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Marc Lutz

Expanded Metagame Analysis December 2014

Marc Lutz talks about the current state of the metagame.

12/16/2014 by Marc Lutz

Turbo Bolting at the Arena Cup!

Greetings, 60cards readers!


I’m back with another article in my series regarding the ever evolving metagame; trying to help you all stay one step ahead of the competition!

In the following article, i’ll be covering the current top tier decks, with the focal point being the results from the Arena Cup in Bremen, Germany. The Arena Cup was played in the expanded format, one that is uncommon in Europe but definitely relevant to our US readers. I was fortunate enough to place in the top eight of the event, which means you also get a brief tournament report for a closer look at my day.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Metagame

Donphan Variants

ManectricEX Variants

Tournament Report Arena Cup Bremen

Conclusion

 

The Metagame

To start things off here's a list of the decks that made the top 8 of the Arena Cup: 

Donphan
Donphan
Donphan
Manectric ex
Manectric ex
Manectric ex/Genesect ex
Empoleon/Dusknoir
Thundurus ex/Deoxys ex/Kyurem


While there are two decks that are largely underrepresented in the current metagame placing in the top 8 (Plasma and Empoleon), it’s also clear to see that Donphan and Manectric variants are thriving. Both of these decks are very powerful, with their ability to do well in expanded showcasing this. These are decks that you should definitely be on the lookout for when playing Standard; given the non-interactive nature of Donphan, and the raw power and type advantage of Manectric ex.

An interesting observation is that neither Seismitoad ex or Yveltal ex featured in the top 8 and were pretty underrepresented in the tournament overall. However, I think it would be silly to totally discount Seismitoad ex on this basis alone. The ability to shut down items remains extremely strong in both formats, especially following the release of very strong, unique cards (such as Battle Compressor and VS Seeker). The ability to delay Mega Manectric EX's 'Turbo Bolt' attack by a turn because they can't play their Spirit Link anymore, is also definitely relevant.

The success of Yveltal ex variants will largely depend on how many players adopt Manectric ex as their primary attacker. While being particularly strong against Donphan, its matchup against any Manectric deck is fairly poor because it simply cannot overcome the efficiency the attacker abusing lightning weakness.

A deck that is still heavily played (with little success), is Pyroar. It maintains its strengths against decks like Genesect ex/Virizion ex, or others heavily reliant on big basic attackers, but struggles with the fast evolutions that Donphan and Mega Manectric ex present.

Sure we’ve seen the addition of other attackers; Seismitoad ex and Mewtwo ex to name a few; but they don’t really do enough to sway what are inherent weaknesses with Pyroar decks. It doesn’t deal well with other stage one Pokemon; especially those that use energy more efficiently. In a nutshell; Pyroar becomes less viable if the popularity of these decks remains high. Could this see a return to prominence of Genesect ex/Virizion ex? Perhaps splashing Mega Manectric ex as a way to keep energy in play? Get your G-Boosters out, guys! 

 


Donphan Variants 

I think i’d be hard pressed to find many that would disagree with me if I said that Donphan was the deck to beat in the current format. At the very least, its existence has forced many decks to be shelved for fear of their inability to interact with its hit and run strategy. Robo Substitute has given the deck another tool that some strategies simply cannot cope with. Having to waste 3-4 turns a game grinding through Robo Substitutes without progressing in the prize race, is an absolute nightmare. ‘You’re forgetting about Lysandre, Marc!‘ I hear you all chant. Even when they have Lysandre in multiples (made easier with VS Seeker), they are only taking single prize cards at a time. This means that Donphan is able to trade efficiently, thanks to the large damage output available for a single energy with cards like Muscle Band, Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium.

The general strategy of Donphan decks is to use Spinning Turn, almost every turn of the game. It promotes a Pokemon that either has large hitpoints and punishes an opponent for failing to one hit KO it, or cannot be attacked due to Safeguard. Add to this that Spinning Turn is usually able to two hit KO the formats best cards, and in some cases even one hit KO; and you have a real monster on your hands. Though, that isn’t all! Donphan's second attack is also used when needed to deal with bigger threats immediately. With Strong Energy and the bonus damage provided by discarding the Fighting Stadium, Donphan's 'Wreck' attack does enough damage to OHKO almost anything in the current format. 

 

This is the deck that Mees B. used to crush the competition at the Arena Cup in Bremen, to a first place finish. Unlike most Donphan variants, he decided to partner it with Accelgor. A pretty cool addition considering he already plays 4 Double Colorless Energy in his deck. Accelgor is another really good way of not interacting with your opponents game-plan, especially as most decks do not play high counts of Switch or Escape Rope, and even then are forced to have it in tandem with a way of attacking whatever Pokemon has been promoted after a Deck and Cover. 

Traditional Donphan decks usually run a 4-4 line of Donphan, accompanied by basic tech cards like Sigilyph, Kyurem or Wobbuffet (to name a few). I’ve also seen a few that run Mewtwo ex, since they already have Double Colorless Energy in the deck.


