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Rahul Reddy

Recapping the Season Thus Far and a Glimpse into the Race for Top 16

Rahul examines his season since San Jose Regionals, gives a quick look at his top play for the Latin America International Championships, and shares his experience in the race for Top 16.

04/20/2018 by Rahul Reddy

Hello there 60cards readers! It has been a while but I am back! I hope you haven't missed me too much. School and life have been so terribly hectic for me, and article writing has had to take a backseat in my life. I thoroughly enjoy writing articles, because it is an outlet for me to simply let out everything I have built up inside and to ramble on about my thoughts. Today, I highlighted my top pick for the Latin America International Championships coming up at the end of the month and a little recap of how I've been finishing throughout the season with the decks I've been playing.

To a more interesting extent, I wanted to talk a bit about how I feel and where I stand in the race for Top 16 North America, which snags the player a coveted spot in Day 2 of the World Championships automatically and a travel award. 

Let's talk about my season so far and how it has been going since San Jose, shall we? 

The tournament directly following San Jose was Memphis Regionals where I piloted Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) to a Top 8 berth and was my proudest accomplishment to date due to the high volume of players at the event and just how incredible my deck felt throughout the entire tournament. But the rest of my finishes I'll recap in a quicker manner for everyone to see. 

Dallas, Texas - Night March/Zoroark (4-4 Drop) 

Colinsville, Illinois - Zoroark/Weavile (6-3, T128) 

Costa Mesa, California - Buzzwole/Lycanroc (12th Place) 

Charlotte, North Carolina - Zoroark/Gardevoir (6-3, T128)

Portland, Oregon - Lucario/Lycanroc (27th Place)

As you can see the trend is super consistent on the season. Ever since Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) 's release into the meta game players are either playing it with different partners or playing a deck that directly is meant to counter it. I myself noticed the lack of draw and ability to make plays when I played anything that wasn't Zoroark but fighting decks that focus on Max Elixir seemed too strong not to pilot when given the chance. 

Lucario GX (BW; 100)  was an interesting introduction into the meta game as it was first legal for Portland Regionals as a promo card. I was one of the many who was enamored by the card and its power and played it. It was one of the easiest answers to unprepared Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks in a long time and provided free wins if you hit that matchup. Buzzwole was an arms race in a sense but you were able to take a knockout for a single energy once your entire combo was out. Hitting 190-210 seemed easy with the deck and I was having a blast Day 1 skating into the second day on the back of 2 IDs. But once I was into Day 2 the game had changed and I was in for a world of hurt. Sylveon GX, Tapu Bulu GX, Espeon GX/Garbodor and Hoopa were some of the top decks left and Lucario GX (BW; 100)  didn't stand a chance against those decks. I played against Bulu, Sylveon and Hoopa in the same day leading to a quick exit in the 2nd day of competition. A lot of the top players had come prepared to deal with Lucario GX, a mistake many made in London when Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) first came out and were overwhelmed by Golisopod/Zoroark at its debut tournament. Lucario was not going to win this tournament because of how prepared everyone was for it with their counter decks and the field was terrifying to play into.

One deck that caught my attention however was Tapu Bulu GX/ Vikavolt (SUM; 52) . I had always written this deck off as a meme and a bad deck but after playing my good friend Alex Hill, I realized how strong the deck actually is when it sets up. A Turn 1 Lillie is the strongest tool this deck has almost always netting it a Turn 2 Candy into Vikavolt. Once your Vikavolt (SUM; 52)  is out the game is just an arms race of who can keep up with the constant one shots that Tapu Bulu GX provides. The 4 Choice Band in the deck also mean that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  is an easy one shot KO along with anything that has 210 HP or less, which is almost everything in the current metagame. I went home after the event and built the deck and began playing test hands with it. Almost every single game I was able to get the Turn 2 Vikavolt out and was able to simply run over my opponents while using minimal thought with the deck. Over the course of a 9 Round Day 1 into a 5 Round Day 2, I would prefer to play a deck that requires less thought and is more autopilot so I can make minimal mistakes. Without further ado let us look at the list that I've been working on for Brazil.

Right off the bat the weirdest part about this list is that there's no Brigette. My good friend Peter Kica as a joke originally took out the Brigette (BKT; 134) in the deck and began playing hands with an extra Lillie or Nest Ball I believe and was setting up more consistently than when the deck utilized Brigette. I followed in the KicaBulu way and the deck runs really smooth and I haven't really had a problem setting up too much with the deck. I played 10 hands and 8 of them I was able to get Turn 2 Vikavolt (SUM; 52)  and just begin doing Bulu things. Let us talk about some of the cards in the deck shall we? 

