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The U.S. Nationals Top 8 (Juniors and Seniors)

A look at the Top 8 decks in the Juniors and Seniors divisions of the U.S. National Championship.

07/07/2015 by Pikachu's Hideout



8.  Isaac Bunker

Enrique Avila wasn't the only player to make Top 8 with an Energyless wall deck.  In the Juniors division, Isaac Bunker climbed through the ranks, all without attacking once!  A variant of the Quad Snorlax deck that was a Battle Roads staple in 2013, Isaac's deck also runs Suicune and Aegilash-EX, giving him an answer for virtually all opponents.  Unlike the Wailord deck, Isaac runs Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym, giving him a way to take Prizes and giving him an addition win condition to forcing a deckout.

Super Scoop Up and AZ keep his Pokémon from being Knocked Out and allow him to remove an unwanted Pokémon he may have started with while the heavy count of Xerosic, Crushing Hammer, and Team Flare Grunt stall out attackers.  Target Whistle is an unusual selection, but it can steal games by forcing a non-attacking Pokémon like Jirachi into play so it can be Lysandre'd and trapped active with Snorlax.  It's just one of the clever options in this unique deck.


7.  Michael Mings

Michael Mings played a bit of a spin on the Seismitoad/Garbodor archetype, adding Manectric to serve as a solid backup attacker and focusing on healing via Rough Seas instead of the popular LaserBank combo.  Michael's ACE SPEC of choice is Scoop Up Cyclone, an unorthodox pick for this deck; Computer Search is the typical pick, but Scoop Up Cyclone remains a powerful and versatile card, capable of completely healing a Pokémon, removing unwanted Pokémon, and even redistributing important resources like Muscle Band and Double Colorless Energy.  In a control deck like this, a well-time Cyclone can completely change the game.


6.  Easton Ours

Primal Groudon decks at Nationals typically ran either Landorus FFI as a setup Pokémon or Wobbuffet as an Ability-locking wall.  Easton chose to forego both, instead running a toolbox of low-Energy Fighting attackers to put on early pressure while he used Mega Turbo to build a Primal Groudon and close out games.  Silent Lab slows opposing decks while Landorus-EX, Lucario-EX, and Hawlucha pile on damage, and it shuts down Hawlucha's Ability, allowing it to hit for Weakness against Fighting-Weak Pokémon.  On the subject of Resistance, Wide Lens is a very clever tech, allowing Landorus' Hammerhead to hit Benched Pokémon for Weakness.  This is especially useful against the Raichu decks that were expected at U.S. Nationals, taking out two Pikachu at once and with Silent Lab, not even Mr. Mime can save them!

Mega Lucario has hardly seen any play since its release, but Rising Fist remains a powerful attack.  When it doesn't OHKO, Rising Fist discards an Energy from the opponent's Active Pokémon, and combined with the Enhanced Hammers in Easton's deck, he can sometimes strip the opponent's Pokémon of all of its Energy in one turn.  Mega Turbo and Scramble Switch can help it start swinging even faster and with his tech Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, Easton is even able to avoid losing a turn to Mega Evolution.  The fact that it has a different Weakness than Primal Groudon means that Easton has a late-game sweeper for all occasions.


5.  Asher Donham

With all the hype Night March was getting following the Trump Card ban, it became so heavily countered that no Night March player managed a Top 8 at U.S. Nationals – except one.  In terms of big finishes, Asher Donham is officially the most successful Night March player in America!

The list is simple and consistent.  Asher relied on a light Supporter count, but a bunch of powerful Items along with Shaymin-EX helped him get turn-one Knock Outs as frequently as possible.  Asher opted for the popular Archie's Empoleon engine so he can dig deeper each turn and discard Night March Pokémon more quickly.  Of course, it's also a solid backup attacker!  Asher ran just two copies of Mew-EX, but with a single Revive to get back any attacker of his choice, Asher always had plenty of attackers, allowing him to Night March to his heart's content!


4.  Travis Beckwith

 Like Michael Mings, Travis Beckwith opted for a Seismitoad/Manectric/Garbodor deck for U.S. Nationals.  His build, however, was a bit different, opting for a third Manectric in place of a fourth Toad and running Mewtwo as another solid and versatile attacker.  The other notable difference from Michael Mings' list is Travis' inclusion of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym.  Rough Seas healing is great, but there's no doubt that Seismitoad with Hypnotoxic Laser is the combo that has defined the entire season.  In addition to wearing opponents down while Quaking Punching them to death, Hypnotoxic Laser allows Travis to score huge OHKOs with Manectric and Mewtwo.

