In today’s edition of Social Saturday, we’re going to talk a little bit about the drastic changes that have occurred between the 2016 and 2017 season of Play! Pokémon, the official tournament organizers of the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Although there are lots of positive aspects of the new season, there is plenty of room for improvement. We’ll go over both sides, and ultimately offer some suggestions for how to improve organized play not only for next season, but for years to come.
Before we get into the changes themselves, let’s set the stage first, because it’s important you know the history to understand the present…
I’m a lawyer, and rarely do I get to comment on how the law directly impacts my hobbies. However, thanks to a little case called Yale v. Wizards of the Coast (link < a href="http://icv2.com/articles/news/view/34293/are-magic-judges-employees">here, I can. For those who don’t know, Wizards of the Coast is the company that owns and produces Magic: The Gathering, and also once distributed Pokémon cards in markets outside of Japan. It’s also the leader in all aspects of not only card game mechanics and testing, but event organization. One key aspect of the way nearly all card tournaments have been organized is the volunteering judges and staff do at events. Most of the time this involves compensation in money or booster packs; other times it involves jack-squat.
The catch? Well, unless Pokémon decides to turn organized play into a non-profit, nothing about Play! Pokémon or tournaments is charity, turning the idea of “volunteer” judges in on its head.
So if these judges getting cash or packs aren’t volunteers, then what are they?
According to some, they’re employees.
I can think of arguments going both ways. On one hand, these people are paid money, have the equivalent of company handbooks they abide by, and more; on the other hand, tournament judges can just as easily be argued as being beneficiaries of the tournament as the players. While this is by no means a settled question, the Yale case could send shockwaves across all card games, including Pokémon. If judges are considered “employees,” then that means class members could potentially get back pay, unpaid overtime, and the company itself could be hit with a fine.
Where We are Now
Now, I’m not an attorney for Pokémon, but between my professional background in law and personal background in Pokémon, I can bet that the ultra-cautious, uber-smart lawyers associated with Play! Pokémon wanted to preempt as many legal risks as possible. That means immediate restructuring to the volunteer system of organized play, who is responsible for whom…and who Pokémon doesn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole.
That’s my speculation, anyways. This might only be part of the equation, or none of the equation. At any rate, the system has changed, and there are potentially very good reasons for it having been changed!
This season, we’ve seen the following things done differently:
* City, State, and National Championships removed;
** League Cups, International Championships, and “Special Events” as a formal category;
** A drastic increase in Regional Championship prize payouts;
** More routine prizes for top-ranked players in each of the major ranking zones (North America, Latin America, Europe, Oceania)
First and foremost, the prizes at Regionals are insane. It hasn’t been too long since the Nationals prize pool was once the size of the current Regionals payout, boxes and money and all! Better still, the prizes go pretty deep at huge-attendance events: For finishing in the top 64 of a Regional with over 500 attendees, you can get $250 – WOW!
Second, the season is now year-‘round. That means you could play Pokémon every single weekend, earn invites to play in both TCG and video game Worlds, and travel all over the World. Alternatively, since have lots of chances to run hot and set yourself up for an invite, you could do what I did and just choose a point to start playing major events.
What’s Not Good?
First, and more heavily related to our discussion of the “Pokémon-doesn’t-want-to-touch-employees-with-a-ten-foot-pole” point: Because League Cups are given to card shops to run as opposed to tournament organizers, the quality is extremely inconsistent. Out of the three I’ve attended this season, their structure, prize payout, and even basic things like time limits and format were presented in radically different ways. So while you can go to more League Cups in a year, the quality of the events is much, much worse at large.
The second problem is one that’s not new to any of us who have played Pokémon for a while, but communication is shaky. Despite the Championship Point minimum to qualify for Worlds being much higher this season, no League Cups were held at all in the first quarter of the season. Additionally, many of the cash payouts were not solidified until at least one Regional was already held, and those prizes were heavily delayed as a result.
Finally, there appear to be several peculiarities in the prizing structure, mostly related to the International Championships. Regionals need to meet a much larger attendance threshold to scale to – at most – half the prize pool of an International Championship. Perhaps Pokémon didn’t anticipate how much growth Regionals would experience, but these events at bare minimum rival the International Championships in competitiveness, and at most dwarf them in size and scope.
What Could be Changed?
So Pokémon’s a more decentralized, more year-‘round, and bigger-dollar game than ever before. Those are all good things, and should not be ignored despite my criticisms. But my criticisms are made with the goal of being constructive, so here are some ideas for ways to improve Organized Play for next season:
--Quality Assurance for League Cups. Allow some opportunities for League Cups to be run at locations other than card shops, have rigid standards of review for card shops’ handling of League Cups, or both. Letting organizers pick locations other than card shops at least once a year allows for a few more options and a lot more breathing room, while at the same time keeping the card shop owners from monopolizing the power. As for said card shop owners, Play! Pokémon should treat any mismanagement of tournaments on their part very strictly. Contrary to popular belief, bad tournaments are worse than no tournaments at all, because bad tournament experiences can result in destroying someone’s interest in the game.
--When Play! Pokémon is being non-responsive, send support tickets. Part of the Pokémon customer service support system involves “support tickets,” which alert Pokémon of issues:
1) Go to Pokemon.com
2) Scroll down to “Customer Service”
3) Select “Ask a Question”
4) Log into your Trainer Club Account
5) Click “Continue”
6) Click “Ask a Question” (kind of silly to have to click “Ask a Question” twice)
7) Select your appropriate categories and fire away!
Play! Pokémon hears legitimate and frivolous complaints from people all the time, from “Where’s my stipend?” to “I don’t like Pikachu, I think he’s ugly and stupid and for babies.” If you’ve ever worked a job in customer service, you should be aware of the type of garbage these people have to put up with. But if many reasonable, similar complaints about the same thing are flooding in, any customer service worth its salt needs to take notice!
--Make prize scaling more uniform and balanced. This is by far the hardest issue and most up for debate, but it’s confusing and a little strange why International Championships enjoy their biggest prize payout with just a couple hundred people, whereas a Regional has to get up to 500 for even half the same. That’s why I think the increased prize kickers should be uniform between the big events; that is, while let International Championships continue to pay out more, let the next level of Regionals prizes trigger at the exact same point those prizes would for Internationals. Additionally, since there’s a large chance that North American Internationals will be far larger than any other, allow for an increased prize threshold at the 1,000+ attendee range.
Granted, we could still see that since each event allows for increased prize support, but it would be very awkward if the winner of the 1,500 person behemoth that is North American internationals receives the exact same prize payout as the winner of the 250 person event recently held in Melbourne, Australia!
These aren't necessarily bad times we live in for the game, but there are issues with the way tournaments are organized that at least need to be identified, criticized, and debated. Although both the legal and marketing teams supporting Play!
Pokémon are very risk-averse and careful in the way they operate, they're also among the best when it comes to customer service. So if you have any issues with the way tournaments have operated this season, let them know, because they will listen!!!
(Other companies aren't as nice, however.)
Another Expanded Regionals is less than 48 hours away, but from the time of publication, you really only have around 24 hours to choose your deck.
If you’re going to Portland, Oregon’s Expanded regional, which deck should you choose? It’s in these moments it’s most helpful to use a holistic – that is, a complete – approach to viewing the metagame. But to keep it super-short and super-helpful, I’ve divided each deck into four really simple discussion: pros, cons, would I play it (“pull the trigger” as per the 24 theme), and what Jack Bauer thinks about each deck or card.
The clock is ticking, so choose wisely…
24 Deck Countdown, Featuring John Kettler and Jack Bauer
Pros: Well-positioned lock deck when stock in lock decks is UP! Rayquaza can beat it but it will have to be a thoughtful list and not a netdeck of the winning Collinsville build (i.e., it needs Magearna EX).
Cons: Needs to keep drawing its pieces to win; heavily dependent on DCE.
Would I pull the trigger? YES.
Jack Bauer Rating: “Definitely a terrorist.”
Pros: Heavily underused deck with lots of surprise factor remaining; plays a great non-EX trade game.
Cons: Horrible against Vileplume going second; lots of RNG with thinning down the hand with Maxie or to get an Aerodactyl.
Would I pull the trigger? NO.
Jack Bauer Rating: “We live in a post-9/11 world and this thing’s using an Attack called Jet Draft? To Gitmo with you.”
Pros: Even to great matchups against many of the decks picking up steam, which are more worried about teching for Vileplume. Benefits from a surge in Rayquaza, Night March, and Volcanion.
Cons: Still awful versus Vileplume; still has trouble hitting turn one Archie even two years after it won Worlds.
Would I pull the trigger? NO.
Jack Bauer Rating: “Archie is the leader of a known eco-terrorist organization. I’ll find him and hunt him down by any means necessary.”
Pros: Extremely powerful lock deck; wins most games where it doesn’t prize three Rowlet or whiff Vileplume.
Cons: Now a much bigger metagame target; weak Volcanion and Accelgor matchups, which are both picking up Steam.
Would I pull the trigger? YES, but only because I have good mojo with the deck.
Jack Bauer Rating: “GET AWAY FROM THE WINDOWS!!! …We don’t know where the Feather Arrows are coming.”
Pros: Has mostly even to positive matchups across the metagame; easily splashable techs to counter Archeops.
Cons: Never wins convincingly; still struggles a bit vs Yveltal/Archeops even with Wobbuffet and Blends.
Would I pull the trigger? NO, though it’s an underrated deck in a metagame targeting Vileplume.
Jack Bauer Rating: “It’s dominated Japan and top eighted Collinsville. So maybe… maybe you should be a little more afraid of this deck than you are right now.
Pros: Only semi-competitive if Grass is somehow absent.
Cons: Horrible vs Grass; lots of other negative matchups that are uphill battles.
Would I pull the trigger? NO.
Jack Bauer Rating: “Terrorists love to attack under the cover of night.”
Pros: VERY consistent and perhaps the MOST consistent Vileplume variant; mostly even to good matchups.
Cons: Very linear in its operation and I’m uneasy about its chances vs Rayquaza.
Would I pull the trigger? NO
Jack Bauer Rating: “There are FOUR AZ in this deck, and you’re not willing to tell me it’s associated with radical jihad?!”
M Gardevoir EX
Pros: In “theory” does well vs the meta; consistent.
Cons: In practice does awful vs the meta; bricks to Irritating Pollen on Vileplume.
