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Eye on Japan

Flashback: Japanese Nationals Report

Takuya Yoneda covers his Japanese Nationals experience, including his unique deck choice and coverage of his matches.

10/01/2015 by Eye on Japan

Foreword: This article was written prior to Worlds 2015 and thus, prior to the announcement of the Shiftry ban.

-60cards staff

1.  Introduction

Hello, my name is Takuya Yoneda.  This time I wrote a report about the Mega Rayquaza Mega Battle, which is the equivalent of a National Championship.  

First I would like to briefly explain about the Rayquaza Mega Battle in Japan.  Rayquaza Mega Battles were hosted in four districts of Japan (Nagoya, Tokyo, Hokkaido, and Osaka) within five days of each other.  The structure was that the Top 2 from each event (with the exception of Osaka, which was Top 4) was able to earn an invite to play in the National Championship, and in order to achieve there, you pretty much had to win ten games in a row.  Players were allowed to participate in the events in each district until they were able to earn their invite to play at Nationals.  Also, every player that earned their invite to Nationals also automatically earned their invite for Day 2 at the World Championship as well.  If you would like to know more details about the tournament, you can read another article on the subject right here.

I was able to get Second Place in the first day of the Tokyo event and thankfully I was able to earn my invite for Day 2 this year.  Also, some of my teammates from Team Achamo (Team Torchic) were able to earn their invite for Day 2 in Hokkaido and Osaka as well.  There were twelve players total playing in the National Championship and the winner would receive a trophy and the Top 4 players all earned a travel stipend for Worlds.

2.  Preparation

We had the districts tournament until the end of May, then Nationals was hosted at the end of June, so we pretty much had a month to prepare after all the district tournaments were done.  In my case, I was able to earn my invite earlier, so I had an additional three weeks to get prepared, but I end up mainly dedicating my time helping my teammates practice. Another reason was that a week before Nationals, Bandit Ring (Ancient Origins) was released as well.  So I figured there was no point in testing ahead of time since it was going to be a new format, so I decided to leave it until the set came out.  At a same time, Lysandre’s Trump Card was banned right after the district tournaments so everything we had done so far in terms of preparation became pretty much useless for us.  As the official Pokémon account started to release a new scan from the new set every day, I slowly begin to start to think what to play for Nationals.

From the cards that were revealed, I definitely spotted a game-changing card, the Grass-specific Broken Time-Space remake called Forest of Giant Plants.  Since Nationals was in the BLW-on format, there was a certain Shiftry in that format.  Since the previous evolutions for Shiftry are Grass-type you can evolve into Shiftry in one turn thanks to Forest of Giant Plants.  When you evolve into Shiftry from your hand, its Ability activates and you get to flip a coin, and if it’s heads, you get to choose one of your opponent’s Pokémon and return that Pokémon back into your opponent’s deck.  With repeated use of Item cards such as Devolution Spray and Super Scoop Up to increase the odds for you to flip for Shiftry’s Ability, it’s possible to shuffle away all of your opponent’s Pokémon and win in one turn. 

In addition to this, in Japan we have different setup rules that allow First Ticket to be used.  Normally in countries outside of Japan, you first determine who goes first before you set up.  However, in Japan, the flip is done after setting up.  Imagine it: you’re done setting up and you’re about to determine who is going first, but suddenly your opponent plays First Ticket shuffles away all your Pokémon in play.  It is very boring.  Some of you might be familiar with SableDonk or Emboar/Forretress from the MD-BLW format from 2011; those one-turn win formats are very boring (I was glad there were changes for Worlds in 2011 since those decks were spreading).  Just having a crappy deck like Shiftry in the format, it was difficult to come up with a deck to play, since I had a feeling that within twelve participating players, there were going to be some players using Shiftry, so I was determined to have a counter for it.

As counter for Shiftry, one of the options that was discussed the most was Wobbuffet, which can stop Abilities, since just by having Wobbuffet Active, Shiftry cannot use its Ability.  The second option was the new Ancient Trait Ө Stop.  However, there were very few Basic Pokémon with Ө Stop, such as Baltoy, Celebi, and Sableye.  Since I figured it would be difficult to make them the center of a deck, I had to come up with different attackers as well.  The third counterplan was to simply pray to god.  It was either pray that your opponent flips all tails or pray that your opponent doesn’t draw a First Ticket and you get to go first.  After this year’s World Championship, despite the fact that there isn’t First Ticket in countries outside of Japan, you probably will still see the Shiftry deck.  If so, consider any of the options I just listed above.

After thinking a lot between the release of Bandit Ring and the tournament, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to win the whole event, I had to counter Shiftry, and thus, I decided to run Wobbuffet and Ө Stop Pokémon.  However, I had a hard time until the last minute determining how many of each I should put into my deck. The decks I made for this tournament were Shiftry, Wobbuffet/Gengar, Durant, Giratina, Sceptile, Donphan, Rayquaza…and about ten other decks that I came up with.  My other two teammates decided to use Durant and Giratina, respectively.

