Nearly Nirvana

San Fran and Back Again, Perfect Blue, Sleeper Hits for Phoenix, and the Top 5 NA
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Refreshed and recharged!

Hello everyone! It feels like it’s been such a long time since I last wrote for SixPrizes and I’m very excited to be back once again. Since I last wrote, the World Championships saw a complete unknown emerge at the very top of the pack (in Mega Audino-EX) and solidified Greninja as a top competitor rather than a shaky gimmick. I know I personally did not think the deck was anything above tier 2 until I saw it in action multiple times over the Worlds weekend. I will be talking more about Greninja later on today but it is absolutely one of the strongest decks in either format and I think that it is well positioned to be the gatekeeper of sorts for Standard this year.

Finally, I understand that this article is coming somewhat late in comparison to the works of my fellow Underground authors so I promise I will not spend too much time recapping the past, but I do want to detail my experience at the World Championships here briefly!

San Francisco and Back Again

My time in California this year was just an absolute blast. This was the first real vacation I have been able to take in years and I cannot even begin to talk about the wonders it did for my psyche and mental health. Two weeks before the World Championships took place, I ventured out west and stayed for about a week and a half at a house in Berkeley with my long-time friend and teammate Mees Brenninkmeijer and several other players from the Netherlands. During this time, we were able to do a ton of sightseeing and of course begin to playtest for the big day. If you’ll recall from last article, I was highly behind playing some sort of Zoroark deck for the main event but my early testing began to show many flaws in the deck. For one, it struggled heavily against any deck with Rough Seas, and although I knew that Greninja was something close to an auto-loss, the WaterBox matchup was considerably more lopsided than I had initially anticipated. In addition to this, any deck with Vileplume was incredibly volatile as well. If your opponent was able to get their ideal setup on the first turn, Zoroark usually would not be able to muster up much resistance.

From there it was back to the drawing board. I had no idea what I wanted to play and began to wonder whether or not the smart decision was to gamble and play the big, bad Night March. On one hand, I personally found no enjoyment in playing the deck and also had pretty limited experience with it so I was not particularly enamored by the option. Contrastingly though, Night March was so difficult for anything to beat, even when pulling out all the stops in trying to “counter” it, and it seemed to have a decent shot at making Day 2 given the right metagame. I did not want to give into this temptation without further contemplation and so I began to evaluate my other options.

Mees and I spent a decent amount of time testing a Vileplume/Big Basics variant that was scarily close to the deck that Sam Hough would go on to make the semi-finals with. I do not recall our list precisely but we came to many of the same conclusions as Sam and focused our offense around Jolteon-EX, Aegislash-EX, and Trevenant-EX with a couple of other differences. We played Manaphy-EX for its Ability to free retreat our clunky attackers with a mere Rainbow Energy and not rely on AZ or Float Stone. However, we came to the conclusion that even with a strategy aimed at targeting the apparent weaknesses in the format, Night March was still slightly unfavorable. Perhaps in our testing, the Night March players tended to run a little bit hotter than usual, but if getting Vileplume on the board did not immediately end the game, then our deck tended to get overrun. Big props to Sam for doing well and pulling through with his list but we simply did not have the confidence to explore the concept further.

Perfect Blue

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Simply, the Bay Area beckoned.

Fast forward several days and our time in Berkeley had come to an end and my friends and I were now at the main event hours before Day 1 and I simply had no clue what to play. The format seemed very open and diverse which is never a bad thing but it certainly did not make things any easier. I heard many complain about how it was “one of the worst formats ever” to which I would disagree. Even though the matchups themselves were somewhat linear, I think that the diversity showcased this year is incredibly indicative of something much healthier.

