Hello and welcome to another edition of Carl’s Cache. This is going to be my first in-depth article in a while, and hopefully it will have something for everyone. First I’ll give City Championships analysis, discuss how Next Destinies will affect our current metagame, and then I’ll conclude by sharing some Tier 1 deck lists. Enjoy!
Please note that these Cities results are the totals as of January 22nd, a full week after the last CCs in the USA, so that should have been plenty of time to add up most of them. Sorry if they are off a little bit. I’ve also added percentages for each deck (wins, Top 2 placements (so wins + Top 2), and Top 4 placements (so wins + Top 2 + Top 4).
Lastly, I’ve added a ranking by each deck based on its wins (so #1 deck had the most wins), then its top 2 slots (so the #1 deck that had the most runner-up finishes, not including wins + Top 2 for this) and then its Top 4 slots (so the #1 deck had the most third and fourth place finishes, not including wins + Top 2 for this). It may all sound confusing, but after I break it down it will make more sense, I promise.
|Deck||Wins||Top 2||Top 4|
|MagneEel (1-2-2)||35 (19.8%)||28 (16.2%)||52 (14.4%)|
|Chandelure/Vileplume (2-5-7)||27 (15.3%)||22 (12.6%)||25 (9.3%)|
|Other Chandelure Variants (13-15-9)||5 (2.8%)||2 (1.8%)||20 (3.4%)|
|ZPST (3-4-4)||24 (13.6%)||23 (12.1%)||38 (10.7%)|
|Electrode/Kyurem Variants (4-7-5)||20 (11.3%)||16 (9.2%)||36 (9.0%)|
|Durant (4-3-1)||20 (11.3%)||24 (11.3%)||55 (12.4%)|
|Ross/The Truth Variants (7-10-11)||15 (8.5%)||6 (1.5%)||16 (4.6%)|
|Six Corners Variants (8-9-9)||13 (7.3%)||9 (5.6%)||20 (5.3%)|
|TyRam (9-6-3)||10 (5.6%)||22 (8.2%)||42 (9.3%)|
|Lanturn/Eel (10-13-14)||7 (4.0%)||3 (2.6%)||8 (2.3%)|
|Donphan/Dragons (10-12-12)||7 (4.0%)||4 (2.8%)||11 (2.8%)|
|Zekrom/Eel (12-8-8)||6 (3.4%)||12 (4.6%)||24 (5.3%)|
|MegaJudge (14-11-15)||4 (2.3%)||5 (2.3%)||7 (2.0%)|
|Tornadus/Terrakion (14-15-17)||4 (2.3%)||2 (1.5%)||3 (1.1%)|
|Terrakion/Yanmega (16-17-17)||2 (1.1%)||1 (0.8%)||3 (0.8%)|
|DonChampPlume variants (16-17-16)||2 (1.1%)||1 (0.8%)||4 (0.9%)|
|TyphloZone (16-13-19)||2 (1.1%)||3 (1.3%)||2 (0.9%)|
|Vanilluxe (16-17-12)||2 (1.1%)||1 (0.8%)||11 (1.8%)|
|Rogue (10-1-6)||7 (4.0%)||29 (9.2%)||31 (8.4%)|
[Editor’s Current State: Praying to Arceus these numbers are right!]
Nothing else had two or more wins, so for the purposes of this article I’m going to consider them “rogue” and those results won’t be used for my data analysis. I also did group some decks differently than he did.
So, those are the majority of the stats for CCs; note that I’m assuming that whoever was running the Gym thread this time around was keeping a more accurate count than the last person as I really didn’t want to go through 14 pages of “What Won City Championships,” so I kept it simple.
Anyways I’m only using it as a start-up point to my article and not the focal point. CCs are generally a great place where you can get huge data and make a pretty good tier list, so here’s how I made mine:
- Kyurem/Electrode Variants
- Ross/The Truth
- Six Corners
- Terrakion + Yanmega or Tornadus
- DonChamp Variants
And everything below that I’m going to consider rogue and not bother with too much. Granted, there are some extremely potent decks that didn’t get played much, which are much better than where my numbers put them at (I’m mainly talking about Eel decks not named MagneEel, Six Corners, and TyphloZone), but I’ll go over them and if I think they have potential.
Now, you’ll notice that our top decks are all decks that have, in my opinion, pretty noticeable weaknesses, however I feel that the reason they did well was that there wasn’t a true metagame you could put them into that they wouldn’t do well in.
