Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bears. Beets. Battlestoise Galactica.

Not pictured: Beets.
I started playing Blastoise during the Cities season of 2015-2016 during some Expanded Cities in Missouri. I fell in love with the deck. You can hit high numbers, and it gives me a rush when I successfully execute Archie's Ace In The Hole.

I have personally received a lot of questions about the list as well as seen people requesting a Blastoise list on Heyfonte. I thought I would put the list here and explain card counts and matchups.

Here is my current list:

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Pokemon: 15
2 Keldeo EX
1 Articuno
1 Tapu Fini GX
2 Exeggcute
2 Blastoise
2 Shaymin EX
2 Tapu Lele GX
1 Lapras GX
1 Wishiwashi GX
1 Oranguru

T/S/S: 34
1 Computer Search
2 Field Blower
4 Superior Energy Retrieval
4 Battle Compressor
4 Ultra Ball
2 Acro Bike
4 Trainers' Mail
4 VS Seeker
2 Muscle Band
1 Float Stone

1 N
1 Lysandre
2 Archie's Ace in the Hole
2 Professor Juniper

Energy: 11
11 Water

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2 Keldeo EX

Keldeo used to be the main attacker of the deck, but it takes more of a back seat now as plenty of water attackers have been printed to handle different situations. Keldeo shines in knocking out Pokemon EX that have 170 HP. To achieve this, it needs six attached energy (or five and a Muscle Band). Keldeo also has the Rush In ability which lets it come to the active spot once per turn. This is helpful in both making it so  less switch cards are needed as well as resetting Lapras GX's Blizzard Burn attack.

1 Articuno

Articuno helps trade positively with low HP Pokemon due to its Delta Plus ability that lets it take an extra prize when it knocks out a Pokemon. I personally only attack with Articuno when I will get the knock out upon flipping one heads, which means I attack a defending Pokemon with 60 HP (or 80 HP with a Muscle Band attached). I have a friend who plays Blastoise who takes more risks in this regard and attempts the knockout with two heads necessary, but I prefer not to play this way. When possible, I will attach a Muscle Band against a Pokemon with only 40 HP (like Combee) so that I don't need any heads to get the knockout. An Articuno with a Muscle Band and two heads can knock out a Shaymin EX for three prizes, but I don't often make this move anymore now that Tapu Fini GX is in the deck.

1 Tapu Fini GX

Tapu Fini is very, very good. I don't find myself using its GX attack all that much, as I prefer to use Wishiwashi's. I use it to snipe Shaymins whenever my opponent benches one, as three energy for two prizes is very fair. I use the GX attack to threaten Primal Groudon. How that matchup goes is I will bench Tapu Fini GX while loading up two Tapu Lele GX. The Groudon player will be forced to Lysandre the Tapu Fini, which allows me to trade favorably with the two Leles for game. If they don't Lysandre anything, we can put Fini active and start sniping.



2 Exeggcute

Exeggcute is fantastic in this deck for several reasons. The first is that we run four Battle Compressor for Archie's purposes, so it's easy to slip our eggs in the discard pile. Then, we play four Ultra Ball and four Superior Energy Retrieval, which can be played at no cost with two eggs in the discard pile. Lastly, an Exeggcute or two in our discard pile can increase the number of hands that can successfully perform an Archie's.

2 Blastoise

Blastoise is what makes the deck tick. Its Deluge ability allows us to attach as much water energy as we would like every turn. We rarely want to attack with it, as it's a valuable resource to have on the field and needs a lot of energy to hit high numbers.

2 Tapu Lele GX

If you're looking for extra space in the deck, you can cut one of these, but I like two. This helps get the Archie's when you start or prize a Lele. It also provides an attack that hits for more damage depending on how much energy you have attached, which works very well with Blastoise's ability.

1 Lapras GX

If you expect to see a lot of Darkrai, two Lapras is better although unnecessary. We play two Muscle Band so that we can hit for 180 for three energy. 

1 Wishiwashi GX

This card is very good. We don't really need to use any of the other GX attacks in the deck, so the fact that we can hit for 220 easily every game for only five energy is very helpful. It also sets up attackers on the bench, which makes it less likely that you'll need a Superior Energy Retrieval late game.

1 Oranguru, 2 Shaymin EX

Oranguru is a recent addition. For my first cup, I played an Unown in its place. Blastoise is often Nd in the late game, and usually my deck is thin enough that I can draw the final Superior Energy Retrieval that I need to draw. However, Oranguru provides insurance for that situation. When I played against Michael "Xiao Xiao" Long at Ft Wayne Regionals, I saw that he played Oranguru. I don't like having less than two Shaymin because you need one to dig when you draw five off of Archie's, and you need one to dig late game when you get Nd.

0 Kyogre EX

I played this in the deck for a long time and used it very, very rarely. If your metagame has lots of Night March, this could be a very good card. I have a friend who swears by the card and uses it to "soften things up", but we have Wishiwashi that knocks out everything in one hit, and we have Tapu Fini that can snipe, so I feel that we don't need Kyogre. There is a Shining Volcanion coming out in Shining Legend which has the same attack but is a non-EX, which I think will be worth playing upon release.

2 Field Blower, 0 Stadiums

I advocate for a total of two in combination of Field Blower and a stadium. I personally like the utility of two Field Blower for Garbodor, the Groudon matchup, and removing Fighting Fury Belts, but by playing one Field Blower and one stadium, we could have a higher chance of successfully getting of Archie's. If we were to play a stadium, we have three options. Tropical Beach helps draw cards when we can't attack, which is especially helpful on the first turn. The lists that did well at Houston Regionals in 2015 used Tropical Beach in this way. Another option is Rough Seas, which Jacob Van Wagner used in his Blastoise deck that won Worlds in 2015. I don't find this especially useful, as most of the time my Pokemon get knocked out in one hit. This can make some bad matchups a little better, such as Greninja and Trevenant, but it doesn't swing those matchups by any means. Our last option is Brooklet Hill, which seems very good on paper, but in practice I have found it to be very weak and I find myself not using its effect. For this reason, I've chosen to go with two Field Blower, but it wouldn't be a wrong decision per se to swap one out for a stadium.

