Hello everyone! Alex back at you with a whole bunch of cool stuff this time around! We’re going to be looking at my U.S. National Championship run, a bit into the U150 format, and some interesting takes on Rainbow Road for the World Championships coming up here in just a few short weeks!
There were two ways I was going to take this article when planning it out. The first way was going to be a tie-in to Kevin Durant and his whole “You da real MVP,” speech which he gave upon receiving the 2014 Most Valuable Player award. It was going to have some sappy connection to my hometown of Spokane and how they motivated me to really try my hardest at the U.S. National Championships this year. They already got the whole big love speech the day after the tournament, so instead you guys get to be hit with the even more sappy option: song lyrics!
Seriously though guys, hang with me here. Over these last two years, I have opted to drive instead of flying out to the Midwest in order to save money. By having family in both South Dakota and Iowa, I did not have to spend money on hotels along the way to Nationals. Also, I drove my roommate’s Prius which helped cut the cost of fuel. Both times I’ve taken this long trip, I’ve downloaded a whole bunch of music to keep myself going through the 62 hours in the car. One artist I downloaded was Lukas Graham, sort of a Ed Sheeran type if you will. There is a near perfect line from “7 years,” by Lukas Graham that goes as follows, “I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure.” How perfect of a mindset is that to have going into a large tournament? I wish I has listened to that song more carefully going into my last article, because I totally would have touched on it.
My goal heading into the tournament was to just make it to day two and get a little bit extra money for the trip home. I didn’t want to set a goal of achieving Top 8, which would have secured my day two invite to World Championships. That’s quite the lofty goal, and while achievable in my eyes, it was not probable. To give you the quick rundown, I ended up going 7-2 on day one to lock up a spot in the Top 64. Day two did not go as planned, and I ended up in 59th place. All in all, a great trip and a good experience. There was a lot of other stuff that went on in my life before I headed home, so the trip ended up being the best trip I have ever taken in my entire life, and it wasn’t close.
Now that I’m home and I have time to look back on my experience, I will definitely start thinking about that lyric a little bit more. Who knows, I may even get a tattoo of it. I’ve been dying to get a tattoo recently, and I want to connect it to Pokemon somehow since it has become a huge part of my life. It might be kind of uncool to get song lyrics, but hey, if it becomes my mentality, then why not?
The Third Alternative Format: U150
If you aren’t planning on attending the World Championships then you should check out some of my previous articles on some fun formats for the summer! If you’re not up to date on the concept, I’ve been explaining some of my favorite ways to pass the time during the off season in the form of the Elite Format, and Cube Drafting. Today we’re going to go over the third and final format, U150.
If I’m not mistaken, a group in the U.K. created this format to help mirror Magic: The Gather’s Commander (Or EDH) format. In summary, players make decks of 100 cards with only single copies of any one card included. The setup, gameplay, and even what cards you can and can’t use are slightly altered to make the format balanced. There are always updates to the rules and ban list, so keeping up to date on the format is advised. It’s definitely one of the most fun formats I’ve ever played, and it’s one that deserves more attention.
For setup, both players draw hands of 15 cards. From there you decide what eight cards you want as your Prizes, and what seven cards you want as your starting hand. I really like this rule, since the entire deck is singleton based, you don’t want to randomly prize one of your most valuable assets. From there, play is as normal, only with a few of the slightly modified rules I talked about in my two previous articles. Mainly, these rules cover a smoother transition between Ability and Pokemon Power, as well as the difference between Trainer, Supporter, and Stadium. Check out those articles for some better explanation on these rules.
In addition to some of the rule changes we use for all of these formats, there are a few additional things that help balance out this format. The first is where the name comes from, U150. Basic Pokemon with more than 150 HP are banned in U150. This is to help keep the new Pokemon-EX power creep from entering in to the U150 format. In addition, there are some cards that become Pokemon-EX to help balance the power creep in recent years. Fully evolved Pokemon Prime and Holo Rares from Black and White on are considered Pokemon-EX. This rule does not apply to Pokemon with 80 HP or less, so cool things like Manaphy and Victini are not Pokemon-EX, but Empoleon and Tyranitar Prime are. EX and ex both mean the same thing in U150.
