TAndrewTourney: Spring Battle Roads 2012 (St. Louis Park, MN) with Klinklang EX

by TAndrewT ~ May 21st, 2012.

Welcome, you OHKO’ers, to Battle Roads! As a Poképarent, and as an active member of the Twin Cities Pokémon TCG community, I have always felt there is a lot to love about the Battle Roads season. Battle Roads tournaments are worth very few Championship Points, and this gives them a more relaxed and informal feel than larger State or Regional Championship tournaments. Battle Roads tourneys are also a great place for new players to start their experience with Competitive Play. I should know, because a 2010 Fall Battle Roads at Dreamers Cards in St. Louis Park, MN, was the very first Pokémon tournament that my son Paul and I attended. I will never forget that, during round 3 of that Battle Roads, Andy Wieman played our entire match with his cards upside down, just so that I could read the text on each card more clearly. And other Minnesota-area opponents gave Paul and me tips on play during our games that not only helped us become better players in the long run, but even resulted in us winning a couple of matches in that very tournament. So I have always been excited to return to Dreamers for Battle Roads.

This season, though, I was even more eager to play because I feel the format has loosened up since Regionals. Just a month ago, it seemed like play had boiled down to a couple of dominant decks, with just one, ZekEels, winning all but one of North America’s eight Regional Championships. But the release of the Dark Explorers has created some brand new deck archetypes, and has also added some new tools to existing decks. In fact, I think that most top deck types now have more options than they have room for them, and this means that even mirror matches will involve a lot of different cards that aren’t shared by both opponents. Against this backdrop, Battle Roads is a great opportunity to test out new deck ideas. Or, as Pokémon players sometimes say, it’s a great time to try and “break the format”. And the more obscure the deck idea, the better to shock and awe your friends at the tournament while you break it.

I had thought about bringing the Groudon EX tank deck that I wrote up in my last OHKO article, but in testing, it always seemed as though QuadGroudon couldn’t keep up with opponents who played a lot of Tornadus or Mewtwo. Even though the deck was designed to heal away damage with cards like Potion and Moomoo Milk, the amount of damage that could be healed with those cards was just too low. Mewtwo piled on damage too fast, and Tornadus’ resistance to Fighting types was too just difficult to surmount. EX tanking, I thought, would work much better if multiple different EX’s could be used in the same deck to counteract resistance, could be switched at will, and could be healed more quickly and completely than I wrote about just two weeks ago.

As it turns out, one of these problems was solved by a new card in the Dark Explorers expansion, Darkrai EX. Darkrai EX has a hefty 180 HP, and a single, powerful attack: Night Spear does 90 damage to the opponent’s active Pokémon, and 30 more damage to a benched Pokémon of your choice. Darkrai is weak to Fighting Pokémon, which is a big liability. Terrakion, for example, can OHKO Darkrai EX immediately after a KO with Retaliate for just two energies. But Darkrai makes up for this with its incredible Dark Cloak ability, which grants free retreat to any Pokémon with a Darkness Energy attached. In principle, Groudon EX, Kyurem EX, and other hefty EX’s could all be switched for one another at no cost, as long as they had “Darkness Energy” attached. This includes not just Basic and Special Darkness Energy, but also Prism and Rainbow Energy as well. (Prism Energy must be attached to a Basic Pokémon for it to count as Dark.) And the great thing about these special energies is that they also count for the typed energy costs of the EX’s they are attached to.

But how can these EX’s be healed more efficiently? This other problem was solved by an older Black & White combo, Klinklang BLW and Max Potion (EPO). Max Potion heals all damage from the target Pokémon, but at the cost of discarding all attached energies. To avoid this, my Battle Roads deck ran Klinklang, a Stage 2 Pokémon that can move energies around the board at will with its Shift Gear ability. Again, this includes Rainbow and Prism energy, and so Klinklang works with the same special energy set that Darkrai does. Klingklang is durable, with 140 HP, and his effective HP can be increased by attaching Special Metal Energy. Klinklang is weak to Fire, a pretty unusual type right now, and resists Psychic, which makes him very difficult for Mewtwo to KO. A couple of players mentioned to me that I might try using Meganium Prime for this deck instead, which has 10 more HP and shifts Grass energy; this would also allow the deck to accelerate energy attachments with Celebi Prime. But Meganium can’t be searched out with Heavy Ball, so I didn’t go that route. In “Klinklang EX”, the strategy of the deck would be to tank with one or more EX’s, Shift Gear energy around the board as necessary, Max Potion away any damage that your opponent delivers, and always retreat for free.

