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.