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Karl Peters

Dealing with Annoying Decks

Karl talks about the history of hated decks, and how to beat the current ones.

04/21/2016 by Karl Peters

Ever since I can remember, there has been at least one deck in the meta that split the player base apart. Some players considered these decks as healthy for the game where others kept complaining about them over and over again, begging for the TPCi to change something. With today’s media presence of Pokémon forums and Facebook groups, these discussions have reached a new level, which is why I want to talk about how these decks popped up and how you're able to counter them if they make you even considering to go to a certain tournament, just because it's so unenjoyable to play against them. Before we go into detail on which decks are raising discussions now, let's take a look at the past years. The main function of this article is to show you why the TPCi is printing certain cards or even whole decks and on top of that, find out if there is any pattern why people keep complaining about completely different cards.

Let's start with the 2008-2009 season, because I don't really remember any decks being discussed too much, and I also wasn't playing on the level that I'm playing at right now, which is why I feel like it's better to show you formats where I actually did pretty well in.

2008-2009 Machamp SF

The 2008-2009 was actually the beginning of the formats that we keep seeing these days. Heaving hitting hitter that are also able to attack very early became pretty common, especially when the last set of the Diamond & Pearl cycle was released. With the release of Stormfront, we got a whole lot of new decks including Machamp, Kingdra, Gengar and Tyranitar. All of these decks were able to attack very early and put you in a lot of trouble if they managed to get their setup. Out of these decks Machamp stood out, thanks to its very unique attack "Take Out" which either deals 40 damage for one fighting Energy, or simply knocks the opposing Pokémon out if it happens to be a basic Pokémon. The combination of cards like Warp Point and the newly released Lumineon from Stormfront made it very easy for Machamp to get six Prizes without even having to worry about taking out big evolution Pokémon, which made the deck very annoying to play against.

2008-2009 Legos

Shortly after we received decks like Machamp and Kingdra, we very introduced to the newly created SP Pokémon which had their own unique engine to abuse with Powerful attackers and Poké-Powers. Before decks like SP Toolbox and Luxchomp started occurring, Palkia G and Dialga G were the two major threats. Palkia G LV.X was able to clean both Benches. This might not seem too strong considering that not only your opponent has to send Pokémon into the Lost Zone. But this is where the annoying part of this deck comes into play. Thanks to you being able to clean your Bench from unwanted Pokémon, you were able to abuse the Poké-Powers of cards like Uxie, Azelf, and Mesprit without having to worry about them clogging up your Bench. This way you were able to set up quickly, block your opponents Powers and even play down additional hitters onto your Bench. Simply the combination of the SP Engine and a constant Power blocking made this deck very strong. Combine this with nice attackers and you have a deck that annoyed a lot of players because it offered so little counterplay.

Up next is the 2009 to 2010 season which is the season that most players will remember for the dominance of Luxchomp and the reintroduction of cards like Double Colorless Energy.

2009-2010 Machamp

Practically the same deck as the previous season, Machamp kept showing up, mainly because Luxchomp and SP decks in general became such a huge threat. Most version kept solely on getting out Machamp as fast as possible, leading to the removing of techs like Lumineon to make the SP matchup even better for Machamp.

2009-2010 Luxchomp

Unlike most previous decks on this list, Luxchomp wasn't hated because it had annoying Poke-Powers like Palkia, or unique attacks like Machamp. Luxchomp was simply being hated because it was too powerful. Ever since its introduction into competitive play, Luxchomp dominated any major and minor tournament up until it rotated out. Some decks where able to put up a fight against it, but not even decks like Machamp that very simply designed to win against these kinds of decks, where able to win the matchup constantly. Luxchomp strength was that it had so many options to deal with matchups, that it didn't really matter what you were paired up against. The Ability to destroy your opponents Bench with either Luxray GL LV.X or Garchomp C LV.X made it very hard for any deck to keep up the Prized trade with Luxchomp, leading to a lot of players complaining about the deck and judging it as bad for the format.

