Surviving (and Thriving) at the Chicago Cities Marathon

pikachu ash beat uppokemon.theirstar.comI once again survived the Chicago Marathon and had an amazing week with some of my best friends. Again Jimmy Ballard did an amazing job coordinating all of the events and have them run smoothly. In fact, I would even say that this year went even better than last year, pulling in larger attendance and more big name players.

On average the number of Masters ranged from 75 to over 100 players which meant every day was 7 rounds of Swiss and a cut to Top 8, leaving all but a couple X-2’s on the bubble. The marathon also drew many top players like Jason Klaczynski, Kyle Sucevich, Ross Cawthon, and Michael Pramawat just to name a few.

The large attendance and high caliber players created some great matches and it was not uncommon at all to have Worlds level players squaring off at the X-2 tables. The format was constantly developing and getting more competitive, with popular archetypes like Blastoise and Darkrai looking very different on the last day of the marathon than they did on the first.

Some might call me arrogant, but many more would agree with me that the Chicago Marathon is the toughest stretch of City Championships in the world.

For me personally, the Chicago Marathon had a lot of highs and lows, but in the end I left being a stronger and better player. Last year no one had won more than 1 city in the marathon, so my goal going in was I wanted to be the first person to ever win 2 of the tournaments.

Through some solid deck building, smart plays, and a little dumb luck (more like a lot of luck), I managed to capture 3 of the 8 trophies on the week.

What You’ll Learn

It’s no secret that players that have access to marathons are at a huge advantage over players that don’t. Players that attended got to test their decks at tournaments with Regional level competition and be on the front lines as decks evolved and different techs were added.

My goal for this article is to take you back through my trip on the Chicago Marathon and give you every advantage that I gained by attending. Right now I feel extremely prepared for Regionals and I hope after this article you will too.

I’ve done my best to make this article less about being a tournament report and more about what I’ve learned and how decks have evolved. I’ve also added little elements of real life on my trip to hopefully break the article up a little more as well.

Day 1 – Joliet, Illinois – 92 Masters

The first day I knew everybody was still going to be figuring out what to play until a more concrete meta developed. I opted to go with a variation of my Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Sigilyph deck that I had made T4 with at St. Paul Cities a few weeks earlier.

I originally came up with the idea when most of the meta in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota was dominated by large Basic EX decks. I found these matchups to be quite favorable if I got set up without giving my opponent too many Prizes.

sigilyph-dragons-exalted-drx-52-brighterThe deck rarely used Sigilyph to attack and instead simply opted to hide behind it while it set up. My opponent could still use Pokémon Catcher to get around Sigilyph, but that would leave them with fewer Catchers later in the game to “steal” a win.

I wasn’t sure if I was playing the “best deck” in the format, but I felt it was a very well-rounded choice going into a large tournament with an uncertain meta.

The reason I favored the Sigilyph version of Blastoise was because I felt it had the strongest matchups against the Quad Sigilyph that seemed to be gaining popularity.

Normally Blastoise would have to use “Little Keldeo” (Keldeo BCR 47) or Blastoise himself to deal with Sigilyph, which in turn would get countered by Mewtwo EX.

However, using Sigilyph to deal with opposing Sigilyph left the opponents only answer being Sigilyph himself and Blastoise could pump out Sigilyphs far faster and more efficiently than Quad Sigilyph can.

The other issue I had with Quad Sigilyph was Eviolite since I played no Tool Scrapper I would always have to attach that dreaded 5th Energy to either Blastoise or “Little Keldeo” and this left the math perfect for Mewtwo EX to KO me for only a DCE. Using Sigilyph myself however left the issue of Eviolite coming into play almost nonexistent.

The List

Pokémon – 14

4 Squirtle BCR
1 Wartortle BCR
3 Blastoise BCR
3 Keldeo-EX
2 Sigilyph DRX
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper

4 Skyla
3 N
2 Bianca
1 Cilan


4 Ultra Ball
3 Rare Candy
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Energy Retrieval
1 Super Rod
1 Max Potion

1 Computer Search


2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 14

12 W
2 P

The Tournament

Round 1 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXW
Round 2 – Ho-Oh EX (Kyle Sucevich) – W
Round 3 – Darkrai/Hydreigon – W
Round 4 – Darkrai EX/Hydreigon – W
Round 5 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXL
Round 6 – ??? – W
Round 7 – Quad Sigilyph – L

Note #1 – Count Energies

squirtle water gunim-most-hated.tumblr.comThe last round I was pretty upset with myself about because I felt like I played horribly in a very positive matchup and might have blown my shot at T8 because of it. The mistake I made is I didn’t closely monitor the amount of Energy in my deck.

