I don’t know how I do it.
pokemon-paradijs.comNormally, actors get type-cast by other people, such as their directors or their audience. But for some crazy reason, I’ve typecast myself as the Underground staff’s designated Gengar guy. Even though I’ve never used a Gengar deck in a premier event until just a couple weeks ago, I’ve found myself writing about it no less than two times in the past.
The strange thing, though, is that I actually like to talk about the two Gengar decks out right now, since they win in such different ways as opposed to other archetypes.
Today’s article will be my third – and probably final – dedicated to Gengar. The first segment will be dealing with my last few musings on Vilegar for the MD-BW format, and the second will look toward the future, detailing my comprehensive testing of Lostgar for the HGSS-on format (which is, of course, the presumptive format for U.S. Nationals, Canadian Nationals, Worlds, and the 2011-2012 season).
This ought to have a little bit of something for everyone, so I don’t really encourage skipping around: some sections you may not initially have interest in will go into presently relevant issue, so check out both parts!
With those formalities out of the way, let’s get into the bulk of things…
2011 Spring Battle Roads: Concluding the Vilegar Canon
Some of you may question the wisdom of putting an MD-BW segment into a late May article. However, for the sake of those who have Nationals utilizing this format, as well as many of you planning on attending Battle Roads in these next couple of weeks, I feel that knowing the final ins and outs of this deck is essential.
pokemon-paradijs.comLike many of my fellow competitive players, I too have moved on to testing the HGSS-on format almost exclusively; however, that hasn’t kept me from testing this fascinating “twilight” format, and in most of my experiences, I’ve found Vilegar to be a clear-cut tier one choice.
From the moment I heard “Sabledonk ruins the format” being cranked out from the keyboards of players worldwide, I had a gut feeling that Vilegar was, by default, a top contender. This was later confirmed when one of my testing partners and I dealt out twenty games of the Sabledonk/Vilegar matchup, in which Vilegar won approximately two-thirds of the time.
Even when running Regice, Unown [Dark] and Pokémon Collectors, we failed to improve the little dark gnome’s win percentage, so I was absolutely confident that the threat could be dealt with.
Since this testing, Sabledonk has been disproved itself as a “best deck in format” (BDIF). But even without that threat, Vilegar has a powerful edge against a vast majority of competitors in this metagame (or as some may consider it, a lack thereof).
So with that, I decided to go with this fleshed-out Vilegar skeleton for both of my Battle Roads…
Pokémon – 25
Trainers – 18
Energy – 11
Open Spots: 6
[Tournament one: 1-1 Zoroark, 2 Psychic, 1 Gengar Prime, 1 Froslass GL]
[Tournament two: 1-1 Blaziken FB LV.X, 2 Rainbow, 1 Gengar SF, 1 Sableye SF]
[Next tournament: 1-1-1 Serperior, 2 Rainbow, 1 Gengar SF (undecided on keeping Sableye)]
First, let’s delve into my major skeleton choices:
1. Regarding my Gengar split, I have no better reason for considering the Prime other than that I wanted to experiment with it a bit. My good friend Alex Fields (a.k.a., Butlerforhire) won my Regionals this year with a Vilegar utilizing the 2/1 Stormfront/Prime split, so I wanted to give it some proper field testing.
My experience in the first Battle Road pretty much summed up my past testing with the card: occasionally good against SP, but not all that powerful against most non-SP decks. So for the next event, I would go on to keep it at 3 Stormfront, to the point where it’s just an open spot in name only.
2. A single Crobat G. I’ve discussed how useful this can be in past articles, but my reason for including it again was to help shore up the troublesome Emboar/Reshiram matchup, which I knew would be popular since so many people are eager to use the newest cards.
That way, Poltergeisting into a 1HKO is so much easier (or failing that, having to Shadow Room something four times…).
3. Maximum Looker’s Investigation. An excellent move that Alex Fields made was to run a list with several disruption Supporters – in his case, three Looker’s and a Judge. Recognizing that hand disruption can be brutal against the multitude of donk decks that would show up at Battle Roads, I opted to do the same, only instead running maximum Looker’s (I dislike Judge in the deck due to its increased variability).
