What is up everyone! It’s been just under a year since my last Underground article, which focused on the team aspect of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. In the past year I have moved to a new city, completed my first year of teaching middle school/high school mathematics, started my path to becoming a contributing member of society, and have amassed enough Championship Points to play in Day 1 of the World Championships … for the first time since 2008!
All in all, I’ve had a pretty consistent season with a wide variety of decks. I am not a player who gets attached to one deck very easily and I enjoy the challenge of testing and working with new decks. I’ve used a dozen or so different decks this season ranging from Pyroar/Seismitoad to Yveltal/Raichu to Exeggutor, and I even used four different decks in four weeks during States, performing decently to well with all of them.
This footloose tendency of mine is both a blessing and a curse heading into big tournaments like Nationals and Worlds. I have had some experience with nearly every deck in the format, so my mind is open to any possible play. On the other hand, I have no go-to deck in case nothing new I am testing pans out. This often leads me down the path of extensively testing one deck in the weeks preceding Nationals or Worlds, while simultaneously keeping the developing metagame and other potential decks in my periphery.
While I will discuss some of the interesting decks that came out of the US National Championship and the impact of these going forward, I want to spend the bulk of this article taking you through my thought process on my deck decision for the tournament. From predicting the metagame, looking at viable options, testing different ideas, and looking to sure up weaknesses, I think it’s important to be able to see how other players arrive at their decks, especially for big tournaments like Nationals and Worlds. Without further ado, let’s jump into my US Nationals deck choice: M Manectric-EX.
- Not Too Dissimilar: Targeting Trends in the Meta
- Idea #1: Manectric/Aegislash
- Idea #2: Manectric/Articuno
- Idea #3: Triple Threat
- Short Leash: Tournament Recap
- Unexpectedly Good: US Nationals Results Discussion
- The Resource War: A Hidden Game of Attrition
Not Too Dissimilar: Targeting Trends in the Meta
Surprisingly, Manectric-EX never made the list of decks I played at major tournaments this year. Indeed, I always felt it was a bit underpowered, yet many of the decks I chose to play throughout the year had iffy or bad matchups against it! However, some of my close friends (Bryan Aing, Simon Narode, Sam Chen) had played it a bit over the course of the season, so I had some good lists and ideas to jumpstart my testing.
But wait — why did I even initially think to start testing Manectric-EX, especially if I felt it was underpowered all year? To answer this question, let’s look at my perception of the expected US Nationals metagame around the beginning of June:
- Night March
- Mega Rayquaza [Colorless]
- Primal Groudon
- Mega Rayquaza [Dragon]
Your favorite pet deck might not have made this list, but I thought about pretty much everything at some point. These were just my initial thoughts and for the most part, they were pretty comprehensive.
With these expectations (of which, unfortunately, there were many), I took to looking for common themes among these decks. I quickly identified three big things about the metagame:
- Special Energies are everywhere, but players are now aware that they need to run more basic Energy.
- Abilities play a huge role in many decks’ strategies, even if it’s only a reliance on Shaymin-EX ROS.
- Stadiums play a crucial and underappreciated role in nearly every deck.
You can see that just in my four predicted most popular decks, all three of these traits are true!
Not only did I want to counter these three main themes, but I also wanted my deck to not conform to these strategies, or at least not all of them. This meant I would ideally run no Special Energy, no Abilities beyond Shaymin-EX ROS or Jirachi-EX (and try not to rely on them as much as a deck like Rayquaza or Raichu might), and I would either not play the Stadium war or I would win it.
Idea #1: Manectric/Aegislash
The first idea that emerged from this thought process was M Manectric-EX/Aegislash-EX. I was lucky enough to commentate a match between Dylan Bryan and Michael Diaz in the Top 8 of Massachusetts Regionals, where Dylan piloted the novel and interesting Manectric/Aegislash deck to a victory, and then two more victories, crowing him Regional Champion. There were many card choices that I had to change for a Standard list — not because Dylan ran any Expanded-only cards, rather the metagame had changed — but the core was there.
