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Eye on Japan

Japanese Nationals and Looking Ahead to Worlds

An overview of the Japanese National Championships with...

08/05/2015 by Eye on Japan

Hello, 60cards readers! I'm Yuki Fujimori and this is my fifth article. 

1.  Introduction

We had Japanese Nationals in the last Saturday of June in Osaka. As mentioned in my previous article, the winners and the finalists from each Rayquaza Mega Battle could take part in the Japanese Nationals.  (More precisely, we had two players from Nagoya, two from Tokyo Day 1, two from Tokyo Day 2, two from Hokkaido, and the Top 4 from Osaka, meaning twelve players in total competed.)  The participants played four Swiss rounds before cutting to a Top 4. The twelve participants all have the right to play in Day 2 of Worlds, but only the Top 4 players could get a travel award, so the Swiss rounds were the most important for them anyway. 

Japanese Nationals was held on June 27th, but this was a very difficult schedule for the participants because Lysandre’s Trump Card was banned and Ancient Origins was released on June 20th, giving players only seven days to playtest new decks!  The metagame was quite complex and unpredictable. Below are the results and the decks from Japanese Nationals, and also the results of seven days of effort from Japan’s best players.  (Note: the Japanese format is BLW-on.)


2.  The Top 4 from Japanese Nationals 

 

First Place: Yveltal/Archeops 

The winning deck from the Japanese National Championship was Yveltal/Archeops! Yveltal/Archeops has been a very powerful deck, especially shining in Evolution-based metagames. The winner played a few copies of Faded Town from Ancient Origins in his deck to knock down Mega Pokémon and the strategy seemed to work well.  The winning deck was, however, only 2-2 in Swiss, beating Giratina and Gengar, and losing to Seismitoad and Donphan. It fortunately made Top Cut on Prizes taken, but it is a bit hard to determine that it was the best deck at Japanese Nationals.

Anyway it won, and we can safely say that Yveltal-EX is one of the best Pokémon-EX ever.  

 

As you can see, the deck runs a fairly traditional lineup of attackers for Yveltal decks.  Two Yveltal-EX provide the deck with a main attacker while two Yveltal are for early pressure and Energy acceleration.  In addition, this deck runs two Seismitoad-EX.  Even though there are no Hypnotoxic Lasers here, Seismitoad is still a great Pokémon to lock down opponents while setting up a big Yveltal-EX to sweep.  Rounding out the attackers is an Absol, which is a very Energy-efficient Pokémon.  For just two Energy, Mind Jack hits for up to 120—or up to 180 if Sky Field is in play.  Since Sky Field decks can be very powerful, having a quick answer to them helps a lot.

Of course, the main event here is Archeops and a lot of the card choices are based around getting it into play as quickly as possible.  For one, the deck runs a very low Supporter count, opting for more Item draw (four Trainers’ Mail and three Acro Bike) instead, since Supporters can easily clog in the hand and prevent a Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick Play (and besides, there’s always VS Seeker to get them back).  In addition, the deck runs three Battle Compressor.  This both helps dump Archeops for Maxie plays and gets Darkness Energy into the discard for Dark Patch and Oblivion Wing.

On the subject of Darkness Energy, the deck only runs six, again, primarily because too much Energy can prevent a turn-one Maxie.  Instead, the deck runs two Professor’s Letter, which help get the Energy when needed and can be burned from the hand when Energy isn’t needed.  With Dark Patch and Yveltal getting Energy back, six is usually enough to get the job done.  And although Dark Patch is a great card, the deck only runs three as drawing too many early on with no way to discard Energy can make hands worse. 

The deck runs Keldeo-EX, since it’s a great counter to Laser-heavy Seismitoad decks, as well as a couple Float Stones.  With Float Stone, Keldeo won’t need to rely on using Dark Cloak to Retreat, which eases pressure on the deck’s relatively low Darkness Energy count.  In addition, Float Stone is generally an easier card to play down from an opening hand than Switch or Escape Rope.  It’s just another decision geared toward optimizing the deck for the early Archeops.

Overall, it’s just a solid deck.  A quick Archeops locks down a lot of opposing strategies while Yveltal and friends clean up.  It may not have been the clear-cut best deck for the event, but there’s no question that it’s powerful. 

