Airhawk’s 2012 Nationals Review

Let’s talk US Nationals, Nationals overview, Worlds, and my luck.

Congratulations to everyone who performed well, and I have to give a huge shout out to John Roberts II for winning because he is a local player.

US Nationals

I did manage to travel to Indy for US Nats, but I did not have much time to test or to pick a deck in the last couple weeks heading into the tournament. But this portion is not about my tournament. I will add a section in the end about my go at it and explain what happened. For now, I want to talk about other things.


pokemon-paradijs.comWOW! What a solid comeback for Zeels in US Nats. The deck took four of the Top 16 slots and took second overall. However, the crazy thing is that at least two of those four lists did not include Terrakion. Why? Terrakion was supposed to be the magic bullet to Darkrai and Zeels was supposed to be obsolete without it.

Consistency, consistency, consistency.

Simply put, Zeels was the most consistent deck in the format pre-DEX and there was no reason to ruin that with a hefty retreater that requires a second Energy type. Zekrom and Mewtwo EX already handle Darkrai EX just fine, especially when the Zeels player gets Eviolite down on them. They both 2HKO Darkrai EX and Darkrai EX at best 2HKOs them back. Also, Zeels is free to play healing cards (SSU, Max Potion) because it can recover the Energy so well. So, although Darkrai may get saved with SSU, the Zeels attacker can also get saved.

The second most interesting thing is that a Raikou-EX heavy list made the Top 8 (piloted by Ashon Haswell). Many people shunned Raikou-EX as a dead card in this format because Terrakion is around, but the ability to take a prize with fewer resources seemed to have been a great asset. What I mean by this is that Raikou-EX simply needs Eelektriks in play to take a prize instead of the Eelektriks and a Catcher.

Also, you can Catcher heavy retreaters in the late game and stick them active with a devastating N. Then Raikou-EX is free to snipe several prizes to finish off a game.

With Junk Arm being rotated soon, Raikou-EX will likely see more play because it conserves Catchers for other points in the game.

Obviously, Terrakion is a great card and can do very well in Zeels, but US Nats just went to show that Terrakion is not necessary and the deck can be played in a myriad of ways.


I still do not understand why people kept dismissing this deck. Going into last weekend it was the second most successful deck in the international Nationals scene. Yet many people wrote this deck off. I will not go into great depth here because for the majority of us CMT is all but dead because Celebi is being rotated.

Basically, the deck has a few things still going for it.

1. It is very good about dropping “surprise” Terrakions. Almost every other deck give Darkrai EX players a “warning” about Terrakion coming. CMT is flexible enough to get Terrakion from the deck and into play in one turn.

2. The deck is very fast. The ability to donk in this format is still a huge deal.

3. The best way to counter Mewtwo EX is Mewtwo EX and no deck handles this exchange better than CMT.

Four Supporters?

The CMT deck that made Top 4 (Piloted by Christopher Murray) only utilized four Supporters: 3 Professor Juniper and 1 N. The standard Support count for most decks is between 8 and 12 along with some Random Receivers. Why did this work?

With Smeargle in the format you can effectively use your opponent’s Supporter during your turn and not fall behind. Also, by not holding Supporters, your opponent’s Smeargle is basically dead.

Furthermore, with 4 Random Receiver and 4 Junk Arm you still have basically 12 outs to get a Supporter on your turn.

The other side of the coin is the space a deck would save with only four supporters. In most decks, only running four Supporters would open 4-8 slots for other cards. That means you can afford to run 4 Switch, 4 PlusPower, 4 Eviolite, 4 Super Scoop Up, or etc. That means you will draw into the cards you need at a higher rate.

Instead of reducing the size of your deck compared to the number of the desired card (which is what you are doing with Supporters) to increase the probability of hitting a needed card, you are increasing the count of the desired card compared to the size your deck to increase the probability of hitting the desired card.

So, did Mr. Murray just break the deck building mold?

In my opinion, his four Support list was more of a metagame (almost anti-meta tech) call than a paradigm shifting decision. Here are my reasons why.

1. If everyone switched to running high amounts of Smeargle and depending on your opponent’s Supporters, there would be no Supporters in any deck to play. This both players would whiff using Supporters several turns in a row.