Would I pull the trigger? NO
Jack Bauer Rating: “I trusted you! My wife and daughter almost DIED at Collinsville because of you!!!”
M Manectric EX
Pros: In theory does well vs the meta; consistent.
Cons: Does seem to conform to those assumptions, but has a bad Night March matchup and I have no idea what sort of list I would want to run.
Would I pull the trigger? NO, but if you have a good working version of the deck, then Portland would be the ideal place to run it.
Jack Bauer Rating: “I wish I had a bomb-sniffing dog handy.”
Pro: Super-powerful, super-consistent deck with the potential to wade through a sea of players.
Cons: Has a huge target on its back; the metagame is trending against it; bad Night March matchup.
Would I pull the trigger? NO
Jack Bauer Rating: “Intensifying Burns can’t melt steel beams.”
Pros: Supremely consistent; the metagame is extremely favorable for it; easy to play if you’re less experienced; could probably tech a bit to beat its bad matchups
Cons: Struggles vs any Vileplume.
Would I pull the trigger? YES
Jack Bauer Rating: “An insurgency, in Portland? It’s more likely than you think.”
Pros: Reliable tank deck with tons of offensive power; Wobbuffet is great in Standard and Expanded right now.
Cons: Still weak to Grass; still slow.
Would I pull the trigger? NO
Jack Bauer Rating: “The only way you’re going to die is if I kill you. Your Gaia Volcano’s not going off.”
Pros: Great trades with many of the most popular EX decks; in theory should beat Mega Ray.
Cons: Struggles a ton vs Vileplume decks; slaughtered by Decidueye; in practice somehow struggles to Mega Ray due to Hex and not having more Energy acceleration.
Would I pull the trigger? NO
Jack Bauer Rating: “If you try to Thunder Lance me, I will have to Feather Arrow you back. And I promise I won’t miss.”
Pros: Really powerful; a non-EX version of Mega Ray; better Yveltal matchup; might be subject of a Kale Chalifoux article someday.
Cons: Lots of moving parts; shares the same Weaknesses of Mega Ray
Would I pull the trigger? Tempted.
Jack Bauer Rating: "XERNEAS! BISHARP! VOLCANION! They've all admitted to being part of the conspiracy! What are the others' names?!?!?!"
Pros: Powerful lock.
Cons: Not good vs Vileplume; requires a very favorable metagame and flawless play over a long day; might not survive a one-day Regional.
Would I pull the trigger? No.
Jack Bauer Rating: “You’re worse than a traitor, Sableye. That’s because traitors have a cause – you just wanna hunt for junk all day.”
Pros: Consistent; multi-layered lock deck; good vs a lot of the emerging metagame from Collinsville except Grass.
Cons: Horrible vs Grass; not particularly good in general right now.
Would I pull the trigger? No.
Jack Bauer Rating: “I survived getting hit by five Feather Arrows and an Aero Ball. Do you think Flash Bites would even phase me?”
Pros: Still the most consistent Item lock in the game; would theoretically do well in a long day if it dodges Dark.
Cons: Has to depend on dodging the most consistently powerful, successful deck of the last 3-5 years.
Would I pull the trigger? No.
Jack Bauer Rating: “You may think you’re not Weak to me because of who I work for, but believe me…I am very dark.”
Turbo Darkrai (and Darkrai/Dragons)
Pros: Very powerful; consistent; simple; exploits a metagame full of surprised and meta decks.
Cons: Struggles vs the emergent metagame of Collinsville.
Would I pull the trigger? No, though I'd be more likely to pull it for Darkrai/Dragons
Jack Bauer Rating: “I’ve been following you this whole time, Darkrai. You’ve won Worlds, but now some Emeralds and Feathers are too much for you? WHY!?!?!?!?!”
Pros: Consistent; lots of versatility; not as bad vs Vileplume as you might think; hits for all Weaknesses.
Cons: brittle; struggles vs Darkrai; might get hexed out of the game; bad vs Night March.
Would I pull the trigger? No, but just barely.
Jack Bauer Rating: “WHERE ARE THE POKEMON IN THE DISCARD PILE? WHERE?!?!?!?!”
Pros: Super-consistent; has quite a few good matchups.
Cons: Too linear in its operation past turn one; much better Vileplume variants to choose from; horrible vs Decidueye.
Would I pull the trigger? No
Jack Bauer Rating: “I’m Federal Agent Jack Bauer…This is the longest turn of my lfie.”
Pros: Versatile; has lots of matchup and type coverage.
Cons: A little clunky; probably better just to combine the concept with Vileplume/Decidueye instead.
Would I pull the trigger? No
Jack Bauer Rating: “Basics can’t kill you…Evolutions can’t kill you…not even Pokemon-EX. Are you backed by the Chinese government?”
Pros: Very powerful and consistent; the metagame is favoring it and disfavoring its bad matchups; should destroy most Vileplume variants.
Cons: Struggles a bit against Mega Ray; has some other metagame holes, but nothing unforgivable.
Would I pull the trigger? YES
Jack Bauer Rating: “When all four Steam Ups activate, the bomb will detonate. We don’t have much time left…”
Pros: Has an answer for everything; can tech for everything; more or less consistent (i.e., benefits form best two of three match play)
Cons: Needs enough hate to deal with Vileplume variants
Would I pull the trigger? YES
Jack Bauer Rating: “You’ve been around for so long, old man, yet here you are, still threatening the American people.”
Pros: was pretty dang good against the old metagame
Cons: Horrible against the new metagame
Would I pull the trigger? No
Jack Bauer Rating: “Tell me where the Diamond Gift is, or I’ll break your hand.”
In summary, these are the following decks I would strongly consider for Portland, and ones you should feel good about if you already plan on using them…
Rainbow Road (kinda)
Your deck choice may depend on what you’re shooting for, as well. At this point in the season, some decks that aren’t outstanding versus anything but can play against the metagame will be great for those trying to inch to the finish line to get their invites, while more volatile decks like Night March and Rainbow Road would be more attractive if you need a win. Of course, the other 18 decks are on this list for a reason, and I’m sure there are decks that will do well I didn’t even write about.
I hope that helps! 'Cause if it didn't, you'll be telling me...
"Everyone dies starting with you, Kettler." ~Jack Bauer
Another Regional tournament has come and gone -- this time in Malmo, Sweden, and Decidueye enjoys another win! However, to just leave it at that would waste a lot of precious metagame analysis, as well as losing out on some interesting developments and a great story.
On Europe: Land of the (Also) Free
Despite some Pokemon communities on Facebook and Reddit reaching as many as 20,000 users, I believe that there's an incredible lack of depth in understanding between the various continents, tournaments, and their players, so I wanna take this quick opportunity to address that:
This season, Europe has had many Regionals and special events, just like the rest of the world. However, the distinguishing characteristic between Regionals in Europe (or everywhere else) and the United States is that Regional Championships in the United States are mind-numbingly massive.
Europe is getting close to making Pokemon great again as well, considering that the Malmo, Sweden regional is that country's second largest tournament in history. However, for various reasons caused by responsible persons at all levels, I'm not sure if European organized play is as large as it is in the United States. Thus, while the Regional tournaments there have seen a proportionately similar explosion in attendance, you simply can't compare the size or scope of the events.
As a result, flame wars start. Someone in a small European country may feel slighted by their acocmplishments not being respected, or an American who has to go through the grind at 500 and 700-person events may feel a bit envious. It'll happen, and the reactions to it will range from amusement to keyboard rage.
I'm here to tell you that much the same way young teenagers in Masters (ages 15+) try to belittle the accomplishments of younger teenagers in the Senior Division (ages 11-14), it's actually pretty silly for the various continents to belittle each other's accomplishments, whether those are wins or high placements. Here's why:
1. Mathematically, it's getting harder to win for everyone. The commentators at Collinsville were amused at how the U.S. Regionals of today are of the same size, player skill level, and dollar value of U.S. Nationals just 7-8 years ago. Likewise, European Regionals -- once only as well-attended as large City Championships in the United States -- are threatening to be larger than at least one or two U.S. Regionals!
So where does that put Europe in relation to the U.S.? Assuming equal skill level, U.S. Regionals are generally much harder to do well at or win. If the average skill level is the same at both Regionals, and there are 500 people at one versus 300 at the other, there is simply no denying that the 500-person tournament is mathematically harder.
Take heart though, because there are many situations where making top eight or winning is actually much harder in Europe. Malmo Regionals for instance, which had 200 people and thus not enough for a day two, required a 6-1-1 record to advance to the top eight. That's tough stuff! Contrast that to Oregon, which may end up with just enough people for a day two, allowing for one of the most forgiving day two cutoffs of the entire season.
There, feel a bit better now? :D
2. When good cash prizes are on the line, good players will be everywhere. In the two Regional Championships I played in, I had the pleasure of facing off against Ross "The Boss" Cawthon three times. That's because there's big money on the line at Regionals now, so you can bet your bottom dollar Rosses will be going to everything their schedules permit. Europe's Regionals are of a similar payout, so naturally their equivalent of a "Ross" will be highly likely to go to those events, as well, meaning you must overcome these challenges if you want to win a Regional. All Europe has to do now is agree who gets to be their Ross Cawthon equivalent. Is it Mees Brenninkmeijer? Someone else?
Nah, my money's on (T)Angela Merkel.
All right. Now that I'm done settling the incredibly funny "U.S. versus Europe" debate in about the most reasonable, comprehensive, non-trollish way ever put to pen, let's get into the meat of the entry: the decks!
(Special thanks goes to both Complexity and Limitless TCG. Without their efforts, event coverage and discussion would have been much harder if not impossible.)
Champion: Gonçalo Ferreira (Decidueye GX/Vileplume AOR/Toolbox techs)
Poor Lugia got cut off!
This is Mr. Ferreira's second Regionals win this season, and what an incredible achievement it is! As we talked about in the Collinsville report, Decidueye's core list can switch out Energy quite easily, allowing for the use of tech attackers. Here, Gonçalo decided to replace his Grass with Rainbows in order to accommodate a tech Jolteon EX for the Volcanion matchup. Everything else, including the Espeon EX for mirror, achieves its purpose in a normal list running Grass Energy
The "potential" for this concept is incredibly deep, and doesn't necessary begin or end with running only Jolteon. You could also run a Glaceon EX for hate decks not quite as well represented, such as pesky Espeon GX/Wobbuffet variants or certain Mega Rayquaza builds. You might also want to keep a very close eye on how new big basics from Guardians Rising could influence the deck. For now though, do you really want to run more attackers that would require a colored Energy than Jolteon EX? ...Probably not.
