Three Sides

My Expected Metagame Triangle for US Nationals 2014
us nationals 2007 chris fulop jay hornungpokemonelite2000.com
Look at that smile! (Far left.)

US Nationals. One of my favorite tournaments each year. I mean, I may a bit biased having been lucky enough to win the event back in 2007. Yeah, I have to run the shameless blatant brag every so often. (Very often.) The event is a chance for the game’s top players to buckle down and bring their absolute best, while also giving new and upcoming players a stage to break through and show what they can do. The atmosphere offered by such a giant-sized event is unparalleled.

I’ll be honest though: I haven’t competed in the National Championship since 2008, as I was consistently stuck in an enviable position during the Elo rating-based Worlds invite format. From 2009-2011, I had managed to get enough rating points to narrowly “lock up” my Worlds invite before Nationals, and a bit of bad luck during the event would knock me out of Worlds. I chose to sit out the event to secure my invite each of those three years, and I don’t regret my decisions. Even just attending Nationals, helping my friends test, and cheering everyone on made the whole experience wonderful.

I will be attending US Nationals in Indianapolis again this year, and once again, I will not be playing. I actually would enjoy the opportunity to play this year, but have fallen victim to the required Play! Points necessary to play. I’m not entirely sure I’m the type of player they are intending to push from the event by the requirement, but I am certainly a casualty of it.

I’m not terribly upset by the predicament though. This will still be a chance to see all of my friends and watch a great tournament unfold. So with the fact I’ll have pretty much nothing to do already addressed, I encourage people to come up and say hello and maybe hit me up for a pickup game or two. (I may be a bit busy helping my friends playtest on Thursday, but once the event starts, pester me. Please.)

The Impact of Flashfire

charizard stuckpokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com

The 2013-2014 tournament structure, with the lack of spring Battle Roads, actually has a fairly substantial impact on how to approach going into Nationals this year. There haven’t been any major events in the States featuring Flashfire to date. (Yes, for the sake of this point, I consider Battle Roads to be a relevant event. No, I do not put League Challenges in the same category.)

The impact of the new cards being introduced to the format have not been felt on a wide scale. To counteract this, there is more online content discussing Pokémon than ever before, and use of Pokémon TCG Online has also helped to negate some of this, but I think that there is much less of a universal understanding of what this set offers us than we’ve had at this point in years past.

That said, I actually do not feel that Flashfire has a major impact on the format. So far, I’ve been very unimpressed by a lot of the spotlight cards from it. All the Charizards have proven to be underwhelming. They sometimes perform brilliantly and excel in certain matchups, but there are too many decks favored over them. To make it worse, the decks require so much to make them flow smoothly that you can’t really make them flexible enough. Charizard is powerful and it has an engine, but it seems like you are stuck doing a lot of work to pull off plays that are only mildly more impactful than what you get out of other Tier 1 decks. Maybe there ends up being a list that I’ve simply overlooked for Charizard, but I don’t think it’s out there.

Pyroar was another card receiving a lot of hype. Unfortunately, the card doesn’t really have a tremendous home. I don’t think enough decks are malleable enough to a splash line of it, and decks built around it have their own problems. One of the big problems is dealing with how popular Raichu has become. (I’ll touch more on this later.) Another problem is that the card is extremely poor when dealing with time. When it is working, the game gets dragged out. This means a lot of matches will not go to completion. Nationals is a very long tournament, and extended matches add up.

If possible, I’d like to be using a deck that is able to close out a match decisively. You will see a LOT of game threes during Swiss at Nationals, and most of them will probably end in a draw. Unless a deck is so strong that you don’t expect to go to a third game, I’d rather be using a deck that can reasonably close out the third game in a win. A long, grindy lock deck is not what I’d want to use. Any game state where Pyroar is performing well is going to be a long one.

Good Cards

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The cards which are good coming from this set are Mega Kangaskhan and Lysandre. Lysandre ends up impacting the format in two ways. A lot of decks which would have run Pokémon Catcher will “upgrade” to Lysandre. The change isn’t entirely lateral, as there are pros and cons to the two cards. There are plenty of game states where you cannot afford to use a Supporter to gust. You also lose plays such as Skyla for Catcher. That said, the obvious strength of not having to flip a coin is huge. You can get away with running less copies of the card since you don’t have to compensate for failed attempts. You really only need 1-2 Lysandre a game.

Outside of decks which just substitute the two cards, decks which previously didn’t have room to fit Catchers can now run 1 or 2 copies of Lysandre. We already saw decks getting their hand forced before. Blastoise and Rayboar decks didn’t really have the space to squeeze Catchers into their lists, but the card wound up being the tiebreaker in the mirror match, and since the decks were so popular, people had to run them just to keep up.

That function is much better served by running Lysandre. Decks which want to use the gust effect to keep decks from setting up and to aid in applying pressure may not want to run a Supporter version of Catcher, but decks aiming to use one backbreaking Catcher by the end of the game will be well served sleeving up as few as one copy of the card. I see a lot of other decks following suit with this tactic if they have the space.

