The penultimate event of the season, US Nationals, is creeping up on us with each passing day. As competitive Pokémon players, the weeks before this event are both exciting and stressful. The new set, Flashfire, has recently dropped and everyone is scrambling to figure out the format and perfect their lists.
Today I will be updating one of the strongest Dark decks from last format, taking a peek at an interesting anti-meta deck I recently encountered at a local tournament, and interviewing Karl Blake, semi-finalist at UK Nationals over the weekend, who piloted a fancy Fairy deck to his fabulous finish.
But to begin, I’d like to take a moment to discuss a concept which puts even the most emotionally steadfast of players off-kilter.
Table of Contents
- Talking About Tilt
- Interview with Karl Blake, UK Nationals Semi-Finalist
Talking About Tilt
Recently, I read an article about Super Smash Bros. where a famous player talks about unintentional mistakes and tilt. You might be thinking, “What does that have to do with the Pokémon TCG?” Well, I think tilt is relevant to any competition and I want to transfer the sentiments of that article into Pokémon terms. Going into Nationals, I believe that staying focused and not going on tilt are pertinent to your success in such a big event.
First off, let’s describe what tilt means. Tilt is a poker term for a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming overly aggressive. To make this definition easier to understand, I will give you a hypothetical situation in the Pokémon TCG where tilt affects the outcome. I will also describe two types of tilt: in-game tilt and out-of-game tilt.
The matchup is Virizion/Genesect played by Player A against Yveltal/Darkrai/Garbodor piloted by Player B. Player A has only one out to win the game with 20 cards and no Supporters remaining in his deck. He gets N’d to one. For the sake of the example, let’s say the only out in his deck is a G Booster. He needs that G Booster in order to Knock Out the opposing Yveltal-EX. If he fails to draw the G Booster in the two cards he will see (the one from N and the one for his turn), he will lose the game.
Player A draws the one card for N, and it’s an Energy. His heart sinks, but then a miracle happens. For his turn, he topdecks the G Booster for game! We see Player B‘s face turn white; he is crushed. He thought he had Game 1 locked up, but then his opponent topdecked the win. Player B is feeling all different kinds of emotions ranging from anger to disbelief. Slowly, Player B starts to go on tilt and become emotional, possibly even calling out his opponent on being a “luck sack.”
Going into Game 2 we can see Player B is visibly frustrated thanks to the bad beat. The thoughts of the first game linger in his mind. “What are the odds of that happening… my opponent got so lucky,” he thinks to himself. Player B chooses to go first. He starts with Trubbish, his opponent starts Virizion. Player B benches Yveltal-EX and instinctively N’s, forgetting to attach a Float Stone he had in hand first. A simple mistake, one that would normally never be made had he not been still caught up with the previous game. His head was stuck in the past, and he wasn’t focused on the current game.
The slight misplay causes him to miss his attack, as he doesn’t draw a Float Stone the following turn. This leaves his powered-up Yveltal stranded on the Bench with no way to become Active. The missed attack swings the tempo of the game severely into his opponent’s favor, and eventually snowballs into Player B losing the game and match. Had he not gone on tilt, perhaps he would have been in a proper mindset going into Game 2, and he would have remembered to attach the Float Stone.
How to Prevent In-Game Tilt
This kind of tilt is the most difficult to tame, as sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us. One of the best things you can do in between games is to take your time shuffling, and try to relax yourself. Take a deep breath, drink some water, and try to put the last game behind you. Focus on the upcoming game, and do your best to get in a winning mindset.
That plan goes out the window to some degree if you think time is a factor because you will need to rush, but you can try to calm yourself while setting up. Experience is the best thing that will help you learn to control in-game tilt. For myself personally, I have realized that I just want to win the game. In order to win the game I need to play perfectly; I can’t let my emotions hinder my performance.
During my Top 32 match at Nationals last year I played Game 1 to the best of my ability. I was playing Blastoise against Dylan Bryan playing Klinklang. I was able to set up a play where I Knocked Out his Klinklang PLS and N’d him to 4 cards. This was my only hope of winning the game. If he was able to get another Plasma Steel Klinklang out, I no longer had the resources to Knock Out his Pokémon with non-EX attackers.
He managed to get a Rare Candy and Plasma Steel Klinklang off the N to 4. My heart sank a bit and I noticed I was starting to tilt. I asked if I could go to the bathroom between our games. I was allowed to do that, and I was able to shake off the loss after a short walk and some water. Doing that between games is somewhat of an extreme example of how to calm yourself, but it worked for me.
