Seas to Skies

Thunderstruck, Trainers’ Mail Time, and the Ascent of Archie
allen iverson practiceyoutube.com
We talkin’ about practice again??

Hey there SixPrizes readers! Boy oh boy, haven’t we been in a weird kind of situation lately? Spring Regionals are right around the corner, but it seems to me that no one has been practicing for them! We’re in this strange spot during the year where the new set has been released, but not for official tournament play. This creates a dilemma of most people getting caught up in the hype of the new set that they kind of just shrug aside the current format that will still hold two weekends of Regionals!

With this in mind, I want to give you guys the best of both worlds in this article by giving you some things to think about for the upcoming two weekends of Spring Regionals and taking a look at some new toys that we get to play with in the new and exciting set. Everyone already seems to know that Rayquaza will be the main contender in the Roaring Skies set, but one of the questions that I think a lot of people have been asking is: “What is the best way to play it?” And I’ll be answering that question today with you guys with a little help from my friend, Archie.

Thunderstruck: The Case for Mega Manectric

The Primal Clash format has developed so much since its debut at Florida Regionals, and I think part of it has had to do with Archie’s Ace in the Hole. As Archie’s gained popularity because of Orion Craig’s win at Florida Regionals, people started to realize how good the card was when paired with Empoleon PLF. The draw power is phenomenal, and it allows the player to burn through their deck like crazy since it plays off of the discard pile so much.

These “turbo” kinds of decks featuring crazy-high counts of Items grew in popularity which motivated people to want to counter them. Seismitoad-EX was always a threat to these specific decks ever since Week 1-of States, but now its favorability in the format has reached an all-time high along with Exeggutor as a new contender.

We’re in a place in the Primal Clash format where lock decks will be the decks to beat. Seismitoad/Slurpuff and Exeggutor have been taking the recent metagame by storm with no signs of slowing down. Taking this into consideration, I’d want to play anything that has a favorable matchup against or outright beats these two decks.

Oddly enough, Mega Manectric kept popping into my mind, mainly because its Energy acceleration is from the discard and in the form of an attack. The main strategy of Seismitoad and Exeggutor is to cut you off from any resources while you’re suffering from both Poison damage and Energy removal, eventually leaving you with nothing left to do in a turn but draw and pass. With Manectric, Energies can be recycled from the discard so you don’t have to continually draw into new resources, and you can’t be locked out of using it unless you hit that awful 25% chance of staying Asleep from Hypnotoxic Laser.

Here are my two favorite decks utilizing Mega Manectric that are sure to be strong plays heading into next weekend.

VGM: Virizion/Genesect/Manectric

Pokémon – 12

3 Virizion-EX

3 Genesect-EX

3 Manectric-EX

2 M Manectric-EX

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Skyla

1 Colress

1 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

1 Shadow Triad

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 VS Seeker

3 Manectric Spirit Link

2 Muscle Band

1 Energy Switch

1 Max Potion

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 G Booster

 

2 Rough Seas

Energy – 14

8 G

3 L

3 Plasma

This is what I played for my Week 2 run at Arizona States. I was unfortunate with my ties in Arizona, ultimately causing me to get 14th place, just a win away from cut; however, a friend of mine using a similar list managed to make Top 8 overall. The idea for the deck was originally only backed by theorymon, being able to take on a plethora of matchups, but in testing, it performed up to the task. With near auto-wins against the likes of Yveltal-EX, Seismitoad-EX, Exeggutor, and Primal Groudon, I loved my choice of this deck for Week 2, and I think it will continue to be a strong play heading into Regionals.

m-manectric-ex-phantom-forces-phf-24
V/G now accelerates from the deck and discard.

Virizion-EX and M Manectric-EX have natural synergy with Virizion accelerating Energy from the deck, and Manectric being able to pull it back from the discard pile. Virizion/Genesect always had to keep aware of their Energy resources once Super Rod rotated, so adding Mega Manectric not only recycles the Energy but also provides a fantastic out against Yveltal and overall late-game attacker.

