US Nationals are three weeks in the rearview mirror and players are now in the thick of testing for Worlds. My Nationals experience was pretty crazy though, so I’d like to give it a brief mention. (For a full recap, check out my video report.) The week leading up to US Nationals I was hoping to get a lot of post-Canadian Nationals testing in, but unfortunately I ended up sleep deprived and swamped with lab reports from my summer class that was ending the day before I flew out to Indianapolis.
I was so disorganized and unprepared that I actually forgot to pack clothes when planning to travel. Luckily, I have some awesome friends, so I was able to borrow some clothes, bum some cards, and Top 8 Nationals with a deck I had never played prior to the event! I want to give a huge shout-out to both Russell LaParre and Chris Taporco for lending me a few dress shirts, Johnny Rabus for the Klinklang list, Ryan Sabelhaus for lending me most of the cards I was missing, and everybody who helped me test for Day 2 and Day 3! Outside of playing, I had an awesome time meeting tons of new people, hanging out with friends I only see a couple of times a year, and playing Resistance with the California crew on Sunday!
With Worlds approaching, the first logical step is to look at the results from US Nationals. In my last article, I discussed a ton of different archetypes because the format was just so wide open and there were so many viable decks. This was definitely illustrated with eight unique decks in the Top 8 of Masters. While it’s great to see diversity, these results have left many players stumped when it comes to taking the next step in testing for Worlds.
At this point, simply copy-and-pasting all the decklists that made Top 8 with a few words about each wouldn’t be very helpful. Most players are already stuck at the point of playtesting these lists in order to understand how they interact with other decks in the metagame and to see why they were so successful. Instead, I’ll start by breaking down my US Nationals deck, discuss my stance on the superior Seismitoad variant, go into the dilemma Klinklang and Seismitoad/Garbodor pose to the metagame, and finally mention a couple of underappreciated decks that have potential heading into Worlds.
While I wasn’t as prepared for US Nationals as I would have liked, choosing to play Klinklang wasn’t an accident and I still had a solid grasp on the format thanks to my pre-Canadian Nationals testing. I arrived at US Nationals expecting a ton of Raichu, but it seemed like the majority of players were afraid of Raichu and wanted to make sure their deck could beat it instead. I saw a bunch of Metal variants, Manectric, some Landorus/Crobat, some Seismitoad, and heard whispers about Kyogre potentially seeing play. After finding Kyogre/Ninetales too clunky and testing some Flygon variants with Russell LaParre, it was 4 AM and I still didn’t have a deck to play.
I had talked to Johnny about Klinklang a month prior to US Nationals and gave him some suggestions for the list after playing three games against it with Night March. Johnny seemed confident in the deck after perfecting it the past month and the more I thought about it, Klinklang seemed to fare well against the majority of decks people seemed to be playing. Johnny was awesome and gave me the decklist, so after some late-night theorymon I decided to take the plunge with an untested deck, changed two cards, and ended up with this:
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 28
Energy – 10
The Pokémon lines in this deck are very hard to decide on. There are so many Pokémon that you want to include, but you quickly find yourself running out of deck space. The idea behind the deck was to have two alternative strategies; you either wanted to win by eliminating all of your opponent’s Pokémon-EX and establishing a Klinklang, or by establishing Bronzong in order to quickly charge up Metal attackers that trade favorably with non-EX decks.
Following this logic, we had to strike a balance between a thick enough Klinklang line and a thick enough Bronzong line with limited deck space. We needed to be able to establish Klinklang consistently when under pressure from EX decks and a potential Lysandre, while also being able to quickly establish other Metal attackers with Bronzong when facing non-EX decks.
It didn’t really matter which attacker we used against EX decks. As long as our attacker was Metal, we’d win eventually since our Pokémon are untouchable. This meant whichever Metal attacker we chose should give us the best chance at beating non-EX decks. Since the most threatening non-EX decks were Raichu and Night March, Aegislash-EX was the clear choice in order to capitalize on their reliance on Double Colorless Energy. Three copies of Aegislash-EX may seem like overkill, but it’s essential to use two Aegislash in these matchups and running exactly two makes it more difficult to draw both of them and runs the risk of having bad Prizes. Heatran acts as a Safeguard counter, an answer to opposing Heatran, as well as an answer to the few Donphan decks still running around.
