It’s the Final Countdown – Mike’s Last Thoughts Before Nationals

squirtle charmander pikachu meowth
Nationals… it’s coming!

I’d like to start out by saying that this article is going to be all over the place so you guys are in for a ride this month. If you guys have tested adequately you probably believe you’re at least somewhat ready for this year’s Nationals, coming up in only 15 days. I plan on discussing Blastoise, some other decks you may run into, and how you can prepare yourself for such a grueling tournament.

The topic I’d like to begin with is Blastoise. I’ll be covering my opinion in relation to that of Dylan Lefavour in his article earlier this month, as well as some card options he chose to leave out of his (well written) piece.

Table of Contents

  1. Blastoise
    1. 3 Keldeo
    2. Wartortle
    3. Other Options
  2. Other Decks
    1. Snorlax
      1. List
      2. Matchups
    2. Anna’s ZekEels
      1. Low Eel Count
      2. 4 Laser, 2 Virbank
      3. Zekrom EX
      4. Mime and Switch
  3. Conclusion


blastoise opening

So, I noticed something interesting while reading over Dylan Lefavour’s latest article, namely in his analysis of Blastoise, where I found that many of our most basic standards for what a Blastoise deck entails are quite divergent. I’ve decided to explore a couple additional options that Dylan may not have thought to be relevant enough to examine, and give a few counterpoints to some of the ideas he’s presented.

Here’s a sample list for you guys to take a look at.

Pokémon – 11

4 Squirtle BCR

3 Blastoise BCR
2 Keldeo-EX
2 Black Kyurem-EX PLS

Trainers – 29

4 Professor Juniper
3 Skyla
3 N
2 Colress


4 Rare Candy
3 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball
4 Energy Retrieval Cards
2 Pokémon Catcher


3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 12

10 W
2 L

As I did in my last article, I’ve provided a list missing 8 cards so you guys can choose how you’d like to play the deck instead of just dictating how I think should be played. I think this exercise should be more effective with Blastoise because there are many more 1-of options whereas in Gothitelle many of the choice cards were lines of Pokémon which took up multiple spots per choice. Here you’ll have far more flexibility and be much more disposed to create a unique list.

So as to not infringe on the information presented by Dylan in his last Underground article, I’ll just refer you guys over there for descriptions of Exeggcute, Tool Scrapper, Black Kyurem, and 3 Beach. What I’d like to do is expand on this little by talking about some other options you have as well as explain some qualms I have with Dylan’s list so as to provide an alternate view of the deck.

The reason I’m going the extra mile on the variations of this deck is because I believe many of you are considering Blastoise for Nationals and I want everyone to be as well equipped as possible. So here’s the rest of the information you need to know.

3 Keldeo
More stable in dubious situations.

Dylan touched on it a little, but I’d like to take it a step further and argue that 3 Keldeo is not only a tech for Gothitelle, but a necessity for the deck to function. I’ll add right now that I also believe that only 2 Black Kyurem EX are needed which I think speaks volumes to how differently we play the deck.

Dylan and I obviously come from different camps, and just as he explained his theory as to why the heavy Kyurem EX version is the best way to play it, I’ll explain the pros of playing a 3/2 split in favor of Keldeo.

The overarching idea that supports my tendency toward playing three Keldeo over three Kyurem is that I prefer to attack with Keldeo whenever possible. Having three or more Energy on a Keldeo is insurance if nothing else. This is something you have down on the field that is not susceptible to Ns or your Blastoise being Knocked Out; both of which are glaring issues with relying on Black Ballista.

Because many decks in this format have the potential to sweep a Blastoise off the board in one turn, it’s very difficult to justify saying that Blastoise’s strength lies primarily in Black Kyurem EX; it simply cannot.

Dylan also discussed Exeggcute and its importance in relation to four Superior Energy Retrieval. While people in Dylan’s camp would most likely argue that Superior Energy Retrieval is most effective for reusing Black Ballista, I would posit that it has greater implications for Keldeo. Dropping 4 Energy onto Keldeo via Superior Energy retrieval means that you only need to have 2 additional Energy to KO an EX with 170 HP (or 3 if it has 180). With all the recurrence there is in the deck, making such a play will not make your Energies scarce, even if Ballista only requires losing 3.

The value in doing the damage with Keldeo, again, is that the Energies stay on the table. Now, unless they can 1HKO your Keldeo, you can do this attack again the next turn without having to burn a second Superior Energy Retrieval, and you’re not susceptible to N and having your Blastoise Knocked Out.

