A Guide to Metagaming and Looking Ahead to U.S. Nationals
Kevin Baxter gives you an in-depth look into his Metagaming process and how to apply it to your own tournaments.
06/16/2015 by Kevin Baxter
Hello again everyone! In my last article I was preparing for Spring Regionals and hoping I would earn enough Championship Points to keep my spot in the top 16 players in U.S. & Canada. Well, after finishing in the top 8 at the Ontario Regional Championship, I have achieved that goal. I currently sit at 11th place with 560 CP. Now my next goal is placing highly enough at U.S. Nationals to stay in the top 16 for that Worlds Day 2 bye. It is hard to predict exactly how many CP will be needed to secure it, but I think that the cutoff will be around 625-650 CP. From my rough projections, I expect that a top 64 performance would put me on the bubble and that a top 32 showing would lock me into a spot.
I still have some work to do to get where I want to be, so in this article I will discuss my thoughts on what decks I’m considering for Nationals. Before I get into the specific decks though, I want to explain my process of Metagaming in detail. I want this article to have a use for everyone that reads it. So even if you are not attending U.S. Nationals, I hope you can get some valuable information about preparing for tournaments in general.
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right deck for a tournament. How I prepare for each tournament is different based on the size, popular decks at the time, how well I need to do, and what decks I have been working on. The process of Metagaming is more complicated than just picking a deck that is good versus popular decks. I will do my best to explain the major steps that lead to making the best choice.
Table of contents
I believe there are 3 main pillars that contribute to whether or not someone will do well at an event. They are Skill, Luck, and Metagaming. If you have a lot of strength in one of these areas, you don’t need as much in the other two. For small events, you may only need one of these working for you to win. But for larger events, you will need high levels of 2 of the 3. For the biggest events like U.S. Nationals or Worlds, 2 pillars may get you to top cut, but all 3 will be needed to take the win.
This is why you see many of the same players consistently do well. They always have a high skill, so they really only need to have above-average luck or a good deck choice, but not necessarily both. It’s also why you see inexperienced players win events every once in a while. Sometimes a player will just play many favorable matchups and get good draws and win even if they’re prone to mistakes. For example, a new player could walk into a room full of Manectric decks with their Fighting deck and win the tournament even if they make suboptimal plays all day. Or a perennial Worlds competitor could enter a tournament with a great deck and still lose if they open with no supporter in too many games.
Luck is impossible to control. You can try to play a higher count of draw supporters to give you higher odds of opening well, but in the end it might not be enough. One of the hardest things I’ve had to accept over the past couple years is that sometimes it’s just not my day to win. There is only so much bad luck you can work through before getting knocked out of a tournament, especially with a cap of top 8 at all events.
Skill is something that takes a long time to develop fully and it is the most stable of the 3 pillars. In my opinion, it takes at least a year or 2 of playing tournaments and focusing on getting better to grasp all the important concepts of the game needed to play well. A lot of players who enter the game are looking for instant success. It takes time and focus to build up a skill level that will boost the odds of doing well. From tournament to tournament, skill is going to be the least volatile factor in determining success. It is a gradual slope that can only be built upon through experience.
Metagaming is something that can change drastically from tournament to tournament depending on what decks are being played. While that can be a daunting fact, choosing the right deck is in under our control. This is why Metagaming is one of the most interesting aspects of the Pokemon TCG. I enjoy playing games of Pokemon for the most part. But what I really enjoy is playing the game outside the game and figuring out what combination of cards gives me the best chance of winning. This is what I am going to be discussing for a large portion of this article. I’ll go through all the major factors that go into choosing the right deck. I’ll also introduce 3 categories that most decks fall into and talk about when it is a good idea to play each.
It should be no surprise that preparing for a League Challenge or City Championship is vastly different than preparing for a Regional or National Championship. In smaller tournaments there are physically fewer decks in the room. You are more likely to play against any one specific player. If you know exactly which decks it is possible for you to play against, it becomes much easier to pick a deck that is favorable versus those. I’ll use a recent example that I faced recently at a League Challenge. I knew there would be about 10 Masters with 3-4 of them playing Seismitoad and 2-3 of them playing Rayquaza. There were a couple decks I didn’t know for sure, but from that information I chose to play Wobbuffet/Groudon. This is an extreme example, but even if there are closer to 30 Masters and you know maybe half of the decks in the field, you can still use that information to your advantage.
