The Ultimate Guide to Inter-Nationals!

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Invites are up for grabs... will you get one?

BEWARE: If you thought my last article was long, this one is easily longer. So make sure that you have the time to read it well. I cover pretty much every aspect of the game this year and how you can help yourself to cope against players from all around the world. I hope you enjoy!

It doesn’t feel like it, but yet another season of competitive Pokémon TCG play is coming to a close. We’ve all played to the best of our ability across Battle Roads, City and State Championships which have all lead down to the final hurdle, Nationals.

This is the biggest tournament of the year for most players in the competitive community. It’s everyone’s chance to take on the best players from all over the country with the aim to become victorious. Only 50 invites for the World Championships are up for grabs which is what everyone is after, but to get one of those your going to need rating points.

So how do you plan on getting those key points and reaching the top cut of this huge tournament of great players? Your whole season has been building up to this moment with all the practice, testing and deck building you’ve done to get every one of your decks as perfect as possible.

This article is going to cover every possible thing you’re going to need to know about Nationals. It will be aimed at mainly the International players playing Majestic Dawn to Call of Legends, but players from all over the world can take note of the content here to get the best out of your performance at Nats.

The Build-Up

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This is the most important part of the tournament, the build-up. This is the time where you are thinking about a huge tournament with every player in the country playing against you. You’re going to need to think about the decks you play the best, the cards you’ve tried and tested and the match ups you’ve perfected.

You may have been doing this since the start of the new season, which is obviously a good place to start, but now the countdown begins to the actual day and you may be beginning to panic.

Questions you may find flying through your head as the tournament dawns closer will include:

“What deck should I run?”

“How do I play against ‘insert deck name here’?”

“What list of my chosen deck should I run?”

“How many times should I practice each match up?”

“How many games should I play before the day?!”

All of these questions are ones we are going to have to answer to make sure we have the best possible chance of doing well.

The first one is probably the golden question for every player. So let’s go over how to choose the deck for you on the day.

Choosing a Deck

wagnertcThe most important factor when playing Pokémon is feeling comfortable and confident when you play. I feel that this is one of the main factors that lead to a good performance on the day of a tournament.

So when choosing a deck to play for this huge tournament, firstly go over what you have played for the majority of the season. If you have been playing a number of different decks to get a feel for each one, maybe pick whichever one you felt the most comfortable playing or the one you did well with.

Choosing a deck is one of the hardest things to do if you have had good experiences with multiple decks as you feel that you can do well with all of them. If you are one of those people then I would advise you to take each one through a vigorous testing session to find which one has the best all round performance against all the ‘meta decks’.

So what is this testing that I speak of? It’s one of the most important parts of deck building to make sure that you have the best possible chance against whichever deck you happen to face.

Maximise Your Testing

Testing is the biggest part of any competitive player’s time when they aren’t sitting at the tables at tournaments.

Testing, as many of you know, is when you put a chosen deck through its paces against every type of deck in every possible kind of situation. This helps you to memorise match ups as well as find out what cards you are going to need to squeeze into your deck list to cater for any weaknesses you find.

You may find that there are many weaknesses with the actual cards in your deck, or you may find that your ability in the match up is not up to par. This is exactly what play testing is for, to find out how to play against other decks and what with.

I don’t know about you, but I have found myself lost in some games when coming up against decks that you just aren’t familiar with. A memory from a City Championships comes to mind when I was playing against a SpeedFlare deck featuring Yanmega from Supreme Victors to focus on loading it with energy and attacking for some insanely high damage.

I was playing LuxChomp and noticed the Lightning weakness early on. However, missing vital Power Sprays on his Yanmega’s “Speed Boost” Poké-Power meant that he rolled through me, dashing my chances at a top cut finish.

flickr.comIt’s situations like these which play testing helps you with. Even though you may not find yourself testing against any random decks because you just don’t expect to face them, doesn’t mean that a strategy you have learned against another deck of the same kind won’t help.

So how do you effectively play test? To start you should think back to your past matches and bring up any games that you feel you played badly in or your deck just didn’t help you with and put them at the top of your list. Then follow your list up with the decks you definitely know you will come up against sometime in the near future and there you have your testing criteria.

After you’ve got a selection of decks to play against, take what you feel is your best list and play against friends/fellow players with them playing the decks you are struggling with. Even if you lose time and time again, you will be finding and trying out new ways to take on the match up, rather than tackling it with no prior knowledge.

After a fair few games with the same list, try swapping out certain cards you don’t find yourself using in this certain match up for ones that make it more favourable. For example, taking out a third Uxie from an SP list for a Dragonite f will severely improve your SP mirror match.

After you’ve done this, play the match up again and again, trying out different ways to win and you may find the perfect strategy to take down those troublesome decks. All of these games will help you in the long run, not only against certain decks, but you will start to get used to playing your own deck in general.

While you are frantically testing against your personally toughest match up, you will have been switching cards back and forth from the binder to the deck and back again. Make sure you are taking note of the switches you are making so that you can reverse them if they don’t go well.

One of the hardest things about Nationals is that you need to cater as much as you can for every single type of deck out there rather than editing your deck for certain ‘local’ metagames. While testing certain match ups more than others and switching cards into your list, make sure that you aren’t taking out specific cards for other match ups and teching too heavily against a certain deck.

pokebeach.comFor example, like the change I mentioned earlier, taking out a third Uxie for a Dragonite f is a great move when it comes down to the SP mirror, but when Machamp is sitting opposite you, you may have wished you had kept the third Uxie in there.

These are very difficult decisions to make as you don’t know what you are going to come up against during the tournament. However, you can make wise and informed decisions rather than making it guesswork. Like the example above, the choice between three Uxies and a Dragonite f tips one of two match ups more into your favour.

So how can you choose? Well you need to think about which match up you are going to encounter the most and choose that one. In this example, Machamp isn’t going to be nearly as popular as SP so Dragonite f will be the smartest option to choose even though there still is a slight chance that you could be paired up against Machamp.

With that slim chance there, make sure you do test the ‘just-in-case match’ too. Even though your testing shouldn’t focus heavily on working out how to beat unpopular decks, you should definitely test them a few times so you know what to do in case you face one. You’ll be glad you did when you’re sitting opposite an opponent playing a deck you have no idea about.

The more testing you can do the better. The more you play with your chosen deck, the better you will play with it across the board as well as against the matches that you have mostly been playing against. There isn’t much time left before Nationals now, but there is still enough time to get some testing in to prepare yourself for as many games as possible. Familiarise yourself with as many decks as you can so that nothing takes you by surprise.

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, you play at your best when you are feeling comfortable and confident.

What Am I Going To Play Against?

This section of the article is going to give you a detailed run down of the decks you are most likely to encounter when you sit down at the tables.

If you go over all of the games during your season so far, you can guarantee that most of the decks you’ve played against will turn up on the day. This will include any seemingly random rogue decks and possibly any new ones you have never seen before. Let’s have a look at the definite decks you will find across the tables.

LuxChomp

Yes, this word again. This deck has been the most successful deck for the past 2 years running now and it has only been getting stronger. What makes it even harder to play against is that every single build is slightly different, even though the main strategy is the same.

The success of this deck is based on its ability to tech and adapt for any matchup it likes. The SP engine in the form of Team Galactic’s Inventions and Cyrus’s Conspiracy makes the deck super consistent as well as giving the deck significant and unique abilities over other decks.

Luxray l LV.X is easily the most impactful card of the current format with its ability to drag up and KO your bench sitting Pokémon such as Uxie, Azelf and any low HP basics you are planning to evolve. Luxray’s Poké-Power “Bright Look” is the key to its success.

Bright Look comes into effect when Luxray l LV.X hits the field and allows you to choose one of your opponent’s benched Pokémon and switch it with their active. This allows you set up a cheap KO on a weak benched Pokémon or attempt to keep a high retreat cost Pokémon active.

Pair this with free retreat and ability to do 60 damage with just a Lightning and an Energy Gain and you have a very powerful card.

