My plan for this article is to talk about a different approach to analyzing City results and finding the right deck to play. Personally Cities has treated me well so far as I’ve played in two City Championships and finished with two first place trophies.
I’ve also done a considerable amount of testing and I feel I can offer a good amount of insight into our format. I won’t drag this introduction out any longer and instead get right into the article.
Table of Contents
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- I Play the Game and Not the Numbers
- The Players and Their Decks
- My Cities Experience with Landorus/Mewtwo
I Play the Game and Not the Numbers
Over the last week or two I’ve seen just about enough spreadsheets, bar charts, and Cities meta analysis to last me until the new year. This seems to be how a majority of the player base gets their information about the meta and in turns decides what to play. However, I take a different route when analyzing City results and deciding what deck I want to play myself.
As the title suggests I believe in playing the game and not the numbers. What this means is when I’m choosing a deck for Cities I take overall City results with a grain of salt and instead focus on details such as size and individual players.
A 14 person City in Iowa and a 60 person City in Florida are not the same thing, just as a Cities with Kyle Sucevich, Jason Klaczynski, and Ross Cawthon is not the same as a Cities with a low level of competition.
Every Cities can be very different in both regards (size and individual players) which means their results should not be treated equally.
It’s a lot more work to look at Cities like this, but you get far more detailed and relevant information. I’ll break this down a bit more in the following section.
1. City Championship results should be taken with a grain of salt.
pokemon.comBy looking at a spreadsheet I can see what won, but it doesn’t give me any information regarding size, competition level, location, or matchups. All of these things directly relate to just how impressive of a win it is for a player and how seriously the results should be taken.
Taking the “Who/What Won Cities thread” on PokéGym for example and you’ll get a general overview in the first post, but much better and detailed information in the subsequent replies.
2. Big name players can offer better insight in choosing a deck than a spreadsheet.
I care a lot more about big name players than I do people I’ve never heard of. I’m considerably more interested in what Jason Klazynski finished in the T8 with than I would usually be in what inevitably won.
By looking at Jason, Pooka, Ross, etc. I am finding out what the best players in the world thought was the best play for Cities.
Whether they won or not doesn’t matter – simply knowing what they thought was the best play is very insightful. Especially if it’s a deck I can see they stick with for multiple tournaments in a row.
If they are doing well with a deck that isn’t Tier 1 for example, I want to know what is so different about their list that’s letting them do well. On the flip side I’m also very interested in what they end up losing to.
3. Overall Cities results are useful in gauging what the general player base thinks.
The overall results are what a majority of the player base is looking at, so of course this is going to have an effect on them. I do stress a high amount of caution with this though because it can easily lead to false assumptions.
Just because a deck won 40% of the Cities does not mean it’s going to be 40% of the meta in a given area. Very rarely do I ever see the percentage breakdown actually represent the metas I travel to and play in.
4. Look for players with similar play styles to your own.
pokemon.comOver time by either reading reports or watching games you’ll find players that play decks and lists you “click” with and you also find that they make the same in game decisions that you would. These are players that you want to pay especially close attention to, as they will give you the most valuable information.
Back in the day I found Chris Fulop and I had very similar play styles and we played very similar decks and lists. I would always read his tournament reports and articles looking for details on how to improve my own game and decks.
After reading his reports I piloted a similar Palkia Lock deck to a 1st Place Regionals finish, a similar Jumpluff deck to a T8 Regionals finish, and he greatly impacted my card choices and how I played Luxchomp throughout the 2010/2011 season.
Most importantly I would never have gotten an invite in 2008 without all of his advice on Gardevoir. I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is to really find a player you “click” with like this and I would even go as far as to say a mentor to look up to.
5. It’s important to analyze individual metas.
pokemon-paradijs.comA lot of people, myself certainly included, travel a lot for City Championships. If I’m going to invest the time and money to travel it’s really important for me to give myself the best possible chance at winning. This is why I try and gather as much information as possible about the area I’m going to play in.
For example, I don’t know anything about the meta in Florida right now, so if I were going to travel to a Cities down there I’d take a hard look at what has done well in some of the previous Cities in Florida.
Let’s say for example Darkrai EX won the last 2 Cities in Florida. I can safely assume Darkrai EX is going to be big at the 3rd and perhaps Landorus-EX as well to help counter Darkrai EX.
It doesn’t really matter if Darkrai EX is popular nationally, because Florida has established it’s going to be popular there. It usually only takes a few minutes to look up and is extremely useful information in making a deck choice.
Also if I’m going to a Cities in a smaller state I might even look at surrounding states to see what has been doing well. A lot of the time I’ll travel to Nebraska to play in their events and they’ll travel to Iowa to play in ours.
