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Chris Fulop

2018 NAIC Tournament Report

I Piloted Ultra Necrozma/Malamar In Columbus For The NAIC, Find Out How It Went!

07/17/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello everyone!

It has been awhile since I have been able to bring you one of these: A Tournament Report! :O This past weekend I played in the North American Intercontinental Championships help in Columbus, Ohio. I was disappointed last year being unable to play in the NAIC as I didn't register early enough and the event sold out and I wound up staying home. This time I made sure to avoid that mistake and signed up well ahead of time.

I drove down Thursday with my friends Dan, Mike and Joey and shared a room with my other friends Alex, Jarrett and Lonnie. I was also smart enough, when arranging the room situation, to demand one of the room keys and half the bed ahead of time. I've paid my dues sleeping on floors and in corners, and one time even in the closet of PTO Heidi Craig's hotel room. I've had my share of that to last the rest of my life time. It was nice staying in the Drury since it was attached to the Convention Center. I'd also like to point out how absurd the word "Drury" is. Seeing the sign all weekend didn't really showcase how weird it is, but typing it really brought it to light.

We end up heading to the Convention Center to check in and get our swag bags full of fairly uninteresting merch and our Competitor badges. Next in line was checking out the vendors, Yeti Gaming and Collector's Cache. I didn't find much with Collector's Cache, but I decided I had no real interest in having extra spending money all weekend and picked up a fairly beat up Latias Star from Yeti to start re-building my 2006 LBS deck for a nice crisp 160 dollars. I was hoping to haggle the price down a bit but the guy next to me literally also stated his interest in the card and tried to offer a lower price and I just wanted to secure the sale and paid up. It wasn't in great shape, but it was far from how bad a lot of Deoxys set cards can end up. There was no peeling or notable warping.

The next step was procuring the cards for my deck. I hate last minute scrambles. I actually have a fairly reasonable collection at the moment, but the one deck I own very few cards from is Malamar, as I didn't expect myself to ever want to play it until after rotation. Of course, as I tested more and more, I was quickly coming to the conclusion that I was actually, in fact, very likely to play exactly that.

I originally was a big fan of the straight Psychic Malamar list, but the more I started to test against Zoroark Golisopod, the more I realized that Ultra Necrozma was just so stupidly good against them. Psychic Malamar needs to use Necrozma GX ( or a Mewtwo GX with some aid ) to OHKO either of the deck's 210 HP attackers, and that leaves you super soft to a counter attack from Mew EX. Ultra Necrozma is guaranteed to soak up a hit in the matchup. Beast Ring also does a lot of work. Going into the event, I expected a lot of Zoroark, and I preferred Ultra Necrozma against all the different builds of it.

I originally was pretty much locked in on playing a Buzzwole deck, but the week leading up to the event gave me some truly horrific results while testing on PTCGO. First off, I had close to a 35% win rate with Buzzroc. Secondly, every matchup felt either super close, or saw my opponents all playing a ton of cards just to beat the deck. It felt like I had no good matchups left. I had very close matchups, and then people just going overboard to beat me. As a result of how competitive every game felt, I was struggling to feel confident in my ability to navigate the games. I wasn't liking my performance, and certainly wasn't liking the results. I still liked the deck, but I was clearly not experienced enough with the deck to green light playing it so I was off the deck.

I ruled out Greninja right out of the gate. I didn't like the deck in the first place, and the increase of Zoroark decks ( and Golisopod in particular! ) made the choice seem horrific. I was so confident the deck was bad I was willing to throw it right out the window entirely when evaluating deck choices and card inclusions.

If I was struggling to learn the intracicy of Buzzroc's matchups, I was even less excited about getting the necessary reps in for any of the Zoroark decks. By the time I realized I needed a new deck choice, I simply couldn't learn one of the more difficult to play decks in time.

Malamar was the easiest choice to play. I had played Bronzong and Eelektrik decks, of which the name sake cards are spiritual ancestors of Malamar. I played Blaziken in 2004...which is also basically the same deck, you just have to add a Stage to each of the Pokemon! This was a style of deck I was just naturally very, very attuned to playing. Ignoring that, both builds of the deck are extremely powerful and proactive. The intricate plays for the deck fall more on the opponent of the deck than on the Malamar player themself. I logged about 10 games with the Psychic version of the deck ( I felt it had a lot more space and was less clunky ) and had far better results with it than Buzzroc. A switch to Ultra Necrozma wouldn't make the deck play fundamentally much different.

