Well, That Escalated Quickly

Preparing for Florida and the Suddenly Stocked Primal Clash Format

Hello everyone. It has been a while since my last article in December. A lot has changed since then, and I am glad to say I have actually found the time to play a few events (with successful results I might add!). In this article I will be recapping the large amount of testing I did over winter break as well as helping you all prepare for the seemingly sudden growth of the format. I will keep the recap brief since the BCR-PHF format is barely relevant anymore — there is a lot that one can expect to see change with the new set we just acquired.

Winter Break

Over winter break, I was able to come home without responsibilities, meet up with friends, and log a ridiculous amount of playtesting. My friends and I built almost every deck that we believed had any merit. We figured out what we thought should be played in different types of metagames, which decks had bad matchups that could be forged into wins, and which decks we could expect to always have a presence.

One thing I’d like to note, however, is that I did not play a single game in testing with the deck I’ve used at each event so far — Virizion/Genesect. I felt that I had mastered the mechanical aspect of the deck and that anything I could gain from further testing would come in the form of insight from getting behind newer decks. I wanted to see what each deck expected from a game, what made it thrive, and most importantly, what situations a player behind this deck would never want to be in. Knowing these situations made it so that I had a very clear goal whenever opportunities presented themselves.

This is a technique I plan to explore more because it worked for me, assured me of my deck choice, and is something I believe that other players might stand to gain from as well, even if in a less extreme way.

City Championships

virizion turn 2 emerald slashgiantbomb.com
T2 Emerald Slash — that’s all I ask for!

This year I attended three City Championships. This is the lowest amount I have been to in any year that I have actively played the game. The silver lining here is that I got a third of my invite from just these three events. I played Virizion/Genesect at each City.

During my first City Championship, I played a rougher version of the finished V/G product I have today. My techs of note were Jynx FFI, Dedenne FFI, and Target Whistle. I chose to try Target Whistle because I figured that many decks were including cards that players would not want to bench against Virizion/Genesect, such as splashed Seismitoad-EX or Jirachi-EX. If players avoided benching them by discarding them, I would be able to Whistle them into play and take a pair of free Prizes. To my dismay, there were many Pyroar decks at the event, and after losing to one and having several more in my path, I scooped to a friend playing Donphan in hopes that his good field outlook would carry him farther. This meant missing top cut — I ended at 3-2-0 for the first day.

The second City, however, showed more promise. I made top cut at 4-1-1, with my only loss being an infuriating one to Yveltal, a matchup I was very comfortable with. Sometimes you won’t set up, no matter how you build your deck. I swallowed the loss and moved on to cut, then top 4 and finals. All the way to the finals, I dealt with close calls because I did not get an Emerald Slash on the second turn after round 1. In the finals, my luck improved and I won 2-0 with some ease as I got my Slashes and he draw-passed until it was way too late.

During the final City Championship, I started off to a smooth 4-0, which led to cut by way of a loss and a win. Being down-paired when you expect to ID into cut is never fun, but it was an opportunity to try and make it the way players used to have to make it: wins and losses. Reflecting upon the situation, I realize that I am starting to become more torn on ties, when at first I was pretty comfortable with them. Needing only a few lucky wins to cut a small event isn’t impressive or difficult, especially depending on the deck choices of other players. I can see now why players wanted to use Pyroar in weeks prior.

In cut, I played against Yveltal and the mirror for easy wins, and I faced off against a Donphan deck in the finals. Usually this match plays out to my favor, but this time I lost Game 1 when it seemed all but won, and then won Game 2 when it seemed all but lost. I was confused for sure. During game three, my opponent went first, KOing my Dedenne on turn 2. When I Emerald Slashed the Hawlucha he sent up for 50, he responded with a turn 3 Wreck on the Benched Genesect-EX I had just invested 2 Grass Energies into. I Slashed again to a new one, hoping the N I used would slow him. It did not. He Wrecked again, and all I had to work with was a Genesect and 3 Energy in play.

That’s when N to 1 completely changed the game. I made a quick 6-0 tear after taking his Hawlucha and Donphan down at the same time, spending the next few turns Knocking Out Phanpys and any other threats I saw. Taking home my second and final win of the year, I was a little bit baffled at how I felt about the game. I had gone from feeling confident in a matchup to completely unsure if it was winnable to feeling lucky that I won at all.


