Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

Grinding On...

Chris Fulop reports on his City Championship run with "Caw Blade" (Yveltal/Gallade/Zoroark) and discuss other powerful options to use in Standard!

12/16/2015 by Chris Fulop

Hello again, everyone! Since my last article, I've had the opportunity to attend four more City Championships. Of those, I only wound up going to three of them...the fourth, about three hours away in Pennsylvania, I skipped so I could take a day off and relax instead. (I know, I know, how undedicated. I'll be hitting as many as ten more Cities from here anyways, so I figured I could skip this one.)

Ashtabula City Championships

I wake up early...okay, for me, any time before noon is early...and pick up Sarah to drive an hour and a half to Ashtabula Ohio. We get there later than intended after grabbing some Wendy's, and I'm stuck trying to round up the cards I need to play my deck for the tournament. Last article, I mentioned how I had received a list for Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade before Week one of Cities, but did not feel comfortable with the deck. As a result, I had just defaulted to Night March as I felt the most comfortable with it. In the week since then, I had put in some work with the Yveltal deck, and had decided it was what I'd play. I was a bit concerned, since the deck had received a lot of hype from its success the prior weekend, and I expected not only a lot of mirror match, but I expected players to be prepare to try and combat the deck. Of course, I didn't own any BREAKthrough cards, so I had to scramble at the last minute to get a Judge, two Zoroark, a Zoroark BREAK, and both Gallade. I need to give a huge shout out to David Cook, Dan Polo, and Andrew Mahone for hooking me up with the cards I needed for the event.

Anyways, here is the list I settled upon for the tournament.

"Why are you calling the deck Caw Blade?!?”

Actually, I have to give credit to Washington's Tyler Ninomura for this one, as it escaped my creativity, but it is a throwback to a very powerful Magic: The Gathering archetype which was so good that it forced Wizards of the Coast to ban two of its most powerful cards, only for the deck to STILL be the best deck in its format. The key component was Squadron Hawk (providing the CAW!) and Sword of Feast and Famine, which it would carry (thus, the BLADE). Yveltal is a big evil bird, and Gallade has actual blades for arms. Thus, the second coming of Caw Blade. Also, it is probably the best deck in the format.

The list I had received from Kevin was two cards different from this. I added an AZ and a Giovanni's Scheme in the place of a third Acro Bike and the second Unown. I like Giovanni's Scheme. I like this card a lot. (I found out after this weekend's events that Kevin had actually made the same change, adding Giovanni as well.) This is a deck that can wind up just shy of KOs, and the additional 20 damage is very helpful. I understand it is a little bit harder to pull off, but look at Yveltal decks in recent years, where they could get +30 damage off of Hypnotoxic Laser. While 20 isn't quite 30, its worth looking at that parallel because it showcases just how much work that little extra reach is in the deck. The card is also very good with Zoroark.

Let’s look at some of the numbers. Zoroark deals 100 damage with three Benched Pokémon, 130 with four, and 160 with five. Zoroark often gets suited up with a Float Stone, and doesn't always get to have a Muscle Band. If the opponent keeps a smaller Bench, at three, and you do have a Muscle Band, this lets Zoroark hit for 140, which is huge in mirror match where non-EX Yveltal are going to be defining in how the matchup is played. With four Benched Pokémon, Giovanni lets Zoroark hit 170 with Giovanni and Muscle Band. That catches say, an Yveltal-EX in one shot. Without a Muscle Band, this lets you hit 150, to OHKO, say, a Gallade, which is huge in the mirror match! When the opponent has a full Bench (sans Sky Field) Zoroark can hit for a maximum of 200 damage. This number isn't really important, but it does let Zoroark hit the important 180 mark without a Band.

Scheme is also great with Gallade. Sensitive Strike can hit 170 damage with a Giovanni's Scheme and a Muscle Band. Having that sort of burst damage for a DCE is really nice. I felt that having the ability to cap at a slightly high damage output than a traditional build of the deck would help me in mirror matched. I also felt that, if people were testing the deck in the week prior, that having a surprise like Scheme would offer up a lot of mileage.

The second change, adding an AZ, was also with mirror match in mind. The early game is often defined by both players smacking each other with Oblivion Wing while charging up their field in an inevitable arms race. As a result, most KOs are going to be of the two-hit variety, and when that is the case, if one build has access to AZ, it is going to be substantially advantaged. Mirror is also often decided by who has to play down the fewest Shaymin-EX. Not only are they an easy two Prizes apiece if they cannot get Sky Returned throughout the game (this is something it seems most people aren't winning to suck it up and do as often as they should. If you're going to need a set up hit, Sky Return is a great option) but they also load up your Bench. That means more damage from a Zoroark. You really want to try to play the matchup from a Bench size of three if you can. AZ not only helps remove a Shaymin liability, but it helps to regulate Bench size as a whole.

The last thing I noticed during registration was that a ton of people were using Crobat decks. While I actually feel really comfortable against the various Crobat decks, having AZ helps to further cement that advantage. Any time I can add a card which I feel helps me against a deck I feel is the best deck in the format, as well as against a deck I can CONFIRM is going to be widely played, I'm thrilled.

