…Everything States, that is. In my last two articles, I discussed in detail the most successful archetypes of this format, as well as the up-and-coming rogues. Today, I will not only consolidate those two topics, but talk about just about every other topic, as well.
First, I will go over just about every somewhat common deck from this entire season, ranging from the most common archetypes to the most outdated decks of yesteryear. After that, I will discuss my current top ten decks this format, which will be updated one week before State Championships begin in the United States. Finally, I’ll close out by discussing some general trends to expect from this year’s State Championships.
I hope that this article helps solidify your strategy to take on an unprecedented three weekends of major tournaments, and gets you ready to rack up some major Championship Point totals. As always, feel free to click “like” at the end of the article if you enjoyed it, and I encourage you to start up a discussion of your own on the forums.
The Decks of This Format, and Competitiveness Ratings
Although there is less than a month left until the first wave of tournaments, the vast majority of players probably do not know the exact decks that they will end up using yet. For that reason, I feel like it is a good idea to do a recap of the format at large headed into these events, and give my opinions on each of them.
“Competitiveness ratings,” however, are a new take on a concept typically expressed by matchup charts. What both try to do is account for relative deck strength with regard to the field; however, the one flaw of matchup charts that these ratings are supposed to correct is competitiveness in relation to the metagame at large. That way, a deck that beats every other deck in the format sans the three most popular won’t appear to be a top contender, but the tier 2 or even tier 3 that it truly is.
You will notice that several notable decks aren’t featured here. That’s because they have all been chosen as my top decks headed into states, meaning that they don’t require a competitiveness rating – they’re fours and fives, already!
Before we look over these, though, I have some advice on using the rating system:
* 1/5 is completely unplayable, 2/5 is mildly to majorly unplayable in most areas, 3/5 is playable, 4/5 is moderately playable, and 5/5 very playable. There will be no 1/5 scores, and only one deck with a .5 increment.
* Competitiveness ratings, just like matchup charts, are best used to solidify whatever decision you will ultimately arrive at in a couple weeks – not actually make the decision outright. This may come in the form of discrediting an overrated deck, or encouraging a deck you already feel comfortable with, but it will never come in the form of “Pinsir is the best deck in the format – stock up now while you still have time!”
* I fully expect some of the decks I rate 3/5 to be vindicated, and actually do decently well at States. Of course, I expect to be right much more often, so here’s to hoping that I’m “on the money” as close to 100% as possible!
* This list tries to ignore individual factors (e.g., personal play style) as much as possible. Granted, some borderline cases may be decided using these factors (e.g., a very close three vs four rating), but I will be accounting for overall matchup strength/metagame soundness as opposed to simply what you and I like.
* Do not refuse to play a deck simply because of its rating; rather, you should take a look at why it received that rating, and then see if you agree with the reasoning.
Now, then…Let’s get started.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is perhaps the most neglected deck of the current format when it comes to publicity. While it isn’t necessarily a very strategy-rich build, it did decently well at Nationals, scored some surprisingly high showings at Fall Regionals, and even won some Cities. I even considered using it for the Grinder! That said, Next Destinies seems to send it completely off the radar.
Other than Exp. Share, not many new cards seem to help it, and the metagame actually appears to be shifting against it. The release of Kyurem EX is just one more water nail in the Donphan coffin, and a reemergence of Vanilluxe due to Pokémon-EX means a probable loss.
On the other hand, it is still at least somewhat formidable against the swarm of Lightning decks, and can hold its own against Mewtwo EX-focused builds. Durant is a hard matchup, but I suspect that a list able to crank out Donphan fast, get some damage on Reshiram, and then get Donphan out of play could do decently well against it.
So what is its competitiveness rating? This is a bit of a cop-out, seeing as how this is a five point scale, but I honestly have to say 2.5/5. It may have a lot of issues, but for the love of Arceus, its competitiveness against those named decks alone is enough to give it a shot.
(I promise I won’t do any more .5 increments for the rest of the article – I swear!)
pokemon-paradijs.comPerhaps this deck is just massively underrated by everyone, myself included, but I see it as being too easy to pick apart. Like last season, the strategy that faster, more aggressive decks will follow is gusting up the pre-evolutions of one line, and then subsequently watching the Embzone fall too far behind. Alternatively, Embzone can lose just by running out of energy left to Lost Zone – something that can happen even under good circumstances.
Why do I see this as a 3/5 deck, though? Because it’s consistent, hard-hitting, and is actually able to pull off some impressive come-from-behind wins. The presence of Pokémon-EX only adds to this, and against Mewtwo EX decks, you could win with as few as two knockouts. Add in the favorable Typhlosion matchups, the ability to build your list to beat bad matchups, and it becomes clear that this is a contender.
Not much different from Emboar/Magnezone, except for, well…The lack of Magnezone, and more of everything else. I actually have an experimental build of this I’ve been messing with as of late…
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 29
Energy – 14
A 3/5 deck with the potential for more, it trades in some security against N to enjoy a more reliable, Basic-oriented setup. Now that Pokémon-EX are a part of the metagame, Reshiram may just be the second most effective attacker in the format next to Magnezone.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe best thing is that unlike Typhlosion, which gives Mewtwo a window of opportunity via self damage, Reshiram will almost always require Mewtwo to load up six energy in order to score a 1HKO (seven if you factor in Eviolite). It also helps that Emboar is a much meatier support card, meaning that there won’t be many 1HKOs from anything outside of Kyurem EX.
