Green Days

A Philadelphia Regionals Retrospective
philadelphia regionals 2014 vgc@TheRealErk
“Welcome to paradise.”

The last time I wrote an article, it was about the Nationals and Worlds formats, primarily concerned with the two events at hand and with very little commentary about Furious Fists. Since then, I have had little time to play games with the new set and get accustomed to what I thought the format would look like. Typically, when you are dealing with the loss of Level Ball, Dark Patch, Prism Energy, and Blend Energies, you are likely to need to put in a lot of work to replace the knowledge you had before. Combine that with some amazing new cards in the set and you have a problem.

Fortunately for me, my friends Con Le and Alex Frezza have returned to the game, and I can still count on my close group of friends I have made in their absence. This article will draw largely on their experience passed on to me at Philadelphia Regionals preceded by a recap of the event itself.

Philadelphia Regionals was an extremely fun event. It dealt with two completely fresh formats, both BCR-FFI and the Expanded version on day 2. Needless to say, things were going to get interesting very quickly.

Table of Contents

What I Expected on Day 1

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Frankly, I thought I had figured the format out from afar, observing what seemed like the death of Yveltal and the rise of Seismitoad-EX and Fighting decks, equipped with Hawlucha FFI, Fighting Stadium, and Strong Energy. I thought Virizion/Genesect would also have its place in the metagame. Donphan began to gain a lot of popularity as time went on as well. Strong Energy encouraged a lot of attempted innovation in that regard, some of it fruitful.

However, my dilemma was that I had not played any real games. I had done some testing online, but nothing I had done had even remotely prepared me for the event to come. My friends had already decided on a concoction involving Aromatisse and an assortment of attackers, but it seemed a little tricky to play both quickly and perfectly at the same time, so I decided instead to draw on experience from a deck that I knew well, leading me to play Virizion/Genesect.

However, I foolishly decided to try to put a healing spin on the deck in an effort to better combat the Fighting decks I saw so little of during the weekend. I also hugely underestimated the capacity in which Yveltal-EX would be played regardless of the massive hindering factors it had just become exposed to after the rotation. My end product was a symbol of what I perceive as my first metagaming error in over a year.

What I Played on Day 1

Below is my list from the event. I’m not sure I would recommend it until the format shifts to meet my predictions a little more closely.

Pokémon – 10

4 Virizion-EX

3 Genesect-EX PLB

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

1 Mr. Mime PLF

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Colress

4 Skyla

1 Shadow Triad

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Muscle Band

3 Energy Switch

3 Potion

3 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Colress Machine

1 Professor’s Letter

1 G Booster

Energy – 15

8 G

3 Herbal

4 Plasma

I finished the event at 4-3-2, certainly not my best finish in the last year. I think that the key mistake I made with this list was not running a 9th G Energy, assuming that I would never have situations in which I would draw several Grass or have a few of them in my Prizes. That, however, was the case several times. I definitely would have made that adjustment given more time to perfect the list.

Something I did like about the deck was its ability to ignore going second against a large amount of decks, including Virizion/Genesect mirror. Playing against three of them, I lost only once, going second during the first game of each of the sets. The two that I won both involved me healing off my opponent’s first Emerald Slash and following with my own and working my way forward from there. I found the ability to ruin my opponent’s math consistently pretty valuable. My games went as follows (forgive me if I mix up the rounds):

R1 vs. Virizion/Genesect – WW
R2 vs. Virizion/Mewtwo/Spiritomb – LWT
R3 vs. Fighting/Toad/Mewtwo LWL
R4 vs. PYROAR – LWW
R5 vs. Seismitoad/Garbodor/Crushing HammerWLT
R6 vs. Virizion/Genesect – WLW
R7 vs. Virizion/Dragonite – WW
R8 vs. Donphan/Reshiram/Zekrom/Kyurem/Sigilyph – LL
R9 vs. Virizion/Genesect – LL

Before I give any more commentary about the format, I think that I should talk about a couple of my losses in order to share some of what I learned from them:

— The loss to Fighting was a matter of my deck underperforming. It happens, but I didn’t really learn much from it other than that bad starts can happen, even to Virizion/Genesect.

— My loss during the 8th round, however, was quite the opposite. It was truly the first time that I felt as though my opponent had the upper hand. With a Reshiram Active both games on the first turn, it was almost impossible to safely use Emerald Slash on the second turn without immediately losing the lead to Outrage with a Muscle Band. I had to innovate. Somehow, I was unable to draw the Plasma Energies that I needed to work an alternative strategy. Furthermore, my opponent also ran a Mr. Mime, completely shutting down the “double knockout” strategy you’d assume would be ideal against Donphan. Needless to say, I was completely shut out, and my strategy of trying to G Booster everything was proven pointless.

