Hello my legions, gather ‘round because today I have for you an extra special treat. I was sitting in my opulent Irish estate, petting my manicured Eevee and casually reading SixPrizes in front of a roaring fire.* I was considering topics for my next article when suddenly, a nostalgic thought popped into my mind.
If you have been around Pokémon for a good long while like I have, you probably remember the quality articles of PokéGym. Ahh… the first golden age of Pokémon related literature.
(*Only in my dreams, though I think I prefer my cat over an Eevee.)
If you haven’t been around since at least 2007, let me take a moment out of your day to enlighten you as to why I think these articles were so great.
Answer: They were typically written about one deck, only that deck, usually by a longtime player of that deck. They usually included lists (a given), other options for the lists, basic and advanced strategy, and most significantly, a deep and thorough analysis of the deck’s good and bad matchups.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think these newer style articles we do on SixPrizes are wonderful. I read all of them. As advertised, we do part of the testing for you. Testing is largely perfecting a list after all.
But doesn’t testing include weighing matchups and deciding what to play? My greatest problem when deciding what to play is not only predicting what my metagame is going to look like, but also how my deck stacks up against others.
I don’t know about everyone else, I can only speak for myself. I’m a perfectionist. I want to know what the ins and outs of my deck’s matchups are before I play against them in tournaments. So if I’m testing for you, my loyal reader, wouldn’t you want me to give you a thorough idea of what a deck’s matchups are like?
Of course you would.
I’d love to write an article about just one deck and cover all possible aspects of it (I really love it when my fellow writers do that), but seeing as it’s very close to States, I would be doing a disservice to anyone still undecided about their deck choice.
Instead, I’m going to put more of a focus on matchups than I might normally. Hopefully this style will help some of you get your minds around this unknown States metagame.
I’m going to offer you one last look at the big decks in the metagame and how they stack up against each other.
Colin’s article is an excellent pairing with mine this week. Together, we cover all the major decks aside from Darkrai, which I will be omitting. I feel like that deck has been pretty well covered by the other Underground writers and I also don’t have much experience with current versions. After all, the SixPrizes official writing guide does say to only mention matchups if I have significant experience with them.
By now, you should have a good idea of what these decks are and how they play so I’m going to focus less on that. To be honest, I’m not an overly innovative player. I do best by taking big decks, tweaking them, and switching between them often as the metagame requires me too. I really don’t have any rogue ideas you should be considering (especially this close to states).
This article is definitely geared toward anyone looking to perfect or choose an archetype deck for this weekend’s events.
I’m not going as in depth into the matchups as I would care to. I’m only one person, and as such I can’t know every deck like the back of my hand. But please, let me know if you like this kind of discussion in my articles, along with the usual card commentary of course.
With that long intro out of the way, I give you!…
I think Rayquaza/Eels is a very underrated deck choice for States. I’ve heard less talk about Rayeels in the metagame than I thought I would. I blame this on both Landorus and people just wanting to play something new. Blastoise and its new toys are frankly getting much more hype than this deck which has been around for close to a year now.
However, that’s not to say Rayeels isn’t a capable and powerful deck (if you’re willing to endure playing it). To be honest, I hate playing this deck, even though I’m considering it for States because of its good matchup against Blastoise.
The Initial List
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 33
Energy – 13
This is the base list I used to start with. I really don’t care that much for the baby Rayquaza anymore, and I would sooner play Zekrom for Tornadus EX or Victini for Klinklang. Rayquaza is just a terrible starter with the three Switch/Keldeo package as Keldeo is much less effective than Switch early game.
I became a fan of three Colress and four Level Ball as soon as I tried it in this deck. In this format, four Level Ball just isn’t enough. Four are needed for setup and for recovering from Hammerhead.
The one thing I really like out of my first list is everyone’s favorite Squirrel, and mine, Emolga. It really works well, especially with more Level Ball. I ended up cutting it for Victini-EX, (which I’ll get to in my more refined Rayeels list) but it could still go either way. Having a Pokémon with free retreat is nice when you just can’t get Skyarrow into play, and it’s an infinitely better Bench-sitter than Victini-EX.
