How to Be Really Good at State Championships

focus-band-neo-genesis-86pokemon-paradijs.comWe’re less than 2 weeks from the start of State Championships here in the United States. I was extremely happy to get this writing slot because this is about the time that most people really start to crank up their testing heading into States.

When writing this article my goal was to share as much information with you as I could that I felt would give you an advantage heading into States. Here is a quick breakdown of what to look for:

1. St. Louis Regionals Recap – A brief review of how I decided on my deck choice and how I ended up doing in St. Louis.

2. Finding Success at States – I always really seem to enjoy the formats that we have for States and have been very fortunate in the past to find a lot of success at State tournaments. Over years I’ve learned a lot of little things that I feel really contributed to me doing well at these events.

So what I want to do is highlight how I tackle States. I’ll hit on everything from how build my decks to how I test for the big day. Hopefully this will give you a great deal of insight on how I do things and maybe allow you to take some things and apply them to your own testing.

3. /Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem EX This is by far one of the biggest and best decks in the format. I won’t waste time with a “sample list” because I’ll be walking you through my personal list for the deck. I can say without a doubt in my mind this deck will be huge at States.

If you want to play the deck or simply be ready to play against the deck, this is definitely a section you’ll want to check out.

4. Blastoise/ EX/Techs – This is something I’ve been working on since I saw the translations for Lugia EX. The deck plays like a standard Blastoise deck, but can drop a Lugia EX out of nowhere. I also run my fair share of little techs while also keeping the deck fast and consistent. I’ll do a full break down of the deck and once again explain my card choices.

5. Conclusion – Just a quick recap of the article and what my plans are for States.

St. Louis Regionals Recap

As I discussed in my last article I played Blastoise throughout the Chicago marathon with a fair amount of success, however I also had my fair share of bad days as well. Heading into Regionals I honestly didn’t feel good about playing anything. I brought with me Blastoise/ and the cards to build several different Darkrai variants.

terrakion-noble-victories-nvi-73Sitting in our hotel room Friday night Andy Wieman tells me he is playing Darkrai/Terrakion without Hammers. I laugh a little bit and ask him why he wants to play that. He asks me what I expect to be the big decks and I tell him Blastoise/Keldeo and Speed Darkrai and I also expected an increase in .

The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I hated Blastoise mirror because of the huge luck factor and lack of skill, I felt like Speed Darkrai was a favorite over Blastoise, and the Garbodor matchup was even worse for the turtle.

On the other hand I felt like Darkrai/Terrakion had a slight edge over Blastoise/Keldeo, the Terrakion gave you the edge against Speed Darkrai, and Garbodor was a solid matchup with a quick Darkrai.

It didn’t take much convincing for me not to play Hammers either, as I felt they hurt consistency and did little against the two biggest decks (Blastoise and Darkrai). I instead opted to play cards that I felt would give me advantages in these matchups like Dark Claw and a 4th Fighting Energy.

I’ll admit I just copied Andy’s deck list (to be fair, I believe his list was based heavily off the one I posted in my last UG article). I didn’t feel good about many of his card choices, but not feeling any better with my own I decided to just roll with it. I felt like I knew Darkrai extremely well, but I did ZERO testing with this exact list before the tournament.

Pokémon – 9

3 Sableye DEX
3 Darknessrai-EX
2 Terrakion NVI
1 Mewtwo-EX

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Bianca
3 Skyla

 

4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Energy Switch
4 Dark Patch
3 Ultra Ball
2 Dark Claw
2 Eviolite
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Max Potion
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Energy Search

1 Computer Search

Energy – 13

9 Darkness
4 Fighting

Swiss Results – 390 Masters, 9 Rounds, Top 32 Cut

Round 1 – RayEels – W
Round 2 – Mewtwo/Eels – W
Round 3 – RayEels – W
Round 4 – RayEels – W
Round 5 – RayEels – L
Round 6 – Darkrai/Hydreigon – L
Round 7 – Landorus/Mewtwo/Kyurem/Garbodor – W
Round 8 – Landorus/Mewtwo/Sigilyph – W
Round 9 – RayEels – W

My Round 2 Match via The Top Cut

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nA4otxzoSA

Despite Darkrai testing extremely consistently for me early in my Cities testing, I believe Round 2 was the only game I actually got a T2 Night Spear. Perhaps had I done more testing I would have realized its inability to get a quick start before the tournament.

