Hey PokeBeach, I am happy to be back again for another article! Today I want to talk about metagaming and the best ways to use metagaming to help you pick a deck to play. Metagaming is a very important tool for players to utilize as it can really improve how your tournament run goes. I am going to go over what a metagame is, the different types of metagames, and how to pick a deck based on the size of the tournament. With that out of the way, let us get into the article!
What is a Metagame?
Metagame is a term used to describe all the prominent decks in a specific format. Metagames are always shifting and it can be hard to pinpoint exact decks within it. Within a metagame, there are tiers, which is a term that is used to categorize decks within a given metagame. The levels of tiers show how well a deck can perform and are usually put together based on how well a deck has done at a given set of tournaments.
Tier one decks are often seen in the top eight of tournaments and will usually give good performances. Tier two decks are usually just slightly worse overall than the tier one decks and, for the most part, only succeed when they goes up against the right matchups, but can still do fairly well against everything else. Tier three makes up the decks that may have some potential or some sort of strategy, but do not work very well or will only rarely do well at tournaments. For the most part, tier three decks should not be played at tournaments, unless there is a flaw in the metagame and this tier three deck has excellent matchups against the top decks.
The Different Types of Metagames
Metagames can be organized into different types, which help classify the amount of decks in a metagame and why certain decks are in the metagame. I am going to cover the metagames we have had recently and currently. I see these metagames as staying around for the foreseeable future, so I will not go over some of the more obscure metagames, as I cannot really see our Metagame going in that direction.
This is a metagame where you will have three distinct top tier decks, or three types of decks that all counter each other. Let’s say you have deck A, B, and C. In this type of metagame deck A would beat deck B, deck B would beat deck C, and deck C would beat deck A. We have had a type of rock-paper-scissors format this past season during the first couple weeks of State Championships. Seismitoad-EX decks were clearly the number-one deck, but there were still Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX decks that would hard-counter Seismitoad. The last deck was not really one deck, but a group of decks that would lose to Seismitoad, but beat Virizion. These included things like Night March, Flareon, and Landorus-EX / Crobat. In these metagames it can be very tough to decide on a deck, as you have to try and pick “paper” while everyone is playing “rock” and make sure there is little “scissors.” I have found that the best way to decide on which deck to play is to go a step ahead and play the counter to the counter of the deck that did well the previous week. To go back to my previous example, if everyone played Seismitoad week one, I would go to Flareon to counter all the Virizion that will come to counter the Seismitoad. Sometimes this does not work out, but recently I have been seeing this as the trend.
“Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock” / “Open” Metagame
I am grouping these two together as they often overlap with each other and sometimes go back and forth between each other. The “rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock” format is very similar to the “rock-paper-scissors” format, but has more complexity. It usually involves one or two more decks that counter each other. This makes it a little harder to decide on a deck to play, but I would still follow the guidelines I stated for a regular “rock-paper-scissors” format. The “open” format can stem from a “rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock” format where there are a lot of good tier one decks that can all do well. These metagames are a real mess and are the kind of formats we have had for the past couple of months. A few of the decks that can be considered tier one or on the border of tier one are M Manectric-EX decks, Yveltal-EX decks, Night March, Vespiquen, and Archie’s Blastoise. But people also play other things which have high potential of doing well, like Seismitoad-EX variants, Vileplume, and Bronzong / Tyrantrum-EX. This metagame is extremely difficult to decide on a perfect deck. For these I would recommend picking a deck that can do generally well against most things, but does better against what has been doing well previously. Decks like Night March and Vespiquen are good because they have solid matchups across the board and only lose a couple of matchups.
How to Pick a Deck
Picking a deck can be one of the toughest decisions in the Pokemon TCG. I am going to go over some tips on how to decide on a deck for a tournament. I will separate how to pick a deck into categories based on the size of the event, as there are different guidelines you have to follow depending on the size of the event.
League Challenges can be surprisingly difficult to metagame. This can be caused by some people bringing very strange decks that they are trying to test out, or you might see some newer players playing some type of weird deck. Also, the League Challenge format is very brutal, as to win, you often have to go undefeated for around five rounds. Because of these reasons, when you go into a League Challenge, you should play a deck that is consistent and has good matchups across the board. In almost all cases you cannot count on going against the same deck multiple times in a row. As a result, your deck choice has to be able to deal with a multitude of decks. Something like Archie’s Blastoise or Yveltal-EX in Expanded are good choices as they have even matchups across the board. Another thing to do for is learn the area. If you have consistent League Challenges in your area, take note of what players play most often or what decks people tend to favor, and use that knowledge to help you decide on a deck.
