We’re about halfway through Cities and looking over what has been doing well, the meta seems to be pretty wide open. In his last article Josh gave a pretty good run down of what has been winning. I counted 11 different decks taking home a title, and I believe he only included decks that have won more than 1 City.
While it’s nice to see so much diversity, an open meta can be very good and very bad at the same time. It is nice to have a lot of choice in what you want to play and not feel like your forced to choose between losing or playing just 1 or 2 decks. It also makes it more interesting when you don’t have to sit across from the same deck every round.
At the same time though with an open meta you can never account for everything or every matchup meaning, which means you’ll probably have a bad match up against something in the meta no matter how you build your deck.
A good portion of this article I’m going to devote to talking about what I feel to be one of the most well rounded decks in this format: Typhlosion/Reshiram. Some players feel the deck is past its prime while others think it just needs to be updated to deal with all of the new threats that Noble Victories has brought us.
Regardless of which side of the fence you fall something I will promise you is Typhlosion is not a deck you want to underestimate. After Regionals, we have 3 very different variations of the deck – Typhlosion/Reshiram/Ninetales, Typhlosion/Reshiram/Magnezone, and Typhlosion/Reshiram/Kingdra – so I’ll talk about all 3 variations and the pros and cons of each, as well as what I feel to be the best variant.
I know we have a lot of strong Typhlosion/Reshiram supporters that have very high standards whenever we talk about the deck, so I’ve put a lot of effort into this article and hopefully we’ll also get a good discussion going on the message boards. I also want to hit some other tangents about Cities, playing, and general stuff. I’ll cut myself off here so I don’t ramble, and just say on to the article.
N” – How does it affect our format, and how many copies should my deck run?“
pokemon-paradijs.comEvery so often we will get a format-defining card, and N is certainly one of those cards. I interpret a formatting defining card as any card that changes how a player builds their deck. N is also something that we desperately needed for the current format, previously we never had any real “come from behind cards” – nothing that really punished a player for taking a prize lead with the exception of Twins.
N can easily put you back in a game that you were down 2, 3 or even 4 Prizes. This pretty much requires that any deck is able to “live” off the field to some degree. What I mean by this is decks that are able to function without a hand have a huge advantage in this format.
Typhlosion variants are prime examples of this since once you begin to set up Typhlosion Primes, the game become simplified to a state of “Afterburners” and “Blue Flares” with the occasional “Flare Destroyer” for good measure. Most of my main deck choices for cities are able to live off the field to some extent, and it’s something important to think about when you are deciding on what deck to play.
I think all too often people just slap N in their decks without think about the card or how it affects their deck. At the start of the game N can be a very weak play because if I go first, I’m going to play down all of the resources I can. Probably a Pokémon Collector or another Supporter, get my energy attachment for the turn, etc.
When it comes to your turn you’ll probably do the same thing before playing N. Now at this point not only are you a turn behind me, but a Supporter behind as well. We both played down a lot of our resources and then your Supporter just got me a fresh hand to play off of next turn.
Going first and dropping N isn’t as bad for you, but you’re just as likely to N your opponent into a Pokémon Collector as you are to N them out of one. This is why most of my decks don’t play 4 N, I’ve tried playing 4 in some heavy control (Mew Prime/Vileplume UD/Yanmega Prime aka the Jason Klaczynski deck for example) variants, but they still really struggle with Typhlosion Prime and other decks that are hard to lock.
However, I really do like 3-4 in Magnezone Prime variants (Magnezone/Yanmega in particular). It allows for some amazing come backs late game, and for Yanmega variants it also consistently insures their opponent’s hand size is below that magical number of 6. I find the higher N count in this deck plays better not because I’m necessarily trying to control the game (1-3 would serve this purpose), but rather I’m trying to create a certain game state (getting their hand size to a level that I can match).
- Does your deck need it to match hand sizes (Yanmega)?
- How well can your deck recover from N?
- How well does my deck live off of the field?
- Does your deck take an early prize lead or fall behind and come back late game (Zekrom vs. Ross, Trainer Lock)?
The decks that are the most dramatically hurt by N are the speed based decks that put a lot of early pressure on the opponent, but can struggle in the mid to late game (such as Zekrom). I think this pretty much insures that the only strong way to play Zekrom is with 3-4 Pokégear 3.0 and a high amount of draw support.
