Mark A. Hicks2 days away. Everyone panicking yet? Surprisingly, no one I’ve talked so far seems very confident in any deck with this format. Every year I have a number of close friends come to me for deck advice (contrary to what some may believe, I do, in fact have friends) and for the first time in forever, I cannot give them a definitive deck choice for the tournament.
Usually I can narrow it down a bit, and the more I test, the less confident in anything I become. If you’ve read my work for a while, you’d know by now I am opinionated in my stances involving this game, and have never had any issue with staking claim to what I feel is a good deck choice, even if it is unorthodox.
I’m not going to tell you that I have that answer because doing so would be dishonest to you as a reader. If I suggest a deck to play as being a good choice, I honestly believe it is one. Am I always right? No. Sometimes I make mistakes, but I feel I’ve had a pretty good track record so far. (LuxChomp was still the best pre-BW deck by a large margin, Magneboar was proven a good deck by winning Worlds, and Yanmega Magnezone put up more than a fine performance at Worlds, including an at least break even showing against Typhlosion Reshiram.) So I would rather come out and tell you that I don’t have a great suggestion right now.
What’s the play?
I suggested Yanmega Magnezone Zoroark in my last article, and if anyone read the coverage from the big tournament in Prague, that exact deck wound up going 8-0 in the Swiss portion of that tournament in Masters. Yanmega Magnezone as a whole put up some good numbers at the event. Yet the big winner from that tournament was in fact ZPS. The deck wound up sweeping the event, winning all 3 age groups.
Of course, the validity of this is called into question due to the fact that the event was held with a 45 minute time limit for their 2/3 Match Play rounds. I mentioned previously that time is a huge factor in how viable certain deck choices will be, and what I felt to be a fringe contender (ZPS is tier 1, but I feel it has a number of iffy matchups, and while it can be built to try and deal with some of these, it has an issue overcoming ALL of them, so it is a bit of a crapshoot) made it the best deck for top cut.
No deck can match the speed of ZPS, and considering that even if it got mauled in Game 1, all it had to do was be ahead in Game 2, and then be a huge favorite for Game 3. Basically, it had to win 0 legitimate games, and it clearly was able to walk all over the competition that tournament. I guess “run” all over it would be better with the speed analogy, but you get the point.
ZPS on the Radar
pokegym.netNow, this means two big things. Remember what Canadian Nationals did to US Nationals? It took a fringe deck, with minimal exposure, and thrust it into the spotlight. This caused a spike in its play. I expect an increased number of ZPS decks at Regionals, even if the fact the deck did so well was a bit slanted in causation.
This also means people will respect the deck as more of a threat. Not only do people fear a deck which has proven to win something large, but they also hate losing illegitimate games, and the fact that ZPS brings such a large threat of stealing games by god starts or donks makes people take notice.
A lot of times, the default answer to “how do I beat this deck” will be to simply outplay a weaker opponent, but ZPS brings a scary trait to the table that when it goes off, it wins games despite a huge skill gap. And this makes people nervous.
I expect a lot of players to test heavily against ZPS this week, and bring decks that are more prepared for the menace then they would have had this event happened a week prior to Prague, not after.
It’s a Love/Hate Relationship
This being said, we have a bit of a double-edged sword scenario occurring. One, players will be using more ZPS. Two, players will be running more ZPS hate. Three, players will acknowledge that players will be running both ZPS, and hate for it. So the situation comes down to whether they feel the numbers game will favor which side. Will more people jump on the ZPS bandwagon, making it a huge force at the tournament, or will more people build decks to beat it, or be scared away from it because of fear of hate?
In a lot of cases, I actually like to side with the fact that decks become cyclical in nature, and a deck, once it becomes the “best deck” is no longer, in fact, the best deck, simply because it is on everyone’s radar. I want to stay BEYOND the metagame, and be one step ahead.
Putting myself on the same page as everyone else by using the trend of the week (even if it was completely legitimate in its strength and performance) means I take away whatever edge I could have by adapting, and also leaves me at the mercy of other players developing cutting-edge counters.
Even if I haven’t FOUND the “best answer” to beating the hypothetical metagame, I expect at the next tournament (the best deck, and the decks I expect players will use to try to counter it). I am always afraid that someone else will have outdone me and SUCCESSFULLY developed a good answer.
At the very least, I lose most “favorable matchups” because players shy away from decks that can’t beat the “best deck” and I’m being handed primarily a bunch of 50-50 matchups, assuming the raw strength of the best deck makes it powerful enough that I’m rarely an actual underdog.
Even if you have a deck with mainly 50-50 matchups, that doesn’t mean a BETTER choice doesn’t exist. Just because you CAN win with a deck doesn’t mean you can’t be more likely to win with a different deck.
That is part of the problem I had dealt with in the past, and a challenge a lot of players still face: Players will find a deck, get good with it, and win. They’ll continue to use the deck, evolve it, and keep winning. They have a deck they like, they are able to keep it putting up winning numbers, so they see no reason to try anything different. The term I’ll use here is a bit derogatory, but I’m not trying to use it in such context now.
Pet Decking (© 2011 Chris Fulop)
This is “pet decking.” (It’s clever because it’s like “net decking!”) You get your pet deck, and force yourself to use it until something tells you not to. Now, the issue is, if you are a very strong player, and good at metagaming, you’ll often STILL BE WINNING. So you don’t GET those signs that your deck is falling behind in the grand scheme of things. New decks get popular, and are gunning for yours. Your able to keep teching and teching and eventually answer the threats.
You do this so much that your deck is filled to the brim with narrow wins and its stretched out far beyond its means. Can you win with your deck? Yes. But at a certain point, it becomes easier to use a different deck, one better suited for the metagame. Rather then relying on raw cutting edge deck building and play skill, you get to keep both of those edges while also not having the restrictions placed on you by a questionable deck choice.
Now, with that slight tangent aside, I want to get back on point. I’m not sure that the ZPS players will shift AWAY from the deck. I hate to use the term “skill-less” or “low-skill” when describing decks because people get defensive over it. ZPS wins a large amount of games by making powerful, easy to make moves. It has a very linear game plan of getting fast, hard-hitting attacks off, and just running over people.
