It has been a while since I last wrote an article for SixPrizes. After writing extensively about both my kids Top 8’ing at NAIC, both my kids were Top 16 North America and had the pass to Worlds Day 2. They both did amazing in Day 2, finishing in the Top 32 in the World Championships. I always say that I would like them to play one more round at the end of these tournaments to refine the placements a bit. My eldest lost his win and in to Top 8 and finished out of the Top 16. That seems a bit tough. But I can’t really complain.
Now my big guy has aged up! It was bound to happen eventually. With my eldest being in his first year as a Senior, we have decided to not go crazy from a travel perspective and the result is that we are somewhat uninteresting.
Having said that, I read Facebook, so I am privy to all the conversations that go on there and generally, I actually have (surprise!) non-snarky opinions. Unfortunately, the non-snarky opinions on things tend to not be soundbites and it feels disposable to write an essay on Facebook. So I have been thinking that I could save my opinions and then dump them here for posterity.
Also, I recognize, as I said so frequently last year, that my story has been told. While I am no elder statesmen of Poké-parenting, standing on the shoulders of many predecessors, my story was the journey every Poké-parent takes and I think the thing that resonated in my story arc was learning the ins and outs of the game. I think what was most interesting about my adventure was that I was among the first to document publicly the prototypical Poké-parent journey. Many others had already been through it (Carlos Pero and Doug Morisoli come to mind, among many, many others).
Hearing a story that we have already heard before, told through other eyes, is, in many respects, entertaining. Star Wars is a space opera. Harry Potter is Star Wars. I now read posts by Dan Dalyrymple and it brings a smile to my face to watch him go through many of the same growth experiences and see his son embark on the same kind of journey that me and my son enjoyed so much. (Although there are times when I feel like Poké-parents have failed to Google hard enough or they would have read all of my articles and known the answer before asking certain questions.)
Regardless, I have so enjoyed connecting with people through my writing that even though I may have little meaningful to say, I will say some stuff for the sake of relatedness and connecting with the community. Much like prior articles, I will give you my opinions on a bunch of stuff and then I will briefly give you a tournament recap or two just to let you all know how my kids and I are getting along. Then I conclude by giving you guys the spicy new list you are looking for with a medium-deep dive on Alolan Dugtrio!
Current State of the Circuit
Pokémon tournaments have never been bigger! For that matter, this is a very reasonable year to go get your invite. I have always said “mo’ is betta'” for Juniors going to the World Championship and the stars certainly seem appropriately aligned to get plenty of Juniors out there. I feel like Pokémon is reading what I am writing, because they lowered the kickers to 48 kids, essentially giving out Top 16 points at most Regionals, which is good given the “box-out” that I wrote so much about last year.
Having said that, it is worth taking a moment to mention that the effect we saw last year continues in earnest. When you look at the top results for Juniors at US Regionals on Pokémon.com, 23 of a possible 36 slots are occupied by someone that appeared at multiple regionals. The underlying message is that there continues to be a commitment at the Junior level to massive amounts of travel by a strong core of strong players, limiting the opportunities for non-travel intensive, non-super competitive players to get Championship Points at these tournaments. Expect to see even more bifurcation (including my own son falling off the Top 16) as the other International Championship events occur.
Despite this, there has been only nominal growth in the Junior player base at Regionals. Here is some data from labs.pokegym.com:
Florida 2016-17: 42
Florida 2017-18: 47
Philly 2016-17: 51
Hartford 2017-18: 40
Dallas 2016-17: 59
Dallas 2017-18: 76
Ft Wayne 2016-17: 66
Ft Wayne 2017-18: 51
San Jose 2016-17: 47
San Jose 2017-18: 50
Several of these have mildly extenuating circumstances: Dallas probably benefited from better dates. Ft. Wayne suffered from proximity to Worlds. San Jose may have suffered from proximity to London. But compared to the massive growth in Masters, it is clear that Juniors is relatively stagnant. Seniors is not dissimilar. There has not been a tournament this year that was as big as Philadelphia last year at the Senior level.