It also has multiple uses against Eel’s long time foe: Landorus-EX. It helps get out more Tynamos than the opponent can handle and it creates a wall that they have to Catcher around to get any sort of Knock Out in one turn.
The New List
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 33
Energy – 13
pokemon-paradijs.comI really agree with Mark’s recent Eels list as well. Like he said, the 8 search cards let this deck keep up with the metagame’s focus on speed. The four Level Ball and two Super Rod really help you get out Tynamo on demand. Colress combos well with this strategy to get out more Basics faster and draw more cards.
Keldeo-EX is generally played in here because it effectively offers you a free way to switch your active Pokémon every turn. Keldeo feels a bit awkward, especially without Skyarrow Bridge in play. Maybe I’m just getting used to it.
Keldeo is not a Switch in this deck. While Switch feels like it does what I want more frequently than Keldeo, I find myself using Keldeo much more because I have greater access to it. Obviously it sits on the bench rather than being something I have to draw, making it a more consistent way of getting a Rayquaza out of the Active Spot. Overall, I’m still on the metaphorical fence about this card but I’m liking it more and more.
I’m going with Victini NVI over Rayquaza DRV in this build. Without four Switch, it becomes much harder and less desirable to retreat Ray if you start with it. Because this spot in the deck is devoted to a non-EX attacker, you want something that can do the most against Klinklang. Zekrom and Rayquaza just don’t cut it if they play Max Potion and Klinklang BLW (if they manage to set that all up along with Plasma Klinklang, by some miracle).
Sorry Klinklang fans, I’m just skeptical.
Just a disclaimer: Adam says to avoid discussing matchups if I don’t have extensive experience with a deck. Out of the three decks I’m talking about today, this one I’m most inexperienced with. I’m still new to it and I probably still have things to learn about the nuances of this deck’s matchups.
I’m going to do the best I can and I stand by my information wholeheartedly. I’ll be sure not to tell you anything but what I have learned in my own testing.
Let’s talk about this deck’s chances at States. Matchup wise, this is one of those decks that can beat anything. I definitely think Rayeels has been unjustly overshadowed by Blastoise/Black Kyurem decks. Rayeels really has become the “other” setup deck and has been pushed to the metagame’s back burner in favor of Blastoise.
While both decks are setup based and try to win the game through getting an unbeatable board position, they are especially different when it comes to matchups.
Both Eels and Blastoise can beat anything with the right setup, but Blastoise in particular has a huge type advantage over Landorus-EX decks in almost every way. I could waste your time explaining why, but if you’ve been reading the last few SixPrizes articles on Blastoise, you probably already know: much larger Energy to damage ratio, Water typing, Shell Shield, 200 damage, etc.
If you expect more Landorus decks than Blastoise decks, Eels is probably not the setup deck for you.
Eels obviously struggles against Landorus decks. Rayeel’s existence is an inherent uphill struggle when facing down Landorus in Hammerhead spam mode. If you’ve ever played Eels against a Landorus deck and lost, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Using Catcher and Hammerhead, they put damage around your board in such a way that denies you continuous Dynamotors. By doing this as late as turn 2, Landorus can lock the Eel player down, preventing them from getting off Dragon Burst until it is too late. This is an even bigger problem now that Hammerhead can Knock Out an Eel in one hit with Hypnotoxic Laser.
However, Eels has gotten a few new tools too.
Emolga is quite helpful to wall Landorus. Combined with two Super Rod, Call for Family can keep getting out Tynamo until the Landorus player misses a Catcher. From there, the Eel player can go wild with setup. Once Dragon Burst goes off, it’s tough to justify continuing to hit the Eels when Rayquaza is smashing a Landorus into the ground every turn.
