From Sub-Zero to Hero: Turning a Negative Record into a State Championship Victory

For the past two weekends, I have been keeping very busy. Between school visits and work, things can get pretty hectic, especially when both entail several hundred miles of traveling! Nevertheless, I was still able to find time to fit two State Championships into my schedule…

Today’s article is a fairly straightforward, traditional pair of tournament reports. In the first event, I earned a *SPOILER!!!* mediocre record, and in the second, scored a major 2012 State Championship victory in my home state of Texas. I will go through my pre-tournament testing, the logic that went into all of my choices for the events, what led to my poor showing in week one, and – most importantly – what I did to improve my chances for week two.

Pre-States Prep (Week One)

Although I knew that there would be several surprises in store for week one, I already polished off the bulk of my play-testing well before the series kicked off. Since I knew that I would be monstrously busy for the entire month of March, I kicked it into fourth gear, getting in games with all of my main choices. That play-testing showed me that of the many solid choices to choose from, these five could succeed in just about any normal metagame:

  • Durant
  • Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik
  • Mewtwo EX/Celebi/Tornadus
  • Thundurus/Mewtwo EX/Zekrom/Eelektrik
  • Typhlosion/Reshiram

Aside from being relatively well-known archetypes, Underground subscribers who read my last article should also recognize these decks as my top five favorite choices for States/Territorials/Provincials. I felt like any could do well, and so far I have been right about that. However, narrowing down a choice from five to one is still difficult, and can demand some tough judgment calls. This is especially true in the first week, where you have no precedent to work from.

For a week one play, Durant appealed to me for many reasons. For starters, it’s a deck that I enjoy: despite its general lack of interactivity, I have been craving a viable deck-out build since the glory days of Fossil Moltres, and it’s always entertaining to see what my opponent does to dig out of a rough situation.

However, what turned me away from the deck is its unappealing position in the format: players’ collective skill quality against the deck has improved dramatically, and hard techs are more common than you would think. Also, I still believed the same thing I told myself weeks ago: that Durant mirror is a terrible, ridiculous matchup.

Ever since its rise in Japan, I have considered Mewtwo EX/Celebi variants to be quality decks, and hold them in higher regard with each passing week. Long story short, this is everything that Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin wishes it could be: a fast deck with a less conditional first turn KO option; simple and reliable energy acceleration; and unlimited damage potential.

My main concern about running it week one, the risk of hard counters, was well-founded, since my state was full of Meesiemew variations. As I’ll discuss later, though, the surprises of the week one metagame actually elevated the strength of CMT.

Typhlosion/Reshiram is the one deck I think has survived the entirety of HGSS-on. Despite the increasingly popular belief that it is a “dead” deck, I am convinced that Reshirams have what it takes to keep up with many of the popular attackers in this format.

Unfortunately, its CMT matchup scared me too much: in many of my testing games, the Mewtwo player would be capable of going up to 4 Prizes ahead of the opponent before Tyram could mount a comeback. Also, the deck can suffer some major issues against the fringe of the current format, and with the Earth-shattering attendance levels of SPTs this season, that is a risk you do not want to take.

Zeel, like Typhlosion/Reshiram, was also a strong option for its versatility, and far and away the most popular choice for competitive players in my area (possibly all areas). It has versatility, strength, endurance, and disruption – all the hallmarks of a great deck. However, I was aware of how popular this deck would be at my first tournament, and did not like the idea of playing mirror over and over again on the day.

Perhaps I could have made my list strong for the mirror, but that was an overall less desirable strategy than simply outgunning it with Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik. I have been a fan of this deck for a long time, and believed its week one chances to be great. Few decks are capable of such absolute disruption, and when the field is full of Pokémon-EX, Lost Burn allows for some of the best come-from-behind wins out there.

Granted, its matchup to fighting decks is a little worse than Zeel’s, but it had all that I wanted in a week one States choice.

From that conclusion, I decided to go with this list…

Pokémon – 19

3 Magnemite TM
1 Magneton TM
3 Magnezone Prime
3 Tynamo NVI 39
1 Tynamo NVI 38
3 Eelektrik NVI
1 Cleffa HS
1 Thundurus EPO
1 Tornadus EPO
1 Zekrom-EX
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 28

4 N
4 Pokémon Collector

4 Sage’s Training


4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
2 Pokémon Catcher
1 Switch
1 Super Rod

Energy – 13

10 L
3 Double Colorless

This may look a little different from the standard list during any of Cities, so let me explain where I was coming from on a lot of these points…– With a 3-1-3 line of Magnezone Prime, you not only have ample access to your Stage Two, but all the room you need to let the deck operate like a miniature Zeel list when needed (i.e., when Catcher keeps you from getting a stable Magnezone setup in play, or when you can only let the Magnezone show up late game).

– As has been discussed in detail by others, I run a split of Tynamos biased to the free retreater. With all of the diverse attacker options, and the need to shore up an already rough Durant matchup, running these in a solid quantity is a must.

Nevertheless, you cannot feasibly run all 30 HP Tynamo, or else you are practically giving up every spread matchup in the format. Chandelures and Kyurem are all still prominent enough to justify running the 40 HP Tynamo, especially since Magnezone/Eelektrik usually cannot afford to run one Eviolite, let alone enough to assure getting it out fast enough.

– With this sort of deck, my philosophy is clear: “Cleffa or bust.” The regular risks of Smeargle UD (N’ing away a good hand, being forced to discard good cards with Professor Juniper, etc) are even greater in a Stage Two list, and yet another free retreat helps with the first turn choices. Omitting Cleffa is simply not an option in this stubborn mind of mine, because not having a way to recover or otherwise keep pace with these vicious Basic-oriented decks is a surefire way to lose every game.

