Realpolitik in Pokémon: Things You Need to Know Before Nationals

pokemonelite2000.comAfter a brief break from the bread-and-butter topics that make up your typical understanding of the Underground experience, it’s time for me to get back to basics. As I addressed in my last article, there were several National Championships over the past couple weekends, and more of them – including the prestigious United States National Championship – are en route.

Since I’ve played in a fair share of these tournaments, I’ve had a great opportunity to see how the U.S. tournament – the biggest of the entire season – has evolved.

Of course, things are going to change in a very big way this season, making U.S. Nationals a whole different beast from what it once was. In today’s discussion, I’ll go over the following topics:

  • Closing out the Battle Road discussion
  • Deck skeletons (not lists) of every major player in the HS-DEX format
  • Considerations about Play! Points and Championship Points
  • Things to know if this is your first National Championship
  • “The play”

Seeing as how many of us will be landlocked due to the extremely fancy (and extremely expensive) venue for Worlds 2012, this is really the last chance for a lot of players to do something great this season. For that reason, why not maximize your odds of doing well Figure out how the big events will really work: by getting the realpolitik, or reality, of how Nationals works, you can up your chances of taking home that title significantly.

But first, we must deal with…

Closing out the Battle Road Discussion: A Brief Mention of Darkrai, Nationals, and the Last Weekend

pokemon-paradijs.comEven though we have a weekend’s worth of Battle Road tournaments left, they are – for the most part – over. Again, thanks to contributors at PokéGym, we have a comprehensive list of top finishers at Battle Roads. Of the Masters, here’s what was listed to have won at least twice:

No matter what happened this weekend, or is going to happen next, Darkrai dominance is undeniable! Granted, there are a ton of events that didn’t report; however, as past years of reported vs. non-reported data shows me, it’s that the missing data is consistent with the present info. (For this season, I’d even assume that it’s more skewed toward Darkrai and Zeel!) Thus, it’s safe to say that this Darkrai dominance is not only firm, but unprecedented.

What does this mean for Nationals? The clearest thing is that a healthy portion of the metagame will be Darkrai, Darkrai, and more Darkrai. You can’t approach this upcoming weekend of Battle Roads thinking that, but you can certainly approach United States Nationals (and to a lesser extent, European Nationals events) with that idea. Be that as it may, I would certainly not anticipate it to be so absolutely spammed with Darkrai decks: there will be a predictable chunk of it, sure, but expect there to be all sorts of things (more on that later in the article).

If you’re hungry for some last minute Championship Points, I recommend that you either play a very consistent, reliable Darkrai/Weavile/, or an equally consistent and reliable Fighting deck with Mewtwo EX. Both are the safest, surest ways to cruise to at least one Championship Point, especially in metagames where the most popular decks (Darkrai, Zeel, CMT) will be spammed into oblivion. Really, there’s not a lot left about Battle Roads, so if you’d like some more ideas about them, then check out my last article.

Now, regarding popular decks: let’s get into those, shall we?

Pre-Nationals Deck Skeletons

pokemon-paradijs.comIt’s been a long while since anyone on the main site has really run through the whole “skeleton” thing. As someone who’s done skeleton lists at least a few times in the past, it’s honestly a lot more work to have to argue for an incomplete concept as opposed to explain away what’s already in your comfort zone.

However, the potential for getting how to finalize a list is much greater when you already have an idea of what the starting place is. Hence, skeletons can be valuable, and cut out a very cumbersome, uncreative part of the play-testing process.

Let’s start with the one skeleton that everyone’s been stewing over: Darkrai and other cards, or “goodness.”

Darkrai + Goodness

Pokémon – 5

2 Darknessrai-EX
1 Sableye DEX
1 Shaymin UL
1 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 27

10 Draw Supporters

 

4 Dark Patch
3 Dual Ball
3 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Ultra Ball
1 Eviolite
1 Random Receiver

Energy – 10

7 Darkness [Basic]
3 “Any” (including more Basic Darkness)

savagechickens.comIn incomplete, “choose your own path” lists such as this one, you seek to focus on primarily the cards that are necessary: avoid the preferences, and go for the essence of what makes a deck what it is. In this case, the essence of an “instant-Darkrai-just-add-water!” construction is a few key Pokémon. Of course a two Darkrai EX minimum is necessary in any deck that could be called a “variant” of Darkrai, but over the course of my testing, there are a few cards I’ve grown to accept as mandatory inclusions:

*Shaymin all the way. When Celebration Wind first came out, it was one of the biggest surprises you could face in competitive play; nowadays, though, its use is so saturated that anyone not expecting to see it on any given turn is making a huge misplay. For both the remainder of Battle Roads and Nationals, expect to see this card; and if you’re a Darkrai user, you’d best be using it in every regular version of the deck. Heck, maybe you ought to include it in All-in Darkrai, as well!

