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Kevin Baxter

GETTING THERE WITH GROUDON

I finished off my season with a Top 64 U.S. National Championship run and clinched Day 2 at Worlds!

07/16/2015 by Kevin Baxter

Hello, 60cards readers!  For the past month and a half, I have been stressing over the U.S. & Canada Championship Point rankings, hoping that I would be able to cling to one of the precious Top 16 spots.  I am happy to say that my 41st Place Nationals run has locked me into one of those spots.  I had originally predicted that the cutoff would be between 625 CP and 650 CP, so I wasn’t sure if my 640 CP would be enough.  However, after the dust settled, the 16th Place had 607 CP.  As I’ll show later, the cutoff easily could have been much higher if things had gone slightly differently.  It is a huge load off my shoulders having that bye into Day 2 of Worlds.  While I won’t be competing in the first stage of Worlds, that doesn’t mean I’m going to slow down.  I want to perform well this year and I want to help my friends make it into Day 2.  While the majority of this article will be looking back on Nationals, I’ll also provide my initial thoughts on the future of the metagame leading into August. 

My last article was about two weeks before U.S. Nationals and a lot changed between then and the actual tournament.  We saw a few other Nationals happen, including Canada, which definitely shaped the metagame in some ways I did not necessarily expect.  There were rapid shifts in the decks people were considering in that one-week interval.  I didn’t even decide on the final deck list I would play until right before the tournament.  In this article, I will go through the days leading up to U.S. Nationals, discuss my experience at the tournament itself and what we learned from the results, and a give quick look ahead to Worlds.

The Week Leading to Nationals


Going into the weekend of Canadian Nationals, nobody knew exactly what the metagame would look like.  There had only been a few tournaments with the LTC ban and those showed that Night March was getting countered hard.  It makes sense because Night March was the most hyped deck after news of the ban.  Crobat spiked in play, being paired with Landorus-EX and Hawlucha again, as well as with Seismitoad-EX.  At this point, Night March was still such a threat that people did not want to lose to it.  Because of this, Canadian Nationals saw six Crobat decks make Top 8, most of which included Raichu.  However, the deck that took First was Bronzong.  This presented an interesting problem because Bronzong wasn’t hugely popular.  There was no way to know how many people would switch to Bronzong and how many would play the Crobat decks that were way more prevalent in Canada.  Would people go to the next level and counter Bronzong and Crobat?  We thought that the results from Canada would paint a clear picture of what to expect at U.S. Nationals, but things were still up in the air.

In talking with many people, I found that the general consensus was that Metal and Seismitoad-EX/Crobat were the two safest plays for U.S. Nationals.  In my own testing, Toad/Bats was very strong and could beat almost anything, especially if it was flipping heads on Super Scoop Up.  Metal was very solid once it set up a couple Bronzong and it had tools to deal with Seismitoad.  My hesitation with playing Metal was always that it didn’t consistently get Bronzor and attackers out as early as I’d like, but the inclusion of Shaymin-EX seemed to smooth the deck out considerably.  When anyone asked me what I thought a good play for Nationals was, I responded with those two decks because they were definitely not going to be incorrect picks.  The metagame as a whole was not going to shift enough to be super-hostile toward either of them.

I always keep decks I’ve played over the season in the back of my mind in case I think they will have favorable matchups versus the field at any given time.  This, of course, includes Groudon, Kyogre, and Trevenant/Gengar.  I was afraid of bringing Trevenant to Nationals because it relies pretty heavily on a Turn-one Wally in a lot of matchups.  If you don’t slow down Raichu, Rayquaza, or Seismitoad in the first turn, they can get set up to the point where they run through Trevenant faster than you can replace them.  It also seemed like Night March was declining in popularity and that was one of the better matchups for Trevenant.  So in the week leading up to Nationals, I dropped Trevenant so that I could focus on other options. 

The next deck that was brought back to the front of my attention was Primal Kyogre.  The reason that I stopped playing it after States was that Virizion/Genesect had made a comeback and even the Fire techs I tried out were not helping the matchup enough.  It also had a very hard time with the Exeggutor deck that was gaining popularity by the end of States.  When Roaring Skies first became legal, there were a lot of turbo Rayquaza decks that could hit 240 damage on the first or second turn.  At that point, I thought Kyogre could not make a comeback.  Even if the Grass decks were dying off again, Rayquaza was too insurmountable.  However, once the LTC ban came, Rayquaza decks had to calm down a bit and couldn’t necessarily hit that damage ceiling as quickly. 

