Using Battle Roads to Your Advantage, and Getting in Gear for Nationals

By now, you should probably have a pretty good understanding of where you stand this season: your Championship Point count, ability to attend Nationals or Worlds, and so on. But this is far from the end of the season; in fact, we’re about to reach a major crescendo in 2012. Given how much Battle Roads are worth more in this season, as well as how “newbie-free” worldwide Nationals will be on account of the Play! Point minimum, these last few months ought to be highly competitive ones for Pokémon players.

Today, I’ll do what I can to give my insight on both. As many of my articles are, this one should be a “dense” read, with a lot of heavy information coming at you in a short period of time; however, it’s for the purpose of getting straight to the meat, and sparing you all the fluff. We don’t have that much time left, after all!

With only a month of competitive play left before our pre-worlds July “break,” you need to make every day and every event count.

Using Battle Roads to Your Advantage

Reasons to Attend

mymimicry.comThis past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend one local Battle Road, and to say that it was a “decent-sized” event is a massive understatement. With approximately 80 players in attendance, including an overwhelming 54 for the Masters Division, it’s not easy to make that claim that these are “introductory-level” tournaments anymore. While they are certainly not as “valuable” as those from 2007 and 2008, Battle Roads are full of people looking to polish off a few last Championship Points before the United States National Championship, and will go to great lengths (literally and figuratively) for them.

That is the obvious use of Battle Roads, and is probably why many people are traveling for them. But the majority of players don’t have the Championship Points to make it worthwhile; in fact, many people with a substantial amount of points have a zero percent change of getting a Worlds invite just by winning tons of Battle Roads at the last second. Even if you have as many as 30+ points (where I stand right now), you’d have to go on a better-than-legendary tear – something that may, in all honesty, not be worth it.

Since the beginning of the season, I have made the personal decision to “go big or go home” – that is, I don’t want to fork out $500+ in gas so that I can have the opportunity to use a trip-less invite that would undoubtedly cost me $1,000+. To that end, Championship Points don’t really have that much “meaning” to me past the novelty of it all. I’m sure that many of you in the same situation feel the same, but even players not in that situation are struggling to find meaning in these little events. If you are not one of the 30+’ers, then what’s your reason to go?

Since the majority of us play this game for fun, pleasure, and seeing friends, I’m going to leave all of those points out – they don’t need to be addressed over and over again. As a competitive player, though, you do still have purpose in attending. These include, but are not limited to:

1. Preparing for Nationals.

It may seem trite to say that, but if you are getting games done in this format (HGSS-DEX), “and” said games are taking place in a tournament-level venue, then generally you ought to do better in a more competitive event like Nationals. Of course there are some very talented players who pick things up without trouble, but even if you are in this small minority, what harm is there?

2. Getting a hands-on feel for the format.

Unlike past seasons, which tend to be dominated by particular decks the whole way through, 2011-2012 has been different in that each new set has ushered in a corresponding wave of new top tier decks. You may know that Darkrai EX, Tornadus EX, and so on are all good, and you may even know about all of the standard variants thanks to the Underground staff, but to play is to see the format evolve in real time – something that we can never duplicate.

3. Competing with serious opponents outside of your testing circle.

Seeing as how Battle Roads have some degree of value this season, the odds are much greater that you will go up against people who not only play seriously, but run serious decks and lists. In essence, far fewer people are holding back, and if you attend one of these Battle Roads, you’ll get to see firsthand just what they’ve been up to.

4. Preparing to “go long.”

sportscoma.comA small, but distinct minority of players are in a precarious position right now: they have around 30 to 40 Championship Points, and are trying to play catch-up in order to clinch their Worlds invites. Now, this in itself will not require a player to go long; what does lead to this need to have a hot streak for two months in a row is the fact that several people in the same situation are also trying to pad their CP counts so that they can do as well as possible.

