Missing Regionals but Not Missing Out: Playtesting Strategies and Picks for Nationals
05/20/2016 by Jonathan Walquist
I want to chance a guess most of the folks reading this don't have much knowledge of Colorado. On that pretense, this article should be fun for you to read; especially since it has absolutely nothing to do with the Spring Regionals everyone has been anticipating like an anteater after a fresh rain. (I don't mean to offend anyone who is attending Regionals, which are great tournaments, but many of us, myself included, do not have the ability to travel to them from places like Colorado. Take a look at Denver on a map and you'll know what I mean.) And that being said, I should introduce myself.
I am Jonathan Walquist, and I'm an 18-year-old player from Broomfield, Colorado. This is my first article for this wondeful site. While I haven't risen even close to the top levels of tournament play; I see players like Ryan Sabelhaus, Jay Hornung, Kyle Sucevich, and Jason Klazynski (could've misspelled) as the kind we should pay attention to if we desire the best for our future in competitive play. Pooka has since left the stream, but anyone who knew him would agree with me, thus is my hope.
This article is all about the Standard format's undercover development in the shadow of Regionals, and how the poor should playtest. It's a lot of stuff, so hold on!
Table of contents
Practice With the Freaks
My Nationals Deck : With or Without We Want the Collision
In the aftermath of state Championships, many players in many states started to do one of two things:
1. Focus on Expanded in preparation for Regionals
2. Try everything that looked shiny in Standard
Being the second party wasn't the most exciting thing, for sure. Even so, my friend, Daniel Orion, and I found some great archetypes to have some fun with in the form of Excadrill PRC (omega Barrage) with Forretress FLF, straight Greninja BKP, Flareon-EX variants, Night March with twists (Gourgeist or Chandelure, for example), among others.
You're probably not enthusiastic enough about our choices for Colorado States, since others have overloaded you with the info; but Daniel piloted Night March with Milotic, and I piloted the Garchomp/Wobbuffet deck that has shown me success at League and earned a 1st-place finish at a local tournament in Johnstown. This isn't a full length report, which would have been exptremely late, but the results are as follows:
Daniel's finish: 75th (2-5-0) out of 99
My finish: 23rd (4-2-1) out of 99
We saw, at the tournament, a large crowd of people who used home-brewed archetypes in an attempt to steal the win from the decks that existed at other tournaments (Night March, Vespiquen/Vileplume, YZG, Seismatoad/Giratina). I saw decks like FLareon-EX, infantile Greninja lists, and three people with the same Aegislash/Bronzong/Jolteon-EX list. One of the later took a top-8 spot.
After the tournament, we were forced to conclude that the game creators, and thus the game, could be shifting again towards a skillful format of extremely powerful decks of every shape and size. But our doubt prevailed in the short game, putting our hopes in a simple YZG list for our goal of the week--people like us lack the amount of constant resources to just build those decks. After a few failed attempts at YZG and FLareon, I decided to look towards previous formats, and some unique methods of playtesting, in order to perfect my Garchomp deck for our developing Standard format.
Now you, the reader, might think, "what? Gah-chomp? Why aren't you the one piloting Night March, huh?"
Well, If I know one thing, it is that utilizing the massive power of a tier-one archetype makes me feel dependant. I would rather try my fates on a deck I love than a deck that it has become popular to hate. If Night March is the only option, I'll go for it, but for now I'm stubborn enough. Our lists will come later.
OK. That finished, let's move into our predictions for the format. Here is a tier list that I would expect to see after the Standard LCs and right before Nats:
- Night March
- Fighting Regirock-EX*
- M Alakazam-EX
- Toolboxes (Mew, Eeveelution EXs, Fairy, Lugia, etc.)
