Night Maintenance

Tuning Up Decks for the Final Weekend of States

The last time I wrote was way back in … February? Wow. Since then I played in Florida Regionals and a few of the New England State Championships. After placing at every City that I attended, my performance took a dive at States. That’s okay though. I love the community and that’s what I’m focusing on as a staff member for New England events. If you see me at the Sturbridge Host Hotel on May 17th, I’ll be working in the VGC section!

Hopefully I can get a free article up sometime about the experiences I’ve had in the last few months. As a hardcore player who has for so many years questioned how things were run behind the scenes, being close to the organizing aspect of the game has been eye opening.

Speaking of insight, I want to gear this article toward metagaming and overcoming certain mental challenges that people face down when making deck choices. I’m extremely happy with the post-Primal Clash environment and I hope you all are too. I feel like Toad is in a healthy place right now. Even Laser isn’t being its moody, oppressive self as of late. This metagame has a lot going on and I want to discuss that aspect of Pokémon in detail throughout this article.

How I Lost Before I Sat Down: My Adventures With Groudon and Friends

dylan lefavour 2015 3-2
The full meta paints a different picture.

So what is up with the metagame? It tends to shift more quickly when the most influential players start putting in overtime. This whole year has really been an innovative one. If you’ve been playing for a short time you won’t see it, but I’ve noticed that out of all the years I’ve been playing Pokémon, no metagame has moved more quickly than this one.

Mid-level players seem so much more motivated this year because Worlds invites aren’t limited to the best of the best anymore. 300 Championship Points isn’t too hard to get at all.

Basically, as mid-level players try harder and have more access to information through articles like this one, the best in the game are forced to try extra hard to adapt and innovate. That’s when you have decks like Donphan, Flareon, Groudon, and Kyogre hitting the scene.

I’d argue this metagame is so well developed that there is no true best deck in format. People love to lump decks together into tiers but I really think that system does this format no justice at all when the deck to beat is changing every week. It’s no longer a matter of choosing the best tier one deck and piloting it well. The key to doing well in a post-Primal Clash world is the ability to make decisive metagame calls.

This is my Groudon list from New Hampshire States:

Pokémon – 10

2 Groudon-EX PRC
2 Primal Groudon-EX
3 Hawlucha FFI
2 Landorus FFI
1 Landorus-EX

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Korrina
2 Lysandre
1 Colress
1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 VS Seeker

3 Ultra Ball
3 Focus Sash
2 Groudon Spirit Link
2 Switch
1 Tool Retriever
1 Professor’s Letter

1 Scramble Switch

 

2 Scorched Earth
2 Silent Lab
2 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 11

7 F

4 Strong

primal-groudon-ex-primal-clash-pcl-86 (1)
My instincts were off.

It’s a solid list with a few minor imbalances. I don’t feel like the deck has much synergy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t do work. Hawlucha and Groudon do damage in completely different ways and don’t exactly complement each other like I had hoped. So why did the deck do so well in Florida while only lifting me to an above average finish at my local States?

Well, when looking at the meta beforehand, I noticed that nobody in New England was having any luck with the much hyped Flareon build from Florida. After putting in my own time with it, I too found it to be grossly overrated. It’s an incredibly fragile deck that is especially vulnerable to its own bad draws. With Toad being the next most hyped deck, I figured Groudon would be a good deck to run. I was trying to beat Toad, so I didn’t bother to play Robo Substitute in my list. As it turns out, Toad was the deck to beat, but Toad didn’t come alone. Toad wasn’t a problem, but Yveltal was. Groudon struggles with non-EX attackers and Pokémon without damage caps such as Flareon PLF and Yveltal-EX. I wasn’t ready for the surge of Seismitoad players shifting to less lock-heavy builds.

I honestly think that Scorched Earth is the worst out of the three options you have for Stadiums. Energy aren’t really something you want to discard and Fighting Stadium is very important if Hawlucha is to be effective.

While so many people proclaimed the death of Grass decks at the hand of Flareon the false prophet, Virizion/Genesect was probably the strongest play for that tournament. Nobody had their decks ready to deal with G Booster and Toad was vulnerable to its Weakness. Yveltal used to (arguably) have an edge over V/G with the standard build that once included Spiritomb LTR but nobody in their right mind would have bothered to include that card in a metagame where V/G is low tier. Add Toad into Yveltal, and the matchup falls ever further into V/G’s favor.

Although I ended up playing against a Flareon, V/G was still the deck to run at that event. Being able to have confidence to make tough calls and have the insight to identify weaknesses in the metagame is a pivotal skill to have as a forward-thinking Pokémon player. Looking at National trends isn’t enough. Being socially disconnected from the Pokémon scene is equally bad. Both are reasons why my friends succeeded where I had failed.

