The Steam Palace — An Interview with Nick Robinson and a Look at Volcanion-EX

Hey PokeBeach readers! How are you guys doing? I’m doing alright dealing with post-Nationals depression while doing some Worlds testing every now and then. I’ve kept myself busy playing other games I had been neglecting while testing for Nationals, such as catching up with my X-Wing testing for that particular Worlds. I know a lot of you guys are playing Pokemon GO and are having a blast with that. Let me pull you from that for a moment to get focused on the TCG side of Pokemon.

I’ve taken the time to schedule and conduct an interview with the Pokemon TCG U.S. National Champion Nick Robinson. I’ve known Nick ever since he started playing, since his league are a mere three hours away from me. Nick and I have clashed at Cities and States in Iowa and Nebraska, so I was very familiar with his playing ability well before Nationals, and his National Championship win was no surprise to me.

I’ve also been speckling some testing of Volcanion-EX as well here and there. I’ll be talking about it quite a lot later in the article. For those of you not going to Worlds, I am including a list for both our current format and post rotation. A lot changes with rotation of course, losing staple cards for fire decks such as Battle Compressor and Blacksmith. Volcanion’s high damage output should allow it to be a contender.

Interview with Nick Robinson

Like I mentioned earlier, Nick Robinson is a friend of mine, since we both compete in the same area. Nick plays in the Des Moines area of Iowa, which has a pretty big Pokemon scene, sporting a budding star in Kiernan Wagner, a Senior that is moving up to the Masters division next year. As some of you know, the two fellows that ended up in jail following Worlds in 2015, were from Iowa and were a big part of the culture and the competitive player base in Iowa. Dane Schussler also was a major competitive player in Iowa and unfortunately passed away late last year. Needless to say, Iowa’s competitive Pokemon scene was hit very hard.

The new blood in Iowa came through with Nick Robinson and many of his testing partners, which I was very impressed with upon meeting the majority of them in Madison for Wisconsin Regionals. Obviously, they’ve made an impact very quickly on competitive Pokemon across the nation.

Nick made a very strong deck choice for Nationals, and I am going to take some time here to breakdown Vespiquen / Night March a little prior to revealing my interview with Nick.

Vespiquen / Night March

This was a deck that I was considering the night before Nationals. I know, most of you all know from reading my prior articles, that I don’t like to be in that position prior to a big tournament. The play I went with, M Manectric-EX, was a really risky play since it had a mediocre Night March matchup. So it was smart for me to consider another deck before showing up at Nationals and turning my deck list in.

The version of this deck that I would have run, would have been more similar to Andrew Wamboldt’s list, except I would have played Pokémon Catcher. My version was still drastically different than the one that Nick piloted for a first place finish at U.S. Nationals.

Vespiquen / Night March was such a solid play for the tournament, since it had an incredibly positive Water Box matchup (Seismitoad-EX  / Manaphy-EX / Rough Seas), in addition to having the positive matchups that Night March decks had. It also provided a good counter to Jolteon-EX, in addition to providing some defense against lategame Ns with Unown.

When I first arrived at U.S. Nationals, the first players that I saw were fellow writers Steve Guthrie and Andrew Mahone. Andrew was piloting Vespiquen / Night March while Steve was piloting Bronzong / Genesect-EX. The matchup looked really close and it really piqued my interest in Andrew’s deck. I couldn’t really think of much that it lost against flat out, since it could play around Giratina-EX (even though it’s still not a great matchup) and Item-lock decks, such as Trevenant didn’t seem too popular.

I ultimately stuck with my guns and played M Manectric-EX since I felt that it had very powerful matchups of its own, and that it tested incredibly well for me, whereas my testing with Vespiquen / Night March didn’t go quite so well. Here is the list that I was testing and that I would have taken with me to Nationals.

Pokemon (26)

4x Vespiquen (AOR #10)4x Combee (AOR #9)4x Joltik (PHF #26)4x Lampent (PHF #42)4x Pumpkaboo (PHF #44)3x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)3x Unown (AOR #30)

Trainers (30)

4x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x N (NVI #101)1x Teammates (PRC #160)1x Lysandre (FLF #104)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)4x VS Seeker (RSK #110)4x Ultra Ball (PLF #122)4x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)2x Pokémon Catcher (KSS #36)1x Escape Rope (PRC #127)1x Town Map (BKT #150)1x Startling Megaphone (FLF #97)1x Parallel City (BKT #145)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (PHF #111)

As you can see, the list is very similar to the one Andrew Wamboldt did very well with at Origins, placing in the Top 8. Andrew Mahone ultimately made the decision to add the Pokémon Catcher, citing the need to KO Giratina-EX off the Bench since removing its Energy probably wasn’t enough anymore. I’ll breakdown some of the conversation I had about specific cards with Andrew about this list.

