2 for 1: The Secrets Behind Sabledonk and The Plays for International Nats

This is my first Underground article for SixPrizes so I should probably introduce myself. So a little bit about me personally my name is Jay Hornung, I’m 21 years old and a Senior in Criminal Justice. I love being active, and I enjoy running, weightlifting, and my passion is Martial Arts.

I’ve been playing Pokémon competitively since Nintendo took over back in 2004, which was 8 years ago. I’ve attended all 7 Worlds (2004-2010), with an invite for all of them, and all were played in the Masters Division. As far as I know, that’s a record held by only Chris Fulop, John Kettler, Ross Cawthon, and myself.

I’m also one of only 3 players to Top 4 both a United States National Championship and a World Championship in the Masters Division (Chris Fulop, Gino Lombardi, and myself). I’ve attended 4 National Championships (07,08,09,10), 4 Regionals (05,08,09,10), 12 State Championships (04-11), 7 Gym Challenges (04-06), and I’ve also attended numerous City Championships and Battle Roads, but I stopped keeping track of my win counts on those a while back.

All of these accomplishments are in the Masters Division with the exception of a few tournaments in 2004 where I was 14 years old for a majority of the season, but moved up to Masters at the end including Worlds that year.

My Credentials

  • 7 Worlds Invites
  • 3rd Place Worlds 2009
  • 2nd Place Nationals 2007
  • Top 32 Nationals 2009
  • 1st Place Regionals 2009
  • 2nd Place Regionals 2008
  • 2 Regionals Top 8’s
  • 6 States Wins (04,07,08,08,09,11)
  • 3 State Second Place (09,10,11)
  • 3rd Place States 06
  • 2 State Top 8’s (05,10)
  • 2 1st Place Gym Challenge (04,06)
  • 2 2nd Place Gym Challenge (05,06)
  • 1 Top 4 Gym Challenge
  • 2 Top 8 Gym Challenge
  • Numerous Cities and Battle Road wins

I can’t even begin to tell you how vain I just felt typing that list. However, I feel that if you want to be taken seriously as a writer you must not only be a great writer and deck builder but also be able to back it up in a tournament setting.

After all would you want a doctor to operate on you that has only studied medicine or would you want one that has done the surgery before? Now that you know a little bit more about me we should probably get back to the article.

Several weeks ago Nintendo dropped a bomb when they announced that we may be rotating to an HGSS on format on July 1st. This would cause both the United States, National Championship and the World Championship to be played in this format. Nintendo rarely seems to make announcements like this unless it is an almost certainty.

I feel that the only way we won’t get this rotation is if they feel the format is fair and balanced. I’m determined to make sure it is not and hopefully help loyal Underground members bring home some Victory Medals in the process. Or perhaps even a National Championship for those of you who’s National is still going to be played in the MD-BW format.

pokemon-paradijs.comThe number one deck I hate sitting down across the table from is a Uxie Donk deck. Mainly because it took skill out of the game, it didn’t matter how good I was or how good my opponent was. I had 8 cards (7 in the opening hand and 1 draw) and a coin flip that would determine if I won or lost the match.

The deck is extremely fast and ridiculously consistent. It easily sweeps 3 Pokémon off the board and could possible do 4 or 5. There were always a few things that kept this deck in check.

It would win a large majority of its games where it went second however, not being able to play Trainers first turn means it usually had a rough time going first. It just wasn’t feasible to walk into a long tournament and expect the coin flip to go your way all day.

Secondly, it had an incredibly bad match up against anything that played Trainer Lock. Vilegar had a full 8 Basic Pokémon that would completely shut the deck down (4 Gastly, 4 Spiritomb) and random Spiritombs were a common occurrence.

As you know with the new rules from Black and White, the player going first is now allowed to play both Trainers and Supporters. This completely took away any downside to going first. Before the opponent was able to get a turn where he might be able to use Call Energy, Uxie, or Azelf to try and fetch out other basics, or Mesprit LA to stop you cold in your tracks.

However, now you can win before they even get to draw. This made Uxie Donk more broke than it was before, but why should we stop there; lets add 4 Sableye to the deck. Due to just 4 Sableye we will go first approximately 47% of the time, and even if we don’t start with Sableye we still have the regular coin flip which would have us going first 50% of the time.

joao_trindade
Too much math!

Now with the new format we have to expect that a large percentage of our opponents will be playing 4 Sableye as well, which means you’re talking about some very serious and complex math. But the bottom line is playing 4 Sableye will dramatically increase our chances of going first regardless if our opponent is playing 4 Sableye or not.

One of the main things I stress when building decks is don’t reinvent the wheel. I’m the first person to say how important it is to think outside the box, but don’t mess with what we know works. There is a reason why players play 3-4 Pokémon Collector in almost every deck and cards like Rare Candy and Call Energy are staples in decks that can support them.

A Sableye based donk deck operates on the same basic strategy has a Uxie Donk deck. Sableye just brings new speed, options, consistency, and improved matchups to the deck. It’s more of a Uxie Donk 2.0 rather than a brand new deck. For this reason I think its important to understand what a Uxie Donk deck looks like and how it works before we start messing with the Sableye aspect. So here is a list that I was testing around States this year.

Pokémon – 13

4 Uxie LA
4 Crobat G
4 Unown R LA
1 Unown Q MD

Trainers – 45

4 Pokédex HANDY910is
4 Poké Drawer +
4 Victory Medal
4 Junk Arm
4 Dual Ball
4 Poké Turn
4 Super Scoop Up
4 Pokémon Rescue
4 PlusPower
4 Quick Ball
2 Seeker
2 Expert Belt
1 Luxury Ball

Energy – 2

2 Cyclone

I found this list to be fast and consistent, and it almost never drew into dead hands. There are certain situations where it can have a great hand that becomes dead such as opening up against a Spiritomb, but that’s the risk you take when playing a deck using 43 Trainers.

