The Black Album

My Play for US Nationals 2014, Proper Prep, and a Summer Mailbag

Hey everyone! I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the format leading into US Nationals (or, if you’re not from the US, I hope you won your National Championship!) as it looks to be a pretty spicy one. A few of my Underground colleagues have been/will be covering past Nationals (including Canada’s tournament, likely the most relevant one), so I’ll be skipping over all of those numbers and getting straight down to business.

Today we’ll be going over what I would play if I was playing in US Nationals, as well as a few short tips I have for being well prepared for this type of event, and we’ll wrap up with a few questions I’ve received from readers over social media.

Before we get into any of that, though, I’d like to give a big shout out to Adam for all the work that he’s put into the reorganization of SixPrizes over these past few months. The site looks very sleek, simple, and minimalist, and the forums are a lot easier to manage as well. Additionally, I support the move to Stripe from PayPal, so A+s all around from me! I hope you’re enjoying the new site as much as I am.

My Play for US Nationals 2014

ash skull

Before we get into the list and the discussion, let me point out that this is only my opinion, and I don’t necessarily think everyone should just jam with the deck I’m suggesting (we’ll go deeper into that a bit later). I obviously think the deck is very good, but the format is wide open and I will admit that there are a whole lot of choices, many of which I can’t label as outright incorrect.

Pokémon – 12

3 Yveltal-EX

1 Darkrai-EX DEX

1 Druddigon FLF

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Keldeo-EX

1 Sableye DEX

2 Trubbish DRX

2 Garbodor PLF

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Colress

1 Shauna

2 Lysandre

2 Bicycle

1 Pal Pad


4 Ultra Ball

4 Float Stone

4 Dark Patch

2 Muscle Band

1 Professor’s Letter
1 Dowsing Machine


4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

7 D

4 Double Colorless

I’m sure the majority of readers understand how this deck works; it’s been in the format for a while and has had tens of thousands of words written about it. That being said, we’re going to skip over the typical card-by-card review of the deck, and instead I’m going to focus on the most important cards and the most unique counts. If you’d prefer that I go deep on the archetype, please let me know in the forum thread for this article, where I’ll be sure to answer any and all questions you guys and gals have!

1 Darkrai-EX

I’ve been on 1 Darkrai for so long that I’m not even sure what the standard is anymore, but if you’re still playing 2 I’d suggest cutting the second one ASAP, unless you know something I don’t. Yveltal, being the best attacker in the format and all, outclasses Darkrai to the point that its main use is the Dark Cloak Ability.

That’s not to say that the card is totally dead, though. Dark Cloak is still incredibly powerful and I don’t think Night Spear will ever stop being good (as famed writer Leonard Batfish put it to me over a few beers, “The attack is literally perfect. It does the perfect amount of damage. It does 90 here and 30 there. It would be so much worse if it were straight 120. It would be so much worse if it were straight 150!”), so it would be absurd to cut to 0.

1 Sableye DEX

Having 1 Sableye isn’t uncommon, but what I’d like to talk about in this section is the possibility of cutting down to 0. I’ve talked to a few notable players who are on the no-Sableye train and, although I’m not quite willing to go that deep yet, I do think the reasoning is sound.

As I’ve written about previously, players have been consistently trimming and trimming the number of Sableye in their decks, basically ever since the card has been out. I believe the reasoning for this is the format getting more aggressive, the card pool expanding (therefore tempting players squeeze more and more unique cards into their 60), and there being overall fewer occasions in a game where one might have the opportunity to Junk Hunt.

That being said, I think that in this more controlling build of Yveltal (that is, basically any list that has Garbodor in it), a single Sableye is worth the inclusion, as you’re likely to want/need to Junk Hunt more often to buy back Tools or Dowsing Machines than the more aggressive, Raichu-based versions of the deck. If you are on the Yveltal/Raichu build, I would implore you to spend some time testing 1 versus 0 Sableye and seeing how the games go; I think the results may surprise you.

1 Jirachi-EX

I can’t remember who first brought the idea of Jirachi up to me. I’m reasonably confident it was either Travis Nunlist or Chase Moloney, and I’m more than reasonably confident that I thought they were absolutely insane at the time. I mean, Gust of Wind in Supporter form had just been printed, so how could you really justify playing an EX with such low stats?

As it turns out, you absolutely can. And not just in this deck. I’ve been trying out Jirachi in almost every deck I’ve built for the format, and it’s stayed in nearly every one as well. Strangely enough, the biggest reason to play Jirachi is the biggest reason not to play it as well: Lysandre.

Lysandre is a very powerful card, as I think everyone would attest to. Jirachi is both weak to Lysandre in that it’s a very low HP EX that is just BEGGING to be KO’d, and a great help to decks running Lysandre in that they can smooth out the consistency they likely cut into by playing Lysandre in the first place, AND they can fetch a Lysandre in the mid to late turns to really seal up a game.

