Hello PokeBeach readers! Welcome welcome. It’s nice to be writing again. The last few months have been hectic. Since returning from the World Championships in San Francisco, I’ve begun taking classes towards my graduate degree, I have started teaching again, I threw a Lavender Town themed Halloween party, and I even got my wisdom teeth pulled! I gave myself a much needed break after Worlds and have only participated in two tournaments since then, Philadelphia Regionals and a single League Challenge. However, now that I am fully acclimated to my insane work schedule, I am ready to get back to the Pokemon grind full time.
During any previous year in recent memory, late November would have marked the beginning of City Championships. Unfortunately, Cities are no more. In Cities’ stead we now have the promise of League Cups. Many of my fondest Pokemon memories are from City Championships, so it is my hope that more information will be revealed about League Cups shortly. Until then, it is still in our best interest to fully investigate the Standard format.
Part of what made Cities season so fun was watching the unveiling of the Standard format. I had a blast messing around with Magnezone / Raikou and Lucario-EX / Hammers last year before inevitably settling on Night March for the remainder of the season. Cities always brought out creativity in deck builders, and even though we don’t have Cities anymore, Standard is a healthy format ripe for creativity. For those of us who are sick of cards like Battle Compressor, Trevenant, and Seismitoad-EX, Standard has undoubtedly been a breath of fresh air. Although Standard is not without its own issues, like a lack of Trainer-based Tool removal, I have found most games to be fun and engaging with both sides usually allowed an opportunity to execute their strategy. In today’s article I will be analyzing the Standard format, focusing particularly on decks that utilize Parallel City to hinder the opponent’s strategy. I have been playing tons of Standard lately, setting aside time to play almost every day for the past few weeks. Even though we have a mix of Expanded tournaments and Standard tournaments throughout the season, a strong grasp of Standard is essential to a successful competitive year. After all, Standard is our Worlds format! So let’s get down to business.
Recently, I’ve been helping my friend Dan Musser, an accomplished Magic the Gathering player, learn the Pokemon TCG. While helping him prepare for his first tournament, Fort Wayne Regionals, he mentioned that it seemed like every Standard deck shared two thirds of the same cards. I laughed a bit and agreed. Almost every deck in Standard starts off with the same cards: four Professor Sycamore, two N and two Shaymin-EX with full suites of Ultra Ball, VS Seeker, and Trainers' Mail. With so much rigidity in the way we construct decks, creativity can sometimes suffer. There aren’t a plethora of options available to us in Standard right now, but I wanted to take this opportunity to dig deeper into one card in particular that shapes the way we’ve been building decks lately.
Why do we play Trainers' Mail? The card is good, no doubt, but it does have a specific purpose. Trainers’ Mail has been a polarizing card since its debut. The card was used in Night March lists last year but was noticeably absent from Nick Robinson’s U.S. National Champion list. Interestingly, Trainers’ Mail was also included in about half of last year’s successful Water Box lists. Remember Greninja BREAK? Do you remember those really early Greninja BREAK lists? Yeah, those used to play Trainers’ Mail too. Trainers’ Mail is kinda like hot sauce, you can put that stuff on anything but that doesn’t necessarily mean it belongs there.
Trainers’ Mail isn’t a Supporter. I wouldn’t even call it a reliable out to a Supporter. Trainers’ Mail is a combo making card. It has the added benefit of being able to grab a Supporter or a VS Seeker in a pinch, but its primary use is to help a deck pull off difficult card combinations. Consequently, Trainers’ Mail is most useful in decks that need to pull off difficult combinations to function. Most Mega Pokemon decks play four copies of Trainers’ Mail because they need to draw into their Spirit Links before they Mega Evolve. The order of things is very important, thus increasing Mails’ value in the deck. If you have a Spirit Link, Mega Pokemon and Trainers’ Mail in your hand with a couple other unplayable cards, you might Trainers’ Mail in hopes of hitting an Ultra Ball so that you can Ultra Ball for a Hoopa-EX, use Scoundrel Ring and wait for the following turn to play your Spirit Link and Mega Evolution down. If you have a hand with Professor Sycamore, a Mega Evolution and Trainers’ Mail and a board with a Basic Pokemon-EX, you might Mail in hopes of hitting a Spirit Link so that you can Mega Evolve before using Professor Sycamore without ending your turn. Trainers’ Mail offers valuable flexibility to decks that need to pull off rigid combinations in order to run smoothly. In essence, Mail allows you to whiff your combination by a few cards and still piece the combination together!
As I mentioned before, Mail used to see play in early Greninja BREAK lists but was eventually phased out. Players realized that a higher Ball count was just more effective. Why continue to play Mail in hopes of hitting a Dive Ball when you could just play more Balls? As deck builders, we need to be cognizant of why and how we use every card in our list so that we can optimize the decks we create!
