Night Rider – Jay’s 2013 US Nationals Report

old man pidgey newspaper
“Oh how I do love a good read!”

I actually really love writing an article after Nationals as there is always so much information to cover and share. Personally I enjoy reading well-written tournament reports that give a lot of detail and don’t result in one-sentence match reports. I feel these give me another viewpoint from the tournament and also really strong indications of the meta and what to expect at upcoming tournaments.

Since this is a SixPrizes Underground article, I strive to make it far more informative and in-depth than the average tournament report.

I’m going to start off by breaking down and giving the lists for the 3 decks I didn’t play (Blastoise, Accelgor, and Plasma), before finally talking about the deck I did decide on playing (Darkrai). Then I plan on covering my matches through Nationals, discussing some of my opponents’ interesting twists on meta decks and any different or key cards I saw them play. I also plan on discussing some different strategies I used when playing against all of the meta decks.

It seems like a lot of the other Underground writers really seem to hate on Darkrai, but perhaps this article will give you a different (and hopefully better) perspective on the deck.

Table of Contents

Post-Nationals Thanks

After Nationals I always have a few people that I want to thank or acknowledge. So here is a very short list that I’m sure should be much longer.

Matt Tracey: I played him Round 5 I believe, and there was a point in the game where I miscalculated damage and put my active Darkrai EX in the discard pile thinking it was Knocked Out. He stopped me and put the right amount damage on it. He could have very easily cheated and kept his mouth shut, but he didn’t. I gained a ton of respect for him this weekend.

Sam Liggett: You’ve helped me out so much this year and let me bounce deck ideas off of you. You cheered me on last year and I was so happy to be able to cheer you on this year.

James Stumbo: Basically for telling me that Darkrai was the best play for Nationals and more importantly being right about it! Also our last minute testing and helping each other arrive at the right list.

Mike Lesky, Michael Slutsky, Omar Field-Ridley, and my “best friend” Brad: It was an amazing road trip with you guys and I couldn’t ask for better friends to room with that weekend.

Lastly, to all of my friends that have helped and supported me all of this time. I seriously have the best friends in the world.

What I Didn’t Play

Of course I tested all 4 of the “big decks” heading into Nationals. Here are some the options that I almost went with, but ultimately decided not to play.


Pokémon – 10

4 Kyurem PLF
4 Dexoys-EX
2 Keldeo-EX

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Skyla
2 Colress
2 Bianca


4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Colress Machine
3 Exp. Share
3 Float Stone
2 Team Plasma Ball
1 Ultra Ball

1 Computer Search


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

8 W

4 Plasma

Choice: 4th

kyurem plasma freeze plf
Being a non-EX is really cool.

Heading into Nationals I knew Plasma would probably be one of the most played decks. I also knew it might be the best deck in the format (I was certainly not expecting this much Goth), but I just didn’t feel comfortable with my list for it at all. I experimented with several different versions; heavy Lugia, Bike, and then the list I settled on, heavy Kyurem.

Kyurem simply has so much set up potential and 1HKO potential and it also only give up 1 Prize card. I figured if my opponent would have to KO 4 Kyurem to win a game then I would have a good shot and beating them before that happened. The biggest problem with Kyurem is keeping up on Energy attachments. If the opponent ever got ahead of you then they simply roll you and you struggle to get Energy on the board.

I opted to go with Exp. Share as my way of trying to keep Energy on the board. In mirror it’s very hard for them to effectively play around Exp. Share since it’s normally back and forth 1HKOs and against Blastoise it’s impossible for them to. The deck tested alright, but I still didn’t like it much.

In the end I gave up it realizing that my Plasma list wouldn’t be as good as the best players’ Plasma lists and I knew I would have no shot of winning a tournament in a field of stronger lists.


I think I was on the right track of playing strong Plasma Pokémon that only give up 1 Prize. However, I completely underestimated just how good Absol was. If I played the deck at Worlds I think my Pokémon line up would be something like…

4 Dexoys EX
3 Kyurem PLF
2 Absol PLF
2 Thundurus EX
1 Keldeo-EX

My list would probably be a combination of Kyle and Ryan’s, however both of them played less consistency cards than I feel comfortable with. Kyle only played 13 Supporters and 1 Computer Search, while Ryan played 11 Supporters with 3 Bike. I’m still pretty dead set on my 15 “consistency cards” and both of these lists fall short of that mark.

At first glance Life Dew seems like more of a “cool tech” than the ACE SPEC of choice for me, but it’s certainly something that I plan on testing heading into Worlds.

