What’s up Beachers? It’s Steve here, and I’m back with a fresh new article following my first four City Championships of the season. I’m proud to say that I’ve earned 70 Championship Points from Cities alone this season, but I’m still hungry for a lot more (I want that Zoroark BREAK playmat) and I’ve got seven or eight more Cities on my radar still. This is also the time of year when my buddy Kevin Baxter tends to break the format with either a brand new deck or a new spin on an existing deck (you guys remember SnorBax / The Yeti from two years ago and M Manectric-EX / Seismitoad-EX/ Kyurem from last year) and this year was no different. Kevin’s take on Yveltal-EX has given it favorable matchups almost entirely across the board, with new additions like Zoroark and Gallade to help out with the more difficult matchups. I was even able to construct my own version of this deck later on in the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon where the deck was initially unleashed by Kevin, Dustin Zimmerman, and a handful of other players from Team Hovercats. It’s very beneficial for me to be located close to some of the game’s best players as I am able to talk about different decks and bounce ideas off of them as well as exchange input on deck ideas while at tournaments. This helps my creative skills go in the right direction when I build my own decks as well. However, it was especially helpful in this instance, as I was barely able to playtest at all before the Indy Marathon. I could go on about my life outside of the Pokemon TCG, but that’s not why you’re here, is it? Let’s take a look at the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon!
Day One – When the Night Goes Marching In
Simply put, I had almost no idea what to expect on the first day. I’d only been able to do a little bit of playtesting over the two weeks leading up to the Indiana marathon, largely due to my work schedule and the responsibilities that come with being a father, so I opted to go with a deck that I knew from previous testing: M Mewtwo-EX / Zoroark. It turned out this was not a very good choice, as one deck ran around like a six-year-old during recess; that deck was Night March. Let’s just say that it’s not much fun to have a Pumpkaboo smack your M Mewtwo-EX upside the face for 280 damage on the second turn. Zoroark provided a decent attacker for this matchup, but having to wait a turn in order to evolve it proved to be too much when the Night March player could simply attach a Double Colorless Energy and start attacking. Had I opted to run Yveltal, this might not have been as bad for me. StilI, I think that my biggest mistake here was having initially dismissed Night March in Standard due to the loss of Mew-EX, as it turns out adding Vespiquen, Milotic, and / or Bronzong to the equation makes Night March just as relevant as it’s been since the ban of Lysandre's Trump Card back in June. It’s also worth noting that Bronzong can help Night March decks deal with the myriad of Special Energy hatred that currently resides in the meta (Xerosic, Enhanced Hammer, Jirachi, etc) while allowing you to charge up more than four attackers per game. While using Bronzong does dictate the use of Float Stone and / or AZ, these are cards that could easily be included in Night March decks to begin with and can be helpful in many other situations outside of a Bronzong falling victim to your opponent’s Lysandre to begin with. To make things a little clearer, let’s look at a basic idea of what I saw in Friday’s Night March decks:
This is the exact list which I placed 2nd with at the Mt. Summit City Championship two weeks after the Indy Mini-Marathon.
As you can see, this list is pretty straightforward with virtually no tech cards included in it. While it would often be wise to tech for certain matchups that you may struggle with typically, this list provides us with a generic idea of what Night March / Vespiquen decks looked like on the first day of the Indiana mini-marathon. One thing you might notice is the reduced quantity of Dimension Valley, which has been run in fours in Night March builds since their arrival one year ago. The reasoning here is that Pumpkaboo becomes more of a situational attacker due to Vespiquen’s presence. However, Pumpkaboo can still come down and swing on the same turn, once again due to Bronzong’s ability to attach a Metal Energy from the discard pile to it in addition to you attaching a Double Colorless Energy from your hand. With Hex Maniac able to deal with Aegislash-EX and Vespiquen trading Prize cards with Yveltal more favorably than Joltik or Pumpkaboo, Night March has become an extremely well rounded deck with outs to almost anything in the meta.
Of course, there were other decks on the day one scene besides Night March. A buddy of mine made it to Top 8 with his Raichu / Lucario-EX deck, which seemed like a pretty strong meta call given the abundance of both Night March and the big Pokemon-EX based decks that were running around. Another buddy of mine also finished in the Top 8 with a Bronzong / Lugia-EX deck, running a single copy of Aegislash-EX in order to slow down any attackers reliant on Special Energy cards. For a more complete breakdown of the day one results, let’s have a look at the Top 8 standings from the event:
Top 8 – Castleton, IN (11/27/2015)
1. Alejandro Luna (Night March / Vespiquen / Bronzong)
2. Matt Alvis (Night March / Vespiquen / Bronzong)
T4 Kevin Baxter (Yveltal / Zoroark / Gallade)
T4 Dustin Zimmerman (Yveltal / Zoroark / Gallade)
T8 Trey Reese (Raichu / Hawlucha / Lucario-EX)
T8 Kyle Adams (Lugia-EX / Zoroark / Bronzong)
T8 Enrique Avila (Night March)
T8 Chris Hoag (M Manectric-EX / Regice / Cresselia)
Although the top eight participants from this tournament played a total of six different decks (if you consider Enrique’s Night March list different from Alejandro’s and Matt’s Night March / Vespiquen / Bronzong lists), it does make one thing very obvious: this meta almost entirely revolved around one-Prize attackers. By using attackers such as Joltik, Pumpkaboo, Yveltal, Zoroark, Gallade, Raichu, Hawlucha, and Regice players were able to take KO’s quickly without having to worry about their opponent winning by KO’ing three Pokemon-EX. While one-Prize attackers almost always have less HP and can be less powerful or more combo reliant than their big-bodied brothers, being able to force a full six-Prize game can be very difficult for certain decks to deal with. As you can see, the tournament’s two most successful decks relied on Bronzong to continually accelerate Energy to a new Pokemon after the previous one had been KO’d by their opponent. This allows a player to steadily stream attacks and likely take KO’s each turn without skipping a beat. Being able to attack early and often is great, but the mid-to-late game consistency offered by Bronzong is ultimately what helped propel Night March to first and second place finishes in this event. Of course, both Alejandro and Matt are very good players, and they are both deserving of being finalists, so let’s not forget to credit them too for their efforts.