P.S. Here’s a hint to do well in mirror: run multiple Shaymin, especially if you’re using Terrakion or Mewtwo EX! The Crushing Hammer players want you to never get a chance to use either, but with Dark Patch and Shaymin, it’s actually an attainable goal even in the face of so much removal.

*Like in CMT before it, Smeargle is a major player to maintaining the level of speed and consistency required of a competitive Darkrai list. There’s a ton of luck involved with the card, sure, but when every other list is using two to four of the card, not running even one will lead you to falling behind in at least every other mirror match.

*Finally, the utility of Sableye is no longer deniable. Some may believe that the “infinite” Crushing Hammer combo with Junk Hunt is the primary reason to run this card – a notion I could not disagree with more. Dark Patch is the almost universal turn one Junk Hunt option if it’s been used or discarded, and a list with three of four Random Receivers could be made completely “N-proof” in the late game.

Imagine having about 20 cards left between your deck and your hand late game: your opponent uses N to bring your hand size down to a single card. Had you used Sableye’s Junk Hunt the previous turn for two Random Receivers, that one card –plus whatever you topdeck going into the next turn – is probably going to net you a much greater probability of closing out the game. For all those reasons, always run Sableye, because you can’t afford not to.

pokemon-paradijs.com*As you can see, my “draw” is extremely vague. That’s because some lists have a greater need for shuffle draw, whereas others focus on straight draw with the capability of discarding (e.g., Juniper and Sage’s Training). My favorite split right now involves 4 Juniper, 3 Oak’s New Theory, and 3 N – not unlike how I’ve run CMT in the past.

That’s because it gives me a solid balance of running conservative draw, coupled with both disruption (N) and aggression (Junipering away a hand full of stuff).

*Even though I personally run three Random Receiver (or even four at certain points in testing), I consider it to be at least a 1-of at all times. It and Pokégear are two huge reasons why Junk Arm is the single best card in the format, so milk those card spaces to their maximum.

*On that note, why is Junk Arm only in a quantity of three in my skeleton? That’s because Sableye mitigates its usefulness, itself being two Junk Arms for the price of one. Naturally, this is at the price of an attack, and four Junk Arm is still a reasonable play, but for the purpose of a bare bones list, consider only three to be “mandatory.”

*In both my States and Regionals CMT lists, I rejected Eviolite due to its lack of proactive strength. But for this leg of the season, Eviolite in any quantity may as well be deemed a requirement for all decks not centered around Item lock. In Darkrai I see it as being most notable: forcing the PlusPower onto a Terrakion or three energy Donphan (or double PlusPower on Landorus) can practically give you free wins against Fighting, and Zeels could very well abandon all hope of taking you down with a nice mix of Eviolites and heal cards (Super Scoop Up).

*My last topic to address is the 7 minimum on Basic Darkness Energy. This is the minimal amount needed for the deck to function properly, since any less would mean that your ability to Dark Patch will be greatly hindered. I myself would run anywhere from as few as eight to as many as 14, but I’ve seen lists actually work on only seven plus special energy. (These are all prone to Lost Remover and Enhanced Hammer, which is another topic in and of itself.)

In the end, the main point I’m trying to get across in this skeleton is that there’s a ton of flexibility in your selections, and how little you actually have to plug in between the various Darkrai builds. This ought to make emergency teching, splashing, or even outright deck-changing quite simple, which is a big reason why so many are convinced that Darkrai is the best in the format.

Example of “adding muscle” to the skeleton:

Pokémon – 11

3 Darknessrai-EX
2 Shaymin UL
2 Smeargle UD

2 Terrakion NVI

1 Sableye DEX
1 Mewtwo-EX

Trainers – 36

10 Draw Supporters

 

4 Junk Arm

4 Dark Patch
3 Dual Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Super Scoop Up

3 Random Receiver
2 Ultra Ball

2 PlusPower
2 Eviolite

Energy – 13

8 Darkness [Basic]
3 “Any” (including more Basic Darkness)

2 Fighting

Additions:

pokemon-paradijs.com
Muscle.

