Hey guys! I meant to get to this article a little bit sooner, but I have been busy with a 5-day mountain biking trip and playing hardcore basketball with some of my non-Pokémon friends. Anyway, I’m back and ready to share my Nationals experience with you.
My Deck Choice
As you all know this format is extremely luck-based. Most games are decided by who goes first. The Nationals deck choice drama starts all the way back to right after Spring Regionals finished…
After I got home from Spring Regionals, I got a message from my Virginia homies (Jimmy Pendarvis/Matt Rockwell/Dean Nezam) about this game-breaking secret deck. The secret deck nowadays is referred to ol’ faithful Gothitelle (this time period was the era when Goth was kept under “hush hush” conditions by the top players).
I tested this deck and had incredible results. I was aiming to play it at Nationals, which all went well up until about a few days before the first Battle Road.
The day I dreaded had arrived. The deck had finally gone viral on the web. Instead of holding the deck back until Nationals I just thought what the heck! The secret is out, so might as well get in some tournament-setting testing before Nationals.
The first Battle Road I went to with the deck was perfect! I went a beautiful 4-0 taking first place. I took it to other tournaments and I won a few more. Two weeks later I got second place with the deck due to a donk. It got me a little shaken, but I was still happy with the deck. When the idea of playing Gothitelle went down the toilet was during my last Battle Road when I lost to a Darkrai, a Plasma, and my one win was a bye! From there I felt that Gothitelle was far too risky to play at Nationals.
After that I was thinking of a different deck each week. Nothing in the format was a comfortable play. I finally decided to just play RayEels and hope for the best. Even though it could get donked, it was the only deck that was consistent and powerful enough for my liking.
What separated Blastoise from RayEels to me was that RayEels has a slightly easier time beating Blastoise than the other decks in the format and I expected a lot of Blastoise because it is (in my opinion) the BDIF. Due to this I wasn’t really seeing scenarios in which I would go deep into cut unless I ran hot.
About 1 week before Nationals, I got another message from the Virginia crew about this insane rogue that beats just about everything (Darkrai EX/Garbodor DRX). When I first tried out the list I lost to about everything, even the matchups I was supposed to destroy. The deck was clunky and didn’t really work to my liking. Having only 8 Energy was ridiculous. (Although now that I have seen others versions I now know that that is quite a lot).
The thing that I hated most about the list was that it was so tight that I couldn’t change it if I wanted to. The ONLY change that I could see that was viable was taking out an Energy Search for a ninth Energy. Looking back, that harmless swapping of the Energy Search is what got me to the finals.
After I got off the plane I headed straight to the open gaming room. I stayed up quite a while testing matchups with Henry Ross-Clunis, who ended up playing my list and became my partner in crime. A lot of people were hovering around our games and we got a lot of disapproval. We also got a few people who actually liked the idea.
I also learned on Thursday that this deck wasn’t as “rogue” as I thought. I think that people knew about the deck, but their lists weren’t as good which turned them away from the deck. Nothing else happened on Thursday other that going to sleep at 10 PM.
Ah the big day. I was pretty pumped for this day to come and also a little nervous. Here’s a recap of how my Swiss rounds went on Day 1:
Round 1 vs. Bye – W (1-0)
Round 2 vs. Bye – W (2-0)
Round 3 vs. Blastoise – L (2-1)
Round 4 vs. Plasma – W (3-1)
Round 5 vs. Plasma – W (4-1)
Round 6 vs. Darkrai – W (5-1)
Round 7 vs. Darkrai – L (5-2)
Recap of the Rounds I Lost
I will only be giving detail to the matchups I lost because you learn more from them than the ones you win. I must say that out of the ones I won I had a lucky break or two, but for the most part the deck worked like it did in testing. I believe Round 4 was a 6 to 1 Prize comeback after I dead-drew through the first 25 minutes of play, which was probably the only highlight out of the games that I won.
Round 3 vs. Blastoise
This does sound a little crazy, but the Blastoise I was playing against was quite unusual. It ran a Switch, at least 2 Float Stone, and least 2 Tool Scrapper, and a Scramble Switch. This was a little upsetting for me, however the game itself was very close and came down to a single coin flip as to whether or not the active would stay asleep and die going into my turn or not. Obviously the active woke up and KO’ed me for game.
