Hey SixPrizes readers! I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback from my first article and I’m excited to break ground with my first Underground piece for the site. I have been involved in the competitive scene of the Pokémon TCG for a decade now and I can’t help but notice the most exciting new medium to bring more Pokémon to fans and players is live streaming. Just like watching your favorite sports team or tennis star, you can now follow your favorite players and major events with the click of a button.
Today, I will discuss the past, present, and future of coverage for the Pokémon TCG, with an emphasis on the future and what to look forward to. This is an exciting new field for our game that is still in its infancy stage. While it is maturing, I see this chance to stop and take a moment to review the progression of this avenue as a great opportunity. This look back helps bring understanding to what the streaming community is trying to give to the players and fans in the present and future. I personally have invested much time trying to give players and fans of the game an educational, exciting, and most importantly fun stream.
I also sat down with my friend Michael Diaz and we put some serious work into two Top Five lists for you all. Be sure to check out his article where Michael discusses the Top Five Stage 2 decks in the format. I featured my Top Five list around five of my favorite decks focused around Basic and Stage 1 Pokémon. I will also bring the article full circle and stream every deck from both Top Five lists this week on our stream, so be sure to tune in and join the fun!
- Pokémon TCG Live Streaming Through Time
- The Top Five Basic-and-Stage 1 Decks of NXD-FLF
I would like to start this look back by thanking the founding members of The Top Cut: Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich, Michael Pramawat, Josue “Crimz” Rojano, and Drew Holton. As players for years with a true love for the game, they took it into their own hands to solve a major issue facing the TCG: How can we provide more Pokémon TCG coverage to the community? During the summer of 2011, they cemented their plans and got to work.
When it comes to live tournaments, they covered the 2011 US Nationals Final where Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich lost to the Champion, Justin Sanchez. The audio and video left something to be desired, but as do most things in their humble beginnings. This lead to live streaming events of every caliber, and with the go ahead from the Head Pokémon Tournament Organizer, they began to provide a feature match every round for the world to see in real time. This was instantly a huge success with fans and players, as finally we could watch events or friends when we are a thousand miles away. Instead of waiting for a social media update to see the results, we now have the opportunity to watch the game unfold before our eyes and ride the dramatic rollercoaster of top decks, pro plays, and coin flips.
The Top Cut team also has an interactive “Round Table” weekly internet show on their Twitch channel, where players and fans can tune in and be apart of the discussion. These shows were highly popular, but they ran into the issue of decreased topic selection. Now they try to bring the fans a show whenever new sets or major events are coming up.
Also, as I’m sure many of you already know, Pooka from The Top Cut runs a very successful “Bad Deck Monday” stream on Monday nights at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time. Every Monday, Pooka accepts the challenge of taking subpar decks featured around unlikely heroes to see if they can finally be victorious. With hundreds of viewers in the Twitch chat and song requests, you can expect plenty of laughs and thrills every week. Be sure to also look out for the occasional Thursday night stream from Pooka, where he brings the same atmosphere with him while playing more competitive decks.
I would like to take a moment to mention I include The Top Cut only in “the past” because they have decided to hold off on live stream coverage of official Pokémon TCG organized events. However, they continue to provide live coverage for the Klaczynski Open and The Top Cut Invitational.
Looking into the current state of live streaming, there are quite a few individuals who do a good job bringing commentary and games to the community. It’s great to have a wide diversity of players in our game, and we can see everyone putting their own mark on how they commentate. Here are some members of the community to look out for:
Ryan does a terrific job providing commentary to newer members of the community in his live streaming of events. As a viewer, you can expect a blow-by-blow analysis of what each player is doing and he makes it easy for beginners to follow along, even if they are watching the Pokémon TCG for the first time.
Vince Krekeler has done great things for the Pokémon TCG community through years as a Tournament Organizer and Judge within the game. With Yeti Gaming, Vince has introduced a very well-done stream that I first saw showcased at the St. Louis Winter Regional in 2014. With veteran players Chris Fulop and Zach Zamora running the commentary for the two-day live event, full of interviews and witty interactive conversation to fill the free time between the matches, I simply cannot wait to see what Yeti Gaming has in store for the fans in the future.
