Hello everyone! I am Jon Bristow, and this will be my first article (hopefully of many) for SixPrizes Underground. For those who do not know me, I have been playing this game since January of 2006 with various accomplishments, both in the Seniors Division as well as the Masters Division. The most recent of these is my 8th place finish at the 2013 World Championships, which you can read about here.
Now, before I begin the actual content of my article, I would like to set some goals for myself as a writer. When reading articles posted in Underground over the past year or so, I noticed that, ratings aside, the articles I found the most useful to me as a reader were not the ones that dumped lists everywhere, but the ones that got you inside the player’s head to help you improve personally.
As such, my goal for my time as a writer is going to be to provide you, the reader, with the tools you need not only to grow as a player, but as a deck builder as well. This means that beyond providing lists and strategies, I want you to be able to walk away from an article and create a deck or list of your own.
Table of Contents
- Philadelphia Regionals 2013
- A Word on 50 Minutes Best-of-Three
- Deck Discussion
Philadelphia Regionals 2013
The format for this tournament had a lot of possibilities. The East Coast was getting its first tournament of the season when the West Coast had played the previous two weeks. Darkrai EX, piloted by Israel Sosa, had won two of those Regionals and was rightfully a hot deck on everyone’s mind. The tournament was insanely large and I knew that there would be a lot of games to play if I planned to get far.
The deck I chose was a straightforward Kyurem/Deoxys deck:
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 39
Energy – 13
The deck was designed around the idea that Kyurem, with a Silver Bangle attached, is the best card in the format. What I think many people seemed to miss was that with 3 Deoxys-EX in play, a Bangled Frost Spear was the equivalent of Darkrai EX’s Night Spear, but for only two Energy.
Furthermore, the deck had a couple of options that Darkrai EX didn’t, namely Blizzard Burn but also Deoxys-EX’s Helix Force. The deck could be swinging for between 30 and 90 damage to the Active and 30 to the Bench on turn one. From there, I recognized that I needed to add every card possible to make that ideal turn one possible.
The deck had fewer options than a typical Team Plasma deck, but I put a higher value on the setup aspect than I did the flexibility. After all, who wants to have to play out of a sticky spot with every last card in the deck when you could be in control from turn two on?
The deck was also very nice with the clock, as I was winning the games where I had a good start in only 15-20 minutes. Knowing that, it should come of no surprise that I only tied once throughout the entire tournament.
My matchups were as follows. I finished in 12th place, losing to Jimmy O’Brien in the last round to knock myself out of the tournament:
R1 vs. Big Basics/Drifblim (LWW) 1-0-0
R2 vs. Virizion/Mewtwo (WW) 2-0-0
R3 vs. Darkrai (WW) 3-0-0
R4 vs. Virizion/Genesect (LWL) 3-1-0
R5 vs. Porygon-Z/Plasma Techs (WW) 4-1-0
R6 vs. Virizion/Mewtwo (LL) 4-2-0
R7 vs. Darkrai Garbodor (WW) 5-2-0
R8 vs. Big Basics/Garbodor (WLW) 6-2-0
R9 vs. Blastoise (LWW) 7-2-0
R10 vs. Virizion/Mewtwo (WLW) 8-2-0
R11 vs. Blastoise (WW) 9-2-0
R12 vs. Virizion/Mewtwo (T) 9-2-1
R13 vs. Mirror (LWL) 9-3-1
R14 vs. Blastoise: (LL) 9-4-1
Throughout the event, I felt that all my losses were due to dead-draws, with the exception of my final round against Jimmy. I made a questionable play game one, which resulted in my heavily built board to go from strong to fragile to gone in about three turns, and all it took was a missed Energy drop.
My one tie occurred because my opponent played naturally at a slower place, and I didn’t scoop game two because I had the lead until the final minutes when he destroyed me with worst case scenario N’s combined with miraculous topdecks on his end. I was forced to tie by exactly one turn, with the win in hand.
All in all though, I had a lot of fun seeing all my friends and getting to play the game at a large event, but I did not enjoy Fall Regionals as much as I expected to. This was due to the sheer number of rounds we had to play. The player who won the event could have played upwards of 51 games in two days.