Right now the thing that scares me the most about this deck is its difficult Gothitelle matchup. I plan on testing different things like higher Keldeo-EX counts, but I can’t really think of a strong Gothitelle counter, which might be a major issue heading into Worlds. Bottom line is if I can’t come up with a strong Goth counter with this deck then I won’t be considering it for Worlds.


Pokémon – 21

4 Gothita EPO 43
1 Gothorita BCR
3 Gothitelle EPO 47
3 Shelmet NVI
2 Accelgor DEX
2 Munna BCR
1 Musharna NXD
1 Duskull BCR
1 Dusknoir BCR
3 Mew-EX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper
4 Skyla
3 N
1 Colress


4 Ultra Ball

3 Pokémon Communication

1 Level Ball

4 Rare Candy
3 Float Stone

2 Pokémon Catcher

1 Super Rod
1 Tool Scraper
1 Dowsing Machine


3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

Choice: 3rd
Was I slept on?

I know there are a lot of different ways to go with this deck in the Pokémon lineup. I played what I felt to be an extremely standard line up with Musharna, but (to my surprise) neither of the Top 4 players played the card.

The Trainer lineup I feel is also pretty standard though you will see a lot of difference in the Supporter lineup. I think most probably favor 2 Colress and I also saw quite a few lists play Ghetsis. From what I saw it was a 1-of tech and nobody played more than that.

The biggest differences I ended up seeing in Accelgor lists is Dowsing Machine vs. Computer Search. Now personally I prefer Dowsing Machine to get that extra Catcher, extra Rare Candy…game changing cards, but I saw a lot of really good players (Edmund, Jeremy Jallen) playing Computer Search for the added consistency boost that it provided. This one card choice can make a huge difference in your matchups and this is definitely something that I will be testing heading into Worlds.


I would definitely add a 3rd Catcher (and perhaps even a 4th depending if I go Dowsing Machine or Computer Search) to the deck because especially in a format with a lot of hate for Accelgor (Keldeo-EX) it’s just so important to have that Pokémon Catcher. I also plan on testing the deck without Musharna and also with a larger Dusknoir line. I don’t know how I’ll like these changes, but there changes I would like to test.

Lastly I do want to test Dowsing Machine vs. Computer Search. I’m still leaning toward Dowsing Machine, but I could easily see myself being swayed by Computer Search.


Pokémon – 13

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

Trainers – 35

4 N
4 Skyla
3 Professor Juniper
2 Colress


4 Ultra Ball

1 Heavy Ball
1 Level Ball
4 Rare Candy
3 Superior Energy Retrieval

1 Energy Retrieval
3 Pokémon Catcher

1 Computer Search


4 Tropical Beach

Energy – 12

9 W
3 L

Choice: 2nd

As you can pretty easily tell in the Pokémon lineup I was really not expecting very much Goth. I built the deck to win by KOing 3 Pokémon-EX, so there was a much larger emphasis on Black Kyurem EX. Keldeo-EX was more of a secondary attacker to deal with threats that I didn’t want to waste Black Kyurem on (Kyurem, Absol) and of course to get out of Special Conditions.

A tropical beach is the ideal environment for Blastoise.

The next big thing you probably see is in the Trainer line up I went with a full 4 copies of Tropical Beach and dropped my Juniper count down to 3. Tropical Beach is by far the best card to see in the opening hand, so I maximized my odds of starting with it by playing 4 copies. Between 4 Ultra Ball and 3 Superior Energy Retrieval it’s extremely easy to find ways to get rid of excess copies of the card. The ability to discard excess copies easily the main reason I feel decks like Blastoise can play 4 copies, but decks like Accelgor can’t. Bottom line is there is no better opening hand for Blastoise than playing both a Supporter and Tropical Beach on the first turn.

The 3 Professor Juniper might also look a bit different, but I built the deck to have a higher emphasis on “shuffle and draw” than discarding type cards. Resources really are very precious for the deck. Discarding cards like Rare Candy, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Catcher can all cost you in the late game.

Despite Professor Juniper being probably the best Supporter in the game, it really is a card you would rather see in the mid and late game rather than the early game. At those points it’s very easy for you to “burn” your hand of anything playable like Superior Energy Retrieval or even just basic Energy so you don’t simply discard them for no gain.

Why I Didn’t Play It

The consistency factor was just not there for me especially in a large long tournament like Nationals. The running joke in our hotel room was it was the best deck in the format… 80% of the time. The other 20% (probably more) the deck would just get bad hands or mixed hands (Candy with Stoise, Stoise with no Candy, etc.) and you would just start out so far behind that you just couldn’t win.