A second reason I’m of the belief that Keldeo is more important to have in a high quantity is that you simply do not NEED 3 Black Kyurems. It’s not often that your opponent will look to Knock Out a third Kyurem, nor find the need to. With a KO early on any of your non-EXs, your opponent will look to find an easier Knock Out to end the game drawing only 6 Prizes (as opposed to the “seventh” prize).

Another factor is that often times you’ll want to attack with at least 1 Keldeo in every matchup as a way of dealing with opposing non-EXs.

The third and final reason for Keldeo is the reason Dylan mentioned: Gothitelle. When Special Conditions stop you from attacking it can change the game entirely. To miss an attack, whether it be because of Accelgor’s attack or from a lucky Laser, can completely ruin your game.

The problem you’ll find then, with only two Keldeo, is that after your first gets Knocked Out, you’re giving your opponent an opening, via Catcher/Laser, to get back into the game. The reason this is a problem in this deck but not in other decks playing two Keldeo is that you need to attack with Keldeo itself, whereas Plasma and Darkrai decks usually do not. These are two very different ideas obviously, and the emphasis you pick will dictate how the deck plays.

Note: The Energy split should be changed accordingly if you decide to pick Keldeo over Kyurem, meaning higher Water and lower Lightning. The deck functions fine with only two Lightning because once they find their way to the discard, they can easily be reccured with any of your Energy retrieval cards.

Might help, might not.

The only other idea I believe is really important to cover is Wartortle, so after this, I’ll move on. The concept behind playing one copy of Wartortle is to help improve the Gothitelle matchup, as well as foster a strong late game set up.

So, starting with the Goth matchup, Wartortle is great for some obvious reasons. Not only does it give you a chance to set up through Item lock, but it also allows you to set up a second Blastoise in the event you happen to Candy down your first Blastoise before their first Gothitelle hits the table.

While those are both great incentives to play the card, is it really worth the spot in your deck for just the Gothitelle deck, a deck which will most likely see the least play of all the “big four” decks (Darkrai, Gothitelle, Plasma, Blastoise)? There is no short answer to this one. When I ponder this question, I don’t think about how many Gothitelles I’ll see, but I first look at exactly how effective it plays in the matchup in game.

While in theory the card is strong, you’ll find after playing the matchup extensively that getting Blastoise down doesn’t even necessarily win you the game. Not only that, but searching for the Wartortle and keeping it safe in your hand is difficult with Gothitelle’s N count. It’s the same issue I take with Tool Scrapper in this deck. While it theoretically makes a matchup great, it’s difficult to find and use and the right time.

So in terms of the Gothitelle matchup, you might just need to pray you’ll find the Candy in time, or have enough turns to manually attach 4 Energy to a Keldeo; both reasonable tasks, however.

Now for the implications of Wartortle in a long game against decks other than Gothitelle. I think here is where Wartortle is at its best. Being able to turn your second Squirtle into Wartortle is a strong move, and one that can potentially take your opponent’s eye off KOing your Blastoise.

The problem here though, is that Wartortle is very easy to KO, and it can take bench damage, unlike Squirtle. Another issue is that some decks don’t even attempt to KO your Blastoise, in which case Wartortle is just a dead card.

The nail in the coffin for this card, I believe, is that it is often times a dead card early game. On the first turn of the game this card is easily Ultra Ball or Juniper fodder simply because you can’t put it onto the board yet. It can even get to the second turn where you can’t play it if you didn’t have two Squirtles down on your first turn. It can be very inopportune, and it’s benefit isn’t quite where it needs to be for it to be a staple in this deck.

I’ve tested the card and I personally think you’d be better off using the spot someplace else.


Now I’ll list a few cards you could consider to fill your eight spots in that list above.

1 Kyurem EX
1 Keldeo-EX
1 Lightning
1 Water
1 Exeggcute PLF
1 Heavy Ball (I would recommend 4 Ultra Ball instead if you decide on Exeggcute.)
1 Ultra Ball
1 Additional Energy Retrieval Card
1 Pokémon Catcher
1 Skyla
1 Wartortle BCR
1 Black Kyurem BCR (I would recommend 2 Lightning in the Keldeo build regardless of this card choice – it’s used in very few matchups.)
1 Blastoise BCR
1 Tool Scrapper

So there you have it, that’s all for my Blastoise analysis, and I’d like thank Dylan for providing some strong insight as to how the other half lives. I think it made for a really great contrast and I hope it showed you guys where to stress the importance on picking cards for your Blastoise list.

