Order of Operations

The Spreadsheet Explained, Nationals Prep Walkthrough, and Future Format Musings
ash tracey pikachu photorewatchingpokemon.tumblr.com
I hope you had a good time!

Welcome back from Nationals! Much of the player base was at US Nationals this past weekend, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that we had a ton of people: a record-breaking 1,105 Masters had the room bursting at the seams, and it would’ve been even larger had more players registered online ahead of time and not been faced with rejection at the door Thursday evening. Despite that unfortunate setback for some, it was an excellent event and I’m excited to be back today.

I’ll get into this a bit more in a minute, but today I’m going to go through my group’s thought processes and whatnot as we went into Nationals. It wasn’t the most successful event for us, but we put up some okay results.

The relevant detail: most of the early part of this article is written “in the moment” last week as I traveled to/tested at Nationals. As such, “I think …” really means “I thought last week …” When you get to Friday’s recap, we revert back to normal retrospective, but for now, bear with me.

Every time I sit down to start an article, part of my consideration as an Underground writer is the longevity of my content. An article dumping lists for a Week 3 Spring Regional is a good and necessary thing, but it’s also not going to be useful past that Regional (in all likelihood). Articles written during the first week of Cities typically aren’t going to be relevant in January.

I’ve tried to strike a balance in my work — sometimes, like when I wrote the first XY-BKP article for 6P the day after Florida Regionals, the content simply isn’t going to be useful past initial preparation. Lists had become so different by the time Week 1-of States rolled around that my February musings were of no use. My pre-Origins article a few weeks ago wasn’t nearly as useful pre-Nationals as I’d have liked — ironically, partially my own fault for stumbling on Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor at the 11th hour — but between Russ, Alex, and I, anyone attending Origins had their pick of almost every deck in format.

Last year before Nationals, I wrote an article entirely devoted to Donphan and the different ways to build it, with an eye toward an inevitably changing metagame for the coming weeks. My goal in that article was to provide you with a flexible roadmap that could be adapted depending on what unfolded in the community’s hype as Nationals grew closer — my goal, quite simply, was to create something with longevity.

This year, Worlds will feature the August set for the first time ever. Steam Siege is rife with interesting cards and concepts, but quite honestly, I haven’t taken the time to think about it enough to give you any hot takes or solid recommendations on cards to plan on acquiring. Moreover, as much as Russell LaParre might want Karen to make an appearance in the set, I’m steadfast in my belief that we won’t get it until November at the earliest. Karen is among the most influential potential cards in the set, and as such, it’s going to be hard to make any solid calls on Steam Siege’s effect until we know Karen’s fate.

So, if I can’t cover Steam Siege, what are we going to do? In the interest of combining the longevity angle with the lack of relevant decks to cover, I’m going to make today’s article a crash-course in big tournament prep by keeping a “log,” per-se, of my and my friends’ pre-Nationals tactical efforts. My hope is that by chronicling our thought processes going into the biggest event of the year, you can glean something to apply for your own future pre-Worlds/Regionals/Nationals strategies.

… Wednesday

command center organization map computer 3-2pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
A look inside our command center, spreadsheets at the ready.

For the last few years, myself, Alex Hill, and the rest of our group have generally tried to arrive at Nationals well ahead of time in the interest of logging as much relevant testing as possible. This year in particular I’ve not played nearly as many games with as many decks as I would typically like, so I’m hoping the extra time will prove beneficial. Last year, Wednesday saw us mess around with Wailord-EX (before discarding it from consideration), M Manectric-EX/Primal Groudon-EX, and other crazy ideas. Our eventual play, M Rayquaza-EX/Bronzong PHF, was on the table, but was set aside in favor of the crazier ideas we had.

That aside, let’s move on. Assessing the various deck options available, with strengths and weaknesses, is a key part of any tournament preparation. Sometimes, that manifests in a (very disorganized) “Notes” session on my phone. For larger events with more decks to consider, and more at stake, an Excel spreadsheet has become the weapon of choice.

