Dark Horses and Hot Cards

pokebeach.comJust like most of you, I am in the process of deciding on a deck to play for Fall Regionals. (For those who are interested, I’ll be in St. Louis.) The way that I approach the deck selection process for any event is almost always the same: I try to find something that not only can handle the majority of the expected metagame, but is also in some way unique or unexpected.

I don’t look for uniqueness or the unexpected just for the sake of it, or because I feel compelled to always be “original” or because I love gimmicks; I simply want to find that precise combination of cards that has an edge on the format and that most people aren’t going to be prepared for. Many times I do not find anything, but I rarely neglect to search.

Pursuing that magic deck or list or techs that somehow eluded the rest of the community may not always end in a winning rogue masterpiece, but it often will give you valuable exposure to less common cards and decks that you nevertheless might run into at large events like Regionals. It pays to be curious, and to search.

If all you do to prepare for a tournament is practice against the big, established decks, you are making yourself susceptible to opponents who have been spending their time devising ways to beat whatever top deck you decided to play with under-the-radar decks/techs/lists.

The greatest weapon in a successful rogue player’s arsenal is the ignorance of his opponents—to the deck’s concept, to its key components, to how to approach playing against it. For example, consider Ross Cawthon. His rogue Worlds 2011 deck was designed to counter all of the top decks, no one saw it coming in the slightest, and most of his opponents had no idea how to optimally approach the matchup.

Spending a lot of time becoming familiar with the card pool and all kinds of “fringe” ideas is what led to Ross’ creation, and even if it doesn’t lead you to the same success, it can give you an edge against players who are banking on your ignorance to their curveball decks. The more familiar you are with the card pool, the better prepared you will be for an event, which is what I am getting at here.

pokebeach.comA big field always means that you should expect to encounter a good variety of decks, even in a seemingly stagnant format in which one or two of those decks are winning more than the rest. In other words, just because Zekrom and Reshiphlosion are the two most successful decks from Battle Roads doesn’t mean that you will only be facing those decks round after round at Regionals.

If all you do is prepare for the big Tier 1 decks that everyone has written encyclopedias on by now, you leave yourself open to some unpleasant surprises. For example, what are you going to do when you sit down round 1 with Reshiphlosion and discover that you’ve been paired against Magneboar, or perhaps Samurott/Feraligatr? If you’ve failed to devote any time or thought to those matchups or at least the major cards in those decks, you will probably be in trouble.

In this article, I am not going to talk about the well-established Tier 1 decks that already have an abundance of literature devoted to them—which will only increase in the near future as we get closer to Regionals. Instead, I am going to be speculating on some of the “fringe” cards and decks that I think have potential to do well at Fall Regionals.

This will not only potentially alert you to some additional options to choose from, if you haven’t settled on a deck yet, but it will also help you avoid being caught off-guard by these “other” decks that you may not currently be prepared to take down.

I want to start off with a Pokémon that has risen and fallen repeatedly in both popularity and effectiveness since the debut of the HGSS-on format, and that is Emboar.

Brief History of the Pig

pokegym.netEveryone knew Emboar BLW #20 would see ample play as soon as the Japanese translation surfaced, and everyone also knew that Reshiram was the most obvious card to pair it with—hence, the birth of Reshiboar. A bit after BW’s release, people began playing Emboar with another partner—Magnezone Prime— and after a flurry of publicity and endorsements from big names such as 6P’s own Chris Fulop, the most hyped deck of the new format was born.

Meanwhile, Reshiboar largely fell by the wayside in favor of Reshiphlosion. Despite all of the build-up, Magneboar failed to accomplish much at Nationals, leading to its widespread dismissal among most of the playerbase. Then it shocked everyone with an unexpected win in the Master’s division at Worlds, and Emboar was back on the map.

During Battle Roads, Emboar variants didn’t put up anywhere near the numbers that Reshiphlosion, Zekrom, etc. did, which may seem peculiar considering that an Emboar deck had just won Worlds. What happened?

Well, I think that the arrival of Catcher is the primary culprit for Emboar’s lack of attention and widespread success. (Remember that at least 7 Emboar variants did win events in the Master’s division, so the deck didn’t completely disappear into the dreaded For League Only netherworld.)

In a format without Catcher (or Reversal….), life would be beautiful for Emboar—he could relax all day by the pool, barbecue, and enjoy the company of his good friends, giving them assistance when needed (such as when they have a Defending Pokémon to incinerate). Unfortunately, Catcher does exist in this format, and it makes life difficult for Emboar.