Setting Up: “Bronzor or Klink?”
A common mistake I see in a deck like Klinklang, which runs so many Pokémon, is that many players don’t know which Pokémon to go for with the initial Ultra Ball. Many players incorrectly go for Klink in every matchup.
As a general rule, I think it’s correct to search for multiple copies of Klink early against EX decks that have virtually no answer to Klinklang. However, in nearly every other matchup I would rather try and search for one or two Bronzor first.
It’s of no use to establish a fast Klinklang against a deck with enough non-EX attackers to play around Plasma Steel if you don’t have the support from Bronzong in order to produce attackers. Going for Bronzong initially allows you to function as a slightly subpar Metal deck in the beginning, with the option to severely limit your opponent’s attackers with Klinklang after they’ve taken a couple of Prizes. This forces your opponent into a lose-lose position as they now have to ignore your attackers and draw Lysandre to take a single Prize on a Benched Klinklang, or they are forced to use suboptimal attackers for the remainder of the game.
One of the original issues when building Klinklang is that the Klinklang line makes the deck too clunky. You need to run an engine that can consistently set up the deck quickly in matchups where establishing a Klinklang doesn’t simply net you a free win. Our solution to this was to play 2 Shaymin-EX, 2 Sky Field, and 2 Repeat Ball.
The Shaymin-EX and Sky Field combination allows you to go off and quickly establish a Bench of 7 or 8 Pokémon, ideally with a couple of Klink, a couple of Bronzor, and a couple of attackers. When your opponent counters your Sky Field in order to take advantage of their own Stadium, you can simply discard the Shaymin-EXs from play, essentially eliminating the 2-Prize downside. There is also the option to AZ or Sky Return in order to remove Shaymin-EX from play if your opponent is stubborn and refuses to play a Stadium.
Another common mistake I see with the deck is not dropping Sky Field at the correct time. When playing Klinklang, you really want to be dropping Sky Field on the turn you plan on filling up your Bench with 7 or 8 Pokémon. This way, you can easily achieve an optimal Bench and discard your excess Shaymin-EXs and Jirachi-EX. By dropping Sky Field and ending the turn with four or five Benched Pokémon, it’s very likely that your Stadium will be countered. Since this deck requires a lot of Bench space, you will be under a lot of pressure to draw the only other Sky Field in the deck in order to abuse Shaymin-EX and Jirachi-EX, or you will be forced to set up an otherwise clunky deck without them in order to have Bench space.
Repeat Ball is insane with the way the Pokémon line is built. If you’re trying to go off the turn you play Sky Field and Shaymin-EX, Repeat Ball grabs the second Shaymin-EX to keep going. In matchups against EX decks, Repeat Ball helps you bench at least two Klink in the same turn in order to play around your lone Klink getting targeted by Lysandre. Repeat Ball helps you get away with only three Bronzor as you can find the second Bronzor quickly in order to establish at least two Bronzong, which is enough in most matchups. It also synergizes with running multiple copies of the same Metal attackers, compared to some of the straight Metal decks that run a lot of 1-of tech attackers.
The single copy of Rare Candy seems odd, but it actually combos very well with Teammates and Jirachi-EX. Two copies of Repeat Ball make it very easy to establish two Klink in one turn against EX-based decks. When your opponent inevitably has to Knock Out one of your Pokémon, you can then Ultra Ball for Jirachi-EX for Teammates and immediately grab Rare Candy and Klinklang. Being solely reliant on Klang in order to evolve into Klinklang would make the deck too vulnerable to Lysandre.
Teammates is also a useful card throughout the game, whereas running multiple copies of Rare Candy would lead to multiple dead cards once Klinklang is set up or in matchups where Klinklang doesn’t make a big impact. It’s important to keep the deck as consistent as possible since we’re already throwing a Stage 2 line into a Stage 1 Metal deck.