With nowhere else to turn, it was time for my team to reflect on the deck we had favored for the majority of the summer in WaterBox. I think that we had become somewhat shaken off the deck going into Worlds because despite our early confidence, none of us had a great performance with the deck. But after analyzing the format, we eventually thought we found a breakthrough with the inclusion of Delinquent in the list. WaterBox as a whole was very good or at least even with every single deck except those that featured a heavier count. From there, it would simply be a matter of playing more effectively and more conscientiously than our opponents and hopefully victory would be ensured. Delinquent as a final addition to the concept gave us more wiggle room to attempt and outplay our opponents by catching them off guard or denying them the freedom to use their resources as they would like. Here is the Day 1 list that we came up with:

Pokémon – 12

3 Seismitoad-EX

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Manaphy-EX

1 Hoopa-EX AOR

1 Shaymin-EX XY148

1 Glaceon-EX

1 Articuno ROS 17

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Delinquent

1 Lysandre

1 AZ

1 Xerosic

1 Team Flare Grunt

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

3 Fighting Fury Belt

3 Energy Switch

 

3 Rough Seas

1 Parallel City

Energy – 12

12 Water

I have talked about this deck in great detail already and so I do not want to waste your time by reiterating points that I have made previously. However, I must acknowledge and eat some of my words from last article where I voiced the opinion that not playing Trainers’ Mail in this deck was a mistake. The list I used at Nationals worked fine — I simply had a poor sample size and was at the bad end of variance and now I am back to advocating for this deck to try and squeeze in as many techs as possible and forgo the consistency of Trainers’ Mail. Double Delinquent and Glaceon-EX were the newest additions to this list and I could not be happier with how they performed. Despite so many people (including myself initially) discussing how bad Glaceon-EX was, it definitely comes in clutch in so many different matchups and our initial assumption that double Delinquent would catch almost everyone off guard proved to be more than true. I only tested this list twice against Sorina’s Darkrai/Garbodor deck and was convinced that we had found the magic for Worlds.

Day 1

Round 1: Night March/Galvantula/Shrine of Memories — LWL

As difficult as this matchup might seem on paper, I actually think that it was easier than a normal Night March. Though the combination of Galvantula and Shrine is pesky, it caused the list to forgo an easy way to attack with Pumpkaboo (i.e., Dimension Valley), making it an easy target to stall against and a poor opener. I lost the first game when I whiffed a clutch Max Elixir, won the second game convincingly, and got blown out of the water in the third. I was very pessimistic about starting the day with the loss but I still had faith in Water.

Round 2: Trevenant/Mega Alakazam — WW

My opponent this round made some considerable mistakes throughout the series and his list showcased the inconsistency of trying to squeeze a Mega Pokémon into an already crowded archetype. This series was a free win and allowed me to regain some confidence that I desperately needed at the time.

Round 3: Jacob Van Wagner w/ WaterBox — WW

Jacob and several other Hovercats talked with Mees and I extensively about our Water list and all opted to play something incredibly similar, but I think that they made some lapses in judgement in some of their final cards. They played less consistency Supporters in favor of even more techs and also did not run Team Flare Grunt, which was the card that singlehandedly won me this series. I was able to use the card multiple times each game and simply ran Jacob out of Energy. It was a bummer to play a friend but somewhat vindicating to take down the reigning World Champ after he demolished my teammate in the finals last year.

Round 4: Trevenant — WW

As long as Red Card or a turn 1 Trevenant does not present you with an unplayable hand, this matchup is almost unloseable and thankfully that is what happened this series. I always had a draw Supporter after every Red Card and was able to neuter any offense Trevenant attempted to put up with my promo Shaymin-EX and Rough Seas.

Round 5: Zygarde/Vileplume — W

I did not expect this deck at all and so I had to come up with a strategy on the fly. In theory, it did not seem like a terrible matchup if I was able to maintain a healthy amount of draw and attachments under Item lock but this proved to be easier said than done. My opponent open well with the coveted first turn of Item lock which quickly put me on the back foot but I was able to stall for an incredibly long time by using Articuno’s Chilling Sigh and Energy-removal Supporters until I was able to rotate between two fully-powered Seismitoad-EXs. Eventually, my opponent scooped when he no longer had the resources to trade blows with my attackers and Game 2 was incomplete when time was called.

