Getting Your Mind in the Gutter: The Thought Processes That Get a Deck from Plain to Perfection

tracey sketchit magnifying glasspokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
How do they come up with those lists?

Many players lately have expressed a curiosity for the fact that many of the top-performing deck lists during Worlds (and the Klaczynski Open) have been rather unorthodox. Whether it be the inclusion of an overlooked Stadium card (such as Frozen City) or the exclusion of what was once thought a staple (Absol PLF, for instance), the best players in the game are making unique and effective choices for their deck lists that are turning assumptions on their heads.

A thought occurs: there has to be something these players are doing that is leading them to such interesting choices with regard to their deck lists. Various places on the internet provide players with a decent starting point for their deck – I still find nothing better than SixPrizes Underground myself for this – but those lists only represent a start.

What seems difficult to many is the process of going from a standard deck list to something both unique and effective. How do players make it happen?

Well, that very question is what I will be answering in my article today. I will be looking at one of my favorite decks in the current format — Trubbish PLS 65/Sigilyph PLB/Masquerain PLB (from here on known as “Tool Drop”) — and showing you, the reader, how I went from something standard to something that could very well be the “better” version of Tool Drop.

Along the way, I will be giving you a taste of my thought processes in the form of the “Thought Box,” a stream-of-consciousness ticker of what was going through my mind at the time of my playtesting. Here’s an example of what it will look like:

Thought Box…

  1. “I sure hope my readers will enjoy this article.”
  2. “What might a player gain from the insights I divulge?”
  3. “Who knows, maybe someone will take my final deck list and win a big tournament with it!”
  4. “Is the title of this article clever enough?”

My purpose with this article is to give readers a true sense of what it’s like to playtest a deck and change it until it’s something completely new. I will also look at the process players take to troubleshoot weaknesses in a deck, as well as what they do to address them. In the end, I aim to convince you that deck lists aren’t always set in stone — they can feature new and surprising techs that people never considered, or they can take on a different form altogether.

Okay, so let’s get started! The table of contents is listed here. You will see that it’s divided up according to the different deck lists I developed as playtesting went on. Also, please note that ANY reference from here on I make to Trubbish, Sigilyph, or Masquerain is to the following cards: Trubbish PLS 65, Sigilyph PLB, and Masquerain PLB (it’s just easier to avoid giving readers a mess of acronyms and numbers every time I talk about Tool Drop).

Table of Contents

PRE-LIST

Many have seen the video, most have heard of the idea. My first introduction to the powerful combination of Trubbish and Sigilyph came straight from a video of two Japanese players enjoying a game of Pokémon TCG together. In it, a player piloting the relentless “Tool Drop” combo takes on someone using a fairly standard Plasma deck (Thundurus EX/Deoxys-EX/Kyurem PLF/ EX).

What follows is an intense game in which both players get explosive starts, only for the Trubbish player to pull ahead with relative leisure. The Plasma player even passes at one crucial point in the game and loses steam easily, making the Tool Drop deck look like the next best deck in the format. If you have yet to do so, go ahead and watch the video and check out the awesome power that rests in Tool Drop.

Objectively looking at the video, there are a few conclusions one can arrive at:

1. The combination of Trubbish and Sigilyph is indeed powerful. Let’s make no mistake, this deck is a powerful one. The ability to cap out at incredible amounts of damage is something I alluded to in my last article as one of the most important aspects of the games in its current state.

2. In this game, the Tool Drop player has (nearly) the best of it. With the exception of Plasma going first, things go incredibly smooth for the Tool Drop player. He plays 3 Bicycle within the first turn and is able to get multiple Pokémon in play. Not only that, he is playing against one of Tool Drop’s best matchups; with a high count of Silver Mirror, Plasma often faces a challenge in how and when to use Tool Scrapper. One wrong move and Tool Drop can spring forward.

