Macho Libre! Brawling it Out at City Championships
Hello again ‘Beach goers! I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season and racking up your City Championship finishes. This is by far my favorite time of year, so I’m happy to touch base with you amidst the chaos and excitement that defines City Championships. I stated in my last article that this is best time of year to grow as a player. With metagames changing on a day-by-day basis, players are tested on their adaptability and creativity more so than any other time of the season. Thus far, Standard has proven to be a diverse format with dozens of viable options. This has fostered a fun and engaging format to play in where deck-building skills and metagaming strategies are showcased regularly.
New decks have been bursting out of the woodwork here during the first few weekends of Cities. M Gallade-EX, Entei / Charizard-EX, Houdoom-EX, and even an old favorite, Primal Kyogre-EX, have earned top finishes at Cities across the country despite being underrated. I am proud to report I have contributed to the variety of decks seen at the top tables by piloting both Magnezone / Raikou and, most recently, Lucario-EX / Hawlucha / Hammers to second place City Championship finishes. Though this is the first year I have lost in the finals of a City Championship, I am happy with the progress I have made in my own deck building and flexibility. Both of my finals matches were excellent series that went to game three, and both of them went to time with one being a sudden death situation. Either of them could have gone my way, but sometimes things just don’t work out. Both situations were learning experiences and both finals matches revealed to me ways I could have improved my lists, which ultimately benefits me, and, consequently, all of you.
I wrote about Magnezone in my last two articles, but today I am happy to debut my own creation: Lucario / Hawlucha / Hammers! My latest creation has been doing wonders in my testing as well as recent City Championships, consistently taking down many of the top-tier decks and giving me some great tournament placements. If you’re interested in how this concept works, you won’t want to miss out on my analysis of the deck, where I go over my deck list, explain how the deck works, and talk about a few of my City Championship runs with it. With how powerful the deck is and how well other players have been doing in tournaments with it, I expect it to become a mainstay in the metagame by the end of Cities. You don’t want to be the last one to learn about this up-and-coming archetype!
Before we talk about Lucario, though, I will be discussing another top-tier deck that has made moves in the local Ohio metagame: Manectric-EX / Crobat. Then, I will close the article with some insight on how to select the perfect play for a City Championship. Thanks for tuning in and enjoy the read!
Arial Maneuvers with Manectric / Bats
Manectric-EX / Crobat has taken the meta by storm here in Ohio. In fact, I was lucky enough to play against two versions of the deck en route to my second place finish at Kent State. My friend, Matt Price, took the deck to a first-place finish at the Butler, PA City Championships and it has been popular with our locals ever since. The deck is reminiscent of Landorus-EX / Crobat from last year.
The object of the deck is to swarm the field with Zubat early and take out small threats with Overrun and Sneaky Bite. As you progress through the game, you will eventually be able to Assault Laser for huge damage with Manectric-EX to clear out any large threats. With a Muscle Band equipped, Manectric can perform Assault Laser for 140 damage so long as the opponent has a Tool attached. This damage ceiling is effortlessly raised with the help of Crobat and high counts of Super Scoop Up. I enjoy playing this deck and I think it accomplishes what Lucario-EX / Bats wishes it could in the Standard format. Though Overrun is weak in comparison to Landorus’ Hammerhead, Lightning is a good type to be in Standard and the sniping effect of Overrun allows us to take out Benched threats before they have the chance to come to fruition.
4x Professor Sycamore (XY #122)
2x Professor Birch's Observations (PRC #134)
1x AZ (PHF #91)
This deck has no problem setting up multiple Zubat early on thanks to our high Ball counts, Trainers' Mail, and multiple Shaymin-EX. Manectric-EX / Crobat boasts positive Night March and Vespiquen matchups while going toe to toe with Yveltal-EX / Zoroark / Gallade. The deck also comes with built-in protection against Fighting Pokemon in Flash Energy and Crobat‘s hefty 130 HP combined with a Resistance to Fighting. Accolades like these make Manectric / Bats a deck worth considering for just about any Standard tournament. Much of this deck should look familiar to anyone who’s played a Bats deck before, but there are a few unique inclusions I would like to go over.
2x Parallel City
Parallel City is here to stay! We could play Rough Seas as our Stadium of choice in here, and I’ve seen it done successfully, but Parallel City helps us manage this deck’s number one nemesis: Gallade. By now we’ve realized that most Yveltal-EX / Zoroark / Gallade lists play a whopping zero Stadium cards. That means they will be at the whim of whatever Stadium you put into play! By limiting a Yveltal / Zoroark player to three Bench spaces we make it difficult for them to make the Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick / Gallade play. And even if they do manage to do it once, two times will be quite a feat. Since Yveltal / Zoroark only plays a few Supporter cards they rely heavily on Shaymin-EX to get their game started. After that, they have to Maxie’s a Gallade into play in order to continue drawing consistently with Premonition. By limiting their Bench to three, you force the player to make tough decisions and compromise consistency.
As an added bonus, Parallel City is good versus Magnezone, M Rayquaza-EX, Raichu, Seismitoad-EX, Houndoom-EX, and Vespiquen decks. Magnezone, Rayquaza, and Raichu decks have a hard time recovering after their Bench has been nerfed while Seismitoad, Houndoom, and Vespiquen struggle to obtain KOs when their damage is reduced by 20.
