Pond Hopping

Fort Wayne Recap, Old Frog/New Tricks, London’s Calling, D/G/G, Sweet Honey, and More
ash-misty-canoe-ocean
“We might need a paddle.”

Doing well at any tournament takes the right mix of preparation, execution, and, unavoidably, luck. It’s well-documented that I’m a firm believer in the idea of minimizing risk while maximizing opportunity for things to go right. My Round 1s at Regionals this year have featured absurd foes like Pyroar BREAK (… as Night March), Xerneas/Giratina-EX, Mewtwo-EX/Lugia-EX (as Greninja), and a super weird Volcanion-EX list. Did I prepare for those? Nope. Did I consider such issues when making deck and card selections? Good thing I happened to play Hex Maniac in that Night March on a last-minute whim.

A quick note I’d like to hit right off in the vein of the above: My goal as a writer isn’t to cover any and every deck that might appear at a given tournament — and I don’t think it should be any writer’s goal where the reader’s best interest is truly at hand. Later, we’ll discuss the 15-some decks I had built for testing prior to Fort Wayne. I am not an expert in all 15 of those decks, and I don’t wish to pass myself as one. I haven’t been shy in the past about the fact that I feel coverage sometimes lacks for a given event. I’m proud to say that I believe SixPrizes nailed Fort Wayne coverage.

Anyone and everyone knew the heavy-hitters coming into the weekend — Yveltal, Vileplume, M Gardevoir, etc. — and I feel they were well-covered between Brad, Brit, and Aaron. Travis brought a preview of Pidgeot-EX and M Scizor, both of which saw success this weekend. Similarly, Michael profiled a deck that had fallen under the radar, but was able to make a sizable splash on the weekend. In a constantly evolving game, I feel this was the pinnacle of coverage that anyone could provide, and I hope you agree (and, as always, I would love to hear from you if you don’t).

This past weekend serves as the last dose of information for the community before chaos ensues in London in only 9 days. Fortunately, unlike in Fort Wayne, the community is well-informed regarding the legality of various promo cards and other event details for London. Today, I’m going to take a look at my experience in Fort Wayne and preview London. We’ve got a lot of coverage scheduled over the next few days, and while I believe Grant will be discussing Expanded on Thursday, between Alex, Brad, and me, I hope we’re able to give you a solid foundation for success. As a reminder, the upcoming article schedule is always available on the forums.

Fort Wayne Recap

magearna-xy165-16-9-2
One card shifted the entire landscape.

This year hasn’t brought many terribly difficult deck decisions. I picked Night March as my favorite for Phoenix well in advance, Vileplume was perfect in Orlando, and Philadelphia presented no reason to depart from Night March. For better or worse, Fort Wayne proved different. After putting up sizable resistance most of the weekend prior to the event, I finally relented late Monday and acknowledged a slightly-modified Vileplume list as the likely play. The reality of Vileplume, in my mind, is that it can beat everything.

The flip side is that it can often simply fail to execute a basic strategy, leaving it vulnerable to decks whose linearity is a defining trait (I’m thinking M Mewtwo, M Rayquaza, and Volcanion). In particular, the Volcanion matchup worried me: If players took sufficient measures to prepare themselves, a combination of double Lysandre, Hex Maniac, and Pokémon Ranger is enough to scare any sane Vileplume player.

This all changed when, absurdly, a player’s Facebook message to a company employee quite literally changed the game. As we all know by now, Magearna XY165 went from a London debut to Fort Wayne-legal roughly 3 days before the event. Anyone who’d been testing with the knowledge — which had been repeatedly enforced on a multitude of official and semiofficial channels — that Magearna would not be legal was seriously compromised by this decision. I was aware the entire time that Magearna should be legal for the tournament, and even proclaimed to Alex Hill the day before the decision that I had zero faith that TPCi wouldn’t make a reversal.

