J.K. Q&A: Answering Your Questions about Noble Victories, the Metagame, and More!

In the spirit of making the best pre-Cities article possible, I decided that I should find out what the subscribers most wanted!

From the moment I got back from Regionals, City Championships have been on my mind, meaning that through extension, so has Noble Victories. This works out quite nicely with my chosen prompt for today, as most of your questions were actually specific ones about the nitty-gritty of NV. From reimagining the decks of yester-month, to breaking decks for this weekend, I have been all over this set.

My first batch of questions will pertain to “reinventing the wheel” of pre-Cities archetypes, while my second batch will deal with exclusively new developments out of Noble Victories. I will then conclude the article with a nice mix of miscellaneous questions about life, the universe, and Pokémon.

Reinventing the Wheel

Contrary to the beliefs of some, Noble Victories is not going to completely disrupt the current landscape – that honor belongs only to a select few sets throughout the game’s history (Neo Genesis, Ruby/Sapphire, Secret Wonders, etc). Rather, what will most likely occur is that our current tournament climate will keep the same old contenders, and welcome just a few new ones into the fold.

Even if it were the case that Noble Victories-exclusive decks would define the metagame, we would still need to know how archetypes will change for the first few weeks of City tournaments!

By far, the most asked question on my Underground forum thread was “how does Noble Victories impact current decks in the metagame?” This is not without good reason: most of our members came to the same conclusion I did, and are naturally posing a concern resultant from that conclusion. To solve this issue, I will go over all of the new cards that could help the current field.

N: Where Does He Belong?!

New and old players alike cheered at the announcement of N, spiritual successor to the legendary Team Rocket’s Admin. In a format where an early lead means the world, N is a balance to scenarios where players get way too far ahead in the game, and can turn board control upside-down in the process.

Often, however, N can wreck your own consistency – especially if you run an aggressive deck with little in the way of reliable draw. Let’s look at which archetypes could use N to great success…

– Any player running a deck with Magnezone Prime should automatically consider N. Emboar/Magnezone, Typhlosion/Magnezone, Yanmega/Magnezone, or even straight Magnezone…They could all benefit heavily from it. I am not inclined to say that it is a requirement yet, since some of these decks are more setup-oriented than others.

pokegym.netUltimately, Embzone and Typhlozone should probably focus on consistency before disruption, whereas Primetime and Magnezone would do well to run at least 2-3 N.

– Ninetales engine decks (traditional Typhlosion, Emboar/Reshiram) should seriously consider not running N if the lists are too teched. If they are more mainstream builds, then consider running two as opposed to the shuffle draw you would have otherwise been running.

– Engine-less decks (Stage Ones, YMCA, ZPST) should usually not run N, no matter how sparingly beneficial it might be. These decks tend to go up in prizes right away, and are often the ones on the receiving end of a bad N. For this reason, your main focus should be to just keep your lists as immune from N/Judge as possible.

– Reuniclus-based decks LOVE N, and would generally be well-suited to run two or three of it. However, there is one major conflict: most of these also run Tropical Beach, which your opponent can use to break out of the lock you’ve just placed.

So how should this issue be resolved? One solution is to just keep Tropical Beach and omit N; another is to try running an alternate draw engine to replace Tropical Beach’s absence. Here is an example of an experimental list I’ve designed to tackle this concern:

Pokémon – 21

4 Gothita EPO 43
2 Gothorita EPO 45
3 Gothitelle EPO 47
3 Solosis BLW
1 Duosion NVI
2 Reuniclus BLW
1 Magnemite TM
1 Magnezone Prime
1 Jirachi UL
1 Shaymin UL
1 Zekrom BLW
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 29

4 Sage’s Training
4 Pokémon Collector
4 Twins
3 N
4 Rare Candy
4 Pokémon Communication
3 Junk Arm
1 Switch
1 Max Potion/Seeker
1 Pokémon Catcher

Energy – 10

7 P
3 Rainbow

When I first started testing this version of the deck, I ran only two N. This worked decently well, but I was not having a surefire enough lock if I had to drop an N early game, so I opted to increase the count so that I would always have one left over for the late game. I use the 1-0-1 Magnezone to help hold the lock together, as well as to be an attacker in the late game, in mirror, or versus The Truth. If you begin to like Magnezone’s presence more, consider cutting the Zekrom, Gothitelle #3, and maybe even a Sage’s for a full 2-1-2 line.

As I said, this is an experimental version, so I do not claim anything approaching perfection. Still, it is an effective alternate version of the deck that could very well do some serious damage.

