I just got back from a fun filled weekend at Pokémon Nationals spending good times with a lot of friends, and I also am coming back with a report for what was a deck that I was probably the only one playing in all three of the age divisions.
Headed into U.S. Nationals the three decks I was most excited about were Blastoise, Team Plasma, and Darkrai/Garbodor. I felt like these were the three strongest decks that I had at my disposal. I sold all my Plasma stuff before Nationals to cash in on it since everything is coming out in tins, and I never felt comfortable that there was anything I could do in mirror to give me too much of an advantage.
Blastoise is definitely a great deck, but it seemed like the counters in Klinklang and Garbodor would be played in high numbers to counter it, so I was scared, especially after hearing a lot of friends were going with Klinklang, and the deck did make it’s way into the cut in pretty high numbers.
I was testing Darkrai/Garbodor at league at Yeti Gaming the week before Nationals, and while I was winning most games because it does a good job countering Plasma and Blastoise, I was winning most of my games in 40-45 minutes, which obviously wouldn’t work in a 30 minute Swiss environment.
At work the week of Nationals, I came up with an idea since I have plenty of time to think at my job. What if I took the Darkrai/Garbodor concept and cut out the Darkrai EXs and Absol PLF I had in there and just played all Sableye DEX, using the newfound space to play Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym?
My theory was that Hypnotoxic Laser could speed up the deck because I could start putting damage on my opponent’s field while I was in the hammering phase of the game with poison damage. It only takes three full turns of poison damage to knock out an EX Pokémon, which isn’t all that slow.
While waiting at a friend’s apartment, waiting for her to get back I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote out a list for the deck. This was the list I would use at Nationals, no changes made from that point on. Here my new deck was born.
I was trying to think of a good name for the deck, but couldn’t think of anything too great, but I think I want to name the deck Shadow Box. The reasoning is that Sableye is a Dark Pokémon (Shadow), and it is a tool box deck of Items (Box), and the deck is really playing more against itself and enforcing its strategy on the opponent, so it’s doing more shadow boxing than actual boxing against opponents decks if that makes sense.
On Tuesday night, I put together the deck, and played some games against Juniors and Seniors with the deck to see how it runs, since no Masters showed up to test, and it seemed to work pretty well. Then after some fun happy hour time at the Embassy on Thursday night, I made sure to get in some games against Plasma, Blastoise, Darkrai, and some other decks to figure out my strategy against those decks.
Basically the way I viewed my tournament run was this: I will be able to beat everything except Item lock decks, and if I were to run into an Item lock deck I would just lose if they played Tool Scrapper, which all good lists would, but I was depending on Blastoise keeping down the main Item lock deck, Gothitelle, which clearly didn’t happen for a number of reasons.
Here is the list I ended up bringing to Nationals:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 44
Energy – 6
What am I thinking? Seriously, I am going to play what is essentially a Quad Sableye deck with Ability locking support from Garbodor for Nationals? Yeah, it was totally crazy.
But I really loved the deck, it is a very good deck that has positive matchups towards most of the metagame, with the one obviously flaw having no real way to beat Item lock, but everything seemed to have some auto-loss, so this seemed as good of a deck to play as any.
The other thing I loved about the deck was that it bucked the trend of what everyone thought about the format. People didn’t think rogue could be viable in this format, but I wanted to prove them wrong with this. Most people complained about the price of cards, but my entire Pokémon lineup probably costs less than $10 to buy, and the most expensive cards in the deck are Pokémon Catcher and Ultra Ball. People complained about the power and high HP of Big Basic EX Pokémon, but this deck played no EXs and all of my Basic Pokémon had only 70 HP.
This deck played a ton of Item cards obviously, coming in at a whopping 44 Item cards, which is a ton. Probably second most in the format to Quad Snorlax decks. Each tool that Sableye has at its disposal is very important to making him execute his strategy to the fullest.
Sometimes Sableye will want more of its tools at its disposal to use on a given turn but doesn’t have a Supporter in line to get a bunch of them for the next turn. With Random Receiver, Sableye had an out to a Supporter from the discard pile giving himself great consistency.
Sableye is most effective when he has turns to go about his Junk Hunting while not being hit by attacks, so Pokémon Catcher was important for bringing up stuff that were unable to get out of the Active spot that couldn’t attack allowing Sableye to get back resources without fear of attack damage.
Sableye can only do 10 damage with its Confuse Ray attack, which surely isn’t enough to win many games. Hypnotoxic Laser in combination with Virbank City Gym could put 60 damage on an opposing Pokémon every turn.