M Manectric-EX/Aegislash-EX only ran basic Energy, so I would not need to worry about Enhanced Hammers or opposing Aegislash-EX. While Aegislash relies on its Ability to be effective, I felt like the only matchups where Garbodor would matter against Aegislash would be a Landorus-EX/Garbodor LTR deck, which I thought would not be very popular, and Primal Groudon-EX (with Silent Lab), which I would also be comfortable taking a loss to.
Finally, Rough Seas is an incredibly powerful Stadium card that synergizes well with M Manectric-EX. In order to truly win the Stadium war, however, I felt that Ninetales PRC would be an effective tool to deny my opponent the benefit of ever using their Stadium.
And thus, my first list was born:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
Energy – 11
Some thoughts on the above list:
- Manectric is inherently strong against Seismitoad, Trevenant, Metal, and Yveltal decks and doesn’t need anything extra to beat those decks.
- This list should beat Night March, Raichu decks, and Rayquaza decks with the combination of Aegislash stopping DCE attackers, Manectric being a high HP Pokémon that can 1HKO all of their main attackers, and Ninetales blocking their Stadiums, which they need to complete their attacking strategies.
- Aegislash is a soft counter to Fighting decks; it forces them to attack it with only basic Energy.
- Heatran is available as a counter to Safeguarders and to force a 7-Prize game.
- Groudon seemed to be the deck’s only for-sure auto-loss. (We have to take one somewhere!)
This list did well, but the Weakness to Fighting decks was more pronounced than I had imagined. Around the time I was testing this, Fighting/Crobat had done well overseas and Donphan had won in Mexico, so I was quite concerned with the Fighting matchups for the deck. Aegislash did not do enough, as it could not 1HKO Donphan without five Energy, which never happened before Donphan was able to start attacking it with basic Fighting Energy Donphans. Against Fighting/Crobat, they often played 1-2 Silent Lab, which nullified Aegislash, on top of running a healthy amount of basic Fighting as well.
So I tried Zapdos LTR, Hard Charm, and Jynx FFI a little bit, cutting Energy Switch and trimming down the Ninetales line to 1-1, as I remembered Mike Diaz’s and Zach Biven’s Manectric/Zapdos deck from City Championships. Zapdos is quite effective against Donphan, but really not great against Fighting/Crobat. I talked to Zach a bit about the deck and he tried it against Donphan, reporting back an underwhelming 1-3 record in the matchup.
Idea #2: Manectric/Articuno
At this point, Donphan was my biggest Fighting concern. So, I needed a Water Pokémon. Kyurem PLF was used earlier in the season, but it takes a whopping three Energy and is still 2HKO’d by Donphan, which needs only a Strong Energy and a Muscle Band. Keldeo-EX also takes three Energy and is also usually 2HKO’d by Donphan, which needs a combination of Strong Energy + Silver Bangle or Fighting Stadium + Silver Bangle or Strong Energy + Muscle Band + Fighting Stadium. This wasn’t very hard for the Donphan player, and was part of the reason Zapdos was in consideration in the first place — the Fighting Resistance is huge! Another huge issue against Donphan is our lack of non-Pokémon-EX against cards like Sigilyph LTR and Suicune PLB.
As I discussed the deck with some friends, one suggested the new Articuno (Δ Plus) in Roaring Skies. I showed the card to my brother and we both laughed at it. But then I lost two more games to Donphan, so I figured I would try it. Amazingly, I went 3-1 against Donphan! The ability for an Articuno to take out two Donphans relatively easily because it resisted Fighting AND took 2 Prizes to help speed up the Prize trade made it extremely effective in the matchup. Of course, the downside is relying on some luck, but with a Muscle Band, you have an 87.5% chance to hit the 1HKO — I’ll take those odds!
So Articuno had made the list, but alongside Aegislash, it felt really clunky. Running two types of non-Lightning Energy had made the deck run less smoothly and Aegislash wasn’t doing enough damage in the matchups is was being used for. It was nice to stall against Night March or Rayquaza if you had a slow start, but other than that, I started liking it less and less. So we made some changes and ended up at this straight Manectric/Articuno deck:
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 35
Energy – 11
Great! We beat Donphan (or at least go 50/50 with it). But now we have to ask ourselves:
- Do we beat the things Aegislash helped against (Night March, Rayquaza, Raichu/Bats)?
- Does Articuno help enough against Fighting/Crobat?
