Hey SixPrizes! It’s been a few months since my last article, but I’m glad to be writing again.
A big reason why I haven’t been writing is because of the “dead period” we’re currently in. All the major events are done for the season besides Nationals and Worlds, so it’s been more difficult to come up with meaningful insight lately. I started writing two or three articles in the past couple of months, trying to find something to write about. I ended up sacking those articles for fear that I was writing an article just to write one.
But I have decided to return after a short hiatus with the intent to offer insight from a new perspective. It seems that current topics have been repeated over and over (at no fault of the authors, of course), and many of those articles from seasoned veterans. The players who have been around for a while definitely lend an incredible amount of information to those of us who are newer to the game. With this season creeping up on the end, I wanted to rehash my rookie season up to this point: the victories and the shortcomings I’ve encountered, and what they’ve taught me. I also would like to give my perspective of the new set that just got released, given what I’ve learned this year.
Lesson One: A New Beginning
This season started off with my college graduation over last summer. I received my bachelor’s degree in computer science from UNC Charlotte in July, and was fortunate enough to be offered a job opportunity in Greenville, SC shortly after. The icing on the cake was that I was now literally right down the road from two of my best friends, Kyle and Ryan Sabelhaus. I knew as far as my TCG career went that this was a huge step to take in order to improve my game. I had played the previous season somewhat competitively, but never making a huge effort to snatch up Championship Points. Now it would be easier to make that effort.
The first event I attended this season was Philadelphia Regionals back in October. The format was still pretty fresh, as there hadn’t been any major events in our new format yet. Darkrai/Garbodor had just won the Klaczynski Open. I had no idea what to play.
After testing tons of different things out, I was frustrated. I didn’t like anything, and was about to just play Darkrai/Garbodor since it was the only deck with some results. It truly was not a comfortable choice, due to best-of-three with a 50 minute time limit being totally new to all of us. I knew it was a slow deck that flourished with the extended time limit from the K.O., so I wasn’t sure how it would play out with far less time.
Since Philly was week three of Regionals, I had two weeks prior to examine the results from the others. Virizion/Mewtwo had multiple Top 8 finishes, so I decided it was worth a shot to try out. I tested online with one of my good friends, Ashon Haswell, the week leading up to the tournament. We both agreed that the deck was really solid. I honed my list down and practiced for the latter portion of the week with the Sabelhaus brothers.
I ended up making Day 2 at that Regional, which may not be a big accomplishment for many people, but taking 24th at a big event made me want more placings. Better placings. The fire had been started, and I firmly believe that’s when I became addicted to this game. I had just started in a brand new direction with my life, and decided that now that I had the funds and time, I was going to really give this season my all.
Lesson Two: Getting in the Groove
Since Philly Regionals, not a lot had happened. A couple of League Challenges had come and gone, so a few Points were picked up there, but nothing too spectacular. Around November is when things really started to get going with City Championships. I was really excited to test myself at as many of these as possible, and hopefully make good use of a very important part of the season.
Deck choice going into Cities was not an issue like it was back in October. I had fallen in love with the green… that is, Virizion/Genesect. Since the new rules applied to Pokémon Catcher earlier on in the month, as well as Energy Switch being reincorporated to the format, Genesect became much stronger.
It started one night while we were testing at my place when what I believe to be the strongest version of Virizion/Genesect was born. A young balla we dubbed “James Posey” (aka Roserade) made the deck ridiculously strong and consistent. In my mind, there was and is no other way to play this deck. The ability to use Roserade for a Plasma Energy and then Skyla for your G Booster is game-breaking. Factor in the natural consistency and immunity to status, and you have a deadly combination.
While I was not set on only playing Genesect from the beginning of Cities, I never found a reason to not play it. Emboar wasn’t a thing for the first few tournaments, and Genesect had the ability to shut anything down if played well.
Fort Mill was up first in the list of Cities I was going to, and this one ended up with me taking 2nd place. However, I not only gained a lot of experience from nearly winning this tournament, I learned a huge lesson the hard way.
I was in the finals with one of my other SC friends, Josh Harvley, and we were playing a nearly identical V/G list. I won game one, and he won game two by being up on Prizes when time was called.
We begin sudden death with Josh winning the coin flip. It looks like he doesn’t have much because he benches a Roselia with a Virizion active. He attaches and passes. Perhaps it was the long day that got into my head, but I made a critical misplay here. I attach a G Energy to my active Genesect, and N us both to 1, disregarding the Grass and Plasma Energy in my hand before I shuffled them back. This cost me the game as Josh was able to get rolling faster than I could, and I lost a heartbreaker of a finals when I could have won the game with a Red Signal in two short turns.
