Monday, June 24, 2013

The Pre-Nationals "Underground" article



Klinlang won't repeat its last-year success.
An interesting fact before you get going to read this 11,000 word article behemoth. This article should have been an Underground article (with a better grammar of course). I have put tens of hours of time for this article, so I hope you enjoy it and that it's worth your time! It really should be since most people would pay to read this.

Enjoy!



Last  year when I did this article for the Underground for the first time, I said Klinklang had a chance to win the whole tournament. To be honest, I also recommended that you shouldn’t play Klinklang in the tournament, because I didn’t believe that a Klinklang player could dodge all the Hammertimes in the U.S. Nationals. About that I was dead wrong, because Hammertime was a lot less popular in the U.S. than in Europe (even though over 50% of my blog’s readers are from the U.S.)

Even though I wasn’t a Klinklang fan due to Hammertime gaining popularity all over the world last year, I needed to admit the facts – Klinklang was a real tier1 contender last year. Even though each person may favor one deck over another and from time to time I may have very strong opinions (and phrase them incorrectly), for me the job of Pre-Nationals article is to provide an objective point of view and analysis about the metagame. That is my mission today - provide a clear and balanced picture of the metagame I expect for the U.S. Nationals. Along the 10-years of playing I’ve become very familiar at predicting the metagame and it’s one of the skills that can only be developed with experience and time. Even though I live in Finland, I have kept a very close eye on the U.S. Nationals ever since 2006, so I’m pretty familiar of predicting the U.S. metagame.

However, if you are looking for my personal (and maybe biased) opinions, you won’t be disappointed either way. At the end of the article, I’ll list my opinions of top3 techs AND decks for the U.S. Nationals and some last minute gameplay tips for tournament play in the current format. Last time the deck, I placed at the top of my list didn’t win Nationals, but Worlds! That’s why I like to think my opinions are pretty accurate (if opinions can be considered accurate) and should at least provide some serious food for thought.   







During 10 years of playing, many people have benefitted from my interest in playing many decks – not just one-  and that’s one of the reasons I probably haven’t done that well at Worlds (only one top8 placement) – I always put everyone ahead of me, and I usually put the least time on my own Worlds’ deck. This year is no different. I have tested a lot of with all of the decks I’m going to analyze in this topic and all the decklists in this article should be tournament-proof. Also, as I finally decided to go to Worlds as it’s the 10th anniversary of my gaming career after all, I have had even more incentive at testing these decks.

Last time, the format was a bit more versatile than this year, so today I’ll be analyzing “only” 12 decks compared to 18 of yesteryear. I will focus on every single deck that I believe you can face in the U.S. Nationals , so I won’t be neglecting any decks. IfI neglect any deck in your opinion, feel free to comment on the comments section and I'll put a new article up for just that deck.

I was very happy with the formatting of my last year’s Pre-Nationals article, which probably was first of its kind. After that article people have probably expected every article of mine to contain a lot of decklists and in the end that doesn’t bother me. I love tweaking decklists and it’s difficult for me to settle with one deck, because I love playing with all kinds of decks. 

So, today I’ll analyze all the Nationals-competitive decks with the following metrics. The metrics are the same as in my last year's UG article, because I felt they were broad enough to cover all the important aspects of any deck in tournament play. If you aren’t familiar with the metrics I used last year, here they are.


Facing Probability - Facing probability is the probability, which you will to meet this deck at least once during the Swiss rounds of the U.S. Nationals.

Surprise Factor - This describes the surprise factor of the deck. In big tournaments, like the U.S. Nationals, this is a very important factor. If your opponent doesn’t know how to play the matchup, even a small surprise factor can win you games. This is especially important in the current format, where the games are so quick-paced that one mistake can turn the game around.

Possible Techs - Here, I’ll list all the techs that you should be aware of when playing against this deck or you should consider in this deck if you’re playing it.

Techs Against - Tech cards which are good against this deck.


Weaknesses - Here, I’ll analyze the weaknesses of the deck. You should be aware of every deck’s weakness, because knowing your opponent’s deck is half the victory.

Strengths & Summary - This is the only metric that differs from my last article. Here I’ll analyze the strengths of the deck, is it playable, how probable it is that this deck is going to win, is it a good play against the rest of the metagame etc. 



When analyzing the decks, I don’t go that deep to the decklists. As the lists you will face in the U.S. Nationals will all be very different, I can give you a fast solution to all the different decklists, but I can try to cover the framework and all the possibilities for the decks. That’s why some of the list in this article have less than 60 cards and have different options in the decklist. As I said earlier, the decks are heavily tested as I used them for my Nationals testing and have improved them for my Worlds testing. I am comfortable with every single list in this article. Feel free to ask ANYTHING considering the decklists in this article; if something bothers you, I’m always open to all kinds of discussion. 


Team Plasma Lugia EX


Pokémon:

3x Thundurus EX(BW8)
3x Deoxys EX(BW8)
2x Kyurem(BW8)
2x Lugia EX(Plasma Gale)
=10


Trainer:

4x Professor Juniper
4x N
2x Bianca
2x Colress
2x Skyla
3x Ultra Ball
1x Dowsing Machine/Scramble Switch
4x Switch
4x Colress Machine
4x Pokémon Catcher
3x Hypnotoxic Laser
1x Virbank City Gym
1x Max Potion
=35




Energy:

4x Prism Energy
4x Blend Energy WFLM
4x Plasma Energy
3x Double Colorless Energy
=15



Facing Probability: 10%
Surprise Factor: 30%
Possible Techs: Landorus EX, Landorus (Plasma), Absol, Scramble Switch, Audino, Escape Rope, Ghetsis
Techs Against: Enhanced Hammer, Crushing Hammer, Cobalion EX


Weaknesses: Plasma has been dominating all the Battle Roads and it has also won a few Nationals in the process. However, this Plasma variant isn’t the most popular out there and it is less known among players. This deck has two weaknesses that prove often to be its doom.

First, there is Hammer variants of Darkrai EX. Even though the deck can energy accelerate energy with Thundurus EX and has a lot of energy, it still struggles with Darkrai EX list with over 2 Hammers in it. Lugia EX’s attack cost is 4 and it’s the main attacker of this deck. It’s often rewarding to have Lugia EX as the main attacker, as it can take the prizes very quickly, but if your opponent is able to disrupt you enough, Lugia EX won’t have a chance of attacking during the whole game. Sableye + Hammers are able to guarantee that.

The other weakness of the deck is similar to the “standard” Plasma decks’ weakness. The first turns of the game are the most important ones for any Plasma variant. And I would say, they are even more important for this deck, because the energy cost of Lugia EX’s attack is so high. You NEED the energy to discard pile in T1 and you WANT to attack Thunder Knuckle in T1. If you miss energy in the early game and aren’t able to attack in the first two turns, you have a tough time coming back for it. Making this deck consistent enough is a puzzle I never was able to solve and that’s why I didn’t play it in my Nationals.


Strengths & Summary:

As long as you don’t face the dreaded Hammer-Darkrai EX variants, you will be fine. More than fine I would say. T2 or T3 Lugia EX is very strong against any deck, because you have already put their Pokémon on the KO range of Lugia EX with the help of Kyurem or Thundurus EX. Sometimes this deck is able to finish the game at ridiculous speed (in 4-5 turns), and sometimes you have to choose your targets very carefully.

You can pretty much control the game with Catchers as your opponent should be afraid of the possible Lugia EX all the time even if you don’t have one in play, because of the constant fear of Scramble Switch. You should take an advantage of this and in my test games, I have surprisingly noticed that in most games you don’t even need the Scramble Switch! Of course it can be considered as a surprise tech, but in the end, your opponent should always see Lugia EX coming when they see DCEs on the field or in the discard pile.