There not much else to say besides it is what it is; I took a huge gamble playing a list I didn’t test and didn’t get bit by it as much as I probably should have.

Top 32 vs. Ty Smith with Blastoise/Keldeo/Kyogre/Sigilyph

Game 1 – W
Game 2 – L
Game 3 – W

Games 1 and Game 3 played out almost exactly the same with Ty getting incredible starts with T2 Blastoise and me starting slower with T3/T4 Night Spear. However, in both games Ty whiffs hard in the mid game when the odds are in his favor to allow me to make comebacks.

For example, in Game 1 Ty Junipers for 7 and needs to hit either 2 Water Energy or 1 Water Energy and 1 Catcher to essentially win the game and he misses on both.

Top 16 vs. Dan Richards with Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion/Garbodor

Going into this matchup I knew it would come down to a couple of things, mainly his opening Pokémon and ability to get Landorus active T1/T2 and if I hit T2 Darkrai EX.

Game 1

He opens Landorus-EX, goes first, and I get a T3/T4 Night Spear.

0-1

Game 2

He opens Terrakion with me going first and hitting a T3 Night Spear. This game went much better for me. The turning point is when Prizes are 1-2 my lead, and I N him to 2. I hit his active Terrakion for 90, at this point he needs Switch to stay alive, Switch/Energy to attack, and Switch/Energy/Catcher to win via my benched Mewtwo EX.

With his 3 cards he goes, Switch, Energy, Juniper… and hits the Computer Search for his last Catcher and the game.

0-2

I was a little bummed, as had he wiffed on the N I would have pushed it to a Game 3, but he had quite a few outs Supporter-wise for me to be too bitter about it. Dan is a great player and great guy so I can’t hate too much. He ended up finishing in the Top 4.

Finding Success at States

A part of me always feels arrogant writing sections like this about how to do well at major events. I’m always afraid that I come across as cocky or narrow-minded sounding like my way is the only way. This is however the farthest thing from the truth, so please keep that in mind when you’re reading this.

jason klaczynskipojo.com

When I was a young player I always looked up to Jason Klaczynski and would diligently read anything that he wrote and could get my hands on.

While I loved reading about his decks, the articles I always found the most fascinating were the ones where he discussed his thought process behind building his decks and how he prepared for major events. By writing sections like this with my own experiences, I hope you find it as interesting and helpful as I found reading Jason’s.

In the past I have always been fortunate to have done well at State Championships and that is something I hope to continue this year. Since 2007 I have played in 12 State Championships, including tough fierce meta areas like Illinois and Wisconsin.

Out of those 12 I’ve won 7-of them, finished 2nd at 3 more (scooping the finals of one to go to one of my best friend’s wedding), T4’d at another, and T8’d to finish it out. I surely saw my fair share of lucky breaks; however over the years I’ve also picked up a number of little tricks that I’ve found really helped me at States.

In this section I want to break down some of my tips and tricks into two parts. First I’ll discuss analyzing the metagame, making the right deck choice, and then building your list. In the second section I’ll talk about preparing and testing correctly for a States level tournament.

Deck Building for States

deck buildingwchfh.orgEach year before States a brand new set is released which usually shakes up the metagame dramatically. I feel like a majority of the player base simply isn’t experienced at deck building without have a strong blueprint to follow. I see a lot of players attempt to copy a list they see online or watch through videos on The Top Cut.

We see this a lot during Cities when early on in the format players have a solid concept of what decks should look like, but their lists are far from what they should be. As the metagame develops and more information becomes available, lists become considerably better.

I had multiple people come up to me and tell me that they had Kyle Sucevich’s Ho-Oh list simply by watching videos of him playing on TTC. This is information they only had in mid to late Cities and not in the beginning. With States only being 3 consecutive weekends there is simply not enough time to have this information fully passed around.