Here is my theory for how the Masters population has grown so dramatically while Juniors has stayed the same: Cash money! Pokémon’s introduction of cash prizes has had its intended effect and has drawn many new players into the game by offering a price of participation/payoff opportunity that appears attractive relative to other games. Unfortunately, this is not nearly as effective in attracting Juniors because new Juniors and their parents view it as unrealistic. I know if you told me that my kid would be filing his own tax returns when we started this 4 years ago, I would have laughed and laughed. That just sounds dumb.
And frankly, as I said previously, it appears that unless you go insanely hard, winning meaningful cash prizes is unrealistic. Frankly, I doubt with the cost of travel for families, more than 1 or 2 Junior players could offer the case that they are making the economics of Pokémon look like anything less than a labor of love. But, at this age I would think that playing Pokémon should probably be focused on the love of the game, so I am ok with that.
So what are the key factors required to drive the growth of the Junior population and what is preventing it from growing? I want to offer up a few changes; some meaningful, some based on sheer optics.
Now I am sure some TOs would tell me I am totally wrong, but my impression is that there is fairly little marketing that takes place when one hosts a regional. The marketing strategy is straightforward: Post on HeyFonte, post on Virbank, profit. The audience you need to fill a convention hall has been pre-built by the reward structure of Pokémon. The important thing to do, if hosting a regional, is attract the core audience of Masters players. They pay more to play, they are actively looking for Regionals to get points at. There is pent-up pre-existing demand.
There are no Juniors on Virbank—I hope. Also, telling Juniors there are events on the other side of the country is somewhat impractical. To grow the Junior base is about attracting new kids in the geography to the event. This probably requires a variety of different activities:
a) Marketing the event itself – I don’t think I have ever seen a sign advertising for a Regional or Cup at a game shop. I am sure there are game stores where this is not true, but they are the exception. When Worlds was in DC and there was a big tournament the weekend prior at a local game store, while it was packed with players attending Worlds and competing in the Last Chance Qualifier, there was nary a sign indicating that the World Championship of Pokémon was about to take place.
Regionals should be tasked with developing some sort of outreach plan. Seattle, last year, had 79 Juniors . That means the 5th smallest Regional of the season had way, way, way more Juniors than any other Regional in the country. They had as many Juniors as Seniors, and many of them were new players. When I asked someone to investigate, I was told that they had tried to get the word out. It makes a difference.
b) Marketing tied to Cups – They have taken Cups away from TOs and given them to stores. I assume that the logical next step here is, once credibility is established with the stores, leverage them to market local events. You want a Prerelease? You need to hand out flyers for all the local Cups in your area that period. Hey, one of those Cups is yours! This isn’t bad. Could Gamestop advertise? I don’t know. Probably not.
c) Open up Worlds – The World Championship is one of the few events that changes location each year and is capable of generating widespread media coverage in a given locale. The new “paying for spectator badges” is tricky in this regard. If it is a security measure, let’s figure out how to work around that. Maybe it should be free to kids under 12? We need to let new players come to the World Championship and compete in side events. We need to let new players come to the Internationals and participate in side events. Someone has to figure out how to do that without parents feeling like they are just throwing cash at the problem. They will end up spending plenty on cards!
It’s worth saying, as long as we are here, that I also miss “City Championships” and “State Championships.” While I recognize the challenges with the model, if you are trying to talk to a kid/parent about getting into Pokémon, saying you went to the local City Championship sounds much more cool than a League Cup. It just does. And hey, we could crown a new City Champion every quarter. You could just rename League Cups.
Marketing. It’s a thing.
2) Event fees?
There is little incentive for organizers to decrease the price for Juniors when they are selling out the facility – every Master they don’t register because they are at capacity after registering Juniors is lost revenue. Yet, I think Pokémon finds it in the long term interest of the organization to grow the game via on-going investment in its most adorable fan base. They could easily require a certain percentage of the total seats be reserved for Juniors and they could mandate a price point that is somewhere between free and $10.
If this seemed utterly unpalatable, one could take it up a notch and set a price point for people with more than X Championship Points with a low, low price point for players with less. This allows you to align the price you charge with the perceived value (While everyone notionally gets the same value of playing X rounds, the expectations that the “travel crowd” and historically high performers have makes them far less price sensitive). Frankly, while people complain about entry fees, tournaments are historically crowded. You could probably raise other entry fees to cover this loss.
