What’s up guys? Chris from the Beach FINALLY back with another article! School and playtesting have occupied my whole life lately, limiting my time to write articles. Since my last article, I attended both the World Championships and Fall Regionals, and let’s just say my Worlds run didn’t go quite as planned (1-4-2).
But I’m not here to talk about my Worlds run! I’m here to talk to you about my performance at San Jose Regionals, which I got Top 8 at with Donphan. I’ll discuss why I chose the deck I did, some of its matchups, and go over each of my rounds and opponents. It was quite the tournament — 15 matches in total — and it was a complete blast to play in! It was great to see all my friends from SoCal, NorCal, Idaho, etc. that weekend and I can’t wait to see you guys again. I am also going to look over a few decks in Standard for you guys to test around with. With Cities starting just later this week, I’ve been hard at work trying out different decks to play for these tournaments and I think all of you will enjoy reading about some of my top choices.
To a lot of people, Donphan seemed like a poor play for the current meta and it was a total surprise to see two of them Top 8 at San Jose Regionals. With all the Archie’s Blastoise, Yveltal-EX, and Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX running around, it seemed like there was no room for Donphan to shine. But, if you look at the results from Lancaster Regioanls (the only Regionals the week prior to San Jose), you’ll see M Manectric-EX / Garbodor and Vespiquen were the big hitters of the event, leading to its rise in popularity. Both of these matchups are a walk in the park for Donphan when played correctly, which I will talk about in my report below. Also, going into the tournament, I knew my deck had to beat Yveltal for two reasons. 1) California players love playing Yveltal, and 2) it was arguably the BDIF (best deck in format) at the time, with its capability to deal with any deck. Have a look at the list I played:
3x N (NVI #101)
Historically, Donphan hasn’t had a positive matchup against Yveltal decks — especially the good pilots — and the addition of Archeops only seems to make it worse. But, we’re gonna make a 180 on this matchup. It’s important to note that most Donphan decks in the past didn’t run Focus Sash, and when they did, Yveltal was not a relevant deck. But, with Yveltal and Donphan with Focus Sash finally clashing, you’ll see that Donphan’s matchup against the big bird does in fact increase a little. Being able to equip your Hawlucha is game changing. Even though most Yveltal decks run Hypnotoxic Laser to counter this strategy, there are some things you have to consider. There will likely be a point where the Yveltal player misses a beat on Lasers, especially if they are only running three Lasers like we’ve seen with recent lists, and there are still six Pokemon the Yveltal player has to Knock Out. Being able to swarm your opponent with powerful, cheap, hard-to-kill attackers is Donphan’s strategy. So, eventually, the Donphan player is usually able to run the Yveltal player dry of his / her resources.
Also, there is of course the obvious counter to Yveltal in this deck. Jolteon letting Donphan hit for Weakness can sway games easily. Having an easy answer to Baby Yveltal makes this matchup undoubtedly in your favor. You can just proceed with your usual strategy without much disruption to deal with.
Like Yvaltal, Donphan did not like Flareon much at all in the past. But once again, this is back in a format where most Donphan players did not play Focus Sash. Now you can approach the matchup in a totally different light. As the Donphan player, your goal should be to set up your Donphan, put Focus Sashes on them, and two-shot their attackers. Switching into Robo Substitute at correct times should either force them to attack into the Robos, or use their Lysandre outs on a Donphan with a Focus Sash and eventually run them dry of Lysandre outs, forcing them to attack into Robos anyway.
As the good Donphan player, your game plan should be to drain your opponent’s resources while they battle to take any Prizes at all, let alone six. And if they do take the early lead with some good draws, they must face the music eventually and attack into those Robo Substitutes. The main reason I decided to play Donphan for San Jose is because I saw that it had good matchups against the field, even though history said otherwise. I saw perfectly how I should be playing each matchup, which is the best leg you can ever have on your opponent. It’s also important to note that Focus Sash is a brilliant card currently, especially with most players cutting Tool Scrapper / Startling Megaphone.
