Another World Championship has come and gone and I am left in awe over what transpired in Boston. I do not wish to spend much time delving into the potential tragedy that we thankfully averted but I do believe that I cannot write a meaningful article without at least giving it some attention. That is, I fully believe the suspects in question fully intended to incite a terrible and violent horror that surely would have been the end of Pokémon as we know it. The implications of such machinations fill me with disgust and it is simply beyond my comprehension how anyone could have planned to ruin something we all hold so dearly.
I believe that we owe the lives of many and the longevity of the game itself to those who reported the potential threats and TPCi and the Boston Police Department who refused to take the “joke” lightly. We give power and remove culpability to the suspects by treating this incident with anything but the utmost seriousness and so I urge all in the community to not joke about the matter or attempt to justify the actions of the suspects until legal proceedings are able to conclude.
When the structure for Worlds was announced last year, I remember being very skeptical about the new and lower benchmark. After observing the entirety of the event, I am happy to report that I have somewhat changed my views on the matter. Removing the open nature of the Last Chance Qualifier and replacing it with Day One is one of the best moves the game has ever pulled! Not only does it encourage many more to attempt to complete a full, competitive season but it also allows one to attend a fewer events and still have a shot at the greatest prize in the game. Equating a Day One invite to a Worlds invite from years past still seems like a mistake to me but as a whole this structure is a move in the right direction. I look forward to what the structure will be like for this season though I suspect it will be very similar to 2015’s.
While the first day of play still had a very brutal and “grinder” feel to it, I am happy to note (with few exceptions) that all who made it into the second day of play were players of the highest caliber. I remember some of my initial whines about the new invite structure, wondering how many subpar players would surely qualify. Appreciatively, my good pal Kenny Wisdom simply assured me that such players would be incapable of advancing unless they truly deserved it, which appears to have been the case.
Day One: Operation Ground and Pound
I had the privilege of getting to skip the initial day of play which gave me much needed time to observe the results and get many games in with select testing partners. I arrived in Boston with some confidence in the Wailord deck I discussed in my last article but I quickly found that my conception of the Night March was incorrect. I had not accounted for the fact that lists would play both Bunnelby and Revive, which ended up being something I was unable to deal with. From there, it was back to the drawing board.
With the help of Jit Min and Tsuguyoshi Yamato, my team sent Curtis Lyon into Day One with what we believed to be the perfect Groudon list:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
Groudon’s biggest issue turned out to be itself as it was prone to the occasional dead draw (a result of not having access to Jirachi or Shaymin), but we believed its strengths to outweigh its weaknesses. Regirock proved useful to get Stadiums back but also was our “answer” to Klinklang. By attaching Focus Sash and powering it up, we would ideally be able to KO 1-2 of the Plasma Steel Pokémon which ought to allow us to take that matchup. Two copies of Escape Rope were our answer to Hippowdon’s attack since sending it to the Bench would reset Resistance Desert’s effect. I was so confident in this list, but unfortunately Curtis ran into some poor luck in the first day of play losing to Landorus/Crobat/Leafeon in the first round (a matchup that could not have been better than 30-70). He then proceeded to tie against two other decks, which removed him from contention.
The deck was strong and I think we made the correct choice based on the information we had but unfortunately it did not pay off. Curtis dropped and returned to testing with Mees, Jit, and myself. Dylan Bryan joined us for brief testing and we all began to think highly of the wacky Raichu deck from Jit Min. It remains a top choice for Mees and I as we continue to test ourselves silly in preparation for the big day.
Day Two: You (Almost) Can’t Kill the Metal
To take a break from playing, we return to observe the rest of Day One and we see that Night March is at the forefront of the tournament. Defeating that pesky deck then became our number one priority. Groudon was no longer an option but after a brief session with the Portuguese player base, we decide revisit Seismitoad/Crobat and Dustin Zimmerman’s Metal deck, which he used to advance out of the first day of play.
