Hello everyone! It’s good to be back and writing again. It feels quite odd to me to be in the throes of winter and not be anticipating weekend after weekend competing at City Championships. I have been playing Pokémon competitively since 2010 and the Cities gauntlet was always my favorite part of every season. In truth, I think that removing them our competitive circuit was probably a correct decision but it will take some time adjusting to League Cups in their stead. I know in some areas, Cups have begun to be scheduled but it remains to be seen if my general area will be receiving them any time soon. It would be unfortunate if I had to go another quarter without being able to add any of these to my Best Finishes but hopefully this will not be the case.
My last article, if you’ll recall, focused entirely on Gardevoir and how I believed it to be the best deck in the format and at the time, I wholeheartedly believed this to be the case. However, the metagame began to shift in a direction where I suddenly became uncomfortable with it as a viable option. I tested, tested, and tested Gardevoir continuously even after writing my article and I believe I arrived at the perfect list for the deck but the emergence of several new decks began to shake my confidence.
Scizor as an archetype always existed but it never seemed to be at the forefront of the metagame and so while it existed primarily as a monster off in the distance, it did not warrant my attention. However, one of my main testing partners outside of my Sheep, Travis Nunlist, began testing Scizor/Raticate very early after Evolutions had been released. According to him, Raticate gave the deck the versatility to be much more of a competitive threat than just a rogue deck that was there to beat Gardevoir. Still, I was a skeptic towards Scizor but I knew that if this Scizor were to pick up popularity in the metagame, it would be somewhat unfortunate for my favorite deck.
To compound things further, the existence of the Pidgeot/Garbodor deck was also brought to my attention by Dean Nezam and Kolton Day. Allegedly, this was the St. Louis area’s secret deck for Fort Wayne and thus I knew it would be necessary to defeat in order to retain my favor of Gardevoir. Unfortunately, I found this matchup to be close to impossible. The deck’s general strategy proved very strong against Gardevoir as the combination of Garbodor and Parallel City limited Gardevoir’s damage and general consistency. Mirror Move could match your damage output for one Energy and obviously one Energy on a Basic compared to two on a Mega Evolution made things incredibly difficult and it would be rare for Gardevoir to be able to OHKO and Pidgeot with Despair Ray. Kolton’s build of the deck also featured Magearna-EX which could knock out Gardevoir’s with ease and were as resilient as any of the other Pokémon in the deck. In retrospect, I greatly overestimated the popularity of this deck but it was simply another factor that inevitably scared me off Gardevoir.
The final straw however was simply a reexamination of the matchup analysis I provided in my last article. To put things bluntly, several of Gardevoir’s matchups that I listed as even or slightly favorable were simply a matter of going first. Even alleged auto-wins like Mega Mewtwo could be somewhat difficult if you lost the coin flip and that just soured me on the deck even further. Coinflip matchups are never fun, even if you happen to be able to win them every time and knowing that Fort Wayne would require much more than luck in order to succeed.
For those curious, my final list for the deck was only one card off what I posted in the last article where Raticate was cut for a third Fairy Drop which further helped the Yveltal/Garbodor matchup but certainly did nothing for any of the matchups Gardevoir tended to struggle with.
Looking towards the future, I strongly believe that Gardevoir can still be a strong deck in the right metagame and can serve as a pocket pick for various League Challenges and Cups until the release of Sun & Moon but versus a more questionable metagame, I think that my opinion has shifted towards the norm of my other writers here at SixPrizes where it is a solid tier 2 deck and not the BDIF I lauded it as earlier in the year.
I abandoned my testing of Gardevoir just a few days before Fort Wayne and I had to scramble to decide what I wanted to play. Initially, my thoughts took me to playing a somewhat standard Greninja list but through the little bit of testing I was able to fit in my busy schedule, I found the deck to very inconsistent. The “Greninja hands” as I began to call them where you just happened to N or Professor Sycamore into hands with nothing playable or just clumps of Pokémon seemed to happen about 1/6 of the time which seemed disastrous for surviving a 14-round event.
I eventually worked Talonflame back into my list not because I thought it was “needed” but to simply try and boost the consistency of the deck and try and prevent the games where you got benched within the first couple turns. For those curious, here is the list that I was planning on playing and currently still have sleeved:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 33
1 Town Map
Energy – 8
I think, to a large degree, that this list is considerably different than the “standard” that has been established from the Michigan crew’s four copies of Splash Energy and while I am hesitant to play so many Special Energy in a format where double Enhanced Hammer is almost a staple in every deck, I think that some synthesis of this list and Chris Derocher’s list are probably correct. I think an easy compromise with this list could be to cut one of my Super Rod for a third Splash!