2 Muscle Band

I like Muscle Band a lot. You need Muscle Band for several situations, including Articuno knocking out Frogadier/Grubbin, for Lapras GX to knock out 180 HP EXes, and for Wishiwashi GX to knock out Gardevoir. For this reason, I think that it is important to run two of these. If you don't value this very highly, a flex spot could be to cut one of the Muscle Band.

When I played against Michael Long at Ft. Wayne Regionals, I saw a Choice Band in his deck, and maybe a Fighting Fury Belt (I'm not sure about that one). Other than that, our decks looked pretty similar. I prefer Muscle Band to both of those options.

2 Acro Bike

This count hurts me a little bit. I would love to have four of these. One could also make a very good argument that these could be Unowns. On paper, I like Unown more, but I can't bring myself to cut the Acro Bikes because they let me dig deeper and make more choices. If you can find extra space, I suggest buffing this count.

1 Lysandre

Lysandre versus Guzma is very interesting to take into consideration when building the deck. It begs the question: how often will I lose because I don't have a switching card (because something is stuck active) versus how often will I lose because Lysandre would have won me the game whereas Guzma comes up short. I decided to go with Lysandre.

0 Fisherman

Wishiwashi GX helps conserve enough energy that we don't need Fisherman. When you leave Wishiwashi active after attacking with it, it doesn't have energy on it vulnerable to being discarded. Between that and four Superior Energy Retrieval, we should have plenty of energy to last us the entirety of the game.

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Matchups:

Darkrai - Darkrai is a good matchup on paper. In theory, you can use Wishiwashi GX, Lapras GX (with Muscle Band), and Tapu Fini GX to take your six prizes. You can use Wishiwashi first to take
two prizes and move five energy to Lapras and Tapu Fini. Then, you would only need one more attachment from hand and a Muscle Band to win the game.

This strategy gets obstructed in a couple of ways. The first is that Baby Yveltal can be frustrating enough to swing the prize trade in their favor. They attack with Baby Yveltal, meaning that you need to attack it with Keldeo and four energy. You can't attack with Lapras here because you need it to attack Darkrai. Then, they kill Keldeo. You kill Darkrai with Wishiwashi. They kill Wishiwashi, probably with Dead End GX. Then, you kill Darkrai GX with Lapras for your fourth and fifth prizes. Then, they can kill Lapras for their final prizes.

In this way, the prize trade can be tricky even though we can OHKO each one of their attackers. There is, of course, the possibility that they miss the knockout on one of these attacks. However, with a timely Hex Maniac or two on their part, this can be totally mitigated. In fact, the Darkrai player can sometimes even set up in a way that does not require benching a Shaymin or a Jirachi for Tapu Fini GX to snipe. In this way, Darkrai can be a tougher matchup than it might appear at first.

Greninja - Greninja has not seen as much play, but it's out there and it's something you could run into at an Expanded event. This is a very hard matchup, if not impossible. Your out is to take four prizes with Articuno on your first and second turns. If you go first, you pass with Articuno in play. They Bubble. Then, you knock out Froakie with Articuno to take two prizes. They'll evolve and use Water Duplicates. You'll knock out Frogadier with Articuno to take your third and fourth prizes. Next turn, they'll have out Greninja and use Shadow Stitching, and they'll need to use Shadow Stitching for the rest of the game. It is a struggle to have the resources to take all of your prizes at this point, and you need to have successfully led with Articuno to make it work. If you missed any of those attacks or flipped triple tails, the Greninja player can successfully use a combination of Shadow Stitching while knocking out anything with energy with Giant Water Shuriken.

Gardevoir - To beat this deck, you'll need Articuno. For sure, you need to take two prizes with it. If you can take four prizes with it, you will win the game, but that requires a gust effect on your second attacking turn, which is a lot to ask for. You can knock out one Gardevoir with a Wishiwashi GX with Muscle Band. To take your final two prizes (if you only took two with Articuno), you will need to gust up a Lele or load up a ridiculous amount of energy on a Keldeo/Lele, which is a viable option for the late game.

When you bench Wishiwashi, don't attach too much energy to it until it's ready to attack. A worst-case scenario would be that they gust it up and knock it out. However, a Gardevoir can't do that without having seven energies attached between Gardevoir GX and Wishiwashi GX.

I would say that the Gardevoir deck that plays Vulpix to set up is very favorable because you can lead with Articuno. The version that plays Diancie is much harder to beat because it's harder to take prizes with Articuno. Your best out is to hope you find your gust card and use that repeatedly to knock out Ralts with Articuno. I have not played against the Sylveon version in Expanded, but that seems scary because they can Plea GX Blastoise which seems very annoying.

Mega Rayquaza - This matchup was very hard before Wishiwashi GX came out. Unfortunately, the matchup is still not great, but it is winnable.

If they start Exeggcute, you can use Articuno. Otherwise, Wishiwashi GX and Tapu Fini GX will be your best attackers in the matchup, as Wishiwashi GX can knock out a Mega Rayquaza in one hit, and Tapu Fini GX will almost always have a Shaymin to prey on. That leaves two more prizes to take somehow, which will most likely be achieved through a Lysandre on a benched Shaymin. It could also be a large amount of energy on a Tapu Lele GX. Note that if you are going to try to load up a Pokemon with a large amount of energy to knock out a Mega Rayquaza with three energy on it, mathematically it is better to load up a Tapu Lele GX as opposed to a Keldeo EX, as the Keldeo would need nine energy while a Tapu Lele only needs eight.

The reason that this matchup is not a shoe-in is because while you trade favorably, they could get the first attack off. Also, they only need a Hex Maniac to put you back a turn if you can't set up an early Wishiwashi. The match is winnable but unfavorable because of Hex Maniac.

