Like many of you, my season is over. It’s been a great run: alongside a 1930 Elo rating, I earned numerous top cuts, a win in one of the largest State Championships in the United States, and a Nationals top ten finish. Still, my Championship Point count is too low to earn me an invite, and the cost of a plane ticket would have been too prohibitive to use it anyway (let alone pay $600-$1,000 for the grinder), so for all intents and purposes, it’s time to bid farewell to 2011-2012.
However, I learned a lot from my experiences at US Nationals, and have a clear idea of what to expect at Worlds. Therefore, I’d like to share with you all going to “the big show” some of my thoughts about my Nationals experience. Beyond that, I’d like to get into the nitty-gritty of BLW-on for the benefit of people looking to move on and master next season.
Some Brief Thoughts from Nationals (HGSS-DEX)
pokemon-paradijs.comFor the most part, I feel like Nationals has been covered sufficiently by the four writers who preceded me this month. If you are interested in my tournament report, as well as my very interesting 10th place finish with an equally interesting rogue deck…You’ll have to wait until I finally get around to putting my thoughts together. With apartment hunting, moving down to an area I’ve never lived, and getting all of my affairs in order, it just hasn’t been in the cards.
Long story short, I only have the time to write one or the other, and since I want to discuss both topics equally, my tiebreaker is the obligation prompt over the leisure topic.
(Once/if it does come out, though, I guarantee it will/would be one of the greatest reports of all time. I say that not out of humor or cockiness – it’s just the story behind it.)
However, I would like to give all of you people headed to Worlds something useful. Unlike most “what we learned…” segments (including most of my own), this actually deals with some play-related topics, as well as deck-related material.
1. Vileplume will be everywhere at Worlds – be ready for it.
That does not necessarily mean you should be packing Espeons and Unowns, as discussed below; however, it does mean that you should be capable of playing against it.
A. Most Vileplume players and lists at the Worlds level are savvy enough to avoid losing Vileplume, so don’t bother going after Oddishes early game except in rare circumstances. The most significant advantage that my Accelgor had over other Vileplume variants was that it ran an obscene amount of draw and Twins cards, to the point where any player assuming that I would whiff the turn two Vileplume was playing the matchup incorrectly.
pokemon-paradijs.comHowever, those players clever enough to go after Mews and Litwicks were accepting Vileplume’s inevitability, trading probable failures for hindrances to my setup. You can pick apart Mismagius, Vanilluxe, Klinklang/Vileplume, and Meganium/Vileplume much the same way – just don’t waste time on Oddishes unless the hand is bad, you’re pulling off a first turn KO, or the opponent has only one Oddish on the board.
B. Eelektross DEX is a viable option against Vileplume decks! Unless the opponent has a Shaymin UL or D Energy (for Darkrai EX’s Dark Cloak) ready to go, or has energy on a benched attacker Slurp Shakedown is going to frustrate the opponent greatly. In all of my testing with Vileplume leading up to Nationals, Eelektross was one of the few tech cards that made me feel truly afraid of the opposing deck.
C. Speaking of “scary” cards, some possible options to devastate Vileplume players at Worlds are Zebstrika NXD and Jirachi UL/CL. With a fast Zebstrika, you beat the Vileplume players at their own game, locking them out of their own Vileplume, since most lists run no Gloom. For the few that do (Vanilluxe plus a couple unusual lists), that could still be enough to stall their setup while you build up powerful attackers on the bench.
As for Jirachi, Time Hollow punishes the opponent for his or her over-reliance on Rare Candy. Granted, both of these cards might be cumbersome on your strategy, but they are at the very least options to consider.
2. If you counter status condition decks with Espeon DEX, you’re doing it wrong.
pokemon-paradijs.comLeading up to Nationals, PokéGym and other websites had an unreal amount of hype over whether or not to play status removal cards such as Espeon and Unown CURE. The logic – while sound on its base – was not based on practical play-testing. Your typical arguments were…
“Eevee actually promotes consistency!
“It’s only 1-2 spots out of my deck for an auto-win. Why not use it?”