An Even Playing Field
This can level the playing field. An average player can beat a great player in a lot of scenarios. And whether they actively acknowledge that they are a “weaker” player then their competition, empirical evidence often slants them toward the same conclusion. Some people will acknowledge their own shortcomings.
As a player who is now trying to break into the competitive Magic scene, I go into tournaments knowing I am far from the best player in the room, and I know if I try to fight fair against those better players, I will be an underdog, so I make my deck choices differently then I would feeling like I was the best player.
You play to your strengths, and use a deck that offsets of ignores your weakness. Now, I’ll tell players who are newer, or unfamiliar with a format that it’ll benefit them to use a simpler deck, or one that can win off raw power.
Most players are unwilling to embrace this approach, but still come to the same conclusions. This is as a result of playtesting. If you play a bunch of games with various decks, you end up simply WINNING MORE with the deck that suits your ability level. If a good player were to play a great player in a best of 99 60-card mirror match between ZPS, and then do a 60-card mirror match between Yanmega Magnezone, the gap in wins will likely be smaller in the ZPS mirror matches.
While testing will not be mirror matches, some decks have a higher number of “autopilot” wins then others, and that will reflect in results. And players choose deck choices based on results, not theory. I can sit and preach that Deck A is the best deck, but if someone builds the deck, and still has better results with Deck B, they will likely wield Deck B for their tournament. And really, they should.
Play to Your Strengths
Everyone has faults in their game. And yes, you need to strive to work past those, but don’t focus on that when winning your next tournament needs to be your priority. Sometimes faults take a very, very long time to work out. Play acknowledging that you aren’t a perfect player, and value results higher than theory in the short term.
I heavily supported LuxChomp last format, but I told a number of players I saw not to use it when I saw them struggling with it. This is especially true in “crunch time” as the tournament gets closer. This is relevent because ZPS tests very well for players often regardless of skill level. This isn’t a knock on the deck! In Magic, a deck is often PRAISED for its simpler interactions as it harder to make mistakes.
Everyone. EVERYONE. makes mistakes. By not putting yourself in the position to do this, you are in a better spot. In Poker, it’s better to put your opponent in the hot seat to make decisions and give THEM the chance to mess up. Even if you play perfectly 99% of the time, that’s still 1%. So playing a simpler deck has its perks.
ZPS is going to be popular with a lot of capable to average to good and even great players. These are players who either will not have the time to learn a new deck, will not follow the most recent occurrences, or will not end up having the success with a different deck that they had with ZPS.
I am not telling good players not to use ZPS, nor am I insinuating they shouldn’t. I am just acknowledging the deck will have a HUGE number of weaker players using it too. Typhlosion Reshiram is the same way. Both decks are perfectly fine choices for the event, but you can’t ignore the huge numbers of the decks that will show up.
The more reactive players will likely be an even split between players audibling to the deck, and those trying to adapt to beat it. Now, this is why it pays to have a good tap on the local metagame. If you know how the players in your region behave, especially through BRs, you can try and predict how they will react to this info.
What beats ZPS?
Now, let’s look at a few of the “Problem Cards” or strategies that can really cause issues for ZPS:
pokegym.netI touched on this last article, and ZPS has some issues dealing with Nasty Plot. Unfortunately, the addition of Tornadus weakens this cards strength as it gives the deck an alternative attacker which isn’t exploited by the Dark Pokémon. Yet Zoroark’s strength is still present as a reactive answer. Running Zoroark in a deck that is just mauled by ZPS isn’t going to change much.
You need a generally passable game plan vs them, and Zoroark skews it from there. Yanmega Magnezone is a good choice because Magnezone has a great end game against the deck, and can walk all over Tornadus. The issue was that it couldn’t afford to keep dumping 3 energy to the Lost Zone to kill Zekroms. I had a few games where I had board control, and simply RAN OUT of energy to get the last KOs and lost. Zoroark helps here.
If you have a deck that can beat ZPS in a long game once you set up, but are being overrun early sometimes, Zoroark is a great counter. Just don’t use it as a crutch, because while the card is good, it is a tool for the matchup, not a cure-all answer to it.
The afro-bull is a nice, simple answer to an early Bolt Strike. It serves as a reactive answer to their best starts much like Zoroark, but cannot go on the aggressive as well. It also leaves you in a questionable spot as it becomes a very weak attacker in between KOs, so they do dictate the rate at which it becomes effective.
I’ve seen the card used in ZPS for mirror matches, and I particularly like it there. It gives you an answer to the opponent simply starting faster than you. Sadly, this card isn’t too great against most other matchups, but if you are looking for an answer to Zekrom, and run DCE already (yes, I know, a thin number of decks) and you don’t have the spots to devote to Zoroark, he’s a good choice. Unlike Zoroark, Bouffalant doesn’t do anything to help against Reshiram, though.
pokemon-paradijs.comOk, this is a Zekrom counter. Now, the addition of Tornadus changes things a LOT. Tornadus is very good against Donphan, and single-handedly took Donphan from a premier counter to actually being exploited by a smart ZPS player.
Previously ZPS had to try to run Yanmega Prime as a 3 hit kill answer to Donphan, only to have issues matching handsizes. To make matters worse, ZPS was often weak to its own Judges and Copycats, so Yanmega was just a clunky mess a lot of the time. Tornadus changes that entirely.
Now, Donphan isn’t a cure-all answer anymore either. What it is, though, is another piece of the puzzle. Donphan slows the game down. It prevents them from going hyper aggressive and stealing games. You get to dictate the pace, to a degree. So if you pack some other answers, ideally something to deal with Tornadus, you have a pretty good shot.
Unfortunately, Donphan is really rough on the energy base of a deck, so it isn’t very splashable. Plus it ruins your bench. So good luck finding the right partner for it.
Ok, yeah, were onto whole decks now. Magneboar has had a history of being great against ZPS because it has unlimited energy abuse, 1HKOs everything, and can’t be reliably 1HKO’d.
To make matters worse, it runs 3+ Twins, which is rough because ZPS doesn’t have a lot of game besides taking quick prizes. Some decks can afford to sandbag a bit and set up, but ZPS’s primary strength is its speed, and if it doesn’t at least TRY to utilize that in this matchup, it just loses. So they are forced to activate Twins, which doesn’t bode well for them.