– The Thundurus is a great early game card against CMT and Meesiemew. Plus, it’s the best way to get energy into the discard pile fast. Even without Eviolite or max Pokémon Catcher, it is still a great card, and a prime example of what metagame can do to elevate previously “weak” cards… Remember when this thing was considered unplayable due to Donphan Prime?

– Tornadus, on the other hand, was a last minute addition to fend off some of the Fighting threats I had seen and heard of popping up. Like many eleventh hour plays, my logic in this play was honestly not up to snuff, and would, in my opinion, turn out to be a fatally bad call.

Zekrom-EX, on the other hand, is rarely a bad call in lists, and here that is no exception. Bar vulnerability to Terrakion, it can swoop in at any point in a game and wreak havoc – especially against the Zekrom/Eelektrim matchup. A well-timed N coupled with one or two Strong Volts can seal that matchup quickly.

– Like the last list I posted, one Mewtwo EX is usually all that you will ever need. Usually this card’s main use in the deck is to keep an opposing Mewtwo EX from rampaging against an incomplete setup. This makes it so that whenever Magnezone actually does conform to the deck’s “slowness” stereotype, you can carry yourself to the come-from-behind win that Magnezone/Eelektrik is known for.

– And on that note, a full play set of N. While many aspects of this format disgruntle me (overpowered cards, unfair rules for going first, etc), this card is one of only a few checks on those things.

– Only one Switch may seem insane, but in practice it works fairly well. Unless your opponent has intimate knowledge of your list, is actively struggling at the start of a game, and is aware of how Catchering up a slightly vulnerable Magnezone or Eelektrik could give you trouble, then this count is just fine when facilitating late game options.

Admittedly, running two opens up more options when charging up alternate attackers with Eelektriks, but it is something that you can get by without running if you feel pressed to fit a lot of things in the list.

(Plus, Double Colorless Energy functions as a pseudo-switch, activating the high retreats on Magnezone and Zekrom-EX when needed.)

– Finally, it is a myth that you need to run four Double Colorless Energy in this deck. By far the bigger necessity is running a reasonable basic energy count, and when a list like this one is crammed enough, choosing the 10th Lightning is worth the cost of making the rare lone EX start slightly more irritating by not having as many DCEs to evacuate the cards.

You may be wondering why I chose to exclude certain popular or even staple cards, such as Zekrom BLW. Seeing as how this report is a foregone conclusion (I bombed), let us look at the rise and fall of my first State Championship run this season, and save the discussion of omitted cards for later.

The 2012 Oklahoma State Championship

en.wikipedia.orgAnyway, my first event for the series was Oklahoma, with the Masters Division having a solid 85+ players total. While these numbers are fairly average, this is solid when you consider that Oklahoma is a small state with an equally small electoral vote count. Quality over quantity, though, folks, and the competition at this event is what I would describe as “dense”: packed with good players in the region, and very few (if any) first-timers.

After the usual rigmarole of pre-tournament registration, we were ready to go, and my first opponent was an old pal of mine from the University of Oklahoma area.

Round One: VS Magnezone/Eelektrik Mirror

I won the opening coin flip, started with a Magnemite to his Zekrom, and found myself with access to a turn two Magnezone Prime. However, between a strange combination of prizes and draws, I was unable to get out any of my non-Magnezone, non-EX attackers to pick off little Tynamos and Magnemites. This gave him the opening he needed to get his turn two Magnezone Prime out, and so we began a duel of the two, my approach being to score easy KOs, and his to Lost Burn my biggest threats.

However, since he had the drop an N on the second turn of the game just to refresh his hand, I knew that this strategy would not hurt me as much; instead, I was just able to respond with Zekrom-EX in the mid-game, and take control. Ultimately, my turn one advantage was too much for him, and I eventually won the Magnezone war.


Round Two: VS CMT

pokemon-paradijs.comIn this game, a couple whiffed Dual Ball flips on top of a fairly lousy hand put Michael (my opponent) in a pretty tight position. Meanwhile, I was able to setup without that much opposition, placing myself in a good spot to answer any of his future Mewtwo EX threats. He finally setup after two-three “lost turns,” but by then my board was too established for it to matter.


Round Three: VS CMT

I started with a lone Magnemite, lost the opening coin flip, and then promptly lost the game on the first turn by virtue of a Mewtwo EX, Double Colorless Energy, and PlusPower.


Round Four: VS Durant

Normally in this matchup, you have several answers Durant: leading with a Zekrom-EX; blowing away things with Mewtwo EX; or just getting cheap KOs with Tornadus and then transitioning into a bigger attacker like Magnezone. Unfortunately, I was unable to do that this game: he went first, discarding my Zekrom-EX, and with my hand as weak as it was, all I could opt for was Mewtwo EX (with a possible Eelektrik or two if the late game warrants it).

While this strategy generally works decently well, my opponent was able to hit energy off of his Durant Devours literally every single turn – sometimes two or three at once. Because of this, I was never able to pile four energy on a Mewtwo, instead being stuck hitting Durants for no more than 60 a turn. Somehow I was able to make it close, but I lost the game with 1 Prize left.


After this game, I felt it was ironic that I had/have the view that I do about playing Durant myself, but when sitting on the opposite side of the table, it can be frustrating if the Devour discards are too good. However, the idea to beating Durant is to not get mad – just get even, and run the right list. I was beginning to realize that this, my friends, was not the right list to combat Durant…

Round Five: VS Durant

pokemon-paradijs.comI started with a Tornadus to his Durant, and quickly went for that as my attacking option. Unfortunately, being able to access all Lightning energy for Tornadus was easier said than done, so I was forced to prematurely drop a Double Colorless Energy to keep up the knockout pace.

Without playing a Twins or draw card, he Lost Removers my DCE, and then discards the Lightning that was moved to the bench by Hurricane (I had benched a Tynamo and Magnemite in response to the risk of losing everything on Tornadus, which indeed happened).