I feel like the Supporter counts are all perfect with VS Seeker making it possible to abuse all kinds of different Supporters such as Lysandre, Skyla, and especially Shadow Triad. It may not seem intuitive to include Lysandre in a deck where using Red Signal is fairly common, but having that out to bring a Benched Pokémon up without having to dedicate an Energy to Genesect becomes fairly useful especially when VS Seeker can get it back for you in the necessary situations.

Max Potion and Energy Switch work so well with Mega Manectric that I had to include them, but unfortunately, there was only room for one copy of each since the deck demands so much space to be put toward Energy and Pokémon lines.

The two Rough Seas are debatable, and they were mainly there to serve as a Stadium counter to Silent Lab. Manectric can just sit and heal on the Bench after a Turbo Bolt thanks to Rough Seas, but it’s really the only Pokémon that gets any real benefit from it. I chose Rough Seas over Plasma Frigate since I figured Flareon would be an unfavorable matchup even without a Fire Weakness. It would have also been nice to remove any Fighting Weakness from Manectric, but going into the tournament, I wasn’t expecting any Landorus/Crobat and much less any Donphan.

Overall, the deck flowed very nicely for me at States, and due to some unfortunate ties, I wasn’t able to make top cut with it, but I still think it can be a fantastic play for the right metagame. Spring Regionals seem to be shaping up where many players with play their safe choices for States, so this could be a good option to counter most of the decks in the metagame with relative ease.


I have been seriously in love with Manectric since the beginning of this format, and I think that is mainly because of this next deck that I am going to show you guys. It is completely centered around Mega Manectric doing what it does best: two-hitting anything in its way and recycling Energies in the process.

Snow Dogs: Manectric/Empoleon

Pokémon – 14

4 Manectric-EX

3 M Manectric-EX

2 Empoleon PLF

1 Exeggcute PLF

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Suicune PLB

1 Kyurem PLF

1 Mewtwo-EX NXD

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

2 Archie’s Ace in the Hole

2 Lysandre

1 N

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

4 Battle Compressor

3 Manectric Spirit Link

2 Max Potion

2 Switch

1 Muscle Band

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Computer Search

 

3 Rough Seas

Energy – 11

5 L

4 W

2 Double Colorless

I know what you may be thinking, and yes, this is a pretty off-the-wall deck, but it works incredibly well in practice. The idea was created by one of my testing partners, Drew Kennett, and he was able to place Top 8 at the past two State Championships piloting this deck.

battle-compressor-phantom-forces-phf-92 (1)
Lots of synergy here.

The Battle Compressor engine in this deck just flows so perfectly with the deck since Manectric loves to accelerate from the discard pile, so it seemed natural to pair this with Archie’s, another card that does best when working from the discard. Empoleon felt right not only because of its monstrous attack that can potentially hit for massive amounts of damage for one Energy, but also because it provides a necessary level of extra consistency to the deck. Diving Draw is an amazing Ability and works wonders in this deck, even if your Exeggcute is prized. There were turns after a Lysandre’s Trump Card where I could play a Professor’s Letter and grab two Energy in order to attach one to a Benched Pokémon and discard the other with Diving Draw to be able to attach it with Turbo Bolt.

Empoleon becomes even more of a monster when pairing it with Rough Seas, as its 140 HP makes it pretty bulky for non-Pokémon-EX that can be shoved straight onto the Bench. Rough Seas extends its life even further allowing it to “command” even more KOs, one after another.

This list is based off of pure consistency, streamlining Mega Manectric and its Energy acceleration, and supplying incredible non-EX secondary attackers. A perfect Turn 1 is starting a Manectric-EX, then attaching a Spirit Link and an Energy. That’s all it needs to get going!

Of course, getting an Archie’s off would be icing on the cake, as Diving Draw provides even more draw support and versatility to the deck, but a Turn 2 Turbo Bolt is the real goal. This not only puts serious pressure on the opponent, but also advances your board position exponentially. Spewing two Energies onto your board with each attack is nothing to scoff at, especially when paired with things like Max Potion and Rough Seas.

