Musings About the New Format + Discussion on “Metagaming”

Hello all, Alex Hill here. Today I want to talk about the new format and let you all in on the things I’ve discovered. Cities are way too close and I feel like they’ve really crept up on us this year.

I’ve been testing the new format for a few weeks now via the MSU Pokémon League and PlayTCG, and I really think that Boundaries Crossed adds a lot much to the format, making a healthy run of City Championships in the cards. Here’s what I know:

1. Blastoise/Keldeo is a contender.

ebay.comThis has been my top assertion and for whatever reason, it’s a very controversial one. My friend Evan has been using this deck for as long as we’ve tested the Boundaries Crossed format. He started with a bad list containing no techs, and has changed the list to include Mewtwo EX, Kyurem NVI, Cilan, etc.

However, no matter the list he has used, and no matter the decks he has played against, the deck always holds its own and often wins. The deck is just flat out consistent. Between Keldeo’s “Rush In” and Squirtle’s “Shell Shield,” it gets around snipe damage and Catcher stalls, the two most annoying things for a Stage 2 deck to have to deal with.

Once the deck gets set up, it just runs. Theoretically, the deck could work very well with just 1 or 2 turns of having Blastoise in play. It’s that good. It also has options in Mewtwo and Kyurem for the situations you might need those cards, and the deck could even run Super Scoop Up and Max Potion. This is a Tier 1 deck in the format with no doubt in my mind.

Last night when Pooka was streaming some PTCGO games, I had a conversation with some people in the chat about the deck. Most people (like many of the “pro” players) were divided. Some people thought it was BDIF, others thought it was trash.

It really depends on the decks you play against with it. If you play against a Darkrai variant, you’re more likely to like Blastoise/Keldeo. Keldeo has unlimited damage output and isn’t disturbed by Darkrai’s Resistance like Mewtwo, and Darkrai does 90 damage, period. I’ll get to this matchup more later.

However, when playing against decks like RayEels and Empoleon, Keldeo doesn’t seem as unstoppable. RayEels (or any deck that can 1HKO Keldeo) is very capable of holding its own against Keldeo. When you dump the Energy from their field, and especially when you can N them to 2-4 cards at the same time, you can very easily win the game.

Or, if you get rid of their Blastoise, and then eliminate their Energy, it’s a bad match for the Keldeo player. My friend JW also showed how Empoleon really shines against Blastoise/Keldeo because of the Prize trade. Keldeo doesn’t always 1HKO Empoleon, but Empoleon easily 2 shots a Keldeo.

If both players are able to stream their main attackers, the Empoleon player would be likely to win as the Keldeo player needs 5 Energy on a Keldeo to get the 1HKO and stay even in the prize race.

We won’t know how well Keldeo will truly do until a few weeks into Cities (which is nice for those players going to marathons next month), but I believe that it will definitely play a part in the metagame.

2. Darkrai decks are still very strong.

pokemon-paradijs.comThis is not anywhere near as controversial as my statement about Keldeo. The combo between Computer Search and Sableye DEX is often way too good, and can lead to some real “god starts” when they both exist in a starting hand.

Plus, with Skyla to help search out Computer Search, the probability of getting the T1 Junk Hunt for Computer Search to use again on the next turn is very good.

On that note, Skyla is also a great card for Darkrai as you can use it to search out the Max Potion/Energy Switch/Dark Patch/Catcher/Dark Claw/whatever you need later in the game.

I’ve personally been testing a Darkrai/Hydreigon variant and I definitely like it. It has a few problems, and bad starts are unfortunately common. If you don’t get 2 Deino in play the turn before you prepare to set up a Hydreigon, you probably won’t set one up.

We already knew that, but with Landorus-EX, Rayquaza, and even Keldeo being fast enough to strike on turn 2 at the latest, it’s increasingly common to watch your Deino get Knocked Out prematurely.

trollandtoad.comEspecially when your opponent can Skyla for a Pokémon Catcher, these games go downhill fast. The deck has a fine line between being overteched and being consistent, and maybe I’m just not finding it yet.

