March to States

Hyped Concepts, Tested Favorites, and the Puzzle of Puzzle of Time
ash ketchum sick tired
I came down with the Pokérus.

In my last article, I had my sights firmly set on attending the Collinsville Regional Championship and to the disappointment of myself and I’m sure many of you, I ended up not being able to attend. This may be a surprise to many because I actually made the trek all the way to the event and spent much of Friday evening playtesting various Seismitoad decks and my own Sableye/Raichu concoction. However, toward the end of the night, I became overwhelmed with sudden aches and pains and though I tried to get some rest and just beat out whatever it was that was ailing me but unfortunately I was unable to do this. I ended up staying up all night, passing the time on my phone and playing games on my DS but it was clear to me that playing in the event the next day was far from advisable and I simply decided to head home and try to beat out whatever illness I had suddenly attracted.

I’m sure many people who interacted with me the night before merely assumed that I had dropped very early. Thankfully I did not have a repeat performance from Fort Wayne earlier in the season but I am very disappointed in myself for not being able to play. I was not 100% sold on playing my Sableye deck for the main event but it was testing modestly throughout the night. Many people were surprised to see me still working on it and it was abundantly clear to me that almost no one took the deck or my justification for it seriously. I would not fault anyone for thinking this way and though I was still winning games here and there, in honesty, I will admit that the deck was ultimately not as good as it needed to be.

I am proud that I took the time to work on something new and try and create something beyond the boundaries of the normative metagame and have zero regrets in doing so, but if I had gone ahead and played it for the main event, I would guess that I probably would have finished somewhere below the Top 32.

For reference, here is the final version of the deck I was testing and the results of the games I tested in Collinsville:

Pokémon – 16

4 Pikachu XY

4 Raichu XY

3 Sableye DEX

2 Jirachi XY67

2 Gallade BKT

1 Yveltal XY

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre

2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

3 Acro Bike

3 Battle Compressor

2 Target Whistle

2 Evo Soda

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine


1 Sky Field

Energy – 9

5 D

4 Double Colorless

Testing Results

Game 1: Seismitoad/Giratina – L
Game 2: Seismitoad/Giratina – W
Game 3: Seismitoad/Giratina – W
Game 4: Seismitoad/Crobat – W
Game 5: Raikou/Eelektrik – L
Game 6: Raikou/Eelektrik – L
Game 7: Raikou/Eelektrik – L
Game 8: Yveltal/Archeops – W
Game 9: Vespiquen/Flareon – L
Game 10: Vespiquen/Flareon – W


The list itself is virtually identical to the last one from the last article though I swapped the Pokémon counts a bit for strategic reasons. I leave the list here because I believe that it still has some potential with the inclusion of Puzzle of Time and I’m sure I will explore that when Expanded is a more poignant concern. I think that Puzzle would solve a lot of consistency issues within the deck and Gallade seems like it will be able to win many matchups on its own. I hope you’ll forgive me for talking so much about a deck I was never able to play but I do truly believe that it proves much about the nature of the current format.

Frankly, the emergence of the Raikou/Eelektrik deck is what ultimately decided the fate of my pet project. It was much faster than I had anticipated and proved to very difficult to enact my main strategy against as the deck played only 1 Shaymin-EX and rarely needed it to draw. I found that my main hope to defeat the deck was just by getting Gallade out many times throughout the game but naturally this is easier said than done. I tested a good chunk of games against the Michigan players’ build of the deck (as mentioned by Christopher Schemanske and Alex Hill in their recent articles) and was unable to take a game against Raikou. Some of these games ended up being close but it solidified my conclusion that Sableye was simply not good enough. The results were not bad and I was squeaking out more games against Seismitoad decks than initially expected.

Something that Alex pointed out in his article was how the Raikou deck, coincidentally, ended up meeting basically all of the criteria that I established what would make a successful rogue deck. It was the deck that I should have come up with and has very similar win conditions as my Sableye deck but does not rely on gimmicks. My list would have still given a priority to Target Whistle and likely would not have played any EX cards even still, but clearly the concept was incredibly solid and I anticipate that it will still have a presence during Spring Regionals.

Counting Worlds points, I am at 255 with virtually no League Challenges placed and so I am confident that I will still be able to participate in the World Championships this year, and this means that State Championships will matter an incredible amount. Though this is more recapping than I intended to do, I would like to give a brief shoutout to my team of testing partners once again. Knowing I would not attend Regionals in the third week, I was almost entirely uninvolved with deck building utilizing BREAKpoint, but Sheep (most prominently Kevin Kobayashi) came up with the Trevenant BREAK deck that won in Florida. It is always a good feeling to see friends succeed in ways where you were unable to and I am further disappointed in not competing in any Winter Regionals this season.

