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Jay Lesage

"Views from the 6ix" - A Pre-Cap of Toronto Regionals

Jay gives you a taste of his thoughts before Toronto Regionals, in contrast to the aftermath of the whole event, as well as his best Expanded format lists!

05/22/2017 by Jay Lesage

***This article was written before Toronto Regionals, and is to be read in the context of a recap. It contains valuable information towards reading a metagame, and has a very solid bases for picking a deck following the next upcoming Regionals. I hope you enjoy!***

It's only been a few weeks since my last article dropped, and when I got asked to write another for 60 Cards, I picked the date with Toronto Regionals in mind. It's my hometown event – and I couldn't be happier to shed some light on such a mysterious metagame. Toronto is home to the Blue Jays, poutine, several maple syrup taps, the CN Tower, and a surprisingly good local scene! Multiple variables affected the player base this year, and I'll discuss that a little bit later on in the article. This tournament is going to be played in the Expanded format, which alludes to the mysteriousness; Expanded tournaments are fantastic since they display creativity, while also cherishing those who practice. I've been playing Expanded online lately, and I've been thoroughly enjoying it – the variety in this wide open card pool is simply astonishing! I encourage anybody playing in this format to thoroughly explore what tools we have available to us at this given time. In this article, I'd also like to take the opportunity to discuss some hidden gems in the Expanded format, and talk about why they have optimal timing in this format.

The Canadian Scene

At the beginning of this year, Canadians were very ecstatic to play out yet another fantastic year of Pokemon. Then, the dreaded announcement came from Pokemon: State/Provincial/Territorial Championships were going to be removed from the tournament series, as well as National Championships. This action as a whole was negative for Canadians, because it made it impossible for Canadians to get their invite without travelling to the USA. We also no longer had a Regional Championships upon first notice, but then a glimmer of hope – Toronto Regionals was announced. Although this was a step in the right direction, Canadians had lost their fighting spirit to continue playing as aggressively due to their lack of motivation. In terms of players fighting for their invite, only a couple notable players are avidly attempting this perilous task. My proposal initially to solve this problem was to perform either one of two structure changes:

A. Create special events in the East and West. In the East, a Special Event could take place in Quebec City, Quebec, in order to also attract players from Northern USA States. In the West, there could be a Special Event in British Columbia in order to keep the spark alive for the West.

B. Reduce the Championship Point Qualifications for Worlds regarding anybody in Canada. I was thinking that Canada could share a similar point system to Mexico.

Either of these solutions being implemented would help out the country in the least, but regardless, we have to work with what we have. TPCi gave us a solution in the form of....

The “New” CP Structure

As of May 4th, 2017, Pokemon decided to revamp their Championship Point system in a way that favours those avidly trying to earn one – they boosted the allotted amount of points given out at all events, but especially those given out at Regionals and Internationals! With the new system, the following payouts get implemented:

League Cups - +5CP per placement
Regional Championships - +20 per placement
International Championships - +50 per placement

With the new system in place, it now makes 500CP much easier than it has ever been before to obtain provided you can get to the events! The exciting changes TPCi in place gives Canadians the fighting chance they need; with five Regional Championships in North America remaining, as well as an International Championships left, it's still extremely possible for Canadians to nab their invite, and with the perfect given timing of the announcement, these furious Canucks are going to be coming to Toronto Regionals with pitchforks in hand.

“Know Yourself”

As the wise man Drake once said, “they want me gone, pray for the kicker” - how can you nab some points going into this event? Let's talk about how the metagame is lining up. Since we have to look at the last few Expanded events, most of our secondary research is coming from players who performed highly at American Regionals. Namely, we'll be looking at players like Israel Sosa, Alex Wilson, and John Kettler in terms of people who timed perfect plays, and piloted their decks to perfection. Coupled with that, we also have to consider what the locals will be playing around the northern hat of the USA – League Cups show extremely relative info in terms of local play. Since quite a few of the League Cups have been Expanded in Ontario, it's very relative to take into account what's being played there. If Regionals were to be a 100 person tournament, I'd estimate that at least 50 of those people would be from Toronto itself! Hence the importance of this article, it's a great utility to know what half of your opponents at the event might be playing.

