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Chris Fulop

Marching On...And On...And On...

With Week 3 Of States In The Books, Chris Looks Over The Results and Discusses Changes Heading Into The Final Week Of Tournaments!

04/08/2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello again everyone! I feel like I'm experiencing Groundhog Day (the movie, not the lame "groundhog seeing its shadow" celebration) as I get to harp on how Night March has once again confirmed its dominance after the 3rd week of State Championships is in the books. There comes a point where I stop looking at these results as somewhat vindicating, as I've been pushing Night March as the lone best deck for the better part of a month, and I start looking at them as legitimately being problematic. The fact that a deck can continue to have this much success as people stop playing decks bad against it and go out of their way to run decks aimed at beating it is not a good sign for the game.

Before I go more into that, let’s look at the actual week 3 results breakdown. Again, I'm obligated to give a shout out to Andrew Wamboldt (thecharizardlounge.com)for organizing all of this data as it saves me a lot of time and effort in crawling through Virbank to compile the results from these tournaments. Almost all of the results are in, although at the time of writing, the final standings from Ontario are still missing, as are a few decks here from Colorado States.


Week 3 States Results

28× Night March: 
1st (7) 
2nd (3) 
Top 4 (8) 
Top 8 (10)

9× Toad Tina: 
1st (1) 
2nd (3) 
Top 4 (1) 
Top 8 (4)

8× Trevenant: 
1st (1) 
2nd (1) 
Top 4 (3) 
Top 8 (3)

7× Mega Manectric: 
1st (1) 
2nd (1) 
Top 4 (1) 
Top 8 (4)

6× Vileplume/Vespiquen: 
2nd (2) 
Top 4 (2) 
Top 8 (2)

6× Greninja: 
Top 4 (1)
Top 8 (5)

5× Yveltal: 
1st (1) 
2nd (2) 
Top 4 (1) 
Top 8 (1)

4× Bronzong: 
Top 4 (2) 
Top 8 (2)

3× Vespiquen: 
Top 4 (1) 
Top 8 (2)

3× Mega Mewtwo: 
Top 8 (3)

1× Mega Rayquaza: 
1st

1× Dragon Mega Ray: 
Top4

1× Flareon EX: 
Top 4

1× Garchomp: 
Top 8

1× ReshiTina: 
Top 8

1× Primal Groudon: 
Top 8

1× Fighting Garbodor: 
Top 8

1× Wailord: 
Top 8

Out of 12 States I'll be looking at (I'll be omitting Ontario due to a lack of final results to work with) Night March won SEVEN additional States. In weeks one and two, Night March managed to win exactly half the States...and as players try even harder to beat it, is has now won MORE than half. To top it off, Night March took second three times, had 8 Top 4 finished and an additional 10 losses in the Quarter Finals. That’s 28 copies into the Top 8 out of a potential 96 spots. The overall number of Night March decks in Top 8 is down from the first week, but its conversion rate is even higher. This number looks even more discouraging when you look at the next best finishing decks.

A deck I was arguing in favor of as a viable alternative, Yveltal, put up pretty underwhelming results for how much of a known quantity it is. It did manage to take down a State Championship, while also putting forth two losing efforts in the finals. Beyond this it logged a single Semi-Finals and Quarter Finals appearance. These aren't terrible placings, but they are not impressive either. Since I can't help but assume the deck saw fairly widespread play as a whole, only putting 5 people into the Top 8 isn't good.

Seismitoad/Giratina did fair a bit better. It won a States, put three copies into second place, had a Top 4 finish, and finally had four Top 8 finishes. That is 9 total copies with almost half of them making it into the finals. I'd say that was pretty similar to what I would expect out of the deck, and do feel like it continues to make a case for being a viable contender.