This is an absolute green field. Give me your best marketing ideas in the comments.
Of course, I wrote all of this prior to AUS, and now it appears STL will be huge! 94+ juniors compared to 70 last year. That is 30%+ growth year-over-year. Exciting to see.
On a related note, there has been some discussion on social media of whether or not League Challenges should be divorced from League Cups in determining best finish limits. I wanted to offer up an opinion or two and a data point on this to give a bit of perspective.
First, let me say that we go to plenty of Pokémon tournaments, so I don’t feel the need to go to too many more. I hear the arguments Masters make that even League Cups should not be counted toward their invite to Worlds, and I get it.
Second, if we put some perspective on what Pokémon is trying to do, the calculus shifts. If they are trying to create “starter tournament” environments for new players—and they don’t want my kids showing up and crushing dreams—then I get that also.
But let me make a counter argument for fun. Here it is: People like to attend great tournaments. You want a tournament that is bustling, exciting, and does not end up with your age division combined with some other age division because there are so few players. I would argue that, while having great players show up and crush dreams is kind of bad, it is even worse if the tournament is a ghost town and you don’t have peers at the tournament.
So let’s define a good tournament like this: A tournament will not be good if there are 8 or fewer kids. I say that because it is an invitation for combining age divisions. When there are 8 or less, particularly when I had two Juniors (and if there are that many kids in Juniors , there will usually be some sibling duos), I felt like there were going to be scoops and IDs at some point. When there are more than 8, instead of the bare minimum of rounds and likely combination with other age divisions, we were going to play at least 4 rounds and you felt like it was super awesome.
This is not really a problem for Masters, but in Juniors and Seniors, it is the single thing that makes it most awful. We have attended one League Challenge this year. Juniors and Seniors were combined with Masters, and it was fine because my eldest was OK with that and we were doing it for practice reps (undefeated with Gardevoir, if you care). I would feel differently about League Challenges if I thought it was going to be “a real tournament.” But when you play two rounds, one or two of them against a beginner, and then ID the final round, you just invested 3 hours of your life and basically didn’t do anything.
How common is that? That is how most League Challenges go for Juniors and Seniors.
I looked at Pokégym and so far in the 2017-2018 season, Juniors and Seniors have had a total of 15 North American League Challenges where there were more than 8 Juniors or more than 8 Seniors—out of the zillions of League Challenges over the last 7 months (League Challenge season having started in July). There is basically no chance, if you go to a League Challenge today, that it will not end up combined with other age divisions. With few exceptions, there is no way for you to play more than 3 rounds against your age group. That is just a fact.
If Pokémon is trying to create “starter tournaments,” I think a tournament where there are 2 other kids your age, where you play one and then play people outside your age division, is terribly uninteresting and poor marketing. Pokémon would be better served by getting the players who are not competing in League Challenges, but are competitive Pokémon players, to flesh out the headcount of this tournament. That would make it more fun. You can say “oh, but dream crushing,” but these new, young players are having to play Masters! What parent thought their kid had a good experience if they had to play a 30 year old. Even a bad 30 year old. If they lose to Roan G. at a tournament, the parent will say, “Get better, that kid is younger than you!” If they lose to someone with a beard, the parent will say, “you never had a chance.”
Now, in Masters this isn’t really a problem. So maybe you do something different for Juniors and Seniors. What if I said: Juniors now need 400 points for an invite, but League Challenges are separate and have a 6 BFL? Seniors need 450 and the same? I don’t think this is a significant inconvenience, and I think it would be net-net a big improvement for Pokémon marketing at the grassroots level.
My personal “N of 1” experience has been that every grade school kid gets Pokémon on the radar around 2nd or 3rd grade. If Pokémon could connect with 1% more of these kids in a meaningful way, that probably doubles the amount of Juniors and Seniors that play Pokémon competitively.
Oh, I forgot: we attended a League Challenge in France while we were over at the European Championship. My youngest was the only Junior, my Senior was one of two Seniors. We had a fun time because we played Pokémon with French people, our buddies the Atochs, and Stephane Ivanoff! But, that still isn’t a particularly good tournament for kids.
But Tournaments Are So Big!