Also half of my Basics were 60 HP easily donkable Squirtles. I can live with losing a long game, but I just simply can’t take losing without even getting a turn. This has always been a major factor when I’m deciding on decks.

The last thing that factored into my decision was that the mirror match had almost no skill involved whatsoever. I absolutely hate non-skilled mirror matches (as I hate losing mirror more than any other matchup), especially if I feel there is a high chance I’ll have to play it. If I expect to see a deck 2-3 times out of a 9 round tournament I don’t like the idea that 2-3-of my games I might as well flip a coin to see if I win or lose.


Looking back after Nationals I would definitely run 3 Keldeo-EX and 2 Black Kyurem EX. I would probably test the Energy line up a bit more as I would love to have 10 Waters with the 3 Keldeo-EX. I think I would be fine with 2 L Energy if I could find room for 1 Energy Search. Before Nationals I was also strongly considering a Mr. Mime PLF tech, but after Nationals I just don’t think that it is needed.

All in all I’m still pretty happy with this list and wouldn’t make any major changes to the deck.

What I Did Play

I have played quite a few different deck in the last year, but it seems like I always come right back to Darkrai. Despite my feelings on Full Arts, I ended up playing the same Full Art Darkrai EX I used at Nationals last year as it seemed fitting.


Pokémon – 10

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

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Skyla
1 Colress
4 Bicycle


4 Ultra Ball
4 Dark Patch
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
3 Energy Switch
3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Dark Claw
1 Energy Search
1 Max Potion

1 Computer Search


1 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

11 D

It seems like most people still prefer the standard Darkrai list with no Bike, but I just can’t seem to get that deck working for me. The list is very similar to the deck I won Iowa States with earlier this year. Basically the entire deck is built around the 4 Bike.

“Night Rider” © 2013 Jay Hornung

There are tons of discarding cards (4 Ultra Ball, 1 Computer Search) and many cards that are easily just played out right (Laser, Energy Search, Catcher, Virbank, etc.) so it’s very easy to draw lots of cards with Bike and just burn through your deck really fast. Bike also allows Skyla to act as a draw card and I very often found myself using Skyla to Bike for 4. All in all the deck had a lot of synergy and it played very smoothly for me.

Now while I didn’t expect Goth to be as popular as it ended up being I would like to note several choices in my list were chosen because of Goth. I understood that by playing 4 Bike and having a very heavy Item list that my deck was weaker to Goth so I took this into account. First off I played 2 Keldeo-EX to get out of Paralysis, I also switched from 10 Energy and 2 Energy Search to 11 and 1. This seems small, but made a noticeable difference in testing.

Lastly I ditched Random Receiver, which I know might seem bad to some players, but the deck honestly doesn’t need it. The entire idea behind Random Receiver is that it allows the Darkrai player a “consistency” Trainer card that they can Junk Hunt for. This gives this options against late game N or early game bad draws. However, in this list Bike really serves the same purpose giving me options to Junk Hunt for it to get me out dead hands.

In many cases in the early game I actually would prefer to Junk Hunt for Bike over Random Receiver, because I find Bike actually helps me set up larger plays that Random Receiver would not.

Heading into the morning of Nationals I was still setting at 62 cards as I was desperately trying to make room for the 2nd Virbank and the 4th Pokémon Catcher. The only 2 real spots I felt like I could drop were the 3rd Sableye and the 4th Bicycle, but I kept feeling like I was cutting consistency cards and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The deck actually plays much better with 3 Pokémon Catcher than you would think. Against most of the decks in the format the card you want to attack is usually active, this wasn’t like earlier in the year where it was essential to pick off Bench-sitters like Eelektrik.


Heading into Worlds I’m definitely going to want 4 Pokémon Catcher and 2 Virbank City Gym. I’m considering dropping the 3rd Sableye and the 4th Bike.

US Nationals Report

We ended up with just over 900 players, which meant 9 rounds of Swiss and a cut to the Top 128.

Note: I’m going to do my best to go into as much detail as I possibly can about each round and my opponents deck. However, I am writing this a couple weeks after Nationals. So while I’m going to do my best to make this as accurate as possible there is a chance that I might get details mixed up. If I happen to mess up some details or leave something major out, by all means please let me know on the forums.

Day 1

Round 1: Bye

I won Iowa States this year so I had a first round bye. I did my best to scout around a bit and as I expected I saw a ton of Plasma. Most of the versions I saw seemed to be based around Kyurem, but I saw all sort of other techs such as Absol and Landorus Promo.