Victini-EX is another out, but I’m still not sure if it’s worth the investment of 2 Prizes. When you play it down, you can assume that it’s going to get Knocked Out at some point. With its first attack, you can charge up a Rayquaza manually. In theory, this makes it hard to justify Knocking Out Eels with Landorus when there’s a Rayquaza ready to take out Landorus, with or without the Eels.
Another thing to note about this deck is the lack of Tool Scrapper. We all know it’s good against Garbodor, but it is also important for keeping 180 HP EXs within 1HKO range for Rayquaza EX. Four Energy is a lot to discard. If Landorus plays Eviolite, this can be a problem. The Eviolite allows them the extra turn to get more value out of a Landorus, at the expense of your Eels.
While most people aren’t investing in Eviolite right now, the card still an important factor to note in the Big Basics matchup.
Victini-EX is also an asset in the Garbodor matchup along with the cheapest attacker you have, V-create Victini. Garbodor is tough, but the ability to power up Rayquaza through Garbotoxin is pretty unheard of. V-create Victini is special in this matchup because it can attack for enough damage to Knock Out a Garbodor with only two energy.
In some cases, Knocking Out one Garbodor is enough to buy you one or two turns of Dynamotor. Sometimes that is all it takes to win.
Against Blastoise is where Rayeels really shines as a deck choice. Blastoise is inadequate when it faces another setup deck, as Blastoise is harder to set up than Eels, and Rayquaza EX can Knock Out Black Kyruem EX for the cost of a mere two energy, while Black Kyruem takes three to KO Rayquaza. Keldeo is also a poor attacker against Rayeels because it is a liability to get Knocked Out. Keldeo-EX just trades unfavorably with Rayquaza in the matchup. N is much better for Rayeels than Blastoise as well.
Out of all four of the big decks, Rayeels definitely has the best chance against the most popular nomination for BDIF, Blastoise.
Of course, Blastoise isn’t a cheap deck to make, so you have to consider how many people will actually build it over something like Landorus or Darkrai which are less expensive, both being much harder matchups for Rayeels.
The “Other” Eels
Another interesting Eels deck is Mewtwo/Eels. It was popular during Battle Roads and Cities but obviously fell out of favor as Rayeels and Blastoise took over.
This list is definitely the most rogue in this article. You probably aren’t very interested in trying to learn a brand new deck only a couple days before states but I figured I’d share what I think a good list would look like updated from my Battle Roads list.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a very easy deck to play which could win in a lower division, or in a metagame that doesn’t have very much Blastoise. Obviously it has a rough time against Black Kyurem because it doesn’t have Rayquaza. However, it can transform into an aggro Mewtwo deck, giving it a solid Garbodor matchup and a good chance against Landorus as well. Rayeels is stronger, but harder to play and less versatile.
Unfortunately the deck loses Skyarrow Bridge, which is why I chose to play 4 Switch over Keldeo-EX. In theory, Escape Rope could work as Switch card #5 instead of a 4th Catcher, but I haven’t tested that extensively.
This will probably be my default deck choice throughout States if I see nothing better to play. Like many others, I also feel like this deck is as close to the best in format as we can get right now. It was great coming out of Cities, but as you undoubtedly already know, Black Kyurem EX just puts this deck over the top.
This deck I have tested extensively for two months and I can say I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Blastoise’s matchups. Feel free to disagree in the Underground forum.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 34
Energy – 14
Some card choice explanations:
I know a lot of people are raving about Cilan, but I honestly don’t like it that much. I’d much rather another Energy Retrieval, but then again I play three Lightning to compensate for this. I occasionally get into a position where I have only a couple Energy left in my deck. Those are the times I miss the 4th Energy Retrieval. Even though Super Rod helps make up for the 4th, I like the immediate access to Energy that Retrieval offers.
Early game, Cilan is extremely powerful to help load up a fast Keldeo. However only having one in your deck makes it unreliable for this purpose. Also, because Cilan is a Supporter, using Skyla to get Cilan isn’t really a great option.
pokemon-paradijs.comSpeaking of single copies of cards, Max Potion and Tool Scrapper are great. Personally, I’d play Tool Scrapper week one of States just because of the wide open metagame, as one Tool Scrapper is enough against Garbodor. Just remember use it at the most opportune time.