The Puzzle of Puzzle of Time

poke drawer + art
Can we draw from the past to solve this current quandary?

Without further ado, let us get into the real subject matter of this article. State Championships are fast approaching and I am struggling to analyze everything that I need to in order to be totally prepared. Unlike Ancient Origins and BREAKthrough, I think that our newest set really has a lot of potential and many new cards that are competitively viable. Standard, as mentioned before, is a slower game than Expanded due to a lack of high-pressure cards like Hypnotoxic Laser and a moderately worse and less reliable Supporter pool.

One thing that I have observed as a popular trend so far in deck building with the new set is that many have come to the conclusion that Puzzle of Time is good enough to shove into any deck. As you might be able to tell from my word choice, I do not agree with this at all. Though there is still plenty of time for me to eat my words here and reevaluate my thoughts, this just seems completely incorrect to me. The test that I would subject Puzzle of Time to is whether or not you would include the card in your deck if it only had the first effect — would it still make the cut? Is rearranging the top 3 cards of your deck good enough? I would say absolutely not! There are older Pokédex cards and Research Record that were better than this and were never competitively viable.

This is not to say that some decks cannot play this card effectively. Though Sableye DEX is unquestionably the best abuser of this card, I think that some decks in Standard can make good use of it. However, to do this, I think your deck has to meet a majority of the following criteria:

  • Be very fast and efficient
  • Have disposable and flexible space
  • Be incredibly reliant on a singular card
  • Play cards like Town Map, Skyla, or Teammates to easily enable the combination effect

Unsurprisingly, the only deck that meets these criteria is Night March. I think that it is fast enough to not be too hindered by using the first effect of Puzzle of Time and I think that the 4 slots that the card requires (surely no one is considering playing less than that) are easy to accommodate in Night March and in my opinion, Night March no longer has the luxury to fit Milotic into their lists. As we can see from the list in Alex Hill’s most recent article, Vespiquen is now the de facto partner for the Night March deck as a way to combat the new menace of Jolteon-EX. I’ll discuss this card in more detail below, but by observing Alex’s list, I think you’ll see how it meets my criteria above.

I think it is foolish to try and squeeze Puzzle of Time into everything in the same way that Junk Arm was featured in every deck for a long period time. The cards do share some similarities but I think that it is also easy to see how they are much different in regard to their timing. Junk Arm was a live card almost 100% of the time while Puzzle of Time requires much more for it to be more than mediocre. Poké Drawer +, Poké Healer +, and Poké Blower + are also similar in nature but not quite the same. Most prominently, the format where these cards were playable was much slower and heavily revolved around Claydol’s Cosmic Power, which allowed you to continually draw cards while holding onto 1 copy of the combo. Poké Drawer + saw play in almost turbo “donk” decks like Shuppet and Uxie and the other two saw almost no play.

If I had to make a prediction, I would say that I believe that Puzzle of Time will see similar amounts of play to the + cards and seeing as those cards were not in every deck, there is no reason that Puzzle of Time ought to be in every deck.

Hyped Concepts

greninja nod
Get your shurikens ready.

With every new set, the focus is almost always on trying to craft the new cards into fresh, competitive archetypes rather than simply adapting older decks with a small amount of newer options. As a result, new decks that do not have the proven results of older concepts often fill the first week or two of our State Championships this year. This is not to say that new archetypes are always bad. In fact, sometimes they are miles better than any of our older options, but I simply want everyone to be aware of the potential trap they might set themselves up for by only looking to new cards in order to build with.

Let’s begin by looking at a list for one of the most talked about cards for the new set, Greninja BREAK.


Pokémon – 18

4 Froakie XY03

4 Frogadier BKP

3 Greninja XY

1 Greninja BKP

2 Greninja BREAK

1 Remoraid BKT 32

1 Octillery BKT

1 Dedenne FFI

1 Miltank FLF

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Fisherman

1 Bridgette

1 Judge

1 Wally

1 Lysandre


4 VS Seeker

4 Dive Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

2 Muscle Band

2 Battle Compressor

2 Rare Candy

1 Sacred Ash

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Energy Retrieval


3 Silent Lab

Energy – 8

8 W

First, I want to thank Zach Zamora for giving me an initial base for this list. If I had to guess though, this has to be the most hyped concept coming out of the new set. It’s certainly a lot of fun and is well positioned versus many of the popular decks in Standard. I believe that it saw some success at Florida Regionals, but I think that it has much more promise in Standard rather than Expanded. The spread damage that it offers makes Night March easy to deal with since most of their Pokémon have such low HP and Yveltal/Gallade struggles to deal with non-EX who attack for cheap and have a good amount of HP. Entei is still more difficult than you might expect, but your type advantage can make it manageable. I love that the deck functions without Shaymin and going 6 non-EXs can be difficult if this deck manages to set up fast enough.

