The National Championship in the United States just finished up this past weekend, and I was told we are in need of some reports, so I’m going to share my Nationals experience as first year player. I wish this could have been a more triumphant tournament report, but I didn’t end up doing as well as I was expecting to do. I feel as though my deck choice was pretty strong, but a bad misplay and a tad bit of bad luck kept me from top cutting.
Even though I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, the whole experience was still a lot of fun. At the end of the tournament, I had gotten to play a lot of Pokémon for four days, which is always fun. I got to meet a decent amount of people, including SixPrizes creator Adam Capriola and HeyTrainer god John Kettler, among others, and also got my Klinklang EX signed by the Top Cut‘s Josue “Crimz” Rojano.
To make the tournament even better, Missouri’s own John Roberts II won the National Championship in the Master’s division playing Klinklang EX. I had gotten the chance to meet John about a month ago at a Battle Roads, and if you haven’t met him yet, you won’t be disappointed, he will definitely live up to his reputation as one of the nicest people in the game.
If you haven’t checked them out already, I recommend everyone to check out some of the interviews that were done with John over the course of National’s weekend, such as the one on Celadon City Gym and The Top Cut. I think there is a lot players can learn from John’s perspective on the game. I know he definitely influenced me enough to play Kyogre EX in the Darkrai EX/Vileplume UD/Mismagius UL deck that I played at another Battle Roads.
Anyway, with the rest of this article, I want to talk about how I personally prepared for the National Championship, my viewpoint on what type of deck to choose for the tournament, the decks I considered playing, the deck I ended up choosing, and how the tournament ended up playing out for me.
How I Prepared For the Tournament
As this was my first National Championship, I really had no idea what to expect going in. I had heard that the early rounds would be really easy and that the “real” tournament doesn’t start until the later rounds and the top cut. This wasn’t the experience I had at all. I was playing good decks and good opponents every round, from round one to round nine.
This wasn’t too big of a deal, as I mentally try to prepare to be ready to play any opponent or any deck and take every match, opponent, and deck seriously until the match slip is signed. Just because a deck doesn’t look like it’s good on first appearance doesn’t mean the deck isn’t good and won’t beat you.
Overall, I don’t think I prepared for this tournament too much differently than I did for any other tournament. I just actively play the game throughout a format, testing a variety of different decks to try to figure out what is good and learn the intricacies of the format. I usually play a few games a day online with friends, go play at league every weekend, and hit up tournaments when they’re reasonably close enough. I feel just being in the constant pattern of playing the game helps keep me ready for a tournament.
I didn’t really test anymore the week heading into the National Championship than I did any other week, and I think that was the right approach. I don’t think it is really worth it to overly stress out about playing in this thing. You’re going to need a lot of luck in hitting the right matchups, getting the right cards at the right times, hitting your coin flips, etc. that the right approach is to just go in, try to do your best, and just look forward to having fun at the tournament, win or lose.
Choosing a Deck
Heading into the tournament, one thing was for sure, I knew I wasn’t going to be playing a straight up meta deck. I am of the opinion that for a tournament as large as this, playing a straight up meta deck is one of the worst deck decisions you can make.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t win the tournament playing one of these decks. These decks are played a lot for a reason, they are good, but I don’t think you’re giving yourself the best chance to win the tournament when playing a straight meta deck. When playing a deck like this, a lot of times the mirror match just comes down to luck – who goes first, who draws into the better hands, etc. Additionally, I think you are going to be at a disadvantage against players who create rogue decks or figure out techs that are able to exploit the weaknesses of the meta decks.
I am in no way advocating playing bad cards. All making a deck out of bad cards will do is make a bad deck. I am also not advocating just throwing the archetypes to the wayside. Deck engines like Exp. Share, Celebi, Eelektrik, and Dark Patch are really good, so why not use them. What I am more advocating is taking existing archetypes and then evolving them into different, stronger decks.
pokemon-paradijs.comI think my best personal example of this is the Truth deck that I played for Fall Regionals and the first week of City Championships. My deck for Fall Regional Championships was Tyranitar Prime Truth. This deck was all about exploiting the metagame at the time. Tyranitar Prime was one of my favorite cards from the HGSS block from the get go. The card is just ridiculously strong. It had 160 HP, so it was difficult to Knock Out.
The main threats to Knocking it Out were Magnezone (which had to use 4 Energy to Knock Out a Tyranitar Prime or 3 Energy to Knock Out one of my Reshiram or Zekrom) and Donphan Prime (which needed three Energy to 1HKO it, and most Donphan decks were based around just using Donphan’s first attack, so if I was able to setup two Tyranitar Prime, I would win those games against Donphan decks).
