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The U.S. Nationals Top 16 (Masters)

A look at the Top 16 decks in the Masters division of the 2015 U.S. National Championship.

07/08/2015 by Pikachu's Hideout

Going into this weekend, a lot of players weren't quite sure what "the play" was for the U.S. National Championship.  Canada's results placed the spotlight and Crobat and Bronzong and many players were testing heavily with and against those two cards.  Still, history has shown that U.S. Nationals can be unpredictable and surprise decks can take the whole event by storm.  Well, after a long weekend, the results are in and now, 60cards is thrilled to present you with the Top 16 decks in the Masters division, with a focus on which card choices in particular helped to push these incredible players over the top.

Looking for the results from the Juniors or Seniors divisions?  You can find those right here!



Top 16

16.  Kolton Day

Kolton Day made Top 16 with a straightforward Seismitoad/Crobat deck.  With Lasers and Bats, Kolton wore down his opponents' Pokémon with Quaking Punch, using Super Scoop Ups to heal his Toads and reset his Bats.  Mewtwo served as a solid backup attacker for potentially threatening Pokémon like Primal Groudon while the pair of Silent Lab added to Kolton's disruption package and gave him a convenient answer to Safeguard and Aegislash-EX.

 

15.  Steve Guthrie

Steve Guthrie has been playing his Blastoise deck for months now, and he managed to take it all the way to Top 16.  Using a ton of Item draw and Battle Compressors, Steve's deck aims to get a Blastoise in play on turn one with Archie's Ace in the Hole so he can begin spitting a ton of Energy into play.  With Mega Pokémon becoming so prevalent, Black Kyurem-EX is no longer the powerhouse it used to be, so Steve instead opted for the classic Keldeo-EX as his main attacker.  With eleven Water Energy in the deck, Secret Sword has a damage cap of 270, enough to take down even the biggest Pokémon-EX.

With two Exeggcute, Steve has the option to play Ultra Ball and Superior Energy Retrieval effectively for free, which carries the additional benefit of helping him manipulate his hand size to activate Archie.  A pair of Float Stones help prevent a Blastoise from being locked Active when Ability lock is a factor and one can always be attached to a Keldeo to help stream back-to-back Blizzard Burns with his tech Kyurem.  A Town Map helps Steve access a potential Prized N or Lysandre – tech Supporters that he'd be hard-pressed to finish games without.

 

14.  Michael Lesky

U.S. Nationals proved to be a metagame in which a lot of the big decks had trouble dealing with the 240 HP and consistent 150 damage-output of Primal Kyogre-EX.  Mike Lesky capitalized on that opening with his huge Water attackers.  Rough Seas serve to keep Kyogre healthy while Hard Charms make Kyogre even bulkier.  The Hard Charms don't conflict with the Spirit Links as much as they might appear to.  Since the deck doesn't attack until turn three anyway, Mike has the opportunity to attach a Charm and Mega Evolve on turn two without passing up the turn-three Tidal Storm.

Kyurem and Suicune are the tech non-EX attackers.  Kyurem's Frost Spear is great for softening up Benched threats and its Blizzard Burn OHKOs virtually all non-EX Pokémon.  Suicune, meanwhile, walls fast EX attackers like Mega Rayquaza, forcing the opponent to build a response and allowing Primal Kyogre a chance to strike.  Since Tidal Storm deals 30 damage to all Benched Pokémon-EX, Absol fits into the deck quite nicely as well, giving Mike the chance to repurpose three of those damage counters to set up a perfect KO.  It's a clever tech in a clever deck.

 

13.  Jake Jensen

Jake Jensen wasn't the only Seismitoad/Garbodor player to make Top 16 (more on that later).  He opted for a speedier build of the deck, with Shaymin-EX and Trainers' Mail helping him dig deeper early in the game, and though he ran a relatively thin line of Supporters, he managed to fit in a bunch of Hammers, Lasers, and Scoops, all of which helped him flip a lot of coins and steal a lot of wins in the process.

