Hello SixPrizes. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think we have a bit of a Night March problem on our hands. Maybe you already knew.
BREAKpoint and Generations shook things up. I don’t think most people suspected the metagame would shift in the direction that it did. BREAKpoint looked like an underwhelming set upon release, but that was just because people were so used to looking for power concentrated in a set’s Pokémon-EX lineup. No, the real strength of BREAKpoint was in its Trainers.
States is an absolutely crucial time of year for players chasing invites. With so many Championship Points up for grabs, States tends to bring new innovations to the metagame every week. Even though Night March is on top right now by a large margin, I think the gap between Night March and the rest of the field is closing, slowly but surely.
That said, I think Night March will stay at the top throughout the States season but its position will be contested by refined versions of decks like Greninja and YZG. While direct counters to Night March like Seismitoad do the job, they cannot come close to contesting Night March’s dominance. Beating Night March alone isn’t enough to do well in a metagame as diverse as this one.
After the first week of States, it became clear that Night March’s power level tips the scales. Decks as strong as post-BKP Night March are problems because they centralize the metagame around themselves. This metagame boils down to one of three things for States players:
- Taking a loss to Night March and beating the rest of the field
- Playing Night March, dealing with the hate, and handling mirror matches
- Beating Night March (some of the time) and doing averagely against the rest of the field
I say beating Night March some of the time because I have failed to find one viable deck that is able to beat Night March consistently while also standing a chance in a diverse metagame. For Week 2-of States, I chose the first option above with a YZG list. Personally, I think YZG has a chance to beat Night March occasionally, and after seeing how many people were looking to beat Night March rather than join it, I was okay taking that loss and hedging my bets that I would play against Night March counters more often than I would play against Night March itself.
While I wasn’t able to find the deck that beat Night March more than just “some of the time,” I’ll give some insight into a Greninja list that does manage to pull this off later in the article. I’ll also talk about my ideal Night March list that puts up some stiff competition for the popular Gallade build of Night March. But to preface, I’m publishing the YZG list I dominated Swiss rounds with last Saturday. In a metagame with little to no Night March, YZG is undoubtedly the deck to play.
Dylan’s Week Two YZG
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
I took YZG to a 5th place finish at the New Hampshire State Championships this past Saturday. I went a clean 5-0 in Swiss rounds and drew my way into 1st seed. This actually not the exact list I played — I subsequently swapped a Super Rod for an Yveltal BKT. I found that with Puzzle of Time, the Super Rod that I played was excessive. Yveltal BKT’s Ability offers too much utility against Night March to pass up. If I could do Saturday morning over again, these are the 60 cards that I would play.
My Top 8 opponent was a very good Night March player from Canada. I’m not convinced I would have won that set of games with Yveltal BKT but it would have helped deal with Fighting Fury Belt. Night March is still a bad matchup, but this list seeks to narrow the gap with cheap attackers like Yveltal XY.
I spent most of Friday looking for a deck that could beat Night March, the far and away favorite deck coming out of Week 1. Over the course of the day I realized that Night March was in a tier all its own. There was hardly any counter to the deck that stood a chance against the rest of the field. In the vacuum of a relatively unknown metagame, Toad/Tina looked like an awful play. I knew that there would be Night March, but I didn’t think there would be enough to justify playing a bad deck for the sake of hard-countering Night March alone.
I observed that everyone I was talking to was looking for Night March counters as well. Not wanting to play Night March myself, I looked for a deck with good matchups against Toad/Giratina, Vileplume decks, and anything else that could possibly beat Night March. I hoped to play against an influx of decks that tried to beat Night March and I was looking to avoid playing against Night March itself. Until Top 8, my plan pretty much paid off. Had I played a counter to Night March like Plume/Quen or Toad/Tina, I likely wouldn’t have even scratched Top 16.
In regard to the list itself, I realized that Hex Maniac was quite weak all day. It shined in the Greninja matchup, but it was surprisingly weak against Vileplume. The only Vileplume deck that is popular right now always includes Vespiquen. It aims to get a Vileplume out turn 1 and win the game off its accumulated momentum.