This forces many players to go into State level tournaments without having that strong blueprint to build their decks upon. Those players who do have a strong grasp on deck building have a decisive edge.

Over the years I have developed some “principals,” if you will, that I follow when building and designing new decks. Over the years of playing this game I’ve certainly had my fair share of failures building decks, but that has also helped me to refine my process.

Tip #1 – I think outside the box, but I don’t force originality.

Developing a deck for States usually involves A LOT of reading online. I’ll go to nearly every source I can think of and see what other people think of the new cards and how they are incorporating them into their decks and building new ones.

I might spend several weeks just reading online before I even start to write a list. Doing so much reading not only gives me ideas, but it also helps me to get a feel for what other players are thinking and how the metagame is developing. This is made considerably easier with sites like SixPrizes where the authors go into deep explanation on their thoughts of decks, metagames, and card choices.

The biggest mistake I feels players make is they go online and copy a list and only make minor changes without really understanding the deck, the player who built the deck, or their reasons behind them.

smeargle-undaunted-ud-8pokemon-paradijs.comOftentimes I’ll look at a list and love certain ideas while hating the list as a whole. For example last year Tom Hall did exceptionally well at the ECC with a Mewtwo/Zekrom/Eels deck with Smeargle UD. I was lucky enough to get to see Tom’s list and I honestly didn’t like a lot of his card choices despite loving the idea of Smeargle.

I took the Smeargle idea and developed the rest of my list around that idea. In the end my list ended up being considerably different than Tom’s.

This is basically how I feel when I see people simply copy a Japanese list. They usually either play the list almost unchanged, assuming there is no room for improvement, or remove key cards from the deck making the list weaker.

When looking at a list online there are a lot of questions I ask myself. “Whose list is it?” “What makes them credible?” “What success has this list had?” All of these questions help me to know how seriously I should take the deck.

When modifying a list you found online it’s very important to understand why a player played certain cards and why they chose to run the number of copies of a card that they did. By understanding which cards Tom Hall ran because of Smeargle, I had a better idea of how to incorporate Smeargle into my own list.

I try very hard to make every deck I build my own and original, but at the same time I absolutely look at other lists and players for inspiration.

Tip #2 – I’m realistic.

What I mean when I say I’m realistic is I don’t try to force something to be good when it’s not. The question I always ask myself is “Is this deck good or do I just want this deck to be good?”

I could spend hours trying to make Vileplume BCR a Tier 1 deck and it’s simply not going to happen. The deck is a slow Stage 2 deck and there isn’t enough reward when you set Vileplume up for such a fast and aggressive format.

Instead what I do is I look at cards that I know I have strong potential for being a Tier 1 deck and then a a deck around them. For example last year heading into States all of the hype was around Mewtwo EX. I knew I wanted a consistent deck that could pump Mewtwo out whenever I needed it.

This left me with two deck options: a CMT variant or an Eelektrik variant. I opted to go with an Eelektrik variant because I felt it was less susceptible to a late game N.

I ended up with a very successful build only because I played strong cards. This seems very obvious, but it can be a challenge when building new decks, especially rogue ones.

Tip #3 – I build my list with consistency being key.

Heading into States each year I realize a lot of player’s decks aren’t perfect and some players play decks that are what I would consider “too far” outside of the box. By simply making my deck straightforward and consistent I’m able to win many matchups (including bad matchups) against more teched out decks.

When I’m playing in a tournament I focus on each individual game, however when I’m building a deck for a tournament I focus on the tournament as a whole. I want my deck to be well-rounded, giving me a chance against any deck.

What I find is the more I tech for one matchup, the weaker I make another. I’m perfectly fine having no good matchups as long as I don’t have any bad matchups either.

Right now the minimum number of Supporters I have in any deck is 14. This number doesn’t include Computer Search, or in the case of decks like Blastoise, Tropical Beach. To some players this may seem high, but this is the number I have had the most success with balancing consistency and techs.

My Magic Numbers

When building my lists here is a quick overview of how I decide how many copies of a card to run.

