06/27/2018 by Jay Lesage
Good morning 60Cards readers! Jay Lesage here with another article for you — it seems I have a lot to write about this month as we prepare closely for the North American International Championships (which we’ll now refer to further as NAIC). I’ve begun to muster up somewhat of a series of articles that I’d like to drop, with most of them regarding a deck that I’d like to review, and provide support to that deck by giving useful tips/insights before dropping the decklist. In this specific article, I wanted to go over an efficient timeline detailing how to properly practice for a tournament, and explain to you why I believe this is the most efficient way to prepare. I’ll also give you insights into my extensive testing practices, which includes unorthodox measures, and share my thoughts on current playtesting as it stands within the game. Does practice really make perfect? We’ll have to find out , where I’ll show you my secrets on how to succeed in any season.
Table of contents
With any great tournament comes significant responsibility — your responsibility as a player is to make sure that your investment into the game is sound. If I told you that you were about to take $60USD and burn it with a match, would you say that I’m crazy? I’m honestly not that far off the mark for a lot of players attending the NAIC. I’ve been practicing every single day, and for anybody who hasn’t, I’ll gladly claim our matchup as a free win. I guess what I’m trying to say is, barring natural skill within a card game, if you aren’t practicing, somebody who practices daily will artificially be better than you. Allow me to tell you a simple story to kick off this article.
In college, there was this girl I knew who many people regarded as “dumb” — she didn’t have many friends, and was picked on a lot because of her ideas. I used to peep her schoolwork to see how she was doing, and a lot of her ideas weren’t intermediate by any means; the difference between her and other students though was that she put a lot of time and effort into her papers. Whereas her ideas weren’t the absolute best, she’d invest time into them in order to shape and evolve them into something else. She wasn’t the brightest bulb in the bag, but her ambition alone allowed her to succeed as one of the brightest in the class. Like college, we can apply this same principle in Pokémon regardless of what tier player we believe we are.
To dwelve into the world of practice, here is a bit of a “double-whammy” of insight regarding some decklists that I piloted at two back-to-back League Cups this weekend, coupled with some hot tips. This is the Greninja list that I played on the first day, in Aylmer, Quebec, Canada!
- 4x Greninja
- 3x Greninja BREAK
- 4x Frogadier
- 1x Froakie
- 1x Staryu
- 1x Starmie
- 1x Tapu Lele GX
- 3x Froakie
- 3x Professor Sycamore
- 4x N-supporter
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 4x Evosoda
- 2x Field Blower
- 2x Enhanced Hammer
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 1x Super Rod
- 3x Choice Band
- 3x Brooklet Hill
- 4x Cynthia
- 1x Max Potion
- 6x Water Energy
- 4x Splash Energy
Ahhh, Greninja! I absolutely love this deck because I find it so fun to play. I needed 1st and 2nd at the two League Cups I decided to play in, so I figured that this would be a decent call in order to obtain a hefty finish. I didn’t want to have to outsmart my opponents, but rather overwhelm them with a vicious board state (with tons of ribbits). Greninja is in a unique position in the metagame where it doesn’t really lose to anything directly, and it always has a chance. The list I played was focussed on consistency, mainly leaving the Tapu Fini-GX and Espeon-EX at the door in favour of a heavy Item count, and Supporter count. I included a single copy of Max Potion in order to deal with chip damage from Buzzwole, and Enhanced Hammers to help with random Zoroark-GX matchups. This list was based off of Jake Ewart’s Top 4 Madison decklist.
Greninja performed much better than I thought it would throughout the day, and piloted optimally. I felt like I always had consistency cards in hand, and in games where I didn’t prize 2+ Frogadier, I usually won. Even certain games where I did prize two Frogardier, I still managed to setup via multiple Splash Energy, Rescue Stretcher, and Super Rod. The only matchups where I felt I REALLY needed the four Frogardier in play were matchups where it was fast tempo, or where they didn’t require as many abilities to initiate their gameplan. This mainly fell onto decks like Buzzwole, where they just need Max Elixir and Beast Ring.
