Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

A Tale Of...One Cities. And A League Challenge!

A League Challenge tournament report, a City Championship tournament report, and a look at the future of BREAKthrough Standard!

12/04/2015 by Chris Fulop

City Championships. Nothing makes me love Pokémon like playing in Cities. I am being entirely sincere. The stakes matter. The competition is real, but not as stiff as a States or Regionals. There are so many of them that the stress of needing to win any given event isn't as troubling. If you are willing to travel you can fairly reliably hit two tournaments a weekend. A brand new set, with no truly established metagame yet. THIS is why I play Pokémon. A good Cities season can be the launchpad to a Worlds invite. Back when invites keyed off of Ratings and Rankings, I'd go so hard during Cities that I'd almost have my invite locked up even before States. It has always been that sweet spot in the year that I love.

I attended my first Cities over the last weekend, in Willoughby, but before I go into that, I want to rewind a bit and go over the last League Challenge I played in. (My third total this season.)



North Olmsted League Challenge

The North Olmsted League Challenge rolled around, and I was really hesitant about wanting to get up and attend it. I still hate League Challenges: They offer so little, and there are so many of them. They feel so unimportant that unless I found myself at the end stretch of a season needing points that I would struggle to want to go them. I had no other plans, was bored, and the LC was literally a five minute drive from my house and I still did not want to go. I eventually forced myself to find the motivation to pack up my cards and head out the door to Recess Games where the event was held.

Of course, rather than being met with low attendance and a ton of bad players, the ringers came out of the woodwork, including a Kevin Baxter, Top 16 NA last year, who was randomly in town for the weekend rather than in Cincinnati where he now lives. I wasn't too prepared for pre-BREAKthrough Standard yet, as I had focused my efforts on playing either Expanded or with the new cards. I was going to play Lucario/Bats with Target Whistles, but not a single player in the store owned any Lucario at all, so I couldn't get ahold of them. I debated Night March, but decided to stick with what I knew, and went with Speed Rayquaza instead. Here is the list I wound up registering.

Round 1 vs Vespiquen/Raichu


I see Vespiquen, and feel like I'm in alright shape. It takes them awhile to hit a damage threshold where they can ever OHKO a Mega Rayquaza, and I don't need to even care about Sky Field much. If they run Jolteon, I'm able to spam Hex Maniac to turn that off and survive that issue. I get a pretty good start, but I make an oversight: I discard a Swablu to an Ultra Ball early on. I mean, with the information I had available at the time it was correct, but the next turn he slams down a pair of Pikachu, and I regretted it. I was able to rectify the issue pretty quickly using a Sacred Ash, but it would have been very nice not to have to devote the resources I did to getting Altaria out from there.

Unfortunately, while I did get to lead with a Lysandre KO on a Raichu, the Raichu were really strong against me. I hadn't seen a Hex Maniac out of him, and I wasn't sure he ran any. If he did, and drew them, I was just dead, he'd KO my Rayquaza with mice in spite of Altaria. I had to figure out what had to break in order for me to ACTUALLY win and just ignore circumstances I couldn't beat. That meant I had to assume no Hex Maniac, and that he couldn't find 2 more Lysandre effects at the end of the game. (He used a Lysandre and 3 VS Seeker) He had the fourth VS Seeker, but his last Lysandre, which would have gotten him an OHKO on a Shaymin-EX, was in his last two Prizes, and I was able to win by a turn.


Round 2 vs Kevin Baxter with Fairy Giratina

Of course after winning such a close round, I get paired against Kevin. I go second, and he opens with a Spritzee. He has a Giratina and a Xerneas Benched, and I get to go nuts. If I get the KO on his Spritzee on the first turn, he is just in awful shape, and I'm really likely to win. If I can keep him off of Aromatisse, its super difficult for him to power his Pokémon up past my Xerosic/Shuppet on his 4 DDE. Attaching to a Xerneas to only put 1 Fairy Energy on any given Pokémon is pretty subpar when I can just OHKO the Xerneas the next turn. Unfortunately, I get the Mega Rayquaza up with a DCE on it, but I miss one of the three Mega Turbo after going really deep through my deck. He gets Aromatisse up, and uses Geomancy. I Lysandre and KO the Aromatisse. I know I can't realistically OHKO a Giratina-EX (I'll have a Fairy Garden locked in, keeping me at the 150 damage cap) so I have to keep Aromatisse out of the equation so he can't just AZ heal loop the stupid centipede more or less indefinitely. That is why getting the initial Spritzee KO would have been so key.

I'm in a great position here still, but I run into a major problem: Hex Maniac is Prized. As a result, I spend the whole game trying to take Prizes around Giratina and setting up damage on them while trying to keep Aromatisse off the board. The game ends up being really close, and if he didn't have a Lysandre at the end I was going to take it (Now, not to oversell that...the odds he had a Lysandre were super high, but there was a chance!) but not getting the KO on the Spritzee turn 2 due to somehow missing a Mega Turbo after a very long dig and then prizing Hex Maniac really sealed it. I feel like, based on our draws, if either of those things did not happen, I should win this particular game. I don't feel great about the matchup, but I also don't feel terrible about it either. I did mess up a little bit by not focusing on Mega Evolving the Dragon Rayquaza in particular, though. In general, I wasn't terribly pleased with how I played the game, but I also hadn't played vs that deck before. There is definitely an edge to be gained by playing the rogue deck against a known entity, and it put me at a disadvantage. Maybe I could have won that game if I had played a few vs it prior, but who knows.