Now, since use of my Worlds invite hinges on winning a trip, I only need to do well at Nationals – no pressure, right?! However, we’ll still use that identical CP count (31-35) as an example. In this case, you would have to either maximize your best finish limit at Battle Roads, have an awesome tear in “the big event,” or do reasonably well at both – say, three Battle Roads wins, two top four finishes at a high attendance event, and a top 64 or top 32 finish at United States Nationals for 11-12 points).

This would more likely than not put you on the borderline, but achieving solid results at both can be your launching pad for an invite, so don’t miss out on the opportunity unless you have some much more pressing engagement.

So yes, the clear reason why you would attend Battle Roads is to grab some qualification points, but the more you play in, the more able you are to create a “snowball” effect on your win streaks. This is part of the reason why I’ve had three huge tears at Battle Roads before: because I played early, I was able to get prepared for that leg of the season, thereby strengthening my performances as time went on.

In 2007, I had a 28-0 win streak with the powerful Infernape DP/Infernape LV.X/Delcatty PK deck, but before that happened, I endured a tough 5-2 second place finish. At this first event, I got a feel for the format, learned about my metagame’s own local preferences, and in the process clinched my invite and trip to the first Hawaii Worlds.

As for those without the necessary Championship Points, or those of you whose use of invites depends on a trip, all of the above will help set you up for a good run at U. S. Nationals. Next up is a section exemplifying this process at length; that is, you should see how I apply my own theory with a deck that I have built from nothing with no outside assistance.

Applying My Own Advice with Accelgor

Did I take my own advice? Well, I sure hope so!

Bulbapedia

This past Memorial Day weekend, my playing area had a three-day weekend of tournaments (Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for those European players unfamiliar with the holiday). Because a doctor’s visit and visiting family pretty much sealed up my opportunity to attend Sunday or Monday ones, I knew that I had to make the Saturday one count. For the sake of both Worlds qualification points and getting a certain concept perfected, it was worth the trip.

Many of you should remember my Accelgor DEX decklist from The Dark Explorers Compendium. Despite that particular build being release as free, preview-level content, that should not take away from how effective the concept is at actually winning games. From the beginning, I considered it a serious deck, even if nobody around me did: after all, automatic Paralysis is a tool that can be abused to the fullest extent, so why not treat it like a genuine threat?

In the case of Accelgor, I feel that the majority of players are disenchanted with the idea of playing it due to seeing builds like Vanilluxe NVI and Gliscor LV.X do so poorly. Sure, you had a few people top cutting major events or winning small tournaments, but automatic Paralysis never really jumped out the way that it should.

With this most recent card, I see it as the first way to really make something like this work, and thus dedicated a lot of time on PlayTCG to tweaking my build. Over time, I realized where my speed version needed to be improved, and ended up with the following list:

Pokémon – 26

4 Shelmet DEX
4 Accelgor DEX
4 Oddish UD
3 Vileplume UD
3 Horsea UL
2 Seadra UL
2 Kingdra Prime
3 Smeargle UD
1 Pichu HS

Trainers – 26

4 Sage’s Training
4 Twins
3 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory

 

4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
2 Ultra Ball

 

2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 8

4 W
4 Double Colorless

Before I move on with the in-depth stuff, let’s just take a moment to review what I discussed in my last Dark Explorers article, as well as go into a little more detail about this build. Your clear goal is to loop Accelgor’s Deck and Cover attack while under the protection of Vileplume’s item-locking Allergy Flower. Every time you shuffle in an Accelgor, you will then promote a Smeargle that should copy your opponent’s Supporters, getting both more draw out of a turn while simultaneously thinning your deck.

After all, the key to the most efficient, effective Deck and Cover lock possible is to always have the line available to you! Finally, Kingdra Prime is used to set up much more favorable knockout situations; that is, its Spray Splash Poké-Power makes it so that you don’t have to use attacks to score prizes, thereby maintaining a lack of attacking power on the opponent’s part.