- Vespiquen/ Vileplume
(* could be Garchomp, Zygarde-EX, Carbink-BREAK, Lucario-EX, or Medicham, among others, wide open now that we have Regirock-EX)
Many's greatest fear has been the force of Night March, the only tier-s deck in many months. See the Charizard Lounge's Tier List for States here. But our logic can show us something a little more intense. When Night March emerged as the number-1 deck from State Championships and has been given a constant stream of artillery by TPCi, we should all expect it to destroy all of our hopes and dreams, right? Well, XY: Fates Collide also gave us N and Alakazam.
One is obvious. The other, not so much.
N is popular and loved because it is arguably the best supporter card ever printed. It balances a game by defending the player with the least chance of winning. Recently, in League, I took five prizes with ease against an Expanded YZG list, and then was N-d to one card and subsiquently lost because of the impossibility of me carrying my strategy any further. N could be called even more powerful in a format such as today's Standard, where one active attacker and cards in hand to set up another has become commonplace. Get rid of the continuation, and you have the game.
Alakazam makes an appearance, as well. His ability is essentially the equivalent of a Golbat and a Crobat without choice, in one turn. Against Night March, the ability used multiple times while something like Wobbuffet PHF remains active can turn the match on its head. That's the second way to destroy Night March: knock them out without attacking, and you have the game.
That should do it for my predictions. Important to note that these do not include many of the more obscure archetypes from Fates Collide.
Practice With the Freaks
Of all the things we should do when preparing for one of the largest TCG tournaments in the world, one of them is practice. Be it single playtesting, League play, League Challenge tournaments, or just thinking about the meta; it all helps us understand our situation and the course we should take, should we desire to win it all.
Well, in my personal pursuit of a top spot at Nationals this year, my biggest concern is a metagame spread so thin that it becomes impossible to "counter" it completely. That concern quickly became a merit, though, because I realized that the players with experience and their wits about them are in a prime position to start winning tournaments at a grander stage again, as well as those players who chose less conventional archetypes and strategies.
A few instances I would like to point out about these players. The first is the Regirock Promo/Wobbuffet deck that Ross Gilbert used at a regional in the UK this year to go clean X-0 in swiss.
Another was Ross Cawthon's break-through deck, The Truth, which took him far in 2011, to 2nd place at Worlds that year. All of his friends, and anyone familiar with the deck, cannot call it any common name other than "Ross's Deck" because it was so revolutionary. (See his list here).
Another is one that I incurred myself. Back in 2015 in January, right after XY: Phantom Forces was released, I was in the middle of trying to make Blacksmith work. And when we recieved Battle Compressor and VS Seeker in the format, I built a deck with the fastest engine, with Reshiram BLW and Reshiram-EX as attackers. It took me to a top-4 finish at Northglen Citys.
I say these to say this: practice should not only include testing your build of a popular deck against all of the most "credible" lists you can find for meta decks; it is also good practice to introduce stranger counter-meta or non-meta decks, so that the playtesting will give you knowledge of more than just the most probable matchups.
So how do we cover all of our weaknesses in testing without people around us who build and test these sorts of decks on a regular basis?
That brings us to the methods we should use to playtest.
I haven't ever been able to collect enough to simply "have it all." You could call me a part-time buyer and full-time player. When I need to see how a new deck works, or how the heck someone with a list I saw could possibly succeed, I print the deck on paper, sleeve it with non-holo cards to back it, and play with it. I primarily use pkmncards.com for this, but bebessearch.com works as well.
I live with no siblings and just one friend who I see often; certainly, I don't have the one-on-one, in-person opportunities to playtest any match I want, and I certainly don't have the time for extensive 20-game records. So I play against myself. It may sound cheesy or impractical, but it actually works. I'll show you how.
I lay out the widest playmat I have, and I shuffle both decks. I set one on each side of the mat (left and right, both facing the same direction). Then, I roll the die to see who goes first or second, and I reason as to which one each deck should prefer going into this specific matchup (or pretend each deck has no idea what they are facing). I stalk prize cards to save room, and I go one at a time setting up.
