As many have probably heard by now, there have been some major changes to the tournament organization. Unfortunately with these changes we are left with no September League Challenges as they don’t have the system quite ready for tournaments yet.
As a result of this, I am going to make this article about something that should hopefully be helpful all year long instead of focusing just on decklists as there won’t be a sanctioned tournament until Fall Regionals, most likely, to use any decks in.
The topic of this article is going to be about building decks, particularly rogue decks, as well as considerations that should be made when choosing your decks for a tournament.
After this previous season ended, I reflected on where I found the most success and where I saw the most failures, and I realized that I have seen more success come from tournaments where I was playing what could be considered a rogue deck. I have made placements/top cuts at Battle Roads, City Championships, and U.S. Nationals with these types of decks. Here is my list so far:
- 2011-2012 City Championships: Top 4 with Tyranitar Prime/Cobalion NVI/Kyurem NVI/Vileplume UD/Reuniclus BLW
- 2012-2013 Fall Battle Roads: Top 4 with Darkrai/Chandelure
- 2012-2013 City Championships: Top 4 with Quad Sigilyph/Mewtwo EX/Cresselia EX
- 2012-2013 Spring Battle Roads: Top 2 with Kyurem PLF/Deoxys EX
- 2012-2013 Spring Battle Roads: Top 4 with Landorus EX/Lugia EX/Deoxys EX
- 2013 US Nationals: Top 128 with Sableye DEX/Garbodor DRX
Not all of these were my own creations, and some of them have become fringe parts of the metagame, but in this article I will discuss where to find ideas for these types of decks and how to get on the forefront of using them for a metagame that isn’t ready for these decks.
I think deck building will play a crucial role in tournament success this season, especially if we synchronize with Japan and no longer are able to start where their format left off.
Why Play a Rogue Deck?
The main reason anyone would play a rogue deck, or any deck for that matter is to give themselves the best chance at winning a tournament. This should be kept in mind when building any deck, especially rogue decks. If you are aiming to be competitive, don’t just build a rogue deck because you just want something different, but instead to improve your chances of winning the tournament.
Rogue decks have a few unique features about them that can make them stronger plays for a given tournament than a meta deck.
First, a given metagame simply might not be ready to deal with a rogue deck, giving the rogue deck player a huge advantage. If the other players at the tournament don’t have the means to deal with whatever the rogue deck’s strategy is, they will simply lose to it, greatly increasing the rogue players chances of winning the tournament.
Secondly, even if other decks do have the means to beat the rogue deck, the players at the tournament might not be able to figure out the strategy to beat it quick enough, allowing the rogue player to capitalize on the confusion and misplays of their opponent.
In general, I have found that when building a rogue deck, you should focus on point #1 instead of point #2. Relying on your opponent’s confusion will only get so far, and after word of your deck has spread as the rounds go on, the good players, the ones you will encounter in Top Cut, will likely have figured out something close to the best strategy to use against your deck.
I experienced this first hand when I played the Quad Sigilyph deck at a City Championship. The deck was an unknown deck at the time, so I was able to capitalize on that for a strong Swiss performance. Come Top Cut, one of the opponents I played in Swiss came back with the right strategy to beat the deck with his Blastoise, and I was pretty hopeless in winning after he figured it out.
The Different Types of Rogue Decks
With rogue decks, there are some underlying strategies that can be used when thinking about what type of deck you want to build. Most of these decks work on taking the existing metagame, and then finding some way to exploit it to give the rogue player an advantage.
A. The Undiscovered Deck
This type of rogue deck doesn’t necessarily depend on countering a given metagame, it is just a combination of cards that has been overlooked and will end up as part of the metagame after it has its coming out party.
This type of deck isn’t necessarily built to counter anything about the given metagame, but is instead just a deck that has solid all around matchups that has somehow been overlooked by the majority.
A good example of this is Ho-Oh EX decks that sprung up during Fall Battle Roads this past season. The deck had some pretty even matchups against most of the metagame, and was just a card combination that was overlooked heading into tournaments.
