I’d like to begin this article with a look at how to make comebacks in this format. I see a lot of people complain about how going second often leads to losses, how overpowered Basics combined with Catcher don’t give players any chance to make up for early Prize deficits, and so on — and I disagree. I won’t deny that making a comeback is usually going to be a struggle, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, I would argue that right now we have more opportunities to make comebacks than we’ve had in many years.
The Turn-Around Process
This entire paragraph is common sense, but let me state it anyway: if you’re trying to make a comeback, you’ve almost always given up more Prizes than your opponent (I say “almost always” because you might be up against Durant, or a spread deck, etc.). You can thus no longer expect to win in a constant 1-for-1 Prize exchange, as a lot of decks this format are designed to engage in. Instead, you need to be able to deftly combine defense and offense in such a way that you deny your opponent Prizes while catching up to him by taking Prizes of your own.
This is easier said than done, and as I noted at the outset, it is also common sense, but I spell it out in order to emphasize that the fundamental goal of making a comeback is to put a stop to an opponent’s ability to take Prizes. You normally aren’t playing the game so defensively — after all, how are you going to get 6 Prizes if your primary concern is defense — but when you’re down, say, 4 Prizes to 1, you need to find a way to completely neutralize your opponent’s offensive abilities. This is of paramount importance, not trying to fortify your own offense. That comes later.
Now that the common sense basics are out of the way, I am going to go over some of the most prevalent, effective ways you can make comebacks in this particular metagame.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is undoubtedly the best comeback card in the game at the moment — and probably in the game’s entire history. By resetting an opponent’s hand to 1 or 2 cards, you can potentially lock him out of the game in spite of a huge lead on his part.
For a personal example of how game-changing an N to 1 card is, I’ll relate to you the story of a game I played during Cities against Magnezone/Eelektrik. I was running Tornadus/Terrakion and had gotten off to an amazing, picture-perfect start which included two consecutive KOs with Tyrogue (first on Tynamo with PlusPower, then on Magnemite with double-PlusPower — I couldn’t have asked for more) and then segued into a Landorus offensive attack that netted me my next 3 Prizes.
The only Prize I gave up during this onslaught was my own Tyrogue, which went down at the hand of my own Landorus (Gaia Hammer bench recoil after his Zekrom hit it for 20 with Outrage). Meanwhile, my opponent was reduced to stalling with Cleffa and desperately trying to set up his board in spite of my dominating offense.
Before I could take my 6th Prize, however, my opponent finally got a Magnezone into play and used N in the same turn, putting me at 1 card. I had Switched into a Tornadus, I believe, on my last turn, and Hurricaned in an attempt to shield Landorus and also power up a Terrakion so that I was — in my mind, anyway — guaranteed to have the 1HKO on whatever he had Active on my next turn, regardless of what he KO’d on my side.
However, my opponent had the Catcher to pull my Landorus back up and KO it with Lost Burn. I hadn’t banked on having my hand demolished, removing my ability to give Terrakion his 2nd energy, and having my Landorus Catchered up and KO’d in the same turn.
I was still a long way away from losing though, right? My opponent had a daunting 4 Prizes to draw, and if I drew an energy or a draw Supporter on this turn, I won outright with Retaliate. You can guess what happened; I didn’t draw either of those outs, and I had to pass. I was disappointed, naturally, but I wasn’t worried yet, as I figured I would just feed my opponent my field of 2-3 Tornadus until I did get an energy or Supporter. I still felt safe.
pokemon-paradijs.comMuch to my chagrin, on my opponent’s next turn, he Catchered the Terrakion and KO’d it with another Lost Burn, completely foiling my plan. Now I had nothing but a Tornadus with a DCE for attack power on my field. If I drew a draw Supporter, I could hit an energy and a Catcher/Junk Arm to take out his Benched Cleffa, so I still had a shot, but my hopes were quickly sinking at this dismal reversal of fortune.
Alas, I again drew nothing useful, and my opponent Switched into a Zekrom which took his last 3 Prizes uncontested while I sat in disbelief, essentially draw-passing after pushing up fresh Tornadus for him to slaughter. How had this sure victory for me slipped away into such a disgusting defeat?
N, that’s how.
Sometimes the opponent’s board will be so loaded that an N won’t keep KOs from coming — for example, if I had 2 energy on my Terrakion in that game instead of 1 when I got N’d, I would have immediately won following the Landorus KO. However, if the opponent does not have a sure-fire way to take Prizes already sitting there fully charged on the field, and an N to 1 or 2 bad cards happens, all bets are off, and the stage for a comeback is set.
If the opponent has the DCE he was planning on dropping on his next turn to power up a game-winning X Ball ripped away and replaced by a Pokémon Collector and a PlusPower, what does he do except for pass? What about when the Catchers and Junk Arms that were in his hand before — and which would win him the game now — have been inconveniently sent back inside of a 20-card deck via N, leaving him with no way to bring up that Celebi of yours for his last easy Prize?