Unfortunately, I was destroyed the next game, but at least I didn’t make any misplays or go on tilt. After playing the game enough times you learn that if you play perfectly and you cannot win the game then there is nothing you can do about it. Losing is a part of any game and it will happen. You need to collect yourself and stay focused for the upcoming games.
The more you play the game, the more strategies you will develop to deal with tilt. Everyone develops their own ways to psych themselves up or prevent themselves from tilting. You need to find yours, whether it be as simple as taking deep breaths while shuffling and having some water, or as odd as talking to yourself. (Yes, I have seen that before. It was a bit awkward, but hey, if it works, do it.)
Out-of-game tilt is exactly what is sounds like: tilt that occurs at an event that has nothing to do with what is happening during the game. This is the easiest kind of tilt you can prevent. A brief example of what can put you on tilt that is caused by something out of the game can be something as simple as being hungry, or having to go to the bathroom during a game. I know it sounds silly, but when you are distracted by basic, physical dilemmas, your gameplay can be drastically affected.
The simple solution to avoid going on this type of tilt is pretty self-explanatory, but many people still don’t do it, myself included on occasion. During Virginia Regionals I made some very sloppy plays toward the end of the day simply because I was dehydrated, hungry, and not feeling well. If you know you are going to get hungry, or will need water throughout the day, which will happen, come prepared.
When talking of US Nationals we are lucky to have various food and 7-Eleven-type places scattered around the convention center. Although, you may not have time between games to leave the convention center, so I recommend bringing water and food in your bag. There are plenty of places to buy snacks and drinks. Don’t be dumb – come prepared for a long day with potentially no breaks. I know this year I am going into the tournament venue prepared and ready for a long day of Pokémon. I refuse to lose a game in such an important event due to a misplay caused by something as trivial as not being focused because I am hungry.
Before I move on with my article, I want to give a shout out to CLASH Tournaments. They are mainly known for their sponsorship of Smash Bros. players and their Smash Bros. articles, but they are starting to do Pokémon TCG articles too. I was talking with Chibo, the owner of CLASH Tournaments, and he said that he plans to roll out a slew of deck analyses on the new Flashfire format before US Nationals. They will probably be in similar style to the Pokémon articles already on the site for XY format decks. The writers will most likely be high-caliber players such as Angel Miranda and Tristan Macek. These two players are also strong, value picks for your US Nationals drafts.
Now I want to talk about possible deck choices for the remaining National Championships and what I believe will be a strong contender in the current metagame. Yveltal/Darkrai made a huge impact last format, and I believe it is here to stay. With everyone talking about all the new Flashfire deck possibilities, I want to shed light to the fact that older decks are going to stay on top, especially this one.
Yveltal/Darkrai variants have not gotten all that much love lately, but I think Yveltal/Darkrai’s matchups remain strong with the right list, and you will need to be on the lookout for this deck. In the new format there are so many variables concerning matchups that is hard to give what I think will be the perfect list. The main reason for this is because the metagame has not come to full fruition just yet; we are still somewhat blind.
I am going to give the skeleton that I think must remain constant in any list and then give you possibilities to fill the empty slots based on what you feel the metagame will be like.
Pokémon – 7
Trainers – 35
Energy – 11
This skeleton of 53 cards is what appears to remain stagnant throughout nearly all Yveltal/Darkrai/Garbodor lists. Some people would opt to play a different Supporter lineup, but this skeleton is what I have seen have the most success by far. Now, let’s get to talking about how to fill those 7 free spots.
More Draw Cards
The reason I didn’t include my standard copy of a Bicycle or two is because not everyone likes to play it. Some people prefer to play more Supporters, such as Shauna, or maybe another Colress and something else. Michael Skoran even saw success playing Roller Skates, winning a States with them. I do think that more draw cards are needed, but they can be whatever cards you feel comfortable with.
This tech is self-explanatory. If decks that play a high number of Special Energy become popular, namely Plasma and Fairies, this will be a good card to have in your arsenal. Being able to be reused and spammed with the help of Sableye can also be huge. This leads me to the next card I want to talk about: Sableye.
It’s weird to look at a skeleton for a Dark deck and not see a single copy of Sableye. However, I think the popular strategy of spamming Junk Hunt may be waning. I rarely find Sableye better than baby Yveltal unless I am trying to reuse Hammers or I am playing against a Rain Dance deck am trying to lock out of the game.
Most of the time baby Yveltal’s damage output and ability to attach a Darkness Energy outweighs the benefit of Junk Hunting. Obviously you will have situations where you really want to Junk Hunt back a Random Receiver because you have a dead hand, or you want to get back resources late game, but that doesn’t happen that often for me.
