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Marc Lutz

Preparing for Nationals Season

Marc Lutz shares his thoughts about the upcoming nationals

05/13/2015 by Marc Lutz

Hello 60cards readers!

 

It feels great to finally be back!As some of you may know, German Nationals will take place on the same weekend as the first American Spring Regionals this year, so I’m still completely focused on the BCR-PCL format. In this article, I’m going to talk about what I feel are the five best deck choices going into this format’s last events and give you my personal take on all of them.

Let’s jump right into it!

Seismitoad/Slurpuff

Seismitoad variants have made up the biggest part of both the American and European metagame for quite some time now and this is the most successful one of them – for good reason if you ask me. Being able to cycle through the deck’s powerful flip cards over and over again with the help of Lysandre’s Trump Card, Slurpuff’s Tasting and Acro Bike is simply insane.

In the following I’m going to explain some of my card choices, look into possible changes and finally state my opinion on some matchups.

1-1 Dragalge:

This card poses a huge threat to many decks, especially those who rely on Keldeo EX to get out of your Special Conditions. Suddenly one of the normally biggest annoyances you could face is only a Lysandre and a Laser away from giving you two free prizes! It isn’t exactly a must-have, but the impact Dragalge can have on a game is so incredible that I’d surely advise you to include it in this deck.

2 Team Flare Grunt/1 Xerosic:

A healthy amount of those two supporters is absolutely necessary to gain an edge in the mirror match. I’ve chosen to go with 2 Flare Grunt because unlike Xerosic, it’s usable in every single matchup, but a 1/2 split would be fine too.

4 SSU & 4 Crushing Hammer: I’ve seen lists that included only one of the two, but both are so stupidly good in this that I’d never even consider cutting a single copy of either.

2 N: The deck doesn’t need more than 2 N, because most of the time it won’t be using anything that’s not a Juniper or Trump Card anyway. I actually think that even only 1 would be sufficient, but the second one gives us more T1 Supporter outs, so for now I’ll leave it at 2.

3 VS Seeker: This is a card I’d definitely like to have a 4th one of, but unless one gets very unlucky and consistently draws multiple of them when having to use Juniper, 3 is really all that’s needed.

Town Map: Prizing Trump Card would most likely cause you to lose if you can’t get it out there quickly, so I really like the Town Map in this. It also makes Dragalge more effective because prizing a piece of the 1-1 line is a common problem. Even if nothing seemingly important ends up being prized, knowing what prize to take will be an advantage anyway and can actually have a very important impact on the game. The one obvious downside of using it is its complete uselessness after being recycled by Trump Card, but that’s something I’m willing to take in exchange for all the advantages.

No Cassius:

Contrary to popular belief, I think this card is actually not that good in Seismitoad mirror matches. Your only goal should be to remove the opponent’s DCEs, not your own ones! Healing some damage can be nice, but it ultimately won’t help if the opponent manages to eventually stop you from using Quaking Punch. In other matchups there’s no need for it because of our full set of Super Scoop Up.

No Head Ringer: This is honestly the one card that I just can’t seem to find the right count for. It can be amazing at times, but then there’s also a dozen of matchups it just doesn’t do anything in. I’ve lost count on the amount of times I’ve randomly slapped the card on an opponent’s Jirachi just to get rid of it. Exeggutor, Yveltal, Donphan (they run DCE so even if they whiff the tool for Groudon, Head Ringer doesn’t affect it at all) and Flareon all don’t care about it. Its use in the mirror is also very limited. Crobat/Fighting usually only uses an EX if they draw a tool for it on T1. Gardevoir needs 6 Energy in play anyway and has Aromatisse, so it’s not limited by Head Ringer either.

Virizion/Genesect and Rough Sea variants are basically the only two legit reasons to run this card, but since those are two of the typically harder matchups for this deck, it may be worth it. However, Head Ringer is usually not enough to swing the V/G matchup, and neither Manectric nor Kyogre had even a single top 8 placement at German Regional Championships, so at the moment, I’ve opted to remove them for other more useful cards.

No Water Energy: I don’t understand why some people are still running Basic Energies in this deck, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Grenade Hammer isn’t bad, but absolutely not worth the minimum 3 slots it would take to include the needed Energy. It’s not even worth breaking the trainer lock for a quick KO in most situations, so it might just end up being a game finisher – in a game that would’ve been won anyway. Grenade Hammer can even easily be stopped by an opponent’s Lysandre because it can’t be charged up in one turn.

