It’s Not Owl-ways a Good Time

Learning from Loss, Mailbag, and Top Trio for Brazil

Hello everyone! It’s been sometime since I was able to write so I’m very happy to be back once again this month. So far, I have been very impressed with the direction that the new management has been taking SixPrizes and I hope that everyone has been enjoying the differentiated flow of information. It’s nice for once to see content flow out in a more focused manner and while, this month, I have been tasked with a “longer” article, I do look forward to trying to take on smaller and more focused projects. One of the biggest things that I think has been missing from the community is a large body of statistic and analytics concerning results, deck matchups, and so on, and I am happy to see SixPrizes and various other outlets strike up a renewed interest in this issue.

A Visit to the Owlry: Decidueye/Vileplume
“No, no, not this owl!”

A month ago, I was primarily focused with dealing with the sheer amount of hype that Decidueye/Vileplume carried. Now that time has passed and the format has settled somewhat, I have had time to test out the deck in a competitive environment as well as observe counters arise, and see the deck (expectedly) lose some of its popularity. Somewhat controversially, I remained skeptical of the deck right after the Melbourne International, and I believe that my opinion has been somewhat validated by many of the results we have seen. In a lot of ways, the format did shift to counter Decidueye, but not in the shape of softer answers.

Simple inclusions like a copy or two of Wobbuffet PHF and additional Hex Maniac are feasible for almost every deck, and both of these answers remain mostly problematic for the Grass Pokémon to overcome. I do think that the lack of “hard” counters, however, is a testament to the strength of the archetype, as sometimes your worst matchups are incredibly easy to overcome by going first and evolving into Vileplume. As such, I am not surprised to see the deck take down any major tournaments since Australia, while Volcanion has won another Regional following its success on the international stage.

These criticisms aside, I am still a fan of the deck and strongly believe it to be situated at the bottom of the tier 1 decks. In fact, I have played this deck at the majority of the League Cups I have attended this quarter, and, as a result of this, I think I am able to back up my opinion with results. I will try to remain concise within this section, as many experienced players like Alex have touched on this issue already.

An answer to our problems?

I began my exploration of Decidueye/Vileplume under the impression that the Rainbow Energy variant was superior, and thus played my first League Cup with the three Rainbow Energy, Jolteon-EX and no other multi-energy techs. My assumption was that Jolteon would help solve the deck’s Volcanion issue and would also be a nice inclusion against Darkrai and Yveltal, as neither deck had an answer to Flash Ray. However, I soon learned that the double attachment required to make use of this additional attacker was much too slow to really be an option, and I played the entire Cup without attacking with Jolteon; merely using it as a free retreater. I think that over the course of the last month every other Decidueye player has come to the same conclusion: the matchups that Jolteon-EX and various other attackers would theoretically “solve” can simply be dealt with by worrying more about consistent starts.

Naturally, I shifted my focus to a much more standard list. I will include my current list later in the article, as it will make more sense in a succeeding section. The main thing worth noting in a “vanilla” Decidueye/Vileplume is which tech attackers to include. As mentioned above, I do not believe anything that cannot attack for one energy is worth including, which leaves about three spots to choose between Lugia-EX, Tauros-GX, Beedrill-EX, Mewtwo EVO and Meowth FCO. The general consensus seems to arrive at two Lugia and one Beedrill as the best direction to take the deck, and I think that this is mostly correct.

“Cut me?” About to be one very mad bull.

I think there is some merit to including Mewtwo EVO in the right metagame, but Tauros and Meowth are both on the unpopular side of lists. My opinion of Tauros-GX has changed significantly since the release of Sun and Moon, and I largely do not think this card to be any good outside of its one opportunity to use Mad Bull-GX. Otherwise, it just seems ineffective, and when played alongside other Pokémon-GX, I believe that Mad Bull-GX is to be a worse option than Hollow Hunt-GX or either of the Eeveelution GX attacks. I know there are still some merits to the card, which Christopher discussed at length in his last article, but for the most part, I think its time to shine in the deck was when players were not fully accustomed to dealing with the card.

I would not necessarily say that a player is wrong for still using Tauros, but I certainly do not prefer it. Meowth, on the other hand, I think is just not worth including, as it simply does not have enough HP to be as effective as you often need it to be. In my view, the seven-eight energy that Decidueye/Vileplume often plays are the most precious resource within the deck, and you simply cannot waste them at any given point — which is why two energy tech attackers should not make the cut, and the low HP options are simply is not worth it. I think that there is still some amount of time for an unorthodox list to show itself, and potentially take down the Brazilian International Championship, but for now, I believe that the vanilla standard is the only way to play the deck.