I actually was starting to believe it had potential when Andrew Wamboldt posted about doing well at a local tournament with a Kyogre deck that had Articuno ROS.  The Articuno really intrigued me because the deck always wanted non-EX options to help with Prize trades, but sometimes Kyurem and Suicune were not ideal for the situation.  Kyurem didn’t always get as much done with three Energy as I wanted and it was often better to just use Tidal Storm again.  Suicune is one of my favorite cards in the deck, but it needs to be planned in advance because you can’t move Energy to it with Kyogre.  The Articuno's ∆ Plus Ancient Trait gives the deck an option to jump ahead in the Prize race with a non-EX that you can move Energy to. 

It was around this time that I was messaged by Daniel Altavilla, who was having similar thoughts about Kyogre potentially being viable again.  We came up with a couple lists and decided to test them independently and come back with our results.  We had a list with Mega Turbo that would try to get a turn-two Primal and we had one with healing cards like Max Potion to try to make Kyogre last longer.  Unfortunately, both of these versions were a little too inconsistent in practice.  Both versions had to settle for turn-three attacks and sometimes the healing wouldn’t be drawn at the right times.  Since I was thinking the format would be Raichu-heavy, I was worried that Kyogre would just be too slow to succeed. 

This brought me back to the reliable Primal Groudon, which has gotten me my two Top 8 finishes at Regionals this year.  I looked at the list I had posted in my previous article and tried to see if there were ways to make it better versus the decks that I thought were on the rise following Canadian Nationals.  Since Item-lock decks were subsiding in the metagame, I decided the heavy Supporter count with Steven was no longer needed.  This opened up a couple spots in the list to play with.  I really wanted another attacker outside of just Groudon, Hawlucha, and Landorus-EX.  It’s hard to explain why, but it just felt like there needed to be one more option to attack with.  I had tried out using the non-EX Yveltal and some Darkness Energy to help with the Night March and Trevenant matchups, but it was clunky and those decks were declining. 

I started trying to think of things that deal with both Raichu and Crobat, which I thought would be big.  As Nationals drew closer, I was testing my Groudon versus Andrew Mahone’s Raichu decks.  Going first was a pretty big deal in our games and it made the matchup basically 50/50, assuming average draws from both decks.  Landorus-EX was the main aggressor for me since it could OHKO Raichu with just a Strong Energy.  However, the snipe damage from Hammerhead was actually pretty inconsequential most of the time because if I hit a Pikachu on the Bench, he would just evolve it the next turn.  I could hit Shaymin-EX, but if I ever countered the Sky Field, he would just discard the damaged Shaymin. 

I forget exactly how it came up, but at some point we realized that killing two Pikachu at once with Hammerhead would just shut down the game and this became possible with Wide Lens.  I dropped one of the Focus Sashes from the list for it because the rise of Crobat made Focus Sash less useful.  With the addition of Wide Lens, I began brainstorming whether there were any other Pokémon that had Bench attacks that would benefit from Wide Lens.  Looking through my binder, as soon as I saw Manectric-EX, it just seemed too perfect of a fit.  Overrun uses Colorless Energy and the good Zubat conveniently has 40 HP.  This gave me a good answer to the Crobat decks that would try to stack early damage on my Groudon.  Manectric also had a good, cheap second attack that deals with some of the more popular cards.  Assault Laser OHKOs Shaymin-EX, which is in almost every deck, and also Colorless Mega Rayquaza if it has a Tool (which it almost always does).  This was exactly the type of attacking option I had wanted to help balance Landorus-EX and Hawlucha in the early game, so I immediately added one Lightning Energy in place of one of the Fighting.  In matchups where I don’t need Manectric, the Lightning could just be attached to Groudon and functions exacty the same same as another basic Fighting because of the Colorless requirement on Gaia Volcano. 

Here is the list I settled on with these changes:

I felt relieved that I had a list for a deck I could fall back on for Nationals if nothing else interesting popped up last-second.  I was confident in my experience with Groudon and figured that I could pilot the list well enough to reach my goal of Top 64 at Nationals.  This gave me time to test other decks without feeling stressed about my choice if none of them worked out since I had no problem falling back on Groudon. 

