Blazing the Frozen Trail

Updating Alolan Ninetales-GX, Some League Cup Reports, and Shining Speculation on SLG+CIN
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All couped up, itching to get in the fight!

Hello again! It is good to be back writing, but I must admit that I have begun to feel a considerable disconnect from the game at large. In the past, I have experienced categorically similar feelings regarding my desire to play the game, but in this case, it is nearly the exact opposite—I want to be playing more and more than ever before, but I have been unfortunately able to attend any major events. Watching Regionals go by every weekend has been difficult for me, and while I am nothing short of ecstatic to see the top players remaining at the very top, I am still jealous than I could not be competing as well.

Though I was somewhat aware that this would be the case for me this season, it is my desire to be attending every Regional Championship from here on out. San Jose is likely to be a toss up given that it falls (pun) on Thanksgiving Weekend, but I will be in Memphis and Dallas, and then hopefully almost everything in 2018! The International events will likely be iffy for me, and I will sadly not be in London, but I hope to swing one of Austrailia or Brazil. Starting a new job and moving to a new city has been rewarding in its own rights, but you’ve gotta know that I’m itching to compete.

Ice Path: Updating Alolan Ninetales

Pokémon – 18

4 Alolan Vulpix GRI

3 Alolan Ninetales-GX

2 Alolan Ninetales BUS

2 Remoraid BKT 32

1 Octillery BKT

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Fini-GX

2 Tapu Koko SM30

1 Espeon-EX

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

4 Guzma

2 Professor Kukui

1 Brigette

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Aqua Patch

4 Choice Band

1 Float Stone

1 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

Energy – 12

8 W

4 Double Colorless

I believe I hinted at this somewhat in my last article, but a large portion of my infatuation with this deck surrounds the fact that Ninetales has historically been my favorite Pokémon. I wanted to try the deck while it was somewhat of a popular choice within the metagame. I talked extensively about this list with Andrew Mahone, who saw a reasonable amount of success with it at some earlier League Cups. I believe the above list is about as perfect as the deck could possibly be. I have continued to refine the deck as much as possible and seem to remain its biggest fan.

I think I definitely would have played this for the Hartford Regionals had I the opportunity to attend, and think that it would’ve been well-positioned given the success that Ho-Oh-less Volcanion decks had. In general, I think the Fire matchups tends to be a lot closer than one might think, albeit still slightly favorable for Ninetales. I’ll discuss matchups more below, but I think that players undervalue the usefulness of the Ninetales BUS. There is a lot to be said for just stalling with the card, even if you are not attacking with it. It forces your opponent to take certain avenues to deal with it. It awards the Ninetales player a considerable amount of control in the matchup. I’ve experienced this anytime I’ve faced a Metagross-GX deck, and I retain an incredibly positive matchup against those players through methodical play.

The biggest exclusion on my own part is that I do not play any Po Town, which can give the deck a further devolution strategy. I found the card to only work well in theory. You have to be able to play it early and hope that it sticks in order for it to be worth including, and the added downside of hurting your own Pokémon tends to be negative a majority of the time. I cut the Po Town right away, and tried a plethora of techs like Gumshoos-GX and Glaceon-EX, but ultimately settled on this consistency-based list. Professor Kukui ends up being an unsung hero of the deck, as it allows Ninetales to cleanly KO Golisopod-GX and Ho-oh-GX, and even get rid of a Gardevoir-GX after a Flying Flip.

Matchups:

Garbodor

For sake of brevity, I have decided to lump Drampa/Garbodor, Espeon/Garbodor and Golispod/Garbodor together because I think they are all at least 60-40, if not better. Against Drampa-GX, you face some difficulty if they stick an early Po Town. You have few ways to bounce it, and the 30 damage you take from evolving allows Berserk the clean knockout. However, Ninetales has an easier time responding to knockouts, as Aqua Patch is far faster than manually attaching twice to each Drampa.

You have to control your Items as much as possible to make sure that Trashalanche is unable to clean up in the latter half of a game, but I would be confident here. Espeon’s Confusion, as always, is incredibly annoying, but they have difficulty dealing with Ice Path-GX. In addition, Psybeam will generally do low amounts of damage since you can continually discard your Energy. Flying Flip and Professor Kukui are both incredibly useful in this matchup, as they help you reach your ideal numbers with Blizzard Edge.