1-1 Ninetales is a nice crutch to the consistency of this list, although I’m thinking about cutting it for more draw. In this format, overly active Bench-sitters like Ninetales are just asking to be Catchered, especially late game when the opponent has no other viable targets to bring up. On the plus side, this list has all of the resources necessary to maintain a good Roast Reveal, so it works.
Reshiram-EX helps against both Magnezone and Durant, but I’m afraid to say that both matchups are rougher than they should be. Furthermore, various other decks in the high tiers of the format can deconstruct it without too much trouble: The Truth and Electrode variants can effortlessly blow away all attackers with a Kyurem EX; ZPST can outspeed and deny use of Emboar; and even Chandelure can deny Inferno Fandango use.
For the “too long; did not read” of heart: Emboar/Reshiram has mostly just even and negative matchups against the “top” decks, which is precisely why I do ratings instead of matchup charts.
Basically like Emboar, but with a different attacker set, and far less flexible. I’m happy to see that it picks up Kyurem EX to fill the heavy fitter void in this deck; however, it gets absolutely decimated by Cobalion, which ought to maintain its popularity between now and States. Furthermore, there is no option to play an internal consistency engine like Magnezone or Ninetales, so getting out the best Cobalion NVI counter, Suicune & Entei LEGEND, is easier said than done.
Even though I’ve been a fan of alternative water versions of Embzone for quite a while, I can’t really recommend this deck right now, especially when Mewtwo EX is running rampant. 2/5.
youtube.comA good deck that’s now caught up in the middle of a violent struggle between Mewtwo EX and Mewtwo EX counters. Gothitelle will be hit hard by the crossfire, and most normal lists will see a very mediocre showing during the first week. Even if it can somehow account for all of these poor Psychic-weak matchups with a Leavanny NVI tech, more Pokémon-EX can break through the Item lock than ever before, and Durant can just mill its way to victory.
For Gothitelle as we know it, I have to give the deck a 2/5. Maybe it could be revitalized by Gardevoir NDE, become a swarm deck instead of a tank-lock variant, and rise back to the top. For now, though, classic Gothiclus is on the skids.
This deck once had a very respectable amount of competitiveness, but it is now on life support. All three non-EX dragons outgun Cinccino in one way or another, and at least 4/6 of the new EX cards just make it worse. Item lock isn’t very bearable either, so I would suggest that you steer clear of this deck. 2/5.
From the start of HGSS-on until now, Lostgar has been steadily advancing in viability. Thanks to metagame shifts, Pokémon Catcher, N, and now easily-splashable energy options like Gardevoir and Exp. Share, any variant could do really well under the right circumstances. The effectiveness of Gengar Prime is more than just theory, though: any Vileplume UD deck is dead on arrival to the Lost World mechanic, and either two Seeker drops + Hurl into Darkness or Cursed Drops + Catastrophe mean a very exiled Durant.
Against other decks, it isn’t exactly that surefire. It may not have worse than 40/60 against the majority of top tier decks, but versus the vast array of rogue decks out there, Lostgar can get wrecked. That one deck that just so happens to run only 12 big Basic Pokémon and nothing else? No Hurl into Darkness targets. That random league promo Houndoum UD rush deck played by a 28 year old ne’er-do-well with dirty nails and greasy hair? Most likely an auto-loss.
The decision to play Lostgar could be a very wise metagame call, or it could backfire horribly with poor predicting or just plain bad luck. 3/5.
pokemon-paradijs.comMy, how the mighty have fallen. In addition to the fact that Yanmega Prime just can’t score KOs like it used to, opting to running Yanmega in place of, or even in tandem with Eelektrik is basically saying “I give up” to the Magnezone mirror. On the plus side, the deck is as good as ever against Typhlosion and Emboar variants, even if the newer decks out of Noble Victories give it trouble.
This deck is a mixed bag: too many positive attributes to send into the “2” netherworld, and too flawed against the frontrunners to warrant a “4.” So for now, we ought to call this deck a 3/5.
Unlike several other old decks, I feel like Mew Lock has persevered, and holds real promise in this next stretch of tournaments. Except for ZPST, it has the ability to make just about any matchup positive. Granted, you may not be able to make every matchup a victory with only 60 spaces. Still, you can cater your deck’s tech options to really exploit the weaknesses in whatever you’re up against.
What holds back Mew even more than teching appropriately is the clock. It’s the reason why it wasn’t as playable as it could have been, and even with 30 minutes + three turns, you will struggle to win the game legitimately. For its merits alone, Mew Lock gets a 3/5, yet the environment around it is enough to keep it there.
As I’ll explain later on in the article, I prefer the Celebi version of Mewtwo to the Gardevoir one for a variety of reasons. Based on its absolute merits, however, it has a lot of strength. Do not discredit the fact that, by virtue of Psychic Mirage, you are effectively doing a minimum of 80 damage for two energy – something that is in all likelihood going to rise to a total around the mid-100s.