Nebraska is a pretty central location in the Midwest so when I travel to an event there I know it’s important to find out what’s doing well in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota, since these are all areas that will be represented at the tournament.
6. Get information from more than one source.
When I’m looking for information about Cities my top places are:
- PokéGym City Championships Forum
- HeyTrainer Tournament Forum
- HeyTrainer Deck Help Section
- Videos on The Top Cut
I’m sure there are a lot of other sources out there with information, I just find these sources to be the most straightforward and reliable.
7. Your team can either make you or break you.
Originally I never saw the benefit of teams in a game based solely around 1-on-1 games. However, over the last few years I’ve come to understand just how important the team concept is if you want to do well.
Basically what a team is a group of people (normally friends) that share information, possibly test together, and possibly travel/share expenses.
The most success I’ve had with the team concept is to communicate with people in other states. With the exception of Nationals and Worlds, there is very little chance that sharing information with friends in other States will come back and hurt me.
Things get more messy on a local level if you’re sharing lists with players you have a strong chance of playing against at upcoming events, especially smaller events like Battle Roads and Cities.
It’s going to be very hard to get on a team with players that are considerably better than you because you bring very little to the table, and on the same note you really don’t want a team with players that are particularly worse than you because they bring very little to the table.
The easiest way to get on a team is by networking both online and with people you meet at tournaments.
For me personally, the players I talk with regularly I became friends with first and then down the road we started talking about decks. If you’re not well known in the community and you want to start making these connections it’s really important to be upfront that you’re looking for players to share information and decklists with.
Hopefully in time you will all become good friends, but by first clearing the air nobody will have the thought they are just be used for information.
pokemon.comLastly it’s all about give and take, and it’s really important that you keep up your end when it comes to bringing good information to the table. If a team feels one player isn’t bringing anything to the table they usually get cut out very quickly.
This may seem harsh, but think about it like this… would you spend time doing somebody else’s homework everyday if you weren’t getting anything out of it?
I wrote a little more than I really wanted to about teams, but I feel it’s important to stress your friends and your “team” will literally make or break you in this game. Every bit of success I’ve ever had in this game has been due to the help of another person.
The Players and Their Decks
The player information and decks I’m going to discuss in this section are from my own personal experiences and information I’ve gathered online. I don’t have their individual decklists nor have I discussed the lists with them. I consider a lot of these players my friends and even if we’re not that close I feel there is a mutual level of respect between us, and I don’t want them to think I’m simply trying to use them for content.
In this section I will be discussing players that have done well at Cities so far this year, a little bit about the player, why I found it important, and their play style. To go along with this I also plan on taking a look at what I believe their decks looked like.
As the only two-time World Champion, nobody can deny that Jason is one of the best players in the game. Normally I find Jason plays what I consider the 2nd or even 3rd best deck in the format. While Jason plays very competitively, he often opts to play decks he simply enjoys and refuses to play decks he doesn’t find fun.
That being said, his lists are usually the best possible for the given deck and heavily teched for the top tier decks in the format. A prime example of this would be Durant, since Jason basically pioneered the deck and pushed many innovations ahead of their time – like Victory Medal.
City – Indianapolis, IN
Finish – 1st Place
Deck – Darkrai EX/Sableye/Terrakion
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 40
Energy – 12
I think both Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer are very strong cards right now. Enhanced Hammer makes a really good tech in just about any deck while Crushing Hammer takes up a lot of valuable space unless you’re playing Sableye so you can reuse them.
My main issues with the deck is it relies so heavily on Darkrai EX as a main attacker. With Landorus-EX such a huge threat right now I feel Darkrai EX needs to play more of a support role and the deck should be perfectly capable of playing full games without Darkrai seeing play at all.
This is probably the best build for an area where you’re expecting a lot of Darkrai EX with a lower amount of Landorus-EX.
I think a more well rounded version of the deck would utilize Tornadus EX, Mewtwo EX, and Bouffalant DRX as well. Tornadus EX is a great counter to Landorus-EX, while Bouffalant is really good against just about every other EX in the format.
Also the high number of Energy Switch in the deck really combo well with setting up huge plays with Bouffalant, Mewtwo EX, and Tornadus EX.
pokemon.wikia.comI think by now just about everybody is familiar with Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich, as he has become one of the iconic figures in the game. He is well known as the most consistent Nationals player in the United States, which includes a championship win in 2009.
Kyle is an excellent tactician and always has the game planed out several turns in advance, but can adapt his strategy at a moment’s notice if things change. His thought processes are very comparable to players like Jason Klaczynski and Ross Cawthon, but he’s able to analyze the game and play at a much faster rate.