Round 3 vs Alex Christie with Vileplume/Giratina

Yay, I get paired against Giratina again! I lose the coin flip, of course, and look at my hand consisting of...well, all Items. If he got a turn 1 Vileplume, my hand was a dead end. It would be so clogged that Shaymin would be useless, and I would have to draw one of my two Sycamore to even have a CHANCE in the game. He starts with an Oddish, and hits a Forest of Giant Plant, than Sycamores. He gets greedy, Ultra Balling away some key cards hoping to get Shaymin to continue to set up, and the Shaymin is Prized. As a result, he fails to get the Vileplume online, and attaches a DDE to Giratina and passes. My hand, WITH Items, on the other hand, is absolutely stellar, and I go off, and get a full Bench and set myself up with a Hex Maniac in hand. I get Shuppet active, and strip away his DDE. A few turns of this later, he realizes he has no way to actually ever get any of his Pokémon powered up and he concedes.


Round 4 vs Duncan with Seismitoad/Giratina

Duncan was 3-0, and in Juniors, and I got paired against him at 2-1. I'm not sure how the pairings play out with a mixed age group tournament, but I went from optimistic that I got paired out of age group to disappointed I'd be facing my third straight Giratina deck. Duncan is a fantastic player, and I knew he would play his deck well. This was not the final round opponent I wanted.

We both start off alright, and I'm able to purge his field of Energy using Xerosic and Shuppet. Unfortunately, we hit a really awkward crossroads: I can't find Hex Maniac to be able to actually HIT his Giratina, I'm being run out of Energy by his Energy Removal, and my Shuppet and Xerosic has almost run HIM out of Energy cards as well. Unfortunately, I had spent a lot of resources chasing after my Hex Maniac (Which I didn't see until WAY too late) and had very few cards left in my deck. I actually run out of resources to get enough KOs, and end up decking myself. There was an awkward point where I actually am in a position to be fairly well off (I have an Energy on a Colorless Rayquaza smacking his guys for 60, and he had a zero card hand from the prior turn, having to empty it to strip my field of Energy at the time.) but of course, he immediately draws a Sycamore and hits a heads on a Crushing Hammer.


Despite ending 2-2, my resistance wound up incredible. I had a pair of 4-0s as tiebreakers, Alex went 2-2, and my first round opponent rallied back from his loss to go 3-1. I wound up with a roughly 82% resistance, and due to the mixed age groups of the event (with a Junior going 4-0) I snuck into fourth place in Masters with a 500 record. Kevin had to play against a 2-1 at 3-0, knocking another potential 3-1 out of contention. I'm not happy about going 2-2, but I am not too upset because I had really unfortunate pairings and pretty poor luck in my two losses as well. I had considered playing Bronzong Rayquaza as well, and I actually think it would have been a fantastic play for the tournament. Just having access to more Energy over the span of a game while also having viable attackers against Giratina if I don't have Hex Maniac would have helped out so much. I didn't dwell on it too much either way though, I managed to sneak 10 CP out of the event, and it was the last tournament I'd play without BREAKthrough.

70/300 Championship Points.

Willoughby City Championships

I wake up at 9 on Sunday to pick up my friend Sarah to make the drive out to Willoughby for Cities. Registration was between 11 and 11:45, but I wanted to get there early because I needed to find cards to borrow, as well as figure out what deck I even wanted to use. I was realistically torn between playing Lucario/Bats and Night March, the two decks I felt I had the most experience with as well as the ones I felt attacked the metagame in the best manner. Night March felt like the proactively most powerful, linear deck in the format. Lucario/Bats preyed on it, and also had a nice set of advantages over other popular decks. It also had a ton of play to it, allowing the pilot to outplay weaker opponents. I needed to find a Hawlucha, two Lucario-EX, and four Zubat if I wanted to use the deck though! I sadly only acquired four of the good free Retreat Ability Zubat which are no longer Standard-legal, so now I had to pick up a playset of the Phantom Forces ones. Anyways, here is the list I would have registered had I gone with the deck.

I had logged a bunch of games on PTCGO testing this archetype in the days leading to cities, but I had a couple of changes. In place of the Professor's Letter, Super Rod and Jirachi I had two Target Whistles and a third Lucario-EX. With only 9 Energy, I was experiencing some really bad Energy issues, both missing drops and running low on Energy as the game progressed. I also struggled with discarding parts of my Bat line with Sycamore or awkward Ultra Balls. As a result, I cut the Target Whistles for the Professor's Letter and Super Rod. With a Super Rod, I felt I could get away with trimming a Lucario for the Jirachi, which may or may not be necessary. Even though I didn't end up using the deck, I did play a few games with it after the tournament, and I came to the conclusion I need to fit either a Switch, Escape Rope or Float Stone into the deck. There were just way too many turn 1s with the deck where I needed to Retreat a Zubat or Shaymin or Jirachi and had to try and rely on Super Scoop Up to do so even though I had Korrina available to use. I actually am not super high on Hawlucha at the moment, there are less and less-Pokémon-EX seeing play that it preys on. People are learning to protect their use of Shaymin-EX better. I'm really only still running three due to that nice Retreat cost which smooths over the decks draws, especially when I lose the flip.

