The Final Four – What You’ll Encounter at Nationals

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The stage is set.

With Nationals looming everyone is scrambling to pick a deck, perfect their list, and get as much last minute testing in as possible. With 10 days or less before the big day I’m sure many players have made up their minds but I’m here to give you an analysis of the top 4 decks I think people will be deciding between and help you choose which one fits you best.

This past weekend were two large National Championships; Singapore and Canada. Both showcased very different metagames. As other Nationals usually impact deck choices for the US, I will also go over the standings from each event and evaluate how each tournament played out.

Table of Contents

The Final Four

These four decks are the ones that I feel will be the most relevant at Nationals. All of them have won at least one National Championship and usually take up most of the spots in the top cut. Even if you aren’t planning on playing one of these decks, you still need to know how they work and how to play against each one.

Blastoise + Keldeo-EX + Black Kyurem EX

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Making it rain since 1999.

Out of the four decks is easily the most straightforward. Set up a Blastoise, attach a bunch of Energy, and 1-shot anything that could pose a threat to you. Don’t let its simplicity fool you though; the deck has been performing well since Blastoise first came out and Plasma Freeze only helped it with cards such as Superior Energy Retrieval.

Pokémon – 12

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

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Juniper
4 Skyla
2 N

2 Colress

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

4 Superior Energy Retrieval

2 Pokémon Catcher

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 13

10 Water
3 Lightning

This list is all about consistency. Before anything else you need to get out Blastoise. If that doesn’t happen you’re fighting a seriously uphill battle. Pokémon Catcher is a good example of a card that is usually a waste early game. When you can 1-shot almost every Pokémon in the format, it has limited uses late game.

Making It Your Own

If I see a list on the internet I usually go through and find things I don’t like about it and make my own changes. Here’s where the 5 open spaces in this list come in for you. I’m sure each of you plays the deck differently and have different lists. Who am I to tell you that this is “the list”? You should have some legroom to test out a few options and see what plays out the best for you!

There are a few options for the 5 open spaces based on what you expect for Nationals. Cards like Tool Scrapper have been taken out of the list since States and Regionals but that could be a good option against Darkrai when Dark Claw is a game changer in the matchup. I wouldn’t worry too much about , but there’s always a chance you could run into one in such a large field of players.

128-dowsing-machine
Worse early, but more versatile late.

You’ll notice no ACE SPEC in this list. I’ve been testing both Computer Search and Dowsing Machine and both serve completely different purposes. Computer Search is great for setting up, and as I said earlier that is the goal you should put before anything else when starting a game or preparing for it.

Dowsing Machine is very interesting when it comes to late game, though. If you’ve used all of your Pokémon Catchers and need the last one to win, or you’ve played both Ns and need a last ditch effort to buy you a turn or two.

Two Pokémon that are both viable options right now for Blastoise are Exeggcute PLF and Mr. Mime PLF. Exeggcute is used to preserve your hand when you use cards that force you to discard such as Ultra Ball, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Computer Search. With so much discarding there are situations that won’t allow you to play out your hand because you simply don’t have enough cards to do so.

Although Exeggcute has many uses there is one major downfall. The fact that it is a 30 HP Basic is huge in this format, your opponent will have so many ways to donk you if you are unlucky enough to start with him.

Mr. Mime is a very underrated card right now in Blastoise. With the 30 extra damage to a benched EX from Darkrai EX or Kyurem PLF being such a game changer Mr. Mime is an obvious choice to combat that.

Even one or two turns of blocking bench damage can ruin Darkrai’s chances at a win. They have no way to 1-shot your Black Kyurem EX which means they have to damage the bench and try to kill two of them in three turns.

The final card I would consider for a space in the deck is Max Potion. Max Potion is huge in both the Darkrai and Plasma matchups to put your opponent back a whole turn. You start the game at a huge disadvantage; there’s no way for you to attack turn 1. This usually means you’ll be behind and puts them on the clock to out speed your possible 6 Prizes in 3 turns. Even 1 extra turn can change the whole game and make sure you have the time to win.

