Now that State and Provincial Championships are officially over, we are able to sit back and reflect on the events that transpired. Though it was clear to me that Night March had clearly gotten better with the addition of Puzzle of Time to its core, I don’t think that anyone predicted just how dominant it would be from start to finish. According to the statistics tabulated by The Charizard Lounge, Night March took over a third of all top cut placements in reported events — but this merely scratches the surface of the deck’s popularity. The data does not account for the Junior or Senior divisions — which I suspect were even more populated by Night March — and also it does not take into account any of the hundreds of players who opted to play Night March and missed top cut. Of course, this is not to fault Andrew’s statistics by any means; his site is an invaluable resource for the community and myself. It is merely to show that I believe Night March to be even more prevalent than 33% of any given field.
And so this leaves us with the big question: should Night March be banned? This is very difficult to answer and I am uncertain what TPCi will end up doing once all the results from States have been completely analyzed but it is my belief Battle Compressor does need to go. This should not be all too surprising assuming you have any memory of my last couple of articles as I have mentioned a distaste for this card multiple times. Night March, of course, is not the main antagonist in this issue but it is the primary abuser of a card that should have never been printed in the first place. Battle Compressor allows decks to play quickly and with reckless abandon for resources. Cards like Maxie’s and Archie’s are relevant cards only because of Battle Compressor which further enables the bending of the rules, bypassing the requirements for evolution and making what should be an absurdly difficult combination to pull off a matter of essentially opening with Battle Compressor and Ultra Ball.
Chris Fulop once said to me that the general rule of thumb for assessing the power or potential of a card can generally be gauged by the degree to which it bends or breaks the rules.
Almost every card that has seen success competitively probably falls into this conception of “bending” or “breaking” to some degree and Battle Compressor is an interesting case with this rule because not only does it somewhat go around the standards of discarding cards (usually a card that discards does so at a cost; Compressor has no repercussions) but it also enables so many other cards that were already powerful in their own right. For instance, Dark Patch is certainly a card that “bends” the rules by allowing you to bypass the rule of only being able to attach 1 Energy per turn and Battle Compressor makes this already powerful card faster and even more efficient. It is yet another combo in a game that is almost entirely about some sort of combination on the first turn. At Kansas States this past weekend, (expectedly) the two most popular decks were Night March and Trevenant and that matchup is largely decided on the first turn almost every game. Battle Compressor, I argue, is the main reason for this and I think that it is very easy to see how such a card later, but these are my current feelings on the state of the game.
I am very split on whether or not I believe TPCi will do something about the situation. I think that they should, but I will not be surprised one way or the other. Am I being too confrontational about Battle Compressor or do you think that most of my thoughts are on point? Make sure to let me know what you think in the comments!
Missouri States: Mistakes Were Made
In one of Erik Nance’s most recent articles, he discussed the disappearance of the tournament report and how no one seems to write them anymore. I remember in my younger days, how I would go to PokéGym and look up certain players by their username just so I would be able to read about their past tournaments from formats I never competed in. It was always incredibly fun for me to read the reports of certain players because they definitely lent themselves to a certain type of writing that does not exist today. Ultimately though, these posts were just as informative as they were entertaining and so I would like to talk about the two State Championships that I attended in a very similar fashion. I have been dealing with a lot of personal struggles recently and I think the process of reflecting is therapeutic in a way — and so it is my intent to try to capture these thoughts within a less formal tournament report to provide something entertaining to read as well as encourage others to attempt such introspection.
I knew that I would be attending a State Championship the very first week and so I wanted to take the time to prepare for an undefined metagame. I played quite a bit with every deck that I discussed in my last article but each of them had something lacking for me. The damage of the Seismitoad/Crobat deck wasn’t high enough to deal with most decks getting a big boost in HP through Fighting Fury Belt. Mega Manectric struggled with Night March and Jolteon-EX was unfortunately nowhere as good as I had initially thought. Finally, Night March itself is a deck that has just never appealed to me and I did not want to play the mirror multiple times or have to worry about Item lock and so I had to find something new.
Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade stood out to me as something that I would enjoy playing. In theory, it had the power to deal with almost every matchup. It did not change substantially with the addition of BREAKpoint and it is ultimately what I decided to go with Week 1. I spent a good amount of time discussing the deck and how to play it optimally with Kevin Baxter, the player who initially came up with the deck. It reminded me a lot of the Yveltal/Seismitoad deck that I played for States last year which did not have any bad or good matchups. When all of your games are theoretically even, the tiniest amount of skill ought to be a factor into tipping the scales — assuming all luck to be relatively equal. Here is the list that I ended up playing:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 35
Energy – 10
Round 1: Mirror
The mirror matchup for this deck felt fairly intricate to me, as there were a handful of things that I tried to manage in order to keep ahead of my opponent. Avoiding to bench Pokémon was key as it would allow you to somewhat control the damage that Zoroark was able to do and keeping Shaymin off the board would prevent you from getting swept by the Target Whistle strategy. Yveltal-EX is also very useful as it does the most damage of any of your Pokémon and it is hard to answer if you’ve managed your Bench properly and there is not an opposing Evil Ball to challenge you.
I was able to win the first game fairly convincingly after my opponent blundered into using his Zoroark to Stand In while I had my Fright Night Yveltal active. This trapped him for several turns as I was able to set up and Lysandre some key Pokémon to snowball the game out of control. In the following game, things felt largely in my favor the whole time but I was caught off guard by an Enhanced Hammer and stuck in a predicament for a few turns while trying to find another Double Colorless. I eventually recovered and was once again positioned to take the game but I made a mistake in calculating damage against a Pokémon that had Fighting Fury Belt attached and I ended up losing as a result.
It was frustrating to see myself lose because I made such a simple error but I also think that realizing you’re at fault is something that many players are unable or refuse to do. All too often, I hear players discuss each in every loss in terms of nothing but bad luck. Luck will always be a factor but no one plays perfectly 100% of the time. Being able to think about each and every action as a potential mistake will encourage you think harder and inevitably play better.
The third game had barely started before time was called and so I began the day with a tie.
Round 2: Manectric/Crobat
Ordinarily, I don’t think I would have been too worried about facing this kind of deck but it proved to be immensely difficult and a series I believe I should have lost. To have a shot at winning, I would need to get Gallade into play on the first or second turn which was something my deck was not very keen to do. Between my Weakness to Lightning Pokémon and the combined spread damage of Manectric’s Overrun and Bat shenanigans, things were not looking great but the most difficult hurdle to overcome was my opponent’s inclusion of Bursting Ballon which made it even harder to navigate the matchup.
I was somehow able to take the first game with a Gallade and a well-timed Xerosic to knock off a Bursting Ballon that would have Knocked Out one of my Pokémon but the next two games proved close to impossible, as I was never able to get Gallade out until it was already too late.
This series ended in a tie but I think I would have lost the third game had it gone on for a few more minutes. My main takeaway from the series was that I was clearly not as prepared as I should have been for this event. This will become even more evident in a later round, but I simply did not know what some of the newer cards did. I found out later that Bursting Balloon went away after the turn it had been played and I think that I could have navigated the math on my opponent’s attacks more effectively by simply passing on various turns instead of choosing to take 60 damage off a minor attack like Oblivion Wing.
Round 3: Greninja
I was able to win this series with relative ease … but I would attribute that mostly to the fact that my opponent was a newer player and did not seem to have a very good list for Greninja. All of his openings were a bit slow and he featured Manaphy-EX in his deck which proved to be an incredible liability as I was able to Knock it Out twice in the first game with my Target Whistle which completely negated one of the main strengths of Greninja which is the fact that it can become very difficult to KO six non-EXs if the deck sets up properly. The second game, my opponent opened without a Supporter and though he was able to use Water Duplicates, I quickly overran him with Yveltal-EX.
Despite the inadequacy of my opponent’s deck, I could tell that a proper list would give me a considerable amount of trouble and I hoped to avoid it in the future, though I was still unsure how powerful the deck would be.
Round 4: Night March
My opponent had opted to feature both Puzzle of Time and Milotic in her list, which definitely posed a problem, as one of my main strategies for defeating Night March is to simply run them out of Energy. If they are forced to use Puzzle of Time early or have to discard multiple copies of the cards, it is very easy to use Xerosic and take a few knockouts before they will be unable to doing anything at all. Sometimes this strategy is not possible but I think that it is always something you should keep in mind when coming up against this deck.