I was a little nervous, because I was trimming two consistency cards. On one hand, while I was using Giovanni's Scheme primarily as a double PlusPower, its second mode does offer some degree of consistency. AZ's interaction with Shaymin-EX isn't negligible either. Not only can you use Shaymin an additional time with it, but in matchups where Benching a Shaymin-EX is very dangerous (say, against Night March or Vespiquen) it lets you use Set Up and yoink it back before it can cost you the game.

Anyways, we had almost 60 Masters, and would have six rounds of Swiss with a cut to Top 8. Prizes would pay down to Top 16. (Well, two packs, but hey, it is something.)

Round 1 versus Carl Scheu with Mega Mewtwo/Crobat

Of course, for my first round, I get paired against my friend Carl, who was not only one of the better players in the event, but someone using a deck I knew would be a really rough matchup. (Yes, I know I said I felt favored against Crobat decks...) On one hand, Mega Mewtwo-EX (Psychic Infinity) deals a lot of damage. With 210 HP, scoring an OHKO would be...very difficult. The biggest issue was the Stadium card Carl was running: Shrine of Memories. This allowed him to use Damage Change while protected by Mega Mewtwo's hefty 210 HP. If I'm not able to OHKO a Mega Mewtwo, he could just shift all that damage onto me and heal himself. I'm also concerned because I had never played against this deck, and the matchup felt like it could be pretty intricate. This is more concerning because I KNOW he knows Kevin's list, and played this deck to try and capitalize on its likely surge in popularity. This means that even if I considered myself to be an overall better player than Carl, he DEFINITELY had the overall edge, playwise, against me.

I open pretty shakily, but so does he. He has a Mewtwo-EX, with a Mewtwo Spirit Link attached to it Active, and I don't have the best-looking attack option. I actually use Sky Return to put 30 damage onto Mewtwo, promoting Yveltal from BREAKthrough which stops the effects of all Pokémon Tools while Active. This actually pays off huge, as he Mega Evolves, but it costs him the ability to attack. I'm able to Stand In with Zoroark next turn, attaching a Muscle Band, and hit the sweet 180 damage spot since his Bench was full.

Carl's hand was really sketchy, and that two-Prize advantage out of the gates was a game-winner. I end up getting a KO on a Shaymin-EX, and then pick off two more Bats for my six Prizes as I just ignore the next Mega Mewtwo he powers up. On top of getting a Round 1 win, Carl, and his bad matchup for me, took a Round 1 loss, meaning that he may need to run off five wins in a row to make Top 8, as attendance was high enough that a 4-1-1 or two may end up missing Top 8. With the Round 1 loss, he would be one of the more likely players to bubble. Clearly this isn't a personal slight against Carl, but a competitive one, as I would not want to play against him again in the Top 8 if I made it.

W (1-0)

Round 2 versus ???? with Mega Manectric

Round 2, I get paired against Mega Manectric. This matchup all hinges on whether or not I am able to get Gallade into play. His deck, which was Mega Manectric with Raikou, Articuno, and Regice support, had no good answer for a Gallade at all. If I don't get a Gallade out, and he limits his Bench to cut off Zoroark damage, I'm in really bad shape. Luckily for me, I get a turn-one Gallade. I dig pretty deep after I pull off my Maxie, but I'm unable to find the Float Stone necessary to get the KO on his Manectric-EX. He gets another turn, and fills his Bench, but I get the KO on his Manectric on the following turn and I ride that to a pretty comfortable victory.

W (2-0)

Round 3 versus Attavan B with Vespiquen

I get paired against Attavan, who I had ID’d with in Willoughy in Round 6 the weekend before. I knew he was on Vespiquen, which is a matchup I hadn't tested. I know that in Indiana, a pair of Yveltal/Zoroark Gallade had been knocked out of top four by a pair of Vespiquen Night March builds, but not only was I told that was a bit unlucky, but I also had no idea how Attavan had built his deck. I doubted he had Night Marchers. Anyways, it wouldn't actually end up mattering: He more or less dead drew out of the gate, and by the time he drew anything to fire off with, he was so far behind that it wasn't going to be competitive. We ended up playing a game for fun, if I remember correctly, and I drew pretty poorly and he won that one. After two games, I still had no reasonable evaluation as to how good or bad the matchup was for me.

W (3-0)

Round 4 versus Justin Titus with Yveltal/Zoroark

Justin was also on Yveltal/Zoroark, although I do not believe he was running Gallade. Justin gets a better start than I do, but he has to Bench a Shaymin-EX, where as I am able to avoid doing so while still setting up ok. Justin stumbles a little bit in the mid game, and I'm able to turn the corner and take the lead. Another important advantage I had in this game was that I was far more attentive to the Bench size than he was over the course of the game. I felt like I was very disciplined early into the game because I could have aimed for a better start, but it would have required I Bench a Shaymin. The way the game played out made that irrelevant, but I felt like I just held a fuller understanding of what was important in the matchup.

W (4-0)

Round 5 versus Jacob Rebescher with ????

I get paired against my friend Jacob, who I hadn't seen playing in forever, and with both of us at 4-0, we're able to ID. We gave it such little thought that I never even managed to find out what deck he was on.

ID (4-0-1)

Round 6 versus ????? with ????

I get paired against a 4-1 player, and we immediately ID. I can't, for the life of me, remember who I was paired with here, but we quickly drew. Yes, that also means I have no idea what he was playing.

ID (4-0-2)

I end up in third seed. There were a total of nine players with 13 points or more, and Sarah, using Mega Sceptile, who went 4-1-1, ended up being the one who bubbled. She had taken an unintentional draw in Round 1, a game she would have won had it gone on a little bit longer.