The answer to Question 1, it turned out, was mostly yes. Ninetales is still incredibly strong against all of those decks. Notice that I included an Enhanced Hammer in the latest list — an addition to help compensate for the lack of Aegislash-EX. Testing showed that Enhanced Hammer was a huge swing card in those matchups now, so I looked to add another one. Enhanced Hammer also added important utility for both the Donphan and the Fighting/Crobat matchups. Keldeo-EX proved largely useless and was subsequently dropped for switching cards again.
The answer to Question 2, still unfortunately, was mostly no. Lucario-EX was a huge pain and could often take 4 Prizes before being taken down. An obvious answer appeared in Mewtwo-EX, but that would require running Double Colorless Energy (well, not required, but to really counter Lucario in an effective manner, testing said we needed it). Another option I thought of was thanks to my friend Bryan’s previous experience with the deck: Suicune PLB. If Fighting/Bats either didn’t play Silent Lab, discarded them, or you were able to lock them out of it with Ninetales, Suicune could turn into a very potent threat in the matchup. Again, however, Suicune was much less effective without Double Colorless Energy.
Idea #3: Triple Threat
With all of this in mind, this is where I was two days before Nationals: I knew that each Articuno ROS 17, Suicune PLB, and Mewtwo-EX were good, but I was going to need to find room for Double Colorless Energy to effectively run the latter two. Articuno was underwhelming in any matchup besides Donphan and Night March (but still had some fringe uses), and Enhanced Hammers were great. We tried many combinations of 0-2 Articuno, Suicune, and Mewtwo and ultimately decided on just a single copy of each. All three attackers provide a specific utility role and it is often unnecessary to have more than a single copy in any given game. I’ll talk about each a little more later on.
Many thanks to my friends who helped test the deck and had enough confidence in it to play it with me at Nationals. Let’s take a look at our final list, talk about the card choices a bit more in depth, and discuss our results:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
3-3 M Manectric-EX
We found that having only three copies of the Manectric-EX was generally fine. There were some cases where you would prize two, which would stink, but otherwise three was plenty in any matchup where you wanted to stream Manectrics … except the mirror match. The fourth Manectric-EX (and potentially a fourth Mega) would have done well in the mirror, as you want to switch back and forth between as many Lightning dogs as you can to maximize Rough Seas healing.
This card is amazing. Some other Manectric decks opted to run zero in an attempt to win the attrition war and not give up easy Prizes. However, with DCEs in the deck, it made it relatively easy to bounce back a Shaymin when it was in danger of being Lysandre KO’d. With the relatively low Supporter count and a full set of Ultra Balls, running two copies of this guy made a clunky deck run much smoother.
This was the largest point of contention in the refining of this list between my friends and I. Ninetales is important in the matchups in which you want it: Raichu, Rayquaza, and Night March in particular. However, I felt that with only 3 Rough Seas, it became difficult to have the Stadium the same turn you played down Ninetales. In addition, I felt being able to counter their Stadium with yours almost every time was just as important as eventually getting Ninetales out. With a 2-2 Ninetales, you seek to set up the Ninetales as quickly as possible, while with the 1-1 you play the Stadium war for a bit in the early game and lock with Ninetales sometime in the mid game, ensuring the victory.
If we could have hit 2-2 and 4 Rough Seas, I think that would have been nice, but that’s a lot of dedicated spots to just Stadiums. Plus, once Rough Seas gets locked in, the rest of your Stadiums become dead cards.
I want to take a moment to talk about Ninetales, because although it was not present in any of the Top 8 decks, I still feel like it is a strong card heading into Worlds if it can find the right deck to be played in. Ninetales can stop Stadiums from being played at all: this comes up in the Rayquaza, Raichu, and Night March matchups sometimes, where neither player has played a Stadium and you are able to evolve to Ninetales. This is absolutely fine! In these matchups, locking out their Stadium is much more important than getting Rough Seas into play. Ninetales can also lock out Silent Lab, so Suicune can become immune to EXs with no worries. Locking out Fighting Stadium makes it hard for Fighting decks to hit big numbers on your Pokémon. And although Primal Groudon is your worst matchup, Ninetales gives you a chance by locking out Stadiums completely and powering up a big Mewtwo-EX (more on this later).