This brings up the basic idea: A deck that can sustain attackers which are hard kills and also 1HKO Zekrom is going to be strong against it. You’d THINK this is a narrow criteria, but the next few decks all fall under it.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis matchup is a bit interesting, but if Reshiphlosion sets up quick enough, it overwhelms ZPS pretty quickly. The issue is, unlike Magneboar, it needs multiple Typhlosions to maintain the exchange, and Reshiram IS 1HKOable by them. You do win the energy exchange, as they can’t keep up, but you really can’t afford to fall behind TOO much, because if they do get a large number of energy in play, they certainly can win.
I don’t see a lot of ZPS decks packing Defender, but that card helps them out so much in this matchup, and can definitely sway the results.
On the note of energy drops, Typhlosion’s attack can actually be really good in this matchup. You can try to starve their energy, but just be aware that it is risky because if they do keep up with you (or use Shaymin and/or Pachirisu to repower) then you risk losing a Typhlosion which is really bad, as, like I said, you aren’t Magneboar, you need multiple Typhlosions here.
Gothitelle establishes the “Hard Lock” and limits ZPS to 120 damage, while eventually scoring 1HKOs. It accomplishes the pre-requisite tasks needed to succeed in this matchup in a different way, and that is by preventing KOs in general. Reuniclus denies them prizes, and you eventually get the KOs you need. Some ZPS players run “answers” in the format of Mew Prime, Bellsprout, Blackbelt, or Magby.
Mew Prime is a standard Gothitelle counter, and likely doesn’t need much explanation, although it really screws up the energy base, so it requires a lot of dedication to skew one matchup likely at the cost of others.
Bellsprout TM wages the energy drop war. It lures up cards that are not Gothitelle, which forces them to keep retreating. Ideally this is done before they get the energy in play to attack. If they do not retreat, you threaten to play PlusPower, then Catcher, allowing you to score the 1HKO.
If this is paired with Black Belt, it forces them to take the first KO against Bellsprout, which lets you Black Belt for a return KO and wipe out all of their energy, which put them extremely far behind.
Magby TM is used to Burn a Gothitelle, so that the status condition acts as a potential PlusPower between turns to score the KO before Reuniclus can save Gothitelle. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work too well if they have Switch, or if they just flip really well. Or Catcher Zekrom. (Yes, you can hypothetically Pachi + Shaymin into another, but it’s unlikely.)
I’m not too sold on Magby, but he’s an interesting free retreater, free attacker, so he isn’t too bad. Unlikely Bellsprout which is clunky and weak in a lot of other matchups.
Also known as “The Ross Deck” and “Vileplume Reuniclus” or any number of other names, this is a deck that hasn’t been popular in a lot of regions, but very popular in others. I think that you need to know whether this deck will be in your metagame or not, as its influence really should determine what kind of deck you use. It plays a game similar to Gothitelle against ZPS, in that it prevents 1HKOs, shifts the damage around, and eventually just chews through their Pokémon. Donphan, and Zekrom eventually just get the job done.
Bellsprout is quite good in this matchup, as it brings up Reuniclus or Vileplume, and unlike Gothitelle, they can’t play Trainers either, so you don’t run the risk of them Switching out of it. This means you run a very legitimate chance of killing whatever you bring up. Especially if you catch them before they fully develop, as the deck is slow and clunky until fully established.
Reuniclus and Vileplume both retreat for a DCE, which they run 4-of, so if they have an attacker up and running, they could retreat and just kill Bellsprout, so it isn’t an automatic answer, although it definitely couples well with an otherwise aggressive game plan.
But it’s still good!
pokegym.netNow, I’ve addressed some of ZPS’s weaknesses, but I don’t want to come across as overly negative. The deck is fast, aggressive, and can win any matchup with the right start. Apply enough pressure with Catcher, and even the worst matchup can be won. Also, those stolen games, and donks? THEY MATTER!
Yes, they are cheap and semi illegitimate in nature, but they are a win. Over the course of a tournament, they add up. Being able to simply luck past bad matchups is a huge advantage. It’s a lot better than using Gothitelle, only to get paired against an aggressive Mew deck, knowing that you are too slow to ever win the matchup, even if they get a slower start.
By playing an aggressive, powerful deck, if you set up faster than them, you can just win games flat-out and capitalize on them clunking. That’s an intangible that matters.
Toss in the fact that the deck is good in match play due to the way they handle games 2 and 3 in time, and you have some pretty convincing reasons to consider the deck. Look at some of the matchups above that “beat” ZPS. Magneboar struggles in 2/3 due to time, and a slow start. Gothitelle and The Truth are both really, really slow.
Typhlosion can be caught before it gets in a commanding position, as it often takes over the game in the latter stages, after being behind early before its energy advantage catches up.
Most of these decks really are not equipped to win a Game 3 against this deck, and Game 2 can be hard to “finish” meaning ZPS often has an edge there too. That’s another fantastic intangible.
Noob deck? Or not?
Something else you have going for you, is that people underestimate ZPS. There are still a decent number of players who feel the deck is subpar, and close to “just a donk deck” and discredit it, and it is a deck that is able to easily punish someone who doesn’t give it the respect it deserves. The deck is much closer to Banette EX than it is Zapdos-EX, if you want a good analogy.
Or perhaps more Dragtrode then Lunasol (shut up, Lunasol got a Worlds deck made, I know, but it still sucked. Also, Chuck shoulda won Worlds in 2006 :P).
The Remaining Decks
pokegym.netThe other “big decks” to really show up and put up some results in Swiss seemed to be Typhlosion Reshiram, and Yanmega Magnezone. Now, it’s hard to really read into the full reasoning behind this without a complete metagame breakdown, but I think everyone should expect a ton of Typhlosion by now at ANY event. The deck is pretty simple to play, is powerful, and is really easy to obtain.
