Hey 6P readers! This is my first article in a couple months, but currently I’m enjoying a twelve-hour adventure in the Atlanta Airport thanks to Georgia Regionals, so I thought I would cover some concepts I’ve touched in previous writing I’ve done for other card games in context of my performance at this past weekend.
I was fortunate enough to place 12th at Georgia Regionals. I was really happy with this performance, as it’s by far and away my strongest performance at such a large event, and it really makes me feel like I’m getting the hang of this game on a higher competitive level. My journey to this placement was a bit tumultuous though – so let’s get to covering it.
You Had Me at “Aro”
Entering the format, I immediately fell in love with Aromatisse. The card is incredibly versatile, and I’ve always been attracted to toolbox decks of any kind. I spent significant time playtesting my list in preparation for Ohio States. I played in several online tournaments with my deck, including one “Road to States” tournament in which I placed 4th, and the “HeyTrainer!” tournament which I won. It seemed to have a very strong matchup against Yveltal, which I expected to be a huge player in the format.
As we know from Hydreigon, Blastoise and Emboar decks are always troublesome for Energy transfer decks, but I felt like I had enough balance to produce solid results against the duo.
Here’s the list I worked so hard on:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 31
Energy – 13
By the time of the first US States, Aromatisse toolbox had already become a fairly established archetype due to a well-talked about States win in Singapore. Ultimately, I believe this was to my detriment. To explain why, I’m going to have to elaborate a bit on my philosophy behind the deck and playing Pokémon in general.
To be blunt, I’m not ever going to be the best player around. I consistently miss minute details that can change games (though I am improving!) and top class players take advantage of these blunders. Because of this, I don’t gain much residual value from playing established archetypes, so I tend to avoid them if possible. What is residual value? I’m glad you asked.
I’m currently finishing up my last semester as an undergraduate for my degree in economics and finance. Residual value is a financial concept. Put simply (and incorrectly, at least from a technical, financial perspective), a company producing residual value on your investment is producing return in excess of what your investment could earn on the open market at market returns.
So, a company boasting 8% return on investment in a market producing 6% produces a residual value of 2%. Through a bunch of complicated equation of no value to this article, you can use residual values to suggest a total value for the company.
But what does this mean for Pokémon? Consider each deck as an investment – one expressed in terms of time, money, and emotional value. Each investment will pay off at a tournament. For the competitive player, this payoff comes in terms of placing and prizes. Therefore, in context of competitive Pokémon, a deck that produces residual value is a deck that outperforms the field based on relative expectations of your performance with the “market” deck.
Basically what I am pointing out is that playing a “meta” deck can only produce so much value intrinsically. This for a variety of reasons:
- Because everyone has played against meta decks before, most people know how to play against them fairly well, and thus are less likely to misplay against you.
- Due to perceived common notions of the “best” list of meta decks, your own deck building creativity can be stifled by choosing to play meta decks.
- Due to the prevalence of meta decks, you are more likely to run into mirror matches, which are the most common forms of 50/50 matchups in traditional cases, thus forcing you to put more of your potential tournament win into the category of “Well, I sure hope I run hot!”
Death of Rogues
In contrast, a rogue deck can produce tons of value intrinsically before you even play a game. It’s doubtful anyone has tested against your rogue (unless it’s incredibly obvious – which is one of the reasons Pyroar/Archeops isn’t a good rogue… sorry guys), so before you sit down against someone playing a meta deck, you have a huge advantage in relative testing time even if your opponent plays Pokémon non-stop for a whole week before the tournament.
You almost certainly won’t play a mirror, so if you built a good rogue, you can enter the tournament confident in how your matchups play out – even if one matchup is a virtual auto-loss – and you lessen your need to just “run hot” in the tournament. These factors ultimately converge in producing scenarios where it is incredibly easy to extract residual value solely by playing a non-meta deck.
Of course, most players reading this article know that there really is no such thing as a rogue anymore – at least not one that’s any good. There’s simply too much information readily available. Everyone can scour the internet fairly easily and discover almost any imaginable deck. For all the good Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich does for the game, there’s a very good chance simply running a Bad Deck Monday stream helps to eliminate some of the final vestiges of viable rogues. Regardless, it’s almost if not totally impossible to create a good rogue to extract immense residual value in our tournament performance.
So, where does that leave us?
It forces us to look much harder at list variations in established archetypes in order to maximize residual value. There’s a reason you see some of the top finishers playing slightly different lists of established decks – whether that be Suicune PLB in Blastoise this format or Ryan Sabelhaus’ use of Life Dew in his Nationals Plasma list. These slight changes force opposing players to play out scenarios they haven’t fully thought about, and cause misplays to occur more often.
