Santa Clara Battle Roads Report + “Budget Deck” Options in Practice

pokemon-paradijs.comLast Saturday, the 8th, I went with a group of most of the other players in Fresno, CA to a BR in Santa Clara. I didn’t even plan on going at first, nor did I plan on writing a report, so I didn’t scratch out notes and the matches are written entirely off memory. Unfortunately due to some mild heart and blood related medical conditions, a portion of this is a big haze. Nothing dangerous beyond being inconvenient, it was that the excitement of the matches while still thinking logically was too much for me to handle at the time, and the outcome is that I have to leave the internet and go outside more often until everything stabilizes longer term.

But before any of that even hit, I wasn’t concerned with how I was doing in terms of standings because my deck was designed to be as fun as possible. I’ve been messing around with an Eelektrik variant for about two weeks now, but it’s not a list I can reveal in full here. I was contemplating switching to something with Darkrai when I was linked to John Kettler’s Eelektrik list on the Underground forums. Instantly I stopped thinking about Darkrai, because this looked like one of the most fun lists in this format.

His choices varied from my final list, enough that I’ll post my Pokémon and Energy lines. I threw together a variant of his given list right there on the couch, and just changed it card by card at league over the next week. I was second-guessing this until the very end, but eventually I came out with a list that was fun, focused in its own way, and consistent enough that I was sure I’d be able to stay in the middle tables.

Pokémon – 15

4 Tynamo NVI 38

4 Eelektrik NVI

1 Mewtwo EX

1 Raikou EX

1 Registeel EX

1 Terrakion NVI

1 Thundurus EPO

1 Tornadus EX

1 Zekrom NXD

Trainers – 33

???

Energy – 12

8 Lightning

4 Prism

I have nicknamed my own variant “TechEels,” since it’s about as techy as it can get, pretty much an Eelektrik toolbox. Because this isn’t here to analyze this deck and show its matchups, nor do I remember my matches in full, there’s a different focus here. For example, I only run two Catchers because that’s all I own (I never planned on being competitive enough to buy more), among other unconventional choices. I’m going to record every play I can remember where a “budget option” or lack of Catcher still turned out in my favor.

So going into the first round, let’s look at what I’m dealing with. Two Catchers. 4-4 Eelektrik, the only way I ever run Eels. Only one of every single attacker. No PlusPower. The frequent jab, “Of course it’s consistent, it’s consistently inconsistent.” Clearly this will go well.

Report

Round 1: Edward Jimenez, Hydreigon/Darkrai

pokemon-paradijs.comHe flips over a Sableye to my lone Tynamo, and I’m a bit worried. Sableye usually means Darkrai, and Darkrai sometimes means a deck that I have trouble with. He plays a Level Ball to get a Deino, and this is where I worry, because I do struggle against Hydreigon decks. Darkrai takes out my Eelektrik, Hydreigon is out of my most comfortable 2HKO range of 130 HP, and my Zekrom was prized, so my second 2HKO range of 150 isn’t possible yet. Registeel stays off my field while I try my best to keep a Prism Energy in hand at all time to take out the Darkrai with Terrakion.

Tool Scrapper is most important in the Garbodor matchup, and it’s almost a one or two-of staple in Ability-based decks. In this case, it was used to take out an Eviolite on Darkrai and Rescue Scarf on Hydreigon. In comes Thundurus, a card I considered removing previously, to put Darkrai at 100 remaining HP. It retreats and attempts to wall with some other Pokémon, but my two Eelektrik on the field means I can snipe it with a surprise Raikou drop.

At one point I had Benched a Mewtwo EX and left it there, waiting for him to use his own, sitting on the Bench. Soon after he combines Dark Patch, Hydreigon’s Dark Trance, and a DCE to put six Energy on an Eviolited Mewtwo and Catcher-KO my own. I had left mine Benched because I knew I didn’t have many Catchers, but there was a Revive in my hand, meaning that combined with two Dynamotor, I can take two prizes and clear his entire field of Energy. From there on, he wasn’t able to get another Hydreigon out after it was knocked out, and I swept his field of all remaining Pokémon.

1-0

Round 2: John Montgomery, Tornadus/Aerodactyl

pokemon-paradijs.comJohn is one of the players in my Fresno league, and a regular testing partner of mine. This means I know about what he’s going to play, a deck that sweeps me early if I can’t get off the ground despite my type advantage. I can’t remember the start, but I do remember a frustration: he never fails to have at least one successful Old Amber play when I play against him, meaning that he still had three on the field despite my Skyarrow Bridge being in play.

