Experts' corner

Jay Lesage

"Pokémon is like Science" - Looking Ahead to Latin America Internationals

Don't catch me snoring on my plane ride back from Australia and definitely don't snooze on this fire article...

12. 04. 2017 by Jay Lesage

Don't catch me snoring on my plane ride back from Australia – and definitely don't snooze on this fire article that'll give you all the insight you need to be successful later this month at Latin America's International Championships.

I just returned back from playing in the Oceania Internationals, and it was a phenomenal tournament filled with very many surprises. One of those many surprises was the heavy emergence of Decidueye/Vileplume as a tier one deck, as opposed to its usual cameo appearance at large events by John Kettler. This was most likely largely attributed to Goncalo Ferreira's recent success at Sheffield Regionals the week before the big event, and since nothing changes between Oceania and Latin American (besides the release of promos), we're faced with a slightly more developed metagame than before. For those who know me, I personally enjoy these metagames the most because they truly reward the players who put in the work, and research what the definitive best play is.

The difference between Oceania and LA is that Oceania was less mature than what LA will eventually be; LA has more contrast and character to it, and more precedent to it than most events. I love analyzing previous tournaments, seeing what saw success, and then developing offensive strategies to combat the prior knowledge! These are all things that make card games so fun, and guessing a correct prediction is even more satisfying. One group that does a great job of compiling stats is Complexity Card Gaming – their Facebook page is loaded full of useful stats from tournaments that have passed by, and I scope their numbers out quite frequently to make accurate assumptions. Today, we can look at how to properly gauge a metagame, and what to look out for in future tournaments. 


A hypothesis in science refers to what we think will happen before the experiment takes place – much to my surprise, Pokémon is much like science when it comes to sequences! In the hypothesis phase, we must look at what precedents we have to go off of, as well as what we feel like in our gut will happen. A hypothesis is vital towards tracking our accuracy, as well as for record purposes, however if the hypothesis is wrong in the end that's okay; it just means we have to try harder next time! For instance, let's take a peek at some numbers from Oceania:

Source: Facebook

Decidueye/Vileplume (DV) ended up taking the highest number of seeds in the Top 32, with a 32% metagame share, followed by Darkrai with 25%, Volcanion with 10%, and a remaining 33% share from other various decks. Although DV, Darkrai, and Volcanion were the top contenders in Day 2, it's important to note the small decks that did well, because we still must have a game plan against them. In this instance, we saw an overwhelming amount of DV make the Top 32, which means that at the following tournament we may see a spike in Volcanion – this is based on people's false opinion that Volcanion “autowins” against DV. Online, people have been launching all sorts of articles about Mega Mewtwo/Espeon-GX based decks featuring Wobbuffet, Garbodor, or some combination of both. In my opinion, people will be much more apt to try this sort of deck, because it boasts solid matchups against both DV and Darkrai as well as Volcanion. As long as a deck can potentially dethrone the defined “best deck in format” (in this case DV), it will always see play at the next big tournament. This is a rule of thumb I tend to go with, and it seems to do me well at most tournaments. 

My prediction following LA Internationals: DV will continue to see rise, as well as Volcanion to defeat DV due to its Fire-weakness. Darkrai will see a decline due to its subpar DV matchup, and its iffy matchup to Volcanion (especially lists that play Pokémon Catcher). Mega Mewtwo will re-emerge as a tier one deck due to its natural consistency, as well as its strong matchups to the top tier decks. Fringe decks like Lapras may appear due to people attempting very hard to counter the metagame. Yveltal is one of the first decks that we'll look over at this hypothesis stage to do well:

Na – Sodium [Yveltal/Garbodor]

