I just wanted to take a moment and say that I wanted to bring you a very in depth look at the Nationals meta, decks, techs, etc. I also wanted to get this information out as soon as possible, while a majority of this article is first hand information, some of it is second hand information as well. I’ve done my best to fact check second hand information, but this wasn’t always possible. I apologize if any minor details are inaccurate.
The Decision To Sit Out
pokemon-paradijs.comSo in the end, Chris Fulop and I decided to sit out with the Worlds invite while Josh went 2-1 to ensure he kept his. I know people have a lot of different viewpoints on sitting out/dropping major events to preserve rankings. My thinking was that the Masters division would probably have over 800 players while only the top 8 would receive scholarships with the top 4 getting the paid invite.
I also didn’t like how many coin flips I knew games would come down to. My decision to sit out had nothing to do with a lack of faith in myself or other remarks I have heard, I just felt that the risk vs. reward ratio was too high to risk playing.
After the weekend I don’t really regret not playing either, Worlds is always the ultimate goal for me and right now I know at least two people that were safely above the cut off that might have lost their Worlds invites by deciding to play. On top of this, two-time World Champion Jason Klaczynski got donked a total of 3 times in 9 rounds.
On the upside, sitting out took all the pressure off the weekend and really allowed me to enjoy it. I also had a lot more opportunities to walk around, hang out, and talk with people and really get a good feel for the meta and different takes on decks. It felt weird to “cover” an event rather than play in it but it did allow me to get a lot of good information and bring everyone a really solid article about everything that went down.
The Format of Flip
If I had to summarize the whole weekend up in two words it would be “coin flips.” Going in I think everyone knew how many games would be decided by coin flips but it was still disheartening to really see it happen so many times.
The Masters final was a sad example of this. Game 1 started off with Kyle Sucevich hitting a majority of his Pokémon Reversal flips to take a relatively decisive Game 1. Game 2 was neck and neck with Justin Sanchez leading for a majority of it, but Kyle pulls it back in the end to tie it up 1-1 and misses two game winning Reversal flips.
Game 3 Kyle goes first with Zorua and thanks to Junk Arm plays two PlusPowers. He follows that up with a Professor Oak’s New Theory hoping to get either a Double Colorless Energy to bring the game to a coin flip or some way to get a Tyrogue to win the game out right.
He hits the Double Colorless and misses his third straight flip thereby losing the United States National Championship. The game remains quite close but in the end, the game came down to yes once again “coin flips.” Both players have an active Tyrogue asleep they both stay asleep at the end of Justin’s turn, leaving Kyle no option but to pass.
In between turns both Tyrogues wake up, allowing Justin’s to take out Kyle’s. Not taking anything away from Justin at all because he played very well, but it was really sad to see 3 days and the entire National Tournament come down to coin flip after coin flip.
The three big coin flips are: the flip to go first, baby flips, and Pokémon Reversal flips. To be perfectly honest there is not a whole lot of advice I can give you on how to deal with flips either, because they are just a part of our format right now. The best thing I can tell you is be aware of how big of an impact they have and do your best to plan accordingly.
Make sure in play testing you’re going second half of the time so you can get used to that playing from behind feeling. Mid to late game, assume your opponent has that Pokémon Reversal and that he will flip heads and plan accordingly. Later on I’ll talk about some alternatives for Baby Pokémon as well. Mikey made the comment that he was looking forward to Pokémon Catcher because he didn’t like how luck-based Pokémon Reversal was.
At first I disagreed completely with him, but after seeing numerous games come down to hitting or missing Reversal flips, I think he might be right. At least with Catcher both players are on an “even footing” and not who can hit heads/tails more often.
The Malleable Meta
pokegym.netThe one thing I really did like about the format is how wide open it really seems to be and how much room there still is for creativity. I saw a lot of different decks this weekend and more than that I saw a lot of different decks do well. Even decks based around the same strategy could be 5, 10, 15, or even more cards off from each other.
Having a format this wide open really makes things exciting and fun as a deck builder, but it can make things harder in playtesting. I would like to reiterate from my last article just how important it is not to get accustomed to certain lists.