— The round 9 Virizion/Genesect loss was one that was a combination of my opponent going first during the first game with a lot of small things affecting the outcome. Minutia is an important concept! Another interesting thing that happened was that I was able to use a Potion on the Virizion-EX that my opponent did 70 damage to with Emerald Slash. He responded with a Muscle Banded Genesect backed by a Deoxys-EX, negating the healing and Knocking Out my Virizion anyway. Things naturally got worse from there.

I did notice that, in addition to going second, I was doing the exact thing my opponent was doing to me right after he did it. This basically told me that I was guaranteed to lose unless an N to 4 could prevent him from drawing any of his many ways into a well-timed G Booster. The odds were not in my favor, and my deck’s healing focus was null and void when he finished my Virizion-EX before I could get it out of KO range.

— For those of you wondering how I beat Pyroar, it went as follows: pass, G Booster, Emerald Slash, G Booster, G Booster. It takes a considerable amount of good fortune to make that happen.

What Actually Happened on Day 1

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While my experience was not what I expected, it would also not have been too similar to what the players at the top tables had expected either. The top decks were less a sea of Virizion variants and more one of Yveltal variants. I had heard prior to the event that Yveltal was still good, but not on the level that it performed at. My lack of preparation would have showed regardless of where I was record-wise.

I do enjoy mirror matches with decks that take a decent amount of thought, however. Virizion/Genesect is often not given enough credit as a skill-based deck. When playing it, you need to know what you are trying to do each game. In the mirror, this is especially important. It doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve, such as an odd Prize for him or her to take to make your N game stronger. For me, that was healing, but I think that I sacrificed too much to emphasize that concept.

Yveltal-EX = MVP

This guy went nowhere. Yveltal decks were everywhere in Philadelphia. Some had Garbodor, and some focused on a quicker attack, utilizing Darkrai-EX for free retreat. Most notably, however, was the presence of Seismitoad in these decks. As a tech, Seismitoad-EX adds support in a broad range of matchups, especially Pyroar when Garbodor is run. By shutting off Items whenever needed, Yveltal gained a huge weapon that syncs perfectly through the Double Colorless mechanism.

With Fighting variants predicted to be so popular, I can see in hindsight how appealing Yveltal must have seemed; no one expected it to be big, meaning less Dedenne. Additionally, Resistance to one of the other top decks as well as a natural advantage against Seismitoad through Yveltal-EX made the deck a very strong choice. There clearly wasn’t much that was good enough to beat Yveltal-EX, even if the deck had its arm tied behind its back with the loss of Dark Patch.

Yveltal XY is almost impossible to efficiently Knock Out as well. With a monstrous 130 HP, hitting it is as awkward as ever. Resources will be wasted, and often you may not find yourself any closer to victory after it is sitting in the discard pile.

Below is a sample list for Yveltal/Seismitoad/Garbodor. I am basing this list purely off of observation and about 3 hours of playtesting.

Pokémon – 14

3 Yveltal-EX

2 Seismitoad-EX

1 Darkrai-EX DEX

2 Yveltal XY

2 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Keldeo-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Colress

2 Lysandre

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Muscle Band

3 Energy Switch

3 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

8 D

4 Double Colorless

The concepts of the deck are pretty straightforward and beaten to death by last season’s talks about the winged scourge. All that really changed was the use of Yveltal XY and Energy Switch to attempt to replicate Dark Patch in some capacity. Seismitoad improves a couple of matchups and adds the possibility of random inconvenience with things like Hypnotoxic Laser and Garbodor or Lysandre on a Pokémon that is hard to retreat. It almost doubles the flexibility of the deck.

The beauty is that you can easily get away with cutting Garbodor from the list – you can still beat Pyroar by simply locking in your Laser/Bank combo with Toad. This is far from foolproof, but definitely makes the matchup closer to 50-50 than before. With the additional space, you can tech for a variety of decks.

Here is an example of how you could change the list by excluding Garbodor:

Pokémon – 15

3 Yveltal-EX

2 Seismitoad-EX

2 Darkrai-EX DEX

3 Yveltal XY

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Keldeo-EX

1 Mr. Mime PLF

1 Dedenne FFI

1 Spiritomb LTR

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Colress

3 Lysandre

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Muscle Band

3 Energy Switch

1 Computer Search

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

8 D

4 Double Colorless

This version is more equipped to handle a broader spectrum of decks, being able to ignore Bench damage and counter the mirror a little better. More flexibility has always come from versions of Garbodor decks that exclude Garbodor. This is no exception. I think I would play it this way if I had to choose. A deck this fast has a hard time losing, and playing the clock nicely is never a bad thing either.

