It’s good to be back writing! I am happy to report that despite some last-minute hesitation, I was able to own up to what I said and I had an incredible time traveling to Columbus for Nationals. It felt strange, in all honesty, being in a new location as someone who has attended Nationals every year since 2010, but I quite liked Columbus. The weather was incredibly hospitable which was a breath of fresh air (pun intended) compared to the 90+ degrees Indianapolis usually presents.
For whatever reason, the event as a whole reminded me more of a World Championship than Nationals. Perhaps this is just an artifact of no longer having a central location where you could run into almost every player (RIP Embassy Suites) or the fact that I felt disconnected from many of my peers considering my comparative inactivity this season, but despite all this, I would be content to return back to Ohio next year.
Drip, Drip: Nationals Report
As I spoke about in great detail in my last piece, the Water Box deck had captivated my interest. Despite my teammates Curtis Lyon and Mees Brenninkmeijer having somewhat run-of-the-mill results (a top 32 and 11th place finish, respectively), I was optimistic in their views on the deck and continued to test the deck exclusively.
In my games, we became split on whether or not Trainers’ Mail was needed in the deck. Everyone knows that the card is basically never bad, but is it really necessary? The debate raged on as Nationals grew closer and closer and I inevitably decided to cut the card entirely from the deck in favor of adding some spookier techs. The core of the deck remained unchanged and I believed I was moving in the right direction by freeing space for many of the tech cards that I previously lacked.
Below you will find the list that was played by myself and several others as well as a brief synopsis of how my games went:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
To briefly detail the changes, 4 copies of Trainers’ Mail were removed in favor of adding a 3rd Lysandre, Hex Maniac, Xerosic, and Target Whistle. I found that in many of my games (especially against non-EX-heavy decks like Night March or Zoroark) that my end-game strategy revolved exclusively around attempting to KO multiple Shaymin-EX and thus more Lysandre and a Target Whistle were added to increase the chances of meeting such objective. While there was no particular matchup where Xerosic or Hex Maniac were “clutch,” the general utility of either card was not to be ignored. Finally, Palkia-EX was a last-minute substitution for Aurorus-EX because I wanted another big attacker that was not Seismitoad and it seemed like it might have an interesting surprise factor to it that many would not see coming.
Round 1 vs. Night March
To my surprise, I had the incredible honor of being the featured match on the official stream this round. You’re more than welcome to go back and watch the VOD to see how the games played out, but essentially, I failed to open well in all three games that were played. Thanks to some questionable decision-making on my opponent’s part, I was able to steal the first game by continually Lysandre’ing his more useless Pokémon which eventually bought me the time to draw out of my slow opening and get way ahead on the Prize exchange. I would win this game with relative ease, but in the following two games, I continued to draw slowly and was overwhelmed. The final game did end in a tie, but based on the board state, I believe that it would most likely have ended in a loss had the game completed. Not the most enjoyable way to begin the day, but I felt like the hands I saw that match were unrepresentative of the deck’s potential.
On a brief side note, it is absolutely incredible how far along our official stream has come in such a short amount of time. I remember the GameSpot disaster with Trash Claw and Professor N like it was yesterday and I have faith that coverage will only continue to grow as we have more and more talented people interested in investing their time for the benefit of the game.
Round 2 vs. Mega Rayquaza
Going into the tournament, I believed this matchup to be a loss for my deck. Despite Rayquaza lacking an answer to Regice, I still thought that the deck would be able to outspeed me and potentially use cards like Escape Rope and Target Whistle to continually grab free Prizes around the Safeguard effect. However, my opponent’s list did not feature either of these cards and so I believed I had some chance to be able to pick up the win here, but Game 1 played out exactly how I had tested the matchup. Too strong of an opening paired with the means to retreat around my Lysandre stall attempts quickly ended the game.
The next two games played out very strangely and I was able to create a very unique scenario to win in either attempt. I began by using Lysandre on his Hoopa-EX and trapping it for as long as possible with Quaking Punch while I set up Palkia-EX’s Pearl Hurricane in the background. Despite the occasional DCE to retreat or AZ in Games 2 and 3, I was still able to set the Hoopa to 160 damage which followed by a Lysandre on a Shaymin-EX gave me a 4-Prize play. This simply set me too far ahead and I would inevitably be able to pull a knockout on a Rayquaza-EX or another Shaymin before my opponent could take his 6 Prizes.
