As I have probably stated somewhere else in the past, I think Battle Roads and City Championships are the best parts of the tournament season. There are usually multiple tournaments every weekend so you can try a lot of different decks and shake off a bad tournament experience with a good one the very next day.
So far I’ve played in three Battle Roads, taking 2nd with Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX, 3rd with Landorus-EX/Lugia EX/Deoxys-EX, and 1st with Gothitelle EPO/Accelgor DEX/Mew-EX/Dusknoir BCR. Now if only I can pick up a fourth place finish I can hit for the cycle.
This article doesn’t have much of a clear focus, it’s mainly just a bunch of stuff that has been on my mind that I wanted to put into writing, so I think the best way to approach this article is to jump around the headings and pick out something that looks interesting to you, or read everything, because I hope nothing I’m writing is too boring.
Table of Contents
- The Format and Tier List
- Metagaming the Format
- How I Test Nowadays
- Welcome to Scoopville
- Teaching a New Player to Play
- Dusting Up Battle Roads with Cinccino
The Format and Tier List
I have to say that this is my favorite format that I have played in all season long, and I feel that the metagame is the healthiest it has been since the format heading into the last National Championship.
There are a wide variety of decks to play with strengths and weaknesses all of which can be countered by other decks in the format. I know plenty still feel the format is stupid with a lot of speed, but setup decks like Gothitelle, Klinklang, and Blastoise all can punish these aggressive decks, and as a result, I think good deck selection, deck construction, and understanding of cards and matchups are being rewarded more than they have all season long.
Right now, this is how I have the decks in the format sorted out as far as strength. My use of tiers is to try to organize the format by the strength of decks relative to the format as a whole. I know there are other definitions that people like to cling on for tier lists, but these are mine, so I don’t really care about the rest. I just want to see a ranking of general power for the most part, and then I can decipher what deck to play based on whatever is seeing a lot of play later on in the process.
- Gothitelle EPO 47/Accelgor DEX/Mew-EX/Dusknoir BCR
- Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX/(Absol PLF)
- Thundurus EX/Deoxys-EX/Kyurem PLF/(Lugia EX/Snorlax PLS/Absol PLF)
- Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem-EX PLS
Some might disagree with the decks I have newly relegated to Tier 3, but I think that is where they belong now. Rayquaza/Eelektrik really struggles against Plasma stuff, its Darkrai matchup got much worse with the release of Absol, and Mr. Mime isn’t enough to keep Big Basics from having a big advantage against it.
Big Basics and Garbodor both take a big hit from Plasma. The deck will generally hit both Landorus-EX and Mewtwo EX for Weakness, and Cobalion-EX seems pretty lackluster without Plasma Steel protection. While Plasma decks do use Abilities, they don’t have to rely on them, which makes adding Garbodor to the mix not super effective against them.
While I think all of these decks are no longer optimal plays, they are all still good enough to win a tournament, but the field is tough for them right now.
One of the more neglected decks of this format is Plasma Klinklang. There has been a slew of new non-EX attackers introduced into the format, but overall, the cornerstone of most decks are Pokémon-EX, and a decrease in Rayquaza/Eelektrik will definitely help it out.
The biggest misunderstanding with the deck is its matchup against Plasma decks. Kyurem PLF is nifty and all, but playing 2-3 copies of it will not ensure you a win, at least against a good Klinklang build.
My Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX deck has a terrific matchup against Klinklang because the Plasma Energy is the only Special Energy I played in the deck; the rest was Basic Water. If I am playing primarily Special Energy, I highly doubt I would be able to get off many Blizzard Burn attacks as Cobalion-EX removes my Energy with Righteous Edge, and when most Klinklang decks play Max Potion, most of that Frost Spear damage will be largely meaningless.
In the Thundurus EX versions of the deck, they do have the option to accelerate Prism and Blend to Kyurem with Raiden Knuckle, but that gives your opponent a chance to react to that attachment, and possibly just Catcher/KO the Kyurem.