I still like Target Whistle in this deck. Unfortunately, I needed to smooth out issues with the deck first. I wasn't using Whistle as much as I wanted in the games I played online and figured I would cut them until I got a more consistent proactive deck, and then I would try and figure out what is expendable to fit them in. I've actually been really unimpressed by Super Scoop Up, and not just because of my impressive 3 heads and 26 tails ratio I was gifted on PTCGO. (That didn't help, I am sure.) I'm not sure if I should just trim them for an additional AZ and 2 spots to work with, since they are unreliable and eat up a lot of space. That is a commitment I'm not willing to run with yet though, as it sounds very counterintuitive.

I am going with a one-of Ace Trainer in this deck, over a Judge. I feel like this deck does not have the draw engine necessary to reliably recover from eating a four card hand very well. The deck is also much more capable of regulating when it takes Prizes due to Bat Abilities, allowing you to set up nice Ace Trainer plays. I actually kind of hate the random 1 of in this deck because I do not have any Battle Compressor in here. I could run a copy of the card as a Korrina target, but outside of feeding your VS Seekers your low count Supporters, the card has no real advantageous function. I'm not even super happy with four Korrina in here, but I don't like any of the alternatives necessarily. I do love how great Lucario second attack is though. Not only is it your primary source of damage, but it’s a great supplementary source of draw power and should not be overlooked.

Lucario has proven to be such a powerful attacker that I've had a bit of a fringe thought process for the deck.-Pokémon-EX are seeing lessened play than before, and I haven't been too thrilled with Fighting Stadium overall. Seeing how I have been attacking with both the second and third attack of Lucario more often, I've wondered about playing a copy or two of Dimension Valley. This allows me to actually attack freely with Golbat and Crobat for damage on the board while building up Lucario on the Bench to hit harder. I think there may be something there. I'm not saying to run a ton of Valley or anything, but I'd like to try a copy or two out alongside some of the Fighting Stadiums.

While I did round up the cards to potentially play Lucario/Bats, I settled with Night March. I felt as if I played it better, and going into an unknown metagame (I had a rough idea of what did well in other areas of the country but not locally) I wanted something with raw power so I went with Night March. The prior list I have showcased with this deck ran four Roller Skates, but I found myself needing to fit cards in that I didn't previously have. Once I had to drop below a certain threshold on Item Draw, I needed to up the count of actual Supporter draw, as much as I didn't want to. I cut 3 Roller Skates and a Hex Maniac to add in 2 Sycamore, a Xerosic and a Parallel City. The Sycamores are self-explanatory, providing reliable replacement draw. Xerosic was an answer to Focus Sash: I played 18 games on PTCGO, and 13 of them had been against fighting decks running the card. While that is not necessarily indicative of the real life metagame, I did want to be prepared for the card as it is a huge problem. I had been debating Jirachi for Toad and Giratina issues, but I hated having to put on the breaks to break up Energy drops and felt Xerosic offered a similar function while also taking care of Focus Sash. The Parallel City gives me the option to purge my Bench of Shaymin-EX I have to use, allowing me to set up very well while not leaving liabilities sitting on my Bench. This is pretty important against mirror match, Crobat decks, and Vespiquen.

Round 1 vs Mariah, with Metal Mega Mewtwo

Well, I saw she opened with a Mewtwo-EX and a Bronzor, which made me rather happy: Pumpkaboo has a field day exploiting Mewtwo/Mega Mewtwo-EX's weakness, making for some pretty easy KOs. Admittedly, without Dimension Valley, it wouldn't be that simple in regards to actually powering up a Pumpkin, but with Bronzong's Metal Links, it isn't that difficult. On the other hand, what I opened with did not make me happy: My hand was Shaymin-EX, 3x VS Seeker, DCE, Metal Energy and Hex Maniac. Yikes. I open with a Shaymin-EX, going second. She whiffs an attachment to her active Mewtwo, and on my turn I draw a Lysandre. I Hex Maniac her, and she whiffs an attack after getting a tails on a Birch for four left with without an Energy drop for the turn. I draw another useless card, and have avoided putting any Energy down to avoid boosting her Mega Mewtwo’s damage output. I VS Seeker for a Hex Maniac again. She draws, and hits an Energy, and since she had a turn to Mega Evolve previously, used Mega Mewtwo to smack my poor lonely Shaymin-EX for 70 damage. I draw...Trainers' Mail! There is hope! I end up Mailing into an Ultra Ball, which grabs me another Shaymin-EX...from here I go off, and plow through more or less my entire deck. I am able to get a Float Stone onto Shaymin, a Muscle Band on a Joltik, and 10 Night Marchers into my discard pile in a single turn, and get the KO on Mega Mewtwo-EX. She follows up with an Aegislash-EX KO on Joltik, and I am forced to use my last Buddy-Buddy Rescue to get the KO on Aegislash after using Hex Maniac. (I had to burn one while chasing that 220 damage in one turn) She does NOT have a DCE to power up her Benched Mega Mewtwo-EX, and cannot use Metal Links due to my Hex Maniac, and she SOMEHOW is unable to hit me for the 30 damage needed to more or less win the game. (I would have had to use Shaymin-EX and Bronzong to get a KO on something.) She passes her turn and I am able to go through the remainder of my deck to get the Lysandre KO on the Mega Mewtwo to somehow come back and win this game. I actually am not sure I played this correctly at all, despite netting a win. I found myself in tilted panic mode after giving up so many free turns to my dead draw as she set up, and chased a highly improbable win condition in "220 damage discarded in one turn" without also burning all the resources I'd need to actually be able to sustain this beyond that hit. It was probably safer to just start setting stuff up to try and power out Pumpkaboo and not gut myself of resources to the point where I was walking on nails in regards to even being able to close the game out. We were even on Prizes and the exchange favored me greatly, I didn't need to really play as if I was staging a comeback when we both were on even footing. I misjudged the game state pretty terribly when choosing what line to take, and while I was actually really proud of how I did navigate the line I took (Night March is actually-EXTREMELY unforgiving in terms of resource management.) it was likely the wrong one.