You'd think that this would skew the results, because I'm only one mind and I'm trying to be two different people at once, which is difficult. But, if you try this, you'll realize that it isn't so hard to just forget about what the opposing deck has as a starter, or in it's opening hand or developing hand.
I recommend this method highly to those of you who do not have a regular playtesting schedule or cannot attend League. But I'll warn you: it gets boring after a while, so be prepared and dedecated.
Now, onward, to the stuff we need to see. Give us lists! Give us lists!
My Nationals Deck: With Or Without We Want the Collision
The new set XY: Fates Collide has been legal now for just a little while, but I have seen so much of it at my league that I amotivated to say that it has and will shape the format moving onward.
Some of the most breaking cards have been discussed only recently, so I am going to proceed assuming that you have considered them and are aware of them.
I only have one, but without further talk, let's dive into the archetype I want to put here: Garchomp!
- 4x Garchomp
- 2x Gabite
- 4x Gible
- 1x Carbink
- 1x Regirock EX
- 4x Wobbuffet
- 3x Korrina
- 2x Professor Sycamore
- 3x Judge
- 2x Lysandre
- 4x VS Seeker
- 4x Focus Sash
- 3x Battle Compressor
- 4x Rare Candy
- 1x Professor's Letter
- 2x Float Stone
- 2x Ultra Ball
- 1x Enhanced Hammer League Promo
- 1x Faded Town
- 1x Delinquent
- 1x Hex Maniac
- 2x N
- 4x Fighting Energy
- 4x Strong Energy
This deck feeds off of (devours) others reliance on Abilities in the early game. You can find some level of similarity between this deck and Primal Groudon-EX.
The core of the strategy resides in the ability to stream Garchomps, even without the aid of Focus Sash, which is an important part of it. But even with this achieved, the deck struggles to get going until the middle of the second or third turn. Any player who knows anything about the past few years can tell me that a deck that doesn't set up (pun intended) cannot work unless it slows the gameplay down to level the playing field.
When Garchomp BKP was released, I immediately made it my goal to collect four and built it into the deck it is today ... is what I'd like to say; but the truth is, that Garchomp looked good at first sight, and had some early success, but it had some problems in the beginning. Without Wobbuffet to slow the game's first few turns down to almost a standstill, it was nearly impossible to stand up to any deck that could both do enough damage on the first turn to KO Gible, and take away the Focus Sash. Night March fit the bill a little too well, even though the matchup is a near aout-win without Megaphone or Xerosic.
So, when I was at the Thursday night league at Game Heroes the week before States came, I was despairing for a way to destroy people's set ups. Some of the people there were speculating that Aegislash/Bronzong might make a comeback, and I thought of a way to shut off abilities. Abilities like Set Up, Irritating Pollen, Metal Links, Scoundrel Ring, Stand In, Premonition, and Mighty Shield. Because without these, their respective decks could not work as well, potentially dropping them down to Garchomp's level. A level at which I am happy to remain.
So why not Hex Maniac? Or Garbodor?
I asked that question of myself at first, as well. But the answer was always about the first turn. Could I both set up and shut down, without difficulty? Hex maniac locks on the first turn, but only for a turn and it uses my Supporter for the turn. Garbodor can come in on turn one with intense difficulty, and can be stopped with a simple application of Startling Megaphone or Xerosic. So I chose Wobbuffet, the pokemon that could be out on Turn Zero.
It's a Magic: The Gathering term refering to the time before any player takes a turn, but after each has seen their opening hand. Some cards even come into play based on this concept, such as Leyline of Sanctity.
The importance here is that, even if my opponent goes first, they still have no chance of activating their abilities. There is no way around it, since I never bench anything if my opponent is going first. And even if I go first and bench a Gible, it will have a focus sash. Their only out then is to play Escape Rope, Pokemon Catcher, or Lysandre, taking away a lot of their options due to the reliance on Shaymin-EX's Set Up ability to retrieve tech cards like these from the depths of the deck. And once they have abilities and my attacker active, they still have Focus Sash to worry about. It's like an onion. Many, many layers of skin to get to the heart. And this in the midst of a format ruled by archetypes that "wear their heart upon their sleeves".
