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Marc Lutz

Canadian Nationals Analysis and the expected US Metagame

Marc Lutz takes a look at last weekend's results and takes you through what he believes to be good plays for the upcoming biggest event of the year.

07/02/2015 by Marc Lutz

Hey, guys, it’s great to be back so soon. A lot of you are probably still doing some last-minute preparations for U.S. Nationals right now and I’m here to help! In this article, I’ll have a look at what has done well at the two major events that were held this past weekend and then suggest some decks that I believe will be a great play for this week. Let’s go!

 

A Look at Canada and Bochum

It’s very important to always look at the most recent tournament results and analyze which decks made the biggest appearance. Many people will jump on the bandwagon while others will try to come up with counters to these trending decks. The metagame will change drastically from week to week and I can’t stress enough the importance of staying one step ahead of the competition.

Two decks in particular stood out from the rest at Canadian Nationals: Metal, which took down the whole event piloted by fellow 60cards writer Chase Moloney, and Raichu/Crobat, which came in Second while also claiming the most overall Top 8 placements and first seed after Swiss.

I really like Chase’s deck choice and fully expect Bronzong to be a major player at U.S. Nationals. From what I’ve seen on PTCGO for the past few weeks, the deck has been tested by a huge number of people. Chase's confidence in the deck and the win that came out of it at the end will surely encourage a lot of those players to also put their trust in it and try to take Metal to another title!

I personally am a big fan of this deck and I'm surprised it hasn’t been talked about much more recently. I’ve been running it at my own Nationals and even though I sadly missed cut, my friend Niklas managed to take a nearly identical list to the Finals, proving its strength. The release of Roaring Skies and the ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card didn’t change much about the deck itself, but the shift to a format that’s even more reliant on Special Energy than before certainly didn’t hurt it. Aegislash-EX is such a strong card right now and all the other diverse attackers that can be powered up through Metal Links give this deck a lot flexibility.

Raichu/Crobat is a deck many believed to be dead without the ability to recycle DCE, but they certainly couldn’t have been more wrong. It still trades exceptionally well with almost every deck due to consisting of non-EX Pokémon, having the ability to OHKO everything, and even being able to draw extra Prizes thanks to the Crobat line. The deck demands the inclusion of Basic Energy and some alternate hitters now, but that didn’t turn out to be much of a hindrance. Most players decided to go for a small Leafeon line along with Grass Energy, while Matt Koo, the runner-up, chose to run some Seismitoad-EX and a Miltank. I think both of those approaches are fine, but I probably like Matt’s a little more because it seems to have a better Landorus matchup.

Canada wasn’t the only country featuring a big tournament, though; let’s not forget about Arena Cup Bochum in Germany! It was the last big tournament before the deadline for Top 22 and actually had the potential to shake up the last few spots, so there was a lot on the line for some players. Since the tournament was held in the Expanded format, it doesn’t have too much relevance going forward (e.g. Trevenant/Accelgor, which is not legal in Standard, won the event), but there’s one deck that made quite a splash and definitely isn’t irrelevant for US Nationals: Seismitoad/Crobat. 60cards author David Hochmann piloted the deck to a Second Place finish, while Belgian National Champion Manuke Riemis dominated Swiss with it, only losing to the eventual winner’s Trevenant/Accelgor in Top 4. Some people have written off Seismitoad-based decks after the ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card, but the Crobat version is honestly just as strong as ever.

In the following, I’ll give you my personal lists for the three aforementioned decks to give you a better understanding of how they work and why they have seen such success.

Metal

This is actually just a pretty standard Metal list, close to what I’ve been running last format and probably not too far from the list Chase used to win Nationals. Even though Aegislash is the focus of this deck, two copies is completely fine. A third would mostly only come in handy when one of the other two is Prized, which really isn’t worth it. I guess you could include it if you want to be really safe, but space is tight already as it is. One could argue that the second Dialga isn’t needed anymore, and even though I find playing only a single one to be rather risky, that’s a mindset I can get into. Seismitoad-EX, Cobalion-EX, and Heatran are all useful in certain situations but far from necessities, so one of each is the right count in my opinion. Mewtwo-EX and Kecleon are other attackers one could add to improve some matchups.