Finally, let’s take a moment to notice the five decks on this list that weren’t Night March. Trey Reese played a Raichu variant with Fighting-type attackers such as Lucario-EX and Hawlucha instead of the traditional Crobat lines that tend to accompany it, which led him directly into cut as well. This appeared to be an excellent meta call due to Raichu’s ability to trade off with one-Prize attackers consistently and the ability to use Focus Sash to prevent both Lucario-EX and Hawlucha from being OHKO’d by Night March. We also saw Chris Hoag score a Top 8 finish with his M Manectric-EX / Regice / Cresselia deck, making excellent use of a card that I hadn’t even considered to take out big Psychic-weak attackers like Lucario-EX and M Mewtwo-EX. This was an interesting route to take, given that his deck required three different types of Basic Energy. However, Smeargle was able to help out with that situation, effectively allowing Chris to manipulate his Energy on board and set up his attackers accordingly. I’m definitely a fan of creativity, and Cresselia proved to be both unique as a choice and also very effective for what it was meant to do in this deck.
Kyle Adams on the other hand played a different Bronzong based deck, focusing on Lugia-EX as the primary attacker while Zoroark served as an alternative attacker that only gave up a single Prize if it was KO’d. Zoroark also offers an Ability which is identical in every way except the title to that of Keldeo-EX. Throw the big bad Mind Jack attack on top of that and you’ve got yourself a heck of a Stage 1 there, folks!
Kyle wasn’t the only one to reach cut with Zoroark, though. Two names we’re all very familiar with, Kevin Baxter and Dustin Zimmerman each played their way into the tournament’s final four with a deck that also used Zoroark as an attacker, this time alongside Yveltal, Yveltal-EX, and Gallade (played with Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick). This deck intrigued me enough that when I got the chance to sit down with them just before top cut, I asked the two of them about this deck and how it worked in comparison to previous Yveltal-EX builds. After a few minutes of conversing on the subject, I headed with my roommates to our hotel for the night, where I built my own variant of Yveltal / Zoroark / Gallade and playtested it against their decks. After its solid showing on day one and a bit of playtesting that night, I decided that this would be my deck for day two.
Day Two – Circle Circuit In the Circle City
A new day meant a new tournament, the ability to play a different deck from the one I played the first day, and a clean slate to work toward becoming a City Champion. However, as I’ve learned over the years, Indianapolis is not the easiest place to play the Pokemon TCG. There are lots of highly competitive players in and around Indiana, and the Indy mini-marathon draws a pretty big crowd each year making it one of the more challenging series of tournaments I take part in annually. A new day also meant the possibility of a meta shift, as several players were bound to try and counter the Night March decks that had done so well the day before. Enter Crobat, sworn enemy of Night March players everywhere.
Crobat and his mid-stage evolution, Golbat, offer a way to inflict free damage when playing them from your hand to evolve your Golbat and Zubat. This can be a very effective strategy against Pokemon with low HP in particular, as the damage from Crobat and Golbat can often be enough to score KOs without even having to attack! It’s also worth pointing out that Crobat yields an attack that deals 30 damage to any one of your opponent’s Pokemon for just a single Colorless Energy. This makes it that much more difficult for an opponent to hide a Pokemon on his or her Bench as means of keeping it safe from your attacks.
Now Crobat can be run with a variety of different attackers from Lucario-EX to Manectric-EX or even Wobbuffet in an all Psychic-type deck. On this day, however, the favored attacker to pair with Crobat was none other than Pikachu‘s Thunder Stone-infused evolution, Raichu. For the cost of two Colorless Energy, Raichu’s Circle Circuit deals 20 damage for each of your Benched Pokemon. Since your Bench is bound to be full of Bats and Shaymin-EX, Raichu becomes an ideal choice as an attacker that can dish out heavy damage for a single Energy card while still only yielding one Prize card to your opponent when it gets Knocked Out. Throw Sky Field into the mix and you’ve got a potential 160 damage attack on hand (180 with Muscle Band) and your Crobat lines are capable of dealing even more damage if the situation requires them. Finally, the use of Colorless Energy to perform Raichu’s Circle Circuit allowed a favorite from day one, Bronzong to resurface as an Energy accelerator for this deck as well. This proved to be a huge matchup problem for me, as I was running an Yveltal-based deck. Fortunately I was able to avoid this matchup after round one was over. However, this was mostly because I lost my first round to that very deck. Below is an example of a Raichu / Crobat / Bronzong decklist.