I discussed a bit why we chose to run only a single copy of each, but I found it interesting that many of the other Manectric players opted not to run these cards, though Suicune was the most popular among other variants. Suicune can give you free wins if your opponent doesn’t know you run it and is a huge pain even if they do. You can use it to wall while you set up and it is your best starter against an unknown deck. It’s extremely effective against Landorus-EX, 1HKOing it for a Water Energy + DCE + Muscle Band. A Float Stone would have been nice in the list to be able to promote Suicune to stall for a turn and be certain you would be able to get it back to the Bench in the future.
Articuno has been discussed and was a very good card on the day. Beyond its use in the Donphan matchup, it provides a threat to take 2 Prizes against any low HP Basic: this could be in Night March, Raichu, Flareon, anything with Bats, and more. Interestingly enough, I ended up using Chilling Sigh more times than Tri Edge and the Sleep was relevant in at least one scenario! Articuno provided an out to opposing Suicunes and is the biggest reason why I think our list beats the Wailord-EX deck.
Mewtwo-EX was an MVP all day. As has been said, when no one is running Mewtwo, it is an amazing card. Mewtwo is an all-star in the mirror, against both Primal decks, and more. Turbo Bolting onto Mewtwo is a huge threat, as you can swing for up to 100 damage just from your Energy attachment on the following turn, so the opponent needs to be very careful with their Energy from that moment on.
I chose to not run a full set of Professor Juniper because of the lower counts of Manectric-EX and Ninetales in the deck. I found myself often discarding a Mega Manectric or Ninetales early on in the game which was never very fun. Running a second copy of Colress provided enough support and Colress was usually the Supporter of choice past turn three or four anyway. Shaymin-EX gave me a good enough early game that I felt comfortable with this Supporter line. Four N is great in a slower deck like this and double Lysandre is standard.
Oh boy is this card good. I will never forget watching Dylan Bryan use this card over and over and over again when he ran Manectric/Aegislash, and I had some similar experiences with the card. This is something you will VS Seeker for multiple times throughout the course of a tournament. Whether it’s mitigating Bench damage on Shaymins or Mewtwos, healing your Manectric out of 2HKO range after an attack, or getting out of an unlucky Laser flip against Seismitoad-EX, this card truly has a lot of utility.
The Tools. I always felt three Spirit Link was enough in this deck, though there were times where we talked about a fourth just to help with the clunkiness of running a Mega deck. I believe two Muscle Band was the optimal play for our list, allowing Articuno to do some dirty things, Mewtwo-EX to hit that extra boost it needed to get a 1HKO, and occasionally being played on Manectrics to help with math (in particular, Manectric-EX with Assault Laser).
I played a single copy of each Switch and Escape Rope for a long time, but eventually took the Escape Rope out for the more consistent of the two options. Too often I felt myself wanting to attack the Active and being forced to Escape Rope out my Active Suicune, Articuno, or Mewtwo-EX. Escape Rope is only better in the Donphan and Groudon matchups I think. Perhaps a Float Stone over the second Switch would have been more correct.
I discussed the power of Enhanced Hammer a bit earlier and I still think it was a strong call for the metagame. You beat DCE decks by punishing them for attaching to a Benched Pokémon in anticipation for N, Knocking Out their Stadium, playing N, and finally KOing their Active (which presumably has Energy as well). One turn that resembles this will spell victory for you.
This card is broken in this deck and I often thought about dropping an Energy for a second one. Opening Letter/Ultra Ball in your hand is one of the best combinations of cards you could see. In a deck with more than one Energy type, this is incredible.
I opted to play this at the last minute and don’t totally regret my decision. In most matchups, Max Potion is somewhere between just okay and a dead card. In the mirror matchup, it is the most valuable card you can have. I didn’t anticipate as much mirror as there was, so I had a tough time dealing with the lists that ran multiple copies of this card.
This should always be your go-to ACE SPEC if you’re not sure what to run, but Computer Search is particularly good in this deck for a couple reasons. First, this is a setup deck and can be a bit clunky at times. The ability to search any card out to complete the combo is quite strong; for example, if you have Manectric Spirit Link in hand with a Manectric-EX on the Bench, you can Computer Search for the Mega, or vice versa. Second, discarding two cards synergizes well with Turbo Bolt, as you want Energy in the discard pile to more quickly charge up other attackers.