Then, I saw a prime opportunity to go for Magnezone kills, and for the most part, this less-than-typical plan worked. However, three very strange things happened that amounted to me not being to score the last knockout to win the game:

  1. My last prize was a L Energy
  2. I was unable to Junk Arm away energy due to a bad Magnetic Draw
  3. In the turn following the Magnetic Draw, my opponent did not mill any of my energy, thereby not activating my Dynamotor

Very, very strange. I can’t really complain about my hand too much in this game: for the start that I had, it allowed me to actually attack decently well, and my opponent’s Crushing Hammer flips were honestly not that stellar. However, the bizarre things happening at the end negated all of those advantages.

P.S. I should note the reasons why I did not go for Mewtwo EX or Zekrom-EX in that game. First off, the Mewtwo EX was quickly discarded by the second turn, and I had no way to directly fetch it from my deck on turn one. As for the Zekrom-EX, Glinting Claw/Strong Volt is generally not as good of a combination when you have basics in play with Retreat Cost: all Durant has to do is Catcher up the retreat, maybe hit a heads on Crushing Hammer, and then you are with few options.


Round Six: VS Magnezone/Eelektrik Mirror

cardshark.comMy opponent went first in this game, and was off to an effective start. Mine was much slower; however, possession of a Catcher gave me a window to Catcher up things for cheap knockouts, keeping up to pace with the raw quality of my opponent’s start. This did not hold up for too long, though, and it became a struggle for me to get a Magnezone out.

While I was able to pull this off, my opponent was able to answer this one Magnezone promptly, and the whole last leg of this game was me basically digging for outs that just could not be found.


So here we are at this point in the tournament: a negative record, and no hope to even earn Championship Points! I was tempted to drop so that I could spend more time trading for my collection wants. Still, there is something about dropping that makes me physically ill: I come to play and enjoy this game, so why give up prematurely if you have no solid reason for it?

Granted, there are always justifications to evacuate from an event, be it to secure a free trip via rankings (my reason for 0-1 dropping at the 2007 US National Championship), to take care of a child, or to just pursue some more meaningful project (Michael Weldon’s reason for dropping from this tournament).

Still, if you cannot find good enough justification to drop other than “just ‘cause,” then you should really keep playing: learn a bit more about the metagame, check out some neat ideas, or just take the opportunity to enjoy yourself a little. And that is just what I did in my last round…

Round Seven: VS Durant

In this game, I started with a Mewtwo and three energy, basically committing myself to X Balling for “a bunch.” What I would have loved to happen in my other two games finally happened in the last game of the event, and it worked about as well as you would think: despite all of the Crushing Hammer flips and Lost Removers, I never missed a beat more than once, and won with a decent amount of deck left.


So there you have it: my titular “sub-zero” showing. What went wrong, though?– I didn’t run Zekrom BLW. This list was built to keep up with the two most popular decks (CMT and Zekrom/Eelektrik), but in doing this, I honestly neglected other important matchups. Just one Zekrom would have turned one or both of those Durant losses into wins, and I would have made top cut, or at least earned Championship Points.

– A slight upgrade in consistency could have made a large difference in my one non-donk, non-Durant loss. With all of the supporter needs in this build, you want to have access to your Collectors and Ns whenever you require them. For that reason, perhaps even one Pokégear could have been a game-changer.

– At some points, honest-to-goodness bad luck. Between a FTKO and rough Durant discards, I don’t think I would have managed a 6-1 record on the day even if everything else went right.

At the end of the day, though, the buck stops with you, and if a tournament result is unsuccessful, look at what you did wrong. My one or two unwise choices resulted in losses that would normally have been wins, so my usual “buffer” for bad luck was stifled. So like everyone else who did poorly or mediocre on week one, I had to go back to planning…

My unsuccessful outing aside, there was a very competitive tournament going on all around me. Listed below is the complete results of the 2012 Oklahoma State Championship top cut in the Masters Division:

Sweet Sixteen


1st Celebi/Mewtwo/Tornadus VS 16th Zekrom/Eelektrik
8th Mew Prime/Yanmega/Zoroark/Mewtwo EX VS 9th Zekrom/Eelektrik
5th Zekrom/Eelektrik VS 12th Zekrom/Eelektrik
4th Donphan/Zekrom/Mewtwo EX VS 13th Zekrom/Eelektrik
2nd Zekrom/Eelektrik VS 15th Zekrom/Eelektrik
7th Meesiemew VS 10th Magnezone/Eelektrik
6th Celebi/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus VS 11th Meesiemew
3rd Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus VS 14th Zekrom/Eelektrik

pokemon-paradijs.comWhile there was only one upset, the one that did happen was stunning: Jorel, a fairly successful Texas player, was able to take down what was effectively an auto-loss matchup. This should show you that trying to hard-counter a metagame does not always work, and if one or two flips (i.e., the opening flip) go against you, then that plan fails.

At this point, the one deck that should look fairly out of place is Austin C.’s (the 8th seed). Basically, it is a version of Meesiemew that banks on two things: using Zoroark to blow away opposite Zekrom-EXs or Reshirams, and to actually See Off Mewtwo EX so that you can enjoy a decisive advantage in the Mewtwo war. He also ran Jirachi UL for devolution kills, and I would assume energy acceleration, too. That way, even classic threat cards like Thundurus and Tornadus become easy 1HKOs.

Although I don’t think that posting a list of his deck is necessary, constructing it should be fairly simple: just take a Meesiemew list you have, cut the Terrakions/Jumpluff/Chandelure/non-P Energy, and then play Zoroark/Mewtwo plus more Psychic and DCEs.

How did the rest of the event pan out? Check it out!