2 Terrakion NVI
1 Darkrai EX
1 Mewtwo EX
1 Shaymin UL
1 Smeargle UD

[+6]

3 Super Scoop Up
2 Pluspower
2 Random Receiver
1 Eviolite
1 Junk Arm

[+9]

1 Darkness – Basic
2 Fighting

[+3; three spots were left hanging]

Zeels

Pokémon – 9

3 Tynamo (Any version other than Charge Beam)
3 Eelektrik NVI
1 Mewtwo-EX
1 Zekrom BLW
1 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 24

10 Draw Supporters

 

6 Search Items
4 Junk Arm
2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Switch

Energy – 11

7 Lightning
4 Double Colorless

Albeit less versatile than “Darkrai + Goodness,” Zeels is still a very flexible deck, with over a fourth of the deck available for whatever you want. For the record, I really enjoyed Jay’s comparative article, but for the sake of every single Zeel list in the format, there are a few issues to address:

pokemon-paradijs.com*Pick a fish – any fish. Except for Charge Beam, that is, since its uses are in only the strangest circumstances. The question, then should settle on which Tynamo to focus on?

-Free retreat (Tynamo NVI 39) has faded out of favor due to how brutal Darkrai’s Night Spear is on it. Although I’ve seen some builds using at least one, it’s not really easy to run three or four of the thing anymore.

-Setting up knockouts via Tynamo DEX 45 is a nice strategy, but with all of the healing, damage prevention, and need for 20 bench damage over 10, I don’t see it going too far. Be that as it may, I would consider running at least one for the difference that the one-two punch of Spark can make. So that leaves us with…

-Tynamo NVI 38, which returns to its throne as the top percentage of Rattat…Errr, Tynamo. Paralysis can be clutch, deciding games on nothing more than a clutch Thundershock flip in the early, middle, “or” late portions of a battle. At my Battle Road this past weekend, a friend of mine was actually able to mount a 6-1 Prize deficit comeback all because he hit heads on the Paralysis flip!

While I have nowhere near the same number of Eelektrik uses in premier events as this fellow does, the same has happened for me in testing, so neglecting the best Tynamo is not a wise course of action if you’re a Zeel player.

…But enough about Tynamos…

*What is the best split of non-Supporter search for Zeels right now? My answer is a split one, but it generally favors a diversely mixed ball engine: 3 Dual Ball; 2 Level Ball; 1 Ultra Ball.

-Three Dual Ball to give you the backbone of your basic searching. This deck runs several fatter Pokémon-EX cards, so having a way to grab them consistently is extraordinarily useful.

pokemon-paradijs.com-Two Level Ball in order to accelerate your early game Eelektrik/Tynamo setup. It’s also extraordinarily useful in getting out a mid or late game Eel if need be.

-One Ultra Ball as a catch-all “two for one” spot, shoring up my odds of getting Eels while simultaneously giving you a guaranteed way to fetch the big basics in your deck. The reason why I only run one is because it’s really just there for pinches; not to get Junk Armed like the others.

Due to how insanely fast this format moves, I am for all intents and purposes “off” of Pokémon Collector. However, if you still trust its reliability and want to run the card, I’d only run a play set of it with one Level Ball and one Ultra Ball.

*Regarding the energy line, in case you want to play one or two Terrakion, you “could” get away with two fighting…However, I do not recommend it unless both an Energy Search and Super Rod are included in the list. A count of three or even four fighting would probably work much better, because remember: even if you KO a Darkrai, that Terrakion tech needs to follow up and pull its weight some more.

So what’s an example of this skeleton solidifying?

Pokémon – 15

3 Tynamo (Any version other than Charge Beam)
3 Eelektrik NVI

3 Smeargle UD
2 Mewtwo-EX
2 Zekrom BLW

2 Terrakion NVI

Trainers – 31

10 Draw Supporters

 

6 Search Items
4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Switch

2 PlusPower
1 Energy Search
1 Random Receiver
1 Super Rod

 

1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 14

8 Lightning
4 Double Colorless

2 Fighting

Additions:

pokemon-paradijs.com2 Smeargle UD
2 Terrakion NVI
1 Mewtwo EX
1 Zekrom BLW

[+6]

2 PlusPower
1 Pokémon Catcher
1 Energy Search
1 Random Receiver
1 Super Rod
1 Skyarrow Bridge

[+7]