This list overall is pretty standard, but I’ll explain some of the less staple cards. The number of Crobat G is always a bit of debate; I’ve seen lists with as few as 2 and others with the standard 3. I played 4 because it is such a good opener, and because I was forced to run an Unown Q I didn’t mind the extra basic either.

pokemon-paradijs.com
Alt Text: Draw a card.

The next thing, most versions, but not all, run the 4 Unown R and 4 Pokémon Rescue. The Unown R’s help you burn through the deck, and as soon as you get 1 in the discard (a very easy task) Pokémon Rescue might as well read, “draw a card.”

There are even some rare occasions where you can fish a Uxie or Crobat G out of your discard as well. I also opted to play 2 Seeker and 2 Cyclone where some versions only play 1 and 1.

The reason for this was because I didn’t want to take the risk of one of them getting prized since they are both crucial in getting the donk and most of the versions that play 1-1 have to play an Alph Lithograph (TM) anyway which means they are only getting one extra spot while taking a much larger risk, a risk that just wasn’t worth it from my point of view.

The same deal with the second Expert Belt, I could safely “burn” one if I had to and since it was usually key to getting the donk I didn’t want to risk a single copy getting prized.

As soon as I heard about the new Black and White Rules, I knew I had to build the deck. While thinking it over I came up with 2 different lists, while similar they did have some small, but important differences. The first was basically a standard Uxie Donk deck with 4 Sableye.

The second was a version that gave up a bit in the forum of speed but gained a better match up against Trainer Locking. First I’ll give you the list for the speed based one:

Pokémon – 16

4 Sableye SF
4 Uxie LA
3 Crobat G
4 Unown R LA
1 Unown Q MD

Trainers – 42

4 Pokédex HANDY910is
4 Poké Drawer +
4 Victory Medal
4 Junk Arm
4 Dual Ball
4 Poké Turn
4 Super Scoop Up
4 Pokémon Rescue
4 Quick Ball
2 Seeker
2 Expert Belt
1 Luxury Ball
1 Poké Ball

Energy – 2

2 Special D

Final Changes

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+4 Sableye SF
+2 Special D Energy
+1 Poké Ball

-2 Cyclone Energy
-1 Crobat G PL
-4 PlusPower

As you can tell the changes were very small since we really didn’t want to change the purpose, speed, or consistency of the deck. Switching the 2 Cyclone to 2 Special D Energy was an easy switch, as well as was giving up that extra Crobat G.

Then with the new rule changes (I’ll go more into depth about this in a minute) PlusPower became almost useless. We have no way to cycle them with Uxie anymore and it does us no good with Sableye since we will never need that extra 10 damage.

The defending Pokémon needs only 50 HP or less left for Sableye to kill it (40+10 with Sableye having 60 HP) or 70 HP or less if Sableye has an Expert Belt attached (40+10+20 with Sableye having 80 HP). There is just never a time when we need that extra 10 damage to score a KO.

And the second list…

Pokémon – 17

4 Sableye SF
4 Uxie LA
3 Crobat G
4 Unown R LA
1 Unown Q MD
1 Unown UD

Trainers – 41

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokédex HANDY910is
4 Poké Drawer +
4 Victory Medal
3 Pokémon Rescue
4 Junk Arm
4 Dual Ball
4 Poké Turn
4 Super Scoop Up
3 Quick Ball
1 Seeker
1 Expert Belt
1 Luxury Ball

Energy – 2

2 Special D

Changes from the First List

+4 Pokémon Collector
+1 Unown Dark UD

-1 Quick Ball
-1 Seeker
-1 Expert Belt
-1 Pokémon Rescue
-1 Poké Ball

pokegym.netThis version holds up a bit better under Trainer Lock than the first one. Ideally you open both Sableye and Pokémon Collector, and then use the Collector to grab Crobat G, Unown Dark, and whatever other basic you want most likely a Uxie or maybe a second Crobat G if they opened double Tomb.

All you have to do is use Unown Dark to grab the Special D Energy and then use Crobat G to Flash Bite it (50+10=60 HP of the Tomb). The problem with this strategy is your still done for if they get a Vileplume in play.

But if they opened lone Tomb, or if they were depending on that Tomb as their only way to get the Vileplume into play you might just sneak out a win.

This strategy also really shines in match up against slower stage 2 decks like Magnezone/Regirock that don’t run Vileplume and simply rely on that Spiritomb to get themselves set up. Especially with the nerf Rare Candy received, putting early pressures on the Spiritomb is key to winning match ups like that.

So while the changes that we made helped our match up against trainer lock, we gave up a bit of speed and added a ton of dead cards to the deck. We run 4 Sableye because we want to start with it as often as possible, since this is very important for us to win.

This is also the reason we played 4 Pokémon Collector in this list. However, we only need the 1 Sableye that we started with, the other 3 are usually dead cards for the rest of the match and since bench space is usually tight the only way we have to get rid of cards like this is to use them as discard bait for Junk Arm.

pokemon-paradijs.comSo this is what played an important decision in what I decided to drop. 4 Pokémon Rescue was nice but it is still a dead card until you get an Unown R in the discard so dropping one will statistically cut down on the number of times we have a Pokémon Rescue without the Unown R to pair it with.

The same line of thinking is why we cut the 2nd Expert Belt and 2nd Seeker. Both are important cards but those extra copies on top of the 3 dead copies of Sableye and 4 Pokémon Collector we added were just to many dead cards for me.

To be perfectly honest the Poké Ball was simply a filler card and Quick Ball can be a bit to luck reliant with all these new Pokémon we added. Remember the original list only played 13 now were up to 17 and that includes 3 dead copies of Sableye that we could hit.

That’s why both were relatively easy drops from the deck. Plus the fact we just added 4 Pokémon Collector to the deck, means that we already have a lot of Pokémon search.

