Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

I May Be Out Of My Mind...

Another week of Cities is in the books, AND I present to you a brand new, very unorthodox deck to try to tackle the Standard format!

01/14/2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello, everyone! Today I've got "two" tournament reports for you, including the lists I was considering for the events and some explanation into both the choice of the archetype and lists, as well as a special little home brew of mine I'm extremely excited about at the end! I assure you, it’s nothing like anything you've seen anywhere else at a tournament or online, and the deck I am currently set to play at this next weekend's City Championships.

North Olmsted City Championships

Leading into this tournament, I had a bit of a screwed up sleeping schedule. I mentioned in a past article that I had gotten sick the weekend before Christmas, and that had done a pretty good job of messing up what was becoming a more regulated sleep schedule for myself. Since then, I've been really hit-or-miss on being able to fall asleep at a reasonable time. I actually was pretty tired on Friday night, and went to bed at 10 PM, after getting back early from playing in Friday Night Magic. Unfortunately, this responsible time for going to bed didn't quite pan out. I woke up at 2 AM, unable to fall back asleep. I wound up logging online to play some games on PTCGO and get some testing in for Cities in the morning, and wound up feeling tired again around 6:30 AM, so I set an alarm for 10, since the tournament was a good five-minute drive up the street from me. (I'll admit, having a tournament in my home town is a nice change of pace from having to drive at least an hour to hit up a Cities.)

10 AM hits, and that "wide awake" feeling I had at 2 AM was nowhere to be found. I debate rolling over and just skipping the tournament entirely, but force myself up and out of bed. I scramble to get everything together, grab a shower, and make it out the door with time to spare. There were three Cities within a reasonable distance of this one, with one in Dayton, and another in either West Virginia or Pennsylvania, so everyone kind of expected attendance to end up being pretty low for the event. I was very concerned that we would have fewer than 32 players, preventing us from getting Championship Points for the Top 8. Instead, we wound up with a really impressive amount of players: we had 9 Juniors, 13 Seniors, and I believe 40 Masters!

When I got there, I was asked if I wanted to judge instead of play, since currently my friend and teammate Dan was the only one currently signed on the Judge. (All of the other potential Judges wanted to play instead.) I debated the decision, and decided I would end up judging the event. There were a number of factors that led to this decision. First, I was pretty tight on money. Traveling to a pair of tournaments each weekend, especially many a few hours away, gets expensive, particularly with the ten dollar entry fees and miserable Prize support that fails to really do much to offset the cost of the events. Being able to sell the half a box I'd get for Judging would cover me for two more tournaments, more or less. I also did not want to leave Dan high and dry, especially since the turnout was much larger than predicted. On top of this, I was really tired. While I didn't expect that to be a major factor on how I played, it did play a role as being a bit of a tiebreaker here. Finally, I really did not like any of the deck choices I had at my disposal.

The safe play for me would be to just default back to Yveltal/Gallade/Zoroark. I knew how to play it, and it is still arguably the "best" deck in the format. Unfortunately, it also felt like people had begun to adjust to this. Players were learning to play against the deck better. They were adding cards to help the matchup. Decks which had a bad matchup against it were being filtered out of the metagame, and people were choosing archetypes specifically because they had favorable matchups against the deck. This wasn't the case in every metagame, but the Ohio metagame had been so heavily infested by the deck that I really did expect that strong a shift.

One of the scariest parts about picking a deck for this weekend was that many areas of the country had their marathon tournaments, meaning there were a ton of results to comb through for metagame trends. It’s hard to gauge how much the other players would tap into these results, and adjust accordingly. In most cases, you could expect the last weekend's Cities to be the last launch point for what the local metagame was. Unfortunately now there was so much data to be taken in that this couldn't be safely assumed.

Entei was a deck that just massacres Yveltal. It was popular in a lot of areas, and had good marathon success. It had seen no play in this region, but it likely would have now. Mega Mewtwo builds also saw play around the country, and also has a good matchup against Yveltal. That deck was gaining a lot of traction, and scared me. We already had a decent presence from Mega Houndoom decks, and I had discovered firsthand how difficult a matchup that was.

I was also considering Night March. I felt like every one of these new decks people were discussing had a similar problem: They lost to Night March. The archetype was also putting up pretty good results around the country, so it was appealing. I knew how to play the deck as well.

The other deck I really wanted to try was Mega Rayquaza. It was the right call the prior weekend for me, and if it weren't for the results of the Marathons, it would have almost assuredly been my choice for the day. I had spent a lot of the week testing to help flesh out some of the engine's issues and felt pretty good about the deck.

