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Alex Wilson

Let Me Help You Prepare for Nats!

Alex gives readers some advice in testing for the biggest tournament in history, going over three decks that are good choices in testing for Nats, including his favorite deck!

13. 06. 2017 by Alex Wilson

Hey 60cards readers, I’m stoked to be back to discuss my favorite topic with you guys, Pokémon! My last article was on my thoughts of slow playing and the negative impact it has on our beloved game. I received a lot of feedback from you guys and I can’t express how much I appreciate it! It’s really uplifting to know that you read and appreciate the time and effort put into writing these articles, so thank you. Now getting into the article I have for you all today, I’m going to touch on many topics: My Madison Regionals Experience, How to Prepare for the Biggest Tournament in History, and What to Test for Internationals. All the while, I’m including multiple tips, pointers, and miniature life lessons in each paragraph that can help everyone become the best player they can possibly be.

My Madison Regionals Experience

Never Limit Yourself to One Deck

The week in preparation for Madison, I had put a lot of testing into Sylveon. I fell in love with Sylveon during a couple of League Cups the weekend before, and was sure that it could do well after 24 of the Top 32 decks in Seattle were Garbodor variants. However, closer to the event, it became clear that Garbodor hate was everyone’s plan for Madison. Decks that beat Garbodor include Lurantis, Volcanion, Vikavolt, Metagross, and Vespiquen. It was clear that all these decks would see representations in Madison, none of which are good matchups for Sylveon, other than Bees. After messaging a few friends around the country, I decided that Vespiquen and Volcanion would be my two “go-to” choices for the event, and immediately began working on deck lists and testing. What I mean by “go-to” decks, by the way, is my way of saying that I always travel with at least two preconstructed decks for an event, but never actually limit myself to those decks alone. I have those decks knowing that I’ll more than likely play them, since they’re good calls for the weekend, but will always play a “third” deck at the last minute if that deck is the best call for the tournament. The majority of players I see at these events, even League Cups, choose a single deck before even seeing what competition they’re up against. If you want to be the best player you can possibly be, I suggest you start this practice. The last thing you want to do is show up to an event, see that a large portion of competitors are playing decks that give yours a hard time, and lose to those decks enough times that it knocks you out of contention for top cut.

Relax and Have Fun Before a Big Event

I flew into Madison early Friday morning, the day before the tournament. I met up with my friends Rahul Reddy and Azul Griego, we hung out all day at the zoo (which was free!) and checked in to the event at the convention center later that afternoon. We met up with Jimmy Pendarvis amongst other friends and tested multiple matchups for a couple of hours before going out to eat. Now while I myself have a weird belief in play testing the day before an event, I have nothing against watching other’s test, and feel that I learn a lot from it. We found an awesome cantina, ate, then headed back to the convention center before they closed up for the night. After the venue closed, with nowhere else to go, we headed to a hotel some of the guys were staying in. We sat in the lobby and tested some more, where I decided to test Volcanion against Igor Costa’s Garbodor deck. (Pro tip: don’t discard five items on your first turn in this matchup.) Now I know I just said that I have a weird belief in testing the night before a big event, but I was curious as to how one of the best players in the world played “the deck to beat.” My friends, who drove thirteen hours from South Carolina, soon picked me up and made our way to our hotel. I wrote out both deck lists for Volcanion and Vespiquen, tested the Vespiquen mirror match out of curiosity, and passed out around 2am. (Typically you’d want more sleep than this!)

