The Cities season has always been one of my least favorite times of the year to play, but a great season in which to write. Like others, I love how much post-game skill Cities take. It’s the only time of the year where there are a lot of tournaments on back-to-back weekends, plus marathons! I also live in New England where it’s cold for half the year and leaving the house is a chore.
Last year my excuse was starting college, but this year it’s family. My mother has always been involved in Pokémon, and since our regional PTO seems to have mysteriously vanished, she’s stepped up to bring more Cities to New England. I felt that it was important to make sure my mom’s first event as a TO ran smoothly, so I stepped in to judge an event at the store I’d like to call my home field. It’s the first time I’ve ever not played in a Premier Event there in all seven years the owners have been hosting them.
Content with how that went, I didn’t feel like I was needed on staff for the second week of Cities. Completely unprepared, I got out some Genesect and borrowed a few Virizion before sticking my neck into the 2015 season.
The Cities season moves quickly. Since that Saturday two weeks ago marathons have begun and the meta has shifted. As people fan out to marathon zones to get more tournaments in, it can become very hard for players like myself to keep up. Not playing Pokémon during the week can really slow down a person’s flow. Ray Cipoletti has the right idea. Somehow he got himself out of bed early enough to get down to New Jersey for the opening days of their annual bloodletting. I’ve been down there, and I’d never want to do it again.
I really don’t think marathons are necessary this year. States, Regionals, and Nationals are more than enough to cover the 300 Points needed for a vanilla Worlds invite. Top 16 getting travel awards is cute, but I don’t think it’s worth the money to try for me personally. Maybe I’m biased because I can drive to Boston, but still. Traveling for that many Championship Points can’t be cheap. When in doubt, just win Nationals.
Although I don’t have any desire to travel for Cities, the people who do bring home a new meta. While I’ve spent my winter break playing Hearthstone, Ray is undoubtedly more prepared for next week’s City than I am just because he experienced the tri-state competition (he’s higher ranked than me in Legend too — please stop being good at things Ray).
Doing well at Cities is all about planning ahead, and I’ve done a lot of research and with the help of some observant friends, I’ve tried my best to analyze a metagame I never had the chance to experience. Some of the lists in this article aren’t proven, but that’s because the Cities metagame is constantly evolving. Regionals and States are what I’m really good at, I think. I’ve always been a player to perfect archetypes, and I’m not one to take chances or play interesting decks in general. I’m a boring player, but I can’t write a boring article with lists for the same “Big Three” — Donphan, Yveltal, V/G — and expect it to be of any value to you.
I’ve spent a few days looking at this metagame as an outsider, and from what I can tell, Yveltal is pulling away as the most dominant deck. More people are moving to counter Donphan, which has been stifling V/G’s numbers all season. That’s happening right now, from what I can tell, and it’s clear that people are reacting. As expected, counters to Yveltal such as Manectric are very strong when Yveltal is, but Donphan’s omnipresence still presents a dilemma. Decks like Manectric can be dangerous gambits that can crash into Donphan as easily as they can blow out Yveltal.
That’s where you come in, the footsoldier, the underdog, the hero of legend — that’s right, you.
I’m floating in SixPrizes land, looking at things from a global perspective while only you have the insight into your local metagame to truly make the right call.
“So there was a lot of Pyroar at my last event; what should I play?”
Well, probably not Grass. But it’s not as simple as dealing with what was, success at Cities is all about dealing with what will become. Not everyone who ran Pyroar will play it again. Some will stick with it, others will get fed up with the mirror and gun to beat it. V/G players will dump their decks and get behind something else. Maybe nobody will run Pyroar next week if those players only had middling success with it. Who knows.
What I want you to take away from this is that one stand-out fact people are going to take away from an event (lots of Pyroar, for example) can easily set the stage for all the preparation people do in the time between tournaments, be it one night or five days. This is the point — you need to start thinking one, two, even three steps ahead.
Table of Contents
Nicholena’s last article is a great resource for lists of popular decks. Everything that her article didn’t cover, Dylan Bryan’s did. Even though there haven’t been a ton of articles strictly focusing on deck analysis lately, both of those authors covered everything my article here won’t. This is the time of year that rewards risk taking and quick thinking. Below you’ll find an article that I hope can guide readers to being more proficient at both.
