Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Danmark Man Dark"- How I Won a League Challenge in Denmark

Google Translate really clears up what the lyrics mean.

Danmark Man Dark

Vores buschauffør ka' godt køre bus
Der' rigtig mange der' rigtig tilfreds
Med hans niveau imellem bremse og gas
Jo, han kan godt styre bussen
Men ved han egentligt hvem der sidder i den?
Og hvor de egentligt gerne vil køres hen?
Hvad ved han helt præcist om kvinder og mænd?

I just had the most amazing afternoon. This League Challenge has been one of my most enjoyable Pokemon experiences ever!

Side Note: Aron wanted this post to be called "First Step Into a New World". So consider that an alternate title!

I had the idea of going to a tournament in Europe when I first heard that I would be going on vacation there with my family, and this became especially important to me when I realized that our vacation would conflict with Regionals. Nothing looked like it would be conveniently close to any of the places we planned to visit, but the events in Denmark appeared to be posted only a week in advance. So as our departure date got closer, I kept checking for tournaments using the Event Locator, and finally one popped up! It was scheduled for 5 PM in Copenhagen, and our plane would be arriving at Copenhagen airport that same afternoon.

The text in the tournament details read "Roaring Skies er tilladt." Google Translate helpfully explained to me that this meant that Roaring Skies was legal for this tournament. I didn't have any Roaring Skies cards, but I thought that maybe I could borrow some of the cheaper Trainers from my friends if needed. I brought 120 cards with me to Europe, and here are sixty of them:

Pokemon: 16

2 Mew EX
1 Jirachi EX
1 Empoleon
4 Lampent
4 Pumpkaboo
4 Joltik

Trainers: 37

1 Float Stone
1 Hard Charm
2 Muscle Band
4 Battle Compressor
1 Computer Search
4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Acro Bike
4 Trainers' Mail
4 Professor Sycamore
1 Archie's Ace In The Hole
2 Lysandre
1 Lysandre's Trump Card
4 Dimension Valley

Energy: 7

4 Double Colorless Energy
3 Water Energy

You guys have all seen Night March lists and analyses before, so I won't bore you too much besides mentioning a few things:

I miss you second Jirachi...
1 Empoleon, 1 Archie's Ace In The Whole, 1 Jirachi EX

My list managed to get off the turn one Archie's a lot, more than any list I've played before. I can most definitely attribute that to Trainers' Mail. Trainers' Mail was an amazing card when digging for Battle Compressors and Supporters, but it was also a card that I could fail if I needed to trim my hand size down. I had the turn one Archie's in two games and the turn two Archie's in another game. I also had it in my first round before I had my hand refreshed by N.
Running one of each of the necessary cards means that I run the risk of having pieces prized, but the extra space in the deck added consistency and luckily I never had anything prized. It is a little scary though when you see that you have the cards to get out Empoleon on turn one but it will only work if three pieces aren't prized.

2 Mew EX

In past versions of the deck, I ran three copies of Mew, and I was tempted at times to bump that number up to four because I wanted to start with it more often. When I originally built this new, updated version, I had no Mew at first! I had to add a couple in, but attacking with it is only necessary against EX-based decks where you need to hit 180 more consistently. It has niche uses outside of that, like copying Attack Command if your opponent played Trump Card, etc.

1 Float Stone, 1 Hard Charm, 2 Muscle Band

The Float Stone is my one Switch card. This means that we don't really have a good way to remove Special Conditions. The advantage of Float Stone is that it lets you have someone that can retreat for free when you have a Pokemon knocked out, and I liked to attach Float Stone to Jirachi or Empoleon. Muscle Band lets you hit magic numbers while needing one less Night Marcher in the Discard Pile. I kept Hard Charm in the deck because it helps in the Seismitoad matchup and the Donphan matchup. You might take it out for a Muscle Band or an Escape Rope, depending on how much Head Ringer is in your area.

