Thar She Blows! – Thoughts on Decks for Nats

Thar she blows!

U.S. Nationals has quickly encroached upon us and there is still a lot to talk about headed up to the big event. A lot has happened in the community the past few weeks with the completion of Singapore and Canadian Nationals, two of the more significant National Championships we can learn from as well as some controversy from one of those tournaments.

In this article, I am going to just cover my thoughts and observations on a whole host of decks heading into Nationals. I really wanted to cover stacking too, but the article was going to run too long with it, and the decks really are the most important part, so I’ll just say don’t do it.

The Metagame Headed into U.S. Nationals

Headed into U.S. Nationals, I think most players seem to have a good thought upon which decks are most likely to do well and which decks probably won’t do well. I will discuss each deck archetype individually throughout the rest of the article and give out my final lists for these decks and discuss the matchups that are good, bad, or equal for these decks.

In general, the top decks of this format are Blastoise, Gothitelle/Accelgor, Darkrai, and Plasma decks. The main counter decks in the format are Plasma Klinklang and Garbodor decks. Other decks that are still seriously played are Big Basics decks and Eelektrik variants.

In general for choosing a deck for U.S. Nationals, I would pick one of the top decks or the counter decks. I think for U.S. Nationals, I would just pick from one of the top 4 decks as the counter decks can have problems with one or more of the other top decks while having issues with some of the other decks that still see play.

Table of Contents

Plasma Klinklang

One of the most understood decks in the format is Plasma Klinklang, a deck that saw a lot of success during States but which hasn’t seen a ton of play during Battle Roads and other countries U.S. Nationals.

The reason this deck is still a threat is because most of the top decks primarily attack with Pokémon-EX, which Klinklang’s Plasma Steel Ability shuts off from doing damage to you. Additionally, a deck like Team Plasma which has a strong non-EX attacking option is dependent on Special Energy, which Cobalion-EX can remove with Righteous Edge, and Kyurem is also weak to Metal, allowing Cobalion NVI to score a 1HKO on it.

Here is what my Klinklang list looks like headed up to Nationals:

Pokémon – 14

4 Klink DEX

1 Klang DEX

3 Klinklang PLS

1 Klinklang BLW

2 Cobalion-EX

2 Cobalion NVI

1 Durant DRX

Trainers – 36

3 Professor Juniper

4 N
4 Skyla
2 Colress


4 Rare Candy
3 Heavy Ball
2 Ultra Ball
2 Pokémon Catcher
4 Switch
2 Max Potion
2 Hypnotoxic Laser
1 Super Rod
1 Dowsing Machine


2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 10

10 M

This list is probably pretty closed to most players, as this is one of those decks that has fallen into the place of there is a right way to build it and a wrong way to build it, and if you’re not doing it with the roughly same 56 or so card skeleton list than you’re not doing it the right way.

float stone plasma freeze plf
I like Switch better in here.

I’ve seen a lot of players switch to heavy Float Stone counts in this deck, but I don’t think it is necessary though I think swapping out one of the Switches for a Float Stone wouldn’t be a horrible idea. Switch will often get the job done as most of the time you will either be able to Shift Gear the Energy to a new Pokémon after you play Switch, or just have another Pokémon already powered up with Energy that you can just Switch to.

The merit of Float Stone also rests at the hands of Shift Gear Klinklang, with the idea you just have to attach your Float Stone to the Klinklangs for the most part, as all of your other attackers can just be Shift Geared to if they are brought up.

Where Switch shines over Float Stone however is in a format where Snorlax is present in its own deck as well as in Plasma decks which prevents retreat and in which your Pokémon being asleep from Hypnotoxic Laser preventing you from retreating both exist in a good amount.

I think Shift Gear Klinklang and Max Potion are necessary inclusions in the deck, as a lot of stuff in the format will depend on a 2HKO against you allowing you to prolong your Pokémon’s life through the use of Max Potion while not losing the Energy from your field. Additionally, Shift Gear is great for always making sure that you have a Pokémon ready to attack every turn.

Durant DRX is a great inclusion in this deck as it allows you to get back Pokémon Catchers, Hypnotoxic Lasers, Max Potions, and Switches to give you some more advanced strategies toward winning the game.

Hypnotoxic Laser is a very important inclusion into Klinklang decks, and makes the deck much stronger than it is without them. The biggest thing that Hypnotoxic Laser can do is help to swing the Plasma matchup in your favor. With the use of Hypnotoxic Laser, Energy Press will be able to Knock Out a Kyurem with just two Energy on it and if Virbank City Gym is in play, Cobalion-EX can Knock Kyurem Out with Steel Bullet.

