Going into UPR–RCL for Limitless Qualifier 3, I had one major question on my mind: “How does Mill make it?” My only priority was finding a way for Mill to deal with the new metagame, namely Dragapult VMAX. Dragapult was a major obstacle to overcome. The intense pressure it could apply to Mill’s boardstate was seemingly game-ending and I had a difficult time trying to figure out how to prevail over it. Dragapult took Prizes too quickly and I rarely got close to reaching my win condition. All I knew was that I had to branch out and I had to be creative, because the lists I was running at the time weren’t going to cut it.
My initial thought was to try Mareep Mill, a variant of Mill that relied on Mareep LOT 75 to put your opponent’s Pokémon to sleep and then utilized Slumbering Forest to maintain the sleep condition. This mechanic allowed for the Mill player to buy themselves time to mill their opponent more gradually by slowing down the opponent’s ability to take Prizes. In theory, this bought time. Cinccino Mill wasn’t cutting it because Dragapult didn’t allow it enough time to reach a win condition and I rationalized that, because Mareep’s role was to slow down the Prize trade, it might be able to buy enough time against Dragapult to reach a deck-out. Boy, was I wrong…
What I didn’t realize was that Mareep Mill’s engine in Magcargo CES was even more vulnerable to Dragapult. Magcargo allowed the Mill pilot to retrieve specific cards at will. However, it doesn’t build a powerful hand in the way Cinccino SSH does and that leaves it at a disadvantage in regard to recovery. When Dragapult Knocks Out a Cinccino, Cinccino Mill usually has more Cinccinos and a strong hand in order to recover from the knockout. The knockout slows down Cinccino Mill, but it doesn’t cripple it. Contrary to Cinccino, when a Magcargo gets Knocked Out the Mill pilot is severely crippled and loses their primary method of getting the cards they need. Zacian V still draws cards, but those cards cannot be used until the next turn. Not having immediate access to cards leaves the Mill player vulnerable and can allow for the Dragapult player to take an even more convincing lead. In addition to this, Mareep only has 50 HP, which means that it’s an easy Prize for Dragapult and therefore a liability in regard to the Prize trade. Considering the fact that Dragapult could both cripple the draw engine and the sleep support in one attack, I deemed it an near-unwinnable matchup.
Moving forward, I recognized that the only path to success was with Cinccino. I tested a plethora of ideas, most of which ended up fruitless. However, one of them produced interesting results. I tried to fit a thin sleep lock package into Cinccino Mill. Looking back, the only reason I tried this was because I kept getting frustrated with Crushing Hammers whiffing and my reasoning was that both Mareep and Hammer stalled the opponent’s ability to attack, but Crushing Hammer had a 50% success rate at doing so while Mareep and Slumbering Forest would produce a 75% success rate. While testing it, I realized that Mareep in Cinccino solidified a lot of Cinccino’s good matchups, but took away from some of Cinccino’s consistency and made the Dragapult matchup even more risky. In time, I dropped Mareep from Cinccino. I took my break from Crushing Hammer just long enough to appreciate it again. Eventually, I realized the blatantly obvious answer in Sky Pillar and I ended up taking Cinccino Mill with Sky Pillar to a Day 2 finish in Limitless Qualifier 3. However, my testing with Mareep taught me something that stuck with me: Mareep is insanely good when it doesn’t have to deal with Dragapult. That’s why, going into Darkness Ablaze and the POG Championship, Mareep has incredible potential.
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