State Championships have come to a close and Spring Regionals are right around the corner! These are the last series of major events until National Championships, so everyone is likely to be on the top of their game the next couple weekends. This means that testing and deck choice are both very important if you hope to succeed and possibly lock up a Worlds invitation at Regionals.
States have shown that there’s a lot of variety in this metagame. Aromatisse, Trevenant, and Yveltal variants have now been added onto the list of viable decks from last Regionals. While it’s great to see all the creativity unfold at large tournaments, variety unfortunately means that it’s nearly impossible to be well-equipped for every matchup. Preparing to show up to a large event expecting to potentially face a different matchup every round is no easy task.
There seem to be two different approaches to success at events like these. Some players find success playing the same deck that they are comfortable with again and again, hoping that their knowledge of the deck and flawless play will take them to the top. Other players try to find success by constantly trying to be one step ahead of the metagame. This might mean playing a deck when its bad matchups aren’t present, or coming up with something new altogether.
I find that I usually take the second approach at bigger events and that my deck choice has a large impact on the amount of success that I have. I performed poorly with a Plasma deck the first weekend of States. Although my list wasn’t as fine-tuned as it could have been, I just didn’t feel I could win the event going into it, regardless of specific card choices. There weren’t any great matchups for my deck and there isn’t always a lot of room to outplay people when many matchups are so straightforward. The next two weekends I made more risky deck choices and I was rewarded by making Top 8 twice.
In order to help everyone prepare for Spring Regionals, I’ll go into what I look for when choosing a deck for a big event in general and how I applied that thought process to the second and third weekends of States. I’ll then discuss my Top 8 lists and my notions about each archetype when it comes to choosing a deck for Regionals.
Table of Contents
- What to Look for in a Deck
- States Week 2 – “Branching Out”
- States Week 3 – “Smelling Good”
- The Metagame Prospectus
What to Look for in a Deck
1. Pick a deck with good matchups, or pick a deck that is difficult to play against.
Playing a deck with good matchups sets you up for success before a single card is drawn. It’s a great feeling sitting down at the table knowing that it’s your game to lose. It’s a lot easier to make Top Cut if you play against several favorable matchups and several even matchups, rather than use a deck with all even matchups. That only makes sense.
I think what scares a lot of players from playing these kinds of decks is that they often suffer from one very bad matchup. For example, a lot of players didn’t play Gothitelle/Accelgor during City Championships because they were afraid of losing to Virizion/Genesect. While it was true that that matchup was abysmal, it was still well worth it to play Gothitelle/Accelgor if there weren’t that many Virizion/Genesect decks present. It was very easy to make Top Cut at City Championships with the deck if you could expect to play against 0-1 Virizion/Genesect decks during Swiss.
I feel like the biggest mistake when choosing a deck is to pick something that is close to even against everything else. If you play a deck with even matchups, then you can only expect to go 4-3 or 5-4 at larger events. If you attend enough major events, you will have a couple of days where you do worse than expected along with several events where you make Top Cut simply due to all the variance involved in a card game. You’ll probably even win a few events too if you are dedicated enough.
The problem is it’s very hard to achieve consistent results this way. I try to never play a deck with even matchups against everything because then I’m planning to lose half my games going into the tournaments. The only exception is if your deck is difficult to play against. It doesn’t matter how much thought you have to put into playing into your deck, it only matters how complicated the matchup is for your opponent. If your deck has roughly even matchups in testing but is difficult to play against, then you have a recipe for success. An example I’ve seen recently is Flygon BCR/Accelgor DEX/Dusknoir BCR. The deck sounds clunky on paper, but it’s deceptively strong when set up. Many players don’t seem to realize this and either waste important resources or bench too many Pokémon.
Right now I prefer a deck with good matchups, but maybe that’s also because the format is very simplified. It’s really a choice between relying on your opponents to make mistakes or hoping to avoid your auto-loss in top cut.
2. Get a feel for your metagame.
Knowing what you expect to play against is critical when choosing a deck. This is how you can maximize your good matchups while minimizing your bad ones. Sometimes it’s easiest to counter the most popular one or two decks in the room, while keeping your other matchups close to even. This can even simply be playing the most popular deck with a tech to give you an edge in the mirror matchup. If you play against these one or two decks half of your rounds in Swiss and win, you only need to win around half of your other even matchups to make Top Cut.
However, this is a lot more difficult when the format is diverse. I never played against the same deck more than twice during State Championships due to all the variety. I think the best thing to do in this scenario is to look for which deck is absent. For example, Trevenant is a good play when there are very few Virizion/Genesect decks, and Emboar is a good play when there are very few Garbodor and Trevenant decks. If almost nobody is playing your worst matchup, you can ride your favorable matchups into Top Cut with some preparation and a little bit of luck.