I played in my first event of the season last week at a diverse City Championship in New Hampshire. Everything from Pyroar to Yveltal was played, and I jumped on V/G as a default. I played it not because it was good, but because I didn’t know much about the other decks or the metagame. I spent my first weekend of Cities as a judge and that had to suffice as my first taste of the 2015 season.
The Virizion/Genesect list I ran was straight-up terrible, but I can make it better! At the time the list was completely outdated. I found myself defaulting to anti-Head Ringer cards like Xerosic that I had played a few weeks before at League, not knowing that the Flare Machines had fallen off in the consecutive weeks after I had last played.
I’d like to say that was the only mistake I made before the tournament had even started, but then I decided to actually follow through with playing V/G in a metagame with so much Pyroar. For whatever reason, Pyroar surged that day. It didn’t do well, but I was unprepared and I had no backup deck. Local metagames are easy to scout. At a small event, even three extra auto-losses in the room can mean the end of your day. Plan accordingly when playing not only V/G, but anything with a few really terrible matchups.
I still think V/G is strong, but probably not quite as good as it was in my last article. It turns out Head Ringer wasn’t the problem at all, but a shift in the metagame makes the deck a lot riskier to play. V/G can beat almost anything, but its matchups aren’t really phenomenal either and that’s okay with most people. However, when those matchups can be decided by Crushing Hammer flips you can’t help but question if V/G is really what you want to be playing.
If you take nothing else away from this article, just trust me on just this point: Town Map is amazing. Don’t listen to what the haters say, alright? Alright.
A recent trend is playing Hammer/s in Yveltal in the place of the Virbank/Laser package. Yveltal deals with Donphan and Hammers help the V/G matchup. At the moment, Yveltal with Hard Charm, Shadow Circle, and Hammers is popular, but expect this to change soon. This is a very reactive environment that rewards players who take risks to predict the metagame. As V/G declines and Yveltal rises, expect Yveltal players to adapt to better deal with the mirror and get ready for a rise in Pyroar and Toad. I feel like V/G will find its footing again soon.
I’ve heard that in some places Yveltal hardly exists at all because Manectric has already come out to counter it. Cities is a fast-paced world of play, especially during marathon time. The metagame changes daily, so prepare to deal with it. If you observe something different in your area than I do from looking at data online, use your own judgment and logic because it’s probably many times better than anything I can say with the knowledge I have. I’m just a voice in the sky looking at the big picture, but you’re a human on the ground. There’s a big difference.
From what I can tell, Yveltal players should get ready to adapt and for the same reason V/G players should watch out. V/G and Yveltal share some of the same counters, so for now I’d be cautious about running V/G.
If history is any indication at all, then of course Virizion/Genesect is here to stay (I hope until rotation at least, because when it goes I’ll have nothing to write about). If the meta favors it, this is the list I’d be interested in playing right now:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 36
Energy – 14
Virizion/Genesect is in a bit of a rough spot considering the popularity of Yveltal at the moment, but V/G is an otherwise consistent deck with very fair matchups that generally let the player show off his or her skills. It’s a good bet to take you into top cut, but as statistics show, V/G hasn’t been the favorite to win events this season.
“So Yveltal is strong. Okay, well what beats that then?”
Seismitoad has been on the decline since the release of Phantom Forces for whatever reason, but as V/G is the weakest member of the Big Three right now, I think it could be a strong play. On its own, Toad’s matchup against Yveltal is defined by an uncomfortable amount of variance. Hammers can deal with Yveltal-EX, but Yveltal XY gives them a very safe backup plan. Straight Toad is a very metagame-specific deck that doesn’t seem too great against Yveltal, so Toad is going to need a backup plan of its own.