As one final note, I find it interesting how a lot of the European lists run two Shaymin EX over three. In any deck, the number of Shaymin EX you run should depend on the point at which you receive too just enough returns for each card's inclusion. It's the reason why I ultimately went down from four to three in time for Anaheim, and very well may be the reason why these players use only two. My decision to stay at three is based on two simple reasons: a belief that digging for turn one Vileplume and Decidueye is 100% worth the inclusion, and the utter fear of bricking with this deck. Three Shaymin help with both those concerns, but I still consider this very much open for debate.
Runner-Up: Mikael Jacobs (Decidueye GX/Espeon GX)
Decidueye GX/Espeon GX is one of those ideas people have stewed over, but never really gone for...that is, until last weekend. With this deck, you get to enjoy the power of Decidueye as well as the raw power of Espeon GX. You also enjoy access to the Ancient Origins Type-adding Eeveelutions, which can be teched as appropriate for your metagame. The list also has a lot of construction peculiarities, including 1/1 Shaymin EX/Oranguru, 3 VS Seeker, 3 Forest of Giant Plants, and 3 Trainers' Mail. All of these are justifiable in one way or another, but my mpression is that it is much weaker against the mirror than it could be otherwise. That could be alleviated with a faster Pokemon and draw line, as on average the normal Decidueye/Vileplume list will be outdrawing and outspeeding this. Nevertheless, the sheer versatility of these attackers allows for victory in slower games.
Of all the decks that did well in Malmo, I consider this one to make the biggest impact on the metagame. It has answers to nearly everything in the metagame, including mirror, and whatever this particular list may struggle with could easily be changed for your own tournament scene.
Top Four: Karl Peters (Quad Lapras GX)
Perhaps the most unexpectedly successful deck of the weekend, Lapras GX is now another in a long line of attrition decks built to outlast its opponents. The result is that quite often your opponent will run out of resources simply trying to deal with Lapras, let alone actually killing it. Karl splashes in a little bit of everything that makes a Water Box deck great, but with an incredible amount of Energy denial as well.
This deck struggles against Decidueye, but not for the reasons you might think. Sure, you'd rather not have Weakness to Grass, but a Grass Weakness becomes mostly irrelevant when you can discard Energy. Unfortunately, therein lies the problem: You lose most of your Energy denial cards under Item lock! Furthermore, the brilliance of some inclusions, such as Team Skull Grunt as a natural counter to a Decidueye GX using Hollow Hunt to get back Energy cards, is limited by card count.
Furthermore, it's questionable against Turbo Darkrai. You may have a lot of Energy denial, but careful playing of resources at every point in the game can make this an incredibly difficult matchup for the Lapras player to win. Although Karl won his top eight match against Darkrai in a nailbiter, he's also a veteran of the game who saw a narrow window of opportunity to deck his opponent out, and went for it.
If you like Lapras and want to play what is among the format's least expensive decks, then you've found what you've been looking for! But unless you feel very confident against both Darkrai and Decidueye, you may want to steer clear of Lapras.
Top Four: Jindrich Nepevny (Mega Mewtwo/Espeon/Wobbufet)
Lastly we have a more traditional counter to the current metagame, albeit with some less conventional tweaks. Rather than run Garbodor, Jindrich opts for more Wobbbuffets. He also run a 1-1 Espeon GX line for the mirror and miscellaneous situations, a very high count on Float Stone, and only one Shaymin EX (!). That last call in particular kills me a bit: Despite running and hoping to start with Wobbuffet, you will still rely on and exploit Shaymin EX quite often, chaining those crucial turns where you need Mega Turbo and a Double Colorless to deal enough damage. With two copies you can do that quite often, but with one I foresee a lot of bricking situations.
Of the top four decks, Jindrich's was the best-equipped to beat Decidueye/Vileplume. Despite my above criticisms, this is a Mewtwo list built not only for early-game Ability lock, but to make Decidueye's Lysandre/Feather Arrow lock strategy against high Retreat Cost Pokemon impossible. It was just his bad fortune that he went up against Mikael, whose version of Decidueye clearly had the tools it needed to outmuscle Mega Mewtwo!
It was a lot of fun analyzing and considering the possibilities for each of these four decks! I hope this served as a good opportunity to de-mystify Europe for some of our American readers, as well as to explore some interesting decks that could have a long-lasting effect on the World stage.
(P.S. I promise I'll be putting out an Expanded-focused article later this week! Less frowning Oregons and more smiling ones!)
As most of you know, HeyTrainer.org has two parts: a blog and a forum. Our forum is a close-knit community of elite players, comic misfits, and individuals who just love our brand of freedom.
Since it’s great to see everyone’s opinions mesh, we love various contests throughout the year, from online tournaments, to deckbuilding competitions, to even popularity contests! However, it’s been a sweet seven years since we’ve discussed what we consider the greatest cards of all time…
Our nominations process was simple: name any ten cards you like. That’s it. No need to win a tournament, do well, or even be a competitive card – nothing! Because of that, you’ll see some pretty surprising things end up on our list, and some even more surprising snubs.
We received many, many cards, but in the end, only 32 could advance...
Previous Finalists (two cards):
Holon’s Castform DF
To make nominations a bit simpler, I decided to give automatic invites to our champion and runner-up from the last contest. These cards will be the first and second overall seeds.
Holon’s Castform is one of only a precious few Pokemon capable of being attached as Energy without relying on any Ability or Poke-Power, as well as one of the best starter Pokemon from its era. Cessation Crystal is a Garbotoxin on anything.
Five nominations (one card):
The most popular card of the nominating process, Swoop! Teleporter is the spiritual predecessor to Ninja Boy from Steam Siege. It’s also an Item card, making it far more useful.
Four nominations (one card):
The Fourth seed overall, Pidgeot FRLG’s Quick Search Poke Power is a Computer Search a turn! It is one of the greatest consistency cards of all time, and is the inspiration for our Quick Search card column.
Three nominations (two cards):
Pow! Hand Extension
Tied for fifth seed, both of these cards provide devastating effects when behind on prizes.
Two Nominations (16 cards)
Ancient Technical Machine Rock
Team Galatic's Invention Power Spray PL
Jirachi (EX Deoxys)
Regigigas Lv. X SF
Jumpluff HGSS, #6
Mew Prime (Triumphant 97)
That’s a pretty big tie for 7th seed, isn’t it! These cards span seven years of competitive Pokemon, and provide the backbone of many of the “retro” decks you see people playing with at Internationals and Worlds.
Wild Cards (10 cards):
Luxray GL LV.X
Gust of Wind
Cleffa Neo Genesis
There were many, many cards with only one nomination each, so I decided that I’d round out the bracket with ten I deemed to be among the game’s most legendary. It also includes the sole XY-block card on the list, Yveltal EX.
Snubs and No-Shows
Of course, several cards that did get a single nomination weren’t seconded or otherwise recognized as a wild card, and even more cards weren’t nominated at all! More obvious snubs like Blastoise BCR, Darkrai EX DEX, Eelektrik NVI, and Seismitoad EX FUF are a product of the culture on Heytrainer’s forums. Although our blog is safe reading for all ages, the forums are geared toward an adult audience, so it only makes sense that the nominations of our adult members reflect the eras of the TCG they find most nostalgic.
Final Thoughts, and Conclusion
That’s that! If you’d like to vote for your favorites, adult players should feel free to sign up for or log into heytrainer.org/forum during voting periods. Whether you’re voting or just curious, however, you can check out all the action < a href=” http://challonge.com/HTGreatestCard”>here.
Polls go up tomorrow -- good luck, cardboard!!!
From time to time, I and others will be doing columns discussing particular cards. Think of these as "card of the whenever," but with a lot more depth and substance!
Our friends at Pokebeach have been tirelessly leaking translations of Guardians Rising, the next expansion of the Pokemon TCG. One card that immediately caught my eye was, well...”Sabl”eye! Since there’s already a lot of hype and concern about this card, I thought now would be a perfect time to probe its true power…
--At 60 HP and no Resistance, Sableye is really brittle. Tauros GX knocks it out, Volcanion can easily knock it out, and Yveltal (Oblivion Wing) can handle it, too!
--The whole reason behind running this card in a deck is Limitation, an Attack that prevents your opponent from playing any Supporter cards during His or Her next turn. If you’re an older player and this looks familiar, you’d be right to think so!
Yes, Sableye Guardians Rising is actually the spiritual successor of another Sableye from EX: Deoxys. Luckily for us, we aren’t getting an exact reprint; in fact, when you compare the cards side by side, it’s obvious that they nerfed the Guardians Rising Sableye. I guess a Resistance to Tauros GX and a free look at your Opponent’s Hand would’ve been too broken, especially since we just got viable hand reveal in the form of Gumshoos GX.
Despite being a strictly better card, Sableye from EX: Deoxys never saw much play because decks had reliable Pokémon-based engines to dig out of Limitation lock. If you could always dig out of a bad hand caused by Limitation, then what's the point of it?
(In fact, search was so strong in Sableye Deoxys's day, it inspired the name for this column...Quick Search!)
...Now, though? We don’t have the angelic bird to save us; instead, we’re stuck with a monstrous Item lock deck wrecking the format, and reliable Pokémon search is non-existent. This of course creates the ultimate opening to run Sableye with Item lock, creating a supreme lock of all non-Stadium Trainer cards in the game. Considering how Trainers make up at least half of the average player’s deck, you can see why this is a cause for concern.
--We’ll address some of the tactics and strategies to be abused with Sableye below, but I should note that Scratch could be just enough Damage to bench an opponent, depending on the circumstances.
--Vileplume and Decidueye. If you have Vileplume and Sableye working together, all you're missing is Damage. Splash Decidueye GX into the mix, and you now have a complete lock that can win the game on KO's.
This idea is actually already impossible in Expanded through an Exeggutor from Plasma Freeze. Exeggutor deals too little damage to prevent the opponent from drawing out of a "complete lock," but Decidueye can add to its output much the same way it can add to Sableye's in Standard!
(It always confused me why Exeggutor looked afraid to be touching the water...)