Not much different, right? Well, I made two major changes to the formula, including…

1. Removal of all Pokémon Collectors for the sake of Twins.

pokemon-paradijs.comIn the early phases of testing the previous list, I recognized how little I used Collector, and how much I used Smeargle and Pichu to let me access the same things for more efficient deck thinning. In order to facilitate a stronger Deck and Cover flow, you want to be playing draw Supporters, and if you aren’t playing those, then you want to be playing good search Supporters capable of grabbing exactly what you need.

And since you’ll be falling behind in most games, Twins is all but an assured way to grab what you need (although you aren’t dependant on it like most Vileplume lists).

2. To increase the presence of my early game search, as well as improve my late game deck thin, I removed two draw cards for two Ultra Ball.

Putting it bluntly, your Communications, Candies, etc against most decks when you’re under Item lock are like death sentences, each one of them threatening your chances of hitting the necessary DCE drops, Accelgors, and Shelmets. Thus, I added Ultra Ball to let me remove a few of those, while at the same time giving me 8th and 9th outs to Vileplume.

These new decisions felt much more effective, and many of the quirks about the original build, such as three Horsea and no Gloom for Vileplume, were made less detrimental and more effective by promoting more ways to search for what you really need.

How did this all-evolution deck in an all-Basics format do? Read on and find out!

2012 Spring Battle Road Report

This was without a doubt one of the best settings to test the mettle of a slow concept like Accelgor, and with 54 Masters at a single Battle Road, every game counted. Additionally, the competitiveness was quite high, since it had multiple past and current State and Regional champions in attendance. Effectively, this was just the type of mental workout that my deck and I needed.

Best of all, there was no waiting for good decks, as my first opponent was using the much-hyped, much-feared Speed Darkrai build, utilizing nothing but Smeargle for setup, and Darkrai for attacks.

Round One: VS Speed Darkrai

pokemon-paradijs.comI opened with a lone Horsea going second to his Smeargle – not too unlikely, but still poor luck against such a donk-capable build. Fortunately for me, a combination of his own PONT and usage of my own via Portrait was not enough to get him the turn one Night Spear, thereby giving me the opportunity to play the game.

On my first turn, I drew, used a Pokémon Communication for Pichu, and took the opportunity to figure out several important Prize cards. Decks like Accelgor take a lot of work to play, and if you screw up your prizes even a little bit, then a 6-0 or 5-1 record could easily turn into a negative one. Determining prizes with the popular decks in the HGSS-DEX format is normally a simple process, but for Accelgor, you’re required to think about each of these potential prizes in almost every game:

  • Your Accelgor line
  • Your Skyarrow Bridges, as well as Kingdra and Vileplume lines, in case of bad Sage’s Training or Juniper discards
  • Double Colorless Energy
  • Pichu!

Whereas a couple prized DCE when using CMT or applicable variants of Darkrai and Zeel is not too big of a deal, in here, it’s an absolute game changer. So for these reasons, I spent a relatively inordinate amount of time before pulling out the Pichu for Playground. Eventually, though, I got around to it, benched the card, played Professor Oak’s New Theory to refresh my hand, and then subsequently dropped a Skyarrow Bridge to evacuate my Horsea, using Playground to grab two Oddish and two Shelmet.

From there, I resigned myself to falling way behind; he brought up the Horsea again via Catcher, picking off both it and Pichu via Night Spear, and then took out a Smeargle of mine the subsequent turn.

This was all worth it, though, because I was not only able to replace the Horsea, but guarantee Vileplume Item lock by turn two, “and” start up the Accelgor Deck and Cover lock. For much of the game’s remainder, his turns just became a case of “draw-pass,” and once I got Kingdra out, he didn’t even have much hope to score free knockouts.

Granted, there was one turn where I had to give up a prize on account of Darkrai’s HP not allowing for a knockout on his turn. Giving up that one extra Oddish from earlier cost me next to nothing, however, as the Kingdra allowed me the chance to get all of his in-play Darkrais setup for “perfect lock” knockouts, securing my win.