Slurpuff? Okay, why is this seeing play again? I understand that the extra consistency supports more utility Supporters like Team Flare Grunt, but I fail to understand how this makes the deck any more effective than GarboToad. Flare Grunt is easily countered by some extreme patience on the part of a Virizion player and Toad still runs into the roadblock that some people chose to call Baby Yveltal. Personally, I feel like “Baby Yveltal” isn’t really a fitting name for the Destruction Pokémon but okay, it’s definitely an issue that Seismitoad can’t handle on its own. Energy denial doesn’t really work against that card, and I don’t see Slurpuff standing in the way of Oblivion Wing and Evil Ball.
Yveltal is always a good option to beat Yveltal, but another good choice if you really want to make kids salty is Pyroar. Pyroar/Seismitoad has seen enough success for me to call it a proven deck, but it hasn’t been overwhelmingly popular. It’s one of those decks that few people play but tends to do well. Pyroar seems very strong right with since Garbodor fell off completely, but there’s still Donphan to deal with. Whatever we decide to play, the deck has to be able to play as either a Toad deck or a Pyroar deck rather than a “Toad/Pyroar” deck. What I’m getting at is basically that there isn’t a ton of overlap or synergy between the two cards. They each do most of their work alone.
This is a Pyroar deck first and a Toad deck second. Seismitoad might be the hero we want, but Pyroar is the hero we need. Toad is the card that deals with Donphan best, and new Pyroar from Phantom Forces shines with it. Since the rise of Yveltal, Donphan and V/G have fallen off a bit. As Yveltal continues to surge Pyroar could be a fantastic play.
Nonetheless, Pyroar is always an inherently risky play in a local metagame. Not everyone at Cities plays by the rules of the metagame and Pyroar isn’t a Pokémon that does a very good job at expecting the unexpected.
Cities is all about capitalizing on weaknesses in the metagame, and a small portion of winners seem to be doing this with a deck that is almost always reported as “Fairies.” That’s a pretty non-descriptive deck name to be honest and an even bigger misnomer. Everyone knows the hard part about building “Fairies” is what partners to play next to Aromatisse — it’s no secret that it’s the only Fairy-type Pokémon worth playing. For whatever reason there’s almost no public information that I could find about modern variants. The deck is so amorphous it’s impossible to look at tournament results and have any idea what the winner was playing at all.
But here’s the truth bomb: Manectric-EX and its Mega are a perfect fit in this deck, and why nobody saw this and and was hyping it months ago I’ll never know. I know I feel pretty stupid right now because I was oblivious to a combo that is so embarrassingly obvious.
Manectric is Lightning type, and this deck is going to play Fairy Garden, first because it’s a good card, but second to counter Shadow Circle. That second point, “to counter Shadow Circle,” basically means Yveltal takes an auto-loss to this before you even consider that Aromatisse and Max Potion are also cards you play.
Manectric-EX is the main attacker in this, but there’s no easier deck to adapt for a metagame. Fighting decks from the pre-PHF era might still be around, but Toad and Yveltal should deal with those. With so many options, there isn’t much that seems very scary anymore is there?
“But this deck isn’t the undisputed best deck in format so you’re obviously missing something Dylan. Do you even play this game?”
Alright little Jimmy, calm down. I know I’m injecting this section with a healthy steroid of hype but I don’t see how this deck could possibly be bad with the metagame in the state that it is. G Booster is at an all-time low, so now seems like a great time to pick up Aromatisse.
Unfortunately, this deck isn’t quite as versatile as it was when it ran twelve or more Special Energy. Enhanced Hammer is far too popular now, and the Plasma package with Thundurus-EX and friends seems inferior to Manectric and its Mega. Any Pokémon that requires more than one off-color Energy seems out of the question. Rainbow Energy is the sole provider of multi-colored Energy in the format, so protect them like a win condition. Lysandre’s Trump Card is a decent last resort to recover fallen Energy, but just as it brings back our Rainbows it forces us to deal with their Hammers all over again.
Even if Trump Card is a bit underwhelming, there’s always Sacred Ash to pad your deck. Ultra Balls can wear through resources quickly, so as long as you have one of the two, you can be a bit more liberal about throwing out single-copy Pokémon.
This is the main weakness of the deck at the moment. We play Max Potion to stall indefinitely, and once we’re set up we shouldn’t have a hard time getting at our resources. It’s just a question of how well we can deal with Enhanced Hammer in the long run.
