Hey everybody, and welcome to another installment of Battle of Wittz. Since my last article, I’m sure plenty more of you have begun exploring the HS-EP format to its fullest. At this point you’re probably narrowing your focus on a deck that you want to pilot to Regionals, while still trying to play your best to finish off the current Battle Roads season strong.
If you’re still looking for a deck to play for Regionals, check out my last article, as that was largely my focus there, along with my own personal deck decision process. Today’s article I’ll be focusing on a recap of the constantly evolving metagame, an analysis of my own tournament performance so far, and finally an analysis on the mindset and cards needed to grab the edge in the most popular mirror matches. Here we go!
Battle Roads Metagame
Let me start off by posting my own personal tally of the results on the What Won Battle Roads thread on the PokéGym. The person that decided to host the list has been incompetent on a couple of levels, and I finally get fed up enough to do a re-tally. The original poster is missing dozens of results and has been grouping in some questionable ways, and I think this list should give you guys a much cleaner and more accurate depiction of “what’s winning”:
What Won Battle Roads (The J-Wittz tally)
31 Zekrom Variants (likely with Shaymin/Pachirisu/Tornadus)
16 Magnezone/Yanmega (sometimes w/Kingdra)
9 Stage 1s (Combinations of Yanmega/Weavile/Zoroark/Donphan/Cinccino)
5 Mew Prime + Stage 1s
4 “Ross” (Vileplume/Reuniclus/Zekrom/Donphan/Suicune Entei Legend)
*Only decks that won more than 1 Battle Road were posted
Noteworthy points I gathered from tallying all 8 pages of results:
1. Zekrom isn’t the deck with the most wins!
pokegym.netGranted, it’s still really close, but Reshiphlosion variants are ahead by just a handful of games. This is worth noting because it seems the general consensus when asking the average player is that “Zekrom is winning everything.” Everyone is frightened about getting donked on turn 1, and many players are shifting to decks and techs that clearly counter Zekrom without even evaluating their current metagame.
Personally, I’m a little surprised (but just a little). Reshiphlosion didn’t seem to gain anything from Emerging Powers, which I thought would only let it fall behind decks more suited to abusing Catcher. I was also afraid that the deck’s weakness vs. Reuniclus decks would put it another rung down on the tier ladder.
However, 1) being a consistent deck 2) being a simple deck 3) being the most inexpensive top-tier deck and 4) coming off of a very strong Worlds popularity have all led this deck to be a very safe choice for tournaments.
I’ve seen a handful of these at every tournament I’ve been to so far—winning one and topping several others. No matter which Regional you go to—you’re going to see a lot of this wherever you go.
2. Regardless, Zekrom is still the “perceived” deck with the most wins, and is going to be important to practice against.
Just because Reshiphlosion has actually won more doesn’t mean the people know that (they don’t). My first few tournaments I found maybe 1-2 Zekrom total. Now most events I’ve seen have 4+ at least. The more Zekrom played, the more mirror you’ll face if you like it too (the point of the latter half of this article). It’s also going to increase the strength of trainer lock and high basic counts.
Zekrom gives players access to great capability in winning games on time, as well as stealing cheap wins. Players have always taken any route possible to give themselves leverage to beat the “better players” than them, and Zekrom donks seems to be the most viable and playable route to do this.
3. Megazone players are opting to play Kingdra again.
pokegym.netI’m going to get to this in the second section of my article, but for now I just thought I’d note that about 2/3 to 3/4 of the Magnezone/Yanmega decks that won (including my own!) featured Kingdra in their lists. It’s interesting that we’ve had a shift from No Kingdra back to Pro Kingdra again, but I’ll explain this when we get to my tournament report.
4. Trainer lock rose a LOT in the last 2 weekends of Battle Roads.
Specifically, Gothitelle Trainer lock builds featuring Reuniclus have been seeing a spike in play, and by extension, wins. Having a strong matchup against the top 2 decks in the format make Reuniclus/Trainer lock builds a natural counter to the popular metagame. They sacrifice ability to win on time and succeed in top cut as often, but that hasn’t deterred many users fed up with Zekrom donk to mastering what is likely Zekrom’s greatest weakness.
With both Pooka and Ness piloting Trainer lock decks to victories, the balance of speed, balanced, and Trainer lock decks should level a lot more by the time regionals rolls around.
5. Aggressive Mew Prime decks are growing rapidly.
I’m not sure if this trend was developed in one area specifically or if it’s been a case of “spontaneous invention,” but the concept of using Mew beyond its usual “Vileplume/Yanmega/Muk” combo and instead pairing it with Stage 1 attacker has become the more popular (and more successful!) way to run Mew.
The reason? Mew turns your normally poor Gothitelle matchup into a positive matchup. If Gothitelle is the counter deck movement going on right now, then these Stage 1 variants are the COUNTER-counter movement attempting to take advantage of the constantly shifting metagame.
The usual way that people seem to be utilizing Mew is through DCE-friendly attackers like Cinccino BLW, Tornadus EP, and Zoroark BLW, as well as the 0-energy attacker Yanmega Prime. Mew’s primary target for throwing into the Lost Zone seems to be Cinccino—it gives you an easy 1-energy attack to clear out anything psychic-weak fairly easily.
