If there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from today, it’s this: please, please never play Greninja in a tournament. I know, it’s tempting: 170-HP non-EXs, accelerated evolution, and an incredibly efficient attack and Ability. You can even fit tricks like Max Potion and Bursting Balloon!
It’s a tempting prospect. Don’t fall for it. One game, you’ll be on top of the world: a full suite of BREAKs, healing engine firing on all cylinders, and your opponent cornered. Then next, those same Bursting Balloons, Max Potions, and VS Seekers that enabled your prolific rise will accompany a lone Froakie as your hopes of success slip away. The “Greninja hand” phenomena, naturally, usually makes its presence felt when you least can afford it.
If you haven’t figured it out already, I played Greninja this weekend in Athens. If you haven’t figured out the outcome of the weekend, well … “mediocre” is probably the proper term. Today, I’m going to talk (as minimally as possible) about my experience this weekend before moving into discussion of Sun & Moon. It’s crazy to think about, but PRC–EVO is finally primarily in the rearview mirror, and the next major tournament (Anaheim) will take place with the new block released.
Greninja. It’s a deck I’ve played a few times this season, most successfully to a heartbreaking conclusion in Fort Wayne. I didn’t have an article at hand, so it’s not been covered previously, but in San Jose, I also chose the Frogs — and promptly went 0-4. At that point I swore I’d never play the deck again, but, as they say, old habits die hard.
I was drawn to it in Georgia because:
- I lacked a better option. My brother and mother, who usually end up playing something similar to myself and Alex Hill, played Vileplume and M Rayquaza respectively (and both finished ahead of me, notably). We simply lacked consensus. Until late on the night before the tournament, Rainbow Road was the frontrunner, but we unfortunately concluded it simply lost to too much too often to be a viable play.
- Greninja, when it runs well enough, can and will beat pretty much anything. It’s that simple.
- I expected the room to have a very good amount of M Rayquaza, M Gardevoir, and other semi Ability-reliant decks that struggle against Greninja. In addition, I felt the list we had fared very well against the Speed Dark concept that was seeing sizable hype heading into the event.
- The list we had was designed to beat mirror. I was fairly sure Greninja would be among the biggest decks at the event, so beating mirror was an absolute must.
Seems good enough, right? Well, this was the list we settled on:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 33
1 Eco Arm
Energy – 9
I made Top 8 at a League Cup last week with a list two cards off this one, so there was some history with the concept for me to cling to in comfort, I suppose. The Eco Arm is a strange idea that ended up paying off in mirror. In a game played by throwing 40 damage around a lot of times, the extra 60 adds up remarkably quickly. While we didn’t feel the need to go all out on a Bent Spoon, flexible techs like this one were something we were willing to take a chance on.
I don’t believe the list is otherwise remarkable. If you’re considering braving its flaws for a League Cup (don’t, though) or are simply thoroughly interested, I’d be happy to discuss other specific card choices we made. For now, though, this was my day:
Athens Regionals // Day 1 // 682 Masters
R1 M Mewtwo-EX BKT 64/Garbodor BKP (1-1)
R2 Greninja BKP (2-0)
R3 Glaceon-EX/Jolteon-EX/Garbodor BKP (0-2)
R4 Yveltal-EX/Garbodor BKP (0-2)
R5 Greninja BKP (2-0)
R6 Yveltal-EX/Garbodor BKP (2-1)
R7 Greninja BKP(1-2)
R8 Gyarados AOR 21 (2-0)
R9 Greninja BKP (2-1)
Final: 5-3-1, 141st place
Overall, a disappointing day, as by the end of Round 4, I was essentially playing for Top 64. The fact that it was somewhere around 5:00 by the time I came to that point in the day certainly only served to make a mentally long day into a marathon. The list largely did what it was supposed to do in beating mirror and not being strictly “out” of many matchups. I don’t believe I’d have faced Yveltal/Garbodor if I’d managed to dodge Pablo Meza’s Glaceon/Garbodor contraption in Round 3, as it quickly fell by the wayside. The tie Round 1 was a great result as far as I was concerned, as M Mewtwo is not a matchup I have much business winning, but coming out of Round 1 with less than 3 Match Points makes for an infinitely harder day — both in the climb that must be made and the metagame it must be made in.
