The Six Habits of Highly Effective Pokemon Players and Three New Decks from BREAKpoint

Hello once again PokeBeach readers! I’m so happy to be here writing for you. This semester has been off to a fantastic start – I have a light enough schedule that for the first time in my collegiate career, I will have Tuesday and Thursday off! As a music major, it was not uncommon for me to consistently schedule 16-19 credits. This forced me to make some serious decisions on whether I could afford to take the time to travel for bigger tournaments. Over the last few years I have been unable to attend many Winter or Spring Regionals due to my heavy schedule, but it looks like I will be making it to at least four this year. Hopefully I won’t need to attend the fourth Regional assuming I can lock up my invite by then, but I at least have that option. Unfortunately, due to my performance schedule, I will only be able to attend one State Championship, which is okay by me as States have typically been my lowest performing tournaments.

So far this season, I have accumulated 200 Championship Points with 20 coming from two League Challenges and 180 coming from City Championships. I’m really happy with my point total considering I was only able to make it to eight Cities this year. Some may scoff at that seemingly high number, but last year, I only had a chance to make it to five Cities! I’m grateful to have moved into an area that supports Pokemon in such a big way.

During the second to last Cities weekend, I still needed a finish. I drove down to Andrew’s house and we debated what we should play. The first Cities, I played a M Manectric-EX deck with heavy amounts of disruption. The idea was to play a Red Card to drop your opponent’s hand down and then play Silent Lab to make Shaymin-EX a non-factor. This strategy worked decently most of the time, though I lost in Top 8 to Justin Boughter who was playing Entei and apparently never needed to drop Shaymin to set up. In one game of our Top 8 series, I was able to get the Silent Lab / Red Card combo, however, it didn’t matter because Justin drew exactly what he needed.

Andrew and I went back to the drawing board for the next tournament in Grove City, PA. We figured we need a deck that would do exactly what we wanted it to do every time. Andrew and I wanted a deck that could reasonably beat any Standard deck in the format. This led us back to trusty old Night March. Andrew and I deduced that Milotic would be better than the Bronzong line we were running because ideally, the game wouldn’t last more than three turns. I know a lot of other people had been running Milotic for a while, but we didn’t test the deck much since we had both decided Night March wasn’t a viable play due to the rise of Yveltal-EX / Gallade / Zoroark.

Before the tournament, Kirsten Sprague, Andrew, and I were sitting around debating our final few card choices in Night March. Originally, I was going to play two Lysandre and no Pokémon Catcher, but Kirsten insisted that two Pokemon Catcher made the deck incredibly good. She had been playing Night March for a substantial portion of Cities, so I trusted her judgement and ended up adding them. Throughout the tournament, they were the MVCs – Most Valuable Cards. I could not see playing the deck without them! Look for the full list in Andrew’s upcoming article.

Andrew and I easily breezed through the tournament. Luckily, we were on separate sides of the Top Cut bracket and were able to meet in the finals. Because it was late and we had a long drive home, I suggested that Andrew take the win. I was happy with a second place finish and didn’t feel particularly good about playing a mirror match. Andrew also only had two second place finishes at that point, so it felt good giving him a first place finish to ensure a respectable Cities run. He did end up winning another City Championship the next weekend, so while in hindsight I regret not taking the points this tournament, I’ll be so grateful to him when he wins a free hotel for Nationals or Worlds and lets me stay at no charge.

Over the course of the day, I only lost once to an Aegislash-EX / Giratina-EX / Bronzong deck in which I drew one of the least playable hands ever. I went 4-0-2 through swiss and felt great about finishing out my Cities season with two first place finishes to go along with two second place finishes. However, I couldn’t be happier to usher out Cities!

XY – BREAKthrough Format: Good Riddance!

I know I am not the only one who cannot wait for the new set BREAKpoint to breath some life into the format. When the current Standard format started, I know I wasn’t alone in thinking that the format was healthy, balanced, and fun. It seemed that there were a dozen viable decks that could do well at any given tournament. However, as the season has progressed, I found out that the number of viable decks slowly decreased. As the meta became more defined, certain strategies seemed obviously a cut above the rest of the format. Yveltal / Gallade / Zoroark rose to power as being one of the most consistent and hard hitting decks in the format. It could fully take advantage of opponent’s misplays and had an attacker for every situation. It even allegedly beat Night March – or so I thought.

I discovered the brilliance of Pokemon Catcher early in the format as the cards were staples of my early season Vespiquen lists. However, Target Whistle is the card that truly displays how powerful Pokemon Catcher is. Target Whistle in combination with Pokemon Catcher can win games that decks otherwise shouldn’t win. These two strong cards were the best utilized in Night March which leads me to believe that Night March was the clear best deck in the format. Other decks may claim to have an out to beating Night March, but the deck sets up so consistently and can end a game in as little as three turns. It has enough room to tech for bad matchups, such as adding a Startling Megaphone for Focus Sash and includes Milotic to recycle valuable Double Colorless Energy.

