Hey guys! It’s Nick Robinson here and today I’m joined by Chris Collins, Alex Koch and John Kettler for a change. The four of us are going to discuss the upcoming Arizona Regional Championships and give you readers some insight into our thoughts and predictions for the tournament. All of us will be attending it and thus have been testing a fair amount. This is the first time we’re trying something like this and we’re pretty excited. Let’s just get started, shall we?
John Kettler: Yeah, let’s go for it, man.
The Big Three
Nick Robinson: Okay, so, first thing we’re gonna talk about is the top three decks that we expect to be the most played and why.
Chris Collins: All right, I guess I’ll go first with this one. First two, Yveltal-EX and Night March easily. The third spot, it’s kinda like back and forth on what it could be. It could be Trevenant, it could be Vespiquen, it could be a whole ton of different decks, you know?
Nick Robinson: Yeah, I definitely feel like with Expanded, there’s such a wide variety of archetypes that are powerful that I almost feel like you can never actually expect what you’re going to see in an Expanded tournament just because you can play just about anything. What do you guys think, John and Alex?
John Kettler: I agree with Chris that it’s definitely going to be Yveltal followed by Night March, and then for the third spot you probably have maybe like a three-way tie. Knowing California, Primal Groudon-EX‘s probably gonna be reasonably popular. I don’t know how popular Trevenant will be, to be honest, especially since a lot of new things like Magearna-EX make it worse. I would say that probably Vileplume lock will be pretty popular. Not too popular, not in that tied-for-third category, but close. Speed Ray‘ll be popular.
Nick Robinson: Oh yeah.
Chris Collins: Ooh, Speed Ray, that’s an interesting one.
John Kettler: Yeah. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think there’s a really good reason for it to be super popular except people like it and it’s a reasonably consistent deck.
Alex Koch: Actually, in a lot of testing, I ran into Speed Ray more often than I thought I would.
Alex: Yeah. I can see it being played. I don’t know how well it’ll do. I’m not a believer.
John: Me either. I don’t think it’ll do super well.
Alex: I think my picks for top three are similar. Night March and Dark, number one and number two, and number three I think people are going to fall back to Toad lock.
Nick: Oh yeah. Toad / Giratina-EX?
Alex: Toad / Giratina or Toad / Bats. I’ve heard a lot of musings about Toad / Bats making a little bit of a resurgence, so those top three, and then, like you guys said, it’s Expanded, it’s just a smattering of a whole lot of things. I mean, you have to test against so much just to prepare.
Chris: Honestly, going to the tournament, you should probably just be playing what you’re comfortable with. I mean, the best play is your best play at this point in time. Just make sure you’re not taking an auto-loss to either Night March or Yveltal, and if it’s a comfortable play you should come play it. That’s pretty much what I would say.
Nick: I think if I had to pick a third best deck, I think it’d probably be Trevenant because it can take games with turn one Item lock.
Chris: Yeah, but I feel like it’s going to sink back with all the other niche decks just because of Yveltal. Anybody going to Arizona knows that they will be seeing a lot of Yveltal. I’m gonna say about a third of your games are gonna be Yveltal. That’s a little bit of a stretch.
John: That seems pretty reasonable to me. Yveltal’s disproportionately popular over there, so you’re probably right.
Chris: First of all, you have California and Arizona being the main contenders at the tournament and both of them are obsessed with Yveltal to begin with. It’s the most dominant deck in Expanded anyway. A third? Yeah, it’s probably pretty reasonable. I don’t think Trevenant is gonna win the tournament.
Top Anti-Meta Picks
Nick: Moving on: we’ve already talked a little bit about different decks besides the big three. Specifically, what kind of “out there” or anti-meta decks do you expect to see? I know, Alex and Chris, you both wrote articles pretty recently about Expanded that really weren’t about Yveltal or Night March.
Alex: Accelgor / Wobbuffet is still strong. The last Expanded tournament we had was a while ago, right? No one’s really been thinking about Expanded since then. There’s the Rainbow Road deck that creeped up in Seattle, Wailord-EX that made a splash — pun intended — in Edmonton, you have all that stuff that topped in the last Expanded tournament, things that people kinda forgot about because it was six months ago or something.
Nick: Yeah, there’s definitely gonna be a wide variety of decks. I really like the idea of Vespiquen / Flareon decks just because I’ve always liked that archetype. And if you want to read more about Chris’ and Alex’s articles and what they wrote about, they really go far in depth with the deck lists that they have and card counts and stuff like that. I think they’re high quality articles, so if you want to get a better look at those, consider subscribing to gain full access to them.