Another rule change is the first turn damage rule. If you go first, you cannot play Trainers, Supporters, or Stadiums at all. You can however, attach and attack. These first turn attacks do no damage. If I’m not mistaken, this rule came about when players were using Jolteon in combination with Eevee to deal a whopping 60 damage on the first turn.
There is also a ban list for U150. There are three types of banned card. The first is what are called the “Elite Four” Trainer cards. These cards can be used in decks, but after their use, they go into the Lost Zone. Energy Removal, Super Energy Removal, Gust of Wind, and Goop Gas Attack are all cards that fall into the “Elite Four” cards. The second list is the permanently banned list. The group that developed U150 keeps a close eye on what cards are too powerful and make the format unhealthy. This ban list is constantly being updated and monitored. Here are the cards currently on that list.
- Muk from Fossil
- Espeon from Aquapolis
- Dusknoir from Diamond and Pearl
- Gardevoir from Secret Wonders
- Forretress from Legends Awakened
- Shuckle from HeartGold and SoulSilver Black Star Promos
- Sableye from Dark Explorers
- Miltank from Flashfire
- Diggersby from XY
- Trevenant from XY
- M Manectric-EX from Phantom Forces
- Wobbuffet from Phantom Forces
- Entei from Ancient Origins
- Greninja from BREAKpoint
- Greninja BREAK from BREAKpoint
- All Spirit Links
The third list is the restricted list. Alakazam from Base Set and Reuniclus from Black and White cannot be in a deck with Porygon2 from EX Unseen Forces, Mismagius GL LV.X from Rising Rivals, Jumpluff from Dragons Exalted, Masquerain from Plasma Blast, and Lopunny from Flashfire.
There are a few more items that help round out this well balanced format. In terms of evolving, Trainers’ names, Dark, or any other prefix is ignored when evolving. The only exception to this rule is SP and Star Pokemon. Fossils that are set to a specific Pokemon count as Basic fossils and can be played four to a deck. Mysterious Fossil can also be used to be evolve into any Fossil or Revived Pokemon, and can also be played four to a deck. Arceus cards from the Arceus set don’t have a restriction as to how many can be played. And finally, Archie's Ace in the Hole and Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick can only target Basic Pokemon.
Now, that should be all of the rule changes and edge smoothing there is. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some staple cards and sample deck lists yeah? Mind you I’m not as well versed at this format as I am the previous two. That’s hopefully soon to change, since our area is planning on doing a U150 tournament after the World Championships. I can’t wait for that!
Staples of U150
Now, before I start this list off, I’m not going to be naming any of the obviously broken cards that should be in every U150 deck. Stuff like Computer Search, Item Finder, the “Elite Four” cards, and Uxie from Legends Awakened, to name a few, should be things that are found in almost every unlimited situation. Instead, I’m going to go over some cards and combinations that might not be as obvious at first.
Probably one of the best draw Bench sitters of all time, Claydol from Great Encounters should be included in almost every U150 deck. There have been many times when my Gust of Wind is used to pick off Claydol. Imagine in current times being able to use Shaymin-EX’s Set Up Ability every turn. That’s what it feels like to use Cosmic Power. The stipulation to put two cards on the bottom of your deck first feels similar to an Ultra Ball from Fates Collide search to lower your hand size before drawing it back up to six. Two great cards that work well with Claydol are Oracle and Korrina. Oracle allows you to search your deck for any two cards, then put them on top of your deck. With Claydol, this combination is similar to a Twins or Teammates effect without the stipulation of being behind in Prizes or having a Pokemon get Knocked Out. Korrina is now a must have in every deck not for just the Item search, but the added benefit of being able to search out half of your Claydol line. So in short, all three cards are things I see in every deck, so make sure to dedicate four spots to these!
When looking at recovery options, there is stuff like Super Rod, Nightly Garbage Run, or Night Maintenance that all pretty much do the same exact thing. Short of Lysandre's Trump Card or another Supporter card, these are your best options when it comes to shuffling back in your one of Pokemon. With Pokemon Retriever, you have that same recovery option, with the added benefit that you can choose to grab a Pokemon right away. Plus, if you’re looking for the least expensive option, I believe Pokemon Retriever is still under a dollar most places you look. Nightly Garbage Run hovers around $1.50 last I checked.