Breaking Through: Analyzing the Top 4 Barrier

So far this quarter, I have played in four Cups, and in every single one of them, I have made the Top Cut, but lost in the Top 4. This leaves my Championship Point total at a mere 60, making my overall total just a hair over the halfway point at 262. I try to take every single one of my losses with as open a mind as possible, and I cannot help but wonder what I could be doing better to get over this current blockade. Am I simply getting unlucky or hitting poor matchups late in the tournament, or are there various lines of play that I have overlooked that are preventing me placing higher?

I think that one of the best ways to improve as a player is to never chock up a loss to being beyond your control and try to think about what you could have done differently to have won the game.

Of course, it will not always be the case that you could’ve won, but I think that it is impossible to grow if you see yourself as an infallible player. To examine this further, let’s briefly go over all of these tournaments:

#1 – Jenks, Oklahoma – Yveltal/Wobbuffet/Garbodor

Round 1: Decidueye/Vileplume W
Round 2: Turbo Dark W
Round 3: Vileplume/Big Basics L
Round 4: Mirror W
Round 5: Tauros/Zebstrika/Garbodor W
Top 4: Volcanion WLL

Verdict: Play Smarter and Faster

My loss here was simply a matter of reaching the 60 minutes of time at the wrong moment. I won the first game handily and narrowly lost the second game as my opponent made a strong comeback off N, and our third game was called at 6-6 Prizes. I failed to take a knockout before my opponent could take an easy KO on my Garbodor. I knew I would be unfavored against Volcanion in a prize count scenario, so my mistake here was likely trying to get Garbodor online. Instead, I think I would have had a better chance to just go as aggressive as possible with Yveltal-EX and hope that I could achieve a knockout before my opponent reached the point where he could use multiple Steam Ups to one shot anything on my board.

#2 – Tulsa, Oklahoma – Decidueye/Vileplume/Jolteon-EX

Round 1: Wobbuffet/Espeon-GX/Lunala-GX W
Round 2: Mirror W
Round 3: Mirror W
Round 4: ID
Round 5: ID
Top 4: M Mewtwo-EX/Wobbuffet/Garbodor LL

Verdict: Manage Resources Better

One of my biggest faults as a player is that I simply do not test as much as I should. It is hard for me to find the time, but I think that I spend too much of my “testing” on pure theory instead of actually practicing my deck. This leads to multiple rounds per tournament of trial and error where I inevitably play myself into a bad scenario that could be easily avoided with substantial practice. In this Top 4 set, I found myself up against a very difficult matchup, and in both games, I had great starts and would end up losing to a massive comeback that I think could have been avoided if I had prepared more and been more contemplative in my Hollow Hunt choices.

In the second game, I was put in an incredibly poor position after my opponent used Shrine of Memories + Garbodor to Acid Spray two of my energy away. In truth, I had absolutely no idea the Trubbish had such an option available to it and I think it would be easy to write the situation off as “Well, my opponent just got lucky with two heads in a row,” but of course that mindset prevents me from learning as a player. Had I known about such a line of play, I think I could have attached my Energy more intelligently and perhaps avoided the loss entirely.

#3 – Springfield, MO – Decidueye/Vileplume
Round 1: Mega Altaria WW
Round 2: Carbink BREAK/Zygarde-EX WW
Round 3: Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor WW
Round 4: Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor LWL
No Top Cut, but 4th Place Finish

Verdict: Never give up

This tournament is a bit more difficult to analyze, as the lack of a Top Cut playoff somewhat invalidates deciding standings on Swiss alone. It is certainly possible that I could have made a run in a bracket scenario and taken the tournament, but it is hard to know. I ended up playing a Mewtwo EVO at the tournament to hedge against M Mewtwo, having learned the difficulty of that matchup in the previous week and while many players seem uncertain about its inclusion, I found it quite useful against both the Mewtwos that I faced. My loss in the fourth round to Mewtwo is also hard to analyze, as I simply lost the opening coin flip and had to start fighting an uphill battle immediately going second.

I am tempted to write off this series as a matter of the aforementioned coin flip, as I am at such an advantage going first and at an incredible disadvantage if my opponent is able to find Tool cards on their opening turn (I think both games 1 and 3 saw two Spirit Links and Float Stone on Trubbish), but I want to believe that it is more complex than that. I had calculated my resistance before this round and knew I would likely take first with a tie and I think the solution would have been to play out the games longer. I scooped the third game very early, but had I played it out further, I maybe would’ve been able to tie and take the tournament.