Mega Kangaskhan ends up being good strictly on the virtue of being a fat, Colorless tank. I almost typo’d Colorless as Colress. I’d just like to point that out. (I definitely turned in an essay paper in college having typed Ground as Groudon twice throughout. That one was awkward.)

Kangaskhan has decent attacks, easy to afford Energy attack costs, and a HP total which makes it more or less impossible to OHKO. Yveltal-EX and Mewtwo-EX can “TECHNICALLY” hit the 230 mark needed to deal with the Mega form, and -EX can mess it up pretty well. Unfortunately, even previously assumed “one-shot” professionals such as Genesect-EX (with G Booster) and Black Kyurem-EX PLS fall short of the necessary damage.

The obvious pairing for Kangaskhan is alongside Aromatisse (that name will never feel natural to me) and Max Potion. Kangaskhan also benefits from having a Fighting Weakness, which is pretty much unexploitable. There aren’t any good Fighting Pokémon that see play, and the major decks in the format are not susceptible to the type, so there is no splash hate either.

Kangaskhan does suffer from a few problems. First off, the Fairy deck is really slow, and I already mentioned not liking that trait for a deck on principle. Second, it suffers against the best deck in the format, as well as against what I consider to be the second best deck in the format.

The Frontrunner

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I guess I should just cut to the point here. The past few articles I’ve written have had me touch on every deck in the format. I’d been scheduled right around the release of new sets, but now we have a more stable playing field. I actually do not feel like the field is open at all. There are only three approaches I would take with this format.

There is a definitive best deck. I don’t think anyone would argue that Yveltal/Garbodor isn’t the lone frontrunner in this format. Yveltal-EX is just such a powerful card. Druddigon has shrunk the format down in that it ends up really hindering Blastoise and Rayboar by being able to cheaply answer their big Dragon-type OHKO weapons. Druddigon is not only a passive influence on the format (it being printed makes Blastoise and Rayboar a risky play), but Yveltal decks already run DCE and they can splash the card itself.

One of the decks Yveltal actually does struggle against is the Fairy deck, due to having a difficult time scoring enough OHKOs past the Max Potions and various efforts to stop Hypnotoxic Laser (decks running non-basic Energy use Virizion-EX, whereas the mono-Fairy builds run a thin Slurpuff XY line for the function). (Yes. Function is my new term of the article. Get used to it. Or MAYBE I’ll deviate away from it entirely the rest of the article. Who knows.)

Luckily, Garbodor is fantastic against the deck, as it greatly hinders the efficiency of their Max Potion plays and makes your Lasers live again. Garbodor also serves a similar function against Virizion/Genesect. Against Plasma, you get little incremental benefits. You turn off their Deoxys and Lugia. With enough Deoxys and Muscle Band, Thundurus-EX can actually be a legitimate threat against your Yveltal-EX, but with Garbodor it’s just another piece of the already complex puzzle they need to gather to accomplish a one-shot on the Yveltal.

An aggressive Yveltal deck is strong, but has the issues touched on above. By adding Garbodor, there really isn’t a single matchup in the format that I feel drops below 50%. You rarely find a deck in a format that doesn’t have ANY bad matchups, but Yveltal/Garbodor seems favorable against even the most obscure of fringe decks. (Ok, I am sure someone is going to cite something ridiculous that beats it, but you know what I mean.)

This is a great example of a deck being so good that it overcomes the fact that a lot of its games go really long. You end up in a lot of drawn out grindy games. That said, Yveltal-EX is inherently very aggressive, so you can definitely flip the switch to speed it up when you need to if you want to avoid scoring a draw. When you have a deck which has winning percentages across the board, potential intangible issues like struggling on time can be overlooked.

The Other Two

Now, before I get to a list for the deck (I have two potential builds for it), I mentioned that there are THREE choices I like for Nationals. Yveltal/Garbodor is the default best deck in the FORMAT. Yet, it isn’t guaranteed to be the best deck for the specific US Nationals metagame. If you have one deck that has a giant target on its head, it is going to warp what decks are played. You could definitely find a large portion of the players coming equipped with decks skewed to beat the deck.

I said earlier no decks were favored against it, and I guess I need to clarify that by saying that I meant in their current build and incarnations. If you are willing to skew a list enough just to beat one deck, you generally are able to do so. I also somewhat intentionally failed to address that one of the best weapons to beat Yveltal/Garbodor would be another Yveltal-EX deck opting NOT to run Garbodor and instead being faster and running tools to improve the Yveltal “mirror” match.

If the presence of Garbodor passively weeds out decks weak to it from actually showing up for Nationals, then the card ends up being unnecessary. So you can attempt to play the next stage of the metagame cycle by eschewing the Garbodor and reallocating those slots to beat the Garbodor builds. (You’d want to adjust a few cards to help you against the matchups that Garbodor was crucial in, such as running 2 Druddigon versus Rayboar, as even though you are taking a calculated risk hoping those decks will diminish in numbers, you can’t leave yourself completely ill prepared.)

This basically just means that while in the format’s unadulterated state, that Yveltal/Garbodor may be better than any other Yveltal build, but once the presence of the Garbodor build starts to slant what people play, you can capitalize. The challenge is of course figuring out exactly what stage of the metagame cycle you expect at Nationals.

