Top Picks for Nationals — Discussing the Front Runners of Standard

Hello ‘Beach goers! It’s been a minute since I last wrote; I’ve been a busy man! The school year is coming to a close which means that my teaching responsibilities are wrapping up. I’ve recently begun training for a marathon while also teaching my girlfriend, Kirsten,
how to skateboard. And I recently got accepted to the University of Akron’s Graduate School of Education.

It’s game time! (Photo by Doug Morisoli)

On top of this, I’ve also been diligently practicing for U.S. Nationals. Speaking of which, have you seen the recently announced cash payouts for the U.S. National Championships? $10,000 dollars for first place! Everyone in Top 16 walks away with at least a grand, and everyone down to Top 64 gets at least $500! Wow! I am pleasantly surprised that Pokemon stepped their game up in the awards department. After seeing cuts to Regional winners this year, I didn’t see this coming. If you weren’t amped up for Nationals already, fear not. Now is the perfect time to get into gear. In today’s article, I will be analyzing lists and discussing matchups between the top three decks in the Standard format.

With a wide range of powerful threats on the horizon, it is imperative that your selection for the National Championships be flawless. The top contenders in this format are brutal and have plentiful options available to them. There is no room for error. My hope is that this article will provide the foundation for your own testing in the upcoming months. If your deck can’t hang with these lists, it won’t be worth bringing to Nationals.

Unlike the circumstances surrounding last year’s Nationals format due to the impromptu Lysandre's Trump Card ban, we’ve seen this metagame taking shape for months now. These archetypes are tournament tried and tested; there is nothing crazy experimental here. (Though, I have a few experimental lists in the works.) This article is meant to give you the cold hard facts of what you’ll see at Nationals. We won’t be able to assess the viability of possible sleeper threats until we bring the front runners into focus. So without further delay, let’s define the format for the largest Pokemon Trading Card tournament of the year!

Greninja BREAK

Greninja BREAK is a card that everyone knew had potential, but few figured out how to operate the deck optimally during State Championships. I wasn’t a big fan of the archetype at first, but with the return of N, Greninja has the world to gain. Not only does N provide this Evolution deck a proper shuffle-draw option, it also gives the deck powerful sweeping capabilities. Perhaps most importantly, N allows Greninja to go toe to toe with Trevenant BREAK, which used to be the deck’s worst matchup. With a padded Supporter count, the deck also becomes more consistent than it was previously.

Greninja has a lot of close matchups, and piloting the deck well takes skill and practice. It’s also relatively fun to play, so I see it becoming a top threat at the National Championships. I’ve logged a lot of games with this list and I’m happy with where it is currently. One of the toughest challenges of constructing a good Ninja list is trying to fit in everything. There are a lot of cards I want to fit in here, but of course, my lists are built with consistency in mind first.


Pokemon (19)

3x Greninja BREAK (BKP #41)3x Greninja (BKP #40)1x Greninja (XY #41)4x Frogadier (BKP #39)4x Froakie (BKP #38)1x Octillery (BKT #33)1x Remoraid (BKT #32)2x Jirachi (PRXY #XY67)

Trainers (33)

4x Professor Sycamore (XY #122)4x N (DEX #96)2x Fisherman (BKT #136)1x Olympia (GEN #66)1x Wally (RSK #107)1x Delinquent (BKP #98)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Dive Ball (PRC #125)4x Level Ball (AOR #76)3x Trainers' Mail (AOR #100)1x Sacred Ash (FLF #96)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)3x Rough Seas (PRC #137)

Energy (8)

8x Water Energy (RS #106)

What’s New?

Before I dive into explaining how this archetype fits into the metagame, I want to go over a couple unique choices that I’ve made with my list that differ from what you saw at States.

1-1 Octillery

Towards the end of States, Octillery had been phased out of many Greninja BREAK lists. With N back, however, Octillery is needed to draw resources that are limited towards the close of the game. This deck can’t afford to get N’d to a low hand without any out to draw cards. Octillery is so good for closing games and boosting mid game consistency that I could see bumping the Octillery count to a 2-2 line, but I have rationalized a 1-1 count since Octillery won’t be needed that badly until the end of the game. Octillery reminds me a lot of the 1-1 Electrode line that used to see play in 2014 Rayboar lists; it’s enough draw to close out games. My only hesitation towards playing Octillery is that it can be a liability, should it ever get pulled into the Active position. I considered a one-of Float Stone or AZ at first, but quickly realized that Olympia is the superior option.