Combine that the deck is fast, has options vs. multiple popular decks. While this list is entirely untested, I was able to play a large pioneer of the build (Evan Baker) on Sunday, and I figured I’d take a crack on the a good place to start for those of you interested in something new:
Pokémon – 22
4 Yanma TM
Trainers – 27
3 Junk Arm
2 Pokégear 3.0
Energy – 11
This isn’t perfect, but it should give you a gist on how the deck works. It has clear problems vs. Magnezone-based decks by dropping the Donphan, but it’s speed and range of attackers gives it good game vs. nearly everything else.
That’s about everything I have to say immediately about results alone. Things are bound to be changing a little bit as we finish out our Battle Road season, but I predict things to get much closer to balanced by the time Regionals comes along. Not only does this mean that piloting a deck that can handle EVERYTHING is favorable, but it also means that you should be well prepared to face yourself!
Before I get to the “meat” of this article, I’d like to put a small insert on my current Battle Road performance and deck modification. There were a handful of changes that happened between each Battle Road that I figured I’d explain for you Magnezone/Yanmega enthusiasts out there. I also learned a few new tips that I recommend you carry with you from tournament to tournament!
While I started writing this article with a complete tournament report of all 4 Battle Roads that I’ve played so far—things just felt really unnecessarily wordy to me and I feel we’re all better left off with the lessons I’ve learned, the changes made to the deck, and a paraphrasing of how the event panned out.
Here’s the list I started with on tournament 1. Each tournament past this one I’ll simply explain what came in and what came out between each tournament.
Pokémon – 20
4 Magnemite TM
Trainers – 29
4 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
Energy – 11
Tournament 1: Oswego, IL (36 Masters)
pokegym.netWin vs. Stage 1s
Win vs. Mew Lock
Loss vs. Donphan/Samurott (Lone Magnemite donked by Samurott on turn 2)
Win vs. Gothetelle/Reuniclus/Serperior
Win vs. Gothitelle/Reuniclus
Win vs. Mew Lock x2
Lose turn 3 vs. Zekrom
Win after strong Judge cuts resources off
Lose to turn 1 Pachirisu donk
Results: 5-2, 2nd place, 1 Championship Point
What I learned from this tournament was that Magnezone could hold its own pretty well vs. a variety of decks, but had problems vs. Zekrom when I couldn’t get enough basics in play early on in the game. I decided to look into different possible solutions in finding a tech that could cripple Zekrom while also aiding me everywhere else.
+1/1 Weavile UD line
This idea, heavily borrowed from the success of Aziz Al-Yami and Martin Moreno in the past, was that a 1-1 Weavile gave me a decent HP, free retreating starter, while also giving me the option to cripple my opponent’s hand early game.
Tyrogue got cut from the deck after I found it barely helped in matchups anymore. I thought that with all the Reuniclus lock that 30 HP basic Pokémon would be ripe for the picking, but I didn’t fully think the idea through. The deck usually runs a heavy basic count, keeping it pretty safe from most turn 1 donks. The card just wasn’t pulling its weight, and got the cut.
Twins was another card that I was troubled to see go. For a long time now I’ve been a supporter (ugh what a bad pun) of how strong Twins is in games where you fall behind right away, but more often than not I find it burning a frustrating hole in my hand in the matchups where I was already winning but needed to keep matching handsizes to retain that lead.
I swapped it for a thicker Copycat line to add to my consistency, even if it meant losing the strength that Twins provides in comeback games.
Tournament 2: Urbana, IL (16 Masters)
Loss vs. Stage 1s: Constant Catchers for prizes on my Pokémon led to me losing in the Prize trade. One crucial turn that swayed the game for him was a Max Potion to save a damaged Yanmega from death.
Win vs. Garbage
Win vs. Pokémom
Win vs. Cinccino/Zoroark
The Weavile, while used in every game, never really felt like it secured me in any way. I still lost to Stage 1s and ended up losing to a Zekrom game I played for fun later in the day. This tech in general was a result of me trying to add something new without testing it—something I don’t recommend to any player before a tournament.
Unfortunately, with just 4 games to play, and a top 2 cut, winning all 4 games was pretty much necessary for making top. I lost a close game in a legitimate matchup, which essentially kept me from top cutting altogether despite winning out (vs. some serious poor competition and resistance : /).
Result: 3-1, Whiff cut, 0 Championship Points
pokegym.netBeing forced to wait another week before getting another crack at tournaments, I decided to go to another MegaZone player for advice. This is an old tip that I’ve stressed before, but don’t forget it—don’t be afraid to ask players for advice! The worst thing someone can do is ignore your post or say no. The best thing that can happen is that you can get some valuable insight!
The other player I went to was 5-Championship-Point-Holder Jim Roll, also the first player to play Magnezone/Yanmega. Jim had been tearing up the Florida area events with his build in a much larger sea of players than I had, so I decided to ask if he’d be willing to exchange builds. We talked a while through SixPrizes PMs and eventually I learned a lot of different approaches that he had to his deck, including the following:
- A 2-0-2 Kingdra line
- 12 energy
- Only 2 Junk Arm
- 3-2-3 Magnezone
Several of these changes were very drastic in my eyes. I thought I had the “standard, consistent” Magnezone build, but Jim reminded me that there were many different ways to approach a deck and still be successful. After logging a dozen games with friends using some of Jim’s concepts, I arrived at the following changes:
-1 Junk Arm
+12th Energy (2 Lightning become Rainbow)
So, aside from Jim’s suggestion, why is Kingdra back in the deck now? Here’s my reasoning:
pokemon-paradijs.comAside from giving you KOs on 50 HP benched Pokémon, Kingdra has a strange usage in almost every matchup outside of Trainer lock. 10 damage goes a long way in this format, and it seems to make the math perfect for a lot of popular decks.