I am by no means saying Sableye is bad. I am simply stating that I don’t think he is as necessary as he used to be, unless you have a Hammer strategy which revolves around it. I still like one Sableye just like before, but I could probably see myself cutting it to none if I think another card is more deserving of the spot in my deck.
I would recommend trying to play your deck without Sableye and see if you think the change is viable for your deck. You might realize the times you actually Junk Hunt are so minimal that it might not be worth the space.
The Garbodor Line
Personally, I think having a 2-2 Garbodor line is going to be needed in this new format. Abilities are going to play a huge role and shutting them down will be important. With a 2-2 line you become less susceptible to Lysandre and you get Garbodor out more often. The reason I don’t include the 2-2 Garbodor line in my skeleton is because people have found success with a 1-1 line. Frank Diaz won New England Regionals playing a 1-1 Garb line, so clearly it can work out.
With Lysandre in the format now, I am not sure how potent the strategy will be because getting your Garbodor Knocked Out may occur more often than ever before. Also, I am afraid of Pyroar locking you out of the game, which means you will need a Garbodor in play to deal with it, making the 2-2 line a better choice.
If you think Pyroar will not be played much and Lysandre is not stopping you from winning, 1-1 Garbodor could still be viable, so I will not discredit it. It also frees up two spots in your deck to add more techs or consistency.
Lysandre is a card that I don’t think will be able to fit well in this deck with the current skeleton. Hitting it when you need it is inconsistent. High counts of Random Receiver do not play into Lysandre’s favor either. This deck needs to draw cards to function, and if you hit a Lysandre off a Random Receiver when you need a draw Supporter your whole game can be ruined.
Pokémon Catcher is a flip, I know, but the risk of running Lysandre is greater than Pokémon Catcher’s flip.
If I were to consider playing Lysandre in this deck the Supporter lineup would need a huge overhaul. Random Receiver would need to be replaced with Supporters, some Catchers with Lysandres, and Computer Search would become better than Dowsing Machine. The whole feel of the deck would change. This could be a viable way to play this deck, but I prefer the current version.
Bouffalant DRX and Druddigon FLF
This deck needs at least one heavy-hitting non-EX attacker. These two cards are the best options to fill that spot. If you find the space you could even run both, or multiple copies, of each of these attackers if you want to.
Druddigon has been getting much hype since it came out, and for good reason. It is able to swing the Rain Dance matchups (Blastoise and Rayboar) more in your favor. A 90-damage revenge attack is also just solid, setting up most anything for a 2-shot. It’s also the only Pokémon in your deck that can hit that hard for just one (Double Colorless) Energy.
Bouffalant provides the same role in the deck as it did last format: a heavy-hitting attacker that can 1-shot 170 HP Pokémon-EX with a Muscle Band combined with Laser Bank. Bouffalant is just as good this format as it was last format. With more non-EX decks popping up (namely decks that use Miltank), perhaps Bouffalant’s usage decreases, but otherwise he is still a solid choice.
Adding a second Darkrai EX has proven to be crucial in certain matchups during testing. Darkrai-EX is a very strong attacker against the new age Stage 2 decks, namely Empoleon. The extra 30 snipe damage is critical to setting up Benched Pokémon for future knockouts. With Garbodor shutting off Mr. Mime’s Ability, you don’t have to worry about anything hindering Darkrai’s rampage. Yveltal is a horrible attacker against Empoleon, as you will almost never 1-shot them, usually making Darkrai a superior attacker during the mid to late game. With two Darkrai-EX in my deck, I rarely drop a game to Empoleon.
Darkrai-EX has also proven its worth against Plasma decks. Yveltal’s Weakness to Lightning Pokémon is crippling against Plasma thanks to Thundurus. Luckily, getting a fast Darkrai makes the matchup winnable, whereas normally it would be bad. Of course, Darkrai-EX is still mediocre in most of the other matchups, especially mirror. Even then, the ability to give free retreat when you don’t have Garbodor out and the potential to snipe 30 to finish off a damaged Benched Pokémon can be relevant.
Odds and Ends
Changing the counts of pre-existing cards to your preferences and liking is the last thing I would recommend doing to the list. Adjusting counts on cards such as Ultra Ball from 3 to 4, Virbank from 2 to 3, Muscle Band from 2 to 3, adding a fourth Double Colorless, or 9th Darkness Energy are the changes I am referring to. Most of the counts in this deck can be tailored to your liking. I recommend testing the deck a bit and figuring out exactly what your preferences are and tune accordingly.
