pokegym.netHey everyone! The past few weeks have been pretty hectic with me finally getting a chance to log a pretty hefty number of games with all of the post Nationals data that we’ve had presented to us. This let me get a better overall picture of the information without the variance we get from an “actual tournament.”
Tournaments are the “real thing” and results from them cannot be overlooked, but at the same time, when analyzing the placement of decks, you really need to accept that extraneous factors have led to a good deal of those results. Often an undeserving deck will place higher based on play skill differences, or based on favorable matchups that are not indicative of how the deck would perform in any future events.
On the same note, often times great decks have a bad run, or catch suspect matchups and perform worse than would be expected.
As players, it is our job to collect the decks, then try to sift through the results and see if we can
“correct” any of the viability “inaccuracies” that we have thrown at us when merely looking at what decks came in the top 32, for example.
Now, of course, not everyone is going to have enough time to go through and test every matchup so when you are crunched for time, accepting results as accurate is often better than raw theory crafting (depending on how much you trust your judgment).
Luckily for me, I have had enough time to go through and test a good number of these decks, and while I haven’t tested every matchup (usually just enough key ones to realize whether I feel a deck is viable or not), I have gotten a good chunk of the work out of the way.
I’ve also worked on a few new tweaks on lists, and have a new take on Emboar Magnezone that I wanted to discuss. It isn’t “perfect” yet, but it has been putting up some pretty good results none the less! I’ll go through and address some of the my findings.
pokemon-paradijs.comI saw that Tyranitar Serperior managed to place in the top 8-of U.S. Nationals, and as a huge Tyranitar fan (back when I was 16 and posting on the PokéGym, my screen name was Tyranitar666 … because Tyranitar was awesome, and because when you are 16, adding 666 to the end of names was obviously edgy and cool).
I was really hoping it would be a great alternative heading into Worlds. In theory, the deck’s spread game would be strong against Magnezone Yanmega, and against the various fire decks, which would have an issue killing the 160 HP beast before it really got a lot of damage off.
I built a list, and had really depressing results. The list at Nationals relied on a large Twins engine. It either fell behind naturally, or fell behind as a result of not taking prizes as it used Darkness Howl to
rack up damage, so Twins was a great engine.
Unfortunately, as this was the case when testing LostGar as well, sometimes even Twins falls behind with being able to give you enough resources to keep going. Turns when they kill a Tyranitar can be pretty demanding on your set up, and if Twins is being used to help further the rest of your set up (Serperiors, etc.) and also getting you your next draw cards, it fails.
The lack of a draw engine like Ninetales or Magnezone Prime in a deck full of Stage 2s actually really shows its weakness in this deck, even if Twins is a useful tool. I found a number of games where I started off on even footing but was unable to keep up with the consistency of other decks and lost too much footing as I struggled to keep setting up.
Another one of the other big issues I’d found with the deck was that the bench damage adds up. You either fall behind too much by not using Tyranitar early enough (either because you don’t get it out, or because you are being conservative so as to not cripple your bench) or you start using it and get stuck putting a ton of damage on your bench before Serperior is able to get evolved.
pokegym.netSure, some games you get set up pretty quickly and you are able to get going right out of the gates, but I found a lot of games where I was just hurting myself too much and couldn’t get Serperior AND Tyranitar up in a timely manner.
Having a benched Snivy when you start to Darkness Howl is annoying because it is then an open invitation for Yanmega to snipe Snivy, leaving you in a tough spot to ever get him back out. I know this can be “solved” by benching multiple Snivy but again, the overall pressure of set up gets overwhelming with this deck at times.
This lead me to also discover that my “Game 3” plan was really, really bad. In match play, I could win one game, lose another, and really have a poor game plan to ever win the 3rd in a timely manner. Outside of the deck’s strong spread plan, it’s got a pretty poor ability to keep up with other decks in terms of raw KOing power.
Another issue the deck had was with Energy. The deck was kinda all over the place. You wanted D Energy to power Tyranitar, but you also wanted Double Colorless Energy to use its bigger attacks. You wanted Rainbow Energy to power Tyranitar, and Serperior, and the Jirachi the deck wants. That said, you also have a desire to run a few Psychic so Jirachi can try to actually devolve multiple targets end game to catch up on prizes if need be.
