Say Hello to My Little Friends

Regionals, Flareon Feels, Memory Tricks, and More
student glasses school
Me studying.

Hey there SixPrizes! It’s good to be back. I’ve been pretty busy as of late, and took a few months off from writing. I’ve now started my master’s program and surprisingly am less busy. (Still swamped though!) Mainly because I now have weekends off, whereas before I didn’t.

Because of this, I’ve finally had the chance to play a bit more in person rather than just online, and the difference is vast. It feels great to get my testing done properly again. I feel like and PTCGO both rush gameplay a bit, and don’t allow for those hesitations where you fumble your cards as you go through a thought process. They offer very different feels than playing with physical cards, but nonetheless they are still great resources.

But enough about that! Today, I’ll be doing a quick recap of the Regionals metagames from the past couple weeks in preparation for the biggest Regionals weekend of them all. After that I’ll talk about the developing Flareon/Friends archetype. And rounding out the article, I’ll discuss playing in the new 50 minute best-of-three format, the intentional draw, and some psychology tricks to help improve your memory.

Table of Contents

Regionals Recap

We have had three Regionals now, with two on the West Coast. East vs. West metagames have been different in the past, and continue to be it seems. However, the first and second weeks have had a couple surprises that I’m sure the East will adapt or adopt.

Pleasanton, CA

This card is emphatically cementing itself as one of the best of all time.

In Pleasanton, we saw straight Darkrai win out in a very basic metagame field with some Big Basics/Garbodor thrown in. Every overtalked Tier 1 deck was represented, and Darkrai wasn’t much different.

A noteworthy nifty tech was definitely the one copy of Frozen City. It makes a lot of sense in the Blastoise matchup, as the most damage Darkrai can do to itself through Frozen City is 60, which means Keldeo still doesn’t take a 3-Energy KO (and it’s more likely to need 5-6 Energies anyway). While in return, Darkrai can get a 1HKO response if Keldeo had to load itself up under Frozen City. Proper baiting is required to make the most use of this tech, but it was a great call Israel!

An important side note is the ability to shut off Laser damage against certain decks. On that second-to-last turn where your opponent has you pegged, turning off Virbank can mean the difference between a win and a loss.

Straight Darkrai is a deck most people gave up on. I certainly didn’t think it lost much, but I also can’t say I was actively testing it either. I think the big scare that kept people from believing in the deck was its Genesect and Blastoise matchups. Genesect makes all Darkrai’s Lasers dead cards, while Blastoise has always been slightly unfavourable. I wouldn’t say Darkrai is ever pleased to be facing Garbodor either, even if it’s a Darkrai/Garb.

Nonetheless, Darkrai persevered. Here are a few reasons I can see why (in retrospect):

1. Darkrai vs. Genesect is practically a mirror where you have better numbers. They can set up Sableyes for snipe-KOs, but you can give them that 7th Prize if you want. Shutting off Lasers is a problem, but Dark Claw + snipe finishes 170 HP EX’s just fine. G Booster is a concern of course, but if you’ve been able to prep a response Darkrai and hit proactively then it’s manageable. Overall a 50/50 matchup dependant on techs.

2. Darkrai vs. Blastoise can be won by Frozen City. This won’t catch people off guard anymore, but is still a good way to tie someone’s arm around their back.

Rather than think “I’m safe because I have a tech Frozen City,” I’d say it’s more a metagame call. If you don’t expect a heavy Blastoise presence, Darkrai is a safer play. It never had that unfavourable a matchup anyway. But I still wouldn’t want to face Blastoise in Bo3 with only 1 tech Frozen City.

3. Darkrai vs. Darkrai/Garbodor is not as clear cut as most people would think. It’s easy to say that “Darkrai has more consistency cards and will run better,” but Garbodor controls Dark Cloak and is better prepared for when it’s shut off.

Israel’s list ran Keldeo-EX and two Float Stones alongside one Scrapper. I would be cautious about this, as it’s easy to stay asleep on Lasers. This goes for Virizion/Genesect decks running Laser too, which is a matchup where you don’t want to have to bench Keldeo. I would rather run ~2 Switch in the deck, but it’s really a metagame thing. You can’t really argue with 2 Regional Championships!

And of course now Big Basics/Garbodor is coming back, which is not an incredibly fun matchup for straight Darkrai.