4 Acro Bike, 4 Trainers' Mail, 0 Bicycle, 0 Roller Skates

You have mail, here are all four of your Dimension Valley!
I really like Item-based draw. Acro Bike serves three purposes: It draws you cards, it thins your deck, and it lets you discard Night Marchers. Trainers' Mail lets you dig for more cards without a discarding drawback, and it is possible to fail it. Bicycle would draw us lots of cards, especially in a deck that runs four Ultra Ball, and Roller Skates would net us more cards as well, but unfortunately neither card allows you to lower your hand size to play Archie's. This means that the 4/4/0/0 Item line is perfect for Night March. If there was no Archie's in the deck and I had unlimited space, I would make these counts 4/4/4/4, but there really isn't enough space for something like that, and that would greatly decrease the odds of getting Empoleon out.

0 Shaymin

You might ask, Charles Randall, why aren't there any Shaymin in your deck? And to that I would answer, I don't own any Shaymin! In fact, I don't even own any Trainers' Mail, but I have wonderful friends who came through for me when I needed to borrow some in a pinch. On TCGOne, where I have access to every card, I don't play any Shaymin either. The deck already has the potential to draw through itself so much that I feel obligated to play Trump Card to stop myself from decking out. Also, I am really enjoying the deck's current ability to use Archie's, and Shaymin is like Bicycle in that it really isn't conducive to achieving a turn one Empoleon. Before I added Shaymin I would first add a second Jirachi for consistency and making getting the Archie's off a little easier. However, Shaymin definitely works in the deck. The fact that I don't have any doesn't really motivate me to find a list that works though. Shaymin is also not a great starter, and if I added Shaymin or a second Jirachi, I would have to raise the Switch card count higher than one.

How do you beat Seismitoad, Charles Randall? Aren't you terrified of the deathly combination of Quaking Punch and Lysandre's Trump Card?

That was a very insightful question, and yes, I am quaking in my boots. Every time I play Night March, I seem to have a lot of trouble with this sort of lock. Andrew Wamboldt and I both played Night March for St. Louis Regionals this year. Andrew went 2-0-1 against Toad according to this article, and I went 0-3 against it. It really baffles me on how he manages to have a positive Toad matchup and I would love some insight on how to make a Night March deck both beat Seismitoad and also draw through itself consistently. His STL list played two N and two Shauna, and I hate N in Night March. It is most always outclassed by Sycamore when you aren't being Quaking Punched.

Tournament Report:

After the plane landed in Copenhagen and we got the keys to our rental car for the next two weeks, my parents used a map to find the library where the tournament was located. It took more time than Google Maps originally expected because of some wrong turns, but I arrived at the correct location just before registration started at five. I approached a group of people sitting at a table and asked if anyone wanted to play a game, and Aron wanted to! The three people at the table had taken a twenty minute train ride over from Sweden, but Aron had an Australian accent. I had my Donphan deck along with me, so I played a fun game against his Doublade deck, which I won (his first three attacking flips were tails!). I registered and then pairings were posted! 

Round One vs. Thomas Andersen with Yveltal/Toad

I started Mew EX, and he went first. I had the cards in hand for an Archie's on my first turn, but he played Laser and used N and sent that beautiful hand away in exchange for a worse one. Don't get me wrong, I still had a Supporter, but I was only able to get three Night Marchers in the discard pile. I went ahead and copied his Quaking Punch from the Seismitoad that he had active. Even though he whiffed Muscle Band, the fact that Mew was poisoned gave me a lot of trouble. Once that Mew EX went down, I had nothing else. Due to the nature of the deck, my hand was literally made up of nine or ten Items by the time he took his sixth prize and I had drawn and passed multiple times. My opponent however, was a pleasure to play against. He was a local Pokedad, whose son was gunning for a Top 22 spot in Europe. I played a fun game against him with my Donphan deck, although I was getting absolutely destroyed when pairings for the next round were announced.


