Lead the Way

VA Top 8 Report, The Exemplary Player, and My Top Three Plays for States
sam liggett virginia winter regionals 2015facebook.com
Sam playing at Virginia Regionals.

Hey, SixPrizes Underground! This is an exciting time for competitive Pokémon players. With Winter Regionals all wrapped up, Primal Clash permeating the format, and State Championships fast approaching, this is a stretch of the season that is fairly critical for players on the verge of earning an invitation to the 2015 World Championships.

Going into State Championships, I would like to give a brief overview of my tournament experience at the Winter Regional Championship in Virginia. Also, I would like to cover what I’ve termed “the exemplary player” to hopefully help you all increase your awareness heading into States. Lastly, I would like to talk about my top choices for the upcoming State Championships.

Virginia Regionals Top 8 Recap

After detailing my top three choices for Winter Regionals back in February, I attended Virginia Regionals where I piloted Seismitoad/Garbodor through the nine rounds of Day 1. The list that I played was card for card the exact same list that I posted in my previous article. For reference, here is the Seismitoad/Garbodor list that I piloted to a 5-0-4 finish Day 1 of Virginia Regionals:

Pokémon – 10

4 Seismitoad-EX

3 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Lysandre
1 Skyla
1 Shadow Triad
1 Xerosic
1 Pokémon Center Lady


4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Float Stone
3 Muscle Band
2 Switch
1 Computer Search


3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

6 W

4 Double Colorless

I was very confident in this list for Day 1, and I managed not to drop a single match the first day. I finished with 19 points, guaranteeing me a spot in the Top 32 (out of 330 Masters).

I had no idea what I was going to play the second day. Day 1 of the event lasted from 8:00 AM until about midnight, and I was physically and mentally exhausted. Over dinner at Applebee’s at 1:00 AM, I tossed around some ideas about how strong a Ho-Oh-EX-based deck could be, especially because I expected Virizion/Genesect to be a very popular play for Day 2 with the addition of Skyarrow Bridge. However, after quite a bit of deliberation and failed attempts at producing a stellar Ho-Oh-EX deck, I decided to stick with Seismitoad/Garbodor at 2:30 AM.

I decided that as much as I liked Xerosic, I needed to switch to Enhanced Hammers for Day 2. Xerosic is incredibly strong because it is so versatile and can be retrieved with VS Seeker, but it shines mainly against other Seismitoad-EX decks. Enhanced Hammer is far more effective overall. I felt like Enhanced Hammer would be better at dealing with Donphan- and Yveltal-EX-based decks.

I decided to cut the Xerosic, but I needed to take out one more card for another Enhanced Hammer. As much as I love playing three copies of Lysandre, I rarely used them all in any given game. It is great to have access to them, but playing a Lysandre does count as the Supporter card for your turn. Often it would be more effective to play an N or a Professor Juniper than to play a Lysandre. Also, with four copies of VS Seeker, I decided that I could afford to cut the third Lysandre. It is also not a card that I necessarily want to see in my opening hand, so I did not feel like I was hurting my early-game consistency by cutting it for the second Enhanced Hammer.

So, the only changes that I made to my original list going into Day 2 were:

I can honestly say that these changes were incredibly good calls. I used both Enhanced Hammer effectively almost every game. Granted, this may not have been such a good call had I run into opposing Seismitoad-EX decks, but the matchups that I faced were fairly Special Energy reliant.

My Day 2 Swiss matchups were as follows:

R10: Eelektrik NVI/Rayquaza-EX – WW
R11: M Manectric-EX/Yveltal-EX – WW
R12: Flareon PLF/Leafeon PLF – WW
R13: Thundurus-EX/Deoxys-EX/Lugia-EX – WLW
R14: Seismitoad-EX/Slurpuff PHF – ID

I finished Swiss with a record of 9-0-5. I was 3rd seed heading into Top 8. I would like to talk about an interesting situation that I encountered at the beginning of Round 13. If I would have intentionally drawn with my Round 13 and Round 14 opponents, I would have finished with 30 points and likely would have made the Top 8 cut. However, if everyone at the top tables chose to ID two rounds in a row, it could have ended poorly for one unlucky person with poor resistance.

At the position I was in, a loss and a win over the course of the last two rounds would have resulted in me having 31 points which would have been safely in the Top 8. However, if I would have tied twice, or tied Round 13 and then get paired with an opponent that wanted to play the last round and I lost, I would have been on the bubble or out for sure. So, at this point, I decided to play my last two rounds and bank on winning at least one of them.

