Risky Business

On Adopting a Winning Mentality (for Cities), a BREAKthrough Critique, and More Standard Lists
The “Grind” starts soon.

The passage of time is so odd to me and it seems like it has been an eternity since my last article when in actuality it has been little more than a month. Fall Regionals have come and gone once again and certainly almost every competitive player is looking forward to beginning the grind that is City Championships. As I have written before, these events are without a doubt my favorite each and every season. City Championships are a joy to me as they are able to exist alongside holiday cheer and festivities and though they are still very competitive, the smaller nature gives attending these events a much more personal and intimate feel to them. I believe that you foster quite the camaraderie with your peers as you attempt to make the top cut and earn the coveted acrylic trophy every weekend and ultimately it is this personal aspect of the game that I believe makes it worth playing.

As always, I like to begin most of my articles by giving a brief synopsis of my most recent tournaments and if you recall correctly, the last event I attended was the Fort Wayne Regional Championship. In my last article, I talked briefly about how I was currently enamored with Archie’s Blastoise featuring Kyogre-EX. Well, that feeling stuck with me all the way to the event as I made the lengthy trek, but unfortunately I could have not been more incorrect on this matter.

Not only did it end up being a terrible call for the event, but also my assertions on the way matchups played out turned out to be equally incorrect. I was simply battered into what is perhaps the very worst performance of my career; my event ended very quickly at 0-3. I was able to make the turn one Blastoise once in the nine individual games that I played and after this tournament, I solemnly swear that I will never mess with an Archie or Maxie deck every again. The sheer amount of luck and variance that goes into succeeding with this style of deck is close to maddening as each and every turn, I lived or died every turn by topdecks, needing to draw something I could burn easily in order to combo into Archie and instead I continually drew into Supporters or Superior Energy Retrieval.

The fact that this deck won a World Championship is absurdly mystifying to me and while it’s possible I was not in the correct frame of mind to play optimally, I did not feel as if I had any control over whether or not my opening hands were stellar or utter garbage. Congratulations to anyone and everyone who has had success with this deck and still believes in the combination — but for me, I could not jump off this bandwagon any quicker. To avoid the cliché of noting how I “learned a lot” even in such defeat, I would like to move on though I am more than happy to field any questions about my time with Blastoise in the comments below.

Like my fellow writers this month, it is my intention to use this article to prepare you for the daunting times ahead and ideally give you a competitive advantage. Although we do not know what the requirements for the World Championships will be for this year, it is almost certain that City Championships will play a vital role in achieving this end. As someone who has earned a placing in the top 16 of the North American rankings in three of the past four years, I can positively assess that I would have been nowhere close to such rankings had I not strived to do my very best at these municipal events.

I do acknowledge that some areas are much more difficult than others but I do believe that one can be successful regardless of where they attend events if they adopt the correct mentality. As such, I want to provide a detailed and intricate guide to succeeding at your City Championships and I hope you enjoy!

On Adopting a Winning Mentality (for Cities)

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Strive for excellence with an openness to failure.

Before I begin with the nitty gritty of my guide, I want to make it clear what my mentality is when it comes to these events. Just as there are many different players and thinkers within this game, there are equally many different ways to approach achieving success in events and I believe my own to be a very polarizing one. That is, I strive to win 100% of the events I attend and nothing else. If I cannot make cut, I have no interest in playing anymore and I will never attempt to earn the meager participation Championship Points of making Top 16 at a City Championship or Top 64 at a Regionals.

To me, this is the most efficient way to play the game but that is not to say that I believe it is fundamentally wrong to think about the game differently. It is simply how I orient myself as a player and what I believes sets me apart from someone satisfied with qualifying for Worlds at 300 Championship Points and someone who is willing to attend any number of events in order to earn something greater. In short, I believe that not striving to win is selling oneself short — or to “deliberately draw the line” as my favorite and oft-quoted Confucius passage would say.

Understanding this mentality when it comes to Pokémon is most easily observable in regard to deck choice. When I make choose a deck, I believe that my mentality as a player lends itself strongly to the “go big or go home” adage. Attempting to succeed in this way is risky but I think it proves to be correct almost all of the time.

For instance, by forgoing safety, you set yourself up for bigger defeats (as we can observe in my performance with Blastoise noted above). I do not want to pick a deck that has a safe shot at making top cut; I want the deck that has the best chance to win if it makes top cut. This mean accepting some tough matchups and leaving some things up to luck, but if your decision is well calculated, I believe that success is inevitable. Though you may have hesitations about this mentality, think of it this way: The Championship Points earned is higher for the player who attends four City Championships and wins two while bombing the rest compared to the player who merely makes Top 8 at all four (100 CP vs 80).