4 Copies

ultra-ball-dark-explorers-dex-102pokemon-paradijs.com

I play 4 copies of a card when it’s important for me to see the card in the opening hand. Good examples of this are Ultra Ball, Rare Candy, Professor Juniper, and Skyla.

Normally “techs” don’t make the 4 copies slot unless I feel they will make a dramatic change on the game. Namely I’m referring to Pokémon Catcher, and Energy Retrieval is another good example.

These are both certainly cards I don’t want to see in the opening hand, but have such a dramatic impact on the game once I get set up it’s important to run 4 copies.

When you see 4 copies of a Pokémon in the lineup it’s due to one of a few different reasons.

  1. The deck wants to start with it.
  2. It’s a main attacker and the deck can’t risk playing 3 and prizing a copy (Darkrai EX for example).
  3. It’s a major support card the deck can’t do without and a combination of not being able to prize a copy and the fear of a copy getting KO’d early forces the deck to run 4 (Squirtle is a great example).

3 Copies

I play 3 copies of a card when it’s an important card in the course of a game, and I want to see it frequently, but it isn’t essential for me to have it in my opening hand.

This spot is a little bit harder to give examples for because what deserves 4 spots and what deserves 3 might differ by player, deck, and most importantly deck space. Some examples though would be PlusPower, Hypnotoxic Laser, Switch, and Eviolite.

You also see 3 spots a lot in the Pokémon lineup where a player would love to play 4 copies and hopefully open with the Pokémon, but is forced to go down to 3 spots simply for room. Great examples of this are Sableye this year and Smeargle from Nationals and Worlds last year.

2 Copies

max-potion-emerging-powers-epo-94pokemon-paradijs.comWhen I’m only playing 2 copies of a card it is most certainly a tech and in many cases I prefer the card to be searchable. In my mind the only difference between teching 2 copies of a card and teching 1 copy of a card is I could realistically see myself using both copies over the course of a game.

However, at only 2 copies the card is nowhere near essential and the deck could go entire games without ever seeing it.

Examples of “2-of” tech cards I’ve used this year would be Enhanced Hammer, Max Potion, and Energy Switch.

Note – Tech cards are very meta dependent and could very easily change from tournament to tournament.

Unlike Trainers, when it comes to Pokémon, “2-of”s are very common and not just reserved for techs. I run 2 copies of Pokémon that I would like to run more copies of, but simply don’t have the room. I find them to be main attackers, but not my only attackers.

In the case of EXs if my opponent KOs both of my copies they will have taken 4 Prizes, which is a majority of the game.

1 Copy

When I’m playing 1 copy of a card, in almost every case the card has to be searchable. Receiving Skyla in Boundaries Crossed was a real blessing when it comes to deck building. Almost immediately all of my decks started popping up with a slew of “1-of” in the Trainer lineup. The most common ones for me are Max Potion, Energy Search, Potion, Escape Rope, Bicycle, and Enhanced Hammer.

They are all very powerful cards, however they are also highly situational. By playing a high Skyla count I can get away with playing single copies of them and only searching them out when they will be of the most use.

Note – If you’re only playing 1 copy of a card, your deck shouldn’t crumble if you prize it. An example of this is you’re not going to play 1 copy of Rare Candy in a Blastoise deck.

When it comes to Pokémon, I normally play only 1 copy of a card when it’s a very situational attacker or a tech against a certain deck. The card isn’t important enough for the deck to run more copies, but I make sure I’m easily able to search it out when I need to.

Testing, Testing, Testing

kid student testingMark A. HicksTesting for large events is considerably more important than testing for smaller level events. Large events are much bigger and more competitive than small events and the prizes are much larger.

If you do poorly at a Battle Roads it’s really not that big of a deal as the prizes are small and you have quite a few other chances to play in BRs. Large events like States on the other hand happen very infrequently, so it’s important to do well because there aren’t any second chances.

With the exception of Nationals and Worlds, the only player that I test with is my brother. I will talk and share lists with players in different areas of the country, but I keep my testing close to home. I do this because I don’t want to share and leak information with somebody I have a strong chance of playing against.

