Hey everybody! We’re finally getting into the thick of the season and I could not be more excited. City Championships are some of my favorite events of the whole year. I love this two-month span where I get to play in one to three tournaments almost every weekend.
For today’s article, I want to dive into some interesting material that will help you to do better at your Cities. First, I want to talk about the two different approaches to a long tournament series like City Championships as well as some general tips. Then, I’ll go over some of the decks I’ve been testing recently. Finally, I’ll give my predictions for the Week 1 metagame so that you can get a leg up on your competition. There’s a lot to talk about so let’s get to it!
- The Two Types of Players (and Other Observations)
- Standard Decks
- European XY-AOR Decks
- Expanded Decks
- Predictions for the Premier Weekend
- Closing Words
The Two Types of Players (and Other Observations)
As other writers have pointed out before, the idea of a “playstyle” is a misused and misunderstood concept. Playing a lock deck or an aggressive deck isn’t your “playstyle” — it’s your preference. However, I do think there are playstyles in the game, just not exactly in regard to the kinds of decks that you play.
There are typically two types of players in the game: those who like to stick with the same deck for a while and those who like to play different decks as trends emerge in the meta. I usually fall into the latter camp but it doesn’t mean that I think that style is strictly better than the other. Jason Klaczynski and Frank Diaz are examples of great players who have been known to perfect a deck over a long stretch of time. Jason has been known to play Seismitoad-EX decks ad nauseam, resulting in wins at both Wisconsin Regionals and the US National Championship last season. Frank has played Yveltal-EX decks across much of the two most recent seasons, already earning his invite to the 2016 World Championships (assuming we will stick with a 300 CP requirement this year) due to stellar Regional Championship performances.
It can be really helpful to grasp these playstyles and understand which kind of player you are as it applies to the City Championship series. In the past few years, I have tackled Cities with both of these different approaches. Sometimes I even switch between them as the metagame develops.
Case in Point
For instance, in the 2013-2014 Cities season, I almost exclusively played a Plasma Lugia-EX variant. I tried many different techs and was able to work with my teammates to put together a great list which resulted in a lot of Championship Points for all of us.
I started out with a similar mindset for last year’s City Championships. After playing a Donphan variant at Fall Regionals, my teammates and I spent a lot of time developing a great list that we used to cut a few events early in the Cities season. As other players started to pick up the deck more and more, I decided that it would be best to use other decks to counter it. Christopher Schemanske and I came up with some interesting decks like Virizon/Genesect with multiple Pokémon Center Lady that were able to consistently beat common Donphan lists. At times, I even took advantage of a stagnant metagame between events held on the same weekend. For instance, I noticed at a Saturday event that most players were playing Donphan, Genesect, Metal, and Yveltal decks. Changing from the aforementioned Genesect deck to a Pyroar deck with Seismitoad-EX and Kyurem NVI for the next day’s tournament gave me a lot of good matchups on the field. I was able to walk away with a 2nd place finish, losing to one of the three decks in the room that had a viable Pyroar answer.
I share these anecdotes in an effort to give you something else to think about when preparing for Cities. It can be really difficult to choose your deck for each of these events, especially with all of the exciting rogue decks that tend to come out as the metagame cements itself. Never be afraid to stick with the same deck for an extended period of time; comfort with a deck and the confidence to make the correct plays in any situation can be just as rewarding as playing the new deck on the block. Identify which kind of player you are as I outlined earlier and use that information to influence your deck choice over this long and taxing City Championship season.
There are a lot of other observations that you can use to find success at City Championship events. I have found that, for the most part, players do not switch decks between events. This is really useful to keep in mind when choosing techs or even changing your deck entirely to respond to your local metagame. After the first few events where players get a chance to see what is successful in the area and in the rest of the country, they will gravitate to those popular decks and likely stick with them for a long time.
When choosing a deck for Cities, I tend to favor one with more even matchups on the field. Once you make top cut, every match win is worth 10 Championship Points with the potential for a 30 CP swing across the entire Top 8. If you run into a bad matchup in the first round of top cut, you will probably lose out on a lot of CP just because of your deck choice. Being paired against a bad matchup is unavoidable at times. However, in a situation where a single match can mean a significant loss of Points, you should do everything possible to mitigate that risk.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind is that variance plays a huge role in these events. The City Championship series takes place over a very long amount of time and you will probably play in 8+ tournaments in that span. Don’t be discouraged if you go through a stretch of events where you fail to make top cut or you continually fall out in the first round of top cut. Keep powering on, playing consistent decks, and you’ll eventually get back in the groove.