That doesn’t change the fact that the landscape of a tournament was dramatically altered on a semi-arbitrary basis by a player’s Facebook message to a TPCi employee, after it had already been said that TPCi London affirmed the card’s release date as 11/18.

To reiterate: I know that it should’ve been legal. There are almost never Friday release dates for Pokémon TCG products. That doesn’t change the fact that the tournament landscape was altered a whopping 3 days before an event, which is wholly unprofessional as a practice.

So, Magearna is legal. The problem with that reality for me? It made Vileplume a lot more precarious. Regice was officially an endangered species. Not only did it provide a counter, but in my mind, it encouraged the play of one of Vileplume’s already-sketchy matchups: M Rayquaza-EX. Magearna slots effortlessly into M Rayquaza, and it has the dual function of aiding the deck’s Rainbow Road matchup while effectively sowing up any series against Vileplume.

With that in mind, Vileplume wasn’t an option for me. Thus, the chase was on. As I tend to do in these situations, for all of the reasons I’ve described in the past, a spreadsheet was the next obvious step. Organizing thoughts, quantifying them, and having somewhat of a means to evaluate them constitutes a powerful process.

I don’t have any screenshots from along the way, but it quickly became apparent to me that I would not play M Mewtwo-EX, Gyarados, Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX/Garbodor, M Scizor, or M Gardevoir. Broadly, these decks simply either faced too high of a risk of being countered (M Gardevoir), had mediocre matchup spreads (Mewtwo, Darkrai/Giratina), or had such polar matchups that I’d be chancing everything on pairings by playing them (Scizor, Gyarados).

. . .

My testing process on Friday revolved around M Beedrill-EX, Volcanion-EX, and Greninja. I badly wanted to play M Beedrill, but the predominance of Olympia as a tech in lists combined with the “difficulty” of its math — Yanmega and Beedrill don’t always add up very well — made it a hard deck to believe in. Even with that said, I kept it under active consideration for most of the day.

After moving on from my Beedrill high, I became convinced that Volcanion may be a solid play. While it had obvious Yveltal/Garbodor issues, in reality, that matchup isn’t a totally impossible affair. A positive matchup with M Rayquaza and the general strength of lighting-fast damage output made it an attractive choice. I was growing fairly convinced of its playability, and my desire to play it, until I began testing the Greninja matchup.

Confession: When Michael Slutsky published his article on Greninja, I balked at the reasoning presented. I’ve already had one notable flop with the inconsistent monstrosity of a deck, and his own writing acknowledged the seeming impalpability of the matchup spread. It simply seemed like an inferior deck.

Famous last words.

On paper — and, in my experience, in practice — Greninja’s biggest problem is forcing an opponent to take 6 meaningful Prizes. At Worlds, I was frequently frustrated with the feeling that my opponent wasn’t playing the same game as I was. I was trying to edge out 6 Prize cards, but my opponent was simply trying to run me out of Greninja. And more often than not, I was run out of Greninja.

splash-energy-breakpoint-bkp-113
First-class Frog recursion.

Earlier in the week, while building the gauntlet of decks to test, I built a variant of Greninja featuring a full complement of Faded Town, Bursting Balloon, and Splash Energy. The theory was simple: Splash Energy alleviates the “mismatched game” effect I had experienced. Now, instead of losing my Duplicating Frogadier to a knockout and requiring multiple Items to restore it, it simply returns to my hand, ready to be played back down if a Froakie was waiting. The difference between a 3rd and 4th alive Frogadier is immense, and the reflexive recycling of entire BREAK lines was heavenly. I can’t quite describe the satisfaction of picking up all 4 parts of the line and immediately dropping them back down.

The other part of the deck’s changes, Faded Town and Bursting Balloon, are aimed at winning the Mega matchups. This isn’t a particularly revolutionary concept, but Splash Energy augments the utility of both cards tremendously. M Gardevoir and M Rayquaza both thrive on Abilities to maintain a constant damage output. M Gardevoir is inherently reliant on Abilities to stream damage, and M Rayquaza relies on Sky Field and those same Abilities to some degree.

