Withdrawal hurts. Even in as nerdy a pastime as the Pokémon TCG, there are a few souls who appreciate college football, and are saddened by the realignment-related loss of a storied rivalry. 2012 marks the first year since 1942 that the Pitt Panthers and West Virginia Mountaineers didn’t hold their Backyard Brawl.
It was in this spirit that I, TJ, professional video game critic and University of Pittsburgh alumnus, traveled to Morgantown, WV for their City Championship. I’d been seeing a fair level of success with my rather toolboxy Darkrai/Hydreigon build, and I was eager to get as much practice in meaningful competition as possible. Unfortunately, a certain Grass-type had a grudge to settle with me.
Bit of backstory before I start: I’ve been “back in” the Pokémon TCG scene since about the middle of the HG/SS block, owing to the fantastic outreach efforts of Prof. A.J. (he actually uses periods) Schumacher.
It’s only as of recently, though, that I’ve ventured into the wild world of constructed events, as I hadn’t built a competitive deck since Base Set Venusaur/Jungle Exeggutor was all the rage. It’s been a tough process, but Pittsburgh is blessed with an awesome community for this sort of thing.
After top-cutting a Win-A-Box tourney at Top Deck in Bethel Park, PA (taking 3rd and pulling a Cresselia-EX and shiny Terrakion out of three packs), I felt I was in good shape, though I had a few changes to make.
First and foremost, owing to a bad Landorus-EX donk during said top cut, I struck all the Deino NVI in favor of Deino DRX. I reinstated the Cresselia-EX I’d recently removed, as the last Cities I’d played (in Butler, PA) left me in a number of situations where Mewtwo EX was left too vulnerable to retaliation.
And I removed Shaymin EX. Aside from one clutch pull in Butler, I rarely used the thing, and was forced to start it more times than I frankly felt comfortable with. So I shuffled in a few Prism Energy, spliced in a Terrakion and a Keldeo-EX, and hoped for the best.
Big mistake. But more on that later. Here’s the decklist for your personal snickering.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
6 Darkness – Basic
The field consisted of 23 Masters (a fair showing, considering this was their first time running a City Championship) for five rounds and a 4-player top cut. The venue, Four Horsemen Comics, boasted a spacious play area, and a projector system for displaying pairings right on the wall. It’s enough to spoil a guy.
Round 1 vs. Garbodor / Mewtwo EX / Tornadus EX
BulbapediaNothing can wreck a Darkrai/Hydreigon’s day like fetid heap of trash, shutting down 66% of what makes the deck work and flaunting its Rescue Scarf ostentatiously. Y’know what comes close, though? Having to start a Mewtwo EX against another Mewtwo EX, and being the one at the table who doesn’t run Double Colorless Energy.
My opponent (wearing a Cowboys jersey and giving me flashbacks to Super Bowl XXX) knew she had me pinned down.
I managed to get a Deino on the bench, and threw an Energy on it instead of the Mewtwo so as to prevent a potential 1HKO X Ball, should she put a second DCE on hers… only to have said Deino Catcher’d and summarily executed. Looking back, this was the right play, though it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time.
My desperation was such that I had to Computer Search for a Sableye, Dark Patch it, then give Mewtwo a Prism Energy to be immediately spent to retreat. (Fortunately, my opponent provided a Skyarrow Bridge.) My Junk Hunt for the Level Ball and Computer Search was met with a retaliatory N.
pokemon-paradijs.comAfter drawing on my turn, and with only my Mewtwo in play, I was holding the following: Prof. Juniper, Prism Energy, two each of Hydreigon and Rare Candy… and a Random Receiver. Knowing that I couldn’t possibly throw that hand away, I played the Receiver… and hit an N.
This would be the turning point of the game.
The N scored me two Darkrai EX, two Dark Energy, a Dark Patch, and another Juniper. A more perfect hand there has never been. With these, I was able to throw a Dark on Mewtwo and get him out of there, praying to Arceus that she didn’t get into a Catcher or Skyla.
My prayers were answered, and though she was able to get Garbotoxin in the air and force me to manually retreat Darkrai, I was able to get two Energy on my own Mewtwo and finally bring hers down.
