Getting the Edge On the Competition + “The Play” for Nationals

pokemon-paradijs.comFirst I want to address a topic that I personally put a lot of thought into when building decks and when playing in tournaments. During Battle Roads I played a deck with only 9 Supporters and 2 Random Receiver. As you could imagine, there were times that I could been in serious trouble had my opponent not had a Supporter in their hand for me to use via Smeargle’s Portrait.

Nowadays it seems like every Zekeels or Dakrai deck that you come across has two or more copies of Smeargle. Due to the new reliance on everybody’s favorite painting Pokémon, current decklists have been playing with an increasingly diminishing number of Supporters.

When building a deck, you could include the standard four Professor Juniper, four Professor Oak’s New Theory, two N, two Random Receiver and that would work very well. Instead of this, I offer a different approach that I have been using with my decks recently. In my current Zekeels build I play with three Professor Juniper, three Professor Oak’s New Theory, two N, and four Random Receiver.

When I was remaking my Zekeels decklist after Battle Roads I used this Supporter lineup because it gave me the best chance of limiting my opponents’ use of Portrait while taking virtually nothing from the consistency of the deck.

One could even argue that it adds more consistency when you consider that you are able to use Junk Arm to get back Random Receiver, but a Supporter in the discard pile has no value. This argument could go both ways though since there is a slight chance of running out of Supporters with only eight in the deck.

It may seem like this would not make much of a difference considering it is only a two Supporter decrease from the amount that many decks play in the current metagame, however my results from testing this change have been promising.

Even if this change turns out to only effect a small percentage of the games that you play, it is an opportunity to disrupt your opponent that you may not have had if you played a higher Supporter count. During Regionals there were a few of my games that came down to a single Portrait, and several games that I won could have had a different outcome had my Portrait failed at a crucial time.

One play that I frequently made during Battle Roads before I Knocked Out an opponent’s Pokémon (allowing my opponent to promote Smeargle) was playing a Junk Arm to discard the only Supporter in my hand (or both) to get back a Random Receiver, shutting out the possibility of my opponent getting the effect of two Supporters during their next turn (unless they N me into one). This proved to be a very strong play.

While this play may not always be beneficial, when you need to keep your Junk Arm for a different use for example, it is something that I highly recommend everyone keep in mind while they play at Nationals.

After reading my last few paragraphs one may believe that playing a low Supporter count with a high Random Receiver count is the most successful way to build a deck. However, there is also a negative effect to this. If you find yourself playing against a Vileplume UD variant, the extra Trainers will be useless after they achieve their lock and you could find yourself on the wrong end of a Supporter drought.

In my opinion the positives of this change outweigh the negatives, so the decklist that I use at US Nationals will likely include at least three Random Receivers.

This is just one example of how I have used my knowledge of the format to gain an advantage over opposing decklists, I hope that this will inspire readers to be constantly looking for situations than can be exploited to gain an edge on the competition.

The Fundamentals of Teching

maximumpc.comAnother way of getting the edge on your competition is in the form of adding techs to your deck, either to compensate for bad matchups or to sway the usual 50/50 odds of a mirror match in your favor. Throughout my brief history of Pokémon, I have seen techs incorporated into various decks from SP decks using Unown G to guard themselves from Machamp SF taking out Basic after Basic or Gengar SF from sniping Bench-sitters such as Uxie LA, to Zekeels enlisting the help of Terrakion NVI to combat Darkrai EX.

Teching can be a surefire way to increase your odds of beating the decks you expect to face, but it has to be done without compromising the overall consistency of your deck. Decklists tend to be very tight on space, so be sure that the cards you remove for your techs will not be greatly missed in the matchups that your techs will be useless.

With that said, realize that techs will likely be dead cards in most games. An example of this would be last year if you added a 1-1 line of Banette PL into your Luxchomp deck, your Banette PL line might have proved to be invaluable when you were paired against Machamp SF or Mewtwo LV.X, but it was not likely to do much against a Gyarados SF or Steelix Prime deck.

Teching Against the Current Format

In this section I will be displaying decklists that I have used showing how I successfully teched for the format.


Pokémon – 14

3 Tynamo NVI 38

3 Eelektrik NVI

3 Thundurus EPO

2 Terrakion NVI

1 Zekrom BLW

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

1 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 33

3 Professor Juniper

3 Professor Oak’s New Theory

2 N

4 Random Receiver


4 Junk Arm

4 Dual Ball

3 Level Ball

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Switch

2 PlusPower

1 Super Rod


1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

8 L

5 F

This is the same concept that I played for the first week of State Championships where I lost in top 4 when faced with my only poor matchup that a legitimate number of players used at States, Durant NVI.