In fact, looking back at the last world champions, 4 of the decks before David Cohen all the way back to 2007 had some form of Pokémon-based damage counters (Crobat in 2010 and 2009, Jolteon * in 2008 and 2007). While Kingdra is a Stage 2 Pokémon, giving you access to that 10 damage over and over again each turn is huge.
The biggest plus it has given me so far is the ability to conserve energy on Magnezone, allowing me to take extra KOs before I run energy dry—a huge asset in a format where every prize counts. damage counters go a long way:
Just 10 damage saves you an extra energy attachment with Lost Burn Vs: Yanmega, Tornadus, Donphan, and often a Reshiram that has received 2 damage from Afterburners. Two damage counters allows you to one-Ssot a Zekrom that has Bolt Striked with a single Yanmega Sonicbom. Three counters can turn a 100 HP Pokémon into a KO off of a Sonicboom while attacking other Pokémon. It can also do the same thing to a benched baby Pokémon.
The math can get complicated and be really scenario-dependent, but all in all the extra damage each turn allows you to put pressure on the opponent that you couldn’t otherwise apply. It also adds a layer of complexity as an attacker, giving you the option to attack quickly while not needing any kind of hand-match. It also attacks for weakness on Donphan, your biggest problem, and puts them at what’s almost a 1HKO after spray splashes across turns.
Even if your opponent focuses resources on KOing your Horsea right away, that forces them away from the heart of your deck, Magnezone, giving you a better chance to set up. Altogether, the horse tested extremely positively for me, even without my old Jirachi devolution tricks.
pokegym.netAside from that, I’m sure a lot of you are hesitant at the cutting of a Junk Arm. Fundamentally, Junk Arm doesn’t make sense to cut. It lowers your hand size for Magnetic Draw, and you already run a lot of Trainers. Why cut it for a 12th energy?
First, let’s talk about the cut. Cutting the 4th Junk Arm reminded me a lot of how it felt to cut the 4th Poké Turn in my SP lists last year. Lots of people raised eyebrows at the idea, and even I felt uncomfortable at the thought of the change at first. However, in a format where lists are getting tighter and tighter for space, freeing up one slot gives you a lot of flexibility that I never had before.
Even though the single card that I had went into something boring like energy—I feel it’s a slot of the deck worth freeing up. Junk Arm is a card that’s already dependent on you having played a Trainer card in the first place, and it can actually be a pretty dead card early game, the same way Poké Turn was in SP decks in the first few turns of the game.
I encourage any of you skeptics to try a few games with 3 and see if you even miss not having the 4th. Especially in a deck with internal draw like MegaZone, you likely won’t.
The higher energy count helps you set up zone ASAP. The games where you can’t attach to Magnemite turn 1 vs. the ones where you can are pretty huge. Being able to access the fastest and hardest hitting lost burns allow you to win vs. heavy HP opponents like Donphan, Reshiram, Gothitelle, and Zekrom.
In these matchups, being able to throw 3 energy at any given point midgame can be a big deal—maximizing your potential for this seems really huge in a metagame where your Magnemites and Magnezones are under fire more often than ever. I find myself actually having to attack with Zone much more often this format than I did back at Worlds—being able to fuel that attack seemed pretty important.
Tournament 3: Indianapolis, IN (42 Masters)
This tournament started with a huge blunder on my part that could have been avoided had I ever been told this tip before. It’s a weird one that might not apply to you, but I’m going to throw it out there just in case it ever happens to you:
Don’t forget about time zone changes!
Mark A. HicksAs Battle Roads are getting more competitive, I got more ambitious than usual and decided to take the 2 hour drive to Indianapolis in hopes of a Championship point or two. The problem? I forgot that Indiana shifts time forward an hour as I travel eastward—putting me a full hour behind schedule of the tournament when I arrived.
I’ve never traveled time zones for tournaments outside of Nationals and Worlds when I’m arriving far before the tournament begins, so I never really thought twice about it. I hope that this advice prevents a similar mistake from happening with one of you in the future!
For those of you who don’t know, arriving tardy to a tournament brands you with the terrible “scarlet letter” in the form of an asterisk on your name for tournament standings. This asterisk declares that because you arrived late to a tournament, you will automatically be placed at the bottom for seeding in your respective group of records.
What does this mean? In short, it means that you’re given the lowest possible opponent’s win % tiebreaker when determining who top cuts or not. In a 5 round tournament, it means you won’t top cut even if you win your next 4 games and go 4-1.
Knowing this, I really wanted to turn around a drive home, but I knew driving while raged was not a good idea. Instead, I decided to talk myself into playing Pokémon until I lost. Of course, I didn’t lose in the 4 rounds that I played:
Win vs. Opponent that didn’t show up
Win vs. Reshiphlosion
Win vs. Gothitelle
Win vs. Stage 1s
All in all, the deck ran smooth with the 4-3 lines of Pokémon, and the Kingdra helped plenty in the Reshiphlosion and Stage 1 games. Despite going 4-“1”, I was automatically put at the bottom of all 4-1s, forcing me to miss top cut at 7th place.
I went home and played a few games for fun with my friends, and decided that my deck was running too well for me to not give myself another legitimate shot at grabbing some Championship Points the next day. I braced myself for a 2.5 hour drive to Des Plaines (same time zone this time!) for another shot:
Tournament 4: Des Plaines, IL (41 Masters)
pokemon-paradijs.comUpon arriving, I scouted the area to find a big handful of Trainer lock decks and Zekrom decks. Gothitelle had won the day before in the area, and it looked like there were plenty of people looking to capitalize on the Trainer lock success.
