squirtledogg.tumblr.comOne week of State Championships are in the books, and the results are kind of all over the place with a metagame that appears to be super diverse. No single deck was able to dominate the set of tournaments, and there are a host of surprise decks and techs that did well as well.
In this article, I am going to take a look at some of the decks that really popped out to me that got played at State Championships. I feel a lot of the Tier 1 stuff has been pretty well covered, so I will focus mostly on the rogue decks that popped up this past weekend as well as interesting uses of tech cards.
To end the article, I also am going to go over some key things I’ve noticed in being successful at the lower age divisions.
Table of Contents
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- Garbodor/Big Basics
- Dreaming of New Darkrai Decks
- Keldeo EX vs. Switch
- Finding Success in Juniors and Seniors
I don’t think it should come to much of a surprise that Rayquaza/Eelektrik won a State Championship. It actually won two of them, taking Pennsylvania and Arizona. It is simply the most well rounded deck in the format, along with Blastoise I think.
The strength of Rayquaza/Eelektrik in the current format is that it already plays R Energy which makes it very easy to tech in attackers for the Klinklang matchup without hurting its consistency like Blastoise must do to deal with that matchup.
Here is the list I have for my Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck at the current moment.
Pokémon – 16
4 Tynamo NVI 38
Trainers – 32
4 Professor Juniper
3 Ultra Ball
Energy – 12
pokemon-paradijs.comEmolga DRX has really been the star in testing this deck against Big Basic decks. It thins out your deck from the get go, allowing you to use your search cards for getting out Eelektrik instead of Tynamo for the most part, and it also fills up your bench for a strong turn 2 Colress.
In the Big Basics matchup, you’re able to just keep using Super Rod to put Tynamo back into your deck until you have run your opponent out of Pokémon Catcher and they can no longer harass your Eelektrik’s continuously.
I think the deck is positioned well to be one of the best to deal with the Hypnotoxic Laser craze as well. With 4 Switch cards, you have an out most of the time for when your opponent does flip heads on Hypnotoxic Laser. When they fail the flip or you wake up from sleep headed into your turn, you’re able to just retreat using Skyarrow Bridge into another one of your Rayquaza EX’s.
With a high Switch count, Tool Scrapper to remove any Dark Claw, and a counter stadium to bounce Virbank City Gym, Rayquaza/Eelektrik has a lot going for it in terms of messing with the Darkrai player’s strategy.
As far as tech attackers go, I chose to go with two Rayquaza and a Victini. Victini’s purpose is simple, it is there to 1HKO Klinklang and Cobalion-EX in the Plasmaklang matchup. You can choose to go without Victini and just deal with the deck with Rayquaza, but this might not be the best strategy if the Klinklang player happens to play a lot of Max Potion.
As far as Rayquaza goes, I think it’s very solid for this format. It can donk opposing Tynamo, and it 1HKOs Black Kyurem EX in the Blastoise matchup as well as Rayquaza EX in the mirror as a non-EX.
If you choose to cut the Victini and go at Klinklang with just Rayquaza, I would recommend either a second Tool Scrapper to help with the Garbodor matchup, or a Max Potion to heal off snipe damage for the Darkrai matchup.
Another interesting result coming in from Nebraska was its 3rd Place Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck, which managed to fit in Terrakion NVI.
Terrakion is still a great tech in this format, as it still 1HKOs Darkrai efficiently for two Energy, and then if they have no way to 1HKO it, it is only one Energy attachment away from taking out another Darkrai with Land Crush (and if they knockout something else, then you can just Retaliate them again).
Hypnotoxic Laser does negate Terrakion a little bit, as sometimes your opponent will Knock something Out with Poison damage, which doesn’t set off Retaliate, but a lot of the time they will still be Knocking Out Pokémon with their attack damage, which gives Terrakion a chance to shine.
This tech definitely adds a complexity to the Darkrai matchup, as you can set them up to be in a bad position. If they go for the knockout on something else, then you can just Retaliate again. If you get the second Energy, you can Land Crush them. If they go after Terrakion NVI, you always have the option of putting Energy on Rayquaza EX for the 1HKO as well.