How to counter Donphan? 

The best card to counter Donphan in my opinion is either Seismitoad EX or Kyurem NVI. Both of them are water type attackers and can therefore deal with Donphan pretty easily. Seismitoad EX also provides the item lock which is great against Robo Substitute. Both of them have to be played with a high amount of Lysandres though, otherwise you can not get Donphan in the active spot and it is just as much of a disaster as it is with the other decks. 

Pros of playing Donphan: 

Consistent, difficult to counter, and doesn’t require a great deal of skill in executing its plan.

Cons of playing Donphan:

It’s linear gameplay make it easy to predict. If you can interact with it, you won’t often be caught out by what its trying to accomplish.


What is Donphan good against? 

Due to its type, Donphan has an easy time dealing with Manectric ex. Manectric ex can't really deal with the pressure of early Donphans, because even if the Manectric ex player manages to trade prizes KO’s each turn with Assault Laser + Muscle Band on a Muscle Banded Donphan, the prize trade still favors the Donphan player. There are some Manectric EX variants that run a high amount of Water Energy and Kyurem. They might have a chance against Donphan if you focus a lot on those Kyurems, though I still don't think that the matchup is winnable on a consistent basis. 

Pyroar is another victim to Donphan’s popularity. Its a deck that preys on EX Pokemon - something Donphan rarely ever plays. Even though Fighting Stadium doesn't apply any damage against Pyroar; Spinning Turn is remains an easy 2HKO. As long as you get your Robo Substitutes into play (to avoid any Seismitoad ex issues) there should be no problem winning against this archetype.


What is Donphan bad against?

In my opinion; Yveltal ex decks pose the biggest threat to Donphan among the mainstream options. Fighting resistance; and the ability to deal a high amount of damage (in combination with Lysandre) proves to be very dificult for Donphan to deal with. The move away from Zekrom in favor of Robo Substitutes, has also weakened the matchup i’m sure. Hope to avoid this deck!


Conclusion on Donphan 

Overall I think that its probably just the best deck, and grants you the highest chance when trying to win a tournament.

The hit and run strategy of Donphan also opens up a lot of room for creativity in terms of techs you can run into. For example you can also play Trevenant to prevent your opponent from playing any item cards after you’ve attacked with Donphan, but that is not too popular. I am almost 100% certain that Donphan will win the most events in the upcoming weeks of City Championships.


Manectric EX Variants 

Mega Manectric EX is one of the most versatile Pokémon in the game right now, with Turbo Bolt among the strongest attacks available in the current format. For just a single Lightning and colorless, it is able to provide energy acceleration of any type. Therefore, you can run almost anything alongside it.

The top 3 choices are probably fighting types (like Landorus ex), Genesect ex for its sheer power, or Kyurem to protect against your weakness. I do lean toward fighting types however, as I believe they are the strongest amongst the three. Since Manectric ex is weak to fighting types, you certainly have to keep that in mind when building your deck as you’ll likely face some amount of Donphan when playing competitively.

The general strategy of almost all Manectric ex decks is to use Turbo Bolt as fast as possible which is also why you run a high amount of Spirit Links in your deck to negate the delay of Mega Evolution. Battle Compressor should be an auto-include in those decks as well as it not only helps you with your consistency, but also puts energy cards into the discard pile for Turbo Bolt. 

The regular Manectric ex also has a very strong attack in Assault Laser, which does a whopping 120 damage for only two energy cards if the defending Pokémon has a Pokémon tool attached to it. This is especially strong against Yveltal ex because it usually requires Muscle Band to deal a good amount of damage, and gets OHKO’d for its troubles. You can also combine this with one of the two Team Flare Tool cards. 

Manectric ex decks are fast paced, and prey on the slower decks in the format. It becomes difficult for them to catch up whilst you are able to efficiently trade KO’s, and keep accelerating new attackers. 

 

This is the deck Steven Mao used to make it all the way to the finals of the Arena Cup. It is also the deck I lost to in my top 8 match. 

The general gameplay of this deck is to apply as much early pressure as possible with either Mega Manectric EX or Landorus EX, while Landorus EX is better when you face Donphan. Otherwise, you want to use Turbo Bolt as fast as possible and start setting up your fighting type attackers on your bench. 

A Pokémon that does a massive 110 damage by turn two and also sets up a Lands Judgment for the next turn is a lot to handle for most decks. It also has the upper hand against any other Manectric ex variant due to the high amount of fighting type Pokémon played in this deck.


How to counter Manectric ex? 

It's quite simple. You need fighting type attackers in order to OHKO Manectric, because every time Mega Manectric ex uses Turbo Bolt again it brings you closer to losing the game. Depending on the deck you play you can run something like a Landorus ex or Terrakion to counter Manectric ex. Bronzong decks can actually tech a Terrakion really well as they're able to charge it up in a single turn thanks to Bronzongs ability.


What is Manectric ex good against? 