One turn of Abilities midgame is all you need to load up a Keldeo or two and just win, especially if the opponent is heavily reliant on Landorus as a main attacker (as many builds I’ve seen are due to their inability to fit enough Stadiums for Tornadus to be efficient).
This list is definitely more about getting a Kyurem up and riding it to victory than it is about using Secret Sword and X Ball for its main source of damage. I often use Keldeo early game to take my first Prizes and by then, I usually have no problem finding a L Energy.
People may not care for three Skyla. If you are one of them, I’d keep it simple and take out the Bianca for one. Bianca is just in there out of my preference for more consistency. Bianca does clash with Tropical Beach though, so I’d only play one at most. Four Skyla is a perfectly reasonable choice, but I just like giving the lists I have tested with most, though my choices might not necessarily be what is best for you or most popular. There’s no substitute for your own testing.
I feel like two Colress is reasonable in a list like this. Four N helps early game consistency as well as having 15 consistency cards that are good on the first or second turn (17, minus the two Colress).
As far as matchups go, I think Blastoise is one of the most well rounded decks available for States. A lot of good players are attracted to decks like these, due to the player’s skill often pushing the relatively even matchups over the top.
Landorus based decks are a clear advantage for you unless they have some sort of alternate game plan. As a result, Mewtwo is in this list for any deck that tries to X Ball you. I’ve noticed a lot of Big Basics lists have been using Mewtwo as a main attacker to cover the weakness of Landorus. With Black Kyurem and Mewtwo, you should be able to handle this and come out on top.
When playing Big Basic decks (Darkrai too), your worst enemy is yourself. If you fail to set up, these faster decks will mow you into the ground. It’s no secret Blastoise is slow. Of course, if you do defy the odds and get Blastoise online before Darkrai starts attacking, you can easily get to a point where it is hard to lose.
A few times I’ve set up Black Kyurem against Darkrai I’ve taken 6 Prizes in 3 turns. When the setups are equal, Blastoise still has the edge. A turn of Night Spear can be easily compensated for by Black Ballista-ing a Darkrai in the face.
It’s hard to give the advice to help somebody get better at setting up. Things happen: you start with no Supporters, you eat a Night Spear turn 1, etc. Set the deck up and hope things go well. I put four N and 17 total consistency cards in here to try to ensure the setup.
Setting up poorly can ruin any game, so I obviously tried to make that as unlikely as possible in this list.
Klinklang is the real problem matchup for Blastoise. The easiest version to beat is any Klinklang that doesn’t use the Shift Gear/Max Potion combo. I’d use Blastoise to 2-shot any attacker and win by pitting my non-EX Blastoise versus their army of assorted Metal Pokémon.
Obviously, if they do play Shift Gear Klinklang the matchup becomes more difficult, even to the point of it being unwinnable without a Fire type tech such as Moltres NXD if they manage to get both Klinklang online. Without being able to do damage with EXs, the only option this list has is Blastoise which becomes a weak attacker if your opponent uses Max Potion.
If I was asked to hand someone a deck that is reliable enough to win the majority of rounds at a tournament, It would probably be this one. It has no unwinnable matchups and a few good ones, the rest being close to even or slightly favorable. Even Garbodor becomes very winnable with a Tool Scrapper tech.
Big Basics Update
This deck hasn’t changed much since Cities. Really, I’d endorse my lists included in my last article if there were some Lasers in there.
The big change here is the two Bouffalant. Terrakion no longer can effectively do its job as a Darkrai slayer due to Lasers and Dark Claw so I opted for two of these guys.
There is something to be said for having the most gangster of Pokémon run solo in here. But now I feel like you need some non-EX attacker beyond a single afro bull if you’re serious about having any shot at beating Klinklang.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comI’ve discovered Bouffalant to be an extremely good attacker against Blastoise decks, as Gold Breaker and Hypnotoxic Laser are very effective at threatening a Knock Out on any of Blastoise’s attackers, most significantly Black Kyurem EX.