Second Place: Seismitoad/Bats 

The beloved Toad hopped all the way up to Second Place in Japan. This player had been playing Seismitoad/Bats since the Rayquaza Mega Battle, so I think practice and a deep understanding of this deck carried him all this way. In addition, he luckily played against three Donphan players in his four Swiss matches, and of course, he crushed all of them. That was another factor which pushed the Toad to the Finals in this complex metagame.  There's nothing too new in this list, so check out the Top 16 Seismitoad/Bats list from U.S. Nationals if you want a sample.

Third Place: Donphan/Eeveelutions 

Ancient Origins brought a great addition to the Donphan deck. The new Eeveelutions give Stage 1 Pokémon another type in addition to its original type. When you have Donphan and the new Jolteon in play, for instance, Donphan becomes both Fighting and Lightning-type. Jolteon gives Donphan an edge against Yveltal and Rayquaza decks, while Vaporeon helps against the Donphan mirror.  Here is the Third Place list. 

 

This deck takes a few deviations from the typical Donphan list.  The Eeveelutions are the major change, giving the deck a lot more flexibility, but the rest of the list had to adapt around them.  With six extra Pokémon in the deck, it runs a smaller Donphan line, but compromises with a Super Rod.  In addition, the deck can’t rely as heavily on Korrina with so many non-Fighting Pokémon, so it runs three Ultra Ball and a Level Ball to help get the Eeveelutions into play. 

The deck relies almost exclusively on Robo Substitute as a wall, but it includes a single Wobbuffet to block Abilities (it’s also a good opener against Shiftry—more on that later).  Because of this, it runs just one Float Stone to put onto the Pokémon to promote after a Robo Substitute is Knocked Out.  Of course, there’s a single Focus Sash as well, a Hawlucha or Donphan can always be promoted in a pinch. 

This deck has a secret weapon against Seismitoad in Leafeon PLF.  Although it’s not searchable, just an Eevee on the Bench and a single Energy can turn into a threat the moment Leafeon is drawn.  It can completely swing a match if the Seismitoad player doesn’t see it coming and even if they do, it forces them into less optimal plays to avoid falling to a big Energy Crush.  Jolteon and Vaporeon can also attack if need be, thanks to the lone Blend Energy.
 

Fourth Place: Donphan/Hawlucha

Two Donphan decks made the cut this time; this was a more traditional Donphan deck. This player ran a few copies of Celebi from Bandit Ring (note that Ancient Origins didn’t get this Celebi) to counter Shiftry.  The success of these two Donphan players proved that Donphan is still a top contender, even after Ancient Origins. 

3.  The other decks from Japanese Nationals

Although only four players could make Top Cut at Japanese Nationals, there were a number of other interesting decks that didn't quite make it, some of which are probably completely new to foreign players.

These are the decks that missed Top Cut:

2 Shiftry
1 Gengar/Wobbuffet/Mega Rayquaza
1 Durant/Ninjask
1 Mega Rayquaza/Giratina/Reshiram
1 Donphan/Hawlucha/Robo
1 Donphan/Eeveelutions
1 Mega Manectric/Articuno

Shiftry 

This is the most hideous deck born from Ancient Origins in Japan. Forest of Giant Plants from the expansion allows your Grass Pokémon to Evolve even on your first turn, and this deck abuses that power. Shiftry NXD’s Ability, Giant Fan, can shuffle one of your opponent’s Pokémon back into their deck when Shiftry comes into play. Even though it needs heads from a die roll, if you can use Giant Fan five or six or even more times in a turn, especially on the first turn, all of your opponent's Pokémon will disappear completely. The new Stadium and Devolution Spray make it possible. If the Stadium is in the field, you can play Shiftry from your hand and use the Ability, even if Shiftry was just returned to your hand with the Spray.

It’s important to mention that First Ticket is still legal in Japan (even its effect!) and matches at Nationals consisted of single games, not best-of-three.  Shiftry wouldn’t exist as a contender without these two things working in its favor.  (So it’s probably true that Shiftry isn’t a big concern for U.S. Fall Regionals!)  Though Shiftry couldn't make a big impact in the Masters division, it won the Juniors division held the next day (yes, it became the champion!). I don't want to play the Japanese BW-on format as long as this ridiculous deck exists. 

