Hello all, I hope you had a nice Martin Luther King Day yesterday! Dallas Regionals was last weekend, and I had the pleasure of attending with great friends who made the entire experience worthwhile. I had an amazing time meeting new people, playing games like The Resistance, and eating some delectable barbecue. While my tournament didn’t go as I would have hoped, I had ample time to watch the top tables and think about how the format will look once Sword & Shield (and its respective rule changes) hits the scene. In addition, I reflected on my goals in this game, some mistakes I’ve made in creating them, and how I can better measure my performance in the future. I can’t wait to share all of this with you, so let’s hop right in!
Dallas Recap w/ Ultra Necrozma
Going into Dallas, I was fairly set on playing Ultra Necrozma. I felt good about the deck, its matchups, and how it could efficiently deal with the decks I expected to see. In the week leading up to Dallas, I continued experimenting with my list, ultimately adding in some quirks that I ended up playing in my final list below:
1 Escape Rope PLS 120
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 17
* 4 Ultra Necrozma CEC 164
* 2 Trubbish GRI 50
* 1 Trubbish BKP 56
* 2 Garbodor GRI 51
* 1 Garbodor BKP 57
* 2 Remoraid BKT 31
* 2 Octillery BKT 33
* 2 Wobbuffet PHF 36
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
##Trainer Cards - 37
* 4 Mysterious Treasure FLI 113
* 1 N PR-BLW 100
* 2 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 4 Professor Sycamore BKP 107
* 2 Ultra Ball FLF 99
* 2 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 1 Escape Rope PLS 120
* 1 Teammates PRC 141
* 1 Special Charge STS 105
* 1 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Guzma BUS 115
* 4 Silent Lab PRC 140
* 1 Choice Band GRI 121
* 1 Cynthia UPR 119
* 1 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 4 Float Stone BKT 137
* 1 Shrine of Punishment CES 143
* 1 Dowsing Machine PLS 128
* 3 VS Seeker PHF 109
* 1 Faba LOT 173
##Energy - 6
* 2 Unit Energy LPM UPR 138
* 4 Double Dragon Energy ROS 97
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=79125 ******
When I told people this weekend I was playing Ultra Necrozma, they would often respond with “Garbodor or Octillery?” I often found myself responding by saying “Both?” to a plethora of confused faces.
Garbodor BKP, 2 Wobbuffet PHF1
So first, the Wobbuffet and Garbodor BKP lines were included as a potential answer to things like EggRow decks and as a way of shutting off pesky Abilities like Fairy Transfer and Trade. The combination won me a number of games in testing, and I didn’t feel comfortable turning a blind eye to some of the most powerful Abilities in the game by simply playing Alolan Muk SUM.
Garbodor GRI, 2 Unit Energy LPM2
2 Trashalanche Garbodor and 2 Unit Energy LPM managed to work their way into my list on Friday afternoon, forcing cards like Trainers’ Mail out. After doing some last-minute testing, I wanted a more solid late-game attacker who could help 1-shot the bigger TAG TEAM GX decks that I expected to see. The Unit Energies also provided an extra way for Ultra Necrozma to attack. When playing Garbodor BKP, it felt like a waste to not include Garbodor GRI, and so these trash heaps found their way into the deck, too.
I mentioned in my last article that I would have difficulty cutting Pokémon Ranger from any deck that I chose to play in Dallas. What changed? Truthfully, I probably should have stuck with my previous inclination. I chose to disregard Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks going into the tournament because I didn’t think their matchup spread was very good, and that assumption wasn’t strictly a bad one, looking at the Top 8 decks last weekend. However, I played two Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks over the weekend—beating one, losing to another—and faced a rogue Zoroark-GX/Seviper BUS/Seismitoad-EX deck, another matchup in which the Pokémon Ranger would have helped. Hindsight is 20/20.
I ended with a frustrated 2-2-2 drop—so, what went wrong? First, I fell victim to the inherent difficulty of the Expanded format by getting bogged down by a few decks that I didn’t expect to see—those primarily being the aforementioned Zoroark-GX/Seviper deck, a Regirock/Lillie’s Poké Doll stall deck, and a Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX deck. While my record against these decks wasn’t awful, tough matchups against Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks and the eventual finalist Luis Duran (GardEon) in Round 1 combined to end my run. I’m not sure (had I played more expected decks) if my position in Day 2 would have been miles better, but I know that there would have been more of the decks like Turbo Dark, Zoroark-GX/Garbodor, and Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX, which I geared my list toward.
