Gyarados ReRocks Minnesota State Championships (1st Place)

by Ed ~ March 14th, 2011.

I got back into the game a bit over a year ago, because I thought it would be something that my daughter, Ava, would be into. We started during Cities last season, which didn’t go so hot. By the time States preparation rolled around, though, I knew I needed a new deck, and I chose Gyarados based on several factors. After making that choice, I started looking for the right combination of cards for the meta, and that’s how I got in contact with Austino.

At the time, Team Omar was meeting almost weekly, so I got plenty of practice and experience against multiple decks. With Austino‘s deck help and Team Omar’s playtesting help, I was able to ride Gyarados to 5th place after Swiss in the 2010 MN State Championship. I then dropped before top cut, but it was a decision that I always wondered about. Should I have canceled my other plans? Should I have stayed and played. I felt like my top-8 matchup was favorable, and I think I could have made top4.

This season saw Omar depart the state and with him went the regular playtesting sessions. I hung onto Gyarados and still kept in contact with Austino, but I started playing much less Pokemon. Andy (the reigning State Champion) and I got together to try to get a regular playtesting thing going. It worked well, but as time went on the regular turned into irregular and seemed to fall apart completely in the month leading up to States.

I had thought of switching to a new deck. I had planned on making a new deck for Ava. I had even considered rebuilding Gyarados for Ava and coming up with something completely new for myself. With my hobbytime focus diverted to other things for a while, none of this happened. I decided that I would once again lean on my old pals Magikarp and Gyarados to get me through. I’m a big believer in playing what you’re comfortable with, and this tale just further solidifies my stance, but we’ll get more into that as things unfold.

So, Gyarados it was, but what about the meta? I was very concerned about 2 things. In hindsight only one of them mattered, but it may have been lucky that I was concerned about both.

The first thing I knew I needed to worry about was my SP matchup. LuxChomp, in particular, is a very tough matchup when they can OHKO my Gyarados. One of Gyarados’ main strengths is the ability to OHKO opponents without the threat of the return OHKO. With LuxChomp as the top deck, this strength vanishes. I began to look for ways to cripple SP’s ability to OHKO Gyarados.

The next thing I was concerned about was the advent of Gengar and his lost zoning abilities. The biggest manifestation of this concern was Sableye and how he affected the game. I felt like starting the game by automatically “winning” the coin flip had become a liability instead of an advantage. Furthermore, Sableye’s main strength, Impersonate, was an even greater liability. In any game, if I thought there was a chance my opponent had Gengar Prime, and I started Sableye, the game could be over right there. If I went first and Impersonated Pokemon Collector, he may Hurl Magikarp right into the Darkness and be lost forever.

I started toying with a more Smeargle-based build that used Pokemon Reversal to bring up LuxChomp’s Lucario GL. I wasn’t in close contact with Austino much, but I did get a chance to talk to him about it. He told me how he was building things, and I was amazed by the direction he took. He did what I was looking to do in a different way that I questioned at first. I trust his skills, though, so I immediately tried his version of things. The end result was exactly what I was looking for, but done in a different way than I had considered.

I now was confident in my LuxChomp matchup and less worried about the Lostgar. I figured Lostgar wasn’t as likely of an opponent, though. I was, however, now more concerned about trainer lock. Unfortunately, I was out of time to concern myself with the matter. I decided that the threat of trainer lock was low, and if I was winning it would get lower and lower all day.

I made a decision to play the deck that I thought was right for me against the field. I believe that there was no other deck that I could have done better with. Had I chosen even LuxChomp, I believe that it would have been a great folly. Note that I am in no way saying that LuxChomp is not BDIF. It just isn’t the best deck for me at this point. Now, let’s get to the report.

Round 1) Nathan F – Shuppet
Nate is one of the guys that’s been coming up from Sioux Falls lately. He’s a cool guy that I hung out with for a day when I was in Sioux Falls over Thanksgiving time.

I started lone Magikarp. He “wins” the coin flip. He’s got Shuppet but no energy. If I had gone first, I’m convinced that he would have won. I was able to set Gyarados up on my first turn, and Nate was unable to deal with it even though he put up a good fight along the way.


Round 2) Abdi J – Mirror
When I say mirror, in this case, I don’t mean that he was playing another Gyarados deck. On Friday, I called Abdi to try to convince him to play in States. I know he likes to play, but he hasn’t had much time for it lately. dsc08066_800x600Abdi made some lame excuse that he didn’t have a deck, so I told him to just play “mine” (mine has quotes, because I can’t really take the credit away from Austino). We go back and forth a bit, and I tell him that I’ll email him the list. I get a call back a little while later with Abdi a bit amazed and excited about what I sent. He says he’ll try it just as it is, and I say great. He’s concerned that I’ll be upset if he plays it verbatim. I am not. After testing, he likes it and decides to show up on Saturday with it. So, we’ve got the same deck card for card in this matchup.

