Hey what’s up my guys! My name is Evan Gregory, and I play the Pokémon TCG competitively. I have played rather casually for about five years now, hitting a couple of Regionals here and there; however, this year, since worlds is in D.C., I have decided to shoot for my worlds invite. Starting with a poor Q1 with only 2 Challenge wins and a Cup top 16, I turned things around at Roanoke, where I placed top 32 with Blacephalon. After that I cranked out a Cup win, top 4, and top 8. Then taking a break through January, skipping Dallas, and now here, Collinsville, where I placed 13th out of a whopping 1056! Today, I’m here to give you the hot take on what madness happened at Collinsville, success and blunders.
In the Pokémon TCG, one of the key elements to success is deck building skills and selection. You can only bring 60 cards to a tournament and must decide which cards are most valuable, and be able to analyze which tech cards will benefit you the most through a brutal 9-round Regionals. Additionally, you need to identify a deck that you can get comfortable with, and pilot through the whole Regionals with minimal error. With this in mind, I decided to run the recently-developed PikaRom deck, however with some key differences. When you choose your 60 cards, finding a deck and copying it card for card will suffice—very occasionally. However, if you want success in the long run, you have to be able to understand what makes a deck successful. The hard work of playing different variations of an already existing deck, over the last few years of my life has helped a lot; it’s helped refine the intuition I use to make established decks successful in upcoming tournaments.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
Starting off, the main focus of the deck is using Pikachu & Zekrom-GX to overpower your opponent. Using Tapu Koko ♢ to essentially act as a “double Dark Patch” to accelerate energy onto your benched Pokémon, while Thunder Mountain ♢ to decrease the cost of all lightning attacks by one lightning energy. Along with using Energy Switch and Multi Switch to get the energy onto Pikachu & Zekrom turn 1 in order to use its Full Blitz attack, fueling up another Pikachu & Zekrom, the same one you just attacked with for a big Tag Bolt GX, which allows you to take two knockouts at once, or charging up another attacker such as Zeraora-GX, who gives your Pokémon with lightning energy attached to them free retreat, similar to Darkrai-EX DEX’s Dark Cloak ability or Manaphy-EX’s Aqua Tube ability.
My testing partners were already interested in playing PikaRom, I however was not initially motivated to run the deck. It seemed to me that if you did not get turn 1 Full Blitz, then the chances of you winning that game were slim. Without much testing, I felt uncomfortable running a deck that seemed hit or miss, however, after watching Jose Marrero’s matches on stream at the Oceania Internationals, and seeing my friend run the list at a challenge, I realized the potential of the deck and decided to make a few changes.
Firstly, I dropped Rayquaza-GX. At first you may wonder why Rayquaza would be in the deck in the first place when there is no grass energy. This is an interesting addition to the deck, as it allows you to get another energy onto the field to allow you to energy switch onto Pikachu & Zekrom, providing a more supportive role rather than attacking one. It makes sense why he added it to the deck; however, I felt that it didn’t provide enough and I wanted to thicken the supporter line, because I want the minimal chance of bricking, or not getting a playable hand.
Secondly, I dropped Marshadow-GX. Marshadow allows you to use any basic Pokémon’s attacks, as long as that Pokémon is in the discard pile. By using Marshadow, it becomes a two-prize Pikachu & Zekrom that hits for fighting weakness, a key weakness type in our meta right now. One of the most popular decks right now has Zoroark-GX, who is weak to fighting, however the more important role it plays is for the Pikachu & Zekrom mirror match. In theory, you would set up your first Pikachu & Zekrom, then Full Blitz, charging up the Marshadow-GX, which would allow you to get an easy knockout on the next Pikachu & Zekrom, using its Full Blitz attack from the discard. The reason I dropped Marshadow-GX is because I felt that if I was more consistent and better, skill wise, than the other PikaRom players, I could catch them on poor Marshadow Let Loose draws and be able to have better starts. Additionally, if Marshadow-GX is prized, you must work around not being able to utilize it.