The last deck I still had on the table ( and one I owned the cards for! ) was Buzzwole Garbodor. I liked the Schemanskes' list for the deck a lot and it had done very well recently. I spent a bit of time talking to people to get the basics down on the deck and played a few games. The deck was also pretty linear, and part of the challenge of the matchups with it fall on the opponent to correctly navigate past the disruption. There was not a lot of deviation in the game plan from my end.

At the end of the day, I managed to obtain the cards for Ultra Necrozma Malamar, and I spent the rest of the night logging some games in. Here is the list I wound up playing:

I looked at a lot of lists from prior tournaments, and played some games with Malamar before settling onto this list. Here are my reasonings for my choices.

4-3 Malamar (FLI; 51) : I'd seen some lists with a 3-3 line, and some with a 4-4 line. The 3-3 lines were basically all in Ultra Necrozma lists, and they were able to justify this due to the presence of Beast Ring to help mitigate the demand on Psychic Recharge some. I really, really liked playing a pair of Rescue Stretcher, though, and with that I found the 4th Malamar unnecessary. Stretcher lets you recover lost Malamar parts, but also lets you really leverage a wider array of attackers.

2 Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 127) : Having just mentioned the important of Rescue Stretcher, one of the best parts about the card is that it lets you trim to 2 Ultra Necrozma. You don't really need a 3rd copy as these are pretty hard to KO for most decks. This card IS your "main" attacker against a lot of decks, though. For 3 Energy it is pretty much KOing anything, and with 190 HP and a weakness to Fairy ( a type that basically sees no play now due to the disappearance of Gardevoir decks. ) it is usually being two hit. Zoroark decks can't hit a OHKO here, meaning it often gets 2 KOs for 4 prizes. Buzzwole can deal with it, but you can kind of play around that by picking your spots correctly. On top of that, Dawn Wings Necrozma and Hoopa are simply better attackers in Buzzwole matches so you don't need to use Necrozma here. It is...interesting in the mirror match, as it isn't particularly "strong" ( the Psychic type Necrozma GX can KO it for PPP, but in turn will die to Hoopa, so it ends up being more of a net zero exchange than advantageous ) but it is an important threat in the matchup. The big selling point of this over the normal Necrozma GX is that it doesn't just get nuked by a Mew EX out of Zoroark, or any other deck with Mew in it.

2 Dawn Wings Necrozma GX (UPR; 63) : Dawn Wing Necrozma is a primary attacker against Buzzwole decks, and is important in the mirror match as well. With 180 HP, a Fighting Resistance and an attack that OHKOs any Buzzwole, it does so much work. It is also an Ultra Beast, and thus can benefit from Beast Ring and Beast Energy. With a Beast Energy and Choice Band, it's first attack can hit 180, and it's GX attack can hit 240! In the mirror match, playing around the GX attack's "wall"ing is actually very crucial, and adds a different dynamic to the match beyond the standard "Take the first prize" game plan with a potential subgame of "hope to keep the opponent off of Malamars". ( A strategy I found fairly unsuccessful due to Beast Rings )

I haven't touched on Dawn Wing's Ability yet, which is even more important than it's options as an attacker ( The card would still be played even if it did not have an Ability at all, for what it is worth. ) Doing it's best Keldeo's "Rush In" impression, this Necrozma benches your active Pokemon to be able to Psychic Recharge to while also being used to re-set Hoopa's attack's restriction. You really want to apply pressure as soon as possible with this deck, so getting it benched with a Psychic Energy on it means you can use your 2nd turn's attachment plus only one Psychic Recharge to power it up to attack without needing an Energy to retreat with or a Float Stone.

The very clear downside to this card is that it is horrifically weak to Zoroark's Riotous Beating. The deck has no trouble providing attackers against the deck ( Ultra Necrozma is an absolute house against them. ) but it does struggle to replace your ability to fluidly move your Pokemon around. It takes a bit of time to learn how to adjust your play to minimize the downside of losing this flexibility.