Round Two vs. Aron Wright with Doublade

I got to play against the Australian/Swedish guy! My opponent had won the previous round but scooped as his opponent was aiming for a World's Invite and he wasn't. Doublade is a force to be reckoned with! Unfortunately for Aron, I got a Turn One Archie's and took a prize per turn. My deck really worked here, and it was nice to play the Battle Compressor and Computer Search and not have Archie's be prized. I misplayed on my penultimate turn, when I Lysandre'd and killed a benched Doublade to take my second-to-last prize, when I could have Lysandre'd his Mew for the win/ But I managed to win the following turn, and bring my record back to 1-1.


Round Three vs. Henning Gong with Gardevoir/Florges

My opponent was the reigning Swedish National Champion (if this is not true then Aron lied to me). He and Aron had traveled here to help their friend get points for his invite, so Henning lent the friend his Computer Search and at least one Ultra Ball. As a result, Life Dew was the Ace Spec and he ran Repeat Ball! I got out an Archie's on my second turn, and I knocked out a baby Xerneas and a Slurpuff while he set up a Mega Gardevoir with a Life Dew attached. I used Lysandre on Florges to go down to two prizes, and he continued to attack me with Gardevoir. My fourth VS Seeker was prized, and all of my Lysandres and my Trump Card were in the discard pile, so I had to keep attacking the active. I discarded Pumpkaboo as the tenth Night Marcher with Driving Draw, leaving one card left in my deck. Then I attacked with a Muscle Banded Joltik, to knock out the Mega Gardevoir to go down to one prize. His Jirachi was prized, so he couldn't Lysandre up the Empoleon to stall and make me deck out, so I managed to eek out a win with no cards remaining in my deck.


Round Four vs. Niels Pedersen with Virizion/Genesect

I was 2-1 and Niels was 3-0, so I was up-paired. I went first and got the Turn One Archie's, and he whiffed the Energy on his first turn. By my second turn, I had nine Night Marchers in the discard pile. I knocked out his active Virizion. He attached an energy to another one on his bench, and I used Lysandre to bring it up and go down to two prizes. He sent up Tropius and used N to get the Lysandre out of my hand, which held me off for another turn. I knocked out Tropius, he used N, and he drew Munna. He flipped heads on Long-Distance Hypnosis, but I flipped a heads of my own to wake up going back into my turn, letting me take my last prize!


Does that text seem familiar to you?
I was going to get second place to the winner of a 2-1 vs 2-1 match, but their game went to time so they tied. I won! Unfortunately, there were no prizes, only points, but I really can't complain since I paid the equivalent of 75 U.S. cents to enter the tournament. I had a blast meeting new people and getting more points (110 to go!) towards Worlds. I managed to succeed even without paying for Shaymins, while dodging the Toad/Shaymin deck that was at the top tables. I had a great experience because I love making new friends and I love winning tournaments, so it was a win-win situation for me. Europe is lovely and the Pokemon community appears to be just as friendly and healthy as it is in the U.S.

I would like to thank Damien, Brandon, and Robert for lending me Trainers' Mail the night before I left for Europe on such short notice, that was awesome. You guys are the reason I can get by even though I don't have Roaring Skies cards yet. Also, all the people I met at the tournament, Aron, Gavin, Henning, Niels, Thomas, Thomas' son, and Simon were all awesome and friendly. This is the first point in the season where I have seriously considered going to Worlds even if I don't earn an invite just to see these people again. If I have the opportunity to play in more international tournaments, I will definitely do so. Between Canada and Denmark, I have really enjoyed playing in tournaments outside of the U.S., and I kind of wish I had explored this sooner.

Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Brutal Bash?"- Why Revive Isn't As Bad As You Think

Let me start off with an anecdote: I was playing on TCGOne with the new Roaring Skies cards and I had an opponent open with Zorua. He proceeded to play Revive, which I had thought was unplayable. I continued to set up and eventually my undamaged 180 HP Pokemon was staring down a Zorua when my opponent had two prize cards left to take. My opponent evolved into Zoroark, attached a Double Colorless Energy, and used Brutal Bash. That little screen popped up in the corner announcing that my opponent had won and I was really confused. How did my opponent win? I thought. Zoroark can't do enough damage to knock out a big EX! I looked in the log on the side and it read:

Brutal Rush does 180 damage to the big EX you had active

And I was all like, the attack is called Brutal Bash, not Brutal Rush, and I sent in a bug report, and I got an e-mail later saying that the problem was fixed, and thank you for reporting it! Zoroark has two attacks; one is Brutal Bash and the other is Dark Rush. I can easily see how a Pokebeach programmer could have mis-typed the name of the attack. I actually mentioned this in my bug report. But I digress.

Brutal Rush does 180 damage to the big EX you had active

And I was all like, how did Zoroark do that much damage? I thought I was playing against an opponent with inferior deck-building skills because I would never play Revive! Then I noticed the Sky Field in play, and I realized that I had been beaten by a very creative deck, and it really showed me how I sometimes fail to think outside the box. I quickly built the deck, and here is a rough list I have built on TCGOne at the moment:

2 Yveltal EX
2 Darkrai EX
1 Yveltal XY
4 Zorua (Ascension)
4 Zoroark
1 Spiritomb LTR
3 Muscle Band
4 Trainers' Mail
1 Acro Bike
4 Ultra Ball
4 Battle Compressor
3 Bicycle
4 Revive
4 VS Seeker
1 Lysandre
1 Lysandre's Trump Card
1 N
4 Professor Juniper
4 Sky Field
4 Darkness Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy


For two Darkness Energy, Zoroark's Dark Rush does 20x the number of damage counters on him. Zoroark has 100 HP, which means that this attack maxes out at 180 damage (barring Training Center shenanigans). If your opponent is kind enough to place exactly nine damage counters on Zoroark, and you have the luxury of attaching two Darkness Energy to him, it may be convenient to use this attack, but most of the time, you will want to be using Brutal Bash.

For CC, Brutal Bash does 20x the number of Dark-type Pokemon you have in play. Before, this attack's damage was capped at 120 damage before any modifiers. Now, with Sky Field allowing up to eight benched Pokemon, Zoroark can hit for 180 damage without even having Muscle Band attached! Zoroark can be powered up with just one attachment of a Double Colorless Energy, and with four Battle Compressor in the deck, it is a reasonable possibility that Baby Yveltal could help load him up as well. If Zoroark has Muscle Band attached, just seven Benched Pokemon will allow you to knock out most unevolved EXes.

Sky Field

Sky Field is the card that is bringing Zoroark back out of relative obscurity. A couple of years ago, Kevin Baxter made Top Eight at Illinois States with Zoroark (please don't quote me on that, I could have a detail or two wrong there), but other than that it hasn't had very many big showings. Sky Field allows Zoroark to hit for enough damage to knock out an EX without needing Hypnotoxic Laser or other cards as such that take up a lot of space. Because of all of the Item draw in the deck combined with Battle Compressor, it is very likely that you won't need four Sky Field in a game. I elected to include four because it is integral to letting Zoroark's damage hit big numbers, and it never hurts to have a counter-stadium! This count can easily be cut down to three though.


This is the card that I really want to talk about. Revive has been in the format before, when it was printed in the Black & White base set. When it was first released, I was very underwhelmed, having been spoiled by cards like Pokemon Rescue, which let you get any Pokemon from your discard pile. When Black & White was first being released, cards like Uxie LA were very popular, and Revive wasn't conducive to letting you use the Set Up PokePower which only activated when it came down from your hand onto your bench (like Shaymin EX from Roaring Skies).

The only play Revive really saw was in Durant decks with the release of Black & White: Noble Victories. Durant's attack benefitted from having as many Durants in play as possible, so  if one went down it was in your best interest to Revive that Durant back onto your bench! Pokemon rescue of course would have been better, but alas it was not in format anymore. Revive didn't see much play outside of that though, so when I saw it in the scans for the Japanese set Emerald Break I originally passed it off as a useless reprint. It is not however, useless, for one reason: Battle Compressor.