If you plan on taking Klinklang to Nationals, the decks you will want to play against are Blastoise, Team Plasma, Big Basics, and Darkrai EX decks. All of these decks rely heavily on EX attackers which allows Klinklang to exploit them. Of this group, Team Plasma variants and Darkrai EX decks are the ones with the best outs to beat you, as they have strong non-EX attackers in Kyurem PLF, Absol PLF, as well as Snorlax PLS.

I think the addition of Hypnotoxic Laser helps the deck in shutting down Team Plasma decks, as Energy denial and a 1HKO threat on their main non-EX attacker is very strong against them.

As for Darkrai EX, the matchup can largely come down to how quick of a start the Darkrai EX player has in trying to deny you ever getting Plasma Klinklang out and whether you are able to get Klinklang BLW into play. If you are able to get Klinklang BLW into play, you are able to deny them from Knocking Out your Cobalion-EX through the use of Max Potion, while continuously scoring a 1HKO on their Absol with Steel Bullet.

Without it though, the Darkrai player can work on getting 2HKOs on your Cobalion-EX’s while knocking the Energy off your board. The more Absol a Darkrai player plays will impact the matchup. Obviously, the more non-EX attackers they have to swing with the better situated they will be to take down the deck.

The other option is to play Crushing Hammer and slowly remove all of the Klinklang players Energy, and then kill them with poison damage, but with Blastoise being so heavily played its hard to justify to a Darkrai player to play a true hammertime variant at Nationals, so Klinklang players shouldn’t see too much of that.

As far as decks that a Klinklang player won’t want to see are Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX, Gothitelle/Accelgor, Garbodor, and either Eelektrik variant.

Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX is a tough matchup for Klinklang because with no Special Energy other than Plasma Energy to be accelerated with Colress Machine, Energy denial is no longer an effective strategy in shutting Kyurem down.

klinklang plasma storm pls
There are enough EXs being played that Klinklang is a legitimate threat.

Right before Battle Roads when we were testing out the Kyurem/Deoxys deck, myself and my friend JW tested the Klinklang matchup heavily, as it seemed like it could be tricky since Kyurem is metal weak, and it still does use some Special Energy.

What we found is that Kyurem/Deoxys wins very heavily against Klinklang as the Kyurem player is able to 1HKO all of your attackers through LaserBank, and with Exp. Share, the Kyurem player is able to continuously stream Blizzard Burning Kyurem throughout the game.

Gothitelle/Accelgor is pretty near an auto-loss for you, as once they get Item lock up, all they have to do is catcher up your Kinklang PLS (since you probably won’t get two out before Item lock comes) and then Knock that Out, and then go on Deck and Covering your deck with Mew-EX like they would with any other deck.

Garbodor is tough because Garbotoxin will allow the Garbodor player to use their strong EX attackers against you, something the normal Big Basics deck can’t use against you. Garbotoxin will also prevent you from really prolonging your attackers with Max Potion as you will have to get rid of all of your Energy to do so as Shift Gear won’t be workable.

Lastly, both Eelektrik variants are tough for Klinklang to deal with. Rayquaza/Eelektrik can just continously use Victini NVI 15 against you to 1HKO all of your Pokémon with V-Create. Zekrom/Eelektrik can continuously stream Bouffalant DRX and Zekrom BLW against you to hit for 120 every turn, and a Bolt Strike with Hypnotoxic Laser can potentially be used to 1HKO the Klinklang’s and allow them to use their non-EX attackers again.

Overall, of the non-top decks in the format, Klinklang seems like a stronger play out of them than most of the other decks in that category. It has inherent advantages against Blastoise, Plasma, and Darkrai decks, which are three of the most popular decks in the format.

What would give me pause from playing Klinklang at Nationals is that Eelektrik will probably still be played in solid numbers, and it will beat it, and Gothitelle/Accelgor is one of the top decks (albeit the least popular of the top decks), and it has a near auto-win against the deck.

Big Basics

landorus ex boundaries crossed 89
Not so big anymore.

The next set of decks I am going to discuss are Big Basic decks and a sub category of them, Garbodor decks. Big Basics has seen a facelift since the release of Plasma Freeze as relying solely on Landorus-EX/Bouffalant DRX/Mewtwo EX would no longer work in a format with Kyurem PLF running rampant, as it would be able to just 1HKO the Landorus-EXs with Blizzard Burn (or 2HKO Landorus-EX with Frost Spear while spreading damage elsewhere).

To help combat that, Big Basics players have started to include Cobalion-EX to remove Special Energy in the Plasma matchup as well as Cobalion NVI to get 1HKOs on Kyurem PLF.

The other issue this deck faces is that Deoxys-EX is more effective than Mewtwo EX, in a Psychic on Psychic battle. The Mewtwo EX player will need a Hypnotoxic Laser to get the 1HKO on the Deoxys-EX player, while the Deoxys-EX player will only need the two Energy to score the 1HKO on the Mewtwo EX assuming both Pokémon have the standard two Energy on them that they need to attack.