3. The weaknesses of Tool Drop are not exploited in this game. Many players have pointed out the weak points in Tool Drop, and those observations are, in my experience, extremely valid. In this game, however, those weaknesses are left unchecked, making Tool Drop look stronger than it actually is.

Thought Box…

  1. “How does the deck perform when it DOESN’T get an amazing first turn?”
  2. “Is Plasma a strong matchup for Tool Drop, or is it closer to a 50/50?”
  3. “Can Plasma win this matchup with a slightly different strategy, or perhaps with an altered deck list?”
  4. “How does Tool Drop play against the other decks in the format?”

LISTS 1 AND 2: IMPORTED FROM JAPAN

After watching the video and accounting for almost every card played by the Tool Drop player, I came up with the following list:

Pokémon – 13

4 Trubbish PLS 65

4 Sigilyph PLB
2 Surskit PLB
2 Masquerain PLB
1 Ditto BCR

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Bicycle
3 Random Receiver

 

4 Float Stone
4 Eviolite
4 Exp. Share
3 Silver Mirror
2 Silver Bangle

 

4 Level Ball

1 Super Rod
1 Computer Search

Energy – 9

9 Psychic

In my opinion, this list gave me a decent foundation on which I could practice the deck out and test its mettle. If I saw inconsistent results, then I knew I might be dealing with another “Garchomp/Altaria” issue – that is, a somewhat successful Japanese deck that would prove to be a dud in the rest of the world. If I saw something I liked, I could refine the deck and get it to where I wanted it.

pokemon-catcher-dark-explorers-dex-111pokemon-paradijs.com
What deck doesn’t use Catcher?

Before I even sleeved the deck, however, I had already noticed a couple of things about the list that I did not like. Bear in mind that this takes a keen eye to detect. If you aren’t a truly experienced player, you might be better off testing before making any decisions. Sometimes, card choices can seem like they lack purpose until thoroughly tested. The nuances of some cards simply aren’t felt until that moment.

With that in mind, I decided on axing Ditto BCR from the list while giving Masquerain a chance (I originally wanted to cut it). The inclusion of Ditto seemed odd and made little sense to me. I went over the scenarios in which this card could help out, but came up with strikingly little. Ditto is an option normally reserved for cards that need to evolve – Tynamo NVI/Eelektrik NVI is a good example – or for decks that want to surprise the opponent. Here, though, neither was going on. It seemed an easy cut for another consistency card.

Masquerain, on the other hand, seemed initially to detract from the main idea of the deck (that is, power up Tool Drop by dropping lots of Pokémon Tools), but wasn’t something I was comfortable cutting until I had tested it out. Once again, there’s an important lesson to be learned here: take the time to test ideas you are unsure of, especially if that idea follows the experience and results of another player.

Also, I noticed the Tool Drop player used absolutely no Pokémon Catchers throughout his game. I understand the point of dropping one — maybe even two — Pokémon Catchers from a deck that achieves huge amounts of damage, but the card is too powerful not to run. It can help stall while you set up a Trubbish for an attack, or it can help you take out something on the bench. At the very least, with the new season’s best-of-three Swiss matches, a smart opponent will take advantage of the fact that you run no Pokémon Catcher.

With all of this in mind, I made the easy changes necessary to accommodate 3 Pokémon Catcher: I dropped a Masquerain, the Ditto, and a single Psychic Energy. My reasoning on taking out the Masquerain is that opponents aren’t necessarily targeting that card anyway, so it should be safe. I would later test out a 1-1 Masquerain line because of this same reasoning. I also thought I would pilot 8 Psychic Energy until I noticed an issue. The Ditto I cut for reasons already given. Thus, my updated list:

Pokémon – 11

4 Trubbish PLS 65

4 Sigilyph PLB
2 Surskit PLB
1 Masquerain PLB

Trainers – 41

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Bicycle
3 Random Receiver

 

4 Float Stone
4 Eviolite
4 Exp. Share

3 Silver Mirror
2 Silver Bangle

 

4 Level Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher
1 Super Rod
1 Computer Search

Energy – 8

8 Psychic

This list felt much better, especially since I got Pokémon Catcher into the mix. I felt completely comfortable cutting the single Masquerain and Ditto, but I still had concerns about cutting that Psychic Energy — especially since this list did not have any Skyla for Energy Search. I knew right away that missing an Energy attachment could spell disaster for Tool Drop.

