And with that, a collective sigh was had by all. The PRC–EVO format spanned a full two months, including three very large Regionals and the first International event. It went through some small periods of transformation in the last few weeks of life but overall it was fairly stagnant. But now it is done, and it’s time to look to the future.
Personally, I didn’t mind the format. I was able to earn over 200 CP with many different decks and had plenty of opportunities to attempt to counter the metagame, one of my favorite challenges in Pokémon. However, I am looking forward to seeing what changes Sun & Moon can bring to Standard.
Before we jump into a few experimental decks that I’ll be testing out in preparation for the new Standard format that includes Sun & Moon, I want to look back at my last few Regionals and discuss the role of consistency in my deck choice and performance. I’ll also be including a small discussion on the three times that a player has gone 9-0 at a Regional Championship since we’ve started Best of 3 Swiss play and how deck choice and construction enabled those performances. Let’s get started!
- Dallas: Plume Doom
- Athens: Frog Party
- A Case Study on Consistency
- Sunrise: Decks Updated for Sun & Moon
Yveltal was still the deck to beat going into Dallas Regionals. The format hadn’t changed since London so we weren’t expecting much of a metagame shift. Unfortunately, Yveltal proved incredibly difficult to counter due to its consistency, high damage output, low maintenance, and Ability lock through Garbodor. Christopher Schemanske and I started considering all kinds of decks that either didn’t beat Yveltal in their current iteration, or at least weren’t thought to beat Yveltal.
This was a pretty good period of testing for us as we started thinking outside of the box. Volcanion was an early favorite as it actually seemed to have a consistency edge over Yveltal, as well as a decent shot to win the matchup in a normal game through an early Prize lead and a constant 2HKO war. We also played a lot of Mega Mewtwo as I thought the deck would be incredibly strong in the metagame if the Yveltal matchup could be shored up. Other ideas like Mega Altaria and Zygarde/Carbink were thrown around but nothing seemed to be able to beat both Yveltal and a decent number of the other decks in the field.
Our last-ditch effort was Mega Mewtwo with Fairy Energy and Fairy Drop, with the idea that the healing would give us the edge we needed against Yveltal. Early testing results were looking very promising but the night before the event, I was able to win 6 of 7 games against this Mewtwo variant with my Yveltal list. Not only was the Yveltal matchup far from a sure win even with a strong setup, but Mewtwo just didn’t have the consistency I was looking for in a deck I’d be piloting for 9+ rounds. We ended up scrapping the idea and falling back to our typical “safe” backup plan of Vileplume Toolbox.
Now, the choice of Vileplume may seem counterintuitive, especially considering I just knocked the consistency of Mega Mewtwo. The thought is this: Mewtwo was inconsistent and even when it set up it could often lose. There were just too many moving parts; it needed to hit an Energy drop basically every turn, as well as Stadiums, the choice of a Supporter, a Fairy Drop in some situations, a Garbodor and/or 2nd Mega Mewtwo, etc.
Vileplume was nearly as inconsistent in the first few turns, but when it gets a strong setup, almost no deck has a strong answer. A T1 Vileplume can steal a win against any deck, even Greninja. With the addition of Beedrill-EX and Bunnelby PRC 121, you even have comeback potential against literally any deck with a nearly endless supply of N and/or Lysandre, as well as an out to Garbodor and the ability to mill.
The major difference between Vileplume and Mewtwo for me was that Vileplume was very low maintenance after T3. Once you had your first attacker, you had plenty of time to just slowly build up your field before your opponent could do much at all. You could whiff Energy drops or Supporters and still be in a fine position. I really valued this aspect of Vileplume and thought it would serve me well over 9+ rounds.
The list we played is the same as our Orlando list, minus a Trainers’ Mail and a Lugia-EX, plus a Beedrill-EX and Bunnelby. We tried out other techs like Salamence-EX, Trevenant-EX, and even Venusaur-EX but found them to be too situational. Here’s a quick rundown of how my rounds went:
Dallas Regionals // 516 Masters
R1 Volcanion (WLW)
R2 Yveltal/Garbodor (WW)
R3 Yveltal/Garbodor (WW)
R4 Greninja (LWL)
R5 Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor (WW)
R6 Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor (WW)
R7 Volcanion (WLW)
R8 Greninja (LWL)
R9 Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor (WW)
Day 1: 7-2
Final Standing: 8-6
This tournament was fairly straightforward. I won all of the good matchups, and I lost 3 sets to Greninja as expected. The 3 Mewtwo decks I lost to on Day 2 all had outs to attack Regice and didn’t play down Garbodor for me to Lysandre and Double Scrapper, giving me few ways to win. Otherwise, I felt great about this list and would happily play it in any tournament where I didn’t expect much Greninja. Let me know if you have any questions in the forums!