3. Avoid the dreaded tie.
Complaining about ties isn’t going to help you win events. The best thing to do when it comes to preparing for Regionals is to just accept ties as the way they are. This means that ties should be a factor into your deck choice. However, I believe it’s not as simple as playing a fast deck and playing it quickly.
Ties make playing a deck with even matchups worse, while making a deck with polarized matchups better. This is simply because having a win and a loss is better than having two ties. In other words, if you play a deck that wins half the time, you and your opponent will often be 1-1 and time will be called during the third game. If you play a deck with favorable matchups and an auto-loss you hope to avoid, you will often go 2-0 or 0-2 against your opponent.
It is, of course, still helpful to play a faster deck and to play faster. Playing a deck that has the potential to complete three games gives you a better chance at making Top Cut because you will tie less! Playtesting helps a lot with this. You can get a feel for how long matchups take to play out, while getting more familiar with your deck.
Getting accustomed with your deck’s matchups is also a very important part. I’m sure a lot of players could make the correct play every time if they thought about each decision for 5 or 10 minutes, but if that were allowed Game 1 would never finish. The current system rewards players that can make the correct play as if it was second nature.
4. Prepare for what you expect to see at the top tables.
Even after taking a look at your local metagame, you still might be torn between two decks. The best thing to do is to pick the deck that is better against what you expect to see in Top Cut. For example, there was a lot of Emboar and Virizion/Genesect at Winter Regionals. I would rather take a positive Emboar matchup and an even Virizion/Genesect matchup, rather than the other way around. This is because the Virizion/Genesect decks will likely fall to the lower tables as they lose to Emboar decks.
States Week 2 – “Branching Out”
With these guidelines I headed into the second weekend of States. I saw that Blastoise, Yveltal, and Plasma were all very popular. This made Trevenant seem like a strong candidate for Week 2. I managed to go 5-1-1 in Swiss before losing in Top 8. My only tie was an ID the last round and my loss was to Virizion/Genesect. By playing a deck with very favorable matchups I was able to win 2-0 or lose 0-2 every match.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 35
Energy – 6
4-4 Trevenant XY
I found that I often prized either a Phantump or a Trevenant. As a result, with 3-3 Trevenant I was only able to setup 2 Trevenant in a game. While 2 Trevenant are often sufficient, I felt it was important to chain Trevenant against Yveltal variants and against decks that teched Virizion-EX. Yveltal can constantly 1-shot Trevenant from turn two, so it is important to be able to set up multiple copies of Trevenant until you establish a Deck and Cover loop with Dusknoir. In addition, 4-4 Trevenant helped me set up Trevenant Turn 2 nearly every game.
No Musharna NXD
Cutting Musharna is probably where I was able to find room for 4-4 Trevenant. In my personal testing, Musharna hasn’t been necessary. The biggest hurdle I feel a deck like Trevenant has to overcome is getting all the pieces set up in order to establish the lock. Searching out Musharna contradicts this strategy because you’d be setting up Musharna over Accelgor or Dusknoir.
I haven’t had problems missing the Deck and Cover Loop later in the game with Dusknoir and Town Map to take an essential card from the Prizes. This makes Musharna feel like a “win-more” card to me because the small boost in consistency late game doesn’t have a noticeable impact.
I felt like the deck had three spots to either add techs or more consistency. Virizion/Genesect didn’t seem worth teching against because I didn’t feel I could make the matchup 50-50 with three cards. The deck felt consistent already, so I decided it was worth making Plasma an auto-win if they didn’t run a counter to Silver Mirror. It didn’t seem like any Plasma decks would waste a spot countering Silver Mirror, as Trevenant performed so poorly the first week and not all Trevenant lists even teched Silver Mirror. This worked out well and I was able to pick up a free win during Swiss and avoid any ties from Snorlax’s Block and Genesect-EX’s Red Signal.
Overall, I think Trevenant is very strong when Virizion-EX is underplayed. It is a very consistent deck that many of the popular decks are unprepared against. It’s still risky because you can hit too many bad matchups in the wrong metagame, but the deck can easily win a big tournament with the right matchups.
States Week 3 – “Smelling Good”
I really didn’t know what to play this weekend. Blastoise had risen in popularity Week 2, but Virizion/Genesect had won both States near me despite being underplayed. I felt Virizion/Genesect would still be a good play this weekend, but after testing it I couldn’t come up with a list that I was comfortable with. On paper the deck seemed very consistent, but in practice it just didn’t work for me.