Some players still adamantly argue that Octillery is not needed in this deck; however, my testing shows that Greninja runs more consistently with Octillery included, as it turns your Ball Items into consistency cards. My suggestion for you is to try it yourself and see which you prefer. If you cut Octillery, I would add a fourth Trainers' Mail and a fourth Rough Seas, while switching the Olympia to a third Jirachi.

1x Olympia

Olympia is here to save Octillery from the dreaded Active position, but she also serves a number of other purposes. She acts as a switching card for Greninja BREAK as well, increasing the potential of Giant Water Shuriken. With Olympia, it’s possible to Giant Water Shuriken with two Greninja BREAK before attacking with a third attacker, like Stardust Jirachi. Olympia also allows you to pull off a crazy triple Giant Water Shuriken, should you have access to three Water Energy while three Greninja BREAK are in play.

It’s also worth noting that Olympia heals 30 damage from the switched Pokemon when played. This is useful versus Trevenant BREAK and the Greninja mirror. When combined with Rough Seas, Olympia allows you to heal 60 damage from a Pokemon in a single turn, which definitely adds up over the course of a long game.

1x Delinquent

Delinquent is included for the Greninja BREAK mirror match. Many consider this to be the worst mirror match to play in the Standard format. Games often boil down to deck outs or who runs out of resources first. To tip things in your favor, the list runs one Delinquent. Delinquent simultaneously diminishes the opponent’s resources while also removing the presumptive Stadium, Rough Seas, from play. If the opponent is unable to find a Rough Seas of their own, they will not be able to heal their Pokemon, consequently tipping the damage race in your favor.

4x N

N has proved to be a huge boon for Greninja BREAK in my testing. Previously, Greninja lists supplemented N with copies of Judge or Ace Trainer. Now that our hero is back, I’ve opted to play a full suite of them. With eight good draw Supporters, Trainers' Mail, eight Ball Items, and Octillery, the deck is more consistent than ever.

Four copies of N ensures that you will be able to limit the opponent at every opportunity. When they have three Prizes remaining, you can N them to three, and so on. This strategy works wonders with Greninja since the deck is comprised entirely of non-EX Pokemon. You will be able to slow the game to a crawl as matches come to a close by limiting your opponent’s resources and taking out threats with Water Shuriken.

Eight draw Supporters also means that there is ample opportunity to draw well versus Item lock decks like Trevenant BREAK, Vileplume, or Seismitoad-EX. A hand full of Trainers’ Mail and Ball Items does you no good here.

Greninja Versus the Format

Greninja BREAK is turning a lot of heads as people realize how good the deck’s matchups have become. Greninja boasts definitively positive matchups versus Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX and Yveltal / Zoroark, while going toe to toe with Trevenant BREAK and Night March. Not many decks have a resume like that!

Versus Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX

This matchup is a total layup; get those Jirachi out and Stardust until your heart is content. Things get a little more tricky if you’re playing against a less traditional Water deck like the one David Hochman used to win Germany’s National Championships. For those of you that are not familiar, the deck is based around Seismitoad-EX / Fighting Fury Belt and uses Max Elixir to accelerate Water Energy onto Seismtoad. Without the ability to bump Special Energy via Stardust, Seismitoad’s Item lock is a more formidable threat. At the end of the day though, Seismitoad only hits for 40 damage, 30 of which you can be healed by Rough Seas. So as long as Seismitoad is using Quaking Punch, that damage is not sticking, making Greninja the all-around top Frog in Standard.

Versus Trevenant BREAK

Trevenant BREAK used to be the bane of Greninja BREAK‘s existence. According to Beach subscriber Andrew Wambolt, Trevenant bested Greninja during nine out of the ten times the decks met in the top cut at State Championships. But thanks to N, the tides are changing on this high profile matchup.

If Greninja goes first, this matchup is quite manageable. Set up an early Water Duplicates, try to find a Rough Seas, and you should be good to go. The Stadium war is important in this matchup. Typically, Trevenant players will lay the first Stadium since they need Dimension Valley to perform an efficient attack. Once this happens, it’s your turn to counter the Stadium and heal your Pokemon. There are three copies of Rough Seas in order to compete in a Stadium war against Trevenant. Every turn you stick a Rough Seas, you effectively undo a turn of Silent Fear.