This predictably leads to the third deck I expect to be a viable consideration. If Garbodor is Deck A, and Yveltal without Garbodor would be Deck B, preying on Garbodor, then Deck c is a deck which preys on the format if you expect a lack of Garbodor, or for it to perform poorly. If you take Garbodor out of the equation, then I feel that Rayboar is actually a fantastic deck choice.

Why Rayboar?

delphox artwork by kin-seikin-sei.tumblr.com

I’ve always stood by the fact that Blastoise and Emboar decks set the bar for power in this format. Once all decks are set up, nothing can really compete against its easy-to-sustain chain of one-hit kills. Unfortunately, even with Startling Megaphones, the decks are not particularly great against Garbodor’s Garbotoxin. Blastoise is slightly better against it, but I like Emboar over it for a number of reasons.

First off, Virizion/Genesect is favored against Blastoise and more or less cannot beat Emboar. Second, Delphox adds a degree of consistency to the build that Blastoise cannot replace. Electrode is a decent card, but it is not nearly in the same league as Delphox. On the topic of Delphox, it also makes for a strong non-EX attacker in a lot of matchups, and Blastoise doesn’t really have a replacement for that. The third and main reason I like Emboar over Blastoise also revolves around Delphox, but it deals directly with Druddigon, the deck’s new worst nightmare. This also is relevant, but as I said before, Black Kyurem-EX cannot OHKO a Mega-form Pokémon, whereas Rayquaza-EX can hit 240 fairly easily.

When Druddy nukes your Rayquaza-EX, you can get a pretty easy return kill using Delphox. In order to kill Delphox, these decks find themselves almost always having to use an EX to get the kill. This lets you “get back” the Prize exchange by trading your own non-EX for their EX, negating the advantage. If you get stuck dealing with 2+ Druddigon, it gets a bit worse, but a lone Druddigon tech in a deck is doing far less damage to an Emboar deck than a Blastoise build.

On the topic of Blastoise, Keldeo-EX has also lost a lot of strength due to Yveltal-EX. It ends up being a pretty poor attacker in most matchups now. Since Emboar has access to the same attack in Delphox, Blastoise doesn’t really do a lot that Emboar cannot match now, and is a bit less consistent. Previously, had been a reasonable attacker against Garbodor decks as an one which doesn’t purge itself of all its Energy (which is one of the reasons Blastoise had been better against Garbodor than Emboar), but Yveltal does such a monstrous job against Keldeo now that you can’t even view that as a realistic advantage anymore.

To recap, the best deck is Yveltal/Garbodor. Yveltal/Dark decks, and I am sure other specialty counter decks, prey on Yveltal/Garbodor. Rayboar prays on the aforementioned decks. The fun part is guessing what stage of that cycle will dominate the Nationals metagame. Honestly, it is difficult to judge, even on the day of the event. There is going to be a lot of raw guesswork when looking at it.

A History Lesson

chris fulop 2005toledoblade.com
“Play style”

I want to flash back to Worlds 2005. The best deck exiting Nationals was the Medicham e lock deck. I hated playing that deck, and never felt comfortable with it. It didn’t fit my play style. I also felt like it had a massive target on its head. I didn’t want to play mirror matches where I was weaker with the deck than players who had been using it for months.

I also expected a lot of anti-Medicham decks to show up and do well. As we saw, the Nidoqueen deck that took 1st and 3rd at the event (SORRY ADAM!) falls right under that category as it was very good in that matchup with Toxic. The Dark Steelix deck that showed up was a result of its good matchup versus Medicham as well. It is difficult to pilot an established “target” best deck without people THINKING they beat it. (Sometimes they do, other times they are much worse off against it than they thought.)

I couldn’t find a deck that beat Medicham. I stayed up LITERALLY all Friday night jamming various homebrews against Martin Moreno’s Medicham build, and did not win a SINGLE game against it. It was too late for me to audible over to playing Medicham myself, so I was stuck facing a problem. I ended up defaulting to the deck I had won Regionals with that year with, Rock Lock.

Despite Alex Brosseau’s abnormally high win rate against the deck, Rock Lock had a fairly weak Medicham game. I was clearly getting destroyed by Medicham anyway, so since I couldn’t solve the puzzle, I accepted my loss to Medicham and went with the deck that had the best matchups against everything else, and ideally was so high in raw power that it would beat any anti-Medicham decks that popped up.

This scenario is fairly analogous to what we have now. Garbodor is Medicham and Rayboar is Rock Lock. I ended up doing fairly poorly at Worlds ’05, but my losses came from bad variance, which had nothing to do with my deck choice. (I played one Medicham, which I lost to, despite actually giving myself a winning position which my opponent drew out of.) I liked my gamble, and I’ve always been willing to at least consider this type of play again.

I mentioned earlier that I was not a fan of the Fairy decks while discussing Kangaskhan. They have a miserable matchup against Garbodor AND Rayboar, which I view to be two of the only real choices for the event. That said, Fairies are pretty strong against non-Garbodor Dark decks, and likely pretty good against the types of decks which I’d consider to be good against Garbodor builds. Unfortunately, unless you really have a good read on both Garbodor and Rayboar decks being underplayed, it’s hard to defend the deck as a choice.