Enhanced Hammer was moderately useful in some matchups, while it was extremely bad in others. It held no weight while playing against Malamar (FLI; 51) , but against Zoroark and Buzzwole it was an all-star! If you can catch a Special Energy on one of the first few turns, you can easily control the pace of the entire game. I’m iffy about playing these cards though — I’m unsure if other cards might benefit me more over the course of a large tournament, let alone a short one. Max Potion is another card that falls into this general category, as my one copy of it didn’t really come out to play much. I used it once, and it didn’t make a game-breaking impact like I thought it would. It helps in grindy moments like when you’re playing against Giratina (BW; 184) , but besides that I feel like most Pokémon in this format can go for a 1-shot. If they can’t OHKO you, you’re probably already winning anyways, so that damage is borderline irrelevant. Like I said, I’m torn on how good it is — but other players have been seeing success with it, so it can’t be all that bad.
The third Choice Band had to be the best inclusion in the deck — the math just checks out with this card, and I absolutely loved it. In the early game, mid game, and late game, this card always came in clutch in order to hit the right numbers at the right times. I often felt as if against Buzzwole you’re just a little bit of damage off, but with a Choice Band, two Shadow Stitches and a single Giant Water Shuriken (GWS) do the job to hit for (70 x 2 + 60). For that reason, I’ve considered cutting the third Choice Band in favour of a Greninja GX — I feel that more often than not, you end up having an extra Frogardier open on the board, and it’s realistically a searchable Choice Band/30 damage anywhere on the board. For anybody who played with Crobat PHF back in the day, you know how powerful that extra 30 damage really can be! I’ve also considered toying around with a 1-of Frogardier FLI, but I’m unsure I want to mess with an already shaky turn two operation. It’s useful with Splash Energy because you can gain quite a bit of damage just by looping that same Frogardier over and over, however it’s quite annoying when you need to Water Duplicates on the second turn and draw into that Frogardier. If that situation occurs, you’re more than likely to lose the game because you’ll be a turn behind schedule. I ultimately bubbled in 9thplace at a 23 person League Cup with this list, with a 3-1-1 record. It went very well, only tying to a mirror match, and scooping to a close friend playing Buzzwole.
I personally am an off-the-wall kind of guy when it comes to learning the ropes of things — this is a guide for people who are very dedicated to the game, and are trying to become the best in the world. I take training very seriously, as I’ve applied these coaching measures to my own personal training venture, the PokeAcademy. Here are some ways to uniquely up your game in a fashion that is quick, and effective!
• 3-on-3 Training
This is one of the most effective ways of coaching, however it requires a bit of a squad. You’ll need to gather up five of the best players you know, and have three players on each side of the board. Play the game through three players eyes; this will take a while per game, but at the end of it the insight gained is enormous. Not only will you correct your friend’s plays, but they’ll correct yours, and you may be able to condition yourself to play differently. 2-on-2 is also a good option, but 3-on-3 is ultimately the best way because it is the perfect amount of insight. 4-on-4 is a little too many hands in the pot, whereas 2-on-2 is too little insight (to the point where answers may become biased by the deemed “stronger” player).
• Band Training
Band training refers to my radical method of using an elastic band to condition your mistakes. I’ve written about this before, but it’s useful insight into any new readers who may not have heard about it. The process goes as follows:
- Player A makes a misplay
- Player A must realize said mistake, if not, Player B may realize it first.
- If Player A acknowledges it, they get 1 “snap” on their wrist.
- If Player B acknowledges it, they get 2 “snaps” on their wrist.
While I don’t condone this method for anyone other than Masters, it is highly effective. It works because it provides a negative stimulus whenever a negative action is performed. You can also reward well played games with sweets, such as a cookie or candy. It’s just a simple cognitive measure that works just as well as grinding hundreds of games, it’s just very quick.
