One of the things that I enjoy most about this game is deck building. I love going to tournaments with a new rogue deck that counters the meta or playing a popular deck with a little known tech to counter the other top-decks.
I don’t play random techs just to be different, but I love taking underrated or less used cards and proving how good they can be. I enjoy playing in fun tournaments with different formats (no-EX’s, only certain types, etc.). Restraints force you to think outside the box.
Deck building is also one of the most underrated parts of being a top tier player. However, the format for the last two years has been horrible for creativity when it comes to deck building. Pokémon Catcher has single-handedly made a considerable amount of legal cards in the format unplayable. Catcher just makes the format too fast.
The speed of the format basically limited you to play fast speed Basic decks with small aspects of control. There was no room for originality because any deck that required even the smallest amount of setup wasn’t viable. I’ve had many late night conversations throwing around great deck ideas to only be met with one simple response: “It’s not fast enough.”
However, on November 8th this all changed and deck building is once again going to play a major part in competitive play. For the last month I’ve been throwing around and have been testing numerous different deck ideas. This is the most fun I’ve had building and testing decks in ages; there are simply so many more possibilities to play and threats you have to be ready for.
In this article I want to share lists and talk about some of the most successful decks I’ve been testing. Going beyond lists, I also want to quickly break down and discuss how these new rules have changed my approach to deck building.
Lastly, there are quite a few really good modified cards that were originally thrown aside due to the speed of the format, but with the new changes have received a breath of life. There are going to be major changes coming in this game and after this article I’ll make sure you’re at the front of them!
Table of Contents
- Fort Wayne Regionals Non-Report
- The New Rules
- The Return of Bench-sitters
- Numbers of Tropical Beach
Fort Wayne Regionals Non-Report
I really wish I had a fun and crazy report to tell you about, but sadly I wasn’t able to attend the first set of Regionals this year. The last few months have involved a lot of big changes for me.
A friend of mine from Pokémon put in a good word for me at his company. The interview went well and I recently got hired for a full-time position and then made a huge move about 3.5 hours from home for the job. The move puts me much closer to a group of my Pokémon friends and to my girlfriend of almost a year. Everything in my life is going really well, as is my new job.
Sadly my new job requires me to work some weekends, which prevented me from attending Fort Wayne Regionals like I had originally hoped to. Missing Regionals really didn’t change how I prepared for it though. A major benefit of my recent move is that I’m considerably closer to a large group of my testing partners. With all of them looking for strong showings at Regionals I prepared just as aggressively for the event as ever.
I’ve honestly probably been playing and testing more lately than I have in the past. We’re all very competitive up here and that raises the bar for everybody.
The New Rules
We got a few new rules that went into effect on November 8th, which I’ll briefly discuss below. While these might be only minor changes, they’ll have a major impact on the metagame.
1. The player going first cannot attack on their first turn.
It’s pretty easy to see which decks gained an advantage and which ones got hurt by this. Basically, any deck that wants to attack first turn took a hit (Darkrai and Plasma), while any deck that couldn’t or didn’t necessarily need to attack on the first turn benefited (Virizion, Blastoise, setup decks).
This ruling also made Tropical Beach considerably better, since it is the only available first turn option besides passing.
2. Pokémon Catcher now requires a coin flip for its effect to take place.
I expect to see a huge decline in the number of decks that play Pokémon Catcher. I personally think that flip cards should only be played if they have huge game winning effects and in many cases get dropped from decks that are tight on space.
Some of the speed decks might stick with Pokémon Catcher, but I expect to see a shift more toward slower setup based decks since the Bench will be safer.
This might cause some confusion for newer players. For parents, I might take a minute and remind your Juniors or Seniors Division players that if they see their opponent play both to call a judge.
The Return of Bench-sitters
The term “Bench-sitter” is actually something that newer players may not be familiar with. We really haven’t seen them since mid-2011 right before Black & White hit. Basically, a Bench-sitter is a Pokémon that is either designed not to attack or attack only in certain situations and is instead used mainly for its Ability. Normally Bench-sitters are played in a 1, 1-1, 2-2, 1-0-1, 2-0-2, or 2-1-2 line.
