Hey everyone! Glad to be back so soon after my last article. The new structure of articles should allow me to write a bit more frequently – getting a short article out is much easier than a longer one! Though I have been friends with Adam since the beginning of time, I am excited for Christopher and Alex to take the reins for this new era of SixPrizes. We have been discussing some awesome stuff and I look forward to the future working with the staff.
VA Regionals Report
Before I dive into the meat of my article, I want to comment on a few things from this past weekend in Virginia. I just wanted to play something consistent, as I felt like this format was just about executing your strategy faster and more often than your opponent. Turbo Darkrai seemed to fit the bill nicely, so after seeing Philip Schulz do well in Brazil, I played a bunch of games with his list, made a single change, and went to town. My one change was -1 D Energy +1 Parallel City, as I thought the extra copy would do well in the mirror and against Mega Rayquaza (sometimes useful in other matchups as well, but primarily played because of those two decks). Here were my matches on the day:
R1 Decidueye/Vileplume – WW
R2 Lurantis-GX/Solgaleo-GX – WW
R3 M Mewtwo (Ryan Sabelhaus) (Stream link) – WLT
R4 M Mewtwo/Garbodor – WW
R5 Decidueye/Vileplume (Jimmy Pendarvis) – LL
R6 Darkrai/Dragons – WLT
R7 Yveltal/Garbodor – WW
R8 M Mewtwo (Alex Wilson) – LWT
R9 M Mewtwo/Garbodor – LWW
5-1-3, 64th place
I was happy to make Top 64 and I thank my strong opponents (three Regional champions!) to help carry my resistance. Top 64 got me just enough points to qualify for the World Championships! Overall a great weekend and a well-run tournament, especially compared to past Virginia Regionals.
I’d like to comment on Grant’s Wobbufett deck briefly, as it was obviously quite unique. A deck like this can only exist in a metagame that is very defined. Going into the tournament, you could realistically expect 7-8 (if not all 9) of your rounds to be against one of the following decks: Decidueye, Volcanion, Darkrai, Rayquaza, or Mewtwo, and, to a less extent, Yveltal, Lapras, and Gardevoir. If your deck can beat the first five, you should obviously play such a deck. The difficult of this format was finding a deck that could beat Decidueye while also beating the aggressive EX decks. Grant recognized Wobbufett and heavy Energy removal would beat Decidueye, Araquanid beat Volcanion, Jolteon beat Darkrai, and Glaceon + Energy removal is very strong against Rayquaza and Mewtwo. Perhaps he would have played a Regice if he realized how big Mewtwo would be.
This approach of picking off matchups is something you can only do in a metagame where you are all but guaranteed to face off against the decks you are preparing for. This deck would have almost certainly failed in Anaheim, Australia, Utah, and Brazil, as the format was still not as fleshed out as it was going into Virginia. Anti-meta decks are always super crazy, but only work when there is a super defined meta to counter! Awesome job to Grant creating a deck in a format that everyone else had given up on.
An Aside on the Formats
Briefly, I want to comment on Standard vs. Expanded. For local tournaments this year (Cups, Challenges), Standard has felt the better format. You can guess what the 20 – 40 other players will be using and metagame accordingly. Expanded local events don’t have the same feel, as most players just play what they are comfortable with or threw together the night before. There is little progression in the local Expanded metagame, while Standard evolves.
Conversely, Standard Regionals have felt more luck-based to me. You go into a Standard event and hope to hit the matchups you are looking to hit. Standard decks brick often as well, and over a long tournament this adds up. Expanded decks are so much more consistent that you can realistically expect to execute your strategy nearly every game. There are more decks to consider, but if you play a strong, consistent deck, many of your matches are decided on the table rather than by “did I hit my Max Elixirs?”
All that said, it seems I only like to write about the Expanded format this year, and today is no exception. Perhaps I am biased about the Expanded format, as I have gotten about two-thirds of my Championships Points in Expanded events, getting 2nd in Philly Regionals, Top 64 in St. Louis, plus winning and Top 4’ing Expanded League Cups this past quarter. Though my feelings may change with Guardians Rising, I still think Expanded is the better format when compared to Standard.
