I am in complete agreement with Andrew Zavala: this is also my favorite time of the year. I love the holiday season because regardless of beliefs everybody seems to be in a more cheerful mood. Pokémon players in particular have good reason to smile with City Championships just around the corner. Personally, City Championships are probably my favorite tournaments of the year. You can attend numerous City Championships and they have really good prize support for their size. There is enough on the line that they can be highly competitive events while at the same time they are small enough undoubtedly be a fun day with close friends.
The other thing I really liked about Cities was they happen just after the release of a new set. Usually the set right before Cities is a pretty impactful set that shakes up the metagame. I would assume this is done on purpose to try and distinguish the new format from the previous one. Either way, this gives a huge edge to players who are good at deck building. By the time Winter Regionals roll around, decks will have more established lists, but right now everybody is going into the tournaments blind.
In this article, I’m going to look at three decks that have benefited heavily from Phantom Forces and are in a strong position heading into Cities. The first is a straight Pyroar list I’ve been working on that takes advantage of the versatility of VS Seeker and has near auto-wins against many decks in the format. The second deck is a spin on both Dylan’s and Kyle’s takes on Manectric-EX/Black Kyurem-EX PLS. I’ll discuss my opinions on card counts and how those two guys helped me arrive at my final list. Despite having the same strategy, I have a very different focus in my Trainer lineup that has a big impact on how the deck is played. Lastly, I’m going to show how I’m playing Yveltal right now. My new list borrows a lot from Phantom Forces including the addition of Manectric-EX.
However, before we get into all of that, I’d like to take a moment and discuss Erik Nance’s recent article.
Erik Nance and “No False Move”
I recently read Erik’s article “No False Move” and if you missed it you should definitely check it out. To sum it up very quickly, Erik discusses what he feels are some important skills in the TCG and others he feels are no longer critical skills. It is an excellent article and an extremely good topic starter. Our opinions differ in some areas and I’d like to give my viewpoint on a few points he left off the list. With information so more widely available now, it’s extremely important to try and utilize as much in-game skill as possible, such as:
1. Making Educated Guesses
These can range from the extremely obvious “well my opponent hasn’t played a Supporter in two turns so I’m guessing she doesn’t have one” to slightly more subtle “my Plasma opponent played Computer Search and Skyla this turn while he had a Lugia-EX with an Energy on the Bench, and since he didn’t grab Colress Machine with Skyla, I’m going to assume he prized his last Plasma Energy or it is in his hand.” By using context clues, you can get a better idea of how to play your cards.
In the first example, you have a good idea that it’s probably a bad idea to N your opponent unless you absolutely have to. In the second example, you know you’re probably safe from your opponent using Colress Machine for Energy acceleration. Without the added Energy acceleration, you know exactly what your opponent’s options are.
2. Making Assumptions About The Opponent’s Deck
Lists are so readily available right now that a lot of decks are all within a few cards of each other. If I’m playing against a Donphan deck, for example, I have a pretty good idea what his list looks like within a few cards. Generally Donphan lists are pretty tight and only have room for 5 “walls,” so if I see my opponent discard 2 Zekrom LTR, that’s a lot of information for me. I can reasonably assume that he plays Kyurem LTR since the mirror is almost unwinnable without it. This means he probably only plays 1 Sigilyph LTR or he doesn’t play Reshiram LTR. If I also notice that my opponent plays 2 copies of Robo Substitute, this will reinforce my read that they only play 1 Sigilyph or no Reshiram.
Any time the opponent plays unique cards or extra copies of cards, start thinking about what they might have cut to make room for them. This isn’t an exact science by any means, but I found I have an alarming high success rate of making these reads by just watching for context clues.
3. Knowing When To Go All In
Normally the smartest thing to do is simply make the safest choices, however in some cases this can actually cost you the game. I’ve always said that the good players know how to play the odds, but the best players know when to play against them. Knowing when to go all in goes hand in hand with “making educated guesses” and “making assumptions about your opponent’s deck.”
Going all in will usually either cost you the game or put you in a horrible situation. An example of going all in would be when my opponent plays a Startling Megaphone: having a good idea about their deck I know that typically they only play one copy, so knowing this I throw down 3 Tools before I N. If I’m wrong and they play a second copy of Startling Megaphone then I haven’t lost the game, but I am in quite a predicament. If I’m right I’ve thinned my deck, strengthened my field, and I don’t have to worry about my opponent’s Team Flare Tools.