On the other side of the spectrum are the Masters. I hear Masters complain about two things:
1) Cash for Day 2 people outside Top 32.
2) Points/Cash for more people as tournaments get very large.
Now, I assume that there is a capital constraint here. I don’t know exactly how it works. You can argue that they are making more revenue and the cost of incremental space is probably small, and that is probably true, but here you go.
I think, to date, Pokémon has offered Regional organizers a marketing proposition that they don’t have a higher tier kicker even as tournaments get larger. The promise they make to organizers is that there is an incentive for the player base to arbitrage tournament value. That is, if you don’t like how gigantic Dallas is, go to Portland. It will be much, much smaller. It will be much easier to be in the money, and probably hit the same kicker tiers.
What I don’t think Pokémon and organizers are ready for is a tournament where it becomes so large it becomes MORE attractive to players and they all suddenly are attempting to pile in. They tell regional organizers “don’t worry, we will disperse the player base” to give organizers confidence.
Of course, the difference between NAIC and Australia/Brazil is, personally, a travesty. I suspect that, next year, Pokémon may be forced to recognize that they are becoming a victim of their own success.
Similarly, while Day 2 is blowing up and it is a bummer they don’t get any money, if the alternative was a strict cut to 32, I think people would be saying that they just want the chance to work their way into the Top 32 and get some money and they would happily risk it for the biscuit. Now here we are.
On to Tournaments!
So, my oldest is a Senior right now, and so far our experience, if not our results, have been great. My son has really enjoyed how he feels like he is playing against more skilled players and is having fewer victories that are so easy as to be unpleasant, both at the local Cup level and at the Regional level. I may have mentioned several times last year that getting his Cups was an absolute breeze. This time he is having to work a little bit, but it is not unpleasant. Similarly, we have not suffered quite so horribly the whims of variance. Maybe we are choosing more consistent decks (Thanks, Zoroark-GX!), but I haven’t felt like he has had a lot of the random bad beats that were so pervasive last year.
Anyway, on to the line-by-line:
Our first tournament of the new season was Hartford. Lemme just say this: it’s no Philly. Now, one might say that it is a concession to the Northeast for the loss of Massachusetts to move it halfway, but I thought it was just ok. Hartford is actually not a terrible location: I found a decent coffee shop not too far away. But, Philly! Philly! Cheesesteaks! Reading Terminal Market! Now, the year PA Regionals was in Lancaster was soul crushing. There wasn’t even a wave of Amish treats anywhere near us, and the Philly Convention Center is so big it is a little hard to navigate, but cheesesteaks are worth it.
Anyway, we felt like the meta was Gardevoir so my youngest played Gardevoir because it is BDIF and he didn’t practice for basically the entire month before the tournament because he is a little kid—and, my oldest just played Metagross because he didn’t want to lose to Gardevoir.
Halliburton the Younger:
Round 2 v Eli D. – Gardevoir WW (1-1)
Easy wins against a new player. We wish him the best as he continues his trainer journey!
Round 3 v Nikhail R. – Golisopod WW (2-1)
Round 4 v Kaden T. – Koko GX and Friends WLT (2-1-1)
Round 5 v Benjamin B. – Gardevoir LL (2-2-1)
Benjamin in the last two years has emerged as a force to be reckoned with!
Round 6 v Rachel C. – Darkrai WW (3-2-1)
Halliburton the Older:
Round 1 v Xander P. – Gardevoir WW (1-0)
Other kid missed N after Liam Algorithm’d both games. Liam Algorithm’d three metagross and a max potion, plays max potion, rolls to victory.
Round 2 v Gabriel O. – Gardevoir WW (2-0)
Round 3 v Noa B. – Gardevoir WW (3-0)
Free wins, free wins, free wins.
Round 4 v Ethan P. – Metagross w/ Ninetales LL (3-1)
Round 5 v Jimmy D. – Metagross w/ Solgaleo WW (4-1)
Wins game one with a good start. Wins Game 2 with two Giga Hammer, even though way behind, then Black Ray—and other guy scoops with a bad board state. This was Jimmy’s only loss in Swiss.