A Little Bit of Player Preference

I gave you what I believe to be the best lists for Sabledonk but some of my choices really were player preference.

Poké Ball/Quick Ball/Great Ball

pokegym.netI hate coin flips where it’s heads you do this, tails you get nothing. That’s why I opted for Quick Ball even with 3 dead copies of Sableye in the deck I still have far more Pokémon I want to hit (4 Uxie, 4 Unown R, 3 Crobat G).

That’s 11 out of 16, over two-thirds of the Pokémon in my deck I want to hit. Poké Ball is a coin flip, but is guaranteed the Pokémon you want and yes I admit it will stop you from having to grab a dead Sableye. If you don’t mind the extra risk; I really can’t talk bad about Poké ball.

Great Ball is pretty luck reliant as well, since you have to grab a Pokémon out of the top 7 of your deck and once again lets you fail the search rather than grabbing a Pokémon you don’t want in your hand.

Victory Medal

I understand not every reader has 4 Victory Medal lying around. It is without a doubt better than any replacement I could come up with. But if you don’t have 4 and still want to play the deck, Revive from the new Black and White set might be the way to go.

With Victory Medal the most likely outcome is you draw a card, and Revive does the same thing, but you have to pair it with an Unown R (normally not a very hard task). Like I said Victory Medal is much better, but Revive is just about the best replacement I could find.

How Do The New Black And White Rules Effect The Deck

As you already know the new Black and White Rules allow the player going first to play Trainers and Supporters, and considering the fact I’m sure I’ve typed the word “Sableye” upwards of 50 times so far in this article so you also know how dominate Sableye has made this deck.

However the new Black and White Rules also brought an errata to PlusPower making it so that it no longer attaches to the Pokémon (it goes straight to the discard like any other Trainer). While this may seem like a small change it means that were no longer able to drop 4 PlusPowers on a Uxie and constantly recycle them.

While the decks odds of winning were low if it failed to donk this strategy did allow it a back up plan to attempt to pull out a win. This there is a tradeoff since the deck’s odds of donking have increased dramatically, but outside of the clock the deck has no alternative win condition.

How to Play the Deck

pokemon-paradijs.comThe two biggest misconceptions I hear when it comes to this deck are that it is no fun to play, and that it takes no skill. I won’t speak for everybody but I find this deck a lot of fun to play. Everything from the look of compete fear on my opponents face when they realize what I’m play, to playing card after card constantly search for my win.

As for the second misconception the deck requires many plays (after all you will most likely be playing upwards of 40 cards turning your turn), and often times the order in which you play cards can have anywhere from a small impact to a huge impact.

When opening the game our desired starter is obviously going to be Sableye. Crobat G is going to be our second best starter with its beefy 80 HP and free retreat.

Pre Black and White Rules Uxie would have been fine a fine starter as well since Uxie was the main attacker, but since its base damage is now 30 below Sableye with or without Expert Belt it makes for a very sad panda (yes, I really did just use the phrase “sad panda”) to see it as the lone basic in the opening hand.

This leaves the worst openers as being Unown R and Unown Q. Unown R has a very low 60 HP (in this format) and a Retreat Cost plus Unown Q’s lonely 30 HP means you better be winning that coin flip.

Not to mention if going second wasn’t bad, having your opponent realize what you’re playing could cost you a game, and in a post Black and White format as soon as the opponent see an Unown R they are instantly going to think donk deck where if you start with Uxie or Crobat G they might jump to SP.

So even if they can’t get the donk, they might completely change how their playing such as using a Bebe’s Search for a Mesprit over a Uxie, or perhaps even just benching a lot of Pokémon they might not have normally benched.

The deck is basically divided into two parts, the first burns through the deck (Uxie, Poké Dex, Poké Drawer, Balls, etc.), the second places damage counters (Crobat G, Poké Turn, Junk Arm, etc.).

pokemon-paradijs.comWhen I’m staring at my hand the first thing I do first is play is all the Balls, starting in the order which are most reliant on luck to the ones that are the least luck reliant. So I would start with Quick Ball since this gives me no choice I have to grab what comes off the top.

Next I would play Poké Ball since this is completely reliant on a coin flip, followed by Dual Ball since this is reliant on 2 coin flips, and lastly of course I would play Luxury Ball since this I’m guaranteed the Pokémon I want.

The reason we play the Balls first is because we don’t want to have to use our precious draw cards to grab them. Or if we do have to have to grab them with our draw cards we want to make sure we have exhausted all our easier methods of searching them out first.

Next I’ll begin to play the draw cards, once again starting with the least useful and working our way to the most. So first would be Victory Medal, now while we might get to search our deck for anything, that only happens 25% and you have to realize we will also be getting nothing 25% of the time.

So on average we’ll just get to draw a card, this is why I put it weaker than both PokéDex and Poké Drawer. Next will be Pokédex HANDY910is getting to look at the top 2 and choosing 1 actually gives you quite a few options. It’s also easier to grab something you can play right away like Poké Turn, (which sets up for a bigger Uxie draw) while perhaps being able to put dead cards (like all those extra Sableye) on the bottom of the deck.

While it is a small thing, I should note this is also one more reason to play the Balls first and the draw cards second, if we can place dead cards on the bottom of our deck we want to keep them there.

Lastly of course is Poké Drawer. This one is a bit trickier and really is much more of a judgment call based on the situation. For me the determining factor is normally the size of my hand and how many I will be able to Uxie for.

If I’m getting a solid 5 or more off my Uxie I will most likely hold the Drawer and hope to hit a second. 4 really depends on the situation and 3 or less, I’ll would probably just play the single Drawer and hope to draw into something to make my current hand more playable.

pokemon-paradijs.comThis also completely depends on what my hand is and what my current definition of “playable” is. If I’m sitting with 3 Poké Turn and simply need a Crobat G to make them live I would be far more likely to “go for it,” since I have a whole 13 outs that are either Crobat G or will let me search my deck for it, and another 20 cards that will let me keep drawing.

