Ethereal Blue

Personal Musings, N-Vestigations, Dark Origins, and a Whole Lotta Water

It is hard to believe that this season has almost come to an end. US Nationals is just about a week away and almost everyone I talk to is scrambling to try and figure out what to play. Of course, I am no exception to this and I have found myself testing harder now than I have all season.

For those unaware, I have been dealing with pretty serious levels of depression and anxiety for the better part of the last year and a half and one of the most observable effects of these conditions could be seen in my involvement with Pokémon. I have not competed much this year and I really do feel somewhat disappointed in the results I was able to achieve. These afflictions are what kept me from competing in Winter Regionals and undoubtedly stifled my results when I was able to drag myself to events.

ash ketchum pikachu rockspokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
I’ve got to put myself out there.

In truth, I was somewhat hesitant about attending Nationals given my recent struggles dealing with anxiety and handling myself in such a large environment, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am a born competitor and giving my all in Columbus this year is simply something that I need to do. Like many, I was scared or ashamed to talk about the condition of my mental health in an open fashion but now I understand that not doing so only gave power to the issues themselves. Now, as I talk about these things publicly, it is not pity or well-wishing that I seek. Rather, by talking openly about this, I believe that in some way I am able to regain some degree of autonomy for myself but also apologize for my lack of effort in the game and hopefully begin to right the wrongs committed during this time.

Though I’ve quoted it many times, “Those whose strength is insufficient fall to the side somewhere along the way,” and this exactly the case here. I will be attending Nationals with nothing but the intention to win the event and solidify my position as one of the very best — and with this out of the way, I hope that you will enjoy what I have prepared for the rest of the article!

N-Vestigations

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The harmonious return of N. (Really!)

Briefly before jumping into the deck discussion portion of the article, I want to talk about what I perceive to be responsible for the biggest shakeup in the Standard format: N. Ironically, it was not anything new, but a card that debuted in 2011 that gave us the change we needed. Most notably, I think N weakens because it adds a disruptive component late game that prevents the Night March player from easily amassing every answer they need to finish out the game (through chaining Teammates and Puzzle of Time). Standard was also lacking a diverse Supporter pool compared to Expanded. At the very least, N gives slower decks more of a chance to set up and win against the faster and more aggressive decks of the format. There is no longer a need to try and work with the far too conditional Ace Trainer.

Though I am annoyed that cards continue to be reprinted and little effort seems to be made to change the game drastically in regards to tempo, I will concede that N is currently a positive change for the game and should be included in every single deck. Professor Juniper has been tournament legal since I was still in high school and will undoubtedly precede most of the Junior Division in coming years as Professor Sycamore is about to receive its overdue full-art reprint. It is my hope that things change in coming years, though I will remain a pessimist until proven otherwise.

I would like to conclude here by stating that despite the reintroduction of N, I still believe Night March to be one of the three best decks in format and it will continue to be a deck that I consider playing as my testing gets closer and closer to the main event. I do not want to spend much time discussing Night March, as many readers have expressed an oversaturation of coverage of the deck, but I will simply say that I would play my build with a relatively thick Vespiquen line and that you should refer to Sorina Radu’s most recent article should you be interested in more about the deck.

Dark Origins

As many of you know, last weekend — along with more foreign National Championships — was the Origins Game Fair, featuring a tournament awarding a free trip to San Francisco for the World Championships. For many, this would be the first time to test-drive in a competitive environment for Nationals. The results from this tournament featured the emergence of a Darkrai/Giratina deck that for the most part has failed to have any sort of notable results anywhere else. Seemingly, there is little to no synergy between these cards outside of general problem-solving. That is, Darkrai itself is a very strong card but struggled to find an answer to Night March and so Giratina was the logical addition in order to combat that weakness. Personally, I am a bit skeptical of this pairing but obviously the results speak for themselves and I would be highly shocked if this deck does not have a huge presence at Canadian or US Nationals.

