05/03/2019 by Isaiah Bradner
Hello, 60cards readers! It’s me, Isaiah, back again with an article to help give some insight on how I prepare for tournaments as a senior, what meta I expect for Berlin, and my current top pick. While this is obviously geared towards those in my division, I feel that the contrasts between the divisions make for an interesting read.
Table of contents
While it isn't always obvious to those in either division, my time playing in seniors combined with my relationships with masters has allowed me to experience both sides. Here are some of my observations on the most important differences.
The numbers - The largest difference between seniors and masters is the raw number of players that show up to an event. While at first glance this might not seem like a huge deal, it completely changes your perception as a player going into an event. In masters events which generally have over 700 people one random rogue deck that happens to show up can often be avoided until later in the day. However, in a field as small as seniors and juniors you can have up to ten times as likely a chance to hit the certain rogue deck; that chance is further raised if you both win your early rounds.
How does this affect how you should predict the metagame? While masters may be concerned about what deck a certain group (such as DDG) will play, seniors have to take into account what individual players will bring when making their deck decision.
An example of this in the Juniors division is how Roan-Godfrey Robbins has played Donphan (PS; 72) to almost every expanded event within the last year. Top juniors going into the event are wary that he will play this and have a plan to deal with it. Meanwhile, masters players are mostly unconcerned with the fact that Jose Marrero will likely play Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109) , Zach Lesage will likely play Blacephalon GX (LT; 52) , and Rahul Reddy will likely play Vespiquen (ANO; 10) ; because it is unlikely they will play vs them until later in the tournament (if they play at all).
The second difference is that while masters generally have different players winning and topping regionals (this season Jimmy Pendarvis and Caleb Gedemer have proven this wrong) The same collection of about 20 players will make up the majority of top cut at almost every event in seniors. Once again, you have to be more focused on individual player preferences when dealing with such a small pool of competitors.
Another difference between the two divisions is that seniors very rarely come up with good rogue decks themselves, it is much more common for them to edit previously established lists. This generally means that most of the decks you run into are proven archetypes beforehand.
Finally, since for most international championships, masters play a day earlier than seniors many of the top performing masters decks are shown in high numbers for seniors. Being a day later allows seniors who don’t have as many connections to see top performing and innovative lists, and gives connected players another day to refine them. In both the Australian and Latin American internationals this year the top four ranked senior players going into the event played lists that were successful in masters with minimal changes.
In addition to looking at masters results, Seniors have a League Cup on Friday that is counted towards quarter 3 but also the NAIC stipend, which pushes almost everyone to play in it. Many players save their top play for Saturday but it is still something worth considering.
So, what does all of this mean? In short, it means that success in seniors can often be more dependant on a good meta call than having the best overall deck. An example is how earlier this year me and two friends played Trevenant BREAK (BKP; 66) to Anaheim regionals because we had seen very small numbers of Zoro/Control decks at past tournaments, and Zoro/Control was Trevenants only popular bad matchup. It ended up paying off as no one played Zoro/Control or Stall, and we finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. While obviously, this scenario will not happen often, it is an example of how a meta call can take over seniors.
That put aside, let's look at the decks I expect to be played in Berlin. First, let’s look at the data provided by RK9 on the two recent regionals statistics for the recent two regionals and I'll briefly discuss the Melbourne meta (there was no RK9 data available).
First, what was played in the international largely reflected what did well in masters the previous day. Half of the top eight was Zapdos (TM; 40) / Jirachi (TM; 99) , and there was one each of Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74) ; Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95) / Malamar (FLI; 51) ; and Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) . The 8th deck (and eventual winner) played ZoroContol, he had played a very similar list in the Friday cup as well, so watching that event can have some merit.
As expected, the most played deck in seniors reflected what had placed well the week before. Zapdos/Jirachi had just won and was the most played, Zoro/Roc/Lucario had gotten second and was the second most played. After that, you see the various meta decks of Ultra Necrozma, Pikachu and Zekrom, Zoro/Roc, and Blacephalon. As I eluded to earlier, the “other” section has the least representation in seniors. One additional thing to note is that the numbers were decently proportional to what was played last weekend in seniors.