I’d say that amount of playing could get stressful for anyone, and I know I will try some form of endurance practice with my teammates in the future in order to better prepare for this grind.
A Word on 50 Minutes Best-of-Three
I know this topic has been beaten to death, but I personally believe that a lot of the hatred toward the time limit has been misplaced. I noticed that many players have become accustomed to taking a lot of time on each move, and I think the fear of misplaying is what slows people down. I found myself doing the same more often than I would have liked.
Instead of talking about how I think that the time constraints are bad (which I’m not sure they are), I want to present some solutions that will help you win or at least avoid a dreaded tie every now and then.
1. Play a faster deck.
I’m going to mention this one first because it would be the answer you’d expect out of me, so I’m going to get it out of the way. Play a deck that wins the games it wins in a decisive fashion more often than not (like Blastoise). Avoid decks that require you to play out long, drawn-out games where you have to make a comeback.
This is not to say that playing a slower deck is a terrible choice. In fact, playing a faster deck is far from the only way to improve results.
2. Playtest, and playtest with the clock.
Playing every game with a clock, even if just to get a feel for game time, can yield immense results. Last season, with the 30 minute best-of-one Swiss rounds, I developed bad habits and found myself testing less and without a clock because I knew that I would have time to think out the correct plays during a game.
This season however, playtesting in general and especially with a clock can help improve your recognition of the correct plays and speed up your games, which is critical with the 50 minute best-of-three Swiss rounds. Had I playtested more and with a clock for Fall Regionals, I would have been able to play faster and guarantee myself a spot in top cut by outright winning my Round 12 match at Regionals instead of tying.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. No matter how much skill you think the format might lack, what you put into your preparation will still be what you get out of it.
3. Go for one long game.
When a game develops slowly, it might not hurt to take your time making the best possible move and allow your opponent to do the same. If you feel confident you can win that long, drawn-out 35-minute game, you will win you the series if game two doesn’t resolve.
One precaution I’d have for anyone who sees this as an option is to make sure that the game actually unfolds slowly, and that you’re not artificially creating a slow game – stalling is against the rules.
Also, there is no guarantee game two will take as long and you could end up with a tie, in which case this strategy will have backfired.
The following are some of the decks that I am testing, or testing against, due to how effective I think the new set of rules makes them for City Championships and League Challenges.
It appears that currently, the criteria for a good deck is one with either a strong blanket strategy (or set of strategies that could be used in almost any matchup) or coverage on a large set of popular weaknesses, both in typing and setup. It won’t be as simple as having Fire and Fighting types in your deck with a Drifblim line to counter Plasma, for those still interested in rogue decks.
A couple days ago, Jay Hornung wrote a great article which included his top picks for NXD–LTR decks. I recommend you read his article in addition to this one, though I will briefly talk about some of the decks he covered that I also like and also a couple different ones as well.
Recently, a pair of Regionals in France was won by an Empoleon deck. It included Flareon and Leafeon as counters to the deck’s main weaknesses: Virizion-EX decks and Keldeo-EX in Blastoise decks. There is a lot of room for variation with this deck, and it might finally see a noticeable amount of competitive play. The primary reason for its viability is that Bench-sitters are much safer now.
The Catcher errata gives this deck a ton of space. You no longer need to run the thick 4-4 Blastoise line you used to in order to get and stay set up.
Coincidentally, Pokémon Catcher is no longer a staple in this deck either. Personally, I would cut Catcher altogether and better utilize the extra space. As Jay showed us, this allows for more search, a slight draw engine, and the option to implement a more stable Energy and recovery line.
The villains will be around until they see rotation. The ability to add anywhere between 10 and 100 damage to any given attacker depending on your list makes this deck viable in almost any environment. It even has its own Catcher alternative in Genesect EX; running a copy can give this deck a Red Signal or two each game.
Regardless, the deck still has damage manipulation, Energy recovery, Energy acceleration, type coverage, damage spread, and space to make it playable. Lugia EX might be a card to consider, as one of its biggest downfalls was that an opponent could use Pokémon Catcher to take out a Benched Lugia before it could attack.
