Thoughts on the Early Days of the New Format

by Tyler Lindsey ~ August 30th, 2013.

Tyler Lindsey
Hello everyone!

I don’t believe I’ve ever met any of you, so allow me a brief moment to introduce myself. My name is Tyler Lindsey (for those of you who didn’t catch that already). I’m a 21 year old lifelong gamer, hailing from the humid plains of southeast Alabama. Currently, I am making a return to the Pokemon TCG community after playing Magic: the Gathering competitively for two years. Magic was both fun and rewarding, but it was also very time consuming, and the nostalgia vibes given off by my favorite childhood game always keep me coming back! My primary goal for this season is to successfully reach the 400CP required to compete in Worlds 2014 in Washington DC, while writing resourceful and insightful strategy articles along the way. Hopefully I can deliver in both aspects!

Of course, if one wants to have a truly successful season, they must hit the ground running from day one, and I intend to do just that. The weeks after Worlds, where old season transfers into new, is definitely one of the best times to get reacquainted with the game; there is ample time to playtest, and everyone is starting with a clean slate as far as deck building goes. Fortunately, I have used this moment’s reprieve in competitive play to my advantage, and as a result, I feel I have a very good grip on what the format will shape up to in the months to come. In this article, I will delve into the five ‘main’ strategies I feel are the most noteworthy going into this new terrain, so allow me to share some of my findings with you.

(Bear in mind these archetypes are in no particular order.)

1.) TDK (and other similar flavors of Plasma)

So let’s get right to it and start with the obvious: TDK is still public enemy number one. It lost little to nothing from rotation (if you could even call it a rotation), and even gained a new toy from Plasma Blast in the form of Silver Bangle. Kyurem (PLF) continues to be one of the most efficient attackers in the format, and is still backed by all of the powerful support cards Team Plasma boasts. While Lugia-centered Plasma builds also stand to become a powerful force in the metagame, make no mistake- Kyurem is the undisputed king that all decks must answer to if they wish to excel post-rotation.

Kyurem

Below is a fairly stock list, and all players should probably include something close to this in their playtesting gauntlet if they wish to succeed in the new environment.

4 Kyurem (PLF)
2 Absol
4 Deoxys EX
2 Thundurus EX
_12

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Skyla
2 Colress
_13

1 Dowsing Machine
1 Tool Scrapper
3 Silver Bangle
4 Pokemon Catcher
4 Switch
4 Colress Machine
4 Team Plasma Ball
1 Ultra Ball
_22

4 Plasma Energy
4 Prism Energy
4 Blend Energy WLFM
1 Blend Energy GRPD
_13

The Pokemon lineup is fairly standard, with a little more emphasis on Absol than normal due to its strength in the Plasma mirror match (which I anticipate is going to be fairly common). The lone Tool Scrapper warrants inclusion as an outs to Silver Mirror, which, needless to say, poses a serious problem for this deck. I have seen some proposed lists running two Scrapper, but personally, I feel only one is needed. The reason being is you can Pokemon Catcher around the first Silver Mirror, and if/when they drop the second one, your one Tool Scrapper takes care of both in one fell swoop, allowing you to get the most out of your card. Worst case scenario, if your opponent is a total sicko and still has more Mirrors coming, Dowsing Machine has your back. The last thing of note is the omission of LaserBank technology in favor of three copies of Silver Bangle. While Hypnotoxic Laser is far more beneficial in the mirror match, with the release of Virizion EX (not to mention the hype of Virizion/Genesect as a competitive archetype), Plasma players will want to steer away from Poison as their primary source of extra damage output for the beginning weeks, so as to avoid having dead cards to Verdant Wind. With Bangle, you still swing for that extra 30 damage (when hitting EXs, anyways), and it comes with the ease of being a single card and not two halves. There may come a time when the format matures enough to a point where LaserBank is a safe play again, but for now, I think the Bangle is where you want to be.