It Smelled Good…
Somewhere in here, I think I was supposed to talk about Aromatisse again! Basically, my life prevents me from playing Pokémon too much. I go to school full-time and work 30 hours or more a week, on top of any social or extracurricular engagements I have. I’m simply never going to get to test as much as others. Thus, I devote more time to less common decks to try to make them work – if they do, excellent, but if they don’t, not a big deal. I can pick up a meta list fairly easily, and the learning curve is really light. I search for residual value.
I thought Aromatisse was going to be capable of providing this value. Although I knew it would be played, I failed to accurately predict just how common it would be. Everyone who had any idea what they were doing had playtested against the Singapore States list or their own personal variation, and thus, not very many people came into the matchup blind. Along with some of my own poor play, this conspired against me to produce a lame 1-1-2 record at Ohio States before I dropped. I was pretty disappointed.
But the weekend wasn’t lost! My best friend and only testing partner, Andrew Wester, won Missouri States with Quad Kyurem, a weird contraption I had built over the summer in pre-testing for Plasma Blast, but that he had taken and run with. He played the deck somewhat prematurely at Fall Regionals to a 100th-ish place finish, but this format it had returned to its beauty. The concept is simple – Frost Spear is really good. Just think about some numbers: It’s pretty attainable to hit 70-30 the first turn of the game. No matter how you look at it, that’s pretty good.
The thing is, before this format, Kyurem was a one-trick pony. It was virtually the only viable attacker in the deck. But with the release of one little tool in XY, everything changed. Of course, I’m talking about Muscle Band. This card single handedly changed Deoxys from “marginally good secondary attacker” to “incredibly valuable destroyer of hopes and dreams”.
Let’s consider the two most common damage calculations you will have to make with Deoxys based around 170 HP EXs in conjunction with Frost Spear and Helix Force with Muscle Band on a Deoxys:
- Helix Force (30) + Muscle Band (20) + Defending Pokémon with 3 Energy (90) + 30 previous damage from Frost Spear = 170 damage
- Helix Force (30) + Muscle Band (20) + Defending Pokémon with 2 Energy (60) + 60 previous damage from Frost Spear = 170 damage
Seems pretty good right? This doesn’t even mention that to 1HKO Kyurem, a Keldeo needs 4 Energy – also known as “I’m a target to get 1HKO’d by Deoxys + Muscle Band.” Think of your own math. Almost every scenario is incredible if you lead with a Frost Spear and then get Knocked Out. A Deoxys can respond to almost any threat. If you don’t get KO’d, you get to Frost Spear again. Ouch.
There’s plenty of cool math behind why this deck concept is so good, and it’s my understanding that Andrew is writing his own article to post, so I’d expect he might cover this a little more extensively.
After Andrew’s win, I started considering the deck more. While Plasma wasn’t exactly new, the emphasis on Kyurem was. Most Plasmas tend to want to get Thundurus to start the game – not so for “Quadrem,” as I termed it. Quadrem was all about Frost Spear – Thundurus was merely an accessory for the mid-game, once the first or second Kyurem had been lost and a recharge was needed. However, I really hated how hard it was to accomplish KOs on 180 HP EXs – notably Darkrai and Black Kyurem. What was the solution?
Andrew Wester and I have some mutual acquaintances we run ideas past. One of the more recent people we tend to toss ideas around with is Andrew Wambolt (I know, there’s a lot of Andrew W’s in my life). When the Flashfire cards were revealed, all of three of us had varying discussion about to what extent Pyroar would affect the format. Theorymon aside, the discussion brought to light an interesting concept: Using G Booster and Genesect in a Plasma list, ostensibly to combat Pyroar.
From that discussion, my Regionals deck was born. The next day, I simply asked: “Why not now?” We all knew that Plasma had real issues with 180 EXs – a fresh Black Kyurem-EX could ruin your whole Blastoise matchup. So, about a week before the Regional, I mocked up my first list and played five whole games with it. It turns out that G Booster is pretty good. It also produced a fair bit of residual value – hardly anyone was used to being threatened by a G Booster in a Plasma list.
12th Place Regionals List
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 34
Energy – 14
This list is, for the most part, fairly standard. I have 4 Deoxys-EX to bump up damage, 4 Balls, and some Colress Machines… but the inclusion of G Booster makes everything seem really strange, right? I also chose some interesting versatility and tech cards. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of the list and some of my more unique choices.