I was fortunate in that she was unable to get into a Supporter or other means of charging her Tornadus EX, and while she successfully landed a Super Scoop Up, it only delayed the inevitable. I was able to drop a Tool Scrapper to shut down Garbotoxin, find my Cresselia-EX, and run the board without fear of reprisal from a DCE’d Mewtwo.
I’d had a desire in the back of my head to build a Gearbox myself, as with the current selection of attackers I feel it can more efficiently use Blend Energies. Having declined to bring such a deck to this tournament, however, I knew I’d be knee-deep in them. And I wasn’t wrong.
I was able to hold my own, getting a Hydreigon set up and trading Prizes evenly, until a well-played defensive N by my opponent left me with an Ultra Ball and some inconsequential crap in hand.
While I was able to Knock Out a Keldeo (and with it, most of his Energy), I proceeded to go a half-dozen turns without seeing a single Supporter, while in the same space of time he managed to play every Max Potion in his deck to wipe my Cresselia’s repeated Psychic Protections off the board.
After he mustered the Energy to Sacred Sword for 90, I realize that he’s one Water Energy from scrapping Cressie and blowing all my Energy off the board.
So I shift gears (or, rather, Dark Trance) onto my own Keldeo, as he had a Terrakion-EX on his bench doing a fantastic job of intimidating me from attacking with Darkrai. Unfortunately, he had the 4th Water Energy (or Water-Energy-analog) and Catcher’d Cresselia for the knockout and his last 2 Prizes.
It was a frustrating dry patch for me… mostly because I knew that, the entire time, that Ultra Ball had “SHAYMIN EX” written all over it. But it wasn’t over yet.
pokemon-paradijs.comNo, Shaymin wasn’t done beating me with a lead pipe yet. While Gearboxes were popular in Morgantown, there were still plenty of followers of the Deck of Soggy Turtles and Hyperactive Ponies.
After our first turns, he had a Keldeo and two Squirtle and I a Darkrai and two Deino. ‘Bout as even as it gets, right? The matchup proceeded much as expected, with my opponent spiking his Keldeo with as many as 7 Energy at a time, doing a number on my Darkrai but giving me a retaliatory shot with Mewtwo.
These things proceeded for some time until, by a series of bad draws, I was finding myself unable to get into my Max Potions. His Keldeo only had 3 Energy on it, but it was still enough to threaten anything already wounded (read: most everything) on my side of the table.
With my dance nearly out of steps, and my opponent with only 2 Prizes remaining, I had to choose between a Juniper and an N. I went with the Juniper (as I was down to 3 Prizes myself), not realizing my opponent was holding a massive hand and probably had either a Catcher or a Skyla into a Catcher.
My fears proved founded as the Skyla fell, my damaged Mewtwo was plucked off the bench, and moisture won the day again. Pain is the best tutor. It’s by making those mistakes, and losing those games, that one learns not to do something that stupid again. I will now remember, always and forever, to take my opponent’s hand into account in such a situation.
And somewhere, there’s a Shaymin holding a lead pipe and grinning to himself. This one was for him.
Round 4 vs. Darkrai EX / Terrakion
Fortunately, my opponent wasn’t running Sableye to return those Energy Switch to her hand, and my own Terrakion made a name for himself by carving up Darkrai left and right.
A couple defensive Ns slowed me down in the late-game, though, and while my own Darkrai quickly fell in turn, I was able to promote Hydreigon, Computer Search for a basic Dark Energy, and Dragonblast her last bull.
Always glad to make it out of that deck alive, and while my chances at top cut were nonexistent by that point, I managed to even my record at 2-2.
And who should I meet in the final round but…
Landorus-EX / Dusknoir / Mewtwo EXRound 5 vs. Empoleon /
THE GUY WHO DONKED ME OUT OF THE WIN-A-BOX. Oh, there was a score to settle here. Last time we met, he started a Piplup to my Deino NVI, and (as I learned the hard way) his hand consisted of an Ultra Ball (for Landorus-EX), a Fighting Energy, a Computer Search (for Switch), and four cards irrelevant to this anecdote. I’d come prepared this time, by leaving those Fighting-weak dragons at home. In a box. Marked “derp.”
