serebii.netOdds are that when players talk about the current City Championship format the first decks that come to their mind are focused around one of the following: Darkrai, Rayquaza, Landorus, Eelektrik, or Blastoise. The purpose of this article is to discuss a well known but often neglected archetype: Ho-Oh EX.
Throughout the brief time that I have been a part of the Pokémon Trading Card Game I have seen numerous World Champions and National Champions crowned because they took advantage of underestimated decks and/or techs.
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- Overlooked Decks/Techs of the Past
- Taking Advantage of Underrated Cards at City Championships
Overlooked Decks/Techs of the Past
2009 – World Champion – Steven Silvestro w/ Beedrill/Luxray
pokemon-paradijs.comBeedrill was overshadowed by Flygon RR and SP decks at this time.
2009 – 5th Place World Championships – Fabien Garnier w/ Gyarados
Gyarados SF was a card that had flown completely under the radar. In fact until Fabien’s deep run at 2009 Worlds, Gyarados was largely considered a useless card. This was only the beginning of Gyarados’ success.
Immediately following Worlds Gyarados became an integral part of every format until its rotation.
2010 – World Champion – Yuta Komatsuda w/ Luxchomp/Dialga G LV.X + Professor Oak’s New Theory
Luxchomp was widely considered as the deck to beat, however few Worlds competitor played a tech line of Dialga G LV.X in their list. Dialga helped against decks that frequently used Poké-Bodies as well as providing another decent attacker.
Players were often laughed at when they chose to use any amount of Professor Oak’s New Theory because it was thought of as an inferior Supporter to many of the other options available in 2010. I have even heard that during the 2010 World Championship Finals Michael Pramawat called over a translator because he was unsure of what PONT did.
2010 – 2nd Place World Championships – Michael Pramawat w/ Gardevoir/Gallade + Machamp
pokemon-paradijs.comA single tech Machamp line provided Pramawat with the advantage he needed to beat out several SP decks, carrying him all the way to the finals.
2010 – 17th Place World Championships – Erik Nance w/ Steelix Prime
Fresh off of a 2nd place finish at US Nationals, Erik Nance was once again proving himself as one of the game’s elite players at 2010 Worlds.
Many players, including myself, had tested Steelix Prime when it was first released but all results seemed to lead to the same conclusion, the deck was just not good enough. Soon enough we would all be proven wrong as Erik scrapped the idea of a conventional Steelix build, throwing out Claydol and many cards that were thought to be irreplaceble until he had:
A Steelix/Blissey deck with Pachirisu and one Uxie; no Claydol, no Luxray GL, no Solrock/Lunatone… just “Steel and Heal.”
Erik’s Steelix deck had a near auto-win against Luxchomp as well as perfoming well against almost anything else that showed up at 2010 Worlds.
Unfortunately we will never know how far he could have made it, due to Erik being paired against one of the only decks in the entire tournament that could give him trouble in Top 32 – Luxchomp w/ Infernape 4 LV.X.
2011 – World Champion – David Cohen w/ Magneboar
pokemon-paradijs.comEvery single World’s competitor in 2011 knew that Magneboar existed. The hype Magneboar recieved before US Nationals was so large that many considered it to be the only viable deck choice and Magnezone Prime soared up from a $7 card to $50 in little to no time at all.
Magneboar’s praise wouldn’t last long though, thanks to international National Championships results proving that it could be a very inconsistent deck.
Magneboar was quickly forgoten about even by many of today’s top players. That was until David Cohen unexpectedly stormed Worlds that year with his TwinsBoar deck.
2011 – 2nd Place Worlds – Ross Cawthon w/ The Truth
This deck came out of nowhere. With an auto-win against nearly everything that wasn’t named Magnezone or Mew Prime, this deck turned out to be the biggest surprise I have seen yet in the Pokémon TCG.
2012 – Spring Battle Roads – Darkrai/Mewtwo
When Dark Explorers was first released all of the hype was around Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX. I very quickly ditched all of the Tornadus for Mewtwos giving me one of the soon to be discovered BDIFs. Before many people realized this was the optimal way to play a Darkrai deck at the time I was able to achieve a 34-5 Battle Roads record.
2012 – Fall Regionals – Roserade DRX 15
pokemon-paradijs.comAfter seeing virtually zero play at Battle Roads, a lot of players completely disregarded Roserade as a legitimate tech. This was not the case however for two former US National Champions, as with the aid of Roserade both Martin Moreno and Gino Lombardi made it all the way to the finals at their respective Regionals.
2012 – Fall Regionals – Victini NVI 14
Before Regionals, I honestly thought that Rayquaza/Eelektrik was outclassed by every Darkrai variant (and still would if not for Victini).
Seeing Victini techs everywhere at Regionals completely changed my mind. Victini made a difficult matchup into a favorable matchup thanks to paralysis flips.
These are all examples of times that overlooked cards led to big wins, but what’s the point in me giving you this history lesson? To prove how often underrated cards have so much more potential than first given credit for and to hopefully inspire readers to take a second look at lesser used cards.