Something that you know about me if you’ve read any of my articles is my love for reading the metagame. However, other people can do this too. You need to keep yourself open to reacting to the trends in the metagame while also not falling in line with that predictable trend. At a local City Championship event that may have less than 30 people, it can be easier to tech against certain players than to tech against decks. In order to combat this, I like to fill out my decklist before the event, sometimes even multiple lists so I can choose my deck at the last possible second. I also will leave card counts blank and give myself room for tech cards so that I can easily make modifications to my list if I see what other people are playing.
For more general tips on City Championships, check out Brit’s article from earlier in the week. I really enjoyed the philosophical discussion he had about a winning mentality and the mindset you need to be successful at Cities.
Currently, I’m hard at work testing for the new format. I’ll be playing almost all of my City Championships in the Standard format and I have my first one in just three days! Christopher covered a few of my top choices in his article from last week (namely Tyrantrum and Magnezone/Raikou) but here are a few of the other decks that I am considering.
The Four-Armed Wonder: Machamp/Bronzong
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
This is a deck that I never took seriously until a good friend of mine lost to a similar version at a League Challenge. Machamp-EX and Ariados have such obvious synergy but the relatively high Energy cost to use Machamp’s Crazy Hammer caused me to quickly dismiss the deck. Bronzong alleviates that somewhat but the inclusion of Smeargle BKT really puts this deck over the top.
There is a lot of setup required for Machamp to start swinging with Crazy Hammer but once you get the first one off, you can stream attacks with relative ease. A full set of Battle Compressor helps to get both Fighting and M Energy in the discard to use with Bronzong and Smeargle, and also lets you find Supporters in the early game with your VS Seekers. The added benefit is that they also thin your deck out, allowing you to more easily draw into integral parts of your set up like Spinarak and Bronzor with your first Professor Sycamore of the game.
Focus Sash should make sure that a single Machamp can get two attacks off, further alleviating the problems that Crazy Hammer’s 3 Energy cost causes. In a perfect world, you would be able to have 2 Bronzong and Smeargle on the Bench, allowing you to power up a Machamp in one turn when paired with your attachment from the hand. However, you also need to have Ariados on the Bench, and you probably needed to use at least one Shaymin to Set Up at some point in the game. Sky Field can allow you to achieve this perfect Bench but Focus Sash buys you the extra turn you need and makes a Bench with only 1 Bronzong survivable.
As far as the stranger cards in this list, I like Hawlucha as a non-EX attacker but more so as an option to retreat for free. This is really important in a deck centered around Bronzong as we can see by most Bronzong decks that played Keldeo-EX last format. Zoroark BKT is a fitting replacement for Keldeo in some decks but this one just doesn’t have space in the list and often not on the Bench either, plus it’s just hard to get out consistently.
Parallel City and Hex Maniac are cards that I try to fit into most of my lists for the Standard format because they can both help you get out of unwinnable situations. Parallel City serves two purposes here: both limiting your opponent’s Bench space and also removing your Shaymin-EX from the board when they would provide easy Prizes for your opponent. You can even use it to limit Vespiquen’s damage output in a pinch. Hex Maniac can shut down the setup of decks like Vespiquen and Night March especially and you can often afford that as your Turn 1 Supporter because you won’t be attacking without two Energy attachments anyway. It also give you a way to stop a Tyrantrum-EX from being powered up again after an attack which can swing the Prize trade back into your favor.
This deck is actually very similar to Tyrantrum in the way that it operates. Set up a big EX attacker, accelerate Energy from the discard pile, and get 1HKOs. However, Machamp is not as susceptible to Hex Maniac since it doesn’t have to discard Energy to attack. You should definitely try this deck out when you’re preparing for City Championships.
Doggy Toys: Manectric Toolbox
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
Mega Manectric was one of the first types of decks that I tested in the new format and it has taken me a lot of time to find a variant that I like. I spent a lot of time working on a Manectric/Pyroar list similar to the one that Brandon Cantu talked about in his recent article. The concept behind the deck is obviously strong since almost every deck in Standard fully relies on Shaymin-EX for draw power. However, I was turned off from the deck by its lack of options and inability to consistently damage Giratina-EX.