• Prizing Exercises
Knowing what your prizes are is a skill that is completely underrated in the Pokémon TCG. It can be the difference between winning a World Championships, or winning the finals of a League Cup! My favourite way to do prizing exercises is with either a deck of 60 cards, or by playing a game of Love Letter. Here is the exercise I do below:
- Shuffle your deck, and setup as if you were playing a game of Pokémon. You mulligan if you don’t have a search card in hand.
- Memorize your decklist. This is imperative to the exercise. If you don’t know your decklist off by heart, you can’t perform this exercise effectively.
- Start your turn normally, and play a search card. Set a timer for one minute, and see how many Prize Cards you can reveal.
- Repeat this daily, with 5 repetitions a day.
This is easily one of the fastest ways to becoming really good with prize searching. I do this on airplanes before big events, or even at home sometimes when I’m bored. For extra fun, do this with friends — it becomes a competitive challenge, which means you’ll be more adapt to try harder. Nobody likes losing to their friend!
The other aforementioned strategy that I like to commonly use when mapping out Prize Cards is plying Love Letter. Love Letter is a game where you strategically have to eliminate other players form the round, all the while using memory to try and intelligently guess the “isolated” card. One card is removed from play before each round, and it changes the results of the game drastically. This is just a fun way that is outside the realm of Pokémon that can entice players to undergo the activity at hand. Another example of a game that isolates cards would be Euchre, which is another fabulous way to learn prize searching skills.
Going into the second day, I thought people were going to counter Greninja considering I would’ve massacred the Top 8 if I drew averagely. I expected to see tons of decks playing Giratina (BW; 184) , especially those that were Psychic-type (ex. Malamar (FLI; 51) ). As a result of the scare factor, I immediately swapped over to a ZoroRoc list that is very similar to something Kyle Sabelhaus played at Virginia. I thought this basis for a list was excellent, and the only thing I wish I played was a heavier count of Enhanced Hammer. Somehow, despite this decks slower tempo, it can keep up with BuzzRoc if you either kill their Octillery (and N), or just whipe the field of their Float Stones so that they don’t have a free retreater. The late game N hurts them so much if they aren’t setup, or if they just opted to not bench Octillery. Playing an early game Parallel City can really help, as it usually makes our opponent decide between getting rid of Beast Ring targets on their bench (which limits their attackers later on), or getting rid of Rockruff/Remoraid (which limits their utility Pokémon).
The deck felt really clunky to be fair. When you didn’t get an energy within the first turn, it really hurt the deck because it became increasingly harder to setup a Lycanroc. Now, I understand why some lists include a copy of Multi Switch (GRI; 129) : because you don’t have time to attach multiple energy sometimes. The fact that there is only one Float Stone in this list hurt me a lot though, and I think something that could alleviate this pain would be a Tapu Koko. The inclusion of this would serve purpose as a searchable free retreater who I could promote. Another option for mobility would be a Zoroark BKT for its Stand In ability — if you can keep attacking, you can push forward in the game. It can also score some pretty surprising OHKOs! Here’s a peep of the list before we go further:
- 4x Zorua
- 4x Zoroark GX
- 3x Tapu Lele GX
- 1x Garbodor
- 2x Garbodor
- 1x Kartana GX
- 1x Latios
- 3x Trubbish
- 4x N-supporter
- 1x Professor Sycamore
- 3x Guzma
- 2x Brigette
- 1x Acerola
- 4x Puzzle of Time
- 4x Ultra Ball
- 3x Field Blower
- 2x Choice Band
- 1x Cynthia
- 2x Parallel City
- 1x Evosoda
- 1x Mysterious Treasure
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 1x Enhanced Hammer
- 3x Float Stone
- 4x Double Colorless Energy
- 3x Unit Energy LPM
Like I said, the deck ran clunky. Most of the time I felt like I had no pivot point after a KO, and that led to me either making risky plays or using Guzma for the turn in order to switch out of the active. I highly disliked this factor in the deck, and made it very unenjoyable to play. Something however that I did like, was the inclusion of Buzzwole in the deck in order to use Sledgehammer. With Professor Kukui, Strong Energy, and Choice Band, you can actually hit 190 damage total! If you use Lycanroc’s Bloodthirsty Eyes ability, you can OHKO a Tapu Lele without the Kukui. You can even use a Guzma for this play! Pretty radical right?
