Hello beauties… it’s good to be back. I haven’t written in over two months now. It’s my senior year of high school and I’m graduating tomorrow if you are reading this the day it comes out. Naturally, I’ve been pretty busy.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I really want from my life. What path do I peruse? The one that makes bank? Or some other route that makes me truly happy. But who’s to say making money doesn’t make me happy too? I don’t even know.
Regardless, I have resolved to stay involved in Pokémon for as long as I can, even as I go off to college. I’d truly like to turn my involvement in the game into a career some day. I could see myself working for Pokémon at some point. I’d love to do it, even if it means giving up my ability to play in organized play.
In my free time, I have been in the workshop, building decks the old fashioned way. With hardened hands and a spirit forged in the fires of time, I give you my finished projects. These decks, built out of only the finest hardwoods, stand tall in the top percentile. My hardwood decks are only the finest in quality, built to withstand fierce deluges, violent gales and more.
Today I’m going to give you a look at a bunch of different types of decks I have slaved away building. Nationals is a major event for me, so I’m looking at all the possibilities. I’m not closing myself inside my comfort zone. Certain decks I like more than others, just because of how I like to play. However, I’m keeping an open mind, and I recommend you do the same. The national metagame is very different than any local one. Give everything a fair shot and consider all your options.
I’ve never been one to specialize in originality so I don’t intend to start now. I give my best lists for the best decks out there because that is what I’m good at providing. You have other writers that will talk about their rogues while I will talk about my new tier one and how viable I think every one of the decks included in it is for US Nationals.
I’ll skip Darkrai. I think it has been sufficiently covered by Dark Fantasy, published about a week ago. It’s clearly top tier and needs little explaining.
Table of Contents
Pokémon TCG players have a long history of falling into the hype – Lost World, Lugia EX and Garchomp DRX 90 are some of the most famous examples of hyped cards players have fallen in love with, only to be left broken hearted. In fact, it has become relatively rare to see hyped cards live up to player’s impossible expectations.
As players are beginning to figure out, the new Team Plasma EXs are the real deal. The deck is here to stay and is a major contender for the US Nationals title. It has already taken other nationals including Denmark, Argentina and the United Kingdom. This is my take on the Plasma deck. It’s a bit different than that of other writers.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 12
The most unique card in this list is probably the Absol. I don’t know why more people don’t play it. It is hard to find Prism late game, but having an attacker than does a large amount of damage without the restrictions of Kyurem is invaluable to this deck.
Absol is my clutch attacker that can hit hard when I don’t have Kyurem up yet. Deoxys buffs its damage output to a point where it can usually Knock Out opposing Kyurem – great for avoiding costly Kyurem-for-Kyurem trades. It’s a low cost Pokémon with a moderately high damage output for being a non-EX.
Am I the only one who thinks Float Stone is a little overrated? In this deck, I just found myself using Float Stones as my 4th and 5th copy of Switch. I asked myself what the importance of the second Float Stone was. I couldn’t think of any good ones, so I cut down to 1.
It’s nice to be able to Switch to a Pokémon with Float Stone on it, but not worth opening myself up to Hypnotoxic Laser Sleep as a result. All too often I can’t get my Switch – either because I used one early or I had to discard a few. It’s just too hard to get Switch on command in a world where 4 Hypnotoxic Lasers are in every deck.
Float Stone really doesn’t make Deoxys “immune to Catcher” either. Usually you want more than one Deoxys down at once (three is optimal). With Float Stone on one or two Deoxys, what do they do? Catcher the 3rd. The only reason I see to play 2 Float Stone is to have a “free retreater” on your bench you can Switch into. Otherwise, Switch just seems better.
Max Potion is practically required in this deck and it gets even better when you play Dowsing Machine. Having access to Max Potion is incredibly good against Darkrai and Mirror, where letting damage pile up can cost you the game. It acts as an early game crutch as well, keeping your lead Thundurus EX out of KO range.
I’m honestly surprised this card hasn’t become universally standard in Plasma lists yet.
