The Sound and the Froggy

Alex’s Worlds 2016 Tournament Report, Meta Trends, and Top 4 Round-Up
the sound and the
“A masterpiece.” —NY Times

Hey everybody! I’m starting to write this article as I wait for my return flight to board, and I’m pretty sad that Worlds is already over. Even with all of the logistical problems, Worlds 2016 was incredibly fun. I had a great time reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

The main event itself was filled with surprises, from Jesper Eriksen’s Yanmega/Vespiquen that won Seniors to the Mega Audino deck that Shintaro Ito used to blow out Cody Walinski’s Talonflame/Greninja in the Masters Finals. The development of the Masters Division metagame was incredibly interesting for this year’s World Championship. After seeing a lot of success on the first day, Greninja replaced Trevenant as the go-to Night March counter. Waterbox was the other unexpectedly popular play as many players discounted it due to the inclusion of Vespiquen in some Night March decks as well as Pokémon Ranger’s release with Steam Siege.

The XY-STS format was singlehandedly defined by Night March, just as the two formats before it were as well. However, none of the top 4 players in Masters piloted a Night March deck on either day of competition. For this article, I’m going to take a look at the four decks that they instead used to counter Night March and briefly discuss how they might be playable during the next competitive season. In addition, I’ll be including a (not so) short report from my own World Championships experience. I chose to play a very similar Greninja list to Cody Walinski’s and my experience with crafting and playing the deck will be insightful as well. Let’s dive right in.

Before San Fran: Generally Lost

ash ketchum ponyta
This summer has been a little hectic for me.

This year was one of the worst years for me as far as my testing regimen leading up to the World Championships. Between my move, starting a new job, and buying a car, I was incredibly busy for the months of July and August. When I did find time to test, Ninja Boy was not working on PTCGO so I wasn’t able to try out some of the crazy ideas I had like my Vileplume Toolbox. I also couldn’t properly test Waterbox, as I believed that Ninja Boy was going to revolutionize the deck by giving you late-game options to introduce a surprise attacker once your Energy Switch and Max Elixir were mostly used up. As such, I instead theory-crafted some ideas with Christopher with the full intention of spending at least 10 hours testing with my old group from Michigan once I got to Worlds.

During this time, we came up with two new and interesting decks/lists that could counter the Night March and Trevenant we expected to see a lot of. The first was a variant of the Zoroark deck we were hearing a lot of hype for. Our list included 2 copies of Red Card, as well as 2 copies of Delinquent to hope to disrupt the opponent and give us a chance to come back in otherwise unwinnable games. With the help of Captivating Poké Puff (which you already played to pump up Zoroark’s damage output), you could even leave your opponent with a 0-card hand.

Speaking of Poké Puff, I quickly realized in my limited testing that the card impacts the format immensely. It completely changes the Night March matchup for many decks. Before Poké Puff, you would want to Sky Return against a Joltik (without a Fury Belt) in almost every situation. Now, you need to use Parallel City to get rid of your Shaymin or they remain almost as vulnerable as if they were still on the board. I knew I wanted to play a deck that either abused Poké Puff or was relatively immune to it.

The second deck that we were thinking of definitely fell into the latter of those two camps, that being Greninja/Talonflame. This idea was far from revolutionary, but few people seemed to be talking about it. Greninja was known to be an inconsistent deck so the addition of Talonflame was very appealing. With only 3 Froakie, you could expect to start Talonflame around 66% of the time, giving you a huge boost in your consistency. Talonflame also gave you the chance to optionally mulligan when you had one in your starting hand but would have to Sycamore away 2 Frogadier to stay in the game or any number of other bad hands.

Greninja was the top deck that I wanted to test as of Wednesday before Worlds. As long as it set up, it should be able to beat Night March in most games. With the addition of Talonflame, you could find your Rough Seas (and all of your Greninja pieces) even under Item lock so anyone playing Trevenant to counter Night March should be easy to beat in theory. And Zoroark/other Dark decks that saw play to counter the expected Trevenant were as close to an auto-win as it gets due to their relatively low damage output and low HP. All we had to do was confirm these thoughts and perfect a list.

kazambolt san fran 2016
Sightseeing at the famous Skyarrow Golden Gate Bridge.

On Wednesday night after sightseeing during the day, Christopher and I played our first serious games of the weekend. I knew how the Night March vs Greninja matchup went from our pre-Origins testing but wanted to see how Talonflame would impact the Trevenant matchup before seriously considering Greninja. The new Greninja list won 2-0 but I didn’t feel confident in the deck’s ability to draw well under Item lock nor did I think it could set up consistently. I was so disillusioned with the deck that I actually took it apart Thursday morning after I woke up at 6 AM due to my Eastern Time Zone sleep schedule.