Overall I will keep my thoughts on this deck short because it is a deck I feel that you shouldn’t play at Nationals if you hope on doing well. Because of its lack of 1HKO ability and weakness by its main spread attacker, Landorus-EX, the deck suffers a very poor Blastoie matchup, which has become one of the most popular decks in the format.

Additionally Gothitelle/Accelgor will have an auto-win condition against you once it sets up, so that’s another bad matchup for the deck. Kyurem/Deoxys-EX will also have a strong matchup, as it has a type advantage on Landorus-EX, and as discussed earlier, the card in its own deck can overwhelm Klinklang decks, even with their Ability to Shift Gear and Max Potion damage, and entire reliance on Metal Pokémon. Making the potential for a Metal attack less consistent and introducing a Pokémon weak to Water only makes for the deck to have a worse matchup to the deck than Klinklang does.

The deck still has a favorable matchup against Darkrai EX and Eelektrik variants, but both of those matchups aren’t as strong as they have been in the past because of the release of Mr. Mime PLF, which shuts off snipe damage, allowing these decks to better deal with damage output of Big Basics.

The Plasma matchup is fairly interesting because of all the Energy Removal with Enhanced Hammer and Righteous Edge, but in general a good Plasma list with a sufficient number of Basic Energy cards should be able to overcome this to win the game.

Klinklang will also be a very poor matchup still as the deck relies primarily on EX attackers.

I don’t stink! (Figuratively.)

However, one variant of this deck that warrants further discussion are Big Basics decks that also incorporate Garbodor DRX.

I’ve seen some lists that have incorporated just a thin 1-1 line of Garbodor, and in testing early on in the format, this seemed like a poor concept to me, making the Garbodor matchup not all that threatening even against decks that would traditionally would have a bad matchup against Garbodor. Against these decks, the game basically comes down to just Knocking Out the Garbodor and then going back to using your Abilities and destroy the deck.

If you want to play Garbodor right headed into Nationals, you have to really build your deck around being a Garbodor deck, whose main focus is to shutdown opposing decks’ Abilities. I think a 3-3 Garbodor line is probably the best play right now, especially as Garbodor variants move toward Float Stone as the tool of choice on Garbodor over Rescue Scarf. Here is my list for Garbodor Big Basics:

Pokémon – 12

3 Trubbish DRX
3 Garbodor DRX
2 Landorus-EX
2 Cobalion-EX
2 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla
2 Colress


4 Ultra Ball

4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Float Stone

3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Max Potion*

1 Energy Search
1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

5 F
4 M
3 Double Colorless

As far as the list goes, I wanted to focus on cheap, one Energy attackers. If I couldn’t power them up for an attack in one turn, I didn’t really want them in the deck, as the format is so 1HKO focused that it’s very easy to lose an attacker immediately after playing them down. If you have to make two Energy attachments to that Pokémon to attack with it, there is a good chance you never will get to attack with it.
Needed to get Garbo out quickly.

One thing I’ve focused on with this list is having more Pokémon search than standard Big Basic decks (which have cut down to as low as 2 searchcards), playing 4 Ultra Ball. Introducing Garbodor into the equation means you need a lot more deck search to get setup. Even with 4 Ultra Ball, I haven’t been able to get Garbodor setup as fast as I would like in most games.

I went exclusively with 4 Float Stone for my tool for Garbodor as well as for my Switch mechanism. Space is really tight in this deck, so finding room for everything else while keeping the core components necessary for the deck in place was important to find.

One way other players have tackled this problem is by playing mostly Prism and Blend Energies (as they cover the attack costs for both Landorus-EX and Cobalion-EX), but I don’t think this is an optimal way to build the deck as it opens you up to losing to opposing Cobalion-EX decks like the mirror, Plasma Klinklang and Big Basics, as well as Enhanced Hammer in decks like Darkrai EX and Big Basics. Instead I think Energy Search with 4 Skyla is a better way to approach getting the right Energy at the right time.

I put an asterisk next to Max Potion as I think it is the most easily replaceable set of cards in the deck to give the deck more of something else. I would really like 1-2 Switch in the deck, and Enhanced Hammer seems like it could be useful against Team Plasma decks to give Cobalion-EX more power. However, against stuff like Darkrai EX and opposing Big Basics deck, Max Potion is really strong as they depend on a 2HKO game, and it is good for clearing off snipe damage to your Garbodor by a Kyurem PLF.

After spending a session testing together with Garbodor, this is a deck that I would not consider a great choice for Nationals. I am sure the deck will sneak into top cut in small numbers (2-3 representatives), but outside of ruining a few Blastoise and Eelektrik players days, I don’t see it as too viable of a threat.