I notice he’s playing Fighting Energy along with his DCE, when usually he plays Psychic Energy for Mewtwo EX. A Terrakion hits his field and I know what I’m going to do from there; above I mentioned my favorite perfect OHKO number being 130. With this number, it’s exactly what I need to 2HKO a Pokémon while it’s on the Bench between Registeel’s Triple Laser and Raikou’s Volt Bolt.

Having a Lightning-based deck, I don’t ever want Terrakion Active even if it’s only using Retaliate for 60, and Triple Laser lets me hit other Pokémon on his field, rather than using Raikou alone. This works, and I have nothing to worry about except the heavy-hitting Tornadus EX’s now.

It gets a bit down to the wire since he can take a KO on my Raikou, but I have a Zekrom this time. My biggest advantage is that even though there’s Eviolite on two Tornadus EX, Raikou deals 200 damage to an Active and Zekrom can hit for 240. Zekrom takes both out, giving it enough self-damage from Bolt Strike to Outrage his Aerodactyl to death.

2-0

Lunch

The only fast place nearby was a McDonald’s across the street. Nothing to say, it’s just McDonald’s. Chicken nuggets, fries, burgers, soda, has anyone not had this and formed their own opinions yet? We just hung around here, talked about video games or something, and went back after about an hour.

Round 3: Daiki Terauchi, Raikou/Eels

pokemon-paradijs.comThe first two matches went better than I expected, but this is where I’m thinking it’s gonna get hard. My opponents are going to be good from here on, and any luck I’d have of an easy match is probably gone unless I lose the next two matches. And with my lone Tynamo start, I’m worried it’s going to end here.

Thankfully he flips Raikou EX, a Pokémon that can’t attack the first turn, and then he searches for a Tynamo with Level Ball. Knowing I’ll need to take out his Eelektrik before anything, I search out my own Raikou and mirror his field, but I’m forced to Juniper away all but one of my Switches to stay in the game. (In this build, Switch is often used in tandem with SAB to Dynamotor power up an Active Pokémon that has lost Energy.)

The Eelektrik mirror match is just that: an Eelektrik war. And I know he has Raikou, so I’m Benching all the Tynamo I can. Then he places down another Raikou, trying to power both up. This is where I have to check my pulse for the first time to consciously stabilize my breathing, knowing that this is going to come down to my single Raikou versus his multiple. I also know that I need to keep my own Raikou on the field, so I lay down Terrakion with a Prism Energy attached as bait, and I might’ve Dynamotored to it. Either he could Catcher it, or he could 2HKO it with Raikou, leaving the attackers I really want to keep alone.

From the looks of it, he didn’t use Catcher in his deck. This meant that while he was trying to ruin my should-be revenge-killer, I can pick off two Eelektrik, using my last Switch to retreat/Dynamotor/Switch combo Energy back onto Raikou. He has two prizes left to take, and I need to take three, and since he’d just taken a prize, I can surprise him.

With a Catcher, Prism, and Revive in my hand, I get the KO’d Terrakion out of the discard and take two prizes off his powered-up Raikou. This one came down to time, and he couldn’t take two prizes on his last turn, giving me the win.

3-0

Round 4: Daniel Chin, Rayquaza/Eels

pokemon-paradijs.comAbove, I mentioned that John with Tornadus EX is someone I test against, and this leaves me in a familiar situation. He has a lone Tynamo, while I start Tornadus EX and even get out my own Stadium first turn, and much to my opponent’s relief, I don’t draw into a DCE for the donk (obviously because I don’t run it). I put a Tynamo on my Bench and end, while he takes the opportunity to pull out secret rare Rayquaza DRX and Catcher-KO it. I’ve had very little experience against this Rayquaza, but it’s the Rayquaza EX he plays that worries me now that I’m past the first couple turns.

This is where it starts blurring and I wish I could explain it better. I remember using the same strategy previously with Revive, Terrakion, Prism, and Catchering an Energied Raikou for two prizes. But he pulls off enough KOs with Rayquaza EX before I can knock it out, so despite sniping his Eelektrik off the field, he takes the win in a close game. I was very much excited with the exchanges here, him attacking with Rayquaza EX and me trying to knock out his Eelektrik so it couldn’t be powered up, and Daniel went on to take second place overall.