With all that said, here is my personal Blastoise list:

Pokémon – 13

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

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 Skyla
3 N

2 Colress

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

4 Superior Energy Retrieval

3 Pokémon Catcher

1 Max Potion

1 Computer Search

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 13

10 Water

3 Lightning

Darkrai EX + Absol

Darkrai right now is my least favorite of the four top tier decks. In past formats Darkrai has been my favorite deck and I have performed well with it, but right now it’s not enjoyable to play or testing as well as the other big three. Although it’s still an amazing deck I don’t feel like it’s as safe of a play as Plasma or as powerful as Blastoise.

Here is my list:

Pokémon – 9

3 Darknessrai-EX

2 Absol PLF

2 Sableye DEX
1 Keldeo-EX

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 41

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

2 Bianca

3 Random Receiver

 

4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Dark Patch

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Ultra Ball

3 Energy Switch

2 Dark Claw

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Energy Search

1 Computer Search

 

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

10 Darkness

Darkrai has been Tier 1 since it came out last summer and the release of Plasma Freeze hasn’t changed a thing. Absol PLF and Mr. Mime PLF both improve the deck greatly by giving it both a viable, Dark-type, non-EX attacker and a solid mirror match counter. This list is pretty standard but there are a few card choices I’d like to go over.

1 Keldeo-EX

has always been a great card for Darkrai. With Dark Cloak you get a free Switch every turn, getting you out of Status Conditions or just out of the Active position. Many lists have gone up to 2 Keldeo, but I’ve felt that it takes up too much room and lowers consistency. Although it is very helpful in the Gothitelle matchup it doesn’t make it an auto-win.

I’m also skeptical about how many people will actually play Gothitelle. There are a limited amount of Tropical Beaches and with its exorbitant price tag very few players actually have them. Blastoise also uses Tropical Beach and I feel that many players will choose it instead of Gothitelle as it is the safer play.

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Mr. Mime is such a game changing card in the mirror match. There is no way to 1-shot an 180 HP EX in your deck which means the 30s from Night Spear change the game and allow you or your opponent to knock each other out much more easily. If your opponent tries to Catcher up Mr. Mime and deal with it then you can go up on the prize trade and win that way.

Team Plasma

“Team Plasma” brings to mind two decks for me. There’s the well known Thundurus EX + Deoxys-EX + Kyurem PLF known as “TDK” and the variant that I prefer, which is Kyurem PLF + Deoxys-EX + Keldeo-EX. Both variants have been testing well for me and I’m sure that Team Plasma decks will be the most played at Nationals by far based on the previous performances and hype.

Thundurus EX + Deoxys-EX + Kyurem PLF

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TDK is my safest play for surviving Swiss.

If I had to choose one deck to play at Nationals, just to make top cut, I would choose TDK over anything else. Right now I would put it as the safest play in the format. It has decent matchups around the board, it’s not difficult to play, and it has options against any random deck that you could run into. It has speed, consistency, pure damage, sniping, and Energy acceleration.

All of these features are desirable in any deck, if you can find all of them in the same deck it usually means it’s a surefire Tier 1 contender. Here’s my take on TDK:

Pokémon – 10

2 Thundurus-EX PLF

4 Deoxys-EX

3 Kyurem PLF

1 Absol PLF

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Skyla

2 Colress

2 Bianca

 

4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

4 Colress Machine

3 Switch

2 Team Plasma Ball

2 Ultra Ball

1 Max Potion
1 Dowsing Machine

 

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

4 Prism

4 Plasma

4 Blend WLFM

This is the list I have been testing for the past few months and the one that has showed the best results. I try to make sure I can get set up fast enough and keep running into late game. 15 Supporters is the minimum I would go for in this deck. I’ve seen a few lists with 14 and I could never get them to work as well as with 15 Supporters.