Even the most novice player will know that this conspicuous 4-retreat pig with a broken Ability is the priority to target with Catcher; there is practically a line of text on Emboar that says “I do not belong in the Active Spot”. When Emboar is brought up (not if—when) and it doesn’t get immediately KO’d, and you don’t have a Switch on hand, burning 4 energy to retreat is painful, especially in a deck that already has to discard or Lost Zone energy constantly with its attackers and, in Reshiboar’s case, Ninetales’ Roast Reveal.

pokebeach.comFisherman does let you do it, assuming you have 4 Fire already discarded, but then that is a precious recovery resource wasted on responding to your opponent’s Catcher. Even if Emboar does get to the Bench, it can just be Catchered back up again on another turn and eventually KO’d. Unless you have another one in the wings, you will lose your ability to Inferno Fandango, and probably also lose the game.

Tepig and Pignite are Catcher targets as well, particularly Tepig since it can be 1HKO’d by every major attacker in the game. This means that Magneboar needs at least 3 Tepig, and Reshiboar needs the max 4, so that you don’t get locked out of the game by being denied Emboar altogether. While you can afford losing a few of your Tepig/Pignite to Catcher KOs, the same cannot be said of Emboar in most lists, which usually don’t run more than 2 copies of it.

The only real solution to the Catcher problem is to get multiple Emboar into play as soon as you can. Having 2 Emboar out will do more than just give you insurance if one goes down. Your opponent will probably have to devote two attacks and possibly 2 Catchers to taking down a single Emboar, and if you have 2 in play, you may deter your opponent from bothering with either of them.

Why is this? Well, the logic is that if the opponent can’t KO both Emboar, just taking out one will be useless for him since the other will still be there to enable Inferno Fandango. Also, any turns spent taking out just one Emboar of a pair will be turns where Reshiram/RDL/Blitzboar/Magnezone go unharmed, which can be dangerous for your opponent (particularly the unchecked RDL).

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Why not run 3 or even 4 Ability Emboar to make it even harder for your opponent to cut off Inferno Fandango?” Actually, in Reshiboar, I think that running 3 is a good idea in this format for exactly that reason. 4 isn’t nearly as good, though, because it disallows Blitzboar, which is a valuable attacker in several popular matchups.

A lot of players are running a 2/2 split, and that can work too—it just has more Catcher issues, and also a bit less consistency in getting that initial Ability Emboar out. If you’re interested in running Reshiboar for Regionals, I would experiment with 2/2 and 3/1 splits and see which you have the most success with. Right now I am leaning toward 3/1 myself, for what it’s worth.

pokebeach.comI think a lot of people also are not eager to run Emboar variants because of how tight the most effective lists tend to be. There isn’t space for a lot of great cards like Catcher, Junk Arm and PlusPower in Reshiboar, for example, and people don’t want to sacrifice their ability to abuse those cards (unless they are preventing their opponents from playing them too via Item lock).

All Emboar variants have the same simple goal: overwhelm the opponent with a streak of 1HKOs, which Inferno Fandango allows Pokémon such as Reshiram, Magnezone Prime and RDL to easily do. There are no tricks or intricate exchanges involved in an Emboar deck— just huge and consistent damage output. The only big “surprise play” you can really execute with this deck is dropping RDL “out of nowhere,” although by this point only the most inexperienced player should be surprised to see that Legend hit the table. If you’re looking for a deck that relies on raw power to win, an Emboar variant isn’t going to let you down.

Why do I think that Emboar may make an effective showing at Regionals, in spite of its issues? For one thing, Emboar variants are among the few decks that can deal more than 120 damage without the assistance of PlusPower/Kingdra Prime/etc.. This is most important because it allows Gothitelle to be 1HKO’d. Many other decks can’t break through the 130 HP wall that Magic Room + Damage Swap creates because their attackers max out at 120 damage or less, and therefore they’re forced to rely on damage flooding to win.

However, Emboar’s biggest attackers—Blitzboar, Magnezone Prime, RDL—burn right through that 130 HP wall and make tanking impossible for the Gothitelle player. If Gothitelle can’t tank, it generally loses.

Magneboar also has the ability to 1HKO sturdy cards that give the rest of an Emboar deck trouble, such as Samurott and Suicune&Entei Legend, with Magnezone Prime. There is no concern of being locked out of the game by a tank 1HKOing all of your Fire Pokémon when you have Magnezone Prime available to deal overkill damage on command.