The final deck I wanted to try was, in fact, Mega Mewtwo. I have to give co-thanks to both Kevin Baxter and Mikey Fouchet for help with lists for the archetype. I'd spent much of Friday, and that early Saturday morning testing session playing with the deck and made some changes from those two starting points. I had a lot of players telling me the deck was a strong choice going forward, but my testing left me feeling a lot to be desired with the deck. I just felt fairly unimpressed by what the deck was doing, and actually had a fairly subpar set of results with it on PTCGO. I mean, I had a winning record, for sure, but it was shooting under what I was used to getting with Yveltal and Rayquaza by reasonable margins and that didn't offer me much confidence.

After thinking it through, I would have settled on Rayquaza and just hoped to dodge Night March and the Crobat/Raichu decks. (We haven't had any Crobat/Raichu being played locally, at all, but it did well the prior week at a lot of Cities, so I expected at least some degree of bandwagoning here.) Rayquaza is favored against Yveltal, Manectric decks, Entei, Houndoom, and Mega Mewtwo decks.

I judged instead, though, and unfortunately had to spent a majority of the day dealing with the Juniors and Seniors as we had a lot of newer players, many who did not grasp the rules of the game very well and a lot of hand-holding was necessary. For an event smaller than a Regionals, I'd never dealt with a more problematic tournament as a judge, and it had nothing to do with the staff at hand, there just wound up being a lot of problems across the board. I want to thank Dan for doing a fantastic job as head judge of the event, and AJ Schumacher for doing a great job running the event.

The Top 8 featured a Mega Rayquaza deck (a couple of the top players at the event, including Worlds bubble boy Andrew Mahone, were on the deck.) a Seismitoad/Red Card deck, a Houndoom Mill deck, an Yveltal deck, a Mega Houndoom deck, a Vespiquen deck, a Night March deck, and an eighth deck which I did not get to see as it was defeated by Night March before I got to head over to the Masters' Top 8 as I was handling the Senior's Finals. Top 4 wound up being Rayquaza getting defeated by Seismitoad, and Houndoom mill getting beaten quickly by Night March. Both matches were extremely ugly with the losing decks getting a pair of really bad hands to take quick losses in fairly non-competitive games. In the Finals, Night March overtook Seismitoad to win the event.

Worth noting, Night March, Yveltal and Rayquaza all managed to make it into Top 8. There was a lot of Yveltal, and the one to sneak into cut did so at a record of 4-2 and a low seed. I was accurate in expecting a hostile metagame for the deck. Night March managed to win the event, preying on the decks which were aiming to beat Yveltal. Rayquaza put a player into Top 4, but the other copies floundered some. I actually did not like the lists being used, as they were less streamlined and featured Milotic. Mega Mewtwo decks did show up, but they all did pretty poorly, which reaffirms my fears about the deck some. The deck isn't bad, but I'm still not sold on it being the right choice for an event either. There was a pretty solid smattering of random decks, including a Primal Kyogre deck that could have easily made cut if it didn't catch some pretty bad draws during Swiss (It lost to Mega Houndoom because it drew passed the entire game and only managed to attack once.)

Here are the four lists I was considering for the event:

I was pretty content with the deck list I had been using for the archetype before. I made a few changes here. Yveltal-EX has gotten worse and worse: My friend David Cook actually cut the card entirely from his list, which I vehemently disagree with. He opted for a thicker Zoroark line, wanting to try and use all non-EX attackers to play a better war of attrition. I feel like Yveltal-EX is necessary in too many matchups, mirror included, to be cut. It’s very situational, so I was pretty content reducing my count to one. There are also a lot of matchups where you just can't afford to Bench it. You lose games to Manectric, Night March, Mega Rayquaza, and other decks able to pull off OHKOs if it is stuck in play as a free two Prizes. There same can be said about Shaymin-EX, so you really can't afford to open with these Pokémon-EX in a large portion of the matchups.