Knowing how great N is for securing comebacks, try to avoid using it early on. Sometimes you’ll need to, but otherwise, be conservative — use that PONT or that Sage’s Training instead and save your Ns for when they will hurt the opponent instead of giving him a new hand of 6 cards.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis card works very well in conjunction with N. The idea is usually to bring up something that can’t attack or retreat and attempt to stall the opponent while you build up an attacker that can take out the threat(s) waiting on your opponent’s Bench. We are playing in an era in which it is incredibly easy to disrupt the Bench.
Take advantage of this. You’d be surprised how effective a Catcher on, say, a Shaymin UL is, followed by an N, when you’re just looking to buy time. Your opponent has to hit an energy or draw Supporter off the N or the topdeck to retreat, and if not, you get a free turn to play catch up.
Sometimes that one turn of being able to recharge an attacker or get a new hand or Evolve a Pokémon is all you need to get back into the game. Look at Catcher as a card capable of giving you a “breather,” of halting the opponent’s attack momentarily, of allowing you to get up to speed.
Sometimes you can also use Catcher aggressively in a comeback scenario if the opponent’s biggest threat happens to already be on the Bench for whatever reason, like in my Tornadus/Terrakion example, and you are capable of KOing it.
For a more up-to-date example of when this might actually happen in a tournament, consider the CMT mirror match. In our scenario, Player A is ahead in Prizes after KOing a Mewtwo EX with one of his own Mewtwo that has 80 damage on it from a previous Hurricane. His opponent, Player B, is unable to even damage it on his following turn due to whiffing energy for Tornadus.
Player A then deems it smartest to Switch out to his own Tornadus and let it do the attacking, since Mewtwo can’t 1HKO Tornadus; that way, the Mewtwo is out of harm’s way, waiting in the background ready to respond to any Mewtwo that the opponent might drop.
On Player B’s next turn, he draws a Switch, which he uses to bring up Smeargle. Portrait nets him a Juniper, and from it is he able to get another Mewtwo into play. He powers it up with a DCE, Catchers the charged Mewtwo back into the Active Spot, and then Ns the opponent down to 2 cards. The opponent only has Tornadus and 2 Celebi on his Bench, and he loses the Mewtwo to X Ball. Suddenly the roles are reversed and the player who was behind is now in a position to sweep, assuming that the opponent didn’t draw something silly like Juniper off the N.
3. Bench Damage
pokemon-paradijs.comThis works almost exclusively with Catcher when used in a comeback situation, and once again it also benefits greatly from a disruptive N. The idea is to trap something Active that can’t immediately attack or retreat, and then focus on damaging threats on the opponent’s Bench.
If you were able to N the opponent to 1 or 2 cards in addition to Catchering a lock target, you take the opponent from “about to win the game” to “I am in topdeck mode” instantly. If your opponent can’t get energy to attack or retreat with whatever you Catchered up, you can attack the Bench without repercussion until the Prize gap is closed.
The obvious catch to this is that you need to be running something in your deck that can actually do Bench damage. The most common Pokémon capable of sniping or spreading are Zapdos NXD, Yanmega Prime, Kyurem NVI, and Chandelure (both of them).
Zapdos is an easy fit in Eel decks, and thus the one you’ll see the most; considering that Zekrom/Eel was the most popular and winning deck of States, Zapdos is also going to be easy for a lot of you to run, since I’m sure a fair number of you all are planning on running the deck at Regionals.
As for the rest of the more common Bench-hitting Pokémon: Yanmega saw a bit of a resurgence in play compared to its drop-off during Cities due to its ability to attack for free, which is great against Mewtwo EX, and its ability to snipe off Tynamos or quickly Sonicboom Celebi Primes for 1HKOs. It is usually paired with Mew, which incidentally often uses See Off on another spreader, Chandelure NXD 20, which is great for KOing several Tynamos at once with the 30-30-30 spread.
Chandelure NVI has traditionally been a come-from-behind deck that has a built-in Catcher effect on Lampent NVI; it wasn’t seen much during States though and probably won’t be seen at Regionals either. Kyurem hasn’t been seen much since its strong debut during Cities, but it to do well now with the right support (Electrode Prime, Feraligatr Prime, Exp. Share, etc.), especially considering how strong Glaciate is against Tynamo and Celebi Prime.
I have a lot of recent experience with turning games around due to my ability to damage the Bench. Last year, from States through Regionals, I made a lot of people regret ever Benching their Regice LA/Giratina/Bronzong G with the Froslass GL I ran in my Vilegar list; the strategy was simply to drag those 3-retreat Pokémon up with Sleep Inducer and then terrorize the Bench with Shadow Room/Cursed Drop/Compound Pain while Vileplume kept Switch and Super Scoop Up at bay. This Froslass GL/spread tactic played a huge role in my eventual Regionals win.
Then during Battle Roads this season, I ran Mew lock for several events and again won a lot of games by Linear Attacking the Bench after Sludge Drag had locked various Pokémon impotently in the Active Spot. I remember winning a tournament in which I had to lock a Kingdra Prime in place in the Finals and methodically, turn after turn, set up KOs on the opponent’s Bench with Yanmega while my opponent repeatedly failed to draw into the handful of energy left in his deck (which was Yanmega/Kingdra/Jirachi, by the way — he had already used up a lot of energy and I knew the deck didn’t run too many more).