After powering up a secondary attacker, the usual game plan is to retreat for free into it and finish off whatever is standing in your way while healing Manectric. A Blizzard Burn or Attack Command following a Turbo Bolt is more than enough damage to 2HKO your opponent’s Active even if they are utilizing Rough Seas as well.

Not only does this give you time to sit back and heal your Manectric, but it saves it from a return hit as well. If the opponent has something else waiting to come up and attack, they’ll have to first hit into a non-Pokémon-EX, giving them only 1 Prize card compared to the two that you were able to take. This is the win condition essentially: finish off your opponent’s Pokémon-EX with secondary non-EX attackers while denying your opponent Prizes with Rough Seas and Max Potion.

kyurem plasma freeze 16-9
Blizzard Burn still does a lot of damage.

In the late game, the strategy is to set up two M Manectric-EXs that can recycle into one another and abuse Max Potion. It’s a powerful combo when you can Max Potion any damage off of one Mega Manectric, retreat for free into the other one, hit for 110 damage and accelerate those same Energies back onto the Bench. Typically at this point, there’s nothing much your opponent can actually do unless they are hitting you for 210 or more damage.

Now if this deck doesn’t show off Archie’s, I don’t know what can because this deck even includes two copies of it! The usual count in a Flareon deck is only one, leaving the player stranded if it’s ever prized. The second copy of Archie’s not only tremendously lessens the chances of that happening, but it also lets you make some neat plays with Battle Compressor. Typically, the one copy of Archie’s would only be able to be in one place at any one time, either in the deck or in the discard pile. This severely limits your options to play it at any point in the game, since if it’s in the deck, you can’t VS Seeker for it, and if it is in the discard pile, you can’t Stellar Guidance to grab it. Playing two copies greatly increases the chances of getting that Archie’s off throughout the game, and not just on the first turn as Flareon usually aims to do.

Having Mega Manectric again in this deck gives a severe advantage over the likes of Exeggutor and Yveltal and also buffs up the Seismitoad matchup. Of course, centering the entire deck around it can also cause some problems against Fighting-type Pokémon. Luckily, they have been dying down, but in the spirit of being unbiased, I still do want to mention that the deck does have problems with the likes of Landorus/Crobat and Groudon the most and can have trouble against Donphan if you are unable to get an Empoleon out. Kyurem PLF can help in a lot of these situations by being able to snipe Primal Groudons on the Bench and hit Landorus and Donphan for Weakness, but it is still a toss up.

Still though, this is a deck that completely takes advantage of the power of Mega Manectric, Empoleon, and Archie’s Ace in the Hole and not a lot of people have been talking about it much at all. I think it can be a real force to be reckoned with over these next few weekends, so don’t count out the underdog.


Now with my top picks for this upcoming weekend out of the way, let’s move on to some of the most fun and competitive decks that I have been testing so far for the Roaring Skies format, centered around one of my favorite cards in the format: Archie’s Ace in the Hole.

We already talked about how Manectric abuses Archie’s by working from the discard pile, so how does this concept get even better going into Roaring Skies? Two words: MAIL TIME!

Trainers’ Mail Time and Archie’s in the Skies

Roaring Skies introduces a lot of awesome cards from Mega Turbo to Sky Field and even Wally. Among these awesome cards is another that has been completely overshadowed by the other mechanic-altering cards: Trainers’ Mail. When I first saw Trainers’ Mail in the Japanese spoilers, I was beyond hyped. I wasn’t entirely sold on its effectiveness until I tried it, so here’s something that you can try if you aren’t entirely convinced:

  1. Go grab one of your competitive decks … done?
  2. Now, take the top 4 cards of it. Was there a Trainer there?

Odds are there was, and that’s because Trainers’ Mail allows you to get any Item, Supporter, or Stadium card that you manage to dig up. When over half of most decks are made up of Trainers, I would say that those are some pretty good odds. This is what differentiates this card from something like Great Ball. When a deck plays 12-15 Pokémon, that’s only a fourth of the deck that is compatible with what you’re wanting to search.