With 14 Energy, 3 Retrieval, and a Super Rod players sometimes get this “phantom” belief that they will never run out of Energy and this is the farthest thing from the truth.

Over the course of the marathon I cannot count how many games I won with exactly the right amount of Energy.

You don’t need to do it on your first search, but during your second search you should count how many Energy are in your deck as well as Energy Retrievals and the Super Rod.

It’s very important to know what you have Prized and it can also help give you rough odds of your likelihood of hitting the number of Energies you need off of a Juniper or a Bianca.

Note #2 – Count Supporters

On my second or third search I also like to count the number of Skyla, Juniper, N, Bianca, and Computer Search in the deck. I will occasionally find myself in situations where I need to make choices with Skyla where I can either get the KO by grabbing something like Energy Retrieval or opt for a safer play and grab something like Professor Juniper.

By knowing if or how many Supporters I have prized makes this decision easier for me to make. I am considerably more likely to make riskier plays if I know they will pan out by nabbing a Supporter out of my prizes.

Note #3 – Brief Recaps

I will briefly discuss some of my matches in this article, but in the interest of making this an article and less of a tournament report I’ll try and keep them brief.

Top 8 vs. Kyle Sucevich with Ho-Oh and Friends

Game 1

I simply go off Game 1 and win by a few Prizes.

Game 2

super-scoop-up-black-white-blw-103pokemon-paradijs.comHe goes very aggressive with his Sigilyph and I really struggle to deal with it this time. At some point this game I also come to the realization of how much trouble his deck can have with Sigilyph as well.

I start mounting a huge a come back with Keldeo-EX, but my hopes are dashed when he hits heads on his single Super Scoop Up to pick up a Tornadus EX with 120 damage on it. Kyle finishes me off a turn or two later with a Mewtwo EX.

Game 3

I decide to go very aggressive this game with Sigilyph and it pays off for the most part as Kyle seems to have trouble answering it, but he keeps the game exceptionally close. We go very back and forth until time is call when were all tied up at 1-1 and the turn count becomes irrelevant.

The game comes down to where I have to play an N to put us each at 1 and I need a W Energy to win and Kyle needs a Pokémon Catcher.

I count and have 10 cards left in my deck with only 3 W Energy so despite only having a 30% chance of winning the game right now I felt good knowing that I could simply use Tropical Beach to put myself up to 7 and guarantee myself the win on the following turn.

Kyle cuts and I peek at my top card all poker-style to see the W Energy to win the game. Kyle similes and shows me the Juniper in his hand and flips over his top deck being the Pokémon Catcher he needed to win the game.

I caught some especially luck breaks against Kyle, but I move on to the Top 4.

Top 4 vs. Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Mewtwo EX

Nothing horribly insightful happened either of these 2 games, I simply set up faster which always allowed me to be ahead on the KOs.

Top 2 vs. Jack Iler with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Mewtwo EX

level ball next destinies nde 89pokemon-paradijs.comJack was the only undefeated at the end of Swiss and left me with my first loss round 5. His list was pretty standard and yet different at the same time, playing cards like Heavy Ball and Level Ball. I’m pretty sure they were just single copies of each, but it gave his deck a bit more flexibility when making Skyla plays.

Once again I won’t go into a ton of detail as I drew better than Jack both games 1 and 2, which left me with a much easier, win than I should have had.

Note #4 – Consistency & The Mirror

By the end of the day I learned two very important things. First, consistency was everything in mirror as the first player to set up Blastoise and in turn get the first prize or two was at a huge advantage. This made me believe that a very straightforward consistent list was the best approach.

The second being that no matter how consistent your list was, it didn’t guarantee that you would get Blastoise out before your opponent. This is probably the thing that frustrates me the most about this format. No matter how many consistency cards you run it’s impossible to make a deck that’s perfectly consistent.

