It’s been almost a month since I last wrote and frankly, most of what has happened within the Pokémon community has been covered by many of my fellow writers. I will briefly address many of these newer developments in the first portion of this article, but first I want to begin with some general thoughts I have been having recently.
To start, I find myself once again in a bit of a hypocritical situation. That is, for about three or so years now, I get to toward the end of the season and always begin to think that I do not want to play as much next season. Worlds will eventually roll around and I’ll bow out of the event with a lackluster finish, but watching the top cut unfold lights a fire within me that makes me want to grind through another season. I cannot be certain if this will happen again this year, but the more I’ve explored other games, the more I begin to think that Pokémon is where I belong.
I’ve been having a bit of trouble sleeping lately and one of my favorite things to do has been digging through old PokéGym and HeyTrainer tournament report threads and simply trying to engage in what players partaking in older formats were playing and thinking. It always gets me motivated to play and practice and I wholeheartedly recommend doing this for anyone who is interested in learning more about the history of the game or wants more firsthand accounts of playing at the highest level.
Time and time again, I write on the excellent player and what it takes to achieve such an illustrious title and deep down I know that I am far away from the title. I get discouraged, I make excuses, and I know that I could be playing better if I simply tried harder. As many of us know, it is very easy to get lost in the comfort of laziness and excuse making. Instead of holding ourselves more accountable, it is far easier to get in the habit of saying “I simply did not draw well enough” or “I just got unlucky the whole time.” Sometimes this could be the case, but assuredly, I believe that mistakes are more traceable to the individual rather than variance within the game. Even if you don’t notice mistakes at the time, it seems foolish to immediately conclude that any given loss was the result of poor luck.
When I play Hearthstone (something I’ve been playing more than Pokémon recently), I find that it is much easier for me to see how my losses are my own fault. Is this because the game is harder, because I am worse at it than I am at Pokémon, or because it’s easier for me to believe that I am capable of making mistakes in Hearthstone? I believe the answer is a combination of all these options! I’ve been playing Pokémon for so long that it’s hard for me to want think of myself as consistently fallible, but as I observe the results of players undoubtedly better than myself (Dylan Bryan, Jason Klazcynski, and so on), clearly they have something that I am lacking.
My thoughts here have once again brought me back to my favorite Confucius passage:
“Someone whose strength is genuinely insufficient collapses somewhere along the Way. As for you, you deliberately draw the line.” (Lunyu 6.12)
Moving toward being the best possible players requires us not to make excuses and not to get discouraged. If I want to be the best, I cannot allow myself to get brought down by desires not to play competitively and simply I must keep picking myself up and trying to pursue excellence until I am no longer able to do so. So essentially, my purpose in this opening tangent is to urge everyone else to do the same! Hold yourself more accountable, be more willing to take counsel from other players and understand that sometimes you can play perfectly and still lose every single game. It’s easy to get discouraged, but remember that the next Jason K. would never be discouraged.
Now, let’s get into the current buzz in the Pokémon world! As first mentioned, many other writers have already discussed this, so I do not want to go into great detail, but I would like to quickly address all of these current issues.
Having Regionals be played entirely in Expanded is an excellent idea and an improvement from what occurred last season. Almost all of the moans and groans I had heard about this issue were ridiculous and exclusively complaints and whining rather than constructive criticism. Grievances like “it’s too hard to test for two formats” should be laughed out of the conversation, as this is an embodiment of laziness and nothing else. Being good is not easy and by increasing the difficulty, players who actual strive to be their best and put effort into testing have a clear-cut advantage compared to those who have already drawn their line.
The main problem with Expanded in its first season of implementation was that it was not employed frequently enough to matter. A fair amount of Regionals did not receive the necessary attendance to have the extra five rounds of Swiss in Expanded (I think this change is still fine, but it seems to have gone away for now) and when only eight players get to participate in this new format, it is a contest of metagaming rather than a real demonstration of skill. At the frequency we saw Expanded play a meaningful role this year, I certainly understand why we would not want to take it seriously, but that does not mean that Expanded is inherently problematic or a “joke” as many seem to believe.