1-0

Round Two: VS Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Zoroark DEX

pokemon-paradijs.comUnlike the last game, which was an almost immediate Vileplume lock, the two of us sat with mediocre hands and just passed to one-another: he due to no Supporters, and me due to a combination of him having none plus my lack of any of my own! Eventually, our stalemate broke with me nabbing a Supporter, and I was able to turn my bench of meager little Basics into something real: a Seadra, Vileplume, and Accelgor lock. This let me turn around my 6-5 Prize deficit to bring it to 2-5.

Regrettably, he hit yet another dry spot on Supporters, and as a result, I did as well. This broke my lock, and he made a furious comeback through what else but Darkrai EX. My fortunes turned around for me, though, and he hit a Supporter off of a prize, letting me reestablish the lock for game.

2-0

Also, a side note to Darkrai players: Darkrai EX is much more difficult to take down than Tornadus or Mewtwo. That 10 extra HP makes the difference between KOing something at the right or wrong time, and with the initial Darkrai, you get that grace period you need. This is something that you should use to your advantage if you are ever play against an Accelgor.

Round Three: VS Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion

If the previous game could be described as cold, then I was running red-hot this time around, nabbing a monstrous turn two setup of Kingdra, Vileplume, “and” Accelgor (thank you for all of your hard work this season, Smeargle). This game was more or less a hopeless cause for him at this point, although another one of Accelgor’s infamous dry spells gave him a couple grace periods. However, he had nothing, and scooped promptly.

3-0

Round Four: VS Zekrom/Eelektrik

Playing against Zeels is a mixed blessing with this deck: on one hand, none of the HP counts are favorable to your pursuit of a perfect Deck and Cover lock; on the other hand, the deck has a very low probability of beating you on the first turn, most lists are predictable, and the weird techs that people do run typically don’t hurt Accelgor.

pokemon-paradijs.comThis was a relatively streamlined build, and since he dropped a couple Eviolites before Item lock kicked in, that made my math on both Thundurus EPO and Zekrom NXD easier. He was very careful to not trigger my Twins early on, but by not scoring any knockouts, this actually gave me more opportunity to setup without falling too far behind. I was able to get a Vileplume online without Twins, and by the time he did pull a KO, I had more room to exercise judgment with my pulls from the deck.

As far as the actual knock-outs went, I had to be very careful with all of my Spray Splashes: while I spent three whole turns beating the Eviolited Thundurus like a piñata, I Spray Splashed a benched Thundurus twice, as well as an Eelektirk I knew he was trying to get cute with by attaching energy. As predicted, he used that same Eel to pull a KO on my newly-promoted Oddish, but by doing that, he jumped straight into Deck and Cover lock.

So for the next few turns, I had both the arithmetic and the board position to secure me a win without losing another prize – even his Zekrom was brought in range.

4-0

It should be noted that one active strategy of his throughout the whole match was to discard as many of his Supporters as possible. This was a good play because he knew how reliant I am on Smeargle, and even though he generally kept hitting Supporters again, this was a long-term strategy that can work against Accelgors.

Round Five: VS Zekrom/Eelektrik

…And like the Darkrai games before, I experienced back-to-back Zeel matches that were greatly different from one-another. By pulling out a turn two Vileplume without the aid of Twins, I gave him less of an opportunity to pull tricks on me, albeit with a bit more difficulty than in the last match. On the plus side, my Smeargle Portraits appeared to be much more fruitful, due in no small part to his list running more options by way of Collector over Dual Ball.

All in all, this was a game that netted more control than any before it – a good sign that the deck can keep a lock going without hiccups or breaks.