1 Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60) : This is a big deviation away from stock lists, and a last minute decision and actually one I do regret making. This is a deck that really does not want to leave 2 prize liabilities sitting around in certain matchups, and you'd rather NOT play down a Lele if you do not have to. The deck doesn't run a tremendous amount of Basics, and I wanted to reduce the odds I started with one. One of the biggest mis-evaluations of this deck I find people making is that it is really a Brigette deck. Don't get me wrong...I love playing Brigette on the first turn of the game. It IS great. Yet with 4 Inkay, and 8 "Balls" the deck honestly does not need to play Brigette most games. I actually had the option to search up Lele on the first turn and play a first turn Brigette in a lot of games and opted not to because I didn't want to bench Lele early, and I'd rather see a critical mass of cards early. I not only need a big bench of Pokemon, but hitting Energy drops and getting additional Energy discarded early is too important. Being able to play cards from your opening hand ( whatever Pokemon you can get, plus ideally an attachment ) and then seeing a new 6-7 cards to do this is often better than playing Brigette. You often can't get more than one effective Malamar going on the second turn anyways, so a bench full of them on the first turn does have some diminishing returns. Actually getting enough discarded energy, multiple Malamar, a means to get an attacker active, and hitting both of your attachments is hindered pretty heavily when one of your Supporters is locked in on Brigette.

The one Lele also ends up being a bit more tolerable because of the pair of Rescue Stretcher, too. You do wind up being hit by Parallel City fairly often with this deck, and being able to pitch an early played Lele is ideal. Normally I use Stretcher to put a card back into my hand immediately, but a lot of times, if Lele is in the discard pile, it is correct to shuffle it back into the deck at the first opening. ( Unless you have reason to believe Stretcher will be better served in another role ) Once N starts flying, you'd much rather convert all of your "Balls" into Lele outs than restricting your outs to the actual Stretcher count, which will almost always be lower.

Finally, I actually use Tapu Cure more than I'd like to admit. Against Zoroark decks, they struggle to hit more than 150 damage a lot of times. Ultra Necrozma is always a two hit for them, and sometimes I'd wind up getting some heavy damage on multiple GX Pokemon. Since Tapu Lele's 170 HP is also hard for them to hit, Tapu Cure can heal off your attacker to re-use. The reason this comes up against Zoroark more frequently is because you can't really bench Dawn Wing Necrozma due to it's weakness. As a result, if Necrozma OHKOs an attacker, it will get hit for 120ish damage, and if you don't have a Guzma to use, it will have to retreat since you can't Recharge to it. Promoting Tapu Lele for Tapu Cure gives you your turn to re-power the Necrozma while also making sure it isn't just vulnerable to a Guzma OHKO the next turn. Tapu Lele's HP also means unless they have a Choice Band and can use Golisopod's GX attack ( Or they run Prof. Kukui ) that it won't be KOed. While I didn't play against the decks, a number of strong players brought Decidueye Zoroark or Yveltal spread to the event, and Tapu Cure would certainly have played a big role in either of those matchups.

1 Hoopa (STS; 51) : The deck clearly wants at least one one-prize attacker, and Hoopa got the nod here over Giratina ( Promo ), Mewtwo, and Dawn Wing Necrozma. There are a number of roles you want this attacker to be able to perform, and Hoopa is the best at checking all of the boxes. Clearly all of these options are great at OHKOing Buzzwoles, but there is one criteria that the Buzzroc matchup does force you to meet. They will often try to win the game by "gusting" you off of Malamars while getting ahead on the exchange. They are very equipped to do this. You really, really need to pull off a turn two attacker. You can usually expect one turn 2 Psychic Recharge. The plan is to send up your non-GX attacker early and use it for KOs while they are KOing Malamars. As a result, you need this attacker to meet two conditions. First, it needs a 3 Energy attack, ruling out Giratina despite it's better weakness and an attack with an upside. ( I won't even count it's Ability since even if I feared Greninja, I would need an additional counter card to actually beat Shadowstitching I think. ) Since I'm looking for the card to beat people killing my Malamar, I don't want it to be discarding Energy for it's attack, ruling out the Dawn Wing option. Even if I could expect to be able to narrowly keep it powered, the goal is to advance your board of Energy while losing Malamars, not just breaking even.

Mewtwo is nice in that it's a difficult KO with it's Ability, and it also prevents bench damage, but the damage output is too low. I don't believe anyone actually ran Dawn Wing Necrozma, but I did want to be able to hit the 130 mark to be able to assure I could KO them in the mirror match. This also applied to being able to actually OHKO a Giratina ( Promo ) in the mirror match, as that card can actually be a bit of a pain.