Leaving my opponent with no options has won games on its own. In the second round of States, I faced a player who was piloting Vespiquen/Vileplume, and I opened two Wobbuffet. He went first. After digging through some of the deck without Shaymin, trying to get his Lysandre for next turn, expecting a Zubat or a Manectric or a Pikachu to hit the bench, and seeing nothing from me, he decked out in my stream of four Wobbuffet and subsiquent Garchomps because his deck took Vileplume's and Shaymin's abilities for granted.
Then, in the fourth round, the same thing happened against Mega Rayquaza.
Let's look now, to the reasons that it's Garchomp, and not something else attacking after Wobbuffet.
Garchomp is a stage two, with two attacks costing less than three energy. It is a fighting type, and has no retreat cost and a weakness to grass. Pretty darn good stats if you ask, well, anyone. Turbo Assault can deal some pretty ideal numbers to specific parts of our metagame. It KOs Joltik literally every. Single. Time. And a Strong Energy is enough against an unassisted Pumpkaboo. It deals sixty to Shaymin with a Strong Energy. It gets a OHKO on Jolteon-EX with a Strong Energy, and it deals eighty damage to anything else, which gains me 2HKOs on non-EXs. Bite Off is insanely powerful against EXs, coming in at 160 damage unassisted, OHKOing Shaymin, Manectric, M Manectric, and Pikachu; with a single Strong Energy, it OHKOs any basic EX that has no damage or HP modifiers (except Zygarde now, but more on how that's irrelevant later).
Another reason Garchomp is better than other attackers is because it has access to Korrina. She can search the deck for any combination of one fighting Pokemon and one item card, which is perfect in a deck using both Rare Candy and Focus Sash. The turn-two Korrina for Rare Candy and Garchomp is the most common, but sometimes she is usefull to get an Ultra Ball for a Wobbuffet on turn one, or a Proffesor's Letter for energy. Essentially, by using Korrina on top of the Battle Compressor/VS Seeker engine, the deck can tech both Items and Supporters easily, and Korrina can search out any play for the following turn using VS Seeker, Enhanced Hammer, or even Float Stone.
The reason Garchomp is better than larger, EX attackers is that it doesn't give up two prize cards when it is KOed (barring Focus Sash). It also uses less energy on average, only one or two, and still has access to the full extent of damage increasing cards (Regirock-EX, Strong Energy, Fighting Stadium, Muscle Band to name a few). The retrieving effect of the Turbo Assault attack is perfect for the format we live in, which is heavy on Item denial and energy removal.
Many times, Carbink could be searched for with Korrina, along with a Battle Compressor, and a Strong Energy could be discarded, followed by a Turbo Assault and a Focus Sash, making the Carbink a very large threat to decks like M Sceptile, M Rayquaza, or M Manectric. Even Night March has trouble, because a Carbink with 2 Strong Energy KOs all of their unassisted attackers.
That should do it for Strategy, though please leave some comments down below.
Carbink: I think the first thing you would be able to see about this card is its ability in Safeguard. That's all well and good, but what Carbink has over Suicune or Sigilyph in other formats is that it shares the type of the deck. This is important for two reasons here. First of all, it can take advantage of the energy in the deck and can attack with ease, not being a roadblock but also a landslide. The second is that it can take advantage of type-specific cards that are already in the deck, such as Korrina, Focus Sash, and Strong Energy. Carbink KOs Joltik, which is nice, as well.
Regirock-EX: I think every Fighting-type deck should include at least one of this Pokemon. The extra ten damage before weakness does wonders to increase the control a player has over his or her damage output. Say I face baby Yveltal. The pesky resistence to Fighting would formerly cause me to take three hits to KO it, because Turbo Assault does only 60 to it with a Strong Energy. But now that Regirock is here, I can deal 70 per attack while attaching from the discard pile. That swings the matchup far on its own. Another cool trick is dealing exactly 170 to Yveltal or Rayquaza-EX with one Strong Energy and a Regirock.