Hot Tech: 2nd Field Blower. I think the only games you lose to Garbodor decks are the ones where Garbotoxin prevents you from completing your usual strategy, or a game where Po Town sticks early, so adding another Field Blower is the most logical adjustment.

Verdict: Favorable

Gardevoir-GX

Unfortunately, I think the popularity of this deck is what keeps Ninetales-GX from being at the top of the metagame. You simply do not have a great answer to Gallade BKT. If such a card ever existed, I think this deck would absolutely be worth revisiting, but it is incredibly difficult if your opponent staggers their evolutions and just attacks with Gallade through a majority of the game. I think you can win about 30-40% of the time (and even more against a below average players) if your opponent is reckless in their use of Rare Candy, but it is otherwise difficult.

Something I’ve really noticed about Espeon-EX against Gardevoir-GX: it can win you games even if you take zero prizes every time you use Miraculous Shine.

Sometimes, the tempo that you get out of the card is more than enough to get you back into a game, and I’ve found myself using the attack multiple times just to be annoying. It’s found me the time in to stabilize my own board and reclaim a favorable position when I follow it up with multiple Blizzard Edges.

Hot Tech: Mewtwo EVO. Though somewhat of a stretch, Mewtwo with DCE and Kukui is your best response to Gallade, and while you’ll always have Blizzard Edge, I think another answer would be beneficial.

Verdict: Unfavorable

Metagross

Though incredibly unfavorable on paper, I think the community has finally come to the consensus that Metagross-GX simply is not a good deck. Perhaps we should have listened to Christopher initially after his 2nd place performance with the deck, but time and time again, this deck proves itself to be relatively inconsistent and to lack options. Alolan Ninetales-GX is able to put Metagross-GX in an interesting position, forcing them to need multiple Metang to deal with your Safeguard option, but you can always just swiftly KO the Metang and return to Safeguarding with your second copy. Many players opted to just play one Safeguard, but I think the second is an absolute necessity. In many matchups, I use a third if I am able to with the Rescue Stretcher.

Verdict: Even

Volcanion

The biggest factor in this matchup is the annoyance of Volcanion STS. Most decks play 3-4 copies, and if they are smart, they will be able to use every single one against you. Both decks are in a race to 1HKO the other opposing big attacker, and the acceleration is relatively even between Max Elixir+Power Heater and Aqua Patch. The key to this matchup is taking the initiative with the Safeguard Ninetales and KOing a baby Volcanion before taking any damage.

You can find yourself in awkward situations because you cannot KO a Fury Belt-equipped Volcanion without any prior damage, and it is hard to find the time to Flying Flip, but Kukui comes in clutch here once again. I cannot sing the praise of this card more in the deck, and think it really makes the difference in one’s list. It has directly affected my perception of Ninetales as a whole.

Hot Tech: 2nd Rescue Stretcher. I think you can conceivably go the distance in this matchup with as many Safeguard Ninetales as possible, and this card seems much more useful than actually playing a third copy.

Verdict: Even

Greninja

Currently, my list is not built to beat Greninja. I think you can maybe steal some games by opening aggressively, and you have Professor Kukui to ideally KO a Greninja BREAK or two, but that is likely a pipe dream. Some games you’ll be able to steal through consistency alone, and on rare occasion, you can just end the game by Knocking Out any one of the three EX/Pokémon-GX this deck tends to play.

Hot Tech: Giratina Promo. Giratina is a very easy inclusion and would likely swing the matchup.

Verdict: Unfavorable


I apologize that this analysis comes somewhat late, at the very end of the format. Within the next few weeks, we’ll have the introduction of two new sets but I am optimistic about Ninetales’ continuing viability in the metagame. There are several cards in both Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion that I think could be added to this deck (Shining Volcanion intrigues me, but perhaps it is too costly) in this deck. So, if anything, I hope the above section will warm others up to Ninetales as a deck and will encourage others (myself included) to keep trying it in the future! From here, let’s jump right into a brief synopsis of the events I have been able to attend:

#1 Sedalia, MO League Cup: Greninja

Pokémon – 20

4 Froakie BKP

4 Frogadier BKP

4 Greninja BKP

3 Greninja BREAK

1 Staryu BKP

1 Starmie EVO

1 Espeon-EX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Fini-GX

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Sycamore

4 N

3 Skyla

1 Guzma

1 Acerola

1 Sophocles

 

4 Ultra Ball

2 Evosoda

2 Field Blower

2 Choice Band

2 Super Rod

1 Rescue Stretcher

 

3 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 10

7 W

3 Splash

Round 1: Gardevoir-GX WW
Round 2: Metagross-GX WW
Round 3: Vikavolt SUM/Tapu Bulu-GX WLW
Round 4: Gardevoir-GX WW
Round 5: Vikavolt LL
Round 6: ID

Top 8: Gardevoir-GX WW
Top 4: Ho-Oh-GX LWL

3rd Place +32

I will be the first to admit that my list was far from perfect for this event. I knew I wanted to play Greninja, but I unfortunately missed Michael Long’s second place list. I only knew what I had seen and heard about it, and tried to replicate it somewhat. As a result, I made quite a few changes to the general skeleton of Standard Greninja. Some of these are good, but most are certainly incorrect. I only played two Evosoda, as that’s what I owned. While the standard tends to be four, I think you can likely get away with just three. I tried Acerola over Max Potion, as it could theoretically pick up my EX/Pokémon-GX at a point if they were able to take a hit. While this did help me at least once through the event, Max Potion is more often the better card.

I tried Sophocles over the Lillie, and it was terrible. I’ve done this recently with Plumeria in other decks. In theory, the “discard two” mechanic does not sound costly at all, but it was basically abysmal every single time I used it. I jokingly talked through the whole event how Hau would’ve been the stronger inclusion. I’m not sure if I would play Lillie over a 4th Skyla, but it’s hard to knock the results of those who have seen success with the card.

I had a pretty easy run through Swiss and got lucky against Vikavolt the first time. I did realize that the matchup can be a little close if the Greninja player runs well enough. When the standings went up, I strongly believed it would be my tournament to win. I did not drop a game to Gardevoir (all of which ran Sylveon as well) and all the grass decks were on the opposing ends of the bracket. Unfortunately, my luck ran out in Top 4, where in Games 1 and 3 I opened with Tapu Lele-GX/Espeon-EX respectively, and ended up losing a close prize race.

Greninja is a very interesting deck, and after playing it at a tournament, I do think its consistency is in a slightly better place than in the previous season. The decklist will likely change very little with the release of the next set, but I think it will continue to be in a favorable position looking forward. I think it will definitely be a pocket pick of mine for any upcoming Standard Cups if I do not have the testing experience to try anything new at the start of the next format.

#2 Independence, MO League Cup: Golisopod-GX/Seismitoad-EX

Back to ol’ faithful.

Pokémon – 13

3 Wimpod BUS

3 Golisopod-GX

2 Seismitoad-EX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Tapu Koko SM30

1 Seviper BUS

Trainers – 38

3 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Guzma

1 Colress

1 Ghetsis

1 Acerola

1 Teammates

1 Pokémon Fan Club

1 Karen

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Choice Band

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Float Stone

1 Field Blower

1 Heavy Ball

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search

 

3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 9

5 G

4 Double Colorless

Round 1: Golisopod-GX/Garbodor LL
Round 2: Fire WW
Round 3: Darkrai-EX BKP LWW
Round 4: Fire LL
Round 5: Seismitoad-EX/Seviper BUS WW
Round 6: Night March WLW

4-2 10th +0

Two of my friends saw a reasonable amount of success at the Daytona Regional Championship, and I this was a concept I wanted to experiment with. Perhaps this is a shortcoming of my own, but I never feel very satisfied if I play something that I already know is good. As my day turned a bit sour, I could not help but feel that I would have breezed into Top 8 if I had just played Night March. It’s something to think about looking toward San Jose Regionals, but I do believe that this deck is very good, and even-to-slightly favored against almost every other Expanded deck. Though I wish I had played against the Psychic-Box Garbodor and Gardevoir-GX to get a better feel of how those matchups played out, I know that my friend tied Ryan Sabelehaus, who would go on to win the event, and Gardevoir seems somewhat winnable.