Unfortunately, Reshiboar doesn’t have Lost Burn at its disposal and thus needs to tech something in order to handle SEL. Ross will otherwise beat the deck with an un-KOable SEL due to the Damage Swap + Allergy Flower lock. Some of you may have seen Pooka running “strange” cards like Pikachu BW and Magcargo on his Top Cut stream specifically to beat SEL, and you may consider doing the same thing if you’re interested in playing Reshiboar at Regionals.

pokegym.netOther options that can take down SEL are Lanturn Prime and Zoroark BLW. The latter is only going to work if your opponent doesn’t get a 2nd Reuniclus into play; if there is only one, you can copy SEL’s Torrent Blade and deal 100 damage to Reuniclus and eliminate Damage Swap from the equation, which will then do one of two things: let you eventually 2HKO the SEL for 2 Prizes, or force the opponent to retreat and not use SEL again.

Another selling point of Emboar variants is their positive matchups against Reshiphlosion. Afterburner’s ten damage placement is not usually game-breaking, but against Emboar, it is, since now every Reshiram that gets Afterburnered is able to be 1HKO’d by another Reshiram’s Blue Flare. Blitzboar, Magnezone Prime, and RDL also give the deck big problems with their high HP and 150+-damage attacks.

Opposing Reshirams may be able to muster a few 1HKOs with PlusPower here and there, but a field full of 140-150 HP Pokémon that can all hand out 1HKOs without PlusPower is eventually going to be too much to handle.

The last big perk of running either Magneboar or Reshiboar is access to the game’s two best current draw engines: Magnezone Prime and Ninetales HS/CoL, respectively. Magnezone does come with the drawback of being an additional Stage 2 to set up, but it pays you for your effort by giving you constant draw at no cost other than proper hand management, and access to the most powerful attack in the game.

You actually couldn’t ask for much more. Ninetales, on the other hand, is easier to get into play and can net you cards regardless of how big or small your hand is, but requires a cost to be paid for its draw power and is saddled with a bad, overcosted attack.

Regardless of these cards’ few cons, the draw power that each offers adds a great deal of consistency and ease-of-access to its respective build. There is an invisible wall that separates decks in this format into two categories: those with Ninetales or Magnezone, and those without. The cards are that good, and right now we have nothing that compares to either of them.

pokemon-paradijs.comNinetales allows Reshiboar to stock its hand up rather than rely on constantly refreshing it with shuffle draw. This is important because Reshiboar needs to accumulate cards like Fisherman, RDL pieces, Switch, and Energy Retrieval to be used in the future; it doesn’t want to discard its hand or shuffle it back into the deck on a regular basis just because the cards occupying it at a given moment aren’t immediately needed.

Stockpiling does open up the door for Judge disruption, though, although only a few decks run that in high numbers at the moment (Megazone, primarily). Amassing a huge hand can also completely shut down Yanmega, if the opponent isn’t able to access a Copycat/Judge.

This may seem inconsequential considering that all of the deck’s attackers 1HKO Yanmega and are seemingly not threatened by it, but a swarm of Yanmega that are all able to Sonicboom is still not something you want to encounter, especially in conjunction with Catcher.

I’m not going to post a list for either Reshiboar or Magneboar because you can find plenty of both on 6P already that wouldn’t be far from what I could show you. I also haven’t tested Magneboar for a long time (although it is on my list of things to do). I have been testing Reshiboar a lot though, and will share with you a few things I have learned:

– Ninetales is extremely good. I have yet to find a good list that doesn’t run it. As far as numbers go, I don’t like any lower than 2-2. 3-3 may seem too high at first, but it actually isn’t. You just want to get 2 into play for most games, and running 3-3 helps you do that. It may also seem harmful to be running another Pokémon that discards your energy, but the draw you get in return is worth it, plus the energy recovery that the deck runs goes a long way. A heads on Burned Tower is basically a free Roast Reveal, too.

– I already mentioned that I am testing 3-1 Emboar at the moment, and I like it so far. 4 Tepig and 2 Pignite is how to go for the rest of the line. (4 Tepig to match 4 Emboar and as Catcher insurance; 2 Pignite to combat Item lock).

– Straight draw is more effective than shuffle draw here, and that means Cheren and Engineer’s Adjustments are your go-to cards. Yes, Engineer’s is yet another energy discarder, but it is the best [non-hand-or-deck-discarding] draw card that that we have, so I run it.

RDL is still good. You just have to use it judiciously, as always. The 3-1 Emboar split version particularly benefits from this card, as it replaces the 2nd Blitzboar as another 150-damage machine.

– For energy recovery, I like 3 Fisherman, 2 Energy Retrieval, and a Burned Tower. Sometimes I run a lone Flower Shop Lady as well.

