If You Can’t Beat ‘Em

Thoughts on Night March, Trevenant, Zygarde/Plume, Mega Alakazam, and Gallade/Octillery
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Much thanks for all the love. <3

What’s going on SixPrizes! I hope you enjoyed your National Championships weekend as much as I did. I managed to place 10th after the grueling 15-round US tournament which left me a bit salty as a top 4 placing would’ve put me right into the top 16 of North America heading into Worlds. All in all, I had a blast and was thrilled to meet many of you between rounds. Your opinions of my writing and videos mean a ton to me.

Moving onto the present, we were recently gifted one of the most addicting Pokémon games yet in the form of Pokémon GO, and I can say playing this is a complete thrill. It really helps balance out my disappointment in the fact that we are not receiving Karen in Steam Siege. Even though I’m a fan of TCG formats having a “tier 0” (which is when one deck dominates), I can’t help but feel like suffocates rogue decks from any form of contention unless they sport Item lock or Dark-type attackers.

With that said, let’s dive into my current thoughts on decks for Worlds.

Night March

I know this is getting really old. I was hoping for Karen to be released so I could see this deck crash and burn, but sadly this did not come to fruition. Just like every PTCG article will state in the upcoming weeks, this is the deck to beat and it will see the most play during the final tournament of the season.

Since my previous articles highlighted variants with Maxie’s and Octillery, this Night March write-up be about the version I have a newfound respect for after playing against it during Day 2-of Nationals. Chris Siakala’s Top 8 list from US Nationals is used as the template for this list:

Pokémon – 17

4 Joltik PHF
4 Pumpkaboo PHF
4 Lampent PHF
2 Mew FCO
3 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 37

3 Professor Sycamore
2 Hex Maniac
1 Teammates
1 Xerosic
1 Lysandre
1 N
1 Pokémon Ranger

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Puzzle of Time
4 Battle Compressor
4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Ultra Ball
2 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Muscle Band
1 Startling Megaphone
1 Escape Rope

 

2 Dimension Valley

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless
2 Basic

This is exactly how I would build Night March going into Worlds. Simple, consistent, and packed full of utility. You don’t have the evolution line of , Octillery, or the Maxie’s engine creating awkward draws. Playing basic Energy alongside Mew is always nice and you have a higher potential to draw Energy when hit by late-game N.

There isn’t much to highlight here as we’ve beaten Night March to death with discussion over the past year, but I want to say I would certainly include a copy of Muscle Band for cute plays with Sky Return against opposing Mew. I also included the 2nd copy of Hex Maniac as I anticipate playing at least 50% of my games against Trevenant BREAK or Vileplume decks, and getting that one turn of Items is all this deck needs to go off.

Matchup Mindsets

In terms of gameplay, this deck is still in the same place as it was beforehand — just now with the added power of Pokémon Ranger. If you’re considering playing this deck, then please playtest a few hours of Night March mirror matches against Vespiquen, Octillery, and this variant. You might pick up on some little plays that will make a world of a difference in the mirror. Key decisions such as the Sky Return with Mew I mentioned earlier, when to actually attack with your Joltik that has a Fighting Fury Belt, when to bench Shaymin, and when to discard them with Professor Sycamore are the things I look for when playtesting. Be sure to utilize the fact that this build runs basic Energy and Mew so you can force your opponent to draw out of your late-game N.

Please refer to the “Matchup Mindsets” section of my previous article for more info Night March’s matchups.

Trevenant BREAK

Coming off a strong performance at US Nationals — taking two spots in Top 8 (even with the abundance of Waterbox decks in the tournament) — I believe Trevenant BREAK will be the second most played deck at Worlds. Both James DePamphilis and Michael Bergerac opted for the Hammers/Red Card variant which has proved itself once again to be the best way to build the deck for a large-scale event. I based my latest build off their lists but have opted to change a few things as I believe their lists should be adjusted for the anticipated Worlds meta.

Pokémon – 15

4 Phantump BKP
4 Trevenant XY

3 Trevenant BREAK

3 Shaymin-EX ROS
1 Wobbuffet PHF

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Sycamore
2 Wally
2 Team Flare Grunt
1 N
1 Lysandre
1 Delinquent
1 Xerosic

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Ultra Ball
3 Crushing Hammer
3 Red Card
2 Float Stone
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Super Rod

 

4 Dimension Valley

Energy – 7

5 Psychic
2 Mystery

Key Cards

1 Wobbuffet PHF

wobbuffet-phantom-forces-phf-36
Can buy a turn or two early.