Larger tournaments can be more difficult to predict. It is important to research what decks have done well in the surrounding areas in the recent past. A lot of players will stick to the same deck for multiple tournaments in a row, so there are rarely huge swings in the metagame in short periods of time. There will almost always be a presence of the decks that did well previously in the area. If there is an obvious counter to those decks, it is safe to expect a small rise in the play of that counter deck. After all of this research, it is still impossible to correctly predict every deck that shows up. In addition to that, the pairings might match you up to decks you didn’t expect. Metagaming is never a perfect science, so the best we can do is prepare for the most common decks. A lot of people (including myself) will try to counter every deck, but it should be constantly remembered that no deck beats everything. You always have to take a loss to something, but the trick is minimizing the number of decks you lose to.
One last thing to consider in relation to the size of a tournament is the time limit. Smaller tournaments have single-game, 30 minute rounds while larger tournaments have Best-of-3, 50 minute rounds. This can play a significant part in a deck choice because some decks have slower game plans than others. A fast deck will usually be okay regardless of the size of the tournament because it will almost always finish games. If there is a deck that needs 30+ minutes to win a game, it might be a bad idea for small tournaments but could actually be good in larger ones if it only ever finishes one game. If a deck takes 25-30 minutes to win its games, it may be a fine choice for smaller tournaments, but could be a dangerous play for larger ones because of ties. Ties have become an annoying consequence of Best-of-3, 50 minute rounds because there are often matches that go 1-1 in the first two games and don’t finish the 3rd game. It has definitely had an impact on which decks have success and players have needed to quicken their pace of play to account for finishing matches within 50 minutes.
An open metagame is one where there is a great diversity in the decks that can show up to a tournament. Usually an open metagame will happen right after there is a change to the card pool. This can be at the beginning of the season after a rotation, or right after a new set is released, or when a card is banned (looking at you, LTC). Going into an open metagame requires that your deck can handle a wide range of matchups. It is a good idea to play a deck that has a powerful and straightforward strategy that can be executed every game. An example of this recently is the Seismitoad/Shaymin deck that dominated the various Regionals and Nationals that happened right after Roaring Skies became legal. This deck is not going to surprise anyone with how it functions, but the strategy is so good by itself that it could run through any deck that wasn’t specifically built to beat it. Another choice for an open metagame is playing a toolbox deck that has options to deal with a variety of decks. A good example of this is the Aromatisse deck that Kyle Haverland made top 4 with in Wisconsin. It had a large toolbox of attackers that could be chosen based on the matchup and situation.
A defined metagame is one where everyone knows what will comprise the majority of decks in the field. This usually happens after several tournaments have happened with the same card pool. The decks that consistently perform well in a given set of tournaments will settle themselves into the top tier of the metagame. The most common occurrence of this is during Winter Regionals after the long City Championship circuit and toward the tail end of States/Spring Regionals. Defined metagames allow you to be more creative with your deck building. If you know the majority of decks you will face at a tournament, use that to your advantage in choosing cards to include in your list. I would not recommend just playing the exact same net-decked lists that have won previously. Instead, try taking one of the standard decks and adding in a few techs to beat the other standard decks. Using Seismitoad as an easy example again, this would mean adding extra Xerosic/Team Flare Grunt/Pokemon Center Lady for the mirror. The other option is playing an anti-meta deck to hard counter the popular decks. This is more risky because there is a chance you may not play against the decks you planned to counter, but it can also lead to many easy wins if you do play against those decks. An example from my season was playing Primal Kyogre during States to counter a metagame that was saturated with Yveltal and Seismitoad decks.