I played 3 Kyurem for a long time. Recently I decided to cut the count down to 2. I feel like in most lists you should run 3 – it helps when one is prized (because usually you need at least 2 over the course of the game) but in my list, I figure that Absol can take Kyurem’s place if required. Usually you can’t power up 3 Kyurem and an Absol. That’s more non-EX attacker than you really need anyway.
Other than those peculiar card counts, this list is standard. There are some other options I’m considering though.
Keldeo-EX, No Switch, 4 Float Stone2
Mainly as a Gothitelle counter. My problem with this right now is that Tool Scrapper is a card. You have to get the Float Stones and Keldeo down before Item lock, and then you can still have them rendered useless by Scrapper. Garbodor can ruin you with a few well timed sleep flips as well.
I’m thinking this plan belongs in Kyurem/Deoxys and should probably stay there. I feel like devoting 2 spots to Keldeo and 4 spots to an inferior Switch is just not worth slightly improving the Gothitelle matchup.
However, I’m a very all in kinda guy. I don’t usually like splits for things like this. 1 Keldeo, 2 Float Stone and 3 Switch is very common right now. It’s a good mix of cards. Enough to get you out of Laser Sleep while still having a decent possibility of getting the Float Stone on the Keldeo. It’s the most common way to play the deck but I’m not a huge fan.
I feel like devoting all your “switch” cards to either Float/Keldeo or 4 Switch is the best way to improve either your Gothitelle matchup or your Garbodor matchup, depending on which way you chose to go.
This is never a bad card. It can even be sacrificed to Mew-EX against Gothitelle. Basically this is here for some assurance against Darkrai. I find that standard Darkrai isn’t nearly as challenging without the extra 30 they do with Night Spear. Normally, the damage builds up allowing the Darkrai player to surmount any early game pressure you may have put on them. Mr. Mime prevents it all. And if they want to remove Mime, they have to waste an entire attack Knocking him Out.
Mr. Mime can negate the need for Max Potion and compliment it well too. Preventing bench damage and having the ability to fully heal a Pokémon using Max Potion can effectively negate an attack or two, depending on how many Max Potion you have access to.
Probably the best answer to Gothitelle outside a lightning fast start. My problem with it is actually putting your hands on the card. Once Trainer lock is online, there isn’t a way to search Audino out, leaving you to flounder with what is in your hand already.
This card is another interesting inclusion. It plays a unique role as a set up helper. It works best in lists that run 2 or more Float Stone and at least 1 copy of Max Potion. Half of this card’s power comes from using its attack when you have nothing else. The more switching cards you run the easier it becomes to get this card active to use Windfall (either on the first turn or during the endgame).
Max Potion works well with this card’s passive nature. Because you want it on the bench most of the game it isn’t a desirable Pokémon for them to damage. Max Potion lets you heal it and insure it won’t be Knocked Out prematurely.
I like consistency crutch cards of this nature, but I’m not sure it really works with the aggressive nature of this deck. It is a strong option to keep in mind and I’m sure it will see play in refined Plasma lists at some point.
Say “No” to Lugia EX
I just don’t like this card. For 4 Energy it lets you occasionally take an extra Prize card if you can Knock Out a Pokémon with its attack. That sounds great and all, but the drawbacks are numerous.
Lugia is incredibly vulnerable to the popular Enhanced Hammer. Typically Lugia needs to be down for a turn before you can attack with it and that is all the time they need to Hammer you into a position where you can’t use Lugia easily. Having your DCE or Plasma Energy discarded is brutal; you lose not only the attachment, but any hope of using Lugia like you planned as well.
Lugia is situational. I don’t care how many Deoxys you have in play, most of the time Lugia is useless. The point of playing it is to take extra Prizes at very specific times for the maximum effect. Yet, this directly contradicts how Lugia is being used in most players’ lists. I don’t know how people expect to get Lugia out when they need it when they are playing one Lugia and very few Energies that are effective on it.
My problem with this card is how situational it is. It takes a lot of planning to use it for maximum effect, and sometimes a bit of luck too (not something I want more of in my lists).