Thursday: A Plan Comes Together

I got to play a few games with the Zoroark list on Thursday before the rest of my testing group woke up and was similarly upset with its ability to set up consistently so I started looking for a new deck. Darkrai/Giratina was a deck that I really enjoyed after playing it several times at League Challenges in the XY-FCO format so we created a new list for it. The main point of building the deck at all was to see if it could beat Night March with the inclusion of Ranger. Surprisingly, it could, as Chaos Wheel still forced the Night March player to find DCE, Joltik and/or Mew, and Pokémon Ranger in the same turn. When combined with Parallel City and N, comeback wins were very possible and there was also the threat of Latios donks. Unfortunately, the Trevenant version with heavy Team Flare Grunt and Crushing Hammer was very hard to beat, and we didn’t include Garbodor so Greninja was basically unbeatable. We tabled the idea after about a few hours.

We were out of ideas so I went back to testing Greninja as a last-ditch effort. As you might expect, it beat the three decks I wanted to, but the setup was still fairly inconsistent. I had no better deck to play, and figured that best-of-three match play would mitigate the bad hands I was sure to draw. I knew I would have to quickly scoop games where my setup was bad, and my in-game play would have to be nearly perfect and very quick to win my matches within 50 minutes.

. . .

We actually ended up making almost no changes to the initial list that Christopher sent to me a week and a half before the event. The quickest one was to drop the Energy Retrieval for a 2nd copy of Fisherman which put the Item lock matchups significantly into our favor.

kazambolt greninja worlds 2016
One card away from the final iteration — so close!

Late Thursday night, we also dropped the Lysandre for a Pokémon Ranger, in fear of the Greninja mirror. If neither player runs a copy, the game is almost certainly going to tie due to both players using Shadow Stitching turn after turn, healing with Rough Seas, and retreating to an undamaged Greninja. It’s a perfect loop when done correctly. If both players run a copy, whoever gets the first Water Duplicates off almost always wins. Another key in that scenario is to find consecutive turns where you can use Fisherman and then Pokémon Ranger. As long as you get a few turns of that off to clear their board, you often just use Moonlight Slash for the rest of the game and your lead is usually insurmountable. And of course, if only one player runs a copy, they will almost always win the matchup in games where they successfully set up.

Here’s the list we settled on:

Pokémon – 18

3 Froakie BKP

4 Frogadier BKP

3 Greninja BKP

1 Greninja XY

3 Greninja BREAK

4 Talonflame STS

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Fisherman

1 Skyla

1 Wally

1 Pokémon Ranger


4 VS Seeker

4 Dive Ball

3 Trainers’ Mail

3 Bursting Balloon

1 Rare Candy

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Sacred Ash

1 Startling Megaphone


4 Rough Seas

Energy – 8

8 W

The list is a bit out of the ordinary but bear with me. I’ll discuss the rest of the important concepts later when I talk about Cody’s 2nd place list. For now, the cards that probably stand out to you (and the ones that aren’t in Cody’s deck) are the Skyla, Wally, and Rare Candy, as well as the absence of any Super Rod, Battle Compressor, or Level/Ultra Ball.

skyla breakpoint
Allows for heads-up plays.

Skyla, Wally, and Rare Candy are all cards that allow us to make full use of Talonflame. Skyla is a very interesting card to grab off of an Aero Blitz as it lets you play reactively to both your opponent’s turn and your own topdeck. This is eerily similar to how the Eject Button and Volt Switch mechanics helped Wolfe Glick win the VGC World Championship this year. You could use Talonflame to grab a Dive Ball to get Frogadier but it doesn’t limit you to that option in case you topdeck one instead. Similarly, you could grab Professor’s Letter, but your odds to topdeck either that/Water or a Frogadier/Dive Ball are so high. Grabbing Skyla means you can conserve your resources instead and only use the cards you actually need. It also lets you grab a Rare Candy (if your opponent doesn’t Knock Out your 2nd Froakie) or the correct Supporter for the coming turn, depending on how much pressure they’re exerting. Skyla gives you so much more flexibility with your early turns.

Wally is a huge card when you only can get 1 Froakie down on your turn, as it gives you an option to still use Water Duplicates on T2 if your opponent uses Lysandre to knock your Froakie out. It is also a great option to find Evolution cards late in the game when your Dive Ball have all been used. Rare Candy is useful in the opposite scenario of Wally, that being when you get down 2 Froakie on T1 but don’t lose either. You can use Rare Candy to get a Greninja out but leave the last Frogadier on your Bench in anticipation of a late-game Sacred Ash to get a 5th Greninja out with ease. I often find myself grabbing Rare Candy with a mid-game Aero Blitz if my Talonflame lasts that long and it really can help turn games around.

