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Michael  Long

"ALL EYES ON LONDON": A CLOSER LOOK AT TWO STRONG PLAYS FOR INTERNATIONALS

Michael analyzes Greninja and Gardevoir/Sylveon, two of his top picks heading into the new format and the London international championships.

14. 11. 2017 by Michael Long

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Hello 60 Card readers, my name is Michael Long, and I’m excited to talk to you about my top two picks going into the London international championships! This is the second year that Pokémon has introduced internationals, and thanks to the travel stipends that they have awarded me (ranked top 4 in North America last season receives a paid trip to London); I am going to be able to attend this tournament for the second year in a row! The last time I competed in England, I was still in the senior division, and I managed to finish in the top 4.

Since then, I have aged up into the masters division, and it is quite a jump, to say the least. With more competitors and more money on the line, it is crucial to perform well at these high level events. London will be the first international championships of the 2017-2018 season, and as well, this will be the first major tournament where the expansions Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion will be legal for play. With the addition of over 150 new cards, this brings opportunity for new archetypes to spark in our current metagame, but also aids many of the current top tier decks. In this article, I will be focusing exclusively on Gardevoir/Sylveon and Greninja, how they perform against the rest of the field, and some possible inclusions they can gain from the new sets. This is my first time writing for an online site, so I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I did making it!

Compared to the recently released Sun and Moon expansions, Crimson Invasion looks to be a very underwhelming set, with only a small handful of cards that I believe will make an impact on London’s metagame. Two of the biggest cards that stand out to me as something that may be played in mass is Zoroark-GX and Buzzwole-GX, both which have been surrounded by a lot of hype. For more info on these cards, feel free to check out Jacob Lesage’s article on Buzzwole-GX or Zachary Lesage’s take on Zoroark-GX. Going into London, there is one deck that I feel is unhindered by the introduction of these two new sets. It has trumped all of my deck choices in the past, and it still remains one of my top picks. The new set has not created any new noticeable threats for it, but rather given it some spicy techs that I believe are worth testing. Ah, the Bubble Trouble itself.

Greninja

Coming off of many strong finishes, including most recently a top 8 finish in Vancouver and a 2nd place finish in Hartford regionals, I have been rigorously testing Greninja since the North American internationals back in July, where I managed to win the whole tournament with the deck. I am currently favoring Greninja as my top pick going into London, as I am extremely comfortable with the ins and outs of both the deck and its matchups.

It is suspected that this tournament will require a record of at least 21 points (which can be achieved at minimum with a 7-2-0 or 6-0-3 finish), to guarantee yourself a place in the top 32, where those players will advance onto the second day of tournament play. However, Greninja has notoriously been known to “brick” and crash on their pilots; this can be extremely frightening as it can often seem that with a few bad draws, you can be put out of contention for day 2. An example can be seen at Vancouver regionals: I faced and beat 9 different Gardevoir players in the swiss rounds, dropping only 1 game in the 19 games played. Once I reached the top 8, I noticed that I was once again facing a Gardevoir player, one that I had already bested in the swiss rounds. In less than 15 minutes, I was packing up my cards and heading to the front table so I could get my prizes for top 8 - I was not able to attack with Greninja more than once. The constant fear of an opening game starting a lone Froakie and getting donked is enough to drive many players away from this deck. However, when the deck is able to successfully set up their board state, almost no deck is able to keep up with Greninja’s power. Despite some of the hate on my frogs, I feel that the consistency in the list I have been testing is maximized to its fullest, and I am very confident that this deck will perform well in London. Below is the Greninja list that I believe to still be very strong, even without any cards from Shining Legends and Crimson Invasion:

This list is very close to what I have played at Hartford and Vancouver regionals, with no inclusions from the new set. I have been constantly messing around with the number of Field Blower, Choice Band, Enhanced Hammer and Espeon-EX, which I strongly believe are the only cards currently that are not considered “staples” in a Greninja list. Let us start by taking a look at why these card spots can be debatable and changeable:   