Elite Eight

1st Celebi/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus VS 8th Mew Prime/Yanmega/Zoroark/Mewtwo EX
5th Zekrom/Eelektrik VS 13th Zekrom/Eelektrik
2nd Zekrom/Eelektrik VS 7th Meesiemew
6th Celebi/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus VS 3rd Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus

Final Four

8th Mew Prime/Yanmega/Zoroark/Mewtwo EX VS 5th Zekrom/Eelektrik
2nd Zekrom/Eelektrik VS 3rd Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus

Top Two

8th Mew Prime/Yanmega/Zoroark/Mewtwo EX VS 2nd Zekrom/Eelektrik

pokemon-paradijs.comDespite the fact that I do not have names listed here, you might know the second seed better as Alex Fields, a.k.a. Butlerforhire. Along with our pals Blake and Cameron (the second of which being the one Magnezone/Eelektrik player to top cut), it was cool to see someone from our group win the tournament. Alex has been eying a State win for some time, so it was great to see him pull it off…And just as great to see a Texan claim a trophy from outside the state!

“What was in his list?” you ask? For the most part, it was typical Zeel, but one clutch tech for him was Zapdos NXD. Whereas the matchup he was up against looks bad for him on paper, a Zapdos with Eviolite and ward off pretty much any big attack that could be launched against him, bar some lucky flips with a Foul Play on Thundering Hurricane. All in all, this is a great choice to combat the fringe techs of the format, and isn’t too bad against the mirror, as well.

So my choice was Magnezone/Eelektrik, and while it bombed, I was not discouraged by the event itself. However, a couple big surprises during week one completely turned my plans upside-down: rather than correct Magnezone, or even switch to Zekrom/Eelektrik, I felt compelled to throw them both out, and go on to another option…

Pre-States Prep (Week Two)

The latest, greatest rogue deck was a straight Terrakion build, which helped Curran Hill cruise to a nice Virginia State Championship victory. Combined with the increased interest in Landorus variants, or so-called “troll” lists (Tornadus EPO/Terrakion NVI/Landorus NVI with Rocky Helmet), and I knew that the hate would be out en masse for lightning.

Keep in mind that the threat of these decks was very conditional: the players in your area have to be inclined to use hard counters, and not just stick with the raw metagame as it is. At the same time, this all applied perfectly to my state, which has a history of players hard-countering the metagame and winning: in 2010, a very straightforward Donphan deck was able to skirt past all of the Gyarados SF lists, and cruise to an easy victory thanks to the vast majority of the field consisting of Luxray GL/Garchomp C builds.

Therefore, it was pretty obvious that between Zeel’s Oklahoma victory and the rise of a new rogue deck, there would be a swarm of lists with a generally insurmountable advantage over both Magnezone/Eelektrik and Zekrom/Eelektrik.

My option, then, was to rely on my number two choice: Celebi/Mewtwo/Tornadus. The hate in my area was now laser-guided toward Lightning decks, and while some people were still playing hard counters to Mewtwo, little of it could actually get off the ground successfully enough. For that reason, I decided that it would be my choice for Texas.

Between testing with various contacts, as well as friends in the HeyTrainer Battle Club chat, I was able to iron out a pretty effective, yet techy CMT list, henceforth referred to as just “CMTech.” Like my last build, I would like to take some time explaining what went into my thought process for this build…

Pokémon – 13

4 Celebi Prime
2 Mewtwo-EX NXD
2 Tornadus EPO
1 Regigigas-EX
1 Shaymin-EX NXD
1 Shaymin UL
1 Tyrogue HS
1 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 34

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


4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Switch
3 Dual Ball
3 Pokégear 3.0
2 PlusPower
1 Energy Retrieval


2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 G
4 Double Colorless

– Although several lists have gone up in their Mewtwo EX counts, I still feel perfectly content running two. In most games, you will likely never be needing more than the two, and in case the exchange goes all the way down to the wire, you have two other Pokémon-EX that could either be your early game vanguards or late game sweepers.

– My Tornadus count is relatively low because you are simply not using the card that much. Granted, there are good arguments for running three or even four of it: the former allows for an odd prize count before you force a Mewtwo battle, and the latter can let you attack with Tornadus the entire game. However, the heart of this list is the teching, and in most of the big metagame matchups right now, there are simply other things you will want to be doing.

– One of those things, of course, is occasionally terrorizing setup decks with Regigigas-EX. As Andrew Hahn and I have both mentioned before, this is a solid option for several matchups, and the reasons I included one in my list vary. For one, it’s a very “elastic” attacker; that is, it is just as capable of handling easy early game kills as it is late game heavy hitters.

You force the opponent to have some sort of out against it: either they have to exert a ton of resources just to take down the thing, walk right into an easy KO, or use Pokémon Catcher to get around it – meaning one less Catcher that they can use in the late game.

Additionally, 1HKOing the card requires valuable resources, such as three to six energy on a Mewtwo, or a Terrakion and the rare energy appropriate to use it. This card has a ton of uses, and while it may be sitting in your hand doing nothing for half the games you play, it may prove to be the most valuable player in others.

Still, the main reason why I included this over some other card was because it is a top tier Durant killer. After getting creamed in testing by my Canadian friend Sebastian, I knew that I not only had to have a list that could compete with just any Durant, but one capable of running on all cylinders. The combination of Giga Power and Raging Hammer do just that, and with some careful playing, you can even keep Rotom/Black Belt from 1-shotting you.– Shaymin EX, like Regigigas-EX, is another card that might just sit in your hand doing nothing for several games in a row, and then suddenly break out to become the star of a match. Needless to say, Shaymin EX did this for me multiple times, particularly against fighting decks or Mewtwo variants that are forced to draw 5 Prizes. Also, its first attack is randomly useful, especially when you are starved for energy against Durant matchups. Plan that carefully, however, or else you’ll be merely thinning the deck more for them.