5 Lightning, 4 Water, 2 Double Colorless
Throughout testing, I always felt like 11 Energy was the right amount for a Manectric deck. Another Lightning would have been preferred, but I don’t think you can cut below 4 Water when you’re running Articuno, which takes the silly double Water cost. Two copies of Double Colorless allowed us to have it on Mewtwo when we needed it most, while still providing a first turn attachment on Manectric in many scenarios. And of course, Suicune becomes much easier to attack with, since it cannot be Turbo Bolted to.
Back in the Binder: Tested but Omitted Cards
Seismitoad-EX: Especially when we decided to run DCE in the deck, this card came up in conversation a couple of times. The consensus was just that it didn’t have a specific enough use to warrant inclusion, despite it being a phenomenal card.
Skyla: Another Supporter that just felt too slow any time I played it.
Trainers’ Mail: To deal with the clunkiness of needing Spirit Links, we tried Trainers’ Mail for a bit. In any deck besides Night March, Trainers’ Mail has always just okay to me — never bad and never great. I don’t want to play okay cards; I want to play good ones.
Battle Compressor: Any straight Manectric deck should probably run this, but this is not a straight Manectric deck. We had our tech attackers which took up space and we couldn’t fit this card in.
In hindsight the only changes I would make would be to find room for another Max Potion or two, since Manectric was everywhere on the day.
Short Leash: Tournament Recap
Unfortunately, I ended up going a disappointing 5-4 on the day. My matchups:
R1: Primal Groudon-EX – L
R2: M Manectric-EX/Suicune PLB – W
R3: Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX – WW
R4: Night March – LL
R5: Primal Kyogre-EX – WW
R6: Yveltal-EX – WW
R7: M Manectric-EX/Ninetales PRC – L
R8: Yveltal-EX – WW
R9: Wailord-EX – L
It was a bit disappointing to get paired against one of the few Groudons in the tournament in the first round, though I played an epic Game 1 against Stefan which took nearly the entire 50 minutes. I was able to get a quick start and deal damage to some Groudon-EXs. Eventually he was forced to attack with Groudon on my Suicune before I played Ninetales and Mewtwo-EX on the same turn, allowing Mewtwo-EX to threaten a return KO on his Groudon-EX, and he couldn’t Lysandre/Stadium for the 1HKO. He was forced to retreat, which gave me a lot of time to set up and take some Prizes. He ran multiple Robo Substitute which kept him in the game. Wobbufett came Active at some point so he could play a Stadium and eventually he got the Lysandre + KO. It came down to me needing to hit a Lysandre or VS Seeker off of a couple of N’s to 2 with about 10 cards left in my deck. I didn’t get it in the few turns I needed it, so Stefan was able to finish me off.
Night March got T1 180 on me both games and I got slow starts. Game 1 I could have made a comeback had I hit a Stadium to Knock Out his last Dimension Valley off of a Colress for 10, but I whiffed. My third loss was to Ryan Sabelhaus, who ran a similar albeit less teched version of this deck. I’m sure him or his brother will discuss their list and tournament in an article soon, but suffice to say he ran multiple Max Potion and I did not. My final loss to Wailord was comical, and I’m sure if I knew what I was doing before the match I would have emerged victorious. I was already out at that point, though, so I wasn’t too worried about it.
Some of my wins were interesting too. The Yveltal games were closer than you might have thought — they both ran LaserBank and Seismitoads which kept them very much a threat. Against Kyogre, I just barely eeked out Game 1 and Game 2 I ended up decking him by KOing a Keldeo-EX and continually Lysandre-ing things up.
I’m not sure of everyone else’s final records, but everyone that ran the list finished positive on the day. Unfortunately, Sam Chen was the only one of us who advanced to Day 2, where he finished 19th overall. Raymond Cipoletti will discuss his run with the deck in a future article.