The Clock is Still Running

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Quicken your pace or play a faster deck.

The 50-minute time limit hasn’t gone anywhere yet. If I had it my way, it would stay for good. Players need to learn to play the game under time constraints. If you hold time constant, it is easier for better players to stand out. Give anyone as long as they need for each move, and things become more static from player to player.

One might argue that this influences deck choice, but I would point to players like Henry Prior. He played Flygon at last season’s two biggest events. The key is that he learned to play it fast enough so as not to be hindered by the same factors that everyone else was. By playing a slow deck quickly, he negated the disadvantage he would have otherwise had to deal with by playing a slower but potentially stronger deck.

I think this is why Yveltal saw the play that it did. While straight Seismitoad seems like solid play, any deck that locks as a win condition suffers from the possibility that it goes down a game and fails to win two more on time. While it certainly seems reasonable to play two games with a deck like Seismitoad, you are really looking for one that can finish three games in this format. This is another instance where you might want to play more quickly if you use the slower deck. Regardless, I couldn’t recommend any deck that loses to Yveltal right now.

Don’t Forget About Donphan!

As Dylan Bryan covered in his article, Donphan is another powerful deck that is equipped to handle a large fraction of the metagame. Its variety of techs include anything with a useful Ability when Active; while Donphan repeatedly bounces to the Bench, reaping the benefits of Fighting Stadium, Strong Energy, and Muscle Band. Turning 40 damage into 100 on the second turn of the game is not a joke. These techs include but are not limited to Zekrom LTR, Reshiram LTR, Kyurem LTR, Mr. Mime PLF, Snorlax PLS, Sigilyph LTR, Suicune PLB, Pyroar FLF, and Trevenant XY.

Needless to say, there were a few underdogs floating around, but the majority prevailed. It certainly took someone like Dylan Bryan to make Donphan go the distance. I would not discount Donphan. Dylan’s list is sufficient for a good performance at your next Regional Championship.

Other Day 1 Observations

The other decks that seemed to perform fairly well were a few Virizion/Genesect, Seismitoad, Fighting, and Donphan, in addition to the previously mentioned Yveltal variants. There was also a little of Pyroar. Frankly, I think Pyroar in BCR-FFI is a terrible deck. It can’t handle a majority of the playable decks, and took a more significant hit from the rotation than meets the eye. Without Level Ball or Tropical Beach, it gets increasingly more likely that a scenario similar to my victory over Pyroar with Virizion/Genesect with no counter will occur, as keeping a decently-sized Bench becomes a struggle.

Another thing I’d like to point out is the effectiveness of Seismitoad with Crushing Hammer. After having a tie against a straight Seismitoad/Mewtwo/Garbodor/Crushing Hammer deck, I can say that this deck is underrated. My opponent hit a single Crushing Hammer in Game 1 which almost caused me to lose the game. I lost the second game because he hit two. This is not a result you’d expect when playing Virizion/Genesect. A well-timed N and a Crushing Hammer could swing a game, often for good. Grenade Hammer is also a monster of an attack, able to 1HKO 180 HP Pokémon-EX with Laser, Virbank, and Muscle Band.

Meanwhile in Arizona…

It looks like things went a little differently at the Phoenix, AZ Regional Championship. There was a much larger variance in the types of decks in top 32, and it appears players were a little more innovative as well. I would take a look at the standings posted on TheTopCut.net to get a better idea. It is truly interesting to see how similar every deck was in one region and how crazily different they were in another.

What I Expected on Day 2

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I honestly expected a very popular view of the Expanded metagame. I planned to see Rayeels, Landorus, Seismitoad, and trace amounts of Pyroar and other Eelektrik variants. Naturally, by day 2 during the actual weekend my expectations had shifted a little, but I was definitely taken aback by the lack of Eelektrik decks. I knew that Rayeels would be a questionable play, as anyone who assumed that it would be played would also have come prepared with a Druddigon FLF in their list. However, there is more than one way to play Eelektrik and since Fighting decks did not have a huge presence on the first day, I expected a number of people to be entering with Eelektrik decks equipped with things like Bouffalant DRX. With a couple of techs, the format could have been covered.

I was most certain, however, that Virizion/Genesect would have been a non-factor. How could a deck that lost to Pyroar, Fire techs in Eelektrik, Yveltal decks with Spiritomb, and struggled against Fighting variants possibly win?

I was clearly mistaken.

What Actually Happened on Day 2

The results speak for themselves. Virizion/Genesect/Raichu beat Virizion/Genesect/Dedenne in the finals to win the event. Congratulations to our own Ryan Sabelhaus. There weren’t that many Virizion/Genesect in sight after everyone was allowed to switch decks for Expanded, but in hindsight it was an excellent call. Both finalists played more than one Lightning attacker, predicting that players would stay on the Yveltal hype train after day 1, given that players could re-add Dark Patch to their decks and still have access to Seismitoad-EX.