Our Methodical Meta Analysis

Some of you may remember my Worlds 2015 recap, in which I laid out the origin and theory of this spreadsheet system. For those that don’t, it essentially features every deck in format, each deck’s matchup against every other deck, and each of those decks’ projected share of the tournament metagame. Not only does this provide an effective tool for clarifying one’s thoughts, but it provides a level of analysis as well: with all of said data input, the spreadsheets generate what I’ve dubbed a “playability factor.”

It’s really just a bunch of simple math we organize in Excel.

Basically, each deck’s win rate (for example, Night March + Maxie’s 60% handicap against Darkrai/Garbodor) is multiplied by the expected metagame share of the opposing (Darkrai/Garbodor) deck. If we say there’ll be 10% Darkrai/Garbodor, then Darkrai/Garbodor’s contribution to Night March’s “playability factor” is 0.06 (0.6 × 0.1). I typically make my “percentages” out of 10, rather than 1, to produce a more visually appealing final number. For example, 20% is input as the number 2 (rather than 0.2) in my document. When we add all of the “playability factors” up, we obtain something that roughly approximates Night March’s expected win percentage against our field.

In a sentence: the more of Deck X’s good matchups we expect (and tell the spreadsheet to expect) to be in the room, the higher Deck X will be on the spreadsheet’s recommendation list.

For perspective, here’s a sampling of our spreadsheet-aided results in the past:

Worlds 2015

  • Projected Top Deck: Wailord-EX (it broke the model like nothing else ever has)
  • Actual Play: Trevenant PHF/Gengar-EX (2nd in final spreadsheet)
  • Results: 4/5 players advanced to Day 2; T8, T32, T64 Masters finishes

Week 1 Fall Regionals 2015

  • Projected Top Deck: Archie’s Blastoise
  • Actual Play: Archie’s Blastoise
  • Results: I was the only one of us to play Week 1 last Fall, and achieved a Top 8 finish in Houston.

Week 3 Fall Regionals 2015

  • Projected Top Deck: Vespiquen AOR 10/Flareon PLF
  • Actual Play: Split decision
  • Results: A majority of the group chose to play Tyrantrum-EX/Bronzong (3rd on the projection list), netting mediocre Top 64 finishes at best. One or two played Vespiquen/Flareon and dropped early in the day. I went undefeated … as a member of staff.

Week 2 Winter Regionals 2016

  • Projected Top Deck: Eelektrik NVI/Raikou BKT
  • Actual Play: We, uh, reached. I’m honestly not entirely sure what transpired in our thought process, as we ended up playing the 3rd-to-last-ranked Vespiquen/Flareon. My brother did listen to the math, playing Raikou for St. Louis.
  • Results: Vespiquen/Flareon went, well, badly. My brother, though, finished in Seniors Top 4 with Raikou/Eels — losing to mirror in the semifinals.

Without careful construction, bad data can lead you astray.

As you can see, math only gets you so far. A key caveat in this method: the output is only as good as the input. Misjudging the metagame, completely butchering a deck’s matchups, or committing some other error ruins the method’s validity completely. Moreover, bias can play a serious role in the input of matchups or metagame predictions, as one’s “favorite” deck can often be viewed through rose-tinted glasses.

The best way to mitigate that bias, and to increase the overall veracity of the data, is for the data to be a group effort. It’s much less likely that a collective group of players is going to exhibit the same biases to the same extents as any one individual in that group — meaning overall a better picture of reality can be constructed.

In summary, this tool helps us in a few ways:

1. It helps us target our testing. When there are 15 viable decks in a format, it’s simply not possible to test the complete matrix of matchups that exist. In producing this spreadsheet, mental “attention” is naturally called to the matchups where we have the hardest time approximating a result — meaning, the matchups we need to test the most are clearly highlighted.

2. Moreover, initial playability factors can help us decide on a deck’s viability as a potential play for a tournament. For example, in the above Week 2 Winter Regional example, we probably should’ve taken more caution and considered why Vespiquen was faring so poorly by this somewhat objective metric (it’s not truly objective, but for reasons that result only from potential positive bias toward a deck — meaning we really shouldn’t have considered Vespiquen) and either adjusted the spreadsheet or looked toward the upper echelon of results to find a better play. Our thought process and the two were reading incompatible results, which meant something was awry.