Both of these were flawed in one way or another. Regarding the first argument, even if Eevee “was” technically a good starter, it was bad because it hogged space for valuable draw cards, which are almost necessary for good starts and maintaining tempo in the late game. Should your draw count be high enough, Eevee/Espeon’s inclusion probably costs spots for search, high counts on strong attackers like Mewtwo EX, or “beat” cards (item cards that increase momentum).
Combine all of these aspects, and a list running 1-1 Espeon effectively trades its early game prizes and first turn win prospects for an early-mid or mid game status lock that isn’t guaranteed to work. Against the top two status decks, Accelgor and Vanilluxe, trading your early game pressure for late prizes is too high a price.
This applies to a lesser extent to Unown CURE, but some decks – such as the Scizor Prime and Mismagius UL concepts – were able to make good use out of it with Seeker, so the space was well spent.
Based on the above, I think that the best answer to Accelgor and Vanilluxe is either a list that heavily emphasizes a fast, powerful start, or one that can reuse Unown CURE. I’m on the fence about running cards such as Steelix Prime, seeing as how they are counter-countered by V-Create Victini, so if you are a Worlds competitor or Grinder player, don’t sacrifice your momentum for something that isn’t even enough o beat the top Accelgor players.
3. On that note, IF the time limit for the Last Chance Qualifier is 45 minutes best two out of three, LCQ players should not consider any deck that does not prominently feature Mewtwo EX, Darkrai EX, and/or Terrakion NVI.
These three cards are the holy trinity of early game momentum right now. Of these three, I still lean toward Darkrai EX and Terrakion more, since they enjoy the ability to draw as many as 4 Prizes in two turns – vital if you want to win on time.
Furthermore, decks like Accelgor proved that they could go deep into top cut even under an undesirable time limit of 60 minutes plus three turns, but 45 minutes is too much to overcome. Other than the Vileplume/Mismagius deck, Mewtwo, Darkrai, and Terrakion-prominent concepts almost always give you methods to get out fast.
Long story short, the clock is your master in the Grinder. You won’t be able to get three games completed in time, and even if it were possible, the LCQ judging resources will be overextended to the point that stalling should go largely unchecked. That doesn’t mean that you should not at least try to get to three games, and it also doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t call judges to watch a slow opponent’s pace of play.
Just put everything into context, and recognize that few decks are as capable of winning as those featuring Darkrai, Mewtwo, and/or Terrakion.
Figuring out the Rotation (BLW-on)
Did you do really well this last season? If not, then did you have some bad beats? If so, just remember:
“Tomorrow is…another day!”
Where will we go, though? What will we do? First, let’s consider how to account for what we lost, and how to recover from it:
Draw, Draw, and More (Less?) Draw!
As a reminder, this is all that you will have going into Battle Roads and Fall Regionals…
- Professor Juniper
- Random Receiver
- X (“Cross”) Transceiver
pokemon-paradijs.comIn comparison to seasons prior, having only four draw options (practically six if you include Receiver and Transceiver) is extremely limiting, especially since one of them (Cheren) tends to not be very powerful. However, should you take this to mean that your overall options are limited? No! You might not have control over the loss over truly great cards like Professor Oak’s New Theory and Sage’s Training, but you do have a control over your counts on cards.
How should you utilize that control, though? At this point, I can’t tell you a few things…
1. In most decks, running 12-14 Supporter/Supporter grabber cards is still essential.
2. You will run at least three of the four legal Supporters in almost every deck. Quite often, this is because the odd card out will be abandoned for the purpose of your deck:
- Cheren is too “weak” for fast Darkrai and quad decks (this could be true for every deck)
- Juniper’s discards can be too brutal on some slower Stage Two decks
- Some decks lack the means by which to discard, making Bianca a dead-draw
- N’s low yield (draw value) at the end of the game can do more harm than good to some decks.
For these reasons, there is no one catch-all, “perfect” draw card like Oak’s New Theory, meaning that the other three cards that do fit a deck’s concept could be maxed. However, sometimes you want to run more than a dozen draw Supporters. As a result, your top alternative will be to play a Supporter-fetching item. This could theoretically be Xtransceiver, but since we generally prefer a 100% chance of a Supporter over a 50%, Random Receiver wins out in most cases.
pokemon-paradijs.comKeep in mind, though, that Receivers are meant to be supplements. Therefore, I’d recommend that if your list presently runs less than ten Supporters, and you are choosing between dedicating a spot to Receiver or a draw Supporter… go with the draw.