I also don’t like how you have to play Scramble Switch and DCE along with Lugia. Neither of these cards work well with the deck. DCE does nothing for the rest of the deck but provide a single C Energy (and Deoxys needs its Colorless requirement fulfilled by a Plasma! Go figure.) Dowsing Machine works much better in the ACE SPEC spot than Scramble Switch. Without Lugia, there isn’t anything to really Scramble into.
Sure, you can move an Energy onto Thundurus EX and switch into Kyurem or something, but I don’t think that is the best way to be utilizing your ACE SPEC. Moving Energy off Kyurem will rarely matter – I find that Kyurem tends to get Knocked Out after it uses Blizzard Burn because most decks can’t afford to be hit with that attack more than once or twice a game.
For now, I’m steering clear of Lugia due to its hefty attack cost and its inconsistent nature. Feel free to debate this with me.
Plasma for Nationals?
Team Plasma decks are not my first choice but this is because I’m in a different position than almost every other Pokémon player out there. Because I have two byes and fantastic resistance already, I figure I can go 4-3 in the 7 rounds I’ll have to play and still manage to make cut. This means I can play a riskier Stage 2 deck if I wanted to and still have a relatively good chance to make top cut. I think myself and players with byes can play whatever we think will do well in top cut with. But I digress.
Plasma is a solid deck. Just like Darkrai, it has mostly even matchups all around. Mirror is skillful and the deck rewards good play. It is a proven deck that is very powerful and consistent. What really makes the deck is Raiden Knuckle’s attack cost. The ability to attack for few Energy is extremely powerful. The success of Landorus-EX can be partially attributed to its attack consistency. Thundurus EX behaves in the same way being a high impact, low cost card.
The deck has proven to be simple and powerful. Its consistency early game is its biggest strength. However, this can indirectly be its most glaring weakness. The deck tends to fizzle out on me when I play it. You resort to attacking with Thundurus EX to charge up a Kyurem. If they manage to cut off the second Kyurem it’s usually game over. Absol is in here to mitigate Kyurem’s hefty cost but sometimes the raw power Kyurem brings to the table is required to take out big EXs.
Its even matchups bother me as well. In the past, the best players have gravitated to this type of deck, assuming they could outplay others more often than not. Today, with both Plasma and Darkrai, I’ve never found that to be the case. My games seem to hinge on luck more often than I’d like. Personally, I find that unsettling to know considering how important Nationals is.
Without a doubt Plasma is a tier one deck. It’s an excellent play, but keep in mind the burden of being the perceived BDIF. You’re one person in a sea of other Plasma players. People are looking to beat you and you’re a target for hate.
This deck is generally one of the most boring decks to write about. Lists are always the same and lists that aren’t the same are just inferior. Most people can agree that playing Black Kyurem EX is just better than a Mewtwo/Keldeo focus.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 33
Energy – 13
The thing that puts this deck over the top is the single copy of Exeggcute. Having the Eggs in the discard pile effectively lowers all discard requirements by one card. Every time you Ultra Ball or Superior Energy Revival just Propagate the cluster of eggs back into your hand, discard it, rinse and repeat. The discard requirement is a major limiting factor in games where you get hit with N to 1 or 2. It helps early game if you need to follow an Ultra Ball up with an SER.
The card is literally only a problem when you open with it. It’s never dead in any matchup. It only improves the deck overall, making it a unique “tech.” I put “tech” in quotes because I think the Eggs will become standard eventually.
Although all the above is true, Egg’s inclusion makes me ask myself if the card is really worth it. The deck functions fine without it and it doesn’t help any specific matchup in particular. It’s always nice to have in the discard but I never seem to find myself in a position where I say to myself “man, I really wish I could topdeck my Exeggcute right about now.”
The deck normally suffers when you play Superior Energy Revival. The deck can’t usually take more than one of two SER discards without starving itself for resources. Typical Blastoise lists split the Retrieval cards 2-2 or some similar count. This list plays Superior Energy Retrieval as a 4-of for maximum impact and it can easily support the discard with the help of Exeggcute.