The single AZ may seem like the only unusual card in this list, but I believe it really should be a staple in here. It’s basically a recyclable Max Potion that can also be used as a Switch card or even as a draw card in combination with Shaymin. 

Raichu/Crobat

There hasn’t been much talk about this deck post-Trump Card, so there’s a little more explaining to do here. In general, it didn’t change all that much. You still draw through your deck and fill your bench with a lot of tempo; however, you’d like to avoid Professor Juniper oftentimes and play a Colress instead. Since the deck plays a huge amount of Basics including four Shaymin-EX, Colress will usually net you a lot of cards, even on your very first turn! The Seismitoad-EX are a nice addition to occasionally slow down the opponent, allowing you to attach some Basic Energy and preparing an onslaught of Raichu that isn’t even completely dependent on Double Colorless Energy.

I’ve already mentioned Miltank, which can provide a cheap one-Energy attacker for when you whiff a DCE. However, since Crobat itself can fill that role as well, I haven’t had the need for it too often in testing.

This deck is definitely scary to face for almost everything out there, so I expect it to play a very large role at U.S. Nationals. Be prepared for it or else you won’t be doing well! Aegislash and other Crobat decks are probably its best counters, but even those aren’t that difficult to beat if you play and draw well.

Seismitoad/Crobat

Seismitoad/Crobat had been one of the most popular decks before players moved onto disruption-based Shaymin versions upon the release of Roaring Skies. Now that these aren’t nearly as good anymore, the path is free for this deck to shine again. Item-lock is still ridiculously disruptive, even more so because players probably aren’t as prepared for it anymore (for good reason: if Toad isn’t prevalent, there’s little reason to not , for instance, cut down on Supporters and run maximum counts of VS Seeker).

This deck has never played any significant amount of Energy denial, because instead of discarding only the Energy, it tries to knock out the Pokémon, discarding everything in the process. Trump Card was nice for recycling discarded Bats or for reusing Super Scoop Ups, but neither function is immensely important, so the deck is still just fine.

Metal, however, is a rather difficult matchup; hence, I included a Silent Lab and an above-average amount of Basic Energy. The deck can win this and other not-so-easy matchups by drawing a lot of Bats early on and overwhelming the opponent with extra damage and Item-lock, but it’s not a very reliable strategy.

The rest of the list isn’t very fancy. I’d like to note that I’ve seen a lot of lists that run two or three Shaymin, but I think one is just fine. You don’t want to waste your precious Bench space for one-time draw and you can definitely afford to play a slightly slower game. For me, the Shaymin is more like a replacement for Jirachi and not part of the actual engine. Two would be okay too, but three is definitely overkill.

This is definitely one of the strongest decks right now. It does suffer from some inconsistency, though, and it has problems dealing with Aegislash, so it’s still a risky play. Watch out for it regardless.

 

Looking Forward to U.S. Nationals

Now that we’ve established the decks that came out on top of last week, let’s find out what all that means for this weekend!

First of all, you probably don’t want to be playing a deck that can’t win against either Metal or Crobat variants, and as a consequence, you also don’t have to worry about facing those losing decks all too much. Instead, the obvious decision would be to choose a deck that beats both. This, however, isn’t an easy task when you also don't want to ignore all the other decks you might face – after all, the format is still really diverse. What’s important to keep in mind is that other players probably have similar thoughts when choosing their decks. If there’s an obvious counter to what’s been big in the last week, expect others to play that.  For example, if Seismitoad dominated last week, a lot of players would naturally turn to Virizion/Genesect.

In this particular case, let’s have a look at some decks I expect to be weak choices for U.S. Nationals.

Primal Groudon/Wobbuffet – The deck cannot keep up with Raichu (or any other Crobat variant, for that matter). With Crobat standing as Seismitoad’s most popular ally right now, Groudon’s not even winning against Item-lock anymore. Metal’s not an easy matchup either. At the point, when you’re resorting to all these techs like Super Potion to improve its viability, you might as well just play a different deck that can actually deal with the popular decks on its own. It’s time to put this big guy aside (at least for the moment).

