The Four Horsemen of States

Disclaimer: All Pokemon players come from different locations with their own unique metagames and levels of competition. To get the most out of any PTCG article, it is best to know the types of decks people are playing in your area and the level of competition you have to face so that you are better able to apply the advice presented here to your unique circumstances. All of our writers have been chosen based on the only measurable way of determining who should be giving advice: the amount of tournaments they have won and the level of competition they have beaten.


The Four Horsemen of States

By: Martin Moreno

Hello PokeBeach fans! Marty here, and welcome to the the final installment of a three part article trilogy. If you haven’t already, feel free to go back and check out my first two articles, Regionals Top 20 and Ladies’ Night. I promised in the last piece that I would get back to some groundbreaking format strategy and that’s exactly what we are going to be doing here. On the horizon is the Pokemon Trading Card Game State Championships. Competitively, these events are traditionally very harrowing and very difficult fields to navigate. Over the past few seasons, the number of competitive-level players who travel great distances chasing opportunities to improve their Championship Point count with the intention of getting an invitation to the World Championship has shot up at a geometric rate.

For those of you who are new to the Championship Point system, it can be broken down pretty simply. The Championship Series is a sequence of tournaments that span throughout the season with events that range differently in Championship Point payout based on what type of event you are attending and actual attendance size can have an impact on how many points you leave with based on your placing. If you play with the intention of getting an invitation to the World Championship, you are shooting to make it to the 400 Championship Point mark to earn your right to play on the largest stage. State Championships come with the unique trait of not only paying out a solid number of Championship Points to top finishers, but there is also the possibility of earning a travel stipend of $500 for Junior and Senior division players and $300 for Master division players. The travel stipend can be redeemed at the US National Championship upon your arrival as a reward for preforming well at the State Championship. Here is the actual break down of prizes…

Prizes are awarded to the top players in each of three age divisions.

All participants will receive 3 Play! Points and a Pokémon SPT Championship promo card (while supplies last) just for playing!

1st Place

  • A Pokémon TCG SPT Championships 1st Place trophy
  • A $500 travel stipend to participate in the Pokémon TCG National Championships (Juniors and Seniors) 1,2
  • A $300 travel stipend to participate in the Pokémon TCG National Championships (Masters) 1,3
  • A first-round bye at the U.S. or Canada National Championships 3
  • A combination of 36 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 100 Championship Points

2nd Place

  • A Pokémon TCG SPT Championships 2nd Place trophy
  • A combination of 36 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 90 Championship Points (if division attendance is 4 or greater)

3rd & 4th Place

  • A Pokémon TCG SPT Championships 3rd or 4th Place trophy
  • A combination of 18 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 70 Championship Points (if division attendance is 8 or greater)

5th through 8th Place

  • A combination of 9 booster packs from current Pokémon TCG expansions
  • 50 Championship Points(if division attendance is 32 or greater)

9th Place through 12th Place

30 Championship Points (if division attendance is 64 or greater)

13th Place through 16th Place

  • 20 Championship Points (if division attendance is 64 or greater)
  • 17th Place through 32nd Place
  • 10 Championship Points (if division attendance is 128 or greater)

33rd Place through 64th Place

  • 5 Championship Points (if division attendance is 256 or greater)

With the release of Black & White: Plasma Storm, the format was introduced with 138 brand new cards to concoct brand new decks and strategies with. If you are unfamiliar with the dynamics of this set and the new threats that have the ability to sow discord on the format, you can look up every single scan right here on PokeBeach. The big buzz circling the PTCG community right now is: What did this set bring to the table? How are the current popular archetypes affected? Which decks ride off into the sunset as the best of the best? What should you play at the upcoming State Championship?

I had every intention of attempting to answer these questions for you, but I thought I would take it a step further. For the first time, four winners of the United States National Championship have collaborated to give you some insight. Annually, the US National Championship is the largest event in the game by volume, which has gone up in attendance every single year and has no signs of letting up. It takes skill, patience, endurance, and a little bit of luck to come out as the last man standing in this event, so any player that has been able to accomplish this clearly knows the winning formula in conquering a difficult tournament task.

Each top-tier level participant chose a State Championship viable deck to review and break down. In a format with a brand new set and an unestablished metagame, it can be difficult to determine not only what to play, but where to start in your research for your best chance at preforming well at the event. Personally, I feel these type of tournament situations where there hasn’t been a major event for you to compare results to your choice favors more experienced players as they usually are the trend-setters for what everyone else either mimics or create an answer for. Let me make it perfectly clear right now that there will be more viable options than just what you see here today. The purpose is to give you professional-level insight on some of your potential options as a starting point for your very own research when making the most educated decision on what to test with and against. If you put in the time, the results will follow. Simple as that! So with that said, we’re off to the races…



The 2006 US National Champion Marty Grant (on the right) defeats the 2007 US National Champion Chris Fulop (pictured left) in a City Championship finals.

Coming from the original Black and White set, Emboar has been in the format for quite some time. I had the pleasure of first working with Emboar back when the format shifted to HGSS-on for US Nationals in 2011. A very powerful Fire-type Pokemon that formed a solid relationship with Magnezone from the Triumphant set; this deck became destined for a World Championship run. Going forward in the timeline of the game, it’s time for Emboar to get an update for a new format. On my agenda was to find reasonable Pokemon to pair the roasted pig with. Taking a look from our arsenal of Poke-Warriors, the first Pokemon that came to mind was Reshiram. Marty has a thing for Fire-type Pokemon since his very first tournament-worthy deck consisted of the Fossil set Magmar.