 

12.  Stefan Tabaco

Stefan Tabaco opted for a more defensive build of Primal Groudon for his Nationals run.  Hiding behind Wobbuffet and Robo Substitutes, Stefan was able to build up his big Primal Groudon while denying opponents their setups and Prizes, respectively.  Along with a Focus Sash, Stefan ran a couple of Hard Charms to protect his Groudon.  The two cards serve a similar purpose – preventing the OHKO on Groudon – but Hard Charm has the benefit of almost completely neutralizing low-damage attacks like Quaking Punch, Frost Spear, and Hammerhead.  Stefan's lack of Spirit Links in the list is inconsequential as Groudon is typically even slower to set up than Kyogre and many early-game turns for Stefan inevitably end in a pass.

In addition to the conventional picks of Silent Lab and Fighting Stadium, Stefen included a Shrine of Memories.  This gave Stefan access to Groudon's attacks, great for taking out non-EX Pokémon without having to discard a Stadium in the process.  Though Stefan only ran four Stadiums – low for Primal Groudon, Stefan did opt to run a Bunnelby, whose Burrow attack allows him to return any discarded card to his deck.  A well-timed Burrow can often refill the deck with exacty the right resources needed to finish off a game.  As an added bonus, Bunnelby proved to be the perfect counter to the big surprise deck of the event.

 

11.  Dustin Zimmerman

Several Metal variants ultimately made Top 16 in Masters.  Dustin Zimmerman's version is the most straightforward.  With Metal Links to quickly power up his Pokémon, Dustin used Seismitoad-EX and Kecleon to back up Metal mainstays like Dialga-EX, Aegislash-EX, and Heatran.  A pair of Steel Shelters help to negate Special Conditions while bumping opposing Stadiums, making them valuable additions in a Stadium war format.

 

10.  Omar Reyhan

Omar Reyhan's Tenth Place Primal Kyogre deck is virtually identical to Mike Lesky's build.  Among the many cards shared between their lists, Omar's Double Colorless Energy was useful to have around, enabling him to attack a little more quickly with Keldeo-EX and Suicune.  Given that Suicune can't receive Energy from Primal Kyogre's Tidal Storm (due to Safeguard), DCE lets Suicune attack a turn earlier than usual, and that one-turn difference can often decide games.

 

 

9.  Brandon Zettel

Though he ended up just missing cut, Brandon Zettel is the creator of the deck that broke the Nationals metagame and took the event by storm.  This same list ended up taking Second Place, so it will be discussed in more detail a little later in the article.

 

8.  Geoffrey Sauk

Ten years after his Third Place finish in 2005, then in the Juniors division, Geoffrey Sauk is back in the Top 8 at U.S. Nationals.  Metal Rayquaza was one of the more popular archetypes of the event, so it's little surprise that a great player was able to take the deck so far.  Unlike some variants, this deck was more Metal than Rayquaza, running a thicker Bronzong line, more Metal Energy, and a handful of strong Metal attackers, most notably, the disruptive wall Aegislash.

As a result, the core of this deck is a solid, standard Metal build.  The classic Keldeo/Float Stone combo gives the deck mobility and the power to Rush In, dump a couple Energy onto the previous Active Pokémon via Metal Links, and then Retreat for free so it can immediately attack.  The deck foregoes the Dialga-EX that is standard to many Metal builds because Mega Rayquaza-EX has all the OHKO power the deck could ever need, and just like any good Mega Rayquaza deck, this deck runs four Skyfield, a heavy line of Shaymin-EX, and a Sacred Ash to make sure Geoff can load up the Bench even late into the game.  Pokémon Fan Club doesn't see a lot of play, but it makes perfect sense in this deck.  This deck is often trying to fill up the Bench, so it's a live card late into the game while also serving as a strong turn-one Supporter in a deck that wants to set up multiple Evolutions.

The interplay between Mega Rayquaza and Aegislash is the deck's main strength.  Mega Rayquaza has enough raw power to overwhelm most of the metagame, but it trades poorly with powerful non-EX Pokémon like Raichu and Joltik (both of which also hit for Weakness).  However, those Pokémon are very reliant on Double Colorless Energy, making Aegislash a perfect counter.  Unfortunately, Geoff met a nightmare of a matchup in Grant Manley's Mega Manectric/Garbodor deck, ending his run, but congratulations to him on making it so far!