I decided that while I really like my Trainer lock matchup with Megazone, it wouldn’t hurt to tech my deck a few cards further toward securing easy wins. I cut the Kingdra down to 1-0-1 (it really doesn’t help much vs. Trainer lock at all) for a 2nd Magneton and a 3rd Copycat—both ways to help the deck remain consistent vs. an early Vileplume. Ready to get revenge, I started off strong:
Win vs. Pokémom (Skarmory/Scizor Prime)
Win vs. Magnezone/Yanmega
Win vs. Vileplume/Mismagius/Smoochum (actually ended up doing pretty well at the event!)
Win vs. Stage 1s (Donphan/Yanmega/Zoroark)
Win vs. Evan Baker’s Mew + Stage 1s
Lose vs. Absol/Lucario/Yanmega/Zoroark (Tyrogue donks my lone Cleffa)
Top 4 vs. Same deck in round 6 (was recorded and will be offered on my YouTube channel with commentary soon!)
Game 1: I set up extremely well and dominate. I got 4 evolutions out turn 2—just way too good to counter.
Game 2: He takes the prize lead and I struggle to secure the lead. Somehow I end up burning through all my energy and remain stuck active with a Magnezone. All I can do is Sonicboom his Bouffalant and hope that Kingdra’s Spray Splash will save me by creating a KO while my Zone is stranded. He whiffs the topdecks he needs and Kingdra wins it for me.
Top 2 vs. Reshiphlosion (was recorded and will be offered on TheTopCut’s YouTube with commentary soon!)
Game 1 we both start horribly. I take the first KO by using Magnemite’s Thundershock 3 times on a Vulpix. The next turn I finally get my Magnezone and just go off—evolving around 4 times and taking over immediately afterward.
Game 2 goes like Game 1, with me starting much better and him only slightly better. Things go down to me getting an extra KO by Spray Splashing Cleffa 3 times between turns, giving me the extra KO I need to secure my first win of the year. Go Kingdra!
Results: 7-1, 1st, 2 Championship Points
All in all, I’m really happy with my performance this year. My current record is 19-4, which is a really great start. Looking back at one of my past articles, I found that my performance at States last year was 18-4, and I was only able to achieve that after working long and hard after a lackluster City Championship performance. With me putting in the hard work early in the year, I’ve been able to start a season strong earlier than I ever have before.
I’d like to hope that reading through my process of scouting, changing a few cards here or there, and contacting other players between matches will help you in your next tournament series. I know it’s only a few tips here or there, but I’ve always learned the best when I read other player’s learning process, and I hope that it transfers well to you. If you take anything out of this middle section, I’d hope that it’d be:
– Don’t be afraid to make small changes to your decklist between tournaments. Just remember to test them first instead of doing your “testing” at the tournament itself!
– Don’t be afraid to try ideas that seem unorthodox at first. They might work out really well against your expectations!
– Don’t be afraid to contact players doing well and ask them what’s making things tick. Especially other UG members!
– Don’t be afraid to learn about time zones.
With that, I present to you the real work that I’ve been putting in for you in this article:
The Mirror Match
cardshark.comWithout a doubt, the LEAST amount of practice the average player has vs. all the other decks in their metagame is against the very deck they’re playing.
I think the main problem is the way people approach deckbuilding and playtesting. Whenever you build a deck, it’s usually built with a lens on how well a deck can stack up vs. every other kind of deck. People ask themselves “how does this deck stand against every other deck in the format?” They make flowcharts and percentages and graphs not unlike the one that I made in my last article.
The main problem is too often people assume that facing their own deck is a “50-50” game, making it unimportant to test against. Another problem is that competing against the same deck is boring. Many times people will pool their cards together or share when building decks, which leads to multiple copies of decks not being as common
Whatever the excuse, the mirror is a seriously ignored facet of the game that can become a huge factor as you advance from larger to larger attended events. This article was a new experiment for me—I decided to try and delve as deeply as I could into these uncommon matches to see what kind of steps you could take in terms of both play style and techs to shift popular mirror matches in your favor.
Some were more self-explanatory, while others were more complicated. Either way, I hope that any of you players who were previously uneducated about the mirror match for any of the reasons I’ve listed above can take something out of the work I put in for your own benefit. Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
I decided to work on 4 popular mirrors: Megazone, Zekrom, Reshiphlosion, and Stage 1s
Let’s start with my personal favorite:
The Magnezone/Yanmega Mirror Match
Fundamentals of the Deck
Use the fast Yanmega Prime to score quick prizes while you build a Magnezone Prime for heavy attacks and consistency for mid to late game
Weaknesses of the Deck
Magnezone is vulnerable as a 50 HP Magnemite. Magnezone takes time to accumulate energy and set up as a Stage 2.
How to Approach the Mirror
Things are pretty simple—deny your opponent their Magnezone while securing your own. This usually comes down to opening with an early Yanmega and letting loose on Catcher to KO any Magnemites (preferably with energy) that your opponent is setting up. The better this early phase goes for you, the quicker you can secure a game.
The player with the first Magnezone in play has a HUGE advantage. Not only do they have access to a more steady supply of extra catchers and supporters through Magnetic draw, but it also gives the player with the first Zone an even greater chance of preventing their opponent from getting their own, too.