How do you beat M Gardevoir and M Rayquaza? Shadow Stitching. The damage output isn’t spectacular, but Splash Energy allows you to maintain a constant stream of Greninja, which means you win in the long game. Faded Town supplements the damage output provided by Shadow Stitching, and Bursting Balloon allows you to speed up the process of dismantling your opponent’s board.

In essence, you Ace Trainer or N to a low count, begin using Shadow Stitching, and, with the help of Faded Town and Bursting Balloon, reduce your opponent’s field to a much less concerning existence.

Obviously, the list requires adjustment to make room. Critically, Splash Energy does nothing for Giant Water Shuriken, so I needed to ensure enough basic Water remained in the list to ensure relatively frequent use. Afterward, Talonflame was the obvious omission. While it helps against Item lock — Trevenant in particular — Standard isn’t exactly rife with such issues.


So, that’s the theory. In practice, it flowed extraordinarily well — certainly more so than it did at Worlds.

One key issue I chose not to address: Garbodor. Greninja XY162 has seen discussion as a potential answer, as has Beedrill-EX. I simply don’t believe that Greninja has the time to spend on either. Deck space could probably be found, but a turn spent using either of the two’s attacks is a turn you spend allowing Yveltal-EX to grow. Furthermore, it’s not as though either is a bulletproof solution. Multiple Garbodor can be set up to thwart the promo, and conserving Float Stones would become a Garbodor player’s first priority in Games 2/3 when a Beedrill is outed. My other concern with Beedrill? With 5–7 Basics, the odds of starting it are too high for comfort.

I tested the deck further on Friday, and found that Yveltal/Garbodor was a very winnable matchup simply on the basis of having a bulky 170-HP tank to utilize. If Bursting Balloon was used to decent effect, the trade with Yveltal-EX was reasonably favorable, and a late N or Ace Trainer often could seal the game. At an absolute minimum, I felt comfortable placing the matchup in 50/50 territory. Yveltal’s consistency is something that makes it a preeminent foe, but it’s not especially multidimensional as a concept either — that alone makes the matchup a doable task.

ash-chart-graph-bars-statsrewatchingpokemon.tumblr.com
It’s all about the numbers.

With that, I went back to the spreadsheet. Once again, I regretfully wasn’t planning on profiling my use of it in this piece, so I don’t have any screenshots from working through the process. We nailed out the last few critical “question mark” matchups and began to discuss expected deck representation.

Before I break out the numbers, a disclosure: A critical issue when using this sort of analysis that I’ve begun to consider more and more is the varying likelihood of seeing a deck varying rounds. The goal is to win, so assuming an X-0 or X-1 run, it’s less likely that a poor deck will be seen in later rounds than a strong one. In the future, I’m considering adding another layer of analysis that adjusts final “standings” based on each deck’s relative strength against the field (i.e., if I project M Rayquaza will be 10% of the field but it has excellent matchups, it may end up being weighed 15% when determining the “best” deck).

But, for now, this is imperfectly represented in my analysis by slight alterations in my expectation percentages. I didn’t really expect Yveltal/Garbodor to only make up 10% of the field, but I expected it to be the default pick of many players that would suffer through its fairly even matchups. The key to Yveltal is that it can beat everything, but is the master of nothing as a consequence. As such, I expected it to encounter depreciating returns to a degree that other decks wouldn’t quite experience.

Another example of adjustment I made was M Rayquaza. I expected it to be the pick of a good number of top players — but not 12.5% of the room overall — so I exaggerated its effect slightly, as I believed it was an essential matchup to win. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t, but these are the sort of considerations that need to be taken into account.

Here are how the numbers worked out:

cs meta spreadsheet Fort Wayne

cs Fort Wayne Meta Sheet StandingsAfter much deliberation and discussion of a few key leftover matchups, we came up with a set of standings. I can’t stress enough how easily minute changes altered the order of decks 2–7ish. But, throughout every version of the spreadsheet, Greninja came out on top.