Vespiquen/Vileplume put six players into the Top 8, with two players taking second place, two more losing in Top 4, and the final two losing in Top 8. This is a weird archetype, and a deck that just seems to see a lot of player and success in certain regions, while not really being used at all in others. As a result, I'm unsure whether I should be viewing these numbers favorable or unfavorable. In a vacuum they are somewhat mediocre, but that isn't a fair assessment. If the deck is only being played in certain areas and not country wide, suddenly they look a lot more impressive. Also worth noting, the deck is absolutely a one trick pony, and the deck has done quite well in the past few weeks, so I do expect it to be a bit more exploitable as it continues to have success. Interestingly though, Night March has such a presence that decks are forced to try so hard to beat it that they may not have the ability to also prepare to beat exploitable decks such as this. On a somewhat related note, other Vespiquen variants (I do not count Night March builds with a light Vespiquen splash for this.) did get a Top 4 and two Top 8 finishes.

A deck I really like but just cannot bring myself to support anymore is Greninja. It took fourth once, and put 5 more players into Top 8 losses. The deck, like Yveltal, is hyped and popular, and just putting up worse and worse numbers each week. On one hand, the deck is just bad against the best and most popular deck. On the other hand, which is also slapping it in the face (Think Jigglypuff rocking a good old Doubleslap) the deck also struggles somewhat against the disruptive decks that are being used to combat Night March. The decks that Greninja should crush are being forced from the format. I still love the deck, it’s just being pushed from viability by the increased inbreeding of the metagame.

There are two other decks that did fairly well for themselves, before we kind of touch on a random assortment of isolated finishes. The first is Trevenant, which won a States, took second at another one, scored three more Top 4 placements, and got an additional three players into Top 8 beyond this. Eight copies of the deck means it had the third highest total copies to Top 8 behind Seismitoad/Giratina's 9 and Night March's...28. Are we seeing a problem yet? Still, as a deck that did not do well at all in week 1, it is an archetype that has seen a steady increase in performance over week two and week 3. This, like Vespiquen/Vileplume, seems to be a deck that is getting a foothold more in some areas than others, which makes the results even more promising. It is also a deck that I'll let personal bias impact my opinion of. Numbers aside, I'm looking at results and seeing a lot of players I personally consider to be extremely good choosing to play the deck. That is a big selling point for me. Also worth noting, the deck had success in Ontario, even if I'm not using that incomplete data, so it's performance is actually a bit better than these numbers suggest.

The second deck is Mega Manectric. The builds all seemed to be a bit different with what sort of support they ran, but the decks do play fairly similarly and this sort of lumping is still appropriate. Manectric took home the gold once, the silver once, and the bronze once. (Yes, I am really trying to mix up how I describe these finishes so as to avoid monotony! It isn't easy!) Finally it slotted four more copies into Top 8. This is 7 total copies, which makes it the fourth most present deck in Top 8.

Two decks which have come out of left field some to put decks into Top 8 in multiples are Bronzong builds, and Mega Mewtwo builds. Mewtwo was paired with anything from Yveltal to Seismitoad-EX, apparently. Three copies of Mewtwo based decks all lost in the Top 8, and there aren't a lot of details on the deck so I can't read into it too much. My gut dislikes the deck due to how weak Mega Mewtwo is to Pumpkaboo, though. I'd read more into this if it was three copies of a specific Mewtwo build that all placed, but as it is, I'm more likely to write this off as an outlier than an appealing trend.

Bronzong Tyrantrum (and I assume Giratina) placed three copies into the top cut as well, and a deck listed as Bronzong Aegislash also made it. Between these four Bronzong builds, they racked up two Top 4 finishes and two Top 8 runs. I am not too keen on Aegislash since Hex Maniac is so prevalent, but I do think Bronzong Giratina (more so than the Tyrantrum!) is very appealing. Giratina with energy acceleration is a pretty good solution to combating Night March. Unfortunately, the deck is a bit weak to Hex Maniac, so I'm not even sold on it being that great against Night March. Hex Maniac and Lysandre allow you to slow the deck down, and you can likely Lysandre around Giratina at the end for the last few prizes. I haven't tested the matchup that much, but I'm not sold on it being too lopsided either way.

