How to Win Without Really Trying – An Accidental Victory

pokemon-paradijs.comHello, SixPrizes! My Name is Kenton Anderson, better known as Garch. You may know me from PokéGym, where I’ve been a member for a few years. I’m a 19 year old Masters player currently living in southwestern Tennessee, near Memphis.

I started playing Pokémon cards competitively just before the Secret Wonders pre-release way back in 2007, but have been collecting and playing for fun since Pokémon cards were first released.

I started playing in Virginia as a Senior, quickly learning what consistency meant (hint: it’s not a 3-2-1 line of Base Set Charizard) and worked my way up the ladder. I lived in Virginia from 2007 to 2009, and had the privilege of playing against such players as Michael Pramawat, Kevin Nance, and Curran Hill.

After Virginia, my family moved to Hawai’i. In Hawai’i, I found a much easier player base than Virginia, thanks to the fact that almost no one was playing Pokémon when I arrived. I managed to win just about everything for a straight year. I played in Hawai’i from 2009 to 2011, and then moved to… North Dakota.

With no Pokémon for hundreds of miles in all directions, I missed the 2011-2012 format. Just before Worlds 2012, I moved to the Memphis area of Tennessee and began playing again, nearly five years after I started.

While I’ve have had consistent success each season I’ve played, I’ve never had a big moment. I’ve top cut every States I’ve been to, but at the three Nationals I’ve attended I’ve never done to well. Top 128 in 2010 is the farthest I’ve ever gone. I’m hoping this year is different.

I’m older and wiser now, and if the start of the season is any indication, I’ve got a fair shot at qualifying for Worlds. I won five Battle Roads and… well, read on and find out (sorry about the lengthy background info, I just felt it was necessary to get that out of the way in my first article).

pokemon-paradijs.comGoing into Cities, I was convinced Darkrai/Hydreigon was still the play. It had netted me 87 points from Battle Roads, and, in my opinion, had gained the most from Boundaries Crossed. I took second at my first City Championship with it, and then it all fell off a cliff.

My next two Cities, the deck flopped badly. I tested Prism Hydreigon, but it still had the problems regular Hydreigon had. Even if I set up a Hydreigon, it was often not enough to win. The point of the deck is that, when you set up a Hydreigon, your field levels out and you win.

Now that that wasn’t working, I knew it wasn’t the deck I wanted to play. I built a few other decks, but with finals week I didn’t get a lot of time to test (well, technically, I did, just not Pokémon).

The story of my fourth Cities tournament began Friday night. I had been trying three potential decks, Darkrai/Hydreigon, Hammertime, and Ho-Oh. Unfortunately for me, none of them had been working very well. I hadn’t had as much time to test as I would have liked, and I feel my decks suffered for it. (At least my grades didn’t. Priorities!)

In the end, I decided to play Ho-oh simply because there weren’t any proxies in it. My brother decided to play Darkrai/Hydreigon because he felt Hammertime was too weak to Terrakion. I planned to use tomorrow’s tournament as a way to feel out my deck and fix it for later. Fortunately for me, plans rarely work out the way you think they should.

Sherwood, AR – 12/15/12

Registration was going to start at 12:30, and, being a three hour drive, we left home around 9:30. We arrived at about noon and ate at Arby’s. After eating, we headed to the event and got there at 12:30, handed in decklists and chatted with friends until round one was up.

17 Masters with three Seniors mixed in, 5 rounds, and a top 4. With low expectations, I took my place at my round one table.

Round 1: Len D. w/ Darkrai/Mewtwo

pokemon-paradijs.comI open Tornadus EX to his Sableye. I have a Terrakion and Mewtwo EX in hand, but I don’t want to bench them in case of Pokémon Catcher. He plays an Ultra Ball for a Mewtwo EX, benches it and Junk Hunts. I attach a DCE to Tornadus and KO his Sableye with Power Blast.