Absol

As I stated earlier, there are alternatives to the traditional Kyurem based Plasma builds, that are still more than capable of occupying the top tables. While some players choose to run a single copy of Lugia EX in their TDK builds for a late game nail in the coffin, I feel its merits are better served in a deck built around itself. While I won’t post a list, the strategy primarily focuses on discarding Energy cards turn one in an attempt to Raiden Knuckle with Thundurus EX, both accelerating Lugia EX, while also conveniently putting the opponent’s Pokemon within range of a Plasma Gale KO (with the help of a couple Deoxys EX). The fact that Lugia decks only need to KO two EXs to win the game (thanks to its ability Overflow) is absurd, and the amount of advantage gained by virtually drawing three cards when you KO a Pokemon is downright ridiculous (Ns will sting a bit, though). For those looking to run a different flavor of Plasma, Lugia EX definitely has you covered.

Going into this new season, Team Plasma (and TDK specifically) most definitely have targets on their backs, and for good reason. Playing the widely accepted best deck in the format, you must be prepared to face all the hate that it has drawn to it. You must also have a very solid understanding of the mirror match, because chances are, you’ll be playing a lot of it, especially as you go deeper into the swiss rounds. These are important things to keep in mind when you’re considering piloting any tier one deck, for that matter. Still, if you don’t mind being the bad guy (both flavor-wise and in the literal sense) it’s hard to justify not playing Plasma right out of the gates.

 

2.) Trainer-Lock

Team Plasma based decks are not without their vulnerabilities, however. In fact, for the players who wish to directly counter the pure Plasma strategies, a new option has become available to them. Silver Mirror, as I stated before, is a card that pure Plasma decks must have an answer to. The obvious answer is Tool Scrapper, but what happens when the Plasma player is Trainer-locked? They can’t play their Tool Scrapper, of course. And if they can’t play their Tool Scrapper (or Pokemon Catcher around the Mirror, for that matter), then how do they get past the Active Pokemon holding the Silver Mirror?

Zebstrika

To put it bluntly… they don’t.

 

4-4 Zebstrika
2-2 Garbodor
1 Mr. Mime
_13

2 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla
2 Colress
1 Bianca
_13

2 Virbank City Gym

1 Dowsing Machine
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Pokemon Catcher
3 Level Ball
2 Ultra Ball
1 Energy Search
1 Super Rod
2 Silver Mirror
2 Silver Bangle
2 Exp. Share
2 Float Stone
_26

8 Lightning Energy
_8

That’s right, any form of Trainer-lock with a Silver Mirror attached spells game over for a traditional TDK deck (even the new Chatot is unable to get the Mirror unattached). On that note, this Zebstrika/Garbodor build is eerily consistent at setting that win-condition up as soon as turn two, which is oftentimes far too fast for TDK to stop you. A common alternative to Zebstrika is to run Dragonite in its place. In doing so, you sacrifice higher consistency for higher HP and damage output, which isn’t necessarily a bad tradeoff, all things considered. Garbodor makes for a nifty sidekick whichever road you choose to take, cutting off problematic Abilities and further simplifying the boardstate. Mr. Mime is thrown in the mix as an obvious means of dealing with early game aggressive snipe damage that can run you over before you have ample time to set up your board. As someone who piloted a fair amount of VileGar in his last season, I understand that the worst way to lose with this sort of deck is to get swept before you even start, and any way to reduce the chances of that happening is much appreciated.

Even past the Zebstrika vs. Dragonite debate, there are several ways to go about building this deck. I have seen some lists eschew Garbotoxin in favor of more consistency cards, and (as always with our favorite trash heap) whether or not you want to include Garbodor in your own list is pretty much a meta call. Personally, I feel the Blastoise matchup in particular is very beatable even without a form of Ability-lock; if you are going first and set up the turn two Disconnect, your opponent will be cut off of Rare Candy, and (save a random Wartortle) won’t even be able to set up Blastoise in the first place, which takes care of the Deluge issue in its own special way. As far as Keldeo EX is concerned, they can Rush In, but without a Float Stone to retreat (or a means of pouring Energy onto it), it will be stuck in the Active position doing a lot of nothing- not a good place to be. Of course, there are various other relevant Abilities you will likely run into more than once over the course of a tournament (Power Connect, Dark Cloak and Six Feet Under to name a few), but it is up to you whether or not you think they are worth shutting down.