Other Decks

Flareon has been shown off already.

Next I’ll talk about some other decks you might run into on your voyage through the rounds of Nationals. While everyone expects to see the big four, some lesser decks have come out of the woodwork, but don’t be surprised if you happen to hit one of these decks over the course of your event. The three decks I have in mind specifically are Flareon, Snorlax, and Eels.

I originally intended to write my entire article on Flareon, but both John Kettler and Zach Bivens chose to take on the task of analyzing the deck, so I’ll exclude it from this article as they both did the deck justice. (Seriously, great job guys.)

Snorlax is the epitome of a gimmick deck, and I wrote it off as such upon first playing against it, but after testing against this deck, I’ve realized it’s a true contender. Last is Eels, which I’ll discuss in the greatest detail. I’ll skip over analyzing Flareon because it’s already been done in some pretty great detail and go straight to Snorlax.


Before I start breaking down the deck, here’s a sample list.

Pokémon – 4

4 Snorlax PLS

Trainers – 56

4 Shadow Triad
4 Skyla
4 Ghetsis
3 N
2 Professor Juniper

3 Bicycle


4 Recycle

4 Team Plasma Ball

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Crushing Hammer

2 Enhanced Hammer

3 Max Potion
3 Switch
2 Revive

1 Rock Guard


4 Virbank City Gym

1 Frozen City

Energy – 0


I think the strategy here has probably made itself apparent just by the way the list looks and by the fact that there are no Energy. You’ll use Snorlax’s Ability to prevent your opponent from retreating and then use Laser and Virbank, starting hopefully on the first turn, to deal poison damage to them until their Pokémon are Knocked Out.

While it might seem like a meager amount of damage, it really adds up on Pokémon-EX turning from 30 to 60 to 90 to 120 over just 2 turns. This means you’re virtually 3-shotting every Basic EX in the game and they have no way to get out of it apart from a Switch or a Rush In.

The Trainers in the deck are pretty self-explanatory in themselves. Max Potion and the Hammers will hopefully stop your opponent from making progress while poison gets to them. Recycle with Bicycle, Shadow Triad, and Skyla ensure that Lasers and Virbanks are played every turn necessary from the first turn of the game until the last.

Plasma Ball and Revive make sure that they have to KO 6 Snorlaxes, and the Rock Helmet is just a way to put down an additional 60-120 damage per game, which Snorlax desperately needs sometimes.

Here are some brief descriptions of the matchups in the event you happen to run into this deck at Nationals with little experience in the matchup.

Vs. Darkrai

hypnotoxic laser plasma storm pls
No Lasers, no damage.

Depending on the number of Keldeo they play, this could be one of your best matchups. Assuming one Keldeo, Snorlax can easily lock it Active and Knock it Out with three turns worth of poison. Not only that, but Keldeo is Knocked Out coming back to the Snorlax players turn, making it much easier to lock a new Pokémon without losing a Snorlax to an open attack from an Absol or a Darkrai.

With two Keldeo, the matchup is much trickier and your chances of winning slim considerably. Fortunately, with the whole double Keldeo thing, though, they will need to attack with the Keldeo itself because they have no way to put it onto their bench without Rushing In.

The way they’ll beat you most likely is by running you out of your Lasers. This is a very tough situation to be in, but one that is winnable with some good timing and luck.

Vs. Gothitelle

Being completely honest here, Snorlax practically folds to this deck. Without a way to play Items, the deck’s damage output hits 0 where it will remain until all of your Snorlaxes have been Knocked Out.

Vs. Plasma

This is another one of your good matchups. While Plasma decks do run switch cards giving them the ability to attack, their switches are finite, and when they run out you can take control of the game.

The thing you need to worry about as the Snorlax player is that they have the potential to deal 1HKOs very easily through Laser and Deoxys damage. Fortunately for you, however, is you heavy Hammer count which can really slow down their damage output, and in the event they cannot deal a 1-shot, your 3 Max Potions can set them back an entire switch.

This is definitely a tough matchup, but Plasma decks should be more afraid of you than you are of them here.

Vs. Blastoise

Blastoise is another deck than can really make use of the double Keldeo trick, but this time, they have a very easy way to power up Secret Sword. I’d call this matchup another huge downside to playing Snorlax because even without Secret Sword 1HKOing every Snorlax every turn, they can easily run you out of Lasers by rotating between 3 Keldeos. This is up there with Gothitelle in terms of bad matchups for this deck.


snorlax movie
Plus people LOVE Snorlax (solely as a Pokémon), so it will see play. Don’t sleep on it.