LIST 3: INITIAL TESTING AND QUESTIONING THE NORM

With my very early draft of this deck list completed, I finally sleeved my deck and started testing. I pitted the deck against the main decks in the current format — Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX, Plasma, Darkrai EX, and Virizion-EX/Genesect EX — just to see what happened. What I found instantly was a near auto-loss in Darkrai EX. The Psychic Resistance, Sableye DEX’s ability to loop Tool Scrappers, Absol PLF’s strength against decks with large benches… it was all too much for my deck to handle.

ash ketchum hat backwards pikachux-entertainment.com
Tackle your toughest matchup head-on.

Here, I maintain, is a critical point in the viability of any deck for tournament play. I was facing my toughest matchup, and while many players would simply move on to another deck, I decided to see whether or not I could tackle Darkrai EX. It’s this singular determination that I believe has accounted for some of the greatest surprises in the game.

Johnny Rabus shocked everyone with the inclusion of Frozen City in his Plasma deck. Not only did it land him deep in the top cut at the World Championship in 2013, it also led many to question altogether how Plasma should be run. When Jason Klaczynski won the World Champion for a third time, he did it with an unconventional Darkrai EX list that featured no Absol PLF — a card many thought was a staple in the deck.

Perhaps Johnny Rabus didn’t “give up” on the matchup against Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX, and found Frozen City to work in the later stages of testing. And for Klaczynski, it might very well be that all of his testing led him to ditch Absol PLF altogether. Whatever the case, tackling your toughest matchup head-on forces you to think outside of the box.

This, incidentally, is what I encourage if you are seriously considering a tier 2 or rogue deck for tournament play: find your toughest legitimate matchup (that is, a deck you know you will face at any given tournament) and see what you can do to pull it in your favor. Try your best to maintain the integrity of the deck against the other matchups, but at least be prepared for that toughest deck to face.

The Battle Against Darkrai EX

With Darkrai EX/Sableye DEX identified as my biggest threat, I started to ask the question, “What can I do to beat this deck?” It is a question that required me to recognize my greatest weaknesses against Darkrai EX/Sableye DEX, which of course meant that I needed to do some extra playtesting.

It didn’t take long for me to realize the single-most devastating play a Darkrai EX player can do against Tool Drop: Knock Out a Trubbish with at least one Energy card attached to it while ensuring that the Tool Drop player can’t attack on the following turn. The Darkrai EX player can do this by either getting a really fast start and landing a KO on a Trubbish before anything else has been setup, or by using a Tool Scrapper to wipe away any Exp. Shares the Tool Drop player has played. It’s a single play that easily determines the remainder of the game.

Thought Box…

  1. “Why is my deck underperforming against Darkrai EX/Sableye DEX?”
  2. “Where in the game do I move into a losing position against my opponent?”
  3. “Is the weakness I face against Darkrai EX/Sableye DEX a weakness shared with other decks?”
  4. “Are there changes I can make to my strategy to give myself a better chance of winning?”
  5. “How many Tool Scrapper can I expect a Darkrai EX player to have in his/her deck list?”
  6. “Is there anything else I can do to avoid this troubling scenario?”

Trying Out Different Options

My thought process lead me to an obvious conclusion: If I wanted to have any shot against Darkrai at all, I had to get around this likely situation in which opponents KO a Trubbish and I cannot respond. Otherwise, I would be wasting my time playing Tool Drop at a major tournament. As such, I started to think about my options, starting off with vague changes in my strategy or deck list that might produce a positive result. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Changing up my strategy. If I could alter my approach to the matchup, perhaps I could pull some games in my favor. By recognizing the strengths a Darkrai player has against Tool Drop, I at least know where I need to start.

