U.S. Nationals is only a few weeks away, so I’d like to offer a unique contribution before then. Today, we’ll be talking about two very important subjects: surprising decks and cards you may encounter at this year’s big event; and making the last few tweaks to your list before submission.
Before that, let’s go over…
Some Minor Housecleaning
First off, some of you may be wondering who on Earth I am. The Underground dynamic has changed, and I haven’t written an article in nearly five months, so I figured a reintroduction would help here.
My name is John Kettler: I’m a competitive player who’s been in the game seriously for about a decade. I have a lot of regional success in my home state of Texas, as well as modest success at the National and Worlds levels. More importantly, though, I’m a long-time contributor to SixPrizes.com as an Underground writer, as well as founder and administrator of HeyTrainer.org.
Also, those of you who already know me might be curious what I’ve been up to. Long story short, I’ve been in law school, plus getting my bearings in my new home hundreds of miles away. Both are easier said than done!
Some Different Decks
Although I’ve been busy, my involvement with the game hasn’t vanished: I still play, test, and even go to the occasional tournament (however rare it may be). Listed below are some of the most interesting decks I’ve had the chance to experiment with since Plasma Freeze, and could see doing interesting things at this year’s National Championship.
Because the past two Underground articles have heavily emphasized Accelgor/Gothitelle, I’ll be brief. However, I’d like to give some brief yet meaningful contributions to that topic material. First is the alternate version that I’ve been messing around with as of late…
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 32
Energy – 4
I’ll assume that most of you have read at least one of the articles written by Michael and Esa, or at least had prior knowledge of the deck. In case you haven’t, though, the goal is simply a paralysis lock with Accelgor using its “Deck and Cover” to go back into Gothitelle.
However, a couple key things are different from the Dusknoir/Musharna build you’ve seen online:
This is probably the most unusual aspect of my list, and requires the most explanation. I run a playset of this guy because, put simply, Accelgor’s stability is tough to ensure when you have to maintain two Pokémon lines at once. In many games, you end up folding if you can’t double-bench Shelmet and Gothita because an opponent will simply Catcher-kill the only card with one copy on the field.
With Ditto, you correct this problem by having a “placeholder” Pokémon for whatever gets Knocked Out. So as opposed to having to bench two Shelmet and two Gothita, or worry about holding off on benching Shelmet until Magic Room is active, you can just bench the Ditto and balance out your setup in case one of your other guys goes down.
Another reason why I run Ditto is because it makes a great bench filler. I believe that due to all of the Thundurus EX, Landorus-EX, Cobalion-EX, Mewtwo EX, Deoxys-EX, Kyurem, and so on floating around, your odds of losing on the first turn are significantly high. However, having more Basics will certainly help alleviate this problem (the above list is proof of that, because I run a whopping sixteen Basics).
For the most part, I’ve used a single Gothorita to correct situations where you can’t get the second turn Gothitelle for whatever reason. I’ve found in both online testing and real life that not lacking a turn three lock is far more devastating than it is good to have the turn two lock, so running this copy is exceptionally useful.
(Also, minor note: my choice of Gothorita, as well as inclusion of a single copy of BCR Gothita is because I like having reliable “surprise damage” against damaged Deoxys-EX and Mewtwo EX in desperate situations.)
Like Musharna, it functions as a consistency booster via its Magnetic Draw Ability. Unlike Musharna, though, its impact is far greater, netting on average 2-3 cards per use. For a deck that relies on recycling Deck and Cover uses, as well as suffers heavily from late-game N drops, this card is a fantastic way to help you with both.
The idea actually works partially because of Ditto, as you can Transform multiple times, Ultra Ball, etc. to whittle down your hand to near-nothingness.
For the record, I feel like Electrode isn’t as good in a Dusknoir list because you have so many more “dead” spaces, making thinning your hand down for Magnetic Draw exceptionally difficult. In a list utilizing ‘Noir, I would stick with Musharna or just more draw.
I’m very surprised to see so few lists of Accelgor utilizing Colress. Although the first turn effect of Colress is weak, I believe that from the second turn-onward, it tends to be the deck’s best draw card due heavily to your high Basic count.