I was down 4 Prizes to 1, I believe, and I pulled the game out with sniping because my opponent had simply exhausted most of his energy.
I also won the Oklahoma State Championship this year with Zekrom/Eel, and my 1-of Zapdos sealed several important, close games for me in the top cut, including the mirror in top 16, a Mew/Yanmega in top 8, and another Mew/Yanmega in the finals. In the mirror and the top 8 matches, I used Zapdos plus Catcher when I was down in Prizes to keep my opponent from taking more while I picked off things like Tynamo, Mew with Rainbow Energy damage, and Yanma.
EXs contribute to comebacks in two different ways. First, they give you the opportunity to tank and sweep at the end of a game with their 170-180 HP, access to Eviolite, and huge damage output; once again, a well-timed N can go a long way toward solidifying your position. Second, if they’re sitting on your opponent’s side of the field, they can help you make up for a Prize deficit with their 2-Prize EX clause.
Watch for your opponent to misplay with his EXs, such as Benching one prematurely or unnecessarily, and do what you can to make him pay for it with Catcher. A lot of players don’t have experience with Pokémon-EX because they weren’t around during the original EX era, and misplaying with them is easy to do if you lack the familiarity with how to handle the basic 2-Prize liability.
On the flip side of that, make sure you don’t misplay with your own EXs in the same way. This is especially crucial if you’re trying to make a comeback and your opponent has 2 Prizes because it means he only has to score one more KO potentially to win instead of two, but not so important if he only has 1 (because the extra Prize obviously makes no difference then).
5. Better Management of Resources
Have you ever watched your opponent Juniper away a hand with a Junk Arm, Catcher, and PONT in it — and wondered why he wouldn’t just use the PONT instead and conserve those valuable resources? Well, for some reason, players will occasionally decide to get reckless with their discards when they don’t have to.
Of course, sometimes they do have to — for example, the opponent’s hand has a lot of good cards in it, along with a Juniper, which he needs to use right now in order to try to draw into another Pokémon to avoid being Benched out. When things like that happen, consider yourself fortunate, because it means that should your opponent end up putting you into a comeback situation, he’ll be missing valuable resources that he never got to use.
You, on the other hand — assuming you’ve been careful with your own resource management and haven’t been forced to make plays like he did with Juniper/Sage’s etc. — will have access to that extra Catcher or Junk Arm or Switch that could solidify your comeback.
To ensure that you get the most mileage out of your resources, all you need to do is be careful what you discard. Junk Arm, Sage’s Training, and Juniper all present you with many opportunities throughout the game to make bad discarding decisions. Know what cards are most valuable in what matchups so you are aware what is expendable and what is not.
For example, if you’re against Durant and you’re running straight Terrakion, do you really need Exp. Share? The only time you would ever even get any use out of it in that matchup is if the opponent does something with Rotom or his tech Mewtwo EX, so you might bench a Terrakion with an Exp. Share if you fear that you’ll lose your Active one to one of those two rare attackers. The rest of the Exp. Share are fair game to be discarded via Junk Arm.
One of the effects of an opponent not managing his resources correctly is “missing beats.” By this I mean he will miss the chance to do something like respond to a KO, or refresh his hand, or attach an energy for the turn. If a beat is missed, especially when it involves missing a KO, you are basically being given a cordial invitation from Fate itself to make your comeback.
For example, say you’re playing a Zekrom/Eel mirror and your opponent discarded several PlusPower and Junk Arm throughout the game via Juniper and Sage’s Training. He has a Zekrom Active and so do you; yours just used Bolt Strike with an Eviolite on it, so it has 20 damage. Your opponent needs to PlusPower in order to get the KO with Bolt Strike, but he doesn’t have one due to his lack of foresight earlier.
A momentum swing like this can be huge, and it all boils down to resource management. Always be looking for missed beats like this.
Here is a sample breakdown of essential resources for Zekrom/Eel. You should do this yourself for the rest of the big decks in the format — look at the lists provided all over 6P and start dissecting them, figuring out how important specific cards are for each deck in different matchups.
– PlusPower vs. most decks (lets you get essential 1HKOs on opposing Zekrom and Terrakion with your Zekrom, Mewtwo EX with 2 energy on it with your Mewtwo with 2 energy on it, etc.)
– Eviolite vs. most decks (forces the opponent to use PlusPower to 1HKO things like Zekrom after it Bolt Strikes, or drop 3 energy on a Mewtwo EX to 1HKO yours with only 2 energy on it; makes it harder for Rotom to Plasma Arrow Zekrom for a KO)
– N vs. everything (we all know how instrumental N is in making comebacks; even against Durant it can be useful—not for diminishing the opponent’s hand, of course, but for putting cards back into your deck after you’ve taken 3-4 Prizes)
– Double Colorless Energy vs. most decks (lets you retreat Eelektriks instantly, power up Mewtwo EX out of nowhere if you have no Eelektrik in play—or just 1 Eelektrik when you needed a 2nd, etc.)