Here’s my current list, and it’s been fetching some solid results:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
Like I suggested earlier, Leavanny’s Leaf Tailor is an answer to the many weakness threats that you face, and given that the number one answer to a Mewtwo EX is Mewtwo EX itself, it should make plenty of sense. Even if they decide to go after the Sewaddle, you should have the ability to instantly respond with an ample supply of Pokémon Catchers.
With just a 110 HP support card, anything with Zekrom or Reshiram ought to be very challenging. Nevertheless, you have plenty of opportunities to revive your Gardevoir, get back to hitting for the damage you need, and outmuscle the competition. For that reason, I’m giving Gardevoir/Mewtwo a fairly high 4/5.
pokebeach.comAre you surprised to see a brand new deck not based on Mewtwo here? My reason for including Seismitoad NVI/Wigglytuff NDE (a.k.a., “round house”) is that it, unlike the rogue decks I featured in my Reviving Rogue article, is almost guaranteed to see plenty of play. For starters, the synergy between the two cards is painfully obvious, and is history tells us anything, it’s that newly-released decks with painfully obvious synergy will be overrepresented at their first tournaments.
In addition, it’s a cheap, easy-to-play deck that invokes a strategy not unlike the one used by the 2009 Worlds-winning Beedrill GE deck. Given all that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a decent number of Round decks floating around at each State tournament.
Despite that, I’ve been playing this deck a lot, and it…Isn’t that great. An optimal version running Rescue Energy practically leads to you giving away the Durant matchup, what with Lost Remover on the rise. Even without that issue, there’s the simple matter of setting up – not the easiest thing to do when you have to get three evolutions out by the second turn in order to maintain momentum.
Finally, if you don’t run a list utilizing some loopy draw engine, such as a tech Magnezone line or Ninetales and Fire energy, then you have to dedicate a heavy amount of space to draw (10-11 Supporters), which is simply room you don’t have. 2/5.
All of these cards are much weaker now than they were a few months ago. Donphan, while still strong against Magnezone, is suffering a decline for the reasons outlined in Donphan and Dragons, and Yanmega simply can’t keep up with the rising HP of basics, lack of babies, and higher damage. Zoroark is still a solid card, but if its partners can’t keep up the slack, then you realistically don’t have as much of a deck anymore.
In metagames where Magnezone decks flourish over everything else, Stage Ones is still very viable. I’m not sure if it can keep up with everything else, though, and for that reason I have to grade it pretty low. 2/5.
pokemon-paradijs.comI’ve liked this card since the earliest days of HGSS-on, and still do. Of all older cards, Tyranitar Prime is just about the only evolution that enjoys raw stats comparable to the new Pokémon-EX, and can even win the prize exchange if your consistency is significant enough. It’s also just as good against Kyurem/Reshiram/Zekrom, and was originally quite popular in Japan’s HGSS-on due to being a dragon slayer.
Though it may have EX-level stats, the unfortunate thing about Tyranitar Prime is that it will likely be falling heavily behind anything featuring Reshiram-EX or Zekrom-EX: two cards that, without a PlusPower, effortlessly 1HKO the Dark Pokémon. Mewtwo also enjoys some early game strength against Tyranitar, although this quickly evaporates once the latter gets set up. Don’t be surprised if you’re down two, three, or even 4 Prizes before you start trying to turn things around.
Maybe this is my bias showing, but I have to rate it a 3/5 on the number’s lowest end. Even if Darkness Howl’s usefulness has evaporated, and even if Terrakion NVI and Landorus NVI are rampant, Power Claw and Megaton Tail allow for some of the most brutal attack combos in the game. Should you run this card, I’d highly recommend a Leavanny tech, as well as an engine that doesn’t rely too much on Twins (assuming you run it).
Vanilluxe NVI is an anomaly in that it stands as a 2/5 right now, but could easily change as circumstances merit. On one hand, should EX-heavy decks pick up steam, Vanilluxe could be much more justifiable; on the other hand, a rise in metal attackers like Cobalion or Scizor Prime could mean death for any variant. We can all safely assume that Unown CURE will never see play to counter Vanilluxe, but the problems I listed are alone enough to consider its playability.
What about the deck itself? For one, setup takes quite a while. The Mew variant has to send at least 1-2 Pokémon to the Lost Zone, as well as keep a Vileplume and Victini in play. The Vanilluxe variant, on the other hand, typically requires two Stage Two Pokémon to be in play. Both scenarios usually result in your opponent being up 2 Prizes on you, so whatever strategy you have at work needs to be good.
pokemon-paradijs.comThat strategy? Coin flips. Lots of them. In addition to the scary 93.75% (15/16) success rate of paralysis (which, might I add, is an effective 6.25% probability of losing the game outright), flips occurring in the right order could screw things over, as well.
Should you be using the Unfezant BLW variant, you can’t do too much damage at the wrong times; and should you be using any other variant in the early game, repeated hits of 40 are going to give opponents too much time to setup.
Unless you want to play for mostly fun, expect an unusual presence of positive matchups, or have a very inspired variant outside the norm, then there is no other way I could recommend going with this.