This variant will be in the U.S. Nationals, but I believe it won’t be the most popular Plasma variant. The straightforwardness of the “versatile” Plasma seems to be the most popular option in the current metagame. Nonetheless, this is my favorite Plasma variant, because I feel it’s less luck-based than the “Big Basics-Plasma”, where you seldom can control the flow of the game in mirror matches.  




Team Plasma

Pokémon:

2-3 Thundurus EX(BW8)
4x Deoxys EX(BW8)
2-3 Kyurem
0-2 Keldeo EX
1x Lugia EX(Plasma Gale)
0-1 Absol/Landorus


Trainer:

4x Professor Juniper
4x N
2x Bianca
3x Skyla
1x Colress
2x Ultra Ball
1x Plasma Ball
1x Computer Search/Scramble Switch
3-4 Float Stone/Switch (If you play Keldeo EX, then you should play Float Stones)
3x Colress Machine
4x Pokémon Catcher
4x Hypnotoxic Beam
1x Virbank City Gym


Energy:

4x Prism Energy
4x Blend Energy WFLM
4x Plasma Energy
=12




Facing Probability: 90%
Surprise Factor: 20%
Possible Techs: Landorus EX, Landorus (Plasma), Absol, Scramble Switch, Audino, Keldeo EX, Escape Rope, Ghetsis
Techs Against: Enhanced Hammer, Crushing Hammer, Cobalion EX


Weaknesses:

The most popular deck in the format and the uncrowned BDIF of the current metagame. It’s uncrowned, because if 100% of the decks would be Plasma, people would find a way to counter it. Plasma variants can be very versatile (as you can see from the sample list) and that’s part of their charm. However, their weaknesses usually are the same.

First, there is once again Hammers. A lot of Hammers cause a lot of trouble for any Plasma variant out there. However, aside from Hammers, Plasma variants don’t really have any plain weaknesses due to their versatility. They are able to tech against everything and anything and they have the speed and high damage output, which is needed to be a top tier deck.


Strengths & Summary:

Versatility is also the main strength of Plasma variants. You can predict the metagame and build your Plasma just like you feel like it’s the best against your metagame. One could say that Plasma is the new LuxChomp, because there are as many ways of playing Plasma as there are people playing them. However, the sad fact is that SP mirrors were more skill-intensive than Plasma mirrors. If you have been able to witness, you know how the games often run. Even the less-skilled player can win the game if he draws the right cards at the right time.

Plasma will be THE most popular deck in the U.S. Nationals, there is no doubt about it. However, I strongly feel that it won’t win the Nationals even if it’s played in large numbers. The U.S. Nationals are a curious tournament, because most players but more effort in them than they put in the Worlds Championships. This usually means a birth of numerous rogue and secret decks, which are directed especially towards the most popular decks like Plasma. You can be sure that if you get far enough in the tournament, you will eventually run into a deck that is designed especially against Plasma and you seem to have no way out victorious. I can’t stop people from playing Plasma, but I just want to warn anyone reading this. Everyone knows your deck inside out, unless you have reinvented Plasma completely. And with a deck, completely familiar to everyone, you won’t stand a chance against the diverse metagame you will face.

 


Blastoise/Keldeo EX/Black Kyurem EX

Pokémon:

4x Squirtle
4x Blastoise
3x Keldeo EX
2x Black Kyurem EX
=13

Trainer:

4x Professor Juniper
4x Skyla
3x N
1x Colress
1x Cilan
3x Tropical Beach
3x Ultra Ball
1x Heavy Ball
1x Dowsing Machine
4x Rare Candy
3x Pokémon Catcher
1x Tool Scrapper
3x Superior Energy Retrieval
1x Energy Retrieval
=33

Energy:

12x Water Energy
2x Lighting Energy
=14

Facing Probability: 50%
Surprise Factor: 0%
Possible Techs: Moltres, Black Kyurem, Crystal Wall, Super Scoop Up, Victini, Musharna, Audino, Exeggcute, Kecleon, Ghetsis
Techs Against: Ghetsis, Kecleon (mirror), Zebstrika, Dragon-type attackers, High Stadium count


Weaknesses:

Blastoise has only one weakness- the early game. Once Blastoise gets rolling, it’s almost impossible to stop it, because of the big HP, heavy hitting EX Pokémon combined with unlimited energy acceleration. However, two 4-time National Champions Sami Sekkoum and Hampus Eriksson both played the deck and weren’t able to reclaim their titles, so there must be something wrong with the deck, right?. There is.

No matter how consistent, you make the deck, one fact remains. You only have limited amounts of energy, Rare Candy and Blastoise in your deck. From time to time, you just don’t hit the cards you need in the right order. And when this happens, quick decks tear your Squirtles apart and you have lost the game. This can happen in every game or this might never happen. And that is Blastoise’s greatest weakness – you can’t control the game, you are just the puppet master hoping to draw the right cards at the right time. After Blastoise gets the set-up, it runs on an autopilot, which makes it a very dangerous deck in the hands of beginners. Blastoise enables some very upsetting moments in the biggest tournaments, because even the most skilled player in the Universe can be ran over by T2 Blastoise with 7 energy Keldeo EX.

In a longer game, Stadiums play a huge role against Blastoise as well. They live and die with Tropical Beach and if you are able to N and counter their Stadiums in the first turns, they will have some serious trouble set upping. Blastoise is the reason, why I ended up playing 2 Virbanks in my big brother’s Darkrai EX variant. When we played only 1 copy of Virbank, it was never available in the early game and Blastoise was able to just crush through everything since no one disrupted it in the early game.

When played incorrectly, this deck is also super weak to late game Ns. If you go down to 1 prize, leaving Black Kyurem EX active with 1 energy, you are in huge trouble when your opponent Ns you. In the worst case scenario, you won’t have a Tropical Beach to get you back in the game and you have to live by top deck mode (which of course works sometimes). However, sometimes your opponent can force you in that kind of situation, and when that happens, you know you are in trouble.


Strengths & Summary:

Blastoise is the stongest deck in the format, because it doesn’t have any direct counters. You can easily tech something against Klinklang here, Keldeo EX gets you automatically out of the Paralysis of Accelgor and when having a good day, you can just outpower everyone.

In a nutshell Blastoise is a gamble. When having an extremely good day, it can go all the way to the end. However, how long can you keep up the great opening hands and draws in a huge tournament like the U.S. Nationals? The answer is that probably no one can. Or if they can, they should have put a lottery ticket in, instead of playing Pokémon TCG that day.

On a more serious note, it’s good to look at the techs of the deck. Blastoise has a wide variety of possible techs in the deck, because of its energy acceleration. I have heard rumors that a new type of Blastoise has been gaining popularity all over the worlds. It includes the Crystal Wall, Super Scoop Ups and the Black Kyurem EX and aims at keeping the Black Kyurem EX with Crystal Wall alive. This is possible due to the decreased amounts of Tool Scrappers ran by players using Plasma nowadays. It’s something you should keep in mind, if you are considering playing Blastoise.  