While embarrassing to admit, it’s crucial that any good player make mistakes like this through their time playing. I’m glad it happened. If I had never had to take a hard loss, I would have never learned from it.
I went on from this City to play in four more (with the last being for fun) Cities, and take 2nd, 2nd, 1st, and a novelty 6th place. I played Virizion/Genesect in all of them, slightly tweaking the list from day to day to handle a swiftly-changing Georgia Marathon metagame. I got teased for it, too. All in good fun, though!
Everyone knew what I was playing every day, but I didn’t care. I knew this deck and had no reason to play anything else when it was generating desirable results. I made cut at every City I attended, and nearly maxed my Cities Points out. For the first time since I started playing this game, I got to experience consistently good placings. This extra motivation pushed me to learn more and get better. I felt like I was in a great position at this point in the season. I had found my rare form (shout-out to those who get that).
Lesson Three: Technical Foul
The next big set of events after Cities was our Winter Regionals. I originally had only planned to attend Virginia due to work, but was actually able to make it to Florida as well.
Since the format had not changed going into Virginia, I kept on with what I knew best – Virizion/Genesect/Roserade. I was extremely confident in my list and knew the deck like the back of my hand. Emboar was really gaining traction as a threat, its success proportional to the popularity of Genesect.
Before the event started, I knew there were a lot of Emboar decks floating around. It made me nervous, but I was hoping that with a little luck, I could sift through them while other people knocked them down with Plasma, Blastoise, or Garbodor. I stuck to my decision.
Round 1 began and finished easily, and I was feeling good. The first round was out of the way, so I walked away from my table to try and see if any of my friends have also finished yet. I found Ryan, and spin his heavyweight champion belt (a reward for winning your round). Everything is going great. Then, the day turned sour.
“Tyler Morris, we need to see you at the judge’s table.”
I heard my name over the megaphone and walked over to the table to see what the issue was. It turns out that I had filled out my decklist incorrectly, and forgot to write in the set name and collection number for my Roserades and Bouffalant. As per the rules, I was required to remove those cards and replace them with basic Energies. My stomach dropped. I thought to myself, my momentum for the season is at a complete stop. I dreaded going through the next 8 rounds with my new list, which we all very affectionately called “EX theme deck.”
Right after hearing the news, I told Ryan I was going to drop. As he and many other people have said before, “What else are you gonna do, then?” I reconsidered and decided that even though I knew my outlook was grim, I was going to give it my best shot with this monstrosity. Who knows? Maybe it will open my eyes to something about the deck I hadn’t learned yet.
It didn’t, though. Just to let you know, Virizion/Genesect with 20 Energies (including 3 Psychics in case I can Psydrive with Mewtwo) doesn’t work too well. Make sure you double-check your list, people.
Though earning me a disappointing 4-3-2 finish, I also learned a couple of hard lessons from this experience. The most important one being to check your decklist carefully before handing it in. I’m not going to say this didn’t ruin my day. It did. But I have to be glad that it happened and that I learned something from it. I also learned that even in the face of things as unfortunate as this, you don’t have to quit. Look for what you can gain out of every tournament, good or bad, and look to improve yourself.
Lesson Four: Attitude is Everything
At Florida Regionals, I made sure my decklist was error-free when I handed it in. I checked that every ‘t’ was crossed and every ‘i’ was dotted. The day started out well enough, but quickly took a rough turn. Florida is a tough area to play in. I found myself at 2-1-2 and fighting to stay alive. Then, I won my 6th round, then 7th, then 8th. And before I knew it, I found myself on the cusp of making Day 2 again. I needed to win my last round to make it, and went in hopeful and confident.
My opponent was Mario Lopez, and I have to say that Mario is one of the coolest guys I’ve met to date. He may not remember me, but what he did in the last round of Florida Regionals taught me something.
In the midst of a 50-minute time limit, it has not been uncommon to be the victim of slow play this season. It can be so easy to win a long game one and then take your sweet time in the second game to ensure it doesn’t come to completion. The situation arose in this very pivotal round.
Mario was able to win the first game, which happened to take a while. We both knew we didn’t have much time to play another game, and my best case scenario at this point was a tie, barring something extraordinary happening.
Even though he had a clear advantage by winning a long game one, Mario actually sped up his pace in the second game. I had no choice but to try to play extremely quickly and take reckless G Booster knockouts in hopes of a quick victory, and he matched my pace. At the risk of him losing his chance of Day 2, he opted to provide a more than fair opportunity to me to tie up the series. This game came close, but I ended up still losing.