Many of the decks that I plan on discussing in this article involve Bench-sitters in some form. With the Pokémon Catcher errata, Pokémon are now much safer on the Bench. This means you can run much thinner lines of Pokémon than you could in the past and new life is brought to decks that many people originally considered unplayable.
The following are my top 5 Bench-sitters that I feel will see a decent amount of play. I would recommend making sure that you own a couple copies of each of these cards.
5. Serperior DRX
I know this might seem like an off the wall card to put on the list, but I feel it has so much potential. I’ve been playing around with some Serperior/Reuniclus infinite heal decks, but I haven’t found any combination that is consistent or fast enough to compete with short rounds. It’s still a card I’m keeping in mind though.
Keldeo already sees a decent amount of play, but the biggest change for the card is you no longer need to play more than one copy in most decks. Previously players sometimes played two copies in case one was “locked” Active. With a decrease in Pokémon Catcher (and Virizion-EX seeing enough play that Status Condition-based decks won’t be as popular) it’s unlikely that the one copy will ever be put in any real danger.
Electrode is one of those cards that was always almost good enough to play. I really like built-in draw power and Electrode is a perfect for this. It certainly isn’t going to find its way into every deck, but a 1-1 line is perfect in decks that play a lot of Pokémon search and discarding cards.
Check out my Blastoise list below to see how I think the big turtle can benefit from Magnetic draw.
2. Mr. Mime PLF
There are so many cards that hit the Bench for damage (Darkrai, Landorus, Kyurem, etc.) that devoting a single spot to Mr. Mime is a good idea in nearly every deck nowadays. The only deck that I might not want to play Mr. Mime in is a deck that is already tight on Bench space. However, almost every deck I have built right now plays 1 copy.
The more I think about it, the more I start to question whether Mr. Mime might be too good. Even back in the days of Pokémon Reversal there were a lot of ways to hit the Bench for damage (Rayquaza e DF, Flygon-EX DF, Jolteon-EX, Absol e). With Mr. Mime the Bench is almost off limits, especially when there is no real way to deal with Mr. Mime itself.
1. Dusknoir BCR
This card is by far my absolutely favorite replacement for Pokémon Catcher. Basically what the card does is allows a way to deal with threats on the Bench without actually having to drag them Active. Dusknoir does take more setup than Catcher did and requires damage on the board to deal with a Benched threat. However, it also makes sure that you never waste the damage that you deal.
I feel so strongly that Dusknoir is going to be one of the most played cards in the new format that I went on eBay and bought 7 Secret Rare Dusknoirs from Plasma Blast in the hopes of turning a small profit.
Numbers of Tropical Beach
With not being able to attack first turn, when going first, this card is the only viable first turn play any deck can make. That means that it is probably going to see play in nearly every deck. However, before going any further I would like to address a comment that I saw in the forums in regards to Kenny’s Blastoise article.
“Just wish people newer to the game had even a slim chance of making any of the lists you provided….minimum 800 for cat list with just beaches! Oh well….”
The price of Tropical Beach is absolutely absurd and this comment really echoes the belief of myself and the rest of the community. The price isn’t fair, but the sad truth is Tropical Beach is a necessity for nearly every deck. While you may look at some of my lists and be discouraged by my high counts of Tropical Beach, I believe I would be doing a greater disservice if I showed watered down lists without Beach.
If you don’t have access to Tropical Beach, I would strongly focus more on decks that either don’t need Beach, like Darkrai, or have built-in draw power that could get by without it such as Virizion or Empoleon. Both of these decks would be better with Tropical Beach, but they are still viable without it.
I think 1 Tropical Beach is perfect for decks that are designed to go off on T2. Perfect examples of this are decks that revolve around Virizion-EX. They really have no T1 plays, but T2 onward they want to be attacking with either Virizion or another attacker.
