“So much can swing on even a single card…”
In the Pokémon TCG, players normally have open access to most the cards in their deck, and so the idea of teching (including certain cards into one’s list to swing matchups in one’s favor) can often appear in subtle form. This is quite different than other card games in which draw power occurs at a much smaller degree. Here, let me show you some cards to make my point:
All these cards have been used by players this season to great effect. In their respective roles, each has turned the outcomes of certain matchups on their head. Empoleon is notable for having been an important part of the deck that just won Florida Regionals over the weekend. With two copies of it and a single Archie’s Ace in the Hole, that’s a total of only three cards that managed to make a big difference.
Today’s article will focus heavily on the concept of teching. I’ll look at popular techs that have surfaced recently, form a quantitative system for figuring out how and when to tech, and offer some ideas for how to tech for the upcoming State/Province/Territory Championships.
Remember to click on the link in the table of contents to go directly to that part of the article.
Table of Contents
- Teching Fundamentals
- The Beartic Dilemma
- Hard and Soft Teching
- Teching in Today’s Metagame
In its history, players of the Pokémon TCG have utilized techs successfully, to the point that one’s claim to fame can often come in the form of one or two cards being added to an otherwise standard decklist. Teching is very much a useful skill to have in this game, and within the past couple of years it’s only seemed to grow in importance.
Teching also carries with it vagueness. Does a card have to be a Pokémon in order for it to be a tech? I obviously believe differently given what I’ve said so far. But do we not tend to place more weight on cards (techs) if they’re Pokémon? When Hard Charm started to gain traction during City Championships, it seemed many were initially skeptical (“Just do the math, it works” was a common defense back then). Empoleon, by contrast, has seemed like a huge revelation.
Then there’s discrepancy between Pokémon cards as well. Including Empoleon DEX/Archie’s Ace in the Hole in one’s deck seems bold, brave, and pleasantly risky. Beefing up one’s Eeveelution line, by contrast, looks mundane, but it might be the better play. Hardly anyone will talk about the extra Eevees though.
With all of that said, let’s think about the definition I gave for teching at the beginning of this article (it is when certain cards are included into one’s list to swing matchups in one’s favor). In other words, when a person deviates from simple deck construction to altering their deck with the metagame in mind, they have started teching. Any layer of thought that is added to the core strategy of a deck can be considered teching (e.g. putting two Enhanced Hammer into one’s Aromatisse XY/M Gardevoir-EX deck to deal with a certain bad matchup).
I understand this view is a more open definition than most players are used to, but I think it will help us to understand the true nature of teching. As an example, I’ll talk briefly about my deck for Virginia Regionals. I ran a Night March deck and found myself with the following list:
Pokémon – 21
4 Joltik PHF
Trainers – 29
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Battle Compressor
Energy – 7
4 Double Colorless
(+ 3 cards)
You’ll notice that I had three open slots for cards. At this point, the strategy for the deck is intact — and it largely functions without any consideration of the metagame (though Leafeon PLF and the 3 Silver Bangle are standouts here). Those 3 open slots are critical because they what they will end up being is based almost entirely on the metagame. During City Championships, two of those cards ended up being Enhanced Hammer, a successful measure against Donphan decks. Here, though, they need to function differently.
At the tournament I heard from various players that Crobat PHF/Landorus-EX decks were everywhere. As a result, I put a Mr. Mime PLF into my deck — I had 2 cards to go. Those cards ended up being another Leafeon PLF and a G Energy. The aim was to eradicate any Seismitoad-EXs I faced, and I felt a stronger Leafeon PLF presence would do just that. To most players, this change might hardly be noticed. To me, someone who’s played Night March nearly all season, it was a huge decision that was successful in the long run.
I got to the second day in large part because of my endless supply of Leafeon PLF and because of Mr. Mime. PLF. Those three cards — as insignificant as they seemed — ended up being the most important cards of the day.
Again, teching occurs when we start to consider how our deck will perform against the metagame. While some techs are noticeable in their departure from the typical strategy of a deck, I really feel that teching is a more general practice than we give it credit for. After a core strategy is identified, it’s up to the player to determine how best to respond to what decks exist in the metagame. This process can affect a couple of cards in one’s list or it can encompass the majority of the deck. No matter the case, let’s start thinking about how teching can be a jackhammer as opposed to a delicate set of tweezers.
