19th & Filbert

Why Zee Gee, Ranger Thoughts Revisited, Really Really Rogues, and A Look at the 2017 Circuit
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“Barometer reading: 29.92 in., rising slowly”

Hey everyone! Worlds is almost here and I could not be more nervous about having to play Day 1. The pressure, the anticipation, and the general feeling of being at yet another World Championship is weighing down on me, but I know that I have the capacity to succeed. Making the correct deck choice ought to yield favorable results this year, and I think that going into the Steam Siege format without any major tournament results to consider is an advantage for those who prepare the hardest.

I still anticipate that many people will stick with , but I could not see myself ever choosing to play it. Despite the general sentiment that the deck has a relatively low skill cap (I agree with this, relatively speaking), I think there is something about the way that the deck plays that is counterintuitive to the way I am as a player. That is, I think of myself as a very conservative player (to a fault, at times) and am sometimes confused when deciding to play it safe or heavily extend. Night March has existed for almost a year and a half now, and in that duration, I have only played the deck once at a League Challenge, so to say that I lack experience with the deck is an apt assessment.

I remain confident, however, that it is one of the most powerful decks in the game and you will need to beat it in order to be successful either day of Worlds! My purpose in today’s article is to detail my testing and give an updated look at my thoughts on the Worlds format. There will be a lot of lists today, but I will again refrain from posting a Night March list, as I believe that anything I could come up with would be lackluster (and the deck has been discussed enough as it is). As always though, if you want to pick my brain for more on Night March or anything else, please just leave a comment and I would be more than happy to discuss the topic further.

Why Zee Gee

Last article, I spent a good majority of the space detailing my favor for YZG and I am happy to report that I am still optimistic about the deck. Compared to the list I discussed last time, the deck has changed drastically in its approach, but I believe that it is very close to being perfected. Both Jimmy McClure and Curtis Lyon talked to me about the potential of a YZG list without any EXs, including Shaymin-EX.

At first I was somewhat apprehensive about the idea but seeing as I had never tested it, I decided that it was at least worth trying. Without any EXs, the Night March matchup should shift further in your favor, as they no longer have any way to take advantage of the Prize race. Additionally, they leave themselves open to your Lysandre or Target Whistle tactics should they ever bench or discard a Shaymin-EX of their own. I had a League Challenge in town last Friday and decided I had nothing to lose by giving the deck a shot there. Here is the list that I ended up playing:

Pokémon – 15

3 Yveltal XY

1 Yveltal BKT

3 Zorua BKT (either one)

3 Zoroark BKT

2 Gallade BKT

3 Unown AOR

Trainers – 35

3 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick

2 Lysandre

1 Xerosic

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Trainers’ Mail

4 Ultra Ball

3 Battle Compressor

2 Float Stone

2 Muscle Band

1 Super Rod

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Target Whistle

 

2 Reverse Valley

Energy – 10

6 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

Without Shaymin, the deck lacks the potential to be nearly as explosive, but I believe that this list is still very consistent. Notably, it seems to be much more reliant on getting Gallade into play, as being able to rig your draws with Premonition is a boon, but I had minimal difficulty in doing so.

The League Challenge was a tiny one (expectedly), so I do not feel the need to write a longer report about the rounds, but I was able to win the event defeating one Darkrai/Giratina and two Night March decks. I was not sure about how the deck would fair against the former, but theoretically Gallade poses a large threat to the deck, and Oblivion Wing is able to somewhat mitigate the power of Chaos Wheel. The matchup itself played out much more strangely than expected, and I used Xerosic to discard 3 of 4 Double Dragon Energy, which left my opponent without any threats to attack with. Thus, he ended up decking out when the Prize count was around 4-4.

Both of my games against Night March played out identically: a back-and-forth exchange of Prizes until I catapulted ahead with Lysandre or Lysandre + Target Whistle to earn a knockout on Shaymin-EX. I do not put too much stock in winning such a small tournament, but nevertheless, the victory was still inflating for my confidence in the deck.

. . .

The list above was completely untested, so after some live experience with the deck, there are a couple of changes I think I would make. One of the biggest things I noticed with the list is that you slow down considerably in the middle of the game and have to consider your choices more carefully, as you do not have the luxury of searching for a Shaymin to refill your hand or dig for something you might need. With this in mind, I think N becomes considerably weaker for you as an option, and I think that I would switch 1 copy of him in favor of the 4th copy of Professor Sycamore.

Secondly, I noticed that Reverse Valley was somewhat useless. Against Night March, it is nice to be able to contest their Dimension Valley, but that Stadium war is one that you cannot win as they play more and have access to Puzzle of Time to get additional copies. However, Reverse Valley is still a good card and one that I would not cut entirely but I think I would remove 1 copy to play the 4th Unown in an effort to boost the consistency of the deck.