Final Record: 8-2
Final Place: 1st
Winner: Me with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Sigilyph

Day 2 – Oswego, Illinois – 100 Masters

Despite wanting to play a more straightforward version of Blastoise, I just couldn’t bring myself to not play the same list I had won with the day before. I did notice a lot more players playing Sigilyph in their Blastoise decks and while I don’t feel I can take 100% of the credit for this winning the day before, it probably did have some impact on the meta.

Round 1 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Sigilyph – W
Round 2 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXW
Round 3 – Darkrai/Hydreigon – W
Round 4 – Rayquaza/Eels – L
Round 5 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXW
Round 6 – Rayquaza EX/Eels – L
Round 7 – Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Sigilyph – W

Final Record: 5-2
Final Place: 10th
Winner: Jason Klaczynski with Sableye/Darkrai/Hammers

I was a little down about bubbling, but it’s a huge tournament and I felt better knowing I still ended up in the top 10% of Masters.

The thing that bothered me more than anything was just how inconsistent I felt the format was. Most of the games I won I felt like I simply set up while my opponent didn’t and most of the games I lost I felt like my opponent simply started faster/opened better than I did.

Quad Sigilyph Chicago Marathon Style

Something else I noticed after the first two days was just how popular Quad Sigilyph had become. It stopped be a “random deck” that saw some play and instead was a strong player in the meta.

Pokémon – 7

4 Sigilyph DRX
2 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Meloetta BCR

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Bianca
2 Skyla


4 Pokémon Catcher
3 Crushing Hammer
1 Enhanced Hammer
3 Level Ball
3 Energy Switch
3 Eviolite
3 PlusPower
1 Super Rod
1 Tool Scrapper
2 Ultra Ball
1 Computer Search


1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 P
4 Double Colorless

meloetta-boundaries-crossed-77trollandtoad.comThe 1 Meloetta is a staple right now in my opinion and basically every list at the marathon seemed to agree with me on this. In mirror if 1 person runs Meloetta and the other doesn’t the mirror match quickly changes from 50-50 to 75-25 – it really is that strong of a card.

Its other use is to quickly and easily get damage on opposing attackers to soften them up for Mewtwo EX.

As the week went on the other variation that popped up was Sigilyph/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion. This version was mainly played by Issac Soto and his team and I’m assuming the Terrakion was to help with the large amount of Darkrai EX that had cropped up.

The Trainer lineup seemed to vary pretty heavily from what won the Asian Regionals. Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer seemed to play a very small role and instead the deck seemed more focused on protecting Sigilyphs with high counts of Eviolite and tech cards like Potion.

The deck also seemed to favor high counts of cards like PlusPower and Energy Switch to try and insure 1HKOs on attackers that could cause problems for Sigilyph.

I see a lot of lists that run just 8 Psychic and 4 DCE, but I prefer 9-4 just because I feel it’s so important to get that first turn Energy attachment. I upped it to 9 Psychic and I feel the deck plays smoother overall.

Day 3 – Des Planes, Illinois – 99 Masters

Despite not making top cut the day before I felt I was having pretty good luck with my current list for Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Sigilyph and once again opted to not change my list.

This may or may not have been a mistake, but in my opinion a big problem for a lot of people in marathons is that they make to many changes to their decks or switch decks entirely. In the end it is best to simply play what you know and what has been proven to do well in the past.

Round 1 – Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion/Bouffalant – W
Round 2 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXL
Round 3 – Quad Sigilyph – W
Round 4 – Rayquaza EX/Eels – L
Round 5 – ??? – W
Round 6 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXL
Round 7 – 4 Corners maybe??? – L

ash ketchum dejected sadpokemon.theirstar.comI finished a dismal 3-4 with the exact same list I had played the previous 2 days. I didn’t stick around to see what placed I finished nor did I honestly care. To say I was pretty down after this tournament would be a safe thing to say. The competition was really tough, but to not even manage to leave with a 50-50 record is pretty bad.

Reflecting back over the day most of my losses came from either drawing dead, my opponent drawing well, or decision I made during a game that seemed right at the time, but simply didn’t pan out. The first two things were simply out of my control and I had to let them go, however I did take some time to reflect over some of my plays and consider some other choices I could have made.