Now that I think the format has discovered its BDIF, I feel so excited to move on and add a new set to the format. For the remainder of this article, I want to discuss potential decks that could emerge from the release of BREAKpoint. I want to give you an in depth look at how I come up with a deck for a new format as well as a step by step guide to improving your deck building.

Deck building has always been one of my favorite things about the game. Some people like in-game strategy, or creating crazy rogues for the sake of the “wow” factor, but what I love most about the competitive TCG is the deck building. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a list of a meta deck or going rogue, but I am always in search of the perfect decklist – a combination of the ideal 60 cards where every card has a specific, but useful purpose against all decks in the format. I know these elusive lists exist and I’m always trying to create them.

Deck building has been a skill that I’ve been good at since I started the game, though it certainly is a skill that can diminish over time. I’ve developed a few strategies to improve my deck building and as I started to write them down, I realized they mirrored a book I had recently read titled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In his self help book, Stephen Covey outlines his proven strategies to becoming an effective person. Shockingly, a lot of his theories are directly applicable to Pokemon! I’ll give you a short run down of the strategies I feel apply the best to deck building. Then, I’ll give you some concept lists I created for the new format.

1. Being Proactive

Start testing now. We already have the scans, and the new set is on its way in less than a month. Have ideas and concepts ready. Have a strategy. What’s the use in thinking about a deck after the format is finished? I can tell you I am certainly a little disappointed that I didn’t think about our current Night March build until the end of the Cities season. How useful will your ideas be when you’ve already missed the only tournament you will have a chance to employ those strategies? Do not wait around for the format to develop – develop the format yourself!

2. Begin With the End in Mind

Have a clear goal. Outline what your deck wants to do every game. Is the goal of the deck to create a favorable Prize-trade? Is it to hit quickly to overwhelm the opponent in the first turns of the game? Is it to mill or bench the opponent? Is it to disrupt the opponent so much that they are unable to enact their strategies? Understanding the exact role of a deck helps me make specific card choices that improve that deck’s win condition. Defining the goal early in the deck building process also helps me consider the best tech cards later in my testing.

In the beginning stages of testing, I will always gear my decklists to achieve one goal as linearly as possible. Usually when I do that and play a few games with it, I can get a feel for how much of the excess fat I can trim from the list while still achieving the end goal. In this way, my initial lists are usually very bland, but come out of the testing process with answers to more decks in the form of tech cards.

3. Put First Things First

After you play the game for a while, you inherently start to categorize deck ideas into two subsets: decks that could or should be good, and decks that will need a lot of refinement. The Pokemon Company has printed so many obvious combos in the past that are hard to overlook: Genesect-EX / Virizion-EX and Darkrai-EX / Dark Patch. When a new set is being released, it may be better to prioritize testing the obvious combos over the wacky ones. Sure, your Hypno / Tyrantrum deck might have some potential, but if you don’t understand how that deck interacts with the combos inherently printed by The Pokemon Company things won’t go well for you. This idea brings me to my next point.

4. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

It is important to have a solid grasp on the current metagame in order to approximate how your new creation might fit in. Chances are that the best handful of decks from the previous format will still be relevant, if not enhanced by the newly released cards. Having a working knowledge of every Tier 1 and 2 deck as well as the possible counter decks from the previous format will give you a huge leg up in figuring out how new cards could shake things up.

5. Synergize

Synergizing is one of the best ways to get a solid grasp on the format, but it requires having a solid testing base. It is fairly absurd to expect one person to singlehandedly discover the ins and outs of the new set, so having a solid group of players whose opinions and ideas you trust and value is tantamount to solid performance. If your partners all decide they want to try out the new Darkrai-EX, you can feel free to delve into that cool Palkia-EX deck you’ve been thinking about. Later, both parties can share lists and neither ends up starting the deck building process from square one.

Even if you don’t have a great testing group, you’re in a great place here at PokeBeach! This is exactly the service our writers are providing to you every week – high quality lists that have been thoroughly tested so you don’t have to.

6. Sharpen the Saw

Covey describes this step as making sure you don’t get too worn out from the tasks at hand. Always make sure there is enough balance in your life to achieve what you need to do, but also have time to reflect and relax. Exercise and eat right. Not that I think any of you would, but don’t let the game overtake positive health habits! At large tournaments such as Regionals, I know I am especially prone to poor health habits such as not eating correctly or not sleeping enough and I know it can have a negative effect on my in game play. Certainly this can translate to testing. Take care of yourself first, and then focus on the game!

7. Think Win-Win

In his book, Covey conveys the idea of proposing mutually beneficial solutions to problems in relationships. While this is a great piece of life advice, sadly it doesn’t quite translate to Pokemon. We will have to settle for Six Habits of Highly Effective Pokemon Players.

From the first six habits, I will be focusing specifically on the three relating specifically to deck building; numbers one through three. I’ll show you some decklists based around new cards released in BREAKpoint, and give you a rundown on why I believe the deck will be a strong contender in the next format. These decks are at the top of my list of ones to test and I definitely think you should give them strong consideration as well!

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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