Not only can it take cheap prizes itself, but it can be an aid to a surprise KO if used correctly. It would be possible to use Bright Look to drag up an unsuspecting benched Pokémon, retreat via free retreat and the KO it with a different Pokémon. This strategy is also useful for dragging up a high retreat Pokémon and then snipe around it to keep your opponent locked while you take easy prizes.

Speaking of sniping comes the best in the format, Garchomp c LV.X. Garchomp has a single Poké-Power and attack. The attack is where it shines by utilising Double Colourless Energy and Energy Gain to power up a 3 energy cost attack in a single turn.

The attack, “Dragon Rush”, forces you to discard 2 energy attached to Garchomp in exchange for doing 80 damage to any of your opponent’s Pokémon. This is a really incredible sniping ability when it can pick off unevolved Basics/Stage 1s and staple cards such as Uxie which we all have to use.

pokebeach.comIts Poké-Power “Healing Breath” comes into effect when Garchomp c is levelled up. Healing Breath allows the player to remove all damage counters from all their SP Pokémon which is an incredible ability.

This means that you are going to have to KO all their SP Pokémon in one hit otherwise Garchomp c LV.X will come by to heal the damage you’ve worked so hard to put on them.

To play against this deck you are going to have to play very tightly or have enough counters to deal with each aspect of their attackers. The problem with playing against SP is that it’s so fast that it can bounce back very quickly from a KO it has received just to return it.

It also has access to a huge array of SP Pokémon to use to their advantage that can be used to stall, poison or hit for weakness, getting a majority of one hit KOs on most of your Pokémon.

They have a way out to pretty much everything which is why it is such a competitive force at the moment. With so many different builds of the same deck, there’s no way of knowing what cards they have included until you see them. Cards like Dialga g LV.X are used to shut down any decks that rely on Poké Bodies which causes VileGar all sorts of problems while Toxicroak g Promo and Lucario l are set to deal with any big Fighting weak Pokémon such as Regigigas and Tyranitar.

If you are an SP player coming to Nationals, I would suggest to tech your list out to cater for the mirror match as much as possible while covering as many other decks at the same time. This means adding either Dragonite f, Ambipom g or both to make sure that you win the Colourless war.

Speaking of the Colourless war, you are going to need to decide on whether to run a 2-2 or 3-1 line of Garchomp c LV.X with the appropriate support. The way you run it is down to personal choice in my opinion but 3-1 is said to be the best play when it comes down to winning the mirror.

With the amount of SP Pokémon at your disposal, it’s tough to choose the right ones that will cater for specific match ups, but still fit with the build you are working with. Roserade l works great against the mirror for locking non-SP Pokémon active as well as adding damage counters each turn to tank based decks, making them easier to KO.

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Smeargle UD is also great in mirror for utilising “Portrait”, copying a Supporter from your opponent’s hand to use yourself. This can grab you a quick Cyrus or Collector, but be wary when using this late game as you could copy something like Judge or PONT, throwing your game completely off.

Teching against the mirror has a lot of options for SP players and you should try out each one to get the correct balance through effective testing.

Players of other decks should be very wary of LuxChomp if you aren’t already and make sure that you know this match up inside out before turning up on the day. LuxChomp has a strong presence in early, mid and late game which makes it such a top contender right now.

Trainer lock is very strong against this deck, but it does have way around this by being able to Bright Look and Dragon Rush Pokémon on the bench which are vital to a locking strategy. Some good luck on your part and bad draws on their part can make for a bad game for them, giving them limited options rather than the ability to search out what they want, when they want.

Unfortunately, luck is a big factor when playing against LuxChomp. If they do end up drawing badly for the first few turns, given you play it right, you can maintain the advantage and win the game even though LuxChomp’s ability to spring back is tough to combat.

Power lock is also strong against LuxChomp considering it utilises so many Poké-Powers. Mesprit is a very effective way to do this and slots nicely into decks that run high numbers of Seeker and Super Scoop Up. Being able to reuse Mesprit’s “Psychic Bind” is crucial to get a steady lead while they can’t use their entire deck of Poké-Powers however, you must be aware that they could Power Spray any attempt to lock them if they have 3 SP in play.

Umbreon UD plays a part in countering SPs high amount of Poké-Powers too by using “Moonlight Fang” to prevent all damage done to it from Pokémon sporting Powers. This means that they will only be able to attack with basics forms of their SP attackers, or have to snipe the bench to take prizes. An interesting tech to test further.

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Being aware of Power Spray is also crucial when playing against SP, no matter which deck you are playing. Make sure you keep track of how many SP Pokémon they have in play before you plan the Poké-Powers you need to use in a turn.

‘Baiting’ a Power Spray is a crafty technique where you attempt to use a Poké-Power which isn’t really relevant to your turn to try and get them to use their Power Spray and then follow up by using a crucial Power and getting away with it. Be careful while doing this though as it could throw off your turn if you end up going through with a Power you don’t actually want to use.

Splashing in Colourless Pokémon with at least a 60 damage attack is a very good idea because you will be able to get rid of Garchomp c Lv.Xs early on. This is much easier for those people already playing SP as there are a lot of options, but those playing Stage 2 decks will struggle fitting these in.

It’s definitely impractical to fit things like Dragonite f into a deck that just doesn’t run Double Colourless Energy so what are you supposed to do against this powerful deck?

All you can really do is play your best. I can’t stress enough that you need to test this match up extensively because there is no doubt that you will come up against it. No matter what deck you are playing there will be a way to play against it even if you have no obvious counter.

Tank decks have a good advantage against LuxChomp as they can’t deal massive amounts of damage in one go meaning that they will have to attack more than once to get through your defences. This makes decks like Steelix, DialgaChomp and even Scizor Prime good choice in an SP heavy metagame, which Nationals will be.

Machamp will be an option to play this year considering how much SP will turn up, the only problem is that it won’t have a very good match up against everything else as well as SP still having an answer to it. SP can still win the match up with enough practice, skill and luck which makes playing Machamp a risky move especially when match ups across the board aren’t great.

Overall, this deck will turn up in high numbers especially because Luxray and Uxie LV.X are both pretty cheap to buy now considering the situation in the US. However, this means that a lot of players may pick up the deck only a short time before Nationals and you need experience with the deck to take it a long way.

This can be good for people that have been playing the deck for the whole season as experienced players will have played the mirror match a hundred times over.

The most popular deck in the World is bound to get even more popular just before Nationals so make sure you don’t get caught out.

DialgaChomp

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This is the second of the SP-based decks I have on the list and it shouldn’t be taken lightly just because it doesn’t see as much play as LuxChomp.

DialgaChomp features one of, if not the strongest trainer locks in the format with the ability to lock your opponent, but not yourself. If you pair that with the ability to tank with Special Metal, healing via Garchomp c LV.X and full access to the SP engine and you have a top contender.

The main strategy of this deck is to get a Dialga g using its first attack “Deafen” as soon as possible while starting to set up another one on the bench with Special Metal Energy. This is why Deafen is such a strong defence against most decks.

Being able to lock your opponent slows them down while you go ahead and start setting up your Dialga, ready for some heavy hitting next turn. With attacks such as “Second Strike” and “Remove Lost” hitting for 90 and 100 respectively when paired with an Expert Belt, no Pokémon is going to last long with no way to one hit KO it with Special Metals attached.

Remove Lost also has the chance to Lost Zone multiple energy attached to the defending Pokémon with lucky heads flips. This can starve you of energy pretty quickly so be aware that this can happen.

Not only can this Pokémon hit for high damage and take a strong hit, but Dialga g LV.X has a Poké Body to shut down many decks. “Time Crystal” comes into effect as soon as the Level X hits the field and its effect shuts off every Poké Body that isn’t owned by an SP Pokémon. This means that Spiritomb AR, Vileplume UD and any other Pokémon that have strong Poké Bodies are rendered useless until Dialga g LV.X is dealt with.