It was right at this point that I was messaged by a Canadian player I had met at Ontario Regionals.  He told me that there was a crazy Wailord-EX stall deck that had done well at the Sunday side tournament at Canadian Nationals and he thought it had the potential to win U.S. Nationals.  I was a bit skeptical at first, but I was open to hearing new ideas.  The list he showed me had a bunch of Energy-discarding cards and healing cards as well as Trick Shovels and Hugh to deck out the opponent.  I spent most of the Monday and Tuesday before Nationals looking at the list and running through matchups in my head to see if this weird strategy might work.  Since a lot of the current decks had low counts of Energy and no good way to reach 250 damage, I was on board with trying to make it work. 

I arrived in Indianapolis on Wednesday and met up with my friends so we could get some last-minute testing in.  I really wanted to try some games with Wailord and the only one crazy enough to test it with me was JW Kriewall.  We figured that most people would try to knock out the Wailords and fail before they ran out of Energy, so we jumped right into testing against someone who went with the draw-pass strategy to test the limits of the deck.  We played with our hands face-up and decided that worst-case for the deck was if the opponent anticipated Hugh.  The most valuable cards in either deck were N and Colress (and VS Seeker) because they would put either player ahead in the deck-out race.  When either one of us drew into five of these cards, we had to play one of them.  After a couple hours of this madness, we decided that the only way to guarantee a win for Wailord was to have more shuffle-draw supporters in the deck (at least 10-11 combined).  Then if the opponent played Sacred Ash or Exeggcute, the Trick Shovel/Hugh play had to go off perfectly.

So at this point, we figured that Wailord could get some easy wins from people misplaying against it, but we still didn’t know if it was enough to do well once it faced players who figured out how it worked.  The next thing we did was test it versus a deck that could feasibly do enough damage to knock out three Wailord while not running out of Energy.  We accepted that Groudon and Dragon M Rayquaza were going to be losses, but that was okay since they were not hugely popular.  However, another deck that can do this is Metal which definitely would see play.  After several games, it became clear that a standard Metal deck which was played by someone who knew what Wailord did would almost always win.  This was too much of a downside for us to throw our Nationals hopes in the hands of Wailord-EX.  Looking back, it may have worked out anyway since Wailord ended up performing very well at the tournament, but I’m fine with our decision to drop the deck since we were not confident enough in it.  Funnily enough, I was not the only one to hear about Wailord before Nationals started.  As I was in line for Check-In with Josh “Squeaky” Marking, he told me he also heard about Wailord doing well in Canada but wasn’t sold on it either. 

With no other deck jumping to the forefront for me at the last second, I put my Groudon deck in new hot pink Ultra Pro Mattes and called it a day, testing-wise.  I felt more prepared for the tournament with my Nationals deck choice than I had in previous years.  As Thursday night went on, I heard rumors that a lot of players were bringing Manectric-based decks, which I was totally fine with, obviously.  I also heard people may be switching to Landorus/Crobat to combat this, which I was less excited about because it’s a matchup I didn't really want to face with Groudon.  At that point, though, I decided it was not worth worrying about.  I just had to hope I would get paired with enough good matchups throughout the day.  Let’s get into how the tournament went!

My Tournament Report

 

When I got to the convention hall, I was not surprised to see things were running late and the doors were not open yet.  After some waiting, we were finally let into the hall and it looked amazing, as always.  I was anxious to start playing since I knew a lot was on the line for me at this tournament.  I found my name in the Orange/Ruby Flight and went to find my seat.  (I have been in the Orange Flight every year somehow.)  After the player meeting, pairings go up and I get ready to play.  I will note that the tournament ran rather smoothly throughout the day as far as pairings and time between rounds went.  I am usually terrible at remembering exactly how every game went throughout a tournament, but I’ll do my best to remember as much as I can.

Round 1: Kenneth Harris with Bronzong/Aegislash-EX/Dialga-EX/Cobalion

Against Metal, I can usually count on Groudon taking four Prizes and sometimes he gets six.  Landorus-EX and Hawlucha can fill in the gaps when needed by either using Hammerhead to pick off Bronzor or two-hitting an EX.  I feel pretty comfortable in the matchup generally since they take a few turns to take Knock Outs and I have time to set up a Groudon.  The three Silent Labs help plow through any Aegislash-EX that think they can wall me out.