Before we look at some lists, here is the initial Top 8 from the event (courtesy of Andrew Wamboldt):

  1. Christopher SchemanskeDarkrai-EX BKP/Giratina-EX AOR/Latios-EX ROS/Garbodor BKP
  2. Aaron TarbellTrevenant BREAK
  3. Alex Croxton … Genesect-EX FCO/Aegislash-EX/Zoroark BKT/Bronzong PHF
  4. Alex HillDarkrai-EX BKP/Giratina-EX AOR/Latios-EX ROS/Garbodor BKP
  5. Sean Foisy … Darkrai-EX BKP/Giratina-EX AOR/Latios-EX ROS/Garbodor BKP
  6. Russell LaParre … Water Toolbox
  7. Andrew Wamboldt … Night March/Vespiquen AOR 10
  8. Jimmy McClure … Darkrai-EX BKP/Garbodor BKP

Interestingly, the Darkrai/ deck that chose not to include Giratina won the whole event and looking at this top cut, that is not too surprising. I imagine that the deck has considerably more consistency without Dragon Pokémon and Double Dragon Energy, and given the lack of Night March in cut (which was swiftly eliminated), it seems like the most obvious victor. With the exception of the new-age Bronzong deck featuring Bronzong BREAK and Genesect-EX FCO, I have a good amount of experience with all of these decks and believe that this top cut will be representative of what to expect at US Nationals. Let’s look at a list for both variants of Darkrai/Garbodor before discussing more:

Darkrai/Garbodor

Pokémon – 13

3 Yveltal XY

1 Yveltal BKT

1 Yveltal-EX

2 Darkrai-EX BKP

2 Trubbish BKP

2 Garbodor BKP

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Lysandre

2 N

1 AZ

1 Xerosic

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

3 Max Elixir

3 Fighting Fury Belt

3 Float Stone

1 Escape Rope

1 Super Rod

 

2 Reverse Valley

Energy – 12

12 Darkness

This deck is actually something that I came very close to playing for the fourth weekend of State Championships but after testing it in a handful of games, I found myself unable to win against Night March consistently. In theory, a Darkrai-EX with Fighting Fury Belt should prove difficult for Night March to 1HKO early on, and then with proper usage of your non-EXs and key Lysandre Shaymin KOs, the matchup seems rather winnable — but more often than not, I found myself being overwhelmed by swift and aggressive starts from the Night March player. However, that is not necessarily a knock against the deck as the popularity of Night March seems to be dwindling as the metagame advances. At worst, that matchup is still probably 45-55, which isn’t bad considering that you are positive against most other decks in the format.

The list is based largely on Jimmy McClure’s winning list from Origins (which I’ve seen in confidentiality) but I took some liberties in trying to make the deck more consistent. One of the main problems with this deck is that it lacks an answer to Safeguard effects. There is no good solution for Jolteon-EX or Regice AOR. The issue could be remedied with a Malamar-EX in attempts to keep the quasi-Safeguarder Asleep (so it misses an attack) then it Knock Out or maybe by attempting to fit a small Zoroark BKT line into the deck — but the popularity of either Jolteon or Regice remains unclear to me. (Note that will not work if Garbodor’s Ability is online, so this solution remains sketchy.)

The singular copy of Escape Rope does hedge against Safeguard, but the success Night March saw using this strategy to combat Jolteon-EX was aided by having access to the card at almost any moment through Puzzle of Time or Teammates, and since the Dark/Garb list lacks either of these options, it may be advisable to cut Escape Rope and just hope to avoid any deck utilizing this strategy.

Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor

Pokémon – 13

2 Yveltal XY

2 Darkrai-EX BKP

2 Giratina-EX AOR

2 Trubbish BKP

2 Garbodor BKP

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Hoopa-EX AOR

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre

1 AZ

1 Xerosic

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Max Elixir

3 Float Stone

3 Fighting Fury Belt

1 Escape Rope

1 Super Rod

Energy – 13

9 Darkness

4 Double Dragon

As you can see, the core of both lists is roughly the same as I have tried to maintain the same degree of consistency for both decks. However, this Giratina version has slightly different priorities than the straight Dark version and certain card counts has been altered to reflect this aim. For one, this deck is much more reliant on Pokémon-EX and so Hoopa-EX is worth including in order to get fast openings where you have access to either Darkrai or Giratina as your initial attacker depending on your opening. Max Elixir becomes more important in this list as you want to get a Giratina-EX using Chaos Wheel as fast as possible whereas the other version is more inclined to slower openings with Oblivion Wing or Pitch-Black Spear before transitioning into a hard-hitting Dark Pulse or Evil Ball.

