Welcome back my children. Gather ‘round because today I have for you another tale to tell. This story will be less inclusive than the last, mainly because almost everything has been covered. The format is the same, but States have warped the metagame making it wholly different than it was a mere month ago.
The States series is over and several people have qualified for Worlds as a result. However, I am not one of them. I attended Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts, avoiding my own home state of New Hampshire.
I did pretty well at all three, taking home a top 16 finish after going 7-0 in Connecticut, a top 4 finish in Maine, and a 5-2 finish in Massachusetts bubbling out of top 16 at 18th. I picked up 100 Points putting me at 348 CP.
I was extremely sour about my finish in Massachusetts. Even a top 16 there would have put me in position to earn the remaining CP needed to win my invite from Battle Roads. At all three events I played Landorus-EX/Tornadus EX/Bouffalant, or Big Basics.
Because States just finished, I do not have a whole lot of brand new information. I will go over how the metagame developed and what it looks like going into Regionals. I will give you all three of my Big Basics lists and some information about how I altered each list for every metagame I encountered.
I will also include lists for what I think are the top decks right now. The “Tier 1” that I conjured in my last article “The Top of Tier 1” has changed a lot in three weeks, but most of my predictions actually proved correct.
I will touch upon my thought processes going through the States season and I will talk about my experiences with the Big Basics decks I have been playing for the past six months. I will give commentary on Klinklang, a deck which has felt a bit neglected by the prominent Underground writers. I will then talk a bit about Darktales, a new Darkrai deck, now with 100% more Ninetales.
Finally, I will talk about my thoughts on the other big decks in the format as well.
Table of Contents
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- My States Experiences and the Evolution of My Big Basics Deck
- Klinklang Commentary
- Thoughts on Darktales
- Musings on Rayeels
My States Experiences and the Evolution of My Big Basics Deck
BulbapediaBecause I was only about 150 Points away from my invite at the beginning of States, I didn’t really want to play a deck that could just fall apart before it had a chance to set up. With this in mind, I quickly decided not to play Rayeels or Klinklang.
Not because either is a bad deck, but because I felt both could hit a string of bad matchups or bad luck and just be unable to get a record that would allow top cut. I’ve always been very skeptical of setup decks in a speed based format. It was clear that neither was the deck for me. I was especially afraid of playing Klinklang because I felt the metagame was still too unknown week one.
Blastoise was what I began testing right after Cities were over. But I always felt that when testing with random people, I could lose any given game through N or just not setting up; it didn’t matter the matchup. I just felt like Blastoise could lose to anything. For this reason I dropped Blastoise quickly.
Darkrai was out from the start. I felt like it was good, but not exceptional. There wasn’t much I could do to sway matchups when playing it. However, I think I overlooked Darkrai. I underestimated its potential against almost every other deck out there actually.
My testing with Darkrai was brief. Had I stuck with it, I might have realized that even though Black Kyurem EX can mow through the entire deck and Darkrai is weak to Landorus, Darkrai has many options to win. Even if all the theorymon works against Darkrai, its speed and power can guide it to victory over fields of Fighting and Blastoise. Overlooking the Darkrai deck was a flaw in my testing.
Discounting Darkrai, I eventually settled on Big Basics. With 3 Landorus and 2 Tornadus, there are 5 good starters. I was extremely attracted to the consistency of the deck. With so many good Pokémon to open with and Landorus having the best damage to resources ratio in the game, I really wanted to play this deck. Plus, I already had a ton of experience with it. Most of my Worlds qualifying to date has been done with this deck and I will probably play it off and on until it dies.
My list was much like the one that came in second at the Sapporo Battle Carnival, which you can find here. Credits to RestlessBob for compiling that information on PokéGym in the fall. This was a very useful reference when I was looking at decks for the States metagame.
This is what I actually played.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 40
Energy – 12
The list used Exp. Share to move Energy onto Bouffalant, making it much easier to recover and hit back at a rampaging Black Kyurem EX. This was the main component of the deck that made it more attractive to me than any other Big Basics deck. This made Blastoise an even matchup. Myself like many others expected Blastoise to be the dominant deck week one, so I needed a deck that could compete with it if I did not intend to play it myself.
My first list is geared heavily to beat Blastoise. In hindsight, I feel like this was a perfect list for week 1. It has a balance to it that I just love. None of its matchups are that great but all are about even, if not favorable. Klinklang is by far the hardest thing to beat for it but even that matchup was winnable.