The deck will be discussed in detail below, but to explain it briefly, I ran a Mega Rayquaza line in Wobbuffet/Gengar.  I figured it would be strong against the Donphan that was trending and I had a feeling there would be players using Yveltal as well, so I decided to use Rayquaza as an additional attacker.  But the main reason I ran it was because the tournament’s name was “Rayquaza Mega Battle”.  Since Rayquaza wasn’t able to win a single event in the district tournaments, I just felt like I had to use him.  Also, it went along well with the new Hoopa-EX, so I was able to fit him well without any issues.

The next deck I worked on was Durant, since the Lysandre’s Trump Card ban made it possible to mill through your opponent’s deck.  With Eco Arms, it became possible to reuse Life Dew.  Also, there is one card that it is only available in Japan called Gym Leader Medal.  This card allows you to look at one of your Prize cards if you want, exchange it with the top card of your deck.  This makes it possible to get Life Dew or Durant out of the Prizes.  Finally, to help counter Shiftry, we ran a Celebi in the deck.

As for Giratina, the idea was pretty much to use Reshiram for acceleration, and since there’s also synergy with the Dragon-type Mega Rayquaza, we decide to throw him into the deck as well.  I pretty much threw the Rayquaza into the deck with the same reason I did in my Wobbuffet/Gengar deck.  Giratina is one of the strong cards from the new set and it has a big advantage over cards like Seismitoad and Donphan.

3.  Deck Profile

The idea behind this deck was to consistently beat Shiftry without sacrificing matchups against the rest of the field.  To win the Shiftry matchup, the deck runs four Wobbuffet, which provide the deck with starter Pokémon that completely shut down Shiftry's Giant Fan Ability and thus, the deck's win condition.  Since the deck is committed to running the Wobbuffet, Gengar-EX is a natural inclusion, providing a hit-and-run gameplan that fully utilizes Wobbuffet's potential as both a wall and a lock strategy.  A number of decks rely heavily on Abilities, even if it's just Shaymin-EX's Set Up, so Wobbuffet pulls its weight in plenty of matchups aside from Shiftry.

Since the deck is running Gengar-EX, it runs Psychic Energy as well, giving the option to use Wobbuffet's Psychic Assault attack, which can be a great way to finish off Pokémon with some damage counters already on them.  It works nicely alongside Gengar-EX, since a Pokémon that was hit with Dark Corridor on the previous turn will have at least 80 damage on it after Poison, so Wobbuffet will deal at least 90 damage with its attack.  A Muscle Band or Virbank City Gym thrown into the mix will pretty much ensure a KO against anything after it's been softened up by Gengar.  The downside is that the attack requires two Energy attachments (unless the opponent has a Dimension Valley in play), but it's a solid use for Wobbuffet that goes beyond countering Shiftry.

In addition to the four Wobbuffet, the deck runs a single Sableye.  (Note: at the time of this writing, this Sableye is a promo available only in Japan.)  Sableye was primarily included because its Ө Stop Ancient Trait gave the deck an addition Basic that it could open with to counter Shiftry, but its Energy Hunt attack has a fringe use in the deck as well.  For one Psychic Energy, Energy Hunt allows the player to flip three coins and for each heads, attach a Basic Energy from the discard pile to a Benched Pokémon-EX.  Energy Hunt may not come up often, but it still makes Sableye a little more than dead weight in non-Shiftry matchups.

Of course, the big addition to the deck is the Mega Rayquaza line.  Mega Rayquaza gives the deck an OHKO option that Gengar just can't provide, as well as a solid answer to Yveltal decks.  The deck only runs a single Spirit Link, but with Hoopa-EX, it's very easy to just search out a Rayquaza-EX and a Mega and play them both down on the first turn thanks to Mega Rayquaza's Δ Evolution Ancient Trait.  Though making that play sacrifices attacking for the turn, Gengar decks don't attack on turn one anyway.  Later in the game, drawing into the Spirit Link will allow a second Mega to come down more quickly.  In addition, there's a lone Mega Turbo in the deck.  As with the lone Spirit Link, this deck accepts that Mega Rayquaza will come out a little more slowly than in a dedicated Mega Rayquaza build, but there's still one Mega Turbo so a second Mega Rayquaza can attack out of nowhere in midgame.