5-0

Round Six: VS Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EX

BulbapediaI went second to a Tornadus EX, again starting with lone Horsea. Fortunately, I escaped the turn one donk due to him lacking a PlusPower/Junk Arm combination or Skyarrow Bridge, but I saw little from there: I Junipered into a Supporter-less hand, but was able to use Smeargle to Portrait…Which netted me a useless hand. Eventually, he was able to setup while I kept drawing into nothing, winning the game unopposed.

5-1

Since I was paired down, this led to there being zero undefeated players. Too bad!

1st Seed: Zekrom/Eelektrik (Round Five opponent)
2nd Seed: Accelgor/Kingdra/Vileplume (me)
3rd Seed: Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EX (R6)
4th Seed: Darkrai EX (Michael “Rokman” Weldon)

Top Four: VS Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EX

Game One

This game, my hand was much stronger, although for some bizarre reason, I could not access the Vileplume lock for the life of me: no Rare Candy, Vileplume access, “or” Twins when I needed them! Once I got it, though, I still lacked the Accelgor looping I so desperately needed, leading to a fairly obvious loss.

Game Two

In this leg of the series, my access to Vileplume was easier, but the downside was that my prizes were abysmal: I had two Shelmet and two Double Colorless there! However, without the steady stream of DCEs, I settled for using Pichu’s Sweet Sleeping Face to stall while I charged up Accelgors with water energy. The plan worked perfectly, and I was eventually able to take down an EX to rip one of my prized DCEs, making the loop much more tolerable. As I continued to dislodge the missing pieces to my Deck and Cover puzzle, the game become that much more of a blowout, and I won by a decisive 3 Prize margin.

Game Three

The clock was running…

With about ten minutes to go, I recognized that my only hope at winning this series was to play fast…Really fast. Like the previous two games, I had to fall behind in order to establish a lock; unlike the others, I had to make big sacrifices to my normal quality of play, such as spending no time at all on exact determination of prizes. Luckily, this deck goes through the same motions, so the plays by now have become autopilot-esque: get Plume, get Kingdra, and keep up the Paralysis lock while Spray Splashing.

The only problem to this strategy? It was taking too long to get any of these things in play! Hence, he was able to secure a very decisive early prize lead, and by the time that I did have anything out, I was already down by four. However, a 4 Prize lead is not an insurmountable feat to Accelgor; just a nuisance to get past. I was forced to give up several prizes, but when the lock was going, it can only be stopped by itself.

So for the next few turns, the exchange went as such: I looped a lock on an EX, forced him to promote a sacrificial Celebi, and then looped a lock on another EX. Time was called right around this period, and I was able to grab my fourth and fifth prizes. Unfortunately, I did not have the necessary Double Colorless Energy in order to seal the deal, and in turn lost to a Revenge Blast from Shaymin EX..

So there you go: after a 5-0 win streak against the two biggest archetypes of this season, CMT took me down twice in a row. Speaking as a long-term CMT player, though, I don’t believe that it has any overwhelming edge against me – just that this series of four games was unusual. Nevertheless, I’m concerned that it may be indicative of a long-term consistency issue, so I’ll be working on it.

What Did I Learn from This Experience?

pieceofmind.wordpress.com

Short answer: a bunch. As you may have determined, Accelgor is a very complex, challenging deck to play, as well as one to build. To this end, I need to improve both ends of the equation constantly, or else I’ll beat myself before the opponent ever gets a chance to. Does this imply that I felt my playing was not up to par?

Not necessarily: at the junctures I needed it to be prepared, it felt sharp, but I did notice a couple glitches when I was ahead. It is actually possible to get ahead too early, breaking your Twins chain at the wrong time, which – if not thought about at the time – is something that needs to be considered now.

There have been much harder decks in the game’s past, however, so by and large my playing felt up to snuff. My prize analysis, probability calculations, and my Kingdra Spray Splash snipes seemed near-perfect, and my general decision-making had only a few flaws. What may be lacking in some spots are my deck choices:

1. Do I need three Smeargle?

I rarely promote it as a sacrificial lamb on turns where my setup is fine. On the other hand, it is presently the lifeline of my deck, so I can’t risk a savvy opponent Knocking them Out early, or for there to be strange prizes.