4 Grubbin/ 3 Vikavolt / 4 Rare Candy

The current norm is not playing any Charjabug and going all in with a heavy Rare Candy approach. Charjabug is simply too slow in a metagame where every deck can go Turn 2 Zoroark and have a Guzma to bring it up and just eliminate it. Dedicating those slots to getting the Vikavolt (SUM; 52)  out as soon as possible means you can fare better against Zoroark and keep up the pace to this fast mid game centric metagame that we are in. 

1 Oranguru (SUM; 113) / 0 Octillery (BKT; 33)  

In this version there's no Brigette (BKT; 134) so Octillery is instantly worse as you can't really fish out the Remoraid on Turn 1. Nest Ball is more prevalent in the deck making it so you can just grab the Oranguru and use him as an attacker in certain matchups like Quad Hoopa and attacking into a big Gardevoir GX if they power one up. 

Mew (FCO; 29)

The Mew is an excellent pivot because it has free retreat which allows you to be able to Guzma easily and not have an energy to retreat off of Lele. Mews biggest selling point in this deck isn't the free retreat but the Psychic typing. Both Buzzwole GX and Lucario GX (BW; 100)  are weak to psychic and Mew FCO being a one prize attacker helps in the arms race that the matchup devolves into. The one prize vs two prize trade as well as taking out a Buzzwole without the need for a Choice Band on Bulu can single handedly win you the matchup. I found this out first hand when I played against Alex Hill in Day 2 of Portland. I felt like I was favored because I took the first 2 Prizes but within 2 turns I found myself at an odd prize and simply out of steam because of a single Mew. 

4 Professor Sycamore (XY; 122)  / 2 N (FCO; 105)  / 2 Cynthia (UPR; 119)  / 1  Lillie (SLG; 62)

The heavy Sycamore is in the list because past the first two or three turns where you're looking to establish a Vikavolt (SUM; 52) , a lot of those cards are dead cards in your deck. Nest Balls, Heavy Balls, Rare Candys and Vikavolt line pieces can just be discarded because they aren't needed for the rest of the game and drawing 7 cards every turn is important when it comes to just getting your deck to the cards you want. You don't have Zoroark to thin and Trade away bad cards so Sycamore and Ultra Ball have to take the place of that. 2 N is all that is needed because you expect to be ahead after the first few turns and keep your lead, most of the time your opponents are trying to N you because you have a large hand and a lead on prizes taken. 2 Cynthia just serve as a refresh and a late game out to getting N'd to finding whatever pieces you need to end the game. The 1 Lillie is the most important card to find turn 1. If you can find it on the first turn and get up to 8 cards you almost always win that game because you usually have a Vikavolt (SUM; 52)  ready to go in some form and can just snowball the game from there. Most decks can't afford to N turn 1 because they themselves rely on Brigette (BKT; 134) turn 1. 

Choice Band (GRI; 121)

The answer for a max inclusion of this card is simple, Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) . Zoroark has 210 HP and is the most popular card in the current standard format so to get the one shot on Zoroark its crucial. Granted Zoroark can't return the one shot ever but you can simply run over any Zoroark matchup besides the one partnered with Gardevoir GX. Gardevoir GX has 230 HP which is the only card in the current standard format that Natures Judgement + Choice Band can one shot. Choice Band also enables using Tapu Wilderness GX for a KO on a Tapu Lele GX and healing up completely. That can be pivotal in the Zoroark matchup as you don't have to discard your energies and suddenly one Bulu has taken 4 prize cards. 

0 Brigette (BKT; 134)  

The lack of Brigette (BKT; 134) is probably the strangest thing about this otherwise very straightforward list. Brigette is crucial to getting down early game Grubbins and a Bulu but playing a heavier ball count does the same thing. Rather than Brigette Turn 1 using Lillie to Ddraw 8 almost ensures you a Turn 2 Vikavolt (SUM; 52)  with how many cards you're drawing. Playing a draw supporter to thin your deck and refresh your hand at the same time is a better investment in a deck like this where you sometimes only need 1 Grubbin going first, because nothing can knockout a Grubbin on the first turn of the game. 

7 Grass / 5 Lightning / 2 Energy Recycler (ANO; 72)  

The 7/5 split on energy has become the standard in Bulu decks. You need 2 Grass energy to use Tapu Bulu to attack but Lightning is also pivitol to using Strong Charge so there must be an appropriate balance between the two. 2 Energy Recycler fixes the probelm of ever running out of energy and lets you have seemingly infinite energy throughout the game. Some people prefer 1 Recycler and 1 Super Rod but the most important aspect of this deck is getting energies back to repeatedly use Nature's Judgement to one shot whatever your opponent has in the active spot. 