Turn 1 Absol, Kyurem, or Thundurus are the keys to winning most matchups. This deck has the most realistic turn 1 damage potential in the format right now which gives you an enormous edge against everything else. The usual downfall for the deck is surviving in the late game which is the reasoning for a few of my card choices.

1 Absol PLF

Absol is a great card in both the mirror match and in situations where you can’t get up to 3 Energy on your Kyurem PLF. Having the ability to pull a 120 damage attacker out of nowhere with a Colress Machine and a Prism Energy is nothing to scoff at. Although 100 HP is quite brittle it can usually do its job while it’s on the field.

1 Max Potion

max-potion-emerging-powers-epo-94pokemon-paradijs.com
Excellent against mirror and Darkrai.

This is the ultimate card against both the mirror match and Darkrai. As I explained in the Blastoise section, Max Potion sets your opponent a turn back and allows you to come back from a slow start or a difficult situation.

It’s also great early game when attacking with Thundurus since you can easily Max Potion and get that Energy right back all while negating one of your opponent’s attacks.

1 Dowsing Machine

I’ve seen many people using Scramble Switch or Computer Search as their ACE SPEC in here. I tried Computer Search when I started testing the deck and always felt that it wasn’t being as useful as an ACE SPEC should.

Scramble Switch has always seemed underwhelming to me regardless of the deck. I saw a few neat plays using it in Big Basics at States but TDK has 2 forms of Energy acceleration, which makes Scramble Switch a lot less useful.

Dowsing Machine just seemed like the best option so I tried it out and loved it from the start. It gives you more late game options which is an important aspect for this deck.

Kyurem PLF + Deoxys-EX + Keldeo-EX

This has been a deck I really enjoy playing, along with one that has been testing exceptionally well. The deck focuses on getting Kyurem PLF out as fast as possible and making sure you can use Frost Spear each turn with Exp. Share if they knock it out or Keldeo-EX to allow yourself to attack with the same Kyurem 2 turns in a row.

I’ve changed up the list a lot since I started testing it back in March, but this is a good base for testing and tweaking.

Pokémon – 10

4 Kyurem PLF
4 Deoxys-EX
2 Keldeo-EX

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Skyla

2 Colress

 

4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

4 Colress Machine

3 Team Plasma Ball

3 Float Stone

3 Exp. Share

1 Ultra Ball

1 Dowsing Machine

 

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

6 Water

4 Plasma

2 Prism

This deck is very cramped for space but there are a few cards I’ve been testing that weren’t included in that list. You’ll have to find room where you can because there isn’t too much you can take out without sacrificing consistency.

Revive

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Good for long games.

When your main attacker is a non-EX, drawn-out games can pose an issue with situations where you run out of Prism Energies and Kyurems. This leaves you with almost no way to win which is where Revive comes in. It gives you more options and another attacker if needed, which leads me into my next possible choice.

Absol PLF

Absol is great in here for the same reasons as it is in TDK. It’s a low Energy attacker that gives you more options and a good mirror match.

Mr. Mime PLF

This little guy is 3 for 3 so far! Easily one of my favorite cards in Plasma Freeze, he makes cards like Darkrai EX and Kyurem PLF a lot more lackluster.

The reason why Mr. Mime is listed as an option for this variation but not in TDK is that sniping can be an easy counter for Exp. Share. Making sure they have to deal with Kyurem in the Active position and trigger Exp. Share is a huge advantage and keeps your strategy running smoothly.

Gothitelle + Accelgor

Last but not least is the resident lock deck for this year’s Nationals format, Gothitelle + Accelgor. This is probably the most risky play for Nationals. So much can go wrong with this deck because of prizes, being donked, running out of time in top cut, or not setting up.

It is very similar to Mew Prime + Accelgor DEX + Chandelure NVI + Vileplume UD + Darkrai EX which I piloted to Top 16 at last year’s World Championships which makes me more partial to it more than I should be. I really like this deck, but I feel that most people with access to Tropical Beach will play Blastoise.