Whenever I’m testing my deck for a tournament, I’m playing what I feel is the best deck in the format. Anybody I test with will also know my list, my deck’s strategy, and how I play the deck. When I used to test more openly it wasn’t uncommon to go to tournaments and play against players who were playing decks and techs similar to me. They would also know my counts on certain cards, which would put me at a disadvantage.

I know a lot of people disagree with me on this and do a lot more open testing, such as the St. Louis players who from my understanding do a lot of open testing days at Yeti. Despite doing such open testing, many of them find a lot of success, even at smaller local events.

There is a lot to be said about more open testing as it allows you to play against a wider range of players, skill levels, and types of decks. Being exposed to a larger pool of decks also helps you to see more creativity and in turn could help you build your own.

My personal preference is just to keep my testing group small.

I Want Us to Win

In testing it’s very important not to hold anything back. It’s important that you want whomever you’re testing with to do well, and they need to feel the same way about you.

When I walk into a tournament with my brother, my thought isn’t “I want to win today,” rather it’s “I want one of us to win today.” In my mind me winning and him winning are the exact same thing. I feel this thinking is what allows us both to improve so much in testing.

In the past if I was testing against people I didn’t care how they did, I found myself not pointing out misplays, offering deck advice, discussing strategy with them, etc… and they were doing the same with me. In a way this was holding us both back and we both got less out of this testing.

As I discussed earlier, I’ll do a lot of reading before I even start to physically put a deck together. All this reading allows me to form what I believe the metagame is going to be in my head. Normally this revolves around 4-6 decks, depending on the format.

While it’s highly unlikely I’ll only encounter these 4-6 decks at States, my testing time is fleeting and it’s important for me to focus on what I believe to be the top-decks. I don’t want to waste my time building and testing against decks that I’ll probably never see.

These are the decks I have built this year:

  1. Darkrai
  2. RayEels
  3. Blastoise
  4. Garbodor
  5. Klinklang
  6. Mewtwo/Eels

Once I have the decks built I usually have a general idea of what I’m thinking is the best play, but this gets shaken around a lot after testing.

Once I start narrowing my deck choices down to 1 or 2 decks I’ll build a double of the deck to help test mirror. I prefer decks that have a skill based mirror match, especially if I feel mirror could be common.

Also once I have my deck choices narrowed down I’ll start to really work on improving and teching them the way I want. The rest of the decks however, I leave as standard as possible because I feel this is the most representative of the version I would encounter at States.

If I’m testing against a very rogue or teched out version I might get into a mindset of playing differently against the deck than I should.

While Testing…

1. Track Your Results

arthur writesI’ll keep a notebook and keep track of the deck I’m playing and my win/loss record against different decks. The most accurate way we have found of figuring the odds of matchup is for me to play the deck for 5 games (for example I’ll play Darkrai 5 games, while my brother plays RayEels for 5 games) and then we’ll switch and play 5 more games.

For the most part our records are pretty similar to each other. By each of us playing 5 games with each deck we play enough games to get an accurate read on the matchup and account for playering ability (perhaps my brother is better at playing RayEels than me, or vice versa).

I’ll be honest and say I only take extremely detailed notes around Nationals and Worlds. In the past though I’ve found the information extremely helpful in testing.

2. Take Back Plays

When we test we’ll allow each other to take back plays all the time. The entire point of testing is to get better and you want the game to be the best it can be. In a tournament you have to assume that your opponent isn’t going to misplay. By allowing your testing partner to take back plays your testing results won’t be skewed by one deck winning only do to a misplay.

However, a few days before the actual tournaments we won’t allow the other person to take a move back. In a tournament misplays will inevitably happen. It’s important to get used to recognizing when you misplay and adapting your game plan accordingly. It’s also far better to lose games in testing due to a misplay than to lose a game in a tournament.

3. Play Timed Games

time-capsule-neo-genesis-90pokemon-paradijs.comRarely ever do games go to time nowadays, but I still do most of my testing with 30+3 or 60+3 time limits. If I’m playing a deck I feel has a tough time finishing by the end of the round I’ll actually play timed games with less time such as 25+3 and 45+3.

This gets me in a better habit of playing the deck faster and takes into consideration an opponent trying to stall me out.