Round 2 vs Cole, with Crobat Wobbuffet

Cole opens with a Wobbuffet and has a Zubat on his Bench. I really, really did not want to play against any Crobat decks, as they are the hardest for this deck to beat. I was able to get enough Pokémon discarded on the first turn to start taking KOs (It is so much easier when I don't have to reach-EX HP totals!) while also still playing Hex Maniac. I am able to use Hex Maniac for the first 4 turns of the game while also getting KOs, so he was unable to use his Bat Abilities to ravage my field. Rather than subject his Bats to being attacked and potentially putting damage on my field, he would evolve into Golbat and set them on the Bench while hiding behind Wobbuffet. His approach would be, I assume, a salvo of Crobat to take out multiple attackers in a turn once my Hex Maniac lock faded, while using Wobbuffet to lock me off of Shaymin to hopefully reduce the odds I could get access to a Hex Maniac or VS Seeker. Well, that didn't work, as by the time I missed a Hex Maniac, I was up 4 Prizes with a Bronzong in play and was positioned pretty well to be able to pump out my last two attackers even though he did take 3 Prizes in one turn once he got his Bats to go off.


At this point, people started asking how many Hex Maniac I was playing. While I cut the third for a third Prof. Sycamore near the last moment, I said I was running 3. People seemed pretty paranoid about that aspect of my deck, and I wanted to keep it that way. The metagame seemed MISERABLE for Night March at the tournament, and if I had a bunch of bad matchups, I wanted to at least bluff additional strength in being able to secure potential IDs in the last round. If a Crobat player believed I had even more Hex Maniacs than I did, the odds they would accept an ID vs try to pick on a favorable matchup would go up. It isn't really too important, but it’s something small that very realistically could have an implication as to whether I could make Top 8 or not. Admittedly, the difference between 2 Hex and 4 VS Seekers and 3 and 4 is minimal, it’s something.

Round 3 vs JW, with Vespiquen

The two players I really didn't want to face this early into the event were JW, who had moved from Michigan down to Cleveland for school, and Andrew Mahone. Mahone was on Magnezone, which is very favorable for Night March, so I would not mind a pairing against him at all here. Unfortunately, he lost the prior round, and was off to a 1-1 start.

JW was on Vespiquen, which traditionally is a slightly favorable matchup for Night March. Unfortunately, the way we both had our decks built favored him somewhat. He goes first, and I get the first KO on the Unown he opened with. What played out was him being able to use his Shaymin-EX to get KOs on my Joltik and taking the targets off his Bench, while the Shaymin I used would sit unless I could score a Band KO on a Combee or similar target at some point throughout the game. I was pretty well devoted to always swinging with Joltik, so I was just constantly open to Sky Return hits even without Lysandre. To make matters worse, JW was running multiple Pokémon Catcher, to be even more aggressive while still using his Supporters to set up.

One of the key turning points in our game was me having to promote a Pumpkaboo on the second turn of the game, and needing to hit a Float Stone to Retreat it into a Joltik to attack with. I dug deep, and missed it, and gave up a turn without taking a Prize. The way the game played out, which wound up not being THAT close, was him hitting a Pokémon Catcher on his last turn to get a KO on my Shaymin-EX to win the game. If I had taken the KO the turn I whiffed Float Stone and he missed his Catcher Flip, I actually win this game, but the way it played out, even if he missed the Catcher he was ahead by a turn on the exchange. (He had used his Lysandre and all 4 VS Seeker, so the Catcher was necessary here.)

The missed KO was also instrumental in setting the tone for the game. I was faced with a major decision the turn after this. I either could Lysandre and KO his Shaymin-EX before it could get rescued, or try and pressure his Vespiquen/DCE attachments. Due to my missed attack, and the fact I had to discard my Parallel City early chasing for that Float Stone and had no way to discard my own Shaymin-EX, I felt like I was just going to be a turn behind on the exchange regardless of what I do if he is able to hit all of his attacks. I opt to try and just make him miss a Bee or DCE drop to steal the tempo back, and it didn't pay off. He had discarded a Blacksmith earlier, and some Fire Energy, so I suspected a Flareon as his "additional DCE" drop enabler, but he actually just ran an Entei as an additional attacker to key off the Blacksmith. The Blacksmith kind of tipped me off to the idea that, since he had not Benched an Eevee yet, and I could Hex away his Flareon's Ability, that pressuring his Energy was a good way to go.