The breakdown of ways a Klinklang deck can knockout a Kyurem breaks down as follows:
- 2 Energy – Energy Press with Cobalion NVI on a 3-Energy Kyurem, or Energy Press on a 2-Energy Kyurem while using a Hypnotoxic Laser.
- 3 Energy – Iron Breaker with Cobalion NVI and Plasma Steel with Klinklang PLS.
With Exp. Share and Klinklang BLW, it isn’t overly difficult to get the necessary Energy on your attacker, especially if the Plasma player can’t keep Energy on their Kyurem because Cobalion-EX is removing it with Special Energy. The neatest thing about Cobalion NVI is that it’s a non-EX, and your opponent has to actually deal with it as it is a threat, and Knock it Out for only 1 Prize, protecting the Cobalion-EX.
I think overall, the matchup is around 50/50, as the Plasma decks still have a speed advantage, but the lopsided matchup that a lot of people have made it out to be is ridiculous.
As far as Darkrai EX, it doesn’t really score better or worse than 50/50 matchups against anything except Rayquaza/Eelektrik in the format, while being heavily punishable by Garbodor, Big Basics, and Klinklang. Luckily, most of its bad matchups are in the Tier 2/3 because of what most of the Tier 1 decks do to those other decks.
The four decks in the Tier 1 seem fairly balanced to me. The Plasma stuff has a speed advantage, while Gothitelle and Blastoise can easily beat it as long as they get a decently quick setup. The Gothitelle and Blastoise matchup largely comes down to who can get their Stage 2 out.
Blastoise can have trouble with Tier 2 Klinklang and Tier 3 Garbodor, but those aren’t likely to be popular, but just hitting one can ruin a Blastoise players tournament if they don’t tech against them. Gothitelle’s only struggle with decks on lower tiers is with Darkrai EX decks, and that’s only if they choose to play 2-3 Keldeo-EX, which will force Darkrai to make sacrifices in some of their other matchups.
Metagaming the Format
I think both in the last format, and now this format, metagaming is very important. Choosing which deck to play can make or break your tournament, as well as what decks you choose to tech against.
I have become a lot less emotional about the decks I choose to play and more logical about deck choice ever since I couldn’t play in States and had to watch them go by as an outsider looking in. Not being actively involved in getting a deck ready for a tournament put me in a position where I could more objectively view what was going on in tournaments than if I had played in them and was having success or failures with some particular deck.
Headed into my first Battle Roads, I felt Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX would be a strong play as not many players were likely to play Team Plasma decks with Lugia EX, which limits its only bad matchup to about a 50/50 matchup with Darkrai EX (since Gothitelle/Accelgor wasn’t really a thing in the metagame at this point). While I think my deck choice was solid, I still managed to lose to my arch nemesis Excadrill in the finals.
For the second tournament, I saw a lot of Darkrai and Eels the day before, with very little Blastoise and Team Plasma, so I figured Landorus-EX/Lugia EX would be a strong play for the next day. Klinklang saw a decent amount of play the day before and it looked like a lot of players brought it to the next tournament, so I put in a Victini NVI 15 and Fire Energy to combat that, giving me an easy 6-0 win in the tournament.
After that, I felt Gothitelle/Accelgor would be a strong play for whatever the next tournament I would play in was, as Blastoise wasn’t seeing much play, and it hadn’t really been played in our area, so there was no reason to believe that other decks would be teching against it with multiple Keldeo-EX. I also put in one Switch, which almost ensured me an auto-win against Quad Snorlax as I knew it would probably be played, and I would have played it in the last round if it had won in the round before.
I think I can attribute a lot of my success at the early Battle Roads to just making good deck selections. I didn’t really do anything special, just made good logical decisions on my deck choice. When you’re playing a deck that has favorable matchups against the field, the tournament becomes a lot easier to do well in.
In the not so distant past, I just kind of picked my decks more for the hell of it, which has made for some difficult tournament runs, where sometimes I scrubbed bad, or even when I did well, it was very challenging to get the wins.