Blastoise/Keldeo EX/Mewtwo EX


Pokémon:

4x Squirtle
4x Blastoise
3x Keldeo EX
2x Mewtwo EX
=13

Trainer:

4x Professor Juniper
4x Skyla
3x N
1x Colress
1x Cilan
3x Tropical Beach
3x Ultra Ball
1x Level Ball
1x Computer Search
4x Rare Candy
3x Pokémon Catcher
1x Tool Scrapper
3x Superior Energy Retrieval
1x Energy Retrieval
=33

Energy:

14x Water Energy
=14

Facing Probability: 25%
Surprise Factor: 0%
Possible Techs: Moltres, Black Kyurem, Black Kyurem EX + Crystal Wall, Super Scoop Up, Victini, Musharna, Audino, Exeggcute, Kecleon, Ghetsis
Techs Against: Ghetsis, Kecleon (mirror), Zebstrika, Dragon-type attackers, High Stadium count


Weaknesses & Strengths: See above


Summary: Even though the Mewtwo EX variant of this deck is very similar to the Black Kyurem EX variant in most parts, there is one huge difference – this deck doesn’t discard any energy, it feeds on energy. In my opinion, this can be a big factor, because the late game Ns hurt Black Kyurem EX variant a much more than this variant.

I really don’t have an opinion, which of the decks is better, this old conservative version, or the new OHKO-THEM-ALL-variant. I think it’s all about personal preference and, which deck you enjoy playing more.






Darkrai EX/Absol


Pokémon:

3x Sableye
3x Darkrai EX
2x Absol
1x Keldeo EX
=9

Trainer:


4x N
4x Professor Juniper
3x Bianca
2x Random Receiver
1x Colress
3x Ultra Ball
1x Computer Search/Scramble Switch
2x Enhanced Hammer
4x Pokemon Catcher
4x Hypnotoxic Laser
2x Virbank City Gym
4x Dark Patch
3x Energy Switch
2x Dark Claw
1x Max Potion
1x Energy Search
=41


Energy:


10x Darkness Energy
=10



Facing Probability: 40%
Surprise Factor: 40%
Possible Techs: Life Dew, more Hammers, 3rd Absol, Audino, 2nd Keldeo EX, Escape Rope, Ghetsis
Techs Against: Terrakion, Landorus (Plasma), Mr. Mime

Weaknesses:

Darkrai EX is a very solid and consistent deck, but it has one huge problem – it lacks the OHKO Factor. Granted, Absol was a move into the right direction as it can hit 170 if your opponent’s bench is full, you have Virbank in play, Dark Claw attached to Absol and your opponent is Poisoned. THEN you can hit for 170. Well, as you know, in most games these things doesn’t happen at the same time, so decks like Blastoise have the edge as long as Darkrai EX isn’t able to outspeed them.

The lack of the OHKO factor is the biggest problem of Darkrai EX decks. If they can OHKO you, and you can’t OHKO them back, you are obviously in trouble. And as Darkrai EX isn’t a deck that hits in T1, it can be outspeed by e.g. Plasma decks from time to time.


Strengths & Summary

Consistency is king. That’s why Darkrai EX decks are kings as well. Darkrai EX gets the set-up every game thanks to Random Receivers and Sableye. With the addition of Absol, it has also gotten a lot of firepower in to the early game. Not to mention, it doesn’t have to be afraid of anti-EX decks anymore.

The standard Darkrai EX variants have even match-ups all across the metagame. Unfortunately for Darkrai EX, the beginner of the game usually has the advantage. Darkrai EX mirrors are often very nerve-wrecking and they often are decided by ridiculous things like Hypnotoxic Laser flips (seen this too many times).

If Darkrai EX decks run a lot of Hammers, they also have an extremely good Team Plasma match-up, which is a huge plus. Hammers are one of the main reasons, Darkrai EX isn’t dead yet. It gives an upper hand against energy acceleration-few Plasma decks. However, on the flip side, especially Enhanced Hammers are often dead cards in many other match-ups. Darkrai EX players have to try to predict the metagame and fit their needed techs into their lists.  

Just few weeks back, Mark wrote an interesting article about the consistency issues Darkrai EX players can face in a form of Energy Switch, so be sure to check it out as well if you are considering Darkrai EX for your Nationals deck. What I believe is the optimal number of Energy Switches for Darkrai EX decks? 2 with Scramble Switch, 3 with any other ACE Spec.



Hammertime Darkrai EX

Pokémon:


4x Sableye
3x Darkrai EX
1x Absol
1x Keldeo EX
=9

Trainer:

4x N
4x Professor Juniper
4x Bianca
2x Random Receiver
3x Ultra Ball
3x Crushing Hammer
2x Enhanced Hammer
4x Pokemon Catcher
4x Hypnotoxic Laser
1x Virbank City Gym
4x Dark Patch
2x Energy Switch
1x Dark Claw
1x Scramble Switch
1x Max Potion
1x Energy Search
=41


Energy:


10x Darkness Energy
=10

Facing Probability: 15%
Surprise Factor: 0%
Possible Techs: Life Dew, 3rd Absol, Audino, 2nd Keldeo EX, Escape Rope, Ghetsis
Techs Against: Terrakion, Landorus (Plasma), Mr. Mime


Weaknesses & Strengths: See above.


Summary:

The “real” Hammertime running Crushing Hammers has seen a huge decrease in popularity. And to be honest, I can’t put a finger on its decreased popularity. It’s especially good against Plasma variants, so it’s a bit unlogical that at the same time as Plasma becomes popular, Hammertime gets less popular. I think the biggest problem with Hammertime is that you can’t fit Lasers and Hammers to the same deck. I can see Hammertime doing well if the metagame will be as filled with Plasmas as Battle Roads seem to show, but it’s always a risk to go with a deck that has issues against the energy acceleration decks such as Blastoise and Eelektrik.   



Gothitelle/Accelgor

Pokemon:

4x Gothita
3x Gothitelle (Emerging Powers)
3x Shelmet
2x Accelgor (Dark Explorers)
2x Mew EX
1x Duskull
1x Dusknoir (Boundaries Crossed)
2x Munna (70 HP)
2x Musharna
=20

Trainer:

4x N
4x Skyla
2x Professor Juniper
2x Colress
3x Tropical Beach
1x Dowsing Machine
3x Level Ball
3x Ultra Ball
2x Pokemon Communication
3x Float Stone
4x Rare Candy
2x Pokémon Catcher
1x Super Rod
1x Town Map
1x Tool Scrapper
=36


Energy:

4x Double Colorless Energy
=4


Facing Probability: 20%
Surprise Factor: 50%
Possible Techs: Escape Rope, Switch
Techs Against: Keldeo EX + Float Stone/Double Colorless Energy, Ghetsis, High Stadium count, Audino


Weaknesses:


Once again for a stage2 deck, all the possible trouble are heavily related to the early game. The biggest problem for Gothitelle/Accelgor is the very first turn of the game. Gothitelle has a lot of Basics with 60 HP or 70 HP and decks like Plasma and Big Basics can get an OHKO in the first turn from these kinds of Basics. That’s why Gothitelle/Accelgor is a deck, that wants to go first every single game. Otherwise, they will eventually get donked, and that’s a luxury you can’t afford especially in the top cut.

Donked or not, any T1 OHKO can cause Gothitelle a lot of trouble. The pressure is on Gothitelle all the time before they are able to set up the first Gothitelle. This is why I used one interesting method when play testing Gothitelle for my Nationals. In every game I played, I went second. This gave me a sense of how to play under continuous pressure and it’s something every player considering Gothitelle should practice. In the tournament, I quickly realized, how efficient the training was, because every game I went first, I was surprised how easy the games were. T2 Gothitelle is a whole another thing depending on if you go first or second.


Strengths & Summary:


This deck’s strength is obvious. If your opponent isn’t prepared for you, you will have a LOT of easy match-ups ahead of you. You need to tech against this deck or otherwise they will just lock do you down forever. This deck is a whole another thing when compared to the last U.S. Nationals’ Accelgor deck. This deck is consistent, this deck is extremely fast and this deck is ridiculously cheap (except for the Beaches) and accessible for anyone.