After Dallas, the metagame was completely different than before the tournament. Yveltal was no longer the powerhouse of the format and decks like Gardevoir were back on my radar. Additionally, Speed Darkrai quickly rose to prominence after Azul Griego and Brad Curcio each won a League Cup with the deck and posted the list online. The addition of Giratina XY184 also caused a big shift in the metagame, but surprisingly in Greninja’s favor instead of against it. Silent Lab became an instant inclusion in all Greninja decks, actually improving matchups like Volcanion and Gardevoir. Additionally, any decks that dropped Garbodor to instead fit a Giratina became strong matchups for the deck.
From here, I started looking for a deck that could take advantage of the new metagame. I expected at least 33% of the field to be playing Speed Darkrai or Greninja, as well as a large amount of Mega Gardevoir after it won in Dallas and some Mega Rayquaza as a seemingly logical counter to the expected metagame. I expected decks like Mewtwo and Yveltal to see less play with bad matchups to Speed Darkrai and Mega Gardevoir, thus Parallel City would see little to no play in the metagame as a whole.
So, with these things in mind, I started working on a Rainbow Road list. I started with the list that Brad Curcio played in Fort Wayne, making a cut for a Giratina XY184 to turn Greninja slightly in my favor. And although this deck had the tools to deal with all of the decks I expected to play, it just wasn’t consistent enough. Even the games where I did set up, I could just miss a single Energy drop and lose pretty easily. The deck was incredibly susceptible to N and struggled to take the last few Prizes. It also had a pretty poor Volcanion matchup which I don’t really like to accept going into such a large tournament.
At this point, Christopher asks “What does Greninja really lose to?” and I had no solid answer. We had tabled the deck a few days earlier after we started to get the feeling that Greninja would be really popular in Athens. There’s not a lot of skill in the Greninja mirror; instead, the matchup comes down a lot to reading your opponent, hoping to draw well off of N, and hoping you go first. Still, we wanted to tech for the matchup any way we could, so we added a Pokémon Ranger and an Eco Arm in lieu of any Energy denial. These cards would also help against any Jolteon/Glaceon/Garbodor decks and Eco Arm was surprisingly useful in many matchups, provided you could get to the later turns of the game.
The biggest reason for me to pick Greninja was that the deck’s ceiling was far higher than Rainbow Road’s. I felt like Rainbow Road could lose any matchup even with the optimal setup. An N to 2 and a knockout on your fully-charged attacker is enough in some games for many decks to catch up in the Prize race. Combine that with Parallel City and/or Garbodor and you’re basically guaranteed to lose. If you were guaranteed to set up every game, one could potentially build a Rainbow Road list that has more late-game staying power. However, that just isn’t the case and probably never will be for a deck that needs so many puzzle pieces just to deal consistent damage.
Greninja, on the other hand, was heavily favored in almost any game where I got 2 Greninja BREAK out. The deck is slightly inconsistent, similar to Vileplume, but I felt incredibly confident in winning almost any game in most matchups once I set up. Talonflame provides a solid out to a dead hand, even in the mid to late game if you can keep it around that long. Greninja just feels very low maintenance once you get past Turn 4, only needing 2–3 Energy per turn to quickly close a game out.
I actually expected to lose one game in every best-of-three series simply due to Greninja’s potential to fall over itself. Anyone who has played the deck can recount the horrors of going 2nd and having to use Bubble, hoping your opponent is paralyzed and can’t knock out your lone Froakie. Due to this, I knew that I had to play quickly in all of my games to avoid going to time and earning a tie. I had an advantage here due to my experience playing Greninja quite often in the last 6 months, but I still cut it close in many of my rounds. When you’re expecting your deck to “brick” on you one game of every series, you have to be confident in your deck to set up for the other two and you also can’t make any mistakes to lose the games you’re capable of winning. Keep that in mind when you’re choosing a deck in the future.