These numbers will change based on how many copies of the cards you have already played, which means once again were getting into very complex math that will show a very small distinction. Somehow I highly doubt your opponent is going to let you pull out your calculator and start doing Trig in the middle of the match.

The bottom line is you have to look at the current situation, and your discard pile and decide how many “live” cards you have in your deck for the current situation. After you play the first pair of Poké Drawers, your odds of pairing the second two are way less, since when your holding the first drawer you had 3 others in the deck to pair it with.

After you played 2 and are holding your 3rd Drawer there is only one other drawer to pair it with. For this reason usually you just play your 3rd and 4th Drawers when you get them, instead of possibly holding them.

Unown R deserves a bit of discussion on his own, all to often I see people just slap him on the bench and instantly draw a card. I feel this haste is normally unwarranted, usually I’ll just throw him on the bench and wait until after I Uxie and then retire for the extra card.

If you’re holding Pokémon Rescue though you should Retire for the card than play the Rescue place him on the bench again and then proceed to wait. Or if you need the bench space you may be forced to Retire. Normally this isn’t the case in the beginning of your turn, but in the middle or toward the end, bench space does get really tight.

Once again though your faced with that decision of could that one card make my hand more playable, which is once again is a judgment call you have to make based on your current hand and the situation. Bottom line is don’t Retire until you have to or you feel you have to; you gain nothing my jumping the gun.

pokemon-paradijs.comI’m not going to go into a long explanation of Uxie since everybody is so familiar with it. Just burn your hand down as much as possible and then Uxie for a brand new one, rinse and repeat. One piece of advice I will give is be careful benching dead cards.

Your bench space will get tight and the last thing you want is to be holding the game winning Crobat G while already having 5 Pokémon on your bench. Even with a single useless Sableye on your bench that limits you to just 4 open bench spaces, which isn’t many when your trying to swarm with Uxie and Crobat G.

You just have to ask yourself is that one extra card worth permanently limiting my bench to 4?

Now that we have gone over the first half of the deck, all of our draw cards. Let’s take a look at the second half our deck, (our win condition) placing damage counters.

With 3 Crobat G, 4 Poké Turn, 4 Junk Arm, 4 Super Scoop Up, (playing the odds we can only expect 2 heads) and 2 Seeker (if were trying to win 1st turn we can only play 1) along with the 70 damage we get from Sableye means that we can put a total of 210 damage on the field before our opponent even draws.

The 210 damage is our “optimal” amount of damage, but this number will fluctuate. We won’t always hit 2/4 on Super Scoop Up, sometimes will be ahead or behind on that. You also have to expect at times you’ll have to pickup Uxie with Super Scoop Up or Seeker rather than Crobat G.

Once again I won’t go into a long-winded explanation of how these cards work. Crobat G and Poké Turn should be pretty self-explanatory. You should always try and discard dead cards (or the least playable ones) with Junk Arm. Just remember your not always going to have extra copies of Sableye to discard.

Thanks to our 4 Pokémon Rescue Pokémon we can actually get Pokémon back easily, which makes them far better discard targets than trainers. Plus we run 4 Uxie for speed and consistency, but we’ll almost never have all 4 in play, so as long as you have 2, discarding one is normally a pretty safe choice.

If you have to discard a Trainer/s, you should obviously start with the least useful like I talked about above. Both Super Scoop Up and Seeker should be used on Crobat G, however this isn’t always possible.

Your number one priority is to continue to cycle through the deck with Uxie so never hesitate to pick one up if you need to. You’ll draw into other ways to reuse Crobat G, but if your drawing gets halted its game over.

Placing damage counters

pokegym.netThe actual placing of damage counters takes some thinking as well. The two things we must always keep in mind when placing damage counters is that we want to Seeker the highest hit point Pokémon in play, while never allowing our opponent to pick up a Pokémon with damage counters on it, and second have Sableye Knock Out the second highest HP Pokémon.

Doing this will result in us having to place the fewest number of damage counters possible to win the game. The original deck played Cyclone Energy, which made setting up this situation far easier. Without playing Cyclone Energy it’s not always going to be possible to set this up, rather this is just the most optimal play.

So for example let’s say our opponent’s field was Luxray GL (80 HP) active, and our opponent had a bench of Uxie (70HP), Dragonite FB (100 HP), and Unown Q (30 HP). The first thing to note is that with only 2 Pokémon SP in play they don’t have an active Power Spray.

Our opponent has a total of 280 HP in play and optimally we can only put 210 damage on the field (140 counters we discussed earlier + 70 from Sableye). We’re still 70 damage shy, but if we place our counters right and have a well-timed Seeker this game is highly winnable.

The first Pokémon we want to go after is Unown Q, not only is this 3 quick Flash Bites away from a free Prize card, we cannot allow our opponent to pick this card up with Seeker, since there is such a huge HP gap between it and the next highest HP Pokémon on their bench (Uxie).

pokemon-paradijs.comNext were going to go after the Luxray GL, normally after picking off the first bench Pokémon I’ll work the active regardless of HP. Remember by picking off their lowest HP Pokémon first ensures that we will get the most bang for our buck with Seeker.

However, it is also imperative that we never put our opponent in a situation where they would be able to pick up a Pokémon with Seeker that we have placed damage counters on. You’re normally forced to play your Seeker anywhere from mid game to late game.

So normally, first I’ll pick off my opponent’s weakest bench Pokémon and then go after their active regardless of their HP. Unless I feel my hand is strong enough than I’ll continue to pick off their weakest Pokémon. Regardless if I’m forced to play Seeker before or after I KO the Luxray, a smart opponent will pick up Uxie since the Dragonite FB has more HP.