Field Blower:

I am running three copies of Field Blower in my most current list, but I would not be surprised if I cut it down to two copies once again. The main threat that Field Blower is able to negate is Garbodor’s Garbotoxin ability, which shuts down all other abilities if it has a tool attached. This is obviously a problem for Greninja, which relies on Greninja’s BREAK’s Giant Water Shuriken ability to quickly spread damage, and slowly turn the prize trade back in their favor after sacrificing several turns for set up. Drampa and Golisopod Garbodor are the two most prominent decks playing the Garbotoxin Garbodor, and many have begun to experiment Buzzwole-GX paired with Garbodor as well. I believe these Garbodor variants will have a decent showing at London. Running the third copy of Field Blower increases the number of times you are able to counter their tool on Garbodor, as well as make up for any slips early game, such as being forced to discard one off an Ultra Ball or Professor Sycamore. Besides Garbodor, Field Blower is also notably helpful against stadiums such as Parallel City and Po Town, as well as discarding other tools in general. However, I would not play more than one copy of Field Blower if Garbodor was not a relevant card.

Choice Band:

Who doesn’t like extra damage? Adding an extra 30 on Pokémon GX and EX is crucial for taking faster knockouts, but the difference between the second and third copy is barely noticeable in most games. The third copy usually ends up being cut for a different tech card, because although it technically improves almost every matchup, its significance is usually much less than a second copy of Enhanced Hammer or a third copy of Field Blower. At Vancouver, I ran three copies of Choice Band and only two Field Blower, because I predicted that Garbodor would not be played very widely, whereas the third Choice Band would help shift close games against Volcanion, Gardevoir, Vikavolt Tapu Bulu, and other GX/EX focused decks in general. Zoroark-GX and Buzzwole-GX are two new targets for choice band, so depending on how you predict the metagame might show, the third copy could very well be an inclusion.

Enhanced Hammer:

Other than Volcanion and Vikavolt Bulu, the rest of the top tier decks play special energies, whether it is Gardevoir with Double Colorless, Garbodor with Rainbow Energies or Greninja itself with Splash Energies. Enhanced Hammer is obviously here to slow down our opponent; discarding a Double Colorless off of a Drampa or Gardevoir can be the difference between a living and dead frog. Through testing, I have found that Enhanced Hammer is actually a lot more effective than Jirachi Promo; you do not have to sacrifice your attack for the turn by using Stardust, and it does not become a possible liability in the active position. As well, Enhanced Hammer is able to hit targets on the bench, so it is usable in more situations. Also, running Jirachi while running only 6 Water Energies means that it is even harder to use effectively. I would always run at least one copy of Enhanced Hammer, but the second copy can be super clutch and has won me many games as well.

Espeon-EX:

                               

This is one of the most controversial inclusions for me, and it is still a card I constantly want to cut, but I stop myself every time. Miraculous shrine is an amazing attack that can completely demolish those big, 200+ hit point GX Pokémon, by reducing them to their previous evolution, which usually has 60-80 hit points. This is obviously good against Gardevoir-GX, Golisopod-GX, Zoroark-GX, Ninetales-GX, and many other evolved Pokémon, but I often find it to be unnecessary and sometimes even a liability for two main reasons:

           1) Greninja itself can handle most of these evolution Pokemon pretty easily

           2) Starting with Espeon-EX becomes a liability both early game (you have to retreat it - if you miss an energy attachment, your water duplicates is delayed by a turn) and late game (Guzma can be played to take a knockout on an Espeon-EX and reward your opponent with an easy two prizes).

However, the reason that I have still kept Espeon-EX is because of Giratina Promo. If it makes an appearance in these evolution decks, specifically Gardevoir, Espeon-EX helps to swing that matchup in Greninja’s favor - without it, however, it is insanely hard to knock out three Gardevoir-GX that are able to one shot you pretty quickly, as well as possibly heal themselves.


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