Super Rod was one card we should have considered, especially since you end up having to shuffle in 1-2 Talonflame when you use Sacred Ash in most situations. However, those situations were usually really early in the game, and if you had to waste your Sacred Ash early, it was usually not that impactful anyway. Battle Compressor was another card we tested with the intention to discard unnecessary Talonflame or to grab useful Supporters, but we found that Trainers’ Mail provided more consistency for the deck overall. More Pokémon search cards would have been helpful at times, but we didn’t have anything we wanted to cut and Talonflame often mitigated that necessity.

Friday: Streakin’

As we usually do, our entire crew of six Michigan natives played the same list for Day 1. I remember being surprisingly calm on Friday morning, even though I was putting a ton of pressure on myself during the weeks leading up to the event. I grinded through Day 1 last year and made top 32 in the main event, so I really wanted to at least repeat that performance this year. Even though I knew I was playing an inconsistent deck, it had the raw power and the matchups to beat almost anything so I was feeling confident.

Here’s how the day played out:

Worlds 2016 // Day 1 // 476 Masters

R1: Genesect-EX/Bronzong/Max Elixir (2-0)
R2: Mew/Lugia-EX/Jolteon-EX/Glaceon-EX (2-0)
R3: Zoroark/Yveltal-EX (2-0)
R4: Water Toolbox (2-1)
R5: Zoroark/Yveltal-EX (2-0)
R6: Sam Hough w/ Vileplume/Glaceon-EX/Jolteon-EX/Yveltal-EX (2-1)

Final: 6-0 (12-2)

kazambolt worlds 2016 day 1 recordNever have I ever had such a hot streak in my Pokémon career. The only thing that compares was my 8-0 Swiss run at Ohio States 2013 but those were single games and certainly didn’t feel as good as this did. I kept track of my starting Pokémon and the ending results of my games for this day. I started with a Talonflame 11 of 14 games, losing only once when I opened with my preferred starter. My average number of Frogadier prized was also around 0.75 per game. I did not keep track of this specifically, but there were so many games where I had 0 prized and so few where 2+ were prized that I would ballpark the estimate around there.

My games were mostly straightforward. Metal in the first round was exactly the confidence boost I needed to start the day, as the matchup is favorable provided I can make it through the first 2-3 turns. As long as they don’t get a T1 attack with Max Elixir, I feel great about my chances to win. My opponent actually missed the T1 attachment in both games, and even with AZ and Hex Maniac, I easily won. My Round 2 opponent had an interesting deck but with low damage output and no real way to slow me down, I quickly took this set as well. Round 3 was where I played my first Japanese opponent ever, and although his Dark deck was well equipped to beat Night March with 3 Enhanced Hammer and 2 Startling Megaphone, I had no problems here either.

Round 4 was the first round where I had a real chance to lose. I tested the Waterbox matchup a bit with Christopher, but after winning three games without dropping a single one, I quickly moved on in my testing. My opponent chose to include Aurorus-EX, a very difficult card to deal with as a Greninja player. With a Fighting Fury Belt, they are able to 1HKO any Pokémon in your deck, and the ability to shut off Bubble can be incredibly important as well. Shadow Stitching is very useful to lock Aurorus in the Active Spot after it attacks, since it can’t attack in consecutive turns. Even if they use Ninja Boy to switch to a new Pokémon, they still can’t attack. If they choose to retreat, they often won’t have enough Energy on the board to attack immediately and also use Aurorus a second time later in the game, often giving you the win.

He powered up an Aurorus in the first game but missed the Fighting Fury Belt after attaching two early in the game so I was able to quickly dispatch it. My opponent was forced to stall with Chilling Sigh on Articuno, but I flipped enough heads to keep my damage output up and win. I quickly scooped Game 2 after prizing a Frogadier or two and his Grenade Hammer became too powerful for me to keep up with. My opponent prized his Aurorus in Game 3, a very lucky break for me. Because of this, I ended up being able to stall for a turn with Bubble, giving me the lead I needed. This game went as well as I could have hoped for, and I moved on to 4-0.