Play the Deck You’re Most Comfortable With

The morning of the tournament, I still couldn’t choose which deck to play. But in the end, I chose to play Vespiquen as I felt I knew how to play the deck better than Volcanion, and I felt it had better matchups than Volcanion did, considering I saw more than twenty Greninja decks in the League Challenge on Friday. Going into the first round, while the voices of Ash Ketchum and Brock narrated the player meeting, my opponent revealed a Dartrix from his hand due to a mulligan. Right off the bat, I had regretted my deck choice for the day, but pulled away from the matchup with a tie after two insanely close games. I then hit a Darkrai deck in round two, and lost to it thanks to their Sudowoodo, and my Double Colorless Energies insisting on staying in the prizes. For the second time in my life, I started a Regionals run with zero wins going into the third round. While I was upset with both myself and my deck choice, I kept my cool, walked around by myself for twenty minutes, gathered my thoughts, and went on to winning my next five rounds! With only two rounds left, and a 5-1-1 record, winning one more and IDing the next guaranteed a spot in day two.

Unfortunately, I hit Igor Costa playing the Vespiquen mirror match, and I lost. Knowing that only a few players would squeeze into day two with a record of 6-2-1, I kept my head up and won my ninth round. While I knew my odds were slim with my round two opponent dropping from the event, I expectedly bubbled out of Top 32, finishing in Top 64 with 44 more championship points, half a booster box, and $250. Overall, I was pretty proud of myself coming back from an 0-1-1 record, and on top of that, Rahul bubbled in at 32nd place piloting the same deck.

I had a hard time cramming everything I wanted into this deck, and some cards may have worked out better than others, but overall I enjoyed it. Vaporeon was for the Volcanion matchup and Flareon was for Lurantis and Metagross. I wanted to play two Eevees in this list, but decided that one sufficed since it’s not needed in half your matchups, and it isn’t absolutely necessary in the matchups they’re meant for anyways. I played a Parallel City in place of the second Eevee to help get more Pokémon in my discard pile, while having the option to limit my opponent’s bench space or damage output. I would have much preferred playing three Klefki over two, and would take a Float Stone out for a second Revitalizer or Rescue Stretcher. This list was two cards off Pramawat’s winning list, which helps me feel that I played the best deck for the event.

How to Prepare for the Largest Event in History

Now I’d imagine for most of you, I’ll be seeing you at the North American International Championships, the largest Pokémon tournament in history! Whether it’s your first time competing at a National event or not, I’m sure you’ll be able to take some of the advice I’m about to give, and use in your testing prior to the big event. As this is only my third truly competitive season in Pokémon, this will be my third time competing at “Nats.” My first year, like many people's, was quite pathetic, finishing with a 5-4 record. And last year, I finished with a record of 5-2-2, even though I was given a two-round bye thanks to winning a Regionals last season. This year, I’m aiming for day two! If this tournament is like previous years, players will be split into two pods, and the Top 32 players from each pod will move onto day two, totalling a Top 64 in day two. With numbers expected to reach close to 2,000 TCG masters, finishing with a record of 6-1-2 might not even be a guaranteed spot in day two!

However, I’m expecting this tournament to be the first time we see all x-2’s move onto day two. Why do I say this, and what does it mean exactly? When a tournament reaches such a large turnout, there’s a possibility that there will be players with a record of x-2 bubble out of day two. Pokémon has stated previously that they’ll never allow this to happen. Meaning that all players who finish with a record of 7-2, or better, will move onto day two. Obviously meaning that there will be more than 64 players competing in day two. Either way, whether there are 64 day two competitors or more, this year’s Nationals will be the toughest yet. So, in order to help you prepare to be the best you can possibly be, here’s some tips.

Be Prepared for a Long Day

Like Regionals, Nationals is a nine-round tournament, and considering the number of players that are expected to compete in this event, rounds may take longer thanks to the possibility of match slips not getting turned in. Typically, when all goes well, a nine-round tournament can finish by 9pm, just like Madison Regionals. But be more than prepared to finish the ninth round close to midnight. Bring snacks, or have a “food runner,” lunch breaks are never promised, even if the tournament is running smoothly and on schedule, the tournament organizer may choose to not have a lunch break. I prefer to keep a few honey buns and granola bars in my bag, as well as a bottle of water that I can refill throughout the day. Staying hydrated is one of the best compliments you can give your body.