John: I also think some of the recent discussion about Yveltal has been pretty helpful, too. Steve Guthrie has a pretty good article talking specifically about Yveltal and everything related to it. I’m in a bit of a disagreement on the rehashing of Yveltal. I got a chance to see firsthand what a lot of redundant rehashing looked like when Luxray GL LV.X / Garchomp C LV.X was really popular. And that involved whole articles related to should I play Twins — which is the predecessor of Teammates — or should I play X, Y or Z tech cards. That got redundant, but Yveltal has changed enough to the point that discussion about it can remain fresh and useful. When it comes to surprise decks that might do well, I really like the idea of Donphan doing something. Wailord is kind of interesting. There’s always the opportunity where Wailord could do really well if just the right circumstances popped up. If it hits just the right matchups at just the right time and it doesn’t draw dead, then it could do really well, but I think that’s counting on a little too much.
Chris: I think Wailord is a solid choice if you have a certain goal going to the tournament, like a top 8. If you want a top 8 at a tournament, it’s actually a pretty reasonable deck, but I would not expect to win with it. You’re not going to win with that deck, I can almost guarantee that. The reason why is because of how top cut works. First game your opponent can just stall you out. Game two, they get to two prizes, they go to game three and sudden death — then you lose. That’s just the truth about mill decks.
John: Do we even know the time limits for top 8? Is it still the same as it’s always been?
Chris: I think it is. It should be.
John: So we’re looking at 60-minute time limits?
John: All right, that’s a little more Wailord-friendly.
Nick: How do you guys feel about some of the new stuff from Steam Siege? Do you think there could be any sort of crazy Yanmega decks or Volcanion decks that just show up that really surprise people?
John: Totally. It’s a possibility. A lot of the advantages that, say, Yanmega BREAK has, in Standard, aren’t quite as prevalent in Expanded just due to how much easier it is for different decks to attach Energy, like Turbo Dark. It’s called Turbo Dark for a reason. On top of that, you’ve got different Energy acceleration options so it’s not quite as efficient of a deck but it’s still good. I think it could do well.
Chris: I don’t really see Yanmega doing well, mostly just because of Archeops. Evolution decks have such a big hurdle to get over and if you’re not running something like Wobbuffet…
John: Yeah, that’s what I was just about to bring up. If you’re running one of those decks, why wouldn’t you be running a way to deal with Archeops?
Chris: Right, but what I’m trying to say there is that I see no synergy between Wobbuffet and Yanmega and you’re just running it for Archeops, you know?
John: It’s not the ideal situation, I think you’re right.
Nick: Well, there’s a little bit of synergy, if you’re playing Yanmega / Vespiquen in Expanded and you decide you don’t need Wobbuffet for certain matchups, that’s just more Pokemon to throw away. Or if you have Wobbuffet and then throw down Forest of Giant Plants, you get all your Evolutions out that turn and then Archeops is doing nothing for the rest of the game.
Chris: That’s fair.
Nick: Yeah, there’s some synergy. I definitely feel like it could be something interesting that pops up just because obviously this is gonna be the first big Expanded tournament with Steam Siege so there’s always stuff that can pop up like that.
Chris: No, that makes sense, actually. The main two Evolution decks involve Item lock or a hit-and-run to Wobbuffet. Toad Bats can get away with it because it has Ghetsis lock and Toad lock and Maxie’s isn’t really gonna come out for your opponent unless they go first and get it, and even then you still have a chance. They’re all running a good answer, but it’s part of their strategy, and that’s what’s so important about that.
Alex: Here’s something to think about, too. What do you guys think about the philosophy that this game is still drawing a lot of newer players, and there’s players that have only been playing for about two to three years in these large tournaments that might not have access or the desire to have access to an Archeops to play in their build? Expanded goes so far back now. In two years it’s going to be even harder to get these Noble Victories / Black & White era cards, and I think we’re starting to reach that point where some of those older cards might not be accessible and that’s why people don’t play them.
John: I’ll tell you what it is. You’re on the right track in the sense that it may be related to the newer blood coming into the game, but at the same time, I think it’s for a different reason. As opposed to the cards not being available — especially since people are doing whatever they can to get Shaymin-EX, right? — but as far as what’s available in terms of intelligence online, there are a lot of really good, recent decks for Yveltal online that don’t use Archeops. So if a new player is looking for a resource, they’ll have a lot of Yveltal options to choose from and not all of them will include Archeops. It may play a little into what you’re talking about.