Shaymin UL is a nice “random” option for spots where I simply cannot play Mewtwo, Gigas, or Shaymin, instead needing to get the energy on the board while not actually committing myself to any EX attacker. Shaymin is admittedly much weaker in this list than in the one I posted in my first February article: without Seeker or Super Scoop Up, you are limited to using it only once, and due to a lack of Super Rod, discarding it via Juniper may starve you of that option permanently.

Nevertheless, it is very handy at avoiding over-dedicating resources, and is especially useful for capitalizing on turns when the opponent was unable to respond to my Mewtwo Knocking something Out.

– Tyrogue is a fairly specific play, and is used purely for two things: scoring the donk, and keeping pressure on Zeel. Although the former never happened once during testing or competing, its ability to take out Tynamos gives you an easy way to grab the lead without risking too much.

Also, this card is a throwback to the earlier days of HGSS-on, where a baby remaining asleep for a turn or two could turn games completely upside-down. Indeed, it’s safe to say that this one card that tilted both of my top cut Zeel matchups in my favor.

– Unlike the Tornadus in my Magnezone/Eelektrik list, Smeargle is a positive example of how a good last minute addition can make a difference in your tournament performance. While I liked Cleffa in here for its overall quality, Smeargle is a great card to maintain aggression, particularly on turns where you need to keep dropping cards like Switch, Skyarrow Bridge, and Catcher.

This guy digs through the deck rapidly, making important “out” cards much easier to obtain. Of course, you have to plan ahead so that a Professor Juniper or N doesn’t destroy you; otherwise, this is a great addition in many decks with Skyarrow Bridge.– Since all of my other Supporter counts should look fairly typical, I’d like to address my one random Pokémon Collector. In testing, I started with maximum Pokémon Collector, and for the most part I found it to be a great way to stabilize setups, yet it lacked the speed option I so desperately needed out of the deck. I could not bring myself to relying 100% on Dual Balls, though, so I decided to run a 3/1 split between the two.

I originally wanted more Pokémon Collector, but as my list became more convoluted, that was the first card to go. In hindsight, not running a 3/2 or even 2/2 split was probably my only real “mistake” with the list, although choosing cards to cut to make the fit feasible is a challenge.

– 4/4 Junk Arm and Pokémon Catcher are all about maintaining a fast rate of knockouts, but that is also the reason why I run just as many Switch. Being able to quickly get in and out of Forest Breath is not only a huge luxury in the early game, but can border on required when it comes to winning convoluted late game scenarios. I first started with 3/3 Switch/Skyarrow Bridge; however, the Switches are just hands-down better cards to have in a large quantity than Skyarrow Bridges, which will usually last an entire game without being countered.

On top of everything else, this can be read as a secondary counter to Durant: running enough Switches and Skyarrow Bridges to make their Pokémon Catchers all but useless.

– For the record, while two PlusPower generally worked well for me in all of my lists, I want to make room for a third once all of my other concerns are out of the way.

– My original list ran a Super Rod to consolidate the interests of both Energy Retrieval and Revive. Seeing as how I had much more of a Pokémon-EX presence in this build than any of my previous ones, I decided that this card was too passive, and could therefore be cut for an item with more immediate benefits. This play is not uncommon in CMT (or even CMTech) lists, but in a build running four Switch, it is insanely effective.

pokemon-paradijs.comAlso, do not underrate the benefits of using Energy Retrieval for only one energy – it might be the one you need to score a decisive KO!

– No Eviolite in such a strange list with many vulnerable attackers might seem strange, so please hear me out on this. Like others (Fulop), I am of the belief that reactive cards like Eviolite are a less optimal usage of space; instead, I prefer all of my cards playing some sort of role to the end goal of “be violent to the Defending Pokémon, and leave no prisoners.” Also, the high Pokémon count and unwillingness to go down on consistency cards made running Eviolite an improbable thing to do.

– Finally, I am a huge fan of the 9/4 split on Grass and DCE. My old one ran only 8/4, and while this carried me through plenty of games, I discovered that a slightly higher count of grass was virtually mandatory to increase my odds of securing an early knockout; otherwise, the deck is too cluttered, and digging for energy becomes surprisingly difficult.

The 2012 Texas State Championship

If I was caught unawares for week one, then I knew that I had to be doubly prepared for Texas. I knew that the attendance was going to be high, but I was caught off-guard to find out that it was over 300 people, with almost 200 Masters! This was undoubtedly going to be a long day…

Round One: VS Durant

I started with a Celebi Prime to his active Cobalion, and I instantly knew that based off of standard lists, this was going to be a slow one for him. This turned out to be more than correct, since on top of the active Cobalion, he also had a prized Durant, so he was forced to creakily setup his board behind the deterrence of Energy Press. Fortunately for him, I was also very slow to attack, not getting an opportunity to deal damage until the third turn of the game.

Regardless, I had to push forward, and since I noticed that the energy attached to Cobalion was a Prism, I launched an attack on it with my Regigigas-EX’s Giga Power for 40. This required him to spend more resources on Energy Press, which in turn setup my Raging Hammer for the knockout (fueled by two DCE and a Grass). The whiff of a Grass in place of that second DCE was huge, since it meant that his Rotom could Plasma Arrow me for a knockout, and as expected, he did just that.

Forcing him into this KO situation, however, was my contingency plan in case I whiffed the Grass, since it placed him in an awkward board position: Durant was ahead in prizes! This gave me the time to not only catch up on knockouts, but load up my Mewtwo without fear of being Lost Removered or Crushing Hammered into oblivion. This also played out as anticipated, and so I was able to carry the game to its conclusion.


Round Two: VS Leafeon/Espeon/Amoonguss

I first turn KO’d his Foongus with a Mewtwo EX.


Round Three: VS Chandelure NVI/NDE/Ninetales

I lost the opening coin flip, thereby missing out on a chance to turn one him. So we instead enjoyed an interesting match: I got out to a fast start by Knocking Out Litwicks on turns one and two, but was promptly N’d into a less-than-stellar hand. From here, he was able to establish a spread comeback, whereas struggled to get back into it.