Our woes did not stop my rush to obtain cards, where I had only 30 seconds left in registration when I turned in my deck list, I had left out multiple cards: five, in fact. In failed the deck check before Top 8, forgetting to list my three Muscle Band and both Maxie's Hidden Ball Tricks. This mean I had to replace them with Basic Darkness Energy. Oddly enough, this didn't come with even a Game Loss. (I assumed it would.) Worth noting, because I had to take out my Maxie’s, I effectively was down seven overall cards as my Gallade were total blanks. I figured I'd see who I was paired against before I decided what I would do. There were a pair of Night March decks in top cut, and I knew I could still beat those even with the changes. Band and the Gallade were irrelevant there.

Instead, I got paired against my friend Alex Christie who was the 6th seed, using Manectric-EX. Rather than even play it out, I just concede so I can leave early and get dinner. If I felt it was a matchup I had even a shot at, I'd have tried to steal a match, but there was no point against such a bad matchup that was also very consistent. It sucks screwing up my deck list, and excuses about being in a rush to get my deck together in time aside, that is all on me. I hadn't made a mistake on a deck list since 2006. (Which was, unfortunately, a mistake which cost me Top 16 of Regionals.)


Butler City Championships

Disappointing finish to the event aside, I felt pretty good about my deck and its position in the metagame. Me and Sarah got up early on Sunday to make the trek out to Butler, PA for another Cities, and we were both on he same decks: Caw Blade and Mega Sceptile.

I actually made a slight change to my list, and since it is only one card off, I'm not going to update the visual deck list. I cut the AZ for a Super Rod, as I had issues where I would have to discard certain Pokémon and need to get them back. A 2-2-1 Zoroark line is pretty fragile, and with the deck's main Supporter draw being Sycamore, it compounds the problem. It runs Acro Bike, which often has to discard cards you do not want to dump. The final piece of the problem is the nature of firing off a Maxie: You have to dump cards from your hand, no matter how good they are. This means VS Seekers, DCEs, and other cards you'd really not want to discard sometimes bite the bullet. This includes Zoroark pieces. The Super Rod just felt like a nice safety net to offset this.

Anyways, this tournament had a smaller turnout, with, I believe, 44 Masters. This meant, again, six rounds and a Top 8. Ideally with a smaller turnout, no 13-pointers would end up bubbling this time. I was feeling pretty optimistic about my chances since the overall field for the tournament looked on the softer side. (This isn't to say there were not good players there! There were. Things were just a little less stacked than the previous Cities I'd attended since many people decided to stay at home this Sunday.) Of course, I wind up with the Round 1 honorary "Feature Match"...

Round 1 versus Matt Price with Mega Manectric/Crobat

Matt is coming off his fantastic run at Fort Wayne Regionals, where he piloted his Seismitoad/Giratina deck to a Second Place finish, only losing to Frank Diaz's Yveltal deck in three games. Matt was on Manectric/Crobat, and I felt really, really good about the matchup. Gallade does a ton of work against his Manectric, and the Crobat aren't particularly good against the rest of my deck. Unfortunately, my start is non-functional. Luckily, neither is his. It comes down to me using Oblivion Wing for 50 against his Manectric-EX, while he’s stuck using Manectric-EX's first attack for 40. My hand is so poor I was stuck Giovanni's Scheming for one card. He Benches a second Manectric, still missing an Energy drop. I have two options. I could Giovanni for two, or I could Lysandre up his other Manectric, and Scheme again next turn (off VS Seeker) hoping to get more cards off of it. He has a Super Scoop Up, which he hits on the Lysandre'd Manectric, and a Muscle Band lets him finally KO my Yveltal after he draws a Sycamore. I actually draw a Trainers' Mail into a Sycamore, and start to get built up. I'm just so far behind at this point, as even my Shaymin-EX (The other Basic I had so I didn't get Benched the prior turn) had a bunch of damage on it.

I do very well off of my Sycamore. Matt makes a pretty bad mistake, filling his Bench to five, walking into a Lysandre plus Banded Zoroark for 180 on his Manectric-EX. (He had put a Flash Energy on it to deal with Gallade.) This was the only reason I was in the game. I end up getting a Gallade KO on a Benched Manectric, and Matt wisely transitions into using a Muscle Banded Crobat to be his primary attacker. (It works pretty well! Very well, even, as with a Golbat and Crobat Ability shot, it can "one shot" a Gallade.) I actually have the win on board if Matt doesn't hit a Super Scoop Up, which he does (He went 3/3 this game) to take away my win condition. While Matt let me into the game with filling his Bench into my Zoroark, he played the last stretch of the game very well to maneuver around the line I set up to pull it off.

L (0-1)

Round 2 versus Mikey Collins with Night March

Mikey is my actual kryptonite. Of all of the people I have played over the years, my worst win rate is easily against either him or Pittsburgh's Joey Gannon. Mikey has beaten me at many Cities, but also has a win over me in the Top 8 of an ‘08 Regionals, and Round 8 of US Nationals ‘08. This wound up not being any different.