If you want the ability to deal big damage, run a Mewtwo instead. Its damage output is only slightly lower than the one Grenade Hammer provides, it can be dropped from the hand and charged in a single turn (so no way to stop it), and it only takes up a single slot in the deck!

Speaking of Mewtwo, it’s actually a very viable tech option for this deck.

Mewtwo EX – It drastically improves the deck’s matchup against decks that try to set up a single Groudon to draw all of their 6 prizes. If you have Mewtwo in your deck, they’ll not only have to go through the struggle of setting up that 4 energy monster, they’ll also have to score an OHKO on 3 consecutive turns, otherwise Groudon might go down as two banded Quaking Punch one banded X Ball are enough to 3HKO it.

Being able to OHKO a pumped Yveltal EX is very nice too, but that matchup isn’t troublesome anyway (if you run Dragalge and 4 of both flip trainers that is), so I’d only use Mewtwo in what is to be expected a Groudon heavy field.

Without much doubt, Virizion EX variants are by far the hardest matchup for this deck. It’s no surprise Virizion/Genesect made an impressive comeback after the first week of States ended up being dominated by Seismitoad. Unless you tech Victini EX (don’t do that, it’s bad), a well prepared V/G will always have the advantage. You can tech in Silent Lab, but the opponent will most likely have a stadium too. Head Ringer does obviously help, but it’s usually not enough, even if the opponent misses the T1 Muscle Band Virizion (which doesn’t happen all too often).

Exeggutor is a tough matchup too, but much more doable than V/G. Unfortunately, it’s very luck based and random. It usually depends on how much DCE you manage to draw, how many Flare Grunt/Xerosic the opponent hits, and most of the time, on whether the opponent draws well enough to set up through trainer lock.

Other than that, this decks matchups are even to very favorable. Fighting variants without Groudon are near auto wins, the ones with Groudon are about even. Yveltal is honestly kind of easy, Flareon and Night March don’t pose much of a threat either and while traditionally being a little scary, Dragalge makes the Gardevoir matchup much more pleasant.

What’s so great about this deck is that no matter what deck you face or how well prepared the opponent is, a quick Quaking Punch can always cause a lot of trouble if the opponent happens to draw not much more than a bunch of trainers.

Exeggutor

Having gained massive popularity towards the end of the format, this became an absolute force to be reckoned with. The ability to completely shut the opponent out of the game by blocking his supporters is nothing but stupid. Paired with the threat of being locked from playing trainers by Seismitoad, the existence of this deck causes huge trouble for almost every deck. If you want to beat Exeggutor, you need a trainer heavy engine, but that would mean losing to Quaking Punch. If you want to beat Seismitoad, you need a lot of supporters, but that means losing to Blockade.

Similar to Seismitoad, but even more so true for this deck, is that no matter what you face, you can’t have a truly bad matchup because a T2 Blockade can beat absolutely anything. The opponent could run the perfect counter deck but still lose because of not hitting a good enough T1 and being unable to mount a comeback.

Having talked about how silly this deck is, especially in this format that features another lock deck that seems to cover this one’s weaknesses, let’s take a closer look at the list!

3 Exeggcute: Starting with this little guy and leaving yourself open for Laser/Virbank donks is not what you want, so I’d stick with only three as Propagation will get them back anyway. It’s just a preference call though, so if you add the 4th one to have more general consistency, I won’t blame you.

2 Jirachi EX: This list only has 4 supporters, so you’ll have to T1 Stellar Guidance very frequently. Prizing Jirachi in this situation equals losing, so having 2 is so much safer. It isn’t even a bad starter as everything that’s not a lone egg can be considered a good starter. Plus, the opponent can’t use Lysandre so it’s sitting safely on the bench. Other than space, there’s no reason to not run 2 honestly, and what is more important than consistently setting up?

1 Empoleon/1 Archie:

I’ve gone back and forth on whether Empoleon is actually needed or just a “win more” card, but eventually decided that it’s just too good not to run. Those two extra cards every turn do truly add up and make the deck work so much smoother compared to games in which you do not manage to get the big penguin out.

1 Mr. Mime: To be honest, the main reason I included this one is actually to provide an extra basic to start with, lessening the chance of getting donked. Its usefulness against Landorus EX is of course nice to have too, as you could struggle quite a bit against it without help from Mime.

2 Team Flare Grunt/1 Xerosic: Same logic as in the Seismitoad list, you need to be able to consistently get rid of at the very least one DCE per game, so make sure to pack a solid amount of these two supporters.

The rest of the list is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll continue with some cards I didn’t include.