2. Adding in techs to balance the matchup. If I couldn’t pull things in my favor by outplaying my opponent, then perhaps the correct approach would require a tech specific to beating Darkrai.

3. Changing my approach altogether by thinking outside the box. Sure, the Japanese deck list was cool and all, but maybe there’s a different approach? Who says the deck as I saw it played out on YouTube is the standard?

Option 1: Changing Up My Strategy

So, the first thing I had to decide was whether or not I could outplay a Darkrai EX player. With the optimum strategy against Tool Drop intact (thinking from the Darkrai EX player’s perspective, that is), I knew what I was up against. Also, I upped the Tool Scrapper count in my Darkrai EX list from 1 to 2 to represent the biggest challenge I would face.

Thought Box…

“Whereas before I could anticipate some players to make game-costing mistakes, I can’t anymore for a couple of reasons. First, the game is relatively simpler now than it used to be. Playing a Professor Juniper to dig into the deck for a Tool Scrapper, using it to remove Exp. Shares, and Knocking Out the Trubbish that poses a threat just isn’t that hard a play — it’s something I can expect even bad players to do. Second, players on the whole are better than they used to be. If the metagame calls for 2 Tool Scrapper in every deck, I can expect to see just that!”

After doing some playtesting and becoming more acquainted with this “critical play,” I realized that my in-game strategy would follow an “all or nothing” pattern, based on the following factors: 1. Did I or my opponent go first? 2. Is my opponent setting up slowly, or are they moving quickly? Also, how strong does my first turn look? 3. Do I have the cards required to offset their set up (that is, using Pokémon Catcher to stall and avoid a quick Night Spear)?

foot ash ketchumpokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
That’s kind of what the matchup felt like.

What I found in my playtesting is that I won games in which two of those three factors went my way. Otherwise, I didn’t stand a chance (against a player who knew what they were doing at least). Also, this matchup gets decisively more difficult when Absol PLF is included in the mix, since it can attack even sooner.

Since I lost nearly any time a Darkrai EX player Knocked Out a Trubbish and left me with no response, I had to consider some pretty odd plans for battle in these cases. When things were clearly not going my way from the very beginning, I actually got as many Pokémon in play as I could and baited my opponent into taking a couple of Prizes.

Essentially, I was looking for the late-game comeback by playing an N and hopefully ridding my opponent of a chance to use Tool Scrapper. The idea, I figured, was that even if the Trubbish with an Energy was Knocked Out, a benched Trubbish with an Exp. Share would be available to land the KO on the next turn.

This strategy was somewhat effective, but it required that my opponent whiff on the Tool Scrapper while I got a couple of blazing turns. If this fell through at all, the entire game was at risk. In the end, I wasn’t quite happy playing the deck in this manner.

Option 2: Adding In Techs To Balance The Matchup

At this point, I knew I wanted something more than a shady battle plan, especially if I planned to take this deck to a big tournament. So, I turned to the power of techs and started mulling over my options.

Thought Box…

“If I used something aggressive like Terrakion NVI or Landorus-EX, my deck list has to shift immensely to accommodate those changes. Terrakion NVI is nearly out of the question since it requires two Energy to attack and can be played around rather simply. Landorus-EX, on the other hand, is a nuisance that has to be dealt with by the opponent. It can create a diversion that allows me some time to attach Energy Cards to Trubbish.”

In terms of a diversion, Jirachi-EX is also a possibility, since many players will target it as soon as it hits the field. Can I depend on that though? I’m essentially adding one more step to the process by which a Darkrai player secures victory against me, and I think many players won’t take the bait.”