When setting up, doing something as simple as using Collector/Communication to ensure you have at least 1 Yanma and 2 Magnemite in play isn’t such a terrible plan. If you have one Magnemite and it falls to Sonicboom, you can best believe the next Magnemites you set down are going to become prime targets as well.
Another big factor that goes on over the course of the game is hand size. Every turn you attack with Yanmega, you need to have equal hand size as your opponent. In turn, your opponent will likely have a handsize either equal or 1-off from you on their turn depending on whether or not you took a prize.
Either way, chances are likely your Yanmegas can attack for free against one another. The first player to get a Magnezone loaded for action also gets the unique ability to lower their hand size down to keep the opponent with Yanmega only struggling. You’re safe under the security of Magnetic draw each turn, but your opponent isn’t until they can get a Magnezone of their own. Without one, they’re at the mercy of drawing into Judge/Copycat to keep their Yanmegas attacking.
pokemon-paradijs.comSpeaking of Judge, it’s a valuable tool in this matchup, but only early game. Grabbing a Cleffa and Judging + Eeeking can often put you at the upper hand. With only 4 cards + their topdeck, your opponent is likely to be wiped from enough resources to get a Magnezone or Yanmega + handmatch online. However, with 6 cards + 1 for your draw, you have much more at your disposal.
If you can secure a better hand and card control early on in the game, you can lock your opponent out by getting the first Zone. This move isn’t without risk though—Cleffa becomes a prize that Yanmega can take at any time with linear attack—and is often saved for the very end of a game to finish things off.
It might not sound like there’s much skill involved in this mirror, and this is true. It’s not the WORST mirror out there, but at its whole it’s not great either. The main thing to remember is to shut your opponent out from Magnezone, and start your own at all costs. From here, taking easy KOs and messing with your handsize becomes the rest of the game.
– Heavier Pokémon lines succeed in the mirror for almost anything, but here with the importance of Magnezone, a 4-1-4 or heavier line is optimal. 4-4 Yanmega also only helps your matchup, but isn’t as crucial as maximizing your chance to get Magnezone out.
– Heavier energy counts ensures that you remain ahead of your opponent in the energy war. Getting an attachment on a magnemite or magnezone every single turn ensures that you’ll be the first to be equipped for a lost burn on an opponent’s Magnezone if the matchup comes down to that. It also keeps you with the resources you need to burn through multiple Yanmega. Either way, decks with 12 energy are going to find themselves more actively ahead in the mid to late game than the builds with only 10.
– While normally hand-matching Supporters are crucial in keeping you attacking with Yanmega frequently, they aren’t AS required because of how often your opponent will be close to you in hand size with their own Yanmega. Neither deck keeps a hand larger than 6 cards often, making the match not as difficult as it can be vs. decks like Reshiphlosion that can amass huge hands.
More important than hand matching is being able to grab access to the first Zone. No Supporter does this better in Stage 2 decks than Sage’s Training—being able to look 5 cards deep into your deck is crucial in being able to find that one evolution or Rare Candy needed to secure a lead. Finding space for 2 or more Sage’s can give you a strong advantage in the mirror.
– Rescue Energy. Helps you loop Yanmega or Magnezone if you do fall behind, allowing you to recover and prevent yourself from getting crushed by a better setup. Rescue is also great on Yanmega early game—essencialy turning the resources to make a single Yanmega into a second recovery Yanmega. In early games where both you and your opponent are denying Magnemites like crazy, being able to win the Yanmega war is big.
– Kingdra Prime. HUGE in the mirror. The 10 damage makes Magnezone feast on Yanmegas for a single energy, REALLY allowing you to conserve resources. Spray Splash also makes Yanma and Magnemite vulnerable to linear attack KOs without the need for a Catcher.
All in all, it creates prizes that you couldn’t otherwise obtain—something crucial in such a basic mirror. 2-0-2 for a line is ideal, but a list with 1-0-1 still has a great tool at their disposal that the “consistent, unteched version” doesn’t have.
– Jirachi UL/CL. While his strength is less in other matchups, the ability to devolve is still really strong in the mirror, especially when paired with Kingdra. Dealing 50 damage to any Candied Magnezone leaves it vulnerable to a Devolve from Jirachi—one of the few ways you can mount a comeback against an opponent who gets a swarm of Magnezones before you do.
– Pachirisu CL. While not really a “tech” because of how commonplace he is in the deck, I really do feel like having access to Pachirisu is really important. Being able to swarm energy up to 4 or more in play at a time can win games instantly—being the first to eagerly Catcher up your opponent’s building Magnezone and crush it with a triple energy Lost Burn can secure a big enough lead to give you the breathing room you need.
The mirror match for Magnezone Yanmega is very dependent on how strong your hand is, as well as which player goes first. However, you can tilt this luck-based precondition in your favor by trying to KO your opponent’s Magnemites early, or by disrupting them early in with a Judge.
Mid game, having a higher energy count and utilizing Pachirisu, along with the usage of Kingdra, will help you preserve energy and score bigger knockouts more often than your opponent.
Next up is the big match I’ve been working on, which is actually a little more complicated because of how hard it is to gain an edge:
The Zekrom Mirror
Fundamentals of the Deck
pokegym.netUse Pachirishu to drop energy down and Shaymin to move it in order to move it to one of your two attackers, Zekrom or Tornadus. Tornadus usually attacks faster through DCE and conserves energy, Zekrom hits harder.
Weaknesses of the Deck
Deck can fall apart if you don’t get “set up” quickly—can also die mid to late game if constant energy acceleration doesn’t happen.