These games went pretty much the way I plan for the matchup to go.  I used some early Hammerhead pressure on the Bronzor and Bronzong while I set up my Groudon on the Bench.  In one of the games, I used Groudon to Knock Out a Dialga-EX and Kenneth responded by bringing up Aegislash and N'ing me to four.  I drew into a Juniper and hit a Silent Lab off of it to take the KO and controlled the game from there.  In the other game, I went down to two Prizes after a Knock Out and he responded with the non-EX Cobalion's Iron Breaker to stop me from attacking.  I thankfully had a Korrina on my next turn to grab Hawlucha and Switch to get out of that situation and sweep.

WW (1-0-0)

Round 2: Sam Hough with M Manectric-EX/Empoleon/Garbodor

I heard from a friend just before the round started that Sam was part of a team that brought Manectric to the tournament, so I was very happy to hear that.  As long as I don’t dead-draw, it doesn’t really matter what I attack with in this matchup.  Hawlucha can hit for Weakness if I have a Silent Lab out, Landorus-EX can set up double two-hit Knock Outs with Hammerhead, and if I need to, Groudon can sweep three Manectric by himself. 

In Game 1, Sam had one too many unusable cards in his hand to pull off a turn-one Archie.  I started Landorus-EX and begin two-hitting Manectric to put on pressure while I set up Groudon on the Bench in case I needed it.  By the time he got Empoleon out, I was too far ahead for it to make a difference in the game.  Game 2, he had multiple Ultra Ball in his opening hand, but came to find that his lone Archie was in the Prizes.  This game didn’t even last as long as the first since he scooped once I had my third Energy on Landorus-EX. 

WW (2-0-0)

Round 3: Drew Rumble with Donphan

I heard before this match that my opponent was known for playing Donphan all season, which I was not very excited about.  In case you didn’t know, I’m not a big fan of the Donphan deck.  In my opinion, it gambles that the opponent is not able to hit their Lysandres and just kind of crumbles if they are, so I know that is basically what this match was going to come down to.  If I draw into enough Lysandre, I’ll win.  Thankfully, Donphan does not appreciate having to go through multiple Hawlucha, especially if one of them has a Hard Charm attached. 

Both of our games went about the same way.  I threw my Hawlucha at him while I built a Groudon on the Bench and gave myself time to draw into my Lysandre and VS Seekers.  Once I got two Strong Energy attached, I didn’t need Stadiums to Knock Out Donphans, but I was happy to blow up his Stadiums when they were played.  When he heavily damaged my Groudon with his Hawlucha, I had Scramble Switch into Landorus-EX to clean them up with Land’s Judgment.

WW (3-0-0)

Round 4: Jimmy McClure with Landorus-EX/Crobat

At 3-0, I was not surprised to find myself paired with a very good player and friend in Jimmy “Coach” McClure.  Unfortunately for me, he was playing the Fighting/Crobat deck that I feared playing against.  I basically had to hope that I could start taking Knock Outs with Groudon before he stacked too much damage on it with Bats.  Attacking with my Landorus-EX and Hawlucha is dangerous because he can pick up his Pokémon with Super Scoop Up before they get Knocked Out.  This match ended up being very back-and-forth.

Game 1, I was unlucky to start my Manectric EX, which is very easy for him to take quick Prizes against.  I managed to take out a Zubat with it before it went down, which I hoped would keep my Groudon alive long enough to bring the game back. But losing those two Prizes so easily put him far enough ahead that I couldn’t make the comeback.  Game 2, I get my Groudon out quickly and Jimmy struggled to get multiple Bats on the board.  It was close, but I hit a Lysandre on an EX for game at the end when he showed me he would have had the game on his next turn too.  Game 3, he got a pretty standard start and played a textbook game against me.  We neared the end of the fifty minutes, but we kept the pace up and his Super Scoop Ups ensured he got enough Bat drops to take six Prizes. 

