Earning Your MAF Degree: “Master of Alternative Formats”

In this economy, the job competition can be tough. Between record underemployment, less-than-stellar employment rates, and a market full of professionals in the Pokémon Centers and Gym industries, you need something to make you stand out in this market.

What is that “something,” you ask?

A “Master of Alternative Formats” degree – that’s what.

(Disclaimer: reading this article does not guarantee you employment.)

To earn an MAF, you need sufficient mastery in each of the following subjects. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Unlimited
  • Limited (“draft” or “sealed”)
  • Altered rules (e.g., this year’s Professor Cup format)

So what are you waiting for? Get your Pokémon MAF today!

($500 non-refundable deposits can be made payable to John Kettler @ John Kettler, Inc.)

Why is it Worth My Time to Master Alternate Formats?

In all seriousness, you actually have several sound reasons for wanting to learn more about the other formats available to play. I understand that many of you come from a “modified only” train of thought, but perhaps after digesting this section, you’ll get a feel for why knowing about more sides to this game can be a boon to your play.

First off, the more depth to your skill set, the better. In the Pokémon Trading Card Game, the sum of a good player isn’t made up by merely a person’s intelligence: if that were the case, then there wouldn’t be so many brilliant people who struggle to do well, and there would especially be a lack of savants.

smplyskool.caSure, being a smart guy or girl can be helpful, but it ultimately comes down to developing your skills. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Calculation of probabilities
  • Decision-making
  • Time management
  • Analysis
  • Focus
  • Ability to read opponents
  • Ability to play legal mind games on the opponent

…And so on. Whereas modified formats tend to be good exercises in most or all of the above, other formats often pinpoint a particular skill. For example, unlimited has a huge emphasis on making the right decisions: if you do so much as start with the wrong Pokémon (say, a Zekrom BLW over a Spiritomb AR), then you will lose VERY quickly. Another example is of a standard draft, which requires a very obvious, immediate need to work under time.

Of course, no method of play is perfect, and that includes these alternative play methods. Unlimited and draft, for instance, emphasize probability far less than the main format, albeit for two completely different reasons: deck construction in unlimited entails an ease of hitting what you need when you need it; and most draft decks just simply lack the searching resources to allow for complex odds.

Mark A. Hicks

Be that as it may, they both have very clear strengths over modified, and for that reason alone are worth checking out at least once in your playing career.

Second, the players with the best working knowledges of how to play and build decks for alternate formats tend to rise to the top very easily. In most cases, I’m of the belief that the best articles that come out of SixPrizes Underground are the ones that offer up something more helpful then just decklists; that is, something that can offer you a permanent way to improve your game that can’t just be leaked out into the general public with ease.

Through this article, though I think that the more stereotypical uses of Underground kick in, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, some of these deck ideas are very effective at taking advantage of their formats, and you will find quickly that there are far less people with a fully developed understanding of unlimited, draft, or even the Professor Cup than there are those with modified.

As for ratio, the percentage of prepared-to-unprepared players is much lower in alternate formats, as well. Therefore, those with a leg up can and will no doubt have the best chance of winning an alt format event.

Third, playing the game outside of the typical rules found in events is fun! Getting to play in a non-modified tournament is a very rare, special treat for most players, especially since our round-the-clock schedule of premier-level play makes it so hard to find people actually interested in anything else.

savagechickens.comExtended or unlimited formats can be especially neat for players who never got to experience classic cards in their glory days. Also, due to the first turn rules, you might not be enjoying modified as much as you have in the past, so playing in a different format can be seen as kind of a “retreat” from the norm.

Adding onto that “retreat’ argument, this is possibly the best time to address Unlimited, Limited, and the Professor Cup. At this point in the season, the overwhelming majority of our players are in a bit of a down time leading up to U. S. Nationals, and for the most part know if they need to go long at Nationals in order to nab a coveted invite to the World Championships.

For the few European players who need the perspective, as well as those of you on the fence of an invite, I am confident that the rest of the Underground content featured from late April until June should be enough to prep you for any upcoming events.

In other words, this is a window of opportunity to fill a niche that’s been seriously lacking in detailed discussion, as well as a chance for me to keep my creative skills in both deck theory and content production strong.

(And to those of you who still want Modified over all else, no worries – I’ll be back with Battle Road reports at the end of the month!)

For all of the above reasons and much more, that is why knowing how to play in non-modified events can be a useful, great tool to have in your player arsenal.

Unlimited: Where the Sky is the Limit

pokemon-paradijs.comMost of you probably know plenty about what the unlimited format entails, but in case you don’t, here is a refresher:

“Unlimited decks may contain cards from any and all Pokémon Trading Card Game sets and promotional cards that have been released in the United States. Players using cards that have been reprinted in a later set must play those cards using the wording of the most recent printing. New sets are allowed as soon as the product has been released.