Almost all will likely disagree with my choice to play Talonflame but I still think it is the deck’s best option to try and eliminate some of its inherent inconsistency. I bite the bullet on the consistency of starting with Talonflame by leaving Jirachi in the list but I think this card is just too useful not to play. Greninja is the type of deck that wants all the time in the world to set up and Jirachi can be invaluable in accomplish this end. Even in games where it just sits in the Active spot and gets knocked out, it gets something done by making it all the more difficult to KO something useful on your Bench.
The addition of Rough Seas was the idea of Mees Brenninkmeijer who you all know is one of my closest friends and primary testing partners. In our experience, Faded Town is not a necessity. We found that Mega Mewtwo decks tend to have the advantage with or without the card and Gardevoir is still slightly favorable even without Rough Seas and against decks like Yveltal, the Faded Town are obviously useless. Mees played Greninja to a top 32 finish at a recent Regionals and the International and while he disagreed with my inclusion of Talonflame, he swore by the Rough Seas and the odd copy of Delinquent. For me, Delinquent has become a staple in every single deck that I play since I played two copies of it to carry me through the first day of the 2016 World Championships. Stadiums play a vital role in the current format and it just never seems bad to have an option to get rid of the card. Additionally, many players will forget to play around the card, especially if they do not expect it, which can lead to some immediate victories.
The main exemption from this list that you might notice is the lack of Fisherman. I never found the card to be too useful and with three copies of Super Rod, I never felt the pinch for Energy. I think it could easily fit into the deck if you really wanted it, but I would almost rather play more Energy instead.
Finally, the last card I want to address here is the copy of Hex Maniac, which you may have never seen before in a Greninja list. Its inclusion was a last-minute swap for Pokémon Ranger, which I found to be a mostly useless card. Pokémon Ranger only sees play in Greninja as a way to hedge against the mirror but is useless almost everywhere else. Hex Maniac accomplishes almost the exact same thing (and itself cannot be negated by Pokémon Ranger) while being much more useful against virtually every other deck in the format.
Though I am still somewhat uncertain of how Greninja ought to be built, I am incredibly confident in my current Supporter count and would recommend giving it a try in your build of the deck even if you want to opt out of playing Talonflame as well.
As I traveled to Fort Wayne, Greninja had become my top pick but I was not happy about it and eagerly looking for another option. I met up in Indianapolis with the aforementioned Travis Nunlist along with Dustin Zimmerman and Eric Gansman. All three of them, interestingly enough, were completely enamored Scizor/Raticate. I remained skeptical throughout the evening knowing that it would be a total gamble to play the deck. However as the night went on, I watched Eric earn five or six crushing victories in a row against a wide variety of decks. I was soon transformed into a believer in the deck and scrambled to get the cards in order to complete it.
Travis covered the deck in sufficient detail in his last article and I want to commend him for discussing a deck publically that he easily could have kept a secret until after the tournament. This transparency is something I think SixPrizes owes to its readers and as discussed last time, something I would like to continue to work on in the general presentation of all my future articles. The list itself only changed two cards from Travis’s list, which was my contribution to the group, though admittedly it was a small one:
- As mentioned above, I think that Delinquent deserves a spot in every deck and I convinced everyone to add it into the list instead of the second Parallel City.
- We also cut the Shield Energy as it served little utility outside of preventing Gyarados from OHKO’ing a Mega Scizor and was a general liability against the wide amount of Special Energy hate that we expected to be popular for the day.
For reference though, here is the list we all ended up playing:
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 38
Energy – 8
Though we knew this deck was strong, it was also the ultimate gamble. Volcanion and Greninja were both unwinnable matchups barring a miracle and so remaining confident in Scizor was one of the gutsiest calls I’ve ever made for such a large tournament.
Briefly, here is my synopsis for the Fort Wayne Regional Championship:
Fort Wayne Regionals // 635 Masters
R1 Lugia/Zebstrika/Magerna (WW)
R2 Mega Rayquaza (WW)
R3 Rainbow Road (WLL)
R4 Mega Scizor/Techs (LWW)
R5 Mega Gardevoir (WW)
R6 Volcanion (LL)
R7 Volcanion (LL)
Final: 4-3 // Drop
Unfortunately, I had the worst draw of the group losing to Volcanion back-to-back after which I decided to drop from the tournament. My loss to Rainbow Road was a result of drawing completely dead in the second game and failing to find any Energy over the first several turns in the third. That matchup was mine to lose and luck went in the opposite direction. Dropping at 4-3 might sound foolish to some but when you have as polarizing of matchups as our deck, I figured my chances to be able to dodge both Greninja and Volcanion and defeat any other deck were low and I decided to end my tournament early in favor of spending time with certain friends that I am only able to see once or twice a year.
