Monday, January 12, 2015

"Night March" - A Comprehensive Analysis




I originally passed off Night March as a gimmick when I saw the scans from Phantom Forces. I decided to build the deck because I thought that it looked fun. Once I built it, I realized how much potential that the deck had, and I have been using it at tournaments ever since. Here is my personal list:



4 Pumpkaboo
4 Joltik
4 Lampent
3 Mew EX

2 Jirachi EX

4 Professor Sycamore
1 Lysandre

4 Ultra Ball
4 Roller Skates
1 Bicycle
2 Random Receiver
4 Pokemon Catcher
3 VS Seeker
1 Computer Search
2 Switching Cards
1 Muscle Band
1 Hard Charm
4 Battle Compressor

3 Dimension Valley

4 DCE
4 Basic Energy

4 Pumpkaboo

http://pkmncards.com/wp-content/uploads/pumpkaboo-phantom-forces-phf-44.jpgPumpkaboo has 60 HP. Most Pokemon are capable of knocking him out. Since he has a Fighting resistance, however, it gets a bit trickier for a Donphan to knock it out in one hit. Fighting Stadium doesn't work on Pumpkaboo, so Donphan needs two Strong Energy or a Strong Energy and a Muscle Band to get the one-hit knockout. For this reason, a Pumpkaboo with a Hard Charm can be surprisingly resilient.

Besides having a useful resistance, Pumpkaboo also has a glaring weakness. Because it has 60 HP and a x2 weakness to dark, Baby Yveltal can knock it out with only one energy. This officially makes it really annoying that any of your Night March Pokemon can be knocked out in one hit by this very common attacker.

For this spooky pumpkin to be effective, there needs to be a Dimension Valley in play. The only time when you might consider investing both a DCE and another energy card on Pumpkaboo is in the Donphan matchup, when your Dimension Valley could easily be replaced at any time by Fighting Stadium.

4 Joltik

Joltik's attack only costs CC, so it is useful to have on the Bench with Mew attacking and Dimension Valley is in play. Joltik also hits Yveltal EX for weakness, so if your opponent accidentally benches one or starts with it, Joltik can score some easy prizes. If two basic energy cards can get attached to him, he can also take down an Aegislash EX easier than Mew or Pumpkaboo.

4 Lampent

We don't run any Litwick. We could, but we don't. If there is a lot of Pyroar in your metagame, try Toxicroak EX instead.

Since we don't run Litwick, Lampent is only here because we want it in the discard pile to rack up Night March damage. Therefore, Lampent should be your first target to throw in the discard pile with Battle Compressor.


3 Mew EX

I run 3 Mew EX. I wish I had room for four, but it isn't important enough and space is tight. This is the first of many cards which I wish that there was more room for but there isn't. If you like to prioritize a good start, adding a fourth Mew would not be a bad idea.
I challenge you to build a Night March deck without Mew. It is possible, but you run into a few problems:

A. You run out of Night Marchers to attack with. To knock out an EX in one hit, you need nine Night Marchers in the discard pile. With Muscle Band, you only need eight. With Silver Bangle, you only need seven to knock out EXes with 170 HP. That leaves you with three to five attackers, assuming that no Night Marcher is prized (which one or two always are, believe me). Your opponent gets six prizes, so by not running another attacker, you are not running the deck to its full potential.

B. You miss attacks because there isn't enough time to attach two energy cards to an attacker. Joltik needs a DCE, and Pumpkaboo also needs a DCE along with Dimension Valley. Assuming that you never miss an energy drop but that your attackers are always knockd out in one hit (which isn't unrealistic when the HP of your attackers are so low), you get to attack four times, tops. This is not acceptable or fast enough. That's where Mew EX comes in; Mew can attack for one energy with Dimension Valley in play and a Joltik on the bench. This lets you use energy more efficiently, and also Mew EX doesn't get OHKOd as often as Joltik and Pumpkaboo. This also gives more flexibility with basic energy, as Mew can use attacks of Pokemon that your opponent has in play.

2 Jirachi EX

Jirachi is a liability. For each Jirachi EX that your opponent knocks out, they get two prizes for the low price of 90 HP. But Jirachi is what lets the deck get away with such few draw supporters. If you take a look at the list above, the only draw supporter is Professor Sycamore/Juniper, and there are four of them. How would you ever draw into those? The answer is Jirachi and Ultra Ball. Having Jirachi in your deck means that if you have an Ultra Ball in your hand, you automatically get a draw supporter. This is incredibly effective in making sure that you never draw dead. Plus, if your opponent is knocking out Night Marchers every turn, they won't have time to deal with Jirachi!