This was a case where this particular build is weaker vs Vespiquen than others, because I was pigeonholed into using Joltik to attack. By leaving myself open to Sky Returns, I lost the ability to later get KOs on an-EX which is huge. If I ran a Valley or two, I could more reliably use Pumpkaboo which changes the dynamics of the matchup quite a bit. This is a case of me not playing bad Pokémon at all, but getting beat by a player who had more experience with their deck than I did, and it’s not a bad feeling at all to recognize you got outplayed/outprepared in a game. I don't mind losing as much when I also specifically learn something in the process which makes me a better player as a result.


Round 4 vs Brock, with Latios-EX/Crobat

I win my first flip of the day, and have no idea what Brock is playing despite sitting next to him a few rounds prior. I'm still not extremely sure whether I want to be going first or second with Night March. On one hand, I love how I can always take the first Prize (Ok, usually) when I go second. On the other, going first really milks the strength of my Hex Maniac game plan. On top of this, there are so many Crobat running around, that if I go second I am really pressured to NEED the t1 Hex Maniac or be super far behind, which can interfere with my ability to get that turn 1 KO that is the selling point of going second anyways. I decide to go first, which is huge, as I open a lone Joltik against...Latios-EX! What a dodged bullet! I get set up pretty well, but unfortunately see he also has a Zubat Benched. Here we go again. When I played Crobat in the second round, I didn't feel so bad because I had a game to give still. Now, with a loss under my belt against Vespiquen, I had my back against the wall against Crobat again.

I get a decent start, and a Hex Maniac. I am fortunate, as Brock is unable to find a Psychic Energy, and misses his attack. To top it off, he also plays a Valley! This lets his Bats attack for free but also lets me reliably use Pumpkaboo as an attacker! That is a huge perk here, and possibly a mistake on his part? I guess there is no reason for him to believe I run no Valleys of my own, so playing it was fine in his mind. This turn also tipped me off to something: He likely ran very few Energy cards. If he was banking on Valley to attack with his Bats, and he missed his attachment despite playing a Sycamore, he could be running as few as 6 Energy in his deck. If he was running very few Energy, the odds that any of them are Double Dragon goes down, and if that’s the case, it’s worth considering the idea he is unable to even use Latios' second attack. Say he ran 6 Energy total. DDE cannot be use with Bats at all, which is important even though he ran Valley. If he ran 6 Energy, even if he ran DDE, the odds he ever has enough total Energy to commit to a Latios is low, meaning the DDE become just worse than Psychic as being able to use them with Crobat is likely to be a more frequent occurrence than using Latios' second attack. It isn't a huge deal, but it’s worth trying to pick up on possible tells about deck construction while playing games against unusual or new decks you are not familiar with. Even if it doesn't change the result of the game (it didn't here) it is a good skill to practice while playing.

Anyways, I am able to keep chaining Hex Maniacs again, and get a KO on his Latios-EX with a Joltik. He also ran Wobbuffet, and used that for a few turns while I kept up my Hexing. He had a turn of Abilities towards the end, but couldn't find a Crobat, and barely capitalized. Even if he had, I had positioned myself pretty far ahead on the exchange due to that-EX KO on Latios. He had another Latios-EX on the Bench (likely a mistake!) but I couldn't do anything about it as my Lysandre wound up being in my last two Prizes, which made the game much closer than it needed to be. I end up getting my last Prize with 2 Prizes left to give still in the game.


Round 5 vs Chris, with Lucario/Crobat

I had just watched Chris give Mahone his second loss in the prior round (A result I was certainly rooting against, not just because Mahone is my friend...I'd much rather play against Magnezone than another Crobat deck in my bracket!) and this is probably the last matchup I wanted to be paired against. Not only do I have Crobat to contend with, but he runs Focus Sash as well. I was packing Xerosic, yes, but that forks me with a decision between playing the card to beat a Sash, or a Hex Maniac to keep his Bats at bay. Running two attackers into a Sash'd Pokémon is just a nightmare, and not something the deck can really afford to deal with. Well, luckily for me, he opens with a Lucario-EX and not second basic, and passing the turn after an attachment against my active Pumpkaboo. I Bench a Joltik and attach a Muscle Band, and go for it. On first inspection of the deck, I find exactly the right number of Night Marchers left in my deck to hit the 180 mark. I also find one of my Float Stones is Prized. I take a 5 minute turn digging, getting the 8 Night Marches discarded pretty quickly, before having to burn through all but about ten cards in my deck before finding the Float Stone to steal the game on my first turn. Hey, a wins a win, I guess, right?