– You aren’t going to have room for a lot of Junk Arm, Pokémon Catcher, and PlusPower. In fact, you may not be able to fit any. Catcher and PlusPower aren’t as effective here anyway since you have Pokémon capable of 1HKOing almost anything, so you don’t have to mourn their loss.

– Some interesting cards to try in Emboar are Tornadus, Smeargle and Zoroark. I have this vague idea floating around in my head for a version of this deck that runs some or all of those (as well as a couple of Reshiram, 4 DCE, no RDL), actually doesn’t run Ninetales (or maybe just a 1-1 line), doesn’t stockpile cards, runs max Junipers and Junk Arms and Energy Retrieval—and may be very bad, but it intrigues me.


pokegym.netThis deck has won a few Battle Roads, including at least 2 here in Texas. It is very solid, yet for one reason or another it has not taken off yet and established itself among the playerbase. You should not be surprised to see some of these running around at the top tables of your Regionals though, as it has been picking up a bit of steam (DRAGON STEAM) lately in the online community.

The strategy is to swarm Kingdra Prime and use multiple Spray Splashes to transform Pokémon with more than 100 HP into 1HKO targets for Cinccino’s Do the Wave. The deck is fast and aggressive; both Cinccino and Kingdra can attack for high damage with a single energy attachment, and Cinccino is a Stage 1 that can easily be doing 60-100 on the 2nd turn.

The main thing that sets this deck apart from other Stage 1-centered variants is its ability to repeatedly dish out 130+ damage a turn. As you know, being able to do 130+ damage is huge in this format filled with high-HP Pokémon, and being able to do it consistently on top of that is rare.

Spray Splash is a great tool to be able to work with in any deck, and this one maxes its Kingdra line to take absolute advantage of the Power (4-3-4 is probably the most solid count since it allows you to potentially get 3 Kingdra out against Gothitelle, which then lets you 1HKO it.). As we all should know after several formats of Crobat G madness, an extra 10 damage alone can be game-changing, but what about that extra 30 or 40 all being dropped at once?

After 3 or all 4 Kingdra are in play and every seat on your opponent’s side of the field has become a splash zone (that, unlike Sea World, may lead to unconsciousness for the unlucky splash victim), the damage output can quickly become overwhelming.

Spray Splash doesn’t have to be used solely to set up 1HKOs from Cinccino on the Active, either, as sometimes you won’t need the extra damage to get a knockout. Those extra counters can be used to KO low-HP Pokémon on the Bench like hanging Babies or Solosis, and they can also be used to KO Pokémon that have been left with only a handful of HP from a previous attack.

pokegym.netIf an Active Pokémon is finished off by Spray Splash, it forces the opponent to promote something else to take a hit during that same turn, possibly netting you 2 Prizes at once, or at the very least giving you a Prize and the first strike on something else. That is a unique luxury that few other decks have.

Kingdra’s 130 HP and Water type make it a great natural Donphan counter, which the deck needs as coverage for the Fighting-weak Cinccino. Dragon Steam does 100 to Donphan after Exoskeleton and weakness are both factored in, and then 2 Spray Splashes/PlusPower are all you need to KO it.

Just be wary of a teched Reshiram, which will ruin this plan by reducing your Dragon Steam down to a mere ineffectual 20 damage. If you see a Reshiram hit the field in a Donphan deck, Catcher it up and sacrifice a Cinccino to KO it if you have to. Having Dragon Steam back at max damage will be worth the effort.

This deck can also run Yanmega Prime and go into “Basic denial mode”, which is a term I just made up on the spot that refers to the [cruel and unconscionable] act of using Spray Splash and Linear Attack to pick off every Evolving Basic Pokémon that gets Benched.

However, I think the more pure and straightforward “Kingdra and Cinccino are a perfect pair, and three is a crowd” approach is probably best here. That way you focus the deck completely on maximizing that relationship, you don’t have to cut any cards to fit the Yanmega in, and you don’t have to worry about running Supporters such as Copycat or Judge that are generally inferior in this kind of deck.

Why do I think Kingdra/Cinccino may make a positive showing at Regionals? There are a few good reasons. One is the deck’s ability to 1HKO a lot of things, including Gothitelle if it ever gets 3 Kingdra into play. This won’t be easy, but it isn’t impossible either, especially with the 3 Seadra and ample draw power that the deck should run. Another is the deck’s all-around solidness.