I was not really disappointed, though. I was really glad he made it to Day 2 in Florida, and I am happy that if I had to lose to someone, it was him. The chance for a fair game completely out of his sportsmanlike attitude showed me that there are a lot of respectable players out there, and I’m glad to be a part of a community with people like him in it.
Lesson Five: One Step at a Time
After Winter Regionals concluded, we had States and Spring Regionals on the horizon. I sat at 287 CP at this point, and was still determined to earn my Worlds invite.
I earned two Top 16 finishes and a 5th place at Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina States, respectively. I was slightly disappointed that I had not set myself up favorably to go into Georgia Regionals, but sometimes things are out of your control. I had a path to the finals mapped out in North Carolina, only to dead-draw miserably in Game 3 of Top 8 and lose out. While losing in this way is disappointing, you can’t sweat it. There was nothing I could have done to change the cards I drew, so I had to use what I was dealt. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I needed. Such is life.
Before NC States, Ryan and I stayed up late one night seeing what we could do to improve the Genesect list that the “SC crew” had been molding all season. We realized how strong Safeguarders were in the current format, so we tried out Sigilyph. We played Skyarrow Bridge already, so being able to retreat Virizion turn 1 and promote Sigilyph proved incredibly useful, as it made Blastoise need one more piece (Pokémon Catcher) along with a lucky turn two Black Ballista to stop you from getting your turn 2 Emerald Slash.
Thundurus has a much harder time knocking some preemptive damage on your Virizion, buying you time and also earning the first strike of the game when you can Emerald Slash on the following turn. Even in the mirror, Sigilyph can help mitigate their Emerald Slash and allows you to get damage on the board before they do. Sigilyph was MVP for NC States, and was also very helpful at Georgia Regionals.
Spring Regionals were smaller than Winter or Fall Regionals this season, so we didn’t have a Top 32 on the second day this time. As such, I would have been 18th seed going into the second day. Instead of continuing my efforts to Top 8, I would be stuck with barely missing Top 16 and a net gain of 15 Points. Disappointing to say the least, but I played my best. Side note: Crustle doesn’t die from G Booster. Dumb rock-bug.
It is important to learn obscure rulings. You may never know when one may be the difference in making or breaking your run!
I’m currently sitting at 382 CP. I put forth a solid effort, and we all still have Nationals to look forward to. Getting my invite from this point is going to be hard – and that’s okay. I look forward to giving it my best shot. I have learned so much from this year and the people who I have met, and for an inaugural year, I can’t complain about much. It has been a truly humbling experience.
Given the above novel, I can say that my outlook toward future sets and what it means for a metagame has changed since earlier in the season. Flashfire is here, and the set has proven to contain a lot of game-changing cards. Rather than examine the good cards in the set (lots of people have already done that), I wanted to see the impact these new cards have on the decks that were good from NXD- XY.
This is the first step I like to take when a new set comes out – tons of people always flock to building a deck centered around a brand new card. This can be an effective approach at times, but I feel like the best way to get the most out of building a brand new deck is to understand how it must perform in the midst of already established decks. We can’t simply throw together the new Charizard-EX with Fiery Torch and Blacksmith and just assume it is competitive.
If I have learned anything in my first competitive year of playing this game, it’s to build from what’s successful. That’s not to say that you should never build a deck around a new idea – but that you should stick with the basis of what led a successful deck to success.
The first thing we should take a look at is how our proven decks will be affected by a metagame shift as well as particular cards in the set.
Floette is the one card Flashfire introduces that can change the way V/G is built. Playing something like a 2-2 line in your list bumps Genesect and Virizion both to 210 HP if you can get both Floettes out. This lets Genesect and Virizion narrowly live through a Black Ballista or opposing G Booster. In addition, Lugia’s Plasma Gale becomes much less effective as well. Fitting this into your list may be easier said than done, but the benefits cannot be overlooked.
The Fire Rises
The addition of Fire support from Flashfire makes Virizion/Genesect a risky play. One of the biggest issues (if not the only issue) for V/G throughout this season has been Fire decks. Aside from Emboar, I feel like this deck could handle anything that was thrown at it.
Now, though, it’s more than just praying you dodge Emboar and playing well against the rest. You have to avoid Emboar, Charizard, Pyroar, and other random decks that may pop up now that Fire types have another Energy accelerator.
