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Chris Fulop

Preparing For Nationals

Chris goes over his selection of Standard decks, while discussing some of the biggest roleplayers from Fates Collide.

06/10/2016 by Chris Fulop

Hello again, everyone! I want to apologize for being a bit late with this article, as I just started a new second job, and everything has been pretty hectic at my first one. I try to be on time with my work, and I hate letting not only my readers down by being late, but myself as well. Nonetheless, I have a lot to talk about, and to start off, I want to go straight into the meat of things by addressing the upcoming U.S. National Championships format of XY - Fates Collide Standard!

By the end of the State Championships, we were left with a pretty warped version of Standard, defined by the impact had by the best deck in the format, Night March. Now, before people object to Night March being the clear cut "best deck", it may not be the best deck for any given metagame, but the only reason it could be argued that it wasn't the most oppressively powerful deck in the format stems from the fact that it was SO powerful and successful that the rest of the decks being played had to be built specifically to beat it. The "tier 1" decks would look vastly different if the Benchmark of "can this beat Night March?" was removed from the criteria looked at when choosing a deck. Sure, a deck like Yveltal would likely be inherently strong enough to still be a major presence, but decks which fail the Night March test have just been pushed clear out of the format. None the less, I think we wound up with a fairly clear cut list of viable decks leaving States. (Arguing how they fit into tiers here is not too important, as things will be changing due to the addition of Fates Collide.)

Night March
Trevenant
Greninja
Yveltal
Vespiquen Vileplume

There are other decks which saw some success, such as Mega Manectric, Toad variants, Mega Rayquaza, etc., but I'd argue those five decks were the biggest players. Of course, things are likely to change, but we still need a good base point to work off of. I've included old lists in prior articles, so if you are curious, the lists are available to be looked up. It is worth looking at the new set to isolate which cards are the most likely to make wide spread impacts on the format.

In Fates Collide, the most impactful card is clearly going to be N. It is a card that isn't going to be foreign to anyone who’s played the game for any length of time, or played Expanded at all. It should shake things up quite a bit.

On one hand, there are not that many "stable" Supporters in Standard. I mean that in regards to a Supporter providing reliable, non-conditional draw power. Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't a major issue or anything, we have Shaymin-EX/VS Seeker/Battle Compressor/Trainers Mail/etc. which give us a very effective engine. Still, it is worth noting that this heavy Item based draw engine (Even Shaymin-EX is hurt heavily if you get a hand clogged full of cards.) that really makes decks like Trevenant/Seismitoad-EX/Vileplume decks so disruptive. I'm not saying they are not great decks, or that they wouldn't be disruptive regardless, but the state of possible draw engines in Standard had really helped amplify how good Item disruption is. Usually, when such a large portion of the metagame is built to disrupt the abusive draw engines, some portion of the metagame shifts out of that engine into something stable, and things balance out. Unfortunately, in this case, there really isn't this alternative that isn't just so much worse that it isn't a viable consideration. I don't think we'll see any sort of "4 Sycamore 4 N" decks, but the presence of N does put the option on the table. In a format where a large portion of the decks threaten to cut you off of Items entirely, and another portion threatens to push you really badly for Benching Shaymin-EX, there is certainly something to be said about building a deck that can circumvent both of those issues. I think the upside of the explosive nature of the Item based engine is just so overwhelming that I'd rather take that route.

N is a unique Supporter in that it starts the game off as a means by which to draw a new hand of 6 cards, but by the end of the game is also a highly disruptive threat. Getting access to both roles in one card is one of the reasons why N is so good. If you look at a deck like Night March, one of the reasons it was so oppressive is that it could, without real fear of retaliation, just dig through its whole deck in one turn (Yes, an exaggeration.) and sculpt a hand that would allow it to set up the rest of its turns for the game. Decks didn't have to worry about overextending, they just needed to pull off as much as they could as quickly as they could. Even against the "disruptive" decks, the game plan was often to accomplish as much as possible on that first turn before the opponent set up the lock. It made for a pretty simple, boring, and non-interactive play experience. With N, hands are no longer safe, and you can't just expect to be able to always Teammates into Puzzle of Time/DCE as Night March anymore. As much as I hate N, it should make the games much harder to navigate. It also gives slightly slower decks a better weapon to compete with the extremely aggressive decks now. You can try to disrupt a deck with the simple addition of 1 card in any deck, rather than having to build a whole deck around a card like Trevenant, Vileplume or Seismitoad-EX.

Past N, some of the cards which can show up in multiple decks include Carbink, Marowak, Random Receiver, and Lass's Special.