 

The big difference between this list and the previous list featured on 60cards is the inclusion of First Ticket, which singlehandedly makes this deck a legitimate threat.  In addition, the deck runs a single Latios-EX alongside a lone Psychic Energy and Muscle Band.  Though this comes at the cost of a couple consistency cards, it also makes the one-turn win a bit easier since Shiftry now just needs to reduce the opponent’s field to one Pokémon with at most 60 HP to win, meaning that fewer Giant Fans (and thus, fewer flips) will be needed to close out some games.  A single Lysandre is also included to force the low-HP Pokémon Active for a Fast Raid.  These innovations (along with First Ticket) make Shiftry a serious and threatening deck.

Gengar/Wobbuffet/Mega Rayquaza(Colorless) 

Takuya Yoneda, one of the best Japanese Pokémon TCG players, played a very unique deck this time: Gengar-EX and Mega Rayquaza. Gengar dealt with non-EX Pokémon such as Donphan while Mega Rayquaza blew away bigger Pokémon-EX. Wobbuffet was a great wall to switch into with Gengar, shutting down a lot of popular Abilities, notably Shiftry’s Giant Fan. He unfortunately lost to Donphan and Yveltal in the Swiss rounds, causing him to miss Top Cut. 

Durant/Ninjask 

With Lysandre’s Trump Card gone forever, the doors were open for a Durant comeback.  The game has changed a lot since the last time Durant was a serious contender, but a number of new cards have given this deck new life.

Eco Arm from Ancient Origins is a big part of this deck’s power, picking up Life Dew from the discard pile to buy this deck some important extra turns. In addition, this deck ran a few more Pokémon in Bunnelby and Ninjask, both of which furthered Durant’s strategy. 

Ninjask is there primarily to promote after a Durant is Knocked Out.  It has free Retreat, so you can easily play a Revive to get your Durant back and then Retreat to it and Devour once again.  However, it has the added benefit of being able to use its Wing Buzz Ability when it’s Active, discarding another card from the opponent’s deck.  Although you may not Wing Buzz every turn, they begin to add up over a long game and can make a big difference.  Bunnelby is there for some additional support.  Its major value comes in recovering important cards—like Eco Arm or Revive—to keep games going, but its Burrow attack can discard two cards from the opponent’s deck each turn.  This makes Bunnelby a potentially better attacker than Durant either in the very early or very late turns, when there aren’t likely to be as many Durant in play. 

There’s very little disruption in this deck.  Just two Enhanced Hammer, two Head Ringer, and a couple of disruptive Supporters (accessible via Jirachi-EX).  Instead, the deck devotes itself to consistency cards like Trainers’ Mail, the additional Pokémon, and recovery cards.  With so much ability to reuse Life Dew, the disruption doesn’t matter as much.  The opponent can Knock Out a Durant every turn and still deck out. 

This Durant deck, however, had a bad opening hand in the last Swiss round, missing the cut, but it wouldn’t have been surprising if it had made it.  It’s a creative revival of an old classic. 

Mega Rayquaza/Giratina/Reshiram 

When all the Ancient Origins cards were spoiled before its release in Japan, the card which attracted the most attention was undoubtedly Giratina-EX. Its Ability Rebellious Wave can completely shut off attacks from powerful Mega Pokémon-EX such as Primal Groudon and Mega Manectric, and its attack negates DCE-based strategies like Raichu  decks. Even if the opponent plays other Pokémon Giratina can't deal with, Rayquaza will fly into your field to blow them away.

 

This deck relies heavily on Reshiram.  Giratina and the Dragon-type Mega Rayquaza both have awkward Energy costs, so having access to some acceleration helps a lot.  The deck runs the Dragon-type Rayquaza-EX as well, primarily to take advantage of Reshiram.  One play this deck can make is to accelerate an Energy to Rayquaza via Reshiram, attach a Spirit Link and a DCE, and Mega Evolve to the Colorless Mega Rayquaza.  The toolbox of Mega Rayquaza allow this deck to blow up just about anything that may oppose Giratina’s lock. 

For support, the deck runs Hydreigon-EX, giving free Retreat to every Dragon in this deck except Giratina (whose Retreat Cost becomes one).  In addition, the deck can abuse a thick Shaymin-EX line due to Sky Field, and Hoopa-EX is another great fit.  With so many different Pokémon-EX in the deck—including Megas—Hoopa is very versatile.  It can grab a Rayquaza, Mega Rayquaza, and a Shaymin.  It can grab a Giratina, Rayquaza, and Shaymin.  It can grab a missing Mega and two Shaymin.  It can grab three Shaymin!  This type of deck is what Hoopa-EX was made for. 