Thinking my Tornadus is the only thing I have, he decides to make a very risky move. He uses Skyla for a Computer Search, getting a DCE, and hits my Tornadus for 100. Unfortunately for him, the risk doesn’t pay off.

I bench Mewtwo, attach, put an Eviolite on Tornadus and use Power Blast for 80, hit tails and discard my DCE so he can’t KO Tornadus. He has no Supporter so he uses X Ball for 60. I attach to Mewtwo, retreat, X Ball, game.


That went better than expected. I’m the first game done so I’m able to get a look at what other people are playing. The only Blastoise/Keldeo in the room is losing to my brother, so I’m safe on that end.

While I think Ho-Oh can beat Blastoise/Keldeo, I haven’t been able to test the matchup at all, so I hope I don’t have to face one. In the end, all my friends win round one. My brother’s game is the last to end, and once it’s done round two is up shortly.

Round 2: Chris w/ Fighting.dec

I lead Tornadus EX to his Terrakion-EX. I attach to Tornadus, bench Sigilyph and pass. He benches a Terrakion NVI and attaches to it in anticipation of having to deal with Sigilyph. I use an Ultra Ball for Landorus-EX and play N. Unfortunately, I get a hand of Supporters. No Energy. I’m forced to pass.

Lucky for me, he gets an even worse hand. Effectively, he draws and passes. I hit the Fighting Energy I need next turn and send in Landorus. I also manage to get a Ho-Oh EX in the discard. I use Hammerhead to hit Terrakion-EX for 30 and the benched Terrakion for 30.

He benches his own Landorus-EX, attaches an Energy, Switches, and does 30 to Landorus and Tornadus. I Catcher his Terrakion-EX and hit his benched Landorus-EX for 30. He Switches again and does another 30/30.

Right now, I have only one Energy on the field, a Fighting on Landorus. But I have a Fighting and Ho-Oh in the discard. I hit the Rebirth heads, Energy Switch the Fighting, attach and use Land’s Judgment for 150 to KO his Landorus-EX. He sends in Terrakion-EX because he still has no Energy.

I use Hammerhead for the next few turns until I KO both Terrakion-EX and Terrakion, leaving me with 1 Prize left. He sends in another Terrakion and finally uses Retaliate. I attach another Fighting and use Land’s Judgment a second time, for the game. He didn’t take a Prize.


Landorus had been the one attacker I had been unsure of. I hadn’t even wanted to play it in my deck. I had put it in solely for its ability to hit the bench. It turned out to be far more useful than I had given it credit for. If I had put more time into testing, maybe I’d have known that.

After the game, I go spectate Hammertime vs. Klinklang. It was a sad thing to watch. Hammertime kept everything off Klinklang’s field. If one Energy was dropped, it was Hammered and the Hammer was Junk Hunted.

My brother beats a friend of ours, so not all my friends are 2-0. Round 3 is up shortly.

Round 3: ??? w/ Darkrai/Hydreigon/Musharna

pokemon-paradijs.comI lead Sigilyph to his Sableye. He goes first, uses a Level Ball to get a Munna, an Ultra Ball for a Deino and uses Junk hunt. I use Ultra Ball to get Landorus-EX, attach a Fighting and Super Scoop Up my Sigilyph. I N his Junk Hunt away, attach Eviolite to Landorus and use Hammerhead to put 30 on his Deino.

Unfortunately, he still hits the turn two Hydreigon, but not the turn two Night Spear. He also gets his Musharna out. He uses Junk hunt again.

I can’t remember exactly how it goes after this. Thanks to Eviolite he has to use Hydreigon to KO my Landorus after Night Spear, and I use Catcher and Retaliate to take out a Darkrai. He Dragon Blasts again. I think I use Mewtwo to take 2 Prizes, but I can’t remember how. I also get a Ho-Oh out with three Energy.