– Tynamo/Eelektrik vs. everything (backbone of the deck)
– Junk Arm vs. everything but Trainer lock decks (endlessly useful, always; this is one of the cards you need to protect from the discard pile the most, since it is essentially a duplicate copy of every other Item you run)
– Zekrom vs. most decks (after Mewtwo, this is the deck’s best attacker, and in some matchups, such as Durant, it is the absolute MVP)
– Mewtwo EX vs. most decks (the best attacker in the game; if you discard any of your Mewtwo for any reason, you put yourself in danger of losing the Mewtwo war that seems to inevitably break out in most games)
Now I want to devote an entire subsection of this comeback portion of the article to a deck everyone loves to hate: Durant.
Durant is a deck that plays from behind by design, so it comes ready with more methods for staging comebacks than most decks, yet after all this time, I think a fair amount of people still don’t quite realize all of its capabilities, from those running it to those playing against it — and that’s why I want to single it out for a more in-depth discussion. Here is a run-down of different things Durant can do to successfully take back the reigns of a game that is slipping away:
1. Remove Energy
pokemon-paradijs.comThe deck should be running 4 Crushing Hammer and at least 2 Lost Remover. Between these 6+ cards and 4 Junk Arm, there are many opportunities to strip the opponent’s field of critical energy all throughout the game. The goal in doing so is obviously to keep the opponent from attacking for as long as possible, while also forcing him to use draw cards to access more energy—and whittle his own deck down in the process.
While Crushing Hammer and Lost Remover are taking energy off the board, Devour will generally also be taking energy away from the deck, which can quickly lead to an energy drought for the opponent that sticks.
A common mistake players make when running Durant is using Twins to grab things like Revive when instead they should be grabbing their energy denial cards. Milling 4 cards over 3 is not that big of a deal compared to the chance to buy an entire turn of immunity via energy denial.
You also have to use discretion on what you choose to remove energy from. While it may seem like an obvious choice (go for the attacker!), it actually isn’t always going to be that clear-cut.
For example, consider the following scenario. You’re playing against an Eelektrik deck and the opponent has a Benched Eel with a Double Colorless energy, a Tyrogue, and an Active Zekrom with an Eviolite, 3 Lightning energy, and 60 damage. He has 2 Prizes left and 15 cards in his deck.
You just lost a Durant to Bolt Strike and have 3 more on the field, one with a Special Metal attached to it. You have a Twins in hand, along with 2 Crushing Hammer and a Juniper and some other cards that don’t matter at the moment. Both of the Lost Remover that you run are still in the deck, and so are 2 of your 4 Catcher.
You check the opponent’s discard pile and notice 2 Junk Arm and 2 Switch, as well as 2 Double Colorless energy. You also take note of your opponent’s hand size, which is sitting at 4 cards, and then you look back through his discard pile for a draw-Supporter tally and find 3 PONT, 2 Juniper, and 2 Sage’s Training.
pokemon-paradijs.comSo what do you grab with Twins based on this information? I gave a hint when I mentioned the Lost Remover and Catcher counts left in the deck. You should take one of each, Catcher up the Eelektrik, and then send its DCE to the Lost Zone with Lost Remover.
Your opponent will only have one DCE left, as well as 2 Junk Arm and probably zero Switch, as most lists run 2 max, so his options for getting Eel back to the Bench immediately are limited. With a 4-card hand and 7 draw Supporters in his discard, you figure that the odds are slim of him having what he needs to get Zekrom back into the Active Spot on his next turn.
Do you use the Crushing Hammers in your hand on the Zekrom that you sent to the Bench? Of course not — Dynamotor can put them back on, so that would be a complete waste. Instead, save them for whenever the opponent attaches a L Energy from his hand to the Active Eel (assuming that your gamble paid off and he doesn’t have the means to get it back immediately with a Switch or that last DCE).
If you can nail a heads to take the Lightning away, you’ll buy another turn of immunity while that Eel sits there doing nothing and Zekrom sits furiously stymied on the Bench.
2. Catcher Abuse
Catcher is usually an offensive card used to cherry-pick KOs from anywhere on the field. In Durant, it is a defensive card used to drag Pokémon into the Active Spot that don’t threaten an immediate KO on Durant. The best Pokémon to bring up are those like Eelektrik that are not meant to be attackers at all, or Pokémon like Terrakion that are energy-intensive and, thus, slow and susceptible to Crushing Hammer.
The goal with Catcher is to keep KOs at bay by keeping attackers on the Bench. Whatever Pokémon the opponent isn’t attaching energy to are potential targets, even if a particular Pokémon is eventually capable of KOing Durant, such as Zekrom-EX or the aforementioned Terrakion.
By dragging Pokémon up that aren’t being primed for attacking, you’re forcing the opponent to do one of three things: waste an energy (or multiple energies) on retreating that Pokémon for the designated attacker, which makes Lost Remover/Crushing Hammer more effective; adapt and start powering up the Catchered Pokémon to attack; or simply pass due to the inability to do either of these things.
pokemon-paradijs.comYou need to know what your biggest enemies are, as well as your best Catcher targets, to know how to use Catcher most effectively.