While James and Michael opted not to play Wobbuffet, I believe it’s a wise inclusion to combat the Vileplume lists we’re bound to run into at Worlds. Considering how strong Trevenant is against Vileplume variants, you might be thinking, “Why is that even worth it?” I included the 1 copy of Wobbuffet for those awkward hands where you might’ve missed the turn 1 Wally and need to have a turn of Items against Vileplume. Opening Wobbuffet also slows down the turn 1 burst that Night March has against you. Lastly, if you run into any of the few Greninja decks that still might be played, having Wobbuffet for the late-game cleanup against Greninja BREAK has been completely amazing for me in testing.

James’s and Michael’s lists did not have room for Wobbuffet as they played no Mystery Energy and no Float Stone, meaning opening Wobb would pose a potential slowdown in their lock, so those two cards have been added here.

Matchup Mindsets

Lock your opponent out of Items and remove their Energy. Enjoy listening to them sigh out of frustration.

Zygarde/Vileplume

Finally we’re moving onto the fun stuff! Originally, I gave this deck little to no respect and figured it was a fluke success in Japan. After some discussion with some other top players and piloting the deck a few times myself, I’ve grown to love how strong Zygarde-EX is behind Irritating Pollen and how many options the deck is presented to control the pace of the game.

Pokémon – 16

2 Zygarde-EX
1 Lucario-EX
2 Carbink FCO 50
2 Carbink BREAK
2 Oddish AOR
2 Gloom AOR
2 Vileplume AOR
1 Jirachi XY67
2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 34

4 AZ
3 Lysandre
3 Professor Sycamore
2 Korrina
2 N

1 Pokémon Center Lady

 

4 Ultra Ball
2 Level Ball
1 Heavy Ball

3 Trainers’ Mail
2 Fighting Fury Belt

1 Float Stone
1 Revitalizer

 

4 Forest of Giant Plants
1 Magnetic Storm

Energy – 10

6 Fighting

4 Strong

Christopher Schemanske did an amazing write-up on the deck earlier this month. I tested his build quite a bit and made some adjustments to help with the Trevenant matchup as well as cut out any additions I felt were included for threats that should leave the meta.

Key Cards

2-2 Carbink BREAK

Heavy Pokémon-EX decks have been starting to fade out of the format, and with the release of Pokémon Ranger, I expect the most dominant ones — such as Waterbox and Darkrai/Giratina/Garb — to see less play. This pushed me to cut the Carbink line down for tech options. While opening Carbink is great for this deck, I always found opening Zygarde and applying early pressure without the reliance of Korrina to be fantastic.

1 Pokémon Center Lady

I was considering playing PCL in my early builds of the deck but instead decided to exclude it and take a bad matchup against Trevenant. However, this card has proven its worth in my subsequent testing. The healing from Cell Storm combined with Pokémon Center Lady has been outstanding. While it’s only a one-time effect, I’ve used it to steal multiple testing games that were 50/50 going into the late stages. I found myself in situations where using an AZ on my Zygarde-EX would remove Strong Energy from play and with them the strength I needed to break through Fighting Resistance from Pumpkaboo or Trevenant.

1 Magnetic Storm

Removing Resistance from Shaymin, Trevenant, and Pumpkaboo — as well as being a 5th Stadium in the deck — Magnetic Storm has earned itself a spot in my list. I expect Worlds to be flooded with those aforementioned three cards. Having extra leverage to bump Dimension Valley, Rough Seas, and Sky Field from play is also nice.

Matchup Mindsets

Similar to most Item lock decks, you’re looking to establish Vileplume early then use Zygarde-EX to sweep the game. A combination of AZ and Carbink BREAK consistently fuel the same attacker over and over until you collect 6 Prizes.

Night March

zygarde-ex-xy-promos-xy151
The healing effect of Cell Storm is great in many matchups.

Not much can be said about this matchup. If you go first and get the Item lock in, you should have a field day with their deck as Zygarde-EX with a Fighting Fury Belt is extremely painful for a Night March deck to deal with, especially if you get a Strong Energy/Magnetic Storm by turn 2 and start using Cell Storm. Remember that when you’re in an advantageous position to use AZ on Benched Shaymin-EX. Keep your opponent from pulling off a huge turn of Hex Maniac + VS Seeker for Hex Maniac + Lysandre then catching up with you in Prize exchanges nearing the end of the game. I try not to set up Lucario-EX in this matchup as the type advantage is an issue against Night March if the player is able to get a Double Colorless Energy and Dimension Valley after you N.