B. The Accelerator
As a metagame establishes, there will be a number of main decks that have a variety of tempos. Once these top decks are established, the high and low tempos of the metagame become set. So one way to gain an advantage against a metagame is to build a deck that is able to accelerate the damage and/or the Prize exchange faster than your opponent’s deck.
Plasma Pokémon present the greatest form of accelerator rogues in the format, as they are able to put on a great deal of damage fast with strong attacks, support from Deoxys-EX, and Energy acceleration from Colress Machine. In addition to this, they have Lugia EX, which takes an extra Prize when it Knocks Out a Pokémon thanks to its Overflow Ability.
Decks like Landorus/Lugia EX and Lugia EX/Cofagrigus were built because they can accelerate the speed of the game to a point that their opponent can’t keep up with. With Lugia’s Overflow Ability, the game can end on Turn 3 either by Knocking Out 3 non-EXs, or by spreading damage with Landorus/Cofagrigus, and Knocking Out two EXs.
C. The Lock/Control Deck
The strategy of these decks is simple. The goal is to create a game state where you are able to take control of the game and your opponent isn’t able to do anything to stop your deck from winning if you get your deck successfully setup and your strategy executed.
Ross Cawthon’s The Truth deck is a great example of this type of deck. In that format, most Pokémon fell short of 1HKO numbers without PlusPower, allowing the deck to create a game state in which none of its Pokémon could be Knocked Out.
Other recent examples are both of the Accelgor variants from this season and last. With Chandelure and Dusknoir, the deck attempted to create a perfect paralysis lock that prevented the opponent from ever attacking once the lock went up.
The Sableye/Garbodor deck that I played at Nationals also falls into this category. Once all my opponent’s Energy was removed and their Lasers in the discard there wasn’t anything they could do to take any more Prizes.
D. The Counter Deck
The counter deck is built to, as the category states, counter the other decks present in the format. It does so by looking at the key weaknesses of the main meta decks that can be exploited and then an ensemble of Pokémon are assembled to counter the main decks. The more overlapping weaknesses that the main meta decks have, the better positioned a counter deck will be to do well in a format.
Dylan Bryan’s Flareon deck that he played at the World Championships is a great example of this. He had Flareon to counter Klinklang, Fighting Pokémon to counter Darkrai, Garbodor to attack Ability reliant decks like Blastoise (as well as take a knock at shutting off Abilities for most other decks as well), and Drifblim to counter Plasma.
E. The Improved Meta Deck
Sometimes the right rogue answer is to get creative with the meta decks of the format and add a new twist onto them that improves them past the standard archetype and sometimes creating a new sub-archetype of a deck.
A big example of this is Jay Hornung’s Darkrai/Mewtwo deck that he piloted to third place finishes at both the 2012 US Nationals and World Championships. People had toyed around with Mewtwo EX in Darkrai variants a little bit, but before Jay’s breakout performance with it, no one really had figured out just how strong going heavy Mewtwo EX could be in Darkrai.
In the Winter Regionals, a large group of players had taken the trashed Registeel-EX/Mewtwo EX/Terrakion/Garbodor deck, getting rid of Registeel in favor of Landorus-EX and found a lot of success.
Sometimes a strong concept for a deck is already in place, it’s just waiting to be improved upon to become a serious threat.
Approaching the Rogue Realm
Deciding to test the tournament waters with a rogue deck can always be a nervous experience, especially for a player making that dive for the first round. In this section I am just going to give some general guidelines I have developed when it comes to rogue decks.
One of the biggest things when it comes to creating a successful rogue deck can be your attitude toward the game. During times when you’re not really feeling the game it can be difficulty for creativity to spawn as you’re just not into it. During times where you’re not too invested in the game it can be best to just stick to the basics, otherwise a bad tournament performance with a rogue deck can further demotivate you to play the game. I’ve seen plenty of players play an under-tested rogue deck when they weren’t too heavily invested in the game, have a bad performance, and then just rail on how stupid the format is.
