Fulop’s Korner: The Last Stand

pokegym.netWell, we’re coming off the heels of two of the most influential tournaments of the season, and wow do we have some pretty interesting results to look over. I guess we’ll handle this one chronologically. Canadian Nationals was a week before U.S. and Mexican Nationals, and what a huge impact it had!

Heading into initial testing for this format, the metagame had developed into one of an exchange of one hit kills. The big decks where Emboar Magnezone, Donphan Machamp, Zekrom Pachirisu, various other forms of Fire, and Stage 1 decks that were built to play a Rock-Paper-Scissors game with the big decks. Now, this was the “metagame” for the better part of a month or two. Canada really mixed that up.

In the aforementioned metagame, Emboar Magnezone was the lone king. It could reliably beat all of those other decks. The game often boiled down to which deck could set up first, and then just fling one hit kills at each other. As a result, we built our decks toward that end.

Sage’s Training in my Emboarzone list, for example, was a perfect example of the mindset we tried to play toward. Whoever took the first prize was often at a huge advantage. As a result, speed was the number one priority in those sorts of decks.

Yet there was a counter movement brewing that went under the radar a bit. People began to build various Vileplume decks. They build disruptive decks such as Yanmega Magnezone. These are all decks which attack the big “set up decks” in interesting ways that previous builds were not prepared for.

I’ll be the first to admit that the list I had for Magnezone Emboar was ill prepared for the decks we saw going into U.S. Nationals due to the decks introduced at Canadian Nationals.

The “Big Winners” to come out of Canada were Yanmega Magnezone, Kingdra Yanmega, Stage 1 decks, and Vileplume decks. Unfortunately, the influx of Yanmega put a huge hurting on Vileplume, which had previously been able to prey on the big hitting decks in the format. So while Vileplume was a great call for the expected metagame in Canada, it fell victim to the Yanmega and stage 1 decks, which not only showed up to that event, but at U.S. Nationals, and thus underperformed.

I could address the Zekrom Yanmega deck that actually took down the event, and I know its “unfair” to call a deck that won a major event a bit of a fluke, but looking at its top cut path and it had pretty favorable matchups across the board, and personal testing has given me rather negative results with the deck. Couple that with the deck making no impact at the larger U.S. Nationals and I can safely write it off as not being a major contender.

$75 a piece!

Now flash forward a week to Indianapolis. Yanmega Primes hit upwards of 70 dollars a piece at vendors. Rayquaza Deoxys Legend was $75. Magnezone sat around $50. The hype was in full force.

Original speculation was that players wouldn’t audible to new decks within a week of their Nationals and thus Canadian Nationals wouldn’t have that big of impact on the metagame, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Yanmega Magnezone, and Vileplume variants were all over the open play area, and also in the main event as it started.

By the end of the first day, we had Yanmega Magnezone doing well, Typhlosion Reshiram doing well, Donphan Yanmega Zoroark decks doing well, and Emboar Magnezone doing well. These decks are primarily the ones that made it into top cut, but there were a lot of interesting rogue decks as well that I’ll get to in a bit!

The Top 4 of the event turned out to be Yanmega Magnezone, Kingdra Yanmega, Donphan Zoroark Yanmega, and Yanmega Magnezone. The finals came down to a Yanmega Magnezone vs Donphan Zoroark Yanmega, with Yanmega Magnezone pulling out the win in Game 3.

Now, let’s see what we can learn from the overall results. I think anyone who was at the event can tell you one major lesson: Flips matter. A lot. Between the huge edge offered to the player going first (I am baffled why the rules change was even considered a good idea in the first place, as the rule we had in place previous seemed pretty balanced. What we have now is just so much worse, with no identifiable upside to it.) and the importance of Pokémon Reversal, and Baby flips, flips often decided the outcome of a game.

This meant that overall consistency was pretty important to the success of one’s deck.

Outside of that overarching theme for decks/games, let me break it down into the different cards that we saw doing well at Nationals, and break it down into why:

Yanmega Prime

Free prize.

Yanmega is a fairly underwhelming card. It doesn’t honestly read that well. 110 HP with a bad weakness. 40 anywhere is ok, and 70 isn’t even that great. The difference between 1 energy (such as with Donphan Prime) and 0 isn’t that great when you take into account the conditional use of Yanmega’s Poké-Body. So why did a seemingly average Pokémon wind up doing so great?

Baby Pokémon. Decks get punished for benching these 30 hit point Pokémon by giving up free prizes as the game goes on. Also, most decks are forced to hit a Pokémon Reversal if they want to get around a sleeping Baby. Some decks are just stuck waiting a turn.

Yanmega “cheats” around that by having a built-in sniping attack to circumvent that. Games are decided by flips, and Yanmega makes baby flips a non-factor. over the course of a long game, or more importantly, a long tournament, those previously relevent flips being ignored add up to an increased win %.

Yanma has a free retreat. Yanma is arguably the best Pokémon to open with in this format. It’s safe from being donked, and has a free Retreat Cost. This adds to the consistency of your deck in the long run. In most decks, I don’t even run the full 4 Yanmega Prime…but I make sure to run all 4 copies of Yanma just due to the huge consistency boost it adds.

There’s not a ton you can do to get around coin flips, but every little edge on consistent starts you can get will add up over a long tournament.

It applies low maintenance pressure. One of the downsides that decks like Emboar Magnezone has is that they cannot reliably attack on the second turn. Most big hitting decks cannot. This is an energyless stage 1 attacker who can often take a prize, or start attacking a benched attacker being powered up while your deck continues to set up.

If you go first, Yanmega is almost guaranteed to take a kill on the second turn, and they have to answer it before they can try to address what the rest of your deck is trying to do.