I had a dead hand after going all in and missing the first turn Vileplume and simply conceded to my opponent’s second turn Garbodor and knockout on my Beedrill-EX, but after giving up, I saw that I would have topdecked an N, which maybe would have changed the outcomes of the game. Admittedly, I was foolish in not playing the rest of the game.

#4 – Mountain Grove, MO – Lapras-GX

Round 1: Mega Rayquaza WW
Round 2: Greninja WLW
Round 3: Mega Rayquaza WW
Round 4: ID
Round 5: ID
Top 4: Vespiquen LL

Verdict: Deck Choice Matters

I will talk about Lapras in the next section, but I wanted to try something new for this tournament and figured that Lapras was something probably worth investigating. This tournament was much smaller than I initially expected, and I had the opportunity to scout every deck in the tournament. I watched my friend shift from his initial choice of Volcanion into a hastily created Vespiquen list. I did not fault him for the change, but ultimately I think I too should have changed my deck at the last moment instead of just shrugging and hoping to dodge Vespiquen throughout the day.

In the week prior, I had thought in depth about playing Darkrai/Giratina; I think that would have been the ideal play for the tournament, and I think my loss was an incident of sloth more than anything else. It would be easy to shrug it off as just getting unlucky with the pairings, but I think that would be giving myself an excuse out of a very avoidable situation.

To sum it all up, even though I have been able to make cut at all of these events, I think my lack of 1st place finishes is much more than just poor luck. Hopefully, I will take what I learned from these events and be able to find more success later down the road, but perhaps there is still much for me to learn this season. My aim for this section is to encourage everyone to examine his or her shortcomings more closely, and try to use that to build a foundation to become a more successful player.

It is simply too easy to get discouraged through unsatisfactory performances and simply view it all as a lack of luck, but I believe wholeheartedly that the game is much more than luck — which is why certain incredible players have well over 500 Championship Points already and there are those like me still struggling to reach the finish line. I still have hope that I will qualify for Worlds this year, but I will not be able to do so if I do not encourage myself to improve in each and every moment of competitive play.

A Ride to Success: Loving Lapras
Riding Lapras to success.

Lapras is one of the strangest decks I have encountered in recent memory. Initially, the entire community seemed mostly united in the opinion that the deck was a total fluke and not worth considering (myself included). I remember seeing someone play a netdecked version of the EU list that placed in the top four at a Regional Championship and just performing abysmally, which only validated my initial impression.

However, lots of work and intelligent players have come behind the deck since then and have greatly changed the overall skeleton of the list into something much different than the original list. The initial focus of total disruption remains the same but it is much more streamlined now and has currently garnered my favor. Here is the list that I played at my most recent League Cup:

Pokémon – 5

4 Lapras-GX

1 Wobbuffet PHF

Trainers – 45

4 Team Flare Grunt

4 N

2 Lysandre

2 Team Skull Grunt

1 Delinquent

1 Hex Maniac

1 Olympia

1 Professor Kukui

1 Professor Sycamore

1 Skyla

1 Team Rocket’s Handiwork


4 Crushing Hammer

4 VS Seeker

4 Puzzle of Time

3 Fighting Fury Belt

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Nest Ball

1 Switch

1 Float Stone

1 Super Rod/Energy Recycler/Fisherman


4 Rough Seas

Energy – 10

10 W

I was truly surprised to enjoy playing the deck as much as I did but it reminded me a lot of decks I have played in the past (coincidentally, many of these decks featured Quad Pokémon and a focus on Hammer disruption) and for the time being, I think this is my favorite deck in the format. As we’ll see later in, “favorite” here does not equate to “best” as I think there are a few issues that this deck cannot overcome, but the main reason I enjoy it so much as that it either wins big or loses big. There is not much of a middle ground for the deck, which makes it somewhat of a risky play, but a majority of the decks in the format cannot beat the overall construction of this list.

I would list any Dark, Decidueye, and Mega decks all as greatly favorable and Volcanion and Vespiquen as unfavorable. Volcanion seemingly can be defeated by playing Max Elixir, but I think the strength of the deck is largely in Puzzle of Time and there is currently a split in opinion of whether or not you ought to play Puzzle or Elixir. I am toying around with the idea of trying to fit 2-3 Elixir into the list to try to meet somewhere in the middle, but it remains to be seen if this can currently solve any of the pre-existing problems. I am also not certain what the consensus on Vespiquen decks is, but based off my experiencing playing against the pesky Bee in top 4, a list that only plays one copy of Special Charge is potentially winnable, while two copies is next to impossible to overcome.