The Ace in the Hole: Lurantis/Vileplume
Today I want to look primarily at a deck that performed exceedingly well at St. Louis but did not get much coverage post-event, as it was overshadowed by the hype of many of the other successful decks at the event: Lurantis/Vileplume. This is the deck I played to a 6-2-1, Top 64 finish, but also the deck tied with the most placings in the Top 32, piloted by Ross Cawthon, Dave Richards, Eric Rodriguez, and Mike Moskowitz. After this, I’ll dive into some of the decks I am considering for Toronto.
In my last article, I discussed what I thought to be the best Expanded decks going into the tournament. All of these decks, sans Vileplume Toolbox, showed up, and many more! Volcanion, Decidueye/Vileplume, and Mega Gardevoir are some of the highlights. I was pretty set on playing Night March about a week before the event, as I had discussed the list with Peter “Joltik” Kica quite a bit and it seemed very strong for an open metagame.
However, Dean Nezam and Fred Hoban messaged me and started talking to me about a Lurantis/Vileplume deck they were working on. I had written the deck off in Standard, but Battle Compressor seemed like a natural addition to the deck in Expanded to make it more consistent. However, when they sent the list over, the real eye-opener to me was 4 copies of AZ. This made so much sense to me: Lurantis gets Energy back, making AZ a super versatile card in the deck. I played a handful of games against Dean with various decks and was convinced it could be a viable play.
As an aside, if possible, I like to play decks that are not well known. I won’t play a rogue for the sake of playing a rogue, but there is an inherent advantage you gain when the opponent does not know the ins and outs of your deck. If I think two decks are an equally good play for an event, where one is a known archetype and the other is an under-the-radar play, I will almost always choose the latter. Ultimately, this is the decision I was faced with as I decided my deck for St. Louis: play Night March, which everyone knows, or play Lurantis/Vileplume, a deck where I could prey on my opponent’s lack of knowledge. I thought both decks had a similar shot in a relatively blind metagame, so I chose to play Lurantis.
Let’s look at a skeleton for the deck:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 29
Energy – 9
6 open slots
Though I only worked with Dean, Fred, Dave, and Ross on the list, Mike and Eric’s Top 32 lists were also within this skeleton. Dean, Fred, Dave, Ross, and myself played the following to fill out the list: +1 Pal Pad, +2 Acro Bike
Dean, Fred, and Dan played a single Gloom, Vileplume, and Lurantis-GX to get to 60 cards. Ross and I both played 1 Revitalizer and 1 N to get to 59. Ross played a Silver Bangle to get to 60, while I played a Lurantis-GX in the final spot instead. I forget exactly what Mike and Eric played to get to their 60, but I know Eric played Level Balls over Acro Bikes. Neither of them played Pal Pad, which was an epic and very strong inclusion.
I think the extra Gloom and Vileplume are largely unnecessary. The 4th Revitalizer was very strong and does the job of the extra Vileplume cards in my opinion. Ross and I were debating between the 4th Lurantis, 4th Battle Compressor, and the Silver Bangle until we handed in our decklists. I am still unsure which is most correct.
Eric and Dave both ended up finishing in the Top 16, with Dave tying his win-and-in in the last round. Ross lost in Top 8 to the other Vileplume deck: Decidueye, piloted by John Kettler. Speaking of Decidueye, let’s take a look at the differences between how these decks interact with some of the most popular decks in the Expanded metagame:
First, in general, Lurantis/Vileplume (L/V), should more consistently get out a Turn 1 Vileplume compared to Decidueye/Vileplume (D/V). Without having to devote as much resources to set up its companion, L/V can focus on getting the Vileplume up with less attention devoted elsewhere. The flip side of this is that D/V can set up a basic attacker with only a DCE, while Lurantis needs a Stage 1 to start attacking.
- Yveltal: Both decks lose to a T1 Archeops if they go second. On the flip side, both decks usually win if they go first and get a T1 Vileplume. The difference, then, is if the opponent does not get Archeops or you go first and miss the Vileplume. Because of the nature of the decks, if Lurantis can get a T1 Lurantis (and no Vileplume), they are usually in a more commanding position then if D/V sets up just a Decidueye or two. The Archeops that can come down with no Vileplume will cripple the Stage 2 deck more often than the Stage 1 deck. Both decks can always Lysandre the Archeops and KO it. Overall, I think the Yveltal matchup is about the same for both decks, but if I had to give a slight edge to one, it would be to Lurantis.