To be honest, I think the only reason Exeggutor PLF/Vileplume/Decidueye doesn’t “work” in Expanded is simply because no one has been brave enough to try it in a tournament – not even myself. While Sableye is a Basic, it also needs Rainbow Energy to function assuming you want to use both Limitation and Hollow Hunt. However, considering the normal VD list runs eight Energy total, subbing your Grass Energy for Rainbow is an easy enough change. When you get this combo out, it is certainly a terror to behold. But this assumes the opponent already has every other element of the lock, which as you have seen from my streamed games, that is easier said than done, so take some comfort in knowing that it's hard to set up!
As one last thought on this point: If we as a community think up the best version of a Vileplume/Decidueye with Sableye, and it actually works consistently…the format is in peril, and a ban of Forest of Giant Plants after May/June Regionals would be totally justified.
--You can also play Sableye as a pseudo-starter in Dark. While Attackers like the Yveltal brothers (Yveltal XY and Yveltal BKT) are usually the preferred early game aggressors, I think a tech one-of Sableye could be very disruptive to anything facing off against Yveltal or Turbo Dark. It’s especially helpful in Yveltal/Garbodor, which will inevitably trade out the Supporter lock with an Ability lock.
--Hand disruption like Red Card, Judge, N, Ilima, and especially Delinquent. The nail in the proverbial coffin of an opponent playing against Sableye is having no playable cards in their hand, which is precisely what these cards do.
--The above Vileplume idea, but with Blend Energy GRPD (Dragons Exalted) instead of Rainbow. It doesn’t damage your Pokémon, and can supply the cost for both Decidueye and Sableye the same way a Rainbow could.
--Hypnotoxic Laser, Rock Guard, Rocky Helmet, and any other means to achieve passive Damage. Sableye may not be able to deal Damage while attacking with Limitation, but your Items can!
--Magnezone Plasma (Plasma Storm). This rarely-used card in Expanded lets you use two Supporters a turn. One way you could use this to secure a lock is by playing one of the Supporters listed above (Judge, Delinquent, etc.), followed up with disruptive Energy-discarding Supporters like Xerosic and Team Flare Grunt. Combine those with a reliable way to reuse Supporter cards, such as VS Seeker or Pal Pad, and you’ve got on your hands a Frankenstein’s Magnezone of a lock deck.
(Since when does having two brains mean you're a Frankenstein's Magnezone? D:)
--Any deck already running Dark Explorers Sableye. Much of the support cards backing up a Limitation lock will be Items, so if you feel safe momentarily breaking the Supporter lock to get back crucial cards like Hypnotoxic Laser, you could position yourself for the late game pretty well.
--Exeggutor PLF. As mentioned above, Exeggutor PLF’s Blockade has a history being one of the best Supporter lock decks in the game’s history. Now that Lysandre’s Trump card is banned, it’s a lot harder for Exeggutor to maintain momentum on its own, and it requires a lot of cards just to get out a turn one Supporter lock if you wanted. One thing you could do to make an Exeggutor-focused deck more reliable is to run Sableye as your opener, using Limitation for the first turn and then subsequently using Blockade the second.
(For a potentially stronger deck, try pairing Sableye Guardians Rising with Stoutland BCR – it has an Ability that shuts off the opponent’s Supporter cards!!!)
I’ve only scratched the surface at the potential horrors lying in wait for us when Guardians Rising is released. However, I hope this special edition of Quick Search is at least jogging your creative minds for ways to abuse this card…and possibly break the game in the process.
Posted by: on 2017-03-16 13:40:22 • Tags: Sableye Guardians Rising Sableye Deoxys Quick Search Pokemon Sableye Limitation Magnezone Plasma Storm Exeggutor Decidueye Sableye Vileplume Decidueye Red Card Sableye
At the expense of being a one-note blog, I’m going to dedicate yet another discussion to Decidueye/Vileplume. Although I promise I'll stop talking about this deck as much (!!!), it's only natural we work together to stop the monster we created.
Today, we’ll be going over a few of the most popular cards to defeat Decidueye/Vileplume. Our discussion will include why each card is good, how easy it is to use and fit each card into a deck, and the drawbacks of each option.
Wobbuffet GEN (reprint of Wobbuffet PHF)
(I'm a pretty girl...)
Why it works: The core of the Decidueye/Vileplume deck is two Abilities: Feather Arrow, to deal Damage; and Irritating Pollen, to shut off Items. Bring up a Wobbuffet, though, and its own Ability will shut off the Decidueye player’s Grass Abilities!
Ease of Use: Wobbuffet is a unique Ability counter in that unlike other cards on this list, it can start working before you’ve even played a turn. Wobbuffet’s greatest strength is its potential to stop an explosive turn one from a Decidueye player going first. The challenge in playing Wobbuffet depends on how you use it after the first turn. You won’t always want to bench your Wobbuffet the moment you draw into it, and you’ll definitely want to be careful about when to promote it!
Drawbacks: Wobbuffet can in fact be used against you by the Decidueye/Vileplume player. A perfect example of this was when I was play-testing against a Turbo Darkrai list utilizing Wobbuffet specifically to beat me. I had to get out a turn one Vileplume without a Decidueye, and was initially in top deck mode to get out of my self-induced hole. However, as soon as my opponent promoted Wobbuffet, I was able to play Trainers’ Mail past my own Item lock, grab a Sycamore, set up multiple Decidueye, Lysandre out the Wobbuffet the next turn, and immediately take back control of the game. Ouch!
Also, I think Wobbuffet is easily teched against. Standard and Expanded lists of Decidueye can run Silent Lab without too much trouble, potentially negating its usefulness.
Garbodor BKP (or DRX in Expanded)
(I'm not a pretty girl...)
Why it works: Same as Wobbuffet, except it potentially lasts for the duration of the game. Garbodor’s actually been the proto-counter to Decidueye before it was even played, and is in part the reason why people run Beedrill, Meowth, or Xerosic in lists (depending on format).
Ease of Use: Garbodor is generally pretty easy to splash into lists in both formats, to the point where its presence in Standard is a practical “build-a-rogue workshop.” Considering many lists want to run Float Stone and Olympia or AZ as it is, placing a simple 2-2 or even 2-1 line of Garbodor can work wonders.
Drawbacks: The two main problems with Garbodor are that it takes time to build up, and it requires maintenance of a Float Stone. The first problem is at the heart of why players in Standard tech Meowth Fates Collide or even tech nothing at all, because if you can keep Trubbish from ever evolving, why even worry about countering Garbodor head-on? The second problem – keeping that Float Stone stuck on poor ole Garb – is why people run Xerosic or Beedrill.
For Beedrill, it’s honestly pretty tough to maintain Float Stone into perpetuity. But if all you’re worried about is Expanded, where people don’t have the same pressure to run a normally bad EX card like Beedrill, then remember this relationship of cards we discussed in my tournament report from Collinsville:
1. Garb shuts off Abilities;
2. When you discard the Tool with a Vileplume in play, you win back your Item lock;
3. To beat the newfound Item lock, Hex to get back your Items, and then attach a Float Stone in that narrow, one-turn window of time.
(I actually am a girl.)
Why it works: Unlike Garbodor and Wobbuffet, which can be shut off through various means, Hex Manic is Ability lock through an unstoppable Supporter card! When run in a count of two or maybe even more, it’ll be hard for you to miss the Hex Maniac at least once a game.
Ease of Use: Merely playing a Hex Maniac is simple; timing it right, however, is key. I think the best points to use Hex are either at the very start of a game when going first, at crucial moments where you’re about to be Knocked Out by Feather Arrows, or when breaking out of the Item lock can result in an explosion either the same turn or the next. Timing the Hex is a little easier in Expanded because of better draw Supporters like Colress to immediately precede it, but thanks to Dark Patch and Max Elixir, a well-timed Hex Maniac can also set up several Attackers.
One last note…grabbing your Hex Maniac back the same turn you play it via VS Seeker is great!
Drawbacks: Aside from obviously taking up your Supporter for the turn, Hex Maniac forces you into many situations where you can’t really follow up with anything big the same turn. Quite often you’ll have to wait a turn before mounting your comeback, and if your strategy involves using Sycamore to dig for more Energy and Pokémon, then you may just get your hand disrupted by a card like N.
(I am nothingness...)
Why it works: Don’t think you need to bother with the Stage Two Abilities as much, or just want a more universally useful card? Run Silent Lab! Shut off your opponents’ Shaymin EX’s and Jirachi EX, more likely than not forcing their early game to a grinding halt. Although Decidueye/Vileplume is an attrition deck that benefits from longer, drawn-out games, it above all wants that incredible turn one with multiple Stage Two Pokémon. Without Shaymin EX, that’s easier said than done.
Ease of Use: Like Hex, it’s pretty easy to put into play, but you’ll have to be sure it doesn’t disrupt yourself too much in the process.
Drawbacks: Well…it shuts off your own Shaymin EX or other Basic Pokémon draw/search, so that’s not good. It also doesn’t do anything to address the main threat, which is of course the Abilities of Decidueye and Vileplume. Whereas good playing with Wobbuffet can make it useful in any point of the game, Silent Lab’s utility is almost entirely about disrupting their early game draw. While I can foresee stealing a win thanks to combining Silent Lab with N in the late game, this will be too rare an occurrence to even justify the inclusion, as you will be playing under constant Item lock.
Pokémon Evac (AZ + Olympia)
(I'm ALL woman.)
Why they work: One of the most sophisticated tactics a Decidueye player has at their disposal is the capability of bringing up a high Retreat Cost Pokémon, leaving it in the active position, and slowly chipping away at your Benched threats. A key way around this is having some way to get the Active liberated under Item lock – namely AZ or Olympia, depending on which format you’re in.
Ease of Use: Of all the cards on this list, I think these are perhaps the easiest for any player to time right. What can be a more difficult decision is knowing when not to Discard them before you need to play them, such as when choosing a card to get rid of on the first turn for Ultra Ball, or when dumping the card for Sycamore. This decision is usually pretty context-dependent, but generally you would benefit by learning to keep these cards as opposed to discard them. The main exception is if you are reasonably sure that you can VS Seeker for the hate card before Vileplume comes into play.
Drawbacks: Other than AZ discarding your Energy in Expanded, there really are none except for using your Supporter slot for the turn. AZ can actually produce some hilarious board positions where you punish a Decidueye player’s careful planning with just a simple evac – sorry, buddy, but no easy buckets!
Supporter Energy Denial (Xerosic + Team Flare Grunt)
(We're both too androgynous to tell what we are! Hurray!!!)