Below is the list I used for those that are interested. I’m not sure that I would add anything from the new set if I were to play this at Florida or States.

Pokémon – 11

4 Virizion-EX

4 Genesect-EX

1 Dedenne FFI

1 Deoxys-EX

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

3 N

1 Colress

3 Skyla

1 Shadow Triad

 

3 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Muscle Band

3 Energy Switch

2 Switch

2 Escape Rope

2 Startling Megaphone

1 Colress Machine

1 Professor’s Letter

1 G Booster

Energy – 14

10 Grass

4 Plasma

As Cities came to a close, I tried to plan for Regionals, but as I am a finance and economics major, recruiting season became the forefront of my time allocation for the period of time that eclipses Regionals. Hopefully I will have a job to show for it.

That does not mean, however, that I haven’t put time into the new set to make some predictions for Florida Regionals.

Primal Clash

At a glance, this set seemed and still does seem amazing. For once I get the sense that Pokémon is trying to reward players for being inventive, which is a huge step forward. I would state Medicham PRC 81 as an example of this. While it may not be the top tier deck everyone is looking for, its ability to turn a 20 damage attack into two 90 damage ones makes a pretty cool combo. Add other Fighting cards to the mix and you have a pretty unexpected deck with a huge edge against Pokémon-EX.

Below are the cards I find most notable. I will be talking about them in depth and highlighting relevant decks before drawing up a few of the cards that I think would or should be winners next weekend and beyond.

Teammates

teammates-primal-clash-pcl-141
Non-EXs rejoice!

If there ever was a sign that the designers want us to start taking advantage of non-Pokémon-EX, this is it. I have not seen this much EX hate in a set since Silver Bangle.

The reason that I call Teammates an EX hate card is that in an deck centered around EXs, it is one of the biggest wastes of space you could run. Single-card search is no longer is as powerful as it used to be in decks that rely on large combos. However, it is still strong. The issue is that it is not strong enough to warrant inclusion when it might only see 1-2 uses a game in an EX deck vs. 3-4 uses in a non-EX deck.

A couple of decks that I see already being used that stand to gain from this card are Donphan and Medicham. I’ll talk a bit more on Medicham in the next section, but Donphan has some serious gains thanks to this card. Ideally, thanks to the walls you send up in a Donphan deck, you won’t be losing your main attacker too frequently. However, you will still be giving up knockouts. Teammates comes in to grab all the specifics, including things Korrina can’t always help you with. This often means Strong Energy, which is why Medicham gains from it too.

Another thing to note about this set is that many of the bigger players in the set rely on Abilities. Donphan can take advantage of this, thanks to Wobbuffet. In this list I will be including 3 Wobbuffet because I think the card will be that good. Shutting down Aromatisse and Bronzong, as well as potential Swampert, Red Signal, and so much more, it is easy to see the benefits of letting your opponent try to KO Wobbuffet instead of hoping that they can’t get around your Robo Substitute.

Without further ado, here is my updated Donphan list.

Pokémon – 14

4 Phanpy PLS

4 Donphan PLS

3 Wobbuffet PHF

1 Zekrom LTR

1 Hawlucha FFI

1 Sigilyph LTR

Trainers – 35

3 Professor Juniper

3 N

1 Colress

4 Korrina

3 Lysandre

2 Teammates

 

3 VS Seeker

4 Float Stone

2 Ultra Ball

2 Muscle Band

1 Silver Bangle

1 Switch

1 Robo Substitute

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Computer Search

 

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 11

4 Fighting

4 Strong

3 Double Colorless

I left in a Zekrom and 3 Lysandre to help deal with any Bats that attempt to become a problem. Taking Zubat out of the equation is the easiest way. Otherwise, the list itself is pretty simple.

Medicham

As I began to mention before, I think this card shows the kind of functionality we need in our less notable cards. It can be turned into a serious threat with a simple combination of cards. By itself, however, it obviously stands no chance against many of the decks that pack non-Pokémon-EX, but it’s a good thing that we have the rest of the Fighting universe to work with when building this deck.