Example of a BLW-on draw line:
4 Professor Juniper
2 Random Receiver
That doesn’t look too bad, does it? I dislike our present choices of draw, but for all intents and purposes, a distribution like the above could prove to be reasonably consistent for several decks in the new format.
However, there is another big loss with the rotation…
How to Account for the Loss of Come-from-Behind Cards
As a player who used Vileplume in over half of my tournaments throughout 2011-2012, seeing the gem that is Twins rotate without a worthy successor makes me sad. For one, it was an extraordinarily skill-intensive card. Furthermore, it (obviously) facilitates dark horse wins by giving the trailing player an obscene card advantage. In short, losing Twins (and to a lesser extent Black Belt) makes comeback wins much harder.
However, don’t for a second think that comeback wins are gone completely. If you want the potential to keep this possibility open, think about the following very carefully:
- Which deck you run
- The consistency of your deck
- Your counts on “beat” cards
Your deck choice is a familiar concept when it comes to game momentum: some decks are all about out-of-the-gates havoc, while others revolve around a “slow and steady wins the race” philosophy. Even though I used a deck at this past Nationals that would constantly fall behind three or even 4 Prizes in the early game, said deck (Accelgor) possessed a near infinite lock combo, so I wasn’t really concerned with winning early.
The same will probably go for decks like Hydreigon/Darkrai EX: not necessarily the fastest concept, but capable of being a real monster if your opponent has no 1HKO option. Thus, come-from-behind victories against the vast majority of the field should be easy.
pokemon-paradijs.comConsistency gets hammered into our brains on a – well – “consistent” basis; however, don’t discount its value in helping clinch a come-from-behind win. Often, people who have explosive starts are much more likely to “burn out” mid and late game. That’s because they either used up all of their draw early, or – worse yet – dedicated some of their valuable draw spaces to inconsequential cards.
Nowadays, you need the ability to win from behind if you want to get through a large tournament: just about “every” tournament is large, Battle Roads included, so if you burn out too often, then your hopes for top cut are dashed.
All else equal, though, counts on crucial “beat” cards will are the turning points for come-from-behind wins. Kent Shen called them utility cards in a previous article of his, and he was right to say that an extra PlusPower or Catcher wins games. Just be sure that you strike a balance between these and raw consistency.
The Death of Support
Perhaps the biggest thing to get used to is losing the tried and support cards, due either to rotation or obsolete status. Rather than give you a cumbersome overview, I’ll just discuss a few of the cards that will “die,” offer up some alternatives for them in BLW-on, and suggest possibilities in which these cards could be “reborn” (if not rotated).
youtube.comWhy is it dead? Rotation. Although a good number of players are happy to see it go, I will shed a tear every night for this glorious, glorious card…*Sniff*
What are alternatives for Item lock? Gothitelle EPO 47, plain and simple. The only way you’ll be making this card function in a supportive role is by running it in Accelgor, or quite possibly in a Six Corners-esque build, in which you would charge up your big attackers while hiding behind Goth. However, Gothitelle/Reuniclus as a concept has always been no worse than “decent,” so it’s possible that not having the superior Vileplume option could be enough to send people running Goth’s way.
Why is it dead? Rotation.
What are its alternatives? If you were a huge of fan of CMT, it might be time to convert to a Zeels list, which has been constantly played with more of a Mewtwo emphasis than most builds. Also, since the excitement of the new set will distract people from the Mewtwo war, you could just run Mewtwo without an Energy accelerator, running through many of the decks not running Mewtwo.
Why is it dead? No more Vileplume means rampant Pokémon Catchers. Rampant Pokémon Catchers means a very, very dead Reuniclus, and no more Damage Swap.
What are its alternatives? Max Potion/Dark Trans, more Super Scoop Ups, and Gold Potion when it’s released in the November set.
How could it come back? If Gothitelle suddenly sparks in popularity, then so could Reuniclus. Unfortunately, the only thing I see saving Reuniclus is Item lock.
Why is it dead? Rotation.