Why they work: Like many decks, Decidueye/Vileplume runs a low energy count. Discard those Energy, however, and you may force the Decidueye player into a position where they must rely exclusively on Feather Arrow to win – a tall task to accomplish.
Ease of Use: As with other cards on the list, timing is crucial, but you also need to be smart about which Energy you discard. Nearly every Decidueye/Vileplume list will either run 7 or 8 Energy total, so in a best two of three, you’ll need to keep track of how many Grass and Double Colorless your opponent runs. This knowledge will inform you on whether to discard a Grass or a DCE in those crucial spots with Team Flare Grunt. Choose right and win; choose wrong and lose…no pressure, right???
Drawbacks: Once again, there aren’t any fantastic drawbacks to worry about with these cards –they’re just two Supporter cards that don’t really mess with your own setup in any way. See Olympia/AZ for knowing when to Discard or keep.
Posted by: on 2017-03-14 18:56:22 • Tags: how to beat decidueye how to beat vileplume decidueye vileplume deck hex maniac pokemon team flare grunt pokemon az pokemon xerosic pokemon card silent lab pokemon card counter
Pokémon and Pokémon TCG, historically considered “kid’s games,” actually draw an incredibly diverse audience. Not only are the vast majority of Pokémon’s competitive players adults; several of the players who grew up with Pokémon got their siblings, spouses, and children hooked, as well. It’s a bona fide family game!
So then that raises the question: Is the Pokémon TCG welcoming to players beyond the “genwunners” and their counterparts? Heck, can we even really consider Pokémon TCG that welcome to anyone outside of its bubble? In today’s Social Saturday, we’ll be examining that crucial question to the game’s survival.
Methodology – or lack thereof
I won’t measure how welcoming Pokémon is in a scientific sense, and my use of empirical data will be limited. However, this article does seek to address the good and the bad that I’ve seen, in the hopes of raising awareness, creating discussion, and brainstorming ideas. If something in here inspires you to approach this scientifically, then I’m all for that! But for now, consider this article less formal or academic, and more casual, in the hopes that it can be more accessible to the whole community – and maybe people on the fence about joining.
Casual Play: a great place to be!
Except for the occasional bad experience, I think players on average are much more likely to enjoy themselves when they’re casual. At this point, you haven’t gotten serious, really just mess around, and your most serious “events” are league and all the league satellite events, i.e. Challenges and Cups. This is the introductory stage of Pokémon cards, and for the most part, this is where a majority of the people who have ever played the game will stay. Every league is different, and its tone is set largely by the league leader. While there are definitely some difficulties getting approval for leagues, I’d say Play! Pokémon has a much stronger system set in place than it ever did to reduce the risk of crappy league leaders – I said “reduce” because there are still scam artists like Mr. Hypothetical who becomes a leader just to rob supplies, but they’re pretty rare.
For the most part, I’d say leagues are supremely welcoming, with plenty to do and not a whole lot to suffer. Of course these places aren’t immune to awful things happening – I had $50 stolen from me as a little kid, and it felt terrible. But even with that bad experience, it wasn’t enough to deter me from the game. And now that we literally have league leaders who grew up with the game and know what it means to grow the player base, the quality of people we now have is only going to increase.
Final verdict – super welcoming!
Competitive Play: a troubled experience for the wayward newbie
Competitive tournaments, on the other hand, can be very disconcerting for a newer player, especially since they’re so used to the way casual play works.
Many years ago, I went to what was called a Super Trainer Showdown qualifier. My experience with organized play up to this point was Pokémon league and mall tours, so I had no idea what to expect. I spent a lot of time waiting around, only to get to play two rounds into double elimination with my awful big Basics deck before I was done or the day…and that was all! While I continued on with the game, had I based any future desire to play competitively on this one event, I would’ve been insane.
Nowadays, I can only imagine what new players feel like when they’re thrown into their first League Cup laden with point-hungry pros, or even their first Regional Championship with around 500-700 other competitors. How must it feel have so many odd pressures on you, including the cutthroat nature of some of your opponents, and of course the looming 50-minute timer.
All this pressure coupled with competitiveness can bring out the bad. Even a legitimate player following the rules could potentially frustrate a casual newbie without ever knowing it, and the experience could perhaps turn the person off of Pokémon forever. This gets even more complex for attractive women players, who may get ogled at least once every tournament.
(In the coming months, we’ll revisit the topic of women in Pokémon. I think this issue is fascinating in its own right, especially because there comes a point when Junior girls begin to drop off from the game.)
And then there are the cheaters. When you have money on the line, this is when people’s demons may truly come out, and a newer player may be at serious risk for exploitation. People who like the game don’t always know its intricacies, so when the casual player who just likes the game without fully understanding it is up against a pro who knows the inside and outs of card interactions. Perhaps the biggest threat to new players is willful neglect by the cheater; that is, neglecting to point out and openly take advantage of inaccuracies in the board state.
Of course it’s a bit more complicated than pressure and cheating, and I’d be remiss if I just looked at external reasons for why newbies could get turned off by big tournaments. For starters, many new players tend to have a stubborn misunderstanding of the rules. Normally these get cleared up by the judge explaining the card interactions, but it’s infuriating to learn that Flygon is suddenly doing twice as much Damage to you, or that Weakness applies before Resistance when you always thought it was the other way around.
Finally, there’s the sheer length of these things. Rather than go to league for free and come and go at your leisure, you’re essentially paying a tournament organizer anywhere between $5 and $40 to hold you hostage for a day! Combine all that and for new players, and it’s a tough day.
Here’s where PTO’s and Play! Pokémon have taken great lengths to make the new player experience better. There are many problems with organized play this season, of which I will go into later, but organizers are finding all sorts of ways to keep their Regional Championship events inviting. Perhaps the most important thing is to have side events or something to do when players are eliminated from regulation matches. Another thing is to produce more of an interactive event, which streaming has done a fantastic job at doing. Regionals still have a long way to go before they’re honestly events for everyone and not just the competitive players, but I see promise in the future.
Final verdict: Mostly unwelcoming, but lots of hope to improve soon
Last but not least, there’s the gateway drug known as…
Pokémon Trading Card Game Online
The censored username is "DirtyPoopyPants619"
PTCGO and the message boards/groups surrounding it are a unique hybrid because you’ve got prizes, virtual currency, and virtual cards, but nothing that’s terribly serious. About the furthest you ever get here are 24-ticket tournaments with 20 online booster packs as prizes, after all. All the same, you’ve got the same competitive mentality bleeding through, coupled with a relatively toxic internet troll approach to a card game with children players. But whether you’re a child or adult, I feel like newer players have a lot to do on PTCGO that strikes that balance between league-casual and Worlds-competitive. You also see that in the diverse competitors, as with every improvement you make in your hidden match-making ranking, the better the players you’ll play. Finally, you’ll never be taken for a ride by pro players because – guess what – the match-making system pairs newbies against each other!
Although I miss having in-game chat, it may have ultimately been a good call by the developers to limit communication in public games to select stock phrases and emojis. A new player DOESN’T need to hear you moan about not drawing Double Colorless off your Set Up for six; a new player DOESN’T need to be made fun of; and a new player DOESN’T need to be told their deck “sucks,” even if it is abjectly inferior.
I don’t really uses PTCGO for the experience, so I’m afraid I’m not well suited to critique the community. But it is a good place to enjoy the game, especially as a new player.
Final Verdict: pretty good for new players, too.
Our online program and casual avenues of play are great and incredibly welcoming to new players, but our competitive circuit still needs to improve in the way it invites the general public into its serious events. Tune in next week as we go over the state of organized play in Pokemon, and throw out some ways to improve competitive Pokemon for everyone, including the newbies!
3.2. Tournament Report, Rounds 8-finals
4. Some thoughts on Decidueye’s future
5. Conclusion and Gratitude
3. Tournament Report, Rounds 8-end
Round 8: VS Ross Cawthon (Lurantis GX/Vileplume)
We return to the third Lurantis GX deck in a row. This time, Ross was using a list very similar to what Dean had, including tech Pal Pad to get back valuable Supporter cards like AZ. The one aspect of Ross’s list which made it distinct from the others was Silver Bangle, which – while not uniquely good against my deck – is very useful for putting all regular EX’s and some GX’s into range for Chloroscythe GX.
Game One: He gets out the lock and destroys me. I don’t remember the rest of the game details past that, but I do remember an interesting situation at the very end –
Ross asks to see my Discard pile, and around a second later I scoop, knowing I had no way to win. Rather than give Ross the full opportunity to look through the Discard pile, I instead begin shuffling everything up right away, despite the request still floating. This is complicated because on one hand, Discard is public knowledge that every player has a right to know; on the other hand, once a player scoops and goes to the next game, the opposing player has no right to stew over the board position. I felt like the presentation and timing of my scoop were bad manners though, so while shuffling up for game two, I volunteered as much of the information he wanted as I could remember.
Game Two: It seems we both get out the lock at around the same time, but much like my first game against Dean, I’m able to outmuscle him with a combination of Lugia EX drawing out the Chloroscythe GX early, and a beefy Decidueye GX effectively dealing two shot-worthy damage every turn, even with healing.
Game Three: Unlike the first couple of games I get off to a convincingly strong start, even in the face of Vileplume lock. I quickly wrestle board control and am approaching a winning position, but unfortunately time is called. Ross then AZ’s up his damaged Lurantis rather than attacking with it, forcing the draw. I think if I had 2-3 more turns I would’ve won, but considering how far off from a win that is, I was okay with the tie. (6-1-1)
Round 9: VS Zygarde/Carbink/Landorus
Game One: Item lock, free damage to get around Focus Sash, Weakness, good start, natural ability to play around Carbink’s Safeguard…yeah, this game was in the bag the moment we set up.
Game Two: I prize two Vileplume and am also off to a slow start, so it’s looking ugly. I’m also down an attachment, so it’s extremely rough offering up valid board threats to match his attackers. However, small two-shots from Lugia, and even combinations between Feather Arrow and Sky Return help put the pressure on until he eventually cracks, giving me the prizes I need to start attacking, continue to draw my prized Vileplumes, and then finally seal the game away.
...So there we have it, folks: 7-1-1 going into day two! I'm in a strong position to secure top eight, but am reasonably sure I need at least two or three more wins to secure top eight.
