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The Top 8 Worlds Decks

An analysis of the Top 8 decks from the 2015 World Championship.

08/26/2015 by Pikachu's Hideout

Following the U.S. National Championship in early July, the big decks on everyone's radar were Metal variants, Mega Manectric variants, and Seismitoad/Garbodor.  Well, and Wailord, of course.  Those decks were the breakout success stories of U.S. Nationals and they proved themselves to be solid, dependable plays.  Of course, this had everyone questioning how these decks would come to impact the Worlds metagame.  The general consensus was that Metal and Mega Manectric remained strong, while Seismitoad/Garbodor was a bit shakier (most agreed that Seismitoad/Crobat was the superior variant) and Wailord would see no play now that the surprise factor was gone.  After all, a single Bunnelby theoretically beats it.  In response to the Nationals metagame, people suspected that Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre, and even Virizion/Genesect might emerge as dominant plays, depending on how hard players metagamed.

When the dust had settled on Day 1, the big decks were Primal Groudon, Night March, and Seismitoad/Crobat, both with and without Manectric-EX.  None of these plays were particularly shocking.  Groudon was a hyped deck going into the event and a natural response to the attention Mega Manectric was seeing.  Night March thrives in a format without a lot of Bats and after the post-Canadian Nationals Bat hype had subsided, the doors were wide open for it to made a comeback.  And of course, you just can't keep Seismitoad down, and the Crobat variant proved to be the most successful, as most people predicted.  But after Day 1, players could change decks.  So which decks—and players, for that matter—proved to be the most successful when Worlds was all said and done?  Read on to find out!

8th Place - Tito Santoso: Aromatisse

Aromatisse was a deck that was largely written off the release of Roaring Skies and the subsequent ban of Lysandre's Trump Card.  The general consensus was that the deck's strategy—slowly building Energy on the board to ultimately overwhelm the with a swarm of tech attackers that could be healed at will—was too slow for a format dominated by explosive Mega Rayquaza and Night March decks, as well as sturdy Metal decks.  Indeed, not a single Aromatisse deck made Top 16 at U.S. Nationals.

Well, Indonesian player Tito Santoso likely caught a lot of players by surprise as he stormed his way into Top Cut with his teched out list.  The defining aspect of Tito's list is his heavy focus on Seismitoad.  Though he didn't run the Laser variant that moved in and out of popularity throughout the season, Seismitoad enabled Tito to control the pace of games as he set up an unbreakable endgame.  Against other Seismitoad-centric decks, he was able to shut off disruption (even Garbodor if the opponent didn't get a Tool into play quickly enough) and against Item-heavy decks like Rayquaza and Night March, he had the potential to capitalize on a slow setup and lock them out of the game.

Let's look at the other attackers.  Like a lot of Aromatisse toolbox decks, Tito's list ran a thin Mega Manectric line.  The Mega Manectric served as a bulky attacker that Tito could heal repeatedly, a handy answer to a Mega Rayquaza, and a means to spit Energy back into play to keep attackers coming (and to power up a big Mewtwo-EX to finish opponents off).  Cobalion-EX's Righteous Edge allows it to strip Special Energy from opponents—a solid choice given that Special Energy played a key part in seven of the eight decks in Top Cut—and Steel Bullet is the deck's sole viable answer to Safeguard.  Meanwhile, Steel Bullet also helps get around Aegislash-EX's Mighty Shield.  After Metal's breakout success at U.S. Nationals, it's far too risky to go into Worlds without an answer for that matchup.  The other answer is Charizard-EX, whose Wing Attack hits Metal Pokémon for 160 after Weakness (assuming a Muscle Band is attached).  Tito's deck lacks a way to OHKO Metal Pokémon, but with two sturdy Pokémon capable of hitting Aegislash and a bunch of healing options, he could try to outlast them.

The rest of the Pokémon are pretty obvious inclusions.  Keldeo-EX deals with Special Conditions and serves as a great attacker against Landorus-EX and Donphan, while Trevenant deals with Seismitoad, Primal Kyogre, and Primal Groudon (once it gets enough Rainbows).  Jirachi-EX is there as an out to the deck's tech Supporters.