3-1

Round 5: Rudy Heredia, Eelektrik

This is one of those games that I just…can’t remember, and I feel terrible because it wasn’t a boring or easy match in the least (I’d often sit and pretend to think about my next move when I was just trying to steady my breathing), and I’m pretty sure this was one of the close ones in terms of prizes, and that it ended before time was called.

I’m going to refrain on saying much else in case I confuse it with a different match, because if I’m not going to remember, I can at least not write the wrong thing. Sorry dude, you deserved an opponent who could at least remember the match well.

4-1

Round 6: Jake Quiroz, Fluffychomp

pokemon-paradijs.comAfter my previous match, we realized that four of us from our Fresno league had a 4-1 record, meaning we had chances at top 8. This was exciting news since we aren’t typically a big deal since Fresno has no tournaments of its own, and it was a good-sized event. I already went positive, my goal, so I was gonna take what came at me. So obviously, I get paired with another Fresno player.

I’ve since learned that against Fluffychomp, early Registeel wins games. The first thing I do is Ultra Ball for a Registeel and start attaching Prism Energies, because despite Mach Cut, I can still use Protect Charge if I need to attack the Active for more than 30 (which I never did this game). And against a deck that can remove Special Energy, it baits them into using that strategy early instead of potentially grabbing two prizes with a 2HKO with Dragon Blade, in this case.

Registeel tanks damage until I fire off three Triple Lasers, taking out his only two Altaria on the field in one go and readying some of his Garchomp for a KO. Raikou can take the KO on a Garchomp with two Triple Lasers, while Zekrom can take out an Active Garchomp after only one Laser. I have both out, and I start Benching other attackers and Dynamotoring one Energy to each, knowing that I still have multiple Switch in my deck, and hopefully keeping him on his toes about which attacker I was going to use (I believe that throughout the game, I had Registeel Revived, Terrakion, Mewtwo, Zekrom, and Raikou.)

He couldn’t recover from losing both Altaria so early, and was resorting to Dragon Blade for 2HKOs. At the end I learned we were the last pair playing, and had almost the entire venue watching us as it came down to time. I blew resources to take a few more prizes, and he couldn’t match me, giving me the win.

5-1

At the end of it all, I was shaking so badly I couldn’t even put my deck back in its box or open my prize packs, leading to my foggy memory. Regardless of my state afterwards, I made third place even with my thin lines and low Catcher count, getting the Victory Cup card and 10 CP.

Cabd flipped my deck to show the crowd formed around us what was going on with my Bench. This was followed by laughter and surprised noises at the alarmingly high number of single- count attackers. I won’t say doubts about this concept on paper are unfounded, I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of how effective it would be even as I was first building it, but turns out it wasn’t as bad of an idea as it looked.

Top Tables

pokemon-paradijs.comDaniel from my fourth match made second place, I made third, both of us with Eelektrik variants. Jason Chin made fourth place, also with an Eelektrik build (I heard his was Zekrom and Raikou). Steven Hernandez won the event, but nobody I asked knew what he was playing, though if I had to venture a guess it was Darkrai or Eelektrik. (Feel free to leave it in the comments if you do happen to know.)

I only took a few glances at the players around me during my matches, but for anyone looking at the metagame, it pretty much mirrors what you’d see on the PokéGym thread. You can’t swing a dead Skitty without hitting a Darkrai deck, most often paired with Hydreigon. Eelektrik were also everywhere, in slightly lower numbers, but with more Zekrom than Rayquaza (that I saw), and almost all of them ran Raikou and Max Potion. One or two Ho-Oh, one or two Empoleon (unsure of which variant), and no Garbodor despite an Eelektrik-heavy meta. Lots of Mewtwo EX, but none that looked like Mewtwo was the focus as opposed to a one or two-count tech.

“Budget” Decks

Pokémon is a trading card game, obviously. It’s also considered a hobby. If you want to get deep into any hobby, especially one involving trading or collecting, it will cost you a lot of money, even though this is one of the cheapest card games still played. So even if you plan on making a budget deck, expect to still spend a good amount between staples and good rares. Not being willing to buy a card for your tournament deck because it’s “too expensive” gets you no sympathy from most players, since if you want to win a big tournament, you’re expected to pay as much as the other winners.

Note that I don’t consider this a budget deck, but it does have some of the options, short of cheap attackers, seen in decks where the player can’t afford everything they want. This is a look at how and why the options did well, and not me saying that the same lines will always do well in every deck.