Holon Mentor, Lanette’s Net Search, Pokemon Collector, and Brigette are all cards that can’t be used on the first turn of the game. You know what card can be? Dunsparce. There is almost no better setup starter than this bad boy from way back in the day. There are a few cards that tried to do the same thing, like Pachirisu from Great Encounters, Pichu from HeartGold and SoulSilver, and Emolga, but none come close to how well Strike and Run does it. One of the best combinations to grab with Dunsparce’s attack is one of your evolution line, a Baltoy and a Spiritomb from Arceus. Not only do you get to have the early game set up in Dunsparce, but you also get to take full advantage of Keystone Seal on the same turn you use Strike and Run. From there, it’s only a few Darkness Grace away from completely setting up Claydol and an attacker. There’s almost no better way to start the game off.
I think most people forget about this card. In a singleton based format, there is no better search than this card from Stormfront. Being able to Item Finder, Junk Arm, or Dowsing Machine for any Pokemon you want is one of the best ways to keep your deck consistent and running smoothly. Decks also play Ultra Ball and other searching cards, so the limitation on not being able to grab a LV. X with Luxury Ball is easily worked around. There’s no need to dedicate your Ace Spec slot to Master Ball, there are so many better options to choose from, with Luxury Ball being the supreme choice.
Lysandre’s Trump Card
Sure, you probably will never truly forget about this card, especially if you played in that format, but I do have to mention that TPCi only banned this card from Standard and Expanded play, so their reach does not extend into the likes of U150. With so many single copies of cards, and only so many spots dedicated to recovery, Lysandre’s Trump Card becomes a must have in every single deck no questions asked. Unfortunately, this means that mill decks aren’t a viable option in U150. With the combination of Trump Card finding its way into every deck, as well as the whopping 100 cards in every deck, mill decks just don’t work out. There was one strategy I tried to apply to Palkia and Dialga LEGEND to try and stick Lysandre’s Trump Card into the Prizes, and then proceed to mill, but the game ended up taking hours to finish.
One of the biggest things to remember with this card is that it doesn’t have an errata attached to it like Rare Candy does. Meaning that if you are deciding to play a Stage 2 deck, then Pokemon Breeder is the better option to go with. Granted you’re still going to play Rare Candy, but Pokemon Breeder allows you to go into the Stage 2 faster, since you don’t need Broken Time Space to evolve quickly. Obviously not included in every deck since not all decks are going to run a Stage 2 line, but it is something to remember when thinking about your strategy.
And those are just a few of the staple cards that find their way into most every U150 decks. Some others that I haven’t yet mentioned include, but are not limited to, Hex Maniac, Lysandre, Colress, Muscle Band, Float Stone, Expert Belt, N, VS Seeker, Celebi ex from POP Series 2, Sableye from Stormfront, Crobat G from Platinum, Scoop Up, Windstorm, Marley’s Request, and other cards similar to the ones above.
Sample Deck: Magnezone
Now I’m not the most creative deck builder in the world when it comes to this format. I can however give you starting idea to get the juices flowing.
In my opinion, the most basic and bland vanilla starting deck for U150 is Magnezone. If you’re looking for a deck that will help you understand the basic concept behind how to play U150, then look no further than this list!
Just looking at U150 lists makes me excited to play! It makes me want to hop online and order a whole bunch of cards. The reason Magnezone is such a great starter deck is because of all of the cool tools it has at its disposal. You have Energy manipulation in every form. Acceleration from hand, acceleration from discard, acceleration from deck, and movement on the field. You also have the added benefit of Lighting typing, which has some great backup attackers like Zekrom.
It’s really hard to do a full deck analysis on U150 decks, since there are so many cards that deserve an explanation. I’ll do my best for you, but remember, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m honestly not the best U150 deck builder in the world, so odds are if you have suggestions, changes, or other words for me, you’re probably more correct than I am. Either way, let’s take a look at some of the card choices that may be a little off from the obvious picks.