I expected the same metagame as last week with a few more Virizion/Genesect and a few more Fairy decks as people tried to counter Blastoise. As a result, I decided to make a Trubbish deck fairly last minute. It lost to Yveltal/Garbodor and Trevenant, but I didn’t expect those decks to be very popular and was confident in the deck’s other matchups. I also expected Blastoise and Emboar to potentially lower their Tool Scrapper counts, making those matchups favorable rather than roughly even. Here is the list I played:
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 44
Energy – 8
In hindsight, I might have had more success sticking with Trevenant. It seemed that more players switched to Yveltal/Garbodor rather than Virizion/Genesect/Drifblim. I ended up going 5-1-1 in Swiss and then lost in Top 8 to Fairies by dead-drawing both games. My loss in Swiss was to the same Fairy deck in Swiss. My opponent had a unique list with a tech Red Card that gave me a terrible hand two of the three games we played.
I thought Trubbish was fast enough to avoid tying, but that wasn’t the case. I ended up tying an Emboar deck despite getting a Turn 1 120 damage Tool Drop. I also came up one turn short of winning another Game 3, but my opponent Jordan Parrish was kind enough to concede as a loss would keep us both out of Top 8.
As far as the list is concerned, the concept of using Tool Drop to Knock Out Pokémon-EX in one turn remains the same. However, there are a few notable cards I decided to include and exclude.
I grouped these two together because it’s very difficult to play Silver Bangle effectively without Masquerain. This is because the Trubbish that needs Silver Bangle often already has an Exp. Share attached. I found Masquerain nice to have, but unnecessary. Silver Mirror was more important than Silver Bangle in the Plasma matchup and it slowed down the game to the point where every Trubbish didn’t need Exp. Share because a Trubbish wasn’t being Knocked Out every turn.
In the other matchups, Silver Bangle was only necessary if I didn’t have enough Pokémon Tools in play. In order to work around this, I wanted to build the deck so that I could burn through my entire deck by the end of the game if necessary. This is because I needed access to every Tool in my deck if I wasn’t going to play Silver Bangle.
This lead to the inclusion of a large amount of Item-based draw cards. Playing only 1 Supporter per turn doesn’t allow the deck to find all of its Pokémon Tools fast enough. Once the deck has a couple of Sigilyph on the Bench, it is easy to dump most your hand to draw two to four cards with Bicycle.
Roller Skates may seem odd at first, but I think it’s a good choice in fast decks like this one. On average each Roller Skates draws 1.5 cards, which is only slightly worse than Bicycle. However, Roller Skates doesn’t require you to play down your entire hand, making it better than Bicycle if your hand gets clogged with Supporters or Energy.
A deck with an Item-based draw engine isn’t looking to play a long game, hence why the deck doesn’t play 14 Supporters. If the deck works as planned, it will Knock Out a Pokémon every turn starting from Turn 2 or Turn 3, ending the game by Turn 7 or Turn 8 even if your opponent runs no Pokémon-EX. If you draw your entire deck by the end of the game, you will never be short of Supporters. This is why Roller Skates works so well with Bicycle in this deck, rather than play Bicycle and a couple more Supporters.
The most important part of the Trubbish deck is setting up the first couple of turns. Strong starts will likely result in a win, while a poor start will result in a loss. It is essential to get both Sigilyph and Trubbish in play immediately. It is very important to not miss Energy drops on Trubbish and it is equally important to have a target to attach the multitude of Pokémon Tools to. This allows you to thin out your deck when you N, avoid discarding Pokémon Tools with Professor Juniper, and draw more cards with Bicycle.
In addition, this list runs no tech Pokémon. This means that you often won’t have enough Pokémon on the Bench to attach Tools to with only 7 Pokémon. The 4th Sigilyph helps alleviate this problem.
The idea is that if you can go through your deck quickly every game, you can always find a Team Plasma Badge to put on a Trubbish. At some point over the next few turns, you will draw Colress Machine to accelerate an extra Energy. This may seem redundant since the deck already plays Exp. Share, but it is actually essential in order to play around Tool Scrapper and Hypnotoxic Laser.
A common strategy to defeat the Trubbish deck is to play Tool Scrapper or Hypnotoxic Laser when you’re about to Knock Out a Trubbish. Both Tool Scrapper and Poison play around Exp. Share. If the Trubbish deck can only attach one Energy per turn, but needs two Energy to attack, this strategy can cause the Trubbish deck to quickly fall behind. Accelerating just one Plasma Energy during the game can counter their strategy to make you fall behind in Energy attachments. If you can keep Energy and Pokémon Tools in play, you will win the exchanges when going against decks with Pokémon-EX.