4. Call Out Your Testing Partner on Misplays

Basically if one of us thinks the other made a misplay we’ll stop the game and ask them about it. By getting the other person to verbally defend why they made the move (or realize it was misplay) helps both of us to improve.

5. Switch Card Counts

As I discussed earlier one of the downsides of having such a small testing group is we very easily get accustomed to each other’s lists and play accordingly. “Oh, all 3-of your PlusPowers are in the discard, now I know you can’t get the KO.” To avoid this we switch up certain card count or techs without telling the other player.

This helps to keep things fresh and avoid getting overly comfortable with one list.

6. Test Online

I personally don’t like testing online as it doesn’t feel “real” to me and I opt to do all of my testing in person. That being said though, testing online is a great resource especially if you don’t have testing partners readily available.

Most players seem to prefer to use PlayTCG. The program isn’t always user friendly and takes some getting used to, but if you’re serious about testing online you’re really going to want to take the time to learn it.

Time for Lists…

Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem EX

In my opinion this is the strongest and best variation of Blastoise to run currently. In my testing the best way to run this variation is straightforward with no techs. Being a Stage 2 deck it’s already slower than most Basic decks and it’s important to get set up before falling too far behind in prizes.

I want to start discussing the deck by sharing my list that I’m currently testing.

Pokémon – 12

4 Squirtle BCR
3 Blastoise BCR
2 Keldeo-EX
2 Black Kyurem-EX PLS
1 Mewtwo-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 Skyla
3 N
2 Colress
1 Cilan

 

4 Ultra Ball
4 Rare Candy
3 Energy Retrieval
3 Pokémon Catcher
1 Super Rod
1 Level Ball
1 Heavy Ball
1 Tool Scrapper

1 Computer Search

 

2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 13

11 Water
2 Lightning

Ironically the list is very similar to what we saw at Regionals despite the deck having a dramatically different focus. During Cities I built my deck with a very simple focus of dumping a whole bunch of energy on Keldeo EX and simply over powering the opponent.

In testing I’ve found the focus of the deck has heavily switched to that of using Black Kyurem EX to KO EX Pokémon while Keldeo-EX is more reserved for KOing non-EXs to avoid discarding the energy and getting out of Poison/Sleep from Hypnotoxic Laser.

As you can see in the Pokémon lineup I focus much less on Keldeo-EX and Mewtwo EX and only play 2 copies and 1 copy respectfully. They just simply aren’t as useful of attackers as they used to be.

Key Card Choices

2 Keldeo-EX

keldeo ex boundaries crossed bcr 142pokemon-paradijs.comI still like to play 2 Keldeo-EX because it’s important to have attackers that aren’t a consistent energy drain like Black Kyurem EX is. You don’t really want to be in a situation where you have to discard 3 energy to KO a Squirtle or something else small.

However, the main reason I feel it’s important to run at least 2 Keldeo-EX is because “Rush In” is such a huge Ability for the deck to have access to.

By only playing 1 copy there is too great of a chance it will be prized or you won’t have access to it when you need to get out of Poison/Sleep or need it as an attacker. On the other hand 3 copies is simply too many for Pokémon that is no longer the main focus of the deck.

1 Mewtwo EX

Originally I didn’t even run Mewtwo EX in my list, but I added it back into the deck for several reasons. First, in this format it’s very easy to donk a Squirtle, so I really wanted to run more Basics.

Secondly, while Black Kyurem EX is an answer to opposing Mewtwo EX, it’s not a simple answer with such a large energy investment. Running my own Mewtwo EX offered me a quick and simple out with less of an investment.

2 Colress

Along with Black Kyurem EX, I feel Colress really did a lot to support Blastoise heading into the States format. Many times I found myself in situations where I needed to draw into several cards to secure a KO. In the mid and late stages of the game it’s not uncommon to get to draw between 6 and 10 cards with Colress. In testing I found this to be a high percentage of my deck and gave me considerably better odds of hitting my “outs” than any other Supporter.

This is ultimately why I decided to drop down to 3 N’s and up my Colress count from 1 copy to 2. I further support this decision by running 6 “balls” which I’ll discuss shortly.