This card has never seen the light of day in competitive play, and isn’t really even used as trade bait or binder fodder. This definitely has something to do with the low HP it brings to the standard scene. In U150 however, the lower 110 HP isn’t much of an issue considering all of its upside value. Being able to accelerate to yourself is really good, especially when you can use the attack on the first turn of the game, being able to hit for 90 damage by turn two if you’re lucky enough to start with it. Applying that early game pressure while being able to set up isn’t something that can’t be passed up. Using that acceleration to Energy Glide into a Spiritomb from Arceus for further annoyance can be huge at times. It’s also one of the few attackers in the deck that isn’t weak to Fighting. Pepper in the free Retreat and you have yourself an automatic inclusion in almost ever Lightning deck.
I’ve always liked the idea of having a backup attacker that can swing for big amounts of damage late game to finish off a Pokemon-EX, or something to be able to take easy one shots without sacrificing your support Pokemon, or an extra Prize. It’s pretty hard to find a non-EX lategame swinging Pokemon that has one shot potential mid game. One card that fits the bill for my tall order is the Electivire from Secret Wonders. It works well with the Energy movement from Magnezone LV.X to add to the sheer acceleration power that this deck brings. The other card that fits the bill for all of my needs, but without the acceleration is Luxio. Yeah, look it up. It’s got a great attack that does 40 damage for each Prize your opponent has taken. Keep in mind that U150 plays with eight Prize cards. You’ll never really need that max damage output of 280, but it can pack a series punch once you opponent has taken half of their Prize cards.
Impostor Professor Oak’s Invention
This card is that “101st” card that I always want to include in every deck. If you’re looking at making changes to the above list, then this card could easily be the first one cut. I like it for the simple reason that every card is a one of card in the Cube. If you can get this card going early, you might be able to put some good things over there that hinder their strategy completely. I think that reward of throwing valuable cards into their Prizes is just too good to pass up. Plus, since you are able to choose your Prizes, players generally don’t play cards like Rotom, Town Map, or Azelf. With Lysandre's Trump Card in format, this becomes one of the few true disruption cards that sticks for the entire game.
Castaway and Scott
Now normally, these two cards aren’t usually found in U150 decks. Sure, they can be decently used with Sableye to give you options for the next turn, but outside of that, they’re outclassed by a lot of other options. The reason they’re so good in this deck is because of Magnezone. In Standard or Expanded, Skyla can be used to grab a Supporter to use with Dual Brains. Not in U150 though, so we have to look for other options to give use consistency when it comes to the double Supporter combo. There are actually a few other cards that can grab a Supporter with a Supporter, but Scott and Castaway are by and far the best options for this.
It’s honestly one of the most overlooked cards in the game, at least in my opinion. During mid game play, this card can be used in combination with Item Finder or Junk Arm to effectively get any Trainer card back from the discard pile. Combine this with VS Seeker and Dual Brains, and you basically can use a Supporter to reuse a Supporter. It’s because of this card that you can actually have the option to use Computer Search as your Ace Spec if you so wish. There’s tons of great combinations with this card.
Magnezone is just one of many cool concepts you can pull off. Usually when starting off, you can generally center a deck around one certain Pokemon and just go from there. Sceptile, Gardevoir, Blastoise, and Kingdra are all cards that fit into this category. Sure, it takes a lot of research and knowledge about past cards to get your 100 cards just right, but it’s worth it. There are a lot of cool concepts I’ve been working on that I want to put to the test. I think there are enough cool cards in the format to make a halfway successful Lost World deck. There is a deck idea floating around out there that never attacks and doesn’t use Energy (think of all that space in your deck!) I always want to try to find a way to make a semi useful burn deck, since there is actually some pretty cool support of that out there. Donphan and hit and switch decks are a favorite of mine, and there is a lot of different ways to play with walls in Unlimited formats.
And there you have it folks! A quick overview of a simple deck in U150 to hopefully get you pumped for this format. Usually our little group over here in Spokane is all about the Cube, but recently we’ve been in talks with league leaders about hosting a U150 tournament. I’m super excited for the prospect of being able to do this on a monthly basis with prize support. And you should too! It’s a great way to get the younger generation involved with not only Pokemon itself, but the old cards that aren’t allowed to be played anymore. I know that there are a few kids in our area that really don’t have the means to get all of the cards they want to, and we usually let them play with older cards in their decks so they can have fun too. With U150, they can now have a shot to win some cool prizes and get involved with tournaments, which will hopefully expand their collection and get them pumped up to buy, trade, and sell! The possibilities of growing a community through an alternative format is so romantic to me; I get excited just talking about it!
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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