Hi, SixPrizes! I’m so happy that I once again have the opportunity to share my thoughts with all of you. I hope that everyone had a blast at Autumn Regionals, and that all of your competitive seasons are off to rousing beginnings. My season has so far consisted of two Autumn Regional appearances and several attendances to local League Challenges. Though I wouldn’t say that I’m doing as well as last year, I’m still super pumped for competitive play this year and I’m very determined to make Day 2 for Worlds, and I aspire to be able to get even more involved in creating content for our community!
Regionals are always a blast, but I had a particularly good time this fall. Arizona was my first stop, and the 100° weather made me feel like I was taking a weekend-long vacation back into summer — even though I wore boots and leggings the entire trip. I also can’t honestly continue to write this article without giving a very warm thank-you to Jeremy Jallen for hosting me (and a bunch of other people) for the entirety of the weekend. Without the kindness and generosity displayed by the members of the Pokémon community, I’m sure I wouldn’t have stuck around for very long.
My second Regional of the season was in Vancouver, B.C. This one is close to my heart because I know and love so many of the players, judges, and TOs in my area. The city of Vancouver is gorgeous and having the tournament in an exciting part of town is very special. I knew everyone else who made Top 8 quite well, and that’s a weird but great feeling to have. I hope everyone else has enjoyed their time competing so far.
The focus of my article is threefold: I’m first going to briefly cover my Regional performances, and I’d like to frame the discussion in broader terms — ideally so that you can take what I’ve learned and apply it to your City Championships, whether those be Expanded or Standard. I’ll then go on to discuss what I believe will be the key cards in the upcoming BREAKthrough set. With that, I’ll finally give some deck ideas and inspiration for the Standard format with cards from BREAKthrough included.
Autumn Regionals Retrospective (Hindsight is 20/20)
My previous article’s discussion was primarily focused on the idea of healthy competition as a path through which one can better themself. In a similar vein, I’d like to center my tournament reports on both the mistakes that I made and the cases in which certain situations didn’t play out as I had hoped. I believe that most people tend to hone in on the positives of an experience in a way that clouds the negative parts of that experience. Perhaps if they end up placing in the Top 64 of a Regional tournament, they would considering themselves as having done “pretty well” and would leave it at that.
While I don’t mean to negate anyone’s feelings of pride or accomplishment, I think that the player who wants to continue to improve should learn from the mistakes they made or the negative sides of a tournament. As such, I think you would all learn more from me if I centered my discussion upon what I could have improved.
The weirdest part about my preparation for Arizona Regionals was that I chose my deck quite ahead of time — maybe about a week or two before the event. This is pretty out of the ordinary for me, since I now have access to more cards and more deck options, and I tend to choose my deck the night before or the morning of the tournament. I wouldn’t even say it’s a rational decision because I end up choosing the deck that I feel the most comfortable with emotionally. If a deck choice is giving me an odd feeling or causing me to feel some kind of insecurity, I won’t choose to play it.
In the run-up before Arizona, I became very certain that Archie’s Blastoise was the best deck in the format. In hindsight, I was locked in a tunnel vision that was greatly influenced by the metagame in the Seattle area. I won a local tournament with the deck, and seeing so many other people around me playing it only boosted my confidence in the idea that the deck was somewhat unstoppable. Not only that, there was absolutely no Yveltal in Seattle. I didn’t even think that the deck was viable anymore, simply because no one was playing it — and how illogical is that!?
Here’s the final list that I played for Arizona:
Ace of Base
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
I believe that my mindset at the time may explain some of the unique card choices. I kept in a Mewtwo-EX for the mirror match, and at one point during the night before I was actually considering playing two. That may sound completely insane, but as I’ve stated before, I had my blinders on and truly believed that Blastoise was going to be a majority of the field. Not only was this because of the Seattle metagame, as I mentioned previously, but right before the first weekend of Regionals there was a gratuitous amount of hype around Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX. Archie’s Blastoise was such a good counter to it that I believed that many players would choose to play it as a counter to Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX and Seismitoad-EX in general. Everyone else from my general area that I knew and traveled with was also planning on playing Blastoise, so I really had myself convinced that the Mewtwo-EX would be killer.
