Ghost Writing

A Review of the Immediate Past, Present, and Future Tournament Decks
misty togepi ghosts 3-2pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
“Ghost 1, Ghost 2 … hey, where’s Ghost 3??”

Hello again, SixPrizes! The second week of Winter Regionals has just finished and more champions have been crowned. With only the third week remaining, it seems like a great time to sit down and review what is happening in the Pokémon community. And since we are still in the winter season, I decided to channel my “inner Charles Dickens” and focus on the ghosts of Pokémon decks in the past, present, and future tournaments. Although we may not have a protagonist on this journey, there will certainly be a good amount of deck analysis and coverage for each option, along with analysis into future deck choices that have yet to be seen in tournament play.

The ghost of tournaments past will cover the first week of Winter Regionals, which was in Virginia. The ghost of tournaments present will show some of the more popular decks from the second week of Regionals that just happened, which will include the results of St. Louis and Anaheim. Finally, the ghost of tournaments future will showcase a possible option to play for Florida and Oregon Regionals, while also covering a Standard deck choice to help begin testing for State Championships. For the past and present time frames, I will also cover the deck choices I played for Virginia and St. Louis.

There hasn’t been too much coverage lately for possible deck options with the new BREAKpoint set coming out, as there are many new cards and different aspects to consider now while making decks. The metagame will be one of the broadest spectrums of deck choices that I have ever seen while playing Pokémon, especially for the Expanded format with over 18 sets to choose cards from. I look forward to seeing what decks can prosper during the upcoming Florida Regionals and the distant State Championships. Now is one of the best times to earn Championship Points, so let’s give it all we’ve got and race toward that finish line!

Ghost of Tournaments Past: Virginia Regionals

yveltal xy08 16-9
“Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”

It was very clear that Yveltal was the best possible choice going into this tournament. Everyone was looking to abuse Archeops with the added speed of Dark Patch to power up attackers, which was shown by the eight Dark decks that advanced onto the second day. This doesn’t even begin to include the massive amount of Yveltal-EX decks that didn’t move on to the Top 32 as well.

After a very successful Regionals run in recent history, the other front-runner for the best deck to play was /Flareon. It’s very hard to forget the incredible run that Jimmy O’Brien had with “BeeVees” at Lancaster Regionals, in which he destroyed the competition and won the tournament with his Vespiquen deck.

With all of these factors coming into play during the upcoming weeks, there was a very clear decision for every player in attendance:

Am I joining the crowd to play one of these two decks, or am I just going to tech against them?

The players that teched against Yveltal and Vespiquen came with innovative strategies that had been nearly forgotten, which included the Raikou/Eelektrik builds that were piloted by Eric Rodriguez and Azul Griego to Top 8 finishes. I also chose to tech against these matchups with strong Lightning-based attackers, except the deck I chose to play was Raichu/Crobat/Milotic.

Raichu/Crobat/Milotic

Pokémon – 28

4 Pikachu XY

4 Raichu XY

4 Zubat PLS 53

3 Crobat PHF

3 Golbat PHF

2 Feebas FLF

1 Milotic PRC

4 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Unown AOR

1 Wobbuffet PHF

Trainers – 28

3 Professor Sycamore

2 Colress

2 Lysandre

1 Teammates

1 AZ

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

2 Level Ball

2 Muscle Band

1 Sacred Ash

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Computer Search

 

4 Sky Field

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

This was the list that I piloted to an 8-1-0 finish on the first day of Virginia Regionals, which put me as the 2nd seed going into Top 32. I felt like I was sitting in a great position to make the Top 8 with a relatively overlooked deck choice, but drew poorly on the second day of competition and couldn’t get enough match points. That seemed to be one of the biggest problems with the deck — the openings were either fantastic and my opponent was completely overwhelmed by the second turn, or they were abysmal and I wound up losing too many resources. My ultimate undoing would inevitably be the lack of a Mr. Mime to prevent Bench damage from opposing Darkrai-EX and the “Fright Night” Yveltal. Without a fast start and no way of protecting my Bench, I ended up losing to three Dark-based decks in the Top 32.

milotic-primal-clash-prc-44
Because we gotta go fast.

Most Raichu/Crobat builds played a large amount of Brigette to help with the setup process, which I found to be extremely slow in the current metagame. Speed is the name of the game, and the way to win this game is by playing a Professor Sycamore on almost every turn. Drawing through the deck and getting back useful resources with Milotic proved to be an extremely effective strategy throughout the course of the tournament. This build was what I piloted throughout most of the Georgia Marathon and was the deck I felt most comfortable playing, aside from the addition of some Expanded cards to help in certain matchups.