While simply having two Keldeo-EX on the field can solve most Hypnotoxic Laser woes involving Keldeo, it’s not so easy to save Black Kyurem and still attack with Black Ballista. That requires two energy to retreat Keldeo after Rush In and three more to attack.
While sometimes Blastoise will pull this off and Kyurem will survive with 150, you still put a lot of pressure on your opponent, especially if you use N.
Plus, without Catcher, Kyurem is only taking 1 Prize off your Bouffant. If they chose to Knock Out something else Bouffalant lives to fight another turn. Having two just gives you a better chance to pull this off or even do it twice.
The Tool choice in this build might seem a little odd. Exp. Share is very efficient with Bouffalant though. Being able to charge up the Buffalo without investing more than one turn of attachments in it is fantastic. I actually like it more than Eviolite in this deck. If I were to play Eviolite, I would cut one tool and stick a 3rd Energy Switch in to compensate for having less Energy moving cards.
I chose to play heavier Landorus in here because in general, I think Landy is the better starter now. While Tornadus EX seems to promote earlier aggression, it is also much less consistent to attack on the first turn and very underwhelming late game comparatively, especially without Skyarrow Bridge.
This is really just an updated version of my old list. Not a lot has to change to keep it competitive though.
Darkrai is generally favorable. Landorus is much more effective against it than he used to be, as Hammerhead with Hypnotoxic Laser puts Darkrai EX in range of being Knocked Out by almost any attack in the deck. If they fail to free Darkrai from Poison, expect a very favorable Prize/attack trade. A 2HKO with Hammerhead is amazing for one Energy.
Even if they do move Darkrai, it’s still not a big deal, as Darkrai only needs to have another 30 damage put on it for you to score a knockout.
The Darkrai matchup is very straightforward and easy to win if it’s just Darkrai and Sableye you’re facing. The only time things get tricky is when you face a Darkrai/Bouffalant. Easy Buffalo can be tough for this build, because if one comes out swinging early game, Bouffalant pretty much forces you into an unfavorable Prize trade.
Mewtwo and a Laser is your best out for Bouffalant. Just don’t make the mistake of losing more than one EX to Buffalos if they play more than one. Remember to always be sure you have some way to 1HKO Bouffalant at any point in the mid to late game.
Blastoise is definitely a better matchup for this deck than most people think. It’s close to favorable if you use Bouffalant and N correctly. However, there is definitely a great deal of luck in this matchup. If betting was legal in Pokémon TCG, I wouldn’t bet either way even though most people seem to agree Blastoise has the advantage.
For more on this type of deck, refer back to my last article titled “My 100 CP Cities Lists”. Most of the strategy there is still relevant. The lists are all good too, just add one cup of ground Hypnotoxic Laser (4 in fact, also Aspertia becomes Virbank) to make them fresh again.
Big Basics is the other thing I’m considering (along with Eels and Blastoise) for the first weekend. It’s consistent, powerful, and hard to tech for. If I want to play a deck revolving around Basic Pokémon, I would prefer some sort of Landorus variant over Darkrai.
Big Basics seems like it starts making more relevant plays a lot quicker and much more often. Landorus-EX gives the deck far more options than just spamming Night Spear to win a game. Having strong attacks with low and high Energy requirements give a nice “curve” to the deck’s game plan (starting with low powered attacks and working up, similar to the mana curve in Magic).
As much as I have always liked Darkrai, I don’t think it commands the respect it once did. While Hypnotoxic Laser gives a Darkrai a brand new staple to set up Night Spear knockouts, I feel that while Darkrai is powerful and consistent, its matchups are a bit TOO even.
It has no real way to sway games that run long, especially against Eels and Blastoise which obviously overpower Darkrai once they get rolling. I feel like Big Basics is every bit as good as Darkrai is.