LWL (3-1-0)

Round 5: Peter Wallace with Hawlucha/Landorus-EX/Lucario-EX/Leafeon

In Game 1, we both opened Hawlucha and I feared that he would also be running Fighting/Bats.  However, he discarded a Leafeon turn one.  I didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing for me to see that he played Leafeon since it can easily deal with my Groudon.  I didn’t get my Basic Groudon down until turn two, and by that time he must have thought I was playing a different Fighting variant because he was not going for Leafeon at all.  He was playing multiple Max Potion, as I found out after swinging with Hawlucha into a Lucario-EX, so after that, I just went straight for Groudon.  Groudon took four Prizes for me and I was able to close out the game with a big Land’s Judgment.

Game 2, he went first and Benched double Eevee, knowing that he would need Leafeon to take down my Groudon.  I was able to Korrina turn one for Landorus-EX and Wide Lens to take out one of the Eevee on the Bench.  Luckily, he couldn’t find a Leafeon to evolve into, so I sniped off the other Eevee on my second turn.  After that, Groudon took control for the last four Prizes.  I was very excited that my inclusion of Wide Lens won me a game because there turned out to be very few Raichu decks in the field. 

WW (4-1-0)

Round 6: Geoffrey Sauk with M Rayquaza-EX/Bronzong

Geoff is a very friendly guy and we had a great time playing our match.  The Metal Rayquaza matchup is pretty close and it usually comes down to how fast their start is.  I can buy time early by feeding my Hawlucha to Rayquaza while I set up Groudon.  Focus Sash plays a huge role if I can get it down.  I also have the option to pick off Shaymin-EX with either Hawlucha and Silver Bangle or my Manectric-EX, which could take down a Rayquaza too if I have the time to attach twice. 

The consistency of Geoff’s list is what took control of this match.  All three games, he was able to use Pokémon Fan Club on the first turn with the help of Battle Compressor and VS Seeker.  He won the opening coin flip, so he got to go first in two of the games, which ended up making the difference.  We basically just trade OHKOs once we both set up fully and he was able to make the first move in Games 1 and 3.  The second game, my going first gave me enough time to pull ahead with Groudon.  So things went about as they should in this match and he played it well.

LWL (4-2-0)

Round 7: Yehoshua "Yoshi" Tate with M Latios-EX/Druddigon/Ninetales

Seeing Yoshi’s deck reminded me of the Latios idea I was messing around with in my first article.  It’s pretty clear that he was preying on everyone's use of Shaymin-EX.  Between M Latios-EX sniping them on the Bench and Druddigon hitting 110 with a Muscle Banded Revenge, his deck would quickly outrace decks with Shaymin.  Thankfully, mine doesn’t play Shaymin, so I could force him to take difficult Knock Outs. 

Game 1, he went first and came very close to Knocking Out my lone Hawlucha on the first turn with Fast Raid plus Laser.  He whiffed the Virbank City Gym, so I was given a turn to set up.  I wasn’t drawing into a way to get Groudon out quickly, so I resorted to just using Hawlucha and Landorus-EX to trade with the Basic Latios-EX he wasn’t able to Evolve.  It was a very scrappy game that I was able to pull ahead in with a big Land’s Judgment.  Game 2, we both had kind of slow starts again.  He took an early Knock Out on a Hawlucha.  Then after I played an N, he must have gotten a horrible hand because Landorus-EX went the distance on his own from that point. 

WW (5-2-0)

Round 8: Eduardo Gonzales with Hippowdon/Landorus EX/Seismitoad EX

Right after I sit down across from Eduardo and start getting out my playmat, he offers to ID with me.  I was a little surprised by this since it was only the second-to-last round, but he explained that he only needed Top 128 to earn his Worlds invite.  Going into this round, I knew I would have a chance to make it to Day 2 with a win and a tie in my last two rounds, so I could in theory still make it with an ID here.  I was hesitant to do so, though, because it would mean I’d have to win the last round.  At this point, the players sitting next to us join in our conversation, assuring me that I’d be able to win the last round.  After chatting about it for a minute, I ask if he’ll tell me what he’s playing and he shows me a Hippopotas.  I immediately have horrible flashbacks to Ohio States, when I lost to a Hippowdon deck Round 2.  I know my Groudon deck is not prepared to beat Hippowdon, so I accept the ID.  We play a fun match anyway and he 2-0’s me fairly easily, so I was relieved to get a tie out of that situation.  Eduardo was very nice the whole time and I checked back with him throughout the rest of the tournament to see how he was doing.  I was thrilled when he not only made his World’s Invite, but went on to finish in the Top 8. 