I’m not actually sure what the player did to fit in Terrakion consistency wise. I assume he probably played Prism Energy, as that can be used on both Terrakion and Rayquaza EX, but I would be a little nervous using that as my Energy as Cobalion-EX can get rid of them with his first attack (if you use that to pay for Rayquaza EX or Victini’s R Energy requirement).
Garbodor DRX/Landorus-EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX
There was a clear cut best play for week one of State Championships, and that was this Big Basics Garbodor deck. The deck was pretty dominant in week one, winning four States – Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, and Illinois.
Colin ended up winning Nebraska with a Garbodor variant that popped up in full force at Winter Regional Championships that pairs Garbodor with Big Basic attackers to hit Darkrai and Eelektrik decks for Weakness, as well as pose potential donk threats on low HP Basic Pokémon. The biggest difference between these lists, and the lists from Winter Regionals is that these ones included Hypnotoxic Laser for increased damage output.
The biggest thing with Garbodor is that it is totally a metagame call. If players neglect to play 2+ Tool Scrapper (or one with Dowsing Machine), than they are going to end up in a near unwinnable matchup as soon as a Tool is attached to Garbodor.
Something interesting to note is that Darkrai decks in their current form no longer counter Garbodor decks very well. In the past, Darkrai decks have given Garbodor variants a lot of trouble, but in their current state they have little going for them to combat the current crop of Garbodor decks.
The reason for this matchup shift: Darkrai players have traded in their Hammers for Lasers. While I think Hypnotoxic Laser is the better choice against the metagame as a whole, it does weaken this particular matchup. In the past, the Darkrai player could just repeatedly Pokémon Catcher up the Garbodor, and hammer spam until their opponent was out of Energy. Without hammers, this is of course no longer a viable strategy.
My friend J.W. Kriewall also played this deck at Ohio States, finishing in the Top 8. In his Top 8 matchup, one of the uglier aspects about this deck popped up, and that is its donk liability. In his Top 8 matchup, he lost 1-2, with both of his losses being donks. Trubbish with its 60 HP and Psychic Weakness is a major liability for being donked in Big Basic and Garbodor mirror matchups, and can even be donked by Sableye DEX if the cards fall in order.
I’m not going to provide a decklist for this deck because there are plenty out there already. Colin has his list up on his blog that he won the tournament with, and he just did a very good Underground article on the deck last week.
Blastoise, Keldeo-EX, and Manaphy?
Ontario’s Provincial tournament is highlighted by the ingenious Blastoise deck built by Reed Mascola. The deck was filled with a ton of fun tech cards, and it was built quite a bit differently with its Supporter engine than I think most players went with Blastoise.
Reed posted his winning list onto the Heyfonte Pokémon group, so you can check it out in beautiful picture form there, but here is the text version of his list:
Pokémon – 14
4 Squirtle BCR
Trainers – 33
4 Professor Juniper
3 Ultra Ball
Energy – 13
The most interesting thing to me was the Supporter lineup he chose to play. He went with 4 Colress in his deck, which can be a very risky move, as starting Colress can equal a very dead start if you don’t have Tropical Beach in hand and no other Supporters with a small bench.
I think the reason it works is because he plays 10 other Supporters as well as 2 Tropical Beach, reducing the probability of only starting with Colress in hand.
I think lone Colress starts are unavoidable when you play 4, but if you play enough other options in that department, then the probability of it happening more than once in a large tournament are going to be low enough to get by.
He decided to play Black Kyurem in his build, which I am a fan of. Its Flash Freeze attack does 100 damage, and since it is a Dragon type, it is able to 1HKO Black Kyurem EX in the mirror, as well as Rayquaza EX against Rayquaza/Eelektrik, which should greatly improve that matchup.
In general, I think the Dragon Vault Kyurem is a superior card as it doesn’t discard the energy, and its first attack can 1HKO Rayquaza if you only get three Energy on it as well as not discarding any of its Energy with its second attack, but I think since Black Kyurem takes Lightning for its Energy requirement, and you already play L Energy for Black Kyurem EX.