4. Lastly, I decided not to run the Call Energy option elaborated on in my Amorphic article. Now that the rules have been changed, Call Energy’s usefulness has all but dried up, and I’d rather Collectoring or Bebe’ing into Spiritombs for an immediate Darkness Grace; or alternatively, faster Gengars.
Now for some of the fun ideas I’ve been messing around with in my tournaments:
1-1 Zoroark resulted from my strong desire to deal with Reshirams and Zekroms, but it also has a nice set of uses against the mirror (Shadow Room) and SP (Dragon Rush), as well. Amazingly, I would play against no SP or Vilegar at either tournament, so its general usefulness dropped; however, I’ve found that this thing is much better than Ditto in the MD-on format.
1 Froslass GL has been explained in Amorphic, but is increasingly useful against those CCCC Retreat Cost Emboars, as well as the increased use of Regice in Sabledonk and Gyarados. 1-1 Blaziken FB LV.X has also been explained in both articles, and is stronger for the same reasons discussed (plus, it always helps against Dialga).
1 Sableye was my solution to increase consistency, as well as to increase my overall odds of defeating Sabledonk. In my first event, I felt like Spiritomb and Calls was too much, but for my second, I felt that just four Spiritomb was not enough.
I do not know if I will be playing in another Battle Road, but if I do, then my final tech choice will most likely be a 1-1-1 Serperior. This past season, Nidoqueen and Blissey have both been respectable healing options, but I feel that this card trumps both on account of its “Royal Heal” being an Ability instead.
The greater implications of this are that you will not be shut down by Dialga G LV.X’s Time Crystal, nor will you be disrupted by Mesprit’s Psychic Bind or SP decks’ Power Sprays. These reasons alone are enough to make it viable where Nidoqueen was not, and effective where Blissey hasn’t been.
Now that we’ve got the meat of my thought processes dealt with, let’s move on to the highlights of my two Battle Roads. In a break from typical tournament report standards, I won’t be discussing most of my games in-depth: I feel like there will be better opportunities to do that in future articles, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think that my readers are too interested in these games, so we’ll only be dealing with the good stuff.
If you’re still hungry for elaboration on these games, however, then I’ll eventually post them to my blog.
Battle Road #1
pokemon-paradijs.comI went a rather mediocre 3-2 performance at my first Battle Road, which is the worst I have ever done at one of these events. My wins were against a turbo Gyarados, a Sabledonk, and Cincinno, while my losses were to a Tyranitar Prime in sudden death, and…A Vespiquen (which is actually much better than it sounds, albeit still a silly loss to admit to).
Since both of these losses were very close, I’d actually blame them both on running the Gengar Prime, since in two separate situations where I needed to assert Fainting Spell or to Shadow Room something, I was instead stuck with either waiting a turn to Darkness Grace, or actually rush in with the Gengar Prime for some disruptive tactics.
Nevertheless, I had a great time, and I felt like both of my opponents played sufficiently to achieve their respective wins.
Point A: Emboar/Forretress is a very fun, powerful deck in MD-BW
So if Vilegar didn’t win this event, then what did? The answer is this contraption: Emboar/Forretress (Legends Awakened). Long before people were hyping up Sabledonk, early rumblings actually dealt with this brutal combo, in which Emboar Inferno Fandangos countless energy onto a Forretress, which would subsequently trigger its Iron Shell Poké-Body.
The end result would often be an instant win condition that automatically wipes out your opponent’s side of the field, with only some damage to yourself.
The deck has been discussed on SixPrizes before, so I won’t be posting a sample list. However, in order to succeed, I feel like the deck needs reliable Pokémon search and Azelf; otherwise, it gets hammered by bad prizes and bad Juniper discards.
Point B: Is Sabledonk really not the BDIF of MD-BW?
pokemon-paradijs.comNo, not at all. In order for a deck to be considered the “best,” or even close to it, then its competitiveness cannot be determined merely by whether or not a staple card will appear often in an event.
In the case of this deck, that staple card is Spiritomb Arceus, and unless you’ve been living under a metaphorical rock of competitive blindness, then you ought to know that Spiritomb has been a mainstay for the past year and a half.