Recently in the New England area our Tournament Organizer, Tom Shea, held our first constructed tournament of the NXD–FLF format. The turnout for this tournament was low, around 20 people, but there were some notable players who showed up (Chris Murray, Dylan Lefavour, Azul Griego, and Ian Robb, to name a few). It was a mixed divisions tournament, meaning Seniors could play Masters. I was able to Top 8 this tournament and split (meaning the Top 8 split the prizes and the tournament ends) with Yveltal/Darkrai/Garbodor.
The tournament was not difficult by any means, but I want to show you the list I used to give you an example of how to play the deck this format.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
3 Float Stone
2 Muscle Band
Energy – 12
The tournament had only one Blastoise deck, so I opted not to include Druddigon in my list. The rest of the deck is tailored to my preferences. The rise in Empoleon’s popularity is why I opted to play two Darkrai-EX that day, and it proved to be worth it.
I could not see myself playing Yveltal/Darkrai without Garbodor in this format. The deck has no answer to the Pyroar, and most likely has worse matchups against Rain Dance decks, Plasma, and Fairies without it. The upside to excluding Garbodor is that you have a slight edge in the mirror, since you have less dead cards. I don’t think that slight edge is relevant enough to exclude Garbodor right now.
My only loss during that tournament was to an interesting Raichu/Ninetales deck played by Mike Brigham. The deck seemingly countered Yveltal-based decks and Empoleon. It was a strong metagame call. I am not sure if this deck is viable for US Nationals. Its merits are mainly strong Yveltal and Empoleon matchups, but I think the format is far too diverse to bank on playing the same matchups over and over.
However, I do think this deck is incredibly strong in a known local metagame, and you could easily net yourself some League Challenge wins with it. Here is Mike’s list:
Pokémon – 18
4 Pikachu XY
Trainers – 33
1 Float Stone
Energy – 9
The deck’s strategy is simple: Knock Out Pokémon weak to Lightning with Raichu, and try to 1-shot everything else with Ninetales. If Pokémon such as Yveltal or Empoleon try to hide on the Bench, use Ninetales’ Ability to bring them Active and Knock them Out with Raichu. Mike told me that if he were to go back and change anything he would have added a Munna BCR.
A note on Munna that can be important: don’t forget to not evolve your Active before trying Long-Distance Hypnosis. If you lose the sleep flip on Munna during your turn and you have not evolved, you can evolve out of sleep and not waste a turn.
Interview with Karl Blake, UK Nationals Semi-Finalist
This past weekend UK Nationals took place. There were 151 Masters with 8 rounds of Swiss and a cut to Top 8. The Top 4 decks went as so:
The event was streamed by WakefieldTCG on Twitch.tv. I was fortunate enough to score an interview with semi-finalist Karl Blake, who placed 4th with his team’s unique version of Plasma/Aromatisse. I talked to Karl about topics like the UK metagame and the deck he chose to play.
Ray: What was the metagame like? What new cards or decks from Flashfire made an impact?
Karl: I would say the Fairies, Empoleon, and Yveltal variants were the main decks at the tournament. There were many other decks, but those were the biggest. I played my team’s version of Fairies, which was created by Luke Burke, but I added my own twist. My Swiss rounds went like this:
R1: Empoleon/Miltank – W
R2: Fairies – W
R3: Plasma – L
R4: Eeveelutions – W
R5: Empoleon/Miltank – W
R6: Ninetales/Munna – W
R7: Yveltal – W
R8: Intentional Draw
T8: Virizion/Genesect – W
T4: Yveltal/Darkrai/Garbodor – L
Toward the end of the tournament all the weirder decks started doing poorly. At one point there was a Pyroar deck that was 3-0, but it must have fallen off. All meta decks made up the Top 8. No Blastoise or Rayboar decks were in contention for top cut. Druddigon was featured in most players’ Yveltal decks.
Druddigon and Miltank seem to have been the most impactful Pokémon from the new set. Anyway, what Fairies list did you choose to run?
Here is the Fairies list that I made Top 4 with:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 30
4 Professor Juniper
1 Team Plasma Ball
Energy – 13
The list is similar to the Fairy decks that were played last format. I chose to play this deck because I have played it in tournaments before and had prior experience with the deck. It is the deck I have tested the most. I also thought it had decent matchups across the board.
Can you explain to me some of the more interesting card choices like the Deoxys-EX, 1-1 Mega Kangaskhan, and Scoop Up Cyclone?
With one Deoxys-EX you can hit better math on Yveltal-EX with Thundurus, making it easier to 2-shot. If you miss the Muscle Band the first hit, but have the Deoxys-EX, you can still 2-shot it the next turn with a Band. Deoxys also can turn some interesting math against Empoleon. You can do 120 damage to an Empoleon with Thundurus + Muscle Band and then Red Signal that Empoleon and Knock it Out with splash damage from Genesect or Darkrai-EX. It also allows you to hit certain math with Genesect-EX which makes Pokémon easier to either 2-shot (or 1-shot with splash damage). If I were to change this deck, one of the changes I would make is cutting the Yveltal-EX for a second Deoxys-EX.