The other really neat Pokémon in the deck is Manaphy. Its Seafaring attack costs one W Energy and lets you flip three coins, and for each heads attach a W Energy from your discard pile to one of your benched Pokémon. This gives the deck some potential Energy acceleration to its attackers under a Garbodor lock.
Additionally, it has an Ability called Last Wish, which lets you search your deck for any card when Manaphy is Knocked Out from damage from one of your opponent’s attacks. With this Ability you can force your opponent into unwinnable spots. They either Knock Out Manaphy and let you search your deck for the card that wins you the game or don’t attack it and give you an extra turn to get everything you need to win the game.
If your opponent Knocks Out Manaphy in the early game, you can search your deck to get Blastoise setup, or to search your deck for a Supporter card to get out of a dead hand.
He also chose to play Gold Potion as his ACE SPEC of choice. I prefer other cards in this slot, but Gold Potion is certainly strong once you do get setup. Erasing a turn of damage, while keeping all of your Energy on your Pokémon is still very strong.
pokemon-paradijs.comThe other surprise deck that did well at Ontario’s Provincial was Durant, which picked up a Top 4 spot in the tournament. Both Mark and I have covered the deck previously, and I still think it’s a very good deck; in fact, it’s on my short list of decks to play for State Championships.
The way I view Durant in this format is the next level of Quad Sigilyph. The deck aims at forcing your opponent to go through a lot of their deck to come up with a response for Knocking Out these Pokémon through the Safeguard, but what Durant does that Sigilyph didn’t is get rid of those resources early with Devour, and then punish your opponent if they get too aggressive in setting up a response by Devouring away the rest of their deck to win on the deck out win condition.
As most decks are still EX heavy, Durant can pose major problems for those decks as they have no efficient way of Knocking Out a Durant. There are still some metagame considerations I need to take into account in regard to this deck, but for the most part I am sold on this being my deck for States this weekend.
Dreaming of New Darkrai Decks
Oklahoma and Lousiana States are very important to note because of the creativity seen in the Darkrai builds that were played at this tournament. A Darkrai EX build with Victini-EX finished in first place, but two of the more interesting concepts are some of the Darkrai decks that didn’t make it past the Top 16.
Finishing first after Swiss was a Darkrai/Ninetales deck played by Kevin Murphy and in second was a Darkrai/Snorlax deck played by Mark Oliver.
Snorlax is a pretty cool tech for the Darkrai mirror match. In this type of deck, it is solely be used for its Block Ability, which prevents the Defending Pokémon from retreating. Locking up a Sableye, Keldeo-EX, or Darkrai EX which can’t really effectively attack is a good way to buy time for your setup.
The Darkrai/Ninetales deck is my absolute favorite played from this tournament. I have been working on getting a build together all weekend, and am pretty pleased with the results I have seen from the deck. I’m not quite sure what the lists played looked like, but here was what I came up with for the deck:
Pokémon – 10
3 Darkrai-EX DEX
Trainers – 38
4 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
Energy – 12
The reason I am a big fan of this deck concept is the number game that this deck is able to play. One big thing for me with decks is the number games that they play against the format, thus why I’ve played decks like Tyranitar Prime and Darkrai/Chandelure that exploited that worked to exploit the magic numbers that existed in their formats.
To further expand on this, here is what the deck is capable of doing damage wise:
With Darkrai EX, the deck is able to do 90 + 30 snipe with Night Spear. That goes up to 110 with Dark Claw attached, and 140 to the active with a Hypnotoxic Laser as well. This allows Darkrai to 1HKO Terrakion NVI and Blastoise, as well as a 170 HP EX after 30 snipe damage has been placed on that Pokémon.
With Victini NVI, V-Create is able to 1HKO all Metal Pokémon (save Registeel-EX in some rare circumstances), giving the deck a very hard counter to Klinklang decks. Additionally, with Hypnotoxic Laser, it can 1HKO a Terrakion NVI and any other 130 HP or less Pokémon, such as Zekrom, Reshiram, and Rayquaza DRX.