Despite my luck, I am happy with the deck performance as the Travis finished the tournament at 12th where his only losses were to deck we knew we could not beat and Eric finishing at 6-3 garnering some Championship Points of his own.
Like Gardevoir, I think that Mega Scizor is somewhat shaky in large, Regionals-sized metagames but as a pocket pick for smaller tournaments like League Cups and League Challenges, I’m confident it can show up and steal points away from unsuspecting players. Our group finished X-0 against Yveltal/Garbodor, which after London has completely defined itself as the BDIF of the format, but we’ll get more into that in the next section.
I think that the real elephant in the room about the Standard format right now is absolutely the dominance of Yveltal/Garbodor. How exactly can it be that a card and archetype that has survived multiple rotations remains the top deck years after its inception? I think that the answer to this requires a proper analysis but I believe that the main answer lies in its simplicity.
The KISS principle maintains the idea that overcomplicating something can only lead to obscuring an object or task from its initial goal. In Pokémon, naturally, our “goal” is to win as many games as possible and so by creating a deck to do this without a minimum number of conditions to meet in order to be successful, we ought to find the most efficacious deck. Yveltal is exactly as simple as it can get, needing next to nothing for it to function properly. Evil Ball has been one of the most powerful and threatening attacks in the game since its release in XY and for only two Energy, Yveltal-EX can essentially contest the entire format with a bare minimum of resources.
It is for this reason, I believe, that Yveltal remains so dominant even against decks like Gardevoir, which I maintain, ought to be favorable against this dark menace. However, ought does not express certainty and like many things, it only expresses a degree of possibility. If Gardevoir “ought” to beat Yveltal then it requires an equal or even greater number of things to go right. In this instance, I am referring to things like “need to draw into the Spirit Link, need to attach two Energy from the hand, need to be able to find both the Basic and the Mega Evolution, need to draw into Fairy Drop at the right time,” and so on. Certainly, if all of these requirements are indeed met, then Gardevoir should handily defeat Yveltal. However, as I’ve said before, ought is about possibility and possibility exists as a concept and not as a statement of real world affairs.
The more conditions that a deck must meet, the more room there is for error to occur. In each instance where something needs to happen, there is an equal or greater opportunity for it not to happen. Gardevoir has so many more conditions that must be met compared to Yveltal which not only has fewer conditions but also has more than one way to reach them! For instance, Gardevoir needs to evolve and requires two Energy to attack and to meet this requirement and can either manually attach or Mega Turbo (which itself requires further conditions to be met) while Yveltal has manual attachments, Max Elixir (which is has less requirements to utilize than Mega Turbo), Oblivion Wing, and so on.
This may sound like merely stating the obvious and in a way it is exactly that. In logic though, it is important to never take anything for granted and to be careful in dissecting everything and applying the correct about of weight to each factor, if that makes sense. My use of Gardevoir is only one example of where Yveltal is able to shine through its simplicity or lack of complication. I believe that we could run this type of analysis on every meta deck (including everyone that is “favored” against Yveltal) and in every instance we would find that Yveltal always needs less in order to function which is exactly why it is so dominant! I hope my point here is clearly because it would definitely take way too much time to do such a comparison but I would be more than happy to try and explain this further in the comment section if the interest remains!
The last time I can remember an equivalent show of force was at the 2012 World Championships where Darkrai/Mewtwo was three of the top four spots and the fourth deck was yet another Darkrai deck. Unlike a deck like Night March (a deck I spent a good deal of time complaining about), I don’t think that the current iteration of Yveltal/Garbodor is toxic for the game. I find that the deck is somewhat difficult to play and that the mirror match needs to be treated incredibly carefully or else you set yourself up to be manipulated in a battle of resources. The results of Fort Wayne Regionals and the Europe Internationals ought to prove that the deck’s popularity only rewards the most skilled of players.