If I spend all my time testing against only one version of a deck, let’s say Donphan/Yanmega for example, I am going to be at a disadvantage when I face Donphan/Yanmega with a 2-2 Zoroark; this could shift my match up completely.
I’m now going to discuss the cards that had the biggest influence on the Nationals metagame.
Yanmega Prime: Without a doubt in my mind this card was probably the most played Pokémon of the weekend. But it wasn’t one Yanmega Prime deck dominating, there was a lot of variation in what players opted to pair him with. The more popular choices I saw were: Yanmega/Magnezone, Yanmega/Donphan/other, Yanmega Kingdra, Yanmega/Stage 1s and Yanmega/Vileplume.
Although Yanmega Prime was played in all 4 decks of the Masters Top 4, we saw 3 different variations on it. On top of that I know Justin’s and Jayson’s (last name) builds differed dramatically in their tech choices.
Donphan Prime: This is another card that I saw played with a lot of variation. Its high HP, built in protection, Fighting type, and 60 for 1 F Energy attack make Donphan the second most solid Stage 1 in the game right now, right behind Yanmega Prime.
One of the biggest things Donphan Prime has going for it, is that it’s a great Magnezone Prime counter since it can 1HKO a Magnezone Prime with one F Energy and a PlusPower. Popular variations I saw this weekend were: Straight Donphan, Donphan/Yanmega, Donphan/Samurott, Donphan/Machamp, Donphan/other Stage 1/s.
Magnezone Prime: I really expected to see this card pop up more as a tech in different decks to help add consistency; this wasn’t as common as I thought it would be. Most of the decks I saw playing it were using it as a central part of their strategy. Magnezone/Emboar and Magnezone/Yanmega were certainly the most popular two but I did see a few Magnezone/Feraligatr decks.
Pokémon Reversal: Everybody knew this card was going to be popular, but it was literally played in just about everything. Along with Junk Arm it was nothing to have 5, 6, or even 7 Pokémon Reversals go off in a game. This card decided game, after game, after game this weekend and it was quite possibly the most played tech card of the weekend.
1st – Justin Sanchez – Yanmega/Magnezone
2nd – Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich – Donphan/Yanmega/Zoroark
3rd – Jayson Harry – Yanmega/Magnezone
4th – Dylan Lefavour – Yanmega/Kingdra
I’ll be fully honest, I don’t have Justin or Kyle’s exact list but after watching the finals game, and making some educated guess I’ll do my to give you what I believed they played.
Justin Sanchez – Yanmega/Magnezone
Trainers – 30
I saw at least 1 Rescue and I believe 2 of them, and considering he played Pachirisu I can’t think he would drop down below the 10 L Energy mark. As for the Trainers, once I filled in the techs I knew he played I simply filled in the “staples” of the deck, Rare Candy, Pokémon Collector, etc. and before I knew it I was at 60 cards. Although I feel this list looks unusual on paper I’m sure this is close to what he played.
I have confirmed all of the single copy of cards he ran; he certainly made some off-standard choices with his techs. At first I really questioned a lot of the choices he made and even labeled some of them as “bad” but the more I thought about it, I realized he had to be doing something right, after all he won the largest Pokémon tournament in US history.
I haven’t actually gotten a chance to sit down and test this list, so I don’t really want to pass judgment on it quite yet.
Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich – Donphan/Yanmega/Zoroark
Once again I confirmed all the single cards in the list, and I’ll start from the top. I saw all 3 of the 1-of techs as well as at least a 2-2 Zoroark. The 3-3 on the Donphan Prime and Yanmega Prime were a simple educated guess once I filled the rest of the list in.
Moving on to the Supporters, 4 Collector and 4 Communication are basic consistency cards. The 4 Junk Arm is an educated guess based on how many Trainers he runs and wants to reuse. The 3-3 Reversal/PlusPower split seems right with 4 Junk Arm, although he easily could have played a 4th copy of each or either. I just went a 3-3-3 split on the “new hand cards” but these numbers could also fluctuate between themselves.