Don’t Spill Salt on the Tables

Try not to get to salty or tilted, not only can it ruin someone else’s day, but “going on tilt” early on in a tournament can mess up your game. The unfortunate part of tournaments, is in order for players to start 3-0, on the other end of the spectrum, players have to start 0-3. If that happens to be me, I’ll take it as a learning experience, look back, and figure out where I went wrong.                                                                                                              

SLEEP!

Make sure you get enough sleep the night before the big event! I know I’m not your mom, but getting a sufficient amount of sleep is uber important if you want to play at your best throughout the day. As far as I know though, I’m not your mom, so sleep however much you want.

Test

Know the ins and outs of each and every deck in the format, which is where we are finally getting to the important stuff. Testing every possible deck that has proven to be good in Standard is a great stepping stone in your testing for internationals. Obviously, some of the best decks in the format to start with are Vespiquen, Volcanion, and Mega Rayquaza. I’ll be going over all three of these deck with lists, key card choices, and matchups. But don’t limit yourself to these three decks alone: Bulu, Lurantis, Greninja, Metagross, Zoroark, Decidueye, Darkrai, Garbodor, and Ninetales are all decks that need to be on your testing checklist. Without further ado, let us dive into the good stuff.

Vespiquen

Yes, I literally just gave you my Vespiquen list from Madison, but I didn’t go over reasons for playing some of the cards, nor it’s matchups. Vespiquen is one of my favorite decks in standard, with a high skill cap and the ability to beat everything, I can’t help but have a biased opinion for this deck.

1-1/1 Eeveelutions

Playing both Flareon and Vaporeon is very meta dependent; but with Lurantis, Metagross, and Volcanion showing up to major events at the moment, it’s not a bad idea to test the deck with these Eeveelutions. When playing both Vaporeon and Flareon, it makes more sense to run two Eevees, but you should be able to get away with playing just the one copy. In most matchups, Eevee and its evolutions are Bee Revenge fuel, and in the matchups where Eevee helps, you typically only need the added weakness for one or two knock outs. If your opponent wastes a turn to Lysandre and KO your Eeveelution, you still have an attacker on board, which should either be able to take a KO, or put on immense pressure at the least.

2-2 Zoroark

As it’s fairly obvious, Zorark’s ability to “Rush In and retreat” allows for optimal mobility in the deck. Even though Vespiquen, the main attacker, has free retreat, sometimes you’ll have a Pokémon with a heavy retreat cost stuck in your active spot, and need a way to retreat and attack without wasting a Double Colorless Energy. Additionally, it’s a Stage 1 attacker, meaning that it gets the added boost from Vaporeon and Flareon’s abilities. And its attack isn’t all that bad--with a combination of Choice Band and five Pokémon on your opponent’s bench, Zoroark is attacking for 190 damage!

Klefki

While there aren’t too many mega evolutions running around our format anymore, Klefki’s tool ability to prevent damage done by mega evolutions is fairly useless now. However, the ability to bench a Klefki, then attach it to an Unown, followed by discarding the Unown (and Klefki) using Farewell Letter allows for quicker damage output with Vespiquen’s Bee Revenge attack. And even if you don’t have an Unown in play, you still have the option to use Klefki’s ability, attaching to a random Pokémon in play so that it’s discarded the following turn. Mega Rayquaza is still a thing though, so I guess its ability to prevent mega evolution damage isn’t completely useless yet.

Rescue Stretcher

While two Revitalizer help in getting your Bees back into play, the one-of Rescue Stretcher gives you the option to either grab a single Pokémon from the discard pile back into your hand, or shuffle three Pokémon back into your deck. While shuffling three Pokémon back into your deck may throw your Bee Revenge’s damage output off, getting a specific Pokémon back into your hand, like a needed Flareon or Zoroark you were forced to discard during your first turn, is a great way to keep the deck flowing.