The only other deck I was (foolishly) worried about was Vespiquen. The Kyogre-EX is specifically there for that matchup, and the Articuno do help as well, though it is a more versatile attacker. Additionally, I wasn’t expecting too much Night March, so I chose not to play Wailord-EX. My other consideration for the deck was adding in a Hex Maniac for the mirror — once again. I ultimately decided that I would take the chance and rely on Mewtwo-EX and lady luck to win the mirror match.
Though it turned out that the loss that took me out of Day 2 contention was to Yveltal-EX, it was the only match I played against any variant of the deck! I also did not play one single mirror match. So much for predicting the metagame!
R1 vs. Vileplume AOR/Miltank FLF — LL
R2 vs. M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76 — LW(T)
R3 vs. Fighting/Machamp FFI — WW
R4 vs. M Sceptile-EX/Virizion-EX — WLW
R5 vs. Night March — WL(T)
R6 vs. Huntail PRC/Ho-Oh-EX — WW
R7 vs. (I don’t remember this round at all, but I won.)
R8 vs. Yveltal-EX/Darkrai-EX — WLL
R9 vs. Fighting/Crobat PHF — WW
5-2-2; Top 64
What can we learn from my mistakes? Above all else, keep an open mind! Shutting my brain off for the two weeks before the first big tournament of the season was probably the worst thing I could have done. While I don’t think it’s a good idea to panic or get overwhelmed by all of the possible deck choices right before a big event, it is important to keep an eye out for things you might not be expecting. I tend to be very quick to dismiss a deck idea — especially if it’s rogue — but please learn from my mistakes and consider the possibilities outside of the box.
And of course, try to test with people outside of your region.
For Vancouver, I went in with the opposite mindset from Arizona: I knew I for sure didn’t want to play Archie’s Blastoise. Though I still considered the deck to be good, I was worried about Vespiquen’s popularity from the weekend before. Additionally, I really desired to play a deck that was more even-keeled. Archie’s Blastoise went one of two ways for me at Arizona: I was either drawing perfectly and setting up Blastoise turn one or two, or I was drawing pure garbage for more than five turns in a row and couldn’t do anything but sit on my hand.
I decided to play a really minimal and consistent version of Yveltal-EX, a deck with which I’ve had a lot of experience. I wanted something that perhaps wouldn’t “blow up” the first turn or two like a Blastoise deck would, but that would give me various options even if my hands were less than ideal. Here’s the list I played:
Back in Black
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 38
Energy – 11
I do realize that despite my fear that Vespiquen was going to be popular, I still played a deck that could very easily lose to it. I was mostly hoping that others would be afraid to play it in case there was severe backlash. Regardless, I hadn’t learned much from my Arizona adventures and decided to play Yveltal-EX pretty early on. I wasn’t thinking too much about the metagame, still.
R1 vs. Excadrill PRC 97/Klinklang PLS — WW
R2 vs. Archie’s Blastoise — WW
R3 vs. Gengar-EX/Seismitoad-EX/Trevenant XY — WW
R4 vs. Wobbuffet PHF/Primal Groudon-EX — WW
R5 vs. Tyrantrum-EX/Giratina-EX AOR/Bronzong PHF — LL
R6 vs. Archie’s Blastoise — WW
R7 vs. Night March — WW
R8. vs. Sableye DEX/Garbodor LTR — ID
6-1-1; 7th seed going into Top 8
I lost a two very quick games to Vespiquen in Top 8. Perhaps the lesson to learn here is that if you choose to completely ignore a matchup, then you may have to deal with the possibility that you’ll immediately get taken out of contention by that matchup in top cut. I would also like to advise that making rash card choices several minutes before decklists are due is most likely going to have a negative impact on your experience. I decided to take out a second N for a Ghetsis because I believed it would help with more difficult matchups like Vespiquen and Night March. Instead, it generally proved to be a hassle in those situations (I was never able to opportunely draw or Compressor it), or otherwise it was a boon in matchups that were already favorable.