One particular instance of this happening was at a League Challenge a few months ago that Kyle and I attended. I decided to play V/G, since it was a relatively small crowd and most of the people there I knew were new. Naturally, I just chose something consistent that I was familiar with.
After we handed in our decklists, we sit down next to a couple people. He jokingly says that he hopes I just run into random Fire decks all day. We have a good laugh until a girl a couple seats away from us announces that she’s playing Quad-Heatmor. Kyle falls in the floor laughing and I am praying that she gets knocked down Round 1.
As fate would have it, not only did she win her first round, but she won her first two. Additionally, I not only dodged her once, but twice. The third round was posted and the inevitable stared back – I guess I’m playing against Heatmor PLS/Victini-EX/Victory Piece!
Long story short, I was able to capitalize on her mistakes and win the round – but it goes to show that even an inexperienced player can beat a monotyped deck just because their attacks smack you in the face for double damage. Had she not misplayed, I would have been knocked out of contention and Kyle would have had a great time against her in the last round.
My point is that now with cards like Blacksmith and Fiery Torch, some players may be more inclined to play with fire. Regardless of whether those decks are actually good or not, the fact remains that if you get paired against it at some point in the day while playing V/G, you are probably going to take a loss.
Blastoise and Emboar have been great decks all season for obvious reasons. Flashfire helps both out, but also brings a hindrance in Druddigon.
Lysandre is huge for decks that have the ability to 1HKO like Blastoise and Emboar. Nearly all Rain Dance lists in recent months have played Pokémon Catchers, but the upside of Lysandre is that it’s a guaranteed effect.
Another reason Lysandre is so good in these decks is that while you give up any draw Supporters for the turn by using it, you have secondary draw through Electrode and Delphox. Granted, Electrode is weaker than Delphox in terms of draw power, so drawing that extra two cards can make a huge difference. For this reason, Emboar may be able to pull off playing Lysandre better than Blastoise. Only time and testing will tell.
Pokémon Fan Club could potentially be a great inclusion in these decks due to the importance of getting your Squirtles and Tepigs down early on in the game. Along with Tropical Beach, these decks can become even more consistent, and thus more relevant to the meta.
But in testing so far, I’ve found that Fan Club is best left for after rotation, when we no longer have access to Level Ball. Skyla is just too useful on your first turn, whether you use it to grab a Pokémon search or a Beach.
Fiery Torch (for Emboar)
In early testing, Fiery Torch seemed like it could be an awesome addition to Emboar decks, allowing you to play less actual Supporters and rely on Delphox, Tropical Beach, and Items for draw power. This set up let you save your Supporter for the turn on Lysandre. Everything seemed to mesh so well on paper, but in practice, I’ve found Fiery Torch to be largely unnecessary. The engine in NXD-XY Emboar lists is tried and true. I don’t think there’s any reason to try to change what already works.
The biggest problem for Rain Dance decks as we move into Flashfire is the presence of Revenge Druddigon. While it can be played around if it’s dropped early, it’s also terribly easy for your opponent to wait until you’ve taken a Black Ballista KO to drop the Druddigon on their following turn to punish you. This alone will make those who opt to play a Rain Dance deck play much more cautiously. What is even more infuriating is that its Weakness is Fairy, not Dragon. Your baby Ray or little Black Kyurem won’t be able to take it out in a single shot.
While Yveltal helped to make the Rain Dance matchups a little better due to its speed, it was definitely not a favorable matchup. Now that we have Druddigon, Darkrai decks have a direct hard counter to getting 1HKO’d by a Black Ballista or Dragon Burst. The Darkrai player is able to keep the pace up now by returning a KO while also (hopefully) Dark Patching to a Benched Pokémon for the following turn. This matchup gets much better.
Since Darkrai stuff has been around for so long, it’s been obvious that the Rain Dance matchup has been tough. Druddigon is the solution to the deck’s only real Achilles heel.
From the time that Sableye was introduced into the format, we’ve gotten quite a few Items that can drive your opponent insane. The newest addition may be Trick Shovel, which alongside things like Red Card, Crushing Hammer, and Hypnotoxic Laser can be maddening to play against. Combine the ability to Junk Hunt these Items back with Garbodor, and you have something that can potentially lock your opponent out of a game fairly frequently. Robbing them of Energy and making sure they continue to dead-draw all while their Pokémon are Poisoned and have no Abilities could be pretty effective.
Onto the new stuff.
There are a lot of new cards in this set, particularly those that work with Fiery Torch and Blacksmith, that do more than augment our already-proven archetypes. The poster boy of the set is Charizard, and it would be somewhat wrong to ignore that it will be played. Like many other people, I grabbed up my set of Combustion Blast Charizards as soon as I could, and began testing with them. My results have been varied.