Eight Thoughts

What I’ve been doing so far is testing for all three stages of the metagame. That way, I am well equipped for a number of decks, so I have choices for the event. Before I give you guys the lists I have for the decks I’ve been using, I wanted to break down a few things I’ve noticed about the format that are less deck specific and more format wide.

1. Jirachi-EX’s stock has risen.

jirachi happystillstarrynight.tumblr.com

Jirachi has always been good in decks that need to set up, but the release of Lysandre and Blacksmith have given it extra utility. Decks can run 1 or 2 Lysandre, and due to the Balls you run, you have a pretty good way to search the card up and use it in the same turn. (Skyla’ing for it obviously doesn’t help here much.) This also lets you diversify your Supporters a little bit.

Ironically, Lysandre has made Jirachi better, but also makes it more of a liability. Regardless, I still think the card is great and I’ve been running it in most of my lists now.

2. Random Receiver has gotten worse.

Ok, I’ve always hated this card. I’ve felt like it gutted your deck of Supporters and was unreliable late game because every time you drew an N it didn’t really count as much of a draw card. Now even decks running Sableye (pretty much the only decks running Random Receiver) want to run Lysandre and Random Receiver just doesn’t work if you do that.

I’ve actually though been testing a version of Yveltal/Garbodor using the Random Receiver and Bicycle engine while still sticking to running Pokémon Catcher over Lysandre.

3. Raichu is a great metagame call.

I’ve called out Yveltal as the best card in the format. There are not a lot of great Lightning-type attackers which can really punish the card. (Thundurus-EX is great in Plasma, but doesn’t do a good job of realistically one-shotting Yveltal-EX, so it doesn’t really count.) Raichu lights the card up, and can be powered out of nowhere. Its attack cost makes it fluidly splashed into any deck running Double Colorless Energy.

I’ve touched on the potential for new decks to be discovered to combat the metagame, and I firmly believe Raichu will be a vital part of that deck. Raichu also deals with Lugia-EX, which is the primary weapon from Plasma. It also does enough damage as a non-EX attacker that it is strong in matchups where it doesn’t necessarily pick on Weakness.

4. Plasma is a confusing deck.

I am not entirely sure how I feel about this archetype. I feel like the deck gets progressively less powerful compared to other decks. Thundurus-EX doesn’t do quite enough damage. Deoxys is a conditional attacker. Lugia-EX is really powerful, but it suffers a lot of splash hate from Yveltal-EX. Raichu picks on it, and Enhanced Hammer is good against it.

That said, one of the things I disliked about Plasma previously was its matchup against Emboar and Blastoise, but now the deck can splash a Druddigon or two. I’m not sure how much that changes the overall matchups, but I suspect it makes them closer. Garbodor has been a big pain for Plasma anyway, as well.

I guess my hesitation here is that I don’t see any matchups that yell “this really favors Plasma” and there are a lot of decks that make me suspect Plasma struggles against them. I have to imagine that the Fairy deck is pretty good against it. To make things more frustrating (I’ve loved playing Plasma), the issues you face versus other decks are all diverse and it would be difficult to fight all of them.

I still view Plasma as a tier 1 deck, but I just don’t see any big REASONS to play the deck. I also don’t see a lot of people I’ve talked with who like the deck. If I was to look at building a Plasma deck, I’d try to build it from the ground up. I don’t think the current stock build is where I’d want to wind up anymore.

5. Miltank may actually be good!

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I assume most people reading this have been exposed to the various Miltank decks going around. You just rush out a Stage 2 Pokémon, and use Miltank’s C attack to start doing huge amounts of damage very early on. The two most popular builds I’ve seen have involved Butterfree and Greninja. Butterfree serves one purpose: get into play. The line has Abilities which allow them to accelerate their evolution, so you want to rush them out (ideally on the first turn) and start swarming with your Miltanks. You come out of the gate quickly, and attack with all non-EX attackers.

The second build relies on Greninja as your enabling Stage 2, but you also can dump Water Energies for a damage boost and to help set up future kills. You are a bit slower, but you end up having a lot more reach and are able to put out far more damage.

I’ll just be blunt and say I dislike the Butterfree build. I just don’t think that you end up getting a Stage 2 into play THAT much quicker reliably enough to justify your Stage 2 more or less doing NOTHING. Most decks aiming to do so can expect a Stage 2 in play on the second turn. Getting a Stage 2 into play on the first turn only matters half the time, as you can’t attack going first.

So for Butterfree to matter, and I know this is oversimplifying things (and leaving out the percentage of times you miss a Stage 2 evolution on the second turn that Butterfree may show up for), but you have to go second, get a Miltank up and attacker (with an Energy) and also get a turn 1 Butterfree out. This doesn’t happen THAT often.

I don’t think the gimmick is worth giving up the choice to play a Stage 2 Pokémon that has more impact on the game. If you just want a placeholder Stage 2, I could even imagine throwing in something like Empoleon or even Delphox. Empoleon offers a good attacker and some consistency. Delphox is all about consistency, and if you want to run Blacksmith, you can actually “sweep” with a Delphox end game after using Miltanks most of the game.