This can obviously make VileGar’s life very hard. With Dialga g LV.X being able to shut off Spiritomb and Vileplume’s Poké Bodies, there will be no trainers in hand to deal some decent damage with Poltergeist. It also doesn’t help that Dialga boasts a -20 Resistance to Psychic making it difficult to do anything of use if the Level X hits the field.

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To get around this deck if you’re paired against it you are going to have to out speed it or hope that they can’t get the Deafen lock on too early. Whether you are playing SP, VileGar or anything else, you need to do all you can to stop that Level X hitting the field with too many Special Metals attached. You either do this or take cheap prizes around the tank to keep up with the prize exchange.

Out-speeding it is definitely the way to go, but all is not lost if they do manage to set up rather quickly. Just as another note, you could consider using Drifblim UD as a counter to any tank decks if you are really struggling against them.

SP players should take advantage of the trainer lock by grabbing crucial resources such as Poké Turns and Power Sprays to use when the lock is broken, but Power Sprays are key to taking down the tank by being able to stop Garchomp c LV.X’s “Healing Breath”.

Doing this will either force them to keep a damaged Dialga on field or make them Poké Turn it up and start again. If they do choose to Poké Turn it, make sure you take full advantage of this and get cheap Kos while you still can.

Make sure you use your Colourless counters to full effect here if they are forced to use “Dragon Rush” to score a prize. This means you can limit the amount of Healing Breaths they can use as well as scoring simple prizes.

Any other decks should do as mentioned above and keep Dialga off of the board for as long as possible. Build damage onto it fast before they can start using Healing Breath to take off the damage, or focus on attacking around the tank to stay in the prize exchange is a good approach.

Play this like any other SP game and you will be able to cope with it. I personally think that this is a very underrepresented deck in the current format being caused simply by its slower set up than LuxChomp. But when this deck sets up, it can take prize after prize, Lost Zoning your vital energy with nothing you can do to come close to knocking it out. Definitely one to watch out for.

Sablelock

The third and final SP deck on this list and it is a very tricky one to play against. This deck combines the traditional SP Engine and Garchomp c LV.X with Pokémon such as Sableye SF and Honchkrow SV. Featuring a heavy lock and disruption strategy behind these big attackers means that you won’t have any resources to set up while they take board control.

Sableye SF is the perfect starter for this deck making full use of its “Overeager” Poké Body to go first and grab the first Supporter with “Impersonate”. Impersonate allows the player using the attack to search their deck, choose a Supporter and use the effect of it as the effect of the attack.

This means that you can grab a really quick Supporter ahead of your opponent in preparation for your next turn. However, this attack is primarily used to search out the Supporter Cyrus’s Initiative to start the disruption.

Cyrus’s Initiative gets you to flips 2 coins and for each heads you can look at your opponent’s hand, choose a card and place it at the bottom of their deck.

Getting 2 heads on this attack can be crippling for the opponent. Being able to drop key search cards from their hand such as Bebe’s Search, Pokémon Collector and Cyrus’s Conspiracy means that they can start to set up while you rely on top decks, hoping to stay in the game.

As mentioned earlier, this deck can be really tricky to play against. If they don’t roll well on Cyrus’s Initiative then you will have a better chance of staying in the game, but all you can do if they hit some crucial heads is to make sure your deck is consistent enough to come back from it. Including cards such as Professor Oak’s New Theory and Copycat ensures that you can refresh a bad hand if this kind of situation arises, the only problem is drawing into it at the right time.

In the UK, this deck hasn’t seen much play but has 3 main variations. These are straight Sablelock, Sablelock with Luxray l and Sablelock with Blaziken f.

Straight Sablelock is out to get the lock on you as soon as possible with the aim to maintain the lock with cards such as Chatot g being able to control the cards you are relying on to draw.

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Expect to see it more teched out with cards such as Dragonite f for the SP mirror and Honchkrow g can be thrown in for cheap snipe knock outs or to grab 2 Team Galactic’s Inventions, namely Power Spray, to help the lock further.

Sablelock with Blaziken, or ChenLock as it is more commonly known, has much more attack power than the traditional Sablelock. The inclusion of Blaziken f and the Level X means that the deck can start to incorporate more attack power into its build, something that the original Sablelock is possibly lacking if the lock isn’t successful.

Putting in these cards would possibly be at the cost of Chatot g so hopefully you can break out of the lock a little bit quicker than against the traditional build.

The third variant of Sablelock is probably the newest and comes with Luxray l LV.X to include further disruption with “Bright Look” and take cheap prizes when combined with “Flash Impact”. The inclusion of this makes the list pretty tight and means the luxuries of the traditional list such as Chatot g and Honchkrow g must be placed aside to fit in a decent Luxray line.

The inclusion of Luxray l LV.X also improves the Gyarados match up fairly heavily considering the original Sablelock can have a tough time against it. This means that the list will probably contain Lucario l just to tip the match up even further in Sablelock’s favour.

If you are playing against Sablelock with Gyarados, be wary of Judge, Luxray GLs and Honchkrow SV as all of them are designed to slow you down or take down your attacker before you power them up.

Speaking of Honckrow SV, this is one of the most powerful Pokémon in Sablelock. Slipped into Con Le’s winning deck list of US Nationals in 2010, this card can utilise both Special Darkness and Double Colourless energy to hit for very high amounts of damage in the mid-late game.

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Its attack “Riot” for just a Dark and a Double Colourless does 30 base damage but adds 10 damage for each unevolved Pokémon in play. This makes it a great attacker when you are playing against the SP mirror, even though it has Lightning weakness.

Its Poké-Power “Darkness Restore” is why Gyarados players need to watch out for this heavy hitting bird. When they use this power, your opponent can pluck any Basic Pokémon from your discard pile and place it onto your bench.

As most of you know, Gyarados needs 3 Magikarp in the discard to maximise its damage output, but with Honckrow dragging them out and placing them on the bench, Gyarados’ output is limited. If you know that Honchkrow will be hitting the field soon, make sure you keep a “Psychic Bind” going with Mesprit LA or make sure your bench is full at all times to avoid this from happening.

For players of any other deck, you will need to avoid the lock at all costs to beat Sablelock. There isn’t much you can do about this during the first few turns, but if they flip poorly with Cyrus’s Conspiracy, make sure you take as much of an advantage as possible before they can make any sort of comeback.

While doing this however, make sure you are wary of specific techs such as Toxicroak g Promo and Lucario l so that you can figure out which variant of the deck they are running. SP players should play this as a mirror match would go and try to get a KO on Honchkrow before it does too much damage with Luxray l LV.X.

VileGar players are going to struggle with this match up as Sableye can utilise its Overconfident attack to KO your Spiritombs as you put damage on them with “Darkness Grace”.

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The only thing you can really do against it is get a quick Vileplume lock going along with simply out speeding them to get using “Poltergeist” as soon as possible. Locking their trainers is a bit of a blow for Sablelock as utilising Poké Turn and Energy Gain is key for its revenge KOs, so make sure you can keep this going as long as possible.

Another note is to keep wary of any Luxray variants you may come up against as they will Bright Look your Vileplume and attack around it or just move your Spiritomb out of the way to allow their use of trainers. The heavy Darkness typing of the deck also hurts your matchup as Honchkrow can cause you some trouble.

Just try and get rid of Murkrows before they evolve or get rid of it as soon as possible by using “Shadow Room”, making full use of Honckrow having a Poké-Power.

As mentioned earlier, this deck isn’t very popular in the UK but with Sami Sekkoum taking it to London States and winning the tournament with just the straight build, we may see a rise in numbers. He played a lot of unfavourable match ups that day and managed to still take the tournament by playing smart and as well as he normally does. This will open people’s eyes to how well Sablelock can do and will possibly get people into testing with it, possibly taking it to Nationals.

Overall, this is a very strong contender for the title. With the correctly teched version being able to stop almost any deck with its severely crippling lock, you can probably expect to see a couple of these on the day.

VileGar

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This deck will without a doubt be up there with the most popular plays of the day. With one of the easiest set of Pokémon to collect for the list apart from a few, many people will pick this up and play with it as it has some very strong match ups across the board.