What I really loved about playing this deck is that it felt like every decision I made mattered and that miniscule plays could mean the difference between victory and defeat. You’re so slow and often have such a large hand that you have a plethora of options available every turn, which reinforces how important each decision is. I had to make some tough calls throughout my tournament, and could almost immediately tell when I made a right move or a wrong one, and that is something that I rarely feel playing any other deck.

Trainer Time: Mailbag

No Pidgey were harmed in the writing of this article.

It’s mail time! I have never done a section like this before in my articles and am borrowing the style from Kenny Wisdom who often spent his time writing to answer community quandaries and with that in mind, let’s have a little fun in this section! Sorry to those who sent me a question and did not get an answer, I will try to include your questions at a later date but I only plan on answering the first couple questions each time as my viewpoints tend to be somewhat wordy.

Rahul Reddy (@thefleeee) asks: How do you feel about this season’s tournament structure as a whole? As in the League Cup system and Regionals being standalone events? Would it be better to bring Cities back over League Cups or everything is alright the way it is?

In general, I think this season has been a happy return to a truly competitive season. I think there were many of us who were unhappy about the casual nature of the 300 point seasons, and I am glad that it has become much harder to qualify for Worlds. I think TPCi is doing a great job trying to turn the game into a circuit of Tournaments that require the grind rather than simply rewarding it. It is hard to know if TPCi themselves are happy with this shift, as, in the past, they seemed to be behind the “bigger Worlds is better” so I would not be surprised if some LCQ-type events eventually pop up at the end of the year.

As for Cups versus Cities debate, I honestly wish that they would get rid of smaller tournaments entirely and focus more on the bigger picture. I think that there should still be an incentive for Leagues to grow and aid new players and so League Challenges certainly should exist, but I think Cups don’t fit the current competitive mindset. That is, there tends to be such a disparity in these events where some players win 10 person Cups in the first weekend of the quarter and others have to slog through 5-6 60+ person tournaments in order to just meet their best finish limit.

I think that the biggest thing I would like to see next season is the inclusion of 1-2 invitation only tournaments in conjunction with the World Championships. I think one of the biggest things holding Pokémon back from growing into something larger is the lack of a narrative across multiple events so I would absolutely love to see a 16 or 32 person World Championships and then have something slightly below that with 200-300 people.

The only problem I really have with the season this year is that the power of the stipends more or less created a snowball effect. Being able to attend Internationals created a huge advantage for those with the means to attend and while I am certainly not trying to discredit those players, it made things incredibly easy for the initial top 16 who were already so far ahead of everyone else at the start of the year. Next year, if stipends continue to go out in the same way, I would like them not to include Worlds Points.

Thanks for the question and for those who don’t know, Rahul Reddy who is doing an excellent job promoting the community through regular content. Make sure to peep his YouTube and upcoming streams.

Leonard Batfish asks: (if that is your real name) What is your take on the current Madison Regionals/Ohana-Con debate. Is the controversy a reasonable one or simply being blown out proportion by dissenters and Jimmy’s somewhat questionable and argumentative answers?

For those unaware, the upcoming Madison Regional Championships is directly tied to a nerd culture/anime convention and has a steep entry fee of $50 to get into the tournament. I think the my voice on this matter lands squarely in the middle in that I think that it is foolish and unfortunate that the event had to be planned like this. If we have to spend all weekend competing, then the convention is absolutely not a bonus, as there would basically be no time to enjoy it or participate in the other activities happening at the same time.

I am probably one of very few who already attends 1-2 anime conventions every year and even I am not enthused with the idea of having to pay extra for seemingly no benefit. However at the same time, I am happy to give Tournament Organizer Jimmy Ballard the benefit of the doubt in this scenario and I think it is both unfair and foolish to see this conflict as an attempt to simply try and make more money or scam plays for sake of a petty profit. It absolutely should have been planned different, but I think that Jimmy runs some of the best events in the entire World and has put his heart and soul into the game for longer than many of us have been playing and this whole debacle was a rare lapse in judgment and not evidence of miserly behavior.

Editor’s Note: The registration fee for all TCG players in Madison is now $40, as opposed to the prior $50 fee for TCG Masters.

Travis Nunlist (@travisnunlist) asks: If you had to create a dream team of Pokémon players and could have anyone in North America that you wanted, who would make the list and why?