The beefy HP wasn’t the only thing that made Tyranitar Prime a really strong card, it also had three very strong attacks. The main attack I used with Tyranitar Prime was Megaton Tail, which did 120 damage for DDCC, and had the side effect of forcing you to discard the top three cards from your deck. When paired with Special D Energy, this attack became really strong. With one Special Dark attached, you were able to hit that magic 130 number and 1HKO Reshiram BLW, Zekrom BLW, and Gothitelle EPO 47. With two Special Dark attached, I was able to 1HKO Magnezone Prime, Donphan Prime, and Typhlosion Prime.
pokemon-paradijs.comIts second attack, Power Claw was also really good. It did 60 damage for DCC and states, “This attacks damage isn’t affected by Poké-Powers, Poké-Bodies, or any other effects on the Defending Pokémon.” This attack’s main utility was to prevent your opponent from baby stalling, as this attack could Knock Out a sleeping Baby Pokémon. Additionally, you used this attack to Knock Out lower HP Pokémon to help keep cards in your deck to keep yourself from decking out. Tyranitar Prime also had another attack, which costed D, and did 20 damage to all non-Dark Pokémon on the field. I didn’t use that attack too much, but it did come in handy in certain situations.
I didn’t do too well with the deck at Regionals, just going 4-4 with it, although I would have been one of the 5-3’s to make cut if I won my last match thanks to having a great resistance thanks to playing the 8-0 player and a 7-1 player. My list was subpar and wasn’t consistent enough, as I was still fairly new to the competitive scene and was still trying to figure out what I was doing. I kept working on the deck after Noble Victories came out.
With that set, we gained Kyurem NVI, which gave the deck an answer to Donphan Prime, Coballion NVI, which was needed to counter the newly released Kyurem, and N, which helped the deck tremendously with its deck out problem. (I only ever ended up decking out with the deck once, against Eli Moses, who also had a pretty wicked Truth variant, playing Kyogre & Groudon LEGEND in his deck, and I was unable to 1HKO the 150 HP beast as I had to setup two Tyranitar Prime with two Special D Energy each to take out his Donphan Primes in one shot). Week one of City Championships was before Durant NVI got popular, so I was able to take the deck to a third place finish.
What I loved about this deck so much was that it operated on exploiting the metagame. Its star, Tyranitar Prime, had such a high HP and a solid Weakness that it was pretty much the ultimate tank, and an attack that allowed it to pretty much 1HKO every Pokémon in the format, making it really strong. Heading into the National Championship, I was hoping to find a deck like this that could exploit the metagame.
Decks I Considered Playing
Throughout the entirety of playing in this format, there was a wide variety of decks that I was testing and was considering as a possible play at one point or another. I am going to cover the main decks I was thinking about throughout the format and then finish it off with the deck I ended up playing.
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a deck that most people considered to be dead and I would agree by the time the National Championship came around, the deck was dead. However, at the start of the format, it was widely considered that Vileplume UD decks were dead, which would give this deck a chance to shine. However, as Battle Roads and international National Championships played out, Vileplume decks made a resurgence with Vileplume/Mismagius UL/Darkrai, Meganium Prime (or Klinklang BLW)/Vileplume, Vanilluxe NVI, and Accelgor DEX.
The reason I thought this deck could be a potentially good choice was because I think Reshiram BLW is one of the best cards in the format with dealing with the EXs. It has 130 HP, which makes it difficult to Knock Out in one hit.
Its attack, Blue Flare, does a massive 120 damage, which means you are going to create an exchange of 2HKOs with Reshiram BLW against Pokémon-EX, and any exchange where you’re giving up a regular Pokémon while your opponent is having to give up an Pokémon-EX is a favorable exchange for you. Reshiram’s Outrage attack is also great to use after your opponent damages Reshiram significantly, but not enough to Knock it Out.
The card also deals with Mewtwo EX better than any other card in the format. Blue Flare discards two R Energy from Reshiram BLW, leaving only one Energy on the card, making Mewtwo EX’s X Ball fairly ineffective against Reshiram BLW.
Playing Reshiram BLW with Emboar BLW 20 would have been ideal to keep damage off of your Reshiram, but I have found that it is impossible to make a good Reshiboar deck. Sixty cards just isn’t enough space to create a deck that can consistently stream a three Energy attack that discards two Energy when you’re not taking the Energy straight from the discard pile.
My list for the deck is probably a bit different than anything you’ve ever seen. The things I wanted to focus on with my list were speed, keeping my Reshiram alive to ensure that I’m exchanging one Reshiram for every EX, and negating my opponent’s Darkrai snipe damage.
Pokémon – 14
1 Smeargle UD/CL
Trainers – 36
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 10
pokemon-paradijs.comSome notable features about this list. First, no Quilava. Quilava is just too slow for the current format and if you add Quilava in, you really won’t have space to fit in all of the cards you need like Eviolite and Max Potion to make the deck play well against Darkrai and Zekrom/Eelektrik. Needless to say, this is one of the main reasons why when Vileplume got popular again this deck also died with it.
I used Smeargle and a ball engine to setup. I found this to be a lot quicker in setup than the traditional Pokémon Collector approach that most players took to the deck. I had a single copy of Skyarrow Bridge in this deck originally, but when you’re bringing energy back from the discard with Typhlosion’s Afterburner Poké-Power, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have to attach an Energy to Smeargle to retreat later, and removing the card allowed me to play a second copy of Max Potion, strengthening the deck’s Darkrai matchup.