Though Alex did include a very similar list in his article, this deck is fresh enough (especially compared to Night March) that I still wanted to include this list as a basis of comparison. The most notable difference between the two lists is clearly Puzzle of Time which you’ll understand why I have not included. I find myself to be fairly reliant on Octillery’s Ability and so lacking access to that is a great hinderance. Without playing Skyla, I cannot help but think that Puzzle of Time will clog the hand most of the time, which will make Octillery all the less efficient. Instead, I have included another attacker in Miltank and Battle Compressors which I believe help thin the deck and can help you find Energies at more opportune times by making Fisherman more efficacious.

The Silent Labs are perhaps replaceable with Rough Seas or more consistency like additional Supporter or more fetch cards like Level Balls to give the deck even faster starts, but I do like the way that Silent Lab hinders the setup of your opponents while effectively blocking none of your cards. My 61st card in this list is Buddy-Buddy Rescue as it allows you to easily find an Evolution card and evolve a Benched Frogadier or Greninja. I think there are definitely a lot of different approaches you can take with this deck but this is definitely a good place to start. Let me know what you would do differently with your version of the deck!

I recall a few years back, Kingdra/Greninja and eventually Miltank/Kingdra/Greninja were just almost good enough to be a competitive force. It was just lacking something small but with the release of Greninja BREAK and the new Frogadier, I think that it has all the tools it needs to be successful.

Trevenant BREAK

Pokémon – 16

4 Phantump BKP

4 Trevenant XY

3 Trevenant BREAK

2 Wobbuffet PHF

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Dedenne FFI

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Sycamore

3 Wally

1 AZ

1 Delinquent

1 Lysandre

1 Pokémon Center Lady


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Bursting Balloon

2 Float Stone

2 Level Ball

1 Super Rod


4 Dimension Valley

Energy – 8

5 P

3 Mystery

As you can see, the list is incredibly similar to Aaron Tarbell’s 1st place list from Florida Regionals. Unfortunately, this deck does lose a considerable amount of power in the transition between Standard and Expanded and thus the list has been adjusted accordingly to try and compensate. The biggest card that is missing is Jirachi-EX, which offers an easier access to your first-turn Wally but I have tried to reconcile this problem by increasing the consistency with Trainers’ Mail and including another copy of the card.

The rest of the list is simple and diverges very little from the Expanded list. Mewtwo-EX is no longer legal but I think is easily replaced with Dedenne, which serves a similar purpose, but also boosts your matchup against your biggest foes in the form of Yveltal-based decks. Trevenant has always been capable of immediately winning games by evolving in the first turn and I think that this list offers much of that power even without access to Jirachi.

Learning how to properly spread your damage with this deck takes some getting used to and so I would recommend practicing it as much as possible if you think this deck is something you want to play for States.

Tested Favorites

toad crobat
Reigning TAG TEAM champions (of my heart).

I initially wanted to include Night March in this section since it may be the current exemplar of a “tested favorite.” It has survived multiple formats, the Lysandre’s Trump Card ban, and is always adding new and interesting cards into its list. I have never been a fan of the deck but it would be foolish of me to deny its power in any given format. Once again, please refer to Alex’s list for the deck if you have any questions on how I would build it personally, I would be glad to answer them in the comments below.

So now onto my personal “tested favorite!” Truly, it would not be a good Brit article if I did not talk about Seismitoad/Crobat in some shape or form. This deck has gone from a pet project to one of my all-time favorites and expectedly, I once again believe that it is a viable threat for States this year.