The strategy behind this deck is to keep a trainer lock hold on your opponent from the first turn by using Spiritomb AR as a starter. The basic form of Gengar, Gastly SF can also hold a strong trainer lock from the start with its “Pitch Dark” attack.

However, Spiritomb is the ideal starter as it can use its first attack “Darkness Grace” to begin evolving Pokémon on turn one, in exchange for putting a single damage counter onto it.

Being able to search out any evolution from the deck and place it onto a benched Pokémon turn one is a very powerful ability, this means that you can start building up an essential Vileplume to keep the lock for the whole game.

Spiritomb’s trainer lock only goes as far as being in effect while it’s active, so how are you going to keep the trainer lock going? Vileplume UD is the answer. Vileplume has a Poké Body called “Allergy Flower” which stops both players from playing trainers while it is on the field.

Trainer lock will cripple a lot of decks which run things like Expert Belt and Team Galactic’s Inventions as they will have to play without them for the time that Vileplume is on the field. Getting this out quickly is very easy by using Spiritomb’s Darkness Grace turn one to get Gloom going and then again on the second turn to get out Vileplume if it isn’t in your hand.

This means that a strong and efficient trainer lock can be sustained so that Spiritomb doesn’t have to stay in the active spot.

So why does this trainer lock need to be maintained? Well that is where the main attacker Gengar SF comes in. Gengar has an attack called “Poltergeist” which does 30 damage times the number of Trainer, Supporter and Stadium cards in the opponent’s hand for just a Psychic and a Colourless Energy.

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With Vileplume and Spiritomb keeping your opponent from playing trainers, they are sure to be staying put in their hands ready for a Poltergeist for some high damage.

This is where the maintenance of a trainer lock is most important as you need the opponent to be holding a fair amount of trainers to deal high damage while they have limited ways of getting rid of them.

As well as Poltergeist, Gengar has another attack called “Shadow Room”. This attack, for a single energy drops 3 damage counters on any of your opponent’s Pokémon, but where it really shines is that it can drop 6 damage counters on any Pokémon with a Poké-Power.

This means that those Uxies and Azelfs sitting on your opponent’s side of the field are waiting to be sniped off for cheap prizes when paired with cards like Crobat g. This means that VileGar can still hold its ground in the prize exchange even if the trainer lock isn’t maintained.

Gengar has two other features that make it such a powerful deck. The first is its Poké-Power “Fainting Spell”. When Gengar is knocked out by damage from an attack, the opponent flips a coin and if it lands on heads, the attacking Pokémon is also knocked out.

This can put you at a serious disadvantage in the long run as an attacker you may have worked hard to power up will have been KO’d simply because of a coin flip. SP players will not be able to Power Spray this either as it doesn’t happen during the opponent’s turn, but rather in between turns.

This makes it very hard to get around so things such as poison damage, placing damage counters and Uxie’s “Psychic Restore” are the only ways to avoid a dreaded Fainting Spell flip.

The final attribute of Gengar is the Level X. It has a useful Poké-Power called “Level Down” which forces the opponent to shuffle any Level X on the field into their deck. This is obviously very powerful against SP when paired with a trainer lock as they have limited supplies to get their Level Xs back with supporters.

pokebeach.comThe attack “Compound Pain” can also get a couple of cheap KOs by being able to hit 30 damage on all of the opponent’s Pokémon with damage counters already on them. This can net a couple of prizes in one turn so be wary of leaving damaged Pokémon on the field which are very close to being KO’d.

Playing against this deck can be tricky and you will have to think ahead before deciding what to place on the field and keep in your hand. SP players will either need to relieve the trainer lock early on by Bright Looking away Spiritombs or by dragging up Vileplumes when they hit the field to KO with Uxie LV.X.

Doing this will leave you with all your TGIs free to play getting you cheap KOs around the board while Gengar sits there attacking for low damage with Poltergiest.

Any other players will need to utilise their Bebe’s Search and fellow supporters well to keep the trainer count in their hand low. Limiting Gengar’s attack power is key to winning this match up as they won’t be able to get enough damage onto your active to KO it.

You will also need to be careful about playing Uxies and Azelfs as mentioned earlier as they will be picked off by Gengar’s Shadow Room if Poltergeist becomes too weak. Only play them if you are desperate for more cards or you have a healthy enough of a comeback ready to keep up with the prize exchange.

KOing a Gengar in one hit is hard for any deck that doesn’t run Dark types in their list so the only other thing to do is hit around it as much as possible to take prizes. This will also mean that you don’t run into any Fainting Spells to take down key attackers. A useful trick is using Uxie’s Psychic Restore to put Uxie on the bottom of the deck after applying damage, meaning that you can avoid a Fainting Spell flip if you are only 20 damage away from a KO.

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Be aware of Seeker when playing against this deck if Broken Time-Space is on the field. While you are piling damage onto Gengar, ready to KO it another turn with Uxie, they can use Gengar’s free retreat to skip to the bench and then use Seeker to pick it straight up ruining all of your hard work.

This is a very popular strategy for recycling Gengars when playing against VileGar so make sure this doesn’t happen by keeping track of their Seeker use throughout the game.

Also be careful if you are running Level Xs as Gengar LV.X can get rid of them with a simple Poké-Power, not only getting rid of your Level X, but lowering your active’s HP as well.

This means that they need fewer trainers in the hand to grab a prize and makes your life harder to fetch that Level X back while under trainer lock. SP players will need to keep Power Sprays handy if Vileplume isn’t in play, or have supporters ready to search the Level X back the next turn.

I predict that a lot of VileGar will be at Nationals, probably coming second in numbers below LuxChomp simply because it’s a cheap alternate to SP that is still very competitive. To cater for this, make sure you have enough outs in your decks to function well under trainer lock.

Running more Supporters like Bebe’s Search and PONT can get you out of tight situations when faced with trainer lock. Players may want to run Dark techs if their VileGar match up does become a huge problem.

You will need to knock out Glooms before they become Vileplumes or Haunters before they become Gengars if you want to stay ahead of the game. This will keep you free from trainer lock for long enough to set up a decent set of attackers as well as being able to slow them down before they get any Stage 2s set up.

Early prizes via the knocking out of Spiritombs will be handy when playing the deck, but don’t be taken by surprise if they have a couple of copies of Twins to make up for this. You will need to slow them down as much as possible to get set up before they lock you from doing the same.

This is definitely a match up you should test thoroughly as I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of these make the top cut. The strength of being able to lock half of your opponent’s deck from the game makes for a very strong strategy which can hit hard and sweep in a couple of turns. Watch out for this one.

LostGar

Talking about VileGar means that I must mention the other variant of Gengar, LostGar. This deck hasn’t been doing too well considering everyone thought it would be the most broken deck in the format, but the version which has been causing a stir in the metagame is LostGar with Vileplume.

This version of LostGar has already taken a Nationals title in Finland this year, beating numerous LuxChomps in the top cut to become victorious. This deck pairs the ability of lost zoning Pokémon, making them useless for the rest of the game with Vileplume’s ability to lock trainers aswell.

Gengar Prime sits at the heart of this strategy as its first attack clearly shows. “Hurl Into Darkness” for just a single Psychic energy allows you to look at your opponent’s hand and put as many Pokémon you find there for each Psychic energy attached to Gengar into the Lost Zone.

So if you have 2 Psychic Energy attached to Gengar Prime when using the attack, you can put two Pokémon you may find in your opponent’s hand into the Lost Zone for the rest of the game.

But why would you want to put Pokémon into the Lost Zone and not take prizes? Well here enters Lost World, one of the most hyped cards of the season. There was a ton of speculation as to whether this card would get released in HS: Triumphant and everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it wasn’t, but when Call of Legends was released along came this very card.

Lost World is a stadium card that allows you to announce yourself the winner if your opponent has 6 or more Pokémon in the Lost Zone. This means that without taking a single prize, you can still win the game. This caused uproar in the Pokémon community upon release, but the sheer amount of teching against it and how it struggles in top cut meant that it didn’t do nearly as well as many people predicted.

