Hey everybody, Dan here with another written article for all of you in the 6P community. I’ve thought quite hard about what I wanted this article to be about since us competitive players have hit that gap in between seasons where there’s simply nothing to do but playtest.
There are no premier events to play in, maybe a few prereleases which are always fun, but all we have are leagues to get our newest decks ready for the competitive world.
So what I finally landed on tackling was how to correctly build a certain deck and tweak it depending on what you expect to play against, specifically the deck we all know as ‘Stage One Rush’. I felt that this would be useful for players still finding new decks by providing many different lists to work from as well as people that already have their ‘stock lists’ sorted and want to know how to improve on them when it comes to those Autumn/Fall Battle Roads in a month’s time.
A Little Bit of Background – Choosing My New Deck
pokebeach.comToday’s deck of focus is Stage One Rush, as mentioned above and it has some pretty strong credentials to its name already being a 1st Place showing in the Seniors division at US Nats, along with a 2nd Place in Masters piloted by none other than Kyle ‘Pooka’ Sucevich.
I personally put this deck together after Pooka’s performance with it since it seemed like a very interesting concept and to be honest, I really didn’t like it. I was doing a lot of testing against Yanmega/Kingdra at the time and it just seemed to get ripped apart every time, even with a Reshiram tech to deal with the Kingdra.
So, alas, I went back to the drawing board and settled on playing Yanmega/Kingdra myself for a while with decent results, but things just started to go downhill with it all of a sudden. When it came around to racking up about 50 games with the deck, I realised that playing Stage 2s was ultimately a game of shuffle-drawing until you managed to get a Rare Candy and the Stage 2 to get a decent game, which didn’t include scrambling for the pieces needed to complete your strategy.
You can always say that evolving manually is always there, but that was simply just too slow in a format ruled by Yanmega.
This led me to the conclusion that I really didn’t want to be playing Stage 2s since I’m finding them to be a little bit too much ‘luck’ based, if you weren’t using another form of draw such as Magnezone. This put me behind the wheel of Yanmega/Magnezone, the clear favorite at this point in time.
pokebeach.comEven though Magnezone was a Stage 2, which I vowed to steer clear from, it had that extra consistency to keep those Stage 2s coming. But yet again I was finding the Stage 2 concept just didn’t sit with me, along with the fact that the mirror was such a headache.
The mirror match face-off was a really tricky one to play and I found that the person with the turn two Candy was usually the winner and going first was a pretty big thing too.
Of course this brought me to not wanting a Stage 2 in my deck at all and the rare candies were banished to the binder which meant I was back to square one. I gave the Stage One Rush another shot and here I am now with a love for the deck as well as a really flexible, consistent list I could work with for whichever meta I would expect to face.
This was what made me really like the deck in the end, the way that it can pull of an incredible second turn with ease, as well as have plenty of room for those quirky little techs to keep your opponent on their toes and here I am to share my findings with you all.
So here is my personal skeleton list at the moment.
|Pokémon – 14
3 Yanma TM
|Trainers – 30||Energy – 7
3 Double Colourless
Spare Slots – 9
So as you can see, we have a lot of spare room here with a few personal choices in the T/S/S department, depending on how you play. I feel that this is pretty much the bare bones of the deck to build from and will be the basis of the variants we cover in the next few sections.
Let’s Talk Strategy
pokebeach.comSo now we have the skeleton, we’re going to need to know what we’re aiming for when piloting the deck, otherwise we won’t be getting far.
Thankfully, this deck is actually pretty simple when it comes to the initial strategy, but becomes a little more complex when it comes to certain matchups which will be covered later.
Your best start is a free retreater such as Yanma, or another Pokémon you decide to fit in since it gives you so many more options when deciding your turn one and getting your strategy into motion as soon as possible. Phanpy isn’t the best to slot into the Active Spot straight away, but when forced to, it actually has a decent amount of HP to be sitting there while you set up behind it.
From the ideal turn one Pokémon Collector, you’re looking to fish out those Basics you need for the matchup as well as having ways to search out the evolutions next turn to get things rolling as soon as possible. Getting a first turn energy drop is pretty crucial if you don’t want to completely fold to an early Judge since it means you won’t need to fish for it later on, so make sure you get that out if nothing else, especially that Double Colourless.
From then on, you just need to spam those Stage Ones as quickly and efficiently as possible with the main focus on whichever one helps your matchup at that moment in time.
