I Know You Know: Teching in the Heart Gold/Soul Silver-on Format

donabelandewenThe HGSS-on format is one of the most unusual in the history of the game; however, due to the return of x2 Weakness as the norm, teching will be more useful than it has been in years. Today, I intend to cover a lot of tech discussion in a short period, including not only the “what” of teching, but the “how” of it as well.

Teching for a new format requires that you have a good idea of what you’re going up against, and sometimes these assumptions can make or break our chances of top cutting an event.

Furthermore, it requires the patience to make tweaks from your original deck list, and to decide what’s going to contribute most to you winning a tournament. With the following suggestions in this article, I hope that you will feel more equipped than ever before when teching.

So given all that, let’s jump straight into figuring out the deeper challenges of HGSS-on…

Tackling the Metagame: What is it About?

In my last article, I suggested that a few decks would rise above the rest. They were:

pokegym.netIf you include my lukewarm reference to Zekrom, then it seems like my prediction of what would become popular is generally being realized – it only missed Machamp Prime.

For the most part, these decks are quickly becoming the face of the format, and are going to become your focus for teching. Although it’s important not to underestimate the potential for atypical or non-archetypal decks to succeed in this format, your effort is best spent helping you win those matchups that you know you are going to see.

Even if you play one of the aforementioned decks, it’s possible you may need to tech for a specific matchup, or just shore up a blind spot in your build (e.g., Yanmega Prime in Zekrom). If you’re stuck playing with the format than playing ahead of it, then the tactical advantage that a tech gives you is extraordinarily important, and in many cases means the difference between winning and losing.

Beyond simply recognizing the potential threats, though, we should consider how much of each deck there ought to be at a given event. Normally, this estimation requires resources two key areas: A) general awareness of the metagame; and B) some clue of last-second shifts.

Achieving A) isn’t too difficult, because pure intuition of which combos the player population will gravitate toward could be enough to help gauge percentages.

To illustrate an example of “intuition,” the moment I saw our English version of Black and White, I knew that a great deal of people would be focusing on Emboar decks: it has painfully obvious synergy with some cards (particularly Reshiram), has massive potential for teching, and is a powerful card all on its own if need be.

Add in the fact that the most obvious combo is also relatively inexpensive to build due to Reshiram’s triple release (regular holo, promo holo, full art holo), and you have what could easily be the most popular deck concept at Nationals.

Even if you are currently lacking said intuition, staying informed is a fine replacement. Whereas intuition governed my earlier prediction that Emboar will be the biggest deck at the 2011 U.S. Nationals, knowledge of what receives the most hype online could result in the same conclusion…

pokegym.netAfter all, if you’re seeing the same deck appear over and over again on Pokégym, SixPrizes, and Pokébeach, then it’s probable that it will show up in a very respectable quantity. Granted, a good mix of intuition and knowledge ought to give you the clearest sense of what the metagame holds in store for you, but you aren’t dead-on-arrival without one or the other.

Ultimately, both contribute to your general awareness, and help paint the clearest picture of your tournament day competition.

This first area’s implications on how you run your list are as clear as the area itself is: if a deck is more popular, then there may be a greater need to cope with it in some extra way.

For instance, water decks may be well equipped on their own to deal with cookie cutter Emboar/Reshiram decks, but when there is a significant percentage of Zekrom and Magnezone decks included in the mix, a tech may be necessary to shore up those unfriendly matchups.

Unfortunately, the second area – recognition of last-second shifts – is much more difficult to achieve, since most players are finalizing the finest points of their lists the night before Nationals (or some other big event). The fact is, you have no realistic way of knowing how each player will change his or her list, so your only recourse is to keep your ears open for any major shifts that are picking up steam.

One somewhat recent example of this process is the pre-event popularization of Flychamp at Worlds 2009. Because several people loved the way that it played, tested, and combated a fairly diverse metagame, several invitees switched from their first decks of choice to this.

Luckily for everyone in attendance, this wasn’t exactly a secret, and so any player who was not locked up in his or her hotel room could have easily capitalized on this newfound, pre-tournament information. Be careful, though: sometimes last-second leaks and hypes have no weight behind them, and could just as easily be a red herring as they could a major factor in your decision-making.

So what does this process mean for your teching? Simple: if recognizing day-before/day-of shifts is a modification of your knowledge, then you should similarly apply that knowledge to your own list.

pokegym.netIn working off of the previous example, let’s say that in a more isolated metagame, you are still running a water deck with an effective 2-2 Fighting counter; however, reliable intelligence suggests that a swarm of reasonable-quality fighting decks, like Donphan/Machamp, will make an appearance at your event, and could stand a great chance at pushing your biggest threats (Zekrom and Magnezone Prime) down to the lower tables.

