March of the Champion — A First Place U.S. National Championship Report

Hello everybody! My name is Nick Robinson, and this is my first article for PokeBeach. I have just recently been accepted as a PokeBeach premium article writer. I am very excited to be working with PokeBeach and to get to share my opinions and views on the Pokemon Trading Card Game competitive scene. I hope to be bringing plenty of quality articles to you all soon.

Now to get into the article itself. This article will be covering my run at U.S. Nationals, the deck I picked, why I picked it, all of my rounds, and a little bit into my views on the upcoming World Championships. Now that we have all this silly stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at the deck.

The Deck

As many of you know, I piloted a Night March deck to victory at U.S. Nationals. From what many of my friends have told me, many people in the audience were very upset to hear that a Night March deck had made it to the finals. Many of these people were rooting against me, just praying to see Night March lose. But then they saw that I also played Vespiquen.

For some reason, the inclusion of Vespiquen and Unown in my deck made the audience feel much more favorable towards me. Maybe it was seeing a Night March deck that wasn’t the generic “I’m going to blow through my deck in one turn and take a KO at the end every single time” Night March deck. Obviously there were games that did appear to be like this, but there was actually a lot of strategy and “metagaming” that was put into this deck. First, let’s talk about how I decided on playing this deck.

Originally, my testing partner, Kiernan, a high-level Senior player also from Iowa, and I decided to test Night March with Vespiquen due to its pure power. With the inclusion of Vespiquen, the deck was able to hit Pokemon that had Grass-type Weakness (a.k.a. Seismitoad-EX and Greninja) hard. In our testing the night before the event, we were expecting the Water Box deck to be very prevalent, which instigated playing Night March / Vespiquen as opposed to a straight Night March deck. The original list that we tested was nothing close to the list that Kiernan and I both ended up using for the whole event. The list we first tested was very inconsistent, and we wrote it off as a bad deck. Later that night, we saw our friends Jon Eng and Ishaan Jagiasi testing and saw that Ishaan was playing Night March / Vespiquen. We started talking to him about it, and he felt that deck was incredibly strong. We looked at his list and mainly saw that it played four Professor Sycamore to help maintain consistency, especially against Item-lock decks. We felt the deck had strong matchups against most of the popular decks in the format and decided to include Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic to help deal with Giratina-EX using Chaos Wheel to lock us out of Special Energy cards. After working with the deck list for many hours that night, this is what we came up with.

Pokemon (25)

4x Joltik (PHF #26)4x Pumpkaboo (PHF #44)4x Lampent (PHF #42)4x Unown (AOR #30)3x Vespiquen (AOR #10)3x Combee (AOR #9)3x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)

Trainers (31)

4x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)1x N (FAC #105)1x Lysandre (AOR #78)1x Teammates (PRC #141)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Xerosic (PHF #110)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Ultra Ball (FAC #113)4x Battle Compressor (PHF #92)4x Puzzle of Time (BKP #109)1x Escape Rope (PRC #127)1x Startling Megaphone (FLF #97)1x Enhanced Hammer (PHF #94)1x Town Map (BKT #150)2x Dimension Valley (PHF #93)

Energy (4)

4x Double Colorless Energy (FAC #114)

This is list is somewhat different than what is considered a “normal” Night March / Vespiquen list, so I will take the time to go over some of those differences, and why we made them.

Card Explanations

3-3 Vespiquen

Some lists opted to play a 4-4 line of Vespiquen due to it being a main attacker in the deck. We built this list to be more of a Night March style and have Vespiquen be a backup attacker to help deal with various Pokemon (Seismitoad-EXGreninja, and Jolteon-EX). Vespiquen is also useful as a Pokemon with no Retreat Cost so it can be promoted to the Active spot after a Knock Out to retreat into whatever attacker you decide to use, or to promote when you use Escape Rope for the same reason.

Four Unown

Four Unown was very useful throughout the tournament. I believe that having four of these in the deck helps maintain a little bit of consistency while being able to help you draw after a lategame N to one or two cards. Having four Unown in the deck won me a couple of games over the weekend.

One Enhanced Hammer and One Xerosic

As many of you saw in my finals match on stream, having Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic in my deck were very useful and essentially my only way to beat Giratina-EX. A Giratina-EX with two Special Energy cards on it can get completely shutdown with the combination of Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic in the same turn. These cards are also still good when going up against a Giratina-EX with a Double Dragon Energy and two Basic Energy. The gameplan just tends be slightly different by forcing your opponent to waste all of their resources to keep attacking with Giratina-EX throughout the game and then being left with nothing once you get rid of their last Double Dragon Energy.

One Escape Rope, Zero Float Stone, Zero AZ

While testing the deck, we definitely felt like Escape Rope was a very good card by forcing your opponent to switch their Active Pokemon with one of their Benched Pokemon while allowing you to switch at the same time. Sometimes this effect was similar to a Lysandre by forcing your opponent to bring up a Pokemon that they definitely did not want in the Active spot. We did not include any Float Stone in our list because we felt that with Vespiquen having a zero Retreat Cost and already having a switching card would make it less useful. I think we all would have liked to include one AZ in the list, but we felt that the only possible cut could have been a Professor Sycamore and we did not want to tamper with the consistency of the deck.

One Town Map

Town Map is a card that has been hovering in and out of Night March decks for a long time. Very often it is considered to be the “61st card” because it is definitely a great card to have in the deck, but there is not always room in the deck list for it. When building the deck, my testing partners and I felt that this deck was not quite as explosive as a straight Night March deck, and we would often have to get the most valuable resources off the Prize cards. Playing Town Map allowed us to be prepared to make the best possible play in the upcoming turns. Also, with how many one-of cards there are in the deck, it seemed very important to get an extremely valuable card like Lysandre or even your fourth Puzzle of Time out of the Prizes.