Ultimately, though, I think the bigger problem is with Ultra Necrozma as a whole—as I often told my friends this weekend, the deck just feels too fair. Zoroark-GX has Propagate/Trade, Turbo Dark has Dead End-GX and Guzzlord CEC, and Mewtwo & Mew-GX, as a card, is intrinsically powerful. Ultra Necrozma can definitely slow these decks down; in fact, I felt fairly confident against two of these three decks, and could have included a 1-card tech (i.e., Pokémon Ranger) to feel better about the third. But, for the deck to work, it often needs to hit anywhere from 2 to 4 combo pieces every turn, and it lacks any exploitative cards which truly feel like they break the game in some capacity. In all honesty, I felt the same way about playing Night March in Richmond, so maybe there’s something to be said for working on a more degenerate deck.
Regardless, I did enjoy playing the deck, and I think its matchups are still solid, but it lacks the X factor Expanded requires to mow through some of its more obscure decks in the path to a strong finish. I’m starting to see that, to do well in Expanded, you need to have a deck that’s strong enough to beat things you don’t expect, so you can get the matchups you do. My next event should be Collinsville Regionals , as OCIC wasn’t in the cards, so I’m going to keep pushing forward on testing Expanded.
Takeaways from Dallas for BLW–SSH Expanded
Tropical Beach is Making Waves1.
There was a ton of Tropical Beach over the last weekend. Many prominent players, like SixPrizes’ own Rahul Reddy and Xander Pero, in addition to foreign travelers like Pedro Torres and Nico Alabas chose to play Shock Lock. In addition, our own Alex Schemanske played an interesting Regirock XY49/Lillie’s Poké Doll deck to a Top 8 finish, which I’m sure he’ll talk more about on Thursday. This was, without a doubt, the most I’ve seen Tropical Beach at a Regional in my seven years of playing Pokémon. I don’t think that’ll change, either—the new rule change, which stops the playing of Supporters on the first turn of the game, strictly benefits Tropical Beach as a card. I wouldn’t be surprised if it finds its way into a number of decks that didn’t play it before, like Zoroark-GX or any other setup-heavy decks that may benefit from going first.
2. Control Controlled Aggro
Speaking of Tropical Beach decks, this was also a great weekend for Control decks. Many chose to bring Shock Lock or Regirock/Hoopa/Lillie’s Poké Doll lists, with others leaning toward TAG TEAM GX cards like Moltres & Zapdos & Articuno-GX and even old favorites like Regigigas CIN. All of these decks proved to be extremely powerful against the overtly aggressive Turbo Dark and Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks, two concepts which I, and many other players, had considered to be too abrasive for any such deck to survive. These decks lose nothing from going second, but may see some problems as cards like Hoopa SLG lose strength due to the new V mechanic. However, the format’s overt reliance on Special Energy and tight resources only aim to keep these decks in the spotlight as we move forward in Expanded.
Will Like the New Rules3. Item lock
Many discarded the the colloquially-called “EggRow” decks as being unplayable due to their difficulty with the Turbo Dark matchup, the expected frontrunner for Dallas. However, Grant Hays and Gibson Tang flipped the script on this narrative, rooming together and both making Top 8 with the deck. EggRow decks gain more from the no-Supporter-T1 change than any other deck, as they can simply shut off opponents who don’t even get access to Supporters or attacks turn 1.
EggRow also gains a huge tool that I’ll speak about in a second, but it’s worth mentioning the other tree in the room when talking about Expanded Item lock: Trevenant XY. While Turbo Dark decks may still pose a problem, being able to go second and straightaway use Phantump BKP’s Ascension turns Trevenant decks into a real threat again. Evolving, Item-locking decks are extremely powerful when going second, forcing any other deck to have enough digging on the first turn to deal with the lock, and making the coin flip more important than ever.