I wanted to test Garbodor because naturally Abilities are strong, so denying them is strong, and the deck has been a strong contender since Winter Regionals and all the way through State Championships. For whatever reason, Garbodor wasn’t seeing a lot of success at Battle Roads or other National Championships. Headed into the format, the idea was that Team Plasma would kill Garbodor. Does it? I think it actually does after playing the matchup a bunch.

Kyurem PLF can be tough for the deck as it can hit Landorus-EX for weakness and through smart spreading with a few Kyurem PLF throughout the game, the Plasma player could eventually just overwhelm their opponent with Frost Spear and the occasional Blizzard Burn and Raiden Knuckles.

What I wasn’t expecting was for this deck to completely fold to a strong Tornadus-EX PLF presence in Plasma decks, but it did in my testing. What makes Tornadus EX so strong is that for a DCE and 2 Colress Machine, it can be powered up in one turn to swing for 120 on base damage, and then up to 150-180 depending on the number of Deoxys-EX in play (before the Garbotoxin lock goes up) as well as LaserBank. The early damage from a Raiden Knuckle or Frost Spear, or just playing a Hypnotoxic Laser can easily setup the knockouts for a Tornadus EX with 2 Plasma Energy attached.
Doesn’t quite overpower Plasma.

The reason that Plasma decks overwhelm Cobalion-EX so easily is because they have multiple forms of Energy acceleration with Raiden Knuckle and Colress Machine, which means in the long run the Plasma player can overwhelm the Energy removal that Cobalion-EX does with stronger Energy acceleration.

Gothitelle is another very poor matchup. All it takes is Tool Scrapping the Garbodor once, and then getting Item lock up and going with a normal Deck and Cover strategy. As Big Basics is already one of Gothitelle’s favorite matchups.

Darkrai EX can be a bit frustrating, as they can just recycle Pokémon Catcher, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Tool Scrapper to make life hard for you. In general though it is still a favorable matchup because of Landorus-EX’s typing advantage on Darkrai EX (that is only if you choose to keep the Max Potions in the deck, otherwise the Darkrai player can deal with Landorus-EX’s by the use of Darkrai and Absol, as well as Laser damage).

In general, Eelektrik and Blastoise will be your most favorable matchups. You either can go from auto-winning against them if they are not teched against you. When testing Blastoise, I have found 1 Tool Scrapper as well as Dowsing Machine as my ACE SPEC was enough to consistently take the wins against Garbodor. Eelektrik is a little different story because of Landorus’ favorable typing, making it not too difficult to win still even if they play Tool Scrapper.


I also have tested a Garbodor/Darkrai variant, with pretty good results.

Pokémon – 12

2 Trubbish PLS 65

1 Trubbish NVI

3 Garbodor DRX

3 Sableye DEX

2 Darkrai-EX DEX

1 Absol PLF

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Skyla

1 Colress

2 Random Receiver


4 Ultra Ball

3 Dark Patch

3 Pokémon Catcher

4 Crushing Hammer

2 Enhanced Hammer

4 Float Stone

2 Switch

1 Energy Search

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 10

10 D

800px-RB25 garbodor mangaBulbapedia
The “dark” Garbodor variant.

The strategy of the deck is pretty simple, setup a Garbotoxin lock, and use Junk Hunt over and over again to remove all of the Energy from your opponent’s field and then start attacking with Darkrai EX or Absol PLF to take Prizes to win when your opponent can’t do much of anything.

Overall I think the deck has positive matchups against Blastoise, Team Plasma, Eelektrik, and Klinklang because of all of those decks reliance on Abilities. Darkrai is a little negative because they can just keep Junk Hunting Hypnotoxic Laser to take early knockouts while also Junk Hunting Dark Patch to get Darkrai’s setup. Big Basics is negative because of type advantage, and Gothitelle is hard to beat as they can just Tool Scrap you and prevent you from having a Garbotoxin lock once Gothitelle comes out.

I really like the deck, but I think it isn’t a good play for Nationals. While the matchups aren’t necessarily bad against a lot of the top decks, you will often not have enough time to win the game, and your opponent will win the game on time. Also, the deck is a little inconsistent which can lead you to just losing games against good matchups because you can’t get Garbodor setup as fast as you would like, and there is a lot of variance with the deck depending on how you flip with Crushing Hammer.

Eelektrik Variants

This is a set of decks that has seemed lackluster to me ever since Plasma Freeze was released. However, both the Rayquaza/Eelektrik and Zekrom/Eelektrik decks have seen some success in foreign National Championships, so they are worth discussing.
Always going to be susceptible to the donk.

Rayquaza/Eelektrik has been hit pretty hard by the release of Plasma Freeze with the introduction of Float Stone, Kyurem PLF, Absol PLF, and Thundurus EX introduced into the format.

Kyurem PLF gives an additional snipe attacker that can 1HKO a Tynamo on the first turn, while continuously spreading. It is equally good as Landorus-EX against Eelektrik decks because with enough Deoxys in play and Hypnotoxic Laser it can also Knock Out an undamaged Eelektrik.