Travis was one of the only Top 8 players in any division to opt out of both Jirachi and Shaymin.  Instead, he backs up his healthy line of draw Supporters with a couple of Acro Bikes.  He also runs Xerosic and Cassius as utility Supporters, and both of those cards give him a nice edge in Toad wars.  He also runs five Lightning Energy, and while they're primarily useful for powering up Manectric-EX's Assault Laser, they also help Seismitoad attack without fear of Xerosic or Aegislash-EX.  They're just one small example of the versatility of Travis' deck.


3.  Reece Nighswander

A running theme this season is that Item-lock is an incredibly strong strategy and Reece Nighswander's Trevenant/Gengar deck embodies that philosophy.  With the Supporter card Wally, Reece is able to evolve a Phantump on the first turn of the game and if he pulls off that combo on the first turn of the game, he frequently wins the game outright.  To that end, Reece ran four Ultra Ball and three Wally along with two Shaymin-EX and two Trainers' Mail to help him dig deeper into his deck for that turn-one combo.  Of course, Computer Search is an ideal card to see in the opening hand, especially for this deck, where a turn-one Computer Search frequently guarantees a turn-one Trevenant.  A strange omission is Jirachi-EX.  In a deck so focused on playing Wally turn-one, it seems like a natural inclusion.  Reece managed to do well without it regardless, though.

Though turn-one Item-lock is a big part of this deck, the other component is Gengar-EX, which hits for 60, Poisons, and then switches back onto the Bench, allowing Reece to promote Trevenant and keep up the lock.  With Virbank City Gym and Muscle Band factored in, the damage adds up very quickly.  Trevenant is also a solid attacker.  Tree Slam's Bench damage is often very relevant; often Gengar-EX leaves a Pokémon with critically-low HP, opening a window for Reece to Lysandre a Benched Pokémon and hitting it with Tree Slam, using the extra 20 damage to KO the newly-Benched Pokémon.  Careful math allows big, multiple-Prize turns that can help the deck close out games surprisingly quickly.


2.  Ryan Chu

Ryan Chu tore through the competition with his deadly Fighting/Crobat deck.  A popular archetype for most of the season, Ryan's deck focuses on quick and efficient damage, augmented by Bats.  Landorus and its Hammerhead are the center of the deck, but Hawlucha puts in a ton of work against Pokémon-EX.  In particular, it's the deck's primary defense against Seismitoad-EX since it reliably two-shots a Toad while requiring the Toad player to dig for a Muscle Band, Laser, and Virbank to score a KO in return.  Lucario-EX rounds out the trio of Fighting attackers.  It's generally not as powerful as Landorus, but its Missile Jab is a good answer to Fighting Resistance while Corkscrew Smash can help bail out bad hands.

Ryan opted to run Focus Sash in his list, which has excellent synergy with the Scoop Up cards he ran; the Focus Sash ensures that his Pokémon will survive any hit, at which point Ryan can return the Pokémon to his hand and offset the damage entirely.  As an added bonus, if the attack wouldn't otherwise OHKO Ryan's Pokémon, he gets the Focus Sash back, allowing his Fighting Pokémon to stick around even longer.  Unfortunately, this strategy doesn't work against Seismitoad, which ultimately stopped his incredible Nationals run in the Finals.


1.  Evan Smith

Evan Smith wasn't the only Seismitoad/Manectric player in Juniors to make Top 8 at the U.S. National Championship, but as the 2015 U.S. National Champion, he was the most successful.  Unlike the other two variants in Top 8, Evan's deck ran Crobat instead of Garbodor and focused more on Manectric than on Seismitoad, but those aren't the only interesting choices in his list.

Evan focused heavily on Scoop Up effects; with four Super Scoop Ups and a Scoop Up Cyclone, Evan clearly aimed to exploit the ability to wipe away an opponent's entire turn.  In his finals match against Ryan Chu, they made all the difference, undoing all the hard work Ryan put in with his Hawlucha and allowing Evan's two Seismitoad to go the distance.  Scoop Ups can also pick up Ryan's Shaymin-EX, allowing him to reuse Set Up and dig deeper into his deck.

Absol is an excellent tech.  Combined with Crobat, it can help to assure that Evan is always able to hit perfect numbers for KOs and of course, the heavy count of Super Scoop Up allows him to reuse Cursed Eyes too.  The most unusual choice in this deck is the single Dimension Valley.  Its sole use in this deck is to enable Golbat and Crobat to attack for a single Energy.  The Bats are occasionally useful attackers and it's certainly nice to have a counter-Stadium.  Perhaps Evan decided that Rough Seas wasn't worth it with all the healing provided by his Scoop Ups and wanted to conserve a Lightning Energy.  It's a perplexing card choice, but it's hard to argue with a National Champion.



