Hello SixPrizes! I hope you all got some rest in the aftermath of a crazy States season! Many players were able to secure their invites in the past few weeks, myself included. It seems like a lot of people either obtained the Championship Points they needed or put themselves within reaching distance of 300 CP, pending League Challenges.
For those of you who haven’t quite gotten there yet, don’t despair! There are still many opportunities to gain CP, and I would say an invite is still within reach of pretty much anyone.
As for me personally, this round of States has been particularly busy and stressful as I work on my thesis exhibition for my Master of Fine Arts program. It opens this week! As of right now I’m at 346/300 CP, which puts me somewhere in the top 64 of North America. I should have more free time for testing now that I’m almost done with the thesis. I still have a good chunk of points available from LCs as well as an empty States/Regionals finish, so I plan on trying to get myself back into the top 32!
This article may be a bit random, but that’s where my mind is right now: all over the place. I’d like to share some States results from my team and me, as well as some of my musings about the format.
The Best of Both Worlds: Top 8 PA Report
I played Exeggutor Week 1 in Delaware to a disappointing drop finish. I felt as though the deck was extremely fragile and basically relied on your opponent not drawing much Energy, as well as flipping at least 50% on Hammers. It just wasn’t for me.
I wanted a deck that would have pretty close to even matchups across the field. I absolutely hate playing decks that take an auto-loss or near auto-loss. I feel as though this format, more so than others I have experienced (although that isn’t too many), is extremely matchup based in general, but I will go more into that later. This is why Exeggutor initially appealed to me, because while Virizion/Genesect may be a tough matchup for the deck, it’s still not even near auto-loss territory. When Eggs sets up, it can slowly wear down almost any deck if things go right. It was the massive potential for things to not go right that turned me off of the deck.
I wanted to return to Virizion/Genesect since its auto-loss, Pyroar, was pretty much out of the picture. However, Flareon and Night March had since replaced it. I wondered what I could do about these matchups. Both of those decks do have a hard counter in the form of Seismitoad-EX + Lysandre’s Trump Card. I decided that a perfect metagame deck would have Toad for those matchups AND Virizion for the Toad decks. An attacker was needed, and Mewtwo has always been handy for his splashability.
Thus we have Virizion/Mewtwo/Toad. It covers all the bases, except perhaps Donphan, but I wasn’t expecting too much of that, and Toad could help get the job done.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 12
R1: Mega Manectric/Virizion/Genesect – WL(T)
R2: Groudon/Landorus – WW
R3: Toad/Puff (Peter Kica) – WW
R4: Eggs/Dragalge/Virizion – WW
R5: Fighting/Manectric (Tristan Macek) – WL(T)
R6: Donphan – WLW
R7: Flareon (Drew Guritzky) – WW
T8: Mega Manectric/Leafeon/Rough Seas – LL
As you can see, my journey ended in Top 8, where I hit a really terrible matchup. I was forced to stack Energy on Mewtwo to reliably 2HKO Mega Manectric, which allowed Leafeon to come in and hit me for massive damage. It just happened to be the perfect counter.
The V/G King: A Ross-Clunis Story
So you all know that I love V/G, but I don’t think anyone loves it as much as Henry Ross-Clunis. He has been quoted as saying, “I AM V/G.” I just report the facts, draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, Henry played V/G at three State Championships. Old Reliable netted him a win, a second and a Top 8. Why fix what ain’t broke?
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 36
2 Head Ringer
Energy – 14
He removed Mr. Mime for a Dedenne for Week 4, and the 2 Head Ringer were replaced with a Plasma Frigate and Colress Machine. Xerosic was taken out for Tool Retriever. The reasoning for these changes was because Plasma Frigate is a useful counter to Silent Lab, and Colress Machine functions as well as Head Ringer in the mirror.
This is a bit techier version of V/G than we are usually used to seeing, but it obviously ended up being very effective for Henry. I will discuss why I think this is in a moment. Other cards that could be included are: Startling Megaphone, Lysandre, a Raichu XY line, Bats, Drifblim BW64, and Max Potion.
I think the lesson here is that V/G is a solid, reliable deck which can breeze through a tournament given the right circumstances.
Henry also did an interview with Squeaky for his YouTube channel. Check it out below, and look for an interview with me coming out this week!
The Matchup Format
I’ve listed all the popular matchups I can think of that are lopsided:
- Toad > Night March/Flareon
- Night March/Flareon > V/G
- V/G > Toad
- Yveltal/Garb > Ability-based decks
- Mega Manectric > Yveltal
- Fighting (Donphan, Groudon, Landy/Bats) > Mega Manectric
- Toad > Fighting (Donphan, Groudon, Landy/Bats)
- Fairies > Donphan
- Metal > Fairies
- Toad > Metal
This is my impression of the current format. All these decks are competitively viable. You are almost equally likely to play against any combination of them within a given tournament. Almost every deck (Eggs being the possible exception) has a very negative matchup. The only way to completely avoid your bad matchup would be to determine what every player is piloting that day. At a tournament of 80+ Masters, as most States had, this is a virtually impossible task.
