Kenny Wisdom back on the Underground side of things again! This time I’ll be going over what I’m considering playing and what I expect to see played at the Autumn Regionals events. Due to a weird scheduling issue, I’m writing this under more constraint than normal, so bear with me as I try and find the perfect mixture of brevity and detail.
I’ll be first going over the decks that I think you’ll see at Regionals (with a quick rundown of each, of course), and then will transition to talking about some of the nuances of having a new, big tournament this early in the season, and what implications that has on the metagame. Let’s get to it.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 31
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 12
1-1 Ninetales is definitely the play.
pokemon-paradijs.comOmitting the fox completely seems sub-optimal and makes your Trainer Lock matchup even more difficult, while playing more than a single copy of both is just unnecessary and takes up entirely too much room. In my testing I’ve found that 1-1 is a nice number to have, as Ninetales is purely there to make things better. What I mean by this is that you don’t rely on it, and obviously you focus on getting Typhlosions online before anything, but if you’re hurting for draw or if you have extra bench slots, you try and get a Ninetales set-up.
If your Vulpix dies before you get your Ninetales up, it’s not a huge deal as you should never be playing in such a matter that you absolutely rely on it. Basically, it’s nice to have, but not completely necessary to have online in each and every game.
The Supporter lines can vary
I’m of the school of thought that Sage/Oak/Juniper is definitely the way to go in the deck, and I also think that you need a higher count of Oak and Sage to Juniper, but the exact numbers aren’t quite perfect. I’ve seen lists with a 3/3 Oak/Sage split, I’ve seen some with a 4/4 Oak/Sage split and a single copy of Juniper. The list goes on. At the end of the day, I think it’s important that you play all of these cards, and that you play at least eight copies total.
As a sidenote, if you do decide to forego Ninetales completely, you absolutely must add more draw Supporters. If you choose to go heavier on the Ninetales line, you should try and cut things like PlusPowers first and foremost, and try to keep roughly the same amount of draw supporters.
Rescue Energy is a bro, but there’s no room
I was a huge advocate of Rescue Energy for a long time, but at the end of the day it’s simply not worth it. I wouldn’t exactly criticize anyone for playing it, but I don’t see where you find the room without hurting your number of Fires, or even worse, losing consistency. If someone out there includes 2-3 copies of Rescue and has an otherwise amazing list, I’ve yet to see it and I applaud you for being able to do so.
Teching/Playing against Gothitelle
pokegym.netIn our testing for the first week of BRs, going into a completely blind meta, the first thing we really put focus on was trying to find a way to beat Gothitelle. I’ve heard from several sources before that ReshiPhlosion has a positive Gothitelle matchup simply because it’s able to outspeed them and abuse Catcher to kill their set-up, but in my experience that’s been very far from the case.
Without any outs for Gothitelle, you literally just lose once they get the lock-up in the majority of situations. In my mind, there are only two real Gothitelle counters to even consider:
Magby and Black Belt
The former is fine, and we played it in a few tournaments, but it doesn’t quite get you there. It just requires too much luck on your part. Firstly, they have to not have a Switch (or a Twins in hand to search our the Switch) in hand, nor must they be able to reasonably retreat (meaning that they must not play Dodrio either, or your whole tech goes down the drain).
Even if you do get past all of the retreating tricks though, there’s still the matter of them flipping tails. Not only do they have to flip tails on at least one of two flips (maybe you don’t all play in a meta of David “Lucksack” Cohen and Tyler “Topdeck” Ninomura, but in my experience this will NEVER HAPPEN), but they also have to flip them at the exact right time. At the end of the day, it’s fine, but there’s just too much luck involved.
Black Belt, while better than Magby, still isn’t the greatest tech in the world. Any smart Goth player will assume the worst and build a second Goth on the bench for when you KO the Goth. And that’s if you even get to KO the Goth, as it’s not likely that you’ll be behind on prizes very much vs the deck.
Unlike Magby, I have been playing Black Belt lately, usually just as a 1-of, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily all that effective. At the end of the day, if Gothitelle is big in your area, play 1-2 copies of Black Belt and hope that you can exploit the poor Goth players.
Speaking of exploiting the bad players…I really feel that’s what you’ve got to rely on when playing almost any deck vs. Gothitelle. None of the techs are fool-proof, and almost all of them rely on your opponent not playing correctly. Normally this would be a huge problem and I would tell you that you should never rely on your opponent playing anything but perfectly, but against Gothitelle I think it’s actually kind of okay.