I’m not even sure what the current trend is regarding “Fairies,” but let’s take a shot at unmasking this hilariously hard to netdeck deck:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 33
4/3 Fairy Garden
Energy – 12
Open Spots: 2
Don’t take this list too seriously. There’s enough space left over for metagame-specific cards and I left some breathing room in the list to reflect that. Remember that I’m not anything close to an expert on this deck. This is only a starting point, but I figured that some of you would be interested in that, considering how little information there is out there on Fairies at this point in the season.
I’ve heard that Florges-EX is a thing that people are playing, but I feel like it would really restrict our options for other attackers. On the other hand, a dedicated Fairy-type deck could be far more consistent that what I have above. 160 HP is pretty low for a main attacker. It’s an option to explore, but I’m not sure straight Fairies will be viable until M Gardevoir-EX comes out, and that card’s synergy with Aromatisse is beyond anything Manectric could offer.
Anyway, the core of this deck is Manectric and its Mega. Even though there are a lot of other attackers, I’d be hesitant to play this in a meta with a lot of Fighting just because having your main attacker become a liability in any matchup is scary. Although I’ve observed Garbodor falling off in popularity, always beware of regional nuances. After all, Garbodor was the reason Fairies fell through the floor in the first place.
Anyway, let’s look at the deck in detail. This isn’t a deck everyone understands, and I think explaining my reasoning for certain card choices could be helpful.
Mega Pokémon like Kangaskhan were most commonly used before Phantom Forces for their unbreakably high HP, but these options fell out of favor. M Manectric-EX is a Mega that’s actually worth attacking with. Two Energy for 100+ has become the gold standard since the release of Yveltal, and Manectric is undoubtedly seeing play because it’s the first Mega Pokémon-EX that’s actually Energy efficient. Its massive HP combined with the effect of Turbo Bolt lets M Manectric and its respectable Basic form run perfectly in tandem with Aromatisse and Max Potion. No doubt Manectric is a big step up from Mega Mom.
Yveltal is a good finisher at some points, but this deck is designed to reward patience. Stacking Energy on Yveltal isn’t usually the greatest idea. Instead, Yveltal-EX best abused for its Fighting Resistance in the Donphan matchup.
We play Lightning Energy to enable Turbo Bolt. They provide some color fixing for our Energy pool when we don’t have access to Rainbow and help pad the overall Energy count. I don’t think we need any more than six or seven Fairy Energy because once they’re in play they tend to stay there. If the Lightning is too cute for you, just forgo it. Rainbows are huge targets for Hammers, so playing another type of basic Energy at least helps us stay versatile.
I’ll admit that Xerneas-EX is a terrible card, but we have to have some kind of insurance against Enhanced Hammer. The most common number you’re going to be dealing with is just two, but any more Hammers than that and life starts to get rough. There has to be some other attacker than can run on Fairy Energy alone. It’s hard to call Mewtwo-EX enough when Toad often plays Mewtwo of its own and this is the best Fairy-type option we have. Its Darkness Resistance isn’t bad either.
Malamar-EX is a common idea to play in this deck. Attaching every Energy to Malamar and then moving it is a great combo, but this deck is designed to outlast.
“But Dylan, it’s easy to abuse and you never rely on Sleep! It’s just helpful when it works.”
That’s nice Jimmy, but this really isn’t the kind of deck that needs the kind of protection that Malamar offers. We shouldn’t need to put them to sleep when we can survive their attacks and Max Potion anyway. MAXamar is a terrible attack and putting that many Energy on one Pokémon is a liability in almost every matchup. Malamar is a fun idea, but not something I’d play seriously.
Dialga-EX is another card that some people play in Fairies. Being able to do as much as 170 is really attractive, losing Rainbow Energy not so much. Yes, it’s a finisher, but we don’t need finishers in a deck that’s already designed to grind out games with Max Potion and tons of HP. Pass on Dialga.
Virizion-EX only deals with Lasers, which are surprisingly uncommon these days. If Laser is an issue, go for it. Otherwise this card will be dead weight.