For the first State, I did without Tornadus in my list. I did not think it was crucial to the deck, but eventually I realized Tornadus fit in very well. There are already Stadiums in the deck so it was not hard to fit. It was also another answer I needed to have against other Tornadus EX and other things Landorus-EX just could not beat without help.
I was also missing 2 other good starters in many matchups. I felt significantly weaker early game because of it.
I was also not expecting Klinklang to be played much week 1. I figured people would not play the deck in an unknown metagame. It seemed potential Klinklang players were deterred by the unknown amount of Fire techs people were planning to include as well. With that assumption I can say I was spot on. Not many Metal decks were played and the ones that were, ended up running into Victini and similar techs.
I also figured many people would use Garbodor and Rayeels to directly counter Blastoise and Klinklang week 1. I was right about that too. I knew that with this deck I would beat the counters to my tough matchup.
Ironically, I fell to a Garbodor in top 16 after going undefeated in Swiss. Regardless, I know how winnable that matchup is. I solidly won Game 1, lost turn 3 or 4 by benching to a turn 1 Tornadus EX which tore apart my lone Bouffalant, and Game 3, I started Landorus against another turn 1 Tornadus Virbank/Laser.
Because people had seen the success of Garbodor in our area and across the country during week 1, many people would see Blastoise as less of a threat and choose to play Big Basics week 2. Blastoise was not the big winner during the first State event. That title clearly belonged to Garbodor.
As a result, Blastoise would be less popular week 2 for fear of Garbodor. With that deck on the decline, Big Basics would see a surge in play. I knew if I were to play Big Basics as well I would have to be prepared to deal with mirror match, something my original version was not prepared to do.
I needed Tornadus to keep up with the more common Big Basics lists but I also had to keep my 3 Mewtwo for Blastoise which I knew would still be out there. My week 2 list was probably the weakest list for the metagame I was going into.
I was playing in Maine with New Hampshire’s State being on the same day. I knew the player base would be split and I would have a chance to get a lot of points easily if I just made top 4 (it was that small).
There was not a single Blastoise deck in the room so I felt confident in my deck choice. It was mostly other Big Basics decks like mine, Darkrai and one Klinklang. I knew I could not afford to assume I could dodge the Klinklang because of the tournament’s size. But I wasn’t prepared with any other deck, so I stuck with my reliable choice.
Now I realize that Klinklang was clearly the play that day. I chose to play Big Basics once more just because it was did too well in Connecticut for me to pass up.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 12
After the tournament, I realized how little Exp. Share was doing to help the deck function outside of the Blastoise matchup. Two is enough in the Blastoise matchup because you only really want them on Bouffalant. But against everything else I found myself just sticking them under whatever I had on the field at the time to get them out of my hand for Juniper or Bianca.
I will play them at Regionals (because you know, Blastoise is still a thing), but I will probably regret it if I do not ever have to play against Blastoise. Although it is not as attractive an option as it was week 1, I would still play Exp. Share over Eviolite, Potion, or whatever else you can play in those 2 slots.
Eviolite is not without merit however. It’s extremely good in mirror match and makes Bouffalant even more difficult for the other person to deal with. Outside of an expensive Land’s Judgement, it is impossible to trade favorably against an Eviolite equipped Buffalo.
This tournament was largely uneventful and I didn’t really learn anything new. The Klinklang I played against wasn’t even a popular version so I did not feel I could assume that game was a good example of how my deck faired against it. This list got me 3rd in an overall boring event.
In top 4, I played against an old style Klinklang with Darkrai, Keldeo, and a bunch of other EXs. Both games were close but I couldn’t pull it out with only 2 Bouffalant when he got 2 Klink out turn 1 each game.
Regardless of how I lost, I knew my list had to evolve in order to prepare for the largest State I would attend. I knew the metagame would be fully represented in Massachusetts. I decided to not focus on beating any particular matchup. My list was standard and refined for consistency. With no techs, I was relying on my own ability to wield my weapon of choice and my knowledge, to outplay my few bad matchups.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 40
Energy – 11
By week 3 my list had evolved into this monster. I think this is the best list the deck can get. All the card counts seem perfect. In my area Blastoise was not having much success, so I cut Mewtwo down to 2 in order to bump my Virbank count up to 3.
This is not entirely needed though. I could have done with another Supporter instead. However, I found myself unable to get Virbank into play early game, for both Blow Through and Hypnotoxic Laser donks. I also predicted a rise in Tropical Beach. Most of the better Klinklang players used Beach in their lists and if you have ever played that matchup, you will know how desperately Klinklang wants Virbank out of play.
