Treading Shockwaves

Coming to Terms w/ the Pandemic, PikaRom Two Ways (PikaHammers + PikaClay), and an Aside on the SPE/Region-Locking Debate

Wow, what a difference two weeks can make. Unless you’ve been totally offline, you know about the cancelations of EUIC 🇩🇪, four Regionals, and additional Special Events, effectively ending the third quarter of Organized Play. I had planned on missing most Quarter 3 Regionals for school and life reasons (in addition to my exasperation with the Expanded format), so I am not affected by the cancelations too much. I know others are though, and we’re all going to be affected outside of the game in more ways than we can imagine.

I’ve been given the rather confusing position of being the first author on SixPrizes to be able to speak following these unprecedented circumstances. In difficult times, I tend to turn to the things I know best; as a result, I’ll be sharing with you some of my thoughts on PikaRom in Standard. (My opinion on Expanded boils down to TrevNoir or bust, essentially.) In addition, I wanted to share my thoughts on the Special Event debate: should SPEs be region-locked, or not? So, grab your hand sanitizer and favorite quarantine snacks and hop in.

PikaRom Two Ways

As my favorite Beatles song goes, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Pikachu & Zekrom comes to me.” Looking back over every single article I’ve written for this website, I’ve somehow only covered my trademark deck briefly following San Diego, which I attribute to the regrettable number of Expanded Regionals I’ve played in this season. Throughout this season, though, I’ve played Pikachu & Zekrom-GX at almost every local event and at four out of the five major Standard events I’ve attended. Looking forward, I’ve joined everyone else in trying to find answers to the extremely dominant ADP-GX/Zacian V decks, which has proved to be quite the task for my favorite electric duo. Here’s two ways that I’ve been trying out PikaRom.

Take 1: PikaHammers

The List

Pokémon (12)

2 Dedenne-GX

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

1 Absol TEU

1 Marshadow UNB

1 Oricorio-GX

1 Phione CEC

1 Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Tapu Koko V

1 Zeraora-GX

Trainer (37)

4 Professor’s Research

4 Volkner

 

4 Crushing Hammer EPO 92

4 Electropower

4 Quick Ball

3 Energy Switch

3 Switch BLW 104

2 Electromagnetic Radar

2 Great Catcher

2 Reset Stamp

1 Stadium Nav

1 Wait and See Hammer

 

2 Big Charm

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

Energy (11)

11 L

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 12

* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 33
* 1 Absol TEU 88
* 1 Marshadow UNB 81
* 1 Oricorio-GX CEC 95
* 1 Phione CEC 57
* 1 Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX UNM 54
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Tapu Koko V SSH 72
* 1 Zeraora-GX LOT 86

##Trainer Cards - 37

* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191
* 2 Big Charm SSH 158
* 2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 1 Stadium Nav UNM 208
* 4 Volkner UPR 135
* 2 Electromagnetic Radar UNB 169
* 4 Crushing Hammer EPO 92
* 3 Switch BLW 104
* 4 Professor’s Research SSH 178
* 2 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 3 Energy Switch FFI 89
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 1 Wait and See Hammer LOT 192

##Energy - 11

* 11 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=80007 ******

The hardest part for me of crafting my most recent PikaRom list is deciding whether or not I like Jirachi. Some games you start it and it feels awesome, and some games you lose because you had a weak 1-Prize Pokémon in play for your opponent to pick on. Right now, I’ve focused my efforts on 2-Prize draw support, like Dedenne-GX and Oricorio-GX, in addition to full counts of Professor’s Research and Volkner.

Of course, the most unique part of this list are the 4 Crushing Hammer and single Wait and See Hammer, which aim to slow your opponent down by a turn and consequently swing the Prize trade in your favor. We’ve already seen fellow author Gabriel Semedo include Wait and See Hammer in his PikaRom list and Jonathan Croxton explain Energy removal as a potent way to disrupt ADP/Zacian V.

