I Play the Game AND the Numbers

I’ll shout it from the mountaintops if I have to. I LOVE NUMBERS!

It’s true. I love numbers and apply them directly to my play-style. I feel that a person has to have some sort of common thread in their play-style and deck-building tendencies and for me it’s probabilites and numbers. Some players like to trust their instincts and experience, but I believe in the power of numbers.

Anyway, the U.S. States started last weekend and what a weekend it was! The results were very surprising in my opinion, and made me excited about my own States coming later this month. The metagame was very versatile and little things made all the difference when it comes to the matches’ outcome.

I really want to thank you TheTopCut.net for the great job of streaming the Illinois States, because that way I could keep up with the games even though there’s a huge time difference between Finland and the United States. All the matches were super exciting and I can’t wait for the 2nd weekend of States.

Anyway, even though there is always the opportunity to do a deck analysis, I instead wanted to write an article which could be helpful for anyone attending States over the next two to three weeks. I’ll pour every single drop of information that I’ve gathered while watching the TheTopCut’s stream and with my own playtesting.

I have noticed that thanks to Plasma Storm the metagame (and format) took a step in the right direction with more and more games decided by card choices and playing skill rather than luck.

And that’s what I want to emphasize with this article – in order to become victorious, you must perfect every single aspect of your deck, play-style, and awareness of your opponent’s strategies. I’ll concentrate on this article on what you should do, what you should be aware of, and the mistakes you should avoid.

And since I love lists, every single point in this article is in order of importance. That way it’s easier for me to parse the article and for you to concentrate on the most important points.

The Top 5…

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Top 5 Magical Numbers (and How to Break Them)

I’m pretty familiar with the concept of “magical numbers,” because after all, one of my first English Pokémon TCG articles was about magical numbers. I suggest you at least scroll through that article to understand the concept of magical numbers and since some of the numbers endure the test of time and are still valid in the current format.

5. 60

squirtle-boundaries-crossed-bcr-29pokemon-paradijs.comThere is pretty much only one commonly played Pokémon that has 60 HP, and the damage amount of 60 is also one of the most common ones in the early turns of the game in the current format. Fittingly, the reason why 60 is on this list is because of Squirtle.

Squirtle has 60 HP and 1HKOing it on the first turn is very important for many decks if they want to stand a chance against Blastoise. There are 3 common ways of hitting 60 damage.

– Tornadus EX + Virbank City Gym

This is by far the easiest way of 1HKOing Squirtle, and Virbank City Gym is the number one reason why Blastoise decks have seen a huge decrease in popularity. Every Big Basic deck wants to play Virbank City Gym in order to increase their damage output with Poison.

It’s an easy, efficient, and deadly way of getting that Squirtle KO’d on the first turn, and if going first, neutralizing the Squirtle can end the game right then and there.

Landorus-EX + Virbank City Gym + Hypnotoxic Laser

I expected that Landorus-EX would be less played than before due to the huge popularity of Blastoise, but it seems that Landorus-EX has been making a very strong comeback with the help of the PoisonCombo. When Landorus-EX can 1HKO a Squirtle with one energy on T1, it’s only natural that Landorus-EX gained popularity.

– Sableye + Dark Claw

I love Eviolite in Sableye/Darkrai EX and that’s why I think it’s very interesting to debate about Dark Claw vs. Eviolite in Darkrai EX decks. As the PoisonCombo has become a staple for Darkrai EX decks as well, it’s VERY tempting to run multiple Dark Claws in them. With Dark Claw and PoisonCombo, you are able to 1HKO your opponents’ Squirtles with Sableye’s Confuse Ray.

That Sableye which usually just Junk Hunts all the game can be turned into a 1HKO machine for the first few turns. Not to mention the other magical number (140), which I’ll discuss later on, gets a boost from the Dark Claw.

dark-claw-dark-explorers-dex-92So the question is – is Dark Claw a staple in Darkrai EX decks? My answer is a clear no. Before the first weekend of States, I would have answered yes, but due to my personal preference and the shift in the metagame, I can easily say that Dark Claw is still viable in Darkrai decks, but if you love Eviolite as much as I do, you won’t lose games to the lack of Dark Claw.

I’ll probably be playing my Darkrai EX variant in the first States I attend, and at the moment I’m running 2-1 Eviolite/Dark Claw split. I would love to get a 3rd Eviolite in there, but the tech Dark Claw has proven to be useful from time to time.

However, one last caveat. The battle between Eviolite and Dark Claw is all about the metagame you’re playing in. If your metagame is still full of Blastoises, Dark Claw is the play. And on the other hand, the more random the metagame, the more useful Eviolite will prove to be.