Darkrai/Hydreigon (and in theory, all Darkrai decks) has a fairly bad matchup against Keldeo. Again, maybe it’s my list, but I lose way more often than I win. I’ve played my friend Evan at league a good handful of times, and I’ve played random people on PlayTCG.

Basically, as long as the Keldeo deck sets up by turn 3, it wins. Most of the time, they will Knock Out my Deino before they evolve and I have nothing at all that I could possibly do. However, I have gotten those “god starts” and started attacking on Turn 2-3 where I win by either denying their Blastoise or just by straight beatdown and disruption with N.

The main problem is what I already referenced before. Keldeo can 1HKO Darkrai and Darkrai has no shot to 1HKO a Keldeo. All they have to do is take out a fully charged Darkrai 1 turn, and a Hydreigon the next turn, and you basically just scoop. Max Potion is often a dead card, as they either 1HKO Darkrai straight up, or they take your Hydreigon out so you don’t get the benefit of removing all of the damage without the drawback of losing your energy.

No matter how I look at it, I don’t see this being a winnable matchup for Darkrai decks.

3. Expect your opponent to have whatever you don’t want them to have.

This was one of the hardest things to get used to in this format. With Skyla and Computer Search being our first real consistent search power, it is a lot easier to get the last card you need in a combo.

RayEels can get the R Energy (and discard Lightning at the same time even), Keldeo can get the Pokémon Catcher, Darkrai can get the Energy Switch, Hydreigon and Empoleon can get the Rare Candy, Eelektrik can get the Switch, the list really goes on and on.

No longer is it a good enough strategy to Catcher something up and say “Now, I win next turn if my opponent doesn’t draw a Switch.” Most decks now have 2-3 of the card they would need, plus a Computer Search, plus 2-3 Skyla, more than doubling their odds to get whatever card they need.

Granted, hitting a Computer Search off of a 1 card N won’t help them at all, but you get the idea.

This does promote consistency in many ways and really leads to games coming down to skill rather than luck as well. Sour grapes are less plentiful as one wouldn’t lose as much due to failing to hit an Energy/Catcher/Energy Switch or whatever. However, my only complaint about this is that it can lead to some one sided games.

When one deck sets up and the other starts a bit slower, the deck with the slower start will often just get killed. For example, I was using my Darkrai/Hydreigon deck against Keldeo. They got the turn 2 Blastoise and took all of my Deino out by turn 4 and I just lost from there.

They wouldn’t have been able to get all of my Deino if they didn’t have Skyla to get out their Pokémon Catcher. Skyla also lets your opponent use a Supporter to help set up instead of using N if they know you have a bad hand to also win a one sided game.

And those are pretty much the only things I have to share about the Boundaries Crossed format. Anything else to be learned about the format is basically just specific matchups with your specific deck.

There are always some specific niches to be discovered such as learning that Paralyzing a Keldeo-EX forces your opponent to have another Keldeo and at least 3 Energy to attack that turn (which, after an N, especially to 4 or less cards, is a decent play).

So, I encourage you all to simply test with the new cards especially since Boundaries Crossed is out on PTCGO and there are plenty of people for you to play against.

Metagaming and Testing

What I want to talk about now is an idea called “metagaming.” Ray Cipoletti talked about it in his last article and it really got me thinking. The way I see it, metagaming is playing in a certain way to beat the decks you anticipate playing against.

Now, obviously that’s how the whole game is supposed to work. I play whatever deck I think can win, and if it has an auto-loss or just a generally bad matchup against something I think I might play, I either change my deck or adjust it so I can beat whatever deck I wouldn’t normally be able to.

However, what I’m seeing is that “Cities metagaming” is different. In this internet age, the winning deck for almost every tournament around the country (and even around the world) is posted online, either on PokéGym or The Top Cut.

Then, either the next day or the next weekend, players will play that deck if they like it, or whatever counters it best. In that way, it is especially applicable for marathons since there is a new tournament every day. This leads to some very interesting scenarios because if one is able to stay one step ahead, they can sweep the field.
Vicious circle.