Night March - If you run two Articuno, or Kyogre EX, this matchup becomes a bit easier. Against Pumpkaboo, you can use Articuno to trade favorably. Remember, you can Archie's your Articuno back when it gets knocked out! You can also use Shaymin to Sky Return into Exeggcute to trade evenly. Another way to trade evenly is (once you have game on board) to attack with Blastoise. You can also attack a Shaymin with Tapu Fini GX or use an EX to knock out a Shaymin that got gusted up. In short, you can trade evenly with Night March. They can, of course, use Lysandre to knock out an EX, use Hex Maniac to stop your acceleration, or use Ghetsis to hinder your opening hand. I haven't played against a Night March with the deck since quarter three of last season, so I don't know how the matchup is anymore .

Groudon - I went through the Groudon matchup a bit above, but while they're loading up Groudon, you want to bench Fini and load up two Leles. They'll be forced to Lysandre and KO Fini with the Groudon (if they don't, you can use Tapu Storm GX to great effect). Then, you can knock out the Groudon in two hits with back to back Energy Drive + N. If they miss the stadium off of the N to four, even better! We play two Field Blower also which makes it harder for them to just leave a Stadium in play.

Seismitoad - Against Seismitoad, Wishiwashi GX is your friend. Use the second attack to discard the DCEs off of Toad. When Wishiwashi is within knockout range, use that moment to use the GX attack, regardless of whether it's ideal. You need those energy in play for another attacker.

Trevenant - This matchup is very bad. There is no way to win if you don't get Archie's before you are Item locked. The ideal set up is Lapras and three energy with Muscle Band, and a benched Keldeo + Float Stone.

Volcanion - This is a very hard matchup to lose, especially when your opponent can't N and Blacksmith in the same turn.

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I'm going to run through my three tournaments this season in which I've played Blastoise.

Expanded League Cup (Bo3), Crestwood MO

R1 Lycanroc WW
We all played Blastoise. Except for Tucker.
R2 Drampa/Garb LL
R3 Greninja LWT
R4 Volcanion WW
R5 Gardevoir WLW
R6 Groudon WW

Swiss Record: 4-1-1

T8 Vikavolt/Bulu WW
T4 Drampa/Garb WLW
T2 Trevenant LWL

Final Result: 2nd Place

My only loss in swiss was to Drampa/Garbodor, but I was able to beat that player in my top four match. That matchup comes completely down to your opening hand. In game three of top four, I got Archie's with only three (!) items in discard, which absolutely stole me the game. But in swiss, I used eight and nine items respectively, which did not allow me to trade favorably.

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Ft. Wayne Regionals

R1 Straight Seismitoad WLT
R2 Michael Long w/ Blastoise L
R3 Volcanion (?) WW
R4 W
R5 Kenny Britton w/ Gardevoir WW
R6 Mega Rayquaza LL
R7 W
R8 Darkrai LL
R9 Gardevoir LWT

Final Result: 4-3-2, 281st

I'm having a bit of trouble remembering what I beat, but my losses and ties are drilled into my brain. I definitely feel like I could have tied my second round, but the clock did not allow that unfortunately. During round five, beating Gardevoir was a cakewalk because he ran Vulpix, but in round nine Diancie made it hard for me to trade advantageously. I believe that I would have lost the last game, but I played for the tie because I was hoping to bubble into top 256. In hindsight, I now know that it was impossible to do so, so if I had known that I would have conceded my last match.

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Dizzy Dugout League Cup (Bo1), Collinsville, IL

R1 Mega Rayquaza L
R2 Bye
R3 Lone Tapu Lele GX W
R4 Darkrai L
R5 Lone Tapu Koko W

Final result: 3-2, 10th place

This cup was really nothing to write home about. I successfully donked two people and got the bye. Both of my losses were games that I would have won if Hex Maniac didn't exist, but unfortunately for me that card does exist.

I don't believe that Blastoise is a viable deck because of Hex Maniac. It can win games, and it benefits greatly from the popularity of the Turtonator deck that did well in Ft. Wayne. But its matchup spread is not quite good enough to succeed. It's still my comfort pick, and you'll probably still see me playing it at tournaments, but I think that Night March has a similar matchup spread but isn't quite as weak to Hex Maniac. I cannot recommend Blastoise as a deck for a Regionals or another large tournament to that effect for this reason. However, if you're looking to attend an Expanded cup and you want to know what the "standard" Blastoise list should look like, I'm hoping to have provided that for you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Video from IA States 2016

Hey guys! I recently got Top Eight at Iowa States. Luckily, my win-and-in Round Seven was captured on film:


Thank you to Ryan Alperstein AKA Bullados for recording and posting the video. You can check out his channel here, he puts out some really cool content.

Also, look forward to a set review of Fates Collide coming up sometime in the near future.

I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Straight CR's Straight Toad States Report

How I felt about Standard coming out of Cities
Before States, I had 119 Championship Points, and every single one of those was from tournaments in the Expanded format. At the Standard Cities that I played in, I felt lost and I couldn’t escape the feeling that I just didn’t have a good handle on the format. I was spoiled by the speed and consistency of Expanded. I did make top cut at a few Cities, but they were all Expanded; I was still fumbling around in the dark when it came to Standard.


Luckily States has now passed netting me eighty points. In the process, I got to play a deck that I hadn’t gotten to play with before in my frenzy of Expanded Battle Compressor-focused decks.


At the end of Cities, I watched the Some1’s PC video regarding Gallade/Octillery and after playing some games with the deck, I was enamored with it. It seemed so improbable that a deck without Shaymin that ran minimal Ultra Ball could succeed, but it functioned! It got my wheels spinning as to how to use the new Slowking with the Royal Flash Ability from BREAKpoint. What if, I thought, I ran a heavy count of Level Ball, Dive Ball and Ultra Ball to consistently get out Octillery for draw and Slowking for disruption? Seismitoad would fit in the deck well as it was searchable under Dive Ball. I sleeved up the deck. With the inclusion of all the search, it was easy to get out Octillery and get a large amount of Slowking on the field, and Seismitoads weren’t hard to find either, but the Double Colorless Energy had a bad habit of making themselves scarce without the explosive power of Shaymin to find them on the first turn. Plus, my roommate reminded me that “you lose to Manectric.”