Carbink has an Ability which protects all Basic Energy cards attached to your Basic Pokémon. I'm not sure why they felt the need to exclude Evolution Pokémon even further from viability, but this is what we have to deal with. I think this card is pretty great, but it really does depend on how popular Crushing Hammer and similar effects are going to be. Trevenant decks had seemed to settle more towards the Bursting Balloon builds, and away from the more disruptive builds, and if that stays true post Fates Collide, I'd be hesitant to want to sleeve up this guy. Seismitoad decks are still a threat, of course. There are not a ton of decks that really have a game plan that keys off primarily Basic Energy cards, so I don't expect this card to make major waves. If Hammer decks test better than I expect they will (I do like that these decks now have access to N, so it wouldn't totally surprise me) then it is nice that there is a safety net in the format to keep them in check.

Marowak is pretty similar in design, where it is a silver bullet answer for certain attacks. The biggest attack it stops is Quaking Punch, and there are not a lot of ways for a Toad deck to really break this up. (They are not equipped with an engine that also allows them to really take advantage of Hex Maniac over multiple turns.) It could lead to a return of Seismitoad Garbodor, but even then, I'm not sure it trumps Marowak overall. You have to get the Garbage out quickly, and not have it get killed or un-tooled. The fact that "item lock" is now being represented by three different threats...Vileplume, Trevenant, and Seismitoad-EX kind of ruins the appeal of Marowak to me. I hate investing in a stage 1 Pokémon (likely as a fragile 1-1 line...the idea of Maxie'ing it out is real, but I hate running an anti-Item Lock card that can only be accessed NOT under Item Lock.) when it only answers 1/3rd of the threats. If you wanted to make other adjustments to the deck, maybe less successful as a whole, to function better under Item Lock, you are able to address three decks, opposed to one. Still, if you really want to beat Quaking Punch, this will do it.

Beyond this, it also disrupts Greninja's attack from turning off your Abilities. Since I do expect Greninja to be a pretty good deck choice, I can see the line being pretty effective for that matchup. I'm sure there are some other attacks it interferes with, but I'm pretty sure those are the big ones. Also worth looking at is the fact that Marowak isn't part of an otherwise dead line. Marowak BREAK is actually fantastic, and the main thing stopping it from seeing much play previously was how useless Marowak itself was. If you can now have access to both of these cards from the same line, I could see it getting played. Fighting, as a type, got access to a lot of useful tools in this set, ranging from this Marowak, to the Regirock-EX, to Carbink (and BREAK) to Zygarde-EX. I wouldn't be surprised to see something come of this.

Random Receiver is another reprint, like N, which had seen plenty of play before. Admittedly, it had been awhile, and pretty much got phased out entirely once VS Seeker got printed. A majority of its play, previously, stemmed from its synergy with Sableye (Dark Explorers) and its Junk Hunt. Since VS Seeker took over the role of "Getting back a Supporter" Random Receiver fell to the wayside. When you take into account the fact that it gets worse and worse now that decks are running a toolbox of Supporters to go alongside said VS Seeker and Battle Compressor, Random Receiver just looks pretty unplayable.

Lass's Special is a bit hard to evaluate. On one hand, it is pretty similar to Steven's Advice, a card which was one of the best draw Supporters in the game from 2004-2006. That said, the game has changed PRETTY HEAVILY since then, so it is hard to draw that parallel without digging further into it. You can look to Colress, another card which keys off of Bench sizes, but it was much more controlled because it also incorporated your own Bench size into it. This meant by the time you hit mid or late game, you could almost be assured it would net you a large new hand. It seems like the type of card that is going to excel vs certain decks, and be pretty anemic elsewhere. I do like how, unlike pretty much any draw being used currently, it doesn't "replace" your initial hand. You don't discard your hand, you don't shuffle your hand into your deck. Even Shaymin-EX requires you to have a small hand size and caps the new hand at six. Lass's Special lets you go big and just unconditionally add to your pre-existing hand. I'm not sure there is a particularly great way to abuse this (okay, my first thought was those Monkey Pokémon that do 10x the number of cards in your hand. I won't lie, I lost to one of those decks on PTCGO once, so those stupid things are always etched into my memory now) but it’s worth kind of jotting aside for future thought. It is something I really like to do when looking at "playable" new cards. Even if I write them off as not good enough at the moment, I try and figure out what cards would have to leave the format to make them suddenly playable. (Either cards which are good vs them, or better than them pushing them out of the best for role slot.) I also try and isolate the selling point of the cards so I know what sort of future conditions need to exist to make them appealing. This means spending a lot of time thinking about some questionable cards, and 95% of them never turn into anything, but it’s a pretty good brain exercise none the less. It will make you a better deck builder in the long term. Throwing ideas at the wall and winding up with a lot of bad ones isn't a problem unless you end up using them in tournaments. As long as you wind up with something good in the end, there is nothing wrong with failures. I'd rather wind up with a lot of failures than miss out on something great due to not wanting to get creative.