We run four Revive (this number could go down to three or lower, I'm mostly just making a point). In past formats, you wouldn't want to see a Revive in your opening hand, because there are no Pokemon in your discard pile yet! With the list shown above, you can Battle Compressor away a couple of Basic Pokemon, because you know that within the next few turns you'll draw into one of your four Revives. In decks that already play heavy counts of Battle Compressor, Revive becomes a search card, which is really cool. Imagine a deck featuring a Mega Pokemon. If you play four Battle Compressor, you can play Revive, VS Seeker, and Mega Turbo, and right there you have your search, your draw, and your energy acceleration!
In a Zoroark deck, Revive also plays the role that Exeggcute plays in Rayquaza decks. If Sky Field gets replaced, you have to discard Benched Pokemon until only five remain. That really limits your damage output, so Rayquaza decks bench Exeggcute, and when it gets discarded in this way, you can simply use Propagation to bring Exeggcute back to your hand and onto your bench. Zoroark's damage output is raised by Darkness Pokemon specifically, so the deck doesn't have the luxury of using Exeggcute. Instead, we have Revive to serve a similar purpose when our Sky Field gets replaced.

Spiritomb LTR
This is in here because I was too lazy to pick an Ace Spec. Feel free to throw in Master Ball, Computer Search, Dowsing Machine, Life Dew, Crystal Wall, or whatever floats your boat. Spiritomb is also in here because I am a little bit salty about losing a game online after my opponent played a Scramble Switch.

4 Trainers' Mail / 1 Acro Bike / 3 Bicycle / 0 Roller Skates
This count is one that I am still messing around with. If I had it my way, I would run four of each of these cards, but there simply is not enough space in the deck to justify that. In my Night March deck, this split is 4/4/0/0, but when I played against the original inspirational Zoroark deck online, the split appeared to be something along the lines of 4/0/4/0. Either way, Trainers' Mail is amazing and I am in love with that card. I could make a whole post about Trainers' Mail in general, but in boosts consistency, lets you dig for that last Item you need to create cool combinations in your hand, and so on. Acro Bike is not quite as good in Zoroark as it is in Night March for the reason that you aren't necessarily looking to gather any particular card in your discard pile. Bicycle goes very well with Ultra Ball, and it isn't a good fit in Night March because it doesn't help to use Archie's. Roller Skates are my 61st through 64th card in every deck. I want to draw more cards in general, but Acro Bike is better at that.

1 Yveltal XY, 2 Darkrai EX, 2 Yveltal EX
Darkrai is nice because he makes every starter the same. Yveltal EX is a good attacker (although not as good as Zoroark), and baby Yveltal never really hurts you, because you need basic dark Pokemon in the deck and he has a decent amount of HP with a decent attack. I like to start with Yveltal EX and attach a Darkness Energy to him. This threatens an Evil Ball, and changes how your opponent plays. Then, I use Dark Cloak to retreat into a Zoroark and start Brutally Bashing my opponent. That Darkness Energy on Yveltal gives you the option to Y Cyclone or Evil Ball later in the game if by some chance you have trouble streaming Zoroarks.

Zoroark's Impact on the Metagame
Do I think that Zoroark will ever be a Tier One deck? No, I don't. It is actually pretty challenging to hit that magic 180 damage. With Silver Bangle, the damage cap is 210, which means that most Mega EXes are out of OHKO range. This alone really limits what decks Zoroark can take down easily, because Mega Turbo will only make Mega EXes more playable. I am also of the opinion that if you want to knock out EXes with a Non-EX and a DCE, Night March is far better. If you want to do large amounts of damage with a Stage 1 and a DCE, I think Flareon can do that better as well. I do think that Revive is a playable card though, and that the Battle Compressor is very powerful. Item Draw is stronger than ever, and most decks should either take advantage of that or attempt to stop other decks from taking advantage of that.

Thanks for reading!