Haters Gonna Hate — Anti-Meta Plays for Nationals and an Exclusive Interview with Enrique Avila

Hello again ‘Beach goers! My school year is over! That means it’s time to hit the beach, get my bronze on, skateboard, work at the carnival, stay up late, sleep in, and play Pokemon ’til my fingers bleed. I’ve always said that I’m destined to be a teacher, not because I’m patient and happen to be good at teaching, but because I live for summer vacations.

IMG_3871 2

Summer mode engaged.

Some of you may have noticed that my next article is premiering sooner than usual. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback I’ve received from readers lately, I plan to start writing two full articles each month. I can’t express how humbled I am by the kind words I’ve heard from many of you, so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the readers and subscribers that keep this program afloat. Writing for PokeBeach has definitely challenged me to become a better writer, but more importantly, it has challenged me to become a better card player. It’s been an incredible experience to grow and prosper with this program since its onset, and I’m looking forward to the opportunities with PokeBeach that lie ahead.

During my last article, I discussed the three front runners in the Standard format: Trevenant BREAK, Greninja BREAK, and Night March. These decks were a given, but it’s important to establish solid lists for them before moving forward. Now that we have the front runners in focus, we can explore the progression of the format. In today’s article, I will explain the benefits of playing alternative or anti-meta decks at high profile tournaments while providing lists for three unique decks for Nationals.

I am also honored to be sharing this article with Enrique Avila, who is stopping by to shed some insight on the viability of Wailord-EX for the National Championships. For those of you who don’t know Enrique, he finished second at the U.S. National Championships last year with his groundbreaking Wailord deck. More recently, he placed in the Top 4 of Iowa States with a new iteration of Wailord that he and his team had been developing for months. Wailord has been gaining some hype recently because it absolutely trounces all but a couple decks in Standard. It also earned a second place finish at Edmonton Regionals in the hands of TJ Traquair. Make sure to stay tuned for this exclusive interview!

Why go Anti-Meta?

If I say that Trevenant BREAK, Greninja BREAK, and Night March are the three best decks in the format, why should I bother looking elsewhere? These three decks have earned their spot at the top because of their overall strength and broad range of even to positive matchups. That being said, many players are dissatisfied with the way that matches between the big three decks pan out. The interactions between the top three decks tend to be more luck-based rather than skill-based, which makes these choices frustrating amongst highly skilled players. For example, Trevenant is only explicitly favored when it goes first, while Night March fares much better against Trevenant and Greninja when it goes first and draws into its Puzzle of Time correctly. Though many, like myself, have come to the conclusion that Greninja is the winningest of the top three decks, it is easily the least consistent. Players also tend to agree that the Greninja mirror match is the least fun mirror to play, with both Night March and Trevenant mirrors trailing closely behind.

Since players’ attitudes towards the top three decks are unusually sour this year, the field seems ripe for anti-meta decks at the National Championships. Most anti-meta decks have some sort of glaring weakness that prevent them from prevailing as a top archetype. However, once a format has established itself, players can accurately assess the risk / reward ratio of piloting an anti-meta deck at a big tournament.

Weighing Risk vs. Reward

Dice

It’s key!

A risk / reward ratio is used by investors to compare the expected profit of an investment to the amount of risk required to obtain that profit. Smart investors will only take risks that are likely to pay off. They spend time analyzing market trends in order to predict what consumers will spend money on in order to be successful. In the same way, smart Pokemon players only take risks with deck choices that are likely to pay off in some way.

Every deck has its own risk / reward factor that players should consider. For example, the risk of bringing Night March to a tournament is that the deck is extremely high profile. Players may attempt to counter it directly with cards like Seismitoad-EX / Fighting Fury BeltBursting Balloon, ArticunoCrobatJirachi, or Giratina-EX. On the other hand, the reward is that you are playing the fastest, hardest hitting, most consistent deck in the format. You have a chance to beat almost any deck on those merits alone. The top decks in a given format tend to have moderate risk / reward factors. They boast even-ish matchups with a few positive matchups tossed in as well. Conversely, anti-meta decks tend to be more polarized. An anti-meta deck might completely decimate a few top decks while losing horribly to one or two others.

A perfect example of an anti-meta deck that saw success lately was Chrisowalantis Amanatidis‘s Water Toolbox deck that he used to win Germany’s National Championships. Chrisowalantis‘s archetype has gained popularity lately because it can beat Night March, Seismitoad / Giratina, Yveltal / Zoroark and Trevenant BREAK, while only losing outright to decks that feature a prominent Grass-type attacker. Chrisowalantis saw his local metagame honing in around Trevenant and Night March, so he took this opportunity to exploit it, and succeeded despite the risks involved. Chrisowalantis was able to give himself a significant edge versus a large portion of the German metagame because of the call he made. In this way, it is possible to negate the risks of an anti-meta deck with a spot-on meta call.