I also chose not to play Random Receiver in this deck. In testing, I found that this deck really shouldn’t be wasting a Junk Arm on getting Random Receiver from the discard. All four Junk Arm were important in this deck, you need them for using Dual Ball an extra time in the early game, for bringing back an Eviolite from the discard pile, to use another Max Potion to negate Darkrai’s snipe damage, or getting back that Super Rod to get more Reshiram BLW in your deck to keep up that stream of 120 damage attacks, not for getting a Supporter for that turn, especially in a deck that can live off the field better than most other decks.
Terrakion NVI/Mewtwo EXTornadus EX/
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a speed deck that I was tried out for awhile. The way that I had the deck designed was to try to take a Knock Out from turn one and on in the game by getting the turn one Knock Out with either Tornadus EX and Skyarrow Bridge with Blow Through or Mewtwo EX with X Ball. From there, the deck played Terrakion and Exp. Shares for the Darkrai and Eelektrik matchups, as well as a way to conserve your Energy and keep it on the field for other attackers.
I would use Smeargle and a high switch count of four to go through my deck quickly on turn one, trying to find my Double Colorless Energy for the turn one Blow Through or X Ball. The deck maxed out PlusPower, allowing Terrakion to 1HKO Darkrai regardless of Eviolite, for winning the Mewtwo war, and for dealing enough damage with Tornadus EX for knock outs.
The deck also played Shaymin UL to move Energy around. This deck played some bulky Pokémon-EX in Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX, which made it difficult for your opponent to Knock Out either of them on turn one. As long as you hit all of your Energy attachments, a strong turn three move was to Celebration Wind your Energy onto a Terrakion to start using Land Crush against Darkrais.
Ultimately, the biggest weakness of this deck was Tornadus EX didn’t have enough synergy with Terrakion NVI to make the deck work. The Energy discard of Power Blast would often negate the usefulness of the Exp. Shares attached to your Terrakion, making the deck not click like it was designed to.
Some players did figure out the right way to make a deck based around this concept by ditching Tornadus EX and just going with Mewtwo EX and Terrakion, including the Senior division champion. Unfortunately, I was not among these people.
Mew Prime/Accelgor DEX/Vileplume UD/Relicanth CL/Chandelure NVI/Darkrai EX/Shaymin EX
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a deck that I had been working on every now and then ever since Dark Explorers came out. When I first started theorizing a deck around Accelgor, this was somewhat the combination of cards that I wanted to play with Accelgor.
I always felt that Mew Prime made the most sense to attack with when using Accelgor. It’s just a lot easier to create the Deck and Cover loop with a Basic Pokémon than it is to do with a Stage 1. I also knew that Chandelure was going to be needed in the deck. You needed a way to manipulate the damage on your opponent’s field, otherwise you will break the Deck and Cover loop when you Knock Out a Pokémon with the attack or poison damage going into your opponent’s turn.
Playing Chandelure meant you would be playing Vileplume and not Gothitelle, as Chandelure had to be active to use its Ability, and then it necessitated playing either Darkrai EX or Dodrio to retreat it every turn.
The build I had worked on for the longest time played a 2-2-2 Magnezone Prime line. I felt working my deck down to a few cards and then using Magnetic Draw to get the Mew Prime and Double Colorless Energy was going to be the best way to play the deck. Unfortunately, what this did was make for a somewhat clunky deck that didn’t setup consistently enough.
pokemon-paradijs.comThen Yoshi Tate played the deck on the Top Cut’s stream of a Battle Roads, and I realized that Magnezone wouldn’t be needed in the deck and that you could just use Twins, Sage’s, PONT, Pokémon Collector and other Supporters to get the necessary cards enough of the time to make the deck work.
Unfortunately, while Yoshi playing the deck at a Battle Roads definitely helped me in my own build of the deck it also leaked the deck into the mainstream, preventing the deck from being any kind of surprise play for Nationals.
Ultimately I dropped the deck early Thursday evening out of fear of Espeon DEX, feeling the tech Catcher and Chandelure’s Cursed Shadow wouldn’t be enough to consistently beat decks with the teched Espeon. My other concern with the deck was losing on time, although in matches that aren’t time, this deck would be heavy favorite in most matchups.
In the end though, it really did pay off testing this deck so much and getting to know its ins and outs. I played this deck twice throughout the tournament, as it became a pretty popular deck choice, and through my testing I gained knowledge of the deck’s vulnerabilities and knew how to attack it when I ended up playing against it.
Celebi Prime/Mewtwo EX with Techs
pokemon-paradijs.comOh, so it looked as if I would end up playing good old Celebi/Mewtwo, my deck choice for all of the State Championships I played in. I always felt this was the strongest deck in the format during States and really enjoyed the speed and techability that the deck possessed. Throughout the Dark Explorers format, people have been really discounting this deck, but I always viewed it as a good, safe choice for any tournament.