British Columbia

With the results from Week 1 fresh in everyone’s minds, BC prepared for Week 2. Amongst the top tables, Blastoise had a heavy presence. But as is apparent from the top cut, there was a wide variety of successful decks.

At the end of the day, we saw a Top 8 that looked like this:

  1. Grant McClellan (Big Basics/Garbodor)
  2. Joey Gaffney (Blastoise)
  3. Ethan Batson (Plasma)
  4. Sebastien Teh (Virizion/Genesect)
  5. Tyler Ninomura (Eevees/Drifblim/Stunfisk + Frozen City)
  6. Amelia Bottemiller (Darkrai)
  7. Trevore Read (Blastoise)
  8. David Cohen (Plasma/Lugia)

Thanks to On the Bubble for this information and their coverage of the event.


As in Week 1, each Tier 1 deck was represented. I’m quite surprised that Big Basics/Garbodor could get past all the Plasma in the field, but hey… it kind of won the tournament, so fair enough!

Amongst the top tables, a variety of decks existed. But it seemed that the tournament as a whole was flooded with Plasma. I would expect to face at least 2 Plasma during your tournament, and potentially more. I only faced one non-Plasma deck in 7 rounds of Swiss. Also, Frozen City was an ever-present force this weekend, and showed up in heavy numbers in at least a couple of the Top 8 decks.

The most interesting deck sitting in Top 8 was Tyler Ninomura’s Flareon deck. I’ll be discussing it below since I was already planning on talking about Flareon. What I can say is that Tyler ended Swiss 6-0-1, and if he hadn’t faced Big Basics/Garb in Top 8, I could easily see him going all the way. But then again I also played anti-meta, founded out of my Flareon testing, so I lived a little vicariously through Tyler. Thus, I’m a little biased.


I honestly think the Top 8 results speak for themselves here. And they’re saying “Israel is the play for Week 3.”

  1. Israel Sosa (Darkrai)
  2. Jacob Stoyakovich (Plasma)
  3. Joe Sanchez (Landorus/Mewtwo/Garbodor)
  4. Matt Brooks (Blastoise)
  5. Karl Kitchin (Virizion/Mewtwo)
  6. Brandon Jones (Virizion/Mewtwo)
  7. Anthony Wilson (Blastoise/Keldeo/Electrode)
  8. Andrew Zavala (Virizion/Genesect)

Thanks again to On the Bubble for this information.

As far as decks go, Virizion saw a lot of success here. It’s interesting that Mewtwo has seen such a revival in the metagame with Big Basics/Garbodor and now Virizion/Mewtwo. But at the end of the day you need to beat Israel Sosa to win a Regionals. Anthony Wilson’s Beach-less Blastoise running Electrode was also certainly a surprising innovation. Who says you need Beach to do well with Blastoise! (Note: The answer is “most people,” and they’re not exactly wrong…)

What to Play for Week 3

Honestly, the metagame is so open right now that anything is viable. If you’re playing a Tier 1 deck, you’ll have a shot at winning. An interesting point in the metagame is the position of Darkrai vs. Darkrai/Garbodor. Players are divided on whether they should stick to Darkrai/Garb, play straight Darkrai (after winning two weeks in a row especially), or switch decks if that’s an option.

I think there’s some major hype going for Blastoise right now. It’s the deck that’s got the best chance of powering through its matchups, which is kind of what Kenny touched on last week. It’s difficult to build a deck that’s got a positive Blastoise matchup, while also keeping respectable matchups against the metagame.

If you’re looking for a fun anti-meta play, I recommend a Garbodor/Drifblim build. The alternate attackers are going to be meta-dependent, but you’re pretty safe running Flareon, Fighting, etc…

Anti-Meta Decks

Tyler’s Eevees/Stunfisk/Drifblim

flareon electrode ditto alakazamBulbapedia
Flareon and friends.

Heading into Regionals, my pet deck to develop was Flareon. Originally I started out with a Flareon/Drifblim/Fighting/Garbodor list (popularized by Dylan Bryan). This assortment of Pokémon contains checks to the whole metagame.

Unfortunately, I found the Blastoise matchup difficult if they ran 2 Scrapper. Not only that, but Kyurem PLF destroys Flareon, and you’re overly reliant on the Drifblims to bail you out. If they avoid putting Special Energies in the discard, then you’ll have a tough time getting even 1 KO to start the Shadow Steal train.