Here’s an idea for thought:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 33
1 Town Map
Energy – 14
I have had little time to perfect this list, but the idea is to charge a pair of Lugia EX up with Raiden Knuckle and then Knock Out two Pokémon-EX with Plasma Gale. To facilitate our strategy, we have Genesect to drag up damaged Pokémon and Cofagrigus to Knock Out fresh Pokémon-EX.
Note that Cofagrigus Knocking itself Out will have no effect on the Prize trade – in fact, it can only make your usage of N stronger.
Also bear in mind that even though Genesect might not look like it is a feasible way to go because Lugia would “hog” all the Plasma Energies, Lugia will only need two Plasma Energy to finish the game.
The rest of the inclusions are pretty straightforward, but just know that Tropical Beach isn’t totally necessary, for those with a smaller budget.
Prior to November 8th, I saw this as inferior to Virizion/Mewtwo. Now, however, it has probably the greatest access to the opponent’s Bench of any deck, making it more viable than before. After an Emerald Slash, Genesect EX only needs the Colorless requirement fulfilled to use its Megalo Cannon. This means that on turn three, you will almost always be able to hit anything in play for 100, and do the same next turn, potentially even following up with a G Booster.
In a meta with fewer Fire Pokémon, this deck could have what it takes. Additionally, it now has access to Energy Switch, which was a card that initially helped make this deck so popular in Japan.
With the new set, the only hindrance it really has now is the existence of Spiritomb LTR, which can prevent the play of your beloved ACE SPEC.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 38
Energy – 13
This is your typical updated list with the inclusion of Energy Switch, but I’d like to address some of the choices you might disagree with, as well as explain why there are a bunch of Hypnotoxic Lasers in a typically Laser-less deck.
The first thing you might notice is the lack of Shadow Triad. This card, in my opinion, isn’t reliable when you need to do multiple things each turn. The “Laserbank” inclusion in here is to address the lack of major damage output without G Boosting something to pieces.
I also included a copy of Deoxys-EX because it appears Empoleon will become relevant enough to the point where it wouldn’t hurt to be able to Knock one Out in one hit with a Laserbank and a Megalo Cannon.
I can see this deck being playable because Fire is still an unpopular type, and like Plasma, the deck has tons of different routes a player can take in each game. It plays the 7 Prize game, can 1HKO anything, and has superior Bench targeting. A well-seasoned player could do a lot of damage piloting this deck.
If you end up choosing this deck, I encourage you to toy with other options, such as Tropius PLB, and don’t hesitate to be creative. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Fire – it’s no longer completely irrelevant and I will soon be discussing one of the reasons why…
Since Ho-Oh was last competitive, there were a ton of new cards released that this old deck could benefit from. In fact, there are so many we now have a plethora of different ways to play the deck. The question is which one will end up being best?
The most successful version of Ho-Oh a year ago played Mewtwo EX and a bunch of techs such as Terrakion NVI to deal with any cards it struggled against. It might have stayed on top, though I think Black Kyurem EX contributed to its downfall.
Let me start off by show you an updated list that Andy Kay, a good friend of mine and a fellow subscriber of yours, has allowed me to share with you:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 34
Energy – 14
Let this list serve as a reminder that Ho-Oh doesn’t have to be the core of the deck for it to be a worthwhile inclusion. If I recall correctly, Henry Prior piloted a Darkrai EX deck with Terrakion NVI, Stunfisk DRX, and Ho-Oh EX techs to a second place finish at Regionals just over a year ago.
Overall, this is just one list in a format of infinite possibility for this deck. While becoming an avid player of a deck like this, be sure to never let another’s successful build become what you see as the only way to use this deck.
I think the best way to give you a springboard for customizing the deck would be to shed light on some of the many attackers the deck can include.
- Mewtwo EX
- The old-fashioned heart of the deck can still be a heavy hitter.
- Landorus-EX, Stunfisk DRX, Terrakion LTR
- Sigilyph DRX, Suicune PLB, Latias-EX
- Safeguarders! These cards are much harder to ignore due to the Catcher errata and can single-handedly win a game against decks such as the Lugia build I mentioned earlier.