I’ve given this version of the deck some practice at a recent Texas Battle Roads, where I went 4-2. Both of my losses were due to a combination of bad luck with Gothitelle and opponents hard-countering Accelgor (my first loss was a Darkrai that ran two Keldeo, and the second was an Eels that ran one Keldeo and a Raikou-EX).
So, you’ve had enough on that. Again, I’d like to avoid beating something over the head too many times, but here’s my slightly different take on the mainstream Accelgor build floating around…
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 33
Energy – 4
For the most part, this list (unlike my Ditto/Electrode version) of the deck is pretty par for course. The major things I do different, however, are in the Pokémon line. I still run 14 Basics, have filled out the list with a Ditto, and run 2-1 lines of both Musharna and Dusknoir.
I don’t do 1-1 lines because it makes hitting the actual Basics exceptionally hard, as well as makes prizing problematic. I also don’t do larger lines because Town Map and Super Rod balance out every statistically serious issue you could have with prizing or Juniper discards.
Another pet project of mine for the past several weeks has been a brand new deck, utilizing Flareon from Plasma Freeze. In a format laden with Pokémon-EX, the prospect of 1HKOing them with non-Pokémon-EX is awfully enticing. As a result, I’ve tried hard to break Flareon’s “Vengeance” attack, allowing you to do more damage for each Pokémon in your discard pile.
So far, this is what I have:
Pokémon – 28
Trainers – 24
Energy – 8
As explained above, the strategy here is loading as many Pokémon into your discard as possible, and then using Flareon’s Vengeance for an absurd amount of damage. It’s not unheard of for this deck to get up to 1HKOing an EX by the fourth or fifth turn, but even if you can’t, Flareon’s Heat Tackle does decent damage in the interim.
About a week into my testing, a contact of mine, Nathan, recommended I include this guy, and it’s worked magically so far. Although the Six Feet Under Ability costs you a Prize, its three damage counters in exchange, coupled with the discarding of it and Yamask gives you a de facto quintuple PlusPower for Vengeance.
On top of that, blowing up two Cofagrigus before an opponent gets his field set up can be devastating if done in tandem with N. Often, this leaves a Flareon capable of 1HKOing a field of stray Pokémon-EX with no energy, no support, and no resources.
Also, if you Transform once or twice into a Yamask, you can get even more oomph for your Six Feet Under!
It’s back in this list, and for many of the same reasons. However, it has the added bonus of being fuel for your Vengeance.
Audino is yet another key Pokémon due to the fact that its Busybody Ability lets you discard it from the hand, again piling on more wood to Flareon’s fire. Additionally, it takes a ton of pressure off of you in the face of Hypnotoxtic Laser, and turns your game against Accelgor into a near auto-win.
Although discarding Pokémon is the name of the game here, sometimes you just don’t have the right number of cards in your hand to do it. As a result, I run two copies of Exeggcute, as Propagate lets us get out of bad Ns where we draw into Dowsing Machine/Ultra Ball, as well as spots where we just can’t afford to discard our resources.
Generally speaking, I don’t want to play draw cards other than N or Juniper: I either always want to discard, or always want to disrupt the opponent’s hand. That’s where Random Receiver comes in, shoring up my odds of hitting the two.
Of course there’s always the off hand or two where I hit Colress with it, but at that point in the game, it can be a boon, netting us 6-10 cards with ease.
For the most part, it’s been a close call as to whether I should run Life Dew and Recycles (used to negate Six Feet Under), Computer Search (grabs me my DCEs quickly), or Dowsing Machine. However, I’ve presently settled on Dowsing because I heavily require replenishing my resources. Plus, there’s a ton of pressure to get those Switches and Catchers back.
As for the deck’s matchups in general, it does shockingly well against the field: the typing against Klinklang and the status prevention against Accelgor make those matchups very easy, and against the rest of the field, you can claim a favorable exchange against EX attackers. This is still a work in progress, but now that the surprise factor of Accelgor is gone, I feel like this deck could be the true shocker come Nationals.
Other Ways to Play the Deck
For the time being, here are some alternative methods of playing the deck:
1. Run Gothitelle or Togekiss to wall the opponent’s disruption items while you prepare your Flareons. The downside here is that you have to give up some space for Pokémon in exchange for Rare Candies; however, a perfect Item lock through Goth can turn even the worst matchups into win, and the extra draw-power and damage from Togekiss can let you get a turn or two back into a game.