Round 2: Isaiah with Plasma

Isaiah was not a player that I was very happy to be sitting across the table from. There were over 900 players in the field and prior to National I talked deck with 5 of them, one of which was Isaiah. This presented two problems for me, the first being one of us was going to have to beat a friend. The second is we both had a lot of inside knowledge about each others decks and that was certainly going to come into play.

lugia pokemon silver
Plasma: Silver Version

Isaiah decided to go with a very Lugia EX heavy Plasma build, which I hadn’t seen get much attention before Nationals, but saw a handful of players going this route. What I can tell from playing against the deck was it ran 3 Thundurus, 3 Lugia, Scramble Switch, 3-4 DCE, NO Virbank/Laser, NO Kyurem. The idea was to very simply hit an EX with Thundurus EX and then 1HKO it with Lugia EX and all you had to do was pull this little combo off twice in a game to win.

One last little thing I did see Isaiah play was a single copy of Snorlax PLS. In some matchups he could actually use it to stall while he manually powered up Lugia. With Catcher being so heavily played it wasn’t a reliable means of buying time, but offered him a nice all in play late game. This play would be even stronger if he could precede it with an N.

The game starts off with me getting a couple quick Night Spears and I’m setting up a double KO on 2 Lugia EX. I’m a bit worried because I burned through all of my Catchers besides one, so I actually use the last one to Catcher up Snorlax then N for 6. I’m looking for a Laser and with nether Lugia EX powered up I feel like I have a little bit of time before they become a threat.

This is basically the turn that probably cost me the game. To find my last Catcher I had to use a Computer Search discarding a Darkrai EX (with one on the board) and I didn’t know if my last one was prized. I figured either way no big deal I would be drawing 4 Prizes easily and should be fine.

It turns out my Darkrai EX was prized, I whiffed the Laser off of the N, and after KOing 2 Lugia EX I still didn’t find my last Darkrai EX. It was a close game, but he had some pretty strong board position. Had I KO’ed both Lugia EX at once that turn instead of letting him power one of them up I might have been fine.


Note: Isaiah played the Bike heavy version, but Isaiah has seemed to favor Bike ever since his huge run at the Midwest Regionals (he played Big Basics with 4 Bike) going undefeated in the tournament before a narrow loss in the Top 4.

Note: Coming out of this round is actually a little nerve-racking because I felt like I just lost my first match of the day. I know I say this a lot, but it’s just so important to not let a loss get to you, especially if it comes in the early rounds of a tournament.

Round 3: Blastoise

I start getting pretty nervous because I get paired down to an 0-2 playing my worst matchup. I get a fast Night Spear on him and he actually is forced to pass a few turns. I realize I’m getting pretty lucky here, but I start to wonder if maybe he just doesn’t have Tropical Beach. His first Skyla was for Level Ball to get a Squirtle into play. In the end it turns out he runs at least 2 Beach and that he just couldn’t find them.


Note: The way I approach the Blastoise matchup is to try and win the game by Knocking Out 3 EXs. I know most players simply try to Knock Out Blastoise, but the problem with this is if your opponent is able to simply Candy into another Blastoise you’re making horrible trade-offs (that you can’t afford). Usually you can make 2-1 trades with Black Kyurem EX and Keldeo-EX (Absol is amazing for this). Sometimes you can even set up big 1HKOs with Night Spear damage. I also use N repeatedly to try and disrupt their flow of Energy.

Blastoise is still by far your worst matchup, but this is the strategy I used against all 3 I played in Swiss. With only 1 Virbank and 3 Catcher I do have to play slightly different than most Darkrai decks, but I suggest you try testing this out for yourself and see if this strategy works for you as well.

Round 4: Plasma
Saved my rear N’d end.

This game starts off horribly for me and I really can’t get anything going with a dead hand at the start of the game. He shoots up 3-4 Prizes, which really makes me nervous, but I have one major thing going for me. He only has 4 Energy on the board and while this may seem like a lot, 3 of them are under 1 Kyurem and the 4th Energy is under another Kyurem. This means I can easily wipe all of his Energy off of the board in 2 turns.

He gets pretty consistent Energy drops and the game continues to keep getting closer board wise. I was able to N him at 3, 2, and 1 Prize card which basically saved me in this matchup as it really limited his options. I make a huge comeback and bring the game to 3-1 on Prizes and he has no Energy on the board. The problem is I’m out of N and only have 2-3 cards left in my deck.

He starts playing the retreating game hoping to deck me out, but is taking 110-30 every turn from Night Spear. My second to last card in the deck is Laser and which allows me to put 140 on an active Dexoys EX while he has a Keldeo-EX (with a Float Stone), Thundurus EX, and another Dexoys EX all with 110 on the bench.

