Who Needs Catcher Anyways? US Nationals Top 64 X-0 Swiss Report + Thoughts for Grinders

Hello all!! It’s Oscar here again with another tournament report and a couple ideas for Worlds for your enjoyment. After a weekend of Pokémon competitive play I find it necessary to gather the results and my experiences from Nationals. This will help in putting the current format into perspective so that we may be in better position for future tournaments, i.e. Worlds and grinders.

I’ll start things off by explaining my deck choice; I’ll include the decklist I wanted to play, the decklist I played, and the decklist I came up with after Nationals. Then I will enter a general overview of what did well at both Canada and US Nationals. Lastly I will include a couple of ideas and observations that I have for grinders. So let’s get to it!

The Concept


Leading up to Nationals I was having some success here and there with a Darkrai Tornadus Mewtwo deck I was testing. The basic theory revolved around attacking turn 1 with Tornadus EX and to deny prizes using Max Potions and Shaymin. After testing with my good friends Kenny, Kristy, Chris, Edmund and Mark I came to the realization that although it was good, it had unfavorable matchups across the board and a near auto-loss to Eel Terrakion.

The real problem to the deck was that eels was expected to be the most popular deck at Nationals and having an auto-loss to the most popular deck was never good.

Fast forward to 2 days before Nationals and I’m at the airport reading up on what won other Nationals around the world when something leaps out at me. Darkrai Terrakion! What really grabbed my attention was that the deck already ran 2 Shaymin which my own build already ran. I figured I can incorporate both the Smeargle engine and max potion strategy that I was fond of.

So 15 minutes before my flight takes off I build the exact deck that takes me to my X-0 record at Nationals; well I say the same, but in reality there was one major (painful) alteration done to the deck (more on that later).

I arrive at the venue on Thursday morning and begin scoping out the meta. As I suspected; it was mostly Darkrai, Eel, and CMT variants that dominated the venue with some Vileplume here and there. Afterward my group and I head up to our room for some serious testing; needless to say I was impressed with the deck only dropping a few games.

The Explanation

Pokémon – 11

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Terrakion NVI

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

3 Smeargle UD

2 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

4 Professor Juniper

2 N

1 Random Receiver


4 Junk Arm

4 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Switch

2 Eviolite

2 Max Potion

2 PlusPower

1 Super Scoop Up

1 Dual Ball

1 Super Rod

Energy – 12

8 D – Basic

4 F

2 Max Potion, 1 Super Scoop Up

pokemon-paradijs.com2 Max Potion was used to heal 100% of the time without a flip. Even if you cannot pull off the Shaymin combo, Darkrai thrives off having Energy in the discard. Also if you have to Max Potion a Terrakion, all Terrakion needs is 1 F Energy on it to become a threat again. Max Potion won me 3-of my games.

Most Terrakion decks were running one Energy Switch. My opinion is that even though Energy Switch is a guaranteed Retaliate, with two Shaymin it wasn’t as necessary, and in a tight situation Scoop Up has way more utility than Energy Switch.

You can pick up an easy Prize, you can heal a damaged EX, you can pick up a Shaymin to Celebration Wind Energy around, etc. Yeah, by far a lot more useful.

No Skyarrow Bridge

That’s what the three Switch are for, and if necessary you can attach and free retreat Smeargle then Shaymin the Energy to Darkrai. With 2 Shaymin you can feel more relaxed about making this play.

1 Dual Ball

This deck needs a way to search out both Shaymin and another Basic for the combo to work. That one Dual Ball goes a long way! Everything else is pretty standard.

The Mistake

It’s Nationals and I’m ready to take this deck to new heights! Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing will stand in my way… Well nothing besides my own stupidity.

It’s round 1 and right before my match starts a judge calls out my name. I reluctantly raise my hand and I begin to hear the words that are about to ruin my day. I had turned in a 57 card decklist and have to organize my deck to figure out what cards are missing and replace them with energy. Right away I knew my chances of winning were gone and contemplated dropping out of the tournament.

I told the judge to hand me my decklist that It would be faster for me just to tell him what cards I was missing since I knew my list inside out. I glanced at my list and my heart sunk a little bit, I was missing the single most important card in any non-Vileplume based deck… Pokémon Catcher! On the spot I decided on two more Fighting and one more Dark, and began an incredible streak.