Round 7 vs. Darkrai
My opponent starts with a completely dead hand while I start with good 4 Supporters and go first. I can’t do much other than Juniper… and I draw dead. Eventually he topdecks a Supporter and gets rolling. The Darkrai matchup is harder to comeback from because it is easier for them to retreat. Eventually I never develop and lose.
After Tournament Play
I check up on how everyone is doing and almost everyone is 5-2. Henry, who has almost my exact list, finished the day with a 6-1 record which safely secured him in the top cut due to his one bye. His one loss was rather ridiculous where a judge accidentally called time too early which caused him to lose.
The rest of the night was dedicated to playing at the arcade with Jimmy Pendarivs, Aaron Snayer, Chris Murray, Matt Rockwell, Peter Kirchman, and a few other guys.
There was a little more pressure today than on Friday because if I lost out my run would be over.
Here’s how the games went:
Round 8 vs. Accelgor/Snorlax/Musharna – L (5-3)
Round 9 vs. Plasma – W (6-3)
Round 8 vs. Accelgor/Snorlax/Musharna
Just about everything that could go wrong did. I bench a butt load of Trubbish thinking that I am paired up against Gothitelle. But no, it was just an Accelgor that promoted Snorlax and used PlusPowers to make you die going into their turn. Due to the fact that I had just benched at least four 70 HP Pokémon, it wasn’t much work on his end.
The match up on paper shouldn’t be as bad as it turned out to be. What really got me was that I couldn’t draw a Supporter or a Switch for my life. All in all a pretty disappointing game.
Round 9 vs. Plasma
Yes, I did win this game, but I’ve decided to write about it because this was the game that decided if I got into cut or not.
The game was against a local player from my area. The game started off with me having a rocket start, getting what I remember to be a Turn 2 Night Spear. I go up 4 Prizes when he still hasn’t taken any. Eventually he gets rolling and fortunately for him, Kyurem only gives up 1 Prize which kept him in the game.
The game eventually gets down to me having 1 Prize left and him having two. He N’s me to one followed by a Knock Out bringing the Prizes to one each. The N to one got me a Skyla and I needed one Laser left in my deck to win. I draw at the start of my turn and top deck the laser which answers the question of whether it was prized or not. With the Laser I am able to 1HKO the active Kyurem for game.
The Top Cut
I got in as 39th seed which meant that I would be paired against 24th seed. The name was Austin Hannah. I asked around as to what he was playing, but all of my friends that played against him had forgotten. The top cut took a while to get started but finally I was seated and ready to go.
Top 64 vs. Austin Hannah w/ Plasma
This game I ran pretty hot and got going pretty aggressively. Was able to 1-shot all of the Kyurem that he promoted until he was stuck attacking for 30 with Thundurus. I won this game with ease.
I got a similarly aggressive start. I was up Prizes again. My Enhanced Hammer was extremely useful this time. I got down to 1 Prize until I got N’ed to one. About four turns later he also got down to 1 Prize. On my next turn it would decide on whether or not I would win the game or not.
I had a fully charged Absol on the bench and all I needed was a Catcher, and I believe I still had two Catcher and a Dowsing left in the deck with lots of Supporters. I needed to draw into a Supporter or Catcher. Thankfully I draw into the Catcher which wins me the game.
After Game Thoughts
I felt I didn’t deserve Game 2. I hate winning off of topdecks. Nonetheless even if he had won we still would have had one more game to play.
Unfortunately my bro Henry got his Darkrai/Garbodor luck sacked in the Top 64 to Plasma. Apparently he needed one more turn to win Game 3 and when time was called it was his opponent’s, turn but because his opponent didn’t look at the top card of his deck yet, it was still technically Henry’s turn. He would have won if time was called just two seconds later.
Nonetheless, everyone was pretty stoked to hear that I made it past the Top 64. A lot of the Masters running the same list got luck sacked and went from 5-2 to 5-4 and others went 6-3 whiff. The main reason why it wasn’t doing so well in Masters was due to the amounts of Gothitelle. The Senior division had much less Gothitelle which made it a much better play for me.