Super Rod vs. Flower Shop Lady vs. Revive vs. Tyson vs. Holyfield

pokegym.net(Well, maybe not Tyson…)

With Super Rod’s release, we finally have a diverse set of choices for Pokémon recovery. What should be played where, though?

Super Rod is a good choice in aggressive decks that run Sage’s Training, or ones that have to throw a lot of resources away continuously. Emboar variants love this card for both reasons.

Flower Shop Lady is quickly losing its place. Pre-Noble Victories, it was already played sparingly due to the way it would interrupt the flow of fast-paced games with a very non-progressive Supporter drop. Still, decks that really wanted recovery settled on it. Now with Super Rod out, FSL should fade even further, unless Item lock gains a lot of sudden momentum.

Revive remains a good option in lists that can naturally recycle old resources, like Typhlosion. It also helps as a more immediate form of recovery, and against N locks, can have more present value than Super Rod or FSL.

The Noble Arts of Teching, Splashing, and Editing

Old archetypes benefit heavily from the presence of Noble Victories for more than just draw and recovery; they also enjoy a new collection of other new cards to work from.

– Leavanny’s Leaf Tailor may at first glance seem like a real tournament-winner, but Weakness removal could only fill a very specific purpose. Add in the fact that our format is full of cards that 1-shot opposing Pokémon without even needing Weakness, and its usefulness becomes even more dubious.

pokegym.netThe history of permanent Weakness removal in the Pokémon Trading Card Game also suggests that Leavanny will not make a real absolute presence. For those that remember when Blastoise d or Exploud SV were legal, you should be able to attest to how niche-tier those cards were, due to their abilities being easy to shut off in some way (Blastoise’s Poké-Body could be shut off by Battle Frontier, and Exploud could simply lose its Poké-Body to Dialga G LV.X’s Time Crystal).

In our current format, Leavanny will usually lose to one of two things: Pokémon Catcher, or the clunkiness of running another Stage Two line in the already-slow Vileplume builds.

– Victini #15 (“V Create”) is a fun addition to YMCA if you have right Energy line to run it. It is also a neat inclusion in Kingdra/Cinccino, and is an all-around good choice if you need to eliminate a Cobalion or other fire Pokémon quickly. Admittedly, this may work better in new decks than old ones, but you may still find some good examples of builds that could use a quick and easy 100 damage for cheap.

– Kyurem makes for a good addition to a The Truth-style build, but it also encourages the competitive play of several underrated cards, such as Electrode Prime and Feraligatr Prime. Kyurem makes such a big impact on these cards that they now have their own new decks, listed further on down in the article.

– Eelektrik “can” function as a tech in some decks (e.g., Yanmega/Magnezone), but it really works well as a new energy engine for other decks. Josh shared with you all the popular Magnezone/Eelectrik concept on Tuesday, so now it is my turn to share with you another Eel variant: “Zek-trik.”

Pokémon – 15

4 Zekrom BLW
3 Tornadus EPO
3 Tynamo NVI 39
3 Eelektrik NVI
1 Pachirisu CL
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 31

4 Sage’s Training
4 Professor Juniper
4 Pokémon Collector
2 Professor Oak’s New Theory/N
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Junk Arm

3 PlusPower
2 Eviolite/Rocky Helmet
2 Pokémon Communication
2 Switch

Energy – 14

10 L
4 Double Colorless

Basically, your goal is similar to ZPST: ram through the opponent with a fast setup. What makes this list different is that it trades in a lot of its early game power for more middle and late game endurance by virtue of the Dynamotor ability, ultimately ensuring that your resources last into infinity. Gone are the Super Scoop Ups, Dual Balls, and other “turbo” aspects of ZPST, now replaced by choices more interested in ensuring Eelectrik’s speedy arrival to the field.

You may notice the slash I have between Rocky Helmet and Eviolite. That’s because it could really go either way depending on your preferences…


…And on that note, we are going to take a brief break from analyzing individual techs in order to figure out which tool is the better play in Zekrom/Tornadus variants: Eviolite or Rocky Helmet?

Eviolite is by far the more popular choice in no small part because of its obvious synergy with Zekrom’s Bolt Strike, which amounts to the legendary dragon dealing only 20 to itself. Rocky Helmet is also a defensive card, but its key distinction from Eviolite is that it achieves this effect through damage counter deterrence.

I still need to do more testing to really crystallize my belief, but as of now, I am adamantly in support of Rocky Helmet over Eviolite. My main reasoning behind this decision is because Rocky Helmet actually helps both your good and bad matchups.