Eventually, however, I topdecked a draw card, and so I was able to fetch all of those essential “out” cards (PlusPower, Pokémon Catcher) to make short work of his Fire Chandelure. His setup fell apart shortly thereafter, and by the second turn before time, I drew my last prize.


…This deck is pretty interesting, isn’t it? Give me some time, though, because you will be seeing Chandelure again in this report.

Round Four: VS Chandelure/Vanilluxe/Zekrom/Mewtwo EX

Two Chandelure in a row? Really? This time, the list was radically different, featuring Vanilluxe as a form of permanent switching.

I start off slow, and attempt to use Smeargle to recover from it; however, this came at the price of a Juniper discarding several of my resources. To make things worse, I drew into an N on the Juniper, had no way to discard it, and then found myself promptly Portraited by his own Smeargle, leading to a worse hand. By the third turn, I finally started hitting energy and was able to attack, but without Pokémon Catchers in hand, I was again forced to give him a turn to setup.

By the time I finally did have them, he already had two Chandelure and a Vanilluxe in play, and pretty much “puppeteered” my side of the board with damage ecounters from Cursed Shadow and Flame Burst. The game truly came to a close when he used Pokémon Catcher to bring up my Celebi Prime, using Burst to score 4 Prizes all on the same turn (a damaged Mewtwo, damaged Tornadus, and 1HKO on Celebi).

And by the time I finally got rid of the offensive Red Chandelure, he had freed his prized Mewtwo, and used it to secure his last prize.


After the tournament, Kiet (my opponent) shared his list with several of us, and it was very, very fascinating to say the least. While my counts may be off somewhere, I’m pretty sure that it went something like this:

Pokémon – 20

4 Litwick BW27
3 Lampent NVI
3 Chandelure NVI
1 Chandelure NXD
2 Vanillite NXD
2 Vanilluxe NXD
2 Smeargle UD
2 Zekrom BLW
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 34

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Juniper
3 N
3 Twins


4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
4 Switch
2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Super Rod

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless
2 R

Like the other list featured today, this is a sort of “speed” Chandelure, but it is much more unusual than your typical version. Basically, you use Vanilluxe to assure a switching effect each turn, and with Switch itself, you can reach upwards to three Cursed Shadows a turn (or two Cursed Shadows and an attack). Zekrom’s only purpose is to force the opponent to have a Catcher: if he doesn’t, then you have to figure out some alternative plan.

pokemon-paradijs.comSince this is just a replica, I would probably do a couple things differently. First, the count on the R Energy is just too low: even though you rarely need more than a single fire in a game, not running at least three makes for drawing into them quite difficult, especially if Twins does not activate.

Additionally, running such a heavy Juniper count in a stage two list scares me: Sage’s Training is a much better card at getting out multiple stage two cards.

Lastly, Kiet implied in our conversation that he would have preferred two Mewtwo EX and one Zekrom as opposed to what he actually used – a balance that makes a little more sense when a rampant Mewtwo is one of this deck’s biggest threats.

Round Five: VS Chandelure/Ninetales

He starts with a pretty atrocious opening, while mine is just as rough: despite him starting with a lone Basic and me starting with a Celebi Prime, I whiffed on the first turn knockout, as well as any energy period. He then ripped out a turn two Chandelure and placed three onto my Celebi, while I just sat with no draw or energy.

However, he ripped an N, and then the game started “for real.” He was able to Level Ball several times in the same turn, while I was finally able to start 2-shotting things with Tornadus (I had whiffed on the Catcher). Despite having two Ninetales out by the fourth turn, not having a direct response to Mewtwo meant that it was able to run rampant on his board, taking down red Chandelures with four energy and PlusPowers.

Sure, there was a certain amount of risk in this strategy; however, N in combination with enough resources on my part made it so that any Black Belt would not be enough to give him the win. After a couple final Flame Bursts with Super Rodded Red-delures, I clinched the game with just pure aggression.


I suppose after me going up against Chandelure for the third time in a row, a bit of deck analysis is in order…

As you can guess, my round three and five opponents were play-testing partners. According to a couple of my friends back in college, my round three opponent had built this contraption on the drive up to Colorado States, and successfully made it to top eight there.

From my two times playing against this deck, I discovered that it was a pretty basic, yet effective concept, and had me sweating bullets the whole time. Included below is my interpretation of the concept…

Pokémon – 16

4 Litwick BW27
2 Lampent NVI
3 Chandelure NVI
1 Chandelure NXD 20
3 Vulpix UL
3 Ninetales HS

Trainers – 34

4 N
4 Pokémon Collector
4 Sage’s Training
1 Black Belt


4 Rare Candy
4 Switch
3 Junk Arm
3 Level Ball
3 Pokémon Communication
2 Super Rod
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Pokémon Catcher

Energy – 10

10 R

With maximum Collector and an excess of Item search, this deck can get Chandelures out very quickly. The basic count is very low, but if you can survive past the first turn, then this rogue is surprisingly effective.

Essentially, you will ideally be spending your turns first leading with a Noble Victories Chandelure, and then switching or retreating into a Next Destinies one to Flame Burst. It has plenty of space options, which is why I run a Black Belt: so that I can do up to 100 damage to any non-weak active Pokémon between Cursed Shadow and Flame Burst.

Granted, Lampent is far less effective in a variant of Chandelure not running Vileplume; however, this is easily one of the faster lists that I have seen of this deck, and a pretty good budget choice.

Round Six: VS Donphan/Dragons/Mewtwo

pokemon-paradijs.comHe opens with a Kyurem to my dual Celebi/Tornadus setup, goes first, attaches energy, plays out his turn, Catchers up Tornadus, and hits it for 20. My first turn is relatively lackluster, amounting to just a draw and pass, but fortunately, his drawing from the previous turn amounted to no evolutions on his benched Phanpy and Zorua.