In the end though the great thing about marathons is if you do bad one day there is always tomorrow to do better, unlike major tournaments like States and Regionals.

Final Record: 3-4
Final Place: Didn’t look
Overall Winner: Matthew Moss with Sableye/Darkrai/Hammers

RayEels – Chicago Marathon Style

Over the marathon I saw two very distinct different builds of Eels pop up. The first was standard Eels with a high Mewtwo EX count paired with Bouffalant, Zekrom, and sometimes Raikou-EX as the other attackers.

rayquaza dragon burst deoxys

The second was the more popular Rayquaza/Eels deck that focused on powering up Rayquaza EX to 1HKO anything the opponent could throw in front of it. Variations of the deck varied greatly and I saw a wide arrange of techs including, Keldeo-EX, Sigilyph, Mewtwo EX, Victini, and the regular Rayquaza.

I’m going to cover my list for the Rayquaza variation of Eels, as I like the 1HKO ability the deck provides and how easily techable the deck is. I also feel lists for RayEels vary much more than they do for standard Eels, so I want to give my perspective.

The List

Pokémon – 14

4 Tynamo NVI 38
4 Eelektrik NVI
3 Rayquaza-EX DRX
1 Rayquaza DRX
1 Zekrom BLW
1 Keldeo-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Bianca
2 Skyla


4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Ultra Ball
3 Level Ball
3 Switch
1 Super Rod
1 Energy Search
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Max Potion

1 Computer Search


1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 12

8 L
4 R

I’m just going to hit on a few quick things for the Pokémon.

3 Rayquaza EX I felt like at Fall Regionals most lists only played 2 and than 2 normal Rayquaza, but as the likelihood of mirror has died down this number seems to have shifted to 3-1.

rayquaza dragons exalted drx

1 Rayquaza DRX While mirror is now less common, I do feel it’s something you should be ready for. However, the main reason I run the 1 Rayquaza is because it’s an amazing Sigyilph counter.

People seem to think that Eelektrik is enough, when in reality most of the time the Sigyilph player is simply going to drop a PlusPower to 1HKO the Eelektrik and with cards like Eviolite you can’t even guarantee the 2HKO.

1 Zekrom BLW I really thought Zekrom was all but done for in RayEels, but over the course of the marathon it saw a steady increase in play. I feel the reason for this was because it’s an easy out to both Sigyilph and Bouffalant, two very popular Pokémon right now.

1 Keldeo-EX In this deck Keldeo-EX is the definition of support Pokémon. You’ll rarely ever attack with him, but I honestly don’t think the deck would be competitive without him.

In my opinion Keldeo-EX is a staple and if you’re not playing him you have to find room for him. The card acts as an infinite Switch basically and allows you to Dragon Burst every turn once you’re set up.

At the bottom, I’m going to share a link with the top cut where Adam Vernola takes his RayEel deck up against Randy Bellew. The video is a great example of how smoothly RayEels runs once it’s set up and just how important Keldeo-EX is to the deck.

3 Switch The only thing I really want to point out in the Trainer lineup is how 4 Switch are no longer necessary with Keldeo-EX. I probably wouldn’t drop below 3 because it is still a great multipurpose card, but 4 is no longer needed.

Adam Vernola (RayEels) vs. Randy Bellew (Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EX)

Day 4 – Plainfield, Illinois – 78 Masters

sableye smile happy animemisdreavuss.tumblr.comAfter a horribly discouraging 3-4 the day before I finally decided to give Blastoise a rest and instead opt to pick up Darkrai EX/Landorus-EX/Terrakion.

So far in the marathon Dustin Zimmerman was having success with the deck and with Speed Darkrai winning the first two days I knew Terrakion and Landorus-EX were smart meta choices.

The night before the list was testing pretty inconsistently with Crushing Hammer. We were rarely hitting the T2 Night Spear and Hammers made little difference against Blastoise/Keldeo-EX and Darkrai variants (the two biggest decks in the format).

After a few test games we opted to drop them for cards more focused on helping the deck hit T2 Night Spear. Below is the list I played and in testing I was hitting T2 Night Spear right around 80% of the time.