Some of you may be wondering why there is an Enhanced Hammer in this list. The answer is simply an attempt to counter Giratina-EX, through the use of playing an Enhanced Hammer and abusing Milotic’s Ability to play the Hammer for a second time. This combo should leave a Giratina-EX without any Energy cards and unable to lock us out of Double Colorless Energy, which is the worst possible nightmare for a deck that only relies on those four Special Energy cards.

Another card addition that may bring up questions would be the Wobbuffet, which was a counter against Archeops. With a Wobbuffet active, the intended plan would be to evolve as many Basic Pokémon as possible to have an army of attackers in the upcoming turns. With the favorite partner for Archeops being a Yveltal-EX, a swarm of Raichu should hopefully be enough to take the remaining Prize cards and end the game.

Speaking of Yveltal/Archeops …

Yveltal/Archeops

Pokémon – 13

2 Yveltal-EX

2 Yveltal XY

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Darkrai-EX DEX

1 Seismitoad-EX

1 Keldeo-EX

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Hoopa-EX AOR

1 Archeops NVI

1 Gallade BKT

Trainers – 37

3 Professor Sycamore

2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick

1 N

1 Lysandre

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Battle Compressor

4 Dark Patch

4 Ultra Ball

3 Trainers’ Mail

3 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Float Stone

2 Muscle Band

1 Computer Search

 

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 10

6 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

This was the winning list of Daniel Altavilla that wound up taking a series against Kevin Baxter’s Vespiquen/Flareon deck in the finals. Who would have thought that the two decks in finals would be the most popular deck choices leading to the tournament? It was certainly a good idea for everyone to tech against Yveltal/Archeops, although this combination seems to be unstoppable regardless of how many people are prepared for it. Archeops is an extremely awkward card to run in decks, but with the right Trainer lines and a little bit of luck, this bird Pokémon can make life impossible for a good number of matchups in the current metagame. There is also no way of countering a first turn Archeops, aside from playing a Hex Maniac (which wastes their Supporter for the turn) or sending a Wobbuffet active (which is awkward for them to perform effectively and efficiently).

I feel like the best part about this deck would be the lack of a terrible matchup. Manectric can be somewhat countered by a Gallade coming out to 1HKO their Pokémon-EX, all Evolution decks need to play around Archeops and the speed of Darkrai-EX and Yveltal-EX with Dark Patches to accelerate attacks, and Seismitoad-EX has an inherently bad matchup toward the Energy-abusing Yveltal-EX. Even without Archeops coming down, a fast-paced Dark deck can overpower many opponents from just their speed.

Although this deck choice falls under the category of the “Ghosts of Tournaments Past,” it will also go on to win the second week of Winter Regionals in St. Louis. Brad Curcio found a way to pilot a more Darkrai-based version of the deck its second Regional Championship victory in as many weeks. This deck is just never going to leave with Dark Patch around as Energy acceleration; that much is becoming clear.

Ghost of Tournaments Present: St. Louis & Anaheim Regionals

seismitoad mouthkyurem.tumblr.com
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

With the two best deck choices clearly being known to everyone in the Pokémon community, it appeared that something had to be done in order to dethrone these powerhouse choices. Kevin Baxter’s deck was exactly what everyone didn’t want to see, which was a new and way of playing Vespiquen/Flareon that involved throwing a Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick and a Gallade into the mix. This deck would certainly see play from just how interesting it was to the Pokémon community. The question then came around to:

What deck can effectively beat Yveltal/Archeops and Vespiquen/Flareon/Gallade, while also having decent matchups with everything else?

I’m not quite sure if there was a correct answer to this question, but the inevitable conclusion for the second week of Regional Championships showed some strange results.

In St. Louis, the straight Vespiquen/Flareon deck showed up in swarms and overpowered the Gallade-based builds off of the Vespiquen hierarchy. Yveltal/Archeops and Sableye/ also made a large appearance throughout the tournament, but the deck that showed the biggest rise in number was /Crobat. From my personal experience playing this deck in St. Louis, Seismitoad/Crobat was a great choice that could effectively deal with Vespiquen and also put up a good fight against the Yveltal-based decks.

Although many of these decks didn’t make it into the Top 32, with only four competitors on the second day of competition piloting the build, the Quaking Punches could be heard around the entire convention center.