This all changed when the European Challenge Cup took place. This tournament saw Andrea c take his version of LostGar all the way to the finals only to lose against LuxChomp with Weavile g. This was LostGar’s first major triumph in a tournament and the variant that Andrea played was also talked about a lot.

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He paired Gengar Prime with Vileplume UD and included a Gengar SF tech which is the version that I think some people will be brave enough to take to Nationals.

As mentioned in the VileGar analysis, Vileplume UD locks both players from playing any trainer cards as long as it is on the field. This paired very nicely with Gengar Prime plucking Pokémon from the opponent’s hand to render them useless for the remainder of the game as it not only stops them from playing key Pokémon, but it stops them playing their trainers to make a come back as well.

Vileplume is also there to fuel the inclusion of Gengar SF’s Poltergeist attack. Also, mentioned in the VileGar section of this article, Gengar SF can build up some high damage and take multiple prizes, turn after turn.

This strategy made up for LostGar’s original flaw, taking prizes under a timed format. With the winning condition completely ignoring the taking of prizes, LostGar was struggling to hold its own when it came to playing in a best of three format, but that is where Gengar SF comes in.

If there isn’t enough time to get the Lost World strategy going, then the player can switch to a VileGar strategy to lock their opponent and start taking prizes the traditional way. This leads to a stronger top cut game as the player of the deck now has the option of taking prizes rather than lost zoning Pokémon.

This deck obviously has a strong match up against SP as it can hurl Level X Pokémon from their hand into the Lost Zone, crippling their strategy. The only way to play around this is to only grab the Level Xs when you are going to play them in the same turn to avoid them getting lost zoned.

Playing around the early trainer lock and getting KOs early is also the way to play against this deck. The deck plays very similarly to VileGar so what you have learned from playing against that is what you should apply here, while still being wary about the Lost Zone.

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If you play smart with your Pokémon searches while attempting to stop Vileplume hitting the field, you should have a good chance against LostGar. Playing creatively to time is also a good strategy as they need to set up and play fast to meet their winning condition.

Gyarados will have major problems with this version of the deck. Being under early trainer lock stops you from playing Junk Arm to get Magikarp into the discard pile early on before they get lost zoned. If Gengar Prime hits the field fast enough to lost zone just one of your Magikarps, you are going to have a tough time coming back.

Just one of you Karps being lost zoned means your total damage output drops by 30, without a way to get it back. The inclusion of Vileplume also stops you from playing Expert Belt, Pokémon Rescue and Warp Point which are all vital cards to get going and get a few cheap KOs.

The only thing you can do is try to out speed the deck and have all Magikarp in the discard pile before Gengar Prime hits the field. Regice deals with a starting Spiritomb, but it is a very hard match up to play against for Gyarados players.

Cards to watch out for in this match up include Spiritomb TM. This is the ‘other Spiritomb’ from Triumphant which has a Poké-Power called “Spooky Whirlpool”. This Power forces you to shuffle your hand into your deck and draw 6 cards, which doesn’t sound too bad, but the reason they are doing this is to ruin your efforts of keeping Pokémon out of your hand.

The luck of the draw is all you can rely on when they play this card unless you can Power Spray it if you’re playing SP or keep a Mesprit bind early on.

You should also be wary of Twins in this game seeing as they have no intention of taking prizes early on. While you are getting KOs on their Spiritombs and benched Pokémon they can be using high counts of Twins to grab any two cards from their deck, a very reliable way to get set up as quickly as possible to make a comeback. Don’t get caught off guard thinking that they won’t be able to search things out when they will potentially have Twins ready to propel their set up.

pokebeach.comMr Mime CL is also one to watch out for as its Poké-Power “Trick Reveal” allows them to look at your hand to see how many Pokémon you are holding before they Hurl Into Darkness or find out how many trainers you have before using Gengar SF.

However, when they use this card, the opponent has to show you their hand also and make sure you use this to get a decent insight into their next few turns.

Using this information can help you to understand whether they have the ability to carry out certain moves in the next few turns. In my personal experience against LostGar, this has helped me to mould my next few turns as I know what they will and won’t be able to do depending on their top decks. Keep this in mind when they play this card.

The final card you will always have to keep wary of is Seeker. As in the VileGar match up, Seeker can help them to heal off Gengars and let them put it straight back down again through the use of Broken Time-Space, but this card serves a dual purpose in LostGar.

Not only can they heal off Pokémon by picking them up, but they force you to pick up a Pokémon on the bench and place it into your hand, perfect for them to hurl away next turn.

To play around this, just make sure you have a pretty good choice of Pokémon to pick up as you don’t want to be picking up fully powered Pokémon or Level X just for them to get rid of. Having the choice to pick up an Uxie or Azelf after use means that you won’t be losing anything too valuable to your game.

Overall, like VileGar, this deck has strong match ups across the board. Gyarados as mentioned earlier is going to have a really tough time against this deck if it gets going quickly enough. I don’t think it will be as popular as VileGar when it comes to Nationals, but I’m sure we will see a fair few Gengar Primes in their builds. Make sure you test this one as much as VileGar as it can be a very tricky one to get out of.

Gyarados

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Yes, I can still function, thanks to BTS (Caution: May cause harder matchups against other Stage 1 or Stage 2 decks.)

This deck has seen a major fall in play since City Championships due to all the LostGar hype going around at the time. Even after we saw that LostGar just wasn’t as popular as we all thought, people haven’t been picking Gyarados back up even though it is still a more than viable deck.

Gyarados focuses on getting 3 Magikarp into the discard pile to fuel its attack “Tail Revenge”. This attack does 30 damage times the number of Magikarp in the discard pile and it’s one of the fastest decks out there. By using Sableye SF to grab a quick Pokémon Collector on the first turn, you can search out Magikarps and Regice to start discarding those fish.

Regice is one of the most important cards in the deck to make use of its Poké-Power “Regi Move”. This Power allows you to discard 2 cards from your hand and then force your opponent to switch an unevolved active with one of their bench. This is a perfect play against a Spiritomb start to move it out of the way and get out of a trainer lock early on.

This deck will start off fast by eventually having a Gyarados with Expert Belt attached filling the active spot and hitting for a maximum of 110 damage with 3 Karps in the discard.

Other cards which will aid this strategy include Junk Arm, Broken Time-Space and Super Scoop Up which all focus on abusing Uxies, fast evolution and the discard of cards in the hand to reuse trainers that have already been played. That makes for quite a speedy set up with an incredible amount of recovery too.

Playing against this deck can be difficult simply because it is so fast. Taking out Magikarps early on for cheap prizes does seem like a good idea, but that does just help them further toward their strategy, fueling Gyarados’ attack, so if you do this make sure you’re ready for a counter attack.

Gyarados relies heavily on Expert Belt and Rescue Energy and it may struggle if they just can’t draw into these fast enough. If this is the case during a game against this deck then you should take full advantage. If they can’t get the Rescue Energy out quick enough, try to get rid of that Gyarados as soon as possible to put their fourth Magikarp into the discard pile rather than them getting it back.

pokebeach.comThis will make their job much harder to try and retrieve their lost Magikarp as cards like Pokémon Rescue are not very searchable.

It’s also worth taking advantage of them not being able to hit an Expert Belt if this is the case during a game. This means that their damage is limited to only 90 for that turn meaning that they won’t be able to knock out many Pokémon in one hit, unless Crobat g is put to extensive use.

Any deck playing against Gyarados should be wary of the use of Mesprit and Seeker. Mesprit can keep a very strong power lock over you for around 3 or 4 turns if flips on Super Scoop Up go their way. This can be crippling in the early game if you are holding on to a crucial Uxie, ready for a “Set Up” that you just can’t use.

Mesprit can also be dropped just before you attempt to “Flash Bite” to tack on the damage you need for a KO on Gyarados. This can leave you in a tight spot, not being able to pull off the turn you have been planning for a while so get your Flash Bites in as soon as possible and plan them as far in advance as you can.