It is good against Vileplume and disruption. A number of decks tried to build disruptive decks that attack the complex set ups of decks like Emboar Magnezone. Those decks in turn are weak against the hard to disrupt Yanmega.

It has a free retreat, requires no energy, and that 70 damage is pretty good against Mew Prime (a key card in a lot of the Vileplume decks). The 40 damage snipe attack is also crippling against Oddish. Yanmega is a nice stable attacker who is immune to the hate being thrown at the rest of the format, which allowed it to excel.

Let me use this moment to address the fact that I don’t really think Yanmega is that strong of a card. It is just awkwardly placed as a very strong card in this format. It fills a niche role that capitalizes on a lot of the weaknesses prevalent in this young format. Only time will tell if it holds up strength as the format matures and more and more cards are released.

Magnezone Prime

Magnezone was a well-known all-star going into the event. It offers strong draw power in a format lacking it, and it gives whatever deck that uses it access to a potent one hit kill attack. Both of these traits on one Pokémon make it an obvious front-runner for best card in the format.

For those who think any other card is “better” than it, realize that all other contenders gain their strength either as a result of being good AGAINST Magnezone, being good WITH it, or being good against the format warped by the presence of Magnezone. It is the most influential card in the format.

Magnezone is useful as a primary attacker (Emboar Magnezone) or as a secondary attacker (Yanmega Magnezone, where it’s used as a “cannon” to answer Pokémon that do eventually get set up.) or even as a tech draw line (such as in Jay’s Donphan Machamp list he posted recently.) There are plenty of Pokémon weak to Lightning too, so it is pretty well typed.

In a format where consistency is the most important (to get set up first, to survive Reversals, and to handle Judges, and early KOs, etc.) Magnezone is the glue that holds a lot of tier 1 decks together and gives them the edge needed to take down events.

Donphan Prime

pokemon-paradijs.comThis is an example of a card whose strength stems almost exclusively from its strength against Magnezone Prime. It can kill one for an energy and PlusPower, and makes Magnezone Lost Zone FOUR energy to get a kill on it. It also is strong against Zekrom for the same reason. It offers the same strength Yanmega does in that it allows a turn 2 kill with Earthquake.

The card suffers from having a fat Retreat Cost, and damaging your bench, but its success clearly cannot be overlooked. It also is strong against Mew Prime, and certain Vileplume builds really cannot beat it consistently.

Those turned out to be the “big three” at the event in my eyes. They even offer a bit of a triangle against each other. Magnezone beats Yanmega, Donphan beats Magnezone, Yanmega beats Donphan. They play off each other well.

Now if we look past that triangle, we get to see a bunch of other successful cards, but I’ll address them more as decks, as most of these were restricted to one or two decks opposed to being a major presence in a number of decks.

Emboar Magnezone

The deck didn’t perform as well as had been expected, and I don’t feel like it deserved to going into the metagame it did face. It wasn’t built properly to do so. It lost to Vileplume, it was often put off-balance by Judges, Reversals, and early Yanmega pressure when it didn’t set up quickly.

That being said, it put a couple of players at 6-0 after day one, and a number of them did make it into the top 128, but not a whole lot farther. The decklists were skewed to an outdated metagame, and suffered as a result.

That being said, this metagame appears to be cyclical and I’ll address that in a little bit. Once set up, Emboar Magnezone is still by far the best deck in the format. No deck beats its god starts either. The downside is, it didn’t have the resilience to beat the flips in the long run.

pokemon-paradijs.comDecks which go first against it can put it off balance. Good Reversal flips can mess with it. It had poor answers to sleeping babies. The more rounds it had to play, the more those factors can catch up to it. I really feel that its biggest “issue” is the amount of energy it is forced to play.

Having to run roughly 16 energy alongside two Stage 2 lines and a lot of recovery cards makes it very difficult to fit in the consistency and disruptive cards that other decks have. Of course, that isn’t for no reason. You lose those traits but you do have a notable power edge. That can certainly win a great share of games.

Donphan Machamp

Donchamp made less of a showing then some felt it was going to, although SixPrize’s own Adam Capriola piloted the deck to a good deal of success despite having not played much in years. The deck suffered a bit from the fact that it isn’t that well positioned against Yanmega, and wasn’t really built to deal with decks like Vileplume, or Kingdra Yanmega.

By being restricted to one type, it was a bit exploitable, even though it offered a fast, aggressive attack, coupled with a big end game hitter. It was a bit better rounded than Emboar Zone, but had its own set of weaknesses.

Typhlosion Reshiram

Typhlosion suffered from having an absolutely abortive matchup against Emboar Magnezone. On the other hand, it had a pretty good matchup against everything else. Ohio’s own Tom Dolezal made his regular Nationals run after having not played all season, and pulled off a top 8 placement to earn his invite to Worlds with the deck.

It had what I feel to be 50-50 matchups across the board against anything but Emboar Zone. The deck has a great deal of resilience to disruption (as the deck is pretty much self-sustaining once it sets up. A deck like Emboar Magnezone requires a continually refreshed hand to keep going.) and Reshiram just happens to be good against Yanmega and Donphan.

pokemon-paradijs.comThe deck would hypothetically suffer against Water, but, let’s be honest, there aren’t any viable water decks. Kingdra Prime is the best Water card, and it only does 20 base damage against Fire, so that’s ironically funny.

The deck seems to be moderately well positioned for Worlds for anyone who wants a deck with some pretty high degrees of power while being more capable of dealing with disruption. I’m not sure I could bring myself to play it, but it is certainly a safe play if you don’t trust any of the other decks.

I could see the Worlds metagame shaping up where we have two trains of thought. People who want to play Yanmega based decks that did well at Nationals, and those who seek to build decks to exploit those decks weaknesses.