Pokémon Catcher

pokemon-paradijs.comThe first thing I have to address is the two Pokémon Catcher, specifically because both on the forums and real life, you hear “all decks need four Catchers.” I didn’t play four not because I tested this as the optimal number, but because I didn’t want to buy any more. Unless you only have this many and can’t get more, this isn’t a strategy I can recommend, but if you’re in the same boat I am, I can tell you how I pulled it off.

I only have a theory as to why it worked, and it’s not one I would rely on. The first part is mind games: my opponent expects me to be using multiple Catcher. The second part is specific to the deck: my preference for sniping and spreading between Registeel and Raikou. In my first match against Darkrai/Hydreigon, my opponent retreated Darkrai, probably expecting me to have to burn a Catcher to KO it. Instead, I dropped Raikou not only KO’ing, it left me with an Active Pokémon not susceptible to Mewtwo EX.

Of note on Catcher, I’ve often played against opponents who don’t hold onto their Catchers. Like PlusPower, you mostly only want to play it when it’s helpful, or before a Juniper. Oftentimes I’ll need to Dynamotor Energy to my Active Pokémon (usually Thundurus or Raikou), and have a Switch in my hand. I may drop a high-retreat Pokémon (Terrakion or Registeel) on my turn, as soft-bait. With SAB out they know I can retreat my Active, but why not stall by getting that Energyless Terrakion up?

I’ll tell you why not. There’s a Switch in my hand and you just wasted a card that could have gotten you a two-prize KO off an EX later. My deck is starting to run thin, I haven’t played any Switches previously, my opponent isn’t falling behind, and I have Energy in my discard waiting to be Dynamotored, so there’s a better time to try and stall. This isn’t something I’ve seen nearly as often from experienced players, so it’s just something you have to learn: don’t play your Catchers willy-nilly early on, especially if you haven’t maxed the count.

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Revive

For a recent example of Revive being a topic, when NEXt Destinies was first released, the only thing on everybody’s minds was “how will I win the Mewtwo war?” Every deck wanted to run Mewtwo, and most ran two so that you could revenge-kill the Mewtwo that killed your previous Mewtwo. Unfortunately Mewtwo EX was very expensive at first, averaging upwards of $60. Everyone wanted to win, but the less-competitive players didn’t want to spend that much when CMT was close to rotation. When one Mewtwo EX wasn’t enough, some players started adding Revive.

This was inferior for a few reasons. Most importantly, we still had Collector and Dual Ball to search out the Basic EX Pokémon, not just Ultra Ball, so getting a Revive was a lot harder than finding your other Mewtwo or a card to search it out. Dealing with opposing Mewtwo was something you expected to see every round, so having that lone Mewtwo prized could mean autoloss for an unlucky player. However, like the low Catcher count, a reliance on Revive is specific to the way this deck functions and won’t always be the best choice.

In this case, it’s a Basic-filled toolbox where everything has at least two answers, so if I can’t get the Revive immediately, I can afford to wait it out. And in this case, after rotation, Mewtwo wars certainly aren’t dead, but you can go several games in a row now without worrying about it. In my first match, I mentioned that a Revived Mewtwo effectively won me the game. But Revive could have been N’d away at any time, so putting a lot of Energy on my Mewtwo and using Catcher would have been better than relying on keeping an unsearchable card in my hand.

Thin Pokémon Lines

pokemon-paradijs.comThin lines are sometimes used as a budget excuse, such as “I can’t afford more Garchomp so the line is 3-2-2 with bad Gabite.” The single counts here are not budget. This part doesn’t count as a budget deck doing well, it’s a toolbox that only needs one of each and uses Revive instead of drawing too many unneeded attackers in your hand. If you can’t afford the attackers for the deck you want, you either need to buy them, change decks, or expect to not do well in a larger tournament.

In this case, it was a lot of trial and error over which Pokémon I wanted to use, because with such thin lines, there is almost no room for error. This is an artificial budget in that I don’t have to buy three Raikou EX and two Registeel EX, for example, and it uses several non-EX attackers. It also uses more of the cheaper EX Pokémon as opposed to something like the only-recently-deflated Darkrai or Mewtwo.

However, this also doesn’t mean that cards like Terrakion and Thundurus are budget versions of Darkrai EX (before the promo, that is), only that the deck uses a cheaper focus. If you want to play and win, you might have to put aside your dream deck until you can afford it.