I tried to keep the matchup summaries brief so you guys could just have an idea as to how the big four handle Snorlax. You might be wondering, “Why devote such time to discussing a deck that has two horrible matchups against two of the big four?”

Well, the reality of the situation is, that regardless of how poorly a deck might appear in theory, it will appear at Nationals, even if it’s in a tiny percentage.

I just wanted to give you an idea as to how your match against this deck might play out so you at least have the knowledge to get yourself out of a potentially bad matchup, or understand how to beat the deck in the event of a good matchup.


The next deck I’ll talk about is ZekEels. If you’ve been following international results, you’ll have noticed that Eels variants have come out of the woodwork and stolen both Australian as well as Dutch Nationals.

That being said, the list I’d like to take a look primarily is that of Anna Schipper, the 2013 Dutch National Champion. I’ll discuss some of things I really appreciated in her list, as well as some of the things I thought could be improved. Without further adieu, here’s the list.

Pokémon – 15

4 Tynamo NVI 38
3 Eelektrik NVI
3 Zekrom BLW
2 Bouffalant DRX
1 Keldeo-EX
1 Zekrom-EX
1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N

3 Colress
2 Skyla


4 Hypnotoxic Laser

4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Ultra Ball

2 Level Ball
2 Float Stone

1 Switch

1 Super Rod
1 Dowsing Machine


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

7 L
4 Double Colorless

Low Eel Count
Playing only 3 is counterintuitive, but helps prevent lone Tynamo starts.

I think it’s safe to say that Anna took her time making this list by the way she seemed to find a happy medium between attackers and Eels. While I wouldn’t expect to see any fewer than 4 Eels in an Eels deck, Anna made the decision to include only 3 in her list which allowed her to make more room for attackers.

While this would normally seem to be an aggressive play, by playing more attackers, she reduces her odds of opening with a lone Tynamo. For this reason, cutting down on Eels and increasing her attackers not only increases the number of non-Pokémon-EX her opponent needs to Knock Out, but also decreases the likelihood of her being donked.

Also, the fact that her attackers require very few Eels to use their attacks means that she doesn’t need to find all three Eels right away, and instead she can rely on only one or two for much of the game. For these reasons, I really like her Pokémon picks here, and this great idea is only complimented by her use of Virbank Laser.

Her choice of the Basics themselves was also well advised. 3 Zekrom and 2 Bouffalant ensure that you’ll always be able to deal 120 damage regardless of whether the Defending Pokémon is an EX or not. Another big advantage to playing 3 Zekrom as opposed to 3 Bouffalant is that Zekrom’s Outrage can be huge against players who choose to reserve resources instead of choosing to extend to draw only 1 Prize.

For this reason, 3 Zekrom prevails over Bouffalant, as well as the fact that using fewer Bouffalant will invariably reduce the need for DCEs therefore leaving them in the deck for when Zekrom-EX is to come into play.

4 Laser, 2 Virbank

The Virbank/Laser combo in this deck is undoubtedly what makes this deck a solid choice for Nationals. The obvious question on people’s minds when looking at any straight Eels deck is, “Where are the Rayquazas?!” Well, the strength in this deck is that it does not have to rely so heavily on EXs to bring about huge knockouts. Instead, the Virbank and Lasers are what help this deck reach the magic 180.

Both Bouffalant and Zekrom swing for 120 which becomes 150 after Virbank Laser. That’s a ton of damage for either of these Pokémon to be putting out because they’re only Basics. Apart from Kyurem PLF and Absol PLF, no other non-EX is going to hit that hard, and for such a reasonable Energy cost. With Eels on the table, Bouffalants and Zekroms can be ready attack after only one and two Energy respectively.

150 is a huge number to hit because it forces the opponent to move their Active to shake poison or face being Knocked Out at the end of their turn.

While it’s not exactly scoring the Knock Out with one attack necessarily, both Bouffalant and Zekrom force your opponent to burn resources to prevent losing their attacker to a non-EX, which in many cases is just as good.

Another huge part of the Virbank/Laser play in Eels is its implication for Zekrom-EX.


The trump card of this deck.

Zekrom-EX’s Strong Volt for 150 augmented by the 30 from poison is this deck’s haymaker punch. I’m sure Anna would attest to this, but I think it’s safe to say that the beauty of Zekrom in this deck is its ability to sweep the game.