He uses Keldeo-EX to rush-in and get out of the poison…he spends a few minutes looking at his board and finally passes. I catch a huge lucky break here and Night Spear for the win. Had he retreated the Keldeo-EX for the Dexoys with 140 there is no way I could have won before decking.


Note: Getting the initial 30 damage on a Kyurem with Night Spear makes KOing it later in the game considerably easier since you will only need Dark Claw or Laser and not both. It’s very important to play the game and not the Prizes with the Plasma matchup. It’s very common for Plasma to pull a head in the early game with energy acceleration from Colress Machine and Thundurus EX.

However, later in the game they’ll run out of Colress Machine and hitting you for 30-60 with Thundurus EX becomes less appealing when they’re taking 110-30 in response. Bottom line is deal with the threats in this matchup.

Round 5: Plasma (Lugia)

team plasma ball plasma freeze plf
This game was as epic as this artwork.

I win the die roll and get an insanely good hand besides the fact that I don’t have a Supporter. I open double Keldeo-EX and then Ultra Ball a D Energy and something else away for a Darkrai. After attaching to Darkrai I follow it up with a Dark Patch and then finally end my turn with a Dark Patch in hand.

He plays a couple of Team Plasma Balls and then is forced to play his only in hand Supporter, N. The rest of his turn is pretty uneventful as he isn’t able to dump any Energy in the discard pile for Thundurus.

I’m a bit smarter this round and pour pressure onto his 2 Lugia EX and I also try to be a bit smarter about which Prizes I let him take. He KOs a Darkrai EX for 3 and then an Absol for 2 more Prizes leaving him at 1. Myself on the other hand end up KOing 2 Lugia EX for 4 Prizes, which leaves myself at 2. He attaches a DCE to his 3rd Lugia EX and N’s himself to 1 and me to 2 before using Raiden Knuckle to throw a Plasma under Lugia EX.

Now I’m put in the situation where I need Catcher to win and he needs Energy/Catcher. One of the two cards I got off N was Bike and I’m able to attach an Energy for turn and then Bike for 3 to hit the Catcher. It was an extremely close game and he stands up and shakes my hand and tells me he loves playing games like that. It made me feel good to still see friendly players at this level, however had I whiffed and he hit game next turn I would have been the first person to shake his hand.


Note: His version, like my round 2 opponent’s, also didn’t play Hypnotoxic Laser, Virbank, or Plasma Kyurem. Not playing Laser and Virbank make sense as you want to use Lugia to Knock Out Pokémon and not Laser damage. However, it does surprise me that the heavy Lugia lists don’t seem to play even 1 Kyruem to help get early spread. Kyurem doesn’t really seem to fit the strategy of “power up Lugia EX” and “hit with Lugia EX,” so maybe it’s not worth the spot after all.

Round 6: Matt Tracey with Team Plasma

I got first and get a really strong start with a Sableye opening and Virbank/Laser in hand. I don’t remember the exact combination of cards, but I believe I played a Professor Juniper and put a couple of D Energy in the discard pile. I knew I had great board position and a strong chance of getting a Turn 2 Night Spear. On his turn he played 2 copies of Team Plasma Ball for a Kyurem and a Dexoys EX before passing. It might have been double Switch, but I know he got out of Poison on his turn.

I knew I was in great shape with a Turn 2 Night Spear and my opponent drawing dead. I Night Spear with a second Laser being 1 Dark Claw shy of the 1HKO. Matt was able to fire right back with a Max Potion to basically negate my last turn and play his topdecked Professor Juniper to really start evening the game up.

He attaches to Thundurus EX and then grabs an Energy to put under Kyurem to really start putting pressure on me. We begin to trade KOs back and forth, but I just can’t seem to fully get his Energy off the board.

It was my second Darkrai EX where we had the issue of me miscalculating damage and attempting to discard it until he stopped me. It restored some of my faith in the player base that even at this level there were still honest people.

Toward the end of the game I really draw out of my mid game slump and thanks to a well-timed N I was able to take the game.


Note: I didn’t notice anything really different about his list, it was just a very straightforward and consistent Plasma build (which I honestly think it is the best way to play the deck). His 1 copy of Max Potion came up huge in this game and really stopped him from getting too far behind to come back into it.

A single tech copy of Max Potion in Plasma can create problems for a Darkrai player. However, I feel most lists opt not to play it due to be basically dead in mirror, Blastoise, and Gothitelle.

Round 7: Darkrai

keldeo ex black white promos
Foreshadowing right here.