I have seen some lists for this deck attempt to include cards like Latios-EX ROS in order to try and donk certain Night Marchers, Froakie, and so on. However, I believe this inclusion to be a waste of space in the deck for a number of reasons. Primarily, I do not believe that Latios-EX pulls any weight in the deck outside of the donk scenario and so it is just a dead card in most games. Additionally, this deck is already tailored to beat Night March and Greninja, and so to me, Fast Raid seems like a “win more” condition, which is certainly to be avoided. You need Muscle Band to KO most of these Pokémon anyway, and trying to balance Tool counts between Fighting Fury Belt and Muscle Band feels like a waste to me, as Fury Belt is the better card in almost every other scenario.

Finally, while this deck is certainly strong, its weakness to Regice or Jolteon-EX is probably worse than the “straight” version as there is even less room to devote toward your potential answers. I would only recommend this version over the other if Night March is your main concern at US Nationals.

A Whole Lotta Water

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Ah, the Tea Lizard.

Next, I would like to discuss what is my current favorite deck: Water Box. To me, this deck is very surprising given that it feels more like a theme deck than anything I have ever played in my almost seven-year history in the game. There is almost no synergy between any of the cards outside of the brutish fact that everything is a Water Pokémon.

Despite its unorthodox nature, I believe that this deck the tools to defeat almost every adversary and it certainly has a lot of space to gear itself against certain decks to give it an incredible advantage depending on the metagame. While reading and examining the thoughts of other writers from SixPrizes and other sites, I cannot help but think that this deck is being incredibly underrated by many. Perhaps it is my affinity and potential bias for anything utilizing Seismitoad-EX, but rarely has this card disappointed me in my history with it and I believe that it has potential to once again perform well at the biggest tournament in the world.

Let’s start by examining the core for the list:

Pokémon – 6

2 Seismitoad-EX

2 Manaphy-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

1 Lysandre

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

4 Trainers’ Mail

3 Energy Switch

3 Fighting Fury Belt

 

4 Rough Seas

Energy – 12

12 Water

Open Slots: 9

As you can see, the core to this deck is very simple. Seismitoad-EX is the main attacker, though for the first and maybe only time in existence, Grenade Hammer is the attack you will be using the most and Quaking Punch is usually just an option or something you want to do to try and seal the win after a late-game N. Manaphy-EX is of course mostly useful for its free retreat though its attack has some utility to it, most notably in your matchup against Trevenant BREAK.

With the remaining nine slots, we have a variety of Pokémon and Supporter options to consider, and while I will try to detail most of these, if there is not a section devoted to certain cards, it should be taken as self-evident that the inclusion of more core cards like Seismitoad-EX or N is done so with a desire to increase the general consistency of the deck.

Potential Pokémon

Hoopa-EX AOR: Since this deck needs multiple Pokémon-EX to get its most efficient starts, Hoopa seems like a logical inclusion. With one Ultra Ball, you’re able to grab your main attacker in , your useful Bench-sitter Manaphy, and some extra draw power from Shaymin. By no means is this card a necessity and occasionally it can become a hindrance by clogging your Bench, but it should be a no-brainer to at least think about including in the list.

Glaceon-EX: This card saw play in the original German list and it proves useful against any deck reliant on Evolved Pokémon. Most notably, this would include the Yveltal deck with a heavy Zoroark line or anything revolving around . Thus, should your predicted metagame feature many of these decks, Glaceon is an easy inclusion.

regice-ancient-origins-aor-24
Immunity effects are pretty great.

Regice AOR: As I noted several times in my discussion of the Darkrai/Garbodor decks, I think that Safeguard effects are in a very good position in the current format and many decks lack good answers to the defense that Regice provides. It is a big, beefy non-EX with even more versatility using its first attack to Paralyze and potentially stall for time. Though it has minimal use in a metagame full of Night March and Trevenant, I think it should still be a consideration given what I predict the field to look like.

Articuno ROS 17: Articuno has not had much time to shine outside the Expanded format where it was nicely utilized in Archie’s decks and sometimes even in conjunction with Victini LTR to try and take extra Prizes off cheap knockouts against vulnerable non-EX Pokémon, the most notable of which are the Night March attackers. Though we have no option here to try and increase our odds of taking knockouts with Tri-Edge, I think that Articuno still has some purpose in trying to hedge the deck against Night March. Like Regice, Articuno is also useful for swinging the game with a turn of Sleep via Chilling Sigh. These Special Conditions are essentially the only option the deck has for dealing with Jolteon-EX and so it should be on your radar of potential inclusions.