Round 6: Dylan Bryan w/ Trevenant — WLW

Dylan’s list for Trevenant seemed incredibly strong as it chose not to play any Pokémon-EX. Instead, it played Acro Bike — to attempt to open games faster and more consistently — and lots of recovery. The trend at Worlds for Trevenant decks saw lists forgo the Crushing Hammers in a return to the Bursting Balloon variant, which I think was a better call for the event but much worse against WaterBox. I won Games 1 and 3 very easily while the second game saw me open Hoopa-EX to a turn 1 Wally.

Round 7: Greninja/Talonflame — LWW

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That opening hand …

I was featured on stream this round, which is always a joy, but to my dismay, I began the series with the worst draws I had seen all day. There were no Supporters or anything of use in my opening hand and I quickly lost the first game. Game 2 was incredibly similar but I eventually was able to get rolling and mounted a tremendous comeback behind a late-game N and Glaceon-EX. In the final game, my opponent failed to open Talonflame for the first time that series and I 6-0’d him in less than 20 minutes.

. . .

With that I had grinded out of Day 1! I was completely ecstatic and was greeted by many friends who congratulated me on a job well done. For the second day of play I swapped out one of the Delinquents for a second Lysandre but that is the only change I made. Overall, I thought the Lysandre would be more useful against the decks I expected to see the next day, and with the surprise factor of two Delinquent mostly gone, I was confident in this decision. I think ultimately my biggest mistake was not making more changes to the list (Aurorus-EX and Ace Trainer come to mind) but I was simply too tired to want to think much more about Pokémon for the day, and after all, hindsight is 20/20.

Day 2

Round 1: Darkrai/Yveltal — WW

As mentioned toward the beginning of the article, I think that Dark has a really bad time against decks with Rough Seas and that definitely shined through in this match. Game 1, my opponent dead-drew so the matchup did not really matter, but in the second game, I was simply able to stay ahead by rotating my attackers and healing them with Rough Seas and Shaymin.

Round 2: Clifton Goh w/ YZG — LWW

Clifton is also a friend of mine and someone I used to test with and talk about decks with very frequently and I knew he had won his National Championships with YZG. I lost the first game on the back of opening without a Supporter but the next two were very back-and-forth games. The matchup more or less comes down to whether or not Gallade hits the board. Unfortunately for me, Clifton had a turn 1 Gallade in all three games. Additionally, his list featured multiple copies of Bursting Balloon, which made maneuvering against Zoroark damage more difficult, but my constant Energy-removal Supporters were able to give me the upper hand.

Round 3: Volcanion — WW

As soon as I heard that there were a handful of Japanese players all running some sort of Fire deck, I had my fingers crossed to get paired against one of them. Both of these games ended up being much closer than I had anticipated but truly the matchup was for me to lose. As soon as you get two Seismitoad-EX able to use Grenade Hammer, the matchup is essentially over as your damage output dwarfs theirs but I was still impressed with the deck and hold it in high esteem looking toward the Standard format this year.

Round 4: Vespiquen/Vileplume — WW

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Ten in a row at this point! FeelsGoodMan

I was once again featured this round and am incredibly proud of how I navigated this matchup. If you’ll recall, I have never been fond of the deck my opponent was playing as I believe it is too linear and can be played around by an intelligent player. I was able to use my disruptive Supporters and Glaceon-EX to create a board state in both games where my opponent simply had no way to win.

Looking back at the stream, I heard how both commentators seemed to think that my opponent was getting unlucky and I must disagree with that. Though at times he did fail to draw certain things, I believe that I controlled this match from the very beginning and that most of the game was orchestrated in my favor by the way I played the matchup and not through sheer luck. To further prove this, I was able to win a League Challenge with my exact Day 2 list where my friends attempted to metagame me with Vespiquen/Vileplume/Jolteon and I defeated them in Swiss in a similar fashion.

