What’s going on humans! My name is Russell LaParre and I’m back to bring you my second article for SixPrizes Underground. Last time I was here, I discussed the Winter Regionals format and provided a personal tier list which I believe held up exactly as expected for Weeks 1 and 2. Now we’re moving on to one of the crucial parts of the tournament season, State Championships. This is the best opportunity for players that weren’t able to find the time or resources to attend Regionals to claim much needed Championship Points before Nationals.
I’m going to dive into my top three plays for States and a couple of rogue decks to consider depending on your expected metagame, but first I want to discuss my thoughts on the grueling 50-minute, best-of-three Swiss match structure.
The Persistence of Time
One of biggest skill gaps I see between players of mid- and high-tier caliber is their ability to recognize win conditions within a reasonable amount of time. Some of you might be thinking:
“What are you talking about Russ? All I have to do is take 6 Prizes.”
While this is the main win condition of this game — other than say the Bench-out or deck-out — I believe when preparing for a best-of-three format players need to have a good grasp on the reach of their deck and its ability to make comebacks in difficult situations. I’ll use my tournament run at Florida Regionals as an example of how being unprepared mentally combined with a lack of playtesting can cost a player much needed match points.
I piloted a Yveltal/Darkrai/Maxie’s deck to a record of 8-1-5, finishing 5-0-4 Day 1. While this record isn’t exactly bad, I know I missed out on key opportunities to take wins during almost all five of my ties. The primary round I want to highlight was one against Manectric-EX/Genesect-EX.
Game 1 I was able to establish a turn 1 Gallade and a turn 3 Archeops. My opponent promptly scooped the following turn realizing the pace of the game was lost.
Game 2 I prized Gallade and had to opt to Maxie’s Archeops to keep some sort of control down. This game ended up being a prolonged back-and-forth battle once my opponent used Hex Maniac to evolve and Turbo Bolt onto a G Booster’d Genesect-EX. We were both at 6 Prizes remaining and I could tell the game was slowly going to spiral out of my control if I didn’t hit the Gallade from my first KO.
I used a Lysandre to KO a Benched Shaymin-EX with my damaged Darkrai-EX and missed the Gallade off my Prizes … but I persevered — which was a mistake. The following turn he Turbo Bolted, KOing my Darkrai-EX, and attached to the Genesect-EX, turning G Booster online. I began analyzing the board state and in time realized I needed to use a combination of Yveltal BKT’s Pitch-Black Spear and Lysandre with a Night Spear to take my next KO … then hit Gallade off my Prizes to win.
The amount of time it took me to reach this conclusion was roughly 15 to 20 seconds. During this time I saw my opponent’s win condition was hitting 1-of his 2 Plasma Energy or 3 VS Seeker to grab Lysandre for two concurrent turns to finish the game. This is where I made my greatest mistake of the round; I again didn’t concede. I played out the next two turns hoping to N my opponent out of his potential win condition and build up my game plan which easily cost me around 8 to 10 minutes of time.
While my game plan was still “possible” it was highly unlikely I could execute it properly before my opponent would achieve his win condition. With the number of cards he had left in his deck and so few resources spent getting to his board state, not scooping was a costly error.
We entered Game 3 and my opponent had a weak start due to my turn 1 Ghetsis and I was able to get out a turn 2 Gallade which would’ve completely destroyed the game.
Sadly, time was called at the start of his third turn and there was no way I was going to take 6 Prizes during the final turns. The entire set I played at a quickened pace, and my opponent also played at a great pace, but our prolonged Game 2 of back-and-forth exchanges pushed us to a draw.
After taking this draw, which in my eyes was a missed opportunity to win, I wanted to convey my thoughts on how any deck, any player, and any matchup can come to this point in a best-of-three tournament. This is one of the qualities an experienced deck pilot can recognize: when a game is out of their control — whether it be by prizing circumstances, an opponent getting extremely lucky, or the ability/inability of a deck to make a comeback.
With this in mind while testing for this States format, I wanted to not only test deck strategies and matchups but decks’ abilities to present recognizable game states which could lead to a quick win or a quick loss — enabling me to complete three full games and set myself up with the best opportunity to win the tournament.