It can steal games against most decks with a fast start (I’ve even donked a Terrakion with Mewtwo with the deck!), it doesn’t have very many unwinnable matchups thanks to the power of Mewtwo EX, and it can build up giant Mewtwo EXs better than most decks to prevent your opponent from tanking with EXs.
The techs I decided to play in my list were Tornadus EX, Virizion NVI, Bouffalant BLW, Shaymin EX, and Carnivine DEX. Tornadus EX is the best donk card in the format, so its too good not to play at least one in your deck. A turn one Power Blast for 100 is also one of the best starts you can have against Darkrai decks. I only played one Tornadus EX though, as the energy discard from Power Blast does hurt you some and Mewtwo EX is generally a stronger attacker than Tornadus EX in the mid and late games.
Virizion NVI and Bouffalant BLW are my techs for Zekrom/Eelektrik. Virizion NVI allows you to start Knocking Out your opponent’s Tynamo with Leaf Wallop on turn one and then you can even Knock Out an Eelektrik with a PlusPower on turn two with Leaf Wallop. Bouffalant BLW is really strong against Eelektrik, giving you the knockout on an Eelektrik with Revenge for just two energy.
Shaymin EX is a card that I feel like is one of the most underrated cards in the format. Being able to hit for 180 for only two Energy is ridiculous, and allows you to 1HKO any EX that doesn’t have an Eviolite on it (at which point you try to use your PlusPowers to work around that). Shaymin EX’s HP is just high enough to make it difficult for things like Darkrai EX, Mewtwo EX, and Tornadus EX to 1HKO it, especially when you play N in the same turn you unleash Shaymin EX on your opponent. Shaymin EX + N simply makes the impossible possible.
pokemon-paradijs.comCarnivine DEX is a dual purpose tech. Against Item lock decks, you can use Lure Poison to drag up your opponent’s Vileplume or Reuniclus, and setup a situation for you to Knock Out that Pokémon the next turn (and Vileplume’s Psychic Weakness makes this very easy to do with a Mewtwo EX).
Carnivine also has a second attack that most people don’t really know much about, which is Spit Squall, which costs GGC, which reads, “Your opponent puts the Defending Pokémon and all cards attached to it into his or her hand.” This is fairly effective against Darkrai decks in the late game after your opponent has exhausted their Junk Arms and Dark Patches, forcing your opponent to manually attach Energy to power up Darkrai EX over the course of three turns, giving you the window to win the game with Mewtwo EX or Shaymin EX.
The attack is also effective against Klinklang EX. You can use Spit Squall to either send your opponent’s Pokémon with all of their energy attached back to their hand or to get the Klinklang off the field. The other utility of the attack is against quad decks or any deck really that gets off to a slow start to bench your opponent on turn two, or even on turn one if you’re ever so lucky.
When I was playing around with this deck in open gaming on Thursday night, I wasn’t hitting all of my beats with this deck like I usually do, which made me feel really uneasy about the deck as well going into the tournament, so I ditched it midway through the night.
The Final Decision: Darkai/Chandelure
pokemon-paradijs.comAround midnight I finalized my deck choice and wrote up my decklist to turn in the next day. This is a deck that I’ve been testing since early June that I really, really liked. Chandelure is one of my favorite Pokémon from Black and White, and the card is also one that I think is one of the strongest in the format. The Ability, Cursed Shadow, which allows you to place 30 damage counters on your opponent’s field in any way that you would like as long as Chandelure is your Active Pokémon.
The card was the star of the BDIF during City Championships, Chandy Beach, and cards that are the main component of a deck as strong as that one don’t all of a sudden become bad. Mewtwo EX and later on Darkrai EX (as well as the early potential of Zekrom-EX and Reshiram-EX) made Chandy Beach a no longer viable deck. Chandelure NVI, within itself though, was still a very strong card, it just needed to find a new deck to call home.
It ended up finding some new places to shine in Mew/Accelgor/Vileplume/Chandelure/Darkrai and in this deck which I am about to explain, which is Darkrai/Chandelure. Some other people also played the combination of Chandelure and Darkrai, but their decks were more focused on Chandelure, playing 4-2-4 lines, while my deck was based around attacking with Darkrai EX.
So people can get a better idea of what I am talking about with this deck before I explain any further I’ll share the decklist so people can see what the deck looks like.
Pokémon – 10
2 Litwick BLW Promo BW27
2 Smeargle UD/CL
Trainers – 37
4 Junk Arm
Energy – 12
8 D – Basic
4 Darkness – Special
This is your main attacker and actually your only legitimate attacker in the deck. Everyone should be familiar with what its attack does by now, and for those who don’t, Night Spear does 90 damage to the Active Pokémon and snipes 30 damage to one of your opponent’s benched Pokémon. Darkrai EX also provides free retreat to any Chandelure or Smeargle that have D Energy attached.