Scoop Up Cyclone was the unique change I added to my deck that my teammates did not end up playing. My logic behind Scoop Up Cyclone was this: Computer Search will help you set up. Scoop Up Cyclone will win you games on the spot. Also, I didn’t like G Booster in this deck because I don’t like to discard my Energy. It’s hard enough getting them to stick on board as is. Scoop Up Cyclone won me multiple games, including my Top 8 match. It acts as a 5th Max Potion, another way to switch, and can potentially scoop up Plasma Energy so I can Red Signal more.
I ended up regretting playing the 1-1 Mega Kangaskhan line. It was only useful in one game, which was the mirror match I played. I expected to face Pyroar, which was another reason I played it. It just didn’t end up working out the way I wanted it to in the tournament; it was too inconsistent. I would rather spend my turn attacking rather than Mega Evolving most of the time anyway. I wished that the 1-1 Mega Kangaskhan line was instead an Entei-EX and a baby Rayquaza. The Entei-EX would have helped a ton against Virizion/Genesect. The baby Rayquaza is a soft Pyroar counter, and can help against other things.
Why do you play 3 Tool Scrapper over 3 Megaphone?
I like to be able to choose which Tools of theirs I discard. If an Yveltal/Garbodor deck is forced to attach a Float Stone to a Yveltal or Bouffalant early game, I might not want to discard it. There are situations where I would rather keep the Float Stone on it and limit its potential damage output. If I discard their Float Stone, they are free to attach a Muscle Band to that Pokémon. The times where discarding more than 2 Tools is actually relevant doesn’t happen often.
(This is true. As an add-on to that Tool Scrapper advice, I want to say the same is true for a Garbodor-based deck. If I were to play an Tool-discarding card in my Garbodor deck I would play Tool Scrapper over Megaphone. There are situations where one could be forced to attach a Muscle Band to a Garbodor and then have it be Lysandre’d up. In that situation I would want to be able to Tool Scrapper my own Tool. There are also other niche situations where I would also want to Scrapper my own Tool that I believe come up more often than when you want to get rid of more than two of their Tools.)
Thank you for your explanations and your time Karl. It was great being able to interview you and I hope my readers will learn a lot about your deck and possibly consider playing it at their respective Nationals. It’s always nice talking to you and I will see you at Worlds. Congratulations again on getting your invite by Top 4’ing UK Nationals.
Funnily enough, I decided to write a majority of this article on Yveltal/Darkrai/Garbodor because I thought it would be one of the best decks in the upcoming format, so I wanted to talk about it. Then, as Nationals in the UK and other parts of the world started to unfold, my prediction proved to be spot on. After this weekend, I would say that the metagame is starting to form itself slowly, and as more Nationals happen it will further develop.
I think the hype of Pyroar and many of the potential new decks have been silenced to a degree. Even some old top tier decks, mainly Rain Dance decks, have fallen out of favor thanks to Druddigon and a shift in the metagame toward decks with naturally good Rain Dance matchups. I have been testing different variations of Blastoise and Rayboar and have not found all that much success with them recently. Here is my latest variation of Blastoise that I have been trying:
Pokémon – 16
3 Blastoise BCR
Trainers – 33
3 Professor Juniper
Energy – 11
This deck struggles against non-EX-based decks, especially ones based around Miltank. It’s also never had a favorable Garbodor matchup, and it’s especially tough now that they play Druddigon. I just see no reason to play this deck when it struggles against some of the best decks in the format. Over-teching for those decks will ruin your consistency, and at that point is it really even worth playing Blastoise? I am not sure; I don’t think it is though. If the metagame shifts back to less Garbodor and more EX-based decks, I could see Blastoise and Rayboar becoming more viable options, but I don’t think that will happen.
I predict that Empoleon/Miltank, Yveltal with and without Garbodor, Fairies, and all the decks that did well this weekend will continue to do well at Nationals. I’m sure we might see some type of rogue deck come out before US Nationals that could affect the metagame, but I don’t see it changing drastically. I can’t wait to see how future Nationals unfold and I wish all of you the best of luck in your Nationals! If you are going to US Nationals feel free to say hi to me – I love talking to new people!
If you enjoyed this article, give it a “Like.” If you think I could improve on some things, let me know that as well in the forums. All feedback is welcomed and encouraged; I always respond. Again, I hope you enjoyed this article, have a good day, and good luck at Nationals.
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