I like Greninja the most of the options though. I also don’t really feel like the deck is quite good enough. It’s just felt like a fun deck that is competitive, while falling short of being the best choice.

6. Enhanced Hammer is very good right now.

It is good against Yveltal decks, and against Plasma as well. One of the big problems I had with Hammer previously is that it was a literal blank against Emboar and Blastoise, two decks that made up a large portion of the field. Even though I like Rayboar a lot right now, I expect numbers to be way down for the deck. Hammer is also good against the toolbox Fairy decks, so the percentage of the field that this card matters against is only rising.

7. Shauna is still bad.

I’ve seen decks running multiple copies of this card because for whatever reason they have attempted to justify why they do not want to run other options. Well, they are wrong. This card is not good, and should not be played when decks have access to Professor Juniper, N, Colress, and Skyla. I’d be running Jirachis as additional outs to get better Supporters before I’d run any Shaunas.

8. I really like Milotic.

I haven’t exactly figured out what to do with it, but I really want to try and abuse it. I’ve seen people try and justify the sacrificed Prize as a means to augment your own N gameplan, but I think there is no way to look at giving up a Prize as anything but a massive disadvantage. That means whatever we get out of using Milotic needs to be worth it.

I’ve seen it paired with Shiftry FLF, which is cute, but I’m not sure the benefit is great enough. For the deck to really keep swarming Shiftry, you will need to sacrifice multiple Milotics, which makes the whole “swarm with non-EX Pokémon” plan much weaker.

It also makes a good but unexciting addition in the basic Energy builds of the Fairy deck as a 1-1 line just to get Energy back.

I am sure I am not the first person to address this, but it is easy to play around the “non-EX” clause of the Ability. Using Ditto BCR as the Energy recipient, you can then transform that Ditto into your EX of choice. Most Pokémon-EX that are competitive are either very cheap attackers which do not need Milotic, or are used with Pokémon who dump Energy on them like Blastoise and Emboar.

The two Pokémon that seem very competitive that don’t fall under either of those categories are Lugia-EX and Genesect-EX. Lugia uses Colress Machines and Double Colorless Energy as cheats for its high Energy cost. Genesect has access to Virizion as a means to get Energy on it. Lugia has a popular shell alongside Thundurus, but to use that it requires you to waste turns attacking to get Energy back into play. Using the Ditto/Milotic plan, you can power out Lugias and keep swinging.

The other cute trick there is that Lugia is able to take extra Prizes, so you make up for the given up one from Milotic easily. Genesect’s biggest issue is winding up choked on Energy attachments. This happens either because you are unable to use Emerald Slash enough, or because they can keep pressure on by scoring a few quick energy wiping KOs. Milotic lets you power a Genesect or Virizion up from nowhere. One of the neat things here is that Genesect decks traditionally give up 3 KOs, all being EXs. One use of Milotic ends up as the “free Prize.”

You can also run 1 Lugia in a Virizion/Genesect shell to be able to milk both ideas. I’m sure this is an utter pipe dream and won’t really sway matchups, but Milotic is also a splashable Water-type attacker which gives Genesect decks a weapon against Fire types. So here’s a more fringe idea for you guys to try testing if you are ambitious.

The Big Three

miami heat big threetheeastsideperspective.com

Now to go over the “Big Three” and their respective lists.

Yveltal/Garbodor

Version 1.0

Pokémon – 12

3 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR

3 Yveltal-EX

2 Sableye DEX

1 Yveltal XY

1 Druddigon FLF

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Random Receiver

2 Bicycle

 

3 Float Stone

3 Muscle Band

 

3 Ultra Ball

3 Dark Patch

2 Pokémon Catcher

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Escape Rope

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Dowsing Machine

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

7 Darkness

3 Double Colorless

Alright, let’s go over the numbers. I’m at a 3-2 Garbodor line because I don’t want to be unable to get a Garbodor into play in certain matchups. Plus, due to Lysandre, Evolution lines will always be more vulnerable. I’ve been running 2-2 for more or less a year now in Garbodor, but my hand has been forced and I’ve upped it.

I’m down to 2 Sableye because I end up Junk Hunting less. Part of this is because of the first turn rule. You also end up going with an aggressive Yveltal-EX more often. Mid game, you’ll end up using Yveltal XY in place of Junk Hunt. One of the reasons the archetype had to rely on Sableye so much before was that Darkrai was a big Energy hog and you’d have a lot of turns where it just couldn’t get powered up. Yveltal-EX is much easier to power. Plus, we run Druddigon as a “one-Energy” attacker in response to kills too.