Litwick BLW Promo BW27
You use this version of Litwick in the deck because it has a Call for Family attack, which allows you to grab another Litwick, a Darkrai EX, or a Smeargle UD if you’re stuck with Litwick in the active after your first turn. You don’t use this attack in most of your games, but in situations you do, being able to grab a Smeargle with the attack can allow you to recover from a poor opening hand and get your deck rolling on turn two.
Like Litwick, you almost always aren’t going to attack with Lampent in most games. But like Litwick, it’s important to play the optimal version of the Pokémon to give yourself more options. This version of Lampent has an attack for C, Luring Light, which allows you to drag up one of your opponent’s benched Pokémon.
I never ended up using the attack in the actual tournament and rarely used it in testing, but it is an attack that can give you an out in certain situations.
Chandelure is Darkrai’s partner in crime in this deck. You are unable to ever use Chandelure’s attack as you don’t play the requisite Energy, so all you use Chandelure for is its Ability, Cursed Shadow, which as stated earlier allows you to place damage on Pokémon to setup knock outs down the road. You can use Chandelure’s Ability once per a turn with each Chandelure, so this extra damage can build up over the course of a few turns.
Chandelure is a really good card in the format that ended up developing because of its 130 HP. A lot of these big EX’s are hitting in the 90-100 damage range, which is short of getting the 1HKO on Chandelure. Zekrom with PlusPower and Darkrai EX (because of Chandelure’s weakness to dark Pokémon) are the main threats to 1HKO your Chandelure, and even with those plays in hand, your opponent has to think long and hard about targeting your Chandelure as every turn that they attack into Chandelure is another turn in which they are leaving a powered up Darkrai EX untouched.
This card is a staple in almost every Darkrai variant. Smeargle works overtime in this deck, allowing you to not only setup Darkrai EX quickly, but also get your Chandelure up and out fast. Without Smeargle, the deck just doesn’t work. You don’t get Darkrai setup fast enough, you can’t setup more Darkrai’s fast enough, and you’re going to stumble getting a Chandelure or two setup.
Four Switch is pretty much a no brainer in this deck. It has a double utility in the early game of using multiple Smeargle to setup faster, and once you’re setup the card is essential to the deck’s operation. Once setup, you use Switch on a lot of your turns to get Chandelure into the Active Spot to use Cursed Shadow.
These cards are really strong in the current format. Darkness Claw adds 20 damage to Darkrai’s attacks, which negates the effect of Eviolite. Special Dark then adds 10 more damage to Darkrai’s attack, powering it up even more.
General Idea Behind the Deck
pokemon-paradijs.comThe general idea behind this deck is to gain turns by placing a lot of damage onto your opponent’s Pokémon really fast. The damage really starts building up quickly. I would say on average, you are usually hitting for 110 damage to your opponent’s Active Pokémon with Night Spear. In addition to that, you will be doing 30 snipe damage per a turn and then 30 Cursed Shadow damage with Chandelure.
I think a quick breakdown of what that all adds up to can highlight just how powerful this deck can be. Over the course of four turns, that adds up to 440 damage to the Active Pokémon, 120 damage from snipe and 120 damage from Cursed Shadow, making for a total of 240 residual damage over the course of just four turns and a grand total of 680 damage. That is a lot of damage to deal to your opponent’s field over the course of just four turns.
Sometimes this damage will go to waste, as you attack an Active Pokémon with a lesser amount of HP available or you snipe something with an Eviolite on the bench for 10 damage to Knock it Out, but if you play smart throughout the game, paired with Pokémon Catcher, you can make the most out of where your damage goes. Usually whatever your opponent has Active is what you will be wanting to put the most damage on, so three Pokémon Catcher works out to be enough in this deck.
Everything in this deck from Darkrai’s attack, the residual damage it does, Chandelure and its Ability, the Dark Claws, and Special D Energy is built around putting a lot of damage on your opponent’s field really quickly.
I think the best way to think about this deck when playing it is as a Speed Darkrai variant that uses Chandelure’s Ability to setup knock outs quicker in combination with Darkrai’s snipe. The deck sets up fast, getting a turn one Darkrai EX about 25 percent of the time and the turn two Darkrai EX in most other games, with very few games resulting in a turn three or later Darkrai EX attacking. Chandelure gets setup on turn 2 or 3 in most games, and very rarely much later than that.
Some Damage Tricks Against the Current Meta
pokemon-paradijs.comAgainst the current metagame there are some common plays that you will be making over and over again in these matchups.
The most common is against Zekrom/Eelektrik when your opponent has an Eelektrik already evolved and a Tynamo on the bench. You Curse Shadow one damage on your opponent’s Tynamo, place the other two on one of their attackers, catcher the Eelektrik and KO both it and the Tynamo.
Against CMT, you can place 30 damage on a benched Celebi Prime with Cursed Shadow and then Knock it Out with Night Spear’s snipe damage.
Against Vanilluxe variants, if you Knock Out their Pokémon with Cursed Shadow damage, Rescue Energy isn’t activated.