I ended up doing well at every State I went to was satisfied overall but very unhappy I missed cut in Massachusetts. Hopefully that bubble is not the deciding factor in getting my Worlds invite.
Big Basics is definitely gaining popularity. I expect it will see some kind of hate if you take it to Regionals, so be prepared.
The thing is, a conglomerate like Big Basics is decidedly hard to counter. It doesn’t have an identifiable weakness like Blastoise and Klinklang do for example. I talk to people and research on my own; none of them have developed anything new that beats Big Basics while still having good matchups against the rest of the format.
pokemon-paradijs.comOne of the best decks to hate on Big Basics is Klinklang. In fact, this might be one of the better plays for Regionals. It performed suboptimally at States, but I think this is partially because of the low quality lists that were running around. A few of the better Klinklang decks did well and some players made their lists very public, yet not many people seemed drawn to this deck.
During the long gap between States and Regionals, I expect people will be rethinking how they build their decks entirely. People have plenty of time to do their homework so expect lists to get better.
You might also notice certain techs start vanishing from lists that were around during States. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in the New England area, there is a noticeable deficit of Fire techs now compared to what techs were around week 1. When something (like my Exp. Share example above) is not doing work in a list, people obviously take it out or cut it down.
In areas that didn’t have much Klinklang being played during States, I would predict Klinklang would be a much better meta call come Regionals.
The deck will beat almost any unprepared Big Basics deck too. Big Basics seems to be the BDIF right now, and being the one deck that can beat the best deck in format is always a good thing. This is what I think a good Klinklang list looks like now.
I plan to work with Klinklang much more before Regionals. I’ve put a few hours behind my list and I can say for sure it is solid, but I am not sure how readily I would recommend it over the other writer’s versions just because of the immaturity of my version. I will give you what I have. That being said, I started testing this only about a week ago.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 37
Energy – 10
“Hybrid-Klang” as I like to call it uses a Shift Gear/Max Potion plan alongside Klinklang PLS as opposed to a focus on Plasma Steel with minimal healing cards or a focus on Shift Gear (old Klinklang BLW). This version is what I have seen most players using and having success with.
I do not approve of Darkrai, Keldeo, and all those cute tricks in Klinklang. I would rather not play non-Metal Pokémon. There is nothing worse than going down several Prizes, setting up, holding onto a fist full of Max Potions and being unable to make a comeback because your Keldeo-EX takes a Land’s Judgement/Laser to the face at the last moment, for the loss.
Klinklang is already inconsistent. It really can’t afford all the extras anyway. The only attackers other than Cobalion-EX I would play are Durant DRX and maybe a Cobalion NVI. Durant can be incredible when protected by Plasma Steel, fetching a Catcher or something similar. Cobalion is special because it gives you a solid non-EX attacker you can use against Bouffalant.
I think this deck absolutely needs to be built to be as consistent as possible. Unlike Blastoise, if Klinklang gets both Plasma Steel and Shift Gear online at the same time, it will win most games where the opponent does not have a counter waiting.
Because of this, Klinklang is a lot less clunky to set up than I originally thought. The range of time it has to set up and still be able to realistically pull off a win is by far the largest out of any deck in the format. I’ve seen the deck be one turn from losing, Candy into a Klinklang, and ride a single Cobalion-EX to victory. Although the deck is inconsistent in nature, Klinklang can take its time getting the unbeatable setup and win in the long run, much like the Accelgor DEX/Chandelure NVI/Vileplume UD deck of last year.
Tropical Beach is key in here. If you do not have Tropical Beach, I have to advise against playing this deck entirely. You do not have space to add more Supporters to compensate while still playing Pokémon Center as a counter Stadium.
The list I am giving you is also built in consideration of Tropical Beach. Four Skyla is fantastic, but only when you can search out Tropical Beach as a card drawing option on the first turn. Without at least 2 Beach, you lack the early game stability that this list is designed to give you.
With people starting to play Giant Cape on Bouffalant to counter Steel Bullet, Tool Scrapper is needed now more than ever. It also is a key card in the Garbodor matchup because it gives you a turn of Shift Gear and thus a turn of Max Potion. Cobalion-EX can definitely put up a fight against the DCE reliant deck with Righteous Edge. While Steel Bullet is not the strongest attack, Shift Gear/Max Potion can keep one alive long enough to make up the difference.