Kyurem as well as Absol PLF are threats to the deck because they provide their respective decks with a means for Knocking Out a Rayquaza EX in one fell swoop, making life for Rayquaza/Eelektrik players especially rough. With two Deoxys in play and LaserBank, Kyurem can 1HKO a Rayquaza EX. Absol PLF swings for 170 also when the Eelektrik player has a full bench, and a Dark Claw is attached, and LaserBank is used. This isn’t too uncommon of a situation to setup because Eelektrik decks really need a full bench to get a proper setup.

Donk threats have also impacted Rayquaza/Eelektrik decks. Thundurus EX will donk an Emolga for one Energy with Raiden Knuckle, and one Deoxys-EX or a Hypnotoxic Laser, so that pretty much throws that out as a starter. Shaymin BCR can be used as a pseudo replacement, but its one Retreat Cost forces you to discard the Energy attach if Skyarrow bridge isn’t in play, which takes away the luxury that this deck has of always having a free retreater on the field.

Kyurem PLF also can donk a Victini-EX fairly easily with Frost Spear, so accelerating Energy rapidly to get a quick start isn’t as attractive of an option as it used to be.

The release of Float Stone has made Gothitelle good again, and once setup, Gothitelle decks have a near auto-win condition against Rayquaza/Eelektrik decks.

It’s weird that at a time that Blastoise decks have resurged to the top of the tier list that its best counter can’t be successful, but that seems to be the format we’re in. If a Rayquaza/Eelektrik player can get hot draws all day though and withstand early game pressure, the deck still can perform well, but the odds aren’t in their favor.

hypnotoxic laser plasma storm pls
ZekEels uses HTL for 2HKOs.

The other Eelektrik deck is a Zekrom/Eelektrik deck that won Dutch Nationals. I think the list posted that the tournament winner used is pretty on point, the only changes I made were cutting a Zekrom BLW for a Tornadus-EX DEX to give the deck a donk option, as well as adding another Switch into the deck, as I felt 1 wasn’t enough.

The deck uses Hypnotoxic Laser to hit for 130 against stuff like Kyurem, relies on 2HKOs on EXs with Bouffalant DRX and Zekrom BLW, and for 1HKOs in the late game with Zekrom-EX and Hypnotoxic Laser.

The deck can setup a game state where it can continually recharge its attackers with Dynamotor while getting what it wants in the Active Spot via Keldeo-EX and Float Stone, giving the deck some great comeback potential with N.

The deck is really interesting, as it appears to have around 50/50 matchups against Team Plasma, Blastoise, and Darkrai stuff. In general though, I have found the matchups to be tilted slightly against the Zekrom/Eelektrik player, but the games are still close.

The deck has a pretty poor matchup against Gothitelle like the other Eelektrik deck, and Garbodor and Big Basics is still tough for the deck.

The biggest issue I had in testing the deck was getting a consistent setup. Even with 6 Pokémon search cards, often enough you just don’t get your Eelektrik setup as fast as you would like, and there is additional setup required with finding your Keldeo-EX as well as your Float Stone, and also getting Virbank City Gym into play.

Because of these issues, the deck will often start out too slowly, and sometimes setting up too slow doesn’t leave room for a comeback, even with the deck bolstering great comeback strength.

I am not really a fan of Eelektrik decks headed into Nationals. They still saw a lot of play at our Battle Roads, but throughout the seven tournaments we had, Eelektrik variants failed to take a Top 4 placing in any of those tournaments, and our metagame seemed to be pretty normal. I think a few Eelektrik decks can do well at Nationals, but overall the field isn’t favorable for them to justify it as a play.


This is the top deck that I am least excited about headed into the National Championship. The deck has been around forever, which I think has led to a lot of players figuring out strategies on how to combat the deck, even with the addition of Absol to the deck. While it’s very much a known deck that players have strategies for, it is still one of the most consistent decks in the format and can will start swinging for you in most games.

Pokémon – 9

3 Darkrai-EX DEX
2 Absol PLF
2 Sableye DEX
2 Keldeo-EX

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Skyla

1 Colress

3 Bicycle


4 Ultra Ball

4 Dark Patch

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Pokémon Catcher

2 Dark Claw

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Energy Switch

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Energy Search

1 Dowsing Machine


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

11 D

This list is pretty standard. I went with Bicycle over Random Receiver, or more Supporters because it helps to speed through your deck a little bit more, and makes Skyla a much more effective Supporter to play on a turn, as you can still get draw while searching out the particular card you want in a turn. I think 2 Enhanced Hammer are well worth the space because of Plasma’s reliance on Special Energy, and many Big Basic decks now also playing a lot of Special Energy.

Has a lot of 50/50 matchups.