But Tyler said “Nuts to that,” bulked his manly self up, and threw down with the Team Flair. After Adam’s UG article, I tested a bit of Stunfisk and it is pretty good. It hits for heavy damage alongside Silver Bangle while remaining a non-EX to trade. I can definitely understand how a heavy Stunfisk presence alongside Frozen City would deal good numbers against Darkrai. You can Muddy Water for 100 + 20 snipe. They deal damage to themselves in multiples of 20 by attaching under Frozen City. And if all else fails, Flareon/Leafeon finishes things off.

Before I say anything further, let’s just go over the ingredients of this deck:

  • Flareon for Genesect
  • Leafeon for Blastoise
  • Drifblim for Plasma
  • Stunfisk for Darkrai
  • Frozen City for additional Blastoise security. It’s also splash damage to make Flareon and Leafeon’s jobs easier. Great idea!
  • Edit: At the time of writing, I hadn’t specifically seen Tyler’s deck yet. He did include Landorus EX (which is very understandable) and a Mr. Mime tech. He also played Drifblim PLB, which may be more optimal to deal with Plasma due to the lack of early damage. I’ve had good results with just DRX though, but the build is a little different so more PLB may be the play.

As you can see, the 4 attackers all function to counter the 4 biggest decks. And each of those attackers is supported by Garbodor to buff their odds of trading favorably. I don’t have Tyler’s list, but I feel pretty comfortable proposing one as I’ve spent the last month playing around with Flareon/Friends.

Pokémon – 18

4 Eevee PLF 90

4 Flareon PLF

2 Leafeon PLF

3 Drifloon PLB

2 Drifblim DRX

3 Stunfisk DRX

0 Landorus-EX

0 Mr. Mime PLF

0 Drifblim PLB

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Colress

2 Random Receiver

1 Computer Search


4 Ultra Ball

4 Silver Bangle

3 Switch

2 Pokémon Catcher

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Super Rod


4 Frozen City

Energy – 8

4 F

4 Double Colorless

Considerations – Float Stone or extra Switch, extra F Energy, Dowsing Machine, Landorus-EX, Mr. Mime, Garbodor, More Leafeon, Drifblim PLB

frozen city plasma freeze plf
The ice-ing on the cake.

The heavy Frozen City count is probably the most interesting tech. I heard Tyler played a full 4, and it makes sense after thinking about it. Obviously Frozen City is good against Blastoise. It puts their Pokémon into KO range easier for Flareon and Leafeon to deal with. With both Frozen City AND Silver Bangle, against most matchups you should be able to start taking KOs with Flareon pretty quickly.

But this is also useful against Darkrai for the same idea. You can certainly hit Virizion a little earlier if you can deal 20 via Frozen City, something like 140 with Flareon, and then finish things off with Stunfisk snipe, so it will certainly help a bit against the VirGen matchup.

I really like this build of Flareon. It’s certainly a strong deck and I would definitely test it if you’re not sure what to play on Saturday (and even if you are).

Advice for playing against the deck is matchup dependent, but there is one main theme to stick to. This deck thrives off trading non-EX’s for EX’s. It forces your opponent to take 6 KOs to win the game, while only needing to deal 3-4 in return. If you can alter the Prize trade in any fashion, you have to do so. This means taking 1-2 KOs with Blastoise if the situation calls for it, playing Absol in Darkrai or Plasma, or maybe teching a Lugia EX in VirGen or Plasma.

Honestly, as a Flareon player, my greatest fear is to face a Lugia EX. If you can Emerald Slash to Lugia on turn 2, Flareon has to deal with that ASAP or it loses in 3 turns.

That all said, I loved the deck build and think it’s a great way to innovate the deck for the current metagame. I was testing a similar concept, but went about solving the Blastoise matchup differently. Below is an alternate anti-meta deck built off the same backbone.


If I had to discuss what DOESN’T work about Flareon, it’s that you’re limited to 4 DCE’s per game. With so much Special Energy hate in the current format, Flareon really can’t afford to attach and swing for subpar damage. You’re far worse off dealing 2HKO damage while losing a Flareon AND a DCE early, than just losing a Flareon. It’s very easy to go for a big play, whiff DCE, and then lose your Flareon. Leafeon alleviates this problem, but can be played around to some extent. My response to this problem was Accelgor DEX.