8. Alex Schemanske

Metal and Mega Rayquaza were both popular strategies at U.S. Nationals and Alex Schemanske was one of many players who found success by combining the two.  Alex's deck runs a thick Mega Rayquaza line as his primary offense, but with Bronzong's Metal Links Ability, he can also fall back on Aegislash-EX and Heatran, undoubtedly the MVPs of Metal decks.  Unlike other Metal Rayquaza builds, Alex chose to augment his Shaymin engine with a little extra speed in the form of three Acro Bikes, allowing him to dig deeper into his deck and get Bronzor and Rayquaza-EX into play more quickly.  Alex also opted for a tech AZ.  With its 220 HP, Rayquaza-EX can take a hit, and thanks to the ∆ Evolution Ancient Trait, Alex can re-Bench that Rayquaza, attach a new Spirit Link, get a couple more Energy onto it (with the help of Metal Links) and send it back Active – all in a single turn.


7.  Justin Poist

Like Ryan Chu in the Juniors division, Seniors player Justin Poist favored a Fighting/Crobat deck for his Nationals run.  Just like Ryan, Justin relied on Focus Sash and Super Scoop Up and the powerful synergy between the two.  He also ran two Silent Lab, which likely caught some opponents off-guard, as the conventional Fighting/Bats lists usually went with just one.  In addition to shutting off opposing Shaymin, the two Silent Labs allowed him to more easily deal with Safeguard and Mighty Shield.

The unique tech in this list is Miltank FLF.  Once a Crobat is in play, Miltank's Powerful Friends hits for 80 damage for a single Energy.  Although this card has no synergy with the Fighting Support in Justin's deck, it did give him another great non-EX attacker which, unlike Hawlucha, can trade with other non-EX Pokémon.  It was a small tech, but one which likely turned the tide of a number of matches.


6.  Calvin Connor

Turbo Bolt is just a really good attack, and Calvin Connor came to Nationals intending to exploit that.  With Garbodor to shut down Pokémon like Bronzong and Crobat, and Rough Seas to heal, Mega Manectric can fire off one Turbo Bolt after another, powering up more attackers in the process and cycling between attackers to deny KOs.  When Garbotoxin is online, Empoleon and Keldeo-EX serve as solid Water attackers and when Garbodor isn't in play, they both support the deck with their powerful Abilities.  Overall, Cal's deck is just fast, straightforward, and dependable, a winning combination for the National Championships.


5.  Xander Pero

2011 Juniors National Champion Xander Pero says that he built this deck just a couple of hours before the event began.  Perhaps that had something to do with the lack of ACE SPEC in his list.  Of course, it’s always possible that he was just really worried about Spiritomb LTR.

Seismitoad/Manectric proved to be a popular strategy and Xander brought a couple of interesting techs to his build that helped push it over the top.  As mentioned, Absol is a very versatile card, moving damage around to perfectly time big Knock Outs.  More interesting is that Xander opted for a pair of Jynx, which allow him to heal up to two damage counters from his active per turn.  After factoring in Rough Seas, Xander’s Pokémon get surprising durability, especially when Xander can drop a surprise Pokémon Center Lady to wipe off even more damage!

Though Xander runs Rough Seas, he also has a pair of Virbank to go with his set of Lasers.  Having a full four Stadiums gives him the ability to win Stadium wars and for matchups in which sticking a particular Stadium is crucial, Xander need only to lead with the other Stadium and force the opponent to counter it, holding onto the important Stadium until the opponent has run out of counters of their own.  This gives the deck some valuable flexibility.

Xander may have fallen just a bit short of winning a second National Championship, but his respectable finish proves that he’s every bit as good in Seniors as he was in Juniors.  He will likely continue to do great things once he moves into the Masters division.


 4.  Emiliano Rosales

"Consistency is king" is a philosophy echoed by all the top players when going into Nationals and it's clearly one Emiliano Rosales took to heart while building his Seismitoad/Crobat deck.  His list is streamlined and straightforward; it wants only to Quaking Punch turn after turn, piling on damage with Bats and Lasers.  To this end, all the cards that further that goal are being run in high counts and he runs scarcely any techs.  The two exceptions are his tech Xerosic and AZ; the former can remove Head Ringers from his Toads and shut off Garbotoxin while the latter allows him to scoop up a Bat for a couple extra Bites.  Of course, both cards provide a nice edge in Toad wars as well.