Round 5: Greninja/Talonflame — WLL

This series was somewhat of a heartbreaker for me, as I think my list for WaterBox was slightly favored against Greninja but I narrowly could not clutch it out. I won the first game handily with a quick start and bombardment of Grenade Hammers then drew too slowly in the next two games. My opponent here was Cody Walinski who would go on to finish second at the event and I would like to commend his play. His decision-making was noticeably better than the Greninja I defeated in my final round of the first day and so I’m sure that was a bigger reason for why I lost here than not drawing what I needed.

Round 6: Night March — LWT

Game 1 saw me Set Up for four into three VS Seekers with a hand that was already holding the fourth and my only Supporter was Professor Sycamore. Naturally, I would need as strong of an opening as possible to defeat Night March and that sort of hand led to a loss. The second game went much more in my favor and I was able to stabilize after my opponent’s initial onslaught and win a long game behind late-game Ns and Quaking Punch. The final game went to time when Prizes were at 6-6 but I think that I was going to win this one and my opponent agreed. Unfortunate, but a tie was not the end of my day. I had one more round to secure the top 8!

Round 7: Genesect/Bronzong — WLL

I had tested this matchup extensively for Nationals but I was somewhat surprised to see it doing so well at Worlds. I knew how to play the matchup but my list was far less tailored for it and tragically, my tournament would end here. I won the first game in a matter of turns as my opponent failed to open with a Supporter and Games 2 and 3 saw me prize Hoopa and open Glaceon which would spell my demise.

. . .

At the end of the event, I finished in 18th place, which I am incredibly proud of. It was somewhat heartbreaking to have missed the top 8 as I did but consecutive top 32s at the World Championships is nothing to frown upon. It is both ironic and satisfying that the year I devoted the least to Pokémon saw my best finish ever. I think I have found a peace with the game that I did not have when I was more focused on the game. To conclude, I want to thank everyone who helped me this season and hope that in this coming year, I will only be able to continue to better myself as a person and player.

Expanding on Expanded: Sleeper Hits for Phoenix Regionals

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The time may be right for these decks to come up big.

Now to begin preparing everyone for this first big event of the year — Phoenix Regionals! It would seem like many of my fellow writers will be attending this event and thus most of SixPrizes recently been focused on the anticipated decks for Phoenix. Like them, I am no exception and want to quickly break down my top decks for Expanded at the moment. Some may opine that the previous section spent too long on WaterBox but one of the main reasons I tried to include details about all of my games is because it is still one of my very favorite decks in Expanded! I have noticed that many have ignored this deck’s potential for Expanded but I am still an advocate for it. One of WaterBox’s biggest strengths is how versatile it is, and as such, I think that the list is incredibly adaptable and has the potential to thrive in the right metagame.

WaterBox 2.0

Pokémon – 12

3 Seismitoad-EX

3 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Manaphy-EX

1 Hoopa-EX AOR

1 Shaymin-EX XY148

1 Aurorus-EX

1 Dedenne FFI

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Lysandre

1 Delinquent

1 AZ

1 Xerosic

1 Team Flare Grunt

1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

3 Fighting Fury Belt

3 Energy Switch

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search

 

3 Rough Seas

Energy – 11

11 Water

As you can see, the core of the deck has only changed ever so slightly from what I played at Worlds but I think this is incredibly well justified. I think that the primary template for this deck is the best that it’s ever going to be. To my knowledge, I believe that I was the highest placing WaterBox player at Worlds so let that be all the evidence I need to back up this claim.

