I hate Cities. I like Regionals, Nationals and even League Challenges, but I really haaate Cities. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I love the chances City Championships (CCs) bring to see and interact with my Pokémon friends every weekend. Cities are a lot of fun in that way, but they have been a bit of a struggle for me in the past. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you why!
Cities, to put it simply, are a huge grind! There are usually two a weekend, sometimes three, and I often have to drive over two hours to get to them. I’m not a morning person, and they always start so early! With TPCi’s implementation of entry fees, $10 per CC adds up more than I would like. As far as gaining Championship Points goes, Cities can feel disproportionately random and fairly luck based. The format is still pretty wide open, not to mention exceptionally diverse, and it’s difficult to predict what will be played in any given city on any given day. I have been hearing about a new deck it seems like every other day! The best-of-one format, unlike the best-of-three format of bigger tournaments like Regionals and States, places more importance on having a good start and drawing well in one particular game. In a way, City Championships are like slightly larger League Challenges with higher stakes and a higher payout.
Even though I may not particularly enjoy them, City Championships are an important part of the tournament season. With a Best Finish Limit of four and a maximum payout of 50 Championship Points for first place, Cities can provide 200 CP, which is two-thirds of a Worlds invite this year.
Although Cities may feel random, there are definitely things one can do to maximize the chances of CP payout. I am still learning how best to navigate Cities myself, but I will share what I have learned from my own experience and the experiences of others.
Table of Contents
- Surviving the Games
- The “Careers”
- The Underdogs
Surviving the Games
1. Form Alliances
I know this may not be everyone’s style, but for me, having a core group of friends and testing partners has really made this round of Cities much more bearable. Even on the days I don’t do well, it’s definitely nice to have friends around to either commiserate with or live vicariously through. Having a team mindset can really turn a less than stellar tournament run into a positive experience. I scrubbed out the first two Cities I attended this season, but I stayed until the finals both days while my friend, Dylan Dreyer, continued to play. I was unsatisfied with my performance, but happy for him at the same time.
My suggestion is to bring another game besides Pokémon to play in your down time. We like to play The Resistance, and we just discovered this game called Fluxx. It’s really fun and easy for everyone to pick up quickly!
Not only can alliances make the time spent at tournaments more enjoyable, it allows you to get in better quality testing. Letting more people into your circle can be a good thing, as long as everyone makes contributions. It allows you to get different players’ perspective on decks and matchups, whereas when two or three people test alone, they may get hung up on certain problems and become unable to think outside the box. It’s important to know what other people in your area are thinking about the metagame.
2. Be Consistent
While sometimes it can be beneficial to pick up a new deck the day of the tournament and play it with no testing, I feel like Cities are not usually the time to do so. Rogue decks are usually based on the prediction of an established metagame. When attending a 35-person CC, it can be very difficult to accurately anticipate every matchup. People often change decks and techs from day to day and week to week, not to mention the difficulty of predicting the play choices of casual players that may only attend their local CC and LC. This makes deck choice extremely important, because the variety of decks one might encounter at Cities is typically very high. The low amount of rounds combined with the high variance make for what can seem like an atypically luck-based tournament.
For this reason, I would recommend maximizing consistency not only in your decklist, but in your deck choice. Play a deck that has solid matchups (not too one-sided) against the majority of decks you expect to be there. This may seem like common sense, but if you want to do well at a CC, it’s probably not the time to bust out your favorite rogue that loses to a major metagame deck. This leads me to my next point. How do you figure out the metagame?
3. Scout the Competition
Like I said, it can be very difficult to predict a CC metagame. You may not live in the area or even know any players who do. It can be helpful to arrive at the tournament early, walk around, get to know some new people, and take a look at what might be played that day. This doesn’t mean to construct your deck the morning of the tournament based on what you see there. It just means that maybe speed Lugia-EX isn’t the right play if you walk around and see a lot of Seismitoad-EX on the tables! On the flip side, if you don’t see any Seismitoad, go right ahead and start setting up that T2 Plasma Gale.
4. Get Some Sleep
Again, this may seem like common sense, and probably something that gets repeated a lot, but getting enough sleep before a weekend of Cities is very helpful. If you’re like me, you have a lot of things going on during the week, and when weekends aren’t a time to relax anymore, every moment of sleep is precious. For me, sleep is more important than last-minute testing every time. Most CCs don’t have lunch breaks because they are only 5-7 single-game rounds, so make sure you bring a snack and something to drink!
5. Know the Arena
Become familiar with what’s been winning around the country and in your area. Build all the good meta decks and play a couple games with each one. Even if you’re not going to play Donphan, knowing how a deck works firsthand is very helpful when playing against it. With that being said, I’m going to discuss what I think the top decks to be aware of during Cities are.