Since I had a strong hunch that he was running Mewtwo, I knew that this game would demand more action from Shaymin EX. Therefore, I promptly Catchered and KO’d his Zorua on the second turn, and a Phanpy Hurricane KO on the third.

Meanwhile, he took the opportunity to take down Celebi for a cheap prize, and then to setup his Kyurem (soon to be Kyurem and Zekrom) with damage via Earthquake. Although a lost a Tornadus in the process, I was able to 2-shot the Donphan, getting up on prizes in the process.

Still, he was able to mount a comeback thanks to Zekrom and PlusPowers, which left me in a very iffy board position: if I brought up Mewtwo to KO it, then my opponent would counter-KO it with the Mewtwo sitting in his hand (I had no Ns available), getting ahead in the exchange; however, if I just sat there and let nothing happen, then I was in equally deep trouble.

At that point, I settled on using the opportunity to just setup my end of the board a little, so I Dual Balled for Celebi, and let another basic take the brunt of a dragon (he placed value on his more damaged Zekrom, so he made a wise move in retreating it for Kyurem).

At that moment, my hand finally got out of the “rut” it had previously been in due to a lack of resources, and so I was able to bench my Shaymin EX, Juniper for a new hand, and Catcher up the Zekrom for a 1-shot. The next turn he benched Mewtwo EX, thinking that it was his only shot to reclaim the lead by taking out my Shaymin, but I was just able to Catcher it for a 1HKO with my own.


Round Seven: VS CMT mirror

Bar some very specific plays, I was actually able to write out the entire story of our game on a sheet of paper…

Turn One (Opp): We both start with Mewtwo EX. He draws, attaches a Grass, and passes.

Turn One (Me): I draw, use Pokémon Collector for two Celebi Prime and a Mewtwo EX, bench all three for fear of an N, retreat into a Celebi Prime, and pass.

Turn Two (Opp): He benches a Celebi Prime, attaches a Grass to his Active Mewtwo EX, plays double PlusPower, and KOs it.

Turn Two (Me): I respond with a Mewtwo knockout.

Turn Three (Him): He responds with a Mewtwo knockout

Turn Three (Me): I bench a Shaymin EX, charge up my guys, N him, and respond with a Mewtwo knockout.

Turn Four (Him): He scoops


This illustrates one of the reasons why I do not enjoy this format nearly as much as years past: because the games can be this dull.

Round Eight: VS Landorus/Terrakion

Finally…After seeing so many of these decks floating around, I faced one at long last.

The strategy of the game was very simple: I led with my two Tornadus early game, and then when he had drawn 2 Prizes to my three, I was able to start Revenge Blasting with Shaymin EX for a whopping 180 to all of his Terrakions (he had started with Landorus and could not find another one to save his life). After a turn or two, he promptly scooped.


After evacuating the play area to do some much-needed trades/get some chill-out time, I found out that I was fourth seed in the top cut, playing against Jorel K., otherwise known by many of us as “He Who Slays Donphans” (per last week’s results).

Top Sixteen: VS Jorel, with Zekrom/Thundurus/Eelektrik

Game One – Jorel went first, with us both opening Tornadus. Despite both of our hands being relatively weak, his was arguably worse. But while going first meant that his Tornadus would secure first blood, Tyrogue came to my rescue, scoring a couple critical knockouts on Tynamos via Mischievous Punch. Additionally, my sleep flips were stellar, and his whiffs on Pokémon Catcher were atrocious, giving me the chance to keep things close.

Then, with just a few prizes left, I launch a Pokémon-EX exchange, KOing a non-EX with my Mewtwo, letting it get Knocked Out by his Mewtwo, and then closing out his with my Shaymin EX.

Game Two – Again, Tyrogue was a crucial part of my early game strategy, although it went down much faster this game. Due to a relatively weak mid-game hand, I was pushed into prematurely starting the Mewtwo EX war on bad footing, and put myself into a pretty scary “get X-balled and your lose” scenario, but fortunately the N that I dropped stuck, and let me cruise to a conclusive victory.


Past my games with Jorel, there was a whole top sixteen bracket going on at the same time. For a list of full results, look below…

Sweet Sixteen

(Bold= winners)

1st Kiet V. (Chandelures/Vanilluxe/Zekrom/Mewtwo EX) VS 16th Tyler M. (Zekrom/Eelektrik)
8th Rudy P. (Zekrom/Eelektrik) VS 9th Andy M. (Zekrom/Eelektrik)
4th John K. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi Prime/Tornadus) VS 13th Jorel K. (Zekrom/Eelektrik)
5th Frank G. (Landorus/Terrakion/Mewtwo EX) VS 12th Rusty (Straight Terrakion)
2nd Ankur P. (Durant) VS 15th Sidney B. (Donphan/Dragons)
7th Casey B. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi/Tornadus) VS 10th Steve L. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi/Tornadus)
3rd Daniel G. (Durant) VS 14th Austin B. (Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX)
6th Joshua H. (Emboar/Reshiram/RDL/Chandelure NDE) VS 11th Steven E. (Landorus/Terrakion)

pokemon-paradijs.comThat zany Chandelure deck I lost to in the fourth round finished Swiss with a perfect 8-0 record, but his was not the only interesting contraption. 6th seed was a very interesting take on Emboar, utilizing a tech Chandelure line to do two things: starve the Zeel matchup of its Tynamos, and to put as many attackers in range for a Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND knockout as possible.

This may seem all theoretical, but it works: by getting just one Flame Burst onto a Pokémon-EX, you all but guarantee that it will be going down for 3 Prizes. The only exception to this is when Eviolite is played; otherwise, you should be able to grab a very satisfying 3 Prizes quite often in the late game.