I decided that to fix both of these problems, I would cut Octillery and add a Gallade with the Maxie’s Engine along with my trusty set of Battle Compressors which I had been missing dearly. From there, the deck set up beautifully. I could get out multiple Slowking while crippling opponents with Quaking Punch. The thing is, by the time I had the lock, I would have something like ten cards left in deck. Inevitably, my opponent would use Lysandre to drag up Slowking and I would have to use valuable resources getting it back to the bench.


I was decking myself out much more than I would have liked. I was able to run my opponents out of resources, but it was at the cost of my own. It wasn’t an option to play the deck-out/waiting game, as I would have such few cards left in deck. At that point, I would have to rush to take all six prizes with Gallade before I ran out of cards, and this was all less than ideal.


That was about the time that I saw Philip Schulz’ second place list from the ECC. The list ran only four Seismitoad EX, two Shaymin EX, and a single Absol, which was reminiscent of the deck that Jason Klaczynski piloted to a first place finish at Madison Regionals this past Spring. This list fulfilled almost everything that I wanted the Seismitoad/Slowking/Gallade deck to fulfill. Instead of lining my bench with the Lysandre-bait that is Slowking, I could run a heavy lineup of energy disruption like Crushing Hammer, three Team Flare Grunt, and two Xerosic. The deck is able to run Water Energy, so instead of sweeping up the end of the game with Gallade, Grenade Hammer can do that job quite nicely.

--


I cut the two Assault Vests for two Fighting Fury Belt, but other than that I left the list intact.
I played a few games online with the deck in the days leading up to States and I felt comfortable enough to sleeve it up and bring it with me to Missouri States. The lovely Sarah Beckwith was kind enough to host us, and the even more lovely Vince Krekeler ran a fantastic event.


MO:


R1 vs Seismitoad/Empoleon WW
R2 vs Greninja LL
R3 vs ?? W
R4 vs Yveltal WLT
R5 vs Trevenant WLW
R6 vs Greninja WLL
R7 vs Seismitoad/Manectric/Crobat WLW


In the first game of the first round of the tournament, I thought I felt myself slipping. I continued to discard my opponent’s energy, but despite that he knocked out one Seismitoad, and then another. But eventually, after getting rid of all of his Basic Energy as well as six Double Colorless Energy (thanks Puzzle of Time), he ran out of gas. And due to his previous Archie’s shenanigans, he was the first to deck out before I had taken a single prize. For Game Two, I had formed a strategy for the “mirror”. Since I ran such a high count of supporters that discarded Energy, it was a viable option to use that to put my opponent in a position in which they couldn’t attack. This was, in the end, the core strategy of the deck.


Unfortunately, this core strategy was sorely ineffective against Greninja. Both of the Greninja decks that I faced in Missouri played Silent Lab. In the first game of Round Two, I was forced to play down Rough Seas to counter Silent Lab so that I could play down a Shaymin to get going. This ended up being a huge mistake, as my damage cap was severely reduced. In addition, the Greninja deck ran beautifully under item lock. Every time I thought that I had run Zak Krekeler out of energy, he seemed to pull a Fisherman out of nowhere (he played two)! When I played against Zach Zamora, who was playing almost the same list as Zak, he opted to use Greninja BKP’s second attack to return an energy to his hand. This meant that no amount of Team Flare Grunt could stop Greninja from attacking. The only way to win the Greninja matchup is to hope that they draw poorly early game, hopefully with a little help from Quaking Punch. Unfortunately, even little Froakie has the Bubble attack that can paralyze Seismitoad and cut you off from Punching. Greninja gave me both of my losses in Missouri, but luckily I didn’t run into it for the remainder of States.


I apologize to my round three/five opponent, as I know that I’m missing someone in the report. I do know that in one of those rounds I took a win against Trevenant though. The Trevenant matchup is similar to Greninja in that their full setup can beat your full setup. The matchup is a little better than vs Greninja though because energy denial does work against them to some extent, and Rough Seas is incredibly helpful. If you can make the Stadium stick, the matchup is easy, but when Trevenant decks plays upwards of four Stadiums along with Delinquent, it is easier said than done to keep a Rough Seas in play. I beat, lost to, and tied the three Trevenant decks I played against over the course of States, so I would guess that the matchup is about even. I did only play against the Bursting Balloon variant though, so that is something to keep in mind.


After Week One, I had the privilege of seeing the Seismitoad/Giratina list that Jeffrey Cheng used to win Oregon States. Obviously his list ran Giratina and mine didn’t, but I felt like our decks were similar enough so that I could draw some inspiration from his choices. He ran a full playset of Puzzle of Time along with a 1-1 line of Slowking. I had been running two Fighting Fury Belt and two Muscle Band, but Jeffrey only ran two Muscle Band. I immediately changed my list to implement some of these differences. I cut a Fighting Fury Belt, noting that Jeffrey hadn’t needed any. After playing a few games with the changes, I really felt myself missing Absol, and Slowking just felt like a huge vulnerability.


During this time, I also watched Squeaky’s interview with Tommy Lahtela, who did well at a Regionals in Europe. Instead of playing energy removal Trainers, Tommy played a thick line of Slowking. But as I mentioned before, I believe that those cards fulfill similar functions. Tommy said that the goal of his build was to deck his opponent out. He would remove all of his opponent’s energy and wait for them to inevitably run out of cards in their deck, instead of aiming to take six prizes. Even though I didn’t necessarily take this to heart for Week Two, this was definitely important for the development of my deck.


I also reflected on some times where I was forced to play down Rough Seas against decks that were able to benefit from it more than I could. Because of that, I felt like Delinquent was a worthwhile inclusion.


--
It was definitely a Puzzle of how to fit everything I wanted into the deck.
In Tennessee, I was one win away from making Top 16 again. If I had won my last round, I can roughly estimate that I would have taken ninth place from my resistance.


TN:


R1 vs Raichu/Bats WW
R2 vs Reshiram/Giratina WW
R3 vs Trevenant LL
R4 vs Reshiram/Giratina LL
R5 vs Toad/Manectric/Slowking WW
R6 vs Night March WLW
R7 vs Night March/Vespiquen WLL


I don’t have so much to say about my first round, except for that my opponent was one of the most pleasant people I have had the privilege of facing while playing the game. Besides being an all-around fun and cool guy, he was also a good sport when I flipped six out of six heads on Super Scoop Up. Once I had gotten rid of all four Double Colorless Energy and used Absol to knock out Feebas before Sparkling Ripples could get my opponent back any lost resources, I was able to take the series.


