“Now I’m looking to the sky to save me … Looking for a sign of life … Looking for something to help me burn out bright …”
Hello again, SixPrizes! I hope you all had an eventful couple of months since my last article. The two months between mid February and mid April of this year must have set a record for the most weekends of major events in the United States in such a short timeframe. I know we still have a couple more Regionals left of Boundaries Crossed–Primal Clash, but I won’t have time to attend any more events until Nationals, so today’s article will focus on our new format.
As always, I’ll be looking at decks that have been caught my eye by doing well in Japan, and as Christopher mentioned in his article last week I’ll show some Expanded format information. I won’t focus on Expanded as much as in my previous article due to Nationals and Worlds being entirely in the Standard format, but we still have some Regionals with Black & White–Roaring Skies on Day 2.
Preparing for Nationals is always a huge ordeal, and it is quite visible that after the event a majority of the players who come out on top have been practicing the format for as long as possible. Each of the last two years I put in tens of hours of playtesting, possibly even pushing 100 hours in order to perfect my decks and make sure I was able to play them flawlessly. With this in mind, I hope many of you come out of reading this article with a sense of where to begin testing for Nationals and a glimpse of how the format will start out. I don’t expect the metagame of Nationals to be very close to what people are beginning to work with now, but following a format throughout its shifts is important in understanding deck interactions and having a stronger prediction of what the field will look like come July.
Despite not having as much time for Pokémon recently, Hearthstone has made its way into my schedule with its recently released iPhone client making it much easier to play on the go. I’ll briefly discuss how TPCi should work on emulating this game-changing advancement and how it could create a very positive impact on the competitive scene. While there are definite upsides and downsides to this, I’d like to see a PTCGO client for iPhone and Android at some point in the next few years.
Full House: Mega Rayquaza
M Rayquaza-EX has received quite a bit of hype since it was revealed back in March, and it isn’t too surprising that Japanese players have found themselves in a format structured around perfecting or beating M Rayquaza-EX decks. Most players have seemed to lean toward the M Rayquaza-EX/Raichu XY build, which focuses on pairing two of the cards that gain the most from Sky Field. On top of the obvious synergy between extra Bench space and Raichu’s Circle Circuit, being a Lightning type is very important again other M Rayquaza-EX decks. The biggest issue I see with this combo is that it gets countered very easily by Ninetales PRC, and it can also struggle against Altaria ROS 74 without being able to take favorable Prize trades with Raichu XY.
The variant of M Rayquaza-EX that I’ve been most interested in and seen the most potential in has been M Rayquaza-EX/Ninetales PRC. Running your own Ninetales can eliminate the threat of opponents Knocking Out your Sky Field or even running their own Ninetales to keep a Stadium of their choice in play. Ninetales PRC has brought a very interesting concept to the game, and while I don’t think the Silent Lab focus was the right niche for it, I think that Sky Field has enough of an impact on the game to warrant the fox.
Here’s a basic list that I’ve started to work with:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 35
Energy – 7
4 Double Colorless
This is a very basic list and the are surely things that are easy to cut to make room for more customization. The Keldeo-EX and Float Stones are very fringe for me right now. I’ve opted against the Virizion-EX and Grass Energies that other players have chosen because I feel that Hypnotoxic Laser doesn’t pose enough of a threat and I’d like options for other Energy types to be able to tech in more attackers. I decided to go for Keldeo-EX as a nice secondary option to get out of Sleep against Seismitoad-EX decks, which is important, but in those situations the extra damage from Poison doesn’t make all that much of a difference if you’re able to Rush In the turn after. If nothing else, Keldeo-EX is another way to fill Bench space that has use in more than just matchups that involve Special Conditions. Rush In is also nice in the early turns if you don’t start with Rayquaza-EX and have the means to Emerald Break.
I really liked Dylan’s and Christopher’s inclusions of Exeggcute PLF in their builds for when an opponent counters Sky Field with their own Stadium, but with Ninetales PRC in this variant I don’t think Exeggcute serves enough of a purpose to be included. A single copy could be useful just because Propagation is a strong Ability in general and it’s nice to have more Pokémon to fill the Bench with.
Adding in techs is a lot easier with Ninetales in my opinion, because you don’t have to worry about your opponent replacing Sky Field. This guaranteed Bench space opens up a lot of doors for Bench-sitters and other attackers that might otherwise be at risk of having to be discarded at your opponents’ whim.