I won the first game by staying ahead on the Prize exchange with Oblivion Wing and making the point of keeping my Pokémon-EX from the field or discard. My opponent saw that they had no chance to win the game normally and attempted to steal a win by only keeping two Shaymin on the board when I seemingly lacked the damage to KO one. This was an intelligent move but I eventually drew into the proper cards to catch them off guard with a surprise knockout to bench them and win the game early (Muscle Band + Giovanni’s + Reverse Valley).
The second game played out similarly and my opponent eventually returned to the Shaymin loop strategy. This time, I could not find what I needed to in order to get the same 1HKO. For some reason, I also thought that Yveltal’s Pitch-Black Spear was simply 60 and 60 to anything on the Bench as opposed to just a Benched Pokémon-EX and so I made a series of misplays on this assumption and ended up being caught in a losing scenario.
Thankfully, I was able to find everything I needed just before decking out but it looked as if I was going to tie once again because I had been playing terribly.
Round 5: Seismitoad/Manectric/Crobat
Another Manectric/Crobat deck proved to be yet another difficult matchup for me but I was thankful to not see any Bursting Balloons this time around. However, my opponent did play multiple copies of Max Elixir, which allowed him to threaten Assault Laser much quicker than I would have liked. I lost the first game after more resource mismanagement on my part when I chose to be less considerate after my opponent griped several times about having a dead hand while draw-passing the first few turns. Eventually, they found a Sycamore to keep themselves going and I got stuck with a hand all Items and no Energy. Quaking Punch locked me out of the game.
The second game, my opponent opened in a very similar fashion but this time I was able to bench them quickly before they were able to mount any sort of offense and so I rushed to try and finish the third game to avoid another tie. This game ended up being very close but I had a stroke of incredible luck when my opponent successfully used Delinquent to remove my entire hand. My topdeck was a VS Seeker, which allowed me get Gallade onto the board for the first time the entire series and I was able to win fairly easily from there.
Round 6: Night March/Vespiquen
I cannot exactly recall how the first game played out, but I was able to win it relatively easily. Being able to use Sky Return to pick up any Shaymins that might be on board is always a very powerful swing move as it advances your win condition as well as denies Night March’s main way to beat you. Druddigon proved exceptionally useful here as I could KO any of my opponent’s Pokémon with a Muscle Band.
The second game went down exactly how I detailed the Energy denial route above. My opponent’s first play was to Battle Compressor away a Shaymin and a Combee and immediately get them back with the double Puzzle of Time. On the following turn, he was forced to Sycamore the third Puzzle away and so I knew all I had to do was draw into Xerosic and the game would be easy. I was able to Xerosic a DCE away and take a knockout on a Joltik with an Energy attached on the same turn and he immediately conceded. I felt very good about navigating this matchup in such away, especially in light of my rather embarrassing blunders earlier. I was one win away from making cut!
Round 7: Night March
Unfortunately, this was the most uneventful series of the entire day and I was completely blown out of the water in this final encounter with Night March. I opened a bit slower than I would have liked but ultimately was completely powerless as my opponent failed to miss a beat. Both games, they were successfully able to Knock Out a Shaymin and immediately Target Whistle it back out for another easy KO that kept me far too behind the entire series.
A sad way for my tournament to end. But frankly, I think my performance is indicative of how I played. I made far too many mistakes and so missing cut was more than justified. I ended up in 10th place and picked up 30 points for Top 16 which put me just short of the invite. As players, I think our ability to improve is directly correlated with how much time we want to put into trying to do so. It’s a “get what you give” scenario and all too often, I think that players just expect to do well or think they’re entitled to do well based on their connections or who they’ve gotten their decklist from and so on. It’s easy to be lazy and it’s easy to be complacent and there’s a bad mentality that comes with such an attitude. Anyone can spin “oh I was unprepared” into a win-win scenario: “I didn’t do well because I haven’t been playing,” versus “Can you believe I did so well? I totally haven’t tested at all.” This is clearly detrimental to growth or being excellent as a player. I am definitely guilty about talking in such way and do not want to give it any sort of traction in a legitimate discussion. Even though I have not been playing as much as usual, I still want to be the very best and it is thus on me to make the effort to perform to my standards.
Kansas States: The Legend of Zoroark
Though I briefly considered attending an event Weeks 2 and 3, I talked myself out of each time, which was probably a smart decision. I was never quite sure what I would have wanted to play and given my relatively limited card pool, having to travel several hours and worrying about borrowing an entire deck was not an appealing concept.