3 Pokémon Catcher

During the Cities format I started off by playing 3, but very quickly after a couple of tournaments I upped it back to 4 and never looked back. For States however, I feel 3 is once again the right call due to the fact that games are much faster.

With decks being so EX-heavy, taking “key knockouts” becomes less important and my game plan is to win simply by taking 3 KO’s against 3 EX Pokémon. Many times my opponent will be attacking with these EX Pokémon and Catcher becomes less relevant.

4 Ultra Ball/1 Heavy Ball/1 Level Ball

level ball next destinies nde 89pokemon-paradijs.comThis is something I discussed and considered during Cities, but I never could find the room for. Heading into the States format consistency is everything for me and I love the options playing 6 Balls gives me. Turn 1 I have 5 outs to search out Squirtle, then on Turn 2 I have 5 outs to search out Blastoise.

The 6 Balls also makes it easier to burn my hand down for larger draws with Tropical Beach. It’s also much easier to fill my bench making it less likely Colress will be a dead card, even in the opening hand.

3 Energy Retrieval/1 Super Rod

The debate I keep having is if I should go 3 Retrieval and 1 Super Rod or simply just play 4 Energy Retrieval. Right now the 3/1 split is winning out in my mind, but only slightly. In all honesty 4 Retrieval might be the better play and certainly stronger in the late game.

However, the 1 Super Rod makes me feel a lot safer playing the deck by giving me outs to Squirtles being KO’d early game or being forced to discard Blastoise early with Juniper or Ultra Ball.

1 Tool Scrapper

With Black Kyurem EX being able to 200 damage, Tool Scrapper has very little use outside of the Garbodor matchup. Heading into States I’m honestly not sure how popular Garbodor will be. Right now I’m running a single copy, however if Garbodor is not an issue then it will get dropped.

11 Water/2 Lightning

Through testing I’ve found 11 Water and 2 Lightning Energy to be the right call. At times I’ve had issues finding a Lightning Energy when I need it, but it’s so important to have enough Water Energy to Deluge effectively.

Techs Options

Originally I wanted to do a whole section on different ways you could tech the deck to improve different matchups. However, the more I played the deck, in nearly matchup I found consistency having a greater impact than any techs I could come up with. Many of the techs and changes I’m going to discuss are small, thus having very little effect on the consistency of the deck.

+1 Victini NVI 15/+1 Fire Energy, -1 Mewtwo EX/-1 Water Energy

victini-noble-victories-nvi-15-no-watermarkpokemon-paradijs.comI feel 1 Victini, 1 Fire Energy, and 1 Super Rod almost single handily wins the Klinklang matchup. I’ve also considered dropping 1 Water Energy for 1 Energy Search to make the Fire Energy more searchable via Skyla.

+1 Black Kyurem EX, -1 Mewtwo EX

Against very aggressive Big Basic decks my game plan stays pretty consistent with Black Kyurem EX and I rarely use any other attackers. By only playing 2 I’ve found myself getting in issues if one is prized or KO’d early. However, with Super Rod these issues only occur rarely.

+1 Kyogre EX, -1 Mewtwo EX

This is something I saw Ty Smith tech into his deck at Regionals and I feel still has some merit at States. He teched a single copy in to use against Garbodor (allowing you to KO 2 Garbodors at 1 time) and Eels (letting you KO multiple Tynamos/Eelektriks at once).

I personally am not a huge fan of running Kyogre EX because I feel for the card to be useful the deck already has to be somewhat set up against Garbodor and it does next to nothing against RayEels later in the game.

Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Lugia EX

When I first saw the translation for Lugia EX I found myself like many players really buying into the hype. However, it seems like many people went with very heavily dedicated Team Plasma builds and found only moderate success.

Personally I just feel like there isn’t enough support to make a Team Plasma only deck. In the future with the release of additional support Team Plasma could very easily become the new SP, but were a long ways off from that right now.

I attempted a much different route to “break” Lugia EX when I built a Lugia EX/Blastoise hybrid deck. My goal was to have a deck that could function like a straight Blastoise/Keldeo-EX deck, but with the ability to drop Lugia EX simply out of know where to end a game.