Pokemon (14):

4 Tepig (BC 24)

1 Pignite (BW 17)

4 Emboar (ND 100)

1 Reshiram (BW 26)

1 Rayquaza (DR 128)

1 Keldeo EX (BC 49)

2 Rayquaza EX (DR 85)

Trainers (32):

4 Skyla (BC 134)

4 Professor Juniper (DE 98)

2 Switch (BW 104)

1 Cilan (ND 86)

3 Pokemon Catcher (EP 95)

4 Rare Candy (DE 100)

2 Tropical Beach (BWP 28)

1 Pokemon Communication (BW 99)

3 Ultra Ball (DE 102)

3 Energy Retrieval (BW 92)

1 Colress (PS 118)

1 Dowsing Machine (PS 128)

1 Skyarrow Bridge (ND 91)

1 Tool Scrapper (DR 116)

1 Super Rod (NV 95)

Energy (14):

10 Fire Energy (BW 106)

4 Lightning Energy (BW 108)

I got the idea to cover this deck from Kevin, a talented player who spent a lot of time working on the Emboar update. Kevin Franklin is a long time friend of mine from San Diego who I have been testing with since 2004. Surely, I could have reviewed a Rayquaza/Eelektrik update, but what fun would that be? Besides, I already covered a sample list of that in my first article. I like to take the road less traveled.

Let’s begin with the early game. “Doubling down” Tepig should be a primary objective when starting out the game. In a format where the bench is open to pending Pokemon Catcher attacks, you would assume the HP of Tepig is a vulnerable bench target. When two are on the bench, your chances of materializing the stage 2 Pokemon Emboar your next turn via Rare Candy are much better. Skyla is a huge part of the early phase game as well. During the opening game phase, you have a solid ability to manipulate your hand size with Ultra Ball to increase your draw power from the Stadium Card Tropical Beach. You can search out Tropical Beach with Skyla if necessary. Additionally, Skyla helps you complete getting the stage two Pokemon Emboar by hunting Rare Candy or Pokemon Communication depending on which cards are necessary to complete the evolution task. Tropical Beach can be kind of costly to obtain, so hopefully, you’ve been saving up your change. Speaking of Stadiums, I have included a lone Skyarrow Bridge since it compliments Keldeo switch out tricks very nicely in the event Emboar gets trapped in the active position. Yeah, you attach as much as you want per turn, but the paying to retreat and not being able to OHKO with Rayquaza-EX can be a huge let-down. Speaking of Rayquaza, his brother Promo Rayquaza has made the list here. Shred is a good way to OHKO a Black Kyurem-EX without having to discard energy. And in this scenario, any Eviolite presence simply is not a factor!

The middle phase of the game should be centered on you pumping out big hits after big hits with Rayquaza-EX, Reshiram, and even Promo Rayquaza depending on who is out in front on the opponent’s end of the field. Energy supplying cards like Cilan, Energy Retrieval, and even Super Rod are in the mix to keep the flow of energy and attacking going strong. Unless you feel like pulling a Frank Hicks, you might want to include an Ace Spec. The choice for this deck to me seemed to obviously be Dowsing Machine. The reason why you can run a mid-late type focused Ace Spec in here over Computer Search is we get enough raw draw and set up through Tropical Beach and Skyla manipulation. Situations may arise where you may have a need to re-use Energy Retrieval after using them all, or bring back a Stadium since they knocked out all of yours via Virbank when Skyla isn’t around to lend a helping hand. One more huge use for Dowsing Machine is to compliment the lone Tool Scrapper. Picture yourself facing against a Garbodor deck. Now, when you strip the tool card you then permit yourself to use Emboar’s ability and load as much energy on the board as your hand allows. With Dowsing Machine, in the event you do face this deck, you get a second chance to load your board with more energy if they somehow catch-up to your board dominating progress. For the end game phase, I shall quickly touch on a subject that applies to more than just running this deck. I’m going to break open the mystery behind defending vs N!


(Image courtesy of long-time PokeBeach fan Rachel Baumbach)

What really bothers me about attending a tournament is listening to bad beat stories in between rounds. I get up from my game and immediately have to listen from ear to ear everybody’s stories about how they should have won the game. One of the most annoying stories to me is hearing about how they would have had it in the bag if only they didn’t suffer to a critical game deciding N. Do not let yourself become victim to the type of mental gymnastics that make you think you did everything you could to win when you really didn’t. From here on out, as long as N is legal and popular in the format, I want your whole mindset of anticipating facing this card to change. If you are one of those that play and think to yourself, “please don’t play N, please don’t play N”, and get the sinking feeling when they table it during any phase in the game, break away from that this instant. There are measures you can take, predominantly in the late game phase, where you can reduce your risks of getting “locked out” of your deck and improve your odds of breaking out of a hand crippling N. If you did everything you possibly could to prepare for N, then you should feel no shame on the occasions you didn’t particularly draw well vs it. This is part of the game!

Ultra Ball, since the beginning of the season, has become my favorite Item Card next to Pokemon Catcher for the late game N preparation tactics it provides. One of my favorite tricks to do with Ultra Ball is to do what I call protecting a lead. What do I mean by protecting a lead? Well, let’s say you are running a deck focused around big basic Pokemon . You are ahead on prizes and need to keep rolling in order to close out the game. By using Ultra Ball, and discarding two cards from your hand and pulling out a Pokemon from a deck, you should be compelled to simply bench it. You have kept a card you do not want to draw into when facing a possibly inevitable N. While on the bench, it has no chance of returning back to your hand and being draw content you’d rather be a supporter. You also got rid of two cards for paying the cost of the requirement. Four cards have now been eliminated as possible N draw. When your opponent is behind by like a 2 or more margin, the odds of a “defensive catcher” are very low and an incorrect play as well due to the time clock.