My other example of going all in is if you put yourself in a situation where you could lose the game on the following turn. My opponent and I are tied at 2-2 on Prizes and he has a Landorus-EX Active with a Strong Energy while I have a Mewtwo-EX with an Energy on the Bench and 2 Double Colorless Energy in my hand. If I promote Mewtwo-EX and attach the DCE to hit him for 100, then I’m putting myself in a situation where I lose to a Mewtwo-EX and DCE on their turn. However, if I sit there and wait, I’ll simply lose the game in another 3 or 4 turns anyway.
The big thing is always making the plays that give you the best chance of winning the game. A loss is a loss regardless if it’s next turn or in 4 turns or if you lose by 1 Prize card or 6 Prize cards. The person that got 6-0’d but was constantly trying to set up a board state where he could win played much better than the person who tried to randomly steal a few Prizes so he wouldn’t get 6-0’d.
With Cities being so metagame dependent, it’s important to be able to choose the right deck for the right meta. Ever since Pyroar came out, I realized players are basically unwilling to accept that it’s a threat. The deck was all over the place at Nationals and took a handful of spots in the top 16, yet the top 8 at Worlds had 4 Virizion/Genesect. Heading into Regionals Virizion/Genesect, Yveltal without Pyroar counters, and Plasma filled the meta. Coming into Cities we even added Metal decks to the mix and Pyroar has still been mostly dismissed. Playing straight Pyroar isn’t perfect for every meta, but in the right field it will lead to an easy Cities win.
I actually started working on this list shortly after Worlds when I noticed nobody was taking the deck very seriously. Ultimately I scrapped the list in favor of Seismitoad/Pyroar when I realized the deck was too Supporter heavy to work. The deck needed to run too many situational Supporters like Lysandre and Blacksmith. This made the deck extremely clunky and led to inconsistent hands and messy draws throughout the game.
Here is my list:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
Some of my tech choices below have made the Donphan matchup much closer to even. Manectric on the other hand is pretty much a lost cause regardless of how I tech the deck. If you think Manectric is going to be heavily played at a particular event, then it’s just best to avoid using Pyroar in general.
I think 2 copies are necessary because you need to be able to answer Garbodor consistently. Mewtwo is a strong attacker at any point in the game. Playing 2 copies also allows you to throw up the first Mewtwo-EX knowing that you’ll be able to answer theirs.
Early disruption from Seismitoad slows the opponent down and gives you time to try to build up your board. Many matchups are won once you set up multiple Pyroar and answer a simple counter that your opponent plays. Seismitoad buys you that time to set up and can be extremely useful in combination with N.
The 2 Kyurem are in the deck to help with the Donphan matchup. A 130 Hit Point wall is hard for Donphan to push over or get past easily. It’s also a great Pokémon you can sacrifice while only giving up a single Prize. In the early game it’s extremely hard for a lot of decks to do 130 damage in one hit.
I wanted to play some sort of consistency Pokémon and I shied away from Jirachi-EX since it is a Pokémon-EX. I would have preferred an attack with a straight “draw X cards,” but a shuffle in and draw to match the opponent’s hand attack really isn’t too bad. Against Pyroar a lot of times the opponent will hold on to cards, not wanting to put down useless fodder against Pyroar or give you more options to Lysandre. Especially in the mid game, this can lead to decent-sized hands.
I really like N in this deck and I don’t get where all of the hate is coming from for the card. The difference between 5 cards (from Shauna) and 6 cards (from N) in the early game is huge. In addition, Pyroar isn’t the fastest deck in the format (nor is it supposed to be), so it’s very common for me to go down a couple of Prizes before I start making my comeback. Being able to get a fresh hand of 6 while putting my opponent at 3 or 4 gives me a strong push in completing that come-from-behind win.
I went with a high Lysandre count because it’s important to find them early and not rely on VS Seeker to get them back against Seismitoad-EX. If I didn’t think Seismitoad-EX was going to be big I would switch to 2 Lysandre and then up my VS Seeker count to 4.
Another unique choice is that I like Float Stone in the deck. The split of switching cards has never really hurt me and I like the idea of being able to play the card down before having to play Juniper or N. Another play I find myself making often is throwing Pyroar in the Active Spot with a Float Stone underneath to buy myself more time to set up. I’ve also found it’s a great way to bait out the opponent’s Startling Megaphone.
Playing a recovery card is a personal preference of mine. I like the idea of not worrying about having to discard key Pokémon early in the game from Juniper or Ultra Ball. I also like the idea of forcing a Donphan player to fight through 4 Kyurem LTR or have access to a 3rd or 4th Mewtwo-EX.
