Hi all, my name is Nicholena, and I represent one half of a Poké-couple. The other half’s name is Andrew, and I will be discussing both of our lists and how they are working out for us so far this season.
We are nearing the end of our first year as competitive players (if you could call us that). We picked up HGSS theme decks last fall at Walmart on a lark and brought them home. We had both played when we were younger and the Pokémon “fad” was just starting….man, I’m old. Andrew played a little in high school but then dropped the hobby to focus on running. He won the first game we ever played, as per his expectations.
Much to his surprise, I got into the swing of things and came back hard to win the next maybe fifteen games or so. At the time I joked that we should probably keep a tally of his utter humiliation. Being the competitive spirit that he is, he promptly went online and searched for “Pokémon TCG” to learn how he could beat me. And that’s how it began…
These days we are about even in our play testing. I will say that we test in a bubble, because we don’t have a local league anywhere near us. We essentially live in the middle of nowhere. As a result, we often end up teching to our respective lists, which we have to keep an eye on. Anyway, to start off the article, I’ll recap our surprisingly successful start to the season. Later, I’ll go over our lists, although they are not exactly Earth-shattering. Finally, I’ll talk about what we’ve learned during our first season.
We didn’t playtest very much before this season, to be honest. I had been playing CMT for the majority of last season, and I was completely undecided as to what deck I wanted to run this season. Andrew had been running Zekrom/Eels all last season, so he decided to just stick with that. I had a crisis and made up a quick standard Garchomp/Altaria list two days before our first Battle Roads in Butler, PA.
It turned out to be a relatively small tournament with 38 Masters showing up. Long story short, I ended up going 4-2 and took 8th place. Andrew went 6-0 to take the win. This was the best either of us had ever done at any event, although Andrew top cut a spring Battle Roads but lost first round. I took very brief notes on my matchups throughout the day, although Andrew did not.
Game 1: vs. Zekrom/Registeel EX/Eels
I get a Swablu start, which is less than ideal. He quickly powers up a Registeel and starts spreading damage. I don’t play any potions in the list so there is not too much I can do about it. He Catchers up an Altaria and carefully spreads the damage so that I can’t get the Altaria out of the active, then takes several prizes at once. I come back and take three prizes eventually, but I just get steamrolled essentially. I take a round one loss, which is never good.
Game 2: vs. Ho-Oh EX/Braviary DRX
My deck ran perfectly this game. He happened to flip three tails on Rebirth, and that just allowed me to kill off his bench to take a round two win.
Game 3: vs. Kyurem/Zekrom/Manectric/Bouffalant
Not quite sure what the strategy was here. I think he was a new player. However, I almost lost because I start a lone Gible and can’t get another Pokémon on the bench for like four turns despite using a Supporter each turn. I Catcher the Bouffalant to stall. He apparently either didn’t play Switch or didn’t draw into one so he starts loading up his bench. I finally get rolling and take my prizes quickly.
Game 4: vs. Zekrom/Eels
I get an awesome start and start discarding DCEs with Mach Cut and catcher-killing Tynamos. He wasn’t able to get an Eel. I realized that he was Supporter-dry and held onto my N’s, denying him energy attachments.
Game 5: vs. Zekrom/Eels
Pokemon ParadijsI don’t remember much about this game, I just ended up out-speeding him for the win.
Game 6: vs. Darkrai/Hydreigon
We are playing for third place in this match. Unfortunately it wasn’t even close, I got smoked. I didn’t draw a Catcher the whole time and he killed off all my Garchomps, leaving me with a bench full of useless Altaria.
I don’t know what all Andrew’s matchups were like. I found it interesting that I didn’t play a single mirror match. I am not surprised I lost to Darkrai, as I had never played that matchup in testing. I was unhappy with Garchomp’s performance and felt that the deck as a whole was subpar. If you can get rolling very quickly and apply pressure early game it works fine.
The strategy against it is definitely to go for the Garchomp line, because it’s usually the only attacker, and once you’ve eliminated that the deck can do nothing. I might consider adding more attackers to the deck, but I feel that would mess with the consistency too much, which is the deck’s greatest strength.
After the tournament, I promptly traded for two Darkrai and two Hydreigon with the goal of playing that next week.
I spent all week playtesting different Darkrai variants for this week, none of which I had ever played before. I ended up going with Darkrai/Hydreigon/Mewtwo, and Andrew made very minor changes to his tournament-winning list from last week. We made the two-and-a-half hour drive on Sunday on a pretty good night’s sleep. When we arrived, the venue (Arby’s) was PACKED. There were 78 Masters, plus Juniors and Seniors.
We got a little nervous when we counted all of the big name players there, and we concluded that it would be a very competitive day for a Battle Roads. The rounds had to be flighted to allow everyone to play. Despite the spacial limitations, AJ ran a very tight ship and the tournament turned out great. I didn’t take notes this time, but I will write down what I remember.