ID  5-2-1

Round 9: Zach Barnes with Seismitoad-EX/Crobat

I’m pretty nervous about the last round because a win would put me on the bubble of making Day 2.  Looking at my resistance, it was surprisingly strong with almost every opponent having five wins by that point, so I was optimistic about my chances.  I pulled up the online pairings on my phone and saw that I was paired with Zach, a player I know from Michigan.  Actually, a few days before Nationals, he messaged me for advice about a Toad/Bats list, so I was not surprised to see him playing the deck.  We have a friendly chat while setting up and he was pretty bummed about getting paired against my Groudon since he knew it was an uphill battle. 

My Manectric-EX put in some serious work in our match, taking multiple easy Knock Outs on Zubat with the Wide Lens.  In the second game, I even had Manectric and Wide Lens in my opening hand and didn’t have to search for it.  After slowing down the Bat damage with Manectric, Groudon came in damage-free to finish both games.  Although I played against a wide variety of decks, some of which I didn’t expect to see, I was glad that those techs were responsible for some of my success. 

WW  6-2-1

Well, I thought there were going to be more 6-2-1’s that made Day 2, but thankfully my good resistance was enough to sneak into the Top 64 as the last Seed.  I went out to eat with some friends to celebrate and relax after a long day of Pokémon.  Going into that night, I wasn’t very worried about Day 2 Swiss.  I knew as the last Seed that I would have to get lucky to make it all the way up to Top 8, so I just gave myself a more realistic goal of winning three or four matches and hopefully cracking the Top 32.  Looking at the rest of the Top 64, there were a lot of people already in the Top 16 of U.S. and Canada as well as a lot of people that needed to get Top 8 or First to jump me in Championship Points.  I tried to be optimistic about my chances of holding onto my spot, but in the back of my mind, I wouldn’t believe it until everything played out. 

Round 10: Ryan Sabelhaus with M Manectric-EX/Suicune/Ninetales

Right after pairings were posted, Ryan came up to me and told me I get a free win in the first round.  I was a bit confused until he said we were paired and I remembered that he was playing Manectric.  Usually I wouldn’t look forward to playing against a great player so early, but the matchup is pretty one-sided. 

Game 1, I open with a Landorus-EX and search for a Groudon to start getting that setup on the Bench.  With Hammerhead, I’m able to put pressure on the Manectric and KO a Vulpix on the Bench.  He takes down my Landorus with a Mega Manectric and leaves me with my Groudon and a Hawlucha.  I didn’t have enough Energy yet to attack with Groudon, so I just leave my Hawlucha Active to die.  I made the mistake of not Benching a second Hawlucha and Ryan capitalizes by using Computer Search for an Escape Rope so he can get the first hit on my Groudon.  He had to three-shot it, so I still had some time to take Prizes and get my second Landorus-EX on the Bench.  I managed to get three Energy on Landorus while letting a Focus Sashed Hawlucha take a hit in the Active.  Land’s Judgment saved me from my early mistake.  In Game 2, Ryan’s first turn was attaching to an Active Manectric-EX and Benching a second one before passing.  I opened with Hawlucha and Silver Bangle, so all I needed was one of my Silent Labs to take a turn-one Knock Out on the Manectric with Energy.  I played a Juniper and hit the Silent Lab.  Shortly after that, he scooped and I was relieved to have the first round over with. 

WW (7-2-1)

Round 11: Ramon Miranda with Lucario-EX/Seismitoad-EX/Mewtwo-EX/Raichu/Garbodor

He opened Game 1 with a Seismitoad-EX, so I felt pretty good about my chances.  I went first and got a Groudon down with a Tool.  His turn one was using Xerosic on my Tool and attaching a Head Ringer to my Groudon before using Quaking Punch.  That was one of the more annoying turns I’ve faced in a while.  I still went for a Primal and did get five Energy on it.  Unfortunately, I was forced to just KO the Seismitoad instead of something more important.  He two-shotted my Groudon with X-Ball and Lucario’s Corkscrew Smash and after that, I couldn’t keep up with the Lucario.  I don’t remember the exact details of Game 2 besides my Hawlucha staying Asleep to a Laser and getting Head Ringer’d again.  It was just an ugly series for me overall.  So, I went in to the match thinking I was favored, but some bad luck had other plans for me. 