That sounds vague, and it is, but I’ll elaborate by way of reiterating what I said earlier: Cinccino is fast, Kingdra is fast, both deal good damage for low energy, Kingdra has good HP and covers Cinccino’s Donphan weakness, and Spray Splash is incredibly abusable. All of that adds up to “all-around solidness.” This deck also has a great Sudden Death and can punish an opponent’s weak start in any game, which can easily net a player a few quick, no-sweat wins in swiss.

Here is a straight-forward list:

Pokémon – 20

4 Horsea UL
3 Seadra UL
4 Kingdra Prime
4 Minccino EPO
3 Cinccino BLW
1 Cinccino EPO
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 20

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 Professor Juniper
3 Rare Candy
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Junk Arm
2 Copycat
1 Pokégear 3.0
1 Switch
1 Bianca

Energy – 11

4 Double Colorless
4 Rescue
3 W

pokegym.netThe Cinccino EP is an experimental counter for Vileplume and Reuniclus (in either Gothitelle or Ross). With Rescue, it can come back after a KO and hopefully stick one of those Pokémon Active the 2nd time around if it failed to the first. The Trainers are mostly what you would expect, with a few unique choices—the Pokégear and the Bianca.

Pokégear helps with consistency and can be Junk Armed to give you additional outs when you are having a Supporter drought, and Bianca is an experimental stand-in for the 4th Juniper or the 3rd Copycat. You may wonder why there are no PlusPower, and that is because a.) there is no space and b.) Kingdra is PlusPower, converted into a painful splash of water.

The energy is as low as it can go, in my opinion. You don’t ever want to whiff an attachment here unless you’re just so far ahead that it doesn’t matter. In most games, though, you’ll be trading Prizes all game, and eventually your 4 DCE will be gone, so you need a decent amount of additional energy to allow for the last few Do the Waves. 4 DCE needs no explanation, 4 Rescue ensures you will continue to have a full Bench after KOs while also giving you Cinccino back, and 3 Water is enough to allow Kingdra to attack when needed.

You could do a 3-1 split on Kingdra to give the deck a counter for SEL if you’re paranoid about losing to Ross; this would also improve your matchup against anything with Reshiram.

Mew Prime

This card is the easiest answer to Gothitelle currently available in our card pool, so you can expect to see it at Regionals due to that alone. Being a good counter to Gothitelle isn’t all Mew has going for it, though. Here is a rundown of the big decks Mew is being used in right now, and what it does in those decks:

Mew Lock (Mew/Vileplume/Yanmega)

— For a more in-depth exploration of this deck, check out my article on it.

pokegym.netMew’s major function here is providing a way to swarm Muk, whose Sludge Drag is essential to the deck’s locking strategy. Why run Mew instead of Muk, you ask? The answer is that Mew is the king of swarmability, while Muk is the king of plodding [and filth—the kind of filth that traps Pokémon Active against their will and wins games].

Without Mew, the deck would need to “swarm” the Stage 1, 3-retreat Muk, and that isn’t going to happen. I put the word ‘swarm’ in quotes because it isn’t even possible to truly swarm a Pokémon with such a high Retreat Cost, especially since your goal is to TAG TEAM with Yanmega rather than attack exclusively with Muk all game. Mew’s free retreat—combined with Yanmega’s free retreat— lets you engage in this TAG TEAM action seamlessly.

Mew is also a Basic Pokémon, meaning that a single Collector can net you ¾ of your Sludge-Dragging, Muk-channeling kitten-collective in an instant.

Mew Toolbox

Here, Mew can See Off more aggressive Pokémon such as Zoroark, Cinccino, Tornadus, Lucario (CoL), etc. and go the “glass cannon” swarm route, where each Mew is meant to take a Pokémon down before it gets KO’d itself. Other, more situational See Off targets can also be run, such as Muk and Crobat Prime, to be utilized in specific matchups or appropriate scenarios. Unlike Mew Lock, these decks benefit from being able to play Items freely, mainly Catcher, Junk Arm and PlusPower, all of which help Mew get KOs.

Often you will see actual Cinccino/Zoroark/etc. lines included alongside Mew so that the burden to win isn’t 100% on its fragile feline shoulders. It might seem strange to run Mew in the first place alongside already fast Pokémon such as the aforementioned Stage 1s; after all, Cinccino and Zoroark don’t absolutely need the aid of Mew like Muk does in Mew Lock.

The thing to realize is that just because they don’t need Mew to work doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from the increased swarmability that it offers. Mew also grants the deck the unique and highly useful ability to transform a single Pokémon into every Pokémon in the deck (or at least however many Pokémon you have sent to the Lost Zone).


