Monday, June 25, 2012

Wind of Change (in the metagame) - Pre-Nationals thoughts

Stay as cool as Vanilluxe at Nationals
Hi everyone!

The last (and biggest) Nationals are just around the corner and since it’ll be the last big tournament of the year for many of you, in this entry I’ll concentrate on the most popular decks of the upcoming weekend, and how they have changed from the old lists. I’ll also be discussing about Vanilluxe since I’ve gotten so many requests about it and because it has surprised many players by doing great in Battle Roads and international Nationals. Just last weekend a Vanilluxe deck won the Nationals of Czech Republic. In the end, I’ll also reveal my top3 tech choices for this weekend’s Nationals.

This may be the last entry of mine about HGSS-on format depending on your comments and requests. I know that many of you are already concentrating on BW-on format, if you aren’t attending Worlds this year, and since Worlds will be only for a small amount of people, I don’t think it would benefit anyone to write about HGSS-on format after this weekend. However, about that later on in this entry.

Anyways, let’s start this entry by discussing the most hyped deck of the moment – Darkrai.

Darkrai EX variants

Darkrai EX has been winning almost every National Championships and almost 50% of Battle Roads, so it’s a deck to recognize. There are 3 Darkrai EX variants that are making it to the tier1: Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX, Hammertime Darkrai EX and Terrakion/Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX.

Statistically looking Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX has been the most dominating deck, but if we look beyond statistics, the reason for Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX’s success is that it was the first “famous” variant of Darkrai EX. It isn’t the best variant, but it’s probably the simplest and most consistent Darkrai EX variant, thus making a perfect deck for small tournaments like Battle Roads. I don’t expect straight Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX making it to the top cut, but with right techs like Weavile, Terrakion or Mewtwo the deck has a decent change in succeeding.

Hammertime Darkrai EX is a very familiar deck for you, if you’re a frequent reader of my blog. If you want to details about it, make sure to check my articles for it. It has great match-ups against anything that doesn’t energy accelerate, but has small problems against Vileplume decks and against Landorus/Terrakion. Vanilluxe (as I’ll discuss later on) has become very popular the past weeks and I think Hammertime Darkrai has trouble defeating a well set-upping Vanilluxe. Otherwise Hammertimes match-ups are very good around the field and it will probably make a great impact on the weekend’s Nationals.

Third, we have Terrakion/Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX. It was first revealed in Norway’s Nationals and after that it has been a staple deck in the current metagame. The deck is very versatile and has great counters against every most played Pokémon in the format: Darkrai EX, Mewtwo EX, Zekrom etc. It may be a bit slow in some games due Terrakion starts, but otherwise it stands a great chance against every deck of the metagame. 

Eelektrik variants

Continuing on Eelektrik variants. There are two main Eelektrik variants in the current metagame: the ordinary Zekrom/Eelektrik and the controversial Zekrom/Eelektrik/Terrakion. The old school Zekrom/Eelektrik has been around for forever and it’s still has a fighting chance against every metagame deck (even against Darkrai variants). In my opinion, the best build of Zekrom/Eelektrik focuses on attacking with Zekrom(BW) that has an Eviolite attached to it. This way Darkrai can’t OHKO Zekrom and Zekrom will become a great nuisance for any Darkrai EX player. The deck is very consistent and has been winning tournaments steadily from the moment Eelektrik was released. It has no autolosses, which will probably make it the most popular deck choice in this weekend’s Nationals just like it has been in the previous tournaments. This deck can win any tournament by pure consistency.

Second, there is the controversial Zekrom/Eelektrik/Terrakion. It’s controversial, because there isn’t a real consensus among players, if playing Terrakion is the only way to keep Zekrom/Eelektrik competitive, or is the way to destroy the factors, which makes it so good – consistency. I think Terrakion isn’t necessary in Eelektrik variants, but I don’t think it’s wrong to play Terrakion in Eelektrik variants. All I can say is that I wouldn’t play Terrakion, if I were playing Zekrom/Eelektrik. 


The reason, why Vanilluxe is featured in this article is that I’ve gotten a lot of requests to feature Vanilluxe in my blog since Pooka won Battle Roads with it and since Andrea Ceolin piloted it to the top8 of Italian Nationals. After that many players have been trying it again and what’s very interesting, they’ve succeeded  in it with a very decent results – the last showing was in the Nationals of Czech Rebublic where Vanilluxe won the whole tournament! First, let’s take a look at the updated list of Vanilluxe.