Both seemed well positioned in the perceived metagame for the second day and after ironing out lists for both, Mees and my’s choices are down to just three. In the end, we both are not completely confident in the consistency of Jit’s Raichu deck and remove it from consideration. I decide that Metal is best against a more diverse field and has a stronger chance against fringe Fighting decks like Hippowdon and Groudon. Mees, on the other hand, believes in the pure consistency of his Seismitoad deck and thinks that he will get at least 3-4 free wins out of Night March matchups and we both go to bed confident in our choices.
The list posted in Kenny Wisdom’s article is what Dustin played for the first day, but we opted to remove the Startling Megaphone for a second copy of Xerosic to attempt to hedge against Seismitoad decks that we anticipated arising to combat Night March’s success in the first day.
Briefly, here is what I played against during Day Two:
R1: Hippowdon (Austria) 2-0
R2: Seismitoad/Manectric/Crobat (USA) 0-1
R3: Donphan/Groudon (Netherlands) 2-0
R4: Seismitoad/Genesect (USA) 2-0
R5: Trevenant/Gengar (USA) 1-1
R6: Seismitoad/Aromatisse (Indonesia) 1-2
R7: Rayquaza/Bronzong (Singapore) 2-1
4-2-1, 29th place
As I’m sure you’re well aware of by now, Mees ended up taking 2nd place, which I could not be more proud of! Frankly, we never gave serious attention to the Blastoise deck, which was an obvious mistake on our part but congrats to Jacob and all those who had faith in its potential to succeed. I started out strongly and think that if I managed time a little better, I would have had a strong shot at making the Top 8. My loss to Seismitoad/Manectric/Bats and tie to Trevenant were easy wins if I had just conceded earlier and sped up my own play. However, I am still very happy to finally place well at Worlds after falling short so many times before.
Sticking Up for Standard
With Worlds quickly becoming the distant past, the attention of competitive players has now shifted to preparing for a brand new season of play. Unlike last year, the format of our events is much more split up in hopes of making Expanded a much more relevant consideration. I am a big fan of this move and think that the format is much better than last year but I have noticed that it has created a divide amongst players.
With Autumn Regionals being the next tier of “important” events, almost every player I have talked to about the game has restricted themselves to only figuring out Expanded while leaving Standard in the dust. I do not think that this is necessarily an incorrect decision but it is important to remember that Standard is still important and will be a pressing concern in a few months when City Championships begin. Investing time in the format is certainly not a waste, as many of my fellow 6P writers may even suggest.
Thusly, I would like to focus this article on the exploration of XY-on! Most League Challenges are being held as Standard events and so it is my hope that the concepts and decks I will discuss below will give you an advantage when it comes to these smaller but still pertinent events. At the very least, taking time to understand XY-on right now will make you ahead of the game when it comes to Cities. I am doing my best to test both formats but Standard has taken up the bulk of my time recently and I would like to share what I have learned so far.
Initial Impressions of the Standard Format
I think many will be surprised to find that this format is much different than Standard of last year or the massive Expanded of this year. I had the pleasure of coaching a Russian player in their limited XY-on over the summer, which immediately gave me insight into how this format would be played.
1. In general, it is a much slower game than we are used to and I think it may give certain Evolution cards the opportunity to make a comeback. Since the release of Seismitoad-EX, Evolutions have struggled to do much of anything through the pressure of Item lock and residual damage from Hypnotoxic Laser but with the removal of the latter, Seismitoad no longer carries as much power in the game. In time, I think decks that would be too slow in Expanded have the opportunity to shine in Standard.
2. Outside of the harassing Quaking Punch, the most jarring difference to me is the Supporter lineup! N has been legal for so long now, it is rather odd to no longer build your decks with it or have to worry about having your hand reset every turn. The only disruption currently in Standard is Ace Trainer which is a much weaker card than N and will likely see very little play.
3. Without the worry of hand disruption in the format, I believe that Item-based draw becomes much stronger and perhaps should be a consideration in every deck in this format. Roller Skates, Acro Bike, and Trainers’ Mail have all done wonders for me in helping my decks set up and accomplish their objectives. Without N and Colress, our options for stable Supporters are much bleaker and thus we must consider using cards like Professor Birch’s Observations, Shauna, or Tierno — unsatisfactory options and in my view outclassed by the versatility of Item draw combined with another Supporter which is only a liability against Vileplume decks which I have yet to be impressed with.