If a metagame stays defined for an extended period of time, it enters a metagame cycle. If a certain deck does well at multiple tournaments, people will naturally shift to counter it. As the counter deck sees more play, it takes up a larger portion of the metagame and pushes the previous top dog out of contention. After enough time there will arise a new counter deck for the old counter deck and will start a cycle of decks that rotate in and out of popularity for the duration of that card pool. The City Championship/Winter Regional stretch is the period where this is the most prevalent because there are so many tournaments that the deck shifts happen more often. It can happen during State Championships if the metagame is already very well-defined going into it. The most clear example of the metagame cycle in the past couple years was the triangle of Ability-based decks (mostly Blastoise), Garbodor decks, and Big Basic decks. These decks formed a Rock-Paper-Scissors format where each of the three archetypes beat one of the decks and lost to the other. In formats where there is a lot of diversity, the cycle is much more gradual and fluid, but in any defined metagame certain decks will rise and fall in popularity over time.
Something that many people overlook when choosing a deck is factoring in exactly how well you need to do at a specific event. Of course it’s easy to say that you want to win every tournament you enter. However, there are situations where maybe you only really need to make top 8 or top 16 or top 32 at an event to accomplish one of your goals. This can have a surprising impact on the correct deck choice. Let’s say that you have 250 CP going into U.S. Nationals and all you really want is to make top 128 to earn a Worlds invite. That means you only need a deck that can get you a 6-3 record. Maybe it would be best to play a super consistent and straightforward deck that takes a few losses to counter decks, but will win games just by setting up. On the flip side, for someone that has 0 CP, they need to reach top 8 at Nationals for a Worlds invite. That would require a much higher win rate. In that situation, you need to take a bigger risk with your deck choice. If you choose an anti-meta deck, it gives you that chance to hit all good matchups and go 9-0. There is the risk that you don’t see the decks you’re countering and end up losing all of your games, but getting a record of 6-3 would be just about the same thing since you wouldn’t move on to day 2.
Some decks have close matchups versus most decks in the field and usually rely on tech cards and playing optimally to win its games. The deck that instantly comes to mind which fits this description is Yveltal. Historically, there are very few decks that Yveltal autoloses to, but there are also very few decks that it autowins against. Most of its matches are 50/50’s that could go either way. If both players draw about the same, it generally means the better player will win, but sometimes luck can play a large role. Other decks have very polarized matchups, where it will either have a huge advantage or a huge disadvantage in nearly every match. If you need to do really well at a tournament to achieve your goal, then a deck with polarized matchups is more likely to have a very high win rate. If you can reach your goal with a lower placing, then a deck with 50/50 matchups is safer.
A concept that ties in pretty closely with 50/50 vs. polarized matchups is the idea of playing fair. I don’t mean that in the sense of cheating or making illegal moves. I’m talking about decks that have mechanics which break the basic rules of the game. Energy acceleration breaks the rule of only attaching one energy card per turn. Item-lock breaks the rule that your opponent is allowed to play as many item cards as they want on their turn. Delta Evolution breaks the rule of needing to wait a turn to evolve your Pokémon. Decks that break the rules as part of their core strategy generally have more polarized matchups.
Going back to the example from before of Yveltal having mostly 50/50 matchups, this is because it doesn’t revolve around breaking the rules. Sure there is some energy acceleration with Oblivion Wing and a lot of lists play Seismitoad, but the core strategy is based around using Yveltal EX’s solid attacks to take knockouts. It plays fair in the sense that it relies on Yveltal EX being better at taking prizes than the opponent’s Pokémon rather than denying some aspect of the game from the opponent.
In our current metagame, the most common decks that don’t play fair are Seismitoad and Trevenant which use item-lock to force the opponent to play differently. Many matches for these decks end in one-sided wins because the opponent was crippled by not being able to play their items. The colorless Mega Rayquaza deck uses Delta Evolution, Shaymin EX, Sky Field, and Mega Turbo to hit harder and faster than almost any deck before it. It gains its advantage by breaking the rules of energy attachment and evolving. A less popular deck, but one that also illustrates this idea is Archie’s Blastoise. That deck aims to get a Blastoise down on turn 1 and then dump all of its water energy on the field immediately. Blastoise has had the extreme energy acceleration for years now, but with Archie’s Ace in the Hole, it can now also break the rules to get a stage 2 out faster.