4x Vanillite(Sleep Powder)
3x Vanillish(Paralyzing one)
3x Vanilluxe(Double Freeze)
1x Vanilluxe(Slippery Soles)
3x Oddish
2x Gloom
2x Vileplume
1x Bellosom(Healing)
2x Victini
1x Cleffa
1x Pichu


4x Pokémon Collector
4x Pokémon Communication
4x Twins
3x Sage’s Training
4x Rare Candy
4x N
3x Professor Oak’s New Theory


2x Rescue Energy
9x Water Energy

First, let’s look at the small differences in the list. Probably the biggest change to the deck is the new Vanilluxe, which power makes both players switch their active Pokémon. The reason, why Vanilluxe wants to play this other Vanilluxe is because of Zekrom/Eelektrik. There is nothing as irritating for a Vanilluxe player as a Thunder Wave paralyze. A heads from Thunder Wave makes Vanilluxe taste their own medicine because paralyze makes them unable to attack and after that it’s on the OHKO range of Zekrom. However, with the other Vanilluxe, you’re able to switch the paralyzed Vanilluxe off the active spot and thus healing its paralyze. This way you can attack with Vanilluxe again and keep the lock going even though they tried to disrupt you. In many games this one Thunder Wave heads is enough to win the game for Zekrom player, but thanks to the other Vanilluxe, paralyze isn’t a bullet-proof option against Vanilluxe. Also, as Quad Entei is being played, it's good to remember that with Crushing Ice you are able to OHKO Entei EX.

Bellosom isn’t a new addition to Vanilluxe, but it’s good to mention Bellosom as well. Bellosom was first only a Thunder Wave counter just like the new Vanilluxe, but now since Darkrai EX is very popular, Bellosom can also heal damage from Night Spear as well. Bellosom is a huge part of any Vanilluxe deck and if you are play testing against Vanilluxe that doesn’t have Bellosom in it, you’re doing it wrong. 

You may also wonder, why Vanilluxe was so suddenly a playable deck. It was supposed to be dead after Mewtwo EX. The reason, why Vanilluxe made an impressing come back, is the EX-heavy format. There is no deck that abuses the EX-have metagame better than Vanilluxe. Vanilluxe paralyzes any active Pokémon and when its usually a prize trade between Vanilluxe and a non-EX-Pokémon (a prize trade 1 to 1), now you can trade Vanilluxe for an EX (2 prizes for you, 1 for your opponent). Sometimes decks like Hammertime can’t even OHKO the Vanilluxe so one Vanilluxe may be able to get a whopping 4 prizes. Four prizes with 1 Vanilluxe? Sounds good to me. Vanilluxe can make a comeback from even a 4-5 prize deficit against EX-heavy deck, when played correctly.

Ok, if Vanilluxe sounds awesome and invincible, then why isn’t it winning everything it’s attending? The reason for this is that Vanilluxe is still a flip deck. Even though the odds for Quad Tails from Double Freeze are under 10%, it’s still more than 0%. In swiss rounds one Quad Tails isn’t lethal even if you lose the game to that, but in the top cut, it usually is. Vanilluxe is one of the most horrible best-of-three decks there is. It kills the opponent slowly and not even steadily. If you lose your first match in the best-of-three match, your opponent can easily outplay you in 60 minutes top cut by not just scooping the second match. In order to kill 6 non-EX Pokémon, Vanilluxe needs to flip a lot of Double Freezes. And when the 3rd match begins, the time is already running out. Vanilluxe will be in prize deficit in the early game almost 90% of the matches, so it really isn’t a good sudden death deck. No Vileplume deck is a good Sudden Death deck as you very well know.

Vanilluxe is a great deck and if the tournament would be Swiss rounds only, Vanilluxe could be the BDIF. However, in a huge tournament like the U.S. Nationals, which could be a top128, Vanilluxe really has no way of winning the whole tournament – at some point the flipping luck will turn against the Vanilluxe player and the tournament is over. If this doesn’t happen in a big tournament like the U.S. Nationals, well… I think that the player playing Vanilluxe shouldn’t be playing Vanilluxe, but any sort of gamble involving dice rolling.