There are currently no cards banned in the Unlimited format.”

Source Link

See the key phrase there? “Any and all” sets and promotions! Of course this excludes any card that has “not for play use” written on its back, leading to a very limited ban list, consisting of:

  • Jumbo cards
  • Ancient Mew

…And that’s about it. Basically, this format is your free range: make of it what you will, and construct the most effective decks that you can!

Although Play! Pokémon’s rules consider Unlimited to have both constructed and limited versions, for the sake of simplicity, we will just refer to what they call “Unlimited-constructed” as “Unlimited.” Likewise, the term “Limited” in the next section will cover both “Modified-Limited” and “Unlimited-Limited.”

What are Some Important Things to Know about Unlimited?

Of course, jumping into competitive deck-building and playing for unlimited is not a good idea if you don’t know what you’re in for; otherwise, you can and will get killed very quickly. With the entire history of the Pokémon Trading Card Game at your command, a whole array of strange combos and lightning-fast death decks are possible, so you had best be prepared.

Point One

Get reacquainted with these two:








Going first in unlimited is even more important than it is in modified, because you have access to the following:















…And so much more that this article can spend time addressing. Since the Supporter class of Trainer did not exist back in the good ol’ days, cards like Oak and Erika can be played multiple times on a turn, meaning that you can run through your deck with no effort at all. The other two cards listed, Computer Search and Item Finder, make it worse.

Fortunately, running maximum counts on Sableye and Spiritomb can give you complete control of a game. For starters, Sableye’s Overeager turns what would otherwise be a 50% chance of going first into a 70-75% one (accounting for rare instances when both you and your opponent start with Sableye). As for Spiritomb, it is without a doubt a savior to any deck trying to not go for the fast turn one kill.

To give you a good feel for why we run this sort of lineup on starters, take a look a basic, yet lethal unlimited concept…

Pokémon – 12

4 Crobat G
4 Sableye SF
4 Uxie LA

Trainers – 45

4 Computer Search
4 Erika
4 Item Finder
4 Junk Arm
4 Poké Drawer +
4 Pokédex HANDY910is
4 Professor Oak
4 Scoop Up
4 Super Scoop Up
4 Poké Turn
2 Expert Belt


2 Seeker


1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 3

3 Special D

The idea of this concept is to not just win; it’s to win on the first turn of the game, and with near complete accuracy. Using Sableye’s Overconfident or Uxie’s Psychic Restore, you can deal an efficient amount of damage to the active, preceded by a storm of Crobat G Flash Bites. Through the initial Powers, Scoop Up cards, Item Finders/Junk Arms, Poké Turns, and Seeker, you have the potential to do a staggering 250 damage…Before your attack.

Try this out at your local unlimited tournament; watch players cry; profit. And if you’re really gunning for a good showing against a field full of these, you had best be packing Spiritomb and its Keystone Seal to shut them down completely.

Point Two

Given the last section, you would be served well to approach situations very conservatively. When decks like the above are flying around all over the place, Unlimited becomes a very good exercise in making critical “life-or-death” calls from the get-go.

Should you start a solo Spiritomb so that Regice LA doesn’t Regi Move you out of the Active Spot and trigger a first turn win? Should you bench an Uxie so that an opposing Sableye doesn’t win on the first turn via Special Dark, Flash Bite, and Overconfident?

These are just some of the hundreds, maybe thousands of choices you have to make when competing with the combined 17 year history of the Pokémon Trading Card Game.

Given the above, I present another Unlimited deck idea: a little something called “Perfect Lock.” I made this from the ground-up, tailoring it specifically to take on the “win early or go home” mentality alluded to earlier. With 25 Basics, as well as four Spiritomb, you can bet that this build is going against the norm.

Pokémon – 35

4 Mew ex LM
4 Sableye SF
4 Spiritomb AR
2 Murkrow N1
1 Ambipom G
1 Happiny PL
1 Misdreavus DP
1 Mismagius UD
1 Holon’s Castform
1 Holon’s Electrode
1 Unown Q MD
1 Jynx UF
1 Azelf LA
2 Pidgey RG
2 Pidgeotto RG
2 Pidgeot RG
2 Oddish LA 112
2 Dark Gloom TR
1 Dark Vileplume TR 13
1 Dark Vileplume TR 30

Trainers – 18

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Roseanne’s Research
3 Holon Mentor


4 Computer Search
2 Shiny Pokémon Catcher
1 Professor Oak

Energy – 7

5 D
2 P

pokemon-paradijs.comThis deck, unlike the one before it, forces both the user and his or her opponent to embrace conservative decision-making. Sableye is used only to counteract the speedy lists out there – not so much for attacking, seeing as how you want to start setting up behind a Spiritomb as quickly as possible. Via Darkness Grace, you can get all of your evolutions out fast, and from there, the fun begins.