I get a Sableye opening going second and my opponent gets a very strong turn one being able to get 2 Energy into play thanks to Dark Patch (one under an active Sableye and the other under a benched Darkrai). He is also able to finish his turn off with a Junk Hunt for Dark Patch and Energy Switch. With no N in my opening hand I know I’m already under the button staring down a Turn 2 Night Spear.

A lot of the details of this game start to become fuzzy; I know he got his turn 2 Night Spear and I’m forced to respond 2 Absols to his first Darkrai. Then I got my Darkrai out and I start Night Spearing. The game becomes really close, but in the end he makes a huge misplay by not attaching a D Energy to his active Keldeo allowing him to retreat. There was nothing he could do but pass and I was able to draw my last 2 Prizes with Darkrai.


Note: It really is little mistakes that cost players big games. It’s very easy for players to get focused on the bigger picture and forget one of the little steps to get there. Best way to avoid this is to calm down and think through each individual step to make sure you’ve got it right.

I really wish I would have paid more attention to my own advice at the time…

I finish the day at 6-1 and rally back from my Round 2 loss. I also finally started feeling like I made the right deck choice. I should be able to top cut tomorrow even if I lose both of my games thanks to my bye, but I was still nervous.

Day 2

Round 8: Blastoise

As soon as I realize he’s playing Blastoise I know I’m going to use my strategy of KOing 3 Pokémon-EX to win the game. I catch some really luck breaks in the early game as he is forced to burn through 3 Pokémon Catchers and a Computer Search. This puts me in an interesting position with 3 Catcher and his ACE SPEC gone. I basically take the gamble that he doesn’t play the 4th Catcher and play my entire game based on that fact.

I set it up so to win the game he has to take 7 Prizes (Absol, Absol, Darkrai EX, Sableye, Darkrai EX). Forcing him to KO the Sableye was huge as it let me get a Junk Hunt off late game and allowed me to N him to one.

Essentially what the game degenerated into was me getting a couple of Night Spears off before he set up Black Kyurem EX. Then it turned into…

Me: Night Spear
Opponent: KO
Me: Mind Jack
Opponent: KO
Me: Mind Jack
Opponent: KO

With playing only 1 Virbank I have to be really careful on when to put it into play, and I believe in this game I was able to use it to KO a Keldeo-EX that previously had 30 damage on it. My other 4 Prizes came from a Black Kyurem EX and then a second Keldeo-EX.

The game came down to the wire, but with my opponent basically playing the game without Pokémon Catcher just gave me to much control on the Prize trade offs.


Note: I would say nearly all Blastoise decks only play 3 Pokémon Catcher and then opt for Computer Search over Dowsing Machine. With Accelgor dominating Nationals I really don’t see this trend changing at all.

Note: I once again just really want to emphasis how game changing it is in a matchup to be able to N an opponent to 1. This is a play that I always try to set up and always try to avoid getting myself into. I’ve had a much easier time setting this play up with Darkrai than I have other decks because Absol can be such a huge threat that they are forced to deal with it. Kyurem in Plasma decks can also very easily create this situation.

I don’t care if you’re playing in a City Championship or a World Championship – there is a huge sigh of relief once you know for sure that you’ve made top cut. I was still focused as I really wanted that 8-1 finish in Swiss.

Round 9: Blastoise

This matchup started off very similar to my last round against Blastoise where I simply focus on winning the game by KOing 3 Pokémon-EX. I was setting up a double KO on 2 Keldeo-EX, but he dropped Max Potion to heal 140 damage off of a bench Keldeo-EX. I was pretty surprised to see the Max Potion come down from his hand. I knew some Blastoise decks played it, but it just isn’t something that you see very often. However it basically saved him in this situation so I really can’t argue with results.
His tech cards did me in.

The game continues to go back and forth with us trading KOs. I’m trying to focus on mainly using Absols to avoid giving up 2 Prizes with Darkrai. While he is Catchering around my Absol to KO my Darkrai EX and get the Prizes. Now this is actually fine by me as I have his 6 Prizes mapped out (2 Darkrai EX and 2 Absol); the order in which he takes these prizes isn’t actually hugely important.

Another factor that would play a huge impact in the game (I didn’t quite realize at the time) was the fact that he played a tech copy of Exeggcute PLF. This really helped him curb how badly his discards hurt him. He saved himself 3-4 cards over the course of the game with Eggs. Toward the end of the game he had maybe 5-8 cards left in his deck. Not having to discard other resources was huge for him in this game.