Parallel City

Most lists have not been playing Parallel City; I, however, like the inclusion. While the space may be just as good for another Pokémon such as a second Eevee, third Klefki, or even your won sneaky Oricorio, I like the option of discarding any Shaymins or Tapu Leles I have sitting on my bench. One of the best aspects of Vespiquen is its prize trade with other meta decks. While you’re taking two prizes per knock out, your opponent is only taking one. With a Shaymin-EX or Tapu Lele-GX on your bench however, they’re only a Lysandre away from giving up two prize cards. The utility of these cards are too good though, so don’t consider cutting them for one prize Pokémon. Parallel City can also limit your opponent’s bench space, like Rayquaza, or forcing your opponent to discard their pesky Sudowoodo that has been limiting your bench the entire game. If you limit your opponent’s bench, however, take into account the reduction you’ve given your damage output!

Card #61

I’ve been testing this deck with a one-of Oricorio. While I can’t say whether it’s truly needed or not, it’s a sneaky little tech you can use if you expect to play against other Vespiquen decks. The Oricorio (Oreo) I’m talking about by the way is the one that places damage counters across the board based on the number of Pokémon in your opponent’s discard pile--which is super destructive against the likes of Vespiquen, Gyarados, and Night March, if you’re stilling playing in expanded tournaments. It’s also handy in that it can spread damage across higher HP Pokémon, so that Vespiquen and Zoroark have an easier time taking knock outs.

Matchups

Lurantis – Very Favorable

With Flareon, this matchup is considerably an auto win. Even if they Lysandre your Flareon, and knock it out, you should have already taken three to four prizes. Meaning that with two or three more prizes to be taken, and an extra two Pokémon in your discard pile, reaching numbers to one shot a Tapu Lele, baby Lurantis, Tapu Bulu, or even a Shaymin-EX should be easy. You also have Rescue Stretcher, shuffling an attacker, Eevee, and Flareon back into your deck just might be enough for your opponent to opt into scooping.

Garbodor – Favorable

Surprisingly, Garbodor is a fairly easy matchup for Vespiquen. With a consistent stream of attackers on board, Vespiquen is always OHKOing Garbodor, and when you can afford it, bringing up a Drampa or Tapu Lele for an easy two prizes with Lysandre helps you in advancing in the prize trade. Should you worry about discarding items when sitting across from a Garbodor deck? Not at all, with three to five items in your discard pile, Garbodor is already OHKOing your attackers in Vespiquen and Zoroark. Choosing not to use your Acro Bikes and Ultra Balls only hurts you in that you fall behind in the game.

Volcanion – Favorable

With the added damage thanks to Vaporeon’s ability, this is matchup is a breeze. Even if Volcanion plays Karen for some odd reason, Vespiquen still has a heyday in this matchup. With just seven Pokémon in your discard pile, and Vaporeon on the bench, Vespiquen is attacking for an even 180 damage. With Zoroark, if they have three Pokémon sitting on the bench, you're taking even easier knock-outs at 200 damage. And don’t forget, Choice Band makes all of these numbers even easier. However, a smart Volcanion player uses baby Volcanion as their main attackers in this matchup. With one Steam Up ability, baby Volcanion is knocking out your Vespiquen with 100 damage thanks to weakness. It’s generally best to target two of their baby Volcanion before they’re able to get too many Fire Energies in play. But even if they get every energy in play, you have access to four Vespiquen and two Zoroark, with Vaporeon, there’s little to no excuse in not taking four prizes with two knock outs per game.