After some deliberation, I decided to test out Jirachi-EX. Landorus-EX seemed like a potential hit, but I had a lot of concerns. With no easy way to search Landorus-EX out, I would have to get 2-3 copies into the deck list AND consider changing up some Trainers. More than two Ultra Ball would probably not work since I could not afford to discard anything in this deck. I would also have to change the Energy line up some, and the whole thing was starting to sound like it would detract from my other matchups.

To test out Jirachi-EX, I took out 1 Random Receiver and 1 Surskit PLB and added 1 Jirachi-EX and 1 Ghetsis. I figured Ghetsis could provide some added insurance against Tool Scrapper. The single copy seemed reasonable since I could search it out with Jirachi-EX as well.

Testing with Jirachi-EX turned out to be fairly odd. There were plenty of games where I just didn’t need the card, meaning that I was only encouraged to play it to bait the Darkrai EX player. As I pointed out with my Thought Box, however, this is a trick that looks better on paper than it does in practice. Opponents simply would not fall for it.

Additionally, Ghetsis turned out to be too inconsistent for my taste. It was satisfying when my opponent used Junk Hunt for two Item cards, only for me to use a Level Ball to grab a Jirachi-EX to search for a Ghetsis and get a decent draw. In reality, though, this only happened a handful of times.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that Jirachi-EX would be great in a field of players inexperienced at playing against Tool Drop. Given the exposure that Tool Drop has gotten, however, I was just unsure of its inclusion in the deck for the purpose of creating a diversion. As far as a card that boosts consistency, it’s still a great option.

Option 3: Changing My Approach Altogether By Thinking Outside The Box

The last option I had on my plate was to basically reinvent Tool Drop. If I couldn’t get the results I wanted with the standard Trubbish/Sigilyph/Masquerain idea, I would go a different route altogether. I started to make a mental list of how else Tool Drop could be run, and here’s roughly what I came up with:

  • Including Victini-EX to power up multiple Trubbish, thereby overriding the whole “Energy attachment” problem altogether.
  • Using Gardevoir NXD to make each Psychic Energy count as two Energy rather than one.
  • Using a combination of Team Plasma Badge and Colress Machine to power up Trubbish in a single turn.
  • Introducing Sableye DEX to the list to bring Pokémon Tool cards back from the discard pile and boost consistency.
  • Using some in some way (there are plenty of Garbodors in the current format, so I’m not just talking about the “Garbotoxin” one).

I weighed the pros and cons of these different options, and one idea that stood out to me was using Team Plasma Badge alongside Colress Machine to power up Trubbish in a single turn. It certainly seemed to solve the issue I had been facing all along, and it didn’t detract at all from my other matchups.

I knew from testing out Bouffalant DRX from before that this trick — attaching a Team Plasma Badge to then use Colress Machine to power up an attacker — was fairly unreliable. Still, I thought it was at least somewhat feasible, and so I worked on changing the list again, only in a more dramatic manner this time…

LIST 4: A DIFFERENT APPROACH ALTOGETHER

Thought Box…

“If I’m going to use the whole Team Plasma Badge/Colress Machine idea, I really have to be dedicated to it — meaning 4 Team Plasma Badge, 3-4 Colress Machine, and 3-4 Plasma Energy. Otherwise, there’s a good chance it just won’t work. Not really sure how I’m going to find the space for all of that without losing consistency.”

Knowing that space would instantly get really tight since I essentially had to find space for at least 3 Colress Machine (something I had never accounted for at all before), I decided to keep Jirachi-EX in. It would essentially pick up the slack for an underwhelming Supporter line, which would have to happen with all I needed to include.

team plasma grunt animezthezorua.tumblr.com
The Plasma takeover was underway.

The first thing I did was drop 2 Psychic Energy and add in 2 Plasma Energy. It wasn’t the 3 Plasma Energy I wanted, but I thought it would give me a start. Next up, I replaced all of my Exp. Shares with Team Plasma Badges, an easy trade. The tough part, of course, was in finding the extra space for 3-4 Colress Machine.