In the Eel matchup, Zekrom is going to be the Pokémon that will give you the most consistent trouble, so you need to Catcher up everything else with a Retreat Cost that your opponent happens to have in play. The best Pokémon to target is Eelektrik, followed by Zekrom-EX. A good opponent will try to limit his field to nothing but an attacking Zekrom and Tynamos/babies/Eelektriks on the Bench, but sometimes such an ideal field isn’t possible.
For example, most Zekrom/Eel lists aren’t running more than 2 Zekrom, so the odds of it being in the opening hand aren’t very high. There are still 3-4 Tynamo and perhaps a baby left to open with instead, but what if the Zekrom player doesn’t know he is going against Durant? What if his opening hand has a Mewtwo EX and a Tynamo in it and he has no idea what his opponent is playing (which is actually going to be quite common in a large field like Regionals; this isn’t a small Battle Road where you’re against league friends all day whose decks you knew about before you even showed up)?
A sensible player would either open lone Mewtwo EX to avoid exposing the Tynamo to an easy Tyrogue/Mewtwo EX KO should the opponent win the coin flip, or just open with both down and Tynamo Active in the hopes of going first and having some flexibility with retreating (into his own Tyrogue or a Thundurus).
Unfortunately, Mewtwo pales in comparison to Zekrom as an attacker in the Durant matchup, needing too many energy to get 1HKOs, and it becomes a Catcher liability on the Bench. Skyarrow Bridge is admittedly a great way to offset this, and some builds are running it successfully (such as Jay Hornung), but the majority weren’t/aren’t and likely won’t come Regionals.
In the Celebi matchup, you’ll probably be getting attacked primarily by Mewtwo EX unless the opponent is running Regigigas-EX. You actually don’t have any Catcher targets once Skyarrow Bridge (obviously a staple here, unlike in Zekrom) comes into play, unless the opponent Benched multiple Mewtwo EX or a bulky tech like Terrakion.
If Skyarrow never does come down — and some lucky Devours might see to that — then your target range opens up, although you still have to contend with the deck’s high Switch count (often maxed). Tornadus is a good target since it gets rid of energy from itself every time it attacks, plus it can’t 1HKO an Eviolited Durant without PlusPower.
3. Surprise 1HKOs
pokemon-paradijs.comIt is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when playing against Durant, and buy into the notion that you’ll never be facing an offensive threat. It is also easy as the Durant player to forget that there are offensive options in the deck, which sounds strange — why would a player forget his own deck’s capabilities? Well, when those capabilities are unusual and don’t obviously connect to the deck’s core strategy, it becomes easy to overlook them.
The main offensive threat in Durant is Rotom UD, which every list should be playing — for Mischievous Trick, of course, not its attack. That attack is golden, though, and has surprising synergy with the deck’s energy denial tactics by punishing a player for stacking excess energy on his attacker in an attempt to counter Crushing Hammer/Lost Remover. Plasma Arrow’s Lightning energy requirement is no problem with 2+ Twins-able Prisms in the deck, and it only takes one attachment, meaning Rotom can deal damage “out of nowhere.”
The big victim of Plasma Arrow is Zekrom, due to Bolt Strike’s recoil damage. After a Zekrom without Eviolite Bolt Strikes twice, it has 80 on it, which opens the door for a 60-damage Plasma Arrow KO. With Black Belt, Rotom can actually 1HKO an un-Eviolited Zekrom after the first Bolt Strike. This math is being done under the assumption that Zekrom has the minimum 3 energy on it, too, so if it has more, then Plasma Arrow can potentially get a KO more quickly, not need Black Belt, etc..
Now, why does it matter if Rotom takes a KO in a deck that doesn’t win on Prizes? It matters because it can mean the end of the opponent’s offense. Players have become accustomed to powering up a single Pokémon capable of 1HKOing Durant and then living or dying by it alone for the duration of a game. If you can KO that Pokémon, you may well leave the opponent with no response, especially if you’ve been dutifully Devouring for enough time beforehand and stripped him of other Pokémon/energy.
More realistically, you’ll buy yourself at least a few turns of immunity while your opponent scrambles to build up another attacking option, and those turns can easily be all you need to mill the last of his cards.
In some cases, you can even Bench a player out with Rotom. For example, say you’re against straight Terrakion and your opponent, forgetting about your Rotom option, sees no reason to Bench a 2nd Terrakion for you to Catcher-harass all game, and goes to town with energy attachments. 4 energy plus Black Belt plus PlusPower = 1HKO, 5 energy plus Black Belt = 1HKO, etc..
pokemon-paradijs.comPlusPower in Durant, you ask? It’s been seen, and it makes sense — Black Belt and Plasma Arrow both deal in even damage increments, and a lot of Pokémon have odd-numbered HP. A single PlusPower is easy to include, and easy to fetch with Twins when needed.
The other offensive threat in Durant isn’t ingrained in the deck like Rotom, but an exotic import: Mewtwo EX (with a couple of DCE, which actually let Durant itself donk Babies/Tynamos). Like a lone PlusPower, you really wouldn’t expect this card in Durant either, especially after everyone started pegging Durant as the deck people who couldn’t acquire Mewtwo would run.