I credit my failure in Florida to the same reasons. If I had been more familiar with Florida in general, I probably never would have played Toad in the first place. I fell into the trap that so many others do as well: You cannot succeed in this environment by being a passive player. This is not a season where someone can do well all format with one top tier deck. That brings me back to my point about the uselessness of tiers in the post-Primal Clash world. People will always copy what is popular on a national level because wholesale information is what the majority of players are analyzing when looking data from websites like The Charizard Lounge.

Power rankings and tier lists are at best useless and — at worst — incredibly misleading. They give you a representation of what won on a national level, which is literally pointless to have in your head when creating a deck for a local tournament. This metagame is diverse. There will always be Toad, but saying there will be Toad in a metagame doesn’t help much. Wholesale data doesn’t take into account build diversity.

You want to look at results from your local States with a very discreet eye. Results only show what won, not what you will have to beat to top at a some other State a week later. So many people made these mistakes when looking at the results of Florida Regionals. It’s really easy to pick up Groudon or Flareon, gain some confidence by winning against randoms online, and jump right into a live action tournament on Saturday.

Just because those people knew the results of the tournament doesn’t mean they have any extra awareness of the bigger picture at all. They don’t know if Flareon ran down easy matchups like V/G on the way to the top or if Groudon faced five Toad decks to end up in the semifinals.

Information like that is ten times more valuable than anything you can find online, and to get it requires a keen eye and a sharp memory (or some good connections). Groudon might be a good play when the metagame is all Seismitoad decks, but as I discovered in the first few rounds that I played with the build, Groudon is next to terrible in a metagame without good matchups. Its good matchups are nearly autopilot and in its bad matchups, you tie at best. Unfortunately, I ended up tying in a lot of “even” matchups too. Keep in mind that I’m a fast player and I actually think ties are good for the game. I’d like to think I’m really good at pacing myself throughout my games, but nonetheless, every game I took to game three went to time.


Honestly, there’s not a lot to say about my Groudon list. I think it is obvious when that deck is good and when it clearly isn’t. Its day has passed and unless straight Toad makes a comeback, the Continent Pokémon is probably going to end up swimming with the fishes. I’m thinking the deck is actually going to end up like Flareon did the first time it saw play as the flavor of the month (actually, not unlike Flareon is now). It will probably fade in popularity slowly until people start leaving it off their amateur tier lists altogether. Then, in some genius move, a veteran of the game will pull Groudon out of their pocket when the metagame favors it, probably throwing in some cards of the future as well to make a deck no one is prepared to play against.

This has essentially been the success story of the year. First it happened with Donphan, then with Flareon and Groudon. 2015 is undoubtedly the year of innovation. If this tells us anything about Pokémon it’s that new concepts are out there. The bittersweet reality that coincides is that we also realize nothing (but Yveltal) is playable forever so long as new things are coming (stronger cards being printed and more creative concepts being discovered). Recently, someone had the idea to throw two innovations in a pot together overnight and when he checked it out next morning, Donphan/Groudon had been born.

Got Your Back: Donphan/Groudon

substitue watercolorpixiv.net
Robo Substitute is the connecting card.

Usually two Pokémon that win games in very different ways don’t belong in the same deck together. A Pokémon like Groudon wins by setting up one threat that is impossibly hard to deal with while Donphan usually wins by employing a hit-and-run strategy and slowing its opponent down with cheap walls that are hard to deal with efficiently.

Both strategies are typically best when they are the focus of a deck. Generally you want to avoid splitting your deck space between two very different methods of winning. In this case, Groudon can occupy both the role of the tank and a win condition. Primal Groudon sets up and handles decks where Seismitoad is the main attacker and Donphan does consistent damage throughout the game without much setup. Robo Substitute has stall synergy with both attackers and Groudon is tough to take down thanks to its immunity to things like Hypnotoxic Laser that Pokémon like Sigilyph are vulnerable to. Diversifying you walls is very important in this deck.

Pokémon – 14

4 Phanpy PLS
4 Donphan PLS
2 Hawlucha FFI
1 Groudon-EX PRC
1 Primal Groudon-EX
1 Sigilyph LTR
1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

4 Korrina
3 N

2 Lysandre
1 Colress
1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 VS Seeker
4 Robo Substitute
3 Muscle Band

1 Silver Bangle

1 Groudon Spirit Link

1 Float Stone
1 Switch

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Computer Search

 

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 11

5 F
4 Strong
2 Double Colorless

For all the praise I gave to Groudon, the line is awfully thin. Keep in mind that in my dedicated Groudon deck I only ran a 2-2 Primal Groudon line. The idea is to never let the Groudon die and win the game before that has a chance to happen. Even with Korrina, I found the Scramble Switch combo with a second Groudon line way too tough to pull off. It needed two Groudon, two Stadiums, and the Scramble Switch all available to you on one particular turn. I wanted to avoid the temptation to use this on this list. Groudon is basically a Seismitoad slayer. Groudon completely dismantles the deck that was so prevalent at one point that it made Donphan unplayable.