Accelgor gives the deck an incredible amount of versatility due to its shuffle-back effect. First and foremost, your DCE’s put in a lot more work each game. If you have 2 DCE left, you’re not screwed if you still have to take 4 Prizes and need to KO non-EX’s.

Accelgor also aids with resource management. If you’re about to Juniper and have Tools in hand you don’t want to attach yet, stick em on Accelgor and shuffle them back later! If you want to deal strong damage fast, Accelgor can hit for 50 + Poison + Paralyze, which can be accompanied by Silver Bangle for an additional 30. And most important of all, no DCE is lost as a consequence of this early damage.

Originally, I was playing an Accelgor/Flareon/Drifblim/Garbodor deck. It’s honestly not a terrible deck, but requires proper emphasis for your local metagame. If you try to include everything, you end up with inconsistent counts of everything. For discussion purposes, here was the decklist:

Pokémon – 17

3 Eevee PLF 90

2 Flareon PLF

3 Shelmet PLB

2 Accelgor DEX

2 Drifloon PLB

2 Drifblim DRX

2 Trubbish DRX

1 Garbodor DRX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Bicycle

2 Colress

1 Computer Search


4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Float Stone

2 Switch

2 Silver Bangle

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Super Rod

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

3 R

Open Slots – 4

Considerations – Eevee, Flareon, Shelmet, Accelgor, Garbodor, Frozen City, extra Trainers, so many options…

I honestly can’t recommend an optimal last 4 slots in the deck. The deck is pretty busy with all it has to accomplish. I’m not going to spend time on this build though, as it’s not optimal. What needs to happen to make this deck work is to drop one matchup to reinforce every other.

That’s what the build below set out to accomplish. This is the decklist I played at BC Regionals. The matchup I dropped was VirGen to give strong matches against the rest of the meta. It seems like this would’ve been a terrible play in Arizona, but was a strong meta call in BC looking at the top tables (lots of Blastoise in Top 16).

Pokémon – 19

4 Shelmet PLB

3 Accelgor DEX

3 Drifloon PLB

2 Drifblim DRX

2 Trubbish DRX

2 Garbodor DRX

2 Mewtwo-EX NXD

1 Stunfisk DRX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Bicycle

3 Colress

1 Computer Search


4 Pokémon Catcher

4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

1 Heavy Ball

3 Float Stone

2 Switch

2 Silver Bangle

1 Super Rod

1 Enhanced Hammer

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless

2 F

Considerations – 2nd Stunfisk, 3rd Bangle
Has some good math right now.

If I were to change anything about the list, I would add a 2nd Stunfisk DRX and drop an Enhanced Hammer to do it. A single Enhanced Hammer vs. Plasma is too situational to make great use of. If you have to use it early, it rarely has any effect. It’s a card that only becomes potent in the mid-late game to stop an option.

Honestly, Accelgor + Mewtwo contributed far more to getting Energies into the discard early than Enhanced Hammer could. And Energies need to hit the discard early if you want to solidify the Plasma matchup.

Just throwing in a second Stunfisk looks weird with only 2 Fighting in the deck, but it’s not that big a deal. The primary reason to include a second Stunfisk is to have access to it when you need it. Often you have to discard it because you don’t want to bench it at the time. And with such a tight Energy line, in order to take advantage of Stunfisk, you often have to involve Super Rod.

With a 2nd Stunfisk, you gain the ability to finish things off that you didn’t quite loop with Accelgor, or to set up Deoxys for a Mewtwo war. It’s an important card the deck to function optimally.

The other option I really want is a 3rd Silver Bangle. Though it’s true that you can throw a Tool on Shelmet/Accelgor before a Juniper, Tool Scrapper is running rampant right now. If that Tool isn’t shuffled back immediately, it often ends up in the discard. The extra Bangle is important for ensuring Accelgor math, and can probably come from a Bicycle.