In the past, I have often felt as though the main three decks of any given format formed a triangle of sorts, meaning each deck would have a positive matchup and a negative one amongst the other two. However, it seems now that we have three very powerful archetypes that appear to be on relatively equal footing with each other. These three decks, Donphan, Yveltal, and Virizion/Genesect, have been established as the top tier of the current Cities metagame.
If you haven’t seen the Hunger Games, the “Careers” reference is to tributes who are trained for the arena their whole lives and are unanimously considered at the top of the competition. I do not feel that one of these decks has a real solid advantage over the other. Their matchups against each other are all relatively close, making any one of them a reliable and strong play for any given CC, barring the presence of any tier 2 deck that may counter it (for example, Pyroar parrying V/G). Here are my lists for each of these decks.
I played this deck at the first CC I went to. Unfortunately, I didn’t do very well; I’m pretty sure I dropped after my second loss. Oops! However, my testing buddy Jimmy Pendarvis made top 4 with the same list, and Dylan Dreyer made the top 2, losing to Drew Guritzky in the mirror.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 35
Energy – 11
Donphan is a very strong deck right now. There has been a lot of discussion about it, and I am hardly a veteran Donphan player, so I will leave the deck analysis for this one to others. A Stage 1 non-EX attacker that hides on the Bench, plus tons of Fighting support from Furious Fists? Sign me up for that deck! It has been a formidable presence in my area since day one, and I expect to continue to see it played heavily for the foreseeable future.
While Donphan is a very powerful and consistent deck with fairly even matchups across the board, it can struggle to deal with Seismitoad-EX, which has won its fair share of Cities.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 39
Energy – 12
Dark types just never seem to go away lately, do they? I see Yveltal-EX decks as the natural evolution of the older Darkrai-EX-based decks, although Darkrai has really been reduced to a tech card now. I have not personally played Yveltal since Nationals, but it is an undeniably strong choice for Cities right now. It has an advantage over Donphan in its Fighting Resistance and high counts of Yveltal XY. Some Donphan players are even including Dedenne FFI in their lists to try to combat it. The matchup is by no means an auto-win; in my opinion, it is only slightly in Yveltal’s favor. Yveltal also has a close matchup with the other big deck, V/G.
This analysis may beg the question; why then, isn’t Yveltal the BDIF? It is currently kept in check by Manectric-EX-based decks. While Manectric may not be the ubiquitious CC-winning powerhouse that Yveltal, Donphan and V/G are, it is still a significant enough presence in most areas to keep Y-bird in check.
My favorite deck, V/G! So far this Cities season V/G has netted me a win, a top 4, and a top 8. I keep coming back to this deck for a few reasons. It has very even matchups across most of the metagame and is very consistent. Nothing frustrates me more than a dead opening hand, and I appreciate V/G for its low setup factor. Here is my CC-winning list:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 36
Energy – 14
The rise of Seismitoad-EX and Donphan has caused the decline of V/G’s main nemesis, Pyroar. I could not be happier about this, because nothing can kill a CC run faster than getting paired with Pyroar as a V/G player. V/G has a pretty close matchup with Yveltal and Donphan decks. Enhanced Hammer and Drifblim really aid in both of these matchups, giving you a strong non-EX attacker that only needs one Energy to force the odd Prize near the end of the game. It is difficult for Donphan to KO at any point in the game and has obvious synergy with your Hammers. At the CC I won, I beat a Donphan in top 8, a TDK in top 4, and an Yveltal in the finals. All three series were extremely close, reflecting how I feel about each of those matchups.
If I were to change anything about this list, it would be the Supporter line. Like Jon Bristow discussed in his recent article, I feel that the VS Seeker engine could be used to greater effect in this deck, as V/G is already a very consistent deck in its strategy. The ability to choose which Supporters to reuse late in the game as opposed to just dealing with whatever is in your hand is very appealing. However, I think a balance must be struck between the amount of draw support and VS Seeker. I would be hesitant to cut too many Supporters in favor of the Trainer card. Higher counts of VS Seeker also increases the effectiveness of tech Supporter cards like Lysandre.
The decks in this section may not have the high success numbers to back them up like the above three decks do, but they are definitely capable of winning a City Championship in the current meta. I think that tier lists are messy and opinionated, but if I had to put these decks in a category it would be tier 2, based largely on performance.
To continue the Hunger Games analogy, I could relate these decks to Katniss and Peeta, coming out of nowhere to steal a victory.