By playing a single copy of Tropical Beach the deck has access to the card, but isn’t wasting space on a card it really doesn’t want after T1 anyway.
I think that two copies should mainly be ran in decks that like to have Tropical Beach T1/T2 but have other early options as well. Darkrai/Hydreigon is prime example of this as a first turn Tropical Beach is ideal, but in the early turns of the game the deck also relies on using Junk Hunt to get back key Item cards.
So while the deck benefits from an early Tropical Beach, it doesn’t solely rely on it. Usually on turns two and three the deck might either want to use Junk Hunt or Tropical Beach depending on the gamestate.
I like three Tropical Beach in Stage 2 setup decks that don’t have discarding options like SER or Empoleon’s “Dive and Draw.” If Tropical Beach is heavy in an area, even Blastoise players may fall down to only 3 copies to avoid having dead cards against other decks relying on Beach.
This count is for decks that rely on Beach to set up in the early game and don’t really have any other plays for the first few turns of the game. I also usually only like to run 4 copies if the decks relies on a lot of discards and is able to get rid of the extra copies before they become a liability with late game N’s.
Blastoise is the best example of this right now as the player basically sits back using Tropical Beach until they have what they need. They also run plenty of ways to get rid of the extra copies. Though if many decks start running high counts of Tropical Beach then it might be worth it to go down to three copies of Tropical Beach knowing that a copy (either yours or your opponent’s) will likely hit the table early anyway.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
I really think this deck is viable again because you can get by with running a much slimmer line of Hydreigon. A simple 2-1-2 line is effective because once you get a Hydreigon on the Bench it’s unlikely your opponent will be able to deal with it. The deck is also easily techable for various metagames. I went with a list teched heavily for Darkrai and Virizion/Mewtwo.
I will admit that this is a list that I haven’t tested yet as I awkwardly realized I’d sold most of the main cards (Hydreigon) thinking that with Catcher in the format it would never be above a Tier 2 deck. It’s not a whole lot of fun going back to Troll and Toad buying cards back for higher prices than you sold them for, but the way the meta is shifting I don’t mind.
Here are the Pokémon in my list that I consider changeable techs:
This card has always been a really strong counter to both Mewtwo EX and Deoxys-EX. However it was always very susceptible to double Pokémon Catcher and the 4 Energy investment was simply too much for the deck to lose. Now with the new Catcher ruling your opponent can no longer double Catcher to reactivate its Weakness.
Also now once Cresselia-EX takes a hit you can safely retreat it to the Bench and not have to worry about your opponent playing Pokémon Catcher for a couple easy Prizes. Cresselia also has built-in healing which means you can leave it on the Bench for a few turns and you don’t even have to waste a Max Potion on it.
The one copy of Virizion-EX is sort of a tech and sort of not. My quandary was between Virizion and a single copy of Keldeo-EX. Both have their pros and cons. Virizion requires you to have Blend Energy in play, but it makes your opponent’s Lasers completely useless.
Keldeo-EX on the on the other hand simply needs to have a Darkness Energy in play, but your opponent does get that initial 10 or 30 damage from Laser. They both can be situational attackers. I consider this card choice to be personal preference.
This is your answer to Virizion/Genesect since with 3 Energy it can 1HKO either. If you expect straight Virizion/Genesect to be big in your area I’d even recommend playing 2 Entei-EX and perhaps a basic Fire Energy.
The Terrakion is clearly played as an answer to Darkrai, but can also be a good option against Bouffalant as well. With such a high count on Max Potion your Darkrai matchup really isn’t that bad, so I went with a very soft counter of only 1 Terrakion and 1 Fighting Energy.
You won’t be able to Land Crush, but it is still easy to pull off a quick Retaliate against a fast Darkrai. More Fighting Energy and a second Terrakion would help the matchup more, but right now I’m content with the singular copies.