Though Vancouver Regionals played out well for me, I would like to note that we only had 164 Masters players total. While I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s accomplishments, it is important to note that Fort Wayne Regionals had almost 500 Masters players on the same weekend. I do think it’s ridiculous that those two tournaments are weighed the same in terms of points and prizes, and while I don’t have a “solution” to the problem, it’s not something that should be ignored or forgotten about.
What’s been bothering me most about recent card sets is that we are seeing a lot of reprints. I wish that Pokémon would instead focus on bringing new cards and new mechanics to the game instead of continuing to print the same cards time and again. Old cards simply allow for old decks to continue to be viable, something which is especially unnecessary considering we have the Expanded format. Despite my complaints, I think the strongest cards from the new set are actually the reprints. I’m not yet sold on any of the BREAK Evolutions (though I should keep an open mind) and I’m not a fan of Mewtwo-EX or any of the new Supporters.
Here are the four standouts from the set:
1. Dodrio. If we’re going to have cards reprinted, then this is the kind of card that I’d like to see most. I love any kind of Bench-sitters — Pokémon that enhance your strategy after you get them set up, and they tend to simply sit on your Bench — but not necessarily Bench-sitters that are the main focal point to your deck. Think about cards like Mr. Mime PLF and Jolteon AOR, techs that you can splash into a variety of decks. Dodrio is like this, in that it can provide a somewhat easy way to retreat your Pokémon if you’re unable to use Item cards. I think it will be a great addition to any deck that choose to utilize Vileplume AOR.
2. Float Stone. Even though we’ll no longer have Keldeo-EX in order to abuse the power of Float Stone, there are certain decks or cards that are more viable because of Float Stone. I discuss Trevenant XY more below, but Float Stone is ideal in any deck that relies on attackers with a Retreat Cost of three or more. I can see it being used in Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX, and maybe even Yveltal-EX variants considering Darkrai-EX is no longer in format.
3. Super Rod. Super Rod has always been one of the most valuable and versatile recovery cards throughout the entire time that I’ve been playing competitively. Being able to utilize the card for either Pokémon or Energy or both is the key factor here. Additionally, it doesn’t have a high requirement for how many Pokémon or Energy you need to put back into your deck, thus making it an ideal recovery card in decks like Night March and Vespiquen.
4. Judge. Though I’m a fan of any card that lets me use cards from the HeartGold & SoulSilver era, I’m not sure if this card will quite live up to its hype. We already have Red Card and that doesn’t see much play at all, and Ace Trainer seems like a better way to disrupt your opponent’s hand while refreshing yours. Judge plays much better with cards like Shaymin-EX ROS, but then the question becomes as to whether or not you’ll be able to draw into the cards you need in order to use Set Up effectively. If our format does move to become more reliant on Item-based draw, then Judge could be a good addition as a way to disrupt your opponent’s hand.
These four are all quite powerful cards, which is why I’m sure many others are excited to see them making a comeback. However, I do think it would be ideal for Pokémon to begin to print new cards and strategies.
Early Reads on the Standard Meta
Since BREAKthrough only just came out, I haven’t been able to test Standard with the inclusion of the set very extensively. The three deck ideas that I’d like to discuss more are hopefully going to serve as inspiration and a starting off point for more ideas about what the Standard format can look like. As other writers have noted, Standard is most likely going to see a lot of Item-based and Shaymin-EX ROS-based draw and support, and I think this is something we can capitalize on.