I feel like 3 Tropical Beach is almost required in this list because of how resource hungry it is. Having a Beach in play negates Virbank while also providing a card drawing option while in play. In those hands you don’t draw a supporter, Beach can always be there as assurance to back you up.
With 4 Superior Energy Retrieval, there is no reason not to focus on Black Kyurem EX as the main attacker. Kyurem requires 4 Energy to attack, giving it perfect synergy with SER. There is no reason to focus on Keldeo in such a deck, which is why I play 3 Black Kyurem EX.
Unfortunately, this deck is pretty tight. This deck can tech for almost every matchup out there. Tool Scrapper for Garbodor, 3 Keldeo to help against Gothitelle, or Black Kyurem BCR for Mirror and RayEels. All are good options. I think it’s desirable to play two of the aforementioned cards to keep the deck consistent.
In all honestly, I don’t think Gothitelle is going to be a good play for Nationals. There is a lot of top cut rounds to beat through if you want to win and winning games during Swiss rounds will be an uphill battle now that multiple Keldeo are becoming standard in Darkrai (and to a lesser extent, in Plasma).
For that reason, I don’t think Goth is going to see a ton of success or play, nor do I recommend it in US Nationals. But I digress, I’ll delve deeper into Gothitelle later in the article.
Having 3 Keldeo would admittedly help the deck with some issues it has with prizing Keldeo. Getting one Knocked Out and not having access to the other is incredibly aggravating. 3 Keldeo will only help the deck, even more so against Goth. I think the 3rd Keldeo is the easiest “tech” to fit into the list, but the least effective against specific matchups.
Tool Scrapper is plain and simple. It gives you an out against Garbodor. That’s the main draw of playing it. Discarding Float Stone is nice, but not the reason you play it. Run a single copy of Tool Scrapper if you want to have an even matchup against Garbodor (or better). I think Scrapper is one of the most valuable techs you can play actually. This singleton copy keeps Garbodor from being an auto-loss, though I still don’t think it makes it a great matchup.
Black Kyurem has the most uses out of these 3 cards. It is extremely good in Mirror and against RayEels because it 1HKOs the main attackers of each, Black Kyurem EX and Rayquaza EX, respectively. It has the benefit of not being an EX but still a major threat the Dragon type player has to deal with before moving on to continue Knocking Out EXs. It also is an additional attacker against Klinklang.
This tech probably has the least impact of the 3 but also the most uses against the format. Not to understate little Kyurem’s usefulness of course; just to say that it’s the most least useful card out of Tool Scrapper, Keldeo and itself is not accurate. It just does less against the decks it targets than Tool Scrapper or Keldeo which are “harder” counters.
To Scrapper, or Not to Scrapper?
I played against 3 Garbodor/Cobalion/Landorus (out of the 3 in the tournament in a Battle Road last Sunday where I was running my given Blastoise build. Tool Scrapper worked well, giving me an actual chance to win the matchup. The first game I played I got lucky. Scrapper was prized and I was able to Knock Out the Garbodor and he failed to draw any other Tools.
However the other two games I still lost, even with access to Scrapper. It was because the list doesn’t play Float Stone. Even once I Scrapper their Tools and Knock whatever Out, they still can stick a Tool under Garbodor again, Catcher up Blastoise, and proceed to put heaps of Hammerhead damage on everything.
I’d be willing to bet that a lot of Garbodor players would play as though you run Float Stone, but you can’t guarantee that. Right now I’m starting to question Tool Scrapper. Is it worth using one space to make the Garbodor matchup winnable? After all, it is by no means positive for you, even with Scrapper. Unless you include Float Stone, I’m thinking that Tool Scrapper might be a waste of time.
I still like my initial list, but here is one that would have the desirable matchup against Garbo and Gothitelle. This list sacrifices Exeggcute for better matchups against specific decks even through it is a rather bare bones list. This is the best Blastoise list I can give that mops the floor with the two aforementioned decks while still having a good chance against the rest of tier one.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
Blastoise for Nationals?