Darkrai – Even

Darkrai is a really good deck now in my opinion--a lot of people have underrated it, which might bite them in the butt come Internationals. With the new stadium, Alter of the Moone, any Pokémon with a Dark Energy attached has free retreat in the deck. And with Exp. Share, and Vespiquen’s lack of Field Blower, Darkrai never runs out of energy nor damage output. Smart Darkrai players attack with Oblivion Wing Yveltals alone in this matchup. Yvaltal’s Darkness Blade attack deals 100 damage, and since it has free retreat, the required coin flip that goes along with its attack is for the most pointless. Some Darkrai lists have opted in running a Sudowoodo, which really ruins Vespiquen’s consistency. But this isn’t a one-sided matchup; Vespiquen is just as good. Allowing the Darkrai player to play the first stadium is one of the most important aspects in this matchup. The idea is to run them out of their stadiums, slowing their deck down a ton. At the start of the game, knocking out a baby Yveltal before it can spread energies is quite important. The rest of the game is fairly situational--getting rid of their attackers in baby Yveltals helps you advance in board state, but when given the chance to Lysandre and one shot a Darkrai-EX with a Choice Band, taking those two extra prizes can go a long way by the end of the game.

Decidueye – Slightly Unfavorable

This is one of Vespiquen’s scariest matchups: Decidueye’s Feather Arrow ability can snipe our tiny 40 HP Combees before they can even leave the hive. Its Razor Leaf attack is enough damage to knockout most of our Pokémon, and Vileplume’s item lock ability can shut down Vespiquen to a complete halt. This is a very skill-based matchup, on the Vespiquen player’s side, and needs to be tested thoroughly before running into Internationals with your little buzzing friends. Flareon can go a long way in this matchup, but needs to be timed properly. With Feather Arrow, or even just a Razor Leaf, Flareon can find its way into the discard pile before it even has the chance to cry for help. And thanks to Vileplume, you have no way of getting your furry fire type puppy back into your deck. (Or is Flareon a kitty?)

Bewear!

Karen and Oricorio are Vespiquen’s biggest threats, and are easily splashable in any deck. Though Karen isn’t much of a threat since it helps in getting important attackers back into your deck, it can slow down Vespiquen by a solid turn or two or three. Oricorio is far greater a threat than Karen has ever been for this deck. With 16 Pokémon in your discard pile, sure you’re knocking out nearly everything your opponent can throw at you, but Oricorio can swoop in and spread 16 damage counters amongst all of your Pokémon. Taking two or three prizes with one attack, or at the very least spreading enough damage so that it can return with a Rescue Stretcher and finish the job.

Beware, Bewear.... get it?

Volcanion w/ Brooklet Hill

Volcanion has solid matchups all around, with Steam Up and Choice Band, you have the ability to one shot everything in the game, even a Wailord-EX! (Not that that’s an impressive feat anymore…) Turtonator-GX offers even more versatility, Brooklet Hill makes the deck arguably better than any Volcanion list before it, and with Starmie, you’ll never miss a Steam Up.

Baby Volcanion

As odd as it may seem, this is your main attacker throughout the entirety of a tournament. Power Heater’s 20 damage is pretty meager, but with Choice Band and Steam Ups, you’re taking two hit knock outs against just about everything, all the while adding two energies to your bench from your discard pile. Which works out “Beautifly”, discarding two Fire Energy using Steam Up increases your damage output, where you’re then able to recycle them back from your discard pile attaching them to your benched Pokémon. Its second attack dealing 100 damage is insanely useful in the late game after you’ve already attached enough energies on your board.

Turtonator-GX

Guardians Rising is the best set ever! And with the best set ever comes one of the best Pokémon ever in Turtonator! Its Shell Trap attack is a great way of taunting your opponent. With a Choice Band and two Steam Ups, its 20 damage attack turns into a 110 damage turn, and if your opponent chooses to attack Turtonator the following turn, they run the risk of getting knocked out by the 80 recoil damage. Bright Flame is even better, dealing a ginormous 160 damage, and with the addition of Choice Band or Steam Ups, Turtonator-GX can more easily OHKO any Pokémon than even Volcanion-EX can! Though you have to discard two Fire Energy from Turtonator-GX to use the attack, you can retreat it the following turn and attack with either Volcanion, which can still follow through with another knock out. It’s GX attack is also useful, allowing you to attach five Fire Energies from your discard pile to any of your Pokémon in any way you’d like! You can only use it once of course, so time it wisely if needed.