In general, Manectric ex has a decent matchup against almost anything, with its main problem coming in the form of fighting type Pokemon. Pyroar? No problem. Thanks to Mega Manectric ex’s ability to OHKO and set up other attackers, this is definitely very favorable. Yveltal ex? No problem. Regular Manectric ex can often OHKO Yveltal ex, and quickly gets too far ahead if the Mega is able to use Turbo Bolt. Solid across the board, as long as you avoid fighting.


What is Manectric ex bad against? 

In short, Donphan & other fighting types.

Again, due to its versatility Manectric ex doesn't really have bad match-ups barring fighting types in general. Donphan just happens to be one of those so it is especially hard for Manectric ex to consistently perform. However depending on the techs you run, its possible that with enough luck, Manectric can beat anything!

Conclusion on Manectric ex

Without a doubt Mega Manectric ex is the best Mega Evolution in the game, and Spirit Link really helps it a lot. If you can find a build that is good enough to deal with Donphan on a consistent basis? I think that its a frontrunner in my upcoming tournament choices! 


Tournament Report: Arena Cup Bremen

I recently made top 8 at the Arena Cup in Bremen with Manectric ex/Kyurem with a lucky 3-0-3 record. I tied with a Manectric ex/Fighting deck and two Donphan/Accelgor decks. Here's the deck I decided to play. 

 

The general strategy of the deck is to use Turbo Bolt as fast as possible to charge up one of the three Kyurems I played, depending on what the opponent is playing. I also played a 1-1 tech line of Eelektrik for additional energy acceleration. I think it is a very solid deck in the current metagame, but not the best choice against a lot of Fighting type decks like Landorus ex.

Round 1 vs. Dennis Seebürger (Thundurus/Deoxys/Kyurem) 1-0 

Game 1: I didn't have an early supporter, but luckily he also could not manage to put a lot of pressure on my as he only had a lone Thundurus ex which couldn't deal enough damage to my Manectric ex. He also played Head Ringer which made it very difficult for my Manectric ex to shine as I wasn't able to play my Spirit Link. After I a few turns I topdecked an Ultra Ball which got me a Jirachi ex to bring me back into the game. From there I used a few Turbo Bolts and dominated my opponent with Mewtwo ex. 

Game 2: He drew pretty dead, whilst I got a perfect start and simply overwhelmed him. Sorry, Dennis! 

Round 2 vs Konstantin Beck (Manectric ex/Metal Types) 2-0

Game 1: He conceded shortly after I used Turbo Bolt on turn 2. 

Game 2: I managed to get 8 energy cards attached to my Black Kyurem EX and started to take prizes every single turn from there on. He couldn't handle the onslaught of Black Ballista. 

Round 3 vs Fatih 'RegiBang' A. (Manectric ex/Fighting Types) 2-0-1 

Game 1: I got him into a 7-prize game with my Plasma Kyurem and was able to hit him for weakness with Mewtwo ex on Lucario ex and the Kyurems on Landorus ex. He couldn't really handle the type advantage. 

Game 2: I managed to get ahead very early, but I couldn't finish him off due to his N limiting my options. He got back into the game and I couldn't deal the last damage necessary for me to win. Time was called and the game ended in a draw. 

Round 4 vs Sandro Althaus (Pyroar/Seismitoad ex) 3-0-1

Game 1: I got a turn 2 Mega Manectric ex and he immediately conceded. 

Game 2: He said his goal was to take at least one prize this game, but he couldn't do it. Mega Manectric ex was just too much to handle for Pyroar. 

Round 5 vs Mees B. (Donphan/Accelgor) 3-0-2 

He came to the table and asked me if I wanted to draw, which I immediately accepted. I was very concerned with the matchup, and was happy to tie instead of what I felt would likely be a loss.

Round 6 vs Tim van Heuven (Donphan/Accelgor) 3-0-3

Game 1: He missed a few early energy drops and an early Mega Manectric ex powering up Kyurems prompted a concession. 

Game 2: Both of my water type Kyurem as well as my Keldeo EX were prized. After I made a huge comeback due to an N to 1, he top-decked the Double Colorless Energy he needed to win the game. 

Game 3: We were very close to finishing the game but time was called and it ended up a tie.

Unfortunately, I had to face my old friend Steven Mao in my top 8 match. He played a deck which I couldn't really beat due to a very bad matchup against it. He was playing a good amount of strong fighting type attackers like Landorus EX, and even the old retaliate Tarrakion.


Quarter Finals vs Steven Mao (Manectric EX/Fighting Types) 0-2

Game 1: I couldn't get anything going and his Landorus EX applied too much pressure on me. I conceded very quickly. 

Game 2: He set up a Terrakion with a Strong Energy which was able to OHKO anything I played. I quickly lost after a few turns of fighting type demolition. 


Conclusion 

I think Mees made the best deck choice for this event with his Donphan/Accelgor deck, because almost no one had a counter for Accelgor. I was still satisfied with my result, because I was pretty fortunate to even get the top 8 spot with my mediocre record. I am also very close to my invite now only requiring one Regionals win! 


See you all soon!

Marc Lutz

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