What are its alternatives? Perhaps the one most common path that people will take to “replace” Junk Arm is just play smarter. Although making smart discards for Junk Arm could be very skillful, Junk Arm facilitated poor playing: it let you drop items recklessly with little immediate drawback, as well as limited deck options due its near mandatory “4-of” status. Without an easy way to play eight Catchers or six PlusPowers in a single game, most decks will move away from the addiction of near unlimited beat cards.
pokemon-paradijs.comOn the other hand, some decks (and players) will want to duplicate this effect. If that is the case, then the easiest, most splashable option is Recycle. On a flip, it lets you choose any one card from your discard pile to put onto your deck. In some ways, this card can be better than Junk Arm because it does not require discards, and can grab more resources than only items.
Also, many of you who played HeartGold/SoulSilver-on prior to Battle Roads should be familiar with playing unreliable flip cards with strong effects alongside reliable cards; that is, running four Recycle with three Pokémon Catcher is not all that different from running four Junk Arm with three Pokémon Reversal.
Flip Items come at a premium on deck space, however, so your best quality option for Item fetching will be Sableye DEX, which is itself a double Junk Arm of sorts. Be sure to keep in mind that this can only be used in decks utilizing D Energy, Blend Energy, and/or Prism Energy, but the effect will almost certainly be worth it.
Advancing Archetypes Again
Now that we have a slightly better idea of how to move on after this momentous rotation, how will the present archetypes evolve to account for these changes? Although the below lists have little testing behind them, I believe that each should be a great starting point in your own preparations.
Pokémon – 15
4 Tynamo NVI 38
Trainers – 32
4 Level Ball
Energy – 13
pokemon-paradijs.comThe above list is not too different from old builds, focusing a little more on Raikou than they used to in HGSS-DEX. Rayquaza EX is our new “nuke” option over Mewtwo, because it can easily get to the point of 1-shotting other EX attackers.
The above build incorporates my draw principles discussed above. However, no Collector, Smeargle, or Dual Ball means a slower Eel swarm, so to make up for that, we run max on Level Ball and Ultra Ball. Nothing else is out of the ordinary, although I did include two Tool Scrapper because Eviolite can be very menacing to Rayquaza EX. It is presently in the build over PlusPower because with PlusPower, you’ll need to hit multiples, whereas with Tool Scrapper, it’s just a one-and-done victory.
Clearly, our new list has lots of tech otpions. If Rayquaza EX is too inefficient against Garchomps and Hydreigons, you might consider cutting them for regular Rayquazas. The lines on Eelektrik and Level/Ultra Ball are also fair game, but you should try not to deviate too far from 4-3 Eel/6-7 Pokémon searchers.
Finally, why no Emolga? First, I prefer having as many ways to fetch Eelektriks at possible. The Call for Family attack is therefore not as valuable when you already have so many ways to fetch the Tynamo line. Second, using Call for Family is only valuable for grabbing Tynamos and non-EX attackers in most instances.
Ideally, you do not want to Call for Family on an EX, because it could easily become a 2 Prize target before you’re even ready to use it. At a later point, I might revisit Emolga, and cut out one or two level Balls for it, but for now, I’m happy with what I have.
Darkrai + “Good Stuff”
Pokémon – 6
Trainers – 24
Energy – 8
Floating Spots – 22
pokemon-paradijs.comGoing into BLW, this is the base for almost any regular Darkrai list. The reason why there are so many spaces open is because you can still run Darkrai as many ways as you could last season. If you run Terrakion, keep in mind that you will need both Fighting energy and Energy Switch to sustain the list.
Eviolite usage is more important than ever. It is now much more difficult for Terrakion to grab its PlusPower for an easy knockout, so the “value” of laying down an Eviolite is that much greater. Tool Scrapper is a threat, sure, but that should only serve as more incentive to run a high count of it – possibly more than what I have right now!
Mewtwo + “Good Stuff”
Since this idea is so identical to the above, I won’t be sharing a list – just take the above, tweak the energy, and take out the Sableyes/Dark Patches/Darkrais. However, it is useful to view most Mewtwo-focused decks in this light, as that’s the closest thing you’ll get to CMT. Plus, Japanese variants of this concept featuring Terrakion and Bouffalant have been very successful.