And so ends my Manectric-EX experiment. I found it interesting that many different groups of good players came to Nationals with a Manectric variant. Alex Krekeler and Mike Natto also ran Manectric/Ninetales (Alex made Day 2), as did the Sabelhaus brothers (Ryan made Day 2). Other groups played Manectric/Garbodor, which clearly did well (see Grant Manley’s Top 4 finish), and still others ran Manectric/Empoleon, which saw success in Dean Nezam. For all of the Manectric played by good players, I can’t help but feel like the results were a bit underwhelming — maybe we made a good call on the day, but perhaps not.
The ultimate question is, knowing what I know now, would I play the same list again? I think the answer is no, but close — I would look to fit in one or two more Max Potion in preparation for the mirror. Other than that, I think every card served its purpose throughout the day (except maybe Articuno, since I didn’t play against any Donphan or Fighting/Crobat). Overall, I’m happy with where the deck ended up.
In any case, M Manectric-EX will play a bigger role in preparation for Worlds than for US Nationals. No longer is it a Tier 2 or fringe deck — it is certainly on everyone’s radar again, or at least it should be. The deck does not have many weak matchups and it can compensate for those with a myriad of tech cards. I will continue to explore other options going into Worlds, but I will keep Manectric in my back pocket.
Unexpectedly Good: US Nationals Results Discussion
While I’m not going to go in depth on any other one deck from this past weekend, I do want to touch on some of the interesting decks that popped up. Pokémon posted the Top 8 decks from Juniors, Seniors, and Masters, so check them out before reading below.
The big story of the weekend, Wailord-EX/Suicune PLB, took Nationals by storm this year, quite literally “breaking” the format. With only six players piloting the deck, one came in second, one finished ninth, another made it to Day 2, and the other three did not advance past the first day. Utilizing Wailord’s insanely high HP, Suicune’s Safeguard Ability, and max counts of all the best healing cards available to us, Wailord attempts to run the opponent out of resources and eventually win by decking the opponent out. The interesting thing about this deck compared to other “deck out” decks (think Durant) is that Wailord does not actively attempt to deck out the opponent. Indeed, the Wailord player simply attempts to play less cards than the opponent, denying Prizes and/or creating an unwinnable game state, until the opposing player has no choice but to deck out.
Some of the card choices are trivial (Max Potion, AZ, Cassius), but some are not. Let’s look at some of the interesting cards these guys decided to play. Silent Lab certainly seems out of place in a deck like this: you run Suicune, why would you want to shut off Safeguard — the only reason you play the card in the first place?! In order to best understand this, we also need to consider some other other cards: namely, Lysandre, Xerosic, and Startling Megaphone. One of the ways a deck like Metal can beat Wailord is to get out a couple of Bronzongs, an attacker (Dialga-EX or Heatran PHF usually), and a Keldeo-EX (often with a Float Stone). Bronzong prevents the Wailord player from Flare Grunting all of their Energy away and Keldeo ensures that a Bronzong will not be locked in the Active Spot. Silent Lab totally nullifies this strategy if the Metal player is not careful with their Stadiums! A Lysandre on a Bronzong + Silent Lab can outright end the game against Metal, which is quite scary. Xerosic and Startling Megaphone help this strategy a bit — and even more so against decks that can’t recycle Energy, because Metal can put two Energy on Keldeo so it can retreat anyway. You have to be very careful what you bench against Wailord for this reason.
Hugh is another interesting card choice. It’s SUCH a bad card! However, it forces the opponent to be constantly aware of their hand size and make sure it doesn’t get too much bigger than the Wailord player’s. Similarly, by Wailord playing N, opponents need to make sure they don’t have too many less cards than the Wailord player.
Lastly, Trick Shovel is a neat addition. You might think the deck should run multiple copies of this card in order to mill the opponent’s deck, but the card is actually a 1-for-1 and doesn’t give the Wailord player any card advantage. Indeed, the only reason I can see for it being played is for two scenarios: when the opponent tries to get greedy with their N’s or Colresses toward the end of the game and draws until their last card, and more specifically, if opponents run any of the Fossil Pokémon to prevent deck out!