Round 6 v Rowan S. – Golisopod LL (4-2)
Round 7 v Isaac H. – Gardevoir WW (5-2)
10th place – 5-2
So, that was Hartford. 10th place felt pretty good to my son for his first tournament as a Senior. His losses were to great players in Ethan and Rowan (1st and 4th seed after Swiss), so he felt very good about it.
We struggled to figure out decks for London. Our strategy, at its simplest level, was that we should see what Masters play on Friday, what they do well with, and how that goes. The trade-off with a plan like this is that you have to pick up a deck you never played before. A bunch of Some1sPC guys played a janky metal list, so we built it early in the day. They proceeded to do terribly with it, but my youngest decided to play it anyway. My eldest played Decidueye Zoroark. Ultimate Guard sent us a bunch of their new amazing pink sleeves and deck boxes the day before the tournament, so in that respect, we felt pretty ready. Here is how it worked out:
Halliburton the Younger:
Round 1 v Julia H. – Fire WW (1-0)
Celesteela was MVP.
Round 2 v Sebastian E. – Gardevoir WW (2-0)
This is a very tough matchup against a top player. Great win.
Round 3 v Rune H. – Gardevoir WW (3-0)
Round 4 v Joao G. – Gardevoir WW (4-0)
Another very tough matchup, he made it to the Semifinals of this event. This was his only loss in Swiss.
Round 5 v Benjamin B. – Gardevoir WW (5-0)
A rematch from Hartford. You can see how competitive Benjamin is.
Round 6 v Daniel Rosas – ID (5-0-1)
Daniel went on to win the tournament.
Round 7 v Christopher K. – Golisopod LL (5-1-1)
Christopher went on get 2nd in the tournament.
Top 8 v Christopher K. – Golisopod LL
Poor matchup! So, my son managed to play 4 rounds against 3 of the top 4 finishers at the tournament in his 8 rounds. This is a pretty tough draw.
So I think the moral of the story is that Metal decks pound Gardevoir decks, but such a janky metal deck basically loses to other stuff.
Halliburton the Older:
Round 1 v Fabio B. – Gardevoir WLL (0-1)
I think this reflected that we picked up the deck at 10pm the night before. On the one hand, we have always valued breaking the meta. On the other hand, I think one thing we have learned is that the competition and skill level in Seniors makes it harder for us to learn a deck during the tournament and expect good outcomes.
Round 2 v Ryan R. – GoliZoro WLW (1-1)
Round 3 v Louis T. – Gardevoir WW (2-1)
Round 4 v Alejandro N. – Drampa/Garb LL (2-2)
Lost to Alejandro, our testing partner.
Round 5 v Oliver L. – Gardevoir WW (3-2)
Opponent misplays and benches a Ralts late game to let Liam triple Feather Arrow for the win.
Round 6 v Hermanni H. – Gardevoir WW (4-2)
Round 7 v Isaiah B. – ?? Lost in 2 or 3 games (4-3)
Lost to Isaiah B, who promptly won Memphis Regionals.
4-3, 43rd place.
Dallas! Let me talk about Dallas for a hot second. Dallas was a well-run tournament. The new electronic decklist submittal and check-in process, courtesy of the Peros, seems very good for one incredibly important reason: Round 1 started in a timely fashion. I can’t emphasize enough how I am a huge, huge fan of this. If Round 1-of a seven round tournament starts at 9 AM and we are done at 6 PM, I am loving life. Far too many tournaments have 8 AM-9 AM registration and Round 1 starts at around 11 AM. It kills me. When lunch breaks are after 1 pm and before Round 3 starts, I always take that as evidence that the tournament is basically off the rails, and yet I would say that is the vast majority of my tournament stories.
Hopefully, RK9 and the technology revolution means all this is a thing of the past and can be relegated to the stories I tell my grandkids about how “in my day” Pokémon tournaments weren’t so great.
I would also like to take a moment to applaud the fascinating side event set up. Poké-karaoke was great. Ross Gilbert was born to do Pokémon quiz shows. The Pokémon corporation needs to witness what was going on there and repeat this at a much bigger scale because it was amazing. I did not like how they stopped streaming Top 32 to show the sideshow, because I definitely wanted to watch some TCG, but it wasn’t terrible.