Also, as I already have done so much playtesting the deck, I can sincerely say that anyone playing the list above won’t be disappointed. It works like a dream and it has the answers I missed in my own Nationals quarter-finals. I won’t probably play Gothitelle in the Worlds’, because I know I will probably just prize everything in every game, but if you don’t happen to have horrible prizes in most games, I sincerely encourage you to pick the deck and practice playing it under pressure. When in the right hands, this deck is the strongest out there.




Rayquaza EX/Eelektrik

Pokémon:

2x Shaymin (CFF)
4x Tynamo
4x Eelektrik
3x Rayquaza EX
1x Victini(V-Create)
1x Mr. Mime (PLF)
=15

Trainer:

4x Professor Juniper
4x N
4x Bianca
2x Colress
4x Ultra Ball
3x Level Ball
1x Computer Search/Dowsing Machine
4x Switch
3x Pokemon Catcher
1x Skyarrow Bridge
1x Tool Scrapper
1x Super Rod
=33

Energy:


8x Lightning Energy
4x Fire Energy
=12

Facing Probability: 60%
Surprise Factor: 10%
Possible Techs: Audino, 2 Keldeo EX + Float Stones, Victini EX, Max Potion, Escape Rope, Ghetsis, Kecleon, Energy Search, Energy Switch 
Techs Against: Landorus EX, Absol (Plasma), Dragon-type attackers


Weaknesses:


RayEels goes to the same category as the most decks. Except Tynamos are probably the most popular horrible starters in the game ever. Eelektrik decks have been competitive the past two seasons now even though Tynamos have 40 HP (and at one point 30 HP). At the same time it has been the biggest weakness for RayEels during these seasons. In the current format there are a handful of starters from Thundurus EX to Landorus EX that can OHKO Tynamo too easily in T1.

However, once again if going first, RayEels won’t be in trouble because they usually have an exploding first turns thanks to the heavy amounts of Balls they run. T2 3 Eelektriks in play isn’t rare thing to see WHEN RayEels go first. When going second, it might be that they won’t have a set-up at all, because Tynamos get killed whenever they hit the field. There is something wrong with the first turn-rule, but unfortunately RayEels players can’t change that –they just have to adjust.

Probably one last thing to mention is RayEels weakness to solo-Landorus EX. A single Landorus EX going first can tear the whole set-up apart with the help of 1-2 Catchers. Thankfully for RayEels Big Basics have been losing popularity recently, but Kyurem and Thundurus EX do the job almost as well as Landorus EX once did.


Strengths & Summary:


RayEels is still viable, because it has to do the least effort to OHKO a 180 HP EX-Pokémon. Rayquaza EX requires only 4 energy in order to succeed in that and as Eelektriks get the energy back from discard pile, you can’t win the game by N’ng their energy away. They will always have the access to the energy as long as Eelektriks still stand.

Just a set ago, it was difficult for Eelektriks to stay alive during the whole game. Landorus EX and Darkrai EX was hitting them all the time with Night Spear’s and Hammerhead’s bench damage. However, with the help of the new Mr. Mime Eelektriks are now secured on the bench and in order to touch them, you have to either Catcher them or go through Mr. Mime first. Almost every single strong Basic deck in the current format hits the bench and I wouldn’t recommend going to a tournament with RayEels without Mr. Mime. It may be puny, but it will win you games.

From an objective point of view, RayEels is a risky play due to the HP amount of Tynamos. However, Eelektrik made it all the way to the 2nd place last year, so anything can happen this year as well. RayEels isn’t a bad deck, it’s just even more vulnerable in the early game as the other stage decks in the format. But if you can find your way out of the first few turns, the deck turns into a OHKO machine that’s very difficult to stop.



Big Basics

Big Basics variant


Pokémon:

3x Landorus EX
2x Cobalion EX
2x Mewtwo EX
1x Tornadus EX
1x Terrakion
1x Bouffalant
=10

Trainer:

4x Juniper
4x N
3x Skyla
2x Bianca
1x Colress
3x Ultra Ball
4x Pokémon Catcher
4x Switch
4x Hypnotoxic Laser
2x Virbank City Gym
3x Max Potion
3x Energy Switch
1x Scramble Switch
=38

Energy:


4x Prism Energy
4x Fighting Energy
1x Metal Energy
3x Double Colorless Energy
=12

Facing Probability: 30%
Surprise Factor: 45%
Possible Techs: Audino, Keldeo EX, Victini EX, Victini, Max Potion, Kecleon, Energy Search, Energy Switch, PlusPower, Enhanced Hammer, Escape Rope, Ghetsis 
Techs Against: Enhanced Hammer, Mr. Mime


Weaknesses:

The deck lacks firwpower more than Darkrai EX. That’s a serious issue and it’s one of the things that can’t be fixed. You can use Land Judgment in some games to hit 150, but in most games you just don’t have enough energy on the field to use Land’s Judgment.

The deck has lost a lot of its glory due to the Plasma rolling over it thanks to the wrong weaknesses. The whole deck is pretty much weak to Plasma variants, which can’t be fixed either. And here’s the main problem – if you can’t fix something, you shouldn’t even try to play around with it. It’s true that this Big Basics variant has an ok Eelektrik and Darkrai EX match-ups, but almost surefire autolosses to Plasma variants AND Gothitelle/Accelgor is something that you can’t pass by.


Strengths & Summary:

The deck is still quick, I’ll give it that. However, as you aren’t able to donk most of your opponents, the trouble will start in about turn 3 or 4. I have tried to find an answer against the format with Big Basics, but it just seems that whenever I am able to overcome one obstacle, another appears. You just can’t make Big Basics completely metagame-proof and it’s in a way funny, because just one set ago the deck was probably the strongest out there.

As Big Basics has lost most of its glory, if I were you, I wouldn’t spend time on testing this deck or against it. Most decks in the current metagame are just more powerful than this deck and can overpower them even with a slightly suboptimal game plan. If you want to make sure you can handle the deck, test game or two against it.




Big Basics/Garbodor

Pokémon:

2x Landorus EX
2x Cobalion
1x Mewtwo EX
2x Tornadus EX
2x Trubbish
2x Garbodor
=11

Trainer:

4x N
4x Juniper
3x Bianca
2x Skyla
1x Colress
1x Heavy Ball
2x Ultra Ball
1x Level Ball
1x Dowsing Machine
3x Rescue Scarf
3x Float Stone
4x Pokémon Catcher
3x Switch
4x Hypnotoxic Laser
1x Virbank City Gym
=37

Energy:

4x Prism Energy
3x Fighting Energy
1x Metal Energy
1x Blend WLFM
3x Double Colorless Energy
=12

Facing Probability: 20%
Surprise Factor: 15%
Possible Techs: Audino, Victini, Max Potion, Energy Search, Energy Switch, PlusPower, Enhanced Hammer, Eviolite, Life Dew, Escape Rope, Ghetsis , Virbank City Gym
Techs Against: Mr. Mme, Tool Scrapper


Weaknesses turned into strengths

The typing stays the same, so the weakness to Plasma stays the same as well. However, thanks to Garbodor, Tornadus EX isn’t that bad an attacker after all. Also, Cobalion EX is much more effective as Kyurem can’t get additional damage to Frost Spear thanks to Garbotoxin. There is nothing Plasma hates more than good old-fashioned energy discarding and Cobalion EX combined with Garbodor is something every single Plasma player will hate play against.

Garbodor also gives you the keys to unlock victory from every other match-up as well. Gothitelle will have very tough time set upping and getting the Tool Scrapper out when put a lot of pressure on. They might even prize their Tool Scrapper! (been there, done that). Blastoise stops completely and so does the already neutral RayEels match-up. People also often forget about how strong Garbodor is against Darkrai EX as well, because it denies the luxury of free retreat from Darkrai EX variants and their mobility dies completely as their Keldeo EXs won’t work either.  