5x Lightning / 2x Flash / 1x Fighting
This Energy count admittedly seems low. But, in practice, it’s just the right amount of Energy to power up your three copies of Manectric-EX. With Super Rod to recover resources it’s even easier to energize your three Manectric each game. We also preserve Energy by using our four copies of Super Scoop Up to heal Pokemon and reuse Energy that has already been in play. Flash Energy is a nice option to have in case your opponent gets a Gallade into play, but it seems like every Gallade deck is running Xerosic while most Lucario-EX / Bats decks opt to play at least one copy of Enhanced Hammer. Even though Flash Energy is by no means fool-proof, I would rather have the option to block Weakness than play more basic Energy. Sometimes the Flash Energy will stick, and, when they do, they can be game changing.
We play one copy of Fighting Energy since the only Lightning requirement for this deck is Manectric’s Assault Laser attack, which costs one Lightning and one Colorless Energy. With just one off-type Energy, we will always be able to pay for Manectric’s Assault Laser with any combination of two Energy cards in the deck. The benefit of playing a single Fighting Energy is we will have access to Scorched Earth when playing against Entei decks, which have been growing in popularity lately. Though the occurrence would be admittedly very niche, there is no drawback to including a single Fighting Energy, so its inclusion is technically the correct play.
What is the correct Bat line for my deck? I hear this question all the time and the correct answer is pretty much always, it depends. With this deck, much like with Landorus-EX / Crobat, we need to play a thick Crobat line in order to be as aggressive as possible. The goal of this deck is to set up many Crobat while attacking with Manectric-EX, so we cannot compromise on our Crobat. Bat decks really do miss the shuffle draw of Colress in Standard. To make up for this, we play a single copy of Super Rod to recover Bats that we might have tossed with Professor Sycamore plays early on.
Strengths / Weaknesses
As I mentioned above, Manectric-EX / Crobat enjoys positive matchups against Night March as well as Vespiquen, two popular archetypes in Standard. We also get the natural resilience of Manectric-EX combined with Super Scoop Up which makes it difficult for decks that are not OHKO’ing Manectric to pile damage onto it. Head Ringer and Parallel City make the deck disruptive enough to manage larger threats it might otherwise struggle to trade with like M Rayquaza-EX. And, though they have decreased in popularity lately, Manectric doesn’t mind competing with classic disruptive threats such as Seismitoad-EX and Giratina-EX, easily toppling the foes with the help of Crobat.
The biggest issue this deck faces is when threats are able to dispatch Manectric while not falling to Crobat. Gallade and Lucario-EX are two of Manectric’s worst enemies in the Standard format. Though both Gallade and Lucario are weak to Psychic, Crobat is not typically enough to manage these foes single handedly. Flash Energy is a nice trick, but most Fighting decks are savvy enough to have a way around your Flash Energy. So what do we do?
I have seen some Manectric / Crobat lists make room for Wobbuffet and Dimension Valley to help mitigate Manectric’s Weakness to Fighting. If we take out the Flash Energy, Parallel City, and Head Ringers while swapping in some Wobbuffet and Dimension Valley, we see how a Manectric / Wobbuffet / Bats hybrid could be possible. In fact, I lost to such a deck in Top 8 this past weekend at the hands of Brock Parch who went on to win Sandusky, OH’s City Championships! Manectric / Crobat is a strong foundation of a deck and I fully expect it to continue in popularity throughout the remainder of City Championships.
Entering the Ring: Lucario / Hammers
After watching me play on stream in the finals of Kent State University’s City Championships, last year’s United States National Championship finalist, Enrique Avila, reconstructed my Lucario-EX / Hammers deck with a friend. They went on to finish 2nd and 4th respectively at the South Bend, Indiana City Championships the following day. The next weekend, both JW Kriewall and Chris Derocher were able to capture wins with the deck at their respective City Championships. That’s a huge testament to the speed at which metagames can shift in the age of Internet and information sharing. But it’s also a testament to the indisputable power and consistency of this list.
After seeing the success of Landorus-EX / Crobat last year, many people — myself included — attempted to recreate the phenomenon with Lucario as the primary attacker. Though Lucario is a strong attacker in his own right, it is no Landorus. The result is a watered-down version of an outdated deck. Not to mention, without Colress, Lucario / Bats struggles to consistently get enough Bats in play to make up for Lucario’s middling damage output.
When discussing other options for a good Fighting deck, my friend, Justin Boughter, mentioned Lucario may pair well with Crawdaunt, taking advantage of Crawdaunt’s Unruly Claw Ability to remove Energy from the opponent’s Active Pokemon. Truthfully, I disliked the idea of pairing Lucario with Crawdaunt. If we already had an issue getting Bats into play consistently, what would make Crawdaunt any easier? Additionally, Crawdaunt’s Ability only works on the opponent’s Active Pokemon, so the card can be easily played around. I decided Crawdaunt would not be worth the space or the effort to get into play and almost canned the idea. Before we moved on though, I took my old Lucario / Bats list and gutted all the Bats and most of the Ball search Items. Without the Bats, we had room to fit countless disruption cards that could benefit Lucario while being easily accessible via Korrina.
In testing, the results were astounding. What started as a gimmick one night turned out to be one of the best decks in my arsenal. And even though the deck hadn’t dropped a single game in testing, I was still apprehensive about bringing it to a tournament. Could a deck like this really win a Cities? I had never played a control deck at a tournament before and was nervous about trying something new. But, ultimately, I’m glad I did! I could feel myself growing as a player with each game I played at Kent State. I was forced to implement strategies I had never considered before, carving out paths to victory using Korrina to select single Item cards and Corkscrew Smash to draw massive hands. I had always been on the receiving end of Crushing Hammer, praying for tails, but man does it feel good to be the one bringing the Hammer down now! Let’s take a look at my list before reviewing its key components, additional options, and strengths / weaknesses.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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