4. 4

Four is a staple magical number. No matter the format, no matter the metagame, there are always certain cards that you want and must play 4 copies of. In the current format, the cards that are 4-copy staples are as follows…

– Squirtle

As mentioned earlier, Squirtles are almost like Tynamos in the current format – free Prizes from T1 onwards for almost every Basic deck. That’s why it’s crazy to even try to play Blastoise with three Squirtles. Four or bust.

Professor Juniper

I really can’t come up with a deck that doesn’t want to play 4 Junipers. Even decks that don’t want to discard a lot of cards (i.e. Blastoise) want to play Juniper because it’s the best draw Supporter of the format. Whenever you find yourself thinking “I can cut one Juniper because I don’t want to discard this and that,” think again and just stay with the 4 Juniper.

It’s by far the best Trainer in the format and you would be a fool not to make the most out of it.


n-dark-explorers-dex-96pokemon-paradijs.comN is another staple. Once again, the only deck that may not want to play 4 Ns is Blastoise. However, even in Blastoise, you can’t play less than 3 Ns. The reason for N’s popularity is quite simple. It’s the best shuffle & draw in the early turns and the only available disruption Supporter in the late game.

Of course, drawing an N when you only have 1 Prize card left is pretty heart-breaking, but in most scenarios and in all the decks, N is an irreplaceable card that wins you half of the games. The format is defined by late game Ns and without N, the games would be greatly different.

Hypnotoxic Laser and Rare Candy

The reason why Hypnotoxic Laser should be played in sets of 4 is because it needs Virbank City Gym to accompany it in every deck. And when you sacrifice so much of your deck’s space for a combo like that, it’s not wise to leave the card abuse halfway. However, Hypnotoxic Laser is such an interesting card that playing it isn’t all black and white. I’ll get to Hypnotoxic Laser more later on in this article.

The same goes with Rare Candy. You are playing Stage 2 Pokémon and in order to get them working as soon as possible, you need 4 Candies. If you only play 3 Candies, your chances of getting Stage 2 Pokémon up in the early turns decrease tremendously.

Pokémon Catcher

Pokémon Catcher is the most obvious one of these, but still we see some Blastoise decks not running 4 Catchers. Blastoise decks can afford this, because of the heavy damage they do, but most Tier 1 decks (that rely on Basics and quick Prizes) must play 4 Catchers in order to get all the cheap Prizes available.

Most decks would like to play even more than 4 Catchers, but unfortunately that isn’t possible (except with Dowsing Machine).

The top 3 magical numbers are very tightly connected with each other, so it was very difficult to determine the order of these, but here they are:

3. 170

2. 140

1. 30

blastoise plasma storm pls 137pokemon-paradijs.comSome of the main attackers of the current format have 170 HP: Keldeo-EX, Mewtwo EX, Tornadus EX, and Rayquaza EX. When you take 30 off 170, you get 140, which is a HP of Blastoise. These 3 numbers are very closely to bound to each other and the whole metagame works almost completely around these cards.

It’s good to mention that Darkrai EX and Landorus-EX do have 180 HP and are very important parts of the current format as well, and that’s why they aren’t neglected. There are 3 possible ways to get the 30 – and as you know Landorus-EX and Darkrai EX are 2 of them.

Hammerhead and Night Spear both hit 30 to the Bench and it’s no surprise they are still the top tier cards – when you place the bench damage perfectly, you’re always in a very good position against your opponent’s attackers.

Also, thanks to Hypnotoxic Laser, the little 30’s from Hammerhead and Night Spear have NEVER been as important as they are now. Before Plasma Storm, there were some games where the Night Spear and Hammerhead damages didn’t usually matter, because you would 2HKO them anyway.

This was especially true in Darkrai EX mirrors. You hit a Benched Darkrai EX for 30 with Night Spear and then Night Spear it while Active, with or without Dark Claw, and you would still only get the Darkrai to a maximum of 140 damage (30 + 90/110 Night Spear).

However, thanks to Hypnotoxic Laser, even without Dark Claw you can get that 30 damage Benched Darkrai when it becomes Active to 150 damage (30 + 90 Night Spear + 30 Poison) and force them to retreat, because unless they retreat or use the Keldeo-EX combo, they will get KO’d from Poison going into your turn.

And even then, they are still within range of being KO’d from 30 to the Bench. Not to mention how good Night Spear + Dark Claw + PoisonCombo is against Blastoise. 1HKO to Blastoise? Kthxbye.

It’s the same with Hammerhead. The 30 can be tremendous thanks to PoisonCombo. If you first hit 30 to Benched Keldeo-EX and then switch to Bouffalant + PoisonCombo, you are able to easily 1HKO a Keldeo-EX with Bouffalant! This is something you would have never imagined before – unless you had 2 PlusPowers in your hand.

The other thing is with Mewtwo EX. You only need 3 energy attached to Mewtwo EX (along with PoisonCombo) to 1HKO a 3 energy, damaged Keldeo-EX.

