On the Road to Nationals: Making the Most out of the Metagame

Oh Ouija board, what is the play for Nats??

With Nationals fast approaching, I’m sure a lot of you guys have been testing a great deal. In this article I’m going to predict which decks I think will make a big appearance in various countries’ Nationals due to differing formats, as well as how to address the matchup if paired against any of them.

At the moment, it’s looking highly likely that throughout different countries in the world, there will be three different formats played. This is due to Play Pokémon announcing a possible mid-season rotation as well as disallowing Black & White rules and cards at some Nationals.

Although the format for some Nationals hasn’t been officially announced yet, I’m covering all possible to help maximise your chances for success whatever the decision.

So without further ado…

Format: MD – CoL (Old Rules, Majestic Dawn through Call of Legends)

Countries: UK, Finland, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands

A lot of European countries have adopted the old format for their Nationals, stripping players of BW card use altogether. This also includes the UK, where I will be playing my Nationals on the 29th of May.

This has been the format some may view as stale and boring, where I see it as most stable, having had the most time over the last year to have decks established in the metagame as well as allow players to learn the inner workings of them through testing as well as playing them in competitive tournaments.

I believe that the metagame will be relatively similar to States, so in order to see what’s going to be big; we need to look at the results from Europe this year. I’ll run through each deck with regard to its potential for Nationals.

13 – Luxchomp
5 – Gyarados variants
5 – Gengar variants
5 – Magnezone variants
1 – Dialgachomp
2 – Sablock
1 – Tyranitar

46 – Luxchomp
21 – Gyarados variants
15 – Gengar variants
13 – Magnezone variants
5 – Tyranitar variants
3 – Sablock
3 – Machamp variants
3 – Regigigas variants
9 – other decks (see the particular results for details)

(Results courtesy of PokéGym as well as adding in some missing ones)


pokemon-paradijs.comAs expected, Luxchomp has dominated States, netting 13 wins and 46 Top 4’s! Luxchomp accounted for 43% of Top 4s throughout the whole of Europe, meaning there probably was at least one or 2 in every final four! The deck most certainly needs to be accounted for regardless of what you decide to play.

If you plan on playing an SP deck, make sure you have enough SP counters (such as Ambipom G, Dragonite FB, Toxicroak G Promo, or a 3-1 Garchomp line of your own) in order to maintain the more favorable position during the game.

If Stage 1 or 2 is more your play style, decks that thrive in a Luxchomp heavy meta include Speedchamp, Steelix, and Vilechamp. Techs include thin lines (e.g. 2-1-2) of Machamp as well as the utilisation of Spiritomb AR in order to slow down their heavy trainer lines in order to set up your side of the field through “Darkness Grace”.

The main problem with trying to counter SP is that regardless how well you may attempt to counter the deck, it always stands a chance against you due to its fast, consistent, as well as disruptive starts (e.g “Bright Look” or early “Dragon Rushing”).

As a result of this, I would never go into a match against a Luxchomp player thinking that my matchup was any less than 60% in my favor, regardless of what techs I was using to give me an edge.


Gyarados took down 5 State Championships this year, with 21 Top 4s. A decent result for a deck that I personally think has too many issues with speed, low HP basics, as well as weakness to the most played deck in the format.

Despite this, after some more testing, I think Gyarados has a little bit left to give to the tournament scene before it’s rotated out of the format. Recent interesting creations involving the card has sparked some interest in the deck again.

This includes:

Speed Gyarados – Trainer heavy with Pokédex Handy and Poké Drawer + to maximise a T1 Gyarados. The downside to this is if your opponent runs trainer lock in the form of Gastly, Spiritomb, or Vileplume as it will seriously hurt your setup and recovery in the long run.

Mew/Gyarados – Utilizing Mew Prime’s “Lost Link” Poké-Body to swing for 120 base damage with “Tail Revenge”. A card such as Relicanth CoL allows the Gyarados to be placed in the Lost Zone in order for Mew to use its attack later on. Dialga G really throws a spanner in the works for this build however and “Time Crystal” makes Mew Prime useless.