I think it’s key to note that certain decks are fundamentally going to break systems like mine. For example, Yveltal/Garbodor was obviously a strong play for the weekend, but it comes in just above average in my dataset. This is the result of an inability to fully account for skill gaps, which do fundamentally affect Yveltal/Garbodor’s matchups more than most decks’. Moreover, it’s hard to quantify the turn 1 Vileplume factor — or the start Oddish/turn 1 draw + pass factor. As such, Vileplume’s playability is slightly exaggerated, while Yveltal’s is inappropriately (but not, I’d argue, egregiously) low.

By this point, I imagine you probably get the point. You may remember that this detour toward Greninja originated from discussion of Volcanion. In a semi-rare event, there was no consensus amongst my group, and my brother ended up playing Volcanion. The list, which he and I concocted through testing on Friday, was as follows:

Pokémon – 12

4 Volcanion STS

4 Volcanion-EX STS

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Staryu BKP

1 Starmie EVO

Trainers – 38

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Lysandre

2 N

1 Hex Maniac

1 Pokémon Ranger

1 Olympia

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

3 Trainers’ Mail

3 Max Elixir

3 Fighting Fury Belt

2 Float Stone

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Escape Rope

1 Energy Retrieval

1 Pokémon Catcher

1 Super Rod

 

2 Faded Town

1 Parallel City

Energy – 10

10 R

It’s an unorthodox list at best, and I’m not sure in hindsight that it was optimal. Starmie vs extra Energy Retrieval was meant to compensate for the lesser Energy count we chose to attempt, but in general, I suspect extra Retrieval might’ve been the superior play. Additionally, things like Pokémon Ranger, Pokémon Catcher, and Enhanced Hammer aren’t necessarily standard fare.

I don’t want to delve too much into the list, as I think Ahmed’s (when it goes up on Pokémon.com later this week) is probably the gold standard as this point. This list was focused on nailing down the Mega matchups (Faded, Catcher) and doing its best against the rest of the field. Garbodor is an inherent weakness only augmented by Starmie’s inclusion, of course.

This list net a 5-3-1 finish by my brother and a 6-2-1 (top 64) conclusion by another Michigan player. Not a terrible showing exactly, but I do think the list could’ve been optimized further, as the success of creations like Ahmed’s shows.

Old Frog, New Tricks

At this point, I reluctantly let go of my M Beedrill hopes and was somewhat between Volcanion and Greninja, but leaning toward Greninja. Alex Hill arrived in Fort Wayne at this point, and after a few short games, he was sold as well. With that, Chris Derocher and a few others picked up the list, which was as follows:

kpiplup-greninja-fort-wayne-2016

I know some readers prefer a text version, and so voilà:

Pokémon – 16

4 Froakie BKP

4 Frogadier BKP

4 Greninja BKP

3 Greninja BREAK

1 Jirachi XY67

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

3 N

1 Ace Trainer

1 Fisherman

1 Lysandre

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Bursting Balloon

4 Dive Ball

3 Trainers’ Mail

2 Super Rod

2 Ultra Ball

1 Professor’s Letter

 

4 Faded Town

Energy – 10

6 W

4 Splash

I wish I’d had this idea at Worlds, to tell the truth. Sure, Faded Town wasn’t necessary, but Splash Energy as a concept would’ve been a decent thing to have around when dealing with Night March beatdown. In any event, I feel this list is as close to perfect for this variant of the deck as it was ever going to get without Fort Wayne’s results, and still even now don’t really know that I’d change anything for London.