Don’t take this to mean that you should slam down Jirachi as soon as possible. My general rule is that I’ll only play a Jirachi when it either wins me the game (read: finds my Lysandre for the KO, finds my Juniper to draw the last few cards in the deck, etc.) or prevents me from losing the game (read: finds my Lysandre to KO their Aromatisse, finds my N after my opponent takes a bit of a lead, etc.).

Supporter Count

In my mind, the “correct” amount of Supporters for the majority of decks in the format is 11 and a Pal Pad. I think public opinion is also pretty close to my own, though I have seen players go deep in either direction. Overall, my general guideline is to not let Lysandre cut into my consistency, as we spoke a bit about earlier. Although that’s very difficult given the constraint of 60 cards, I feel like I’ve done a pretty solid job in this deck, with 10 Supporters, 1 Pal Pad, and 2 Bicycle.

I’ve seen a handful of lists that use a heavy Random Receiver count instead of “alternate” Suppoters like Colress and Shauna, and though I think those are fine, I’d prefer to have a higher number of actual Supporters, especially considering my low-Sableye tendencies.

7 D Energy, 1 Professor’s Letter

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want the maximum number of D Energy I can cram into this type of deck. For a long time I was fiddling with 9 Darkness, 10 Darkness, 8 Darkness and a Professor’s Letter, and just about every combination that you can think of. Eventually I landed on 7 Darkness and 1 Professor’s Letter as just about the lowest I would go. Part of me still thinks that 8 Darkness and 0 Letter may just be better, especially when running 0 copies of Skyla, but I like the ability to essentially Dowsing Machine or Junk Hunt for more Energy.

I think that’s all I have on the list. I don’t think it’s too far from standard at this point, though I obviously like it more than any others I’ve seen. In this next portion I’m going to be discussing some of the options you have to edit the deck to your projected metagame.

Other Options

super rod neo genesis

Super Rod

I went back and forth on this card for a long time, and absolutely would not blame anyone for running it, especially if you expect your games to go long, and therefore require you to burn through more resources/have to put a Garbodor or two back into your deck. Overall I think it’s unnecessary, as if you can’t consistently keep a Garbodor on the board (whether it’s constantly being KO’d or one or more are Prized), you probably weren’t meant to win that game in the first place.

Absol PLF

Absol is one of the best cards in your deck versus Raichu, which can be a substantial threat due to Yveltal’s Weakness to the mouse Pokémon. Against some decks it can completely swing the matchup, especially if your opponent doesn’t see it coming (which they likely won’t). However, I could never justify fitting it in an already-tight list.

Enhanced Hammer

This is even more metagame dependent than Absol, as there are times when this card is literally unplayable. However, this card is a huge game in the right situation. Overall I don’t believe the current metagame (read: the metagame at US Nationals) will warrant the inclusion of the old Hammer, but under the right circumstances (read: Thundurus/Deoxys/Kyurem or Aromatisse decks growing in popularity) it could be very powerful. For now, pass.

Energy Switch

This is probably the card I tried to jam in for the longest time. Not including this card does restrict your aggression quite a bit, but if everything goes right you won’t need to be as aggressive, and instead can relax and build up a winning board state while Garbodor prevents your opponents from doing much. Much like Super Rod, I wouldn’t blame anyone for playing Energy Switch, but I would wonder where you found the room.

Matchup Roundup

trubbish dragons exalted artwork

Vs. Mirror

I’ve found that the key to most important factor of the mirror is Energy, and who can keep it flowing the longest (which probably explains Dr. Richard Gao‘s heartbreaking loss to the mirror with Enhanced Hammer in the finals of Canadian Nationals this past weekend). This means drawing Dark Patches, using Y Cyclone appropriately, and knowing when to go for big knockouts vs. when to run the safe play.

One important thing to remember is that you’ve got an extraordinary amount of dead cards in this matchup. You usually don’t care about setting up a Garbodor, so there are 4 cards gone. As long as your opponent isn’t setting up Garbodor (the next level!), you can go ahead and ditch your Keldeo as well. Druddigon is also useless here. Don’t be afraid to liberally get rid of these cards with Ultra Balls and Professor Junipers to dig for your most important cards – Yveltal-EX and Double Colorless Energy, namely.

Vs. Yveltal/Raichu

As we talked about earlier, Raichu is a huge threat and your main way to mitigate it is to point your Lysandres at it and make sure that your Energy is spread out enough that you don’t get completely blown out by a Circle Circuit for knockout. Outside of that factor, it’s very close to the mirror.

Vs. Virizion/Genesect

This matchup mainly comes down to your ability (tehe) to find Garbodor and keep it alive with a Tool attached. Shutting off Verdant Wind and Red Signal is a huge game, allowing you to freely set up whatever you’d like on your Bench, and play Hypnotoxic Lasers to your heart’s content.