Nick: Yeah, and you also have to think about the fact that since Archeops doesn’t do anything for you in the mirror, some people will consider running just straight Yveltal or just not playing Archeops just because of how good Gallade can be in the mirror. If a third of the decks I’m going to play against is Yveltal…
Chris: You might as well just run two Gallade anyway.
Nick: And people that are playing decks that lose to Archeops, they’re gonna play some way to deal with it, so most of the time getting Archeops wasn’t even worth it. I might as well have gotten out Gallade and have an alternate attacker and Premonition.
Chris: Yeah. Playing Yveltal / Maxie as much I have — I’ve played it at a lot of Regionals — I’ve learned that unless you’re going second against an Evolution deck, you always get the Gallade out first anyway. You getting out the Gallade actually increases your chances of getting out the Archeops next turn. You Premonition to prepare for the next turn.
Nick: You typically want to have Gallade in almost every matchup, and Gallade is also really good in those non-EX matchups where Archeops is really relevant cause they’re trying to evolve stuff. I see what you’re saying.
What Would You Play?
Nick: Say you had to make a decision on what deck you had to play, right here and now, and you couldn’t switch later. What are you gonna play?
Alex: I’ve already made my decision for Arizona, and that’s Vileplume / Walls. I made that decision probably five or six days ago. I switched off of Turbo Dark for it. I’ve always been a fan of decks that have, and this is gonna sound weird to say, but have an out to everything. It doesn’t have any auto-wins per se, but you do have a lot of matchups where you have the advantage turn one when you flip over your cards. So that’s why I like it. It might be a little inconsistent at times, it might be lacking in power if you fall behind at times but I feel good knowing that no matter what I’m gonna have a positive matchup.
Chris: You just like the “box” style of deck a lot.
Alex: I mean, I do. Look at me with Rainbow Road, right? In Expanded it’s even more boxy. Rainbow Road was a consideration for a very long time, too. I like decks that have good but not great matchups against any one deck.
Nick: It’s like having a 60-40 or a 55-45 against every deck but you don’t have any 80-20s or 75-25s or anything like that. And also the thing is, with Vileplume, like I said with Trevenant before, turn one Item lock alone can win you games so that’s another aspect that you have to think about: how big Item lock is, especially in Expanded.
Chris: If I had to choose now, I think Night March. That’s my answer. Very iffy on that. I’m still testing a few things, but when it comes down to it, if I were to go with the play that I know I can do okay with, Night March seems like the option that’s gonna get me there the most reliably. There’s no risk involved.
John: You’d have a really good shot at top 32, guaranteed. Well, not guaranteed, but close enough, right?
Chris: I got about 300 points with it last year in Standard, so I feel like I have a little bit of experience with it.
John: I would go with Yveltal. I really love Dark decks. They’re diverse, you got lots of options, they’re new and they’re fresh in every format. I really like doing my best to stay ahead on Dark so I feel like I’ve got a good handle on the mirror too, so if you feel like you’ve got a good handle on Dark mirror, then that might a pretty safe play. It also might be a safe play to go with Night March if someone wants decent-to-okay matchups across the board if you’re playing against a lot of Yveltal players that are trying hard to outsmart each other, but as far as all the stuff that’s gonna be there, I think Dark does a good enough job handling it, especially if you run a high count of the Fright Night Yveltal.
Chris: Yveltal is definitely my second choice, but I hate playing the top deck. I always wanna play the second-best deck. That’s usually my default.
John: Why is that? Is it because you don’t want a target on your head? You don’t wanna be part of the group that has targets on their heads?
Chris: Well, yeah, because I feel like a lot of people will try to counter the top deck, going into the tournament — or at least good players will. But when it comes to the second deck, it’s still one of the most reliable choices that you can have, and you’re not gonna get near as much hate on you. You know what I’m saying? That’s why I love the second choice.
John: Night March right now…
Chris: The second choice is Night March right now, as far as the best deck goes.
John: But that’s why it’s your first choice, is because it’s a lot of people’s second choice.
Nick: It’s still a really strong deck, but at the same time, so many people are trying super hard to make sure that they’re gonna be able to beat Yveltal that they might not worry about Night March as much or put in specific techs to beat just Night March because they need to worry about their Yveltal matchup more. I can understand that.
Chris: That’s exactly why I always like the second deck. Most of the time I was playing Night March, it was the second deck, besides States. I played it at States because it was so disgustingly powerful. There was no reason not to play it, really. But as far as Cities went, the main deck was Dark at that time. Everyone was trying to deal with Dark — they were playing Entei, they were playing M Manectric-EX, things like that. And I thought, I should just play Night March because I feel this is the second best deck in the format and I feel like I don’t have such a big target on my head that I’m going to be obliterated by a wrong meta.