Accelgor Math

D&C = Deck and Cover

  • A Bangle’d D&C + D&C = 170 damage coming into your turn. That’s a loop on any 170 HP EX in Plasma or VirGen (provided Garbodor is shutting off Virizion-EX).
  • Stunfisk can also hit a Thundurus EX with a Bangle’d Muddy Water to be followed up by D&C for a loop.
  • A Bangle’d D&C = 1HKO on Keldeo-EX.
  • Deck and Cover = 70 damage entering your turn (loops Sableye, Trubbish, Drifloon…)
  • D&C with Virbank = Loops 90-110 HP Pokémon (Absol, Garbodor, Drifblim, Flareon…)

Matchup Approaches

This variant has weakened its VirGen matchup by losing Flareon. Against decks like the Top 8 Virizion/Mewtwo lists from Arizona, they ran no Scrappers and 3 Switch. You have Drifblim to take out Mewtwos once 2 DCE hit the discard, and you can use Accelgor to loop 170 HP EX’s under Garbotoxin. You have your own Mewtwos to respond to their overzealous Mewtwos, and can use Stunfisk to finish their Mewtwo off without giving up another 2 Prizes. I’d say that’s around a 50/50 matchup, if not better.

Against a normal VirGen, if they don’t run Switch (I’d be surprised to see more than 1), then their Scrapper counts dictate your success. 1 Scrapper and you should have a good chance, but two Scrappers make for a tough matchup. However, for that trade you get solid to good matchups against the rest of the metagame.

Vs. Blastoise

“Leave us alone!”

You destroy them. You take 1HKOs on Keldeos, trade non-EX attackers, can respond to Blastoise with either Accelgor or Mewtwo (Stunfisk deals the extra 20 snipe that Mewtwo misses). Oh… and there’s Garbodor.

Vs. Darkrai

You use Deck and Cover to take 2HKOs without being hit in return. Mewtwo and Stunfisk do a great job in dealing big damage here. Either will combo with a Bangle’d Deck and Cover for KO. If they play down Virbank City Gym, there’s no problem on your end in finishing off combos. And a Bangle’d Muddy Water is equivalent to a 1-Energy Megalo Cannon.

You can also loop their Sableye or any Trubbish that they may have benched. And again, if Virbank is in play, you can loop Absol. It’s a strong matchup.

Vs. Plasma

This is the worrisome matchup, but it’s not as bad as you might think. With the ability to loop 170 HP EX’s, and Drifblims to take easy Prizes against Deoxys you’re fairly safe. Again, Bangled Stunfisk can hit Thundurus EX for good numbers. And a brilliant play is to put 60 damage on Kyurem PLF in some fashion. This may be with Mewtwo after they have one Energy attached, or it could be a D&C that they’ve switched out of. Either way, it leaves Kyurem with 70 HP and in perfect loop range.

The numbers are favorable for you in this matchup, but their speed is troubling. Honestly, the matchup is close to 50/50, but I’d rather be on the Accelgor side. I’ve made 5-Prize comebacks due to Deck and Cover, which is something Plasma doesn’t have the ability to do.

Is This Deck Actually Something You Should Consider?

Not in the southern US it seems! I comfortably sacrificed the VirGen matchup due to its lack of prevalence in my local metagame. VirGen is a strong Tier 1 deck. But it’s also the newest deck, and one of the most expensive to build. It’s not the BDIF like Darkrai was when it came out, so people aren’t just flocking to VirGen out of necessity. It’s an expensive deck that gives as good a result as any other Tier 1 deck. It’s only about 10% of my metagame, which was not my primary concern. But with 3 Virizion builds in the Top 8 of Arizona, you’d have to be pretty ballsy to play Accelgor.

However up north, this is a deck that decimates Blastoise. It has a strong Darkrai matchup which is currently one of the top plays on people’s minds (especially after Israel’s second week in a row winning with it), and it doesn’t sacrifice its Plasma matchup which is something that Landorus/Mewtwo/Garb does. You’re guaranteed to face more Plasma than VirGen.

This deck also wrecks Tier 2 threats like Tool Time, and cramped decks like Flareon that can’t run many Switch. Against Big Basics/Garb, you can perfect loop their 170 HP EX’s and throw in Drifblim during trades, which brings the matchup back from what would otherwise be unfavourable territory. I don’t think it deserves a 1-of tech, but if you’re really worried you could tech Kyurem-EX PLB or even lil’ Keldeo to take on Landorus-EX.

Secret Strength: Preserve the Win

Probably the greatest unknown strength of this deck is its ability to play with time limits. Simply put, this deck should never lose a match.

Think about it this way. This deck is rarely if ever going to finish 3 games in 50 minutes. So let’s play two games against a 50/50 matchup. Flip a coin marked “Win” and “Loss” twice. 25% of the time you’ll win both games, 50 % you’ll win/tie, 25% you’ll lose both games.