– Versus Typhlosion, Rocky Helmet makes getting rid of Reshirams a much easier prospect, as the additional damage can setup normally unreachable knock-outs, such as a Tornadus with 1-2 PlusPowers. Meanwhile, Eviolite just demands of Reshiram a PlusPower toll, and does nothing to help eliminate the threat. This “unkillable-made-killable” logic applies to other matchups as well.

– Since Eviolite is a purely defensive card, players only view it as an obstacle to jump over; not something they actually have to account for. This forces top players to move in uncomfortable ways to avoid the Rocky Helmet setting up a KO, and can amount to game-winning scenarios against misplaying players who might have otherwise won on luck.

This by no means suggests that Eviolite lacks a place in decks this format, or even Zekrom/Tornadus builds. I simply believe that when competing for the same card slot, Rocky Helmet should get it over Eviolite in these aggressive decks.


– For the time being, I do not view Chandelure as an effective tech, but I do consider the card capable of becoming its own mildly successful deck! Read “New Developments” for more thoughts on it.

(This same train of thought actually applies to several other cards…)

– To round out the tech options, Terrakion is capable of being an effective Bouffalant-wannabe in any deck with Magnezone-specific concerns. It, along with Donphan, is one of the most capable attackers to use against ‘Zone, and since that card is going to rise in playability, leave the idea of throwing one of these into your list in the back of your mind.

New Developments in Noble Victories

I feel like the archetypes of the past are, for the most part, here to stay. Yet even if I am 100% correct, this will not stop the advance of several brand new decks. Listed below are just some of the many brand-new possibilities out of Noble Victories (and even some dismissed impossibilities):

What is the Best Way to Run Kyurem?

Kyurem is hands-down the most hyped card out of Noble Victories, so it makes sense that many Underground members wanted to hear my thoughts on its variations. The ice dragon is presently being played with three common partners: Electrode Prime, Vileplume, and Feraligatr. I cover the most popular version later on in the article (the one with Cobalion), and Josh sufficiently dealt with Vileplume in his Tuesday article, even getting into the Darkrai & Cresselia tech option. This leaves us with one last version to explain…Which will be done by this skeleton list.

Pokémon – 12

4 Kyurem NVI
3 Totodile HS
2 Croconaw HS
2 Feraligatr Prime
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 26

4 Sage’s Training
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
4 Twins

4 Pokémon Collector

2 Fisherman
4 Rare Candy
4 Pokémon Communication

Energy – 14

14 W

Open Spots – 8

The strategy is similar to that of Emboar/Reshiram, only instead of piling on tons of R Energy to secure consecutive knock-outs, you’re piling on tons of W Energy to secure several simultaneous “spread” knock-outs through Glaciate.

One of the first things you should notice is how flexible this skeleton list is. With more than 10% of our deck open, we can truly take this in any direction, and – on the flip-side – our opponents will, too.

  1. You can run Vileplume, thereby making it yet another Item lock variant. The nice thing about this take is that unlike most ‘Plume variants, this version’s speed is not particularly hindered by the card’s presence.
  2. Your Feraligatr Prime line can be mildly revamped to strengthen various matchups. In the event you need a spread option against a metal matchup, try running a regular Feraligatr from HS, which knows the slightly weaker Spinning Tail attack. But for a more unusual way to defeat Reuniclus decks with unbeatable defenses, you could tech in a Totodile CL with Victini Victory Star. With the right coin flips, Aqua Tail can blow away some surprising attackers…I’ve even 1HKO’d a Gothitelle with it!
  3. In the same vein as Feraligatr line edits, you can include Kyogre CL or Starmie HS for similar purposes. Kyogre/Victini Victory Star allows for a major tour de force near the end of a game, but you can even abuse the possible bench damage done to yourself and charge up a Kyurem Outrage. Starmie, on the other hand, is just an option for surefire knock-outs in the late game.
  4. Lastly, you have all of the usual suspects to include: Switches, Pokémon Catchers of your own, Darkrai & Cresselia LEGEND, and much more.

Now, to actually address the question: which variant is the best?

  • Kyurem/Electrode is the fastest, but unless you run a stellar tech line, this should not be justification to run it.
  • Kyurem/Vileplume is the most “stable,” in that it is Catcher-proof, consistent, and relatively certain to setup.
  • Kyurem/Feraligatr is by far the most versatile list, as shown in the aforementioned skeleton.

Based on this, I believe it to be a toss-up between Vileplume and Feraligatr variants. I will say that Feraligatr is a little more difficult to setup and sustain. Plus, the lists choices will be very difficult, so it is probably a better option for an experienced player than Vileplume.