Although your approach to this newfound knowledge could vary, the fact of the matter is that you would be poorly served in this instance to not at least consider a change to make up for the radical metagame shift. Be it a reduction in your fighting tech, or replacing it with some new counter altogether, you would branch out into a new decision tree.

Using these principles, you should get a clear idea of what Nationals will look like, as well as what future events past this format may seem to be. Past “Emboar is going to be really big,” I won’t make any predictions right now, but in a month, things should become very clear.

Teching the Field

Now that we have a better idea of how to gauge the field, as well as what decks to look out for, let’s consider what it might take to beat all of these powerful opponents!

For the record, I find teching by type to have merits for this format (such as what CABD suggests in his main site article). But this isn’t the whole picture: decks such as Emboar/Magnezone or Donphan/Machamp will be difficult to compete against if you rely solely on type to tech, and some techs are better for their attacks than their abuse of weakness.

Others might be worthy techs not for any attack, but for their utility. Given this, I’ve divided our tech options into four sub-categories:

  • GA – Generalized Attacker
  • SA – Specific Attacker
  • GU – Generalized Utility
  • SU – Specific Utility

With those in mind, let’s proceed by discussing tactics and strategies meant to counter each top deck.

[Note: I will not be including “Magnezone Prime” or “Yanmega Prime” as their own categories; rather, I will include them in other discussions. Other decks that are countered sufficiently by techs listed, such as Tyranitar, will not be discussed.]

Emboar

In analyzing this deck, we find that it’s actually quite difficult to grab a hold on where to begin teching for it. Part of the problem is due to the fact that it is such a versatile, techy deck in its own right, and so what you effectively may have is a war of single copies, where strange interactions between unusual cards may determine the match’s result rather than the actual core strategy.

Because of this, we can’t approach the matchup with a “water-beats-fire” mentality; instead, let’s supplement that with a couple more all-around useful cards.

Zoroark (GA): If you have some way to deal ten extra damage to Reshiram, then Foul Play should be monstrous against just about every variant of Emboar.

For just a single DCE and a PlusPower, you’ll be Blue Flaming for an OHKO, and on its own merits, Foul Play will OHKO any overeager attempts to charge with Rayquaza and Deoxys Legend. Even if a list is running Magnezone, you can plan ahead a turn or two to make a Foul Play on Lost Burn feasible.

For the record, that last one isn’t always easy to take down, and you might find that a mere “tech” of Zoroark might not be enough against the stronger Emboar lists capable of replenishing Reshirams quickly. Therefore, you might want to splash a bigger line of Zoroark into your deck, rather than simply tech in a 1-1.

Samurott #32 (SA): Unlike Zoroark, Samurott’s primary reason for inclusion would be to just hard-counter fire threats, as well as Donphan Prime. Standing at a sturdy 140 HP, as well as possessing a splashable attack and an Ability that gets it out of range for every Emboar attacker sans Magnezone, this line could be a decisive win condition if Magnezone is not immediately there to respond-KO.

More importantly, however, this tech may steamroll just about everything a vanilla Emboar/Reshiram build could muster, so for that reason alone, you might consider this neat option.

Donphan Prime/other efficient fighting attackers + PlusPower (SA): Any discussion of Emboar teching wouldn’t be complete without a way to deal with Magnezone Prime. Included are just some ways of coping with it. Right now, I like Donphan Prime the most because it is fast, sturdy, and splashable.

How is it possibly splashable, you may ask? Simple: Rainbow Energy. If you feel like your deck can handle running it, has some way of abusing damage counters, or heals the damage, then inclusion of Rainbow ought to instantly open up countless tech possibilities. Donphan is one of them.

Feraligatr Prime variants

These decks look like Emboar, talk like Emboar, and walk like Emboar, but the subtle difference is in their attacker pool. Starmie HS, Blastoise UL, Suicune and Entei LEGEND, Kyogre and Groudon LEGEND, Samurott #32, Wailord, and Magnezone Prime are all associated with the deck, and are its most common partners.

Fortunately, you should only have to deal with two partners at most when up against a variant, so if you need to tech, then you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground.

Deoxys and Rayquaza LEGEND (GA): If you’ve been thinking about cutting this from your Emboar list, then think again. In addition to its many uses for a variety of matchups, it helps secure a matchup you would normally have trouble with, and although it might not seal the deal always, it can play a crucial role in compromising the board of an opponent with a stretched board.