 

7.  Kristy Britton

Kristy has been on an absolute tear this season and now she gets to add an incredible Top 8 finish to her already impressive résumé with her Seismitoad/Crobat deck.  This has been a successful strategy for much of this season and Kristy chose to augment her Toad strategy with a couple of Manectric-EX.  Manectric stands as an excellent addition, giving her a strong and efficient backup attacker.  Assault Laser is one of the more underrated attacks in the game right now.  Given a Tool on the Defending Pokémon, it hits for a base of 120 damage, and with the addition of Hypnotoxic Laser, Virbank City Gym, and Bat Abilities, the damage skyrockets, enabling OHKOs on virtually all Pokémon-EX.  Not only is it an explosive attacker to close out games, but it also serves as an effective answer to popular Pokémon like Aegislash-EX and Mega Rayquaza.

Of course, Head Ringer was a perfect addition to Kristy's deck, complementing both her Seismitoad and Manectric gameplans.  An easy way to play around Assault Laser's heavy damage output is by opting not to attach a Pokémon Tool card and Head Ringer punishes opponents who choose to make that play.  Another great tech is her lone Silent Lab.  In the opening turns, it serves to slow down Shaymin-based setups and in the late game, it can potentially lock an opponent out of a win alongside an N.  Of course, it also serves as a soft counter to both Mighty Shield and Safeguard.

The standout card in this deck is undoubtedly Rock Guard, though.  In a deck all about manipulating damage counters, a Rock Guard on a Seismitoad is incredibly powerful.  One attack into it is equivalent to two Quaking Punches or Surprise Bites.  Removable only with a Xerosic, it essentially guarantees a free 60 damage on one of the opponent's Pokémon, and a good Super Scoop Up flip or two ensures that it sticks around even longer to wear down the opponent.  It's a huge momentum-shifter in Toad mirrors, a deadly card against almost every opponent, and almost certainly played a big part in Kristy's finish.

 

6.  Eduardo Gonzalez

Perhaps Eduardo Gonzalez was inspired by last year's U.S. Nationals, because his clever Hippowdon deck is very reminiscent of the Pyroar deck that made waves in 2014.  The idea is simple.  Pokémon-EX are still the heavy hitters of the format.  Hippowdon's Resistance Desert gives it complete immunity to Pokémon-EX, so wall until you wear them down.  This strategy took Eduardo all the way to Top 8, where he ran into the one deck that walls even harder.

Since Hippowdon is protected only from Pokémon-EX, it's vulnerable to non-EX attackers, so Eduardo ran two copies each of Landorus-EX and Seismitoad-EX, arguably the two best Pokémon against non-EX decks.  Landorus puts on heavy early pressure, taking quick KOs on tiny Pikachu, Joltik, and Zubat while Seismitoad locks the opponent out of Items, delaying their setup and facilitating cheap wins.  Seismitoad is also a great attacker against opposing Seismitoad decks since it shuts down many of the disruptive cards like Enhanced Hammers and Lasers that could give Hippowdon trouble.  Eduardo's two copies each of Hard Charm and Xerosic along with his Pokémon Center Lady give him surprising durability in Toad wars, grinding the opponent down long enough for him to set up a couple Hippowdon as a win condition.  (Of course, those cards also help keep a Hippowdon healthy, too!)

This deck takes full advantage of Fighting support and with the help of Hypnotoxic Laser, Resistance Desert does quite a bit of damage while it walls.  Of course, with all the Special Energy, the deck is vulnerable to Aegislash, so the deck includes a couple countermeasures.  Virbank City Gym is one, allowing Lasers to wear away Aegislash's Mighty Shield with some passive damage, but Silent Lab is the real killer, shutting off the Ability entirely so Hippowdon can hit Aegislash for real.  The deck runs two copies, so Hippowdon can usually take out at least one Aegislash.  Given the deck's early pressure that's sometimes enough.

A handful of people were talking about Hippowdon's potential upon its release, but nothing much came of that.  Eduardo Gonzalez was the only person able to capitalize on the card's untapped potential and that insight carried him to a much-deserved Top 8.

 

5.  Dylan Bryan

If there's one thing Dylan Bryan is known for, it's his innovation.  He's got a gift for taking obscure or forgotten cards and taking them to incredible levels of success.  In the Fall, he took Donphan from a bulk uncommon to the centerpiece of one of the top decks of the whole season.  This time he revived another old friend from Plasma Storm, Klinklang!