Anyway, my youngest played Lycanroc and bombed out—he lost relatively early to Roan G. and Taylor J., two players who have already won Regionals this year and topped multiple tournaments, plus a tie to his Poké-BFF Liam H. (Not my Liam, the other Liam H.). He then proceeded to tilt into oblivion, which is his prerogative. Let’s not even talk about it. He is strongly opinionated for someone who tests relatively little and played it without the Muk line, which in retrospect, was a terrible mistake.
My oldest played Golisopod/Zoroark and had some good games. We struggled with deck selection again at this tournament because we felt like, “it is expanded, things should be crazy”, yet we struggled to find a deck that felt unfair enough. Golisopod felt insanely fair, yet it performed pretty well in our testing.
Halliburton the Older:
Round 1 v Ahmed M. – Lycanroc WW (1-0)
Round 2 v Piper L. – Golisopod WW (2-0)
Round 3 v Cameron R. – Toad Lasers WW (3-0)
Round 4 v Isaiah B. – Lycanroc w Muk WLL (3-1)
Another loss to Isaiah, who we had tested with a fair bit going into this tournament. Isaiah’s only loss at the tournament was the final round, so no shame here.
Round 5 v Landon F. – Lycanroc WW (4-1)
Another great friend who we missed last year as he had aged up into Seniors. Liam enjoyed seeing him again.
Round 6 v Matthew C. – Lonzoroark WW (5-1)
Round 7 v Jackson F. – Lycanroc w Muk LL (5-2)
Jackson went on to Top 4 at the tournament, his only loss at the tournament being to Isaiah in a 60 card mirror. Once again, no shame.
Round 8 v Evan Y. – Lycanroc LL (5-3)
My son said he just got smashed. So that is that.
We learned just how powerful Muk is, and how that matchup really works over the course of this tournament. I think it speaks to some of the challenges of testing how a card changes matchups that it was not clear how Muk changes the game when we were testing previously. When you play the Muk and Sky Field and you are playing against someone who does not play either of those cards, you are able to control when Zoroark-GX starts taking 1HKOs. That basically gives you control over the game. Absent either of those cards, Golisopod will win 2-shot wars, but when the other player has the choice to turn it into a 1-shot game, that is game-breaking against a skillful player.
Liam’s only losses were to 2nd place, 3rd place and 9th place coming out of Swiss for a 23rd place finish. He beat the 8th seed. So he played 4-of his 8 rounds against people that finished with 6 wins. Very challenging draw. He was the top 5-3 on Opponents Win % by a mile. That is pretty good, and he felt good about it.
The Mighty Dugtrio
It took so long for us to turn all of this other pure opinion around that I had the time to start messing around with Ultra Prism. In the interest of covering a base uncovered by prior authors, I wanted to talk about the mighty Dugtrio. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to play a bit more Pokémon to have more well-grounded opinions on decks. Dugtrio was an early one I messed with that has had a surprising amount of success.
I think most people thought this was a meme deck, but it turns out to be surprisingly sturdy. Also, because it uses 1-Prize attackers, it is fairly resilient to decks with broken Abilities such as Magnezone. The ability to hit for huge damage does not benefit someone playing against Dugtrio because the Prize trade is still real.
The deck plays very similarly to Gyarados decks in that the key thing you must do turn after turn is find the pieces to build a Stage One attacker. Conversely, they have to kill what feels like tons of Pokémon to defeat you. It wears on a player to figure out how to kill six Pokémon. My strategy in playing this is very linear: Get out two Starmie and Mt. Coronet, draw one energy per turn, and stream 210 1HKOs.
Dugtrio also has aspects of similarity to Night March in that the deck self-thins. Discarding almost all of the energy and then discarding excess Letters/Stadiums via Starmie creates a very compact deck to insulate a player from late game Ns. The ability to hit for huge numbers and have the deck provide built-in resource management seems like a deck that can be very successful in a variety of formats. It is easy to imagine, while my list is Standard, how one could play this in expanded with Superior Energy Retrieval and Battle Compressors.