3. It helps us clarify our thinking. I’ve touched on this a lot, but putting the proverbial pen to digital paper helps to eliminate contradictory thoughts, streamline positions on a deck’s strengths/weaknesses, and point toward an ultimately better play.

The Initial Spreadsheet

Taking a break from writing this article, I kicked off our Nationals 2016 spreadsheet with this effort:

wednesday spreadsheet screenshot 1

(Click here for larger image.)

Now, before you run to the comments to ask me about Deck X’s matchup with Deck Y and tell me that I’m way off, a few caveats:

  • With little variation, these are all primarily approximations based on testing or mental exercises (“theorymon”). Variance happens in testing, and thinking through a matchup doesn’t always result in the most accurate assessment.
  • With that in mind, matchups highlighted in yellow are my way of saying that I’m either unconfident in my assessment, want more group input later, or the matchup needs to be tested significantly more.
  • There, quite possibly, are errors in here. That sounds dumb, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit if you found at least one instance where two corresponding matchups don’t quite add up to 100/100. (The next project is to automate that part of the process …)

With that said, by the time you’re reading this, none of these matchups will matter anymore. Even then, I welcome your thoughts in the comments on anything.

Something I dislike about this system is that it forces me to approximate and dichotomize matchups. That process, at heart, is a mental heuristic that I despise. It’s a lazy way of getting around the reality that matchups are fluid and can vary a good bit depending on individual card counts, player skill, and other external factors. In this scenario, though, there is no other way to achieve good data. In fact, for a tournament like Nationals — where Day 2 will probably feature about 6% of Masters participants (note: in reality, it was 5.8%) and Top 8 a whopping 0.8% (0.7%) — this level of approximation and assumption helps mimics the reality of the treacherous waters of pairings.

I might beat Water Box played by Player X 6/10 times, but only beat Player Y 4/10 because Y chose an insidious count of Regice AOR. I can’t account for that in this spreadsheet — all I can do is project the general trend of the player base. Given the amount of variance in pairings, that’s honestly all you should be doing, and this tool helps us to keep that perspective. If you know of a team of 10 players that are playing 2 basic Energy in Night March, and basic Energy harms your matchup with Night March, you’re probably going to want to consider some sort of adjustment at a State or even small Regional Championship. At Nationals, that team of 10 is barely a drop in the bucket of potential opponents. Trends are good to consider, especially in terms of overall deck representation, but it’s key to insulate yourself from the hype of a particular card count in a given deck when you might never deal with that factor.

The other key to remember about Nationals is that much of the player base is subject to a level of inertia that blows my mind on an annual basis. I’m sure I’ll sit next to quite a few Greninja this weekend, even though the environment is absolutely hostile toward it. A few excellent players — and more than a few not-as-elite participants — will inevitably play it, and a few will certainly see deserved success. That’s not an indictment on or a “shot” toward those that’ll utilize the Frogs this weekend, but a statement of reality that not every player is as in tune as every other. You can’t ignore that when constructing a deck for any large event, but especially for one as sizable as Nationals.

By eliminating a level of nuance, this methodology isn’t as effective at smaller State and Regional events, but it is ideally constructed for playing the odds at a jumbo tournament like US Nationals.

I hope by now you’ve gotten the picture, and if you haven’t — or when I’ve inevitably made something confusing while working through this explanation — feel free to ask about it. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering a few things about the decks enclosed in the above, so here you go:

“Zygarde/Vileplume?!? What?” Largely inspired by Takuya Yoneda’s 1st place finish at Japan’s “Nationals” (Day 2 Worlds-qualifying event) a short time ago, I built a list largely based on the Japanese one on Monday. I was met with skepticism when I brought the idea up (“really? seems terrible.” was Alex Hill’s exact opinion on the notion that the deck was testing decently well), but it made its way on the spreadsheet as an option for consideration. In a sentence, the deck largely focuses on forcing the opposition to expend resources to deal with Carbink FCO while slowing that process with Vileplume AOR and setting up a heavy hitter in Zygarde-EX.

Medicham sounds more like a theme deck.” It had bit of a presence at the Origins Win-a-Trip a few weeks prior, and was a deck that I found interesting then. I’d heard a bit of hype for it leading into Nationals. Also something I want to consider, but chaining Stage 1s is always a difficult task, and Regirock-EX isn’t exactly an end-all in solving the problem of consistent damage output.