I open with a Shaymin-EX, going first, against Mikey's Night March. I'm unable to find a Float Stone on the first turn, AND am forced to use a second Shaymin-EX just to set up. He gets a t1 OHKO on a Shaymin-EX, a nightmare scenario for me, as he’s up two Prizes before I took my first. This matchup favors me, because I can just chain baby Yveltal to KO all his attackers. It’s easy for me to score an OHKO every turn, but it actually isn't that hard for Night March to also do the same back. It is much easier for them to miss an attack than it is for me to, so I'm better at breaking serve on that front.

Outside of whoever goes second having a huge edge (by taking the first Prize) the next deciding factor deals with Pokémon-EX. I need to keep Yveltal-EX and Shaymin-EX off my field so he can't jump ahead. I'm advantaged because I can use Sky Return to KO a Joltik, and for him to use Sky Return doesn't do anything. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen, as he had used Pumpkaboo and Dimension Valley to get the KO on my first Shaymin-EX. My best shot, because swinging for 30 or 50 into a Pumpkaboo is disastrous, is to leave my Shaymin-EX on the Bench and hope he can't or doesn't Lysandre it and I can pick off a Joltik with it later before it dies. Of course, he hits the Lysandre, and is down to two Prizes to my five. I am now forced to try and spam Judges to make him whiff a DCE at some point and hope I can just make him dead draw more or less, but that definitely doesn't happen, and I just get destroyed.

L (0-2)

At this point, I'm 100% eliminated from Top 8. That said, Matt was 2-0, and so was Sarah. The tournament was small, and this meant some 4-2s may make it into Top 8. I decided to stay in to try and get a pair up at some point and knock someone else out of contention to help my friends' odds of Top 8’ing at 4-1-1 or 4-2. My job was to play spoiler at this point.

Round 3 versus Marcus Guy with Night March

Well, my plan worked out, as I got paired against Marcus who was 1-1 after taking an awful Round 2 loss when he went second, opening Pumpkaboo, against a Latios-EX's Banded Fast Raid. I win the roll, and go second, and get an Oblivion Wing off to KO his Night Marcher. I end up just taking a Prize a turn, without ever Benching an EX (Super Rod to loop Yveltal was useful here, although possibly overkill) and he’s never able to break serve against me. I actually feel bad about taking the win here, although I do not regret the decision. He had a pretty high amount of Championship Points, and had driven in from New York apparently. I was HOPING if I was eliminating people it would be people who weren't really in contention for their invites. It’s even worse with him taking the brutal second round loss.

W (1-2)

Round 4 versus Bob Hopkins with Fairy/Giratina

I get paired against a player who apparently used to play Yu-Gi-Oh! (or perhaps still plays both games) who was also 1-2 at the moment. I open Yveltal, and no Supporters or draw at all. I have a Darkness and a Muscle Band, which lets me Oblivion Wing his Pokémon for 30 past his Resistance. I just draw blank after blank after blank as he gets Giratina swinging, but the damage output misses OHKOs on all my stuff. Like, seven turns into the game, and if I drew a Sycamore I could Evil Ball a KO on Giratina (All I had in play was DCE from before he established a lock) and actually just be extremely favored to win still. The matchup is extremely lopsided in my favor, but about nine turns into the game, I just get Benched without so much as attacking past my initial Oblivion Wings.

L (1-3)

At 1-3, I was clearly dropping. The deck just gave me so many bad hands this time, and there wasn't much I could do about it. The matchups had all been very good for me, and the metagame as a whole was friendly to my deck choice. I've done this for long enough to know that this happens every now and then, but it’s still always frustrating. Sarah started 3-0, then lost her next two in very close games, only to win the 6th round and win up in 9th at 4-2. (There was a clean cut off with all of Top 8 having a 4-1-1 record or higher, so I won't call that a bubble even though it was a 9th place finish)


Kent State City Championships

After doing more testing during the week, I was facing a choice between two decks for this event. I was either sticking to my guns with Yveltal, or using Mega Sceptile-EX. Sarah had so far posted records of 4-2, 4-1-1, and 4-2 with the deck, and the metagame looked really strong for it. It beats Manectric decks, it beats Bat decks, and it beats Yveltal as well. Honestly, if a deck isn't able to score OHKOs on Mega Sceptile, it is well positioned in the matchup. The biggest problem I had with this choice, barring the fact that it is very bad against Night March and Vespiquen style decks, is that I did not trust the deck's consistency. I hadn't played too many games with the deck, and that also left me nervous. I was also worried about time issues. In Ashtabula, Sarah had unintentionally drawn her first round with the deck, and I feel like that isn't going to be entirely uncommon. This could be compounded by the fact I wasn't super experienced with the deck yet. In the end, I decided to stick with Yveltal, making a few more changes.

I cut the Judge, Zoroark Break, Super Rod, and a Battle Compressor for a third Professor Sycamore, a third Acro Bike, a Xerosic, and a Buddy-Buddy Rescue. Buddy-Buddy is just a superior card to Super Rod for the function it serves in this deck. You don't care about getting Energy back really, and the number of times you recover more than one important Pokémon is less than the number of times you'd rather the card just go directly into your hand. Super Rod was useful before but it felt somewhat clunky. Rescue, on the other hand, felt very smooth and was usually a pretty live card for me.