The deck seems to have a true 50/50 type matchup with Team Plasma decks. If you don’t tech for them, then I think they have the slight edge, but a continuous 90+ damage attack from turn 2 on can overpower Plasma decks. 2 Enhanced Hammer will help you move the matchup a little bit more in your favor as you can slow down how many attackers they can setup to respond to your attack.

The deck has a fairly favorable matchup against Kyurem/Deoxys, just because it can easily 1HKO the Kyurems with Darkrai or Absol, and eventually the Kyurem/Deoxys player will run out of Pokémon powered up to attack.

Blastoise is fairly close to 50/50, but as the Blastoise player starts playing techs like Max Potion or Mr. Mime, the matchup moves further and further into the Blastoise players favor.

Gothitelle is a very winnable matchup for you if you play multiple Keldeo-EX, but not an auto-win by any means. If you don’t play multiple Keldeo-EX though, you will probably lose to Accelgor outside of them just dead-drawing.

Eelektrik variants still tend to be a favorable matchup for you, while Garbodor and Big Basics is tough because of their type advantage, but Absol PLF definitely helps Darkrai in these matchups giving the deck a non-EX attacker to help even the Prize trade for you.

Darkrai still has an unfavorable matchup against Klinklang, as most of the deck is based around an EX attacker, but Absol certainly helps to improve the matchup. The more Absol you play the better your Klinklang matchup will be. Absol in smaller numbers doesn’t win the Klinklang matchup for you though as Steel Bullet still 1HKOs Absol, and if they limit their bench wisely, they can prevent you from taking a significant number of knockouts with Absol.

Overall, Darkrai feels like a safe choice for Nationals, just because of how consistent the deck is, and because it has a lot of 50/50 type matchups, meaning you won’t find yourself losing too often just because of a bad matchup. However, it is problematic to me that Darkrai doesn’t have any overwhelming advantage against any of the top decks.

Team Plasma

This is one of my favorite set of decks headed into the National Championship as there is a lot of variety in the way that the deck can be built and played. I am going to cover two different concepts regarding the deck, the first, a standard TDK, and the second, a Kyurem/Deoxys build.


Pokémon – 11

3 Thundurus-EX PLF

4 Deoxys-EX

2 Kyurem PLF

2 Tornadus-EX PLF

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

3 Skyla


2 Ultra Ball

2 Team Plasma Ball

4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Colress Machine

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Switch

2 Float Stone

1 Dowsing Machine


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 13

4 Prism

4 Plasma

2 Blend WLFM

2 Double Colorless

1 L

I have really come to enjoy Tornadus EX in this deck, as it gives the deck really strong 1HKO potential with no drawbacks such as not attacking the next turn like Kyurem PLF or having to discard all of the Energy. Many view this card as an all in type of thing, but I don’t think that’s the best way to play it.

The best way to play the card is with a DCE and 2 Plasma Energy attached. With this, and three Deoxys in play, if you have the Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym you are able to hit for 180 damage, which isn’t too uncommon of a situation for this deck to find itself in.

Windfall is also a great consistency option for the deck on turn one, as well as later in the game. This makes setting up a turn 2 Tornadus EX pretty common. With an EX swinging for 180 damage on turn 2 most games, you can force a game state where your opponent has to find a way to Knock it Out otherwise it can easily sweep the game by itself.

Thundurus EX is important to keep in the deck for recovery, and in particular matchups where your opponent is removing your Special Energy. I like to include at least one basic L Energy for Thundurus EX to use so you have something that won’t be removed by Enhanced Hammer or Righteous Edge at your disposal.

I’m a fan.

The deck seems to go about even with Blastoise and Darkrai, with Blastoise having the advantage when setup and Darkrai having a possible advantage depending on whether they choose to tech Enhanced Hammer or not. Gothitelle is negative once they get setup, but you can outspeed them in a lot of games preventing them from ever getting their setup.

Klinklang is a difficult matchup that you will probably lose most of the time, but the other counter deck Garbodor will be a bit in your favor as you can just overwhelm them with Tornadus EX’s strong attack, even when Abilities aren’t factored in. Eelektrik is pretty positive just because of your speed and also 1HKO ability.

Lugia EX can be played in place of Tornadus EX, which gives the deck a great attacker for picking up 2 Prizes against things like Blastoise, Absol, or Kyurem in mirror, but I think the consistency Windfall provides edges out the Prize gaining advantage Lugia EX has by a little bit.


The other version of Plasma that will see some play at U.S. Nationals is Kyurem PLF/Deoxys-EX. This deck aims at Blizzard Burning for big damage every single turn.

Pokémon – 8

4 Kyurem PLF

4 Deoxys-EX

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Skyla

2 Colress

1 Team Plasma Grunt


4 Team Plasma Ball

4 Colress Machine

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Switch

2 Float Stone

2 Exp. Share

1 Energy Search

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

8 W

4 Plasma

This is pretty similar to the list I took 2nd place at a Battle Roads with. The main changes I’ve made since then was to replace the Bianca with Skyla, and then put in an Energy Search in place of one of the W Energy as a result of that change.