2. Smeargle and Junk Arm, the two necessary cards to pull this off, are being rotated in September. Currently, there is not another card that does what Smeargle does. We will have crutch draw Pokémon in the next format, but they all require the use of an attack. Smeargle allowed you to still attack. That is a huge difference.


Obviously, Flower Power was not dead coming into US Nats, but the popular versions were Plume paired with Para-lock cards: Vanilluxe NVI and Accelgor DEX. Those two cards were in force at US Nats and several performed well, but Vileplume also found other partners.

Jason K., Dylan Bryan, and others brought Mismagius UL along for the ride. In addition, Vince Blasko paired Vileplume with Meganium Prime. Others paired Vileplume with Klinklang BLW. Basically, Vileplume found a lot of partners at Nationals and made its presence known.

Once the rotation occurs, we will be left with Gothitelle EPO 47 and Zebstrika NXD as the known Item locking cards. Unfortunately, both are treading water in the format.

I know many others will disagree with me, but I think the format will lose a huge facet of the game. I hate playing against Item lock. Yet, Item lock is a great asset to the game. The option should be available to players and players should have to think about playing against Item locking decks.

The Format

pop-zap.comI love this format. I will not agree with people who do not like it or think it is less skill intensive. The skill just turned out to be in a different area: deck selection and building.

Yes, Darkrai is a dominate force. However, the Top 128 and specifically the Top 16 and Top 4 showed how balanced this format is. There were seven unique archetypes in the Top 16. There was Darkrai, Zeels, CMT, Klinklang EX, Accelgor, Mismagius, and an “other.” Even more, Darkrai was the most represented deck with five decks in the Top 16. That is only 31% of the field. That is a very healthy number.

Even more telling, the Top 4 consisted of four different archetypes: Darkrai, CMT, Klinklang EX, and Zeels. Each of the “Big Three” decks made an appearance and KK EX (the non-Big Three deck, although perhaps the Big Three should be changed to the Big Four) won the tournament.

Finally, within each archetype there was a variety of ways to play each deck. The lists were extremely different from each other.

US Nationals restored some of my faith in this game. I was worried a lot of skill was leaving the game, but I am confident the format that is and the format to come requires a lot of skill to do well (albeit perhaps in different areas than expected).

Coverage’m going to go on a rant here. Feel free to scroll down a bit if you do not want to read some random guy’s rant.


The several international (non-US) countries had live-streamed events. Regionals have been streamed. States have been streamed. BATTLE ROADS have been streamed. Yet, you lock The Top Cut out of streaming US Nats? And you do not even let them record the Finals? This was the biggest tournament in the HISTORY OF THE GAME, and you effectively made it worse that it could have been.

Why? I would dare anyone from there to give a good reason.

There are four of the best players in the game willing to grow this game for free. It will not cost anything to TPCi. So, why drag your feet?

When the game grows you gain more money and legitimacy. You gain respect and new players. Allowing people to watch live is an integral step in growing the game, and it will not cost you a dime. It’s time for you, TPCi, to get it together in this regard.

Rant over….

Otherwise, the community should be extremely grateful to The Top Cut and others who are doing what they can.

Particularly, the interviews and deck tech videos were outstanding. Kyle is an above average interviewer and Crim finally found his strong suit (just playing with ya Crim). His deck tech videos were very good. I strongly encourage you to continue to do those.

Everyone should go check out their website to see the videos.

I personally want to give a thank you to The Top Cut and everyone who made information public.

Nationals Overview

The early numbers show what I expected. Here is a chart of Top 4 Finishes from the Post Dark Explorers Nationals. (These might change as the lists are corrected and whatnot, but they should be pretty spot on.)

1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
Darkrai 8 4 8 6 26
CMT 4 0 5 6 15
Terrakion 3 0 0 0 3
Zeels 1 8 4 3 16
VVV 1 0 0 0 1
Entei-EX 1 1 0 0 2
KK EX 1 0 0 1 2
Empoleon 0 1 0 1 2
Donphan 0 1 0 0 1
6C EX 0 1 0 1 2
Mismagius/Vileplume 0 0 0 0 0
Terrakion/Mewtwo EX 0 1 1 0 2
Lugia 0 0 0 0 0
Accelgor/Plume 0 1 0 0 1
Electrode Box 0 0 1 0 1
Zoroark/Weavile 0 1 0 0 1
Lilligant 0 0 1 0 1

Based off this chart there are a few things to talk about going into Worlds.

pokemon-paradijs.com1. Darkrai EX is still the top dog to contend with. Darkrai variants had twice as many wins as the next most successful deck. It also recorded ten more Top 4s than the next deck. However, (you just have to take my word for it because I didn’t add this chart) Darkrai EX extremely dominated the early National Championships while the format was still developing.