That covers the talking about the deck and the card inclusions, now let us dive into the big matchups shall we? 

Vs Zoroark Variants (Very Favorable)

Almost every Zoroark variant is heavily favorable. You can always one shot their threats and they can never respond unless they hit a full bench plus choice band plus Professor Kukui plus a Reverse Valley, which Zoroark decks don't even play anymore. The scariest aspect of a Zoroark matchup is the fact that they'll chase after your Vikavolt (SUM; 52) s on the bench and if they have fighting typing then it'll be easy for them to take one shots on your Vikavolts. The Golispod variant is the easiest because they are a sustain based deck full of healing and you can't heal if you're dying in one shot. The Gardevoir GX variant is the hardest because you can never one shot a Gardevoir GX that they have. The approach to that matchup is to simply race them and take out the Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  they have which cuts off their draw power. Establishing a Stage 2 and a bunch of Stage 1s is a lot harder than it seems. When I played Zoroark/Gardevoir in Charlotte I would struggle to do both for the first few turns, it almost always took me till turn 3 or 4 to set up my board. In summary, the Zoroark matchup is extremely favored and only seems scary if you just never get a Vikavolt (SUM; 52)  out. 

Vs Buzzwole GX (CIN; 104) / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) (Slightly favorable) 

This matchup is one where anything can happen because of how fast Buzzwole is as a deck. Their main game plan in the matchup is to chip your Grubbins twice before they becoome Vikavolt (SUM; 52) s and take out both at the same time in a swing turn. If they can do that and N you in the same turn you'll hae to re-establish board state because you have probably taken 3-4 prizes at this point in the game. Mew FCO is really good because you can blow up a Buzzwole for weakness and not need to find a Choice Band to get the knockout. It is also a one prize attacker so it alters the arms race of two prize attackers swinging at each other. Buzzwole plays Sudowoodo which copies Nature's Judgement for a knockout so that is something to be very cautious of. If Buzzwole hits 3-4 Max Elixers during a game it is really hard to keep pace with them, especially if they also can use Lycanroc GX (GRI; 138) 's Bloodthirsty Eyes effectively. The matchup can be won or lost in a matter of minutes because of how quickly knockouts are taken and can go either way, but with the Mew I give a slight edge to KicaBulu.

Vs Sylveon GX (GRI; 92) / Hoopa (SLG; 55) (Very Favorable)

Both of these decks are increasing in popularity recently since Portland Regionals where they came roaring out into a perfect metagame for both to shine. Both of these decks can't answer being knocked out constantly in one shot. Sylveon folds completely to Bulu because with a blower, Bulu can continuously knockout Sylveon GX in one shot turn after turn. Sylveon plays 1 N and needs other resources to keep the game going like an early Plea GX into Counter Catcher shenanigans. Attacking Hoops has to hope that enough energy and Mew FCO are both prized to stay in the game. When I played vs Hoopa, the only game that I lost was one where I prized 2 Grass and Energy Recycler and that just changed how I had to play the game and I fell one turn too far behind. 

Vs Gardevoir GX (BUS; 93)  (Very Unfavorable)

Gardevoir GX has been around for almost a year now and has seen a decrease in play due to its inability to keep up with Zoroark decks. Gardevoir is the hardest matchup for Tapu Bulu because you can never one shot them and they can chip away at you while healing with Max Potions for the whole game. If you ever leave 3 Energy on your Bulu, it will be dead coming into your next turn so you have to discard every turn but its a futile effort. The only hope you have is that you can snag 2 prizes early and then they bench 2 Tapu Lele GX because that is your last 4 prizes. I myself piloted Gardevoir GX at a cup because my locals love to play Tapu Bulu and I was able to waltz through all of them with ease. 

That covers all of the important matchups heading into Brazil and my top pick, so now let us talk a bit about how the Top 16 race is going as we round the final corner of the Pokemon year. 

Top 16 Race Musings and Ramblings Part 1

As many of you know I am currently competing for a spot in the Top 16 players of North America by the time the World Championships roll around so I can reap the rewards. What are those rewards you may ask? The biggest reward is skipping the first day of the World Championships and securing a berth directly to the second day. Along with that players earn a travel award to attend the championships which can be taken as a trip covered by Pokemon or cash to do it yourself. As a player living in the USA and Nashville being as acceessible as it is, I know I don't have to rely on Pokemon to book my trip so I'll always take the cash option in this instance. The Top 16 players also earn a travel award to the next years European Intercontinental, which has happened to be in London for the past two years. Now that you know what's at stake here, you can hopefully try to understand where I'm coming from. 