Alex: You have to remember that this is the last tournament that we have before Karen, so the people that are really really big into Night March might just play it because they love it, or they might try to counter the counter. The reason I don’t like playing Dark or Night March or any top deck going into a tournament is because when you sit down and you test a new idea or a new build, those are the first things you test against. Everyone in the room has experience playing against your deck, whereas if you find something that isn’t as popular, you can sit down and someone might not have an idea of how to play a matchup and they’re more prone to misplays. I guess that’s just the mentality that I have. Cause I see what you’re saying, John: Dark does have great matchups across the board. I really respect that about the deck because that’s why it’s so good, but everyone has experience playing against it.
Nick: That’s definitely a very valid point that a lot of people will just play Night March, Vespiquen / Flareon, or whatever, just because it’s the last hurrah before Karen destroys the deck. I’ll probably end up playing Night March or Vespiquen / Flareon because I’m really comfortable with those styles of decks. I really enjoy playing them and they’re strong overall. If I had to choose right now what I’d play, I’d probably just stick with Night March with Gallade just because I really like Gallade in Expanded. It helps your Turbo Dark matchup so much and even your Yveltal matchup, they’re expecting to use Darkrai-EX to bench snipe you and you just destroy them with Gallade. I definitely feel like it adds a lot to the deck and it’s very useful. I’m more comfortable with the deck. I haven’t played a lot of Vespiquen / Flareon but I know I like the deck and the play style of it.
Chris: I’m not playing Gallade right now in my current build, but when I was playing the Night March vs. Turbo Dark matchup, I realized I was able to tech for the matchup in different ways that wasn’t so focused on Turbo Dark, like Mr. Mime and Tool Scrapper with Puzzle of Time and Computer Search and stuff like that. I was able to find that was almost always enough for me to win the matchup. So I’m not so sure about Gallade. I understand why he’s good.
Nick: I just feel like Gallade is such a good card. I think it’s good in every matchup. I think it’s really good in Night March because manipulating your topdeck is so strong when you’re trying to play “niche” Supporters every turn, like you’re trying to Lysandre something every turn, or you’re trying to play Hex Maniac every turn, stuff like that. With Gallade, you’re definitely able to more consistently play your one-of Supporters or play the exact Supporter — or cards in general — that you need that turn, or the upcoming turn, I guess.
Chris: That’s extremely fair, actually. That’s pretty valid.
Nick: Yeah. That’s my main reasoning behind playing Gallade, but obviously if I can’t fit it, I can’t fit it.
Nick: Any final thoughts about Arizona Regionals?
John: Go with your gut, especially for a Regional tournament where you’re less likely to second guess yourself. I feel like people are more predisposed to second guess themselves at bigger tournaments like Nationals and Worlds, so that advice would probably be more helpful there, but Regionals are getting bigger. They’re getting a lot more competitive. There are more prizes on the line, so you really do have incentives not to think of something at the very last second and break apart whatever you were planning on playing and playing the next 60 cards. I mean if you feel confident doing that, then go for it. All things equal, it’s probably a better idea to go with your gut than go with what you’re comfortable with.
Chris: A risky play isn’t actually a horrible idea just because Regionals are gonna be so top heavy as far as prizes go. I’m just dumbfounded at how first place gets $5000, second place would get, what was it, $2500? And then third place gets $250?
Nick: Yeah, that’s kinda dumb, but that’s a different topic in itself.
Chris: Right, but as far as that top heaviness goes, it makes a lot of sense to just go with your gut. You need to be going for gold at this point, I think.
John: Yeah, I think that’s a great argument to make because yeah, you’re totally right, Nick, that it could be its own topic at some point, but at the same time it does factor into the cost/benefit and what might be a good choice to make so if you have a deck that’s really out there, but you feel confident in it, then it’d be a good play.
Alex: Just remember to have fun.
Nick: Oh yeah. Meet new people. If you happen to see any of us there, I’m sure we’d all be happy to talk with fans of the article program. Of course, make sure to take a look at our premium article program for more competitive articles. There’s great content coming out all the time from many top-level writers. Thanks for reading. Any last words, guys?
Chris: Don’t get N-baited.
Alex: Buy two of them!
Nick: Buy two of them! Double deck ’em so you can have really awesome, consistent decks.
Chris: Nah, you get a playset of Karen, man.
Alex: And a playset of VS Seeker!
Nick: You do get a playset of VS Seeker out of it. Thanks for stopping by, guys, and hope you liked our discussion. See you guys next time!
Special thanks to PMJ for helping write down this discussion.