“Didn’t M Manectric die?” It did, but I’ve heard a lot of hype for it leading into the event, and as such it warrants a place on the spreadsheet. As I mentioned above, the inertia this event tends to exhibit can be insane, but that plays both ways: a lot of people have always liked Manectric and probably would play it with zero reason whatsoever.

CS Nats 2016 Wednesday Meta Spdsht Output
Vileplume was the early favorite.

Here’s how the spreadsheet rated potential plays at the very early stages of our Nationals deliberations. It’s worth noting that for this initial dry run, I used metagame coefficients of 11/10 for every deck. Thus, 11 archetypes were represented equally (Zygarde and Medicham were not represented in the metagame; Darkrai/Garb + Darkrai/Giratina/Garb and M Manectric/Water + M Manectric/Gira were lumped together) to produce a very rough approximation of the metagame. Obviously, that’s not what reality will be, but right now I want to know which decks rise above the others on inherent merit.

As you can see, Zygarde, Vespiquen/Vileplume, and Medicham are much above the rest of the field. While I believe that Zygarde’s position is somewhat warranted, it probably also suffers from a degree of recency bias on my part. The same is likely true of Medicham, though I’m less sure of its inherent merit and more convinced its status is a result of bias. That’s why it’s important to have a variety of inputs on each and every data point to be considered — more perspectives will tend to drive down that bias’ effects.

Unsurprisingly to me, Darkrai/Garbodor, Greninja, and Trevenant bring up the rear of the field. The latter two simply require too much space for what they accomplish in my mind. Darkrai/Garb probably suffers artificially to a slight degree, but I also don’t believe that it’s a very good deck. The Giratina variant capitalized on a very specific metagame; it doesn’t surprise me that neither variant holds up very well outside of that vacuum.

Based on these initial results, our initial testing priorities:

  1. Clarify the matchups in yellow in order of priority. Basically, I’m not worried about M Manectric as much as I am Water Box.
  2. Test Zygarde/Vileplume’s matchups to attain more clarity on its merits as a potential play.

… Thursday

Between yesterday evening and this afternoon, I’m going to take the liberty of not boring you with recollections of each and every individual match as they happened. When I initially started this write-up, my plan was to capture the spreadsheet’s evolution over multiple iterations. Unfortunately, you know what they say about the best-laid plans. What I can tell you, though, is that this list had curried the most favor by mid-Thursday afternoon:

CS Nats Early Thursday List
That 6th Fighting …

Zygarde tested very well against just about everything we threw at it. I was shocked at how well Water Box was folding to it, though, the matchup was definitely very volatile depending on how well/poorly I started. Far and away, Water was my biggest fear for the deck, and with that matchup mildly working well, I had few reservations about playing it for Nationals. After much testing and deliberation, the spreadsheet ended up here:

CS Meta Spreadsheet Nats 2016 Thur Scsht

(Larger Version)

As you can see, the amount of yellow was reduced dramatically — mostly, YZG and Medicham, which were two decks we aren’t really concerned about playing or playing against. A lot of matchups have changed from my original as well, mostly due to the outside inputs of testing and group collaboration that weren’t as present before. We now adjusted for a variable metagame (primarily emphasizing Night March, Water Box, and Metal variants) and received an updated list of projections.

CS Nats 2016 Thursday Meta Spdsht Output
YZG jumped to third.

This fit pretty well with our inclinations, affirming the idea that Zygarde/Vileplume was the strongest play for US Nationals. Vespiquen/Vileplume’s presence at the top of the list is no surprise, as the strength of Vileplume is often simply too much to overcome. You’ll notice the addition of Metal/Zoroark to the table. It’s an inferior variant in most metagames to the Metal/Elixir variant, but the differences are enough to be tangible in our analysis.

M Sceptile-EX was another intriguing play, but it also serves as an example of where the spreadsheet can fall short as a decision mechanism. I don’t know that I would’ve ever convinced myself to use M Sceptile at an event like Nationals, as a near auto-loss to Night March was something I decidedly didn’t want in my deck choice. But, its strong matchups against the rest of the field left it in a relatively favorable light here.

