Hello PokeBeach readers! I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend — I know I sure did! Getting together with extended family at this time of year is one of the highlights of my Fall and this Thanksgiving did not disappoint. Family and friends came from all over the Midwest to share in the celebration. Whether it’s the food that gets you most excited, seeing family, or even a favorite tradition like watching football, I hope you give thanks for being able to set aside time to be with friends and family.
One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is attending Pokemon tournaments. Every year for the past three to four years, Michigan has held a mini marathon consisting of two or three Cities on the weekend after Thanksgiving. This means I can hang with the fam on Wednesday and Thursday, then hang with the friends Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This is such an overpowered combo that it should be banned from the format! Joking aside, this makes for a very convenient weekend as the tournaments are held within an hour of where I spend Thanksgiving.
This year there I attended three City Championships immediately following Thanksgiving, and I cannot wait to play in even more in the coming weeks. What I love about Cities is that they are low stress, but high reward. Sure, there is some pressure because you’re paying $10 to attend a single tournament, but the CP payout for winning is necessary enough to keep me eager to come back. Winners this year are taking home playmats that look absolutely incredible! I also appreciate the low commitment of Cities — only one day of competition has me giving thanks and is a welcome respite from the multi-day Regional tournaments. Add in the fact that there are a ton of City tournaments over the course of a few months and Cities are one of my favorite times of the Pokemon season.
Our Cities will be played in the Standard format, and I could not be more pumped; I am all about Standard! For one, I feel it is a much more exciting, balanced, fun, and skill-intensive format than Expanded. Why do I say that? I have more fun when I win, and I win more games when the format involves more skill. Even though dead drawing is a common occurrence (which we will see evidence of later on in the article), I find that the interactions of the current card pool are quite complex which inherently leads to the more skilled players winning more often. Take a card like the Jirachi Blister Promo. This card not only discards Special Energy, but it also has the powerful auxiliary effect of preventing effects of opponent’s attacks if it does so. Additionally, cards like Dodrio, Zoroark, Swampert, Gallade, and Banette have unique Abilities that either get around a major hurdle, increase a deck’s attacking power, make the deck more consistent, or a combination of these! What I love about the format is all the versatility there seems to be. Even though a number of these techs don’t see consistent play right now, I have a feeling they will once the format evolves further.
In order to give both the writers and staff here at PokeBeach a jump on the Cities season, as well as provide our readers a look at what they might expect if they were to attend a Cities, I decided to host a tournament. This tournament was held in a best-of-three format with double elimination. Even our esteemed editors had the chance to get in on the action as Sam VerNooy and Oliver King put up solid performances. After a grueling tournament that took about two weeks, we found a champion. Congratulations to Sam VerNooy on winning the inaugural PokeBeach tournament!
First of all, I’d like to explain that there were some natural short comings involved in the results of the tournament. In such a centralized tournament with only eight people, best-of-three matches, and double elimination, it is difficult to accurately predict the absolute best deck in format given that our winner could have hit his best matchups, not played against his worst matchups, or he was somehow able to pull out a win against a bad matchup. Thus, if we were to play more games with more people and more different decks, the winner’s list would have a better argument to being the best deck in the format. Of course, as the Standard format evolves, new decks could come out that easily counter the decks that performed well in our tournament.
It is my hope that this overview of the tournament is a helpful guide for your testing and gives you a hint at what some of the best players in their respective regions are testing. Don’t think that walking in with the Premium Writer Tournament’s winning list is going to guarantee a win in your next City Championship; however, it’s probably a better deck than the one you think of in the car ride over and scribble down moments before registration ends.
In this article, I want to share with you my experience in the tournament with a deck that has seen some hype overseas. Then, I will look at some of the findings from each of the matches and give potential techs that could improve a deck’s particular matchup. I will also give you the exact card-for-card deck lists of the competitors. Finally, I will let you know what I will be playing this weekend at my first City Championship. Sound good? Okay, let’s get started.
The Biggest Flop
I viewed this tournament as a laboratory to test a quirky deck that I hadn’t played much before. That didn’t mean I didn’t want to win, though. I expected to win, and I felt very comfortable with my list going into the tournament. That comfort was quickly evaporated after I was swiftly removed from the tournament with an 0-2 record, losing to editors Sam VerNooy and Oliver King.
In my last article I hyped a new version of Vespiquen that included Banette. This deck excited me, and won me a ton of games on PTCGO. However, I felt like testing something totally different would be the best use of my time spent playing in this tournament. There was practically nothing stopping me from playing an untested list so I went in with a deck Andrew Mahone told me had been the #1 Standard format choice for his overseas friends: Lucario-EX / Crobat. This deck seemed to have so many positives, including:
- Tankability with the help of Focus Sash
- Strong damage modifiers in Crobat lines, Muscle Band, Strong Energy, and Fighting Stadium
- Great non-EX attacker in Hawlucha
- Ability to snipe Pokemon on the opponent’s Bench
- Draw power with Lucario-EX’s second attack
These positive attributes were things Andrew and I talked about and really made me want to test the deck against good players. I ultimately decided to forgo Vespiquen in favor of what I thought would be the deck that swept through the tournament, Lucario / Bats.