Garbodor

This strategy is not without its own vulnerabilities, however. While its primary selling point is its great Plasma matchup, against decks that are capable of out-racing you even while under Trainer-lock, you’re an underdog. Darkrai is a prime example of this, as a Darkrai deck can find itself set up and ready for action before you even fire off your first Disconnect. While these matchups are serviceable, the inherent disadvantage your deck has means they will likely never be favorable, and that is something Trainer-lock players must be comfortable with going into the grind. Ultimately, whether or not this strategy is a good call for any given event largely depends on the amount of Plasma you expect to face throughout the day. If you’re anticipating >50%, it’s definitely a respectable choice. <25%? You’re probably better off playing something else.

Still, the question stands, what does Plasma have that can give them a fighting chance against this strategy in the event it gets out of hand? Obviously it has to be something lacking the Plasma watermark, or Silver Mirror would brick wall it all the same. My suggestion? Landorus EX. Its type conveniently resides within the WLFM Blend Energy cluster, meaning it doesn’t require a change in the deck’s Energy lineup to accommodate, and Hammerhead is a Zebstrika deck’s worst nightmare, hitting the Active Zebstrika for 60, while setting up the Benched Zebstrika to be KO’d by a Hammerhead of its own. Landorus EX also mows over the Dratinis against Dragonite, and going first, it is quite possible to KO two Dratini via twin Hammerheads before the opponent can even Rare Candy. Needless to say, that’s a big game for a single Energy attack, and definitely something all Plasma decks should consider going forward.

3.) Blastoise

While the ‘rotation’ had an impact on some strategies, Blastoise decks were unfazed by it, and therefore remain powerful as ever. It still has minor issues with consistency, but if it sets up fast enough, it is almost impossible to stop. Personally, I consider Blastoise to be the other tier one deck of the early stages of this format, and for any deck to succeed, they will likely need to have game against both Blastoise and Plasma. This is no easy feat; since the two decks operate in vastly different ways, the cards that are generally effective vs. Plasma are near-redundant vs. Blastoise, and vice-versa (Enhanced Hammer is a prime example of this).

Blastoise

Here is a sample list, with some experimental techs I am trying out:

4-0-4 Blastoise
3 Black Kyurem EX
2 Keldeo EX
1 Moltres (NXD)
_14

3 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Skyla
2 Caitlyn
_12

3 Tropical Beach

1 Dowsing Machine
4 Rare Candy
3 Pokemon Catcher
3 Ultra Ball
1 Level Ball
1 Heavy Ball
1 Energy Search
3 Superior Energy Retrieval
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Tool Scrapper
_21

9 Water Energy
2 Lightning Energy
1 Fire Energy
_12

What is probably the ‘loudest’ card in this list, Moltres NXD, is included as a counter to PlasmaKlang, which I feel will still be played (albeit not as much with BLW Klinklang out of the picture). Moltres also works as an effective type counter/7th prize in the Virizion/Genesect matchup. With that in mind, it is still quite possible its inclusion is not worth the slightly sketchier Energy line, but going into a new format, I like to be prepared for anything and everything (provided it doesn’t completely ruin consistency). Feel free to drop the flaming chicken from your own testing if you deem it necessary.

Aside from that, most things about this list are industry standard. Caitlyn is a Supporter that hasn’t tested well for me in other decks, but in decks utilizing Beach, she actually does a lot of work. The biggest issue with Caitlyn is her potential redundancy; when your hand is small, she is close to a dead draw, due to the card being a net-negative in terms of value. Tropical Beach heavily mitigates this, and a turn one Beach into a turn two Caitlyn gives you a great shot at getting all the pieces you need to assemble ‘The Combo’ (turn two Blastoise into Black Ballista). Lastly, Tool Scrapper makes an appearance in this deck as well, but this time as a way to turn Garbotoxin off for a turn or two, allowing you a small (albeit much needed) window to set up properly.