Top 32 vs. Josh Frink w/ Plasmaklang
Josh pretty much covered the entire game in his article. I must say that this was my favorite game of the entire tournament and I have lots of respect for Josh as a player. Josh’s dreidel single handedly took away the high pressure situation that we were both in at the time.
The entire match was pretty casual and got to the point where we didn’t care as much about who won. We both revealed a lot about our decks and so forth. When Josh took a demanding lead and pretty much swept game one; he definitely showed me that this matchup was a lot harder than I expected.
Unfortunately only one of us could win and with Josh whiffing the turn one Energy on Game 3, I was able to set up, establish a Prize lead, and win the game. GG’s man!
Top 16 vs. Petros Ogbamicheal w/ Plasma
Petros and I had quite a few encounters on Friday and Saturday. He is a polite kid and it was unfortunate that we had to meet so soon. The funny thing is we actually tested against each other in open gaming while rounds one and two were taking place (we both had 2 byes). We both knew our builds for the most part.
The thing that sets his Plasma list apart from others is that he runs two copies of Tornadus EX PLS. I highly approve with this decision as Tornadus is a great opener as well as an even better late game finisher.
I can’t quite remember if it was turn one or turn two, but he got an incredibly fast Jet Blast with his Tornadus EX. I go the Enhanced Hammer route while setting up a Darkrai and Garbodor on the bench.
Because he knows this matchup, he didn’t bench any Deoxys-EX which was smart on his end. This forces me to stall by locking his Tornadus EX active while Junk Hunting for my Enhanced Hammer. The Prize exchanges go pretty evenly through the game. Eventually he loses because he goes into an Energy drought because I eventually KO his last fully charged attacker.
This game starts off is a similar fashion to Game 1. He kills off my Trubbish early which transforms my deck into standard Darkrai mode. The Prize exchanges go quite evenly. Not getting out the Garbodor ended up biting me in the butt. The extra 30 damage provided by the Deoxys-EX allowed Petros to take his final Prize.
Time gets called about two turns in and I am turn zero. I ended my turn before time was called but because he didn’t draw a card yet, it caused time to end on my turn. I already took 1 Prize off of a Kyurem so all I had to do was keep him from taking a Prize.
He drops two Deoxys-EX and does 50 to my active Sableye.
I promote Absol and hit the active Thundurus for 120, having the Catcher in hand.
Petros drops 2 more Deoxys-EX and a Laser which in theory would 1HKO my Absol, but because Poison takes effect in-between turns (read Section 8.1), the Thundurus EX didn’t KO the Absol and I won on time.
That was pretty unfortunate for Petros but I had the Catcher in hand which I could have just Catcher stalled a Deoxys with for a few turns.
I knew that I was in the Top 8 which was a big deal, but it didn’t really feel like I was in the Top 8. It was more like I just won 3 best-of-three games in a row. My butt was starting to hurt and fatigue was taking hold. I knew my Top 8 opponent was playing Darkrai because he was seated right next to me during the Top 16 match.
Top 8 vs. Noah Y. w/ Darkrai
He opens Keldeo which is always a bonus for me. I laser his Darkrai to sleep and get one up on the Prize trade. I eventually KO 2 Darkrai with him not being able to KO anything. He charges up an Absol and KOs my only attacker. I now have a field with no attackers in play which slowly allows him to make a comeback.
I get a T2 Darkrai and Garbodor and ironically set up much faster. I get ahead on Prizes, but this time I am able to bench more attackers. The game ends rather quickly.
He again opens with a Keldeo and I have yet another T2 Darkrai followed by a second Darkrai being charged on the bench. Once the Garbodor hits the field the game has pretty much been decided in my favor.
By now I am getting really tired and I really want to get this Top 4 game over with. I have been playing high pressure Pokémon all day and I am ready to go to bed.
The 4 decks that are left are as follows:
Darkrai vs. Darkrai/Garbodor
Plasma vs. Blastoise
Top 4 vs. ??? w/ Darkrai
I open crazy to him not getting as lucky. I get the T2 Night Spear and don’t look back. I believe he didn’t take a single Prize this game.
This game is pretty much the same. Just a combination of me running hot and him not getting any fire going.
