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Chris Fulop

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Dallas Regionals Is In The Books! Check Out This Analysis Of The Massive Shake Up To the Standard Metagame!

01/06/2017 by Chris Fulop

Hey everyone! Dallas Regionals is in the books, and we saw a pretty dynamic shift in the metagame compared to the prior few tournments which were dominated by Yveltal/Garbodor, with both Greninja BREAK and Volcanion decks hot on its heels. This weekend we saw decks which are not exactly new faces soar to the top of the tournament, but we also saw an innovative deck piloted by Kevin Baxtor and Sam Chen reach moderate success featuring the brand new Snorlax GX!

I'll cover those, as well as a few other decks which put up decent day 2 performances that came out of left field, even if they didn't manage to sneak into the top 8 itself. Before I do this, though, I want to link an article which I think will be very helpful for a lot of players. First off, yes, it was written on a Magic: The Gathering website, and while some of the examples given do include some game-specific references, the points made are very broad stroke and absolutely apply to Pokémon just as much as they do Magic. The article discusses mental biases and how they impact a player's performance both in testing and in actual tournament play.

The article is written by Magic Hall of Famer (and one of the most successful players ever at the game) Paulo Vitor Dama De Rosa. The article just went up today as I am writing this, and I felt it was so useful to players of varying skill levels ("PV" goes over examples where he and his team have fallen prey to these issues in the article, so even elite tier players may find something useful here. In other cases, he does a great job of articulating and summarizing problems players face which may be a bit more muddled to think of otherwise. ) 

Table of contents

Igor Costa, Mega Mewtwo
Santiago Bueno's Mewtwo
In Houmani, Volcanion
Xander Pero, Mega Gardevoir
That Snorlax Deck 

One issue I want to discuss, as well, is something which came up in the finals of Dallas Regionals between Xander Pero and Igor Costa. At the end of Game 1, Igor managed to get the game in a position where he could N Xander to a 1 card hand, and use Trubbish's attack to, if he flips head, strip Xander's attacker of an energy and potentially steal a game he was getting pretty badly beaten at. (The matchup is pretty rough; more on that later.) Igor rolls a die...heads! Xander immediately objects, pointing out it was not the "table designated" die used for rolling (Despite being an otherwise totally legal die to roll with.) 
Now, I watched the Twitch stream explosion as this played out as both players had supporters jumping to their side in the argument. I want to weigh in on this. First off, yes, it is definitely pretty close to "rules lawyering" and trying to use a loophole to gain a big advantage in a game. If looking at this from the sense of fair play and the often vague "spirit of the game", there was no reason that die roll should not have been a totally acceptable one. In fact, since the dice were provided by the organizers of the event, even had it not been clear (another demand on rolling dice) it should have been legal to roll as well: Clearly the organizers would not provide players with loaded dice. If you're in a close game, with your mind set on trying to think about the game state, do you have any idea how easy it is to grab the non-designated die while on stream? (Worth noting, this is only an issue when a match is being streamed, which in and of itself puts an additional issue on players who accept a feature match. Obviously in the finals you don't get much of a choice, of course, but what if this happened during Swiss?) 
Anyways, while clearly cutthroat by Xander, I don't blame him either. There is a lot on the line, and over different events, it had been stressed to be an issue. I have no idea what I'd have done in the same situation, but I can safely say I won't say "I'd never do that!" to it.