On the subject of those, there are three.  Pokémon Fan Club gets Basics into play, which is this deck's main goal in the early turns.  AZ is a form of healing that works under Item-lock and can be recursed with VS Seeker, while Xerosic can shut off Garbotoxin for a turn, allowing for Seismitoad to move in and turn off Tools for the opponent.  It's clear that Tito analyzed the most recent tournament results and built his deck specifically to have answers to everything big.  It was an unexpected play, but it was clearly effective.

7th Place - Simon Narode: Donphan

Worlds 2013 Runner-Up Simon Narode made his second deep Worlds run this year.  He did so with Donphan, an unexpected choice for Simon, mostly because of its lack of full-art Pokémon.  However, after a Day 1 filled with Night March and Primal Groudon, Donphan was a surprisingly solid call.  Simon's list was very streamlined, running only Donphan and Hawlucha as attackers, with a Mr. Mime as a safeguard against Landorus and a Bunnelby, likely to get back Special Energy and Robo Substitute in a pinch.  His goal was simple: hit hard and force opponents to take a lot of KOs.

Of course, four Robo Substitute is standard in Donphan decks; Spinning Turn into one every turn and force your opponent to either have the Lysandre or waste an attack.  To augment the Prize denial strategy, he ran two copies of Focus Sash, guaranteeing that each Hawlucha and Donphan would require two hits to Knock Out (barring Lasers and Bats, of course).  Against Night March, this card almost singlehandedy assured an autowin, as even having the Lysandre for a Benched Donphan wouldn't guarantee the opponent a KO.  Meanwhile, Donphan and Hawlucha pick off Joltik and Mew-EX left and right.  And while Primal Groudon has a ton of bulk, Simon's arsenal of Robo Substitutes and Focus Sashes assured that the opponent would have to heal Groudon a few times just to keep up.

And on top of the durability, his deck was consistent.  Like his 2013 Plasma deck, Simon ran a heavy count of Supporters.  In particular, his deck exploits Korrina, which essentially grabs anything in the deck.  This worked out perfectly with his tech Items.  A Silver Bangle on top of two Muscle Bands was there as an added threat to Pokémon-EX and he ran both a Repeat Ball and an Ultra Ball so he could effectively grab two Pokémon from one Korrina.  Of course, Ultra Ball was also one of his two outs to his Mr. Mime and Bunnelby.  The other out was Computer Search, which turns Korrina into a means of searching Special Energy and Stadiums.  Finally, there's a single Revive, which can recover a Mr. Mime against Landorus or just a Hawlucha to put even more pressure on opponents.  With a full four Hawlucha, two Focus Sashes, and the Revive, entire games can be won on that Pokémon alone.

Unfortunately, Simon ran into his worst matchup in Top 8: Igor Costa's Seismitoad/Crobat.  With Bats and Lasers playing around Focus Sash, Quaking Punch to block Robo Substitute, and Super Scoop Up to wipe away damage, Seismitoad/Crobat is a ridiculously uphill battle for Donphan.  Though Simon fell a bit short of his 2013 triumph, Top 8 was still a very strong showing, both for him and for a deck which managed to stick around for the entire season.

6th Place - Martin Janouš: Night March

After earning the most Championship Points of anyone in the world, Martin Janouš capped off a stellar season by topping the World Championship, and he did so with Night March.  After underperforming spectacularly at Canadian and U.S. Nationals, the deck finally lived up to its initial hype at Worlds.

Martin's list doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but there are some interesting things to point out.  He focused heavily on the turbo Item-draw engine, with four Trainers' Mail and three Acro Bike, as well as three Shaymin.  His goal was clearly to dig as much as possible early on to get his Battle Compressors quickly and he didn't care how vulnerable he was to Item-lock.  In a way, actually, his lightning-fast engine was an asset against some Item-lock.  At least against Seismitoad, he had a very real chance of going through two thirds of his deck before the first Quaking Punch hit, giving him enough momentum to overrun his opponent.

On the subject of Lightning, that was his choice of Basic Energy.  The Lightning Energy seems to provide two distinct purposes.  For one, a Joltik with a Lightning and a Muscle Band can Gnaw for 30 damage, allowing it to cheaply KO an opposing Joltik.  Given that the mirror is so often a resource war, having the ability to take a Prize without using a DCE is very valuable.  Of course, Gnaw also deals with Zubat and even Exeggcute, both of which made appearances at Worlds.