Filling In The Gaps
The list above has a lot of space and we’re going to have to fill it with something, so here’s a pretty extensive list of tech cards and smart choices you’ll find cropping up in the matchups section later on.
pokebeach.comI’m guessing you know what this guy does since it was a staple at 4 when the new format hit, which actually proved to be more of a liability when many great players suffered to turn one Tyrogue donks at US Nationals. Ever since that tournament, people have seemed to lay off of playing high numbers of this Pokémon or even avoid it all together to eliminate that risk.
I’m personally not a fan of this Pokémon for the following reasons:
1 – Even with just a single copy in your deck, you will start with it. I don’t know whether it’s just my luck or what, but just including one seems to give me the curse of starting with it more often than I would like. This means that you could be in for the shortest games going second with this in the Active Spot.
2 – As soon as it hits the field, it’s a target/free prize for Yanmega and with Yanmega being played so much right now, you don’t want that at all.
3 – Cleffa can be frustrating when staying asleep going into your turn. I’ve had many an occasion when I’m ready to wreck my opponent’s field, but there’s a Cleffa staying asleep so all I have to do is pass. I’m not a fan of having that restriction during a game since it could mean staying behind in a prize exchange when you could be one ahead.
However, after all that being said, Cleffa is without a doubt an excellent asset to a deck. Shuffling in a bad hand and then drawing a fresh 6 for no energy at all can be crucial at times, but I personally find the above negatives to outweigh the positives when given the choice. Plus, there are some alternatives for this kind of attack as we are going to see next.
pokemon-paradijs.comAnother popular choice right now and was actually included in Pooka’s 2nd place list as a stand-in for the much weaker Cleffa. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the card since I’m pretty sure most of you know what it does, but what makes it a solid choice for me in this deck is that it has that extra HP.
This means that you can avoid the turn one donk via Tyrogue in most situations and more importantly, it stays alive a lot longer than Cleffa does when it comes to Donphan’s ‘Earthquake’ damage.
With Cleffa on the bench, you’ll only need 3 Earthquakes to Knock it Out because of its after effect and using this attack that many times really isn’t a strange thing for the deck. What makes Manaphy a better choice for avoiding this is that there aren’t going to be a whole load of games where you are using Earthquake 5 times.
Even with those extra few damage counters, your opponent is going to have to use up an attack to KO it if they want that prize, rather than them having it fed to them by your own recoil damage.
I would personally choose this card if you want the extra option of hand refresh simply because of the extra HP. It avoids giving away that free prize and is just as versatile as Cleffa, even with that extra energy drop being needed.
pokebeach.comPlease hear me out on this one because it isn’t as crazy as it seems. This is another Pokémon that has slipped under the radar, but it can help you out in so many matchups as a starter, especially because of this deck’s relatively low damage output.
For those of you feeling a little bit confused, when Absol is active, your opponent has to put 2 damage counters on every Basic they play to the bench, which means any of those 60HP Basics are brought right down to 40 straight away. So how does this help you I hear you ask?
Well, it’s actually a perfect partner for Yanmega Prime. Those tricky Pokémon such as Magnemite and Tepig are hard to KO straight away without the help of Pokémon Reversal, but those extra 2 damage counters brings them into ‘Linear Attack’ range. Getting Yanmega up and running in this deck is really not a hard feat, so having that option of slowing your opponent’s set up right down without having to rely on Reversal (or even wasting a Catcher in the future) is huge.
The downside is that this Pokémon can be less useful if you aren’t going first, but if your start is pretty weak going second and your opponent hasn’t played a Collector, it can’t hurt to put it into the Active Spot and whittle that HP down a little.
Even in the case of Reshiram and Zekrom, you’re going to be dragging them into the 1HKO range for either Donphan or Zoroark and it just negates that need for getting PlusPower later on in the game. Even in the case of Magnezone, if you can’t get that early Linear Attack KO, you will still be in a great position later on to just Earthquake with Donphan for that prize with no need to scramble via draw supporters or Junk Arm to get the KO.
I’m a great fan of this card and can’t see how this isn’t a great play for the deck. It brings all those tricky Pokémon into 1HKO range and just evens out a lot of matchups that look worse on paper. The single Retreat Cost does get annoying at times, but I’ve found that if you cater your list accordingly to fit this in, you’ll rarely be at a time when you can’t retreat early on and a bigger plus is that it has 80HP, just out of Yanmega’s ‘Sonic Boom’ range!
pokebeach.com“Really?” I hear you cry, but this Pokémon is great when used in the right situations. Lightning is easily the best type advantage to have since it covers Yanmega and Kingdra which are both prevalent contenders in the top tier at the moment. You may notice that the list above doesn’t run Lightning or Rainbow energy, so Zekrom isn’t here to ‘Bolt Strike’ anything, so let me explain.