Starmie

Starmie was first seen in the expanded version of Volcanion lists. Now that Volcanion, like the rest of the standard format, has slowed down a little, the inclusion of Starmie is quite helpful. Every now and then, you’ll miss that one energy needed for a Steam Up or attachment, and with Starmie’s Space Beacon, (no not Bacon, you’re thinking of Yveltal), discarding a card from your hand to get two energies back from the discard pile can make for clutch plays!

4 Brooklet Hill

Brooklet Hill is what keeps this deck flowing in the early game, which is why we play four. If you already have a Volcanion-EX in play, or in your hand, you can use Brooklet Hill to grab a Staryu from the deck and immediately bench it, ideally evolving it the next turn. And of course, with Volcanion-EX being a dual Fire and Water type, you can search one out with Brooklet Hill. As a 62nd card in the deck, you can even consider playing a one-of Sudowoodo, which in turn can be searched out with Brooklet Hill. But while you’re limiting your opponent’s side of the field, you too are limiting yourself to only four benched Pokémon…

Field Blower

The main reason for the inclusion of two Field Blower is to rid Garbotoxin from slowing your deck down. But with a decline in successful Garbodor decks, cutting down to one, or even zero, might be worth the saved space. But it comes with additional uses to consider. The biggest is discarding a misplaced Choice Band on a Volcanion-EX, so that you can then attach a Float Stone and continue your onslaught of Volcanic Heats. Even bumping a stadium, Float Stone, or Choice Band of your opponents can go a long way.

Matchups

Metagross – Very Favorable

Metagross-GX is weak to fire type attacks, and even though it has a bulky 250 HP, Volcanion-EX can easily take out a Metagross without the added effects of Choice Band or Steam Ups. In the early game, baby Volcanion can easily take out Beldums and Metangs while building up our much scarier Volcanion-EXs and Turtonator-GX. To be blunt, Metagross has to draw ham, and Volcanion has to dead draw in order for Metagross to even stand a chance in this matchup.

Decidueye – Favorable

Decidueye too is another Pokémon that is weak to fire type attacks, and offers juicy two prizes. A single Volcanic Heat OHKOs a Decidueye-GX, and even a baby Volcanion can reach 240 damage, thanks to weakness, of course. While this matchup usually swings in favor of Volcanion, a turn one Vileplume is still quite dangerous, and can shut down Volcanion depending on the hand you had prior to getting item locked. Even under item lock however, manually attaching energies each turn, and building up a big bad Volcanion-EX can easily win back the game.

Darkrai – Slightly Favorable

Darkrai has gotten rid of all cards it ever played prior to Guardians Rising that turned off its opponent’s abilities. They don’t play Silent Lab anymore since free retreat with Alter of the Moone is too important, and even if they play a one-of Hex Maniac, they can only use it so many times before either running out of VS Seekers, or needing to play a draw supporter. Volcanion can one-shot everything on their side of the field with Choice Band and access to abilities, while Darkrai can only take OHKOs of their own if they hit every Max Elixir early in the game. With two Field Blower, they’ll never be able to utilize their Exp. Share, and should ultimately never take OHKOs even in the late game. They do play Sudowoodo, however, which can slow you down as far as Steam Ups and Starmie go, and if they are able to successfully stream Hex Maniac, they may be able to walk away from the matchup with an unexpected win.

Rayuqaza – Unfavorable

Even with the added damage output of Choice Band and Turtonator’s Bright Flame attack, Rayquaza with Hex Maniac still runs over Volcanion like in previous formats. If Rayquaza doesn’t have the best of starts, and Brooklet Hills can bump enough Sky Fields, Volcanion definitely stands a chance, but that’s it…. a chance.