Typhlosion Reshiram Ninetales may be the deck that offers the right mix of resilience and power to be well positioned to beat both of these tactics. You get less power than Emboar Zone, but you are also a bit more consistent over the course of a game.

Kingdra Yanmega

This is a deck that somewhat confuses me. The deck’s M.O. is pretty simple: Spread damage like crazy, then either kill things with Kingdra, or use Jirachi to de-evolve their entire field and take a bunch of prizes. I like this deck. I just think I like it less than I do Yanmega Magnezone with a Kingdra splash.

By losing Magnezone, you lose a lot of raw power, and consistency. You lose a big hitter, and Magnetic Draw, which is one of the best Powers in the format. You are less capable of dealing with Judge, and Reversal, and you lose the ability to continually refuel your hand.

Even if you go with a thinner 2-1-2 Magnezone line, you want to get out swarms of Kingdra, and what better way to do this then to be refilling your hand with Magnezone.

The other issue this deck seems to have is that it’s violently weak to Lightning. It lost in the finals of Canadian Nationals due to it being unable to beat Zekrom, and it got beat in U.S. Nationals by Magnezone Yanmega.

Lightning isn’t a great type to be exclusively weak to, especially with Yanmega being the new Public Enemy #1. I just don’t see enough upsides to this deck over the alternatives.

Tyranitar Seperior

pokemon-paradijs.comJames Arnold took this deck to a top 8 finish, which I LOVED seeing. Not only is James an awesome guy, but I have a soft spot for both of the Pokémon involved. If we accept that the spread tactic of Yanmega Kingdra works (And I do) then Tyranitar inherently is strong as well.

Darkness Howl is a cheap, efficient means by which to spread. Gone are the days of Poké Turns and Healing Breath. Seeker rarely sees play without access to many coming into play Powers. The ability to heal the bench is lacking.

As a result, a few Darkness Howls followed by a Jirachi can cripple entire decks. Tyranitar has massive Hit Points as well, and powerful non spread attacks which gives it a number of good game plans.

Tyranitar is really good against Yanmega, and Magnezone, and pretty much all of the newer decks. They can’t one hit it, and they have very few good answers to Darkness Howl. To top it off, since they aren’t doing huge outputs of damage, Serperior’s healing not only helps save your bench from dying to your own Darkness Howl, but they can make it very hard for decks without Fighting types to answer Tyranitar in a timely fashion.

The fact the card can even survive a hit from a 3 energy Magnezone Prime, or even a Bad Emboar or RDL speaks wonders of its sturdiness.

This is the type of deck I speak of when I say that the metagame is cyclical. Previous, with Donchamp and Emboar Magnezone as the two big decks, it becomes difficult to say that Tyranitar is tier one because they can both one shot it once set up.

Yet when we have decks like Kingdra Yanmega, and Yanmega Magnezone, and Typhlosion Reshiram winning, these decks are poorly equipped to answer a deck like this. Bigger “tank” Pokémon who are tough to take down suddenly provide a challenge to these decks, where they used to be weak.

Of course, decks like Emboar Magnezone prey on these decks, and in turn, regain some strength once people start to focus on playing decks that beat Yanmega decks.

Vileplume Decks

pokegym.netWe saw a number of Plume decks at both Nationals, some with Mew, and others without. These decks smash Emboar Magnezone, but are much weaker against decks like Typhlosion Reshiram, and well, anything with Yanmega.

The Stage 1 decks also beat it due to low energy costs, and a high amount of Supporter draw. Vileplume was well positioned as a counter to the expected metagame, but unfortunately happened to be at the losing end of the OTHER counter decks which showed up in Canada.

Vileplume really suffers from Oddish having 40 Hit Points. This makes it easy to kill with a Tyrogue and PlusPower, or more importantly, a Yanmega’s snipe. It also suffers against Jirachi devolving it if it ever got any sort of damage on it. Tyranitar is also really good against these kinds of decks as they don’t have the raw damage output necessary to take too many of them down.

That being said, it’s really difficult to blindly categorize Vileplume decks because they are so diverse. That being said, the above issues seem to be universal due to the way Plume decks have to be built. But lets address the cards that see play in them.

Vileplume: Obvious.

Mew Prime: A good opener, and it lets you run a slew of disruptive attacking Pokémon that you can Lost Zone and then use Mew to abuse so you don’t have to keep retreating which otherwise screws things up. Muk UD for example is an absolutely fantastic card that is otherwise crippled in this deck by a 3 Retreat Cost. Dragging up something and Poisoning and Confusing it under trainer lock is great.

Ideally you follow it up with a sniping attack, only this doesn’t work with Muk having a 3 retreat. Mew helps cheat this. They are also easy to get out while under Trainer lock.

Muk UD: As I addressed above, cards like Emboar and Magnezone and Donphan have mammoth Retreat Costs and make great targets to get brought up and given some hefty status conditions.

When they can’t play Switch, it makes it very hard for them to escape. This card is my personal favorite in Vileplume, but it requires a bit of work to make functional due to that Retreat Cost.

Jumpluff: Jumpluff is used either with Sunflora to swarm, or with Mew as a cheap swarmable attacker. I’m not entirely sold on it due to low Hit Points and incrementally weak damage. (It 1HKOs lower hit point guys as many other attacks would, but the 100ish damage it does with full benches won’t 1HKO big threats anyway, so there may just be better attackers.) A weakness to Fire also holds it back.

Crobat Prime: Huge Hit Points, a great sniping attack, and a brutal Poison attack which is strengthened by Trainer lock, Crobat Prime is a beautiful attacker in these decks. Unfortunately its a bit clunky still. Being one of the few cards played that actually is good against Donphan in these decks matters quite a bit though.