You can see the list we settled on in Christopher’s article from earlier this week.
Athens Regionals // 682 Masters
R1 Volcanion (WW)
R2 Volcanion (WW)
R3 Rainbow Road (LWW)
R4 Yveltal/Garbodor (WLL)
R5 Jolteon/Glaceon/Garbodor (WW)
R6 Glaceon/Regice/Garbodor (LL)
R7 Speed Darkrai (WLW)
R8 Pidgeot/Jolteon/Garbodor (LWW)
R9 Vileplume Toolbox (WLW)
Day 1: 7-2
R10 Mega Gardevoir STS (WW)
R11 Rayquaza (LL)
R12 Gyarados (LWL)
R13 Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor (LL)
R14 Mega Gardevoir STS (ID)
Final Standing: 8-5-1
And after teching for the Greninja mirror, I played against 0. I’m not truly upset as the matchup is still fairly volatile and I had some pretty favorable matchups Day 1 anyways. Day 2 was fairly depressing as I lost to Gyarados due to some pretty nasty draws and I quickly saw the power of Giratina in a Rayquaza deck. Once I was eliminated from Top 16 contention, I had no interest in playing any longer.
I would definitely agree with Christopher that Greninja is not in my top choices of decks right now. Even when it has tons of favorable matchups, the deck loses to itself and early aggression from tons of decks. If you see lots of Volcanion and Speed Darkrai at your local League Cup, maybe it’s worth the risk. Otherwise, I’d probably leave the frogs at home.
While we’re on the topic of consistency, I want to look at the three players who have been able to go 9-0 at North American Regional Championships since we moved to a Best of 3 format. These players chose to play every round out on the first day of their Regionals, even when they were locked for Top 32 the next day. By collecting as many wins as possible on Day 1, they made it that much easier to move on to Top 8, needing just 3–5 match points on Day 2.
Why did they choose to play it out? How did they get to 6-0 or 7-0 in the first place, giving themselves the choice of hunting for the last few wins or taking IDs to scrape a few points and rest up for the last few hours? For one, they all played incredibly consistent decks. They just didn’t need fear drawing a dead hand in 2 of the 3 games in a round.
The other factor is that they all played decks that had relatively rare autolosses or even bad matchups at all. While their decks were rarely heavy favorites in a match, they also didn’t have to worry about a game being over before it started. This could backfire on some players, as a deck that has 50/50 matchups across the board would be expected to go, well, 50/50 and end up with a record around 5-4. However, in the hands of a skilled player, and with a little bit of luck, these types of decks have been known to pull off huge win streaks like these.
Let’s take a quick look at their deck lists and their tournament runs:
Ryan was the first player to finish a Regionals run undefeated in this new era, and at the time, it wasn’t really a big deal. Ryan had won a Regional in each of the three years preceding this one and was expected to do well. We had only been dealing with Best of 3 Swiss play for a year at this point and many Regionals were still small enough to only have 7–8 rounds and a Top 8. In those type of Regionals, there isn’t much of a benefit to finish off the tournament at x-0, so players would ID in their final rounds.
Even so, Ryan did cause some commotion with his Yveltal/Garbodor deck at Philadelphia Regionals. Yveltal was thought to have lost a lot of steam in the Standard format at this time due to the rotation of Dark Patch. Every year, Dark decks lose something seemingly crucial in the rotation, be it Energy Switch, Dark Patch, Darkrai-EX DEX, you name it. They always bounce back and Ryan proved it with his Regionals run.
Ryan luckily held onto a copy of his deck list, something I was unable to find online as Pokémon only started posting Regionals Top 8 lists on their website in the last year and a half. Here it is for reference:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
The first thing I noticed about this deck list is the sheer amount of draw options. Ryan had 12 draw Supporters, 2 Bicycle, and an ACE SPEC that can double as draw power later in the game. This should be plenty to guarantee a setup in nearly every game. This is completely different than today where we see 6–7 draw Supporters in a deck, 4 VS Seeker, and maybe a few Trainers’ Mail. While these lists from different eras play a similar amount of draw options once there is a Supporter in the discard pile, it’s the consistent option to draw on T1 that sets Ryan’s list apart from the lists we play today.