Secondly, as Raymond Cipoletti mentioned (quoting yours truly), the next problem with Expanded was that the card pool was not big enough to make a noticeable difference from Standard. This is undoubtedly true and will only continue to be less true (and better for us) as more sets are released and it becomes harder and harder to see every possible deck combination from the get-go. As Nicholena suggested in her last piece, it may be necessary to ban cards if they create an unhealthy or unenjoyable format. I am in favor of such an idea but want to stress our own patience as players and simply wait and see if things are too good. When I see people demanding for a ban list before a single meaningful game has been played, my eyes can only roll into the back of my head.
Good B.O. or Bad B.O.?
The Boston Open is a really cool idea! I’m glad to see that TPCi has incentivized those without Worlds Invites to travel to Boston and partake in the festivities. The Grinder was certainly one of the biggest draws for the event and without it, attendance was sure to go down, but this ought to bring more and more players to compete. I know that if I didn’t have an invite, I would 100% go to this and simply consider it the first event of this season. I think it’s a great way to help newer players get involved in the season as soon as possible and I hope it’s a trend TPCi chooses to repeat.
However, I do have an odd qualm with it and that is that it excludes those playing in Day 2. This is simply a consideration on my part as I don’t have a real solution (clearly some party had to get left out), but it is conceptually a bit odd to me. In theory, don’t we want the best players to be showcased in every event? In the case of the B.O., it seems like a handicapped event, which is perplexing to me.
To further clarify, I am not up in arms about this by any means and I encourage every single person to participate in the B.O. if they have adequate resources to do so. It is not about unfairness — I think that the guaranteed CP from Day 2 is basically an equalizer — but I just wonder how a tournament devoid of the best of the best should be understood from a competitive standpoint. Am I missing something here or is my general confusion on the matter easy to understand?
Alright! Here’s the last stop on our quick recap into the Pokémon world before delving in to my main area of discussion today. I always enjoy writing tournament reports and like to keep readers up to date with my deck choice even when my articles themselves are never just decklist dumps. My last article, of course, dealt primarily with Yveltal and though there may be some skepticism on whether I intended to use the card in my Nationals deck or simply wrote the piece as a way to mislead any net-deckers out there. However, I can honestly say that I tried my hardest to make it work and can have a handful of reputable sources attest to this fact. I went through many different sketches of Yveltal/Raichu and I think I got it close to perfect but unfortunately a perfect list does not immediately entail satisfactory results.
It had some strong matchups for sure, but I could not bring get it above 40-60 against Seismitoad/Crobat, the deck I then believed to be the most popular that weekend. As such, I abandoned it and went straight back to testing the Seismitoad/Crobat list I had included in that article but found that I was struggling against very standard Bronzong lists which confused me even further.
I saw some friends messing around with a very consistent-looking Seismitoad/Garbodor deck on Wednesday evening and after a day seeing ugly results all day Thursday, I decided that I needed to come up with a list for the deck. I contacted my pals in Team Sheep and we got a list ironed out very quickly. As always, I was hesitant to play the deck for the rest of that evening because I was certain it would be a good play for the event but didn’t want to get scared out of playing it after seeing a clunky hand or a narrow defeat. I watched Sorina Radu play a few games with this list and though she lost one of the games she played, I was still confident in my decision. Here’s the list we went with:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 42
Energy – 7
As you can see, the most notable exclusion here is the lack of Crushing Hammer. They were actually in the list until I woke up Friday morning and began to wonder if I needed them or not. We debated it for a while and ultimately I decided that I would rather have more consistency and since I expected a lot of Seismitoad mirrors, I wanted more cards to make that more manageable than anything else, so at the last second, four copies of Crushing Hammer were removed from the list and Mewtwo-EX (just a nice backup attacker in general, but mostly aid against the Primal Kyogre and Groudon decks), a second Enhanced Hammer, a fourth Trainers’ Mail, and Startling Megaphone were added.