Throughout Battle Roads and Cities, this deck didn’t seem to have too many bad matchups at all, enjoying a nice range of close matchups across the board. Unfortunately, the rise of Durant and Six Corners hit this deck hard, sending its overall popularity down a few notches.
Since then, it has recovered, latching onto “out” cards like Pokémon Catcher and Lost Remover to up its game against the field. Its Six Corners matchup, while not “great” yet, is now at least bearable, and you now enjoy a good matchup in the form of Mewtwo EX decks.
It may not have that many blowout games against the rest of the field, and it does have some issues against explosive starts, but YMC is a consistent, reliable deck capable of surviving the swiss rounds. For that reason, I give it a 3/5.
Before we move on, want to see what I think it should look like right now?
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 28
Energy – 12
The core deck hasn’t changed much, although it emphasizes Mew much more than it did previously. As previously mentioned, Lost Remover is also used to help get rid of those pesky DCEs, Prisms, and special Metals. The 2/2 Level Bal/Communication split is also utilized to make Do the Wave more efficient in the mid and late games, since you ideally want to add to your basic count – not make it zero sum.
One of the only 4/5s that will not make my top X list, Zekrom/Eelektrik/EXs is an effective deck with the potential to do very well come States. With two powerful new attackers in the forms of Zekrom-EX and Mewtwo EX, Zeel has many more options, and can overcome previously difficult matchups such as Chandelure and The Truth.
These may be improvements, but the deck still has some issues that it has yet to overcome. Even with cards like Skyarrow Bridge, Switch, or Super Scoop Up, it lacks the speed that defines ZPST, and without Magnezone, it gets hit hard by a well-timed N. It’s nice to have the reliable energy acceleration of Eelektrik; yet in the end, it just feels a little inferior in comparison to the other two lightning decks I referenced.
The one thing this deck definitely does better than the two aforementioned ones, though, is charge up Pokémon-EX, so if you’re looking to use something a little different for States, then this is a solid choice for someone seeking a balanced, “jack of all trades”-type deck. It may not have the speed or consistency of ZPST/Magnezone-Eel, but it can get through most matchups, hustle through bad ones, and possibly get you into top cut.
The Penultimate Verdict: My Top Ten Decks for State Championships
Yes, they were conspicuously absent from the last section, but here they are: my current top ten decks going into the 2012 State/Territorial/Provincial Championship season. Please note the word “current” in the preceding sentence, because I will make a follow-up post on March 1st, featuring a finalized list to reflect the most current metagame trends. I don’t expect to be changing what I have featured here, though, so this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
All of the tips discussed earlier still apply – especially that last one. Just because I list your inevitable States choice as one of 6-10 doesn’t mean that your choice ought to be any less inevitable. Additionally, I encourage you to not feel like your option was “snubbed” if it didn’t end up high on the list, or even on the list at all. The end goal of a top ten list like this is to just show you where I – one person – am coming from.
With that formality settled, let’s discuss some of these…
Why it’s up here: To be sure, a great player can man this deck to perform very strongly, as the whole Chandelure line practically encourages misplays. From not factoring in Lampent NVI to simply miscalculating damage, skill level definitely accounts for the outcomes of these games. Next Destinies complicates this even further, since Chandy players now have the option to go with a number of options on their line. Lastly, it has a comfortable Mewtwo matchup, which is the newest metagame threat.
Why it isn’t higher: Put simply, Chandelure relies on too many things to happen. For starters, it relies on misplays a bit too much – not simply taking advantage of them, but outright depending on their occurrence. Secondly, it requires the Chandelures to last long enough on the board, which is not easier said than done given how many attackers are capable of 1HKOing them.
Beyond reliance on outside factors, let’s take a look at the nine decks listed below. How many of those are undoubtedly positive matchups? How many are negative? Other than the Mewtwo and Six Corners matchups, I was not very confident in my ability to answer, “Yes, Chandelure can beat them!” The fact of the matter is that Chandelure is lacking in the good matchup department, and even if it ever does get there, it will be beaten down by a metagame that is not shy to hard-counter it.
Oh…And then there’s Durant, which is a bad matchup even with the fire Chandelure. As one poster on HeyTrainer so eloquently put it: “Picture a Durant at an old country buffet. It looks like that.”
#9: Six Corners
Why it’s up here: If I said “big Basics, several types, energy removal, and Gust of Wind,” the first thing that would come to mind for most longtime players is the original haymaker – a deck that dominated its day in numerous forms.
Six Corners is much of the same, starting as a Musketeer Trio/Dragon Trio deck, and now turning into all sorts of things to meet the demands of the metagame. It’s this sort of versatility that made this deck so effective, and the consistency of an all-basic deck coupled with a 110 HP draw starter is just too much to overlook.
Why it isn’t higher: As I said, there are several versions of the deck right now, so after a few days, I might find it unfair to place it so low on the list. However, my current impression of the concept is that builds are heading in the wrong direction: too many special energy when the metagame is in a mode of special energy hate.
Cards like Kyurem EX and Lost Remover (you could now make a game out of how many times I’ve mentioned this card) are picking up in popularity, and will all give fits to a deck that generally has no energy acceleration of its own.