Revised Rayquaza

Rayquaza is still a great deck, which fills me with joy! Besides Metagross-GX and Solgaleo-GX, M Rayquaza-EX one-hit KOs everything in the format. And even though Field Blower offers as a new nuisance, getting rid of Rayquaza Spirit Links, Float Stones, and Sky Fields, Rayquaza’s still a force to be reckoned with. Sudowoodo isn’t too much of a threat to not play the deck, Garbotoxin isn’t too prevalent (we play a Field Blower of our own anyways), and Jolteon is no longer played in Vespiquen.

3 Dragon Type Rayquaza

In previous formats, I’ve always played 3 Colorless Rayquazas, or a split between the two. Now, there’s no reason not to play the dragon types. With a huge decline in EXs, the colorless type Rayquaza’s Intensifying Burn attack only deals 10 damage to the defending Pokémon. The dragon type Rayquaza’s Dragon Claw attack deals at least 30. Additionally, the dragon type Rayquaza’s have 180 HP, and are weak to an irrelevant type in the pink fairies.

Tapu Lele-GX

Jirachi-EX is one of the best cards to include in expanded Rayquaza lists. Naturally, with Tapu Lele’s Wonder Tag ability, it too can search out any supporter still remaining in the deck. In this list, I’ve included a one of Professor Kukui, which can now easily be searched out by Tapu Lele to more easily reach number of 260 damage. Though, it can’t be searched out using Hoopa-EX’s Scoundrel Ring, it’s an Ultra Ball away and can be brought back from the discard pile with Rescue Stretcher and Dragonite-EX’s ability.

Oranguru

Oranguru is one card that I’ve never played in expanded. And considering that in both Regionals I’ve won, I had to top deck the Lysandre for the win, playing Oranguru can better help in ensuring the win off those types of situations.

2 Hex Maniac

Ability lock is more important than ever in this format. While a lot of decks have cut the number of Shaymin-EXs they play, they’re playing Tapu Lele-GXs in their stead. Many decks are warming up to the idea of cutting their total number of supporter cards since they play Tapu Lele-GX. This is the perfect opportunity for Rayquaza, attaching an energy to a Rayquaza-EX, playing a Hex Maniac, and ending your first turn with mega evolving can make for an advantageous start.

Professor Kukui

I question the use of this supporter in Rayquaza, but since both Metagross-GX and Solgaleo-GX are currently seeing play, it may be worth the inclusion depending on both your area and the meta. While its main use is for the additional 20 damage, drawing an extra two cards from your deck is helpful, but in a tiny way. Rarely, can I see drawing a needed card from Kukui. However, if you’re staring into the eyes of a 250 HP Algorithmic Metagross, OHKOing it is the priority.

Rescue Stretcher

In previous formats, we saw cards like Super Rod, Sacred Ash, Brock’s Grit, and Karen used to retrieve Pokémon from the discard pile. Thanks to the two Dragonite-EX, we already have two ways of retrieving up to four Pokémon from the discard pile, ridding the need of Karen. Sacred Ash has obviously rotated, and we’d rather not use Brock’s Grit as our supporter card for the turn. Super Rod is good, but Rescue Stretcher has the same ability as Super Rod, plus one. If you’ve already benched your Dragonite-EXs, or can’t seem to find them, Rescue Stretcher can grab a Pokémon from the discard pile. Preferably, grabbing a Dragonite-EX with this effect is the most optimal play, as you can then revive two more Pokémon, making for three additional Pokémon fueling your Rayquaza’s Emerald Break. And of course, if you need a M Rayquaza-EX, or any combination of three Pokémon, you can choose to shuffle them back into your deck. With Ultra Ball, Hoopa, and Dragonite, grabbing said mega evolution should be easy peasy.