Here is my current list:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
Starmie: People have talked about playing a lot of things to put energy in hand. Some have tried Rihombee, some just straight Energy Retrieval. I found Starmie the most efficient. There isn’t a lot you need to thin out in this deck, so the discard is sometimes painful, but the consistency of turn-after-turn energy recovery while thinning your deck of energy has been too effective. 2 Starmie and a Mt Coronet more or less ensures that you will hit for 180 every turn.
Supporter Line: You have some choices here, but here is how I made mine: The most important thing I need to do mid-game and late-game is find Dugtrio/Rescue Stretcher, find an energy not in the discard so I can hit 210, and find two cards I can discard for Starmie. Sycamore helps me early game get energy in the discard, so I value it. Cynthia helps me draw a lot of cards mid-game and late.
N’ing myself to 4 keeps me from finding the pieces I need. I have simply found in my testing that it is better for me to find my pieces and take a KO with a 1-Prize attacker than disrupt my opponent’s hand. Given that my Pokémon are glass cannons, I need a ton of disruption to stop them from taking a KO. Conversely, if they never “cannon”, I will most assuredly lose. So N is ok, but not amazing.
I would love a third Guzma and had one for much of testing—it is very good for pulling up a Tapu Lele when you don’t have energy left in deck and can only hit for 180, mapping out prizes efficiently. But, I cut it for a Puzzle.
Puzzles: I think this is the only thing vaguely non-traditional about this list. I really just added this to my list, cutting the third Guzma, an Oranguru, an Evosoda, and a fourth Starmie. Puzzles seem like the perfect way to grab a Rescue Stretcher and an Energy. Or a Starmie and a Dugtrio.
When I had the Evosoda, it fluctuated between that and a third Nest Ball. It never really mattered. Obviously, Nest Ball is better T1, they are similar T2, and Evosoda is possibly better T3 or T4. But both were frequently discarded for Starmie.
The Oranguru rarely found its way onto the board. I usually had two or three Dugtrio/Diglett, two Starmie, and a Tapu Lele or Staryu hanging out. It seemed like mapping out prizes was easy with such a linear deck and the risk of getting N’d to one and losing never seemed terrible.
You could justify in your heart a Field Blower, but be honest, if they are running Garbodor, one Field Blower is unlikely to fix your problems. Similarly, you could run a Choice Band, but running one more energy would be, more or less, not dissimilar and probably equally consistent given that your Pokémon will be KO’d shortly.
Similarly, you could test a Super Rod, theorizing that putting a few Pokémon and one or two energy back into deck seems reasonable. I hated Ultra Ball in this deck because I rarely had so many cards that I wanted to discard with Ultra Ball plus discard with Starmie. So the idea of throwing a Dugtrio back into deck and then Ultra Balling for it sounds painful mid-game. I can count on less than a hand the times that I Rescue Stretcher’d three Pokémon compared to just one.
I think this demonstrates an aspect of this deck that makes it weak compared to Gyarados: Dive Ball is a good card. Evosoda could fix this, but it was a combination I rarely drew into, even when I was testing with multiple Evosoda. Many mid-game hands would be something like “Rescue Stretcher + Cynthia” that made me want to lock in consistent damage output and thin my deck by grabbing a Dugtrio and setting up my attacker for turn rather than risk drawing into pieces off the Cynthia and praying for a more powerful card combination.
While I could review matchups, many of them revolve around a Night March-ish, “execute your strategy, kill everything.” I will leave it as an exercise to the reader. Go, try it—it is fun!
We are in a pretty good place this year. My eldest is enjoying just playing fun games of Pokémon. We are playing a fair bit of Pokémon at home but we aren’t traveling much this year. I am a little down not due to tournament outcomes, but because I used to play so much Pokémon that I had super strong feelings about certain decks. I am just not playing enough Pokémon to generate really strong feelings about lists. I hope to get back to that place at some point.
Our story arc for Juniors last year ended in a very fair place. My eldest Day 2’d Worlds every year he played, wrapping up with his best finish ever. This year will be different than the last two because he won’t get the Day 2 bye. He will have to play his way through Day 1 of Worlds in Seniors. But we have had tremendous fun playing Pokémon this year, generally speaking. I look forward to seeing how the season continues to evolve.
We will be in Charlotte, Toronto, and Roanoke before NAIC! Make sure to introduce yourself. We can play a game of Pokémon or two.