One time, during the start of the season, I decided to go to a League Challenge where I know the majority of the players. I figured out that there was a good chance at least one player was going to use Wailord-EX at the tournament, so I teched a Bunnelby into my Night March. It eventually paid off, as I was paired against Wailord in the final round and the Bunnelby won me the tournament. The thing to take away from this example is that you do not want to go into a League Challenge hoping you will not get paired against a certain matchup. If you find that to be the case with your deck, teching for it or playing a different deck would be the best course of action, because, since the tournament is so small, there is a good chance that you will play against it. You have to make sure your deck does not have a completely unwinnable matchup because if you go against it, your chance of winning the tournament is bar none.
City Championships, or Cities for short, are the tournaments I have historically done well best at. They are crucial for securing your Worlds invitation as they can help you rack up a lot of Championship Points. Cities can also be very fun to metagame, as they go on for such a large period of time, causing the metagame to shift dramatically from the first week to the last. Trends during Cities often take longer to change than Regional Championships. For example, Donphan was a big deck at the start of Cities last season, but it stayed around for a long time. It was still winning two or three weeks into Cities. Then people came up with defensive Yveltal-EX builds to combat Donphan, which stuck for another couple of weeks. This is caused by the amount of Cities that are going on and that people are spread out over such large areas that it may take a while for a deck that works in one area to migrate to another.
In contrast, Regionals are very scarce, so people from all over the country come to one place, and there is only one result to research. This causes people to make drastic changes from one week to the next, and the top deck does not usually stick. As a result, when picking a deck for Cities, look at the recent trends and try to figure out if they have been around long enough to the point where people would change, or if they have only been around for a short amount of time and people will stick with them. When going into a City Championship, your deck does not have to be as clear-cut consistent as it would be for a League Challenge. You are given some room to lose one or two games and still make top cut, and there will usually not be too many rounds. But because Cities are small events, you can play a deck that is targeted to beat a certain deck. In a smaller environment like Cities, there is less of a chance for unexpected decks to show up, and if you do end up playing against your one auto-loss, it’s still possible make top cut.
State / Regional Championships
I am going to group these two together because they are very similar in the way trends change from week to week, and the only difference is that Regionals is a lot larger, so you will want to have a more consistent deck that can make it through the huge amount of rounds. When playing at a States, you can afford to play a less consistent deck because the amount of rounds is a lot less. Like I mentioned earlier, the trends in these events change drastically from week to week. The deck that was number one could drop from existence in the next week. For example, last season I went to one States during the second week and Seismitoad-EX was everywhere. It ended up taking first place and many people were playing it (including myself). The next week, however, I thought that Seismitoad would still be dominant, but instead, Grass decks were everywhere to beat the Seismitoad.
Another example of this was these past few Fall Regionals. The first week, Blastoise and Yveltal-EX dominated, so in week two people built M Manectric-EX / Garbodor to counter those two top decks. Another option that people put into their decks was Ghetsis. This was because the top deck, Blastoise, was so reliant on Items that if you used Ghetsis on turn one, you could shuffle away their whole hand. Also, people were reliant on using Battle Compressor and VS Seeker for their Supporters, and Ghetsis would remove all of that. The thing to take away is that in such large tournaments, people will often counter the top deck going into the next week, so you should try to go for a deck that counters the counter. Now, you do not want to just take complete losses to the previous top deck because it will still be around. A deck that ended up winning and was a good choice for the second week of Regionals was Vespiquen. This deck could still fair against Yveltal and Blastoise, but it also did well against Manectric. This can be very difficult to do, as you have to figure out the counter and then figure out what counters the counter, but that is what is necessary to be successful at this level of a tournament.
I have gone over the specifics of metagaming and how you should approach different sized tournaments, but do not take these as the only rules. There are many more things that could possibly go into metagaming that I may not have mention, so please let me know if you have anything else to add. I did not go over National-level events because I do not think that I can justify what I would say to be the best advice. I have only played in one Nationals since I started playing, and I do not think it would be right to talk about something that I do not have much experience in. In the rest of these tournaments I have either had success myself or have had very close friends succeed and can explain what they did to achieve it. Thanks again for taking the time to read through my article and I look forward to seeing you guys in the future!