As for the rest of my friends, most piloted Greninja to negative records. In most cases, once the day got off track, it careened wildly off the rails. The lone exceptions were the two Alex’s, my brother and Alex Hill, with whom you’re surely familiar. The pair played Vileplume and Greninja, respectively, to 6-2 starts before unfortunately getting paired in Round 9. The Vileplume list Alex Schemanske played was exactly the same as my Dallas play (though, a Trevenant-EX was strongly considered over the 2nd Glaceon-EX), and Alex Hill played these exact 60 to an underwhelming Day 2 finish. After beating my brother, he was simply beat by Greninja itself. I’m sure he’ll have more to say on the subject on Friday, of course, so I’ll leave it there.
More than ever, it should be apparent that success in these large-scale grind tournaments is predicated on a variety of luck, deck selection, and skill. I’m usually hesitant to list the last factor in this context, as I believe the first (in the form of TOM) is an under-considered and primary influence on tournament success, but the truth is that I watched more games blown this weekend by questionable technical play than any tournament I’ve ever attended.
Masters Top 8 ended as follows:
- Darkrai-EX BKP
- Vespiquen AOR 10/Raticate EVO/Zebstrika BKP/Garbodor BKP/Octillery BKT
- Vespiquen AOR 10/Zebstrika BKP
- Darkrai-EX BKP
- M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76
- M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76
- M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76
- Vespiquen AOR 10/Zebstrika BKP
It’s the last major tournament in the format, so I don’t wish to delve too far down the rabbit hole of one tournament’s Top 8, but it’s notable that Yveltal-EX completely failed to place in this — failing to reach even Top 32. Just over one short month ago, Yveltal was literally ruling the world in London. Two tournaments later, it completely failed to make an impact. What happened?
For one thing, we’re seeing the effects of the information age begin to fully mature in Pokémon. It sounds a bit silly, as technology has been pervasive in the average American or European’s life for a significant portion of time, but the explosive growth of consumable information in the game over the last year has truly elevated metagame shifts to the next level. Once Yveltal ran the table in London, literally the entire Pokémon world knew to aim at its head. The result was a middling performance in Dallas and an outright extermination in Athens. Similarly, M Gardevoir, champion of Texas, completely fell apart in Athens. If we had another event in PRC–EVO, I would bet that M Rayquaza and Vespiquen would both fail to register more than a combined four Top 32 finishes, and would be unlikely to Top 8 at all. Players are simply adapting more quickly than ever.
The cause is twofold: for one thing, as I’ve already discussed, players of all levels are now able to access relatively good information freely from a variety of YouTube channels and liberally from the wealth of premium article site options available. While not an entirely new phenomena, the past year has truly seen information saturation dawn in Pokémon.
The critical flashpoint that has allowed this transformation, though, is the shift away from multiple Regional weekends and the elimination of States.
In the past, regional metagames were somewhat of a factor — perhaps more than any of us realized, honestly — in an event’s outcome. Players were more concerned about what was happening in their local area: Regionals weren’t as large and were often duplicated on a weekend, and States fundamentally required players to have good ground knowledge of local trends.
With the centralization of tournaments, two things are happening simultaneously: every content creator in the United States is focusing on exactly one event and more players are attending that event. Where in the past a site’s writer geographic balance would heavily influence its content, everyone is now on the same page at all times. Every writer and content creator is focusing on the exact same set of most-recent results with the exact same next step in mind. Now, with players attending events in places they’ve never done so before, nearly every testing group is represented at every major event. With cross-pollination between testing groups, the same ideas are on every wavelength, being repeat in something somewhat resemblant of an echo chamber.
Greninja was easily one of the biggest decks this weekend despite a middling Dallas performance and the release of a seeming hard counter to its existence. How could this happen? Because once one content creator — or even one major testing group behind the scenes — saw the potential it had to capitalize on the metagame Dallas created, the entire world had that knowledge available. Everyone is tuned into everyone else at all times. In the past, the seemingly gutsy Greninja call would’ve been a choice of relatively few, and relatively “good” players. In fact, I know some of you are even gawking at me calling Greninja a “gutsy” play! Everyone knew Speed Dark would supplant Yveltal, right? This time around, because the content community summarily declared the death of Yveltal after Dallas, players of all backgrounds had the means to follow the hive mind and make a choice on those grounds.
OK, Christopher, so the change in structure and proliferation of digital content has led to players that were previously less connected to make decisions in something much more resemblant of a hive mind. What does it mean for me?
To be totally honest … I’m not yet 100% sure! I will readily confess that the preceding explanation for the unprecedented clarity in metagame shift is an epiphany I’ve only recently developed, and I’m still weighing its implications. First and foremost, I believe the next logical step in content’s evolution is a classic “wine-in-front-of-me” dilemma (for those unaware, Princess Bride contains the reference in question). If I’m a player that knows Deck A won the last event, Deck B is the hyped successor, and Deck C beats B but not A, what do I play?