Now Zekrom can’t live off the field as well as Typhlosion or Magnezone variants can, so it is really important in that you try and get an Energy drop every turn, diversify your Energy, burn useless Supporters when you can (Pokémon Collector), and really watch your discard choices with cards like Junk Arm.
This isn’t applicable just for Zekrom, but any deck that has trouble living off of the field, you know that N is coming so you want as few dead cards in your deck as possible and a field that doesn’t leave you defenseless.
I don’t play N in any of my speed decks right now, which are basically Zekrom and Mew/Stage 1’s…but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. I know Josh said in his last article to resist that urge to play N in decks like Zekrom. I agree with him for the most part, but I can’t really say anything bad about anybody who wants play a single copy.
In really close games, N is an amazing play just before getting a key knockout, especially if your opponent can’t live off of the field well. Four copies of Pokégear make the card a bit easier to find when you need it (also to recover from it) and it really can help you come back in games you’ve fallen behind in or pull ahead in close games.
Decks that can live off of the field well, I normally like to play 2 copies of N. This includes Typhlosion variants, decks I run Magnezone Prime in, or some other form of Pokémon draw. I already explained why I don’t run a full 4 copies and to be honest, you really only need 1 good late game N most of the time. I find the second more for good measure incase I need a new hand early or find myself in a situation where I’m forced to burn/discard it. Two copies of N also makes it easier to find one when you need it.
pokemon-paradijs.comComing out of Regionals, Typhlosion/Reshiram had a lot of really good showings with 2 very different variants taking Indiana and Florida Regionals, with a large number sprinkled throughout the Top 32s in all Regionals and divisions. Typhlosion/Reshiarm doing well was not really a huge surprise, but what was a surprise was the huge amount of variation in them.
The way I see it, right now we have 3 major variations on the deck:
- Typhlosion/Reshiram/Kingdra Prime
- Typhlosion/Reshiram/Magnezone Prime
- Straight Typhlosion/Reshiram/Ninetales UL
The straight version can be played with or without Ninetales, but I prefer the version with Ninetales so that’s the one I’ll talk about in this article.
On the way back during Regionals when we heard that Typhlosion/Reshiram/Magnezone won Florida, we went from “Huh?” to “I suppose that makes sense…” to “How didn’t we come up with this?” I think the thing I was really kicking myself for is how obvious this deck was; perhaps it saw a lot of play down in Florida, but saw next to none around here.
I built it as soon as I got home and I loved how smoothly it played. To do Regionals over again if I would have known how widespread Zekrom was going to be at mine my top 2 choices would have been this or Gothitelle.
Here is the list I played at the first Cities I went to; I finished 2nd with the deck in a Game 3. Getting second always kind of leaves you with a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth, but I was really happy with how smoothly the deck played.
Pokémon – 18
3 Reshiram BLW
Trainers – 30
Energy – 12
Magnezone brings a lot to the table and fixes a lot of the issues I had with the deck, namely a very weak Trainer Lock match up and a consistent stream of draw. I know Ninetales did this as well, but often times I only had 1 Energy in my hand and had to decide between using “Roast Reveal” and hoping to hit another, or getting my guaranteed attachment. Magnezone also gives you a nice alternative attacker because putting Energy in the Lost Zone normally isn’t that big of a deal. The deck only really needs 2 or 3 Fire in your discard anyway for “After Burner.”
The deck is a lot tighter for space than you would really think but at the same time there is a lot of room for “techs” it just really comes down to what you want to devote those tech spaces to. Let me give a quick rundown of the decks less standard choices.
4-2-3 Typhlosion: I know standard is 4-2-4 Typhlosion, but I wanted the space for a 3rd Junk Arm and Super Rod made this cut a bit easier. The second Quilava is really needed in the Trainer Lock match up, if that is something you’re not worried about, you can cut it, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
2-1-2 Magnezone Prime: This card is not required for the deck to operate; you might go some games with never setting it up at all. You simply don’t have enough Energy to make Magnezone your primary attacker, rather it’s a secondary attacker that always gives you that 1HKO potential. I’ve toyed around with 3-1-2 but there are so many things I would rather have over that 3rd Magnemite.