He uses Dragon Blast to take out Mewtwo, leaving him at 1 Prize and me at two. I send in a Ho-Oh with three Energy, bench Terrakion, attach to it, Catcher Darkrai and Bianca for five. I need one of the three Energy Switch left in my deck and hit two. I Energy Switch from Ho-Oh to Terrakion, use the last two Energy to retreat and Retaliate for the game.


Whoops, 3-0. That wasn’t supposed to happen. Now that I have a shot at top cut, my need to win comes back. No more using today as a testing ground. I want to make cut.

After round 4 there were only two 3-0’s left, myself and a friend playing Hammertime who had just beaten my brother. Even if I lost my last two rounds there was a good chance I could make cut, because my resistance was strong. I do prefer to win, though.

Going into this game, I knew I hadn’t tested against Hammertime enough to have much hope of winning.

Round 4: Tuan D. w/ Hammertime/Mewtwo

I lead Tornadus EX to his Darkrai. He goes first and manages to get Sableye active on the first turn. I Catcher his Darkrai to stop the turn two Night Spear, attach and pass. He Hammers my Energy and Junk Hunts for more Hammers.

In short, I can’t set up against a ton of Hammers and, not having tested the matchup enough, I burn way too many resources early. In order to actually attack, I get a Ho-Oh out with four Energy and attack for 100. Unfortunately it’s not enough.

I’m able to stall with Sigilyph, but only until I deck out. At least he didn’t take all his Prizes, haha…


This is a matchup I need to test more. I simply don’t know how to play it. Do I use Landorus? Is Ho-Oh key? Testing would have answered those questions, but I hadn’t prepared for it. I know the value of testing. It’s what won me five Battle Roads. I just didn’t have the time to test going into Cities.

If you want to increase your chance of winning, I can’t stress the importance of testing enough.

My round five opponent is the person I had played in the last round of the Houston Regional Championship. There, he had beaten me because I let him take back an Energy attachment, changing the game. It knocked me out of cut. Once again, we were playing for top cut.

Round 5: Kevin M. w/ Klinklang

I lead Mewtwo EX to his Terrakion-EX. He attaches a Metal Energy, gets a Klink in play and passes. I attach, bench Sigilyph and pass. He gets the turn two Klinklang, attaches a Blend and attacks for 50. I attach again and manage to get Ho-Oh in the discard. I use X Ball for 80. He gets out a Keldeo and Darkrai, misses the attachment for the turn, uses Max Potion and attacks for 50 again.

BulbapediaI use Super Scoop Up, hit heads, bench Mewtwo, attach DCE and Eviolite, Switch and hit for 80. He uses Max Potion again, attaches and hits for 70. I start attaching to a Sigilyph and attack with Mewtwo again. He benches another Klink and Black Kyurem EX, attaches to it, moves all Energy to it and KOs Mewtwo with Freeze Shock.

I send in Sigilyph, then use Rebirth, hit heads, attach three Energy, Catcher his Klinklang, retreat Sigilyph to Ho-Oh and KO his Klinklang. Unfortunately, he sets up another Klinklang right away and uses Keldeo to 1-shot my Ho-Oh. I send in Sigilyph and hit him for 80.

Then he drops his own Sigilyph and hits for 160. He has three Energy on Sigilyph and three on Black Kyurem EX. I use Rebirth again, hit heads and Catcher-KO his last Klinklang, sticking his Energies in place.

Right now, there’s almost no way I can win. He has 1 Prize left, I have four and I have a smaller deck them him. There’s a Tropical Beach in play, so, hoping to make him misplay, I use N to put him at one card, hoping he would irresistibly want more.

As I play the N, I think “There’s no way he’ll make enough misplays for me to win. He’s too good a player for that.” However, when it comes to a situation like this, I play it by the rule: If you only have one out to win, no matter how ridiculous or unlikely it is to happen, you go for it.

Sure enough, though, he plays a Juniper, leaving three cards in his deck. He then uses Computer Search, discarding his last N. He picks up his deck of three cards… and his face goes blank.

pokemon-paradijs.comLater, he said he thought he had a Catcher left. Turns out all four were in the discard. He can still win. He just needs a heads on Dragon Fang to Paralyze me, and then he can use Freeze Shock to end the game. He hits tails against my Ho-Oh.