Due to the definition of trainer cards from the pre-Diamond and Pearl era being different from that of cards in the post-DP era, Dark Vileplume’s Hay Fever blocks all types of Trainers – not only Items, but Supporters and Stadiums, as well. Because this lock is so important, I run a massive count of search cards.

What does this mean? It means that Unlimited is deprived of all its speed, and that you can approach a game however you want. My chosen engine to account for Hay Fever locking my own options is Pidgeot from FireRed/LeafGreen.

Old school players will quickly recognize this guy for its consistency-boosting Quick Search Poké Power, which lets you search out any one card from your deck – absolutely crucial when you can’t play draw cards.

These two stage twos form the backbone of my main plan, which is to abuse Mew ex LM. Its Versatile Poké-Power lets you copy any attacks in play, thereby allowing for a “perfect lock.” To achieve this, you need the following:

1. Use Versatile to copy Murkrow Neo Genesis’s Mean Look attack on any one of your opponent’s Pokémon that could be considered vulnerable. By that, I mean go for something that isn’t very self-sufficient on the offensive front, such as support cards (Pidgeot, Eelektrik) or starters (Spiritomb, Sableye). Getting these cards in the active slots is easier said than done, though, which is why we run two Shiny Golden Pokémon Catchers (pre-Trainer lock) as well as a Happiny PL (post-Trainer lock).

pokemon-paradijs.com2. After this, Versatile Ambipom G’s Tail Code to keep the active stuck. Don’t be worried if your Mew ex goes down: just keep Tail Coding to keep the energy off, get Knocked Out, and Mean Look/Tail Code all over again. If this for whatever reason does not work, then you either went for a sub-optimal target, or there is just simply nothing good on the field to lock. (In this case, you have to settle with blowing everything away thanks to copying Mismagius’s Poltergeist.)

3. Finally, use your techs to wreck the opponent’s presumably unplayable board, or just your available attacking options. Both Murkrow’s Feint Attack and Jynx’s Pure Power will make short work of an opponent who can’t attack, retreat, or play trainers, and as previously mentioned, Mismagius’s Poltergeist can sweep through a board with ease.

As of writing, I am convinced that this is the best deck in the Unlimited format. It is highly immune to early game donks, has ways to dominate the board regardless of the matchup, and can run so many options, it’s almost impossible to play a perfect game when going up against it – assuming you ever get a real turn in the first place. However, this deck underscores one final contention that any Unlimited player-to-be needs to recognize…

Point Three

If you ever have a need to master this format, be it for the smallest of league tournaments or the largest of side events, then know your cards as well as you can. Don’t take this advice to mean that you have to know the flavor text of Dark Alakazam from Team Rocket; rather, you should develop a comprehensive awareness of playable cards, as well as what would be worth slipping into a deck.

The knowledge you build here may not be useful in an obvious way until the day you finally get to play in an Unlimited tournament. However, by practicing with knowledge of cards in unlimited, getting to know Modified becomes so much easier.

pokemon-paradijs.comOne thing that I have noticed on a regular basis is how lazy regular format players can be when it comes to learning about the cards – an explanation why mediocre cards like Scizor Prime have excelled in the past.

Considering how few cards are legal at any point, there’s rarely an excuse to not know what a card does unless it’s extraordinarily obscure. But by getting the handle on a format with more than 5,000 legal cards, even an expansive modified such as MD-on begins to seem less daunting!

Closing Thoughts on Unlimited

Unlimited cannot be addressed adequately in just one article – especially with only two decks. Did you know, though, that both decks are easily countered? Thanks to Muk Fossil, Cessation Crystal, and a bunch of other cards you might have never heard of before today, this metagame is not only beatable, but very flexible, as well.

The downside to playing with old cards is, of course, the very real risk of a turn one loss. After all, the mere threat of this was enough to force Play! Pokémon into an early rotation last season, so it would follow that unlimited is not a healthy format. To an extent, I agree with this concern, but thanks to major developments like Spiritomb, it is far from the “win turn one or die” philosophy held by so many other people.

Unlimited’s downsides are made even less significant when house rules come into play: league or tournament-instated requirements that limit the types or count of broken cards you may use. While I can’t predict precisely what house rules (if any) would be used at your next Unlimited event, I can tell you that these will be absolutely essential in figuring out how to approach your deck-building, so know them well.

Have fun, explore the format, and best of luck!

Limited: Making the Best out of Your Lot

Like the previous section, let’s start off with Play! Pokémon’s definition:

“In a Limited event, players construct their decks using only cards provided by the Tournament Organizer at the event. Each player’s deck must contain exactly 40 cards at all times. Decks may contain more than 4 copies of a single card, as defined by the card’s English title, with the exception of cards which are limited to one per deck by card text. A Tournament Organizer must announce whether he or she is providing players with basic Energy cards before the date of the event as well as at the event before it begins. Matches are played for 4 Prize cards.”