Dragalge: I really like this card, it’s so strong. However, I still haven’t decided on whether it’s worth it in this, because honestly, most games you’ll play with this deck can’t even be considered games. It’s just either you or your opponent getting completely stomped. The deck doing what it’s supposed to do is enough to win almost any matchup, so maxing out on every possible consistency boosting trainer and running a Mr. Mime to get setup even under the threat of bench damage might be the better approach compared to trying to win by using gimmicks like Dragalge.

It’s true that Dragalge makes some matchups easier by robbing the opponent of any way to deal with your lock, but those games could probably be won without it. On the other hand, it could actually cost you a game by sitting in your starting hand and not being an Acro Bike (a card many people are cutting to make space for techs), maybe hindering you from getting a T1 Archie – or even cause you to dead draw.

Like I said, I’m still torn about this card in this particular deck, so decide for yourself on whether you want to include it.

Startling Megaphone: This card is extremely strong against decks that rely on Tools to beat you, most notably Yveltal, which needs a Muscle Band to 2HKO an Exeggutor. Getting Rid of Float Stones is nice too. However, Xerosic can take care of those as well, so it’s hard to justify cutting another card for a Megaphone. 

So, what does this deck struggle with?

Facing Seismitoad can be a scary because of all the Items needed to setup, but if you manage to get up an Exeggutor, a Virizion and optimally an Empoleon, there’s not much left to fear. Once the opponent whiffs a single Quaking Punch, either because of a KO or because of Flare Grunt/Xerosic, it’s game over (attach your Muscle Bands, VS Seeker for more disruption Supporters).

The biggest threat you’ll have to face is Energy Acceleration: Virizion EX, Xerneas XY and MManectric EX. These cards can create a board with much more energy than you could possibly get rid of, resulting in a single big EX running through your measly, 10 damage inflicting, Eggs. Virizion-EX is particularly problematic because it also shuts down your main source of damage, Hypnotoxic Laser.

The way to beat those decks is hitting enough Crushing Hammers to get rid of all their top decked energy and hope they never actually get to use their attacks. It’s obviously not a very reliable method, but the supporter lock is so strong that it actually works a decent amount of times. Xerneas does attack for one energy, so it’s not really possible to stop that, but since the Fairy deck requires not only energy but also a good amount of setup, it’s not too unlikely to lock even that deck out of the game with a quick Blockade.

Every other matchup is more or less the same. You either get a quick Blockade, hit some Crushing Hammer and win quite easily or draw trash and lose.

Virizion/Genesect

The two before mentioned decks are probably the most powerful decks we have right now and will rightfully make up a big portion of the metagame. They do share a common weakness though – Virizion EX. That’s why this veteran of a deck is still as relevant as ever.

In my opinion, straight Virizion/Genesect is still the best Virizion variant we’ve got right now. The version including Mew/Dimension Valley/Seismitoad tries to make the Flareon and Night March matchup a little less frustrating, but that’s honestly a lost cause. If you face an even somewhat decent player piloting one those two decks, you lose, no matter how hard you try. Succeeding at getting a T1 Emerald Slash with Mew is extremely unlikely, so the only real advantage offered by that variant is the access to counter gyms in case of facing Silent Lab. A single Plasma Frigate would get this job done as well though, as it can easily be searched out of the deck by Skyla and recycled by Shadow Triad. The space that’s freed by not running any Mew related stuff can then be used to add in cards that actually improve certain matchups or consistency in general.

Virizion/Mewtwo/Seismitoad is an even worse idea. It might occasionally sneak out a win against one of those Battle Compressor decks, however, almost every other matchup does get significantly worse due to sacrificing the power of Red Signal and G Booster.

3 Virizion EX: I’ve never understood why so many players think that you need 4 of these. I’d much rather add a fourth Genesect than a fourth Virizion. I have been in fact running only 2 Virizion-EX for most of the past season, including my 3rd place finish at nationals! Opening and attaching to an active Virizion isn’t the most optimal thing to do in many matchups. Your main objective shouldn’t be a T2 Emerald Slash, actually, the goal is to Emerald Slash twice with the first Virizion. This would optimally happen on T2 and T3, but it doesn’t have to! If you attach to an active Virizion on your first turn with the intent to attack with it on the following turn, the opponent will likely damage it before it has done anything and then knock it out after its first attack. If you attached to a benched one and then played a switch on your second turn, it would get in undamaged and free to get off multiple Emerald Slashes. Don’t worry about whiffing the switching effect, you’ll be fine even if you attack on T3 and T4. In fact, this can even be an advantage for you, because on the third turn, you’ll be able to also use a Red Signal and damage something potentially much more valuable than you would have a turn earlier. This is especially true in the Yveltal matchup, where swinging into non ex Yveltal won’t get you anywhere while dragging up Yveltal ex and doing 70 damage is what you should be doing most of the time.