Luckily Twins helps you run a really awkward energy line, and I wound up with 4 Darkness, 4 Rainbow, 2 Double Colorless, 2 Psychic at a 12 count. I was never able to really get comfortable with the energy.
This is also a deck that showcases another extraneous factor that isn’t accounted for in most big tournaments like Nationals. When a “new deck” hits the scene, players do not quite know how to play against it. They make fundamental approach mistakes. These aren’t quite tactical errors, or basic misplays as players “appear” to be playing a strong game, but they merely took the wrong approach out of the gates to win a matchup.
pokegym.netThey may be executing their game plan flawlessly, but they are using the wrong game plan in general. This is a flaw a lot of players make, and it is hard to identify as incorrect play because at its surface it appears that the player is playing correctly.
Playing your deck the same way you would against say, Magneboar, is incorrect against Tyranitar. Keeping the bench lighter on hanging targets, while playing around Twins, while keeping them off of Serperiors, etc, are all priority changes that players learn as they test against this deck, and the more and more games they play against it, the more the results get skewed.
Tyranitar is a deck that will punish a player for over extending and treating the matchup like a slug fest. The more they get used to how the deck functions, the more they are able to increase their win-rate by exploiting gaps in the deck’s game plan. I felt less and less in contention the more I tested the deck as my opponent became better able to fight it off. I quickly lost confidence in it, despite really wanting the deck to be Tier 1.
I tried a few “variations” too, but they never really got the job done. I tried a Mandibuzz line, deciding
not to bother with Serperior, as it offered resistance to Fighting, as Donphan was a major issue for the
standard list, and also wasn’t hurt by your bench hits.
It had synergy with DCE and the bench damage. It actually played fairly well, but Mandibuzz had that lovely Lightning weakness. I am really tired of having attackers weak to Fighting, Lightning, or Grass at this point. They pretty much require a heavily committed Plan B to beat decks able to exploit those weaknesses, or at least require you to have some sort of Rock Paper Scissors plan in place.
Unfortunately, decks aimed at spreading and killing the bench really aren’t good at those types of matchups so I don’t see this being able to pull that off.
I also tried a 1-0-1 Samurott line. This is a card I REALLY like. It performed beautifully for me at the Professor Cup, and single handedly gives you a huge edge against Typhlosion Reshiram (it 1HKOs their entire deck and is a hard kill for them) and is really good against Donphan, and the rest of the Stage 1s deck that Pooka piloted to 2nd at Nationals. (It requires they effectively 3 hit it.)
Its Ability also prevents Tyranitar’s bench damage to it, so it had a natural spot in the deck. While Samurott performed well, it wasn’t enough to pick up Tyranitar’s slack. I’m still looking for a deck to abuse Samurott in, as it is really good.
Unfortunately, it can’t deal with a Magnezone Prime, so it needs to be paired with something that can, and unfortunately its heavy Water commitment doesn’t really pair well with any of the Fighting types needed to beat Magnezone.
I also tried a 2-1-2 Kingdra line in the deck. Kingdra provided a good counter to Donphan. It also allowed you to use Spray Splash to really put pressure on their bench. It seemed like a great pairing, but unfortunately, the deck was just REALLY unable to pull off all of that without being too clunky. Twins or not, the deck really just needs a better engine before it can fit all the cool tricks it wants to.
So in closing, I was unable to find a good Tyranitar list. I found a bunch of really promising ideas, but in the end, I couldn’t ever make any of them really execute the game plan to a satisfactory level and instead was left with a bunch of games feeling like I was close, but never able to close them out.
It leaves me feeling like a deck exists for this card, but I know I haven’t been able to crack that problem yet, and with Worlds in 2 weeks, I have to move on and test the decks that have been putting up results.
pokegym.netYes, here we go again. Chris babbles about Emboar Magnezone again. Last article I “defended myself” about the deck, claiming that the deck’s lack of success stems not from the deck’s raw potential but from the build being used being inadequate for the Nationals metagame. Now, this article, I prove it by offering up an updated list better suited for the current direction the metagame has skewed off in.
The old list was focused on being fast, hoping to outrace a field full of decks also aiming to score 1HKO after 1HKO. Now, the decks have taken toward being fast and disruptive and hoping to win that way.