THE BEARTIC DILEMMA
One of the unforeseen effects of teching in an obvious sense (my bad matchup is X, therefore I will play a Pokémon that is strong against X) is that a player may end up making poor choices that look effective but really aren’t. It’s like adding a second garage to your house — sure, you’ll find a use for it, but why not spend that money making the house itself better? Sometimes, a specific tech looks so appealing that it seems silly not to use it. Again though, we have to think about teching in a different sense to avoid making costly errors. With that said, let’s look at what I’ve dubbed “The Beartic Dilemma.”
Shortly after last year’s US National Championship, Abomasnow PLB began to get a lot of attention. Pyroar FLF had shown very well at Nationals, and so Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX (“VirGen”) players were in qualms about how to deal with the matchup. Naturally, their eyes settled on Abomasnow since it could attack with G Energy. Still, many players felt Pyroar FLF had too big a target on its head, and this inclusion did nothing for any other matchups.
In the end, Abomasnow was never used as a viable tech against Pyroar FLF. However, the discussion was revived with the release of Beartic FFI, a tech that VirGen decks could use against Pyroar that was even easier to work with. Once more, VirGen players afraid of facing that dreaded lion had a hypothetical go-to to secure a matchup.
Here, of course, is where we reach the dilemma: as a VirGen player, do you tech for the few or prepare for the many? In other words, do you run Beartic FFI so you can have a shot against Pyroar FLF (and in the process make your other matchups slightly worse) or do you focus on managing the other matchups and take an auto-loss to Pyroar FLF? Historically, the answer for last year’s Worlds Championship was to ignore Abomasnow PLB. And as far as I know, Beartic FFI never really gained much traction in VirGen decks.
While this is largely a metagame call, it helps to reveal the pitfalls that exist with teching. In short, I think these are some of the biggest mistakes players make when teching:
- Playing the “obvious counter.” Years ago, I won a Regional Championship by playing Banette SW at a time when Gardevoir SW/Gallade SW was absolutely crushing the metagame. While that was an easy call to make, you just don’t see that happen anymore in competitive play. While players are quick to “theory-mon” a solid counter for a popular deck, those counters normally don’t show up at tournaments. In most cases, the “obvious counter” damages your other matchups too much to make playing them worth it.
- Ignoring a “holistic” approach. Normally, players end up with a little wiggle room in their decklists. This room can boost consistency, house a tech, or go somewhere in between. No matter the case, you should be looking at the bigger picture. In a lot of cases, the combination of a few Trainers here and there can do way more to help out in a matchup than specific Pokémon techs.
- Ignoring a potential threat. There’s a lot of thought that goes into metagaming. In a lot of cases, it becomes too much trouble to prepare for matchups specifically. However, sometimes players take an auto-loss to something in their deckbuilding when they shouldn’t.
- Using techs that are high risk, high reward. Pretend that your 1-1 tech works about a third of the time. If that 1-1 line is for a specific matchup, and you face that matchup three times at a tournament, you have sacrificed two cards in your deck to win a single game. While that might not sound horrible, consider how that 1-1 line affected your other matchups. If you lost even a single game against other matchups where those two cards could have helped you win, you’re basically negating the effectiveness of your deck outright.
Now we’re going to look at the manners in which players tech for tournaments.
HARD AND SOFT TECHING
For any tournament, your aim as a competitive player is to play a deck that will give you the best chance of winning that tournament. This applies strongly to teching, not just in playing the right techs, but making you don’t sacrifice consistency or effectiveness by playing the wrong ones. With that said, let’s think about the differences between hard teching and soft teching.
Hard teching is when a player uses cards that are meant to deal with a threat specifically. The aforementioned Beartic FFI inclusion in a VirGen deck is an example of a hard tech (or counter). Often, the card creators will release cards that seem designed to counter certain cards. Consider this card, for instance:
The most interesting thing about this card isn’t that it utterly destroys any Durant card, it’s that nobody played it at the time. Durant NVI was, at one point, a very competitive deck, and yet it made its way into no competitive decks to my knowledge. This is once more an example of either teching for the few or preparing for the many — players decided that they needed one more card in their deck rather than an auto-win against Durant NVI decks.