Using the factors I have laid out so far, I came up with 3 categories that most decks fall into on a general basis. Some decks may overlap categories a bit based on an individual player’s previous experiences since they’re divided on somewhat abstract terms. The categories are: Frontrunner decks, Veteran decks, and Anti-meta decks. I’ll go into more detail on what all of the categories mean and what facets of a deck put it into one of the categories.
These are decks that are built around obviously strong strategies that operate the same way nearly every game. Decks in this category are often focused on consistency rather than techs. They present such a difficult problem for the opponent that they set the standard for the format. Every deck needs to take these into consideration when being built because they definitely will have a presence at upcoming tournaments. This is the type of deck that is often a good choice for an open metagame because it is unlikely to play against its counter-decks multiple times throughout a tournament when the metagame is diverse. Frontrunner decks cater to players that are looking for a solid performance. The sheer number of these decks being played will surely put them at the top tables, but they might not necessarily win a large event like Nationals if there are enough counter decks. They usually have some element of playing unfair which is the reason for its raw strength. If the opponent is unprepared for the unfairness, they will likely crumble. For U.S. Nationals, projected Frontrunner decks include Night March, Trevenant/Gengar, Seismitoad, Wobbuffet/Primal Groudon, Raichu, and Mega Rayquaza.
Decks in this category have been a strong contender in the metagame at some point, but may have shifted in and out of popularity based on their matchups with the current Frontrunner decks. These decks can utilize techs very well to shift their matchups as needed to account for what is popular. Many players who have played one of these with expertise for a large portion of the season will find success when they can insert the right techs for the metagame. Most of the Veteran decks will have 1-2 autowin matchups and 1-2 autoloss matchups, but mostly 50/50’s across the board that can be strengthened or weakened as needed. They are better in defined metagames because they can be tailored to hit the popular decks, but they are not terrible choices in open metagames because experience can tilt 50/50 matchups in your favor. If you need to do really well at a tournament, a Veteran deck may be the right choice, especially in an open metagame. It will require some luck and will need to dodge the autolosses, but confidence goes a long way toward piloting one of these decks to the top. For U.S. Nationals, possible Veteran decks include Yveltal, Virizion/Genesect, Bronzong, Aromatisse, Mega Manectric, and Donphan.
These decks are built to target a specific set of decks. They generally have a narrow focus that leads to extremely positive matchups against a few of the Frontrunner decks. Unfortunately this usually means that it also has several extremely negative matchups present in the metagame as well. This category is a high risk/high reward decision because of the polarized matchups. Anti-meta decks are great choices for small tournaments if you know for certain what the popular decks will be. These decks need to be tested extensively in order to merit bringing them to a major tournament. If you need to win or do very well at a large tournament, it can be worth the risk to choose an Anti-meta deck. It will thrive if it faces the positive matchups, but will fail if it doesn’t. They definitely need a defined metagame to maximize the chances of hitting the good matchups. These are the most difficult decks to predict at any tournament and are usually unexpected if not unknown prior to the tournament. For U.S. Nationals, the only Anti-meta decks I have put thought into are Mega Latios and Zoroark, so if there are more, I am probably not aware of them.
Looking at past U.S. National tournaments can give us insight into what could happen at this year’s tournament. I have attended Nationals since 2012, so that is how far I will go back. I’ll just briefly touch on what decks from those tournaments could fall into each of my categories and how things ended up playing out.
2012 Nationals was in the HS-DEX format. The set that was released leading up to the tournament was Dark Explorers which introduced Darkrai EX. Darkrai decks were easily the most hyped Frontrunners that year. There were several variants, but they all had the core idea of abusing Dark Patch and Night Spear. The main Veteran deck was Eelektrik which focused on Mewtwo EX and could include techs like Raikou EX, Zekrom, and Terrakion. The Anti-meta decks from that year included Vileplume decks and Klinklang decks. The finals were actually between Klinklang and Eelektrik with Klinklang taking the title.