Sword & Shield Top 5 Cards (Expanded Edition)
Before I start discussing the set in depth, it’s worth at least scrolling through a list of translations for what we expect to see. Here are a few resources that provide translations and/or speculative set lists:
Sword & Shield is interesting because it’s the first set in recent memory that feels like it’s including cards for both the Standard and Expanded formats, while making an effort not to break either. While Professor’s Research is essentially a reprint of Professor Juniper or Sycamore, and is fantastic in the Standard format, I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly game-changing in the Expanded format. As mentioned earlier, I won’t be going to Australia, so I’ll have to be satiated by trying to break Expanded. So, with that being said, here’s five cards that I expect to be powerful come February.
Rillaboom SSH 141.
Rillaboom is a card that’s gotten a lot of hype in Standard too, and for good reason. This card has absolutely insane synergy with Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX! One of the big problems that EggRow decks have is that they typically need to search for Energy cards by using slow engines like Steven’s Resolve or Steven and manually attaching, but now they can just Super Growth and start attacking on their second or third turn. It also opens up a lot of avenues for other attackers in the deck, which may have had too-hefty attacking costs, like Celebi & Venusaur-GX. With EggRow coming off of a strong performance in Dallas, Rillaboom seems poised to give a lock deck powerful Energy acceleration, which is a scary concept for any deck.
Sableye V—170 HP—D
D High Density Search
Put a Trainer card from your discard pile into your hand.
DD Mad Nail: 10+
This attack does 60 more damage for each damage counter on your opponent’s Active Pokémon.
When your Pokémon V is Knocked Out, your opponent takes 2 Prize cards.
BulbapediaThis card is almost reminiscent of Garchomp & Giratina-GX, a card which has won the last two North American Regional Championships, in both formats. Essentially, what makes this deck powerful is the breakneck speed it possesses—it can abuse cards like Roxie and Weezing CEC, Galarian Zigzagoon SSH and Galarian Obstagoon SSH, Giratina LOT, Shrine of Punishment, and even older cards like Golbat PHF and Crobat PHF to place damage counters. It already has the powerful acceleration of Battle Compressor and Dark Patch for securing attacks on the first turn (if it goes second), and it can use cards like Sky Field, Super Scoop Up, AZ, and Giovanni’s Exile to reuse the Abilities of its damage-placing cards. Choice Band only amps the damage up further: 4 damage counters and a Choice Band hits for 280 damage! Plus, the deck can run strictly 1- and 2-Prize support and attacking, forcing a strong Prize trade with TAG TEAM GX decks.
Rotom Bike/Lucky Egg3.
Draw cards until you have 6 cards in your hand. Your turn ends.
Both of these cards seem extremely good for Control decks, especially for those who may not have access to Tropical Beach. While cards in the past like Blue’s Tactics have existed, both of these cards offer options for drawing cards to start the next turn as well as possible. If someone has access to Tropical Beaches, I can see these cards having less value overall, particularly in the case of Rotom Bike, unless Chaotic Swell gains a lot of popularity. Lucky Egg is different in the sense that it really helps 1-Prize decks set up in the early and middle game, barring any Field Blower or Faba plays, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lucky Egg pop up in a number of decks that rely on having large combos as the game goes on. It’s also a bit of an N-proofing card, and so players might be forced to include higher Field Blower counts as the metagame develops.
Frosmoth SSH + Lapras VMAX4.
Stage 1—Evolves from Snom
Ability: Icy Snow Dance
As often as you like during your turn, you may attach a W Energy card from your hand to 1 of your Benched W Pokémon.
Now, I am aware of Archie’s Ace in the Hole’s continued existence, but I think the deck revolving around Archie’s and Blastoise PLS receives one last, dying hit with the upcoming rule change. Going first, probably because of losing the coin flip, means that the deck is going to have to fight through a field of Item lock, faster acceleration, and ultimately better overall decks than what the competition has to offer. With that being said, though, I think that Frosmoth and Lapras VMAX offer a strong solution, requiring less setup and being able to abuse cards like Brooklet Hill, Aqua Patch, Misty & Lorelei, and Octillery BKT (although, I guess we can see how well that worked out for me in Dallas) to hit for huge amounts of damage on the first few turns of the game. Cards like Acerola should provide a solid healing engine, while Manaphy-EX can provide mobility. I’m looking forward to testing more of this concept.
Stonjourner V + VMAX5.