2009 - 2010 Jumpluff

Jumpluff has a similar story to the decks form Stormfront that I previously talked about. Jumpluff was a very fast deck that was even able to deal with huge Stage 2, or LV.X Pokémon thanks to its damage output easily hitting the 150s thanks to Expert Belt and Crobat G. The combination of the SP Engine to Power up the deck, Claydol GE to quickly draw cards and the very Energy-efficient attacker Jumpluff made the deck a huge threat and only a few decks where able to keep up with its pace, leading to a majority of the community disliking the deck.

The dominance of Luxchomp kept continuing in the 2010 to 2011 season with the major game changer being the mid-season rotation to HGSS-On, something that changed the whole metagame for US Nationals and Worlds.

2010 - 2011 Lostgar

The hype over Lostgar was by far the biggest hype that I was ever able to witness. When the first scans where hitting the internet, a lot of players put Lost World into the same spot as Exodia from Yu-Gi-Oh!, a Stadium that made it possible to claim the win once you put six Pokémon into the Lost zone seemed very Powerful, as we never had something like this before. When we saw Gengar Prime, this got even worse. For just one Energy, Gengar was able to put a Pokémon card from your opponents had into the Lost Zone. Most players thought that this deck would completely destroy the format, leading to the biggest hype for an unreleased card that we ever had. This stopped very quickly when the first tournaments with this deck started. The deck failed pretty hard and wasn't able to live up to its hype for the smallest bit. This however doesn't erase the fact that this rule was very unhealthy for the game and the deck was still very annoying to play against, especially if you wanted to play a rogue deck that simply wasn't able to set up that quickly.

2010-2011 Sabledonk (Pre-rotation)

Sabledonk was by far the worst thing that TPCi every created. When the TPCi announced the rule changes that would come with Black & White, most players immediately started rioting. Allowing attacks on the first turn, together with Trainer cards and attacker like Sableye SF was just a very bad idea. I don't even think that I have to go into too much detail for this deck, I'm just going to send you to the Video that JWittz made almost exactly five years ago. He explains the unhealthiness of this deck very well and I think that it's a lot easier to understand why the deck is bad, if you see it in action.

2010 - 2011 Emboar/Forretress (Pre-rotation)

Emboar Forretress was the next abomination that resulted from the Black & White rulings and cards, in combination with Diamond & Pearl Cards. Similar to the Sabledonk deck, Emboar/Forretress was able to knock out all of your Pokémon very quickly thanks to Forretress' Poké-Body that allows you to place 2 damage counters on any Pokémon if you manage to flip tails, once you attached and Energy to it. Usually your opponent had only basics on his side of the field making it easy to win, even if your Pokémon where getting damaged by Forretress's Poké-Body. This deck wasn't as unhealthy for the game as Sabledonk, but it was still unhealthy enough to be need to put away.

2010-2011 Typhlosion/Reshiram

Reshiram/Typhlosion wasn't that bad of a deck on its own. The thing that made it so annoying for most player was that it was very easy to play, but also very Powerful. Typhlosion/Reshiram was one of the so called "Poké-Parent-Decks". Decks that where very easy to play but also one of the strongest of their time.

2010 - 2011 Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin

ZPS was probably one of the major reasons why the TPCi decided to not allow the player that goes first to attack on their first turn. All you really had to get where three Lighting Energies and a Pokémon Collector to be able to get the donk in most cases. The combination of these three cards became very unhealthy for the game and a lot of tournaments resulted into ZPS making the cut multiple times simply because it was so strong. Simply comparing this deck to the 2008-2009 speed decks shows how far the Power creep has come. Within two years, Stage 2s that were able to hit for not even 100 damage were replaced by Basics that are able to hit for 120 on the first turn.