- Darkrai: Lurantis struggles going second against this speed demon of a deck. The constant healing from AZ helps a lot, but sometimes they can just put too much pressure on you. Decidueye is a bit better dealing with this pressure, as the extra 30 HP on the Owl is quite relevant. A slight edge to Decidueye in this matchup.
- Night March: Though you would think Decidueye would be much better against Night March, I think it’s a wash. Night March can stream Hex Maniac and actually take games from Decidueye, but Hex Maniac does much less against Lurantis. With a bulky Stage 1 that 1HKOs Joltik for a single Energy while powering up itself or another attacker, L/V has a very positive Night March matchup as well.
- Groudon: Though Groudon is weak to Grass, both of these decks find a difficult matchup against the Wobbufett quartet. L/V will attempt to set up multiple Lurantis while D/V will set up multiple Decidueye to attack. Lurantis has an edge here, as Solar Blade can 1HKO Wobbufetts and puts Groudon on a quicker clock than D/V can.
- Trevenant: L/V has a massive advantage here. One Lurantis literally beats a Trevenant deck by itself. Load up Energies and have a blast. D/V should beat Trev if it goes first, but will have a tough time going second to a T1 Wally.
- Seismitoad: Both decks have strong Toad matchups, but Lurantis is a Seismitoad killer on its own. Both in the Toad and Trev matchups, I don’t think it is even necessary to go for the Vileplume, as you can just win the matchup with a Lurantis.
- Mega Rayquaza: I have not played this matchup extensively with either deck, but it seems both decks have a big advantage going first and big disadvantage going second. Like the Night March matchup, L/V is less susceptible to a Hex Maniac chain, but this might not be as significant when Rayquaza can easily 1HKO a Lurantis. I would think D/V has a slight advantage, but I am not sure.
- Volcanion: D/V is better against the big Fire deck, as it has non-Grass attackers. Both decks will struggle to beat Volcanion, and while Lurantis can (and did — Ross beat at least one Volcanion in STL), D/V will do it more consistently.
- Sableye: This is another matchup where a single Lurantis should simply win you the game. If D/V allows the Sableye player to get a Garb out, they will lose the game. Xerosic in D/V will give it a chance, but I would want to be playing L/V every time in this matchup.
- Mega Gardevoir: I wouldn’t normally talk about this deck, but it had such a showing in STL that I feel I should address it. D/V has a slightly better matchup here, boasting incredible HP and a reliable way to chip down the opponent. L/V has a close matchup. I beat one in my STL tournament and others went about 50-50 vs it. Multiple Hex Maniac, much like in the Rayquaza and Night March matchups, can be difficult to deal with for either Grass deck.
While there are many other relevant decks in the Expanded meta, I only have a limited amount of space in this article. Hopefully the above does a good job comparing how these decks do against the majority of the field.
One other small benefit of L/V over D/V is its ability to run Virizion-EX more naturally. If Accelgor ever becomes a large threat, a tech Virizion will ruin Accelgor’s day. Accelgor has a very strong matchup against the Vileplume decks, so this could be a consideration going forward.
Myriad of Mystique: The Other Options
While I think L/V is a good deck in Expanded, I do not want to play it again this weekend. It wasn’t very exciting to play, and since I have my invite, I want to play something that gives me a bit more joy, rather than going for Irritating Pollen on Turn 1 every game. With that said, let’s look at what I am considering for this weekend.
You may be surprised this deck “gives me joy,” but I do think Night March has a high skill cap. Any time a card says “choose any card from your [deck/discard pile],” the card will be misplayed very often. Battle Compressor and Puzzle of Time, in conjunction with other aspects of the deck, lead to a lot of micro-decisions you need to get correctly to give yourself the highest odds of winning the game.
Night March seems strong going into Toronto, with Yveltal taking down Portland and Rayquaza winning in St. Louis. It also beats Volcanion, which has been getting a lot of play in Expanded since Rahul and others did so well with it in St. Louis. The only looming new threat is Decidueye in Expanded, but I do not expect it to be super popular this weekend. Night March is the most consistent deck in Expanded by a fairly large margin and should not be ignored.
I will defer to Peter Kica’s list, which was in Jimmy McClure’s last article. If I play Night March, I will probably run at most 1-2 cards off this list. I actually won a League Cup with this list, running a Hex Maniac over Mr. Mime. Tauros-GX is a really, really strong addition to the deck, making your Item lock matchups more winnable.
