Hey everyone! I’m back with another article, but this time it’s going to be quite different than the last one. Today I hope to showcase one of my strengths: adjusting to a new set before it is tournament legal. While this skill is not the easiest, it becomes much easier when you go back and analyze previous sets. First, I’m going to explain to you the best way to do this.
The Pokémon Precedent (or: How to Quickly Identify New Cards with Potential)
I believe that in the Pokémon TCG, history repeats itself over and over again. While theoretically possible, it is very rare for a deck to win a major event and never be heard from again. This is because not all cards are created equal — certain cards were intended to be very good on purpose. A perfect (and perhaps my favorite) example of this is Yveltal-EX. Not only can it do dangerous amounts of damage with Evil Ball, but it can keep Energy on the board with Y Cyclone for future Evil Ball attacks. Add in a solid 170 HP on a Basic with a Fighting Resistance, and you have a good card. This is before even discussing cards like Max Elixir, Fighting Fury Belt, and Dark Patch (in Expanded). While not as broken as Yveltal-EX, Mewtwo-EX’s X Ball used to punish opponents for overcommitting Energy to Pokémon in the same fashion. Like Yveltal, Mewtwo was recognized as broken immediately, dominating 2012 State Championships everywhere.
Not all great cards are painfully obvious, however. Yveltal BKT, affectionately referred to by its Ability Fright Night, was not perceived as a phenomenal card on release by many, myself included. I ended up playing a single copy of this Yveltal at a City Championship in 2015 as a counter to Mega Evolution decks. Yveltal completely overperformed for me the entire day, netting me a Top 8 finish in which I lost to Michael Pramawat in the mirror match. In the games we played, it became clear to me how Yveltal could dominate the mirror. Fright Night alone was enough to rule the early game, as undesirable starters such as Shaymin-EX could no longer be moved to the Bench via Float Stone. Pitch-Black Spear made it so that Yveltal-EX drops onto the Bench were no longer safe, and created a possible 240 damage over 2 turns for 3 Energy. Before Fright Night, Darkrai-EX was the only Pokémon capable of doing the same amount of damage. The difference here is that Darkrai’s Night Spear did 120 damage a turn unconditionally — the 30 Bench damage would hit both EX and non-EX Pokémon the same.
This is where the concept of precedent in Pokémon starts to sink in. Many powerful effects that exist now have existed in the past before. Greninja’s Shadow Stitching seems like a new concept, but it is essentially a modern variation of the legendary Gardevoir’s Psychic Lock. Eight years after Gardevoir won the World Championship, Greninja took second place — in a format not nearly as forgiving! As long as Abilities are good, turning them off will also be good.
Once you make a connection like this, store it in the back of your mind. The key is to use connections you have made in the past to help you create new decks. You can always put in the hours of testing after developing a new deck to perfect it — the hardest part is figuring out what is truly good.
Anomaly and Meta
Precedent will not always exist. Mega Gardevoir-EX’s Despair Ray not only hits large numbers frequently, but cleans up the “mess” that was required to get there. When there isn’t a precedent for a card, you must create a list and test repeatedly. Try to figure out what makes the card good, and then go from there. With Mega Gardevoir, having a large Bench is needed to hit large numbers of damage. Because of this, it’s no surprise that Sky Field and multiple Hoopa-EX are commonplace in Gardevoir lists.
Even if you are having trouble finding a card that saw success with a similar effect, remember that you have to build your deck to beat the metagame. After determining what cards in a new set threaten the best decks of last format, you can arrive at the best decks of the new format. It’s also important to note that just like Yveltal-EX, some cards will be good on their own, regardless of their interaction with older cards. You might not know what the final list for your new deck will look like, but at the minimum you will know what you have to beat. The most important thing is to play games. Figuring out the best deck to play is hard, but playing a few games per day (even online!) isn’t.
Early Picks for Anaheim
We are just over two weeks away from the first Regional with Sun & Moon legal! I’m really excited for this one, and today I’d like to share a few of my early choices for the event. As I mentioned previously, some cards are obviously good. The decks I have been testing so far really try to capitalize on the weaknesses of the metagame. It’s important to consider what each deck is weak to, and change decks if the rumored field is unfavorable for you. With that being said, here are some post Sun & Moon decks I’m considering for Anaheim! First up, one of my personal favorites — Volcanion!