Xerneas XY seems surprisingly good in here. 100 damage is pretty generous and we actually play enough Fairy Energy to make Geomancy worthwhile. Consider at least one of these to help power through Crushing Hammer. It has the added bonus of being a great early-game answer to Yveltal XY. Xerneas can field a lot of Energy while Yveltal barely taps it with Oblivion Wing.
Mewtwo Strikes Back
If you’ve played on PTCGO any time recently you’ve probably faced down a Night March deck. No doubt casual PTCGO players absolutely devour combo decks that use inexpensive cards. Night March is playable because of its ability to hit hard and trade favorably with high-HP EXs. Wobbuffet/Crobat occupies a similar niche on the PTCGO, but that translates to less playability in paper.
If you’ve played against Wobbuffet online, you’ve either stomped it into the curb without thinking much about it, or you made the mistake of letting it stay alive long enough to combo-out and wreck you. Crobat works similarly to Night March. Sneaky and Surprise Bites spread damage around and create opportunities for Wobbuffet to get KOs. Dimension Valley counters Stadiums and makes the deck more efficient. The reduced Energy costs mean that the deck can play only a few Psychic Energies and make room for cards like AZ and Scoop Up Cyclone.
It’s very average. Everything Wobbuffet does, Night March does better.
Last Saturday a few of my friends came to the tournament prepared to pilot Crobat with Mewtwo. I was skeptical that Crobat was worth playing without Wobbuffet. I saw the strength of the deck to be in the power of the 1-Prize Pokémon it played. Reasoning that there are stronger attackers at the EX level than Mewtwo, I’d rather just play a deck with better EX synergy, like V/G.
On the other hand, Wobbuffet is not the strongest card. Its damage output is seriously limited by the speed at which you can get a string of Bites going. Even its Ability is deceptively bad. Not many decks are hurt by losing access to their Abilities. Against the top three decks (Donphan, Yveltal, and V/G) Bide Barricade is barely relevant, and only if they happen to play Jirachi.
So instead, Wobbuffet came out for a heavier count of Mewtwo. Mewtwo hasn’t really been seen as a main attacker since 2012 and most people can count on zero hands the number of times they’ve used Psydrive. If you want to raise that number by a few fingers, give this deck a shot.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 32
Energy – 11
Still looks bad? On your way to downvote my article? Hold back your cringe and let me make a case for Crobat.
Mewtwo is worth playing only because Dimension Valley is a card. Pretend you’re playing Virizion, and all you’re doing on turn two is Emerald Slash, while that Mewtwo deck is doing X Ball at the least, possibly up to 140 with Psydrive. Being able to follow that 140 up with a Sneaky or Surprise Bite either the turn after Psydrive or any time in the future gives the deck a ton of versatility. Mewtwo with Dimension Valley can take out any EX in two hits for only a few Psychic Energy.
Part of what makes V/G so powerful is its ability to play off the board. Even when it’s under pressure from N and the like, it can often do respectable damage by working off what you already have in play. Mewtwo/Crobat and V/G don’t often demand more than what they have. Decks that can live modestly are often among the most consistent in the game.
“LOL, but Dylan, how can Crobat be consistent? You have to keep playing down Crobats to do damage right?”
Woah, slow your roll there little Jimmy… you don’t have to babysit Mewtwo-EX like it’s a Wobbuffet. This version of the deck uses Crobat as a substitute for Laser damage. I’d go so far as to say that Mewtwo is actually a strictly better attacker than Yveltal as long as Dimension Valley is in play. Psydrive at the same cost as Evil Ball is amazing, but there’s still the issue of having Dimension Valley in play. We run four to make sure you can get it out and keep it in play. It gives the deck most of its early-game power and it’s as important to this deck as Virizion is to V/G.
Unfortunately, Dimension Valley leaves no room for Hypnotoxic Laser. Being able to throw down Muscle Band and swing for 140 at the cost of two Energy is incredibly cheap, but that’s still a 2-shot on any EX in the format right now. X Ball is great for 2-shots, but that’s not good enough. We still need to find a way to push Psydrive to the magic 170 without Laser.