Third, but a more simple change was cutting Erika’s Hospitality for a Cynthia. I hated Erika in testing, I prefer Cynthia allowing me to draw a fresh hand of six. This is simply preference and there are many reasons to run the Erika if you’d like.
Fourth, the one Mysterious Treasure. I rarely drew into it early game when I needed it. Nest Ball felt essential to the deck for getting turn 1 Tapu Koko ♢ and Zeraora-GX. So I simply cut the Mysterious Treasure for a Nest Ball.
In short, I dropped 1 Rayquaza-GX, 1 Marshadow-GX, 1 Erika’s Hospitality, and 1 Mysterious Treasure in exchange for 1 Cynthia, 1 Nest Ball, and 2 Acerola. Acerola is key in the Zapdos/Jirachi matchup, allowing you to essentially negate their last attack by picking up a Pokémon with damage on it.
Now with the deck and changes out of the way, let’s get into the matches!
R1: PikaRom Mirror WLT
R2 Lost March WW
R3 Blacephalon WW
R4: Ultra Malamar WW
R5 Ultra Malamar WLW
R6 Ultra Malamar LL
R7 Zapdos/Jirachi W
R8 Zoroark/Lycanroc WLW
R9 Zoroark/Lycanroc WW
R10 PikaRom mirror WLW
R11 Plume/Stall/Unown Hand WLT
R12 Buzzwole/Lucario/Jirachi WLL
R13 Zoro/Lycanroc WLW
R14 Zoro/ Lycanroc LWW
R15 PikaRom Mirror LL (t1 marshadow g1, g2 koko prism and thunder mountain prized)
At the very start of the day I went against the PikaRom mirror. Like I mentioned before, my goal was to set up and get the first swing, capitalize on any mistakes, and utilize Tapu Koko-GX. The plan worked until game 2, where I whiffed a game-winning Electropower, twice, and I lost as a result. As we set up for game 3, time was called.
It felt awkward starting the day off with a tie, but it turned out to be an odd blessing in disguise. Next round, my opponent flips over Hoppip and I am elated. Lost March struggles to one-shot your PikaRoms and Tag Bolt allows you to take down two attackers or a Tapu Lele. The match was a very quick 2-0.
Following up, my next round was against Blacephalon, I was excited at first because I feel it is an 80/20 or 70/30 matchup in PikaRom’s favor. Being able to one-shot Blacephalon with Full Blitz for only a Choice Band or one Electropower, while having the potential to skip Beast Ring turn is very satisfying. Additionally they need to commit 5 energies just to one-shot PikaRom, which can be difficult without Beast Ring. I actually had a slow start, but actually had to use Zeraora-GX instead of Pikachu & Zekrom; it worked oddly well. Usually, the Blacephalon player would try to play Alolan Muk to shut off Zeraora’s Thunderclap Zone, but I do not remember the Muk being a problem.
After lunch break, came a stream of Ultra Necrozma decks, three to be exact. I felt that the matchup is relatively easy because if you set up first and shut down their Inkays with Tag Bolt, their Ultra Necrozma won’t be able to attack you. Additionally, Viridian Forest, commonly included in Malamar decks, helps you out, allowing you to discard your own energy for Tapu Koko ♢ or searching for an energy. The third match I scooped because my opponent and I did not realize I forgot to shuffle back in Tapu Koko ♢ and Thunder Mountain ♢. My bad. Other than that slip up, I felt comfortable with the matchup.
Finally getting a break from the Ultra Squids, my next round opponent was playing Jirachi/Zapdos, which just won OCIC. I had done extensive testing against it with my friend and teched in the two Acerola. Game 1 was very close, however game 2 I was able to time my Acerolas just right, and because Zapdos’ only way to one-shot you is with Tapu Koko-GX, he took too long to take KOs and time was called.