Eventually, thanks to your high Supporter count, you will probably be able to set up two Greninja BREAK, despite the opponent’s Item lock. Once your BREAK are up and rolling, the match is a layup. Snipe Phantump, Shaymin-EX, and Wobbuffet with Giant Water Shuriken while Moonlight Slashing the Active Trevenant BREAK for 80 damage a turn. If the opponent attaches Bursting Balloon, most of the time you’ll want to skip the Moonlight Slash and only use Shuriken. If you take significant damage from a Balloon, you might open the door for a Wobbuffet to sneak in and inflict significant damage on your BREAK.

Phantump, Shaymin, and Wobbuffet are your primary targets for Giant Water Shuriken since the math adds up best on them. One Shuriken will always net a Prize on a Phantump, two Shuriken will always net two Prizes on a Shaymin-EX, and two Shuriken always net a single Prize on a Wobbuffet. If you snipe a Trevenant for 60 damage, it could evolve into a BREAK, removing it from 2HKO territory. Most of the time you will want to 2HKO your opponent’s Trevenant BREAK with two Moonlight Slashes, making the most of your Energy. Eventually, you will be able to wear your opponent out of resources while they swing fruitlessly into your healing Frogs.

Admittedly, going second in this matchup can get rough. If the opponent gets a turn one Trevenant BREAK, you might not be able to draw into the cards you need to pull off a Water Duplicates. But therein lies the power of Trevenant BREAK. The deck can beat anything if it goes first, sets up first, and draws well enough. Ultimately though, this matchup has become favorable with the addition of N and high counts of Rough Seas.

One more neat thing you can do in this matchup is stockpile Energy onto your first Frogadier when you’re setting up. Two Water Energy will look funny on a Frogadier at first, but once it evolves into a Greninja, you’ll be glad you have the Energy there to use Moonlight Slash.

Versus Night March

BOZEilHSKThis matchup is close no matter which way you cut it. Even with Jirachi Stardusting his butt off, Night March will typically take three Prizes before you can establish a solid board position; but worry not, most Night March players will not have the foresight or skill to manage their resources carefully enough to last an entire game against Greninja.

One of the more skill-oriented facets of this matchup is deciding when to stop Stardusting and finally dive in for an attack. Night March will typically Lysandre and Escape Rope around your Jirachi for a while, but once you start N‘ing them to low hands, they will eventually whiff and need to pass the turn. This opens the door for you to attack with Greninja BREAK. Your fight will seem fruitless at first. You’ll Stardust, the opponent will Lysandre something and KO it. Then you’ll promote a Greninja BREAK, Shuriken once (twice if you have the sweet Olympia play,) and Stardust again. Stardust’s damage never adds up and you take Prizes slowly, even slower if the opponent manages to pull off effective Hex Maniac plays. It’s important to continue wearing at the opponent’s resources, though. You want to make the opponent waste a Double Colorless Energy every time they attack. This forces them to use their Puzzle of Time optimally.

Almost every game comes down to the last DCE and the last Prize, and it typically looks something like this: Night March has one Prize to go to your two. You N them to one and Stardust, forcing them to have DCE / Lysandre for game. They either have it and win or they pass. If they pass, you Abyssal your hand up with Octillery, retreat, and finish off a Shaymin-EX with Giant Shuriken or Moonlight Slash for game.

Versus Yveltal / Zoroark / Gallade

This is another favorable matchup for Greninja BREAK. If you’re able to control your Bench size, nothing in this deck can OHKO your BREAKS, while you have the ability to effortlessly shake off Oblivioin Wing damage with Rough Seas. If the opponent does manage to get a quick Zoroark BREAK or Gallade up and going, you can strike back with a Stardust and buy yourself a turn. Eventually, you will be able to build your board up to the point in which you overwhelm the opponent. It’s difficult for them to stream attacks and Hex Maniac at the same time, though if they do manage it, things can get a little difficult. All in all, this is not a matchup I would be terribly worried about with Greninja. Night March and Trevenant BREAK are much more difficult to handle.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

If you'd like to continue reading, consider purchasing a PokeBeach premium membership! If you're not completely satisfied with your membership, you can request a full refund within 30 days.

Each week we post high-quality content from some of the game's top players. Our article program isn't a corporate operation, advertising front, or for-profit business. We set our prices so that we can pay the game's top players to write the best content for our subscribers. Each article topic is carefully selected, goes through multiple drafts, and is touched up by our editors. We take great pride in our program!