I had been at one Unown previously in the deck, and opted to increase the count to two in order to give the deck more non-EX openers. Cook ran no Yveltal-EX, and a 3-3 Zoroark line, and I went with an effective 3-2 Zoroark line and a lone Yveltal-EX, but cut the seventh Darkness Energy (I really, really do not like doing this, and after using it more, have decided ANY other cut is better than it, and need to find a way to fit it back in) for the second Buddy-Buddy Rescue. That card has been wildly overperforming for me, and allows me to get away with thinner Pokémon lines while still having extra copies of each. It made stomaching a 3-2 line and one Yveltal (BKT) and one Yveltal-EX much easier. With the extra Unown, and extra Buddy-Buddy Rescue (which can get me a Shaymin-EX off of a Battle Compressor too) I was willing to trim the third Sycamore, or more accurately, the third "Draw Supporter" spot. It could be the third Sycamore, a Birch, or a Judge. I had been on the third Sycamore, but that was another choice I wasn't entirely positive on.

While I like this list a lot, I do want to fit in the seventh Darkness Energy, a Promo Ditto, and a Birch or a Judge. Possibly a Parallel City, but I feel like it’s a tier below those first three in my overall desire. The Supporter and Darkness Energy are obviously all about consistency, but I'd like to take a moment to explain how great Promo Ditto is at the moment.

Promo Ditto has an Ability which lets it use the attacks of the opponent's Active Pokémon. It needs to pay the appropriate attack costs, including color of Energy, but it has some really strong applications against a number of popular cards at the moment. It is a great answer for Gallade in mirror match, which previously was a big deciding factor in the matchup. It is also able to copy Zoroark's attack for a DCE. It can also be a non-EX copy of Yveltal-EX in the mirror, so if you Oblivion Wing onto it, it can easily copy Y Cyclone or Evil Ball for a pretty big advantage. With two copies of Buddy-Buddy Rescue, having it available for the mirror match just gives you a monumental advantage.

Outside of mirror, it is also very good against Mega Rayquaza. You can Oblivion Wing to it early, and it threatens to copy Emerald Break on as a non-EX for an OHKO on a Mega Rayquaza. It copies Raichu's Circle Circuit, giving you another key weapon in the Crobat/Raichu matchup. Night March is favorable for the deck, but Night March/Vespiquen is a bit tougher. Ditto is a great counter attacker against Vespiquen as the game progresses where it isn't too hard to get a cheap OHKO back on them.

Mega Mewtwo-EX is a problem card for the deck, as it can function on a small Bench to avoid Zoroark trouble, and outsides Yveltal-EX's damage output with its Psychic Infinity. Ditto can be played down and given a DCE to copy Psychic Infinity right back out of nowhere. If they have three Energy on them, Ditto smacks them for 160 damage! If you use Yveltal BKT to hit for a 60/60 split on a pair of Mewtwo, that makes it pretty easy to sweep Mewtwo with this Ditto. (They need three Energy because it’s the big cutoff for getting an OHKO on Yveltal spamming Oblivion Wing, which is what you can use as a bait attacker against them while setting up.)

Seismitoad-EX did well at the North Olmsted City Championships, and Ditto can sneak in and copy Quaking Punch to slow their disruption down while you set up additional attackers. It isn't a great tool but it is certainly something that comes up.

Ditto isn't without its flaws of course. Not only does it have a low 70 HP, but its ability to copy attacks stems from an Ability making it vulnerable to Hex Maniac. The deck as a whole is pretty resistant to Hex Maniac, so you usually have viable options besides the card to use on turns where you do get Hex'd. What makes the card so powerful is that it is entirely off the radar, and if you save it in your hand, no one is going to possibly play around it. A matchup like Crobat/Raichu used to be very difficult due to Raichu's type advantage on you, but when you can get three easy OHKOs on their Raichu off of Ditto (assuming you get to use both Buddy-Buddy Rescue) the matchup is much more palatable.

This isn't too different from the last list I posted, only I adjusted some of the numbers a bit. The Pokémon line is pretty much set in stone now. Having played with three Hoopa-EX in here I'd never go lower. As for the Trainers, there are a lot of cards I'd like additional copies of. I want a third Maintenance, a fourth Spirit Link, a fourth Mega Turbo, and a third "draw" Supporter, likely a Birch. I also want a Xerosic, as Focus Sash is a major issue for the deck. If you expect a lot of the card, Xerosic becomes an unfortunate must. I've considered going down to two "Switching" cards (from the three, Switch, Float Stone and AZ), one Lysandre (I hate this, but its technically expendable. Prizing it is just so brutal though) and actually something really crazy in only two Fire Energy. You really don't need more than one Fire at a time, and with two, the odds you Prize any are low. I've just yet to bite the bullet and get that risky on the count. I think it’s safe, but it’s another example of it seeing so counterintuitive I've been scared to try it. Still, I actually like two Fire more than I like 1 Lysandre, so if a slot needs filled, I guess that could be it.