The other substantial surprise was that Night March slipped so low on this list. Notably, Night March/Vespiquen didn’t make its way on here, as we didn’t believe it’d be commonly represented, but it probably would be the partner of choice for us if Night March became the play. I simply, however, don’t believe that any of us believe Night March was the best play for the day.

With that, as 4PM rolled around on Thursday, the our deck choice was fairly well cemented. The bigger drama came as we tried to figure out acquiring cards to play 12 copies of the deck … Carbink BREAK was in hot demand at both vendors, partially due to some Medicham hype. I personally watched as at least 15 copies of Carbink went to the Medicham players, and because I didn’t personally need copies, watched as the rest flew off the shelves at Collector’s Cache and heard that we nabbed Troll and Toad’s last copies at about 4:30. Within half an hour, Carbink BREAK, of all things, was completely sold out at Nationals.

An aside: Also almost immediately sold out were Manaphy-EX and Darkrai-EX. That might reflect a supply problem to some degree, but it certainly also indicated to us that Water and Dark would have their moments in the sun the following day. This is the sort of thing you should look for when trying to gauge generalized metagame trends. The other observation I made was a strange, strange number of Greninja matches being played in open gaming. We’d fared surprisingly well against Greninja earlier in the day during testing, so this wasn’t really a concern as much as an amusing observation.

And an important note: I don’t necessarily endorse every single matchup as rated in that screenshot. In particular, I personally believe Zygarde’s Water matchup to be even worse than notated, and YZG is probably rated a bit too highly for it as well. The point here was to have a compilation of the overall thought process of our group as a whole — and we didn’t necessarily agree on every matchup.

… Friday & Saturday

First, I should note that from this point in the article on, I’m writing about the past on the drive home Sunday. Obviously, it just isn’t practical to be writing about Nationals as Nationals is happening, so this will be like any tournament analysis: in retrospect.

This was the list around 12 of us ended up playing:

CS Nats 2016 List

If you’d prefer a text version, Pokémon.com featured the deck on its “Popular Decks” page. The “Copy Decklist” feature there is great for trying it on PTCGO as well.

It looks a little wonky, and I promise that it’s nothing if not that. From the list above, Float Stone and the 2nd Level Ball made their way out of the list in favor of a 4th Professor Sycamore and 3rd Carbink BREAK. The Level Ball-for-Sycamore decision wasn’t too terribly difficult, as we believed it was essential to open a playable Supporter in almost every game. The 3rd Carbink BREAK slot was almost a Super Rod instead, and, in theory, the Super Rod could’ve served as the 3rd copy of the BREAK and more. Our thought process centered on the obvious issue: Vileplume makes playing Super Rod just a tad more difficult … or maybe more than a tad.

A surprisingly useful inclusion.

The weird-looking card in the 5th row is a reprint of the non-EX Zygarde from FCO. It’s obviously necessary for Regice and the like, but it’s surprisingly useful in a wider variety of situations. Rumble is effective under Item lock, as a number of switch-outs in this format are predicated on the ability to use Items, or rely on a Retreat Cost reduction method like Hydreigon-EX’s Dragon Road or Manaphy-EX’s Aqua Tube. But, more importantly, Geostrike can hit 1HKOs on Shaymin and other EXs more easily than Zygarde/Lucario. There were definitely times in the day where I wished I’d played a 2nd copy.

230 HP is something that most Mega Evolutions can’t even brag to have, so a Zygarde-EX with that level of bulk, the defensive shield of Item lock, and an uncommon Weakness makes for a formidable foe. Zygarde’s fast damage output is what makes it all work; against non-EX decks it’s very plausible to take a Prize from turn 1-onward with the various damage-boosting effects in the deck. Oh, and did I mention that Zygarde can heal itself?

Once a Zygarde nears the end of its lifespan, 4 copies of AZ provide decent odds of having that option available. Resetting Zygarde’s HP while being able to promote a Safeguard-bearing Pokémon that can restore the lost Energy attachments, all under Item lock? Insane.