4 Professor Sycamore

Professor Sycamore is an incredibly effective supporter. In the case of Night March, you want to draw through your whole deck to get the correct combination of cards. There are very few cards that you would not be okay discarding (the exception being multiple DCEs). You can play down your hand and use Professor Sycamore pretty easily in most cases.

1 Lysandre

If I could, I wouldn't run Lysandre, because it greatly decreases the effectiveness of Random Receiver. However, 4 Pokemon Catcher is not enough to consistently drag up your opponent's Pokemon. Especially in the Donphan matchup, this card is necessary. I would run more, except VS Seeker lets you run your one over and over again. If your Lysandre is prized against Donphan, you are in an unfortunate situation. I would like to find room for a second, but there isn't space at the moment.

4 Ultra Ball

This card is great. It lets you search out Night Marchers, it lets you discard Night Marchers, and it lets you search out Jirachi EX so that you can use Professor Sycamore for the turn if you have no supporter. Without an Item like Ultra Ball, the deck wouldn't be able to get away with such few supporters.

4 Roller Skates

Roller Skates lets you draw more cards. Seven new cards isn't quite enough to get by with, and Skates gets you the extra cards to make the combo work. When the new set comes out, Acro Bike should be a vast improvement, as it doesn't rely on a coin flip.

1 Bicycle

This is debatably the most questionable count in the list. There should be more Bicycles. Feel free to remove the Random Receivers to add these, having only one is a playstyle choice. When looking for more room, the Bikes got cut, and I never got to add them back in. So feel free to add more of these! Bicycle is a great card for this deck because it lets you draw more cards without a supporter. It is, however, useless when you have a large hand.

2 Random Receiver

My version of the deck is moving away from this direction, but it originally had 4 Random Receiver and 4 Professor Sycamore. When I added the Lysandre, I cut a couple of Receivers to go the Jirachi route, but it's nice to have a possible way out of a dead hand when you draw nothing else. These are cuttable. More would be nice, but they could also be replaced by other consistency cards.

4 Pokemon Catcher

It is vastly important that you have a Gust Of Wind effect in this deck. Flipping heads on Catcher helps your Donphan matchup, and in general it can be tricky to take your last two prizes when your opponent stalls with a one-prize attacker. I would run more than four Catchers if I could. This is a card that you need four of.

3 VS Seeker

This card lets you get away with running only four supporters. If you are forced to discard a couple of Sycamores in the early game, it's okay because you can reuse them later with VS Seeker! This is also why we can get away with running only one Lysandre. I usually Sycamore it away in the beginning and get it back with VS Seeker. This card and this card alone lets us get away with such a low supporter count overall.

1 Computer Search

Night March is a deck that relies on drawing certain combinations of cards. You lose if you don't draw a DCE. You lose if you can't draw a Dimension Valley. Computer Search helps shore that up by letting you whiff less. If you don't have one, try Life Dew to help with the prize race as your Ace Spec, but I highly recommend Computer Search.

1 Switch, 1 Escape Rope

This can be two switch as well. Originally, the deck didn't need Switch since every card in the deck could use Night March, but once I threw in Jirachi, this was a must. This lets you get Jirachi EX out of the active spot when you start with it, and has some other niche uses (like copying an opposing Donphan's Spinning Turn with Mew EX into another Mew EX, then using Switch to attack again next turn). For the last two tournaments, I have run Escape Rope instead, because it can net you some easy prizes which you need sometimes.

1 Muscle Band, 1 Hard Charm

This can be two Muscle Band or two Hard Charm, it depends on your playstyle and your metagame. Against most decks, neither is necessary since your Pokemon will get knocked out regardless and you will knock out everything they have in one hit regardless as well. Muscle Band helps in the metal matchup where there are big 180 HP EXes with Psychic Resistance. Without Muscle Band, you need ten Night Marchers in the discard pile, which is reasonable but a little bit too much to ask for. Muscle Band requires only nine, which is much more manageable. Hard Charm helps in the Donphan matchup, because a Pumpkaboo with a Hard Charm can only be knocked out by a Donphan with Spinning Turn if they attach two Strong Energies and a Muscle Band.