Round 10: VS Rahul Reddy (Volcanion)
Game One: Unfortunately Rahul is given a game loss due to one of his Sky Fields being bent, so this match is ultimately a single game. This is an incredibly rare, powerful advantage no matter when you get it, but as I think Volcanion is by far Decidueye's worst matchup in Expanded, I at first felt like the advantage was mitigated.
Rahul chooses to go first, and is off to a convincing start with lots of Basics and a successful Max Elixir. He pitches his Keldeo early, which is a double-edged sword in this matchup, either giving me free prizes or saving him from my lock strategy. I'd ultimately side with his call being the correct one, though I can imagine lots of spots where if he had saved the Keldeo, I might have been unable to lock him. I don't remember if he ever actually had the choice to save it however, so I'll defer to this being the correct call.
As it stood, I got a convincing turn one start including the Item lock. So while his start was very strong, dealing big Damage early, I had exactly what I needed to win this matchup the way I always do: bring up high Retreat Cost Pokemon, force him to draw Energy just to play, and then whittle away my biggest threats using Feather Arrow. This is actually a matchup where your micro-level plays are super crucial: Screw up a single Feather Arrow or Lysandre prediction and you're toast. I didn't screw up the Feather Arrows however, and played out my targets very methodically:
* Kill the 40 HP Staryu, to get a quick and dirty prize but avoi Starmie later in the game (check);
* Set up a baby Volcanion for a Feather Arrow KO (check);
* Position myself to score some decisive EX KO's (check and check);
* Keep the biggest threats out of the active position at all times! (check check and triple check).
In the end it paid off, and my disruption was too much. (8-1-1)
Round 11: VS Alex Wilson (Mega Ray)
Game One: is a long, drawn-out blowout with an early lock. Every play I make past the lock is just doing what I can to make sure Alex gets no way to sneak out a win. Even when he's able to Hex Maniac to put a Keldeo EX into play with a Float stone to circumvent sticking his Hoopa EX in the active slot, I Xerosic away his Float Stone immediately.
Game Two: I don't remember terribly well. Time is called while we're in the middle of it, but it was more or less like a harder version of the first game, with me in in an incredible board position while his Mega Rays were desperately over-burdened (9-1-1)
Round 12: VS Andrew Wamboldt (Maxie's Yveltal)
As a HeyTrainer veteran and free site owner of the Charizard Lounge, we've been friends for a while, but have never actually played in a tournament. However, we play a very fun diplomacy, prediction-based game on HeyTrainer called Mafia, which has given me a window into how clever and strategic this guy can be.
Game One: I win the opening flip, but despite having plenty of cards to draw, miss not only the Vileplume, but Decidueye GX! I do hit Dartrix though, which turns out to be a useful tool to at least try to wiggle out of his turn one Archeops. So I attach Grass, get hit by Archeops, and then the following turn attach DCE, Lysandre out the Archeops, and pray to the heavens that I hit Heads.
...Naturally, I hit Tails, 'cause last time I checked, praying to the heavens on the back of a ghost owl is heresy.
I then continue to valiantly fight it out, hoping that I can reposition myself for another 'Chops KO, but I never draw the exact right card combination to pull it off.
Game Two: I get out the fast lock, but am put in an incredibly awkward situation where we're draw-passing to each other as I deal minute amounts of Feather Arrow Damage to his nothingness. Eventually I draw into a second Decidueye, and begin really controlling the game with double Feather Arrows. There's a moment where he KO's my Vileplume and threatens the Archeops next turn, but I'm so ar ahead I just decided to get three Decidueye GX into play to secure victory via Razor Leaf and Feather Arrows. At this point there's no way he can win, so Andrew pulls off a funny Evil Ball for 240 to KO a Decidueye, to be met with an Lugia Aero Ball for just as much for game!
Ev-lol Ball versus Aer-lol Ball
Game Three: Andrew gets the turn one Archeops again, buth ith Lugia I'm threatening a fast Knock Out on it. Nevertheless, at this point we have zero time left, and are forced to take the draw. (9-1-2).
Before moving on, I should note that the way we both approached time in this match was extremely fascinating. You would think that I would've conceded to Andrew as soon as he got Archeops out into play, but I decided that wasn't in my best interest for multiple reasons:
1. I actually still had a chance to win, as you see above. Andrew told me after our games concluded that had I hit Heads on Leaf Blade, he would have top decked a card to ruin his follow-up hand thin into a replacement Maxie's/Archeops;
2. I determined that a tie didn't really hurt me at this point, seeing as how 31 points was a clinch to make cut, so scooping early would only increase the odds that Andrew won the match.
Then there's Andrew's side of the board. I actually found it interesting he chose not to concede game two at any point, so I asked to hear his side:
1. In testing (he actually tests the matchup unlike most people who just think Archeops means an auto win), he found that you miss Archeops a surprising amount of the time, and a missed Archeops vs Decidueye/Vileplume more likely than not means a blowout loss.
2. He was already up a game and needed the win much more than I did.
To be clear, we were both happy with the speed at which we each played the game. Instead of stalling or untoward shade, what you had were two players actually making legitimate, sportsmanlike considerations about whether or not to scoop. As it turned out, both of us were too stubborn to scoop for our own reasons, and so the result was an amusing, very laid-back tie (I don't get to enjoy those very often).
Round 13: VS David Richard (Lurantis GX/Vileplume) -- streamed
(link to match)
As I mentioned in the first part, the video footage is infinitely superior to my hazy memory, so I've linked the actual game for your benefit. All the same, I've summarized the games below:
Game One: He gets out both an Energized Lurantis and Plume turn one, but fortunately I also get out a Decidueye relatively quickly. I think hit a Jirachi EX off of Set Up draws and determine that my only way to win against this vastly superior set up is to drag up his Vileplume with no Float Stone to the Active position, hoping to slowly whittle away his Lurantis for game. Amazingly this works, and I win what should have otherwise been a complete blowout game!
Game Two: Unlike the last game, he gets out the turn one lock to a completely unplayable hand. I lose in quick fashion.
Game Three: I lock him, and win in quicker fashion. (10-1-2)
Round 14: VS Anthony Nimmons (Accelgor)
We intentionally draw at Table 1, securing we both make top eight in the largest Regional Championship in the game's history. I also wasn't entirely sure about this matchup, so I was happy to avoid playing Anthony immediately. While I can Lysandre around Ability lock and deal free Damage under Paralysis lock, I still didn't want to test my luck against Wobbuffet! You guys will find that as time goes on and the metagames of Standard and Expanded evolve, Wobbuffet will prove to be an incredible counter to Vileplume. (10-1-3)
Top Eight: VS Ross Cawthon (Lurantis GX/Vileplume)
Game One: This game is looking bad for me, including Ross beating me to the turn one Vileplume, severely crippling my hand. However, I have just the perfect combination of Pokemon and Energy cards to stay in the game: Although I've got no Decidueye and no draw cards, I'm able to apply early pressure with a Lugia EX before Ross gets to used Chloroscythe GX. Then, in perhaps my most unpredictable play of the tournament, I free-Retreat into Gloom and use Poison Powder to set up a Knock out, protect my Lugia, and ultimately mount my comeback.
Chekhov's Gloom in its natural habitat
We continue to slug it out, but I finally start getting out Decidueyes and then pull off another Lysandre lock against his Vileplume. I force him into the enenviable position to attach three Energy to the Active. Even with the Retreat option, it still isn't enough, and I take game one.
Games Two and Three: Are both incredibly slow, hilarious, and stupid exercises in Item Lock. Game two Ross gets the turn one Vileplume, but little to follow up, so his Fomantis is staring down my Rowlet, Leafage-to-Leafage. He eventually N's out of the awful situation and wins. Game three is just as funny, as I lose three Double Colorless Energy turn one in my effort to get out my own Turn One Vileplume. This results in an extremely slow, brutal win where I spend turn after turn Feather Arrowing his Fomantises, seeing him AZ the Fomantises, and continue to swarm the Fomantises with Synthesis and Leafage. He never gets out a Lurantis, and I win the match. (11-1-3)
Top Four: VS John S. (Night March)
Game One: I get an obscene two Decidueye, one Vileplume start turn one and obliterate a poor Joltik. He scoops around turn two or three.
Game Two: John starts Tauros to my objectively baaad Jirachi EX start, putting an incredible amount of pressure on me without actually using Night March. Throughout the whole game, my challenge is playing around Mad Bull GX, but fortunately Decidueye is very well-built to handle it. So I then rely on a very loopy strategy including the following:
1. Use Feather Arrows to score KOs;
2. Put just enough damage on Tauros to threaten a Knock Out, but not enough to make Mad Bull capable of one-shotting a healthy Decidueye;
3. Exploit his low count of remaining DCEs under Item Lock, and Lysandre cheap prizes for the win.
Even with a couple desperate plays such as Vileplume walling him, this actually works: I force a couple passes out of him, which in turn gives me additional Feather Arrow opportunities. The KO'd Vileplume then gives me a turn full of Items, on top of the replacement Vileplume. And finally, I execute my exploitation plan by Lysandrying a Shaymin, setting another one up for a KO, and then ultimately win the game without ever incurring the Bull's complete wrath. (12-1-3).
We arrive at the finals, and I'm again up against Alex Wilson and his Mega Rayquaza...
Finals: VS Alex Wilson (Mega Rayquaza)
Game One: I miss the turn one lock by a single card (Plume wasa the top deck), but fortunately Alex has an atrocious hand, and so I win. However, it drags out as he looks for ways to get out of the lock and win.
Game Two: And here we are...the moment where my tournament to lose became my meme to win. In perhaps the craziest bout of bad prizing I've experienced, I had not one, not two, but three Rowlett prized!
Look at them all tucked away!
Up until this point, I had been taking very studious notes, making sure that I had a good understanding of my prizes each game. However, when it dawned on my that three Rowlett were prized, I could only come up with this...
Tears, my friends. Tears that my little owls wouldn't be there to carry me to a win in game two. Yet I persisted and played it out, determined that I could win this match with a single Decidueye by locking Alex, drawing my Rowletts out of the prizes, and then pulling the comeback. Unfortunately, everything else is also going wrong with my setup, and eventually I determine that I have to scoop at all costs.
Game Three: Going first, I again whiff the turn one Vileplume, but at least get out a Decidueye GX. Unfortunately, Alex draws the perfect hand after much digging to hit the perfect turn one: DCE, Energy in the discard, Spirit Link, Evolve, Mega Turo, and eight Basics for a clean 240. This instantly puts me way behind, and I'm continuing to fall behind with little hope, but at around the three-prize marker I develop a powerful plan to make a comeback: Hollow Hunt out valuable cards, N him to one, and then use a Xerosic to severely punish the "all in" approach he took with his 240-Damage Rayquaza. Although it was a really well-planned move, I'm greeted by an unfortunate top-deck on the N to one card...