I just wanted to share this situation with you all to show that you should always make an informed decision when deciding whether or not to ID. There is nothing worse than taking the draw because you think that you are in a safe spot and then missing cut.

Heading into Top 8, I was paired against an M Manectric-EX/Rayquaza-EX deck. I had never played against a deck like this before, but I knew that it was going to be a very difficult matchup. The deck played no Pokémon with Abilities, so my entire Garbodor line was as good as useless. Also, M Manectric-EX boasts a massive 210 HP and deals out 110 damage per turn while simultaneously powering Rayquaza-EX to deal 180 damage at any point. “Quaking Punch for 30” only goes so far against a 210 HP monster that can retreat out of Poison for free. I was going to have to hope that Sleep flips went my way and that I could afford to use “Grenade Hammer” once or maybe even twice a game.

After winning the first game of Top 8 due to my opponent being issued a game loss, I lost a close game two. Game three was not nearly as close since I prized multiple Hypnotoxic Lasers and my opponent had a much better start.

So, I finished the Virginia Regional Championship at 5th place with a record of 9-1-5 with Seismitoad/Garbodor both days. Needless to say, I was disappointed that I did not win the event or at least make it to the finals. I had solid matchups throughout the rest of the Top 8. However, a top eight finish was better than I had hoped for when I arrived in Virginia that Friday night. It was a great event overall, and I had a great time seeing players from as far away as Canada or Orlando. I stand by my decision to play Seismitoad/Garbodor both days, and I do not think that it is time to retire the deck just yet.

On Confidence

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Choose your deck with certainty!

I would like to share with you all a very important lesson that I relearned on Saturday night that I have been reminded of way too many times before: Be confident in your deck decision. I could not express to you all how many times I have questioned my deck decision the night before an event. There is always going to be a “new crazy deck that beats everything and does not have any bad matchups” that you will want to switch to the eve of a tournament.

Let me clue you in on a little secret: Even though that deck always shows up the night before an event, it never really exists. However, this is just what I have learned from my personal experiences; switching decks the night before an event may lead to success for some people, but definitely not myself.

I can say that every time that I have caved and switched to the “super awesome amazing deck,” I have had a less than desirable performance the next day. Every time that I have stuck with the deck that I had been playing and was confident in 12 hours beforehand, I have found far more success. The fact that I wanted to switch to a new Ho-Oh-EX deck for Day 2 because “it would be insanely good with Battle Compressor” and “Virizion/Genesect is going to be everywhere because of Skyarrow Bridge” and “I have never played in the Expanded format — there is no way that Seismitoad/Garbodor is still a good play” is a perfect example of this.

I more than likely would have bombed Day 2 had I switched decks. Be confident in the deck that you have tested with, and do not let yourself get scared by the “secret new deck that all of the Florida players are playing that has no bad matchups and beats everything.”

The Exemplary Player

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What differentiates a “good” player from an “exemplary” player?

Now that I have completed the recap of my Virginia Regionals experience, I would like to write about something a little bit different than my typical deck analysis or tournament report. I believe that there are certain practices that separate the “good” players from the “great” players and the “exemplary” players. These practices are some that I personally believe in, and I believe that your chances of performing well will increase if you follow them.

I have taken quite a few leadership classes so far in my undergraduate college career, and one of these classes focused on a reading entitled “The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.” These practices include “model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.” The idea is that an “exemplary” leader has mastered all five of these practices, and leads with each of them in mind.

This idea that an exemplary leader must master all five of these practices is very interesting to me. There is not one sole way that a leader becomes “exemplary” — you have to lead with each of these practices in mind.

That being said, I do not think that there is any one practice that leads to a player becoming one of the “elite.” I believe that an exemplary player has to master quite a few different aspects of the game of Pokémon, and I think that these all revolve around awareness.

An exemplary player is aware of their deck. They know all sixty cards in and out and know all of their options at any point during a game. They are also aware of the format and exactly what setting they are heading into for each tournament. These players are also very aware of time, and they will not lose many games because of not paying attention to the clock.

However, in addition to all of these practices, an exemplary player is aware of the game state. These players pay significant attention to detail throughout a game and use this to their advantage whenever possible. This goes from knowing how many Double Colorless Energy your opponent has played, to taking note of how many reverse holo and non-holo copies of a card that your opponent has played, to keeping track of what cards are in your opponent’s hand.

Awareness of the Game State

An exemplary player does not only know how to build and play their deck, but they are able to adapt to in game situations as well. This player must recognize changes in the game state and plan accordingly. This is possibly one of the more difficult practices to master.