Keldeo-EX with Float Stone is a possibility, and is good with Blizzard Burn, but I’ve found the Switches to be more than enough, and bench space becomes an issue here. I think ideally you will want to setup 3 Deoxys-EX and 3 Kyurem PLF on your bench. Getting multiple Kyurem on the bench is highly important as you want to setup multiple ones as quickly as possible to keep a stream of them going throughout the game.

Colress Machine gives you Energy acceleration, allowing you to setup a turn one Frost Spear and turn two Blizzard Burn. Exp. Share keeps the Water in play allowing you to stream Blizzard Burns with multiple Kyurem. Colress Machine is also used to get additional Energy on these Kyurem to preemptively set them up.

kyurem plasma freeze plf
Creates favorable Prizes trades against EXs.

The deck does really well against decks that rely on some set up and mostly use EX attackers. With Kyurem, you are basically using an EX type attacker while only giving up 1 Prize. With Hypnotoxic Laser, Blizzard Burn will 1HKO all EXs, and Frost Spear can even be used to 2HKO EXs and disrupt your opponent’s set up.

Eelektrik decks seem to be one of your easiest matchups, and Blastoise is pretty favorable, but if they get a fast start it is loseable. Klinklang is an interesting matchup, as it is deceptively close, but in general, this deck will come up on top of Klinklang.

Garbodor and Big Basics are also very positive matchups for this deck because of typing advantage. TDK also isn’t too bad because they use a lot of EXs, allowing you to just Knock Out a few of them for all six of your Prizes.

Darkrai is probably the toughest matchup for this deck as it can 1HKO a Kyurem easily, and can do it with a non-EX in Absol PLF to boot. If the Darkrai player gets a reasonably fast setup they will win this matchup most of the time.

The deck really hates Tool Scrapper, as it removes the Exp. Shares preventing you from keeping a stream of Kyurems going, especially if you whiff a Water attachment on any turn.


And last but not least, what is one of the strongest decks in the format and the deck that has seen probably the most success in International National Championships – Blastoise!

I’ve had the opportunity to test both a Turbo Keldeo-EX version as well as the standard Blastoise, and while the Turbo Keldeo-EX version is certainly a strong deck in its own right, it is inferior to the standard version, so the standard version is the only version of the deck you should really look to play or be prepared for, for U.S. Nationals.

Here’s where my list is at just a few days before U.S. Nationals. This is pretty far from the list I was using at the end of Battle Roads, and testing with the deck extensively since has given me some new insights into building the deck, that I think have also been adopted by a lot of other players when building the deck.

Pokémon – 13

4 Squirtle BCR

3 Blastoise BCR

3 Keldeo-EX

2 Black Kyurem-EX PLS

1 Black Kyurem BCR

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

4 Skyla

3 N

2 Colress


4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

4 Rare Candy

4 Superior Energy Retrieval

3 Pokémon Catcher

1 Energy Search

1 Max Potion

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search


2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 12

10 W

2 L

Most of this stuff is pretty standard, so I will just cover some unique points on my list.

Black Kyurem BCR will probably be a strong play at U.S. Nationals since the Blastoise mirror will be popular and people might play Rayquaza/Eelektrik to try to counter all the Blastoise, and the card improves that matchup as well.

By playing Black Kyurem BCR, you are able to disrupt the EX Prize exchange in mirror, as usually at some point they won’t have a Catcher to bring up one of your EXs which will instantly give you an advantage in the Prize race.

I love Dowsing Machine and feel like it’s the best overall ACE SPEC, but I’ve come to appreciate Computer Search more and more in this deck. Computer Search gives you more outs to your Rare Candy on turn 2, an additional out that isn’t Skyla for your Tropical Beach on the first turn, it can search out your L Energy early game, and also gives you another Pokémon search card. While I love the versatility and options that Dowsing Machine gives, I feel the more consistent setup of using Computer Search is the way to go.

Energy Search is a card I’ve come to love in this deck. Often I would find myself in situations where I would draw a Lightning when I wanted a W Energy to hit a damage number with Keldeo-EX, but couldn’t hit it because that particular Energy was a Lightning. The Energy Search helps alleviate this problem some of the time, and also gives you an out to your L Energy via Skyla.

Max Potion is great in this deck for erasing damage, which can allow one Black Kyurem EX to go the distance by itself against a lot of decks in the format, and it also helps clean up any setup KOs your opponent might have as a possibility from snipe damage from stuff like Night Spear and Frost Spear. In general, I just play this card for the Darkrai matchup, and feels it improves it considerably.

exeggcute plasma freeze plf
Not all it’s cracked up to be.