Past that, just the simple lack of any energy acceleration in a deck that runs big energy attacks and big retreats is a huge disadvantage, letting your opponent just “follow the energy” with their Catchers when deciding to take down threats. Topped off with a weak trainer lock matchup sans direct teching, and you’ve got issues.
In order to win States, and in order to justify a higher ranking, the majority of Six Corners variants need to overcome at least the first two issues.
Why it’s up here: ZPST was on a downward spiral after the release of Noble Victories. Now, the Pokémon-EX breathe new life into its attack options, giving it the ability to break through several hated matchups. Attackers like Zekrom-EX also mean that you have some semblance of a game against fully-setup boards that feature multiple Typhlosion or Magnezone.
Perhaps the true selling point of this deck in the new era, though, is its increased ability to pull off the first turn win, or at least a first turn knockout. Between Level Ball to fetch Pachirisu CL/Shaymin UL and Skyarrow Bridge to retreat you out of unfavorable positions, the odds of that happening just skyrocketed. This ultimately means that ZPST (or ZPSTZM…Or ZZ-Top…Or whatever) is back on track to doing well.
Why it isn’t higher: Stabilizing and winning may be much more difficult now when you having 170 HP Pokémon staring you down, but it is nevertheless still probable. It’s nice that cards like Mewtwo EX and Zekrom-EX can withstand a one card N and take a few hits; however, ZPST has many of the same weaknesses it did before its damage potential shot through the roof, including a mediocre game if you whiff the Pachirisu/Shaymin, as well as unfavorable matchups against some trainer lock and a healthy number of fighting decks.
On the plus side, it has plenty of game against just about all of the decks I listed as my top five, so perhaps ZPST will outperform this #8 ranking I gave it. Only time will tell.
#7: The Truth
Why it’s up here: One common complaint I hear from several of the most competitive players is that the opening coin flip is too significant. What The Truth did at Worlds, much of Cities, and inevitably the rest of the season is mitigate the importance of that flip. With an invincible wall backup engine of Reuniclus’s Damage Swap held together by Vileplume’s Allergy Flower, it couldn’t get Catchered, and you could maintain the same couple of attacks for most of the game. This strategy got only better with the arrival of even more potent big basics, as well as an effective disruption+consistency supporter in the form of N.
Flash forward to after the release of Next Destinies. While the deck has lost some of its strength, it still picked up many new options. From healing, to easier retreating, to even more accessible attack options, The Truth is more flexible than ever before. It still has many of its good matchups from HS-NVI, and now with these options available, you could have even more.
Why it isn’t higher: I felt like Noble Victories was the strongest era for this deck, since several efficient, powerful Basics hitters were out of range for nearly all attackers in the field. Even for those who weren’t (a.k.a., Magnezone), you could feasibly wear them out with a fast enough Vileplume/Reuniclus setup, forcing them into going for knockouts that removed the energy via Lost Burn instead of conserving it through the attacks of Zekrom and Thundurus. In general, it had its grounds covered, and really didn’t have any bad matchups, albeit countless good ones.
Flash forward to Noble Victories, and it should be clear that you can’t expect to do that nearly as well. Sure, virtually all of the Next Destinies EX cards could take over this role, but when you’re having to bat off 150 damage attacks, it’s like it was in Noble Victories…Only worse. To top it all off, even decks like Six Corners – a previously positive matchup – could make The Truth into a positive matchup with just a couple inspired techs and clever playing.
Oh, and it still has that whole problem of being slow. Players like myself certainly enjoy the diminished importance of the opening coin flip; however, it comes at a steep price, and if you’re falling behind 2-3 Prizes in the early game, that price is higher due to the necessary reliance on new Pokémon-EX. All of this is enough to keep The Truth in the lower echelons of this list.
P.S. Despite all this, I’m still having great results with my earlier list from Advancing Archetypes. Right now, I am testing that list with a 1-1 Dodrio UD in place of the Pokémon Center and Cobalion #2, and the results are pretty great so far. I’ve also grown a little proactively paranoid of Scizor Prime and Kyurem EX, so I replaced the Metal and one Prism with two basic energy: Psychic (to help with Mewtwo’s second attack), or Grass (to trigger Shaymin’s Synthesis).
Why it’s up here: Fast, consistent, and extremely resistant to disruption Supporters like N and Judge, Tyram has the capability to outlast competition just due to all of those things. Often, events are won and lost based on what decks falter, and thanks to the sheer reliability of Afterburner as an energy acceleration effect, that will not happen with this deck. In addition, even if the speed of the new EX cards is threatening to Typhlosion’s stability, a setup means that you will effectively win the prize war, hitting big basics with a steady stream of 120 damage to eventually force them into submission.
It’s a simple deck, yet the dichotomous “swarm with Reshirams or bring up and attack with Typhlosions” is what has made this deck work for the entirety of HGSS-on modified, and will continue to make it work.