The “Good” Player

“My opponent has a large hand. They have more than six cards, and if I play this N, they will only get three cards. I should definitely play N so that they will have less cards in their hand.”

This player does not play any cards without weighing the pros and cons of playing each card. This player is aware of the game state and how playing each card will affect it.

The “Great” Player

“My opponent has a large hand. They definitely have seven cards. However, they did not play a Supporter during their last turn, and I do not think that they necessarily have any good cards in their hand. I should probably not play an N, even though it would bring them down to just three cards.”

This player is not only aware of the current game state and how playing each card will affect it, but they are able to take past turns into account and think a few turns ahead. This player thinks about everything on a deeper level than “my opponent has a large hand so I should play N.”

The “Exemplary” Player

“My opponent has a hand of exactly seven cards. However, they did not play a Supporter during their last turn. They also played an Ultra Ball to search out a Virizion-EX during their last turn, and it is still in their hand. They also played a Professor’s Letter for two G Energy, but they only played down one of them. I also know that they have Switch in their hand from when they almost played it a few turns ago, but they took it back.

So, essentially, my opponent has four unknown cards in their hand, and chances are that they do not have a Supporter in those four unknown cards. I should definitely not play an N at this point in the game.”

This player pays complete attention to what cards their opponent plays throughout the game. They are always trying to track what cards are in their opponent’s hand, as well as in their opponent’s deck. This player is very aware of what cards their opponent has already played and keeps track of what cards are in their opponent’s discard pile. This player notices discreet details such as “My opponent has played one Virbank City Gym, but I saw another reverse holo Virbank City Gym during Game 1. Thus, I know that they play at least two.” This player is very attentive to detail, and they use it to gain an advantage whenever possible.

There is definitely a divide between the players that are consistently at the top tables of most events and the players that are typically on the bubble. One way to try to reach the level of the players at the top tables is to increase your awareness when playing Pokémon. Always know exactly what sixty cards are in your deck, and always know the reason that each of those cards are in the deck. I have asked countless players, “Why do you play this card?” and I have been answered with a shrug of the shoulders.

In addition to this, an exemplary player is aware of the current format and the setting that they are playing in. If Yveltal is a really strong deck in the current format, but Manectric decks are all over the place before an upcoming event, Yveltal might not be the best call for that event.

Exemplary players pay a great deal of attention to detail. Recognizing changing in-game situations and how to adapt to them is key to success. You cannot approach every game with the exact same strategy and game plan and expect to come out on top with absolutely no deviation from a set “outline” of how to approach each matchup.

Top Plays for States

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Something old with something Mew new.

Moving forward, I would like to briefly discuss my top plays for the upcoming State Championships.


Personally, I have grown quite fond of Flareon. The damage output of this deck is ridiculous, you run through your deck incredibly quickly, and your attackers are all non-Pokémon-EX. You can typically win the Prize trade with EX-based decks even if you start from behind.

Also, this deck has so many options. You obviously have Flareon as your main attacker, dealing unlimited damage. In addition to this, Flareon can hit Virizion-EX, Genesect-EX, Aegislash-EX, and Dialga-EX for Weakness. On the flip side, you also have Leafeon. Leafeon does an excellent job of dealing with Seismitoad-based decks, as well as hitting Groudon-EX for an insane amount of damage.

In addition to Flareon and Leafeon, you have the added bonus of Empoleon and Archie’s Ace in the Hole. Being able to put an Empoleon into play straight from your discard pile to take advantage of “Diving Draw” for the rest of the game is incredible. “Attack Command” is nothing to scoff at, either. Here is my current list for Flareon:

Pokémon – 24

4 Eevee PLF 90

4 Flareon PLF
2 Leafeon PLF

2 Swirlix PHF
2 Slurpuff PHF
2 Audino BCR
1 Mew-EX
1 Jirachi-EX
1 Deoxys-EX
1 Mr. Mime PLF
2 Exeggcute PLF
2 Empoleon DEX

Trainers – 28

4 Professor Juniper
3 N
2 Lysandre

1 Archie’s Ace in the Hole
1 Lysandre’s Trump Card


4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
4 Battle Compressor
2 Silver Bangle
2 Float Stone
1 Computer Search

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless
2 Rainbow
2 W

I am really loving all of the options that this deck has. In addition to all of the aforementioned attackers, I have included Mew-EX in this list as well as two Rainbow Energy. There are interesting situations where Mew-EX has proven very effective. Against Seismitoad-EX, copying “Quaking Punch” can really slow your opponent down while you set up a Leafeon. Also, if you only have one Flareon in play and do not have access to another Eevee, you would normally be put in a precarious situation. However, Mew-EX can serve as an extra attacker in this situation.