How to Approach the Mirror
This mirror is one of the most frustrating because of how deceptively simple it is. You’d think it’s be “set up, win.” Most of the time this is the case if you both have equally speedy builds, but the biggest problem is learning the consequences of where you address you attacks and how you plan on spending your energy and resources. First lets look at your attack options:
Aside from grabbing an easy prize on a benched Shaymin/Pachirisu mid game, you have 4 possible attack combinations throughout the game. With such few options, it’s really important to realize how each exchange plays through. Ideally, you want to KO your opponent’s Pokémon with the most energy on it, denying them the chance to set up without getting more energy acceleration in play—thus giving you more easy prizes on the board.
1. Zekrom attacks Zekrom. Pretty simple—in order for you to KO your opponent’s Zekrom, you need 3 energy and a PlusPower to do the deed. Definitely not easy to get consistently turn 1 or 2, but it can happen. The drawback is that on the Bolt Strike, you hit yourself for 50 damage due to PlusPower recoil—putting you in perfect range for a Tornadus KO.
Ideally though, if you Knocked Out your opponent’s source of energy, you’ll be able to survive at least another turn. From here, you are outraging for 70 damage—enough to KO any future Tornadus or Pachi/Shaymin without any recoil.
2. Zekrom attacks Tornadus. Your most ideal exchange. You overkill the Tornadus by far, no PlusPower required. This puts you at 40 damage and forces your opponent to set up a new Tornadus AND hit a PlusPower of their own, or it requires them to overkill you with a new Zekrom, exposing them to the exact same thing you have.
Another thing to remember is that leading Zekrom in a game is your most likely chance to donk if you want that option to be open for you. With the 110 HP Tornadus and the 130 HP Zekrom, Bolt Strike is the only way you’re guaranteed to have a shot at KOing their whole deck. Sure, Tornadus can KO a Shaymin/Pachi if the exchange happens, but it’s not that likely.
pokegym.netThe only problem about leading Zekrom is that if you are followed by a knockout, chances are you don’t have other energy in play aside from the one you’re attaching on your turn, and MAYBE one energy on top of that if you’re lucky. Despite some pretty decent exchanges, you also have to be aware of the board and how badly you can lose if your opponent likely has the return KO on you.
Be aware of your opponent’s hand size and spent resources. If you clear your opponent’s field of energy by KOing the one Pokémon they invested their time in, chances are unlikely they’ll quickly replenish that by resetting Pachirisu and Shaymin so quickly.
3. Next up is Tornadus on Zekrom. Probably your least favorable exchange—I’d only use this if you’re desperate to get a knockout on Zekrom, and even then it’s still not perfect. You hit a Zekrom for 80 damage. This puts them in capacity to outrage you for the knockout without attaching anything (or a single DCE if you hit a 0 energy Zekrom for some reason), and they’ll have 50 HP left.
This forces you to either have a second Tornadus ready to complete the exchange and 2HKO Zekrom, or you face the potential problem of giving them the opportunity to grab an outrage KO the next turn on anything that isn’t your own Zekrom. While chances are you’ll Hurricane for 80 and then move energy to the benched attacker you want to promote after being KO’d, the exchange isn’t that pretty.
4. Tornadus on Tornadus is much more favorable. You hit them for 80 damage and swing your energy to the bench to preserve it. They’re left with 30 HP left, open to a KO off just about every attack that you can muster on the next turn, be it Zekrom or Tornadus.
You’re also safe yourself from everything but your opponent’s Zekrom—which forces them to both retreat and let damage fill on a second Pokémon through Bolt Strike, putting them in a pretty bad position for picking if you displaced your energy to another Tornadus—leaving you to need a single DCE to hurricane again without any extra energy acceleration.
Chances are they won’t be able to return with Zekrom out of the blue like that, and it gives you the favorable exchange either way.
Altogether the deck becomes knowing these 4 matchups and how they play out, while doing everything you can to maintain your stronger matchups across the game.
– Higher PlusPower count. You should already be running 3 PlusPower in the build, a 4th just gives you the highest chance of hitting access into one off a deep draw Supporter like Juniper. You need PlusPower both to KO a clean Zekrom with Bolt Strike, and to Ko a bolt strike damaged Zekrom with your Tornadus—both situations are common and call for a maximum chance to deal that extra 10.
– This is going to sound stupid, but the more consistent builds will win. There is no secret formula to finding the perfect split to getting set up turn 1 as often as possible, but my current mix is 4 Dual Ball, 2 Collector, 2 Pokégear 3.0, and 11 draw Supporters.
I don’t know what works best for you, but I’ve found using high combinations of draw along with the consistency boosting Pokégear really seems to give me an edge vs. the decks that opt to not run either. I still keep a few collectors along with the dual ball to ensure that you can bring out basics at any time you need to while still not hitting dead-draw too often mid to late game. The best Supporters for going deep into your deck are Juniper, PONT, Cheren, and Sage’s Training.
– Defender is by far the best tech against the mirror out there. It messes all the damage up whenever you lead with a Zekrom. Not only does Defender defend the 20 damage you do to yourself, putting you at 110 HP, but it also defends any damage your opponent does on their turn to you. This means that your opponent STILL needs a PlusPower + Bolt Strike KO you. Tornadus only hits you for 60 damage.
It messes your opponent’s damage up and prevents knockouts—something you HAVE to do to continue attaching energy while preserving the few you got out early game. While successful in a small dosage like 2—if you’re worried about the mirror, running 3-4 gives you a HUGE swing in the matchup, allowing you to double Defender on crucial turns, or just continually defend Zekroms throughout the game.