Ironically, despite the two cards' synergy, I trimmed the Battle Compressor count to 3. It isn't that I don't want four Battle Compressor...I do. I just feel like I'd rather have the third Acro Bike. This was the last change I made, and it just felt like it would do more to the overall consistency of the deck. Perhaps I was a bit paranoid that trimming the third Bike plus and Unown from what I'll consider the "stock list" hurt the decks engine too much. The deck always wants to hit one Compressor, but additional copies are usually pretty subpar. The deck draws enough cards that even with only three copies, you can expect to find one early. One thing worth noting is that this isn't a deck that always needs to chase a turn-one Gallade. The card is much better in the midgame, because you prefer to lead with Oblivion Wings. Trimming a Compressor is pretty reasonable.

Zoroark BREAK has felt pretty unnecessary in the deck. I've never really had it pay off well enough to justify how awkward it is every time I drew it. I was just waiting for the matchup to pop up where it just overperformed, and it never happened. It’s situationally useful, but more often situationally clunky. It became a Xerosic. Not only did I expect to see a lot of Focus Sash, but Xerosic is pretty good in the mirror match. I also had this odd suspicion I'd be playing against Assault Vest. The card had been popping up online more, and people had been talking about it. Giratina has dropped right on off the face of the metagame, and people have shifted to Jirachi as an anti-Special Energy tech. With that being the case, almost no deck has an answer for Tools at the moment, and a lot of decks are super soft to Assault Vest. I also expected a ton of Manectric decks, again, and players have added more and more Flash Energy into their lists. Xerosic is a great solution to this, allowing Gallade to again reign supreme in that matchup.

Finally, and this may be an unpopular opinion, but Judge sucks. The card has never performed for me in this format. It never seems to disrupt enough to actually win games. Engines at the moment are pretty dense in terms of recovery cards. I was also a little concerned about consistency, so I just cut the Judge for a third Professor Sycamore. Judge has historically been a great disruptive card, but not in this particular format. Usually the odds of it actually disrupting someone enough to be worth it hasn't been worth the cost of sticking me with four cards. It isn't even contradictory. I'm not worried about dead drawing off of my own four cards: I just usually have enough cards in hand that I'd rather NOT give myself a random four. If my hand is worse than a random four, I almost always prefer to just draw seven off a Sycamore.

Anyways, this event I catch a ride with Dan Polo, his girlfriend, and our buddy "Misplay" Mike O’Donnell. When there, we meet up with a Mr. David Cook. Dan decides to play Mega Latios/Crobat, Mike is on Manectric/Bats, and Cook is on Yveltal. We go over our lists together, and he adds in a Xerosic alongside me. I think we wound up one card off, which may have been me going with a Buddy-Buddy Rescue over his fourth Battle Compressor. I know the difference is the fourth Compressor, but I'm not positive what I ran over it from him. I know he cut the Judge as well, having similar feelings as me. Giovanni has also seemed universally popular with the players who have tried it in the list.

Round 1 versus Dan Polo with Mega Latios-EX/Crobat

I win the coin flip, which is pretty important, and open with an Yveltal against Dan's Remoraid. (He was running a thin Octillery line for additional draw power.) My hand is VERY good, and I go off and get a turn one Gallade in play, and attach a Darkness to my Yveltal. His hand is poor though, and he chooses to play a Professor Birch's Observation, flipping tails. He doesn't have a second Basic, and I'm able to get the turn-two kill. He says he had the choice between playing Birch and a Sycamore, but had two Mega Latios and a Double Dragon Energy in his hand and he didn't want to have to discard those. I think he should just Sycamore there anyways because there is a risk of just losing to being Benched, which is what happens. That is a spot you NEED to draw well off of. My start was fantastic, and the matchup isn't bad for me, you cannot afford to fall behind at all.

We play another game for fun, and he gets off to a fairly clunky start and I win that one as well. That is a deck that really suffers from not having access to the free Retreat Zubat in Standard because it felt like any start he didn't open with a Latios was just a mess.

W (1-0)

Round 2 versus Kirsten Sprague with Night March

Kirsten was on Night March, and I end up going first, and she was able to get the first KO on me. Luckily for me, I was able to have a strong start without having to Bench an Yveltal-EX or Shaymin-EX, and she wound up having to use Set Up twice. I spent the early part of the game setting up my friend with Oblivion Wing as she just chained Night Marchers into me, but I managed to set up a nice spot where she had no Benched Night Marcher. She ran Entei and Blacksmith as her back up attacker. She had two Shaymin, one Float Stoned, and Entei on her Bench. I brought up BREAKthrough Yveltal, hit for a KO on her Pumpkaboo, and put 60 on a Shaymin. This forced her to use a Lysandre to Bench this Yveltal, because otherwise she couldn't retreat into an attacker as I turned off her Float Stone on the Shaymin. (Her only Switching effects were Stones.)

I ended up being able to leapfrog her on Prizes because of her Shaymin, but I think with her solution to running out of DCEs being Blacksmith, that I would have actually won just off of her missing relevant KOs at the very end. Worth pointing out, I am a bit nervous about the deck's Basic count, because your Night March game is substantially worse if you ever open with any of your four Pokémon-EX. You have seven "good" openers and four "bad" ones, and that isn't quite the safe ratio I'd like. If Night March were more popular, I'd want to add more Basics.