In UPR–CEC, I found success in slowing PikaRom down, playing cards like Tag Call, Guzma & Hala, Rosa, and going so far as Steven’s Resolve to guarantee a turn two Full Blitz. This iteration of PikaRom aims to strike some kind of medium between the all-out, rush-down style of the deck that we saw Jon Eng do well with in Australia, and the slow, turn two-based strategy I’ve found success with in the past. The Energy Switch, Dedenne-GX, Stadium Nav, and Switch counts are all cards which can help with the turn one Full Blitz for different reasons, but not featuring Jirachi and choosing instead to play a disruption engine obviously hurts the consistency of the initial aggression.

Key Cards

2 Big Charm

I’ve seen a few PikaRom lists play Vitality Band, but I’m not a huge fan of the card in this deck. In most matchups where you’d like it, it seems to me that Big Charm is simply better to allow any of your Pokémon-GX or V to take a second lease on life. Big Charm has a ton of utility if your opponent is able to get off Altered Creation-GX, allowing PikaRom-GX to take a hit from Zacian V or extending the usually short lifespan of a Dedenne-GX or Oricorio-GX when confronted with Ultimate Ray. It’s also useful for forcing Blacephalon UNB to require a 6th Energy to take a 1HKO on a PikaRom. In a format without powerful or efficient Tool removal, passive cards like Big Charm get a lot better.

1 Phione CEC, 1 Absol TEU, 1 Marshadow UNB

In the past, I’ve included as many as six tech Pokémon in PikaRom, such as Hoopa UNM, Farfetch’d TEU, Tapu Fini UNM, Eelektross UNM, and Zapdos TEU. All of these Pokémon serve specific uses to shore up specific matchups, specifically Malamar. Right now, I’ve tried to stick to techs with the most widespread use.

  • Phione CEC is great for Mill, but also allows as a soft gust effect for non-Pokémon-GX, and generally is useful for early-game aggression.
  • Absol TEU is present for the widespread adoption of Jirachi across what certainly feels like every archetype. I’ve always liked Absol in PikaRom because the deck relies so heavily on playing Reset Stamp after your opponent Knocks Out your initial PikaRom, and Jirachi, left unchecked, can usher your opponent back into the game.
  • Finally, there is no Stadium besides Lysandre Labs that truly feels like it fits in PikaRom, and Lysandre Labs is usually better when paired with Hoopa, thus I’ve defaulted to Marshadow UNB as another way to bump pesky Chaotic Swell or Shrine of Punishment.

One final thing to note about this is that two out of these three Pokémon are able to remove themselves from the board, which is a big deal with PikaRom. In the past, when playing slower variants of the deck, it was important to force your opponent to take as many Prizes as possible, leading to my common omission of Dedenne-GX and limiting of Zeraora-GX to 1 copy. Now that Dedenne-GX and Oricorio-GX feel more requisite, forcing your opponent to take 8 Prize cards is only possible if we omit 1-Prize Pokémon. As of right now, I like Absol too much to completely scrap it, and Phione and Marshadow feel somewhat necessary, but limiting your 1-Prize Pokémon is something important to consider when building this deck.

2 Great Catcher, 0 Custom Catcher, 0 Pokémon Catcher

The cuts for the disruption engine and added consistency from cutting Jirachi have to come from somewhere, and thus Custom Catcher and Pokémon Catcher bit the dust.

  • Custom Catcher has always felt like an extremely bad card to play (unless you Dedechange or Professor’s Research into two at once, in which case you feel extremely talented), and is worse without Jirachi in the deck to search one part of the combo in the late game.
  • It may seem ironic to not like Pokémon Catcher but favor Crushing Hammer in a deck; despite this, I favor Crushing Hammer because I think its potential impact on a game is much greater and harder to replicate than that of Pokémon Catcher. More often than not, you’re not going to be targeting down Pokémon V on the Bench anyway, so Great Catcher (and the soft Phione, of course) is the gust option of choice.

Crucial Considerations

Jirachi Engine

I’ve been playing Jirachi in PikaRom going back to the World Championships this year, but most of you probably know that I didn’t feature the card in the my Finalist list from NAIC 2019. Back then, I felt the card was too slow; aggressive decks would simply Guzma the PikaRom up and take a quick 1HKO. When gusting options weren’t very good, the Jirachi version worked because you could afford to give up 1 Prize, and still force your opponent to take big TAG TEAM GX knockouts. Now, though, the case is different; I’ve wavered back and forth on the Jirachi package following the release of Sword & Shield, in part because of the increased Absol counts, and partially because of the required Dedenne-GX counts.