Round 3 vs. Metal
This was the matchup I had tested the most for the tournament as I believed it would be considerably more popular than it actually was, but this preparation did not hurt me either way. In my experience, the matchup was about as 50-50 as it could be, but the inclusion of Seismitoad-EX could really swing things if they were able to prevent me from exploding with Quaking Punch. Though my friends Dustin Zimmerman and Jacob Van Wagner did feature Seismitoad in their Metal lists, my opponent did not which I believe swung the matchup greatly in my favor.
Either way, these games were a total slugfest. The series began with me getting ahead early with a Quaking Punch lock on a Bronzong BREAK into an attack with Articuno to get ahead in the Prize exchange while forcing him to KO a non-EX. The first game ended with me utilizing Target Whistle on a Shaymin to take my last 2 Prizes and the second game went to time with my opponent expending all of his Lysandres and VS Seekers, leaving him without an answer to my Regice which prevented him from ending the game.
Round 4 vs. Night March/Vespiquen
Here began my string of poor luck. I had tested this matchup a good amount as well and though it was difficult, I did not believe that Vespiquen greatly aided Night March. Of course, I would much rather play against a Night March that did not run the card, but in general, the strategy remained the same: try to lock them out of the game with an early Quaking Punch and try to run them out of Energy, or N them low and hope to make a comeback with Item lock later in the game.
My opponent was Matt Price who had a very good run early on in the season with a second at Fort Wayne Regionals and some fast Cities wins, and his list seemed very good for the event as a whole. In the first game, I had an auspicious opening to his somewhat slower one, but on the second or third turn, I Sycamore’d into something like 2-3 Energy, 2-3 VS Seeker, and 2-3 Rough Seas and lost any ability to contest the tempo. I quickly conceded as Matt ran away with the Prize race.
Game 2 featured me prizing 2-of my Seismitoad-EX and being unable to take either them until my 3rd Prize, and my first Toad went down on the second turn. Regice, Articuno, and Manaphy were somehow able to take some Prizes as I desperately tried to find another Toad. It looked like I could potentially make a comeback with an N to 1 and Grenade Hammer KO, but my opponent’s cards from N + draw for turn were double Puzzle of Time. Boo!
Round 5 vs. Entei/Mega Sceptile
Initially, the majority of the first game, I played under the assumption that I was up against the Entei deck that was somewhat popular at the beginning of City Championships. I believe that theory would assume I was heavily favored in this matchup but my opponent had an explosive start (T1 130 with Entei + a Bursting Balloon attached) on his first turn and so we were pretty neck and neck … until he benched a Sceptile-EX. I hope you are as confused as I was reading this but it was a very unorthodox list and unfortunately, I was mostly out of resources by the time he powered up and I conceded when he was able to AZ out of my Lysandre stalling attempt.
In the second game, I was much more prepared for the pesky Grass Pokémon and I began to assault it as soon as it was benched and easily won this game. Without an Ariados or damage modifier, Sceptile cannot 1HKO a Fighting Fury Belted Seismitoad so it really was not all that threatening when you are able to hit it before it hits you.
Game 3 played out very similarly and undoubtedly I was going to win this game as well but unfortunately time was called while I was up 3-6 in Prizes. Taking another tie basically spelled the end of my tournament but I could have a chance to make cut if I won out. In a series of tweets made recently by my good friend and SixPrizes’ own Kenny Wisdom, he notes, “I think literally every Pokémon player would benefit from actively focusing on playing faster. Make it part of your playtest routine.” and I could not express how true this is, especially for me. Without a doubt, since the introduction of 50+3, playing too slow has been my biggest flaw and biggest struggle. As I prepare for Worlds, playing faster is undoubtedly my biggest priority. This opponent ended up 5-1-3, being just short of making cut with such a unique deck so props to him!
Round 6 vs. YZG
Amongst Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade players, there seems to be a large divide on the best way to build the deck. On one hand, you have those who would prefer to focus on Zoroark and play a very thick line of the card and even feature some copies of the BREAK while skipping on Pokémon-EX. Alternatively, you play a small Zoroark line and thicker Maxie’s or Pokémon-EX. While I find myself in favor of the former, my opponent featured the latter.
The only testing I had against this deck was against the best Zoroark player in the world, Kevin Baxter, who also played a thick Zoroark and almost no Pokémon-EX. In these games, I found the matchup to be close but I believe I went 3-1 in our testing. Unfortunately, I quickly found that the opposing build of the deck was much more difficult and as my opponent ran a Seismitoad-EX and 2 Yveltal-EX, I was completely overwhelmed. You simply do not have the damage to trade well with a giant Yveltal and their plethora of great non-Pokémon-EX. Though I was somehow able to win a close second game, I could not muster much of a resistance in the other two games which would end my tournament.