The Trick Shovel point brings up a basic premise of this deck: Wailord attempts to gain card advantage over the opponent by simply making them play more cards. This is why Cassius, AZ, and Max Potion are so good: They often force the opponent to play 3, 4, 5, or more cards in order to get enough damage before healing it all off. Cards such as a Trick Shovel have you play 1 card to get rid of 1 card — an even trade. This is also why you should keep your hand size as close to the Wailord player’s as possible, so their Hughs hurt both of you equally and their N’s replenish your deck the same amount (if you can score some Prizes over the course of the game, then each N benefits you even more).
I think that many decks can beat Wailord for this reason. Raichu decks can swing for 120 damage a turn, without Sky Field, plus Bat damage. This puts a lot of pressure on the Wailord player to constantly have healing and/or Energy denial. I discussed how Metal can beat it already. Manectric decks can wait until they get two Mega Manectrics and a non-EX out and cycle through them, Turbo Bolting back Energy if it gets discarded. Seismitoad can go a long way, as we saw Jason take 5 Prizes in each of the two games against it. I know Max Armitage beat it in Swiss with Seismitoad/Crobat. I haven’t thought too much about other decks, but I’m sure some of them can find winning strategies against Wailord without changing their decks at all.
Of course, Wailord can also be beaten by putting in some tech cards. A single copy of Bunnelby PRC 121 in almost anything (provided you don’t prize it!) should give you an easy match against Wailord. Both of Bunnelby’s attacks are wonderful against Wailord: you should always shuffle back Energy in, so you can continue to use Bunnelby’s attacks, and whenever there is not something you want back from the discard, you can mill the Wailord itself! This will ensure that the Wailord player decks before you do. Fighting decks can run Regirock XY49 to ensure victory over Wailord because of its Delta Trait and the fact that it’s a non-EX. By loading 4 Strong Energy on it, you are guaranteed to hit 140 damage, with a 50% chance of 180, putting lots of pressure on Wailord. Those Strongs can’t be discarded and eventually you will win.
Wailord was a brilliant deck to play in a format with Lysandre’s Trump Card. It will be interesting to see how much of a threat players will perceive it to be come Worlds. Will it be the Pyroar of last year? Time will tell.
Amidst the Wailord hype, the number one deck after two days of Swiss rounds was lost in the wind a bit. Dylan Bryan piloted yet another rogue deck to a stellar finish with his Klinklang/Bronzong deck, only losing to Jason in a difficult matchup. I know at least two other players ran the same list as Dylan and missed Day 2, and a third player — Brandon Cantu — ran a similar but different list to a Top 32 finish. Dylan will get a chance to talk about his deck in a couple of weeks, so I won’t talk too much about his card choices, but I do want to look at why the deck was successful and how it will impact the format going forward.
Klinklang is an extremely powerful card in this format. With many of the top decks running Pokémon-EX as their main attackers, being able to stop them from attacking can lead to an easy victory. Thus, if it gets set up — and that is the big if — you can completely shut the opponent out of games. Without a doubt, the deck is clunky, but Dylan’s list looked to overcome this weakness by running two Shaymin-EX ROS as well as a Jirachi-EX, a full line of Supporters, a whopping six Ball cards, and of course, Computer Search. Teammates is an interesting choice for a Supporter in a deck where you ideally want a board which prevents the opponent from taking Prizes. However, the deck doesn’t mind giving up 2, 3, or 4 Prizes on its way there, so Teammates makes sense to help the setup. With VS Seeker, this reminds me a bit of The Truth — go down in Prizes in order to use Teammates, set up, and create an untouchable game state for your opponent. The inclusion of Teammates allows you to run the single copy of Rare Candy.
In addition, the deck runs Aegislash-EX, which further limits the cards the opponent can use to attack. Many non-EX attackers rely on DCE: Raichu and Night March Pokémon in particular. With so many ways to shut down your opponent’s attacking abilities, the deck is truly disruptive against most decks in the format. When playing this deck, it is important to be careful of how many Shaymin-EX you play down, as these are easy Prizes in a deck where your goal is to not give up any Prizes in the late game. Using Sky Return with Shaymin is an important strategy in many decks, but in this one in particular.
Out of all of the top decks, Seismitoad/Garbodor is the only one that I can think of right now that has a positive matchup against Klinklang. By shutting off both Plasma Steel and Mighty Shield, the Seismitoad player is able to attack into any Pokémon. On top of that, Seismitoad preys on clunky decks, further slowing them down. With that in mind, Seismitoad/Crobat and Trevenant/Gengar can also give this deck a hard time, especially if they run Silent Lab. Straight Metal decks with multiple Heatran could go toe to toe with this variant as well. Most other decks will have a tough time dealing with Klinklang once it is set up.
