A Tale of Two Cities

Season of Darkness, Spring of Hope, What Could Have Been and What Could Be

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

Whoever thought that one day I would actually be starting off a Pokémon article with a quote by the famed author, Charles Dickens? If you’d asked me a couple of years ago, I’d say, “And who exactly is Charles Dickens?” (which is just a testament to the wonderfulness that is the public school system). But in fact, this quote from the first lines of “A Tale of Two Cities” actually reminds me a lot of how I felt about this year’s City Championships.

Cities to me are truly some of the best of times with friends hanging out and playing Pokémon and more, but also the worst of times after it’s all said and done. I’m sure most of us know or can imagine that there’s nothing like that sickness that comes after playing 9-10 straight days of tournaments. I’m also sure we’ve all had our fair share of foolishness with maybe some bouts of wisdom here and there (more so for some than for others, but sometimes, foolishness does really pay off).

It was the epoch of belief, but also incredulity — can you seriously believe a deck with Moltres-EX, Zapdos-EX, Articuno-EX, and Lugia-EX did well at these tournaments? I for one thought it was another one of the Pokémon Facebook group Virbank City’s shenanigans. Regardless, I think we can all agree that the Cities this year were incredible events with tons of fun and craziness going on at each and every one. Some weird things were definitely able to do well in the Boundaries Crossed-Phantom Forces format, as I had mentioned before, so it makes me sad to see them come to a close. Hopefully though, the level of creativity being seen in decks recently won’t decrease by much come Winter Regionals.

So with all that being said, let’s go ahead and jump into the article where I will be discussing the decks that I piloted to some top finishes at this year’s City Championships, as well as some decks that I wish I could have used, followed by a quick note on my predictions for the exciting, new Primal Clash set.

Table of Contents

The First City: The Season of Darkness

Crobat is on the radar.

I was only able to make it to four City Championships this year and did well at exactly two of them (second place and top 4), so those are the ones that I will be talking about most today. Just for the sake of being thorough, I’ll briefly talk about my other experiences. For the first City that I did badly at, I played a mediocre Fairies list and made some misplays that I shouldn’t have, and at the second bad Cities, luck simply got the better of me, which unfortunately happens to everyone.

For this next Cities, I was able to pick myself up and get to the finals but ultimately lose to Jeremy Jallen piloting his version of Yveltal/Scoop Up Cyclone/Eviolite. I got the idea from Andrew Ding, a former Arizona player who recently moved to California to study at UC Berkeley. He gave me the initial list, and I switched out a couple of cards and took it for a test drive. He also piloted this deck to a second place finish, so the deck must have the runner-up curse.


Pokémon – 14

3 Yveltal XY

3 Yveltal-EX

1 Darkrai-EX DEX

1 Seismitoad-EX

2 Zubat PLS 53

2 Golbat PHF

2 Crobat PHF

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

2 Lysandre

1 AZ


4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Ultra Ball

3 Muscle Band

2 VS Seeker

2 Bicycle

1 Energy Switch

1 Switch

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Computer Search


2 Virbank City Gym

1 Shadow Circle

Energy – 12

8 D

4 Double Colorless

R1: Jillian Robinson w/ Donphan W
R2: Matt Brooks w/ Yveltal/Darkrai W
R3: Drew Kennett w/ TDK W
R4: Curtis Swick w/ Yveltal/Garbodor W
R5: Carlos Machado w/ Virizion/Genesect ID
R6: Manu Valencia w/ Yveltal ID
T8: Travis McKain w/ Yveltal/Crobat (59-card mirror match) WW
T4: Matt Brooks w/ Yveltal/Darkrai WW
T2: Jeremy Jallen w/ Yveltal/Eviolite/Scoop Up Cyclone WLL

I know this may look like a crazy deck at first, but let me tell you, it was pretty sweet to run. I didn’t drop a single game the whole day until the very end of finals due to some poor draws. I remember I won a solid Game 1 against Jeremy, lost Game 2 due to him donking my Darkrai-EX with Quaking Punch, and Game 3, I dead-drew for about 6-7 turns, almost made a comeback toward the end, and he won on the second turn of time. It was a pretty great day, but definitely the best feeling was being able to ID twice to secure a place in top 8, especially after some other mediocre Cities runs.