One Lysandre

Lysandre is a very powerful card that I wish we were able to fit two of into the deck. The deck list is very tight on space and like I said before, we did not want to tamper with the consistency of the deck.

Zero Fighting Fury Belt and Zero Muscle Band

Once again, this is another scenario in which we did not have the space for these cards. We also felt that the deck has so much power already that trying to push for more damage with Fighting Fury Belt or Muscle Band was not necessary for the deck to be successful. These cards were not a high priority for us when trying to build the deck.

Two Dimension Valley

Many Night March / Vespiquen decks have opted out of using Dimension Valley and tend to instead run one Parallel City to get rid of extra Pokemon, like Shaymin-EX, off the Bench and power up Vespiquen. While I do believe that Parallel City is a very card strong in this deck, I think that playing two Dimension Valley was the best play for this event. Being able to use Pumpkaboo to attack with Night March instead of Joltik is powerful in so many aspects. Since this deck does not play Fighting Fury Belt, attacking Joltik means that your opponent can easily take a Knock Out by using Sky Return with Shaymin-EX or a simple Quaking Punch from Seismitoad-EXPumpkaboo is definitely the best Night March attacker unless you need to attack a Pokemon for Lightning-type Weakness.

Tournament Report

Day One Swiss Rounds

Now it’s time to look at the tournament itself. Just as a reminder, I played a total of 18 rounds (15 Swiss rounds and three Top Cut matches) so my memory may not be perfect on the exact order that I played everybody or what exactly happened in the match, but I will try to give some insight into all of my matchups and how to approach them.

Round 1: Mikal Wyatt with M Manectric-EX / Water – WW 1-0-0

Round one I played Mikal Wyatt who I met at Ft. Wayne Regionals where I got Top 4. I knew that he was a really nice guy, and I was sad to see that I had to play him round one. In this matchup, getting a turn one Night March for a Knock Out on a Manectric-EX or really any Pokemon-EX is pretty crucial. Getting the first Knock Out quickly gives you a ton of momentum in the matchup and forces your opponent to try to keep up with you. Since I played Vespiquen in my deck, his Jolteon-EX was not as useful as it usually is in the Night March matchup. His only major threat was Articuno since it could take multiple Prizes on my non-EX attackers. Game one went exactly how I need it to. I took a quick Knock Out on a Manectric-EX and set the pace of the game from there. He was still able to setup a M Manectric-EX on the Bench and setup an Articuno to get a Knock Out on me in the following turn. I Knocked Out his M Manectric-EX and went down to two Prizes. All I had to do was use Lysandre on a Pokemon-EX on the following turn and get a Knock Out to win. He promoted his Articuno to use Tri Edge but ended up flipping three Tails which prevented him from getting a Knock Out on my Pumpkaboo. He scooped after that and we went into game two where he dead drew. It was funny because at the end of the round he said something along the lines of “well now you’re probably just going to go win the whole thing.” It turns out he was not wrong.

Round 2: Zach Kowalski with Greninja / Hard Charm – WW 2-0-0

Zach Kowalski was a Pokedad of two kids, a Junior and a Senior, and he was playing Greninja. I do not remember a whole lot about this matchup except that it was a pretty close series and I won off a lategame N to one card for him in game two. The best strategy to use in this matchup is to attack with Vespiquen at nearly every chance and Pumpkaboo if Vespiquen is not an option at that particular point. The best play you can make throughout the matchup is try to use Hex Maniac whenever it seems they could possibly be using Water Shuriken or Giant Water Shuriken in the following turn. By attacking with Vespiquen and using Hex Maniac in the same turn, the Greninja player is put at a low damage output and many times be forced into a position where a Vespiquen is going to Knock Out two of their Pokemon, putting them behind on the Prize-trade. Another big determining factor is whether they play Hard Charm or Muscle Band in their list because if they play Muscle Band they have a chance of getting Knock Out on a Vespiquen under Hex Maniac lock. Overall, this matchup can be considered very poor because you are forced to take six Knock Outs to win a game and it is not always possible to use Hex Maniac every single turn.

Round 3: Zach Benck with Night March – WW 3-0-0

Here it is, the first of many Night March mirrors for this tournament. I also won game two in this series from an N to one. As you’re probably starting to notice, a lategame N is very good when you may be in a losing position. This matchup can be very skill intensive and is probably considered one of the most difficult matchups to play. Many people often think that it is considered easy because you just use Battle Compressor to get Night March Pokemon in the discard pile and just take Knock Outs. It actually comes to doing that while trying to utilize the least amount of resources, getting a Knock Out every single turn, all while trying to avoid putting a Shaymin-EX onto your Bench at all costs. With a Shaymin-EX on your Bench, your opponent has the opportunity to use Lysandre and get a Knock Out on a Shaymin-EX  to put them ahead on the Prize-trade. I think the Night March / Vespiquen has the advantage in this aspect since it plays four Professor Sycamore and four Unown to draw through the deck more efficiently without having to utilize Shaymin-EX. This deck is also able to fill up the Bench with Vespiquen and Unown to prevent your opponent from using Target Whistle to put a Shaymin-EX onto the Bench to be brought up by Lysandre at a later time. Unown also allows you to help draw after a lategame N to prevent your opponent from winning based off you dead drawing. Overall, I think Night March / Vespiquen has a lot of advantages when playing against other styles of Night March decks, but it is definitely a close matchup no matter what.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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