Within this article, we'll be going over what the Canadian metagame is like, what decks are potentially going to pop-up, what I would personally suggest, and then I'll conclude with one final deck that's my runner-up choice.

History Repeats Itself

Canadians love the classic feel that Yveltal/Maxie's provides. Despite the relatively high skill gap it takes to play in comparison to other decks, newer players will still attempt to play this for the challenge it provides, as well as the answers it solves within the metagame. Most lists aren't quite that innovative; they prefer the high Stadium count, sporting a 2/2 Silent Lab/Parallel split, and play thick lines of Maxie's. This is the most populous deck you'll see at the event. Most lists are very similar in terms of utility, but this specific list plays certain key cards in order to boost its matchup against both Volcanion as well as Mega Rayquaza.

In terms of defeating a specific matchup, we first must deem what makes the deck strong – more specifically, what makes the opponent's deck so strong against our deck? In Volcanion's case, it's their ability to abuse Steam Up in order to OHKO our main attacker much quicker than we can KO theirs. In turn, we must find a way to level the playing field, and speed up our process in a way that doesn't effect our overall consistency. I can't stress that enough – when plotting against other matchups, try not to give up too much consistency, because then you won't be able to put your gameplan into action often enough to win. To get back on track, in order to keep Steam Up in check, I've opted to include two copies of Silent Lab, as well as a singleton copy of Hex Maniac. Silent Lab is useful as something that can stick in play while you're able to play your Supporter for the turn; it allows for more explosiveness during turns that you need multiple cards to KO your opponent's active, or achieve a certain goal that turn. Silent Lab can also stay in play for the entirety of a game if your opponent plays silly with their Stadiums, so always try to keep tabs on their Stadium count. Hex Maniac is a surefire way of making sure that no abilities will sneak past! The only downfall to Hex Maniac is that it takes up your Supporter for the turn, but it provides an amazing assurance, and will allow you to physically breath during your opponent's turns.

Against Mega Rayquaza, it's all about the Stadium war and always will be. With our two copies of Silent Lab, we're able to cut off their access to Shaymin barring they have don't have Skyfield. They will also be limited without using Hoopa to setup their Mega Rayquaza, and therefore won't be able to fulfill their sequential to-do list. Silent Lab can also prevent very harmful abilities on their end, such as Dragonite's Pull Up, or Jirachi's Stellar Guidance! When in doubt, always try to grab a Silent Lab as early as turn one, and when worst comes worst, use your handy Dowsing Machine in order to retrieve an extra copy of this valuable Stadium. Hex Maniac is honestly much less useful in this matchup, unless you're able to play it down turn one and continuously chain it for as many turns as possible. In most cases, however, I'd honestly rather play down a Ghetsis turn one in order to try and get an early edge, and sometimes a free win. In combination with an early Silent Lab, this combination is quite deadly! Follow up with a mid-game Parallel City for maximum effect.

Yveltal Maxie's is very versatile in a sense where it also packs a punch against evolutions – Archeops is a very niche resource at our disposal that can help us to boast positive matchups. For a short list of harmful evolutions, we can prevent Vileplume, Lurantis, Flareon, Vespiquen, Crobat, Decidueye, Mega Evolutions, Raichu, Donphan, and many more from coming into play just by playing a single copy of this magnificent card! If it weren't for Wobbuffet and Hex Maniac, I'd go as far as saying this is one of the most broken cards ever printed in the history of Pokemon. Nonetheless, this single card will help you coast for an easy win during at least a few games of your nine rounds. Gallade will handle quite a few games on it's own, namely the Turbo Darkrai matchup, and any random Manectric decks you might find along the way (hey, it is Canada after all).

You can tech this deck out in several different ways too, like for example, the Sableye in this deck makes for a fanastic counter to Sableye/Garbodor. It counters it by being able to Junk Hunt for AZ/Dark Patch consistently enough to the point where you'll eventually be able to become mobile while underneath Garbotoxin. The Dark Patch helps you to reattach energy that have been discarded via Crushing Hammer or Team Flare Grunt. While I don't suspect many Sableye/Garbodor (I'd expect equally the same amount of Accelgor/Wobbuffet), it should still be in the back of your mind. I'd still keep the Sableye in here, just because it makes Maxie's easier to get as well via Junk Hunt'ing back cards that allow you to interact with your hand size, such as your Ace Spec or multiple Ultra Balls.