Why it isn’t higher: I also concede that this deck could be a bit underrated. Still, I feel perfectly content putting it in the number seven spot due to its newfound troubles caused by big basic decks. Whether it’s ZPST Catchering up your Cyndaquils, Electrode Variants or The Truth building up a Kyurem to slaughter everything that gets in their way, or just Mewtwo EX being fast and disruptive, I’m afraid that Typhlosion is suffering from some playability issues. That doesn’t mean that it’s anything less than a great deck, or that it’s incapable of winning these matchups.
Also, those testing moderately to majorly ought to be well aware of the “Mewtwo exchange” trend building, where players vie for board control by attacking back and forth with Mewtwo EXs. Needless to say, the self-damage aspect of Afterburner is enough to outright lose this exchange for you the vast majority of games – even those where you attempt to bypass it by playing Eviolite.
Why it’s up here: Looking at the other decks on this top 10 list, I see that Durant has two clearly positive matchups (Chandelure/Six Corners), two clearly negative ones (Tyram/Tyzone), and…a whole lot of close matchups that teeter on the edge of 45%-55% win rates.
Nevertheless, if personal skill level lets Chandelure pull out some close wins, then individual errors probably account for a very large number of Durant’s victories. Even if more and more of the field is becoming “infested,” I expect there to still be plenty of mistakes made by many opponents, as well as opportunities for a sound Durant player to excel.
One of Durant’s most formidable strengths, though, is reflected in its matchups against the decks that I did not put on the top 10 list. An extremely small number of those can actually lay claim to positive matchups against the metal ant, and a surprising number are just outright blowouts for it. Others, still, require players to make painful decisions regarding their decklists vis-à-vis Durant (e.g., Rescue Energy in “Round House” VS more basic energy), often opting to actually run an inferior build overall just to beat it. If the users of these decks decide to accept the bad Durant matchup, as I expect them to, then you getting paired up against them will prove to be an extremely easy game.
Put these two things together, and you should be seeing the Durant colony spread to every State, as well as every top cut.
Why it isn’t higher: More and more players are savvy to the deck’s tricks now. If you are a big-time Durant player, then you should expect the average “Pokémon IQ” of your opponent to be 20 points higher at States than it was at Cities, since he or she will have figured out how to not screw up against this deck in the three months since its meteoric rise.
Also, the metagame pendulum is swinging in the direction opposite of Durant. Because of this, lists are stronger now against it than ever before, and are in some cases very teched out for it. Cobalion helps in pushing these techs back somewhat, but I’m afraid it’s not enough over the course of an entire game.
Lastly…Do you honestly want to play two/three rounds of mirror using this thing?!
Electrode Prime variants (e.g., CoKE)#4:
Why they’re up here: Similar to Six Corners, you can’t really put a clear-cut image on this deck. Regardless, it has the ability to adapt to and counter each metagame as the demand is met. Unlike Six Corners, though, attackers that were previously out of reach are now 100% viable, as Electrode’s Energymite sets up triple figure hits as early as turn two. In addition, no other decks manipulate board presence nearly as well as these: between Twins and N, this is about the only non-Item lock deck that can fall way behind, and yet still win handily.
Because of this energy acceleration, you can actually pull off the miracle of keeping up with Pokémon-EX when playing only regular attackers, allowing you opportunities to out-damage all six of them. Even if this doesn’t pan out, you can often settle for going blow-for-blow, often winning the game by a prize.
Past those new matchups, cards like Terrakion and Landorus give you a ton of outs against the swarm of Magnezone decks in our metagame right now, and running a Mewtwo EX of your own could just give you the best Mewtwo mirror options.
Past that, it’s simply a well-rounded set of decks. And when a deck is well-rounded against the full field, you know that it’s something capable of winning States.
Why they aren’t higher: Electrode Prime decks are typically down 1-3 Prizes before they setup – no big deal, but you still have to keep the opponent from drawing all six. Mewtwo EX makes it so much easier to pull off KOs on these guys than ever before, effectively bringing that 1-3 Prize deficit down to 2-4. You can tech, adjust, and prepare for the metagame, but a well-timed X-Ball can ruin this deck’s chances.
pokemon-paradijs.comAlso, there is the problem of inconsistent Energymiting that can often lead to a net gain of one or even zero energy cards. Yes, these do happen, and when they do, you will have effectively traded seven potentially valuable resources, 1 Prize to the opponent, and a 1-1 line for…Nothing. This is nowhere near as big of an issue of percentages to hold it down the way that Vanilluxe is relegated to the 2/5 category, but it is enough to make you doubt it at times.
Celebi Prime/Tornadus#3: Mewtwo EX/
Why it’s up here: Next to ZPST, no deck is faster, nor is any deck capable of really harnessing Mewtwo EX better. Big damage is every bit feasible within the first turn or two of the game, and disruption throughout is almost guaranteed. I’ve had many testing games where I basically just tore apart my opponents’ prevolutions to Magnemite, Cyndaquil, or what have you, and won fairly easily.