It’s awfully hard to even find the single copy of Hex Maniac in the tiny window of time the Vileplume deck allows you to play Items. Even in the case that you do run into your Hex Maniac, it’s hard to find a turn that using the Supporter will actually net you an advantage. Vileplume/Vespiquen seeks to overwhelm its opponent in six turns or fewer, meaning that even with one turn of Hex Maniac, you’re still likely to end up playing from behind. It isn’t the silver bullet I wish it was, but Hex Maniac is still a worthwhile inclusion.
If Vileplume is something you expect to be a problem, consider a Xerosic. Removing one of the 4 Double Colorless in their deck for good can cause their own Vileplume to backfire, possibly buying some time for you to set up. Jirachi XY67 is great for similar reasons.
I’ve been actually considering a single copy of Teammates in YZG. Teammates has natural synergy with Puzzle of Time in every single matchup. That alone brings some amazing utility to the table. Where this card would really shine though is in the Night March matchup. Being able to get the particular cards (Megaphone, Muscle Band, Yveltal BKT, etc.) necessary to continue trading Prizes with them is how you stay in the game. Teammates takes out the guesswork, getting you exactly the cards you need when you need them.
I don’t care for the 2-2 Maxie/Gallade package that people have been running in YZG. With Puzzle of Time, it shouldn’t be hard to recur a single copy of Gallade. I did not expect to play against much Manectric due to Night March’s dominance Week 1, so I just played Gallade without Xerosic. Gallade is such a good attacker on its own that I think it belongs in this deck regardless of the meta, but a second copy is probably pushing it. I don’t think playing an extra copy of Maxie and Gallade is ever worth the space in a best-of-three format.
I chose to use the extra space on Zoroark BREAK, which brings a totally unique effect to YZG. If I weren’t playing Puzzle of Time, this is probably what I would be looking at running Super Rod for. While Foul Play is inherently situational, it happens to be really good in a whole lot of different situations. Zoroark BREAK is not absolutely crucial in any matchup, which is probably the reason many people forgo it entirely, but I think the card’s utility is too good to pass up.
Going into Week 3, I predict that the gap between Night March and the rest of the decks will continue to shrink, but Night March will remain in its own tier above the rest. Decks like Greninja are becoming more refined to beat Night March, but it is still tough to beat a deck with such a huge damage output and no consistency issues to speak of. So where do we go from here?
The Night March That Beat Me
The obvious answer in is to play Night March ourselves. If you can’t beat them, join them.
Pokémon – 19
2 Milotic PRC
Trainers – 37
1 Town Map
Energy – 4
Puzzle of Time by itself fixed the only real problem with Night March. Now the deck can afford to throw around its resources like they’re nothing. At one point, Milotic was used by Night March to have more staying power late game by recovering Double Colorless Energy and the like, but Puzzle of Time does the job even better, not to mention Puzzle’s insane synergy with Teammates. Night March’s weakness used to be its fragility, but Puzzle of Time has since turned the underdog into a juggernaut.
This deck is Night March, so it probably doesn’t need a lot of explaining, but let me run through some intricacies of the list. I think this version of the deck gives players the best of new- and old-school Night March builds.
This decklist is probably quite close to what my Top 8 opponent used to beat me last Saturday. He used a combination of Milotic and Puzzle of Time to open up his discard pile for use as a resource. This version of the deck was able to absolve Night March of almost all of its inherent weaknesses. Sacrificing Gallade for Milotic seems entirely worth it to me.
If you’re afraid of Jolteon-EX, then consider Gallade, but on the last chilly Saturday of the month of March, Jolteon was nowhere to be found. The card does not seem especially well positioned right now. Many popular decks that are trying to counter Night March run evolved Pokémon, making Jolteon terrible against most decks not named Night March.