Past that, there are almost no techs in his list. Instead of focusing on specific matchups, Ryan chose to let the pure power of Yveltal-EX, Seismitoad-EX, and Hypnotoxic Laser carry him to victory. Part of this is due to the metagame at the time, where few Pokémon easily countered Yveltal (Raichu XY being the only popular one). However, I think this is something we can still carry over into today’s metagame.
For two whole years, no player went 9-0 at a Regional Championship. That’s insane! There were at least 10 chances for players to pull off this feat and many came close with 8-0-1 or 8-1 records but no one was able to achieve it. Finally, just this past November, Jimmy Pendarvis broke the streak with an insane streak of his own. It’s incredibly fitting that he went 9-0 with Yveltal/Garbodor just like Ryan, but Jimmy’s list was substantially different as one would expect after the release of eight new sets.
What similarities can we draw between Jimmy and Ryan’s lists? They played roughly the same amount of T1 “draw,” with 4 Sycamore, 3 N, 4 Ultra Ball, 2 Shaymin, and 2 Trainers’ Mail adding up to 15 potential outs to draw cards. Once a Supporter hits the discard, Jimmy’s draw counts get upped even further with 4 VS Seeker.
Similarly to Ryan’s list, Jimmy doesn’t really play any tech cards. The only one that really serves a specific purpose in a matchup is the Pokémon Center Lady, which gave Jimmy a pretty considerable edge in the mirror match multiple times throughout the day. As usual, Yveltal had a lot of 50/50 or slightly better matchups so Jimmy really didn’t need to tech for any matchups.
Both decks include a lot of cards that can be played down immediately, between the Tool cards, Max Elixir or Hypnotoxic Laser, and a Pokémon line with very few Evolutions. This helps thin the deck in a way that most Evolution decks can’t. The 2014 and 2016 formats both have a heavy reliance on N so any way you can “N-proof” yourself pays dividends across a 9-round Regional.
After the two-year gap between the first two 9-0 runs, I wasn’t expecting another player to go on such a streak for quite some time. However, after only about a month, Dalen Dockery achieved the same feat at Dallas Regionals. While Dalen is less well known than Ryan and Jimmy, he’s an incredibly solid player and even achieved a 2nd place at St. Louis year.
Dalen’s Mega Gardevoir deck was incredibly solid, but probably had worse matchups overall than the Yveltal/Garbodor decks that Ryan and Jimmy ran. Instead, Dalen took advantage of a format where bad matchups like Greninja and Mega Scizor would likely be unplayed, and Yveltal and Mega Mewtwo would instead be prevalent.
Mega Gardevoir has similar consistency to Yveltal/Garbodor, and the draw engine gives it enough speed to take advantage of dead-drawing decks. The current format is fairly inconsistent, so this is a pretty advantageous trait. Mega Gardevoir quickly thins itself out, and plays so many draw options that N doesn’t have a huge impact on the deck later in the game. It’s also very low maintenance and needs just 2 Energy attachments and an Evolution to attack turn after turn.
The major difference between Dalen’s run vs Jimmy’s and Ryan’s is that Dalen definitely teched his list to beat a certain deck. Most Mega Gardevoir lists had been dropping Fairy Drop to make space for more consistency. However, the rise of Yveltal after London made this addition a necessity. Even though it was only 2 spaces, I thought it was worth mentioning as a tech. However, this addition made Dalen feel confident in beating a large enough percentage of the metagame and it paid off.
In short, it seems that the formula for going 9-0 at a Regional is fairly simple: play a consistent and low-maintenance deck with many natural 50/50 matchups. If you must include techs, stick with just a few or you might negatively impact your consistency. Keep these deck attributes in mind when thinking about what could be successful at your next Regional Championship.
However, this might not be the best strategy to win a Regional. A different deck may more easily counter a projected Day 2 metagame or give you a favorable matchup for your Top 8 bracket. My advice would be to find the balance between a consistent and teched deck. Maybe this middle ground is the real key to success.
One last thing for today: I want to give you guys a few deck lists to tinker with that include the new Sun & Moon cards. They’re completely untested but they’re what I’ll be starting my testing with in the coming days.