2 Fighting
1 Lightning

[+3]

Well that’s that. Our last “skeleton” to consider is a very filled-out Mewtwo build…

Celebi/Mewtwo

Pokémon – 8

3 Celebi Prime
2 Mewtwo-EX
1 Tornadus EPO
1 Shaymin UL
1 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 30

10 Draw Supporters

 

4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Dual Ball
2 PlusPower
2 Pokégear 3.0/Random Receiver
2 Switch
2 Ultra Ball
1 Energy Retrieval/Super Rod

 

2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 11

7 Grass
4 Double Colorless

pokemon-paradijs.comDespite CMT being a much simpler deck to operate than, say, Zeels, your options are much more constrained. In other words, if you’re deviating from this very “set” formula too much, then you simply do not have CMT anymore; you have something else entirely.

*Why do I, a longtime CMT player, consider only three Celebi to be required instead of four? My reasoning is two-fold: first, the odds of starting with it first turn are not good enough as is – typically flirting with the 43-50% count based on the number of basics you run; second, Celebi is simply a worse card now, due in no small part to every EX short of Darkrai, as well as widespread usage of N.

However, the kicker is that this is not me saying Celebi is a bad card – it’s just no longer mandatory. I PERSONALLY would still use four, so take this very nuanced view for what it’s worth.

*Before I had a chance to really explore this updated format, I felt like Mewtwo EX was seriously weakened by Darkrai’s presence, and I still feel that way. Still, Terrakion can stand to be the savior that smites the sinful, Night-Spearing tar stain, and it splashes into this list much better than any other.

At any rate, the race to win Mewtwo wars is dead, so for those of you who were drunk on this card…Don’t bother running three or more anymore, since you’d be better off using something that gives you wins versus the field at large. Mewtwo is still a GOOD card…Just not as good as it once was.

Paradoxically, that doesn’t mean that the deck itself is much worse now. For my entire time using CMT variants, I never felt like the deck’s strength came only from Mewtwo EX: there are three letters on the door, and if you’re not making good use out of the “C” or the “T,” then you aren’t harnessing the deck to its full potential.

*Why only one Tornadus? Simple: so you can have the option of going the EX toolbox route, running Tornadus EX, Shaymin EX, and so on. You can also go the route of using three or four Tornadus, but with all of the Super Scoop Ups and Max Potions, 80 (60 with Eviolite) lacks the sting that it used to. It’s STILL fantastic against Eelektrik, though, so for that alone you may want to keep a good count.

*Two Ultra Ball seems extreme in a deck that could potentially be very N-vulnerable late game, but it is faster than Collector, yet much more reliable than Dual Ball. That said, you still need a Dual Ball presence due to Junk Arm – hence a 2/2 split.

*Only two Switch so that the skeleton can facilitate a presence of Super Scoop Ups for massive healing…

*…And the lasting potential for Pokégear over Random Receiver due to a possible inclusion of Seeker.

…And here’s one final completed skeleton!

Pokémon – 12

4 Celebi Prime
2 Mewtwo-EX
2 Tornadus EPO
1 Tornadus-EX DEX
1 Shaymin UL
1 Smeargle UD

1 Terrakion NVI

Trainers – 34

10 Draw Supporters

 

4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Switch
2 Dual Ball
2 PlusPower
2 Pokégear 3.0/Random Receiver
2 Ultra Ball
2 Eviolite
1 Energy Retrieval/Super Rod

1 Energy Search

 

2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 14

8 Grass
4 Double Colorless

2 Fighting

Additions:

pokemon-paradijs.com1 Celebi Prime
1 Terrakion NVI
1 Tornadus EPO
1 Tornadus EX

[+4]

1 Switch
2 Eviolite
1 Energy Search

[+4]

1 Grass Energy
2 Fighting Energy

[+3]

As for the other three decks that won multiple times, I won’t be posting any skeletons of those today. I feel like my fellow writers have done (or will do) a good job on updating us: Alex just posted a good quad Entei build, and Jay ought to be giving you a good Klingklang update on Thursday.

As for Fighting, it’s far too broad a stroke to paint it with the “skeleton” title, but rest assured that it could be all sorts of combinations between Terrakion NVI, Landorus NVI, and/or Donphan Prime. However, if there’s enough interest in skeletons for these three decks, then I’ll post them on the corresponding forum thread to this article by Friday at the earliest, or Sunday at the latest. Ask, and you shall receive!