Soft teching has a player using cards that can manage a threat generally. The benefit here is that those cards can help out in other matchups as well. In place of Heatmor DEX, many players found favor with this card instead:
This card could rip through any Durant NVI deck, yet it was still an effective card otherwise. With Prism Energy legal at the time, V-create was a possibility in many decks, and so there was a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of Victini NVI.
What strikes me, however, is that this card was actually not a smart play against Durant NVI decks. See, we’ve fallen once more into the allure of the “obvious counter.” The fact that Victini NVI 15 is a Fire-type Pokémon is less significant than you think. Unless an opposing Durant NVI had two Special M Energy and an Eviolite attached to it, V-create would land the knockout anyway. Additionally, the requirement of having a full Bench in order for V-create to work meant that an opponent using Durant NVI had more options of what Pokémon to bring up with a Pokémon Catcher.
See, there’s a spectrum to how hard or soft a tech is, and it’s up to you as a player to find the right balance. For taking on Durant NVI decks, the most natural (and effective) play was to include a couple of Switch in one’s list and be prepared to not play cards like Professor Juniper. Durant NVI decks typically used a Pokémon Catcher to pull things up from the Bench — a “sort of” Energy denial strategy — and Switch got you out of those tough spots. Switch had the added benefit of being a good card against many other decks, more so than both Heatmor DEX and Victini NVI 15.
Here’s a quick representation of that spectrum:
It’s easy to understand why Trainer cards naturally exist as soft techs: they don’t require specific Energy requirements and they aren’t targeting a specific Weakness. However, the difference between a card like Switch and Hard Charm is significant. Hard Charm has been used specifically to deal with a small number of threats — notably Donphan PLS (in conjunction with Yveltal-EX) and Yveltal-EX decks (in conjunction with Fairy Pokémon and Klefki FFI) — while Switch is used to get out of Special Conditions, deal with Lysandre, and as a replacement for retreating.
If we look at a card like Flareon PLF, we notice that it falls right in the middle of the bunch. While Flareon has been used in the past to negate VirGen decks, its role currently isn’t as a counter but as a full-fledged deck. For this reason I’m unsure about identifying Flareon as a tech at all. I guess I left it there because it was used once as a counter and because there’s still a great deal of security in playing Flareon when we consider its VirGen matchup.
When and How to Tech
Let’s think about the nature of teching and how to make sure we’re doing it effectively. Part of the reason I provided the visual above is that it will serve us in making these decisions. As a general rule, stronger counters (“hard” techs) should follow stronger threats. The opposite is true of course — when a specific deck threatens your deck less, drop the hard techs and go with something softer.
At one point, Black Kyurem-EX PLS was a force to be reckoned with. Paired with Blastoise BCR, it could Knock Out nearly anything in the format. It was a threat to nearly any deck in the format. Represented using our graph above, let’s see what happens:
Hey look at that! When Blastoise BCR/Black Kyurem-EX PLS becomes a bigger threat, our response should be equally focused. This is exactly how things played out back then — many players adopted Druddigon FLF as a counter-measure against Black Kyurem. Of course, it helped that Druddigon’s Revenge attack required two C Energy, but the point still stands — a bigger threat requires more attention.
Consider Klefki FFI, this format’s version of that Heatmor from before. It serves primarily to help counter Yveltal-EX decks. Most Fairy decks run a copy of it because Yveltal remains a big threat. If Yveltal were less popular — like Durant in its day — we’d probably see Klefki taken out of most Fairy decks.
When a deck presents less of a threat, your response should be more generalized. It should be able to help in a number of matchups rather than just one. The decision to play Empoleon DEX/Archie’s Ace in the Hole in both Flareon and Night March decks might be seen as a measure against Landorus-EX alone, but I argue that it actually helped out in a number of matchups. It provides draw power across the board and hits against a Pyroar FLF with a Silver Mirror.
Of course, there’s a lot of balancing that occurs here. If Druddigon’s Revenge attack required a R Energy and a Colorless, for instance, I highly question how useful it would have been against Black Kyurem. Also, the response to Donphan early on in the City Championships didn’t come in the form of any hard techs, but rather a grouping of soft counters to help make Donphan PLS more manageable (ex: Yveltal-EX running Hard Charm and upping Lysandre/VS Seeker counts). In a lot of cases, it’s more beneficial to go this route since it can help a player manage matchups across the board a little better.