The deck is fairly difficult to play and chances are that the majority of players are going to make a lot of mistakes that you, the educated player, can exploit and use to your advantages. I wouldn’t exactly rely on your opponents being horrible, but sometimes you just have to sleeve up those techs and hope for the best!
Playing the Mirror Match
If you decide to play ReshiPhlosion during Regionals you have to understand that you’re also accepting that you’re going to be playing the mirror match a crapton (unless you live in some kind of Sibera-esque area where ReshiPhlosion is only spoken of in legend), and therefore should be prepared for it. It’s one of the more simple mirror matches out there, and in general mirrors aren’t very interesting, but I felt it needed to be mentioned, at the very least.
Besides the aforementioned Black Belt, there’s really nothing that I would recommend teching for the mirror. You obviously have to be playing 4 Typhlosions and 4 Reshirams, but that’s more of a general rule of life and less of a rule for the mirror. Cut them off of Typhlsosions, and build up Reshirams without having to Afterburner as much as possible, and you should be fine.
Oh, and an aside…don’t play Kingdra. Just don’t.
ReshiPhlosion is my last choice in regard to the “big 3” decks I’ll be going over in this article, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad choice. It just means that I’d rather be playing the other two, but a lot of that has to do with personal playstyle and metagame calls. I wouldn’t criticize anyone for sleeving up Reshi for Regionals, as obviously there’s a precedent of it being pretty darn good this season. Just follow the tips I outlined above, play tight and don’t go on tilt, and you should be a-okay.
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 27
2 Junk Arm
Energy – 11
pokebeach.comAs you can see by the list above (which is the personal list I’ve been testing for the past two weeks), I’m a big fan of the standard Blissey/Seeker/Dragon/Max Potion strategy and think it’s the best, but I would be doing a disservice to the community if I didn’t highlight a few of the other strategies and the positives and negatives of them.
Probably the most popular of the “alternate” strategies is using Serperior and cutting Dragons and Blissey completely. Your healing engine would look to play a 1-0-1 or 2-1-2-of Serperior and maybe a single copy of Max Potion, if that.
The general strategy of this kind of engine is to manipulate 120 damage (the maximum output that can be done to a Gothitelle without killing it, and also the most common amount of damage you’re going to see), by putting 20 damage on each of their benched Pokémon, and leaving the single 10 damage on Goth (the 120 will turn into 110 with Serperior up), to be healed off next turn. You then pass the turn and your benched damages go to 10, and when they pass your benched damage goes to 0, and you start the chain all over again.
The advantage to this kind of engine is that it’s by far the most consistent. As you can see in the example above, you can safely heal 120 damage every turn with very little problems, and unless you make a mistake, it’s very hard to lose with Serperior up. You don’t have to worry about them putting too much damage on the field, or you not having the ability to Blissey/Seeker/Max Potion in the late game, or any of the other concerns you deal with without playing Serperior.
The biggest disadvantage, in my mind, is that it’s just another thing to worry about in the early game. Because you completely forego any other healing options most of the time, you turn the term “getting the lock up” from meaning “getting Goth and Reuniclus up” to “Getting Gothitelle, Reuniclus, and Serperior up” which is significantly harder, even on the back of the Twins engine.
It’s certainly not impossible and as I said, the potential rewards are huge, but if your Serperior pieces are prized, get Catcher’d in the early game, etc. You’re in a bad situation that you wouldn’t otherwise be in.
pokebeach.comThe other option is to use an engine with no Pokémon-based healing, and one that focuses more on manipulating your damage in regard to the Dragons. A typical trainer-based heal engine would probably look include 2 Dragons, no Blissey or Serperior, 2-3 Max Potions, and 2-3 Seeker. The general idea is that you move all your damage to your Dragons and then just Max Potion or Seeker it away later. You can also manipulate the damage to get late game KOs with the Dragons.
The advantage to this is that you’re almost completely Max Potion based, which can be recovered with Junk Arm. There’s also the aforementioned ability to attack with the Dragons, which can be a neat late game trick, but is usually bad (as you’ll see in the next paragraph). To be completely honest, I played this engine for quite a while when we were initially testing Gothitelle, and I see almost no advantages. Put simply, I wouldn’t play this version of the deck, and look about an eighth of an inch below for all the reasons why!