This is far from an innovative update at all. I just keep making slight adjustments to the build. I'm down to one Hex Maniac due to a decline in the presence of Crobat decks as a whole. (They still see play, but less than at the start of Cities. You can still beat them with the one Hex Maniac, but I'm just less willing to go overboard to try and secure the matchup.) I really like having access to two Muscle Band and Giovanni's Scheme, as it helps the deck combat having too many Marchers Prized. With the second Buddy-Buddy Rescue, I'm fine with just three Shaymin-EX. (I know, Benching a Shaymin is really rough in this format, but this is a deck that often just needs to bite the bullet and do it.) This makes the 1-1 Bronzong even safer. I'd love to fit a lone copy of Parallel City to dump off my Shaymin, and I could see trimming a Rescue or a Muscle Band to fit it in.

I'm not super in love with this list, but after taking a few lists to test from, this is what I've narrowed it down into. Some of the cards I'd love to include are the following:

-second Parallel City
-third Yveltal
-first Target Whistle
-first Buddy-Buddy Rescue
-first Zoroark BREAK
-first Hex Maniac
-first Prof. Birch's Observation
-seventh Darkness Energy
-third Battle Compressor

Most of those cards are fairly self-explanatory but I do want to go over Target Whistle in a bit more detail. The card is obviously great for securing cheap KOs, particularly on Pokémon-EX like Shaymin. I like the card in general for that purpose, but it is even more potent alongside Zoroark.

I want to use this as an aside to mention that I have soured quite a bit on Zoroark. Now, to preface, I don't mean to say that I don't think Zoroark is good, and that it should be cut from decks. The card is still very good. It is a potent non-EX attacker, and I doubt I need to sell anyone on Stand In being a very good Ability. The big part is, players have gotten a lot more accustomed to playing around the damage output of the card. It is still good, just less likely to blow apart a game than it was at the start of the season. Now it is more likely to have a passive impact on a game, where the threat of it is used to reduce how many Pokémon a player Benches. This is still strong, and a bit underappreciated, but the card went from being a true haymaker to being a potent cog in the machine.

To tie this to Target Whistle, players are used to playing exactly one Pokémon under whatever number is going to be painful to them against a Zoroark. By using Target Whistle, you punish them for this "proper play". The problem I have with a card like Target Whistle in a deck I'm just starting to test is that I'm not positive what the best card to trim is for it.

Streetsboro City Championship

After being exhausted pretty much all of Saturday, I actually managed to get a pretty nice night's sleep for Sunday's tournament. I drove out with Sarah, and we got to the tournament with almost 45 minutes to spare! (As opposed to with 15 minutes max to spare, per usual.) When we got there, I was a little nervous about the potential attendance. I'm at this point of complete paranoia regarding the threat of Top 8 not getting points, meaning we need to hit 32 masters at least. People poured in pretty steadily, to the point where we hit 40 Masters, giving us 6 rounds and a Top 8 cut, with the whole cut earning at least 20 CP.

I was pretty dead set on using Mega Rayquaza this event, since I expected people to be more prepared for Night March from the deck winning North Olmsted the day before. That ruled Night March out for me. I was more open to it when I expected it to be at the low point on everyone's radar. The metagame from Saturday seemed very hostile to Yveltal, so I didn't want that bullseye on my forehead all day, either. So finally, by virtue of being totally unimpressed by Mega Mewtwo, I was stuck with Mega Rayquaza nearly by default.

That was, until I heard, like, five people all discussing how they were going to be playing Night March, all within earshot of myself filling out my decklist. I kind of accept there will be a couple copies of the deck at any event, just because it’s cheap to build and fairly easy to play. When I hear that many people bandwagoning it though, there is no way I can greenlight using Rayquaza anymore. I make the last-minute audible over the Yveltal to try and prey on the people using Night March.

I used the list I mentioned about after discussing some changes with Cook, who was pretty sold on the higher Zoroark count. I wasn't as sold, but I did like his logic of thinning the Yveltal-EX count as it was often a liability. Anyways, onto the event!