When you think about it though, the inclusion of Mewtwo makes a lot of sense. X Ball is clearly superior to Plasma Arrow and, like that attack, punishes energy stacking, and Mewtwo’s ability to 1HKO other Mewtwos is a huge selling point. Best of all, Mewtwo is great with N, whereas Rotom isn’t, because X Ball doesn’t rely on the opponent completely to deal damage. It is actually possible to win the game on Prizes, or via Bench-out, with an N to 1 followed by an X Ball sweep.
Unlike Rotom, Mewtwo declares himself as an offensive threat as soon as the opponent catches wind that you run it — for example, if he sees it in your hand after a Portrait, or if you have the misfortune of opening with it. It also gives up 2 Prizes and is, ironically, sometimes easier to immediately KO than Rotom is — at the hands of a response Mewtwo. It is therefore harder to use correctly. You have to make an assessment of your opponent’s board, his hand, his discard pile, and his deck size in order to figure out your odds of successfully crippling your opponent with an X Ball.
pokemon-paradijs.comThere is no way for you to control what you’re Devouring each turn, but that uncontrollability doesn’t mean that Devour isn’t still a huge part of coming back in a game. Bizarre as it sounds, you can make a comeback “in advance” with Devour — by discarding cards that will end up being critical for the opponent later, such as Junk Arm, Switch, energy, etc., you set yourself up for a comeback if things start getting out of hand (provided you are getting aid from Crushing Hammer/Lost Remover/Catcher etc.).
Always monitor what you are Devouring. Don’t just sit there staring off into space every time your opponent flips his top 4 into the discard. You should know what standard lists look like for all the big decks by now, and you should also be able to figure out critical cards in any other deck on the fly just by being attentive/knowledgeable, so constantly be aware of what you are taking away from your opponent. That way, you can gauge his options and make more informed plays, such as in the Eelektrik/Catcher/Lost Remover example I mentioned earlier.
Yes, I went over N in general earlier, but it gets special mention here again, partly because N is a bit misunderstood in Durant by some people. The misconception is that N is a bad card to use sometimes here since it puts cards back into the opponent’s deck, and deck replenishment is not something Durant wants to do.
Putting cards back into the opponent’s deck doesn’t matter if the opponent can’t do anything to you as a result of the loss of his hand. If you can nail an opponent with a 1-or-2-card N and then also hit an attack-disabling Crushing Hammer, or a trapping Catcher, or a big KO with Rotom/Mewtwo, you potentially make the trade of putting a few extra cards in the deck for an extended stretch of using Devour/X Ball without opposition, which ideally will win you the game. Your opponent is going to be in topdeck mode, and that is an incredibly dangerous place to be, especially with Devour getting a chance to remove outs like draw Supporters and energy each turn.
By now everyone should be aware of what the top decks in the format are. I am not going to be dissenting from the well-established popular opinion that puts CMT and Eel variants at the top of the mountain, with Durant sitting a bit below them, and decks like Terrakion and Mew variants sitting a little further below that.
That being said, I know there are a lot of players out there who are always looking for a way to counter the format, or at least run something unique that can win partly due to the blindside factor that a well-sheltered rogue deck — or “SD” — tends to have. I am one of these players too. I don’t ever actually run a rogue deck unless I am confident in its abilities, but I am always keeping my eyes open and actively trying to pioneer new decks on the off chance that I will strike gold. With Regionals approaching, my eyes are still wide open.
If there were no such rogue-minded players in our game, we wouldn’t have had championship-winning decks like Toxicroak/Scizor, Gyarados, Flygon/Machamp, Sablelock, The Truth, or Straight Terrakion. We can look at decks like The Truth or Gyarados after they’ve debuted and had great success and ask ourselves, “why didn’t we think of this first? How did we miss these obvious powerful combos? Gyarados plus Broken-Time Space and Pokémon Rescue is sick! Vileplume and Reuniclus create a near-invincible tank!”
cartoonstock.comWhile the rest of the world failed to see the “obvious” powerhouse combos sitting right there in our binders, there were a few pioneers who did see, and those people were able to change the metagame drastically with only a few initial representatives in the field — sometimes only one person, as is the case with Ross Cawthon and The Truth last year at Worlds.
Archetypes aren’t always born out of inevitability, like Zekrom/Eelektrik or Typhlosion/Reshiram. Sometimes great things aren’t so obvious, and they’re being created right under our noses by the rogue deck builders who make it a point to dig.
I say all this as a preface to this next section, which is going to consist of me giving you 4 different rogue lists I’ve been working on recently. I am not going to falsely claim that any of these concepts will win you a first-place trophy (or medal — I don’t know what they’re doing for prizes this year), nor am I going to guarantee that my specific lists of the moment are masterpieces. Some of the ideas and lists are more fine-tuned than others.
Some of them are really risky or off-the-wall. What I can guarantee is that you’ll catch people off guard with all of them, they do at least theoretically stand a chance versus the format, and the concepts behind each are solid.