Metagaming

Predicting the meta for a big tournament like Nationals can be an exhausting task. It’s important to expand your network as large as possible to try and find out what players are talking about leading up to the competition. Reading articles on PokeBeach is a perfect way to get started, but another one of my favorite ways to get a feel for the metagame at large is to hop on PTCGO and play for a couple hours. PTCGO is like a worldwide metagame hive. Since matches are being played all day, every day, lists are constantly being tweaked and strategies are constantly emerging. Though I wouldn’t suggest playing whatever you see a lot of on PTCGO, it is a great way to figure out what’s popular, and an excellent tool to utilize for making a deck choice for a large tournament.

To properly asses the risk / reward factor for a given deck, you need to have a keen perception of the metagame. If you fail to correctly assess the risks of an anti-meta deck, you could fall completely flat on your face. Imagine playing M Sceptile-EX at Nationals and then running into multiple Flareon-EX decks!

As of late, I consider Greninja, Trevenant, Night March, and Water Toolbox to be the top four decks to look out for at Nationals. Chrisowalantis‘s rogue deck has made such an impression on the metagame that I now consider it to be an essential archetype in our evolving metagame. When making your selection for Nationals, you can afford to sack one of these matchups if you get lucky and hopefully dodge enough of them during your run. I expect many decks to do well at Nationals that fare poorly versus one of these decks while having good odds against the other three. That being said, I wouldn’t select any deck that explicitly suffers versus two of these decks. It would be difficult to do well at Nationals if you can’t regularly beat 75% of the big decks.

For the remainder of my article, I will review anti-meta or alternative deck choices that take advantage of the already established metagame in some way. I will provide my personal list for each deck before explaining the projected risk / reward factors of piloting it during Nationals.

Mega Sceptile

M Sceptile-EX was easily recognized as a powerful card upon its release. It’s a 220 HP Mega Pokemon-EX that is immune to Abilities, has access to Forest of Giant Plants, heals, and accelerates Energy. Yet despite the defensive power of the card, it has spent the last ten months living in the shadows of OHKO decks like Night March and M Rayquaza-EX. I’ll spare you the anticipation and let you know that neither of these matchups have been improved. What has improved, though, is Mega Sceptile’s positioning in the Standard format.

 

Pokemon (12)

4x M Sceptile-EX (AOR #8)4x Sceptile-EX (AOR #7)1x Hoopa-EX (PRXY #XY71)1x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)1x Ariados (AOR #6)1x Spinarak (AOR #5)

Trainers (38)

4x Professor Sycamore (PHF #101)3x N (NVI #92)1x Lysandre (FLF #90)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Fisherman (BKT #136)1x AZ (PHF #117)4x Ultra Ball (DEX #102)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Trainers' Mail (AOR #100)4x Sceptile Spirit Link (AOR #80)3x Mega Turbo (RSK #86)1x Switch (HS #102)1x Escape Rope (PRC #127)1x Revitalizer (GEN #70)4x Forest of Giant Plants (AOR #74)1x Parallel City (BKT #145)

Energy (10)

10x Grass Energy (DP #123)

As you can see, I prefer a straight forward, no nonsense list. I like the deck to be fast and consistent, aiming to get a turn one or two Jagged Saber and stream them continuously throughout the course of the game. Once this deck sets up, it is extremely hard to take down.

The Risk

The big green monster.

How much of a gambler are you? Are you willing to take the loss to Night March, the very deck that defines Standard? If you’re a gambling man (or woman), step right up! M Sceptile-EX is the perfect example of a high risk / high reward deck choice. You take the loss to Night March and M Rayquaza-EX, but destroy nearly everything else.

I’ve attempted many strategies to try and get this deck to beat Night March, but none have been a success. I tried Jirachi, I tried Assault Vest, and I even considered Floette! But there was just no dice. There’s no way to polish this deck’s terrible Night March matchup. You might recall that M Manectric-EX, a similar archetype in all ways except typing, has access to Jolteon-EX and still cannot beat Night March.

Despite the fact that this deck can’t beat Night March with any sort of consistency, it could still be a solid call for U.S. Nationals. Last year, Raichu / Crobat was widely considered to be the BDIF leading up to U.S. Nationals. It was collecting National finishes at various competitions around the world, but by the time U.S. Nationals rolled around, few actually played Raichu / Crobat or Night March, the deck it was designed to beat! It’s possible that this year’s U.S. Nationals will follow a similar pattern. People may spend so much effort countering Night March that they leave the door open for a Night March weak deck like Mega Sceptile to thrive!

The Reward

You take the loss to the most high profile deck in Standard, so what! There are some serious dividends to be had with  M Sceptile-EX if you hit your matchups correctly. Sceptile is heavily favored against Greninja BREAK, Trevenant BREAK, Wailord-EX, Water Toolbox, and Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX. Sceptile has the potential to beat any deck that doesn’t regularly OHKO 220 HP Pokemon-EX. On top of this, Abilities like Alakazam-EX‘s Kinesis, Crobat‘s Surprise Bite, and Greninja‘s Water Shuriken have no effect on your Mega Sceptile-EX thanks to its Ancient Trait, Theta Stop.