How I Created the Deck

When I was tesing before States I realized two very important concepts that the format was all about at the time.

1. Tempo: Usually whoever started attacking first came out ahead.

2. 1HKOs: To keep up in the prize exchanges or surpass your opponent you needed to be able to 1HKO anything they threw at you. All of my pre-states list were based off of this.

Thundurus was the best Pokémon to swing the tempo in your favor, providing turn 2 knockouts when you started with him and it 1HKO’d the main attacker of one of the two most popular decks at the time, CMT. Thundurus perfectly filled the role of taking fast prizes and 1HKOing Tornadus but lacked much needed power against Zekrom BLW with an Eviolite, Zekrom-EX, and Regigigas-EX. Terrakion was the natural answer to all three of these problems.

Starting with a Terrakion proved to be far more useful than I originally theorized because by turn 2 you were killing Tynamos for just 2 Energy. Vileplume variants were also no problem due to the combination of early knockouts + Mewtwo EX cleaning up late game against the heavy hitting high hit point Pokémon. I gladly accepted the 50/50 matchup against Reshiphlosion considering that Reshiphlosion was rarely played due to it having a poor Zekeels matchup.

With 4 Thundurus for the maximum chance at an explosive start, 2 Terrakion and 2 Mewtwo EX to take down big Pokémon and a 3-3 Eelektrik line powering everything up, I thought this deck fit perfectly into the format except against the rarely played, highly annoying pack of super high tech metal ants. Even then it wasn’t a lost cause, as long as I didn’t start with Terrakion I could load up a solo Mewtwo EX and have a fighting chance. I was very prepared for States getting in 105 test games against the predicted meta.

ThunderBulls started off 5-0 at States then losing the last 2 rounds because of the same issue. In both games all I needed to take the win was a Fighting Energy from my Professor Juniper so that my Terrakion could 1HKO my opponent’s Zekrom-EX. In both games I missed the Fighting Energy and lost, round six I had a 15 card deck with 2 Fightings left before my Juniper was played.

pokemon-paradijs.comI shrugged the two losses off as there was nothing I could have done about it, after all I can’t complain about missing a particular Energy that I needed when I playing such a diverse Energy line.

I was the top 5-2 going into top cut, defeating Zekeels in top sixteen and Grafton R’s Magnezone Prime/Eelektrik NVI/Yanmega Prime/Terrakion NVI in top 8. I lost in game three of top four against Erik Nance’s Durant when I started with a lone Terrakion that was Catchered up numerous times preventing me from attacking.

I also played this deck during week two of States where I finished with a 5-3 record, losing to two Zekeels decks a Reshiphlosion.

Since playing this deck at States I have only played it in one more tournament going undefeated in the Swiss rounds of my final Battle Roads losing in top 4. After the first week of States a highly regarded player from FL asked me about my deck. I gave him my list which he has transformed completely to his liking. He has made it to top eight at Florida States, top sixteen at Georgia Regionals, and made it to the finals of at least four Spring Battle Roads that I know of.

Back at States a very high Thundurus line combined with two Terrakion was fairly non existent. As of right now it is seen as the standard by many players, providing a very nice type advantage over Darkrai EX, one of the best cards ever seen in the game.

This deck has been proven to be viable during States, Regionals, and Battle Roads. In my opinion this deck has the opportunity to perform better than ever at Nationals thanks to a few reasons.

1. Tempo: The reason I maxed out my Thundurus line for States was because of the enormous advantage I gained from being faster than any Zekeels deck that missed a turn 1 charge. Two Thundurus currently seems to be the average in most Eelektrik decks. I feel like two to three is the correct number to play due to space constraints.

2. Consistency: Eelektrik does not provide Energy acceleration on turn one like Dark Patch, but it is searchable by cards such as Level Ball, Dual Ball, Ultra Ball, and even Pokémon Collector to get Tynamos, Darkrai variants have to rely solely on drawing into their Dark Patches or using Sableye to fetch them from the discard pile. Dark Patch is shut off by Vileplume’s Allergy Flower, while Eelektrik keeps his Dynamotor running as long as there is Lightning Energy in the discard.

3. Type Advantage: This is perhaps the most important reason behind my belief that ThunderBulls can do well at Nationals. A Darkrai deck of some kind has won almost every National Championship played with HS-DEX format that has been completed so far.