Aurorus-EX: This is likely a card that many people would have to pick up and read as it has yet to be played in any competitive deck, but I think that it is the deck’s strongest option for combatting Greninja. With a Fighting Fury Belt or Muscle Band, Aurorus-EX can 1HKO any Pokémon in a Greninja deck, which is incredible. One of Greninja’s biggest strengths is the sheer bulkiness of a 170-HP non-EX capable of high amounts of damage, but with the potential uses of multiple Aurorus, I believe that the matchup shifts significantly into your favor. Finally, the “Frozen Charm” Ability also has some uses as Froakie or Regice both have the potential to Paralyze your Pokémon and removing that option is nothing but a positive.

Other Inclusions

Disruptive Supporters: Seismitoad-EX has always paired well with disruptive options and I have considered including them in here as well. Between Xerosic, Team Flare Grunt, AZ, or Hex Maniac, I think that my skeleton list has the space to include 1-2 of these into the list. At present, I am most inclined to choose Hex Maniac as I think the emergence of Bronzong/Genesect proves to be somewhat problematic for this deck but a well-timed Hex after Rapid Blaster could easily turn a losing game around.

Utility Trainers: Cards like Crushing Hammer and Super Scoop Up have always gone incredibly well with Seismitoad, but I do not believe that there is space for them here. Ordinarily, Seismitoad decks are all about Quaking Punch and so the additional disruption that these cards provide complements only needing a DCE to function properly. However, this deck is much different and does not feature any Special Energy cards and so Super Scoop Up inevitably picks up 2-3 Energy per Pokémon and removes any Energy Switch plays for the board, so this option is more cumbersome than useful. I am not opposed to playing one copy of something like Enhanced Hammer as it does not need nearly as much space as Crushing Hammer in the deck to be useful.

Finally, one of the most powerful cards in the format is Fighting Fury Belt and having the option to deal with it is incredibly important. As such, I believe that Startling Megaphone (or Xerosic) should be in the list for this deck in order to take Prizes faster and trade advantageously.


With all that in mind, here is my current list for the deck:

Pokémon – 10

3 Seismitoad-EX

2 Manaphy-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Aurorus-EX

1 Regice AOR

1 Articuno ROS 17

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Lysandre

1 AZ

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Max Elixir

3 Energy Switch

3 Fighting Fury Belt

1 Startling Megaphone

 

4 Rough Seas

Energy – 12

12 Water

If you have any questions or further suggestions for this deck, I would love to hear and respond to them in the comments below! Though there is still plenty of time for me to change certain cards in the list, I am pretty confident in the way this list has shaped up. For the most part, the main thing I like about this deck is how consistent it is. Rarely do I ever have a poor opening and there are even times when getting a first turn Grenade Hammer is easy to accomplish. If you have yet to spend time with this deck, I urge you to try it at least somewhat.

Matchups

In the last section about this deck, I want to quickly detail how this deck matches up against the other top decks in the format and note any changes to the list to combat each and every matchup. Again, if you disagree or have further comments on any of this, please let me know in the comments!

Greninja — Highly Favorable

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New card! (The frog stomper.)

With Aurorus-EX in the list, I find this matchup very difficult to lose. You are simply able to answer all of their attackers fast and efficiently and are not threatened by Stardust Jirachi, which Greninja often relies on to stall for time. Without Aurorus, however, this matchup is pretty close as it becomes struggle to trade well against Greninja’s high-HP, non-EX Pokémon. If for whatever reason you wanted to have an even better matchup here, additional heal cards like Pokémon Center Lady or Max Potion would probably do the trick.

Trevenant BREAK — Highly Favorable

One of Trevenant’s biggest weaknesses has always been Rough Seas. Being large and bulky while mitigating Silent Fear every turn is incredibly difficult to overcome, not to mention that attacking with Manaphy-EX accomplishes the same thing. Sometimes, Trevenant can just stick you with an unplayable hand should they go first and achieve the Item lock, but barring that unfortunate scenario, I find this matchup hard to lose.

Dark/Garb — Favorable

I think this deck (either version) lacks an answer to Regice, which ought to give Water the edge. Escape Rope is a soft solution but I think more needs to be added to swing this matchup in favor of the Darkrai player. Seismitoad-EX with Fighting Fury Belt is a difficult threat to deal with in its own right and I think through cards like Startling Megaphone and the abundance of Rough Seas, you can maybe just out-trade their Pokémon, even without Regice.