Round 5 was very sad for my opponent, as he dead-drew in a matchup that was incredibly lopsided already. My last round of the day ended up being against Sam Hough, a player I had never met before but I was impressed by him and his deck after seeing him take down Dylan Bryan on stream. However, the addition of Talonflame made even Vespiquen/Vileplume an even to favorable matchup in our testing, and this Vileplume Toolbox deck had far less damage potential than that one. I also assumed it would be less consistent and have an even harder time recovering from bad discards off of Professor Sycamore.

froakie fletchling
“Repeat after me: ‘We will always open with Talonflame.'”

My initial thoughts were mostly proven correct, as Sam had trouble consistently getting out Vileplume on turn 1 and also whiffed several key Energy attachments in the series. In the first game, he actually didn’t find the DCE he needed to attack for several turns, instead wasting his basic Water Energy on a Yveltal-EX to 1HKO a Froakie. I ended up losing the first game after an N left me without any Energy cards and my Talonflame was already Knocked Out. Game 2 was much better. My Talonflame survived the early game and found me the Pokémon Ranger I needed to deal with his Glaceon-EX later in the game. At this point, I don’t believe Sam knew I played a copy and I was slightly upset I had to reveal this, but I was otherwise unable to deal enough damage to it before it swept my board.

The third game was very nerve-wracking as I missed the Talonflame start in what was possibly my only chance to move on to the second day of competition. To make matters worse, I was staring down a Jolteon with an Energy attached, knowing that a DCE would Knock Out my Active Froakie on the next turn. Luckily, Sam did not get the Vileplume out T1 so I got a chance to search out another Basic Pokémon and stay alive. I had to use N to find a Trainers’ Mail which got the Dive Ball I needed, but my other 2 Froakie were prized! Luck was not on my side thus far in the most important game of the tournament for me.

The rest of my hand, however, was nearly perfect, and I knew I had one shot to stay in the game. I used Bubble and hit the all-important heads to stay alive, especially as Sam showed me the DCE he could have otherwise used to win the game. From here, the game was relatively smooth sailing as I had the T2 Water Duplicates and one of the best setups I’ve ever had without using Talonflame. I did have to drop Rough Seas at an inopportune moment because his single copy of Parallel City stopped me from 1HKOing a Jolteon with Greninja BKP. This almost let him come back with a Glaceon-EX later in the game, but the two-turn combo of Fisherman and Pokémon Ranger sealed up my Day 2 spot.

. . .

I was incredibly elated at this point, one of only four players to advance with a 6-0 record. I quickly celebrated with my friends, all of whom had actually been eliminated barring Sean Foisy (who was on the cusp of elimination at 4-2). However, I knew that the real test was yet to come, and Christopher and I left the main event area to test the deck some more. We wanted to see how Battle Compressor would help the deck after Enrique Avila was talking it up to me, as well as putting the Lysandre back in the deck and trying a copy or two of Level Ball to mitigate the bad starts that Christopher had on the day.

We often joke that Worlds and Nationals are “business trips” as we take the game incredibly seriously, and this only proves that “joke” to be true. I’m very lucky and grateful to have surrounded myself with a group of friends who are just as fierce of competitors as myself. We have a lot of fun, but we win as a team and lose as a team, and we all hate losing.

kazambolt worlds 2016 opening ceremony
Always happy to watch opening ceremony with my best friends.

In the end, none of those prospective changes actually mattered at all as I only won two games of the 12 or so that I tested after moving on to Day 2. I only played against Water Toolbox and Night March, the matchups that I considered to be around 50/50 for Greninja. I saw a lot of each deck on Day 1 and knew they would be picked up by good players for the second day.

Sean Foisy ended up eliminating the previous World Champion, Jacob Van Wagner, to move on to Day 2 himself, so I at least had another teammate moving on with me. He was reluctant to make any changes to our Day 1 list and I trust his judgment more than almost anyone when it comes to tweaking a list. All of the changes I was considering meant we would have to cut Trainers’ Mail and he thought the consistency it added was too valuable. In hindsight, I agree, so I’m glad we didn’t change anything.

Saturday: Disappointment

Day 2 is where the nerves really started to get to me. I felt great after a 6-0 sweep of Day 1 but I knew the competition would only get harder from here on out. And this is where the wheels fell off.

