Mile-High Surprises

Highlighting Denver’s Unexpected Standouts: Bodybuilding/Zoroark Control, Draw/Celebi & Venusaur-GX, and Order Pad/PikaRom
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The SUM–TEU format still isn’t solved? What??

Hello 6P! Welcome back to another article! We just wrapped up Denver this weekend, with some incredibly interesting and peculiar results. I managed to get Top 16 at the event, where I had a small chance at making Top 8 had I won my last round, but my resistance would’ve put me at 9th or 10th, so I wasn’t too upset about ID’ing R14 instead.

Side Note: It’s always a hard decision when you’re at 6-2 going into Round 9 of Day 1—which is where I found myself at Denver—whether to ID or not to guarantee Day 2. On one hand, you guarantee another day of playing and having a chance at winning the tournament, even if that chance isn’t very high. On the other hand, playing it out can mean either being in a much better spot to Top 8 the tournament or losing and not having any chance of Top 8’ing whatsoever. I was in that spot and I decided to ID as—aside from winning the tournament—there’s also value to me in getting more CPs, a few extra dollars in T32 and T16 to offset the costs of the trip, and—most importantly—the NAIC and Worlds Day 2 Travel Awards.

Being potentially 1 point off from T8 after Day 2 had me kicking myself for deciding to ID Round 9 the day before, but hindsight is 20/20, right? T16 is still a solid result and has me pumped for Berlin in a few weeks’ time. So far I’ve accumulated 525 CP this quarter—all of it with Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. The format will be the same in Berlin, so I don’t see any reason as to why this trend won’t continue.

Denver Recap

Denver was a lot of fun and here’s a quick report on how my games went:

Denver Regionals / 640 Masters / SUM–TEU

Day 1
R1 — Alolan Muk//Psyduck — WW
R2 — Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX — WLL
R3 — Buzzwole-GX/Zygarde-GX/Lycanroc-GX — WW
R4 — Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX — WLL
R5 — Blacephalon-GX/ — WW
R6 — Pikachu & Zekrom-GX/Zapdos — WW
R7 — Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel — WW
R8 — Regigigas/Hoopa — WW
R9 — Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel — ID

Day 2
R10 — Zapdos/Buzzwole/Nihilego — LL
R11 — Pikachu & Zekrom-GX/Zapdos — WLW
R12 — Buzzwole-GX/Lucario-GX — WW
R13 — Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel — WW
R14 — Pikachu & Zekrom-GX/Zapdos — ID

Final: 15th place @ 9-3-2 (+80 CP) (1,053 CP total for 2018–19)

Top 8 consisted of a decent variety of decks, and it perfectly exemplified the metagame. Half of the decks were Mill/Stall/Control type:

And the other half were Lightning-based decks:

Lightning is such a powerful archetype at the moment that I do think either you have to either (A) play it in some form or (B) try and counter it. That is exactly what the other type of decks try to do: weather the pressure with walls (in Regigigas CIN, Hoopa SLG, or Celebi & Venusaur-GX) or disrupt (with Crushing Hammers and Alolan Muk) while surviving hits with Bodybuilding Dumbbells and the extra HP it provides.

Do You Even Lift: Bodybuilding/Zoroark Control

Zoroark Control proved to be the most successful counter-measure this weekend, as Caleb Gedemer ended up winning the whole event undefeated. He used the following list which has a lot of interesting inclusions and is actually a lot less based on Control than I initially expected it to be:

Pokémon (18)

4 Zorua SLG

4 Zoroark-GX

2 Oranguru UPR

2 Alolan Grimer SUM

2 Alolan Muk SUM

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Ditto p

1 Girafarig LOT

Trainer (38)

4 Lillie

2 Acerola

2 Guzma

2 Judge

 

4 Crushing Hammer

4 Nest Ball

4 Ultra Ball

3 Pokémon Communication

2 Enhanced Hammer

2 Mysterious Treasure

1 Field Blower

1 Pal Pad

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Switch

3 Bodybuilding Dumbbells

 

1 Champions Festival

1 Lavender Town

Energy (4)

4 Double Colorless

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 18

* 4 Zorua SLG 52
* 4 Zoroark-GX SLG 53
* 2 Oranguru UPR 114
* 2 Alolan Grimer SUM 57
* 2 Alolan Muk SUM 58
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 1 Girafarig LOT 94

##Trainer Cards - 38

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 2 Judge BKT 143
* 2 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Acerola BUS 112
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 4 Crushing Hammer SUM 115
* 3 Pokémon Communication BLW 99
* 2 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 2 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124
* 1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 1 Pal Pad FLF 92
* 1 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Switch SUM 132
* 3 Bodybuilding Dumbbells BUS 113
* 1 Lavender Town TEU 147
* 1 Champions Festival PR-BLW BW95

##Energy - 4

* 4 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=73025 ******

When you hear “Control decks,” you usually expect cards like Team Skull Grunt, Faba, and Lusamine to be able to deplete someone out of their resources with an infinite Lusamine/ loop. This was not the case here, however, and even though the deck does contain a heavy dose of Crushing Hammers and Enhanced Hammers to disrupt, other than Alolan Muk that is pretty much all the disruption. What I understand from these card selections and having seen the deck in action is that each turn there is an “assessment” of the boardstate and a decision is made whether to get back resources with Oranguru’s Resource Management or pressure with a huge 250-HP Zoroark-GX thanks to Bodybuilding Dumbbells.