Summary

Thanks to Garbodor, Big Basics won’t be going anywhere. It just needed to reinvent itself as a metagame deck. With the help of Float Stone, it also got a lot more mobility to the deck and your opponent can’t just Catcher-stall your Garbodors or any other attackers anymore. As the rest of the metagame has developed, Garbodor/Big Basics, hasn’t stood still, but has developed as much as its other competitors.

If you have decided to run Garbodor in the U.S. Nationals, I don’t even try to talk you to think about it. It’s a great deck choice and has an even match-up against everything. It can be built in many different ways and one of the key decisions you have to make as a player is, which tools to run in it. I really feel for the 3-3 split for Rescue Scarf and Float Stone, but you might have found another way. I encourage you to test different splits open-mindedly.



Plasma Klinklang

Pokémon:

4x Klink
1x Klank3
x Klinklang(PLS)
1x Klinklang(B&W)
2x Cobalion EX
2x Cobalion
=13


Trainer:

4x N
4x Skyla
3x Professor Juniper
2x Colress
3x Tropical Beach
2x Ultra Ball
2x Heavy Ball
4x Rare Candy
3x Max Potion
3x Pokémon Catcher
2x Float Stone
1x Escape Rope
1x Switch
1x Dowsing Machine
1x Super Rod
=36



Energy:


11x Metal Energy
=11

Facing Probability: 25%
Surprise Factor: 10%
Possible Techs: Audino, Escape Rope, Ghetsis , Enhanced Hammer, Eviolite, Hypnotoxic Laser, Keldeo EX, Darkrai EX, Landorus EX, Ghetsis
Techs Against: Non-EX Fire attackers, Garbodor


Weaknesses

Klinklang is a deck that completely relies on certain kind of metagame – an EX heavy metagame. If the metagame is very heavy EX (Plasmas running less Kyurems, Darkrai EX decks running less Absols), Klinklangs do very well. However, as the metagame has been developing to more non-EX direction all the time, I see a very murk future for Plasma Klinklang in the U.S. Nationals. Absol will be heavily played in every single Darkrai EX variant you’ll face, that’s a fact you can’t avoid. Those Absols combined with unlimited Poison + Virbank from Sableye is enough to wreck the whole Klinklang deck. However, with Plasma it really depends on their non-EX attacker counts. Recently, there has been a shift to 3 or even 4 Kyurems in a Plasma decks and that would mean an autoloss to Klinklangs.


Strengths & Summary

The only glimmer of hope for Klinklang is that with some miraculous luck, Klinklang players are able to avoid all the Darkrai EXs and heavy-non-EX Plasmas and face all the RayEels and Blastoises, which hoped that the other two would take care of Klinklangs.  

Klinklang has always been hip for some reason. Especially among the U.S. players, but today I must be honest. I see no way of Klinklang winning Nationals (again). Last year I said that Klinklang would have a chance of winning it all, if it faced the right match-ups. It was realistic and it happened. However, this year I can sincerely say that Klinklang won’t win the Masters division of the U.S. Nationals. You can quote me on that.  




Quad Snorlax

Pokemon:

4x Snorlax
=4
Trainers

4x Skyla
4x Ghetsis
3x Cheren
3x N
2x Professor Juniper
2x Bianca
4x Max Potion
4x Shadow Triad
4x Recycle
4x Pokemon Catcher
4x Hypnotoxic Laser
4x Virbank City Gym
4x Crushing Hammer
3x Switch
3x Team Plasma Ball
2x Enhanced Hammer
1x Super Rod
1x Dowsing Machine
=56




Facing Probability: 5%
Surprise Factor: 80%
Possible Techs: Energy, Tool Scrapper
Techs Against: Switch, Escape rope, testing against then deck

Weaknesses

Quad Snorlax is probably the only deck in the format that has honest autolosses. It autoloses to Blastoise (Keldeo EX) and it autoloses to Gothitelle/Accelgor (unless they start with Munna or Duskull). With that kind of match-ups, who would ever play the deck? Well, believe me, someone will and if you haven’t playtested against the deck and you are playing with Plasma, you can soon find yourself in big trouble.


Strengths & Summary

The biggest strength of the deck is that it has the biggest surprise factor in the whole format. Most players should be aware of it, but as it’s such a niche, deck, no one will tech against it. I respect every single competitive player, who has the guts to play this deck in the U.S. Nationals and still have a goal of winning the tournament. I am almost 100% that at least one Quad Snorlax will be in the top128 of the Nationals in Masters (heck, even T2 Seaking could do it) and that if facing the correct match-ups, it could go very far in the tournament, but probably not all the way.

If you haven’t yet played against the deck, I strongly recommend to test against it here and now, because all you have to do to make the match-up positive for your deck, is to recognize the game-plan, which leads to victory. Every deck has it against Quad Snorlax and you just have to find your own way with play testing. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut here. If there is one thing I hope you will get from reading this, it’s that you aren’t the player who checks what Snorlax or Shadow Triad does when your opponent plays them. 





The BIG tournament gameplay tips

Benching matters


In the history of the Pokémon TCG, every single Pokémon you benched mattered. Your opponent could draw more cards with Steven’s Advice, they could disrupt you with Giant Stump or you could save yourself from your opponent’s Warp Point be benching additional Pokémon.

However, in the current format for a long time the only thing you needed to be aware of was Pokémon Catcher and the bench damage Landorus EX/Darkrai EX could inflict. Now things have changed. Colress has quickly become the most powerful draw supporter there is and Escape Rope has seen more play. Due to Catcher, also new kind of lock decks like Snorlax and Gothitelle/Accelgor have risen. All these cards take an advantage of you benching unnecessary Pokémon on your bench.

In my opinion, it’s only a good thing that benching matters now more than ever. The more carefully you have to bench your Pokémon, the more skillful the game becomes. When playing Darkrai Ex, you can’t just bench 4 Darkrai EXs on your bench, because they have a free retreat. Ok, you can, but it means your opponent will soon draw 9-10 cards from Colress, which you don’t want to happen. Also, the more you bench energyless attackers, the more you bench Pokémon that can be damaged or locked to the active spot.

There isn’t one easy thumb rule, which you should follow when it comes to benching your Pokémon. If there were, it wouldn’t take skill. Whatever deck you are playing, you should play test with it enough to identify your decks biggest weaknesses and the most unnecessary Pokémon in some match-ups. If you are playing with let’s say Team Plasma deck, there may be games, where you don’t want to bench any Deoxys EX on your bench! A good example of this is the Quad Snorlax match-up.

If you can’t identify your decks’ weakest Pokémon in one certain match-up, there one very easy way to test it. Try playing different match-ups without one of your Pokémon at a time. Soon, you’ll notice that maybe this and that isn’t necessary against certain match-up. In worst case scenario you will find your decks’ weaknesses in certain match-ups. In best case scenario, you will identify a completely new way to approach some match-ups and get better results from the games and maybe even change your decklist a little. Testing even the most suspicious and weird strategies will usually prove to be very rewarding. 


Time, time and time

This can be said before every tournament, but I think it’s the most important in the National Championships and World Championships. Why? Because, they are the most important games of the tournament AND you will certainly face some very slow opponents. You will probably notice that your game tempo slows down even from your normal tournament game play tempo. That’s why you should really think carefully if you are going with e.g. Gothitelle/Accelgor. It’s very probable that you will be behind in prizes in every single game. Can you play fast enough in order to come back from the prize deficit with 30 minutes and 3 turns? It works the other way around. If you know you are a very slow player, why not to take advantage of it? As long as you are playing slowly and not stalling, you can have big advantage in especially Swiss games if you are playing a fast deck. They will have to come back from the prize deficit and as they will play slower than usually because it’s a big tournament, and you’ll be playing slowly just, because you are a natural slow player, they will be in huge trouble.