The role I see Medicham taking is the core around which a deck is built, as it seems impractical to tech it into other Fighting builds. Things like Silver Bangle and Teammates would simply not mesh the same way with the bigger Fighting EXs. You will still want opponents to deal with non-EX threats, though Medicham can also go toe to toe with those as well. With a Muscle Band and Strong Energy, the 120 HP Pokémon are no match the double attack. Things like Lucario-EX and Landorus-EX can help round off the damage.

Below is a sample list. The prominent issue seems to come about when you play decks with Fighting Resistance or a way to shut off Celebi. This means that teching for or avoiding Yveltal-EX and GarboToad might be necessary.

Pokémon – 13

4 Meditite PRC

4 Medicham PRC 81

2 Celebi-EX

1 Landorus-EX

1 Lucario-EX

1 Dedenne FFI

Trainers – 38

3 Professor Juniper

3 N

1 Colress

4 Korrina

3 Lysandre

2 Teammates

 

3 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

3 Switch

3 Silver Bangle

2 Muscle Band

1 Escape Rope

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Computer Search

 

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 9

5 Fighting

4 Strong

The deck seems like it would do pretty well in most types of events. However, the problem I see here is that there isn’t really a huge advantage gained associated with the risks behind playing Celebi-EX. If opponents target out both of them too soon, you will find yourself far behind and with no way to abuse Meditite’s attack. I am a fan of Medicham as a card, but not the deck as a play for Florida Regionals.

M Aggron-EX

m aggron-ex 94 art
Remember: The flip is optional.

At first glance, I was underwhelmed by this card. This was before I reminded myself that Victini and Bronzong were both still playable options. M Aggron-EX, aided by the reflip, puts out an automatic KO 75% of the time, with little exception. The other 25% can be a disaster. Ideally, if you can set up a pair of Aggron, you will be able to run through a field, coasting off of the whopping 240 HP that Aggron has.

When at first I played Bronzong, I found it to be slightly less consistent than I would have liked it to be. I can only imagine that running what is essentially another Stage 1 line would only exacerbate the problem. Here is an attempt at a list for the deck.

Pokémon – 15

4 Bronzor PHF

4 Bronzong PHF

3 Aggron-EX

2 M Aggron-EX

1 Victini LTR

1 Aegislash-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

2 Lysandre

1 Pokémon Fan Club

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Switch

3 Battle Compressor

3 Aggron Spirit Link

2 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

Energy – 11

8 Metal

3 Double Colorless

Remember that you don’t have to flip! It is entirely possible to tank your way through a game as well. Be sure the risk of doing 20 to your whole Bench doesn’t give your opponent any serious opportunities.

The problems I see this deck having are Ability lock and Fire. A single Garbodor can completely devastate you, and as such it seems that GarboToad should be an auto-loss you’re prepared to take. Fire in general can still be a big issue, especially with more reason to play Flareon than ever. As others have stated, I am not a huge fan of Aggron. Too much clunk potential and too little room for victory in the bad matchups are both things that merit this deck being crossed off of a list of decks I’d play in Florida.

M Gardevoir-EX

The other big Mega Evolution in the set, however, seems to show a little more promise. While still somewhat Ability reliant, Gardevoir decks have plenty of return on the risk and face none of the mobility issues that Aggron might. Fairy Garden is the piece the differentiates the two. Additionally, there are no flips associated with Gardevoir’s knockouts. It seems that preceding this set, Gardevoir and Fairy Pokémon got more overall goodies than their Metal counterparts.

In order to get the most from the deck, one needs to include as little “noise” as possible and go for the smooth setup. Below is my list, likely similar to others:

Pokémon – 17

3 Spritzee FLF

3 Aromatisse XY

3 Gardevoir-EX

3 M Gardevoir-EX

3 Xerneas XY

1 Spiritomb LTR

1 Keldeo-EX

Trainers – 31

3 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

3 Lysandre

 

3 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Potion

3 Gardevoir Spirit Link

1 Dowsing Machine

 

4 Fairy Garden

Energy – 12

12 Fairy

gardevoir-ex-primal-clash-pcl-105
Shining Wind provides an out versus Metal decks.

I chose Dowsing Machine as the ACE SPEC because I am comfortable with the amount of things the deck can do when Computer Search is not around. By maxing out counts of Max Potion and Fairy Garden, the deck can perform both under Ability lock and during a slow start.