I think I did everything in reverse today, and have already expounded on the nuances of the list at this point, so I’m going to move on to a summary of my day:

Fort Wayne Regionals // 635 Masters

R1 Mewtwo-EX/Dragonite-EX EVO/Unown AOR (2-1)
R2 Yveltal-EX/Garbodor BKP (1-2)
R3 Vileplume Toolbox (2-1)
R4 M Gardevoir-EX STS (0-2)
R5 Zygarde-EX/Carbink BREAK/Medicham PRC 81 (2-1)
R6 M Gardevoir-EX STS (2-0)
R7 Greninja (60-card mirror) (1-2)
R8 M Scizor-EX/Raticate EVO (W)
R9 Yveltal-EX/Zoroark BKT (2-0)

Final: 6-3-0 // 84th place

Round 2 was disappointing. In Game 1, I eliminated his Garbodor from the board and took a commanding 5-2 Prize lead, but fell victim to an N that saw me draw nothing for over five turns. Unfortunately, that can be a reality of playing so many niche Items and Pokémon in a deck.

I had the option to use my lone card, a W Energy, to either attack with my damaged Greninja BREAK or a Benched, fresh Greninja. If I were to keep the BREAK around topdeck a W Energy, I would win the following turn.

froakie hmm bluekomadoribluekomadori.tumblr.comBut, if I used the Benched Greninja and he achieved a KO, that Yveltal-EX would probably run through my board. In a way, by using the BREAK, I encouraged him to divert resources to a 2nd Pokémon — but the gamble didn’t work out. I did draw a Water the next turn, but my BREAK was dead, and even some crazy Bubble luck wasn’t enough to keep me afloat.

I repeated Game 1’s mantra again in Game 2, but this time wasn’t N’d, so I won easily. Game 3 served as a reminder that a lone Froakie is not a particularly frightening specter. Alex Hill went 3-1 vs this matchup during his tournament run, so I do still feel the matchup is very solid.

Both games in Round 4 were what Worlds conditioned me to expect from Greninja. I prized a Frogadier and missed the Splash in Game 1, which meant that I only had two Frogadier going into turn 3. As such, I didn’t have enough of a board to set up the Ace Trainer/Stitching/“stick it out” plan, and he simply rolled me as I was forced to use Moonlight Slash to keep any degree of pace. In Game 2, I got the Splash to save my Duplicater, but I didn’t ever find a Greninja, so I was summarily ended.

Greninja mirror is a far less appalling affair than it used to be, as without Rough Seas, games do at least end. I got the better of my opponent in Game 1 and got destroyed with a dead hand in Game 2. Game 3 was a bit different, as I had an excellent hand of 3 Greninja and a W Energy, with 2 Froakie in play … but lacked a Frogadier. By the time I attained one, it ended up that neither of us utilized Water Duplicates in the game. In the end, the game came down to one turn where I took a gamble on my lone Giant Water Shuriken of the game. I missed on that gamble, and came 10 damage short of forcing Bursting Balloon-enabled Sudden Death.

Otherwise, I beat the things that I expected to beat, but just a bit too infrequently. I firmly believe the deck was a great call, as Chris Derocher’s T4, Dominic Bargardi’s T32, and Alex Hill/I’s Top 128s demonstrated. Yet another person in our group started 5-1 before slipping out of contention, so overall, I believe it was a highly successful call, and I strongly believe it’s playable in London.


With that, I’m going to wrap up my personal Fort Wayne discussion. I hope you found the narrative useful, and, if nothing else, can take away something from the unorthodox Volcanion and Greninja lists. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to reach out on the forums or some other media of your choice.

London’s Calling

1. Jimmy PendarvisYveltal-EX/Garbodor
2. Andrew MahoneYveltal-EX/Garbodor
3. Chris Derocher … Greninja BREAK
4. Caleb Gedemer … Rainbow Road
5. Clinton Kirkwood … Volcanion-EX
6. Ahmed Ali … Volcanion-EX
7. Devon Tilson … M Scizor-EX/Garbodor
8. Wesley Hollenberg … Zygarde-EX/Carbink BREAK

In looking to the future, I think this Top 8 is telling. Yveltal will always be present, Rainbow Road is a force, and Volcanion is so simply powerful that it won’t ever fall completely from favor. Things like M Scizor and Zygarde are probably unlikely to be elite mainstays in the tournament scene, but they and similar ideas will pop up from time to time. We have 3 more major events in the XY–EVO format, and when you sprinkle in the Mega decks (which were surprisingly shut out of Top 8), this probably paints a pretty complete picture of the format.