Seismitoad/Crobat/Landorus

Pokémon – 17

3 Seismitoad-EX

4 Zubat PLS 53

3 Crobat PHF

3 Golbat PHF

1 Landorus-EX

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Dedenne FFI

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

1 Colress

1 Giovanni’s Scheme

1 Lysandre

1 AZ

1 Pokémon Center Lady

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

4 Super Scoop Up

2 Muscle Band

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Super Rod

1 Rock Guard

 

3 Silent Lab

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

3 Fighting

This was the exact list that I piloted in St. Louis to a 6-2-1 finish, which ended up putting me right outside of the Top 32 and onto the bubble. Although effective at shutting down an opponent, I found this build to also be very effective at shutting down my own starts and slowing the game tremendously. For most of my turns, I would just end up saying “Quaking Punch” — without even an Energy attachment or Supporter to go along with it. Even with such small amounts of actions, the combination of Silent Lab and Quaking Punch proved to be effective enough to get me very close for the second day of competition. This list was based almost completely off of the version that Michael Pramawat played for Virginia Regionals, aside from the addition of Landorus-EX to help counter the metagame that I predicted to see.

landorus-ex-boundaries-crossed-bcr-89-ptcgo-1The Landorus-EX was placed into the deck in order to help the Raikou/Eelektrik, Raichu/Crobat, and Manectric-EX matchups. From my predictions, all of these Lightning-based decks were expected to rise in order to counter the Yveltal-EX decks from taking home another championship.

The lack of Virbank City Gym may be a question mark for some readers, which is a little hard to explain. Although the lack of extra damage output is hard to deal with for a deck that runs Hypnotoxic Laser, the added benefit of completely shutting down any decks reliant on Shaymin-EX was much greater. Silent Lab certainly put in the most work on the day, with most of my opponents being completely shut down from Abilities and Items from the very beginning of the game. Pokémon is much easier to win when an opponent can’t play half of their cards or use Abilities!

Overall, the deck proved to be very effective, but didn’t fit my playstyle very well. I wasn’t a big fan of being shut down of my own Abilities, while only saying one attack for most of my games. While this did get me to a good record, the games just weren’t as fun to play throughout the day and also involved atrocious mirror matches that took barely any skill.

Vespiquen/Flareon

Pokémon – 28

4 Combee AOR

4 Vespiquen AOR 10

2 Eevee PLF 90

2 Eevee FFI

4 Flareon PLF

1 Jolteon AOR

4 Unown AOR

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Wobbuffet PHF

1 Audino BCR

1 Mr. Mime PLF

1 Bunnelby PRC 121

Trainers – 25

3 Professor Sycamore

1 N

2 Lysandre

1 Blacksmith

1 Xerosic

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Battle Compressor

2 Float Stone

1 Silver Bangle

1 Life Dew

 

1 Tropical Beach

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

3 Fire

tropical-beach-black-white-promos-bw28pokemon-paradijs.comThis list should be very similar to the version that Dalen Dockery played to a 2nd place finish during the St. Louis Regionals. With some inspiration from Kevin Baxter, there is a new Stadium around that seems to be a near-staple in every Vespiquen deck … Tropical Beach! Since there is no attacking that happens on the first turn of the game, Vespiquen players might as well take some extra cards to get a stronger attack going on the following turns. This card can also finally help these decks to have a say in the “Stadium war” that happens during each game. With usually zero Stadium cards, Vespiquen players are forced to deal with whatever Stadium an opponent plays down, regardless of the consequences. Tropical Beach can now be played to at least bump any Stadium cards that aren’t helping both players during the game, which would be a large amount of options (Virbank City Gym, Silent Lab, etc.).

Without the Gallade to help with consistency and attacking purposes, this straightforward version of Vespiquen/Flareon can get going quicker and also deal with some added surprises from playing a Xerosic. Whether it be to shut off a Garbodor, to take away a Rock Guard or Life Dew, or just to discard a Double Colorless Energy to slow down an enemy attack, Xerosic can provide a versatile effect onto the game.

This version of the deck also plays 2 Wobbuffet in order to counter the large amount of Archeops that had been roaming around during the first week of Regionals. With a higher amount of Wobbuffet, the game can be effectively slowed down, which becomes a great advantage for the Vespiquen player. With a couple of turns to set up an attacking power, Vespiquen/Flareon can begin to take 1HKOs on opposing Pokémon-EX and flip the Prize trade completely in their favor.

While all of these changes seemed to be happening for the St. Louis Regionals, very different decks were appearing in Anaheim, CA.