I chose not to run Darkrai-EX because we have plenty of attackers. With only 3 Dark Patch (due to Yveltal’s lower Energy demands, and the other Yveltal putting Energy down), less Junk Hunting, and a lack of Energy Switch, Darkrai is clunky and unnecessary. I don’t hate the card, but to optimize using it, you’d want to rework the numbers quite a bit.

pokemon catcher robotBulbapedia
Mega Catcher

The Trainers seem fairly standard. This version still runs the Random Receiver engine alongside Bikes, and in turn is using Catcher over Lysandre. For mirror match application (with DCE) and versus Plasma and Fairy decks, we’re running 2 Enhanced Hammers. One of the casualties of this is that I am only running 3 Ultra Ball. I’d love to fit a 4th into here. (I COULD go 2-2 Garbodor for the 4th Ultra Ball, but I’d really like to keep with the 3 Trubbish.) The other card competing for the 61st spot is a 4th DCE. You can’t really go under 7 Dark Energy here, and there’s just no space anywhere else in the list to make room for a “12th” Energy (Professor’s Letter is the 11th).

Outside of the Darkrai, I’ve toyed with Absol and Bouffalant. Absol is a close call and I’m open to testing it more, but Bouffalant is lacking a few key inclusions. It really wants the 4th DCE and pretty much REQUIRES some Energy Switch. Druddigon is not only extra insurance against Rayboar and Blastoise, but it also deals with Raichu, which is a pain. Absol can do the same thing, so I wouldn’t hate having an additional Raichu answer. Under absolutely perfect situations, you can get a OHKO on an EX with it, but that doesn’t happen often enough to be a selling point.

One thing I LOVE about the card, and a trait I love in general, is its passive implications on a game. By just being in your deck, it changes the way a player handles their game. It will impact what they Bench whether or not you even have the card or use it.

Version 2.0

Pokémon – 13

3 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR

3 Yveltal-EX

2 Sableye DEX

1 Yveltal XY

1 Druddigon FLF

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Skyla

3 Colress

1 Bicycle

 

3 Float Stone

3 Muscle Band

 

3 Ultra Ball

3 Dark Patch

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Escape Rope

1 Lysandre

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Dowsing Machine

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

7 Darkness

3 Double Colorless

The changes from the previous build are -3 Random Receiver, -1 Bike, -2 Catcher, +3 Colress +1 Skyla, +1 Jirachi-EX, and +1 Lysandre. By switching to Lysandre, we can trim one of the Catchers. It becomes a Jirachi-EX. This works great with the Lysandre, and also helps improve the deck’s early game consistency. By switching to Colress over Random Receiver, you do lose a few early game strong Supporters. Jirachi also fills the Bench for the Colress, so there is some synergy there as well. Due to Junk Hunt, the deck isn’t super concerned with mid and late game draw power, so you will want to use Jirachi early if you plan on establishing the Garbotoxin lock in the matchup.

skyla boundaries crossed bcr 134 official
Gives you great versatility.

The card I love including here is the 1 Skyla. Skyla isn’t particularly impressive in any situation. It prevents you from using a “better” wide draw card, but it lets you get your more narrow cards. I’m running it as a 1-of wildcard slot basically. You can get away with running a lot of 1- and 2-of Trainers you’d prefer to play more of, and see them more often. Sableye really loves running a toolbox, and when you can increase your odds of drawing your key cards, you can reuse them from there on out.

One of the big problems with cutting Random Receiver is that you get rid of that nice Junk Hunt synergy. This makes getting ahold of your Dowsing Machine very important as it ends up being your Junk Huntable draw card. Skyla being a 2nd copy of Dowsing in terms of getting it “into play” for the game is important. We also kept one copy of Bike for this purpose as well. It is a second card you can Junk Hunt for in bad spots, and it also ends up being a good Skyla target.

Skyla is also very good with Jirachi. By including one copy of the card, it lets you have “4” additional copies of it due to Jirachi and Ultra Ball. This lets you Jirachi for whatever Trainer you want. What the card does is gel things together very well. You’d love a 4th Ultra Ball, 3rd Virbank, 4th Dark Patch, 3rd Enhanced Hammer (in matchups you want them), and so forth. It isn’t a card that blows you away, but it is such a great subtle inclusion in that it synergizes with the rest of the engine and more importantly lets you get away with more trim lines on your Trainers. You could possibly get away with going down to 1 Enhanced Hammer due to it for space.

Rayboar

Pokémon – 17

4 Tepig BCR

3 Emboar LTR

3 Fennekin KSS

2 Delphox XY

3 Rayquaza-EX DRX

1 Reshiram LTR

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 33

1 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Skyla

2 Colress

 

3 Ultra Ball

2 Level Ball

4 Rare Candy

4 Superior Energy Retrieval

2 Startling Megaphone

1 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Lysandre

1 Dowsing Machine

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 10

8 Fire

2 Lightning

Rayboar is not really a deck that has changed too much over the months. I LOVE being able to go from 2 Pokémon Catcher to 1 Lysandre in here, though. I’ve always liked Jirachi in this deck, but now it is even better. I’ve said before that I felt the deck was weak enough against Garbodor that I didn’t even want to run Scrapper before, but I’ve changed my stance on that. Part of this is because we get a bit more space now, but also because it is really the deck’s biggest problem.