WaterBox, in essence, remains powerful even in Expanded because most of the matchups remain the same. Trevenant (as detailed Tuesday by Aaron Tarbell) and Night March ought to continue being incredibly popular and I am more than comfortable facing either of those decks multiple times throughout the day. In the past, Seismitoad-EX decks were mostly plagued by things that attempted to take advantage of its reliance on Double Colorless Energy, which is not a threat for this deck as it does not feature Special Energy of any kind. Raikou/Eels, for instance, is quite strong against things like Seismitoad/Crobat but seemingly poses no threat to WaterBox. Furthermore, Seismitoad mirrors in the past revolved entirely around drawing into your tech Supporters like Xerosic or Team Flare Grunt to try to prevent your opponent from using Quaking Punch while you did your best not to break the lock. Once again, this is not an issue for WaterBox as my Energy cards are considerably more plentiful and I retain the option to completely disrupt the flow of the opposing Seismitoad deck since my list still features a majority of the disruptive Supporter cards in the format.

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Natural predator of the Toad.

Threats: In terms of metagame presence, the biggest difference between Standard and Expanded is Vespiquen/Flareon and Yveltal decks. The former never really found its place outside of being paired alongside Night March (and of course Ross Cawthon’s semi-finalist deck) while the latter was much, much slower and lacked the explosive power of cards like Dark Patch. Vespiquen/Flareon is far less popular than it was at the very beginning of the season as Trevenant decks and Archeops keep it mostly in check but I would still advise everyone to be prepared to face it at least once or twice throughout the fall. Glaceon-EX is still a consideration but I think it is far less powerful now than it was for me at Worlds. I think that older Vespiquen/Flareon lists can (and likely will) begin to include Pokémon Ranger specifically for Glaceon-EX as they had no out to it previously (and it is also useful against Quaking Punch, Chaos Wheel, and so on). I foresee this matchup being one of the worst for WaterBox but you simply cannot win them all.

Yveltal, on the other hand, is a beast all its own. The speed and power that this deck has is unmatched by anything else in the format which is why I foresee it continuing to be the top deck looking forward. Seismitoad can still be pesky for Yveltal as Quaking Punch can really hinder their starts and setup but I think you will need more than that to keep up. Trading Grenade Hammers for Evil Balls is not something that will end very well which is why I have swapped Articuno from the list in favor of a Dedenne. Articuno was almost entirely useless (Chilling Sigh was used crucially in one singular game and I think I used Tri-Edge once) for me in both days of play at the World Championships this year and I think I would have been highly justified in cutting it there for really any other card and I have always been an advocate of cards like Dedenne. It can offset the Prize exchange against Yveltal and the Super Rod is mostly included to try and get a second use out of Dedenne. I could even see myself trying to fit in a second Dedenne, but for now I have the Aurorus-EX to combat Greninja (it is still very good in Expanded) and hedge against any potential Accelgor decks. Also worth pointing out is the fact that Dedenne is never a poor opener as its “Call for Family”-type attack is always useful and that it is capable taking some cutesy knockouts against something small like a Joltik.

Peace of Mind: Finally, Archeops (assumed to be ran in Yveltal and sometimes Night March) poses no threat to WaterBox and I think not needing to worry about such a card is a major boon in considering the “play” for Phoenix. I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about strange decks or trying to make a surprise combination of cards work for Expanded and the biggest thing that keeps holding me back is always Archeops.

It is entirely possible that I have a bias for WaterBox after playing it for so long but I truly do think that it has a solid shot in Expanded and I will continue to test moving forward. Let me know if you think there is a matchup or card choice that I have continued to overlook! As always, I will do my best to address any comments or concerns when I have the time.

Wobbuffet/Accelgor

Pokémon – 20

4 Shelmet PLB

4 Accelgor DEX

4 Wobbuffet PHF

2 Munna BCR

2 Musharna NXD

2 Mew-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

2 Colress

2 Lysandre

1 AZ

1 Xerosic

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Float Stone

4 Ultra Ball

2 Level Ball

1 Silver Bangle

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search

 

4 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless

2 Mystery

This deck is the other favorite of mine in Expanded at the moment, and, like WaterBox, I believe that it is a “sleeper” hit as I do not hear or see really anyone else talking about it despite the fact that it is incredibly strong. Made famous by Ross Cawthon at Madison Regionals this past season, the deck attempts to capitalize on the fact that many decks do not play any “real” switching cards and are incredibly reliant on Float Stone and the one-of inclusion of AZ. Accelgor is nearing five years old at this point and in my opinion, it will never not be one of the most annoying cards ever made.