Round 1 versus Night March

I open with an Yveltal, but made the mistake of choosing to go first. (I had no idea what he was on, but I absolutely want to go second in the matchup. Night March really benefits from that. In the dark, everyone chooses to go first, so you "win the flip" pretty much every game, whether you -actually- win or not.) He was new to playing Night March, and made a pair of really crucial mistakes. He miscounted the damage on his first swing into my Yveltal, only hitting for 120 damage, when he had the ability to get the extra Night Marcher off a Battle Compressor earlier in his turn. I thought he assumed he had one more than he had discarded early into his turn based on how he was playing the turn out, and wasn't about to correct that and tip him off during his turn. This let me get the first turn, and I didn't have to Bench any Pokémon-EX, so I was on track for the easy exchange. He also wound up Benching a Shaymin-EX, giving me even more leeway to jump ahead. It wound up playing out pretty well how I expected, as I just took a Prize a turn for four turns, trading off with him, and I closed the game out with a Lysandre on the Shaymin to clinch it.

W (1-0)

This made me feel pretty good about my decision to abandon Rayquaza, as I would have almost certainly started off at an 0-1 record.

Round 2 versus Stephen McGaffney with Entei/Charizard

This was not the matchup I wanted to play, as I knew it was a pretty brutal matchup. I get a very good first turn, getting a Gallade into play. My turn took me a pretty long time. McGaffney opened with a Shaymin-EX and had to Bench a second one, and his turn took even longer than mine did. He was forced to use Sky Return, to take some of his Prize liabilities away. I start using Oblivion Wing to set up Basic Darkness Energy onto my field to be able to bypass Assault Vests. I get a spot where I get a KO on Entei, hitting a Xerosic on his Benched Entei. He had a five-card hand, and would have needed a DCE, Lysandre, and one of his last two Muscle Bands to get the jump on my Gallade which was threatening the return KO. He’s unable to do it, and he takes out my Yveltal-EX. His turns take a really long time, both in terms of him needing to plan out his turns, and because the actual execution of his engine ate up a lot of time.

By this point, the game has taken an extremely long period of time, and despite a fairly low amount of actual turns having passed, I knew we were really low on time. The game state was very close, and could have spun either way, as he had burned a lot of resources and my field was pretty close. First off, I expected to lose a very, very close untimed game. Second, I knew it looked very close on paper. Third, there was about an 80% chance that we get an actual draw regardless of what happened. I clearly am thrilled with a draw in this matchup, so I figure why not offer it as he’s sitting there wracking his brain in thought about a really difficult board state. He takes a moment to consider it, and decides he too is okay with the draw. Within a few minutes, time is called, more or less confirming my suspicion that we would have had a draw anyways. If we both rushed, we could have MAYBE finished the game, but Stephen wasn't speeding up his pace of play, and I certainly wasn't going to play faster than I needed to at that point either.

ID (1-0-1)

Round 3 versus Michael Zele with Yveltal/Gallade/Zoroark

Michael has played for years now in the area, and I actually rarely wind up paired against him. His best finish at an event was a pretty impressive Top 16 finish at Philly Regionals a couple of years back, losing his win and in for Top 8 at the event. (If the pairings hadn't been screwed up by the pairing software, he would have been able to ID into Top 8.) To this day, I'm still not sure if I like going first or second in the mirror match. On one hand, going first lets you get the first Gallade, and the first Zoroark, and the natural turn-two Yveltal-EX attack, but going second lets you hit the first Oblivion Wing and actually jump ahead on damage and Energy attachments. I've felt favored, and disadvantaged, from both roles. I actually really enjoy this mirror match because I think there is a lot of play to it. Any matchup where the opening flip isn't extremely important is one I appreciate.

I go first, winning the flip, and I end up super close to getting the turn-one Gallade. Every time I play a card, I just get so close to the Gallade going off that it encourages me, statistically, to keep digging, and I wind up going about 35 cards into my deck on the first turn and still end up missing it. My start was still quite good, and I'm not in a terrible spot even though I did burn far more cards than I wanted to. That’s another important part of the mirror match: even if you end up behind out of the gate, a large portion of the games do come down to a player running themselves out of key resources, so sometimes letting your opponent go wild early isn't even bad. Missing the Gallade, I felt really bad about my position here.

His start isn't the greatest, so I'm still "in it". I don't mean to say that my board state was was quite good. I just recognized the way the game was progressing well enough to know that this was likely to be one of those games where I fizzle out at the end and give up a lead. I needed to really establish a solid lead to close, I felt.