One last think I'd like to touch on this deck is that it is extremely grindy – so to say, every single match will be a nailbiter! This is because usually Yveltal is even with the metagame, but is able to come out on top just by the hairs on its chin. Micro-decisions truly matter in this deck, and can pilot you to a win, just about as equal as a 0-2 drop. I remember initially the first time I ran this deck that it would be auto-pilot, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how tactile this deck is, and how difficult the mirror matchup can be. The Fright Night Yveltal plays a major role in many matchups, and timing it can be very key; deciding which Pokemon to “Maxie” out is relevant as well, and sometimes you may not even need to use a Maxie Pokemon. It is very easy to overextend with this deck, so my main suggestion is to be patient on some turns, and be content with how your board is. You'll need to preserve certain resources in order to close out certain matchups (i.e. Dark Patch).

I love this deck as a play just because it has such all-around solid matchups – there's a distinct reason why it's mentioned in almost every single Expanded article ever written! Try this deck out if you haven't, there's an obvious reason why Israel Sosa has won so many Regionals with this beast – Yveltal is just that good, and provides the right amount of consistency to carry you through potentially seventeen rounds of Pokemon!

We're Allowed to Play French Cards

Since we're in alliance with the province of Quebec, Canada sports two national languages: English and French. Thanks to our Prime Ministers and founding co-fathers, we're now able to play French Tropical Beaches in our decks, which also alludes to the possibility of Groudon being played. It's always a consistent threat within the metagame since now Tropical Beaches are easier to play moreso now than ever. Groudon also ended up winning the 2016 Toronto Regional Championships, so it wouldn't surprise me for the deck to make a comeback. It also performed very well at Expanded Regionals recently, so keep your eyes peeled. This is Travis Nunlist's exact 60 cards that he used to Top 8 Portland Regionals, and I didn't change a thing because the deck is that flawless. This is the most optimal way to run Primal Groudon, and we'll talk all about why I think the deck has some moxy going into Toronto Regionals.

First of all, Wobbuffet is becoming a very useful card in this format, whether it's used to ware off pesky Archeops, a random Vileplume, or perhaps even preventing the opponent from using Shaymin EX's Set Up! Either way, no matter which ability they are trying to use, Wobbuffet will always stand in their way to prevent you from being hurt. Groudon is a deck that is naturally slow; slow to the point where regardless of what you do, I'm unsure how probable three games can be completed within the time limit. This is a deck that rewards patience – the Pokemon line is very standardized, but the rest of the list is just too solid to not run. Travis opted to run a complete four-suite of Korrina, which allows Groudon access to a specific Pokemon Tool, or potentially to even find a Groudon via Nest Ball, Groudon's newest addition. The two copies of Pokemon Centre Lady really aid you against fringe decks such as Accelgor, who can inflict special conditions via their estranged attacks. It's extremely important to either have the PCL in your hand or discard pile to reuse with VS Seeker, because if you;re paralyzed, you'll need to escape those binds in a pinch, otherwise your Goliath will quickly hit the discard pile. If your Groudon ever goes down, in most cases you'll lose the game. In the wise words of Aaron Tarbell, “take four Prize Cards with the first Groudon.... and then figure out how to draw the other two”.

This deck becomes strong depending on how absent Night March and Vespiquen are. This deck truly banks on taking two Prize Cards with each KO, and without that privilege I often find myself struggling to stay in the game. Vespiquen can handle this deck quit easily due to its ability to dish out high amounts of damage fast, and also hit Groudon for weakness. The copy of Weakness policy helps us to combat things like Vespiquen or Decidueye, but it still is difficult to combat these Grass-type Pokemon. Rather than tackle that matchup the traditional way by taking all six Prize Cards, we'll instead attempt to run them completely out of energy. While discarding their Double Colourless energies, we force them into using their Flareon, which doesn't hit us for weakness. In most matchups, provided we can consistently heal our Groudon throughout the course of the game, we'll most likely be able to win.