This State Championships metagame is going to be extremely diverse since the previously dominant decks in the Standard format — Night March, Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade (YZG), and Mega Manectric — all gained power, new forms of utility, and extremely difficult matchups with the release of BREAKpoint. Generally consistent strong players are going to wind up playing one of these three decks and you’ll find occasional rogue variants in the form of Greninja BREAK, Trevenant BREAK, Vespiquen/Yveltal/Crobat, and Vespiquen/Vileplume.
You should be prepared to beat at least two out of the top three decks and analyze your predicted meta to see whether or not you should accept the loss to Item lock, Ability lock, or damage spread.
Top Three Plays
1. Night March
It should be no surprise to see Night March as the number 1 deck to both beat and pilot in this upcoming string of tournaments. Previously, this deck had an unfavorable matchup against Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade but the release of Fighting Fury Belt and Puzzle of Time propel this deck to a new level of strength. While I don’t believe Night March is completely unbeatable, it is extremely easy to pilot, it can take quick wins against opponents with mediocre draws, and it is the most consistent deck in the entire format.
After many discussions with my playtesting team and friends, we all noticed a trend while trying to find decks that pick apart a solid 90% of the field. The core question became:
“How can this idea beat Night March?”
Simply put, if the deck we had didn’t hit for Bench damage or locked an opponent out of Items we considered the NM matchup extremely unfavorable but at the same time winnable if you’re able to go first and have explosive turns.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 40
1 Town Map
Energy – 4
I believe the best route to take this deck into Week 1-of States is having Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick and Gallade BKT in your back pocket to answer any type of deck running Jolteon-EX and M Manectric-EX. I play Puzzle of Time in this build as you’ll be able to empty your hand quicker using Puzzle of Time’s first effect and grab it back later on if you’re in need of resources. I am a strong believer that Puzzle of Time is a better play than Milotic PRC — with or without the Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick — as it can grab cards back at any point in the game without giving time for an opponent to plan around Sparkling Ripples via Lysandre on Feebas or Hex Maniac.
I opt to only play a 1/1 line of this combo since it isn’t necessary for this deck to function and it is not crucial for winning against Jolteon-EX. It is merely an accessory and an extra way to beat the deck moving into the mid and late stages of a game. Since this deck does play Town Map you should be able to pick the combo up from your first couple of Prizes against Manectric/Jolteon and play the Gallade within the next couple of turns. If you’re lucky enough to establish this combo while going against Trevenant BREAK, Seismitoad-EX, or Vespiquen/Vileplume, Gallade’s Premonition could set up your potential early-game Supporter plays, allowing you to plan appropriately around your opponent’s Item lock.
Why play both? Puzzle of Time allows you bring back both Xerosic and Enhanced Hammer against any pesky Giratina-EX decks while enabling VS Seeker to become another form of removal. If you’re able to remove both a Double Dragon Energy and Double Colorless Energy in a single turn then have follow-up Energy removal they attach to a Benched Giratina-EX, you’ll just about break the Chaos Wheel lock for the rest of the game.
Playing this heavy Special Energy removal poses a lot of problems for YZG builds as they have trouble taking knockouts against your Fighting Fury Belted Night Marchers —meaning they’ll need to attach Double Colorless Energy to a Benched Zorua or Yveltal-EX while attacking with an Yveltal XY.
I’d elect to play Night March if you’re expecting a lot of matchups against Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade, M Rayquaza-EX, and Manectric/Jolteon. This deck can handle almost every Mega deck in the format with ease along with any decks that do not have an Item-locking effect. While this deck is strong against a majority of the format, playing it is extremely risky knowing that you may run into Trevenant, Vespiquen/Vileplume, and Raichu/Crobat variants as these matchups tend to be incredibly one-sided affairs unless you’re able to draw the Hex Maniac in your deck.