Primal Groudon

Pokémon – 11

3 Primal Groudon-EX PRC

2 Groudon-EX PRC

1 Groudon-EX DEX

3 Wobbuffet PHF

1 Regirock XY49

1 Bunnelby PRC 121

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Korrina

2 N

2 Lysandre

1 Xerosic

1 Pokémon Center Lady

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

3 Robo Substitute

2 Mega Turbo

2 Focus Sash

1 Float Stone

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search

 

3 Tropical Beach

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 10

6 Fighting

4 Strong

It always seems like the West Coast has a completely different card game than the East Coast, especially in regards to some of the deck choices that appear in the differing metagames. For some reason, seems to become very popular in California, which is probably to counter the growing amount of Yveltal decks that appear. Among the players that showed up with Groudon, this build was the list posted by Joe Sanchez that earned a 12th place finish. It seems to be a relatively straightforward build, and is also only 3 cards off of the list that Stefan Tabaco piloted to an undefeated record into the Top 8 at 8-0-6.

primal-groudon-ex-primal-clash-prc-151
Strong but slowww.

The deck choice has a simple strategy that seems to pay dividends, which involves hiding behind Wobbuffet and slowing down the game until a fully-powered Primal Groudon-EX is ready to go. A second Primal Groudon-EX is then charged up while the first one is attacking and drawing Prize cards. With their Ancient Trait of not being affected by Trainer cards, the fight can only start when the Groudon player chooses to initiate, which is a big advantage to overcome.

From previous experience, I know that Primal Groudon-EX is certainly a strong deck that can bring in many wins. The only problem with the deck is that it can also bring in many ties, which can be seen in Stefan’s record of 8-0-6. With such a slow strategy in place, even one bad hand can effectively force a tying situation for the deck from not being able to win two games fast enough. If played quickly and correctly, Primal Groudon-EX is certainly a strong deck. Focus Sash helps to prevent the beast from being Knocked Out in one hit, while Pokémon Center Lady can help to heal any damage that doesn’t result in a knockout. Opponents are forced to do enough damage to hurt a Primal Groudon-EX, but must make sure that it is still enough to force a knockout with 60 damage being healed between attacks. This also involves taking a big hit between attacks and losing whatever Pokémon made the initial strike.

With a great advantage over Seismitoad-EX and Sableye/Garbodor as well, this build should look to increase in popularity for upcoming tournaments. Don’t be surprised to see some Primal Groudon-EX decks terrorizing the people of Florida Regionals in the upcoming days.

Ghost of Tournaments Future: Florida & Oregon Regionals + Upcoming State Championships

delinquent artwork
The meta is hitting a breaking point.

Now that we’ve gone over all of the information that we have gathered from previous and current events, I guess that it’s time to make some predictions on what to play with the upcoming BREAKpoint set coming out. Florida Regionals is coming up in the next couple of days, along with State Championships following behind. This means that everyone needs to figure out what cards can be effectively added into decks, while also being prepared for any new combinations to appear for these tournaments.

Some of the stronger cards to appear (or reappear) from the new set are going to be the Fighting Fury Belt, Puzzle of Time, Max Elixir, Max Potion, Garbodor, Slowking, and the very hyped Delinquent card. With so many new possibilities, it is hard to think of what decks will be the most popular through the eyes of the Pokémon community.

  • Sableye/Garbodor is certainly going to see play from the addition of Puzzle of Time to abuse strong Trainer cards and run opponents out of resources, but may also be directly countered through an opponent using their own Puzzle of Time to prolong their resources long enough to take 6 Prizes.
  • Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX may see play again with the help of Max Elixir to attack on the first turn of the game with an Emerald Slash onto a Genesect-EX.
  • Seismitoad-EX has some new and old friends to abuse for their Abilities, which would be the Slowking and Garbodor.

There are so many new possibilities and I can’t wait to see what perseveres during Florida Regionals and State Championships to win the most tournaments.

Sableye/Garbodor (Expanded)

Pokémon – 10

3 Sableye DEX

2 Trubbish NVI

1 Garbodor LTR

2 Bunnelby PRC 121

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 44

3 Professor Sycamore

3 N

3 Team Flare Grunt

2 Delinquent

1 Xerosic

1 Ghetsis

1 Lysandre

1 AZ

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Puzzle of Time

3 Crushing Hammer

1 Enhanced Hammer

2 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

2 Red Card

2 Trick Shovel

2 Float Stone

2 Head Ringer

1 Pokémon Catcher

1 Super Rod

1 Life Dew

 

