibly crucial card in SP mirror matches is Twins. This card alone can allow you to get back into a game by fetching double colorless energies and allowing you to even up the playing field when trying to achieve OHKO’s on your opponents colorless Pokémon.
This is it’s primary use and the situations I was cornered into during my testing, but of course it can help compensate a bad start against other matchups so it is certainly not a useless card.
I think it is much more viable in DialgaChomp as that seems to be the less aggressive of the 4 main SP variants but a bad start for any SP deck in an SP mirror can spell doom as even just one or two turns are enough to put you significantly behind and maybe in an unwinnable position from there on unless you hit every card you need perfectly and Twins helps you achieve that.
One final note I’d like to add is a made this article based on my experiences and testing using and playing against LuxChomp, Dialgachomp and SableLock. I have not tested Loxchomp at all but I believe all this applies to the deck.
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 26
Energy – 12
Based solely on J-Wittz’s deck list, you can tell he has almost everything I mentioned considered in here, and even though the lack of Toxicroak g could hurt his potential SP mirror matches against the standard LuxChomp’s, he has the whole ‘Lock’ concept with Sableye and Cyrus’s Initiative in there.
Those cards allow him to control the tempo of the game early on, get an early lead, exchange prizes in the colorless war, and a combination of Honchkrow SV and Luxray l LV.X allows him to clean up the last prizes, despite not having a direct response to opposing Luxrays.
I think this pretty much covers up every important aspect to consider in an SP mirror match, and I certainly hope this article will help all our UG members to have a better understanding of the match, as well as mentioning things you might not have considered before and that will help you excel at the upcoming Regionals Championships and the USA and Canada.
I myself wish I was going to one but alas I am not able to due to several factors out of my control, but I wish you all the best of luck!
Underground Members: Thanks for making this article possible!