Case in Point
I picked up Night March during City Championships, right at the peak of Donphan’s popularity. As a result, my initial building of the deck took this into consideration. At the time, some players were pointing to Gourgeist PHF as a suitable Donphan counter. This kind of made sense — by including a 200 HP wall with Fighting Resistance, you could likely give Donphan decks a lot of trouble. To me, this was the hard tech answer since Gourgeist really didn’t help against anything else.
Instead of opting for this hard counter, I instead began searching for a few soft counters that would help me remain effective against most decks in the format. I fit an Eeveelution line in my list — claiming Flareon PLF as my Donphan PLS counter — and started questioning Enhanced Hammer.
In the long run I settled on the Enhanced Hammers with an Eeveelution line and adjusted my list to include two Lysandre and three VS Seeker — a few soft counters that added up to a positive matchup against Donphan decks and kept me competitive against everything else.
TECHING IN TODAY’S METAGAME
State/Province/Territory Championships are fast on their way and Primal Clash just became legal. States are going to be exciting, and we can probably expect to see a lot of the following:
- Flareon PLF Decks. With its recent success at the Florida Regional Championship, a more than manageable price tag, and great matchups across the board, I expect to see a lot of this deck at States.
- Night March. Both Flareon PLF and Night March were revealed to have gained the Empoleon/Archie’s combo from Primal Clash. There’s no shortage of people playing this deck, so I can only see it remaining in place for now.
- Seismitoad-EX. Naturally, with the increasing popularity of Flareon PLF, many players will lean on their trusted Seismitoad-EX lists. Though I think this card might one day soon fade from competitive play, for now it seems like a solid choice.
- Yveltal-EX. This card doesn’t seem to die off at all. It can trade Prize cards pretty well with Night March, though the Flareon PLF matchup is a little tougher. Players may up their count of Lysandre’s Trump Card to counter.
- Landorus-EX/Crobat PHF. This deck showed up a lot during the Regional Championships that just happened. As strong a presence as it had during Regionals, I think players will distance themselves from it. They might substitute an M Manectric-EX line in for the Crobat PHF line, as that has worked well for some players recently and maintains a balance against Emploeon/Archie’s.
- Fairy Decks. In all honesty, the absence of Fairy-type decks in the Top 32 from the first day at Florida Regionals seemed like a fluke to me. M Gardevoir-EX is a strong addition to these decks, and there were a few players from Day 1 who made the switch to a Fairy deck. I have a feeling we’ll see these decks at State/Territory/Province Championships despite its underwhelming performance recently.
On the whole, the format right now is still slightly up in the air. With only a single tournament representing the legality of Primal Clash, I think there might be some surprises in store for us with the upcoming State/Province/Territory Championships. Primal Groudon-EX, for instance, made a decent showing on the first day of Florida Regionals, yet few people are talking about it (though I can’t imagine it has that great a matchup against Flareon PLF decks).
Nonetheless, let’s look at what hard and soft techs exist for the above decks:
Flareon PLF and Night March DecksVs.
In my last article I mentioned Pyroar FLF with Silver Mirror as a potential hard tech against both Night March and Flareon PLF decks. While I have to back away from this a bit because of Empoleon, I think it might still have a place in the game, possibly alongside M Manectric-EX. I’m not convinced just yet since I haven’t given it any real testing, but hypothetically, once you clear away the Empoleon you have an auto-win in just three cards.
As far as soft techs go, players might want to up their Lysandre’s Trump Card count to two instead of one and possibly adopt a “speedier” draw engine with Acro Bike, Bicycle, and Roller Skates (probably not all at once). These decks are both incredibly fast, and in many cases a Lysandre’s Trump Card does little to stop them. Alternatively, Enhanced Hammer can help disrupt these decks by getting Double Colorless Energy off the board.
Another idea, unconventional as it is, is to start running a heavy Ghetsis Supporter line. I’ve never been a big fan of this card, but with so many decks relying on Items early on in the game, it might be a really strong play. When your opponent is usually starting with a hand that looks like this…
… you might wish you had a Ghetsis every now and then.