When you start paying attention to these numbers, you will notice (and may have already noticed) that they repeat over and over again. In my opinion, it’s very important to be aware of the magical numbers of every single format and metagame, because they will help you building your deck and choosing the correct techs.

When all the cards involve somehow the magical numbers you will be facing in almost every game, you know you have done something correctly. After you master all the important magical numbers, you will notice that your gameplay gets easier. It’s almost like your playing turns into an autopilot, you know exactly where to put which damage in order to get the 6 Prizes in the most efficient way.

Top 5 Difference Makers

5. Terrakion NVI

terrakion-noble-victories-nvi-73pokemon-paradijs.comTerrakion hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s STILL the only Pokémon in the whole format that is able to 1HKO Darkrai EX for only 2 energy. This justifies playing it in every deck that has a chance of using F Energy. It’s quite funny that even though Darkrai EX has been around a long time, there still isn’t another viable counter to it.

At the moment Terrakion is mainly used with Landorus-EX and as we can see from States results, it’s doing an awesome job and I would be surprised if Terrakion doesn’t see play in other decks later on this season, especially if Darkrai EX becomes the BDIF.

4. Garbodor DRX

It was widely discussed that Garbodor only works when the metagame isn’t prepared for it, but as we could see from the States, this isn’t true anymore. Garbodor is here to stay even though Abilities aren’t as big. The reason? It immobilizes every deck in the format.

Darkrai EX decks don’t usually play Tool Scrappers and it’s a complete surprise when Keldeo-EX and Darkrai EX stop working. Garbodor is all about making your opponent deck as clunky as the deck it is played in. Is there a clunkier deck than Landorus-EX/Garbodor/techs? No, but every deck becomes equally clunky after Garbodor is played on the bench.

3. Bouffalant DRX

Bouffalant has been hyped for a long time, but only recently has it finally been able to claim its spot at the top. The best thing about Bouffalant is that you can play it every deck. It helped Eelektrik decks to reinvent themselves when 2012 World Champion Igor Costa went 8-0 with Bouffalant/Eelektrik in the Swiss of the ECC, and it was widely played during the first weekend of U.S. States in Darkrai EX decks.

Bouffalant is popping up here and there, and you would be a fool to ignore it. One of the best counters for Bouffalant is Terrakion. After the increase of Bouffalants, will we see more Terrakions popping out as well? I don’t know, but one thing is for certain.

No matter how the increase of Bouffalants affect the metagame, it surely doesn’t make things easier for Darkrai EX decks.

2. Keldeo-EX

keldeo-ex-boundaries-crossed-bcr-49pokemon-paradijs.comAn old friend from Blastoise has taken a completely new role in the metagame – a role of Special Condition healer in Darkrai EX decks. I think that Keldeo-EX is a very controversial card in Darkrai EX decks, because the decks can’t abuse its attack that well. I will probably play Darkrai EX in my first States this weekend and won’t play Keldeo-EX in it. The reason for this is the metagame I’m expecting to face.

I don’t expect to see a bunch of Darkrai EX mirrors, but a lot of Klinklangs, Eelektriks, and Blastoises, which don’t use the PoisonCombo. Keldeo-EX has become a staple in Darkrai EX decks, but I encourage you to think again.

Is it really worth the space? How often does your opponent use Hypnotoxic Laser and you don’t get KO’d in the same turn? On the other hand, how often does your opponent flip heads and you flip tails right after it?

I went to Japan without Keldeo-EX in my deck and noticed that I didn’t really miss it, which made me think about the possibility of not using it. Also, I have tested my Darkrai EX variant a lot the past few weeks (with and without Keldeo-EX) and find myself rarely needing the Rush In. And in situations when I need it, I’m either locked by Garbodor or don’t have an access to my Keldeo-EX anyway.

At least in my first States, I’ll take the risk of not playing Keldeo-EX. I’m eager to see how it turns out.

1. Victini NVI 15 / Moltres NXD / Ninetales DRX

If your deck is full of EXs, Klinklang will become a problem. However, with the Fire Pokémon of your choice, you’ll turn your trouble into an auto-win. Victini is the one card that can make all the difference in the format and even playing 1 Victini and 1 R Energy is enough to do this. Victini is especially good in two decks – RayEels and Darkrai EX variants.

In RayEels, Victini is just too easy to play to ignore. You already run R Energy and Victini isn’t a bad attacker against anything, so you should just play it – period.

In Darkrai EX decks, it gets trickier, but not a lot more difficult. Victini can be easily teched to Darkrai EX variants thanks to Energy Search. Energy Search is also a staple in most Darkrai EX decks since it’s Junk Hunt-able. This way, searching the Victini with Ultra Ball and R Energy with Energy Search is very natural for Darkrai EX decks. And by making these little additions, you will have an auto-win matchup in front of you once again.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the creativity of cards such as Moltres and Ninetales which saw play at States as well.