Source Link

Although the overwhelming majority of you have played in at least one Limited-style Pokémon tournament over the course of your competitive career (think Prereleases), there are some important things to note about this…

  • Limited applies to more than just packs, but also situations where the organizer hands you a stack of already-opened cards. That said, the vast majority of Limited events will involve the opening of sealed product.
  • As long as you pulled them, cards can be played in any quantity. This may be well-known to most of you, but I decided to highlight this for those who didn’t know you could pull off neat tricks such as five Beedrill GE, seven Durant, etc.
  • Finally, the second most obvious fact about limited is also the one you need to be aware of the most: the 40 card deck/4 Prize card rule. Games of this type are fundamentally different than those with 60 cards/6 Prizes, and that is due almost entirely to two key elements: flow of a game and probability calculation. More on those later, but keep both in your back pocket.

In summary, any “limited” format involves building decks out of new cards – cool, huh? This is a rich form of competition for several reasons, including:

  1. The added emphasis on deck construction. Put simply, if you aren’t capable of building good decks on your own, then most Limited formats will be a serious challenge for you.
  2. The format’s ability to test your knowledge of cards – especially drafts.
  3. The need to be able to think on your feet.

Of course, for many players, these advantages do not outweigh the overwhelming disadvantages. For starters, Pokémon is less equipped to handle Limited formats than Magic: the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or other popular games. Furthermore, it has difficult-to-draft evolutions, the threat of which leading to a deck’s complete break-down without enough draw. Often, a select few cards capable of tearing everything else apart, even – including the likes of Darkrai EX.

Anyway, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of handling Limited the right way. Of course, though, some formats are worse than others, and the one that comes to mind is everybody’s favorite pre-release system: the dreaded “sealed deck.”

Sealed Deck

granitetransformations.comI’ll spare you the trouble of over-analyzing this by simply saying that Sealed Deck is an inferior way to play Limited. Other than the deck construction, there is no additional decision-making at all: you simply get your booster packs, crack ‘em open, and start building. That said, Sealed Deck has some specific nuances that you need to be aware of – especially if the day comes when you actually stand to win something significant over it.

1. When faced with a choice between a better or worse line, play the more consistent option. For example, let’s say that by some miracle you pulled a 5-5 Swanna line in a Dark Explorers Sealed Deck event, but only managed a 1-1 Zoroark and three other dark Pokémon. Even though most players would agree that Swanna is a categorically “worse” card than Zoroark, it would more likely than not be the better line to run (not saying you couldn’t run both – just that Swanna would hold priority).

2. In that same vein, you can occasionally play “bad” cards or lines, as the context of draft is different from modified. Way back in the day, when pre-releases actually meant something as far as prizes go, I pulled a large line of Sandstorm Delcatty.

pokemon-paradijs.comAt the time, any competitive metagame players knew all-too well that “Ultra Energy Source” was a horrid attack on account of how many attacks discarded energy; however, because nearly every energy in a pre-release is going to be basic, a normally bad attack actually had the chance to thrive.

Furthermore, I went the extra step and ran an incomplete line (Wailmer without Wailord ex) just so that I could counter Fighting. Thus, this otherwise awful deck concept scored me my only pre-release win in eight years of playing Pokémon cards under Nintendo.

3. The suggestion that there’s a sweet spot when it comes to Energy counts in Sealed Deck is false. Both Constructed and Limited are the same in that your lines always depend on everything else: Pokémon counts, the Energy cost of those Pokémon, and so on and so on.

4. Finally, don’t diversify your types too much. Your pulls are more likely than not going to be bad anyway, so you probably want to keep the type variation to a minimum – it’s only a liability in most scenarios.

Closing Thoughts on Sealed Deck

…That’s all there is to say, really. As I mentioned earlier, it’s way less skill-intensive than other forms of Limited, and in this day and age will most likely never mean a thing in the competitive playing world. Nevertheless, you may someday need to play this for substantive prizes, so keep all of this in mind.


Chances are high that if you are ever playing Limited for serious stakes, then some variation of draft is probably going to be the law of the land. For those unfamiliar with how draft works, each player in a group opens up a booster pack (either simultaneously or sequentially), chooses a card, and then passes the remaining cards to another player. This continues until there are no more packs or cards left.

There are a lot of ways to do this, but the most popular by far is a simple style that involves all players in a group to open their packs, select one card (place it face-down), and, after a certain amount of time, pass the remaining cards to the left. Keep doing this until all cards are gone, and then crack open a new pack, passing to the right on the second go-around. Lather, rinse, and repeat until the entire supply of product is gone.

Understandable, then, is the assertion that draft is more skill-based: you are CONSTANTLY making huge decisions, thereby allowing for several possibilities to slip-up. Just like Sealed Deck, you’ll need to have done your homework in order to succeed, but remember that unlike Sealed, you’ll need to actually “apply” this knowledge.