I don’t know how high my hopes are for this deck. The fact that it lacks the consistency of Plasma or Darkrai frustrates me but its power level is beyond anything else out there. Still, I don’t know how viable it is when you take into account that consistency truly does mean everything when it comes to big events. The jury is out on this one but I think it’s a risky play no matter what.
The next deck I’d like to cover is Gothitelle. A big issue right now is the time factor for the top cut of US Nationals. Pokémon hasn’t announced how long top cut rounds will be for the US as of this writing. Several players are being quite vocal about the importance of this information.
For Stage 2 decks that take longer to set up and win games from behind, having 75 minute top cut rounds would be hugely beneficial to their success. Gothitelle and Klinklang stand to gain the most from the potential increase in time limit.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 35
1 Town Map
Energy – 4
This is the list I ran for the Battle Road I went 4-2 in. My losses were to a RayEel that ran 2 Keldeo and another Gothitelle that got Goth online before I did.
There isn’t a ton to say about this. Gothitelle was covered in depth recently, so I don’t feel the need to explain how it works. I’ll give you some of my thoughts on its playability though.
3 Catcher is definitely notable because it gives you an out to lock a benched Keldeo-EX active. I feel like you need server of these because it gives you better odds of having them on the turns it matters. You really need to respond with Deck and Cover on Keldeo the turn after they use Rush In to eliminate your Special Conditions. If you fail to do so, you can lose precious momentum to your opponent.
Town Map is invaluable. This deck uses Dusknoir as a win condition. You want to take 6 Prizes in one turn, making you effectively immune to N (a big draw of the deck). By knowing what your prizes are you can pick them as you like with Sinister Hand.
If there is a DCE in your Prizes for example, you can strategically take that prize on a turn you can’t get a DCE out of your deck.
I think Computer Search is better than Dowsing Machine in this deck. My reasoning being if you never set up, you can never win. The deck wins by getting a cycle of Deck and Cover/Sinister Hand online. Once you get to that point, you really don’t need too many Trainers.
The reason I play 2-0-2 Dusknoir over 1-0-1 or even 2-0-1 is that if the Dusknoir is prized, I don’t want to have to take Prizes to get it out. I defiantly play this deck using Dusknoir as a win condition – get Dusknoir down and get the lock up. Never drop the lock, and when there is enough damage accumulated on the board, Knock Out 3 EXs to take 6 Prizes in one turn.
Ensuring you will usually have access to Dusknoir is key to actually winning a game with this version of Gothitelle.
Three Tropical Beach isn’t really needed but it is desirable. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll say you really want to always be in control of the Stadium when playing this deck. Virbank is nice when your opponent has it in play. It helps you win faster. But early game Virbank can be detrimental.
For example, against a Plasma deck, Thundurus EX is Knocked Out with 2 Deck and Covers instead of 3 with Virbank in play. At the beginning of the game, you might really need that extra turn to set up Dusknoir. I’ve had this happen to me several times, forcing me to take 2 Prizes prematurely leaving me in a worse position against N for the rest of the game.
Being in control of the Stadium helps you hold a favorable position against your opponent.
Gothitelle for Nationals?
Gothitelle is probably more viable than Klinklang, but it is other roadblocks that stand in its way. More and more people (like my loss to RayEels) are playing Keldeo-EX as a retreat utility. It just so happens to be the worst card Gothitelle can go up against.
A single Keldeo Goth can be dealt with; Keldeo Rushes In, removing the Special Conditions, they use their turn to swing into a Gothitelle, likely Knocking it Out. You must respond by sending another Goth up, Catchering the Keldeo-EX and Paralyzing it. That is, admittedly, a lot to have in a single turn. One Keldeo can obviously throw a wrench in your plans, but if they can follow that up with another Rush In you may as well just circle “lost” and initial the slip.