Fun question! To try and keep things equally fun but also concise, I will limit my answer to a group of four that does not include myself. I am of the belief that it is best to work in small numbers, but include as many players from a different areas to get as diverse as an opinion as possible. Four members will also to participate in the group archetype made famous by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia of the brains, the looks, the muscle and the wild card. Let’s begin:

The Brains: I think that this is somewhat obvious given my previous writings but my pick for this slot none other than our own Christopher Schemanske (@cschemanske). I tend to write nothing but praise for his work but I think it is completely evident from his writing that he has the analytical mind to process results and outcomes unlike anyone. At Orlando Regionals, I got to see his Excel sheet for calculating who would and would not make the top cut and having access to someone like that seems a necessity.

The Looks: This person is an important part of the overall dynamic as they act as a liaison between the casual and competitive player. On the outside, they probably look totally normal and not like a Pokémon nerd at all, but deep down there is someone who cares more about the game than they let on. Their general charisma allows them to slip in and out of multiple groups which in turn gives the group more information and viewpoints to analyze. As such, I think my draft for this position would be Brad Curcio (@Shuckmyjiggle). I’ve seen him work with multiple testing groups across the county and in recent years, he’s begun to see quite a bit of success. He has a strange but undeniable charm to his personality and remains somewhat elusive as a result.

The Muscle: The muscle is the theoretical bouncer of the group and while they do not physically need to prove themselves, their stature tends to be intimidating giving them an initial advantage when entering into a match. They are sometimes overlooked by their more vocal team members but there is no denying that these players have the brains to match their brawn. My choice here is Daniel Lopez, or, as he’s known on PTCGO, Danny Bicepz. A very skilled player who tends to come up with strange lists for already popular archetypes, he remains somewhat unknown amongst many players but he has more than enough results to back up his validity as a player.

The Wildcard: Unpredictable, wild and erratic, the wild card favors their own rogue concoctions to any pre-established archetypes. Similarly, their results tend to be all over the place as well and they either see great success or an early exit from any given tournament. As such, my pick for this final spot is Liam Williams (@lmwlms), who placed in the top 4 at last year’s US Nationals. I think anyone who knows him will not be surprised as his inclusion as this member of the group.

The final question for this edition of the mailbag will lead us directly into our final section!

Brazil Top 3

Vinicious Gomes (@VinaPTCG) asks: 3 best decks for Brazil next week?

Start the drumroll please!

#3: Lapras-GX

I think that the list above is almost perfect, but once again, I think I will try swapping out 2-3 cards to see if a few copies of Max Elixir can make a difference against certain decks. But, with the right matchups, I foresee the deck cruising into the second day of competition. It has so many options available and essentially has to get benched to lose to many decks in the format. I think it is a great play, albeit a risky one. If there is a large amount of Volcaion and Vespiquen, Lapras will absolutely struggle, but barring that scenario, I would be surprised if 1-2 Lapras did not make the top 16 at the very least.

#2: Volcanion

Though continually overlooked by many players, this deck is coming straight off winning Melbourne Internationals and Utah Regionals; thus, its power cannot be denied. It has an inherent advantage against Decidueye and is favored against any Dark deck that has opted to not play Garbodor. It is simple, raw, powerful, and consistent and tends to be unbeatable if it has explosive enough starts.

#1: Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor

I definitely believe that I am a minority with this choice, but I cannot seem to stop losing to this deck this season. Its main foe in Mega Gardevoir has been driven out of the metagame by several poor matchups, and I think it has the means to be built in such a way to be favored against every single top deck. You can beat Decidueye/Vileplume by simply going first and waiting for a well-timed Hex Maniac to get a turn of items in order to overcome the Item lock. You are naturally favored against Volcanion with your damage output and Garbotoxin, and you can opt to include Pokémon Center Lady, Olympia, or the Generations Mewtwo-EX to overcome Lapras. Damage Swap can turn around games in the blink of the eye, and most lists for this deck contain 0 tricks which provides maximum consistency.

The venue in São Paulo.

That’s all I have for today! I hope you enjoyed everything I had to say, as I had a blast coming up with some of these answers. As always, I would love to hear your take on any of the issues I attempted to address in this article and will do my best to answer future questions. I do not think I will be able to attend Virginia Regionals, which leaves my remaining options to earn Championship Points somewhat barren, but I promise that I am doing my very best to qualify for Worlds and continually prove myself as a player. I hope to see all of our subscribers at future events, and I look forward to bringing you my further opinions later in May. Until next time!

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