Finally, and it isn't the most relevent, but being able to spread some damage with it's first attack isn't useless. I actually led with the card quite a bit against Zoroark decks just to get some damage on the field to soften up for future OHKOs.

1 Mimikyu (GRI; 58) : Mimikyu was another last minute addition, and previously had been the 3rd Field Blower. I wanted a Clefairy type effect for the mirror match, and having already trimmed a Tapu Lele, I was honestly just out of ideas on what to cut. I feel like Clefairy is the better card overall, but Mimickyu performed most of the same roles while offering a few important strengths that helped to offset the loss of a Field Blower. It's attack Filch is actually a really nice safety net to make sure you do not dead draw while under Garbotoxin. More importantly, it is very strong against Buzzwole GX. Since you can't expect to rely on Psychic Recharge most of the game, Mimikyu having a 2 Energy attack cost is a HUGE upgrade over Clefairy's Metronome. I really didn't want to give up the 3rd Blower or the Clefairy but the Mimikyu was a concession to that in that it fulfilled both cards' functions despite being worse at either role. In hindsight, it may have just been worse than the 2nd Tapu Lele.

8 Psychic Energy-3 Metal Energy-1 Beast Energy: Beast Energy is clearly great, as it is your "Metal" source for Ultra Necrozma and has a built in Choice Band as well. Letting Necrozma hit 210 damage for 3 attachments is absolutely incredible against Zoroark/Golisopod/Lycanroc GXs. Even with the Beast Energy and 2 Prof. Letter, you need 3 Metal Energy to be able to reliably be able to use the Ultra Necrozma. 8 Psychic Energy is the minimum you can get away with, and even with "14" Energy total ( Counting the Prof. Letter, which upon use does thin the deck's ratio of Energy for future draws ) I felt like I wanted a 9th Psychic. These decks are super Energy hungry, and you can't afford to miss an attachment. You also really have incentive to pitch as many extra copies as possible early to Sycamores or your "Balls". Most of the struggles I had with the deck stemmed from not drawing enough Energy. I'd say in hindsight I'd run the 9th Psychic, but I'm not sure how I'd fit it so I think I'd just suck it up and keep it at 8.

4 Professor Sycamore (XY; 122) : Sycamore is the best Supporter in the deck by a large margin. It draws the most cards reliably, but it also is another means to discard Energy cards to enable Psychic Recharge. One of the main reasons I am so excited to play 2 Rescue Stretcher is because due to them I'm not even concerned with having to discard Pokemon anymore, making Sycamore even better.

3 Cynthia (UPR; 119) : While Psychic Recharge gives the deck some on board sustainability, the deck is still not running any Pokemon that give you a source of draw. A lot of lists ran 4 Sycamore, 2 N, 2 Cynthia, but I wanted the 3rd Cynthia just to make sure my end game draws were stronger. I actually value the 3rd Cynthia over the 2nd Lele because it works under Garbotoxin. It also isn't as hindered by Parallel City. Benching Lele is really a big issue for the prize exchanges you try to craft with the deck.

2 N (FCO; 105) : I want 9 good turn 1 Supporters, and at least 2 of them need to be N because it is such a strong late game disruptive play. This deck doesn't usually need it, as you don't usually get to KO Octillery vs Buzzroc and Zoroark decks are pretty resiliant to N, but it is really important in the mirror matches.

3 Guzma (BUS; 115) : I was torn between running 3 and 4 Guzma, but had to settle on 3 due to space. One of te big selling points of a deck like this is that you want to KO their attacker when you can since you naturally have an edge in energy acceleration and raw power. You don't want to pick off utility Pokemon all that often. On the flip side, you do need to bench your own Pokemon, so Guzma as a "switch" actually offers arguably more value to the deck than Guzma as a "gust of wind".

1 Brigette (BKT; 134) : I covered a lot of my feelings on Brigette earlier, but I couldn't bring myself to cut it without the time to test the deck more without it. Having played an entire 9 rounds with the deck, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to replace it with something else.

4 Ultra Ball (DE; 102) -4 Mysterious Treasure (FLI; 113) : These are automatic playsets for me. They are discard outlets and consistency. Playing less than all 8 is a mistake.


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