The List

Keeping in mind that I’m not the most skilled deckbuilder, here’s what I brought to Dreamers:

Pokémon — 15
4 Klink DEX
1 Klang DEX
2 Klinklang BLW
1 Klinklang EPO
2 Darkrai EX DEX
1 Groudon EX DEX
1 Kyurem EX NXD
1 Mewtwo EX NXD
2 Smeargle UD

Trainers — 35
3 N
2 Pokémon Collector
1 Professor Juniper
1 Twins
4 Heavy Ball
4 Max Potion
4 Random Receiver
3 Junk Arm
3 Rare Candy
3 Eviolite
3 Pokémon Catcher

Energy — 10
3 Prism Energy
4 Rainbow Energy
3 Special Metal Energy

A couple of comments on some of my unusual choices:

4 Klink DEX. The Klink from Dark Explorers has a retreat cost of 3, which would normally be terrible, but in this deck it allows Klink to be searched out by Heavy Ball. In fact, this is true of all of the Pokémon in the deck except Smeargle, Darkrai and Mewtwo.

1 Klinklang EPO. This deck has real trouble with energy denial. If the opponent plays a couple Lost Remover, well, it might survive that. But if the opponent plays Crushing Hammer as well, and sends some special energy cards to the discard, the deck gets into trouble fast. Klinklang EPO’s first attack, Charge Beam, does 30 damage and rescues an energy card–any energy card–from the discard pile onto Klinklang, back into play. But I only used this guy once in the tournament, and he could easily be replaced with a third Klinklang BLW.

1 Mewtwo EX. One effective strategy against this deck is to load lots of energy onto a Mewtwo, and then repeatedly strike the active Pokémon for a lot of damage. Mewtwo EX is the only real counter to this strategy right now, so I included one. But you can really only use Mewtwo near the end of the game, because he is so easy for your opponent to KO. If your opponent forces you to use Mewtwo early, you may have already lost.

10 Energy: 3 Prism, 4 Rainbow, 3 Special Metal. As I mentioned, Prism and Rainbow count as both Dark and Metal, but only Rainbow can be Shift Geared onto and off of Klinklang. Meanwhile, Special Metal is key to raising the HP of Klinklang above what your opponent can deliver. Zoroark DEX usually hits for 140-150 (with Dark Claw and Special Dark Energy attached), and ZekEels players can easily double-PlusPower a Zekrom’s Bolt Strike for 140. Parking 1-2 Special Metals on Klingklang can foil this strategy.

2 Pokémon Collector. When I showed Ed Mandy the list for this deck a few days before the tourney, he suggested I switch entirely to Ball trainers for searching Pokémon, and I can understand why. But after some testing, I found myself unable to search for all of the guys I needed, and Pokémon Collector is great for searching out lots of Pokémon at once.

1 Juniper, 1 Twins. I don’t know. Other than Professor Oak’s New Theory and N, what other Supporters does this deck want to run? I included a copy of Twins because the deck is frequently behind in prizes, but Twins only nets you two cards, so I actually don’t even like it that much when I am behind. And there’s very little in this deck that I like to discard, but Juniper is powerful, so I included one.

My Battle Roads Report

As it turns out, there was some drama to the Dreamers tournament before it even started. On Sunday only, the MN Department of Transportation closed down Interstate 94–the major east-west freeway through the Twin Cities–but didn’t post a lot of information or detour signs about the closure. I-94 is one of very few access routes to St. Louis Park, mainly because of a chain of lakes to its east that cut off most surface streets. That meant that folks coming to the tournament from the east were dumped into downtown Minneapolis, with no labeled detour, along with thousands of other commuters in the same boat. Paul and I had left very early, and I knew how to detour the closure, so we made it to the tournament just at the end of registration. But ~10 others, including players driving from Wisconsin (such as NA top-50 players Mike Lesky and Andy Reynolds) were stuck longer, arrived to the tournament after the beginning of round 1, and received first-round losses. This meant that there were really only 21 Masters competing for top 4.