LWL, 2-2-2 … drop.
Many would probably criticize me for dropping, but I knew I had no chance of cutting and was honestly feeling the anxiety that I detailed struggling with last article. A disappointing finish to say the least and my first poor performance at Nationals. I’m quite sure that I would have easily finished with at worst an above-.500 record, but I am still upset by not doing better.
I think that Water was a fine play for the event as several people who played my list made it to Day 2 as well as Jimmy Pendarvis and Paul Johnston who made Top 16 and Top 4 with their versions of the deck. However, I will say that I think I had a questionable case of tunnel vision in choosing a list. Outside of the first round, I never really had a poor opening but I still think that I overteched the list — even though almost every one of the cards I swapped out for Trainers’ Mail won me at least one game. Trainers’ Mail gives the deck a certain “oomph” in its opening which I think would have led me to more powerful starts that likely would have allowed me to win those games that I narrowly lost or ended up tieing. Live and learn!
Old Tricks: My Retrospective Play
Several days after the event, my friend and incredible player Jimmy McClure, who worked on me with the deck, asked if I could go back, what I would have played and my answer was a very immediate YZG. Through my testing with Kevin Baxter and experience with the deck at State Championships, I think that this deck would have been an incredible play. Though it has no great matchups outside of Trevenant, it has no terrible matchups either which is lovely for an event as long as Nationals. Night March obviously had a field day at US Nationals and in my experience that matchup is incredibly winnable. At the two States I went to, I went 5-2 (12-4 counting match play as I was always able to win at least one game in the series that I lost) against Night March with Yveltal. It simply comes down to knowing the matchup and managing your Pokémon-EX properly.
Even though Night March won the event, I wholeheartedly believe that Liam William and Sorina Radu’s deck was the “correct” play for the event. Both of them seemed to dominate the majority of the games they were in and I think that with a little more luck, either of them very easily could have won. With that in mind, I still think that YZG can retain a positive matchup with that deck if built properly. Even with the new set about to hit store shelves, I have found myself favoring YZG. I think I would have done very well with it at Nationals and here is the list that I have been working on!
Pokémon – 17
4 Zorua BKT (either one)
Trainers – 33
Energy – 10
It is important to note that even though this deck does not feature any cards from Steam Siege that the new format is still in consideration for the deck. Both Ninja Boy and Pokémon Ranger do have some potential to be included in here (perhaps over AZ) but I need further testing. For the moment, I believe that both of those cards are very good, just simply not in this deck. I will discuss the format as a whole below but quickly let’s discuss some of the choices in this deck.
The majority of it is based off what Kevin Baxter played at US Nationals with just a few cards switched around. I think the strength of the deck revolves around the fact that it features a non-EX as its main attacker but it does not have Night March’s vulnerability to certain things because of low HP. Zoroark is able to hit very high, very easily and the majority of your game plan does revolve around trading non-EXs for EXs and then ending the game by Knocking Out a Shaymin-EX or two. Your Darkness typing gives you the means to trade well against Night March and Trevenant while Gallade provides coverage against things like Darkrai-EX and Manectric-EX and is a powerful Pokémon in its own right. This deck has remained mostly unchanged since its emergence in the metagame in late November and I think that is simply a testament to its power. Even with the addition of two new sets, it is clearly a high tier deck while almost featuring no cards past BREAKpoint.
Currently, my main consideration is whether or not Gallade is needed in the deck. I played one State Championship with it and one without it and as whole, the core strategy of the deck remained the same, but both schools of thought have their pros and cons. Gallade allows the deck to stack up better against certain matchups but it takes up a lot of space and is questionably worth it if you do not hit your Maxie’s combo within the first few turns. Without Gallade, I would love to be running more tech cards like Enhanced Hammer or Pokémon Ranger, but for now I foresee that Darkrai will remain popular for Worlds. Anyone who knows me can attest to how little I like playing Battle Compressor and I will always remove it unless it is an absolute necessity as it is with this deck or Night March.
As always, I would love to hear your comments on the list! Are there any changes that you would make or have I overlooked certain card choices in your opinion?
Low Light: On the Supremacy of Night March
It is true that I have been less active this year compared to almost every year since I have been competing competitively, but despite that, I have always had an optimism to the healthiness of almost every format. In fact, I regularly found myself arguing against those who would deride any format as being “skill-less” or “rewarding of below average players” — often in these very articles! The mid-season rotation in 2011 marked an all-time low for the game and I think there are very few who would dispute this claim — but with the addition of Steam Siege, most notably its Supporter cards, I have begun to have a bleaker outlook on things. Though I did not speculate on whether or not we would be getting Karen, I truly hoped that we would and now that it is confirmed that it will not be in the set, I believe that Night March only gets better.