Gyarados Lock – One of my favorite versions of Gyarados as it utilises Cyrus’s Initiative as well as Mespirit LA to disrupt the Opponent’s setup, while using 2 supporters a turn with Sableye in order to setup your side of the field. I would say that it’s a type of fusion between Sablock and Gyarados.

One thing to bare in mind with this variant is the sacrifice in consistency for disruption that is made in order to cause grief for your opponent.

As for countering Gyarados, anything electric-type that is competitively played, such as Luxray GL, Magnezone Prime, or even cards such as Vileplume UD and Spiritomb AR to lock down their heavy reliance on trainers are viable choices.


Also winning 5 States were Gengar Variants, mainly Vilegar with the possible inclusion of a Lost World element. The real surprise here was UK player, Tommy Roberts winning a State Championships with his Gengar/Garchomp C deck. Check out his article here for more details on the inner workings of the deck.

In my honest opinion, I don’t see Gengar being such a significant threat as to have the need to tech against it specifically, but view it more importantly to anticipate what I would need to do in-game to avoid being caught in a compromising situation with regard to Poltergeist damage, inconvenient Level Downs, as well as Vileplume’s Trainer Lock.

Manage damage on your side of the field as well as streamlining your hand size in order to minimize the damage that the Gengar Player can do to you.

If Gengar is so popular in your area you may want to tech in Ditto LA. Possibly the best counter to Gengar SF, as he has the ability to KO Gengar’s with their own “Shadow Rooms” attacks. This also bypasses the “Fainting Spell” Poképower that is the bane of many players that face a lot of Gengar.

Magnezone Prime

pokegym.netMy favorite card to see an increase in play of over the last few months. Whether partnered with Machamp, Scizor, or Regirock the card has grown from strength to strength and won 5 States in Europe as a result. I personally believe this card still isn’t taken as seriously as it should be in tournament play as it improves consistency as well as having the potential to 1HKO any Pokémon in the game.

I’ve had a high level of success partnering the Giant Magnet with Machamp, swinging early with Machamp to get cheap KOs, then sweeping the board by recycling the energy with Regirock and hitting hard with Lost Burn.

Countering Magnezone Prime is most easily done with a fighting type such as Donphan Prime or Machamp Prime as they both have the potential to one shot KO him. Replacing the Sunyshore City Gym that they will most likely play with a Broken Time-Space or Pokémon Contest Hall (if you’re running Dialgachomp).


The deck was most certainly underrepresented at European States, only winning one event. Contrary to the common belief that it is just an inferior version of Luxchomp, I would have to disagree.

USA players such as Kyle Sucevich, Drew Holton as well as Andrew Mondak have had great success with the deck, top cutting nearly every event that they have played with the deck. This is a result of a lot of testing, a good feel for the flow of the deck as well as knowing matchups inside out.

If you come up against a Dialgachomp player at Nationals, I would go into the match thinking they had a high level of skill with the deck, and not disregarding the crippling attack that is “Deafen”. Slowing down your side of the field (by not allowing you to play Trainers or Stadiums) in order to get numerous energy drops on the field before sweeping your board shouldn’t be underestimated.

A turn 1 Deafen Lock can simply be disastrous for anybody playing against Dialga and can definitely win games.

Something worth noting is if the player playing DialgaChomp isn’t of a high skill level; don’t expect them to win many games. This is worth bearing in mind if you intend to pick up the deck just before Nationals. The deck definitely takes time to adjust to as it is unforgiving if you misplay and make mistakes.


Europe had 2 States wins in the form of Sablock. The deck focuses on early game disruption (Judge, Cyrus’s Initiative) to maximise its offensive a few turns later in the form of Garchomp C LV.X.