Obviously, that’s where Crobat comes in. Damage in increments of either 20 or 30 can be placed whenever you draw Bats. Using coming-into-play Abilities to do damage is pretty awkward, but any issue with this can be mitigated with some foresight. Even if you mess up with Surprise Bite placement, Golbat will forgive you. Having both the Stage 1 and Stage 2 deal damage is amazing. It’s actually rather hard to go wrong.
Your non-EX attacker can be Sigilyph, Miltank, or Wobbuffet. Being able to snipe for 30 at the cost of zero whole Energy is pretty convenient sometimes. Wobbuffet is a decent attacker, but it probably won’t get KOs since this deck isn’t as dedicated to Crobat as the Wobbuffet deck is. Sure, it shuts down Abilities for a moment and it takes out Safeguard Pokémon, but Crobat does the latter just as well.
Sigilyph deals with other Mewtwo and is one of the best catch-alls in the format. One Sigilyph doesn’t beat any deck on its own, but it has synergy with Dimension Valley and that alone can put pressure on all of the popular EX decks being played right now.
Mewtwo’s speed lets it contend with decks like Yveltal and take a huge advantage versus V/G. I’ve only known about this deck for about a week, so I haven’t had a chance to play it anywhere but online. I have to admit I don’t have the greatest handle on its matchups at this point.
Donphan, Yveltal, and V/G are such an evenly-matched triumvirate that other decks can only rise up when one of these three falls out of favor. Crobat/Mewtwo is pretty decent against all three, but dominating against V/G. Play it when there’s less Yveltal, Manectric, and Garbodor in the metagame, meaning now might not be the best time for it.
The deck looks a little complicated, but TL;DR you just bash face with Mewtwo and deal the missing damage with Crobat and friends. Simple as that. Try it out, and announce Psydrive for the first time in your life. It’ll feel good, I promise.
I’d never stick a full-blown tournament report in an Underground article. Reports aren’t insight, and I don’t think anyone here wants me to trouble them with the not-so-riveting tale of my top four escapades, but that one tournament I played in helped me gather a lot of information about how this format works.
Here are some takeaways:
1. The significance of the Big Three.
It’s not acceptable to take an auto-loss to any of the Big Three right now when everyone knows each one of the Big Three can compete with the other two big decks. Although V/G has a shaky matchup against Donphan and Donphan has a hard time against Yveltal, I’d say any of those aforementioned decks is a better play than Pyroar, for example. The fact that the Big Three are so safe makes them extremely popular, as I’m sure you know. Those three decks are quite diverse, and even the hardest counter to Yveltal and V/G is going to get rocked by Donphan.
There is no catch-all right now.
If you’re going to play a deck outside the Big Three you MUST completely understand your local metagame. That, I think, is always the key to doing well at Cities.
2. The format revolves around Donphan.
Out of the three, Donphan is the outlier. Donphan’s existence is what makes this format so unbreakable. Between Donphan’s Stage 1 status, typing, and popularity, it’s a tough deck to counter all aspects of. Donphan’s popularity is keeping down Manectric and Pyroar, which allows Yveltal and Genesect to stay relevant. It’s no secret that Yveltal is surging right now because of its dominance in the Donphan matchup. It’s kind of funny that Donphan’s resilience is the only thing scaring Manectric out of the metagame. It may not be the best deck to play in every event, in fact, it’s heavily hated out these days (who even knew Hard Charm was a card before we figured out it beats Donphan?). Yet no matter the local meta, it’s impossible to build a deck without keeping Donphan in mind.
3. Pokémon is incredibly diverse right now.
New decks are still emerging rapidly. Marathon season is daunting, but it always sparks fires of creativity under the players that are trying their hardest to fill their cups with Championship Points. Cities are incredibly easy to metagame, and that makes people feel safe enough to play decks like Fairies and Crobat.
The three top decks don’t have a chokehold on the game; in fact, they’re constantly evolving themselves. Yveltal has evolved a new standard in the last few weeks alone. There’s plenty of room for things to change and other decks to win.
I hope you enjoyed the last SixPrizes article of 2014 as much as I enjoyed being the author of it. This marks my second full year writing for this website, and I’m so thankful for everyone’s continued support.
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