Hey Beach boys and girls! I had a fairly successful State Championship season and hope that you all had a a similar experience to mine! I spent a lot of time testing for Standard, and I feel really rewarded by my preparation and testing. I got to see a lot of my close friends in Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado. I was sitting at 224 Championship Points before my first State Championship in Missouri, and now I’m sitting at a comfortable 334 points.
I had a lot to play for, my invite being one of those things but I had also had a top cut streak going back to last year. I obviously didn’t do nearly as well this year, since I didn’t win a single State Championship, let alone two. I still did a bit above my expectations, since I only really hoped to gain my invite.
I’m going to go over my thoughts on this Standard format, my four weekends, and then look forward to Expanded.
Why I Hate Standard
Many of my friends will know that I’m not a huge fan of this Standard format. In fact, it is probably the worst format I’ve ever played in. There’s a lot of reasons for this, and it mostly comes down to consistency in this format.
If you look back at the draw-Supporters we had before rotation, they were solid. Cards such as Colress and N made decks that didn’t use a heavy Battle Compressor-engine viable. Those draw-Supporters were sufficient. So when Battle Compressor and VS Seeker were printed, they allowed for a different type of draw-engine, and it supplemented the other type that was used by decks such as Raichu / Crobat and Seismitoad-EX decks. Now we’re stuck with awful draw-Supporters. Shauna and Professor Birch's Observations are just not good cards. They don’t draw enough early on, and are clearly inferior to any deck that plays four Battle Compressor with heavy VS Seeker counts. So with those decks being so inconsistent, why wouldn’t you play Night March?
I’ve tried so many decks that weren’t Night March each week and I simply found them lacking. They just weren’t consistent enough, or they just didn’t dominate other decks like Night March does. Each week, Night March was my fallback option and during the week I just tested other decks to try and not play Night March, but I played Night March or a variant of it all four weeks.
Night March also has a very clear lack of punishment for its aggression in this format. What slowed down Night March last year was heavy N counts in decks. Now that N is gone for the time being, Night March decks can just rip through three Shaymin-EX and win. Judge is a pretty awful replacement for N. A Night March deck thins itself, and judging them to four doesn’t have high odds of taking them out of the game.
This current Standard format is an evolution of the Cities format. Night March was dominant in Cities, but was still sort of held in check by its resources. With Puzzle of Time being printed, it isn’t even a question of whether Night March is the play or not. This created a huge backlash effect, where the next three decks that were successful were Item-lock decks or Dark decks.
Citing information from Andrew Wamboldt and his hard work in compiling this information, Night March was overwhelmingly the most successful deck in this format. Night March earned 7230 Championship Points in its multitudes of victories, and top cut finishes in Cities. The next best deck, Dark decks, earned 2590 points. Trevenant, Seismitoad, and Vespiquen / Vileplume come in at third, fourth, and fifth respectively. These three decks were all Item-lock decks meant to counter Night March decks. Two of these decks Item locked on the first turn, not allowing you to ever play an Item during the whole game. Dark did well since it has the ability to beat Night March, and the lock decks.
I’ve never seen such a dominant deck in my five years of playing this game. I don’t believe we’ve ever had a format where you had to worry about getting hit in the face with 180 damage on the first turn in addition to being Item locked out of the game.
The other thing I want to add is that the Night March mirror match is really wild and not entirely skill-based. I’ve heard all sorts of arguments for and against saying how skill-based it is, but amongst two very skilled players that have playtested the mirror match, it really comes down to if you or your opponent had to play Shaymin-EX, if you have Double Colorless Energy and Lysandre in your hand at the right time, and if you can chain your Target Whistle with Puzzle of Time at certain times. I lost a game in Top 8 Nebraska because I had to bench a Shaymin-EX and my opponent proceeded to take four Prizes off of it. In Kansas, I beat another Night March player by killing their single Shaymin-EX three times. There’s just times where you have to bench a Shaymin-EX to take a Prize, and based on what is in whose hand at what time it could be game ending.
There’s a lot more to it, than that, but that’s just an example. I know a good Night March player when I see it, and there is surely a way to handle that mirror match. But when you have two players that know how to handle the mirror, even if their skill in Pokemon TCG vary wildly, it’s a coin toss.
This was probably my most disappointing Pokemon tournament I ever had. I played against some amazing players and got off to an incredible start. I started off 4-0, beating Turbo Darkrai-EX, Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX, Greninja, and Night March. I then proceeded to lose three in a row against Connor Lavelle with M Manectric-EX / Ho-Oh-EX, Brit Pybas with a Dark deck that sported Druddigon and Target Whistle, and Kyle Haverland playing Night March.
It’s pretty frustrating to be one win off from top cut and then lose three in a row, but that’s just the way this game is sometimes. I faced a multitude of talented players, so I guess I can’t complain.