In the end, the judges decided to let the roll stand, which is absolutely the correct decision there. The stream commentators stated the judges decided that the players had not properly stressed the issue of which die to roll, which is a fine justification, but who knows if that is even accurate? The point of this separation of die is to make the visual aspect of the game clearer and cleaner to viewers. The main reason to have dice restrictions at all is to maintain the integrity of the "flip". In this case, all that was compromised was the clarity of the board for stream viewers? Under no circumstances should that reason decide the outcome of a game in the finals of a Regionals! It's assinine. I understand asking players to roll a die for visual sake, but to use an oversight of this (an isolated one at that) to directly impact the game result would be a disaster. I'd much rather see this "rule" used as a "request" of the players to help with the quality of the stream, and an oversight can be overlooked. Luckily, this is what seemed to happen, but I think an official clarification and rerouting of this "rule" needs to be made for the future. In the end, I don't really blame any of the parties involved, and I am glad that the judging staff came to the right conclusion, even if the official "reason" for that outcome is a bit of a copout.
Now lets look at the Top 8 for Masters from Dallas! 
1.) Xander Pero: Mega Gardevoir 
2.) Igor Costa: Mega Mewtwo 
3.) Dalen Dockery: Mega Gardevoir 
4.) Connor Finton: Mega Gardevoir 
5.) Jimmy Zhang: Darkrai Giratina 
6.) Marcos Garcia: Greninja 
7.) Noah Sawyer: Mega Gardevoir 
8.) Alex Krekeler: Greninja 

So the clear conclusion to be drawn from this is that Mega Gardevoir was the breakout deck of the weekend. It made up half of the top 8, and took down the event. Dalen dominated Swiss with his deck, although he fell in the Semi-finals. 
The next glaring point...No Yveltal!? This was the deck that had been dominating Standard for the past few months, and this was clearly a huge shift. I mentioned in my last article how Yveltal had such a strong run that the odds it could survive the continued efforts to beat it were very unlikely. The deck is great, but not so robust as to be able to fend off so many different attacks from so many directions. If you looked at the lists from London, players skewed their list to beat mirror match, and got rewarded. Now, the deck was all of the hype leaving that event, and you couldn't go into this event IGNORING mirror...but by playing to beat mirror, you left yourself wide open to other decks coming at you. Alex Hill had a great run with Vespiquen can you address the weakness to Lighting techs? Greninja is a definite issue...beating it while it skews its build to beat you is asking the deck to be taken in a totally different direction. Max Potions are a huge issue! Now Mega Gardevoir, with it's resistance, healing, and the ability to dump liabilities off of it's bench comes along...thats another totally different challenge! When the metagame is skewed for Yveltal to be the number one deck to beat, it can't fight every front, and as a result it suffered. It may still be the best deck in the format, but it certainly wasn't the best deck for this metagame by a long shot. 

The general sentiment for the weekend amongst Yveltal players was that they were trimming/cutting Fright Night Yveltals because they were "not good in the metagame". Well let me be brutally honest with you. That Yveltal is one of the primary strengths of the deck in my eyes, and it not being good in the metagame should be a HUGE red flag that the deck is NOT in a good place in the metagame. One argument was that it had lost strength in the mirror, the general prevalence of healing made it a risky game plan, and it was bad against the non-EX decks. I'm just not buying into the idea that swarming Yveltal-EX is good enough in this format, even when backed by the disruption of Garbodor. Garbodor is great; find a different partner for it. Let me re-state though, I'm not saying the deck is's one of my favorites in the format; sometimes you just have to take a step back and wait for the meta to cycle a bit. If you're great with the deck, and manage to build the right list for a given week, you can maybe defend it to a degree as viable, but there is no way you can argue it was the correct pick for the event, and I want to say the signs were pretty clear going in that this was the case. Being an "okay" choice isn't where I want to be when the HUGE payoff for an event is the finals. 
One of the decks that a lot of players brought to the event (including multiple Team ARG members, such as Igor Costa, who did earn a finals placement with the deck!) was Mega Mewtwo. Now, there were two different builds which got represented at the event. The first was the very traditional build which Igor used to great success. It ran Shrine of Memories and Psychic Energy for the damage swapping gimmick. Here was the list Igor ran for the event: 