So rather than trying to outrace decks which are inherently going to be faster while also trying to throw off this deck’s game plan, I’ve forced myself to accept the fact that the deck is going to be the default ” play from behind” deck.
The one good thing that came from the Tyranitar testing is the strength that Twins offers. Twins is very good at getting selective cards. It isn’t quite good at fueling an entire deck, and in turn, it needs some source of bulk card advantage.
The first (and admittedly obvious) pairing that jumped to mind was Magnezone. With Yanmega Magnezone wanting to inherently be the aggressor and be the quick attacking deck that it is, Emboar became the best pairing for Magnezone in this deck.
Its Yanmega Magnezone matchup really only suffered because Yanmega Magnezone could do a good job of preventing the deck from setting up. If both decks got up at roughly the same time, Emboar Magnezone would be able to routinely overpower it. This got me thinking, which led me to making the following list. OK, this wasn’t the first version, but the one I came to after tweaks, which I’ll explain after the list.
Emboar Magnezone 2.0
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 28
4 Pokémon Collector
Energy – 14
pokemon-paradijs.comThe deck pretty much accepts it is going to go down in prizes, and, in turn, will Twins for a Rare Candy and Magnezone Prime, and go off from there. I originally cut down on the Junk Arm count, but kept finding myself needing them, if not for getting back Rare Candy or Energy Retrieval, then simply for the same of emptying my hand of clunk to get larger Magnetic Draws.
I had to add the one Circulator because, at the end of the day, I kept having issues against midgame baby flips. I’d start to take the lead and have a huge pressure edge, and get stalled by a Tyrogue and allow them to get back into the game.
1 Pokémon Reversal is also an option over the Circulator. I like the reliability of Circulator at the moment, but Reversal can be huge. Junk Arm helps you re-use Reversal, but at the same time, the Junk Arms are pretty thinly spread as it is.
Twins lets you abuse the single copies pretty well. One Switch, one Burned Tower, one Energy Retrieval, and one Circulator all become much more viable numbers as a result. Twins also helps with getting Rayquaza Deoxys Legend out when needed.
I’m still not entirely sold on the card, but, for all intents and purposes, it’s pretty strong. Yanmega Magnezone gets in these spots where it can’t really return a KO on it if they get forced into a string of needed to KO 140 HP Magnezones, so you can just pressure them into spots where they can’t answer RDL.
Plus, by cutting it, I don’t really free up that many spots as I have to add Bad Boar back in as a concession to Donphan. Circulator actually helps with Donphan within reason, as it lets you ignore it for a bit while you still score KOs.
The only “issue” I’m having at the moment seems to be from needing a bit more Energy Retrieval. I’d love that Fisherman or FSL, or even a 15th energy. I had to make cuts to fit more Supporters and consistency though. This list isn’t final as I really do feel a little bit of work can be done to flesh out some answers to its flaws.
I also only have 9 basic Pokémon. I’d like an additional Reshiram just to inflate the basic count and make it harder for me to get 1HKO’d.
PokéGear is a card I’ve been REALLY excited over! This card has upped the odds of getting a T1 Collector, followed by a T2 Sage or Twins by a lot. This boost to consistency is huge in this format where decks are just not forgiving if they fall behind. It also offers “Judge Protection” to a degree because they also make all of your Junk Arms “live cards” once one is used.
It’s really helped to smooth out the deck, and while they seem ” expendable” in the list because I need to try and fit a few extra cards, I’m not really so sure that’s the case, as they really do a lot to make the deck flow well.
This deck still gets mauled by Vileplume. Let me be the first to say that. On that note, with Vileplume being an admitted concession, this brings up an interesting idea. I toyed with the idea of cutting my Stage 1 cards entirely. The deck runs 4 Rare Candy and 4 Junk Arms. With Twins, it becomes much easier to reliably get access to Rare Candy.
I’ve rarely found myself actually using the Stage 1s, and with the only deck using Trainer Lock being hopeless as it is, I don’t know if they are even necessary. This is a pretty radical concept, but I think there is some validity to it.
Well, I can officially rule this deck out as a viable choice. I played with and against this deck, and it put up repulsive numbers against both Emboar Magnezone (a matchup even the deck’s supporters acknowledge is inherently bad) but more depressingly, Yanmega Magnezone.