Final List

Pokémon – 11

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Terrakion NVI

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

3 Smeargle UD

2 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

4 Professor Juniper

2 N

1 Random Receiver


4 Junk Arm

4 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

3 Switch

2 Eviolite

2 Max Potion

2 PlusPower

1 Super Scoop Up

1 Dual Ball

1 Super Rod

Energy – 15

9 D – Basic

6 F

The Report

Round 1 vs ??? w/ Terra Eel


I forgot his name and I kept seeing him throughout the tournament as he was the only one outside of my group that knew I ran no Catcher; he kept congratulating me on an outstanding streak. Sorry dude, I do remember that he was a player from Michigan that’s about it.

Throughout the match he knew I was missing something, but didn’t know what I was missing, and I tried to keep it that way. I go first and I’m able to get a turn 2 kill with Terrakion off his Smeargle. Turn 3 I kill a Eel with Land Crush. He has limited Basics, so he could only promote eel.

He whiffs on the Retaliate kill on my Darkrai, so I Shaymin all the Energy off my Darkrai onto a Terrakion and heal it. He’s facing down to fully powered Eviolited Terrakions with a Lightning deck, which is not very good for him. He manages to KO a Darkrai for 2 Prizes.

I believe at this point he realizes I don’t run Catcher and begins to attack with Mewtwo and Terrakion. I resort to 2-shotting both of them. I keep my Terrakions alive with Scoop Up and Max Potion.

Time gets called with prizes at 2-1 in my favor. I’m turn 2 of +3 and he needs a prize to take the game to sudden death. With no Catcher that’s not an option for me. I Max Potion all my damage off and am left with two fresh Terrakions with no Energy. He can’t take a prize so I win on time.

Prize Count: 1-2

Record: 1-0

Round 2 vs. Nik w/ DMT (Darkrai Mewtwo Tornadus)

Ok so I was kinda harsh in this match. I was taking 20 second turns and he was spending full minutes. Halfway through the game I tell him if he could speed it up and things just turned awkward. He goes first and gets a turn 1 Blow Through. I lose the first EX and am down 2 Prizes. I manage to two hit his Tornadus EX and leave it at 160 damage. He retreats it and I’m able to Night Spear for 2 Prizes.

Most of the game I’m healing my Darkrais and when I get a chance I Retaliate for Knock Out. This game goes to time again, but this time it’s at 1-3 Prizes. I KO’d a Smeargle with 60 damage on the bench and there is no way he can take 2 Prizes off my bench since I had Max Potioned my own Smeargle with 60 damage. I win on time again.

Prize count: 1-3

Record: 2-0

Game 3 vs. Calvin w/ Terra Eels


This game I pulled off a turn 2 Land Crush. And I was able to get ahead 3 Prizes before he retaliated my Darkrai EX. However he didn’t attack my Terrakions, instead letting them go to work on his Lightning Pokémon. Again, I kept healing my bulls and two shotting his bulls.

Once I saw both of his bulls were in the discard I played down my second Darkrai. I don’t remember how I won this game, but turn two Land Crush was just too strong.

Prize Count: 0-2

Record: 3-0

Round 4 vs ??? w/ CMTT (Celebi Mewtwo Tornadus Terrakion)

This game I remember I made heavy use of portrait. We were both drawing dead, but I had a fully powered Darkrai going through his Pokémon. I got turn 1 Night Spear in this game and got an early lead by KOing a Mewtwo and a Celebi. Every time I Portraited him I made sure he couldn’t Retaliate me.

By the time he was able to pull it off I had bulls set up ready to attack. Again I made sure to use Max Potion to not give up my Terrakions. The 3 Prize lead was too much for him to come back from.

Prize Count: ???

Record: 4-0

Round 5 vs. John w/ The Truth


John was a really nice father of three Pokémon players, we chatted it up and I had a good time talking to him. He did pretty well for himself I believe he made cut wish is pretty impressive considering the deck choice. He ran Groudon EX and Mewtwo EX and maybe some other EXs that I didn’t get to see.

I go first and I over extend to get the turn 1 Night Spear. The reason being is that he had a lone Solosis on the bench and I needed to kill it to prevent it from evolving. He can never fully set up and I take 6 Prizes. I dodged a bullet there.

Prize Count: 0-5

Record: 5-0

So day 1 is over and am shocked at how well I’m doing. I try to think of reasons why I’m doing so well given my large handicap. I try to find patterns I’ve been using so that I can repeat them for day 2 and give myself a fighting chance. I come up with three major tactics to use.