The disadvantage to this engine is that it’s terribly inconsistent. You have to rely on hitting your healing cards at the right times, whereas things like Blissey and Serperior allow you to have a more constant flow of healing available to you. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and have nowhere to put your damage, causing you to sacrifice your Dragons and further your inconsistency, or — even worse — sacrifice a benched Reuniclus or Gothitelle to make room for more counters.
Furthermore, the option of attacking with the dragons is only really viable in late games or desperate situations, as passing the turn with a dragon active means that you’ve broken the trainer lock, which is never a good sign.
Shaymin and Jirachi
One notable cut from my list has been Shaymin and Jirachi. I originally thought that the duo were completely necessary to making the deck work, but as I’ve tested it more and more I’ve found that that’s simply not the case. They’re good, and they certainly help in the mirror matches, or any match where you need to do a large amount of damage very quickly, but I think they’re far from necessary.
Again, I wouldn’t criticize anyone for playing these cards, and they’re certainly not “bad,” I just think they’re sub optimal, unless you expect your meta to be overrun with Gothitelle.
One Tropical Beach is enough
I’ve tested this deck with 0-4 copies of Tropical Beach, and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that one is enough. In fact, here is my scale…
0 = Mehh. Not awful, but not enough
1 = Fantasic!
2 = Also good
3 = Ehhh
4 = Awful
Moreso than anything, I really want to drive the point home that I don’t believe this deck absolutely needs Tropical Beach. Yes, the deck is strictly worse without it, but the notion that playing no Beaches (or less than 4!) makes this deck a completely pile of poop is astounding to me.
Yes, if you have copies you’d be dumb not to play it, but it doesn’t make the difference all that much, and I wouldn’t stress if you don’t have/can’t find/can’t afford Beaches in time for Regionals. You’ll have a slightly worse deck, but not so much so that it should seriously affect your chances of going deep into the tournament.
After his finals match at Worlds 2011, I asked Ross Cawthon his thoughts on Tropical Beach and how it helped him, and his exact words were…
“It was good, but it didn’t win me any games or anything.”
That’s largely how I feel, and I’m honestly very surprised that the Beach is getting so much hype. It’s certainly a good card, but it’s not the be-all end-all.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
pokegym.netIf we leave out tricks like Black Belts and such, the only viable Pokémon that can 1HKO a Gothitelle in the current modified format is a Magnezone. As we saw in the finals of this years World Championship, these kind of decks (Those implementing the Truth Engine) are pretty soft against Magnezone, because we all know that Magnezone can 1HKO anything!
(Pro tip: Next time your friends talk to you about the awesome new EX cards coming out with elevently bajillion HP, scoff at them, shrug your shoulders, and remind them how Magnezone can 1-shot it. They’ll love you!)
In my experience, the key to beating Magnezone lies in being able to throw up a Goth to bide time until you can load a Goth that can 1HKO a Magnezone. Obviously you’re going to want to pick off Magnemites and ‘Tons before they grow up, and Magnezones without energy, but assuming that your opponent plays smart, the only way to beat them is to be able to outspeed and 1HKO them.
Even if you are able to 1HKO them, though, the best Zone players will often have another waiting in the wings with enough energy to 1HKO you back, which puts you in an awkward position. These are the situations where a Black Belt or Jirachi tech can help you, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
I don’t believe Magnezone will be played in droves, nor do I believe that most of the Magnezone players will be aware how to beat Gothitelle, and even if they are, the matchup isn’t quite that bad anyway. Just play tight!
This is my #1 choice going into Regionals, but I’d be lying if I said that meant all that much. I could very much audible at the last moment, particularly as our big team testing sessions haven’t happened yet. Be that as it may, if Regionals were tomorrow this is the deck that I’d be playing, and there is at least some merit to that.
The only thing you really have to worry about is other Trainer Lock decks, but as is becoming more and more typical in this format, that’s purely a metagame call.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 32
Energy – 16
pokebeach.comThe tech slot is really just a metagame call. As we’ve been trying to crack the Gothitelle matchup lately we’ve been trying things like Magby TM, Bellsprout TM, and Jirachi UL, but it’s really up to you to pay attention to your meta to determine what that slot should be for. There’s even a chance that it’s not a Pokémon or even a new card, and you just add higher lines of one of the cards already in the deck to tilt certain matchups. Completely up to you, but here are a few examples of things we’ve tested, and how I feel about them…
Bellsprout – Meh. They have to play bad or not run Dodrio UD to fall into this trip.