– Other strong techs are Thundurus EP and Raikou CL SL9. Both cards promise about the same thing—an optional basic Lightning attacker. Both serve the same purpose of being able to KO a Tornadus on one hit as an optional third exchange that your opponent might not be prepared for.
Thundurus has the advantage of being pretty much free from a return KO by Tornadus. You force your opponent to bring up Zekrom if they want a KO—and controlling your opponent’s actions is good. The only problem is that by discarding to attack, you do the opposite of Tornadus and decrease energy control instead of increase it. You either need to attach to him again to attack (and then discard him), or burn an energy to retreat. Neither outcome is fantastic.
Shiny Raikou’s problem is that he has 90 HP, putting him a PlusPower away from a Tornadus KO. You could combine techs and Defender to be safe from this, but it’s hard to fit space for new cards while maintaining completely consistent at the same time. As an added plus though, you don’t drop energy to attack, and also have a pretty nifty free retreat! This makes Raikou a strong opening basic, too.
Either way, using a card to KO Tornadus while forcing your opponent to reset all energy and bring up a Zekrom to KO puts you at a strong point. You control who your opponent brings up, while also requiring them to get a fantastic hand to do so.
Altogether, the mirror match can be tricky, but with a few choice cards you can sway the trickiness in your favor. Setting up and winning the early prize exchanges to gain a huge energy lead puts you in a spot to dominate the rest of the game. For me, the best solution has been to lead Zekrom and abuse defender to take the safest lead you can.
Next up is another mirror that’s equally frustrating. For me, this has been the most difficult mirror match to read and develop uniquely, but I’ll go through it all regardless because of how big the deck has become: Reshiphlosion.
The Reshiphlosion Mirror
Fundamentals of the Deck
Get Typhlosions out, and possibly Ninetales for draw power/energy discard. Use Typhlosion to accelerate energy to Reshiram via Afterburner and constantly hit heavy to win.
Weaknesses of the Deck
Deck can suffer if Cyndaquils fall before they evolve. Deck also suffers if it doesn’t run Ninetales/runs out of draw support.
How to Approach the Mirror
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is pretty tricky. There isn’t any inherent combo or train of thought. The key to winning the mirror is setting up first, KOing any Cyndaquils/Ninetales that you can early game, and being able to deal with your opponent’s field by setting up consistently throughout the game.
Most games you only attack with one Pokémon (Reshiram), and you rarely attack with Typhlosion. This matchup is no different, and can get heavily dependent on “who went first” and who gets set up.
If you get the first loaded Reshiram for attack, your decision becomes denying your opponent their best option to more energy. If your opponent has 2 energy on Reshiram and no way to get 2 Typhlosion next turn, access to the PlusPower is crucial in winning this exchange, denying your opponent ability to Blue Flare on their upcoming turn, leaving you with huge leverage.
In all other scenarios, access to catcher for a Cyndaquil/Vulpix prize is the way to go. You set your opponent up for a loss pretty quickly if you set up first and dismantle their chance to evolve.
See how easily the game seems swayed in your favor if you get set up first? That’s why so many people call this mirror both the “least skilled” and the “toughest to crack.”
– Run Ninetales. I know that there are many reasons to run and not to run him, but in the mirror it’s given me a huge advantage. Even in just a 1-1 line (while 2-2 is preferred here), it gives you access to consistency and opportunity to set up faster than your opponent. If they opt to KO your benched Vulpix/Ninetales, it also leaves you a chance to set up your attacker and energy acceleration.
If your opponent realizes they can’t attack your acceleration safely, you’re going to be way up in the amount of cards drawn.
– Heavy PlusPower for the same reasons that it works in Zekrom. While Reshiram is usually going to be within 120 damage range off of an Afterburner damage counter, being able to deal “first blood” by dealing that first 130 damage to a clean Reshiram is crucial. Heavy PlusPower also gives you the option to Catcher/double PP KO your opponent’s Typhlosion as well—shutting out their acceleration power—a move that can never be expected and always hurts the deck a ton.
– Recovery is also huge in your build. You’re going to be leading Reshiram 90% of the time, so what happens when you run out of Reshirams? Typhlosion is not an ideal attacker in a matchup where discarded energy can be recovered, so being able to lead with 5 or even 6 total Reshiram is a big deal.
At least a single copy of Revive gives you the easiest option in being able to fish a Reshiram back. 1-2 Rescue Energy has also seemed to aid me in the mirror for the same reason, and has almost never deterred me from being able to set up at any given time by not being a fire energy.
– Being able to get the first Typhlosion is a MUST. Running a 4-1-4 line or larger is a must in the mirror, no exceptions. 4 Rare Candy, 4 Juniper, and a heavy count of Sage’s Training is crucial in ensuring you can dig into that first Typhlosion/Rare Candy as soon as possible.
This is the hardest part for me. I have yet to find many techs that sway games enough in my favor for me to say that they’re a must in the mirror. I tried a lot of whacky stuff, and none of it worked. Here are 2 cards that at least did their job and won games that wouldn’t have been won otherwise.
– Judge is the first one. While absolutely strange in a deck that usually fears early Judge, it’s really strong in the mirror! As soon as you set up (or even just as soon as you set up the first Ninetales), dropping a Judge on your opponent is completely unexpected and can be crippling. If they don’t have Ninetales of their own, they’ll be grasping for a draw Supporter immediately, while you’ll already have most of your board set up.