Once the Luxray is KO’d, we can assume that due to Seeker all we have to KO is the Dragonite FB. Hopefully by now we will have burned through a majority of our deck and have managed to pick up a Special D Energy and Expert Belt, which means all we have to do is Flash Bite the Dragonite FB 3 times and Sableye will be able to KO it.

So in the end we end up placing 12 damage counters with Crobat G which is shy of our 14, but didn’t leave us much room for error.

Playing around Power Spray

With such an SP heavy meta knowing how to play around Power Spray is very important. The first technique is to simply assume they don’t have one, considering we should be going first a majority of our games, the odds of our opponent opening up with 3 Pokémon SP and Power Spray is rather slim.

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This may seem like a rather risky way to play things, but the theory behind it is that with such slim odds of having this happening, we are going to lose more games trying to play around a phantom Power Spray than we would lose to an actual Power Spray.

The second way involves two things, first always keep a second Uxie or way to get a second Uxie in your hand at all times. The downsides to this is that we are going to get off smaller Set Ups, (smart SP players are going to let you have small Set Ups) and situations that we want a Crobat G were going to have to go for Uxie instead.

The second is regardless of their field to go for their Pokémon SP with the lowest HP first. This will force them to play Power Spray sooner instead of being able to hold it for the most opportune time.

Lastly, if you feel your opponent has somehow managed to open up with 3 Pokémon SP and 2 or more Power Spray, your best chance is once again a combination of the first 2 methods. But to be honest unless they went first and you saw them search out at least 1 Power Spray you’re probably being a bit paranoid.

The odds of an opponent opening up with 3 Pokémon SP and 2 Power Spray out of 7 cards, without making any other plays is incredibly small. Play smart but I can’t stress enough, don’t throw away a game you probably have won. If your opponent really does have two or more Power Spray than you’ve probably already lost, which means your best chance is to probably play like they only have one.

Play Testing

Normally I find play testing with yourself almost pointless, no matter how hard you try to play with out personal biases you will always play differently when you know what is in the other player’s hand. However, with this deck play testing with yourself is actually incredibly beneficial and even in some cases better.

While I stress it is important to get some games in with actual human opponents, it might be hard to find a player to test with for more than several games. Since a majority of the time all your opponent can do is sit there and try to smile while you play card after card.

so_wrong_its_kellyTrust me, it’s very aggravating for your partner to just sit there since they really aren’t benefiting from this testing. I really suggest trying to work in other decks and match ups into your testing to keep it fresh.

So there are a few different ways you can “solitaire” with this deck. The first is to take the deck and match up you want to test, shuffle the other deck well and draw the seven cards and proceed to set up like normal. The second is where you “create” a certain situation and then attempt to get the donk.

For example let’s say I was “solitaireing” against Gyarados, I might create the situation where they open with Magikarp, Sableye, Regice, and a Uxie. So maybe not a very likely situation for them to hit 4 basics in their opening hand, but Gyarados is usually an easier match up and I want a challenge.

Or perhaps I’ll set up a situation against Luxchomp where they open with 3 Pokémon SP and a Power Spray. These “solitaire” matches are actually a lot more fun than you would think they would be and they also help you learn the deck.

One of the advantages of having a field where only a small handful of decks are playable, you can actually test a majority of the field by only testing against a few different decks.

My play testing partner is my younger brother, he’s in Seniors and his resume is about as long as mine including 2 World Top 16 and 2 World Top 32. The quality of players you test again really have an impact on how effective that testing will be.

I can’t begin to tell you how fortunate it I am to live close to my brother and be able to test with him. I fully realize the only reason I’m as good as I am him is because of him and vice versa.

Who should use this deck?

pokemon-paradijs.comBattle Roads are usually far more casual tournament where players are willing to take a bit more of risk with their deck choice. Here are a few things I would look at when deciding whether or not to play this deck:

  1. How prevalent Trainer Lock will be.
  2. How many you expect to top cut.

Usually at a Battle Roads level tournament it’s pretty easy to predict the meta, so you will usually have a good idea going in if this is a good deck choice or not. This is a great deck choice for a more casual player who wants to be on even footing with the more competitive players.

It has solid match ups against all of the top decks in the field and is a lot of fun to play. Perhaps you’re a competitive player that just wants to prove to P!P how stupid our current format is. Or maybe you just enjoy being the most feared person in a room. All of these are reasons you should consider playing this deck at an upcoming Battle Roads.

I know many Underground Members are international players and while we can only hope that all International Nationals will be not be played in this format it is a possibility. It’s relatively easy for players in the United States to pick up this deck and play it in a Battler Roads level tournament, but it’s a much tougher decision to play this at your biggest tournament of the year.

Although a lot of the questions you should be asking yourself when deciding are the same, there is a lot more at risk. Once again how prevalent Trainer Lock will be in Swiss and Top Cut are both very important factors as well as what kind of record you will need to make it into top cut.

If you’re a highly competitive player that is either trying to preserve or secure a rankings invite I probably wouldn’t play this deck. Since with games only lasting one turn you don’t have much if any room to try and out play an opponent, later in this article I talk about what I feel are some decks you should be looking at.

On the flip side no matter the size of a tournament there are usually only a handful of players that realistically have a chance of winning it. If you honestly know you’re not one of those players than I would strongly take a look at this deck.

This deck is the definition of high risk/high reward, you might walk into that tournament and go 4-4 or you might walk out as National Champion. Skill level does not matter, what you’re playing against does not matter; you will always have a chance of winning if luck is on your side.

The Aftermath

pokemon-paradijs.comSo I hoped you enjoyed reading this article and it will help you out at your upcoming Battle Roads or Nationals. If you liked the article please let Adam know, and if you didn’t let me know what you didn’t like about it and I’ll try and improve it. I realize I gave a lot of explanation and went into a lot of details in parts that might have seemed a little dragged out.

My goal was to make give a lot of detail and information so after reading this article you would know how to pick up this deck and play it well. After all, we write these articles for you the reader. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for the new HGSS on format and how many different decks are possible. So hopefully you enjoyed this and I’ll be able to bring you more high quality articles about the new format.