You need to expect the play of Seeker as well when playing against this deck. You should be wary of them playing this card when you haven’t been able to KO a Gyarados in a single blow. If Gyarados has been damaged heavily during a previous attack, your opponent will attempt to use Warp Point and get it to the bench and then use Seeker to nullify your damage and, in conjunction with Broken Time-Space, they will be able to put it straight back down and start fresh.

This can be very annoying when you are under strict power lock for a number of turns and are just out of reach for the KO. Try not to let them catch you off guard with this strategic move.

A final card I just mentioned, Warp Point, will potentially cause trouble when you haven’t got them under a form of trainer lock. Thinking you have a Pokémon up front with enough HP to take a hit can be proved wrong when they drop Warp Point and force you to drag up one of your weaker basics just to get KO’d for a cheap prize.

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Be wary of this when playing this match up and don’t leave yourself thinking that they won’t be able to take a prize during that turn. Keeping a fairly set up Pokémon on the bench for this kind of situation is recommended.

If you are playing SP, make sure you have a Lucario l handy to take care of Gyarados’ very useful +30 Lightning weakness so that it’s much easier to knock out with Luxray l LV.X’s “Flash Impact” or “Trash Bolt”.

Trash Bolt is a nice way to go if they have managed to get the Expert Belt for Gyarados as Flash Impact will be 30 damage short even with Lucario’s help. Flash Bites from Crobat g can help, but finding three of them for just one Gyarados KO is difficult to do with limited Poké Turns.

Try to get Trash Bolt going if you can along with keeping Aaron’s handy at the right time since you’ll be discarding energies pretty quickly.

Expert Belt is also an option for you if you are struggling against Gyarados with SP. Attaching this to your Luxray means that you can one hit KO a Gyarados with Trash Bolt without the need for any Crobat drops. However, this card isn’t easily searchable unless you are behind on prizes and run Twins (which I would suggest anyway).

Anything that isn’t SP should try their best to get damage on the board quickly and try to get the KOs on Gyarados before Rescue Energy or Expert Belt hit. If you feel Gyarados will be a threat during your Nationals then definitely run some form of hand disruption such as Judge or Looker’s to slow them down after they have grabbed Magikarps with Collector.

If you are running a deck based off of trainer lock, you should have a decent chance against this deck. If you are in a position where you can have two Spiritombs on the field then take it so that they can’t use Regimove to move the lock out of the way. From there you should be able to keep the lock on for long enough so that they can’t get a fully powered up attacker going until it’s too late.

I appreciate that these will be hard to fit into decks that just don’t have room for it. Saying this, I don’t think that Gyarados will be that popular in the UK, simply because of the amount of VileGar that will be there. Trainer lock really hurts Gyarados especially if they can’t utilise Regice to move Spiritomb out of the way when two are on the field. There will be a few out there so make sure you try out the match up in your testing regime just in case you come across one.

Magnezone/Machamp

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Magnezone Prime was a somewhat overlooked card when it was released because everyone was focusing on the Poké-Power rather than the attack. With the loss of Claydol leaving everyone frantically finding a replacement, as soon as they saw Magnezone’s Power they were thinking they had found it. But then they looked at its retreat cost and disregarded it completely.

This was until the European Challenge Cup took place and a deck involving Magnezone and Regirock LA was the only deck in the tournament to go undefeated (6-0) in swiss.

This sparked a crazy amount of speculation even while the tournament took place as people originally thought that the build featured Machamp Prime as well as Regirock, but this wasn’t the case.

This advance speculation of the list bore a new deck, Magnezone/Machamp which has been very successful during the States season this side of the pond by taking several top cut spots over the London/Bournemouth weekend.

This deck combines big HP stage 2 Pokémon that can hit for some very high damage fairly quickly. Machamp covers all SP match ups fairly easily and the inclusion of Machamp Prime can keep the damage coming against all other decks. Being a very new deck on the scene makes people wonder how to play against it when they are sitting opposite and can cause a very quick loss if you don’t know what you’re doing, so I would check in on this part to prepare.

This deck is focused on hitting for high amounts of damage while recycling energy and attaching it multiple times per turn to fuel this. Magnezone’s attack “Lost Burn” is at the centre of all this as it does 50 damage times the number of energy you choose to throw into the Lost Zone for just a Lightning and a Colourless energy.

What makes this attack even more powerful is that the energy can come from any Pokémon on your side of the field, not just the ones attached to Magnezone.

pokebeach.comUsing Lost Burn can rack up some serious damage when you use it in conjunction with Junk Arm and Regirock LA. Regirock has a Poké-Power called “Regi Cycle” which allows you to discard 2 cards from your hand and then choose a Fighting Energy from your discard pile.

You are then allowed to attach this energy to Regirock. Pairing this with discarding the energy in the first place with Junk Arm makes it a bit easier to get multiple energy attachments per turn.

Hopefully you can see the synergy already between these two Pokémon as you are attaching energy without using up your attachment for the turn, which means more fuel for Magnezone’s Lost Burn.

Furthermore, you may also be able to see the synergy with Machamp Prime seeing as there is the inclusion of Fighting Energy to combine with “Fighting Tag”.

Some variants don’t choose to run Regirock or Lighting energy and use it to combat an SP heavy metagame by just using Machamp SF and Rainbow Energy to fuel Magnezone instead. This means that you have a strong answer to SP, the highest deck count in the country, as well as a strong output against any other decks which straight Machamp struggles with.

So what should you expect when facing this deck? You should definitely expect to come up against some pretty bulky stage 2s with high HP and hard hitting attacks. You should also expect to have a tough game when facing this deck when it’s fully set up.

Trying to disrupt them is good at first, but they will have a way out every time when they get Magnezone going. By using its Poké-Power “Magnetic Draw” Magnezone can let the player draw until they have 6 cards which means using cards such as Judge will be almost useless.

pokebeach.comSpeaking of Judge, they are sure to have a high count of these due to the sheer fact that they can be drawing cards from it as mentioned earlier. The usual risk of running Judge is that you aren’t going to know what you will draw yourself even if your opponent is in the same boat.

It is a great disruption card to knock your opponent off course slightly, but the strength of the card in Magnezone focuses on the fact that you can give your opponent a relatively small hand, but make yours larger using it.

Even after using Judge, with multiple Magnezones in play they can use Magnetic Draw more than once in any given turn. This means they can Judge, use the Poké-Power, use the cards they drew and then use another Magnetic Draw from a different Magnezone. This isn’t an unlikely situation when facing this deck since they will more than likely be running a very thick line of it seeing as it is their main attacker.

If you aren’t seeing a second Magnezone for a while, make sure you are ready for some heavy Machamp attacking. If they haven’t had a second Magnezone in play quickly then you can expect them to have gone heavier on the Machamp lines than Magnezone, making Machamp the main attacker. If this is the case, be wary of a Machamp Prime inclusion which helps with their late game and even further with their match ups against anything that isn’t SP.

If you are playing SP, then be very wary of this match up as it is definitely out to get you specifically. The high HP of Magnezone and Machamp means that you won’t be one-shotting them at all and without many bench sitters, there isn’t really a way to get around them either. What you need to do is utilise your Lucario l and Toxicroak g Promo (if you choose to run it) to their full use.

Being able to hit for Magnezone’s weakness is a definite plus as they will be attacking with it at some point during the game. A Promocroak can one hit KO a Magnezone Prime following a KO with just an addition of a Flash Bite from Crobat g. This can really hurt them if they are running thin on the Magnezone line and gets rid of their main source of draw power.

pokebeach.comTo deal with Machamp, you’re going to need to play a little smarter when using SP. Uxie will be your main Pokémon here, but not always using the Level X to get the one hit ko. If you need to stretch a little too far to get the KO in one attack, then just use a basic Uxie to “Psychic Restore” for 50 (without Lucario l) and follow up with a “Dragon Rush” to finish it off.

This can be tricky to pull off, but it can leave your opponent in a sticky situation if this is their only strong attacker on the field.