2013 Nationals was in the BW-PLF format. The set that was released leading up to the tournament was Plasma Freeze which introduced Thundurus EX, Deoxys EX, and Kyurem. These cards made up the main Frontrunner deck of the format in Plasma. The Veteran decks in the format were Darkrai and Blastoise which managed relatively even matchups with Plasma, but suffered from being slightly slower. An Anti-meta Gothitelle/Accelgor deck once again emerged at the tournament and this time took many of the top cut spots. Gothitelle/Accelgor ended up beating Plasma in the finals.
2014 Nationals was in the NXD-FLF format. The set that was released leading up to the tournament was Flashfire. Unlike the previous two years, there was not a hugely hyped deck spawned from the most recently released set. Instead the top tier was dominated by mostly Yveltal and Virizion/Genesect decks. This time, two major Anti-meta decks came out and placed highly. Flygon decks with either Accelgor or Miltank took several top cut spots. One of the major story lines of the tournament was the relatively large showing of Pyroar which was written off by many players. Pyroar ended up losing in the finals to Landorus/Mewtwo/Raichu/Garbodor. I would classify the Garbodor deck as a Veteran deck because variations on it had been played periodically over the previous year and a half.
What does all of this say about 2015 U.S. Nationals? Well there is the possibility that another Anti-meta deck will show up and place highly. However, the past 3 years had much more defined metagames than we have now, so they were more exploitable. The Frontrunner decks have historically taken many of the top 128 placings, but don’t necessarily dominate the top 8. This year there is also an increase in the sheer number of viable decks, so picking any single one to perform well is going to be tough. My personal prediction is that we will see several Veteran decks end up at the top and potentially take 1st again.
For the last section of this article I will go through one deck from each of the categories that I am considering playing for Nationals.
My Frontrunner deck of choice for this format is Trevenant/Gengar. Since Roaring Skies was released, this is the deck I’ve spent the most time testing. I have played it in several league challenges and have placed 1st at a couple of them. I also played Trevenant/Gengar at Wisconsin Regionals to a 6-3 record, finishing in 35th place.
When Roaring Skies was released, many people noticed the potential that Wally had with powerful stage 1 Pokémon, the scariest of which was Trevenant. Getting a turn 1 item-lock going first can shut down many decks regardless of what they are. A lot of the Trevenant decks that cropped up from this idea just used Shaymin EX as the primary attacker and relied on disruption trainers to slow down opponents. This didn’t appeal to me because of the low damage output of Shaymin and the reliance on item cards like Hypnotoxic Laser and Crushing Hammer. I instead took it in the direction of pure consistency and included the Gengar EX’s to boost the damage output. The added psychic energies also made attacking with Trevenant a bigger portion of the game plan. Tree Slam is an underrated attack, the 20-20 snipe damage adds up quickly after multiple attacks.
Leading up to Wisconsin Regionals, I had three decks built and ready to go: Dragon Rayquaza, Wobbuffet/Groudon, and Trevenant/Gengar. All three of these decks were new with the release of Roaring Skies, so there was no past information to work from. Groudon and Wobbuffet were released earlier, but they were not paired until Roaring Skies came out and introduced Shaymin EX. I had previous experience with Groudon decks, so I went into the weekend expecting that to be my choice for the tournament. However, the more I played with the new version, the more I disliked having Groudon as the only attacker. I missed having the options of Hawlucha and Landorus.
Next I turned to Dragon Rayquaza and I actually really liked how playing the deck felt. I had already been testing Trevenant/Gengar previous to that weekend, so I knew what I was getting with that deck. But Dragon Rayquaza pleasantly surprised me as I tested it the day before Regionals. Going into that night, I was very torn on my decision and made myself wait until the morning to finally decide.
I actually ended up going through the metagaming factors I outlined earlier in this article when it came to making my final decision. It was a big tournament with a somewhat open metagame because it was the first tournament with the new set legal. I expected Seismitoad to be popular with Shaymin because it would rely less on Slurpuff and get considerably faster, but I had no idea how dominant it would end up being. I was iffy on the Dragon Rayquaza vs. Seismitoad matchup and I knew that Trevenant could beat it as long as I got a quick Trevenant out. Against Seismitoad you always have at least one turn of playing items, so it gave me a chance to dig for the turn 1 Wally. Against Trevenant, you might not get a turn of playing items if Trevenant goes first.