Whereas Sealed runs the risk of letting an occasional misplay slip in case you don’t need what Cards X and Y do, your drafting can become fundamentally flawed without this information. Therefore, you should educate yourself about whatever sets you’ll be using, or – lacking this –work to establish a strong overall knowledge of cards in the same vein as your work with Unlimited.

With that in mind, here are some Draft-specific tips:

pokemon-paradijs.com1. Never go into a tournament deciding to “rare draft” (going only for money cards) 100% or 0% of the time; rather, stay flexible.

Usually the calculus of rare drafting will depend on a basic cost-benefit analysis: is the probability of a different choice securing better event performance worth more than the card in front of you? If so, then pass it up, but if the card is worth more, then grab the card!

Even if you are completely indifferent, rare-draft that Rayquaza *, Base Charizard, or Shiny Gardevoir anyway – odds are higher you’d regret it if not.

2. Never assume that a card will be passed back to you with 100% certainty, no matter how bad it is.

This is because there are all sorts of reasons why this less desirable card could end up in another’s possession. It could be the most attractive choice out of many poor ones, help build a secondary line of something, or your opponent could be anti-drafting you – hard to do when your chosen cards are all face-down, but practically possible.

In a Black and White draft not too long ago, one of my opponents and I were both competing over Grass resources: I (and apparently my opponent) had pulled a Sawsbuck BLW in my opening booster, and since there was no draw, I was free to go straight for it. Come the next rotation, and what do I see but an interesting dilemma: one regular Deerling and one Pokémon Communication.

Part of me thought about going for the Communication, knowing that it is an overall more desirable card, but having Sawsbuck’s basic guaranteed the line, so I opted to pass the Communication. That pack’s round continued, and when I opened up yet another dilemma: a Deerling versus Juniper!

I loved the idea of building a bigger Deerling line, but knew that going for the Juniper was top priority, so I grabbed it. Once that same pack came back to me, though, the Deerling was long gone, showing me right I was to at least deliberate over choosing one over the other.

3. It might not be a bad idea to chase after a specific line for your deck, but be wary about how you go about it.

When you’re at a table full of competitive drafters, odds are high that a hot card like Durant NVI will be sought after by everyone in almost every situation, only deferred when it’s up against draw or exceptionally good rare drafts.

So if we make the liberal assumption that one Durant is opened per every round of drafting (1/8 packs), then the value of the Durant picks lowers as you progress, the reason being that more people will coalesce around it as a deck option.

Therefore, you should place more stock in Durant (and perhaps all specific “killer” lines) when they come to you earlier rather than later. Of course, most players tend to treat the end of a draft as their moment to fill out gaps in their decks, meaning that the probability of building up a killer line goes up.

4. Don’t be afraid to get in the thick of counter-drafting!

Unless your draft is the sort of tournament so large that people in their own eight man groups have next to no chance of playing each other, these are your opponents, so don’t hand them wins on silver platters! Normally you cannot (or at least aren’t supposed to) see what is in their draft lots.

Over time, though, you will be able to at least make some deductions about the decks around you: if someone is going after all of the fires, if a very easy-to-find or undesirable card is conspicuously absent, etc. All of these can cue you in to drafting smarter, grabbing the precious resources that would otherwise help your opponent beat you.

One very interesting concern here is deliberating on whether to go for a good card of your own or merely counter-draft. The answer here is a big “depends,” but remember that this method of winning games is a luxury; that is, it should be used only if your deck is at a sufficient stage of completion already, and if the hurt against you would-be opponent is great enough to justify passing up a great choice. For that reason, you’ll need to really develop a knack for playing by ear.

Closing Thoughts on Draft

pokemon-paradijs.comBecause all four of the preceding points deal with psychology to some extent, you can bet that the number one most valuable skill to have is the understanding of how people think. This isn’t just anyone though, but those actually seated at the table with you.

Getting a certain card passed back to you can mean the difference between winning and losing the event, and understanding the motivations of your fellow players can certainly increase the odds of seeing that Galvantula or Deerling again.

In time, an experienced draft player should see his or her talents in timed decision-making, “reading” opponents, and mind games all improve across the board, arguably giving that person an edge in regular modified.

Naturally, though, you shouldn’t act too seriously about it, or else you might get on the nerves of people playing with you. Remember that, as useful as getting a read for people is in draft, you should never let the way you act run counterproductive to having fun.

Don’t completely block yourself off from others when drafting; instead, feel free to talk to people and enjoy the experience! You may be in competition with everyone the moment you sit down, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself.

Bottom line:

  • Don’t act like a jerk
  • Don’t let the little things (rare drafting/counter-drafting) get on your nerves

Draft can be surprisingly intense, so while nearly every decision is of monumental importance, it’s your responsibility as an ambassador of sportsmanship to keep the mood light.