The deck’s main strategy was to prevent the opponent from being able to attack, and this was accomplished through the use of the hammer duo. Enhanced Hammer was great against Plasma decks for assuring the removal of their Special Energy cards, and Crushing Hammer could be used against Special Energy, but was mainly in there to deal with decks that ran Basic Energy primarily.
Someone I talked to during the tournament mentioned how good Lost Remover would be in here compared to Enhanced Hammer. Lost Remover would have improved this deck’s Plasma matchup to near auto-win status as they wouldn’t be able to Raiden Knuckle the discarded Energy back on. Darn you rotation!
Sableye likes bringing up stuff that can’t retreat, and Float Stone was a prevalent card for giving Pokémon free retreat so removing Float Stone to prevent the opponent from retreating was important for executing the deck’s strategy.
Great for finding the few Energy in your deck to continue setting up more Sableye to continue the Junk Hunt marathon.
Sometimes opponents would start putting damage on your Garbodors which are very important, as limiting Abilities helped make the deck tick. Max Potion could be used on Garbodor to remove any damage, making it so my opponent’s almost never scored a knockout on Garbodor. Additionally, it is effective with Sableye too since it only takes one Energy to attack!
Deck building regulations state I only can have 4 Sableye in my deck, so I needed to find a way to let me use more than that and Super Rod did just that. Additionally, as this deck fights a long drawn out war of attrition while going through the deck fairly quickly deck out is always a concern and Super Rod helped prevent that.
One of the best ways for my opponent to take down a Sableye was to Laser it, so having a way to Switch Sableye out of the Active spot to get out of the poison damage was important. With Garbodor’s with Float Stone on the bench, I was able to easily switch back to my Sableye to continue Junk Hunting.
I never used these on Sableye much, they just were there to go on the Garbodors, but Sableye is a bud and would get them back for his buddy Garbodor with Junk Hunt. What a pal.
It’s amazing how little damage output most Pokémon do with their low Energy attacks, typically around 30 damage, especially when shutting down damage boosters like Power Connect with Garbodor. With Eviolite, my opponents would often only be able to hit Sableye for 10 damage, turning Sableye into a 7HKO. That’s super effective.
A lot of people told me to play Life Dew as my ACE SPEC, but Dowsing Machine is too important to making sure the strategy executes fully to not play. It’s important for allowing you to always keep Virbank City Gym in play, as without it, you’re only doing 10 damage from poison in between turns which will make it take forever to knock out opposing Pokémon.
Additionally, there are some plays with Dowsing Machine for N that can help you from decking out. I had to do both of these things to win games throughout the tournament, validating my selection of Dowsing Machine as my ACE SPEC.
The strategy of the deck remains very simple, and you use the same exact strategy against pretty much every deck that there is in the meta game right now.
Step 1 is to setup the Ability lock with Garbodor’s Garbotoxin Ability. The two things this does in this format is blocks Energy acceleration Abilities such as Deluge and Dynamotor, which limits the amount of Energy your opponent can get in play as there isn’t much other Energy acceleration in the format.
The other one is shutting off Deoxys EX’s Power Connect Ability, greatly weakening Team Plasma Pokémon. This means Team Plasma Pokémon only can really do 30 damage at most with their low Energy attacks and that goes down to 10 with Eviolite attached.
Step 2 is to remove all of the Energy from your opponent’s field so that they can no longer attack in the game. You use Enhanced Hammer against Plasma and Crushing Hammer against pretty much everything else. The Plasma matchup seems intimidating at first because they can accelerate Energy with Colress Machine and Raiden Knuckle, but you just remove two Energy a turn until they’re out, always removing Energy from the Thundurus EX, and you get a boost because Plasma Energy are relatively useless in the matchup and not the real targets of your Hammers.
Step 3, after your opponent cannot attack, you finish off their Pokémon by Catchering a Pokémon that cannot retreat and poisoning it until it dies. The nice thing about Hypnotoxic Laser is that your opponent’s Pokémon will get knocked out going back into your turn, forcing them to promote something new, giving you a lot of control over your opponent’s field. (At least with the 170-180 HP EXs, which are your prime targets). You use Tool Scrapper to remove any Float Stones, and without Energy, their Pokémon just get stuck in the Active.
There really isn’t too much matchup specific stuff here, as you literally use the same strategy against every deck for the most part.