Basically, Zekrom is just one of those Pokémon that can be hard to deal with for any opposing player, specifically the Yanmega players because it has such huge HP. The main idea behind this ‘tech’ is to stick it into the Active Spot when faced with aggro Yanmega fields and see how your opponent deals with it.
They can either attack the Zerkom for 70, which you can launch back at them for double weakness, or snipe around it while Zekrom consistently hits the Yanmega for 40 damage. Either way, they need to get that Zekrom out of the way and it’s a tricky thing to do.
To cater for this addition, you’ll need to run the maximum Double Colourless to suffice its cost and you may want to bump up that Switch count if it manages to get stranded in the active.
Apart from that, it’s a great call if you can fit it in. I will warn you though, that this is a tough one to learn to pull off. As soon as you see a Yanmega, you don’t just immediately put this opposite, you need to analyse their options first. If all they have to do is Sonicboom, then by all means go for it, but always be wary of a potential answer they may have.
I had this Pokémon in my list once to make full use of your opponent’s resources when yours aren’t looking too good.
What this Pokémon is designed to do is capitalise on decks’ reliance on large numbers of draw Supporters, ultimately copying them with ‘Portrait’ when suffering a bad hand with the option to then use one of your own Supporters shortly after.
This kind of strategy didn’t settle well for my style of play and it’s another of those tricky ones to figure out, but when played with high counts of Switch, you should easily be able to retreat into an attacker. However, the biggest strongpoint of this card is in its Yanmega mirror match.
A Yanmega player will always have some form of a draw Supporter in their hand be it a Judge, Copycat or PONT and by using Smeargle’s PokéPower, you will be able to use it as your own. This means that you can get that hand refresh to get some form of extra set up on the bench and then be able to use your own Supporter to match hand sizes to attack for free. Being able to attack for free will also free up your energy attachment to retreat Smeargle too.
Either way, this card is a very interesting way to capitalise on how decks are built at the moment and can be used very creatively to turn a bad hand into a very aggressive turn by the end of it. Definitely try this one out and I believe you haven’t seen the last of this guy in competitive play yet.
pokebeach.comThe second of the legendary dragons comes in the form of a Fire type and that’s pretty much all the card can provide in forms of a tech. Unlike Zekrom, Reshiram really doesn’t have any advantage type-wise since no one is going to be playing Steelix anytime soon, so why this card? Well, simply put, it caters for your Kingdra matchup.
There was a sudden boom in straight Kingdra/Yanmega decks after Canadian Nationals took place because the deck did so well and this is the card to counter this sort of deck. Kingdra’s ‘Dragon Steam’ for a single energy plus the use of it’s ‘Spray Splash’ Poké Power will KO any of your Donphans quite easily, making it quite a tricky matchup to deal with.
However, with just a Reshiram sat on the bench Kingdra’s output damage will be cut to 20 including weakness and Donphan’s Poké Body. This is a considerable amount to be reducing damage on your opponent’s part since they’ll have to find another way around and Yanmega isn’t going to be the best of help.
With that being said though, I really don’t feel that you need that kind of support and with Catcher coming out, Reshiram is going to be in the Active Spot more often that you need him to be and he isn’t a as good of an attacker as Zekrom can be.
I personally wouldn’t worry too much about a heavily Kingdra based deck since it’s becoming more of a tech than an attacker, so the warrant of Reshiram really isn’t needed. A Kingdra matchup can be catered for without the need of this tech that’s useless in other matchups with smart play, so I would test it out first before committing it to your list.
pokebeach.comThis Pokémon sank way below the radar when the HGSS competitive play began, but has been finding itself into many variants of Stage One Rush to cater for those tricky Donphans and Reshirams that can give this deck a run for its money.
Lanturn’s Poké Power ‘Underwater Dive’ will turn it into a Water type which can hit Donphan and Reshiram for a 1HKO with its attack ‘Powerful Spark’. Lightning is also a really nice type to have for this format and Lanturn can easily deal with any Yanmega and Samurott thrown at it.