LL  7-3-1

Round 12: Aaron Wang with Seismitoad-EX/Crobat

I faced another Seismitoad start and I just hoped this match would end better than the last one.  Once again, my Manectric-EX put pressure on his Zubat while I got Groudon set up on the Bench.  Game 1 went pretty smoothly, but Game 2 was actually very close because of some clutch Super Scoop Up heads.  I think Aaron mentioned that he had a chance to win the game if he hadn’t discarded part of his Crobat line.  I escaped with another win and just hoped I could continue to hit good matchups. 

WW  8-3-1

Round 13: Dustin Zimmerman with Bronzong/Aegislash EX/Dialga EX

I wasn’t thrilled to be paired with a good friend and fellow Hovercat, but matchup-wise, I was confident I could win.  However, my deck decided it didn’t want to play this match because I somehow opened both games with two almost identical unplayable hands.  I remember having a Primal Groudon (with no Basic), Mega Turbo, a Tool, a Stadium, and a VS Seeker in both hands.  There’s not much else to say about this match; he attacked and I didn’t.

LL (8-4-1)

Round 14: Brandon Cantu with Klinklang/Bronzong/Aegislash-EX

As soon as I saw that I was paired with Brandon and heard he was playing Klinklang, I pretty much accepted that it was unlikely for me to make Top 32.  If he ever got a Klinklang out, I would just lose immediately.  My only hope was to Knock Out all of the Klink with Landorus-EX or cross my fingers that he would Bench enough Prizes for Hawlucha to take.  Neither of those things happened and it was a swift 2-0 loss.

LL (8-5-1)

Round 15: Brit Pybas with Seismitoad-EX/Mewtwo-EX/Garbodor

We were not sure whether or not we still had a slim chance of Top 32, so we played out the match.  As long as I could get a Primal Groudon out eventually, the matchup should be easy.  My deck tried to make things difficult though, as I had to wait to topdeck a Supporter before I drew enough Energy to attack.  Once my deck decided to behave again, the games ended pretty quickly.  The result ended up being irrelevant, though, since we were both solidly entrenched into Top 64 at that point. 

WW (9-5-1)

So I finished the day in 41st Place, which was a little disappointing, but not terrible, all things considered.  As things wrapped up, my stress was building over not knowing if I was still in the Top 16 U.S. & Canada.  I knew there were several people still on the hunt and I had not been paying close attention to everyone’s record.  Russell LaParre assured me that he was doing the math on who made it and would let me know the results when standings were posted.  It turned out that there were at least four people who were within a couple match wins of jumping into Top 16, but they all lost those crucial matches.  It was very lucky for me that the Top 8 of Nationals included four players who were already ahead of me in CP and two players who wouldn’t even crack the Top 16 with a First Place finish. 

Predictions and Results

 

I am going to take a look at the overall Nationals results in relation to the predictions I made in my last article.  As a reminder of what I said in my previous article, I grouped decks into the categories Frontrunner, Veteran, and Anti-Meta.  Frontrunner decks are the ones which caused the most hype going into the event.  Veteran decks have been played on and off for the duration they’ve been legal depending on the metagame.  Anti-Meta decks are unexpected and look to exploit a weakness in popular decks.  I predicted that there would be many Frontrunner decks in the Top 64, but very few in the Top 8.  I said there might be a couple Anti-Meta decks that sneak into the Top 64 and one might make it into the Top 8, but probably wouldn’t win.  I thought that Veteran decks would make up a decent portion of the Top 64, but would take over the Top 8 and win the event.  So what actually happened?

1st – Jason Klaczynski – Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor

I am going to call this a Veteran deck because Garbodor is not the version that people expected to do well at Nationals; Crobat was.  Jason has played this deck many times this season and I’m not surprised he took down the event with it.

2nd – Enrique Avila – Wailord

This is the definition of an Anti-Meta deck.  Nobody expected this to do well and it pushed all the way to the finals. 