Also, Swiss Rounds are a whole another story than the top cut. Thankfully they have already announced that the top cut in the U.S. Nationals is 75 minutes long.  Well, no matter if it’s 60, 70, 75 or even 90 minutes, - you still need to pay carefully attention to the time. You only have this limited amount to play 3 games. In most top cut games, you need to play 3 games, because the match-ups are so even. Depending on what deck you play, you must be aware of this when you start your first game.

If you are playing a slow deck like Gothitelle/Accelgor, you can assume that you really don’t want to go to the 3rd game under 5 minutes left, because you will often fall behind prizes. So what can you do? Scoop the game when it looks desperate. You can never know 100% sure if you are able to mount the comeback or not, but when it comes to slow decks, it’s better to just scoop before the time gets too close, go first in the third game and have a huge advantage there, because of that. If you fight to the bitter end, and the time gets called e.g. when you are shuffling your set ups and lose the Sudden Death in game 3, you are the only one to blame at that point.

It’s funny how much a deck choice can affect top cut games as well. If you are playing a very fast deck like Team Plasma deck, in most games you WANT to fight until the bitter end - even when things look completely miserable for you. Here’s a case for you:

Gothitelle/Accelgor vs. you w/ Team Plasma

Game 1.


After a very tough fight you are able to proceed to get the win. (Estimated time left 45 minutes).

Between Game 1. and 2.

You shuffle your deck carefully, thoroughly and with no hurry. However, don’t stall. Take your time, don’t let your opponent rush you.
1-0

Game 2.

Estimated time left when the game starts: 40 minutes. He/she gets a godly start and gets a T2 Gothitelle and T3 Dusknoir with Musharna on the bench and 14 cards left in his/her deck. You know, you can’t come back from that. You’ll just wait until they proceed getting 6 prizes. However, even though the loss is inevitable, you should still take the most out of it. They can’t know which tech you got on your sleeves, so play like you normally do and keep in mind to play as difficult Pokémon to KO to your opponent as possible (preferably not Grass or Psychic weak Pokémon). Force them to take the 6 prizes in the slowest manner possible and remember to use your supporter each turn and attach energy each turn. No matter how quickly they get the set-up, they will still spend a lot of time drawing all the 6 prizes, if you make it as difficult as possible for them. However, BE SURE NOT TO PLAY SLOWLY BY PURPOSE.  (Estimated time left: 20 minutes).
1-1

Between Game 2. and 3.

Once again, you shuffle your deck carefully, thoroughly and with no hurry. However, don’t stall. Take your time, don’t let your opponent rush you.

Game 3.


Estimated time left when the game starts: 15 minutes. You have 15 minutes and 3 turns. Make the least out of it! The more your opponent gets turns, the more probably you will lose. In this game, you can go easily all-in and burn your resources like a madman. You can use Junipers in situations, where you would otherwise save resources, and you can get stuck with Lugia EX in the active spot as long as it gives you a prize lead. You need to play desperate-Pokémon TCG here – it is National Championships after all!
2-1

Judge!

Do you know why Judges are in the tournaments? To solve all the trouble that can be caused by errors in the gameplay made by players. Also, in big tournaments like the U.S. Nationals especially stalling can be very common among players. Don’t be the Mr. Nice Guy if your opponent obviously stalls. Call the judge immediately if you notice any sort of stalling from your opponent.

What I love about Pokémon TCG, is that there isn’t that many real cheaters out there. You are unfortunate, if you happen to meet a cheater during your Nationals, but there are two easy ways to prevent any sort of cheating.

1) Keep your concentration on the game and what your opponent is doing (especially when he/she searches for his/her deck or discard pile)
2) Cut his deck – every single time

If you follow these two guidelines, your opponents can’t cheat you. If you don’t… Well you should, because these things should be automatic for every player in big tournaments. Cutting is a good habit and you should really concentrate on what your opponent is doing. I have caught a several cheaters during my career and it’s all because I stay focused the whole game.  

The Do’s and the Don’t’s


It should be so obvious, but for some reason even the top players in the game fail to provide a full and legal decklist or sleeves. This happens every single time even in the U.S. National Championships and if you want to WIN the tournament, you want to check your decklist twice, thrice, even four times! And preferably have a few hours off the decklist before you recheck it. It doesn’t take too much effort and it can save you the day. Just how often, and how many players have forgotten their Pokémon Catchers from their decklist? I don’t even want to know.

One thing that has always been popular is making your deck as shiny as possible. In Finland, where the weather is at times very dry and cold and at times very hot and humid, Pokémon cards made in China tend to bend. Especially the most expensive cards and Full Art cards. Even though in some people’s opinion it’s cool and awesome to have Full Holo deck, I would never recommend going that way. Just recently one of my friends went to German Nationals. Had a bent Reverse Holo Rare Candies, but bent them before the tournament, so that they can’t be recognized. In day 2 he got a game loss, because the Rare Candies were bent back, so they could be recognized, which cost him the tournament. Just, because he wanted to have the coolest deck on Earth. If you want to win, it doesn’t have to pretty. It will be pretty WHEN you win, even if you have the cheapest deck in the tournament (just look at Miska’s Worlds winning deck that costed about 90$ total). And you really don’t’ want to risk anything, just because of the prettiness of your deck.




 
My top3 techs for Nationals


3. Audino

Audino is so good. And yet so underrated. I expect it to be big in the U.S. Nationals and Worlds, because Hypnotoxic Laser and Accelgor/Gothitelle are very popular. And there really isn’t a better straight counter against these two than Audino. Audino can be sought with Pokémon search and it’s like a Full Heal, except it only heals one Special Condition and 10 damage. However, healing the Asleep or Paralyze is more than enough for you in mane games to win the game.

However, Audino isn’t my favorite tech and here’s why – it’s a Basic Pokémon. With a horrible attack and retreat cost I should add. The current decks in the metagame don’t play that many Basic Pokémon and if you play with Audino in your deck in the U.S. Nationals, you should expect opening with Audino at least once during the tournament. Sometimes it might even be good that you open with Audino, but in most situations you don’t want to open with it.


2. Mr. Mime

What does Landorus EX, Darkrai EX and Kyurem have in common? Mr. Mime is a great counter against all of them! In my opinion, Mr. Mime has gotten a good amount of attention especially in RayEels, which it fits probably the best, but I believe it still has a lot of more potential than just in RayEels. The bench damage done via Night Spear, Hammerhead and Frost Spear can all be prevented with Mr. Mime and as we know, in the fast-paced metagame, 30 extra damage or preventing it is HUGE. Mr. Mime can be fitted to almost any deck from Darkrai EX to Plasma, because it can be searched with Level Ball, Ultra Ball and Pokémon Communication. in over 70% of the match-ups it can give the edge and you will probably see Mr. Mime more than ever before in the U.S. Nationals, so you’d better start testing with and against it.

1. Keldeo EX

Last year the number one spot went to Terrakion. It was THE counter and was good against over half of the metagame! This year, the number one spot goes to Keldeo EX. This wasn’t a difficult decision either. Keldeo EX is Audino and Switch combined. It gets you off Accelgor/Gothitelle’s lock and from the Asleep of Hypnotoxic Laser. It combos very well with Float Stone and can open precious space in your decklist.