Last year I began the year simply going after my Worlds Invitation and nothing more in what some were calling the hardest year to earn your invite since 2014. Statistically it was going to be a harder year, especially for the rest of the world due to their lack of tournaments and high championship point requirement. I began the season off with a Top 8 at the first regionals I attended in Orlando, my current hometown because of college. I skipped the next few months to focus on school and couldn't miss family gatherings at the time of big holidays, which coincided with a few major tournaments. I made my triumphant return at Athens and finished 5-3-1 losing an important win and Top 64 match. This was soon after they enacted Top 64 money into the circuit so I was feeling the sting. In two back to back performances I managed to Top 8 and Top 4 regionals and suddenly I was sitting pretty for my invite, along with a berth in the current Top 16. I finished right outside of the range of earning a travel stipend to the Brazil Intercontinental Championships but decided that I couldn't go anyways. I would have returned from Brazil to take a final exam the very next day which scared me as a student, little did I know that I would only need a 30% to keep my A in the class. I sat at home and watched Brazil all weekend and my hopes for Top 16 were still very much alive and became something I began seriously considering. Suddenly Pokemon hit us with mid season Championship Point change that benefitted those who placed at more tournaments, especially Intercontinentals, as opposed to those who had a few but excellent finishes. I was soon surpassed due to these changes but I didn't let that deter me. I set myself up to perform at Toronto Regionals and I would secure a stipend to attend Indianapolis for the Intercontinental there. I bombed the tournament naturally and lamented my failures. This began the May/June marathon, which doesn't hold a candle to this years but was still daunting.

Every single weekend there was a major tournament to be attending and I had 3 open slots in my best finish limit, so performing at them was my mission. I managed to rattle off two back to back Top 16 finishes at Virginia and Madison but failed to earn points at Origins after going 5-2 and bubbling Top 16 points. I couldn't finish strong on cups in the 4th quarter either, ending with a Top 4 and an open finish leaving 70 potential points on the table. Missing the 80 points at origins along with the 70 at cups left me dejected and going into the North American Intercontinentals placing a lot of pressure on myself. I needed to earn 130 points to secure my slot after everything had shaken up. Going into the event all I needed to do was make the second day and if a few people didn't earn points I would have a slot. I began the tournament 4-1 and then a frustrating judge ruling brought me to 4-2. I was shaken and my mindset was all over the place with this pressure I had put on myself. At 5-2 I hit a fellow player who was right on the cusp of Top 16 as well, Christopher Schemanske and I was swfitly defeated as he came prepared to beat me. I was eliminated from the tournament at this point and my Top 16 hopes were dashed. I conceded my last one to someone who needed the points to qualify and I walked off dejected and it took me a few days to swallow the harsh reality that I was going to be playing the first day of the World Championships. At Worlds I made the right call but ran into 3 counters and didn't make it to the penultimate day where the money was waiting and the glory was waiting to be had. I resolved at that moment that I would pursue Top 16 the following year to the best of my abilities and I would never do anyting half heartedly again. 

The year began with a shocking announcement that there would be no best finish limit which has now devolved the race into pure and utter chaos. Intercontinentals mattered more than ever and if you fell behind early by sitting at home on your couch, catching up to the pack is near impossible. For example Alex Hill had a rough start to the year but wasn't in the race, he has not placed worse than 9th at the last 4 regionals and is still almost a 100 points outside of the race. This year isn't rewarding the best 16 players but the 16 players who can go to every event and earn points while occasionally having a big finish. Starting at Brazil until Columbus, there is a big event every single weekend. The marathon I faced last year was more like a 5K compared to what I have to do this year. I'm not particularly fond of potentially having to fly to Mexico 4 times in the next two months. Pokemon had very clear intentions with this season making it one of the most inclusive worlds to date for competitors, but this creates the craziest Day 1 that we've ever had, a mini regionals if you will. I'll be going into more detail in my next article about this season as a whole but that'll come after Brazil when I know how safe I am moving forwards. 

Conclusion

Thank you guys all for reading through everything with me and I hope you guys have a new outlook on Bulu. I'm very excited for Brazil and the marathon coming up. I'll be attending Brazil, Salt Lake City, Toronto, Mexico (a few times), Madison and Columbus. If you see me at any of those events please feel free to come up to me and say hi. 

I also have begun streaming on twitch so if you guys want to watch me play some Pokemon then come follow me at twitch.tv/thefleeee and I will be streaming regularly over the summer during this marathon that we're going to be going into. Feel free to add me on Facebook and also follow me on Twitter @thefleeee. That's all from me folks until next time! I appreciate all of you and follow my journey on Twitter if you would like! 

 

[+14] okko


 

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