I played a very similar list to Andrew Mahone’s Vespiquen / Night March. He was much more successful than I was with the list, as he was the highest seed in his week one State Championship. I was waffling between this, Night March, and Yveltal, but I ultimately picked this since it played the most consistent, even though you would think Night March would be the more consistent deck playing Trainers' Mail and less Pokemon.
Overall, I found that Vespiquen just got in the way of the deck, with Joltik being most of my muscle, and with Pumpkaboo being the a good replacement to Vespiquen. I really missed having Target Whistle in the deck, and it would have helped for sure against Night March.
The big problem I had was doing a turn one 180 damage. I had to start with Joltik, or get a Float Stone on whatever I was starting with to do turn one damage, and the ability to hit for big damage turn one is so important in keeping your momentum up during the entire game. Vespiquen didn’t end up being substantially better than just playing with Night Marchers, then again, I didn’t play against any Seismitoad-EX decks all day.
Here is the list I played.
As you can see, I merely switched out the Parallel City for a Startling Megaphone. Parallel City can help me against Night March decks, but Startling Megaphone came in clutch against Turbo Darkrai when they played Fighting Fury Belt.
Overall, the deck is good, it’s successful, it just isn’t my cup of tea. There’s obvious advantages in the way of a better Dark matchup since Yveltal can’t Knock Out all of your attackers and the obviously better Seismitoad-EX matchup.
This is Andrew’s list for the most part. I will give him credit for the above list. If you like the list, you should totally check out the article he wrote about it.
Nebraska (4/1/1 Top 8)
Learning my lesson from last weekend, I decided to cut Vespiquen from my list and made a lean and mean Night March version. The reason for this, was that I wanted to play some more techs. Target Whistle is the big one that I wanted to add. I also wanted less Pokemon to ensure that I started Joltik or Pumpkaboo and that I could do 180 damage on the first turn easily.
Another thing I wanted, was a counter to other Night March decks. I play-tested a bunch of Night March mirrors, but I thought that Night March would be incredibly popular in week two, and that made me want to add a little more to ensure I won the mirror.
Fellow writer and good friend of mine Chris Collins suggested playing some copies of Bursting Balloon in Night March. I was skeptical at first, since Night March decks can very easily get around Bursting Balloon, but attaching them to benched Shaymin-EX can be a huge deterrent to having them be Knocked Out. Also, Bursting Balloon going off only one time would be plenty to swing the game.
Let me go over a few choices in this list.
Three Professor Sycamore
I know Andrew is head over heels for four, and for my week four list, I came to see the light on that, but for this list I only ran three. Three was consistient enough for this list.
Two Pokemon Catcher
Even if you only hit one heads in a game with this card, it can be game changing. Being able to KO what you want on the first turn is really great, in addition to that, you can also use Puzzle of Time to reuse these cards and be able to Lysandre outside of burning your Supporter.
Jolteon-EX is somewhat played, and Escape Rope is in this list to deal with it. Jolteon shouldn’t be a problem at all for you since you play Lysandre and Pokémon Catcher in the list. The combination of a Lysandre, Pokemon Catcher, and Escape Rope should zap a Jolteon-EX dead.
Two Bursting Balloon
I felt like one would be avoided easily, but two in the deck would make it even harder to avoid. Bursting Balloon kills any opposing Night Marcher, even with a Fighting Fury Belt attached since we run a copy of Startling Megaphone. It also helps against Mega Pokemon. Their really high HP makes it tough for Night March to KO them outright, but with six damage counters on them, it’s not a challenge at all. It also helps in matchups where you prize three Night Marchers and you cannot hit 180 without taking a few KO’s to draw those Night Marchers.
- M Manectric-EX / Aegislash-EX WW
- Vespiquen / Vileplume LL
- Night March WW
- M Manectric-EX / Ho-Oh-EX LWW
- Night March WW
The M Manectric-EX decks are an extremely good matchup. They just have an incredibly tough time keeping up with getting hit with 180 damage per turn. The Bursting Balloon didn’t really come in to play in my third round, but they earned me a win in my second game against Brandon Smiley (the second Night March I played against). The Pokemon Catcher helped a lot in the first game against him as well, allowing me to take a pretty big Prize lead. Brandon didn’t draw the best, but I was still able to see the effect Bursting Balloon had in the mirror match.
I lost my Top 8 match against Kaleb Higden playing Night March. We played three games with him taking the first game and me taking the second. Kaleb played Catcher as well, and unfortunately for me, he hit six out of seven of them in the three games we played, even reusing one with Puzzle of Time. I hit only one of my Catcher, and it was at the end of game three and didn’t really even matter.
I still somehow took game two, and I cant remember exactly why. I remember getting behind pretty badly, but there was one turn where he couldn’t attack and I was able to take two Prizes for the win when he had one left.
Kaleb ended up beating Brandon Flowers’ Vespiquen / Vileplume and Steven Singer’s Trevenant. Both are horrendous matchups for Night March, but he still managed to win both games and shows the true power of Night March in this format. Good job Kaleb!
I’m gonna take a break and add my thoughts on going first or second in the Night March matchup.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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