2 Team Aqua’s Secret Base

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 6

6 Darkness

This has to be one of the most annoying decks to appear in the Pokémon TCG. With an unlimited supply of annoying Supporter and Item cards to shut down an opponent’s Energy supply and trap them without attacking, Sableye/Garbodor embodies the perfect example of “the spider and the fly.” Once this deck finally catches an opponent without a way to retreat or attack and keep pressure, Trick Shovels begin to fall and resources start to be discarded from play. It is an extremely helpless feeling to just sit and watch as an opponent repeatedly Junk Hunt’s for Trick Shovels and Crushing Hammers to prolong the agony of watching our deck be discarded.

puzzle of time breakpoint bkp 109
Get ready for endless cycles of disruption! (Yay…)

This deck proved to be extremely effective before the new cards came out, but have reached a whole new meaning of annoying with the help of Delinquent and Puzzle of Time. With the ability to bring an opponent down to 1 card in hand, through the Red Card and Delinquent combo, they will have almost no resources to help bring them back into the game. That combination doesn’t even begin to encompass the added Energy denial of Xerosic, Team Flare Grunt, and Head Ringer. With just starting a bad opening Pokémon-EX, an opponent can be trapped into wasting multiple turns of not attacking and putting on pressure. And the deck plays Life Dew, which can now be retrieved through the double Puzzle of Time to assure Prize cards aren’t taken.

If there is one suggestion from this article that should be taken seriously, it would be to prepare for this deck by any means necessary. If I was going to Florida Regionals this weekend, this would be the deck that I play. It’s hard to counter and can just steal matches from an opponent through an almost unlimited amount of Energy denial and hand manipulation effects.

Seismitoad/Slowking (Standard)

Pokémon – 10

3 Seismitoad-EX

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Slowpoke BKP

2 Slowking BKP

Trainers – 43

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Judge

1 Professor Birch’s Observations

2 Lysandre

1 Hex Maniac

1 Xerosic

1 AZ

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Super Scoop Up

4 Ultra Ball

4 Crushing Hammer

1 Enhanced Hammer

3 Fighting Fury Belt

2 Float Stone

2 Head Ringer

1 Startling Megaphone

 

2 Silent Lab

Energy – 7

4 Double Colorless

3 Water

slowking-breakpoint-bkp-21
Slowking takes Energy denial to the next level.

Slowking definitely seemed like a fun card to try when the scans of this set were released. With the ability to move Energy cards away from an attacking Pokémon onto a weaker target, Slowking showed great potential in Energy-denial decks. There would obviously be no better partner than the extremely annoying Seismitoad-EX and his Quaking Punch. With Energy constantly being pushed away from the desired Pokémon, and an inability to play Item cards to help the setup process, an opponent must find a way to consistently do enough damage to hurt a Seismitoad-EX with 220 HP that can be picked up at any time with a Super Scoop Up. It just sounds annoying to type about this matchup, nonetheless play against it.

This deck doesn’t play the Red Card and Delinquent combo, mainly for the reason that it has better things to worry about. Constantly taking off Energy cards and avoiding being Knocked Out is the purpose of this deck and is the main purpose behind most of the card additions. I’m sure that a version of this deck could also be effective with Puzzle of Time, but I’m trying out this quicker build that can more effectively get off a Quaking Punch on an opponent to begin the Item lock. There is always the option to take out a Crushing Hammer and another card to make a 3-3 Slowking, but I found that the 2-2 line worked just as it was needed.

The overall process of winning the game is relatively simple. Keep Energy off of threats and move them to weaker Pokémon, which can then be Knocked Out by bringing them Active with Lysandre. It is important to avoid knockouts at all times through the help of extra HP from Fighting Fury Belt and Super Scoop Ups, which can be game-changing when used effectively. The game usually ends with a Grenade Hammer onto a Pokémon-EX, with a sad opponent that has a large hand full of Item cards.

Conclusion

I’d like to thank everyone again for reading my articles that I write. It’s very nice to see that people are enjoying the content and building off of my ideas, which can be somewhat crazy at times. With Winter Regionals ending, State Championships are coming around and can be a great way of earning Championship Points to finish of an invite to the World Championships. I hope to see many of you at these tournaments with some fun and exciting new decks involving cards from the new set!

Good luck to everyone that is going to Florida Regionals and future State Championships. Make sure that you pick a deck that you feel comfortable with and not just something that looks good on paper. Big tournaments are all about being comfortable with a deck choice and knowing what to expect throughout an entire day of playing games. Feel free to message me with any questions or comments that you may have after reading this article!

Ryan Sabelhaus <3


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