Dave the tournament director congratulates me and introduces me to Cal. He explains the procedures of what will happen tomorrow and what we will be expecting. I knew he was playing Plasma which was looking good for me. It’s a favorable matchup as long as I draw decent hands.
My friends and I go laser tagging afterward. Sleeping tonight was a little harder than usual. I think by this point reality slapped me in the face telling me that I am in the finals.
Alright ladies and gentlemen, this is the part you’ve all been waiting for. Ironically some of the parts of the finals got a little bit blurry for me, so I had to collect information from my friends as well. Looking back, this best-of-three was a big face palm. Out of the entire tournament I had never misplayed so badly. Here’s how it went.
Finals vs. Cal Connor w/ Plasma
First things first, we test our headphones. It sounded like a bunch of people talking on a pretty loud volume. I would have preferred loud music or something. The headphones were nothing more than a big distraction to me, and added with the high-pressure atmosphere, it was pretty hard for either of us to concentrate on the game. The only disadvantage I had is that Darkrai/Garbodor is a skill-based deck and Plasma has more simple procedures it goes through.
After testing the headphones, we go behind a curtain where our names are called to the table. Shortly after some announcements, the match begins.
The finals start and I go first, misplaying right off the bat. I had the T1 Night Spear in hand with a Laser but I didn’t see it. In other words, I could have DONKED his Absol! After learning this from spectators I face palmed. Nonetheless it was my fault I didn’t catch that and we continue play.
For the next few turns I go into an Energy drought, allowing him to set up Kyurems and KO my attackers. Eventually he has 1 Prize card left and I have six. I use an N and Catcher to stall.
A few turns later, all of his Energy is off the field, thanks to Enhanced Hammer and Junk Hunt. I produce a fully charged Darkrai beginning to take Prizes. When I get down to 2 Prizes he scoops because there wasn’t enough Energy left in his deck to attack with.
Both of our starts are quite even, but I make yet another mistake by cutting my opponent’s deck after he played a Juniper.
I was given a Prize penalty which surprised me a little. They charged me with “shuffle major,” which says I shuffled a deck that didn’t need to be randomized. Speaking with local judges afterward, I should have got a rules lawyer because the definition of a shuffle (from the rules book) is to randomize your deck in more than two piles. Cutting is not more than two piles, thus not being a “shuffle.” Oh well.
Editor’s Note: Read Section 7.1.2 and Section 8 to make your own decision on this. Section 8 reads “Cutting into more than two stacks is considered a shuffle.” This seems to say that cutting into two stacks is considered “cutting” (which is different than shuffling), but there is digression as to what constitutes a Major game-play error penalty:
“When game state has become irreversibly confused due to game-play errors, it is appropriate for the judge to issue a higher-level penalty. Major game-play error penalties are also appropriate for minor game-play errors that have left the game too confused to reset.”
Realistically, randomly reordering a deck has no bearing on the game state unless a card was play previously that manipulated the order of the deck, but rulings are presumingly meant to be enforced consistently rather than situationally and logically.
Anyway, the game continues pretty evenly, and the Prizes left are 2 to 1 in his favor. I N him to 1 and yet again get rid of all of his Energy.
Then it all comes down to one turn. He has 90 on his benched Thundurus EX and I have 2 Prizes left. His hand is pretty dead and knowing that he has very few Supporters left (like 2 or 3) and only one or two Colress Machine in a 20 card deck I Junk Hunt for the Catcher and a Switch in case he tries to lock my Garbodor with a Dark Claw active. By doing this we both knew that I will win on the next turn unless he draws into a Prism Energy AND a Colress Machine, which I know he can’t because he has only one chance to topdeck for the win.
Believe it or not he topdecks the Colress Machine and he was holding on the Prism in his hand. Talk about luck. Obviously I end up losing by him KOing my Sableye.
A lot of people said it was a misplay that I didn’t promote the Darkrai one turn sooner but that would have given him one more turn to topdeck out of his situation. In other words he would have been given one chance than he would have gotten. Not to mention if he would have been able to Catcher up my Dark Clawed Garbodor I would have lost anyway.
I get out a quick Darkrai and start dealing damage. The turning point of this game was when he Lasered my Darkrai asleep for two turns. From there I was in a hole, but I was still in a very comfortable position. All I had to do was Catcher-stall and repeatedly Junk Hunt for Enhanced Hammer.