I don’t remember seeing a Copycat which surprised me, perhaps he had no problem matching his opponents’ hand size, or I simply didn’t see any copies he did play during his match. Lastly the pair of Switch’s is simply an educated guess since it allows simple switching between Pokémon and doesn’t leave you with a Donphan Prime stranded active.
Looking at the energy, 3 Double Colorless Energy I would think would be the fewest he would risk playing considering both Zoroark and Bouffalant require it and the nine F Energy just rounds out the line-up to give him a solid 12 energy.
I didn’t see any Rainbow Energy or Rescue Energy which really didn’t surprise me at all. Rescue Energy works mainly with Yanmega Prime and can’t be used with Donphan Prime; he also probably didn’t want to waste the turn to play it down instead of dropping a key attachment elsewhere.
The 10 damage from Rainbow Energy really does add up after a while, sure he could of manually attacked with Yanmega but then it also allows opposing Magnezone Primes to only Lost Zone 1 energy to KO Yanmega and 3 energy to KO Donphan instead of the normal 2 and 4 respectfully.
Both the Masters finals and the Senior final table featured the exact same match up, but they had different outcomes. I was really focused on watching the Masters finals so I didn’t get the chance to observe the Seniors game as closely.
I think it’s a safe assumption that the lists were at the very least similar to those played by Justin and Kyle despite have the opposite outcome. This really just shows you how close this match up really is and how big of an impact your tech choices could mean. I would expect this to be a very common matchup at Worlds this year.
As I was watching the Masters finals I was trying to see if I saw any unusual or different strategies used by the players. Kyle really just seemed to try to deny Justin’s set up by constantly Judging him and putting pressure on his Magnezones. Justin on the other hand really struggled to get set up all 3 games and tried to take pressure off of his Magnezone by going aggressive with his Yanmega Primes.
It’s always important to go into a match up with a game plan but many of the tough decisions you have to make are completely based on the game situation. This is certainly a very fast format right now; it’s nothing to be staring down a Yanmega Prime turn 2. The old days of spending the first 3-5 turns of the game setting up and than going at each other are gone.
I think this is what makes play testing so much more important, being comfortable and able to play from behind is absolutely huge and this mainly just comes from experience. The biggest pieces of advice I can give are don’t give up, remain calm, and think through all your options.
On the flip side of this, just because you’re ahead don’t get cocky and stay calm. I saw numerous games this weekend where one player thought they had it won only for their opponent to make a huge comeback at the end to take it.
1st – Dave R – Donphan/Yanmega/Zoroark
2nd – Jimmy M – Yanmega/Magnezone
3rd – David S – Kingdra/Yanmega/Magnezone/Jirachi
4th – Grafton R – Yanmega/Magnezone/Kingdra
pokegym.netThanks to Jason A. who gave me the information on the Seniors top 4. The top 2 decks are the same top 2 we saw in Masters, however this time around we have Yanmega/Donphan/Zoroark coming out on top. I didn’t watch this match closely, but I do know that it came down to a third game and the prizes did seem to be close.
I believe Grafton just simply used Kingdra as a tech in his build and not a centralized strategy, but I could be wrong. I know his father, Jim, played at least a 2-1-2 in his build but I don’t know if they had the same list or not. Considering David ran Jirachi, he probably was playing Kingdra/Yanmega with Magnezone being more of a tech and probably a 1-0-1 or a 2-1-2 line.
I really wanted to write more about Seniors, but their top 4 was just so similar to the Masters Top 4 and I really don’t want to just simply repeat myself.
1st – Xander P – Yanmega/Vileplume/Ursaring/Roserade
2nd – Sydney M – Typhlosion/Reshiram
3rd – Juan Pablo A – Magnezone/Emboar
4th – Luke S – Typhlosion/Reshiram
Typhlosion/Reshiram was certainly a big deck in Juniors, it’s simple, consistent, easy to play, and counters the Junior’s Donphan heavy meta well. The list I am providing is SixPrizes’ very own A Hahn’s who took it to a 9-1 finish last weekend. I wanted to talk about his because I believe it very solid list and very straight forward. It’s also a well tested list and tournament proven.