The issue becomes even more complicated when you can put Vileplume and Feraligatr in the same list…But by and large, I would deem a Vileplume list to be the generally “best” choice for City tournaments, as it complements the conservative mechanics of spread the best. It could very easily go the other way depending on techs/players, so keep an open mind!

Failing to Find Fossils

pokegym.netThis was an issue I received quite a few questions on, and for good reason: they are too difficult to get into play! For both Carracosta and Archeops, you have the following game plan holes:

– Actually having a Tirtouga or Archen in the bottom seven cards of your deck. The odds of this are greater if you run a high count on deck thin cards or Research Records, but even with four Fossils and four revived Pokémon, there is still a ridiculously low chance of getting your card into play.

– Once the Tirtouga/Archen gets into play, it could just get Pokémon Catchered up. Vileplume or Teddiursa CL may prevent this, but both are conditional counters.

– Even after all that effort evolving your Archen/Tirtouga into a full-fledged stage one Pokémon, it still suffers from “outplayed-itis”: an ailment where cards’ effects are easily worked around. Carracosta’s stats are only mildly better than the regularly-played Beartic from Emerging Powers, and Archeops’s seemingly-broken Ancient Power is circumvented by Rare Candy. [Editor’s note: I think that ruling may have been reversed.]

All in all, I feel Carracosta is just an unplayable card, but Archeops with a very specific Vileplume list could work. I plan to mess with this deck more as the City Championship season progresses, so if I make any headway, then I will be sure to mention it in a future article.

The Return of Victini Watch

A couple months ago, I posted a “Victini Watch,” where I suggested several possible older cards to combine with Victini’s Victory Star. Now that we know what cards are actually legal…Which of those ideas still hold weight?

– Wobbuffet HS could still be an extraordinary inclusion in a The Truth-style deck if the right conditions are met. With a 75% chance of doing double typical Outrage damage, Double Return could be the instant 1HKO option you need. To be fair, Outrage rarely fails to fulfill your damage needs, so this might be a “tangent” idea in the end.

– I am afraid that Sharpedo may ultimately fall into “gimmick” territory. A 44% chance of discarding your opponent’s entire hand is unquestionably nice, but not without the power to back it up. Plus, all it takes for this deck to lose an event is to hit a string of bad flips, so I would advise you look elsewhere for optimal Victini combos.

– Durant may be the popular deck-discard build right now, but Magmortar TM with Victini could be just as good if built right. Sure, you miss out on the early rush of discards that Durant enjoys, but you could also be discarding twice as many cards (7-10) in the late game. And with Victory Star, this energy should not go away too often.

– Audino EPO, no matter how few competitive decks with it exist, is NOT a bad card…And thanks to Victini, it’s made even better! If it finds the right stage one partners – say, Eelektrik and Lanturn Prime– then this could be a very vicious budget deck with some shocking potential.

– Ultimately, Vanilluxe benefits more from Victini than any other card in the format right now. Audino/Wobbuffet might enjoy added power, and Sharpedo/Magmortar may wield less conditional disruption, but Vanilluxe’s odds of paralysis reach absurd levels: 15/16, or nearly 94%.

I am certain that this deck will do some neat things this City Championship season, and that by the first two weeks, we will have seen some absolutely shocking techs for the card. After all, Mew Prime is so far the most widely-hyped partner with it, and that card is inherently the king of tech in its own right. I consider the card an actual, legitimate threat, and have thought up some really hard counters to it:

  1. Running a deck that forces more flip attempts out of the opponent. Regardless if Victini is in play, Vanilluxe will never hit paralysis 100% of the time. Naturally, then, the longer the game draws on, the more likely their flips will catch up with them, and you will finally get a chance to break through. This is far more likely to achieve with a card capable of defense, such as Cobalion NV with multiple Metals, or any big Basic backed up by Reuniclus’ Damage Swap.
  2. Unown CURE is an instant solution to the paralysis. Unfortunately, it is a wasted deck space in nearly every other matchup, and may not even guarantee a victory over Vanilluxe if CURE itself cannot be reused.
  3. Steelix Prime should automatically win with weakness advantage over Vanilluxe, resistance on Mew Prime, and prevention of paralysis induction with its Poké-Body.

What do you think of HeyTrainer chatter on Chandelure and Mew/Vanilluxe?


As I said, Mew/Vanilluxe (preferably paired with Vileplume) is a very potent strategy with a ton of potential if teched correctly, even if the options in our current metagame keep it in check. As for Chandelure, though…

I love it.