For this tournament I won’t cover each match in depth, as is usual, because there isn’t too much to say about it. My deck either executed its strategy or it did not, which makes for most matches to be boring. Also, because of the nature of the deck, there are a lot more turns than usual and I can’t remember everything that happened. Most games are just a series of Junk Hunts for Hammers, followed by Catchers, Lasers, and Tool Scrapper.
Here is how my Swiss rounds played out:
Round 1 – David Herrington – Team Plasma – L (0-1)
Round 2 – Bye (1-1)
Round 3 – Stephon Robinson – Team Plasma – W (2-1)
Round 4 – Ashon Haswell – Team Plasma – W (3-1)
Round 5 – Brad G. – Team Plasma – L (3-2)
Round 6 – Natalie Shampay – Blastoise – W (4-2)
Round 7 – Branden Jackson – Klinklang – L (4-3)
Round 8 – ????? – Articuno EX/Garbodor – W (5-3)
Round 9 – Mike Davies – Blastoise – W (6-3)
In the first round of the tournament, against a Team Plasma deck I couldn’t find my Enhanced Hammers, which isn’t too good. Instead I had to rely on Crushing Hammer throughout most of the game, and I actually flipped zero heads on them, so I was unable to remove much Energy which allowed my opponent to Energize his field and easily win 6-0. If I could have gotten my Enhanced Hammer, I think I could have won fairly easy as my opponent stumbled in his setup, and outside of the Enhanced Hammers I setup fine.
Round 2, my opponent didn’t show up, so it got put in a bye, which helped my resistance a bunch as I wouldn’t have a player who went really negative in the tournament in my resistance.
Round 5, against Brad is an interesting case. I am just going about my strategy as usual, and for all intents and purposes am going to win this game. I remove all of the Energy from his deck, so he can’t do anything except lose to the poison lock. My opponent realizes this and starts stalling, spending like 45 seconds a turn looking through his discard, then 45 more seconds looking through mine, and then just sitting there with his hand doing nothing.
I call a judge over for the stalling, but there isn’t too much that is going to happen with that. We have a judge standing behind our game for the rest of the time which makes my opponent speed up a bit, but he still worked on milking as much time as he could during his turns. If there was a chess clock going on this game, it probably comes out to something like 9 minutes of game time for me to 21 minutes for my opponent, which is totally unfair.
I end up coming 20 damage short of poison by the end of the turns on time, and lose as a result, in a game I certainly would have won if not for the stalling.
Simply put, Brad is a giant cheat at this game and will doing anything he can to win, because he can’t just outright beat people at this game. I seriously hope Pokémon checks into this player’s lack of adherence to Spirit of the Game, because I know he certainly helped ruin or sour multiple people’s Nationals experiences.
I was pretty dejected after this game, and felt my deck wasn’t going to work because my opponents the rest of the way would realize the way my deck works, and for the most part, the two ways to beat it are going to be by playing Item lock, or just by not playing the game and doing nothing.
Luckily, every single one of my opponents afterwards (and everyone before him as well) were all honest players who understand what Spirit of the Game is, and that made me regain a more positive outlook on the game. I’m honest in saying that I really didn’t care about playing Pokémon very seriously after this if this was the type of play that I had to deal with, but thankfully all of my remaining opponents restored my faith in the player base. It’s just a few bad apples like Brad who need to be removed from the game.
In Round 6, I finally played something that wasn’t Plasma, and played Blastoise, which is probably the deck’s strongest matchup. I got a turn 2 Garbodor setup going first, and she didn’t play Tool Scrapper, so that game was pretty much locked up on turn 2.
In Round 7, I played Klinklang, which I theorized was a really strong matchup for the deck, which is somewhat true, but not completely. I hadn’t tested the matchup, and was just going on my theory of how to attack it, but I got this a bit wrong. While I would have won an untimed game against this Klinklang build, I had no way of beating it on time because of all the Max Potion (I counted 3), allowing him to reset the damage clock after every two turns. He didn’t slow play at all or anything like that, just was able to keep the damage off long enough to keep me down on prizes.
Pokémon is designed in part with the time limit in mind, so not being able to beat a deck on time when the opponent doesn’t slow play is a legitimate way to lose. If I could redo this matchup, I would have been more aggressive with Hypnotoxic Laser and less Hammer Happy to start putting the damage pressure on him early and often. Oh well, I guess this is why you should test your deck more before a big tournament like this.
Round 8, I played an opposing Garbodor deck. Articuno EX needs three Energy for its lowest attack, so it was easy to keep the Energy off the field and have complete control of the game.
Round 9, I played Blastoise again and got a turn 2 Garbodor going first, and he also didn’t play Tool Scrapper so it was a really straight forward win.