Pokémon – 10

3 Sableye DEX
3 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Terrakion NVI

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Landorus-EX

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Skyla
3 Bianca


4 Dark Patch

4 Energy Switch
4 Pokémon Catcher

3 Ultra Ball

3 Eviolite
2 Enhanced Hammer
1 Energy Search

1 Tool Scrapper
1 Computer Search

Energy – 13

9 D
4 F

The Pokémon lineup is basically the same as what I was testing earlier in Cities, I just opted to drop Landorus-EX down to a single copy. The card is extremely easy to search out and it is too much of a liability against Blastoise/Keldeo, essentially letting your opponent play the game with only 4 Prize cards.

800px-Damon_SigilyphBulbapediaThe only matchup I really missed the Crushing Hammers was against Quad Sigilyph. Against every other matchup I would much rather devote space to increasing my odds of hitting a T2 Night Spear.

We did leave in the 2 Enhanced Hammers as we felt they were necessary against Quad Sigilyph and Hydreigon to remove DCE and Blends respectfully.

Also some of the RayEels decks opted to play Prism Energy, so it was situationly useful in that matchup as well. Even at the end of the day the only card I really wish I had made room for would have been the 4th Ultra Ball just to help improve starts.

The Tournament

Round 1 – Speed Darkrai – W
Round 2 – Eels/Techs – W
Round 3 – Blastoise Keldeo-EXL
Round 4 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXW
Round 5 – Quad Sigilyph – L
Round 6 – Darkrai/Terrakion – L
Round 7 – Eels/Techs – L

I once again finished horribly at 3-4. The ironic thing is I still felt like the deck without Crushing Hammers was the right play. The only match I lost due to not running Hammer was the Quad Sigilyph. After the 7 rounds I hit six T2 Night Spears and I believe Michael hit 5 with the same list.

This leaves the question how could I end up 3-4 after hitting six T2 Night Spears? The first part to the answer is I went second all 7 rounds (no, I’m not making that up). This essentially gave each of my opponents 2 turns to prepare for a Night Spear instead of just 1 turn had I gone first.

The second is many of my opponents simply ran just as “hot” as I did. For example my Round 3 opponent went first and hit T2 110 with Keldeo-EX and T3 190 to KO a Darkrai EX. That round would have been significantly different had I gone first and gotten the first hit in.

Perhaps I gave up on the deck to soon, but after going 3-4 and seeing numerous Quad Sigilyph and Terrakion decks I decided to switch back to Blastoise opting to play what I felt more comfortable with.

Final Record: 3-4
Final Place: Didn’t look
Overall Winner: Austin Reed with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Mewtwo EX

Intermission: New Year’s Eve

pikachu innertube happyhoneypile.tumblr.comI find long articles and detailed tournament reports at times dry and I feel a little bit of real life does wonders to break them up.

Ironically, real life was feeling the same way as at this point in the marathon, as we had just cracked out 4 straight days of Pokémon which basically involved waking up early in the morning, traveling to a tournament, playing all day, traveling back, and then barely getting supper in before I felt like crashing.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playing and the road-tripping with friends is great, but I think everybody was getting a little tired at this point.

New Year’s Eve rolls around and Jimmy Ballard invites us to a family friendly bowling event at a local alley. I for one am not much of a bowler, but the party seemed like a great idea. We got there at 10:30 PM and stayed until 12:30 AM. Having a good time with Pokémon players outside of Pokémon events is one major reason I still enjoy this game so much.

The bowling alley gave out hats, confetti, and noisemakers. I know how stupid this sounds, but even at 23 myself and many of the other adults were having a good time with it, as well as the young kids. At midnight the bowling alley also gave the adults champagne, which I surprisingly never had done before on New Years.

All in all the night was a much needed break in this long week.

New Year’s Day Top Cut Comics “Team Tournament”

I actually really enjoyed the format for this tournament and really hope to see it in the future. Basically there were 3 people on every team and you signed your team up in order, so for example:

  1. Jay Hornung
  2. Jason Klaczynski
  3. Kyle Sucevich


Then when the team pairings go up player 1 plays against player 1 on the other team and so forth. Each game was only a single game and at least 2 members of your team would need to win for your team to win.

You were allowed to discuss things between your team and get your teammates’ opinions as long as it didn’t impede the process of the game. This added a level of strategy where the more you focused on your teammates game, the less you focused on your own and vice versa.