Taking Advantage of Underrated Cards at City Championships
This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to travel to one of my nearby Cities and come out with a 1st place victory. I used a deck that I have been working on for the last few weeks. Some of my friends and I like to call it Phat Tornadus, partially to reference how big Tornadus EX gets with an Eviolite and Aspertia City Gym and partially because it’s fun to say.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
4 Super Scoop up
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comMost players realize that Ho-Oh is a decent card at worst and have probably tested against a Ho-Oh variant at some point. Most players have also overlooked the chance of using Ho-Oh in unconventional ways.
Traditionally Ho-Oh decks are built with heavy counts of Terrakion, Tornadus EX, and Mewtwo EX along with any other Basic you could want. All of this is usually tied together with a maxed out Energy Switch count and a ton of different Energy cards.
For my first Cities I decided to go against the traditional way of using a Ho-Oh deck by throwing out all of my Energy Switches and Terrakions as well as leaving just a single Mewtwo EX in the decklist.
Instead of using Ho-Oh as Energy acceleration for other Pokémon I simply used Rebirth as a way to power up an attacker in one turn if I had no other way of doing so or if I needed to use a Max Potion.
Typically Ho-Oh decks are filled with an assortment of different attackers used to counter whatever strategy your opponent throws at you. While this strategy can have its advantages, it causes your decklist to be very scattered, and often relies on exact scenarios to occur during a game.
In the past Ho-Oh decks have settled for letting their Pokémon get Knocked Out just to hope to they can pull off a somewhat convoluted combination of cards to respond to the threat.
I wanted a different approach than just hoping to have all of the cards in my hand to 1HKO a Darkrai EX after it has Knocked Out one of my Pokémon. Think about it, wouldn’t you want to take care of a Darkrai before it’s a problem instead of waiting until it has wrecked havoc on your field?
Not to mention that by that time your opponent will almost certainly have another Darkrai ready to replace a fallen one.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe loss of Celebi Prime’s Energy acceleration coupled with Eelektrik’s presence has made it tough for the Lightning weak Tornado to have much recent success.
Fortunately for Tornadus EX, Eelektrik decks take a big hit with the release of Landorus-EX. Without as much Zekrom running around the tournament scene Tornadus gets a big boost in playability.
Tornadus EX is perhaps the most important piece of our new proactive approach and for good reason.
For starters Tornadus EX can easily put out 60+ damage on the very first turn of the game, that kind of power strikes fear in the heart of every single Sablye, Tynamo, Squirtle, Deino, and just about any other Pokémon in the game whether it be a low hit point basic or even a monstrous EX.
As if a turn one 60 wasn’t enough, Tornadus EX was also blessed with the ability to use Power Blast on the second turn, which may be even easier than achieving a turn two Night Spear.
Aspertia City Gym is also a pretty nifty card, allowing Tornadus EX to survive two consecutive Night Spears or a three energy Dragon Burst.
We just learned about all of Tornadus EX’s strengths, but what about his weaknesses? That is where Landorus-EX comes in. Tornadus hates Lightning Pokémon, however Landorus cannot get enough of them!
An early game Landorus-EX, if not immediately ending the game with a donk, is capable of completely decimating an Eelektrik deck.
Oddly enough against non-Hydreigon Darkrai decks I usually prefer using Tornadus EX over Landy. Even if I played four Energy Switch and a higher Fighting count it would be very difficult to meet the 3 Energy requirement for Land’s Judgement when Crushing Hammer is in the picture.
It may seem strange to only see one Mewtwo in my list but so far I have felt comfortable 2hkoing Opposing Mewtwos with Tornadus or Ho-Oh. I could see adding a second but would currently rather save the deck space.
If you have not yet tested any deck with Roserade then I strongly suggest it. I would add a second Roserade before I ever considered taking it out of the deck, it is that good.
Having Roserade is similar to having access to two Computer Searches. Whenever I have a Roselia on the bench, I can turn an Ultra Ball into a Juniper, Double Colorless, Max Potion, or whatever else the situation calls for.
I can say with almost 100% assurance that I would not have won my round 3 game at Cities against Darkrai/Landorus if I did not have Roserade to search for a Professor Juniper.
Another incredible asset Roserade brings to the table is the “7th prize” option. Whenever one of my opponents knockouts out my Roselia or Roserade they have not actually progressed any in their quest to take 6 Prizes. This is because Roserade is the only non Pokémon-EX in my deck, meaning they still must knockout 3 EXs.
Roserade’s Squeeze attack proves useful against opposing Sigilyphs.
N / 2 Bianca / 1 Skyla / 2 Receiver4 Juniper / 4
pokemon-paradijs.comMy testing has shown that this deck cannot use Skyla as effectively as Darkrai decks can.
Getting Skyla from a Random Receiver has been detrimental to enough of my testing games that I had to drop the count down to one.
I do not believe that Bianca is good enough to max out on and after describing my issues with Skyla, the only suitable addition is Random Receiver.
Super Scoop Up / 3 Max Potion4
SSU is a necessary evil in this deck. No one likes the unreliability of a coin flip but when it works it can completely swing the momentum in a game. If I wasn’t terrified of Ho-Oh starts then I would likely replace my SSUs with 4 Potions. It is also worth mentioning that reusing Roserade can be a powerful play.