Some players chose to pack Fighting decks to try and mine the popularity of Turbo Dark this weekend, but many learned quickly that Lucario-GX or Buzzwole/Garbodor decks struggle with the rest of the format too much to succeed. However, I’m optimistic about Stonjourner’s potential in the Expanded format. Guard Press is really solid, especially when you start counting damage modifiers like Choice Band, Strong Energy, Diancie p, and even potentially Martial Arts Dojo or Fighting Stadium. Max Elixir can also provide some minor acceleration for the deck, and Carbink FCO 49 and Carbink BREAK both offer outs to any Control decks that may want to ruin their day.
The biggest roadblock I see in this deck’s way is its Grass-type Weakness, but the overwhelming amount of Fighting support, like the cards mentioned above or Korrina, Brooklet Hill, Buzzwole FLI, and Buzzwole-GX might be enough to mitigate that concern. The VMAX iteration of Stonjourner also has built-in healing and a solid damage output on an Evolution Pokémon by way of basic Energy, which is usually a good combination of features in Expanded.
An Aside on Goal Setting
Setting goals, like with any endeavor, is important in this game. Not only do they give you a sense of progress to newer players, but they become increasingly important to provide motivation to experienced players by giving a sense of purpose. After another Expanded Regional without a Day 2 finish, I started reflecting on what I actually wanted to accomplish, and how my previous success had come to me.
Many know me for my 2nd place finish last year at NAIC. While this tournament was for me a life-changing event, I wanted to know what had flipped the switch. What pushed me from two Day 2 finishes to second at the largest tournament of the season?
As I was talking to Hunter Butler, the eventual Champion this weekend, after Round 6, he mentioned that this tournament was just supposed to be a fun one for him. He had booked his flight months previously, and just wanted to hang out with his friends and enjoy the game. It seemed to me, anyway, that he was playing without limits—not aiming for a Day 2 finish, not aiming for a Top 8, but just hoping to win each game and take the next Prize card. I realized that I was in a similar situation at NAIC; I already had my invite, and went last-minute to spend time with the people I hold near and dear to my heart.
All of this sentimentality is to bring up an important point: I believe that many players, myself included, place limits on their ability to succeed by placing limits on their expectations. All the time, I’ll hear players at 2-0 at Regionals saying, “Just four more wins!” In truth, I’m usually that player. I place so much of my value for a tournament on whether or not I win or lose, not on how I played my games or the people I’m there to see. And this limiting factor, of “only four more,” means that the idea of going 9-0 hasn’t even entered my mind, because I’m so focused on the little goal of having six wins. It doesn’t seem to me, anyway, that people sitting at 6-0 are saying, “Just four more for Top 8!” Those players are aiming for the top, pushing their limits, and taking the hits that come along the way.
I’m not ignorant enough to try and get up on a moral pedestal and say that freeing your mind of expectations is the immediate key to success. We all have Regionals where we play the wrong deck or League Cups where we get paired into the only two auto-losses in the room. I’m not even saying that I can ignore limiting myself all the time, either—sometimes a very specific result is very important to me, and not getting that result can be extremely frustrating.
pokemon-paradijs.comBut I do believe that removing barriers is a step many players can take to further their results when a player feels that their results don’t match their skill level. By separating from the limiting expectations you establish for yourself, one is more likely to surpass their own expectations, whether that be by winning one’s first League Challenge or getting second at an International event. Something to mull over, anyway, as we approach the midway point on the season and continue to chase our respective goals. Finally, I encourage you to look at your own mindset: What drives you? What do you want to accomplish? In what ways are you limiting yourself, without even knowing?
I know this article wasn’t terribly list-heavy, but I feel that there’s a wealth of knowledge that I’ve been able to share with you going into Collinsville next month. With articles such as these, I aim to share as much of my mind—to pour out my thoughts, so to speak—in order to be transparent with the audience about my thoughts. I love writing about more abstract concepts, and so I appreciate each and every one of you for sticking through my thoughts on goals, cards, and strategies going forward. If there’s a theoretical concept similar to today you’d like to see me tackle in the future, or if you just want to reach out with some constructive criticism or questions, feel free to message me on Twitter or on Facebook at Em Taylor.
As always, I hope everyone has an amazing week and your 2020 is off to a great start. See you next time!
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I appreciate the caveat about this article not being list heavy but it was so important for me to read headed into collinsville after a long hiatus. Just need to win the next game. Take the next prize card. And have fun! Love the carbink and stonjourner thoughts!