Roserade: Same concept as Muk but it works on the active and doesn’t make you jump through all of the hoops. Weak as an attacker and pretty demanding on energy drops, I’m not sold on it, but to be fair, status conditions under Trainer lock are really, really strong.

Ursaring Prime: This guy was used by the Junior who won U.S. Nationals, and its a pretty decent attacker over all, and it not only unleashed some high damage, but it can also help rig draws if used with say, Slowking.

One of the big reasons it gets used is Teddiursa’s Fake Tears attack which on a flip can lock them out of Trainers on the first turn. I’m not sold on how good Ursaring is, but I really think his inclusion is more of an addition that’s too simple not to add if you already want Teddiursa.

Mismagius: It has Poltergeist. Word for Word Poltergeist. Less Hit Points, but still Poltergeist. Decks are still pretty vulnerable to this. He didn’t see as much play as I kinda expected him to. I wouldn’t write him off. The other Mismagius has an energy trans type power which works well with Jirachi’s Pokémon Power if you wanted to try that.

Jirachi: Obviously good as it lets you re-set Pokémon previously Rare Candied. With Mismagius its energy acceleration too. I don’t think I need to sell people on why this card is good.

Yanmega Prime: Another easy inclusion, it snipes, and can often rare Pokémon that get benched and can’t be rare candied. Against Magnezone, if you snipe the Magnemite they bench for 40, they can evolve it to Magnezone, but it still dies to the second Snipe.

It can really lock players out of a game entirely. It’s also a cheap, easy to attack attacker, and fulfills the snipe role well.

Ambipom/Weavile and Other Disruptive Decks

pokegym.netThe Ambipom Weavile deck went deep in CA, and Justin Williams posted an 8-1 swiss record with Sharpedo and Weavile. These decks just hope to steal games, and also do moderate to high damage midgame and hope that the other deck is off-balance enough to win that way.

The decks are good, but I don’t see myself using them due to them relying on my opponents not topdecking early, or just having a god start. These are decks that get much stronger on the play and can suffer pretty hard on the draw.

I know Justin posted his tournament report for info on these decks, and I’ll be honest, I don’t have a list for these so its hard to discuss them in too great of detail.

Now let’s address what I feel to be the two best decks in the format now: Donphan Yanmega Zoroark and Yanmega Magnezone.

Pooka took 2nd at Nats with the Donphan deck, which looks moderately well positioned against Yanmega Magnezone and the rest of the field. The beauty of the deck is that its Pokémon lines can fluctuate as the threats needed to be answered change. The key ones are Donphan and Yanmega, and beyond that you can toy with the lines.

Here is a list I’d try out if you wanted to build that deck:

Pokémon – 194 Yanma TM
3 Yanmega Prime
3 Phanpy HS
3 Donphan Prime
2 Zorua BLW
2 Zoroark BLW
1 Tyrogue HS
1 Manaphy UL

Trainers – 304 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
2 Sage’s Training
3 Pokémon Reversal
3 PlusPower
3 Pokégear 3.0
3 Junk Arm
3 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
1 Judge
1 Switch

Energy – 118 F
3 Double Colorless

As for Yanmega Magnezone, it was the deck I was using for side events at Nationals, which I won 4-of. I need to address something now regarding Yanmega Magnezone. I had been testing the deck with Martin Moreno for almost 2 months prior to U.S. Nationals. I was also having good results with Emboar Magnezone against it. That being said, as a writer, I want to address a problem that we all face.

pokegym.netMartin asked me not to talk about the deck. My goal is to bring the most cutting edge, up to date information to the readers that I can. Yet I face an issue when players bring decks to me with the pre requisite to showing me them being that I cannot “leak” them.

That’s lead me to what I’ve decided to be my policy regarding a balance between secrecy and writing. If a deck is already addressed elsewhere, or public knowledge, or obvious, I will cover it. If a deck is my own creation, or innovation, or a creator gives me consent to post about it, I will. Yet if someone brings me a new deck and demands it not be shared, I cannot bring myself to post it.

Part of me feels its unfair to the subscriber, but I feel it would be more unfair to the person who put their trust in me. As someone who networks quite a bit within the Pokémon community, I face this issue more than I’d like, and the last thing I want to do is burn bridges on either end (with the 6 Prizes Underground readers, and with my friends.) so I am doing my best to walk that thin line.

I wanted to take this time to give Martin full credit on the inclusion of the 1-0-1 Kingdra splash line in Yanmega Magnezone well over a month ago. I was skeptical at first, but the card quickly won me over, and is, in my opinion, mandatory. Here is the list I used at Nationals:

Pokémon – 203 Magnemite TM
1 Magneton TM
3 Magnezone Prime
4 Yanma TM
3 Yanmega Prime
1 Cleffa HS
1 Manaphy UL
1 Tyrogue HS
1 Jirachi UL
1 Horsea UL
1 Kingdra Prime

Trainers – 284 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
4 Judge
2 Sage’s Training
1 Copycat
4 Junk Arm
2 Switch
3 Pokémon Reversal

Energy – 125 P
5 L
2 Rainbow

Basically, I run the 1-0-1 Kingdra Prime, and I swapped out Pachirisu for Jirachi for its devo options. I basically merged the Kingdra Yanmega deck and Yanmega Magnezone, and got the best of both worlds. The energy has proven to be fine, but I’m not saying they are “perfect”.

pokegym.netI’ve had no issues with them, but that also doesn’t mean they are optimal. Jirachi’s often overlooked Pokémon Power is so good alongside Magnezone.