Where creativity will spawn more often is when a player is heavily invested in the game and super excited about playing the game, so they actually go out and play it often. When someone is playing a lot of games, they will be able to gain a better vantage point of the intricacies of the format and will better suited for building a deck to exploit the format.
The truth about rogue decks is that most of them will never turn out to be a success. The meta decks are meta for a reason, because they actually are good. Most of the strong ideas are found early, which leaves rogue decks to come from the less obvious, which means that more of these ideas are bound to fail. It is important to accept criticism about your rogue deck, as you might get so caught up in your own little bubble that you overlook major flaws in your deck’s strategy.
The approach I take to a given format is to consider rogue decks secondary. I always want to try to look for something that exploits the format in some way if I can, but if not, I’ve learned to not push something just for the sake of playing different.
I think if something gets to the point where it’s a pet deck for you, then it probably will never end up being a good rogue deck. The reason? If it was actually good, you would have had some success with it, and others would have picked up on it too. If you’re continually not having success with a given deck, then it isn’t a good concept or your list is bad.
Therefore, I think the best approach to a format is to find 2-3 of the main meta decks that you like and really learn how to play those decks. By doing this, if nothing comes up in your search for a good rogue deck, you have a good Blastoise or Darkrai deck to fall back upon, allowing you to succeed even when you fail in finding that next good rogue deck.
The toughest part about making a good rogue deck is getting an accurate read on the metagame. I think the larger the scale of tournament, the harder it gets to make a good rogue deck.
At the local level it is much easier to do well with a rogue deck, because you can get a more accurate reading on the metagame. Most players at the local level just find one deck that they like playing so you can often go into a local tournament knowing what most of the players in the field will be playing, making it more easy to build a deck that counters their decks, or even just finding a neat tech to swing these matchups in your favor.
When picking out my decks, I generally go build them taking into account about what I consider the top half of players in the tournament will be playing, because I intend to be at the top tables playing against their decks, so I want something that can beat them. At the local level, you have the core group that you expect to do well, the wild cards that could go either way, and then the non-competitive players who won’t do well because of poor decks. I think it’s best to just focus on what the people you consider as threats of winning are playing, as well as any overwhelming local trends when picking your deck.
At larger events, it becomes a lot harder to do this, because you don’t have that knowledge of what others really like playing. You can do some research online, but it’s hard to nail down what the metagame will completely look like at a big event.
Some examples of getting it right: At the 2012 National Championship, there was a lot of hype behind Hammertime headed into the tournament, but it wasn’t the best decision because of decks like CMT and Eelektrik which accelerate Energy being popular. John Roberts saw this, and was able to avoid his auto-loss condition (Enhanced Hammer) and pilot Klinklang to first place.
At this past National Championship, I think most players pegged Tool Scrapper as not being a likely inclusion in most people’s decks. This allowed Ryan Sabelhaus to keep his Life Dew on his Pokémon, giving his Plasma list an advantage over others playing different ACE SPECs.
I personally got the metagame wrong for Nationals this year. I thought Blastoise and Darkrai with a bunch of Keldeos to be a lot more popular than they were. Since these decks weren’t too popular at the tournament, Gothitelle was able to avoid its toughest matchups and run rampant in the tournament.
My deck did a good job countering most of the format, but I knew going in I had an auto-loss to Gothitelle, which I was fine with, because I didn’t expect to play it. The problem? Even though my deck did well enough for me at the tournament, I had 0% chance of winning the tournament because no matter what else I did in top cut, I would have eventually ran into a Gothitelle and been knocked out of the tournament.
Finding Rogue Decks
We all hope to have that one defining deck we create all on our own, through our own playtesting an originality. Seldom that happens, but there are other ways to take advantage of rogue decks by piggybacking on the work of others.
Most new ideas don’t come in solitude. One of the best ways to come up with something new is to have an open dialog with other players. When players are just speaking freely with each other, they can bounce ideas off of each other and really work on hammering down a concept until it’s in a workable form. There will be a pass back of one player throwing out an idea of something and then another either seeing how to take that idea further, verifying that it is a good idea, or finding a flaw in the idea to help figure out if it’s an effective strategy or not.