The tools are not entirely necessary, but they can be handy for certain matchups. There is no need to add more, but I wouldn't cut them unless you have your heart set on it.

4 Battle Compressor

There are several cards that the deck needs to function, but this is a card that the deck lives and dies by. If you can't draw any of these, you lose. If you draw three within the first couple of turns, you will have a much easier time. You want to go to discard Lampents first, and what you discard next depends on the matchup. I'll go into more detail in the matchup section.


3 Dimension Valley

Dimension Valley is a stadium that reduces the cost of your Pumpkaboo and your Mew to attack. This lets Pumpkaboo attack for only a DCE, and Mew for only a basic energy if there is a Joltik on the bench. If you whiff this, it is hard to attack without Joltik, so a fourth copy would help avoid whiffing and also help you win stadium wars.

4 DCE

Double Colorless energy is what makes the deck tick. Needing one energy attachment to take up to two prizes is what gives Night March the upper hand. If you whiff these, you are in trouble. I would run more than four of these if I could.

4 Basic Energy

Night March doesn't require a specific energy type, so you can go crazy here. I have a friend who runs Litwick to attack with Lampent, so he runs Psychic Energy. I, however, pick basic energy based on what the metagame looks like. If there is a lot of Donphan around, I run a couple of Fighting Energy to copy Spinning Turn. Dark Energy can copy Evil Ball early game if you are whiffing Battle Compressor and need to get some damage on the board. Any basic energy can copy an opponent's Seismitoad's Quaking Punch to slow them down. If you run a couple of Grass you can Emerald Slash, and if you run a couple of Lightning you can Turbo Bolt/Assault Laser. Basic Energy doesn't always matter, but it is strictly a metagame call.

Matchups:

Speed Lugia - Favorable. If you draw well and flip heads on Catcher, you can knock out their attackers before Lugia can get many attacks off. Lightning weakness gives you an opening early game to steal some wins with Joltik. If you draw dead, you lose. This will be a pattern with all matchups. They don't snipe the bench, so Joltik is your attacker of choice along with Mews copying Joltik's attack. Discard Pumpkaboos and Lampents.

Virizion/Genesect - I have played in one League Challenge and six City Championships with Night March, and I have not played against a VirGen, so I won't pretend to be an expert in this matchup.

Yveltal - Slightly Favorable. This matchup is favorable, but not as favorable as you think. There is a big issue in that Baby Yveltal for one basic energy knocks out all of your Night Marchers in one hit. So "watch out for attacks". You can knock out everything in one hit. You hit Yveltal EX for weakness, but they won't bench those. Baby Yveltal doesn't one hit Mews, so attack with those primarily. Discard Lampents and Pumpkaboos, but leave one 'Boo in the deck in case Darkrai comes out. Garbodor gives Mew trouble. Trubbish and the big bag of trash have to be Gusted up and KOd as priority number one. Seismitoad is something that I will mention in a section of its own.

Another threat that Night March faces from Yveltal is getting donked. If you start lone Joltik, and your opponent goes first, they might use a Hypnotoxic Laser and a Virbank City Gym to knock you out before you can even get a turn! Keep this in mind when choosing a starter, especially if you know your opponent is playing Yveltal.

Donphan - Unfavorable but Slightly Favorable with techs. Against Donphan, you want to discard four Lampent and three Joltik. You only need seven Night Marchers in the discard to knock out most things in the deck. Donphan  has Lightning Resistance, So Joltik isn't a good attacker. Your goal is to load up several Pumpkaboos with DCEs (and ideally, Hard Charms) and go to town with Catcher and Lysandre killing Donphans. Hawlucha can one hit Mew EX with a Strong, a Muscle Band, and a Fighting Stadium, which gets them two prizes. Donphan can one hit Pumpkaboo with a Strong and a Muscle Band, which gets them one prize. Pick your poison accordingly! Too many Robo Substitutes spells the end for you unless you draw really well. If there is a lot of Donphan in your area, consider adding in some Enhanced Hammers and Startling Megaphones to make it harder for Donphan to OHKO your Pumpkaboos.

Pyroar - Very Unfavorable. You run no counter and they usually run Seismitoad. You would have to draw very well and they would need to draw very poorly to pull out a win here.