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Is Tool Scrapper a filler card?

Oftentimes if you can’t afford to fill every slot of your deck with the optimal card, you’ll put in a filler card, such as Enhanced Hammer in a non-disruption deck, unneeded PlusPowers, Tools you don’t rely on, anything to give you 60 cards. One card that was considered necessary before its release was Tool Scrapper; with the oncoming threat of Garbodor, decks like Fluffychomp and Darkrai worried about not being able to use the main focus of their deck. It turned out to have a rather small impact on the meta so far, making people wonder if with Catcher, Tool Scrapper is needed at all.

I can’t give that a concrete answer here because it depends on the deck, but I do think that in most decks, especially an Ability-focused one, it’s worth a slot. Garbodor isn’t often seen in the top tables, but if you happen to run into one early, losing to it could kill your chances at top cut. Especially in the case of this deck, where I have a low Catcher count and my opponent may be using Giant Cape (ensuring Raikou can’t OHKO it), that one extra turn to Dynamotor can inch me ahead far enough to win.

Tool Scrapper isn’t always a waste against non-Garbodor decks. In my first round, I used it to 2HKO Darkrai and wipe out his recovery in one go, a game-changing play and something he couldn’t bounce back from. Testing showed that this is helpful enough that even in these single-use cases, it deserves its slot. And against a deck that doesn’t use Tools, well, you don’t always have two Energy in hand for Ultra Ball. That easy discard is appreciated.

Conclusion

Honestly this is just a BR report, and not something I would have written if I didn’t have something to write about. Ultimately if you want to do well, test like crazy, think about what decks are doing well, and come up with a good build. There are always options for the smaller tournaments so that you can work on a tighter budget, where it comes down more to creativity and a tighter list, paired with a reliance on getting one card in your deck.

Reader Interactions

16 replies

  1. poet larsen

    AN idea that popped into my head when I read this is having mew ex in eels + some prisms. I have not really had any time to playtest it, but I think mew in eels might, just might, be a possible tech.

    • Lynx Meche  → poet

      I’ve seen similar Eels lists run Mew EX, but I didn’t like it when I was testing different attackers. It’s all a matter of preference I think, since the few times I used it, I thought Mewtwo was a better option.

  2. anon

    The whole point of eels with Tornadus EX and Mewtwo is to have DCE. Cut Terrakion, extremely dumb. Running one Mewtwo is just bad.

    • Lynx Meche  → anon

      Tornadus is in there as a low-Energy retreater that can attack with Lightning Energy, and Terrakion was useful in at least two situations in the article itself, so I’m not sure where you’re getting your theorymon. Not sure about what meta you’re in either, but a lot of decks run only one Mewtwo, or even zero here, which is why Reviving my Mewtwo ends the Mewtwo war; we both have one in our deck.

  3. Rudy H

    Glad to hear you did good! This is Rudy. I really don’t remember what
    our game was like, but I vaguely remember you having a benched Terrakion
    with a Prism energy attached to it.. and maybe a Registeel on the
    bench. Hope to play with you again sometime, and thanks for the shout
    out! lol

    • Lynx Meche  → Rudy

      I kinda remember the same thing, but I wasn’t sure if I was confusing it because I often use Terrakion since there’s so many Dark and Lightning decks haha. Fun match at least, I’ll remember the next time we play =p

  4. Jak Stewart-Armstead

    insert obligatory ‘innocent_shine is better than cabd’ comment here

    Not going to pretend I like the list at all, but it worked for you so hey, what do I know?

    Good job.

  5. Joe Navratil

    Thanks for the article! Your round 3 opponent is a friend and coworker of mine who I dragged back into the game at the beginning of the year :-)

    Next time you’re at Game Kastle, you might consider hitting the Costco food court across the street for a shorter line and (possibly) very-slightly-better food. And there’s always In-N-Out down the street towards the airport, but that line gets even longer than the McD’s.

    Or not.

  6. Ziggmiceter

    The BR was at Game Kastle, right? Why didn’t you go to In n’ Out?

    • Lynx Meche  → Ziggmiceter

      …There was an In-and-Out?

      We were running really late getting there so we didn’t look around at all, we just saw McDonald’s and said, “Yay there’s fast food nearby!”

      • Ziggmiceter  → Lynx

        Yeah, it’s a little down the street. It’s a little far of a walk, but it’s there.

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