With the financial backing of Jimmy Ballard and Top Cut Central, On The Bubble has started to provide Pokémon TCG coverage all over the United States and Canada. Jeremy Jallen, Mike Newman, Kenny Wisdom, and Chase Nieman (along with Harrison Leven, Isaiah Middleton and Michael Canaves) have been providing streaming in the past year and risen in popularity. I personally have commentated on their stream in Philadelphia, Virginia, and Orlando this year, and it is a fun experience for everyone involved!
Sabelstream // Twitch
My brother and I started streaming last summer when my friend Michael Martindale wanted to play a best-of-51 series. I believe we only played like 30 games, but we had such a great time with the fans of the stream that I continued to stream whenever possible.
During the middle of the summer, I got a message from Jason Klaczynski while he was driving from Florida to Chicago. We made plans on the fly and within hours he was on his way to our home in Greenville, SC. We had only been streaming PlayTCG.me up until then, and with the three-time (then two-time) World Champion on his way, I had make an investment on a good webcam. Jason arrived around midnight and we streamed live matches until at least 6 in the morning. During the three-day mini vacation, we must have streamed a full day’s worth of Pokémon. We were officially hooked.
Here’s what to expect from us moving forward:
As most players, we like to playtest with great friends as much as possible. With our buddy Tyler Morris only a few minutes away, we are able to bring live games to our channel and let the fans join in on the fun with us. We test many different matchups and use this time to help us decide on the perfect decks and lists for the upcoming events. The fans of the Sabelstream can watch the blunders and successes and use this information to help them in building a deck and list they are confident in for their next event, wherever it may be.
Pokémon Trading Card Game Online has evolved into a great program and is slowly giving all players some features we have been begging for. With the addition of Tropical Beach last year, friend battles, and now the upcoming Tournament Mode, I believe that streaming PTCGO is better than ever.
Protect The Prince
Easily my favorite addition to the stream last year was Protect The Prince. Ducklett has a special place in my heart, and with my friends Dean Nezam and Arron Sanyer from Virginia we had an inside joke of playing a random Ducklett in every deck and seeing if we could still win. I took this a step further on stream, and gave myself rules that my opponent would be completely unaware of. Without further adieu, here are the rules of Protect The Prince:
- Add a Ducklett to your deck.
- Whenever you draw Ducklett, you must play him on the Bench. (Always leave an open Bench space if Ducklett is not yet on the field.)
- Protect Ducklett at all costs because if Ducklett is knocked out at any time, you forfeit the match.
This reminded me of the attachment players feel when starting a “Nuzlocke Challenge” in the video game, and it brings a level of excitement to the match that you have to experience to fully understand. There is also something funny about a little duck hanging out on a board where he clearly doesn’t belong.
Nationals Draft Day
Okay, so you may be asking, “How do you draft Pokémon players?” It’s actually pretty simple and very entertaining. Our first draft was US Nationals last year, where over Skype we live streamed 2013 World Qualifiers Dean Nezam, Henry Prior, Michael Diaz, Sam Liggett, and myself choosing names from the eventual 927 players in the Masters Division. It is a great chance to give players a moment in the spotlight and have a fun debate. The only rule of the game is that you cannot choose yourself.
After ten selections each, the teams were locked in and all that was left to do was see where our players finished. We had our own point system, which looked something like this:
- Top 128: 5 points
- Top 64: 10 points
- Top 32: 20 points
- Top 16: 50 points
- Top 8: 100 points
- Top 4: 200 points
- Top 2: 500 points
- Winner: 1,000 points
It gave Nationals an even more exciting feel than before, as now we followed all of our selections and celebrated in their victories like they were our own. Be sure to keep a lookout for that show and maybe start your own drafting tradition with your friends!
My Top Five list will consist of my favorite decks focused around Basic and Stage 1 Pokémon with the addition of Pokémon from the Flashfire set. I invite you to check out this list with an open mind and maybe try some of these ideas in your own testing. Let’s get started!