But the real star to me is the Ninetales. With Ninetales, there isn’t much point in discussing its damage output without Hypnotoxic Laser being in play, as otherwise Hexed Flame only does 20 damage. But with Hypnotoxic Laser in play, it does a bare minimum of 100 damage. If you flip heads for Sleep on the laser, then Ninetales does 150 damage effectively.
Why is this important? Because you are going to be placing 30 snipe damage with Darkrai EX, so when you do hit heads on the sleep flip, you’re able to do quick clean up work of 180 HP Pokémon-EX like opposing Darkrai EX, Black Kyurem EX, and Landorus-EX.
This versatility in attacking numbers really gives the deck strong matchups across most of the field. The only issue I’ve seen in working with this deck is that it doesn’t have a great answer against Landorus-EX decks, other than run extremely hot.
As far as the Victini-EX/Darkrai EX deck, I haven’t quite been able to crack the formula for the deck. I am just a little lost as to how the player was able to fit everything in it that a Victini-EX deck typically likes to have, as well as everything a Darkrai EX deck likes to have.
Victini-EX is undoubtedly one of the strongest first turn Energy accelerators in the game, but I have had difficulty coming to terms with finding great success with the card just because of how easy Darkrai EX and Keldeo-EX are able to 1HKO it. The idea obviously works well as the player who played it won the tournament, but as per how he built the deck, I am not too sure.
Typically what I have found in testing other Victini-EX variants, the deck should play 4 Skyla (as well as Energy Search to find the Firee Energy), a few Switch to get Victini-EX active on turn one, as well as Super Scoop Up to get Victini-EX off the field after its done its job.
This is what I would use as the starting point for the deck:
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 40
Energy – 12
As I said, I’m not very happy with this list, I just feel that sacrifices need to be made in too many places to fit everything I like to fit in both Victini-EX and Darkrai EX decks. On the Victini-EX side of things, I would like another Switch and another Super Scoop Up. On the Darkrai EX side of things, I would really want another Sableye DEX. To fit all of this stuff somewhere, space has to be cut either in consistency cards.
I will say I am a big fan of Victini-EX. Searching your deck for two Energy is very consistent Energy Acceleration, and it almost guarantees a turn 2 attack with Darkrai EX. Still, this deck just isn’t clicking for me, and I would guess the player who played this deck built in a bit different fashion.
Keldeo-EX vs. Switch
pokemon-paradijs.comOne thing that we have been moving toward in my testing group has been to get rid of Keldeo-EX from our Darkrai EX decks, as we have found it to be a major liability in the mirror.
The idea behind Keldeo-EX is that you have an automatic way to free yourself from the Poison and possible Sleep conditions brought on by Hypnotoxic Laser.
What we found was that yes, it could somewhat succeed in this role, but it ended up just being an easier 2 Prizes in the mirror match because of its 170 HP. With only 170 HP, after a single snipe from Night Spear, Keldeo-EX is in range for a knockout from a Dark Clawed Darkrai after a Hypnotoxic Laser has been played.
Instead of Keldeo-EX, we have opted to go with a few copies of Switch in the deck. The lists above are more teched out versions of Darkrai, but in a consistent Darkrai and Lasers build, there is a lot more room to play with to fit in 2-3 copies of Switch (as well as Scramble Switch, which has tested very strongly for us.)
With Switch, you are limited to only using it a few times a game, but a few times is all you really are going to need it, as a lot of times you can just retreat using Dark Cloak and then Energy Switch to another Darkrai EX and have it up and attacking.
Additionally, Garbodor saw a lot of play in week one, so the move from Keldeo-EX to Switch should help out a bit in that matchup as your deck will be less reliant on Abilities to function.
youtube.comThis deck managed to find its way into the Top 8 at Idaho States, finishing seventh in Swiss. The deck has gotten some new toys to play with from the new set in the form of Hypnotoxic Laser and Gallade.
I still think the way to build this deck is with Exp. Shares to transfer Energy to your benched Gothitelle to keep a steady stream coming.