You'll notice he continued to use his 2-1 Garbodor line, and I still feel it is a fine and defensible choice. I think I'd still be on the 2-2 plan, just because it is safer, but let's be honest, I'm not always the safest player when it comes to running thin numbers. (At Worlds 2006, I was second seed going into day 2 with an LBS list which ran 0 4-ofs and 23 1-ofs. I wouldn't have changed that in retrospect. Okay, for those who follow the format, that's a lie, I ran 3 Holon's Transceiver and 3 Holon Mentor instead of 4-2, due to a suspected large amount of trainer lock/Houndoom used in the Grinder the night before. The fear didn't pan out, so I'd have reverted to 4-2, but the singles, I'd definitely have run!) 
Igor opted to only run 1 Parallel City, which is probably fine, seeing how Rayquaza and Rainbow Road have fallen out of favor. One of the big things to take from this event is that deck selection was made under the assumption that decks would not be able to score OHKOs. There was a plethora of healing played, and lower HP Megas were expected to be able to take multiple hits. A deck like Rainbow Road or Rayquaza could be a great play for this format going forward as decks push to win grindier games. (This is one of the reasons I feel like Mega Gardevoir had such an outstanding performance.) 

On the topic of grindy games, lets shift from Igor's list and look at the other route taken. Rather than play Psychic Energy or the Shrine gimmick, some builds went with the new Energy Absorbtion Mewtwo EX out of Evolutions, and ran Fairy Energy and the Fairy Drop Item to provide healing. Coming out of London, the decks to beat were Yveltal and Greninja, and the ability to offset Greninja spread damage and Pitch Black Spear damage is huge for this deck! Unfortunately, this build felt like it would have been better for the London metagame and not what actually showed up. 
Worth noting is that Mega Mewtwo is disastrously bad against the new Mega Gardevoir. Mega Gardevoir is split Fairy and Psychic type, thus being able to OHKO a Mega Mewtwo for 2 energy. This also makes it really difficult for Mewtwo to retaliate due to Gardevoir's lower energy commitment. While Gardevoir deals Psychic damage, it was gifted the Metal weakness of it's Fairy type, this giving it a very unfair advantage in the matchup. Mewtwo, on paper, felt like a solid metagame call, because while you can argue Gardevoir looked strong on paper, the amount of people showing up with it (and the meta as a whole being so soft to it) was not a guarantee at all. 
Finally, we have a uh...non-Mega Mewtwo deck which Santiago Bueno took to a day 2 placement! Yes, he ran NO Mega Mewtwos at all! Here is his rather innovative list! 

Santiago got to cut all of his DCE, Shrine of Memories, Spirit Links, and Mega Mewtwos! That is so much space freed up from the deck! As a whole, it played similarly...he still paired the deck with Garbodor. He got to replace Mega Turbo with Max Elixir to key off of his 10 Psychic Energy. This meant that Mewtwo was going to generally be much more aggressive than it's Mega breathren. On top of this, by not needing Spirit Links, he got to play Fighting Fury Belt! He got to have the same HP total, a slight boost to damage, and the ability to take the same advantage of damage swapping without the need for a Shrine to stay in play. 
Without DCEs, he was dodging Enhanced Hammers. Also, since his damage output didn't rely on how much energy was also attached to the opponent's Pokémon, he was free to run his own Enhanced Hammers and Team Flare Grunt. Not only would they be counter-intuitive to Mega Mewtwo's game plan, but there was no space with all the other demands put on construction by making the Mega work. The added speed, and the distupion fit in both really go well with Garbodor's disruption! I haven't gotten a chance to play with the build yet, but it offers a really cool approach to the deck that I hadn't seen anywhere else. 
Now, the next archetype I want to discuss is Greninja. It had a pretty solid showing at the tournament, placing two decks into top 8, the second most of any deck. The deck is extremely strong, and still a deck I defend as being a good choice. It suffered on a few fronts though. First off, it had to stare down a ton of random healing put into decks. Not only is this just good against the deck, but Greninja is a deck that frequently has to choose lines to take and just commit. If you want to start spreading damage for KOs, you have to really judge whether or not your opponent has healing, how much, and of what kind. It makes playing your game such a nightmare. Even experienced Greninja players would wind up having to do a lot of guess work, and the wrong answer can be extremely punishing. 
Also, Greninja does have consistency issues. Clearly not to the point where it prevents the deck from doing well, but it is clunkier than most of the other top decks by a reasonable margin. To top this off, it is a slower "comeback" deck and it can have slower turns, since your plays, ignoring the engine of the deck, take a bit longer to think through than with some decks. This means the deck is going to often fail to complete game 2 if down game one, and is going to really struggle to ever complete a game 3. This is more of an issue when the deck does have an accentuated likelihood of drawing poor starts which can just snowball into a loss. You can't really scoop a game 1 or game 2 due to one of the self destruct starts and then finish the match with a win very often. These intangibles all matter and add up. 
Finally, the deck is just not very good against Mega Gardevoir. Mega Gardevoir has a hefty HP total, can 2 shot a Greninja, is fast and consistent, has a ton of healing, and can casually discard any liabilities off of the bench with it's attack. That is a whole lot for Greninja to overcome in the matchup. I feel like if you took Mega Gardevoir out of the equation, Greninja would have been one of the strongest plays in the event, even with all of the healing played. 
I'm not including a Greninja list because they really haven't made any major innovations...and after a reasonable amount of work, I also failed to find a copy of one of the top 8 lists. SO there are two great reasons it is being omitted. (I'm leaving out Yveltal, too, because it has been beaten to death in my past articles and didn't change a drastic amount either.)