W (2-0)

Round 3 versus Mikey Collins with Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade

Time to get revenge! I assumed he was still on Night March, but bluntly asked prior to sitting down. He said no. I don't think it would have ended up mattering, as I didn't have a lot of options with my start. I'll be honest, these mirror matches can really blur together, as they are so long and grindy. I remember we both had rather blistering starts, and we came out of the gates pretty aggressively. Mikey's start was a little bit better, as he won the flip, but I knew I had to offset that by focusing on keeping Energy in play and playing for the late game. I actually caught a pretty nice break as he stumbles a little bit in the midgame and is short of getting a KO on my Yveltal-EX which meant I was now ahead on the projected Prize exchange. The game took forever. I was actually able to snowball the game by using a Xerosic on a DCE on his Benched Yveltal-EX, forcing him to burn another attachment on it, meaning when I KO’d it the next turn, he had no Energy in play. I had stopped replacing Pokémon on my Bench to mitigate Zoroark damage, and he had no good follow up attack outside of an Oblivion Wing. The problem is, these games take forever. Time was called, and we were both at two Prizes. I'm able to squeak out my last Prize on turn three to avoid the draw, even though at that point me winning was near inevitable based on the board state.

W (3-0)

Round 4 versus Jacob Rebescher with Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade

I got paired against Jacob in the mirror match, who had just picked the deck up for the first time today. He did not seem terribly happy to be paired against me. He wins the coin flip which is a huge deal in this matchup. I had a reasonable start, but nothing absolutely fantastic. Jacob is a very strong player, or at least I know he was when he played a lot more. I would argue in 2010, he was likely the third best player in Ohio. I felt like I was roughly a 35-65 underdog merely going second. That may be a bit exaggerated, but I was definitely behind. It takes forever for "Raffle Prizes" to be drawn (Worth noting, I'm not sure if there is anything more annoying than Raffles at tournaments. They take forever.) and I think it over, and decide to offer a draw. Jacob mulls it over, and decides that yes, he would like to draw. This puts us both at 3-0-1. If we win either of the next two games, we'd be 4-1-1 and in Top 8. I think we both felt more comfortable putting our fates into games versus other opponents instead.

We decide to play for fun anyways, as both of us wanted to get some more practice in for the mirror match. Jacob's list was interesting because he went for a thicker Zoroark line, at 3-3, and ran a TARGET WHISTLE in his list. That wound up being really cool, as not only does it guarantee potentially easy to pick off Prizes, but it forces my Bench full to supplement his Zoroark’s' damage output. Also worth noting, I had no idea who would have won, because the game was ended Round 5 pairings. So had we not chosen to ID, we would have played to a natural draw anyways.

ID (3-0-1)

Round 5 versus Andrew Mahone with Hawlucha/Lucario

Well that gambit didn't necessarily pan out very well, did it? Of all the players in the tournament, Mahone has had the most success recently, with a stellar 9th Place finish at Worlds last year. He was on a very interesting deck, which consisted of all Hawlucha and Lucario-EX (as far as I could tell. I do not think he ran any Shaymin. I could see a baby Landorus being run that I never saw, though.) The idea of this deck was to be extremely streamlined and just run as many disrupting, frustrating Item cards as possible. He ran four Crushing Hammer, at least two Enhanced Hammer, and some Team Flare Grunt. He ran Super Scoop Up and Focus Sash in order to deny Prizes, and relied heavily on Lucario's attack as a source of draw power. I felt like this matchup shouldn't be too bad for me, as I didn't think he matched up terrible well against baby Yveltal. The Xerosic would also do great work against Strong Energy and more importantly, Focus Sash.

I get a fantastic start, getting Gallade out first turn and most of my field developed. He kept cycling between Lucario, and I'd Oblivion Wing them in order to put them into KO range for a Gallade. He also made a pretty bad mistake: He played own a Fighting Stadium. On one hand, this would do a ton of work against Yveltal-EX and Shaymin-EX. I didn't Bench either of them. I wanted to blank his Hawlucha to the best of my ability, and just beat up on Lucario who I had a favorable exchange with. The big kicker is that my Gallade gets to piggyback off of his Fighting Stadium, which he forgot about midgame. The most dangerous part is that with the Fighting Stadium, a Muscle Band, and Giovanni's Scheme, I could actually just OHKO a Lucario-EX for a DCE.

I get the KO on his first Lucario-EX, and get a second on another Lucario later on to go down to 2 Prizes. I'm now stuck in an interesting race, having to kill two Hawlucha past Focus Sash and Super Scoop Ups while he’s really beating down my Energy drops. I'm able to get a Xerosic KO on a Hawlucha with my last DCE, and then I'm left looping between Yveltal using Oblivion Wings to keep Energy in play. The big issue was that I was low on cards left in my deck (finally, a use for Judge, right?) and I only had one last Lysandre left. I finally get him to a point where he can't hide from my KOs any longer and win with three cards left in my deck. One thing I had considered doing earlier into the game once I got down to two Prizes was the patented Shaymin-EX loop, as a means to protect my DCEs from removal, hitting Hawlucha for 50 a shot. Zoroark with Float Stones would allow me to always retreat into the Shaymin, and I could never run out of Energy. I kept note of this tactic for a potential Top 8 pairing. I just felt by doing this, I'd cut it really close in terms of decking out, so I took the riskier approach that put me to one Prize at the cost of that last DCE instead.

Luckily, Mahone was 4-0 going into this round, and would likely be able to just ID in the final round to make cut anyways.