There has been a huge variety between lists for this deck so I’ll share a couple and explain what each one has going for it and where it falls short.

List 1 – Set Up Everything

Pokémon – 23

4 Gothita EPO 43
4 Gothitelle EPO 47
3 Shelmet NVI

3 Accelgor DEX
3 Mew-EX

2 Duskull BCR

2 Dusknoir BCR

1 Munna BCR

1 Musharna NXD

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper

3 Skyla

3 N

2 Colress

 

4 Rare Candy

3 Ultra Ball

2 Level Ball

1 Pokémon Communication

3 Float Stone

3 Pokémon Catcher

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine

 

2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

This list showcases the whole goal of the deck, which is to set up all the parts of the lock consistently. The large amount of search makes sure you can get a turn 2 Gothitelle as often as possible as well as get your various Basics into play. A count of 13 Basics gives you a good chance of starting with 2 or more Basics and saving yourself from the donk.

I’ve seen arguments for both Computer Search and Dowsing Machine, but with the amount of crucial Trainers in the deck I prefer the safer option of Dowsing Machine.

Dusknoir is a major focus in this list with the thicker 2-0-2 line.

List 2 – Set Up Gothitelle

Pokémon – 21

4 Gothita EPO 43

1 Gothorita BCR
4 Gothitelle EPO 47
3 Shelmet NVI

2 Accelgor DEX
3 Mew-EX

1 Duskull BCR

1 Dusknoir BCR

1 Munna BCR

1 Musharna NXD

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

4 Skyla

3 N

2 Colress

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

1 Pokémon Communication

3 Float Stone

3 Pokémon Catcher

1 Super Rod

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Computer Search

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

This second list is more based on Gothitelle hitting the field as soon as possible and making sure you can set up multiple Gothitelle. Dusknoir isn’t as huge of a focus here and I consider it a “win more” card in this build. Although it’s a great part of the deck and can help in certain situations you shouldn’t be relying on him for every single game.

I included Gothorita in this list because it can be game changing against Kyurem or Darkrai who will try to snipe of Gothita on the bench early on. Usually you will have a tough time getting another Rare Candy and Gothitelle so a quick Ultra Ball or Pokémon Communication for it can save you the game.

No Town Map?

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I’d rather play another consistency card.

I’ve seen multiple lists that run Town Map, but personally I can’t stand the card. First of all if you’re playing a deck like this (or any deck for that matter) you should know which cards are in your prizes after your first deck search of the game.

Secondly it gives your opponent valuable information. If they see you took a prize with Dusknoir and didn’t play it (or you attacked and took a prize) they can either N you or know what you’re trying to do, which can reveal even more about your hand.

Thirdly there are many times I’ve felt that Town Map was a waste of a spot and lowered consistency. It doesn’t help you set up, it doesn’t help if you have decent prizes, and it can help your opponent. I would play a consistency card like another Supporter or another Pokémon search before even considering Town Map.

Where’s the Mr. Mime?

Mr. Mime would work wonders in this deck as well! If you can find the room for it, protecting your bench is huge with so many 60 HP Basics. The only issue I see with running Mr. Mime is possible issues with bench space late game. It’s easily worth testing though and I wouldn’t be surprised if people are running him in their Nationals builds for this deck.