In the end, I finished 6-3, and had a good enough resistance to take 59th in the Blue Pod. My Top 128 opponent was Andy Kay, who was playing Plasma. Andy was a good opponent to play against, and it was nice to have someone you could joke around with in cut during your match. He was definitely an o-KAY guy.
I took the first game, as I went first and got a fast setup and I’m not sure he knew how to play against the deck too well as he had probably never seen anything like it before, and he attached some Energies to stuff that wasn’t Thundurus EX, which gave me a strong edge in the game, and after removing all of his Energy from play I believe and setting up the poison lock he scooped.
In game 2, he of course went first and got a fast start that really messed up my setup. There was a turn where I played a Colress just to see what I would get to see if the game was worth playing in. I didn’t get the broken hand I was hoping for off of it, and got a decent enough hand to keep the game going but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t slow his deck down enough to make the comeback, so I scooped to give us plenty of time for a full game 3.
The story of game 3 is that I prized two of my Sableye. I got all of the cards I wanted to Junk Hunt going, and used Super Rod to recycle Sableye’s back in at some point to keep my Sableye strategy going strong. At some point in the game, I had a decision to make, which was to Junk Hunt for Super Rod, and give up a turn of him gaining on the Energy attachments, or go on without it and continue removing his Energy from the field so he can’t attack in the long run.
The one out he had was a Hypnotoxic Laser to knock out a Sableye, and I think he only had one remaining in his deck. I felt it was best to hedge the bet that he wouldn’t have it, and not let him gain a turn of Energy, and then Junk Hunt for Super Rod a bit later when he couldn’t threaten me much. But he did have the Hypnotoxic Laser and knocked out my last Sableye. This left me with a field of Garbodor, and I couldn’t do anything for the rest of the game and ended up decking out.
Andy did a really good job of figuring out the matchup between the first game and the third game, playing the matchup to his fullest potential by game 3 as he then knew how to take on the deck.
All in all I finished with a Top 128 finish, and then got some prize packs and sleeves for placing in the Top 128, and pulled a Full Art Deoxys EX in my packs which made me happy.
Overall, I can’t say I am anything but pleased with how this deck did for me. In the end though, I think I misread the metagame and what would do well. All the counters to Blastoise allowed Gothitelle to really flourish, as Gothitelle owns the counter decks to Blastoise, while being strong against Plasma and having a 50/50 against Blastoise. Obviously with all of the Gothitelle in top cut, no matter how many Plasma or Blastoise decks I took out, I would have eventually lost to a Gothitelle deck.
As far as changes to the list I would have made, there are two considerations I have going forward. First, if I knew Plasma was going to be as played as it was, I would have changed my hammer split to 3 Crushing Hammer and 3 Enhanced Hammer. With three Enhanced Hammer, I would have been better suited to get my Enhanced Hammers early and often against Team Plasma.
Second, I think an Absol PLF would have been good in here. It only takes two turns to power up, and could have been used in situations when the game went to time or whatever to do damage with an attack to knock out Pokémon more easily when time was becoming a factor. I don’t think any of the games I lost on time I was down more than one Prize when I lost, and Absol probably would have evened the prize count for me in all of those games.
Additionally, with the Garbotoxin Lock, Absol could have possibly just lasted two turns as most stuff would struggle to knock it out in opposing Plasma decks, so it could have been used to just take four prizes for me, even if they still had Energy on their Pokémon.
It was definitely a consideration headed into the tournament, and I think if I had tested some of the matchups a little more it would have made the cut into the deck.
Just like last year, U.S. Nationals was a super fun event. The only thing I didn’t like was that they haven’t yet moved to streaming the Swiss Rounds and the rest of the top cut for the main event. Hopefully in the future they move to this, because the way they showed the finals on the big stream was super cool and I think most players liked it. Overall there was a lot of good that they did with this years event, with increased Prize support in the top cut, and the Last Chance for Championship Points tournament was a great addition.
Also want to say congratulations to Sam Liggett for 3rd place at the tournament. I wish he could have won it, Sam’s an awesome dude, but 3rd place is still awesome. And also congrats to the other fellow Missouri players – Timmy Bauer, Brit Pybas, Mitch Stromsdorfer, and Andrew and Zak Krekeler for also making top cut giving us a strong showing this year.
I had a great time playing my deck this weekend, and it was awesome to do well with something out of the ordinary. I don’t think it will be a strong play for anyone at Worlds if Gothitelle remains as popular as it was, but against everything else, I think the deck is great, especially if Absol is added in.