I had the displeasure of losing to this in top 4-of London States, losing to Sami Sekkoum by 1 Prize in Game 3. This was in fact the first time I have seen the deck played with a high level of skill in an official tournament, and I have to say, still is a deck to watch out for regardless of your deck choice.

The best way to actually counter Sablock isn’t through specific Pokémon, but through increasing consistency in the form of adding more Pokémon Collectors, Pokémon Communication, as well as other shuffle draw cards to minimise the effect that Sablock’s hand disruption will have on you during a game.

I would certainly say that Sablock was an incredibly strong contender, and if you are thinking about using it at Nationals, I would strongly suggest that you check out some of Josh’s old articles for a definitive guide to the deck.


Only one win for Tyranitar at States this year, but still a deck to be feared at Nationals. The pairing with Vileplume UD can be particularly lethal as constant Darkness Howls can result in multiple KOs on the opponent’s side of the field.

If you find yourself playing against this monster of a Pokémon, I would strongly suggest targeting the Tyranitars and the pre-evolutions to minimise the potential number of offensive threats on their side of the table.

So there are the most popular European decks analysed so you can be prepared for your Nationals if you’re playing up to CoL. Time to move on to the most unstable format that you may be testing for Nationals…

Format: MD – BW (New Rules, Majestic Dawn through Black & White)

Countries: All Other European Countries

pokemon-paradijs.comI really find this format incredibly unbalanced as the first turn really can make the difference between winning and losing a game. The advent of the players that will play Sabldonk at some European nationals is inevitable.

What is the best way to counter this frustrating deck, and what’s going to be good against the rest of the format, which will be incredibly diverse?

In this relatively unknown metagame, instead of making unreliable predictions may not be the best way to help you guys out. Instead here some of my suggestions about deck building, and techs.

Deck Building

1. Run 4 Sableye

As Chris mentioned in his last article, there really is no reason not to. By getting enough basics on the field so that Sabldonk can’t donk you is critical as well as establishing a quick and efficient setup to out-speed your opponent.

2. Evolution

If your Nationals is playing with BW rules, Rare Candy is just too slow in a format full of donks (Sableye), hard snipers (Garchomp C LV.X) as well as an abundance of disruption (Cyrus’s Initiative, Judge, and Looker’s Investigation). This is because of the new ruling stating that a basic Pokémon must be in play for a turn before you can use Rare Candy.


Be sure to utilise Spiritomb AR and Broken Time-Space by running at least 3-of each in your decks that run Stage 2s. This may seem like an excessive amount, but this leads me on to my next point.

3. Spiritomb is your friend

In a format dominated by speed due to the ability to play trainers on the first turn, if you don’t get a Sableye start, Spiritomb acts as a makeshift Sableye by limiting what your opponent can do on the first turn by preventing them from using Trainers and decreasing the chances of you getting donked.

With the bonus of being able to evolve up one of your benched Pokémon, Spiritomb can be used as a great backup starter.


There are some pretty awesome tech cards that BW gives us that have a significant effect on this format. These are cards you may want to watch out for or may want to play, depending on your deck selection.

1. Bouffalant

This guy is brutal at revenge killing SPs. He hits for 90 with a DCE as a revenge KOer against SP decks. Due to his fairly cheap energy cost, he is splashable in a variety of decks including SP or anything that runs Double Colorless Energy.

If you intend to run SP for Nationals, I strongly recommend both including this guy as well as running Toxicroak G Promo in order to 1HKO your opponents Bouffalant due to weakness.

2. Mandibuzz


This vulture Pokémon is an effective backup attacker in Sablock, and a decent counter to Machamp in other decks. It’s difficult to say whether I prefer to play him over Honchkrow SV in Sablock, but do anticipate that this thing will be played, and have a means to limit its damage potential.

3. Zoroark

I’m sure that a lot of players won’t be able to resist running this card in their decks for Nationals due to its incredible versatility and ability to copy its opponent’s attacks without having to execute the requirements to do so. In a format with such a huge card pool, Zoroark is something to consider for your deck as well as fear playing against.

