What We Learned From 2011 U.S. Nationals

by Pikkdogs ~ July 13th, 2011.

A big hello to all you OHKOers out there.  This is Pikkdogs here with a wrap-up of 2011 U.S. Natioanals.         

Now since the card Pokemon Catcher will come out in the Emerging Powers set, the format will totally change, but that is after Worlds, so we can still have a small discussion of this format.  I myself will not be headed to San Diego for worlds, but since anyone of our readers can attempt to grind in the day before the event, I will cover the decks as if I were.

This article will mainly focus on what the format is currently like, and what decks are considered tier 1 or 2.

The Format

This first part of the article will address what I think are myths about a great format.  Don’t believe all you hear about the format.  A lot of people are saying that this format stinks because it is all luck based.  While I admit that luck is always involved in this game, I say that it is no different than the previous few seasons.  They say that the winner of the game is based on who starts first and how well your flips go on Baby Pokemon and Pokemon Reversal.

The response to the first statement is that, isn’t that what we all said last season about going 2nd.  Last year, everyone said that the game was based on who went 2nd, because they could first play a supporter, they had the big advantage.  Also in the MD-BW format, people said that the game was at a worse state than ever before because of Sableye and the ability that it had to go first.  Having an advantage on the coin flip is nothing new to Pokemon.  It has been there ever since day 1, it is no worse now than it has ever been.  People who are complaining now are mostly SP players who are still mourning over the rotation.  For the most part, this comment on the game is just an excuse. 

The response to the second comment is that this is not a comment on the format, but on the deck the player had chosen.  So you are getting tired of getting your Cleffa or Tyrogue donked, so why do you keep playing Cleffa?  Sure Cleffa gives you an extra card over Mananphy, but if it gets you donked on a somewhat consistent basis, aren’t you the foolish one to play it?  The same goes with Pokemon Reversal, it is a good card, but it is a very flippy card.  If you average about 40% on your reversals’s, well thats about average.  You cannot play a flippy deck, and then complain that the deck is too flippy.  It’s a-kin to not liking Mexican food but going to a Taco Bell and then complaining to the staff that the restaurant does not have any food you like.  There are good decks out there that are not flippy, if you play a flippy deck it is your own choice, so don’t complain when things don’t go your way.

If you are stating that the format is lucked based, than the results of the tournament sure are proving you wrong.  Sure a lot of the good players did not top cut, but a lot of them did top cut, that is a reflection of a well balanced format.  If you think Kyle Sucevich got to the finals based on luck, well then he must have been awfully lucky to get first and third in the past 2 U.S. tournaments as well.  There were still a lot of great players in the top cut, so just because some good players didn’t make it, doesn’t mean that the entire format is luck based.

These comments are dragging down the perceptions of a format that I think is really good and balanced.  One thing is for sure, it is a lot more balanced than when SP was in the format.  Now, more than 1 deck can win.  It is nice to be able to see about 3-4 deck archetypes do well.  This format gives us fresh new ideas and does not rely on the luck of what tech you included into your cookie cutter SP deck.

The format proved to reward hard work.  Guys like Team Warp Point’s Evan Baker spent a lot of time polishing up his decklist, and was rewarded with a top 16 finish.  Yes he did play a meta deck, Reshiboar, but he included rogue things like a 2-2 Rayquaza/Deoxys Legend, 3-3 Ninetails HGSS, 4 Cheerleaders Cheer, and 3 Fisherman.  I know Evan did not take a cookie cutter list, play it for a couple hours, and come up with something like 4 Cheerleaders Cheer.  It took a long time to refine a deck like that and get it to where he wanted it.  I liked a format that rewards hard work and does not reward someone who got lucky on changing their net decked SP list to include something like 2 Toxicroak G promo’s.  This just shows you that if you plan on going to World’s and you wanna do well, you can, just practice a lot.

Another thing about this format is that weakness is a big factor.  Yes, with a good consistent deck you can still beat any deck with any other deck.  However, if both players setup at the same time, weakness will come into play most of the time.  Players must be aware that Pokemon who are water, fire, fighting, electric, and grass (and those weak to each of these types) must becareful of weakness.  Gone are the days of +30, all weaknesses (except the Pikachu promo) are x2, and can make all the difference.  So when making a deck choice, make sure to take weakness into effect.

Overall, I like how this format treats rogue decks.  One bad thing about rogue decks is that there are basically 5 sets in the current format, which means that there are not a lot of rogue choices.  But in this format a meta deck can be turned rogue by just a couple cards.  Yes Donchamp is a meta deck, but it can be made rogue by taking the Machamps out and putting in cards like Weavile Ul and Slowking Cl.  The word variants is very key in this format.  You can have 10 Donphan decks, and have each of them be very different.  So when you are testing, make sure you take this fact into consideration.