1-1 Altaria ROS 74
While I feel that this take on the M Rayquaza-EX deck has stronger matchups across the board, it still struggles against other Rayquaza variants. Having your Ninetales PRC line be completely useless is bad enough, but I expect most other Rayquaza players to be using Raichu XY which swings the matchup pretty far into their favor. Including a 1-1 Altaria is a nice way to level the field a bit more, and it never hurts to have more Pokémon on the Bench. Against decks that aren’t M Rayquaza-EX based, but still run Lightning types like M Manectric-EX and Raichu XY, having Ninetales PRC to ensure you always have Sky Field in play is great for not needing to worry about ever lowering your Bench space and prioritizing Altaria over other useful cards.
Usually 1-1 lines aren’t very reliable, and I wouldn’t suggest such a small count of such an important tech if it wasn’t for Delta Evolution, Altaria’s Ancient Trait. Besides the obvious issue of one of the pieces being prized, having to discard an Evolution before getting to play it down is a huge deterrent for playing 1-1 lines. I think that being able to play Altaria down the same turn as Swablu was put on the Bench is an important dynamic that makes the 1-1 lines more reasonable.
I would recommend testing this more to make sure that it’s not too difficult to use when you need it, but in general I feel that the Delta Evolution concept has a lot of potential if we see more impactful, techable Stage 1s with the mechanic.
I ran Ninetales DRX in my Seismitoad-EX/Ninetales PRC deck from my last article, and after playing it at Florida Regionals I found that Ninetales DRX was more useful that Ninetales PRC in a lot of situations. To be fair, the main Stadium of the deck, Silent Lab, was useless in certain matchups and Sky Field is the complete opposite, but I still think that having the option of Bright Look is a game changer. Adding a single copy to the current list would be sufficient, as you only need 1 Ninetales PRC in play at any given time. I really liked having the option of using Hexed Flame in the other deck, but without Hypnotoxic Laser already being in the deck I think it would be pushing it to try to find a way to add Ninetales DRX in as an attacker.
I expect a lot of matches with this deck to have a very fast tempo, which means needing to use Professor Juniper or Colress most turns to keep a M Rayquaza-EX attacking every turn. While this is fine, there are plenty of times where you need to play a draw Supporters and a Lysandre in the same turn to win the game. These situations will most likely become more prevalent with the release of Shaymin-EX if it sees as much play as I expect it to.
This is a really weird one, and I’m sure many people won’t consider this to be a reliable enough combo, but I really like the idea behind it. Reshiram ROS’s Ability, Turboblaze, can be a huge game changer when you need to charge up a new M Rayquaza-EX in one turn and can’t rely on Mega Turbo. Having two options for Energy acceleration, either from the hand or from the discard pile, greatly increases your chances of getting three Energy onto a fresh Rayquaza. The biggest downside to this is having to run more basic Energy to make the combo viable, and having to run the less optimal Rayquaza-EX to cover Turboblaze’s Dragon-type clause. This combo could be better as its own deck, but I think fitting it into an already established Rayquaza-EX variant is the best way to try out its viability.
Dealing with the two Retreat Cost of Reshiram ROS is another issue that must be dealt with, but having Float Stone in the deck already helps, and I would consider running a Hydreigon-EX in if the biggest issue of the combo ends up being reliably retreating Reshiram.
Reshiram was one of the cards in the set that caught my eye first while looking at the scans when they were revealed in Japanese, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone found a way to abuse Turboblaze even if it wasn’t with M Rayquaza-EX.
Shaymin-EX has always been a very strong card and has found its way into competitive play more than a few times since its release in 2012. The biggest issue that it faces is the low HP, which makes has made it an easy target for Pokémon Catcher, Lysandre, and other effects that can bring a Pokémon from the Bench to the Active Spot. Playing Shaymin-EX ROS eliminates a lot of this risk, because you’ll have an EX with only 110 HP on the Bench most of the time anyway. Shaymin-EX can be a really great end-game finisher, and while it doesn’t Knock Out everything in the format if your opponent has taken 5 Prizes like it used to, you can still clean up with it in the right circumstances.