Due to the ease of powering up my Pokémon’s attacks I can abuse Max Potion. My three Max Potions gave me a huge advantage against the Tornadus EX/Landorus-EX decks I faced in top cut at Cities.
PlusPower / 1 Tool Scrapper1
PlusPower has proved its worth in the following situations
- 1HKOing Sableye/Emolga with Blow Through
- Blow Through + Power Blast + PlusPower = 1HKO on 170 HP Pokémon (Keldeo-EX, etc.)
- Mewtwo EX w/ DCE can 1HKO other Mewtwos w/ DCE
- KOing Darkrais that already have 70 HP (Generally from using a Potion after a Power Blast)
- KOing Eviolited Dark Deinos with Hammerhead
- 1HKOing a Darkrai EX with Land’s Judgement without having to discard Energies
- Other random situations that require 10 more damage
Tool Scrapper is fantastic against other EX heavy decks by discarding their Eviolites.
4 Double Colorless
pokemon-paradijs.comI play four because I have been told that I cannot play any more than that.
Is four F Energies enough? It has been the perfect number for me, especially when you consider how searchable it can be with Energy Search, Skyla + Energy Search, Computer Search, and Roserade.
The reason behind my somewhat low Fighting count is due to Landorus-EX being used primarily for its Hammerhead attack and also because Ho-Oh needs such a diverse Energy line to be effective.
Outside of the 1 G Energy usable for Roserade’s Squeeze attack, the other Energies could be chosen completely at random as long as they are all different.
With our metagame shifting even more toward a heavy reliance on EX attackers, the Afro Buffalo gains a ton of playability.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe sole reason that I decided against Bouffalant for my first Cities was because I wanted every Pokémon in my deck to be able to attack for a single Energy card, or in Ho-Oh EX’s case charge itself up. This was primarily because my area is overrun with Hammertime decks.
Throughout my testing prior to Cities I knew that I probably had not created a new BDIF, but I did feel like this deck would give me the best chance to win in my area based on the metagame that I was expecting.
I was able to perform well against Darkrai variants, Landorus/Tornadus decks, and Blastoise decks thanks to my decks speed, plethora of healing cards, and the advantage of getting a “free” attacker on the field with Ho-Oh EX.
Tornadus EX is the card that I think has gained the most from Boundaries Crossed, so I plan to test many more decks with it in the upcoming weeks.
Improving Phat Tornadus for Week Two of Cities
There is a number of different ways we could go about changing my decklist to for week two.
The way that I am currently exploring in my testing looks like this
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 11
filb.deWith this list I traded in my variety of Pokémon along with a few healing cards and an Energy in order to aim for a blazing fast deck.
Thanks to the three additional PlusPowers and the addition Stadium, Knocking Out Sableyes has never been easier, giving this list a much easier matchup against Hammertime. This new list is also much better against Blastoise/Keldeo-EX now that we do not have such a large number of water weak EXs.
Although I feel like this is a very strong decklist I would only play this in an area that I am expecting very few Rayquaza/Eelektrik decks due to the absence of Landorus-EX
Some Other Underrated Cards
With the sudden rise of Colorless Pokémon, Enhanced Hammer gains a lot more value than it had during our Battle Roads and Regionals format.
This could be such a strong card if only her attack could cost one less C Energy. Fortunately Cresselia can be used effectively to some extent in Hydreigon decks as tank against Fighting Pokémon and opposing Mewtwo EXs.
Keldeo is tech I could see put to good use in a Ho-Oh based deck as a way to deal with anything that is weak to Water.
Virizion is a very underrated card in our current format. Virizion is capable of KOing Squirtles as early as turn two. Virizion can also 1HKO a Keldeo-EX with an Eviolite attached.
Virizion NVI is good for more than just one reason. Its Double Draw attack makes it a great starter, adding consistency to any deck. Virizion NVI can also knockout Squirtles and Tynamos on turn two as well as 80 Hit Point Pokémon the following turn. Both Virizions could easily fit into a Hydreigon deck if you are having trouble against Blastoise.
pokemon-paradijs.comNow that Landorus-EX has been released, a lot of players have given up on their Eelektrik decks. With a nice resistance to Fighting, Emolga can go a long way in slowing down Hammerheads assaults.
Accelerating Energies will be a great quality to have as long as Hammertime decks are played. Combine this acceleration with great typing and decent damage output and you have a real contender for a spot in any Fighting based deck.
Nearly every successful deck in our current format relies on using their Abilities to win games. In fact, Blastoise and Hydreigon decks would completely fall apart if they did not have access to Abilities. In my opinion Garbodor has been one of the most underrated cards since its release. Garbodor has so much potential!
pokemon.comI realize that this article is shortly than the other I have written but I felt like it was a great time to discuss the deck that I used to win my first City Championships and I also did not want to pack this article full of not so useful filler material.
My recent Cities win is just one example of how one could prosper by taking advantage of overlooked or underused cards. Now it is your job to be innovative and come up with the next creative deck!
If nothing else I hope that this article can encourage you to revisit any card that you may feel has more potential than given credit for, you never know when it could lead to a big win!
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
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