Anyways, I want to update some of the old decks with the new cards. First off, the deck I think the format STILL revolves around: Night March. It is still the standard bearer in terms of raw power level.

Well, you'll notice something simple right out of the gates: No Puzzle of Time. This seems...very counter-intuitive, right? Well, let’s look at a history of Night March. The deck had always existed prior to BREAKpoint without Puzzle of Time. Puzzle of Time, particularly alongside Teammates, really just helped to glue the deck together near perfectly. The problem is, all Puzzle of Time -REALLY- did was take an already very consistent deck and really hammer that point home. The deck did not -NEED- Puzzle of Time to function, and that is something that needs to be made abundantly clear. It had existed just fine using the old Mew-EX, Bronzong, and Milotic before. Puzzle of Time addresses a certain feature of the deck, and in doing so, takes up quite a bit of space. Now, the deck has a lot of issues to address. It needs to find means to beat the Item Lock decks (which Puzzle of Time did literally nothing against.) and also has to adjust to N. Puzzle of Time just doesn't interact well with N. As a result, I'm looking to take a more stable approach to the deck. In this case, I'm running a 2-2 Bronzong line. This package actually eats up 7 spots, as it requires you to add in 3 Metal Energy as well.

Bronzong gives you a degree of self-sufficiency once set up. You can keep using Metal Links to fuel Night Marchers even if you get N'd into a bad hand. Or if you're under Item Lock. I'm opting for a 2-2 line (I had previously been on a 1-1 line back during Cities) because we are now asking autonomy out of the line, meaning you do really want the pair of them out by the end of the game. (Nope. Still not willing to run a Town Map to help with this. That is a card I absolutely refuse to play in any deck.)

Besides the Bronzong, we also have the new Fates Collide Mew. First off, it has a built in free retreat. In previous articles, I stressed how much I liked having Unown because they let me reduce the odds I had of opening with a Shaymin-EX. Mew here does the same thing. (I actually do still like Unown, but it won't fit with Bronzong. They are nice N protection.) The free retreat also makes it a lot easier to utilize Metal Links. You don't have to have access to a Float Stone to make that functional. Of course, Mew is also similar in regards to the old Mew-EX in being able to not only copy Night March, but do so with a discount from Dimension Valley. This means for a Metal Energy, you can copy off of Joltik. This further reduces the need for DCE, and thus, the need for Puzzle of Time to get them back. Mew bolsters your Basic count, gives you free retreat, AND a great attacker which lessens the DCE dependency. I started with only one copy, and have since added the second as it just overperformed.

The big difference between my Night March lists and a lot of more conservative ones is the fact that I still love Acro Bike. Yes, it can definitely backfire, but I think it really helps make sure your first turn is as explosive as possible. There are two trains of thought regarding how to "deal with" Item Lock decks. On one hand, you can pad your deck with more Supporters (Which I think makes the deck slower, and weaker against the average deck) to hope to have better draw power, or you can run a better Item engine so your first turn (if you get it) gets that much more explosive. If you set up close to perfect, you can sculpt your hand in a way that you can structure a series of turns which gives you a solid chance of winning. I'm taking this approach more seriously for a few reasons. First, I expect less Night March, as it is better contested as a deck as a whole. This means the format becomes less inbred, and I do expect that the amount of Item Lock decks will drop off a bit as a result. This means more "normal" decks, meaning I'd rather slant towards being the better deck as a whole. (You can cut Bikes for Sycamores, for example, if this trending does not happen.) Second, I'm just not happy with the results I get WITH the higher Supporter count. I just don't end up winning a slower, grindy game with them against the Item Lock decks enough for it to be alluring. Of various friends I have who also have been testing Night March, there has been a pretty even split in terms of which approach they like, so I could be wrong here. I think the Acro Bike build is also better suited to setting up a first turn that can leave you best equipped to lead into quick Bronzong against the disruptive decks too. You get to kind of "cheat" in regards to padding your deck with those "extra" Supporters anyways, as if you get a good first turn off, you can just burn your VS Seekers into Supporters to stack your hand better. Yes, duplicate Sycamores in hand are pretty counterproductive, but I generally am only really terrified of me burning my deck out, then getting hit by an N to like, 3 or lower, against Item Lock. At that point, the hand full of Supporters works much better. Vs Vileplume and Trevenant, more actual copies of Sycamore help because it increases the odds you open with them, but I'll be honest, regardless of how I've built the deck, if you go 2nd and get hit by Item Lock, you wind up in pretty bad shape, and I'm not too interested in building to chase that like 15%.

