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Michael Canaves

Winter Regionals Recap: Decriminalizing Sableye and preparing for States

Michael Canaves goes over why he thinks Sableye is flattened out forever and talks a little bit about his Winter Regionals experience, and what to expect for States!

03/15/2016 by Michael Canaves

Hey, everyone at 60cards! I know it’s been some time since my last article on Sceptile, but I’m here again to give you all some of my thoughts on Winter Regionals, as well as some of my input on the metagame moving forward into standard again for States. So throughout February, we had three weekends of back-to-back Regional Championships. This was my first time accomplishing the triple threat and actually attending each weekend, taking 10th Place in Virginia and 4th Place in Florida. I found some steals on flights with other local Florida players and made my way to Virginia and St. Louis, then had Florida for week three right in my backyard. So in this article, I’m going to touch a bit on the deck that everyone loves to hate, Sableye/Garbodor. My goal in this article is to put Sableye in a bit more of a perspective in how it works, and why I felt it was one of the best decks for the first two weekends of Regionals, and more importantly, why going forward I feel that this deck is pretty much flattened out. 

So coming into week one of Regionals, I was fairly certain the best deck in format was Sableye/Garbodor. Sableye/Garbodor is an incredibly powerful deck when paired with a solid list, and a player who is very good at time management and understanding game states on the fly. The first thing I’m going to do is show you guys the list I ran at Virginia and piloted to a 10th Place finish:



I ran the same list for St. Louis as well, except I made one change, cutting the Jirachi for a single copy of Wailord-EX from PRC. The Wailord was meant to buy time against Seismitoad while you dug for your copies of Team Flare Grunt and Xerosic, and could easily be AZ’d after taking a few hits. My list is obviously very different than some of the ones we saw make Top 8 at St. Louis. So why is it, then, that Sableye was most hyped for Florida Regionals, but had the best showings at Virginia and St. Louis, and then was completely dissipated for Florida?

A couple things I’d like to point out; all of the Sableye that did well at St. Louis in addition to my list from Virginia ran a total of one copy of Hypnotoxic Laser, and that was in Joe Baka’s list. The most powerful effect that Sableye can have is locking a single Pokémon in place while removing all of the opponents’ options to produce another threat onto the board with cards like Team Aqua’s Secret Base, Head Ringer, and Energy-removal cards. Laser went against that strategy, allowing that Pokémon you want to lock up to eventually be Knocked Out, allowing the opponent to promote a threat they powered up on the Bench, safe from your Team Flare Grunts. This leads to my point as to why I felt Sableye was actually an extremely poor choice for the third week of Regionals, and why I feel that the deck is now out of commission for good.

With the release of BREAKpoint, we saw a new powerful card come to light, Puzzle of Time. This was the card that “broke Sableye” and made it all powerful, to some. To others, like myself, this is the card that defeated Sableye. With other decks having access to Puzzle of Time, that allowed  for players to effectively play AZ nine times in a game with four VS Seeker, four Puzzle of Time, and one AZ. It allowed Seismitoad players to have a total of eight Double Colorless Energy that you could only effectively remove with Team Flare Grunt or Xerosic. It allows Night March decks and Vespiquen the exact same options. Not to say that every deck was going to immediately include four Puzzle of Time, but any deck that did, was likely to beat Sableye. Playing Sableye/Garbodor, you often were in a resource war against your Prizes. Your goal was to put your opponent in an unwinnable game state before they took all six physical Prizes. Cards like AZ, when played well, almost always guarantee a Prize against Sableye. So, realistically speaking, I feel that Sableye just can’t seal the deal against a lot of decks with Puzzle, especially Seismitoad/Bats (and possibly even Toad/Giratina). Toad/Bats was already a close match, adding extra DCE to push it over the edge would make that matchup almost unwinnable. 

So, what does this mean going forward for Sableye? My concluding thoughts here are a couple things. First of all, Puzzle of Time. This card is busted. We only saw two decks at Florida Regionals running them, one being myself, and the other being Ryan Peterson. However, I feel that was just mainly due to lack of testing before Florida. I also feel that for any Expanded Regionals coming in Spring, Sableye is pretty much going to be off everyone’s radar, which means Vespiquen and a couple others can make a comeback (not a single Vespiquen made cut at Florida or Oregon). Now we have States coming up in a few weeks, and I expect Puzzle of Time to be huge there as well. The upcoming State Championships will be the first look at the standard format with Breakthrough being a legal set, in addition to the first event where we have generations as a legal set period. So, let’s take a look at a couple of the promising cards in both sets and see what impacts might come from it.