...And with that, our crazy, exciting FInals was over with a quick luring of one of my Benched Pokemon.
Final Finish: 12-2-3, Second Place
I'm not gonna lie, guys -- after all that fighting, prizing, and thwarted planning, it was incredibly heartbreaking to see the tournament end like this. But I'm also not one to dwell on the past, either, so I immediately took the chance to unwind, celebrate, and BE THANKFUL!!! For whatever bad luck I had, I had way more good luck in my favor. And for whatever imperfect playing moments I had, there were also a lot of good moments which were integral to getting to the point that I did. So while I came up just a bit short, I at least can take a lot pride in my finish in a field with some of the world's best players.
4. Some Thoughts on Decidueye's Future
As of publication, Decidueye is devastating Melbourne Internationals, and is perhaps the newest top contender for "best deck in format." Although I'm sure we'll find a way to beat Decidueye/Vileplume decisively and for good, and it might not even win this instant tournament, there's still little doubt that between players that the owls own all. What's worse, Tapu Lele GX will make it only more powerful in Standard and Expanded, granting the deck more consistency in exchange for the spaces you were already using to run Lugia EX.
We'll see a great fight in the coming weeks between Decidueye and the various Ability lockers: Garbodor, Hex Manic, Silent Lab, and Wobbuffet. Yet in a big field with a shocking number of people wanting to run Decidueye, you'll have to be very dedicated and patient to survive a swiss full of ghost owl.
But regardless of how you feel about Decidueye, we can all agree that this is a very exciting time in the Pokemon TCG.
5. Conclusion and Gratitude
Although I'm not new to winning or doing well in Regional Championships, this will perhaps go down as my most memorable Regional by far. So in order to cap it off, I want to close again with my modern day equivalent of the "props" section, the gratitude section:
--My dad for giving me a ride to the airport Friday. DFW is a mess, so anytime you can avoid parking is an incredible miracle. And while we're at it, both of my parents have always been supportive of their 28 year-old attorney son and anything he did.
--Pokemontoya for dealing out Yveltal, letting me borrow some crucial cards I left back in Houston, and pitching in a few bucks for his share of the hotel. I think this was the decisive moment that made me play Le Bird.
--The people who've humored testing against my Decidueye/Vileplume monstrosity even when it was an unproven mass of mold, as well as those who encouraged me to play it.
--ALL OF THE JOKES AND THE MEMES!!! As bad as it was to have Rowletts prized in the moment, this is honestly some of the most fun I've ever had with the online community. The only way it would've been better is if I somehow pulled that second game out. ;D
--Last but not least, all the people at home who were cheering me on. It's beyond flattering and I hope that no matter how I do in future tournaments, I never let you down.
Thanks so much!
PBS-style P.S.: Hey everyone! Did you perhaps win $10,000 in Melbourne today using Decidueye? Want to support top-notch, FREE articles over premium content pages with pay walls? Or maybe you just dig what we do and think we're cool dudes? If any of the above apply to you, mash that DONATE button! We have a lot of bigger, greater ideas we want to start bringing to you, including special tournaments, higher quality streams, new writers, and more, but it's only possible thanks to VIEWERS LIKE YOUUUUUUUU!
Table of Contents
1. Pre-Tournament Thoughts and Calls
2. The List: Analysis and Explanations
3.1 Tournament Report, Rounds 1-7
1. Pre-Tournament Thoughts and Calls
As I explained last week, I was somewhat clueless on what to play. Decidueye remained a top contender for my choices going into Collinsville: Despite being the Expanded format, it was a deck I had very significant recent success with, had a ton of experience with, and knew that it had just as much – if not more! – potential in Expanded than Standard. It’s also the deck I had the most recent testing with, whereas with Maxie’s Yveltal or Seismitoad, I felt like I wasn’t entirely on the cutting edge of either of those decks’ latest incarnations.
However, I also said I thought Seismitoad-anything had real potential to do well, and certainly meant it. In some ways I was right: a Seismitoad/Decidueye and a Seismitoad/Giratina both made top 32, with the Seismitoad/Decidueye getting all the way to the top eight! I was also considering Seismitoad/Decidueye, but needed to give myself a good enough reason to play it. Here’s what I tested: a build which was a combination of several of my early ideas, coupled with some finer points made by Tyler R. a.k.a. superstarr on the boards:
For a while, I thought this might be better than Vileplume/Decidueye because let’s face it, Seismitoad EX works magic in Expanded. Despite being up against all sorts of strange matchups in our most recent HeyTrainer Online Tournament, I was able to secure victory in our expanded round robin. My red flag from those games, however, was how unconvincingly I seemed to win every single one of my games.
Fast forward to the night before Regionals. I’m now suddenly suffering from a bout of my greatest sin as a player: 11th hour theorymon. Whereas some players can work true wonders with final choices, I consistently run the risk of ruining whatever great tournament prospects I have by playing complete and utter garbage. That’s because at heart, I have always been a scrub: I like to find new ways to beat decks. In my adult years of playing the game, I’ve been able to channel this bad habit into stronger creative energies, but it’s still always there.
This bad habit of mine manifested itself into wanting to tech a single copy of Virizion EX to beat Archeops lock. With Weakness, a Muscle Band, and Emerald Slash for 140, I went nuts. “THIS…THIS IS WHAT WILL BREAK TOAD/DECIDUEYE!” I thought to myself, albeit with zero proof that it would. However, I've learned from my mistakes, so I did something 15 year-old me never would have done: I had my friend and roommate for the trip, Pokemontoya, test the matchup with me.
After five games, I went positive, but both the deck and Virizion's application were unconvincing. I never once broke open the Archeops threat by virtue of Virizion EX’s Emerald Slash. What makes matters worse is that even with the base list being “okay,” every game felt like a grind -- the sort of grind I knew would have a toll on my record throughout a long tournament.
And that's when I had my epiphony:
“I miss Vileplume. If I had Vileplume, this series would have been much easier.”
So here we were, back to the deck that got me here in the first place. Like a kid calling for Mom in the grocery store, here I was again, calling for my beloved Vileplume. And thus, I decided to play the 'Plume again...
2. The List: Analysis and Explanation
Despite heavily considering Seismitoad/Decidueye, I’ve actually been messing around with Expanded Decidueye/Vileplume for quite a long time, as well...as soon as I knew I needed a 10 Grass Evolution challenge in PTCGO, to be precise!
Changes from Standard to Expanded
-- Old pre-Evolutions for Oddish and Gloom. Although this is a small detail, it can be monumentally important at just the right time. Water Resistance in the Expanded format is an incredible asset, especially when Greninja is a halfway playable deck here, and when Seismitoad EX is legal. Even better, the Gloom has two very handy Status-inducing Attacks: Foul Oder Confuses both itself and the Opponent’s Active Pokemon, while Poison Powder hits for a surprisingly potent 40 and Poisons the Defending Pokemon. This second detail is important, my friends, so consider this a case of
--Jirachi EX: In all my games at Anaheim, the only truly dead hands I ever had seemed to be ones where I had Level Ball. With Jirachi EX in the list however, I dramatically reduce the risk of drawing an outright unplayable hand, and add a fourth overall consistency Pokemon to my list. Since earlier versions of my Standard Decidueye/Vileplume ran four Shaymin, I actually felt right at home with this decision.
--Computer Search: This. This right here is the key to making Decidueye/Vileplume a much more powerful deck in Expanded as opposed to Standard. If I had the choice to change just one card, it would have been this. The power to search out ANYTHING instantly makes every aspect of this deck more consistent: finding a Stage Two line; finding Energy; getting Forest of Giant Plants onto the board. I could instantly tell in my first game on PTCGO that this deck benefits incredibly by a switch, and it’s consistency you have to thank for that.
--Xerosic: Another important series of cards Decidueye gains from Expanded is a lineup of various methods to discard Tools off of Garbodor and other threats. I’ve discussed Beedrill to a certain extent, and while I may use it in the future, it’s still an overall grimy card to play when you’re starving for space in more important areas, i.e. consistency. Initially this slot started out as a Tool Scrapper, but as time went on, I greatly preferred the versatility of Xerosic: Discarding Energy is always good in a format where Special Energy thrives, and best of all, I can get it back and reuse it with Hollow Hunt!
--Two Lugia EX: The one major preference change I made was going with two Lugia EX instead of one Lugia and one Tauros. First off, I rarely if ever use Mad Bull GX in this deck when chances are much higher my opponent will just find a way to outplay it. Second, Lugia is by far more synergetic with Decidueye, as Feather Arrow helps you get up to previously unheard of Damage totals. Deep Hurricane a 170 HP Yveltal EX for…150 and 20 more? Yes, please!
--Jirachi XY67: Jirachi’s Stardust proved to be an inconclusive addition to my Standard list two weeks ago, so in my pursuit of covering all matchups, I determined that Xerosic would more or less give me what I needed in most matchups. Although I would have greatly benefitted from Jirachi’s Stardust in my final match of the weekend, I know it would have been useless against the vast majority of decks I went up against (not to mention my final match was totally winnable without Jirachi – see below). In other words, Jirachi was either useless at worst or “win more” at worst, which is ultimately why I sided with Xerosic as the 60th card.
Other Ideas for Expanded
These were the ideas I thought of, but deemed either not strong enough or too clunky:
--Battle Compressors + Revitalizers. This was the obvious Standard-to-Expanded turbo engine idea, the main gist of it being to discard needed Pokemon, and then bring them back while a Forest of Giant Plants is in play. The problem here is that in a deck list with two Stage Two Pokemon, you’re already using so much deck space, making the benefits of just a couple Battle Compressor questionable. Whereas Lurantis/Vileplume benefits greatly from this call, it actually has the space to make it happen much more easily.
(Of everything I tested, this is perhaps the one idea I could most likely be wrong about. I encourage you to test it, maybe cut some otherwise uncuttable cards, and then comment on the boards what works for you!)