What to do against Seismitoad:

Seismitoad is not necessarily the killer of Night March (unless it is paired with a Lysandre's Trump Card). All that this nasty Toad does is give you an ultimatum and put you on a timer.  You have approximately one turn to find a couple of Battle Compressor or you lose. If you can't do that and you get Item-Locked, it is hard to pull out a win. You would need to get very lucky with Professor Sycamore. But if you can get some Night Marchers in the discard, it's ok! You can two-hit Toad and soon the threat will be gone. Remember, Mew EX can even throw some Quaking Punches right back at Toads! If you don't draw well, you lose. But if you draw well and flip heads on Roller Skates that first turn, all is not lost!

Night March's Place in the Metagame

Night March is not the best deck in the format, but it fills a niche. It loses to Donphan, but it can beat EX-based decks if it sets up. This gives the deck a chance to do well in certain metagames. The deck is also fairly linear, so it isn't incredibly difficult for a beginning player to pick it up. Not to say that piloting the deck doesn't require some skill. I like the deck because playing feels like a puzzle you have to solve.


Thanks for reading!



Things to add based on preference and space:

N

More Bicycle (like maybe up to three)

4th Dimension Valley

4th VS Seeker

4th Mew EX

Toxicroak EX

3rd Switching Card

Mr. Mime

Here is a video of me running a few hands to give you an idea of how to play the deck:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Joltik Marches Again"- A Top Four Cities Report from Springfield

This past Sunday, my family and I journeyed to Springfield, Illinois, to participate in their City Championships. My mother and my brother came along, and I invited my girlfriend Quyen and her little sister Vy, who has grown interested in the game recently. We got to their house around 9:30 to pick them up. I drove the five of us to Springfield while we listened to the Arctic Monkeys. We got there and met up with Allen Schneider, my friend from Manito.

 Me and my brother, Michael John, wrote out our decklists. We were both playing Night March. MJ borrows a Computer Search from Allen, which means that our lists are exactly the same. The list is given in my previous post documenting Countryside City Championships. Vy and Quyen made POP IDs, and we all got registered!

Round 1 vs. Carington Huffman with Toad/Victini/Raichu

He goes first, attaches a DCE to a Seismitoad which he brings active, and passes. I find Sycamore, flip heads on a couple of Skates, but I can't find any Battle Compressor. He Quaking Punches me eight or nine times to bench me.

0-1-0

This was frustrating because I knew that I had to win every game from there on out if I wanted to make the top four.

Round 2 vs. Allen Schneider with Yveltal/Manectric/Plasma Kyurem

He took a single prize off of a Pumpkaboo, but other than that I managed to roll through him before he could set up. That was what Night March was supposed to do!

Round 3 vs. Fairies

She got out a couple of Florges, but I managed to set up to a point where I was OHKOing her EXes.

Round 4 vs. Andrew Wamboldt with Fairies/Toad/Laserbank

I am a big fan or Andrew's blog, The Charizard Lounge, and my friend Cole McQueen lost to him in the top eight of St. Louis Cities. I went first. I had an explosive start and got seven Night Marchers in the discard. He got a turn two Seismitoad, but I had Mew Quaking Punch a few times before Toad was in knockout-range of Night March. I benched him when he couldn't draw any more Pokemon!

I was 3-1. Andrew did the math and told me I was not safe to ID. I had to play out my last round for sure.

Round 5 vs. Michael Hopkins with Donphan

Donphan was a really bad matchup for Night March. To win I had to hit some key heads with Catcher, and I had been working on a strategy against Donphan. The strategy is to use Pumpkaboo. Pumpkaboo has 60 HP and Fighting Resistance, so Donphan needs a Strong Energy and a Muscle Band to knock it out.

I go first and get a decent amount of Night Marchers in the discard. Michael started Hawlucha, so he attached a Fighting to it and hit me for 60. I have a benched Pumpkaboo and a DCE on Mew but no Dimension Valley in play. I also have a dead hand. I flip heads on a Catcher to bring up Phanpy, but then I realize I can't use Night March. I get creative and copy Kyurem's Outrage, which hits for 80, exactly what I need for the KO.

He dead draws midgame, and I win by a prize and a turn when he is whiffing attackers.

4-1

I had made the top four cut! Quyen and I take a celebratory selfie :)

Top Four vs Jay Young with Donphan

Unfortunately, I had to play against another Donphan in the top four, and I couldn't fluke out a win this time. He 2-0d me, but I was happy with the ten packs that I won! I gave those to Vy.