I’m not sure “3” Megaphone (with Dowsing) is enough to win the Garbodor matchup, but if we can get it so the match is 35-65, I’d be happy. Remember, if you can get a match to around that point, you are in a pretty good position to win ONE of the first two games you play, and can then force a lot of draws in the match. If you can reliably turn your bad matchups into draws, I’m happy. I’ve had a friend tell me that adding a 3rd Megaphone actually makes the matchup FAVORABLE, and if that is true, maybe it is worth including due to your innate strength everywhere else.

reshiram radiant collection 22 official
It adds some “flare” to the deck, too.

I’ve added a Reshiram LTR into the deck as another non-EX attacker, and a possible solution for Druddigon, so you don’t HAVE to use Delphox every time. Also when you run Jirachi-EX, you want another opener to avoid starting with it. Plus, we run 2 Colress, so more Basics helps make those cards stronger.

While on that point, I’ll break down the Supporters. We have the standard 4 N, 4 Skyla, and 3 Tropical Beach (not a Supporter, but you know what I mean). N is too good with Delphox and the deck’s likelihood of fighting from behind. Skyla gets you Rare Candy, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Tropical Beach, so it is too good not to run the max of. Juniper is a little awkward in the deck because you don’t like discarding key cards like Rare Candy, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Evolution lines. Jirachi makes the inclusion of at least one almost a given. In place of the other Junipers, I’ve got Colress, which is such a powerful card in the format right now. You saw me playing it in Garbodor even.

One thing I’d like to look into is focusing more on Delphox. Due to Druddigon, you want to be able to have alternative attackers (this is another reason I added Reshiram) and Delphox is the best option. It eats non-EX HP pretty easily, but with only 8 Fire Energy, you end up struggling to hit 170+ with the attacker. I don’t know if you want to start adding Fire or Professor’s Letters, but I think there is merit to making Delphox more a focus in the deck. If you do that, maybe you want to cut a Tepig for the 3rd Delphox, and somewhere you’d probably want to either line’s Stage 1 to lighten up the stress put on your Rare Candies.

Dark Decks

Yveltal/Zoroark

Pokémon – 15

4 Zorua LTR

3 Zoroark LTR

1 Zoroark NXD

2 Yveltal-EX

2 Darkrai-EX

2 Sableye DEX

1 Yveltal XY

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Skyla

3 Colress

 

3 Ultra Ball

2 Level Ball

3 Dark Patch

2 Lysandre

2 Muscle Band

1 Silver Bangle

1 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Computer Search

 

3 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

7 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

Here is one of my attempts at building an Yveltal deck that doesn’t choose to run Garbodor. Zoroark saw a bit of success when Kevin Baxter piloted it to a surprise top 8 appearance at Wisconsin Regionals, but I feel like the list he used wasn’t quite as refined as it could have been.

I was championing a heavy Bouffalant and non-EX Yveltal build for awhile, and I still really like that deck. The idea being that you wanted to use as many non-EX attackers as possible and come out ahead on the exchanges. Zoroark takes the same approach with a higher damage cap and less demand on your Energy attachments.

The big downside of the Zoroark deck is that you are restricted to using only Dark Pokémon. This means no Jirachi. No Druddigon. No Bouffalant. Luckily, there are so many incredible Dark Pokémon it almost isn’t fair. This is such a tempo-oriented deck that I really hate running Sableye in it at all, but to fit everything, you cut pretty thin on your Trainers, so it is more a safety net than it is something proactively strong.

Brutal Bash threatens OHKOs on anything but Mega forms with all of the right tools in place. Foul Play is just a nice tricky option, and has really overperformed for me so far.

zoroark zorua artworkalternative-pokemon-art.tumblr.com

You’ll notice I ran zero Darkrai in my Garbodor builds, yet two are sitting here. The Garbodor lists ran 3 Float Stone, and generally had an Ability lock going. This deck actually wants to be able to retreat for free to be aggressive and maintain its Energy. I’m also running 2 switching cards as a means to deal with bad Laser flips, as due to Zoroark’s demands, we can’t run a Keldeo-EX for Rush In.

I mentioned how I hated how cramped the Trainer counts are, which makes you think I’d be running Dowsing Machine. This deck cares so much about being aggressive and consistent that I prefer Computer Search here. Getting your DCEs is too important in the deck, and nothing is better than CPU Search for that.

The cards I’d really like to see extra copies of are Hypnotoxic Laser and either a Muscle Band or Silver Bangle. The compromise I made there is to run the “wildcard Skyla” I’ve been touting. It gives the deck an extra Supporter (which it really needed) and it also lets you fill out multiple Trainer counts. I feel a lot safer running 1 Silver Bangle when I’m running the Skyla. (The original counts were 2 Muscle Band and 2 Bangle.)

Trying to combat the space issues, one of the first questions I asked was, “Can we cut Lysandre?” In theory, the deck scores OHKOs and uses a lot of non-EXs. You’d think that if you just focused on being proactive, you wouldn’t need the Catcher effect much with the tools the deck has. Unfortunately, whether this is true or not, you aren’t able to beat the Fairy deck without Lysandre. You need to break up the Aromatisse plays. You also need to play both of them in a lot of games. This made me question if 1 Lysandre and 1 Catcher would be better. This would let you use Junk Hunt to reuse Catchers, as that matchup should give you the liberty to take some time to Junk Hunt.