2. Trade in your Deoxys for Mewtwos to apply early game attacking pressure instead of extra damage for Flareon. This is somewhat weaker due to Deoxys’s presence in the metagame, but on the plus side, it makes your Blastoise match substantially easier.
3. Run it with Empoleon. It goes a long way to have an Ability that discards every single turn, as well as offers you a fast, hard-hitting attacker at the start of the game.
4. Don’t run Flareon as a deck… run it as a tech! Depending on that Plasma variation you’re using, a 1-1 or 2-2 line can fit in beautifully as a late-game attacker. Just keep in mind that if you go this route, your 1HKOs will probably be scored due to Hypnotoxics and Virbank, rather than having 15-16 Pokémon in your discard.
Surprising Cards for Nationals
Of course, Nationals won’t be what it is without a few surprising techs or splash-ins, as well as some back-from-the-dead cards. Here are a few of the ones I think will make a bigger impact than expected.
Continuing the trend of astonishing one-for-2 Prize exchanges is the original Zoroark. At the onset of the HGSS format in 2011, Foul Play was really effective in taking down high-output attackers, and it serves that purpose again. Why is it better now, though?
First, Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank make it possible for Foul Play to 1HKO EX’s. Second, and more importantly, you may use Plasma Badge to accelerate Zoroark’s Energy, and increase its damage output with Deoxys-EX. Combine the two, and you have an attacker that’s very capable of bringing down most Pokémon-EX in a single blow.
The only obstacles to this card working are non-EX attackers without easily manipulated (such as Accelgor), as well as failing to set up. If the right partners are found for it, though, this could be an extremely versatile and powerful card come U.S. Nationals.
Since its release, Terrakion has enjoyed tons of use. But due to the hype of other decks, its impact has waned as of late.
Fortunately for the weird brown bull thing, I expect its use to pick up in time for Nationals. There is no easier way to revenge-kill Darkrais and Thundurus in this format, especially with the complete drop-off of Eviolite. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s another one of those random cards capable of benefitting from Plasma Badge/Colress Machine, making it possible for a Retaliate to appear literally out of nowhere.
So Deoxys-EX with Helix Force dealing a minimum 180 to Mewtwo is the perfect revenge kill. We get it. But that doesn’t mean that Mewtwo can’t still be a great card. I believe that the card’s new general role in this format is, ironically, as more of a response card. Is a Deoxys giving your field trouble? No problem: just Metwo/DCE/Laser them! This tends to work more as a late-game effort, though.
The Entire Dragon Type
The unbridled swarm of Plasma Pokémon, plus the increased strength of Darkrai and Blastoise have given RayEels trouble. As a result, the effective usage of Rayquaza EX and Rayquaza DRX have both gone down, opening a huge window of opportunity for other Dragon-type attackers and support cards.
For example, weird decks like Flygon BCR/Dusknoir may have the occasional issue with Kyurem or Lugia EX, but for the most part, Sand Slammer is practically designed to devastate decks that fill their bench. Likewise, Dragonite PLF’s Deafen can work wonders in this format, allowing for a strong, versatile tank with Giant Cape, Max Potion, and occasionally Garbodor. Heck, even Garchomp/Altaria could make a comeback if built right!
The Final Tweaks for Nationals
The last topic I’d like to discuss today is a tangentially related issue: the final changes you make to your deck before a tournament. For me, this is a phenomenally important step in the deck building process because an average player’s panic and desperation are high, while that same player’s ability to make rational decisions is low.
We see all sorts of “secret decks” such as the ones we’ve discussed today, and no matter how good or bad those decks truly are, we get the urge to edit our decks to combat the new threat. Whether this means a single tech card, or a whole new attacking line, this tends to be a “make-it-or-break-it” moment for many players…and more often than not, those players’ days get broken by it.
1. Try not to stray too far from what you’re presently doing. Unless this means you’re changing your entire deck around (which is its own can of worms), you should not change your list too substantially because it will turn into something entirely different. Remember that this is the deck you’ve been training with for days, weeks, or even months, so radically altering it can be dangerous.
2. On that note, keep your final changes limited to only a few – probably six maximum. Assuming you know what to play and how to play it, disrupting the consistency of your deck at the last second can prove to be devastating.