The main problem with this card is that it is a Donphan counter, but Donphan also counters it. With Donphan being much quicker to set up than Lanturn is, I would expect to have Lanturn KO’d the turn after if there are any Phanpy on your opponent’s side of the field. This does get tricky to deal with since you are losing turns because of the extra energy attachement, but Lanturn can make Donphan much easier to deal with as well as make Reshiram players a bit more cautious about what to attack with.
If you are thinking of including this, you are going to have to change up your list a little bit to cater for that Lightning requirement. I would suggest taking out most of the Basic Energy and replace them with Rainbows so that both the Fighting of Donphan and Lightning of Lanturn can be covered at once, but try squeezing in another single Lightning in there as well if you are running a 2-2 line.
pokebeach.comThis is more of a newer discovery for me in the past few days and can act as a pretty solid replacement for Zoroark. What this card provides that Zoroark doesn’t is raw power against pretty much anything when your bench is 4 or above. ‘Do the Wave’ can max out at 100 damage when your bench is full, making it quite the heavy hitter when you can get it rolling as soon as turn two.
The advantage of having this option is that it’s a much quicker attacker than Zoroark is. If you manage to set up a Zoroark on turn 2, the best your going to be copying with ‘Foul Play’ is something like Yanma’s ‘Dive’ which only does 20 damage, not really productive at all. But if Cinccino was the replacement, you could be taking that early prize straight away rather than just copying a pretty useless attack.
The weakness to Donphan does hurt it slightly, but Zoroark has that anyway and the only strength Zoroark has over Cincinno is that it can copy Zekrom and Reshiram’s big attacks, both of which can be worked around with other attackers in the deck.
I have taken this out for Zoroark in my list at the moment and have found it to be incredibly useful for staying as offensive as possible during the early game to KO your opponent’s Basics before they have a chance to evolve. When paired with a successful Reversal flip, you can take some pretty nice prizes with this too, even on Stage 1s and Yanmega Prime with a PlusPower.
Different Lists for Different Metagames
This is probably the most talked about deck at the moment since it had such a huge showing at the top tables at Worlds 2011. It’s a cheap deck to make that can be learnt fairly quickly and I’m sure we’re going to see a surge in play of this so keep this build in mind for upcoming Battle Roads. The list below is tweaked slightly to deal with this kind of matchup a little easier.
|Pokémon – 18||Trainers – 33||Energy – 9
4 Double Colourless
Let me just explain the inclusions in this version of the deck which is designed to play against big attackers.
3-3 Zoroark: This is probably the strongest card against Reshiram since it can copy ‘Blue Flare’ for just a Double Colourless and no energy loss either. Just a PlusPower can tip that into a 1HKO if there hasn’t been an ‘Afterburner’ to fuel Reshiram’s attack.
You want to run a bit thicker than just 2-2 because Reshiram runs a lot of Reversals which can hit you hard if you lose a Zorua with DCE attached early on. Maybe hold onto your Double Colourless until you’re ready to attack since there isn’t any threat of Judge and you need to keep them on the field for Zoroark to be used in maximum effect.
Absol Prime: This card can tip the matchup a little bit more if they are forced to put that 20 onto their new Reshirams and even Cyndaquils to get some early KOs on them with your Yanmegas. This will allow you to ‘Foul Play’ their Blue Flare and get the KO without the need of PlusPower in hand or relying on Afterburner damage.
Playing against this deck, you need to get those Zorua on the field early to avoid early KOs on them and, as stated above, do keep your DCE in hand until you have to play them so you aren’t wasting them to Reversal KOs. If you start Absol then go for the ‘Linear Attack’s on Vulpix first and Cyndaquils if they are running the version without.
From then on it’s going to be a Blue Flare-fest on both sides. Play smartly and you should have enough to KO 3 Reshiram head on and then get the other prizes from the bench with Yanmega.
You should also be aware of Typhlosion’s attack here since it will discard your DCE off of Zoroark, leaving you in a rather annoying spot. Just keep track of those Fire energy on the field and discard pile to hazard a guess at the threat of ‘Flare Destroy’ next turn.
Versus Yanmega/Magnezone and Zekrom
|Pokémon – 18||Trainers – 32||Energy – 10
4 Double Colourless
This list only differs slightly in all three departments, but those small changes do tip the matchup in your favor more so than with another variant.