Last but not least, we have a slew of decks which all put one copy into the Top 8. Wailord-EX, Garchomp, Reshiram Giratina, Fighting Garbodor and Primal Groudon (Sebastian Crema, of course!) all put their unique decks into Top 8. I'm not really sold on any of these decks, but I do want to note that Reshiram Giratina's performance is particularly depressing and I view it as a nail in the coffin for the deck. Week 2, it was a pretty popular and hyped deck, and for it to not really get the results desired then and to drop off like this now? I'm pretty sure it just isn't good enough and people have caught on.

A Flareon-EX deck placed in the Top 4 of Indiana States, which I think is awesome. I experimented with a build using Team Magma's Camerupt, and liked what I saw. It struggled with Night March though, so I'm not too sure how great it is. Indiana saw an overall poor performance out of Night March, though, so it was a pretty solid metagame choice there. Finally, a Dragon Mega Rayquaza deck (I assume it also ran Giratina-EX) finished in the Top 4 of a States as well.


Jose's List

Lastly, and worth noting, is another win for Emerald Break Mega Rayquaza/Jolteon. This is its third State Championship win, with VERY few people playing it. Jose Marrero won his States with it, and the same player, Connor Finton won both South and North Carolina with it! Those results can't be ignored! So I didn't ignore them. Everyone knows how much I absolutely love Mega Rayquaza. Any excuse to use the deck I'll take, and these sort of results are exactly the sort of excuse I am looking for. I read Jose's article to find out more about the deck. I wondered what sort of solution he had to beating Night March...well, it was just Jolteon, and not a very good one. Jose even seemed pretty pessimistic about the Jolteon's impact in the matchup himself. It would need to be powered up manually, while the Night March player ran no counter for it. (Be it Gallade, Vespiquen, or even Escape Rope + Lysandre. Even Target Whistle (alongside Puzzles to re-use it on all the easy KO-EX Pokémon) disrupt this game plan.) Even if they ran no answers, the Jolteon had to get powered up over two turns without eating a Lysandre, which is actually not that easy to do. Jose beat two Night March in Swiss, but the report seems to indicate they didn't have counters and had some poor draws as well. His Top 8 run paired him vs three non Night March decks. Jose is an absolutely great player, and you can't "luck" your way into a States win. He earned that title, and I do not want to take anything away from him at all. That said, I can't in good faith feel like that makes the deck a safe play for a tournament. Night March is everywhere, more often than not, it’s going to get you.

Connor posted his round by round results in Virbank over both of his Carolina victories, and between Swiss and both Top 8s, he was paired against Night March ONCE over both tournaments. When Night March is pushing a third of the field, that’s extremely fortunate. I'm not undercutting Connor's ability at all. Winning two States in a row is so unbelievably impressive. I can personally vouch for Jose's abilities as a player, and while I do not know Connor to be able to do so, those results speak volumes of his ability. You can't win a tournament without catching breaks. It’s just true. I just feel like I'd be so nervous sleeving the deck up into a room full of Night March, which for all intents and purposes is a nightmare of a matchup even with Jolteon.

One of the things Jose mentioned is how nice Jolteon having a free retreat is. I do really like that in the deck, I'm just not buying it as a realistic Night March counter in that shell. Many builds run Rope/Whistle, and while Gallade seems to be seeing much less play in the deck, Vespiquen's addition seems to be rising in popularity (Namely to combat Seismitoad-EX/Giratina's rising popularity.) I'm not sure I'd run the Jolteon, and just kind of write off Night March as a loss. The Jolteon eat up two spots themselves, and the build was running four Lightning Energy as well. Traditionally, these builds run only three Basic Energy. Now, I'm not sure if you'd want the fourth energy or not anyways...I can see it being better with a lot of item lock...Vespiquen/Vileplume, Seismitoad, and Trevenant are all popular. Maybe hedging and running the 8th energy is just correct anyways. Still, I just think the Jolteon is very lackluster, and I saw this as a Night March player who has just been universally underwhelmed by that card's performance against me.