Anyways, a few of the choices. Xerosic. Fighting got a bunch of great cards, and still has access to Focus Sash. I think this card is a must. Beyond this, you need to get rid of Fighting Fury Belt. Big-EX Pokémon with a Belt are a real potential issue, so you need to be able to bring that HP total back down to earth. I...cannot believe I'm referencing 180 HP as down to earth.

Hex Maniac is important against Greninja, and is in general very good. I think Greninja gets a bit worse as a matchup due to the loss of Puzzle of Time, as it is a matchup where the boosted consistency helped a lot. Being able to keep chaining attackers under Ability Lock, while also hitting your own Hex Maniacs was the key to the matchup.

I like only 2 Dimension Valley. It is great with Mew-EX, and enables Pumpkaboo to attack, but I find too many copies to be a big clutter and not necessary. I've never understood the desire to run 4. (I mean, it is more forgivable than that rogue Town Map I see floating around in lists, at least.) It becomes less necessary because of Bronzong and Metal Links.

I want a 3rd Fighting Fury Belt, but it is sort of a concession I have to make due to space issues. I also do think that decks are more and more prepared for the card so it isn't quite as good as it used to be.

As for cards I am NOT currently running, here is a quick list and a justification:

Target Whistle: This is honestly a card I'd like to see in the deck, and one I think will make the final 60. That said, it’s omitted primarily because I want to make sure the engine and Bronzong package is as consistent as possible. Once I get that down, I can figure out where space can be freed from. Whether this card is vital or not likely depends on how popular mirror match is. (Or honestly, any matchup where I want to jump ahead in the exchange off of Shaymin-EX.) This used to be the only real way to break serve against mirror, but now that N is back, the matchup is a bit more interactive. Having Bronzong alongside N gives me a slight edge anyways, to the point where Target Whistle may be a desirable luxury and not a necessity.

Parallel City: This was my other "mirror" tool to help win the Shaymin war. I'm less interested because I have Bench commitments with Bronzong, and because I currently predict less mirror. If mirror goes back up to being a disproportionate percentage of the metagame, I'd like to re-add it, and the Target Whistle. I'm not too sure where I'd find room for both, so I imagine it stays on the chopping block as only the Whistle gets in.

Jirachi: Jirachi is a Pokémon I'd love to fit in. It is great against Vespiquen Vileplume, especially if players omit a good answer to it. It can be problematic against mirror, and is great against Toad. The big issue before was I just hated running it as your answer to disruptive decks when you only ran 4 DCE as Energy. Now that we have 3 basics, plus Bronzong to dump them into play, I think the card is pretty easy to include. It didn't make the main deck because I'm not fully sure what the Nats metagame will look like. Like Whistle, it’s a card that is likely to make the cut if the meta shapes up a certain way. 
Gallade/Marowak/Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick: This package is really tough to fit, but it offers a lot. First off, it gives you an answer to Jolteon-EX which is currently not in the list. Admittedly, running an Escape Rope gives you an out to Jolteon-EX too, so I don't need this to beat those, but it helps. Gallade is also just a sturdy attacker. Marowak gives you some extra insurance against Seismitoad-EX and Greninja. (Frogs HATE Marowak) I really feel like if you want to play this package, you have to do it without Bronzong.

Beyond Night March, I have a deck I'm really trying to put in work on, and it’s a return to my favorite Pokémon in the format, Mega Rayquaza-EX. The deck, paired with Jolteon-EX, won multiple State Championships, and while I was pretty critical of the practical application of the Jolteon-EX inclusion, I have a pretty cool innovation which I think really makes the deck quite a bit better: Energy Switch.

The big problem I had with Jolteon is that the deck had no means by which to Bench Jolteon-EX, and power it in one turn. This meant it was always vulnerable to the opponent getting the drop on it. Well, with Energy Switch, you can drop an Energy on say, a Rayquaza-EX, and next turn Bench Jolteon-EX, drop a DCE, and Energy Switch over to it and start locking out say, a Night March deck. Even if the opponent is able to keep your field purged of Energy with KOs, you can Mega Turbo onto a Mega Rayquaza and Energy Switch off of that. I'll be running both Puzzle of Time and Teammates, making a lone Energy Switch extremely reliable.

Let’s get to the list.

This build accepts a slower role than it used to have, and I think that is a bit out of necessity. I honestly feel like by losing Colress, the deck lost quite a bit. Just running 4 Trainers Mail in here doesn't really make the deck consistent enough, and it is hard to fit MORE Item draw to fix this without giving up too much. I'd rather run the Puzzle of Times for a much stronger mid and late game while being a turn slower but still very strong. If you want to be faster, and add the Mail back in, you can trim 1 Basic Energy, the Glaceon-EX, and the Zoroark line (I am still not sold on the Zoroark, but pretty much everyone I've talked to on the idea keeps pushing it on me, so I'm being weak willed and less stubborn than usual.)