For instance, say a Darkrai deck wins the first tournament of a marathon. That night, everyone tests Landorus as a counter to Darkrai but you come up with a sweet Keldeo deck that beats both Darkrai and Landorus and win the next day.

Then, everyone starts trying to beat Keldeo and the cycle keeps going. So, long story short, the local metagame is very important during Cities as the same players will likely be at all of tournaments in an area.

Now, the problem is, I’m not sure I agree with how some people are metagaming. When I go into a tournament, I play either the deck I like the most, the best deck in the format (which is very subjective, I know), or the best deck I can play based on my cardpool. The process of testing that allows me to pick this deck can be very lengthy, especially before a set of major tournaments. Thusly, I started very early as did many of my friends.

However, about a week ago, I posed a question to the Top Cut and asked them what they thought the best deck would be for Cities. Pooka’s response was to ask the other members a question along the lines of, “Well, has anyone started testing?” This really got me thinking, and led to the idea for this part of the article.

The big question is, how much are people actually testing, and how much are people simply looking at results from tournaments as their “testing”?

I want to inject a bit of disclaimer here. I do not mean to attack anyone in regards this issue, especially not the Top Cut guys. I understand that the cards were not even out on PTCGO which is where many people are conducting their testing these days. Also, some people could probably look at Cities as not starting until mid to late December when the marathons start as that is the most important part for those people.

However, in this internet age, I feel that the value of testing has become depreciated. The results from every tournament conducted around the world (spare some in Japan and a few small ones elsewhere) can be found on the PokéGym and/or The Top Cut websites. Not only can you see what deck wins, you can also see the other decks from the top 4-8 finishers (in the case of Cities).

Practice? We talkin’ bout practice?

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a poster will even submit the results from the individual games within the top cut. With that information, you can go to any number of websites and get a decklist for the deck in question.

This is not always a bad thing, as it focuses the skill in the format to playing ability rather than simply deckbuilding. However, it does allow players to almost fully disregard testing in some cases and pick up a halfway decent list for whatever deck is doing the best in 5 minutes flat.

Also, I don’t mean to say that metagaming is unnecessary. You don’t want to walk into a tournament with your Emboar deck while 50% of the people are running Blastoise/Keldeo. Knowledge of the local metagame is always something that you want to be aware of, especially during Cities. However, strive be the person who defines the metagame, not the one who just follows the trend.


Finally, I’ll leave you with my Darkrai/Hydreigon list I have been experimenting with and a little bit of analysis of it.

Pokémon – 15

2 Deino DRX 94

1 Deino NVI 77

1 Zweilous DRX 96

3 Hydreigon DRX 97

3 Sableye DEX

3 Darkrai-EX DEX

1 Cresselia-EX

1 Virizion EPO

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper

3 N

3 Skyla

2 Bianca

2 Random Receiver


3 Rare Candy

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Dark Patch

3 Max Potion

3 Ultra Ball

2 Eviolite


1 Computer Search

Energy – 13

8 D – Basic

4 Blend GRPD

1 Prism

I admit, this list was inspired by Colin Moll’s article on 10/24, especially the Deino split and the Cresselia. Cresslia EX is a fun tank that you can throw up against anything with a limited damage output, slap on an Eviolite, and buy a turn or two where you don’t have to use Max Potion. It’s especially good against Terrakion decks.

Also, running the Dark Deino is no longer a safe play with Landorus-EX in the picture, but since Shiny Rayquaza is popular as well, you have to run both and hopefully you get the choice throughout the game of which one to use. I run the Dragon Deino with Guard Press as it allows you to survive an X Ball in some cases.

My personal touches were the Virizion EPO, Prism Energy, Bianca, and decreased counts of some other cards. I was trying out the Virizion as a Keldeo counter, but while it’s very good in theory, it’s actually not that good in a game. True, a Keldeo needs 5 energy to KO a Virizion with Eviolite, but that’s not too difficult with Computer Search, Cilan, Energy Retrieval, Super Rod, etc.