Overall, I think the set is fairly lackluster. There aren’t a lot of “splashable” cards to improve the decks we already have and the new archetypes that we’re getting all have notable weaknesses in our current format. Even the Oranguru that people are very hype on seems like a novelty at best right now. But there are a few cards that I think can fit into the decks we have currently.
As always, Vileplume is one of my first considerations for a new format. I have a ton of ideas as to how to improve the deck and here are two of my favorites.
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 28
Energy – 9
Basically, just the same Vileplume list that I’ve played before but it takes advantage of the new Ball cards. Timer Ball is a bit risky but the reward is an instant Vileplume 25% of the time. Nest Ball can help get out your attacker of choice without having to discard valuable resources, or an Oddish if you haven’t found that piece yet. These new Ball cards really streamline the deck and should increase your odds of getting a T1 Vileplume.
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 27
Energy – 9
Here’s another list I’ve been thinking about; this one is completely focused on locking and milling your opponent. I was able to steal 3–4 wins in Dallas with my Vileplume list solely based on my opponent playing down a Garbodor that I could Lysandre up and strand Active. Alolan Dugtrio makes it even harder for them to retreat eventually, needing 4 Energy cards to move back to the Bench. The Alolan Diglett actually has a really useful attack, rearranging the top 3 cards of your deck for no Energy cost. This works wonders in conjunction with Bunnelby’s Rototiller attack to let you find N or other resources to keep the lock going.
Other potential inclusions in this deck include the Gumshoos-GX to see their hand and judge whether or not you want to N, and also Team Skull Grunt to make it even harder for them to ever retreat their stranded Pokémon.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 35
Energy – 11
This deck list feels like a Mewtwo list with a Lunala-GX line jammed in, and it kind of is. However, I think the idea is really solid. Quickly charge up Energy on your board with Energy Absorption from Mewtwo-EX and Max Elixir. Once you get Lunala-GX on the board, you can spread your Energy out to always have just enough to get a KO. If you needed 5 Energy to KO a big EX but you only need 2–3 the next turn, you can conserve the Energy you don’t need on the Bench. If your opponent is charging up a big threat on the Bench, you can just bring up Lunala to KO it with the GX attack; no need to find Lysandre. The list definitely needs work but I think the concept is strong, provided Mewtwo doesn’t need Garbodor to stay relevant in the format.
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 27
Energy – 10
This was the very first deck I thought of when I first contemplated how Sun & Moon cards could expect the formats we have now. Umbreon-GX is a very strong counter to Trevenant, needing only Energy cards to evolve and attack. With attacks that require just 1 and 2 Energy attachments, it has options against any Energy denial. A relatively high HP and Resistance to Psychic will keep it around for a long time as well. More Darkness Energy may be necessary to trigger Energy Evolution.
Umbreon should also fare relatively well against Yveltal, trading 2HKOs and also setting up other knockouts with snipe damage. But just to make that matchup a sure thing, a tech Jolteon can set up OHKOs, even getting around Fury Belt with the 30 snipe. Even under Archeops lock, there are copies of Wally and Lightning Energy to potentially retrieve your Jolteon.
I also wanted outs to beat more decks than Yveltal and Trevenant, so I added a couple of Flareon, and started upping the Pokémon count to fuel its attack. There’s plenty of extra space within the Pokémon line if you can think of any noteworthy additions. If I could fit any more Stadium cards, a Giratina promo might be an interesting inclusion. Exeggcute might be a worthwhile addition if you fit in more Battle Compressor or maybe even a Maxie’s engine.
The biggest issue I could think of with this deck is Energy acceleration. Max Elixir is a potential option but I don’t want to play enough basic Energy to hit it consistently. Instead, I thought of Exp. Share as a way to chain back to back turns of Umbreon attacks when you’re under a lot of pressure. It’s probably not perfect, especially in a format with Tool removal. Dark Patch is another option, but might require some extra Battle Compressor and other deck space.
That’s all for today! Let me know if you think of any interesting additions to the decks I talked about! They’re all definitely works in progress and I’d love to hear about any other ideas that may be more successful. We’ve got an unusually long time between now and the debut tournaments for Sun & Moon, so hopefully you all can cook up some great decks to show off!
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