I played against two Reshiram/Giratina decks, although the first one did not run Max Elixir. Against that first deck, I discarded all of his Double Dragon Energy in both games, so he conceded. Against the second, in the first game, I discarded all of his Double Dragon Energy, leaving him with only Flareon EX as an attacker. He used Lysandre to bring up Absol, and I attached a Double Colorless Energy and retreated it. He Lysandre’d it up again, and this time I was out of ways to get it out of that Active spot. I drew my cards one by one, but my AZ was prized. In game two, I drew the worst hand- I should say, my opponent Judged me into the worst hand- that I saw throughout the entirety of States. It wasn’t bad luck, that is to say. I drew nothing and he benched me out to take the win. This match made me regret cutting Shauna from the previous week, as either it or the prized AZ could have won me that first game.


In Round Six, I got paired against the only Night March that I would see for the first three weeks of States. Oh, a Night March, easy win! I thought. In the first game, he got only three Night Marchers or so in the discard before he got Quaking Punched. I was able to discard all of his Energy and take the first game from there. In Game Two, he got eight Night Marchers in the discard early. I started Punching and such but he used Xerosic on my only Fighting Fury Belt, so once I had taken some knockouts he was able to run through my Seismitoads just like that. Game three was similar. He got down to two prizes remaining and I had discarded all but one of his Double Colorless, and he had enough Night Marchers in the discard pile that I would lose the game. Luckily he didn’t draw the Double that he needed, and I went onto win the series, but it was a very scary moment. I knew how popular Night March was, and my whole reasoning behind continuing to play Toad was that I could beat Night March most of the time. I remembered Tommy Lahtela’s Seismitoad deck that ran lots of Fury Belt so that Toad couldn’t die in one hit.


Speaking of surviving one hit, in Round Seven I discovered the deck’s kryptonite. If anything could unconditionally knock out Seismitoad in one hit, they would be golden. Unfortunately, that something was Vespiquen. The purpose of the deck is to discard all of your opponent’s energy so that they can’t take six prizes. Most decks of course aim to take six prizes, but Straight Toad instead aims to stop your opponent from taking all of their prizes. If your opponent can run through your toads with ease, then that strategy crumbles.


Bzz Bzz
In Round Seven, I played against a Night March/Vespiquen deck. The Night March part specifically wasn’t going to be so challenging, I thought. In the first game, my opponent accidentally discarded two Vespiquens early game, and I got rid of the third one quickly enough with Absol shenanigans. But after my opponent figured out what was going on, it was easy enough for him to just stream Vespiquens that I just couldn’t deal with. In both the second and the third game, I got an early lock to stop him from drawing into anything, but as soon as I would take that fist knockout, he could use Teammates to grab Vespiquen + DCE and sweep from there.


--


For Week Three, I elected to scrap the Puzzles. I wasn’t able to use them often enough as a pair so that I wouldn’t just rather have them be more resources. This way, I was able to pad my Stadium count and add my Shauna back in among other changes.


WI:


R1 vs Garchomp LL
R2 vs BYE W
R3 vs M Sceptile/M Mewtwo Y/Rayquaza EX WW
R4 vs Bronzong/Dragons WW
R5 vs Seismitoad/Giratina WW
R6 vs Trevenant LWT
R7 vs M Mewtwo/Giratina/Aromatisse LL


As a Pokemon, Garchomp is a huge pain to deal with. It can hit huge numbers or accelerate energy from the discard pile, which is all a big nightmare for me. Luckily, usually the deck relies on a Korrina/Rare Candy engine to set up, so Quaking Punch can shut that all down. My opponent, however, had built his deck beautifully. He opened with a Lucario EX which I had to focus on dealing with with accordingly. While I was throwing all of my resources at this Lucario, my opponent ran multiple Gabite which could become Garchomps even under the item lock. In addition to that, my opponent also had an Energy card and a Supporter card every turn of the game it felt like; the lock seemed pretty worthless aside from blocking Rare Candy because my opponent was continually able to set up under Quaking Punch. A huge props goes out to my opponent for playing such an effective build of the deck.


Against the Bronzong/Dragons deck, I was easily able to keep the Double Dragon Energy off of the field. Aegislash was a whole nother question though. My strategy ended up being to start Punching early for no damage while setting up a Seismitoad on the bench with all of my basic energy. I did the classic Seismitoad stuff like using Lysandre on Bronzong and locking it active. These games felt close, and I don’t think that we finished the second one before time was called, but I was able to take the series.


Seismitoad/Giratina ended up being a really great matchup. I just had to get rid of all of my opponent’s energy from the board. Even though Rough Seas healed their Seismitoads too, it slowed down the game enough to make my strategy possible.


Against Trevenant, my opponent ran through me in our first game, but in our second he couldn’t find a Dimension Valley to save his life. Rough Seas kept me in the game until I was able to draw something useful, and in the end I was able to lock something active until he decked out. In Game Three, he drew nothing and I believe that I could have taken the game had time not been called, but I hadn’t scooped Game One soon enough to leave enough time for that to be feasible.


Round Seven, the win-and-in versus M Mewtwo/Giratina/Aromatisse, was just like Round One. My opponent had a high Supporter count, a high energy count, and a way to one-hit Seismitoad in Mega Mewtwo. First off, he successively attached all of his Double Dragon Energy to Giratina only to have them all removed. Then, he went the M Mewtwo route and tried to two-hit my Seismitoads. Luckily, I was able to discard six of his Fairy Energy. Unluckily, he had two left just in time to take his fifth and sixth prizes with Psychic Infinity. In our second and final game he grabbed Xerneas early to build up a big Mewtwo that I couldn’t deal with. I couldn’t use Lysandre to lock anything active because of Fairy Garden, and with that my run was over.


That loss hurt a lot because I knew it was the win-and-in. When my opponent originally flipped over two Giratina as his only Pokemon, I thought that I had the game bagged up. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case; my opponent’s superior deck-building, meta call, and skill prevailed. However, I had the taste of top cut in my mouth and I wanted more.