Trevenant BREAK

Cell Storm is king here. Avoid setting up a 2nd Zygarde-EX and begin removing your Shaymin-EX from the Bench — those would be your opponent’s keys to winning. Remember to be conservative with your N’s as your opponent doesn’t have many draw Supporters in their deck and they are heavily held down by the Irritating Pollen, meaning their hand will often be cluttered with Items. I usually think to myself, “If they’re going to hit their Energy removal, they will do it without my help.” Magnetic Storm and Pokémon Center Lady should be able to swing the mid game for you if your opponent is working really hard to clear a Zygarde-EX. The double heal from Pokémon Center Lady and Cell Storm lets you run away with the game.

Greninja BREAK

Greninja has a hard time with Vileplume, and Zygarde-EX can get powered up so quickly they’ll have a tough time getting any of their setup together. Most of my games finished once we hit turn 3 and I consistently Land’s Wrathed my opponent until they couldn’t get any more pieces of their puzzle together.

Zoroark BREAK

There will be a rise of decks after the release of Steam Siege, and I believe this is an amazing matchup for you if you’re able to deal with Yveltal BKT and Yveltal XY while maintaining a relatively small Bench. Remember to be conservative with your Shaymin-EX benching and realize that hitting the turn 1 Vileplume is not always a necessity for victory. Magnetic Storm, Cell Storm, and Fighting Fury Belt should give any of the Zoroark BREAK variants trouble but be mindful of a potential single copy of Yveltal-EX as you don’t want it to punish your Energy attachments. I’ve always opted to pick off Benched Zorua over going for the heavy damage on Yveltal XY. Oblivion Wing can be mitigated by Cell Storm and you can build up for a mid-game Land’s Wrath to take Yveltal out.

Vespiquen/Vileplume

Even though Vespiquen hits for Weakness against Zygarde-EX, I believe this matchup hinges on whoever gets their Vileplume online first. Their list should be a bit more consistent toward getting their turn 1 lock than you, but Korrina has saved me multiple times when hunting for the exact piece of Vileplume needed to complete the combo.

Mega Alakazam

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Coming right back into contention with the help of Pokémon Ranger is Mega Alakazam. I’m ecstatic to playtest this deck more as Greninja is slowly getting pushed out of the format and so the man with the spoons can once again see play. Greninja BKP has held this deck back for some time now and I believe with the proper tweaks it is a potential threat for the Worlds 2016 meta.

Pokémon – 16

4 Alakazam-EX
4 M Alakazam-EX
3 Wobbuffet PHF
2 Hoopa-EX AOR
1 Hoopa (Steam Siege)
1 Shaymin-EX ROS
1 Absol ROS

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Sycamore
3 N
2 Lysandre
1 AZ
1 Pokémon Ranger

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball
4 Alakazam Spirit Link
3 Super Scoop Up
3 Devolution Spray
2 Float Stone
1 Startling Megaphone
1 Super Rod

 

3 Dimension Valley

Energy – 8

5 Psychic
3 Mystery

This list is extremely similar to the one I published a few months back for the the Expanded format. As mentioned before, I dislike the Crobat engine and believe the best route is the consistent, straightforward, heavy M Alakazam count.

Key Cards

1 Hoopa (Steam Siege)

Hoopa has been included in my testing circle for a turn of Hyperspace Punch which has lead to some quick KOs to finish the game. I’ve found myself using him for Sink Hole twice in about five games to pick off a fresh Shaymin-EX and allow myself a win condition even if Hex Maniac was played the turn before. I want to experiment more with this card and potentially a new list that includes Bursting Balloon.

2 Lysandre

With the increase in play of Trevenant BREAK, Lysandre has become even more important to hit during the early game. Drawing it to bring up a Shaymin-EX and attach a flurry of Alakazam Spirit Links is my main power play. Having the 2nd Lysandre is also nice when wanting to finish a grueling end-game where I might’ve burned all my VS Seeker early.

1 Pokémon Ranger

This card can truly put this deck on the map as a way to play around Shadow Stitch, but it is not something I would want multiple copies of given the lack of success Greninja saw during the late stages of the Nationals season. Pokémon Ranger — as an option around Regice AOR, Glaceon-EX, and Greninja BKP — is a solid piece of the puzzle Alakazam was missing and I can’t wait to see what I can come up with for this deck come Worlds.