He does a lot of match commentary on The Top Cut, which I’ve found to be an excellent way to see inside his thought process.
As for Kyle’s deck choices, he often chooses decks that in my opinion are Tier 2 decks but techs them to beat the top decks. The most important aspect to Kyle though when it comes to choosing a deck is picking one that gives him a large number of options. This allows him to vary his strategy depending on what he’s playing against.
Prime examples of this are his Dialga SP deck (which is probably what he’s best known for) and Hydreigon. Both decks featured a large array of attackers that allowed Kyle to effectively adapt to different situations.
Many of his card choices I feel are very standard, but all of his decks seem to have his own little twist to them. These twists are usually very minor such as perhaps a surprise Pokémon or a “1-of” in his Trainer lineup which his opponents don’t see coming.
When playing against Kyle, “expect the unexpected” is always a good rule of thumb.
City – Castleton, IN
Finish – 1st Place
Deck – Ho-Oh EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 35
Energy – 15
pokemon-paradijs.comA big problem of mine as a player is if I have a bad showing with a deck I have a very hard time going back to the deck – even if new sets come out and the list gets updated dramatically. Earlier this year I played Ho-Oh to a 3-2 finish and felt like I drew dead most of the day.
But honestly I feel like the time could be right for Ho-Oh EX to come back in a big way, but I still have that hesitation after a bad experience with it.
I tried to keep this list very close to what I heard Pooka was running, but it’s not my favorite version of the deck to run. About a week ago The Top Cut featured Scott Lawler’s Top 4 and Finals matches where Scott played a build that focused heavily on Tornadus EX and Aspertia City Gym.
This variation of the deck is much better at putting early aggression on the field while not giving up the tricks Ho-Oh allows. My ideal build would probably borrow heavily from Scott’s, but feature some of Kyle’s techs.
How I Would Play Ho-Oh
- Ho-Oh EX should be more of a support Pokémon and not seen as a primary attacker.
- I don’t like flip cards like SSU, but I can’t deny it allows for some nice tricks.
- Bouffalant is too good not to play any deck that already abuses ACG.
- Three Mewtwo EX might not be necessary, and instead two copies and two Bouffalant might work better.
- The Trainer lineup probably remains nearly the same and most of the differences in Ho-Oh builds should come in the Pokémon lineup.
Dustin is on my very short lists of players that I’m really just waiting for a huge break through performance at Nationals or Worlds. Despite not having any major showings at the big 2 events, he’s one of the most consistent players at every other level event including 2 States wins and a 2nd place finish out of the 3 weekends for States last year.
I find Dustin normally plays what he considers to be the best deck in the format, but usually has a small twist to it. You can also except to see huge amount of innovation from Dustin and normally he’s pretty on the mark with them.
A prime example of this would be he was one of the first players to advocate and play Darkrai EX with Crushing Hammers.
The biggest 2 reasons I really like to watch Dustin is because I find him and I are usually pretty close on agreeing on lists/card choices and like I said before, he usually seems to be about one step ahead of the meta.
Cities – Winamac, IN & Ft. Wayne. IN
Finishes – 1st & 1st
Landorus-EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX/RoseradeDeck –
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
I feel this is the most well rounded deck in the format, though I do feel you’re devoting a ton of space to run Tornadus EX (2 Tornadus EX and 3 Stadiums). In some matchups Tornadus EX feels like dead weight and in others it’s your main attacker.
I never really liked running more Prizes than my opponent could realistically take in a game (6) and running the Tornadus EX means you’re playing considerably more. This really isn’t a judgment about the deck or how to run it, rather simply me thinking out loud.
I’ll end by saying I feel this deck or a variation of it is the best deck in the format.
Note: To make the most use out of Tornadus EX I feel like 3 Stadiums is the right number. The 2 Aspertia City Gyms are a must, but I think the 1 Skyarrow Bridge could also be 1 Battle City or 1 Tropical Beach.
Brit was a relatively unknown player until the 2011 season when he started to really get some strong showings. He continued this trend into 2012 where he remained at the top of the CP rankings for a majority of the season, ultimately earning his invite to Worlds.
The two reasons I wanted to feature Brit is because I see him as a strong up-and-coming player and he made a very unconventional deck choice heading into this Cities.
City – Oklahoma City, OK
Finish – 1st Place
Deck – Klinklang
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comOut of the four decks I’ve featured in this article I feel this list is the one I’ve taken the largest creative license with. I actually know very little about the Klinklang list that Brit played and instead focused a lot on my own knowledge of Klinklang.