Judge: Three Judge is the least I would recommend, if you cannot fit four. This is because, as Michael McClure stated in his article on Top Deck Nation, a Judge and a Wobbuffet on the first turn of the game is devestating most of the time. Two games at States this year were decided in my favor because my opponent had nothing but Shaymin to save them.
Professor's Letter: This item can be searched for with Korrina and almost assures the first-turn Energy attachment, which puts you ahead of the opponent due to the small cost of attacks. It can also fuel Ultra Ball, in a pinch.
Enhanced Hammer: This card has bought me a lot of turns before. I could get it with a late-game Korrina, and now suddenly my opponent might not have an attack, espacially against Night March and Gallade.
Faded Town: The deck first used four Stadiums because so many help Garchomp. But now I have no reason to add more damage to my attacks gain HP. This card stood out because of how much it assists Garchomp against Megas. The Megas are some of the only Pokemon-EX Garchomp cannot KO on its own without intense difficulty. But if Faded Town even sticks for a turn, it can put all of them into range.
Delinquent: Only one stadium? Why not Delinquency? This card allows me to exploit a few situations. If I face Greninja and they place a Rough Seas and use Water Duplicates with four cards in hand (very common play), I can remove the stadium and possibly their Greninja with one card. This card deserves all of the talk it has inspired.
This deck is my favorite for many reasons, but one of them is that it removes the worries about powerful cards that stand alone. Any EX-heavy deck will have lots of trouble with Garchomp, especially those that rely on Shaymin-EX.
Let's jump into them, then.
Night March: 90:10. This is the most important and the most intense matchup. It usually comes down to whether that particular NM player has the wherewithall to dig and dig and dig for the pieces they need to KO multiple Focus-Sash'd Garchomps in a row. But, I have to tell you, Daniel didn't even win a game until well into May, and he had both Xerosic and Startling Megaphone.
Yveltal: 50:50 to 85:15. This matchup is all over the place. This is the same for most versatile decks, I'll give it that kind of compliment. If the deck not only uses, but relies, on multiple EX Pokemon, you've won when three hit the field. But the Yveltal Decks that use their non-EX attackers well have a pretty good chance. I'll make this short, but the biggest thing about this match is the mind games. If yo can make the opponent struggle by manipulating their hand, they have trouble dealing with such a raw threat as Garchomp.
Greninja: 20:80. This deck's hardest matchup. The way to beat it is to use Hex Maniac at opportune times, as well as Delinquent. Attacking with Regirock-EX is good here.
Trevenant: 50:50. It might sound bold, but Regirock-EX did this. A larger attacker that can take KOs if it is needed allows my EX-hate deck to have a chance against the stalling decks. Trevenant is also becoming more reliant on Shaymin-EX. However, the matchup is still a big challenge. Item lock is strong.
Everything Else Meta: 98:2. Being bold again, but I haven't lost to any other metagame decks. This includes Mega Manectric, Mega Rayquaza, and Seismatoad, among others. Please send me a message if you have seen something that I haven't considered here. But know that I am not considering many good decks that haven't been seen in the Top Cut.
This doesn't really say much, but the deck's history has been positive. It wins more than it loses, and it's losses are close calls for the most part. Another guy at League who is entering this format from Expanded, who ran Virgen, thought of this as his best option to trade in to.
I think that says something.
Wobbuffet and Garchomp haven't been seen very much together, or even separately. SO I want to leave this here for your pure enjoyment.
This has been nice writing. I look forward to crafting more articles for this website, for I have a lot on my mind.
I would like to leave you with this:
The Standard format is a breeding pool of many viable strategies. All we have to do to be successful is find one.
(Edit) There seemed to have been problems with this article's script. I've hopefully fixed it now. Enjoy:)
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