The season that followed the 2011 World Championships was one of the season that most players disliked most, because we had the combination of cards like Dark Patch and Pokémon Catcher with Junk Arm to abuse them very hard. A lot of decks in the following format were speed decks, which created a very fast paced metagame

2011 - 2012: Zekrom/Pachirisu/Shaymin/Tornadus

ZPST was the primary example for the 2011 season's fast paced metagame. The deck focused on getting out either Zekrom or Tornadus as fast as possible to abuse Pokémon Catcher and get your six Prizes as fast as possible. Depending on which matchup you played against, you decided to go with either Tornadus EP or Zekrom BW. Usually you just kept going with Zekrom unless you were playing against decks like Donphan where Tornadus is the MVP. Even though this deck's main strategy was very similar to ZPS, mainly because it's pretty much the same deck just with Tornadus, you still had more options for counterplay and matchup decisions, which made the deck even stronger than its previous version. The deck however struggled a whole lot in the later stages of the game which is why it was primarily used at the beginning of the season, but a lot of players dropped the idea pretty quickly.

2011 - 2012: Reshiram/Typhlosion

Most of the players that dropped ZPST after they didn't feel too good when playing it, most of the switched to Typhlosion/Reshiram (TyRam or ReshiPhlosion) since it had the same basic idea of abusing a heavy-hitting basic Pokémon and Energy accelerators to get it out as soon as possible. Unlike ZPST, ReshiPhlosion was a little bit slower, because you had to get out your Typhlosion before taking part in the action, but it was also a whole lot better in the late game, because you had constant Energy acceleration and a decent attack of Typhlosion Prime. At the beginning of this deck, a lot of player ran Ninetales HS, but most builds dropped it completely, or cut it down to a 1-1 line, because it was quick enough without using Ninetales as a draw engine. Both of these decks (ZPST and ReshiPhlosion) were disliked because of their very easy playing style and a very big basic attackers to deal with almost anything they would come up against. The inclusion of Pokémon Catcher made it even worse since it was one of the worst designed and one of the most broken cards we ever had.

2011 - 2012: Durant

Durant was the first deckout deck we had in a very long time, and thanks to cards like Crushing Hammer, it immediately became a very good deck as well. Most decks had to use a very high amount of draw Supporters to get their setup going, and since the major draw Support was Professor Juniper, they already drew a decent amount of cards themselves, making it a whole lot easier for Durant to win games. The strategy of Durant was also very simple as well. All you had to do was getting four Durant in play, attach Eviolite and a special Metal Energy to it and start using Devour. Cards such as Pokémon Catcher, Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer helped you to lock your opponent, and even if he managed to knock out a Durant, all you had to do was using revive to get it back. The deck was very easy to play, and very annoying to play against, which is why it was hated so much. Durant however, struggled against a constant cheap output of a lot of damage, such as Zekrom and Reshiram, which benefit these decks even more to be used in tournaments.

The season afterwards was still being dominated by Darkrai-EX and also Blastoise/Keldeo when Boundaries Crossed was released.

2012-2013 Blastoise

Blastoise/Keldeo used pretty much the same strategy as Reshiram/Emboar did before, but the main reason why Blastoise was so disliked was, that it had a much higher damage output thanks to Keldeo-EX. Let's take a moment and compare Keldeo-EX to Reshiram BLW. Reshiram BLW had to use three Energy with the drawback of discarding two of them. If you attached three Water Energy to Keldeo-EX, it was already able to deal 110 damage, without having to discard any of them. If you then add the fact that Keldeo doesn't even max out at 110 damage you will quickly see why it was so much better than Reshiram. It also benefited the deck a lot that Keldeo had the Rush In Ability, allowing you to switch out damaged Keldeo for new ones. The main problem that player had with this deck was that no one was actually used to having Pokémon that dealt so much damage before, except for maybe Magnezone Prime, which had to put Energy into the Lost Zone.