One important thing to note is that you can only run 3 Shaymin-EX ROS if you decide to run Shaymin-EX LTR. There are plenty of M Rayquaza-EX lists that are only running 3 Shaymin-EX ROS, but I know a lot of players who wouldn’t even think to run less than four copies.
If you do include Shaymin-EX LTR and Grass Energies, I would recommend including Virizion-EX because there would be little reason not to. Having Shaymin-EX LTR and Virizion-EX can do wonders for this deck’s Seismitoad-EX matchup which is usually not the best.
Knock on Wood: Trevenant/Accelgor
A great pick for Expanded, Trevenant/Accelgor has seen a return to the format with the release of Ninetales PRC and Silent Lab. While this deck isn’t new to the format with the release of Roaring Skies, I think that the release of Shaymin-EX has done wonders for its consistency and overall viability. I couldn’t pass up the chance to write about Accelgor DEX again — most likely for the last time — and I hope to see players at the upcoming Spring Regionals performing well with it. Even beyond this year, I think that this deck has gained enough influential cards to stake its place in the Expanded metagame. The biggest issue I saw with this deck at Florida Regionals was that it couldn’t beat the M Gardevoir-EX/Aromatisse XY deck that ran Wonder Energy, but I don’t see that being nearly as popular with M Rayquaza-EX having such a strong matchup against tank/heal style decks.
I have seen two builds of this deck performing well in Japan: one that focuses more heavily on pure consistency with a higher count of Shaymin-EX and copies of Seismitoad-EX, Crushing Hammer, and Head Ringer in order to guarantee a lock, and another that uses Ninetales PRC and other tech cards to have a chance against Keldeo-EX, Virizion-EX, and other such nuisances to the lock. I prefer the slower, more well-rounded version of the deck, because taking a loss against easily techable cards that can break the lock is not advisable.
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 33
Energy – 4
There’s a lot going on in this deck, but having so many Pokémon and Trainers that are easy to get out of your hand makes Shaymin-EX ROS a great addition to this deck. The biggest issue is that you need a good amount of Bench space to keep everything running smoothly and to hold the Shaymin or Jirachi that can be crucial to setting up. Running a copy of Sky Field can open up more room if you need it and it can be locked into play with Ninetales. You can also just let it be replaced by your opponent or replace it yourself after a turn to discard the EXs that will be a liability from the time they’re played.
With so many different cards that work together to keep this deck running properly a few bad Prizes can easily ruin your day. I really like using Town Map in decks the require more setup because you have a lot more time to play it before you start taking Prizes and I’ve found that choosing your Prizes has a much greater impact on the game. Being able to pick out the Double Colorless that you need for the next turn or the Ninetales PRC that you needed after your last one was Lysandre’d up and Knocked Out is so important, which is why I suggest Town Map.
I like a single copy of Ninetales DRX in this deck for very similar reasons to the ones I discussed in the Rayquaza section. On a somewhat different note, though, Ninetales DRX can be used in this deck more to postpone a turn of Knocking Out a Pokémon or bring up a Pokémon that has a perfect amount of HP to be Knocked Out going into your turn rather than just purely to take cheap Prizes like in the M Rayquaza-EX deck.
A Sleeper: Speed Seismitoad
With one of the most hyped decks of this format being one that relies so heavily on Items, it’s no surprise that Seismitoad-EX will be playing a big role in the upcoming metagame. Rayquaza decks can do a lot to counter Seismitoad, but at the end of the day good old consistent Item lock is just too strong of a mechanic to entirely rule out. Much like the speedy Seismitoad-EX/Jynx FFI deck that did well at States and even won Michigan, a variant that is doing well in Japan right now is Seismitoad-EX/Shaymin-EX. This deck focuses around getting Quaking Punch on turn one or turn two as consistently as possible, as well as abusing Munna BCR to keep the opponent’s Active Pokémon Asleep.
In Expanded this deck gets even better because you can include Musharna NXD to create added draw power, which is on par with Slurpuff PHF and has the huge upside of Munna’s Ability. Munna is strong on its own and doesn’t need Musharna NXD to perform well, but it’s surely something you wouldn’t want to exclude given the option.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 46
Energy – 4
Seismitoad-EX has really good synergy with Absol ROS, which allows you to move damage to reach KOs when your opponent tries to cycle attackers. The only reason I haven’t included Absol in the original list is that it’s a dead card if you start with it. Shaymin-EX suffers from the same problem, but Shaymin offers so much more than Absol does and we’d rather not have more Pokémon to start with that aren’t Seismitoad. A single copy could be useful in certain matchups, but with M Rayquaza-EX being able to 1-shot Seismitoad-EX I don’t know if adding techs that don’t improve that matchup would be advisable.
