Mastering Marathons

Hey there, 6P Underground! My name is Ty Smith and this will be my first of hopefully many Underground articles to come. For those who are unaware of who I am, I am a player out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I started playing a little over a year ago and have had some decent success in my short time within this spectacular game, most notably qualifying for Worlds in Hawaii last August.

You may also have seen my name from the recent Fall Regionals results after my win at the Southern Plains Regionals in Texas with Rayquaza/Eelektrik/Victini. It was pretty awesome to be able to win and get the paid trip to Nationals in July.

But what I am really here to talk about today is tips for Pokémon TCG City Championship marathons along with a couple of deck options. If you aren’t aware of what “marathons” are exactly, they are a series of Pokémon tournaments held in succession – one a day – for about a week straight within close proximity. These tournaments are grueling to attend, but offer a great opportunity to earn Championship Points and grow as a player.

Last year I travelled to Dallas for the Texas marathon, and I must say that I think it was the greatest decision I could have possibly made for my Pokémon career. It helped me build myself as a player and make lots of great friends.

For those of you who have never been to a Cities marathon, you may think that it is as simple as going to play Pokémon for a week, but it is so much more than just that. If you plan to attend one this winter, there are a few things you should know…

Where to Stay?
When in doubt, use the Friend Ball.

This aspect of the tournament seems fairly mundane, but it is probably the most important aspect of your whole week. If you don’t have somewhere to stay that you can feel comfortable or playtest, then you’re likely going to have a bad time…

Find someone in the area who you know that will allow you to stay with them, or find a group of people that you can get a hotel with. When choosing who to stay with, you really do have to find someone that you can be comfortable staying in a small room with or someone that is comfortable with you staying in your home.

Finding a group of friends to go with can be somewhat hard, so prepare early to have money and ride situations worked out.

Last year, I decided to stay with one of my good friends, Kevin Murphy, for a week at his dad’s house, and now, I can say he is one of my best friends. Brit Pybas, Kevin, another friend, and I all made the trek from my house in Tulsa down to Dallas.

We were able to enjoy each other’s company all week and never got on each other’s bad sides, which can happen quite often if you are to choose the wrong people to stay with. Kevin let us stay with him and provided adequate bedding and everything for us.

One big thing that I have noticed with people staying with a friend or staying in a hotel is that they generally never have enough space. Do not attempt to overcrowd a living space just to save a few dollars. I have done it a time or two, and I must say that I hated the experiences, whether they were for 1 night or a multiple night stay.
Don’t be this guy.

And finally, don’t be a slob. I know that I may sound like your mom right now, but holy shucks! I have found a few people that I will never room with again because of the way that they treat the area that they sleep in. Please, don’t be that guy.

If you stay at someone’s house for the week, make sure that you treat it well enough to have them invite you back the next year!

You never know… you may find a nice person that will let you stay at their house for even more tournaments if you respect their home well enough.

Playtest BEFORE the Marathon – Not During

I’m probably the biggest hypocrite in this aspect of the game, as it is fairly rare when I truly practice for tournaments, but for a Cities marathon, it is a whole different story.

Honestly, it’s not smart to wing it for Cities. You should be familiar with the entire card pool at your disposal and the expected top decks before leaving to the event. Search all of the deck discussion forums for all the established ideas and all of the up and coming ideas.

Get in as many games as you can with every viable deck before you head off. If you don’t, you will end up like countless others that I saw last year, doing amazing days one and two, and then completely dropping off when the top players adjust.

If you do not have anyone to test with locally, which is the same situation that I am in, then make sure you use PTCGO and PlayTCG to get in a large amount of games with your friends. Make sure your pre-tournament playtesting is against legitimate players as well. Try not to play against random opponents. Many of the top players out there will gladly play a game or two against you – all you have to do is simply ask!

Initial Deck Choice

I choose you, Pikachu!

For a Cities marathon, your initial deck choice could possibly have a huge impact on how your week goes. Some people can be very negatively affected if the first day of the series goes awry.