With the help of Lavender Town, being able to take a look at your opponent’s hand, this decision is made in an informed manner as, aside from an opponent’s topdeck, you will know exactly what options the opponent has during their next turn. Combine this with well-timed Judges and you can either aggressively take away options plus put pressure on with Riotous Beating, or simply get back Hammers in order to build a bigger advantage on the field.

The deck is sustained by the heavy Ball engine and Lillie, combined with the extra Mysterious Treasures which add outs to Tapu Lele-GX for that T1 Lillie and are able to get the Alolan Muk pieces much easier as the game progresses.

A 2-2 line of Alolan Muk had been previously unseen, and it’s another form of adaptation in order to hard-counter all the Lightning archetypes. Usually these decks are able to deal with 1 Alolan Muk, and Zoroark has a hard time replacing it. With a 2-2 line, however, keeping Alolan Muk in play is a lot more likely and therefore Lightning decks won’t be able to abuse Abilities like Stellar Wish, Dance of the Ancients, Energy Evolution, or even Thunderclap Zone.

Finally, Champions Festival is an interesting inclusion, though I’m not sure I see how valuable it is since Spread decks shouldn’t have a huge edge versus this type of deck, which can recycle Enhanced Hammers and Acerolas over and over. It’s hard to dispute with an undefeated deck, but I do think a second copy of Lavender Town would’ve been slightly better overall.

Seeing Green: Draw/Celebi & Venusaur-GX

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Next up, Celebi & Venusaur-GX was the biggest surprise of the tournament for me, as I had tested it a decent amount and completely dismissed it as nothing more than a gimmicky deck that tried to accomplish many things but couldn’t cope with pressure. The list that got all the way to Top 4 actually dismissed disruption cards like Crushing Hammer in favor of extra draw and aggressive options like Bill’s Analysis and Guzma. Here’s Ronald Gonzalez’s Top 4 list, which I will definitely be testing as the idea of Confusion + Burn + Poison from Pollen Hazard is very appealing to me:

Pokémon (7)

4 Celebi & Venusaur-GX

3 Shaymin LOT

Trainer (42)

4 Guzma

4 Lillie

3 Bill’s Analysis

2 Erika’s Hospitality

2 Judge

1 Gardenia

 

4 Acro Bike

4 Judge Whistle

4 Mixed Herbs

4 Net Ball

3 Potion

1 Adventure Bag

1 Choice Band

1 Choice Helmet

1 Escape Board

 

2 Aether Paradise Conservation Area

1 Life Forest p

Energy (11)

7 Grass

4 Double Colorless

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 7

* 4 Celebi & Venusaur-GX TEU 1
* 3 Shaymin LOT 33

##Trainer Cards - 42

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 3 Bill’s Analysis TEU 133
* 2 Judge BKT 143
* 2 Erika’s Hospitality TEU 140
* 1 Gardenia UPR 124
* 4 Net Ball LOT 187
* 4 Acro Bike PRC 122
* 4 Judge Whistle TEU 146
* 4 Mixed Herbs LOT 184
* 3 Potion SUM 127
* 1 Adventure Bag LOT 167
* 1 Choice Helmet LOT 169
* 1 Choice Band GRI 121
* 1 Escape Board UPR 122
* 2 Aether Paradise Conservation Area GRI 116
* 1 Life Forest p LOT 180

##Energy - 11

* 7 Grass Energy Energy 1
* 4 Double Colorless Energy SUM 136

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=73025 ******

As I mentioned, the big difference between this list and the ones I had previously used is the increase in draw and reduction in disruption. This build relies much more on Confusion, combined with a greater amount of healing thanks to Potions, Gardenia, and the Mixed Herbs.

Bill’s Analysis is a great complement to Mixed Herbs, as is Erika’s Hospitality, as you can hold onto one Mixed Herbs and easily find another. The lack of Buff Padding is interesting as well, though Choice Helmet is potentially better. Against GX decks, if they attack you twice, you have reduced (or “gained”) 60 damage versus the +50 HP from Buff Padding, and every extra turn the Celebi & Venusaur-GX survives, the better. However, if a Pokémon is able to deal 300 damage exactly, then Buff Padding is preferable. I can’t come up with a single situation in which a Pokémon would be able to deal 300 damage exactly versus 320 though, so I do agree that Choice Helmet is probably the better call. Combined with Aether Paradise Conversation Area, it makes for a -60 reduction in damage from GXs, which means getting hit for 90 damage by a Full Blitz isn’t actually that scary, as it becomes a measly 70 or 50 after a couple of Floral Heals from Shaymin.