Magby – Already spoken about, good but luck based.
Jirachi – Better than Bellsprout, but falls into the same trap of relying on your opponent playing sub-optimally.
Black Belt – Maybe the best of any of these (save for Jirachi perhaps?) but not amazing.
One thing a little off the beaten path that we tried for a while was Mr. Mime CL. The idea was that (when combined with Judge, a criminally underrated card in this metagame, imo) you could turn assumptions into cold-hard information, and would know when your opponent was bluffing a Twins, for example. It worked pretty well, but required you to sacrifice some consistency against other things.
There’s not a whole lot I can say about this deck that hasn’t already been said, so I’m going to keep in short and focus on other topics for now. If there’s something that you would’ve liked to have seen covered, please feel free to give me a shout in the Underground hideout and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can with as many details as possible.
This is my #2 deck choice by a slim margin, and I think it’ll probably be the winningest deck after Regionals. I wouldn’t say it’s going to win more than 50% or anything, but I’d predict quite a few 1st place medals earned on the back of Zekrom this season.
pokegym.netExcuse the awful pun, but I felt it was necessary to address what was my #1 choice for Regionals before we started hardcore testing: ReshiBoar.
When we were theorizing about what we could break the format with, ReshiBoar (and to a lesser extent, Magneboar) were the first things to come to mind. I mean, think about it, it’s a more consistent ReshiPhlosion that could also 1HKO Gothitelle with minimal effort, and had a ridiculously strong finisher in Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND.
We figured that if we could crack the Gothitelle/Trainer Lock matchup we would be in fine shape, and I for one was quite excited to get to play my BFF Boar again.
However, once we got into serious testing, things started to head south. No matter what lists we tried, what techs we put in or out, we could never get the deck to go off consistently. When it did go off, which was about 1 in 5 games, it would destroy everything, but the other times it petered out and you were left feeling incredibly frustrated as your Pignites got killed by Reshirams.
I won’t completely write off the deck as I still feel it was some potential, but for now it was decided that we just didn’t have enough time to make it perfect. With only a short break between BRs and Regionals there was just no way we could justify focusing on a deck that wasn’t working after a week and a half, when we had all these other things that were working, but just needed perfection and attention. If anyone manages to break Reshiboar or Magneboar I will applaud them and be extremely happy, but I don’t think that’s very realistic.
ReshiPhlosion, Gothitelle, and Zekrom are the decks that I think will be played the most and will win the most Regionals. However, that doesn’t mean that other decks cease to exist, nor that other decks aren’t somewhat viable. As I said at the top of the article, I don’t have all the time in the world, but here’s a quick rundown of the decks that I’ve tested/ the other popular decks in the format and how they’ve fared…
Stage 1s – I am in love with this deck and have tested multiple versions of it (particularly my baby MegaZord <3) but all of them have petered out. The best version we found was Zoroark, Yanmega, Cincinno, but even then, you have all the same problems that any other version of the deck does: You can’t 1HKO things, and you get 1HKO’d by everything. I don’t doubt that there’s some combination that’s better than the others, but at the end of the day I think any combination is a pretty poor choice for Regionals.
Kingdra/Cinccinno – I really like this deck, and have ever since I saw Tyler Ninomura first playing it at a BR this season. I think it falls into the same traps as Stage 1s, although not quite as bad. It can’t 1HKO anything in the format, unless you happen to have 3 Kingdras on board, which isn’t entirely impossible. It also has the ability to put constant, stable pressure on a number of decks. I still don’t think it’s one of the top decks, but I could see it faring well in certain metagames.
Yanmega/Magnezone – I’m on the fence about this deck. On one hand, Magnezone is inherently powerful and is one of the only cards that can 1HKO Gothitelles, Beartics, etc. but on the other hand, if you’re focusing on Magnezone too heavily it can have quite a bit of a speed problem on it’s hands. Combine that with the fact that Dragons put quite the beating on Yanmega, and I just don’t know what to think.
I’ll be testing this deck extensively this weekend, but unless I was 100% wrong, I probably won’t have time to report back about it in time for Regionals. I’d probably rate this as the most legitimate deck in this section, for sure.
The Truth – This is the deck that’s probably the least underhyped at the moment, and I’m not quite sure why. I don’t think it’s a good play for my metagame, but I could see it being totally legitimate in others. Not sure if I would go as far as to say that it would win multiple Regionals or something (particularly given that the next deck we’re going to talk about exists), but I think it has a fair chance. Definitely a fantastic play in a heavy Goth or Zekrom metagame.