To increase success, especially at smaller tournaments, making clear headed decisions about your deck choice can make the tournament much easier than if you get overly attached to one deck.
As far as a bigger tournament like Nationals, it’s a little harder to metagame, as you don’t really know what types of decks the players might tend to like you can distinguish at the local level. I think for a tournament like Nationals, just keep in mind what has been popular, and relative strength of the decks if there is a deck that you think is strong but has been underplayed. (For example Accelgor and Klinklang at Nationals last year).
If a deck is strong, you can bet other players will play it, even if it wasn’t popular during Battle Roads.
How I Test Nowadays
I think when I first started playing, I wasted a lot of time during my testing playing misguided lists and decks that weren’t really going to be feasible.
Since then I have really streamlined my testing process to make it much more time efficient, in a large part because of just being around longer in the community and having more people to work and test decks with on, the feedback from others has become a very big part of my testing process while in the past I had been riding it out more solo dolo.
When a new set is released, my friends and I will generally build all of the new decks and update old decks to see what works and doesn’t. We then narrow it down to the decks we see as the strongest, and focus more of our testing on those decks.
Generally I try to settle upon a deck at least a week ahead of time for a tournament, and then solely test that. I don’t really test too much against a wide breadth of decks, and instead really focus my testing to the matchups that seem will be the most challenging.
For example, I didn’t play more than one game against Big Basics or Garbodor with my Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX deck, because it was clear after one game how much the deck destroys those two decks. I tested just a couple of games against Blastoise and RayEels, with Blastoise being a straightforward matchup as far as how the game played out, and RayEels being an overwhelmingly favorable matchup.
From there, I spent more time testing matchups such as Team Plasma and Klinklang which aren’t overly apparent on what the optimal strategy against those decks are.
Testing time is valuable, and you really want to focus on the right matchups to test, because if you have a strong grasp on the fundamentals of the game, you can easily map out how to beat decks like Big Basics and Darkrai, as these decks have been around forever.
All along the way in testing feedback and discussion is very important. We look at what challenges the given matchup poses, how those challenges can be addressed, and how those changes would impact other matchups. By having constant discussion going on throughout the process we’re able to more easily identify cards that aren’t quite working and find better replacements before heading to a tournament.
Welcome to Scoopville
One of the most hotly debated issues headed into this stretch of the season is always scooping, as there are going to be a number of players looking for those last points from Battle Roads to secure their invite to the World Championship. I have a few thoughts on the issue, and think it is a somewhat complicated issue, but I think these are some good guidelines to follow.
First, players should really look at better season planning. Players whose goal is to get a World’s invite heading into the season should really take advantage of Fall Battle Roads. If these players just gain some points during this stretch of the season, they would really ease the pressure on themselves for getting points at the end of the season.
Obviously this isn’t always the case, as some players can legitimately not play in tournaments early in the year because of things like work, and newer players can find some surprise success that puts them on the brink of a World’s invite. But if your goal is to make Worlds from the start of the year, you should totally take advantage of Fall Battle Roads.
In general, I think players should not ask for handouts. You still have to go out and earn your World’s invite, and you shouldn’t feel upset if players want to play it out and try to win it for themselves.
I know personally there have been Battle Roads I haven’t attended because it seemed like players going for the invite were desperate for points and were making the tournament mostly about them and getting their points, and any other outcome to the tournament where they didn’t get the exact points they were aiming for would be greatly upsetting to them. This didn’t seem like a fun tournament to attend, and having player’s feel like certain tournaments might not be fun to attend can’t be good for the game.
On the flipside, I don’t think anyone should be upset with people’s friends scooping to them at a tournament, or trying to game the tournament by beating other players while scooping to their friend. If you don’t want to scoop you don’t have to, and you still can go out and win the tournament by just winning your games, so while the group playing the tournament as such greatly favors their friend, it doesn’t really impact neutral players at all.