As far as cards I don’t play? Exeggcute. I played Exeggcute all through Battle Roads, and found that in most games it just wasn’t hitting the discard. Even when it was in the discard, I didn’t always want to use it because I wanted to thin out some cards like N from my deck so I wouldn’t draw into them later in the game, making Exeggcute’s worth even less.

There are some crazy plays you can make with Exeggcute that you couldn’t otherwise, but overall Exeggcute isn’t needed for the deck to function properly and that space can be better used elsewhere.

Tool Scrapper is another card I neglected to play. I feel with the switch to Computer Search, only allowing you to Tool Scrapper once in the game you are going to lose to Garbodor anyhow, so you might as well sacrifice that matchup completely and use that space elsewhere.

As far as matchups go, Blastoise is pretty favorable against most of the top decks – Darkrai, Plasma, and Gothitelle. These matchups aren’t blowouts for Blastoise by any means, but it seems like Blastoise seems to come out ahead just because of how quickly a few Black Ballista can end the game. There will be a lot of times in the Plasma and Darkrai matchups where it feels like you are going to lose the game, but you still come out on top through the raw power of Black Kyurem EX, 200 damage from an attack that can be re-powered every turn is just ridiculously powerful.

As far as Gothitelle, with three Keldeo-EX, you’re better suited than most decks to break out of the status lock of Deck and Cover, giving you outs to win the game that way. If you get Blastoise out before they get Gothitelle out you have a very easy win on your hands.

Where Blastoise struggles is against some of the lower tier and counter decks. There really isn’t much Blastoise can do to beat Garbodor or Klinklang outside of actively teching for them. Rayquaza/Eelektrik is a tough matchup, but if you get a fast setup and can draw first blood you will probably win the matchup.

Bringing It All Together – Personal Thoughts

I am near 70 percent sure that Blastoise will be my deck choice for the tournament. The deck has an advantage in all of its matchups against the top decks in the format, which logically should be the decks you play the most often. I recognize Blastoise has struggles against some lower tier stuff, but I believe that those decks struggles with other decks in the format should keep them in low numbers toward the top tables.

If I don’t play Blastoise I won’t be playing anything else mentioned in this article, it will be something rogue. I’ve had some idea for decks that I came up with at work (I’ve have a lot of time to think about whatever at my new job, and my mind often wanders to Pokémon), but I haven’t tested any of these and will need to get them under some tough testing fast to see if they can hold mettle.

Granted, past attempts at counter format decks have failed for me, so even if one appears strong in testing, I might pass on it anyway as past results using weirder stuff at big tournaments hasn’t panned out for me.

I am least impressed with Darkrai and Gothitelle out of the top two decks for plays at U.S. Nationals. Darkrai just seems to have legitimate problems beating Blastoise consistently, which I think makes it tough for me to justify playing it for the tournament. Gothitelle on the other hand will have a tough time with a very Blastoise heavy metagame and Darkrai decks that will play double Keldeo-EX lurking to take them down.

As far as decks that I think should stay at home for players serious about winning Nationals, out of the main stuff – Eelektrik, Big Basics, and then some of the lesser stuff like Quad Snorlax and Flareon which have clear problems against Tier 1 decks like Blastoise and Gothitelle.

I think Klinklang is the strongest anti-meta deck because of its inherent advantages in matchups against Plasma, Darkrai, and Blastoise, so I could see Klinklang doing quite well at this tournament, possibly even winning back-to-back Nationals if it hits the right trajectory in top cut.

As far as Garbodor, at least the two variants I’ve discussed here, I think it has the potential to go very far, as a lot of the top decks in the format can struggle against Garbodor variants. I don’t think it will make it into top cut in large numbers though, because of the Darkrai variant’s issue with time, and the Big Basics version having a pretty rough Plasma matchup. But I think a few Garbodor will make cut, and if they hit the right matchups, they could go deep.


Enjoy yourself this weekend!

It’s hard to believe that Nationals is just a few days away now. I will be leaving for Indianapolis on Thursday, and then will probably play in the open game room and all that stuff once I get there.

For a tournament like this, the best mindset going in is just to have fun. There will be a lot of people, a lot of friends, and a lot of stuff going on outside of the tournament to make it fun whether you do good or bad. You should still go into the tournament with a mindset of “in it to win it,” but it’s also important to understand that beating a field of over a thousand players is extremely tough and unlikely (as only 1/1000+ actually does it). So don’t get too worked up if things don’t go the way you planned.

Also, if anyone is a connossieur of Pokémon artwork, make sure to talk to me at Nationals. I wil have some artwork on hand for sale from a good friend that will be a great addition to anyone’s collection. And of course come talk to me, even if you’re not interested in the art!

Lastly, remember to upvote or downvote the article to give Adam feedback on the Underground content and leave any comments, questions, or feedback on the forums for me.

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