Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Walking In Memphis

Marc Cohn. It Was Sung By Marc Cohn. Also, Here Is A Tournament Report From Memphis Regionals.

10/09/2018 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone!

I just got back from a... very long... drive back from Memphis Regionals, and the resultant disappointment that came with it. Jesse Parker ( Huge props for being enough of a masochist to handle the entirety of the driving both ways...sicko ), Nick Moses, Rob Stephens ( Who I met for the first time on the trip down ) and I drove all the way from Cleveland down to Memphis Friday. I met up with Nick and Jesse at 10:30 am, and we got into Memphis at 1:30 am. ( Technically 12:30 am in Memphis time due to the time zone shift, but I wanted to emphasize how long a trip we had. ) I had a bit of a journey left in me still, as I got picked up from the rest of the group by long time friend Adam Maldonado.

Table of contents

Malamar, Memphis
Ultra Necrozma, Memphis
Vikaray, Memphis
Metal Shrine

Going into the event, I was torn between a trio of decks. Surprisingly, two of these were Malamar decks. The first variation was just a slightly adjusted version of Rukan Shao's build that took second place in Philly. ( Adam Hawkins tweaked it a bit to do well at Frankfurt's Regionals the weekend before Memphis, too. ) This was a safe choice, and would be nice and reliable. Seeing how my main goal is to at least net min points from each Regional I attend, this is a real selling point.

The other choice was Ultra Necrozma Malamar. I'm pretty sure only Dalton Didelot and I actually still play this deck, but I felt that the results stemming from Frankfurt actually put the deck in a better position than it had been previously. First off, you had two different mill decks break out from that tournament: Sylveon-GX, and a Steelix and Friends deck. I'm not going to go too in depth over these decks, but both punish Shrine and Zoroark decks pretty heavily as their damage output doesn't give them a good chance in either matchup.

Rukan's build of Malamar ran only one Dawn Wings Necrozma, and its switching cards were all Escape Boards. This left it vulnerable to a scenario against Sylveon where they would threaten the game state by bringing up and stranding Malamars active. To get around this, you have access to Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX's Invasion. The problem is, they can bring up and strand the Necrozma, and use energy removal cards to strip its energy supply down to it not being able to attack. They go for this line while leaving themselves with a lone Sylveon in play so as to turn off Guzma as a viable switching card ( You cannot play it as a switch if there is no legal target on the opponent's bench. ) If you have access to a pair of Dawn Wings Necrozma, this line doesn't work. Switch, the card, also breaks it up, as you just build up a Necrozma-GX for the KO. As a result, Rukan's list needed to be tweaked to either swap a 4th Board into a Switch, or add a Switch in addition.

Against Steelix, the big issue was actually the pair of Shining Legends Hoopa they ran. Being unable to be harmed by GX Pokémon, Hoopa's 120 HP and Psychic resistance actually keeps it out of the range of OHKOs. This lets Max Potion and Acerola really, really mess you up. You really need a Pokémon which can score that OHKO. I didn't expect that deck to be a viable option going forward, but if I did, a Shining Lugia sways that matchup heavily. Ultra Necrozma is far better positioned to be able to use Lugia, as it would run Switch over Escape Board. Lugia's two retreat cost makes it a really bad opener for Rukan's version.

The last deck that needs talked about is Metagross-GX. The deck did well recently, and isn't THAT bad against the all psychic Malamar decks. Ultra Necrozma, on the other hand, is extremely bad for it. The more high HP decks seeing play, the better Ultra Necrozma gets.

Finally, I want to touch on the last big innovation in Malamar decks: Chimecho. I was actually made aware of Chimecho Friday night by Adam, but obviously didn't pack random common cards with me, so I had to hope that they had some on site in the morning if I wanted to play one. I tweaked both Malamar lists I considered to include the card, and made sure to have lists available on RK9Labs ready to submit last minute for both decks both with and without Chimecho.

What IS this Chimecho I am talking about? It is a 70 HP basic that has one attack. For a Psychic, it does 10 damage and the opponent cannot play Pokémon from their hands with Abilities the next turn. Primarily, this card is very good against Zoroark. It locks the opponent off of Zoroark ( and Lycanroc! ) until they can KO it ( Which isn't easy at all for them ) and pretty much guarantees that both decks start on even footing opposed to Zoroark being the aggressor and getting to start off by KOing Malamars. It is a huge difference maker in the matchup.

Against decks like Vikaray and Metagross...which are both admittedly favorable stops them from being able to play their corner stone Stage 2 Pokémon until you let them. Malamar is one of the strongest, most stable decks in the format once set up. It usually loses when it falls too far behind, or gets disrupted early before it sets up entirely. Chimecho slows the game down to a crawl for both players, letting you dictate when the attacks start flying most games. The card is extremely powerful.

Once this Chimecho revelation entered the thought process, I was even more torn. Ultra Necrozma felt better positioned as a whole to me. It sported a better Zoroark matchup than the Psychic version, was better against Vikaray, and was stronger against the mill decks. It's biggest issue was being clunkier and a bit slower, and sporting a weaker Shrine matchup. The deck was still plenty reliable, and by adding more non-GX openers, the Shrine matchup was surprisingly pallatable. Fundamentally, Ultra Necrozma was a stronger deck once set up. It also was a deck that needed to use up less bench space...due to Beast Ring, you could get by with less Malamar in play. This mattered if you wound up stuck with Chimecho on the bench mid and late game. Also, and this is a major issue actually, but Ultra Necrozma is able to deal with Sudowododo's bench restriction better than Psychic Malamar can. It felt that if Chimecho could reliably "slow down" matchups across the board, it would actually benefit Ultra Necrozma more than the Psychic builds.

In the end, it didn't end up mattering, we got off to a slow start Saturday morning, and I couldn't get ahold of a vendor with a Chimecho in time. As a result, I wound up defaulting to what turned out to be a disastrous play: Vikaray. Before I get into Vikaray, I want to share the two Malamar lists I was torn between.

Prior to the Chimecho addition, I ran a Nest Ball. It was basically Rukan's lists with two changes. I did a split between Escape Board and Switch. Prior to the mill decks, I was already on a 3/1 split, and went for the 2/2 by the end of it. There are spots where Escape Board has felt bad, and I needed Switch. Also, everyone puts you on 4 Board, so lines available with Switch aren't played around. You always want to draw the first Escape Board, but once you do, additional copies are better served as Switch usually. I'm still unsure whether 3/1 or 2/2 is correct here. 3/2 is also reasonable, but I'm unsure what to cut.

I didn't care for the pair of Friend Ball Rukan ran and I cut them for a Nest Ball and an 11th Psychic Energy initially. I still wanted the spots allocated to consistancy, but I felt like I was reliably getting my Pokémon into play...I was having more issues actually getting all of my attachments and also pitching Energy early on. The 11th Psychic Energy actually is GREAT, and I can't see myself dropping down lower from that. You miss more turn 2 attacks due to Energy issues than Pokémon issues with the deck.

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