For the entirety of its existence, Night March has been an incredibly interesting phenomenon to observe. When first released, I think that very few took it seriously or saw it as a League deck that would maybe have some niche matchups. Ultimately it struggled in a format where almost every deck would play Lysandre’s Trump Card.
Seismitoad and Trump Card were easily able to keep these forces of the night at bay, but lo and behold, Trump Card was banned from organized play which gave a completely new power to the deck. The deck only saw a bit of play at US Nationals last year but as someone who played Seismitoad for that event, I believed I had a favorable matchup without Trump Card. Fast forward to Worlds and the deck finally came into its own and took several spots with the top 8 and many more down the ranks. Though it was defeated by Blastoise, it solidified its position as being the villain of the format. This past season, it has been the veritable boogeyman, sending fear into every player at every event and thus it is only a fitting conclusion for it to have won the biggest tournament the game has ever seen.
And so with all this in mind, it is hard for me to comprehend how the deck could possibly get better but I believe that it has. Pokémon Ranger is the card to solve basically every problem issue that Night March currently has. A deck like Liam’s Darkrai/Giratina was able to greatly capitalize on Night March’s weaknesses by using Giratina and heavy Energy removal to turn that matchup into one that is highly favorable … but now Pokémon Ranger should cause Giratina to cease to be a consideration for a deck. Jolteon-EX and Seismitoad-EX are other notable Pokémon the can be defeated by Pokémon Ranger. In conjunction with Hex Maniac, I wonder whether or not any deck will truly be favored against Night March.
Though there is seemingly no end to Night March lists on any given Pokémon site, I would like to include one here considering my heated thoughts today:
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 33
1 Town Map
Energy – 4
Initially, I found it strange that our National Champion did not include Trainers’ Mail in his list but results speak much louder than theory. If he was able to grind through the longest tournament without including the card, that should be a testament to the deck’s consistency without them. From there, I have only made a handful of modifications to the deck, which is a decrease in the Vespiquen line (you mainly needed this card for your Seismitoad matchup, but since you already have an answer in Pokémon Ranger, I believe that its usage will decrease, though it’s still worth including for any Seismitoad decks that may still exist) in favor of including a couple more tech cards.
There is not much more I want to say about the deck since I am confident that everyone has read enough about Night March to last a lifetime. I do believe that the format is in quite the negative place because of Pokémon Ranger and looking forward, I find the format to be incredibly uncompelling. Night March is not unbeatable; Brandon Cantu includes several potential decks that have a fair chance at defeating this menace. Most notably of these, I think Trevenant BREAK + Hammers has the highest chance (I actually typed up a list for this only to realize that it is two cards off what Brandon published; for my thoughts, substitute a Red Card for an AZ) but as a whole I see the format only have two possibilities: Night March or Night March counters.
Usually, a “rock-paper-scissors” format draws a fair amount of complaints and this format appears to be even narrower. I am trying to “break” the format with things like that YZG deck above or a Darkrai deck with heavy disruption but it remains a daunting task, largely because Night March can easily defeat the deck meant to counter them if they draw into Lysandre/Hex Maniac/Pokémon Ranger at opportune times. When your “counter” deck can only win against what it is designed to defeat 40% of the time then that clearly shows the power of the opposition. I have faith that as I continue to test and prepare for Worlds new options will pop up but for now I remain somewhat pessimistic.
I hope you have enjoyed what I have written today! I do apologize that the article is somewhat light on the list side but given that we still do not know the full set list for Steam Siege, this article simply arrives at an imperfect time. I will have another article that I will try to devote to more unique concepts like Zygarde decks and maybe Fire decks feature Volcanion-EX but the threat of Night March ought to somewhat stifle my creativity. However, I want to urge everyone to leave any feedback in the comments (positive or negative) and I will try to address them posthaste.
Like many of you, I have found myself somewhat obsessed with Pokémon GO and would like to close this article commending its ingenuity! I am often criticized for being a contrarian or hipster of sorts when it comes to my opinion of things universally popular and I began with almost no interest in the game, but it took a matter of minutes before I was sold. I am currently level 17 and want to give a special shoutout to all my Instinct comrades. We fight the good fight! As someone who has been struggling with depression, I want to note how accurate articles like this one have been for me and it has given me the desire to venture out and try new things in a way that I haven’t felt in months. I hope we get something special for the game at Worlds!
Until next time,
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