Speaking of that playset of AZ, let’s talk a bit about the Supporter line in this particular deck. Obviously, it’s not something you see almost ever. Multiple of my opponents made comments about being surprised to see the 2nd AZ, let alone the 4th copy. Moreover, the 3rd Lysandre got a lot of people as well. At heart, this deck is all about board control: you want to have exactly the right Pokémon in both your Active and your opponent’s Active Spot at various points throughout the game. Carbink, Jirachi, Vileplume, and these Supporter counts are all focused around controlling the options your opponent has while providing yourself a way to win the game.

Through most of our testing process, the 3rd Lysandre was in the deck in the form of Pal Pad. Surprisingly, it actually flows pretty well in the deck. We ended up making the swap for the same reason as Super Rod vs 3rd Carbink: Item lock is a two-way street.

Revitalizer is strange, but in playing a 2-2-2 Vileplume, we found that it helped insulate against a bad T1 Sycamore or Vileplume being Knocked Out mid game. Level and Heavy Balls filled niches nicely with Korrina. Like all Vileplume decks, the key to the combo is an early Forest of Giant Plants, so we emphasize it and Trainers’ Mail fairly heavily.

One key note in playing the deck that I feel could be overlooked easily is the initial search for Lucario or Zygarde. Sometimes — if not often — you simply play what you’re dealt and choose the attacker that fits the situation. However, when you do have that choice, I feel it’s key to note that Lucario’s 2nd attack can draw you out of a bad hand. The temptation of a 230-HP Zygarde, probably mostly only attainable during the early game, can be great, but it’s important to keep an eye toward the long game.

Another nuance to comment on is Carbink FCO’s use in the deck. Obviously, Safeguard is a pretty excellent Ability, and it plays very well against EX-centric decks. With the heavy Lysandre count, I was able to navigate a Yveltal XY + BKT/Zoroark BKT/Gallade BKT matchup very easily by using Carbink with a Fighting Fury Belt to mow through my opponent’s non-EXs and leave him with a collection of (useless) Yveltal-EX as I finished out the game. It’s a pretty decent attacking option — just be careful not to lose track of the effect evolving has on Fighting Fury Belt.

Here’s how my day went:

United States Nationals // 1,105 Masters // Orange Flight

R1: Zygarde-EX/Carbink BREAK/Marowak FCO (2-0)
R2: Night March (2-0)
R3: Ryan Sabelhaus w/ Night March (2-0)
R4: Trevenant BREAK/Crushing Hammer/Bursting Balloon (0-2)
R5: Night March (2-1)
R6: Yveltal BKT + XY + EX/Zoroark/Gallade (2-0)
R7: Seismitoad-EX/Articuno ROS 17/Manaphy-EX/Regice AOR (0-2)
R8: Yveltal BKT + XY + EX/Zoroark/Gallade (1-1)
R9: M Manectric-EX/Wobbuffet/Garbodor (2-1)

Final: 6-2-1 // 42nd Orange Flight // 82nd Overall

It certainly wasn’t what I wanted as a final result, especially with a 5-1 start, but I can’t complain too much with all things considered. My losses — Trevenant and Water Box — were to the matchups I most expected to have trouble with, and the draw was to a Yveltal/Zoroark that played 4 Baby Yveltal (in a 3/1 XY/BKT split). Baby Yveltal, if it’s not obvious, is a major nightmare for this deck. Fighting Resistance ensures that you almost never 1HKO, while its Ability to evade Safeguard destroys your normal strategy for buying reset time.

Trevenant may seem winnable, and it is to a degree, but it’s supremely difficult to approach. If my opponent had played either just Hammers or just Bursting Balloon, I would’ve considered foregoing Vileplume in favor of not dedicating the Bench spots to Oddish/Shaymin/etc. — as it was, I couldn’t justify letting my opposition take advantage of both of those options. While Zygarde is capable of sustaining itself against an onslaught of Trees, the rest of my board wasn’t so durable.

Water Box was a decent matchup, but in Game 1 my mini-Zygarde was Lysandre’d out twice before I could use it to any decent effect, and it was prized in Game 2 (along with 2 Forest of Giant Plants to bounce Rough Seas), so I was never able to deal with Regice effectively in either game.