Yanmega and Kingdra are great together against other Magnezones as you can snipe a Magnemite right off the bench. Kingdra also gives you an odd ” leap ahead” exchange. If you are losing a close exchange, you can triple Spray Splash a baby to catch up while you get KOs elsewhere.

Not that common, but I’ve probably done it 2-3 times so far and it won me games I lose otherwise. Kingdra is also invaluable against Donphan. Yanmega isn’t “bad” against Donphan, but you still aren’t exactly killing Donphan effectively, and with Reversal, the dumb elephant is still killing Magnezones, so I’m not a big fan of the “kill each Donphan in 3 shots with Yanmega” game plan either. Kingdra is great with Jirachi too.

I’m pretty confident that if Worlds was tomorrow, this would be what I’d be using. It is really well-rounded, disruptive, and with some good raw power too. It really allows you to outplay people well too.

Just a side note: Copycat is the default draw Supporter/hand equalizer in this deck…but it’s pretty awful. I really hate it, it’s underwhelming when I’m setting up, and I rarely need it to match hand sizes midgame. Sage has performed much better, so I may just cut Copycat altogether. It’s weak.

Here is a Typhlosion Reshiram list too, for those interested:

Pokémon – 183 Cyndaquil HS
1 Quilava HS
3 Typhlosion Prime
3 Vulpix HS
3 Ninetales HS
3 Reshiram BLW
1 Tyrogue HS
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 284 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
3 Junk Arm
2 Energy Retrieval
1 Burned Tower
1 Flower Shop Lady
3 PlusPower
3 Pokémon Reversal
4 Engineer’s Adjustments
3 Rare Candy

Energy – 1414 R

Those are my “top 3” deck choices for Worlds at the moment, but now? Professor Cup! I wasn’t sure what to use up until the last minute, so I first audibled to Typhlosion Reshiram, then over to Samurott Feraligatr, which is what I wound up using. This is the list I settled on:

Pokémon – 171 Relicanth CL (Starter)
3 Totodile HS
2 Croconaw HS
2 Feraligatr Prime
1 Feraligatr CL
3 Oshawott BLW 27
2 Dewott BLW 29
3 Samurott BLW 32

Trainers – 274 Pokémon Collector
3 Engineer’s Adjustments
4 Rare Candy
4 Pokémon Communication
2 Fisherman
1 Flower Shop Lady
1 Energy Retrieval
2 Pokégear 3.0
2 Sage’s Training
2 Professor Juniper
1 Professor Oak’s New Theory
1 Professor Elm’s Training Method

Energy – 1616 W

I have no idea if this is even close to the correct list, and I went into the tournament having played an impressive 0 games with it. I did do some goldfishing, and saw that I wanted cards to add to my hand early (Engineer’s, Sage, etc.) to compliment Relicanth, but I eventually needed a Juniper or PONT to refill midgame.

Round 1 vs Magnezone Lanturn

pokegym.netI see a Pichu to start. Great. Lightning. I figured this would be pretty rough. He comments about how he has a rough hand, which I find hard to believe with him having just filled his bench. I have a really good hand, and I have access to Gatr Prime PLUS a second Stage 2-of my choice to attack with on the second turn.

I choose to go for the non Prime Gatr, as he has a full bench, and I think I can get a lot of damage off of Spinning Tail. Well, it turns out I definitely made the right choice as I managed to get 3 uses out of it, and he was holding Twins, so had I used Samurott or just attacked with Gatr Prime to kill Pichu, he’d have set up a turn earlier.

I had too good of a set up, and by leading with Gatr, who wasn’t weak to Lightning, I ran this game with Gatr Prime as my next attacker due to all the damage spread. I swept in the end with a Samurott but by that point his field was pretty barren and I was up a bunch of prizes.

My hand was really good, and he had a slower start, which I was thankful for because this format seemed very type advantage based.


Round 2 vs Lanturn Electrode Zekrom

Cute. Another Lightning deck. I get a slower start, and he pops an Electrode Prime right off the bat, and only gets one energy. He has an energy on the bench, and 3 energy on his Lanturn, so after he gets a kill, I promote Samurott. I had 3 energy attached to it, and a Gatr Prime down.

I Juniper, needing 1 more energy to KO Lanturn and leave his field crippled and him unable to return a KO on me, which would seal the game. To be fair, based on how I’m wording this you already KNOW I draw 7 Trainers. So I whiff, and have to two hit his Lanturn, allowing him to catch up on energy drops, making the exchange tight opposed to lopsided.

I end up taking the lead anyway, and he starts to Judge me. The first Judge sticks me hard, but I have Gatr Prime going, so I two shot a Lanturn. He drops a Zekrom with 2 Defenders off his Judge (nice odds etc.) and I sac something and build up the bench. (I’m at 1 Prize to his 2 at this point.)

pokemon-paradijs.comHe Judges again, drops another Defender, KOs my sacrificial lamb. My deck was 7 cards. 2 Collector and 5 Water. I need to not draw both Collector off of the Judge + draw for turn, and obviously I do, so I’m 10 damage short of the winning KO.

I was pretty aggravated both by whiffing the Juniper, and then the absurd chain of Defenders drawn off Judge plus the Collector draws at the end. On the plus side, there couldn’t be THAT many more Lightning decks right?


Round 3 vs Samurott Gatr

He had a Samurott Gatr deck as well, but I got a much faster start. I got fully set up (the deck ran gorgeously all day, fyi.) and took a lead, and eventually he just whiffed off a bad PONT and I took over pretty hard.


Round 4 vs Reshiram Typhlosion

I got paired vs a girl using Typhlosion Reshiram. Needless to say, this is an un-losable matchup, and it went accordingly. I noticed that a lot of the matchups in this format came down to what type either player was using.