After playing the deck at Nationals, the deck ran perfectly, but it wasn’t built with Seismitoad/Garbodor in mind at all. Seismitoad/Garbodor poses a threat to Klinklang as it can remove Energy with Crushing Hammer while using Garbodor to prevent the Klinklang player from getting the Energy back with Bronzong. Quaking Punch also blocks the use of VS Seeker, which makes it very difficult to Lysandre both of the opposing Garbodor. Therefore, the only changes I would make would be an attempt to make this matchup more playable. I haven’t found a magic fix yet, but there are a few cards that certainly improve the matchup.
Aegislash-EX or Heatran can be replaced by different attackers that are more beneficial against Seismitoad/Garbodor, but make the deck vulnerable to bad prizing. Dropping Repeat Ball or Shaymin-EX obviously hurt consistency, but everything else in the deck feels essential.
Option 1: Cobalion-EX
Cobalion allows you to pressure an early Seismitoad-EX by discarding its Double Colorless Energy. It also doubles as a Safeguard counter and is about just as impactful as Aegislash-EX when facing an opposing Metal deck as they both deal 100 damage for three M Energy. The problem is that Cobalion-EX is much better against Seismitoad-EX when going first, compared to going second. If the opposing Seismitoad player opens with a Seismitoad and a W Energy going first, Cobalion-EX applies essentially no pressure as the Seismitoad player can Quaking Punch the following turn with two basic Energy.
However, when going first and drawing a Float Stone, it puts your opponent in an awkward spot if they want to Quaking Punch with a Double Colorless Energy on the first turn. They either have to delay Quaking Punch for a turn and attach a basic Energy, or they have to deal with every Double Colorless Energy getting discarded.
Option 2: Mewtwo-EX NXD
Mewtwo-EX allows you to trade with a Seismitoad-EX for less Energy by utilizing Double Colorless Energy. While this seems like I’m just stating the obvious, one of the big issues the Klinklang player has is that your attackers need three Energy in order to trade with Seismitoad-EX effectively. If the Seismitoad player has Garbodor established, they can break the Item lock for one turn and use Grenade Hammer. This effectively removes all the Klinklang player’s Energy from play.
Even with a turn of Items, there is really no way the Klinklang player can respond without the use of Metal Links and Plasma Steel. Mewtwo-EX gives the deck the option to fight back for a single Energy, especially against an opposing Seismitoad-EX that has committed extra Energy in order to utilize Grenade Hammer.
Option 3: Xerosic
Xerosic allows you to remove the Float Stone from Garbodor in order to use Abilities for a turn. While again stating the obvious, with two Bronzong established Xerosic can essentially act as a Blacksmith but with M Energy. Since the Seismitoad/Garbodor player’s main win condition is to remove all the Klinklang player’s Energy with Crushing Hammer and by simply Knocking Out the Pokémon with Energy attached, Xerosic can catch your opponent off guard by charging up a second Aegislash-EX to finish the game.
Despite Seismitoad/Garbodor having a strong Klinklang matchup and winning US Nationals, I actually believe it was one of the weaker Seismitoad variants heading into the event, which is why I chose to disregard it when making my deck choice. While the deck can steal wins by flipping an above-average amount of heads on Crushing Hammer, it has a ton of matchups that are very uphill.
Seismitoad/Garbodor has virtually no way to touch a Primal Groudon-EX with four Energy, it can’t deal with a Kyogre deck that sets up with Rough Seas, it struggles with a Manectric deck that also sets up with Rough Seas, Garbodor is dead in the Seismitoad mirror, etc. And of course, to take down our hero Wailord in the finals, the deck had to take advantage of the current time rules against an opponent without a watch or a sense of time.
The only reason to play this Seismitoad/Garbodor at Worlds over a different Seismitoad variant would be if you expected to face multiple Klinklang variants throughout the event.
