Hello again readers, I’m back with you today for the first time in June. The Limitless Online Series has finally wrapped up for everyone except those who were invited to the Invitational, but there are still plenty of other online tournaments that are available to everyone. Today, I’m going to be talking about a deck that my friend Wes Hollenberg and I built a few weeks back, which has already started to see play outside of our little group. I’m also going to talk about a few things that have to do with growing as a player.
The Players Cup
Before anything else, I feel the need to briefly touch on the subject of the Players Cup. The qualifying system itself is terrible, and requires an undetermined amount of Event Tickets on PTCGO, rather than any semblance of skill, to earn a spot in the Online Qualifiers. There’s also this tiny little issue with the leaderboards not showing all of our earned “Tournament Rep.” For me at least, it doesn’t show around 66% of my Rep, and I’ve seen and heard of similar numbers throughout the community.
However, this is actually not a huge problem in my opinion. If everyone is missing roughly the same percentage of Rep, then the final 256 or 128 players (depending on region) should be close to the same on the correct leaderboards anyway. Of course, this doesn’t excuse the fact that there’s a tournament with four International Championship stipends on the line that is based on a flawed leaderboard that has been broken for years.
As a note, I’m 99% sure I will be unable to qualify for the Online Qualifiers because I only started with 240 Tickets, but I’m still playing tournaments for the sole purpose of experiencing first-hand the system that is seeing so much hate. On the off chance that I sneak into the Top 256, I feel that I will have accidentally proven that you didn’t need insane amounts of tickets to qualify. And if I don’t qualify, then I wasted some time playing Pokémon, which isn’t the worst thing ever.
To conclude this little Players Cup rant, there are people out there calling for people to not play the Players Cup because playing shows support for a broken system. I wholeheartedly think that if you can qualify through this system, you’re not obligated to anyone to not play in the Cup. Trying to guilt people into not trying for an IC stipend because the system doesn’t favor you for once is pretty low.
Unfortunately for me, this weekend’s Sunday Open was just won by this deck, which kind of stole the wind from my sails here. However, my and Wes’s list is far enough off that it honestly feels like a different deck than Kevin Clemente’s, and I think ours has better overall matchups across the board.
3 Zacian V
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 14
##Trainer Cards - 35
* 4 Switch
* 2 Escape Board UPR 167
* 4 Metal Saucer SSH 170
* 2 Boss’s Orders RCL 200
* 1 Metal Frying Pan FLI 112
* 2 Mallow & Lana CEC 198
* 2 Metal Goggles TEU 148
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 4 Super Scoop Up UL 83
* 4 Professor’s Research SSH 178
* 2 Tool Scrapper
* 1 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 2 Marnie SSH 208
* 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 215
##Energy - 11
* 11 M Energy BLWEnergy 112
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=81641 ******
We’ve put a lot of time into this one over the past few weeks, and it feels like our efforts have paid off. This is a deck that I would have no qualms about playing to a Regional or NAIC. Unfortunately for me, the deck isn’t particularly fun to play like Grimmsnarl and Vikavolt are. However, there are a lot of lines of play that can be made, so it is at least interesting and rewards optimal plays.
The basic premise of this list is that your opponent should never be able to KO enough things to win the game before you do, and that theory actually works in practice. It’s quite entertaining to have what is essentially a 280-HP Zacian.
Jirachi is in almost every deck at this point, and if you’re able to mess with the retreating options for them, you’re going to be able to force them to play suboptimally. Absol actually has a niche use against Tag Call PikaRom too. In order for them to get a turn one Full Blitz they usually search out an Air Balloon in order to retreat on turn one. Around half of their possible starting Pokémon have a Retreat Cost of 2 or more, and having Absol in play prevents them from using the Air Balloon to get out of the Active Spot. Absol is generally a good card and honestly I feel like it doesn’t see nearly enough play.
I really dislike playing Dedenne-GX in decks like this because of Great Catcher, but it’s a necessary evil here. Eldegoss V is such a broken card in this list because of the 4 Super Scoop Up that we play. It also has a niche use as an attacker in a matchup that is normally considered an auto-loss, which I’ll talk about later.