Milotic and Puzzle both help make this list very flexible and there are a lot of options for techs. Wobbuffet PHF can nullify Vileplume. Judge and Red Card can help out in the mirror match while Xerosic and Enhanced Hammer can deal with Toad and Giratina. At our State Championships, there was almost no Toad/Tina, which may have contributed to the success of this list. Ultimately, I think that Toad/Tina is a weak deck that is easy to tech against, making it a bad option to beat a diverse metagame.
That said, this version of Night March should be set up to do well if Toad decks start to fall off and Night March becomes less popular. Even if Seismitoad is a problem, Milotic gives additional techs a lot more replay value — it just becomes a matter of making room for them. It isn’t unheard of to cut down to 2 Dimension Valley. I actually think this is a pretty reasonable option if you need the tech space and play the 2-2 Milotic.
In a metagame that happens to be full of Night March, I would add Red Card to this list. There isn’t a huge demand for recurring cards in the mirror match. The name of the game becomes keeping Shaymin off the field and out of the discard while keeping up the Prize race. Use Puzzles and Milotic to March every turn and recur Red Card as often as possible. This version of the deck no doubt has the advantage over every Vespiquen and Gallade version of Night March anyway, but Red Card can help put the matchup way over the top.
If I were to play Night March for Week 3, this is probably the list I would look to for help. This list is geared toward consistency and reliability, but in the same sense it takes a conservative player to pilot properly. Use of Milotic and Puzzle of Time together means that this version of Night March’s strength is its late game. There is no need to treat Night March like the turn 1 “all-in” deck that it once was.
Despite all the hate, Night March still seems like a solid play going into Week 3. There appear to be three main decks hanging around to deal with Night March. Toad/Giratina, as I already mentioned, seems like the strongest deck to handle Night March in a vacuum, but is the weakest option to deal with a diverse metagame.
That deck is particularly weak against YZG and Manectric, but even more significantly it’s exceptionally weak against simple techs like Xerosic and Jirachi.
The other two options I see right now are Greninja and Vileplume/Vespiquen.
The Greninja That Won
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 31
Energy – 7
A list similar to this one won New Hampshire States. My YZG list handed that particular deck its only loss of the day, but despite this, I am strongly considering a Greninja deck like this one for Week 3. Everybody’s new favorite amphibian seems to be in a great place as far as matchups go. It’s time to unload the toad.
The main talking points of this list include the pair of Jirachi, the Ace Trainers, and obviously the 1-0-1 Swampert line. Jirachi alone deals with most of the Vespiquen/Vileplume deck, which is a huge problem for any other version of Greninja. Stardust slows Night March to a crawl, forcing them to burn Lysandre and VS Seekers just to make their attacks count. Jirachi and Ace Trainer both serve to slow down quad-DCE decks like Night March and Vespiquen, buying time for Greninja to spread damage and get set up. Once Greninja gets rolling, not much can beat it. Greninja BREAK provides inevitability unlike any other Pokémon in the format.
Ace Trainer fits Greninja’s playstyle to a T. Greninja gets its strength from the late game and until then, the deck expects to be playing from behind on Prizes. Setting Night March and other fast decks back to 3 cards will probably slow them down, especially now that Battle Compressor decks have begun to cut Professor Sycamore to as few as 2 copies. Disruption effects in Pokémon are at an all-time low, and the change in Sycamore counts is a clear reaction to that. Ace Trainer punishes the greed of these players and Greninja is one of the only decks set up to use the card well.
Shaymin does more harm than good in Greninja, taking away its major natural advantage of not needing to play any Pokémon-EX. Over the last few weeks, the EX counts in Greninja have slowly come down. In its infancy, Greninja decks would run Manaphy-EX, then just Shaymin-EX, and now the most successful lists have trended away from Pokémon-EX altogether. As you will see, Octillery is no doubt a more pragmatic alternative to the Gratitude Pokémon.