I actually had a personal friend who did bad for the first two days of the event, get extremely frustrated, go sit alone for a few hours, and then build Durant so he didn’t have to put copious amounts of effort into playing the next day.

As with any tournament, you should always scope out the local metagame before turning your list in for the day. See what people are playing and how much certain decks are being played as well. Make sure you have a decklist ready for every deck that you have in your arsenal.

An even bigger issue with initial deck choice is how comfortable you are with it. I know personally, I have had this philosophy beaten in to my head a thousand times by friends:

“Just play what you are most comfortable with.”

This is in essence, 100% true. Although your matchups may be lopsided throughout the day, you will still have the confidence and comfort in your play with the deck.

Last year, I knew that Durant NVI was going to be huge, as it had won a few of the Oklahoma and Texas Cities so far that year. I had not yet tested Typhlosion Prime/Magnezone Prime, but I knew it would be a good play against a field of Durant. I made a fairly large mistake in not testing the deck prior to the event, other than against Brit’s Lanturn Prime deck the night before.

pokemon-paradijs.comI whiffed cut at 12th seed that day because I made a few sloppy decisions. Why did I make those decisions? I was not 100% comfortable with the deck and it really cost me at the end of the day.

That night I had to spend copious amounts of time actually testing the deck and a number of its matchups; had I done that the night before, things would have most likely been different. I viewed my second day of the marathon as a reset, or a new first day. I cut with my only loss being to Adam Garcia round one and then lost to Truth.dek in Top 4.

Had I actually been 100% comfortable with the deck prior to the tournament series even beginning that week, I would have been in a much better spot overall.

In essence, do not make the mistake I made last year, be prepared and use the deck that you are most comfortable with at the beginning of the week.

Changing Your Deck with Techs

It’s important to bring every possible tech card that you could need set aside in a spare deck box so you can easily access them when the situation calls.

Everyone will jump on the bandwagon if one deck starts winning. Take last year for instance, with the little ant infestation that plagued Pokémon, Durant. This deck performed well the first couple days of both the Texas and Florida Marathon, winning days one and two of both if I remember correctly.

Days 2-4 were running rampant with Durant, which is why we bring techs – to counter what wins, because a large majority of players WILL be jumping on the bandwagon.

Let’s bring ourselves back to the current format and show how easy it may be for you to simply tech for a certain matchup.

Enhanced Hammer

pokemon-paradijs.comThis card can make or break a couple of matchups. A deck that I do expect to see a lot due to the release of First Ticket and Aspertia City Gym is Tornadus EX donk, or some variation thereof. Any deck that puts a heavy reliance on Double Colorless Energy will have a big problem with Enhanced Hammer.

Tool Scrapper

The amount of Tool Scrapper you play can completely change how your Garbodor DRX matchup works out. With such a large amount of decks relying on Abilities after this set (such as Blastoise/Keldeo), you have to be expecting a few of the smarter players to be abusing it.

Tool Scrapper can make or break this matchup if you’re heavily reliant on Abilities. In some matches, Tool Scrapper can also allow you crucial knock outs on opponent’s Pokémon by removing Eviolites.


Yeah, I know this seems silly at first, but it can make a fair amount of difference in a good number of matchups. With the hype of Landorus being so big, an early game Potion can keep Landorus from Knocking Out an EX within the first few turns.

Against Darkrai, this can just turn their 2-shot in to a 3-shot, which swings an EX war into your favor in a pinch.

Town Map

ebay.comTown Map may not be something that you change simply because of what won the day before, but maybe because you just prized a chunk of your Basics or your Pokémon Catcher. This is honestly one of the worst feelings. You prize some crucial cards and you never draw them from your prizes.

I’m sure for some of the players who have been playing for a few years, Azelf LA will come to mind. Azelf was in nearly every deck, although it had a slightly more profound function, its ability to look at your prizes was amazing and could easily swing games in to your favor just because you grabbed the prize you needed.

If you find yourself running on “bad luck” with prize issues, I would suggest running Town Map as a 1-of in all of your lists.