I actually looked back to Mike Fouchet’s article with the Mega Manectric deck that he played for Nationals for inspiration. I found that much of his list could be ported over to our current format, but several of the cards had to be replaced. Regice is a much better version of Suicune in this format, especially with Hex Maniac shutting off any type of Safeguard Abilities. Lugia-EX works just as well as Mewtwo-EX did, although the Lightning Weakness could prove troublesome in the mirror match.
Raikou BKT is another great non-EX option for the deck. It deals more damage than Regice and is more consistent than Articuno. As Christopher mentioned last week, Assault Vest provides a ton of protection when paired with the Shining Body Ability. One of my favorite uses for Raikou has been against Regice in other Manectric decks or sometimes in Vileplume decks. If you get a Raikou fully powered with an Assault Vest and 4 L Energy, you can 1HKO Regice while they typically deal 10-30 damage to you. This is a great way to deal with one of Manectric’s main weaknesses.
Giratina-EX has been public enemy number one for M Manectric decks so I have included a lot of ways to deal with it in this list. Jirachi XY67 completely walls Giratina when you discard their Energy. Regice is a bit harder to power up when you can’t play your Double Colorless Energy but, when you do get one attacking, it also has immunity to Giratina. Lugia-EX is a surprisingly good option for attacking a Giratina, taking advantage of its 4 Energy cost. You likely won’t get a 1HKO on it but it will soften one up enough to take it out with Assault Laser or almost any of your other attacks. I would add another Hex Maniac to allow M Manectric to attack through Renegade Pulse or a 2nd Jirachi if I expected a lot of Giratina decks in my local metagame.
European XY-AOR Decks
In the past few weeks, there have been several Regional Championships in Europe, giving us a glimpse of which decks do well in the Standard format. There was even a stream at one Regional and Ross Gilbert from PTCGRadio has uploaded a few rounds from another to his YouTube channel. Unfortunately, these Regionals were all in the XY-AOR format but I have still found a lot of useful information from the results.
Here are a couple of decks that did well at these Regionals that I think have some promise in the new Standard format.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 36
Energy – 9
This is a similar list to the one that won Huddersfield Regionals in the UK. You can see this deck in action here where it very surprisingly beats a Night March deck. I have never had much success at all against Night March or Vespiquen with any deck built around Mega Pokémon but this M Sceptile deck beat both of them to take 1st place.
The premise of the deck is pretty straightforward: Use M Sceptile’s Jagged Saber to accelerate Energy and heal damaged Pokémon. Although you don’t deal a lot of damage this way, you keep your opponent from getting effective knockouts with your healing. In addition, M Sceptile has the Theta Stop Ancient Trait making it immune to damage from Golbat and Crobat and even harder to take down.
You also have two other attackers that surpass M Sceptile’s damage cap in Sceptile-EX and Virizon. Sceptile can hit for 130 with the help of Ariados and Virizon hits for 120 when you are behind in the Prize trade. All of your attackers can Knock Out Shaymin-EX (when you take Poison damage into consideration) which is typically how I take 2-4 Prizes each game.
When I first started testing this deck, the initial setup was incredibly fragile. Once a M Sceptile is set up with 2 Energy and you have attackers to accelerate to on the Bench, everything is smooth sailing from there. I made a few modifications to the base list to maximize the count of Trainers’ Mail and added a few Mega Turbo, both of which help to set up a M Sceptile from scratch.
This deck has a lot of solid matchups in the format. Vespiquen has a lot of trouble dealing 220 damage to Knock Out a M Sceptile. Most variants are moving away from using Flareon AOR with Blacksmith in favor of Bronzong PHF as the Energy accelerator of choice so they give up the option to hit for Weakness. Giratina-EX typically doesn’t cause a lot of problems. Sceptile-EX and Virizion can both attack through its Ability and Hex Maniac is useful to shut it off in a pinch. A Jirachi XY67 could once again be included if Giratina-EX gives you trouble.
Tyrantrum is another good matchup as it can only 1HKO M Sceptile with the help of Muscle Band and Faded Town. Since this list plays 4 Stadiums and most Tyrantrum lists play 1 Faded Town (if any), it’s usually pretty hard for them to consistently get knockouts. In fact, very little of the format can get 1HKOs on M Sceptile which is what makes this deck so appealing. I’m still working on ironing out the kinks in this list but I’m definitely considering Sceptile for this weekend’s Cities.