Over the course of my States, I did not play against the same deck even twice in Swiss rounds. The variety of playable decks really struck me. This is vastly different from what I experienced two years ago when getting into the game. For example, I played at Maryland States in 2013 and played vs. 4 Zekrom/Eels decks in Swiss. At Wisconsin Regionals the next year, I played vs. 4 Ray/Eels in Swiss. Although I still believe that metagaming is important, of course, what seems to be becoming more important is teching.
In the recent past, consistency has been king, with techs somewhat few and far between. Right now, I think the format can be broken up into archetypes more reliably than specific decks. Last year, there was pretty much one way to build Blastoise, which was to get out Blastoise very fast and set up 1HKOs with Black Kyurem-EX PLS. Now, we have so many good options and powerful combinations that almost anything is possible. There is really no objectively “best” way to build a given deck.
This leaves a lot of room for choosing a deck that maybe has one bad matchup but fits a player’s playstyle extremely well. Players are being rewarded for expertise at piloting one or a few decks. I’ll try to break down my thought process into a more orderly format:
- Pokémon is becoming a simpler game. This is because TPCi and Nintendo want to appeal to a wide audience. They also don’t want the learning curve to be daunting to new players.
- This makes decks easier to build. Many Big Basics have synergy with one another, and can be tossed together in a deck and still function pretty well in most cases.
- Since the core of a lot of decks is shrinking, lists have more open space. By “core” I mean to say cards that a deck requires to execute its primary win condition. Now we just need some Big Basics, Energy and Supporters.
- Conveniently splashable Trainer cards like Head Ringer are very powerful and have the ability to greatly shift the game. Not only can these cards easily make their way into any decklist, but they can change matchups entirely.
- VS Seeker allows for more versatility in Supporter lineup, and there are a ton of great Supporter cards right now.
What does all this mean? Well, Henry’s V/G is a prime example. In Swiss, Henry played against a Night March. This is normally a negative matchup for V/G, but Henry’s Head Ringers, Enhanced Hammers and Trump Card helped him pull it off. This allowed Henry to play the deck he is best at and most comfortable with and still have a chance against his worst matchup.
I think this shows that predicting the metagame, while still useful, is less important now. Taking into account a deck’s ability to defeat a variety of different and unexpected threats is more important.
We are less likely now than before to know what is in someone’s list just because they flip over a certain card at the beginning of the game. This means that a good list should be prepared for and able to handle unanticipated threats. This also falls on the player to be very aware of the current card pool and anything that could throw a wrench in his or her plans.
I’ve been trying to experiment a lot lately, and I’d like to share a deck I made with you:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 39
Energy – 10
Quaking Punch is good. Like, so good. We all know that. It’s so good that it overshadows Seismitoad’s second attack, Grenade Hammer. Which is actually also really good.
I feel something that a lot of Toad decks lack is sheer attack power, so they try to supplement it with Lasers or Bats. In this deck, the goal is to Quaking Punch while your opponent attempts to set up, and then sweep the board with Grenade Hammer, targeting two Suicunes on the Bench to absorb the damage. Alternatively, Rough Seas can heal off extra damage done by Grenade Hammer.
Hopefully by the time a Toad goes down you’ll have set up Archie’s. I was surprised, but the combo actually isn’t that hard to pull off by turn two. If it takes you longer, just stall with a Suicune. The deck also has the ability to 1HKO with a 6- or 7-Energy Keldeo.
This concept is one I’m still working on, so the list definitely needs refinement. I enjoy all the different options and strategies the deck can employ, but it’s pretty weak to Silent Lab, and V/G is a difficult matchup, though not unwinnable by any means. (Have fun using G Booster on 3+ Suicunes!)
Another Water deck, which made a splash (I’m so so sorry I just had to) over the last few weekends, is Kevin Baxter’s Primal Kyogre. Kevin let me share his list with you:
Pokémon – 12
3 Primal Kyogre-EX
Trainers – 35
Energy – 13
Primal Kyogre is very difficult to KO for any deck that isn’t V/G, and Kevin’s newest list has an answer for that matchup. This is a prime example of playing a deck and including a hard counter for its worst matchup. Carl Scheu used this list to make Top 8 in Ohio, and Nik Campbell also used it to get 9th.
Thanks for listening to my somewhat unstructured ramblings! I’m so thankful to be a part of the SixPrizes Underground writing team, and I’m so happy to be able to share my thoughts with all of you. I’m grateful to everyone who reads my articles, and I ask that if you liked it, give it a +1!
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