It was just a fun tournament so we only did 4 rounds of Swiss and then final standings. First and second got a full box and 3rd and 4th got half a box, and we were all a little disappointed to find out they were Dragons Exalted packs instead of Boundaries Crossed, but it was a small issue for a great tournament.

I would love to see this implemented at a larger event like United States Nationals and then have a top cut to the tournament as well.

Anyway, my team of Mike Lesky, Joey, and myself started off 3-0 before losing the final round where I couldn’t quite overcome a Rayquaza/Eels deck in the last round. Our tiebreakers were pretty bad and we dropped all the way down to 4th on the final standings.

Not the way I wanted to end the day after such a strong start, but all in all it was a great tournament.

Day 5 – Janesville, Illinois – 54 Masters

I decide to go back to Blastoise/Keldeo-EX as I felt it had more well-rounded matchups than Darkrai/Terrakion/Landorus. This event was the smallest one so far with 54 Masters, which left us with 6 rounds and a Top 8 compared to the 7 rounds and Top 8 we had seen so far in the marathon.

Round 1 – Quad Sigilyph – W
Round 2 – Sigilyph/Terrakion/Mewtwo – W
Round 3 – Eels (Kyle Sucevich) – L
Round 4 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Sigilyph – W
Round 5 – Darkrai/Terrakion/Landorus Michael Slutsky (our list) – L
Round 6 – Sableye/Darkrai/Hammers (Jason Klaczynski) – L

ash ketchum pokeballThe day started off quite well for me, securing two wins with some decent hands and then started falling apart. Round 3 against Kyle the only Supporter I saw the entire game was Cilan. I managed to take 3 Prizes with my Supporter-less hand, but I came up short.

Kyle’s deck was really interesting and even Kyle referred to it as more of a fun deck than a serious tournament deck. It was basically straight Eels with Mewtwo EX, Bouffalant, and Tornadus EX.

However, Kyle also played some pretty interesting techs like Rayquaza EX and both Eelektross. My two other losses came to my own list for Darkrai/Terrakion/Landorus and to Jason Klaczynski’s Straight Darkrai deck.

Despite ending the day at 3-3 it was actually one of the more fun tournaments I had played in during the marathon. The atmosphere over all was a lot more relaxed and everybody seemed to be in a good mood, most likely due to a majority of people taking New Year’s Day off to recharge.

Final Record: 3-3
Final Place: 20 something
Overall Winner: Mike Lesky with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX

Day 6 – Streamwood, Illinois – 76 Masters

Round 1 – Quad Sigilyph – W
Round 2 – Terrakion/Landorus/Mewtwo – W
Round 3 – Ho-Oh – W
Round 4 – ??? – W
Round 5 – ??? – W
Round 6 – Ho-Oh – W
Round 7 – Eels/Mewtwo EX/Bouffalant – L

This was one of those days where everything came together for me. My hands were all pretty playable and I was going first right around half of the time.

Top 8

My Top 8 match was against the same Terrakion/Landorus/Mewtwo deck from Round 2 and the game played out pretty straightforward with me hitting Blastoise T2/T3 and he simply couldn’t answer my Keldeo-EX.

Note: Both of my Top 4 and Top 2 games were recorded, so below I’m going to include the videos below.

Top 4 vs. Brad Curio with Blastoise/Keldeo/Mewtwo

Note: Both Brad Curio and Brit Pybas played very similar lists with Brad narrowly beating out Brit in T8. As far as I could tell, Brad’s list and mine were almost identical, but he played 2 copies of Eviolite. I’m not really sure where they found the room for the cards, but I think it’s a great addition to the deck with Darkrai being so popular.

Going along with this people just don’t expect Blastoise to play Eviolite, so it can really mess with the opponent’s math.

Top 2 vs. Tyler McMutchan with Eels/Mewtwo/Bouffalant

Note: I want to note two big things about this game. The first is playing Tyler in Swiss was huge for me as I learned that he played 3 Mewtwo EX and 2 Bouffalant with 0 Rayquaza EX. Had I not known this I might have approached this matchup extremely differently.

The second is I paid close attention to Tyler’s mulligans and I learned that he played 2 Max Potions. I didn’t see either in Swiss and seeing them pregame made me realize that trying to 2HKO a Mewtwo EX with Keldeo would be a very risky play for me.