In addition, against Mega Manectric, the Lightning Energy allows for a clever play.  While staring down a Mega Manectric, Martin had the option to attach a Lightning to Mew and play down a Dimension Valley.  Then he could Battle Compressor his other Lightning Energy out of his deck and Turbo Bolt them onto a Benched Joltik or Pumpkaboo.  This gets another attacker going without using any DCE and puts Mew into a position to two-hit KO the Mega Manectric while being safe from return KOs from both Turbo Bolt and Assault Laser (barring a Head Ringer play).  It's hard to say how often this came up for Martin, but it's certainly an option the deck had, going into a field where Mega Manectric was projected to be popular.

A few tech Items rounded out the deck.  Revive can get back a Night Marcher, which is important when the deck often has to discard most of them just to hit the right numbers.  A single Float Stone gives him a Benchsitter with no Retreat Cost, which is important, as Night March will frequently have to search a replacement attacker from the deck or discard pile after every Knock Out.  Escape Rope is the deck's other "Switch" outlet and it also allows Martin to move a lone non-EX Pokémon onto the Bench to prevent a seven-Prize game.  Overall, Martin can credit his success this year to a consistent list and a smart meta call.  Seems like the 2015 Championship Point leader knows a thing or two about Pokémon.

5th Place - Sean Foisy: Trevenant/Gengar

While it's no surprise to see Sean Foisy doing well—he's been tearing up Pokémon events for over ten years—his deck choice was probably not on the radar for most players.  It was an interesting choice for the event.  Turn-one Item-lock is inherently strong, certainly, but the deck has shaky matchups against Primal Groudon, Metal variants, and Mega Manectric.  On the other hand, it does quite well against Night March and Seismitoad variants.  It was very much a high-risk, high-reward play.

The main strength of the deck is that quick Item-lock and Foisy's list capitalizes on that, running a full 4-4 Trevenant line on top of three Wally.  In addition, he has Trainers' Mail, Shaymin, and Jirachi to dig as hard as possible for the turn-one Trevenant (ideally coupled with Energy on a Gengar-EX).  Even more so than Seismitoad decks, Trevenant lives and dies by the turn-one lock.

If the deck gets the ideal turn one, it runs fairly smoothly based just off that initial advantage.  From there, all it has to do is attack consistently.  Both Trevenant and Gengar are viable attackers.  Though Dark Corridor's Poison is very effective with Virbank City Gym in play, Trevenant's Tree Slam is very effective at softening up Benched Pokémon.  The deck runs an even split of Float Stone and Muscle Band since Trevenant can just attack if it's unable to Retreat.

Along with the Virbanks, the deck runs two Silent Labs.  This can shut down Shaymin-dependent setups and it's a great way to deal with Aegislash-EX considering the deck runs only two Basic Energy.  Really, this deck hasn't changed at all since Nationals.  It's a solid, consistent deck that can quickly overwhelm opponents who are unprepared.

4th Place - Merlin Quittek: Night March

Like Martin, German player Merlin Quittek also dominated Day 2 with Night March and his list is honestly quite similar to Martin's, down to the "Gnawkout"-enabling Lightning Energy.  Let's take a look at their differences.

Like Martin, Merlin ran a turbo engine with heavy Item-draw, but unlike Martin, Merlin opted for the full four Shaymin-EX.  The motivation is clear.  He wanted to dig as hard as possible in the first turn of the game to fuel the discard pile.  Once he had his setup, he could freely Battle Compressor the remaining Shaymin away, but having access to all that draw was great in the early game.  In addition, Merlin ran three Mew-EX, preferring to not bother with Revive.  Like Martin, his thin Supporter line included two Lysandre; though some Night March decks opted for just one, the extra copy was likely a big part of hitting aggressive, early KOs.  

The other noteworthy part of Merlin's deck was his "toolbox" of Pokémon Tools.  The Muscle Band and Silver Bangle are there to stack on extra damage in the early game, and Merlin could choose his attacker based on which one he drew into.  Like Martin, Merlin ran a Float Stone, but unique to Merlin's list was the Hard Charm.  Though all of Merlin's Pokémon have low HP, Hard Charm is surprisingly viable in Night March.  Mew-EX with a Hard Charm is just out of range of a lot of popular attackers like Hawlucha, and against Seismitoad, Mew with a Hard Charm is able to safely Quaking Punch several turns in a row, especially if the Toad didn't get a Muscle Band down in time.  In addition, Pumpkaboo with a Hard Charm causes a lot of problems for Fighting Pokémon like Landorus-EX and Donphan when compounded with its Fighting Resistance.