Now at this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why the heck would he choose to play Crobat over other cards like more Energy Switch, Head Ringers, and Hammers?” Well, as indicated by Crobat’s steadily increasing popularity in the format currently, I have to say: because it makes math perfect. As you can see from the tournament report, I faced a majority of Yveltal decks all day, and Golbat and Crobat’s damage just makes the math always work out in your favor. Here are some of the situations where Golbat and Crobat help out.

  • Y Cyclone or Night Spear for 90 + 20 from Muscle Band (MB) + 30 from Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank (HL/V) + 30 from Crobat (C) = 170 damage
  • Evil Ball for 120 + 20 from MB or Golbat (G) + 30 from HL/V or C = 180 damage
  • Evil Ball for 100 + 20 from MB or G + 30 from HL/V + 30 from C = 180 damage
  • Quaking Punch with a Muscle Band turns into a 3HKO rather than a 4HKO (not counting Laser): 150 + 20 from G = 170, or 150 + 30 from C = 180 damage
  • Y Cyclone for 90 + 20 from MB + 20 from G = 130 damage

Hopefully that didn’t get too confusing and you were able to see all the different ways that Golbat and Crobat can modify damage in your favor. There weren’t very many times where I would whiff a Muscle Band or Hypnotoxic Laser for a KO because Golbat and Crobat provided outs to the same damage output.

I did so well in the Yveltal mirror match because ultimately, I had an easier time drawing into damage modifiers to make my Yveltal-EX trade favorably with theirs. Even a 2-Energy Yveltal on my opponent’s board wasn’t safe from a 1HKO, whereas mine usually were.

Another thing to note when playing this deck is to not forget about Crobat’s Skill Dive attack which does 30 damage to the Bench. I used this countless times to evolve and then Skill Dive for a total of 60 damage wherever I wanted (usually to take my last 2 Prizes from a damaged Pokémon-EX), I used it to snipe around Robo Substitutes whenever Donphan players tried shenanigans, and Skill Dive was also crucial to the Pyroar matchup. Unless they play Lasers, Pyroar can’t 1HKO Crobat, so the tradeoff goes like this: Skill Dive for 30 + 20 from MB + 30 from C + 30 from HL/V = 110. It is typically a stretch to be able to reach that, but it’s a stretch that Crobat can make. I never had to deal with Pyroar anyway, but if I had to, that would be how.

Things that I wish that I had included or had found space for would probably be an Enhanced Hammer, a Keldeo-EX, and a Jirachi-EX. I don’t know exactly what I would cut for them, but Enhanced Hammer and Keldeo-EX help the mirror and Toad matchup, and Jirachi-EX would be great to help fill the gaps in consistency that this deck sometimes has to deal with. We also have AZ in the list, so we can even pick up a Jirachi so that it isn’t such a liability.

All-in-all, the deck sacrifices a bit of consistency in order to have better matchups all across the board, but in the end, it ultimately was consistency that kept me from winning the whole thing. The deck was a ton of fun to play, so thanks again to Andrew Ding for giving me the initial list.

The Second City: The Spring of Hope

The Expanded go-to.

Not too many Pokémon writers tend to choose the Expanded format as their topic of interest, which I think leads to this weird cycle of unknowing as far as the format goes. Expanded is unfortunately a largely unexplored format (which has tons of potential in my opinion) that no one really has time to test when they can be testing for Standard which is far more important. I think this creates a loop that we’re stuck in where writers don’t really have time to explore the format, so they don’t write about it, which leads to everyone choosing the “safe” play, leading to a pretty dull format, which then leads again to people preferring to test Standard over Expanded.

Of course, this could also be a result of not having an adequate play testing environment, as PTCGO’s Expanded format option was long-awaited, but actually kind of disappointing. I think proof of no one wanting to test Expanded can be seen when trying to play an Expanded game on PTCGO: there are considerably longer waiting times than in Standard mode and the quality of decks are significantly lower.