In addition to Puzzle of Time, we saw a couple of new cards showing face at the week three of Regionals, and even a brand new deck all together. The first one I’d like to bring up is Fighting Fury Belt. This card will probably be the most universally used card coming from BREAKpoint, because many decks already played copies of Muscle Band, a card with similar effect. Decks will need to figure out if they can do away with Muscle Band altogether, or if they need to do a split between Belt and Muscle Band. For example, in the popular Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade deck, you can’t remove the Bands because the deck uses non-Basic Pokémon such as Zoroark and Gallade (even if there are no Basics underneath Gallade, it is actually classified as an “unevolved Stage 2” so Fury Belt does not work!) that still need some damage buffer. I do expect a common split to be running two Muscle Band and either one or two copies of Fighting Fury Belt still making the cut here, just because that extra 40 HP on an Yveltal-EX, Darkrai-EX, or even an Yveltal can make all the difference, especially in a mirror match.

Decks like Night March don’t really lose a whole lot from the extra 10 damage; by adding 10 instead of 20, it still reduces the total number of Night Marchers you need in your discard pile by one to Knock Out popular Pokémon-EX that hit at the 170 HP mark such as Yveltal-EX, Sceptile-EX, Hoopa-EX, or any other odd-numbered HP, such as Shaymin-EX and Mega Manectric-EX. For that reason, the extra 40 HP is huge, because it prevents easy knockouts with cheap attacks like Sky Return and Oblivion Wing, getting rid of Night March’s largest weakness that was very easy for many decks to exploit. Of course, decks like Vespiquen and others that rely heavily on Evolved Pokémon as their primary attackers will still be content with using Muscle Band, since Fighting Fury Belt only provides a benefit for Basic Pokémon. With this being the case, Fighting Fury Belt makes it a lot harder for Pokémon-EX to be Knocked Out in one hit, so I expect a huge surge in play from cards like Startling Megaphone and Xerosic. Megaphone was almost nonexistent in the Standard format before outside of decks that needed an extra push against Entei, so players could be reckless with their tool placements throughout their match. Now, players will be punished for what’s called overextending; using too many resources unnecessarily without gaining any real board advantage. 

I’ve already talked a bit about Puzzle of Time, but I will definitely expect to see decks like Night March running a full suite of this card. We already saw decks like that and Raichu/Bats making heavy use of the Milotic from Primal Clash, so if you give these decks the option to get two cards back over one as well avoid leaving a vulnerable 30 HP Feebas on the Bench, you bet they’re going to take advantage of it. Puzzle of Time actually changes the way the game is played almost completely. Prior to the release of this card, many games would be decided by resource management. You had to be very careful, especially when something like Professor Sycamore was your primary draw support, to always make use of every resource in your deck before running out of steam. Now, consider this scenario. You’re playing against a player using a Night March deck with a Bronzong line. You’re behind on the Prize trade, so you begin looking for alternate win conditions, and you can’t decide if you want to try and go for knockouts still, simply because your opponent is low on Energy cards and you feel you can buy some turns by forcing them to use Metal Links, or a deckout by dragging up the Bronzong after removing their Float Stone, and hoping they either do not play AZ, or waiting until they are out of VS Seekers. If your opponent plays Puzzle of Time, you can’t safely make either of these plays anymore. If you try to go for the stall tactic by dragging up the Bronzong, your opponent can just use their Puzzle of Time to get another Float Stone on board. If you try to remove all of your opponent’s Energy either by knockouts or removal cards like Enhanced Hammer, they have those same Puzzles that can bring back extra copies of Double Colorless Energy. It puts you in more of a bind and makes it more difficult for players to win outside of taking six Prizes. What does this mean, in a nutshell? Puzzle of Time rewards aggressive, faster play styles by a long shot. As the Night March player, I don’t have to worry about running out of Energy or Float Stones (or even attackers!), and can just put massive pressure on my opponent with reckless Sycamores and go for the kills. I expect situations like this to arise fairly often, especially when you’re unsure if your opponent even runs Puzzle of Time!

So I have another article coming after the first weekend of State Championships, and in that article, I’ll talk about the rest of the cards I feel are and will continue to make a big impact from Generations and Breakthrough, in addition to giving some feedback from the first week of states and what I feel will continue to happen throughout the following three weeks. I expect to see decks like Greninja continue to pop up after its top thirty two performance at Florida Regionals, and I definitely expect to see Puzzle of Time and Fighting Fury Belt make a large presence in any upcoming decks for the first week. Keep an eye out for my next article later this month!

-Michael

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