I fully admit this is a deck that I did almost no testing with prior to Nationals and really regret it and I promise something that I plan on correcting before going to Worlds in August. I wouldn’t say the deck was underrated but I really don’t think it got the attention it deserved before last weekend.
The only Top 4 the deck saw was 2 spots in the Junior division, but it was scattered all throughout the top cut in the Master Division and I know one Top 8’ed in Masters and another 1 went down in the top 16.
The Pokémon seem pretty standard in all the versions I saw, I feel 2-1 Cleffa is still the standard but since you only have to set up the stage 1 Ninetales for your draw engine you can probably get away with a single copy. The Trainer lineup is where I see a lot of different ideas. Sage’s Training is probably the biggest one I want to test the most, since it digs through your deck helping you get your set up going but also dumps R Energy into the discard pile to use with Typhlosion Prime.
People seemed to opt to play a lot of different hand refreshers; Professor Juniper, PONT, Judge, and Copycat all saw play in various numbers depending on the player’s personal preference. In my opinion the biggest thing I see missing from his Trainer lineup is some way to get energy back. It really is important to be able to get that energy attachment each turn.
A lot of players played a pair of Energy Retrieval to do this, since it had a lot of synergy with Junk Arm. Flower Shop Lady, Fisherman, and Burned Tower saw play but to a much lesser extent. Revive was also a very common tech choice to help get back Reshiram in the late game.
I can’t really criticize the energy especially after a 9-1 finish, but at first glance only 12 R Energy and no way of getting them back seems to be incredibly low. Double Colorless also seemed to be a less than standard choice he made, most of the variations I saw ran 14-16 R Energy.
Now, let’s move into some other possible deck choices for Juniors.
This is my take on the deck and my “fun” deck for the weekend if you saw me in the open game room this is probably what I was playing. I wanted something really straight forward and simple that I would feel comfortable giving to a Junior Player.
pokegym.netSo, I based the deck around only a few key Pokémon and I played large numbers, a lot of 3s and 4s of my card choices. Donphan Prime and Typhlosion/Reshiram are both big decks in the Junior division and this should have positive match ups against both of them.
Cincinno was my big hitter and main attacker, a lot of the time I just focused on these guys and left my Kingdra Primes sitting on the bench and picking off targets and setting up KOs with Spray Splash. Originally I played a full 4 Kingdra Prime, but most Donphan decks played a Reshiram so I really needed a water Pokémon that could hit hard.
The Kingdra from Unleashed can pick off babies on the bench for a single W Energy, and for a Water and DCE can 1HKO both Donphan and Reshiram. I also played a tech 1-0-1 Magnezone Prime to add some more draw power to the deck, but I really didn’t find it that useful and I’m considering dropping it for 2 more shuffle and draw cards like a 4th Copycat and 2nd Judge.
My Trainer lineup is a little different as well; I completely went against playing any sort of discarding card since I feel this can give Juniors very hard choices to make. I also decided against playing Pokémon Reversal and instead went with 4 PlusPower, as my goal was to simply try to 1HKO anything my opponent placed active, rather than trying to disrupt my opponent’s set up. This strategy wasn’t always perfect, but between Spray Splash and PlusPower I did find it to be effective.
pokemon-paradijs.comHere is my take on straight Donphan Prime deck for a Junior player. The 3-1 Phanpy allows you an option of a Phanpy that can avoid taking bench damage. The Zoroark is a Reshiram and Zoroark counter mainly, as well as an out to Rayquaza/Dexoys Legend and Bad Boar (Emboar BLW #19). The Manaphy/Cleffa split also allows you a few more options as well since the Manaphy won’t be KO’ed after 3 Earthquakes.
The 1-1 Reshiram and Zekrom were both very common plays this weekend. The 1 Reshiram allowed for a counter to Kingdra Prime while Zekrom allowed you an attacker with the potential to 1HKO Yanmega Prime or Kingdra Prime. Just simply set them on your bench and after a few Earthquakes, Outrage actually hits for some pretty solid damage.
The Trainer lineup is pretty straight forward with a lot of 3 and 4 copies of consistency cards. The 2 Switch allow for easy switching out of Donphan Prime in case one gets too damaged or affected by a special condition. The Ruins of Alph is to allow Donphan to bypass Yanmega Prime’s Fighting resistance.