The Stadium count here is a bit unconventional.  There is just one copy each of Virbank City Gym and Sky Field.  Both Stadiums serve multiple purposes in the deck.  Obviously Sky Field allows Mega Rayquaza to hit its maximum damage output with Emerald Break, but it also allows for faster setups, as Hoopa and multiple Shaymin can be played down without losing out on Bench space for Wobbuffet attackers.  On the other hand, Virbank City Gym increases the Poison damage from Gengar's Dark Corridor.  Since not having Sky Field in play caps Mega Rayquaza's damage output at 150, however, there are also a couple copies of Hypnotoxic Laser in the deck to help hit the magic 180 so Mega Rayquaza can OHKO any non-Mega.  (Given the general lack of Megas at this tournament, clearly hitting for 240 wasn't a concern.)  Of course, Dowsing Machine can reuse either Stadium if need be.

There are a few other noteworthy techs.  The list runs just one Muscle Band to help hit for more significant numbers in a tight spot, but it's not a make-or-break card for the deck since Gengar is committed to two-shotting the opponent regardless and Mega Rayquaza has other avenues for reaching a one-hit KO.  On the other hand, since both Gengar and Mega Rayquaza have unfortunate Weaknesses, the lone Weakness Policy can come in handy if it shows up at the right time.  It's reasonable to get either of these tech Pokémon Tools onto a Mega Rayquaza since the deck pretty much just commits to putting at least one Mega Rayquaza into play without a Spirit Link every time.  Finally, two Enhanced Hammers are just useful against almost every deck in the format, including Giratina, Donphan, and Yveltal decks.

Overall, the list is versatile and serves as a very effective answer to the Japanese metagame.

4.  Battle Report

Here’s how things went down at the tournament.  As I wrote it above, I used Wobbuffet/Gengar/Rayquaza.

These are the decks that were in attendance.
4 Donphan
2 Shiftry
1 Mega Manectric
1 Seismitoad/Crobat
1 Yveltal
1 Durant
1 Giratina
1 Wobbuffet/Gengar/Rayquaza 

The meta was pretty much as I predicted to be except I didn’t expect to see a Mega Manectric.  My teammates’ decks were good against Donphan, which was the most played deck there, and everyone had a counter for Shiftry, so it seemed difficult for those players to make the cut. The structure was four rounds of Swiss and a Top 4.  There are a bunch of things I want to write about this structure, but I’m not going to write about it this time.

Round 1 versus Donphan/Celebi/Wobbuffet: Win

My Round 1 opponent was the same opponent I lost to in Day 1 of the Tokyo event.  I was assuming that my opponent was using Yveltal after the Tokyo tournament, but it was Donphan instead, so I Benched Gengar using Wobbuffet as a wall and used Mega Rayquaza in the end to win the game.  During the game, Celebi went back into the deck, but due to the favorable matchup, I was able to win anyway.  By the way, I didn’t start with Wobbuffet this round so if I had faced a Shiftry, I probably would have lost the game. 

Round 2 versus Durant: Win

My next opponent was my teammate Junichi.  It was really unfortunate to face him now since there was now less of a chance for one of us to win the event. The way to play against Durant hasn’t changed, so I was able to win the game before I decked out.  Once again I did not start with Wobbuffet, so I would’ve lost against Shiftry this round as well.

Round 3 versus Donphan/Jolteon: Lose

I started going second.  My hand was Mega Rayquaza, Laser, Virbank, Rayquaza, Double Colorless Energy, VS Seeker, and Professor Juniper with a Rayquaza start.  Since once again it wasn’t a Wobbuffet start, I would’ve lost to Shiftry again.  My opponent started with Phanpy and used Korrina to search another Phanpy and Level Ball to search for an Eevee and Benched them both.  I was able draw Ultra Ball, which is what I wanted, so I discarded Mega Rayquaza and Juniper to search for Hoopa. However, since it wasn’t in the deck, I decided to change plans and searched for Gengar and attached Double Colorless Energy to it.  I decided to play Virbank and Laser then Juniper to start setting up my field; however, the cards I drew were Psychic, Psychic, Mystery, Double Colorless, Enhanced Hammer, Lysandre, and Float Stone.  I could retreat Rayquaza and try to attack with Gengar, but I figured I shouldn’t attack since it required me to Lysandre twice and considering my hand size and the odds for Rayquaza to be Knocked Out, I figured the odds would be slim so I just Enhanced Hammer the Strong Energy on the Bench and  decided to pass. 

The following turn, my opponent attached Strong Energy and Evolved into Donphan then played Professor Juniper and used Computer Search and played Muscle Band, Jolteon, and Fighting Stadium and Knocked Out my Rayquaza.  I knew there was a chance for this to happen, but I figured the odds for him to draw everything he needed were low, so all I can say is that my opponent was very lucky.  Including the Prize cards he had taken, his hand size was three cards.  The card I drew was Ultra Ball.  I thought about using Ultra Ball to search for Shaymin, but I knew my opponent discarded Lysandre with Computer Search and my opponent hadn’t played any VS Seekers, so if my opponent used Lysandre to Knock Out Shaymin, there wouldn’t be any way I for me to make a comeback, so I was in a spot where I couldn’t play Shaymin.  So I decided to just Dark Corridor with no Bench, leaving Donphan with 30 HP remaining so I could take it out anytime. 