But in reality, you preserve your wins by playing things out in Game 2. It’s not that this is stalling, it’s just that the deck takes a while to finish a game. It’s a consequence of the deck choice. Either way, this distorts the ratios up there. Instead of thinking of a 50/50 matchup as a 25/50/25 split, it would be more accurate to think of it as ~37/37/25.

And that’s all only applicable if the matchup is 50/50 (i.e. Plasma). Against its favorable matches, you distort the ratio from the “Ties” possibility into the “Wins” possibility. It’s just a good deck to abuse the Swiss time limit!

Scenario #1: If you win Game 1, you should be able to play out to time for Game 2 and win the match (or just win Game 2).

Scenario #2: If you lose Game 1, you can scoop and leave enough time for Game 2 and take the tie.

With its strong matchups, Scenario #1 is what you’ll see against Blastoise and Darkrai. Against Plasma, you’ll see either Scenario #1 or #2. That was the case this weekend. My one Plasma loss was where Game 1 I never played a Supporter before I was benched out, and their list ran no Blends/Prisms (thus no Drifblims for me). The more traditional Plasma builds I faced either resulted in a Win or a Tie. I faced 1 Tool Time (Loss #1, funny story) and the rest were Plasma this weekend for a meh 3-2-2 finish. No Blastoise/Darkrai for me!

If you wouldn’t consider it now, then I can say that this is a deck that gets significantly better with the new first turn rules come November 8th! You rarely attacked Turn 1 anyway, so all that has changed is you’re now safe from a donk. Additionally, you’ll be in a metagame with perceivably more VirGen, Darkrai, and Blastoise. Flareon/Friends or any variant of “Friends” is going to remain a solid anti-meta deck. Including the right ingredients for your metagame is certainly the most important consideration to make.

Nothing is set in stone about the metagame for NXD-XY, but I know that I’ll absolutely be re-visiting Garbodor/Friends when the time comes. That may involve Flareon, that may involve Accelgor, Stunfisk, Drifblim, etc… only time will tell! It may not even involve Garbodor as Tyler demonstrated!

The Scoop on Best-of-3’s

The other Underground writers have done a great job covering the nuances of the new best-of-three format. That said, I wanted to give a quick recap since we’re heading into the biggest weekend of Regionals, and I wanted to put my own spin on things.

50 Minutes

pidgey clock
“Cuckoo, cuckoo!”

First things first, the best-of-three format may seem terrible with 50 minutes as there will be many matches ending in a draw. However, for the outcry it’s received, people are forgetting that this is still significantly better than a single-game Swiss system!

Last year, if you were donked, you lost the round. Last year, if you started with no Supporters/drew dead and were overrun, you lost the round. This influenced deck choices people could viably make, and was the bane of many players’ tournament experiences.

This year, if a player is genuinely more skilled than their opponent, the worst outcome of the best-of-three should be a tie. That is leagues better than a loss, and I don’t think you’ll find anyone disagreeing with me on that point. Additionally, if a player is genuinely more skilled than their opponent, they should be able to win the first 2 games, so it becomes a non-issue. And of course, as others have pointed out, knowing when to scoop is going to be very important.

The Scoop

I’ll echo Jay’s sentiments here. It’s now more important than ever to know when to scoop quickly. Different matchups play at different speeds, so be sure to make your willingness to scoop matchup-specific. I find that most games I play in this format are between 15-25 minutes. That’s enough time for 2 full games usually. This means most matches aren’t going to be able to play 3 full games. That’s a very important point to consider.

If you’re facing an unfavourable matchup, it may be best to gun for the tie off the bat. This means that you play a drawn-out Game 1, hope to win Game 2, and have time called during Game 3. If you’re playing a deck like Blastoise that can just win a game in 3 turns, then a quick scoop will give you the chance to win rather than tie.

However, if you’re not confident in finishing a Game 3, this is a decent strategy. Especially since you’ll go first in Game 2. Most importantly, gauge your time remaining. If you’re drawing Game 1 out, and you hit ~15 minutes, you ought to scoop at that point to ensure a second game can be completed.

Thinking about it this way might make things more concrete. The fastest a full game should end is ~12 minutes with a reasonable pace. The slowest a full game should end is ~30 minutes with a reasonable pace. Thus if you’re in a losing position in Game 1, you should hold out for ~15 minutes before scooping if you can. This leaves ~35 minutes in the match for Game 2 to be completed. After shuffling etc…, you’ll probably have ~32 minutes left. Checkmate, with appropriate playing speed you’ve got a tie (provided you win Game 2).