Round 1: Jason Crawford (Kyurem/Kyurem EX/Kyogre EX/Feraligatr Prime)

One of the crazy things about bringing a brand new deck idea to a tournament is that many of your matches will be ones you haven’t practiced before, and I sure as heck hadn’t practiced against Kyurem spread. Klinklang EX requires a lot of benched Pokémon, and so when Jason flipped over his active Kyurem, I was very worried. I became even more worried as my start was slow, and Jason was able to spread KO my Smeargle and a Klink. Eventually I was able to catcher up an energy-less Kyurem EX to stall, evolve a Klinklang, and start Gear Grinding his Ice Pokémon for weakness. Still, when time was called, Jason was up one prize, and about to take another prize with his active Kyurem EX. But during Jason’s turn 1 (of +3), he misplayed by piling energy onto a benched Kyogre EX that had Night Spear damage on it already. On turn 2, I Catchered up Kyogre, dropped a Mewtwo to the bench, retreated for it and Shift Geared every energy I had on the field to Mewtwo for the X-Ball KO to tie the game. Jason didn’t run his own Mewtwo, so he couldn’t return the KO, and I took another prize on turn 4 for the win.

Round 2: Michael Slutsky (CMT w/ Terrakion)

Mike is a very strong player, and I think he’s especially skilled at calculating KO’s and board positions as the game goes along. (To be honest, I think Klinklang EX would be a terrible match for his playstyle–it offers almost no flexibility, and Mike thrives on flexibility.) In this match, Mike knew that Terrakion would be key to KO’ing my Darkrais, but couldn’t use Mewtwo to its fullest potential because his lone Shaymin was prized. As a result, as he piled energy on his other Pokémon (like his Tornadus EX), he just couldn’t deliver the damage he needed to KO my guys before I healed them. He finally tried a Mewtwo gambit at the very end, but I managed to Night Spear it twice for my last two prizes.

Round 3: Mike Juhl (Donphan/Vileplume)

Vileplume prevents Klinklang EX from using Max Potion or Rare Candy, and I was pretty concerned about that. I became even more concerned when I did my first Heavy Ball search, and discovered that my single Stage 1 Klang was prized. Luckily, I managed to squeeze in a Rare Candy to Klinklang BLW before Mike established the lock. In testing, Klinklang EX had done terribly against status condition lock decks like Vileplume/Lilligant and Vileplume/Accelgor, because there was no way to retreat a damaged EX or heal it. I had considered including a Steelix line to deal with this (because Steelix Prime is immune to status conditions), but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to search for Steelix under lock, and Steelix falls pretty readily to Mewtwo, so I abandoned the idea. Fortunately, against Mike’s Donphan as the only threat, I simply cycled though active EX’s, retreating damaged ones to sit on the bench, while I KO’d his attackers.

Round 4: Ed Mandy (QuadTerrakion)

I had e-mailed Ed my list for advice a couple of days before the tournament, and I knew that Ed was running a very similar list to the one he had used at MN States, because he was once again borrowing many of the cards from me. So I think we both knew exactly how bad this match was going to go for me. Ed’s deck ran 3 copies of Lost Remover and 4 Junk Arm, meaning that he was going to be able to send 7 of my 10 special energy cards to the Lost Zone over the course of the game. My only chance was to start fast, getting energy on the board before he could remove it. But Ed was able to play a Lost Remover turn 1, and then Junk Arm for it multiple times over subsequent turns. By turn 6, I had just 2 energy cards on the board, and had managed to KO one Terrakion, while he had taken 2 prizes and was about to take a third. At that moment, Ed’s daughter Ava came over to say that she had finished in Juniors. Ed looked over at his other 5-year-old daughter Petra–who wasn’t playing, and had behaved so patiently throughout the tournament, but was clearly getting bored. Ed debated out loud, and then decided, that he would scoop and drop. Believe it or not, depending on whether Ed had any Junk Arms or Lost Removers prized, I still think I had a tiny shot at winning, but things were awfully grim for me. Ed’s drop gave me a win that the deck and I probably didn’t deserve.

Round 5: Soari Phomma (“Dark Rush”, Zoroark/Weavile/Darkrai)

This was a pretty quick loss for me, mainly because I didn’t pay attention to Zoroark DEX’s second attack, Dark Rush, that does 20 damage for each damage counter on Zoroark. That meant that Shift Gearing all of my board’s energy onto my only Klinklang, putting it active, and then Gear Grinding for 80, was probably not my smartest move. After Soari announced his 160-damage KO on Klinklang, I scooped. Soari set up great, so I’m not sure I could have won this one anyway, but my dramatic misplay really didn’t give me much of a chance.