Last Weekend’s Nationals

Canada

1st – Zach Lesage – Blastoise
2nd – Gabriel Gauran – Darkrai
3rd – Curtis Lyon – Blastoise
4th – Matthew Camazzola – Plasma
5th – Trevor Tran – Plasma
6th – Alexander Stewart – Blastoise
7th – Sean Pinnock – Plasma
8th – William Britt – Plasma w/o N
9th – Rob Davies – Plasma Lugia
10th – Tyler Kelly – Klinklang
11th – Simon Luong – Plasma
12th – Chris Venier – Blastoise
13th – Harrison Dye – Darkrai
14th – Chance Ramchuk – Blastoise
15th – Adrian Loke – Kyurem Deoxys
16th – Steven Napoli – Plasma
17th – Ryan Martindale – Plasma
18th – Trevore Read – Plasma
19th – Marvin Lu Banzon – Blastoise
20th – Matthew Koo – Blastoise
21st – Kent Shen – Darkrai
22nd – Jacob Lesage – Plasma Lugia
23rd – Christopher Lefrancais – Darkrai
24th – Ali Yassine – Plasma
25th – Adrian Sado – Darkrai
26th – Kevin Shen – Darkrai Terrakion
27th – Sebastian Swierard – Emboar
28th – Bidier Jing – Absol
29th – Zachary Galos – Plasma
30th – Edward Kuang – Tornadus
31st – Kevin Lee – Darkrai
32nd – Tiffany Tran – Plasma

As you can tell from the results there was quite an even representation of Blastoise, Plasma, and Darkrai in the Top 32. Blastoise seemed to have the best overall results with three spots in the Top 8, including the win. I would also like to point out that there was no Gothitelle in the Top 32, which was a huge shock to me.

Although the deck doesn’t perform spectacularly in Swiss, I would have assumed at least a couple Gothitelle would have squeaked into the cut. Canada also allows French Tropical Beaches which means the availability and price of the card is much better than in the United States. This could very well mean that the results aren’t as good of a precursor for US Nationals as in years past.

Either way I’d like to congratulate the whole Top 32 on their performances and especially Zach Lesage on the win. Great job everyone!

Singapore

1st – Wilson Choo – Darkrai
2nd – Jeremy Leong – Gothitelle
3rd – Clifton Goh – Plasma
4th – Alvin Lee – Plasma
5th – Belp Fred – Blastoise
6th – Jeremiah Daniel Sng – Plasma
7th – Vincent Lim – Plasma
8th – Kenneth Tan – Plasma
9th – Jonathan Lee – Plasma
10th – Reuben Fong – Darkrai
11th – Andy Te – Darkrai/Tornadus-EX PLF/Absol/Umbreon PLF
12th – Joey Ho – Klinklang Box
13th – Nelson Chua – Gothitelle
14th – Gordon Koh – Plasma
15th – Kennard Tham Guo Zheng – ZekEels
16th – Febri Azrian – Plasma Klinklang

The results for Singapore are much different than Canada as you can tell. There was much less Blastoise and two Gothitelle. This is mostly due to the fact that Tropical Beach is much harder to get in Singapore; even harder than in the United States.

Almost no one in the country has obtained them from participating in Worlds, so a vast majority players would have to purchase them online if they hoped to play either of the two decks relying on Tropical Beach (Blastoise and Gothitelle). Almost half of the players used Plasma, which overall seems to have had the best results.

I’d like to applaud the Top 16 on their performances and in particular Wilson Choo on the victory. Congratulations!

Conclusion + My Thoughts

I hope my insight on each deck helped you in one way or another, either in picking your deck, adding techs, making adjustments, or learning how each deck works. Just make sure you plan ahead. The key to success at Nationals is preparation before anything.

ash ketchum pikachu professor oak i choose you
Commit to a deck by this Friday and become comfortable with it.

I recommend making up your mind on which deck you’ll be playing by at least this Friday, which is exactly one week from the big day. If you make a decision early then you can start testing to refine your strategies against different matchups, keep those tactics fresh in your head, and tinker with any last cards in your list.

If you haven’t decided on your deck yet, don’t panic. I’ve been testing the format since February and am still flip-flopping between two different decks. If I had to make up my mind right now though, I would be leaning toward the Kyruem PLF + Deoxys-EX + Keldeo-EX build I showcased earlier in the article.

If you run into me at Nationals, or even Worlds for you international readers, be sure to say hi! As a new writer I’d love as much feedback as I can get about how I did on my first Underground article, which is also probably the longest piece of writing I’ve ever done. If you liked the article be sure to give it a +1. Thanks!

– Henry


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