Now, you as an Underground reader are sure to be savvy about this strategy. And you should employ counter-measures to prevent your opponent’s desire from stealing your win!

Preserving the Win

Say you’ve won Game 1, are confident in winning Game 3, but unsure about your position in Game 2. Scooping Game 2 quickly can leave time for a full Game 3 to be played. This is a really tough thing to make yourself do, as you have the advantage entering Game 2. But be reasonable and don’t hold out for a win due to an unfinished Game 2. Most matchups will finish 2 games within 50 minutes + 3 turns. If it’s a good matchup, give yourself the chance to take the series 2-1. If you end it 1-1, you may regret it afterward.

Logic of the Intentional Draw

I won’t go into the ethics of the intentional draw. However if a tournament system allows draws, there will be intentional draws. If you’re a competitive player, you want to give yourself every opportunity to win the event.

First things first, pairings/rankings. Pairings are determined by point totals, not specifically by number of wins/losses. The points awarded for a match are as follows:

  • Win – 3 points
  • Loss – 0 Points
  • Draw – 1 Point
Intentional draws can be risky.

So if you have a record of 4-0-1, you have 13 points. You could be paired “down” against 4-1-0’s with 12 points. If you have a record of 4-0-2, you have 14 points. You could be paired “up” against 5-1-0’s with 15 points.

It’s good to note that total wins does not factor into your resistance, only total points. So a player at 5-0-3 has the same total points as a player with 6-2-0. Of note, a 5-0-3 player has been paired with favorable resistance in the tournament. Resistance = Wins/Total Matches. If you’re 5-0-3, you’ve likely been paired against other X-0-Y’s in the tournament. This means your opponents of similar record have no previous losses to contribute to your resistance.

Thus, a 5-0-3’s resistance will be far more similar to a 6-2-0 player than a 5-3-0 player. This is a big revelation! Players that can force a draw when in a losing situation give themselves this chance for favorable pairings.

So… regarding intentional draws, what are you to do to protect your strong start? Finishing X-0-2 is obviously better than X-2-0. But most often you won’t need to draw twice. Though it’s always possible that an X-1-1 record will bubble, most if not all should be safe.

The problem with everyone embracing ID’s is that if everyone were to do it, then the last rounds of Swiss would not improve a player’s standing over another player. If you had a group of 10 players sitting pretty and looking to ID into cut, then only 8 of them can make it! You have to be careful that your ID won’t just let your chances of cut be determined resistance. It should be an open and closed case.

So how can you know if it’s safe to ID? Count the total players with the same potential end record as your worst possible end record, and factor in your resistance. If you’re unsure of your resistance, don’t ID. You can’t guarantee your next opponent will want to ID either, so you may just be shooting yourself in the foot. Generally, I see it as safe if the total attendance is low, but unsafe if it’s closer to the Swiss-round limit.

tl;dr? – Intentional draws aren’t always a safe way to make it into cut, so if you’re unsure just play the freakin’ game.

Memory Tricks
Or just eat one of these!

With best-of-three now standard, it can be confusing trying to count your Prizes and remember what’s prized and what isn’t amongst games. Recently I saw an interesting TedTalks on improving your memory.

Essentially, we have outsourced our memory to external devices. Have an appointment? Write it in your calendar. Need to know specific facts? Take notes and refer to them later. This is nothing new. This sort of outsourcing is a consequence of literacy, and has been steadily increasing since the advent of paper. However nowadays, we have personal devices like smart phones and pocket calendars that prevent us from having to remember anything in specific until it’s relevant.

Now we are allowed to take notes, which is a very easy way to guarantee we have our information recorded. I’ll take a moment to point out that your notes are personal, and the reason you’re not allowed to use codes is if a judge requests to see your notes. Some people are under the impression notes are required to be public knowledge (I was once as well after hearing misinformation), but the rules clearly state:

8. Note Taking

Players may choose not to share these notes with other players, but a judge may ask to see a player’s notes and request an explanation if needed. …

Still, note taking must be done so as not to interrupt the flow of the game. Players are required to be “timely” with their note taking. This leaves restrictions on when you can take notes open-ended, but generally other players don’t appreciate you taking time out of your turn to write notes. They may call a judge to watch for stalling.