The Keldeo-EX/Darkrai EX infinite “Switch” combo is one of the best things the deck has going for it, so I played both of them in copies of 2. The rest of the attackers are techs and played in copies of one. These can be adjusted based on the meta, but these are the attackers I would choose to play.
The Trainer and Energy lineups are what I feel they should be and I see very little room to mess with them.
The deck seems to being getting some decent showings and I believe even John Roberts II (1st place Nationals 2012) picked the deck up again for a Cities. Players favor the deck because it offers a large number of options and a wide array of attackers and can be easily teched for different metas.
My biggest hesitation with the deck is it’s one of the slowest deck in the current format and you really don’t get any benefit from it being slow.
I’ll try comparing this deck with Darkrai EX/Hydreigon and show why players would choose one over the other. Here is my short list of pros and cons.
- Energy limitations on what attackers can be ran
- Weaker vs. Fighting Pokémon
- Can’t abuse Keldeo-EX
- Wide range of attackers
- Infinite Switch
- No Energy acceleration
- Klinklang isn’t a good attacker
In my opinion the trade-off you make is a Klinklang is a slower deck than Darkrai EX/Hydreigon, but offers you a wider range of attackers and options.
Personally I would rather play Darkrai/Hydreigon as I like the little bit of Energy acceleration and dislike playing a Stage 2 I feel is dead weight (attack-wise).
However, in a slower meta I would fall more toward playing Klinklang as I would have more time to set up and more options over the course of the game.
My Cities Experience
BulbapediaEarly in my testing I came to the conclusion that Landorus-EX was not all hype and it was literally one of the strongest cards in the format. I felt T1 30-30 was the strongest first turn attack in the game with the exception of T1 60 from Tornadus EX, which was much harder to pull off consistently.
In our testing the only good Water deck we found was Blastoise/Keldeo-EX, but even then, that deck was inconsistent. I also figured early in Cities few people would have a good Keldeo lists.
Testing also led me to the conclusion that Tropical Beach was essential for the Blastoise/Keldeo and I knew many players simply didn’t have or couldn’t afford any.
Later in Cities I realized I would have to readjust my strategy once the meta started catching up with me, but early on I favored a fast and consistent Landorus-EX deck.
The original list had a 2-2 Roserade, which I got from Gino’s Regionals list, but I found it to take up too many spots and it simply dropped the overall consistency of the deck. It was so much easier for me to play a higher count of Supporters like Bianca and Skyla.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 39
Energy – 13
Cities 1 – Burnsville, MN – 27 Players with a Top 4 Cut
Round 1 – Gardevoir/Mewtwo EX/Techs – W
Round 2 – Ho-Oh EX/Mewtwo EX/Virzion – W
Round 3 – Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX/Shaymin EX – W
Round 4 – Landorus-EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX – L
Round 5 – Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Hammers – W
Despite finishing Swiss with a 4-1 record I was pretty nervous since there were 5 people with 4-1 records and 2 were going to miss. I honestly didn’t know how good or bad my tiebreakers were. However, I ended up sneaking in 4th seed and play against the same player I lost to in R4.
Landorus-EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EXTop 4 vs.
I felt like this game basically went picture perfect for him as he gets the first EX KO with his Landorus-EX and always seems to have his Mewtwo EX to answer mine. The game was very close Prize wise, but I never really felt like I was in it.
This game went picture perfect for me as I got the first EX KO from Landorus-EX and I always seemed to have a Mewtwo EX to KO his.
I remember at one point in the game he had Mewtwo EX active and I played Professor Juniper and the first 3 cards I drew were Mewtwo EX, DCE, and Switch. This was another game that looked very close on Prizes, but I felt like I had a very clear lead.
He played 2-of his N’s very early when we were both sitting at 6-6 on prizes, his 3rd N was when I was at 4, and his last N he played when I was at 3. The first 2 really didn’t hurt me, and I believe my hand was pretty playable when he put it at 4.
In the end I simply had too many resources left and too many options for him to make up the Prize deficit.
Top 2 vs. Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX/Shaymin EX
The game in Swiss really wasn’t very close so I honestly just expected to roll him in top cut… he clearly had other ideas.
Over the next 3-4 turns I can’t draw anything and he proceeds to take his last 4 Prizes with Tornadus EX and Shaymin EX.
This game is a little more back and forth, but I do enjoy an early lead. On my turn the Prize count is 3-4 with me in the lead. This is where I have a tough decision… I have a Mewtwo EX active and he has a Shaymin EX with 2 Energy on the bench and a Mewtwo EX with a DCE and a D Energy on the bench.