After Plasma was so dominant when it was released, most players expected it to remain at least one of the best decks in the format. There were still some players using the deck, but the errata to Pokémon Catcher, which made require a coin flip, hurt the deck pretty badly. But thanks to Plasma Blast, we got introduced to a new type of Plasma deck, Virizion/Genesect

2013 - 2014: Virizion/Genesect

Virizion/Genesect on its own wasn't even that much of a problem. What made it so annoying was that pretty much every good player used it, making it very hard to try to do well with decks that didn't completely counter Virizion/Genesect. The mean reason why this deck was so good, was that it combined the synergy of Virizion and Genesect, with the usage of Plasma cards like Colress Machine, to increase the speed. G-Booster was also very hard to deal with, because at this point it was able to knock out any-EX in one hit. Compared to most other annoying decks, Virizion/Genesect wasn't to annoying to deal with, but since it was the most annoying one at that time, I still wanted to include it.

With the next season, the age of Seismitoad-EX began, making it a strong force ever since.

2014 - 2015: Seismitoad-EX/Slurpuff

Now we get to the real annoying decks since 2014-2015, was the worst season we had in a long time for the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Thanks to Lysandre's Trump Card, Seismitoad/Slurpuff was able to keep up a constant lock of Item cards, with the addition of Energy-removal each turn, because you would never run out of Crushing Hammers or Flare Grunts. You also had access to an infinite amount of Hypnotoxic Lasers, which made this deck even more annoying. But this wasn't even enough. If you add Super Scoop Up to the mix, the deck gets even worse to play against, because even if you're able to attack, this won't help if you can't knock out a Seismitoad. And it didn't even matter that Super Scoop Up and Crushing Hammer require flips to be used, since the combination of Acro Bike, Slurpuff and Lysandre's Trump Card made it possible for you to flip two to three of these cards each turn, increasing your chances of them significantly. The good thing was that we had decks like Virizion/Genesect, Metal, and Fairy who were at least able to put up a fight against Seismitoad/Slurpuff, thanks to their Energy-acceleration. I don't think that I have to explain why people hated the deck, because I think it's even very easy understandable for players that started this season, or just didn't play last one.

2014 - 2015: Exeggutor

Exeggutor was very similar to Seismitoad/Slurpuff in most aspects. You had a draw engine which in this deck consisted of Empoleon DEX instead of Slurpuff. You used cards like Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer and Team Flare Grunt to disrupt your opponents Energy. And you had an attacker that blocked Trainer cards, but in this deck you blocked Supporters thanks to Exeggutor, instead of Items with Seismitoad. First it might seem like Seismitoad is superior to Exeggutor, because blocking Trainer cards is just so strong. But think again. Blocking Supporter prevents you from using cards like Prof. Juniper or N to draw cards. It also prevented you from using Lysandre to stall for one or two turns. Against most decks, it's actually better to block Supporter cards, which is why Exeggutor gained a lot of popularity in a short amount of time, mainly because it had a very good matchup against Seismitoad/Slurpuff, which was the biggest threat at that point. This is why in the end, Exeggutor was probably even the more annoying deck, which was the main reason why people hated it. After we had these decks, Lysandre's Trump Card got banned, which erased both of them from existence, but opened up the chance for new decks to come up.

2014-2015 Wailord (Post-Trump Card ban)

One of these new decks was Wailord, which had a major appearance at US Nationals, where it actually made the second place, right after Jason Klaczynski’s Seismitoad/Garbodor. The strategy of Wailord was to simply sit there and wait for your opponent to deck themselves out. Since grass decks were pretty much nonexistent, there was no Pokémon able to one hit Wailord, making it easy to just stall the game with cards like Max Potion, AZ, Olivier and the combination of Rough Seas and Hard Charm. On top of that you had Energy disruption cards like Team Flare grunt or Xerosic, and even Lysandre to stall for a few turns. The deck on its own was so Powerful that you didn't even had to run flipping cards like Crushing Hammer or Super Scoop Up, simply because they deck was fine, abusing the effects of Supporters with the exact same effect. As you can imagine, it was very boring, and also annoying, to play against Wailord, because in most cases you opponent didn't take part in an actual game. All he did was sitting back and waiting for you to draw yourself into a deckout. Similar to Durant from a few years ago, people hated the deck for his decking out strategy, that doesn't revolve about drawing Prize cards to win the game, very similar to lock decks, where as they at least draw Prizes at some point. Wailord on the other hand doesn't care about giving up Prizes at some points, because all you have to do is wait and eventually win.