He has a good enough game going that it forces me to use resources to keep ahead, which is not where I wanted to be here. The big backbreaker came when I had to keep burning even more cards trying to find Energy drops. I had seven Energy cards in my bottom fifteen cards, and beyond that, to really seal the deal, I got to Sycamore at the end needing one of my THREE remaining DCE with an eleven card deck, and two DCE were in my bottom 4 cards, while the last one was in my last three Prizes. I was in a very good spot to win the game if I hit the DCE that turn, too. (Not a lock, I could have decked: That is honestly why I miss running Judge. Not because I like the disruption, I find that half very lackluster, but I miss having a deck-reset.) Between missing the turn-one Gallade after such a long dig, and then having such a hard time seeing my Energy in the late game, I felt like I got very unlucky this game. (The big issue with the Gallade opening wasn't just missing the Gallade...the deck doesn't have THAT great a success rate at pulling it off, so I'm not complaining I failed to get one, it was the nature of those failures, where the draws I got broke in a way where they encouraged me to keep chasing, to the point where failing led me to burning a TON of cards in the process.) I'm also not trying to say "Oh my God I was so unlucky!!!” as a way to complain. Its Pokémon, it happens, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it. Variance is a part of the game. It is worth reviewing games, and making a fair assessment as to what went wrong.

Did I make mistakes? Did I approach the matchup wrong? (Should I try something different next time?) Is the matchup tough? (Do I need to make adjustments to my list to combat this in the future?) Do I legitimately have poor variance? It is too easy to write things off as being unlucky, and it’s easy to write things off as a bad matchup or out of your control. There is so much to be learned by properly assessing what caused a loss. (And a win, for that matter!) The three major things I focused on in this game was whether I was correct in choosing to go first, whether I should have chased the Gallade as hard as I did, and also the unlikely draws. I think I like going first. I think in hindsight, no, chasing the Gallade was wrong, but it’s tough to see each given hand I had at the time and say I shouldn't keep going with the information I had at the time. The math was in my favor at the time. I wish I had snapshots of the game, because there likely was a point where even getting the Gallade stopped being worth the resources spent even if I WAS to get it, and that’s where I should hit the brakes, but that’s hard to do. Once you commit so much, it feels like you are priced into getting it. That is likely my biggest mistake. At the end of the day though, I did get some pretty poor luck, but that doesn't mean I can't find other things that could have led to a defeat as well.

L (1-1-1)

Round 4 versus Joey Nawal with Primal Groudon

Yikes. Primal that is a matchup I have no idea what to expect from. I felt like I had an advantage, due to speed, and the fact Gallade and Yveltal-EX both hit like trucks. That said, I know the Nawal family, and they are prone to using decks specifically to counter the top decks, meaning I had every reason to SUSPECT they had a build they felt would have an advantage over Yveltal, which left me concerned. I wind up getting the first-turn Gallade, and a pretty good set up, including an Yveltal Breakthrough on my Bench, which is a HUGE weapon in this matchup. Being able to split 60/60 let me hit Groudon on the Bench as they set up. This should make sweeping them from there pretty easy. Unfortunately for me, my lone Yveltal-EX was Prized, meaning I was a bit handicapped in terms of what I could do. Joey ran Robo Subs and Wobbuffet as support, and the Wobbuffet stopped my Zoroark from being able to Stand In and get my Yveltal XY (With a Muscle Band) Benched so I could transition into my other Yveltal, so my early pressure was fairly anemic. (I wound up three-hitting a Wobbuffet with that Yveltal, if that is any indication.) Luckily, his start was pretty poor and clunky (which is probably a trait of Groudon in general.) and while I was slow taking down the first Groudon, he wasn't able to power up a second one. (I do like how midgame, where Mega Turbo would be an issue, I can use Yveltal's Ability to turn off Spirit Links so the recovery Groudon is slowed way down if they don't have a Wobbuffet to promote.)

W (2-1-1)

Round 5 versus Cori James with Yveltal/Gallade/Zoroark

I have known Cori for a number of years, and she’s really impressed me with her play so far. I'd never gotten to play against her prior to this, though. I win the flip, and go first, and again end up burning through too many resources on my first turn. (I feel like this one was a mistake.) That brings up a real issue regarding the mirror match: Between the grindy lack of OHKOs and minimal use of-Pokémon-EX and the time consuming engine, the games take FOREVER. The game states are complex and force players to be very reactive instead of proactive like most matchups end up devolving to. Every time I've played a mirror it’s either gone TO time, or gotten very close to time. Cori had taken a draw earlier, and almost took a second draw against Cook, but he had decked out. (They both had over four Prizes left, and it was almost to turns.) She doesn't play inappropriately slow, but she does play in what I'd consider to be the lower end of what is still certainly acceptable play pace. In order to offset this, I knew I had to rush, as a draw knocks us both out of contention, and I didn't want that. This is a matchup where it is beneficial to play at say 90% of your best in order to actually COMPLETE the games, so I'm fine with potentially playing a little sloppier than usual in order to appease the time limit.