Now with Trainers’ Mail of course, you’re not going to be able to pick exactly what you want, so I think this card will fit best in decks that utilize many “4-of” copies of cards. When you play 4 copies of a card in a deck, it is most likely because that card will be useful to you at most any point in the game. Things like VS Seeker and Ultra Ball usually fall into this category. Sound familiar? Trainers’ Mail helps you get the things you really need even quicker, which is why I think this is a great inclusion in any deck that implements — you guessed it — Archie’s Ace in the Hole.

trainers-mail-roaring-skies-ros-92
“Return to sender.”

When a deck like Flareon plays 4 Ultra Ball, 4 Battle Compressor, 4 Acro Bike, and 4 VS Seeker, you can bet that they want those cards in their hand at any point in the game. Trainers’ Mail just facilitates this and should probably even replace Acro Bike. Although I can still see some merit to using it, Acro Bike is even more of a wild card in that it may leave you with some tricky choices to make since the discard is mandatory.

Trainers’ Mail not only digs a little deeper for that crucial card that you may need to complete your Archie’s combo, but it also has another unique property: You can fail it. What I mean by this is exactly what someone means when they look through their deck with Ultra Ball and fail to pick a Pokémon, either because they don’t have one in their deck or they simply don’t want to get one. The cards that Trainers’ Mail looks at are private knowledge to the player, and it also uses the word, “may” in its phrasing.

Now why would this be useful? If you ever played a Flareon deck for a decent amount of time, I’m sure you know the panic that comes when you are just one card shy of getting off an Archie’s Ace in the Hole, and it happens quite a lot. I found that there were also sometimes where that one card was an Acro Bike, forcing me to play it and pray that the cards that I found were able to complete the combo. Acro Biking into 2 Supporters could certainly spell doom. If that card were a Trainers’ Mail, you could casually look at the top four cards of your deck, fail the search, and continue on with your combo. Being able to burn the card is much more useful in my opinion than being forced to replace it with one of the top two cards from your deck.

With this as my reasoning, I went ahead and replaced the Acro Bike counts in my Flareon list that I used for Week 3-of States, and it’s pretty different, so I’ll explain the different parts.

Updated Flareon

Pokémon – 24

4 Eevee FFI

4 Flareon PLF

3 Leafeon PLF

1 Vulpix PRC

1 Ninetales PRC

2 Empoleon PLF

2 Exeggcute PLF

1 Ditto BCR

1 Audino BCR

2 Jirachi-EX

2 Keldeo-EX

1 Deoxys-EX

Trainers – 29

3 Professor Juniper

1 N

1 Archie’s Ace in the Hole

1 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

4 Battle Compressor

3 Trainers’ Mail

2 Float Stone

2 Silver Bangle

1 Computer Search

 

2 Training Center

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

2 G

1 W

Flareon is my pride and joy, as you guys all probably know from my last article, and I have really worked on it since then, perfecting all of the different counts. In my honest opinion, I wouldn’t have changed a single card count even after playing through all of New Mexico States with it. I unfortunately lost my win-and-in to the Seismitoad/Slurpuff player that would end up winning the whole tournament, due to some fortunate Super Scoop Up flips on his side. Sometimes even Leafeon isn’t enough to beat a smart Seismitoad player. However, Jeremy Jallen was able to place in the Top 4 at Arizona States using the Ninetales PRC tech that I mentioned to him the night before. But anyway, let’s talk more about how Roaring Skies affects Flareon.

With the introduction of Rayquaza/Shaymin in Roaring Skies, I believe the metagame will shift to feature decks that can beat it: Seismitoad, Lightning decks, Garbodor, and non-EX decks. Maybe I’m being a little too pessimistic, but from what I’ve seen from Rayquaza, the deck is a beast. Of course, with a turbo deck focused around Pokémon-EX becoming popular, Flareon will just gain even more power thanks to the favorable Prize trade-offs. Archie’s is still phenomenal in this deck and Trainers’ Mail helps speed the process along even more as I mentioned previously, so let me explain some of the other card counts.