-- Pokemon Communications are very cool in Expanded Vileplume Toolbox decks, as it’s yet another out to Shaymin EX or your Evolution lines. However, it’s important to remember that your goal here is to get out multiple Evolutions, and not just Vileplume. That means that the benefits of a Pokemon Communication are greatly diminished when you’re shuffling in a piece of your Decidueye line in exchange for the Vileplume line, while running a Level Ball could help contribute to one without disrupting the other. Perhaps one idea you could mess with is cutting Level Balls for Communications, but ultimately I’m very happy to have run Level Balls.
--Lastly, an idea I strongly considered was running Blend Energy GRPD alongside tech attackers. This is actually an idea that was incorporated in the top eight list of Alex S., younger brother to HeyTrainer’s dapiplup/Chris S., a well-known player in his own right and SixPrizes.com mogul. Running Blend actually opened up a ton of new options, like Victini NVI (V-Create to OHKO Grass mirror), Latios EX (first turn wins), and even Darkrai EX (free retreat cost that doesn’t conflict with Hollow Hunt!!!). I ultimately turned against this idea because it was mostly untested, and because I wasn’t sure if the added attacking options outweighed the increased risks I had against Enhanced Hammer, Xerosic, and Jirachi’s Stardust.
2. 3. Tournament Report, Rounds 1-7
One thing I’m glad I did was to take a screenshot of all my matchups throughout the weekend. This is something you can access only at certain events by going to pokegym.net/stadium, choosing your event category and age division, and then entering in your POP ID.
Round 1: VS Tim Duncan (Yveltal EX)
Ahhhh yes, the San Antonio Spurs great himself is here to play Pokemon with his son!
(…Well, not quite – Tim Duncan only plays D&D.)
Game One: I got out a convincing, quick lock turn one, including a Decidueye and Vileplume turn one, followed up by another Decidueye turn two. There wasn’t much he could do, and scooped promptly.
Game Two: Tim went first this game, and for the most part had a pretty strong opening with Max Elixirs. Although my follow-up wasn’t quite as strong as the first game, featuring a Dartrix and Vileplume by turn two, a lucky N on his part got me the hand I needed to explode and take control of the game to his two Yveltal EX’s. (1-0)
Round 2: VS Ian Holbrook (Yveltal EX/Umbreon EX)
This was a more unusual Yveltal build, featuring a tech Umbreon line. The whole structure of the list felt more at home in Standard than in Expanded, but I suppose you could say the same about my deck. Plus, he put up a good fight.
Game One: I don’t remember who went first this game, but I do know two things: A) his start wasn’t’ strong; and B) Computer Search is manna from heaven in a deck running two Stage Two Pokemon, as I pulled yet another incredible early game start. Just like the first round’s first game, I forced a very early concession.
Game Two: Yet again, my opponent blows up with an early lead, while I twiddle my thumbs and wait to catch up. However, also for the second time I play serious catch-up, and Vileplume results in dragging his deck’s speed down dramatically. We get into a weird spot when he Lysandre lures up my Vileplume with no Float Stone, but that just lets me set up my board, attach Energy to Attackers, and add Damage to his own via Feather Arrow. Most importantly, I was able to follow up my KO’d Vileplume with a brand new Vileplume, keeping any chance of a comeback subdued. (2-0)
Round 3: VS TJ Tranquir (Sableye/Garbodor) -- streamed match
TJ Tranquir is a friend and testing partner of Drew Allen’s, who you might remember from Ghetsis’s Hidden Past piece. TJ has a reputation for playing the spiciest decks: He was a prime beneficiary of the Yveltal mirror wars last season, and has played Wailord – a similar deck to Sableye – to great success. I can’t find the video of our match, but I’ll update it when I get a chance. This may also lead to some updates in my match descriptions, as actual video footage details the match more accurately than my imperfect memory ever could.
Game One: Game one is a very quick blowout. I get out a quick Vileplume, he hits Tails on every flip to Confuse Ray, and I close it out quickly.
Game Two: This game draws out a lot more slowly as I miss an early VIleplume, but ultimately I think this came down to him having the perfect game plan to combat my counter to Garbodor. See, there are multiple layers to these interactions…
1. In Standard, he’d get out Garbodor and without a hard KO, I’d lose the Abilities forever. BUT…
2. This is Expanded, so I’ve got ways to discard his Float Stone easily. BUT ALSO…
3. Hex Maniac is still legal, and his whole deck is themed around getting stuff back. So he can use his Items even if I break Garbotoxin.
Thus, the matchup when played with perfect starts depends on whether I kill his Trubbishes and Garbodors in time to avoid his permanent Ability lock. In my early attempt to get out Plume previously, I made a greedy play using a low-card Set Up in the desire to get the lock, only to whiff the ‘Plume entirely. This may have cost me the game, as when I finally did have a sufficient setup, my bench was clogged with one more Shaymin that could have otherwise been a second Decidueye GX. Having a second Decidueye GX could have helped me in my aforementioned three-step battle because I was able to N him out of his Hex/Float Stone combo for a couple turns, coming close to cutting him out of Garbodor for good thanks to Feather Arrows. Had I had one more Decidueye on the board instead of two, I would have had double chances to Feather Arrow. However, my greed ultimately cost me, and he won the struggle with his Hex.
As soon as I established that it would only be a matter of time before he won, I scooped immediately. That’s because I had zero interest in continuing a game I was certain to lose, when I actually still had an incredible chance of finishing this otherwise great matchup with a win. So with about 15 minutes left on the clock, we shuffled up and dealt…
Game Three: TJ’s hand is very weak, to the point where he’s Sky Returning instead of being able to use Sableye. I think I won this game on turn four or five with a Lugia EX to the face of a lonely Sableye. (3-0)
In the end it worked out or me, but I think that greed game two could have cost me if things were different. It’s a strange balance with this deck between being conservative and aggressive, but I think in those key moments where you know your decision could backfire, it’s important to think through all the ramifications of digging for a Vileplume as opposed to settling for a semi-decent board position you’re certain will be good by turn two. I don’t think anyone could blame me for bleeding for a Vileplume in a matchup that’s 100% Item-dependent, but I also know I could’ve thought it out a little more carefully, even if the ideal decision was to Set Up for one.
This sort of thing is the unsung skill in the game: The art of playing perfectly vs simply not misplaying. And while I didn’t misplay, I also didn’t play perfectly either.
Round 4: VS Dimitri (Turbo Darkrai EX)
Game One: Like so many games on the weekend, I got out an extremely fast lock, forcing a scoop after some time.
Game Two: In perhaps the most incredible Darkrai start I’ve seen in a while, Dimitri goes an impressive 4/4 on Max Elixir, two Dark Patches, and an attachment on the first turn while not actually going too far deep into his deck! I think I dragged this game on much longer than I should have, accepting way too late that I was just too far behind to justify continuing this game.
Game Three: This was actually a pretty close match, with me being somewhat slow to get the setup, actually missing the turn one ‘Plume. This gives him a chance to build up his army of darkness, but I’m able to keep things from getting too out of control by following up with a strong second turn. I remember this game coming down to time, and with only the +3 left, I N myself down to two to hit a fateful final Energy card to attach to Lugia for the win. I somehow rip it, and continue my undefeated streak. (4-0)
Round 5: VS Wesley H. (Turbo Darkrai EX/Malamar EX)
Game One: I go first, draw and incredibly powerful hand, and win quickly.
Game Two: I go second, draw a horrible hand, and get blown away.
Game Three: I go first, draw an incredibly powerful hand, and win quickly. (5-0)
Round 6: VS Dean N. (Lurantis GX/Vileplume)
Ah, so this is where things get more interesting than “draw big or go home”!
Game one: he actually gets off the plume lock first, but I have a strong opening start, and am able to match his attackers blow-for-blow. This matchup gets interesting when both players set up because while Lurantis is the only card with any real one-shot potential, it is much less efficient than Lugia EX, which two-shots it easily for far less resources, and only marginally efficient than Decidueye GX, which is a Stage Two Pokemon with about the same Damage output. What makes things worse for Lurantis is that at just the wrong moment, it can be forced into a three-shot scenario against Lugia EX after Chloroscythe GX has been used: the initial Flower Supply, the Solar Blade, and then the OHKO attack. That’s more or less how the game plays out, and my attackers outmuscle his.
Game two: I get slaughtered by Item lock.
Game three: He gets slaughtered by item lock...what an interactive game! (6-0)
Round 7: (Lurantis GX/Vileplume)
Game One: My opponent has a horrible draw-pass start going first with an Oddish and an Energy. Hungry for the turn one win, I make what’s perhaps my worst play of the tournament: After Trainers’ Mailing a Computer Search and thinning the rest of my hand, rather than settling for a medium-strength Shaymin EX and keeping my options open depending on what I drew, I instead Computer Search right away into one of the two pieces I need to win – the Float Stone – expecting I hit either the second piece or a Draw Supporter off of my full-strength Set Up for six cards. To my horror, I not only whiff the Double Colorless Energy or a Draw Supporter, but draw a completely unplayable six cards! This then results in an awkward draw-pass period of two turns from both of us, only for him to draw out of his awful hand, get out Vileplume and Lurantis, and win the game! Sad!
Game Two: This goes a lot like my first game with Dean. Although it’s surprisingly rare for both decks to set up when they’re each fighting for Item lock, I think that Decidueye’s versatility and raw power gives it much more options than Lurantis.
Game Three: He gets up turn one Vileplume, and I’m struggling to keep in the game. I have zero draw supporters or Decidueye in play. However, by sheer luck and strength through Lugia EX, I’m able to keep this a super-close game, but unfortunately never draw into the Owl or the draw to close this game out. Lugias by themselves with nothing to support them aren’t enough to beat Lurantis, even if they trade well, so I lost this one. (6-1)
I was a little mad at myself for making yet another greedy play, the difference being that this one was entirely wrong and shouldn’t have even been considered, let alone executed! But considering I was a mere game away from making day two, now was not the time to get flustered. Part of playing well is forgiving yourself and learning from your bad plays...
(Please don't prize me!)
You guys know the drill: I'll be posting a tournament report either tomorrow or Thursday, but for now I'm gonna let y'all stew over the list I used to place second in a field of over 700 players!
We'll go over the development and history of this Expanded deck list in the tournament report. However, all in all I think it runs much more smoothly in Expanded, even if the card choices aren't all that different.
Posted by: on 2017-03-07 21:03:36 • Tags: Decidueye Vileplume deck list Decidueye deck list Decidueye Pokemon Collinsville Regional Championship Pokemon Regional Championship list Decidueye Vileplume Expanded