From Ross’s initial list, I have only made a couple of minor adjustments. I simply removed two of the more situational Supporters in Teammates and Ghetsis in favor of boosting the overall consistency of the deck with a fourth copy of Ultra Ball and second copy of Shaymin-EX. Everything else in the deck is incredibly necessary and undoubtedly tested very heavily by Ross himself and while I am somewhat wary about posting a list so unchanged from its original incarnation and unaffected by my own deck-building thoughts, I simply could find nothing else I wanted to do for the deck.

Weaknesses: In my opinion, Accelgor’s biggest weakness is its vulnerability to disruption. It becomes difficult to continually stream Deck and Covers when you are constantly shuffling 2-3 cards back into your deck every turn and being N’d low and thus proper play requires lots of practice and a deep understanding of each and every resource within the deck. Thinning your deck to as low of a number as possible without running the risk of decking yourself out is a fine line to walk but required in order to win many of your games with this deck. If you are interested at all in playing this, I would highly recommend going to back to the VODs from Madison Regionals and watch everything that Ross does. There is not a single move that is not without purpose or intention and I think many will be shocked at how difficult this deck is to play.

Matchups: As far as matchups are concerned, I think that Wobbuffet/Accelgor is favored against every deck except for Trevenant. The Dark matchup is difficult and will require you to deal with Keldeo-EX as soon as it hits the board, but otherwise most decks simply do not have a great answer to being Paralyzed each and every turn. There are several cards, however, that greatly counter Accelgor and so while I think you have many favorable matchups, I highly advise scoping out the metagame as much as possible before committing to this deck. Aurorus-EX and Magarena-EX both stop this deck from doing much of anything, and this is not something that putting Hex Maniac into the deck could fix, but ultimately, I do not think that either card will be too popular in an undeveloped metagame and so perhaps playing this deck with the surprise factor in mind is necessary for success.

Firing Up: The Top 5 Players of North America

“THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE”

I recently had a discussion with my friends Jacob Willinger and Travis Nunlist about who we believed the top 5 players in North America currently are and I thought it would be fitting to conclude this article with a brief discussion about this. In the past, my “Power Ranking” articles (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3) were incredibly popular and often incited a heated discussion regardless of whether or not you agreed or disagreed with me and ideally, that would be one of the purposes for including such a discussion in today’s piece.

For reference, here is my top 5 (in no order outside of #1) but I would love to hear yours and see who I may have missed, overlooked, or undervalued:

#1

  • Ross Cawthon

#2–5

  • Kevin Baxter
  • Kian Amini
  • Frank Diaz
  • Michael Pramawat

The purpose for our conversation is not simply to highlight who we believe the best of the best currently are. Rather, it is to give ourselves a more literal view of where the benchmark for excellence is currently set so we know how good we have to be and how much harder we need to push ourselves in order to be considered one of the very best and thus to conclude today’s article I simply want to put out the challenge that I am going to do my very best to get myself onto this list for the upcoming season. There is nothing that gets me hyped more than seeing my friends and peers succeed and thinking to myself “I can do that” and it is my hope that every one of my readers will think the very same.

. . .

I hope you have enjoyed today’s article and I look forward to seeing everyone soon. I am not too certain of which Regionals I will be attending this fall, but tentatively, I hope to be at Phoenix (Oct. 1–2) and Fort Wayne (Nov. 26–27). I have recently started training to become a certified yoga instructor which is big move in my life and I am very excited about it but it does put some restriction on where and when I am able to travel though it is my hope to qualify for Worlds once again this year. I hope that by my next article, we will have the qualification information readily available for us but for the time being, I am operating under the assumption that it is the same as last year.

Until next time!


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