I did, however, spend some time working on Giratina/Bronzong, which I thought could be a strong metagame play based on how I predicted the meta to shape up. I knew that this deck had minimal chances against Greninja or Trevenant but I thought that Week 2 would be mostly Night March, Vespiquen/Vileplume, and Seismitoad variants, making “DragonForce” an intelligent call. Here is the list that I cooked up:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 32
Energy – 10
I will not spend too much time discussing the deck here though you can refer to this HeyTrainer thread for a brief discussion of the deck. I attended my local League Challenge and took 2nd place with it, which I was happy with and I sent the list to friend who took Top 4 at Nebraska States with it. It was a good decision at the time given metagame, but in later weeks I saw that Trevenant and Greninja were increasing in popularity and so I no longer considered playing it.
In the right metagame, I think it could easily see a win. Looking forward to the format for Nationals, I think that it still has some potential there and so I will leave it here with the hopes that at the very least, you keep it in your mind when preparing for future events. If you have any questions about card choices or things I forgot to include, please tell me in the comments!
Fast forward to the final week of States and the end of Night March’s dominance seemed to be nowhere in sight. I knew that I would likely face this deck at least a third of my rounds going into Kansas States and so beating it would be important again. Vespiquen/Vileplume did not seem to have much success around the country and so I decided not to worry about it at all, leaving the only two relevant decks (as I saw it) to be Greninja and Trevenant.
After Week 1, I knew that Yveltal/Gallade struggled against Greninja but should have a good time with Trevenant and that’s when I stumbled on Azul Griego’s Yveltal/Zoroark list which he used to win Connecticut. He opted to ignore Gallade entirely in favor of playing a thicker Zoroark line and increasing consistency all around. I saw this list and knew that it was exactly what I was looking for. Losing Gallade made the deck feel much smoother while only diminishing your matchup against Mega Manectric decks, which were basically nonexistent. The boost in consistency should theoretically have improved the Trevenant matchup since you will have less useless cards like Battle Compressor and Maxie’s while under Item lock and the thicker Zoroark line should prove useful against Greninja as they generally have a very full Bench.
I was absolutely convinced that this was the correct deck for my State Championship and after toying with the initial list, I made a few changes from Azul’s template and played the following:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 33
Energy – 10
So clearly, I did not change that many cards and want to make sure that Azul takes the majority of credit for this list. I did not agree with his 1 copy of Battle Compressor, which ultimately did not seem useful enough to include. There were many other “tech” cards that I believed deserved a spot and I toyed around with a 3rd Lysandre, an Enhanced Hammer, and a Druddigon but I eventually went with AZ because it has a wide range of uses and would thus give the deck more versatility. I cut 1 Reverse Valley for a Parallel City in order to try and prevent myself from being Target Whistled by Night March (and remove my own Shaymins from the board). I think that this was correct though keeping it at 2 Valley would have been fine as well.
The main thing that I would change from the list is that I would cut one of the Target Whistles for one of those other tech cards previously mentioned or another Darkness Energy.
Round 1: Night March
I sat down Round 1 across from a very kind Poké-Parent and made the gut assumption that they would be playing Night March. I was thankfully right in this assumption but this series ended up being a complete mess. I lost Games 1 and 3 by getting benched on the second and third turns respectively. It was a very unfortunate way to start the day, but I blamed it on poor shuffling on my part and moved on. I was able to win the middle game with ease and the matchup played out how I expected, which boosted my confidence somewhat, but immediately being so close to elimination put me on edge.
Round 2: Night March
Another Night March! So far my predictions about what I would play were turning out to be completely accurate. This series did not see a repeat of my cluttered and unplayable draws from the first round and I very confidently took the win at 2-0. It furthered my confidence that this matchup was actually somewhat favorable as opposed to my initial belief that it was even or slightly unfavorable. The tempo is generally in favor of Yveltal since Oblivion Wing is easier to pull off than Night March and generally scores a Prize on the first turn should you go second.
Playing a copy of Fighting Fury Belt Week 1 was a mistake as it did very little for the deck and the boost in HP is arbitrary since Night March 1HKOs you anyway. Muscle Band allows Yveltal to Knock Out a Pumpkaboo with Fighting Fury Belt attached and is much more useful on your Zoroarks.