Ninetales is extremely good in almost every deck, because it’s not only a Fire Pokémon, but also combos very well with Hypnotoxic Laser. And if that isn’t enough, Ninetales is an extra Pokémon Catcher for you as well! Ninetales is by far my favorite Fire tech for Basic decks such as Darkrai EX.

Moltres on the other hand is my favorite Pokémon of all time. And to be honest, I think it was a questionable play as a tech in Blastoise, but when looking at the results, it seems that it paid off. As soon as I saw that Moltres was used in Blastoise, I started testing it and noticed that even though you can search for R Energy with Cilan, I prefer other ways of countering Klinklang with Blastoise. I’ll get to that later on in this article.

Top 5 Deckbuilding Mistakes

5. The Fine Line Between Inconsistency, Consistency, and Over-Consistency

So, where does the line go? I have tested most of the big Basic variants, so I can only say this on the behalf of those decks, but so far, I have found out that 14 Supporters is the optimal amount. Thirteen hurts the consistency too much and you are left with Supporterless opening hands too often. On the other hand, 15 is overkill unless you run a heavy amount of Skylas.

Skylas are not considered “draw Supporters,” but search Supporters, so in fact they are pretty much like Balls. They help the consistency, but they don’t help you with getting multiple cards. When it comes to a Basic deck, here is my opinion of the standard draw & search engine.

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Bianca
2 Skyla

4 Ultra Ball
1 Computer Search

Of course I want to point out that in the end, almost no deck plays this kind of standard engine, but this is very good starting point for almost every single deck in the format.

4. Overteching

You have bad matchups. Well, no problemo, they are always fixable with techs, right? Nope. In the current format you are able to fit a maximum of 1-2 techs into your deck. And no, Mewtwo EX isn’t considered as a tech here.

If I were to tech my deck, I would only concentrate on the most difficult matchup, which usually in this format is either Garbodor or Klinklang variants. And against those are pretty easy techs. Against Garbodor all you must do is to max out your Catchers and play 1-2 Tool Scrappers. Against Klinklang, I already introduced the Fire trio of teching: Victini, Moltres, and Ninetales.

Choose a tech, stick with it, and never look back.

3. Netdecking

copycat-expedition-ex-138pokemon-paradijs.comAs an Underground writer I feel ashamed to admit that I fell for this trap. I netdecked the list Andrew Krekeler used to win a huge Regional Championship in the United States, “fixed” it by adjusting 2 cards, and failed at the ECC with it. I was never comfortable with Blastoise and I should have never touched the deck even though it won a big tournament.

I don’t know why I did it, and I felt even worse because Hammertime ended up winning the whole thing. It shows that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I could easily say that I will never netdeck again, but I could become infatuated with a new cool looking deck once again and notice myself netdecking.

2. Leaving Yourself Open for Weaknesses

Overteching may become a problem, but leaving yourself open for a weakness is even bigger problem. I still don’t call John Roberts II’s deck choice for Nationals 2012 the correct one, because it had an auto-loss (Hammertime) which Klinklang couldn’t do anything against. I would never enter a big tournament with a pure auto-loss, and the only time I did it, it cost me the whole tournament in Top 32 of the Word Championships.

If you have a close to auto-loss matchup to Klinklang and you know that you may face them in the top cut, don’t be ignorant and leave your deck open to a weakness that’s easy to counter. Two cards isn’t too much to turn one matchup completely around.

However, if you need to sacrifice – let’s say – 6 cards to turn one matchup around, you must consider very carefully if it is really necessary. Or you can be John Roberts II and just accept the fact that there are auto-losses out there and if you lose to them, it’s ok.

I don’t encourage this, because you’re just gambling with a strategy like that, but if you feel that all the stars are aligned for you, then you may consider it.

1. Last Minute Changes

You have tested your deck a few weeks. You’re completely comfortable with your list. Then you go to the tournament venue and see 4 players playing against each other. All of them are using the deck you have a bad matchup against.

So what do you do? Panic and change half of your decklist and maybe even your whole deck just because of what you just saw, or keep calm and stick with the plan you felt the most comfortable for the last 2-3 weeks? I don’t think I need to answer that for you.

Top 5 Pre-Tournament Mistakes

Whenever going into a tournament, not only your deck must be perfect, but also your preparations must be fine-tuned as well. You can screw up your tournament even before the tournament starts! Here are the 5 most common mistakes people usually make (but should avoid) before the tournament.

5. Physiology

rockets-snorlax-gym-heroes-33pokemon-paradijs.comWhat people too often forget before a big tournament is that they are humans – not superheroes. In order to perform as well as possible, you need the optimal amount of nutrition and sleep before the tournament. Even though Pokémon TCG isn’t often considered as a sport, the preparations for the tournaments should be taken seriously if you really want to do well.