To be perfectly honest, I had only played one game with Donphan before the tournament and most of my thoughts about the deck were theorymon-based. I was going to play M Manectric-EX / Garbodor and had sold myself on the deck for the longest time. But last minute, I decided to play Donphan due to my experience with it in the past, and it covered the same matchups M Manectric-EX / Garbodor did. Plus, it had a rocking Vespiquen matchup.
Round 1 vs. Gabriel Quiroz w/ Yveltal / Archeops
Going up against last year’s SoCal Regional champ round one wasn’t a pleasant sight, but I had confidence in my abilities. We played at that Regionals he won, where we were both 4-0 at the time. I was his first game loss, but we ended up tying the series. I picked up on some of his habits during our game and had a burning feeling he was playing Yveltal today.
Game one goes horribly for me. He gets turn one Archeops on me and I didn’t have splendid draws throughout the game, so he ends up taking game one. It was at this point I was wondering if I had once again made a horrible deck choice based solely on theorymon. But, I knew the situation I was in. I simply had some bad variance and I needed to get my act together and prepare to take this series.
As game two rolls along, he once again gets a turn one Archeops. This was of course a big roadblock to my strategy, but I knew that Hawlucha could very well hold its own with the Pokemon he had to lay down to get that turn one Archeops (Shaymin-EX, Jirachi-EX). As it turned out, I was able to get him into very tricky situations and was able to take the series solely under the wings of Hawlucha taking out an Yveltal-EX, a Darkrai-EX, and a Jirachi. There was a point in the game where he could take two Prizes off of two Hawlucha, hence the Darkrai Prizes.
Game three was definitely the easiest game for me to complete, but I knew the clock was running relatively short, so I knew I had to play a little faster. He finally misses the turn one Archeops and, in fact, misses it for quite a while, so I was finally able to execute my strategy without disturbance. I had taken early Prizes with Hawlucha and had Donphan clean shop with a Spinning Turn for 180 on an Yveltal-EX. But, once time was called, I was at two Prizes and Gabriel was turn zero. At this point in time my board was awkwardly spread to where he was able to take a double KO with a Darkrai and leave me with not much of anything. But little did he know that my hand had a Hawlucha and a Fighting Energy. So, I laid down the Hawlucha, the Energy, and had to hit my one Silver Bangle and one Silent Lab in the deck to win this turn. I used Professor Sycamore to fortunately draw into both. This game I felt was a true testament to my ability to go far in this tournament.
Round 2 vs. ??? w/ Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX
This game was an easy 2-0 for me, but this is not at all an accurate representation to how the matchup usually goes. This player made very odd plays and seemed to not quite know how to play the matchup. He had only powered up one Giratina-EX and when he eventually used Super Scoop Up on it after it taking a few hits, he had no other Giratina to follow up with, leaving me a turn to explode and put all of my damage applicators on the board.
Round 3 vs. Vinnie Haffner w/ M Manectric-EX / Garbodor
I had actually done some testing with Vinnie the night before the tournament and he decided that he wanted to play the same 60 as I was going to play. He knew that I had changed up decks and was rightfully not confident with his ability to win the series. The series went exactly as expected and I was even able to use Vinnie’s Rough Seas on my own Donphan, thanks to Jolteon.
Round 4 vs. Chris ??? w/ Yveltal (maybe Archeops)
The reason I say he maybe played Archeops is because he didn’t get it out, and if he did, it wasn’t a game-changing card by the time he got it out. The first game was rather long since he decided to take the Baby Yveltal route for some time, but I was eventually able to set up Jolteon and take the game. Knowing that game took at least 35 minutes, I knew that I should probably take my time with each action I take (not to the point of stalling, of course). Elaborate each move and make sure it’s correct. I also knew that if I put my opponent in an awkward situation, that would also waste time. Lo and behold, right before my eyes, I saw my opponent taking some 30-90 seconds on some of his actions and he had started to crumble on himself. As soon as time was called, he had not taken enough Prizes for him to close off the game in the +3, and I took the series.