A “Special” Type of Modified: the 2012 Professor Cup Format!

Returning to the world of constructed, let’s analyze a format that many of our older subscribers would love to know more about – especially those of you attending Nationals! This, my friends, is the 2012 Professor Cup…

“1. Only cards from Call of Legends set onward may be used. Black Star Promo Cards numbered BW01 and higher will be allowed.

2. No Basic Pokémon are allowed.

Additional Rule: “Big Boy Pants”

1. Stage 1 Pokémon are treated as Basic Pokémon in all ways other than the deck construction limitation listed above.

For example:

thegeeksclub.comThis “no Basics” format may be a tongue-in-cheek concession to the recent dominance of Basic Pokémon, but in spite of the joke, it actually allows for an interesting metagame. Unlike the current modified or the HGSS-on from a year ago, a Call of Legends-Dark Explorers format that completely excludes basics is limited enough to figure out in less time. And with that limitation, we know a few things with relative certainty…

1. This format’s speed and attack power (relative to average card stats) make normal modified look like a joke. Rare is the Stage One that can actually survive an attack, and even rarer is the multiple Stage Two setup that can actually stabilize. Getting hits on the first turn is not unheard of in the main modified due to fast EX attackers like Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX; however, the 2012 Professor Cup makes this the norm, and not the exception.

Listed below was the first deck concept that popped into many of our heads in the HeyTrainer Battle Club: Cinccino/Ninetales/Emboar.

Pokémon – 16

4 Cinccino BLW
4 Ninetales CL
4 Pignite BLW 17
2 Emboar BLW 19
2 Emboar BLW 20

Trainers – 29

4 Sage’s Training
3 Cheren
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory


4 Level Ball
4 PlusPower
4 Pokémon Catcher
3 Switch
2 Energy Retrieval
2 Pokémon Communication

Energy – 15

11 R
4 Double Colorless

pokemon-paradijs.comOur premise here is very simple, and that is to Do the Wave for a lot of damage. Continue this for as long as you can, or until the attackers become too much for Cinccino to take on by itself. When this time rolls around, you might benefit from transitioning into an Emboar focus, slamming away with Bad Boar’s Flare Blitz attack.

The concept in front of you may be easy to play, but to get it down perfectly takes some finesse – especially when your resources begin to dry up in the late game.

As I quickly experienced one day at league, the sheer speed of a Ninetales engine not impeded by evolution is insane. This is made even more insane by the overwhelming odds that you have to get out two, three, or even four of them on the first turn, often running through half your deck!

Yet in spite of the unmatched speed, consistency, and strength of such an idea, I cannot come anywhere close to claiming that this concept is the best in format. This is because…

2. Many of the creative concepts neglected in modified due to impracticality can thrive in the Professor Cup. Think for a moment about all of those neat ideas that have been on the backburner – cards like:

…And the list goes on. What is normally considered “fun” or “rogue” at best in your normal tournaments is competitive or perhaps archetypal in the Professor Cup.

I won’t be going over any more lists for the rest of this section, since this format is honestly somewhat new to me. I would, however, like to take the time to address some of the cards that jump out to me as hopeful for this event, including all of the aforementioned but excluding Cinccino/Ninetales/Emboar.

Many of the same principles of the current metagame apply to this format, too, so getting your creative juices flowing is the most important goal for the next month and a half (or as the case may be for you European Professors, a few weeks).

pokemon-paradijs.com*Tangrowth CL will feature as “the heavy” in a lot of decks, primarily those with energy acceleration (e.g., Eelektrik, modified versions of my Cinccino/Emboar). Nine out of ten players will only be able to use Grind, but don’t be surprised if someone actually relies on Plow Over for Hail Mary-esque moves.

*Slowking HS has been at the center of several lock decks for the past two years, and generally speaking, they have all failed. Not so much with the Professor Cup, though: when combined with a plethora of Stage Ones, Second Sight can be beastly, and is made even more lethal thanks to Hooligans Jim & Cas (a.k.a., those creepy old guys who have way too much free time on their hands).

*Weezing HS may be severely underrated right now by many. It may not be as “good” as Cinccino, but being able to deal 90 unconditionally is a huge plus in favor of the card. Furthermore, Eviolite has awesome synergy with it, letting you Super Explosion for no practical drawback.

On the downside, Zoroark resisting Weezing can be a huge downer, and having to play several PlusPowers just to get anywhere near 130+ HP Pokémon is a bust, too.

*The Professor Cup will be focusing a lot on 1HKOs; however, Lost Remover can be a key player in edging out fast decks that over-rely on Double Colorless Energy. By running a decent count of this in your list, you may have your one true legitimate shot at a comeback (N is way less effective, due to the ample space in builds for draw and consistency crutches).