If you’re playing any non-Garbodor version of Yveltal, I highly recommend playing a Spiritomb LTR, locking the Virizion deck out of G Booster entirely.

Vs. Rayquaza/Emboar

Starts are the most important thing to consider here. Emboar (like Blastoise before it) is the more inherently powerful deck and can certainly just Dragon Burst three times for the game, but if you get an aggressive start and they stumble long enough for you to safely set up a Garbodor, it can be game over very quickly.

Put all of your resources into getting Garbodors on the board and keeping them there and you should be fine. Also be sure to keep an eye on how you’re using your Double Colorless Energy, as your Druddigon is going to be necessary if/when they’re able to break the lock.

That’s about all I have to say about this deck. The above 60 cards are exactly what I would be running were I playing in US Nationals, and hopefully my breakdown can put you on the right track!

I do have another list I want to share though, just as a little bonus for y’all. Take a look at this:

Pokémon – 11

3 Yveltal-EX
2 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Sableye DEX

1 Druddigon FLF

1 Keldeo-EX
1 Jirachi-EX

1 Absol PLF

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
1 Colress
1 Lysandre

3 Bicycle
1 Random Receiver


4 Ultra Ball

4 Dark Patch

3 Muscle Band

2 Pokémon Catcher
2 Energy Switch

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Computer Search


4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

8 D

4 Double Colorless

This is Jackson Ford’s Junior Division Canadian National Championship winning decklist. I know that every Pokémon player on the internet discredits Juniors and Seniors (rightfully so, at times), but I think Jackson is a very good player and I’m confident that if he were to age up to Masters tomorrow he would be consistently earning invites until he decides to stop playing Pokémon.

As you’ll notice, this deck features neither Garbodor nor Raichu, instead opting for a straight consistency build with 3 Yveltal-EX and 2 Darkrai-EX, as well as a higher level of aggression with 2 Pokémon Catcher and 2 Energy Switch. Normally I would think that this sort of deck was almost strictly worse than one playing Raichu, but after seeing Jackson’s success with it and talking with him about the deck I’m not so sure anymore.

These are only real changes I would make to the deck, at least in my initial testing:

– 2 Sableye DEX
– 1 Professor’s Letter
+1 Shauna
+1 Pokémon Catcher
+1 Energy Switch

I feel these changes put you into a position to be very, very aggressive in any situation, and most importantly save yourself from devastating Raichu knockouts by Catchering out the Pikachus/Raichus before they have a chance to attack and/or using Energy Switch to conserve your resources and not get completely blown out by a surprise Raichu.

I wanted to include this list mostly to showcase how many Yveltal decks there are out there, proving the raw power of the combination of Yveltal, Darkrai, Dark Patch, Muscle Band, and Hypnotoxic Laser. As I said before, I know this is a Junior’s list and therefore it doesn’t carry as much weight as a Master’s might, but I think this list is objectively very good and definitely something to try out if you’re not feeling the Garbodor or Raichu-powered versions of the Yveltal deck.

Proper Preparation

pikachu sleeping

I know that there are approximately one-hundred billion articles about the things you should do outside of the game to prepare yourself for a big tournament. I’m sure I’ve even written one or two of those in my lifetime. I’m going to play in that world a little bit with this next section, but I hope that my advice is unique and relevant enough that it isn’t immediately written off.

1. Get the amount of sleep that works for you.

I’m a strong believer that not everyone needs to get a full night’s rest before a tournament to compete at their best. I personally have performed the best at tournaments I’ve played while running on very little sleep, and sometimes none at all.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should stay up all night before every tournament. I believe that you should get however much sleep you feel is right; that is, however much sleep you would get in a normal night. Don’t try to sleep for ten hours before the event if you’re used to sleeping 5-6 per night back home. Not only will you miss out on precious hours of hangout time, but it’s likely that you’ll wake up hours before registration is even open, which, in my experience, will negatively affect your tournament more than anything.

The one thing that I’ve found that helps me in tournaments in regard to sleep is to relax for a few hours before I go to bed at night. Maybe this is just me and maybe it’s completely anecdotal, but I like to change into pajamas, sit in a quiet room, crack open a Coke Zero and write out my decklist, sleeve up my deck, and overall just be calm and relaxed for a few hours the night before a big tournament.

2. Eliminate all unnecessary stresses.

A big part of my tournament preparation nowadays (and my life nowadays, really) involves in reducing frustration and stress as much as possible. What might this mean for Nationals? Buy sleeves from your local game store before you leave, figure out what time hotel breakfast/registration is and set appropriate alarms, print out decklists before your flight, arrange to have all the cards you need IN HAND a few days before the tournament… I could go on forever.