Against Fighting decks, you can use Catcher and Night Spear to spread damage around on their Terrakion and then take a bunch of knock outs all at the same time with Cursed Shadow. Additionally, when you take knock outs with Cursed Shadow, Exp. Share isn’t activated.
When your opponent plays tech Terrakion in there CMT or Zeels variants, you can usually just Knock it Out with a Darkrai EX with two Special D Energy and a Dark Claw attached. But when you don’t have that, Cursed Shadow for however many damage you need to place followed by Night Spear is good at getting rid of the Terrakion threat in one turn.
Against Vileplume variants, if you get out Chandelure quick enough, you can do the same thing you do against Tynamo by placing damage on the Oddish and then Knocking Out both of your opponent’s Oddish with Night Spear.
I will apologize in advance to anyone’s name who I don’t remember. I met a lot of different people and played a lot of games of Pokémon against different people, so it’s hard to remember everyone.
Round 1 – Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX
Well, no easy games for me, drawing a meta deck in my very first game. This game ended up being very close. He Knocked Out a pair of my Smeargle in the early game, but this left my Darkrais and Chandelure components unscathed, allowing me to get my full setup and catch up and take control of the game. I think the game came down to me winning by a single prize, this was a really tough game to start the tournament with and I was lucky to get the win.
Celebi Prime/Tornadus EXRound 2 – Frankie Durso –
Going into the round I look at the pairings and see who I’m paired up with. I didn’t really know much about him, but his name was familiar, which meant he had done well enough in the past to have some name recognition and he also had a bye, which meant he was a State Champion, so obviously he was going to be good and this was going to be tough.
He was playing from what as far as I could tell was a Tornadus EX donk deck, which played just two Celebi Prime and four Tornadus EX. Playing these lower Pokémon numbers allows the deck to max out cards like PlusPower and Skyarrow Bridge to maximize damage output and play high numbers of cards like Eviolite to lessen your opponent’s damage and Super Scoop Up to reset the damage clock.
This game didn’t start out all that unfavorably for me. I was able to get my deck setup well until I hit a little snag. During an early game search off of a Dual Ball or Ultra Ball, when I went to get a second Darkrai EX from my deck something was missing… not only that, two things were missing. Two of the three Darkrai EX that I play were in my Prize cards and when that happens, you’re just in a lot of trouble. Luckily, on the turn he Knocked Out my Darkrai EX, I top decked my single copy of Super Rod, allowing me to get that Darkrai EX back in my deck and give me a chance.
pokemon-paradijs.comOn that same turn, I was able to use three supporters thanks to good ol’ Smeargle abuse and ended up getting a second Darkrai EX setup for a Night Spear that very same turn. After a few early tails on his Super Scoop Ups, he started flipping well on them. He got heads on one, which allowed him to get Celebi Prime off the field, forcing me to take an extra prize for the win (as I had already taken a Celebi prize earlier in the game). He then hit two Super Scoop Up flips on his Tornadus EX to reset the damage clock on those. Your opponent flipping well enough on SSU can hurt this deck, just as it does against almost every other deck.
The game state eventually falls to a into a set of decisive turns. I Night Spear his Tornadus EX, leaving him with two Tornadus EX with 140 damage on them (and at this point, there is no way that he is able to get off two Super Scoop Ups in the same turn). I N him to one card. The game is going to come down to whether or not he can get a Pokémon Catcher on his turn or not. If not, I will just Curse Shadow him with Chandelure for the win.
Off of the two cards he has going into his turn after my N he doesn’t get the Pokémon Catcher. He does have a supporter though, N. He N’s himself to one card. I take the bottom card of his deck and place it on top of his deck as my cut. It’s a Pokémon Catcher, oh snap.
Round 3 – Zekrom/Eelektrik/Terrakion
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a game that will be stick out in my mind for awhile. I got a fast setup and was just doing my thing against Eels. Midway through the game after my opponent used Retaliate to Knock Out my Darkrai EX, I promoted Chandelure to my Active Spot to use Cursed Shadow. This is where I made a really bad misplay. I forgot to use my Switch in hand to put Smeargle in the Active Spot, which led to me whiffing the Night Spear for that turn.
Next turn my opponent has another F Energy and uses Pokémon Catcher to knock my benched Darkrai. Pretty much my only shot at winning this thing after that was to Catcher stall while spreading damage with my two Chandelure. I couldn’t hit an N though to make this strategy really effective, so my opponent had a host of available cards to switch out of the Active Spot and Celebration Wind a bunch of energy to a Mewtwo EX to finish off the game.
So frustrating to have a game in hand and then lose it because of a misplay, but it served as a good reminder to slow down my play and make sure I did everything I needed to do for my turn before playing my supporters.
Round 4 – Vanilluxe/Victini/Vileplume
I was excited to see that I was matched up against VVV, as my deck has a really strong matchup against Item lock variants, especially those that depend on status conditions. Chandelure’s Cursed Shadow Ability is very strong against Vanilluxe, allowing you to spread damage around early, to place 30 damage on Victini NVI to setup a KO with Night Spear, or place Vanilluxe into 1HKO range.