Final Record: 9-1
Final Place: 1st
Overall Winner: Me with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX

Day 7 – Huntley, Illinois – 74 Masters

I once again opt to play Blastoise/Keldeo-EX and use the same list as the day before. I seemed to be on a hot streak so I decided it would be best not to mess with it.

Round 1 – RayEels – W
Round 2 – Darkrai EX/Sableye/Hammers – W
Round 3 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXW
Round 4 – ??? – W
Round 5 – ??? – W
Round 6 – Blastoise/Keldeo-EXW
Round 7 – Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion/Bouffalant – W

I had 2-of my matches recorded so I’ll post the videos from my Round 3 and my Round 7 matches.

Round 3 vs. Jack Iler with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX

Round 7 vs. Andrew Reynolds with Landours EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion/Bouffalant

Top 8 vs. Travis Nunlist with Ho-Oh

I feel like a broken record at this point, but both games 1 and 2 I really just went off and Travis dead-drew both of the games.

Top 4 vs. Kyle Sucevich with Ho-Oh

Game 1

landorus ex boundaries crossed 89The big deciding factor in this game is Kyle was forced to open Landorus-EX and even though he went first, this put him at a huge disadvantage. I honestly thought he would go aggressive with it and try to get as much out of it as possible, but instead he decides to play Switch/Mewtwo/DCE T1 and hit my Squirtle for 40.

The next few turns were basically Prize exchanges where Kyle KO’d a Squirtle for a Prize that didn’t really matter and then we traded 2 Mewtwos. This left Kyle at 1 Prize and me at 2, but gave me the opening to Catcher the Landorus-EX on the bench for the game.

Kyle shows me his hand and the cards he needed to win on the following turn.

Game 2

Kyle goes with a slightly different strategy and sets it up where to take 6 Prizes I’ll have to KO a Sigyilph by committing 5 Energies to a Blastoise. We start trading Prizes and late in the game Kyle abandons his Sigyilph strategy and opts to put a Ho-Oh EX and a Terrakion into play when he’s convinced I can’t get the Keldeo-EX.

I don’t exactly remember the exchanges, but it gets late in the game where we are tied at 1-2 Prizes. The Terrakion is on the bench with 120 damage on it and I could actually Glaciate for the win. Kyle sees this though and N’s me to 1 and KOs the Kyurem with his Mewtwo EX.

I’m all out of Energy and only have 2 on my Mewtwo EX and it’s not enough for the KO on his with a DCE.

I basically need Catcher to win, and very fortunately the 1 card I got N’d to was Juniper. I count my deck with only 7 cards left and play the Juniper for the win.

Finals vs. Andrew Reynolds with Landours EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion/Bouffalant

yu-gi-oh-the-heart-of-the-cardsBoth games 1 and 2 were prime examples of where everything went my way. Both games I hit Turn 2 Blastosie and always had the cards to KO him. I wouldn’t have a Supporter and then I’d topdeck a Juniper.

I think one game he plays N and I draw 2 Retrievals and a Cilan. The entire match was just picture perfect situations like that for me.

Final Place: 1st
Final Record: 10-0
Overall Winner: Me with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX

Day 8 – Rockford, Illinois – 75 Masters

A week may not seem like a long time, but after 6 full days of thinking, discussing, and playing Pokémon for almost 12-14 hours per days I was about at the point where I never wanted to see Pikachu again. I honestly debated not playing this last day, but realized I really had nothing better to do.

Round 1 – Straight Darkrai/Hammers – W
Round 2 – Serperior/Victini/Celebi-EXW
Round 3 – PokéMom with Darkrai EX/Terrakion/Hammers – L
Round 4 – Zekstrika/Eels – W
Round 5 – PokéDad with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Mewtwo EXL
Round 6 – PokéDad with Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Garbardor – L

ash ketchum mom deliaAfter taking my 3rd loss to a PokéParent I knew it was time to call it a day. The hands I was getting were barely playable and nothing was coming together for me. The last game would have come down to a topdeck and a Juniper for 7 to see if I nabbed one of my 3 Catchers had I decided to rules shark my opponent.