Yveltal/ — Slightly Favorable

This matchup can be difficult, but in my experience it mostly comes down to proper Bench management. Sometimes, this means not benching Manaphy-EX, which makes your deck less efficient, but denying easy Prizes and Mind Jack damage is what you need to beat this deck. Zoroark BKT is somewhat negligible as you can control its damage output but the BREAK is annoying at times as it can hit for large amounts of damage by copying your Grenade Hammer. Though still in your favor, Glaceon-EX is the best card to add to solidify this matchup.

Bronzong/Genesect — Slightly Favorable

In the past, Aegislash-EX has always proved to be a large annoyance for Seismitoad given its usual reliance on DCE, but this list no longer has to worry about that and thus Genesect-EX is the main problem for this deck. However, its attack is sometimes inefficient to use, especially when you can block Bronzong for a turn with Hex Maniac. Standard Bronzong lacks Keldeo-EX and so it becomes much easier to Lysandre + Quaking Punch on heavy Bench-sitters to take free Prizes and stall for time. Sometimes, the Bronzong player is able to set up too fast for Water to handle, but generally speaking, this matchup should be in your favor.

Mega Ray — Slightly Favorable

This deck has always been somewhat of a mystery to me, as it has never seen any play in my area. I understand that it has results elsewhere but I have no real experience with or against it. It seems somewhat inconsistent and reliant on a strong Item opening — which Quaking Punch can throw a huge wrench into — and it also lacks an answer to Regice. My strategy here would be to try to aim for a first or second turn Resistance Blizzard and then avoid benching any other Pokémon. Adding a 2nd Regice would probably be the best addition for this matchup.

Night March — Favorable to Slightly Unfavorable

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Your “edge” in the NM matchup.

This will depend mostly on whether or not the Night March player has opted to include Vespiquen in their list. Vespiquen is essentially the only Pokémon in the format that I think truly gives this deck any trouble but it is not unmanageable. An early bulking Quaking Punch that transitions into Articuno usually proves to seal the deal for me, but as we all know, sometimes Night March can open too fast to combat successfully. Consider more Articuno and Xerosic or Enhanced Hammer for a better matchup here.

Vespiquen/Vileplume — Unfavorable

When Vespiquen/Vileplume sets up well it beats basically every deck in the format and this no exception for our Water deck. However, I think the V/V has some natural inconsistencies to it that can allow you to steal the game with key Lysandre plays and some use of your non-EX Pokémon to afflict Special Conditions. If this matchup becomes your biggest concern, I would be an advocate of adding Aegislash-EX to the list to simply stall out the deck.

Vespiquen/Stage 1s — Unfavorable

Though this deck will be questionably popular (as it is largely just a slower Night March), the heavy Vespiquen line will continue to be a large threat. With a fast enough start and some lucky N’s, you could easily steal a win here but for the most part I would just hope to avoid this deck. Glaceon-EX would be the best inclusion here though even still you may struggle against the Shaymin loop strategy.

Sceptile — Highly Unfavorable

I think that Sceptile decks could end up being a huge wildcard at Nationals this year. If one were to dodge Night March entirely, I think that this deck could easily go very far as it seems to match up well against most other decks and this Water deck would likely be one of its easiest matchups. Regice, again, proves to be very useful here though playing around Ariados seems very hard to do. For the moment, I would not expect many people to play this deck, but if I choose to play Water, I definitely want to avoid it.

Closing Thoughts

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Let’s do this.

That’s all I have for today. US Nationals is going to be here before any of us know it and I can’t wait to be there again. I look forward to watching Canadian Nationals unfold this weekend and will try to voice my thoughts on how I think their results will affect our metagame sometime on the forum or in the comments for this piece, so please feel free to return here to ask any questions or voice your thoughts on that. I’m not sure what would need to happen to shake my confidence in Water, but I will remain persistent in my testing either way.

I am to do my very best this year and hope that at the very least I will make the top 64. In my six Nationals, I have only failed to make top cut one time where I was 66th on a 64 cut and I plan on continuing this trend this year. I hope you have enjoyed the piece today and I look forward to seeing many of you in coming weeks!


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