Another example of disarming N is a situation that happened to me at a City Championship I won in the early rounds. It was late in the game and I was in the lead. I counted how many N my opponent has used and that number was 2. The standard for most decks is 4 so I knew I was going to have to face N before taking my last prizes. My opponent knocked out my active and I sent out a Tynamo into the active position. Now, I had Skyarrow Bridge out, but I elected to use Switch in order to promote my Rayquaza-EX. Then, I used a second Switch to bring Tynamo back out. Finally, I retreated Tynamo for free to bring back Rayquaza-EX. I know that if I am going to face one of two Ns he has left with only 2 prizes to go, I don’t want to re-draw into either of those 2 cards and be in a scary top-deck mode situation. Sure enough, he used N next turn and I ended up getting punted Juniper to draw the game winning Pokemon Catcher. You have to open up your imagination when coming up with game winning strategy. This is what separates novices from experts!


What’s going on, PokeBeach? It’s your boy, 2008 US National Champion Gino Lombardi. Now, I usually don’t do this stuff, but I thought I would tag along for the ride here. When I’m not practicing my discipline at the gym, I’m having a good time with all of my crew talking cards and how to be the very best. Most recently this season, I finished 2nd in a Regional Championship, so you know I’m still on my game. I decided to cover Blastoise. Since he got here on the scene, Blastoise proved to be a throwback to the old Rain Dance days allowing you to attach as much Water Energy as you want in a given turn. You can’t deny it, breaking the only one attachment per turn rule is very beneficial. I could just tell you to Rare Candy into Blastoise, attach all you want, and just win. But, I thought I would be nice and break it down to you a little more in depth…

Pokemon (12):

4 Squirtle BCR

3 Blastoise BCR

3 Keldeo EX

1 Moltres ND

1 Black Kyurem-EX (Plasma Storm)

Trainers (33):

4 Professor Juniper

4 Skyla

3 N

2 Bianca

3 Ultra Ball

1 Heavy Ball

2 Tropical Beach

4 Energy Retrieval

3 Pokemon Catcher

4 Rare Candy

1 Scramble Switch

2 Tool Scrapper

Energy (15):

11 Water

4 Prism

Your objective is to get Blastoise out and make it flurry with his Deluge ability. If you don’t know, the ability allows you to surpass the once per turn attachment condition. Once you do this, you are licensed to send out Keldeo-EX and go to war with Secret Sword. There’s practically no limit to the damage you can do with Keldeo-EX as long as you keep the river of energy running. You have the supporting big hitter in Black Kyurem-EX that gets out there and swings for a straight 200 which actually should be a much higher damage cap than the usual Secret Sword. 200 is such an important number because it effectively knocks out any Pokemon in the game, save from a handful of obscure possibilities (like an opposing Tornadus-EX with an Eviolite or Giant Cape and an Aspertia City Gym stadium in play). Scramble Switch is the Ace Spec of choice here since it allows you to maneuver between attackers while letting you play hide and seek with your energy pool. This deck plays 2 Tool Scrapper, so you are not put in a corner by a Garbodor deck. Scramble Switch gives you an option of combining both of your key abilities into an item card. You effectively get to change the pokemon in the active position (akin to Keldeo-EX’s Rush In) while also arranging energy (akin to Blastoise’s Deluge).

Some people might comment on my funky looking Blastoise evolution line. I didn’t forget Wartortle- he ain’t in here. Taking one from Yamato’s book, we decide to drop Wartortle from our Blastoise line and do without a stage 1 at all. Since we run 4 Rare Candy and 4 Skyla, the goal is to always Rare Candy into a Blastoise. Having to manually evolve takes an extra turn- one that we can’t afford in this speedy format.

Moving on to the recruiting of Moltres into the clique here, you need some sort of fire representation to handle that brand new Klinklang from Plasma Storm that has an ability that guards all Metal Pokemon from any attack from an EX Pokemon. The Heavy Ball is a single copy as well. Now, don’t get it twisted, just because Heavy Ball is single does not make it undesirable. Our main lady Skyla does wonders on making this connection for us. Speaking of Skyla, she does like long walks on the beach. So we have two copies of Tropical Beach to keep us relaxing confidently with big draw in the early game to set up Blastoise and his troop of executioners. Not everyone can make it rain quite like a Blastoise, so if you’re strapped for cash and still want to Deluge, the new item card Bicycle can make a cheap substitution for added consistency, draw power, and ways to work around late game Ns.

Quad Energy Retrieval is a must in this deck. You have to be aggressive with this deck. Once you got your Water Energy taking over the board, you have control. And when something gets knocked out, being able to bring that energy right back into play puts a lot of pressure on your opponent to keep up. Yeah, good luck doing that attaching only one energy at a time.

Your energy here is a colorful variety. The Prism Energy doubles as good supplement for your Moltres and Black Kyurem-EX. All your needs are covered to pack the biggest punch at your State Championship. You don’t have to run it like me, do your own thing, but this will give you a start to figure out your own flavor on how you will come out ahead of the pack at the State Championship.


Hello PokeBeach viewers, you may or may not have heard of me, but I am Justin Sanchez, the 2011 US National Champion. I am here today to give my insight on my favorite deck since the release of Boundaries Crossed-BIG BASICS.