Strangely enough, I believe the answer varies by age division. For the number of parents and younger readers we have, I’d love to explore this a bit further real quick:
Depends whether you’re feeling lucky. Deck C would be the perfect gambit, but if you were to hit someone that’s been living under a local Geodude in Round 1, you can probably sign off on your death warrant at that point. If you were to navigate the first couple of rounds carefully, everything will probably be fine, and C is the kind of call that wins tournaments (see: Speed Dark, which loses to prepared Gardevoir but beats many of the other Gardevoir counters). For me, it probably comes down to which deck is more likely to simply execute its strategy over 20+ games. Tournaments are not won with lone Froakie.
Here’s the big caveat: trying to advance to Masters Day 2 and seeking Top 8 after Day 1 (as the younger divisions do) are two different orders. One requires compressed excellence over fewer rounds; the other is initially slightly more forgiving (or, it was before we had 680 people in an event). As a Master, I need to hit 7 out of 9 good (enough) matchups to put myself in a position to duke it out for Top 8. As a Senior, I need somewhere closer to 5/6 good matchups, and a Junior, 4/5 (assuming we can ID in the last round). It’s a different beast altogether.
The difference between Seniors and Juniors is a topic that increasingly fascinates me, and in part, it’s increasingly a product of the aforementioned centralization of information in the game. Above all, I predicate the differences in the two divisions on parents deck choice influence. I would be extraordinarily hesitant to proceed to Deck C in Seniors. In comparison to Juniors, parental influence over a player’s deck choice is significantly less, whereas when compared to Masters … well, I have bad news for the 13-year-old boys reading today: there’s simply more of a stubborn streak in that age than in the divisions surrounding it (or, at least, its resistance to parental influence is greater). It’s not a sentence I write lightly, and I urge you to consider my reasons for over-metagaming caution:
- Obviously, there are exceptions. I know that 13-year-old me would be indignant at the preceding point, and there are some who certainly have perfectly legitimate reasons to be similarly disputant of my statement — do the world a favor and strive to continue living as the exception to the rule. I’d love to try to quantify this someday, but in my experience, Pokémon, as a strategic game at heart, has a way of drawing families with more logically-oriented children. I raise this point only to say that I seek only to generalize the 85th percentile, not to throw Seniors collectively to the wind.
- This isn’t to say there aren’t stubbornly bad players in Juniors or Masters, only to advance the hypothesis that they have a greater impact on the Senior division’s outcome than in the other two cases. This is an effect of the 7–8 rounds, straight Top 8 cut and lessened parental influence on deck choice.
- With smaller attendances, things are inherently more volatile and even ironclad trends are more susceptible to statistical variance. This is, of course, an issue in Juniors as well.
- Seniors aren’t necessarily in a position to access the above content in a way that most Masters can, and most Junior parents (who have similar access abilities to Masters, obviously) still yield a significant amount of influence in their child’s deck decision — that simply isn’t the case in Seniors. Thus, they are less likely to coalesce around the national “conclusion.”
Aside from a few of you that are going to curse me for writing this, I believe Juniors is a fine balancing act between a child’s ability and the game of Pokémon. I would not hand a Junior a Vileplume Toolbox under most circumstances and except magic to occur out of thin air, no matter how favorable the field. In this case, choosing Deck B vs Deck C really comes down to the two decks’ inherent merit as concepts. If B is way more consistent and within your Junior’s comfort zone, I’d lean that way. Similarly, while I’m not convinced the Junior metagame will ever show the same elasticity as Masters’, I’d lean toward Deck C if it was the more effective deck overall. With all of that said: I wasn’t able to explain Juniors when my brother and I were trying to crack it five years ago; I’ve only gotten marginally better since.
The rabbit hole of metagaming aside, sadly, we once again saw the tournament structure artificially eliminate players from Top Cut contention. I’m particularly sorry to see the bubble in Juniors from this weekend, but the painstaking 33rd place exclusion in Masters simply defies sanity. I strongly believe a move toward non-binomial Cuts is essential for Day 2 Swiss and advisable for Top Cut, and perhaps we’ll eventually see something to that effect.
With that aside, the next adventure on everyone’s list is Sun & Moon. For those attending Anaheim, there’ll be the opportunity to play PRC–SM1 for the first time in the world (as Japan does not feature the PRC-on rotation, meaning the likes of Battle Compressor are still legal there at present). This means, for better or worse, that we’ll be lacking input from their events as we move into the early stages of Anaheim preparations.