Volcanion didn't place any player into the top 8, but there was a really interesting list that did make day 2 that I found while scouring the duldrums of Virbank, and it was unique!

The Pokémon and Energy are pretty much the accepted standard for Volcanion decks these days, but the Trainers here bring with them a surprise in the form of a full FOUR Pokémon Catcher. This is cool because it lets the deck be extra aggressive in hunting down targets to KO while not also eating your Supporter use for the turn.

I'll again point out the infuriating lack of 4th Max Elixir. I don't care what anyone says, I refuse to ever believe that is the correct number, especially in a build that can be extra aggressive with the dedication to Pokémon Catcher. 
I want to briefly go over Alex Hill's deck choice, which was Vileplume Toolbox, a slight variation of the list that took 2nd place in I believe Orlando, where it fell victim to Yveltal/Garbodor. Per Alex on stream, his only adjustments were to add a Beedrill EX and a Bunnelby. (He did not say which cards had been cut to fit them, though, so finding them old list and knowing to add those two cards is a starting point for the update.) 
Beedrill's main purpose was to rip tools off of Garbodors which snuck in before a Vileplume could lock off Items. This also allowed Alex to play "Lysandre the Garbodor" and strand it with no energy and no Float Stone. This lets Bunnelby go to town and threaten to mill out the opponent until Garbodor is manually retreated. Mixed with Jirachi's attack to trip off DCEs, this is a real win condition that unsuspecting players could easily walk into. I believe Alex finished day 1 at 7-2, but had a poor day 2 run as I do not believe he managed to top 16 with the deck. 
I did intentionally leave the two most interesting decks for last, of course. First off, lets look at Xander Pero's tournament winning Mega Gardevoir deck! 