I hate the “cop out” answer of a decks price dictating how much it gets played, but for a lot of casual-competitive players, price DOES matter. Players breaking into the game will flock to the “cheapest tier 1 deck” and buy it. Price doesn’t matter to the highest level of players, but there will be a lot of more than capable players fielding this deck too. And it’s simple enough to play that you have to fear it in the hands of almost any player.
Reshiphlosion has at least a passable ZPS game, and I know if I was playing ZPS, I would NOT want to see Typhlosion staring me down. Let’s go over the rest of its matchups at the moment.
Well, this isn’t a good one. Gothitelle aims to establish the “lock” and eventually just 1HKO your guys. You can’t accomplish 130 damage without Trainers, so you are hypothetically beat once they get enough energy in play. At the same time, you can pressure their energy with Typhlosion Prime. Typhlosion’s attack is actually key in a number of matchups, which you’ll see.
A smart Gothitelle player will send up a “decoy” Gothitelle to take hits while they build energy on the bench, not leaving themselves open to Typhlosion’s crippling attack, or else they could wind up overwhelmed by the energy discarding. Gothitelle lists don’t run that much energy, so they can’t just sit there infinitely letting energy be eroded off of them.
The matchup also often comes down to how many Typhlosions come out before Gothitelle gets active. Once Rare Candy gets cut off, most lists only run 2 Quilava, and 2 Typhlosion isn’t enough to really win this matchup, especially once Catcher starts picking them off.
pokegym.netNow, Typhlosion can try some of the same tools that ZPS does to hit the 130 damage mark. Black Belt can do it, but a smart Gothitelle player will use Reuniclus to kill off its own bench to keep prizes tied so that Typhlosion can’t use Black Belt ever. It’s a simple play that I don’t see happen because Black Belt is so under played that its off the radar and the play is otherwise questionable and unorthodox.
Magby gives the deck an additional “good starter” and allows it to breach the 130 damage output, but again, it’s flippy and weak to Switch. Bellsprout offers another interesting series of players. You force them to keep retreating or fear the PlusPower into Catcher play, which works really well with the ability to further pressure their energy drops mid and late game.
Plus, with the number of Typhlosions you can play being so crucial, getting a reprieve from Trainer lock to use Rare Candy to get more out is really huge. Coupled with Black Belt, this strategy is pretty effective at giving you a shot against Gothitelle. The fact that many Gothitelle players are not well versed at dealing with this will give you a nice surprise factor and an edge here.
Know how I addressed how ZPS and Reshiphlosion are fairly easy to play? Gothitelle is the opposite. It seems like it would be simple, no? Trainer lock, 1HKO, and use Reuniclus to not die. Yet when dealing with decks who are trying to play around you and actually counter your Plan A, you really need to play tight, and know how to be flexible. Players will commit to an attacking Gothitelle well before they should, when the deck is far more resilient then most players seem to wield it as.
The other option I’ve been suggesting, and seeing at events, is a thin Kingdra Prime line. Its, at its worst, a PlusPower every turn, and since its not a trainer, it can be used vs Gothitelle. It can be Catchered, if Gothitelle is patient, so its not even that great.
VS The Truth
pokegym.netNext up on the list of matchups is The Truth, which plays a similar game plan as Gothitelle with the stalling until they deny any future 1HKOs. Only this time, the threat is far more dangerous, being Suicune & Entei LEGEND. With 160 HP, it’s well outside of the reach of Kingdra Prime, and Magby is going to have to get some pretty potent flips against it. You can try to discard energy off of it, but it one shots Typhlosion, and if they are patient with energy drops, its gonna be hard to rid them of everything.
Bellsprout plays the same role as it does in ZPS here, disrupting their set up, and helping to cause their Trainer lock to backfire. I was saying how SEL is usually tanked with excess energy to fight off Typhlosion swarms, but this is hard to do if you continually lure out Vileplume or Reuniclus, as you really stress their energy count. It can often force them to prematurely commit an attacker, which you can strip of energy and pull of a win.
Oddly enough, this is also a matchup you are able to win on time. Reshiphlosion isn’t known for its great time game, but in this matchup, because of the very conservative game plan The Truth must play, they have to play a pretty rushed game of catch up. They likely have the time to do it in Swiss, but match play is a whole different story.
VS Yanmega Magnezone
See, I’ve done some additional testing of this matchup, and Catcher actually helps Reshiphlosion more than it does Yanmega Magnezone. It’s surprising to see that when both decks ran Reversal, and then switched to Catcher, that the impact of the matchup isn’t equal. This allows Reshiphlosion to hunt energy drops. Typhlosion swarms strip Magnezone of its energy drops, and then Reshiram cleans up the Yanmegas in the end. It’s not the approach that the deck could take when using Reversal, but due to the accuracy of Catcher, it is far more feasible.
Even the Zoroark build suffers from this fate, because while Zoroark helps to defeat Reshiram, it doesn’t do much to stop the Typhlosion game plan as much. Now, not every player approaches the matchup this way, but do not be surprised to see some of the better players do so.
VS Stage 1s
Well, this one can be close. With a good start, it should certainly favor Reshiphlosion as it has too much inevitability and a more powerful game plan. Stage 1s seems to have fallen out of favor for ZPS and other aggressive decks though.
Ok, this matchup is really bad for you, and always has been. I’m pretty sure this is the one universally accepted matchup results out there. They have more Hit Points, 1HKO you, and have better energy manipulation. You eventually fall behind, and they just keep rolling.
The next “big deck” we should expect is Gothitelle. Gothitelle has had differing success depending on the region, and this is again something you NEED to know about headed into the event. This metagame doesn’t have a best deck. It has a series of decks that all have differing matchups, so knowing which ones to expect really, REALLY impacts your “correct deck choice.”
Nothing beats everything, nothing really even comes close, so the more you can weigh the importance of matchups, the better you can do at picking the “correct choice.”
Gothitelle is STILL the best deck in the format. It does the most powerful things, plain and simple. It packs resilience, power, and disruption all in the same shell. Unfortunately, it suffers when being hated out, so you need to know where the deck stands.
If Gothitelle saw little to no play in your region, expect decks to be ill prepared for it, making it a pretty great choice. If it saw a lot of success during BRs, or was at the least heavily played (even if it got mauled) then you have to really worry about people bringing some counter measures.