PikaRom is the obvious reason for playing Mew, but that statement includes more than you would think at first glance. Yes, it prevents Tag Bolt-GX, but it is also a rather convenient way to damage a PikaRom too. Brave Blade only does 210 damage to a PikaRom, which would leave it at 30 HP remaining. Metal decks have been playing Dusk Mane Necrozma SM124 to clean up or damage the PikaRom before using Brave Blade, but Mew does that job just as well and has Bench Barrier as well. Yes, it can’t be used against ChuChu-GX, but we decided that Bench Barrier was more valuable than that.
Blacephalon UNB is an obvious issue for this deck in the matchup department. Combo Zacian could get away with a single Fini because of Jirachi p, but we don’t have that option. We need to trade evenly for as long as possible, while gusting up their 2-Prize Pokémon as often as possible.
Spiritomb/Ultra Beasts is a deck that has been popping up more and more recently, which makes me really happy as someone who loves that deck. If they ever bench Buzzwole FLI or Nihilego LOT early, Tapu Fini becomes a great single-Energy attacker.
I dislike both of these counts, but Eldegoss V remediates the situation a bit. This deck relies on having gusts pretty often in some matchups, and only playing 2.5 is weird. Great Catcher is a necessary evil because of how much it can swing matchups without using a Supporter.
Yay, coin flips. A lot of players have been including Crushing Hammers in their decks recently because of how strong of an effect it has. Rather than try to slow our opponent’s setup down, Wes and I decided that we would rather prevent them from taking Prize cards in the first place. Super Scoop Up combos really well with LucaMetal and Eldegoss V too. You no longer need to leave a TAG TEAM in play after using your GX attack, and you can reuse Eldegoss V’s Ability multiple times in a game. Super Scoop Up is also a form of healing, which is something the format kind of lacks at the moment.
In actuality, this should probably just be 3 Metal Goggles, but I lost to one too many Cinderace VMAX decks and got annoyed enough to play a Metal Frying Pan. In a physical tournament, I would be playing 3 Metal Goggles, but PTCGO has more random decks around, and covering your Fire Weakness is pretty good. Metal Goggles is a surprisingly strong card because of how much is does against Dragapult VMAX, because not only does it reduce their damage output, it also protects you from Max Phantom’s 5 damage counter placement. A Zacian with Full Metal Wall-GX and a Tool attached can survive two attacks even with Horror P Energy damage.
Survivability is the name of the game for us, and having a healing card that doubles as a switch out is pretty solid.
Tools are becoming increasingly relevant, and we need to be able to discard them if we want to come out on top against decks like Combo Zacian. PikaRom also is known to play Big Charm now, which can cause any number of issues for us.
Did someone say 4 Tapu Fini against Blacephalon? No? Too bad. You’re not going to be running out of Tapu Fini anytime soon, and you have a way to put Dedenne and Eldegoss V back into the deck if you were forced to discard them or they were KO’d.
The Matchup Spread
Dragapult VMAX: Favored
This matchup is really good for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you have LucaMetal. Full Metal Wall-GX is really strong because it removes Energy and makes them do less damage. A LucaMetal with Full Metal Wall-GX activated and a Tool attached only takes 50 damage every time Dragapult attacks with Max Phantom. With Mallow & Lana, that’s such a small amount. Zacian only takes 70 damage as well, and can 2HKO a Dragapult VMAX. In my games against this matchup, I’ve found that I’m KOing 1 Dragapult VMAX and 2 or 3 random Benched Pokémon in order to win the game. This is usually done by Zacian dealing with the VMAX, and then transitioning into either a 2nd Zacian or an attacking LucaMetal that can easily pick off their Benched support Pokémon. All in all, this matchup is pretty easy, but can go badly if you play sloppy.
Combo Zacian: Favored
In this matchup, it is vital that you Full Metal Wall-GX early in the game. They only need to KO 2 Zacian Vs and you need to KO 3. Once you use your GX attack, they should be incapable of 1HKOing your Zacian Vs. Even if you don’t manage to GX early, you still have your Tool cards that function in a somewhat similar way. The biggest issue with those is that they can be removed by Tool Scrapper. I’ve found that a lot of players don’t value their Tool Scrapper very highly, which is a major mistake. That card will win and lose you games. Some Combo Zacian lists are playing their own Metal Goggles or Metal Frying Pans. This is the biggest reason I have for playing multiple Tool Scrappers. A lot of players let their guard down once the first one has been played, and they think that they’re safe with a Tool’d Zacian.