Of course, I win far, far less events than I attend, but still — it is with this mentality that I have been able to win more events than the majority of players. Certainly, I do not pretend to be the best and happily acknowledge that there are a great many of players better than myself but I do not see this mentality being invalidated as a result. I can only attempt to prescribe the standards and beliefs that I hold myself to, and while you don’t have to entirely agree with me, I would like you to keep this mentality in mind when you read the rest of what I have to offer.


Do Take Risks with Decklists

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In a small field, one can pinpoint specific matchups.

For the most part, I think City Championships are small enough to understand what almost everyone will be playing. Of course, I do not expect you to know right away what an individual is playing, but through proper analysis and understanding of metagame trends, I think it is easy to make positive metagame decisions. Consistency should still be your utmost consideration when it comes to constructing a deck, but as long as that is not sacrificed, I think you are safe in making certain edits that would not fly at a large event where it is simply impossible to know what to expect.

I have won multiple City Championships by building decks that I could not recommend outside of the very metagame that I prepared it for. This includes an incredibly teched Darkrai/Hydreigon list from several years ago and a Seismitoad/Manectric deck with one copy of almost every Supporter imaginable. Do not be afraid to take large risks in preparing your deck. If it pays off, you are likely to win the event — and if it doesn’t, you will have many more events to attend.

Do Frame Yourself for the Grind

Though I do not think it is necessary to attend a marathon or mini-marathon in order to earn a sufficient amount of points from City Championships, you should plan on attending as many events as you are able to. The more events you attend, the more chances you will have to win and with each event, you should be able to learn more in order to further succeed at later events. This can be quite a daunting task and one that is ill advisable for anyone wishes to compete somewhat casually.

I guarantee that almost everyone who has placed in the top 16 of North America before has attended an above-average number of Cities. However, do not wear yourself out. It is important to take breaks and skip events in order to ensure that your play is as good as it can possibly be. Some people become fatigued from playing too many events, and speaking from personal experience, I need to take a weekend off at least once or twice throughout the duration of Cities in order to not be completely worn out. To succeed at City Championships, you must prepare yourself for the long haul and so please attempt to budget yourself accordingly.

Do Think on the Individual Level

When I am thinking of what I should play for an upcoming event, I look much deeper than just matchups and metagames. I want to think in terms of what individual people are playing. If I am certain that a well-respected player is playing X deck, I refuse to play anything that is not even or favorable with that deck. Doing anything else, in my opinion, would be a waste of time because if I cannot beat someone I consider to be on my level, then I am likely incapable of winning the event.

However, I do acknowledge that it is impossible to know what everyone is playing and so to make this consideration a fruitful one, I urge you to only consider a select number of players. You will still lose to someone you’ve never met before playing your auto-loss, but again: I believe that your successes will outweigh your failures when adopting this mentality.


Don’t Be Afraid to Metagame

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Don’t set yourself up for a bunch of 50/50s or worse.

There are players who would suggest that metagaming a player or a friend is poor sportsmanship or in bad taste and I disagree with this. I believe that such actions within the game are separable from our personal relationships. Of course, I am not advising that you lie about your techs or use deceit in order to gain an advantage. This would go against the Spirit of the Game, of which I am quite the fan. All I am saying is that you are not a bad person for refusing to play Yveltal when everyone you traveled to the event with opted to play a Mega Manectric deck.

City Championships are small and personable and I believe it would be impossible to never engage in a decision that is strictly dependent on metagaming someone, so do not be misguided by anyone who wishes to convince you that such an act is a move of cowardice.

Don’t Be Afraid of Failure

If it has not already been made abundantly clear, it is absolutely okay to stumble and perform poorly at events. No one should expect to win every event that they attend, even if they are able to put in more time and dedication than anyone else. There are many facets of this game that are entirely out of our control and we simply must stomach them and move on. You may make an incredible metagame call that beats every good player at an event and still get paired against an odd hodgepodge of cards in the first round that immediately knocks you out of contention.

If failure is a consistent problem, then perhaps you need to do some introspection in order to evaluate what is wrong, but the occasional poor performance is easily ignored if you are able to take home a few victories.

Don’t Worry About Results from Other Areas

As I’ve said several times now, Cities are small affairs compared to Regionals and so I think that it is ill advisable to worry about results in drastically different parts of the country. Of course, you should still look at the countrywide results in hopes that they may encourage you to explore new archetypes or tech choices, but do not be fooled into worrying about a deck that has won every event in California if no one has played it in your area.

For instance, last year a Quad Reshiram deck emerged on the East Coast and won a few events and placed a little bit more but it never took off anywhere else — and for good reason. Such a deck was devised for a very specific metagame and should not have been considered unless you only had to worry about Virizion/Genesect. Remember to stay small!

Don’t Get Locked on One Deck

This is a piece of advice I cannot stress enough and one that I believe is ignored more often than not. Many players simply play the same deck over and over again and refuse to change even when their results are clearly unsatisfactory. Just because you saw success with a deck week one does not mean you should continue to have good results at any following events. Metagames are never static and a successful player will always be considering something new each week.