I do want to mention two things regarding the list. First, it cut Trainers' Mail and Acro Bikes. It doesn't seem to be too pressed to try and get a turn one Mega Rayquaza, and instead is focused on accepting it being a super reliably turn two play. I think this is necessary to fit everything now. The next big thing, and just something I disagree with whole heartedly...and honestly the only big complaint, personal dislike of Jolteon aside, is the lack of a Teammates. The card is great in this deck anyways, and even better now that it is running Puzzle of Time! I'm not sure where the cut for this would come from, but I know for certain I'd be fitting a copy into the deck.

Anyways, let’s recap the trends to look into the future for week 4.
Night March continues to be the best deck, even in the face of increased opposition. Its numbers are still massive, and it’s beating everything thrown at it pretty reliably. It isn't just dodging the anti-Night March decks, it is routinely just beating them. I expect as many copies to see play, if not more now that it’s shown how resilient it is. This remains the easy public enemy number one.

Seismitoad-EX, Vespiquen/Vileplume and Trevenant seem to be the now established tier 2. Yes, Greninja, Yveltal and Mega Manectric put up similar numbers in week 3, but I'm looking past the numbers and evaluating them based on how strong I really think the decks are. The decks that are "good" against Night March I'll tier higher than the decks which are good "except against" Night March.


As a result, here is my tentative tier list.

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3

Night March

 

Seismitoad/Giratina
Vespiquen/Vileplume
Trevenant

 

Yveltal
Greninja
Mega Manectric

Everything beyond those is a bit fringe. I'm not saying nothing else is viable. I like to use tier lists not only to estimate overall strength of a deck for my own use, but to try and predict an upcoming metagame. If a deck MAY be as good or better than some of these decks but it is totally off the radar, it isn't really going to factor into much. I was ready to put some sort of Giratina (be it Reshiram or Bronzong) into these tiers, but the numbers just seem to support the opposite conclusion. I'm also stubbornly refusing to include Mega Rayquaza as I think Night March is just too big a factor in the metagame.

Alright, I don't think this is a surprise at all for anyone who knows me: My week four suggestion is Night March. Yes, I know, everyone is letting out a collective yawn. Sometimes I really like to come up with innovative and fun ideas for my articles, or want to propose alternative, unorthodox ways to approach a metagame. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those times. Night March is just too good a deck, and there really isn't much of an excuse to not use it at this point. I just don't like any of the disruptive decks enough to support them. They may be as high as 60-40 vs Night March, but their performance against the rest of the field is kind of all over the place. Yes, Night March is a third of the field. (This may be an exaggeration.) Yes, I think you cannot play a deck that takes a loss to Night March. That said, JUST being good against Night March is not good enough to sell me on a deck. There is still 70% of the field you need to be concerned with. If Night March weren't so good against everything else, I'd be more open to not playing it but it’s a broken deck.

So where would I take Night March? Well, I've had my fairly standard base list for a while now, but I also included a list running Bronzong and Metal Energy in my last list. I do like that list, but I think I prefer a different approach now. I was expecting more Giratina and less Seismitoad/Trevenant/Vileplume as the effective counter. With a shift in focus of how Night March is being attacked, I prefer a different approach to countering back.

I have generally disliked Vespiquen in the deck, but I've finally caved. Seismitoad/Giratina is gaining popularity and gaining in results. Vespiquen is a two hit KO from a Toad, and can often chew through two Toads on its own, which is really a backbreaking swing. Toad with a Fighting Fury Belt on it is just so hard for a Night Marcher to take out, and things only get worse once they transition into a Giratina. Beyond this, as much as I hate Jolteon-EX, it is still a decent card against you, and Mega Manectric is somehow putting up reasonable results (I hate this deck so much. Irrationally so, even. Although rationally so, too, I promise!) and I assume every build of this is going to run Jolteon in it too. I wouldn't run Vespiquen just to beat Jolteon, but the added benefit of being effective there is a nice secondary selling point.