I retreat to Mewtwo and use X Ball for 140. He draws, two cards left. He sends in Sigilyph and does 160 to Mewtwo. I use Rebirth on the lone Ho-Oh in my discard, heads, and retreat Mewtwo to Ho-Oh.

He draws, one card left. He sends in Black Kyurem and tries Dragon Fang again. Tails. I retreat to Tornadus EX and pass. He draws, zero cards left. He sits there… and he has got nothing. I win by deck out.

The amount of misplays and luck required for me to win that is just way more than I would have expected to happen. That was the strangest win I have ever had to pull off.


That was a really silly way to win, and I can’t believe it all came together. The luck there was just too much. Although I’m happy I won.

Unfortunately, my brother lost his last three games, ending 2-3. He keeps saying he called it, and that he picked the wrong deck.

Coming into the tournament, I had no goal for the day, just play to learn and see how it goes. Now, all my expectations about the deck were gone. It just worked. Championship Point wise, top four was all I needed, as I’m going for 120 points from Cities, and I already had 40 from my second place finish. With two more top fours, I’d be at 130 points. I was happy with today’s performance.

After swiss was over, top four look like this:

  1. Kenton A. (Me) w/ Ho-Oh (4-1)
  2. Len D. w/ Darkrai/Mewtwo (4-1)
  3. Tuan D. w/ Darkrai/Mewtwo/Hammers (4-1)
  4. Sam L. w/ Darkrai/Ho-Oh (3-2)

My round one opponent managed to win all his other games, giving me a huge resistance boost, putting me in first. Going into cut, I’m going to be playing Sam, a friend whose deck has already given him a Cities win.

The four of us agree that we would like a 40 minute lunch break, so we’re told to be back at five. After snacking on beef jerky and downing a Pepsi, I wait around, discussing the day with my brother. Everyone gets back at five and top cut starts at 5:10.

Top 4: Sam L. w/ Darkrai/Ho-Oh

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comHe leads Darkrai EX to my Shaymin EX. He goes first. Ultra Ball, discard Fighting and Grass, get Ho-oh. Energy Search for Dark, Juniper. Rebirth flip… off the table. Attempt number two… Tails. Big sigh of relief on my part.

He attaches Dark to Darkrai, benches Sableye, Dark Patches to it and Junk Hunts. I play Ultra Ball right away for Landorus, attach to Shaymin and Juniper. I bench Sigilyph, retreat to it, Catcher his Darkrai to stop a turn two Night Spear and pass.

He attaches to Darkrai, gets heads on Rebirth, retreats to Sableye and Junk Hunts. I attach to Landorus and switch, Catcher Darkrai again, put an Eviolite on Landorus and start swinging.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember a whole lot of this game, other than that his deck can’t deal with an Eviolited Landorus-EX. Landorus wreaks havoc all over his field until it’s 3 Prizes to 6.

His Darkrai has 150 on it and his Terrakion has 120 on it. I’m holding a Catcher, so If Landorus gets one more turn, I win. Landorus has 60 damage on it… and he drops the Shaymin, Tool Scrappers my Eviolite and does 120 to KO.

In all this time I haven’t been able to get a Ho-Oh in the discard. I send in Tornadus EX, get two Energies on it and Catcher-KO his Terrakion, leaving me with 2 Prizes instead of one so that his Shaymin can’t do 180.

I have a Terrakion on my bench with 120 damage on it. He benches another Darkrai, uses two Dark Patch, attaches and uses Night Spear to KO my benched Terrakion. I bench the second Terrakion, attach, Energy Switch from Tornadus to Terrakion, retreat and Retaliate for the game.

Game 2

pokemon-paradijs.comI get a better start this time, leading with Landorus-EX to his Sableye. He goes first, and compared to last game has a very mild turn one. He plays an N, benches a Darkrai and opts to use Confuse Ray instead of Junk Hunt, but hits tails.