(Also, in case you didn’t notice, I Terrakion-ified every last one of those skeletons. That “sorta” counts, right???)

Figuring out the System: How the Play! Point minimum and Championship Point reward structure will impact various National Championships across the world

en.wikipedia.orgAside from the format, one very important difference between the National tournaments of past years and this one is that we have two important point systems in place: the 10 Play! Point minimum required to even play in the tournament, and the rise of the Championship Point invite structure. Both will alter the way that National tournaments function – primarily the one in the United States.

For starters, a minimum Play! Point count is going to decrease the number of surprise “spoiler” players dramatically. These people are called “Grinches” for a reason: they’re formidable opponents who, for one reason or another, are unable to be active in Organized Play, yet still come down to wreak havoc on the full time players.

A surprising number of consistent performers actually fit this category, so now they are much less likely to show up. Does that mean that they’re gone entirely? No way! Qualification points are easy to get, but even if a player is mercilessly lazy, that individual could very well make it out to a couple of big events and leave it at that.

Additionally, the rise of Play! Points means that the end of parents, girlfriends, etc. making it into the big event without any prior involvement is upon us. More likely than not, members of the “tag-along” bloc of Pokémon players will not be given the best of decks to use, and may not even know their Charizards from their Chanseys. This will lead to a dense event, as well as far fewer freebie rounds.

While the latter is something you personally should have never counted on at any point, whoever you end up facing at any given point in the later rounds will probably be more tested than in previous years. What this means is that one of the most common types of rogues – that is, lists that have a stellar matchup versus one or two topdecks and falter against the rest – are far less likely to get you in the middle of end of the event.

Championship Points also play a critical role in making Nationals harder than they were from 2007 to 2011. Whereas the debate of ELO versus CP rages on in certain corners of the Pokémon online world, the good of the latter is not felt stronger anywhere else than in the swiss rounds of the United States National Championship, where every player will have incentive to give it his or her all.

This is yet another reason why any National Championship will be more competitive: because there’s a much more honest attempt made by the field at large to win. Regardless if you’re American or Portuguese, I’m confident that this will hold true.

Things to Know if This is Your First National Championship

Mark A. HicksThis section (and to a lesser extent the last) is why the article is titled “Realpolitik in Pokémon”: because in order to succeed, you need to accept the positive and negative realities of playing in such a large, competitive, and at times cutthroat event.

(Well, maybe not “cutthroat,” but you know what I mean…)

Indeed, many of you are headed to various National Championship tournaments for the first time, and I’d like to congratulate, educate, and warn you about what’s ahead. After all, a freshman outing to Nationals is an exciting experience, but if you walk in unprepared, it won’t be as exciting as you would like! For that reason, please consider the below…

[Note: For some in the Eurozone, you might find that some of the specifics of what I say are not readily applicable to your nation; however, there are some main principles that should still transfer from nation to nation.]

-If you want to progress in the tournament, you must obtain at least a 7-2 record or better in the swiss (6-2 for Juniors) in U.S. Nationals . While a precious few of you are State champions or Regional finalists, and an even more precious few of you could cut at 6-3, it is in your best interest to consider your third loss as the “kiss of death” to your Nationals run. For that reason, most people shouldn’t be playing decks that have a virtually guaranteed auto-loss during the swiss; that is, builds that are susceptible to donks, a bad matchup against one or two popular decks, etc.

-That said, do NOT drop – period! From a practical standpoint, you are not completely eliminated from the running until you have lost four games: if you were the recipient of byes, you hold an extraordinary advantage over everyone else holding the same record; and even if you didn’t, almost anything could happen with your resistance. I know several people who felt down in the dumps about their chances at making it into cut with X-3 records, but ended up moving on due to their resilience and grit.

gamespot.com– …And if you do happen to suffer four losses? Keep playing anyway! This is your first National Championship, after all – why not come out of it with a substantive placing? If you had some tangible incentive to give up on the event, such as an ELO-dependent invite, then dropping makes sense. But in the Championship Point era, dropping is almost never worth it, so don’t do it!

-Speaking of Championship Points again, if you’ve been collecting the majority of yours based off of top cuts and small tournament wins, then prepare to start winning some more; otherwise, you won’t be going anywhere, because Top 128 at U.S. Nats gets no points.

This is kind of ludicrous, given how ferocious the competition can get, but it is what it is, so if you’re on the cusp of clinching an invite, then play that Top 128 as if it was your last game ever.