In summary: -1 N, +1 Professor Sycamore, -1 Reverse Valley, +1 Unown

Matchups

Night March — Favorable

I’ve talked about this matchup quite a bit already, so I will try not to repeat things I’ve already said. I believe that YZG is at a great advantage here. It is not an auto-win by any stretch of the imagination, as it is a brutal Prize race from the very beginning, but you generally need far less to achieve your knockouts. Yveltal needs a mere Dark Energy compared to Night March needing to have Double Colorless Energy each and every turn. It is possible for you to whiff drawing what you need in the matchup, but as long as that does not happen, this one seems very difficult to lose.

Trevenant — Favorable

At this point in time, the only version of Trevenant that I believe exists is the version that focuses heavily on disruption with Red Card and Crushing Hammer. This route is considerably more troublesome for YZG, but I still believe it to be favorable. You have a natural advantage with your Dark typing and a built-in answer to Energy removal with Oblivion Wing. Even though the deck needs the Battle Compressor engine, I think you have enough Supporters to capably handle Item lock throughout the game. However, there is always the possibility (especially with Red Card) to find yourself with an unplayable hand.

Greninja — Unfavorable

I believe that Greninja is this deck’s worst matchup. It is simply a case of being pitted against non-EX Pokémon that have more HP than you, and you lack an easy way to Knock Out their threats quickly. I do believe that Greninja is somewhat on the inconsistent side, so it is possible to steal a game by taking quick knockouts before they are able to stabilize. Barring that, I would expect a loss here.

Darkrai — Favorable

I am unsure if Giratina will continue to be the preferred pairing for Darkrai-EX, but I am still confident that it is a deck worth considering for Worlds. I have seen lists for Darkrai/ that function very similarly to this one, but have enough EXs in the deck such that Night March can still steal a win against them. That being said, Gallade would love to prey on Darkrai-EX all day if given the option, and I think that is why YZG would be favored against this deck.

Waterbox — Even

This matchup is very tough to call but I think it is almost dead even, if not leaning ever so slightly in favor of Water. I’d like to consider myself an experienced Water player, and in my testing in this matchup, I would try to KO as many Shaymin as possible because I was unable to compete against an onslaught of Gallade and Zoroark. Yveltal-EX also made a huge difference, and not having it in the list is definitely to Water’s advantage, but overall the matchup is still incredibly hard to call. YZG’s strategy will almost certainly revolve around trying to pick out vulnerable EXs in the late game. If Water is able to remove this approach as an option (AZ on Shaymin, Sky Returns, Ninja Boy, etc.), it will be very difficult to KO consecutive Seismitoad-EX.

The more I try to think about this matchup, the more uncertain I become, so I believe that ‘even’ is the best assessment I can offer at this time. I have considered trying to fit a small line (2-2?) into this deck to try to make games against Waterbox and Greninja more manageable, but I have yet to have the time to try it out. I’m not too sure what I would need to cut to make this work, but it is definitely something I want to try out before Worlds.

I know multiple times this season I have tried to find a deck that could thrive on not playing Shaymin and capitalize on the reliance of everyone else, and I think this is the closest I am ever going to get to that goal. There is still plenty of time left before Worlds for me to explore and consider new things, so I will not say in confidence that this is my choice, but if I had to play tomorrow, I think I would sleep easy filling out the deck list above. What are you thoughts? Could my list be better or am I overlooking a certain nuance to a matchup?

Ranger Thoughts Revisited

pokemon-ranger-steam-siege-sts-113Last article, I voiced my concerns on the introduction of Pokémon Ranger to the format and how I was worried about it making Night March even more difficult of a foe to defeat. Since then, my thoughts have changed somewhat and I would like to spend a brief section of this article providing an update on the power of this new Supporter card.

First and foremost, I stand by my assessment that this card does in fact strengthen Night March, but it is not a strong as I initially perceived it to be. Certainly, it warrants being included as a 1-of in every single Night March list, but it does not spell the doom of Seismitoad-EX or Item lock’s advantage over the deck. Before testing, I thought that Pokémon Ranger would completely flip-flop Night March’s matchup against these decks, but after testing, I think that is still viable in the new format.

Pokémon Ranger does make an already difficult matchup even harder to manage, but Quaking Punch is still incredibly annoying and requires Night March to have the card at the appropriate time. That is easier said than done when the majority of your deck is rendered unplayable.