Anyway, onto my next match!

Top Eight: VS Rusty, with Straight Terrakion

Game One – I rushed with Tornaduses, and then benched him with Shaymin for the game.

Game Two – This time I start with a Mewtwo EX, and am forced to attack with it. This does not work nearly as well as Tornadus, but it gets the job done, netting me 2 Prizes. Once the Mewtwo EX fell to a Black Belted Retaliate, I again used Shaymin (in tandem with an N to disrupt) for another decisive win.


Both of us weren’t too surprised with this verdict, but the match made me thankful for the Shaymin EX. Most CMT lists do not run it, and I can safely say that it shores up this matchup nicely.

That aside, here was the top eight in its entirety:

Elite Eight

16th Tyler M. (Zekrom/Eelektrik) VS 9th Andy M. (Zekrom/Eelektrik)
4th John K. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi Prime/Tornadus) VS 12th Rusty (Straight Terrakion)
15th Sidney B. (Donphan/Dragons) VS 7th Casey B. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi/Tornadus)
14th Austin B. (Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX) VS 11th Steven E. (Landorus/Terrakion)

Top Four: VS Zekrom/Thundurus/Eelektrik

Game One – He draws a fairly weak hand, and gets mowed over quickly by Tyrogue and Tornadus.

Game Two – My start was too slow to put pressure on him with Tyrogue, so I instead opted to knockout Eelektriks when I could with Tornaduses. Long story short, he got out too fast, and the speed of CMT just did not show up in this game. Struggling to get back into the game, I pushed the Mewtwo EX exchange, and appeared to have won it (he had two lost Mewtwos, a Super Rod, and three Junk Arms); however, he ripped out Mewtwo EX number three, and closed out the game.

Game Three – Due to both of my Mewtwo EXs being prized, my early game situation was far less flexible than it would usually be. He made some smart Eviolite plays to hold back my Tyrogue, but I was at least able to score some easy knockouts. However, one Tyrogue and two Tornadus can only get you so far in that matchup, so I was forced to bring out my trump card: Regigigas-EX.

Thanks to Giga Power, I was able to wipe his board of the last Eelektrik he had. A previously-issued N kept his hand nice and unplayable, so to keep one of his three Mewtwo from wreaking havoc, I benched a recently-freed Mewtwo of my own, and then went on the offensive with it in place of my Gigas, which was promptly sent to the bench.

This left him in a catch 22: he had no way to charge up a Zekrom or Thundurus, and if he Knocked Out Gigas or Mewtwo, then the one that survived would 1-shot the opposing Mewtwo without fail. This worked just the way that I had intended, and so I was able to pull off a narrow win.


Final Four

9th Andy M. (Zekrom/Eelektrik) VS 4th John K. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi Prime/Tornadus)
7th Casey B. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi/Tornadus) VS 14th Austin B. (Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX)

Top Two: VS Mewtwo EX/Celebi

Game One – He wins the opening coin flip…But not anymore past that. On the first turn, Austin flipped six straight tails in a row on Dual Ball, and was benched by the second turn.

Game Two – I started with lone Regigigas, got hit by a Mewtwo EX, and then after benching my topdecked Tornadus, attached a DCE to it on my turn, hoping that he could not score a 1HKO on it. He doesn’t, and instead settles for 80 damage, which leads to a very juicy opening for me: if I can find a second DCE or sufficient switching, Celebi, and two Grass, then I have the KO.

Needless to say, I whiff on energy entirely, and am pigeonholed into launching a losing Mewtwo war. My N against him was a good try, but he drew out of it successfully.

Game Three – I start Tornadus to his lone Mewtwo, and score a turn two 80 on his Mewtwo, sending the G Energy back to Regigigas-EX. Hard-pressed to find an answer, he opts to Dual Ball for a newer, healthier attacker, going two tails in a row. After this, he benches a Celebi Prime, and opts to heal up his Mewtwo via Super Scoop Up: tails.

He then uses a second one (tails), and a third (tails). With a one card hand, he tries to get out of his tight spot, but is promptly Catchered, giving me a 2 Prize edge, and the game in the process.

(11-1; first place)

Top Two

4th John K. (Mewtwo EX/Celebi Prime/Tornadus) VS 14th Austin B. (Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX)

Normally I don’t apologize to my opponents for their own bad luck, but when you take into account that what Austin encountered happens in literally only one of every 2048 games of its kind, it is just plain ridiculous. Regardless, I was well-positioned in both games one and three regardless of flips, and since these things are a part of Pokémon, you can’t help but just tolerate their existence in it.

So there you have it: after the sub-zero, negative showing at Oklahoma, I scored a win at the country’s second largest State tournament this season (my Iron Chef rival, Edmund K./Goldedda, ended up winning in California :P). I received my trophy, box, paperwork for the $300, and headed out as soon as it was convenient for the staff. I had a great time playing, trading, and hanging out with Pokémon TCG friends at both events, and am as excited for weekend #3, if not more so.

Final Comments for Week Three, and Conclusion

Congratulations to everyone who did well at States these past two weekends, and for everyone who didn’t do so well – stay positive! This format has a lot of variance, but stay flexible in your deck choices, and definitely keep fresh with the metagame.

What are my plans for week three? Well, as of now I plan to travel several hours East to go to Mississippi’s State Championship. Although there are bound to be many Texans going to it, I expect the metagame here to be wildly different from the one here in Texas, so I am honestly at a loss for what I should do to prepare. It’s in these moments where you just go test with your main cliques, figure out what works best, and then go for it.

I have several insane “theorymon” ideas that I would like to try, but for now, I should just stow them away, and stick to something that works.

Thanks for reading my reports. I hope that between my commentary, discussion of thought process, and encounters, you also gleamed useful information. Good luck for the rest of States and Regionals!

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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