With Brigette, a 2-2 Octillery line seems like the way to go. Octillery is more than just a afterthought for consistency’s sake in this version of the deck; it’s a non-EX alternative to Shaymin that gets more value over time. For that reason, we want to get it out ASAP. Although Swampert was included by all of the players in New Hampshire that ran the deck, I’m not sure how much I like it. While it does have great synergy with Octillery and it is a good option to sink Rare Candies into when you already have Greninja online, Swampert seems like it takes up a decent amount of space for its impact.
Although I know the players of this deck ran a 2-2 split between the different Greninja, I feel like the BKP Greninja is a bit better than most people have been giving it credit for. Greninja XY is mainly a Bench-warmer and it doesn’t work so well with the BREAK evolution on top of it. Because Greninja BREAK has that pesky “if this Pokémon is your Active Pokémon” clause attached to Giant Water Shuriken, it makes sense to keep the BREAK in the Active Spot for as long as possible in most matchups.
Sure, in the Night March matchup you want to protect Greninja BREAK so it can get free knockouts with its Ability, but most of the time you want to be attacking and using Giant Water Shuriken as often as possible for the highest damage output. Both of Greninja BKP’s attacks are better than its XY counterpart’s, so for this reason I’d consider going with a 3-1 split. Greninja BKP is far more comfortable being in the fray than its XY brethren.
The Greninja archetype is still in its infancy. While most people are beginning to favor the Rare Candy version over the Wally version (rightfully so), there are many things about this list that could change. AZ could prove useful. In tandem with Jirachi, Xerosic could be used as the nail in the coffin of certain matchups that rely heavily on Double Colorless Energy. I’m not even convinced 4 Frogadier is the correct number to play in the Rare Candy version of the deck. These are just some things to consider. It’s hard to call any version of Greninja “standard” at this point. The format’s new frog still has a lot of room to evolve.
This version of the deck looks to improve its historically shaky Night March matchup and succeeds with unorthodox techs. Both Ace Trainer and Jirachi are both very good in that matchup and in others. I see Ace Trainer becoming the staple in Greninja that rockets the deck to its rightful place near the top of the States tier list. The deck is hard to play, so I don’t ever see it ending up with enough raw popularity to rival the number of wins that Night March has already accumulated, but that doesn’t matter too much. Greninja is sure to become a favorite of patient and methodical players in the weeks to come.
One of the final decks I want to talk about today is one that takes an old strategy and adapts it for beating modern Night March decks. Crobat is, admittedly, not quite as strong against Night March as it once was. But it is still formidable and gains a lot from Puzzle of Time.
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 34
Energy – 4
Unfortunately, it shares a lot of Night March’s issues with the added burden of using (ugh) evolved Pokémon. I remember a time when I had to evolve ALL my Pokémon in order to do any damage. Darned kids these days don’t have any idea how lucky they have it. Oh, to be young.
This deck handles Item lock a bit better than Night March can though. Getting Basic Pokémon onto the Bench isn’t quite as hard as putting Marchers into the discard pile while Irritating Pollen is active. If you can begin to trade with Vespiquen, the idea is that hopefully, someday, you might eventually draw into Hex Maniac to break the game wide open. Unlike my YZG deck, Raichu/Crobat can go off at any time it is able to use Items. 4 copies of Shaymin helps with that.
Against Night March, the idea is that you win Prize trades by taking free Prizes with Crobat and Golbat bites over time. Fighting Fury Belt makes life difficult, but Megaphone and Puzzle of Time are meant to combat that. Jirachi XY67 serves a similar purpose in here as it does in the Greninja deck above. It helps slow quad-DCE decks down to a crawl and buys you time to set up. That said, it can be pretty annoying to use a Double Colorless to power a mere Jirachi, but one Stardust can buy you a turn and cost your opponent valuable resources. Puzzle of Time allows players to use their resources a bit more liberally than they have been able to in the past.
Here is another deck in a similar vein that has a less linear strategy. It sacrifices Bats for utility.
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 28
Energy – 8
This adaptation of Raichu makes it even easier to trade Prize for Prize with decks like Vespiquen. On the other hand, this take on Raichu has no great plan to deal with Night March. I like that this deck is significantly less dependent on Double Colorless Energy compared to its counterpart farther above.