If you think that a gamble like this is far-fetched, it isn’t. Just last summer, Daniel Altavilla finished in the Top 16 of Worlds with a M Manectric-EX / Genesect-EX deck that took brutal losses to both Night March and Landorus-EX / Crobat, both of which were well represented at the tournament. People slide through the cracks with risky plays all the time. Earlier this year, Connor Finton won a States with M Rayquaza-EX despite the fact that Night March was still reigning as the undisputed BDIF. Two years ago, Aaron Tarbell won St. Louis Regionals with Blastoise / Keldeo-EX despite Virizion-EX / Genesect-EX being the most played deck at the tournament.

Even if you happen to get paired against a Night March deck with Sceptile, all hope is not lost. No deck boasts a 100% to 0% matchup odds. You still have a shot at winning if you set up well and things don’t go perfectly for Night March. Sometimes Night March will struggle to find Double Colorless Energy or Prize a ridiculous number of Night Marchers. In these cases, you must take advantage of your opponent’s poor fortune.

Wailord — with Enrique Avila

IMG_3872Not everyone wants to leave their Night March matchup in the air. Some players dislike Night March so thoroughly that they will pick their deck with the intention of defeating Night March 100% of the time. Not many decks can boast that. In fact, Wailord-EX is the only deck that gets close to keeping that promise. If you’re a Night March hater, look no further. I’ve recruited the Wailord expert himself, Enrique Avila, to walk you through the newest iteration of last year’s groundbreaking Wailord deck.

Hello Enrique! Thanks for joining us here on PokeBeach. How’s it going?

Hi Andrew! I’ve been doing very well.

What have you been up to lately?

I Just finished up another successful year of school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m enjoying the freedom of summer before my infamous junior year comes along that is filled with the MCAT and many other academic challenges.

How have you been feeling about your season so far? How many Championship Points do you have?

My season has been quite successful for the amount of time school has demanded out of me. I sit at 317 Championship Points and earned my invite during Madison Regionals two weeks ago.

What would you consider to be the highlight of your season so far?

The highlight of my season was definitely my States run. This is where I made the biggest leap in Championship Points towards my Worlds invitation. I attended three States, managing to Top 8 one and Top 4 another, each with an unorthodox deck choice. For my Top 8 run, I piloted a Raichu / Crobat variant to counter Night March and Giratina-EX. But it was Iowa States that was the real highlight of my season. There I played Wailord-EX, going undefeated in Swiss, only losing in Top 4 to the eventual champ, who played Vespiquen / Vileplume. Unfortunately, I suffered from some bad draws in a matchup that generally cannot afford any slip-ups.

What would you consider to be the low point of your season so far?

My low point was during Cities. Cities season occurs during winter break, so I made it a priority to attend as many Cities as I could to rack up Championship Points before school started up again. I failed. I attended a dozen Cities and only received finishes from three. This was pretty demoralizing and put stress on the rest of the season, making big finishes at large tournaments mandatory in order to receive an invite. I was able to overcome this by finishing well at the next few large tournaments that I had managed to attend.

That’s tough man, but congratulations on your Top 4 States finish with Wailord! That had to be exciting to excel with an old favorite.

Thanks man! It was, for sure.

Combined with your Finalist U.S. Nationals performance last year, this makes you the most accomplished Wailord player in the world. Why do you like the Wailord deck, and why do you think that it might be a good choice for U.S. Nationals again this year?

IMG_3873

The legend himself.

I like Wailord-EX as a deck because it is difficult for the opponent to play against. An opponent has to play at optimum efficiency, managing resources and timing plays well in order to win. Even then, Wailord’s beefiness can still prevail in the end.

Personally, I think it could be a great call for U.S Nationals for one major reason: nearly every deck in the format plays Battle Compressor.

Anyone who watched you play in the finals of last year’s U.S. Nationals could see that timing plays a huge part in playing Wailord correctly. What are some of the challenges of piloting Wailord in a 50 minute best-of-three series or a top cut scenario?

The biggest challenge to playing Wailord-EX is the mental fatigue. Piloting a 50 minute series correctly can get super technical. The deck is monotonous. You have to time things correctly, otherwise your opponent can take advantage and steal games. Another challenge arises if your opponent steals a quick game one. When this happens, you will likely tie or lose that series. The first game in a series is critically important since Wailord lacks the speed to complete two or three games in 50 minutes. That means there is no room for errors!

As we know, playing Wailord in a top cut scenario can get sketchy. Even if Wailord wins game one, your opponent is able to win game two if they take four Prizes before time is called. Then, they can still win the series in sudden death without ever taking all six Prizes! This issue was unavoidable before; however, I’ve come up with a solution to this issue in my newest list.

As the most accomplished Wailord player, is there any insight you could offer to help players navigate their series?

The best advice I can give to navigate a series is to remain calm. Situations can get stressful, and it may seem like you are losing, but it is only the nature of the deck. Let your opponent swing haymakers at you for a few turns. Eventually, their deck will get gassed and it’s smooth sailing from there on out. Mind the clock and search your opponent’s discard pile to keep counts on VS Seeker, shuffle draw, and Energy so you can plan your moves accordingly.

Do you have a skeleton list you could share with us?


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