I’ll admit that I haven’t tested Metal variants very much. The deck just doesn’t hold much appeal to me as a strategy, but then I was never a fan of Eelektrik in the past. However, it’s got a solid, tried-and-true plan going for it. The goal of the deck is simple: set up multiple Bronzong on the Bench to continually charge up various Metal attackers that are difficult to take down. Here is what a typical Metal deck could look like:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
In my opinion, this deck belongs in tier 2 right now, but that could change in the near future. It has relatively even matchups with the big three decks, although perhaps slightly negative vs. Yveltal decks and slightly positive vs. Donphan. On the other hand, it has terrible Pyroar and Garbodor matchups. It has a fairly slow early game, but can make up for it with a strong late game that is resistant to N. If your area is flooded with Donphan, Metal could be a strong choice.
I played this deck for the second CC I attended, however, I did not do well with it. It’s the kind of deck where poor flips can really punish you. Jimmy P did make top 8 with it that day, losing to Jimmy McClure with an Yveltal deck. Here is the list we played:
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 48
Energy – 4
I will admit that when you are flipping well, or even 50/50, the deck can be really fun. I enjoyed playing it in testing, however, in practice I was very unsatisfied. I lost round 1 to a straight Fairy deck and round 2 to Dylan Dreyer with Donphan where I was unable to flip a single heads. It’s just not the deck for me. It’s usually got a pretty positive matchup vs. Donphan and Plasma, and its Yveltal matchup is very close and depends largely on flips. Naturally, it has a pretty negative matchup vs. V/G, but Head Ringer helps to mitigate that. If you can keep the Grass Energy off the board for long enough, it’s possible to win.
There are many different ways to build this deck. Some lists may include Water Energy or not include Garbodor at all. I’m not sure as of yet what the “right” way to play the deck is, but I could see it having its moment sometime soon in any case.
Ah, my nemesis! Despite my personal feelings about this deck, it is a double-edged sword right now. While it still enjoys the near auto-win versus V/G, Plasma, and Metal decks, the new addition of Donphan to the meta has really given Pyroar something to be afraid of. M Manectric-EX can also be a really difficult threat for a Pyroar deck to deal with.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
I would say that Pyroar is a very risky Cities play right now, but that risk can pay off for those brave enough to attempt it. If your meta isn’t saturated with Donphan yet, it could benefit you to break out the fire lions for your next CC.
My only loss with V/G at the CC I won was to Orrin Wilson with this deck. M Manectric-EX is very difficult to deal with, as it can deal out massive damage while single-handedly re-energizing the Yveltal player’s board, so even once you’ve dealt with the Lightning threat, a big Yveltal-EX is likely lying in wait on the Bench.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 36
Energy – 14
Pairing Manectric with Yveltal is not the only way to go. Players have been experimenting with other ways to incorporate the card into current strategies as well. I have seen Manectric included in Virizion/Genesect decks. Also, decks that utilize Seismitoad-EX in addition to Manectric have been performing well lately. Again, Donphan poses a huge threat to Manectric due to its Weakness, but otherwise the deck is very powerful and resilient.
The deck that everyone initially thought was a bit of a joke has proven that it has what it takes to win City Championships. I was only able to attend one CC last week and I was knocked out of the top 8 by this deck. What seems like a silly deck at first glance can be a glass cannon if set up correctly.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 37
Energy – 8
Again, there are definitely multiple ways to build this deck. I have seen players utilize the Eeveelutions, for one. The deck reminds me of Weavile PLF/Exeggcute PLF from last format, and it employs a similar strategy. The strength of the attack is derived from the amount of Pokémon with the same attack, Night March, in the discard. The deck uses the combination of non-EX attackers and its Stadium, Dimension Valley, to attack with only one Energy each turn. It is similar to Tool Drop in that once it is set up, it trades 1HKOs on EXs for 1HKOs on non-EXs.
Seismitoad, Pyroar, and Garbodor all cause this deck problems. Additionally, decks might begin to utilize Lysandre’s Trump Card more as a way to deal with Night March if it becomes more popular.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, there are many more viable decks in the format right now. We currently have such a large competitive card pool that new combinations are being thought of every week, whether it be a small but important change to an established archetype or an entirely new deck concept. My advice is to stick with what has been proven to be good in order to guarantee results, but if you’re the gambling type, do what you feel is best!
Unfortunately, I do not believe I will be able to attend a marathon this season. I still have a fair amount of regularly scheduled Cities that I can go to, so hopefully I will be able to net some more points before this cycle is over and Winter Regionals begin. I am currently at 131/300 Points, so we will see what the rest of the season holds! Thank you to everyone reading, and please give me a +1 if you enjoyed the article and want to see more from me in the future!
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