At this point I have to decide which one of these 2 Pokémon to KO knowing full well the other is going to get a return KO leaving me with nothing on the board.
I weigh my options and realize I probably lose if I KO the Shaymin EX as he can simply build up a Mewtwo EX and I’ll have no answer, but I certainly lose if I go down to 1 Prize by KOing the Mewtwo EX and letting Shaymin EX swing for 180 damage.
I Catcher/KO Shaymin EX and extend my lead to 1-4, for the moment at least. He promotes Mewtwo EX and has the dreaded N. Once again I draw nothing off the N and honestly get kind of upset (though I’d never let him see it) as I realize I’m probably going to lose twice off drawing badly after N despite having 8-10 Supporters left both times.
He basically goes all in with a Mewtwo EX, attaching another Energy to it and KOing my Mewtwo EX. I promote Landorus-EX and attach a 2nd F Energy to it followed by a 30-30. I actually make a huge mistake here and miscounted how many Energy his Mewtwo EX needed to KO me – I thought he had game with a DCE.
My hand is dead and I need to draw an Energy to win. He plays another N and hits his last DCE. He drops the DCE and I am about scoop before double-checking the math and realizing he’s 20 damage shy of the KO.
My turn I flip up the F Energy I drew off my one card and Land’s Judgment to win the second game.
As we were setting up I knew that there wasn’t enough time left in the round for us to play a full game. Time ended up being called on my 3rd turn when my field was Landorus-EX active with FF plus Eviolite and 1 on the bench with nothing. His field was a Sableye active with a Mewtwo EX and Tornadus EX on the bench, both with 30 damage.
I decide to go ahead and Catcher/KO his Mewtwo EX knowing that he would have to KO 2 Landorus-EX to win. He would need a DCE and a Tool Scrapper to KO and have me miss the Skyla or Max Potion to get a KO on the active Landorus-EX.
This ends up being the right play and he doesn’t even have the DCE and has to settle for hitting my Landorus-EX for 40 with Tornadus EX. The only combination of cards I can think of that would allow him to KO the active Landorus-EX is Energy, Tool Scrapper, and 4 PlusPower which is extremely unlikely.
These were both super good and super close games that had us on the edge of our seats for the full hour.
Note: The difference between N putting you at 1 card and 2 cards is huge. It’s very important to try and avoid going down to that last final Prize if possible, and if you do, make sure you can deal with N.
There are going to be some games where you simply don’t have a choice but to go down to 1 Prize and “hope for the best.” In Game 2 my opponent did an excellent job of forcing me to go down to 1 Prize and it nearly won him a very close game.
Cities 2 – St Paul, MN
Once again I played Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX, but the list was slightly different from the first week. A lot of the changes I made weren’t my ideas, so I don’t feel really comfortable giving out what is essentially my friend’s list.
Round 1 – Sableye/Darkrai EX – W
Round 2 – Ho-Oh EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion – L
Round 3 – Empoleon/Mewtwo EX/Shaymin EX – W
Round 4 – Landorus-EX/Darkrai EX – W
Round 5 – Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX – W
Round 6 – Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Ho-Oh EX – W
It was a pretty big relief to win that last round as my tiebreakers were good, but I don’t know if they would have been good enough to get me into top cut in one of the 3 X-2 spots.
My entire run through the Top 8 got filmed so instead of writing match recaps I’m simply going to just link you to the videos. I didn’t realize there would be sound and we’re all pretty close up in Minnesota, so there is some swearing in the matches and friendly taunting from everybody. Nothing over the top, but I do want to give a heads up about it.
And the answer is yes… that is a Selena Gomez playmat.
Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/BouffalantTop 4: vs.
Finals: vs. Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX
It felt pretty good to get my second Cities win, especially after going to 11 last year and only winning one and coming in 2nd at two others. I also really enjoy this format so far and how many different decks are playable.
I know I stress this all the time, but my highlight of the weekend was really just getting to seeing all my great friends… winning was a bonus.
I really hope you found this article helpful or even at the very least insightful. I truly believe that if you want to take your game to the next level and be the best you really have to take a look at the best players. It’s not just dumb luck that the same players keep doing well year after year regardless of the format.
I’m also getting excited because its looking like I’ll be able to attend the Chicago Marathon. Last year the tournaments were some of the most fun and well run events I’ve ever been to. Marathons are just such great experiences, so if you have the opportunity I strongly recommend it to everybody.
Lastly, please remember to rate this article either +1 or -1 and feel free to give me honest feedback. I try to write articles I feel people will find useful and enjoy reading. Talking to me about things that you like and dislike about my articles helps me to refine this writing process.
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