What is “Big Basics?”

Big Basics is a very versatile deck with many different builds. My favorite build would have to be a build focusing on my best bud, Tornadus EX.

Some of you may be wondering what is so special about this vanilla Pokemon. Flat damage, no effects that are to your benefit and 10 less HP than powerhouse cards like Darkrai EX. Well, Tornadus-EX has a mass of cards that can aid to its dominance. Double Colorless Energy allows you to possibly do 60 damage on the first turn, providing you OR your opponent have a stadium card in play to boost up the damage from “Blow Through.” Stadium cards have recently become a “thing” with the release of Virbank City Gym and the constant use of Tropical Beach in optimal Blastoise/Keldeo-EX builds. Not to mention that Tornadus-EX has a couple interesting stadiums of its own! Aspertia City Gym adds 20 HP to any Colorless type Pokemon on the field. That boosts Tornadus-EX up to a whopping 190 HP! With an eviolite attached to it, even Black Kyurem EX’s “Black Ballista” cannot one hit a fresh Tornadus-EX. Skyarrow Bridge reduces the retreat cost of all basic Pokemon in play by 1, which gives Tornadus-EX free retreat. Tornadus-EX is one of the most deadly Pokemon to stare down in the early turns of the game, with a possible turn one 60 and turn two 100 (Power Blast!). Needing any type of energy to attack allows Tornadus-EX to help his friends like Terrakion and Landorus EX fit in some Fighting Energy to get some play time as well. Power Blast does 100 damage for 3 energy and discards an energy if you flip tails. 100 damage for 3 energy is EXTREMELY energy efficient and can even be considered 2 energy thanks to Double Colorless Energy’s providing of two plain energy. Lastly, if that wasn’t enough to make you a believer, Tornadus-EX has fighting resistance, which allows him to take 20 less damage from popular Pokemon like Landorus-EX and Terrakion. I was once very skeptical of this card’s use, but after using this card for all of City Championships and Fall Regionals, I love this guy.

Next up to bat, we’ve got the ever so popular Mewtwo EX.

For only two of any energy, he does 20x the amount of energy attached to your opponent AND himself. That’s a minimum of 40 damage, but a more likely 80+ damage. With the popularity of Keldeo/Blastoise, Mewtwo-EX is a staple in any Big Basic variant. Keldeo-EX/Blastoise is easily your toughest rival, so having all the assets available to beat it is key. I still haven’t even mentioned his most prominent use though! Mewtwo-EX is weak to psychic, so if an opposing Mewtwo-EX has 3 or more energy, your Mewtwo-EX with 2 energy can take it out with one X Ball! The great thing about this is, there are many other ways to KO an opposing Mewtwo-EX. If you both only have 2 energy attached to yourselves, you can play a PlusPower to increase your Mewtwo-EX’s damage by 10, which would also knock out your opponents Mewtwo-EX. Lastly, if you both have two energy attached, you can also use a Hypnotoxic Laser to send your opponents Mewtwo-EX packing. But be wary, Eviolite and Giant Cape can throw off your math, so play cautiously. There are scenarios where certain builds of Big Basics can abuse his Psydrive attack, but those are not common. During Fall Regionals, I was able to run five psychic energy to compliment my Meloetta. Unfortunately, I was not able to use Psydrive effectively. Do not count this guy out of your build, or be tormented by an opposing Mewtwo-EX.

Last up for the big time players, we’ve got Landorus-EX.

For a single Fighting Energy, he does 30 to your opponent’s Active Pokemon and 30 to an opposing Benched Pokemon of your choosing. This is extremely cheap and very good against Eelektrik and Darkrai EX decks (who all have a common fighting weakness.) This 30 damage can also ease up the HP on your opponents Pokemon, to allow your other attackers to score a one hit knock out. Land’s Judgment is a tricky attack to use correctly. For a mere 3 Energy, you do 80 base damage. But, if you discard all of the Fighting Energy attached to Landorus-EX, it adds 70 damage to your attack. That puts you at 150 damage for three energy which can be a HUGE surprise. Energy Switch can allow you to use this attack while your opponent may not think it possible. Surprises like these can win games and even tournaments! Landorus-EX does have two big problems, though. He has weakness to water, which means any damage that the ever so popular Keldeo EX does to it will be multiplied by two. So for 3 Water Energy, Keldeo-EX knocks out Landorus-EX in one hit. It is extremely easy for Keldeo-EX to get 3 Water Energy on it when it is paired with Blastoise, so be wary of benching this guy when playing against Keldeo-EX. If that doesn’t scare you, Squirtle’s “Shell Shield” ability prevents all damage done to it while it is on the bench. So you cannot damage it with Landorus EX’s “Hammerhead” while it is on the bench. Landorus EX’s other problem is its 3 retreat cost. With Virbank and Hypnotoxic Laser entering the format, poison damage will be popular. It will be hard for Landorus-EX to escape the Poison without the aid of a Switch, and even then they can just use their own Pokemon Catcher to bring him up again. Thankfully, even with these flaws, his help in other match-ups makes him an easy 1 or 2 of in any Big Basics deck.

So, now that I’ve covered the three main attackers, you must be wondering “is that it?”. What makes Big Basics so good is the ability to play so many “tech” attackers. “Tech” attackers are Pokemon you play in small numbers to accommodate for certain scenarios or match-ups. Usually, you play Pokemon like Bouffalant DRX, Terrakion NV, Meloetta BC and Stunfisk DRX. There are of course other Pokemon that you can throw in due to the decks versatility. For the most part, you should focus your list around certain attackers preparing for a metagame of certain decks. If you expect a field full of Klinklang decks using the Klinklang from Plasma Storm to prevent damage from EX Pokemon, you would play a couple Terrakion NV and Bouffalant DRX. If you were expecting a field full of Keldeo-EX/Blastoise decks, you would run a decent amount of Mewtwo-EX and Tornadus-EX to apply early and late game pressure.