The deck can get away without playing Float Stone but I choose to play one for matchups where Groudon happens to be a great wall. Groudon can tank one or two hits and then retreat to his happy place for the rest of the game. The player can be happy too, knowing that Omega Barrier will probably prevent Groudon from ever being at risk again, even with 200+ damage on it. Generally your “retreating” will be done by discarding Robo Subs or retreating manually. When you’re focusing on the hit-and-run strategy, you won’t need every Energy attachment to be onto an attacker anyway.


Setting up a single Groudon isn’t too hard. The issue is keeping the Groudon alive against the more innovative types of Toad decks — namely Yveltal/Toad — that have ascended to popularity in the last few weeks. I expect that Yvelal/Toad will get eaten up by the second coming of V/G and Manectric that is sure to follow in the wake of this new Toad variant.

Speaking of Manectric, I think Manectric-EX might be a viable partner for Seismitoad since the rise of YvelToad. While Yveltal tends to be super strong all around and particularly good at making sure Fighting decks never see play, since the Fighting types are hiding from the shadow of Yveltal, now might be a great time for a Lightning type to take the crow by surprise.

Crow Foe: Manectric/Toad

Here is one list for a Toad deck that considers Manectric its primary answer to the developing metagame:

Pokémon – 8

3 Seismitoad-EX

3 Manectric-EX

1 Jirachi-EX
1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 42

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Skyla
2 Lysandre

1 Pokémon Center Lady
1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Muscle Band
2 Head Ringer
2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Switch
1 Escape Rope

1 Computer Search

 

3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

6 L
4 Double Colorless

manectric-ex-phantom-forces-phf-113
A natural response to Yveltal.

I personally believe YvelToad is bound to surge across the country if it hasn’t already by the time this article is published. With great matchups against the remaining decks that were influenced by the results of the impactful Florida Regionals, I really don’t see how you could go wrong by slamming Yveltal and Toad into the same deck. If you want a list, check out Ray’s recent article. He’s been playing Yveltal for longer than anyone else I know. Personally, I’ve never had much interest in the deck.

The way I see it, the only way you could go wrong is if Pokémon players actually start applying foresight to their deck choices. Say Night March won your last State. You’re traveling two hours to the neighboring State Championships. Playing Night March sounds like a terrible idea because it is the deck to beat. Playing V/G sounds like a bad idea because Night March is popular. Playing Toad sounds solid because it first of all puts standard builds of Night March in their graves, and secondly because V/G is bound to be underrepresented.

That solid logic alone and a bit of luck could carry someone into top cut, but I feel like Toad is the obvious play here. When there is an obvious play, far too many people don’t take advantage of the obviousness of the situation. If what I gave above is all the information I have to go on, then a Toad deck geared to beat other Toad decks is what I would look to play.

Anyway, what we have above is the deck that I think could be well positioned to deal with an upcoming metagame where V/G, Toad, and Yveltal are all seeing play.

Head Ringer has synergy with Toad and Manectric, but we only play two since they get diminishing returns, especially late game. With “lock” no longer being what all Toad decks focus on doing, using Trainers like Head Ringer isn’t as detrimental as it otherwise could be.

This deck is something I played to the finals of a City last fall with a bit of variation. With Groudon at a new low and V/G on the upswing, Manectric has a lot to look forward to if the idea catches on.


Okay, I should probably explain why I think the rise of V/G is a good thing in this case. For one, this deck hates Groudon. I’d rather play against V/G before Groudon any day. We probably won’t see too much of Fighting types in a field that we’re also seeing a lot of V/G in either. V/G isn’t the best matchup (it’s still a Toad deck, duh), but Manectric and Head Ringer give you both a fighting chance and the element of surprise.

Mewtwo/Bats was the flavor of New England back when I ran Toad/Manectric in Cities but I can’t fathom LandoBats being any worse a matchup. In fact, I think I’d much rather play against Landorus. While that deck has kind of fallen out of favor recently, it’s still probably worth your while to at least consider that matchup. Then you can quickly stop considering when it’s obvious how good it is for you. The only think you’ll want to watch out for is the Lucario-EX play. Head Ringer cuts Lucario down to size easily enough, but be mindful that if one doesn’t hit the board quickly, Lucario can snowball out of hand quite fast.