Nowadays, the decision-making of tactics and strategies is fairly limited, so more games get decided by simple probability calculations than ever: the more superior you are with those, the better you are at the game. Thus, tread carefully, as opposed to rushing to add that 1-1 Flareon PFR, 1-1 Zoroark BLW, and 2 Terrakion NVI.
3. When making last-second changes, think carefully about the implications of cutting draw/search versus tech and utility. Like I was saying in the last section, probability means everything nowadays, and what better way to ensure high probabilities of good starts and long-term consistency than a high draw and search count? However, in some very rare instances, you’ll constrain yourself with having so much draw, so there are other times when you have to cut back in order to keep versatility.
This is actually a very old question that’s been around for almost as long as the game itself has, and there’s never one set-in-stone answer – just what is right for the time. For example, for the better part of 2003 to 2005, when the game was starting up again and competition was low, of course the most consistent lists tended to dominate.
However, around 2009 to 2011, when we saw the rise of sites such as HeyTrainer, SixPrizes, and YouTube hosts like J-Wittz, good deck information became widely available to the masses, taking away the consistency advantage for good. As a result, players had to get creative and even cut tiny corners in consistency so that they’d have a little more tech versatility.
What’s “the answer” to that question in this format? That’s not an easy question to answer, but for the most part, I’d say that having a high draw count will make more of a difference than a bunch of random techs.
In case you haven’t noticed, this game is now very fast-paced, so missing a single decent draw can be devastating. Of course, it isn’t like 2003-2005 where you could simply be all consistency, all the time; rather, you could use at least a little bit of that tech-factor going on.
When it comes to specific techs, do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if your inclusion is really worth it as opposed to the extra consistency more draw could grant. On PTCGO and PlayTCG, I’ve seen far too many Plasma builds run a random Block Snorlax and/or Plasma Frigate here or there, only to draw into nothingness every time after an N. However, this isn’t because Block Snorlax or Plasma Frigate are bad cards – it’s just because at that point in the deck building phase, the player chose not to establish consistency, and instead embrace techiness.
4. Know when to say “no” to yourself. I think I could say this to a bunch of people (including myself) over all sorts of matters in life, but in this context, having the guts to say “no” to a sudden, final impulse in the deck construction process can save literally months of work.
In 2009, I had a very well-rounded and tested Luxray GL LV.X deck: It had no bells and whistles aside from Sunyshore City Gym to give it a very good Fighting matchup, and several strong Psychic attackers. However, I had caved to the pressure of Luxray/Infernape, and therefore changed my deck around completely.
But if that wasn’t enough, I then began to “tech against the metagame” by adding a Ditto for Gengar, and a 1-1 Dialga G LV.X for… who knows what anymore. The point was that I kept seeing threats, and irrationally saying “YES” to every tech I could find.
Needless to say, my performance that year wasn’t very good, but had I just taken a deep breath and stuck with what I had tested, I probably would’ve top cut. My combined record at Nationals since this embarrassing incident is now 24-7, so I’d say learning to say “no” helped.
5. So you’ve gone through all of the above, but still decided that you want to make your changes? Go ahead and get a trusted second opinion to go over your substantive changes anyway, even if you feel really sure about what you’ve changed. In the above example, had I just approached one of my good friends to ask for some perspective, I probably would have gotten an answer along the lines of “what are you THINKING?!”
A wake-up slap, whether it’s figurative or literal, can go a long way at a big event like U.S. Nationals, so don’t be afraid to share some of those last-second changes with a reliable confidante who can encourage you to take smart risks, but more importantly tell you to avoid something very, very bad that would hurt your chances for success.
Thoughts Going Ahead
Between the articles you read here and the last two weekends of Battle Roads results, most of the surprises for Nationals should be pretty clear. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready for U.S. Nationals, nor should you underestimate getting permanently paralyzed or blown away by a Flareon for 200 damage, so I’d advise that you keep a close watch on final developments.
And for my non-American readers, I hope that the concepts and ideas featured today have given you some new ways to look at this format, and maybe even inspire a new deck idea or two.
All that said, good luck everyone. I’ll be at U.S. Nationals again this year, so I hope to meet some of you guys!
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