So which Seismitoad variant is the best? I think Seismitoad/Manectric/Crobat is the best positioned in the current format. Manectric is about as impactful as Garbodor when facing the Bronzong variants without Klinklang. In every other matchup, the option to utilize Manectric and Crobat vastly outweighs the utility of Garbodor. Kristy Britton had a great run with the deck at US Nationals, only losing in Top 8 due to dead-drawing twice. The only change I’ve made in my current build from her list was dropping the fourth Seismitoad-EX for a Skyla in order to search out Rock Guard and other situational Trainers more consistently:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 36
Energy – 8
Rock Guard is insane in this deck and often plays a large role in the deck’s victories. In Seismitoad mirror, Quaking Punch paired with Rock Guard is nearly unbeatable, as the opposing Seismitoad player will take more damage than they deal to you every time they attack. The Rock Guard damage sets up the common 170 HP and 180 HP Pokémon-EX for knockouts with Manectric-EX’s Assault Laser. Rock Guard Knocks Out the low HP Night March Pokémon and puts Raichu in range of being Knocked Out by a single Crobat drop. It also puts Groudon in a troublesome position, as it’s very easy to Knock Out a Groudon with Assault Laser after it’s been worn down from Golbat and Crobat damage in addition to the 60 from Rock Guard.
“How does this deck beat Metal?”
While the Metal matchup certainly isn’t an auto-win, many players seem to struggle with the lack of Garbodor to shut off Bronzong’s Metal Links Ability. The most common mistake these players are usually making is tunnel visioning too much on using Quaking Punch with Seismitoad-EX. It’s often correct to break the Item lock and use Manectric-EX’s Assault Laser to deal with the opposing Metal player’s Pokémon-EX that are troublesome for Seismitoad-EX. Playing Crobat and Manectric-EX rather than Crushing Hammers and Garbodor often allows you to break the Item lock earlier in general once you have a clear route on how to take 6 Prizes.
Constantly looking for opportunities and evaluating when to break from the Item lock strategy in order to take advantage of Manectric-EX’s higher damage output is essential to using this deck to its fullest potential.
The deck unfortunately runs a thinner Crobat line due to being tight on deck space and can run into some situations where you are forced to discard critical copies of Golbat or Crobat on the first turn with Professor Sycamore. While it’s certainly safer to run one of these options, I’m not sure the extra insurance against bad discards wins you more games than Skyla wins you by grabbing Rock Guard.
My argument against including these cards in my build at the moment isn’t that they’re bad, but I don’t think either of them win enough games to warrant a spot over the other 60 cards in the deck.
Bunnelby is likely this deck’s best chance at beating Wailord. While I don’t think Wailord will see a tremendous amount of play at Worlds, Bunnelby is an easy fix to an otherwise bad matchup if it becomes popular at the last minute for whatever reason. I’d rather use the more consistent list for testing purposes, since tech cards like Bunnelby can be decided after you’ve finalized your deck choice.
The Grounding Force
To recap, Klinklang is one of the strongest decks in the format and it is really only kept in check by Seismitoad/Garbodor. There’s really no incentive to run random Fire decks, as these would also lose to Seismitoad/Garbodor and then you might as well be playing Klinklang yourself if you’re willing to accept that bad matchup. There are quite a few decks that destroy Seismitoad/Garbodor, but unfortunately all of these decks lose to Klinklang with their current builds.
Manectric-EX variants are inherently strong against Seismitoad/Garbodor as they can recover Energy with Turbo Bolt and nullify Seismitoad-EX’s damage with Rough Seas. Mike Fouchet discussed this deck in detail based off of his Nationals experience. Wailord crushes any Seismitoad/Garbodor deck unwilling to tech Bunnelby as we saw at US Nationals. Seismitoad/Garbodor just doesn’t have the damage output to apply enough pressure to the Wailord player, while the Wailord player can eventually discard all the Toad’s Energy with Team Flare Grunt and Xerosic, resulting in a slow and painful deck out. Kyogre decks run a ton of Energy and can attach two per turn thanks to the Ancient Trait, making it very difficult to discard all of the Energy attached to Kyogre. Rough Seas and 240 HP also makes it nearly impossible for Seismitoad/Garbodor to deal with once it sets up.
However, I believe Groudon is actually the strongest deck in a metagame with an above-average amount of Seismitoad/Garbodor and a below-average amount of Klinklang.
The main reason being is that Groudon has a favorable matchup against Wailord, Manectric, and Kyogre, which are all decks that would also thrive in the same metagame. I feel that Kyogre is the only arguable matchup, but if Groudon sits on the Bench with a Hard Charm in order to reduce damage the Bench damage from Tidal Storm, it’s only a matter of time before the Groudon player draws enough Strong Energy to consistently 1-shot Kyogre, even if the Kyogre has a Hard Charm attached.