3-3 Donphan: Heavier Donphan is inevitable in this matchup since it can hit Magnezone for double weakness and tip to a 1HKO when paired with PlusPower. A 2HKO against Magnezone isn’t bad anyway since they are going to have to Lost Zone 4 energy to get a single KO on Donphan which means they are going to run out of energy pretty sharpish if they choose to do this.
Donphan’s a tough Pokémon to take down in general and Yanmega can give it some issues, but the heavy Switch count along with the next Pokémon can help you out in this matchup.
Zekrom: This card is extremely useful against Yanmegas. While you are using ‘Earthquake’ early on in the game, you can have this guy sitting on the bench collecting a couple of damage counters to bump up the damage output of ‘Outrage’ after it’s doubled against Yanmega.
Even just a single damage counter can prove to be helpful against Yanmega since you can then 2 shot it while they have to decide to attack and suffer the Outrage return KO, or hit the bench and carry on getting attacked by Zekrom. It puts the opponent in a tough position and can be tanked a bit to get those 1HKOs on Yanmegas early on.
Manaphy over Cleffa: In this matchup, you’re going to be heavily focused on using Earthquake early on to get those KOs on Magnezone and its pre-evolutions and that damage is going to add up fast on the bench. Cleffa on the bench is only going to last 3 turns which really isn’t long when taking into account how much you need Donphan in this matchup and Manaphy will stay for at least 5 turns if not hit by Linear Attack.
When playing against this deck, as said above, Donphan against Magnezone is always going to end well for you in the long run, even if they decide to KO it with a huge Lost Burn attack. Reversaling up those Magnezones for the 1HKO is a great place to start and you can deal with the Yanmegas later on with that option of Zekrom.
Be aware of Jirachi in this matchup though since it could wreak havoc with your whole Donphan strategy. They could simply Lost Burn 2 energy away on your Donphan, spread more with Yanmega and then take multiple KOs with Jirachi later on. Just keep your eye on the way damage is building around your field so that your opponent can’t take an advantage on it.
Versus Anything Else
Against any other deck, Stage One Rush is actually really versatile and the list below can cater for most other things with either of the 3 attackers at your disposal.
|Pokémon – 19||Trainers – 32||Energy – 9
4 Double Colourless
This list is much more standard to play against pretty much anything. The lists above were specifically to counter what I believe to be the two most played decks this format so far and should work well against their respective matchups. However, this on provides strengths in pretty much every area.
The Absol provides you with easy snipe prizes with Yanmega in the early game on Basics as high as 60HP, Zekrom covers for Yanmega and possible even Samurott if you come up against that and the heavy Donphan is kept there simply because it’s a really good early game attacker against most things that aren’t Yanmega.
Post Emerging Powers
pokebeach.comI’ve been talking a lot about Pokémon Reversal in this article and most of you are probably thinking ‘But Catcher’s out in a few days, use it!’ and you would be correct. This deck does get better with Emerging Powers, but not as much as I would have liked and pretty much every deck is going to be gaining the same, evening it all out a little bit.
Below is the list changed for Emerging Powers and only includes two changes, Catcher and Max Potion from the new set. I’m not actually a huge fan of Max Potion since I never seem to really use it and want my Junk Arms for other things such as Catcher, PlusPower and Switch.
I really did see Max Potion working in the mirror and for abusing Donphan against other decks, but I’ve tried the mirror with and without and it doesn’t really make much difference. This could just be personal preference, but otherwise it’s a very situational card that can just be replaced with careful play instead.
|Pokémon – 17||Trainers – 33||Energy – 10
4 Double Colourless
The only big changes were taking out the Zekrom for the extra space that Max Restore requires and taking out PONT along with a single Switch for another Junk Arm and the second Max Restore. Having a higher Junk Arm count makes sure that you can use both Max Restore and Pokémon Catcher up to 4 or 5 times a game to take those cheap prizes this deck is designed to take, along with the ability to tank with Donphan and win the Yanmega war.
I feel this to be one of the best decks in the current format. It has insane speed and firepower in the first few turns and it can now benefit from ‘catching’ up weaker benched Pokémon for even more KOs later on in the game where the deck can lack in damage output.
Some people say this is an easy deck to play, but I feel that a lot of the seemingly ‘simple’ decisions that you make are much more tactful than you first think. Even the simplest of moves such as choosing which attacker to go with at the time can take a lot of foresight into the next few turns of the game.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it and I hope you’ve learned more about a deck that I feel can take the top tier by storm in upcoming Battle Roads.