W (4-0-1)

Round 6 versus David Cook with Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade

So going into the last round, we had me as the only 4-0-1, and then seven 4-1s, and Jacob at 3-1-1, paired down to a 3-2. I draw with Cook and we go for a walk around the Kent State campus (it is very nice.) The other three tables, featuring 4-1s, all drew as well. If Jacob won his match, he'd be 4-1-1, causing someone to bubble. Jacobs’s opponent was under the impression a 4-2 could sneak in, which was just not true, and won the match knocking Jacob out of Top 8 (His breakers wound up being extremely high, and he would have been a fairly high seed, actually.) Cook's only loss on the day had been against Mahone in the fourth round, so overall the deck, slight differences aside, performed really well for us! Cook felt similarly to me: The Xerosic had overperformed, and was a fantastic addition to the deck. I feel like, as such a catch-all, it’s going to stay in the deck for as long as I can see.

That was a nice series of Swiss pairings for me though...and I do mean that sarcastically. Of the forty Masters playing in the event, all six rounds I played against people who I actually consider to be a fairly good friend. I mean that as in, these are people I've known for a really long time or will do things with outside of just playing Pokémon. I'd rather not have to beat friends if I don't have to. (Although if I lose to someone, I'd rather it be a friend, of course!)

ID (4-0-2)

First Seed

I wind up paired against Mega Houndoom in Top 8, which is really awkward for me, because I didn't feel like that would be a very good matchup for me. Mega Houndoom has 210 HP and purges itself of Energy to attack, making Yveltal-EX a joke against it. I imagine the deck would keep a small Bench, so Zoroark does very little too. 210 HP is also high enough that the normal plan of "peck at it with Oblivion Wing" then KO it doesn't necessarily work.

Top 8 versus Chris Nagel with Mega Houndoom

Game 1

Chris opens with a Camerupt-EX, which I later found out was his lone copy, and he Blacksmiths onto it, going first. Yikes. I'm off to a great start, clearly! The worst part about this is what I opened with: Yveltal, from BREAKthrough. Its Ability prevented me from playing a Float Stone onto it to retreat into anything useful. By lacking Oblivion Wing, I was going second AND unable to actually make up for this by getting ahead on Energy. I do Bench a Zorua, putting a Stone on it, with the game plan being to Stand In next turn and get out that way. Unfortunately, Chris has other plans, and Lysandre's Zorua. He is lacking a fourth Energy, and has to take a coin flip to try and KO the fox. He flips tails, and it lives, but I don't really have a tremendous follow up. He does, on the other hand, as he Lysandre's my Yveltal-EX and just NUKES it with Camerupt. I'm just really far behind at this point and have to try and come up with some sort of plan to actually win this game.

I manage to take down the Camel, and get to four Prizes, against his three when he Mega Houndooms me back. He had to Bench a pair of Shaymin-EX, and I see my opening. I'm forced to go really deep through my deck trying to make this work. I Lysandre a Shaymin-EX, and Oblivion Wing it for 50, putting a Dark on my BREAKthrough Yveltal. IDEALLY I'm able to play a DCE, and Lysandre the same Shaymin, then KO it for 60 and put 60 on the other one, where my second Yveltal with a Band could Lysandre again for 50 to KO the last one. His deck wouldn't have DCE to Sky Return, and he couldn't really break that up too well.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to find a DCE, so I have to Lysandre the other Shaymin to do 50 to it, and do it in inverse order...the problem with this is, it blatantly telegraphs my play, and he can then Lysandre the Break Yveltal, kill it, and I lose. By just doing 50 first, it could mask how vital to my game plan to Break Yveltal is and prevent him from making sure to KO it that turn. The second I go out of my way to recklessly burn Lysandres to put 50 on both of his Shaymin and he has to see that. He doesn't actually end up KO’ing that Yveltal, as I burn super far through my deck trying to find one of my last two DCE and still fail to do so. (The third was my last card, the fourth was Prized) and by doing this, I leave myself with two cards left, and he is able to use normal Houndoom to just mill me out to close the first game. (If I could have found a DCE, I think this game was extremely winnable.)


Game 2

This game is very awkward, and somewhat frustrating. He started very poorly, and I get a fairly good start. The problem is, the nature of this matchup should require me to have to have quite a gap on him to win. The first game I was very fortunate to find a reasonable win condition: He had Benched a pair of Shaymin-EX. I feel like if he doesn't give me those kind of KOs, it’s very difficult. This leads to me burning through most of my deck, trying to get as far ahead as possible to leverage the gap in starts. Chris plays this very wisely, not even trying to go aggressive past a certain point, and starts going Houndoom mill when I'm at like fifteen cards left. (This is another point where I awkwardly would have loved a Judge, for all the wrong reasons.) I get down to two Prizes, and he has a Benched Shaymin-EX I can KO. Well, except he AZ’s it, taking that win con away. Unfortunately, he is able to mill me exactly on the last turn before I'd get the KO on his Houndoom for the win. Awkwardly, I had Giovanni and a Gallade, but he milled my last Muscle Band. I could have hit the 170 out of nowhere to win in spite of the AZ if I could have assembled that.