As people are getting older and older, I have seen that in Finland there are some people coming to tournaments after a too late Friday evening (if you know what I mean) and obviously they usually go 0-2 and drop.

And when you are younger, it’s very important to sleep a good night sleep before a big tournament. Of course, sometimes the excitement can get the best of you and you will be rolling around your bed without getting a hang of sleep. If you have sleeping problems before the big tournaments, I suggest you try to come up with a technique for getting rid of them. It will prove to be useful in “real life” as well, trust me. Been there, done that.

4. The Decklist

It may seem a simple thing, but it happens too often, even for the very best. There is always someone at the tournament who will write their decklist incorrectly. In 2006, Chris Fulop forgot to write his Steelix ex (which was obviously a very important part of his deck), but he still somehow managed win the tournament without even though it was eventually replaced with basic Energy!

Even though it’s cool to win a tournament after a mistake like that, I don’t suggest trying it out – if you aren’t Chris Fulop, it will cost you the whole tournament.

How to avoid the mistakes in your decklists? It’s quite simple. Write the decklist and recheck it. Recheck it again. And again. Whenever I’m going to Worlds or Nationals, I ALWAYS check my list at least 5 times. Not to mention my sleeves.

So far, I have never gotten even a caution from my sleeves or from my decklist. And this is a track record after 10 years of playing competitively. However, anyone can do it, because only thing you have to be in order to avoid this mistake is to be cautious and thorough. The cost of being careful isn’t high, but the price of the mistake can be lethal for your tournament run.

3. Playing with a REAL Secret Deck

Who doesn’t love secret decks? I do and I know most people do. And whenever a new secret deck is revealed in front of your eyes just a day before your big tournament, two things happen.

  1. You get excited about the deck.
  2. You are tempted to play it.

Some people hop into the hype train just because they want to experience something new, but if you just grab a random deck a day before a big tournament, the deck will be a secret not only for your opponent, but also for yourself.

Don’t waste hours and hours of playtesting just to change your deck in the last minute for something you have zero experience with. Stay with the plan and you will be rewarded for your self-discipline.

2. Substituting Reality with Your Own

dark-kadabra-team-rocket-tr-39pokemon-paradijs.comMost people have a favorite deck in each format. And some of these people are plain biased toward their own favorite deck. This bias isn’t a problem as long as you don’t make it a problem. However, when looking at the internet-discussion about decks, this bias is clearly a problem for a lot of people.

When you favor one deck over another and you’re going to play with it in a tournament, you’ll become blind to the weaknesses of the deck. In fact, most people don’t even want to admit that their deck has a weakness, even though it’s a fact that every single deck has a weakness.

Before making the last decision on your tournament deck I suggest you make a reality check for yourself. Analyze your deck and its weaknesses. Can you admit that your Eelektrik deck has trouble against Landorus-EX/Garbodor when they go first? If yes and Landorus-EX/Garbodor is popular in your metagame, how can you justify your deck choice?

You should do a reality check before every tournament. This will help you to understand yourself and your own choices and from time to time it will help you to avoid failing miserably in a tournament. A little doubt of your own deck choice is always healthy, but this doesn’t mean that you should question every single small decision you make before a tournament – just the biggest decisions.

1. Overdoing It

Just like with everything, you can burn yourself out, if you are constantly thinking about strategy, deck choices, techs, etc. After reaching a certain point in your thought process, you will turn around in your thoughts and see weaknesses everywhere. Analyzing is fun, but overanalyzing is like pushing a self-destruct button on your self-confidence.

After you have reached the point of admitting your deck’s weaknesses, don’t waste time coming up with crazy techs to patch them. Especially if it’s the evening. Every idea seems great after 10 PM.

Overdoing it is pretty much a sum of all the things mentioned above. Moderation is a virtue. And as much as I’m a consistency-lover, I’m also a moderation-lover. I always try to do the amount necessary, never too much because the years have taught me that the learning curve is the same with everything in life. Eventually it’s just no use of doing anything and it’s just better to sit back and relax.

Top 5 Misplays

There are some misplays that are the same in every format and metagame, but here I want to concentrate mostly on the misplays that are characteristic for this current format.

5. Overthinking =/= Thinking Over

See the difference. Probably the most well-known slow player of the Pokémon TCG is Ross Cawthon (who happened to win the Illinois States by the way, congrats to him!). I have seen him play in Worlds multiple times since he has been in the Finals two times and he lost to my ex-girlfriend in the Top 16 of Worlds 2009. I don’t believe that he overthinks even though he uses way too much time for every move he makes; he simply thinks everything over, multiple times.

noctowl-diamond-pearl-dp-34pokemon-paradijs.comI don’t encourage anyone to play as slowly as Ross does, but I encourage everyone to think over almost every move. In test games, I suggest thinking over EVERY move, because you have the time and that’s why you test, but for the tournament games, some moves should work with “autopilot” and some you should think over.