It is imperative that Dowsing Machine is played in this deck. No other ACE SPEC can rival its level of usefulness in here. Late game, some decks resort to using Laser/Virbank to Poison Klinklang out. Here, Dowsing Machine is the 3rd Tropical Beach. Against Garbodor, it is the second Tool Scrapper to allow Shift Gear and remove Giant Cape. It can be the Supporter card any time after turn 1, it can be the 4th Max Potion, any Trainer you had to discard with Juniper, etc. Dowsing Machine’s versatility is unmatched by any ACE SPEC.
Comparatively, Computer Search is a “wild card” that usually has the job of completing the Klinklang line by searching for Rare Candy or the Klinklang itself. This is important in a deck like this, but 4 Skyla do that job also, getting the Candy or the Heavy Ball. Having a 5th card that really does the same job seems excessive to me.
As I mentioned earlier, this deck does not have to set up fast to be effective. Because turn 2 setup isn’t your priority when deck building and Dowsing Machine gets about as strong as Computer Search past the first few turns (and eventually much stronger late game), Dowsing Machine is the clear choice here.
pokemon-paradijs.comCobalion NVI’s Energy Press 2-shots Buffalos without Eviolite attached and without risking Prizes or many Energy. Both are great alongside Cobalion-EX. I would play one of each if possible, but overall I think regular Cobalion brings more to the table. Klinklang is pretty shallow versatility wise without it and Energy Press is an excellent attack that fits in well with the Energy cost of Cobalion-EX’s attacks.
Regular Cobalion is invaluable here. It provides a “sponge” of sorts against almost every non-EX threat that is not Fire type. Its under costed attack deals solid damage without posing the 2 Prize risk that Cobalion-EX does.
Iron Breaker isn’t bad either if you have the Energy to use it but it doesn’t really have a specific use against any common threat. It usually forces them to use a Switch, which isn’t that great because this deck usually can not take advantage of situations where they are out of Switch. Energy Press is the real reason to use this card.
Klang is absolutely needed as well. This is simply because once Plasma Klinklang is set up, Klink provides a reliable way to set up a guaranteed Shift Gear.
Another thing to consider when playing Klinklang is its performance in top cut. Some State organizers decided to extend their top cut time limits to 75 minutes. I have never played in this type of top cut but I am sure having more time would be beneficial to set up decks.
I’m not sure if this is going to be the case for any Regionals, but knowing the time limit is something to research when playing something like Klinklang. Obviously it is a comeback deck that will eventually win long, drawn out games after it can eliminate non-EX targets. It is tough to play three full games with this deck with only 60 minutes, but not impossible. With 75 minutes to play, Klinklang has a much fairer chance in the elimination rounds.
Either way, train yourself to play fast with this deck. It is not that hard to play to begin with.
All that being said, Klinklang is still a Stage 2 deck. It has its consistency issues and can struggle early game against fast starts from Big Basics and Darkrai. Its counters are pretty obvious and if the opponent packs a counter, a good matchup can get a lot tougher. Klinklang is a risky deck, but it could be the play in the right metagame.
Thoughts on Darktales
pokemon-paradijs.comMy thoughts on Darkrai really have not changed much since my last article. I still do not think it can do enough to sway matches in its favor. The Darkrai lists have not changed much either.
However, one major development that may or may not have a lasting place in the metagame coming out of States is the Darktales. (I’m tempted to call it Ducktales, not sure why.)
I have been playing around with it lately and I’ve found it to be a great way of playing Darkrai that only improves on an above average deck. My previous thoughts on Darkrai included a rant on why I thought it was too vanilla and just lacked anything to draw me to it over Big Basics (the faster and more consistent deck of the two, without question).
Ninetales serves 3 main purposes:
- Steamrolls Klinklang. There is literally nothing they can do against Ninetales.
- It serves as a more convenient Catcher and makes playing 4 Ultra Ball worthwhile.
- It can deal up to 150 damage and does not give up 2 Prize cards (it is never a dead card).
Yet, as good as Ninetales sounds on paper, having it in a Darkrai deck brings a fair share of problems to the table.
First, Ninetales isn’t really a tech in this deck. This is a problem in itself. In many ways, the deck is built with Ninetales in mind. While having it will never really hurt you, you would probably just like to have the things you took out to fit Ninetales into your Darkrai deck more.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 35
Energy – 13
I also found myself needing to hit heads on Laser when I played it far more than I wanted to. In most decks, Big Basics for example, Sleep is just an added bonus that comes along with what you really want: Poison. I have hoped really hard for Sleep in some cases, just like anyone else.