Even mid game when things are fairly even, being able to Judge when your opponent has a big hand will naturally put you ahead in board position if you’re able to follow your Judge with a Roast Reveal. Normally I wouldn’t say jump to this concept, but if the mirror is a problem, fitting in 1-2 copies is one of the only ways I’ve ever felt I was able to take advantage in the mirror.
– The other possible tech is a 1-0-1 or larger line of Samurott. Yes it’s super clunky to run 2 Stage 2s in a deck, but if you set up a Samurott behind an early Reshiram, you can secure the game pretty quickly by prize advantage. Samurott KOs anything in your opponent’s deck while also being able to resist about every attack they throw at you minus a hoard of PlusPowers. Running a DCE or two in the deck to power him can help but it’s 100% necessary when you run on C energy and have the energy acceleration of Afterburner.
With Samurott, you can take 2 Prizes before your opponent takes 1, which can be enough to put you ahead of games that you couldn’t set up first. The problem here is obvious—fitting another attacker and evolution line into an already packed deck is really hard to do and is probably only warranted if you know that your metagame will be swarmed by the mirror.
Altogether, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how to win the mirror all the time, and that’s because it’s so hard to gain an advantage. The main goal is simply set up first, with other secondary goals like “prevent any oncoming blue flares when possible” and “cut off your opponent’s Typhlosions supply” coming next. It’s not too difficult a mirror to read, but making sure your deck is as consistent and aggressive as possible through deep draw Supporters and Ninetales is crucial.
The Stage 1 Mirror
And finally, we have Stage 1s. This is going to be a little different than before, because it’s such a varied deck and depends almost entirely on how you plan on metagaming the popular builds. There are 5 main attackers in Stage 1s to choose from–Yanmega, Donphan, Zoroark, Cinccino, and Weavile.
Fundamentals of the Deck
Your main strategy in Stage 1s is to rush and take 6 Prizes against the mirror as quickly as possible. This means 1) KO your opponents main attacker when you can, and 2) Catcher + KO benched basic Pokémon whenever you can. Beyond that, your strategy is so card-specific, I figured I’d go through each main attacker and how it is beaten.
How to Beat Each Attacker
– Yanmega is beaten by Cinccino and Zoroark. Both Pokémon can hit you for a decent amount of damage (Cinccino can 1-shot you with a PlusPower), and neither requires any specific hand size. Being able to lower or raise your hand to a difficult matching size prevents your opponent from returning an attack for free, giving you the upper hand.
2. Donphan is beaten by goading Earthquakes out of it with Yanmega and having a heavy PlusPower count in your deck. With 2 PlusPower, Donphan is 2-shot by Sonicboom. Without it, both of you 3-shot each other. Either way, forcing Donphan into Earthquaking your Yanmega prime forces them to leave any benched Pokémon they can’t evolve exposed for a cheap linear attack prize or Catcher prize.
3. Cinccino falls to Zoroark, Donphan, and even Yanmega w/ 2 PlusPowers. It’s a decent attacker for one energy, but it’s really frail and in my opinion overrated in general. Cinccino on its own won’t give you any specific trouble in the Stage 1s mirror.
4. Zoroark falls to a Cinccino that can deal the full 100 damage, or it falls hard to Donphan due to weakness. Setting up a field where your only attackers are Donphan or basic Pokémon that haven’t yet evolved also cuts Zoroark off from being useful at all—he’s only as strong as the attacks he can copy and abuse.
5. Weavile is interesting. Falls to about everything on this list with only 80 HP, but it’s actually my favorite card in the Stage 1s mirror. Despite having so many options and types of attackers at your disposal, one thing is clear. The deck does not have strong draw power, and it’s heavily dependent on Supporters. Claw snag is more useful in the Stage 1s matchup than any other because of how easily you fall to losing the only draw power you had.
In all Stage 1 mirror games I played, the list I played with Weavile won around 80% of the time—a ridiculous lead in the mirror so big that all I really feel like saying for Stage 1s is “try Weavile.” The list I provided two articles ago is a great place to start, with Yanmega as a solid all around attacker, Donphan being strong against every other Stage 1 attacker other than Yanmega, and Weavile being the icing on the cake.
Altogether, I’ll admit this section on the mirror isn’t perfect, but I hope opening the dialogue for you guys helps you think more about the least practiced matchup for most players. It’s hard to think about how to beat yourself—it means admitting your deck’s own weaknesses.
However, come the end of the year with Nationals and Worlds, identifying your deck’s weaknesses and learning how to overcome your opponent with a similar build are required skills to become a champion.
This section was hard to write—I tried testing as much as I could and I only found a few techs here or there that I could truly recommend to winning the matchup for you in the mirror. If you have any specific question about a matchup, even one not of the “big 4” that I covered here, let me know.
I plan to expand to a section on Gothitelle mirror that I’ll either tack to the end of an article or put in a separate post once I’ve tested the deck. It was slowly getting bigger as I was writing the article, and I’ll be honest in saying I haven’t logged a single game with the deck yet—it just isn’t my style of play.
Regardless, feel free to ask anything related to Battle Roads, tweaking your deck, and any specific mirror-intensive question that you can in the section below. I tend to answer any question asked. I logged about 100 total games in these past 2 weeks of testing, and I hope that all the practice can show itself and be helpful to you guys in any way that it can. Ask away!
In the meantime, good luck finishing out battle roads and testing for Regionals!
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