Last season, there were a handful of players in my area who played Virizion/Genesect at every single event and though they made top cut occasionally, they were never winning — and as I keep stressing, these kinds of results are simply not good enough. Don’t be like these players.

With all of these tips and tricks in mind, I hope you are able to succeed at your City Championships! If you would like me to elaborate on any of them or even disagree with me, I encourage you to leave a comment and I will attempt to address you posthaste. A special shoutout to Sorina and Squeaky for helping me with this section and letting me bounce ideas off them!

Now, I would be doing all of SixPrizes’ readers a disservice if I did not discuss some decks and cards that have caught my interest in BREAKthrough!

A BREAKthrough Critique

jirachi xy67 art
Of all the new cards, my favorite is a promo!

For the most part, I am largely unimpressed with almost every card that has been released in the new set. I am hopeful in my desires of being wrong, but I do not see very little from the new set that is could be considered competitive. The BREAK cards — while introducing an interesting new mechanic — seem to do very little in shaking up the pre-established decks and most of them are clearly just too slow to keep up with the onslaught of the Night Marchers or Vespiquen.

It is both perplexing and irritating to me why older cards keep getting reprinted. Now that Level Ball, Float Stone, Super Rod, and soon Garbodor are Standard legal, there are virtually no differences between Standard and Expanded which brings us back to the exact same problem we had last year in that the formats were simply too alike to warrant any legitimate consideration. Minus ACE SPECs, Hypnotoxic Laser, Dark Patch, and a select few Pokémon, decks are essentially the same.

However, there is one new card that I am very excited about (though it is not from the new set): Jirachi XY67! Jirachi is a new promo card that should be relatively easy to find. (I found many at my local Target and believe that this should be the case across the country.) I cannot remember the last time there was a promo this powerful and clearly capable of impacting the metagame. Though notably weaker in Expanded when Hypnotoxic Laser is a consideration, I think this card can completely shut down decks reliant on Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX and it should be thrown into any deck that worries about either. I promise that you will not be disappointed if you pick up this card!

More Standard Lists

With this in mind, I only want to talk about some Standard lists as I believe this is the only format I will be competing in for City Championships — but if you would like any advice on how to revise lists for Expanded, I would gladly help! So again, feel free to leave your concerns in the comments section.

Egyptian Batscrew: Lucario/Crobat

Pokémon – 19

4 Zubat PHF

4 Golbat PHF

3 Crobat PHF

3 Hawlucha FFI

3 Lucario-EX

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Jirachi XY67

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Korrina

2 Lysandre

2 Judge

1 AZ

1 Giovanni’s Scheme


4 VS Seeker

3 Level Ball

2 Ultra Ball

2 Muscle Band

2 Focus Sash

1 Super Rod

1 Professor’s Letter


3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 9

5 F

4 Strong

Built-in draw is quite the asset in this format.

To me, this was one of the strongest decks before the new set and it remains to be incredibly powerful. Though it misses the free-retreat Zubat and Landorus-EX, the combination of Fighting cards and Crobat still pressures its enemies with incredible amount of damage. With a much worse pool of Supporters in Standard, this deck finds a lot of its strength by relying on Lucario-EX’s Corkscrew Smash to draw cards while being able to slow down your opponent by spamming Judge. It has incredible typing against Mega Manectric decks which I believe will remain popular and is unphased by potential newcomers like Zoroark BKT. It noticeably has a lot of trouble with Giratina-EX but I believe you handle that problem very swiftly with Jirachi.

If people devise of a way to play the new M Mewtwo-EX BKT 64, then I think this deck will be in a much worse-off position, but until someone is able to crack that card, I think that this deck is likely my favorite and well positioned against almost anything.

Moonwalk: Night March

Pokémon – 19

4 Joltik PHF

4 Lampent PHF

4 Pumpkaboo PHF

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Bunnelby PRC 121

1 Jirachi XY67

1 Bronzor PHF

1 Bronzong PHF

Trainers – 33

2 Professor Sycamore

1 Teammates

1 Lysandre

1 Hex Maniac


4 Acro Bike

4 Battle Compressor

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

2 Revive

1 Escape Rope

1 Switch

1 Float Stone


3 Dimension Valley

Energy – 8

4 M

4 Double Colorless

michael jackson moonwalkdailydot.com
Night March … Moonwalk … same thing!

As you can see, very little has changed from my previous article about this deck. I did decide that not including a Stadium was incorrect, but I still liked to keep Bronzong in here for increased acceleration. I still think that the combination of fast, Item-based draw while also using Shaymin into chaining Hex Maniac across multiple turns is an incredibly fearsome combination and there is not a deck that abuses this more. If you are worried about decks with Focus Sash or Assault Vest, I think that a Xerosic could and should make its way into the list but for now I believe that is mostly a metagame decision.