2. I may not need three Horsea at all.

My original vision was to make accessing two Kingdra a greater prospect, as well as to bench Horseas to setup single Kingdras a more aggressive option. For the most part, though, that hasn’t been a problem; in fact, that space could go toward a fat, beefy EX Basic to absorb hits.

3. My two Ultra Ball, albeit invaluable draws early game, are cards that I avoid like the plague late game, and may not be cutting their own worth.

pokemon-paradijs.comAdd on the disturbingly common occurrence of lone Basics in a 15 Basic build, and I may remove these to increase my Pichu count.

4. Am I making the right choice by pursuing a Kingdra variant over Gothitelle EPO 47, Weavile UD, or Chandelure NVI?

That’s something that I can’t answer for your or my own benefit today, although with some more testing, that matter can be sorted out for good.

Some Final Thoughts on the Battle Road Process

So that’s my approach to Battle Roads! This isn’t a new thing so much as a thought that was left unarticulated until now, but it should get you on the right track to deck development, and perhaps bolster your in-game skill, as well.

Despite the fact that many of these events are fundamentally more competitive than in previous years, they still serve the same function, with the only difference being to what degree that function is served. I believe that for whatever weird deck you may be testing, such as Quad Entei, Lugia LEGEND, or Klingklang, you could apply this very same train of thought to get positive results. Best of luck!

Getting in Gear: A Look at the European Winners, and Suggestions/Predictions for Future Nationals Players

Now let’s shift focus from the small events happening statewide, and shift our attention to the rest of the world. It’s only been one week since the first international qualifier event, and we already have some solid Dark Explorers results. Check them out!

Week One

Argentina

1) Patricio Gonzales Walsh (Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Terrakion)
2) Javier Favilli (Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX)
3) Daniel Facciabene (Darkrai EX/Weavile)
4) Hernan Gilardino (Darkrai EX/Terrakion)

Norway

1) Tord Reklev (Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion)
2) Benjamin Behrens (Darkrai EX/Terrakion)
3) Fai Cheoung (Electrode/Terrakion/Mewtwo EX/Regigigas-EX)
4) David Wikens (Zekrom/Eelektrik)

Week Two

Belgium

1) Gunter van Roey (Terrakion)
2) Joshua Vanoverschelde (Zekrom/Eelektrik)
3) Daphne van den Broek (Zekrom/Eelektrik)
4) Simeon Cafmeyer (Empoleon/Noctowl)

Denmark

1) Steffen F. (Darkrai EX/Terrakion)
2) Brian N. (Donphan/Terrakion)
3) Simon Ø. (Darkrai EX)
4) Jens R. (Darkrai EX/Terrakion)

Finland

1) Esa J. (Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX)
2) Santtu K. (Darkrai EX/Kyurem EX/Shaymin EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion)
3) Jouni L. (Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX)
4) Kumis K. (Vileplume/Mismagius/Terrakion/Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX/Shaymin EX)

(Special thanks goes to TheTopCut.net and PokéGym.net’s various users for both listing and compiling this info.)

U.S.-style analysis would have us look at how things changed from weeks one to two. But seeing as how these countries all have radically different player bases from one-another, this is neither easy nor desirable. Therefore, we’ll take a look at them one-by-one.

Apparently, Argentina had Darkrai, Darkrai, and…More Darkrai. Historically, these events are quite small, so it seems to me that either there was no Fighting presence at all, or those playing it had a very rough day for one reason or another. Of course, three out of four of these lists had ways to cope with fighting decks: Weavile for the third place finisher, and Tornadus EX for the finalists. I hate to say it, but as much as I like to study event results, there simply is not anything to take out of this other than “Darkrai dominated, so either play it or be prepared to beat it.”