Obviously the ability to 1HKO the main component of the deck that is tearing up the Pokémon scene is a huge plus for any deck. Terrakion also 1HKOs every common attacker seen in Eelektrik decks outside of Tornadus or Tornadus EX, especially punishing players for using Raikou-EX.

Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX

Pokémon – 11

4 Smeargle UD

2 Shaymin UL

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Mewtwo-EX NXD



Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

1 N

2 Random Receiver


4 Junk Arm

4 Dark Patch

3 Eviolite

3 Max Potion

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Switch

3 Ultra Ball

2 Dual Ball

Energy – 13

10 D – Basic

3 Double Colorless

This was the decklist that I used to achieve my 34-5 Spring Battle Roads record. At first this list looks very strange. There is a low Supporter count, low Random Receiver count, and a high reliance on Smeargle. There is not even a single Skyarrow Bridge which seems odd given that I played four Smeargle, known for his ability to use free retreat so well. What perhaps is the most appalling fact about the list that I used is that there was no way I could knockout two Terrakions at once in two turns.

One may ask “How was I able to do so well with a list as simple as this?” There is no easy answer to this except that I knew what my meta consisted of so I went with what I felt was the most consistent way to get the edge on my competition.

This deck functioned well for me because:

1. I was comfortable with it. While most players are content with only including only two to three of their preferred starter in their decklist, I am not. To be perfectly honest, I never seem to be comfortable without having the best chance of starting with the Pokémon that I want to begin with. I want my deck to work the way it is meant to every single game, starting with the first turn.

There have been many times that I have not allowed my self to remove even a single copy of a Pokémon from my deck just because I wanted to keep the near 40% chance to open with it. With three copies of Smeargle my odds of starting with him drop about 9%. That extra 9% helps me sleep so much better the night before a tournament that to me it can be well worth the sacrifice. Being comfortable with a deck can go a long way!

2. This deck has a strong matchup against against pre-Hammertime Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX decks that filled the first weeks of Battle Roads. Four of the Six Battle Roads that I attented were before Esa won Nationals with Hammertime meaning that it wasn’t necessarily considered a “mainstream” deck quite yet. I see how Hammertime could potentially give my deck problems, but I was never paired against one of these decks.

Most Darkrai decks that I played against had no way of 1HKOing my EXs (aside from Mewtwo EX with A LOT of Energy), so I was able to cruise to victory by healing them over and over.

I also gave my list to my friend from Denmark. He was able to make it all the way to 3rd place, earning a Worlds Invite from one of the first Nationals that took place this year.

This deck proved to function quite well in the earliest stages of the HS-DEX format, but I feel like it has already been outdated so I’m not sure if I could see myself playing anything similar for US Nationals.

What is “THE PLAY” for Nationals?

Darkrai EX/Terrakion


pokemon-paradijs.comThis deck has won six Nationals so far, and it is hard to argue with those results. Clearly this should be near the top of everyone’s list of decks to prepare for. Including two of the best cards in the format, one capable of attacking turn one for 90 damage as well as often taking multiple prizes in a single turn and the other able to take out many of today’s premier attackers in just a single blow, this deck seems like it has it all.

Luckily there are a number of downfalls to this deck, giving other decks a chance to compete as well.


Starting with Terrakion is not ideal. Even with many easy ways to get Terrakion back to the bench, flipping over a lone Terrakion is rarely something that you want to see. This can disrupt the flow of your early attacks. If for any reason your Terrakion gets stranded in the Active Spot for even a turn it can give your opponent an opportunity to take an advantage that they carry through to the end of the game for the victory.

When you start with Terrakion it may be killed before it has a chance to make the impact you were hoping for. Even if you have multiple Terrakions at your disposal this could still be painful in the end.

This deck can also have a pretty tough time if sitting across from a Hammertime or Item lock deck.

Darkrai EX/Torndaus EX


This deck has picked up a couple of wins so far at Nationals, as well as many other top cut appearances. This deck has a much greater chance for a turn one knockout than Darkrai/Terrakion. That tempo advantage can play a huge role when up against another Darkrai deck. You can still get the turn one Night Spear, but now you can also get a turn one Blow Through for 60+ damage as well as a the chance of a turn one Power Blast for 100+ damage. Using Tornadus EX does not come without a price, however.