The internet is a great resource for finding new rogue decks to use. The Quad Sigilyph deck I played came from a Facebook post I saw saying that the deck had won a Regional Championship in Singapore just a couple hours prior. I went to building this deck after breakfast, thinking it would be good to counter the EX-heavy meta from the previous day’s City Championship. The deck was in no way an original idea from me, but I did recognize it as something I could get use out of before others had knowledge of the deck.
The results threads for tournament series that get posted on places like PokéGym can also be a good source of information in rogue. If you see an interesting deck idea pop up in the placements it can be good to take the idea and build it, and then test it to see if it is any good. Too often players can discard good deck ideas as just being obscure results allowing you to take an idea while it’s in its infancy and use it for your own success.
Lastly, I think keeping tabs on message board conversations can provide you with good framework for building a rogue deck. For example, the Quad Kyurem with Deoxys deck that I played at the first day of Battle Roads this Spring came from discussion on HeyTrainer discussing how most players were preferring to lead with Kyurem with its Frost Spear attack on turn one, and then use Blizzard Burn, an attack most players considered good.
With this information in hand, I jumped to the idea of building a streamlined Plasma deck that used Kyurem as its only attacker. Since I was only depending on Kyurem to attack, I could play basic W Energy instead of Special Energy that allowed other Pokémon to attack. Since I was running basic Energy, I could use Exp. Share to conserve my Energy and stream attacking Kyurem.
After some strong testing with the deck, it became obvious that it was a strong concept, and I was able to have some early success with the deck just because it wasn’t a concept that most players knew about so they weren’t teching or making deck selections with it in mind, allowing me to do well at the tournament.
One thing to recognize is that someone might have an idea that can be good, but needs further fleshing out to be good. One mistake a lot of players make is to ignore ideas that come from less successful players, newer players, and unknown players, as if just because the idea is coming from one of these groups of players that it is automatically bad, instead of considering the idea objectively.
Sure, a player who doesn’t see success probably won’t have good ideas too often, but sometimes they do have good ideas that might need further fleshing out.
A good example of how great ideas can be hidden in message board land is with the Chandelure/Accelgor deck from last year. There was a lot of discussion that a few people had about the combo, but none really fleshed it out. I will have examples using this deck for how a good rogue deck can be discussed on a message board before coming to fruition. Sometimes people will have the general idea of a deck down, but won’t be able to make a good list or take the idea to completion. When this happens, if you can recognize such an idea, you can reap great benefits by bringing the idea to it’s final state.
Good deck discussion on forums is a lot less prevalent than it was just a year ago, as more discussion moves to private means, but there is still some good discussion that can spawn off good ideas every now and then.
The important take away points for researching rogue decks are that 1. Good ideas for rogue decks can be posted online and 2. don’t be dismissive of an idea based on a player’s standing in the community. Judge the idea based on the idea, not the person.
Case Study: Chandelure/Accelgor
As mentioned above, this deck is a great example of how a deck idea can be posted to a message board, giving other players an idea they can take, and then if they can successfully bring it to completion they can find a lot of success with a great rogue deck, from an idea that wasn’t their own.
Here is the link to the full HeyTrainer thread on the deck. I think it’s definitely worth reading the whole thing, as it provides a great example of how a rogue deck can be formed. Below, I picked out some of the key points in the thread where steps are taken in furthering the deck.
April 26 – First mention of Chandelure, Vileplume, as well as Dodrio for a combo for Accelgor by poster named Ballztaztic.
April 29 – Adam Kiebler posted the first mention of using Relicanth and Twins in the deck, to be similar to Jason K’s Mew Vanilluxe deck.
April 30 – After criticism about whether the idea should even be talked about, Ballztaztic makes a post which are the fighting words that show the lifeblood of the rogue architect. “Just because YOU can’t think of anything (Netdecker Supreme) does not mean something does not work.”