Because of its perfect synergy with the Energy lineup in the deck, dropping this guy from your hand and throwing 4 Energy onto it in one turn only requires two Eels on the table. This means that after setting up Eels and throwing non-EXs at your opponent, you can usually find the time to slam Zekrom onto your bench and have it draw at least 2 Prizes, but more than likely, grab 3 or 4.

Another reason this card is great as a 1-of is that it can easily clean up damage put down by early Zekroms and Bouffalants with Glinting Claw. If your opponent did indeed use up resources to avoid poison and handle KOing non-EXs, Zekrom can drop in with 3 Energy and finish KOing huge EXs. Their low resources could also mean that Zekrom-EX might stick around for a few additional turns while your opponent gathers up enough resources to Knock it Out in a reasonable amount of time.

You might ask then, “Why not play more than just 1 Zekrom?” While it might seem intuitive to include multiple copies of this card in your deck, it’s important to keep the focus of the deck in mind. The advantage this deck has over the RayEels variant is that it forces the opponent to burn resources to draw 1 Prize. In keeping non-Pokémon-EX streaming attacks constantly, your opponent will be hard-pressed to find an answer to your one big EX when it does eventually come down.

If you were to play a second, theoretically, your opponent would be able to draw 6 Prizes without having to KO a single non-EX. By showing discipline in playing just one copy of your biggest attacker, you make it far more difficult for your opponent to win the game.

Mime and Switch

ash mr. mime
Mime makes Eels variants MUCH stronger.

As I highlighted in a previous article, Mr. Mime is incredible in any Eels deck. Bench damage has been the undoing of Eels for a while now, and now that the deck has a way to stop Darkrai, Plasma Kyurem, and Landorus from picking Tynamos and Eelektriks off the bench, it’s a much stronger deck.

The one copy of Switch is something to be admired in the deck as much as is it is a testament to Anna’s deck building ability. This card is a great tech in here because it saves the two Energy required to retreat a Keldeo in the event of a Tool Scrapper, and it gets Keldeo out of a Snorlax lock for a turn. It’s also great while you’re waiting to find the Float Stone for your Keldeo.

The one thing I will say, however, is that I’d probably gravitate toward a second Keldeo in this situation. Not only does that solve the Snorlax problem, but it also makes the Gothitelle matchup much better.


So that’s going to wrap up the article for this month, but before I go I’d like to leave you guys with some words of advice for Nationals this year. This year will be my my tenth National Championship and I’ve learned a lot about how to make the best of the trip as I’ve progressed from the 10- division to Masters.

1. The biggest thing to remember is not to take the tournament itself too seriously. Yes, you’ve been preparing for weeks for this tournament and you feel like this is your year, but with more than 1,000 players in the tournament, you can’t feel slighted if the cards don’t fall your way and you miss the cut – that’s just the reality of the game.

Sometimes the good players miss the cut and sometimes those who come unprepared make it; that’s just the way it is, so make sure you’re prepared to handle an unfavorable result. With that being said however, play your hardest in game. You can’t change the cards you draw in the tournament, but to give yourself the best advantage going into round one on Friday, make sure you’ve eaten something for breakfast and gotten plenty of sleep.

Early bird gets the worm… or something?

2. Decide on a deck early. I used to cram testing into the last day before Nats which I’ve found to be a horrible decision for many reasons. First, you’ll be tired of the deck by the time round one rolls around and you’ll be burnt out by the end of the day.

Second, last minute changes are most likely to happen the day before to tech for decks you see in the free play area. If you’ve been considering a tech for a while, it’s not unacceptable to throw it in right before the event, but sometimes being swayed to change your deck last minute has more to do with the heat of the moment than it does with logic.

The third and biggest drawback to last minute testing is that it removes a whole day of socializing. If you do all your testing before you arrive in Indy, you’ll be able to spend time with your friends who you seldom see without having to worry about spending hours in the test area away from them.

And this last bit of advice only pertains to a few of you, but I feel it’s necessary to throw in here.

3. If you have byes, enjoy them! I don’t mean show up to the tournament hall late though, in fact you should show up to the hall when everyone else begins to play so you have a chance to get acclimated and wake up a little. What I do mean, however, is that you should spend the time relaxing and not hovering over the active tables and worrying that you’re seeing too many of the deck you have a bad matchup against; worrying will not help you, it only can hurt.

I hope I’ve been able to give you guys some solid insight as to how to navigate Nats. If you have any questions about any matchups you’re particularly worried about or if you have a deck you want to run by me don’t hesitate to send me a PM and I’d be happy to help. Good luck at Nationals everyone!


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