My current list is largely based off of what Stefan Tabaco successfully piloted to the Top 16 of US Nationals:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 38
Energy – 11
Groudon is one of the slower decks in the format and takes a few turns to charge up with its Energy-intensive attack cost. This means that the deck has to send up Pokémon to sacrifice while Groudon is immune to Lysandre on the Bench. Pre-Trump Card ban, Groudon decks often ran four copies of Wobbuffet because it doubled as a way to slow down the widespread use of Shaymin-EX. While Wobbuffet is still a strong card to slow the opponent down, it’s not as critical to start with in the current format compared to before. This means that we can easily run a tech non-Pokémon-EX, such as Bunnelby, in place of the fourth Wobbuffet without any real repercussions.
Bunnelby’s main function is to recycle resources back into the deck. This could be the result of a bad Professor Sycamore discard, or simply to recycle Silent Lab against a deck heavily reliant on Safeguard or Aegislash-EX. If these cards spike in popularity, the Groudon player could always play a third copy of Silent Lab in place of one of the other Stadiums for extra insurance. Bunnelby being a hard counter to mill decks is really just an added bonus.
Pokémon Center Lady has a huge impact in a Groudon deck, especially with Hard Charm. Very often, you can deny your opponent a 2-shot on Groudon by healing 60 damage. In addition, the Seismitoad/Crobat deck often tries to build a ton of damage on the Benched Groudon with Golbat and Crobat while using Quaking Punch. Pokémon Center Lady heals a majority of this damage so that Groudon can ideally Knock Out two Pokémon-EX before getting Knocked Out in return.
The problem with playing so many copies of Robo Substitute is that normally your opponent is able to Lysandre around them. However, with a board containing Wobbuffet, multiple Robo Substitute, and Groudon, there isn’t much that your opponent can do other than Knock Out Robo Substitute every turn. This gives you plenty of time to set up one or two Groudon, depending on the matchup, without worrying about giving up too many Prizes.
Following this logic, the deck doesn’t really need more than two copies of Mega Turbo. With so many turns to build up Groudon, there’s plenty of time to attach one Energy at a time. Robo Substitute gives you an extra turn to attach an Energy, while Mega Turbo accelerates an extra Energy for the turn. While this seems like a small difference, Mega Turbo comes with the condition that you have to discard the Energy first.
In addition, you can bench Robo Substitute at any time, but you can’t benefit from any copies of Mega Turbo in your opening hand; you have to evolve to Primal Groudon first. An extra turn from Robo Substitute also means an extra turn to find a crucial Pokémon Tool, Lysandre, or Stadium.
Night March, Raichu/Crobat, and Flareon
I’ve grouped all these Double Colorless-reliant non-EX decks together because they potentially gain momentum for the same reason heading into Worlds; all of these decks underperformed at US Nationals. With so many other decks to worry about, it’s quite possible that some, if not all, of these decks start to get written off when it comes to decks to prepare for as Worlds gets closer.
A lack of Crobat variants could lead to a resurgence of Night March decks, a Raichu deck that can answer Aegislash-EX could achieve tons of success, and even Flareon decks have a shot if it can overcome Seismitoad variants as well as its reliance on Double Colorless Energy against Aegislash.
Despite this deck making Top 8 at US Nationals out of nowhere, it seems to be getting lost in the discussion of Klinklang, Wailord, and Seismitoad/Garbodor. While I’m still experimenting with the deck myself, I think it has a ton of potential after playing it for a bit. Here is the Top 8 list for reference:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
The only card that I would consider swapping out at this point is perhaps Enhanced Hammer for either an extra consistency card or a tech Bunnelby for the Wailord matchup, which is what ended up knocking this deck out of US Nationals. Every other card has been relatively helpful during testing. A lot of players may look at the list and immediately dismiss the deck, so I’ll go into the strategy based on my experience thus far.