Oh. Yeah. The Glaceon-EX. I've gone up to 4 Basic Energy for consistency's sake, and when I did this, I realized that Jolteon didn't need 3 Lightning to be a reliable weapon. My second thought was then, what ELSE can I splash off of 2 Basic Energy, and Glaceon was what I settled on. Glaceon, once set up, can deal with Vespiquen and Trevenant rather well, as well as, well, evolutions in general.

If you opt not to run Zoroark (Who I do like in that it can be a 7th Prize, being a non-EX with a real attack.) you could also run a Manaphy-EX off of the Water Energy but I think that is unnecessary. You do want to just have access to a lot of extra Basic Pokémon, and it is easy to grab off of Hoopa, so as silly as it sounds, it isn't unreasonable.

Also, Glaceon is far from a lock in terms of what Pokémon I'd want to run as the second splash attacker. I've played a few games with the Jolteon and loved it, but the Glaceon is fairly untested. I just started testing this list recently, so I have a lot of work to do still, but I'm extremely excited for it. Since I am not chasing my invite this season really, I'm really hoping I can play this for Nats because I'd rather be playing a deck I really enjoy, and I haven't gotten a chance to play Mega Rayquaza in a big event yet despite how much I've tested it.

One fear I have, and it hasn't been an issue so far, despite a fairly small sample size of games, is that without Trainers' Mail, I need a bit more draw power. If that is the case, an additional Sycamore or N could be a fine inclusion.

Jirachi seems like a great tool too. It helps against the disruptive decks, and against Night March, it can strip a DCE, with say...a Lightning Energy attached to it...and then it can take that protected Energy card and dump it right onto a Jolteon-EX with Energy Switch to attack. It also offers additional game against Vespiquen Vileplume. I feel like Mega Rayquaza is still favored against most decks if it sets up at a reasonable pace.

Greninja should be pretty easy, both due to Hex Maniac, and because you can be pretty fast and have a lot of hit points. AZ is able to get rid of Benched vulnerabilities once they start to build up too much damage. Yveltal has always been a favorable matchup, even if Zoroark can be a bit of a pain at times. Jolteon seems useful in that matchup too, especially if Gallade isn't played.

One thing I really like about Mega Rayquaza is that it generally stays off the radar in terms of what people are building for. As a result, if we see people fighting over the two major fronts...Night March and "Item Lock" decks, Mega Rayquaza approaches the game from a totally different front that gets ignored. That is a position I like to be in for a big tournament. Of course, time will tell if the format evolves too fast for that to stay true as Nats gets closer.

Next up, we have a deck I've touched on already as one I like quite a bit, and that is Greninja. While Greninja already had access to Ace Trainer before for disruption, it also welcomes the addition of N to its arsenal. Since the deck already runs Octillery as a means by which to help set up its armada of Frogs, N is just such a natural fit.

I don't think there is a whole lot of innovation here on my end, as the 4-4-4/3 Greninja BREAK line is pretty standard, even with the 3 BKP/1 XY split. I'm stubborn in that, with so much recovery and search that I like a 2-2 split as there are games you can just take over with spread damage. (This becomes extra lucrative with N) Jirachi is awesome, in that it helps break up some disruption, but it also lets you get "free turns" to use your Abilities for damage, and to set up. I've seen lists running 2 Jirachi, but with a Super Rod and a Sacred Ash, I'm content with a lone copy. The 2-2 Octillery is also pretty standard, as is the 8 Water Energy.

The Trainers are nothing flashy, although I'm running a lone Rare Candy when I've seen that get phased out in a lot of lists. I just really like having 1 available to Teammates for as I find myself with a lot of spots where I could use it to get a Greninja out in the mid to late game.

For search, I have the obvious 4 Dive Ball, and then a 1/1 split on Level Ball and an Ultra Ball. I like the 1 Ultra Ball in that it gives you a bit of control on your hand size when using Octillery. I don't want more than 1, but I do like exactly 1 copy. Spots where I can Teammates for something I want plus Ultra Ball for an Octillery come up enough that I like being able to maximize how many cards I draw off the octopus. I haven't found myself really squeezed by the Ultra Ball yet. I think I love Teammates TOO much for my own good. I've actually considered running 1 Battle Compressor just as a wildcard to get access to the 1 of Supporters more reliably for VS Seeker. I want more Wally (I really feel like having it early is so important to the deck's success.) and I hate struggling to draw into Teammates or Ace Trainer or Lysandre or Fisherman when I need them.