Nationals also proved that there are certain Pokemon to watch for.  Yanmega Prime appeared in over half of the top 16 decks, and all of the top 4 decks.  Every deck must be ready for Yanmega, because it is a card that is played by the best and worst players.  Players should be ready for Magnezone Prime.  It can OHKO any Pokemon for the right amount of energy.  The current most popular version is with Yanmega, which does not rely on as much energy as Reshiboar, but relies on more disruption.  Of course Reshiram and Zekrom are things to look out for.  Reshiram has proved to be effective with either Emboar or Typhlosion.  Each deck is different, so make sure to test against both.  Donphan is the last card to watch out for.  It is hard to OHKO and is a real problem for Magnezone and Zekrom, make sure you have some kind of plan for Donphan.  Those are the main Pokemon to watch out for, other Pokemon like Blastoise, Cincinno, Vileplume, Muk, Spinorak, Mew Prime, Tyranitar Prime, and Samurott did see their fair share of action at Nats; so make sure you are aware of them as well.  This brings us into an analysis of the top decks.

The Top Decks

Here is a list of the top 16 decks at U.S. Nationals.

  • Donphan/Zoroark/Yanmega
  • Kingdra/Yanmega (3)
  • Magneboar
  • Reshiphlosion
  • Yanmega/Mangezone (5)
  • Yanmega/Zoroark/Crobat/Cincinno
  • Reshiboar

    The real Primetime

  • Vileplume/Yanmega/Jumpluff/Muk
  • Tyranitar/Serperior
  • Dophan/Yanmega/Zekrom/Reshiram

We now can say there are a couple top decks.  While you can find skeleton lists of all of these decks online, nationals proved that the way you polish a list make all the difference in the world.  An 8-1 Reshiboar is probably just 5-7 cards away from a 2-7 Reshiboar.  Just running a top deck doesn’t cut it, the deck must be polished.  Here is a run down of the decks (in no particular order) that can be seen as top tier.


Also known as Primetime, this deck is very close to Magneboar, but is different.  It is more disruptive than Magneboar and is more cold and calculating.  It’s first big tournament was Canadian Nationals and was conceived shortly before.  Yanmega is a decent counter to Donphan and Machamp, which works well to cover Mangezone’s weakness.  Yanmega is there to disrupt and take easy prizes on Baby Pokemon, and to snipe around sleeping babies.  Magnezone can come in and take care of the heavy hitters.  It is known as one of the most consistent and best decks in the format.


This deck to me is really intriguing, and a lot of people have not explored it yet.  Louis from Team Omar took this deck into top cut at U.S. Nationals, and probably should have gone a couple rounds into it, had he not screwed up his decklist.  This deck has not been played a lot, but has shown a lot of promise.  The ability to place damage counters with Kingdra’s “Spray Splash”, and then Snipe with Yanmega’s “Linear Attack” is a great combo.  Its disruptive elements make sure that nobody on your opponent’s bench is safe.  I think this could be a great deck for worlds. Kingdra Prime - UL


I think this was one of the most played decks at U.S. nationals.  Of course this deck uses Emboar to attach energies, and the Mangezone to draw and then lost zone those energies to get OHKOs.  It is a fast deck once it sets up, and can hit for a lot.  It seems that players of this deck at U.S. Nationals did not really perfect their lists very well, because for the amount of players there were, there were not a lot of decks that did great.  Also, a lot of players are leaving this deck for Primetime.  But it is such a force that everyone should be ready for it.


Reshiboar has been a standard deck since the release of Black and White.  A lot of people took cookie cutter Reshiboar decks to nationals and did not do very well.  Other people took some polished decklists and made topcut.  Although its hard to point out directly what a great Reshiboar deck is, it can be a great deck.  It is consistent and can do a lot of damage.  I think worlds players will have to do a lot to beat a good Reshiboar deck.


Kind of like Prime Time, this deck kind of came out of no where right before nationals.  If it gets 2 Typhlosions and a Ninetails by turn 2 it can be almost unbeatable.  The draw power, energy attachment, and disruption of this deck is almost unparalleled.  It can be a little slow, but it can be a very hard deck to match up against.  If you can get a really polished list, you can do a lot of damage with this deck and get really far.  Make sure to test this matchup, don’t just test Reshiboar and call it a day.

ZPS (some lists may include Yanmega)

Zekrom was a Pokemon that people have been making decks out of since even before the card was released.  It is a fast and consistent deck that can be played in many forms.  It did not have a lot of late success at U.S. nationals, but that fact is negated by its win north of the border.

Some decks focus on the first turn win, while others focus on winning a long game, while still others use Yanmega for disruption and a secondary attacker.  The deck is versatile, powerful, and really is something to watch out for.

Donphan Variants

This Category includes a long list of Donphan decks that include Pokemon like: Weavile, Samurott, Machamp Prime, Yanmega Prime etc … .  Which variant you are playing makes all the differnce in the world.  Some variants rely on disruption, while others focus on heavy hitting, others focus on hitting for weakness, while still others focus on sniping.  The deck is very versatile and each version is tough to play against.  It has solidified itself as a deck archetype that will be around for a long while, and is something to be contended with.

So thats all I have to say about nats.  This leaves us looking towards worlds, and then to Pokemon Catcher.  I hope this article gives you a good look at the metagame, and a little look at the future. Please leave your thoughts on the format.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Category: National Championships | Tags: ,