What really sells me on this form of Mewtwo is that it does not lack in the consistency department at ALL. To me, the ideal way to run the deck (regardless of how you mix it up) is with at least 10 draw and three Pokégear, garnering you all of the fast turn one/turn two beats this deck can afford, as well as the surprising late game presence that it has. This is the list I’ve been working with for a while, and feel like it matches up fairly well to nearly all common threats right now:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
This is not too far off from the standard builds that have been floating around for a while, but I am doing things a bit differently. Shaymin EX is to give you a way to score late-game KOs without having to over-dedicate to a Mewtwo, while the regular Shaymin lets you swarm Mewtwos without having to commit to one over another. This inclusion also combos nicely with my Seekers, which have been proving invaluable in the deck so far.
Although many situations that lead to a Knocked Out Mewtwo involve 1HKOs, a surprising number of them don’t, so being able to replenish their health is extremely valuable (and, heck, just being able to reuse EX cards like that is in itself a broken, heavily underrated combo that’s available right now).
That consistency engine is exactly as described earlier: 10 draw and three Pokégear. Since I feel like this is a bit too minimal, I actually included a crutch Cleffa to allow for the rare scenario that I’m stranded without much of a hand, or the far more common occurrence of being N’d into little more than a Collector and dead-draw.
Finally, the Super Rod may seem strange, but I opt for this over similar cards because it grants me the most efficient use of my space, the option to bring back what I like, and a little more padding against the Durant matchup.
Why it isn’t higher: You usually need more than two energy to pull off crucial knockouts – especially on little basics with no energy. Put even simpler, opposing Mewtwos can go blow-for-blow with you, often leading to a heavily disadvantageous prize exchange that could go something like this…
1) You have 1 Prize by turn two, either with Tornadus (often ideal) or Mewtwo EX itself.
2A) If the KO was scored with Tornadus, then you could be response-KO’d by a Reshiram, Zekrom, or other dragon, and lose all of your energy, with no feasible way to return the KO next turn (yes, even with X Ball).
2B) If the KO was scored with Mewtwo EX, then you could – against – be response KO’d, only this time by a fellow Mewtwo: either a simple DCE to do 200, or failing that, 180 with a PlusPower when you only have two energy attached.
pokemon-paradijs.comTo me, it’s the second and third turns of a game that are scariest with a Mewtwo deck, and I don’t feel like that will change any time soon. Perhaps I’m just stuck in a deckbuilding dogma right now, but it would probably not be wise to run any less than an outright maximum count on Pokémon Catcher; otherwise, you could whiff during one of these two crucial turns, miss a beat, and lose the game because of it.
Past the mechanics of the deck, the metagame is seriously gunning for this card like no other. Tornadus may help with these issues, but that still doesn’t change the fact that lower tier decks can manipulate the weakness advantage – especially mew Prime, which has a whole new lease on life thanks to this one card.
Why it’s up here: Imagine for one brief moment the sheer consistency of Magnezone. Now chock in the reliable energy acceleration of Typhlosion onto that, and you have what is hands-down one of the strongest, most underrated performers of the season so far. I honestly have no idea how many States this deck will win due to its underrepresentation.
Regardless of how much play it gets, the balance between strength and consistency that Typhlozone brings to the table is significant. It is more or less what Embzone used to be before the release of Catcher, and has virtually zero bad matchups.
Here’s my most recent list of the deck, sans any tweaks that account for anything more than the Next Destinies metagame.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 29
Energy – 13
In order to combat the threats of Mewtwo EX, ZPST, and other fast decks, I decided to include a throwback from my LCQ testing that worked very well: 2 Pokégear and 2 Twins. By incorporating this into any list, you can enjoy the Twins engine without going overboard with it, thereby allowing for a nice balance between aggressive and conservative play. Doing this may cram the deck a little, but if it means I can gain access to multiple stage two lines as early as the second turn of the game, then I’m all for it.
pokemon-paradijs.comOther than that, there’s really not too much that could be considered unusual about my list. I’m considering switching out at least one Reshiram for a Mewtwo EX, or quite possibly even a Zekrom-EX, but for testing purposes, a two count on top of one Super Rod allow for you attack with them for a majority of the game if necessary. On the other hand, running a single EX in a deck with all non-EX attackers isn’t a bad idea, since you can realistically bring it up to take care of the late game for you.
Why it isn’t higher: Despite the fact that it shores up many of the issues prevalent in Tyram, Typhlozone still suffers from a couple of the latter deck’s weaknesses, such as Mewtwo exchange troubles and occasional Pokémon Catcher woes.
With respect to the first topic, Twins most definitely helps you get to your Super Rod faster if they have scored two consecutive KOs on your Cyndaquils or Magnemites; however, even with a near-guaranteed out to Super Rod, you may have fallen too far behind. N should be very useful against this deck, though, so be sure to save them.
Regarding the second point, a player who is smart with his or her Catchers will not only choose the right little basics to send up; this person will also occasionally orchestrate a scenario where the Typhlozone player is forced to make undesirable Afterburners, which can most definitely haunt them in the late game. One of the last things you want is to have to prematurely Lost Burn, which may just happen if you’re not careful. (And even if you careful, it could happen anyway!)
Why it’s my #1 States choice: To be sure, it was a narrow tossup between this deck and Typhlozone for the #1 spot. In the end, I went with the more focused, bigger-hitting, and more sustainable option as my overall top pick headed into States: Magnezone/Eelektrik, a.k.a., Magneel, Eelzone, and Thunderdome.