I think that this is a good example of why it is important to always make sure to playtest with an open mind. If you attempt to practice games already set on a conclusion, I believe that you will end up learning nothing, and any evidence of a contrasting opinion will just be excused away by “bad luck” or “drawing the nuts.” I have done a complete 180 in my opinion on Seismitoad-EX decks (specifically Waterbox). Last article, I would have been utterly convinced that it was no longer a top deck, but now I believe that it is still worth considering in your testing for Worlds.

Even though Seismitoad remains somewhat steadfast against Pokémon Ranger, I am completely convinced that other cards that the Supporter affects (namely Jolteon-EX and Giratina-EX) are much, much weaker. I somewhat voiced this above in my brief discussion of Darkrai-EX decks for Worlds, but I do not believe that Giratina-EX has much of a place in decks from last format. You’ll see shortly how I still think that the card can be powerful, but I think something like Liam Williams and Sorina Radu’s deck from US Nationals has been rendered obsolete.

At Nationals, I got to witness both players demolish Night March on every occasion, but with Ranger, the matchup completely shifts. I truly wish that we had received Karen in this set, but we will just have to wait a little bit longer to quell this menace.

I also believed that Pokémon Ranger would be included in almost every deck, but now I find myself excluding it from many lists. I think that the mere threat of the card will cause the decks that are the most vulnerable to it to decrease in popularity. This effect is similar to Durant NVI’s drop in play when Heatmor DEX was released, even though no one ever played Heatmor in their decks. Hex Maniac tends to serve a similar purpose as the disruption or anti-disruption tech Supporter card, and I think that it is the better card for most decks.

Really Really Rogues

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There’s power in the flower.

So far, most of the articles from SixPrizes have focused on decks that are very familiar. Even some of the “rogue options” that have been discussed by my fellow writers are still conventional ideas, just under discussed. I have two Vileplume variants that I wish to discuss today and I think you will be somewhat shocked by both of them! In general, I think that Vileplume is incredibly strong, and if the mild success of Zygarde/Vileplume is any indication of this, there doesn’t need to be much synergy for a Vileplume deck to function properly. Essentially, you just need to combine already powerful cards with a heavy Trainer engine and Forest of Giant Plants, and viola! You have suddenly created a deck that can be powerful against a majority of the format.

I will note that I think that Vileplume’s primary weakness at the moment comes in the form of opposing Trevenant BREAK decks. Trevenant has a similar focus to Vileplume decks, but their route to locking Items is somewhat more efficient at the cost of being more exposed to Lysandre. However, if you are willing to accept the loss against Trevenant I believe that there are many powerful and unexplored combinations with Vileplume! I have never been a fan of Vespiquen/Vileplume because I believe it to be incredibly linear and possess a handful of apparent and unmanageable weaknesses, but I do think that what this combination gets right is utilizing a Grass attacker with Vileplume to get full advantage of Forest of Giant Plants. With that in mind, let’s take a look at my first deck!

Vileplume/Giratina

Pokémon – 18

3 Larvesta STS

3 Volcarona AOR 17

2 Giratina-EX AOR

1 Latios-EX ROS

1 Hydreigon-EX

2 Oddish AOR

2 Gloom AOR

2 Vileplume AOR

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 30

4 AZ

4 Professor Sycamore

1 N

1 Lysandre

1 Ninja Boy

 

4 Ultra Ball

2 Level Ball

1 Heavy Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

2 Fighting Fury Belt

2 Float Stone

 

4 Forest of Giant Plants

Energy – 12

4 Grass

4 Double Colorless

4 Double Dragon

The engine for this list is based heavily on Russell LaParre’s Zygarde/Vileplume from a previous SixPrizes article. I found that in my experimentation with that list, that it set up much more consistently than the other Zygarde lists I had been trying so I attempted to emulate that as best as possible here. The purpose of this deck is fairly simple and it mostly aims to make Giratina a threat once again. I hinted at this above but I do think that Chaos Wheel is still incredibly powerful but now I think that you need Vileplume to eliminate Pokémon Ranger as a threat. At best, decks will only be playing 1 copy of this card so if they are fortunate enough to draw into it through Item lock, then there will only be one turn where they can bypass the annoying effects of Chaos Wheel.

Volcarona is in the deck to try and efficiently set up Giratina or any of the supplementary Dragon Pokémon included in the deck. Giratina is clearly supposed to be your primary attacker, but I enjoy the utility of both Latios and Hydreigon. I think that there is an argument to be made to still try and include a thin Vespiquen line in this deck simply to have another attacker and considering the fact that we play DCE. I do not think it would be a bad idea.

However, when attempting to build successful rogue decks, it is important to try and narrow the focus of what you are trying to defeat. If you attempt to build a rogue that is aiming to beat everything, I think that you inevitably spread yourself too thin and end up with something clunky and far less efficient than it needs to be. This deck is clearly trying to beat Night March and I think that it accomplishes this end somewhat effectively while still having options for decks like YZG, Waterbox, and so on.