Gengar/Trevenant – I’ve always disliked this deck because of its complete inability to deal with decks that aren’t hard-countered by it (have fun facing a random Yveltal or Manectric). The rise of Aegislash makes it even worse for this deck and its two or three Basic Energy. If you choose to run this, you might be able to crush some dreams by hitting turn-one Trevenant, but I doubt it will be enough to take you to the final match of the weekend.

Donphan – Actually, this has quite an okay Raichu matchup (you shouldn’t underestimate the Bats, though!), but seeing how it has a good bit of trouble with Aegislash and Heatran while getting completely demolished by Seismitoad, I think there are better plays than this.

Alright, now that I’ve talked about the well-known decks that I'm not liking at this point, it’s time to get to the good ones and the way I would adapt them to the expected metagame.

 

Landorus/Crobat

If I was attending U.S. Nationals, then this would probably be my number one choice. This deck is incredible and has the tools it needs to beat almost every deck you might face!

Bronzong is a very solid matchup because you’re able to pick of Bronzor with ease, two-hit KO Aegislash even without Strong Energy, and can survive a Full-Metal Impact from Dialga-EX since both Landorus-EX and Lucario-EX have 180 HP. Seismitoad and Heatran can cause some trouble, but ultimately shouldn’t stop you.

Raichu isn’t as easy of a matchup as one would initially assume; they can trade quite effectively if you put too much of an emphasis on Pokémon-EX. However, being able to OHKO their Shaymin with your Hawlucha makes this a pretty good matchup.

As you can see, this deck is favored against both decks that came out on top at Canadian Nationals, and it's a deck that has already proven its strength multiple times this season. I’m not entirely sure why it didn’t make a bigger showing in Canada, but I suppose players were scared it would get countered a lot after its impressive dominance at Danish Nationals the week before. Anyway, now’s the time to sleeve this deck up again!

I included three copies of Super Scoop Up and decided to choose Scoop Up Cyclone as my ACE SPEC because of the importance of these cards in the mirror match. Healing will make all the difference if two of these decks face each other, so make sure to pack as much of it as you can. Scooping up a Shaymin or Crobat is very good in general, too.

Focus Sash is a card that has lost a lot of appeal with the current format change, so I’d consider dropping the second copy for another Muscle Band. It’s still a great card, though, so decide for yourself how you’d like to split the Tools.

Korrina is kind of personal preference.  Many players got rid of it in favor of more Colress or other Supporters, but I’m still a fan of it. There isn’t a better card to draw on your first turn and it can even draw you cards now, thanks to the ability to Ultra Ball for a Shaymin! Searching for that Scoop Up Cyclone or getting exactly the Tool you need in a given situation is also very strong further into the game. Two copies are enough, but improve early-game consistency and late-game flexibility a lot, so make sure to at least give them a chance before deciding to go for more straight draw.

Two cards I really like in this deck but didn’t have the space to include are Miltank and AZ. The Cow is a very decent attacker against non-EX Pokémon, something this deck sometimes struggles with as Hawlucha obviously cannot touch them. AZ is yet another Scoop Up effect than can be used to either add damage by reusing a Crobat line or to heal by picking up a damaged Pokémon-EX. Being usable under Item-lock and recyclable with VS Seeker makes this a very interesting addition, but you can also function well without it.

The biggest problem this deck has is its very weak Trevenant matchup – it’s almost unwinnable – followed by the Seismitoad matchup, which is also difficult (but much more winnable). Since I do not expect a whole lot of Trevenant to do well, I think this is a very good choice, as already mentioned. Beating the hype decks while also doing well against most of the established decks is too good to pass up.

 

Night March

 

We all know how incredibly good this deck is, but being Public Enemy Number One certainly made it difficult for it to shine and deliver the tournament results that were expected from it for the last two weeks.