Don’t get me wrong: Jirachi is a fantastic card, especially in PikaRom. Despite this, I’ve felt like there’s less and less use for the card now that many of my first turns consist of grabbing a PikaRom, attaching, and passing anyway. One the second turn, it’s usually pretty easy to find a Crushing Hammer, Wait and See Hammer, or Volkner with Dedenne-GX, and that slowing makes a turn one Full Blitz less important.

Finally, a turn one Full Blitz felt by no means easy with the Jirachi engine, from my testing. PikaRom is not, and will never be, as good of a “turbo” deck as any Welder or ADP/Zacian V deck. These decks have better Energy acceleration through the entire game, while PikaRom has stronger acceleration in one or two turns (i.e., Thunder Mountain p and Tapu Koko p). Therefore, you need to be able to try and keep these decks on the pace you set for them throughout the game, and that involves slowing them down a bit.

Hoopa UNM + Lysandre Labs, Oranguru UPR, or Eelektross UNM

All of these cards aim to target some specific matchup:

  • Hoopa UNM and Lysandre Labs are a combination for Malamar/Spell Tag variants, which aim to use chip damage and Prize exchanges to win games. Lysandre Labs not only challenges their Viridian Forest counts, but also takes pressure off of finding Absol early by shutting off Escape Board.
  • Oranguru UPR is a tech for Mill specifically. You’re able to recycle cards like Phione and Quick Ball for getting around Lillie’s Poké Doll, but also important resources like Volkner. Of course, you draw a card every turn, so Oranguru doesn’t get you out of the water, but it does slow down the Mill strategy quite a bit. It’s worth noting that the card gets better with Crushing Hammer in the deck, as you can deny your opponent Energy continually as you set up your board.
  • Eelektross UNM is a tech for Obstagoon. It’s not searchable, nor does it have much utility in any other matchup. You can get around Obstagoon with Phione and Tandem Shock, but it’s not a foolproof way to get around Obstruct. Only play this card if you expect the Goon Squad to show up in big numbers.

3rd Reset Stamp

This is a comfort pick for me, and my 61st card in the list. Generally, I like to Reset Stamp after a first turn Intrepid Sword to continue slowing my opponent down. Then, I like to Reset Stamp after my first PikaRom is Knocked Out. Then, I like to Reset Stamp after a 2-Prize attacker, like Tapu Koko V, is Knocked Out. That’s 3 Reset Stamp, assuming that you hit them when you want them. I like 3 copies because it’s a card that can be played at any time, and it will almost always slow down your opponent, which exactly is what this deck needs.

Take 2: PikaClay

I admit this is a newer, riskier concept, but Clay feels like a broken card to me. PikaRom has always been a deck that focuses on huge combo turns, whether it’s finding a turn one Full Blitz or third, late-game attacker in combination with a Reset Stamp. Clay takes advantage of this idea by (1) thinning out the deck, (2) discarding Energy for Tapu Koko p, and (3) making the deck small to make sure that you can’t be hit too hard with Reset Stamp. Thus, we play 32 Items (compared to 28 in my other list), and a meager 8 Pokémon alongside the typical 11 Lightning Energy.

With that boon, however, comes some risk of discarding cards. You could discard Tapu Koko p or Thunder Mountain p, or a crucial attacker in a given matchup. It’s risky, one way or another, but there are many times when you’ll hit as many as 5 Items in one turn, which means smaller, less painful discards than the Professor’s Research variant.

The List

Pokémon (9)

2 Dedenne-GX

2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX

2 Tapu Koko V

1 Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX

1 Tapu Koko p

1 Zeraora-GX

Trainer (40)

4 Clay

3 Volkner

 

4 Crushing Hammer EPO 92

4 Custom Catcher

4 Electropower

4 Quick Ball

3 Energy Switch

3 Switch BLW 104

2 Electromagnetic Radar

2 Reset Stamp

1 Great Catcher

1 Ordinary Rod

1 Stadium Nav

1 Wait and See Hammer

 

2 Big Charm

 

1 Thunder Mountain p

Energy (11)

11 L

 

Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 9

* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 2 Pikachu & Zekrom-GX TEU 33
* 2 Tapu Koko V SSH 72
* 1 Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX UNM 54
* 1 Tapu Koko p TEU 51
* 1 Zeraora-GX LOT 86

##Trainer Cards - 40

* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191
* 2 Big Charm SSH 158
* 2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 1 Stadium Nav UNM 208
* 3 Volkner UPR 135
* 2 Electromagnetic Radar UNB 169
* 3 Switch BLW 104
* 4 Clay CEC 188
* 3 Energy Switch FFI 89
* 4 Electropower LOT 172
* 4 Crushing Hammer EPO 92
* 4 Custom Catcher LOT 171
* 1 Wait and See Hammer LOT 192
* 1 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 171

##Energy - 11

* 11 Lightning Energy Energy 4

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=80007 ******

Cards to Consider

Electrocharger or Vitality Band

Sometimes, Electrocharger lets you play 6 Electropower. This makes it even easier to hit huge numbers and go for very aggressive plays as the game goes on. Other times, you’re playing a 59-card deck or you only need 4 Electropower. Simply put, I don’t believe that 6 Electropower is worth the risk of playing a 59-card deck. If you know anything about economics, you’ll understand what I mean when I don’t feel that the benefits outweigh the costs.

I’m more willing to consider Vitality Band in a build like this because of the sheer speed at which you rip through your deck with Clay. Vitality Band allows you to hit for 270 damage with 2 Electropower, which is a very meaningful boost for relatively few resources. With the PikaHammers build, it’s not clear that you’ll be able to hit 2 Electropower and a Tool in one turn very consistently.

12th Lightning Energy

You’re more likely to discard Energy as the game goes on. Thus, it makes sense to play more Energy. Right now I’m opting to play Ordinary Rod instead, but Ordinary Rod isn’t the most amazing card as the game goes on, so maybe it’s more worthwhile to play the 12th Lightning. I’m not sure about this slot right now.

Pokémon Catcher

I do not like Pokémon Catcher as a card. But this deck is inherently more aggressive, so maybe it’s worthwhile to try in this deck. This card has the same problem as Electrocharger, though. It’s not that the risk of flipping tails is strictly bad, it’s just that flipping heads and gusting something up doesn’t solve the problem that other decks are simply faster than PikaRom, and you don’t have the luxury of equal access to powerful cards like Welder or Metal Saucer and Zacian V.

Bede

Bede could be good in PikaRom. It effectively creates the same effect as your Prism Star cards (Energy acceleration), but it requires different conditions (an Energy in your hand vs. in your discard, or no condition at all). However, that different condition scares me, especially in a deck like this, where you discard Energy with Clay rather than put them into your hand. If one were to play Bede, I think you would want to play Energy Spinner as well. It’s worth noting that Clay can discard Bede, which means you would want to play multiple copies, which is another commitment that I’m not sure is worth the cost.

Boosted Consistency: Acro Bike, 4th Volkner, 3rd Dedenne-GX, 2nd Stadium Nav, 2nd Zeraora-GX

A few weeks ago, we saw Tord win Malmö Regionals with a deck full of immediately playable cards. This meant that he played no Reset Stamp, a full count of Acro Bike, and a mere three 1-ofs. Part of me wants to try this strategy with PikaRom, but another part of me knows that there’s limited space, and that’s not possible if you want to play a disruption package like the one I’ve included. Like Jonathan Croxton says, “Consistency is a tech for every matchup,” and I agree with his idea. More consistency is never a bad thing in a run-and-gun, all-out deck like this.

An Aside on the SPE/Region-Locking Debate

ebay.com

Since the inception of the Special Event system, there’s been an argument about whether or not players should be able to attend these events if they (the players) aren’t residents of the region where the events are being held. The rationale for this argument depends greatly on the perspective of the person making the argument. Some people feel that these regions are in dire need of Championship Points (CPs) and thus Americans or others should not be able to “steal” Points out of their system. Others, who are chasing Top 16 Travel Awards, feel that those who live near these countries, or have extra time/money to travel abroad, can “buy” a spot in Top 16, bypassing the rigors endured by those who “earned” a Top 16 spot without attending SPEs. Some simply feel it’s wrong. Let’s take a closer look at these points.