2-2-2 Split on the Supporters: This actually plays a lot better than I find it looks on paper. I found Twins to be really useful against decks that overextend in the early game like Zekrom and Yanmega variants. I don’t purposely fall behind, so I didn’t want to run 3 or 4 and 1 never seems to be enough to draw into.
Originally I had 1 N, but the card is amazing late game, so it was once again an issue of drawing into when I needed it and not having to worry about burning a copy early.
I run 2 Sages, but I would love to find room for a 3rd one in here. The more I’ve tested since the Cities the more I feel like I really need that 3rd Sages. I really like Twins in the deck but I’m starting to think I like Sages more.
1 Super Rod: This card fits really well in the deck; it’s very multi-purpose and I find it to be a more well-rounded option than Energy Retrieval or Revive. The deck burns through itself at a very fast pace, and often times you find yourself discarding key Pokémon and late game decking out become a legitimate concern, so Super Rod solves both of these issues.
1 PlusPower: Mainly for Zekrom; you’re 10 damage shy of killing a fresh Zekrom and 10 damage shy of KOing 1 with Eviolite after a Bolt Strike. I find myself using Magnezone a lot in this match up, but there is not enough energy in the deck for it to be your only attacker. The synergy between Twins and PlusPower make them the MVPs of this match up.
Rocky Helmet: This is tech that has been kind of popping up over the course of Cities. Personally I have to give credit to airhawk for really suggesting this idea to me, I haven’t had the opportunity to test this extensively enough to give a hard answer on the card. But in theory the card does bring a lot to the table in terms of matchups against Magnezone/Eelektrik NVI.
That extra 20 damage is crucial since it brings Magnezone back into 1HKO range for Reshiram. As for numbers, 1 or 2 would play fine without cutting into your consistency, plus you have Junk Arm to get it back.
The issue I’m finding is PlusPower is very active while Rocky Helmet is very reactive. I can Twins for a PlusPower and Junk Arm and get a somewhat unexpected KO. I don’t think I’ll catch any competitive player completely in shock, but many might make the gamble assuming I don’t play PlusPower/can’t get it.
Rocky Helmet on the other hand isn’t a shock they can plainly see it on the field. This gives them a bit more room to play around it with Pokémon Catcher or Switch, and at the very least it allows them to plan accordingly.
Sage’s Training: Like I said before, I would love to get a third Sages in the deck, but the only place I’ve found for room would be over Twins. I’ve never seen any point in running one Twins, you never draw into it enough to make it worth the spot. I might just end up cutting both Twins and adding in 2 more Sage’s Training, this could be too much discarding though as a good portion of my games I find myself close to decking out by the end. Three Sages and 1 random Professor Oak’s New Theory is another way to go.
I will also say that I played 2 Twins in a format that I knew was to be heavy in Zekrom. I found this match up to be favorable if I could stabilize the game before they took to many prizes. The national metagame as a whole though seems to be less hung up on Zekrom.
Playing the Deck
pokemon-paradijs.comI find myself playing the deck much like I would a standard Typhlosion/Reshiram deck. If my hand supports it of course I’ll go for an early Magnezone, but I won’t put all of my eggs in this basket. My first Pokémon Collector really depends on what my starting Pokémon is, but my ideal situation is between my starter and Collector I end up with a field of 2 Cyndaquils, Reshiram, and a Magnemite.
This of course can vary based on my starting hand or my opponent’s field, but often times Cyndaquil is far more valuable than Magnemite. If I only grab 1 Cyndaquel and my opponent is able to Knock it Out, I have absolutely no follow up play. Best-case scenario for me is that I have another Collector and can bench multiple Cyndaquels on the following turn, but even in this situation I am most likely down at least 2 Prizes before I can respond.
But if my opponent kills my lone Magnemite, I have much greater chance of being able to respond if I can get a Typhlosion out. This allows me to stabilize the game and often times punish an opponent for being overzealous. Once the game is more stabilized I can bench my other Magnemite. If at this point my opponent chooses to go after the lone Magnemite than they are ignoring the real threats, which are Typhlosion and Reshiram.