Issues the deck has is being N'd in the late game into a hand without a Stadium in it, while their attacker opts for a 2HKO on us. This is frustrating for Groudon players as most of the time we are so close to the victory, and we've played for so long, just for our hand to get whisked away into the deck. It's very key to thin our decks as much as we possibly can before going down below four Prize Cards, so don't hesitate to take as much time as you need in order to get to that point. This is the main reason why I won't be playing Groudon this weekend – it's too susceptible to veteran play. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it can't prosper in a diverse field, especially with its handy Omega Barrier ancient trait.

The Probable Play

At my first Expanded League Cup for the Spring, I played Volcanion with my friend Dakota Gillanders; this was a call we majorly made to counter Dark, but we were metagamed back by fellow players at the Cup, of course all playing Night March. It's important to note how counter-active most Canadians are, and they stay very informed on the metagame – be cautious of those who stay on top of the game. This is my personal favourite play going into the event, and I think that it's personally brilliant! I love the innovation that the Life Dew provides, and was recently enlightened by Michael Pramawat and Connor Finton on how good the card is; being able to spam Life Dew in conjunction with Puzzle of Time is just too much to handle for some decks. Coupled with Special Charge, you're able to come up with so many attackers that you'd usually be unable to spawn.

Other interesting inclusions include the Gallade! Ah, Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick – what a useful card in a format where Fighting is such a great type to have, but the majority of Fighting Pokemon aren't splashable. In the case of Gallade, a quick 1/1 line with a Maxie's gives us access to a 1-Prize attacker that counters Turbo Darkrai so efficiently. It doesn't even need to necessarily happen on the first turn! Really any point of the game is an opening for Gallade, and it greatly benefits your matchup against Item-lock decks due to its clairvoyant ability, Premonition – seeing your top five cards gives you enough reach to see future topdecks, and potentially enough wiggle room to squeeze out a win in rough circumstances. I'm still on the fence about whether or not to include a single copy of Archeops NVI; it gives us a boosted Lurantis/Vileplume matchup, as well as a strong Greninja and Decidueye matchup, but I'm unsure how popular any of these choices will truly be going into Toronto. I'd personally just like to focus on what I need to beat, rather than include a potentially useless card for a matchup I may not see.

The Tauros is something that I've grown currently to like somewhat: it provides a solid answer to Seismitoad matchups, it gives the deck a GX attack, it's able to deal with Trevenant as well! With an all purpose tool like Tauros, it's hard not to run such a utility attacker in a deck that would otherwise perform in a very linear fashion. Tauros falls victim to Gallade however, and is also a 2-Prize attacker, which means it should only be used in very specific scenarios, otherwise the card should be discarded relatively early with Battle Compressor. Barring the matchups mentioned, I'd use it as discard fodder with an Ultra Ball.

Night March is looking great in the current format, with most people choosing to play Yveltal Maxie's, Mega Rayquaza, or Volcanion. All three of these decks faulter to Night March, due to the onslaught of 1-Prize attackers Night March offers, as well as most of the top tier decks being weak to Lightning. Night March provides unparalleled speed in the current state of the game, and has an insanely broken engine by abusing Battle Compressor! Phantom Forces was packing a punch when they released this deck, but with the uprising of new additions, Night March becomes a revamped beast in the Expanded format. Night March is extremely fragile in terms of setup, however; a random Ghetsis at certain key points in the game can catch an unsuspecting Night March player right off guard, and throw them into the Shadow Realm. Either that, or a random Karen can cause severe issues for the deck that it can't come back from! If you choose to play Night March at Toronto, be extremely cautious of tech supporters that may be thrown your way, because you can lose in even the best of scenarios when they are played correctly.