I attach a Fighting and an Eviolite and swing 30 on Sableye and 30 on Darkrai. He once again has a slow turn, hitting very little. He attaches to Darkrai, scraps my Eviolite and tries Confuse Ray again. Tails.

I attach another Eviolite, play PlusPower and take out his only Sableye on the field, leaving him with a lone Darkrai. He benches another Darkrai and Sableye, attaches to Sableye, Catchers my Terrakion and Junk Hunts. I switch back to Landorus and use Land’s Judgment to take out his Sableye.

In short, his deck had no way of dealing with a powered up Landorus-EX, but he eventually takes it out. When he does, I attach to Terrakion, Energy Switch to it, Tool Scrapper the Eviolite on his benched, full HP Darkrai, catcher and win the game.


Once again, Landorus blows away all expectations. Sam’s deck had no way of dealing with a full HP, Eviolited Landorus threatening to use Land’s Judgment. It really was the hero of the day.

Top two was going to be against my round one opponent. Having donked him, I really didn’t have any intel about his deck going into the finals. I’d just have to learn as I played.

Top 2: Len D. w/ Darkrai/ Mewtwo

Very unfortunately, these games all blur in my memory. They were all very tight and skill intensive, and were a ton of fun to play.

Game 1


I realize quickly that I can’t win the Mewtwo war with him. With Sableye, Dark Patch, Energy Switch and DCE he was always able to set up another Mewtwo with ease, while I was not.

I opt to go the Landorus route while setting up a Sigilyph on the bench, which lures out a Bouffalant. I set up a Terrakion in case I need it to deal with Bouffalant, but it was much more useful as a Darkrai deterrent.

This game came down to carefully watching the Prize count and using Mewtwos at the right times. Sigilyph was a big factor because other than Bouffalant, all he had to deal with it was Sableye. In the end, I Retaliate to take the game.

Game 2

This game was a lot like game one, but I feel I played it too aggressively, without thinking about my moves. At the end, when I had 2 Prizes left, he KOs… something with Darkrai and is now at 2 Prizes. I bench Terrakion, attach, Rebirth, Energy Switch… and then realize he has an Eviolite on his Darkrai.

I had already used my Tool Scrapper, and my PlusPower was Prized. I hit him with Sigilyph and hoped. He sent in Mewtwo, Catchered my Mewtwo, stacked Energy and won the game. I didn’t pay enough attention to the game state this game.

Game 3

pokemon-paradijs.comI lead Landorus, get it set up and take out a Sableye. Very shortly in, time is called during his turn. I’m up 1 Prize. He has a Mewtwo, Bouffalant and Darkrai on the field, with a Sableye active.

He starts attaching to Mewtwo, Catchers my Mewtwo, and uses Confuse Ray. I attach DCE to Mewtwo and retreat back to Landorus, using Land’s Judgment to take out his Sableye. I also have a Sigilyph set up.

He sends in Mewtwo with three Energy, and now I see why he used Confuse Ray on my Mewtwo. If he can get four Energy and an Eviolite on his Mewtwo, he can Catcher mine and tie up the game, leaving me with no way to KO his Mewtwo.

He plays N, but misses a part of the key to victory. He Catchers my Mewtwo, attaches DCE, Energy Switches one of the darks off Mewtwo, but doesn’t have an Eviolite. He KOs my Mewtwo and I send in Sigilyph, using Psychic to end the tournament.


These games were all very nerve wracking, and we had both become very serious toward the end. Now it was over, and I had won. I could hardly believe it. I had entered the day with no hope, no expectations and had come away with victory. It was a pretty sweet win.

My brother had been watching the majority of our games, and his comment was that he had cracked under the pressure and he wasn’t even playing. In all my time of playing, those five top cut games were some of the most intensive games I’ve played.