It’s Raining Bats and Dogs: Manectric/Crobat
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
2 Head Ringer
Energy – 10
This is my take on the deck that won Sutton Coldfield Regionals in the UK a few weekends ago. Crobat allows for Manectric to achieve 1HKOs on most Pokémon-EX while also dealing with the Fighting Pokémon that Manectric struggles against. In addition, Flash Energy gives Manectric another way around its Weakness, even though it makes you susceptible to Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic.
I’ve made getting Zubats out the top priority of this list. A pair of Brigette in conjunction with a full count of Trainers’ Mail make it fairly easy to get 3 Zubat on the Bench on the very first turn. I’ve considered upping the count of Level Ball to make finding Zubat even simpler, and it also gives you extra outs to Golbat in the subsequent turns.
This deck is very straightforward and it has a lot of good disruption options. Hex Maniac might seem out of place in a deck centered around the Bat Pokémon but it’s the best way to beat Tyrantrum. Otherwise, the game can easily end in just three quick turns. Head Ringer helps in this crusade while also fueling Manectric-EX’s Assault Laser. I wanted to fit in a few more options for discarding Special Energy cards but I’m not yet sure what cuts are acceptable. A Xerosic would be a great option as Manectric is very weak to Head Ringer.
This is the most untested list in the article but I think that it can be really strong in the right metagame. I don’t think that I would play it for the first weekend of City Championships but if I find that my local metagame is devoid of M Sceptile and Fighting decks, I might just try out Manectric/Crobat.
Even though all but one of the City Championships I’ll be attending are in the Standard format, I still think about Expanded every so often. Winter Regionals will be here before we know it and I don’t want to be unprepared. These two decks are my current favorites in the format and I’ll definitely be testing them a lot after Cities are done.
Disruption for Days: Seismitoad/Crobat
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 37
3 Red Card
Energy – 6
I piloted this deck to two League Challenge wins right after Regionals. The idea for this list came about from the conversation on the right that I had with Christopher about the impact of Judge. Red Card, Hex Maniac, and Quaking Punch all do a great job of shutting decks down. The combination of any two can completely cripple an opponent, especially if you can find a Red Card and a Hex Maniac on the first turn of the game.
I’ve had several games against shaky matchups like M Rayquaza-EX and Night March where the first turn of the game is just me playing a Hex Maniac and passing. This almost always means that they can’t get an attack off on their first turn, and if they can it definitely isn’t for a knockout on my Seismitoad. This gives me the advantage I need to stay in the game and control the pace from there on out.
Red Card can be used to great success in conjunction with almost any of the Supporters in this list, not just the Hex Maniac. It gives you an option to shuffle your opponent’s large game-winning hand back into their deck while also discarding their Energy, dropping some more Bat damage on the board, or simply giving you a better way to refill your hand compared to playing an N. You have to be careful with when you choose to use a Red Card just like N so that you don’t give your opponent a better hand than they started with. Paying attention to your opponent’s body language and the choices they make during their turn can really help you make an informed decision.
Seismitoad/Crobat is one of my favorite decks in the Expanded format and should be a strong play at Winter Regionals. I think it’s the only variant of Seismitoad-EX that can hold its own while Jirachi XY67 is seeing play. Even if they use Stardust to discard a DCE, you can use a Hypnotoxic Laser and Crobat to get a knockout while keeping the Quaking Punch lock in place. The other big problem for Seismitoad in the format is Tyrantrum decks but Hex Maniac really shuts them down. If you’re having trouble with that matchup, some Head Ringers could be added to cripple their Keldeo-EX or a Jirachi of your own can stop a troublesome Giratina-EX.
A Sprinkle of Pixie Dust: Night March
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 35
1 Town Map
Energy – 7
The release of Jirachi XY67 has made Night March my top deck choice for the Expanded format. It was already incredibly strong, especially in the latter half of Fall Regionals when Blastoise dropped in popularity. Now that it has an answer to Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX, very few decks will be able to stand up to the powerful Marchers. Stardust can even act as a pseudo counter to Focus Sash; many Fighting Pokémon that can use it also utilize Strong Energy so you can break the Sash without risking a knockout.
Jirachi also has a lot of utility in other matchups like Vespiquen and the mirror. These games will become chess matches of sorts as players fight to keep their opponents field devoid of Double Colorless Energy while keeping their Active Pokémon immune to attack damage. Night March should to have an upper hand in this by using Stardust for 0 Energy with the help of Dimension Valley. I also included an Enhanced Hammer to help you stay ahead in the Prize trade but a Xerosic may be a better, more searchable means of discarding Special Energy.