Dylan is no stranger to Klinklang decks; he also brought Klinklang to the Top 8 at U.S. Nationals 2013.  This year, he chose to partner the card with Bronzong, allowing him to build up powerful Metal Pokémon and then completely protect them from damage done by Pokémon-EX.  This deck ran a very focused core of attackers – two Heatran and three Aegislash.  Aegislash was a recurring theme in the Top 8: after Metal won Canadian Nationals, players were either making a pointed effort to counter it or just running it themselves.  Klinklang takes Aegislash to the next level, giving it even more protection atop Mighty Shield and limited the set of Pokémon capable of damaging it to just non-EX Pokémon using only Basic Energy.  Decks unable to consistently meet those requirements and get through Dylan's army of Aegislash found themselves getting carved up by Slash Blast after Slash Blast.

Attention needs to be given to Dylan's engine because there are a lot of subtle innovations here.  First off, Dylan ran a full set of Ultra Ball, two Repeat Ball, and Computer Search.  The ability to quickly fill his Bench with Basics is important given that his deck focuses on setting up multiple Stage 1 Pokémon and a big Stage 2.  Second, Dylan ran two Shaymin and a Jirachi.  The Shaymin, of course, allow him to dig deeper early in the game to get those Bronzor and Klink out.  And Jirachi, apart from being a consistently solid support Pokémon, enables one interesting play.  Note that Dylan's list runs a single Rare Candy alongside teammates.  With Teammates, Dylan can respond to a KO by grabbing any two cards he needs his deck, and if it's early enough in the game, those two cards very well might be Rare Candy and Klinklang.  Given that decks might try to target down Klink quickly to avoid Plasma Steel coming into play, this combo allows Dylan to Bench two Klink, baiting the opponent with the first, only to immediately evolve the second.  Of course, Jirachi serves to grab Teammates.

The two Sky Field are also interesting and serve two apparent purposes.  For one, the deck needs to get multiple Pokémon into play early, so an early Sky Field allows Dylan to Bench multiple Klink and Bronzor while keeping Bench space to use Set Up as well.  In addition, late in the game, Dylan has access to a play wherein he cycles between his attackers.  For matchups running a different Stadium, this puts opponents in the position where bumping Sky Field allows Dylan to discard multiple easy targets from the Bench to deny Prizes.  In a deck that's hard enough to damage as it is, such a play could be a huge swing in the tempo of the game.

Going into U.S. Nationals, Dylan Bryan was already ranked in the Top 3 in North America.  This finish firmly cements his seat for Day 2 of Worlds.  No doubt he'll have yet another innovation to show off in August.

 

4.  Ben Moskow

Of the Metal players at Nationals, Ben Moskow was the most successful and his list was the most straightforward.  Looking very much like a list from City Championships of this season, Ben's list is focused heavily on consistency and exploiting the power of Bronzong's Metal Links.  The core of the deck is similar to the other two Metal decks in Top 8, so attention should be given to some of the techs.

A staple to Metal decks, Heatran is a bulky non-EX attacker, capable of scoring an OHKO on almost all non-EX Pokémon and two-shotting all Pokémon-EX.  With its 130 HP, it might even stick around to fire off both of those attacks.  Kecleon is great against attackers like Raichu and Mega Rayquaza, copying their attacks with Imittack for a quick OHKO, and just running it gives the deck a versatile attacker that can potentially bail it out against otherwise-tricky matchups.  With Metal Links and DCE, it's easy to power up, too.  Dialga, absent from the other Top 8 Metal lists, serves as the deck's heavy hitter.  With a Muscle Band, Full Metal Impact hits for 170, enough to OHKO a good number of popular Pokémon-EX and finishing off any that might've been softened up a bit first.

On the subject of softening up Pokémon-EX, Seismitoad-EX is a major player in this deck.  60cards' own Chris Fulop has been a big proponent of this card in Metal for months now and clearly Ben Moskow would agree.  Those who watched his Top 4 match on stream against Jason Klaczynski saw Seismitoad put in work, shutting off Jason's disruptive Items and denying his own Quaking Punch by several turns.  This allowed Ben to set up an unbreakable board relatively unimpeded.  This strategy is generally powerful for Bronzong, which wins a lot of games if it survives into the late game and as mentioned, Seismitoad is a great way to soften up big Pokémon like Mega Rayquaza so Dialga-EX can move in for the KO!