Between now and London, Garchomp and Salamence will both see Mega Evolution lines become legal for play. Garchomp is actually not even that terrible itself, but Salamence has the potential to significantly upend a portion of the format. Punishing decks that rely on a heavy-EX presence on their board is a tantalizing concept, and one that a few will be eager to add to their repertoire. M Salamence also intrigues me, and while London — which figures to be Garbodor-ridden — may not be the time for it to shine, a durable attacker with minimal retreat that can hit for big damage without utilizing terribly excessive resources is a valuable commodity.

I’m going to kick off my post-Fort Wayne deck discussion today with a look at an updated Darkrai/Dragons, then get into a new archetype that could emerge in Salamence’s wake. Finally, I’d like to consider Raikou/Electrode, which has piqued my interest but not yet been covered on 6P.

Old Friends: Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor v2

It’s well-documented that Alex Hill and I made a few enemies after the Origins Win-a-Trip tournament last June by exposing Darkrai/Giratina prior to US Nationals. Ironically, for a deck that is relatively difficult to directly counter, it’s only done notably well when it’s flying under the radar. In a way, it lacks a big attacker to win the slugfest typical of heavy-EX deck matchups. Salamence fixes that dilemma.

Pokémon – 13

3 Darkrai-EX BKP

2 Giratina-EX AOR

1 Salamence-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Yveltal XY

2 Trubbish BKP

2 Garbodor BKP

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

1 Lysandre

1 Olympia

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Max Elixir

3 Trainers’ Mail

3 Fighting Fury Belt

3 Float Stone

1 Super Rod

 

2 Parallel City

1 Sky Field

Energy – 14

10 D

4 Double Dragon

The list is pretty similar to past ones we’ve seen, as the shell inherently needs to be fairly static, but I believe Salamence adds an incredible tool for the deck. Now matchups that aren’t mitigated by Giratina or winnable with pure Dark swarm (which tend to be the ones featuring multiple heavy-hitting EXs) can be boosted by Salamence. I believe this may be exactly what the deck needed to push it over the edge and back into serious contention.

salamence-ex-xy-promos-xy170
Big damage is now possible.

The only critical card missing is the 2nd Lysandre. The Sky Field, which I’ve added to mitigate some of the space crunch that this deck can experience, could be a legitimate option for that cut. It may also be worth considering a Hydreigon-EX as a Jolteon or Regice counter.

I believe the Yveltal-EX/Garbodor matchup is potentially an interesting affair with Salamence added. I feel Greninja, at least as I’ve had it built, could be a sketchier matchup, as you lack any way to efficiently 1HKO Frogs. Volcanion should become reasonably comfortable, as even if they play around Salamence and don’t allow it to 1HKO a Volcanion, it still will threaten Shaymin as a semi-bulky presence. Add in a threat to deal with Mega decks, and Salamence could push this concept back over the edge toward success.

I think this is a potentially compelling under-the-radar play for London. Chaos Wheel is inherently powerful as an effect and the compatibility between Double Dragon and Darkrai is undeniable. Salamence adds the easy 1HKO option that has been sorely missing in critical matchups, and Max Elixir continues to find itself a dominant part of the game’s Trainer engines. If nothing else, I would at least play a game or two with your London pick against this deck, as its similarities with a number of different archetypes make it a reasonably useful litmus test anyway.