This deck may look like it has no defects, especially to foreign players, but it lost to Yveltal/Archeops and Durant in the Swiss rounds. Still, I think Giratina-EX will see more play in the foreign metagame after Worlds this year.

Mega Manectric/Articuno 

Mega Manectric seems to be one of the top decks in the foreign metagame now, but unfortunately, it couldn't shine in this Japanese metagame. Donphan and Shiftry were a bit too hard for Mega Manectric to overcome. 

4.  Heading into Worlds... but how? 

As you all know now, there is too much difference and distance between the Worlds format and Japan’s current BLW-AOR format, so Japanese participants have no strategic advantage and it is really hard to predict what kind of decks they are going to play. There’s no Archeops in the Worlds format. No Eeveelutions or Giratina-EX either. 

But anyway, one thing is true: the results from U.S. Nationals have had a great impact on the Japanese players, including those who won't play at Worlds. A lot of Japanese players watched and enjoyed the video stream even though it was midnight in Japan. Its influence is still big. Some unofficial tournaments were held in Japan after Nationals, using the BCR-ROS format. The most popular decks there were almost the same as at U.S. Nationals: Metal variants, Manectric variants, and Crobat variants. In addition, I feel Virizion/Genesect has seen a bit more play in Japan than in the U.S. Some play it with Seismitoad, and the others with Raichu. The deck has less trouble dealing with Seismitoad and Aegislash, so it seems like a good metagame call in a sense.

I believe, however, that Metal variants will be the most popular deck in the Worlds metagame. Straight Metal proved its power at U.S. Nationals, so Metal lists will have to shift to deal with the mirror match.  Here’s a Metal Rayquaza list. 

 

I like this type of Metal deck because Mega Rayquaza-EX is so powerful that it can easily OHKO opponents' Pokémon-EX including Megas such as Kyogre. When faced with straight Metal, just play Mega Rayquaza with three Metal Energy and blow away opponents’ Aegislash and Cobalion.  Altaria is a counter to Mega Manectric and Raichu decks, of course.  There’s not much else to say about this deck.  Foreign players are probably very familiar with it by now. 

Another possible way to play Metal is to tech it out with other types. 

 

Metal has been said to have trouble against Mega Manectric EX.  Well, Terrakion with Muscle Band is a great counter to Manectric, and Victini-EX deals with other Metal decks.  A few years ago, when Eelektrik was legal, some players tried to build Eelektrik variants with other types in order to deal with the mirror matches and some other difficult match-ups. We can do the same thing with a Bronzong deck, and I guess there should be some more possibilities in this type of deck.

If you try to build a deck specifically to counter Metal instead, you’ll soon see that your deck is weaker against some other decks in the meta. It’s hard to deal with every type of deck no matter how hard you try to get 50/50 matchups across the field.  However, there are still other strategies that have good Metal matchups without going overboard to counter that one matchup.

When I saw the Top 8 decks from U.S. Nationals, Kristy Britton’s Seismitoad/Manectric/Bats caught my eye. The Second Place deck from Japanese Nationals, which was also Toad/Bats, didn’t play Manectric, but I think Manectric is a great addition to this deck. Not only is it strong against Rayquaza-EX, but Manectric with two Lightning Energy is a big threat to Aegislash. Assault Laser with Muscle Band and LaserBank is the strongest move of this deck, and I think this deck must be focused on it.

Here’s a variation of Kristy’s deck for the Worlds metagame. 

 

Most of this deck is the same, but I’ve added another Lightning Energy and Muscle Band and I’ve replaced Silent Lab with a third Virbank City Gym to emphasize big Assault Laser plays.  Otherwise, the list is the same.  Kristy already had a very strong list that doesn’t need a lot of changes.


5.  Conclusion

Thank you for your reading and I hope you enjoyed this article. Now that foreign tournaments are going to be adopting Expanded as their format, I believe Japanese tournament results will attract more attention. I will be glad if my articles help you build new decks.  Thanks for reading this article.  See you next time! 


Written and translated by Yuki Fujimori (Ukinin), co-written by 60cards staff

[+20] okko


 

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