If a crucial attacker such as Magnezone Prime has no backup replacement ready to go, then KO’ing will seriously hurt, and in the event that someone is running a LEGEND, you will have effectively won the game just by responding to their LEGEND with your own.

Magnezone Prime (GA): Like RDL, Magnezone is a versatile card, and is a jack of all trades in its own right. Most importantly, though, is that this Stage Two is your solution to just about every problem you could encounter when up against a Feraligatr deck.

Note that this does not necessarily have to be a part of an Emboar deck; you could run it in other energy acceleration builds, or even in decks with cheap costs like Yanmega Prime. Furthermore, this can be just as effectively teched as it can be splashed.

Zekrom/Yanmega

pokemon-paradijs.comWithout Yanmega or some alternate attacker, Zekrom decks become painfully easy to take down. Since we’re interested in challenging the best versions, let’s muse over some counters to the Yanmega version…

Donphan Prime (SA): Surprisingly, Donphan is still a solution to the Zekrom problem even with Yanmega in a list! Once again, a PlusPower should put you over the top against the deck’s primary attacker, but against its secondary, you need some patience, and allow your core strategy to shine through. Donphan’s duty here is not to win you the game all by itself, but to merely push the opponent out of the lead.

Zoroark (GA): Once again, Zoroark is going to be a great way to plow through seemingly unstoppable obstacles. Most of what was said earlier about its matchup against Emboar can be said here, only it could be even better, since Zekrom variants have a decisively weaker late game than decks utilizing Reshiram. Finally, to sound like the ultimate broken record, you might want to include a line bigger than 1-1 in order to handle this threat.

Gengar Prime

Returning to cabd’s article, I would agree with his assessment that there really aren’t that many Dark weak threats in the format. Therefore, if you’re hard-countering Gengar Prime via weakness, then you better have a good reason.

pokegym.netAs I plan on showing in my next article, Gengar Prime is far from dead; however, against the vast majority of builds, countering should be a relatively simple process.

Mandibuzz (SA): This Stage One may have some uses outside of the Lostgar matchup, but everything about it screams specific counter status. In a format that nerfs Rare Candy, it can kill Gastlies with its first attack, and with either attack, you have an easy time mowing down Gengar Primes.

Since Lostgar’s greatest fault is being unable to cope with strong attackers, this 90 HP guy ought to be a real thorn in their side. (Did I mention that it can KO Mew Primes fairly easily as well?)

Anything that OHKO’s (varies): The biggest challenge for any Lostgar opponent is figuring out how to make the Hurl swarm falter, and the easiest way to do that is to just be able to KO any Gengar Prime or Mew Prime the instant it gets into the active position.

Practically unstoppable techs like Emboar #19 go a long way in breaking down the swarm, and in combination with search cards such as Judge, things become much more tolerable. This is especially pertinent in decks with a weak late game, in which you will inevitably grab a prize jump against the Lostgar early, but struggle to draw you fifth and sixth Prize cards.

Donphan/Machamp Variants

pokegym.netWith high HP, strong attackers, and excellent type coverage, you will want a tech that is equally effective at dealing with either.

Samurott #32 (SA): Returning to Samurott, we find that its uses are two-fold here: OHKO’ing Donphan, and shielding you from a fully-charged Champ Buster. Nothing terribly special here, but on the plus side, if you have some sort of way to recycle it such as Super Scoop Up or Switch/Seeker, you’ll probably gain a ton of mileage out of it in this matchup.

Serperior

Poor, poor Serperior…Too bad this format is littered with strong attackers, or else it would fare much better as a deck of its own!

In the event that your deck does not qualify as such, or scoring OHKO’s is too hard for your deck of choice, then consider this uncommon tech option…

Lunatone/Solrock TM (SU): Based on the way Solrock’s “Heal Block” Poké-Body interacts with the board, it can still shut off Serperior’s Royal Heal Ability. Naturally, a Serperior-based deck emphasizes nothing but healing, and a seal on this tank ability essentially nullifies its strength. Because of this, our format has a surefire counter in case this card (or a deck featuring it) ever becomes too powerful.

Cincinno

Ah yes, the Wigglytuff knock-off. I’m actually not sure if it will be a potent metagame threat this format, since it’s at least 30 damage outside of OHKO range when up against Reshiram under normal circumstances. However, in the event that Nationals features a prominent amount of Cincinno, then consider running a tech for it.