Where things got nasty was when time was called. It was pretty bad for me but I was still in favor of winning. I got to be Turn 1.
I Junk Hunted for a Laser and a Dark Claw which allows me to take 4 Prizes on the next turn.
He Max Potions the 150 damage from his Thundurus EX which was painful. That just means that if I prized my Dowsing Machine then I lose and if I don’t I win, because I can Dowsing for a Super Rod to keep myself from decking out.
I Juniper and the Dowsing is prized! I take 3 Prizes anyway by 1HKOing the Deoxys-EX and sniping the damaged Absol, but at this point it is over. I decked out.
Editor’s Note: I believe the commentators mentioned that Poison damage from the Laser would not take effect between turns (because it was Turn 3), so the Deoxys actually didn’t get Knocked Out and Orrin lost from being down in Prize cards, and not from being decked out. Read Section 8.1.
I felt pretty bummed, but it wasn’t that bad because at least I got second. And if I ever make the finals in a large tournament again, I will have a little more experience dealing with pressure.
If you are considering playing Darkrai/Garbodor at Worlds, here are a few things that you should consider while building your personal list.
1. First off, know that there are two ways to approach building this deck. You can either make it a standard Darkrai deck with a 3-2 Garbodor line in it, just as I did. Or you can heavily focus on Sableye and Hammers. The reason why I did not choose to go the Hammers route was because it is time-consuming and you will have a terrible Darkrai matchup.
However you need at least one Enhanced Hammer in your builds. That single copy has won me multiple Plasma matchups. Any more than one and your other matchups will be affected.
2. If you choose the attackers version, then play 9 Energy. You don’t need more than 9 in a deck like this. For the Hammers version I would play 6 or 7 Energy.
3. For any version of the deck, only play a 3-2 Garbodor line. Most lists are too tight to be able to fit a 3-3 line. You would want a combination of at least 4 Tools. Tools are Junk Hunt-able so you don’t need as much as a standard Garbodor build. Five Tools is also fine, but 6 is overkill in a deck like this.
Other than those necessary staples, this deck has a lot of variety as to how it can be built.
Predictions for Worlds
By evaluating what happened at Nationals, there are a few things that we can clarify.
1. Blastoise has lost a lot of its thunder. This deck completely failed its expectations at US Nationals. The reason I think that it is losing more and more is because Plasma decks are becoming more developed and Blastoise lists can’t keep up with innovations like Plasma can because there is limited “wiggle room” in Blastoise. Because of this, I don’t think that Blastoise will be as strong of a play for Worlds.
2. Plasma is now the official BDIF of the format. Plasma has developed in such a way that it has no bad matchup. Its extreme speed is tearing up the format. It can beat any deck in the format just by early pressure alone. A fast start from this deck is usually unstoppable, no matter what you try to put in your deck to beat it.
3. Darkrai/Garbodor is now a thing. Make sure you know this deck is now a real threat. I’m not saying that you have to tech against it. I have no idea how popular it will be or how necessary it will be to tech against, but I can guarantee you it will be there.
4. The reign of Darkrai is over. I think that the format has finally outgrown the standard Darkrai build. A deck with limited damage potential and without Garbodor to even the playing field simply won’t do the trick for Worlds. Its only hope is if you run into lots of Gothitelle, but even then it’s not a guaranteed win.
5. Gothitelle is going to be the biggest gamble for Worlds. There are only three things you can do. You can play Gothitelle yourself, play a deck that counters Gothitelle, or you can play a strong deck that has no outs to Gothitelle other than luck. All of these choices will be betting your money on Gothitelle being either a big no-show or a huge contender.
This is what makes this year’s Worlds testing so difficult. If Goth has little attendance then the people that have a bad Goth matchup will end up doing well because they have more material in their deck than the ones that have cards to counter Goth. If there is Goth then the counter-Goth decks will do well. And if there are lots of non-counter decks then Goth will end up doing well. This year you need to be very careful as to what path you decide to go down.
That’s my two cents for Worlds. Everyone that is going I wish luck to, and to my international friends, make sure you stop and say hi if you see me!