 

3.  Grant Manley

Grant's deck was a perfect meta call, capitalizing on a quick, consistent damage output, a reliance only on Basic Energy, and Garbodor to shut down the many Ability-based decks (such as Metal and Crobat variants) that were expected going into the event.  Mega Manectric exploits its high HP and its ability to spit Energy into play, cycling between attackers and healing with Rough Seas and Max Potion to deny KOs.  Of the decks capable of hitting 210 damage in one turn, none liked being slammed with a consistent 110 by a Lightning-type attacker.  Combined with Garbodor, Mega Manectric can wear down virtually any opponent.

Only running a handful of draw Supporters, Grant opted for a whole pile of Item-draw cards instead, recognizing that Mega Manectric has an inherent edge on Item-lock decks anyway.  He also ran Empoleon alongside Archie's Ace in the Hole.  Though this seems counterintuitive alongside Garbodor, Empoleon fits nicely into the deck.  A quick Empoleon gets him an even quicker setup, allowing him to dump Energy for Manectric to get back later, and it can even help him to get Garbodor set up.  Without access to Diving Draw, Empoleon is still an inexpensive and bulky attacker, trading evenly with non-EX Pokémon, putting plenty of damage onto Pokémon-EX, and healing itself with Rough Seas if it survives a hit.  Empoleon is also a respectable counter to Landorus-EX, giving the deck an out to an otherwise-disastrous matchup.  Of course, for matchups where Grant doesn't need Garbodor, Empoleon is a major player, giving him two free cards every turn he can afford a discard.

Over the last year, Grant has built up an impressive reputation for succeeding with underrated decks.  After his Third Place finish at Worlds 2014 in with his clever Big Basics deck in the Seniors, he went on to become a breakout star in Masters, tearing up Cities with Genesect/Crobat and Seismitoad/Crawdaunt.  His performance at Nationals is just one more triumph of the many more to come.

 

2.  Enrique Avila

Without a doubt, this is the deck that defined the whole weekend.  Worked on in secret by a group of Wisconsin players, Wailord perfectly exploited the weaknesses of the post-Trump Card metagame, making a huge splash at Nationals and taking several players into Day 2 – all without declaring a single attack all weekend.

Decks are still rather fast in the wake of Trump Card's ban, with the general consensus among players being to burn through the deck enough to get a quick setup, at which point pace of play could become a bit more conservative.  Without Lysandre's Trump Card, decks were once again at risk of decking out, but generally matches ended quickly enough that it wasn't a true concern.  In fact, in his recent article, João Lopes encouraged players to play Shaymin and draw Items "with no fear" since decking out was still the remotest threat.

In came Wailord to capitalize.  With its huge 250 HP, virtually nothing in the format is capable of getting a one-hit KO, especially when it has one of the deck's four Hard Charms attached.  Well, if you're not taking out a Wailord in one hit, you're going to have a bad time.  The deck runs four each of Max Potion, AZ, and Cassius, along with four VS Seeker, wiping out attack after attack as Wailord sits in the Active and laughs.  Along with its absurd healing potential, the deck runs Enhanced Hammers, Team Flare Grunt, and Lysandre, stalling the opponent and grinding them out of resources.  For so many players, the endgame was an inevitability.  They might succeed in taking out a couple Wailord, but if they can't get six Prizes in time, they're going to deck out, giving Wailord the win after a long grind of a game one.

The deck also ran three Suicune, which is an even better wall than Wailord against some decks, and in the Rough Seas, damage is just washed away.  Lasers and Bats are rendered inconsequential.  The Whale just refuses to fail.

In keeping with its theme of forcing the opponent to run out of cards first, Wailord runs no discarding Trainers aside from Dowsing Machine.  Pokémon Fan Club is the Supporter of choice, netting the Wailord player two Pokémon of choice, or in terms of this deck, five or six extra turns of stall.  N and Shauna are the primary draw cards, shuffling resources into the deck rather than discarding them, and Skyla lets the Wailord player search out a valuable Max Potion, or any disruption Supporter of their choice.  Who cares if they can't play it that same turn?  They have all the time in the world!