Worlds 2016 // Day 2 // 111 Masters

R1: M Sceptile-EX (1-2)
R2: Zygarde-EX/Vileplume (1-2)
R3: M Sceptile-EX (0-2)
R4: Sean Foisy w/ Greninja (2-1)
R5: Night March (1-1)
R6: Seismitoad-EX/Crawdaunt/Jolteon-EX (2-0)
R7: Greninja w/ Ranger (2-1)

Final: 3-3-1 (60th)

kazambolt worlds 2016 day 2 recordI’ll keep this day’s recap short as it’s not very interesting and fairly depressing. I was unlucky enough to get paired up against two of the three M Sceptile decks in the room, eliminating all hope of even squeaking into the top 32 that I might have had. I had some of the best setups of the whole tournaments in those five games, but I never had a chance. The single game I won was due to Bursting Balloon putting a lot of pressure on my opponent so he discarded 2-of his M Sceptile and prized the 4th. My second round was against 2014 VGC World Champion Se Jun Park from South Korea, who was playing a Zygarde/Vileplume deck that was roughly 2 cards off of the list that my team played for Nationals. I had around 10 turns where I could topdeck a Greninja BREAK or Wally to immediately win, or a Sycamore to give me a chance to close the game out, but luck wasn’t on my side.

My 60-card mirror match against Sean Foisy played out exactly as I explained above, only he missed the 2nd Froakie in the third game and two uses of Wally sealed the win for me. I tied a great Night March player in a very close set; not sure who would have actually won this match. My Round 6 opponent chose not to play our matchup. Dropping from Day 2 does not award the 40 CP for the next season so every player has to at least sign all 7 match slips to take home anything at all. My last round was against another Greninja with Pokémon Ranger, but he played Muscle Band instead of Bursting Balloon. This let him do far more damage with Shadow Stitching, and forced me to play more aggressively. He prized his Pokémon Ranger in the first game giving me an easy win, and the third game was heavily in my favor as time was called. He graciously gave me the win after noticing Sean Foisy egging me on from the sidelines during our not-so- serious game, playfully boasting that I would only out-place him with a win.

I try my best not to be salty after a poor tournament run but this Worlds left me stinging unlike most other events. I think I could have made a deep run this year had my matchups been any better. However, this just motivates me more to find the perfect deck for next year’s World Championships. As my high school band director always ended every concert cycle with, Umquam Porro! (Latin for “Ever Forward.”)

As I predicted, Night March, Water Toolbox, and Greninja were all popular plays for the second day of Worlds. For the second year in a row, the metagame did not change much between the first and second days of competition. Players were reluctant to switch off of the deck that brought them into Day 2, and the players who were already qualified either chose not to counter the popular decks from Day 1 or thought they already were.

Keep this in mind for next year if you find yourself having to make a deck choice for Day 2 of Worlds. If you do, you could unleash a great counter to the metagame and see huge success.

Another thought I’ve had looking back on Worlds is that the metagame for the first day of competition was relatively easy to read. Night March was obviously going to be popular, and my first inclination was the Trevenant would pop up to counter it, so I thought about testing Zoroark myself. I heard lots of other players mentioning that they also thought Zoroark was strong, so I knew it would see a lot of play. Since Worlds is comprised of the best players in the world, you can usually anticipate them to be thinking somewhat similarly to you. Many players will stick with “pet decks” (think, crazy rogue ideas, like the Flareon deck Dylan Bryan used at Worlds 2013) or the deck they’re most comfortable with, but lots of others will try to counter the expected metagame. If you get a solid read on what the popular counter deck could be, you’ll be able to more intelligently narrow down your own deck choice.

The last tip I have about Worlds is to expect the unexpected. Players love breaking out secret decks and risky plays at the World Championships, some more successful than others. The Sceptile deck that dashed my tournament hopes is one of those. It beat any Greninja that it saw during Day 1, Trevenant was a good matchup, and I’m sure Zoroark was very winnable as well. Night March was nearly an auto-loss, but they apparently thought this risk was worth taking. Another case of this is the large contingent of US players who piloted Trevenant/Accelgor in 2014. They had strong matchups against the Team Plasma and Pyroar decks that did well at US Nationals that year, but ended up falling short as other players instead played Virizion/Genesect, a near auto-loss for Accelgor decks. As Robert Burns penned in his famous poem To a Mouse, “The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry.”

Worlds Top 4 Round-Up

But anyway, enough about me. Let’s take a look at the players and decks that placed in the top 4 this year:

1st: M Audino-EX

Shintaro Ito’s list »

Audino sure put on a show. ?

Okay, now this is not something I thought I’d ever be seriously talking about, but Mega Audino won Worlds. I laughed at a different Mega Audino deck when I saw it on stream earlier in the weekend, only to eat my words when it defeated Kristy Britton’s Night March. Kristy is no pushover and one of the best competitors from the past several years. I don’t necessarily agree with the plays she made late in the second game, but it showed me that this Mega Audino deck had a real shot to do well in this tournament.