Round 6 vs Athavan, with Reshiram/Giratina

Athavan started 4-0, and ID’d round 5. I got the pair up, and decided to ID against him at 4-0-1. With the way pairings broke, there were two 4-0-1 vs 4-1 matchups, two 4-1 matchups, and a 4-1 vs 3-2 pair down. The first four matchups all ID’d. If Stephen McGaffney and his Crobat Lucario deck won against Alex Christie's Vileplume Giratina deck in the pair down matchup, we'd have 9 players with 13 or more points meaning one 4-1-1 would whiff. I figured with a 2-0 start, and the r6 pair up against a 4-0-1, that I would be pretty safe to make Top 8. WELL, McGaffney won, and I came in 9th place by under 1%. So that was cool. (I had roughly a 57%’s pretty rare that 5 other 4-1-1s all had higher than 57% actually.)

4-1-1 (9th Place)

After playing the tournament, I can safely say I am not going to be using Night March again for the foreseeable future. Now, don't get me wrong: I think the deck is extremely powerful. I love the Hex-spam gimmick. I'm looking for other decks to try it with. Night March is still one of the most powerful decks in the format, but right now, the metagame is super brutal on it. You have a huge amount of Crobat decks seeing play. Magnezone is very popular, and while that is a good matchup, you see an influx of Fighting decks...and Focus beat that. If you paid attention to the Cities out of Indiana this weekend the big deck that blew up there was Yveltal Zoroark Gallade. I'm not super excited about people playing a large quantity of baby Yveltal against me either. Once this stop on the metagame cycle shifts, Night March is worth re-visiting, but right now it’s very vulnerable to most of the popular decks. I would be a lot saltier about bubbling this Cities if I didn't feel like I had to get extremely lucky to win a number of my pairings.

I won't go too far into what changes I would make, but I'd like to run a singular copy of Dimension Valley to dig to in matchups where I need to use Pumpkaboo more. To facilitate this, I'd like to fit a copy of Teammates. Teammates is another weapon JW had against me, which made it difficult to run him out of DCE drops. (It is also why he was out of VS Seeker at the end of the game...and why Pokémon Catcher is so cute in the deck.) I actually wouldn't mind a third Float Stone or a third Buddy-Buddy Rescue, as both cards played fantastic for me all day.

Worth noting, Kevin Baxter had shared with me the Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade deck on Friday evening after taking Top 4 at his first Cities with it. I played a few games with it on PTCGO and actually found it to be pretty challenging to play. Feeling ill prepared to use the deck without more experience, I opted not to use it. In retrospect, I'd have much rather used it than Night March based on the metagame I found, but I really can't ask for a deck to give me better than a 4-1 start realistically, so I can't complain too much. I would touch on this deck, but I know Kevin is going to be writing about it, and out of respect for him as a writer, and player, and friend, I'm not going to step on his toes on that front, especially since he is the reason I have the list.

70/300 Championship Points

Anyways, while that Cities was a bit of a heartbreaker still, I can't complain really as over the years I have avoided bubbling more than I have a right to. I think the only tournament my breakers screwed me out of was a Battle Road years ago. Now that we have more results from over the weekend coming out, I want to include some lists for other archetypes I consider worthy of playing. (Again, I'm leaving the Yveltal Gallade deck to Kevin.)

I'm a big fan of Octillery in this deck, as it helps the deck remain self-sustaining. The deck already loves a card like Bridgette, as it wants Magnemite and Raikou so grabbing a card like Remoraid to tack on is nice. Ideally the deck doesn't want to hinge on using Shaymin-EX, and won't have to mid and late game. It runs a single copy as a safety net, as all decks should. I'm starting to try and embrace the idea of building decks that avoid Shaymin-EX because of how many non-EX decks there are out there. They become so difficult to beat if you gift them multiple Prize cards off hanging Shaymin on your Bench.

Three Raikou and two Pikachu-EX seem like the perfect number on each Pokémon, when you have access to Super Rod in the deck. You don't want to lean too heavily on Pikachu-EX due to how frail it is, but it is a nice card to be able to clean up with once the game state has kind of fleshed itself out some. Outside of those Pokémon, who will do a majority of your heavy lifting, we have one Lugia-EX and one Magnezone-EX. Lugia-EX is a concession to the fact that the deck is all weak to Fighting. You can tank a Lugia up pretty heavily and crutch on that against a deck like Lucario/Bats. I'm not saying it saves the matchup, I doubt it does, but it gives you a much better shot. Magnezone-EX is actually awesome right now, able to hit two Pokémon for 50 damage on the Bench. This can really smash Vespiquen, taking out two Combee. There are plenty of other Evolution decks which really are going to struggle against that kind of Bench pressure. To make things more alluring here, none of these decks play Mr. Mime at the moment due to the lack of Bench damage coming from attacks (most of the issue is out of Bat Abilities) so a card like Magnezone can run wild.

The deck has a lot of raw power, and is really consistent once it is set up. It struggles against fighting decks, and doesn't have much game against decks able to apply a strong Hex Maniac presence. You can beat the occasional Hex Maniac, but if a deck is able to keep you under the card most of a game, there isn't much you can do. The last big issue the deck faces is that it is still a bit inconsistent. This stems from relying on a stage 2 Pokémon, and it just comes with the territory. Outside of that it is pretty streamlined and not too bad. I don't love this deck, I'd be nervous playing it, but its new, different, and has a lot of hype in its corner so I would expect variations of it to show up at most Cities.