-As for actual playing of the game, do NOT let yourself get distracted! With all the people, decorations, and lights, it might be easy to let yourself wander; however, zeroing in on a game can be critical to your success. There is also the possibility that some fool could try to cheat against you: not something you’d ever hope to see, but definitely worth preparing for in the event that it happens.

(By the way, don’t let the paranoia of cheaters drive you insane! Watch for them, and SCREAM for a judge as loud as you can in the event of it happening…But don’t give up on what makes this game great.)

-Including reprints, there are approximately 1,200 cards legal in the current HGSS-DEX Modified format. Expect every last one of them to appear in at least one deck at Nationals: if it’s Darkrai EX, expect it; if it’s Eelektross DEX, expect it; and if it’s Dunsparce UL…Expect that, too (unfortunately).

Mark A. Hicks
Raise your hand like this if you think your opponent is stalling.

-Stallers: watch out for them, and don’t be afraid to call a judge. With tournaments that could be upwards to 1,000 or more players, the judges will almost certainly be overextended. In spite of that, they still want to help you, since they’re dedicated staff members who are either veterans savvy to stallers, new blood set on proving itself, or just dead-set on ensuring that a good game is played. In other words, the judges should be happy to humor a reasonable request.

What defines reasonable, though? That’s not easy to say, although from my personal experience, the best time to call a judge is when – in the course of a game – your opponent is a serial offender of doing nothing. By this, I mean that he or she spent at least three instances in a game taking no actions for 15 or more seconds each. That’s no less than 45 seconds – 2.5% of an entire game – spent not playing. Therefore, it is completely in your best interest to call a judge!

-If you plan on going deep into the event, as any competitive player should, then try to conserve energy throughout the weekend. Even though playing cards is a mental activity, there is still a very real physical element to it: at the very least, fatigue, hunger, thirst, and discomfort are all going to distract you, so try to minimize all of them as much as you can.

Speaking of which, your deck choice can play a significant role in maintaining stamina. The player using all-in Darkrai, for instance, will enjoy much more time to recuperate between rounds than the player using Vileplume decks. Such a player may also experience easier games, too.

Be that as it may, the second most important thing to actual in-game skill is your deck choice. To that end, you had best make it count…

Choosing the Right Play for Your National Championship

en.wikipedia.org
Your deck should be comfortable, like the old teddy bear your mom keeps trying to throw away.

To close out our discussion of getting ready for Nationals, one important thing to keep in mind is your pursuit of “the right play.” In almost every single tournament of every single season, competitive players are constantly on the hunt for it, and spends weeks – even months – testing over it. With less than three weeks to go, you obviously can’t do that anymore, but what you can do is keep in three simple, yet crucial pieces of advice to find the right play for you.

-A common comment you may hear from veteran players – even elites – is to play what you know. For the most part, I jump onto this bandwagon; however, you must exercise caution in doing this. I would wager that at least 90% of people who have ever given the aforementioned advice believe in the existence of bad decks. So while you are well-served to play what you know, make sure that inferior decks are all that you are capable of playing with precision; otherwise, Nationals will be an exercise in futility.

As many of you may know, I have a huge obsession with Accelgor, and it’s one that I will not shake off anytime soon. However, in the back of my mind is consideration of the possibility that my favorite deck – my “baby,” if you will – is just an ugly slug that can’t stand up to the metagame. Thus, I continue testing a wide variety of decks, including some of my old favorites like CMT and (to a lesser extent) The Truth. This testing makes it so that even if I wake up and decide that my Accelgor love is just delusion, I still have fallbacks, thereby maximizing my chances of success.

In the end, it’s not the deck you play, but the faith you have in that deck to let your skill shine through in a very fast, somewhat luck-based format. If this faith is grounded in facts and evidence, then you should succeed; if it was grounded in whim and “what’s fun,” then your faith was not invested well.

-If you have neither the time nor adeptness to mess with bad rogues and techs, then I would urge you to stick to the tried-and-true of the format. There are tens if not hundreds of people who are going to make these exact mistakes that I describe, so – barring catastrophe – they should be more or less free wins when you’re using a very effective build of the tried-and-true.