Next I considered how well I needed to do at the event to consider it a success. In order to earn any points from the tournament, I needed to at least make top 8. This made me want a deck with polarized matchups so that I could hopefully ride a wave of positive matchups to a high win rate. I felt like Dragon Rayquaza played too fair and had too many 50/50 matchups and for those reasons I made the decision to play Trevenant. I was a little disappointed in my 6-3 record because I made a few mistakes throughout the day and felt like the deck deserved to at least make day 2. I still had a fun weekend though, so it wasn’t that bad. Here is the updated list that I have been working with moving forward to Nationals:
- 4x Phantump
- 4x Trevenant
- 3x Shaymin EX
- 2x Gengar EX
- 1x Jirachi EX
- 4x Professor Juniper
- 2x N
- 2x Colress
- 2x Wally
- 2x Lysandre
- 4x VS Seeker
- 4x Trainer's Mail
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x Float Stone
- 2x Muscle Band League Promo
- 1x Repeat Ball
- 3x Virbank City Gym
- 1x Computer Search
- 4x Mystery Energy
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
- 3x Psychic Energy
A lot of the principles that went into choosing Trevenant for Wisconsin carry over to Nationals. It is another big tournament with another open metagame because of the LTC banning. Actually, the hype surrounding Night March is a positive thing for Trevenant decks. While Seismitoad’s matchup versus Night March is negatively impacted by losing LTC, Trevenant is not so negatively affected. As I said before, Seismitoad always gives up a turn of items which Night March can use to explode quickly. Trevenant can get the item-lock from turn 1 going first, so there is a good chance Night March won’t get a chance to play any items. In Best-of-3 play, this opportunity comes at least once a match, sometimes twice.
Trevenant still has 50/50 matchups against other item-lock decks which will be fairly popular, I believe. It also has a couple poor matchups against decks that may see play like Virizion/Genesect and Mega Manectric. I’m not sure if those reasons will make me divert from playing Trevenant again, it will come down to these last 2 weeks of testing. I rarely make a deck choice until immediately before a tournament and I’m sure that will be the case again this time.
The next deck I will talk about is Primal Groudon. I know I put Wobbuffet/Primal Groudon in the Frontrunner category, but I’m actually going back to the Hawlucha/Landorus EX version that I played for Ontario Regionals. I just really don’t like the linearity of the Wobbuffet version and I actually think that Wobbuffet is less needed now because of the LTC ban. Wobbuffet was mainly useful for holding off opposing Shaymin EX’s while you set up Groudon’s on the bench. But with the LTC ban, there will be fewer decks using the super fast Shaymin engine. For this reason, I think that the pure fighting version of Groudon can come back strong.
Because I’m going back to the fighting version of Groudon, I’m putting it into the Veteran category. I’ve played Groudon on and off since Florida Regionals in January and I’m very familiar with the deck. I’m confident that I can play it well and I think it can be teched to account for decks that will be played at Nationals. Groudon can handle a wide variety of decks with the support of Hawlucha and Landorus because it gives you multiple paths to follow through the course of a game. There are a couple unfair aspects to the Groudon deck including Omega Barrier blocking trainer cards and Focus Sash denying knockouts. By the way, Focus Sash is very impactful in the Night March matchup and an increased count may be enough to even that out. Groudon has a few autowin matchups in Seismitoad, Aromatisse, and Manectric decks. The worst matchups previously were Night March and Flareon with Virizion/Genesect being a close 3rd. Since I am bumping up the Focus Sash count, that actually helps deal with all 3 of those matchups. Most other matchups are around 50/50 and I think the unexpected factor paired with my experience can bring those into the positive range. Here is my current list I’ve been working on:
Primal Groudon Nationals
- 2x Primal Groudon EX
- 2x Groudon EX
- 4x Hawlucha
- 2x Landorus EX
- 4x Professor Juniper
- 4x N
- 4x Korrina
- 2x Steven
- 2x Lysandre
- 3x VS Seeker
- 3x Mega Turbo
- 1x Ultra Ball
- 3x Focus Sash
- 1x Muscle Band League Promo
- 1x Silver Bangle
- 1x Groudon Spirit Link
- 1x Professor's Letter
- 2x Switch
- 1x Scramble Switch
- 3x Silent Lab
- 2x Fighting Stadium
- 8x Fighting Energy
- 4x Strong Energy
I have cut Landorus FFI entirely since my earlier lists. Its purpose was to recover energy for Groudon and I’ve found that Mega Turbo does that job well enough to not need Landorus. I have upped the supporter count and actually added Steven into the mix. I believe that item-lock will be prevalent at Nationals and I want to be as consistent as possible even in the face of that. Groudon can usually afford to play a slow set-up game and Steven is useful for searching out Lysandre. Lysandre is a huge card for Groudon since it can take out a huge threat before putting itself in the line of fire. As I mentioned before, I have upped the count of Focus Sash. I’m between three and four of them right now. Three may be enough for those bad matchups I discussed before, the fourth may be overkill. I think going above 6 tool cards would be too many and the only one I’d cut is the Silver Bangle. Silver Bangle is helpful for letting Hawlucha OHKO Shaymin EX’s with a Strong Energy and almost everything is playing Shaymin now. Groudon is a deck that I feel the most confident with because of my experience playing it, so it’s definitely going to be a consideration.