Keldeo EX is pretty much a staple in Darkrai EX decks. Some consider it as a staple for Eelektrik decks. It has become increasingly popular for Plasma decks as well, because it enables Kyurem to hit twice in a row if not KOed. Kyurem is the best attacker in Plasma and enable it to hit 2 times in a row over 120 damage will win you games.

However, the number one reason WHY Keldeo EX takes the number one spot is its versatility. There is no deck, which it doesn’t fit into. It’s the only bullet-proof counter against Accelgor/Gothitelle and as the deck will be around for sure, you need to prepare against it somehow unless you have a very good match-up against it already (which only Kyurem/Deoxys EX/Keldeo EX has).

The only questionable thing about Keldeo EX is how many of them you want to play.





My top3 decks for Nationals



3. Team Plasma Lugia EX

I was very close playing this deck in my Nationals and I believe it has great potential as long as you face the right decks. Hammers/Darkrai EX desolates it, but for example mirror match-up is favorable for the Lugia EX variant, which is a great asset for the deck. If you are playing Plasma, you are guaranteed to face mirror matches, so a mirror-proof list is important if you want to do well in the tournament.

The deck has a possibility of T1 Lugia EX. This is something that may give you an automatic win in some games (especially against non-EX decks). As said, I was very close at playing the deck in my Nationals and who knows, the results may have been different, if I had played it. It’s only in the number 3 spot, because I don’t feel like ANY Plasma variant is consistent enough to take down a tournament with 9-10 Swiss rounds and top128. The only way Plasma has a way of winning the whole tournament, is that a lion’s share of the metagame are Plasma decks (as they probably will be). 

2. Darkrai EX/Absol

It’s unbelievable how much versatility has Darkrai EX showed in the past season. First there was Hammertime and Mewtwo EX/Darkrai EX; then there was Darkrai EX/Hydreigon and know Darkrai EX/Absol. No matter what sets have been released, Darkrai EX has always been a top tier deck. This year it’s no different. I believe that Darkrai EX’s secret is its consistency. It’s the only deck in the format I really feel comfortable drawing the opening hands every single time.

Sableye is also the other often forgotten force of the deck. It’s still the only card in the format that can efficiently enough recycle unlimited amounts of Item cards. This gives you an edge that no other card is able to provide in the format and it’s the reason why this deck places in the second spot of my list. Thanks to Junk Hunt, you are able to use cards like Life Dew and surprise your opponent completely off-guard. Sableye is the most versatile card in the format and not just a starter. If you don’t build your Darkrai EX deck Junk Hunt in mind, you are doing it wrong. 


1. Gothitelle/Accelgor

You might be surprised by this. Gothitelle, seriously? Even though even I didn’t win Nationals with it? Yes, seriously. The only reason I didn’t win my Nationals was that I wasn’t able to predict the metagame well enough and the Blastoise I faced in top4 ran Musharnas and 2 Wartortles – something a normal Blastoise would never run! He outbuilt me completely and I didn’t have strong enough opening hands in order to deal with him.

However, this was all because of I wasn’t prepared for it. With one additional Catcher, the game would have been a whole another story. Looking back, I would play in my Nationals, the list I introduced in this entry. It has everything you need to deal with every single metagame deck in the format and it is strong even against the double-Keldeo EX decks.

Gothitelle reminds me a bit about the last year’s winning deck – Klinklang. If people aren’t prepared and teched against it, it has very easy times beating even the strongest decks. However, if people are prepared and teched against Gothitelle, things get a lot more difficult. I would play Gothitelle/Accelgor again with the changes I introduced in this article and I think it’s especially good in huge tournament like the U.S. Nationals, because Plasma is the enemy number 1 that people are prepared against. Gothitelle is a priority 3 or even 4 for many players.

One last caveat if you are considering Gothitelle/Accelgor for the U.S. Nationals. You should playtest it like a crazy before the tournament. And you should especially practice games where your opponent puts early pressure on your and you have to make a quick comeback. You are often behind in prizes (unless you go first) and you should be comfortable playing fast if this deck is for you. That’s one of the reasons, I can guarantee you that Jason Klaczynski and Ross Cawthon aren’t playing this deck – they would eventually lose on time in the top cut, because their natural playing style is very slow. If you aren’t one of the natural slow players, I heavily recommend this deck to you.








Conclusion


Phew, finally in the end of the article! And without controversy, I might add! It seems that the shorter articles I have done the past few months have taken their toll. My Pokémon TCG-article constitution has decreased tremendously!  I hope yours hasn’t so that you didn’t feel like the article was too long.

Next weekend is the most defining moment of the season for many of you and in this article I did my best to make it as successful as possible. I hope I succeeded and that you will succeed.

To conclude, I want to emphasize that no matter what I said in this article, it’s all up to you what you want to play. In this article, my mission was to lay everything on the table and your job is to take whatever you needed from that table. However, if you want to do extremely well in a high-quality tournament like the U.S. Nationals, remember to be honest to yourself. While playtesting, remember to identify your decks weaknesses do something to them instead of just denying your decks weaknesses.  Don’t try to lie to yourself and convince yourself what’s the best choice or let anyone else decide for you what “the play” is. You are the only person who can decide for yourself. Just go with pure instinct and you’ll have the best possible result.

There’s nothing left for me to say. Make sure to comment on the article, so I’ll know what you thought about it!


GOOD LUCK to your Nationals! (You’ll need it.)


- Esa Juntunen


E-mail:
thedeckout@gmail.com
Facebook
P.S. I'll try to do a short-article on how to face rogue decks before the U.S Nationals!

42 comments:

  1. Amazing Writing. Good analysis. Sincerely hope to see more content like this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As far as cheating goes, always SHUFFLE your opponent's deck. With methods of cheating such as the Double nickel, cutting doesn't work to prevent it. It also reduces the chance of your opponent possibly stacking the deck

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really interesting read, summarises the metagame pretty nicely.

    Hope to see more of this kind of content!

    P.S.: Esa I'd like to see your take on Unlimited PoryDonk :P

    ReplyDelete
  4. Awesome article! Well-written, good content and enjoyed it a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Blastoise/Keldeo ex/Mewtwo ex Facing Possibility is 250%. A little high if you ask me LOL

    Great article BTW

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You weren't there for canadian nationals, were you?

      Delete
    2. Different person ;)

      Delete
  6. I've started to play 2 months ago, and thanks to your analysis on meta decks I know how to counter them and how to play them. I'm starting to win tournaments in my country, I've learned so much from you, so, thank you really, and great article by the way, good luck on worlds!

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  7. Hey Esa for the plasma variants you forgot about tornadus ex (PLF).

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great Article. Keep It Up ! !

    ReplyDelete
  9. Really wish you had edited this article, would have made it that much better. But when you've written a 11,000 word article, I guess that's good enough ;).

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Esa! I'm not from US, but I enjoyed it as well!!

    I think that Hammertime has a chance to win Nationals, but running 3x Absol / 2x Darkrai EX line, in order to beat those decks that don't have any trouble with energy and have their bench full of pokemon, like Eelektrik and Blastoise. Nice article, good luck!

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  11. Wow. Best article of the year! Great job Esa and good luck at worlds.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow I really thank you for posting this. Amazing article, and amazing content.Hope to see more things like that in the future

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  13. The trainers in the gothgor list is 37 not 36, You have to take a card out

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  14. I quite agree with most of this analysis. The article is very good, and it would have been the best of UG from the pasts months.

    I maybe don't agree very much with Gothi being the play :D
    The deck has no more surprise factor (maybe because I played it since its success in Japan). But I agree that old school players prefer this kind of control deck.

    I feel that players start to give up Plasma decks and play instead Blastoise or Darkrai. The deck is still widely played, but I think that the popularity is decreasing. I am not sure if it can win US Nats.