I feel at this point I’m starting to get too much into “theorymon” so I’ll digress, but my main point is that both Reshiram and Typhlosion are key for putting consistent pressure on your opponent when Magnezone is not. In fact in many games I find that the threat of Magnezone is a much stronger assets than Magnezone itself.
When I have Magnezone on bench, my opponent knows that I have the ability to 1HKO any Pokémon they put in the Active Spot, and in many cases this may change how they are forced to play the game. You simply don’t have enough Energy in the deck for Magnezone to be your main attacker so I normally treat him as a Bench-sitter in the early game. In the mid game he can be used to take a key prize and in the late game act as a finisher taking the last 2 or 3.
If you go aggressive too early with Magnezone you’ll quickly find your discard pile devoid of Energy. So when your opponent KOs Magnezone, you’re stuck in the awkward situation of not being able to respond since you don’t have energy to Afterburner. Once again these are not rules set in stone, but rather general guidelines I feel should be followed; the game state is always going to dictate how you play your hand.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe second variation of the deck techs in Kingdra Prime instead of Magnezone or Ninetales. While I feel this version lacks the consistency the other 2 variants have, Kingdra does bring something to the table. Kingdra places damage counter on the board (something the other two lack), which basically ensures that you are going to score 1HKOs, and has an even stronger Trainer Lock match up than the Magnezone variation.
Over the course of the game it can also score KOs on low HP set up Pokémon like Cleffa. Being able to take a prize without using an attack can pull you ahead in a very close prize war.
SixPrizes member Carl Scheu won his Regionals with this deck, and he has good report up along with his list so I suggest you give it a read. I liked Carl’s build, but I went a little bit of a different direction with mine. Carl was certainly worried about the Trainer Lock match up and it shows through in his list. I find Bellsprout TM to be a “soft counter” to Trainer Lock, as most variants run Double Colorless Energy, so your just basically gambling that they can’t get it on the following turn.
Between Twins and the high DCE count they play, I didn’t want to devote the deck space to this gamble. On top of this, Trainer Lock in general is not heavily played and the deck already has a good match up against it. We also have a slight different Trainer line up, but that’s mainly because we access to Noble Victories now.
Pokémon – 18
3 Reshiram BLW
Trainers – 30
Energy – 12
This list is very similar to my list for Typhlosion/Reshiram/Magnezone. The only switch in the Pokémon line up is Magnezone for Kingdra. In the Trainer line up, the PlusPower came out for a 3rd Sage’s Training. With Kindgra Prime, PlusPower is pretty pointless and we lose consistency without Magnezone, so I added another Supporter.
I did keep the 2 N because I find it plays just fine, and the deck lives off the field well enough even without Magnezone. In testing I’ve found a late game N doing me more good than harm. As for the Energy, a simple switch of the 2 Lightning to Fire was the only change made.
I’ve played around with this build both on PTCO and in testing and it plays well, but does have issues of getting Supporter dry spells in the mid and late game. I find the Zone/Eel match up to be more tolerable, but the lack of consistency makes me shy away from the deck. I just never like that feeling of playing 1 Supporter and “hoping” to get another off of it, and the deck simply does not have the room to run a Trainer line up like Zekrom with 4 Pokégear.
Mainly the consistency issue coupled with the lack of a draw engine makes me file the deck under “I wouldn’t play this deck in a tournament…but I don’t want to find myself sitting across from it either.” If it gets rolling and is able to consistently keep getting Supporters the deck is really aggressive. Spray Splash ensures that everything is within 1HKO range for Reshiram.
All of this of course is just my opinion; if you enjoy Typhlosion/Reshiram I really suggest you give this build a try and see what you think. Just because it doesn’t fit my playstyle doesn’t mean it won’t fit yours. The question you really have to answer is: “Is the consistent 1HKO ability that Kingdra brings to the table worth the hit in consistency?”
Pokémon – 16
4 Reshiram BLW
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
I will be straight up and honest and say out of the 3 versions, this is the one I have the least experience with. I played this deck a lot leading up to Worlds, but not really much since than.
pokemon-paradijs.comI find a 1-1 Ninetales to be the right call, as the deck plays perfectly fine without it in play and if your opponent KOs it early than that takes early pressure off of your Cyndaquils. I added the 4th Reshiram in because I didn’t want to drop below 10 basics in a format where Zekrom is still very popular. I don’t feel the 4th Reshiram is essential, but I think the 10th basic is, so take it as an open spot you can defiantly play around with.