1. Make heavy use of Portrait. Look at my opponent’s hand and try to predict their next move. I know good players take into account every card known to them, but how often do you just Portrait and forget to look at the opponent’s hand? I do that quite often myself, but by really paying attention to my opponent’s hand I was able to see what they’re next logical play was and prepare accordingly.

2. Put the pressure on early. Four out of my five games I took the first prize with either Retaliate or turn 1/2 Darkrai. Firing off that first attack is huge. While your opponents are still struggling to set up you gan get two to 3 Prizes ahead where you can comfortably keep the lead. Which brings me to my third point…

3. Use and abuse healing cards. Without the option to waste my Junk Arms on Catcher, my deck was able to use those Junk Arms as key Max Potions or Super Scoop Ups. Max Potion had won me 2 out of my past 5 games.

So after getting my strategy in order for day 2, I was off to bed.

Round 6 vs Simon w/ Darkrai Terrakion

pokemon-paradijs.comThis would have been a tough matchup, but he started Shaymin. I go first and am able to get off the turn 1 Darkrai for the donk. The ironic thing about it was that I was telling him how last year I was able to donk someone the first match of day 2. Not knowing that I was about to do the same to him, I came off as a bit of jerk. Sorry Simon. At least he was able to make cut and advance to Top 32.

Prize Count: Donk

Record: 6-0

Round 7 vs. Mark Garcia w/ CMTT

Mark is a friend of mine and testing partner from California. In fact I had been testing with him the night before and I knew that with Catchers my deck was 50/50 vs him, and without them, well, I was screwed. To make matters worse he knew I had no Catchers. I can truly say this entire match was me luck sacking.

All game he only took three cheap prizes off Smeargle because he kept whiffing on key Energy attachments or Catchers or PlusPowers. I’m able to sweep through his team. At the end of the game he shows me his hand (2 Fighting, 4 Grass and a Switch). Terrible game for him, but everything lined up well for me.

Prize Count: 0-3

Record. 7-0

Round 8 vs. Tom Dolezal w/ Turbo Darkrai

I go into this matchup knowing what he’s playing and I like my odds. While he has to two shot everything in my deck, I can use Terrakion to sweep through his Darkrai and Smeargle. Of course things aren’t so simple when you play no Catchers and you play someone of Tom’s calibre. We end up getting called into time at 1-3 Prizes in my favor and we both have limited resources left. I have a damaged Darkrai and a Damaged Terrakion on the field that he can double KO next turn for the win.

I’m turn 2 of +3, so I Juniper my hand away hoping to hit the Max Potion. I do and completely heal my Darkrai EX. I heal and pass knowing he cannot get the win next turn, but he could possibly take the game to sudden death. He does not have the Catcher in hand, so he cannot get a double KO that turn. It was a good game.

Prize Count: 1-3

Record: 8-0

Round 9 vs. Carlos w/ Entei-EX


Needless to say we are both surprised to be at the top. We both play the prize denial game, however I use Shaymin to conserve my Energy and at the same time power up a lone Mewtwo. He’s able to KO a damaged Darkrai on the bench. Afterward my monster of a cat sweeps through his dogs.

Prize Count: 0-4

Record: 9-0

Top 128 vs. Treynor Wolfe w/ DMT

Game 1

He draws dead while I have a fully powered Darkrai. By the time he gets something going it’s too late.

Game Count: 1-0

Game 2

He tries to limit his game to tornadus but it’s not possible for him to win against my constant healing and 90/30 snipe. He finally places down a Darkrai but by then he’s taken care of my Terrakion. I’m up on prizes when he makes a misplay. He forgets to retreat before he uses Max Potion. At that point he scoops knowing he would be a turn behind on attacks.

Game Count: 2-0

Record: 10-0

Top 64 vs. Christopher Murray w/ CMTT

Now this was an interesting deck build. He only ran 4 Supporters crippling the Smeargle engine I was so fond of. Congratulations to him on making it all the way to top 4 with his ingenuity and guts! (I would never play four Supporters in a tournament.)

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comHis deck strategy works well for him. I can never portrait or set up. He takes quick prizes and it’s over.

Game Count: 0-1

Game 2

I setup well without having to rely on Smeargle. However without Catcher I can’t respond to his benched Terrakion that he was manually building up and that hurts a lot. Finally my weakness caught up to me.