If you’re someone who wants to take an extremely safe approach to Night March I’d recommend playing 2 Hex Maniac instead of the Target Whistle in my list as getting to one can completely change the tides of your games. After testing a few games myself and discussing ideas with Andrew Wamboldt, I found the Greninja BREAK matchup to be about 50/50 if you’re able to play a string of Hex Maniac or if your opponent gets a slow start and you take a strong Prize lead against them in the first few turns.
YZG will probably be the most played deck during the State Championship season. The deck has tons of utility through its core attackers and plenty room for techs such as Zoroark BREAK, Seismitoad-EX, Darkrai-EX BKP, and Yveltal BKT. While it might not have particularly dominating matchups against any deck — besides maybe Trevenant — YZG is 50/50 if not slightly favored against most of the field in the Standard format.
Since YZG has so many ways to be built I’m going to highlight my current list and offer recommendations based upon what you’d like to accomplish with the deck.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 35
Energy – 11
Ever since the rise of YZG I’ve been hesitant on playing this deck in a tournament as I’ve felt I would run into very awkward opening starts where I’d have 2 or 3 Double Colorless Energy in my hand and be forced to discard them through Professor Sycamore or Ultra Ball in order to hit my Maxie’s Gallade combo. The addition of Puzzle of Time cleared up any doubts I’ve had about piloting this deck and I believe using Puzzle of Time helps you hit your turn 1 Maxie’s faster than ever before.
If you don’t have much experience with running YZG but enjoy the concept of having a linear setup deck that has absurd utility and resource recursion, I recommend the Puzzle of Time build above all else. The ability of adding back up to 4 of any card from your discard during the late stages of a game compensates for a majority of mistakes that you may make during the opening turns of the game.
Even if you don’t make a single misplay, you might run into situations where you absolutely need to discard valuable resources in order to advance your current game state, and Puzzle of Time is forgiving for these circumstances of unfortunate variance.
I’ve chosen to play 1 Seismitoad-EX so I can take an early-game lead against decks that are vulnerable to Item lock such Night March, YZG, and Entei without dedicating too much deck space. I’ve also found that some opponents would burn a lot of resources during the early portions of the game, usually discarding AZ and Judge with their early Battle Compressors then conserving their VS Seekers to use during the exact turn they need to grab up their Supporter. This leaves them open to a possible Lysandre/Quaking Punch/Parallel City deck-out option given they have a non-attacking Pokémon on their Bench. I’ve pulled off this feat many times during over the last few weekends using Parallel City to lower my Quaking Punch damage by 20 and forcing an opponent to use their final Energy to retreat a Hoopa-EX, Octillery BKT, or Wobbuffet PHF.
While most lists I’ve seen are sporting 2 Reverse Valley and the occasional Silent Lab, I believe you are selling yourself short by not playing at least 1 Parallel City. While it’s not expected, you may run across the occasional rogue deck with a positive matchup against YZG — such as Primal Kyogre, Mega Sceptile, and Mega Rayquaza — which is where playing a single copy of your Parallel City can change an opponent’s 2HKOs into 3HKOs or create much needed early-game control through the Bench-limiting effect.
I absolutely love this card and feel it has singlehandedly won me games I should have lost since I was able to discard damaged Benched Pokémon and mitigate my opponent’s previous attacks.
After playing 2 Fighting Fury Belt during Florida Regionals I was certain it needed to be included in my Standard build for YZG, mainly for the extra 40 HP it provides as I only found the extra 10 damage mattered when you had your Reverse Valley on the board. Fighting Fury Belt absolutely shines in the mirror match and against Greninja BREAK forcing an opponent to play around the extra 40 HP or dig through their deck for their Xerosic and Startling Megaphone which people usually only play 1 copy of.
Since I’m anticipating playing many YZG mirror matches over the State Championship season I wanted to play 2 Fury Belt to ensure I’m going to attach one to my Yveltal-EX at some point in the game.
I’ve chosen to include 1 Muscle Band as it’s a powerful Tool for Zoroark BKT, Gallade BKT, and Yveltal XY to have at any stage in the game to take much needed 1HKOs or 2HKOs. I’ve found in almost every game I needed to use Yveltal-EX’s Y Cyclone to 1HKO a Benched Shaymin-EX for my final 2 Prizes and this is only possible by having a Muscle Band attached or a combination of Fighting Fury Belt/Reverse Valley. This warrants me to at least play 1 copy of the card, and again the strength of Puzzle of Time can shine in this situation during the late stages of a game to grab my only copies of Muscle Band and Lysandre.