Gothitelle has a few major issues. I addressed Kingdra Prime, Bellsprout, and Magby before, but it also doesn’t like Magnezone. Gothitelle has an iffy game against Yanmega Magnezone. Yanmega applies early pressure, and Magnezone can score 1HKOs once Gothitelle does get up and online. Jirachi is a bit of an issue as well, as it disrupts your low HP basics.
Emboar Magnezone is interesting because its slow to apply pressure, and it also has a lot of huge Retreat Costs. You can Catcher Emboar to buy time, and then, once you have energy in play, you can Catcher up the Magnezone for a 1HKO and try to pull it out from there. Their hand clunks pretty quickly with Trainers, so it cuts off Magnetic Draw, making it hard for them to keep drawing into energy, so the Catcher game plan works well.
I’ve found the matchup to be rather close, depending on how Magneboar is built. If Magneboar gets a couple of Stage 2s out before you do, it’s really hard. If not, locking them off of Rare Candy is HUGE as their whole game plan depends on getting Stage 2s out, and most builds do not run enough Stage 1s.
pokebeach.com“Bad Emboar” provides a threat as well, but just like Magneboar, it leaves them open to Catcher’d Pigs. Since the deck relies less on Magnetic Draw as a source of continued draw power, they are left with more supporters to draw cards midgame, meaning they can actually keep getting access to energy, opposed to draughting as their hand clogs with unplayable cards.
This actually makes me feel that the current accepted count of Catcher in Gothitelle is too low. Builds run one at the moment, but it makes me think maybe additional copies would be idea. The card is great to stall and disrupt the decks that have actual game plans in place to beat you, and a lot of them are slower and will not be taking prizes to give you Twins, making the lone copy unwieldy.
Gothitelle mirror match also relies heavily on who gets Catcher right off the bat too. Getting “first hit” on the opposing Gothitelle often seals the game, so trying to luck into the lone copy seems not to be where I’d want to be in the mirror.
The next “trouble” scenario for you is Tyranitar Prime! Ok, I’ve given up finding a way to make it work. Not because it hasn’t shown any promise, as it’s still been doing ok, but because all of the things I like about it become obsolete due to Kyurem, who just does its job better. While Tyranitar DOES have its way with Gothitelle, it isn’t a played deck and irrelevant, so lets move to the next one.
VS The Truth
This is actually rough on you. What ends up happening is their Vileplume disrupts you a bit, and eventually, once they set up because you can’t Catcher anything ( more Catchers could hypothetically allow you to Catcher and kill Oddish/Gloom, since once you get Gothitelle up, they can’t Rare Candy, but I digress ) and they eventually start throwing Zekrom using Outrage for 130 at you, 1HKOing Gothitelles. Donphan even allows them to load their own bench with damage to force the Kos even if you try to just rely on one shotting them so they don’t get damage to play with.
pokemon-paradijs.comSo Gothitelle has its issues, but it has a lot of inherent strength as well. A lot of people build decks they “think” beats the deck, when in reality, they simply haven’t tested against a resourceful enough Gothitelle player and wind up with some skewed results.
Those are the three “Big Decks” that should show up in large numbers at pretty much every Regionals around the country. Obviously, the other decks that could be popular (and I kinda hinted at them with the matchups/concerns I listed about) are Magneboar, Yanmega Magnezone, Stage 1s, The Truth, Yanmega Mew Cinccino, and Emboar Reshiram.
This is assuming that no players have done anything to completely break the format, and from what I can tell, I don’t think anyone really has. I get 5-6 messages a day asking “Whats the play!?” for Regionals by a number of great players, and it seems to me that no one really knows. As far as I can gather, the general consensus is that the format is fairly random.
The problem is, a number of games per tournament do not come down to skill. One deck will go first, and set up fast, and the other deck, regardless of what it runs, will often not be able to set up fast enough to overcome the start difference. A lot of matchups come down far more to who goes first/opens well then it does involve what cards are played by either player. This grows to be rather aggravating by the end of a long testing session.
On top of this, we see that the other matchups seem really lopsided. Decks like ZPS against Gothitelle, for example. If the game goes long, it exclusively favors Gothitelle. These lopsided, borderline “auto-wins” sadly belong to most decks, and you run into this annoying situation where every deck has a slew of start based matchups, a portion of auto-wins, and a portion of auto-losses. It makes for a very frustrating testing experience, in my opinion.
Part of the problem is, that whoever goes 2nd is pretty much REQUIRED to hit a Pokémon Collector or be overwhelmed. On top of this, if the person who goes first is able to chain off a series of Catcher, it is difficult to compete with that. These overarching format “rules” seem to dictate winners more then particular deck construction, as I have heard a number of players at Battle Roads simply excuse a loss by acknowledging “ my opponent started better”.
pokegym.netTo make matters worse, a lot of the decks which are able to NOT be start oriented (the slower, inevitability based decks, such as Gothitelle, The Truth, and Magneboar) are so slow that they have time issues, and especially match play issues. So you either play an aggressive deck, which by nature is based around being fast, which puts you in the “I need to start better/go first” camp, or you play the slower deck, with more resilience, and accept the time issues.
Obviously, these are not “blanket statements.” Not EVERY game between two aggressive decks will be won or lost by a start, and not every game by a slower deck will involve time issues, but enough of them will that it is a turn off. For the format being so “wide open” (and it is, there are a lot of viable deck choices) it still seems a bit unhealthy to me.
Now, like I said, I don’t feel like I’ve “solved” anything. I’ve tested this format a lot, and come up without an answer. So take my “suggestions” with a grain of salt because I don’t want people blindly using a list from me at such a large tournament at the moment when at most, I’m only partially confident in the decks myself. That isn’t to say they are bad lists, and I don’t think I’ve talked to ANYONE whose told me they love their deck choice, and suggest everyone use it.
But, I know people like/want decklists, so I’ll include the newest wave of my stock lists. And afterward I’ll go over the new Noble Victories set, and address the cards I think stand out, and what new decks I think will pop up as a result of them! So without further ado, LISTS!