I get off to a very good start, and had a spot where I have to Y Cyclone her Yveltal-EX, and I had a really strong plan in mind, Y Cycloning onto my Yveltal BKT so I could Lysandre it to the Bench and snipe it off with its attack, but the Yveltal was Prized, so that didn't pan out. Towards the end of the game, I had the same issue I had in the third round against Zele, where I had all of my Energy stuck in the bottom like third of my deck, and have to burn VS Seekers to get to them. As a result, I run myself out of Lysandres, and am unable to pick up the last EX KO I need to win (I was pretty far ahead on board, and was up on Prizes, so if I had a VS Seeker left I was definitely good to go.) and time is called. It was likely to go to a draw, and I only had four cards left in my deck and no way to actually take my last two Prizes in time since she knew I couldn't Lysandre. She would have won untimed to my decking out, so I gave her the win so we both didn't get eliminated. (She won her last round to make top cut!)

L (2-2-1)

Round 6 versus Manectric/Crobat

I stayed in to try and get Top 16 so I could get that oh-so-important two packs. We were going to leave, but Dan was 4-1, got paired down to a 3-0-2, and had to play for his Top 8 spot and we wanted to see how he did anyways. So, yay, one more round for me. I get a pretty good start, but struggle to get out a Gallade, and he suits up a Manectric with a Flash Energy (My Xerosic was Prized.) I end up having to two-hit it, but my setup from my first turn onward was pretty good. I just stay ahead, and plan to take out a Shaymin-EX for the win. I make a really dumb mistake (My head was not in this game at all, as I really didn't care if I won all that much) and opt NOT to put my Muscle Band on my Yveltal-EX (he had no Manectric down, so I could safely Bench it so I could Y Cyclone with the Band to OHKO his Shaymin) and he hits his last Head Ringer (which I wasn't even thinking about for some dumb reason, I was just in the "Don't attach Tools due to Assault Laser!" mentality, which obviously doesn't universally apply to Pokémon-EX in the matchup) and that locks me off of the ability to get a OHKO on Shaymin at all. My last two Prizes were the Xerosic, and my last VS Seeker. He’s stuck in a position where he has to assume either my last "Lysandre" or my last DCE is Prized/unavailable, and he chooses the line where I can't get a DCE, and that lets me get the KO on his Manectric to still win despite my massive blunder.

W (3-2-1)

I end up getting 14th Place, and a whopping 2 booster packs of BREAKthrough.

Considering I effectively went 3-1-2, and had some overall bad luck, I do consider the result in line with being acceptable. Obviously anything shy of Top 8 is a letdown, but I know I can't always be fortunate enough to cut. I didn't care for my choice (I didn't dislike it either, of course) and caught some poor breaks, so I can write it off as a learning experience.

I want to conclude the article with a deck I've started working on that I am fairly excited about! It is an approach no one has taken yet, but one I feel is actually increasingly viable as we get a more and more defined metagame. The deck isn't close to refined, but I've started to play some games with it on PTCGO and have been really impressed by how it plays, even though the engine isn't right yet, and the suite of attackers is certainly not ideal yet.

The basic idea is to use a combination of Bronzong and Yveltal XY to dump a bunch of Energy in play and then use the new Smeargle to swap them with whatever types you want to be able to run a full toolbox of different-typed attackers.

Yveltal has already seen some play with Regirock and Smeargle by players such as Israel Sosa, and Bronzong has done similarly with Tyrantrum builds. Night March and Vespiquen builds have shown that Bronzong is function in builds with as few as three Metal Energy, so supporting both is actually more reasonable than you'd think. (Don't get me wrong, this deck is pushing the boundaries on deck construction, though.)

"Why not just play one or the other??"