Unlike most of my counterparts here at SixPrizes, I believe Sun & Moon is a pretty mediocre set — for the moment, at least. Lots of cards figure to see play eventually, but as of right now, I only have a few favorites that I feel are sure to see some degree of play:
Alolan Muk | view
I generally hate that this card was printed, but I think it’ll have its place in the format. Greninja, though you should never play it, is somewhere that it might be useful. Similarly, one of the many Grass types Sun & Moon offers might value it as a way to mitigate Volcanion without turning off their own Abilities. I think it’ll definitely have a niche to play.
Donks return! Or, at least, they could. The Turn 1 potential is definitely there on this card. My current “favorite” argument against it is that Garbodor is a card in the format. It’s almost like someone doesn’t understand the purpose of the Ability — depending on the approach taken, Trubbish might not be long for his own life. Even if a Garbodor does make it onto the field, I imagine it should’ve taken damage from a Feather Arrow at some point as a Trubbish, and should be easily disposable from that point. While I’m not convinced that the attack is anything to write home about, nor that the Ability is enough to win a long game by itself, I see a minimum of three applications for Decidueye:
- Donk — Like already discussed, it could be used to steal cheap Turn 1 wins. While eliminating EXs on Turn 1 is unlikely, it’s not totally impossible. Latios-EX can get us to 50 damage, and Devolution Spray/Feather Arrow can help augment the damage. With more evolution Pokémon seemingly headed for competitive play, it could be an interesting concept.
- Long game — The Ability’s damage will add up eventually, and the wealth of Grass support we now have will enable fairly decent setup. [G][C][C] for 90 isn’t terrible, and there are a couple of spread-type attackers that could be cheaply employable in such a concept. Perhaps even Espeon-GX could be of use. Oricorio SM1+, though, will be a huge boon for such an idea.
- Lock — If your opponent isn’t doing anything, Decidueye’s 20 will add up pretty quickly. As we’ll see, Sun & Moon isn’t shy about offering ways to guide your opponent into a “do-nothing” phase.
I really like where this card is headed, especially as its presence might serve to be the death knell for Greninja. When we get the non-GX Lurantis later this year (+20 damage for all of your Grass and Fire types), it’ll likely head off into the next level of playability. As it is, I feel it could be useful in everything from Speed Dark to Xerneas BREAK concepts.
I believe this will be a heavily played card. If that doesn’t happen right at the beginning of the format, I do expect it’ll be a fairly short time after. Drawing to 3 doesn’t seem especially exciting, but with Ultra Ball still around discarding cards and Nest Ball/Timer Ball joining the ranks of easily disposable Items, I think there’ll be more use for it than initially meets the eye.
Maybe you’ve heard, but Night Spear is a good attack. Night Spear for a better Energy cost is a better attack yet. Night Cry GX probably isn’t anything too special, but I can scenarios where it could be useful. It also means Umbreon might fit decently in some sort of Lock concept.
Probably in a holding pattern as we wait for a Dragonite with a semi-useful Ability or something. I think it has potential to exploited at some point, though.
I think I’m lower on this card than most folks. The best use I see for it involves a combination with its fellow Eeveeloution, the aforementioned Umbreon-GX. I can see using Umbreon to setup a significant amount of damage, and Espeon’s GX attack to clean up their field. This probably gets even more interesting once we receive the Oriciorio from SM1+. Either way, though, I don’t believe Espeon will be standing on its own as a concept.
I started out with this card in the “Overhyped” category. Not only does this card (and Pokémon) look incredibly dumb, but [C][C][C] for 100 is simply dreadful. With that said, I’m sure it’ll have use in a Lock deck of some sort (like I mentioned, Sun & Moon makes no secret of heading that direction).
In fact, the more I read this card, the more I think it was designed to be a Lock deck’s best friend. The Ability’s utility to such a concept is obvious, and the GX attack seems like a great way of dealing with a lonely foe an opponent might conjure up while being afflicted by a lock. Similarly, the 3 for 100 isn’t inspiring under normal circumstances, but if your opponent is doing nothing … perhaps, a different story!
250 HP, Rough Seas (for the moment, at least), and a number of attacks meant to emphasize durability. How many things in the format right now could effectively and routinely deal with this card? Zero? That’s what I came up with, too. The key is fitting Energy and Energy acceleration with a Stage 2 line — that part could be a bit difficult.
Solgaleo-GX | view
Simply, I don’t find this card all that entirely inspiring. There is no good way at present to easily accelerate Metal Energy, and I’m not particularly sold on the viability of the Lunala-GX combo that’s sometimes suggested. Seemingly, any concept with Solgalelo would struggle heavily against anything utilizing 1-Prize attackers. Right now, the pair look more Lugia and Ho-Oh LEGEND than Yveltal/Xerneas-EX to me. Plus, what would it do about a Decidueye-GX? Hit for 10 short?