To free up some space, you could possibly cut one of the Basic Pokémon. I really like having 11 Basics in here, but I think you could get away with only running 10. I’d also be open to cutting one of them (maybe a Sableye) to put an Absol in. This deck just has a bit more power than traditional Yveltal decks, and also has a very strong proactive game against decks relying on Raichu to be able to beat Yveltal decks. You also have so much power coming from non-EX attackers your game against Rayboar and Blastoise is stronger than a normal Yveltal deck’s.

Yveltal/Raichu

Pokémon – 13

2 Pikachu XY

2 Raichu XY

3 Yveltal-EX

1 Darkrai-EX

1 Sableye DEX

1 Yveltal XY

1 Absol PLF

1 Druddigon FLF

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Skyla

3 Colress

1 Bicycle

 

4 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

3 Dark Patch

3 Muscle Band

2 Lysandre

1 Escape Rope

1 Energy Switch

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Dowsing Machine

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

7 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

This is a little bit more direct than Zoroark in trying to counter Yveltal/Garbodor. By simply running Raichu as your Stage 1 line, you give yourself a huge edge against other Yveltal decks. Keeping with the logic from before, against more powerful decks, you want the ability to use a lot of non-EX Pokémon to keep up, and Raichu works in that function (made you wait for it!) as well. By cutting the Garbodor, we’ve found space to add cards like more Balls and an Energy Switch which I’d love to have had in that deck.

Yveltal/Bouffalant

Pokémon – 11

3 Yveltal-EX

3 Bouffalant DRX

1 Darkrai-EX

1 Yveltal XY

1 Absol PLF

1 Druddigon FLF

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Colress

2 Skyla

1 Bicycle

 

3 Ultra Ball

3 Dark Patch

2 Energy Switch

2 Professor’s Letter

2 Muscle Band

1 Silver Bangle

1 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Lysandre

1 Computer Search

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

7 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

This is pretty much just an evolution of the old build of this deck, only I cut the clunky 1-1 Garbodor line which had been necessary to beat Rayboar and Blastoise previously. The matchup was narrowly unfavorable, and Druddigon fixes that. You are still really bad against the Fairy deck, but with only a 1-1 Garbodor line, you still lose that matchup due to their Lysandres.

I feel like with most of these Dark deck builds, by giving up on Garbodor the only matchup you can’t really fix is the Fairy one, and I don’t even really like to try there. I was a bit more optimistic in the Zoroark build because of the higher damage output, which is why I went with the two Lysandre. If it proves bad enough, maybe we should cut the Lysandres.

To close out the discussion on these style of decks, you’ll notice I didn’t include any Enhanced Hammers in these lists despite talking up how much I like them previously, and running two in the Garbodor builds. Zoroark simply cannot fit the cards. The other decks could, and maybe they are worth adding, but you are adding other cards to help those matchups more specifically.

The nature of the decks also make it so you Junk Hunt less, and a main part of the Hammer’s strength stems from sitting there and reusing them over the course of the game. The strength of both Sableye and Enhanced Hammer varies directly with each other. If you want to add Hammers, you probably rework the numbers a bit to incorporate a bit better of Sableye game plan.

Conclusion

narrow-gym-gym-heroes-124pokemon-paradijs.com
If the format were a Gym.

In closing, I just want to re-stress that I do not feel like this is a very open format at all. I am very happy with my Yveltal/Garbodor lists, and feel like the Rayboar list is pretty set in stone outside of maybe messing with the Reshiram spot a bit. Trying to figure out exactly how to attack Yveltal/Garbodor from a “mirror match” angle is a lot harder because you really need to not only make sure it beats up on the target, but then you have to run the gauntlet of every other deck just to make sure you have the raw power.

I’m not sure which of the three proposals I have left I like the most, although all three have been playing pretty well for me. The Raichu one is the least tested of the three for me, but I feel like Raichu is just such a strong card right now that I wanted to discuss the deck.

Now, I don’t want anyone thinking that because I listed these three approaches as the only ones I’d consider playing that the field isn’t going to be open at Nationals. Yveltal/Garbodor, Yveltal/Dark decks, Rayboar, Blastoise, Virizion/Genesect, Plasma, and Fairy decks will all make their presence felt. I don’t think the format is narrow, although I do feel like there are just a few decks that ARE just better choices and couldn’t see myself deviating from them. You still need to test the gauntlet because I expect good numbers of all of those decks. If any deck hits even 20% of the metagame, I would be extremely surprised.

I’m really looking forward to Nationals, and can’t wait to see all my old (and new!) friends and watch how the tournament ends up playing out. Also, if anyone has any opinions on abusing Milotic, let me know! I’ve been throwing around some fun deck ideas, but have mainly been narrowing in on the important decks that will define what we see in July. I think Lugia/Ditto/Milotic in particular shows a lot of promise and would love to get some input on it from everyone.

Until next time, I hope I’ve been able to help progress your understanding of the format and how to approach the upcoming National Championships. If you have any questions, be sure to ask them, and if you want to keep things secret going into the event and want some one-on-one help or opinion on things, private message me. I’m not playing, and I’d be glad to help however I can.

Thanks for reading!


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