The deck is pretty streamlined. 3-3 Gardevoir line, 4 Shaymin EX, 2 Hoopa EX, 2 Dragonite EX and some spicy utility basics in Rattata and Hawlucha. Rattata dumps off tools from the active, and Hawlucha is the non-switching side of an Escape Rope. Hawlucha is great, and made even better by a deck that is able to regularly recur it. Both of these Pokémon gain so much value by being present alongside Dragonite EXes and the rest of the recovery suite. (Part of me thinks 1 Unown would be pretty useful too for Dragonite, but I have an unhealthy love of that card. I do think that the protection from N is useful though.) 
Anyways, this deck is great for a number of reasons. First, it is fast and consistent. Using Shaymin/Hoopa/Dragonite as well as it does, it is going to almost never get a weak start. It also gets to use these set up Pokémon without the liability of getting them taken advantage of. Mega Gardy can dump them off for damage when they could backfire. On the topic of backfiring, lets stress how great Mega Gardevoir is at taking advantage of benched Shaymin EX and Hoopas! Its easy to KO a Shaymin's 110 HP, and Hoopa is weak to Gardy, so thats an easy OHKO as well! In matchups where the two decks are slow and ineffecient at KOing their main attackers, this deck has a HUGE advantage at earning free prizes while denying that of the oponent. 
Ignoring Mega Gardevoir, let's look at the top 3 decks from the tournament, or at least, the most played decks: Yveltal Garbodor, Greninja, and Mega Mewtwo. The deck is tanky, has healing, and Gardevoir being represented primarily as a Fairy type, resists Dark! It has a low energy cost, too, so it just really stifles Yveltal's damage output. It does similar things to Greninja. I also mentioned how great it was against Mega Mewtwo (Although Igor managed to play his way past one in the Semi-Finals!) 
Mega Gardevoir had 3 really lopsided matchups that made up a large portion of the day 2 metagame. That it wound up crushing the event is not at all surprising. This had to be the best metagame call I've seen in a long time for an event. I'm not even thinking that the deck is necessarily one of the most powerful decks in the format, but it absolutely crushes the metagame that has evolved as the format inbred itself. (In some cases, such as testing, I do consider inbred to be a derogatory term. When it comes to a format's metagame, its natural and bound to happen, especially with more and more coverage of events and list sharing.) 
FINALLY, we have a deck which really let me down: Xerneas/Snorlax. 
Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not let down by the performance. Kevin Baxter made top 16 with it, and Sam Chen had a great run up into the last runs of day 1. This is also a list that could end up further refined. I'm disappointed by it because I got a message on Facebook from Carl Scheu discussing how he and Kevin had been working on a Snorlax deck. CLEARLY thrilled, I was excited to see what they were brewing...I get the list, and almost vomit. ONE Snorlax? What a disaster. What a true bait and switch. This was a lame Xerneas deck with the slightest Snorlax teasing. I was immediately disinterested. 

Okay, my dislike of the deck was purely emotional and based in my unbridled of of Snorlax, and feeling betrayed. The deck itself is pretty interesting, though! Snorlax GX's role is really just as a sweeper. The deck uses Geomancy to dump a ton of energy into play, and at least some of this ideally goes onto a Regirock. Regirock's Trait is the same as Primal Groudon's, and thus it can't be picked off from the bench really. The energy dumped on Regirock fuel Xerneas BREAKS damage output, and also later becomes a Ninja Boy target, which it shifts into our favorite fluffy fat fellow, Snorlax. Not quite a Snorlax deck, but he has a role to play, and he plays it well. 
Running a mix of DCE and Fairy Energy, and no Mega Pokémon, the deck is at a bit of a loss for energy acceleration outside of Geomancy. As a result, it resorts to Exp. Share, which is not bad at all in the deck. Xerneas BREAK can't hold a Belt anyways, and has to make due with it's boosted 150 HP. Since the deck doesn't really need Tools for it's Pokémon, Exp. Share is a bit of a freebie. It does run a Fighting Fury Belt, as it works well on Snorlax (230 HP is massive!) and on the deck's secondary (or primary) attacker, Lugia-EX.

Lugia is just a powerful colorless attacker which also likes to stockpile energy. It works well with either Ninja Boy or just being powered out manually. Going into the tournament, I was under the assumption the deck still ran Garbodor (the initial list I'd received did) but Kevin, Carl, Sam, Squeaky, and a few others made the switch to Silent Labs. This wound up backfiring some, as I know the guys were all lamenting how Greninja was a nightmare matchup, and I know Kevin lost to it at least once. I don't have the insight ( or experience with the deck yet ) to really fully grasp the decision to switch over to Labs, but I'm not sure I liked giving up so much in the Greninja matchup. I feel like the matchup could actually be really competitive with Garbodor, and I think thats a deck you want to choose to fight and not write-off. 
Anyways, it looks like I'll be making the dubious decision to road trip to Georgia Regionals with Carl and friends in the dead of winter. That should go down as a wise decision, I'm sure. No way that backfires at all, right? Anyways, for everyone who has complained how the format looked really stale and that Yveltal was winning too much, hopefully this is reassuring that this format is much healthier than that. At least 3 new contenders popped up in Dallas, and it just goes to show that the format is far from solved, and at the very least is still fairly cyclical in nature. I actually think this is one of the better formats we've had in awhile, all things considered! Hopefully everyone else is enjoying it too. 
So yeah, I guess see you all in Georgia...*gulp* 

[+14] okko


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