Though previously threatened by a fast Giratina-EX, I believe that Jirachi is more than enough to save the day. Players had even began to include Shuppet ROS into their deck to try to deal with Seismitoad and Giratina, and Jirachi is effectively the same card without requiring you to commit to a certain Energy type.

Night March has been discussed so many times by so many other writers that I do not feel a need to put much more time into talking about it as I’m sure all of you are well aware of what it does, but please give my list a try if you are looking for a different way to play it!

Cowabunga: Vileplume/Florges/Miltank

Pokémon – 20

4 Miltank FLF

3 Florges-EX

3 Swirlix PHF

3 Slurpuff PHF

2 Oddish AOR

2 Gloom AOR

2 Vileplume AOR

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 29

4 Professor Sycamore

4 AZ

3 Lysandre

2 Ace Trainer


4 Ultra Ball

4 Level Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail


4 Forest of Giant Plants

Energy – 11

11 Y

Flower power, man.

In my last article, I noted that I thought Vileplume had a lot of potential but I was unsuccessful in any of the decks that I had tried with it. However, Fall Regionals introduced us to Vileplume/Aegislash and Vileplume/Regice and while both of these decks saw some results, I am comfortable in asserting that I think that they are both below-average decks. This version, however, solves many of the problems that I think those decks faced such as not having any efficient attackers outside of Miltank. Florges not only synergies with having Bench-sitters like Slurpuff and Vileplume, and attacking efficiently but its Lead attack adds a much needed boost to the deck’s consistency.

Admittedly, I do think that this deck is given a lot of trouble by a Mega Manectric deck but it should strongly be considered if you believe that your metagame is lacking in that capacity.

DragonForce: Tyrantrum/Bronzong

Pokémon – 18

3 Tyrantrum-EX

2 Giratina-EX AOR

1 Aegislash-EX

4 Bronzor PHF

3 Bronzong PHF

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Hoopa-EX

1 Jirachi XY67

1 Smeargle BKT

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Lysandre

1 AZ

1 Judge

1 Teammates

1 Skyla

1 Xerosic


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

3 Float Stone

1 Battle Compressor

1 Level Ball

1 Super Rod


2 Sky Field

2 Faded Town

Energy – 13

7 M

4 Double Dragon

2 F

Finally, I think that Tyrantrum/Bronzong is also incredibly powerful and should still be considered, even in Standard. Christopher Schemanske did an excellent job talking about the deck in his article and while I do not want to flood you with discussion on the deck, here are some differences you might want to consider:

Our Pokémon counts are close to identical but I believe that Jirachi is a huge card for this deck. An opposing Giratina-EX is very threatening to our goals and if you are unable to use Chaos Wheel first, I am unsure how this deck is expected to cope. Jirachi solves this problem — and with Super Rod, it is theoretically possible for you to use Stardust multiple times and run them out of the Double Dragon Energy. Furthermore, I think that Smeargle from BREAKthrough has a lot of potential in here. With Sky Field, Bench space should not be a problem and it lets you get more use out your two Fighting Energy which makes you much less reliant on your Double Dragon.

The final difference the split between Muscle Band and Faded Town. One of either card (if not a combination of both) is needed to ensure that Tyrantrum is able to swiftly handle Mega Manectric. Currently, I prefer Faded Town as it has the potential to hit multiple Manectric between turns as well as be useful to discard Bench-sitting Shaymin-EXs or similarly liable cards.

Final Thoughts

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It’s that time of year again!

In general, I had a lot more fun with this piece than I have before. Maybe it’s just that I’m excited to play in more events or that my subject matter was less serious that it tends to be, but I hope you enjoyed it. I understand that the tone of my writing may have some degree of boastfulness or arrogance to it and for that I do apologize in advance. Certainly, it is not my intention to talk about how good I think I am or how my mentality is a superior one. I simply am trying convey something that I think very strongly of and believe that my experience as a player is ample evidence to support many of my claims. I do not think of myself as being the best or even one of the best but of course I do think of myself as being above average (as many of us do). At any rate, I hope that I have not been off-putting with my words and if you would like to voice any concerns, I insist that you do.

I do not have a schedule of the potential City Championships that I will be attending but I expect to spend most of my time in Kansas City this year and will likely not be in Arkansas or Indiana like I have been in the past. I hope that I am wrong about the lack of impact BREAKthrough will have but only time will tell! If you are at any of the same events as me, please feel free to say hi or ask me any questions that you might have.

I would also like to add that although SixPrizes is no longer facilitating the coaching program that I am currently available for private sessions for anyone interested. Please just contact me here or via social media and I’m sure we can get something planned.

I look forward to seeing many of you soon and until next time!

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