Thanks to the options that Zekrom and Mewtwo bring you, Next Destinies just makes this deck even more powerful, and with a 4-2-3 line of Magnezone, plenty of draw, and Cleffa, the consistency of your list is much more guaranteed than that of Zekrom/Eel or ZPST. In other words, it’s an even stronger balance of consistency, energy acceleration, and fast beats.
Does it have bad matchups? Of course it does! Donphan still gives this decks fits, and even with Mewtwo EX, you still need to be a very good player to get around the likes of Terrakion and Landorus. Also, the list is very tight: I wanted to fit a third Catcher, tech PlusPower, and even a Seeker. Sometimes, tough choices have to be made, and if you are planning out a Magnezone/Eel for your State Championship, expect to be making a few.
How did I make those tough choices with my presumed “best deck in format”? Read on, and you’ll find out…
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 27
Energy – 13
You know how this deck works, so let’s head straight into investigating my choice of basic partners. With a 1/1/1 split of Zekrom, Zekrom-EX, and Mewtwo EX, you basically hold an answer to everything in the format: an option to use a heavy non-EX, non-Magnezone attacker; the ability to outplay and run through mirror matchups; and an answer to any deck featuring the biggest new threat out of Next Destinies.
pokegym.netBecause of all these big Basics, you can actually play a good chunk of the mid game not emphasizing Magnezone at all, instead answering with the 130, 170, and 180 HP monstrosities found just a few lines near the end of the “Pokémon” section. I decided to not run Thundurus EPO because it only gives you a negligibly higher chance of dumping energy into the discard early.
As for Tornadus, I don’t think that one copy of the card is enough to turn around a bad matchup like Donphan, and since it triggers a KO, you won’t even be able to stop a Terrakion Revenge kill as long as they have Catcher.
Nothing is too out of the ordinary for my Trainers, and my energy is fairly typical of an EX-centric Mangezone/Eelektrik list, too. My only quirk, three DCE as opposed to four, is just due to the card’s role in this deck. Whereas DCE is merely a luxury to get your big Basics out and attacking faster, Lightning is the crux of the deck; that is, you need a sufficient count to assure that you’re able to be discarding them by the second turn at the latest.
With a 10/3 spread, I find a good balance between having Lightnings when I need them to start activating Eelektrik to great success, and drawing into DCE right when I need it to assure a Strong Volt, X-Ball, or even Magnezone retreat I the situation merits it.
I may not win every game with this deck, and it has its host of issues, but to me, Magnezone/Eelektrik is a perfect mix of strength, speed, and variety.
General Metagame Trends
Week one will feature a fairly even divide between many of the decks considered “BDIF” material, whatever has the most hype at the moment, and off-the-wall rogues that can throw people off if they aren’t careful. In order to do well in these States, you will most likely need to have a few matchups covered, with Magnezone, Durant, and Typhlosion all at the forefront.
If you are running a deck with a bad matchup against any of these, then don’t be surprised at all if you whiff top cut. Fortunately, though, a Top 16 cut means that you can play just about anything good and yet still have a chance of walking away with Championship Points, even if it’s some zany rogue concoction.
This divide also gives “outdated” decks opportunity to shine, such as an anti-Durant Emboar or even a carefully-planned Donphan list. Still, expect this opportunity to dwindle as people “wake up” throughout weeks two and three, changing their decklists considerably in the process.
Week two’s metagames will most likely be the most unpredictable, since players will respond in many interesting, uncertain ways to the adversity of week one. Therefore, you would be best-served to go with something that generally lacks bad matchups, and could likely last through a very long day of playing. Typhlosion, Durant, and big basic decks with a lot of ground covered (e.g., Six Corners or Electrode) will all likely do well here.
Lastly, week three should perhaps be the easiest metagame to read of all, seeing as how the novelty of week one’s rogues should have died off, and the unpredictable, yet good, advancements of the metagame made in week two should be public knowledge.
This is honestly the one weekend that I don’t feel comfortable making any calls on yet, due simply to the fact that there is no precedent to work off of for another few weeks. Maybe after week one things should be clear, but it might take until the second weekend to settle things, so stay tuned.
So that’s that: barring about 5-10% of decks (mainly new ones out of Next Destinies), I just addressed about what may have been literally everything about our metagame. The way I see it, more decks are capable of top cutting or even winning than ever before: I would not be surprised if all ten of the archetypes discussed on my list pulled off wins between the age groups, and I am almost certain that someone, somewhere will get some decent prizes (and perhaps some medal hardware, as well) due to those.
This wide-openness of the format extends even further down, as I see a good number of the 4/5 and even 3/5 decks advancing deep into the various tournaments going on. Despite all of the flaws inherent in HGSS-on, the metagame is actually pretty healthy, and is slowly but surely mitigating the age-old concept of “tiers.”
Thanks for reading, and as I said earlier, stay tuned to the forums, because I’ll be making a “finalized” version of the above top ten list on March 1st, meant to reflect about two and a half weeks more of testing experience.
So here’s to a good State Championship run, and I hope you all test as well as you can. ‘Cause with all of these decks, you’ll certainly need to!
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