As time wore on, the Top 4s started being more diversified and other decks saw success. To me that means Darkrai is obviously a great deck, but its early success was amplified by hype and a lack of format development.

2. CMT is far from dead, despite so many people’s attempts to kill the deck off. CMT recorded four victories and may perhaps put up a fight at Worlds.

3. There are obviously four big decks to prepare for, if you are going to Worlds: Darkrai, CMT, Zeels.

4. However, the format is actually pretty open. There are a lot of decks that can be successful and I believe there are more decks out there that could come out of the wood work at Worlds.

My Experience

I played in two tournaments this weekend: Nationals and the Professor Cup. Both tournaments chewed me up and spit me out. Perhaps the Poké-Karma was coming back to bite me after treating me so well last year.


I played CMT with Terrakion. My list has tested pretty well (as for the time that I could test). There was only one slot I could not decide on until about 8:30 AM Friday. I was trying to fill out the last attacker slot, and I went with Tornadus EPO. I decided on Tornadus EPO because I wanted a more conservative play and a non-EX attacker to get my opponents on an odd prize count. Here’s the list I played.

Pokémon – 12

4 Celebi Prime
2 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Tornadus EX
1 Shaymin EX
1 Tornadus EPO
1 Terrakion NVI
1 Shaymin UL
1 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 35

3 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N
2 Random Receiver


4 Junk Arm
4 Pokémon Catcher
3 Dual Ball
3 Switch
2 Eviolite
2 PlusPower
2 Energy Search
1 Super Rod
1 Energy Retrieval


2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

6 G

4 Double Colorless
3 F

I did not take very good notes, so I do not have any names.

Round 1: Darkrai EX/Terrakion/Mewtwo EX

pokemon-paradijs.comI actually really like playing against this version of Darkrai EX because I can attack for weakness on anything in his deck. Here’s what happened.

I opened with Tornadus EPO and attack with Hurricane, moving a F Energy onto Terrakion.

Then I get Terrakion active with two F Energy and a G Energy on the next turn. I Catcher and KO a Darkrai EX. At this moment I felt really good. He was virtually locked out of Darkrai EX because I would 1HKO any of them. So, he launches into a Mewtwo EX war. That is exactly what I wanted because I expected to win the Mewtwo war.

However, for like four turns straight I draw, play a Supporter, whiff on a way to get Mewtwo EX, and pass. Meanwhile, he used Shaymin UL to stack a ton of Energy onto Mewtwo EX and he sweeps the game while I’m drawing dead hand after dead hand.

Smeargle was prized.


Round 2: Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX/Sawk/Terrakion

This game was unfortunately decided by a misunderstanding of Shaymin EX. On my second to last turn I have 2 Prizes to take and my opponent also has 2 Prizes.

In my hand I have Juniper, Grass, Grass, Shaymin EX, PlusPower, Junk Arm. Celebi was active. My opponent has and un-Eviolited Tornadus EX active. So, I play down the Shaymin EX and get two Energy on it. I play the PlusPower and play Juniper. I whiff on my second PlusPower or a Junk Arm. So, I just promote Tornadus EPO and pass.

My opponent Catchers a Celebi and takes a prize to go to 1 Prize. On my turn I use Shaymin EX (with the newly extra 30 damage) to 1HKO the Tornadus EX and win the game. There was some confusion about whether Shaymin EX did 30 + 30 times the prizes taken or just 30 times the prizes taken.

Smeargle was prized to open this game.


Round 3: CMT Mirror

My opponent opens with Tornadus EPO. I opened with Tornadus EX. I was one Celebi away from having the turn 1 donk. So, I just hit the Tornadus EPO for 40.

He gets more Pokémon out and Hurricanes my Tornadus EX and N’s away my hand with Juniper and lots of goodies.