Most of the time, that Keldeo will rid your field of Energy, and with 1 Catcher, they KO your Hydreigon on the next turn. It was a good idea, but I don’t like it anymore. I added the Prism to make sure I could always attack with Virizion when I needed to.

pokemon-paradijs.comAlso, I was finding myself needing a lot more hand refresh, especially after using Ultra Ball and/or Computer Search on turn 1. This is when I added a few Bianca and it was really making the deck more consistent.

One of my main problems with the deck is the balance between teching and consistency. I would like another Deino, Rare Candy, Max Potion, Ultra Ball, and even a Super Rod, but knowing what to cut is very diffcult as so many cards in this deck are important.

For this reason, along with the bad Keldeo matchup, I have mostly scrapped my ideas for this deck for the time being and moved on.

Thank you all for reading! Feel free to comment if you have any problems with what I’ve said above or any questions. Also, you can email me at if you’d like to discuss anything or want some deck help or something.

Be on the lookout for a “State of the Metagame” review in a few weeks (ironic, I know) and some Cities reports from me. I’ll be attending 5-6 in the MI and IN areas between Thanksgiving and Christmas so hopefully I’ll do well at a few!

Reader Interactions

28 replies

  1. Mx Almond

    I cant wait to play raindance once again <3 brings me back to the good old days :)

  2. Vanguardmetrics

    Great Article! I personally thought of a deck with Accelgor, since its grass, which beats Keldeo/Blastoise and Terrakion decks. I thought of Darkrai/Accelgor, but then thought of Garbodor Accelgor. Any ideas?

    • kazambolt  → Vanguardmetrics

      thanks a lot!

      The problem with Accelgor is that a benched Keldeo can use Rush In to get around the Paralysis lock. However, I do like the idea of using Garbodor with Accelgor. That could really shut a Keldeo deck down. Paired with a good wall like Sigilyph (bait them into using their Catchers before you drop it though) and you might have a fun deck that could beat Blastoise. The problem is that you don’t know if that would do well against other decks as well, and cycling Accelgor without using Musharna might be difficult.

      I do think that both Garbodor and Accelgor could be good cards in this format but you have to find the best deck for them.

      • Vanguardmetrics  → kazambolt

        Yeah, I tried a Terrakion/Garbodor/Accelgor is decent, but what’s amazing is Landorus EX/Garbodor/Accelgor. Thats fun ^.^

  3. Julia Follan

    Great article, the Computer Search/Skyla combination really is brilliant. But- WHY a Prism Energy? That’s what I was gonna say, as it’s pretty situational. Then, I realized that with such things as the afformentioned combination, that’d be OK…

    • kazambolt  → Julia


      Well, the Prism is because there are some games where you might want to attack with Cresselia, Hydreigon, and Virizion (especially helpful against Terrakion based decks) so you could possibly need all 4 Blend Energy. If any get discarded with Enhanced Hammer, you could be in trouble. The Prism is just in case you need it. You just have to be careful and not ever attach it to Hydreigon as it then is essentially a dead card.

      • Julia Follan  → kazambolt

        I know what you mean, it’s one of the resons that my Darkrai/Hydreigon deck only has one tech like that (Giratina EX) because any more might be straining resources. Though thet might change, given what you’ve just said about the Keldeo matchup…

        • theo Seeds  → kazambolt

          “Well, the Prism is because there are some games where you might want to attack with Cresselia, Hydreigon, and Virizion”

        • kazambolt  → theo

          yeah, because if you use your Blend to attack with Hydreigon, and it gets knocked out, you might not have enough Blend to use Virizion and Cresselia (and another Hydreigon potentially). it was a bit confusing, I admit.

  4. theo Seeds

    Even though I was the one who first came up with the idea of Virizion on the forums, I tested it and I really didn’t like it. The problem with it is that yes, you get an OHKO on a Keldeo or Blastoise, but then you lose 2 Blends and a Darkness.