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 31
Energy – 15
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 28
Energy – 12
Trainers – 26
Energy – 15
Trainers – 30
Energy – 11
Pokémon – 25
Trainers – 24
Energy – 11
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 29
Energy – 11
Yanmega Cinccino Mew – YMCA
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 30
Energy – 10
pokebeach.comOk, so N is out, and anyone who has played this game since around 2005 (wow I feel old…there was a point where it was just assumed everyone had played then…now I realize that was over 6 years ago now) and has played with Rocket’s Admin. knows how powerful this card is.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of the card in the format then, and that was with Pidgeot RG, Porygon2, Jirachi DX, and a whole slew of powerful Supporters were all still legal. I am all for hand disruption. Cards like Desert Shaman, Judge, Rocket’s Sneak Attack, and Cyrus’s Initiative are all great.
Rocket’s Admin. on the other hand (and now N) provided a bit of a problem, based on the attrition based nature of Pokémon. There is a point where, every single game (ok, spread decks not withstanding) where this card will read (unless you are winning) “Your opponent shuffles their hand into their deck and draws 1 card.”
Now, to reference a more recent time, remember how unfair Team Galactic’s Wager felt when you lost? Or even how damaging a Judge can be to your set up? Well, this card is far more disruptive. Originally, one of the main reasons for a call for an “alternate format” for Pokémon besides Unlimited was due to the “Trapper Lock,” which was the following cards:
Impostor Professor Oak’s Revenge
Rocket’s Sneak Attack
The Rocket’s Trap
IPOR let you discard a card to force an opponent to shuffle their hand into their deck and draw 4 cards. Rocket’s Sneak Attack let you look at it, and discard a Trainer card of choice. TRR read “Flip a coin. If heads, your opponent shuffles 3 cards from their hand into their deck.” Well, the synergy seems apparent there.
Now, the difference between 0 cards, and 1 totally at random, isn’t really all that great. Now, you could make an argument that disrupting a hand late into the game is far different then doing it on the first turn, and to this you are 100% correct.
pokegym.netI am not even trying to say that N or Admin are as bad as the Trapper Combo, merely that there is a general agreement that taking any sized hand down to 0 at a point in the game isn’t particularly fair or good for the game.
Look at how games often flow now in this format. It is an exchange in 6 attacks, plus or minus a few turns. The games are very attrition based, as the prize structure of the game forces, but we don’t see giant stalemates lead to an overwhelming game state. It’s usually both players wiping out each others attackers each turn, and energy in play remains extremely low.
So simply playing an N on the last turn forces players to deal with needing to topdeck a simple Energy to win the game, or stay in it. Even if both decks are “established” in their board position, it isn’t very fun to play like that.
Forcing a large number of games to turn to a topdeck (or series of topdecks) gets aggravating. Now, if one player is just whalloping the other, no, it really isn’t going to swing the game around, but the fact that most CLOSE games will really get disrupted by this card will get annoying fast.
Now, whether I feel this is the type of card that should have been printed or not (I don’t) is irrelevant, as it has been, so lets address its applications, not its theory.
This card is clearly phenomenal. Now, everyone knows I hate on PONT, because I feel it is a fairly underwhelming card, but let’s realize that this card is basically a Judge and a PONT in one. In the opening turns of the game, it is PONT when you likely need it most. That’s a huge upside. It then becomes a disruptive card later in the game, when simply using shuffle draw may be less advantageous.
Now, let’s also look at its application in “slower” decks. Ideally, Gothitelle, The Truth, Magneboar, and maybe Tyranitar (I still am going to force this deck to be good). You sandbag a bit, and suddenly N becomes “I draw 6 and my opponent draws 3-4.” This isn’t AS good in Magneboar, a deck that actually can’t afford to fall THAT behind on prizes, but in a spread deck, or one planning on locking an opponent out of kills with Reuniclus, it becomes very lopsided.
The card also combos will with Weavile UD because you can give an opponent a 1 card hand, and then oops, a 0 card one. Now, if you do this with Slowking… welllll, you get the idea.
The card is also amazing with Magnezone, so a deck like Magneboar or Yanmegazone can use the card with impunity as it will always draw back up to 6. The biggest issue with Judge previously was that it didn’t really count as a “set up” card, in that you couldn’t rely on it as consistency in the opening stages of the game, where as N gives you a raw 6.
The other issue was 4 cards was disruptive, but a lot of decks ran enough draw to get out of it. The later the game goes on, those draws of 1, 2, and 3 become a lot more likely to end games. So I’d definitely say Magnezone is in prime position to see more play if not to abuse this card, then as protection from it.
Well, this card has been looked at before and I’ve heard mixed reviews on him, and well, I’m here to somewhat re-affirm these.
The guy has 150 HP, and can attack for 2 DCE, doing 60 to the active Pokémon, and 40 to two Benched Pokémon. To really make this guy add up, you’d want to run him with Kingdra Primes, and Jirachi, and probably a Shaymin.
I had also heard of decks trying to use him alongside Emboar as a way to accelerate energy on him, but at that point I feel he is just strictly worse than Magnezone, who also offers draw power, and is actually less energy intensive. Now, yes, it doesn’t Lost Zone energy, but it looks like he’d be pretty hard to actually get out.
I like this card, and think the attack is pretty cool, but sadly I just don’t think that there is enough going for it to make it worth playing. Perhaps the Damage Swap decks are unable to keep that many Pokémon away from the 40 damage KO threats, but that seems unlikely.
pokebeach.comAlright, in the vein of Zekrom and Reshiram, this is another 130 HP monster with Outrage for CC. It doesn’t have a powerful 120 damage attack though…instead we get one of the most powerful spread attacks the game has ever seen. Back in the day, Dark Tyranitar, wielding Spinning Tail, was a format warper in multiple decks. Now, for roughly the same cost, we have a basic Pokémon, with even more Hit Points, hitting for more damage.
Now let’s look at two key points about this card: One, it has a weakness to METAL. Now let’s quickly count the Metal Pokémon being played. So basically it has no weakness. Metal Pokémon will pretty much be kept out of the format entirely by the strength of Fire, as they are “under” powered inherently because they are being weighted by the fact that they can benefit from Special M Energy. Well, at least that’s always been the theory, assuming Pokémon actually tries to keep any sort of balance, which is unlikely.