Nevertheless, I am in agreement with Jay’s recent article: this is a high-risk/high-reward deck, and in the right metagame, it can lead you to a very quick tournament win.
Battle Road #2
My results were much better for this event, since I achieved a more respectable 4-1 swiss, as well as a 2-0 top cut record to pull off the win. Unlike most Battle Roads nationwide, Texas events are actually very well attended, as there were 28 Masters here.
Once again, though, SP was scarce, and dark was way too popular for its own good. My matchups were: Yanmega Prime, Feraligatr/Wailord, Gyarados, Lostgar twice, Abomasnow/Mandibuzz, and Donphan/Blissey.
Point A: Mandibuzz has untapped potential for both formats
My only loss on the day was to a very interesting Abomasnow/Mandibuzz/Sableye deck, played by last season’s Texas state champion. The strategy is pretty clear: spread damage counters with Abomasnow and Crobat G, while utilizing Mandibuzz in clutch moments to score efficient Blindside KOs.
I had no business keeping this game as close as I did, but credit is definitely due to Demarcus for coming up with such a synergetic creation.
Here’s my take on an MD-BW list for the deck:
Pokémon – 26
Trainers – 21
Energy – 13
The only really out-of-place inclusion that wasn’t in Demarcus’s list was the Zoroark, but I’m confident that it is a very powerful metagame play. For the same reasons it might’ve been good in Vilegar, it is definitely useful in fixing your weak SP game, as well as guaranteeing you the win against Vilegar.
pokegym.netOther things I added that didn’t seem to be in his list were the tech Spiritomb (played for the same reasons as the tech Sableye in my list), as well as Double Colorless Energy.
However, as intriguing a deck as this may be for the MD-on format, I actually think that Mandibuzz holds some promise for the new format. Although Magnezone Prime highly discourages it as a primary attacker, a 1-1 or 2-2 splash line could be very useful in pulling off cheap late game KOs against basics, or especially babies.
Since the options here are so vast, I won’t include a sample decklist; however, I would encourage you all to keep your eyes open four-five months down the line for Chandelure, a newly-revealed Stage Two from the upcoming “Red Collection”:
Chandelure – Psychic – HP130
Stage 2 – Evolves from Lampent
Ability: Shadow Curse
Once during your turn, if this Pokémon is your Active Pokémon, you may put 3 damage counters on your opponent’s Pokémon in any way you like.
PPC Mysterious Light: 50 damage. The Defending Pokémon is now Burned and Confused.
As you can reasonably guess, Shadow Curse + Mandibuzz provides a very effective combo for killing meager basics. Add in some sort of luring Pokémon, and life could become pretty miserable for your opponent.
Point B: Always be prepared to upgrade a tactic into a strategy
Getting onto the “play” trail as opposed to the “deck” path, I’d like to discuss one interesting moment in the third game of the top four of my Battle Road. Despite having played against him Lostgar twice already, I was unable to crystallize his entire decklist in my mind; in fact, I knew only about 70% of his deck.
pokegym.netHowever, my first clue that something strange was up with his list was when he searched out and promoted a tech Jirachi (Legends Awakened) at the end of our first game in order to place his Lost World on top of the deck to win.
Flash forward to the third game, in which we both were having troubles setting up. He then promoted Jirachi to try to get out of his rut, and at that moment it hit me: “he probably doesn’t run many ways to get that thing out of the Active Spot,” I thought to myself, “so I ought to bring up Azelf and Lock Up for a turn or two in order to give myself time to set up.”
Thus, my tactic: while up 1 Prize, I would stall my opponent’s advance for a little while in order to set up for the long term. However, the very next turn, he plays a Twins…And what does he reveal? No Warp Energy, Rainbow Energy, or any other possible out.
Then, it hit me again: “looks like it’s time to shift gears and Lock Up for the rest of the game!” From there on, I would “draw” and “Lock Up” for roughly sixty turns, and – after his initial shock – force him to do the same.
Normally this is only viable in a single game swiss setting, but I knew that with the number of shuffle-draw cards we both ran, I had enough time to either deck him out or draw out the game past regulation, where I would win on prizes. Ultimately, I would win by decking him out.