3rd – Grant Manley – M Manectric EX/Empoleon/Garbodor

While this exact combination of cards was not seen before Nationals, the idea of pairing Manectric with water-type support has existed since Phantom Forces was released and saw some play during States and Regionals.  I’d say it’s a Veteran deck with a teched Garbodor line.

4th – Ben Moskow – Bronzong/Aegislash-EX/Seismitoad-EX

The metal deck has also been played since it was released in Phantom Forces and has always been a presence in the metagame.  Its hype after Canadian Nationals made it a Frontrunner.

5th – Dylan Bryan – Klinklang/Bronzong/Aegislash-EX

This is another Anti-Meta idea that most players did not anticipate seeing, but it took advantage of decks that relied on Pokémon-EX and Special Energy.

6th – Eduardo Gonzales – Hippowdon/Landorus-EX/Seismitoad-EX

A third unique Anti-Meta deck reached the Top 8 and preyed on EX-heavy decks.

7th – Kristy Britton – Seismitoad-EX/Manectric-EX/Crobat

This is one of the decks people expected to be at the top.  Seismitoad/Crobat was a clear Frontrunner.

8th – Geoffrey Sauk – M Rayquaza-EX/Bronzong

M Rayquaza-EX was heavily hyped at the release of Roaring Skies and settled into a solid Frontrunner deck alongside Bronzong. 

The Top 64 in total:

22 Frontrunner Decks

33 Veteran Decks

9 Anti-Meta Decks

Looking at these results, I was right in predicting a Veteran deck to take First Place, but the Top 8 had more Anti-Meta decks than I expected.  I also thought there would be more Frontrunner decks in Top 64 than Veteran decks, but certain Frontrunners like Night March and Trevenant/Gengar underperformed.  While Seismitoad-EX/Crobat was a large portion of the field as expected, Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor saw more play than I had anticipated.  The swell in M Manectric-based decks also contributed to the skew toward Veteran decks. 

Looking Ahead to Worlds

 

So what do the results of U.S. Nationals tell us about what to expect at the World Championships?  Well, as the last major tournament before Worlds, the decks which performed well at U.S. Nationals will form the baseline for the Worlds metagame.  While there were several successful Anti-Meta decks, I would not expect those decks to continue to see success at Worlds because the surprise factor is gone.  I would be shocked if multiple Wailord, Klinklang, or Hippowdon decks move onto Day 2 of Worlds from Day 1.  There might be a couple of them that sneak through, but I would not advise playing them.  Instead, the focus should be on the Frontrunner/Veteran decks that are solid enough to survive in the metagame.  The decks that I would start with for Worlds testing are:

Seismitoad-EX/Crobat

Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor

Metal

M Rayquaza-EX/Bronzong

M Manectric-EX/Water

These decks will almost certainly see play in Day 1 of Worlds and rightfully so.  For any deck to be a real consideration for Worlds, it must compete with those.  Any new Anti-Meta ideas can try to target these decks, but they have a diverse set of strategies, so it may be tough to come up with one that beats them all.  The reason that I think Wailord will not do well at Worlds is because it is so easily countered by a tech Bunnelby.  As for Klinklang and Hippowdon, I expect a slight shift toward more non-EX attackers, which make these unsafe plays.  The above decks are what I will be focusing on as I start testing decks for Worlds.  There is an added challenge for players who have already advanced to Day 2.  About half of the field will come from byes and the other half from Day 1 competitors.  While we get to wait and see what emerges from Day 1, we can’t just sit back and wait until then.  There is also the aspect of predicting what the other Day 2 bye players will choose to play which will benefit people who research the personal tendencies of those players. 

Speaking of personal tendencies, what does all of this mean for the possible future of Groudon?  Well, I think that Groudon will survive in some form and may end up being a good choice for Day 2.  I may take out the Manectric-EX and shuffle around the Tools again, but I can’t say for sure yet what my list will end up looking like.  I know I want to try out a Promo Regirock in the deck since having Omega Barrier on a Basic is very appealing.  I will have at least one more article between now and Worlds, so I’ll be sure to update you on my progress with Groudon as well as the results of my overall testing. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience at U.S. Nationals!  I had a great time seeing everyone at the event and I can’t wait for the World Championships in August.  As always, I am open to any feedback you may have on my articles or any suggestions for what you want to hear from me in the future.  I always appreciate any comments on my articles, so let me know what you think.  

Kevin

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