The energy lineup is also pretty straight forward with 10 F Energy for Donphan and 3 Double Colorless to be used with Bouffalant, Zoroark, Zekrom, and Reshiram. Some versions I saw played Rainbow Energy so you could actually use Zekrom and Reshiram’s second attack. I haven’t tested the idea yet so I simply didn’t add them in but Rainbow Energy was very popular in this deck.
Helping a Junior Player
One thing I wanted to touch on was how has a parent you can make your Junior or even Senior kid a better player, especially if you yourself haven’t fully dived into the world of competitive Pokémon.
Most people believe that Juniors simply can’t play at the level of a Senior or a Master. The truth however isn’t that they are bad players, but just that there are not as many good players as the other two divisions. To be perfectly honest there is only a small hand full of Juniors that really have a shot at winning any major tournament vs. a much larger pool of Seniors and Masters.
The better Junior players usually age up just fine. Curran Hill is a great example of this, he won Worlds 2005 in Juniors, Top 4ed Worlds 2008 in Seniors, and just last weekend top 16ed Nationals in his first year in Masters. A Junior should prepare for a major tournament like Nationals or Worlds much the same way a Senior or Master should.
A well-rounded and consistent deck will win them a majority of their games against less seasoned players. After all, barring a bad start they probably aren’t going to be dropping too many matches to Stoutland decks. A majority of their play testing time should still be centered around testing against the big meta decks. After all this is what the biggest threats in this age division are still going to be playing.
The Junior meta is usually not a whole lot different than the Masters meta if a deck is doing well in Masters, you have to expect that it is going to do well in Juniors as well but perhaps not to the same degree in Juniors. If deck X took up half of the Masters top cut I would expect it to be popular in Juniors but not to have the same dominance.
The division as a whole does seem to favor “easier” or more straight forward strategies. I saw a lot of Donphan Prime being played in Juniors this weekend; I believe this is partially due to how straight forward the deck is. While I wouldn’t call any deck “auto pilot” now days it does have a very straight forward strategy of powering up Donphan and taking prizes.
A lot of the Juniors I see do well have a very strong support system of not only their parents, but other local players as well. It has always been my philosophy if you’re going to race 5 miles, train to run 10. As long as they don’t find it discouraging I highly recommended testing with Seniors and Masters players. They play in much tougher age divisions and one of the best ways to get good at this game is to play with great players.
I would like to take a moment and congratulate Sydney who took 2nd in the Juniors division at Nationals this year. Both Sydney and her father Doug are Underground members here on SixPrizes, I first met them last year at Worlds in Hawaii and still talk to them occasionally so I was thrilled to see that she did well.
Doug is what I consider the perfect example of what a Pokémon Parent should be in this game, a dad who is there for his daughter; he doesn’t care if she wins or loses as long as she has fun. Sydney on the other hand is a perfect example of what a Pokémon Player should be she loves the game; she was just as excited day 1 as she was sitting at the final table.
What I’m trying to get at is don’t put pressure on your kids, especially when they are that young. When you start making it about winning and losing it takes a lot of the fun out of the game and young kids simply can’t handle pressure like older ones can. I’ve seen way too many sport parents yelling at their kids and I just don’t want to see our game turn into this.
The take-home points I’m trying to get across:
- Play a consistent list (don’t lose easy matchups due to bad hands)
- Playtest against the big Masters decks (these are what the best Junior players will be playing)
- Playtest against a wide variety of partners and don’t limit yourself to just other Juniors
- Don’t put pressure on your kids (let them have fun and they’ll do better)
- Don’t expect some decks to be less popular because they are expensive
- Use the resources you have available to you, like good Masters in your area and SixPrizes Underground
pokegym.netThe deck received a little hype after winning Canadian Nationals, but many still didn’t think it would perform well here in the US. We’re still trying to compile the Top 128 decks for the Masters Division, but right now the best showing I know of is a Top 64 by Jake Long who played the more standard Zekrom/Yanmega.