1 Dedenne: The most useful non ex option at the moment. It improves the Yveltal matchup to a point at which I’d definitely call it a favorable one and comes in handy against other decks too. After having sniped 20 damage onto an Yveltal EX it’s crazily easy to take an OHKO with Dedenne, but even 2HKOing and forcing them to take the 7th prize is huge.

1 Mr. Mime is a solid option too, a non ex Pokemon isn’t all that needed though, you could definitely decide to run neither.

2 Enhanced Hammer: These are so incredibly helpful, while most importantly against Donphan (they enhance the matchup by quite a large bit!), almost every deck will give you the opportunity to get good use of them.

1 Max Potion: As mentioned in the section about Virizion, you’ll often want to use one of your EX as some kind of damage sponge for the first one or two turns and then safely return it to your bench. Max Potion will prevent it from being an easy two prize target in the long run and can through this way mitigate the disadvantage of V/G being a rather slow deck that doesn’t do anything on its first turn. Prize denial in general is obviously strong and can really help to turn close games in your favor. This slot could be used for any tech trainer (Tool Retriever, Megaphone and Plasma Frigate are all strong picks in the right matchups), but for now I’ll stick with trusty MP.

As already mentioned, its ability to deal well with both Seismitoad and Exeggutor is this deck’s greatest strength in the current format. It does have a good chunk of other strong matchups too though!

Yveltal variants without Garbodor are quite easy to beat if you know what you’re doing. Don’t let the first Virizion die too early and always Red Signal an Yveltal EX when possible. Getting rid of Spiritomb isn’t all too important generally, but can be the right move in some situations. Enhanced Hammer and Dedenne put in a good amount of work in this matchup, so if you’d decide to not run any of those two, things can get a little more problematic, but you should do fine too.

The inclusion of Garbodor makes the matchup a lot trickier because you’ll no longer be able to get around non ex Yveltal while the opponent will have a much easier time scoring KOs thanks to Hypnotoxic Lasers. Instead of relying on 2HKOs with Emerald Slash and Megalo Cannon, you have to be aggressive with G-Booster. If you have the option to get rid of Garbodor through Lysandre or quick Red Signals, do it! Stopping the ability lock will most likely be worth it, even if means ignoring a potentially attacking threat. Remember you still have Dedenne so a pumped Yveltal EX isn’t exactly scary to face!

Donphan is what many players consider to be a very difficult matchup for V/G, but in my opinion, it’s actually quite even. Red Signal is the best possible counter for Donphan’s hit and run strategy you could ever ask for! Sure, getting 2HKOed by non ex that will most likely start attacking sooner than you isn’t exactly optimal, but you can deal with that. It’s very important to switch around your own Pokémon so that the opponent will be forced to use Lysandre if he actually wants to take any Kos. It should not be rare for you to have a bench with like 3 heavily damaged EX when playing this matchup. Keeping up a solid damage output is no easy task for Donphan when having to deal with ongoing Kos, getting its Energy hammered away and having to regularly use Lysandre over other Supporters.

Sadly, there’s a good reason this deck has been on the decline for some time before eventually coming back: Battle Compressor – or more specifically, those two speedy non ex Decks it created – Flareon and Night March. If you end up getting paired against them, you basically have to hope for the opponent to completely dead draw for two out of three games.

Gardevoir

This is a deck that I feel is still majorly underrated by large parts of the community. It does indeed struggle with inconsistency because of requiring a huge amount of setup, but once it gets going, there’s not much that can stop it.

Similar to V/G, part of what makes this a in my opinion strong play is that is has all the tools it needs to beat the two dominating lock decks. Xerneas is able to swarm the board with Energy, making Crushing Hammer much less intimidating. MGardevoir doesn’t have a damage cap, so SSU isn’t much of threat either. Lastly, a full set of Fairy Garden plus the one Keldeo EX is rather good at limiting the damage Hypnotoxic Laser can cause.