I actually think the deck has pretty favorable matchups across the board beside Blastoise. I’ve looked at some different options, but I can’t seem to find anything to improve that very dismal matchup. However, I think Hydreigon a great play going into a tournament where you pretty certain of the meta (like a small League Challenge) and can adapt the list accordingly.
I’m not joking around when I say I think that this deck has some serious potential now. With the Catcher errata, two very major things have changed that make this deck viable:
- To win the game you can force your opponent to take 7 Prize cards (5 non-EX and 1 EX).
- Your opponent can’t as easily remove Dusknoir from the field.
I actually tested this deck around Cities last year for a short time, but kept running into the same problem: The opponent could easily Catcher and KO Dusknoir before it became a problem. However, that is no longer a readily available option for the opponent, and combined with the fact that I believe we’ll see a shift in the meta more toward setup decks, which require larger Benches, I think Empoleon gains a lot of power.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 31
Energy – 9
The deck aims at forcing the opponent to have to take 7 Prizes by Knocking Out 5 non-EX Pokémon followed by 1 EX Pokémon. A deck like this really thrives in an EX-heavy environment as it is far more favorable to trade a non-EX for an EX.
I only play 1 copy of Tropical Beach because I want the option to use it if I go first, but I don’t want to hide behind Tropical Beach to set up like Blastoise does. As early as possible I want to transition into Landorus-EX or Stunfisk and simply try to get damage on the board. Hopefully in the later stages of the game this early damage will allow me to get crucial 1HKOs through Empoleon with the help of Dusknoir.
I know playing both Jirachi-EX and Exeggcute is risky, but the deck benefits dramatically from both. The synergy between Exeggcute and Empoleon is clear and the deck has enough free Bench space to incorporate Jirachi. The single copy of Jirachi also helps ensure my turn 1 Tropical Beach if that’s the route I want to go.
Originally I had considered a build that played 3 Frozen City as a way to get extra damage on the board. However, space in the list is extremely tight and I opted to go with a high count of Silver Bangle instead. It was going to be impossible for me to fit 3 copies of both cards, and the matchups that Frozen City is extremely good in (namely Blastoise and Darkrai) so is Silver Bangle. Not being able to counter Virbank City Gym is bad, but not worth giving up Bangle in my opinion.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
With Pokémon Catcher no longer a threat, I feel the deck can survive with a lesser Blastoise line. However, a 3-0-3 line is about the smallest I would consider playing.
Blastoise can benefit from Electrode probably better than any other deck in the format. It’s very easy for the deck to play itself down to a small hand and then use Electrode to quickly draw back up to 4 cards. The deck also can take some hard losses to late game N’s which is now less of a problem with the built-in draw power.
There are a couple of different ways that you can go with this deck. I feel like you basically have one spot to play a bad opener, which is either going to be Jirachi-EX or Exeggcute PLF. I went with Jirachi-EX because I like the added level of consistency it brings. The deck could very easily play Exeggcute instead, but some changes in the list should be made to reflect this.
I briefly want to touch on the Garbodor matchup as I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how much worse it got for Blastoise not being able to Catcher and KO the Garbodor. In reality I think the Garbodor deck might have lost more with the errata than Blastoise did.
One of the greatest strengths of Garbodor was its ability to Catcher up a helpless Pokémon and strand it active. That’s no longer a guaranteed option and the Garbodor player is now forced to deal with whatever threat the Blastoise player puts in front of it.
This is definitely a card that I feel Blastoise players should definitely test in-depth against as it plays very differently than before.
I feel there are quite a few different ways to approach Darkrai right now. I’m going to use Israel Sosa’s Regionals winning list as the base point of what a standard Speed Darkrai decked looked like before November 8th.
Let’s start off with his list:
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 40
Energy – 11
There are a couple of different ways that you could go about changing it. The first is simply take out 3 Pokémon Catcher and put in 3 Energy Switch and call it a day. However, these would honestly be my top two ways to run the deck if I were to play it tomorrow.