4 Team Plasma Badge and 2 Colress Machine are more efficient than playing a 3/3 split because Team Plasma Badge is a Pokémon Tool and contributes to Tool Drop’s damage output. There simply isn’t any space to play more copies of Colress Machine and Plasma Energy. However, these cards are still powerful in low counts.
The single copy of Switch is useful when you get put to sleep by Hypnotoxic Laser or when Sigilyph is trapped Active from Snorlax’s Block Ability. It may seem difficult to draw at the right time, but these situations came up several times during the tournament and a few times Switch was able to get me out of a tight situation.
Overall, I think that Trubbish can be a competitive deck in the right metagame. It’s a risky deck to play, but it’s rewarding if Trevenant and Yveltal/Garbodor are both underplayed.
The Metagame Prospectus
It’s a lot easier to talk about which decks performed well than it is to predict how successful a deck might be. I already discussed my thoughts on Trevenant and Trubbish above, but I’ll give my thoughts on playing each of the major archetypes at Regionals.
After Playing Plasma at the first weekend of States and testing it some more, I don’t understand why people continue to play it. The deck has no good matchups, meaning that going to a third game will usually result in a tie if you’re not playing a Speed Lugia variant. The deck isn’t terrible on its own, but nobody seems to want to go to a tournament with a bad Plasma matchup. This means that almost every other archetype is teching against you.
Drifblim and Enhanced Hammer are fairly common in Virizion/Genesect, Silver Mirror is seen in Trevenant, and Sawk is teched into Yveltal. Pokémon Catcher in Blastoise and Emboar is even a soft counter to Palkia-EX. If you feel like you can outplay your opponents with Plasma or have a unique take on the deck then it might be worth taking to Regionals, otherwise I would recommend playing something that everyone isn’t teching against.
This doesn’t mean to ignore Plasma in your testing since it will certainly show up at Regionals. Enhanced Hammer, Silver Mirror, Sawk, and Drifblim are all strong cards against Plasma. It’s all about finding which set of techs works best in your deck.
While Emboar suffers from bad Trevenant and Garbodor matchups, it is a strong play in the right metagame. It’s very consistent once it sets up with Delphox and many decks struggle to keep up with a constant stream of Dragon Bursts from Rayquaza-EX.
Emboar is best to play in a metagame filled with Virizion/Genesect, Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant, and Fairies as those are the deck’s strongest matchups. The type advantage is too much for Virizion/Genesect to overcome and Yveltal doesn’t have a good response to an EX that can do 180 damage while leaving only 1 Energy attached. The Yveltal deck can outspeed an Emboar deck with a slow start, but hoping your opponent doesn’t have Rare Candy and Emboar is not a reliable way to win the matchup. The Fairy deck simply can’t keep enough Energy in play to trade with Rayquaza-EXs since the deck doesn’t have enough Energy acceleration.
It also ends the game fairly quickly once it sets up, giving you a chance to sometimes finish a third game. If I were to play the deck, I would drop one or both Tool Scrappers, similar to Kyle Sabelhaus and a few others, and add in Pokémon Catcher. Pokémon Catcher will give you an edge against Blastoise and other Emboar decks. It also lets you target Palkia-EX after it Strafes away to the Bench.
There isn’t much in the way of teching for Emboar, which is part of what makes it so strong. Plasma can tech Frozen City in addition to Palkia-EX, but Plasma simply doesn’t have the space to tech for every matchup. If you expect an influx of Emboar at Regionals, then maybe you should reconsider Yveltal/Garbodor or Trevenant.
This deck plays very similarly to Emboar, so I’ll focus on highlighting the differences. Blastoise has two more free deck spaces since it doesn’t have to play switching cards thanks to Keldeo-EX’s Rush In Ability. It also has a 180 HP attacker in the form of Black Kyurem-EX PLS, rather than 170 HP. This extra 10 HP is very critical in surviving a 170 damage Gold Breaker and a 170 damage Plasma Gale.
However, the one huge sacrifice Blastoise makes is the Virizion/Genesect matchup. Where Emboar has close to an auto-win against Virizion/Genesect, Blastoise has a pretty bad matchup. With Muscle Band, Virizion-EX is now capable of Knocking Out Blastoise in one hit, which makes the matchup even worse than before.
Overall, I don’t think the extra 10 HP and card slots make Blastoise a better play than Emboar. I would much rather pick up a couple extra free wins during Regionals. Blastoise struggles with the same decks as Emboar in addition to Virizion/Genesect, almost guaranteeing you will run into a bad matchup more than once at Regionals. Blastoise isn’t a bad play, but Emboar feels like the same deck with better matchups.