Not only that, but having to constantly refer to your notes can distract your thought processes. And of course, if you’re taking notes, you aren’t able to observe your opponent at the time you’re writing. This may cause you to miss a card being played, or an opening in their poker face. It’s important to be able to keep notes concise for this reason.

But even better, why not just improve your memory so that notes become less essential? Though I recommend watching the talk, I can hit the main points here.

People remember things better if they can associate them with something familiar. For instance, say I told you to remember that someone’s name was “Baker.” The next day, you might find it difficult to remember their name. Now if I told you that someone was a “Baker,” and asked the next day, you’d probably remember their profession easily.

We employ this principle when we take advantage of mnemonics. For instance, it’s difficult to remember the old arrangement of biological classifications. Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species is tough to remember. But if you associate the acronym DKPCOFGS with a mnemonic that shares the same first letters, you’ll access the mental pathway that helps you remember the classifications better. An example might be: “Do Kids Painfully Cry Out For Gummy Sweets.” Remembering a sentence is easier than remembering an assortment of letters.

This is the strategy I used when I played Alph Lithograph FOUR in Durant last season. I’d rearrange my Prizes such that the first letters made an acronym I could remember, so I knew what Prize to take when it mattered. This of course works for Prize memory in any deck, provided you can figure things out with your initial search. This would count as a code on your note sheet, so if a judge requested, you’d have to spell out all your prizes in your notes each game.

So if you’re good at creating acronyms, or mnemonics, then this approach is a good way to remember your Prizes. If you’re finding it confusing to remember which acronym you used in which game, just include the game number in your mnemonic!

For example:

  1. Game 2 your Prizes are Blastoise, Squirtle, Ultra Ball, Superior Energy Retrieval, Pokémon Catcher, W Energy. This can become BSUSPW. If that works, just use BSUSPW. But if you need more of a hint then you can move on to step 2.
  2. Rearrange as you think of something: SUPWBS – Game 2
  3. I’ve made mine a gripe I foreseeably could tell a friend. “Some Unfortunate Prizing Was B.S. Too” = SUPWBS2

But an interesting tip from the TedTalk was that our spatial memory is much better than our abstract memory. This means you remember the physical arrangement of things and mental images much better than concepts you’ve read or been told. For example, it’s difficult to memorize a presentation word-for-word. But if you have slides or cue cards with images on them, you can expand on those reminders.

Well, you can do this without the slides or cue cards too! Instead, you associate images with concepts. For instance, if you wanted to remember your Prizes better you could create a mental image or collage of images to key into your brain.

For example…

Instead of remembering a semi-abstract mnemonic, you could envision a scene or story. For the Prizes – Blastoise, Squirtle, Ultra Ball, Superior Energy Retrieval, Pokémon Catcher, W Energy – I might think:

A Blastoise (Blastoise) hands its kid Squirtle (Squirtle) a bottle of Water (Water). Then an evil Pokémon Trainer (a Catcher of Pokémon) threw a Ball (Ultra Ball) and caught the Blastoise. Afterward, he stole the bottle from the Squirtle. (He was Superior at Retrieving the Water. Also he’s a jerk!)

And as random as that sounds, you can train yourself to get better at this mental image thing just as you can with any sort of studying. Just practice it every now and then. The TedTalks speaker just spent 10-15 minutes every morning coming up with mental images because it was fun. And after a year’s training (to be fair, he got really into it), he won the United States Memory Championships.

If you have any other memory tips, feel free to share them in the forums thread!


squirtle charmander bulbasaur
We have balance!

Whew! One thing I can say is that this format is pretty well balanced. I can’t see a single deck as a frontrunner for BDIF, and there is a strong pool of anti-meta cards to mash together as a cohesive deck. If you told me you were playing any of 6 or 7 decks I’d say that’s a fair choice.

I’m really looking forward to the new first turn rules and Catcher errata. Though most Tier 1 strategies will remain strong, decks will have to adapt to developing metagame conditions. But I suppose that’s just stating the obvious.

Remember to vote on this article! I touched on a couple very different topics so I hope there was something for everyone.


Crawdaunt out

P.S. I also posted today on TCG with Hats about a surprisingly successful deck from this past weekend, Dragonite/Garbodor. Be sure to check it out.

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