The worst part is, two Keldeo in Darkrai is becoming all too common. Even in Plasma decks, people are using Keldeo to take advantage of Float Stone. Keldeo can come out most consistently as a 2-of and conveniently enough, having 2 Keldeo down can make life difficult for Gothitelle.
Some people push this deck away because of the many low HP Basics, but for me, the HP of my Basic Pokémon has been so far a non-issue. There are so many Basics, you have good odds of drawing more than one in your opening hand. They all have 60 or more HP, which isn’t bad at all. Mew-EX is a solid starter as well.
I think the issue here is with people’s propensity to tech for Goth rather than people donking you on the first turn or stalling you out of the game. Last year we saw a similar deck emerge at about this time too: Chandelure NVI/Vileplume UD/Accelgor DEX. It was possible to tech for it, making its life tough.
But techs for that deck weren’t as easy to fit in seamlessly last year. Espeon DEX was clunky and hard to get on demand. Unown Cure often didn’t do enough (much like Audino now). What I’m getting at is the fact that teching for Goth is much easier now. Playing multiple Keldeo-EX in RayEels, Blastoise, and Darkrai is becoming standard practice. If this trend accelerates Gothitelle will lose even more ground against what would normally be good matchups.
With all the Keldeo, I question the wisdom of using this deck when I can instead use something more consistent that has roughly the same win percentages against other metagame decks.
I wouldn’t recommend playing Goth in an unfamiliar metagame (Nationals) and I think it should be kept as a deck for local events. At Nationals, most players with winning records after round 3 will be in it to win it. If they can get an easy matchup by including one card extra card in their lists that already play one Keldeo, they will.
IV. Wrapping Up
Well, there you have it. My latest take on the top tier decks for the Plasma Freeze format minus Darkrai. US Nationals is very likely to break another record for biggest tournament ever. If you don’t play one of these decks, be sure you can beat 3 out of 4 of them.
Plasma and Darkrai are givens. They are the two of the most powerful and most synergistic decks in the format. Their attacks are cheap yet effective. Mind Jack and Raiden Knuckle are backed up by perfect math from Night Spear and Blizzard Burn respectively. It is not surprising to see Darkrai and Plasma (TDK as it has come to be known as) in the top tier.
Gothitelle is perhaps my dark horse pick. It wins in a way not seen since, well, about this time last year. Gothitelle usually wins once it sets up. If you chose to play it, test games in a best 2 out of 3 format as well as a 30+3 format. Managing time in both time formats, Swiss and top cut, will be crucial to running this deck to a high Nationals placement. I do worry about people playing direct counters such as Keldeo however. Gothitelle might be the riskiest play here.
Blastoise is another high risk, high reward deck that is deserving of tier one status. Its power is unmatched. The ability to declare an attack that is almost always a surefire knockout is remarkable and especially powerful against Darkrai EX and the Plasma EXs who reward 2 Prizes when they are Knocked Out. With a clean Black Kyurem EX you can easily Knock Out a Thundurus EX and follow that up with a Superior Energy Retrieval and a Catcher on Deoxys-EX, creating an extremely profitable 4-for-2 Prize trade.
The key to the National Championship is undoubtedly consistency. This format isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be. All the decks I gave can be countered in various ways. However, teching for multiply decks begins to mess with your draws leading to losses from unplayable hands and dead ends caused by N.
If I had to predict one quality held by our 2013 US National Champion it would be foresight. Whoever wins this event is going to have a consistent deck that is thoroughly teched to consistently beat one or two different decks that a typical build of the winners deck would struggle with. Prediction is going to be key this year.
I’ll be at Nationals hungry to win. I had a rough time at big events in 2012 so I’m looking to go back to Indiana strong. If you see me, be sure to introduce yourself. I like to enjoy Nationals with my friends from far away first and foremost but I’m approachable and I’d love to meet my readers. I’ll probably be using my New England Regional Champion playmat (as I like to call it, my humble-brag mat). My hair is a bit shorter now but I’m still recognizable as the Pokémon player you all know and love. Right? Right.
I hope to see all my loyal readers in Indianapolis!
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