1x AZ (PHF #91)
As you can see, this list allows you to bench a whole bunch of Pokemon by using Sky Field along with a plethora of Ultra Ball and Level Ball to make sure you get what you need into play quickly, allowing you to evolve them sooner and deal heavy amounts of damage as soon as the second turn. Super Scoop Up also provides a triple threat effect, allowing you to switch a Pokemon out of the Active slot, heal all damage from it, and re-use any Abilities that Pokemon might have when it comes into play (this applies for Crobat, Golbat, and Shaymin-EX specifically). Because we run four copies of Super Scoop Up as well as a single copy of AZ, we shouldn’t be needing Float Stone in here like we did with Night March. The deck maintains a small amount of Pokemon recovery as well, including a single copy of Sacred Ash in order to retrieve any KO’d or otherwise discarded Pokemon you might want back later on in the game. This is a sound strategy overall, and although I’ve never had much success with Raichu myself, it certainly found a bit of success on day two of the Indy mini-marathon this year.
Of course, not everybody who made cut was playing this deck. Here are the final standings from our top cut on day two
Top 8 – Greenwood, IN (11/28/2015)
1. Ryan Grant (Raichu / Crobat / Bronzong)
2. Dustin Zimmerman (Yveltal / Zoroark / Gallade)
T4 Ross Cawthon (Gengar-EX / Trevenant / Gallade)
T4 Alejandro Luna (Raichu / Crobat / Bronzong)
T8 Andrew Wamboldt (Tyrantrum-EX / Bronzong)
T8 Trey Reese (Raichu / Hawlucha / Lucario-EX)
T8 Caleb Gedemer (Raichu / Crobat / Bronzong)
T8 Kyle Kesniewicz (Raichu / Crobat / Yveltal)
Raichu became just about everyone’s darling one-Prize attacker on day two, showing up in five of the Top 8 decks. Four of those five Raichu decks included Crobat as well, with the fifth deck being Trey Reese’s Raichu / Hawlucha / Lucario-EX deck. This was Trey’s second time making cut in as many tries, which is pretty darn impressive when you consider how many high level players were competing in these three events. Once again, the meta seemed to revolve around one-Prize attackers (mainly Raichu in this case) and proved to be too dangerous for excessive amounts of Pokemon-EX to see play. However, this time Crobat was there to keep Night March in check and ultimately pave the way for Raichu to dominate the playing field throughout the course of the tournament.
Bronzong also continued to be the favored method of Energy acceleration, appearing in three of the five aforementioned Raichu / Crobat decks as well as Andrew Wamboldt’s Tyrantrum-EX deck – something I didn’t think would survive the loss of Keldeo-EX in Standard. I was clearly wrong in my assumption, as Andrew made the case for Tyrantrum-EX by taking it all the way to a Top 8 finish on the day, despite the tournament being full of one-Prize attackers capable of dealing enough damage to OHKO a big Pokemon-EX and force an unfavorable Prize trade for the prehistoric dragon.
Another newcomer to the Indy mini-marathon top cut tables was a Gengar-EX / Trevenant deck piloted by former World Champion Ross Cawthon. The concept here was for Gengar-EX to use its Dark Corridor attack to deal 60 damage (Without a Muscle Band) while inflicting Poison on Ross’ opponent’s Active Pokemon before jumping back to the Bench for safety. Who comes out in Gengar-EX’s absence, you ask? Enter Trevenant: the Ghostly Tree whose Ability forbids its opponent from playing any Item cards while it remains the Active Pokemon. While Item lock today isn’t anywhere near as deadly it was when Gothitelle / Accelgor / Dusknoir was in its prime, Trevenant can still prove to be extremely irritating if one relies too much on Item cards and cannot find a Lysandre or Hex Maniac in time. On the next turn, Ross could simply retreat his Active Trevenant via Float Stone and repeat the process all over until his opponent runs out of resources or he draws all six Prize cards.
Finally, I must note Dustin Zimmerman’s second place finish, once again with his Yveltal / Zoroark / Gallade deck. While I had played my own version of this deck on the same day, my tournament run hadn’t been nearly as successful as Dustin’s (my final record on day two was 3-3). I watched one of Dustin’s games and compared how he played the deck to the way I had been playing it, which allowed me to understand a bit more about when to be aggressive and when to play it closer to the vest. I also got to talk to Kevin Baxter about the deck a bit more, as he was willing to compare his list with mine and discuss the differences and options going forward. Needless to say, after watching another day of craziness in the meta, I had a lot of thinking to do in order to pick a deck for Sunday’s tournament in downtown Indianapolis.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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