Before I talk about the deck too much I want to start with my list.

Pokémon – 12

4 Squirtle BCR
3 Blastoise BCR
2 Keldeo-EX
2 Lugia-EX
1 Articuno-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 Skyla
3 Colress
2 N

 

4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Rare Candy
4 Energy Retrieval
4 Ultra Ball
1 Level Ball

1 Colress Machine
1 Computer Search

 

2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 14

10 Water
4 Plasma

Strategy

lugia ex plasma storm pls 108pokemon-paradijs.comThe main idea of the deck is to use Keldeo-EX and Lugia EX as the main attackers and win games by only having to KO 2 or 3-of your opponents Pokémon while forcing them to KO a minimum of 3-of yours, and ideally 4. Lugia EX is great at picking off support Pokémon like Sableye and Eelektrik.

I run 1 copy of Articuno-EX to ideally allow the deck to auto-Paralyze a large EX Pokémon and then on the following turn retreat to Lugia EX to get a huge 3 Prizes. In this situation it forces the opponent to have a Switch to get out of it.

The deck doesn’t need the opponent not to have the Switch, it’s just nice when they have to burn a Skyla or Computer Search to go and get it (in which case you just need a Catcher on your following turn).

Articuno-EX also allows for some really nice “Hail Mary” plays at the end of a game.

Key Card Choices

3 Colress/2 N

This is one thing in the Supporter lineup I’m still testing. I’m sure I want a 3/2 split, I’m just not sure which way I want the 3/2 split to go. In the opening hand and the first and second turn I would prefer N hands down. Any time after that I want Colress as it nets me many more cards than N would.

When I was first building this deck I had 4 Ns and didn’t think twice about it, but the more I tested the deck the more I realized I had the wrong mindset. Limiting my opponent’s options isn’t as necessary for this deck as it is for others (Including standard Blastoise).

This is due to the fact I’m not trying to exchange Prizes with my opponent, I’m simply trying to take a couple of key KOs to win the game. This is why the large hand size is more important to help me draw into that Catcher, Plasma Energy, Colress Machine, Energy, etc. I need to score a KO.

4 Ultra Ball/1 Level Ball

As you can tell, unlike my other Blastoise list I’m not playing Heavy Ball here. I simply don’t believe that the ability to search out Blastoise alone is enough for me to warrant running the card in a list where space is incredibly tight.

1 Colress Machine

colress machine plasma storm pls 119pokemon-paradijs.comMost of the heavy Team Plasma builds I’ve seen run 3 to 4 copies of Colress Machine as a forum of energy acceleration. I only play 1 copy of Colress Machine for several reasons.

First, the deck already has energy acceleration in the form of Blastoise. Second, the deck is not a dedicated Team Plasma deck and runs only a streamline Team Plasma line up (2 Lugia EX, 1 Articuno-EX).

Third, room was too much of an issue, but by only playing 1 copy I do allow myself to search it out with Skyla when I need to find a Plasma Energy.

No Tool Scrapper

I’m gambling far more with this list than I was with the other one. Basically with this list I feel even with 1 Tool Scrapper I simply can’t win the Garbodor matchup, so I’m willing to chuck it up as loss and not tech for it.

Conclusion

Heading into States I feel Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem EX is easily one of the best (if not the best) Tier 1 decks in the format and is easily techable for different metagames. Regardless if you’re considering playing the deck or just want to be ready to play against it, hopefully after reading this article you’ll feel much more familiar with the deck.

I think I finally have my States journey all planned out and preparations made. I’ll be in Nebraska week 1, then it will be on to Wisconsin week 2, and finally it will be back home in Iowa for week 3.

As always I love to see everybody and put faces and names together, so if you see me around please come up and introduce yourself. From the sounds of it Adam has a special surprised planned, but I’ll let him discuss that himself when he’s ready.

Lastly if you enjoyed the article and found it a good read, then please rate the article +1. If for some reason you didn’t like this article or felt like it just wasn’t for you, please leave me some honest feedback on the forums of what you would like to see in the future.


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