Similar to Klinklang, Hippowdon is a deck that has different strategies for different matchups. Against EX-based decks, the deck simply needs to use Resistance Desert while not benching too many Lysandre targets. You want to ensure that even if your opponent played Lysandre on every Benched Pokémon, they would still have to Knock Out Hippowdon for their last Prize. Pokémon Center Lady helps this lone Hippowdon survive Hypnotoxic Laser damage.
Seismitoad-EX variants are slightly more complicated as they can remove the Energy off of Hippowdon with hammers. The best way to keep Hippowdon safe from Hammers is to simply Item lock your opponent with your own Seismitoad-EX. Since your plan is to fight Seismitoad with Seismitoad, the two copies of Xerosic should give you the slight edge in the battle of Quaking Punches.
The Metal matchups seems to be difficult due to Heatran PHF (dealing 130 damage with Steam Blast) in addition to Aegislash-EX. The deck can easily counter Aegislash-EX with Silent Lab, and Hard Charm actually keeps Hippowdon safe against Metal variants without Muscle Band, such as Metal Rayquaza and Klinklang. Against a straight Metal deck, you are often in the clear with Hippowdon if you are able to target down your opponent’s Heatran quickly, but it’s certainly a closer matchup.
When facing Raichu variants, it’s impossible to trade Hippowdon for Raichu because Hippowdon is unfortunately too Energy intensive. Instead, the deck can attempt to trade with Raichu by using Landorus-EX and Hard Charm. The Hippowdon player can then Max Potion the damaged Landorus-EX, setting the Raichu back even farther.
I still have to test the deck more myself, but I don’t believe making Top 8 at US Nationals can be a complete fluke. This deck seems to have answers to everything if the it can set up consistent enough, so it’s definitely worth testing a bit heading into Worlds if you immediately discarded the deck.
While Virizion/Genesect has never been a deck I’ve ever been too fond of, it has finally fallen off the radar enough where it can be a sleeper play for Worlds. The main incentive to try picking up Virizion/Genesect is the fact that it’s capable of beating Seismitoad/Garbodor, Klinklang, Groudon, and Kyogre a majority of the time. I think the main problem with the deck is dealing with something like Raichu or M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76, as both these cards are capable of 1-shotting its 170 HP Pokémon. Raichu is a non-EX attacker, and thus trades 2 Prizes for 1 Prize, while Rayquaza has 230 HP, a hard number for Virizon/Genesect to reach.
I’m not sure what the perfect solutions to these problems are at this point, but my first attempt would involve pairing the deck with Raichu or Ninetales in tandem with Frozen City.
Raichu has cycled in and out of Virizion/Genesect over time and would provide the deck with a solid non-EX attacker that hits M Rayquaza-EX for Weakness. Ninetales and Frozen City were featured in Andrew Estrada’s Virizion/Genesect pre-Trump Card ban. Ninetales caps damage output of Raichu and Rayquaza variants, while locking the Stadium also provides a counter to both Silent Lab and Rough Seas. The Frozen City damage also makes it much easier to G Booster-KO an opposing M Rayquaza-EX.
I think Virizion/Genesect is definitely a deck to keep in mind when choosing a deck for Worlds. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be surprised if history repeats itself and we saw a creative Virizion/Genesect build in the finals after everybody thought the deck wouldn’t see much play.
I hope this article helps anybody playing in Worlds take the next step in their testing as well as give everybody a different perspective on the metagame. I’ve chosen to focus on the elaborating on the decks I feel have the most potential, rather than giving a brief rundown of the countless decks in the current format.
Writing between US Nationals and Worlds is always difficult; I know some players aren’t going to Worlds and want to hear about the new format, while other players are on the quest to become World Champion. I chose to write about the Worlds format as it’s what I’ve been focusing on and I’d rather wait for next year’s tournament structure to be announced before writing about the new format. It would be wasteful to write an article regarding XY-on if every Regional is Expanded and a new set comes out before City Championships. I’ll definitely have a ton of new format decks to talk about in my post-Worlds article next month as well as in upcoming videos, so be on the lookout for those!
I’m excited to see tons of friends I only get to see once a year in Boston and meet tons of new people as always! As always, I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments or from people that message me. Feel free to say hello if you see me around at Worlds and remember to give me a +1 if you enjoyed the article!
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