Well, it sure would end up being cleaner, wouldn't it? Well, first off, the primary source of Energy acceleration has to be Bronzong. I don't want to sit and be obligated to use Oblivion Wing multiple times in a game, it falls behind too much. I love it as an option, I don't like it as a crutch. Bronzong is the core engine. Yveltal offers three major things to the deck. First off, it is your main weapon against Night March. (It also gives you easy KOs on Zubat versus Crobat decks, which are probably the deck's toughest matchup.) You need a turn 1 attacker, and a way to keep getting cheap, easy KOs even past disruption. Disruption, such as the second thing Yveltal protects you from, which is Hex Maniac. The deck isn't soft to Hex Maniac, but it doesn't like the card either. Having a way to keep up accelerating past Hex Maniac not only deters people from prioritizing the Supporter against you, but it also gives you reach when they do. Finally, Yveltal BKT is really, really good in this deck. If anyone has played with it in Expanded with Dark Patch, you know how impressive the card is. Chaining them together is so threatening, and with Bronzong and Smeargle enabling you to Metal Links for Darkness Energy effectively, this is absolutely obtainable in this deck. Being able to attack the Active while also setting up Shaymin-EX KOs on the Bench is brutal. This deck also tries to pick on type advantage, but versus decks where this isn't exploitable, these 60 Bench shots are going to be important to end up winning.

Let’s look at the other attackers, though! Regirock is your anti-Manectric attacker of choice. For a DCE and a "Fighting" Links, it hits Manectric for 240. Regice is your answer to honestly, any-EX based deck, but primarily counters Mega Houndoom, Houndoom Mill, and Entei.

Ditto is an incredible attacker as I mentioned before, and it is at it’s best in this shell. It becomes an incredible attacker against Yveltal decks, as it can copy every attack in their deck pretty effortlessly when Metal Links gets tacked on. This Ditto is just incredible against Yveltal, Raichu decks, Mega Rayquaza (As is Regice, a card they can't really actually beat) Mega Mewtwo (When you can Metal Links to it, the OHKOs are pretty reliable.) Vespiquen, and pretty much any deck you can pay for the attacks of.

Tyrantrum is a card I didn't include at first, because I didn't like the idea of using-Pokémon-EX if I don't have to. The deck is also not that well suited to setting up a huge amount of Metal Links, so before the Tyrantrum can get going, it has to sit as a target. I also only run Float Stone to switch, meaning chaining attacks with the big dino is off the table. Still, as a catch all OHKO option, I do like having it in the deck.

Shaymin-EX also is only a one-of in here, because the deck is grindy and focusing on non-Pokémon-EX. This means leaving this guy as a target is extra undesirable. It isn't too bad, because you can actually use Sky Return for up to 70 damage as a viable set up hit, and due to Metal Links, you aren't actually falling behind on attachments for it. The other big problem here is that because of Bronzong and Smeargle, your Bench actually does get choked, so putting more than one Shaymin down isn't even really feasible.

"How are you banking on all of these one-ofs to be able to win their respective matchups!?!"

Well, that is what the four Buddy-Buddy Rescue is for. Clearly, I am in love with this card, but by experimenting with it as a 2 of this weekend, I realized it opens up a lot of deck construction options, and this deck absolutely pushes that envelope as far as it can. It also really helps the deck set up, as when you run four Battle Compressor AND four Rescue, it becomes a fairly reliable engine in and of itself!

My Supporter line up is pretty much just all over the place, and is kind of a trial and error type approach. Bridgettes and Teammates are both very good in this deck (Grabbing a Rescue and a DCE after getting KO’d is generally all you need to get another return KO once set up.)

I hate the Energy counts, but let me tell you, they are not as bad as you think they would be. I'm happy at three Metal, would like a third Dark, and really would like a second Fighting if I am going with Tyrantrum-EX. I'm not sure where the space would come from, because it can't be the Energy itself. A 12th, or even 13th Energy is not out of the question.

The Pokémon are pretty solid at the moment, but I can definitely see cutting any of them for other types depending on your local metagame. I hope it makes sense that I'm totally unsure how to build the attacker/Energy suite at the moment, but even knowing it’s far from a fine tuned list, it’s been doing very well for me, with an 11-2 record on PTCGO. (I lost to Mega Manectric when I Prized both my Fighting and Water Energy, eliminating both potential weapons in the matchup...and yes, prizing things can lose you games, but when you don't Prize them, the wins are quite lopsided, so the overall win rate is more than acceptable. You lose less competitive games at the cost of a few more non-games...and I lost a somewhat embarrassing one to a Noctowl/Simisear deck, which just drew cards and had like a 20 card hand and would just score OHKOs with a DCE or Blacksmith. They got the first KO, and used no Pokémon-EX, and I didn't have Judge. Oops!)

I'm currently on track to be playing this for Cities this weekend if I can get my hand on some Ditto if it keeps performing as well for me as it has been! Seriously, pick it up, give it a try, it’s not only very competitive against the top decks in the format (Or can be made to be!) but an absolute blast to play and totally different in feel than anything else in the format!



[+9] okko


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