Merlin's approach for Worlds was to be fast and lethal and it clearly paid off, bringing him to a formidable Top 4 finish.

3rd Place - Igor Costa: Seismitoad/Crobat

With his third Top 4 Worlds finish in the last four years, Igor Costa has proven that he very well might be the best Pokémon player in the game today.  This year's success came from a pure Seismitoad/Crobat list.  Despite the success of the Manectric variant, Igor went with the more streamlined variant, leaving room for some tech Trainers.  As far as Pokémon go, he ran three Seismitoad-EX.  Though Seismitoad is his main attacker, three is sufficient in this list.  For one, the list runs four Zubat, which can freely Retreat into a Seismitoad, so the deck has seven starters that effectively yield a turn-one Toad.  Additionally, Igor ran a few Super Scoop Ups, so it was not uncommon for him to pick up a damaged Toad, fully healing it and reclaiming its Tool and Energy.

Igor went with as minimal a Bat line as he reasonably could for the deck.  The rationale behind his 4-3-2 line is simple enough.  You certainly want four Zubat because it's the deck's best starter, but running two high a count of the other bats can potentially lead to them clogging hands and being discarded with Junipers anyway.  4-3-2 is enough to consistently get at least a Golbat and a Crobat into play, at which point Super Scoop Up and AZ are there to reuse them for extra damage.  Even the damage from just the 4-3-2 line is considerable if he gets a lot of those Bats into play, so every AZ and Super Scoop Up heads is just an added bonus.  Mewtwo-EX, meanwhile, is there as a consistent, heavy hitter, and a great way to quickly deal with bigger threats like a Primal Groudon or, in the case of his Top 8 match, a Donphan about to use Wreck.

The deck ran the Laser/Virbank combo which is standard in most Seismitoad decks, although it's noteworthy that Igor opted for three Virbank instead of two, a smart move when every single deck in Top 8 ran multiple Stadiums.  As far as techs go, he ran two Supporters to heal his Seismitoad: one AZ and one Pokémon Center Lady.  Healing has always been strong in Toad decks and having the means to do so with Supporters gave him options for when his Super Scoop Up flips failed, and of course, he could reuse them with VS Seeker.  As an added bonus, AZ allows for the reuse of Bats.  The other notable tech he ran was a pair of Head Ringers.  This is just a conventionally strong card in Seismitoad decks, delaying attacks from heavier-hitting Pokémon-EX and giving Igor a big advantage in the mirror if he gets them down right away.

Igor hit a rough game three in the mirror match in Top 4, knocking him out of the tournament, but he still made history at Worlds 2015, as the first player to ever finish First, Second, and Third at the Pokémon World Championship.

Runner-Up - Mees Brenninkmeijer: Seismitoad/Crobat

Like Igor Costa, Dutch player Mees Brenninkmeijer piloted Seismitoad/Crobat for Day 2 of Worlds, but he took the deck a step further, defeating Igor in Top 4 and finishing in Second Place at Worlds 2015.  His list differs from Igor's in a few key places.  Most notable is his thick line of Bats, running a full 4-4-3.  Clearly Mees opted to risk drawing unplayable Bats for the benefit of getting their Abilities off quickly and more frequently.  In addition, he emphasized Mewtwo a bit more by running a second copy.  This not only allowed him to better respond to threats before they overran him, but also enabled more proactive Mewtwo plays to put on pressure.  With Muscle Band, Lasers, and a lot of Bats, Mewtwo can put out a lot of damage at once.

A big part of Mees' success against Igor was his two copies of Xerosic.  Xerosic is great for Toad mirrors; it can strip away the opponent's DCE and Muscle Bands, as well as removing their Head Ringers from your own Toads.  Mees used them to great effect against Igor in the final game of their Top 4 match, systematically removing his Energy and forcing Igor to miss several Quaking Punches.  It was those techs that gave Mees the win over Igor, but it was the consistency of his list that got him that far in the first place.

Champion - Jacob Van Wagner: Archie's Blastoise

Finally, we have our 2015 World Champion, Jacob Van Wagner, who made it all the way through Day 1 and Day 2 with his Blastoise deck.  Despite its Top 16 finish at U.S. Nationals, this deck was overlooked in a lot of Worlds discussions, so some players might have been taken by surprise when this deck went all the way to the top.  Let's take a look at exactly how the deck managed to succeed.