This is one of the decks I expect to see in dense numbers. With a damage limit at 360 and enough HP to move through the entire game without losing an EX, I think this deck will be good. It seems pretty consistent. Fairy Garden takes away a lot of the glamour of locking a deck that would otherwise be reliant on Abilities. Fortunately, most of these decks don’t pack enough of a punch to deal with a Gardevoir onslaught as well.

A fun thing to note is that Gardevoir-EX, not the Mega, is also equipped to deal with Metal decks. Its second attack erases its Weakness for a turn. This allows you to out-tank most of the damage output. If an Aggron comes out, you will still need to 1HKO it. This is by no means a sign of a good matchup, but it is a foot in the door when it comes to dealing with the deck’s adversities. While simple and streamlined, you still have a pretty decent arsenal of attacks.

Acro Bike

Acro Bike reminds me of Pokédex Handy910is. It was a card used like five rotations ago that allowed a player to look at the top two cards of his or her deck, pick one, and put it in his or her hand, sending the other to the bottom. Combined with things like Claydol GE and Uxie LA, it allowed a player to put the right things in his or her hand without increasing hand size, and then benefit from that same small hand by drawing up to 7 or putting 2 under and drawing to 6.

Similarly, Acro Bike allows a nearly identical effect, while discarding the extra card instead. This in itself makes the card likely to be less widely used, but it will have its niche play areas. One seemingly obvious example will be Night March. I suppose there are many Fire creations that can utilize it as well. Perhaps it can attempt to make up for some of Pyroar’s shortcomings. I don’t have a list that includes it yet, but I’m sure that many discard-tolerant decks will make use of it.

Rough Seas

A card that has seen a lot of hype so far is Rough Seas. As it targets two of today’s most popular types, it is naturally seen as something that might shape how a deck is built. Dylan Bryan highlighted its use in Manectric/Suicune. While it is possible that many decks will be fashioned similarly, I want to highlight the opportunity that this card presents for metagamers.

If you are playing a deck like Seismitoad or TDK, you are running a deck that has the types that benefit from Rough Seas while also not having to include it in your own strategy. The selling point is that both decks have attackers that can 1HKO most 180 HP Pokémon or at least set up knockouts by doing a lot and finishing the job after.

If you expect to see lots of Manectric/Suicune with Rough Seas, you can adopt a different strategy to win. By abusing Rough Seas to heal your Toads while loading the board with Energy, you can get ready to end the game with a few Grenade Hammers. This double benefit can prove to be a fatal flaw in the use of the Stadium for many decks. Be sure that your deck can overcome the possibility that your opponent can abuse it too!

For now, I’m hesitant to use it in any deck, as it can negatively impact matchups that already are unfavorable. I’m specifically referencing Toad/Garbodor here.

Weakness Policy

weakness policy 142 art
We now live in a world where Toad can beat V/G.

This is one of my favorites: a Bubble Coat that is never discarded. By removing Weakness, Weakness Policy makes so many cards just a little bit more playable. How many Fire decks run Startling Megaphone? But no V/G can beat Pyroar. Better yet, however, is the opportunity to run Seismitoad with it. Guaranteed no Weakness, Seismitoad can more than handle Virizion/Genesect when run with Garbodor.

It is here that I would like to direct you to Sam Liggett’s article about GarboToad. I personally share his view on the deck and appreciate how he finds the Hammer cards unnecessary. I also like his use of a big Float Stone count, noting that the extra 20 from Muscle Band is almost irrelevant against the constant Laser damage piling up, especially when Shadow Triad gives you a few more iterations of the cards. This theory, proven true by his great City Championships record, opens the doors for a new age in Toad decks.

Some medley of Muscle Band, Weakness Policy, and Float Stone in Garbodor/Toad will make it one of the most lethal decks you can play. The only reason I ever chose not to play GarboToad was due to its Weakness to Grass. Take that away, and I now favor a completely different deck.

Below is my current but constantly changing list.