Unfortunately, we still do not have a true hard counter to Seismitoad-EX. If there was one, I’d be running it. Imagine a Grass-type Pokémon with Druddigon FLF’s Revenge attack — Seismitoad-EX wouldn’t be an issue at all. Leafeon PLF remains a valid option. I’ve tinkered around with things like Liepard PHF and Sigilyph LTR/Suicune PLB with a Sparkling Robe, but it’s just too hard to pull off consistently enough to make a difference.
There are many soft options against Seismitoad-EX, from Audino BCR’s Hip Bump attack to Mew-EX using Versatile to copy Quaking Punch. They all do a bit of work, but sometimes Quaking Punch is so overwhelming it doesn’t really matter.
What I will offer is this: Teammates and Rough Seas are two cards from Primal Clash I believe can be used to great effect against Seismitoad-EX. Teammates offers you a mid-game option to grab exactly what you need when you need it. With many decks using Item cards for draw power (or the Ultra Ball for a Jirachi-EX trick), Teammates can be game changing. Rough Seas is a little harder to explain, but think about this: getting a M Manectric-EX and Manectric-EX in play with Rough Seas can almost guarantee you a win against Seismitoad-EX. While the opponent might hit you for 80 damage (Quaking Punch + Muscle Band + Virbank/Hypnotoxic Laser), you’ll be able to replace the Stadium and heal 30 damage, then retreat to your other attacker. Do this enough and you’ll create a healing loop the opponent can’t break.
If you’re running a Fairy deck, your go-to will be Klefki FFI paired with things like Hard Charm and (maybe) Jamming Net. I wouldn’t overlook either Mewtwo-EX or Dedenne FFI in that deck either — Kevin Baxter had an excellent performance at Florida Regionals over the weekend and would have gone even further had he run either of these cards.
Of course, Dedenne FFI puts in some work against Yveltal-EX. Otherwise, M Manectric-EX and Manectric-EX are excellent attackers against Yveltal-EX. I would recommend trying Energy Switch with any M Manectric-EX line; it lets you get a surprise knockout on Yveltal-EXs at times and can completely swing a game.
In terms of soft techs for Yveltal-EX decks, I would recommend finding room for a Startling Megaphone. Yveltal-EX decks are some of the most Tool-heavy decks there are, and you’ll be glad you found the room to clear the board of so many Pokémon Tools in a single play. You might also combine Enhanced Hammers with Head Ringers if you find it helps out in other matchups as well — anything to slow Yveltal-EX down.
Two cards spring to mind when dealing with Landorus-EX: Mr. Mime PLF and Empoleon DEX (via Archie’s Ace in the Hole). Even though Landorus-EX might be on a bit of a decline, it’s a matchup that can be unbearable without a Mr. Mime PLF.
As far as soft techs, there just isn’t much out their that matters that much against Landorus-EX. Hard Charms might be included in any deck that has a Fighting resistance (Night March, Yveltal-EX), but that’s about it. Landorus decks are so fast and hard hitting that even landing a couple of Enhanced Hammers against them does little to slow them down.
Vs. Fairy Decks
This one’s tough. Obviously, running a Metal deck should silence any Fairy deck, but there aren’t many Metal Pokémon that fit easily into other decks. Heatran PHF’s first attack — when combined with a Silver Bangle — can 1HKO a M Gardevoir-EX, but the decks that combo can go in are few and far between. Excadrill PRC 97 can do a number against Fairy decks, but it doesn’t really do much against anything else without being a standalone deck.
A surprising soft counter to Fairy decks is Iris. Most Fairy decks rely heavily on not being Knocked Out, then healing off massive amounts of damage with Max Potion. Utilizing Iris can help you land knockouts right when you need them, removing both a threat and Energy from your opponent’s board.
In being totally honest, teching is something that I’m both good and bad at in a sense. I’m normally pretty bad at including Pokémon as techs (I still regret putting Genesect-EX into my Tool Drop deck at VA Regionals last year), but I’m really good at teching in the “soft” sense. I like to find cards that serve multiple purposes, and so making soft adjustments to suit the overall metagame makes a lot of sense to me.
I hope this article helped you think about teching a little differently. With State/Province/Territory Championships coming up, I’m looking forward to what decks might surprise us, as well as what creative combos players use to find victory.
What are your favorite techs of all time? Do they line up with the rules I provided in this article? Be sure to leave me some feedback — I always look forward to hearing from my readers!
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