I think the major issue facing the deck is that it just isn’t consistent enough to do well in large number or rounds. You really have to hit that turn 1 Zekrom to stand a chance in most matchups and even then the deck still struggles in the mid- to late game.
Fighting was also incredibly prevalent and the deck just simply can’t deal with multiple Donphan Primes. The deck has a lot of potential, but is just way too luck based in an already incredibly luck based format.
I wouldn’t even say this under-performed, taking numerous spots in the top cut; it just didn’t go the distance. I saw a lot of different variations of the deck but all of them put a huge emphasis on getting that early Vileplume. 2-1-2, 3-1-3, and 3-1-2 were the standard lines that players ran. 4 Sage’s Training, 4 Rare Candy, and 4 Pokémon Communication seemed to be the standard start of the trainer line up.
After getting the chance to really play against some different variations this weekend, I feel like this is best way to go. You really need that early Vileplume which means you have to play Trainers, sure you’re going to be stuck with dead cards later in the game but you really have no way around it.
Here are some of the things I saw players combine with Vileplume.
Mew Prime: Mew just really allows you a ton of flexibility especially going first to get that turn 1 See Off. Jumpluff, Muk, and Crobat Prime were the most common targets for Mew to remove. I really wouldn’t recommend more than a single copy of Muk and Crobat Prime, after all these are just techs and not your centralized strategy.
I would play 2 copies of Jumpluff though, prizing a single copy is just going to hurt you too much if Mass Attack is a centralized strategy of your deck. As for an energy line up, I would recommend going with 4 Grass, 4 Psychic, and 4 Rainbow Energy, 5 Psychic and 3 Grass would also be something to try.
Yanmega Prime: The most common version I saw of the deck this weekend was Mew/Yanmega/Vileplume. Out of all the variations this one simply gives you the most options. You can also drag up high retreaters with Mew and then snipe around them with Yanmega Prime. You can snipe major threats putting them in 1HKO range for Mass Attack.
I think the biggest thing this version has going for it is that it still has a ton of options even without Vileplume on the field, it’s also able to transition from a very aggressive game of simply swinging with Mew or Yanmega to a more surgical game of sniping threats off with Yanmega.
Mismagius: I saw a little of this but it was pretty rare, the deck is just too combo-based to be effective right now. You have to have both Mismagius and Vileplume on the table to get any real damage from Poltergeist and if you can’t stick a Vileplume it’s game over.
Simisear: I mainly wanted to mention this one because I honestly had no idea what this card did till this weekend. I lost one game in a side tournament against Reshiram/Typhlosion because I didn’t know this guy had an attack that hit the bench for 20. I was told that a Vileplume/Yanmega/Simisear deck Top 32’ed. I don’t know what division and I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I wanted to mention it.
This is another deck that I wouldn’t say underperformed rather just couldn’t go the distance. The matchup with different Yanmega variants is no worse than 40-60 we found in our testing. We don’t have exact numbers yet, but a handful did top cut in each division. I believe the last few went down in the top 32 for Masters.
pokegym.netThe deck is very combo based since you really need both Emboar and Magnezone on the field for the deck to be effective. The list by nature also forces you to run a very high energy count (15-16) which really can mess with your consistency early in the game. I believe these are the top two reasons why many players opted to play more consistent Yanmega variants.
You can never write off a deck that has a built-in draw system and near unlimited damage potential and once the dust settles the deck will probably rest somewhere in the low Tier 1 range.
Heading Into Worlds
Worlds is just over a month away and we have a lot of information to try and digest. Usually after Nationals I’ve got Pokémon overload so I like to take a week off and clear my head. This really also allows a lot of information to come out and different builds really surface.
For SixPrizes I think this is really going to be a great month. Josh and Mikey both have Nationals tournament reports and I’m really excited to see their builds. I believe Chris is also really going to talk about his feelings of Nationals and thoughts heading into Worlds.
It was really great meeting a lot of you this weekend and to get the chance to start putting faces with names. I also really appreciate all the people who came up and talked to me and gave me feedback. I can’t wait till August and then I’ll be able to do it all over again. Hopefully I’ll see everybody out in California.
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