Dragon Quest: Salamence-EX/Dragons

Pokémon – 14

4 Reshiram ROS
2 Giratina-EX AOR
2 Salamence-EX
1 M Salamence-EX
2 Hydreigon-EX
2 Shaymin-EX ROS
1 Hoopa-EX AOR

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Sycamore
2 N

1 Brock’s Grit

1 Hex Maniac
1 Lysandre
1 Olympia

 

4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
3 Max Elixir
2 Escape Rope
1 Switch
3 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Weakness Policy
1 Special Charge
1 Super Rod

1 Sky Field

 

2 Parallel City

Energy – 13

9 R
4 Double Dragon

The strategy itself is fairly simple: Use whatever attacker best fits your situation. To state the obvious, it’s a tight list — there are easily 10 more cards I could “want” in here before I ran out of easy inclusions. M Salamence probably looks a bit out of place, but if an early opportunity to establish it on the board emerges, it’s one heck of an attacker in a deck that can stack basic Fires. It’s probably not something you go for every game, let alone every matchup — and as such, might be a bad inclusion — but it’s something I certainly want to test out.

Notable: Reshiram can Turboblaze to itself. 110 is never a terrible thing to hit for, especially in Standard, so it’s not an option you should completely ignore. It’s a solid way to take out a Shaymin to finish off the game, or to start the process of 2HKOing an EX.

Other things you may wish to consider in the list would include Professor’s Letter, a different Stadium complement (locking Faded Town in play sounds fun), a different Tool lineup (Weakness Policy is only included as a way to have a chance against Gardevoir, but they have Rattata to cause trouble), and a 3rd Giratina-EX. Space might be created by removing 1 of the 3 recovery cards or a Tool.

The deck’s prospects in London aren’t necessarily too hot, admittedly. I have no certain pulse on the amount of Yveltal/Garbodor that should be expected, but it’s not exactly a number I’d peg lowly under any circumstance. I don’t think this deck scoops to Yveltal by any means, but the problems that come with Ability lock should be relatively obvious. It’d be in a position to do well if M Rayquaza was a dominating force in the room, but otherwise, I mostly want to throw the idea out to illustrate how the concept may work when a more friendly metagame is found (and to forewarn you that finding Salamence is going to prove a very difficult task the longer you wait).

The Thunderdome: Raikou/Electrode

Regrettably, this didn’t see any coverage on here after seeing a Top 8 finish in Dortmund the weekend prior to Fort Wayne. I don’t know that it’s an especially stellar deck, but my math indicates that it’s not bad at all (though, my former general lack of unfamiliarity with the concept does lead me to caution against taking that number at face value).

Here’s the list I’ll be using as Alex Hill and I test for London:

Pokémon – 12

4 Raikou BKT
2 Voltorb ROS
2 Electrode EVO
1 Jolteon-EX
1 Jirachi XY67
2 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Sycamore
2 Lysandre
2 N
1 Ace Trainer
1 Brock’s Grit
1 Hex Maniac

 

4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
4 Max Elixir
3 Trainers’ Mail

3 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Exp. Share
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Escape Rope
1 Super Rod

 

2 Parallel City
2 Rough Seas

Energy – 11

11 L

I have no idea why a concept whose inherent goal is to fall behind in Prizes before storming for a comeback wouldn’t play Ace Trainer. It, critically, provides the resources needed to keep your side of the board moving while mitigating your opponent’s options, potentially from a very early point in the game. Additionally, I believe Rough Seas is an important part of keeping your Energy on the board, which is an inherently essential part of this deck’s goal.

electrode-evolutions-evo-40
It’s like Eelektrik, but rounder. (And it Knocks itself Out.)

One idea I’m considering is Pikachu-EX. While it runs completely counterintuitive to the stated goal of accumulating an overwhelming board state of your own, it can act as either an emergency stopgap measure or an end-game finisher. If your opponent has dedicated significant resources to one critical Pokémon while ignoring the rest of their board, a surprise Pikachu (made possible by Electrode and Max Elixir) could win you back enough control of the board to pull out the game. It’s not a play to make lightly, however, as the potential 3-Prize investment it requires (Electrode, Pikachu once it’s KO’d) is a hefty price to pay. Perhaps more frequently, the same play is a decent way to finish the game off, which reduces the assumed cost to 1 Prize of your own.