I can’t emphasize how much does the forward-thinking helps whenever you are a playing a Landorus-EX or a Darkrai EX decks that must make the most out of every single damage counter they place on the opponent’s field. You should think over every move that affects your whole game and not just the next turn.

The line between thinking over and overthinking isn’t as fine as with consistency and over consistency. With thinking it’s pretty easy to recognize the point where you overdo it. When you find yourself questioning your every single energy attachment, it’s time to cool down.

There are some absolute moments in the game, where the one move is so obvious and the “only correct option” is that in these situations you should let your instinct lead you and not even think about the moves. This instinct develops once you have played enough games in with a certain deck in a certain metagame.

4. Hypnotoxic Laser

Hypnotoxic Laser is the best thing to happen to this game for a long time, and that’s why it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s also on this list. As Hypnotoxic Laser is a very versatile card, there are many ways of playing it incorrectly and misplaying only because your opponent played it.

Probably the most common misplay of the moment is the so-called “damage” misplay, which has been around forever. Imagine Darkrai EX hitting for 110 damage with Night Spear to your Active Bouffalant and then it’s KO’d from the Poison of Hypnotoxic Laser. You have Terrakion and Energy Switch in your hand and you instinctively play down Terrakion, Energy Switch, Switch, and Retaliate – for 60 damage.

Retaliate activates only if the Pokémon is KO’d from the damage of an opponent’s attack and since everything has been hitting pure damage the past few years, this is something I’ve seen a lot lately. It’s a very easy mistake to make, but you can be sure that it will cost you the whole game.

hypnotoxic laser plasma storm pls 123People also too often underestimate the power of Hypnotoxic Laser. Hypnotoxic Laser isn’t a PlusPower that is only used when you are able to KO Pokémon with it. Hypnotoxic Laser can also work as a way to slow down your opponent by Asleep or by forcing them to retreat their active Pokémon even if you don’t have a good setup, because they don’t want to get 30 from Poison between turns.

Something that I noticed and what Pooka also pointed out while the Illinois States stream was that most decks were clunky and slow. Hypnotoxic Laser was used – in my opinion – too many times just to slow down your opponent, because the player’s deck was clunky itself. And usually this clunkyness was a result of too many Hypnotoxic Lasers and Virbank City Gyms in the player’s deck.

However, that’s how the game is at the moment and you must be aware of it and abuse Hypnotoxic Laser, because if you don’t run it, the decks that run it will run over you with plain firepower – even if they have a worse start than you do.

3. Resource Management

Resource management is always important, but it’s especially important in the current format thanks to Hypnotoxic Lasers. You can’t waste them, because they are your most valuable resources. Also, since Juniper is the most common (and best) Supporter out there, resource management becomes one of the most important things you have to do perfectly in order to consistently win games.

Also, as Ultra Ball is the most used Pokémon search out there, all the decks discard a lot of cards that they don’t want to discard. This is especially true with Landorus-EX based decks, which don’t really like discarding any cards.

There are times where you are better off not using the Ultra Ball or even a Juniper during your turn as there is a high possibility that your opponent will “help” you by shuffling your hand into your deck and save you from discarding the most valuable resources.

There is also the flipside of the coin. If you wait until you draw another Supporter when you have a Juniper in your hand, you may draw another Juniper! The biggest dilemma in resource management is that you can never know what you are going to draw next. I usually trust on probabilities when deciding on my resource management, but probabilities aren’t perfect, so I suggest you either use probabilities for your resource management or just go with your instinct.

I can’t say that either of them is a bad option, because in a format where almost all the drawing happens with straight draw, there is always a lot of luck involed.

2. The 7 Prize / 1 Card N Trap

I have blabbered about this for forever and I will continue blabbering about it as long as N is in the format. In my opinion, this is easily the second most important thing in the current format to pay attention to.

Whenever you have the possibility to 1HKO 2 non-Pokémon-EX or 2HKO one Pokémon-EX, when you have 2 Prizes left, always choose the second scenario. The difference of one card is HUGE and if you haven’t embraced that fact yet, it’s about time!

1. Aggressiveness


This format is fast and aggressiveness is a very common part of it, but being overly aggressive can cost you the game. The easiest example of this is whenever you’re playing with a Darkrai EX deck. You see an opening on T2 to 1HKO your opponent’s Bouffalant with Darkrai EX as the Bouffalant has already lost 60 HP from Poison.

You also see a Tornadus EX with one F Energy on your opponent’s bench. Your opponent has a 7-card hand and you know he plays Energy Switch and Terrakion in his deck.