That way, you only need a Mew in play with energy to be able to, say, use Do the Wave or Foul Play or Dimension Sphere at your whim, whereas normally you would need to have a Cinccino, a Zoroark, and a Lucario all fully energized to have those options available on any given turn.

Finally, Mew’s ability to 1HKO Gothitelle with Do the Wave/Dimension Sphere/Hurricane due to weakness is a huge selling point. Think about how poorly this kind of Stage 1 deck would fare against Gothitelle without Mew, and you have another answer to the question “why would a Stage 1 deck want to run Mew at all?”.


Another less-seen role that Mew can nevertheless play very well is that of an additional Hurl into Darkness user in Gengar Prime variants. Mewgar is a deck that hasn’t done anything big in a while, yet it isn’t a deck to ever completely dismiss, especially if you expect to play in an area with a lot of Ross, Gothitelle and/or Mew Lock decks. All of those have a rough time against Gengar.

The problem that all three share is that they are denied easy access to Twins. The Ross player is forced to choose one of two options when faced with this Twins dilemma. The first option is to do without its engine and, as a result, set up much more slowly—which will lead to an increased, unchecked susceptibility to Hurl into Darkness. The other option is to use Donphan’s Earthquake to eventually activate Twins by KOing Babies or Solosis/Oddish (either with or without the aid of Damage Swap).

Doing this will be costly though if a Gengar is Active, because whatever was KO’d will go to the Lost Zone due to Catastrophe, and that is exactly what the Mewgar player wants. The Mewgar player could also choose to forget about trying to deny the Ross player his use of Twins and take Cursed Drop KOs when the opportunities arise, such as during that period when Donphan is Earthquaking and there are chances to get multiple Cursed Drop KOs in one attack (for example, if a Pichu and a Solosis both have one counter on them).

Gothitelle, on the other hand, has no way to force a Twins as long as the Mewgar player has been smart and abstained from using Cursed Drop (for Damage Swap to manipulate into a self-KO), as Gothitelle does not deal damage to its own Pokémon. The same issue with Catastrophe applies here too though, even if the Gengar player did use Cursed Drop for some reason and Damage Swap was used to turn on Twins.


The biggest problem for Ross and Mew Lock is that they both play an above-average (read: very high) amount of Pokémon with few ways to get rid of them (such as Junk Arm or Professor Juniper), meaning that Gengar/Mew can have a field day with Hurl into Darkness even without the aid of Seeker or Spiritomb.

If the Mewgar player is running a Vileplume variant, it gets worse, as all of the Vileplume components from Ross/Mew Lock become completely dead cards on the field, yet they also can’t be held on to all game due to Hurl into Darkness. This forces those two decks into a lose-lose situation: either play the dead cards and waste Bench spots, or help the opponent meet his win condition.

Mewgar is capable of crippling any deck (except Zekrom) if it is able to go first and immediately See Off a Gengar, because that lets the Mewgar player use Hurl into Darkness before the opponent has a chance to evolve. Evolutions become like hot potatoes in the opponent’s hand at that point, and both of the options for getting rid of them—putting them back into the deck with Communication/Oak’s New Theory/etc., or discarding them with Juniper or Junk Arm—obviously hurt the opponent.

Going second is more rough, especially against extremely aggressive decks like Stage 1 variants. Not opening with Mew, or being unable to get it Active and energized on the 1st turn, hurts as well. Fortunately the deck doesn’t rely entirely on Mew; Gengar as an Evolved attacker is harder to KO and it has access to an alternative Lost Zoning method (Catastrophe combined with Cursed Drop) which can be capitalized on in certain situations, such as if the opponent benches a Yanma and then uses Donphan’s Earthquake to put that Yanma into Cursed Drop KO range.

I don’t think this deck is going to turn up in droves at Regionals, but it has the potential to do well as long as it gets some lucky breaks against Zekrom and Stage 1s.

Hot Cards

Now I am going to talk about specific cards that I think more people may run at Regionals than they did at BRs, due to their usefulness in combating bad matchups, their ability to counter a lot of different decks at once, or their general strength against the format.

pokegym.netThe first card up is Zoroark BLW. Chris Fulop talked about it in his latest article, and I want to reiterate/confirm what he said, which is basically that this card is very potent in our current format. Foul Play lets you 1HKO some of the most popular Pokémon of the moment for a single energy attachment, the most prominent of which are Reshiram and Zekrom. This lets decks that otherwise lack huge damage output, such as Stage 1 variants, compete with bigger attackers into the midgame and beyond.