Item lock can undeniably be a very strong presence in this format, as decks are very reliant on their Items to function. Darkrai decks are almost 2/3 Item cards, evolution decks really need their Rare Candy, and decks in general need their search cards to get going, so being able to shut all of that off can be very powerful.
The two ways I have looked at building this deck are a more inconsistent version with Hypnotoxic Laser, and the other is a more consistent version using Gallade.
With Gardevoir in play, Gothitelle is hitting for the following damage numbers for the following Energy cost.
2 Energy – 110 damage
3 Energy – 150 damage
4 Energy – 190 Damage
5 Energy – 230 Damage
As you can see, these numbers play very kindly with Hypnotoxic Laser. With Hypnotoxic Laser, you’re going to be doing:
2 Energy – 140 Damage
3 Energy – 180 Damage
4 Energy – 210 Damage
So for three Energy on a Gothitelle, you’re able to Knock Out any 180 Pokémon-EX that isn’t resistant to Psychic. Because of the way Darkrai and Klinklang decks work, you should be fine just exchanging 2HKOs with them, as they will eventually run out of steam.
Hypnotoxic Laser Version
Pokémon – 16
2 Gothorita DRX
Trainers – 34
3 Professor Juniper
3 Pokémon Communication
3 Exp. Share
Energy – 10
The main issue with this version of the deck is just finding room for everything. There was only room for 1 Virbank City Gym, although 2 could potentially be played in the game with Dowsing Machine if need be.
This version of the deck trades in some of its consistency for an easy way to 1HKO Pokémon-EX.
This version of the deck is a bit more consistent than the previous version, as it doesn’t have to devote 4 spots to Hypnotoxic Laser stuff. While this is more consistent, it is still a dual Stage 2 deck, so setup can seem perilous at times as well.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 32
Energy – 10
This deck is able to find a little bit more consistency, as now there is room for Tropical Beach, which can give you some strong early game draw allowing you to setup better. To adjust to this change, the Supporter lineup can be changed as well to include more Colress, and of course more Skyla to find Tropical Beach on turn one of the game.
Gallade is really interesting in this deck, as it can attack for just one Energy thanks to to Gardevoir’s Ability. It has some pretty wicked damage potential given that this deck is going to pretty much be keeping all of its Energy on the field through Exp. Share.
Gallade hits for the following damage numbers:
1 Energy – 40 Damage
2 Energy – 80 Damage
3 Energy – 120 Damage
4 Energy – 160 Damage
5 Energy – 200 Damage
Remember, this is just the Energy you have on the field, and not on Gallade specifically. This allows Gallade to have some powerful sweeping potential in the mid and late games.
I’ve also put a Mewtwo EX in the deck to help with the Keldeo-EX/Blastoise matchup. Mewtwo EX gives you an efficient means to getting the 1HKO on a Keldeo-EX as it has enough Energy.
All in all, I do like the Gothitelle/Gardevoir concept, and think that it is a very strong deck, but I would caution on playing it if you don’t know what to expect from the deck.
Yes, the deck is one of the most powerful in the game in terms of raw power, and it really has always been that way. But just because it has ridiculous raw power doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without issues.
I have been testing versions of this deck since State Championships last year, and have been able to see the problems that have not only always faced the deck, but also some new issues that face the deck in the current format.
First of all, it is a dual Stage 2 deck, so consistency can be an issue at times. Sometimes you will just not get setup, or not get setup fast enough. In general though, I have found the deck to setup in enough of its games that it can do well in a tournament.
Secondly, basically all of the decks Pokémon are 60 HP Psychic weak Pokémon. Donks can be an issue in a metagame full of Mewtwo EX donk decks.
Lastly, the deck can have major issues with Blastoise if it gets setup. Keldeo-EX with 4 Energy is able to 1HKO Gothitelle, and they can keep them streaming pretty well if Blastoise is setup. When we were testing this deck for City Championships, games against Blastoise pretty much came down to who got their Stage 2 out first.
Still, I think this is a deck to consider in the coming weeks. The format is highly dependent on Item cards, so being able to shut off that aspect of a deck while hitting for big damage numbers does have a lot of potential. I was very pleased to see this deck have a good showing in a major tournament series.