Otherwise, the deck worked about as I expected. Wobbuffet and Garbodor made for a scary situation Round 9, particularly with Jolteon-EX, but I was fortunate enough to hit things as I needed them to make brute-force Fighting enough of a viable strategy to lock up a win.

At large, the deck provided a relatively mediocre finish. I achieved Top 128, Sean Foisy painfully bubbled out of Top 32 in Blue flight after going from 0-1-1 to 6-1-2, and my brother lost his Seniors win-and-in to end up in Top 16.

In hindsight, I’m fairly sure I know what went wrong: the deck might’ve had narrow advantages over most decks, but it a lacked big advantage over anything, which meant that it fell prey to inherent inconsistency more often than we would’ve liked. Still though, we were a game or two from putting multiple representatives into a higher level in each division, and it could’ve easily been a different tale. If you’d like to watch the deck in action, it was featured during Round 3 on the main stream and Round 9 on the TCG stream.

On the Nationals News

Ah, good ol’ stock rotation image.

Two big things came out of this weekend: the 2016/17 Standard format rotation and, of course, the winning decks. I said before that it’s hard to cover Steam Siege right now because Nationals just finished and Karen is an open question, but I’d like to briefly discuss what these two things mean for the game.

Steam Siege + this weekend’s results mean that one of two things will happen: Karen will be printed, and Water Box will be my deck-to-beat going into Worlds (Ninja Boy makes this fairly incredible) or Karen will miss the cut and Night March will ride Special Charge and Pokémon Ranger to a presumed seat at the head of the format. I’m not a fan of either scenario, but I do have to say that Night March mirrors sound incredibly terrible, so I suppose I’m leaning toward the latter option.

The 2016/2017 rotation will probably result in Standard being a bit ugly for the first few months of its existence. As it is, uncounterable Garbodor BKP will be reasonably incredible. If you don’t already have copies, I’d acquire them now — XY-era holos have had a strange habit of jumping fairly high in price after only a months of circulation, and if Garbodor turns out to be half as oppressive as it seems, that effect will only be magnified. The same will probably be true of the Colorless M Rayquaza-EX. With Night March gone, and Zebstrika BKP’s ideal partner (Vespiquen) heavily nerfed, M Rayquaza has never been set up quite so well to see success.

The first major Standard tournament is a long way out, but I caution you against thinking the wait will be as long as last year. XY-AOR was a ghost format in 2015, relevant only for autumn League Challenges run by organizers that weren’t particularly in tune with the reality of Expanded Regionals. Don’t assume that will be the same case this year. Moreover, don’t fall into the trap of assuming the structure will be the same. Many players seem to have forgotten, but we already know that changes are afoot with City Championships being removed from the tournament circuit in favor of a year-round store-based event. It’s probably safe to assume that other changes are on the way. If I were you, I’d be preparing for Standard to be just as relevant as Expanded on September 1st until we hear otherwise.


psyduck peace sign 3-2pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
Not perfect, but it’s been a pretty good year!

Another year has come and gone, and I’m glad to have been a part of it with you all. I had a fairly decent year overall, ending up just above the 600 CP plateau and about 50 points short of the North American Top 16 cutoff. There are a number of matches I can point to that quite literally could’ve resulted in that 50 CP swing, but that’s just how the game works. Some of that had to do with Canada receiving an unprecedented number of points, and the relatively anonymity of most of the US’ Top 8 resulted in a few more spots being eaten up, but again, that’s the game.

What this tells us is that the structure is constantly in flux, and that it’s critical to always keep moving forward. None of North America’s Top 16 secured their spot without acquiring some number of points at their respective National Championship, emphasizing that Nationals is an event that one can’t ignore when hoping for an elite season. I hope that today’s article helps you in preparation for any and every tournament you encounter in your future, and perhaps 2016-2017 will be your season. It’ll be an era of change for myself personally — and perhaps the game at large as well — and it’ll be interesting to see what lies ahead.

One final note: if you have any thoughts on this style of article (narration of thought processes/tools for success outside of decklists), I’d love to hear from you on this or anything else.

Otherwise, perhaps I’ll see you in SF, but if not, the new season is closer than it appears.


…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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

Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!

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

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in. Legacy discussion: 9