    One thing you might recommend for big tournaments it's to shuffle opponents deck in the pre-game. For long time I just cut and I felt frustrated when the opponent had god start, because I felt it might be either due to stack or due to poor shuffling. Since I shuffle, I see less god starts against me and when it happens I know it is just bad luck and not stacking as we saw last Sunday in Canada.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Esa. I enjoyed a lot your article. I have a few questions.
    Do you think that 4 Blastoise is enough to beat Klinklang or is Kyurem PLF or Super Rod needed?
    Also, a 1-0-1 line of Dusknoir was enough or did you need a 2-0-2 line but had to cut it for space?
    Thanks for writing these great articles!

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  16. Hi ESA!
    great article by the way

    you might want to explore mr.mime in decks like blastoise and darkrai.

    i think the top 4 deck at canada nats both play it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not, only 1 played it and lost in top4

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  17. Thanks a lot for the comments everyone and it's good to know that you thought it was good and useful! It would have been kind of heart-breaking if it wouldn't have been good.

    Cheating is a very interesting (although a bit sad topic). With the cheating accusations from Canadian Nationals, we are sure to see more shuffling and cutting your opponent's deck. And IMO it'ss only a good thing. I like to trust people and I always just cut my opponent's deck. If anyone goes as far as putting their whole deck in some kind of order, then go ahead. Pokémon isn't that serious (at least for me) and the prize pool isn't that big. I believe any person stacking or cheating any other way shoudl re-evaluate why they are playing the game.

    Also, thanks for the fixes, I fixed the Gothi list and the percent of Blastoise. 250% is indeed a bit high...

    About the Blastoise vs. Klinklang. In my experience, 4 is enough If you run Super Rod. Without Super Rod you get stuck from time to time with Juniper and 2 Blastoises in your hand. If you don't run any other attackers against Klinklang and are afraid of it, I suggest running Super Rod.

    When it comes to Gothitelle, I think the optimal Dusknoir line is 2-1. Prizing the only Duskull is a lot more dangerous than benching the only Dusknoir since prizing the Duskull delays the Dusknoir 2 turns while prizing the Dusknoir may not delay your Dusknoir at all! (if you get the prize at the right time).

    Mr. Mime in Blastoise? Sounds interesting. Have to take a look at that.

    Thanks for comments and keep em' coming as there still is days left for Nats!

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    1. I noticed you ran a 2-1 klinklang PLS and BLW line, when it should be either 3-1 PlS-BLW or a 2-2 split line. This is so you maximize the amount of klinklangs you can get into play and either move around energy or block depending on your strategy set up.

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    2. I think 3-1 line with klinklang is the safe way to go, your goal is the plasma one unlesss the shift gear is your surprise mvp.

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    3. Nice, I don't know what I was thinking while building my Klinklang. 3-1 line is a must IMO.

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    4. I believe 3-1 is a good, mainly because the shift gear is good, and tbe plasmaklag does the work. But in some cases irs good to shift blends onto keldeo. You should definitely test 3-1 on the klinklangs. Runs smooth as well

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  18. Why would you hope to run into RayEels with Klinklang? No matter how many Absols or Kyurems they run, Darkrai and Plasma are still winnable matchups for Klinklang. But a single Victini in RayEels (which is like, not even a Tech any more) totally wrecks Klinklang by just OHKOing whichever Pokemon has the most Energies. That + 2 Super Rods (which is also common for this exact reason) seals the game really, really fast. RayEels is arguably Klinklang's worst matchup, probably even worse than Gothlock and Snorlax.

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    1. I think the Snorlax matchup is a near auto-win for Klinklang, provided they run Durant DRX (which is a great card anyway). Durant can just keep recycling Switch, Max Potion, and Tropical Beach until Snorlax runs out of resources or decks out.

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  19. I don't see why Sixprizes dropped you as an underground writer; this was great! I learned more from this than I think any other article I have read.

    I do have to disagree with you though on saying that Gothi has the best chance for winning US nats, or at least doing well. The problem is that, as you said, Plasma is dropping- which is a good matchup for Gothi- and Blastoise is rising in popularity. In Canada it won, and it took second at UK nats. Along with this, a lot of Darkrai players are beginning to add in double keldeo. Now I know that these matchups are still winnable, but in a 9 round tournament the chances of running into these decks makes it much harder for Gothi

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    1. It indeed is a very difficult field for Gothitelle, but I think that there is no point of adding 2 Keldeo EXs in Darkrai EX variant. It still doesn't make the Gothitelle match-up autowin, but slows your set-up enormously in the other match-ups (like the Blastoise match-up where the speed of your deck really matters). I'm intrigued to see how popular will Gothi be, anyone who plays it, should have a great amount of test games before the tournament.

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  20. I was going to run Darkrai/Absol for Worlds but I didn't cuz I didn't make the cut.

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  21. I love your articles Esa!!!!

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  22. Amazing article, I still believe klinklang builds have a chance. Maybe not winning all the way through. But if you think about it. There's differemt ways of playing the deck. Since still have shift gear. Its a monster paired with keldeo. Unlesss they hammer every blend. You gotta mess with decks. But stilll can't count klinklang out yet!

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  23. garbodor has 2 cobalion and zero cobalion if it is a typo could you correct that esa?

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  24. zero cobalion ex sorry for posting twice

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    1. Good catch! Thanks for noticing, as I will update The Decklist Out after the U.S. National Championships!

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  25. Considering the recommendations part:

    Gothitelle has most of Blastoise's problems, which is why I'd never recommend it for a tournament that is longer than 5 rounds. It has unbeatable hands and it has trashcan hands. There is very little middle ground. A hand that does not contain Gothita is a reasonable indicator of a very long lunch break ahead of you. I think it's a huge gamble and it's one you don't want to take for a tournament that matters.

    Darkrai/Absol and TDK are excellent recommendations and if you have the resources available I'd probably advise everyone to play TDK, simply because it cannot get donked, which is extremely important for a large tournament.

    The rest of the article was a fine read as well, although I'm not too sure about the fact you regard Hammers as weaknesses of some decks. Sure it's nice to hit those Special Energies of TDK, but by that time they have already had a chance to attack with them. I think the only deck that can actually play multiple Hammers is Darkrai because it has Sableye to recycle them. In other decks, you can play a single Enhanced Hammer but that's about it, otherwise you risk throwing the deck's consistency out of the window. There's not that much room for teching.
    Crushing Hammer is an awful card, I would not recommend it, even in Sableye decks. I won't go into detail on each and every sample decklist, they look pretty close to what I would run.

    Make sure to run enough good supporters (Juniper/N/Skyla), that's the best guarantee for consistency.

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  26. Since Darkrai cannot OHKO, would Max Potion work against it? I know some decks can't use it, but most nowadays accelerate enough to do so.

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  27. what won in Canadian nationals?

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    1. Blastoise/Keldeo/Black Kyurem EX

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  28. Wow, this must have taken a lot of work to put together. Thank you so much for this article.

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  29. Hi Esa, I've been working very hard on Gothitelle for the Worlds and have some questions for you. I have been thinking town map is not so good as it tells my opponent my weakness on that game, for example, if I have 1 or 2 float stones prized, all he needs to do is get rid of the third one and win the game. I've been thinking of adding other card instead, what would use? I miss a 4th catcher, a 3rd Accelgor and other level ball sometimes, also considered Ditto! Do you think it is risky playing the deck with time limit of 30 min on swiss rounds? Is Keldeo/blastoise really the hardest matchup? I've been in trouble against plasma, especially kyurem/plasma. Any advice? Thanks a lot and congrats for ur work!

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