This win put me in better spirits and I was hoping to play against Night March for the rest of the day.
Rounds 3, 4, and 5: Trevenant
For sake of brevity, I am going to lump these three rounds into the same write-up because there was nothing distinguishable about any of these series to warrant their separation. I 2-0’d all three of the decks with relative ease and found this matchup to be almost impossible to lose. Trevenant’s Weakness is generally too much to overcome and your capacity to 1HKO their Pokémon allows you to simply pass against a Defending Pokémon with Burst Balloon without worrying too much about a loss in tempo.
In all three series, my opponents failed to get the turn 1 Item lock at least once, which usually gave me the time I needed to prepare turns and navigate around their strategy. AZ proved very useful to offset any large amount of damage that Trevenant was able to build up on any of my important Pokémon and basically any game that I was able to get a Zoroark BREAK onto the field spelled their immediate doom. Its high HP, efficient attacks, and Resistance to Psychic made it far too difficult to deal with and often took 3-4 Prizes on its own.
Round 6: Trevenant/Hammers/Red Card
So here I was, one win away from being able to ID into cut and I was also paired against yet another Trevenant deck! I was very confident but naturally you know something must be amiss if I did not include this round in the chunk above. This Trevenant deck was much different than any of ones I had faced before and through the disruption cards it included, this was a series most difficult.
I won the first game despite going second to the first-turn Wally play but I think this was a matter of one crucial Crushing Hamming flip going my way which failed to prevent a 3-Prize knockout with Pitch-Black Spear. The second game ended very quickly after I got hit with a brutal Red Card on the first turn and drew-passed into a near immediate concession.
The final game was back and forth almost the entire time and it is safe to say that the only way Trevenant has a chance in this matchup is with the types of cards featured in my opponent’s list. The deciding factor in this game was once against Red Card, which struck my unbeatable hand into an unplayable mess of Items. From here, my opponent was able to Lysandre up a Pokémon that I could not retreat and the spread damage began to add up too quickly. I had two to three turns where topdecking a Double Colorless to retreat which would have allowed me to take my last Prize with an Yveltal-EX. Unfortunately, I did not draw anything of use and I lost a very close series. Dashed were my hopes of making Top 8.
Round 7: Night March
Another uneventful series occurred this round. Unless Night March is able to hit multiple Catchers and win a Prize exchange around Knocking Out your Pokémon-EX, I do not believe that they can beat this deck. They also are pressured to draw optimally and play their Puzzle of Times in a perfect fashion, otherwise you can run them out of Energy. In the first game, my opponent prized Teammates and could not stream the cards he needed. In the second game, he played 3 Puzzles of Time on this first turn and I ran him out of Energy.
I placed in the Top 16 yet again, which earned me my sixth consecutive invitation to the World Championships, however I cannot help but feel somewhat disappointed. I believe that my Week 1 performance had only myself to blame but I believe I made the perfect call for Week 4. Poor luck in the first round essentially ended my tournament preemptively but I have all the confidence in the world with this deck. It will be interesting to see what the next set does (if anything) for Standard but I cannot imagine that I will not begin testing in that format with some variation of this deck.
Night Marching Forward
To conclude, I want to briefly discuss the Night March list that I am preparing for Spring Regionals. Historically, Night March has not had very much success in Expanded but I believe that this will change with Puzzle of Time. I think that it missed an opportunity to shine at Florida and Oregon Regionals because people were too busy countering Sableye/Garbodor that they failed to believe in its potential. Flareon/Vespiquen was previously the superior Battle Compressor deck because it had resilience to Giratina via Blacksmith and the bonus HP to resist Seismitoad/Crobat. I do not think that Flareon and other decks will have the space to abuse Puzzle of Time, which ought to shift the balance of power into a metagame that favors Night March.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
1 Town Map
Energy – 4
Archeops should give this deck the advantage against anything that evolves, which is considerably more relevant in Expanded and so the list has been tailored with that small change in mind. Otherwise, there is little else that differentiates this list from those that were so dominant at States and I believe that it will continue to be the best deck moving forward.
I hope you have enjoyed all that I have discussed today and I am eager to hear your feedback on the style of tournament report that I included. It is always a joy to put these articles together and I look forward to writing more in the near future. I am unsure of where I am headed for Spring Regionals outside of Kansas City but I hope to see many of you in attendance. Until next time!
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