One notable change between the lists is moving up to 2 copies of Jirachi. D Energy makes Stardust easier to use, and going into Week 3 I can only see Jirachi XY67 becoming more popular to deal with a sharp rise in fast quad-DCE decks.
This variant can also support playing Fright Night Yveltal, which has superb synergy with Float Stone and Zoroark. Being able to turn Fighting Fury Belts on and off at your mercy can easily turn Night March matchups in your favor. The Belt only has to be off for a split second before the Pokémon starts feeling the weight of those damage counters.
Yveltal XY is mainly in here to trade with Night Marchers without using a DCE. Yveltal BKT can easily bring damaged Night Marchers down to size, even if they have FFB equipped. It doesn’t have the same utility in this deck as it does in YZG, but both of baby Yveltal’s attacks are helpful nonetheless.
Zoroark doesn’t bring too much extra damage to the table that Raichu alone cannot, but it does offer crucial utility that the Raichu/Crobat list lacks. Stand In is never bad. Zoroark BREAK, like I explained in the YZG section, doesn’t help that much in any particular matchup, but its extra HP and cheap attack cost can do work in crucial moments of the game. Zoroark also punishes opponents for taking advantage of Sky Field. Its presence alone limits the opposition’s ability to match your broad Bench size.
I also choose to only run 3 copies of Sky Field. It isn’t quite as critical to have in play compared to Sky Field with the Raichu/Crobat deck. Since we have Zoroark as a supplementary attacker, I don’t feel like the full suit of Sky Field is required, especially on top of Puzzle of Time.
Almost all of my insight here comes from my experience at States. My own YZG list did well during the second week and I’d recommend it to just about anyone (but be sure to run Yveltal BKT). It’s a simple, midrange deck with a moderate skill cap and a low skill floor, meaning it is easy enough to pick up and play, but it takes good amount of practice to play to its maximum potential. Unfortunately, YZG has a tough time with Night March even with techs. It beats or goes even with the rest of the metagame in my experiences. YZG will go far in States, but it probably won’t ever be the favorite to win an event and for many players looking to pick up a few points, that’s perfectly fine.
Night March is still on top, but other decks are starting to close in. I think the strongest version of Night March is the most consistent and reliable, whatever that may be. I’m pretty partial to the version I lost to and I’m considering playing a similar deck for Week 3. Jolteon-EX didn’t exactly catch like wildfire in my area, making Gallade-less Night March a strong play that remains ahead of the meta.
Greninja is evolving into quite a strong deck that I’m planning on fleshing out during the upcoming week. Out of all the big decks in the metagame, none are closing the gap with Night March as quickly as Greninja. The Rare Candy version has proven to be the strongest play, but many details about what makes a “good” Greninja list are still up for debate. If there is one thing you should take up and run with from Week 2, it is probably Ace Trainer in Greninja. It is still new enough to take many players off guard next Saturday.
The Raichu variants above are underplayed but share several strengths and weaknesses with the ever-present Night March decks. They are quite good at creating favorable Prize trades with EX and non-EX decks alike. That said, neither version can compare to Night March’s raw speed.
Well, that just about wraps up my 17th SixPrizes Underground article, and I feel pretty good about it. I did talk about Vileplume a lot but you may have noticed that I chose not to include a list. Vespiquen/Vileplume is getting a ton of attention right now, and it isn’t hard to find a winning version. I also don’t think I could bring anything to that table that other writers have not.
In my articles, I try to delve deeper into what I know rather than offering up a bunch of lists and asking the reader to pick one. I probably spend more time thinking about Pokémon than I actually do playing it these days. It’s not uncommon for me to spend hours on end debating my deck choice with myself. These days, Pokémon tends to be more about matchups than anything. I hope rich insight into metagame and deck choice is in some way useful. Getting pre-tournament prep right is the easiest way to put yourself in a winning position come game day.
Best of luck in your statewide endeavors.
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