Granted, this sort of move is not terribly rare: many players have won games via Chatot MD’s “Chatter” against Spiritombs and Sableyes. However, the ultimate point this story illustrates is to keep your mind open for immediate game plan changes as new information comes in.
For the most part, Pokémon is a sequential game, and because of this, it’s much easier to upgrade vanguard attacks into your main strategy, or to throw away your deck’s main strategy in exchange for an easy win condition, such as the above.
pokemon-paradijs.comTwo games after this rather epic win, I would be crowned that day’s “bad format champion.” Why is it still bad, you may ask? Because even with Sabledonk’s inferiority and the variety of Battle Roads, the MD-BW format unhealthily discourages players from playing the game to its fullest.
In the olden days of Haymaker, this game was known by its top tier competitors as “Trainermon” due to how much more the Trainers moved the game than the actual Pokémon, which were often ruined by powerhouses such as Energy Removal.
Ironically, we are now faced with a dilemma where almost every viable deck either runs maximum trainer lock potential; or failing that, maximum donk potential. In essence, these two aspects of the metagame ruin the spirit of the TCG by either depriving players of their right to “play” this game at all, or by depriving them the privilege of playing a major component of the game itself (trainers).
So as fun as these Battle Roads have been for me, I am more than eager to see these old cards go, and move on to the newer Gengar. Adios, Vilegar!
Playtesting for U.S. Nationals: Lostgar in the HGSS-on Format
Now that I have finally laid my beloved trainer-locking ghost to rest, I would like to dedicate the rest of this article to discussing my experiences testing Lostgar for the new format. Compared to MD-on, which was plagued by SP, Rare Candy/Broken Time-Space drops, and ugly turn one wins all over the place, HGSS-on is decisively slower.
However, based on the way Lostgar wins, it holds great promise for winning faster than a great majority of the field; that is, if you successfully start Hurling into Darkness from the second turn-onward, you could win the game as early as turn five (approximately six Lost Zoned Pokémon from turns 2-4, and then the Lost World announcement after that).
I’ve been testing Lostgar since the beginning of this month. Unfortunately, results have been bumpy to some degree, particularly due to the advent of so many powerful attackers capable of 1-shotting Gengar Prime. My very first list, a Mew Prime/Gengar Prime, looked like this:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 31
Energy – 11
Since we can no longer pull off the magic first turn Gengar Primes of the past, we must instead work as hard as we can in order to get them going by turn two. For that reason, my initial list ran several switching, scooping, and basic search cards, aiming for as fast of a See Off as practically possible.
For the most part, what you see here does just that: approximately 75-80% of the time I was able to See Off, and for 15% of other games, I was able to crank out a turn two Gengar Prime. However, my resource pool dried up quickly on account of running so many useless search cards, so I would later seek options that would further balance that out.
In addition to this issue, I would find that my late game Gengar Primes were too vulnerable to Reshiram/Zekrom + PlusPower, or to Rayquaza-Deoxys LEGEND. Hence, I would later revise the deck to look like this…
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 28
Energy – 11
In general, the list did not change too much, except for the inclusion of a new starter: Relicanth CL. By utilizing its Prehistoric Wisdom attack, I would further increase my odds of pulling off the turn one Lost Zone of a Gengar Prime, yet at the same time possess a reliable source of draw power.
pokegym.netFor the most part, search cards are scarcer in this list, but in the event of Vileplume, I decided to keep a single copy of both Pokémon Collector and Professor Elm’s Training Method (fetchable via Twins in tight games). Lastly, I made good on my intent to counter larger attackers with a tech Defender, which has proven to be clutch in several tight spots against Emboar variants.
All in all, I would actually say that while this game’s early game is a bit scarier than the previous list’s, its mid and late games are so much stronger. Max Relicanth and one more Professor Juniper both really contribute to a speedier, more lethal Lostgar combination.
Regrettably, this version still failed to meet my expectations in testing, as it lost several games by disappointingly-close margins (i.e., having five Pokémon in the Lost Zone). Likewise, hand disruption became a killer for me very quickly, as all that work put toward Prehistoric Wisdom could be wrecked the instant I got Judged.