Andrew Wamboldt helped to explain how this deck could beat Night March in the average game. You’ll almost always go down 2 Prizes early; you can’t do anything about that. The next turn, you hope to N your opponent down to 4, and snipe a Joltik to take 2 Prizes. Hopefully they whiff a 1HKO on the next turn (220 is often hard to hit for), so you can Lysandre a Shaymin and snipe another Joltik (or Shaymin in some scenarios) to go down to 1-2 remaining Prizes. From here, Cobalion STS is incredibly important, as an N plus a Quick Guard can often prevent Night March from closing out the game. All you need from here is a final Metal Energy and sometimes a Lysandre to win the game. Or, if you get the Cobalion charged up earlier in the game, you can win with a Lysandre instead of using Quick Guard.

Now, this scenario doesn’t seem incredibly likely, but I’m sure Shintaro defeated at least one Night March in this way on his path to winning the World Championship. And if not, it’s still easy to see why this deck was far better than most people, myself included, gave it credit for. With Magearna and 220 HP, Trevenant is very beatable. The math works out incredibly well too. 110 1HKOs a regular Trevenant, and 50 from snipe damage OKHO’s Phantump. This can also be used to put Trevenant BREAK in range to be Knocked Out later, so you put on enough pressure to win almost every game. Zoroark also can’t do enough damage to a Mega Audino, and the math works out just as well in this matchup.

I talked to Enrique before the finals and he said they put together the Audino deck to test with Cody the night before the big match. He noted that it was pretty heavily unfavorable, as Lysandre, Xerosic, and Escape Rope all helped Shintaro dodge Bursting Balloon damage, while Hex Maniac, AZ, Pokémon Center Lady, and Parallel City all mitigated Greninja’s normally high damage output. The math also worked out very nicely against this deck, as even with Rough Seas, the 50 snipe damage allows M Audino to KO Froakie and Frogadier with another snipe, or Lysandre up a Greninja and KO it when possible. The final match was very disappointing for Cody but he knew going in that he was an underdog.

. . .

As far as this deck’s chances to do well next season, I think they are few and far between. M Audino preys on low-HP, non-Pokémon-EX but the next format seems to revolve around large Mega Pokémon instead. I don’t see any real reason to play this deck over M Rayquaza. Maybe it could see another chance to shine if Zebstrika BKP is heavily used to counter Rayquaza, but even then, M Gardevoir-EX GEN seems like a better Mega Pokémon in many scenarios.

2nd: Greninja/Talonflame

Cody Walinski’s list »

we dem bois dat boi
Dem bois came packing balloons.

I’ve talked a lot about this deck so I’ll just mention the main differences in our lists. Cody (and Enrique Avila, known for getting 2nd place at US Nationals 2015 with Wailord) played an incredibly consistent list with very few frills. They played a full count of 4 Bursting Balloon which I feel is a very underrated card in this deck. This Pokémon Tool card is the key to the Night March matchup. By using it, you force your opponent to find a Hex Maniac, a DCE, and one of either Pokémon Catcher, Escape Rope, or Startling Megaphone nearly every turn from T3 on. If they miss any of those, especially more than once, you pull ahead in the Prize trade and usually win the game. Shout-out to Michael Slutsky for the idea after he made top cut at US Nationals with a list featuring Bursting Balloon.

Cody chose not to play any of the Wally/Skyla/Rare Candy that I liked in my list. Instead he played both a 4th copy of N and an Ace Trainer to give himself more comeback potential and draw into more Greninja pieces at a time. He also played 2 copies of Super Rod as his recovery. Sean Foisy floated this as an addition to our list at some point on Friday but the 2nd copy of Fisherman was a better way to grab discarded Energy in our opinion. Cody and Enrique must not have feared the Trevenant matchup as much as we did, since they cut down to 3 Rough Seas and only used 1 Fisherman, both helping to make room for other cards.

The one difference in their list that I think really made the difference was the 2 copies of Splash Energy. My friends JW Kriewall, Andrew Mahone, and Andrew Wamboldt were talking up Splash Energy to the rest of my testing group earlier on Thursday but we certainly didn’t think we had room to fit it into our list. In hindsight, I wish I would have tested this card. Being able to play down an entire Greninja line after getting Knocked Out helps you stay in the game far longer, and can force your opponent into a bad spot. They could have to choose between using a Xerosic on Bursting Balloon or Splash Energy, both of which might ensure you a crucial knockout.

Cody was actually the person who crafted the Wailord list that Enrique Avila used to take 2nd at US Nationals, and apparently spent much of his summer testing this Greninja list. I’m very happy that he was the one who did well with the deck this time and that the Pokémon TCG is seeing more “teams” see success. More to come on that later.

. . .