2015 - 2016: Night March

Finally we have come to the point where we get to talk about the current format. The first deck that comes in mind when talking about annoying decks in the current format is definitely Night March. I haven't seen this much complaining about a single deck in a very long time, if not even ever. Every online forum is full of complaints about Night March and people are talking about banning cards like Battle Compressor, because they think it's too powerful. And this is right where I want to start. Let's take a look what makes Night March such a good deck. Same as any other speed deck, Night March has attackers that attack for a lot of damage for a very low Energy cost. Pumpkaboo and Joltik both need a Double Colorless Energy to attack, even though Pumpkaboo also has to get the Dimension Valley into play. The next thing that makes Night March so strong is, that its damage depends on how many other Pokémon with Night March as an attack are in your discard pile. This is similar to Flareon or Vespiquen, with the major difference, that the damage output from Night March is much higher, and much more consistent, since you don't need any Stage 1 to attack with. This is where Battle Compressor comes in. For all of these decks it's required to get your Pokémon into the discard pile. The most common ways are Ultra Ball and Battle Compressor, at some points even Prof. Sycamore. Even if you manage to use four battle compressor for three Pokémon each, you would boost your damage in the Flareon deck to 140, whereas Night March could easily hit for the same amount of damage, but has to use a lot less resources for it. This in combination with Trainers Mail and Acro Bike creates a very fast deck that can almost one hit any-EX on the first or second turn. This is also done very consistently which is why the deck is hated so much, because you have to deal with non-EX hitters that are able to hit for 180 on the second turn frequently. But the good thing is, that we have quite a lot of counterplay against Night March right now, which is also why I don't understand why people keep complaining about it so much. Trevenant, Greninja, Seismitoad and Giratina all have a very good matchup against Night March, so as long as you don't decide to play a deck that's bad against Night March.

2015-2016 Straight Toad

After the Standard rotation to XY-On, most players thought that Seismitoad-EX would primarily just be used as some kind of tech card, but not as an own deck. This changed pretty drastically when Philip S. Managed to take the second place at this year’s European Challenge Cup, with Straight Toad. The deck was very good for the metagame at this point as it was flooded by Night March and Seismitoad/Giratina, which both are very good matchups for Straight Toad. After the ECC a lot more players started to pick up the deck and it kept on showing good results, for example at the Kalos Easter Tournament where it was able to take a second place at the first day of this tournament, also being piloted by Philip S. Being a lock deck that uses Seismitoad-EX as its main attacker, it's not surprising that a lot of players hate it, especially because the deck works towards decking you out, which, in my opinion, is always the worst way to lose to.

2015 - 2016: Sableye/Garbodor

Sableye/Garbodor is by far not as much of a threat as it has been before, but it's still often very annoying to play against it with most decks. The strategy for this deck is to deck you out with cards like Trick Shovel or Delinquent, while also denying your Energy with Crushing Hammer and Team Flare grunt. You could pretty much say that this deck is a combination of the classic Seismitoad/Slurpuff deck and also the fairly new Wailord-EX deck. This deck is actually a lot worse than any of these, because you're able to use all your Item or Supporter cards, which makes it a lot easier to play against this deck than against Seismitoad-EX. The only problem is, that they're simply decks that won't be able to beat Sableye/Garbodor, because the matchup is simply too bad. As an example you could take a deck like Seismitoad/Giratina. If Sableye manages to get the chain of Energy removals once, it won't be able to win. Personally I think that the problem is that Life Dew messes with your strategy, and thanks to Puzzle of Time, they will be able to get it back constantly. I also think that we have had much worse decks in past years, which doesn't erase the fact that it's very annoying to play against Sableye/Garbodor.