Toxicroak-EX was one of the first cards translated from the Flashfire set. Instantly the combination was formed in every Pokémon player’s head: Virbank City Gym and Triple Poison. Triple Poison adds two damage counters between turns and Virbank City Gym adds two damage counters as well. Is a five-damage counter Poison enough to build a deck around? Toxicroak will need friends to back him up, and nobody has a better track record of helping big Basic Pokémon-EX like Garbodor LTR.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 38
Energy – 11
The entire deck is focused around Poison damage with the use of Toxicroak-EX’s Triple Poison, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Virbank City Gym. Opposing decks that have an answer for Special Conditions by way of Abilities, like Virizion-EX’s Verdant Wind and Keldeo-EX’s Rush In, are in for some trouble with Garbodor shutting down these Abilities. If your opponent isn’t able to retreat, evolve, or switch out, math can be their worst nightmare.
Take for instance a Miltank from Flashfire with 100 HP. With a Triple Poison and Virbank City Gym, five damage counters are being placed between turns, so without a switching Item or costly retreat, that Miltank will be knocked out going into your turn. This gives you the opportunity to poison a new Pokémon and start the process all over again.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Kyle, what about switches, retreating, evolving, and all the other ways to get around Poison?” Well, the answer is simple. Let them. Let your opponent use all their resources to escape the Poison damage. Next time you see that Pokémon, it will most likely be in range for a knockout by a Mewtwo-EX X Ball or Bouffalant Gold Breaker, especially with the addition of a Hypnotoxic Laser. This is certainly a change of pace to some of the popular decks that charge head-on with one-hit knockouts, but different doesn’t mean worse by any means.
The key to many point guards’ and quarterbacks’ success in the pros is controlling the pace of the game. The game moves fast when you want it to move fast, and if you want a slow skirmish, then slow it is. This deck has great control. With the ability to turn up the heat with an early Triple Poison or X Ball + Hypnotoxic Laser, your opponent is instantly on the ropes trying to keep up.
Garbodor’s Garbotoxin, at the drop of a Tool, then brings the pace to a standstill. Without the assistance of something like Blacksmith, your opponent’s turns become very predictable. Expect an Energy attachment, a draw Supporter franticly looking for their switches or Surprise Megaphone, and then an attack if possible. Eventually they will burn all their resources and you can decide what pace is more likely to lead to victory.
This deck doesn’t need much to get rolling. With 4 Float Stone and 2 Switch, it won’t be much trouble to have Mewtwo-EX or Toxicroak-EX on the aggressive early. Garbodor also has 6 Pokémon Tools to choose from to lock in Garbotoxin, so it isn’t unlikely at all for this deck to have everything it needs by the second or third turn.
One issue that can come about with this deck is having an attacker when you need to deal a lot of damage quickly. If Mewtwo isn’t able to do the job, there is a Hail Mary play: Trubbish. With the use of Psychic Energy and Exp. Share, Tool Drop Trubbish seemed to make a nice fit. Surprise Megaphone absolutely ruined this card, but with Garbodor as the main focus here, your opponent has to use this Item to free up their Abilities. Once this time has passed, play down those Tools and let the damage add up. If your opponent has a few Tools of their own in play, you might just steal a knockout right from under their nose!
The yin and yang of the new set combine into easily one of the most interesting and fun-to-build decks in a long time. After years of nearly identical Supporter lists for the main archetypes in the format, it was a breath of fresh air to mix it up a little.
For a short recap, Pyroar is the new Stage 1 Pokémon that cannot be affected by damage from Basic Pokémon. With many decks completely reliant on Basic Pokémon for attack power, this can steal victories as soon as it hits the board. Charizard-EX with Combustion Blast is one of the strongest attackers from the new set. Combustion Blast does 150 damage, so a Muscle Band means a one-hit knockout on most of the played Pokémon-EX in the format. In combination with Keldeo-EX and Float Stone, multiple Combustion Blasts in a row could leave your opponent reduced to ashes.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
I love consistency, so it’s odd to see Roller Skates in any list of mine. However, this is a whole new breed of draw engine, and with that comes change. The focus of this deck is to put Fire Energy in the discard while setting up a Pyroar or Charizard (depending on the matchup). By any means necessary, a Blacksmith in the opening turns is crucial to the usual setup and overall strategy of the deck. In this case, it means 8 draw Items and a Jirachi-EX. These cards also come in handy late in matchups to survive N.