Greninja has a very bright future ahead of it, provided a new card to remove Pokémon Tools from the opponent’s board is printed soon. Christopher Schemanske reminded me earlier today that we lose Muscle Band with the rotation, so it’s almost impossible for Greninja to deal with a single Garbodor BKP. Other than that, the only cards that the deck loses are Greninja XY, Sacred Ash, Ace Trainer, and Battle Compressor. The latter three are all replaceable or less than crucial, and Greninja XY will happily become a 4th copy of Greninja BKP. This won’t be too impactful since Night March is rotating anyway, and the optional utility of placing 3 damage counters wasn’t crucial in most matches. I’ve been told that the PRC–STS format is slower anyway, so you shouldn’t miss the original Greninja too badly.

Another card that Greninja could possibly use in the future is the Solgaleo GX that was revealed at Worlds. Although this would be another starting Pokémon not named Talonflame, the Ultra Road Ability could be huge to allow 3 Giant Water Shuriken to be fired off in the same turn. It does give up 2 Prizes, but this means your opponent isn’t Knocking Out a Greninja, so the tradeoff could definitely be worthwhile.

I will caution against using Greninja in the Expanded format, as Archeops is often used in Dark decks which completely shuts down the deck. Also, even with Talonflame, Night March decks could shut you down with Ghetsis and take a huge lead. It is a high-risk, high-reward play, but not one that I would advocate for.

3rd: Vileplume Toolbox

Sam Hough’s list »

Sam proved Vileplume was deserving of its speculation.

Even after beating this deck in Day 1, I mentioned to Christopher that I thought it was a really great deck. And once it made top 8, I declared it as one of my favorites to win. Sam played the deck incredibly well and obviously spent a lot of time testing it and perfecting the list. I don’t regret the deck that I played at all, but I wonder what could have happened if I had been able to spend more time testing the Vileplume Toolbox list with Ninja Boy that I had theory-crafted in my last article.

Although Sam was unable to get the Vileplume out during the first turn in all of the games of our match, I noticed him finding it in more games than he missed it. He smartly played no Acro Bike to preserve his precious Energy cards, and playing more AZ and N than Sycamore also help keep his resources out of the discard pile. The way that he crafted the deck allowed him to be very aggressive with Shaymin early in the game, only to turn them into Pokémon with more HP later in the game with Ninja Boy.

Sam notably did add a Trevenant-EX into his deck after the first day of competition. Sean Foisy sat across from him in the player meeting and told me that Sam mentioned making a change. I correctly predicted this to be the addition of Trevenant-EX, knowing that it would have probably won our matchup in the first day. Glaceon-EX is a novel idea to solve the problem with the matchup, but with Rough Seas, it effectively only does 40 damage a turn, and that can be reduced to 10 if you have 2 Greninja to retreat between. I do think that including a Grass Energy instead of the Lightning Energy might have been helpful if he was targeting the matchup specifically, as you need 2 Grass Energy to 1HKO a Greninja BREAK. However, this would have slightly worsened the Night March matchup and Sam obviously knows the deck better than I do. Congrats to Sam for doing well with such a unique deck.

. . .

The only card that this deck loses going into the new season is Aegislash-EX, but I don’t think this will negatively impact the deck too much. Aegislash is almost certainly an exclusive counter to Vespiquen/Vileplume, as you wouldn’t be able to guarantee that you can charge up a Glaceon-EX to use in the matchup. Vespiquen is a far worse deck next format with the loss of Battle Compressor, so it’s not a huge loss. Magearna can also likely leave the deck next format, as Trevenant XY’s rotation probably will cause the deck to see little play and you won’t expect Silent Fear to be used often.

Vileplume will always be a strong card as consistent Item lock is nothing to scoff at. Players often joke that you can pair Vileplume with anything and you’ll win games just due to the power of the lock. While that is true, it’s obvious that Sam created a strong, consistent, and unique deck and piloted it expertly. The combination of potent Pokémon-EX with Ninja Boy means that you can counter almost anything you might run into. Keep an eye out for this deck to have a strong showing at future tournaments.

4th: Vespiquen/Yveltal

Ross Cawthon’s list »

x-files fbi intro
Can someone good with Photoshop replace Mulder’s face with Ross?

I actually saw this deck a ton on the first day of competition and didn’t really understand its true power until talking to Mike Fouchet during Day 2. It was created by “Team X-Files,” a collective of incredibly accomplished players originally from the Seattle area including Mike, Sam Chen, Tyler Ninomura, and of course, Ross Cawthon. Sam actually Knocked Out teammate Chris Derocher on Day 1, and I sat by Tyler several times during the day, often looking over to watch his play.