4-4 Vespiquen

The thick Vespiquen line is what really sticks out to a lot of people. I cannot stress enough that this version of the deck is more of a Vespiquen deck and not a Night March one. Since I played no Dimension Valley, Joltik and Vespiquen are the two attackers. I felt very comfortable with the thicker Pokemon count and the thicker Vespiquen count as well, since hitting these Vespiquen off of Professor Sycamore was the key to attacking with them.

Three Unown

I’ve played with four Unown for the longest time, but I never found there to be much of consistency drop off between three and four Unown. I tested this deck heavily for Missouri States as well as the night before Nationals, and I never once felt the need to go to four Unown

Four Professor Sycamore

A four count of Professor Sycamore seems pretty crazy to see in a Night March list. But remember that this is a Vespiquen list and not a Night March one. Most versions of Night March are playing three Professor Sycamore, but some are even more crazy and are getting away with playing two copies of the card. That’s insane.

The four copies has numerous benefits for the deck. You’re more likely to start a Professor Sycamore in your opening hand. You’re also far less reliant on Shaymin-EX draws. In addition to that, it sort of makes up for the lack of Trainers' Mail in the deck. I’ve always been a fan of Professor Sycamore counts being heavy in Night March decks.

One Switching Card

This was the biggest concern I had about this list. Andrew Mahone also had this concern, but he was pretty sure that starting with a poor starter wasn’t as bad as I was making it out to be. His opponent would Knock Out the Pokemon anyway or he would eventually hit his one Escape Rope.

I didn’t feel too sure about that. I was debating cutting a 1-1 Vespiquen line for a Float Stone and another card, such as a Dimension Valley. I didn’t test further, however, a bad start with an Unown or Pumpkaboo never really hurt me in my testing.

Startling Megaphone

Startling Megaphone was a card many decks played at Nationals. The meta was heavy and full of Pokemon-EX decks playing Fighting Fury Belt, pushing their HP to 220, which was very hard for us to hit in the early to mid game. Startling Megaphone also gives us our Abilities back against a Garbodor, at least temporarily.

Let’s talk about the differences between Nick’s list and mine.

Nick’s List

Pokemon (25)

4x Joltik (PHF #26)4x Pumpkaboo (PHF #44)4x Lampent (PHF #42)3x Vespiquen (AOR #10)3x Combee (AOR #9)4x Unown (AOR #30)3x Shaymin-EX (RSK #106)

Trainers (31)

4x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x Teammates (PRC #160)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Xerosic (PHF #119)1x N (NVI #101)1x Lysandre (FLF #104)4x VS Seeker (RSK #110)4x Ultra Ball (PLF #122)4x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)1x Startling Megaphone (FLF #97)1x Escape Rope (PLS #120)1x Enhanced Hammer (PHF #94)1x Town Map (BCR #136)2x Dimension Valley (PHF #93)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (FAC #114)

This is the list Nick used to win the U.S. National Championships with.

The Differences

I think there are more differences to our lists than similarities. It seems that Nick’s list is more of a Night March list with a Vespiquen on the side to handle Jolteon-EX and to really stick it to the Water Box decks out there. Another difference is that Nick chose to play the four Unown, which I can understand. Unown provides a lot of benefits for the deck. More than just boosting Vespiquen‘s damage output, but also being a way to draw out of an N when you play Unown on your Bench in advance.

Two Dimension Valley is also an incredible addition since it really unlocks Pumpkaboo as an attacker, whereas in my list, Pumpkaboo was just discard pile fodder. Xerosic and Enhanced Hammer find their way into this list and they came in super clutch in the finals when Nick faced a Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX deck. This is a strong combo in that the Giratina-EX is usually Chaos Wheeling with a Double Dragon Energy and a Double Colorless Energy attached. Meaning that both cards are removable in the same turn fairly easily with a double Puzzle of Time play with Enhanced Hammer or with a Xerosic plus Enhanced Hammer combination. I don’t think I would have played both cards, since they’re not incredibly effective against a Giratina-EX with a Double Dragon Energy and two Basic Energy, which is what I was really expecting. Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX was a very surprising thing to see in the finals, since I felt like the deck had quite a few poor matchups. Another thing I play that he doesn’t is the two copies of Pokémon Catcher. My strategy against Giratina-EX has always been throwing a ton of Pokemon away, and hitting one of my two Pokémon Catchers and Knocking Out the Giratina-EX.

Similarities

The remainder of the Pokemon line is relatively the same, so let’s move straight to the Trainers. Nick seems to value having four Professor Sycamore as well, since he sports four copies in his list. The standard Ultra Ball, Puzzle of Time, VS Seeker, and Battle Compressor counts are all there that form the core of any Night March and Vespiquen deck. Town Map is still in the list too for the great plays you can make with it with Puzzle of Time pieces getting fetched from the Prizes. Also, Nick plays one switch card in his one Escape Rope. Now, Shaymin-EX and Unown starts are still awful. However, the advantage this list has over mine is that Nick unlocks Pumpkaboo as an attacker with his two Dimension Valley, so starting Pumpkaboo isn’t so much a bad thing in Nick’s list.

Let’s get to the interview.


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