As we can see there are multiple factors that make a deck annoying

Speed

Speed decks are very annoying to deal with, because they're able to put you under a lot of pressure early on, and in most cases not even losing too much power in the late game. The most current example for this is obviously Night March. Being able to hit for even 200 or more on the first turn, when going second, is just way too powerful for most decks to deal with.

Lock

Lock decks are very annoying because they often put you in a spot where you're not able to do much, making the game very unenjoyable for the one being under the lock. The most current example for this is obviously Seismitoad-EX in any of its decks. But Sableye/Garbodor is also capable of putting up a very nice lock, that in most cases, is even harder to withstand than the one that Seismitoad-EX puts up

Simplicity

Simple decks are often very annoying to deal with because they allow very new player to beat you without even having to think that much about their decisions. The most current example for this is Night March as its basic strategy doesn't require too much thought. There are still ways to outsmart your opponent with Night March, but generally this deck's design is kept very simple.

We now have to question ourselves, why we dislike these decks so much, because as we were able to see, almost every format had at least one of these aspect controlling its metagame. Usually the aspect that was most present was also the one that most players were calling the best deck in format (BDIF). When we had quick paced format with Luxchomp, Luxchomp was by far the best, but think about if we had a deck that would've been able to balance Luxchomp out, such as a lock deck. Or think about the format where we were almost solely playing Seismitoad/Slurpuff. Even without the ban of Lysandre's Trump Card, Virizion/Genesect, a generally simply designed deck, was able to keep it in check. Or when simply decks like Typhlosion/Reshiram showed up, playing better than your opponent gave you a huge shot at winning, simply because an easy designed deck doesn't have too many options.

If you ask me, the current format isn't that bad. We might have decks like Night March and Seismitoad that are very annoying to deal with, but these two are not the best decks in format. If Night March keeps winning in your area, don't hate on the deck. Try to figure out how to beat it. If you can't, you might just have to get better and learn how to beat it.

Three decks to deal with the current annoyance

I've put up three decks that should help you if you feel like one of these annoying decks just keeps winning in your area, and you just can't deal with is.

The first one is very good against Night March and also has a decent matchup against most Seismitoad variants:

Turn one Item-lock is just so powerful against Night March, that Trevenant is easily able to deal with Night March. You also get to use cards like Team Flare Grunt and Xerosic which makes it even easier to win this matchup. Even if you don't get the Turn one lock you're easily able to deal with Night March thanks to these Energy removal cards.

The next one makes it very easy to deal with Straight Toad and is also able to deal with Seismitoad/Giratina, but loses to Night March in most cases

The idea behind Manectric is that you are not hurt by Energy-removal, because you're able to put them back on with Turbo Bolt. You also get close to zero damage from Quaking Punch because of Rough Seas, because you're able to constantly heal. Just keep in mind to not play down easy Lysandre targets such as Hoopa-EX, because they can easily lose you the game. Against Seismitoad/Giratina, the matchup gets a lot harder. You need to get your Hex Maniacs at the right time or Giratina will just steamroll to its victory.

Last but not least we have a deck that should help beating Sableye/Garbodor in the Expanded format.

The inclusion of Mega Turbo makes this matchup a lot better for Manectric, because all you need to get is two M Manectric-EX to cycle Energy back and forth up until your opponent will eventually miss their Life Dews and you will be able to close out the game. Same as for the M Manectric matchup, you should not play down cards such as Hoopa-EX to by Lysandre’d up.

You will still have to keep in mind that these decks are designed to win against these annoying counterparts but will lose to some of the less annoying decks that are still present at tournaments, such as Vespiquen or Yveltal.

I hope that I was able to give you an insight on why players keep on hating on certain archetypes and what you're able to do to beat them if you keep struggling to beat them. In my opinion this format is one of the best ones we had in recent years because most decks balance each other out and we don't have a specific BDIF that we have to deal with and can't beat, even if some players might argue that Night March is this said BDIF. Night March, however, is just so dominant in the U.S. and I can only track this back to them either all playing Night March or simply not being good enough to figure out how to beat it.

-Karl

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