What should you do? KO the Bouffalant with Night Spear and risk of getting 1HKO’d (and overran) by the possible Terrakion, or just wait patiently with the Sableye Active and Junk Hunt to get those Lasers back and set up patiently.

Controlling the aggressiveness of your game play is the one thing that makes you differ from novices. The first thing I always try to teach to the beginning players that already know the basics of the game is that you don’t win the game by taking fast first Prize, but fast 6 Prizes. Even though the games may feel like quick games, Pokémon is in the end a long-term strategy game, where you should always think beyond the one turn the KO takes the place.

In most scenarios aggressiveness is highly recommended (e.g. Landorus-EX vs. Eelektrik decks) and that’s why it’s such a difficult thing to play correctly. I believe that the first-Prize advantage that once existed is gone nowadays.

Another matchup where the aggressiveness can be lethal is Blastoise mirror. Accelerating 5 energy to Keldeo-EX to KO your opponent’s Blastoise can be lethal, if you are 100% sure that they can’t get a Blastoise up the next turn and KO you back with Mewtwo EX/Black Kyurem EX.

In fact, in the ECC I “mistakenly” didn’t predict my opponent dropping 7 energy on T2 to his Keldeo-EX, which cost me the game. Should I have anticipated it and been less aggressive? In the hindsight, it’s easy to say yes, but if I were in that situation again, I would probably play it similarly again.

Just like the name of the article says, I play the numbers and what my opponent had in T2 were against the probabilities.

Top 5 Decks for States

Last, but not least, the decks. I have tested all of these decks, but I’ll only provide lists for the top 3, because I feel comfortable with those lists as I have tested them a lot more than the rest of the metagame.

5. Plasma Klinklang

klinklang plasma storm pls 90pokemon-paradijs.comI have as much faith in this deck as I had for the original Klinklang before the U.S. States. If you are able to face all the right people and decks, you can go as far as winning a tournament. On the other hand, if we look at the current metagame, that shouldn’t be possible thanks to the amount of Bouffalant, Garbodor, and Victini roaming around.

Plasma Klinklang is a horrendously clunky deck and can’t win in a metagame that is prepared for it. However, Plasma Klinklang is a good enough a deck to make it to the top 5 of the current metagame, in my opinion.

4. Eelektrik Variants

After the surprising rise of the Bouffalant/Eelektrik, RayEels is no longer the only Eelektrik variant out there. The reason why I think Eelektrik variants aren’t playable – yes you heard me correctly – is Tynamo.

You need to run 4 Tynamos in your deck in order to be able to set up Eelektriks. And running 4 Tynamos, well as you know, you find yourself too often starting with a lone Tynamo. And if donking Tynamo was easy before, after the PoisonCombo almost all the competitive decks are able to do it.

Nonetheless, Eelektriks are out there doing well and even winning tournaments! With enough attackers, you will decrease the probability of opening with a lone Tynamo, but as long as the threat is out there, I don’t like the deck. I haven’t ever liked Eelektrik variants and probably will never play them in a tournament. They just don’t fit my style, which tries to minimize all donk scenarios.

3. Blastoise/Keldeo

Blastoise has been devastated as Darkrai EX now has the possibility to 1HKO Blastoise and 2HKO Keldeo-EX (see magical numbers), but it isn’t dead yet. If the Blastoise player is fast enough in their setup and have a list that is made to counter the metagame, they still have a chance of winning a tournament.

Nonetheless, it’s good to admit the truth that Blastoise’s glory days are over – at least for now.

Pokémon – 14

4 Squirtle BCR
4 Blastoise BCR
3 Keldeo-EX

2 Black Kyurem-EX PLS
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper
4 Skyla
3 N
2 Colress

1 Cilan


4 Ultra Ball
4 Rare Candy

4 Energy Retrieval
3 Pokémon Catcher

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Computer Search


2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 14

12 W
2 Lighting

Two quick things I want to point out from Blastoise decks.

  1. You are daring if you play Blastoise without Tool Scrapper in the current format.
  2. The only way to go with this deck is to run Black Kyurem EX – you don’t have to worry about the Darkrai EXs 1HKOing your Blastoises, because they can’t really ignore a 2-3 energy Black Kyurem EX. Just attach the energy to Kyurem EX and let them struggle while deciding what to hit next.

Colress is also very good for this deck, because you can easily just play your bench full very quickly thanks to Squirtles Ability and your Pokémon-EX having a huge amount of HP. Also, Cilan is a must in this deck, because you need to get access to the Lighting Energy quickly.

2. Landorus-EX/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EX/Terrakion/(Garbodor)

After Blastoise dominated Cities, Landorus-EX with and without Garbodor made an awesome comeback. With the help of PoisonCombo, the deck got a lot better and was able to challenge even its worst opponent: Blastoise. Here I’ll only show you my own making of Landorus-EX/Garbodor, which has some influence from Ross’ States winning list.