Game Count: 0-2

Final Record: 10-1

It wasn’t a terrible defeat, it was something I had been expecting from the start. Mostly I felt relief that I could finally use Catchers again. So I went to my hotel and reworked the list. Not much changed; I swapped out 3 Energy for 2 Catchers and an Energy Search. It was a way to get the best of maximum Energy and being able to use Catcher.

The Future

So now that both US and Canada Nationals are over we take a look at what did well and try to identify some Patterns.

US Nationals

1st – Klinklang EX

2nd – Mewtwo Raikou Eels

3rd – Darkrai Mewtwo

4th – CMTT

Canada Nationals

1st – Entei Terrakion Mewtwo

2nd – Eel Terrakion

3rd – Darkrai Terrakion

4th – Darkrai Terrakion

I’m not entirely sure of what went on at Canada Nationals since I wasn’t there. However by looking at this list, one can identify that Terrakion is definitely a go to card in any deck that needs a Darkrai or Lightning counter. We can look at both the over all winners and see what they have in common.

They both play large EXs with nearly unplayed Weaknesses and secondly they both play the prize denial game. Even if we look at 2nd and 3rd place of US Nationals they both opted to play Max Potion. So what does this mean for World’s and Grinders?

1. Max Potion over Super Scoop Up. When the top decks all played Max Potion, it no longer becomes a question of what is better, rather it becomes a question of how to best incorporate it in your deck.

2. Hitting for Weakness. With all the increased healing. 1HKOs are huge, even more so when they net you 2 Prizes.

3. Creativity goes a long way. Need proof? Look at the decks close and each will have something unique. From Andrew Murray’s 4 Supporter list, to Kevin Nance’s 3 Mewtwo Zekeel list, and don’t get me started on the two decks that won. The point is each list differed from the norm, and where each list differed it gave the players the edge over the competition.

Well this report has gone on long enough. Thank you for all of you who have stuck with me to the end. As of this article I already have my tickets to Hawaii I hope to see many of you there. I wish you all the best of luck!!

Reader Interactions

15 replies

  1. Matheus Aguiar

    So, replacing 3 cards from your list for energies is the new trick to winning?

    Jokes aside, congrats on doing so well, even more without such a staple.

  2. airhawk06

    Great run. I hope this kinda forces people to reconsider the “4 Catcher. Period” paradigm. With the lack of set up decks out there, I think the real key might just been pouring constant pressure onto the field and healing. There are not too many “crucial targets” in the format.

    • Edmund Nelson  → airhawk06

      I say 2-3 Catchers still though, Given that there is in fact 1 key thing to do with it, KO damaged pokemon on the bench.

  3. theo Seeds

    To make it that far without Catchers almost certainly means you’re a pretty good player. Congrats on going 9-0, and this might be the thing that people start trying out now just to see if it’s a “secret strategy”.

  4. Joel Chan

    Personally, I would have thought that your deck’s weakness would be Tornadus EX? Since Darkrai is neutral to it and Terrakion is resisted. But you appeared to have no trouble taking decks with Tornadus. Nice run.

  5. Rahul Reddy

    Just to correct something, It wasn’t Andrew Murray, it was Chris Murray who took T4 with CMTT. Just wanted to point that out, but otherwise great job! I didn’t get to personally meet you but I hope to around NJ marathon or something

    • Oscar Morales  → Rahul

      Yeah I noticed that I correctly identified him in my match up but I guess out of being tired I called him Andrew Murray in my closing statements.

  6. CaptainX24

    tl;dr dump your Catchers because they’re a garbage card best used for spreading butter on bread

  7. Roarkiller Master

    Catcher is overrated anyway. I played a BW-On tourney at the local league and had to force myself to re-learn how to take prizes without catcher (I played four, but no junk arm = no instant kill).

  8. phou

    I think those who read this article should consider this more than disregarding Catcher:
    “Make heavy use of Portrait. Look at my opponent’s hand and try to predict their next move.”

  9. Simon Narode

    Nice report. Great job, especially considering you were playing without Catcher!
    I’m Simon, the guy you donked in round 6. No hard feelings, donks happen. I made top 16, but passed the first cut to 128 on resistance, thanks in no small part to your 9-0 record.
    Again, impressive run, and thanks for writing the report.

    • Oscar Morales  → Simon

      Thank you Simon. And congrats on top 16 that’s really impressive for your first nationals! And honestly Donking you was probably the only way I was gonna win against you haha. hope to see you there next year :)

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