I’m just confused as to whether or not the person who picked this format for the Prof Cup realized the game was built around Rock Paper Scissors and that enforcing one type per deck was the dumbest idea ever? For a tournament for Professors (I imagine the format is proposed by a Professor too) they really pick the least balanced ideas ever.

They need to think these things through. Just ask people. Anyone. Most of these formats can be picked apart by the average player within 5 minutes. It doesn’t make sense to me.


Round 5 vs Gatr Legend Deck

pokegym.netThis was an interesting game. I take a lead, but he comes back with a Suicune Raikou Legend, which I’m forced to two hit. He follows this up with a Kyogre Ground Legend which empties my deck quite a bit. He counters my Burned Tower with an Indigo Plateau (yuck) and I’m staring down 170 HP worth of Whale Lobster (he attached a Rainbow).

I’m pretty sweet though, and Juniper gifts me with 2 energy and my Retrieval, allowing my Samurott to get super tanked to deal 180 damage and 1HKO it for the win.


Round 6 vs Vileplume Roserade Yanmega

Well, he opens Roselia, and wins the flip and goes first. He flips 2/3 heads with Roselia and FTKs my Relicanth who is weak to grass. The end.

We play again for fun, pretending he only got 1 heads and Relicanth lived. I set up, and get Samurott up, and his deck doesn’t really have much of an answer for Samurott. He didn’t draw that well midgame (if he’d gotten a Roserade up and could have tried the status game against Samurott it coulda been tougher) but I’m pretty sure Samurott is just a beating against him in general.

Unless a deck was Lightning, Samurott seemed really overwhelming to deal with. I knew he’d be strong, but he played a lot better than I thought. I just wanted to give a shout out to him though, because his son ended up winning Nationals in the Junior Division! Amazing job!


Round 7 vs LostGar

Well after that last tilt inducing FTKing, I saw this guy’s Gengar as he shuffled pretty sloppily so I wasn’t very pleased as I was pretty sure that my deck just can’t out-race Gengar as I have no real tricks. In fact, LostGar should win most Swiss rounds. I opted not to use it because I assumed it’d get beat in top 16.

Anyway, that didn’t happen. I went first, and had another nuts draw. I decided it’d be cool to get a turn 2 Feraligatr Prime, turn 2 Samurott attacking. I won 6 turns later and out-raced Lost World. I’m sure the odds of me getting a turn 2 KO like that, and keeping it going, were not good, but I wasn’t going to complain.


pokegym.netIt was supposed to be an 8 round event, but they reduced it to 7, pretty much preventing me from making cut as a result. I finished somewhere in the 20s, but I won 12 packs none the less. (They gave out 2 packs per win, 1 pack per loss.)

The packs were pretty insane too. I opened them on my ride home, and opened 3 Full Art Zekrom, an Emboar, a Zekrom, a Seperior, and a Samurott (all the good ones).

I’m pretty sure that I’d use the same deck maybe tweak the list a little, I want a 2nd Burned Tower!) as it seemed really well positioned to win most matchups. I wish I’d gotten a chance to play in the top cut with it.

That being said, I REALLY liked the idea of getting to choose your opener! Every game was legit as a result, and hands were far more consistent. I enjoyed the feel of how the game played a lot more. I’d love to see this experimented with more, and maybe eventually adapted (one can dream that maybe this was a test run?).

An interesting idea would be to let people choose their opener after the coin flip for who goes first. That way, decks could build in a defense mechanism for games they go second. I’m sure choosing a corresponding basic can help offset the disadvantage a little bit. Just brainstorming a little bit.

The Last Stand

I guess before I go too much farther, I wanted to address my future in this game. I started playing the Pokémon Trading Card game at the end of 1998. I’d been tricked into getting addicted to TCGs by my friend David in 3rd grade when he convinced me to buy a starter deck of Magic the Gathering.

I got hooked, and eventually got into the old Decipher Star Wars CCG as well. That meant that when the Pokémon card game came out, as an addict to the video game already, I was pretty much hooked from the start. I went up to the original Pokémon “Test” league at the local Wizards of the Coast store “The Gamekeeper” and then, out to the now closed store “Compendium Collectibles” for my first ever sanctioned tournament at the end of 1999.

Chris at Worlds 2004

I wound up taking first in it, and continued to go to those events, now completely addicted well beyond anything I’d gotten involved in with Magic or Star Wars.

I eventually convinced my parents to drive down to Cincinnati for one of the original Qualifiers for the 2000 West Coast Super Trainer Showdown. I won my “golden invite” (which for all intents and purposes, if I remember, simply meant you got to cut in line when registering).

I never got to go to that event because it was quite far, but when we got the ECSTS in the Meadowlands in New Jersey, my family made the trip. I wound up taking 2nd on the first day (they effectively held 2 separate tournaments that weekend, one Saturday and a second one Sunday) with the abusive Feraligatr deck that would keep a stranglehold on the original Modified Format for awhile.

Day 2 I made a “metagame call” and used an Erika’s Victreebel deck as it did very well against the Gatr decks which would flood the event. I was one of two X-2s who made top cut, and ironically, with top cut being best of one and not matchplay, lost to, you guessed it, Feraligatr.

Nonetheless, top 8ing both days of the event simply fueled the fire. I went on to continue to travel around the country for tournaments and continued to perform well, and well, as much as I’d love to use up multiple paragraphs bragging and trying to artificially boost my own ego, I’ll pass.

One of the things I would always do while playing Pokémon was also play other games. In 2004 I briefly quit the game to play the VS System TCG. I couldn’t stay away from the game entirely, and from then on, I pretty much just multitasked and played multiple games at once. Pokémon I’d play competitively, and I’d have a “side game” to play more casually and for fun.