To keep up with the quick prize exchange, setting up a Dragon Rush plus Flash Bite on a benched Regirock is something to keep in mind. This will net you a cheap prize when you desperately need it. Not only this, but Regirock is a nice target for Roserade l to stick in the active spot with “Poison Bind”.

One of my personal favourite SP techs can lock Regirock in the active spot with a high retreat cost and no access to its Poké-Power. Sure, this deck will run Warp Point, but if they are low on cards and there’s nothing else you can do, attempt to pull this off by dragging them up with Bright Look and locking them in place.

If you aren’t playing SP, you will have a more pleasant time, but don’t think that this decks SP hate keeps you safe. You will need to play incredibly smart to keep on top of prizes and keep track of all their energy use throughout the course of the game.

Through my experience of playing against the deck, keeping track of what energy they need to attach and where is a very beneficial thing to do. This can help you to work out whether they are likely to pull off a return KO with Lost Burn or Take Out.

pokebeach.comThis deck will utilise Broken Time-Space to keep the bulky stage 2s coming fast and this could work to your advantage if you are also playing heavy stage 2 lines. If your Broken Time-Space just isn’t drawing from the deck, wait for them to play theirs and use it to full advantage.

This will increase your speed up to the same point as theirs and you will need to attempt to maintain the exchange from there.

One thing I must mention is that if you are playing a trainer lock based deck, then be wary that they may include a single Spiritomb AR just for situations like these.

Trainer lock would originally hurt this deck a lot considering the amount of trainers they need to run, so the inclusion of Spiritomb allows them to search it out with Pokémon Collector and start evolving by using Darkness Grace. Doing this means the deck can still set up and start taking prizes fairly early on.

VileGar is still a strong play against this deck seeing as the trainer lock hurts them in general even with a single Spiritomb inclusion as well as the type advantage over both Machamps. Anything else can struggle with this really bulky deck and a quick start on your behalf can get rid of basics and stage 1s before they become troublesome.

This deck will be very sparse at Nationals, but if you are expecting to be hitting the top tables I’m sure it will be up there and you must be prepared for it. Play testing against variants of this deck is a good idea, with or without Machamp Prime as this can be a very tough match up if it goes on for too long.

Machamp Variants

Machamp has seen a huge decline in play since City Championships seeing as Gyarados was seeing more play along with the fact that other things apart from SP were gaining popularity.

The thing is that Machamp thrives in an SP rich metagame, but when it comes to playing against other decks, it starts to have some issues. It has a terrible match up against VileGar due to trainer lock and Psychic weakness and loses almost every time against Gyarados as it just can’t get enough damage on the board with Gyarados’ Fighting resistance.

So why mention the deck? Well there are two main variations of the deck that can still hold their ground in a competitive environment. The SpeedChamp variant focuses on speed and setting up a turn one “Take Out” to start ripping up basics and a fairly new deck involving Vileplume UD locks the opponent as much as possible to stop them setting up while Machamp ‘Takes Out’ the opposing field.

I feel that SpeedChamp still has some sort of chance in this format simply because of how fast it can be against most things that aren’t Spiritomb. The deck thrives of off using a huge number of trainers in the first turn of being allowed to get out a Machamp SF as quickly as possible to start taking out basics before the opponent can evolve.

Using a combination of Poké Drawer +, Unown R, Uxie, Junk Arm and Warp Point, SpeedChamp has the perfect recipe to grab all it needs to bring forth a fully powered up Machamp turn one. Poké Drawer, Unown R and Uxie all help with getting as many cards from the deck in a single turn as possible which can be great, but can also cause the losses as well.

The downside to this is that there isn’t any control over the cards you draw, so when playing this deck you will be relying on the luck of the draw heavily even though you are running high counts of all the cards you’ll need.

pokebeach.comAs you may have figured out, the speed variant of Machamp has very strong early game presence but deteriorates very quickly after the first few turns if it is missing certain cards to complete its strategy. This is where you can take advantage of this and start working on getting the KO on unfinished evolutions of Machamp which your opponent has spent most of their resources trying to build up.

This could be where Machamp Prime comes in as it will add to the late game by being able to build it up on the bench ready to initiate “Fighting Tag” to bring it into play and start dealing some seriously heavy damage. Fighting Tag, as mentioned in the Magnezone part of the article, allows you to switch the active with Machamp Prime and move all energy attached to the active onto the now active Machamp.

This is great for getting a heavily damaged Machamp SF out of the active spot as well as being able to power up the Prime in just a single turn.

The downside to including this is that the deck may be drawing the Primes during the quick set up rather than the Stormfront counterparts to pull off the early KOs, which can become frustrating. With it hurting consistency quite a bit, people may end up not liking it altogether and taking it out which keeps it at a strong early game again, but leaves the deck with no way to sustain the later stages. This is probably one of the main reasons it isn’t played much competitively anymore, it’s just a bit too luck based.

Pair this with the fact that it struggles with anything that isn’t SP and you have a deck that relies too much on the matchup it gets and even if it does get the correct ones, it isn’t guaranteed a great set up every game. The uncertainty of this deck hurts its playability even if there are subtle ways to improve the late game.

If you do end up coming across the speed variant of Machamp during the tournament, there is no way to out speed it so you’ll have to take a different course of action. Taking advantage of their bad draws is a great strategy and you need to be taking a prize per turn to stay in the game.

pokebeach.comOne turn of missing a prize could cost you the game in the long run. They will probably take risks to draw more cards from Uxie like evolving prematurely and if it doesn’t pay off, you need to get rid of the incomplete evolutions as soon as possible.

SP players will struggle against this deck simply because it is such a direct counter to them. As mentioned earlier, try your best to keep up with cheap prizes off of bench sitters such as Uxie by using Dragon Rush or Flash Impact following a Bright Look. Machokes sitting on the bench should be your main cause for concern as it will cause you some incredible troubles when it becomes a Machamp SF.

Uxie LV.X is your main source of one hit KOing active Machamps that are causing you trouble when paried with a Flash Bite and Lucario l. The main issue I found when running into Machamps is that when an Expert Belt is attached, Machamp becomes too far off the one hit KO to even try unless you are very lucky with your draws and have the resources available.

If you are put in this situation, focus on the bench KOs or try and tack as much damage on as you can with things like Uxie and even Azelf before you attempt a bigger scale attack. If you do put too much damage on Machamp for them to get wary of the KO, they will use a Warp Point and Seeker combination to pick it up and place back down in conjunction with BTS. This is a very common move so try not to influence their decision to do this or you will be in trouble.

Many people think that this is an autoloss for SP, but I care to differ. There are many things that you can do to slow them down or get consistent KOs on Machamps by utilising Premier Ball, 3-1 Uxie lines and smart Dragon Rushes. Another popular tech for these kind of games is Drifblim UD.

Not only can this card do the same amount of damage as Uxie LV.X, but it is a Stage 1 meaning that Machamp can’t immediately follow up with a Take Out the next turn. This makes them rely on “Hurricane Punch” a lot more which can be very risky and can buy you some much needed time to set up some extra KOs.

pokebeach.comAny other decks shouldn’t have too much of a problem if you are running evolutions, just make sure that you can set up at least one to stall for time if their set up is pretty fast. Just leaving an evolved Pokémon in the active spot can buy you some time while they attempt to Hurricane Punch for some risky damage output.

Utilise their Broken Time-Space use to flood the field with your evolved Pokémon and be wary of Warp Point as well, so try not to leave an evolved Pokémon active with a bench full of basics because they will still be able to return the KOs. Stick to this and you should have a pretty smooth game as most of the meta decks such as VileGar and Gyarados, as mentioned earlier, have very good match ups against Machamp in general.

Just a quick mention to finish off the Machamp section is that VileChamp has started seeing some play overseas, taking a States title over in the US. This deck is based more on slowing you down rather than trying to out-speed you by using Vileplume UD and Spiritomb AR as a starter.

Both of these will lock your use of trainers, slowing you down in the long run from using things such as Pokémon Communication to grab what you need to set up. Most decks have a way to counter trainer lock seeing as it very popular here in the UK, but pair that with the fact that your basics will be getting taken out as well and you can have a very tough game on your hands.