Its early game strength against Darkai may be strong, but its value at any stage of the game against an Eelektrik deck is much worse. Though it does have opportunities to shine against Eels especially before they stabilize their field, most games it does little more than give up 2 Prizes for little in return.

Simply starting with Tornadus EX against Zekeels can sometimes be enough to earn them a win over you if your not able to evacuate him with a Super Scoop Up. With this variant you also lose the ability to 1HKO opposing Darkrais and with the likely addition of Double Colorless Energy (assuming they are not in your Darkrai/Terrakion list) you gain another vulnerability to Hammers.

VVV, Accelgor, Other Vileplume variants:


Vileplume decks have certainly seen a surge in popularity lately, placing fourth in Finland as well as having multiple appearance in the top sixteen of the French National Championships. When these decks work like they are meant to they have positive matchups against nearly anything else. There is not much that is more devastating than your opponent going first and getting a turn two Vileplume, likely making one-third of your deck unplayable.


Ironically Item lock decks probably have more strengths and more weaknesses than any other deck. You don’t have to look far to see some very obvious flaws that these decks posses in a Basic dominated format. Setting up multiple Stage One and Two Pokémon is not an easy task when your Pokémon are getting Knocked Out consistently by turn two or even as early as turn one. Many games your opponent will have already taken three to 4 Prizes when you finally have everything up and ready to go.

Item lock decks have a history of making seemingly impossible comebacks happen, however with Mewtwo EX, Tornadus EX, Tornadus EPO, and even Thundurus EPO in the format, decks are capable of taking prizes at rates as fast as ZPST did, but can now continue to take a prize every single turn for the rest of the game without much trouble.

Item lock decks also have a history of drawing dead more often then other decks. With so many cards that are not initially playable when you begin a game it is not hard to see why you may be passing your first few turns being completely unproductive. Earlier this season decks had Tropical Beach to help minimize this problem and they do still have access to it, but now it would not be unlikely for your opponent to replace your Stadium with a Skyarrow Bridge after you get just a single use from you Tropical Beach.

pokemon-paradijs.comNow that Item lock decks have been picking up momentum I am certain that there will be a few players teching in Espeon DEX or Unown Cure into their decks. I know that I would hate to have a 6-2 record going into round 9-of Nationals only to face a deck with a 1-1 Espeon line where I would have little hope to win causing me to bubble out of top cut.

I probably love Vileplume decks just as much as anyone else; 28 of my 53 Championship Points have been won with some form of a Vileplume deck, but at the end of the day there are so many things that can go wrong at a tournament with as many rounds as Nationals that I am not sure if I would be comfortable enough to pilot one.


So what do I think is “THE PLAY” for Nationals? Any of the decks that I have talked about in this article would make a fine choice, but the best advice that I can give is to play whatever you are the most comfortable with. If the “best” deck is not something you enjoy, is it really the best deck for you? If you are constantly worrying that your last play might not have been the right move, then you are probably going to be in for a long and stressful tournament.

When you are playing your games you should be able to stay focused and relaxed. No matter what, just enjoy the game. After all, this game is all about having fun and spending time with friends.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I love to see your responses both negative and positive. The positive ones let me know my hours of work have been appreciated, but the negative help me improve!

Reader Interactions

24 replies

  1. Zach

    There should be more articles on the new BW-on format. These articles are kind of pointless for the majority that did not make the cut for Nationals/Worlds. I’ve been testing with the new format, and at the moment it’s awful. Without things like PONT or Smeargle, most decks fall apart, and the donk is no longer a valid option.

    • Johnny Y  → Zach

      Well…duh. That’s why you build new decks. This happens every rotation…
      There are a ton of new deck options BW-on.
      Rayeels, Zekeels + Rayquaza, Fluffychomp, Darkrai/Hydreigon, etc.. plus a ton of rogue decks.
      Instead of PONT, use more N, Juniper, and Cheren.

      The new format hasn’t even started yet, we have tons of new sets on their way for this format.
      And as of right now, it’s more important for the Nationals/Worlds players to prepare for those tournaments over people who aren’t going to work on BLW-on format – which doesn’t start for more than two months.

    • theo Seeds  → Zach

      Or that just aren’t going.

      You could apply to be an FPC, I don’t remember how but if you click “Submit” there’s a list of instructions.

    • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Zach

      The Japanese seem to manage to play BLW-on without their decks ‘falling apart’. Why should we be so pathetic that we can’t function without PONT?

      I’m sure there will be plenty of BLW-on articles between now and September. In the meantime there are plenty of people that would like to read articles on the current format, even if you don’t.