The damage potential in the opening turns for this deck is ridiculous. Going second, it is not that unlikely that you start Charizard-EX (or use Float Stone to bring him Active), attach Double Colorless Energy, Ultra Ball or Computer Search two Fire Energy from a Professor Letter, and then Blacksmith those Energy to Charizard. With cards like Jirachi-EX and all the additional non-Supporter draw cards, seeing extra cards and burning through the deck is quite common. The speed of this list can also be used to set up a turn 2 Pyroar and really apply pressure to certain decks.
Many decks from NXD-XY would be terrified to see Charizard/Pyroar across the table. Think of how Virizion/Genesect must feel knowing that there is a Fire Pokémon that not only knocks their Pokémon out in one shot, but also cannot be damaged (aside from G Booster). Yikes!
Plasma also feels the pressure, being a deck consisting only of Basic Pokémon. Most Plasma builds are now trying to find a place for an Evolution line, but this is hardly an issue and Lysandre can take it off the board before it is ever a threat. Yveltal/Darkrai/Sableye now is basically forced to add a Garbodor line because without it the only damage counters reaching Pyroar will be from Hypnotoxic Lasers.
Milotic has one of my favorite Abilities from the new set, Energy Grace. This Ability allows you to knock out Milotic and attach 3 basic Energy cards from the discard pile to a non-EX Pokémon. This Ability goes perfectly with an older deck that lost a lot of playability due to the popularity of Tool Scrapper, Kyurem/Deoxys/Keldeo. The point of the deck was to attack as fast as possible with the help of Colress Machine, and eventually stream multiple Blizzard Burns with the help of Keldeo-EX’s Rush In. The problem this deck has is that the only way to keep Energy on board was with the help of Exp. Share. Milotic solves this resource problem.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
Speed and Disruption
It’s hard to classify this deck, as it brings so much to the table so quickly. Going second, your opponent could very possibly be facing Frost Spear and Hypnotoxic Laser damage on the first turn. Your opponent has no choice but to handle the Kyurem, meaning eventually multiple Water Energy are going to reach the discard pile. With Milotic, Kyurem wont miss a beat, and it’s safe to say your opponent is going to have a difficult time focusing on their setup when all these Kyurem are ready to go. Virbank City Gym and Silver Bangle also make the math for Kyurem on Pokémon-EX very simple, and early knockouts with this deck can lead to a quick victory.
Non-EX Main Attacker
Put simply, knocking out four Kyurem back-to-back is going to be a difficult task. With Milotic’s Ability, you generally hand your opponent a Prize, but with the Prize exchange this is not a major issue. With the help of Deoxys-EX on the Bench, Silver Bangle, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Virbank City Gym, Pokémon-EX are going to end up on the losing side of the battle more often than not. Watch out for Yveltal-EX though – you’ll need to Frost Spear early, let Laser do some work, and avoid placing more Energy than necessary in that matchup.
Frost Spear is a dangerous attack. Mr. Mime used to see a lot more play when Darkrai and Plasma ran the world just a few sets ago, so maybe it’s time to take advantage of this opening. Many decks run Basic Pokémon with 60 HP or fewer, so if they don’t evolve fast, a quick Prize is just waiting to be stolen.
Frost Spear can also be used to soften up some larger Pokémon or allow Poison math from Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym to be in your favor. Although the deck is focused around two attacks, there is still plenty of strategy in how to set up the board favorably.
Right off the bat, Pyroar and Charizard have their way with this deck. It’s fine; every deck takes a loss to something. Virizion/Genesect was one of the most popular decks up until the release of Flashfire, but this deck also gained a valuable piece. Floette is a Stage 1 Pokémon that gives all of your Grass Pokémon +20 HP. With two Floette on board, Genesect-EX and Virizion-EX are now surviving G Booster and Black Ballista, two attacks that haunted them in the past.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
With 4 Virizion-EX, this deck is built with the same plan in mind as most Virizion/Genesect decks: Emerald Slash on the second turn. The high Supporter count (especially Skyla) is key. Roserade also provides a spark from the Bench, assisting Genesect-EX with Plasma Energy or G Booster when the time calls. It’s hard to draw the line between a flashy, teched out Virizion/Genesect and a consistent list when Roserade is in the deck because the one-of Trainers serve an important purpose. I feel that this list does a good job of walking that line.