An understated decision Emil made was to run four Water Energy.  Most pure Seismitoad/Crobat players stuck with three, but the fourth is surprisingly useful, making it a fair bit easier to power up a Toad with Basic Energy, allowing him to avoid troublesome counters like Xerosic and Aegislash.  In addition, the healthy count of Water Energy gives him easier access to Grenade Hammer, an effective way to land a big finishing blow!


3.  Patrick Martinez

Patrick Martinez is another player who rode the Mega Manectric train to a big Top 8 finish, but where Calvin Connor backed up his Manectric with Garbodor, Patrick opted instead for a line of Ninetales.  In a metagame so defined by powerful Stadiums, Ninetales' Barrier Shrine can be every bit as disruptive as Garbotoxin, locking in Rough Seas and preventing Sky Field, Virbank City Gym, Fighting Stadium, Silent Lab, and Dimension Valley from hitting the board.  This all but guarantees that Mega Manectric will survive a hit, allowing Rough Seas to do its job.

Patrick also brought along a whole supporting crew of Water-type Pokémon.  He runs two each of Keldeo-EX and Empoleon; without Garbotoxin, their Abilities are relevant for the entire game, making them solid support as well as backup attackers.  He also opted for a single Kyurem PLF, whose Frost Spear enables Patrick to snipe Benched Pokémon, helping to set up KOs for his other attackers.  Kyurem is an all-star against Fighting decks, with Frost Spear playing around the popular Focus Sash, and softening up a Benched Primal Groudon before it's ready to come out and attack.  It clearly paid off: despite the prevalence of Fighting variants at Nationals, Patrick Martinez managed to place above all of them.


2.  James Staszel

Perhaps James Staszel is friends with Eighth Place finisher Alex Schemanske, as their Metal Rayquaza lists match card-for-card.  As such, the description for Alex's list above applies perfectly to James' too: it's just a fast, consistent Rayquaza deck, bolstered by Bronzong and a handful of auxiliary Metal attackers.  The deck's major undoing in the Finals proved to be its inability to answer multiple Suicune.  Heatran is strong, but it's also slow, forcing James to devote a lot of resources to take out one Suicune and leaving him hard-pressed to deal with the second once his Heatran fell.  Despite this shortcoming, the deck was clearly a very good choice for Nationals and James' Second Place finish is nothing short of commendable.


1.  Lance Bradshaw

Of all the players to make Top 8 in all three age divisions, Lance Bradshaw was the only one to do so with Primal Kyogre, and he was able to ride an epic Tidal Storm all the way to First Place!  In a field full of Seismitoad and Manectric, Primal Kyogre proved to be a brilliant meta call and though Mega Rayquaza is a threat with its staggering speed and OHKO potential, a pair of Suicune can slow that deck down considerably, leaving Lance in the driver's seat.

Of course, Lance was able to take advantage of Water support, running three Rough Seas to heal all his Pokémon as well as a pair of Dive Balls for fast, free searching.  In addition, the list runs a heavy count of twelve Water Energy.  Once Primal Kyogre is up and running, its α Growth Ancient Trait enables Lance to attach two Energy per turn, so the list runs two Professor's Letter as well, each of which effectively guarantees an extra attack.  In addition, an Energy Retrieval ensures that Lance won't ever be too short on Energy.

Attention must be given to Lance's supporting Pokémon.  Of course, Suicune is the MVP, slowing down Pokémon that Kyogre can't singlehandedly overpower.  Keldeo, along with Float Stone, gives the deck much-needed mobility, but Secret Sword is still a very powerful attack, giving the deck a functionally limitless damage cap.  Articuno is arguably the most exciting tech, though, its ∆ Plus Ancient Trait netting Lance an extra Prize whenever Articuno scores a Knock Out.  As Lugia-EX has demonstrated for two years, the potential to take more Prizes than usual is quite strong, and given that Primal Kyogre typically leaves Pokémon-EX just short of being Knocked Out, Articuno often has the possibility to swoop in and net Lance a ton of advantage.

Even without Articuno, Lance has plenty of options at his disposal.  Game one of the Finals match climaxed with an incredible five-Prize Tidal Storm from Lance.  It was just one of the impressive plays he made during that match.  Lance displayed consistent smart, technical play throughout the event and he truly earned the title of Senior National Champion.

[+18] okko


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