The Trainers are pretty close to locked in place, as is the Energy count, but what you choose to do with the Pokémon is much more up in the air. I chose to go with the Eevee support line, mainly using Flareon to enable Blacksmith to help power up your Vespiquen if you can't get your DCEs. Beyond this, I run Jirachi, Bunnelby, Entei and Charizard-EX. Jirachi helps against Giratina decks and anything really crutching on Special Energy while also buying a turn. The card is also fairly useful in mirror and Night March matches. Bunnelby is just a catch all, allowing you to get back any cards that you need to later in the game, and acts as a safety net. This is a great deck to run it in because in a lot of cases you really just want to inflate your Pokémon count anyways. Entei and Charizard give you optional attackers to use off of Blacksmith even if you don't have Flareon in play. Entei hits hard as a non-EX attacker (and does OHKO a Vespiquen with a Muscle Band for only 2 Energy) and Charizard hits even harder and has a beefy hit point total to back it up with near the end of a game. There will be games where you get to get Charizard-EX powered up on your first turn, which is going to be a nice surprise against a lot of opponents who are expecting a slightly less explosive start out of Vespiquen.

There are so many ways to take this deck though. In Indiana, a Vespiquen Night March hybrid deck won the first CC, taking second at that event as well. I'm not sure how well it held up in subsequent tournaments, but that result is hard to overlook. I assume that you cut the Blacksmith, Eevee line, Fire attackers, and trim the Shaymin/Unown down to fit in the 12 Night March Pokémon. Since the Fire Energy do not need to stay Fire, you could make those Metal Energy and run a 1-1 Bronzong as well like I do in Night March. This offsets the fact that every attacker in the deck relies on DCE. I could see the Vespiquen line itself being trimmed down as low as a 2-2 line, with the purpose being to lead with the Night Marchers and transition mid to late game to the stage 1 Vespiquen. I haven't seen the list for the deck so I am basing this on theory but it should work well enough.

The other ideas I like are, well, as I touched on above, Bronzong as an engine over Flareon/Blacksmith. This is a little clunkier but it gives you access to a different array of basic attackers that need Metal Energy. I like the Eevee line because both Fire and Lighting and very relevant types. With Yveltal gaining in popularity, Jolteon is great. (This is one thing I disliked about JW's list that he beat me with. He streamlined the deck a lot, cutting the Eevee, but I didn't like losing the Lightning type attacker option there.) The other option is to try and run Raichu in here, like my opponent at the LC. Raichu gives you a quick, stable attacker that also happens to be lightning type. Unfortunately, it too is a Lightning Energy hog. Honestly, because of the nature of the deck, and how it just wants a huge count of Pokémon, you can pair the deck with anything. I've seen the deck get saddled with Crobat, although that seems really demanding. A stage 2 line isn't exactly where I'd want to be, I don't think.

As for Trainers, outside of what is in here, some people play Town Map. I like living on the edge, embracing my wild side, and winging it. Town Map is alright, and kind of useful in a long game, but it’s so low impact early on that I shy away from it. Some people prefer to play it safe, and if that is your thing, run the card, but I dislike it. The deck really wants Level Balls, but they seem just worse than the other cards we are running. If you want to trim the Pokémon count down, which I'm hesitant to do, the card is good in here. The deck struggles to hit the really high numbers, damage wise, so a card like Giovanni's Scheme (I swear this card is good, I just haven't found the right home for it yet!) seems like a solid inclusion. I wouldn't mind trying out a Stadium card like Parallel City (not only does it discard your own Shaymin to deny free Prizes, but it also helps convert Benched Pokémon into damage who may otherwise be locked out of that equation.) or...and this is a bit out there, but in certain metagames, a Faded Town could be cute. Between Giovanni, a Faded Town, and Muscle Band, you can actually hit the numbers necessary to OHKO Mega Pokémon. This current Metagame is nowhere near there, don't get me wrong, but it’s worth keeping in the back of your head in case things shift.

A lot of people have written off Giratina, and decks which hinge heavily on Special Energy cards in general, due to the promo Jirachi being legal. The card is very good against those decks, do not get me wrong. Decks like Seismitoad Giratina, or Giratina Vileplume are just never going to be able to cope against a card like that. That doesn't necessarily make Giratina-EX no longer viable, though. Paired with something like Bronzong, or with a Fairy support system, or with Reshiram, the card is still a threat. Anything aiming to use Giratina-EX as a part of a larger self-sustaining shell is still going to be very dangerous. (I cited Reshiram because a copy of the deck did manage to make it into the Top 8 of the Cities I attended. While not a huge defense of the deck, it is still supportive.) My favorite shell guessed it, alongside Bronzong. I know Paul Johnston, a fantastic player from the Seattle area, top cut at least one Cities over the weekend with Tyrantrum, which I assume just runs Giratina in the package as well. I haven't spoken to him about the deck yet, and this is my own list.

I like the fattest Bronzong line possible in this deck, even though that hasn't been the case with most of my builds. Tyrantrum is extremely demanding on Energy attachments, so I want to always have a lot of Bronzong in play. I like the revolving door of Tyrantrum, Giratina and Heatran as the decks attackers, although there are plenty of other options.