My top3 techs for this weekend’s Nationals

Techs are the most important thing, when going into a big tournament. Techs are the cards that will make or break the close matches. Here are my favorite 3 techs of the moment for this weekend’s Nationals.

3. Super Scoop Up

Super Scoop Up has been around forever, but only in the past two formats it has been a very good tech. First it was a good tech because the damage output of most Pokémon was low (in the early stages of HGSS-on). After that came Mewtwo EX and Super Scoop Up was almost a useless card after that. However, thanks to Darkrai (which is difficult to OHKO with Mewtwo EX), SSU made a comeback. Darkrai EX also can’t OHKO any EX Pokémon and that’s where SSU come in – in EX wars.
SSU is a flippy card and that’s why some players don’t want to play it but as long as you’re playing a deck that has Shaymin, EXs that can’t be OHKOEd or Terrakion, I would suggest running at least one SSU in your deck. It’s a real life saver when it heads and when it tails, you wouldn’t have won the game anyways. You really don’t lose anything in running one SSU and you can win games with it, so there is no reason not-to-run it.  

2. Espeon/Unown CURE

Special Condition Vileplume –decks have been increasing steadily as already mentioned and if you’re running an EX-heavy deck, you should strongly consider these 2 cards and if need them or not. Both of these cards have their pros and cons. First of all. Unown CURE can only be played once and when you’re trainer locked, the only thing that lets you to recycle Unown CURE is Seeker. Also, most decks play Ball Engine nowadays, so it may be difficult to search for Unown CURE whenever you need it since you’re trainer locked.

When it comes to Espeon, it’s a stage1 tech card. Sounds crazy in the current format because the format is so fast, but it really isn’t. The decks, which Espeon is good against don’t usually run Catchers and are usually slow. Also, Eevee isn’t that bad of a starter since it has Call For Family. So, in fact, Espeon tech can ADD your deck’s consistency instead of decreasing it.
That’s something very uncommon for a tech card.
At first, it seems like Unown CURE is the better option from these two (it’s a basic, so more easily searchable, it doesn’t decrease consistency like a stage1 Pokémon and it takes only 1 spot from your deck) but as we look the more carefully, we can see that in the current format Espeon is a far superior tech card. The only thing that justifies playing Unown CURE is if your deck doesn’t have space for Espeon/ doesn’t have anything that can search Espeon from the deck.

1. Terrakion

Probably this wasn’t a surprise to you. Probably this even isn’t a tech in many players’ opinion. But that’s the whole point of Terrakion’s first place. If you aren’t running Terrakion in your deck, you should really think again. Do you really have that good match-up against the two most played decks of the current format that you don’t have to play Terrakion? If you don’t then you should really reconsider your deck choice. Even though Terrakion can be added to any deck, I wouldn’t put it into any deck. Adding 1-2 Shaymins and 1-2 Terrakion doesn’t make your deck’s Darkrai EX or Zekrom/Eelektrik match-up better if the deck isn’t suitable for teching like that. The best example of that is probably Zekrom/Eelektrik – even though you add Terrakion into the deck, it doesn’t make the deck’s Darkrai EX and mirror match-up unarguably better.

As already said, it’s never too late to make the last changes to your list (before the deck check). You should be aware of your surroundings to be able to decide, which decks will the most useful for you. Of course, you can predict things wrong, but usually a hunch is more than enough when it comes to teching. Also, as long as you don’t overtech your deck, you shouldn’t worry about teching “wrong”. Sometimes techs can be useful in situations where you don’t expect them to be. It’s a long tournament – almost anything can happen.

Conclusion and questions

This will be a big and interesting week for many of you, so I hope this was an informative and useful entry for the late preparation. If you have any other considering any decks’, match-ups etc. I didn’t cover in this entry, feel free to ask them in the comments box, I’ll more than glad to help everyone out. Also, if you happen to have an UG subscription on SixPrizes, be sure to look my HUGE article considering the Nationals as well.

Then to the questions part. As I said in the beginning of the article, this might be my last article considering the HGSS-on format, what do you think about that? Do you think I should continue covering HGSS-on until Worlds, or should I start concentrating on the next format since Worlds will only be for a small amount of people? Let me hear your opinion in the poll (on the right side of my blog), so I know what do you want. I’m writing for you, so I’ll write about whatever the most people are interested in. Also, if you have any deck requests about BW-on /HGSS-on formats, let me know.