For example, MagneEel has issues with Donphan Prime/Dragons and Fighting types in general, but it can still beat Fighting types other than Donphan because of its raw power. My list, at the start of Cities, also included a Tornadus EPO just in case of Donphan being popular.
Chandelure’s way to stay on top in any metagame is its ability to just flat out out-play any deck and out-math its opponent. ZPST can deal with metagame by just stealing cheap wins. Durant has no “true” auto-losses as it can always get lucky on flips or just mill away your Durant “answer” on the first turn. Durant is also one of the top decks at taking advantage of an opponent’s bad start, right up there with Six Corners and ZPST.
A) Doesn’t have a consensus BDIF (best deck in the format).
B) Has a split the player base on whether the format is luck based or skill based.
I’ll address the issue “A” first. Our past couple of formats have had a clear-cut BDIF: Kingdra LA/Dusknoir/Dialga Lock, DPL, LuxApe, DialgaChomp, Jumpluff HS, LuxChomp (for a while), Gyarados SF (for BRs), MagneBoar (okay it failed, still was considered BDIF), MegaJudge, and then TyRam. You’ll also want to note that this will be the first States in two years where the best decks for States haven’t been LuxChomp, Gyarados, or a Gengar variant.
This will be my first States (other than my first of playing year which I really don’t count) that I will have experienced the formats shifts before the event. Yes Jumpluff did cause a rift in the format, but the top decks heading into States back then were CurseGar, Gyarados, and LuxChomp.
That difference in the format was frustrating for some players, including myself, who hated knowing that they entered a tournament with an auto-loss against something that was viable.
That thought then leads me into my second point. The player base, at least who I talked to, were torn about whether this format was luck based or skill based. My opinion was pretty short and sweet; I felt that the luck was in the matchups, and was a major factor, but the skills were in the mirror matches (which were everywhere) and the metagaming.
Mark A. HicksWhile I can’t say that the best player won at every table, I can say that the players who made good metagame calls were near the top. I felt like this format required a different skill set to succeed in, you needed to be able to play your deck proficiently and play a good choice for your local metagame.
This is a lot different than last year’s Cities in which you just played LuxChomp and smashed whatever techs you wanted to for the day and called that “metagaming.” I’m now starting to liken competitive Pokémon to baseball; ideally you want to be a five-tool player, but sometimes you only need about two or thee tools to succeed.
I do feel that this format was an upgrade over the past two formats, especially in mirror matches, as we don’t always have “I go first, I win” mirror match anymore. I know that for Zone/Eel I is completely comfortable going second in the mirror, and ironically enough my one loss in the mirror was going first. My record was something like 6-1, with my only loss being N’d to a one-card hand when I was about to lose my final Zone, but luckily I got the sixth seed in top and ended up winning.
Going first was a huge edge in mirror before, but it isn’t the end-all in this format, which I feel is very good. I can however say that I did lose several games strictly because I went second; I’m sure I won some that way too, but I felt like the flips weren’t as important, which is good for the game.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that I didn’t well enough in Cities to keep on pace for a Worlds invite, mainly due to me second-guessing my deck choices once or twice, coupled with a pair of ninth place finishes. I also think I questioned my choices mainly due to the fact that I really didn’t want to play MagneEel every single time, as I had a ton of stressful one or two-prize games, and this was the first time I actually attended two CCs on the same weekend more than once during a season, so I just wasn’t used to it. Anyhow, if you’re interested here’s how CC’s went for me…
- 4-2 w/ ZPST (9th, losses to Ross and Durant)
- 3-2 w/ ZPST (7th, top 4 cut, losses to Vanilluxe/Vileplume/Victini and Kyurem/Gatr/Zone)
- 6-2 w/ MagneEel (3rd, losses to ChandyPlume and Terrakion/Yanmega)
- 7-2 w/ MagneEel (1st, losses to Zekrom/Eel and MagneEel)
- 5-2 w/ MagneEel (7th, losses to ChandyPlume and CoKE)
- 4-2 w/ Durant (12th, losses to Zekom/Eel and 6 Corners)
- 4-2 w/ Mew/Vanilluxe/Plume/Victini/Unfezant (9th, losses to 6 Corners)
- 4-2 w/ Durant (17th, losses to Typhlo/Zone)
- 4-2 w/ MagneBoar (15th, losses to Durant and ChandyPlume)
- 5-2 w/ MagneEel (6th, losses to LaKE and Zekrom/Eel)
Totals: 46-20 and 16 Championship Points, at 53rd place in North America as the last tournaments are updated.