Game 1: vs. Aggron/Blissey
Pokemon ParadijsThis was a deck I had never played against before, so I didn’t know what to expect. My opponent had two kids in the younger divisions but said she also played at the smaller tournaments like Battle Roads. I played over-cautiously, targeting my aggro toward the Arons. She did manage to get one Toppling Wind, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. My deck ran very well and I was able to finish the match fairly quickly.
Game 2: vs. Garchomp/Terrakion
I thought this was going to be a straight Garchomp deck, but then he benched a Terrakion. I was faced with a deck that OHKO’d my mainstays fairly easily with minimal energy required. It wasn’t much of a game and I promptly lost.
Game 3: vs. Zekrom/Eels w/Thundurus
He got a strong start with Charge. I started with a Mewtwo, but it ended up being okay. I am always annoyed when I start with Mewtwo, because he is generally a liability in the early game. However, once Hydreigon is up and running, I like that he can sit on the bench with no energy as a quiet threat to opposing Mewtwos. I don’t remember much about this game, I’m sure I took the usual route and targeted the Eels.
Game 4: vs. Ho-oh/Tornadus EX
This game never really got going, and it was over very quickly. Ho-Oh’s damage output is just not that great, and the most he was able to do was 100. I had been able to get a turn 2 Hydreigon pretty reliably so far, so I was able to pick and choose my attackers. I was able to 2HKO the first Tornadus EX and place 30 each on the two benched Tornadus EX. He did get a successful Rebirth, but by that point I had enough energy on the field to Catcher-kill the other two Tornadus with Hydreigon.
Game 5: vs. Zekrom/Eels
This game was my most intense of the day. He started with Tornadus EX and I with two Sableye. I had no Supporters and a bunch of energy in my opening hand, the first time my deck had failed me that day. I went first, so he took note of the fact that I just trained and used Confuse Ray, unable to even Junk Hunt. He Junipered away an N and benched three Tynamos. He trained Tornadus with a DCE, put down a Skyarrow and hit into Sableye for 60.
I top-decked nothing. I trained my benched Sableye and retreated the active one and used Confuse Ray again. I assume he was Supporter-dry as well because he didn’t use one. He did evolve into two Eels and Bench a Zekrom-ex. He had no energy in the discard so he couldn’t Dynamotor, but he attached DCE and hit into Sableye with Tornadus again for 60.
I finally topdeck an N and have to use it. I am able to bench a Deino and a Darkrai. Things don’t go much better in the following turns. He KOs one of my Sableyes and my Deino. I eventually manage to Rare Candy into a Hydreigon and can re-enter the game despite being two or three prizes behind. I start Catcher-killing Eels and denying prizes with my Max Potions.
Sableye is the MVP of this game, particularly in one turn where I had to play out my whole hand. I Junk Hunted for a Random Receiver used earlier in the game to net me a Supporter the next turn. Additionally, I am able to use about five or six Catchers throughout the course of the game due to Junk Hunt. Finally he has two prizes left and I N him down to a two card hand. I am able to come back and win the game narrowly with two cards left in my deck.
Game 6: vs. Darkrai/Hydreigon
Pokemon ParadijsThis is the first Darkrai variant I’ve played against. I am kind of nervous about it. This is my opponent’s first year in Masters, but he is very good and ends up taking sixth at the tournament. We both get roughly equal starts. I go first and get the first Hydreigon, but he is able to Dark Patch and get three energy on the field by turn two. I get a lucky N and he is forced to shuffle back a Rare Candy and a Hydreigon. I Catcher out his Deino and KO it.
He eventually gets a Hydreigon, but I Catcher-kill it quickly with my own Hydreigon. I hit all of my Max Potions at the right time and use Junk Hunt to get them back and deny him several KOs. He eventually takes out one of my Darkrai, but by then I have one prize left. Before I can take the prize he decks himself trying to get another Dark Patch.
Game 7: vs. Terrakion EX/Bouffalant/Mewtwo EX (I think?)
For the final match I get paired down and my opponent is 4-2. He starts with Bouffalant. I get a turn two Hydreigon and 2HKO Bouffalant with Darkrai. He had a benched Mewtwo that he sends up. I Dark Trans energy to my own Mewtwo and KO it for a strange turn 4 donk.
I end up taking fourth at the tournament and Andrew goes 7-0 and ends up in first for the second week in a row.
I know everyone has seen Darkrai and Zekrom/Eels lists many times before, but I just wanted to include ours for posterity and explain a few different choices. We don’t have many extreme inclusions, as we went for high consistency over techs. We felt we would rather have a deck that runs well every time than waste spots on cards that may or may not be helpful.