Attention: I won’t be releasing an update this Thursday since I know everyone is busy preparing for Nationals and so I can gather enough information about your opinions about the upcoming entries.

Thanks for reading and good luck for everyone attending Nationals this weekend!!


  1. Great entry once again. I think you should start writing about bw-on format, since only few will go to worlds. I'd like to see an entry about both Hydreigon/Darkrai and Garchomp.

  2. I think that you should do a small article for worlds and then all BW-on. And thanks for doing an article on vanilluxe!!! I enjoyed it!

  3. I think it'd be nice to have a article to analyse the metagame after all the Nats have been played an article about the Worlds meta, since it's a interesting tournament nonetheless being for a small group of people, but I agree with the writing of BW-on decks articles.

  4. "if you aren’t play testing against Vanilluxe that doesn’t have Bellosom in it, you’re doing it wrong. "

    Basically you're saying that you should play test against Vanilluxe *without* Bellossom. May want to fix that. ;)

    Otherwise, great article! I won't be playing any more HGSS-on, but for all those who do this surely came in handy.

  5. Another vote for BW-on, though I would love to read a Nats wrapup with your thoughts on the decks that did well. Good luck to everyone who's going this weekend!

  6. Re 10:09 PM anonymous: English isn't his first language, so no need to be a grammar nazi vis-a-vis double negatives. :)

    Good article, and great UG article.

  7. this is pretty much the ug article but some decklists were cut out and the vvv list was thrown in. great article, non-the-less.

    1. ^I disagree, DW34. While most everything in the UG article is just "basic" info, there's a lot more of it there than here, and as such, it's a great _premium_ resource.

  8. This is how I feel all your entries shouldbe like. I think these are better then just summiting a deck list with a brief explanation. I love your work, keep it up. I definatly think it should be bw - on now. Also do you think you would ever do an article about how you keep up your collection of cards so you can play competitively without wasting money? I know I for one have been victim too trading cards away only to find out 2 months later they become extremely good and double or triple in price. Thanks


  9. @esa : you made a mistake :

    4x Vanillish(Sleep Powder)
    3x Vanillite(Paralyzing one)

    I think you play :

    4 Vanillite NDE
    3 Vanillish NVI (with ice beam)


  10. It's amazing how little things change when we go to bw-on...

  11. Anonymous1: Thanks a lot for the input!

    Anonymous2: That's a great idea, I'll do just that!

    Anoynmous3: Agreed.

    Anonymous4: Good catch, even though I'm not a native, I shouldn't screw up a double negative, lol.

    darkwing34: Yeah, I tried to write about other things in this article (excluding the top3 techs) than in the UG article, so they both could be relevant, but at the same time I needed to keep my opinions similar.

    Assasin_Thief: Thanks for the insight. I'll try to make more of these kind of entries in the future. It's fun for a change. Also, great article request, I'll sure to remember that. I know it will come handy for many players!

    Tichris: I've never been good with the gen5 Pokémon, lol xD

    Anonymous5: I hope things will change a lot!

    Thanks everyone for the comments, opinions and requests, I appreciate them all a lot! Feel free to give me more article requests so I know what you want me to write about and if you haven't yet voted in the poll, vote now!

  12. Another great article, Esa! :) It would be great if you could write an article of Rayquaza EX or Garchomp. Actually , any BW-on article would be great.

  13. I´ll give my vote for BW-on articles even though I´m still also playing HGSS-DEX since one of our league members is going to Worlds.:) Maybe I should test that new Vanilluxe against him, there hasn´t been a Vanilluxe deck in our league for over 3 months.

  14. Voted for BW-on, cause i think many that are not going to worlds are going to want to prepare for BW-on. (Like me)

  15. I would like to see your perspective for BW-on as well.

    You are not the only who will be writing BW-on deck lists. I'm working on several proof-of-concept deck articles with the information I've gathered as of lately. =]

  16. For some reason your title reminds me of a Scorpions song...

    Anyways, long time lurker, but it's always nice to get your views on the TCG Esa since mine are more focused on the VGC these days lol.

  17. Is there a Sleep Powder Vanilite? What set is it in?


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