But because Ninetales is an integral part of the list, it has to attack more often than it would if it were only a 1-1 tech for use against Klinklang.
pokemon-paradijs.comFour Blend Energy GRPD is just awkward. Not being able to Energy Switch Blend is just terrible early game. Having 2 Ninetales showing up right before you Juniper is inconvenient at best and Vulpix itself is just bad. You never want to start Vulpix, but in a deck with so few Pokémon, it is bound to happen at least once during a tournament.
100 with Hexed Flame is much, much less than 150 right now. 100 2-shots EXs, while 150 takes them out if they have 30 already on them (easy with Night Spear). Usually I plan my turn before I start going into plays. I want to imagine how my turn will realistically pan out before I start dropping cards.
With Ninetales this is impossible. The inconsistency of Hypnotoxic Laser makes it impossible to plan turns around using Hexed Flame. This is a huge downside of using Ninetales and the number one reason I probably will not be using this deck at Regionals.
It is clearly not for everyone, but I think it is a good way to play Darkrai. Ninetales gives Darkrai a big damage attack and a counter to Klinklang, both of which I have felt the deck has been overdue for. However, Vulpix is detrimental to the consistency of getting a fast Darkrai and planning around Hexed Flame is nearly impossible.
Musings on Rayeels
There is not much to say about Rayeels right now, in my opinion. While it had decent success during States, it also did not have any real gains. Rayeels had a few wins, but it obviously could not keep up with the likes of Landorus and Darkrai. In a world where Landorus is so abundant I think Rayeels is a very risky play for Regionals.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
The list is a lot like the one from my last article. I just have stronger opinions on what cards are correct now.
pokemon-paradijs.comConsistency still has to be priority here but with Garbodor doing well, 1 Tool Scrapper needs to be pushed into the list. I do not like Keldeo-EX anymore, I feel like it is a liability and I would rather use another Switch.
While Rayeels can beat Landorus decks if it sets up, the problem is getting that far. And once it is set up, Rayeels’ chances get significantly better. Landorus can get an insurmountable edge early game and Rayeels just has to sit there and take it, waiting until it can break Landorus’ Catcher cycle or get enough Eels up to make Rayquaza a threat (shifting their focus to Ray, forcing Landorus to ignore Eels).
With so many people doing well with and advocating for Big Basics decks (including myself) I think Rayeels faces an uphill battle for Regionals.
I will be clear about what I like and do not like, and this is a deck I really am not a fan of at the moment. The numbers are just not in its favor.
However, I can see this being a great meta call. Like Klinklang, this would thrive in an area without its nemesis (Klinklang’s being Fire of any sort, Rayeel’s being Landorus-EX). This is the type of deck that gets stronger in top cut as well. Its main problem is getting through Swiss without getting donked or blown out.
Rayeels could be the dark horse of this rapidly changing metagame. How well it does will depend on what else sees play.
To conclude, I believe Big Basics is the fastest, most consistent deck in the format. Klinklang is considerably less reliable, but it also has the ability to totally lock someone out of the game. Darktales is the only new deck here. I think playing Ninetales has a few really important upsides (swinging the Klinklang matchup in your favor), but some qualities that distance the deck from being tier 1.
Well, with all that being said, I wish you the best at Spring Regionals if you are going. I will be at Massachusetts Regionals in Foxborough (that’s the town where my football team beats your football team). The event is being held in, or near Gillette Stadium as well.
We don’t even know exactly where, it’s just listed as being held at “Gillette Stadium.” Super descriptive information we get up here in New England. Regardless it should be a cool place to be. If you see me, feel free to say hi and tell me about yourself.
Regarding my future plans, I probably will not be writing for a while after this. I will most likely skip June and probably May as well. I’m graduating from high school this June and I have Senior responsibilities to tend to. I am not planning to do much testing for Battle Roads. I hope to skip Nationals if possible and still be able to have my invite to Worlds.
If I do write in May, I’d like to do an Underground type set review where I would review the upcoming set and also include more in depth analysis on the most relevant cards in the set, including decklists using the cards I would be reviewing.
I also received an offer from a prominent Junior player who was wondering if he could be featured in one of my articles in some way. The Junior in question is probably the single most successful player in his entire division right now.
I know people have doubts about the content provided by younger players, just because of their inexperience in Masters and I totally understand this. But if anyone has ideas about how I could feature this amazing Junior player in an article in a unique way, I’d love to hear them.
I am looking to do something a bit different in my next article if you couldn’t tell. Hopefully that happens in May, but that is really dictated by my schedule.
May the odds be ever in your favor, trainer.
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