The Testing Circle — Four Decks to Focus on for Worlds

Hey PokeBeach! U.S. Nationals is over and for me that also signifies the end of my exam period! We now have around a month to go before the big event in San Francisco. Our thoughts are already on the Worlds format, which is unlike any other. The introduction of Steam Siege into the format, releasing only two weeks before Worlds due to recent rule changes, creates new challenges for each player to deal with prior to the competition. Usually, the Worlds metagame would be largely defined by the results of U.S. Nationals along with a mix of European Nationals results. However this year, the metagame has become unpredictable to a greater degree, due to the addition of over 100 new cards.

Test Paper

OK, maybe not that type of test.

The best way to overcome this new hurdle is to test! Cards like Pokemon Ranger will certainly have an effect on how effective lock-based Pokemon such as Giratina-EX and Jolteon-EX are in the format. Special Charge adds another way of retrieving Double Colorless Energy for Night March builds, or an option to re-use Double Dragon Energy in Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX builds. These cards need to be tested to assess their overall viability for the upcoming Worlds format (XY to Steam Siege) and post rotation (PRC to Steam Siege). For this article, I want to give a starting point on what decks to have within your early testing circle, along with some lists to begin testing with.

The Starting Point

To start, I should probably explain what a “testing circle” is. A testing circle consists of multiple decks, each of which you want to test against another deck inside the testing circle to work out a matchup. Over time, this makes it possible to have an idea of multiple deck matchups to give a clearer view of what the format may look like. Certain decks can be removed if they do not perform well enough, and rogue or new concepts can be added to test with as time goes on.

For an early testing circle for the World Championships, the metagame that we should assess is the one from U.S. Nationals. The most successful archetypes from this tournament are the most viable options for the testing circle. Starting with these decks makes it possible to eliminate archetypes from the testing circle that cannot deal with new additions from Steam Siege. From statistics it’s easy to see that Night March was the tier one deck at U.S. Nationals, with the deck being able to take over one third of the Top 64 placements. This makes Night March a shoo-in as the first deck to look at for the testing circle.

The Last Night March

Pokemon (16)

4x Joltik (PHF #26)4x Pumpkaboo (PHF #44)4x Lampent (PHF #42)3x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)1x Mew (FAC #29)

Trainers (40)

3x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x N (FAC #105)1x Teammates (PRC #160)1x AZ (PHF #117)1x Pokemon Ranger (Steam Siege) 1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Xerosic (PHF #119)1x Lysandre (FLF #104)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)4x Ultra Ball (FLF #99)4x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)2x Fighting Fury Belt (BKP #99)1x Escape Rope (PRC #127)1x Target Whistle (PHF #106)1x Town Map (BKT #150)1x Startling Megaphone (FLF #97)1x Special Charge (Steam Siege)3x Dimension Valley (PHF #93)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (PHF #111)

Night March is ready to have its final stand in Standard before the trio leave the format when Phantom Forces is rotated for the 2016-2017 season. With a fresh Nationals win added to the deck’s already amazing results, Night March is primed to be the big deck at Worlds this year. Steam Siege does give Night March one or two new tricks that help iron out some some issues the deck has at the moment.

One Pokemon Ranger

Pokemon Ranger Full Art

“That poor Joltik can’t do anything against Jolteon-EX. We better help out!”

One of the best counters against Night March throughout the season was to set up Giratina-EX with multiple Double Dragon Energy or a mixture of Basic Energy and Double Dragon Energy and use Chaos Wheel. The attack locks Night March out of both attaching their Double Colorless Energy and being able to play Dimension Valley down to counter an opposing Stadium so that Pumpkaboo can use the Night March attack. With no way to get around Chaos Wheel, Night March builds resorted to using Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic to remove the Double Dragon Energy from a Giratina-EX, along with using Puzzle of Time to re-use the strategy if needed.

This strategy was usually hard to hit due to Giratina-EX commonly being paired with Seismitoad-EX, which would lock out Item cards with Quaking Punch until Giratina-EX was ready to attack. If you could only find a single Enhanced Hammer or Xerosic, the opposing player could easily find another Double Colorless Energy or Double Dragon Energy to continue the Chaos Wheel lock. U.S. Nationals also saw the use of Darkrai-EX / Giratina-EX builds, which used Max Elixir to power up Giratina-EX to use Chaos Wheel in a single turn, leaving you with little time to respond.

Pokemon Ranger makes it possible to remove the effect of Chaos Wheel so that you can freely attach Double Colorless Energy and play down Dimension Valley to attack. Obtaining the card is much easier than trying to find the two-card combo of Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic in a single turn, since Pokemon Ranger can be retrieved from the discard using VS Seeker. The effect of Seismitoad-EX’s Quaking Punch is also removed, meaning you can freely play Items in your turn once Pokemon Ranger is played.

Let’s not forget Jolteon-EX either; the effect of Flash Ray is removed from play once Pokemon Ranger is used, thus letting you deal damage to Jolteon-EX with the Night March attack. Prior to Pokemon Ranger, Night March decks along with other decks that relied solely on Basic Pokemon as their primary attackers would have to resort to a variety of options to work around Flash Ray. These decks would play certain cards like Escape Rope, Evolved Pokemon, or the infamous Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick and Gallade combo that has seen a lot of success over the 2015 – 2016 season.

Pokemon Ranger is a simple one turn card that accomplishes the same result as these previous techs without having to spend a lot of resources and deck space to possibly deal with the threat of several attack-based lock strategies. I’ve even considered bumping the count of Pokemon Ranger up to two due to the massive effect it can have against lock-based decks, but right now I think one is enough.

One Special Charge

Even with a full four Puzzle of Time, Night March builds can still have a problem getting a continuous stream of Double Colorless Energy to power the Night March attack. A single Special Charge solves this problem by simply being able to shuffle two discarded Double Colorless Energy back into the deck, no combo pieces, no questions asked. A neat play that can also be made is to use a double Puzzle of Time to obtain Special Charge from the discard pile, and then shuffle two Double Colorless Energy back into your deck. As long as you don’t need a Double Colorless Energy on that turn, your Puzzle of Time effectively netted three cards instead of just two!

Other Options


Nick Robinson showed that a Vespiquen / Night March build had what it takes to win the largest National Championships ever. The addition of Vespiquen adds a new element to the deck along with an easier matchup versus the Water Box builds, which are primarily weak to Grass Pokemon. Unown is great at thinning the deck. It is also usable under Item-lock which gives Night March a better shot at drawing into something it needs. Playing Vespiquen does mean you lose some of the speed and techs that a normal Night March build can fit in, which can make the mirror matchup less favourable and reduce the overall consistency slightly without the use of cards like Trainers' Mail. If I was to add Vespiquen / Night March to a testing circle, I think the best starting point would be to use Nick Robinson’s proven list, but opt to change the Enhanced Hammer for a Pokemon Ranger. This also lets the deck combat Glaceon-EX played in any Water Box lists.

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