In a format where hard damage is given way too much emphasis, I consider this card a step away from that staleness, and ultimately good for the game. It encourages unique deck ideas, as well as clever engines. I’ve had this card in the back of my head for over five months: in “Goodbye Vilegar, Hello Lostgar,” I suggested it as an alternative to Kingdra in a Mandibuzz BLW deck. Now, I also see it as a fitting partner with Kingdra Prime itself, or the recently-fading Yanmega Prime. Tack on some Rocky Helmets, and you have one good, disruptive trick deck.

As far as Heytrainer hype goes, the big (non-Mandi)buzz is centering around Aaron Curry’s Chandelure/Tropical Beach swarm idea. You can check out the specifics in the thread itself, but the gist of it is that you setup as many Chandelure as possible, get a Dodrio into play for free retreat, and then pull off 2-4 Cursed Shadow abilities before you end your turn via Tropical Beach draw. I might actually like this list better than the Kingdra version; I highly recommend you test both.

Other Attackers

Many of the interesting cards I have not mentioned yet (Seismitoad, Reuniclus #52, Conkeldurr #64, Hydreigon) have not received a treatment yet simply because I have found them all to be slow and/or unstable decks. I easily foresee scenarios where any one of these four cards could ream through an opponent, but for now, they all take far too much work to succeed in a metagame that is still very much based on aggression.

Others still have a chance to be harnessed. Hydreigon is just waiting to be broken, whereas Seismitoad is waiting on Wigglytuff to come out so that its Round attack can max out to 180 damage. All Conkeldurr might need, however, is for the metagame to shift ever-so slightly further away from Psychics…Or perhaps it could be that one card to truly abuse Leavanny’s Leaf Tailor?

Haxorus/Eelectrik/healing is also an interesting swarm deck in its own right, but so far, my testing games have yielded little success for that list, as well.

Other Questions

Of course, Noble Victories was not the only thing I was questioned about: I also received a mix of inquiries about the game, its community, and online resources.

Making Friends (and Enemies) in the Pokémon Community

pokegym.netThis may seem tongue-in-cheek to some, but it is actually a serious matter that can really impact your long-term success. Your Pokémon “social status” matters when it comes to play-testing groups, card borrow/trade opportunities, and travel options (i.e., splitting hotel/carpool costs). Most importantly, it impacts your mental well-being.

If you have good, loyal friends, then you will appreciate your time at events, thereby putting yourself in a more comfortable opportunity to actually focus and do well; if you are a lonely player with few to no friends, or a lot of enemies, then you’ve set yourself up for a million and one distractions while trying to play your game of cards. Thus, working well with the community is definitely in your favor for more reasons than one.

Making friends:

  1. This may be a simple one, but be cordial toward strangers. The number one difference between admirable and loathsome top players is how they treat people outside of their clique
  2. Be generous with your supplies and cards. This does not entail sacrificing yourself for the greater good, but in the event that someone needs your spare dice, , etc., then it will usually be scrupulous to save the player in need. In turn, you as a borrower should be very accommodating to those kind enough to lend out to you – it’s just the right thing to!
  3. Be forgiving. You may not forget past violations of trust or respect, but for most transgressions, you should leave your ill will behind. Only forgive those who are legitimately remorseful, though – you do not want to waste your charity on people who don’t deserve it!
  4. Strive for humility, and do not be careless about what you say to your opponent during/after a game. A loss feels even worse when your opponent stealthily or explicitly berates some aspect of your deck/playing, and I have even seen one friend quit the game because an opponent berated her for being a casual player who did not take the game “seriously enough.” On that note, this seems like a perfect time to move on to…

Making enemies:

  1. Breaking trust, especially within your testing circles, is not going to advance your metagame career anytime soon. If you are in on a secret deck or tech, then let it remain a secret until it is publicly revealed (yes, even if it seems like a bad strategy). As strange as it sounds, you are in a collegial environment when testing with a small group, so be sure to treat your “colleagues” with the respect they deserve.
  2. Despite the great community that exists in Pokémon, some people will dislike you simply for beating them…Or for no reason at all. For these types, you are well-served to just ignore them to the best of your ability, and interact with them only when necessary. Just accept that no player has a 100% approval rating, and that some people are simply “impossible.”
  3. If you sport bad hygiene while attending five-to-eight city marathons, you might not make “enemies” per se. Nevertheless, you will be reviled if so!