Pokemon ParadijsI really regret not just playing MagneEel the entire time, but live and learn, I guess. Unfortunately by only getting 16 points my run at Worlds is a lot more daunting now, and as much as I hate to say it, I can pretty much point to three of those tournaments and blame coin flips for my bad days. Both days I played Durant I whiffed extremely hard on Crushing Hammers (something like 10 for 42 overall) and in three games I had two Durants prized.
Needless to say that deck absolutely hated me, not to mention both days I played Durant almost all my earlier opponents lost their last round, killing my resistance, causing me to bubble out both times. I also played the “silly” Mew Prime/Vanilluxe NVI deck, which actually was a pretty good vanilla play because the only thing it “auto-losses” to is Kyurem spreading the whole board like a mad dragon. In the first game that I lost I flipped alright, but missed Double Freeze two or three times, which sounds bad, but for me that was completely acceptable.
But to be fair, Tom Dolezal was really able to slow down my Energy attachments because I was not able to get a turn two Vileplume. Then the second game I lost I had two strings where I hit four or more tails in a row, and to close out the game I hit eight or more tails in a row, for the third time that day.
The coins were really against me – I missed Double Freeze 16 times, all of them with Fliptini out, and I’m pretty sure I was less than 50% on Fly too. Heck I lost a game this weekend by N-ing my opponent into Victory Medals and then watching them flip double heads both times.
So, overall I felt like the flips weren’t really in my favor, but I’ll just move on and hope to run hot at States which is what you guys probably want to read about anyways.
The best way to look at how States is to find the potential metagame changing cards and then apply them to what our current format looks like:
The deck that was sitting at the top for the bulk of CCs was MagneEel, and I felt like the BDIF was either this deck or Chandelure/Vileplume. As you could probably gather, I was pretty comfortable with the deck, though I can’t say I tested the lists I used that much.
The first time I played it I had a really good Seniors player, Henry Prior, tell me what to play, and having already played TyRam and MagneBoar it wasn’t too bad of a pickup. I can also say I never really lost a game due to dumb misplays.
I did edit the list a fair amount, as the initial build I had was about seven cards different if I recall correctly (I believe it played one Pokégear 3.0, one Engineer’s Adjustments, four Magnemite, two Magneton, one Tornadus and 14 Lightning). I can’t recall the exact list, but the most recent list I used was the following:
Pokémon – 19
1 Cleffa HS/CL
1 Pichu HS
Trainers – 28
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 13
Pokemon ParadijsThat’s the latest list I ran and it wasn’t a unique build or anything; the last weekend I added the PlusPower, mainly because I was just sick of having to kill Virizons, Kyurems, Terrakions, Landoruses, and Cobalions with Magnezone when Zekrom should have been able to do the job.
By adding the PlusPower I decided that I could run less Energy and my decision paid off because I was able to chain the card extremely well, as I saved them for the end game, and by that time I would have a Junk Arm or two in my hand and be able to abuse the card.
The rest of the list was pretty standard. The deck really didn’t get much of a “makeover” with Next Destinies, but it did add some cards that it can use. The most obvious upgrade is Zekrom EX or Mewtwo EX over Zekrom but, being EXs, you really need them to able to get KOs, and against another EX they don’t generally do that.
The format also gets “faster” with Mewtwo EX adding an extremely easy speed alternative for any decks, meaning that this deck is now more likely to be behind. If you accept that, I feel that you could add Black Belt to make your EXs a late game threat to opposing EXs. You could just keep Magnezone, but at that point you are losing Energies every time you attack and 13 Energy most likely isn’t enough to get the six prizes. I really felt like the deck didn’t gain much, as Zekrom/Eel gains more from both of those attackers as Magnezone never had issues “breaking” barriers.
Here’s my list updated with Next Destinies:
Pokémon – 18
1 Zekrom EX
1 Mewtwo EX
1 Cleffa HS/CL
Trainers – 27
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 15
Strengths: The ability to KO anything in format, built-in draw power, and can abuse N extremely well.
Weaknesses: The whole deck has mono-weakness (this is huge as Terrakion NVI is being put into more and more decks), Eelektrik’s retreat cost, and it is somewhat slow.
Overall I feel like this deck will stay pat and remain a tier 1 deck with the release of EXs.