Round 5 vs. Dallan Fell w/ Groudon
As I was sitting down, I noticed that my eventual opponent was talking with Stephan Tobacco, who made Top 16 at U.S. Nationals with Primal Groudon-EX. Stephan went with Groudon once again for this tournament, so it was very possible I was playing against Groudon. Knowing that my team, OtterChops, and I geared our Donphan deck to beat Groudon for Worlds (even though I played Seismitoad-EX / Garbodor like an idiot), I felt favored in this matchup, but I knew it wouldn’t be an easy one. Groudon is the kind of deck to have little tricks up its sleeve to sway some games, so I knew I had to tread lightly. This game, as presumed, takes forever to finish and eats up at least 35 minutes. As a Groudon player, it’s key for you to know your opponent’s counts on resources inside and out, and Dallan spent a lot of time checking my discard. He also had a Regirock in his deck, which would cause me some heartache since I must attack it with Donphan. I ended up winning the game, and eventually the match, all off of using Professor Sycamore to find my last Muscle Band. Overall, it was interesting to see Groudon’s potential with a good pilot and the support of Tropical Beach.
Round 6 vs. Colin Coyle w/ Vespiquen / Flareon
All of my friends were saying I was favored in this matchup, but I just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of two-shotting a Vespiquen or Flareon while I can only take two hits with Donphan via Focus Sash.
I should’ve heard myself back then.
As explained before, this idea of attaching Focus Sash to Donphan and only sending up Robo Substitute is not to win some exchange, it’s to run your opponent dry of resources. The games almost play themselves if you know how to play the matchup, and that’s exactly what happened. I did unfortunately dead draw one game and took the series 2-1, but it’s still a win. Knowing Colin’s caliber of play by facing him in the past, I felt very confident with myself exiting the table.
Round 7 vs. David Rodriguez w/ Yveltal / Archeops
Once again I’m paired against Yveltal and I feel confident in my ability to play this matchup. This series went almost identical to the way my round four game went, except on turn one of time I was left with one Phanpy on the Bench and had to hit a Basic Pokemon of some sorts (a Donphan or Focus Sash could save me in this situation too) off a four-card N to win the series. Luckily I hit not one, but two Basics and I took the series.
Round 8 vs. Justin Poist w/ Donphan
Justin was running Jon Eng’s Lancaster list 59 / 60 cards (-1 Bangle, +1 Band). Knowing this, I thought I might’ve had the slightest advantage in this match, but when the matchup consists of us just using Spinning Turn repeatedly, and the only crucial resources I have that he doesn’t are an extra Hawlucha and Fighting Energy — which are very minor resources at that — it really just came down to whoever went first in the grand scheme of things. The only foreseeable advantage I had against Justin is knowing Hawlucha is a great wall in this matchup. Being a non-EX resistant to Fighting is never something for a Donphan player to scoff at. In most of those situations, I would set up my Jolteon, hit for Weakness, and be fine, but the problem was that Donphan itself is resistant to Lightning, so setting up Jolteon was the last thing on my mind.
Unfortunately, Justin won the coin flip and eventually took the series 1-0 from me. The only way I felt I could’ve played the match better was if I scooped game one early and went for the tie. But, knowing Justin had great success in the Senior division the prior year, I felt like we were on even footing and it would just come down to a coin flip. Literally.
Round 9 vs. Bohdi Tracy w/ M Rayquaza-EX
Bohdi felt perfectly fine taking an ID with me as he was ready to go back to the hotel, he felt the matchup was even, we had already made Day Two of competition, and we were friends. After a lot of thought, I eventually took the tie, and here’s why.
I knew that in order to make Top 8 tomorrow, I would need 30 match points. As it stood, I would have 22 match points by the end of Day One. This meant I needed to get eight match points tomorrow. A 2-1-2 record tomorrow would get me there exactly. This meant I had to only win two games. Being a Donphan player, I knew I could take two games to ties easily if I wanted to, or agree to some intentional draws. If I played out round nine and won, I would need to go 2-3 or 1-1-3 to make cut. Feeling it would be unreasonable for three of my five games tomorrow to end up as ties, I would still have to win two games regardless of whether I tied or won this game, but me losing the game would mean I would have to go 3-2 tomorrow, and I hated the sound of that. Being the statistically right decision, I gladly took the ID.
These were the standings after Day One:
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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