Since I view this as a win condition for my deck, I imagine my opponents think in a similar fashion in the mirror match meaning if I attach one of my extra Fighting Fury Belts to a Benched Shaymin-EX I force an opponent to have a combination of Lysandre/Startling Megaphone/Yveltal-EX/Muscle Band to accomplish this same task.
Alternative Option: Max Elixir
I’ve praised Puzzle of Time many times throughout this section but this does not mean I completely discredit the concept of running Max Elixir. I believe both Trainer engines offer their fair share of value over Acro Bike but they accomplish different goals both with risks.
If you want to play a version of YZG with replenishing resources and a slow-paced, predictable damage output you should be playing the Puzzle of Time version. The risk you take here is creating predictable gameplay as you won’t be able to make surprise attacks from Yveltal BKT, Yveltal-EX, and Yveltal XY’s Darkness Blade as these take at least a turn to build up.
Playing the Max Elixir version allows you to thin your deck quickly and mount comebacks in a way that a Puzzle of Time version would never be able to pull off. The Max Elixir version is extremely threatening due to the possibility of an unknown powerful attacker being dropped on you at any point in the game. The risk you’re taking here is missing a potential KO if you fail a Max Elixir in crucial states of the game.
During my early testing of the Max Elixir I felt it was pretty underwhelming in terms of hitting my Energy early but this might be due to me usually opting to attack with Oblivion Wing early and using any Compressors I opened with during the beginning of the game to discard D Energy. After attaching one from my hand the odds of hitting them during the mid game were not favorable.
With this in mind, if you’re going to play Max Elixir, I recommend playing 4 Max Elixir, Super Rod, and having at least 8 D Energy in your deck along with a copy of Darkrai-EX BKP. While Darkrai-EX BKP is not as strong without Dark Patch, when combined with Max Elixir, Fighting Fury Belt, and Reverse Valley he becomes a nice low-Energy, high-damage attacker. This version can afford to sacrifice 1 copy of Double Colorless Energy for a D Energy but I don’t recommend it as I think it removes a much needed attacking resource for Gallade, Zoroark, and Darkrai.
Alternative Option: Zoroark BREAK
I neglected to include Zoroark BREAK in my list as I expect Seismitoad-EX to be a better fit for my meta. If you’re expecting to play against a majority of Greninja BREAK, Megas/Primals, or YZG mirror matches, I’d recommend playing 1 Zoroark BREAK.
Zoroark BREAK is able to copy an opposing Greninja’s Shadow Stitching attack. Shutting off their Water Shuriken Abilities while dealing a decent amount of damage should make it possible to follow up with a Mind Jack for a KO.
If you’re opting to play Zoroark BREAK you should also play a Super Rod as you’ll want to bring back any Zoroark lines you might discard early in the game and also have the option to use Zoroark BREAK again after being KO’d. I would also swap the Fighting Fury Belt and Muscle Band counts as you can KO a Gallade BKT in the mirror match with a Muscle Band attached. Gallade BKT is difficult to KO in the mirror match so removing their Gallade with a Banded Zoroark BREAK then retreating to your own Gallade creates an amazing amount of pressure on an opponent and usually this game state leads to a victory.
YZG shines in an unknown meta as it has the ability to combat almost every top tier deck and a pool of utility attackers that can adapt to any rogue deck. If you’re a player who took a long break from Pokémon after Winter Regionals and did little to no testing for this States Championship format, this is the deck for you.
You might want to test out playing a Xerosic or another Megaphone if you’re expecting to play against a lot of Night March decks but I wouldn’t consider the matchup horrible. Puzzle of Time has made this deck so consistent that I feel slightly favored going against Mega Manectric even if it plays a heavy Flash Energy count. The Greninja matchup can be somewhat difficult, but if you hit consistent strings of Parallel City (after it’s been replaced) and Hex Maniac, you can shut the deck down. Again, Puzzle of Time makes this happen much more consistently.