*Royal Heal on Serperior BLW #6 is not that good; don’t use it unless you can outplay Archeops “and” run a big enough line to survive the Catcher brigade.

*…Come to think of it, almost none of the Stage Two Pokémon are worth it from this set. Kind of ironic, you think? The only ones that jump out to me as having real promise are the Emboars, the Samurott BLW #32, and Klinklang BLW.

Both of those latter cards allow for some serious tank options: with the right count of Potion and Max Potion, you can even mount a comeback against the ferocious speedsters of the metagame.

pokemon-paradijs.com*Like regular modified, Zoroark BLW is a fantastic card yet again, and is arguably a better overall play than its DEX cousin. Foul Play splashes into “everything,” and is a great way to conserve energy. In a recent game testing this format against a fellow Professor, I saw firsthand how Foul Play works brilliantly as a distraction attacker while the opponent builds up bigger threats on the bench.

For linear decks like Cinccino, this is a nightmare: you either get rid of the Zoroark only to get plowed over by the new threat, or spend several resources getting rid of the new threat only to get Foul Played again! The main difference between here and Modified is that the Professor Cup permits for way more 1HKOs, whereas standard HGSS-on Foul Plays are usually going to not be enough for a knockout.

*I wonder how Odor Sleuth on Stoutland BLW would work with tons of Crushing Hammers and Lost Removers? Not well, probably, but it’s at least worth a shot!

*Lilligant EPO, Vanilluxe NVI, and all of the other flip-reliant cards out there, are much weaker without the presence of Fliptini. For the most part, don’t play them.

*Beartic EPO #30 with Eviolite is cool, simultaneously slowing opponents down while shielding you from most of the major attackers in the format. Only serious hitters like Cofagrigus and Zoroark will break through this, albeit not without great trouble (and perhaps some lost energy thanks to Crushing Hammer and Lost Remover).

*Gothitelle EPO/Reuniclus BLW/Gardevoir NXD is a great option, no question. My main concern, however, is going to be Archeops locking you out of so many evolutions. Do you have a response to this? Accelgor/DCE/PlusPower might work, but that’s a lot to run in an already-crammed list, so don’t hold your breath.

*For the umpteenth time, we have another Archeops-vulnerable Stage Two in the form of Krookodile EPO. If you can get a swarm of them out, though, Black Eyes could win the game all on its own.

pokebeach.com*With Palpitoad NVI and Seismitoad NVI, we reach the possibility of playing a really strong Round deck. The question is: is it good enough? Ultimately, I fear that by not having high enough HP on your Stage Ones (Wigglytuff and Palpitoad), you may run out of energy very fast.

Not having an easy to play, built-in consistency engine hurts even more, although you could get creative and run this with R Energy + Ninetales, effectively settling for no more than 100/150 damage. This would net you DCEs much quicker.

*As you may figure out soon enough, Carracosta NVI is one of my favorite Pokémon in this entire format. That’s because it allows you to embrace patience and conservatism when everyone else around you is going for the lightning-fast stuff (no pun intended, Eelektrik). Everything about it, from the astronomically high HP and preventative Ability to the Energy-discarding attack, means that your opponent will be in for a frustratingly slow game…And that’s all the better for you.

I’m not sure how I want to run it yet: on one hand, it could work very well as a “Quad Terrakion” of sorts, running only four Carracosta with the essentials of healing, consistency, and Exp. Share; on the other hand, many other Stage Ones go quite well with it, such as Archeops NVI and Blissey DEX. Crushing Hammer and Lost Removers will be must-haves, most likely.

*Eelektrik NVI is still a great card, although I’m not so sure that it has a clear-cut partner anymore. Some have suggested an Eelektrik/Zebstrika lock deck with Tangrowths as finishers, but I’m not convinced that Disconnect lock is sufficient to beat down the muscular metagame that is the Professor Cup.

However, on the plus side, Disconnecting lets you slow the game down while you build up two or three Tangrowth to sweep the game clean.

*Reuniclus NVI #52 will succeed only if you have some very dangerous early game attacker. Utilizing a distraction is the best way to see that your Duosions live for long enough.

pokemon-paradijs.com*Chandelure NVI is a very cool option in many decks, and can serve as a mean by which to pull off come-from-behind victories. Consider it as more of a supplementary focus, because I can’t see why you would want to only play Chandelure and nothing else (although it is admittedly feasible).

*Conkeldurr NVI #64 may finally have a chance to shine. You may need to place it in a slow, conservative deck in order to work: run Gothitelle to shut down troublesome Catchers, and as you stall with Item lock, keep piling on F Energy until your Conkeldurr has an insurmountable amount of HP. Then, when your opponent is down to the last prize or two, drop Slowking and N, closing out with an unkillable, roid-raging machine. Very vulnerable to Archeops, but a strong if it gets up and running.