My opponent’s following turn, he played a Juniper discarding two more Juniper, so my opponent had no more Junipers left.  Then he attacked Gengar with Donphan.  Since I had no choice anymore, I played some cards from my hand and used Set up and drew a new Gengar and Wobbuffet; then I was able to N my opponent.  Since there was a Robo Sub up front, I used the new Gengar to knock out the Donphan on the Bench.  My opponent did another hit-and-run and for some reason put Jolteon active, so I played Virbank and put Wobbuffet Active.  The following turn, my opponent used Lysandre to Knock Out Shaymin with Hawlucha, so I kept attacking with Gengar and promoted Wobbuffet while I kept using N to put my opponent to two cards, and I was able to take three Prizes with this strategy. 

My opponent kept hitting Wobbuffet and running, but I Knocked Out my opponent’s Eevee then promoted Wobbuffet.  By doing this, I was able to tie in Prizes with my opponent. My opponent played Colress to regain his hand, so I was forced to N my opponent again, hoping he didn’t get VS Seeker to Lysandre.  Then my Wobbuffet got Knocked Out and while I was cautious about Wreck throughout the game, I ended up without a Pokémon that could survive it and I lost on the following turn.

The fact that my Rayquaza was Knocked Out on turn two, the fact that I didn’t draw any Pokémon from Juniper, and the fact that I couldn’t get the Rayquaza Spirit Link from my Prizes were all instances of my bad luck which it led to my loss in the end.

Round 4 versus Yveltal: Lose

If I win this game, I’ll be able to make it into the top cut.  However, I find myself against my bad matchup, Yveltal.  If I start off with Wobbuffet and manage to build up my Rayquaza, I’ll be able to win, but my opening hand was Gengar, Gengar, Shaymin, Lysandre, Enhanced Hammer, DCE, and VS Seeker.  I don’t know why I have to start with Gengar, and on top of that, I don’t have any good Supporters, and I wondered where all my Wobbuffet went.  I do not know why I played them if I’m not starting with them in any of my four matches.  My top deck was Mega Rayquaza, and since my opponent is playing Yveltal, there’s a chance that he can KO me in the first turn and my hand was weak, so I was forced to play down my other Gengar and then Set Up, but I wasn’t able to draw a Supporter, so I put Shaymin Active, and Benched the Rayquaza I drew, Mega Evolved, and ended my turn. 

My opponent used cards like Battle Compressor and Trainers’ Mail, but he wasn’t able to Knock Out my Shaymin, so I Muscle Banded it and used Sky Return and promoted Gengar to the front, which my opponent Knocked Out the following turn.  After that, from using Set Up again, I was able to fight back with Rayquaza but it got Knocked Out with Yveltal.  Then I played N, hoping my opponent would dead draw, but from the three cards, he had VS Seeker and Knocked Out the Gengar I was forced to put down and I lost the game.

I end up 2-2 in the end.  Since I didn’t take enough Prizes in the match I lost, I end up in 6th Place in the standings and was not able to make it into the top cut.  The decks that made the top cut were Seismitoad/Crobat, Donphan, Donphan, and Yveltal.

5.  Conclusion

The biggest reason for my loses were the fact that I didn’t start off with Wobbuffet.  To tell you the truth, I was playtesting with the deck since the morning, but I only started with Wobbuffet once out of twelve games total that day, so it was really an unfortunate day for me.  Since it was really bad from the morning, maybe I should’ve switched to another deck.  Another unfortunate thing was that I faced my teammate in Round 2.  I thought it was something I couldn’t do anything about, but deck distribution-wise, I thought it was a waste of a match, not to mention that later on, the remaining matches were teammates versus teammates, which it made things worse.  In addition, the Shiftry player lost in Round 1 also.  As a result, the decks that did not counter Shiftry were able to make it into the cut.  One thing I want to say is that I still do not know why Donphan is strong, so I was unable to figure out why there was so many Donphans there. In the end, it was just a metagame that I couldn't comprehend.

I do not know if this article will be up before or after Worlds.  Lysandre's Trump Card was banned this year right before Worlds and with so many more decks emerging than I thought, it’s becoming a fun format.  At U.S. Nationals, a new deck like Wailord got Second and it was a very fun result.  I’m excited to see so many different decks at Worlds, and happy to be able to play at Worlds again this year and I’m very excited to see many of my friends as well.

I hope that Shiftry gets banned after Trump Card.

Takuya Yoneda
Translated by Franco Takahashi
Edited and cowritten by 60cards staff

[+11] okko


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