Emboar Magnezone, after U.S. Nats, could be considered a legitimate concession. If you had to have a bad matchup, that one is fine to accept. Yanmega Magnezone, on the other hand, is certainly not. The deck is going to be represented in far too high of numbers to be ignored.
I’ve heard all sorts of rough numbers on how the Yanmega Magnezone vs Typhlosion Reshiram matchup goes, but after logging about 10 games of the matchup and Typhlosion winning one, I can safely say I side with the camp that claims Yanmegazone beats it. Every game made it feel like Typhlosion was just a huge underdog.
Numbers can lie. 10 games, in the grand scheme of things, is a pretty small sample size. Yet you can get a pretty good feel for how matchups play as you exceed about 5 games. I feel I’ve played this game enough to be able to identify when a deck is outmatched in a matchup, and sadly, this seems to be the case here.
Typhlosion itself strikes me as a terribly mediocre card. Its only “advantage” is that it’s self sufficient. It gets energy in play regardless of your hand. It therefore isn’t weak to Judge, or Vileplume. Unfortunately, it does so much less than what Emboar does in order to give you those perks. I just can’t find myself supporting this card.
I found so many spots where, simply by keeping them to 1 Typhlosion in play, they ran themselves out of energy in play. By doing “Typhlosion Control” I would ignore Reshiram, let it get kills, and then either kill the final Typhlosion, making them wiff on Blue Flare, or kill the Reshiram, forcing them to miss Blue Flare because they can’t power a Reshiram in one turn without 2 Typhlosion. This, coupled with the fact they can’t really reliably 1HKO multiple Magnezones, adds up.
I’m not sure how the deck matchups up against Pooka’s deck, because I gave up on it after the Yanmegazone matchup. Every format has those decks you simply can’t afford a bad matchup against, and that is one of them.
Donphan Yanmega Zoroark
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is one of the other decks that I feel is pretty strong. It has a few consistency issues, but, because it gets to run all Stage 1s, you have enough room to fit a lot of Supporters. The deck can steal a lot of games, and has a great Game 3, so if you are playing in the Grinder, I think the deck has a pretty nice edge.
I’ve seen lists with varying approaches. Some run a thicker Donphan line, others play the deck with the focus being on Yanmega, and then simply using Zoroark and Donphan as the deck’s “counters” to the cards which answer Yanmega efficiently. The initial thinking is that the Yanmega approach is “correct” but you can do that while also offering more support to Donphan.
A few options for the deck have popped up the more I think about it. First, a card which saw some success at U.S. Nationals was Blissey Prime. It made it into the top 8 alongside Kingdra Prime and Yanmega, as a counter to other decks spreading and bench damage.
The card seems inherently good against Yanmega, and other Stage 1 decks. This could be an interesting inclusion in this deck because it not only is a possible attacker (not a very relevant type, but it’s beefy and can take a good hit) but it also stops spread decks, and negates your own Earthquake damage.
While addressing Earthquake damage, we can talk about Reshiram and Zekrom. A few Donphan Zekrom Reshiram decks showed up at Nationals, as Donphan fuels Outrage. These are both cards that offer types otherwise unrepresented in the Stage 1s deck, so they warrant some mention.
I’m not sure which, if not neither or both, to run. They both offer some strengths. Lightning is a really good type. It’s a great option against cards such as Yanmega, and Kingdra, and Samurott, and Mandibuzz, and a number of other water weak attackers.
Reshiram, on the other hand, has a less exploitable weakness, but also a worse attacking type. There aren’t a lot of cards weak to Fire being played, so the upside here is minimal. It does “turn off” Kingdra Prime, a card that is otherwise really good at exploiting Donphan.
Even if it never attacks, it keeps in check a card which otherwise offers up some pretty rough resistance to the deck as a whole. Kingdra Prime Yanmega actually seems like it would do really well against this deck, actually. So let’s address that deck next!
Kingdra Prime Yanmega
pokegym.netThe idea behind this deck is to do a bunch of spread damage, and abuse Jirachi. Now, I’ve incorporated a lot of the strengths of this deck into my Yanmega Magnezone list. I feel that the deck suffers from the same issues that a lot of decks have: It tries to get out a bunch of Stage 2 cards without any real draw engine.