There have been games in this matchup where I’ve simply outpaced them and ignored my GX attack, and those usually occur when I go first and have a good Intrepid Sword. If I can successfully gust up the Zacian that they were setting up on their first turn and KO it, the game is pretty much over. This situation isn’t overly common though, and shouldn’t be your typical line of play. Getting your GX attack off safely essentially ensures that you’ll be favored to win the game. Blitzing down your opponent is certainly tempting, but it can put you at serious risk of losing.
Blacephalon UNB: Even–Slightly Favored
I honestly feel like this matchup is pretty favored for us, but I’m unsure if my experience is an accurate representation of the matchup. For all of the hate Blacephalon UNB gets for being a “simple” deck, there’s a lot of sequencing involved, and poor sequencing with the deck is incredibly common. Whenever I play against the matchup, it seems that the opponent is either playing terribly or drawing terribly, and I’m worried about what the matchup looks like when the opponent is actually competent. Normally, I would test the matchup extensively with Wes or someone else, but with no tournaments in the foreseeable future, it feels like a waste of time, especially when the vast majority of Blacephalon players I’ll play against on PTCGO aren’t going to play it perfectly.
All that, and I never actually touched on how to play the matchup. Nice. Basically, your goal is going to be to use Tapu Fini whenever it can take a Prize card. A Tapu Fini paired with Marnie is going to force them to dig pretty hard to return the KO, or make them miss the return KO. Both outcomes are fine. Digging usually requires benching Oricorio-GX, which is the opportunity you need to attack with Zacian V for an even Prize trade.
One important thing to note is that if your opponent misses the KO and doesn’t bench an Ultra Beast, it’s okay to retreat the Tapu Fini and Stellar Wish and Intrepid Sword instead of attacking. They usually have no way to apply pressure outside of attacking your Active, and as long as you’re in the lead, there’s no reason not to play the game at the pace you want. They also usually have no way to disrupt your hand, so building your hand size has no drawbacks.
I’m convinced that nothing actually beats PikaRom more than 50% of the time, and that PikaRom never beats anything more than 50% of the time. If PikaRom draws well, it’s going to be favored in almost every matchup. If it doesn’t, or its opponent draws equally as well, it’s going to unfavored. Your strategy in this matchup is going to follow one of two paths:
- In the first path, you can KO 3 non-TAG TEAM Pokémon. This requires your opponent to have three in play throughout the game, which is something that they can play around. This is generally the easier and more possible of the paths, because it only requires three attacks in order to win. In order for this one to succeed, you need to be the first player down to 4 Prize cards, and you cannot miss an attack or a gust once the game has started to move along.
- In the second path, you can KO 2 TAG TEAMs. This is only really possible if you attack them first or they miss a KO at some point. To KO 2 TAG TEAMs, you need to attack a total of four times. In order for that to happen, they must not take a Prize card before you attack. The key to this is using Mew to place 3 damage counters on their PikaRom before they are able to take a KO. Then, you must stream 3 Zacian Vs in order to KO the PikaRom and likely a Raichu TAG TEAM.
That’s right. A deck that plays no non-Basic attackers is favored against Obstagoon. The strategy is simple. You need to Full Metal Wall-GX at some point, and then sit around tanking damage with a Tool’d Metal-type Pokémon. You technically have an infinite number of Mallow & Lana as well. This is because of the psuedo-infinite loop it is capable of creating with its attack. A Metal-type Pokémon with a Tool and Full Metal Wall-GX in play will only take 30 damage from an Obstagoon. It takes four attacks in order for an Obstagoon to do 120 damage, which is the number that Mallow & Lana can heal.