--
Only slightly in the frame: the giant chair next to me in the front passenger seat
Originally, I thought I would just skip Week Four, so I made some plans to pick up my grandfather from the Chicago area, a two-hour drive north from Champaign where I live. But now I was hungry to top. I really wanted to do better than four wins for tournament, which up until then I had unfortunately been limited to. After a few days of multiple drafts of travel plans, I hopped in a car headed towards Iowa with two friends on a Friday afternoon. My deck was unchanged from the previous week, other than the inclusion of a Float Stone.


IA:


R1 vs Seismitoad/Giratina WLW
R2 vs Night March WW
R3 vs Wailord LL
R4 vs Night March WW
R5 vs Night March WW
R6 vs Vespiquen/Vileplume LL
R7 vs Night March LWW


T8 vs Wailord LL


I finally hit the nuts and played against five good matchups, which is all that I ever could have asked for. My Seismitoad/Giratina opponent was the same one that I faced in Wisconsin, and the first and third games went well enough for me.


Vespiquen/Vileplume blew through me. In Game One, I felt like I had a shot, as my opponent missed the Float Stone on Vileplume and had to discard AZ early, so all game I waited to Lysandre that ‘Plume and win by deckout. Following that action, my opponent threw down a second AZ to clean me out.


I beat the first three Night March decks fairly easily by discarding all but one Double Colorless Energy and then mercifully ending the inevitable Shaymin-looping. In the win-and-in match, however, I never drew a single Pokemon in the first game. I got Punching but I never saw that Ultra Ball. In the second game, I benched him out withing a couple turns. Game Three was very close because he knew how to play the matchup correctly and that fact that I couldn’t find a Fighting Fury Belt for the life of me. I was only able to discard two of his Double Colorless Energy before I locked a Head Ringer’d Shaymin active and he decked out.


I had a whale of a time in Iowa, that's for sure
I don’t want to say too much about the Wailord matchup, because I know that they’re trying to keep the list somewhat secret. There was simply no way for me to win in Swiss. In top cut, I wanted to use the strategy that Jason used successfully at Nationals, but unfortunately it was not meant to be. In Swiss I was able to take four prizes, and in Game One of cut I could have taken four prizes, but Game Two was a shutout, as I just couldn’t draw my energy. Without an early Quaking Punch, he got down all four Float Stones which just locked me out of the game. Huge props to Cody for making the deck work in this Standard format, and also to Enrique for piloting it so well.


That was my States run! I had a really good time playing with the deck, and I’m glad that I finally got that top cut. I have zero clue how applicable the deck will be come Nationals time, but I hope that my insights help someone. Here is the list that I used for the last two weeks, and the list that I would continue to bring to tournaments in the KSS-Generations format:


Pokemon: 7


4 Seismitoad EX
2 Shaymin EX
1 Absol ROS


Trainers: 45


4 Ultra Ball
4 Crushing Hammer
4 Super Scoop Up
4 Trainers’ Mail
3 Fighting Fury Belt
2 Head Ringer
1 Enhanced Hammer
4 VS Seeker
1 Float Stone
4 Professor Sycamore
3 Team Flare Grunt
2 Xerosic
2 Lysandre
1 Shauna
1 Judge
1 AZ
1 Delinquent
3 Rough Seas


Energy: 8


4 Double Colorless Energy
4 Water Energy


I can go ahead and discuss some of the cards that might warrant some explanation if I didn’t get to it earlier.


1 Absol ROS


Absol is a fun little card that I really enjoyed having. Opponents think that Quaking Punch caps at a certain amount of damage, depending on your tool of choice. Because of this, a change in damage output can really catch your opponent off guard. Absol is also an artificial way to hit bench damage. As I discussed earlier, I have used him to knock out Feebas, because Milotic is a threat to the deck’s core strategy. Also, if a Night March opponent gets ahead on attachments, and Absol can remove a Joltik with a DCE attached, which saves you an energy removal card.


In the end, a deck that only attacks with EXes might as well run a non-EX, because there is no harm it being knocked out. For example, if my opponent knocks out Absol, they still have to knock out three EXes to win the game, just like they would have had to originally. So if you choose to play Quad-Toad or a deck with all EXes, you might pick Absol or Slowking or something of that sort as your non-EX, because in the end there’s really no reason not to play one.


4 Crushing Hammer, 3 Team Flare Grunt, 2 Xerosic, 0-2 Enhanced Hammer


The deck runs a hefty amount of energy removal cards, as you can see, because energy removal is the name of the game for a build like this. The supporter line specifically is just a murderer in the mirror, discarding special energy like crazy. My Enhanced Hammer count over the course of the month went from two to zero and leveled out at one. It is a really nice card to have, especially against Night March and Giratina. The Xerosic is also clutch for all of its functions, as you don’t run Startling Megaphone or any card like that.


4 Super Scoop Up, 1 AZ, 1 Float Stone


The idea is that your Seismitoads never get knocked out. Here to help with that is the handy Super Scoop Up, which on a coin flip can save your toads and their attached resources to deny your opponent prizes. The AZ though i usually don’t use on cards with energy or tools attached. AZ is often used to get me out of times when I have a dead hand, and it was pretty clutch in those situations. I saw that Jeffrey Cheng opted to run a Cassius instead, which is a better healer of Toads. It is not, however, a better healer of dead hands, so I chose to run AZ instead. Either is fine though, they just serve different functions in the deck.


In Philip Schulz’ original list, there was no Float Stone. Therefore, if you started with Shaymin EX or Absol, the only way to get it out of the active spot was AZ or a heads on a Super Scoop Up. This was less than ideal for me, so after Week Two I opted to add a Float Stone, which provided a lot of utility.