    • ZeroAsh  → Zach

      THANK GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111!!!!!!1111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111111111111!!!!!!!!


    • Alton Aderhold  → Zach

      Or you could just wait until the rotation and the new set comes out. Why is it that people are complaining about the rotation? BW-on will require more thinking and talent. With the new rotation, this will slow the game down a lot, requiring players to think, “Should I play this or not?”. lol I believe without most of the trainers and supporters the game is definitely more interesting. No more Junk Arm shananigans, 30 supporters per turn, etc. I would rather play a game that lasted 20-25 minutes than a game that lasted 10-15 minutes.

  2. nicholas inzeo

    Yawn, Woke up. Read this. Had a flare up (so I was glad I had something to read)

    All I got from this is

    1. run a low supporter count to slow down players with smeargle
    2. If you do step one and get locked by Vileplume it could mean disaster
    3. Darkrai & zeels will see play no matter what and if you are very comfortable with fighting. You be hitting for weakness for many games ^.^
    4. Is it still viable to play tornadus to counter “the bull” despite being an easy prize for zeels?
    5. If you play trainer lock, your going to be stressed because theres alot of factors for so many rounds.

    I deff want to see some bw – on deck ideas but I need more information on nats lol.

    • indercarnive  → nicholas

      heres a BW-on idea. musharna, hhippowdon, terrakion, meianshao. musharna is a draw support pokemon, hippowdown is good for t2 70 damage and is a natural xp share. mienshao is more techy but can search xp shares and meditate can be nnice in certain scenerios. terrakion is obvious as its good lighting will still be in the format and 90 dmaage spam isnt bad. all cards can be searched via heaby ball or level ball.

      or a landorus/terrakion. ultra ball can get energy in discard and hi for t2 80.

      in case you didnt know I LOVE TERRAKION. THE BULL IS AMAZING

    • Zach Bivens  → nicholas

      1 & 2. I was giving an alternative to the way decks are usually constructed but made sure that I listed both the positive and negative effects.
      3. You are correct both of those decks are likely to see an abundance of play meaning that Fighting techs are worth consideration.
      4. I never said that I would use Tornadus EX just to counter Terrakion although it is decent at that. If I used Tornadus EX at Nationals it would be mainly for the speed and donk factor that it brings to a Darkrai deck.
      5. Personally I would feel a little stress while piloting a trainer lock deck for 9+ rounds. But I know of quite a few people that are completely comfortable with it.

      There will be plenty of bw-on articles when the format is actually bw-on

  3. Frank Hamilton

    Well done, Zach! I loved your other article as well, but this one shows a huge jump in your writing skills. You’ve always got some really great insight – Nationals will be tougher now :)

  4. Mark Hanson

    A very good article! Covered a lot of good points and sound advice. A quick tip for the future though:

    You should have an introduction. Talk briefly about (outline) what the article will be about. It gets the reader ready to digest the information, and establishes you as a trusted source of information.

    Other than that, great stuff!

    • Zach Bivens  → Mark

      Thank you Crawdaunt, I enjoy your articles as well!

      You are right. I don’t know what I was thinking haha.

  5. Mark Hanson

    Eh, it’s FP, that’s where this sort of info belongs.

  6. Mark Hanson

    Eh it’s FP. that’s where this sort of info belongs

  7. Richard Stephen

    If I could go to Nats, I would be playing Cinccino/Hypno/Vileplume

  8. GoodLuckVarsity

    I think you’re going to see a ton of decks teching 1-1 Espeon. It absolutely autowins against both the popular Trainerlock decks, and the Call For Family Eevee isn’t a terrible starter.

    • Zach Bivens  → GoodLuckVarsity

      That is a good point, CFF Eevee is not so bad but I doubt we will see that many Espeon techs. A friend of mine did some statistics from all of the decks that won at least one Battle Road. Based solely off of that a player could expect to see 3-4 Darkrai but 0-1 Trainer Lock. So dedicating 2 spots in your deck that are useless in about 9/10 games might not be worth it.

  9. sam woofter

    You didn’t mention empoleon; I think there are far to many people choosing to play empoleon at nationals that you can justify not going over it.

  10. bowser

    against Smeargle “playing a Junk Arm to discard the only Supporter in my hand (or both) to get back a Random Receiver” great tip!

  11. bowser

    it’s also amazing how the darkrai decks are evolving so quick now, good job pointing that out. i can’t wait to see what hits the water for nationals!

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