This first deck uses one of my favorite cards of all time, Weavile UD. No one seems to be using this card in spite of its extreme disruptive ability, and with the list below, I believe I have found a way to put the evil power of Claw Snag to effective use.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comThe strategy is to use Judge as soon as possible — preferably turn 1, if Virizion is Active and able to use Double Draw — followed by a quick Claw Snag (or two, or three….). The downside to using Judge on the first or second turn is immediately offset by Double Draw, and the opponent is hopefully stuck with a lackluster 4 cards. Leaf Wallop is a good attack if the opponent doesn’t have the ability to Catcher the +40 effect off and/or respond with a strong attacker, and Judge + Weavile is designed to prevent both things from derailing Virizion in the early game.
Of course, Virizion alone is not going to carry this deck as soon as the opponent does get something going — and they probably will at some point, in spite of Weavile/Judge — so it runs 3 powerful EXs to provide the real meat of the offense.
Mewtwo needs no explanation at this point. It is simply the best attacker in the game. It doesn’t have any energy acceleration here, but it does have Claw Snag and Judge to potentially strip the opponent of essential “Mewtwo war” cards like PlusPower, DCE, Mewtwos themselves, Dual Ball, Collector, etc.. If the opponent does get severely hindered by this deck’s disruption, Mewtwo has the potential to sweep through an opponent’s entire field all by itself.
Regigigas-EX takes more energy than Mewtwo to attack, but it has the benefit of not being 1HKO’d by opposing Mewtwos, it can deal a reliable 80-for-3 regardless of the opponent’s energy, and Raging Hammer is capable of dealing absurd damage to any threat that does get developed through the Judge/Weavile disruption. It is also handy against Durant, which is important since the Durant matchup is otherwise difficult.
pokemon-paradijs.comShaymin EX is here because the deck runs Grass energy already, and any deck that runs Grass can benefit from its unparalleled late-game sweeper potential. Shaymin UL can allow it to come into play and get fully energized all in the same turn.
I’ve experimented with Dual Ball over Collector in the past, mainly so that I have the opportunity to fetch a Virizion and use Judge in the same turn. I personally don’t like the unreliability of Dual Ball, but it is still a very sound choice.
I love the disruption of Weavile combined with the aggression and sturdiness of the EXs. I also love the Virizion plus Judge combo, and the ability this deck has to use Leaf Wallop for 80 for several turns on end. People aren’t used to having their hands picked apart; they may be used to late-game Ns, but not early-game harassment from Claw Snag. Hand disruption of this sort was very successful last format and the one prior, with Sablelock winning Nationals in 2010. I think now is a good time for Weavile to bring hand disruption back into the metagame.
Feraligatr Prime/Kyurem EX
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 34
Energy – 12
Kyurem EX is a great tank candidate due to its uncommon weakness, defensive first attack — which is great in this Special-energy-driven format—and huge HP. Feraligatr solves the problem of being unable to attack immediately after healing. Aside from that, Rain Dance is just a great Power all around, allowing for potentially explosive turn 2s and instant recovery when a KO is dealt.
Feraligatr has always been an underrated form of energy acceleration — and energy acceleration is the name of the game right now. Feraligatr has just always been in need of a solid partner to get the most out of Rain Dance, and Kyurem EX provides an ideal companion. Heavy Ball searches Feraligatr directly, and also fetches Kyurem EX. I decided not run any Croconaw because Trainer lock is scarce, and lack of Pokémon Communication means that I couldn’t search out the Stage 1 anyway.
Kyurem NVI is another great card to run alongside the Rain Dancer. Glaciate can soften an entire field up for 1HKOs from Hail Blizzard, and it punishes Tynamo and Celebi all day. If Durant can’t get Special Metal and Eviolites into play fast enough, Glaciate can do big damage in that matchup too. Kyurem is also a good opener, as it a.) won’t get donked, b.) can punish quick attacks with Outrage, and c.) can use Glaciate turn 2 with a good start.
I am only running one Mewtwo because this deck isn’t aiming to engage in a Mewtwo war, yet there are always going to be opportunities to take big KOs with X Ball. Rain Dance can’t power up Mewtwo directly, but with the aid of Shaymin, Feraligatr can still contribute to Mewtwo’s cause in a huge way.
I like the idea of this deck a lot. Tank decks that also possess speed and the ability to replace attackers quickly are rare, and no one is expecting to have to deal with them. A few good SSUs on Kyurem EX and this deck can take down anything. It is admittedly a bit risky, not just because of the flips but because it dares to run a Stage 2 in a hostile, anti-Evolution metagame, but the potential rewards are huge.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 39
Energy – 3
This deck has been seen before, but I think it can safely be classified as “rogue” still since it is completely off the radar right now. Even when it was played before, it wasn’t a big deck. Certainly no one is expecting to see it now.
The strategy is to attack the opponent’s hand aggressively with Weavile while rushing them with Yanmega swarms, starting on turn 2. The opponent is not supposed to be able to develop his board until it is too late. SSU and Seeker allow for reuse of Weavile to keep hands unplayable, and maxed Catcher allows for a lot of easy KOs to prevent Eel/Celebi/etc. from staying on the field.