As for Norway, this is what arguably helped trigger Darkrai’s big week two showing. The Norwegian National Championship was well-publicized, so naturally two teammates making its finals with the near-same build should come as a shock to many. However, this combo is not too unusual: after all, Darkrai, Mewtwo, and Terrakion are three of the best cards in the format right now, to the point where a build using the three mish-mashed together can sweep up wins like nobody’s business.

What about the third place finisher’s Electrode deck, though? Well, it’s an interesting concept, but rather than try to predict what “he” did, here’s my interpretation of it…

Pokémon – 12

3 Voltorb TM
2 Electrode Prime
2 Mewtwo-EX NXD
2 Terrakion NVI
1 Darkrai-EX DEX
1 Regigigas-EX
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper
4 Twins
3 N
2 Professor Oak’s New Theory

 

4 Junk Arm
3 Dual Ball
3 Ultra Ball
2 Eviolite
2 Pokégear 3.0
2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Super Rod
1 Exp. Share

Energy – 16

4 Double Colorless
4 Prism
4 Rainbow
4 F

pokemon-paradijs.comLike many of the Electrode variants you may have seen before in previous articles, the idea here is to pop the Electrode Prime in exchange for some energy acceleration and complete access to your deck via Twins. Of course, Mewtwo EX is our biggest emphasis right now, as you can be doing 120 on the second turn with ease. Even if Mewtwo isn’t a feasible attacking option, Terrakion sure is!

As for the single Darkrai EX, I included it so that the many big, clunky retreaters are no longer an issue. I believe that this is a hopeful concept, and while my list may be in its planning stages, a fast Terrakion flattens much of the field – pure and simple.

Moving on to week two and Belgium, we see significantly more variety, albeit with some familiar names. While I can’t tell you anything about specific attendance figures, I know that historically, Belgium’s National Championship has been small attendance.

For that reason we cannot evaluate the true competitiveness of the event, and cannot determine if this is players figuring out how to beat Darkrai, nobody owning Darkrais, or merely the nation’s top players playing with what they know.

We know a lot about Terrakion and Zekrom/Eelektrik by now, yet Empoleon/Noctowl is an anomaly. To investigate it further, I made this rough list:

Pokémon – 17

4 Piplup DEX
1 Prinplup DEX
4 Empoleon DEX
4 Hoothoot HS
4 Noctowl HS

Trainers – 36

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
4 N

 

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

Energy – 7

7 W

pokemon-paradijs.comAdmittedly, this is most likely not what he used: I suspect that he still ran at least one Terrakion, but for the purpose of testing, I’ve streamlined my build into something more basic. Your premise here is to give up on covering your Weakness, instead milking the ability to score easy knockouts early. On top of Empoleon’s Ability, you have Noctowl’s Poké-Power to make your draw ability much more potent, and with the proper field, you can draw as many as nine cards.

What this does is complement N, one of the most powerful come-from-behind cards in the format, to the point where every use of it is an immediate advantage for you. Darkrai EX looks much less intimidating with only a one card hand, doesn’t it?

Interestingly enough, the results of Denmark feature further Darkrai dominance, yet what we do have is one moderately successful attempt to counter that field in the form of Donphan/Terrakion. I won’t be supplying a list on this deck: regardless of how simple or difficult it is to formulate, it’d be guesswork on my part to determine what lines there are. I suspect that the emphasis is on Terrakion, but I can’t tell you for sure, so I’m opting to skip this one.

Finally, Finland also continues the trend of Darkrai wins, but with a few unusual variants. Since Esa was there, I’ll let him handle the specific analysis in a couple of weeks; however, both the second place and fourth place builds strike me as very intriguing. Santtu’s deck appears to be a Darkrai toolbox/Six Corners of sorts, featuring Prisms and perhaps Rainbows to open you up to a range of options.

If my assumption is correct, then chances are that the deck suffers from all of the same weaknesses as the original Six Corners: susceptibility to Lost Remover, and an inability to accelerate energy attachments when needed. I could be wrong on that second count, though, since you can still run sufficient counts of Basic Darkness – just that it is harder than when running Basic Darkness by itself, or Basic Darkness and Double Colorless.