So originally this article was just going to cover the Sableye/donk deck in regards to a Majestic Dawn through Black and White format.

However, many of you Underground members on the board made it clear that you would like more of a format analysis and what to expect at your National Championships.

I hate it when I read an article and I feel the writer has either jumped from topic to topic so quickly that it lacks detail or important information, or in an attempt to write a long detailed article has simply tried to cram so much information together it becomes boring and losses its readers.

Since this is my first Underground Article and I’m the type of guy that likes to come out swinging, so I’ve decided to write this more as a second article instead of trying to cram in it all into one.

Article 2: What to Expect at International Nationals

From my understanding International Nationals will be ran in one of two formats, either a MD-BW like the United States Battle Roads format. Or a standard MD-CL format like we have been playing with all year.

Despite the addition of only one new set were going to see a huge shift in the decks between the two formats, thanks to the addition of the new Black and White rules.

For the first format, Majestic Dawn through Call of Legends, we can probably safely assume that it is going to be very similar to what we’ve seen all year.

Looking at the most recent data we have, would be the United States Regional Championship. According to Pokégym and the posters that posted the information, here are the North America winning decks:

8 Luxchomp Variants (1 Loxchomp)
2 Vilegar
1 Sableye Variant
1 Machamp/Vileplume
1 MagneRock

Looking at the results we have nothing horribly unusual, as Luxchomp and Vilegar have been fighting it out all year. Normally we see Luxchomp coming out on to top though I do believe that these results maybe a bit misleading, so don’t that trick you Luxchomp players into a false since of security.

While some metas are pumped full of Vilegar overall Luxchomp sees far more play. Vilegar also suffers from being a very slow set up deck, which means it can have problems with time, especially in a top cut situation where it could have to finish 3 games in the course of an hour, and where in Swiss it has only 30 minutes plus 3 turns to finish the single game.

pokegym.netThe other misleading thing I see looking at this statistic is the 1 Loxchomp, 1 Machamp/Vileplume and 1 MagneRock that also managed to snag titles. While one win a piece certainly doesn’t look as impressive as the 7 wins Luxchomp has, it’s important to keep in mind that Luxchomp has been a popular deck all season and once again played in numbers far greater than the other 3.

These 3 decks are all relatively “newer” decks to the format with MagneRock making its debut at the European National Championship and both Machamp/Vileplume and Loxchomp not gaining much attention till the first week of States here the U.S.

Being such new decks, players might have had a hard time giving up on there “proven” strategies and deck they felt conformable with, rather than to jump on the band wagon of decks that still needed to prove themselves.

With a few more wins under their belt and players having a lot more time to test the decks and become comfortable with them it would not at all surprise me to see these become far more common in the metagame.

All of these decks could easily take a full article themselves to break down the strategy, match ups, and all of the different techs that you could play. So I’ll give a quick overview of each deck, and give my opinion of it and what kind of play I think it is.

Majestic Dawn – Call of Legends Format (MD-CL)

Luxchomp

I’ve played Luxchomp almost the entire season putting up a 38-5 record with the deck. Its fits my playstyle really well because, it’s easily techable, fast, consistent and has good matches up against the field. While my list has changed throughout the season this is my most recent list.

I played this list at States, placing 1st and 2nd place with an overall 16-2 record, while only adding an Expert Belt between the 2 weekends, and then I sat out Regionals due to other commitments, but mainly just to preserve my ranking.

With the same list my brother finished 1st and 2nd at States, and 3rd place at Regionals. The only real change I keep switching between is playing PromoCroak and a Psychic or Weavile G and Dark. They each have their place and it is really more of a meta call as far as which is better suited.

Pokémon – 21

2 Luxray GL
1 Luxray GL LV.X
3 Garchomp C
1 Garchomp C LV.X
1 Dialga G
1 Dialga G LV.X
3 Uxie LA
1 Uxie LV.X
1 Bronzong G
1 Crobat G
1 Lucario GL
1 Dragonite FB
1 Roserade GL
1 Weavile G
1 Unown Q MD
1 Azelf LA

Trainers – 27

4 Cyrus’s Conspiracy
4 Poké Turn
4 Energy Gain
3 Pokémon Collector
2 Power Spray
2 Pokémon Communication
2 SP Radar
2 Premier Ball
1 Judge
1 Aaron’s Collection
1 Junk Arm
1 Bebe’s Search
1 Expert Belt

Energy – 11

4 Double Colorless
3 Call
3 L
1 D

Judge might be a staple in LoxChomp, but it seems to see very little play in Luxchomp. I can’t stress how absolutely amazing it is and I highly recommended playing it. When my brother and I were testing for Battle Roads we noticed how if a player was able to drop Uxie X early and keep it in play he had a huge advantage in mirror.

pokemon-paradijs.com

We also realized how dominant Judge was in mirror, both offensively and defensively. The card was amazing not only to disrupt their set up if you were ahead, but also to take games that were all but lost and completely bring them back.

After this it didn’t take long for us to realize how dominating it was to drop Uxie X, followed by a Judge. The list we played for Battle Roads ran 2-1 Uxie, 3 Pokémon Communication, 2 Premier Ball, and 2 Judge. The entire strategy was to drop Uxie X and Judge as early as possible, we had the aggressiveness of Luxchomp and a touch of the disruption that Sablock had.

Despite the list changing over the course of the season this has always been a strategy that we based our Luxchomp around. I can’t stress how amazing this card is in mirror, I’ve only dropped one mirror all season, and only two total to SP, with the second loss being against a DialgaChomp at Battle Roads at the first tournament of the year.

Two last things I really would like to touch on; I know over the course of the season both Smeragle and Twins have become semi staples in Luxchomp. The reason I don’t play Smeargle (despite playing it all through Cities) is due to how popular “locking” cards have become.

