I’m not sure I’ve ever sensed quite as much apathy from the community over a format than that which permeated the general attitude that led up to this past weekend in Roanoke. I don’t know anybody that actively liked the PRC–SUM format, and do know many that actively despised it. Alex Hill might’ve been one of the few that embraced its overlord, Decidueye/Vileplume, to success from start to finish, but I don’t believe even he had any great love for the format. The predictability of Roanoke’s metagame was truly unique — and no small bit boring.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the Top 2 decks were not prime metagame contenders. Of course, Quad Lapras-GX has seen discussion since its breakout in Europe, but while many Americans looked to the deck in Brazil, I’m still not really sure that many players took it all that seriously. Perhaps this was to their own peril. I personally did not factor Lapras seriously into my deck choice, as I didn’t expect many to play it — and, indeed, it was a small, but effective, chunk of the field.
On the other hand, Araquanid SUM saw nearly zero serious consideration before this weekend, and I’d honestly muse that it never will again. Grant Manley has a propensity for succeeding with some strange things, but generally speaking, his revelations have come at the end of formats and not been able to gain longstanding footholds as archetypes. When coupling the reality that Roanoke was pretty unique in the predictability of its metagame with the fact that Guardians Rising seems to have the potential to annihilate our current understanding of not only the metagame, but the game itself, I’m in no hurry to check my Water Bubble supply. Props to Grant on mastering the weekend’s metagame.
Roanoke Review: Recapping VA
It was clear that the majority of top players in the community went with Decidueye or Mewtwo this weekend, with a smaller (but certainly not insignificant) chunk electing for Speed Dark, Volcanion, and M Rayquaza. A few, like Grant and Peter Kica (M Gardevoir PRC/Garbodor), took shots with unknown options, but most stayed with standard fare. I fit into that category myself, electing to pilot Decidueye/Vileplume. There was no especially brilliant reason for that choice, and my peers articulated its merits quite well last week, so I’ll refrain from doing so here.
My only other viable option was M Rayquaza-EX/Gumshoos-GX, which was Sean Foisy’s suggestion for the weekend. While I couldn’t shoot any deathly holes in the concept, I was not confident in its Decidueye matchup. Gumshoos does solve many of the deck’s problems, though, and Chris Derocher piloted that list to a Top 32 finish (Sean himself landed in Top 64). Principally, Gumshoos offers a way to 1HKO an attacking Giratina-EX, a reasonable response to a hefty M Mewtwo, and, broadly, a GX attack that’s widely applicable. It was testing decently the night before, but particularly with Pokémon’s realignment of the CP paradigm, I really didn’t think a potentially poor Decidueye matchup was something I wanted to chance, as I wanted to at least assure myself of some points (given even a Top 128 finish contributes a sizable chunk of CP).
Perhaps this attitude could be described as complacency; at some point Saturday the idea certainly crossed my mind. I do not believe there was a truly and objectively correct play for the weekend, so I don’t feel too bad about the choice in any event. As you’ve probably guessed by my tone, I certainly wished for more in my conclusion, but here’s how the day went:
Roanoke, VA – 657 Masters – Decidueye/Vileplume
R1 Lapras-GX/Glaceon-EX/Manaphy-EX (2-0)
R2 Umbreon-GX/Wobbuffet PHF/Garbodor BKP/Hammers (0-2)
R3 Yveltal-EX/Garbodor BKP (1-2)
R4 M Rayquaza-EX (1-2)
R5 Umbreon-GX/Eeveeloutions AOR (2-0)
R6 Houndoom-EX Mill (2-1)
R7 Espeon-GX/Umbreon-GX/Garbodor (2-1)
R8 Volcanion-EX (2-1)
R9 Volcanion-EX (2-1)
Final: 6-3, 87th
It was a pretty depressing first few hours of the day, and all things said, I’m pretty happy to have recovered from my tailspin and net Top 128 points. In Round 2, I was summarily destroyed by Energy denial, but Rounds 3 and 4 were both narrow losses that stung. Decidueye fundamentally trades a smattering of “auto-win” matchups for more even matchups across the board, and while I believe both of those matchups to be quite fine for Decidueye in general terms, there’s no denying that they can be lost. The rest of my day was a smattering of strange matchups and fire-extinguishing. Can’t really complain in the end, though.