It also helps decks out that have other, non-damage-cap issues with these big attackers, such as an exploitable weakness, or relative slowness. (A lot of decks are slow compared to Zekrom, for example, and the threat of Zoroark 1HKOs can help those decks stabilize after an early Zekrom onslaught.)

Foul Play isn’t just good against Pokémon with big attacks that equal or exceed their HP. An entire article could be written analyzing nothing but Foul Play applications against every Pokémon you could expect to see in a tournament; my advice is to always be aware of chances for Foul Play to do something effective, whether the Zoroark is on your side or your opponent’s. Catcher has only increased this card’s strength, as you can now reliably pick whatever attack you want to use from your opponent’s Pokémon at any given moment.

Card #2 is Bouffalant BLW #91. This card is much more restricted in its uses compared to Zoroark, but what it does do is very useful: issue return KOs against Pokémon with 90-or-less HP for a single energy. Because Bouffalant is a Basic Pokémon, it can stay in the hand until it is needed, offering the element of surprise and/or denying the opponent a chance to KO it beforehand, plus it can be searched out with ease and does not require a turn of Evolution.

So what does Revenge actually KO, barring Pokémon that have been previously damaged? The number 1 target is a Zekrom that just used Bolt Strike; other popular Pokémon include Cinccino, RDL and Mew. With PlusPower(s), Bouffalant can also take down undamaged Zoroark, Tornadus, and Yanmega.

The popularity of Zekrom is the main reason to run Bouffalant, or to be wary of it if you are running Zekrom yourself, or something with RDL.

pokemon-paradijs.comCards # 3 and 4 do the same thing, so I’m grouping them together. They are Bellsprout TM and Carnivine TM. Both are used to pull up Bench-sitters like Vileplume and Reuniclus in the hopes of stranding those Pokémon Active long enough to be KO’d.

Vileplume and Reuniclus wreak havoc on a lot of decks, either together or separately, and those victimized decks are the ones most apt to tech Bellsprout or Carnivine in an attempt to cope. Bellsprout is ideal for decks that lack energy acceleration because of its 1 retreat, which is easy to pay without being disruptive, and Carnivine is better in decks that do have energy acceleration such as Reshiboar and Reshiphlosion due to its 2 Retreat Cost, which you don’t want to have to pay with manual attachments. The advantage of Carnivine is obviously its 80 HP versus Bellsprout’s “I want to be donked” 40 HP.

Most players are not going to see either card coming, so you can potentially cause some serious damage against the unprepared. Mew Lock is particularly susceptible to Vileplume being dragged Active since the deck runs no DCE (and has almost no reason to ever attach to Vileplume). That means that the Mew Lock player will lose his Vileplume if the opponent has something like Reshiram ready to deal 120 the turn after Vileplume is brought up.

Card # 5 is Black Belt. This card has seen a bit of hype recently as a supposed answer to Gothitelle and Ross, allowing decks with a debilitating damage cap to deal a critical 1HKO while under Item lock and break through a sweeping tank. It can also allow for surprise KOs in any game in which a player has fallen behind in Prizes, which of course is always going to be useful. It is also hard to predict, which means that an opponent typically won’t go out of his way to prevent it since he won’t know the threat of it is even present.

Against smart Gothitelle/Ross players, Black Belt actually isn’t nearly as effective as it has been hyped to be. All those players have to do is ensure that the opponent is never behind in Prizes, which can be accomplished via Damage Swap self-KOs. Sometimes Gothitelle/Ross can take a KO from Black Belt and still be fine, too—it is a common misconception that both of those decks completely crumble as soon as 1 tank goes down. Gothitelle and Ross are both capable of building additional attackers on the Bench; there is rarely a need to put absolutely all of the burden to win on one Pokémon.

In spite of Black Belt’s weaknesses, I am including it in this discussion anyway because it is effective against players who are unaware of it, or who recklessly play into it. Don’t let yourself be one of those players.

pokegym.netCard # 6 is Twins. The usefulness of Twins has gone way up with the release of Catcher and the rise of Zekrom. A lot of Stage 2 decks either rely on it to get going, or run at least 2 copies as back-up to combat the early-game onslaught of faster decks, or to offset an unfortunate start (which, sadly, can often be as simple as going 2nd).

This popularity of Twins can put a lot of decks in awkward stalemate situations where one player is trying not to activate the other player’s Twins. At Regionals, I think this card is going to continue to be huge, perhaps even bigger than it was during BRs. The speed of the format has made Twins into such a lifesaver for so many decks.