It also does very little to initially impact the board (all the kills happen mid to late game ) so decks can reliably continue to exert a lot of pressure on the deck, meaning you have to really keep up a good flow of resources.
My opinion of this deck boils down to one thing: add Magnezone. The deck has a decent amount of room to it. Either take Magnezone Yanmega and add Jirachi and a 1-0-1 or 2-1-2 line of Kingdra to it, or take this deck and add a 2-1-2 Magnezone line to it. The whole cluster of cards works so well together.
I’m not sure which “half” to focus on, but Magnezone covers almost all of the deck’s weaknesses. It covers your draw issue, it lets you score 1HKOs (the deck previously couldn’t deal with tanks well. A card such as Samurott, for example, would be nigh impossible to ever actually take down. The deck lost to ZPS in the finals of CA Nats. Think it would have lost if it could have relied on Magnezone to eventually 1HKO Zekroms?) and gives you a beefy attacker that isn’t weak to Lightning.
That is one of the major issues I have with the deck “unaltered.” It has a very popular type as its sole weakness.
Now, I’ve mentioned a lot of issues with the deck, but I actually do like it. I just feel that it offers the same perks as a different deck/build which does it better, so I can’t justify “regressing” to this build over it. It isn’t even so much an example of a Tier 1 deck vs a Tier 2 deck. I feel both are Tier 1…only one is still a bit better.
pokegym.netI stand by the fact I don’t like Vileplume at the moment. It is bad in match play for all you grinders out there…or for those who intend to make the top cut at Worlds…so ideally anyone who cares, and it is also just bad against Yanmega. Its Yanmega Magnezone matchup, in almost every incarnation, is suspect, and it is bad against Pooka.dec (Stage 1s) so I’m not sure I’d want to play this.
Now, there is one upside (and I feel like I’ve already picked a part Vileplume as a deck in my last article) to Vileplume. I think it has some plus side with Samurott. Decks will be hard pressed to chew through Samurott without Trainers, and if you turn off Reversal, Samurott gets to set up pretty reliably.
The challenge is, how do you make it work really. Magnezone is handicapped by Vileplume pretty well, especially if you run Muk. Unfortunately, Muk is clunky, and has an awful Retreat Cost, and eats into your desire to otherwise play a lot of W Energy. I even toyed with the idea of running Gatr Samurott with a splash of Vileplume.
This may actually just be the best solution, but it still offer a great answer to Yanmega Magnezone, though. The deck’s type coverage is just so good against any Water approach you can take that even by removing their Trainers you are fighting such an uphill battle.
You’ll notice one of the huge trends of this article: Me trying to find a home for Samurott, who is absolutely amazing against half of the field, and absolutely awful vs the other half. There has to be a solution for it…but I haven’t found it yet. Just don’t be surprised if I show up at Worlds with Samurott in some capacity.
pokegym.netI’ve retested this deck a bit and have regained a bit of confidence in it. It’s not bad, and it’s pretty fast, which may help a lot for the Grinder, but I’m just not sure this is going to be any better than just using Yanmega Magnezone. I dislike the lack of midgame draw power it offers.
Sure, Zekrom offers a few more turn one wins, but let me address something. In this format, it seems like whoever goes first legitimately wins 70+% of the time. If you are able to set up so strongly that you could score a first turn win, you are, MORE THAN LIKELY, going to win that game if it goes long too.
So those games where ZPS sets up so smoothly to score a turn one win, I’d imagine Yanmega Magnezone wins in a drawn out game too. It just has a far better mid and late game for those games it doesn’t “god start.”
That being said, it has its perks for the Grinder. Or even in matchplay in general. Early prizes in Game 3 matter. If you get that turn 1 Zekrom going first, you are likely going up by 2 whole prizes before they can hope to return a kill. With a few Reversals, that can be a pretty big lead.
Now, here is a list I’ve been working on that merges ZPS with Yanmega Magnezone.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 27
Energy – 12
It’s a standard ZPS list, with Zekrom and a higher Pachi count with Shaymin. It won’t reliably score a turn 1 Zekrom, but it offers a nice reliable turn 2 kill, and a quick basic attacker. You can trim it to 1 Shaymin, 1 Pachi, 1 Zekrom if you want as well. The Zekrom gives you an edge in mirror match.