1. Each Region Needs Their Points

The idea that these regions are starving for Points seems incorrect to me. This concern seems mostly confined to the Latin America (LATAM) region, so let’s look at the numbers of invitees by year and by region (these numbers come from spreadsheet genius and personal hero Christopher Schemanske):

As you can see, the number of Latin American invitees gone up each year, with the exception of 2017, when the invite was raised to 350 Championship Points (thanks to João Pedro Medeiros for that information). I also took the time of compiling a spreadsheet of all Championship Points won in Latin America by someone outside the Latin America region over the 2018–2019 and current seasons, which you can find here. I’ll save you the time of looking at it, though: essentially, 2,870 Championship Points were won by foreign players in LATAM in 2018–2019, while 2,030 of such Points have been won this season. That means approximately 11.5 invites worth of Points were won in Latin America in 2018–2019 and just over 8 have been won this season.

Now, looking at the numbers provided by Christopher, adding 11 invites makes almost no impact relative to the differences between Latin America and the other Zones, like the U.S. or Europe. It also doesn’t create a large percent shift in the number of invitees, with 11 players only adding an additional 5% to the pool. This is, of course, assuming that these CPs all go to fresh players and are distributed in such a way that the players who earn them do not already have their invite.

However, this is most likely not the case. If these CPs were not won by foreign players, it seems more than likely that they would be won by those who are chasing Travel Awards in their respective regions, which is Latin America in this case. I’d be surprised if every foreigner was preventing someone (who was actively pursuing an invite) from earning an invite.

2. “Buying” Points, Taking the Easy Road

The next argument is that some people are buying Championship Points by flying out to less competitive regions and going through less rigorous events than those who get their Points in their home regions. This, also, seems like a fallacious point of view. At the very upper echelon of the game, for those actively chasing Top 4, 8, 16, or 22, as the case may be, the game is already a pay-to-play system, and those who have access to more money are always going to have access to more resources than others. Whether it’s being able to fly to League Cups or pay for advanced coaching to get quality testing time with good players, money is always going to be a part of the game.

The second part of this argument is the rigor argument, and I admit this is where I lack a true counterargument besides the rigor involved in traveling to these destinations. This is a hard point of view for me to take when many of these events are in warm, tropical places, and I live in the desolate, frozen wasteland of Minnesota. All jokes aside, I think this part of the argument ties back to the money part of the argument. If you can’t pay the explicit (i.e., money) or implicit (i.e., time, mental health) costs of traveling to these events, and you can’t be in Top 16 otherwise, maybe the rat race at the very top of the game isn’t for you.

It’s important to say, if this applies to you, that you are not your placement on the leaderboard or your finish at a Regional. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and, if you want, redouble your efforts for the next event.

3. Moral Implications

So, finally, I mentioned that some people simply feel that it’s wrong, and provide little to no reasoning as to why they feel that way. I think, despite my numbers and arguments so far, I fall somewhere in that camp. I have no issue with the players who take advantage of the system in play, but it feels like something that shouldn’t happen, which adds an unnecessary level of money and travel to the already-stressful lives of the game’s elite. It just feels wrong to me, I suppose—as though that’s not the reason I, or anyone, started playing this game. But that’s coming from someone who’s never seriously gone for Top 16 and my personal position as a player. But if I put aside my feelings, it’s hard for me to look at the numbers or the Top 16 players’ argument and really argue to change the system in place.

Conclusion

pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com

Times are tough for all of us involved in the Pokémon TCG right now. Whether you love the thrill of competition, the joy of seeing your friends, or the vacation from reality that comes with tournaments, it’s easy to feel like our whole collective livelihood is being stripped away.

It seems ignorant for me, a 17-year-old, to try and unite a community under a message of unity against the attack on our common nature. I suppose, if I had to leave you all with something to get through these tough times, I would tell you to be aware of the situation and that it will all be alright. Each and every one of you is loved by someone in this community, whether you know it or not, and it’s important to those people that you remain safe and healthy, no matter what. Pokémon will be here for us once this blows over, and it’s important to realize that there will always be another chance, another opportunity, to play this wonderful game we all love so much.

Stay safe, my friends, and I’ll see you next time.

Emery


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