Unfortunately, there isn’t as much to say about the actual match. I get a weak quick win and we play for fun after that. The “fun” game goes all the way to “time.” Abdi wins the close fun game, but I let my guard down and made a couple large mistakes in the game. Oh well, it’s good practice.


dsc08071_800x600Round 3) Lucas N – Tyranitar
I don’t think I’ve played Lucas before, and I’m not sure what he’s running. I think I start a lone Unown R against him, but I’m not 100% sure. He’s having a very difficult time getting set up, and I am not. I’m able to pick off his guys fairly easily, but he is setting up a full Tyranitar on the bench. At a crucial point in the game, I almost play a supporter to set up a later turn, and then I inspect the game state a bit more. It occurs to me that while he has a full TTar on his bench, he has nothing else. I play Seeker and attack for the win.


dsc08070_800x600Round 4) Ryan V – Chenlock
I start lone Smeargle to Ryan’s dual Blaziken FB. I recall Portraiting for a Collector and then I was off to the races. I set up a significant lead thanks to Blaziken’s X2 water weakness. Ryan gets off a 2-headed Cyrus’s Initiative, but it’s too late.

I’m sorry Ryan. If I had gone undefeated in Swiss, you would have probably made it to the top-8 (based on your opponent’s win %). I looked at the finals after Swiss. You were tied for 8th place. Not only were you tied in record, but you were tied in opponent’s win %. Jon got you on opponent’s opponent’s win %. That’s a tough break.


Round 5) Emmanuel D – Big Daddy Honchkrow SP
I don’t know how the rest of Emmanuel’s deck was built, but for this match he relied on Honchkrow’s ability to bring my Karp back to my bench. Early in the game, I was unable to fill my bench, so he could suck up those Karp once per turn. I kept up by using Seeker to pull them back and discard them to Regimove. Unfortunately, I had (wrongly in hindsight) discarded a VS Seeker early, and I was unable to keep up the Seekering. At one point, his bringing back of Karp actually helped me by making it so I didn’t need to Rescue a KO’d Karp. Late in the game, when I finally had enough basics to fill my bench, I was unable to risk them pumping up Honchkrow’s attack. There wasn’t much more I could do.


Round 6) Jon N – BLG
While setting up, Jon begged and begged me to scoop to him. Based on my past, he was concerned that I might beat him and then drop causing both of us to miss the top cut. It turned out that he was only partially right. I beat him fairly handily, but we both made top cut.


I was 3rd after Swiss this year. It was an improvement over last. After turning in our decks, I found out that I was going to be paired against Conner. All day Conner had walked by me saying, “I hope I don’t play you.” We had similar records all day, so it made sense. In the past, when I’ve played Gyarados against his LuxChomp, I’ve come out on top. I thought he was just worried that this past was doomed to repeat. Then I found out he was playing Donphan.

dsc08067_800x600Top 8) Connor M – Donphan
In game one, I think I prized a Karp. Who cares? (30×2+20)x2 still equals OHKO. Game 2 wasn’t much different. I think our match lasted about 10 minutes. Conner is a good player that made an interesting deck choice based on a field of LuxChomp. He rode it all the way to top-8 in States where his gamble finally bit him. The same story could have been said for me had any real luck shone against my opponents.


In other matches Radu beat Jon, Ross beat Emmanuel, and Jay beat Andy.

dsc08076_800x600Top 4) Ross T – Steelix
Ross is a interesting guy. I don’t think he gets a lot of respect, but he kinda amazes me. He doesn’t play the conventional top tier decks, and even the decks he does play have rather interesting choices in them. I think that a lot of people write it off as being lucky, but the fact remains that Ross builds different decks and then does well with them. I don’t see this kid making mistakes in his play, and he pulls out unexpected cards at opportune times. I wonder if someone gave him a top-tier deck if he’d be untouchable or if he’d just be lost with it.

Anyway, I thought that this match was in my favor, but I was still rather concerned. Ross has beaten me with his take on Jumpluff in the past. I have very little experience against Steelix and I’m sure I have no experience against his build of it.

Game 1 got off to a very rocky start. I burned a lot of resources overextending and getting several tails while to overcome bad draws. I finally did get set up, but whenever I got close to a KO, Ross would remove damage. Whenever I tried to remove damage, I’d get tails. Also hurting me this game was that I prized 2 BTS, and Ross was able to remove BTS with Steelix’s attack. He could heal, and I could not. Now, Ross is not a fast player. He thinks things through. I am in no way saying that I think he was intentionally playing slowly. Heck, he was probably playing at my pace. The problem was that he wasn’t going to win the game fast, but I think he was going to win. I made a decision to scoop and go to game 2.