May 2 – Kettler makes a great post pointing out Accelgor is a good card in a meta blind kind of way. He also makes the point that if you don’t consistently crank out Deck and Cover in your Accelgor deck, you lose your auto-win condition.
May 20 – I put out what I think is the first list posted online for the deck. Get ready, it’s hilariously bad.
2 Darkrai EX
1 Tyrogue (<—-no idea what that was for, I’m sure it’s important)
4 Mew Prime
3 Pokémon Collector
4 Professor Juniper
4 Sage’s Training
4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy
3 Double Colorless
May 31 – Kettler makes another great post about the gamble of rogue decks. Gamble? Try flipping to see who goes first in Darkrai mirror, where you victory often depends on how well you call that coin.
After doing this, come back to me about what’s the greater “gamble.”
June 13 – The poster known as ScrotieMcBoogerBalls posts a list more closely resembling the finished version, still a bit far off though.
4 Pokémon Collector
4 Rare Candy
2 Skyarrow Bridge
June 14 – The poster known as hampuse1 posts a list nailing down the key concept. Still needs refinement, but it’s almost there.
4 Double Colorless
Then just a few days later, Yoshi Tate would play the deck on The Top Cut’s stream at a Battle Roads and take first place with the deck. From there, the deck was tested quietly among the tournament until it was unleashed in full force at Nationals, dominating the Swiss rounds and making it pretty deep into cut, and then again cutting at the World Championship.
Testing Your Build
These guidelines work for any deck really, but can be especially important for rogue decks to maintain the surprise factor.
First off, taking in your testing results for rogue decks objectively is highly important as there aren’t any other results to base your judgments on. For example, Plasma has had a ton of success, therefore, one could easily judge that a good Plasma list can do well at a tournament. A rogue deck is a little different though, as you are going into the unknown when you enter a tournament with it.
By test objectively, this pretty much just means being honest with yourself about how the deck is doing. One of the biggest mistakes a player can make is only taking in the half of games where their deck works properly when judging their deck while ignoring all of the games where everything goes wrong. If the deck is having difficulty setting up or executing its strategy often enough then that is a clue that there are problems with the deck.
In testing a deck for a local tournament, I generally tend to test online with people from other areas so that my decks can remain hidden from the local meta as much as possible to try to keep my opponents on edge for what I may or may not be playing in my deck. Still, if there are strong players in your area you shouldn’t neglect proper testing sessions and deck discussion with them.
If you keep it to just one other player, your likelihood of playing each other in a tournament isn’t all that high and if you do play them it will often be in a later round when you both are already doing well. It should also be said that just because someone knows what is in your deck doesn’t mean they will beat you if your deck is well made, but all additional knowledge you can have does help.
I did quite a few playtesting sessions with Colin last season, and I think we played each other 6 times, which is about 1/3 of the smaller tournaments we played in together, and most of the time it was in a later round when we were both undefeated so we were both doing well, making the testing well worth it.
For bigger tournaments, I would recommend continue testing with your online partners, but you can also test more openly with other local players as your likelihood of playing them in a field of 300+ players is very small.
The nights before a tournament like Nationals it is generally safe to play your rogue deck openly in open play areas. Often times people will see a weird deck and just consider it a joke, and beyond that, people aren’t likely to change their deck last minute, or tech for one or two players in a giant field. So unless you have some sure fire deck that was just overlooked, it is generally safe to playtest these decks then.
The profile of the player surely matters somewhat in this regard. If someone like Jason or Jay were openly playtesting something different and seeing good results, there is potential for more people to latch onto the new deck last minute, or make small changes to whatever deck they’re planning on playing to account for this new deck. If it’s just some random playing the deck, people won’t really care too much about it.
Lastly, I want to give you guys some of the lists for the decks I have worked on in this format. I’ll cover lists for Virizion and Darkrai.