The biggest downside I’ve found is a majority of the time I only want to get back maybe 2 or 3 Pokémon and Sacred Ash forces me to put back 5. I don’t like the idea of putting back extra dead cards in the late game that I could possibly draw off of N or see when I would rather have better cards. I think Super Rod spoiled all of us for a long time and it’s easy to be critical of other recovery cards.
After reading both Dylan’s and Kyle’s articles about the deck, I really wanted to try the idea for myself. I poured over both of their articles comparing and contrasting their lists before I started working on and testing my own. Reading their articles gave me a really strong grasp of the concept of the deck. I liked the idea of both of their lists running a high number of Manectric-EX and Battle Compressor to get fast starts and put lots of Energy into play very quickly.
The biggest issue I had was I felt that both lists were under-utilizing VS Seeker for running such a heavy Battle Compressor count. Putting a much larger emphasis around VS Seeker was the backbone of my list. Both Dylan and Kyle gave me a really strong starting point on this deck and had major influences on many of my card choices. I feel what makes my deck unique is how I built my Supporter engine around VS Seeker and in turn how that allows the deck to play. Since this deck needs to burn through itself very quickly, having access to Professor Juniper turn after turn is huge. VS Seeker gives you that early game consistency the deck needs as well as that late game utility that’s so important.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 34
Energy – 14
I know Dylan presented a full 4-4 Manectric-EX, but I’m going to side with Kyle on only playing a 4-3 line. For me the 4th copy of M Manectric-EX doesn’t increase the odds of hitting a big T2 enough to warrant running a card that’s going to be dead a majority of the game. By sticking with only 3 copies, we free up a spot that we can use for a more live card.
There were a couple of reasons that I decided to stick with only 2 copies of Black Kyurem-EX. The first is that Black Kyurem-EX is by far the worst starter in the deck. You really don’t want to bench him until you’re able to get Energy under him at the same time. The second is that 2 Black Kyurem-EX should net at least 4 Prizes for you and the speed of the deck should be able to steal 2 more Prizes pretty easily.
I really wanted to play 2 copies of Keldeo-EX in the deck to help improve the Donphan matchup, but ultimately I think worrying about the Virizion matchup is more important. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong about this, but a second Keldeo-EX would be worth including if you expect a lot of Donphan.
Playing Kyurem doesn’t really do much to help the deck’s lack of a Safeguard counter. However, it is a strong non-EX attacker that can spread damage and help set up KOs for Manectric.
Since I play a thinner Supporter line and a thick VS Seeker line, it’s important to being able to search out the Supporters I need early and quickly. In my opinion, fast aggressive decks are the absolute best decks to play Jirachi-EX since they rely on fast aggressive starts and put so much pressure on the board early on, which means the opponent doesn’t usually have a free turn to Knock Out the Jirachi-EX.
Since the deck already relies on a Battle Compressor engine to thin itself out quickly and dump Energy in the discard pile, it makes sense to have a high VS Seeker count. This also lets me get by with a smaller number of more situational Supporters like Lysandre, AZ, and Colress.
With so many high HP Pokémon, I really like the idea of being able to fully pick up a Pokémon and remove it from the field. In general, AZ has a lot of synergy with the deck and you can make some unique plays. For example, it combos really well with VS Seeker and Jirachi-EX. You can use AZ to pick up Jirachi-EX and set up a Stellar Guidance for the next turn or simply pick Jirachi-EX for good and remove the 2 potential free Prizes from your opponent. You can do this play multiple times with VS Seeker and AZ.
Another play, if you don’t have any Energy in your discard pile, is to use AZ to pick up a Pokémon with Energy (the Pokémon will return to your hand, but the Energy will get discarded) and then use Manectric-EX to get the Energy out of the discard pile and onto the Pokémon you want.
Obviously the main reason we play Battle Compressor is to be able to dump Energy into the discard pile very quickly for Manectric-EX. It’s also important to think about the synergy the card has with VS Seeker. You can also use Battle Compressor to dump dead cards in your deck that you don’t want to see later in the game. This takes a really good understanding of what’s in your deck, what’s prized, and what you may or may not need in the future. For such a simple and straightforward card, there is a lot of thinking to it.
The deck requires more than just getting M Manectric-EX into play and Energy into the discard pile. You also need to be able to get 2 Energy underneath Manectric and having that Skyla out for a Professor’s Letter helps to make sure you don’t miss your Energy attachments. It’s a luxury to get 2 free Energy out of the discard pile, but it’s almost a necessity that you not miss your Energy drop for the turn.
