Testing, Developing, and Adapting
Check out my new article about testing your decks...
02/22/2016 by Daniel lynch
Hello, Phinnegan again. With the new expansion BREAKpoint, there are going to be plenty of cards to change both formats. Knowing how to adapt to these changes is huge in doing well competitively.
Most people are not prepared when a new expansion arrives. Even the best players can do poorly if they do not know how the meta will change. This article is going to show you how develop a deck list through testing and give some insight on the new cards from BREAKpoint.
Testing is the bulk of improving anything relating to your play and deck list. I will start with how to test more efficiently and how to determine which choices are best when deck building.
Testing is the most important factor in doing well in any tournament. Some could argue that your deck list is more important, although a strong list only comes about through rigorous testing. I devote a ton of my success in this game to the way I test and how often I test. Below is my take on the best ways to test.
For most older players, starting with a solid list is not too hard. If you are newer to the game, you should try to find a strong "starting point" deck list. I suggest something posted to an article site like 60cards, or one of the lists found on Pokemon.com. This may seem obvious, but I have friends who test horrific lists without realizing it. I do not suggest starting from scratch unless you're very experienced in deck building. Even the best players seldom make lists from scratch. Unless there is something wrong with the deck glaring at you, give the exact 60 a shot. There might be a tech you don't understand that becomes clearer in game.
What to test against
Knowing what to test against is crucial. If you test against only Donphan decks, and then find yourself in a meta full of Seismitoad/Bats, you will most likely play poorly and have an ill-adapted list. I think most players realize they need to test against all of the big decks but I have noticed even among the best, some do not test the variants of each deck enough.
For example a player tests several games against Yveltal (without Archeops) using Seismitoad Bats. He then claims that the matchup is 50/50, simply assuming that the variant with Archeops will go similarly. In reality he is more favored against the Archeops variant. If he did not know the Archeops variant is a better matchup, he may be more in favor of a draw. For this reason, I insist that everyone must test each popular variant of a deck to be prepared. Do not just find one list and play 20 games against it. Instead try changing up some cards and playing five games against four different lists.
We all know it is most important to test against the best decks, although it is not always clear which decks are the best. Thecharizardlounge.com is the fastest way to figure out what is doing best. Currently there are statistics showing the most successful decks in the tournaments over the last few months. I like to pick the first three decks with the best results and devote the bulk of my testing time to learning how to beat these decks. Another thing to note is what counters these top decks. For example: If Seismitoad, Yveltal and Groudon are the top decks, you can expect to see a resurgence in Virizion Genesect.
Keeping these aspects in mind, you can find exactly what will be big and test until perfection. I like to organize testing schedules and record my data into them. I set an amount of games to be played for each matchup and then tally wins and losses after playing. This may seem like overkill to some. Personally I take testing very seriously and I believe you gain a lot by looking at objective data rather than basing your choice entirely from your experience.
After you feel you understand your matchups, you may realize your chancing of winning against a certain archetype is not so good. This is when you try out some new changes in the list to see what might be able to give you an edge. You might be surprised by how often people will tech something and then not test the use they get from it. Be sure to test a matchup even if you think it is favorable. You might be surprised to learn there is a problem with your techs leading to an even worse matchup.
If you do successfully find something that benefits a tough match, be sure to briefly test against the other main archetypes again. You want to be sure that whatever you added does not hurt another important matchup. For more advanced players you may be able to theory your way through deciding how much a tech hurts or helps you. The majority of us are not on that level, take the extra time to test.
Do not be afraid to try out something radical or new. Players are often afraid to use, or are against cards that do not see a whole lot of play. While creativity is great, make sure not get too attached to a concept. You never want to be in a situation where you are trying to change the rest of the deck to fit something that most likely is not worth it. Players that become too partial to any tech risk losing more than they gain from the tech.
Analyzing tech effectiveness
Some techs are not obviously helpful and others are more blatant. It is important to look at the cards you have added and judge how much they help in contrast to what you had before. If Rock Guard is inserted to benefit your Seismitoad mirror, you have to not only look at how much it helped, but also how helpful it would have been if it were a Computer Search instead. If you find that Computer Search would have been just as good, or just slightly worse, you might want to drop the Rock Guard. In general if a consistency card and any other given card seem to be just a beneficial, go with consistency.
If a tech is detrimental in a matchup unintentionally, the tech is not worth it. In all honesty, I do not think techs are usually implemented well. This is mostly due to how hard it is to make a tech work well.
The biggest problem with techs is that they take away other cards in the deck that are crucial too much of the time. You cannot cut a necessary consistency card for a tech unless that tech can also provide that necessary consistency position. For example, I could not cut a Professor Sycamore for an enhanced hammer in Vespiquen because I would not be putting consistency in, only taking it away. What I could do, is cut sycamore for a Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, because that card will help you with consistency almost as much or more. Obviously you would need to cut other cards for Gallade as well but cards that could be cut for them cannot be needed consistency cards.