I’m still working on getting acquainted with Plasma in the new format. I think it’s quite strong, but it’s tough navigating all of the anti-Plasma cards that exist in the format. Blastoise has remained pretty much the same headed into this format and is still quite good, and could end up being better with the lack of a viable Klinklang threat, and Garbodor seemingly being a worse play because of the influx of Tool Scrapper, but after Darkrai/Garbodor winning the Klaczynski Open, it’s difficult to tell if that will actually be the case.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 37
4 Plasma Badge
Energy – 15
I went for a more speedy approach playing 4 Plasma Badge in an attempt to get the turn one Emerald Slash. With the Bicycle engine, it seems like I’m able to get it in somewhere around 40% of my games I would estimate.
The only real techs I use are Deoxys-EX and Lugia EX. Deoxys-EX is important for letting the deck hit magic numbers. It turns Genesect’s Megalo Cannon into 110 + 20, which is much more effective at dealing with 130 HP Pokémon, particularly Kyurem.
Deoxys also helps let Lugia EX hit its numbers. If you have Deoxys in play for either the Emerald Slash or Plasma Gale, you will do 180 total damage, enough for the KO on all EXs. The deck can be a bit slow at times, so between G Booster’s 1HKO ability and Lugia’s Prize gaining, the deck can play more from behind. With DCE, 4 Colress Machine, and Emerald Slash, powering up Lugia isn’t too difficult in the deck.
The DCEs also double as a discardable Energy for G Booster, taking in the complete discard effect, allowing you to stream G Boosters with the same Genesect.
The two Retreat Cost of both of these Pokémon is pretty annoying, although I’ve found if I don’t start with them it’s not too bad. With Skyarrow Bridge in play they’re just an Energy attachment or Colress Machine away from being retreated.
I have found a lot of success against standard Darkrai and Blastoise with this list, but it can struggle against Plasma if it doesn’t go off fast. The Shadow Steal Drifloon that Henry Prior used to take Top 4 at the Klaczynski Open seems like the best option for responding to Plasma. After a few knockouts, they should have some Special Energy in the discard allowing it to hit for big damage.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 40
Energy – 10
I still like Darkrai EX headed into this format. It’s a simple deck with a lot of options thanks to Sableye’s Junk Hunt attack.
The Pokémon lines are still pretty standard, I went for a list similar to Jason’s World’s winning deck when setting out to build this. I still like a single Absol in the deck to deal with random Safeguard Pokémon, as well as to mix things up with a non-EX attacker if need be.
The work around to the loss of Energy Switch is Float Stone for me. If allows you to retreat something Active without having to attach an Energy, allowing you to put your attachments and Dark Patches where they need to be.
Even with the presence of Virizion in the metagame, I think Hypnotoxic Laser is too good not to run in a full count. It’s useless against Virizion/Genesect, as they will almost always have the Grass on their Pokémon, negating its effect. Against everything else, it’s still great for hitting the damage numbers you want. Even against things like Hydreigon that tech in the Virizion, you can Enhanced Hammer their Blends and then poison them.
I think Darkrai still has a strong Plasma matchup and a decent Blastoise matchup. Virizion/Genesect is tough, but if you can get off to a fast start you can still beat it, especially against the clunkier, slow setup versions of the deck.
Darkrai is probably the best counter to the Trubbish deck that people have taken a liking to. Between being able to re-use Tool Scrapper as many times as you can Junk Hunt, early game Hypnotoxic Laser tricks with Sableye and Confuse Ray, and Darkrai’s Psychic resistance, Darkrai tends to deal very well with the deck. Since Darkrai and Darkrai/Garbodor should be wide played, Trubbish becomes a largely unplayable deck in this format.
I hope this article has helped give people more information on rogue decks and hopefully encourages players to be more creative with the decks they create as well as the creativity in their lists for the big decks.
I’ve had some minor successes with rogue decks, but am still waiting for my major breakout tournament with a cool rogue deck.
I hope this article can spawn good discussion in the forums on rogue deck building and playing. It would be awesome to hear everyone else’s thoughts, or if there is anything that I didn’t put in this article that they think is important to rogue deck building.
It’s a bit of a bummer that there won’t be a tournament for me to play in until mid-October, but I can’t wait to get in my first action of the season at Fall Regionals.
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