The loop occurs when you have set up this scenario. You’ll start attacking with Eldegoss V. It is important to note that Eldegoss can tank an attack before shuffling itself back into the deck, which ends up buying you a large amount of turns. Here’s the loop:
- Turn 1: Bench Eldegoss, grab Mallow & Lana, attach to Eldegoss. Tank a hit to put your Active up to 60 damage.
- Turn 2: Attach to Eldegoss, and tank a hit to go up to 90 damage.
- Turn 3: Optionally attach to Eldegoss depending on deck size (you can increase your time bought per shuffle in by attaching extra Energy), and tank a hit to go to 120 damage.
- Turn 4: Mallow & Lana into Eldegoss, and maybe attach if you want more Energy in the deck. Pass and tank a hit to go to 90 damage.
- Turn 5: Optional Energy attachment, attack and shuffle into the deck and promote Metal Pokémon with Tool attached. Repeat.
Some things to note are that you can sit there for a lot of turns tanking without Eldegoss and use Super Scoop Up as a heal as well. The Eldegoss loop is meant to be done with minimal cards remaining in deck, or with many Quick Balls left. If your opponent is benching Pokémon, then by all means target them down in order to force them to keep the lone Obstagoon. Even if Eldegoss is the last card in your deck, Oranguru allows you to draw it, bench it, and attach to it without decking out first.
Growing as a Player
So in my exhausted mind the night before this article was to be written, I didn’t think I would be able to talk about this deck for nearly long enough. I was wrong, as per usual, but I had brainstormed ideas to add more helpful content to this article, so I might as well use them. I want to talk about the resources that are commonly available to players and how to use them to get better.
How to Use Articles
First I’ll talk about articles as a whole and how to best use them. There seems to be a growing misconception that articles are only useful for lists and maybe some matchup advice for the specific deck being covered. Yes, lists are important and all, but there’s so much information that can be unpacked from reading articles.
The first and most important thing (in my opinion) to take away is the thought process of the writer, who is usually an accomplished player of some caliber. These players are clearly doing something right, and having an inside look at their thought processes when it comes to deck building and lines of play can be invaluable.
The next thing that can be taken from an article is an understanding of the lines of play that the covered deck has. The deck doesn’t need to be the deck you intend on playing for it to be useful information. Part of testing and being prepared is knowing how each deck works, and what methods it can use to achieve its goals. This is something that not enough people realize. Even if you know your deck like the back of your hand, if you can’t predict what your opponent is going to be trying to do, you’re at a disadvantage.
When I cover a deck and explain how it tries to win its matchups, I’m explaining both how to win with it and how to play around its methods at the same time.
Using this article as an example, I gave two possible paths to victory against PikaRom. The easiest and most efficient way to win is to take three 2-Prize card KOs. A PikaRom player who reads this article should come away with an idea somewhere along the lines of: “So I can only bench a total of two 2-Prize Pokémon against this matchup.” They shouldn’t need to do the testing against this Zacian/LucaMetal in order to figure that out anymore. They were just told exactly how to best deal with the matchup. Yes, they should still be playing the matchup in order to learn the ins and outs, but they no longer need to waste games and time learning how to best prevent that line of play from occurring.
Knowing an Opponent’s Deck
Time to jump off the topic of articles and focus on the idea of knowing your opponent’s deck just as well as they do. Testing is more than just playing with the deck you intend to play for an event. To get the best understanding of matchups, you’re going to need to play both sides. I’m going to use the example of UPR–SSH Mill for this one, because it’s a deck I spent an incredible amount of time playing. Despite spending forever and a half testing Mill, I ended up playing PikaRom for OCIC 2020. During that event, I played against two Mill decks. This is probably going to sound arrogant, but the fact that I knew their deck just as well as, if not better than, them likely was the reason I was able to beat one of them.
Now that there’s no real Pokémon events to look forward to, even if I never bothered to play in the ones we had, I’ve found it a lot harder to continue playing PTCGO as much as before. The Players Cup isn’t at all fun, and is just another grind that I’ve resigned myself to participating in.
I really don’t have many thoughts other than that today, mostly because I’m exhausted and have nothing real to think about and discuss right now. Stay safe everyone and try to find happiness and enjoyment where you can. As always, my PMs are always open if you have any questions or anything else you want to talk about.
Until the next one.
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