Without Victini in play, the deck kind of falls apart as hitting double tails will happen roughly once every four turns for your opponent. My deck also has the ability to 1HKO Vanilluxe with two Special Darks attached and a Dark Claw.
In this game, my opponent didn’t get a turn one Collector, which led to him only having one Oddish on his bench by the time I got Night Spear ready to go, which I think was turn two. I took a Knock Out on the Oddish and placed 30 damage on Victini. I think he got a turn of stall in by flipping heads with Vanillish’s attack, and after Double Freezing me the next turn I was able to hit a Switch, Curse Shadow, and Night Spear KO his active Vanilluxe and the benched Victini.
From there, I think he had a Vanillite, Oddish, and Vileplume on his field. He evolved to Vanillish and tried to stall for a turn but flipped tails. I Knocked Out the Vanillish and sniped 30 damage on Oddish. He was left with just a Vileplume and Oddish left, and I was 2 Prizes away from winning at that point, so he scooped.
Round 5 – Chris Beaty – Darkrai/Terrakion/Mewtwo
pokemon-paradijs.comMy opponent got a fast setup, getting a Terrakion that could use Land Crush fairly early, either turn two or three, and this gives me a lot of problems. I have to Knock Out the Terrakion before doing anything else, otherwise it will just keep Knocking Out my Darkrai if I try to go after anything else. That Terrakion had taken four straight prizes, Knocking Out two of my Darkrai. My Nationals run would end here.
My opponent had gotten a weird setup though. He hadn’t played through much of his deck and was left with a Darkrai EX with two energy on his bench as well as a Smeargle and Shaymin. My hand was complete garbage, Terrakion still was hanging around, and my last Darkrai EX needed to have three energy on it in order to attack, and I didn’t even have a Chandelure in play yet. All in one turn, I would need to power up a Darkrai EX, evolve to Chandelure, get off a Cursed Shadow, and then attack with Night Spear if I wanted to get back in this game.
I Portrait my opponent, and get to use either a Oak’s or Juniper. In this hand, I think I was able to evolve into Chandelure and got some of the energy for Darkrai EX. I play N out of my own hand, N’ing him to a two card hand. Still didn’t have all the cards to complete the combo, so I have to retreat to my other Smeargle UD to get another Dark Patch to power up Darkrai EX. I use Portrait for a second time in the turn, he has an N, which is great for me. I get a fresh six cards and he gets only two cards.
I get everything else I need to start the combo, remove any Supporters I may have in my hand and keep a Random Receiver, work on setting up a Knock Out on his Smeargle, and Knock Out Terrakion. He is unable to ever get another Energy on his Darkrai EX and I somehow do the improbable and keep myself alive in the tournament.
Round 6 – Mew/Accelgor/Vileplume/Chandelure/Darkrai
As soon as I see what I am playing against, I feel fairly confident in the matchup. I’ve played with this deck so much that I feel as though I know its weaknesses, so I had a pretty solid game plan against it. What I wanted to do against this deck was Knock Out anything related to Chandelure right away as well as get my own Chandelure out so I can spread damage and Knock Out his Chandelure if he ever got it setup and have a way to spread damage onto his field, even through paralysis if needed.
I think a lot of players make the mistake against Item lock decks of always going for the Oddish prizes first. This actually helps your opponent most of the time, as they are usually able to get the Vileplume the very next turn through Twins (which you just activated for them) and you helped them out further by clearing a bench space that they can use for something else instead of having their bench clogged with a stupid Oddish. That second Oddish can always be left on the bench for later in the game for an easy prize, especially with a lot of players not playing Gloom anymore, ensuring that the Oddish never will evolve.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe way I attack into this deck is to go after anything related to Chandelure first and foremost. Chandelure is what makes this deck so good, allowing your opponent to create a Deck and Cover loop that you can’t escape. After that, I try to target any Mew Prime as the less Mew that your opponent has left in their deck the harder it will be for them to keep up the Deck and Cover loop. After the trainer lock is up, you are at the mercy of your opponent in what you get to Knock Out, and you just Knock Out that stray Oddish or Relicanth or whatever they end up promoting as a sacrifice.
In this game in particular, I got a fast setup and was able to get a Chandelure evolved, possibly even two, I don’t quite remember, which gave me a big edge in the matchup. I was able to vanquish his Chandelure parts very early in the game and then was able to take a Knock Out on a Mew Prime that he had to use to See Off Accelgor with.
I’m not sure whether or not my opponent just didn’t play Relicanth or his were just prized, but without Relicanth, this deck doesn’t setup quite as well as it does with it. Relicanth is really good in this deck as it serves three purposes. Its first and main purpose is to put Accelgor in the Lost Zone with Prehistoric Wisdom.
Its second purpose is to serve as a draw engine, as you get to draw three cards every time you use Prehistoric Wisdom. Lastly, the deck helps ever so slightly in thinning out your deck to make keeping the Deck and Cover loop setup.