Greninja seems well positioned because it is one of the best N decks, and is kind of hard to figure out how to attack if your deck isn't already inherently strong against it. It got somewhat kept in check, and under the radar, during States due to Night March and its ability to lock the Frogs under Hex Maniac, so some players may underestimate how good it actually is.

Next up, we have Trevenant!

This is a deck that just doesn't really have a whole ton of flexibility to it. I don't think it really gained much from the new set, and unless you want to take a more disruptive route (I do not) it only has a few flex spots. Now, let me stress WHY I do not want to take the disruptive route. First off, I just think it is a worse build overall, and I really do like being more proactive. This is amplified by the fact that I just want to, at any cost, AVOID getting unintentional draws. This deck is already pretty grindy and can be slow closing out games (Especially if you get stuck with the whole Shaymin-EX loop thing going on. N helps, but let’s be honest, you can spend quite a lot of turns durdling around trying to break that stage of the game open, and if that happens over multiple games...) I want to be playing the more aggressive build if I can just to avoid getting robbed of potential wins. It is a shame that the time limit is such an oppressive problem that I let it have major implications on deck selection, but it isn't something to overlook.

You'll notice a lack of Head Ringer, or dedicated "anti Shaymin-EX" card in the list, and that is because N should do the job...eventually. Some of the other points of contention are on the split of Psychic and Mystery Energy, and well, the awkward Battle Compressor. I love running it as a consistency card even outside of it being used to facilitate a gimmick. I like running 3 Mystery Energy and 5 Psychic because I do want to avoid getting hit by anti-Special Energy card efforts, especially since Jirachi is getting more and more popular. I want to have a decent amount of Basic Energy, but the benefits Mystery Energy offer are too good to go down too low on.

Yveltal

Alright, so this is a difficult archetype to narrow down to a list, as there are the so many ways to approach building Dark decks. There is a more traditional Yveltal Gallade Zoroark build. There is a heavy Max Elixir build. You could take that a step further and really focus on the new Darkrai-EX. There are various hybrids between those even.

I personally like the Maxie build, both because it is the build I have the most experience with and thus am comfortable with it, and because I really like having access to Gallade, and to a less extent Zoroark. I expect people to be exploring Jolteon-EX options, and I don't want to be caught with no real answer to that either. Gallade also gives you a bit of stability regarding drawing out of N. On top of this, if the new Fighting Pokémon gain much traction (The hype seems to be pretty high right now.) I really don't think I want to be on a build focusing on using Darkrai-EX as a primary attacker.

So let’s look at some of the changes that come to this deck since its big run at Cities. First off, we're going with a thicker Zoroark line, including a BREAK. This gives the deck a bit more of a punch on the non-EX side of things. By Cities, I know players had shifted almost entirely onto non-EX builds of this deck, and that was primarily to deal with Night March. With more threats present, I do want to reel that dedication in some.

I have 3 XY Yveltal, and the 1 copy of its BKT counterpart. Without Elixir or Dark Patch, the BKT Yveltal loses some value, for sure. I run 1 Yveltal-EX, as it isn't that well positioned in general, but it is too good to not have at all, in my opinion. This is especially true since we have 4 Puzzle of Time, meaning we can get a lot of mileage out of the one copy. I'm running the very thin 1 Maxie/1 Gallade line, but I feel like that is just a necessity in order to fit the Puzzle of Times. I mean, I'd always been on the fence about getting away with that minimum anyways, and now I have an even better excuse.

With Puzzle of Time, the 1 Target Whistle gains so much extra value, especially with the extra thick Zoroark line. You can ideally really cap their Bench off and get a ton of damage. You'll also see something rare in this deck: Muscle Bands. With Gallade and Zoroark being two of the biggest attackers in the deck, Muscle Band is better than Belt. Even Yveltal-EX likes Muscle Band, as it lets you Y-Cyclone for Shaymin-EX KOs. I do run a copy of Fighting Fury Belt, since I can Teammates or Puzzle of Time for it, but I see no reason to run more than that.

Let’s look at the Supporters though. The 1 Sycamore, 1 N, 1 Maxie, and 1 Lysandre should seem pretty standard. (Well, maybe 1 Sycamore seems low, but the old stock list was 2 Sycamore, and the 2nd got shifted over into the N.) Hex Maniac is a card I had accepted as a luxury no matter how much I liked it, but with Greninja now, I think it has to be back in here. Xerosic is just good in general, but it is a necessary solution to Fighting Fury belts and Focus Sash. It also has those lovely fringe uses against Special Energy Cards. It was an overperformer for me all through Cities. It could theoretically be transitioned into a Megaphone since we have Puzzle of Time, but I still think I prefer Xerosic. Finally, I run 1 Teammates. I'm honestly just putting this in any deck with Puzzle of Time, and I'm 100% convinced it is correct.