Once again, Zapdos was the most played deck by far for seniors. Unsurprisingly, the next three decks were Blacephalon, Ultra Necrozma, and Zoro/Roc; all of which had top eight or better showings at the last regionals. After that was Zoro/Roc/ Lucario GX (BW; 100) , and then many decks with 4 or fewer players.
While this data influences most of the North American meta, we see vastly different results in European tournaments. While I don’t have any RK9 analytics on these tournaments, I have a general knowledge of what is popular from social media and Pokemon.com. In recent European tournaments, there has been a large number of both Stall/Control and Malamar decks, with the normal numbers of Zapdos and PikaZek.
After looking at these past results and patterns for players in the seniors’ division, here’s what I think will show up and what I think of the decks.
First of all, I would heavily advise anyone going to this tournament to play a deck that has a good stall (By stall I mean Regigigas (CIN; 84) / Hoopa (SLG; 55) ) matchup or to play Persian (TM; 126) , which essentially beats stall. There has been a steady increase in the representation of stall this year, and with it being in an insanely good spot in the meta I don’t expect that to change.
Zapdos (TM; 40) / Jirachi (TM; 99) - I would be very surprised to see another high representation of Zapdos at this event. While seniors tend to play the same deck for multiple regionals in a row I think the hate it is seeing right now will push it out of consideration. Zapdos has a bad matchup against Zoro/Control, stall, Celebi & Venusaur GX (TM; 1) , and ZoroRoc; all of which finished highly at the last regionals. It boasts a good Malamar and PikaZek matchup but I personally don’t think it’s worth the risk. However, if everyone moves onto Ultra Necrozma and Pikachu and Zekrom it could take the tournament by storm.
Malamar (FLI; 51) / Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95) - This deck has seen a decent amount of popularity in the United States regionals and is one of the most played in Europe, so I expect a lot of it to be present in Berlin. With an expected drop in Zapdos, the deck is a pretty good play, as it has 50/50 or better matchups vs ZoroRoc, PikaZek, and Blacephalon. Much like Nick Robinson’s top sixteen list from Denver, I would heavily consider playing Persian to Berlin.
Zoro/Control - The Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Oranguru (UPR; 114) / Crushing Hammer (LTR; 111) deck DDG won Denver regionals with (Many players have called it “Hammertime” after the old Darkrai EX (DE; 63) / Sableye (DE; 62) deck which ran off the same concept) will have it’s showing largely dependant on whether or not top players play it again. I think the deck is pretty good in this meta with its only real unfavorable match being Blacephalon. The popularity of this deck will hinge on whether another control deck is popularized during masters day one.
Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) box - I expect PikaZek to be the vastly more popular lightning deck this weekend. It has more resilience against the stall and control decks of this format, is better vs Zoroark, and can handle Muk easier. The unfavorable Zapdos matchup is a problem, but I believe that it will be played less because of the increase of counters. One factor of PikaZek that many players love is that it has pretty close matchups around the board and gives you more options to outplay your opponent compared to most other decks in the format.
Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) / Naganadel (LT; 108) - This deck has had a steady representation throughout this year, and I expect no different for the international. It won’t be the most played deck by any means but it will show up. In my opinion, the most attractive asset of Blacephalon right now is that it has a positive ZoroControl matchup while also having only slightly unfavored PikaZek and Zapdos matchups.
Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74) - I’m very unsure of how popular this deck will be this weekend. With Lucario GX (BW; 100) , you have a favorable PikaZek and Zapdos but take a very bad Ultra Malamar as a result. Once again, I expect this decks popularity to fluctuate based on whether or not a top player/group brings the deck.
Celisaur/NagQuag/Beast Box/Rayquaza - These decks have always seen very little play in seniors and I don’t expect that to change. There might be a few people with them but don’t expect to play vs any of them. If for some reason one of the decks shows up in large numbers, it will probably be Celisaur.
For this tournament, I expect higher levels of Ultra Necrozma, PikaRom, and Stall/Control than we have seen in the past. Blacephalon, ZoroRoc, and Zapdos will be played in some levels but less than they usually are, and there will be more random decks (listed in the last point above) than usual because of how long we’ve had this format.