The second thing which makes the card so exciting is Feraligatr Prime. Gatr can help accelerate damage onto Kyurem, which makes it add up quickly. On top of this, “Other Gatr” is pretty good too, with a Spinning Tail attack and an alternate weakness to help put the pressure on Benched Pokémon.
To top this off, Feraligatr Prime’s attack benefits greatly from all of the bench damage as well. Maybe we’ll see Feraligatr get to the point of being a real, viable deck? It sure does have a lot of tools for it. Water inherently has an advantage against fire decks like Typhlosion Reshiram and Emboar Reshiram.
Being able to spread damage without needing to take prizes is strong against Twins based decks, and with the current configuration of the Truth and Gothitelle, I am pretty sure that you can overload their healing ability. With a full bench, Kyerum is doing 180 damage a turn.
pokebeach.comWell, now this card is very interesting. The Ability is groundbreaking in that it turns 50% chance effects into 75% chance effects, and those crazy “need both to have an effect ” attacks to be somewhat viable. This cards value scales directly with how good the flip attacks in the format are.
Now, “unfortunately” we do not have a lot of good flip attacks currently in the format. Pokémon has seemed to go out of its way to remove flips from the game to a degree, although we do have Crushing Hammer, Baby Flips, Super Scoop Up and previously, Pokémon Reversal. None of these are attacks.
Now, the only attacks worth trying to “break” with this guy seems to be the other Victini card, which we will address NOW:
Ok, now, we get to this little fellow. Armed with a whopping 120 damage for a lone P Energy, he threatens to aggravate a large number of players in the next season. It stands a 25% chance of killing something basically, but with the Re-Flip Victini, it goes up to 50%. At first I wanted to just assume this card was a gimmick, but I’m not sure that is entirely the case.
A number of decks could likely run a small line of the two Victini to try and either score cheap wins, or to apply early pressure while they set up. A deck like Mew-Yanmega-Cinccino, which wants a full bench and would LOVE a turn 1 attack would really benefit from this card. They already lack the ability to do over 100 damage in one attack, unaided, and spots certainly arise where you’d be willing to take the flip.
The deck is disruptive and aggressive as it is, attacking turn 2 almost every game, all for one or less energy, so if you could also attack turn one with a Victini, even one kill with it is hugely beneficial, and if it fails? Who cares, you retreat next turn and play as usual.
It was the old Tyrogue gambit where you devote a light amount of resources to allow potential donks. I think this type of inclusion may happen, and if it does, enjoy getting furious every time you go 2nd and take a 120 damage Victini into the losers bracket on flips.
pokebeach.comThis is one of the best cards out of the set. I know it isn’t entirely “mainstream” in lists yet, but Defender is absolutely ridiculous in ZPS. Its double-sided damage prevention when used alongside Bolt Strike is overwhelming and throws off math to a huge degree against a lot of players. Eviolite turns an already beefy 130 HP Pokémon into having (at minimum) an effective 150 Hit Points.
Outside of being used in the obvious ZPS lists, as it makes Tornadus a literal NIGHTMARE for Donphan, who is then hitting you for TWENTY damage with Earthquake, and 50 with Heavy Impact, and has clear synergy with Zekrom, the deck is good with any number of good basic Pokémon. It is useful with Kyurem, and Reshiram as well. It can even be used with Mew, to give its frail 60 HP a bit more depth to it.
If you want to take a more abstract approach at it, you can also use it to protect Benched Pokémon early in a game, preventing Catcher kills, or snipes. It also protects against bench damage, which is relevant when you look at cards like Tyranitar and Kyurem, both of which are either Tier 1 or at the very least capable of getting close to it.
This card will also be relevant when we get the new EX cards, with already ridiculous Hit Points. They will almost always take 2 or sometimes 3 hits to take down, so Eviolite really comes into play with such bulky bodies.
This is an interesting card to help offset the Reuniclus damage swap play, as it reduces a Pokémon’s “effective” HP by 20 as long as it’s attacking. Unfortunately, the Reuniclus player can either attack AROUND the Pokémon with the Helmet, or not attack at all until it has a way of producing a secondary attacker.
The fact that the Helmet has to come down BEFORE the Trainer lock is established really hurts the viability of this card. In other matchups, it plays far more “fair”, and a situational 20 damage every time a Pokémon is hit IS good, don’t get me wrong.
I’m just not sure how much the card will see play, as it seems like a slight, situational advantage that a player can try to play around. It may end up seeing some fringe play, but I don’t see it being a mainstay.
pokebeach.comOk, 90% sure I spelled that guy’s name wrong, and if it comes up spelled correctly, it’s probably due to the proof reader catching it. [Editor’s note: You actually spelled it right… gold star for you!] This guy is already being talked about as an addition to ZPS, as it plays the “Built-in Rocky Helmet“ role to a tee. He’s a potential first turn attacker, and all around solid offensive threat that is easy to try and power out turn one, and sets up Gothitelles for Bolt Strike.
Unfortunately, hes fairly easy to Catcher around, and he doesn’t do enough damage to apply real pressure to force the KO. I’ve also seen Gothitelle players running a Defender to offset this guy, and Rocky Helmet’s pressure. It’s also a counter to Kingdra Prime, as during the “key turn” Gothitelle has an effective 150 HP, throwing the math off entirely and often sealing the game.
Ok, this guy is a bit interesting, and no one seems to be talking about him. 140 HP with NO WEAKNESS, and an attack doing 120 damage whose only restriction is not being able to be used the following turn is actually pretty strong! We all saw how little the “attack every other turn” clause impacted Garchomp C LV.X, so I’m sure it can be exploited here too.
Having no type, it may not be able to exploit enough decks itself, but it is definitely worth looking at, as it reads pretty strong on its own. If it gets out turn 2, and starts smacking for 120, its applying a ton of pressure. I’m not sure what I’d pair it with, and while it reads well, it still “plays fair.” It offers no disruption, no ABSURD speed, doesn’t 1HKO most things, and doesn’t have a KO denying lock out like many decks do.