Because Yanmega attacks for free, the deck only runs 3 Rescue energy and is thus able to run a ton of Trainers in the spots where energy would normally go. There is a lot of consistency here with 3 Pokégear and 13 draw Supporters, as well as Noctowl. That card is included to help keep Judge from backfiring and sticking you with a dead hand. It is also good for activating Insight; you have more flexibility with playing cards from your hand with it on your Bench.
For example, if you use a Judge and pull a Communication and a Pokémon off of it, and have a Sneasel Benched, you can use the Communication, get Weavile, use Claw Snag to put the opponent at 3 cards, and then Night Sight to put you back to 3 as well. I used this card at Worlds in my Yanmega/Weavile/Zoroark deck, and I loved it.
Yanmega’s HP isn’t great and neither is its Lightning weakness, but it is effective against Mewtwo due to its lack of a need for energy and its ability to easily KO Mewtwo’s energy acceleration. Fighting resistance comes in handy too against Terrakion. Even Yanmega’s biggest threats, such as Zekrom, can potentially be staved off by the disruption of Weavile and Judge combined with a quick swarm of Sonicbooms.
This deck isn’t designed to go blow for blow with other decks; as I said earlier, it is meant to deny set up and win via the rush. It only has one attacker, and Sonicboom is of course the attack that will be used most. It has a bit of room for comebacks even if the opponent does set up due to Weavile, N, Judge, Catcher, and Yanmega’s Bench-sniping ability, but it admittedly has a hard time containing an explosive set up from the opponent. It is another risky deck with high rewards; it goes all in, and when it works, it devastates.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
Energy – 11
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a spin on the Gardevoir/Mewtwo deck that a few people have written about recently on this site, but no one has actually played. Instead of trying to win the Mewtwo war with Mewtwo, it tries to win it with… Mew, using Mewtwo.
Mew can use See Off to send a Mewtwo to the Lost Zone, but this list is built so that See Off is used as a last resort. Relicanth is the preferred means of Lost Zoning, as it shields Mew from being immediately KO’d after See Off and also draws 3 cards, which aids in achieving the turn 2 Gardevoir.
With Gardevoir down, Mew only needs one Psychic to do X Ball, and 2 to Psydrive. There are also still 4 DCE here to allow for immediate X Balls even without Psychic Mirage, or a turn 1 X Ball donk from Mewtwo itself. The Mewtwo EX that is left in the deck after the Lost Zoning can of course still come into play and attack too, and it is a great end-game option in tandem with N.
Opposing Mewtwo-based decks should be scared out of dropping their Mewtwos down. That is what Mew does psychologically to Mewtwo players, regardless of what deck the Mew is in. No one is going to give up an EX to a 60 HP Basic that can attack for one energy. This is a big advantage for you to have, as it forces the opponent to attack you primarily with Tornadus in the CMT matchup, or Zekrom/Thundurus/Tornadus in the Zekrom/Eel matchup, and Psydrive 1HKOs all of those Pokémon (Zekrom after Bolt Strike, although X Ball does too), barring Eviolite.
Against Durant, you would aim to get 3 energy on Mew with a Gardevoir and another Mew with an Exp. Share Benched (in case of Rotom) and attempt to 1HKO a Durant a turn with X Ball.
Exp. Share is here to allow Mews to use Psydrive on back to back turns. No one has been using that attack because no one has been running Mewtwo in a Psychic deck, so it hasn’t been talked about much. It’s a great value with Gardevoir in play—2 energy for 120 coming from a Basic that doesn’t give up 2 Prizes and that 1HKOs any Mewtwo in sight, no questions asked.
pokemon-paradijs.comBeing able to do 120 straight-up is important sometimes, such as when the opponent’s attackers can’t be 1HKO’d by X Ball. Since Mew specializes in Prize trading, it is bad for it to be stuck with a 2-shot on something that is taking it down in one hit. Psydrive gives Mew a way to 1HKO a lot of things without dependence on their energy levels.
The Trainers can definitely use some fine-tuning work here. I would like to run more of everything, especially PlusPower, and I really want the 4th Junk Arm and Exp. Share. I don’t see any easy cuts though—every card in the list has a purpose, and I’m already going as low as I can on things like the Gardevoir count. (I think 2 is fine with the 3 Sage’s and Relicanth’s draw power.)
I think the concept has potential though. Gardevoir is yet another energy manipulator in our format, and it just so happens to aid and abet the game’s greatest attacker at the moment. I love Mew as a Mewtwo counter and also as a glass cannon, and I like how Relicanth lets you have all 4 Mew to actually attack with, instead of 3 (the 1st will usually get KO’d immediately after using See Off).
Those are all decks I plan on testing for Regional, so even if they fall flat, be assured I’m not just giving you random bad decks/lists that I typed up on a lark. I’ll let you know how they’re doing in the forums, and if you decide to try any of them out, feel free to give me feedback as well.
Keep in mind that they are off the map, and just like in real life when you’re on a trip and you decide to go into strange, uncharted territory, you abandon the safety of the well-worn path (tread by CMT, Durant, Zekrom/Eel, Terrakion, etc.) and are at risk of getting lost, eaten by wolves, etc..
Then again, you might also discover a new country.
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
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