I’m strongly considering this deck as my Week 1 play.
Jolteon-EX has pulled in tons of hype after its release in the Generations packs. Many players were wondering if Jolteon’s hype is justified and believe it certainly is. Jolteon’s attack Flash Ray makes it one of Mega Manectric’s best partners of all time giving it new win conditions against decks that were considerably close. The main reason I put this deck as third on my top three plays list is its ability to keep games extremely close with Night March and YZG as well as beat almost every other deck that people will play to beat those two — such as Trevenant, Vespiquen/Vileplume, Manectric/Crobat, and Vespiquen/Yveltal/Crobat.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 37
Energy – 11
Mega Manectric has an extremely strong matchup against Crobat variants and Item-locking decks, making it the “counter to the counter” of the top two decks in this format. I believe people will attempt to beat many Night March decks by playing some form of Item lock as these decks are extremely easy to pilot and give players with less tournament experience or skill a way to defeat the top players in the game. Many players are discounting Mega Manectric as a potential play since Gallade BKT gives the deck so many problems. What I’ve found is many players are building their decks without any form of Special Energy removal meaning a single Flash Energy can swing this matchup in your favor.
I only play 1 copy of each utility attacker in this deck because Mega Manectric is such a threat on its own. Attaching to a Benched Mega Manectric or Manectric-EX and constantly retreating between the two allows you to utilize Rough Seas and Max Potion to overwhelm an opponent. I usually only need 1 copy of a backup attacker in a single game and prizing either of them shouldn’t pose a problem for my win condition.
Playing 2 copies of Max Elixir can help make crucial comebacks when I have a Mega Manectric unexpectedly KO’d. Why play this over Mega Turbo? Hitting an Elixir turn 1 on a Manectric-EX plus an Energy attachment can KO an Active Shaymin-EX or popular low-HP Basic Pokémon such as Phantump, Froakie, and Night Marchers — giving you an early Prize lead or possibly the donk. You can also attach to Raikou and Jolteon which Mega Turbo won’t allow you to do.
If you anticipate your meta to be full of the players that absolutely hate Night March, I would recommend playing Manectric/Jolteon. This deck is the best option amongst the high tier decks to beat Item lock and you’ll be surprised how many players are playing in State Championships without a card in their deck that can beat Flash Ray.
If your area has a bunch of Seismitoad/Giratina decks you should add a copy of Xerosic and Jirachi XY67 then sweep the late game with an extremely Energy-dedicated Jolteon. This deck is close to 50/50 against Night March and YZG, depending on how fast an opponent gets their setup, making it the next best deck to play if the top two don’t fit your liking.
Now for my favorite section: the rogue decks! One of the best feelings you can get from being a competitive player is pulling up to a tournament playing a deck that nobody is expecting and absolutely destroying your opponents. These next two decks do not have a great matchup against one of the top three decks but they can certain keep up with most of the field if built and piloted properly.
One of my favorite decks from the City Championship Standard season, Octillery/Gallade took a pretty bad hit from the release of BREAKpoint. The deck received no major strategy-changing cards and some decks are now able to fit in Puzzle of Time to recur Lysandre and Xerosic allowing them to KO Pokémon that aren’t your Active Gallade with a Focus Sash. Let’s get into the updated list!
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 35
Energy – 9
This deck is extremely consistent and sports 4 copies of one of the best attackers in the Standard format, Gallade BKT. Through a combination of Premonition and Abyssal Hand you’re able to plan out your future plays and remove a lot of the variance this card game has. I was able to perform extremely well with this deck during City Championships mainly due to the fact this deck does not play any Pokémon-EX and many decks were primarily 1HKO-oriented decks which were mitigated by Focus Sash.
Unfortunately, the release of BREAKpoint brought Trevenant BREAK — which has a strong Item lock against this deck as well as type advantage — and Greninja BREAK — which mitigates Focus Sash with Shuriken damage. However, this deck has an amazing matchup against YZG and Mega Manectric with a close to a 50/50 against Night March — depending on how many Shaymin they need to Bench to get their setup going.