Late in the game he has a very thin deck (less than 10 cards) and a decent hand (6 cards) he only has 1 Energy on board, a Keldeo-EX with over 100 and only 1 Blastoise. I have 3 Prizes left and I decide to KO the Blastoise, feeling that he would need a lot to get the return (Candy, Stoise, and the SER). His turn he goes Candy Blastoise and has the SER… this is all fine until he drops Dowsing Machine for Max Potion to fully heal the Keldeo-EX and proceeds to drop 4 Energy under it for a KO.

I have nothing that can deal with the Keldeo and I’m forced to concede.


This was a game where his non-standard tech cards absolutely won him the game. Playing the Max Potion twice was simply too much for me to handle, essentially wiping 2 full attacks off the board. Also I know that at least one point in the game he had to play every card in his hand down which involved multiple discards that he couldn’t not have afforded without Eggs. Now while I can’t argue with his results I just don’t agree with the 3 tech choices.

Dowsing Machine: Later in the game Dowsing Machine is probably a much stronger option than Computer Search. However, I just simply can’t get past the early game consistency that Computer Search offers, especially considering the fact Blastoise is already the most inconsistent deck of the big 4.

Max Potion: Out of the 3 techs this is probably the one I would be most likely to consider in the deck. It certainly has its uses against Darkrai and Plasma, but it’s near useless against mirror and Goth. It can also be hard to find at the right times and all too often just acts as discard fodder. In Blastoise I like to run cards that are useful 100% of the time and Max Potion feels like a win more card. All in all though a useful tech if you expect lots of Darkrai and Plasma.

Exeggcute: The Ability is amazing for a deck that runs 7-8 discarding effects. My biggest issue with the cards is that’s it’s a 30 HP basic in a deck that only runs 9 or so other Basics. Opening with lone Eggs is a very real possibility and going second will probably result in a loss. If the card was a Stage 1 or had better HP/solid attack then it might see more play. However right now it’s just too much of a gamble to play in the current meta.

So like I said I still don’t like the tech options, however the game gave me a really great opportunity to see how they can effect the matchup. The game was a lot of fun to play and we went all the way to time being called despite both of us playing at a good pace.

Top Cut

So I finish Swiss at 7-2 and end up 22nd place in my flight. Overall I’m feeling pretty good that I made the right deck choice for the tournament. I honestly didn’t really care what I played against, but I was hoping for a pretty easy match. This is certainly not what I got when I found out I was playing against Jeremy Jallen.

Last year Jeremy and I had an extremely close game where I topdecked a Juniper and managed to draw the game winning Junk Arm in my 7 cards a turn before I was going to lose. I was hoping my luck would hold out, but Jeremy was surely looking for payback.

Top 128: Jeremy Jallen with Goth/Accelgor

Game 1

I go first and actually come very close to donking him; I get a quick Turn 2 Night Spear and with 2 Keldeo-EX I take a fairly easy game as Jeremy struggles to set up.


Game 2

ash ketchum tracey sketchit surprise
Mistakes happen.

This is one of those games where I really would prefer to not even discuss with you guys. However, as I’ve said before if you want to be truly good at this game you need to own up to your mistakes and learn from them. This is probably the worst misplay I’ve made since Worlds 2009 where I forgot that Flygon‘s attack Sand Wall discarded Stadiums.

The game starts off very similar to the first game where Jeremy gets a slow start and I get a quick Darkrai EX. I’m basically rolling his board and then I make a huge misplay. Jeremy uses a Pokémon Catcher to put one of my Keldeo-EX active and uses Deck and Cover. I mess up and attach my Energy for the turn to a bench Darkrai EX that I didn’t need to and forget that I don’t have the Energy to retreat the Keldeo-EX.

Next turn Jeremy uses Ghetsis for a whooping 9 cards, but still doesn’t have another Goth out. On my turn I Professor Juniper for 7 with a 15-20 card deck. I have 2 D Energy and 1 Energy Switch left and I whiffed on all 3. I believe finally on my 3rd turn I was able to start swinging with Darkrai EX again, but Jeremy makes the comeback and steals this game. If I hadn’t messed up that turn I would have gotten 3 more Night Spears off and taken the game.


Game 3

I messed up badly in my last game, but I realized how important it is to forget about that right now. In major matches like this it’s important to learn from your mistakes, but not dwell on them. I needed to be focused on this game and not still kicking myself for my misplay in the last game.

Sadly I just didn’t have a strong hand to go with my strong mentality. My opening hand had no Supporters and when I used my Ultra Ball I noticed that both of my Keldeo-EX were prized. I knew with no signs of an early Darkrai and both of my Keldeo being prized I had almost no shot at this game. I settle on Absol for my search knowing quick prizes were my only chance in this matchup.