The Second Coming of V/G

Finally, I’ll leave you with the same deck that I always do, Virizion/Genesect. V/G is my constant standby. It’s my light in the dark. It’s my hope and it’s my redeemer. It’s really just the best deck ever, back from the dead.

Pokémon – 9

4 Virizion-EX
3 Genesect-EX
1 Jirachi-EX
1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 37

4 N
4 Skyla
3 Professor Juniper
1 Colress
1 Lysandre
1 Shadow Triad

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Muscle Band
2 Energy Switch
2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Switch
1 Escape Rope
1 Professor’s Letter
1 Colress Machine
1 G Booster

 

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 14

10 G
4 Plasma

genesect-ex-plasma-blast-plb-97-ptcgo-1 (1)
Bugging the format since 2013.

People speculated that V/G’s falling out was happening even before Flareon became popular, but I really just think that was because the deck was underplayed and didn’t have a ton of exceptional matchups. Oh how tables have turned.

Groudon and Kyogre are the foils to Flareon here. All are relatively new developments that are still underplayed. The success of these decks seems to be based on the environment they’re played in, which is good news for the Grass types. It’s easy enough to predict the success of all three if you know what else is being played. In one case, avoid V/G because Flareon. In the other case, play V/G because Groudon is good and that alone makes V/G better.

While V/G has always had solid matchups against the top tier decks, it’s a lot of the underplayed decks that tend to keep V/G down. Things like Flareon, Pyroar, certain Donphan decks, and Crobat variants make up a sizable portion of the metagame when put together into a category called “things Virizion hates to play against”.

Spiritomb is never seen anymore. This could change in days if V/G sticks this weekend but I’d recommend taking advantage of G Booster until this card catches on again.

I play either two Enhanced Hammer or two Head Ringer. I think Hammer is superior at the moment because it does a better job of dealing with Yveltal, while Ringer is better at handling mirror.

Silent Lab shuts off your own Pokémon, author is equally useless, 2/10 would downvote”

I’ve tested Silent Lab extensively. It carries you in games where Safeguard Pokémon are involved. It does work in mirror if you can play it at a time where it completely disrupts your opponent’s ability to take key knockouts. It’s generally much better when V/G is actually part of the metagame to begin with, so feel free to use that spot in a way you see fit. I really just wanted to showcase Silent Lab in this deck, because it really is quite good.

Anyone ever thought about bringing back Herbal Energy? I feel like it’s in a decent place to help handle decks like Yveltal since Enhanced Hammer is on the decline. Maybe that’s too risky of an idea to try out just yet though.


Toad is more popular than ever and even the popularity of certain underplayed decks is lining up with what Virizion/Genesect wants to see. Even Kyogre is viable now. With Crobat at an all-time low and Flareon in decline, V/G is one deck I expect to see burst back onto the scene in the next few weeks.

Although, I would be cautious about preparing for V/G’s resurgence. If you’re interested in one of the decks that has become stronger because of V/G’s absence from the metagame then you should be okay. V/G has a lot of even matchups and then some very polarizing ones. Groudon and Kyogre are auto-wins on one hand, but on the other we have Flareon. V/G will undoubtedly be seen as a risky play. Nobody wants to get blown out against an auto-loss and it’s also sometimes tough to muster the courage to play something nobody else has been running for weeks.

Maybe you don’t think too much about it, but average and above average players have a huge fear of not winning and this fear illogically influences deck choice way too often. I see so many people falling back to comfort plays like Yveltal and Toad because they think they can’t go wrong with tier one decks. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case anymore. This metagame is far too diverse for someone to logically think that he or she can consistently get away with playing what has worked in the past.

Conclusion

mt. moon conclusion ending nightpokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
Nightfall on States (and my season).

That’s all I have for you this month. I hope I could give some effective insight. I think this format has been really well covered, and whenever we hear about a new idea (Kyogre for example) the media is all over it. Videos have been made, articles have been inspired, and new archetypes have been spawned over the Primal Clash shakeup. I think of it as a sort of TCG renaissance. Not a single set has sparked as much creativity as Primal Clash.

Even though Worlds is in my backyard, I probably won’t be playing in it … or in any tournament before US Nationals for that matter. I’m very excited to be on staff for New England Regionals doing something other than judging for the TCG.

You probably won’t hear much from me until then, but in the meantime I wish SixPrizes readers the best in all that they endeavor to accomplish!

~Dylan Lefavour


…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.

Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!

Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.


Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in. Legacy discussion: 1