One of the best things about building a deck like this is that you can really make it your own. It does not have a set strategy that it needs to accomplish other than to overpower your opponent and win the game. Card choices in your deck list can really be the key to doing well at your State Championship. I can honestly say that this is my number one choice as of right now going into State Championships and it would be very unlikely to see me change. The assets and tools you have at your disposal with this deck make me feel like I’m actually building a masterpiece, rather than completing a puzzle like you do with making “good” lists for setup decks.

I am going to list a couple reasons as to why this type of deck is my almost undisputed deck choice for a large event like State Championships and why it could be yours as well.

DONK- It is indeed an unfortunate part of the game, the ability to end a game before it has even really begun. That should not discourage you from playing such a deck, though. If people complain about not getting a turn, or the game ending too quick that is their own fault. Part of the skill in choosing a deck for a tournament is knowing how your worst starts can go and what you can do to stop them. While playing a Big Basic deck, there are very few ways for someone else to turn one you. So I call that a skill in deck choosing in its own category. I choose a deck that gives the best option of winning, even if it means ending a game prematurely or choosing a deck that cannot be beaten so quickly.

SPEED- The quick tempo of a game is something that affects game play to the greatest extent. Putting your opponent on a “clock” to be able to develop their strategy is essentially the strategy of your deck. You force them to make game breaking decisions turn after turn. Some players will make the wrong decision and you can win because of it. Even if they do not make a mistake, the pressure you apply may just simply be too much. There is also some decision making involved while using this deck, so do not be fooled by its aggressive nature. You can misplay with this deck just as easily as you can with a deck that requires setup.

VERSATILITY- I love options. Options are like an arsenal of weapons at your disposal. You can play a certain amount of copies of non-EX attackers to secure your match-up against the “Safeguard” Pokemon such as Klinklang and Sigilyph. You can play a high count of Tornadus-EX to create optimal starts and dish out lots of damage very quickly. These are the sort of things that make great decklists and win tournaments. My favorite part about deck building is the “mad scientist” feeling you get when you feel you’ve created the monster you have been working on. You’ve made this big, bad deck and are ready to terrorize your State Championship with it. That is the sort of feeling I get when testing this deck.

I really hope this information has been of help. I myself need only 151 more Championship Points to secure my Worlds invite. Maybe that means I should add a Mew EX to my decklist (just a joke, Mew is numbered Pokemon 151.) I hope to be able to get another World Championship invitation and see all of my great friends. I have so much fun playing this game, I feel this was the least I could do to help out anyone who needed it. I was once not very good at this game, but I practiced and paid attention to the right people, which in the end paid off my getting me one of the most prestigious titles in the game’s history.

Here is a skeleton for you all to look at that, hopefully it will provide some insight on the things this deck needs to function correctly.


1-2 Landorus EX

2-4 Tornadus EX

2-3 Mewtwo EX

2-3 Regular Attackers (These include a mix or match of Bouffalant DRX, Terrakion NV, Tornadus EP and Stunfisk DRX and others depending on your energy lineup)


4 Double Colorless Energy

8-10 Basic Energy (Typically all Fighting, but you can mix and match these for your techs)


4 Professor Juniper

2-4 N

1-3 Skyla

2-3 Cheren/Bianca

4 Pokemon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2-4 Switch

2 Virbank City Gym

1-2 Skyarrow Bridge/Aspertia City Gym (If you’re packing 3 or more copies of Tornadus EX)

0-2 Eviolite

0-2 Healing Trainers (Such as Potion and Max Potion)

0-1 Tool Scrapper (If you are expecting some heavy tools in your area)

0-2 Bicycle (You can easily deplete your hand with this deck, this card is certainly playable in here)

0-3 Energy Switch (Huge utility card, depending on the way you draw the cards this can be very clutch or extremely mediocre)

0-1 Full Heal (If you think you are struggling against the lasers)

1 Computer Search/Scramble Switch/Dowsing Machine/Gold Potion (Dependent on your metagame or trainer choices)

This is of course not ALL of the cards that you can play in a Big Basics deck, just a look at the most popular choices in the current format. As you can see, there are so many variables involved when building a deck like this, such as the popular metagame decks you expect to see and the way your list is built. This deck is very easy to make your own, which is not something these evolution decks can really boast about. The flexible aspect of this deck is really just something I cannot pass up.

Next up is our surprise guest Ryan Vergel who’s going to take you on a tour through Hypnotoxic Laser and Darkrai-EX…


(Ryan Vergel practicing before a big tournament in Hawaii!)

Hypnotoxic Laser (HTL) is the most impactful card to come out of Plasma Storm, and has quickly changed the landscape of the format. This item card poisons the opponent’s active Pokemon, and has a chance of making your opponent’s active Pokemon also fall Asleep. Although this has a 50% chance of happening, the opponent can flip once during his or her turn to try to wake their pokemon up. The end result is a 25% chance of your opponent’s active Pokemon being Asleep and Poisoned, and 100% chance of poison on your opponent’s turn. At first glance, it appears to be a gimmick- a kind of different PlusPower that doesn’t increase with weakness. However, this card becomes most powerful when combined with the stadium card Virbank City Gym.