Anyway, that’s my little rant on Expanded, so hopefully we can start to stray away from our little “safe zone” that we have for day 2-of Regionals and really start to dive into some cool decks that could be utilized with such a vast card pool.

So, why am I even talking about the Expanded format? Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Arizona was the only state to actually get Expanded format City Championships. Apparently, they were allowed as an option for Cities, but a lot of people and PTOs didn’t quite know about it.

Anyway, we got about 2 or 3 Expanded Cities, which was kind of annoying since I hadn’t played Expanded since day 2 at Arizona Regionals, but it was interesting. Ultimately, the format didn’t change all too much, mostly because people hadn’t test it (myself included), but there were some outliers.

For the tournament, I decided to stick with good ol’ Virizion/Genesect, or the Spring of Hope, as I’m sure Charles Dickens would call it if he played Pokémon. Another shout out: thanks to Andrew Estrada for the initial list that I then tweaked to my liking for Expanded.

Pokémon – 12

4 Virizion-EX

3 Genesect-EX

1 Deoxys-EX

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Dedenne FFI

1 Drifloon DRX

1 Drifblim DRX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Skyla

2 Shadow Triad

1 Colress

1 Lysandre


3 Ultra Ball

1 Team Plasma Ball

3 Muscle Band

3 Energy Switch

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Super Rod

1 Professor’s Letter

1 G Booster


3 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 G

4 Plasma

All-in-all, this deck played like a normal Virizion/Genesect deck should, but there is still this uneasiness about playing in Expanded, and I think it stems from people asking themselves, “How much Pyroar should I expect?” The reason I feel this uneasiness is because, as I think we can all agree, Virizion/Genesect is substantially better in Expanded than it is in Standard, but then again, we also know that Pyroar is the king of the Expanded format, at least with the results that we’ve seen so far. Now, I’m not saying that Virizion/Genesect is bad in Standard format, as it is still a force to be reckoned with. What I am saying is that when cards like Skyarrow Bridge and Super Rod are reintroduced, the deck gets so much better.

One thing that may stand out at first is the lack of VS Seeker. Andrew Estrada and I talked about it, and he made a good point in that VS Seeker doesn’t take full advantage of Jirachi-EX. I knew that I would be cutting down on actual Supporter counts to make room for VS Seeker, and that was something that I ended up not wanting to do.

I decided to play the deck for our special Expanded tournament, and surprisingly, there was not a single Pyroar at that tournament. I don’t know if people were too scared of Donphan or if the plain boringness of playing Pyroar shied people away from the deck, but as a result, I was able to make my way into our cut to top 4. Here’s a brief summary of my rounds that day:

R1: ??? w/ Donphan W
R2: Curtis Swick w/ Mewtwo/Seismitoad/Eelektrik W
R3: Andrew Ding w/ Fairies W
R4: Zach Miller w/ Yveltal/Garbodor ID
T4: Jeremy Jallen w/ Quad Hawlucha/Focus Sash LL

Again, this deck worked out pretty well for me up until the top cut where I played Jeremy again and lost again! Unfortunately for me, this was a pretty terrible matchup, as Hawlucha hits Pokémon-EX very hard and very fast, making it difficult for Virizion-EX to set up. The Focus Sashes also came in big when I only played 1 Tool Scrapper. When Hawlucha is trading evenly with your Pokémon-EX, that is not a good sign.

Before the tournament started, I was expecting a plethora of Donphan/Accelgor, so I decided to cut my copy of Sigilyph LTR for a Lysandre to give myself one more out to bring up a Donphan on the Bench. Ironically enough, I don’t know what would have happened in the top cut against Jeremy because he didn’t play a Sigilyph counter! Hawlucha can’t hit Sigilyph and neither could his Landorus-EX or Mewtwo-EX. Once I started losing or seeing the game go in a bad direction, I could have promoted Sigilyph to wall and who knows what would have happened from there? At the end of the day, I cut my Sigilyph and lost in top 4, but still, I was happy to make it that far with my old favorite deck.