If you cannot beat them, join them I say and thus to conclude this section, here is my current list for the deck:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 36
Energy – 13
As I’m sure you’re well accustomed to by now, there is nothing too different about this list compared to all of the other ones. My main “innovation” was to simply cut the Trainers’ Mail entirely to try to include as many tech options as possible. The norm for Trainers’ Mail seemed to be two copies, which ultimately did not feel worth including. I am a big fan of the card but often I think that we overrate its usefulness in any given deck. I did the exact same thing with my WaterBox list at Nationals and never felt like I missed out on any consistency by not having Trainers’ Mail in the deck.
Four copies of Yveltal-EX leads to the most aggressive of openings and I think Special Charge is preferable to Super Rod as it allows for your late-game to be all the more threatening as well as prevent the effectiveness of opposing Enhanced Hammers or Raticate.
In the last section today, I want to try and get everyone prepared for San Jose and the return of the Expanded format. In recent months, I have spent a good deal of time practicing and competing at Street Fighter V and for that game (and the Fighting Game Community in general) players use the term “in the lab” to discuss what they have been working on or practicing with. This can pertain to learning characters, practicing combos, or even specific matchups but in general it simply indicates any area that you work on in order to improve.
With that in mind, I am admittedly unfamiliar with Expanded and will not be playing any tournaments in this format until sometime in 2017 which is why I would like to refer to all my exploration in Expanded as “in the lab.” I have three archetypes I would like to briefly discuss today but they are all works in progress and so I would like for as much comments or criticisms about the following lists:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 37
Energy – 11
As a concept, this deck has never really existed in the Expanded format though it has had the opportunity to do so for several years now. Yveltal/Garbodor’s success in Standard inspired me to consider the deck’s potential in Expanded and I think that I have found that the concept could easily strive.
Its matchup against opposing Dark decks should remain close to even as even with Garbodor, you still have the resources to make large Evil Balls and trade knockouts. Garbodor should prove effective against decks like Greninja which proved that they could defeat Yveltal decks even through Archeops at the Phoenix Regional Championship but turning off their Abilities seems like a more effective strategy.
In addition to this, your Dark typing should keep Trevenant at bay as well and if Night March or Vespiquen decks remain popular, I think that you could easily add Karen to the deck (if this proves to beat either of those decks). Garbodor also has notable utility against things like Eelektrik, Crobat, and so on and I think it should be highly considered looking forward to this weekend.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
I talked about this deck the last time I discussed decks in Expanded and I still wholeheartedly believe this to be a sleeper hit in the format. Its largest foe in Vespiquen is largely unpopular in Expanded and I think that it is well positioned against almost every other deck in the format. The annoyance of Item lock is very difficult for Yveltal decks and Night March to handle. The heal of Rough Seas makes Trevenant a very manageable matchup. Aurorus is able to make short work of Greninja and I think that your plethora of Energy cards and healing can easily mitigate any opposing Seismitoad decks. Raikou/Eelektrik and Primal Groudon-EX are almost assuredly poor matchups but I think the field is largely favorable.
Like Yveltal/Garbodor, I think that this deck has no tournament results simply because no one has given it the proper chance. I could easily be wrong in theory, but to me it seems promising.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 35
Energy – 14
This deck saw a meteoric rise to the forefront of the metagame last summer and disappeared almost as fast. After Nationals, this deck found itself between a rock and a hard place and was no longer situated in the right format for it to thrive but with the release of Salamence-EX, I think this deck has the potential to dominate. The damage output of Salamence is incredible and can lead you to easily overpowering any deck that does not have a proper answer to it.
Giratina-EX will always be useful against certain decks and while the card has mostly fallen out of favor in Standard, I think it is considerably more formidable in Expanded where more decks are reliant on their special energy. Similarly, I do not think this concept is currently viable in Standard as too many decks often run two or more copies of Enhanced Hammer but deck space is much more limited in Expanded and I do not foresee it as being problematic at this point in time.
After the Dragons, there is still Darkrai to cleanup in the back and through Double Dragon, it can still easily achieve high amounts of damage and its typing of course will remain problematic for any looming Trevenant decks.
I think this deck is an absolute blast to play but of the three Expanded decks discussed in this section, it is the one I am most uncertain about. However, I would urge everyone to give all three of the decks equal consideration and hopefully you might uncover something I might’ve missed and be able to take an even stronger deck to San Jose. I myself will not be in attendance but I want to wish all those in attendance the best of luck!
I am unsure when I will be competing next but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. I do not think that Georgia Regionals is going to fit into my schedule, which may mean my Pokémon is on hiatus until sometime in February or March which is unfortunate but I will still be doing my very best to garner an invite to Worlds again this year. I hope you have liked the article today and as always, I would love to read and respond to any feedback or criticism you might have. Until next time!
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