I think that the meta for this event has shaped up perfectly to allow Pikachu and Zekrom a deep run. Other than Zapdos is has no worse than a 50/50 vs the top 6 decks I expect. If the tournament were tomorrow, here is the list I would be playing
- 3x Zapdos
- 2x Pikachu & Zekrom GX
- 4x Jirachi
- 1x Tapu Koko GX
- 1x Zeraora GX
- 1x Absol
- 1x Marshadow
- 1x Tapu Koko Prism Star
- 4x Lillie
- 3x Volkner
- 1x Cynthia
- 3x Guzma
- 4x Nest Ball
- 4x Electropower
- 3x Ultra Ball
- 2x Switch
- 2x Escape Rope
- 2x Energy Switch
- 2x Escape Board
- 1x Choice Band
- 1x Weakness Policy
- 1x Rescue Stretcher
- 1x Viridian Forest
- 1x Thunder Mountain Prism Star
- 1x Field Blower
- 10x Lightning Energy
I'll go over some of the weirder counts in this list.
3 Zapdos: This count is important to let you trade in the early game vs Zapdos/Jirachi. It also is your ideal attacker on turn one in almost every matchup and having more gives you better access
No Jolteon GX (BW; 173) : While Jolteon can come in clutch when you barely missed a kill on a previous turn or need immunity for a turn. I don’t believe these situations come up often enough to validate a spot over some of the necessary tech items. In addition to that, Stall decks are now cutting Vileplume, which was the original reason this card was put in.
3 Volkner (UPR; 135) /1 Cynthia (UPR; 119) - Volkner is extremely good almost every turn vs both mirror and Zapdos, and can grab you the clutch pieces you need in any situation. This is especially good with all the one of tools and Field Blower
1 Weakness Policy (PRC; 142) /1 Choice Band (GRI; 121) . Weakness policy is a more recent addition but is definitely needed to beat Zoro/Roc/Lucario and also helps vs Buzzwole (FLI; 77) / Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) . Choice Band allows you to easily reach for KO’s on Zoroark-GX and Lycanroc-GX. You only play one because most games you can just soften their active up with Zapdos.
2 Escape Rope (PRC; 127) /2 Switch (CLS; 147) - Escape Rope is very good vs Maldiscardamar and forces your opponent to let you kill something. Switch is the more consistent option and often lets you hit their attacker, but I like the added bonus vs Malamar and pressure vs Zoroark.
Viridian Forest (TM; 156) - The ability to throw energy in the discard is useful for Tapu Koko Prism Star (TM; 51) , you can grab it off Jirachi, and it bumps Prism stadiums. It’s an amazing card in this deck.
Rescue Stretcher (GRI; 130) - Most lists opt not to include this but because I don’t play Jolteon I wanted more outs to attackers. It also allows me to attack with up to 6 Zapdos in a game if I need to.
I hope you all enjoyed this article and that it helped you be more prepared for Berlin this weekend. If anyone has any questions or comments feel free to message me on Facebook or email Isaiah.Bradner@gmail.com. Safe travels to everyone this weekend, and good luck!
Sableye (DE; 62)
Darkrai EX (DE; 63)
Donphan (PS; 72)
Crushing Hammer (LTR; 111)
Escape Rope (PRC; 127)
Weakness Policy (PRC; 142)
Vespiquen (ANO; 10)
Trevenant BREAK (BKP; 66)
Choice Band (GRI; 121)
Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)
Rescue Stretcher (GRI; 130)
Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)
Hoopa (SLG; 55)
Regigigas (CIN; 84)
Cynthia (UPR; 119)
Oranguru (UPR; 114)
Volkner (UPR; 135)
Lucario GX (BW; 100)
Buzzwole (FLI; 77)
Malamar (FLI; 51)
Ultra Necrozma GX (FLI; 95)
Rayquaza GX (CLS; 109)
Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143)
Switch (CLS; 147)
Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null)
Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)
Naganadel (LT; 108)
Tapu Koko Prism Star (TM; 51)
Celebi & Venusaur GX (TM; 1)
Jirachi (TM; 99)
Persian (TM; 126)
Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)
Viridian Forest (TM; 156)
Zapdos (TM; 40)
Jolteon GX (BW; 173)
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