On a side note, I was able to take this same exact list to an Expanded League Challenge later that week, but that time, I made sure to keep in my Sigilyph. It has good synergy with Skyarrow Bridge and really helps in the mirror match when you can hide behind Sigilyph until you’re ready to Emerald Slash first. Whoever deals the first damage is another big part to the Virizion/Genesect mirror match. Anyway, I ended up playing Collin Coyle-Brinkmeyer who was using Jeremy’s exact list, which I knew didn’t play a Safeguard counter. It was an unfavorable matchup from the get-go, but I was able to get a tie out of it and win the League Challenge, thanks to good old Sigilyph.

I do wish I would have played some VS Seeker after all, but hindsight is 20/20.

A Tribute to What Could Have Been and What Could Be

slurpuff phf art
Tasting… flowers?

As I mentioned before, I was only able to go to four Cities this year due to some family commitments, but had I gone to more, I would have played this, at the time, new and upcoming deck that was seeing success, Seismitoad/Slurpuff. Zander Bennett recently wrote an article about this deck and the Georgia Marathon on A Roll of the Dice, so be sure to check that out! Jeremiah Williams actually first saw this deck being played at some of his locals, so when he got the decklist and started performing well with it, he shared it with Zander and I. We both loved it and created our own unique lists. His list is on A Roll of the Dice, and I’ll be talking about the list that I would have played.


Pokémon – 13

4 Seismitoad-EX

4 Swirlix PHF

4 Slurpuff PHF

1 Jynx FFI

Trainers – 43

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Colress

3 Skyla

1 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

1 Team Flare Grunt

1 Xerosic


4 VS Seeker

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Crushing Hammer

3 Ultra Ball

3 Muscle Band

2 Head Ringer

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Switch

1 Float Stone

1 Computer Search


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

When I first heard about this deck, I was extremely skeptical. I knew how it worked: set up multiple Slurpuff while locking your opponent with Quaking Punch, but I was never really convinced of its effectiveness until I played a game against Jeremiah on PTCGO. It was incredible — one turn, my board position was amazing with multiple Yveltal set up, and the next, it all came crashing down. I always thought the deck was too slow, but it took some practice to see that Seismitoad/Slurpuff really gains momentum after a Lysandre’s Trump Card followed by N’ing your opponent down to a low hand size, all the while being insusceptible to N, thanks to Slurpuff. The deck can be flippy at times, but when it works, boy does it work.

One unique thing about my list from most others is the utilization of Jynx FFI. I used to play this in my Virizion/Genesect list before Deoxys-EX became popular, but since then, it has been sitting in my binder waiting for a chance to shine. I have to be honest in that I did get this idea from Jay Hornung who had used multiple Jynx in his Seismitoad/Pyroar deck in order to win the Quaking Punch mirrors and subside any Poison damage. One Jynx really did make a difference when trading with opposing Seismitoad-EX, and I was surprised to not see it in more lists.

The number one thing I would change about this deck after seeing other lists is including a Cassius. I knew the deck didn’t want to play AZ, since it would be discarding Double Colorless Energy and Muscle Bands, but it never crossed my mind to play Cassius. I truly forgot that that card existed, but now, I think it is a genius play. It sends the Double Colorless and the Muscle Band back into the deck, giving you more outs to drawing into them.

This deck is incredibly boring to play when playtesting, but it can actually yield some good results in a tournament setting, so don’t be scared to give it a shot. Once set up, it can really be a monster to deal with.

Seismitoad/Slurpuff was a deck that could have been played, but now I want to briefly discuss a concept that I have been in love with and potentially could be played. Keep in mind that I haven’t tested this all too much, but it is still an idea that I felt like resurfacing.

Virizion/Mewtwo 2.0

Pokémon – 10

3 Virizion-EX

3 Mewtwo-EX NXD

2 Seismitoad-EX

1 Genesect-EX

1 Munna BCR

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Colress

3 Skyla

2 Lysandre

1 Xerosic

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card


2 VS Seeker

2 Bicycle

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Ultra Ball

3 Muscle Band

2 Head Ringer

1 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Computer Search


2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

8 G

4 Double Colorless

Virizion/Mewtwo was a powerful deck back in the 2013 Autumn Regionals, and I also discussed the concept with the introduction of Seismitoad-EX in one of my previous articles. With the release of Phantom Forces, we get the new Team Flare Tools to start working with as well. Head Ringer can really mess with the opponent’s attack strategy, all the while giving more fuel to Mewtwo’s X Ball. Mewtwo is able to hit hard and swift, Virizion accelerates Energy while preventing Status Conditions, and Seismitoad-EX shuts down Stage 2s and makes the Donphan matchup more favorable.