Charizard is fun to use because it’s Charizard, but it’s not as good as it was hyped to be. I have tried tons of things over the last week or two to see how effective the lizard can be (just ask Eric Gansman), and I have come to a conclusion on how such a deck needs to be built:
Non-Supporter draw is absolutely essential.
This is not to say that you should cut all your Junipers from a Charizard list. The problem with using Fiery Torch and Blacksmith together is that it’s slow, and if you don’t have the right cards in your hand at the moment that you use Blacksmith, you are not going to get too far.
This is where other forms of draw come in. In order to allow for Blacksmith to be used but also keep up momentum, we need another way of drawing cards.
Here’s a sample list that employs multiple non-Supporter draw cards in order to get the most out of Blacksmith for Energy acceleration.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
There are lots of ways to trim the fat here, but the core idea is to draw with Electrode, Fiery Torch, Tropical Beach, and Roller Skates while you use Blacksmith to charge up multiple Charizards. Raichu is essential because it’s your best way to handle Yveltal-EX.
Keep in mind that even though this deck has a solid enough concept, it doesn’t mean that it will do well in any given meta (especially considering the reliance on flippy Roller Skates).
Another way to play Charizard is along with Garbodor. This version does not try to speed up to match the pace of other decks, but rather slow them down to a level manageable for Blacksmith to be more viable. Here’s a good starting point for Charizard/Garbodor:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
Obviously, Ability-based draw is not an option here, so we have added a third Tropical Beach for some added stability. Between 8 R Energy + Fiery Torch, Roller Skates, and Tropical Beach, you should be able to get set up. Again, Raichu is necessary for Yveltal and as a solid non-EX attacker to throw the Prize trade off. Professor’s Letter is also an option in either of these builds, but I have yet to find room for it.
Charizard in general is decent at best. I’m hoping we get some more Pokémon-based draw in the future so that this can live up to the potential that everyone has hoped for. Regardless, Charizard will be played, and I think this may be the best direction to take it in.
Kyurem and Deoxys have worked well together since last May when Plasma Freeze was released, and many people throughout the months have played Plasma in this way – going straight for the quick Frost Spear and bypassing Thundurus-EX or other Plasma attackers in order to streamline a very powerful non-EX in Kyurem PLF.
The most common version of this variant utilizes Exp. Shares in order to keep that Energy flowing back and stop yourself from being left with no attacker. The biggest problem with the deck was that without Thundurus, you lose that mid-game recovery in such a situation where your Exp. Shares are Tool Scrappered or Megaphoned away, leaving you with no Energy on the field.
Flashfire gave us a cool little trick for a deck like this, though: Milotic. The Energy Grace Ability gives you that mid-game recovery that Thundurus normally provides, but allows you to make all the Energy in the deck mostly basic Water for a more streamlined approach.
Here’s a starting point if you’re interested in experimenting with this deck:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 12
Life Dew works well here because many decks only play 1 Megaphone, and they’re going to want to burn your Exp. Shares off. From that point on, you are either free to attach the Life Dew and more Exp. Shares, or they are in a position where they have to use their Dowsing Machine on the Megaphone again. Not to mention that Life Dew is pretty cool with Milotic, as you can Energy Grace without handing your opponent a Prize for it.
A lone Rainbow Energy could be included for situations where you may have to bust out a Deoxys to steal a knockout. P Energy is also an option here due to the inclusion of Professor’s Letter and the ability to Super Rod and Energy Grace with it, but Milotic can’t Grace to an EX. Perhaps something could work out if a couple of cards were dropped for a some Energy Switch.
Safeguarders are still really good in the current state of the game. Suicune fits in really well with the approach this deck takes in order to wall the opponent or punish them for not leaving bench space for a non-EX attacker. While the above list doesn’t include Suicune, it would not be a bad card to fit in if you can find that one spot.
Flashfire brought some pretty cool things to the table. While pretty much everything is just the product of brainstorming at the moment, it never hurts to try out new ideas – even if they seem really bad at first.
I have met a ton of awesome people this season and plan to meet even more of you at Nationals, Worlds, and on into next season. The experiences I have had, at my highest and at my lowest, have all been worth it. Thanks for everyone who has made this season great!
Please don’t forget to leave some feedback if you enjoyed this article, and be sure to catch the Sabelstream this summer at twitch.tv/sabelhaus! I’ll see you all there!
Stay based and positive,