Virabank increases the amount of damage poison inflicts, resulting in three damage counters being placed on your opponent’s active in between turns. Sometimes, this results in a Pokemon being knocked out in between turns by poison. This affects two popular Pokemon greatly. Terrakion NVI has the attack Retaliate, and for a long time since its release, this card has been something to help keep Darkrai EX in check. With weakness, it can do 180 damage to Darkrai-EX. The crux is that it requires the opponent to have knocked out a Pokemon their last turn. If a Pokemon is knocked out from Poison, Terrakion is unable to fulfill that requirement of its Retaliate attack and it loses its usefulness as an attacker that can knock Darkrai-EX out for 2 energy. The other greatly affected Pokemon is Lugia EX [Plasma]. This Pokemon has the Ability [Overflow], which allows it to take an additional prize if Lugia-EX knocks out the opponent’s Pokemon. This means that a player with Lugia-EX would be unable to capitalize on any knockouts from Poison damage in between turns.

Given the fact that it is an item card, it is readily abused by Sableye DEX. Combine this with the ability to take knock outs in between turns to bypass Terrakion’s Retaliate, Darkrai-EX/Sableye makes best use of this card. It can easily be used turn one or two, only to be junk hunted against. The result is often 5 or 6 uses of Hypnotoxic Laser each game, meaning a much higher damage output from one of the best pokemon in the format.

Another deck that benefits from this card greatly is the Big Basics deck, which typically denotes a deck that uses all basic pokemon, Double Colorless Energy (DCE) and Fighting Energy. The usual suspects are Tornadus-EX, Bouffalant, and Mewtwo-EX for Pokemon that can make great use of DCE. Landorus EX and rarely- Terrakion NVI (for reasons explained above) make up the other Pokemon to round out the deck’s type advantage over Eelektrik and Darkrai-EX. Since many of these Pokemon can attack for a single energy attachment of Fighting or DCE, HTL works by increasing the possible early damage, and Virbank helps by fulfilling the requirements Tornadus-EX’s Blow Through attack. By already needing stadium cards to be effective, a deck like this mitigates the room that it normally takes to include HTL and Virbank and benefits from its early game high damage.

The other two top tier decks at the moment are Blastoise with Keldeo-EX and/or Black Kyurem-EX PS and Eelektrik with Rayquaza-EX. Blastoise primarily uses Tropical Beach to assist itself in setting up early and drawing lots of cards in a short window. Eelektrik relies on Skyarrow Bridge to make the retreat cost of nearly all of its basic Pokemon 0. Because these two decks already rely heavily on other Stadiums, and because they rely on evolution cards, unlike Big Basics or Darkrai-EX, it gets relegated to never used (or a tech) in this half of the top tier of decks. There simply isn’t enough room.

Many people will begin to use rogue decks that feature lots of disruptive strategy and card choices, and will fit in beautifully by allowing damage to be dealt independent on an attack.

Overall, expect a lot matches to be against a deck that utilizes this card, and prepare for the possibility of remaining Asleep after it is used against you. This is a card that is going to stay popular for a long time.

Below is a deck list for Darkrai-EX and Sableye, the deck that best uses Hypnotoxic Laser:

Pokemon (8):

4 Sableye

4 Darkrai EX

Trainers (41):

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Bianca

2 Skyla

2 Random Receiver

4 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

1 Computer Search

4 Pokemon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

3 Energy Switch

1 Energy Search

2 Dark Claw

1 Eviolite

1 Escape Rope

1 Switch

Energy (11):

11 Darkness

The inclusion of Dark Claw with the Hypnotoxic Laser allows the damage output of Darkrai-EX to change dramatically. With a Dark Claw, HTL, and Virbank, a defending Pokemon would have 140 damage on it before your opponent’s turn. This is enough damage to knock out a Blastoise, and with 30 more damage, easily set up through Night Spear’s benched damage placement, you can hit 170 damage. This knocks out many opposing EX Pokemon such as Rayquaza-EX, Keldeo-EX, and Mewtwo-EX- three of the best and most used Pokemon.

With HTL, Darkrai-EX gets another weapon in its arsenal, and a new way to hit perfect damage amounts to achieve knock outs and win games.

Since the deck has been out for quite some time now, lists are easy to come by, and you probably have your own. Darkrai -EX looks a lot like it used to around Battle Roads and City Championships, essentially swapping out Crushing and Enhanced Hammer for HTL and Virbank respectively. There is slightly more emphasis on Dark Claw instead of Eviolite, but other than that, the deck will look very similar to what you’ve been playing for a long time now.

Some players argue over the merits of Skyla vs Bianca vs Random Receiver in here. Ultimately, the right answer depends on too many factors to have an absolute list or best practice. Skyla works very well with Computer Search and the tech cards of Max Potion, Tool Scrapper, Energy Search, and Switch. Rather than take a particularly extreme route one way or the other, I included 14 “supporter outs”. With 4 Professor Juniper and 4 N as a minimum for drawing consistency, I wanted to include 6 other options.

With 12 supporters, your chances of having a supporter at the beginning of your turn, removing any draws from opponents’ mulligans, are 81.56%. I would love to bore you all with the statistical analysis that produced these numbers, but ain’t no one got time for that with States approaching so soon.

With 13 supporters, this increases to 84.31%. At 14 supporters, you have an 86.7% chance of starting the game with one of these outs. As you can see, the returns for adding additional supporters in your deck diminish with each one. Finding a good balance of increasing consistency while allowing enough room for situational cards is a key element of skill to the game, but the general rule of thumb in this format is 12-14 supporter outs.