From my personal testing and experience at States, Virizion/Genesect with Drifblim seems to be stronger than straight Virizion/Genesect. Drifblim gives you an edge against Plasma and Fairies, and Virizion/Genesect has a natural edge against Blastoise. Virizion/Genesect is also the only deck that is a hard counter to Trevenant. Its presence in the metagame keeps that deck in check. All of your other matchups are fairly close depending on techs, except for Emboar.
I think Virizion/Genesect is a very solid play for States, but if you see a lot of Fire Pokémon then simply switch to another deck and stay one step ahead of the metagame. If you expect a lot of Trevenant and Garbodor decks, Emboar will likely underperform and you’ll hit good matchups on your way to top cut.
There are ways that you can prepare against Virizion/Genesect. If you are playing a Plasma deck, running several basic Energy is a soft counter to Drifblim and Enhanced Hammer. A Fairy deck can easily tech in a Fire type like Entei-EX. Any deck not reliant on its ACE SPEC can also tech Spiritomb LTR. Stopping your opponent from playing G Booster to 1-shot your Pokémon-EX is game changing on its own.
The biggest problem with Fairies right now is Blastoise and Emboar. The deck has no solid answer to being 1-shot by a constant stream of Black Ballistas or Dragon Bursts. However, the deck is very consistent and very versatile. You can add techs to the deck for your metagame and likely find success. This is a deck that you want to test and tweak to find which techs are most useful against the decks you expect to see. There are simply so many options in these kinds of decks, but there is only so much space.
I would seriously consider playing this deck if Blastoise and Emboar start to get less talk. If you expect a lot of Fairy decks, Enhanced Hammer is useful at slowing the deck down by keeping their Energy out of play. Other than that, you simply need to be able to 1-shot the Fairy player’s Pokémon-EX in order to take all of their Energy out of play. This can be difficult to do if you are not playing Blastoise or Emboar, but you can’t allow the Fairy deck to shift Energy to a different attacker or play Max Potion every turn. This is sometimes hard to stop, making Fairies a deck to look out for come Regionals.
This deck received a lot of hype coming into the first week of States, but started to decline in favor as Blastoise spiked in popularity. However, I believe this deck gains some viability as Blastoise and Emboar decline. Other than Trevenant, this is the only other deck with a favorable matchup against Yveltal/Garbodor. Your deck is just a slightly faster and slightly more consistent version of their deck.
The deck can also easily tech a Spiritomb to tilt the Virizion/Genesect matchup slightly into its favor. By stopping G Booster on a crucial turn, Yveltal-EX has the potential to get out of hand quickly. It is important to not drop the Spiritomb too early, as it may get targeted by Red Signal. You want your opponent to have to make the choice between dealing with the Active Yveltal-EX, Bouffalant, or Darkrai-EX, thus never playing G Booster, or to deal with the Spiritomb on the Bench.
The downside to playing the deck is that Blastoise and Emboar are slightly unfavorable, as the Darkrai versus Blastoise battle always has been. However, the matchup is certainly playable. I would play this deck at Regionals if Yveltal/Garbodor saw a big increase in play. More Garbodor means that Blastoise and Emboar will fall from the top tables. Then you will have a consistent deck with even and favorable matchups, which are both key to having a deep run at Regionals.
Yveltal/Garbodor is the stronger Yveltal variant if Blastoise and Emboar are popular. Garbotoxin is a direct counter to both these decks, especially if they are dropping Tool Scrapper in favor of Pokémon Catcher. The obvious downside to this deck is Garbodor takes up space. This means that your deck is slightly slower and slightly less consistent in every other matchup.
I think that the slight drop in consistency is worth completely flipping a matchup around if you expect a lot of Blastoise and Emboar. The only deck you really have to avoid is Trevenant. Your straight Yveltal matchup is slightly unfavorable, yet playable and the rest of the matchups are even and favorable. I would definitely play Yveltal/Garbodor if I expect an influx of Ability decks. If you are worried about your Garbodor matchup and don’t want to switch decks, simply add another copy of Tool Scrapper into your deck.
With so much variety and creativity, it’s impossible to be prepared for everything. Every deck has a bad matchup right now and it all comes down to what you expect to see in your metagame. Try to prepare for what you expect to face, rather than preparing for everything, and test your deck so that the optimal play becomes second nature.
I hope this article helped put a new spin on choosing a deck as well as summarized each deck’s good and bad matchups. If you enjoyed this article, please leave a “Like.” I’ll be happy to answer any questions you guys might have. Other than that, I just want to wish everyone the best of luck at Regionals the next couple weekends!
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