While it plays the fair game extremely well, I want my decks to really offer something degenerate, so I’m not sure if this guy is able to do that. He’ll probably play fine, but not really break into competitive play because you can do far more broken things with Pokémon who offer more synergistic deck options, opposed to merely smacking for 120 every turn (I can’t believe I’m saying “only smacking for 120”).
pokebeach.comOk, this guy seems amazing. Having tested Beartic EP 30 and been mildly to substantially impressed, this guy is a basic with huge Hit Points, a far more damaging attack (80 vs 50 is a HUGE difference!) and it can abuse Eviolite and Metal energy! Sheer Cold was an amazing attack, and this guy steps that game plan up.
Until you see his weakness: Fire. Fire is a hugely popular type, and being weak to it is almost crippling. This means you need to pair this guy with something that beats Typhlosion Reshiram. Beartic Vileplume Reuniclus was the deck before, so substituting in Cobalion in place of Beartic means you need a Water type.
This isn’t too bad because Vileplume Reuniclus decks have a good number of great Water type options, in Beartic (yes, you can run both, why not? Even a 1-1 Beartic line is generally sufficient against Typhlosion), Suicune & Entei LEGEND, and now Kyurem, whose spread attack is brutal when it isn’t being killed. I certainly expect some combination of these cards to settle in as tier 1 as The Truth evolves and adapts to the newer cards.
Alright, this guy seems like he could be pretty awesome. Ignore the 2nd attack, as while it may have been a beast during your Prerelease, it’s not transferring to constructed play very well. Its first attack, on the other hand, is pretty awesome! Decks like Magnezone don’t want to have to Cleffa for a new random hand: They want to ADD cards to their existing hand, and 2 extra cards for a Colorless every turn is pretty awesome.
Toss on its large hit point total, and this guy is an awesome opener. I’m not saying the day of the “4 starter Pokémon” is going to return, but they can definitely provide the role of additional Collector starts, and they can pad basic counts, which a LOT of decks want (no, 9-10 basic Pokémon is NOT enough :P).
The biggest issue I have with him, and the thing which will most likely prohibit its viability, would be the fact that decks cannot retreat into him since its attack is not free like Cleffa. It also suffers from the printing of N. Currently, Judge is really only used in decks with Yanmega, a card which has actually seen gradually less and less play since its peak at Nationals.
So the format CURRENTLY is very Judge light, but with the printing of N, I expect a lot more hand disruption to get played, which makes hoarding cards in your hand a bit risky. Especially if Virizion requires you to make some sacrifices to get it active. I know 6 months ago, there were SO MANY DECKS I’d have LOVED this guy in, but now I’m not sure the format has stayed stagnant enough for this guy to still be so desirable.
None the less, it’s a fairly potent card, so if you can get them cheap (I see very little discussion on him), then he’s probably worth picking up a set of in case it does end up being good.
Well, he follows in the footsteps of previous printings such as Blastoise D, and Exploud SV, as a purely support Pokémon who just negates your weakness. These effects almost always have fringe play, although in those formats, we didn’t have to deal with Pokémon Catcher type effects, so it may end up being a moot point because it’s too frail.
If I’m using Cobalion, for example, this guys getting Catchered right out of the gates, then killed. I guess it’s a bit better in the Trainer lock tank decks, but it’s another thin line in an already clunky overcrowded build, so I’m not too sold. Its Ability is clearly game breaking, so I’d keep a copy of it on hand in case it does wind up played, as I’d be more shocked if it saw NO play then if it was in multiple decks.
Nothing says fun like showcasing the Stage 1 in a Stage 2 line, but this guy’s Ability is awesome, and probably extremely exploitable in a ZPS style deck. It’s energy acceleration for Lighting, so that cannot be overlooked. Think “Typhlosion as a Stage 1“ although with less synergistic partners. It could be an awesome 1 or 2-of in ZPS, and could later on have decks built around its acceleration.
pokebeach.comNever count out energy manipulation, ESPECIALLY on a STAGE ONE, which is almost unheard of. These type of Abilities are almost always restricted to otherwise subpar stage 2 Pokémon, so this could end up being even more powerful than it initially reads. Also, it has a lot of potential with Lanturn Prime, who, for reference, did fairly well in Prague as well. Definitely a sleeper hit of the set.
Ok, nothing fancy here, just an upgraded recovery card that will generally replace Flower Shop Lady in decks who want to get things back. The effect isn’t game breaking, but it is giving us back effects we have been used to having, and have had to adjust to lacking. It’ll end up being played in a lot of decks while it is legal, but likely as a lone copy only.
In closing, I expect Noble Victories to be a pretty impactful set. A lot of interesting Pokémon to build decks around, but more importantly, a lot of trainers which will see play in decks for years to come now. N and Eviolite could wind up being format defining.
As a result of this set, I expect people to at least TRY to build Feraligatr Prime Kyurem decks, and I expect Magnezone to see a resurgence due to the increased need to score 1HKOs, and also because it is able to interact so favorably with N, both with it, and against it. With Yanmega getting tinned, I see Magnezone as the new value card of the format (well, returning to it) because Yanmegazone has started to see a spike in play now, and the new set only threatens to increase Magnezones value.
pokemon-paradijs.comZPS with Eviolite should be a front-runner, as the deck now gains a much more powerful late game than it had before. Decks like Reshiphlosion will now have a much harder time overwhelming it in a longer game, and that matters.
Tanking decks like The Truth look to be even more powerful as they get more and more tools. I’d pick up my Vileplume and Reuniclus now before they get even more scarce then they already have become. These cards are packing very hard to replace effects and have a format warping effect. I can see both topping 10 dollars a few months from now.
So I’m going to call this already long article a wrap, and end it with a decklist for Kyurem Feraligatr for those who want to give the deck a shot if you are less interested in pumping out more Regionals testing. City Championships start up soon, so we should see a breath of fresh air breathed into the format which has started to grow a little stale already.
This is why it is good that Nintendo pumps out sets as quickly as they do. While it may be annoying to have to keep investing in new cards, from a competitive players stance, formats can grow very stale very quickly if people keep playing them as much as we do with events such as Battle Roads being run twice a weekend. Without further ado, here’s Kyurem Feraligatr!
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 31
Energy – 12
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