My losses were both to decks that seemed like tough matchups, but moreover, I experienced my worst luck in recent memory in both of these rounds. My first opponent was relatively new, and played poorly, which gave me the opportunity I needed to take the series with ease. I lost the first game on the back of three Hpynotoxic Laser flips gone wrong, and had my opponent stayed asleep one of those three times, I would have immediately won.

In the second, I whiffed on Choice Band three turns in a row, drawing seven, eight, and then nine cards between Sycamore and Colress—and all four were in my deck! The loss to Fire was unfortunate, as I had an incredible opening in the first game, but prized my second Seismitoad-EX. There was a decent chance of me making cut at 4-2, but my Round 1 opponent ended at 2-1-3. This meant my resistance was cooked, and I was the bottom 4-2. A bummer, as my points are currently sitting at a measly 47, but if anything, it did instill some amount of confidence in me regarding the deck. I think in the right metagame it could easily surprise many players who currently overlook the concept.


One final thing I would like to note about Expanded is the impact of Ghetsis. This card is constantly debated, and I have seen numerous instances of players saying it should be banned. While I have always been against such a proposition, I think the card is better than I have previously calculated. In the past, I never liked the card because you had to Jirachi-EX for it, which could set your board into a losing scenario later in the game. Often, the Ghetsis would not even do anything.

Now, with Tapu Lele-GX being a much safer option and staple in every single deck, the play is considerably more viable—but, still not one that can be made flippantly. The card itself is strictly good under one very specific condition: if, and only if, it is the first turn of the game. This is likely a given to many, but as a player who only recently figured this out, I wanted to highlight this play to make it clear when to use the card effectively and when to use Professor Sycamore instead.

Closing Thoughts

To end today, I want to briefly highlight the cards I am most excited about from the upcoming sets. Both sets, when combined, are somewhat large, but I do not think many of the cards are all that playable. Most of the Ultra Beasts are cumbersome and need too many Energy to do much of anything. After seeing these hefty costs, I assumed that there would be some sort of Ultra Beast Energy to make them playable, which I suppose could still happen. But for now, I think most of these cards are best left ignored.

The exceptions: I think Buzzwole-GX might have some potential, but Kartana-GX is likely the best card in the set. I’m not sure how splashable the Ability will be, but I think there are several decks out there (anything with Rainbow or M Energy) that will want to make use of the card right away. Its GX attack is super simple, and yet will change some games completely. I think decks like Sableye/Garbodor will be even more viable with this card, as it allows them to win a Game 3 under time constraints, which has been the deck’s downfall for some time.

I think Lusamine and Gladion are both good and will see some play, but I tend to believe this will be primarily in Expanded. Most of the namesake cards from Shining Legends are interesting at worst, but finding the right home for many of them will be difficult. I mentioned the Shining Volcanion above as an option for a Alolan Ninetales deck, but I also think it will be very beneficial to Archie’s Blastoise BCR in Expanded. Shining Mew and Shining Jirachi are both very good as well, and I think the latter will definitely see the most play.

Finally, Marshadow is definitely my favorite card from either set! Its ancient counterpart in Giratina PL 9 was underrated in its day, and could greatly change the course of a game when played, but most decks strayed away from it because of the huge Retreat Cost. Marshadow lacks this issue, and ought to be much more usable, especially in Standard where disruption options are limited. It gives players a searchable way to deal with Magical Ribbon and Algorthim-GX without needing to Wonder Tag for an N. Decks like Sabeleye/Garbodor that thrive through disruption could easily turn Marshadow into a death sentence for an opponent’s hand. At the very least, I am excited to try this card in a variety of decks, and hope that both Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion do some work in shaking up the metagame.

I think that Expanded is in a wonderful place currently, and will be interested in reading the next quarterly report about ban considerations, but I think all is well for the moment. Standard, unfortunately, is still very lacking for me, and I think that Gardevoir-GX remains the best deck by a large margin. It’s hard to print something that’s good against Gardevoir-GX without it being inherently awful agains Volcanion, which likely will keep Gardevoir and friends protected for sometime. I’m not too concerned about it being too overpowered, as Drampa/Garbodor does have a decent win-rate against it, but perhaps more flags ought to be raised should Gardevoir continue to dominate.

Until next time!


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