After never having played Darkrai-EX BKP in a tournament before, this weekend taught me a few things about the card (and deck): despite only using two attacks the entire weekend, there are still a lot of little decisions to be made on any given turn. Sequencing matters a lot. That said, it is not the most difficult to play, so I was less exhausted after 9 rounds compared to playing Accelgor back in the fall. Playing Darkrai this weekend also reminded how powerful the card is. Damage stacks up very quickly and on the turns where you hit two Max Elixir and an attachment you feel like you are cheating.
In Expanded, Dark Patch makes the deck even more powerful and consistent. Though the straight turbo route is still very powerful, I think the addition of Dragon Pokémon is a) more welcomed in Expanded based on the metagame and b) takes away from your consistency less than in Standard. Chaos Wheel is an extremely powerful attack against things like Night March while Renegade Pulse in conjunction with Chaos Wheel helps regulate Mega Rayquaza.
Though I haven’t tested this much recently, I did play quite a bit of Darkrai leading up to St. Louis Regionals. Here is where I am at now, courtesy to Jason Annichiarico for a starting list:
Pokémon – 11
1 Mew FCO
Trainers – 34
Energy – 14
1 open spot
Cards to fill the remaining space include: Yveltal XY, Sableye DEX, Keldeo-EX, Delinquent, Xerosic, Olympia, 4th Max Elixir, Trainers’ Mail, 3rd Fighting Fury Belt, Super Rod Reverse Valley, Silent Lab, 11th Dark.
The combination of Dark Patch, Max Elixir, and +40 from DDE makes damage come out of nowhere. Muscle Band can be played over Fighting Fury Belt to increase aggression even more. This should have decent matchups across the board and could be a contender this weekend. I am a bit skeptical of its Volcanion and Seismitoad matchups, which is the only thing holding me back from playing it.
Finally, we have (arguably) the most annoying deck to play against in the format: Accelgor! This deck has not changed much since the Fall and my list below reflects that. Props to Anthony Nimmons for making Top 8 in St. Louis with this deck, but after testing some, I disagree with many of his changes. Namely, I don’t think Tauros-GX fits that well in this deck and 4 Virbank City Gym is extremely important. I like the added consistency in his list in 4 Level Ball and 4 Ultra Ball, as well as the 3rd N over the 2nd Colress. There were many games where I prized an N and couldn’t find my other copy where I really needed to disrupt my opponent. This also gives you one better first turn Supporter, as Colress is weak on the first turn of the game.
Cutting the second Colress does hurt your later game streaming of Deck and Cover, but I think this is worth it to ensure you get TO that point in the first place. I also agree with his cut of Mystery Energy. While the card is nice to have, with smart playing, you very rarely need the “fifth” Float Stone. All that said, let’s look at my current list:
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 35
Energy – 4
1 open slot
This last spot will be decided the day of, if I do decide to play Accelgor. If I want a tech card, some options include Pokémon Ranger (for Giratina and Seismitoad) or Robo Substitute (for Night March). If I feel I just want to be a bit more consistent, the 4th Level Ball or a Nest Ball is where it’s going.
My mind is split among these three choices going into this weekend. If I had to choose right this second, I would probably choose Accelgor, because I think it’s the most fun and a lot of people do not play optimally against it. I will have to walk around the room Saturday morning, though, before I make my final decision.
Before I go, I want to plug something I just started this week: #JustPokemonProblems
As regular readers will know, I am a high school math teacher. Some of the situations that come up in games of Pokémon are of interest to me, as they provide great learning opportunities, both for myself and students. I want to start gathering these types of interesting situations. This is partly selfish, as I want to use them with my students, but I hope this could become a good resource for lots of people interested in probability in the game. It would also act as a resource to get better at making in-game decisions by calculating probabilities after the fact. Part of this is also translating the game situations into language that non-Pokémon players can understand so they can interact with the problem.
Here is my Google Doc, which has some situations from my own experiences and some that have been shared with me. If you would like to contribute an interesting situation you have been in, I would love to add it to the list. Here is a short Google Form you could fill out.
As always, it’s a pleasure to write. I welcome feedback and comments on anything written here, or just in general. You can find me on Twitter. Good luck to everyone playing this weekend and to those that don’t, have fun with the new set — it looks to be amazing!
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