2 Jirachi-EX, 0 Shaymin-EX ROS

jirachi-ex-plasma-blast-plb-60
Needed to nab Archie!

This is the first card count that I want to elaborate on, mainly because everyone is saying that Shaymin will completely overshadow this card. I say though that that is just not true. Sure, they both improve consistency, but they do entirely different things! Shaymin is pure draw power, while Jirachi is specific search. I guess a lot of people associate the two as being basically the same thing when Jirachi is usually used to grab a Professor Juniper.

However, in Archie’s centered decks, Jirachi is a main part of its core and simply replacing it with Shaymin-EX would not accomplish the same task: searching for the Supporter card that you really want in a given situation. In my opinion, Jirachi and Shaymin should be used in conjunction with one another, but in Flareon, Bench space is severely limited, especially when you are aiming to lock a Training Center in play with Ninetales.

Maybe a Flareon variant could do well with Sky Field and Shaymin-EX, but in testing, I’ve found that the extra Bench space means that more Pokémon are on the Bench and not in the discard pile fueling Vengeance.

2 Keldeo-EX

I honestly have to say that Keldeo-EX was my MVP in New Mexico. Special Conditions and lack of mobility can sometimes be a huge problem for Flareon when most cards in the deck have a fat 2 Retreat Cost. Keldeo-EX provided that versatility to switch between attackers when I needed to, and also came in crucial for lessening the effects of Hypnotoxic Laser. Staying Asleep is a huge problem whenever it happens and the Poison damage is how Seismitoad actually attempts to beat Leafeon PLF.

One of the nice things about Flareon as a deck though is if you don’t need the Pokémon, just throw it away! Keldeo-EX came in useful in nearly every matchup; switching from Flareon to Leafeon to Empoleon was incredibly handy. However it wasn’t always needed, so don’t be afraid to throw it in the discard pile and beef up your Vengeance even more.

1-1 Ninetales PRC

I talked about this card a ton in my last article, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Ninetales is way more useful in Flareon than a Slurpuff line is. Ditto keeps a Bench spot open for whenever you’re ready to drop the Training Center + Ninetales, and this combo will only become more useful in Roaring Skies. Stadiums are going to become more important than ever with Sky Field being such a key factor in making Rayquaza top tier.

I’m sure Virbank counts among other Stadiums will be increased in an effort to counter it, so why not just shut them all off? Rendering at least 3 cards in your opponent’s deck absolutely useless — all the while giving your Stage 1s and 2s +30 HP — doesn’t sound too bad to me. I was happy to see that Ninetales saw some success in Flareon decks, even if it was mainly just locally, but I can definitely see it being played even more now that Stadium cards are going to be bigger than ever.

Flareon saw a ton of play and was most hyped after Florida Regionals, but then saw decline due to the strength of Seismitoad-EX. Will Flareon be able to rise again from the ashes for the Roaring Skies format? I sure hope so! Archie’s is an incredible card, and I think Flareon showcases it fantastically well.

But Flareon isn’t going to be the only deck making good use of Team Aqua’s captain …

Archie’s … Rayquaza?

Pokémon – 18

4 Shaymin-EX ROS

3 Rayquaza-EX ROS 75

3 M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76

2 Empoleon PLF

2 Exeggcute PLF

1 Keldeo-EX

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Swablu ROS

1 Altaria ROS 74

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

1 N

1 Colress

1 Archie’s Ace in the Hole

1 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

4 Battle Compressor

3 Trainers’ Mail

3 Rayquaza Spirit Link

2 Float Stone

2 Mega Turbo

1 Computer Search

 

3 Sky Field

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

3 W

m-rayquaza-ex-roaring-skies-ros-76
“Give me a break, give me a break …” ♪♫

Just when you thought Rayquaza couldn’t get any scarier, here comes an even faster version of it featuring Archie’s Ace in the Hole. In my opinion, this will be the best version of Rayquaza, hands down. It has everything you could ever want. A bulky 220 HP dragon swinging for 240 damage each turn for no drawbacks, Energy acceleration in the form of Double Colorless and Mega Turbo, and phenomenal draw power with the pair of Shaymin-EX and Empoleon’s Diving Draw.