As for the Trainer line up most of the changes I made were because of the inclusion of Ninetales. Without Magnezone or Kingdra we lost that 1HKO potential, and the deck really needs to make up for this. We added back in the 4th Junk Arm along with 2 PlusPower and 2 Rocky Helmet.
Out of all 3 variations, I feel this one most easily and most needs to incorporate Rocky Helmet. The other two have that 1HKO potential in the terms of Magnezone and Kingdra, this version does not so our answer to this problem is Rocky Helmet and PlusPower.
The Energy Retrieval is another floating spot it makes getting energy attachment easier as well as ensures an energy for Roast Reveal. I was also debating a 13th R Energy, once again making Roast Reveal and Energy attachments easier or perhaps adding back in the 4th Typhlosion Prime.
As for the drops, both Twins and the second copy of N got the axe. We’re not trying to set up multiple Stage 2s, so Twins just isn’t as needed. The deck also has a hard time recovering from N, even with Ninetales we still need a R Energy in hand which can be hard to find later in the game when we only get 1 or 2 cards. I still wanted the single copy because I feel the card is just to good not to play in a deck like this.
To be honest this version is bit outdated, without the second Stage 2 you might have a slight edge in mirror and Zekrom, but you lose a lot more in pretty much every other match up. With such a high expectation of mirror this version was probably the way to play the deck around Worlds, but the format has evolved so much since than. I wanted to cover the deck because version like this are still running around. Even outdated it is a variation of the deck and I wanted to cover them all.
pokemon-paradijs.comMagnezone/Eelektrik is one of the top 3 or 4 decks in the format in my opinion. It has a built-in draw engine, practically unlimited damage, and pretty even match up against anything not Fighting. No one should find it really shocking that I love this deck, after all I’ve played Magnezone in my deck for every tournament this season.
But I’ve always treated Magnezone as a support Pokémon or alternative attacker. There are 2 reasons for this; first Magnezone needs a lot of Energy to consistently score 1HKOs with Lost Burn. For most KOs, Magnezone will be Lost Zoning 2-3 Energy, so for 6 Prizes were looking between 12-18 Energy (and that’s if everything goes perfectly and we draw into all of them, along with nothing ending up prized).
This format is full of high HP Basics, so it’s not much of a stretch to assume we’ll be Lost Zoning 3 Energy for a majority of the prizes. The second reason is up until Noble Victories Magnezone has lacked any sort of real Energy acceleration (cue Eelektrik).
When I sat down and built the deck, I took a strong look at the only real straight Magnezone deck we’ve ever seen which was Magnezone/Regirock LA/Magnezone SF 6. In the end I ended up with a very different list than what we’ve seen. Here is the list that I played at my second City, for sadly another second place finish.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 24
Energy – 17
This list is very different from your standard Magnezone/Eel deck, and the first thing you probably noticed is that I play 0 Pokémon Catcher and 0 Junk Arm. When I built the deck I went with the mentality of not playing the standard control game and rather just set up fast and get consistent KOs with Magnezone.
I really don’t care what I KO as long as I’m getting a prize every turn, as this puts my opponent in a situation where they have to consistently respond to my Magnezones (which is something most decks simply can’t do). Whenever they send something up to KO my Magnezone, I’m able to 1HKO it in return and anytime they have to sacrifice a Pokémon to build up another attacker on the bench, that is just one more free prize for me.
Most standard versions don’t have the Energy to attack with Magnezone the entire time; this is why you find they play a pair of Zekroms. Normally Zekrom has to take 1 or 2 Prizes before Magnezone just sweeps the rest, otherwise they will run out of Energy. If they go aggressive with Magnezone early (which is common) they have to find some point in the game to switch back to Zekrom.
This version has the Energy to attack with Magnezone the entire game and not lose that momentum to switch back into Zekrom. The deck also plays very smoothly. With 17 Energy, you pretty much always have a turn attachment and between Sages and Engineers, you can easily get Energy in the discard for Eelektrik.