As you prepare for Worlds, make sure you are keeping this deck in mind. It may not be played a lot (though it might!), but it is something you should be prepared to see. With only a couple of shaky matchups, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good chunk of players flock to something like this.
The final curveball in the Nationals top cut was piloted by Eduardo Gonzalez, who has apparently been refining his deck for most of the season. Though I’m not sure, I would be surprised if anyone else ran the deck in the entire tournament! My buddy Bob Zhang talked to me about the deck the week before Nationals, and I didn’t even give it a second thought.
I won’t pretend to know much about the deck beyond the list, so most of my analysis will be based simply off looking at that. In theory, Hippowdon’s attack is strong right now against any EX-based deck, in similar ways to Klinklang: Without an Escape Rope AND a Lysandre, it will be impossible for the EX player to attack the Hippowdon. I imagine the Hippowdon player needs to be extremely conscious of their Bench — even more so than a Klinklang player — as each Lysandre the opponent uses can be a Prize or two. An EX deck can wipe away Hippowdon’s Bench until there is nothing left and THEN use their one or two non-EX attackers to take down the hippo. Hippowdon doesn’t do a ton of damage, so it may only 3HKO or 4HKO many Pokémon-EX, giving the EX player some time to execute their strategy.
On the other hand, Eduardo ran a lot of disruption in his list in order to slow down other decks — Seismitoad-EX, Xerosic, Enhanced Hammer, Silent Lab, Hard Charm, Lasers, and more — on top of Resistance Desert. This can give him a lot of leeway in matchups where he might be slower than other decks, or prevent a non-Pokémon-EX from getting powered up to wreak havoc on Hippowdown.
Going into Worlds, I would play around with this deck. It doesn’t seem like an easy deck to pilot, but in a competent player’s hands it can certainly beat most of the format. If the opponent does not run Escape Rope, the matchup swings even more in your favor. I know I will be giving the hippo a shot, even just to see how it runs. Lastly, I would note not to play the deck a few games and then dismiss it if you are not winning — you may simply not be playing the deck correctly.
The Resource War: A Hidden Game of Attrition
After the Trump Card ban, we heard a lot about how “resource management” is back and that it will add skill back into the game. This has largely been true, but I want to extend that a bit: We are now in a resource war. Decks like Wailord and Bunnelby (a deck ran by some notable Florida players — perhaps another writer will touch on it in a future article) sought to capitalize on the lack of recovery in the format by slowly but surely running the opponent out of their resources while keeping their deck saturated.
Without me even realizing it, I gravitated toward a deck — Mega Manectric — that played this resource war in a different way: getting back Energy cards. Each deck seeks to fight this resource war in its own unique way: Manectric and Bronzong via Energy recovery, Seismitoad-EX by locking the opponent out of resources and slowly dismantling them, Donphan by forcing countless Lysandres, et cetera, et cetera. I think players that don’t take into account how to beat each deck via exploiting their resource strategies will have a tough time at Worlds.
US Nationals, as per the usual, was a blast. We saw the smoothest Nationals ever ran, the GOAT add to his trophy collection, and a ton of interesting decks pop up to shake up the metagame before Worlds. I have some opinions on how to continue to make the event and the season even better, but I haven’t been this excited in the direction of the game in a long, long time. The Worlds structure has been so successful that I would be shocked to see any drastic changes from TPCi next season.
Speaking of Worlds, as of today, I believe there are over 450 players qualified for Day 1 in Masters, which will make it extremely hard to qualify for Day 2, especially when you have to play against some of the world’s best. You will need to pick a consistent deck that has solid matchups across the board — because with over 450 participants, I guarantee that you will see a little bit of everything.
So do your homework. Read articles. Playtest. Talk with friends. This format is wide open and anything could do well. As for me, I’ll be looking for “The Truth.”
Till next time,
P.S. As a teacher, I have the summers off! If you are interested in coaching at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out, as I will be very available for the next month or so.
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