That being said, I am thinking about adding something to deal with Terrakion. I didn’t really have to face it, but my one loss was because there was really not much I could do to stop being Revenge-KO’d. I also need a lot more practice with the matchup, so that may be it. Anyway, here is my list.
Pokémon – 15
3 Darkrai EX
2 Mewtwo EX
Trainers – 31
Energy – 14
10 Darkness – Basic
I have one Zweilous in there just in case I am forced to Juniper away two Rare Candies early in the game or something like that. I like that it’s searchable, so it gives me another option. After all, a turn three Hydreigon is better than none at all. I want to add another Mewtwo if I can get my hands on one, I guess the tins are coming out soon. Although I don’t want to increase my chances of starting with it, so it’s something to think about. I LOVE Sableye.
I originally had two, but I added a third to up my Pokémon count. I like to start with it, but it also gives me important options in the middle and late game. It’s difficult to know when to forego attacking to use Junk Hunt, however. It’s most useful when your opponent has four prizes left, as it forces them to take 7 total prizes if they don’t have a Catcher in hand.
I also love Darkrai, and that goes without saying. I usually don’t have to worry about it getting OHKO’ed, so it works perfectly with Max Potion, which is such a valuable card in this deck. I almost want to play four, but I am not sure what to cut. I may have too much energy in the list, but whiffing on that turn two Dark Spear is never good.
As for Supporters, like I said, I wanted consistency so I maxed out my Junipers/N’s/Cherens. I really hate Bianca and Random Receiver, but since our current format is low on options I included one of each. I might go for another Random Receiver instead of my one Bianca. I wish there were more Pokémon search options available, but I didn’t include Level Ball as Deino and Zweilous are the only Pokémon searchable by it. Either way, I was pretty much able to get what I needed when I needed it, so it wasn’t too bad.
Without further ado, here’s the list for the Zekrom/Eels list that is 13-0 in the current format.
Pokémon – 14
2 Mewtwo EX
1 Zekrom EX
1 Raikou EX
Trainers – 31
Energy – 15
From what I’ve observed and heard from Andrew, Mewtwo is the MVP of this deck. I have seen him stack so many energy on Mewtwo and just run rampant with it. It proves that Mewtwo should still be included as a two-of in every deck, because if you don’t play him and your opponent does, you are in trouble.
He uses the 40 HP Tynamo that paralyzes, which can be annoying at times. Additionally, he usually uses Raikou to paralyze-stall and to set up KOs. Zekrom EX OHKOs Hydreigon, which makes it a great play against Hydreigon variants.
We know we’ve only been playing for a year, and are just now emerging from our noob cocoons. (Too weird of an image? Sorry.) At any rate, we feel we have learned a lot since we started playing.
I still make tons and tons of misplays, personally. I think this season I am doing a better job under the pressure, though. I need to consider every option carefully, and not just do the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t play down that energy unless you are sure you want it there, because you won’t be able to take it back (unless you are playing someone very nice, that is.)
I have the bad habit of rushing through my turn. I’m not sure why, I think it’s just nerves most of the time. I’m trying to do a better job of allowing myself more time.
3. DISCARD PILE
Pokemon ParadijsGood players will probably ask to see your discard pile. I have recently realized the importance of this move, as it can inform you as to whether or not they are likely to Juniper into that game-winning Catcher. During later turns in close games, I will ask to see my opponent’s discard practically every turn now.
4. CONSERVING RESOURCES
This format seems a lot different from the last in terms of Supporter use. When playing CMT, I would burn a Supporter every turn just because I felt like I had to or I wasted the turn. Attaching and attacking is not a waste! This becomes especially important when considering whether or not to use N. A good player will size up her opponent’s previous turn and consider whether they have what they need in hand.
If they don’t, don’t play that N! Unless of course, your situation is dire. This is especially important if they start out poorly, because a bad start really hinders their ability to with the game.
I sometimes find myself checking out early in the game if my opponent gets a prize lead. Although a good start is important, it is very possible to come back!
That’s all I have for now. We may be taking a break this weekend, but we hope to attend a lot of events this season. I think the play for now is still Zekrom/Eels. It’s just so consistent and powerful. And I would be hypocritical if I didn’t advocate for Darkrai/Hydreigon. Overall, I saw a lot of Terrakion lists, but haven’t seen any of them do very well. It’s tempting to play an anti-meta deck, but in my opinion, you have to be very lucky in order for it to do well.
I also saw a lot of Ho-Oh, but again in my opinion that deck just doesn’t have the brute strength to do well. Rebirth is cool, but Ho-Oh’s HP is just too fragile for an EX. I didn’t play against any Gothitelle lists, so I have no opinion on that one but it looks interesting.
Hope you enjoyed my first article! Let me know how your season’s going so far! :)