*And on that note, we arrive at the most broken tech in the entire Big Boy Pants field: Archeops. It isn’t exactly the epitome of attacking strength, but remember that ALL Stage One cards – including Fossils with the title “Stage One” – are deemed Basic. The end result here is that you have a form of evolution lock that is only a Bench spot away from being activated.

I wish that whoever is in charge of the Professor Cup bans this thing after the European event, as I would hate to see the very spirit of the format, the playing of evolutions, diminished like that.

A ban may happen, although I’m convinced that we’ll ultimately have to slug it out and choose some hard counters.

*Arcanine NXD #12 isn’t going to be the center of a deck anytime soon; however, Blazing Mane is a really great way to setup an otherwise impregnable defensive attacker for a knockout.

*Vanilluxe NXD and Slippery Slope make for some great support switching/disruption.

pokemon-paradijs.com*At the right moment, Beheeyem NXD can be sickeningly good, and with some mixture of N, Slowking, and Hooligans, Brain Control will win games. The best thing about it is that Beheeyem benefits heavily from the text alteration of cards like Prism Energy and Skyarrow Bridge, making it hog up the least amount of resources for the greatest possible gain in disruption.

I would run the Beheeyem/Slowking combo with Archeops for sure, and most likely some reliable attacker such as Cinccino for maximum abuse of the situation. Crushing Hammer and Lost Remover are also nice under the circumstances.

*Hippowdon NXD is a cool card, in that it fills a comparable nice to that of a very popular card in Modified formal. Essentially, Hippowdon is the Tornadus of this format, swinging for consistent damage while simultaneously conserving energy, defending against medium-sized attackers, and generally making it harder for your opponent to pull off a comeback. Clearly a great abuser of Archeops in that the latter can actually attack.

*I’m not sure how gimmicky or lethal Shiftry NXD is, but I consider it one of Zoroark DEX’s best teammates. The way I see it, Zoroark by itself is enough to outmuscle the decks that would run Archeops, whereas Shiftry helps beat back potent evolutions such as Gothitelle and Conkeldurr. It even deters the tanking of any one Pokémon without a bench, and can make N an even better card here than in the main format.

*Not sure if Cinccino NXD is ever worth the space over its powerful BLW cousin. Nevertheless, in the right deck, running this could mean the difference between winning and losing on the first turn, and that alone is enough for it to show up on my radar of playable options.

*Accelgor lock is not so feasible in the face of both fast hitters and Archeops; yet with the right resources and patience, you could theoretically wear the opponent out of the card long enough to let you slip in with a Gothitelle evolution one turn. This isn’t so impossible, considering that Archeops is already weak to Grass, meaning that one PlusPower is enough to score the prize.

pokemon-paradijs.comShould this be an attainable goal, begin to treat the card exactly as how I described it in my Dark Explorers Compendium article: something that can go wrong very fast, but is the center of a perfect lock if done successfully. Goes particularly well with Venusaur DEX, too.

*By virtue of skipping the Basic Yamask, Cofagrigus DEX goes from novelty to serious contender. Like in regular Modified, the Tool pool isn’t exactly stellar, but it is at least enough to fuel Chuck.

*Zoroark DEX is what I believe will be tied with Cinccino as the “most popular deck” for this year’s European and North American Professor Cups. Bar Weakness or PlusPower shenanigans, this is one of the only cards capable of 120 on the first turn. Tack on the Dark Claw, as well as the PlusPowers of your own, and Zoroark is 1HKOing everything in the Big Boy Pants format except for a lucky Carracosta.

*Blissey DEX probably doesn’t have much of a place in this super-fast format, but on the other hand, it could go very well with Carracosta. Getting hit for 100, then flipping heads to prevent 50, and then following that up with a couple successful Softboileds can be a game changer.

*Stoutland DEX “seems” terrible, due mostly to its high energy cost and considerably vulnerability to Archeops. Still, if you can actually charge up Ferocious Bellow, many attackers will be hard-pressed to pull off a knockout on Stoutland.

Closing Thoughts on the Professor Cup Format

All in all, the 2012 Professor Cup format is full of exciting possibilities. I’m only scratching the surface, but in case you Professors with the minimum number of points have yet to actually prepare, this ought to get you headed in the right direction, for sure. Best wishes for your event, wherever it may be!


Congratulations: after slugging it out through 8,000-some words of pure text, you have earned your MAF!


Hang that diploma on your wall proudly, my friend – you’ve earned it! Just like a high school or college degree, its usefulness may not be apparent right away; however, in time, you will find the knowledge and skills developed here come in handy. Whether it’s through direct victory in a major tournament at some point, or indirect applications to your normal competitive fare, getting the ins and outs of other formats should serve you well.

Best of luck in the future, and may your ambitions reach the stars.


-John Kettler
Assistant Dean of Professional Counseling
SixPrizes.com School of Underground Pokémon Writings and Political Subversion

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