Moltres

While match ups are still important, it’s common knowledge that Blastoise has a ‘god-draw’ which is nigh-unbeatable. Often times, you can largely ignore matchup intricacies and just Black Ballista/Secret Sword your opponent’s face off. Because of this, I would recommend Blastoise to a player who hasn’t had a lot of time to research matchups or keep up with the meta, but still wants to pilot a strategy more than capable of dismantling anything and everything. Even for someone in-the-know, Blastoise is a respectable choice and gives you a good chance to spike the tournament off the back of good draws and the tight play to match.

4.) Darkrai

Darkrai, while still a force to be reckoned with, lost a very close friend during rotation. Most have the understanding that Energy Switch was the oil that kept the Darkrai engine running smoothly, allowing you to stream Night Spears at a rate which some decks simply could not keep up with. While the loss of easy Energy manipulation doesn’t neuter the deck entirely, it definitely leaves it with a strategic flaw it once did not have, and against decks that can push through your defenses fairly quickly, you may find yourself struggling to maintain board parity. Luckily, there is still an option for those who do not wish to part with Energy manipulation entirely; with Scramble Switch as your ACE SPEC, you can get that one clutch Energy Switch effect when you need it most (thanks, Skyla!).

Darkrai

Below is a list implementing this proposed idea.

4 Darkrai EX
3 Sableye (DRX)
1 Mewtwo EX
1 Keldeo EX
1 Mr. Mime
_10

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Random Receiver
2 Skyla
_13

2 Virbank City Gym

1 Scramble Switch
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Pokemon Catcher
4 Dark Patch
4 Ultra Ball
3 Dark Claw
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Potion
1 Energy Search
_27

10 Darkness Energy
_10

Mewtwo EX makes an appearance solely due to his obvious synergy with Scramble Switch and the massive blowout potential it provides. The fact that Mewtwo EX hasn’t been a fixture in Darkrai strategies for quite some time also gives the play a bit of surprise factor, which is definitely not to be overlooked. There will be turns where your opponent will put you on a cap damage output-wise (‘they can only do X damage, therefore this play is safe’), and they will plan their turn accordingly. Dropping a Mewtwo EX out of nowhere, Scramble Switching it active and firing an unexpected giant X-Ball is going to be a game changer in those scenarios, and I wanted to make sure that angle of attack was available with this list. While TDK gets to make the switch to Silver Bangles, with Darkrai being a deck of solely EX attackers, it has no such luxury. Therefore, Darkrai can expect to have some awkward cards when staring down Virizion EX-based strategies, but must deal with it as best possible. With Computer Search not present in this list, Energy Search gives you a means of searching out Energy via Skyla if times are tough (which is something I would strongly recommend for any deck running Skyla and basic Energy, actually). The only other thing out of the ordinary is Potion, which is a bit of experiment on my part, messing up the opponent’s math and generally sending them on full life-tilt after ‘losing to a Potion’. While you will be left wishing it was something else vs. Blastoise, the ability to turn what was once a two-shot into a three-shot against decks like Virizion/Genesect is often enough to swing a game to your favor. It’s all about the nickels and dimes.

Mewtwo

While the deck is unarguably worse without Energy Switch, Darkrai still has some fight left in it, and in the right hands can still compete with the best of ’em. Another alternative Darkrai enthusiasts are warming up to for the new format is Darkrai/Garbodor. Clashing Abilities aside, the two compliment each other rather well, with Garbodor giving Darkrai aid in matchups where it is needed (here’s looking at you, Klinklang and Blastoise). I am unsure which of the two Darkrai variants is better, and it likely comes down to the expected field. If you are loyal to Darkrai strategies, I recommend trying both out and deciding for yourself!