The Puzzle of Times and N really help this deck in terms of not burning itself out through overextension. It used to nearly deck itself every game, and lose a lot of games to sputtering out on resources, but these new cards help mitigate that a lot.

Finally, I want to go over some of the omissions that could easily make it in.

-1 Jirachi: I don't need to go over why Jirachi is good in this format AGAIN.

-1 Ditto: I'd been using Ditto for mirror matches at the tail end of Cities. I think we'd need to see a more defined metagame before I can argue its old uses are still plentiful enough to get a green light.

Zygarde/Regirock

One of the more exciting options to be birthed out of Fates Collide is the Fighting deck abusing Regirock-EX and Zygarde-EX. I've only started to delve into the options for this deck, so I'd like to defer to the article Ryan Sabelhaus wrote for this site, which can be found here.

(While you are at it, go give his Article a Like! I just personally think that deck is really cool. Do it!)

I think the deck is extremely powerful, and again, approaches the format from a different perspective. There are a few additions I wouldn't mind looking at. First, I feel like 1 Lucario-EX is worth an addition. I feel like it is "weaker" than Zygarde, but I like Lucario-EX's second attack a LOT, and I like having a big hefty attacker that also has a different weakness, with Lucario being weak to Psychic. It seems like an easy enough addition. I also think I'd just go with a split of the Carbink, as getting access to the one whose Ability prevents the deck's Basic Fighting Energy from being messed with seems nice. Maybe that is just getting too fancy, but I wanted to at least bring it up. My last criticism of Ryan's list is I'd want to run at least an 8th Fighting Energy if I am going to be crutching on 4 Max Elixir as Energy acceleration.

I mentioned how the reprint of N could enable an engine that actually just runs 4 Sycamore and 4 N, and Ryan decided that was a pretty straight forward and solid approach to take with this deck. (Well, alongside 3 Korrina, which is just so potent in this deck.) The deck is fast, really stable, and also is able to hit-EXTREMELY hard as it gets built up. I don't want this quick snippet to seem overly critical about Ryan's list either, as remember, I'm only addressing possible changes, which means everything else I more or less agree with, which is a lot of it.

(Edit: After writing this, I noticed my friend Nik Campbell ALSO wrote about this style of deck, and I want to include a link to his work as well, as he takes the deck in a slightly different direction! I'm happy to see he slid in that Lucario-EX too! Check it out!)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I was originally going to do a recap of Week 3 of Regionals, but I feel like other people have beaten that to death by now, and a lot of time has passed since then and the posting of this article. In addition, two fairly worthwhile news bits have hit since then, and I want to go over those instead.

First, we've been getting a few spoilers for upcoming cards, and one in particular stands out: Karen. Karen is our answer to the emergency banning of Lysandre's Trump Card. This time, she only gets Pokémon cards. This is a great idea, and one that should have been done a long time ago. Between this and N in Standard, there should be enough weapons to either kill off Night March (I feel like this is a deck that does not need to be protected. If they had chosen to just flat out ban the Night March Pokémon alongside Trump Card as a concession, I'd have been fine with this.) or at least really do a lot of damage to it. She'll also be pretty effective at keeping Vespiquen down. Since Vespiquen was a bit oppressive in Expanded, and paired with Vileplume it was a problem in Standard, I'm fine with this. I don't like the idea of non-EX Pokémon being able to casually OHKO Pokémon for 1 Energy attachment. The decks may not be entirely oppressive in results as people adjust to their presence, but just mechanically that is a function I feel is bad for the game. I'm not sure how Vespiquen Vileplume ever beats a resolved Karen, as it has since locked itself out of Items to possibly rebuild a discard pile with. I'm glad to see this get printed.

Next up, we have Yveltal BREAK. Yveltal BREAK has 150 HP, and for DDD, does 120 damage and places 30 damage on ALL of the opponent's Pokémon that have any damage counters on them. This has to be pretty easy to abuse, particularly in Expanded where you have Dark Patch, and where you have better options for damage spread. I'm not really sure they need to give Yveltal as a Pokémon MORE love but hey, we're getting it, and I think it’s extremely good. I DO like how the designs for the Dark Pokémon seem to be pulling the type in different directions, as between the new Darkrai-EX and this, there is a real incentive not to want to play DCE opposed to more Dark Energy. (Max Elixir compounds this dilemma.)