    I like the idea of not teching and instead using the Night Spear bench damage + Dragonblast to KO Keldeos.

  5. Ryan Moorhouse

    Nice article,I fully agree with you in lots of sections.With Keldeo/Blastoise something to put in is Tropical Beach.It really helps at the start of the match and gets a fast Blastoise.I also wanted to try one switch in Keldeo/Blastoise but theres no room.

  6. Mark Hanson

    “such as learning that Paralyzing a Keldeo EX forces your opponent to have another Keldeo and at least 3 Energy to attack”

    No… they just use Rush In twice.

    Also, I’ve actually found Virizion EPO to be a decent inclusion. And you beat me by one day to releasing it :P shakes fist

    • kazambolt  → Mark

      Ah, I’m ignorant haha. I thought it was a “once per turn” ability not once per Pokemon. My mistake there.

  7. Eric Gansman

    great article! I also run Darkrai Hydreigon, and while I agree the Keldeo matchup is bad, I have found that adding a Shaymin EX helps make the matchup more 60/40 than 70/30. Hope this helps you out!

    • kazambolt  → Eric

      My problem is that Shaymin EX can’t take a hit at all. It gives you a good way to take those last 2 prizes but none other than that really.

  8. Chase Havoc

    So has no one else tried Vileplume yet?? My list was wrecking meta decks but falls short against other rouges. But I guess thats the price you gotta pay for running rouge.xD

      • Chase Havoc  → kazambolt

        Well if vileplume is your only evolution then it shoulndnt be hard to get another one out. And plus your trading 2 for 1 on prizes the whole game so it shouldnt matter how fragile vileplume is. but I guess we have yet to see the true potential of the boundries crossed cards.

  9. Twan van Vugt

    Good article! About Darkrai Hydreigon though: do you think that the reduced amoun of Ultra ball and catcher could cause some consistency issues? I personnally only run 12 energy, with 4 Deino but i have those 2 mentioned cards > eviolite since tool scrapper is still a widely played card.

    • kazambolt  → Twan

      If we always picked cards for our decks based on whether or not they can be countered, decks would become just stupid. No one would play Special Energy or Tools, but also you can counter EXs with Sigilyph and Bouffalant, or even damage all together with Max Potion/Super Scoop Up/etc. You have to take risks sometimes.

      Eviolite is really necessary in this deck because you sort of fold to Terrakion without it, and it helps Cresselia tank even more than it usually does.

      But yes, I do think that reducing the counts on some of the trainers is a problem but it’s hard to choose what to and not to cut. The list is just really tight, especially if you want to use techs.

  10. João Motrena

    If you run 1 Dark Claw or 2 on Darkrai + Basics variants, your Blastoise matchup should be very favorable to you. Also, how is the Hydreigon’s matchup against Keldeo bad? You should just Catcher their Blastoise and OHKO it with Dragonblast, and then they won’t have anything, especially if you N them.Not to mention that Blastoise will have many hands where it just can’t do nothing, because of the high energy count, Energy Retrieval, Super Rods, etc.

    • kazambolt  → João

      I’ve really never been in the position where I could Dragonblast a Blastoise. It would take a a very good start, and they would often be able to return the KO next turn or set up another Blastoise.

  11. RJ

    Honestly, if you’re going to run a Darkrai deck, at least run all basic pokemon. The BEST Darkrai deck at the moment is Hammertime with 1 or 2 techs – maybe even zero. From studying on what people are playing from the Six Prizes articles, most of the players make Top 8 if they’re playing Hammertime. My techs are Terrakion NVI for mirror matches, since there will be a bunch of them in my opinion, and Keldeo EX, to Rush In when I’m in a tough spot, or if I dont want to waste an energy drop to retreat my active for free.

    • kazambolt  → RJ

      The “best” deck is always subjective. There is not 1 best deck right now.

      Also, looking at just the 6P articles is a very very small sampling of data and you can not draw conclusions from just that.

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