Considering Trevenant BREAK and Greninja BREAK are bad matchups for this deck I wanted to up my odds of hitting Hex Maniac in my first couple of turns allowing me to get set up or control Water Shuriken damage. Outside of those two decks, Hex Maniac provides a nice control in the early turns against decks that heavily rely on Shaymin-EX to set up and is a nice Supporter to play out of your hand when you need the extra damage boost for Sensitive Blade.
With the increase in play of YGZ, I wanted to add a single copy of Muscle Band to hit 150 off of a boosted Sensitive Blade allowing me to 1HKO Yveltal XY, Yveltal BKT (if I played Hex Maniac), and Gallade BKT. This meant cutting the 3rd Focus Sash but there were many times throughout Cities where only 2 Focus Sash were needed for me to close out games.
If you don’t expect to play against any Trevenant or Greninja decks then consider this an option. It takes a few games to get used to piloting, and reminding yourself to use the multiple Premonition becomes annoying, but this deck is incredibly fun to play as the Abyssal Hand/Premonition combo feels extremely unfair to use. I’ve found myself running through Swiss rounds as many players aren’t prepared to play against a deck without any Pokémon-EX and with Focus Sash.
Mega Manectric is extremely favorable as you have type advantage and they are usually unable to 1HKO any of your Gallade, so don’t attach Muscle Band or Focus Sash in this matchup. As mentioned before, YZG has trouble taking KOs against Gallade BKT so imagine if you were able to make 4 of these against them. Paired with Focus Sash and Muscle Band this deck has an easy time running through their attackers without losing your setup Pokémon in the process.
The Night March matchup is close depending on how many Shaymin-EX you’re able to KO and how much Item removal your opponent is able to play while Gallade is pressuring them. The mindset to keep with this deck is forcing opponents to take 6 knockouts while you ideally only take 3-4.
This is an idea I’ve been toying around with since I saw the Seismitoad/Shaymin decks start to catch steam near the end of the City Championship season. If you are looking for a deck that is completely demoralizing and drains the happiness out of your opponent, this is the deck for you. This deck focuses on controlling an opponent from turn 1 and sets an annoying lock that attempts to recreate the deck’s strength from the old version of this deck with Lysandre’s Trump Card.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 45
2 Red Card
1 Head Ringer
Energy – 7
Seismitoad/Shaymin is incredibly powerful and can end games in only a few turns if you’re opponent isn’t able to draw out of an early game Red Card/Delinquent/Quaking Punch combo. I chose to play a Battle Compressor engine in order to access key game-changing Supporters the exact moment needed and this allowed me to include the 1/1 Maxie’s Gallade combo which can singlehandedly beat Mega Manectric decks which would normally be an awful matchup.
This deck takes an incredibly tough matchup to Item lock decks but they are still winnable if you’re able to lock your opponent into a bad hand and sweep their opening Basic Pokémon. If you’re playing against Trevenant, using Delinquent to clear out any Dimension Valley is extremely powerful plus you can enact the strategy of using Shaymin to Sky Return into another Shaymin and perpetuate the loop until you take 6 Prizes.
Vespiquen variants are probably your worst matchups as they can open a few Battle Compressor and proceed to sweep your Seismitoad one after another.
While this deck is incredibly frustrating to play against, it can be incredibly fun for its pilot to use as this deck can take free wins against opponents who happen to draw poorly off of Red Card and Judge.
I hope you enjoyed my second article and found some of my thoughts about adapting to the best-of-three format useful. While I believe the State Championship format is going to be incredibly diverse and healthy, I believe the top three decks I highlighted to be most dominant and should take home a few trophies during Week 1 and Week 2. I’m looking forward to testing out these rogue decks if the meta sculpts itself in a favorable way for Week 3 and Week 4.
I haven’t had a particularly spectacular Regionals season so I’m hoping to take home a win or two this States season which would put me somewhere around the top 16 in North America. I wish you the best of luck.
Have a good one!
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