Xerneas BREAK also has 150 HP, and unlike the Yveltal BREAK, it lines up pretty well with exactly what you'd expect out of a Fairy type Pokémon. For a pair of Fairy Energy, it does 20 damage times the number of Energy you have in play. This falls in line with Mega Gardevoir-EX, and also synergizes with the XY Xerneas. Fairy in general is trying to be a defensive type that works towards a critical mass at which point it becomes very powerful, and Xerneas BREAK is a pretty awesome addition to that. I was underwhelmed by Mega Gardevoir because it required a lot of work to fit it, and get it going, but by having this card branch off of Xerneas, it’s a cheap addition that just falls in line with what a Fairy deck does anyways. Also kind of cute, with that Ho-oh Xerneas deck I've been using in Expanded, this can fit in there too as an attacking option potentially.

We also have gotten a Talonflame spoiled, and it is one of the coolest designs I've seen in a long time! It has 130 HP, and a free retreat cost, and for a Colorless Energy, it does 40 damage and searches your deck for 2 cards of your choice. Oh, it also has the Ability which lets you open with it as if it were a Basic Pokémon! The reward is pretty strong. You get a 130 HP non-EX, free retreater who, on the first turn, can apply a bit of pressure and grab you 2 cards of your choice. That is a LOT of reward for the effort of playing it. That said, it IS a lot of work to pull off, and the deck manipulation, while great, can be generally obtained with a really strong draw engine anyways at the moment. The fact you generally wind up with dead cards in your deck if you miss the gambit is not appealing either. I do like how, with a free retreat, that mid and late game, the card winds up being GREAT alongside N, making sure you can set up your next turn to be fantastic. I don't think the card will be good enough, but it sure is a really cool design. I do want to see what sort of fun gimmick stuff I can do with it. I want to try running it with like, 1 real Basic Pokémon, and then maybe some Fossil stuff and maybe some Maxie-able Pokémon. The Aerodactyl in Fates Collide is really impressive, for example. I think you can skew the odds of opening Talonflame pretty heavily. I'm still not sure it becomes good enough, but it is something I want to play a lot of.

There is a Talonflame BREAK too. Talonflame is colorless, but the BREAK becomes a Fire Type, with a hefty 170 HP, and an attack for RR that does 150 damage and discards all attached Fire Energy. This works great with Blacksmith, of course. Now, if you have to make this a "stage 3" by naturally evolving a Talonflame, this is clearly not remotely viable. If you can have this guy out on turn 2 off a cheated into play Talonflame, it is a bit better. The problem there is that you only get to cheat ONE Talonflame into play, and the BREAK requires some specific support, and it just seems like it all devolves into an unplayable mess.

We get a new Item card as well, Captivating Poké Puff! This is pretty much the industrial strength Erika's Perfume, revealing your opponent's hand and Benching as many of the Pokémon found there as you'd like. This is really good against Shaymin, and works with Zoroark well. It also synergizes with Lass's Special and Colress. I'd normally argue the applications are too narrow, but with Teammates and Puzzle of Time available, I can't rule it out. The ability to abuse a toolbox of Item cards at the moment is so high, and I love it.

I don't usually follow spoilers of sets before they come out (I used to, because it let me speculate on what cards I'd want to pick up for when the set came out before they may go up in price, but I don't keep a collection anymore, so I don't see much incentive while I am still testing current formats) but those are some of the cards I've stumbled upon that seem really cool! Also, with the next XY set, we are apparently getting the return of split typed Pokémon, which I think is absolutely awesome. I don't know why they really did away with that in the first place.

Finally, there has been a change to how sets obtain legality, and with it, we now are getting the next XY set legal FOR the 2016 World Championships! I think this is awesome! I actually hated seeing Nationals and Worlds being the same exact format. All of the players qualified for Worlds are great players and can build decks for a new format within the few weeks that the set will be available. I'd be much more excited to see how a new metagame will play out than seeing how the stale one leaving Nationals will play out. If Pokémon is serious about progressing its stream visibility, coinciding Worlds with a brand new set being introduced is great. Magic always times its Pro Tours with a brand new set, and it gets potential viewers extremely excited to see what the best players end up doing with a foreign format. This was a great decision.

Let’s not look too far ahead though! US Nationals is less than a week away, and from everything I can see so far, the Standard format looks thoroughly unsolved! (Unless of course, Night March is still just the best.) Fates Collide gave us a HUGE role player in N, as well as some nice upgrades to various established archetypes AND multiple new cards which can have brand new decks built around them! Good luck to everyone attending US Nationals, and I can't wait to see everyone back in Columbus, OHIO, the RIGHTFUL home of Nationals. (Hey, I have to show some Ohio pride, right?)

[+9] okko


 

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