Game 2 was much better for me, but it was still not clear cut at all. Toward the end, I was able to make use of Cyclone Energy to get much needed non-Steelix KOs for the win.

Game 3 was set up and drawn. I went first and time was called during that turn. Ross went and got out an active Chansey and an Onix on his bench, if I recall. He knew that he couldn’t afford for me to get a KO and he needed to Set Up with Uxie for more cards, so he belted Onix. On my turn (turn +2), I went off Regi Moving Onix into active position AND getting the KO. That put me up by 2 prizes with Ross having only 1 turn to catch up.


dsc08096_800x600Top 2) Jay H – LuxChomp

In my previous lucky run of top 8, I was probably favored. I knew I was the underdog here. If I came out the loser, I would still be proud. Losing to Jay is still respectable. He asks politely if I can start lone Karp. We shuffle up and I start a lone active. We get set and I “win” the toss. I pass, he KO’s my lone Unown Q. It’s not exactly what he asked for, but it will do. There it goes. I get all the way here and lose so fast. Let’s play it out.

Game 2 sees Jay take control in a much longer and well played match. At least, that’s my perspective. I prized both a Karp AND my lone Crobat G. Jay Power Sprays my Azelf, but I am able to Seeker it up and get the second try at Time Walk. Somehow, late game, I am able to pull ahead. I finally get some luck against Jay, and he is forced to Bright Look up my Azelf and Poison Bind it to stall my onslaught and let him set up. Luck shines at the most opportune time when I am forced to dump my hand to Junk Arm a Super Scoop Up, hit tails to pull up Azelf, and attack for the win.

In game 3, I think Jay got hosed with a bad draw. I have no idea what he had, but I only recall him searching his deck once via Call Energy. I, on the other hand, set up perfectly. I had a hand full of cards, and when Jay got damage on Gyarados, I was able to double Pokedrawer+ for a Warp Energy and a Seeker. I Warped Gyarados, Seekered him, and put him back up. In desparation, he Bright Looked Regice, but I had the Warp back in hand from Seeker. I Warped Regice and got another KO. Thanks to a great prize draw, this KO put the 4th Pokedrawer+ in my hand. When Jay damaged Gyarados, I then double Pokedrawer+’d my way into a Warp Energy and a Seeker AGAIN. I healed Gyarados, and that was really the end of the match.



It was a surreal ride. Everything fell into place. Call it good deck choice? Call it having great friends to help along the way (Austino, Andy, Abdi, Josh, Omar, etc.)? Call it divine intervention? I don’t care. In a State tourney with big names such as Jay Hornung, Ross Cawthon, Andy Wieman, Emmanuel Divens, Radu Ciocan, and Mike Lesky, I was able to come out on top. Yeah, it was definitely luck that I never had to play most of those guys. It was also definitely fun.

So, there you are. I couldn’t have done it with any other deck. LuxChomp remains the best all around deck, but I would not have played it well. In the mirror matches, I would have been doomed. I knew how to play Gyarados, and I felt good about my SP matchups. I got some fortuitous starts and draws, but show me a tourney winner that hasn’t!

Go with what you know, kids. You don’t have to play the BDIF to win a tourney like States. You just have to know your deck well and know how to play it well. My practice leading up to States was almost exclusively solitaire. I knew my deck. That was all I knew for certain.

dsc08065_800x600Thanks to Colleen, Jeff, Mark, Ray, etc for running another good tourney.
Thanks to card trading Ed for trading me a load of stuff for promo cards after my daughter had her Snivy figurine she traded for was lost (maybe stolen).
Thanks to my playtesters (Pikkdogs, Andy W, Andy T, Abdi, Radu, Emmanuel, Thomas, etc.).
Thanks to every one of my opponents. I didn’t have a bad match, and I saw no questionable play.
Thanks to people that beat out other contenders, so that I didn’t have to (Sudi, Ross, Conner, etc.).
Thanks to Adam K. and the guys that drove from Rapid City. Maybe I should have taken you up on the offer for the deck box, but I didn’t really deserve it. I do appreciate going to your league when possible, though, and I hope to actually play in a tourney there sometime.
Thanks to the guys from Sioux Falls for driving up, especially Nate for not donking me in round 1.
Thanks to everyone else I forgot. If you feel like I forgot you, just comment. I’ll say thanks there!
Thanks to everyone that reads It’s not a team without you!

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