I realized though I wasn’t going to top cut, and I simply wasn’t having much fun on the day so instead I explained to him how Exp. Share worked and that he had to be make sure to grab the Energy before he drew.

It’s probably for the best this is how my marathon came to an end. Whenever I get a little cocky, karma seems to have a way of bring me right back down to earth. I really hate the lack of consistency in this format and it really showed the last few days of the marathon.

I get solid to amazing hands and go 10-0 one day and than 3-3 drop the next with garbage hands. As I said though, it’s for the best as I’m heading into Regionals with a much more level head.

Final Record: 3-3
Final Place: Didn’t look
Overall Winner: Kyle Sucevich with Ho-Oh

My Little Rant

Chatot-Majestic-Dawn-55pokemon-paradijs.comOver the course of this marathon a number of people brought older decks ranging from 2005 to the height of the Luxchomp format. Many of these players were kind enough to let me play a few games with their decks simply for old times’ sake.

It wasn’t until I really sat down and played a few games did I truly see how drastic the power creep has been the last couple of years.

I understand from a company and marketing perspective it’s much easier to promote the game emphasizing these large EXs like Mewtwo EX and Keldeo-EX.

I also understand it’s much easier for newer players to pick up and learn a game revolved more around simply “setting up the bigger guy” and less about deep strategic turns.

That’s not to say that strategy doesn’t play a crucial role in the TCG anymore, simply it plays less of a role. It’s far easier to pick up and play Blastoise/Keldeo-EX than it is to learn the ins and outs of Mewtric and Eevelutions in the 2005 era.

My little rant about the power creep aside, one thing this format desperately needs is a Pokémon consistency card that can be easily searched out with Ultra Ball or Level Ball.

A coming into play power like Uxie LA is too powerful, but something along the lines of a Basic like Chatot MD that trades an attack for a new hand or Claydol GE that rewards a player for setting up a stage 1 would do wonders for this game and the consistency of any deck.

Until we get something along these lines consistency I don’t think I’m ever going to find a deck I feel is extremely consistent.


The format is not as good as I wish it was, but I do feel like it is steadily improving with each set that’s released. I don’t want to go to far out on a limb, but I do feel the format for States will be pretty diverse and interesting.

I’m going to wait till after Regionals to start testing it, but it looks like starting next week the Underground is going to start covering decks for States in great detail. I’m actually pretty excited about this as I have a few ideas I’ve been tossing around and I’m excited to see what other writers have come up with.

I don’t really expect any big surprises to come out at Regionals that we haven’t already seen. With Championship Points from Cities making up exactly half of a Worlds invite I find it unlikely that players wouldn’t play their best decks at Cities.

I think there is a common misconception going around that many of the decks in the format don’t require skill and that’s something I disagree with. I do feel many of the bigger players are more straightforward and a lot of decklists are going to be relatively close to each other.

misplay ash pikachuHowever, I also feel in this format that it’s so much easier for a little misplay to cost you a game. Something as small as discarding the wrong cards off of Ultra Ball or playing Juniper instead of N could decide a game many turns before the game ends.

I also feel that while many decks are within a couple of cards of each other those small differences can make huge differences.

A prime example of this is how in Blastoise I played Kyurem NVI as my Sigilyph counter while my friend Mike played the Little Keldeo. After the tournament we each swore that the choice we made was far superior than the others. We each had our own reasoning and each of our reasoning was right for the situations we encountered.

Both of our decisions were right, but gave our decks different options. So despite our decks only being 1 card off from each other, matchups could play out incredibly differently just based on that 1 card choice.

What I’m trying to emphasize here with how important playtesting is. Sure, decks are straightforward, but getting better at making those right discards and other small decisions can only be done through playtesting.

Same with getting your decklist exactly right, something as small as 1 or 2 cards can be the difference between a 4-5 record and top cut.

Next weekend I’m going to the St. Louis Regional Championships and we’re planning on getting in early Friday morning. We’re staying at the hotel right across from the tournament venue so you might catch me in the lobby if you’re looking for a game.

If you’re in St. Louis please come up and say hi because I always enjoy putting screen names with faces. If you’re attending different Regionals I want to wish you the best of luck. A lot of people are starting to close in on that magic number of 400 and a good showing at Regionals will earn some people an invite and leave other dangerously close.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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