Genesect-EX is still one of the best cards in the game. The ability to Red Signal any Pokémon on the Bench and then Megalo Cannon or G Booster is nearly unmatched, especially when this can occur as quickly as the third turn. For certain matchups, the game may call for a cautionary approach, where you may just Emerald Slash to multiple Genesect-EX while Red Signaling Pokémon you wish to soften up. Sometimes Emerald Slash with a Muscle Band is enough to knock out Basics, like Spritzee in the difficult Aromatisse matchups.
With the addition of Floette to the deck, Virizion-EX and Genesect-EX may be able to stay on board one extra turn than before, and that could mean all the difference.
The cards in this deck all work so well with each other. Every Basic Pokémon has 1 Retreat Cost, which when Skyarrow Bridge comes into play is reduced to free retreat, leading to Active Virizion-EX more often. All the Grass Energy from the Virizion-EX after Emerald Slash can serve a greater purpose with the use of Energy Switch, helping those Energy power up a G Booster or possibly a second Genesect-EX.
One of my favorite surprises in this deck is Squeeze from Roserade out of the blue, especially against Suicune with Safeguard. (Weakness!)
Even the Trainers share synergy, like in the case of Shadow Triad. Usually I use this card for G Booster or Plasma Energy, but grabbing a Colress when you need draw power or another Genesect when you Prize one or two is so useful.
This deck is a true competitor. M-Kangaskhan-EX, with an astounding 230 HP, is a juggernaut. The struggle that the Aromatisse decks of the past faced were one-hit knockouts, generally from 200-damage attacks like Black Ballista of Black Kyurem-EX PLS or G Booster on Genesect-EX. Being able to survive these hits gives new life to Aromatisse, and Wham Bam Punch is taking this deck to the next level.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
Energy – 11
Being able to absorb just about any attack in the game is quite a feat. Once M-Kangaskhan-EX hits the field, it is difficult to remove him. The strategy behind this deck is simple; evolve into M-Kangaskhan-EX and use Aromatisse to move the Energy on and off of this Pokémon in combination with Max Potion. Now, you only have 3 Max Potion in the deck, so it is important to limit the amount of damage your opponent puts on board. I have found Sigilyph to do a great job of slowing down opponents on the turn you Mega Evolve or other turns when you aren’t going to attack.
Mega Kangaskhan’s Wham Bam Punch is honestly of my favorite attack names ever. The attack does 100 damage plus 30 more for each heads you flip consecutively, so with a Muscle Band it only takes two heads to knock out most Pokémon-EX. Flips aren’t always going to go your way, so Victini LTR’s Victory Star allows you to re-flip if you didn’t like the first outcome. This damage output, along with Xerneas-EX and Mewtwo-EX to bring backup, is something all opposing decks have to respect.
Most Aromatisse decks struggle against Enhanced Hammer and Garbodor. In this list, I tried to limit the amount of issues the deck has that are within my control, so 11 Fairy Energy immediately eliminates the Enhanced Hammers.
I am aware that there is only 1 Startling Megaphone to deal with Garbodor, but more importantly I decided to play a Switch and Escape Rope instead of a 1-1 Slurpuff XY line or Virizion-EX and Special Energy. These switch cards end up paying off huge in Garbodor matchups when escaping Hypnotoxic Lasers. This deck is essentially a Big Basics deck, just like most Garbodor builds, so after you use the Startling Megaphone, Max Potion your attackers, set up your Energy, and get ready to go to war.
There also is a Lysandre to knock out a solo Garbodor or Trubbish if the opportunity presents itself.
Streaming the Pokémon TCG is one of the most fun and exciting ways to partake in the game, for both the audience and the players. I would like to extend an invitation to anyone who read this article to come join our streaming family, or if you already are a part of it be sure to tell some friends! Pokémon is a great game and I love sharing it with as many people as possible.
If you would like to see some of the decks from this article and Michael Diaz’s article earlier this week played live, be sure to check out the stream tonight starting at 8 PM EST. If you miss this episode, don’t fret, as the next stream times will be announced on my Facebook and Twitter @ksabelhaus.
As always, thanks for reading and be sure to look out for more content from my brother and myself!
– Kyle Sabelhaus
… and that will conclude this unlocked Underground article.
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