With that in mind, you have some degree of openness to deck construction. Try your hand at extreme numbers (like 4 Skyla, 2 Bianca, 0 Random Receiver- or 4 Random Receiver, 2 Bianca, 0 Skyla) to determine what best fits your playstyle, and your deck construction.

More Random Receiver means more early access to Professor Juniper. The other edge to this sword is that you physically have a fewer number of resources, so your supporter outs against a late game N are diminished. Instead of drawing a supporter like Skyla or Bianca, you run the risk of drawing Random Receiver, which might net nothing better than an N, or nothing at all if you ran out of supporters (through discarding or using them).

I included Switch and Escape Rope as answers to opponent’s HTL and Virbank combos. There are quite a few possible answers to opponent’s own use of this incredible combo, from weird techs like Full Heal and Audino, to more typical answers like Keldeo-EX and Switch.

This list and analysis of how Darkrai-EX is impacted with HTL and Virbank will give you the tools to practice against the other big decks out there while having a good starting point to creating your own customized deck list.


John Roberts II is the defending National Champion!

Hello PokeBeach readers!!! I am John Roberts II, the 2012 U.S. National Champion. This is only my second season playing the Pokemon TCG, but I believe I can give some valuable insight on decks and strategies. I can give some credit to quite a few players from my home store in St. Louis, Yeti Gaming. They have helped me become the player I am today.

There is one very important key to my success I would like to stress to the audience. That key is…playtesting. I can’t get the point across enough that playtesting is probably the most important part of preparation before an event. Some can get away with not testing, but most of the time it ends up costing the player either not making cut or not advancing further in cut. Two days before the Winter Regional Championships, I decided to not play Klinklang (played throughout Cities) and put together LMT/Techs instead. Even though I started 8-0 in swiss, then finally losing in round 9, I lost in Top 32 because of the lack of testing. I played a measly 3 games total with LMT/Techs before the regional. Had I tested more, I would have known to include Tornadus EPO, alongside my 1 of techs of Sigilyph and Bouffalant, to combat a swarm of Sigilyph (I played 4 PlusPower). It’s a horrible feeling when you have T1 Blow Through for 60 with Tornadus EX and your opponent starts a lone Sigilyph and then plays down another one and nothing else. I hope my mistake will help you not make the same one. Now that we understand how important playtesting is, now I will help you learn to playtest.

One BIG mistake I see every player make is drawing mulligan cards. You may be thinking, “why is that a mistake?” Let me explain why this is a mistake.

1. You may get another basic with the extra card, possibly preventing a donk. You want to just let the donk happen since nothing is on the line. Winning a game when you should have been donked does not help you prepare for what can happen during the tournament.

2. You may get that card you needed or a card to get you what you need FOR a donk when you otherwise wouldn’t have. The card could have been two draws away or even seven. It doesn’t matter if we have Cheren, Bianca, and Juniper because you could have whiffed had you not drew an extra card or more. You could even draw an Ultra Ball or an extra card for the ultra ball to pull off a combo for the win, T1 KO, or just early pressure.

3. You may be able to set up better because of the extra card(s). Anything from getting that T2 Blastoise or Hydreigon, T2 double or triple eel, or being able to discard one or more dark/lightning energy to be recovered from the discard pile.

All three of those are examples of skewed results and only hinders players from seeing flaws and /or inconsistencies in their deck. It also doesn’t help players get accustomed to tough in game decisions because they have more to work with. Especially with things like Ultra Ball and Skyla. Understand that drawing mulligan cards give you skewed results and does not help you build/tweak your deck to be the best it can be. From now on, in future testing games, ask yourself: Do I want to win against this friend/random opponent or win this next event?

Another thing you should do during playtesting is letting your opponent take back misplays (except on PTCGO). You should allow your opponent to take back energy drops, Catchers, retreats, evolves, Energy Switches, abilities, and anything else that is repairable. Searches apply too, but only for going back in the deck for something else because the deck has already been search altered. Any moves or cards played before a Supporter was played should not be taken back because it is considered an un-repairable game state. Not only that, but a person’s decision can change due to what’s in their hand after the Supporter. Allowing take-backs helps both players learn the correct moves and play against their opponent’s best plays, exploiting any flaws in each player’s deck and/or strategies. Players should also point out any misplays the opponent has made as they make them and tell them why. Here is an example:

I am playing Darkrai. My opponent has two Tynamos on the bench. One has no damage and one has 30 damage. My opponent is able to evolve only one of them into Eelektrik and evolves the one with no damage on it. I would ask my opponent why. If the answer is so the Eelektrik won’t have damage on it, I would tell them that it doesn’t really matter if the Eelektrik has damage on it or not because night spear will KO it regardless and I can KO the Tynamo at the same time.

If both players help each other out, they will be on top of their game come tournament time.

The third important part of play testing is to figure out how useful each card in your deck is. You want to do your best to minimize cards that are usually dead or highly situational unless it is a one of that is necessary for you to beat an unfavorable match-up. During cities, I used Mew EX in my Klinklang deck. It was used in combination with Klinklang EPO to use Charge Beam. When Prism Energy was discarded, I could recover it with Mew-EX and it would be moveable with the “Shift Gear” Klinklang. It can also be used for its own attack, Replace. Any Prisms on either Klinklang can be moved to something else, along with the energy on Mew-EX itself. I played against five Hammertime decks since I started playing Mew-EX and Klinklang EPO and beat every one of them because of that combo. That was an example of a situational card/combo that was vital in an unfavorable match-up. However, you don’t want to play multiples of those kinds of cards unless it does not hurt the consistency of the deck. Through play testing you can find out whether it does or not.