Honestly, you shouldn’t be making that many enemies at all, since Pokémon is a very friendly environment. Even if you do not particularly like some people, the easiest solution to that problem is to just…Not associate with them, and associate with those whose company you truly enjoy.

Using Pokémon TCG Websites to Your Advantage

On the message boards, I was asked for my opinion on “…the strengths and weaknesses of various Pokémon forum/article sites.” This seemed like a challenging topic to address, but also a valuable one, since our card game emphasizes intelligence so much more than others. For that reason, I decided to answer his question, but spin it around into an opportunity to display how those “strengths” he mentioned can benefit you.

Know that no matter what their relevance may be to the competitive player, each site mentioned here does a fantastic service to the community at large. Still, each site services a specific niche element, and when put together, all of them can improve your tournament performance.

1. PokéGym.net

pokegym.netBy far the biggest draw for most visitors of PokéGym.net is its community, which is on display throughout the first four sections of the website. However, “Researching Tower,” TCG Search,” “Tournament Decklist,” and “Compendium Rulings” are all going to be very helpful if your main reason to visit the site is to succeed at the game.

Researching Tower and TCG Search operate as highly effective tools for deck theory development, with the former giving you high-quality scans of tournament legal cards, and the latter operating as a way to hunt down general needs, such as Pokémon that can induce status or bench damage. Meanwhile, the tournament decklist is a high quality program that lets you efficiently prepare for an event in advance, and the Compendium is your go-to guide on rulings in the game. In fact, the Compendium is as good as the word of Play! Pokémon itself, since it is granted official status as the rulings resource for all events.

Personally, I visit the PokéGym mostly for tournament needs. The Compendium is by far the most important of them, but secondary needs include keeping in touch with tournament organizers, as well as finding out about events. Ironically, PokéGym.net’s speed makes it a much better source for premier tournaments than the official site itself.

Past tournament preparation, I also enjoy PokéGym for its deck contests and collecting forum; however, these are more recreational, and not tools to make you more successful in the long run.

2. PokéBeach.com

pokebeach.comLike PokéGym, the PokéBeach possesses a robust, bustling crowd of visitors. Unlike the ‘Gym, though, the one and only major use a competitive player will typically gleam out of this website is its plentiful scans. You may be asking, “Why is this useful when Pokégym.net has the exact same scans?”

Time, folks…Time. From PokéBeach’s home page, it takes only one newly-loaded page until you’re exactly where you need to be; from Pokégym’s, it takes two. This might not seem like much, but if you are an entrenched player, then you will CONSTANTLY want to spend time looking at scans. This adds up, and since it’s all conveniently there for you right on the home page, life is much easier.

Just remember that Pokégym is far more likely to have obscure promo cards than Pokébeach. For your main set needs, however, it is easily the number one pick out there right now.

[Editor’s plug: TcgScans.com is even faster if you’re trying to search for a card. Not that I created the site or anything… but it’s pretty darn cool.]

3. SixPrizes.com

Nobody goes here: not worth your time, your money, etc…


In its two years of existence, SixPrizes.com has revolutionized the Pokémon TCG scene, offering players a new way to look at the game. From a very simple blog-based system, 6P gives players a wide variety of perspectives on strategy, decks, and metagame. Still, a “wide variety” demands a lot of coverage, so I will divide my discussion between the regular site and Underground itself.

First, there is indeed a regular site! From my understanding, a good number of Underground members do not read the main website’s articles too often. For those who do not, I wholeheartedly encourage you all to begin at least checking out the content. Quite often, there are some real gems included in the mix, such as the most recent articles by our mainstay authors, as well as Daniel Lee’s “Pokémetrics: An Introduction.” (Yes, his math is completely right, and even lines up with my probability discussion during “Deconstructing Murphy” last week!)


All in all, you have the potential to build a great deal of knowledge and skill from these valuable articles, so remember that they, too, are here to help.

Now, what to say about Underground? After all, discussing it in an actual Underground article is very existential…

For starters, Underground is best utilized when you view it as a “private lesson” resource. In several pursuits – music, sports, exercise, and education – private lessons ideally help individuals excel quicker, more efficiently, and for the long-term. Like my euphonium and piano instructors before me, this is how I have always viewed my role as an Underground writer, and I feel like those subscribers who consider the site as such tend to benefit the most from what we writers have to say.

That aside, lists are a very, very important aspect of Underground, and knowing how to work with them is critical to benefitting from your Underground membership. You should be sure to give the lists here a good test run, always working with them according to your preferences. Play style – the subtle reflection of one’s list choices in a build – can lead to completely different performances between multiple people, so it helps to tweak most builds you see here at least somewhat.