While you might not think this matters as long as you are finding a way to win, starting at a great one Energy Fighting attack is a great way to apply pressure as early as the first turn. What’s better is this almost always happens if you open with Landorus-EX and sometimes even if you don’t.
Every other deck in the format has to work up to attacking for big damage while Landorus starts spreading turn one at the earliest. Eels, Klinklang, and Blastoise need substantial setups. Darkrai’s setup phase is usually comparatively less smooth and a turn or two behind than that of Landorus.
So, now that we’ve compared and contrasted I’d like to give my final thoughts on each of the top decks.
The first deck I covered, Rayeels might be the riskiest play of them all. It could potentially be very powerful but its success is going to be dependent on what environment it is played in. It will struggle in a field of Landorus but it will thrive where setup decks are common. I think this deck will win a State somewhere, but it probably won’t be on the first weekend.
If Blastoise does well week one, week two might be the opportune time to bust this out. Play a fast, consistent list that is not easily broken by Landorus. I recommend either mine or Mark’s.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe next deck is Blastoise. I’d say this is probably going to win several States and become the best deck in format. It has no real flaws outside of its consistency issues. It can circumvent almost any defensive strategy with raw damage output. Along with the rise of Hypnotoxic Laser Black Kyurem EX is the other reason that Eviolite has seen a decline in play since Cities.
If you play Blastoise, make sure you know what you’re doing. You will probably run into more than one mirror match. The best advice for THAT matchup is building a consistent list. Not one that is just consistent to start but one that will not burn out late game. Black Kyurem is naturally taxing on your Energy resources.
Any Basic deck with Landorus-EX is bound to be a solid choice week one. The deck is naturally consistent so you have much more room to focus on techs.
Build your deck to deal with Blastoise and Klinklang. Include at least two non-EX attackers. I think Bouffalant is easily the best one right now. Log some last minute testing against a good Blastoise list if you haven’t tested extensively against it already.
If Blastoise isn’t big week one expect the number of Blastoise players to increase quite a bit by week two. This is a great choice in a metagame with slightly less Blastoise than average. If Blastoise does do as well as I think it will, consider making a deck change week two.
The last deck is Darkrai. I have tested it less than the other three but I have a solid opinion on it. Personally, I’m unsure as to how well this deck will do. I think it’s going to be a winner coming out of the first week but I’m unsure as to how successful it will be over all.
It’s definitely a great choice for anyone undecided who doesn’t know what to play or anyone who has neglected their testing. It’s not hard to win with a Darkrai deck, no offense to the Darkrai players; I was one for a long while.
You can build this in any number of ways. I’m a fan of Ray’s Bouffalant/Darkrai (can you tell I’m fond of the Buffalo yet?) and the straight Darkrai decks that focus less on Ether. Personally, I find the heavy Ether plan to be too radical compared to the more stable lists that prefer to Junk Hunt early before going big Night Spear.
You should familiarize yourself and prepare game plans for the top tier of the metagame before actually going into States. You will likely play against some or all of these decks at the first State you go to.
pokemon-paradijs.comI certainly hope I’ve helped you analyze the different options in the current metagame. Above all, be sure to play something you’re comfortable with. Matchups only matter if you know the deck you are playing as well as the deck you’re trying to beat.
I always recall a series of Cities I attended in 2008 when I was stuck between a few decks at the last minute. Eventually I switched to Gardevoir overnight when I had never played it before.
It was the best deck to play at the time, but I lost every mirror I played all day. It didn’t matter how good the deck was because I had no idea what I was doing.
Moral of the story is, unless the field is full of bad matchups, stick to what you know. Playing something you’re clueless about will only get you beaten by those who are prepared for you. Preparation is the key.
And may the flips be ever in your favor.
Also, let me know what you think of this article’s ambitious formatting. This is the first time I’ve tried covering matchups and they’re not quite as comprehensive as I’d like, but still informative. So tell me, did I do too much? Too little? I want to know how you think something like this could be improved. I’m begging you, if you’re going to down vote my little article, tell me why. It’s less heartbreaking that way.
Good luck at States!
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