The rest of this list is based off of Ross Cawthon’s Top 4 list from Fort Wayne Regionals. It sacrifices some of the speed of other Night March lists in favor of late-game stability. Teammates and Town Map are two of the interesting cards that I’m surprised other lists aren’t playing. They can help you find Double Colorless Energy exactly when you need it or your Lysandre to close out the game. Hex Maniac and Super Rod give you even more options late in the game when your back is against the wall.
Predictions for the Premier Weekend
“A young T-rex wants a piece of the action!”
I’ve thought a lot about what to expect for this weekend’s City Championships in the Standard format since I’ll be hitting two myself. Vespiquen and Tyrantrum are the decks that I’m expecting the most of; both are proven contenders that don’t lose much when you convert them over from Expanded.
If it weren’t for Jirachi, I would feel very comfortable playing Tyrantrum. The Vespiquen matchup is typically good as long as you shut down their ability to play Double Colorless Energy with Giratina’s Chaos Wheel. Stardust makes that significantly harder, but Tyrantrum can still attack through Jirachi’s immunity. Aegislash-EX, Xerosic, and Hex Maniac all give you other ways to win the matchup.
Speaking of Xerosic and Hex Maniac, they also have a lot of utility in the Tyrantrum mirror. I played the big dino at Fort Wayne Regionals and used these two cards to win all six games that I played of the mirror matchup. Xerosic + Chaos Wheel or Hex Maniac + Dragon Impact both usually mean that your opponent won’t be able to get an attack off on their next turn which can swing the Prize trade very far into your favor. The sheer power of Tyrantrum is very enticing to me in an unknown metagame.
Magnezone/Raikou is another deck that I’m expecting after seeing a good amount of hype for it at my local league and online. The deck is undeniably strong, especially the version that Russell LaParre profiled on Some1sPC. I had never thought of focusing the whole deck on non-Pokémon-EX which lets the deck actually go toe to toe with Vespiquen, something my early lists never could do. Tyrantrum is also a good matchup when you use Pikachu-EX to get one or two easy 1HKOs. If Magnezone picks up in popularity after the first few City Championships, I plan to explore Lucario/Crobat decks which could even beat Vespiquen and Tyrantrum with the help of Focus Sash.
This format is much harder to predict as there were a ton of different, successful decks at the Regional Championships. Jirachi should mean that Seismitoad/Giratina decks are no longer played, making Night March and Vespiquen decks even stronger. Thus, I wouldn’t worry about M Manectric or Yveltal as both tend to struggle against Battle Compressor decks.
Donphan could take advantage of this metagame, especially with Focus Sash to get rid of the potential for Night March and Vespiquen to score 1HKOs. A few players even piloted Donphan deck to Top 8 finishes in the last weekend of Fall Regionals, further proving its viability. If you see the elephant taking home some of your Expanded City Championships, consider the Seismitoad/Crobat list that I posted above. An extra Lysandre in place of the Dedenne should push the Donphan matchup completely in your favor.
Another deck that could see a resurgence in this metagame is Archie’s Blastoise. I spoke highly of the deck after it performed very well in the first weekend of Regionals. However, I was hesitant to play it in Fort Wayne after all of the hate I saw for it in the results from Lancaster. Now that most people seem to have forgotten how strong it is, I think it is a great play. Night March, Vespiquen, and Donphan are all great matchups, especially when you play two Articuno. The presence of Blastoise can be dealt with by adding copies of Ghetsis, Hex Maniac, and Jirachi-EX in most decks so you’ll have to keep a close eye on the metagame when considering the big turtle.
The City Championship season is quickly approaching. I’m happy to be able to share my thoughts with you and prepare you for some of the most interesting events of the year. Just remember, the metagame will constantly be changing. I always enjoy looking back at Underground articles from past years to see which decks and techs were viable at different times in the Cities season. If you find yourself lost in the next few months, feel free to reach out to me or the other Underground writers; we would be happy to point you in the right direction.
I’ll be playing in eight City Championships throughout Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio over the next four weekends. I’d love to meet any of you if we find ourselves at the same event. And I’ll be back in December with an update on the metagame, hopefully with some interesting new decks to share with you all.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey and good luck at Cities!
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