I play a pretty low draw Supporter count so the added consistency of Computer Search makes me feel better. In general, Computer Search is the go-to Supporter for any speed-based deck. You could also make a pretty strong argument for Scramble Switch to pull off some pretty crazy plays.
As I’m sure you can tell right now, I’m a pretty big fan of Manectric-EX. I feel the card has so much potential and it partners extremely well with a lot of other Pokémon. It adds Energy acceleration, gives you type advantage against Lightning-Weak Pokémon, gives you a good Pyroar matchup, and at the same time it is an all-around decent attacker. I’ve already discussed my Manectric-EX/Black Kyurem-EX deck and now I want to share with you my other Manectric deck that revolves around Manectric-EX and Yveltal-EX.
Let’s start off by taking a look at my list:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 33
Energy – 14
The focus of Manectric/Yveltal is very different from Manectric/Black Kyurem. The former is a this-then-that type of deck. You always lead with Manectric-EX to get Energy under Black Kyurem-EX; you can’t lead with Black Kyurem-EX and then transition into Manectric-EX. With Yveltal, on the other hand, you just want to put pressure on the opponent in any way possible. Manectric-EX is more something that you transition into for type matching, mid/late game Energy acceleration, or to be a big attacker that’s hard to Knock Out. Manectric-EX brings a lot to the table for Yveltal and helps to make it extremely well rounded, answering many of the problems the deck previously had.
I love how the deck plays and I love my list for the deck. It also has the added benefit of being pretty customizable. The biggest trouble I had when constructing this list was making room for Manectric-EX; I had to cut Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym. I still play 1 Hypnotoxic Laser as a searchable additional 10 damage. I prefer having the stability that Manectric-EX brings to the deck over LaserBank, but I know not everybody is going to agree with me. You could possibly still fit Lasers and Virbanks into the deck by going with 1 or 0 Energy Switch and then cutting other cards here and there, but it would be rough. I’m going to explain my list and many of my card choices and then you can decide if you prefer the deck with Laser/Virbank or without.
Playing a 2-2 line makes the cards easy to find when need be, but it doesn’t clog the deck or your hand for what’s ultimately just a tech.
I added this to the deck as a metagame call against Black Kyurem-EX PLS. Even against other decks it does a solid 90 damage for a DCE after one of your Pokémon have been Knocked Out.
I feel Seismitoad-EX is weaker in this deck without playing many Hypnotoxic Laser. As a 1-of it still does a lot to slow the opponent down and buy you more time to set up or to disrupt them later in the game.
Once again I play heavy copies of my main Supporters – 4 Professor Juniper, 4 N, 3 Skyla – and went with single copies of my techs Lysandre and Xerosic. This allows me to play a high count of 3 VS Seekers giving the deck that toolbox-like effect.
I want to take a moment to talk about this card in particular. It gives the deck some utility that can be reused with VS Seeker and is searchable with Jirachi-EX. Normally you’re going to use it to remove a Special Energy from one of your opponent’s Pokémon. However, there are many good Tools to remove as well such as G Booster, Head Ringer, Jamming Net, or even your own Manectric Spirit Link. Up to this point it has been testing so-so and may ultimately just get dropped in favor of an Enhanced Hammer or Startling Megaphone. There is something to be said though about having access to 4 copies of this card in certain matchups like Donphan.
I’m one of those guys who really likes to play Bicycle in just about everything that can fit it. It gives the deck a little bit of speed and seems to smooth out draws.
Playing 2 copies seems to be the perfect number to go along with a 2-2 line. You could probably get by with only playing 1 copy because sometimes (though rarely) you can afford to give that turn up in the later game to Mega Evolve normally. I wouldn’t recommended playing any less than 2 copies.
Usually you wouldn’t see Professor’s Letter in Yveltal builds, but the L Energy in the list make it a much stronger choice. I opted to play Skyla in this build which gives me easy access to Professor’s Letter whenever I need it.
Playing 1 copy of Hypnotoxic Laser gives the deck a little bit of added reach to hit those awkward odd Hit Point numbers more easily.
City Championships are right around the corner and the metagame couldn’t be more diverse. In my experience, heading into the start of Cities, it’s best to focus on decks that are extremely well rounded with a limited number of bad matchups. As Cities progress and making meta calls becomes easier, you can go with more risky decks that you feel will handle a certain metagame well. I always try to head into Cities with knowledge and experience playing a large variety of decks. This lets me be able to adapt as the meta changes and I don’t have to pick up a brand new deck halfway through.
I want to wish everybody luck heading into Cities and I hope to see you at some of the events where I’m playing!
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