Luckily, I have been able to avoid playing any players that need points in tournaments so far, so this has been a non-issue for me personally, and the only player in our area that can get an invite from Battle Roads is John Roberts, and he is good enough to get those last points whether people scoop to him or not.
At the end of the day, I think getting a chance to go and play in the World Championship is a really cool thing that most players would like to participate in, and I think for the most part, if you can give a player that amazing experience of playing in Worlds by scooping the game to them, then it is the right thing to do as there isn’t really much at stake at Battle Roads outside of a few packs and an unplayable promo card.
Even if you’re not friends with the player, or even don’t like them, I think it’s still best to scoop that player, as trying to deny a player something so cool just seems wrong. I guess if the player ran over your kitten, stole your girlfriend, or did something of that nature to you, then you have a good reason to deny them cool things. If they didn’t do something like that though, I think you should just give them their World’s invite. I guarantee that experience will mean much more to them than getting a Victory Cup and four packs will mean to you.
I think there are some degrees to scooping though. If a player still needs 90 points from Battle Roads, and expects everyone to scoop them to six Battle Road wins then that is just asking for handouts and making the entire stretch of the season not fun for most players and that isn’t the type of person I would scoop to unless I was really good friends with. If the person can get that World’s invite by winning that particular tournament, I say just scoop to them and give them that awesome experience.
For more on scooping check out Brit’s article on Celadon City Gym discussing the matter, it’s really good!
Teaching a New Player to Play
One of the more exciting things I have gotten to do during Battle Roads is teach my girlfriend how to play the game and she came along with myself, Colin, and Andy to the first Battle Roads.
Her motivation for wanting to go was partially just to see what the tournaments were like, and also to see how weird the people are. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t get any excitement from seeing any weird people because she didn’t think anyone she met was really weird. She also said everyone was very helpful and nice to her, which is a good reflection on the St. Louis Pokémon community and how they treat new players.
I think part of her also believed that I just played a children’s card game with a bunch of little kids, and didn’t play with people my own age, but these thoughts were shattered with the revelation that age divisions do exist in the game. I think at registration she was pretty amused by her new title of being a Pokémon Master too!
The deck I built for her was a Darkrai EX/Terrakion NVI/Ho-Oh EX/Shaymin EX/Keldeo-EX/Sableye DEX deck that was based on the deck that Sam Liggett had played during City Championships, as I thought it was a really cool deck idea, and she wanted me to build her something cool, and Sam’s deck bled cool.
The deck is a little outdated for this format, but the general strength of Darkrai EX, Terrakion NVI, and Shaymin EX will allow it to win games, even in this format. I wish I had put time into playing the deck at City Championships because in retrospect it was a very strong deck.
Here is the list I ultimately came up for her to play:
Pokémon – 13
2 Ho-Oh EX
2 Shaymin EX
Trainers – 30
Energy – 17
I think before the tournament the changes we made were minus the Victini and Fire Energies, plus a Darkness Energy, Dark Claw, and Supporter. Dowsing Machine is probably better than Computer Search in this deck, but I was using the Dowsing Machine in my deck so she got the Computer Search.
Thanks to Chad Boatman for letting us borrow some Catchers to let her play without the huge disadvantage of not playing Catcher.
In preparation for the tournament, the main things I wanted her to know were the basic game mechanics and procedures so she would know what and what not to do, as not to frustrate her opponents if she were to not know the basics.
We played somewhere around 10 games together a few days before the tournament just to give her a basic understanding of the game and to give her a feel for her deck. The first few games, I would look at her hand and tell her what the optimal play was. Then as we moved onto more games, and she had more of a feel for how to play, I would just let her do her own thing and then give her feedback later on any misplays she made.
The night before the tournament I put her onto PTCGO with the deck and had her just play a bunch of random opponents to get more of a feel for the deck playing by herself, and to hopefully get her some experience against a wide variety of decks. I think PTCGO is a great tool for teaching new players, as it restricts them to only playing within the rules (one Energy attachment per a turn, one Supporter, etc.) and can also give them a wide breadth of experience against the various decks in the format very fast.