In addition, synthesizing multiple ideas found on Underground can lead to very powerful, effective stock builds, such as the unreal deck thin potential gleamed by a ZPST with four Pokéagear 3.0 (“Autumn Leaves”) and four Energy Search (previous Jay Hornung articles dating back to last season).

Your membership is meant to promote success – no question. By viewing Underground from the right perspective, it will benefit you much more heavily than it otherwise would.

4. The Deck Out/other strategy blogs

thedeckout.comAlthough they do not hold the same prestige as some of the other sites listed above, there are a wide variety of other Pokémon TCG websites that could tune you in to new layers of strategy. Most notable of these right now is probably Esa J.’s “The Deck Out,” which posts several interesting ideas from around the globe. Perhaps the most valuable insights, though, would be from his “Eye on Japan” column, which has caused quite a stir vis-à-vis Noble Victories hype.

I am not sure how truly competitive the Six Corners and Cobalion/Kyurem/Electrode decks will be, but I decided to give each my own take on each.

(If you would like a crash course on how each deck works, check out TheDeckOut’s respective articles on each.)

For the Six Corners list, I would not want to do anything major to it other than add a tech Cobalion. This may turn it into more of “Seven Sides,” but I honestly feel like Energy Press and Iron Breaker are both invaluable tools to help push this deck over the edge in Kyurem matchups, which should have a pretty decisive edge against this deck.

Past that, I have only minor playstyle preferences: slightly higher hard draw in exchange for Pokégear; a 3/3 split on Switch and Super Scoop Up; and a stronger draw replacement for Cheren.

As for Cobalion/Electrode/Kyurem? I have a more different take on it…

Pokémon – 12

3 Cobalion NVI
3 Voltorb TM
3 Electrode Prime
2 Kyurem NVI
1 Cleffa HS

Trainers – 32

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N


4 Research Record/more draw et al.
3 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Poké Ball/Pokémon Communication
3 Eviolite
2 Super Rod

Energy – 16

6 W
4 Special M
4 M
2 Rainbow

pokegym.netUnlike the standard build, I deem it as absolutely essential to run a greater emphasis on Kyurem. Iron Breaker is a nice, powerful attack, but in any generalized metagame, a tank cannot and will not hold up to a swarm of fire attackers, Magnezones, and Pokémon Catchers. Kyurem is your possible answer to these threats, and your emphasis on it can easily mean the difference between winning or losing tournaments.

Also, I absolutely love Research Record in this deck, so in order to make my Energymites the best-yielding effects they can possibly be, I run a whole play set. However, my testing has also revealed this card to be an occasional dead-draw, so its spaces could instead be traded out for more essential draw/consistency choices.

Lastly, the Poké Ball may seem like an extremely unusual addition to my list, but since a twelve Pokémon count is extremely low, our odds of actually being able to use the normally superior Pokémon Communication are lower than normal. I might ultimately return to Communication if I raise my overall Pokémon count. So far, though, this Poké Ball decision has been effective, and I encourage you to try it out!

In conclusion, I consider Esa’s blog to be at least worthwhile enough to deserve attention in this sole article, and at best a major resource for years to come. Nevertheless, we have more strategy blogs out there: Propokemon.com is nice for a more European-centric perspective, and onehitko.com definitely angles for rogue. As you go down the list of blogs, however, they eventually get more obscure, and ultimately more useless. It’s dedicated sites like the ones I named that will keep cranking out the good content, so keep an eye on them.

5. Heytrainer.org

heytrainer.orgEven though HeyTrainer.org/forum has a history for being largely censor-free in its language and content, the most renowned section of the site for competitive players is ironically its most moderated sub-forum: the “Deck, Card, and Strategy Discussion” section. Here, you have what is arguably the best public think-tank in Pokémon, with State, Regional, and National champions working together to transform decks into the mainstay builds you see at tournaments. I could name drop all day long, but you should really just see the theory-crafting to believe it.

Past the deck forum, there really is not much strategy aside from the occasional tournament report. Still, the average skill level is higher here than on any other public forum, so if you want a chance to interact with and learn from players who are every bit as good as Underground staff members, then this is a prime opportunity to do so.

6. TheTopCut.net

Although a relatively young site, TheTopCut.net has already made inroads in the community with its diverse cast, high-level strategy discussions, and live streams from the 2009 United States National Champion himself, Kyle Sucevich. In many ways, this is a visual, PG 13-rated version of HeyTrainer.org/forum, in that rather than read what top players have to say, you can watch them discuss and interact with the game in real time.