It’s always an educational privilege to play against powerful competition. I pull a FA Cresselia-EX, a White Kyurem EX, a Crystal Edge and an extra Computer Search from my 18 prize packs.

As of now, I have 187/400 points, 87 from BRs, 10 from Regionals, and 90 from cities. My goal for cities was 120 points. I only need one more top four to pull that off. With any luck, I’ll be able to do better than that.

I’m not going to provide my list, because I don’t think it’s anything special. In this format, any good deck has a chance to win, so there’s no best way to run a deck, especially a deck as versatile as Ho-Oh. I do think Ho-Oh is a very good base for a deck, and I hope it keeps working.

The idea behind the deck is to use as many counter Pokémon as you can, then play a few Ho-Oh to get Energy on the board. That way, the deck can counter whatever situation it finds itself in. It plays differently each game, making it hard, and thus fun, to play.

I encourage you to at least test a Ho-Oh deck of your own, if not play it. I suggest testing every attacker you can, then raising or lowering counts, depending on what you like.

Somehow, Ho-Oh reminds me of Dialga G/Palkia G from 2009, my favorite deck of all time. When describing how either of them works or how they win, the only answer is “I don’t know. It just does.” Ho-Oh runs based on the moment, the same way Dialga/Palkia did. Because of that, I really like it, and hopefully it keeps on winning.

My Thoughts on the Format Right Now

While I may not be able to provide everyone with new insight, I hope I can help give some people a new perspective on the game right now. While not the best it can be, the format is certainly better than it was without Boundaries Crossed.

If you want the best chance to win, there are five different types of decks that look to be the best: Blastoise/Keldeo, Darkrai/Hydreigon, Klinklang, Eels, and Big Basics.

From this, there are two categories, Evolutions and Basics. While this may seem like an obvious distinction, the gap between the two is larger than ever.

From what I’ve seen, Evolution decks are much riskier than Big Basics. While they win more efficiently, they require an un-interrupted setup. If the setup is disrupted, there’s a good chance they will lose. However, they have huge comeback potential.

When they get their Evolution out late game it can often be enough to start a sweep. What they have over Big Basics is a stronger field, but since they require Evolutions, they’re much harder to set up and require more luck to win. They may be a good play for Cities, but come Regionals I’ll be betting against them.

Big Basic decks are much more solid. They’re practically un-donkable and take a lot of hits before going down. They don’t need as much luck to win as an Evolution deck and can be set up with as little as a single Energy attachment.

Going forward into Cities and looking far ahead to Regionals, Big Basic decks look like the best play. While Big Basics is a very open-ended category, it’s a pretty safe call that they will continue to hold the format as their own.

Thank you so much for reading my report. I hope I have given you a new perspective on the metagame and provided entertaining commentary on my games. I wish everyone good luck going into their next tournaments and forward into the season.

Reader Interactions

11 replies

  1. Hunter Hawkins

    Ok now… Who decided this article shouldn’t have a decklist?
    +1 Great article.

      • Garch  → Lucas

        I didn’t provide a list because I’ve never been a fan of giving a list away. While I may not have had time to test, I did have time to hone the list.

  2. Blake Flitter

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I really liked the commentary, the friendly reminder that I need to be testing more, and the fact Ho-oh is taking Cities and the BCR Format.

    Very nice read, I hope to hear more from you.

  3. Adam Capriola

    Great report Kenton! That’s pretty neat you’ve lived in so many different places – what kind of jobs do your parents have?

  4. Jack

    I can’t read the article in context if I don’t have a list…

  5. Tyler Kittelson-Burke

    Would have liked to see the list (not saying I’m a netdecker) but otherwise great article.

  6. Aaron Minjoot

    I like this article and I really like seeing Ho-oh get more play. Was however really interested in your list. It might be frowned upon asking for lists and all, and in no way am I a netdecker of sorts, but I just felt the build up was really good and at the very minimum a skeleton would have concluded the article on a high note. But every author has a different perspective, so I’ll respect that. Props and a definite +1.

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