1x AZ (PHF #91)
What I figured would put this deck over the edge was the high count of Focus Sash, as well as a Miltank to further increase the favorable Prize trade with non-EX decks like Vespiquen and Night March. I also liked the consistency Lucario-EX seemed to have with its powerful second attack, and I figured I would be able to get whatever resources I wanted when I wanted them. I included a high Ball count in order to grab Golbat and Crobat whenever I needed the extra damage.
Round 1 – Sam VerNooy (Vespiquen)
I figured the field would include a significant amount of Vespiquen and Night March because decks that run four Battle Compressor and high counts of Shaymin-EX seem to be the most consistent in the Standard format. My prediction proved true as the first round I played Sam VerNooy’s Vespiquen list! Sam’s list was actually based off the list I posted in my last article — the most obvious inspiration being his inclusion of Banette— so it was funny that he was able to beat me with some of my own ideas. I will give out the list he used at a later point in this article.
Lucario / Bats vs. Vespiquen (40-60)
Game one I got fairly lucky on a crucial misplay by Sam. Sam needed to recover some Pokemon late in the game, but because he played Sacred Ash over Super Rod, he was forced to shuffle in more Pokemon into his deck than he needed. After playing Sacred Ash, Sam was unable to get a OHKO on a Lucario-EX which allowed me to make a huge comeback to win. Sam still had a chance at the end of the match, but I was able to draw into a Lysandre to KO his final Vespiquen, ensuring victory.
Game two was easily taken by Sam due to a technical misplay on my end. Early game I made a slight misplay when I decided not to attach a Focus Sash to my Lucario-EX in order to save it for a different Lucario. Sam had no more than five Pokemon in his discard which meant that he would’ve needed to draw into three Battle Compressor and Ultra Ball away two more Pokemon to get the OHKO, which is precisely what Sam did. In retrospect, I still feel as though I made the correct decision as Vespiquen usually struggles to get turn two OHKOs on Pokemon-EX. I try to make a comeback, but I couldn’t recover because of Banette preventing my Lucario-EX from lasting more than one turn.
Game three was ugly as we both open dead hands and draw / pass. I draw out of my bad hand when I top deck a Professor Sycamore, but I end up having to discard a ton of resources including two Strong Energy and two Golbat. Sam also top decks a Supporter on his turn and slowly gets set up. During this game, I couldn’t get out many Crobat due to discarding Golbat early, and Sam’s Banette allows him to mow through my Lucario-EX with ease.
The matchup was moderately close, but ultimately Banette was what I felt shifted the matchup in Sam’s favor. My Lucario’s instantly became less powerful when Banette hit the field as his Vespiquen could easily OHKO my main attacker and leave me scrambling for Energy attachments.
Round 2 – Oliver King (Zoroark BREAK / Vespiquen)
I knew I had to brush off the loss to Sam quickly. There was no more margin for error! I knew Oliver would be a tough competitor — who says our editors aren’t good players? Oliver played a wacky Vespiquen list that included a hefty Zoroark line for swift hitting out of nowhere. Zoroark’s Ability gave his deck added smoothness and allowed him to switch between attackers with ease. The largest hurdle for my Lucario-EX / Crobat deck were his two Yveltal (!!!), which were able to break my Lucario-EX’s Focus Sash and then be followed up with a Zoroark for the Knock Out.
Lucario / Bats vs. Zoroark / Vespiquen (40-60)
Oliver’s list was quite inventive — I hadn’t seen many people discussing Zoroark, even though it was an obviously powerful card. Looking at Oliver’s list after the tournament, I was surprised it was as consistent as it was. I think in an ideal turn, he’d be able to use Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick to set up a Gallade, but that didn’t happen in any of our games. Still, Oliver was a great competitor and his deck gave mine fits.
Both games I drew really poorly. Game two I went a whole eight turns before drawing a Supporter, all while Oliver set up a commanding field of multiple Zoroark and Vespiquen. Again, I liked the inclusion of Yveltal as it can do serious work against my Fighting Pokemon that have Focus Sash, as well as any Night March decks.
Final Thoughts on Lucario / Crobat
Dead drawing was a common theme for many competitors in the tournament, but especially me with Lucario-EX / Crobat. After playing five games with the deck I knew Lucario / Crobat wouldn’t be able to stand up to the speedy Battle Compressor decks simply because it is more prone to terrible starts. Even with Corkscrew Smash to fill a hand back up to six, the deck has significant trouble drawing into resources from the start. For this reason, Lucario-EX / Crobat is not on my list of decks to test for Cities; however, if you do decide to play it, I have a few suggestions:
- Add another Shaymin-EX for additional draw power
- Include a Professor's Letter to dig out Energy early
- Play a Town Map to stream attackers easier
- Ditch the Miltank in favor of a third Lucario
Again, I would tell everyone that asks me about this deck not to play it. I do not believe it has the speed to match Battle-Compressor-based decks and I guarantee that it doesn’t trade Prizes favorably with them. If you’ve been thinking about playing this deck for Cities, you’ve been warned!
Rest of the Tournament
Here is a rundown of the decks that saw play in the tournament and their final placements:
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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