Oh, man…Where to go with this? On one hand, the most powerful form of the deck, featuring Chandelure and Vileplume, is no more come rotation; on the other hand, it’s still an intimidating card. Since you’re bound to see a lot of Gothitelle/Darkrai coverage in the next few weeks – probably on the regular site – let’s go with something a little more off of the wall…
Pokémon – 20
4 Shelmet NVI
Trainers – 30
4 Level Ball
Energy – 10
pokemon-paradijs.comUnlike the “old” way of doing things via Item lock, our concept at play in the above list is to wear out the opponent’s resources, and have a viable attacker when you can’t chain the Deck and Cover paralysis lock. For one energy, Ninetales can deal 70 damage due to any “pre-existing medical conditions” due to a previous Deck and Cover.
Additionally, its Bright Look Ability is synergetic with Accelgor, as it lets you setup knockouts going into your turn, or simply chase after Pokémon-EX that were damaged at an earlier point in the game. Mew is simple: through its Versatile Ability, it has the same attacking power as Ninetales, yet also serves as an alternate Deck and Cover user in a pinch.
My only two reservations about this list are Super Scoop Ups and Switches. Since I anticipate most players to struggle with their balance of draw versus switching and heal, this will likely be a better play for Fall Battle Roads and Regionals than at Cities.
Unlike Accelgor, I am concerned that the loss of Vileplume means the complete and utter end of Vanilluxe. The post-Battle Roads approach to the deck, featuring Bellossom UD, is also impossible to work efficiently with Serperior BLW. Thus, I will be returning to Mew/Vanilluxe…
Pokémon – 22
4 Vanillite NXD
Trainers – 25
Energy – 13
pokemon-paradijs.comThis concept is very, very straightforward, but I believe that this is a good option in moving forward with Vanilluxe. The old strategy remains: try to paralyze the opponent with Double Freeze, effectively locking him or her out of the game. Then, swoop in with your Mewtwo EX to close out the game, or continue the paralysis lock with Mew-EX’s versatile.
Two of my alternate ideas have displayed varying degrees of success. The first one, which involves running a thin 2-0-1 Unfezant BLW line, is clunky and unreliable, although capable of mimicking the most popular Cities variation of the deck.
The second idea, however, involves running Blitzles with Blend Energy WLFM. It is much more consistent than Unfezant, yet also opens up the possibility of pursuing a Zebstrika NXD Disconnect strategy. This would be very space-intensive, but is a possibility.
Luckily, you users of quad decks will not have to do much to be BLW-capable. You may lose Moo Moo Milk, Seeker, and Junk Arm, but you can just as easily run Recycle, Potion, and Big Cloak (+20 maximum HP) in their place. You could even consider turning your “quad” concept into an “octa-basic” deck, featuring four of your chosen EX attacker alongside a 4-4 Blissey DEX line. What makes this option especially viable is that by running Chansey DEX 80, your entire line of Pokémon could still be accessible via Heavy Ball.
Nevertheless, I would be extra careful in preparing a quad list for Mewtwo EX and Rayquaza EX. Regarding the Mewtwo, it’s as simple as it was last format: chase after Mewtwo’s energy providers (e.g., Eelektrik NVI and Hydreigon DRE), and once they are out of the way, tackle the Mewtwo itself head-on. As for Rayquaza, you had best be packing enough Eviolites, Crushing Hammers, and/or Enhancing Hammers to prevent it from tearing your quad build apart.
If the Blissey approach is not your favorite way to advance the deck for next format, a particularly interesting option for Quad Entei players is the new Rayquaza. Just like in my Zeels discussion, I see that Rayquaza as being easily splashed into the equation of Quad Entei, and I’m sure that it would turn some otherwise questionable matchups into decisive victories.
I hope that this article provided some valuable insights for you Worlds-bound players, as well as got the rest of you in gear for the upcoming season. While they may not be addressed here, we have many new decks to discuss in the coming weeks, and there really isn’t much time to waste. Whether you are Worlds-bound or simply homeward-bound, Battle Roads begin on September 1st, and the first round of Regional Championships will be on October 13th and 14th.
Whatever your plans, I wish you the best of luck and skill in executing them!
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