Vileplume/Aromatisse

Pokémon – 18

2 Oddish AOR

2 Gloom AOR

2 Vileplume AOR

2 Spritzee XY

2 Aromatisse XY

2 Xerneas XY

1 Glaceon-EX

1 Jolteon-EX

1 Yveltal-EX

1 Trevenant-EX

1 Flareon-EX

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 32

4 AZ

3 N

3 Professor Sycamore

2 Ninja Boy

2 Pokémon Fan Club

1 Lysandre

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

2 Level Ball

2 Fighting Fury Belt

 

4 Forest of Giant Plants

1 Fairy Garden

Energy – 10

6 Fairy

4 Rainbow

 

I’ve discussed this deck and the past but a friend brought it to my attention recently and I decided to give it a spin once again. I have always had a fondness in my heart for Aromatisse decks but they have fallen by the wayside this season because they continually lack a solid answer to Night March. However, I think between Jolteon-EX and Vileplume, you have a solid chance to set up before them.

Like the previous list, the main engine for this deck is based on Russell’s card choices and I think that Ninja Boy is a very useful addition for this deck because it serves as an effective way to get the attackers you need from your deck even through Item lock and can even function of a poor man’s Fairy Trans if you are unable to get Aromatisse on the board quickly enough.

The main strategy, like many Aromatisse decks, is to use Xerneas’ Geomancy in order to get a steady flow of Energy onto the board and then use whatever attackers are best against your opponent’s Pokémon. One of Aromatisse’s biggest strengths has always been simply having the right attackers at the right time and being able to keep them alive by rotating through attackers and keeping Energy on board. As such, I think the Pokémon lines in this deck are somewhat flexible and perhaps it would be better to focus them a little harder. You could consider playing multiple copies of Yveltal-EX, Trevenant-EX, and Jolteon-EX (to try and target Trevenant, Waterbox, and Night March, respectively) and cut the Pokémon that are included for fringier matchups (Flareon-EX for Genesect/Bronzong, etc.).

I think this deck has an incredible amount of promise but I am still struggling to find the Supporter count I like the most. I love how 4 AZ has become staple in Vileplume decks but it also complements Aromatisse’s overall strategy. With Item lock, there is no longer access to Max Potion which historically has been the lynchpin in Aromatisse’s strategy, but AZ accomplishes almost the exact same thing while preventing Vileplume from getting stuck Active by Lysandre or another similar effect.

The speed of Night March is never something that can be undervalued and so I am still somewhat weary of consistently beating it, but from the bottom of my heart I believe that this deck is incredibly close to being playable for Worlds. What are your thoughts?

A Look at the 2017 Circuit

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(Get hype.)

Just announced by Pokémon, it looks like there are going to be some real big changes to next season! Residency restrictions have been mostly done away with and National Championships are being dissolved into more unified almost continental tournaments. Regionals are going to be spread more evenly across the season rather than being lumped over consecutive weekends. You can read all about this and more at Pokémon.com (or Ryan Sabelhaus’ article) but I simply wanted to note how excited this makes me to compete next year. At the end of the season for the past couple of years, I am always questioning whether or not I want to be active in the next season but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am confident that I want to return to the grindstone next season.

In general, these changes seem to be primarily targeted at making Pokémon more competitive and more legitimate and that is something that I can only be an advocate for. With each Regionals being bigger and a more focused affair, I can only imagine that this will add to the legitimacy of events and that the wonderful streaming coverage will continue to be added. It really adds that “circuit” feel to it that I think makes games like Magic: The Gathering seem more professional.

With talk of there being insufficient space for spectators at Worlds this year, the icing that is missing from the cake is returning Worlds to a much more exclusive affair. I know many will probably be disappointed in this change but if we have gotten to the point where there are simply too many invitees, then Worlds will continue to feel like any other event and in my opinion that is an absolute travesty! Perhaps we still do not need the exclusivity that other games have, but I would love for invites to be a bigger deal than they are now. At any rate, I am very excited by all of these changes and am curious to hear what the rest of the community has to say about them!

Closing Words

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I hope to see you there!

By the time this article has been posted online, I will likely be in transit to San Francisco. I am incredibly excited about being able to venture out to this new location over a week in advance and I hope I am able to do a ton of sightseeing and hardcore playtesting while I’m out there.

As always, I hope that you have enjoyed what I have discussed today and I look forward to fielding any comments you may have about today’s content. Everyone is more than welcome to approach me at Worlds! I love meeting new faces and am always excited to hear about everyone else’s passion for Pokémon.

Until next time!


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