Having Choice Band goes along with the more aggressive approach of the deck, as well as the reliance on Confusion as the major disruption factor. Hitting for 180 with Solar Beam or 210 with Evergreen GX actually makes for some great numbers versus Zoroark-GX decks and some of the Lightning decks, too.

Thanks to Acro Bike and Judge Whistle, you are able to thin your deck pretty quickly to find the resources you need. The discard of Acro Bike can be harsh, but thankfully Celebi & Venusaur-GX is so tanky that you are usually able to prepare for an Evergreen GX which allows you to recover those cards and have extra uses of Gardenia, Mixed Herbs, Potions, and your Stadiums.

Special Order: Order Pad/PikaRom

@enjoifriend

The final deck which surprised me and many others was Andrew Mahone’s Top 8 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX build. Not because of the card or its potential, but because of the build’s reliance on Order Pad. That was the biggest standout card from his list, and even though in theory I wholeheartedly disagree with such a build, I can understand how a good run of heads flips can make a big difference in the flow of the resources. Here’s what his build looks like, which allowed him to take 1st seed on both Day 1 and Day 2 moving into Top 8 where he ended up losing to Nic Stewart’s deck:

Pokémon (12)

3 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

2 Zeraora-GX

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Zapdos TEU

2 Marshadow SLG

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Rayquaza-GX

Trainer (37)

4 Cynthia

4 Lillie

3 Guzma

2 Erika’s Hospitality

 

4 Electropower

4 Energy Switch

4 Order Pad

4 Ultra Ball

2 Nest Ball

1 Multi Switch

1 Mysterious Treasure

2 Choice Band

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

1 Viridian Forest

Energy (11)

11 Lightning

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 12

* 3 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 33
* 2 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 47
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Zapdos TEU 40
* 2 Marshadow SLG 45
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Rayquaza-GX CES 109

##Trainer Cards - 37

* 4 Lillie SUM 122
* 4 Cynthia UPR 119
* 3 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Erika’s Hospitality TEU 140
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Energy Switch SUM 117
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 4 Order Pad UPR 131
* 2 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 1 Multi Switch GRI 129
* 1 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 2 Choice Band GRI 121
* 1 Viridian Forest TEU 156
* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191

##Energy - 11

* 11 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=73025 ******

The deck, for the most part, includes everything you would expect from a Turbo Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck, and is actually only a few cards off from the one I talked about in my previous article breaking down all the Lightning decks in the format.

In my Pokémon philosophy, I would 100% stay away from Order Pad, as having maximum copies of Energy Switch, Electropower, etc. should usually be enough to guarantee having them at the right time. I even prefer Acro Bike as a way to go through your deck faster. Andrew, however, decided to play the odds of Order Pad and it clearly worked out for him. I watched him flip heads after a Cynthia to grab a crucial Electropower for a return–KO in a mirror match—an Electropower that he otherwise wouldn’t have gotten that turn.

The second Marshadow is another standout card, which, after all the discussion it has generated online, is interesting to see, while the tournament-winning deck has a way to stop it from working altogether.

Rayquaza-GX first appeared in Jose Marrero’s OIC Top 4 Turbo Pikachu & Zekrom-GX list and is a great way to get an extra Energy on board with Stormy Winds, which will then be transferred away with an Energy Switch or Multi Switch. If you’ve ever played any of the Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks, you’re aware of how important it is to accelerate Energy with Tapu Koko p’s Dance of the Ancients. Rayquaza-GX is another way to get that extra Energy on board, and it decreases the impact of Tapu Koko being prized.

I can’t say much about the rest of the list as it is quite straightforward and heavily focused on consistency. With all the Alolan Muk SUM and Absol TEU running around in all sorts of decks, I can see how you would want to stay away from Jirachi. However, I would personally never choose to play a version such as this one at an event over a Jirachi build, purely based on the coin flip of Order Pad. A bad string of flips could spell disaster for a Regionals run, and with so many games being played throughout the tournament, it’s not improbable for that to happen. Of course, the opposite could take place and you go on a huge upswing where heads shows up often enough when you play Order Pad, but this high-risk/high-reward type of approach is definitely not my cup of tea.

Conclusion

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Next up we have Daytona Regionals in the Expanded () format, which I will not be attending, and then we have the third International tournament of the season in Berlin, Germany (in the Standard [SUM–TEU] format). I’m really excited to go to the EUIC as I didn’t go to Melbourne and majorly screwed up in Sao Paulo. I’ve had a great string of results these past two months since Team Up came out and I’m looking forward to keeping this momentum going in Berlin.

My next article will be right before that event (4/24) so I’ll be discussing my potential plays for Berlin then, though I don’t think anything will happen in the interim to dissuade me from playing a deck which has netted me over 500 Championship Points in the span of two months.

Thank you so much for reading and, as always, feel free to reach out here or on my Tablemon social media with any questions, comments, or feedback.


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