This decks matchups are honestly incredibly strong. Apart from Groudon which is close to an autoloss (you simply cannot get rid of more than one of them), there’s no other deck that you really don’t want to face at all. Flareon and Night March can be scary depending on their particular build, but even they can struggle with hitting for 210 without giving up every kind of backup for when you manage to set up a second Gardevoir. However, as I mentioned before, due to the inconsistent nature of this deck (having to setup Megas, a Stage 1, dependency on a setup attack and specific Trainer cards…), you can lose to almost anything if you don’t happen to draw into what you need.

I’m not going to cover this (and the following deck) in as much detail as the ones before, but don’t worry, there’s still some things I’d like to address!

2 Aromatisse & 3 Max Potion: Back when Florges used to be this deck’s mainhitter, it was a necessity to have at least 2 Aromatisse on the field almost all the time. Picking off a lone Aromatisse and thus taking away the ability to use Max Potion was certainly extremely strong. Gardevoir however isn’t that dependent on being able to heal because of putting on pressure through OHKOs. If the opponent focuses on getting rid of Aromatisse, he chooses to ignore the Gardevoir, meaning it will be free to take presumably at least 2 Kos, which is already 4 prizes. Not needing the third Aromatisse or the full 4 Max Potion means we can invest that space in other places.

Spiritomb: This is obviously included to stop G-Booster, but I’d like to note that Spiritomb is also incredibly strong in the Exeggutor matchup. It not only stops them from repeatedly recycling and using Computer Search, it also forces them to keep a low hand size at all times because of threatening a Hexed Mirror. 

Flareon

If you want to have the best possible matchup against Virizion and Gardevoir while not neglecting all the other decks you might face, let this be your choice!

The main problem Flareon players face is beating Seismitoad. In order to make it a winnable matchup, you need to include multiple Deoxys EX, enabling Leafeon to 2HKO or even OHKO (2 Deoxys + Silver Bangle) a Seismitoad with Energy Crush. Running solely Energy Evolution Eevee and thus making Leafeon much more accessible further improves your odds. Glaceon is needed in case of Deoxys getting dragged up to the active spot. I’ve also chosen to run 3 Silver Bangle instead of the usual 2 Silver Bangle + 1 Float Stone split because getting them down before being punched makes the game so much easier. Since Slurpuff isn’t in the deck anymore the Float Stone’s not really needed anyway.

I’ve seen lists drop the Empoleon altogether, but getting it out is basically this deck’s way of beating Exeggutor, so I’d advise you to not do so. 

Alright, now that I’ve talked about the decks I expect to be a good choice, let’s take a brief look at other popular decks and examine the things that make me shy away from them.

Yveltal - This is probably the perfect example for the “jack of all trades, master off none” kind of deck Orion Craig mentioned in his latest article. Yveltal has the ability to beat almost any deck, but it can easily lose to anything too. I do not believe that a deck that doesn’t offer any kind of matchup advantage can reliably carry me to victory in a tournament as big as Nationals (or in your case, Regionals) where I’ll have to beat a lot of great players. I feel certain that Yveltal players won’t be able to catch me off-guard, no matter what deck I’ll end up using, and I expect the same of the people I will have to defeat.

Manectric/Seismitoad - Pairing Seismitoad with Manectric instead of Yveltal and thereby trading in Evil Ball and Oblivion Wing for Assault Laser seems silly to me. It does marginally strengthen the Yveltal matchup, but against almost every other deck, it’s honestly just worse.

Donphan - A 1-1 line of Groudon isn’t a reliable enough way to beat Seismitoad, the Exeggutor matchup is horrible and while being an all-around solid deck, it doesn’t offer any really good matchups that would make me want to consider it.

Kyogre - Auto loses to V/G, has a very hard time dealing with Eggs and, in my opinion, isn’t even all that great against Seismitoad. Gardevoir makes quick work of it too, so really no reason to run this.

Night March - Not a bad deck, but I feel like Flareon does the same things this tries to accomplish while having better outs against Seismitoad.

Fighting/Crobat - See Donphan.

Seismitoad/Garbodor - Even though this deck has been a personal favorite of mine for a good amount of time, I can’t help but begin to feel like it’s nothing more than a less consistent and more fragile version of Seismitoad/Slurpuff/Dragalge.

Seismitoad/Crobat - I don’t doubt that this is a very strong deck, but the lack of Crushing Hammer creates a good amount of problems Seismitoad/Slurpuff deals way better with. The additional damage is helpful and does definitely swing some matchups, but at the end of the day, I’d rather choose the consistency and disruption that Slurpuff provides.

That’s it for now guys! I myself still haven’t decided on the lucky deck that will be destined to take me to my first nationals title, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to end up being one those I talked about in this article.

Best regards,

Marc Lutz

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