Although it certainly helps that the currently climate is becoming colder to the use of Judge (see Fulop’s most recent article as evidence to why), the fact of the matter is that that card wrecks this build.
In addition, I found over the span of testing both lists that Mew Prime is just a very risky, brittle card to run as your main attacker. Although you no longer have to worry about Expert Belted Uxies or Crobat G Flash Bites ruining your day, Mew Prime still gets consistently creamed by a great majority of the format’s attackers, and for dirt-cheap.
My testing reflected this theorymon quite accurately, as I lost several games to fast Magnezones, Reshirams, Zekroms, Donphans, Yanmegas, and so on, all of which never looking back from the first kill. Needless to say, my win record in testing didn’t exactly justify Mewgar as a top tier contender.
It was from this point where I decided to give in, making my Lostgar build look as generic as possible.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 30
Energy – 11
…And what screams “generic” more than a stage two deck running Cleffa as a full-blown starter? Yes, I sucked out the more entertaining elements of the deck, and am left only with the bare essentials, but out of the past forty games I’ve played, this list has been far and away the most successful when up against upper-tier opponents.
Granted, my setup might be occasionally slower due to removing the Mew option, but it has so far been well worth it.
pokegym.netOther miscellaneous subjects to note include my further lowering of the Switch count, as well as a further increasing of the Juniper count. This format, I’ve found Mr. Mime CL to be essential to making all of the right decisions between attacks and Poké-Powers, so in order to keep the prizes from hurting me too badly, I run two now.
Finally, I’ve included a Flower Shop Lady so that in the event of a Gengar or Gastly being prized, I have some way to keep the game going in the long-term. Now that my deck runs four Cleffa, this is easier to deal with, since I at least have something to do while waiting on the wasted Supporter turn.
Extra notes about all three lists
– Since the beginning, you might find it strange that I run multiple Triumphant Spiritombs. The reason for this is based in the fact that we no longer have the luxury of VS Seeker in the format: last format, Seeker could be used up to twelve times due to its combo with VS Seeker and Junk Arm, thus assuring a very certain chance at a Lost Zone a turn.
Nowadays, our Seekers are capped in usefulness, so having some alternative method to consistently Hurl into Darkness is necessary. For this reason, I’ve run as many as three Spiritomb in this deck, and will likely never drop it below two.
– 7-8 months after my struggle between PONT and Copycat, and I’ve still failed to reach a conclusion on which I most prefer generally. However, since the current list runs an obvious PONT-like effect in the form of four Cleffa, I decided to opt with Copycat.
– Even though Super Scoop Up and Switch appear in varying quantities throughout the three lists, both are excellent cards in Lostgar. In particular, 4 Super Scoop Up and 2 Spiritomb has had awesome effects in terms of assuring that my opponent has something to be Hurled every turn.
pokegym.net– Regardless of which variant you end up settling on (if any at all – you might construct your own hybrid), Tyrogue is once again worth considering as a tech. Even though the name of Lostgar game is NOT one of prize drawing, you will find that several instances call for a little bit of extra damage.
By promoting a Tyrogue in some testing games, I’ve actually bought myself the time I need to not only build up a very lethal Gengar, but place damage that would later make Cursed Droplets a perfectly valid move. So in a strange roundabout way, Tyrogue has indirectly led into situations that ultimately increased my opponent’s Lost Zone size.
– Again regardless of the variant, Alph Lithograph Four (Triumphant) could be a useful alternative to Flower Shop Lady or other “hard” recovery cards. Most of the time, Lostgar will only get to draw one or 2 Prizes throughout the entire game, so if you have full knowledge of where each card is, then you can do your best to make these draws count.
This is especially applicable to the third build, which relies heavily on key Supporter drops and instantaneous Gengar Prime replacement.
– Based on the flow of the deck, as well as all of the room being dedicated to Seekers and Twins, it’s still really up in the air for me whether I want Junk Arm or not. My tentative conclusion is that Lostgar, while capable of utilizing Junk Arms quite well, is nowhere near wanting to run maximum the way that most of the other upper tier decks are.
Some other possibilities for Lostgar variants
pokegym.netEven though I’ve largely corrected the problem with my third list, my greatest issue remains: there are just some moments where I come up one short of a Lost World win in spite of all my efforts. For those situations, I am becoming increasingly fond of running Slowking and/or Mime Jr. as techs.