I was very proud of this list and think that it performed very well as whole, but perhaps results speak for themselves. I’m sure you’ve seen Jason’s winning list and he played Crushing Hammer and won the whole thing, so maybe they were needed after all! I’m not sure. The only real mistake I acknowledge from this list is that AZ should have been played over Pokémon Center Lady. It accomplishes close to the same thing, though has several more utility options and PCL was almost useless for me throughout the event.
Below you will find my brief synopsis with the deck, but if you have any questions or considerations about the list, please feel free to ask in the comments!
R1: Bye from Arkansas States
R2: Manectric/Ninetales/Rough Seas (0-2)
R3: Bronzong/Aegislash (1-1)
R4: Seismitoad/Crobat (2-0)
R5: Bunnelby Mill (2-0)
R6: Seismitoad/Garbodor (2-1)
R7: Manectric/Ninetales/Rough Seas (2-1)
R8: Landorus/Hawlucha/Crobat (2-1)
6-1-2 with the resistance from the Round 1 bye put me at 16th seed in the Sapphire Pod. I’m glad I was able to ID the last round because the cutoff was much higher than I expected it to be and I was under the impression I had to make Day 2 in order to secure my pass into Day 2 of Worlds. My opponent turned out to be another Manectric/Rough Seas player which I knew was a tough matchup, but not as hard I initially assumed. We played one game for fun and I won pretty handily which increased my confidence going into the next day.
R10: Rayquaza/Bronzong (0-2)
R11: Manectric/Empoleon (1-1)
R12: Donphan (1-1)
R13: Night March (1-2)
R14: Bronzong/Klinklang (2-0)
R15: Groudon (2-1)
Final Record: 8-3-5
Ugh! Not the best performance in the latter half of the event, but not the worst either. I was stoked to receive a good matchup in the first round but noticeably played one Supporter throughout both games, which was a big bummer to start the most crucial day of play. The rest was a lot of your general bad beats which I won’t go much further on, but I placed around 50th overall I think which is the best I’ve done at Nationals in a while. Four others played the same list and all performed above average, so quickly, here are here results:
Wailord for Worlds
That’s enough about the past! Let’s get into my current thoughts on the game. As we are all well aware of by this point, Wailord stole the show this year at Nationals even though it did not take home the biggest of prizes. Such an unconventional strategy and success from almost everyone who played the deck makes me envious for not having even considering it as an option myself. I won’t attempt to explain the deck since you’re all more than acquainted of how it ought to work, but quickly, let’s look at the initial list:
Pokémon – 7
Trainers – 53
Energy – 0
Initially, I believed this list to be rather weak but after analyzing it further, I think it’s actually very good. Still, I think it can be much improved! You may be shocked to hear that I think this deck is actually worth considering for Worlds, but we’ll get into that shortly.
What to Cut
The most immediate cards I would cut from the list are the two copies of Silent Lab and the one Trick Shovel. These serve almost no purpose in the deck as Wailord does not particularly care whether or not your Basics have access to their Abilities (and shutting down Suicune is a no-no). Trick Shovel does almost nothing unless you play four of them, but since it essentially accomplishes the same effect for you (removes a card from your deck and their deck), I think that it’s more counter-productive than anything else.
I also believe that the Shauna does little to nothing for the deck and I would rather play a Colress in its place since we can use it to prolong yourselves from decking out as long as possible by playing it and only drawing 0-4 cards rather than Shauna’s guaranteed five.
More debatably, I believe that we can remove one Wailord-EX. In theory, you only need two Wailord in the deck to abuse the heal, recycle, and repeat strategy and with three Wailord, you’re still afforded this option even if you prize one of them. By lowering your Basic count, you also increase the chances to mulligan which can speed up your mill process if your opponent is not careful in their draws and Supporter decisions. Next, I think that Startling Megaphone can also be removed as I do not see an opposing Tool card making or breaking your desired win condition.
What to Add
So far we have swapped the Shauna for a Colress and are currently operating with six open slots. How should we fill them? Ideally, the first thing we must address is the inevitable Bunnelby threat. I expect many decks in the first day of Worlds to attempt to quick solve their Wailord problem by simply adding Bunnelby to their deck and assuming that this fixes the problem. However, this is naturally combatted by the Wailord player by including one Bunnelby of their own which inevitably leads to a stalemate between the two rascal rabbits.