The only standard scenario where I envision regularly using Electrode more than once per game involves Pikachu as an endgame. Otherwise, it’s probably too much of a risk with Enhanced Hammer floating around to be giving up more than 1 Prize card per game to Buzzap Thunder.

As a play for London, I believe it’s potentially positioned well due to the Yveltal hype. Even though Garbodor will limit Abilities’ use, the type advantage is a significant factor to overcome. Yveltal BKT is pretty useless for them in this matchup, meaning the EX will be forced to make more of an impact for the Dark Side than would be ideal in any matchup, let alone one with a typing disparity. London is going to be hard to predict, but I would be intrigued by the durable non-EX attacker offered here.

Sweet Honey: Vespiquen

I’m not sure there’s ever been a point in the game more intriguing, yet so far from perfect, for Vespiquen. Karen is included in almost no decks (though, if I were going to London, it’d be on my tech shortlist), Yveltal is currently ruling the world, and many other top-tier players like Rainbow Road aren’t a real issue. I don’t have a perfected list at all, but this is my first testing thought:

Pokémon – 30

4 Combee AOR
4 Vespiquen AOR 10
3 Blitzle BKP
3 Zebstrika BKP
4 Unown AOR
4 Klefki STS
3 Shaymin-EX ROS
2 Yanma STS
2 Yanmega STS
1 Yanmega BREAK

Trainers – 26

4 Professor Sycamore
1 Lysandre
1 N
1 Hex Maniac
1 Pokémon Ranger

 

4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
4 Trainers’ Mail
2 Revitalizer
1 Special Charge

 

2 Parallel City
1 Faded Town

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

Yveltal has never had a great answer for Vespiquen’s measured damage output, and it definitely doesn’t right now. Combine a decent matchup with the preeminent BDIF and good matchups with many of the side decks, and Vespiquen is well-poised for a Europe takeover. Especially when considering Greinja has been a large part of many European tournaments — not that Greninja is especially easy, but it’s definitely winnable — this has to be a consideration for anyone crossing the Pond (or the Channel).

Zebstrika and Yanmega complement Yanmega, but with different purposes. Zebstrika is nearly universal in its function due to Shaymin-EX’s resistance, but Yanmega more adeptly serves as an early game or stopgap measure to preserve DCE while still dishing decent damage. But, in all likelihood, I imagine Yanmega will probably find its way to the discard pile quickly in most games.

If Karen continually ceases to be seen in lists, I believe Vespiquen will find its way up through the cracks to see success. If I were heading to London, I would absolutely be considering this deck — while also keeping it in the back of my mind as something I might expect other top players to bring.

The list is very rough, so it’ll be an evolving work, but I hope it’s somewhere you can start your testing.

Conclusion

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The season has been challenging but overly exhausting thus far.

Four Regionals — and less League Cups — into the 2017 tournament season, we’re starting to get a picture of how the series is going to run. Unfortunately, that picture is a bit foggy — and what we can see of it isn’t pretty. League Cups may finally make their way to a game store near you in the coming weeks, but it’s hard to see how they’re going to manage to succeed while being swamped by tons of point-hungry players. Hopefully, the future brings better frontiers, as has been promised.

In addition, Regionals have become late-night grinds that border on insane. Furthermore, if you think it’s a tiring day as a player, think about the staff member who’s awake and in the hall two hours or more before you — and up/in attendance earlier on Day 2 as well. I strongly believe the structure as it’s currently composed is unsustainable for all stakeholders, and I will be back sometime (perhaps, the gap between or last UG article of next week and London) with an article discussing potential options for improving a system that currently seems doomed to fail in the end.

I will not be in London, but for those that will, feel free to reach out with any questions that I’ve failed to address today. I’ll next be seen (likely, with my Night March list) in San Jose.

Best of luck,

Christopher


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