This clearly paid off. The Yveltal decks appeared en masse, and took care of anything that might have given the Virizion/Genesect players trouble. Meanwhile, Virizion/Genesect players enjoyed the advantages that they had given themselves, leading to the results we saw in Philadelphia. There were even a couple of Trevenant/Accelgor decks trying to sneak in cut. These decks probably struggled as well, not being able to beat Virizion/Genesect and having additional problems with Lysandre. Dylan Bryan’s creation for day 2, however, was a perfect example of how to take a very simple and predictable card such as Accelgor and give it the tools it needs to overcome potential counters like Virizion. Dylan was able to beat Ryan in the early rounds of the second day with this versatility.

Dylan’s list is posted, but Ryan’s is not. Fortunately for you, you need look no further than old Underground articles for thoughts on how to approach the Expanded format! I’m sure his list is floating around somewhere, at least within a few cards.

I will say, however, that I don’t think I agree with Ryan’s choice to play Raichu. I don’t think that I would feel comfortable running a Stage 1 in hopes of having an edge in the Yveltal matchup. I think a Dedenne or two would be ideal. One would argue by saying that Yveltal players can play around Dedenne, winning with Spiritomb and Y Cyclone. I would respond by saying that the extra spaces from the Raichu line’s omission could be used for Lysandre or Startling Megaphone in order to allow Dedenne to attack the correct Yveltal to make those favorable trades. These extra cards have uses that better extend to other matchups.

Below is an example of an alternative deck choice that might have performed well given the presence of certain decks on day 2:

Pokémon – 16

3 Tynamo NVI 38

1 Tynamo DEX 45

3 Eelektrik NVI

3 Bouffalant DRX

3 Mewtwo-EX NXD

1 Raikou-EX

1 Kyurem-EX PLB

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 31

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Colress

2 Lysandre

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Level Ball

4 Switch

2 Startling Megaphone

1 Computer Search

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 13

9 L

4 Double Colorless

This deck is one that might have performed because of its lack of reliance on Eelektrik, its immunity to Druddigon (relative to Rayeels), and its consistent second-turn Gold Breaker. With every deck using Pokémon-EX in the Expanded format, Bouffalant is waiting to shine again. Yveltal and Fighting would have been the largest obstacles to Bouffalant winning, which could have been taken care of by Raikou and Kyurem-EX respectively. It is important to remember that no matter how strong a Landorus-EX is, two Bouffalant trade evenly with it. A big Mewtwo can combine with N to swing and steal a game as well.

This is just an example of the many ways to try and address shifts in the format. Any deck can be adjusted to have an advantage against a deck of your choice. I think the key is trying to avoid being countered yourself. Mix it up!

Meanwhile in Arizona…

Arizona Regionals was won by Pyroar. That speaks for itself, but it is important to note that there is no guarantee someone with the courage to play Pyroar in Philadelphia would have been successful. I am sure both regions had very strong competition, but I am torn on which metagame was more developed.

Furthermore, I’d like to reiterate that the dense placement of Yveltal at Regionals so far should be no indicator that nothing else is a safe play. In fact, I’d argue that if the metagame reacts well enough, you’ll see a lot more Fighting decks equipped with counters for Yveltal, also able to counter the incoming Lightning decks that sprout based on an assumption of old meta info. One such example could be a reemergence of TDK, which has the typing to beat Fighting and Yveltal at the same time with ease. The format is still very rock-paper-scissors-esque, but the results are very misleading.

Conclusion

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I think that there is still a lot of unfolding the format has to do. Those who put in the largest amount of playtesting saw the greatest results. Those who didn’t were likely not well informed enough to show up with a deck like Ryan Sabelhaus’s or Dylan Bryan’s. I look forward to the next weekend of Regionals to see more ideas be unleashed. The forerunners have been made obvious, and now each week the format will shift accordingly. Be sure not to overthink things.

In addition, do not feel too obligated to stress about results so early in the season. It is only the beginning, and the first one to three big events that you attend will have little bearing on your long-term results in regards to a World Championships invite. While it is nice to have a big cushion at the start of the year, it is by no means essential. A student at my university recently had a large issue of depression caused by stress in school, so I know that I am personally reinforcing my value of mental health. Take it easy; it’s a children’s card game today and it will be the same thing in six months. Realistically, you won’t be winning all the time. As such, it is pretty important to always be having fun and not putting too many eggs in the “winning is happiness” basket.

As always, I would appreciate any feedback or questions. Message me if you’d like advice or just someone to bounce your ideas off of.


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