Roserade GL sees a fair amount of play in SP and Blaziken FB and Froslass GL aren’t strangers either. The scary thing is, especially with Roserade GL is that its near impossible to know if my opponent is playing it. Which means that in any match up against SP I can’t promote Smeargle without risking a 2 Prize swing.

I understand the purpose of Twins; incase you fall behind in SP mirror your able to use Twins to grab Dragonite FB + DCE or whatever you might need to pull the game back. At least in my opinion I feel Judge does a better job of bring back games and your playing a deck that is meant to be aggressive so it very likely you’ll be taking the first prize.

This means in many match ups (including mirror) it’s quite possible that you would find yourself stuck with a copy of Twins in your hand. Best-case scenario is it’s just a dead card, but Smeargle is such a common card that your opponent could be using your own Twins against you. Not only does that net them two free cards but they still can play a Supporter of their own.

Vilegar

pokegym.netI won’t try and hide my biases, I really don’t like Vilegar at all. I can’t argue with results though and it has put out some nice numbers over the course of the season. I played the deck at 2 City Championships and had a rough weekend finish 8-3.

My losses pretty much personify what I dislike about the deck. My first loss came in Top Cut when I feel like I was slow played and cheated out of a fair 3rd game. Normally you’ll never find me making excuses like this, but sitting there my opponent’s turns were anywhere from 2-5 times what mine were.

First game my opponent plays Crobat G, hits for 10, thinks for 5-10 seconds, plays Poké Turn, thinks for another 5 seconds plays down Crobat G again, thinks for another 5-10 seconds before deciding to KO my active with Flash Bite. Thinks for 15 seconds, than decides to play Super Scoop Up, thinks for 10 seconds, etc. This is how the whole match went.

My top 3 favorite quotes from that weekend:

“Do you know how much time is left?” – Opponent while up 2-5 in prizes.

“I’m playing a complex deck and it takes me longer to think.” – Opponent up on prizes

“Sir, your bench is Zangoose, Zangoose, Sableye, and it’s going on a minute, can you please bring up a Pokémon?” – Me after I Knocked Out his active

pokemon-paradijs.comMy second loss was against a Steelix Prime deck where over the course of the game I had two major Fainting Spell flips and failed both of them (I was 1-3 in that game and 3 for 12 I believe on the weekend), the first one really put me out of the game and the second was to bring the game to sudden death.

I won’t make excuses on the 3rd loss, since it was to a Dialga player who had a solid list and played well. The other major complaint I had about the deck is how many times I found myself having to “draw” my way out of dead hands despite the fact that I ran 4 Spiritomb, 4 Pokémon Collector, 4 Bebe’s Search, and 3 Call Energy. Out of all my dislikes this is the one that bothered me the most.

I guess the moral of the story I’m trying to get at here is although I’m not a big fan of the deck, it really is one of the formats top contenders and even if you’re not planning on playing the deck, you really do need to be ready for it.

Making your deck to reliant on trainers can be very dangerous in a format where Vileplume seems to be finding its place in more decks than just Vilegar.

For those of you looking to play Vilegar, especially at a large tournament like nationals. Make sure you know the deck really well and be able to not only play fast if needed, but also be able to realize when the clock dictates you need to start playing faster.

You can’t be afraid to ask players to “make a play” or get judges involved. A majority of the time when it takes your opponent a long time to make a play they know what they are doing, you’re not a jerk for calling them on it.

Machamp/Vileplume

pokegym.netThis is something that really entered the meta around States, that helped several players make successful runs. This was one of the 3 big decks I wanted to test extensively before nationals but due to the announcement of the possible rotation we’ll be receiving in the U.S., I never took the time to start testing it.

Front-page writer, and SixPrizes very own Kenny Wisdom actually was able to snag a copy of Tyler Ninomura Regional Winning decklist. I was also happily surprised when I found it to be far better than the ones I’ve seen floating around online, so I would definitely go check it out.

This slower set up version of Machamp trades the speed its predecessor had for a much more solid SP match up. The deck still suffers from a bad match up to Vilegar and a tough match up against Gyarados, but both are still very winnable (far more so than for a speed based Machamp deck.)

This is matchup I would make sure you test because I would expect to see a lot more of these especially if you’re in an area normally dominated by SP decks.

Magnezone/Regirock

This is a deck that made its depute at the European Cup, finishing 8-0 in swiss and has since than has slowly raised in popularity. Since it’s a stage 2 deck that does involve some set up, it’s going to be coming out of the gate slower than your standard SP deck.

But with a 140 HP, a built-in draw engine, and its damage potential practically limitless, it’s usually able to fight its way back into games, and become very deadly late game. I’ll be honest and admit I completely overlooked this deck when I first heard about, and I pretty much chalked its success in Europe up to dumb luck.

I was too focused on SP decks and their deck building that once I saw the list it looked horrible. Things like 16-18 energy just jumped out at me as bad and inconsistent, but really needed in this deck.

Over the past few months this deck has started to see more and more play and with players having more time to test it I would expect this to make a big enough impact on the meta to watch out for.

It won’t be the most played deck in the room or even one of the top 3 most played deck however, there will be more than two or three running around that you could write off.

Sablock and LoxChomp

pokemon-paradijs.comI won’t go into a lot of detail or explanation here since I feel like I can’t cover anything in a paragraph that Josh has covered in numerous articles over the two decks. So I’ll say LoxChomp seems to be the successor to Sablock, and in my opinion it can do everything Sablock can do, only better.

Unless you’re expecting a meta with a lot of fire weak decks (Steelix), or decks like Vilegar where dragging up bench Pokémon is a viable strategy, I also feel it out-classes Blaziken FB as well. Despite the deck only seeing minimal play so far, this is another deck that I feel once players have some more time to test it, it will probably raise in popularity.