5.) Virizion/Genesect

The last deck I’d like to touch base on today is the much-hyped Virizion/Genesect (or as I like to call it, GenV). The deck has seen a fair amount of success in Japan, and has gained a lot of momentum in the non-Japanese community as a result. Of course, the biggest thing to consider when evaluating strategies found in Japan is the discrepancies between their format and ours. Like Darkrai, I feel like Virizion/Genesect was hurt a lot by the loss of Energy Switch, we just weren’t aware of it because the deck wasn’t even around before this point. Furthermore, the alternative route available to Darkrai (running Scramble Switch as your ACE SPEC) isn’t a possibility for Virizion/Genesect, as the G Booster ACE SPEC is one of the biggest reasons to play the strategy in the first place. While the deck is still good, and more than capable of winning its fair share of matches, I feel like we need to see Energy Switch return to the format before we can truly appreciate what the green duo are capable of together.

Genesect

That said, the deck will still see a moderate amount of play, and here’s a list that (I feel) makes the best of what we have available to us.

4 Virizion EX
3 Genesect EX
2 Bouffalant (DRX)
1 Mr. Mime
_10

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Skyla
2 Bianca
1 Shadow Triad
_14

2 Virbank City Gym

1 G Booster
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Pokemon Catcher
4 Ultra Ball
4 Float Stone
3 Potion
1 Energy Search
_23

9 Grass Energy
4 Plasma Energy
_13

As a community, we are far from discovering the consensus best Virizion/Genesect deck, but from my testing, the list above is where I’m at. I’ve seen lists that run Team Plasma Badge or EtherTone in an attempt to turbo into a turn one Emerald Slash, and while that is definitely powerful start, I do not think it is worth running cards that become significantly worse past turn one. Even Colress Machine, which I started off running four copies of, didn’t really seem to appeal to the strategy as I had hoped. In the end, I found it best to be patient for the turn two Emerald Slash, using Potions to keep your Virizion Emerald Slashing away, while building up an army behind it. The amount of velocity gained in attaching two Energies from your deck is huge, and I definitely value it higher than a super-fast G Booster. Another important key to finding success with this strategy is making sure not to lean too heavily on your G Boosters to give you KOs, as it depletes your resources much faster than you might expect. A turn two Emerald Slash (attaching the Energies to Bouffalant DRX) into a turn three Gold Breaker is 170 damage, and 180 with a Hypnotoxic Laser- magic numbers for KO’ing EXs. Utilizing math such as this to devise your plays is crucial; make sure to save your G Boosters for those pivotal turns where a one-hit KO will seal the deal in your favor.

Virizion

Another potential route Virizion/Genesect players can choose to take is running a couple of Deoxys EX to allow Genesect to hit ‘magic numbers’. Megalo Cannon, while an insanely powerful attack in its own right, can be a little awkward, as 100 damage will two-hit KO anything in the format anyways, and the 20 snipe is so minescule that you will likely have to Megalo Cannon several times in succession in order for the snipe damage to accomplish anything of relevance. A lone Deoxys EX on the bench opens a world of possibilities for the Genesect EX player, particularly in the TDK matchup, where you can now deal 110 damage to the Active Kyurem and 20 damage to the Benched Kyurem, then Catcher/Red Signal the Benched Kyurem the following turn and Megalo Cannon again to KO them both at once. With Kyurem kicking like an EX, but only giving up one prize when KO’d, being able to deal with two in two attacks will go along way to keeping up with how aggressive and difficult to race TDK can be.