Pokémon – 18

4 Zubat PHF

3 Golbat PHF

3 Crobat PHF

3 Seismitoad-EX

2 Manectric-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Jolteon-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Judge

1 Lysandre

1 AZ


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Super Scoop Up

2 Fighting Fury Belt

2 Level Ball

2 Head Ringer

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Super Rod


2 Silent Lab

Energy – 8

4 L

4 Double Colorless

For yet another time, my list for this deck is almost identical to the last time I talked about the deck. I have readjusted a few things to keep up to date with the way I predict the metagame to be shifting but fundamentally, the deck remains unchanged. Jolteon-EX is the newest addition to the deck and I think solves your problems with Entei and Mega Manectric decks. I think that this card is worth all of the hype that it is receiving and I suggest that you try to find this card sooner rather than later as it already appears to be one of the most expensive cards in either format.

The other most notable change is the inclusion of Startling Megaphone. This might sound funny to include with Head Ringer in the deck, but I think that it is still worth playing to keep other Fighting Fury Belts in check. Of course it also gives you ways to deal with various Spirit Links and — when timed right — can make Head Ringer a much better card. You really need to be able to remove it on your own if you wish to retain your favorable matchup against Night March and I think Megaphone’s ability to Knock Out multiple Tools at once gives it the advantage over 1 copy of Xerosic in the list.

I have also considered removing the Head Ringer altogether in favor of more consistency cards, but for now, I still want them to make Manectric effective against opposing EX decks.

Mega Manectric

Pokémon – 14

4 Manectric-EX

3 M Manectric-EX

2 Jolteon-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Hoopa-EX AOR

1 Lugia-EX AOR

1 Raikou BKT

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Lysandre

1 Judge

1 Giovanni’s Scheme

1 AZ


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

3 Manectric Spirit Link

3 Max Elixir

2 Fighting Fury Belt

1 Battle Compressor

1 Startling Megaphone


3 Rough Seas

Energy – 12

9 Lighting

3 Double Colorless

Mega Manectric is yet another deck that is able to persist in every format. The core of the list changes a lot depending on what decks you are trying to beat but the main strategy is always the same. Mega Manectric is an effective attacker that takes a ton of effort to Knock Out through the consistent heal of Rough Seas. Max Elixir offers a lot of promise in this type of deck, which can allow you to set up Turbo Bolt in one turn, which is a ridiculous premise.

Jolteon-EX seems like a natural inclusion in this deck and offers a solution to previously unfavorable matchups. With the inclusion of DCE to further enable Jolteon, I think that Lugia becomes a very dangerous backup attacker if you load many Energy onto it and it a soft answer to Gallade.

These four decks offer something new and something old but it is on you as a player to test for yourself to see which you believe will offer the best results for your upcoming State Championship. Of all these decks, I think that the Seismitoad/Crobat deck is my favorite and so unsurprisingly, I am a bigger advocate of the “tested favorite” approach but I look forward to hear what you think of this dichotomy!

Closing Thoughts

ash marching forward ahead journey
And so it begins … the March to States!

I hope that you have enjoyed my article today! This one was quite enjoyable to write and came to me easier than some of my more recent pieces have. I am really looking forward to attending States this year and I promise to do everything within my power to get myself to these events. One Top 8 performance is all that stands between me and qualifying to compete in San Francisco this year, and considering that I have not missed cut at a States since the change to Top 8 only, I would like to think that I will accomplish this goal come April.

I will most certainly be at Missouri and Kansas States, but outside of that, I am not sure. The dates for the events around me are unusually spread out and so the middle weeks of events would require a large amount of travel to compete in, but I will definitely try to attend as many as I can realistically attend.

I think that this format looks very healthy and unique but only time will tell if that prediction will be the case. Looking toward the future, I am a bit annoyed that N is reprinted. Combine that with our “new” Garbodor and the lines between Expanded and Standard begin to run even thinner. Are we even missing anything noteworthy other than Dark Patch and Tropical Beach? This returns me to previous complaints that I have made about there being little point in having two formats if they are so similar. Both need to be different enough to highlight the difficultly of succeeding in two different environments as well as being relevant enough to always be on the radar of a competitive player.

I find it somewhat ironic that many of those players — who cry that the return of N to the format necessarily entails a return of skill to Standard — are the exact same people who complained about N being unhealthy for the game no less than a year ago. It is either “N is unfair because you have no control over it being played against you” or “the disruption that N provides allows for more skillful and methodical play which is synonymous with skill.” Clearly it cannot be both.

Do you think I have missed anything here? My tone is a sardonic one, but I am always very cautious around the players who are at their most vocal when they are loudly or obtusely discussing the skill (or lack thereof) of the current format. Let me know what you think and as always, I urge everyone to comment their thoughts, opinions, and disagreements and I will do my best to address each and every one.

Until next time!

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.

Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!

Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in. Legacy discussion: 7