Mew EX and Mewtwo served as phenomenal Psychic attackers, and proved to be enough in certain matchups where that extra boost was needed. Mewtwo was also an exceptional starter to buffer damage against Jet Punch, as well as something as simple as a turn two Rioutous Beating. Mewtwo can pack a punch, as well as dish solid amounts of damage, and rightfully earned its own spot in my decklist. Acerola was a really great card to the point where I kind of wanted two of it? Against certain matchups where they don’t OHKO you, it’s very good (and great to recycle with Puzzle of Time).
This deck has a naturally good matchup against Malamar (FLI; 51) -based decks, although it does get quite scary when staring down a Mewtwo GX (SLG; 39) . Mewtwo GX can OHKO a Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) fully, so be wary of that within the game. I felt that one of the best options in this matchup is to take out the Malamar (FLI; 51) s, so that way your opponent can’t load up a Necrozma GX and OHKO you with Prismatic Burst. Another play that your opponent can do is time a Moon’s Eclipse GX onto a Tapu Lele on your side for a breezy two Prize Cards, so try and always hold a Guzma/Lycanroc if you foresee this scenario occurring.
It really hurts when the Malamar (FLI; 51) player drops a Parallel City on you — I usually favour digging for Field Blower over any other resource when this occurs. More bench space translates into more Zoroarks which means more Trades, which means more draw! The more you can draw in any matchup, the more options you have, and in return the higher chances you have of winning the game. Overall, ZoroRoc was very unique as a deck, but I wasn’t a big fan of it. There are infinite decision trees if you enjoy strategic factors, and this deck is very hard to pilot efficiently, but it is a force to be reckoned with in the standard format. My suggestion is to practice with this deck in regards to practicing for NAIC, because it can only get easier from there. The amount of times where I misplayed because I forgot Mallow is in my deck is unfathomable – it really is. There was one turn against a Malamar (FLI; 51) deck where I could’ve used Mallow to search out a Strong, and a Choice Band but instead I decided to try and Cynthia and draw them both. If I had used Mallow, I could’ve used Buzzwole and KO the active Tapu Lele with Sledgehammer. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and this time it just didn’t pan out for me. Oh well!
It's three weeks until NAIC, and by about now you should be choosing a deck. I’d urge you to try one of the two decks I listed above, as I think they both have an excellent chance of bringing home the grand prize, and a giant haul of CP. Greninja requires very little practice, whereas I think ZoroRoc requires a lot more thinking, and a deeper thought process in order to play it. Next article I think I’m going to detail the new Malamar (FLI; 51) decks that are being played in order to counter the meta, and I’ll do an entire tech analaysis on what I think is the best way to run it. I’m very excited to write two more articles on what I think the meta will shape up to be, as I’ve never highlighted so many decks before in such a short amount of time.
The closer we get, the more I realize I need to make a decision between a few decks. Part of me wants to just pull a random deck out of a bag and just go for it; the other part of me wants to just grind out multiple hundreds of games, and just become the master of that deck. No matter which way I go, I’ll have an entire month of practice under my belt with multiple decks, and a solid chance of bringing home a piece of glass. Thanks for reading my article today though, as it means a lot to me that I have this priviledge to do so. I always try and put tons of effort into these so that you, the reader, has the best absolute experience possible. If you see me in the next few upcoming weeks, feel free to say hi to me at a tournament, or message me on any of my social media outlets. Until then 60Cards, good luck in your practicing, and remember: get lucky, and run hot!
Giratina (BW; 184)
Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138)
Multi Switch (GRI; 129)
Mewtwo GX (SLG; 39)
Malamar (FLI; 51)
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