I’ve intentionally left this until last because it’ll help me make a point shortly, but here’s the list I played:
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 26
Energy – 7
It’s funny how things come together. For the first time in a long time, I printed a decklist out on Thursday, well before even leaving for the event. I was fairly sure of my archetype choice all along, and if I wanted to make a few alterations, a pen does so handily. While the archetype was easy enough, the debate over the last few slots in this list was incredibly involved. I was steadfast in wanting the Mewtwo EVO, having heard discussion from others of M Mewtwo sans Garbodor. Furthermore, I believed Yveltal to be a relative non-issue in the meta despite being somewhat well-positioned for a return. With those two facts in conjunction, I was led to adamantly argue against Beedrill-EX in Alex and I’s last minute conversations.
The 2nd Lugia-EX was something I badly wanted as well, but space was at an interesting premium in the list. I didn’t really feel the passionate desire for the 4th Trainers’ Mail that Alex had, but eventually he won me over on that point. One consideration in my reluctant agreement was the relatively narrow uses of both Mewtwo and Beedrill. While both can have fringe uses against other decks, each is mostly meant for dealing with a single threat (M Mewtwo and Garbodor, respectively).
Moreover, each of those threats were primarily to be expected in accompaniment of each other, so in a way, it was a decision of which way to tech for Mewtwo! But, more critically, I knew including two cards with such narrow focus would be a serious problem when it came to Mirror or Volcanion — I’d effectively have a 58 card deck. In a way, including 2 Lugia, 1 Tauros, and 1 Mewtwo would similarly violate this principle because I only have so many Double Colorless Energy to offer.
For a combination of those and other reasons, Alex and I eventually more-or-less compromised on including Mewtwo and Trainers’ Mail in the 59th and 60th slots. I think this was a decent split, as the Garb-less M Mewtwo did make the appearance I envisioned and consistency truly is king in our tournament structure. Unfortunately, fate decided that I should’ve played Beedrill, and treated me to a nice supply of Garbodor all day. In talking since the tournament, it seems that Alex feels similarly (despite his greater success in making Top 16).
In concluding analysis of my own Virginia, I can’t be too upset given the relative non-volatility of the format’s matchups and my deck choice. This was truly a play-it-safe pick, and given the nature of the metagame, I believe we could re-run this tournament 100 times and see at least half of the players in the room make Top 32 a few times. Overall, I can’t complain, but look forward to Toronto as we finally put PRC–SUM to rest.
Speaking of PRC–SUM, since this is the last event its clutches will ever hold, its results are of slightly less value looking forward. Overall, I encourage you to look at them in terms of broad trends rather than getting stuck on exact frequencies in Top 32/8. Mewtwo made a surge, especially with the introduction of a new variant, while Decidueye continued to be seen at all levels of the metagame. Guardians Rising is terrible news for both of those decks, given Garbodor GRI’s potential to destroy anything, let alone poor Psychic types, and Tapu Lele’s enablement of easy Hex Maniac access. Decidueye is more likely to persevere the new threats, but as for Mewtwo, I think it’s a bad day to be a certain psychic cat.
It’s the Little Things: Micromanaging Success
Over the course of the year, any number of things can and will go sideways while playing this game. You might make a mistake, your opponent might do something awry, a judge might make an error. At the end of the day, I firmly believe any and every controllable aspect of a game is a player’s own responsibility. And, in a similar note, there are some microdecisions that are sometimes the difference between good tournament runs and great runs. Over the course of the weekend, I took note of a few things I witnessed around/across from/in my own play that I thought warranted highlighting. These are simply good tips for a better tournament experience, upping your in-game play, and otherwise.