2 Head Ringer, 4 Water Energy, 1 Judge


You might be wondering, why has Charles Randall grouped these cards together? That would be a very good question to which I have the answer. Because Quaking Punch is capped at a low-ish damage output, and because my deck has an annoying tendency to discard any energy that my opponent leaves on their board, sometimes my opponents get it into their head to start looping Shaymins. “Look, now he can’t do anything to me and I can win!” think some incredibly intelligent opponents. That is, unfortunately for them, and incorrect assumption. First of all, some well-placed Head Ringers can stop that Sky Return in its tracks. But if the Head Ringers are already in use somewhere else, like a different Pokemon or in your prizes, a Judge can shuffle that Shaymin back into the deck. If your opponent does manage to redraw it, you can attach several Water Energy onto a Seismitoad and put those miserable Shaymins out of their misery with Grenade Hammer.


Four Water Energy is a lot. This number can be cut to three, but I really loved having four. It noticeably helped my situation against Aegislash, both in Bronzong and Wailord decks.


Judge vs Shauna


Philip’s list ran both of these cards, and I cut Shauna to fit the playset of Puzzles into my deck. This was a bit premature, because these two cards fulfill very different purposes in the deck, even though they have similar effects on you. Judge is first and foremost a disruptive card. If you feel like your opponent is looking a bit sneaky or if they used Skyla to get a Xerosic on the previous turn, you can use Judge to try and flush their hand in for a different one.


Shauna is in the deck because the game might come down to who-decks-out-first. In that very fun situation, Judge is not useful because it shuffles your opponent’s hand in too. So if you have ten cards in hand and deck and your opponent has fifteen, a Judge does nothing except delay the inevitable. This is fine, if you plan on taking the rest of your prizes during that time, but Shauna is extra-special deck-out insurance, which is important in a deck like this one. The fact that it draws less than Birch is good, because that’s what you want. If you wanted to draw more cards, you can play Birch and reconsider your life because I really don’t like that card.


--


A huge thanks goes to Sarah Beckwith for being such a great host (and player and friend) and an apology is warranted to both her and Ryan Alperstein for working with us when our travel plans were so tentative. Kiernan gets props for showing us that real authentic Mexican restaurant that Daniel graced with his “Make America Great Again” hat. The Tournament Organizers get props for running such smooth tournaments, especially Vince Krekeler and Jimmy Ballard. Last, but not least, I would like to thank Brandon and Daniel for being such great traveling companions and thanks to Quyen for supporting me through all of my traveling and being away from Champaign.

Feel free to comment or message me if you have any questions about anything, and thank you so much for reading.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

BREAKpoint on a Budget

When I returned from my two year hiatus in 2014 to get back into Pokemon, I made a few decisions to help me become a better player and save money. As a senior, my parents did not let me purchase cards online, and I went to every prerelease. This meant that my only way to get cards was by opening packs, which led to me building some suboptimal decks. I feel bad when I open a pack, because the pack is instantly worth less once you open it, on average.

Since getting back into the game, I don't buy or open packs, so I certainly don't attend Prereleases. Instead, I spend what I would have spent at Prerelease on singles, trying to keep the cost below $25, which was the price of the Prereleases I went to.

I want to give you an insight into the process in which I buy cards from a new set. I guess which cards I will need, while trying to stay on a budget. This has ended up saving me money since I came back, and I've done it all without opening a single pack. Here are the cards that I am going to buy from BREAKpoint:

Slowking






Slowking has a lot of potential, especially in the type of deck that would set up a lot of them to stack the effect. Lucario/Hammers is a deck in Standard that runs Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer to discard energy as Lucario piles on the damage. Imagine moving all of that energy, or a bit of it every turn onto a Pokemon where it wouldn't be so harmful. For example, you could move all of the energy onto a benched Shaymon-EX, Hawlucha, or Octillery. Crawdaunt's Unruly Claw is much more effective, but that only works when you put it down. Slowking has the potential to disrupt every turn!

Slowking decks have a couple of cool options that energy disruption decks of the past didn't have. Brigette BKT can easily hunt down three Slowpoke to get the Slowking train rolling. In addition, the new Slowbro card could feature a place in the deck if the deck already runs Double Colorless energy.

Expect Slowking to see play in some deck, so get your playset before the price goes up.


Manaphy-EX



Manaphy EX is a lot like Darkrai EX from Black & White: Dark Explorers in that it gives free retreat to Pokemon with a certain type of energy attached. In Standard, it could see play in Fairy-Box to give Pokemon that have Rainbow Energy attached free retreat, which would allow play of a different Stadium besides Fairy Garden.

One major difference between Manaphy EX and Darkrai EX is that Darkrai had a powerful attack in addition to its useful Ability, whereas Manaphy's attack is subpar. I think that Manaphy will see fringe play in water decks and that it's worth picking up now, but I don't think it deserves a spot in Blastoise or any other current archetypes.

Frogadier

Greninja gets a bit more powerful with the release of Frogadier. Frogadier's attack searches for three more Frogadier to go onto your bench, all of which can become Greninja on the following turn. Miltank/Greninja might make a comeback, this time with Fisherman and the ability to swarm Greninjas.

In the past, you would want to pack some Rare Candies into your deck and run a 4-2-4 line, but now a 4-4-4 or a 3-4-4 might be preferable. The deck has Fisherman, which it didn't have before, which could make it even more powerful. Will the deck run Greninja BREAK? My answer to that is no, for the reason that Greninja BREAK has to be Active for its Ability to activate. I would rather just run an extra Water Energy or Greninja EX for the versatiliy than Greninja BREAK, but I could be wrong.


Hypno


Hypno will see play in the same way that Munna BCR saw play. The difference here is that Hypno is a Stage One, and that it does not require a coin flip. Because of the flip, Munna saw play in multiples, which meant that people ran two or three in order to always hit heads. Munna could also easily be teched into decks that ran Keldeo or Virizion EX because it was a Basic Pokemon. Hypno needs more space in a deck (a 2-2 line) and it needs a partner to go with it.

In Expanded, we have Keldeo EX and Virizion EX that can remove the status condition sleep, whereas in Standard all we have are Zoroark and Sparkling Robe. Maybe a deck that can run lots of Pokemon can run Hypno, like Vespiquen, but more likely Hypno will be paired with Sparkling Robe in some sort of lock deck.