- Tropius PLB, Cobalion LTR
- Bouffalant DRX
- This is an overall amazing attacker against any Pokémon-EX, and a must-have if you are already using Double Colorless Energy in your build.
- Zoroark NXD
- Foul Play allows you to use your opponent’s entire side of the board against them. This could be your answer to Black Kyurem EX.
- Garbodor DRX
- After you get Ho-Oh in play to carry your Energies to other Pokémon, what’s stopping you from putting out the trash? By cutting the Switches and Escape Ropes for Float Stones in the above list, you could find yourself using Garbodor to lock popular Abilities such as Power Connect, Deluge, Red Signal, and Dark Cloak. A similar idea won a Regional Championship.
- Kecleon PLF
- This card provides the service of helping you type-match any card Weak to its own type (like Psychic and Dragon-type Pokémon). It’s most likely a niche Black Kyurem EX answer (you’d need Bangle as well).
- Mr. Mime PLF
- Protection from spread is not to be overlooked.
- Max Potion
- Combined with Energy Switch, this card is almost never bad to have in your deck. Run it if you find yourself running an EX-heavy list.
- Silver Bangle
- Bangle is one of the most powerful Tools in the game. Definitely include it if you find yourself leaning toward non-Pokémon-EX.
- Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym
Overall, you can see some of the themes to build your deck around. Non-EX’s could be a nightmare Prize trade for any opponent this year, especially when they are all hitting for popular Weaknesses. Just be sure to keep the concept of your deck streamlined – the versatility of Ho-Oh does not mean that you will be successful by disregarding the metagame. You might need to change your list for every event you attend, or find a blanket strategy that works against almost everything but isn’t necessarily as strong against specific decks.
While I’ve mentioned it briefly already, I want to talk about the effectiveness of Garbodor in the current format.
With the protection that Bench-sitters have received, running a 1-1 Garbodor line might become space-effective in some decks. As has been said by others, however, the Catcher errata has also all but eliminated Garbodor’s favorite play of trapping a non-attacker in the Active Spot. This means that for your deck to run Garbodor, it would need to be fine both without Abilities and the need to lock cards Active.
What it can still do effectively, however, is act as a damage buffer (by shutting off Deoxys-EX) or help get through Virizion-EX’s prevention of Status Conditions so that you can use Hypnotoxic Laser. It could be a good play later on as the metagame of your local City Championships develops.
Speaking of Garbodor…
This deck has gained a lot of potential. Without opposing Catchers to gust it up and wipe it off the Bench, the knockout maniac/trash Pokémon can safely set up. As Mike Diaz touched on at the end of his tournament report, Trubbish has a bright looking future ahead.
The only thing that needs updating in his list is the Pokémon Catcher count. I think that the spaces they take up would be better served in the form of cards to help you get six Trubbish out over the course of the game. This could mean playing a second Super Rod to help ensure you are able to fish it out at least once per game.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 38
Energy – 9
The Jirachi-EX and Ghetsis allow you, at almost any point in the game, to attempt to slow down your opponent by potentially removing a Junk Hunted Item you didn’t want to see next turn, or even wrecking a large Tropical Beach draw. This might prove invaluable, as the longer Trubbish can take unanswered swings with Tool Drop, the better.
Aside from that, the deck doesn’t change much; only its environment.
A big theme you might have noticed throughout this article is the number of decks that swing on turn two. Between the turn 1 change and Catcher errata, decks that want to swing on turn one are nowhere near as effective as they used to be, allowing slower decks some breathing room.
We don’t have an established metagame yet, but you can bet that most popular decks will be adaptations from older ones.
Needless to say, the skill threshold of this game just got a little higher and not only will newer players will need to practice to keep up, but veterans will actually need to put in the playtesting time to stay on top of things as well. There is definitely more of an opportunity to outthink an opponent than there has been in quite a while.
That’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed and benefitted from my article. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments; I’d appreciate feedback of any sort. Thanks to Adam for giving me this opportunity and hopefully I’ll be writing for you again soon!
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thank you 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.