Though it’s been over a month since I last wrote, it honestly does not feel like a whole lot has changed within the Pokémon community. Perhaps this is merely an artifact of the new tournament structure this year but I cannot remember a format “lasting” as long as PRC–EVO and I think I speak for everyone when I say “good riddance.” I do not necessarily think that it was a bad format by any means but it just got stale very fast.
I will spend some time today trying to analyze all of the trends that we saw come and go later in the article but it definitely was a unique field to observe. Sun & Moon appears to be a new “core” set which intends to change certain aspects of the game and introduce new mechanics and I have high hopes that it will give both Standard and Expanded a much needed update though only time will tell if this is correct or not.
- Finalizing the Format
- Analyzing the ABC Metagame
- League Cups: High Expectations, Low Results
- Closing Thoughts
Finalizing the Format
I use the word “observe” with clear intention above, as unfortunately I was unable to participate in the format as much as I would have liked to. In my last article, I spent some time discussing my lackluster performance with Mega Scizor at Fort Wayne and highlighted my favor with Yveltal/Garbodor but outside of a League Challenge that occurred shortly after my article was released (which I would win with the exact list included in my last article) I was unable to attend either Dallas or Athens Regionals, both of which I wish I had been able to make.
I spent my Christmas (and some days before and after) in Taiwan where I got to visit the national university as well as do some general sightseeing and even attend a Pokémon-themed run on Christmas Eve (see photo above). Unfortunately, I arrived back home right around New Year’s and experienced an extreme case of jetlag, which forced me to cancel the plans I had initially made to attend the tournament.
After careful examination of the metagame, I recall informing my friends who were able to attend that I believed Mega Gardevoir to be the correct play for Dallas and while my recommendations were ignored, I was happy to see the deck dominate the tournament and be taken down by Xander Pero who piloted a perfect list. Something I observed as a trend amongst my fellow writers was how undervalued Fairy Drop was in most Gardevoir lists. In my own report on the deck, I recall highlighting how the card won me many of my games and before Fort Wayne Regionals I was even testing 4 copies of the card in my deck. To my surprise, however, most lists tended to play 0–1 copies of the card, which I think helped lead to incorrect matchup analysis (most notably Mega Gardevoir versus Yveltal/Garbodor). I believe that Xander and several players in Dallas proved my point though as their success was made on the back of 3 copies of Fairy Drop within their lists.
Contrastingly, I was unable to attend Athens simply do to conflicts with my work but I am not sure what I would have ended up playing for that tournament. Like many, I maintained a favorable opinion of Greninja and so I think that may have been the direction I ended up going in but after reading Christopher’s and Alex’s most recent articles, I am not sure if I will be considering playing this deck anytime soon. However, I am happy to note that my general opinion about Talonflame in the list — even in Standard — became the trend for the way the deck saw play in the latter half of this format. Of course, I do not claim full credit for this shift in deckbuilding but I am always happy to observe rightness in my own opinion even when I am not able to obtain results with the opinion itself.
Finally, to close my thoughts on the PRC–EVO format, I want to spend some time analyzing the meta as a whole and attempt to use this analysis to predict how the format may progress in the future and as a means to select the best deck for any given future format.
Analyzing the ABC Metagame
In Christopher Schemanske’s last article, he highlights what he refers to as the ABC deck choices, which is a way of describing how a metagame progresses to a certain point that requires a different analysis at each and every juncture to choose the “best” deck. I actually believe he is completely correct in the assessment but I simply want to explore this train of thought somewhat further so that we may apply it to any format and not just the one we’ve been forced to play for what seems like this entire season.
This ABC analysis is a lot like Rock-Paper-Scissors but I think it is considerably more complicated than that as sometimes Rock can be the correct play in a Paper metagame, so to speak. So before we continue, allow me to give quick and clear definitions of what makes a deck A, B, or C.
A: Initial Assumptions
A is the type of deck that is best when the metagame is undefined. This lack of definition generally only occurs at the very beginning of any given format where there are very few (if not zero) events to analyze the results of and thus your deck choice can be made on little more than assumption.
To use the start of this year as an example, the A deck would have been Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor. The deck saw the most hype going into the season and thus was the main target for many when creating their deck for Orlando Regionals where I played Mega Gardevoir to attempt to hard counter the A play while others turned to Darkrai/Giratina and even Gyarados to do so. Other decks that I think would fit this criteria would be Mega Rayquaza, Rainbow Road, and Volcanion, all of which (along with Mega Mewtwo) were mostly obvious pairings and had existed to a lesser extent in previous formats and so players already had a general feel for how to build the decks and what their strengths or weaknesses were.
B: The Pushback
If we accept the above definition for an A deck, then naturally the B deck is one created to oppose the A deck. If you operate on the assumption that the majority of players will have their attention primarily focused on A then the play becomes B.
Mega Gardevoir, Darkrai/Giratina, and Yveltal/Garbodor would be the best examples of a B if we continue to use the same format as an example. For instance, I played Gardevoir in attempt to counter nothing but Mewtwo as did the Darkrai/Giratina players but I would argue that Yveltal/Garbodor did not aim to target a singular deck and rather attempted to hedge against the format as a whole. This notion is different but I still believe Yveltal/Garb would be categorized as a B deck because it attempts to prey on the initial assumptions of the community.
C: Countering the Counters
A C deck is one that continues the logical methodology adopted by the B players and attempts to stay one step ahead and forces the metagame to keep on evolving.
Outliers: Escaping Definition
Finally, there are a couple of decks that I (perhaps controversially) do not fit in any of the above definitions and simply exist on their own. For instance, Greninja, I argue, is not built to beat anything specific. This is not to say that the general trend of the deck does not have its advantages over certain things and clearly the lists fluctuate based on which of the three metagames you anticipate. Greninja has transformed itself through A, B, and C metagames where it went from playing Faded Town to Rough Seas to Silent Lab but none of these slight list alterations force the deck into any of the above groups. These decks exist on their own and are at their best when they are completely underestimated. So alongside Greninja, I believe that Gyarados and the Vileplume Toolbox deck are situated within this category as well. All three are adaptable for an expected metagame but are not themselves a byproduct of attempting to counter anything.
For the most part, I believe any format in the history of the game can be essentially reduced to this ABC-O model and while my examples are exclusively for Standard this year, I am struggling to think of a time where the format did not adhere to this general structure. Sometimes there might just be an A and a B and maybe we even arrive at a D-type deck but I think the game itself is at its healthiest when there are no clear groupings.
Now what remains is attempting to use this analysis to our advantage.
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