- Stage 2 decks like Decidueye/Vileplume are generally not the type of thing you want to N on Turn 1. Around midway through my depressing morning in VA, it occurred to me just how impactful a Turn 1 N can be for Decidueye when it goes second. Generally speaking, the hardest part of setting up (aside from Forest of Giant Plants, which isn’t generally something you as an opponent can control my access to) is accumulating the mass of Basics to evolve.Unlike some decks, I don’t hesitate to drop any useful Basics I open with when playing Decidueye. If I’m able to drop an Oddish and Rowlet during setup before getting N’d into a fresh hand, I have a greater shot at getting more Basics without the use of a search effect. Generally speaking, force someone playing an intricate setup-based deck to refresh their own hand in the early stages if you can help it.
- If you are ever unclear on something your opponent is doing, don’t hesitate to ask! It’s better for you, and honestly, probably less of a discomfort for your opponent. I got 3 turns of Feather Arrowing into one of my games when my opponent expressed confusion over how I suddenly went from being able to drop 60 damage anywhere instead of the previous 40. He’d never read Decidueye, nor bothered to ask to read the card when it hit the field. The unfortunate reality is that there are unscrupulous people that will take advantage of willingness to roll over without question. Don’t let it happen to you.
This has always been one of my pet peeves in watching people play, but consistently spending 15+ seconds deciding what Pokémon to promote when there’s a Float Stone adorning one of your Benched Pokémon is not a good use of anyone’s time. For that matter, while there are obscure scenarios (like Parallel City plays) where it may be best to not promote the Float Stone’d Pokémon, in general, it’s always a good practice to avoid closing off any of your own options in a self-inflicted manner — promote the Float. If you suddenly realize that the 4th Mega Turbo you need to dig up for your Damage Change play is actually prized, it’d be better to have your Float Stone’d Garbodor Active than the ill-equipped Mewtwo. Don’t put yourself in situations that you can’t reverse when it’s not necessary.
- Pro-tip: Keep exactly 60 cards with exactly 60 sleeves on them in your deck box, and no more. I struggle to assign blame when something goes awry with a deck check and the return of that deck to a player as it did this weekend, as there’s so much that could prevent the issue altogether. My advice is to not put yourself in a position to risk problems altogether. Get a 2nd deckbox. Get a folder. Do anything else. For one thing, it’s something that can sometimes raise the suspicion of a particularly paranoid deck checker (“Have they been switching this tech card in and out?”), but for another, you risk things like cards being left behind extra sleeves. Eliminate this exposure to accidental risk.
- Speaking of accidental risk, I don’t understand how callously some players treat match slips. Hate to say it, but if a slip is bungled, no staff is under any obligation to see that it’s rectified. I’m undoubtedly overly paranoid about it, among other things, but if you win the match it’s in your best interest to see carefully that the proper player is highlighted at slip turn-in and that all is in order. While I’m on the subject, the “Game 1/2/3” features of the match slip for marking the winners of each game aren’t exactly for decoration.
Loose Ends: Guardians and Toronto
To finish off today, I want to briefly talk about the two specific upcoming events in the community. Toronto’s Regional Championship will be the last of this competitive season, while Guardians Rising will carry us through the crux of the final push for Worlds. Both are set to be an important parts of many competitive players’ lives in short order, though perhaps Guardians is the greater concern for most.
To start though, I’d like to discuss Toronto. To say the least, I’ve heard more than a little bit of discussion suggesting M Rayquaza-EX and Volcanion as a potential heavyweights. Where discussion of M Ray is, discussion of Night March as a counter is usually quick to follow. While I’m a noted supporter of Joltik’s, I admit present concern over the fact that Standard is currently dominated by Item lock and disruption.
While Night March is inherently powerful against almost anything, it does undoubtedly bear some risks. While in the past I’d be comfortable knowing that East Coast Yveltal tends to stay away from cumbersome counts of Silent Lab, there’s a good chance that the “hive mind” I’ve noted in the past few articles will move to rectify that deficiency — making life much harder for our local bugs. As much as I’d love to, I’m not sure I can endorse Night March as a play for Canada.