Beartic – I consider the Beartic deck to be The Truth with Beartic replacing Donphan, essentially. I don’t know if any other builds have been successful, but that’s the only way I’ve ever heard of it being used or considered using it. From the little that I’ve tested with it, I think it could be a force to be reckoned with, but again, it’s all depending on your metagame. I also have the least experience playing this of any of the decks in this article, so I don’t have too much to say on it.
Playing Into an Unown Metagame
pokebeach.comI had a chat with Isaiah Middleton (whose suggestion to name this article “Kenny’s Wisdom: Isaiah is really awesome” is still under review) about how because this is the first year of Autumn Regionals, this is probably the blindest metagame we’ve gone into since HS-on Nationals 2011. Not only do we not have any real tournament results to draw from (any innovative ideas are going to show their faces at Regionals, not BRs), but we also have too small of a cardpool to really tech against anything.
We’re also dealing with (in the PNW, at least) the fact that we’re going to have attendance from a crazy amount of different regions — We typically have WA, OR, and sometimes Canada, but it looks like this year we’ll have all of the usual guests, but a lot more Canada, some Utah, and some Arizona! — which makes for quite the exciting/interesting tournament experience.
With that being said, I think the single most important thing you can do to prepare for your Regionals is to value consistency and comfort over anything else. Play the deck that you are most comfortable playing (meaning that you know it the best and have played it the most) and play the most consistent list possible (meaning don’t get fancy, keep it simple, and aim to do what your deck is supposed to do every game). Following both of these rules is the only way I suspect that anyone is going to succeed at Regionals this year.
There’s also a lot of other factors with Autumn Regionals that are unknown and effect the way the tournament will go down. As I mentioned before, each region is most likely going to have a much higher attendance, which means more rounds, more room for variance, etc.
But we’re also going two days this year, meaning that if you make the top cut you’ll be playing on Sunday morning instead of late into Saturday night, and will also have perhaps thousands of VGC players in the same building. Not sure what kind of huge affect this will have on the tournament, but it’s certainly something to think about.
I didn’t expect to include this section, but since I have a bit more time and word count on my hands than I had originally guessed, I thought I’d throw a few random tidbits in…
– What is your opinion on Dragon Type coming to the TCG? I personally think it’s fine, and am excited that Pokémon is warming up to new ideas, but I’m not really sure if it was necessary. Aren’t Dragons one of the smallest types in the video game? Plus, it seems kind of odd to introduce this type after putting out Reshiram and Zekrom, probably the most popular dragons in a long while.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out though. Oh, and I think the Dragon color will be gold/orange, and the symbol will be a pointed dragon tail. Quote me!
– Dunno if any of you saw, but it turns out that David Cohen and Ross Cawthon are getting their decks printed this year, which is amazing for my community. A B-Side and a Team X-Files deck, both Washington natives, getting printed in the same year. Also pretty great that they decided to go through with printing The Truth even though there was some talk of it being too complex for younger players. Maybe the community at large doesn’t care about this though, so moving on…
– Yanmega and Machamp Prime being released in boxes is one of the best decisions Pokémon has made as of late, in my opinion. I know there’s been some negative discussion about it, but at the end of the day, for me at least, giving players more opportunities to obtain expensive, playable cards is always a good thing and outweighs pretty much everyone else. It also falls in line with making a “premium theme deck” series, an idea that I’ve been pushing for a while. Not quite what I had in mind, but it’s getting there. Hopefully this will become a trend for each set.
– Did y’all see that Dark Patch card? Crazy. Obviously impossible to actually say how good or bad it’ll be, but considering we’re getting an all Dark set, and we’ll have at least three cards that require discarding as apart of the cost (Engineer’s Adjustments, Junk Arm, and Ultra Ball), I’m leaning toward “good” with that one.
Mark A. HicksI just want to say thanks to Adam for giving me the opportunity to write for the UG again, and thanks for everyone reading this for being supportive. I know I’m not as big of a player as most of the UG writers, so I feel very lucky to have such a huge support system in the 6P community.
p.s. – If you’d like to see even more UG articles by me, obviously let Adam know on Twitter, through e-mail, comments, and through voting on the UG WOTM poll. Fun fact: I’ve never submitted a late UG article (this one was even early!). Thanks everyone!
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
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