The biggest thing it has going for it at the moment is, in my opinion, its good Bronzong matchup. Aegislash can be annoying to deal with, but honestly isn’t that big of a problem unless you draw poorly and the opponent starts swinging with it from turn two on. It’s not difficult, by any means, to get a Mew with a Basic Energy, a Dimension Valley, and nine or ten Night March Pokemon in the discard. Combine this with Lysandre to pick off benched Pokémon-EX the fact that you're just generally the faster and more consistent deck, and you’ll see why you should come out of top in this matchup most of the time. The rather high Basic Energy count of four enables you to play a little more loose with those while still not losing the ability to score OHKOs on what is believed to be the biggest threat the Metal deck can throw at you.

I’m honestly not a big fan of Empoleon in this deck anymore, but I believe it’s still needed because it's your best shot at winning the Landorus/Crobat matchup. Getting it off the field will cost the Landorus player a lot of effort and should swing this matchup a lot. The matchup is by no means unwinnable without it, but you should definitely include some Hard Charms and Startling Megaphone (getting rid of those Sashes!) if you want to forego the Empoleon route. I prefer to take my chances and try to hit that Archie, though, as it’s also very strong in the mirror match, giving you an attacker that’s worth a single Prize and doesn’t need DCE.

The lack of Acro Bike in this list probably looks very strange for most of you, but I simply believe that the deck is quick enough without it and that the space can be used in other places more effectively. Not running it altogether also eliminated the chance of hitting two really important cards and getting stuck in a really awkward situation. I don’t think it’s a bad card, though, so feel free to add it back in if you want to! The Revive and the Teammates are two cards I like because they give you additional options later on in the game, but these two could honestly be replaced by Acro Bikes if you want a more aggressive approach.

The last decision I’d like to explain in more detail is the inclusion of a single Float Stone. Most Night March players opt to go for a Switch and an Escape Rope or another combination of those two, but I don’t like having to draw them at the exact right time. If you instead play the Float Stone, you can put it down at any point of the game and gain free Retreat forever! This leaves you susceptible to Hypnotoxic Laser flips, admittedly, but that card isn’t used much outside of Seismitoad decks anyway, so that’s pretty much irrelevant.

Night March does have some problems with Crobat-based decks, but its sheer strength makes it a solid play anyway, in my eyes. Make sure to have a lot of practice with the deck, though, because its tough matchups require very tight play and any mistake or suboptimal play could cost you the game!

 

Seismitoad/Garbodor

The last deck I’d like to present is actually an old friend of mine, which I believe might have some potential again. Seismitoad/Garbodor is widely regarded as being dead, meaning very few players will have their decks prepared for it. Tactics like Aegislash that work against Seismitoad/Crobat won’t work against this version. Energy denial combined with Item- and Ability-lock is still a very scary combination, even without LTC to recover Crushing Hammers. If an Energy is discarded now, it’s gone for the rest of the game. Players aren’t used to this; draining all the resources out of the opponent’s deck hasn’t been a thing for quite a while. I've got to admit that the deck is very reliant on Hammer flips now, with games being decided by a single coin flip more often than I’d like. Still, it has nice Metal and Crobat matchups while also being kind of a surprise play, so I wouldn’t be shocked if someone ends up doing well with it this weekend.

The list is very old-school and actually similar to the one I played at the beginning of the Cities season. I don’t think Super Scoop Up is worth it in here.  Without LTC, the healing isn’t reliable at all and the card doesn’t have any other uses like in decks where you also can pick up a Crobat or Shaymin. The single Cassius is enough for getting rid of damage in situations where healing is absolutely needed, and most of the time, it’s not tragic to let a Toad go down to focus on getting rid of Energy or taking KOs.  Lastly, the Shadow Triad is a cool addition to get Lasers back and will make the opponent feel like Trump Card was never even banned in the first place.

Alright guys, that’s it for today. I wish everyone participating in U.S. Nationals the best of luck.  I hope that this article was able to help some of you! Make sure to leave me a +1 if you liked it and keep an eye open for future articles!

Marc Lutz

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