I started by taking out the Ghetsis I had in earlier and an N. Since my Jirachi-EX remained, I felt this would be a fair decision. Lastly, I took out an Eviolite and switched my Computer Search to a Dowsing Machine — this way I was keeping the Pokémon Tool card count “the same” (if I used a Dowsing Machine to copy a Pokémon Tool card, that is). Eviolite got the boot because it wasn’t essential, especially against opponents who were targeting my Trubbish.

I want to make a note here by saying that choices like the ones I just described are essential to creating effective, solid deck lists. And in many cases, the individual cards in strong deck lists work in a number of ways. Jirachi-EX, for example, was included not just for consistency’s sake but to distract players that didn’t know any better. Team Plasma Badge aids in Energy manipulation, but also helps stack damage up for Tool Drop. In many ways, this “dual purpose” is a by-product of good ideas and effective deck-building.

That said, here’s our current list:

Pokémon – 11

4 Trubbish PLS 65

4 Sigilyph PLB
1 Surskit PLB
1 Masquerain PLB
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 41

4 Professor Juniper
3 N
4 Bicycle
2 Random Receiver

 

4 Float Stone

4 Team Plasma Badge
3 Eviolite

3 Silver Mirror
2 Silver Bangle

 

4 Level Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Colress Machine
1 Super Rod
1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 8

6 Psychic
2 Plasma

Note at this point I’m still running with only 8 Energy cards total. In testing up to this point I had learned that 8 is too low. Unsure of what to cut, though, I tucked this into the back of my mind and continued to move forward, focusing more on the structure and purpose of the deck than the Energy count.

Okay, so how did this list do? Well, I will display my honesty and say that it tested horribly. The Team Plasma Badge/Colress Machine idea completely fell apart in practice. It seemed to work only once out of every five or so games — clearly nowhere near where I wanted it. This round of playtesting really tested my patience, since I felt all of the progress I had made with the deck was in utter vain.

Playtesting at this point went so poorly that I actually shelved the idea and went back to testing with other decks. Trubbish had been officially discarded, yet a small piece of the concept stuck in my mind somewhere. Over the next few weeks the World Championship took place, as did the Klaczynski Open. And in my mind somewhere, like a small piece of imperceptible mold, an idea grew.

LIST 5: DISCARDING OLD NOTIONS AND REBUILDING THE DECK

trubbish-plasma-storm-pls-65pokemon-paradijs.com
Let’s try again!

The results of both the World Championship and the Klaczynski Open made one thing very clear: Darkrai EX is an ultimate contender. Because of this, at least some part of me was reminded of my testing with Trubbish. After all, I’m one of those players who like to go against conventional ideas and make a path of my own.

At some point, I cracked open the box that housed my Trubbish deck and decided to give it another shot. Members from my team were coming up with various ideas, and some of them had taken an interest in my Team Plasma Badge build. As a result, I had some new motivation.

The first thing I did was question every single card in my deck. What cards were the most useful? What cards needed to be maxed out? Were there more options I had overlooked? Was it worth revisiting some of my older ideas?

In the process of this, I cut a single Professor Juniper, acknowledging that there had been one too many times I was forced to use a Professor Juniper and discard multiple Pokémon Tool Cards because I didn’t have any Sigilyph in play yet. In place of it I added a 4th N. I also traded my Random Receivers for Colress. Even though a Random Receiver could lead to a Professor Juniper, Colress is just as effective once I get rolling (plus, with only 3 Professor Juniper I was less likely to draw into them). I also cut a single Pokémon Catcher, recognizing that I would still have Dowsing Machine as an option if need be.