As a result, my poor little Unown finally get trimmed from the deck. I really like how they've played for me, but I cut them to fit Bronzong, and I'm cutting them to fit Vespiquen as well. I'm not happy about it, as I do feel like that impacts my mirror performance enough to be discouraging. This fix is a bit harder to squeeze in because without Bronzong I can't justify not running Puzzle of Time, so that’s four less spaces available to me. Anyways, let’s cut straight to the list.

Alright, so first off, we have the thinnest possible line of Vespiquen at 1-1. In the matchups you want it, you really only need one Vespiquen. I wouldn't mind a 2-2 line as it is easier to get out, and that matters against Toad in particular. I'm not sure what I'd be able to cut to make this happen.

Finally, I cut the Parallel City for the Enhanced Hammer. First, Parallel City is just worse as I continue to trim the number of basics in the deck. If I had a 2-2 line of Vespiquen, I'd keep it, but as it is, I'm not confident in my ability to dump off my Shaymin with this build. Ironically, if I ran 2-2 Vespiquen, there is no possible way I'd be able to fit in the Parallel City, so that is a lost cause.

Enhanced Hammer is a concession to Giratina-EX. I really, really like Jirachi, but I can't bring myself to play it just off of four DCE. It’s too hard to find my energy cards under item lock, even though it is great against Seismitoad, and Vespiquen/Vileplume. I loved it when I ran Bronzong and Metals, but now it just isn't going to cut it. That said, I really like having the one two punch of Xerosic + Enhanced Hammer (Or Jirachi, preferably!) You can take a Giratina from DCE + DDE down to nothing, breaking the lock. Otherwise you get stuck having to pray they can't just attach and attack and re-establish the lock. Enhanced Hammer is generally just a good card. I could see it still becoming a Jirachi at some point, but I do like how this is spammable with Puzzle of Time too and how it can be grabbed off of Teammates.

I want to go over a few of the other cards which are viable inclusions though.
First off, we have Startling Megaphone. I wouldn't run it over Xerosic (Especially since Xerosic is so good against the item lock decks that need to be beaten.) but I would run it in conjunction with it. Getting rid of Tools is still very important. Focus Sash is no longer really a fear, as the decks that use it just are not performing as a whole. (They may be good against Night March, but are so terribly bad vs the rest of the field that I can't see them winning much.) Especially as we cut Parallel City, being able to Sky Return a Joltik in mirror is really important to getting rid of your benched Shaymin. This means getting rid of Fighting Fury Belt reliably. The other card that I've seen a spike in has been Bursting Balloon. I've seen it in Dark builds, which is pretty cute as a bit of a 60 damage "plus power" and a nice answer to Night March. Even though your own Belt is good at surviving the hit, it can be circumvented by their Tool discards, or promoting a Fright Night Yveltal to turn off the HP boost. Megaphone is pretty good at helping to get rid of this issue, especially since I cut the Escape Rope I had been running for a second Float Stone. (Float Stone had been performing better as a whole, and now that we have a hard counter for Jolteon in Vespiquen, the need to run Rope is lessened to the point it got the axe.)

I'd still like Parallel City. It isn't going to fit, mainly because it requires a two card commitment in my eyes. You need at least two basic Pokémon beyond the 8 Night Marchers and three Shaymin-EX to make it worthwhile, and as we have to spread the deck thinner to combat everything, this is less and less feasible. This is going to make mirror match more of a crapshoot, but I doubt most other builds run the City at this point, so you aren't really disadvantaged either. 

I want to address the possibility of running a 2-2 Vespiquen line over a 1-1 line. If we did this, Parallel City could fit back in the deck. One card which can be cut in that particular case to fit the thicker Bee line would be the Buddy-Buddy Rescue. With an additional 2-2 late game attacker line (and no Unown to gimmick with it) the pressure to get more Pokémon back is mitigated. I could see cutting one Enhanced Hammer and one Buddy-Buddy Rescue for the 2-2 Vespiquen line. I don't think you can find another spot to fit in the Parallel City though, which I consider pretty depressing.