All in all, if I had to choose a deck to play in this format, I would have to choose Sablock. It’s inclusion of Sableye already makes it even stronger with the introduction of BW rules. It has the potential to donk, disrupt or setup.

The fact it can abuse some of the tech lines, such as Zoroark, Mandibuzz or Bouffalant just adds to its strength.

I wish all players playing in this format the best of luck, and if you want to discuss any ideas you have for decks, feel free to PM me (username: primeape101) and I’d be happy to help out!

Format: HGSS – BW (New Rules, HearGold & SoulSilver through Black & White)

Countries: USA and Canada

This format I’m the most jealous of. The possibility of USA players being able to play this format for their Nationals is one to be excited about. Due to the possible mid-season rotation, Pokémon slows right down, emphasising deck building and in game strategy as a key factor of deciding games once again.

I’m 90% likely to go to Worlds (so long as I don’t bomb Nationals), so I’m incredibly excited to play this format, and have already done some testing although my own Nationals only plays up to CoL with the old rules.

Here are my favorite, most playable decks that may hopefully arise out of the new tournament environment.


pokegym.netThis deck is simply a joy to play. Two clunky stage twos that rely on each other to set up, yet deliver an incredible attack power that may simply overwhelm an opponent due to the sheer amount of damage you can achieve with “Lost Burn”. I highly recommend checking out Chris’s latest article on this potential archtype.

Mew Prime / Relicanth TM + Toolbox

This is an interesting deck, with the ability to run through your opponent. While not having finalised a list for the deck as of yet, the main aims are to Lost Zone a Pokémon on turn one, which can deal damage, snipe or Lost Zone (e.g. Jumpluff HGSS, Mandibuzz, Gengar Prime). The added draw that Relicanth gives you helps you to set up faster as well as swarm Mew Primes.


This deck is actually viable after rotation as it can compete with the speed of other decks in the format. I highly recommend testing this deck if you’re serious about doing well at Nationals, even if you don’t intend to play LostGar. The reason being that through practice with the deck you will become more aware of what the Lostgar player would be most likely do in a match.

This allows you to anticipate moves more accurately, and to be able to make adjustments in your play-style to compensate. A more in depth article on Lostgar will be coming from one of our UG writers very soon!

Donphan Prime

pokemon-paradijs.comWith evolutions losing some strength due to the new ruling on Rare Candy, Donphan Prime relieves some of the pressure of running a deck filled with evolutions. He hits hard and fast, effectively resisting Magnezone Prime by 40, limiting the effectiveness of Lost Burn and requiring Magnezone to Lost Zone 4 Energy cards in order to 1HKO him.

This deck WILL be played at US Nationals, and it’s important to be prepared for it.

I find that the most effective counter is Samurott from BW. While not looking like much, Samurott actually messes up the numbers for a variety of decks, including the ability to 1HKO Donphans as well as being able to survive a hit from Rayquaza Deoxys Legend. He’s very splashable, requiring only colourless energy. Definitely a tech to look at when deckbuliding.

In Closing

This format completely turns conventional deck building from the last couple of years on its head. Gone are the days of throwing in 3 Cyrus’s Conspiracy into an SP deck without even thinking about it as well as running mandatory 3-4 Call Energy in numerous decks. It’s time to make way for the overlooked setup cards that shine in this new format, namely Cleffa.

He’s actually surprisingly playable in this new format, as Chris went over in his Emboar/Magnezone article. This is great news for me as for those that didn’t already know this guy is my favorite Pokémon.

Although he’s great in certain situations, I would go against the use of 4 baby Pokémon in a deck due to their fragile HP and the fact they are susceptible to a KO by just about anything.

On that note, I wish all those competing at Nationals the very best of luck, and hope that this article may have helped in some way!

Until next time,

Tom H.

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