This is a list that I've been recently testing as a contender in the metagame, and I think it may resurface to best the top tier decks. With a little bit of a flashback, I remember this deck faring as the defined BDIF heading into Europe Internationals, with the Top 4 decks being all Yveltal/Garbodor; the deck faded out to favor Turbo Dark, however, which has a much weaker DV matchup – but DV was non-existent when Darkrai emerged. Now that we have all of these decks jumbled up into the mix, it's very interesting to see people forget what was once tried and true. The beauty behind this deck is its simplicity, its consistency, as well as its ability to abuse speedy attackers like Tauros-GX and Yveltal-EX. Yveltal BKT is yet another topic of discussion – I believe this card is at one of its high points. Not only can it strand a Vileplume in the active slot, but it can also impact Darkrai quite negatively. At Oceania Internationals, I played Darkrai against Yveltal, and promptly took a fast loss to a turn two Yveltal BKT sniping all of my big EX's. It was effective because my Darkrai's had not built up enough momentum to take an OHKO on these Yveltal, so I was unable to respond. Yveltal BKT is also extremely effective against Volcanion, where most players aren't used to conserving switch cards – they'll simply forget Yveltal BKT existed, and fall right into your trap. 

Tauros-GX fused with Ninja Boy is a concept we haven't quite versed yet either; in fact, very few people have wrapped their head around this being a possibility in tournament! Just today I was playing DV on PTCGO and my opponent had a damaged Hoopa-EX in the active slot that I had Lysandre'd the previous turn. From what seemed out of nowhere, they Ninja Boy'd into a Tauros-GX, and used Mad Bull GX to OHKO my only Decidueye in play, which seemingly won them the whole entire game. Now obviously this plan will only work “x” amount of times until the opponent will catch on, but it truly displayed how big the surprise factor in Pokémon still is! I love winning almost as much as I love losing in those scenarios, just because it's exciting to see where the game will take you. Regardless, I chalked up another loss on the drawing board, and it sparked my interest in this deck.

Something very miniscule that I thought was still important to note was that Garbodor decks are trending to play a 2-1 Garbodor line; pre-DV era, I was all for this idea, but now that Item-lock is an established thing, we should really revert back to playing two copies of Garbodor, because otherwise our chances of drawing into it under Item-lock become slim to nil. We also won't have access to our Super Rod while underneath Item-lock, so it's equally scary if we only play one Garbodor and are forced to discard it turn one with a costly Sycamore. I'd rather be safe than sorry, folks! That's partially why I've included a single copy of Hex Maniac – not only does this babe shut down Vileplume and Decidueye, it allows us to reattach a Float Stone after our opposing DV player has used their Beedrill-EX's Double Scrapper attack to discard our Pokémon Tools. Most lists have been trending towards playing Hex Maniac as one of their tech Supporter cards of choice, and I fully agree with it: it's just too good to not include. 

He – Helium [Vileplume/Decidueye]

Like all things, helium is lighter than air, and allows us to float very high balloon-style – much like our feathered friend Decidueye, we'd like our win/loss record to soar into the sky! With this handy archer, we can be sure to do so, but we have to overcome some interesting variables first. Let's take a look at the new hybrid DV list that Goncalo Ferreira just used to win Malmo Regionals! 

This deck has been recently beaten to death by the media, and I'm not going to overdo what its main strategy is – but essentially it's going to establish a Vileplume early on in the game, and proceed to get multiple Decidueye in play to abuse Feather Arrow as much as possible. Colorless and simple attackers such as Tauros-GX and Lugia-EX help to spawn off very easy attacks on the opponent in the early game; the beauty of these Colorless attackers help to balance out matchups where Decidueye would be typically slower/weaker. For example, the Lugia really aids us in taking down Volcanion decks, because without it we wouldn't be able to attack our opponent without expecting a return OHKO back. Tauros aids us in any matchup where they otherwise wouldn't be able to OHKO our main attacker, namely the Darkrai and Yveltal matchup. In a case where they are forced to two shot the Tauros, we can promptly use Mad Bull GX to return OHKO them, and take two fast Prize Cards. To make matters worse, having a Vileplume in play makes it much harder for the opponent to find a Lysandre, which means in most cases they're forced to attack head on into it, or suffer a slow death via Tauros' Horn Attack. This masterful creation was developed by the beloved John Kettler, and was perfected by the player mentioned above, Goncalo Ferreira. 

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