That was definitely my game to win, and I'm a bit disappointed in myself for not being able to close it. I'll say one thing though: I was not playing optimally, but I can justify this. For one, it was a very unusual matchup and I had no idea what all he had (Game 1, he let those Shaymin hang, so the idea of an AZ was not on my radar. I actually took that game's progression as a reassuring sign he did not run the card.) or how to play into it. The other big part is, with it being a rough matchup, game three would be very interesting. He gets to go first, and he almost assuredly will take the first Prize or two. If I want to WIN Game 3, the only thing that matters, I need to give myself time to make sure I can at least transition that game into the midgame where I can try and offset his advantage going first with that deck. As a result, I cared more about playing QUICKLY to close the game out (once he had a terrible start, the blood in the water made me feel I had such an advantage that I would gladly give up quality of my play there to secure more time for a Game 3) than playing it 100% correctly. I respected his ability to mill me after Game 1, but not as much as a viable extended strategy to transition into.


If I'm going to lose, I don't hate doing so to a really cool deck like Houndoom. In the end, "Misplay" Mike advanced to Top 4, before losing quickly to Mahone who had also made it past Top 8 (I'll find out how that feels one day). Cook beat his opponent, and managed to beat the Houndoom deck in Top 4 in three games (REVENGE!) before beating Mahone in three in the finals to take down the whole tournament!

5th Place


I had the option to attend a Cities in...okay, I actually do not know the legitimate name of the city anymore, but it was eerily similar to the word Tyrantrum, so that’s what I'd been calling it for about a week now. I ended up passing on going to that one, as I was pretty exhausted by Saturday night. (Non-Pokémon information: I've started dieting, and exercising, and as a result, I've been really sore and tired lately, which was a major contributing factor to avoiding the Tyrantrum CC.)

In closing, I was really happy with the list I used for this event! I don't think I would make any changes. Xerosic was fantastic, and the whole day the BREAKthrough Yveltal, who I had considered to be on the chopping block, had overperformed and at least extended its stay in the list. I do want to tough a bit more on why I was so stubborn with keeping it in. I think Mega Sceptile is a very good deck. I think people are starting to realize it, too. Sarah had put up consistent good performances with the deck locally, and I'd seen it placing at Cities around the country too. People I talk to also seemed to be in agreement that it was a bit of a sleeper hit at the moment.

The deck has a pretty good matchup against Yveltal, and I think the BREAKthrough Yveltal is a really important tool towards making the matchup palatable. If you let them just loop between a pair of Sceptile, healing each other, you won't get anywhere at all, and be ground out of the game. They cap at 110 damage (with Ariados' Poison) making Yveltal a 2 hit KO. (They could theoretically use Giovanni, although if you know that’s in their deck, you can play your Yveltal play with a Hex Maniac to cut off the Ariados) With Yveltal's 60/60 spread, if they retreat to heal the first Sceptile, you can actually use Gallade or an Yveltal to hit the OHKO on the now damaged Mega Sceptile. The Ability also cuts off Spirit Links after they SSU, so it cuts off that funny business as well. That was my main reason for keeping the card in the deck, and it just decided to be so thankful that it just rocked all day for me.

Anyways, I feel obligated to include the Mega Sceptile list I almost played:

I also have an interesting take on Gallade, as I love the card. It’s kind of an "All Gallade, all the time" approach, being able to put them into play through either natural evolution (Well, of the Rare Candy variety) or through Maxie, which is nice.

This list isn't extremely tested yet, and by that I mean I played about ten  games with it on PTCGO just to see if the idea was even functional. It seemed to be pretty good, actually. I beat everything but the three Mega Sceptile decks I played...those destroyed it pretty badly, I couldn't do enough damage and go healed past. I just kind of went full force with the gimmicky engine, although the deck could easily add a lot more options and tools to it at the cost of slowing it down a little bit. I'm not sure it’s necessarily better than just jamming Maxie and Gallade into other shells, though. A dedicated Gallade deck, with Octillery, actually won the Tyrantrum Cities on Sunday, so that is somewhat vindicating of this idea, at the very least.

Here is my updated Night March list, as I still feel the deck is very powerful if you have a metagame that is light on Yveltal. If Yveltal ends up being hated out of your area some, the deck is still great. Here is the updated version I've been using.

Finally, I feel like CRAYQUAZA may be ready for a comeback! You have Bat decks, Manectric decks, Yveltal, and Mega Sceptile as very popular deck choices, and all of those are pretty good matchups for Ray! Giratina, Night March, and Raichu have all gone from popular to being more fringe, and that is really beneficial to the deck.

Anyways, I've actually been pretty happy with how Standard has evolved with the release of BREAKthrough! For anyone not sure what to play, who just wants something safe against an unknown open field, just use Yveltal. It is the best deck in the format, pre-metagaming. It will always be a safe choice, and should serve you well. IT IS NOT EASY TO PLAY. I mean this. Even as a very good player, it took me quite a while to feel comfortable with the deck. I'd always said how it can be difficult to properly navigate the really crazy engines in the game, but in most cases, those decks have a super powerful overwhelming proactive Plan A that they just always gun for. This deck has much of the complexity, but with a much less clear-cut game plan, and that makes things much, much harder. Do not go into a tournament with this deck cold. Everyone else is testing against it, you will be disadvantaged.

This weekend, I get to attend my first Expanded Cities, and will have to throw something together for that. I'm currently leaning towards either using Vespiquen (Which I think was the clear cut best deck prior to BREAKthrough) or some sort of Yveltal Seismitoad deck with a Maxie/Gallade line thrown into it to help with the whole Manectric problem. Wish me luck everyone!

-Chris Fulop

[+12] okko


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