As for that final deck? Well, I’ve been messing around with a list almost like that for some time, and can show you generally what it ought to look like:

Pokémon – 20

4 Oddish UD
1 Gloom UD
2 Vileplume UD
2 Misdreavus UD
2 Mismagius UD
2 Terrakion NVI
2 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Shaymin-EX NXD
1 Shaymin UL
1 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 26

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Sage’s Training
4 Twins
3 N
2 Seeker
1 Professor Oak’s New Theory

 

4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy

Energy – 14

4 Rainbow
4 Prism
4 Double Colorless
2 P

pokemon-paradijs.comThis list runs a lot of techs, but it’s all for a good cause: countering each major weakness in the field with beefy Pokémon-EX (or in the cases of Shaymin EX and Terrakion, just heavy hitters). The free retreat is a lifesaver for the deck, letting you access Smeargle with ease to keep consistency flowing in tight spots. Naturally attachments are an issue, which is why I opted for a Shaymin UL: so that I could not only abuse Darkrai’s Ability, but mitigate that single attachment dilemma.

Also as a point of interest: My version runs a thin line (2-1-1) of Reuniclus BLW. For the purpose of this article, I removed it, but I wholeheartedly encourage you to test it. The cuts are hard, considering that running Reuniclus warrants Pichu usage, so put Seeker, Darkrai EX #2, and Shaymin UL at the top of your removal choices.

That’s that for the specific Nationals analysis. What of the big picture?

What These Results Mean for Future Nationals

Aside from the obvious response of “Darkrai EX is awesome,” perhaps the most important thing to take out of these past two weekends of National Championships is that while the efforts to counter Darkrai haven’t succeeded to the extent that one would hope, they are at least happening.

Seeing as how I was not at any of these events, and given that It’s tough to predict if this is because Darkrai is so good it can beat fighting, that the variants are not refined, or that dumb luck doomed some truly great rogues, but is clear is that the effort is leading to some top cuts, trophies, and maybe even some Worlds invites.

In future weeks of Nationals, as well as later Battle Road weekends, we should see an escalation in the hard countering for most metagames where Darkrai is king. By triggering knockouts when and how you want them to occur, Night Spear is a ferocious move that can’t be dealt with using soft means; instead, players will want to get aggressive against Darkrai and Darkrai alone.

At some point, perhaps sooner rather than later, we may also witness strange rogues exploiting the inefficiencies of Darkrai EX. Almost every single non-fighting deck mentioned in this article, from Accelgor to Lugia and Klingklang, finds some way to abuse Darkrai’s all-Basic status, emphasis on EX attackers, or lack of a really effective 1HKO attacker.

pokemon-paradijs.comFinally, I have a strange hunch: even though I’m not enamored with the deck (I’m a CMT and Vileplume kind of guy), I see this metagame fluctuation as a sign that Zeels will do exceedingly well at United States Nationals, if not win it outright. Many of these newest concepts don’t have an easy time against it, and even if they do, then the various rogues suffer from silver bullets of the field: Unown CURE for status concepts; Weavile UD for the majority of Lugia LEGEND variants; and pure, clean 1-shots against tank builds like Quad Entei-EX and Klinklang BLW.

What could very well happen is that the top cut of U.S. Nationals in the Masters division will see tons of Darkrai make it, but a greater deal of Zeel and rogue advance into the deep portions of the event.

Is my prediction going to come true? It could, but since I don’t plan on using Zeels, I hope not!

Conclusion

This is a tough portion of the season for many of us: with either struggles to claim last-second Championship Points, high hopes for a last shot at U.S. Nationals, or preparations for future European events, we have a lot on our plates, and not much time to finish. Nevertheless, there is still a hope to claim that invite, trip or whatever else you are aiming for – just keep at it!


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