I got hooked on The Spoils before it went under, and then the World of Warcraft TCG. Most recently, I’ve started playing Magic again. I’ve invested a huge amount of effort and money into the game, and I’ve managed to do fairly well at the game thus far. My brother plays the game, and so do a bunch of our friends. I’ve really fallen in love with it in a way I haven’t since I first really got hooked on Pokémon.

Unfortunately, I’ve realized, as I’m trying to push my life forward and make something of myself, I simply don’t have the money or time to try and succeed at both games. I’ve sat and thought about it for a while, and I’ve realized I really want to put forth my primary effort into Magic.

slightlymagic.netPokémon has grown stagnant and hasn’t made any effort to improve their organized play, and has given us some of the worst formats I’ve played in lately, and it’s really started to wear on my enjoyment of the game when there are other options and alternatives out there which really offer a better overall product for a competitive player.

I understand the different demographics that different companies try to appeal to, but there is no shame in admitting that I am not the demographic they are appealing to. There has been a pretty long period now where I’ve felt that I’m playing because “I feel obligated to”.

I’ve associated such a large portion of “Myself” to “winning Pokémon tournaments” that it felt so unthinkable to even consider walking away. The pressure to continue winning for reputations sake alone made each tournament extremely stressful, and less and less fun.

I don’t feel that at a Magic event. If I do poorly I do poorly, and it’s on to the next event. Surely this “issue” is primarily all in my own head, but its an issue I’m faced with nonetheless. After playing a game at a top level for the better part of your life, the thought of performing anything less than that is terrifying.

Is it irrational to feel that way toward a hobby? Certainly, but unfortunately its been a trial I’ve been unable to overcome.

I had contemplated making this decision last year. I had made up my mind that I would be done competitively playing, when something awful happened. At Grand Prix Columbus, a big Magic event, my entire Magic collection got stolen. This was last July.

That setback really hurt financially, although I’ve managed to re-invest money and rebuild a collection slowly but surely to the point where now I own more than I previously did. This gave me little choice but to play out one more season.

A lot of people have wondered why I cared so much about making Worlds at the expense of trying to win States, Regionals, or even Nationals, whose combined prize pay out exceeded that of Worlds, and had far easier competition.

Well, with this being my last year, I felt that I really, really wanted to play in Worlds. As somewhat of a compulsive perfectionist when it comes to something I really care about, I really wanted to end my career playing in the World Championships.

Having taken 2nd at Worlds, and having won Nationals, at the end of the day, my proudest accomplishment has been being one of I believe 3 players to have earned an invite to Worlds for every season he’s played in. (Jay Hornung and Ross Cawthon being the other two I believe.)

“Blowing” that streak would have irrationally gotten to me, so I made getting to Worlds my top priority, and, with the rankings for North America reflecting the outcome of all 3 National Championships, I’m sitting at 30th in the continent and have gotten that invite.

So come August, I’ll be making my final stand. I have that drive to do well, the fire is lit, but at the same time, I accomplished my “goal” for the year. Anything I accomplish at Worlds is merely a bonus, and I feel that the pressure is lifted. I’m going into a high stakes event feeling like I will have fun for the first time in years. And I really miss that.

One of the other things to come from this is that it allows me to judge. I’ve always been critical of the judging and staffing at events, and rather than sit and try and be a critic, I really want to get involved and try and help. I got to judge Regionals last year, and have judged multiple Pre Releases, Battle Roads, and City Championships, and I really enjoyed doing it.

For every criticism I have about the game and how it is handled, I think efforts are being made to make this game as good as it can be. While my comments can often be negative, I say them not to belittle or attack the game or those who are working to better it, but to try and point out what can be done better, in hopes that flaws can be mended and the best product possible can emerge.

My ability to really put my own foot forward in this regard has been hindered by my playing in every event I can go to. It is hard to get a chance to judge when I’m always grinding out rating points, a grind I am more than tired of doing.

pokegym.netSo not only do I give myself the chance to play a game I am hooked on now (Magic), but it gives me an opening to stay involved with Pokémon in a different capacity I also love, and hopefully help the game in the long run. I really can never turn my back on this game and its players. I’ve made far too many friendships to ever walk away.

I made the transition from Middle School to High School, from High School to College, and from College to degenerate bum living with my parents doing nothing, and the only friends I’ve maintained through all of that have been those I’ve made playing this great game, and even if I was to give up this game cold turkey, I couldn’t ever bring myself to give up on those friendships I’ve made.

I “want” to play Magic; I “need” to stay involved in this community.

Now, this was my original plan, but things have gotten a bit murkier in terms of my future. This fall, the Pokémon Trading Game Online goes live. I’ve been addicted to Magic Online for quite some time now, and I can only imagine I will be hooked just as hard with the Pokémon equivalent.

I plan to invest some good money into it, get a card base, and grind my heart out on it. This allows me to stay active, without spending the money to travel (and have it cut into my tournament time: the # of times I’ve skipped Magic events to make it to a Pokémon one is astounding.)

An alternative has been put in place that makes it more realistic to keep playing while still putting most of my resources into Magic. This will also keep me up to date on the metagame, and the format, which will allow me to keep putting out cutting edge information for this website. I enjoy writing on here, and I really wish that more content such as this site existed for the game.

I wanted to give a shoutout to the guys over at the Top Cut for their efforts for increasing event coverage and really trying to promote this game. Between this site, and that site, I really have high hopes for the future of this game.

I guess I should summarize what I’ve been trying to say in the past paragraphs. I’m going to be judging all tournaments I travel to for the next forseeable future past this Worlds. I’ll be playing Magic, but I will also be playing Pokémon Online regularly. I’ll continue to stay involved in the game, and will continue to write for this site.