Whether they operate as stand-alone helpers or in tandem, both up the odds of a faster Lost World win. So far, a variation of the third list with Alph Lithograph, 1-1 Slowking, and 1 Mime Jr. has netted me upwards to 2-3 more Lost Zone targets than I otherwise would have had, so give it a try and see for yourself!
Here’s a brutal combo I’ve been messing with lately, yet have seen too few other people actually talk about. Once an opponent has Rare Candied up a respectable amount of his or her board, crank out your Vileplume, bench a Jirachi, attach, promote it, and then finish with a “Time Hollow.” This will in turn set the player back several turns, and likely turn the board control war around entirely.
In the context of Lostgar, this is perhaps an even stronger combo than in other decks, since you pave the way for even easier Lost Zone targets, on top of stifling their offense. Thus far, the results have actually been very, very good, although Vileplume decks in general are much harder to determine a proper build for in HGSS-on than in MD-on.
General tips about matchups
[Matchups will be discussed using the third list as basis]
I won’t go into detail about most specific matchups, since – let’s face it – you pretty much win or lose against every deck in the same ways. You are playing for an entirely different win condition than your opponent, and since Gengar Prime has free retreat, you won’t be operating on their terms very often.
pokegym.netLikewise, several soft advantages, such as the “card draw” you get via prize drawing, is generally lost in your pursuit of a Lost World win. Given all that, you’d be better served by some general tips on how to best use the deck for this format:
1. Hurl into Darkness is no longer your absolute answer to every situation. Cursed Droplets is now more important than ever before, and with Baby Pokémon running rampant, this dark horse second attack is often even more of a guarantee than Hurl.
2. If you’re feeling like you’re losing momentum, then don’t be afraid to call off your Gengar Primes for a turn or two. Sometimes you just aren’t ready to be attacking with it, and can actually set yourself up for some nasty consecutive Hurls. Cleffa and Tyrogue are excellent at buying you time, mainly through the Sweet Sleeping Face Poké-Body.
3. Against a deck where you can be reasonably sure that Pokémon Reversal (soon to be Catcher, come August) is being played, play your setup very carefully. This will sometimes lead you to benching multiple Gastlies at once, or even not benching a Pokémon until the time is right, such as Mr. Mime.
4. As you test the deck, try to get a feel for when and when not to use Mr. Mime’s Trick Reveal, especially in relation to Spiritomb drops. Remember that you are trying to get to six Lost Zoned Pokémon as fast as possible, so in some circumstances it might be wise to hold off on a Trick Reveal until after you’ve used your Spiritomb.
Of course, this concern assumes that you have no bench room to spare, so if some board situations call for it, and you have the space to spare, you could even use Mr. Mime #1 prior to the Spooky Whirlpool, and then Mr. Mime #2 afterward.
pokegym.net…Well, it seems that I lied a bit. Although I still don’t find it too useful to get into the nitty-gritty of each game, here are some approximations of how your matchups against the format will go:
- Emboar variants: even, with the potential to become favorable
- Zekrom variants: unfavorable
- Feraligatr variants: favorable (more reliant on LEGENDs and weaker attackers to succeed than Emboar)
- Serperior: favorable
- Donphan/Machamp: even – potentially unfavorable
- Cincinno: favorable
- Tyranitar Prime: unfavorable
- Jumpluff: favorable
- Steelix/Scizor: unfavorable
(Note: many of these matchups could shift drastically with the inclusion of Vileplume/Jirachi.)
In other words, I feel like Lostgar stands comfortably in the upper echelons of tier two, with the real possibility of breaking into tier one. It doesn’t stand as solid a chance at winning Nationals than its cousin Vilegar did in MD-on, but it’s without a doubt one of the strongest decks out right now.
Both of these decks are upper tier in their respective formats, and are excellent choices at your upcoming Battle Roads or National Championships. While the MD-BW format as a whole has some more fleshing out to do, and while Lostgar as an archetype has a great deal of untapped potential for the upcoming format, knowing how to play with and against these is essential to succeeding, no matter which format you must operate in.
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
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