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
I broke down Volcanion in great detail in my last article, which you can read here. I am a huge fan of Volcanion right now, as Lurantis-GX and Decidueye-GX are both gaining some hype at the moment. While Decidueye will likely not be a deck on its own in the Standard format, Volcanion will still make Vespiquen/Decidueye decks respect the Fire Weakness and force them to change their strategy. Some Lurantis-GX decks contain Garbodor, but once you are set up the Garbodor should not pose a threat, as you can knock out all of their Lurantis in one hit. Also, Greninja decks will likely fall from favor due to the aforementioned Grass decks, which is another major advantage Volcanion now has.
The biggest problem right now with Volcanion is that it cannot keep up with Mega decks such as Rayquaza and Gardevoir.
In this list I have brought back Entei, a great non-EX tech originally made known by Ahmed Ali, who made Top 8 at Fort Wayne Regionals with it in his deck. Our goal with Entei is to hit for 180 when Rayquaza has a full Bench. We then have a few ways to pick up the remaining 40 damage, including the only card included here from Sun & Moon — Professor Kukui!
Professor Kukui is a much better version of the card it replaced in my list, Giovanni’s Scheme. Kukui can not only grab you 2 cards when you need them, but will always do 20 extra damage also! There is no longer a decision to be made like there is with Giovanni. I think Kukui is a natural fit in Volcanion, as it keeps our deck moving through cards while also adding a key 20 damage when needed.
We sacrifice a little bit of consistency in the Stadium department by replacing Scorched Earth with Faded Town. I believe Faded Town is necessary at the moment, as Mega Gardevoir and Mega Rayquaza should remain popular since they are not currently threatened by anything new coming out.
The goal is to get a Faded Town down without being replaced by a counter Stadium. To do this, the first copy of Faded Town will usually have to come down after the first copy of Sky Field. Our opponent will then play a Sky Field down to replace Faded Town, and that’s where N comes in. After playing down Faded Town #2, we must rely on N to set our opponent to a low amount of cards. If we are successful, Faded Town will not only stick around for the end of our opponent’s turn, but for the end of our turn as well. This means that Faded Town on its own will produce 60 damage on all Mega Evolutions. There’s not much like one card doing 60 damage by itself — this allows us to pick up much easier knockouts via Entei or Baby Volcanion’s Steam Artillery.
While not a complete consistency cut, the last major difference between my old list and the new one is the decision to run only 2 Trainers’ Mail. This allows for a 2nd N, which we need for our Mega matchups. Outside of our tech Supporters, we do not have any single copies of Item cards. We will draw cards such as Energy Retrieval and Switch naturally, and having 2 Trainers’ Mail will help us find what we need in a pinch. I think that many times a 3rd or 4th Mail can be unnecessary, as you usually have what you need later on.
The most important thing to remember when building decks is to always use what you need, and no more. Manage your resources effectively, and put yourself in good spots that give you more outs to win (i.e., if you don’t need to use VS Seeker, don’t use it).
While a personal favorite of mine, Volcanion could be a risky play due to heavy amounts of Garbodor in the new metagame. I recommend testing this list and making changes based on what you anticipate. The best way to beat Garbodor is to add consistency cards, and possibly a 2nd copy of Lysandre. Space is at a premium though, so it might come at the cost of Entei. The cleanest way to add more consistency is to revert the change of Faded Town back to Scorched Earth, but I believe this can be detrimental in the Mega matchups. Figure out what you like, and stick with it.
Lurantis-GX is arguably the most powerful Pokémon-GX that was released in Sun & Moon. The reason Lurantis is receiving significant amounts of hype is because it is able to accelerate Grass Energy from your discard pile as early as Turn 1, thanks to Forest of Giant Plants. I like Lurantis for three reasons:
- Grass Typing
This allows us to use Forest of Giant Plants for a T1 Lurantis-GX when we are going second. This is crucial because Energy acceleration is often the name of the game in the current Standard format. This list aims to get ahead on Energy early so that we can attack with our massive Lurantis.
- Solar Blade
At first glance, Solar Blade might seem underwhelming. For [G][G][C], 120 damage is not the most impressive. The best part about Solar Blade is that we are able to heal 30 from our Lurantis after dealing damage. This can create quite the tank when combined with Garbodor and Olympia, as our goal is to shut off annoying Abilities and stay alive.
Lurantis is gifted with an incredible GX attack, Chloroscythe. After some early Energy acceleration, we can deal some serious damage with only a few Grass Energy attached. Professor Kukui helps us hit key numbers such as 170 and 220, meaning that no more than 4 Grass Energy will likely be required. When combined with a late-game Garbotoxin/Parallel City, Lurantis is able to create turns that are nearly impossible for the opponent to answer.
This is my current list for Lurantis:
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