Speed Darkrai with Ninetales
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 39
Energy – 10
In this first list I replaced my 3 copies of Pokémon Catcher with a 1-1 Ninetales line along with a single copy of Devolution Spray. This will allow me a “Catcher” effect every other turn. It’s not nearly as good as Pokémon Catcher was, but it’s good when you have access to it and your opponent doesn’t.
If you think Klinklang is going to see play you could also include a basic Fire Energy giving Ninetales 1HKO potential.
If you decide you don’t like Frozen City then also switch the Dowsing Machine to a Computer Search. The Frozen City for the Blastoise matchup is really the only reason I run Dowsing Machine in the deck.
Control Darkrai with Electrode
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 38
Energy – 11
This second take is considerably different than I’ve ever run Darkrai before. It’s a very control-based variant, focused around using Ghetsis and Crushing Hammer to suppress the opponent rather than Pokémon Catcher.
Now, Ghetsis can be a very weak draw card at times (we use it for disruption and not consistency), so I decided to play a 1-1 Electrode in the deck. I loved playing a heavy Bike count in the deck at Nationals and Worlds, so a free Bike every turn for only 2 spots fit right in. I wanted to try Electrode in Darkrai as soon as I heard about the errata on Pokémon Catcher, and a list with a lot of burnable control cards seemed like the perfect list to try it in.
Also note that since I decided to not to play Skyla I am also not playing many single “1-of” tech copies. While cards like Max Potion and Tool Scrapper can be extremely useful, without reliable methods of searching them out it’s very unlikely I’m going to draw into them at the right time.
I think the errata on Pokémon Catcher and first turn attack ruling hurt Plasma considerably more than they help. However, the deck is still viable and simply needs to adapt more toward its strengths.
Here’s where I’m currently at with the deck:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 37
Energy – 13
If you caught Pooka’s Indiana Regionals report you might have seen that he discussed his backup choice for the tournament. His Plasma list was atypical, but he had excellent rationale behind his card choices. He talked mainly about how most of his losses with Plasma came when he missed an Energy attachment.
Plasma players go through a lot of effort to get “extra” Energy attachments in play through Colress Machine and Thundurus EX. However, these extra attachments mean considerably less if you miss your normal Energy attachment for the turn. Pooka’s Plasma list devoted a lot of effort into making sure he got that normal attachment every turn.
Moving forward with Plasma I feel it’s extremely important to make the deck revolve around Kyurem as it is the strongest non-EX attacker Plasma has available. The Catcher errata makes it harder to ignore when Active and more difficult to target while on the Bench. With this focus it’s extremely important to get that standard Energy attachment every turn, so my list borrows very heavily from Pooka’s with a couple adjustments.
However, the importance of Tropical Beach in several top tier decks means it will see a lot of play, which makes sticking a Virbank on the field even more beneficial for you as it in turn hinders your opponent. The 3rd copy allows you a better chance to counter your opponent’s Beaches and come out on top of the “Stadium war.”
The harsh truth is that you lose to even a single copy of Silver Mirror. Without Catcher you can’t play around it and most decks that play Silver Mirror run 2-4 copies. Knowing I’m going to be at a severe disadvantage anyway, I didn’t even bother devoting the 1 spot to a subpar card for the deck.
The good news though is that Plasma comprises such a small portion of the meta that almost no deck actually runs Silver Mirror.
Honestly this is not a deck that I’d play in a tournament because I’m too scared of that remote chance of hitting a Silver Mirror. However, Plasma is still a top tier deck and one of the best options for players who don’t have access to Tropical Beach.
There is a little bit of a learning curve to this new format, especially for players that started playing after 2011. The main point I would like to emphasize is to not take your unchanged pre-November 8th deck to a tournament and expect it to do just as well. Really take some time to analyze the format and think about which cards get better (and which get worse). I think we will see people come up with a number of unique techs to counter the meta.
League Challenges are under way and City Championships will be getting started too. I haven’t played in a tournament since Worlds, and I’m excited to get back into the grind of things again.
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