Matchup Mindsets

Night March

m-alakazam-ex-fates-collide-fco-26While Night March can hit you for Weakness, opening Wobbuffet hinders their early-game setup severely. I usually keep it Active for the first 2 or 3 turns of the game and drop damage all over their Bench with Kinesis until I can make a 3- or 4-Prize turn and no longer care about the Prize race that they might force on me. Keeping damage spread out on the board and allowing your opponent to attach multiple Energy to their Night Marchers has lead to me to taking 3 Prizes off Alakazam-EX’s Suppression attack throughout testing. For some reason, people tend to forget that Alakazam-EX likes to attack as well, and this is one of the strengths of playing such a rogue concept in a top-level event. I try to also save my Absol for a potential Startling Megaphone + Kinesis + Cursed Eyes play to take 4 Prizes. As mentioned earlier, I want to test a build with Bursting Balloon and see if they could help swing this matchup in any way during the early game.

Trevenant BREAK

Just like most combo matchups, opening a Wobbuffet when going second can lead to your opponent missing their Wally, allowing you to hit your Spirit Links and Ultra Balls. Normally I would take a conservative approach against Trevenant but I do the opposite with this deck — I want to drop down as much damage as I can on turn 2 or 3 and allow that one turn of Items I get from Lysandre on a Shaymin-EX to make a game-changing play. If can get a nice setup without having to drop down Hoopa-EX, that’s perfect, but sometimes he’ll need to be benched for you to fish out your combo pieces. Try not to mindlessly attach Energy to Benched Alakazam-EX as they are easily Hammered off and you only need 1 Energy to attack with Dimension Valley on board.

Greninja BREAK

Against this deck I try to rush out damage ASAP and be extremely conservative with my Professor Sycamore — discarding Dimension Valley could be a nail in the coffin should the Greninja deck play a heavy count of Rough Seas. Pokémon Ranger gives you a fighting chance against Greninja BKP’s Shadow Stitch — a turn full of Kinesis drops could mean the demise of all their Evolutions. Using Wobbuffet to attack during the mid and late stages of the game is ideal as you should be able to N them to a low hand then stack some nice damage on Greninja BREAK without the fear of them using Giant Water Shuriken to pick off your Bench.

Zoroark BREAK

This matchup is favored for M Alakazam so long as you maintain a small Bench size and keep yourself from being hit by Captivating Poké Puff or Target Whistle for 1HKOs from their Zoroark. Using Kinesis to drop 6 damage counters on a Benched Zorua is ideal, and don’t forget that they have Psychic Resistance, so plan out your attacks accordingly. During most of these matchups I’ve left the Yveltal XY alone and picked apart their Benched Pokémon as Yveltal poses no threat to 1HKO you and you can always Super Scoop Up the damage away. Conserve your Bench size and Sycamore away any unnecessary Basic Pokémon you may have in your hand to avoid getting swept by back-to-back Zoroark.

Zygarde/Vileplume and Vespi/Vileplume

This is where Wobbuffet truly shines. He singlehandedly shut downs your opponent’s game plan and playing the multiple copies of him + Super Rod makes this matchup extremely favored. Usually neither of these Vileplume decks play Hex Maniac so they shouldn’t have any type of control over your Kinesis drops. Should you opponent be dead-drawing against the strength of Bide Barricade, I leave Wobbuffet out there as my main attacker and look to clean up after they’ve drawn into Lysandre. Using a combination of Float Stone and Mystery Energy to constantly retreat into Wobbuffet is critical toward surviving the long game against these builds. You’ll run into multiple AZ in their lists, so be mindful when selecting your Kinesis targets. This usually means avoiding any sort of damage being dealt to Vileplume as it doesn’t really hold your deck back should you have 2 Wobbuffet on board.

Gallade/Octillery

kenshin gallade psycho cut 16-9 2Bulbapedia
The old blade runner.

Rising from the ashes with the help of Pokémon Ranger sculpting the meta is Gallade/Octillery. Since joining Fred Hoban and Daniel Watt on pioneering the deck during the early stages of Cities, I’ve always held some form of this list in my back pocket hoping for the meta to sway itself in a direction where this could be viable again.