Top 4: Soari Phomma (again); posted on YouTube by bullados

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I really enjoy playing against Soari–he has a great time playing, and his enthusiasm for the game is totally infectious. We also frequently end up talking about our decks and our strategy during the game, which probably doesn’t make the best strategic sense, but makes our games a lot more fun. But through Top 4 Soari had a really bad headache, and I think the background noise at Dreamers–which is always super loud–made things worse for him. I’m sure that playing against a headache-inducing deck like Klinklang EX didn’t help either. But things looked promising for Soari right off the bat, as in Game 1 he Claw Snagged away my Pokémon Collector to leave me with a Kyurem EX active and nothing but Max Potions and Junk Arms in my hand. Okay sure, that meant Kyurem lasted a long time, but I didn’t draw into anything helpful, and Kyurem eventually fell for Soari’s win. In Game 2 I had a much stronger setup, and Soari struggled to put enough Basics on the field to score KO’s with Zoroark, so I won pretty decisively. In the final game, Soari switched strategy a bit, electing to go for multiple early Claw Snags–which didn’t work this time–and then focus entirely on KO’ing Klinklangs. In the end, he couldn’t stream the Zoroarks fast enough, and I took Game 3 after a truly long Top 4.

Top 2: Michael Slutsky (again); posted on YouTube by bullados

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Mike had clearly thought a lot about how to approach our Top 2 matchup, and had decided on early-game Catcher-KO’s with Tornadus EX, followed by a late game sweep with Mewtwo. In my pre-tourney testing, this was exactly the right strategy for CMT against Klinklang EX. But I had included Mewtwo in my deck to counter precisely this scenario, and after Mike’s deck setup stalled through an early energy drought, I figured I had a chance. My setup was also a bit slow, but soon enough we were both rolling, taking prizes, and waiting for the moment that Mike would load up and unleash Mewtwo. He took out my Darkrai, denying me free retreat because my other one was prized. And then he used Shaymin to Celebration Wind 7 energy to Mewtwo with 3 prizes to go, to KO an Eviolited Groudon with 3 energy attached. This put him in the lead 1-2. In my next turn, my best route to winning the game was to KO his active Mewtwo.

And I could have. I had Mewtwo in my hand. But I didn’t. If you watch the video, you’ll notice that I missed many energy drops throughout the game, mostly with energy in hand. I just wasn’t paying close enough attention, and misplayed repeatedly. And so, when Michael KO’d my Groudon, I calculated that I didn’t have enough energy on the board to both pay a retreat cost and attack with Mewtwo. But as judge Mark Janssen pointed out to me at the end of the match, I actually did have enough energy on the board; Kyurem’s retreat cost is normally 3, but I failed to calculate in the effect of Mike’s Skyarrow Bridge. That one extra energy, plus a Gear-able one on the bench, would have been enough to fuel Mewtwo’s X-Ball and win me the game. But I didn’t see it. And so Mike–definitely the more skilled player in this match–took a 40-minute Game 1.

At this point, I was hungry, and tired, and I think it was affecting my play. Even worse, I looked over at my son Paul, who hadn’t really eaten anything for many hours, and he looked practically comatose. Paul won (6-0) in Juniors, but that had finished hours before, and the excitement of being at Dreamers had worn off for him. Knowing that I wouldn’t have a great chance at winning a Sudden Death match even if I took Game 2, I decided to scoop. I think Mike would have won anyway. And I’m glad Paul and I were able to get some dinner and get home in time for bed.

Final Words

Alex Solomonson at Battle Roads. Not really related to the article, but fashionable nonetheless!

I’m not a skilled Pokémon player, and so I’m not sure my opinion on Klinklang’s ranking in the metagame counts for much. I do think it’s a deck to contend with, and I think there is room to improve the deck. So I hope that players with greater expertise than me can take this concept and improve upon it. Looking at the “What Won Battle Roads” thread on Pokegym, it looks like other players also came up with this idea–I didn’t know about them when I built this, but I can’t claim to be the only inventor of the deck. I do want to give some credit for the deck to John Roberts II of Missouri, who chatted with me about it on PlayTCG.me. When I built the deck, my very first game against a human opponent was, believe it or not, a mirror match with John on PlayTCG. (That was the only other time I had seen the deck played.) It was clear that both John and I had work to do on the deck; John convinced me to use the three-retreat Klinks, and I suggested that he use Kyurem EX instead of Kyogre EX as his Water tank. Thanks to him for his advice. And as always, thanks to Steve and Mark for judging, to Colleen and Jeff for organizing, and to MN players for maintaining a fun community for Paul and me to play in.

If you made it this far–best of luck to all of you as we approach Nationals!

Category: Deck Discussion, Tourney Report | Tags: , , ,