The million-dollar question in the Pokemon TCG community right now is this: Will Virizion/Genesect live up to all the hype, or will it make itself a comfortable home in the tier two bracket? My guess is that it will probably fall somewhere in between, but only time will tell. Fact is, both Virizion and Genesect are (both individually and together) far too powerful to not see play of some kind, but just how much play they will see, remains to be seen.

~~~

 

Closing Statements

While there are certainly other decks I did not give mention to that have the potential to break through, I felt the five listed above were far and away the most important to evaluate when trying to get a better view of the landscape ahead of us. Some honorable mentions include Tool Drop variants, Flareon (PLF) builds, RayBoar decks, any flavor of Haxorus (PLB), Klinklang (PLS) and company, among others. Heck, even Garchomp (DRX 90) and its kin have a chance of making a comeback if the wind blows a certain way (Silver Bangle really is no joke).

There is so much to enjoy about the genesis of a new season, but what has to be the best part for me is seeing if my predictions lined up with how things panned out; the better your understanding, the better your analysis becomes in the future! Next time, I will be sharing an under-the-radar deck I’ve been brewing up that I feel has game against the entire field, while breaking down my thought processes that lead to the deck’s fruition. Be sure to check back next Friday for that if you want to pilot something fresh and new for Battle Roads! (..or whatever they’re called these days.)

And that’s a wrap. I’d like to thank anyone who took the time to read my debut article, and be sure to keep checking back to this site every Friday for more content (Bookmark is your friend!). Oh, and don’t forget to leave your questions, comments and quandaries below in the chat before you go! I’ll make sure to reply!

Until next time,

-Tyler

Category: Card Discussion, Deck Discussion | Tags: , , , , , ,
  • Ed

    Awesome article, Tyler! You started off by saying you wanted to be “writing resourceful and insightful strategy articles” and you’ve started off superbly. I can’t wait for the next one!

  • pikkdogs

    Amazing article man. Best one on this subject on the net right now.

    • Tyler Lindsey

      That’s an awesome compliment man. I really appreciate it!

  • Fanatix_Phil

    This guy knows his stuff. The pokemon community is lucky to have him writing articles.

  • Wrags23

    Nice article! Isn’t Mr. Mime usually used in decks with low HP Pokemon in them, though? I was just wondering why you have it in VirGen.

    • Tyler Lindsey

      Thanks a lot, man! I’ll have another article up next week, so be sure to check back for that!

      As for Mr. Mime, While it is definitely more impactful in decks with low HP Pokemon, I feel like Bench Barrier has applications in any deck, as reducing the amount of damage your Pokemon take from snipes is something any strategy should be interested in (save some random Outrage brew).

      In VirGen specifically, I like to start off with my Virizion EX on the bench, so as to reduce the amount of damage it takes turn one. Mr. Mime helps with that plan, and ideally on turn two, I can send Virizion EX to the Active position with no damage on it and ready to attack. This is especially important in the Plasma matchup, because in order for a Kyurem to one-hit KO a fresh Virizion EX via Blizzard Burn, they need a Bangle as well as FOUR Deoxys EX (a lot of lists aren’t even running that many) due to resistance to Water. If Virizion had taken the 30 from Frost Spear, they would only need a Bangle and one Deoxys EX, which is far more realistic for them to pull off.

      So oftentimes, the 30 damage Mr. Mime prevents equals an extra attack in the early game, and when your attack nets you two Energies from your deck, that is a pretty big deal. But generally, preventing damage will be beneficial throughout the game, for obvious reasons.

  • Tyler Lindsey

    Thanks for the kind words everyone. :) Means a lot!

  • Balasar

    Really great article, Tyler! Glad to see a fresh face on this site!

  • Kameron

    Nice article.

    • Tyler Lindsey

      Thanks a lot, man! Be sure to check back next Friday for article number two. :]

  • Jeff C

    Your list of decks is pretty much aligning what I think will be the decks to beat. Even though, the surprise Emboar-Rayquaza deck is floating around out there.

    I hate mirror matches because I always seem to lose… That is why I feel like I want to build the best deck to counter these EX and Plasma decks because if you play one yourself then the only way to win is with a fair amount of luck and hoping you get the first play.

    Looking forward to your next article.

    • Tyler Lindsey

      Luck will always be a factor in any game with variance built-in, but there are ways to gain an edge; having a better understanding of the matchup than your opponent goes a long way, and finding a decent tech to hit from the left-field helps also. I like counter decks, but I generally like to wait until a format matures before trying to build one, so I have a clear picture of what exactly it is I am trying to beat.

      Glad you liked it, and the new article will be up Friday. :] Thanks for reading!

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