Finally, I went against two Zoroark/Lycanroc to wrap up the day. ZoroRoc absolutely flooded Collinsville and I was quite surprised I was able to dodge them all day up until this point. My friends were not as lucky and couldn’t beat ZoroRoc, I however, had different luck with the deck. Lycanroc-GX needs double attachment and a choice band in order to deal 140 with Claw Slash, which would be doubled for fighting weakness. I made sure to go after the pups and drop a Wondrous Labyrinth ♢ after they used Devoured Field to replace my Thunder Mountain ♢. Wondrous Labyrinth would practically seal them out of the game because of the massive energy requirements they would need just to attack.
Heading into Day 2, I faced Jose Marrero himself. Started day 1 and 2 with a PikaRom mirror. This go round however, my gameplan worked from Round 1 and Jose prized Marshadow-GX in one of the games. The first two games were pretty close, but the third game I think I hit a good Let Loose and set up before him. That’s why I aimed for more consistency rather than tech cards like, Marshadow-GX.
Next was against the dreaded Vileplume stall deck that got attention right before Collinsville because of Shintaro Ito’s Attacking Vileplume list. While they are different formats and different lists, they both utilized Vileplume from Burning Shadows which prevents Basic Pokémon from attacking it. This is an utter nightmare for PikaRom. Most people said to just add in a 1-1 line of Jolteon. Changing 1 or 2 cards in your list, just to win against a particular deck, is a challenge as old as the game itself. Sometimes you make the right call, sometimes you don’t. Even highly-talented players can be wrong about these decisions sometimes. The intuition I developed over the years playing this game, led me to consider this change, but then quickly reject it. The potential benefit of these two cards did not offset the need for having a consistent deck. The overall gameplan was to aim to hit the donk before they get setup, and if you can’t then let them build up a 30-card hand, and then Let Loose. This plan worked out and the match ended in a tie.
After that, I’m feeling very excited being 8-1-2, I’m up against Peter Kica and his fighting box deck, but as soon as we are about to get set up, we get pulled over to be on stream. I was shocked and nervous to go up there. I told all my friends and my parents as it was my first time being on stream. Additionally, my friends and I drove 14 hours to get to Collinsville. I had to play 9 rounds day 1 and just finished two rounds of day 2. The first game went great, however in my excitement, I overlooked the Guzma for game, as the commentators point out, and because of this, I felt like I had to KO the active Buzzwole. Being under pressure, tired, and shaky on stream did not feel good and I ended up making some very newbish mistakes. Game 2 I scooped early because I prized Tapu Koko ♢ and was not popping off. Game 3 I was aiming to shut him out with the Wondrous Labyrinth. All I had to do was retreat into the benched PikaRom and messed it all up by announcing Full Blitz and searching the deck. With the added two prize penalty, my nerves were spiked and totally flopped the rest of the game. I’m happy that there were people in the stream chat who understood that I was tired and Peter also told them that it was my first time on stream.
My next two rounds were against two more ZoroRocs and the matches went exactly how they did in the previous rounds.
Into the final round and my win-and-in to top 8, I faced the PikaRom mirror, and unfortunately, I lost due to luck. Game 1 he went first and Marshadow Let Loose’d me into a dead hand. Game 2 I prized both Tapu Koko ♢ and Thunder Mountain. I was a bit bummed for a second, but then shook his hand and congratulated him on making Top 8.
Looking back, I am extremely proud of myself. I set myself up to make Top 8, but it just wasn’t my time. Bad luck happens every now and then. At first I was kicking myself for the stream match flop, but I just took a deep breath and focused on the last rounds. I was a bit bummed that I lost my win and in because of draws and prizes, but I was happy for my opponent and congratulated him.
Luck can always be a factor in Pokémon tournaments, and Collinsville was no exception. That being said, there was a causal relationship between the outcome, and the amount of effort I put into this event. This success came about as a result of practice, sound decision-making, and listening to the advice of other PikaRom players.
Even though I flopped hard on stream, I learned so much from the experience and I believe next time I will be more comfortable with being on stream.
I had so much fun last weekend and managed to grab some great prizes and 80 CP, as a result, I am now at 306/550. I will be skipping Toronto, however I will be hitting Greensboro! If you see me, feel free to say hi! Hope to see y’all there!