Nationals is a very big tournament. Not only are there a lot of money and Championship Points on the line, but for most people it involves travel, seeing friends you haven’t seen in months, etc., and there’s no reason to complicate any of that by not being properly prepared. Doing all of the tasks mentioned in my paragraph above would take no longer than 30 minutes if done properly.

3. Be prepared for the long haul.

Nationals, unless something terrible happens (read: my experience at Nationals 2013) is going to be at least 9 rounds. With any luck, you’ll be making day two, and will play an additional 5 rounds. With an extraordinary amount of luck, you’ll make the top 8, and so on and so forth.

Estimating very conservatively, round 1-of Nationals should start at 9:00 AM. Assuming that every round takes one hour, and there is a 30 minute lunch break, you aren’t going to leaving the hall until around 6:30 PM, aka 1.5 hours longer than your average workday. And this is estimating very conservatively, mind you. I’ve been to tournaments with similar schedules that have taken hours and hours longer than that. And that’s just day one!

It’s very important to be mentally and physically prepared to play good Pokémon for that long, especially if you intend on doing well in the tournament. This can mean anything from playing an aggressive, decision-light deck that will allow you to finish rounds early to packing adequate amounts of food and water to keep your mind and body functioning at the highest level for as long as possible. Whatever the answer is for you, figure it out and start applying it as soon as possible.


mail from bill artwork

Last week I asked on my Twitter and Facebook accounts for readers to hit me with questions for this mailbag segment. I’ve picked a few of the best/most interesting ones to answer here. Hopefully these are as fun for you to read as they were for me to answer.

Although I’m suspicious that my good pal Ry is taking a shot at me here, this is quite the interesting question! The two that immediately spring to mind for me are Isaiah Middleton and Ty Smith.

Although they’ve both accomplished a lot (multiple Worlds invites, big event wins, etc), they are two very component players who, if they were playing today, I’m sure would be tearing up the tournament scene just as they did years ago.

Andrew Parmely is another name that comes to mind, though I’ve never actually seen him play/spoken to him about the game, so it’s difficult for me to judge.

I myself haven’t noticed an uptick in paid vs. free content on 6P, though I’m willing to admit I may just be unaware. Regardless, I feel that the majority of content on 6P should be paid. After all, writers put in a lot of work to pump out these articles, and Adam puts in even more work to edit them and maintain the site. Why shouldn’t they be rewarded for that?

This is a difficult question to answer because I don’t really have any experiences to compare it to. I do notice players leaving the game, of course (this year’s attendance is proof of that), but are there more players leaving now than in 2005? Besides manually looking through tournament reports, I’m not sure I have a way of knowing.

Regardless, my best guess would be the rising expense of playing Pokémon. Between entry fees, the price of cards, and the sheer amount of travel required to play this game at the highest level, the financial strain can be quite intimidating. I personally don’t think that the issue is as big as some make it out to be, but I personally know players who quit/were forced to attend many fewer tournaments after entry fees were instituted, and I’ve heard from many more who were discouraged by the travel requirements of the 2013-2014 season.

I’ve been building a Pokémon cube recently (look for an article on that sometime this summer) and that has required me to look through every single card ever printed in English (thanks!). The biggest difference between when I started playing (2009) and today is how strong Basic Pokémon have gotten. The SP era was shortly after I joined the game, but even then there were plenty of Stage 1 and Stage 2 decks going around (Beedrill won Worlds in 2009, Gardevoir came close in 2010, Magneboar won in 2011, etc.). The current era of the game is almost 100% focused on efficient attacking Basic Pokémon, which to my knowledge has never been the case for this long in the game’s history.

And we’ll end this article with a question from my very good friend and fellow commentator Josue Rojano!

On The Bubble in the next year is going to be very similar to the OTB of this year. Less of a focus on live shows, more of a focus on streaming and YouTube content. Less of everyone else, more of me, articles, podcasts, and a website. I don’t want to give everything away, but we’ve got some big things in store for the 2014-2015 season.

As far as commentating in general goes, the long-term plan is to stream and commentate as many tournaments as I possibly can. You’ll probably see me working almost every Regional and State next year, and with any luck you’ll see a higher level of production, more fan/chat interaction, and quicker uploads to YouTube.

For the long long term, it’s no surprise to anyone that knows me that I want to officially commentate for Nationals and Worlds one day. I was heartbroken not to get the opportunity this time around (although there is no shame in losing to Pooka), and I can only hope by improving my commentary and putting in more work than ever I’ll eventually be granted that chance. I would absolutely love to be hired on as part of TPCi’s official coverage team, but that dream seems a few years down the road, at least.

Thanks to everyone who asked questions! I hope you enjoyed this article, and as always, please give it a “like” at the bottom of the page so I can afford the last few cards for my cube.


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