Now on to the deck review!!!

This deck features my favorite Pokemon. You’ve guessed it…it’s Klinklang!!! I feel this will be a very strong deck throughout States and probably Regionals. The deck, as you probably already know, is referred to as “PlasmaKlang.“ It has good matchups across the board except for a couple of decks, which aren’t played much.

I will now cut to the chase about what may be the play for the upcoming State Championships.

The Klinklang deck I used to win U.S. Nationals had so many options for attackers and everything essentially had free retreat. That now has changed. What the deck has lost has been made up for, and in a big way…the immunity from Pokemon-EX attacks!!! That does come with a downside as it only applies to your Metal-type pokemon. Does that mean that the deck is still unplayable? Absolutely not!!! Now, let me tell you why.

Klinklang PLS will be the difference maker in this deck. The Plasma Steel ability will nullify ALL attack damage from the opponent’s Pokemon-EX, meaning at least half of their attackers are useless. They will be forced to attack you with secondary attackers or even their support Pokemon. This will put the opponent in an uncomfortable position. They must be careful with their non-EX attackers, otherwise, they lose. There are, however, a couple of Pokemon-EX that have an attack that goes through this ability. Watch out for them.

Don’t forget about me!!!

Just because we have a new ability Klinklang doesn’t mean we forget about the old one!!! Klinklang BLW is also a key part in the new version of the deck because of the ability to charge up any new attacker as long as the necessary energy is on the board. Three is all you need to be able to attack with anything in the deck while this Klinklang is on your field. You can also use Max Potion to its fullest potential. Just shift the energy off of a Pokemon with damage on it, play Max Potion on it, then you can move the energy right back to it. That is a very strong combo considering the opponent’s turn was essentially “skipped”, especially if their board state was not advanced during their turn.

How broken is that?

I look good in the mirror.

Every deck needs a strong attacker, but the Metal-type has been lacking that…until now. Cobalion EX fits the bill due to the ability to 2HKO any Pokemon-EX. The attack, Steel Bullet, does a flat 100, ignoring Weakness, Resistance, and any other effects on the defending Pokemon. This means that cards like Eviolite, Sigilyph, and even Klinklang PLS don’t affect Steel Bullet. Damage reducing attacks do nothing to the damage either. This make Cobalion-EX the of the two best attackers in the mirror match.

Let me “break” it down for you.

Cobalion NVI has had its time to shine during the cities 2011-12 season and then the 2012 National Championship, being in the winning list. It has been forgotten since then…until now. It will have a resurgence because it is no longer a weak, easy to OHKO Pokemon anymore. That is thanks to Klinklang PLS. This card will be a force because it will be able to combat any non-EX attacker and render them useless with Iron Breaker, forcing switching shenanigans in order for the “broken” Pokemon to attack the next turn. I will be highly useful in the mirror match, especially if the opponent does not have a Klinklang BLW in play. Look out for this card if you don’t want to lose to it.

You can run, but you can’t hide!!!

One of the big reasons for my nationals winning Klinklang deck’s success was the excessive ability to snipe. I can still go the route of using Darkrai, Groudon or Landorus, and Kyogre, but since they are not Metal-type, they are not protected by Klinklang‘s “Plasma Steel“ ability. However, there is an alternative that is Metal-type. That alternative is Registeel EX. The attack, Triple Laser, can do 30 damage to THREE Pokemon of your choice, active or bench. That attack is ridiculous!!! Not only can you set up for easier KOs with Triple Laser, but you can finish off damaged Pokemon with it as well. You can also KO 60HP basics on the bench in two hits, denying your opponent their evolutions(or more of them) if they cannot get them out in time. Registeel EX’s second attack, Protect Charge, has been forgotten by most and I can understand why. Does that mean the attack is bad?…Not at all. Protect Charge can turn 2HKOs into 3HKOs from most non-ex attackers, allowing you to be able to Max Potion the damage off on the second hit. Combined with Eviolite, you are reducing damage by 40, taking Registeel EX out of OHKO range from even Benchtini and Victini EX!!! I’m sure that situation won’t come up too often, but if it does, it can be game breaking.

Now that I have given my review of PlasmaKlang, I will go on to the sample list:

Pokemon (15):

3 Klinklang PLS

1 Klinklang BLW

1 Klang DEX

4 Klink DEX

4 Cobalion EX

1 Cobalion NVI

1 Registeel EX

Trainers (34):

4 N

3 Professor Juniper

3 Skyla

2 Bianca

2 Colress

3 Heavy Ball

2 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy

2 Max Potion

3 Pokemon Catcher

4 Switch

1 Eviolite

1 Computer Search

Energy (11):

11 Metal Energy

Keep in mind that this is only a sample list based on “standard.” I suggest to anyone using this list to test it and make changes before taking it to State Championships.


I would like to thank each of these outstanding gentlemen for participating in this article. I hope after reading this you feel a bit more knowledgeable on this brand new Plasma Storm environment. Also, I feel the steps organized play took to try to improve numbers on the Juniors and Seniors division by adding a larger bonus to their prize pool was a good move. Honestly, the more serious player in the Masters division will probably find a way to get to these events no matter what since most players play for the social environment. A more desirable monetary outcome may make a skeptical parent less reluctant to let a prospective younger trainer compete. With that said, take care, and thanks for reading. I love you all! (But not as much as WPM.)