I managed to set up fairly quickly, while he was absolutely stymied for options. He fronted a Piplup, and had the Landorus on his bench, but seemed to be in the midst of a massive Energy-and-Supporter drought. I resolved to do him no favors and continued to abuse Junk Hunt while I had the opportunity, establishing two Hydreigon and getting two Darkrai on my bench.
He finally hit a Juniper, and – in the interest of not letting them go to waste – played two Mewtwo EX to his bench. He was able to Rare Candy his active Piplup, taking his Diving Draw and soaking my Sableye.
Realizing that there’s only one Energy in play on his side of the table, I played my own Mewtwo, hit it with a Dark Energy, Catcher’d one of his Mewtwo, transfered the GRPD Blend and Prism Energy from my bench up to the active slot, and Psydrive’d (Psydrove?) for the easy snipe. The Prizes: Pokémon Catcher, Max Potion.
As expected, he promoted Empoleon, and – after some impressive Level Ball/Pokémon Communication shenanigans – Rare Candy’d his second Piplup and started to get his engine going. Mewtwo suffered an Attack Command for 90.
Unfortunately, I was able to respond with Max Potion shenanigans of my own, attached another Dark Energy to Mewtwo, Catcher’d the second Mewtwo from his bench (I thought these things were supposed to be legendary…), and Psydrive’d again. The Prizes: Keldeo-EX, Prism Energy.
He was reeling, and his Diving Draws provided him no assistance. He used Attack Command for 80, leaving me – potentially – one Catcher away from revenge. That said, all I had available to find it was a Prof. Juniper, which required me to dump a hand containing Cresselia, Darkrai, Hydreigon, and other genuinely useful things.
So, of course, I played the Juniper. (After dropping Keldeo and the Prism Energy on my bench.)
My gambit pays off; I caught the Catcher and called his Landorus-EX on the carpet to pay for his crimes against Deino. Keldeo Rushed In, received the two Prism and one GRPD Blend, and 1HKO’d Lando FOR JUSTICE.
We will meet again, Landorus. We will meet again.
Final record: 3-2
It’s like Nicholas Cage is in my head, imploring me to PUT THE SHAYMIN BACK IN THE DECK. And I can’t blame him. Between the Gearboxes running Terrakion-EX and the Keldeo/Blastoise decks I came across, that out-from-nowhere grass coverage is absolutely essential.
So what if I have to start it every once in a while? I’ve got Super Rod in this deck for a reason.
The problem is… all of my last-minute additions have proven too useful. Both Keldeo and Terrakion were directly responsible for wins at this event.
I fear Cresselia is the odd man (bird) (moon) (thing) out. With as much Keldeo as I’ve been seeing, the damage-evaporating power of Sparkling Particles can’t keep up.
If I could make the space for Eviolite, I could probably keep her… but in a deck as dynamic as Darkrai/Hydreigon, the ability to pull a Terrakion or a Shaymin EX out of the deck and immediately have it firing for the revenge kill is more useful.
I still came out ahead in the end, taking 10th overall (out of 23). I’ve got a long way to go, but hopefully things will bounce my way more often once Shaymin makes his glorious return to the front lines. (And hopefully that’ll stop him leaving fish wrapped in newspaper on my desk.)
Congrats to driver of our carpool Rick Aland on taking 2nd place with that… eels thing. I don’t even know how to describe it, and he hasn’t given it a snappy name. It just worked. Another Eelektrik variant and the Keldeo/Blastoise I’d lost to earlier in the day rounded out the top four.
Further congrats to Morgantown Champion Jason Milone, who redefined the word “differential” with a Klinklang monstrosity he claims to have thrown together the night before. I can’t even throw together a sandwich in that space of time.
- Learning the value of a defensive N.
- Managing to get out from under that Garbodor in the first game. It’s all resource management and ball bearings.
- Apparently it’s tradition to beat the owner of the venue with sticks until he buys everyone pizza. I can’t complain.
- Maintaining a grand tradition that dates back to 1895. (No typo.)