The deck is almost exclusively built to beat Night March, with few Pokémon-EX and Octillery as insurance against bad Ns. Every Pokémon in the deck (barring the Octillery line, Combee and Malamar) can 1HKO a Night Marcher for 1 Energy (and sometimes also a Muscle Band) so you will have few problems staying ahead or even in the Prize trade. It also fares fairly well against Trevenant, using Yveltal XY to chip away at a Trevenant or two in the early game and closing the game out with a beefy Malamar-EX. I noticed how useful Malamar is against Trevenant during Spring Regionals, as the deck rarely plays any Switch or Escape Rope to replace a sleeping Trevenant in the Active Spot. Additionally, you only need 1-2 heads to Knock Out any Pokémon in their deck, so you can run through their board with relative ease. Brigette helps in this matchup to search out your Pokémon under Item lock.

It also trades well with decks like Zoroark as it is very easy to deal small amounts of damage consistently. However, with 22 Pokémon and only 8 of them able to deal over 90 damage without help, there is an obvious damage cap that some EX decks could take advantage of. Mike mentioned that the Malamar-EX even helps against Gallade in this regard, since it has more HP than Vespiquen can usually deal with. By putting it to Sleep, you can sometimes buy a turn to stay ahead in the Prize trade, and MAXamar can even 1HKO it in a pinch (though it’s a huge risk). I also think that Mega Audino would have been a hard matchup for Ross or any of his teammates had they played against one.

I also think Greninja is a typically bad matchup, since the deck plays few ways to work around Bursting Balloon. One play that I like against decks like Ross’s that don’t run many Tool-discarding cards is to play the Bursting Balloon on a Benched Pokémon that you don’t want to be Knocked Out, such as the only Greninja I have on the board. This would potentially allow me to evolve that Greninja into a Greninja BREAK next turn, provided my opponent doesn’t Lysandre it up and Knock it Out. If they do, they took 60 damage anyway, which is all I’d expect from that one Greninja BREAK in this matchup. Shadow Stitching also helps with your comeback potential here, as shutting off Octillery at the right times can completely shut your opponent out of the game. At the very least, it almost guarantees that they can’t use Hex Maniac and attack in the same turn, which is usually all you need to pull ahead.

As always, Ross and his team crafted a very strong list for Worlds. You can tell that thought went into every inclusion, from the Float Stone and AZ that can move Octillery, Yveltal, and Malamar from the Active Spot to the Brigette that grabs your Basic Pokémon and mitigates the need for Shaymin. I also noticed that they included a 5th basic Energy when I’ve never seen a Vespiquen list play more than 4. The extra Energy allows them to “waste” attachments to Malamar when need be and helps get Energy into the discard for Oblivion Wing. These players aren’t afraid to think outside the box and include cards that other lists often don’t.

. . .

Unfortunately, the rotation of Battle Compressor means that Vespiquen is all but done for in Standard. This list preys on the popularity of Night March anyway, so it would likely have been a poor choice in the new Standard format anyway. Some players have mentioned playing it with Unown AOR and Klefki STS to get Pokémon in the discard pile, as well as Zebstrika BKP to counter Mega Rayquaza, but the deck just doesn’t pack the punch that it used to. Plus, the release of Karen in the Battle Arena decks will probably be the final nail in the coffin if Vespiquen sees any play at all. And in Expanded, I would stick to the tried and true Vespiquen/Flareon or Vespiquen/Vileplume, depending on how your access to Tropical Beach and how risky you want to be. Both decks deal better with the format as a whole, especially when EX decks are more heavily played.

Once again, I’m happy to see teams of players doing well in the game, especially one with such a storied history. Unfortunately for Ross, the truth is still out there.


pokemon worlds 2017 location
Location of Worlds 2017: Anaheim, California

And thus, one year of competitive play ends and another begins. Personally, I’m very excited to go to Anaheim for Worlds 2017. All of my friends know I’m a huge Disney fan and I’m looking forward to visiting Disneyland for the first time. This is shaping up to be a great season already and I’m more motivated than ever to make it back to the World Championships next year.

One last thing I want to mention is that even though SixPrizes does not formally offer coaching, myself and some other writers are happy to offer sessions to players who want some personalized deck building sessions or gameplay lessons. I coached two Senior players before the World Championships and they both thought the session was very helpful! You can send me a message on the forums in you’re interested in coaching.

The next major event I plan to attend will be the Florida Regional Championships in October. I’m looking forward to grinding some League Challenges (and hopefully League Cups?!) in Georgia with my new friends here in the meantime. Good luck to you all as you prepare for the new season!


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