I don’t mean this to sound demeaning or cocky, since lord knows I’ve been a part of this crowd at least a couple times in the past; rather, I’m just stating how I perceive things to be, and how you can best take advantage of them. Based on the earlier advice (expect anything), you should never get cocky – just stay confident in what you know and can do.

mcdpublishing.com-Last of all, do not let cost of a lack of resources impede your pursuit of the exact deck and list you want to play. This may seem like a no-brainer since everyone in the audience is paying $15 a month for a premium content Pokémon card strategy website; however, I have been shocked at how so many people on the site have told me in confidence that they “can’t afford the cards for the deck.”

Now this is completely justifiable in the case of parents: when cards begin to cost more than $15 a piece, that’s most likely anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour of your time at work. Is a piece of cardboard really worth that much time? Unless you’re rich and/or a hardcore collector, then you would agree that it isn’t.

Thus, whether you’re a parent or a gamer who’s missing that last card or two, borrow! The game is full of friendly people who are more than willing to lend out cards; however, return the favor by willing to put up collateral worth at least 50% more than the card’s value. So if someone loans you a Darkrai EX (approx. $40-$45), then unless you know that person super well, don’t be surprised to give up a couple Mewtwo EX or full art Tornadus EX until you return it.

To get a Mewtwo EX for my Texas States-winning list, a local player named Ron was kind enough to let me borrow his, and I happily complied to his request of a Charizard e from Fire Red/Leaf Green as collateral.

Even if you can’t find the cards? Bite the bullet and buy them. If this is not feasible in an already tight vacation budget, then trade for a while, but don’t expect to get a Darkrai on the first try; instead, just trade for the sake of trading, and then perhaps obtain enough new “stock” to convince an owner of one to let it go. Basically, if you really want the win, then be ready to hustle for it.

(By all means, “leak” this last piece of information to the general public, since lord knows I hate the pre-event panic driving up the vendors’ prices!)

Some Closing Thoughts

pokemon.comWhether you’re a first timer or long-time Nationals competitor, I always hope that you get something out of my articles, but I especially hope that this article has given those 70+% of you going to a National Championship some real, substantive things to think about. On that note, I’d like to close out with a very humble, inspiring post from last year’s U.S. National Champion in the Masters division: Justin Sanchez.

“…What i am living like now is what i dreamed of in the past. Being the reigning pokemon national champion has finally sunk in(weeks before i come to defend the title itself)

South Florida pokemon was dead for the most part, its history of success in the game was very low. North florida and Orlando area has always dominated our pokemon scene.

I feel with my recent success I have not only lit a fuse in my own eyes, but in the eyes of south Florida in general. To come out of literally NOWHERE, take the national title back home to SOUTH FLORIDA, felt amazing.

To continue with at least DECENT success in the couple tournaments I’ve played this season (top 4 FL regs top 8 FL states) shows it was not a fluke. I have already proven to myself I was worthy of winning that day, luck aside.
I was MEANT to win that day. God put everything in place for me to do so. I do not worship god, but after that weekend I do believe there is one. My story is so freakishly unbelievable.

Now you’re probably wondering where I’m trying to get at with this. It’s weeks before I go back to the very place it all began (for me) and I felt I needed to write something. ANYTHING to express how I feel about this.

The current format is one I’m not too sure what to think of, cards being expensive and deck choice being limited. I actually played in a battle road the other day with Empoleon-getting 2nd in a field of Zekrom.

You’re thinking “big deal it’s just a battle road” and yes while I do understand that, it’s not the accomplishment I’m proud of. I now FIRMLY believe if you are comfortable with whatever deck you choose, you can do well.

During some of those games I wasn’t sure HOW I was winning, I just was. On 0 hours of sleep the previous morning I was taking on full-fledged Zekrom/Eelektrik decks.

So I’d just like to mention that I do believe the best deck choice is the one you’re most comfortable with. Obviously the extent of how far you go does decide on your deck choice, but doing well with a deck you’re comfortable with isn’t relatively hard.

Thanks for reading and good luck at nationals everyone. Belief is something I didn’t know of before but now pride myself in doing.”

I don’t know how much he appreciates me quoting his HeyTrainer post like this without asking in advance, but as a long-time player who’s always aimed for newer and better results…It really hit home when I read this comment. Even those of you who have tasted a massive win at Nationals or Worlds can appreciate the feeling of coming from nowhere to shake and rattle people’s expectations; to be a competitive force.

So play what you know, guys, and play what’s comfortable to you. But also don’t forget what it felt like before you started “getting good,” since it’s from that starting point where everything you know about the game is founded upon.

Have fun, good luck, and do your best!


…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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