The funniest of these matches was against this Lugia EX/Cofagrigus PLF 56 deck. As soon as I saw a Yamask hit the field, I told her this looks like a noob deck, and she should totally own it. Then a minute or so later, the opponent evolved to a pair of Cofagrigus and used Six Feet Under to put three damage counters on two of her Darkrai EXs, changing my viewpoint to, “Nevermind, you’re going to get wrecked and lose 2 turns from now, that’s a really cool deck.” The deck actually got featured on Colin’s blog and it’s definitely a fun idea.
Headed into the tournament, I was hoping for two things:
- Do well myself. I told her I was pretty good, so it would look bad and all if I didn’t do well.
- Have some really bad players show up to the tournament so she could get some easy wins.
#1 went to plan for the most part, besides my bout with Excadrill. #2, not so much. No bad players came to this one, and she was forced to play against a former world’s competitor and a multiple City Champion. Still, she was able to go out and grab some wins, and finished at 2-3, which wasn’t too bad.
The most exciting match she had was her round one match against a very good player. Before the round she asked me if the player was bad, hoping to ease her in… but nope, she got paired against one of the best players in the area round 1.
My match had ended fairly fast, so I got to watch most of her match. The game came down to a Rebirth Flip. If she hit heads, she would have been able to Energy Switch to her Shaymin EX to Revenge Blast a Lugia EX for game. She flipped tails, and then Lugia EX Plasma Gale’d her the next turn.
Her most frustrating match was against a Klinklang deck. Her only answer to the deck was Terrakion NVI, and she did manage to take 3 Prizes and put a ton of other damage on the player’s Pokémon for only having two Terrakion to work with in the matchup.
At one point (like 5 minutes before the tournament) there was a Victini NVI 15 in the deck, but we swapped it out at her request right before the tournament because “Victini is a stupid Pokémon and it’s weak and its attack isn’t even that good.” After that matchup, she definitely wished Victini was still in there.
The mistake I had made in promoting the importance of Victini in the deck is not fully explaining its importance. In explaining it, I had said something along the lines of, “Victini is in the deck to counter any Klinklang decks you play.” What I should have said is, “Victini is in the deck to counter any Klinklang decks you play because Klinklang has an Ability which prevents all of your Pokémon-EX from attacking, and since everything in the Klinklang deck is Fire weak, you will be able to 1HKO them with Victini.”
So takeaway #1 in my first foray in teaching a new player to play the game is to explain everything in great deal. Just saying you play this because of this in a short and succinct way probably won’t get the point across. Explaining it in full detail, and with copies of the cards in question in hand is going to be much more effective.
My takeaway #2 from the whole experience is don’t underestimate the ability that a new player has for playing a given deck. The deck she played is very complicated and takes an understanding of discarding cards early for future gain, making use of two Energy attacks, and countering decks based on Weakness. Even with all of these complicated factors, she was still able to pilot the deck pretty well for having only played a few handfuls of games prior.
Very often I see players break it down as Darkrai or Eelektrik being the two decks that a beginner should start with as they’re pretty straightforward. I think this is the wrong approach, and the best approach is to discuss with the person what type of decks or Pokémon they might like and work on building a competitive deck within that framework, and then let them run with it and learn as they go with a more complicated deck. Chances are if you’re working with a smart person, they’ll be able to figure out most of the decks in the game; nothing is too overly complicated.
Dusting Up Battle Roads with Cinccino
For one of the Battle Roads this weekend, I am going to play my Cinccino/Munna deck. My motivations for playing the deck are that Cinccino and Minccino are adorable, and up there on the most adorable Pokémon list along with Mew. (I’ll cover my top 10 most adorable Pokémon a little bit later.) Additionally, I never ended up playing the previous version of this deck at a tournament, and very sad I didn’t do so.