Another thing I did was ditch Masquerain. Even though it has a great Ability, I was in great need of space. The deck needed a major overhaul, and I was absolutely determined to get the Team Plasma Badge/Colress Machine combo to work at least once during a regular game. Near the end of my previous testing, I found that Tool Drop could succeed easily if it overcame that single “critical play” I described in which an opponent Knocks Out an attacking Trubbish while leaving me with no response. Overcoming this single play was all I was concerned with at this point, and Masquerain seemed to get in my way of doing this.

A single Sigilyph also got the boot, a risk I felt comfortable with (especially with the inclusion of Dowsing Machine).

If you’re keeping count, I was able to effectively remove all of this:

Without the 1-1 Masquerain, things seemed scant. I was unsure about running just Trubbish and Sigilyph, so I started looking around for anything that could replace the Masquerain. Eventually, I settled on Electrode PLF (this was after looking at every Stage 1 in the current format). It seemed like a really powerful idea, since its Ability essentially gave me an extra Bicycle every turn. With its inclusion, I had even more consistency and could hit for even more damage since I ran through my deck at lightning speed.

Having replaced my 1-1 Masquerain, I still had two open spots in the deck. I added 1 Plasma Energy and 1 Colress Machine to boost the Team Plasma Badge/Colress Machine engine.

By now, my deck list looked like this:

Pokémon – 10

4 Trubbish PLS 65
3 Sigilyph PLB
1 Voltorb PLF
1 Electrode PLF
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 41

3 Professor Juniper

4 N
4 Bicycle
2 Colress

 

4 Float Stone

4 Team Plasma Badge
3 Eviolite

3 Silver Mirror
2 Silver Bangle

 

4 Level Ball

4 Colress Machine

2 Pokémon Catcher
1 Super Rod
1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 9

6 Psychic
3 Plasma

With this list, testing was much more positive. Electrode PLF was instrumental in any game where I pulled off 160+ damage on the second turn. With a beefier Badge/Machine engine, I was doing lots of damage even on the first turn! Of course, that didn’t happen every time, but my theory held true: in some games, powering up Trubbish in a single turn was the sole reason I won the game.

At the same time, there were still games in which I fell behind and just couldn’t catch up. Or, I would end up never getting the Badge/Machine engine to work at all. My testing record at this point was a disappointing 50/50.

LIST 6: SMOOTHING OUT THE EDGES

tracey sketchit notepad paper awepokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
It’s important to note what works (and doesn’t).

In the course of my playtesting, I made some observations that would help lead to my final list. First of all, the Badge/Machine engine still didn’t seem like it was enough. Second, Jirachi EX now seemed rather lackluster in the deck; if I wanted to put anything on the bench, it was usually a Voltorb PLF that I hoped to evolve the next turn. And last, Silver Bangle was a complete dead card to me — without Masquerain, it usually just clumped on a Sigilyph and never saw play.

Using my own advice to “abuse the heck out of” what works, I decided to reintroduce Exp. Share to the deck — if the Badge/Machine combo wasn’t enough, then maybe this would work! I took out 2 Silver Bangle, 1 Jirachi-EX, and 1 Eviolite to do this. Finally, the list felt right at the following:

Pokémon – 9

4 Trubbish PLS 65
3 Sigilyph PLB
1 Voltorb PLF
1 Electrode PLF

Trainers – 42

3 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Bicycle
2 Colress

 

4 Float Stone
4 Team Plasma Badge
4 Exp. Share

3 Silver Mirror
2 Eviolite

 

4 Level Ball
4 Colress Machine
2 Pokémon Catcher
1 Super Rod
1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 9

6 Psychic
3 Plasma

This is currently where my deck list for Tool Drop stands, and I like it quite a bit! In testing, it’s gotten some explosive starts, and has proven to come back even when the opponent gets that “critical move” on me. In looking back at those three considerations earlier — whether or not I went first, how fast my opponent was moving, and whether I could slow the opponent down — I can win a game even if those things don’t go my way, which is worlds beyond where the deck started out at.