This decision ultimately defined my deck. Computer Search or Dowsing Machine is generally considered standard in Plasma. However, as Ryan Sabelhaus notes in his 2nd place Nationals report on using Life Dew, Plasma doesn’t really need either of those consistency style ACE SPECs. It has a naturally consistent engine that rarely needs that extra boost. Sure, it’s nice, but if any deck can get away without it, it’s Plasma.
In my case, I recognized massive potential in G Booster. With Colress Machines, streaming two consecutive G Boosters is a very real possibility. If Darkrai or Black Kyurem will be a threat, Genesect is the easy counter. Since Plasma decks generally bench a Genesect for potential Red Signals anyway, most players don’t see the attacking Genesect until it’s already blasted its way through a Darkrai – and even if they see the attacking Genesect, they certainly don’t plan for G Booster.
I even had one opponent make a joke that I must be getting ready to G Booster for my last Prizes – he was right… oops.
3 Kyurem PLF, 2 Genesect-EX
Knowing I would play G Booster, the next decision was how to increase my Genesect count past the standard one in most lists. I had learned from Aromatisse that 2 Genesect would be enough since Genesect wasn’t necessarily my main attacker, so ultimately I took the base Quadrem list and just cut a Kyurem. It made the most sense. The 4th Kyurem is superfluous in most games and is largely designed just to allow T1 Frost Spears to occur more frequently. Since there was a little less emphasis on Kyurem in this list, it was a seemless transition, and I never missed the 4th Kyurem.
I saw a lot more Virizion-EX than I expected in Plasma at Georgia Regionals, which I support greatly. To me, the decision is easy. With so many Prism and Rainbow Energy, Virizion-EX can totally change Yveltal-EX and Hypnotoxic Laser math against the deck, or force Garbodor variants to focus resources to getting Garbotoxin online. It also greatly improves the Trevenant/Accelgor and Gothitelle/Accelgor matchups. Overall, I think Virizion in Plasma is a no-brainer, and I’m really surprised more people don’t use it.
This is perhaps the most unique aspect of my list – I hadn’t really seen others using Fairy Garden. Kevin Kobayashi actually made a post about it on the Virbank City Facebook Group – which I assumed was a troll, but it did get me thinking about it. However, the concept is actually pretty good.
It gives Plasma some interesting mobility that can allow a Thundurus to be benched, attached to, and retreated to immediately. This mobility is what allowed me to get away with “bad” Bench situations like 4 Deoxys-EX and 1 Virizion-EX with an Active Kyurem (that’s 90 damage for Frost Spear with a Muscle Band…). As long as a Deoxys has a Prism or Rainbow attached, I can drop a new attacker from my hand for the one turn power up after my current attacker gets KO’d.
However, I couldn’t completely ignore the power of Frozen City. It’s simply too good against Blastoise and Emboar. Since I don’t need it for all matchups, the single copy seemed sufficient in my eyes – especially with two Shadow Triad as necessary. This decision was made the night before the tournament – my testing was actually done with a vanilla 3 Fairy Garden. Overall, I don’t think the change affected my outcome, but I would keep it if I played again.
I’m not big on game summaries, but if you are curious, here are what my matchups were:
R1: Jeremy Barnett with Darkrai/Yveltal/Absol/Garbodor – WL – (0-0-1) 1 point
R2: Rex Hurley with Virizion/Genesect/Raichu – LW – (0-0-2) 2 points
R3: Chance Filiatre with Emboar/Rayquaza-EX/Delphox – WW – (1-0-2) 5 points
R4: Ryan Peterson with Blastoise/Keldeo/Black Kyurem/Delphox – W – (2-0-2) 8 points
R5: Stephen Clark with Thundurus-EX/Deoxys-EX/Kyurem/Absol – LL – (2-1-2) 8 points
R6: Alex Haas with Blastoise/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem-EX/Electrode – WW – (3-1-2) 11 points
R7: Nathan Brower with Emboar/Rayquaza-EX/Delphox – LWW – (4-1-2) 14 points
R8: Kalvin LeRoy with Thundurus-EX/Kyurem/Lugia-EX/Deoxys-EX – W – (5-1-2) 17 points
I ended up with the strongest resistance among the 17-point players, which was good enough for 12th place. Although I was thrilled, I can’t help but simultaneously be disappointed with the lack of a Top 32. It’s really tough to have such large tournaments with such small cuts based on so few Swiss rounds. I wish there was some kind of middle ground – a Top 16 at 150 players or something. It just seems wrong to use so few Swiss games to cut so small a part of the field – that’s neither here nor there though.
Thanks for reading my article. I hope you’ve gained some insight into new and creative ways to gain some residual value from your deck choice heading into two more Regional weekends. My year is probably done until Nationals, so see you there!