On my turn I don’t have a Supporter or Dual Ball to get more Pokémon out. So, I take a prize with Tornadus EX and get Dual Ball from my prizes.

He Shaymins the correct amount of energy onto Mewtwo EX to KO my Tornadus EX and bench me for the win.

Smeargle was prized.


Round 4: Darkrai

This game was rough, but my deck finally decided to work. I just took the early lead and then went onto win.

Smeargle was prized.


Round 5: Zeels

We both mulligan three times. On my fourth hand I open with Mewtwo EX and my opponent mulligans.

I win the flip and he opens with Tynamo, and I top decked a DCE. So, I get a win on the donk.

Smeargle was prized.


At the end of day one, I felt OK with having a chance to make a run at day two.

Round 6: Zeels

My opponent was one of the growing famous Pokémon webstars.

I started very slowly but played myself into a good position to win. I used Terrakion to take the my first prize with Retaliate and then my second prize with Land Crush and force my opponent to KO Terrakion (or risk his board getting destroyed) and go to an odd prize count.

On my last turn, I had 3 Prizes left to my opponent’s 1 Prize. I know he has Juniper in hand. So, I get Shaymin EX into play with and Eviolite and two energy. Then I Portrait into Juniper. Now, at this point my deck is between 15 and 18 cards. I had 3 N and 2 Random Receivers left in the deck. That means, statistically, every 3-4 cards should be a N or RR to get a N with.

I draw my seven cards and my heart sinks. I whiffed on N or Random Receiver. So, I promote Shaymin EX and Revenge Blast a Mewtwo EX to take 2 Prizes and tie it at 1 Prize apiece.

He played a Juniper and hits a Catcher and an energy. He plays the energy onto a Mewtwo EX and Dynamotors twice. Then he Catchers Celebi to take his last prize.

Smeargle was not prized.

I was so frustrated at this point. That likely finished off my chances at making the cut. You are likely not going to make the cut with three losses that early. I honestly feel I had played each game virtually flawlessly to this point, but dead hands and extremely un-likely in-game events had cost me some each game.

Also, at this point, Smeargle had been prized in for 5 of the 6 rounds to open the game, and this ended up being 6 of the 7 rounds I played.


Round 7: Troll

I decided to play out one more game, but I was not really into the game at this point. I guess that is something I need to work on. I was so frustrated at whiffing a RR or N in my last game, and being eliminated that I was not concentrating on this game very well.

Basically, he opens Tornadus EX and keeps flipping heads on Power Blast. I have some big stuff prized, and made several misplays. Toward the end of the game I have a chance to make a comeback. He basically, only has Tornadus EX with any energy on the field. I try to get Shaymin EX into play, but the previous turn I Forrest Breathed onto to the wrong Celebi. I needed to Forrest Breath onto the benched Celebi so that I could retreat it the next turn, because he replaced my SAB with Battle City.

Instead, on my turn I have to promote Celebi with no energy on it and attempt to draw into another SAB, but I whiff that second one. So, I cannot get Celebi out of the active and get Shaymin EX into play.

Smeargle was prized.


I dropped at this point and played some side events.

Professor Cup

I thought this deck was a ton of fun, but I actually think the first turn rule was even more broken in this format. I played basically the European Cup winning deck with a few changes.

Round 1: Round

pokemon-paradijs.comMy opponent goes first and opens with a Wigglytuff and Espeon. He hits double heads on Dual Ball and gets two more Wigglytuffs. Then he plays PONT and gets two Level Balls. He grabs two Palpitoads. So, he has the turn one Round for 100. Then he gets a turn two Seismitoad and is swinging for 150. GG


Round 2: Eelbox, Mirror

This was a very close game that went down to the wire and I won by 1 Prize.


Round 3: Eelbox, Mirror

I open with Eelektrik. My opponent goes first with two Pokémon out. He hits one heads on Dual Ball and then plays a Supporter. He gets two Level Balls and the DCE. So, he uses Do the Wave for the donk.


Round 4: Lucario, Cinccino, Musharna, Stuff

This was another very good game. Time is called at an awkward time. I had announced my attack and he had discarded his active. However, he had not drawn a card. It is ruled that my turn was turn 0, and his upcoming turn was turn 1. That means he gets two turns to my one. So, he takes a prize with Lucario on his turn.