Item-lock is the last opposition that most players pack against Night March. When I mention Item-lock, I'm mainly mentioning Vileplume variants, Trevenant, and Seismitoad. Trevenant is at an all-time-low in terms of play, mostly due to Yveltal taking over as the BDIF of the Expanded format. Seismitoad is still present in some corners, as well as Vileplume with the emergence of DeciPlume in Expanded. We don't really have to worry about Seismitoad too much since we have Tauros to deal with it, but Vileplume is a huge deal on it's own. The ultimate way to combat a Vileplume is by playing a Hex Maniac on the first turn of the game, or by holding onto Hex Maniac at surprise times! One crazy cat lady can go a long way, so be sure to time it correctly in order to maximize the efficiency of your Item cards.

Overall, the consistency of this deck earns an A+, namely in terms of the previously mentioned engine it contains within Battle Compressor. Not only does Battle Compressor allow this deck to discard Night Marchers with ease, but it also thins your deck by 1/20th every time, and can turn your discard pile into a Supporter toolbox via the usage of VS Seeker. I personally enjoy the convenience of throwing every Supporter into the discard, so that makes this deck by default one of my favourites to play. I also like how you can Battle Compressor any two cards, and then use Puzzle of Time to retrieve them with relative ease. The versatility that Battle Compressor provides to the deck is easily what pushes this to the top of my list! March on!

Blackened Maple Leaves

Ah, the hero that this format needed! This is my runner-up play to Night March that I'm heavily debating, namely due to its strengths with consistency followed by its great versatility. Darkrai has so many tools at its disposal it's unbelievable, whether it's Salamence, Giratina, or the DEX Darkrai, you just have so much to get the job done with. For this reason, this is a deck that has to be piloted by somebody with merit, who enjoys having several options at their disposal. They also have to be able to know what's in their Prize Cards since many of the attackers are thin in this deck. Also, while deck building, you have to make options for either more attackers or more retreating in the deck via a 2/2 Darkrai split or a 3/1 line between the DEX/BKP copies.

Darkrai is very fast hitting in general; the card is efficient and honest. You really get what you pay for: 20 + 20 for each Dark energy attached to all of your Pokemon in play. One of the best ways to acheive this goal is via express energy attachment, which is why we sport a full suite of Dark Patch, Max Elixir, and supportive copies of Double Dragon. As opposed to streamlined Turbo Darkrai in Expanded, you'll find that while this version is a smidge less consistent, it has more potential to climb the damage ladder faster. This is of course in hand due to Double Dragon's raw fuel, and it isn't hard to lay a couple of these down on an attacker. The main strongpoints of this deck is that it harnesses the power of several different attackers, and much like its streamlined brother, Turbo Darkrai, you really get to spread out your energies amongst multiple attackers. This creates difficult scenarios for your opponent, as they will quickly be shrouded by a field full of loaded up baddies. By spreading the love evenly amongst your field, you'll also be much less susceptible to N plays by your opponent because your win condition will most likely be on your field instead of in your hand.

By adding in Dragons into the mix, you gain what Giratina has to offer – with an ability like Chaos Wheel, you gain battle strategy against Mega Pokemon such as Mega Rayquaza, Primal Groudon, and Mega Manectric. This is key, because sometimes the climb to battle against those high HP monsters can be too steep of a hill for Darkrai to climb, but the struggle namely is taken by Mega Rayquaza. When in combination with Chaos Wheel, you lock out their Sky Field, as well as their ability to attach Spirit Links and Double Colourless energy. It's very key that you utilize your Giratina in a way to secure a victory – if your Giratina ever gets KO'd in a game, you'll effectively be losing four energies, or in Darkrai's eyes, 80 total damage. Salamence, however, is a whole other story.

Being able to power up a Salamence in one turn (via Max Elixir and a Double Dragon attachment) fuels a fire that will send your opponent running for the hills. It's a massive advantage to you to have such a gas canister just relaxing on the bench waiting to bust open at any moment. I personally like to conceal this card whenever possible in hopes that my opponent will play their Hoopa, followed up by a Shaymin, and then also followed by their main attacker as well. Lovely. That's a 160 damage bump right there! This Pokemon works great against almost every single deck in Expanded, and unless they have a quick answer to it, can draw upwards of four Prize Cards. Don't underestimate its second attack either – it can still KO a Shaymin with a single blow!