Pokémon – 26
4 Litwick BLW Promo
1 Lampent NDE
1 Chandelure NDE 20
1 Gloom UD
3 Doduo UD
1 Cleffa HS/CL
1 Pichu CL
1 Mewtwo EX
Trainers – 23
Energy – 11
Pokemon ParadijsThis was a deck that didn’t get much hype early in the CCs season, but by the end it was at the top tables and became pretty popular in spite of its need for Tropical Beach. The deck utilized Chandelure by getting two out, along with a Vileplume UD and Dodrio UD so that it could retreat a Chandelure, then use another Chandelure and either use Tropical Beach or attack. It was also tough to KO at the time because not many decks could break through the 130 damage barrier under Item lock. Unfortunately, there are a lot of new Pokémon that can do that now and it will hurt Chandelure/Vileplume’s success.
Reshiram EX and Zekrom EX in particular have become very potent threats, and if you want to look even further down the road, Darkrai EX could render the deck unplayable, meaning that States and Regionals could be this deck’s last chance to shine. Luckily, the deck gained a new Chandelure line in Next Destinies which might help it out for States and Regionals.
Litwick NDE is pretty insignificant, so there’s no need to go over it, but Lampent NDE has actually earned a spot as a 1 of in my builds. It’s got the same amount of hit points and retreat cost as Lampent NVI, which is extremely good, but the thing that this Lampent has is the ability to shore up a relatively poor matchup: Durant.
Durant is actually pretty hard for Chandelure to beat, especially if it can Devour key cards away early. But, the Fire Lampent can usually get the KO if Durant is under Item lock. Granted, Cobalion NVI can KO Lampent right back, but you are likely to be able to get multiple KOs that you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten without the Fire Lampent.
Chandelure NDE 20 is also interesting. Again, it is Fire type so it can hit Durant for weakness. I also want to note that it is weak to Water, which is kind of important because you can justify running it just so you aren’t OHKO’d by Absol Prime, which became a relatively popular answer to the deck. This Chandelure’s biggest downside could be its lack of 130 hit points. Of course most decks can now break the 130 hit point barrier, but only having to do 120 makes it extraordinarily easy to KO.
Pokemon ParadijsRegardless of that, it does come with 2 solid attacks. The first one costs just one Fire Energy and does 30 to active as well as a 30 snipe to two benched Pokémon. This fits well with Cursed Shadow and doing a net of 90 damage for one energy is hard for me to pass up. The logistical issue is that you end up missing 2 Cursed Shadow drops, however this Chandelure can attack 2 turns earlier, so it is up for debate as to whether or not its good.
The second attack isn’t as “hyped” as the first but, it does serve a nice niche in the deck: being able to OHKO Cobalion. It does 80 for 2 energy and Burn. It also makes you discard all the energy attached to it, which is annoying, but by being able to hit for the Fire weakness it does KO any Metal Pokémon, and those annoying Virizons.
It also is a turn faster than the Psychic Chandelure which does the same net output with its attack if you count Cursed Shadows. Overall I feel like the pluses and minuses are almost equal, but in a deck that already wins by out-mathing the opponent it seems like a natural inclusion as it gives you more options.
I also just want to note that I feel the EXs high HP also hurts the deck significantly, it is already at a disadvantage at getting quick prizes because of its relatively low damage output at the start, with the EXs raising “the bar” of hit points in both ways (in terms of being able to KO things and the difficulty to KO them) it makes it harder for Chandelure to take prizes, except maybe on Mewtwo EX.
Strengths: It is the best Item lock deck in the format, the best deck at outplaying opponent, has lots of ingame options, and hits Mewtwo EX for weakness.
Weaknesses: It is slow, time can also be an issue, and higher barrier numbers will hurt this deck.
Pokémon – 12
1 Zekrom EX
1 Mewtwo EX
Trainers – 34
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 14
Pokémon – 17
2 Zekrom EX
2 Mewtwo EX
1 Cleffa HS/CL
Trainers – 29
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 14
PokeGymYes, while I noted them as separate decks in the tier list, I’m putting these decks together as the lists are beginning to include each other. ZPST may run a 1-1 or 2-2 Eel tech and Zekrom/Eel may run a 1-1 Pachirisu CL/Shaymin UL line. They also have similar matchups, so I’m going to write about them together in one section. The first thing I want to note is that this is only hold over deck that remained tier one (I’d count Ross, but it changed so much that I can’t). It also improved overall as well, in my opinion.
ZPST focuses on being able to take a quick prize lead and just attempt to keep the steam going, ideally it will lead with Tornadus and then be able to charge up a Zekrom, using it to finish off the game. It also has the tendency to be able to overwhelm opponents quickly, especially if it can get a Tornadus or Zekrom, in particular, Eviolited and Defender while taking a prize.