Some players thought that the play was to just draw and pass against Wailord, waiting for the opportunity to Colress an enormous hand back into the deck and eventually forcing the Wailord player to deck out instead.  But Wailord was prepared for that, using Hugh to force the opponent to discard their hand size down to five or, if their deck was thin, draw up to five instead.  Certainly this will stand as Hugh’s only notable success since its print in Boundaries Crossed.  In addition, a lone Trick Shovel burns one card from the opponent’s deck, taking one turn off their clock.

Wailord beached itself in the Finals of U.S. Nationals, but not before winning the hearts of many a Pokémon player.  After a hard-fought Finals, Enrique saw the writing on the wall and used an AZ on his lone Wailord, conceding the match on his terms.  Much respect to him and his team for breaking the format in such an unexpected and hilarious way.

 

1.  Jason Klaczynski

After over sixteen years in the game, numerous wins at the City, State, and Regional level, and an unprecedented three World Championship wins, Jason Klaczynski has not only overcome his streak of missing Top Cut at Nationals, but has won the whole thing!

It's been no secret that Jason has loved his lock decks this season, playing Seismitoad and Exeggutor decks almost exclusively.  This deck was no exception.  It's a classic Seismitoad/Garbodor deck and the funny thing is, it's nearly identical to a list he played at Fall Regionals at the beginning of this season.  Many people pronounced disruption-heavy Toad decks dead upon the Trump Card ban, but as this result has shown, they still have their place in the metagame.

A lot of this list is standard.  Four Seismitoad, 2-2 Garbodor, Muscle Bands and Float Stones, Lasers and Crushing Hammers.  Going into this event, Crushing Hammer seemed to be a point of contention for quite a few players.  Their concern was that the lack of Trump Card took away a lot of the card's reliability, as Toad players now have at most four chances to flip heads and get rid of Energy cards.  While it's true that it's no longer realistic to keep an opponent off attacking for the entire game, the lack of Trump Card also makes each heads on a Crushing Hammer matter more, because for many decks, that discarded Energy is never coming back.  With Garbodor shutting off helpful Abilities and the combination of Lysandre, Xerosic, and Team Flare Grunt, Jason was able to win some games just by running the opponent out of attacking options.

That's an inherent strength of Seismitoad/Garbodor.  Even though some decks have outs to either Item- or Ability-lock, the fact remains that it's incredibly disruptive and affords the Toad player opportunities to steal games in a number of unexpected ways.  In an interview on Day 1, Jason commented that many players still underrate the power of Item-lock.  While it's true that some decks play relatively few Items, shutting those Items down does more than denying their effects: it also causes those Items to clog in the hand, and with every N and Colress, those Items are shuffled back in, decreasing the chances of the player drawing their useful cards consistently.  Jason's Round 3 match showcased the power and unpredictability of Seismitoad/Garbodor, as he took down Brent Siebenkittel's Primal Groudon deck, a matchup that he himself acknowledged was typically very much in Groudon's favor.  Regardless, with Head Ringers, some lucky Hammer flips, and a couple key uses of Lysandre, Jason won that match without Primal Groudon attacking a single time.

A pair of Shaymin served as a little acceleration and an out to bad hands, although I'm curious as to why he opted to not run a Jirachi despite having so many tech Supporters (maybe to leave himself the Sky Return option?).  Jason ran three Virbank, recognizing the importance of early Laser damage and competing in Stadium wars.  Three copies of Float Stone (over a more conventional two) serves to get Seismitoad active more quickly and helps ensure that there will be a replacement Tool in the event of a Xerosic on Garbodor (certainly attaching a Muscle Band is not ideal).  The list had little room left for a Switch, but Jason compensated with an AZ, which has the added benefit of healing damaged Toads and removing Shaymin from the Bench.

At the end of the day, the deck wasn't a huge innovation.  It was a tested, established deck but Jason played it masterfully.  It may not be a popular deck, but Jason Klaczynski has proven that Seismitoad/Garbodor is still a very viable deck, and in doing so, he managed to grab the last missing piece of his Pokémon legacy.  Congratulations to him and congratulations to the rest of the Top 8!

[+20] okko


 

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