Finding Success In Juniors and Seniors
One thing that I know a lot of parents on Underground have been looking for is advice to keep their kids at the top of the age division. Over the past two seasons, I have worked with a number of Juniors and Seniors in this game, so I think I have begun picking up on some key traits that have led to players being able to succeed in the lower age divisions.
The first big factor is just card power. The players who have the good cards are simply going to do better than those who are just cobbling together decks out of what they have. In order to do well in this game, the kids need their parents to give them the financial backing to obtain the cards that are needed to do well in competitive play.
One of the cool things about the lower age divisions is that there is less competition, as there are less players there. This provides a greater opportunity for players in the lower age division to win more packs and bolster their collection and trade binders just through tournament winnings, which is much harder for player’s to do in the Masters division.
Being able to metagame is also very important in the lower age divisions. A lot of players in these divisions will be limited to just one deck just because that’s all they have the cards to play.
Additionally, one thing I have noticed in the lower age divisions are that the kids are less motivated by playing whatever it takes to win, and will often neglect better decks in favor of decks that they enjoy playing. This makes the tournaments ripe for metagaming the field if they have knowledge of what the other players will be playing.
The biggest thing that separate the kids that do really well from the rest can often be parental involvement. This goes beyond just giving the kids money to get the cards they need, but actual involvement in the community.
A great example of this is Dema Boatman, who is one of the best Senior players in the world, and who qualified for the World Championship midway through City Championships. Most of the Masters in the area are friends with both Dema, and his dad Chad. Dema has such a large advantage against other Seniors because of the network of Masters he has to playtest against and work on decks with, which comes in a large part because of the friendship of most of the Masters with both him and his dad.
The Masters really are the best players in the game collectively, so it makes sense that the players who test with Masters in the lower age divisions will be best positioned for success in their own age division as they are getting more rigorous testing than if they had just tested with other Seniors.
As we are not competing directly with the players in the lower age division, it makes sense that Masters would be more open to helping out players in the lower age division. All it takes to get this help is for the Seniors and their parents to be respectful of the Masters in the area.
Sure, some won’t be interested in dealing with players in other age divisions, but I think as a whole, most Masters are very willing to help out.
As far as Juniors go, the role of the parent in all of this is even more important. Players in the Senior age division are just more emotionally mature than Juniors, which makes it easier for Masters to work directly with them. In the case of Juniors, that emotional maturity will often just not be there because of the age, so it is important for the parent to act as a liaison between the Master and the Junior to make sure that their kid is getting the help that they need to do well.
If you are a Master division player, I highly recommend helping out some of the players in the younger age divisions. It helps grow the community, and make the younger players want to stick around and in turn grow the game. As these players are still young, you can not only help them with the game but also help them grow as people.
Additionally, friendships with the Poképarents is something very strong, and as young adults (which most Master division players are), there is a lot we can learn from them to help us grow as people as well.
I hope everyone was able to find this article helpful as they consider what to play for States, or just in knowing what’s out there in terms of rogue decks that other players are playing, as I feel being prepared for the oddities can really improve your chances of winning a tournament, versus being Knocked Out by one of these decks if you have never faced them or you don’t know what their strategy is.
I am super pumped for the Missouri State Championship this weekend. It is still unclear if I will be able to get off work to play in the tournament, but at the very least I will be coming midway through the day and will be taking challenge matches (both in the modified format, and Worlds 2012 format) for those beautiful SixPrizes dice.
If you are coming to the event, make sure to say hi, and challenge me to a match, it would be great to meet as many of you as I can.
Watching the week one State Championship results trickle in was pretty awesome. Just looking at the records from Swiss, and who made cut was really cool, it seemed like almost all my friends were doing very well in the tournaments, with most of them making top cuts, going undefeated in Swiss, and even winning one of the tournaments. (Good job Colin!)
Remember to +1 or -1 the article to give Adam feedback on what you want to see for your Underground articles, and of course may the force be with you at States!
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