I'd love a second Hex Maniac. The card is mainly a silver bullet answer around defensive Abilities, but against Greninja and the now non-existent Crobat decks, it needs to be spammed pretty frequently. In those matchups, you have until turn two at least to need to establish that lock, so it isn't too bad. The matchups I wish we had a second copy in are against Trevenant and Vileplume where having a copy in your opening hand (going second where you never see that turn of Items to set it up in your hand) is huge and can be the difference between setting up, and being locked out of the game entirely. Against Trevenant, Lysandre fulfills a similar role (AND lets you use Shaymin-EX afterwards!) but Lysandre doesn't do much against Vespiquen/Vileplume unfortunately. Between the two Supporters, Lysandre is the best in a vacuum though, so I'm not sure which I'd like the second copy of. (In matches where I want the turn one Lysandre for a key KO, it being hard to find is annoying, whereas Hex Maniac usually isn't desired until farther into the game.)

An idea I am hesitant to embrace is cutting myself down to one Fighting Fury Belt. People are running more anti-Tool cards, and the cards it is best against are decreasing in play. Crobat is more or less off the map entirely. Yveltal is seeing less and less play with less and less success. Yveltal builds are also running more anti-Tool cards to boot. That means that both the matchup is less prevalent, and the card is less impressive in the matchup because it is better prepared for. I'm just really unsure I can make that jump, but it is a possibility. I'll include this second list in case anyone wants to give it a spin as well.

 

The toughest decision with the deck right now is trying to figure out exactly how to allocate the admittedly small number of flex spots between beating mirror, and beating the assorted disruptive decks in the format. On one hand, I feel Night March is the best deck, and thus mirror is the single most important matchup to win. On the other hand, it is so dependent on who goes second that it is really hard to influence mirror at all. To do so, it’s just requiring a lot of spaces to be used up to slight consistency advantages. You end up allocating a lot of spaces for minimal impact. On the other hand, you can use up far few slots to give you a notable improvement against less important, less popular decks. It is a tough call to make, but I think I prefer the latter, as those decks are getting more popular. I wish I could say that the anti-Night March decks are increasing in numbers at the expense of Night March, but really, all that is happening is the number of "other" decks is being eaten into for those numbers. So now you have to be prepared for both mirror, and counter decks, which is just an annoying spot to be in. The deck is so good it can do it anyways, though.

Anyways, I cannot WAIT until we get back to Expanded because this format could not be more stale to me, and I say this as someone who enjoys playing with Night March. I'm not even very optimistic about the state of Expanded leading into Spring Regionals, but it has to be better than the trainwreck that has been our States Standard. I really feel like some sort of banning needs to happen, as the direction the game is taking is not healthy, and more importantly, just not fun. I was really hoping that once the format settled down and people knew what had to be beat that things would become more diverse, but that’s not happening at all. We wind up with the dumb often auto-pilot OHKO every turn for a non-EX Basic deck in Night March (Which is not a fun deck to play against) or extremely disruptive "don't let the other decks play" item lock decks, which are not fun to play against in the entirely opposite manner. Neither side of the viable decks promote fun, interactive enjoyable Pokémon, and that’s a pretty bad place to be. I won't even rant about the 4+ minute turns which are common place, nor the inappropriate round length for match play. I just wish something would be done to make the experience of playing this game more enjoyable, because it is becoming more and more of a chore as the weeks drag on. I mean, let’s be honest, I've played through the days of Trapper decks and Cleffa/Lass...and Slowking...so I'm masochistic enough to keep playing through this, but it doesn't stop me from wishing it would be a more enjoyable experience. It seems I am far from in the minority here, too. I'm not even sure the best solution, although "ban Shaymin-EX" would be my gut reaction.

Complaining aside, this is coming up on the close of the 2015-2016 season, and everyone still striving for their invite should be really pushing themselves to do their best to be prepared even if the format could be a bit better. With that said, good luck to everyone who is attending the final week of States! I'll be in Ohio, playing, so if you'll be there as well, I look forward to seeing you!

 

Chris

[+2] okko


 

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