My most recent Expanded selection, Primal Groudon, seems potentially well-suited to the challenge. However, I have similar concerns here as I did with Night March, and accessing Tropical Beach to run it at its most ideal is admittedly an issue for many. For those with the luxury, it’s something I’d suggest considering. For those without, it is not an archetype strong enough to be successful in an inferior form, and I wouldn’t try it.
Sableye/Garbodor was my #2 choice for Portland, and I’ll be testing to see if it might be a consideration for Toronto. I’ll be mostly concerning myself with the Dark and Yveltal matchups, but will be running the gamut in testing the concept. As an aside, as the co-creator of the list that put Seismitoad/Decidueye on the map in the States, I’d advise strongly against playing it. The damage output just isn’t there to be strong enough.
As for Guardians Rising, given it’s only a short time from release, time is running similarly short on players’ lead-in to purchase cards for earlier League Cups. This quarter is set to be a deathtrap for those still seeking the invite, with a packed schedule, so it’ll be important to be on top of the format from the start. Obviously, Tapu Lele is a must-have, and I’d add Garbodor, Rescue Stretcher, and Field Blower to the category as well. Sylveon-GX is among my favorites, while I have no love for either Lightning GX at the moment.
Another card for which I have no love, but strangely, my counterparts here find quite interesting, is this Trevenant GRI. While Poltergeist is a nostalgic sight, I don’t believe it’s quite the force Gengar SF once was. First, a reality: damage is dealt at faster and faster rates in this game. In order to be worthwhile, I really believe Trevenant needs to be swinging for a solid 180 every turn. The reality is that, even with Vileplume, many decks will not run into hands with 6 Trainers simply lingering all that often — especially if they know to work their Supporters and Stadiums appropriately in advance of Poltergeist. The mathematical proof is a bit too complicated for this space, and my timeframe, but I don’t believe the odds are on this card’s side.
When I flip to Seattle preparation after Toronto, my first task will be ascertaining Garbodor’s exact level of terror on the format. I believe it’s a card that has the potential to be truly transformational, and the testing of some I’ve spoken with that’ve been working on it already confirm that suspicion. We’ll see if hype holds to reality.
In any event, that brings me to the end of today’s article. As always, I’d love to hear thoughts and questions. You might notice we’ve re-enabled Disqus comments on articles, so there’s a home for discussion right below as well. In the short term, this will replace the feedback form we added at the start of April. The form didn’t quite work as we envisioned, so we’ve adjusted appropriately. As always, if you have any site concerns, an email to firstname.lastname@example.org is a great way to reach us in addition to the forums. You can find me on Twitter, the forums, or at an event as well.
As always, the best of luck in all of your endeavors.
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What did you think about the decision to switch from reveal and replace to reveal and shuffle? Did you see/hear less overdrawing?
It was an interesting decision for sure. I’m mostly about having consistency across events regardless of where they’re held, and by my understanding, this decree was not final. I actually had one opponent see an extra card and try to get me to let him shuffle it in immediately. Recognizing an obvious effort to rid himself of the bad topdeck (with Vileplume, it’s pretty obvious), I denied it and essentially dared him to call a judge and admit to attempting to flaunt the rules. He never showed me the card; I only granted him extra knowledge (I didn’t gain any, which is the primary flaw with R/R).
Some judges would probably be offended that I took this route, but he was very clearly attempting to gain the system and I unfortunately knew to win that argument it’d take me precious time I didn’t have.
I share the story to illustrate that R/S is not a grand, easy solution to R/R. Both can be milked. I like that R/S doesn’t create knowledge that shouldn’t conventionally exist, but R/S is more susceptible to abuse by players’ selective reporting of issues. If it becomes standard to shuffle, that gap will close somewhat, but there’ll still be situations where a rushed player declines to involve a judge to initiate the shuffle. It’s a delicate balancing act to be sure, and I look forward to seeing what others do.