I don’t think people really grasp the impact that Pokémon Online will have on this game. The metagame will be evolving far faster than we are used to. The ability for information to spread world-wide will be increased drastically.

In Magic, the impact Magic Online has on the evolution of decks and metagame calls cannot be ignored and has had a profound effect on the quality of decklist that even casual players have. I see this as being the future, and I cannot wait to be involved in that. I’m far more excited for this program than I have been with anything Pokémon has done since the implementation of the original Pokémon Organized Play structure put in place in 2004.

I guess to address the upcoming World Championships, I’d like to put out that outside of myself, J-Wittz and Jay Hornung will both be representing this site in the big tournament. I am unsure if the other staffers will be going to try and grind in, but I hope they do.

Also, on Sunday night, after the event, I will be participating in the Top Cut Invitational, an 8 person event with full video coverage and live commentary. Others invited to this exclusive event include Jason Klaczynski, Yamato, Yuta, Sami Sekkoum, Yacine Sekkoum, Con Le, and Justin Sanchez. So far, myself, Justin, and Jason have accepted the invitation, and we’ll have to see what we hear back from the others.

pokegym.netI think this will be a fantastic event, and hopefully showcase the type of coverage that can be offered for events. Proving it CAN be done is the first step toward getting it done on a regular basis, so hopefully this starts things in motion.

The coverage being offered at Nationals did not go unnoticed by the higher-ups, so hopefully it’ll light a fire that’ll get some positive changes put in place. I for one am cautiously optimistic!

Anyway, I look forward to seeing everyone who ends up making it to Worlds in San Diego, and I suggest anyone whose capable of going do so. I really feel San Diego is my favorite location for the event, as is it full of things to do at a relatively low cost. I’ve wound up having more fun at Worlds in SD then I have in any of the other locations, Hawaii included.

I’m looking to head out there early, to really maximize the experience. We have a whole new format to test, effectively, and I look forward to doing so, and hopefully putting up a strong performance in the main event this year. I’m looking to go deeper than top 32 this year.

It’s been a great ride guys, but this chapter of my Pokémon career is coming to an end, and I look forward to what lays ahead for me in this game. I know how tacky this is, and I usually avoid doing these, but I just wanted to give a list of the guys I wanted to thank for all the fun I’ve had in this game over the years.

Jason Klaczinski
Alex Brosseau
Seena Ghaziaskar
Emily Engle
Matt Moss
Matt Alvis
Jim Ferrell
Brandon Miller
Ray Wouters
Stephanie Jones
John Lathem
Laura Lathem
Eric Craig
Orion Craig
Heidi Craig
Sami Sekkoum
Yacine Sekkoum
Drew Holton
Tom Dolezal
Martin Moreno
David Marquardt
Brad Wayne
Samantha Bittinger
Michael Pramawat
Luke Reed
Tracy Key
Austin Reed
Justin Phillips
Chad Harris
Chris Silver
Ajay Sridhar
Jimmy Ballard
Jimmy O’brien
Adam Vernola
Dave Coleman
Derek Farber
Steve Gillette
Margarette Gillette
Ryan Patterson
AJ Schumacher
Michael Collins
Heather Henry
Stephen McGaffney
Justin Williams
Kyle Sucevich
Josue Rojano
Levi Canfield
Stuart Benson
Mindy Lambkee
Dustin Zimmerman
Jayson Harry
Emily Elsner
Heather Lynch
Alex Schacht
David Cook
Ryan Kazimer
Dan Polo
Jeanette Stringer
Rachel Stringer
Catherine Stringer
Mikey Fouchet
Jay Hornung
John Kettler
Blair Bennett
Adam Capriola
Liz Lucchesi
AJ Deloyle
Tyler Ninomura
Nitish Doolub
Tom Hall
Kaitlyn Worrell
Matt Ennocenti
Eric Ennocenti
Amelia Bottemiller
Ande Myers
Kyle Lesniewicz
Josh Wittenkeller
Gabe Arriola
Jacob Rebescher
Anthony Eason
Adam Bruggeman
Jack Iler
Brent Siebenkettle
Alex Wooton
Michael Weldon
Liz Simmerman
John Silvestro
Stephen Silvestro
Aaron Curry
Rosalba Chiofalo
Ross Cawthon
Rich Olsen
Mike O’donnell
Matt Nawal
Miriam Hunker
Sean Gagnon
Stephanie Barlock
Michawl Barlock
Denise Barlock
Jake Burt
John Wetz
Steven Davis
Maurice Van Den Bosch
Andrew Mondak
Ryan Vergel
Chris Bianchi
Adam Maldonado
Carlos Maldonado
Brian Six
Colin Moll
John Chimento
Josef Bolton
Matt Dunford
Matt Yuen
Pablo Meza
Sebastian Crema
all of the other Ohio players I’ve forgotten to mention
all of the other Seattle players I’ve forgotten to mention
all of the great staff that I’ve gotten the chance to meet over the years

I’m really finding myself having some crazy flashbacks as I think back to the people I’ve met and played with over the years…I’ve gone back as far as 1999 for some of these people, and it’s really crazy to think about all of them people you’ve met and befriended playing this game.

Sometimes its easy to forget the great times you’ve had. Whats even worse is I know there are plenty of people deserving of recognition that I’ve forgotten to include, and to them I’m sorry. Same to those whose difficult last names I’ve misspelled (I’m looking at you Brent!).

I look forward to adding even more names to that list in the coming years, and I encourage everyone to take some time and think back to those people you’ve met in this game that maybe you haven’t talked to in a while. It’s quite a trip down memory lane.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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