We already have four copies of Crushing Hammer in this deck, but to improve the M Rayquaza-EX matchup even further, adding multiple Enhanced Hammer should turn the matchup to be incredibly favorable. A combination of not being able to keep Special Energy on the board or use Mega Turbo makes M Rayquaza-EX practically useless, and it would be something to strongly consider if a large share of the metagame ends up being taken up by Rayquaza.
Mobile Hook: Wishes for PTCGO on the Go
As I mentioned in the beginning I thought I’d take a short part of this article to talk about how a phone client for PTCGO could change the game and build our player base. Two weeks ago Blizzard Entertainment released iPhone and Android clients of Hearthstone, their immensely popular online card game. A lot of players in the Hearthstone community have praised the benefits of this release, and equally many have criticized its flaws. For a game like Pokémon, I think that a lot of issues that Hearthstone players see in a phone client are eliminated or much less relevant being that our competitive scene, rankings, and invites aren’t affected by PTCGO.
I know a lot of people are thinking that we already have the iPad app for PTCGO, but it really doesn’t offer the same kind of mobility and practicality that a phone app does. Hearthstone also had an iPad app for about a year before they released their iPhone and Android apps, but it didn’t have the same impact. In most situations, I found myself only using my iPad to play Hearthstone at home out of convenience. I was able to watch something on my computer or multitask with homework or social networking more easily having a separate screen to play Hearthstone on, but it rarely provided a huge boost to the mobility of my play.
Since the release of the iPhone app I have played around 100 matches either at school, at the gym, in the car, and even standing in line at the store. I don’t think I used all the much extra time to get in these matches, but it increased the amount of matches that I put into Hearthstone this month from nothing to a pretty reasonable amount for a casual player.
Being on the app store is instant marketing. Think of how many people could see the app and remember their childhood love of Pokémon and give it a try. If the proper tools were implemented to teach players easily and promote the physical card game and organized play within the app we could see a huge increase in the amount of people interested in the game.
One downside that would have to be addressed is to efficiently and effectively separate new players from experienced players. An issue that a lot of Hearthstone players have brought up is that the influx of phone players has upset the balance of experienced players and inexperienced players. While this has a much larger impact on the Hearthstone ladder, I would expect PTCGO to have to find a way to clean up their ranked and practice modes in order to better scale players on their skill levels. I would also like to see them implement some kind of ranking system like Hearthstone, or even a numbered ranking with Elo or some other kind of points tied to wins in ranked matches and performance in the eight-man tournaments.
The next issue would be to find a way to make the layout of the game in such a way that all the information is present and easily understandable but also fits on a phone screen. Hearthstone probably has an easier time with this because of the smaller board, but I think that using just the artwork of each card as an icon could reduce the size of the play area. They would also need to implement an interface that is easy to understand and not too difficult to use.
Finally, the biggest thing that PTCGO would have to do is lower the system requirements needed for the app. Hearthstone’s minimum requirement on the app store is currently an iPhone 4S or an iPad 2, while PTCGO’s is an iPad with Retina display. Making sure the game can be run on as many systems as possible would do wonders for the impact that such a release could have.
I hope you all enjoyed my small opinion about the potential future of mobile online card gaming and I’d love to hear all of your opinions on the subject in the comments if anyone would like to have a discussion about it.
“I believe I can fly …”
I hope everyone enjoyed my take on Roaring Skies and found a few new deck ideas to try out. I wish everyone luck on their playtesting journey to Nationals, and I’m sure there will be plenty of interesting new decks popping up in the next few months.
As some of you may know, I’ve recently been accepted to New York University and will be attending there starting this fall to study economics and mathematics. While I’m incredibly exciting about this chapter of my life, I expect at least the first year of my college journey to lend little free time for Pokémon. I hope to continue playing in the future and that I’m wrong about my prediction for next year, but if I’m not able to play I still hope to continue writing for you all. If not full-length Underground articles as frequently as I have been for the last couple years, surely an occasional free article with updates on Japan or whatever else you all are interested to see or I think of to write about.
Until next time,
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