First of all, Jacob optimized his deck around the turn-one Blastoise.  Even now, almost three years since Blastoise's release, Deluge is still an incredibly powerful Ability and getting it online right away is a huge advantage.  To make that Blastoise play, Jacob ran four copies each of all the big consistency Items: Ultra Ball, Battle Compressor, Trainers' Mail, and Acro Bike.  These cards were great because they were always playable, helping him not only dig through his deck, but also manipulate his hand size to properly utilize Archie.  A common play is to Battle Compressor away Archie's Ace in the Hole and Blastoise, only to play down the hand to one VS Seeker and play it for the Archie.  Of course, Acro Bike and Trainers' Mail are there to dig for the Items that make that play possible.

On the Pokémon side, Jacob ran two each of Shaymin-EX and Jirachi-EX.  The Shaymin-EX are there to dig: the more cards you see on turn one, the better the chance of getting that Blastoise combo.  Jirachi, meanwhile, is there to search for Archie in situations where it's the last missing piece.  The deck runs two copies as insurance against Prizing one.  The quick Archie is the whole deck, so ensuring it happens consistently is crucial.  The final consistency Pokémon is Exeggcute.  It also helps the deck a lot because it can be dumped with Battle Compressor and then subsequently used to fuel future discards and manipulate the hand size for Archie.  Of course, Exeggcute can also be used to fuel Superior Energy Retrieval later in the game.

And that's the other part of the deck: once the Blastoise is in play, there needs to be a way to make use of all that Energy.  Keldeo-EX is the main attacker in this deck.  A mainstay in Blastoise since Boundaries Crossed, Keldeo is great in this deck because its Secret Sword attack has a high enough damage cap to overcome even the bulky Primal Pokémon.  With Blastoise to get the Energy into play and Superior Energy Retrieval to get it from the discard, it's entirely feasible to get eight Energy on a Keldeo in a single turn.  One great combo in this deck is to use Battle Compressor to dump three Water Energy from the deck to make them accessible to Superior Energy Retrieval.  With so much access to Energy, the deck can just overpower some opponents on the back of Keldeo alone.

However, the deck has more than just the raw power of Keldeo.  Articuno ROS is a great tech against low-HP attackers like Night Marchers.  Articuno is so easily powered up with Blastoise and a single Tri-Edge heads is an immediate two Prizes against a Pumpkaboo or Joltik, quickly putting the Prize trade into Blastoise's favor.  Perhaps inspired by U.S. Nationals, Jacob also ran a Wailord-EX, although he actually attacked with his!  With its 250 HP, Wailord is virtually impossible to KO, allowing it to take out at least two low-HP attackers like Raichu and Night Marchers while absorbing hits like a sponge.  Jacob faced two stellar Night March players in the Top 8 and overcame both of them with the combined powers of Articuno and Wailord-EX.

Jacob also ran a Float Stone and a Muscle Band.  Float Stone, of course, is just fantastic on a Keldeo, allowing Jacob to freely Rush In and Retreat to get out of difficult situations, particularly useful when he was attacking with something other than Keldeo.  The Muscle Band is useful to increase the damage output of Articuno and Wailord, but it also increases Keldeo's damage output without requiring another attachment.  This is valuable since a Muscle Band is more easily played down from the hand than an additional Water would be.  Again, this deck is all about the turn-one Blastoise and is optimized toward getting it out.  A pair of Rough Seas rounds the deck out on the Stadium front.  Since Jacob can cycle between attackers so readily, having a means to continuously heal Pokémon once they've been moved to the Bench is just a perfect fit for this deck.

Jacob won the 2015 World Championship in the single fastest and most explosive Finals match in Worlds history.  Getting the turn-one Blastoise in both games, Jacob quickly overwhelmed Mees in a match that took fewer than ten turns total, with Mees not taking a single Prize.  It was a perfect combination of consistent deckbuilding, precise gameplay, and a little bit of luck.  In short, it was exactly the stuff World Champions are made of.  Congratulations to our new 2015 Pokémon TCG World Champion Jacob Wagner for his fantastic run and congratulations to Blastoise for finally making it all the way to the top!

[+7] okko


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