The Energy count seems pretty normal, and I love the 1 Fighting Energy even more now that we have Smeargle. This also opens up the ability to run actual Fighting type attackers. I believe Israel Sosa has been using an Yveltal Fighting deck with Smeargle, based on Cities standings I saw, and the fact I am pretty sure I got paired against him on PTCGO while I was testing Lucario/Bats.

The deck wants a high count of Battle Compressors, and that allows us to run a variety of Supporters, plus Buddy-Buddy Rescue. I've always liked that style of card in metal decks because it lets you keep the attacker line thinner and varied. I ran Revive before, and Buddy-Buddy Rescue is so much better now. It also functionally gets back your bells, and more importantly, Shaymin, letting you search up a Set Up with Battle Compressor. It further enables Battle Compressor to act as draw power at the start of a game which I love.

I'm running Giovanni's Scheme because not only do I like the card in general, but with Muscle Band, it lets Heatran hit 170 damage (a very key number) and also lets Tyrantrum hit for as much as 230 damage! That kills pretty much anything in the meta at the moment. Xerosic gets the nod in here because it strips Tools and Special Energy in games where you are hoping to hard lock those out of the game by going with Giratina-EX. I wasn't sure what to do with the Stadium situation, but I know I wanted one to be able to Sky Field decks off of Sky Field. This deck itself likes Sky Field, as its Bench can be clogged (This is a reason I'm not running Zoroark even though it works really well with Tyrantrum) but I think it’s better that, if you only get a lone stadium card, that it is able to lock decks that like Sky Field MORE off of it. Parallel City seems awesome, as you can really pinch a Bench size down and lock it. Late game it can also dump damaged Pokémon off your own Bench. The damage reduction on "Starter types" isn't negligible either. (Reducing damage from Fire and Grass types actually can put your-Pokémon-EX out of range from Vespiquen OHKOs even as the game goes long.)

Other Decks

There are a lot of decks I'd like to try working with that I don't necessarily have lists for. I really like Gallade, and its performance alongside Yveltal has been only helping to reinforce this belief. While (SPOILER) the Yveltal deck runs it off a built in Maxie engine, I want to see what can be done with a full line of the card alongside Korrina. It is such a powerful attacker and is also great at getting extra copies into play as it goes. I'd love to be able to play a build that is capable of also abusing Focus Sash, which the Yveltal one cannot.

I want to revisit Mega Sceptile as well. If we look at what the major pillars seem to be shaping up as, we have Night March/Vespiquen style decks, Crobat based decks (featuring any number of attackers) and then Yveltal/Zoroark based decks. Sceptile actually is very strong against the last two pillars, although quite poor against the first two I feel. Neither Crobat decks nor the Dark decks can actually score a OHKO on Mega Sceptile, so once they start healing each other, it somewhat locks them out of the game.

A card I also like, oddly enough, is Marowak BREAK. I played against it online some, and that card hits REALLY hard. I've heard rumblings of it being played in Fighting Bat decks in Japan, and I could see it. With no more Landorus-EX, having a Marowak that hits the Bench isn't bad, and its second attack pulling a Donphan vs-Pokémon-EX is cute too. As the game progresses, it can really just sweep at the end, which is pretty nice as the decks damage output really drops off once you've blown all your Bats. I do not know how I'd fit it, but it seems appealing.

Another card I want to look at more is Latios-EX. Being able to hit for 40 (60 with a Muscle Band) on the first turn is great in this format at the moment. Its crushing against Night March and Vespiquen, and also great against Magnemite, Zubat, Pikachu, Zorua, and any other Basic Pokémon that gets played. There are a lot of targets for it at the moment. I'm not even saying you need to run it as a dedicated presence in a deck built around it, but just splashing a copy into decks running a reasonable amount of Psychic Energy is appealing. I saw Night March playing it at my CC, which was interesting for sure. I also do really like the Mega Latios-EX as well, but I'm not sure where all I'd go with that idea. I swear I've been rambling about how I like that line of Pokémon forever now, pretty much sense they came out, and have still not solved that puzzle.


Well, I'm committed this year. I'll be trying to hit a pair of CCs every weekend from here on out, with the goal of at least getting to play in 12 of them. I really need to walk away with at least 100 CP off these events to put myself in a safe position to get my invite, and the bubbling in Willoughby just lit that fire. I'm either going to sleeve up Zoroark Yveltal Gallade or Lucario/Bats this weekend unless something else pops up. I don't want to be on the NM/Vespiquen pillar of this format at the moment, just because of how unforgiving the metagame can be towards them. I was talking with someone at the CC, and I mentioned how I regretted playing NM for the event. If I were playing at Worlds, I would have felt pretty comfortable playing the deck, but at an event like Cities, I'd rather play a safer deck. Night March wins by such a thin margin every game, and you have to hit perfectly. It happens enough, but it can just beat itself. Against all great players that is fine. When you expect to play half your games against players you should beat though, I'd rather be on a deck that doesn't carry those risks. I should have known that going into the event, and I certainly hold that evaluation against myself. I've got two more articles coming at you guys this month, which is great with Cities in full swing, so I'll be back with some more results, and deck suggestions in a few weeks!



[+5] okko


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