So a little history behind the deck, there was a fun deck last season that used Cinccino NXD, Hypno HS, and Vileplume UD. The basic idea with the deck was you would try to win a war of attrition by outlasting your opponent’s Pokémon using Cinccino’s Smooth Coat Ability, which lets you flip a coin, and if heads, their attack does no damage to Cinccino. You would use Hypno’s Sleep Pendulum Poké-Power to put your opponent’s Active to sleep, and with Vileplume in play, your opponent would have no way of removing that Pokémon from the Active Spot.
Here is my current list for the deck:
Pokémon – 16
4 Cinccino NXD
1 Shaymin EX
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
Some changes I have made since my last list: I cut Audino BCR for Keldeo-EX. I think this is a necessary change, as you would eventually run out of Audino BCR, which would make things very tough against a Sableye and Lasers deck. Keldeo-EX allows me to shutdown the Poison at the point of attack.
I hate having to go the Keldeo-EX route, as it resets the damage from Echoed Voice, while Audino to break sleep does not, but the prevalence of Hypnotoxic Laser in the format makes Keldeo a necessity. Additionally, Keldeo-EX gives you more Switching options, which is a positive.
I decided to put in a Mr. Mime into the deck. Mr. Mime is great for ensuring that your opponent isn’t able to load up a ton of bench damage behind your Cinccino with snipe attacks like Hammerhead and Night Spear.
The Grass Pokémon still get to take center stage in the deck. Virizion NVI remains my ideal starter Pokémon to get me setup with its Double Draw attack, and then to start putting on any early damage it can with Leaf Wallop depending on my opponent’s start.
Shaymin EX is your sweeper. The way the deck works is you hope you hit enough Smooth Coat flips to make your Cinccino last long enough to force your opponent into a long drawn out game, where you’re constantly putting pressure on them, while they’re missing attacks because of Smooth Coat and sleep. From there, you want to put the game into a situation where your opponent has taken 4 or 5 Prizes, and then Energy Switch to Shaymin EX to sweep the rest of your opponent’s field if the situation allows it.
As far as new Trainers, I really like Colress in here, as it gives you good draw while not discarding your cards, as you don’t want to discard your Energy Switch too early as it is very important for that big Shaymin play late game.
I also added 2 Hypnotoxic Laser into the deck. It gives you an extra option to putting your opponent to sleep, and the poison damage can help Cinccino hit more numbers easier, or punish your opponent for playing down a Virbank City Gym.
As far as the matchups go, I hope I don’t have to play Klinklang. Cobalion-EX removes your DCEs, and Steel Bullet will hit through Cinccino’s Smooth Coat Ability. Garbodor could also be frustrating as it would shut off all my Abilities and usually hit Cinccino for damage, but there is a damage cap on most of the Pokémon in Garbodor’s attacks which makes Shaymin sweeping a possibility to take some surprise wins. Gothitelle will also be a very tough matchup and is probably an auto-loss, especially swapping out my Audino’s for Keldeo.
As far as decks I want to see, decks that depend heavily on EX attackers such as Darkrai, Blastoise, Team Plasma, and Big Basics without Garbodor. These are decks that I just need to flip decently on Smooth Coat flips to take some early Prizes, while also being able to Shaymin sweep them.
I don’t have high expectations for the tournament, and am just going to go there to have some fun, but I did have some positive results with the deck right after Boundaries Crossed came out against some good player’s tournament decks and am still going to go out there and try to win it.
If anyone sees anyway to strengthen this deck that I haven’t figured out on my own already, please leave your thoughts in the comments, as I would like to bring the best version of this deck to the tournament as possible.
And as promised, my top 10 adorable Pokémon list:
I hope this list isn’t too controversial.
That just about covers most of my random thoughts that have been swimming around my head at the moment regarding the game.
Within the next week, I will have some fairly interesting content coming out on my blog, in particular an article on donking, and the numbers behind the donk. In addition to this, there will be some deck discussion article, and more tournament reports.
US Nationals is just a little over a month away. Can’t wait, it should be a super fun event.