Unfortunately it is known for running out of steam if it doesn’t get the quick start. That’s where ZET (which is what I’ll be referring Zekrom/Eels as) is better, it doesn’t necessarily get the quick starts, as it doesn’t focus on Pachi/Shaymin, but it will almost never run out of steam, it will be able to keep attacking for the whole game because of Dynamotor.
The most obvious upgrade for both of these decks is Zekrom EX. They both had problems getting past the 130 hit point barrier and Zekrom EX is a natural inclusion that does 150 damage. He works very well in Zekrom/Eels as he isn’t a terrible lead as he can fuel your Dynamotors for later, although giving up two prizes is still rough. I feel it’s not as good in ZPST because it causes the deck to over extend even more and it just doesn’t have the resources to give up energy. However I do think that a turn one Zekrom EX in either deck is a near auto win if you have draw or resources left in your hand, unless they can respond with an N or Terrakoin and cripple you.
Pokemon ParadijsThe other upgrade for the deck is Level Ball. Level ball is extremely good in ZPST as it allows you to go for the Shaymin and Pachis without flipping coins or using a Supporter. However, it also can be effective in Zekrom/Eels as it can get the Eelektrik, something Dual Ball can’t do. I can’t say it is a clear upgrade, it can’t get Zekrom or Tornadus, but it probably should be used as a one of or two of card in both decks at the very least.
Overall the deck gained a lot, it can now legitimately beat trainer lock decks and it doesn’t have the same issues in needing multiple plus powers to gain KOs (except on other EXs), so I think both of them will be able to stay in the Tier 1 to 1.5 range.
Strengths: Overall both are fast decks and play pretty straightforward, and the Eelektrik version is also very resilient.
Weaknesses: They can both randomly run out of steam, especially when Eels are KO’d. They also still have problems against Magnezone decks, and despite Tornadus do not like seeing Terrakion or Landorus.
Pokémon – 8
1 Rotom UD
1 Shaymin EX
1 Mewtwo EX
Trainers – 40
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 12
4 Metal – Basic
4 Metal – Special
Durant, as most of us know, was at first considered to be a joke deck, but it quickly became one of top five decks in the format. Its strategy is simple: mill your opponent’s deck while taking out their resources. The deck was extremely aggressive and could flip its way out of almost any situation. There were also a fair amount of decks that just couldn’t handle its constant pressure of Crushing Hammers and losing their resources. I considered it Tier 1 because it had the most top 4 results and could succeed in almost metagame, as the marathons showed us.
The deck really didn’t gain much from the new set, although it did gain some enemies. Luckily, the awaited Heatmor was not added to Next Destinies, meaning that its best counter still isn’t out yet. The only upgrade in the deck was Level Ball, which is a guaranteed way to get a Durant or Rotom. I’m not sure if it is actually better than Dual Ball, but it doesn’t involve flips so it could be. It doesn’t come with the “upside” of Dual Ball and it can’t fetch you Cobalion, so it’s the low risk card of choice.
Another card that I like in my builds right now is Battle City. It’s a promo that hasn’t gotten much attention, but with Skyarrow Bridge coming out, which causes problems for Durant as it can’t abuse Pokémon Catcher as much, it makes for a solid counter Stadium. Right now I have been using it as a 1-of tech, but you could play 2. I also like Skyarrow Bridge in my build, so they run in conjunction with one another. I will actually counter my own Stadium when it suits me to do, so that way I don’t have to worry about using Switch or whiffing on energy attachments.
In my current build I have also been trying a style of play that allows me to take multiple prizes; I have been running Mewtwo EX and Shaymin EX. This is because I feel like most people won’t see a Durant using actual attackers and if your opponent is running out of resources chances are they can’t KO a Mewtwo EX or even a Shaymin EX. Black Belt has also made its way into my list as a soft counter to V-Create Victini and because it allows easier KOs in general.
Lastly this deck gains some strength from Prism Energy, this card makes Special Energies more playable, and therefore it makes Lost Remover an even stronger card. I am trying to play 2 or 3 in all of my lists because the meta game is shifting towards special energies especially, with Mewtwo EX in most decks that will mean a higher average count of Double Colorless Energy.
Strengths: It is cheap, relatively easy to play and extremely disruptive.
Weaknesses: Its major weaknesses are Fire, whiffing on Crushing Hammers, and Zekrom.
It is definitely a solid choice, and I would guess that you’ll see many of these floating around at States due to the fact that it is cheap to build.
That concludes Part 1 of this article; in Part 2 I will be discussing the Tier 1.5 decks on my Tier list and the new decks from Next Destinies.