Not only that, but by including Archie’s and Empoleon, Rayquaza gets something that it direly needed: a non-EX attacker. People have been speculating that things like Safeguard and Aegislash-EX will be able to stop M Rayquaza-EX in its tracks, however this won’t be the case when an Empoleon can take the Active position and swing for incredible amounts of damage.

Rayquaza wasn’t the only one that got a major buff from Sky Field; Empoleon’s damage cap is now ever larger! With a Sky Field in play and maximum amounts of Pokémon on each player’s side of the field, Empoleon can hit for 180 damage — just for 1 W Energy! Everything that made Empoleon good in the Snow Dogs list only gets amplified when it is paired with Rayquaza and Sky Field.

This list still has some patches that can be made, as there is still more testing to be done. However, from what I have tested with it, this list runs incredibly smoothly and the synergy between everything in the deck is just phenomenal. Let me elaborate a bit more:

Exeggcute PLF are typically included in the standard Rayquaza list to Propogate to the Bench whenever they may get discarded from Sky Field being countered. Not only can they serve this purpose though, but they can now aid in getting off an Archie’s easier, as well as become fodder for Diving Draw. Of course, sometimes you may want to discard Energies with Diving Draw in order to pull off a Mega Turbo.

Both Jirachi-EX and Shaymin-EX provide insane consistency to the deck, lending different effects off of an Ultra Ball that you may need at any situation.

Now something that is different in this version is the lack of Virizion-EX, which is a card a lot of Rayquaza lists have been including. I believe that this is the wrong way to go — not because preventing Hypnotoxic Laser is bad, it’s just that Keldeo-EX does a much better job in this kind of archetype. We switched over to W Energies to accommodate Empoleon, so now Virizion-EX becomes useless, and to keep the virtual immunity to Hypnotoxic Laser, I added one Keldeo-EX. We don’t mind them taking up the Bench space, and just like in Flareon, Keldeo provides added mobility to the deck that I found it desperately needs. Empoleon is such a good attacker, but unfortunately, it has a bulky 2 Retreat Cost, making it difficult to get out of the Active position after it has taken a knockout. Keldeo helps out in this situation among many others.

Again, Trainers’ Mail has been added to this deck to boost the consistency of Archie’s even more, as it did in Flareon.


Rayquaza is the newest card to be feared from the next set, but don’t ever count out the penguin Pokémon and his pirate friend. I believe this is going to be the strongest variant of Rayquaza and for good reason. Rayquaza is living up to the hype so far in testing, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a ton of players planning on countering it for Week 3 Georgia and Wisconsin Regionals.

Conclusion

ash ketchum preparing poke ball 3-2pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
Pack those bags and polish those Poké Balls … Regionals are soon!

Spring Regionals are coming up fast, so I hope I was able to help prepare you guys for Weeks 1, 2, and 3. Seismitoad/Slurpuff and Exeggutor are the real threats in the current format, so it’ll be interesting to see if that continues on through Roaring Skies even with the game-changing Rayquaza entering the fray. Overall, I also hope that I helped you guys understand the ins and outs of Archie’s Ace in the Hole, what decks it can be utilized in, and what it gains from Roaring Skies. The format is going to be a real toss-up, but so far it looks like Rayquaza is the front runner, so I can’t wait to see what kind of things people create to counter it for Week 3.

As always, thank you guys so much for reading! It is always a pleasure to write for Adam and all of you guys, and I am so blessed to have such a great opportunity. I know you will all do awesome at Regionals, and if you happen to go to Utah Regionals, come see me, and say hi! Stay strong, players!

P.S. If you enjoyed the article, please go ahead and give it a +1! It helps me out a ton, and if you do, I will love you forever. Feel free to leave any comments and also message me on Facebook — I enjoy hearing feedback! I will do my best to respond with any questions/concerns. Thanks everyone and have a great day!

–Andrew Zavala


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