The price you pay for this is a loss of utility with the lack of Junk Arm and Catcher. I find my hand often times getting clogged with useless Pokémon and Trainers that I can’t get rid of without Junk Arm. This makes getting decent Magnetic Draws off in the mid and late game challenging at times, sadly this is just one of the issue with this variation. The only real change I would make to this version would be to add back in the 3rd N most likely over the 3rd Engineers.
Originally I thought my variation was superior to the standard build with Junk Arm and Pokémon Catcher. However what I found is that they each have their pros and cons, and which version I would rather play depends on the meta I’m currently in.
In areas where Trainer Lock or decks with BBP (Big Basic Pokémon such as 6 Corners) the extra Energy makes these match ups so much easier. However, in a lot of other match ups I would rather have the utility that Junk Arm and Catcher bring to the table.
I know many players will have a hard time believing that any deck should play 17 Energy, but this deck really does play beautifully with the higher Energy count. I suggest trying this list or something similar for at least a few test games, so if you walk into a Cities and see a lot of Six Corners decks, this might be something you want to switch to.
The State of the Format
pokemon-paradijs.comAs a deck builder I’m very optimistic about this format and with good reason. A lot of different decks are doing well, and while of course some are rising to the top, none have a strangle hold on the format. Every top deck has a weakness that can be exploited, countered, or teched against we are even seeing a great deal of variation in lists between the top decks.
I have found in my testing even 1 or 2 cards can greatly sway a matchup, but with all the different decks and variations it is simply impossible to tech against it all. This means testing and understanding your metagame is key to building successful decks. The same goes for being a writer, since all of us live in different areas of the United States many of our lists are built and teched differently.
This gives readers the benefits of see many different variations of the same deck, which personally I find very helpful when building and teching my own lists. Something I will caution however is go into every article with an open mind, things that may seem “bad” could be key or staple techs in a particular area. The reverse is also true an idea that might seem brilliant could play badly in your current meta.
As a player though I’m not a big fan of our current format due to how simplified I feel it is. My 2 favorite formats of all time are the Gardevoir era and the Luxchomp era. I know many players hated these formats for the lack of diversity that they offered. During their reign you could easily find yourself sitting across from one of those decks for more than half your games at a tournament.
I love the strategy and deep thinking this game has to offer in both deck building and in playing, which is something both of these formats offered ample amounts of. Minor little variations between lists could easily swing match ups dramatically, in the Gardevoir era Muk SW easily took a 50-50 mirror to 60-40 or better, and I can’t tell you how many games I won by playing a single tech Judge in my Luxchomp.
As a player I’ve come to realize I like long drawn out games where you are forced to make a series of decisions as the game progresses. These decisions might be minor or major and you might not realize the extent of the decisions or whether or not you made the right call till much later in the game.
Both of those formats had major skill gaps between those who knew what they were doing and those who thought they knew what they were doing. There was also many close back and forth games where every card mattered. Some of the most exciting games I’ve ever played took place at my kitchen table during these formats.
I wouldn’t call any deck in this format “auto pilot” – even rather simple decks like Durant can include thinking in both deck building and playing. But the number of decisions that a player has to make in this format vs. past formats isn’t even close. Anybody can pick up Zekrom or Magnezone/Eel play a few test games and come out of tournament with a solid performance. I just don’t feel that it is right to go into any tournament and do well if you haven’t put in the work.
I feel a player should have to know the ends and out of his deck and have a strong understanding of the meta. I also feel mirrors should be heavily skill based and decided by more than just opening hands and coin flips. But I’ll get off of my soapbox now and leave with a point of optimism.
Worlds last year was one of the least skilled tournaments I’ve ever played in both in deck building and playing ability. As we have added more sets to the meta the game has gotten more involved and skill intensive, it still has a long ways to go but as more sets get added in hopefully it will work itself out.
There are a lot of pros and cons to this format, but I love how diverse and wide open the current meta is. As a deck builder don’t be afraid to think outside the box, in such a simplified playing format your techs are going to be your greatest assets. I will be in Chicago next week along with Josh, so hopefully it will be a good string of tournaments and I’ll get to see some of you there.
I also just wanted to take a second and wish everybody a Happy Holidays. The older I get the less free time I seem to find myself with and the number of days that I don’t have to do anything is next none. So you learn to enjoy the little things like spending time with your family, because in the end family is everything.
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