For people aiming to receive efficiently-obtained knowledge, I do not recommend that you listen to or watch anything live: the shows can go on for hours on end, so those with time constraints would be better-served to just watch their shows taped. Be that as it may, I highly recommend both their weekly episodes, as well as Sucevich’s Pokémon Trading Card Game Online streams…And who knows: maybe their brand new message board is also worth checking out!

Tips for Cities Preparation

The general tips (“get enough sleep, know where you’re going, allow for enough time, say goodbye to mommy”) have been mentioned so many times, but I find it funny how few specific tips are out there for City Championships! Hopefully, I will change that today…

  • Truthfully, many of us will not be going to a City Championship the first weekend due to some Thanksgiving-related plans. If you are in this category (arguably a majority of players), then I would pay very close attention to what wins.
  • If you are going to a City Championship this weekend (or even on Black Friday), I would recommend that you scour most or all of the sites listed above just to familiarize yourself with all of the crazy ideas that could pop up on week one. New and rogue decks’ biggest advantage is their surprise factor, so if you can starve them of that, you should be that much closer to a win.
  • This may fall into the “general tip” category, but print your decklist out online the night before, and fill it in to the best of your ability.
  • Keep play-testing throughout the entire series. Often, what will happen on the state and local level is that several players will “go to war” with whatever won the weekend prior, which leads to a continuous evolution of the area metagame. You need to be on your toes throughout this entire process.
  • Like Kent mentioned in his article earlier this month, these are still smaller-level tournaments, so do not feel the urge to “go long” on sacrificing consistency for tech. A good, fast, and reliable build should win you the majority of games, and your skill ought to win the rest. The only major exception to this guideline would be if you have an extremely evolved mirror match in your area that dominates the local scene, such as SP from 2009-2011.

Ultimately, Which Archetypes Will Rise, and Which Will Fall?

pokegym.netMagnezone Prime variants should be moving up into the top tier brackets if they are not there already. Eelectrik, N, and much more propel it into a new place where it has not been since U.S. Nationals last season. I also have a gut feeling thatreally solid, well-rounded Magnezone/Eelectrik lists will score several wins, and make a big showing this city season.

Zekrom/Tornadus lists, both new and old, should capitalize nicely on un-established, confused metagames where people are testing new Noble Victories ideas. N is a very potent threat to these decks, but I believe that the better builds should generally be able to overcome it: consistent ZPST run enough consistency, and Zek-Trik is almost as self-sustaining as Typhlosion/Reshiram.

Emboar and Typhlosion both enjoy great selections of new tweaks, as well as all the old strength they previously enjoyed. But the two suffer from water’s revival, making me worried that even with proper teching, both will have issues with Kyurem’s Glaciate. Even if Kyurem overwhelms fire, though, Typhlosion will without a doubt survive simply because it is the best deck to have when playing off of a one card N.

The Truth and its cousin rogues are all on the rise. Unlike Gothitelle, they do not suffer any one particularly bad matchup due to their multi-typed styles, making them excellent choices. Your playing may have to be top-notch, but you can literally take it in any direction you wish, giving you the ability to beat every big matchup in the game.

Stage Ones, YMCA, and similar decks are fading, since their various niches they filled are quickly being overtaken by new Noble Victories decks with sufficient hype. This is not to suggest that they are weak decks; just that they are being less prominent. I imagine that solid versions of both lists can still hang with the modern-day metagame as we know it.

pokegym.netI expect the swarm of Cobalion/Kyurem/Electrode hype to be at least moderately self-fulfilling when it comes to the archetype’s total number of victories. Assuming it succeeds at City Championships in decent numbers, it should enjoy a comfortable place in the middle of tier two. Whether this will happen remains to be seen, as it could be comfortably outplayed by more durable decks…Which might include other Cobalion variants.

Finally, expect Kyurem to join its fellow dragons at the adult table this Thanksgiving weekend. There is not yet consensus on which build of the deck ought to be the archetypal version or Glaciate, but its broken qualities are all indicative of a card destined to make it into tier one eventually.


Thank you for all of the useful questions, everyone! This exercise inspired me to look at this format from angles I had not done so before, and I now feel like I possess a clear understanding of what should happen going into these events. I hope that I have articulated that understanding to all of you, too.

Whether you’re joining Uncle Kyurem at the adult table, chilling with Reuniclus in the kiddy corner, or just abstaining from the holiday for some uncommon political reasoning, I hope you have a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving, as well as a great showing at your first City Championship tournaments.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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