Pokémon – 15

4 Ralts AOR
2 Kirlia BKT
4 Gallade BKT
1 Remoraid BKT 31
1 Remoraid BKT 32
2 Octillery BKT

1 Jirachi XY67

Trainers – 36

3 Brigette
2 N
2 Lysandre
2 Korrina
2 Hex Maniac
1 Teammates
1 Pokémon Ranger

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Rare Candy
3 Level Ball
1 Ultra Ball
3 Trainers’ Mail
3 Focus Sash

2 Float Stone
1 Muscle Band
1 Target Whistle
1 Super Rod

Energy – 9

5 Water
4 Double Colorless

Key Cards

2 N

While I know everyone wants to include a super high count of N in non-EX decks, I felt like only 2 N were needed here as you usually only play it 2 to 3 times per game. I tend to take a huge lead against most decks — besides maybe Night March — and they’ll need to play Xerosic and Startling Megaphone to keep up with the Focus Sash attachments.

2 Hex Maniac

Vileplume and Trevenant are going to flood Worlds, so including 2 copies of Hex Maniac to break the Item lock for one turn to complete your setup is ideal. Most of my losses to Trevenant BREAK during Cities were to the Gengar-EX lists and they posed more of a threat to my Gallade than Trevenant BREAK does because 1HKOs Gallade, even with Focus Sash. It also provides a Supporter to boost Sensitive Blade without any form of drawback to yourself.

Matchup Mindsets

Night March

Force the Prize exchange into your favor. Many of the Night March players I’ve encountered in tournaments do not manage their Double Colorless count correctly against Focus Sash/non-EX decks. To capitalize on this, I usually use a combination of Focus Sash and Jirachi/Super Rod to plan out a way to remove all their Energy options before they manage to take all 6 Prizes. If I play against a player who knows how to manage their Energy resources efficiently, I go for a race of my Gallade for their Shaymin and usually end up on top after a few N. I’d say this matchup is 50/50 depending on the starts of both decks.

Trevenant BREAK

While this matchup is certainly in Trevenant’s favor, I think it’s winnable for Gallade/Octillery given the proper start and an early Hex Maniac. I tend to save Lysandre and Hex Maniac for turns I can grab them back with VS Seeker then use Premonition to stack Double Colorless Energy to the top to compensate for any Energy removal that comes down. My early Brigette usually grabs 1 Ralts and 1 Remoraid, and Ultra Ball/Level Ball should grab Kirlia so you don’t lose Ralts to two turns of Silent Fear. I try not to go for Octillery unless I draw into an early-game Float Stone, that way I don’t get Lysandre-stalled out of the match. If this matchup continues to be tough, I’d add AZ and Pokémon Center Lady to help it out more.

Greninja BREAK

pokemon ranger jpnBulbapedia
Avast ye, Greninja!

Shadow Stitch used to ruin this matchup, but with the release of Pokémon Ranger I believe the matchup is now heavily favored toward Gallade/Octillery. This deck’s ability to string the same tech Supporter over and over is one of the reasons it had so much success during City Championships. Having 2 Hex Maniac and Pokémon Ranger makes the damage output and control you put on Greninja during the mid-/late-game stages too much for them to handle. Unlike most decks of the format, you have zero reliance on Shaymin-EX, meaning you remove a critical win condition from their game plan. This puts Greninja in a bind where they must N you late game and follow up with a Shadow Stitch in order to slow you down.

Zoroark BREAK

This matchup is heavily favored for Gallade/Octillery — as long as you play a disciplined game. Most Zoroark lists play a thin line of Maxie’s, meaning you shouldn’t expect their Gallade to come out multiple times in a match, and our Gallade can pressure Zoroark so quickly that they’ll need to hit a big Captivating Poké Puff in order to take him out. I included a single copy of Muscle Band to provide an 1HKO against Yveltal XY, so using Korrina early for it should be problematic for their deck. Be mindful that Zoroark BREAK can copy Sensitive Blade, but most of the time if they get the BREAK online you should already have multiple Gallade set up for the revenge 1HKO.

Zygarde/Vileplume and Vespiquen/Vileplume

The 2 Hex Maniac once again come in the clutch here. It allows you to attach Focus Sash against decks that usually play no Tool removal, meaning your Gallade are going to stick for a long time causing them issues. My game plan against these decks is to establish 2 Gallade with Focus Sash and take out any Vileplume on the Bench. Jirachi can be used during the early stages of the game to slow down their attacks until you draw the Hex Maniac to win you the game.

Conclusion

Well, that’s all my time for today! I hope you enjoyed my write-up of my last week-and-a-half of testing. I don’t anticipate anything crazy coming to shake up the meta after the release of Steam Siege. I’ll include all my rogue deck ideas, strategies, and updates in my next article on August 9th which will have my complete rundown of the set and what I think will be amazing come Standard rotation. Take it easy!

Russell LaParre


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