The amount of consistency needed is not always obvious. For some players a high amount of supporters is absolutely crucial but for others, Energy may be more of a concern. Try to judge what is needed objectively. If you find yourself needing extra consistency to be conductive to your play style, try adjusting your play style. It is important to know how to change your own play, not just the cards you play.
If you are unsure about a tech's effectiveness or use, look at your information. If you have been documenting wins and losses against decks you should be able to see if the techs is correlated with more success. However chances are a big part of Pokémon, meaning some testing may lead you to odd results with techs. When this does happen, try to realize how a game normally should go and then decide if you want the tech or not. If you dead draw three games in a row after cutting a Vespiquen for an Eevee, you can be almost entirely sure there is no correlation between the bad luck and your change of cards.
What about the new set?
For at least the first week or so, you should not try to make an entirely new deck. Unless you have a very large chunk of time that you can commit to testing, the deck will most likely be flawed in some way. Creating a new archetype takes a long time. Instead, I suggest you just use something that is consistent and works well. If you have seen success with Yveltal recently then continue using Yveltal. If Seismitoad has been working, he will probably continue to be a strong choice.
There are a couple exceptions to this idea. If any card comes out that can completely dismantle your strategy, you might want to avoid it. In the case of BREAKpoint, Puzzle of Time has the potential to make Sableye Garbodor incredibly strong. For this reason, I think staying away from decks like Vespiquen or Seismitoad Giratina is important.
Other big cards to watch out for include: Greninja BREAK as well as Greninja and Frogadier, Espeon-EX, Garchomp, Darkrai-EX, Ho-Oh-EX, Bursting Balloon, Delinquent, Mega Gyarados-EX, Fighting Fury Belt, and Max Elixir.
Some cards that have potential but probably will not see much play immediately include: Slowking, Golduck BREAK, Phantump, Mega Scizor-EX, Togekiss-EX, Psychic's Third Eye, and Reverse Valley.
With about twenty new card options, it can be overwhelming in trying to decide what will be big and what to counter. I believe the only cards we need to be prepared for are Bursting Balloon, Delinquent, Fighting Fury Belt and possibly Darkrai-EX. These are the cards that could be easily put into several decks and will almost certainly see play during week one.
Delinquent in particular seem extremely strong. Think about how often your turn ends with three or less cards in your hand. You can never let that happen with delinquent in the format. If you do take the risk, your opponent can simply play a stadium and put you down to a zero card hand. In my opinion this card is ridiculous, and will definitely make an impact on what is played.
If you're a fan of Night March, you may want to try a variant involving Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick and Garchomp. Garchomp's first attack give you the ability to bring back lost Double Colorless Energy. This attack alone makes it possible to take out Mew-EX. One of the big problems with Night March is the fact that you have to use an-EX attacker if you do not have a Double Colorless Energy. With Garchomp, this is no longer a problem, meaning the Vespiquen matchup may swing back into your favor.
Another potentially strong combination is the new Darkrai-EX in any Yveltal variant. This card is strong under the right circumstances. With Dark Patch and DCE, the attack cost is not hard to fulfill. As long as you flip heads on a Hypnotoxic Laser, you will be knocking out any 170 HP Pokémon-EX in one hit. If their HP is a little higher, you can put other cards down like Virbank City Gym and Muscle band to reach 210. Coincidentally, that is exactly how much HP Mega Manectric has, meaning this new Darkrai could make M Manectric a far better matchup. I would also add a Munna (Boundaries Crossed 68) to help with getting the Sleep to go through more often. There is no downside to Munna as long as you have a Keldeo in play. Hypno is a card people were suggesting with Darkrai. Hypno is the more reliable option in terms of the consistent Sleep, but less reliable in terms of how long it takes to set up.
Finally there is Mega Gyarados-EX in combination with an Archie's Blastoise deck. I can see why you might be skeptical, however Gyarados can actually do a lot for Archie's. I should note that I would only include it as a one-of and would not include Gyarados-EX. Instead the idea is to use Archie's to get it and then tank with it for the rest of the game. The main use comes from the incredible 240 HP. With HP this high, you will be able to stream one-shots turn after turn. Because Gyarados can tank for so long, you also won't need to use as many Superior Energy Retrieval. It also is great against anything playing Hex Maniac seeing as it doesn't require more Energy once powered up.
These are just a couple ideas I had. Feel free to give them a try, or test out some other new cards. Be open to new ideas, never discount something just because it's odd. I hope this piece provided clarity about how to test effectively and which cards to be concerned about.
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