However, knowing that any deck that is not Wailord will have an easy way to Knock Out an opposing Bunnelby, we must figure out a way to add a way to Knock Out the card. Nicholena suggested playing one Water and one DCE to solve this problem by attacking with Suicune, but I do not think that this is nearly efficient enough. I think the best solution is playing one copy of Mewtwo-EX and two copies of Double Colorless Energy. Mewtwo can easily deal with the card and DCE can also serve as a means to retreat a Suicune and heal it on the Bench over several turns with Rough Seas. Sacred Ash is a resource that most other decks won’t have access to, but it can allow us to use more than one Bunnelby in a game so keep that in mind as well!
Finally, to make this strategy even more efficient, I propose that we also swap some of the Hard Charms out for Float Stones. This will allow us yet another way to easily switch into Mewtwo in order to combat any Bunnelby shenanigans as well as maximize our potential healing with Rough Seas over many turns. Hard Charm is still useful (mostly in terms of keeping Suicune alive) and I think it’s worth playing 1-2 copies of, but I think overall the Float Stone is more useful to the tactics of the Wailord deck. It allows you to retreat and heal on the Bench while promoting a fresh Wailord, thus decreasing the immediate necessity of cards like AZ and Cassius.
Imagine that my Wailord with a Hard Charm is hit by Raichu’s Circle Circuit for the maximum damage of 160. In this scenario, I am immediately forced to play AZ, Cassius, or Max Potion to prevent 2 Prizes from being taken. If Float Stone is attached, I can simply retreat to the Bench and force a Lysandre to be played in order for the Prizes to be taken and in the war of attrition that Wailord forces someone to play, any resources spent unwisely may mean the difference between winning and losing.
I do understand that Wailord will probably have the heal card that they need, but the Float Stone option allows players to be even more conservative in their play, which again ought to only increase the percentage of winning.
Here is the final version of the list that I am proposing:
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 50
Energy – 2
Why I Think Wailord is a Strong Play
Though I think I have made a pretty clear case as to how one may improve the initial Wailord list, I still need to make a case for why I think the deck can be successful at Worlds! In general, I think that much of Wailord’s power revolves around the fact that I do not anticipate many people being prepared to play against it. By not preparing for the deck, opposing players will be far less likely to know who to play optimally against Wailord, which will be an immediate advantage. It’s also not terribly exciting to play or play against which only furthers how prepared I anticipate the field to be for the deck.
From what I’m gathered from talking to many other players, Wailord is perceived as too risky of a play to be worth consideration for Day 1. Cited against Wailord are notions such as “time will be too constraining” or “it was simply a surprise at Nationals and will not do nearly as well when people are prepared for it” or as mentioned above “all you have to do is add Bunnelby for your deck to beat it.” The Bunnelby objection ought to have already been dismissed by my new list or really any Wailord list that has opted to include their own Bunnelby and an easy way to eliminate an opposing one. However, I also disagree with the other reasons to not play Wailord so let us briefly attempt to dismiss those as well.
The Issue of Time
It is true that Wailord will struggle to win the third game of a series should it fail to win the first two, but I think this can be combated in several ways. First, I don’t think that Wailord needs to worry about throwing a game simply because it draws dead which is a constant fear of almost any other deck. I say that because the deck is so slow and hard to deal with that I believe you will always have a sufficient amount of time to stabilize.
For instance, even if your opening hand is six cards that are unable to affect the board state and either Suicune or Wailord (the Basics you will probably start with), your opponent will rarely be able to Knock Out either of these Pokémon quickly. This will allow you draw several times and hopefully get Wailord ready to roll. With this line of thinking, I do not believe that the deck is capable of losing a quick game from an unplayable start, which is often a concern in any best-of-three series.
To play the deck to its full potential, I believe that the Wailord player must understand how to play fast and to monitor the play of their opponent. This does not mean that I think the Wailord player needs to play absurdly fast in order to complete games, but playing at a moderate pace throughout the series ought to allow games to end in a way where ties should not be a major issue.