Darkrai is naturally good against fringe decks such as Trevenant, mainly due to its weakness to Dark-type Pokemon. Darkrai is also very good when going toe-to-toe with Yveltal, but be wary when playing against Maxie's versions; you don't want a Gallade to suddenly blow you out of the water. Instead, use the Mew to your advantage as your “third” BKP Darkrai, and you'd be amazed at how much mileage an extra single-Prize attacker can bring to the table. Focus on the main goal of the deck: put as many energy into play as possible, because in all honestly that's as simple as it gets with the gameplan. It's moreso how you can use those energies that'll give you an advantage.

This deck tends to suffer against Volcanion, and can also have a fairly hard time against non-meta decks, like Greninja and Carbink BREAK. Even with alternative attackers, facing off against any Fighting-type Pokemon can bring deep trouble to Darkrai's execution, and can stop you in your tracks. If you're facing several Fighting-decks, or anticipate them at Toronto, I'd suggest adding in an Yveltal EX or maybe some Hex Maniac to counter against Safeguard. Likewise, Hex Maniac boosts your matchup against Greninja, another fellow deck in the metagame that has recently fallen off. Actually, I'll correct myself – I don't think that it has fallen off, I just think it has moreso been forgotten. Every now and then these oddball decks will appear, and in a smaller Regionals such as Toronto, you really want to be prepared for everything!

C'est la Fin!

With the way I see this tournament going, I expect there to be roughly 400 players in the Masters division, which translates to the standard nine rounds of Swiss, followed by a Top 32, and then a single-elimination Top 8. To put this tournament in to terms by the slightest – I'd expect there to be a ton of variance in the field. Although I've capitalized on this earlier on in the article, I firmly believe that there is going to be a ton of people who are going to play what they feel confident with, as opposed to reading the metagame, and that's something that I'm fine with. My goal as a player is to pick a deck that levels the playing field down in a way that I can win against almost any matchup. That's the same principal most players have, except for those coveted by greed who will play a deck with the intent of facing a consistent matchup (i.e. Playing Gyarados to counter Turbo Dark). Even though I may not be able to pilot the deck I choose to its 100% potential, I'll still play it myself because I feel like it will optimally give me the best chances of winning this event. I'm already at the CP threshold that I feel is necessary to make the Top 16 in NA, so now my motive has changed – I'm going to play a deck that I feel has the best chance of taking 1st place! While this motive may cause me to evidently bomb the tournament, it is the same risk I'm willing to take to walk home with a piece of glass.

If you're travelling to this beautiful city, I've posted a bit of a traveller's checklist online in the Facebook group Virbank City that I think will really help the tourists coming to visit. One of the most exciting parts about this event are the people that I get to see. I always love the country that I'm from, and every time I participate at the World Championships, I take great pride in being a player from this fantastic country. In all honesty, I wish that TPCi gave their northern brother a little bit more love in the tournament area, just because I think that we deserve it; I'll still love this community nonetheless, and everything that they've done for me. It's about time though that I pay it back a little bit: every single tournament I've been to this year, I've mentioned to the higher up officials (in some way) that they should implement more tournaments here, for both expansion and retainment purposes. I mean, they already have a crowd going, why just let that die out? This is something that I think Pokemon has come to realize, and are beginning to lament on more and more. With a little bit of elbow grease, the wheels will turn in Canada within no time, I'm sure! It just disheartens me when I hear from my friends in the Junior/Senior division that their parents can't afford to travel every tournament to the USA because it's too expensive. This even lends a hand to the Master's division as well, myself included! Other countries would benefit from the expansion of events, like for example Russia, who just administered their organized play very recently. At this rate, Pikachu will take over the world.

I'm quite ecstatic to have all of my friends over for the weekend, because after the mess of a metagame Virginia contained, I feel a lot more confident heading into the Expanded format with the knowledge that I know now. I also came to a realization in Virginia that some days just can't be your day; in other words, “you can't win them all”. Some days, you're equally invincible. It's all the struggle, and the victory will taste even sweeter once achieved. I'll be around the venue early if anybody wants to hangout, or if you just want to say hi! Thanks for reading my article, and have yourself a great day, eh?

- Jacob Lesage

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