Personally, I really like the concept of this deck, especially with Head Ringer now in the format, but I’m not sure that it can really stand up to the other threats that we currently see in the metagame. As always, I think the combination of Virizion, Seismitoad, and Munna is particularly strong, but maybe it is just a stretch. I won’t be attending any Winter Regionals this year, so I wanted to get this idea out to you guys, and who knows? Maybe one of you could find the perfect list for it and do really well at Regionals.

A Glimpse into the Future

primal kyogre exebay.com
The new cards are sure to make a splash.

So, since I won’t be attending anymore tournaments until the new Boundaries Crossed-Primal Clash format has officially begun, I figured I would take a brief moment to highlight some of the things that I think will come from the release of Primal Clash. These are just predictions of what I think will happen, so be sure to take them with a grain of salt.

My Three Predictions for Primal Clash

1. Megas will become a larger part of the format.

Since XY, players have been craving a new game mechanic or card that actually makes Mega Pokémon-EX playable. With Phantom Forces, wishes were heard with the introduction of Spirit Link cards and… what? Only 1 playable Mega? I think Spirit Links were a little underappreciated due to the fact that the only real Mega that could use them in competitive play was Mega Manectric.

Now with Primal Clash, we get a whole new mess of Megas to work with, all with their own Spirit Link cards. These Megas are actually pretty decent. M Aggron-EX and M Gardevoir-EX have some potential for competitive decks, and even Primal Kyogre-EX has a neat Ancient Trait and decent attack. With these guys coming out, I’m sure more decks centered around Mega Pokémon will be popping up which leads to…

2. Hopefully, all of our dreams can be realized and Seismitoad will see less play.

I know this one is a stretch, but hear me out first. There is no doubt that Seismitoad-EX is a powerful card that is dominating the format right now while also killing other potential decks, such as Stage 2-centered ones. Seismitoad-EX can block a Mega Pokémon’s Spirit Link, but once that Pokémon comes out, the Toad usually has a bit of a tough time getting rid of it. 30 damage with Item lock is insanely good, but when facing a 200+ HP Pokémon that is dealing a significant amount of damage to you each turn, 30 damage doesn’t quite cut it all of the time, even with damage modifiers. So, hopefully with that prediction…

3. Stage 2s can be viable again, namely Water-type Stage 2s.

If my above predictions prove to be correct, we can hopefully see a trickle back of Stage 2 centered decks. I don’t want to sound too enthusiastic and say that all Stage 2s can make a comeback, but I do think there is some growing space for Water-type Evolved Pokémon, thanks to a combination of Dive Ball, Teammates, and Swampert PRC 36’s Diving Search Ability. Dive Ball is an incredible card that can just outright search for a Water Pokémon, accounting for a tremendous boost in consistency, Twins, a once staple card to Evolution decks, makes a return to the format in the form of Teammates, and Swampert’s Diving Search Ability provides built-in consistency that any Stage 2 deck would love to have.


I am so excited to be a part of the Pokémon community at a time like this where finally it seems that the game is returning to a healthier format with interesting cards that really get the brain juices flowing, although I could probably live without “Quaking Punch, pass.” “Quaking Punch, pass.” The format coming off of Cities is already so diverse, and I can’t wait to see what the new set does to an already awesome format. I know Charles Dickens would be proud of what the Pokémon TCG has become today, of course assuming that he was a humongous Pokémon fan. Whether that is the case or not, I know that we have exciting things to look forward to and many new experiences to enjoy.

So if you enjoyed this article, please go ahead and give it a +1! It really helps me a lot to show your guys’ support, and as always, I will try my best to respond to any comments posted in this article’s discussion board, so feel free to comment away!

Until next time,

Andrew Zavala

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