It is a general misconception that Wailord will always tie! If you test with or against Wailord, I think you’ll find that it is much harder to beat than initially assumed.
No Longer a Surprise
I was fortunate enough to dodge the deck for all of Nationals and so it was not until recently that I was finally paired up with the deck but after solid testing, there are some decks that have zero chance against Wailord. Again, we must assume that I am correct in asserting that adding Bunnelby does not immediately slay our giant friend. You may not be surprised to get matched up against a Wailord deck anymore, but that does not mean you’ll magically be able to beat it. Knowing that you should play more conservatively than usual does not equate to a victory! Many decks have no power to deal with healing Suicunes and Wailord at the same time and so surprise or not, Wailord is still a force to be reckoned with. Allow me to briefly analyze most of the major matchups to illustrate this further.
Whether it’s the Rayquaza or Dialga variant, the main concern here is whether or not the Metal player can set up without expending too many resources. The ideal board state for them would look something like a fully powered Heatran Active, multiple Bronzong on the Bench, Keldeo-EX with a Float Stone and maybe one other attacker. If this happens, Wailord is in a lot of trouble, but I think you have means of preventing it early on. You must be very wary of the Float Stone and attempt to remove it as often as possible as well as use Lysandre to stall and bait the Bronzong player into spending more resources to attack you further. Combine that with constant Energy removal and I think Wailord is slightly favored against this archetype.
Kyogre will struggle to deal with Suicune and takes several turns to attack, thus failing to put Wailord under immediate pressure. Be wary of benching multiple EXs in this matchup to prevent Kyogre’s attack from reaching maximum damage, but this matchup should be smooth sailing.
Manectric is one of the easiest matchups for Wailord. The pressure from Manectric is basically nonexistent and it will be easy to ignore the 110 damage from Turbo Bolt. Suicune will continue to be a giant pain to Knock Out.
A Suicune with a Hard Charm attached and a Rough Seas in play is almost enough to stop this deck on its own, but when you combine that with the massive HP from Wailord, the Landorus deck will have nothing to do. Rough Seas will largely mitigate the damage output from the deck and you’ll find yourself Hammerheading into a quick loss.
I cannot beat this into the ground enough, but Seismitoad decks like so many others simply lacks the damage output to threaten Wailord quickly. This will allow the Wailord player so much time to draw into all of their heal and switcheroo Supporters. The Item lock is a hinderance but I think that the high counts of all Supporters will be enough to carry Wailord to victory.
Raichu is one of very few major archetypes that I would be worried about as a Wailord player. Its high damage output combined with its inherent ability to Knock Out Suicune poses a major threat and can easily take the game if Wailord is not careful enough. The main way that Wailord will win is by relying on Energy removal. Three copies of Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic should help get rid of every DCE and the deck will stutter much more if it is forced to double attach basic Energy to be able to use Circle Circuit. I would say that this is closest matchup across the board.
Finally, a bad matchup! I think that Groudon is close to unwinnable. You cannot remove Energy from Groudon once it has Mega Evolved and it can easily Knock Out Wailord if it is able to get enough Strong Energy attached. Your only hope is that Suicune is able to wall efficiently enough, but Groudon plays enough Silent Lab that even this may not be possible. However, this is the only bad matchup in the bunch, which should show Wailord’s strength further.
Vs. Night March
This deck mills itself to attack and will never be able to 1HKO Wailord. Combine that with its incredible weakness to Energy removal and you’ll have yet another win out of this deck.
Do you think there is anything I have missed here? I hope that I have made my points clear today and hope that you at least factor in Wailord into your own testing even if you do not wish to play it. I think that in the right metagame, Wailord could do very well again but perhaps we will observe yet another Gothitelle or Pyroar effect at Worlds where the dominant archetype from US Nats puts up no results at Worlds. It is a bit weaker for Day 2 since you’ll inevitably have to deal with its inability to take Prizes should you make top cut, but as a choice for Day 1, I’m not sure you’ll find a better option.
Only time will tell, but I can’t wait to get to Boston and see what other people are considering. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please free to voice them in comments and I will attempt to respond to them posthaste.
See everyone in Boston!
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