If you did cut it to 1/1/1 you can add a Seeker, and maybe a PlusPower (I HATE PlusPower in Yanmega Magnezone, but with Zekrom it offers some nice perks I’ll admit, especially with Junk Arm vs other Magnezones.)
Here is a list that was sent to me by Adam Bruggeman from Ohio, and I’ll make a few tweaks to it for my own list. He gave me permission to post it, so here we go!
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 31
Energy – 12
Raichu is actually a pretty awesome card right now. It makes for a pretty streamlined ZPS approach. It’s a great attacker alongside Yanmega as it does the heavy hitting pretty well. I was looking at Raichu for the Professor Cup actually. I think I would make a few changes to the deck though. Here is the list I’d try out:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 29
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comI added in a Zekrom and moved the focus off of Raichu to Yanmega a bit. Yanma is the best starter available, with free retreat, so I’d rather open that then Pikachu. Raichu is clearly good but you use him more in the Magnezone role where you want to use him interchangeably with Yanmega to blast away whatever they manage to set up.
I’m not entirely sold on the Trainers, but I feel like I’m tightening the deck up a little bit. I’d like a 3rd PokéGear because it’s a card I really want to use in any Stage 1 deck without draw power, especially when I’m using Judge. I think perhaps a 2-2 split on Judge/Copycat is better here, though.
Copycat has just proven to be such an awful card in testing for me, but with Yanmega, I guess it’s somewhat necessary. It’s a concession I’m not happy to have to make, but without Magnezone, matchup hand sizes really does become a chore.
Anyway, in closing, I wanted to address a topic that a lot of people have really covered already. Playing in the Grinder isn’t quite the same as playing in the main event of a tournament. With every single round being match play, you really have to address the speed of your deck. A deck like LostGar, while otherwise a passable choice, would be less than advised for the Grinder.
A deck such as TwinBoar as I proposed earlier, wouldn’t be as good either. You have to run a deck capable of switching into a fast, prize taking game plan far too often to want to be saddled with a reactive engine. Ideally something with Yanmega would be good.
The other thing I want to point out is time management. Realize you have to win 2 games. If a game is going sour, scoop! It’s the same as in top cut, but you need to be following these guidelines every round. Knowing when to forfeit can be a huge edge.
Especially, if you win game one, you need to try and estimate when you hit the 55 minute mark or so (assuming the Grinder is an hour time limit. No official time has been given yet, but I’d like to hope it is an hour), you want to scoop. If the game ends on time, the tie breaker, Game 3, is a flip for who goes first.
pokegym.netYou REALLY want to go first Game 3, so even if you haven’t “officially” lost, make sure you finish set up for Game 3 before the 60 minute mark so you have the huge advantage going into the game playing first. That is the biggest edge you can have in this format, regardless of matchup.
Certain card choices can be sacrificed for your list knowing how you have to play your games. While an emphasis on speed is important, don’t just gamble away with some overextending list that is just going to lose the real games you play. You need to balance your list between one well equipped to handle real games against a variety of decks, and one that can switch into high gear when needed.
If I was playing in the grinder, I would want to be using either the Stage 1 deck, or Yanmega Magnezone. The Fire decks are too reactive, and can get clunky starts. Tyranitar, and Yanmega Kingdra, are both bad in Game 3. Vileplume is slower too. While these can all be defended as “real decks” when you cannot afford to take a loss, I’m not convinced that’s where I want to be. I’d rather have the intangible edge of being the aggressor in most games.
You don’t have those 7 rounds or so of 1-and-done games you normally do in Swiss. This is the same argument I was making regarding Vileplume Gengar vs LuxChomp earlier this year. It’s a bigger edge then you might think.
I have just officially confirmed my invite, and have gotten my plane ticket to San Diego with my girlfriend Emily (she got us tickets for 282 dollars each! Great job for it being like 2 weeks before the flight date). I’ll be in San Diego from Wednesday until Monday morning, so if you are out there, say hi! I’ll likely be stalking the grinder all day to see what’s doing well at the last minute. It should be a fun tournament.
I’m curious to see how the match play ends up impacting things. It would be an interesting experiment at the very least. I imagine those qualified for Worlds have already been doing some heavy testing, and hopefully those trying to grind in have an idea of what they want to play as well. So, good luck to everyone, and see you in San Diego!
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