If Luxchomp or Sablock is your kind of deck I would strongly suggest testing something like this for Nationals and even if it’s not, I would be ready for this deck because it will see play.

I decided to analyze the results from United States Regionals to gain a better understand of International Nationals for several reasons. First, being the most recent large-scale tournaments in the Pokémon community, it’s what everybody (even international players) are looking at.

Despite the fact that the European Cup was not played in the United States it had a huge impact on our meta for States. I saw numerous LostGar/Vileplume decks, as well Magnezone/Regirock decks, both of which weren’t even on our radar.

The second reason is because I feel the decks that did well are some of the top decks in the format and you have to expect to see them at your Nationals.

pokemon-paradijs.comI am fully aware that metas can easily change from country to country or even state to state, but this late in the season we can make some safe guess about the meta. Lets say deck X has dominated the last 3 tournaments and it makes up 40% of the meta, for the rest of this example we will assume deck X is Luxchomp.

One of 4 things is going to happen in your meta, (1) with the dominance deck X has had more players are going to jump on the band wagon increasing the percentage that deck X is in the meta. (2) deck X becomes so prevalent that players start playing hard counters to it, we’ll call a hard counter deck Y, and for this example assume its Machamp/Vileplume.

So deck Y, might go from 5% of the meta to 15%, probably stealing a few points from each of the other decks. (3) Nothing changes and the meta remains pretty consistent. (4) Players have more time to test newer strategies causing these deck to rise in popularity (Magnezone, Machamp/Vileplume, etc.).

Keep in mind none of these changes will probably be drastic shifts. If Luxchomp was 40% of the field for the last few tournaments it will probably remain around 40% of the field, it might fluctuate a bit, but you can’t assume that it will suddenly only be 10% of the field or 80% of the field.

Majestic Dawn – Black and White Format (MD-BW)

Now that we’ve covered a MD-CL format lets take at a MD-BW format. The real sad thing is despite Black and White being one of the best sets we’ve seen in ages due to the new rules that came with it, a majority of the set just won’t see play at the top tables till next year. There are a lot of great Pokémon in the set but they just lack the speed to keep up in this current format.

pokemon-paradijs.com
This card defines the format.

To be competitive in this format pretty much every deck is going to have to run either 4 Spiritomb or 4 Sableye, with the latter most likely being the more dominant and ironically it is a very good counter to the former. I would expect Sableye, Unown Dark, Crobat G, and Expert Belt to be popping up far more often, even in decks you wouldn’t expect to see them in.

We’re only talking about a few spaces that not only greatly improve the odds of donking your opponent, but also give you some hard outs to Spiritomb as well.

The top 4 decks in my opinion are going to be Sabledonk, LoxChomp, DialgaChomp, and Vileplume/Other Stage 2/ Spiritomb. Stage 1 decks right now just don’t have enough speed or kick to really compete, and with the errata Rare Candy received it is all, but unplayable in this format.

This means that the only way stage 2 decks are going to be able to compete is by using Spiritomb to set up, and a majority of them will probably be paired with Vileaplume to try and put a lock on this very Trainer heavy format. I’ll discuss what I believe the big four deck are and why below.

Sabledonk

I won’t go into much detail about this, but I’m sure if you looked around hard enough you could probably find a good article and list for this deck.

LoxChomp

The reason this deck is going to be so dominant is because you bring together the speed and versatility that LuxChomp has and combine it with the distributive power of Sablelock, and throw in a high chance of going first (Sableye), mixed with the new Black and White Rules for good measure.

pokemon-paradijs.comYou’re left with a very fast, versatile, distributive deck, that has a high chance of donking the opponent. Without a doubt in my mind this is BDIF of this format.

As soon as I heard about the Black and White rules, without even knowing what the format was going to look like I was 95% sure this was going to be the deck I was going to play at Worlds this year, it’s just that dominate.

The deck can throw two win conditions on the field before the opponent even gets to draw a card. The first being the ability to straight up donk the opponent if they started with 1 basic, between Ambipom, Crobat G, Sableye, and a lot of easily playable trainers to search the pieces out, the deck can easily Knock Out an 80 HP or less Pokémon which comprises a majority of the format.

But even the deck fails to donk it has multiple ways to disrupt the opponent into an unplayable hand. Best-case scenario is to open Judge and then Impersonate into Cyrus’s Initiative, which would most likely leave your opponent top decking.

The second would be to get 3 Pokémon SP in play and Impersonate a Cyrus’s Conspiracy, grabbing another Cyrus, Energy and Power Spray. Sure it doesn’t lock the opponent but it’s such a dominating start it hard to play out of.

Or even just a single Cyrus’s Initiative can be enough to cripple an opponent. Sure opening with any one of these situations specifically is highly unlikely, but what do you think the odds are of dodging all of them?

DialgaChomp

pokemon-paradijs.comDialga has seen play all season and with its main attacker having a huge 100 HP and the ability to lock Trainers, I just don’t see it dropping from the top tables now. I would expect to see some changes to the deck though, 3-1 Dialga G will probably replace the standard 2-1 we see now.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see some Sableye/Dialga G hybrid decks, played much the same as LoxChomp just with Dialga over Luxray. The ability to donk, disrupt or even get the chance to Defean before your opponent even draws is pretty effective in this format.

Spiritomb/Stage 2/Vileplume

The last deck that will round out my top 4 is Spiritomb/Stage 2/Vileplume. The two biggest are most likely going to be VileGar and Machamp/Vileplume.

Both have the ability to lock Trainers out of the game and while VileGar seems to be the more favored right now, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a shift in the meta that favors Machamp, especially with SP controlling well over half of this format.

While I feel other Stage 2/Vileplume decks will see minimal play, I have seen players getting more and more inventive on what they pair it with such as Tyranitar and Magnezone just to name a couple.

I really hope all of you really enjoyed the articles and got a lot out of them. I wish everybody the best of luck at their upcoming Battle Roads and National Championships.


…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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