4. Hand sizes become much, much larger as a result, which in turn makes Professor Sycamore less of a necessity in all decks. Professor Sycamore and Juniper have always had a place in decks because the game is played so fast that sometimes you have to disavow any attempts to play conservatively and simply draw as many cards as possible to not get overwhelmed by the relentless pressure from your opponent. I have found that many of my decks simply need to draw Energy and play tech Supporters in order to win and so counts of Sycamore have decreased a small amount.
5. In testing both Standard and Expanded, Hex Maniac is incredibly powerful. Combined with the Item draw prescribed above, being able to chain this card over multiple turns will prove difficult to overcome for any deck. I am absolutely in love with this card and believe it may become a staple in every deck. Hex Maniac is so good that I would not be surprised to see it become the new target of Virbank “Pooka please ban this” since Shiftry is no longer a target for such protestors.
The Standard Bearers
While it may be true that there are many viable decks in Standard right now, there have been just three that have thoroughly impressed me. I would like to take time below to highlight all three of these decks and discuss their strengths and potential weaknesses. Before we get into that section though, I will note that I have yet to be impressed with Vileplume though I acknowledge that it has an incredible amount of potential. Item lock has been at the head of competitive play each and every time it is printed and I am largely confident that this new Vileplume will only continue that trend.
I have yet to find anything that pairs well with it in Standard, but surely there are combinations out there that may work. I have heard talk of Giratina/Vileplume but I have yet to see it in action or test it myself and it would simply be a waste of both of our times for me to discuss something I have not put time and effort into myself. If you have suggestions for Vileplume options for me to try out, please feel free to leave a comment and I will attempt to address them all! Without further adieu, let’s get into my three current favorite decks!
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 36
Energy – 7
For the entirety of last season, I did not pay much attention to Night March. I knew it was a strong deck but never considered playing or testing it myself in favor working with something less aggressive. However, it was a powerhouse at Worlds and it has my vote for the BDIF of Standard right now. It lost almost nothing in rotation and I think many of it threats went away with the cycling of Hypnotoxic Laser and the Archie’s Blastoise deck.
This list does an excellent job of exemplifying many of my thoughts on the format as discussed above. Repeatedly using N was one of the only things that could slow this deck down and with that card no longer in the equation, it is free to just explode every turn and not worry about a hand reset. Abusing the 12 copies of Item draw will make almost every turn explosive and borderline impossible for many decks to deal with. Hex Maniac is also incredible in this list since you can use it many turns in a row while relying on all of your Item cards to get Night March to high amounts of damage. In my testing, games were often decided on the first turn where I could play Hex Maniac to deny my opponent the means to set up while abusing the fast start that this deck is prone to have.
The main thing that sticks out in the list is the lack of Dimension Valley and inclusion of Bronzong. Without Mew, I think the Stadium loses most of its power and but you are still able to rely on Joltik alone in many matchups. If you can attach Energy every turn, you can lock your opponents down with Hex Maniac and take cheap Prizes with Lysandre and Bronzong allows you to do that without needing to use a draw Supporter to find the Energy. Jit and Dylan’s Raichu deck inspired me to try the 1-1 Bronzong in many decks and I have become quite enamored with it in here.
Vileplume poses a potential threat to this deck but I’m unsure how realistic it is to get a Stage 2 out on the first or second turn in this format and even then, going first and chaining Hex Mirror may even be enough to combat Irritating Pollen. This deck is brutal and mean and I think you should try it!
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 37
Energy – 10
Like Night March, this deck looks pretty similar to how it would have been built for Worlds. Manectric is a strong, consistent attacker that does not need much to threaten your opponent. Using Turbo Bolt to power up multiple threats while abusing Mega Manectric’s free retreat and Rough Seas to run to the Bench while healing off lots of damage. Many of Manectric’s biggest foes were lost in rotation (Landorus-EX and Klinklang PLS) and with the exception of a rogue Hippowdon build, I do not think it has many direct counters.