Setting up 2 stage 2s can be difficult for them so play this one out like the VileGar match up, but trying to get rid of trainers with things like Bebe’s Search doesn’t apply since it isn’t fuelling an attack. Your main approach should be the same as any Machamp variant, making sure you have some form of evolved Pokémon to answer to Machamp’s Take Out.

pokebeach.comFinding a way to drag up Vilplume is also a good idea, but I would expect Warp Points to be in heavy count in this deck’s list so be wary of when to attempt this, or try and get rid of it as soon as possible by means of sniping or forcing it active. A steady, evolved Pokémon should have no problem dealing with this deck even with the trainer lock making it tricky to get going properly.

This variant of the deck is pure SP hate, so SP players will have a very hard time playing against this since the trainer lock plus the automatic KO of most of your deck really makes it difficult. A bad set up on their part should be taken advantage of by grabbing KOs on unfinished Vileplumes and Machamps with Vileplume being the priority to get rid of the lock.

Getting rid of the lock will allow a spurt of trainer action since they will have been clogged up in your hand, which gives you a lot to work with. Use your trainers to full advantage while you still can to grab the crucial Level Xs from the deck and save the Bebe’s Search for even tougher circumstances during the game.

Definitely test against both variants of this deck as facing one and not knowing what to do can give you a quick loss, potentially ruining any chance of doing well on the day. Not knowing how to tackle this match up can let your opponent roll through you in no time. Give them some trouble with some smart plays and they may struggle to claw a comeback.

A very tricky deck to play against so make sure you are prepared, even though there is little chance of this being played heavily.

Honourable Mentions

Along with all the meta decks mentioned above, there will be people taking fairly new or rogue decks too. These decks can catch you off guard and throw your playing of the deck slightly so make sure you keep a straight head and analyse the deck as much as you can during the game to make the correct plays at the right time.

Some decks may just be hard to figure out, but take your time and get to grips with them before you make any big plays. I’m just going to quickly go over two decks that will turn up in small numbers.

Steelix Prime

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This has a lot of potential in our current format with its ability to take advantage of having a huge HP along with utilising Special Metal Energy to tank further. This deck takes a little time to set up so get your KOs in while you still can as Steelix can rack up some serious defences along with an attack that can hit for 120 with Expert Belt attached.

Steelix will also more than likely have the support of Blissey PL to use “Nurse Call”, getting rid of any damage you are desperately trying to pile onto Steelix or any other Pokémon. A good strategy against these types of tank decks is to Poison their active and start chipping away HP, but Steelix’s Poké Body “Perfect Metal” prevents status conditions, making it even trickier to do this.

Definitely one to watch out for as it is tough to take down once it gets set up. Its main weakness is its speed so try to get damage onto Pokémon as soon as you can to set up some big KOs later on and SP players can make full use of sniping around the main active to pick up some crucial prizes.

Scizor Prime

This deck is very similar to Steelix mentioned above as it can utilise Special Metals to rack up some serious damage and be able to take a decent hit as well. It can be a little slow to set up its main attack, but when it starts hitting with 3 or 4 energy, you could be in trouble.

Scizor’s Poké Body is also one to watch out for. “Red Armour” prevents all damage from Pokémon with Special Metal attached which includes Special Dark, Special Metal, Double Colourless Energy and Call Energy. This obviously makes Scizor a great SP counter as well as against any dark based decks such as Tyranitar.

Scizor can hold itself well against the meta with a great Poké Body and powerful attack, but it can be countered by Dialga g LV.X. A popular tech in an SP deck which can shut off Scizor’s Poké Body and render it useless for the rest of the game. Due to Dialga having such a huge effect on the deck, you could expect to see a Blaziken f or other fire tech to combat this and get a KO on Dialga as soon as possible.

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To play against this deck you should play your Special Energy very carefully to make sure that you can start piling damage on fairly quickly to get the KOs. SP players can’t Dragon Rush Scizor by using Double Colourless so keep this ruling fresh in your mind while playing against it.

Any other decks should keep tacking damage onto Scizor while keeping Special Energy out of the game as much as possible.

That’s pretty much all I have in my brain in the forms of different decks, builds and how to play against them all. This article should have been able to cover pretty much every single deck and if I haven’t catered for some, that’s because you can apply the same strategies discussed here to other decks.

Overall

Nationals is an extremely tough tournament when you start moving up the tables. Building a deck to cater for every single match up you may encounter is even tougher, which is why it is such a credible achievement to do well in it.

This article was designed to help players of all ages and skill levels to either learn or remind them about the format we are currently in and how to play against a majority of the decks around and I hope I succeeded in helping everyone out in how to do well at Nats.

Just as a last note, UK Nationals is on the 29th May at Wicksteed Park in Kettering, Northamptonshire which is only 2 weeks away! That isn’t a whole lot of time to complete every bit of testing we would all like to, but I hope this guide helped you all in how to approach different match ups even if you didn’t get a chance to physically play them out.

You will be glad to know that this is that end of my monster article. I hope you all took the time to read it thoroughly and took at least something from it. If there is anything you would like me to expand on then please address me in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed,

Dan (PokémanDan)

Reader Interactions

18 replies

  1. Tamao Cameron

    Really well written Dan :)  God the more I read about nats the more hyped I get.  Hope to get some good testing in with you guys the night before.

    • Daniel Middleton  → Tamao

       Thank you :) After finishing this article I realised how close it actually is! Stoked but need more testing even though the amount I do will never be enough xD
      Thanks again

  2. tim h

     Great article, terrible metagame.

    Expect to see:

    SP Variants
    Gyarados
    Machamp Variants
    Magnezone
    Lostgar/Vilegar

    I can’t wait for rotation. 

    Expect to see:
    Lostgar
    Reshiboar

    :(

    • John  → tim

      you forgot:

      Polar Bear
      Zeckrom
      Cinncino
      Steelix (When Mr. Coca Cola gets relased)
      Magnezone/Emboar
      Blastoise?? (maybe)
      Kindra Varients
      Yanmega Varients.
      And Bid Daddy T-tar!

        • John  → Ron

          Tsunbear – Water – HP130
          Stage 1 – Evolves from Kumashun[W][C][C]
          Sheer Cold: 50 damage. During your opponent’s next turn, the
          opponent’s Active Pokemon that was hit by this move can’t use any
          attacks.[W][W][C][C] Icicle Drop: 80 damage. This attack’s damage isn’t affected by Resistance.
          Weakness: Steel (x2)Resistance: noneRetreat: 3

          In other words you already use DCE. You add a couple of waters and your opponenet suddenly starts worring. In most deck you will need both a way to retreat and a plus power to ohko.
           

  3. Frank Hamilton

    Incredibly well done, Dan! You definitely did your homework here, and it shows. Passing this one along to a few friends as well.

    • Daniel Middleton  → Frank

       Thanks! The homework was more personal experience over the past year and sharing all that I’ve learnt as a player. Im glad you liked it enough to pass it on :D

  4. Adam Capriola

     Awesome awesome awesome article, I think you covered just about everything! It was a real pleasure editing this one Dan, thanks so much. :)

    • Daniel Middleton  → Adam

      Thanks. I maybe thought it would be taking cause of the length but glad you enjoyed reading as much as editing :) Was a joy to write, wish my University essays were this entertaining ;)

  5. Michael Sison

    I have to say this is your best article yet. :D We really need a lot more articles like this one. :-)

  6. nilay patel

     Geez dude. This is a 14,910 word article. Enough to fill 46 pages. You could right the Ultimate Guide of Pokemon book by mixing this aritcle and last one. 

  7. Myles O'Neill

     Random point, but thought I’d add it. Scizor Prime doesn’t actually counter Tyranitar very well because Tyranitar has power claw (DCC 60 base damage, cuts through Red Armor (can easily be boosted higher with Special Darks and Expert Belt). Furthermore umbreon is a somewhat common tech for dark decks.

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