To most, Computer Search is the clear winner when it comes to ACE SPEC cards, but some of the other ACE SPEC cards may come in handy against certain matchups.

Gold Potion can be amazing in Sableye decks. When the metagame seems to be primarily mirror match for your Sableye deck, a quick drop of a Gold Potion rather than a Max Potion can save you valuable resources, and as Potion can, turn their 2-shot in to a 3-shot or even a 4-shot with Eviolite attached.

The other 2 ACE SPEC cards don’t do anything for decks that don’t run their respective EX cards, but even their EX counterparts may be overlooked!

Changing Your Deck Completely

ebay.comThis was one thing that I saw people doing very little of last year, mainly because they weren’t comfortable with more decks than just one, but those who did decide to mix and match decks were generally doing the best.

The format at Cities Marathons changes every single day. This happens with every tournament series, except it is magnified with marathons. You will see strategies that testing groups have kept secret emerge out of nowhere and win the events.

As well as adding tech cards to your deck, you may need to switch decks completely due to bad matchups. Choosing which deck to switch to is pretty easy if you have been able to test every deck that is available. When you see a deck winning the day before, you should be expecting a large majority of the novice and less experienced players to be switching to the deck due to them knowing that it can win.

This is something that you can really take advantage of and even put your own creativity in to play. Taking a look at last year’s Florida marathon, we know Durant had early success, but what toppled its anthill? Aaron Curry’s innovation with Landorus NVI. This card was able to abuse Durant’s discard and fuel itself as well as spreading to other Durants and making 1-shots a lot easier for it.

Something like this will be happening at this year’s marathons as well, I can already smell it!

Ty – resistant to Stunky.

(Haha, I actually don’t have a sense of smell!)

But back to business… depending on which decks do well or win the day before should dictate what you play the next day. Taking the current format into thought, here are some popular decks and their counters.

Deck – Counters

  • Blastoise/Keldeo – Garbodor or Shaymin EX
  • Landorus-EX – Blastoise
  • Sableye/Darkrai – Landorus or Terrakion Variants
  • Terrakion-EX – Anything that can abuse Shaymin EX
  • Darkrai/Hydreigon – Garbodor variants or Bronzong
  • Garbodor – Non-Ability decks or heavy Tool Scrapper
  • Eelektrik – Garbodor or Landorus variants

Keeping High Morale
Cheer up!

At the marathon, you are going to feel extremely burnt out on Pokémon by the fourth day of the series. I can’t even begin to explain how much a marathon will drain you of your will to do anything, especially anything that happens to be Pokémon related.

My biggest suggestion would be to either take a day off or to just go to sleep the moment you get back to your living quarters on the third or fourth night.

If you don’t feel like doing absolutely nothing, then go out with your friends, whether you just met them or they are the people you came with.

Another suggestion that I would highly recommend is to simply watch a movie. Last year, on either the fourth or fifth day of the marathon, my friend Adrian and I decided to just sit down and watch a funny movie. This completely lightened our moods and we were able to enjoy the rest of the week.

Keeping up a positive mentality at the actual events is generally not very hard. You’re around everyone playing a game that you love. Even after a loss on the fourth or fifth day, after you have had to circle “loss” far too many times, just laugh about it and don’t “neg out” or dwell on it.

Simply put, it is a card game and you are going to the marathon to have fun – make sure it stays fun for you and everyone around you.

Budget Accordingly

Mark A. Hicks

Make sure you bring enough extra cash to enjoy yourself during the week as well. I know a couple of my friends simply forgot to bring enough money last year and were very short on cash for food and gas on the last day of the marathon. That’s no fun.

When estimating your budget, take into account all of the following:

  • New sleeves
  • Card purchases
  • Gas
  • Hotel fares
  • Food
  • Going out with friends

It is never any fun to go to tournaments and then sit in a hotel room all night for a whole week. Make sure you able to go out and enjoy the time with your friends, both new and old.

Moving Onto the Juicy Stuff

I will be going over just a couple lists, as most decks have already been covered very well by my good friend Raymond Cipoletti in his Underground article earlier this week.