The Anti-meta deck I have chosen to show here is Zoroark. I wrote about Zoroark in my previous article, but it has changed a bit since then. The reason that I didn’t play Zoroark in Wisconsin is that it couldn’t beat the Seismitoad/Shaymin deck because of LTC recycling all of the items. Now, with the ban, Zoroark may have a chance of coming back. I was struggling with the list before because I needed it to have enough supporters to set up under item-lock, but it also needed enough item-based draw to keep up with the turbo Rayquaza decks. Now since those decks are both changing drastically from losing LTC, I can focus the Zoroark list to be more stable and supporter-based. Here is the list I’m currently working with:
- 4x Zoroark
- 4x Zorua
- 4x Yveltal
- 1x Yveltal EX
- 2x Darkrai EX
- 3x Absol
- 4x Professor Juniper
- 4x N
- 3x Colress
- 1x Skyla
- 2x Lysandre
- 3x VS Seeker
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 2x Repeat Ball
- 1x Silver Bangle
- 2x Muscle Band League Promo
- 1x Sacred Ash
- 3x Sky Field
- 1x Computer Search
- 7x Darkness Energy
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
The deck has the same strengths that I mentioned in my first article. It focuses on non-EX attackers that forces the opponent to take more than 3 knockouts. It has OHKO potential with Brutal Bash which can reach 210 with a full Sky Field bench and a Silver Bangle. Early damage from Yveltal and the ability to move damage with Absol means that Zoroark won’t always need to hit that 210 damage ceiling to take knockouts. The loss of LTC means that we need to be more careful in using Sky Field and filling the bench. Once Sky Field gets countered, 3 Pokémon are lost to the discard and might not make it back onto the field. I have included a Sacred Ash to help reuse Pokémon, but it can still only take so many discards before the ceiling lowers. Yveltal might need to carry a heavier load in the deck now that things are slowing down and we can’t recycle Pokémon as easily.
Luckily, Yveltal is the reason that this can be a successful Anti-meta deck. That card alone gives the deck a positive matchup against both Night March and Trevenant decks which I expect to see a lot of at Nationals. With two of the Frontrunners easily taken care of, Zoroark can be well positioned if the format revolves heavily around those decks. It still has some tough matchups to worry about in fighting decks and may still be out sped by decks that still run the turbo Shaymin engine. Other than that though, most of the other matchups should be close to 50/50 which is better than most Anti-meta decks can usually say. Zoroark is definitely a deck I will be testing in the coming two weeks to see if it can stand up to the metagame as a whole.
I want to thank everyone for reading my articles, and hopefully you find them informative. I do my best to bring you my up-to-date thoughts on decks and the metagame. As always, please let me know if you have any questions by commenting at the bottom of the article or messaging me on Facebook. I got some really good feedback from my first article, so please keep it coming! Good luck to everyone who will be attending Nationals and if you see me there, I’d be happy to talk to you!
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