I’m probably higher on this than most, especially in Expanded, where Virbank City Gym could make this a nasty situation for an opponent. Not something to build around, but potentially a clever tech for decks that need that one extra damage counter sometimes (Gyarados?).
This Ability is inherently pretty good, especially with Forest of Giant Plants and Devolution Spray serving to make it a potentially multi-use combo. The new era seems to be ushering in a good amount of lock concepts, and this will be a staple in many of them. Right now, though, I believe it’ll be mostly relegated to pure gimmick decks that’ll inevitably have a run or two, but not be a format mainstay.
Far too many Energy required to do far too little. Maybe in a future universe, but for now, there’s nothing crying out for Psychic Energy transfer at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s a pretty decent card. But, it’s not going to revolutionize a format anytime soon. It will slot nicely into certain DCE-using decks, but outside of that, I don’t expect it to see entirely too much play right now. The future could be different, of course. Once again, I can see a role in a Lock concept (if they’re doing less than 180, obviously, Tauros has the ability to capitalize, while [C][C] for 60 isn’t terrible if your opponent is doing nothing). Could also be intriguing with Item Lock as an aid.
If this Stage 1 was a Grass type, entirely a different story. Since it’s not, and there’s not anything begging to have a ton of Grass/Lightning Energy in play, this is going to be in a holding pattern waiting for something new to come out, I believe. Maybe that thing will come someday; maybe it won’t.
Wouldn’t count on playing this any time soon. Or, really, ever.
Just wanted to say that I wish they’d let this thing rotate. That’s all. It’s been legal now, for, what, half of the lifetime of some of our Junior players? I mean, so has “Discard your hand, Draw 7,” but that’s less unpleasant at least …
Just in case it wasn’t already clear, we’re being set up for Forest of Giant Plants-enabled Grass types to rule the world. Even if that doesn’t happen, Volcanion and others will still appreciate the search offered by this card.
I really like this in Expanded, and could see it pairing well with Seismitoad-EX and Virbank City Gym. Perhaps it’ll even see play in Standard at some point, but even if not, it’s something I’ll be grabbing my playset of.
Probably going to see a lot of play, unfortunately — I’d rather not deal with staple coin flips. There’s not a strictly better search option, though, so I suspect we’ll see it get some play.
This card is bad. Or, it’s at least bad until Escape Rope rotates.
You thought games were lost off Turn 1 Judge a few years ago? Now, you can offer your opponent a free 6 cards while having a 50% chance of doing worse than that Judge for yourself. Thrilling. What, aren’t you excited? Just planning not to play it? Wait until Sun & Moon is all we have and you’re stuck with either this or not having the option to disrupt the 101 “Add X cards to your hand” attacks this block seems to be bringing about.
File away for use in September 2018, and not before.
Interesting concept for sure, though I’m not sure how useful it’ll end up being in terms of play until we lose Sycamore and N.
Oh, look, another card certain Lock concepts will be very glad to see.
While I’m just becoming familiar with the cards myself, here’re two quick concepts I think I’m going to start exploring fairly quickly:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
Simply, set up Primarina and go to town — ok, maybe that’s not so simple, but still. Considerations include Bursting Balloon, but I don’t really feel that the space is there. Other Stadium splits, including Parallel City and others, will likely also need to be considered.
Pokémon – 22
Trainers – 32
2 Red Card
Energy – 6
This is a super rough list, but I hope the intent is clear enough. Standard is pretty naturally inconsistent, so this sort of lock idea should only make it worse. I suspect that the concept will need to be streamlined, but I don’t think Lock is something you should ignore heading into Anaheim or your post-Anaheim League Cups.
If you have any questions about either list, feel free to reach out, and I’d be happy to talk you through them. I’ll disclaim, of course, that having just returned from Georgia, I’m not exactly in a perfect place to stand from a mountaintop and declare them the best things ever created — simply starting points.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our first preview of Sun & Moon on SixPrizes, and would be glad to answer any questions you have about the thoughts I’ve listed therein. I apologize for the lack of fleshed out deck concepts to share, but, for what I believe are obvious reasons, I’ve not had time yet to explore the options the set brings. I don’t believe it’s nearly the bombshell of a set that some others seem to, but it’ll be nonetheless interesting to see how things evolve.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or commentary. Until then, best of luck, and perhaps I’ll see you at an event sometime soon.
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