Pokémon – 10

4 Seismitoad-EX

3 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Lysandre

1 Shadow Triad

1 Pokémon Center Lady

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Weakness Policy

3 Muscle Band

3 Float Stone

2 Switch

1 Scoop Up Cyclone

 

3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

6 Water

4 Double Colorless

One can use Computer Search as the ACE SPEC, but I started to get the feeling that the role of the ACE SPEC in this deck needed to be some form of Prize denial. As such, my forerunner is Scoop Up Cyclone. This allows me to rearrange Tools as needed, which is an ability this deck doesn’t have unless you run Xerosic, a card I am not a fan of.

Otherwise, the only choices you have to make with this deck are whether you think Virizion/Genesect will be able to survive. If not, you can begin to taper off the Weakness Policies and shift back to more versatility for other match ups. When you expect no Virizion/Genesect, those Policies can become extra Muscle Bands or Float Stones, a tech Startling Megaphone, Dedenne, or Head Ringers, depending on what you think you’re up against. This deck is most certainly one of my top choices for the Primal Clash format.

Archie’s Ace in the Hole

I mention this card and not Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick for one huge reason: Fighting Pokémon don’t accelerate Energy. Water Pokémon can. Archie’s Ace in the Hole can get back ANY Water Pokémon and play it like a Basic. This brings Blastoise BCR and Swampert PRC 36 into contention. These are the cards that would likely make Archie playable. Maxie, on the other hand, can get back the Fighting counterparts, which are all generally not worth the effort it takes to get them into play, especially when you technically could Korrina for the relevant Pokémon and a Rare Candy if you wanted to.

However, it is still tough to rely on the idea that you will have a one-card hand with Archie in it, the desired target in the discard, and assume that the 5 cards you draw will be enough. I am skeptical, but Archie shows a lot of promise and this format carries many cards that help bring your hand down to target size.

I wish I had more to say about this card, but I don’t think there has been anything like it since I started playing in 2006.

Honorable Mentions: Swampert PRC 36, Kingdra PRC 108, Silent Lab

swampert-primal-clash-pcl-36
It’s good but not good enough.

Swampert PRC 36 has an amazing Ability, Ancient Trait, and attack. Unfortunately, they are not amazing enough as the Ancient Trait only allows two attachments. Having a Blastoise in play simultaneously would make it over-the-top good. This is where I set my hopes for Archie. Otherwise, Swampert is just another Stage 2 with Grass Weakness and too much Energy investment required.

Kingdra PRC 108 is basically the same failure: a Stage 2 with excellent Trait and attack. With a Muscle Band, Kingdra can deal 170 on a perfect turn 2. This assumes that you haven’t run into a Fairy deck or a Seismitoad deck, and have been allowed to set up a Horsea that lives to become a Kingdra. Pair these with its low HP for a Stage 2, and you have a card that many wish would be playable but likely isn’t.

Silent Lab is one people might disagree with me on. I think that this card’s use is limited purely to shutting off Mr. Mime PLF, which limits it to about one deck, Landorus/Crobat. However, Landorus/Crobat already has an ideal Stadium and a ton of other problems to deal with, such as Suicune PLB (which you will struggle with, even using Silent Lab) and Rough Seas or Garbodor/Seismitoad (are you starting to notice a trend?).

Otherwise, most Basic Abilities are ones that work primarily during the owner’s turn. This means a counter Stadium would erase all of its utility. I suppose you would use it if you are worried about Red Signal or Lugia-EX (which, if packing counters, makes Silent Lab useless), but it seems as if the things you would use it for aren’t worth the devotion of space for the Stadium. Kicking Virbank just to do the 10 with Laser against a deck packing Virizion-EX seems to be another example of how it could be a waste.

Conclusion

My Regionals outlook is as follows: The format will be undeveloped. You will see many players stick to their guns, some venture into new territory — risking failure at the hands of an unrefined deck — and a few will have already tested enough to have a deck with a great shot at making day 2.

However, if you are braving Florida Regionals, I would recommend Gardevoir or Seismitoad/Garbodor. The two are simply the best at what they do, the most consistent of their type of deck, and as of now, have the fewest things against them. There are a million and one things that could take you the distance, however, so don’t limit yourself to the recommendations of mine or another writer’s if you typically take to this site for advice.

I wish you all the best of luck for the foreseeable future, and look forward to writing again in April! As always, don’t hesitate to contact me for any other insight I can offer — I don’t bite I swear!


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