(Insert splashable fighting counter here, SA): We’ve discussed in detail how well these cards counter Zekrom and Magnezone Prime. Needless to say, they’re even better against the low-HP Cincinno, who might not even be able to respond to your knockout…

… Unless, of course, it can deal 140 damage to a Donphan, 130-150 to one of the Machamps, or just keep up the prize exchange with good Pokémon Reversal flips.

Bouffalant (GA): Remember how much hype this guy received near the set’s release? Although it is indeed a good card, most players are finding it difficult to justify Bouffalant a spot in their lists. Most of the format’s top cards and decks rely on beefy attackers with beefy damage output , so a “response-KO” from this guy is likely going to amount in a free prize in the other direction.

Not so against Cincinno decks! Any glass cannon attacker is prey to this guy, and if for some reason you’re running Revive, Double Colorless Energy and Junk Arm in your list, then it’s possible that you’ll never miss a beat.

So far, this card has been a dud, but against any deck like Cincinno, it really shines.

“I Know You Know”: Miscellaneous Techs

Teching is an entertaining game within a game, in which you try to find some end-all solution to your trouble matchup, and thus turn a surefire loss into a win. But what happens when your opponent is fully aware of all these techs that could be used against him? Or what if his tech for another matchup just happens to beat your tech, or your entire deck?

You have one of two approaches to this problem: you settle with the tech’s diminished strengths in surprise factor and countering; or you find some new techs. Since we know that they know, there are other techs we could choose to run that don’t fit into the mold of aiding any particular matchup, but still cover a wide range of uses.

Shaymin UL / Energy Switch BW (GU): moving around mass amounts of energy can oftentimes be one of the most surprising moves in the game, and with these two, you are well equipped to cause some shockers. Most of the time, there isn’t a reason to run them in a quantity greater than one, so these aptly qualify as “techs.”

My only major advice is to not run these in decks where the ability would be redundant (e.g., Donchamp), or in decks where you have no reason to move energy around in the first place (Emboar).

Of course, decks such as Zekrom recognize cards like these as integral to a core strategy, so you’ll always want more than one in those.

Jirachi UL/CL (GU): In a world where nearly all decks run evolutions, this little guy could be your perfect answer for late-game disruption and KO’s. Considering my previous discussion about Rainbow Energy, one could theoretically run this guy in just about any deck, although some work with it easier than others do.

I’m not sure if I would rush to recommend this for any deck, but in non-Lostgar Psychic decks, this thing stands a strong chance of sealing close games for you.

Tyrogue HS/CL (SA): During the glory days of Wizards of the Coast’s Neo sets, Cleffa (Neo Genesis) was a staple in almost every deck, and is to this day considered by many the greatest card of all time. However, in less than four months, the second Neo set would introduce the bane to Cleffa’s life: Tyrogue.

Shortly thereafter, people began teching one Tyrogue into each of their lists on the hope for a cheap win, and many an opponent was saddened by losing on the first turn to lucky flips on Baby Power and Smash Punch.

pokegym.netWith the advent of Cleffa HS as a starter, it seems that Tyrogue could once again be a great counter. While it may not always result in a free prize, Mischievous Punch will almost certainly offer you an innovative way to apply pressure early game, and give you a crucial out in sudden death settings. This is untested, but should Cleffa become a staple starter, then this guy will become a staple tech in turn.

Defender UD (GU): Since so many KO’s are being determined by razor-thin margins in the upcoming format, what better way to save yourself than Defender? It may have not enjoyed the same type of errata that PlusPower did (no longer attach the card – discard it); but it is still a fantastic option, and could be a lifesaver in any mirror match.

Honestly, I feel as if running more than one would be excessive in most decks, but in order to reliably have it when you need it, you need some way to fetch Defender.

Ruins of Alph UD (SA): On the offensive side of things, we have Ruins of Alph, a card that lets you break through their defensive Resistance. Cards such as Yanmega Prime and Donphan Prime, who rely heavily on their Resistance to shield against particular cards, may be broken through that much more easily with this card.

Like Defender, this will be tough to realistically have when you need it unless you run multiple copies/Twins.

Conclusion

Make no mistake about it: teching doesn’t come easy, and is almost as hard as deckbuilding in some ways. Furthermore, it is almost certain that I missed a few good techs in this article, so take this as a primer with only some major theory interlaced.

Nevertheless, I feel that this article has made it clear how advanced teching can be, as well as how important it will be in the new format. There is no dominant archetype yet, so every single choice you make will be all-important.

Oh yeah, and one final piece of advice:

I know you know.

-John


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