Field Blower

A new inclusion to Rayquaza, one that could have come a few months ago honestly, helps in fighting Garbotoxin Garbodor. And although ability lock Garbodor isn’t as prevalent in the format now, it has many more uses that can help in winning games. Choice Bands have found their ways in most decks now, drawing into a Field Blower might help in preventing OHKOs against your Rayquazas. If your opponent has played a stadium, and you can’t find the Sky Field before playing a Professor Sycamore, why not discard it and a tool for the heck of it. And in rare cases, you may have attached a Rayquaza Spirit Link to a Rayquaza, then mega evolved it. Said Rayquaza never received any energy attachments, and your opponent brought it up into your active spot with Lysandre. You have win in hand, but have run out of energies and Mega Turbos, or somehow, can’t find them. But wait, you have both a Field Blower and a Float Stone in your hand! Discard the Rayquaza Spirit Link with Field Blower, attach the Float Stone, retreat, attack, and you win. I know that’s a stretch, but hey, you never know.

Psychic Energies

I’ve run many different types of energies in Rayquaza lists in the last couple of years. And truthfully, you can always run whichever type you want. But since Tapu Lele is in the deck, running Psychic Energy allows the use of Tapu Cure GX, an attack that allows you to heal all damage from two of your Pokémon. It may rarely get used, and only in the most extreme of cases, but having the option is worth it.

Matchups

Darkrai – Slightly Favorable

The biggest aspect of this matchup is whether the Darkrai player has a Sudowoodo or not. If they’re playing a Sudowoodo, Rayquaza as a deck can not work. The Sudowoodo must be knocked out, and fast. Getting limited to a bench of four means Rayquaza is only attacking for 120 damage. And while it may work considering it 2HKOs everything, Darkrai than becomes faster, taking knock outs quicker than even Rayquaza can. Once Sudowoodo is out of the picture, or was never in the picture in the first place, the matchup is fairly straight forward. Darkrai doesn’t run any stadium besides Alter of the Moone, and without Fighting Fury Belt, Darkrai can easily be OHKO’d with six Pokémon on Rayquaza’s bench. And with the one of Field Blower, discarding two of their Exp. Share means Darkrai will have a tough time reaching 220 damage.

Vespiquen – Even

Like I stated earlier, thankfully, Vespiquen lists no longer play Jolteon. Klefki however is still one tough cookie to work around. And with the inclusion of Rescue Strtcher, Vespiquen can recycle Klefkis, meaning you’ll face four to six Pokémon that Rayquaza isn’t even aloud to touch. Working around Klefkis and knocking out any EXs/GXs your opponent benches is Rayquaza win condition. Hex Maniac is pretty vital too, without abilities, Klefkis can’t do their job, which gives Rayquaza the advantage.

Decidueye/Vileplume – Even

I haven’t been able to test this matchup as much as I’d like to, but I feel it’s fairly similar to previous formats. If a turn one Vileplume is set up, Rayquaza can dead draw hard, and loose. But as long as Rayquaza is given a chance to set up with a fully loaded bench and at least one M Rayquaza-EX, the matchup can be heavily favored for Rayquaza.

Garbodor/Drampa – Slightly Unfavorable

In most of my games testing this matchup, I’ve found it hard to limit the number of items I discard. Rayquaza is used to going ham turn one with zero consequences, against Garbodor however, discarding too many means the entire game is a struggle. Playing in a conservable manner is the best way to approach this matchup. Garbodor can easily be OHKO’d after setting up a M Rayquaza-EX, Drampa-GX on the other hand isn’t as easy without playing items. The truth is, eventually you’ll need to ditch playing conservabley, and go after prizes. If Drampa-GX discards too many Double Colorless Energies before Rayquaza can take at least two prizes, the game is as good as over since we don’t play Special Charge. Maybe switching out Professor Kukui for a Special Charge is best?

Ending Thoughts

Nats is always one of the most fun events of the year, in every aspect. If this your first time, I highly suggest you take the advice I gave you, and test your heart out of every possible deck you can. If you want results, you have to put in the work, right? I should have another article out before Nats, so let me know if you want me to cover any specific decks.

Thanks for reading guys, until next time!

[+11] okko


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