Espeon EX

Espeon EX will take up one slot in spread decks, and that will be its purpose. For one C, the highest Stage Evolution card is put into the opponent's hand, which pairs perfectly with Mega Gallade or Dusknoir. For example, in Mia Violet's Yveltal/Dusknoir deck, Espeon EX would only take up one slot and it would significantly change the matchup against decks with Stage 1s, Stage 2s, or Mega Evolution decks.

Garbodor:

I'm not sure what Garbodor's place in the Standard format will be, bug I do know that based off of its play in the Expanded format, it's worth having a 2-2 line.


Phantump

Trevenant XY just got a lot more powerful with the release of BREAKpoint. If you miss the turn one Wally, you can attack with Phantump to leave a Trevenant active at the end of your turn. This increases the odds of leaving your opponent Item-locked from the first turn by many degrees.

Trevenant XY is not a bad attacker, but with the addition of Trevenant BREAK, it gets a supplementary attack and a decent chunk of HP. Both Trevenant XY and Trevenant BREAK have attacks that spread damage and reach for the same goal: soften things up for Gengar to deal with. In addition to buying Phantump and Trevenant BREAK, I would also stock up on Trevenant XY at this point as well before their price skyrockets.




Trevenant BREAK

Darkrai-EX


Darkrai-EX is a card that I think will warrant one spot in Expanded Yveltal decks. In Dark Pulse, we have the chance to hit for a lot of damage, but it is more of a late-game attack. Dark Head also works quite well with Hypnotoxic Laser if you can flip the heads. In Standard, I don't think there is a way to easily put an opponent to sleep, or stack a lot of energy on the board with YZG, so I think that most of Darkrai's strength lies in Expanded.

Hypno will exist in Standard, but it would need a lot of space, and it would need something to wake Darkrai up, like Zoroark. In that sort of situation, Machamp/Ariados would be better because it uses FFC to get a knockout on EXes with one bench-sitter as opposed to two.


Shoutout to All Night Party to wake up Darkrai after something like Hypno puts it to sleep.

Puzzle of Time

I think that Puzzle of Time is one of the most influential cards in the set, helping Battle Compressor decks immensely. Battle Compressor decks face issues when managing resources. It is very easily to draw through your whole deck, but it is hard to do so without discarding crucial resources, like Double Colorless Energy for Night March or Vespiquen, or Superior Energy Retrieval for Blastoise. Puzzle of Time offers a solution for this. Late game, you can get two cards back, letting you be riskier for great reward in the early game. This way, Blastoise might actually be able to consistenly get off four Superior Energy Retrievals in a game, or Night March might not have to run Milotic.

One of the great things about Puzzle of Time is that if you see it in the early game, it doesn't block Archie's or Maxie's (because you can always play it down), and it just is not a bad card overall, especially if your deck already plays something like Unown.

Puzzle of Time also gives an advantage to a deck like Sableye, allowing it to not give up any prizes. For example, imagine the Sableye player has an active Sableye with Life Dew attached. They use Junk Hunt to grab two Puzzle of Time. Then, Sableye's opponent knocks out the Sableye, discarding Life Dew but not getting a prize. Then, the Sableye player can use the Puzzle of Times to get back the Life Dew and attach it to a new Sableye. In this way, without N or Lysandre, the Sableye player can consistently not give up prizes.

Puzzle of Time is going to change the format. Pick up a playset of these.




Max Elixir

Ether may have been a huge disappointment, but Max Elixir is Ether on steroids. In a deck that plays at least ten energy, there is a good chance that you can hit the energy and accelerate it. I have a friend who thinks that this card is going to make Yveltal EX very good, and I personally can't even yet imagine all the potential for it. Definitely grab some of these.




Burst Balloon

Rock Guard is now outclassed. Burst Balloon packs the power of Rock Guard while only lasting for one turn. Imagine a Robo Substitute with Burst Balloon attached: what a dilemma! Burst Balloon is another card where I can't yet imagine how it will fit into decks. Maybe it will go in Sableye? I would definitely get these though, because this is a cool card that will have some place in the metagame.



Fighting Spirit Belt


Fighting Spirit Belt is going to change the game like Muscle Band did. With more than twice the power of Giant Cape, Fighting Spirit Belt is like a combination of Assault Vest and Muscle Band. Imagine a Wailord EX packing 290 HP. The magic numbers change, the Tool Scrapper count has to increase, I'm very excited to see which Pokemon Tools that people choose to run with such a great selection.

Delinquent

Delinquent is a powerful but balanced card because of its stipulation that a Stadium card be discarded, so that it can't just be endlessly looped. Delinquent is also balanced because the opposing player gets to choose which cards get discarded from their hand. Because Shaymin EX is in the format, it has the potential to backfire, so I think that it has the most potential in the late game. If your opponent has three or less cards in their hand, you can put them instantly into topdeck mode. I think that lock decks will pop up that make use of this card, but its most important feature is that it will change how people play.

You might want to use Exeggcute's Propagation before ending your turn in case there is a delinquent. In the same way people thin their deck in anticipation of an N, it might be necessary to buff your hand in anticipation of a delinquent.




Final Ideal Shopping List:

4 Slowpoke - $1
4 Slowking - $4
1 Manaphy EX - $4
4 Frogadier - $1
2 Drowzee - $.50
2 Hypno - $2
1 Espeon EX - $4
2 Trubbish - $.50
2 Garbodor - $2
4 Phantump - $1
2 Trevenant BREAK - $6
1 Darkrai EX - $4
4 Puzzle of Time - $2
4 Max Elixir - $2
4 Burst Balloon - $2
4 Fighting Spirit Belt - $2
4 Delinquent - $4

Total: $58

Charles Randall's Actual Shopping List Because He Isn't Made Of Money:

4 Puzzle of Time - $2
4 Max Elixir - $2
4 Burst Balloon - $2
4 Fighting Spirit Belt - $2
3 Delinquent - $3
4 Slowpoke - $1
4 Slowking - $4
2 Trubbish - $.50
2 Garbodor - $2
4 Phantump - $1
1 Trevenant Break - $6

Total: $25.50

Credit for these scans goes to Peter Kica, who compiled them all here. Thanks Peter!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment below if you think I left something important out or if you really think that I should buy an Espeon EX.