Next, I’m going to lump a handful of cards together that all serve the same purpose, which is to allow decks that can deal 110-120 damage to get 1HKOs on Gothitelle. These are Magby TM, Houndoom Prime, Venomoth TM, and Kingdra Prime.

To be honest, none of these are good answers to Gothitelle:

  • Magby can be played around with Switch or retreating, and it requires flips.
  • Houndoom needs a flip to inflict a Burn, and then the opponent needs to flip tails immediately or else Switch/retreating negate it too. It is also difficult to get out under Item lock, and Houndour is vulnerable to Catcher.
  • Venomoth requires a coin flip, is difficult to get out under Item lock, and Venonat is vulnerable to Catcher.
  • Kingdra requires a quick Rare Candy to beat Gothitelle to the field. Otherwise, it has to go through Seadra, which (along with Horsea) is vulnerable to Catcher. Seadra and Kingdra are also difficult to get out under Item lock.

There is also the issue of having to deal with another Gothitelle, even if the 1st one is KO’d with the aid one of these Pokémon, which I brought up in the Black Belt section. A single Gothitelle KO does not mean “game over.”

The reason these cards are being discussed is the same reason why Black Belt is: as bad as they may be at beating Gothitelle, they are all capable of throwing off an unprepared player, and they shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you’re playing Gothitelle, don’t panic if you see them. They aren’t going to ruin your day.

pokegym.netThe final card is Vileplume. Unlike Gothitelle, this Pokémon can be partnered up with anything, which leaves a lot of open doors for players who are looking to run Item lock. You should definitely expect the established Vileplume variants—Ross and Mew Lock—but you should also be wary of the card in general since it can show up in so many different decks.

Permanent Item lock (Claritin does not turn off Allergy Flower) continues to have a crippling effect on virtually every deck in the format aside from other Vileplume variants, so I expect to see a fair amount of pollen-flinging flowers at Regionals—perhaps even more than we saw at Battle Roads.

I want to end the article with a few words of advice that you should keep in mind for Regionals, and beyond.

– You have surely read or heard this before, but it bears repeating: Don’t make a last-minute deck switch unless you are extremely comfortable with that deck, or have a compelling reason to go with it over whatever your original choice was. Experience, or lack thereof, with a deck is actually a big factor in your success. Sure, there are players who have picked up a deck cold the day of a tournament and gone home with a trophy and scholarship money, but those players are rare. Most of the rest of us are going to suffer if we second-guess ourselves and abandon what we know and have worked on for something we are unfamiliar with and have not perfected or piloted before.

– Be aware of everything in all of your games. Know what is in your deck, what is Prized, what is in your discard pile, what is in your opponent’s discard pile, and what is on both sides of the field at all times.

– Do not have tunnel vision, where you can’t see a good play because you aren’t even trying to find it. Do not think that every game you play against a certain deck is going to play out like it “should” on paper. Be flexible. Be aware of what every card on the field does, and always look for ways to do something effective every single turn, even if you are losing. There are all kinds of ways to make comebacks in this game, and there are all kinds of inventive plays that can facilitate these comebacks that people miss because they don’t consider everything available to them.

– On the other side of that, don’t throw games away that you are winning. Don’t make big gambles if you don’t need to.

– Don’t panic and make rash decisions if you are feeling the crunch of time, or are against a bad matchup, or a big-name player, or in the Finals. Realize that your opponents are all human, and are just as susceptible to whiffing as you are, or having a bad hand, or missing a coin flip, or not drawing the right cards off of Judge. Don’t mentally sign the match slip before the game is over.

– This goes along with some of what I was saying up there, but I’ll make it a separate point: know what every card in your deck does. You would be surprised how many people don’t know what the Basics and Stage 1s in their own decks actually do. Sometimes you have to attack with those Pokémon, and sometimes they can surprisingly help you win.

For example, Gothita inflicts Sleep, which can buy you a crucial turn of set up and immunity; similarly, one of the Gothoritas can Confuse, and Magnemite can Paralyze. The other Gothorita can discard an energy on a coin flip. Maybe your opponent only has one energy in play and a small hand but is running you over with something that only needs that one energy.

If you get heads, you can cut off his ability to attack for a while, giving you time to get back into the game. Magneton can 1HKO a Yanmega with 3 heads on Tri Attack. Unlikely? Yes, but possible, and sometimes you are in such dire straits that going for something like that is worth it. These are just a few examples of many.

That’s all I have for now. I hope you took something helpful away from this article, or were at the very least entertained. Be sure to ask me any questions that you have in the thread, and I’ll be in touch.

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