Admittedly, there are still some considerations to be made here. I hate saying it, but there are moments where the deck just barely seems to putter along. I’m considering getting Jirachi-EX back in the list, sort of as an escape hatch for when my first turn looks to be in shambles. And even though I made the whole fuss about 4 Professor Juniper being at times detrimental, let’s face it, Professor Juniper is the best Supporter Card in the game. There are moments where I just know that if I had a Professor Juniper instead of an N, I would be absolutely set.

LIST 7: WHERE I END, YOU BEGIN

ash ketchum surprised forestpokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
I pass the list off to you.

You will find that there is no list 7 — this is because this list belongs to you! I have given you the framework and thought process behind a wildly new version of Tool Drop, one that I think can be effective in a tournament setting (even against players who know the matchup inside and out). It is your job to take the deck one step further.

Perhaps the last list I provided is the optimal way to run Tool Drop. Then again, maybe the Landorus-EX tech idea needs to be explored more. It could also be that one deck is better suited for the current format than another. No matter the case, I arrived at what I feel to be a more effective version of Tool Drop by not sticking to the “standard,” by pretending that a standard doesn’t even exist. In today’s world of quick deck lists that are exchanged digitally with little forethought, I think it is amateurish to assume a deck list as the final way to run something.

And here is where I’ll divulge a little secret: the current modified format doesn’t really care all that much about great synergy between cards. Flareon PLF with Cofagrigus PLF 56 might seem like a wonderful combo, but that’s not how the successful Flareon deck at the 2013 World Championship was run. Instead, it featured cards designated for addressing the metagame.

Likewise, using Team Plasma Badge in conjunction with Colress Machine to power up Trubbish in a single turn might seem incredibly silly, but it is at least one way to address the opponent who gets a speedy start. I kept seeing players write about Tool Drop and say that it can easily be played around, but it’s quite hard to play around this version of the deck.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, you’ve gleaned a great deal of insight from this article. I have shown you exactly what goes on in the mind of a player determined to make a deck work. I have taken an in-depth look at addressing a critical weakness in a deck and walked you through the steps required to get from point A to point B to point C and so on.

If you have taken notes, you’ve noticed that this whole process wasn’t just about finding the best list for Tool Drop in a day or two and replacing a couple of cards to make it really, really work. No, it was about a journey. At one point I had even given up on Tool Drop and shelved the concept altogether, deeming it a failure. Sure enough, I was only a handful of cards away from success at that point. The same thing happened when I piloted my Steelix Prime deck in Worlds of 2010 — I had given up on the concept altogether, yet was literally three cards away from deckbuilding success.

victreebel meowth jamespokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
Be open to change.

Players tend to think in absolutes when it comes to the Pokémon TCG — once a deck list is established and shared about online, players seem to thinking nothing more of it. It’s as though deck lists become solidified and can never, ever change.

For some decks (I’m thinking Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX), this is mostly true. Only a rotation or drastic changes to the metagame will force players to reanalyze their approach. But for other decks, there’s still wiggle room to pull off some surprisingly effective changes.

As we approach the Regional Championships, let’s not lose sight of the fact that surprises in the Pokémon TCG still and always will exist. Players who tell you otherwise are often just being cynical. I for one like to keep my mind open to any new ideas that I hear or read about. Just the other day, I saw someone comment on an online thread about Flareon PLF/Leafeon PLF/Drifblim DRX/Zoroark NXD. I thought that deck sounded entirely feasible, especially to players who aren’t expecting such a deck.

Moving forward, let me know in the Underground forums what you guys come up with! There were so many different ways to run this deck, yet I focused on just a few. Also, feel free to offer your own tips about how you decide on unconventional deck lists.

And lastly, if you liked this article, please make sure to “like like” it — you know, by clicking on the “like” button at the end. This really does aid me in knowing what to write about in the future.


…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

After 90 days, we open each Underground (UG) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.

Underground Members: Thanks for making this article possible!

Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.


Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in. Legacy discussion: ?