Overall, my opponent never really got a steady setup, I rushed to a large prize lead, and he was never going to get Chandelure out, so he eventually scooped.
Round 7 – Versus Adam Garcia – Mew/Accelgor/Vileplume/Chandelure/Darkrai EX/Relicanth
pokemon-paradijs.comI knew from the get go that this would be a very tough match. Adam is a very good player who had just got finished winning the Texas Spring Regionals a little bit earlier in the season, so I knew I would have to play really well to get the win.
To make matters worse, my opening supporter was a Professor Juniper and Lampent was in my opening hand. I had to use the supporter to get setup, it was definitely the right play, but it hurt discarding that Lampent. I was unable to Super Rod it back into my deck or Rare Candy into a Chandelure before he got Vileplume setup, which meant this was going to be a really difficult game.
This isn’t the worst thing ever though, as Litwick is actually effective its own right. Litwick’s low, 50 HP is low enough that it forces your opponent to Knock it Out going into your turn, breaking the Deck and Cover loop.
I just stick to my game plan of going after the Chandelure components first and foremost. I think over the course of the game, I actually ended up Knocking Out every piece of the Chandelure line at some point – that is a Litwick, a Lampent, and a Chandelure.
We’re both down to 1 Prize each at this point in the game. He has to promote Darkrai EX after I Knock something Out (I think this was the Lampent), which meant he wouldn’t be able to get the Deck and Cover off that turn. I don’t remember this too clearly, but I don’t think he had any Mew Prime in his hand or a way to get them that turn, so he made the only move he could make, which was to attach a Rainbow Energy to retreat Darkrai EX, play Pichu to put his Mew Primes on the bench and then hope the coin flips fall in his favor.
Pichu stays asleep falling into my turn. I use Night Spear to snipe 30 damage onto a Mew Prime, ensuring me the victory heading into my next turn if Pichu stays asleep. Pichu then stays asleep going into his turn which gives me the win. That was a really, really good game and a super close finish.
Round 8 – Versus CMT with Terrakion
This game didn’t go too well at all. I just struggled to ever get anything really setup, while my opponent got a Terrakion to Land Crush in the early game before I could get rid of it. Every single turn I would whiff getting a Darkrai EX setup for a Night Spear, only ever getting two of the three needed energy on it to attack. That Terrakion single handily demolished my entire field and did too much damage to give me even a small chance of winning the game.
Round 9 – Versus Joseph Sanchez with CMT
If I wanted to keep my hopes of making the top cut, I would have had to win this game. Ultimately, I think I would have come up around 3% short on resistance to make it, but I wasn’t really aware of what my resistance was relative to everyone else at the time.
I draw my seven cards to start the game and mulligan. He shuffles my deck after I shuffle it, and I cut it, and draw a fresh seven. I am just drawing the most ridiculous hand ever, basically the type of hand you see on PlayTCG that makes you hate the program. I just keep drawing into all of my Junk Arms and on my sixth card, I draw a Pokémon and just make a face of horror in seeing that I wasn’t able to get another mulligan.
My opponent sees the face I make and asks what that face was for. I was just like, “Okay, whatever, I’m going to show you my hand. You have to see how bad this is.”
To make matters worse, he wins the opening coin flip. My lone starter is a poor little 50 HP Litwick. He starts Virizion NVI. He plays Dual Ball, flips heads. Grabs Tornadus EX, plays down Skyarrow Bridge, attaches Energy and uses Blow Through to win the game.
Overall, I had a lot of fun at Nationals. It’s a really fun event with a lot going on and as stated in the intro, it was awesome to see John Roberts win the tournament. I was really happy with my deck choice for the tournament, I felt it gave me a good edge on every deck I ended up playing against in the tournament. Those two losses to end the tournament were really rough, but having games like that happen sometimes and you just have to deal with it, it’s part of the game.
I was really surprised to see Celebi decks essentially be my downfall in this tournament, giving me three of my losses. In testing, CMT proved to be one of the deck’s strongest matchups, and I still believe this to be true. I think it wasn’t anything about CMT in particular that led to me losing these games. If I have two Darkrai EX prized against Zekrom/Eelektrik, I probably lose that game too. If my Zekrom/Eelektrik opponent gets a Terrakion out and attacking and I stumble in my setup and whiff getting a Darkrai setup for Night Spear every turn preventing me from getting rid of the Terrakion, I lose that game.
With the exception of the last loss, in which I was donked (which is one of the biggest strengths of CMT), my losses weren’t a result of me having been paired against CMT, just things that could happen against any deck. In the side events I played in, I don’t think I lost a single game to CMT, even picking up a win against a player who made top cut with the deck.
Moving forward, I am going to relieve myself of playing in this format for too much longer. I will help some players test in their preparation for World Championships, but outside of that, I’m going to start looking ahead to the new format, work on developing some deck ideas I have for the new card pool, and hopefully come back stronger and a better player than I was this year to make for a good second season in the game.