The first deck that I’ll be covering is none other than the deck I recently won Regionals with, Rayquaza/Eelektrik/Victini. First off, here is my winning list:

Pokémon – 15

4 Tynamo NVI 38
4 Eelektrik NVI
3 Rayquaza-EX DRX

2 Rayquaza DRX
1 Raikou-EX

1 Victini NVI 14

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Bianca


4 Switch
4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Ultra Ball

3 Level Ball
1 Super Rod
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Max Potion


2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

8 L
5 R

pokemon-paradijs.comIn all honesty, I actually have no clue what a standard Rayquaza/Eelektrik list looks like. I made the not awesome decision of building this deck the night before the tournament with no testing.

Obviously, with a few new decks coming out of Boundaries Crossed, Tynamo seem like a huge liability because of its ridiculous donk factor. This is a risk that you always take when running a deck that plays multiple 40 HP Pokémon. The only solution that I have really come up with is to simply not worry about it.

The Mewtwo EX – Double Colorless Energy donk has been around since States last year, and that did very little to stop the deck from winning all but one of the Regionals in the spring.

You need to be confident enough in your ability to play the deck that you can overcome a donk and win the rest of your games.

[Editor’s Note: Is Landorus-EX not a different animal though?]

Here is how I would update the deck for Cities:

Pokémon – 13

4 Tynamo NVI 38

4 Eelektrik NVI
3 Rayquaza-EX DRX

1 Rayquaza DRX
1 Victini NVI 14

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Bianca
2 Skyla


4 Switch
4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Ultra Ball

3 Level Ball

1 Super Rod
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Energy Search
1 Computer Search


2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

8 L
5 R

Having the option to Skyla for Energy Search is astounding. I have found myself increasing the counts of Skyla in every deck that I have been testing. Skyla offers this – and many other decks – a large amount of versatility with its ability to search out tech cards.

The next big change in the list is the cutting of Raikou-EX. In all honesty, I never found myself using Raikou at Regionals (other than the occasional mirror match), and with the release of Landorus-EX, I see the mirror match being on the decline due to everyone’s fears of being donked, so they won’t play the deck.

Raikou-EX is also another liability when facing Landorus variants due to its atrocious Weakness.

Computer Search is the only other addition. This deck thrives on discarding Energy and Computer Search fulfills that job while also searching out anything you might need. It fits in the deck perfectly.


Pokémon – 6

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

3 Sableye DEX

Trainers – 43

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Skyla
3 Bianca

2 Random Receiver


4 Dark Patch
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Ultra Ball

4 Crushing Hammer
2 Eviolite

2 Energy Switch
1 Max Potion
1 Energy Search
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Potion
1 Revive
1 Dark Claw

1 Computer Search

Energy – 11

11 D

pokemon-paradijs.comHammertime is the deck that I faced in the finals of the Regional Championships in Texas, and I feel that the deck is still amazingly strong in this format. Energy disruption can be huge against decks that cannot accelerate their own Energy easily, such as Landorus-EX variants. With the absence of Ether from Boundaries Crossed, Hammertime was saved from being dug an early grave.

This deck has a lot going for it. It’s able to play nearly every consistency boosting card that we currently have in the game, and Sableye gives us the ability to reuse a lot of them. In a format with a severe lack of consistency cards, this is game-changing strategy, as many of you already know.

To me, the deck should really be played as a toolbox. Skyla and Computer Search are able to search out all your resources and Sableye lets you recycle them. This is the reason my list contains so many situational 1-of Trainers.

Being able to play so many singletons also increases the skill factor needed to play this deck, which is always a good thing for the game.


pokemon.comI do realize this article was slightly shorter than others, but from what I have seen, a large number of the articles have been repeating very similar lists and explaining some of the same things in different ways.

For me, I just wanted to give you all of my knowledge toward being successful at your marathon as well as giving you the primary two decks that I will be choosing for the marathon.

The grind for points is about to begin, so get ready, trainer!

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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