The Dude Bides: Wobbuffet/Crobat
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 32
1 Professor Birch’s Observations
Energy – 8
Since not many people are discussing it, it seems like Wobbuffet PHF is generally an underrated card. I think this kind of deck could be an excellent strategy in the upcoming format, as many decks will rely on Abilities to either set up or execute their strategy. The key cards that Wobbuffet PHF will shut down are Shaymin-EX AOR, Vileplume AOR, Bronzong PHF, and Aromatisse XY. The best thing about Wobbuffet is that you don’t need to have a turn in order to disrupt your opponent’s strategy, which is huge in a format where turn one setups are crucial. The damage output from the Crobat PHF line also makes the matchups against Night March and Vespiquen much easier, as you’re able to hit their low-HP attackers on the Bench.
The hardest part about playing Wobbuffet PHF is that you’re unable to abuse Shaymin-EX yourself, thus necessitating draw to be primarily reliant on Items and Unown AOR. This also makes Super Scoop Up a more difficult card to include into the deck. In fact, I could see it taken out entirely in order to add more consistency by way of AZ, Level Ball, or more Energy. Hopefully Wobbuffet is able to slow down your opponent’s strategy enough to give you time to set up your own.
Ghouls & Ghosts: Trevenant/Gengar
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
2 Professor Birch’s Observations
Energy – 10
The only reason this deck is viable is because of the Float Stone reprint, and I’m really excited to see if it does well at any upcoming Cities. Item lock with Seismitoad-EX is no longer as strong because Hypnotoxic Laser is no longer in format. That being said, if the format does turn to more Item-based draw because of this, then Trevenant XY could very easily have a prominent role in the Standard format.
Being able to poison with Gengar-EX is also exciting because we no longer have Keldeo-EX in the format. Your opponent will have to rely on either AZ or Lysandre to get out of Poison lock or Item lock, both of which will be difficult to access without VS Seeker. I’m also a fan of any deck that can play four copies of their Stadium card, as it ensure that you’ll always be on top of any Stadium wars.
The one possible downside of playing Ghost types is that it is possible for Yveltal-EX to still see play. The Dark-type Weakness probably the deck’s biggest fault, and even a mediocre Yveltal deck could likely crush you.
Think Pink: Aromatisse
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
3 Professor Birch’s Observations
Energy – 12
This is probably the deck that’s the least likely, out of all the ones I’ve provided, to make a real impact during Cities. I think that Aromatisse XY has a great Ability, but unfortunately it’s much harder to use effectively if you’re required to rely on AZ and Super Scoop Up instead of Max Potion. Ideally you would be able to steadily 2-shot your opponents while clearing the board of any of the damage that gets done to you.
An alternative would be to play this deck with M Gardveoir-EX instead of Florges-EX and the other attackers, as well as instead of the AZ. M Gardevoir-EX allows you to set up to the point where you’re 1-shotting your opponent’s Pokémon, but unfortunately you wouldn’t be able to heal as easily since you’ll be forced to re-evolve Gardevoir-EX each time you pick it up (and if you do choose to heal with AZ, you’ll be getting rid of the Gardevoir Spirit Link).
Another alternative would be to play the deck with Sky Field and focus on taking 1HKOs with Florges-EX. The downfall of this strategy is that any Shaymin-EX added to your Bench won’t add to your damage output, but not playing Shaymin-EX would most likely entangle your setup.
Ultimately I think Aromatisse could be a good idea for Cities, but it might be an uphill struggle. Perhaps a deck best left for whatever possibilities future sets may give us.
On to the Next One
I hope that at the very least, my article has provided you with some insight and ideas for what to play in the upcoming Standard format! I’m personally very excited to see what everyone will come up with when Cities start this year. Cities can be very fun, but they’re also a grueling time of the year since the tournaments last all day and they’re packed into such a short time period.
I wish you all lots of luck, and please do let me know if you have any ideas for future articles, decks you’d like me to try out, or ways to improve!
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