Pokémon – 11

2 Trubbish NVI
2 Garbodor DRX

2 Landorus-EX
2 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Tornadus-EX DEX

1 Bouffalant DRX
1 Terrakion NVI

Trainers – 37

4 N
4 Professor Juniper
3 Bianca
3 Skyla


4 Rescue Scarf

2 Eviolite


4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Switch
4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Ultra Ball
1 Heavy Ball
1 Computer Search

Energy – 12

8 F
4 Double Colorless

garbodor-dragons-exalted-drx-54pokemon-paradijs.comThe space in this deck is SO tight that it is unbelievable. However, if you look at the games Ross played during his streak to the victory you’ll notice just how clunky his deck was. It was very clunky, just like this list.

The secret behind this deck is that even if it is clunky, it makes your opponent’s deck even clunkier! Darkrai EX without Keldeo-EX or its own Ability is like a Magikarp on dry land – it just splashes until it gets KO’d.

Even though the deck is clunky, it’s surprisingly fast at the same time. It hits very quickly and if your opponent mistakenly predicts that you have a Virbank City Gym, they have just made a HUGE favor for you.

As there is no space for your own Virbanks, there is no point of running more than 1 Tornadus EX, but it’s still prudent to play 4 Hypnotoxic Lasers as your opponent may very well play Virbanks and they are just plain better than PlusPowers (especially with Garbodor’s Ability, Sleep can be a real nightmare for your opponent).

Also, I want to point out just how good Heavy Ball is in this deck. It can search for almost all the key cards of the deck – Garbodor, Terrakion, and Landorus-EX. Against most decks you are more than fine with these Pokémon, and Mewtwo EX, Tornadus EX, and Bouffalant are usually the best against mirrors and Blastoise variants.

1. Darkrai EX

It probably wasn’t a huge shock to see me put Darkrai EX at the top spot. Hammertime is my favorite deck of the current format, and even though it’s not that good anymore due to the popularity of Landorus-EX decks, Darkrai EX variants are still there wreaking havoc against Blastoise and Eelektrik variants.

The format is still pretty much rock-paper-scissors and still I recommend playing the deck you feel the most comfortable with since you can’t know for sure which decks you will face in such a wide open metagame. Anyway, here is my current list of Darkrai EX which I’m going to run at the States this weekend (baring possibly modifying 1-2 cards before the tournament).

Pokémon – 10

1 Vulpix DRX
1 Ninetales DRX

4 Darkrai-EX DEX

3 Sableye DEX
1 Keldeo-EX

Trainers – 38

4 N
4 Professor Juniper
3 Bianca
2 Random Receiver
1 Skyla


4 Ultra Ball
4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Dark Patch
2 Dark Claw
2 Energy Switch

1 Energy Search
1 Gold Potion


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

11 D
1 R

ninetales-dragons-exalted-drx-19pokemon-paradijs.comNinetales is so good. Especially in the Finnish metagame, where the Klinklang has been reigning the past tournaments. However, as mentioned earlier, its Ability is also a beast. Sableye can keep on recycling your Hypnotoxic Lasers, which makes Ninetales a strong attacker at almost every point of the game. If you haven’t yet tried Ninetales out, I suggest you do!

Otherwise there really isn’t that much surprising about the list. I play the 14 Supporters that I have found out to be the best. Not too inconsistent, but not overly consistent at the same time either.

Lastly, I want to mention about the ACE SPEC war that keeps on going. I still prefer Gold Potion in case of Darkrai EX mirrors, but I’m already starting to lean toward Computer Search because Gold Potion doesn’t heal “enough” thanks to the PoisonCombo. We’ll see, we’ll see…


We are living very exciting season indeed. I knew Plasma Storm would affect the metagame a lot, but even I’m positively surprised about its impact on the format. Some people are already complaining how much Hypnotoxic Laser adds luck to this game, but I beg to disagree.

Hypnotoxic Laser is one of the best things to happen to this game in a long time and it adds a whole new perspective to the game. It may increase some donks, but on the other hand, it also slows down the game a lot, which ALWAYS makes the game better. The slower the game is, the more purposeful your every move is.

What I’m the most excited about States is the creativity people are already showing. I’m sure that we will see the metagame shift this next weekend as well and that new techs and maybe even decks are going to pop up!

I’m expecting Landorus-EX/Garbodor to be the most popular deck this coming weekend, but I still believe in the consistency of Darkrai EX when it comes to getting the top spots in the tournaments.

I’ll be making the most out of my remaining days before my own States/Regionals and tune my deck to the perfection, and I hope this article helped you to do that as well. If you felt this article was useful for you, remember to +1 or -1 the article, so I’ll know what you thought about the article even if you don’t leave a comment!

Thanks for reading!

– Esa Juntunen

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