Turn 2 I end up using Jermeys Tropical Beach to refill my hand, I manage to take 1 Prize turn 3, but whiffed the Keldeo-EX on the prizes. I had about 2 other small small windows where if Jeremy whiffed on the DCE I might be able to come back, but no such luck.


What can I say other than I played horribly and deserved to lose this match. Jeremy played better and deserved the win because of it. I can sit here complaining and making excuses, but none of that is really going to help me. I’m just going to take it as lessons learned and move forward concentrating on Worlds.
Heavy on Catchers.

Note: Jeremy’s list reminded me heavily of Edmund’s. He opted for Computer Search over Dowsing Machine and I know that he played at least 3 Pokémon Catcher.

He also played 2 Duskull, but I don’t believe he played Dusclops and I’m not sure if it was 1 Dusknoir or 2. I’m assuming it was 2-0-2, but he could have easily played 2-0-1 which would decrease the odds of prizing the Duskull as well as making it easier to bait a Catcher per se.

Note: Despite losing the match I went into it with the right strategies. I think some players focus on Absol because it’s “faster” when in reality Darkrai is the better option. The 30 damage from Night Spear builds up eventually you’ll just end up with 1HKOs on Goths. The 30 splash damage should always go on Goth (or Gothita), but occasionally I’ll put the 30 damage on a Duskull if I think I can force the KO before they get Dusknoir out. The extremely important thing to remember is never throw damage on something they can put back in the deck like Mew-EX, Shelmet, or Accelgor.

When it comes to Keldeo-EX there is a 0 or 2 rule, which means you either want 0 Keldeo-EX in play or you want 2 Keldeo-EX. With this strategy there is no way the opponent can lock a Keldeo-EX active. The idea behind benching 0 Keldeo-EX is that they can’t get a free hit on Keldeo-EX. The problem with this is it’s very easy for them to N you out of a Keldeo-EX and playing such a high Trainer count the odds of you drawing dead are high. This is why I prefer the 2 Keldeo-EX strategy, this allows a “Rush In” and then “Rush In” to get out of the poison lock.

I understand there might be times where you have to bench 1 Keldeo-EX and then play a Supporter or something hoping for a second, but try not to leave just one in play. If your opponent can deal with your Keldeo-EX separately it should be an easy matchup for them.

Your ideal board should be at least 2 Darkrai EX and 2 Keldeo-EX. Your first 3 Energy attachments should go under Darkrai, the 4th under a Keldeo-EX, and then you should start attaching to your 2nd Darkrai. Having 2 Keldeo-EX in play to get out of the Poison lock means nothing if you’re not able to put consistent pressure on your opponent.

After all of this, the matchup essentially degenerates into a fury of Night Spears and Deck and Covers.

Worlds Predictions

Heading into Worlds a lot has changed with Accelgor dominating US Nationals. I expect a lot of players to either play Accelgor or be at least ready for the matchup. For most decks this means double Keldeo and either DCE or Float Stone (Accelgor will play Tool Scrapper).

I honestly don’t think we’ll see a ton of changes in the hierarchy of the big four decks (Accelgor, Blastoise, Plasma, or Darkrai), however we will see changes in how they are built and teched. Accelgor will probably start running 1 Keldeo of their own. For Blastoise, the 2 vs. 3 Keldeo debate has been put to rest and nearly all Blastoise will be playing 3. Plasma can easily tech in 2 Keldeo, and Darkrai really has always played the 2 Keldeo anyway, so not many changes there.

Accelgor is also a matchup where the more you test it the easier it becomes. However, I’m sure many of the Accelgor players will also be heavily testing and looking for new ways to improve their own decks so honestly anything could happen. I guess the bottom line is you really have no chance in the Accelgor matchup unless you prepare for it.


vancouver pokemon
See you in Vancouver!

I might not have gone as far in Nationals as I would have liked, but I still had an amazing time with friends. Our hotel room put 4/6 in top cut and Omar made it all the way to Top 8 with a vastly different Darkrai build than mine. Omar is a great player and I’m excited he finished the weekend with a Worlds invite and I look forward to seeing how he does at Worlds.

As for myself I haven’t finalized my Worlds plans yet and I’m still waiting to be contacted by TPCi to make the final reservations, but they always get things done in time so I’m not too worried right now. It’s amazing to think that Worlds is only a few weeks away and kind of scary at the same time since I haven’t play a game since Nationals. However, I feel like Nationals gave me a lot of great information about the format to help me (and after this article hopefully you as well) prepare for Worlds.

I really just want to end by saying it was great seeing everybody out at Nationals, both old friends and new faces. Hopefully this will continue at Worlds as I love meeting international people as well. I’ll see everybody again in a few weeks!

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