The combination of Empoleon with Exeggcute is so amazing. An extra two cards per turn helps you to run through your deck with extraordinary speed, discarding Pokémon left and right.


Aside from Flareon, I have really taken a liking to Landorus/Crobat. This deck surprised me at Virginia Regionals; I did not expect it to perform nearly as well as it did. With Muscle Band, Fighting Stadium, and Strong Energy, Landorus-EX can potentially swing for 90 damage to your opponent’s Active and 30 to one of their Benched Pokémon on your first turn for just one Energy.

In addition to the power of Landorus-EX and Hawlucha FFI with all of the damage modifiers, the entire Crobat line provides additional damage. Being able to place two or three damage counters anywhere on your opponent’s board when you evolve, it becomes very easy to manipulate damage into dealing just enough for a knockout. Here is my current list for Landorus/Crobat:

Pokémon – 18

3 Landorus-EX
3 Hawlucha FFI

4 Zubat PLS 53

4 Golbat PHF
3 Crobat PHF

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Korrina
2 Lysandre
1 AZ


4 VS Seeker

3 Ultra Ball
1 Repeat Ball

3 Muscle Band
1 Escape Rope
1 Switch
1 Professor’s Letter
1 Scoop Up Cyclone


3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 10

6 F

4 Strong

I am personally not a fan of Super Scoop Up. I feel like I lose way more games from flipping tails than games that I win from flipping heads. I am however a huge advocate of Scoop Up Cyclone. This card is incredibly strong in this deck and can serve to either “heal” a Landorus-EX or add 50 more damage to your opponent’s board by picking up a Crobat.

I also play more Energy than most lists that I have seen. In my experience, I have lost many games simply due to the fact that I did not have an Energy to attach and attack turn one. With ten Energy, three Korrina, and a Professor’s Letter, hopefully I will have access to an attack turn one.


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With a dash of Shaymin!

Lastly, I cannot forget Seismitoad/Garbodor. I still think that this deck is incredibly strong. Especially with Virizion/Genesect on the decline, I feel as confident in this deck as ever.

One very difficult matchup, however, is Groudon-EX. Recently I have been testing my deck with G Energy instead of Water and the addition of Shaymin-EX. Typically, the only time that I ever attack with “Grenade Hammer” is to end a game. “Revenge Blast” can accomplish that same task. If my opponent is close to winning, a “Revenge Blast” can swing for 150 or 180 damage. This is enough to take the last 2 Prize cards against an EX, or it can Knock Out a Primal Groudon-EX in one hit after they have taken just 3 Prize cards. Here is my current, and not necessarily traditional, list for Seismitoad/Garbodor:

Pokémon – 10

4 Seismitoad-EX

2 Trubbish LTR

2 Garbodor LTR
1 Jirachi-EX
1 Shaymin-EX

Trainers – 40

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
2 Lysandre
1 Skyla
1 Shadow Triad
1 Pokémon Center Lady


4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Float Stone
3 Muscle Band
2 Switch
2 Enhanced Hammer
1 Computer Search


3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

6 G

4 Double Colorless

This is definitely not the most conventional list, but it has been working relatively well for me. I feel like I have exhausted all discussion on this deck (see my last article), but I really do still believe that it is a strong play. While there are many powerful decks to choose from for the upcoming State Championships, I do not think that Seismitoad should be forgotten. Locking Item cards is still a very strong strategy that can hinder your opponent way more than you might first expect.


There is currently a plethora of viable choices for State Championships, and I love it. It is so refreshing to be playing in a format where you could potentially be matched up against a different archetype every round of a tournament. Regardless of what deck you choose to play going into State Championships, remember to be confident in your decision.

I hope that after reading this article, you will pay more attention to detail when competing in different events. Becoming an exemplary player is not a solution; it is a process. There are many different aspects that lead to becoming an exemplary player, and awareness is the key. Remember to pay attention to the game state at the upcoming State Championships and to slow down and think about your options before making any big plays. Hopefully doing this will lead to you all performing well at not only State Championships, but future events as well.

As far as State Championships go, there are a number of solid decks for the upcoming events. The best advice that I can give to you is to decide what deck you are going to pilot for States early, and then be assured in that decision.

Good luck to you all at States, and please “like” this article if you enjoyed the read!

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