Lugia-EX serves as a solid replacement for Mewtwo-EX, which found its way in some, builds, but Manectric’s most notable new trick has to be Regice! Hippowdon’s Resistance Desert was strong enough for the deck to Top 8 Nationals and be a threat at Worlds and Regice’s Resistance Blizzard is the exact same thing. This attack alone is good enough to combat threats like Primal Groudon and other Mega Manectric decks; Regice needs to be included to give this deck more power.
Additionally, this deck is not particularly reliant on Items or Abilities and so it relatively unfazed by Item lock from Vileplume or Ability block from a Hex Maniac. Its matchup with Night March is also quite a bit stronger without worrying about Mew-EX surviving your Turbo Bolt and getting higher damage output with Silver Bangle. Giratina’s Renegade Pulse poses some threat but I think that Regice (which may eventually be played in a count of two) and Articuno are strong enough to deal with that card.
Be sure to check out Dylan Lefavour’s take on the Expanded version of this deck he shared last week.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 30
Energy – 9
If you remember my article right before Nationals, this ought to remind you of my favorite build of Yveltal from that time. This list is incredibly close to the one posted back in July and I am happy to inform that this deck is still very powerful. Raichu continues to be a threat in the format with its massive damage output and ability to conduct favorable trades as a non-EX. Yveltal again serves as a means to accelerate energy to Raichus while soften certain Pokémon up for Circle Circuit to knock out.
Losing Darkrai and Keldeo is both unfortunate but largely mitigated by just adding switching cards. In general though, the need to retreat is far decreased without Hypnotoxic Laser to bother you practically every turn.
I anticipate Night March to be a threat in Standard for a majority of the season and Yveltal is one of the best cards to have against them. Without Mew-EX, Yveltal can KO all of Night March’s attackers for just one Energy!
From there, you have an intense game of non-EXs trading into each other, but if the Raichu player is careful with their Shaymins, they should have the advantage. Explosive first turns give this deck the power to deal with new threats like Vileplume as well as continue to threaten cards like Rayquaza-EX and Lugia-EX with Raichu’s Lightning typing.
In Action: League Challenge Recaps
League Challenges are not the most competitive of events, but I do enjoy them as a way to put my Poké-theories into practice. Last year, I was busy with school or simply too complacent to attend League Challenges early in the season and found myself playing a ton of them right at the end of the season in order to try to secure a Top 16 placement for Nationals and Worlds. I regretted this decision on my part and have already begun to strive to knockoff League Challenges as fast as possible so I can relax sooner rather than latter.
I am fond of all of the decks I have detailed above, but theory means very little without results. I have been able to attend three League Challenges so far and have played all of the lists above and I think my results with all three decks ought to give some indication to their power in Standard. Feel free to take my placements with a grain of salt, but I hope it does strengthen your views of my decks to some extent.
League Challenge #1: Hex March — Sedalia, MO
R1: Rayquaza/Bronzong … W
R2: Reshiram/Hydreigon/Giratina … W
R3: Vespiquen … W
R4: Rayquaza/Bronzong … W
4-0, 1st place
League Challenge #2: Hex March — Independence, MO
R1: Rayquaza/Bronzong … W
R2: Yveltal/Raichu … L
R3: Lucario/Crobat … L
R4: Metagross … W
R5: M Ampharos … W
3-2, 6th place
League Challenge #3: Mega Man — Sedelia, MO
R1: Rayquaza/Ampharos … W
R2: Mirror … W
R3: Excadrill … W
R4: Lucario/Crobat … L
R5: Mirror … W
4-1, 3rd place
I hope you have enjoyed my article today! It was quite a bit more “list heavy” than the pieces I usually produce but I have no problem with sharing lists as long as it is appropriate within my article. Perhaps this will earn some traction with many of my detractors, but rest assured, I’m sure I’ll have another philosophy-heavy piece in the future.
As always I encourage you to voice any and all concerns and comments below and I will do my best to address them all. Looking forward this season, I am not sure which Regionals I will be able to attend in the fall. Usually, I try to make it to 1-2 and I hope I am able to do that come October. I look forward to playing this season and believe that we are positioned for another entertaining year of play. Until next time!
Underground Members: Thanks for making this article possible!