I set up Zebstrika with 3 Lightning so if it goes to sudden death, on my first turn (turn 4) of sudden death I can take a prize on a damage benched Pokémon with Lightning Crash. To end my turn I use Cinccino with a PP to KO the Lucario and tie the prizes. However, I whiffed the N on my turn to get his hand down.

On his turn (turn 3), he gets a Catcher and takes the KO to go ahead on the final turn of +3.


Again, I dropped at this turn. However, I was planning on dropping anyway because I was not intending to play Saturday night in the Professor Cup.

Anyway, I absolutely loved my time at Nationals. I believe I played solidly, and just got a ton of statistically very unlikely situations.

I love seeing the people in this game. I like meeting new people. So, if you see me sometime, stop and say hi.


P.S. Follow me on Twitter for Pokémon tips, strategy, thoughts, etc.: @airhawk06

Reader Interactions

15 replies

    • airhawk06  → Josh

      Lol, I should have played it. Couldnt have crapped out on me much more than CMT did at times. :)

  1. Salvador

    Wait, you lost round 2? Even though you won it with Shaymin EX? I’m confused. Is that 1-1 supposed to be 2-0?

  2. Oliver Barnett

    Erm… Mismagius/Vileplume took 2nd place at UK nationals lol

  3. Aaron Minjoot

    I honestly enjoyed reading this report. Very detailed and to the point. It’s unfortunate your run ended in such a way, but props for getting this out.

    Just want to add that Zeels really made a superb turn-around on its fortunes in the last two weekends. It won Nats over here and me being an avid Zeels fan was happy when it showed up in Top 16 at US Nats.

  4. Clay Mitchell

    but there was little at Nats for it to worry about. Does this win by KK mean Lost remover will be in decks more for Worlds or will it be discounted again as it was in Indianapolis.

    I judged the final match and obseved other matches John played…once a KlinKlang is in and 3 energies are on the board….the other decks are done unless they can one shot the EXs on the board.

    But go ahead and undervalue the strength of the deck…I have people here in Memphis (with Worlds invites) who were beaten 12 straight by the deck who still would not consider running it…there are more than a few at Nats who lost to it as well

  5. Clay Mitchell

    Funny thing about your report is the same as most everyone else did at Nats…dismiss KlinKlang…which has about 70% win percentage over the 3 decks you say are the main decks…Lost remover destroys it of course but there was little at Nats for it to worry about. Does this win by KK mean Lost remover will be in decks more for Worlds or will it be discounted again as it was in Indianapolis.

    I judged the final match and obseved other matches John played…once a KlinKlang is in and 3 energies are on the board….the other decks are done unless they can one shot the EXs on the board.

    But go ahead and undervalue the strength of the deck…I have people here in Memphis (with Worlds invites) who were beaten 12 straight by the deck who still would not consider running it…there are more than a few at Nats who lost to it as well

    • airhawk06  → Clay

      My apologies. Trust me, I do not underestimate KK EX. Just because I didnt write a section about it, doesn’t mean anything about how good the deck is. I know JRII personally and have watched him develope that deck for the whole season. I’ve been very vocal about how good it think the deck is.

  6. yindoxy

    I completely agree with your rant. I haven’t played TCG in a while (money and college), but I love watching matches and keeping with the pulse of the metagame. If TPCi really wants to promote the game more, they really need to help the fans watch the games that are being played.

  7. bowser

    good point about surprise terraks in CMT.
    good comments about the smeargle/supporter debate which is relevant for worlds.
    vileplume did ok but didn’t rock indy. for me it will be relieving once he leaves the building (rotation).
    the format does seem strong/healthy currently… dragon blade will bring great cards too.

  8. airhawk06

    Oh and follow my Pokemon Twitter @airhawk06 for random thoughts and comments about the TCG

  9. airhawk06

    I forgot to add on my article that I started a pokemon Twitter account. Follow me @airhawk06 for pokemon tips, strategy, thoughts, etc

  10. Roarkiller Master

    Arceus is not fair.

    That said though, it’s strange that you only ran 3 dual balls instead of four. CMT is supposed to be a speed deck, plus the added risk of double tails, I honestly wouldn’t play less than 4 unless you replace one for ultra ball (consistency tech).

    Maybe it’s your playstyle?

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