The Play by Play / Mail Misplays
Trainers' Mail is also a card that is misused in game all the time. Some players burn the Mail in their hand simply because they are there! There are a lot of times, however, when you want to sit on your Mail instead. To help me through this process, I always ask myself, “What am I looking for?” before playing a Trainers’ Mail. If the answer is, “I don’t need anything,” odds are it may be best to sit on that Mail. Because N is an ever present factor in Standard, you need to consider that every Mail in deck increases your odds of hitting a Supporter after your hand is disrupted. I ask myself the same question before playing down Shaymin-EX, “What do I need to draw into right now that warrants me placing a 110 HP Pokemon-EX onto my Bench?” Will this play help me win? Will this play cause me to lose? This process of self questioning and evaluation becomes quick and automatic the more it is practiced.
A common but small misplay might happen after you play your opening Supporter for the game. Say you use Professor Sycamore and have drawn into everything you need to properly prepare your board for the second turn of the game, but you don’t have a Supporter in your hand for the following turn! You do have a lone Trainers’ Mail in hand. Anxious to see if you draw out of your predicament, you burn your Mail. This is incorrect for two reasons. One, by burning the Mail, you remove a potential Supporter out from your deck. Even if you find a Supporter, you’re just going to sit there and stare at it while your opponent may very well N that sucker back into your deck. Secondly, playing the Mail will allow you to look at your top four cards of your deck. If you do not find a Trainer, those four cards are shuffled back into your deck and you have to wait until the following turn to see what your top deck is. Since you burned your Mail already, your top deck might be one of the four cards that you already rejected the previous turn during your Trainers’ Mail search. By playing the Mail preemptively, you do not guarantee that you see five unique cards between your draw for turn and Trainers’ Mail play. On the contrary, if you wait to play your Mail, you will draw once for the beginning of the next turn, then play your Mail, resulting in a guaranteed view of five unique cards. This may seem like splitting hairs, but when you take these small odds multiplied over hundreds of games across a career, the little things definitely add up! Be intentional with your Mail!
Sky Field versus Parallel City
One of the most defining cards in Standard, as Treynor highlighted in his latest article, is Sky Field. The Bench expanding Stadium is the backbone to many potent archetypes including M Rayquaza-EX, M Gardevoir-EX, Raichu / Golbat, and Xerneas‘ Rainbow Road. Sky Field is a powerhouse Stadium because it allows these decks to quickly and consistently maximize their attack damage. To support Sky Field, these archetypes have other blessings such as Hoopa-EX, Shaymin-EX, and the recently released Dragonite-EX which allow players to quickly fill and maintain a full Bench with their powerful search, draw, and recovery Abilities. If that weren’t enough, these decks also have access to Trainer-based Pokemon recovery in the form of Super Rod, Buddy-Buddy Rescue, Brock's Grit, Karen, and Revive. It’s no wonder why these decks have been a dominating force in Standard so far, but they are not without their checks and balances.
Sky Field‘s dominance has given birth to a whole plethora of archetypes designed specifically to counter them. These decks mostly employ some combination of Parallel City, Hex Maniac, and Garbodor to limit the opponent’s Bench while also cutting off their access to Abilities. It turns out, Parallel City is every part as potent as Sky Field in Standard. As I predicted last year, Parallel City has grown into a dominating card in its own right, with some matchups heavily swayed by whoever plays down the first Parallel City. When the card first began to see competitive play, it was primarily used to bump Shaymin-EX from a player’s Bench so that it couldn’t be targeted down by the opponent. Lately, however, Parallel City has been used to limit the opponent’s Bench. Not only does this keep Sky Field abusers in check, it also inhibits any deck that relies on Hoopa-EX to set up. If the opponent’s field is limited to three on the first turn of the game, they will not be able to use Hoopa-EX’s Scoundrel Ring Ability to its full potential. An opponent limited by Parallel City may end up using Scoundrel Ring for only two Pokemon instead of three, or skipping the Ability altogether in an attempt to spare their precious Bench space. Similarly, Parallel City also obstructs set up decks like Greninja. The blue side of the Stadium can be used to hack into a field of field of recently Duplicated Frogadier, limiting the number of Greninja BREAK the opponent can get into play.
Though used considerably less often, the red side of Parallel City boasts its own niche uses. By limiting damage from Water, Fire and Grass types, the red side of the Stadium can put in work against threats like Volcanion-EX, Vespiquen, Greninja, and Gyarados.
Parallel City in combination with Ability denial has proven to be one of the top strategies in Standard. I’ll even take it one step further and say that Parallel City is the best card in Standard. The only question that remains is, what deck plays Parallel City best?
Yveltal / Garbodor
With Night March out of the picture, Yveltal-EX is back with a vengeance, punishing anyone who has forgotten just how powerful this card is. Yveltal-EX is unique because it boasts all the tools necessary to be an awesome Big Basic deck without relying on Abilities. Yveltal / Garbodor is the new Big Basics / Garbodor of yesteryear. The Yveltal family, Yveltal from BREAKthrough, Yveltal from Steam Siege and Yveltal-EX, make up a formidable and low maintenance core that is both self sustaining and powerful, perfect for a Garbodor deck. I have experimented with other attackers in search of that perfect Big Basic recipe, but none compare to the utility and efficiency of the Yveltal family. Period.
Y Cyclone puts this deck over the top. While other decks clog up and run poorly under Garbodor’s Garbotoxin, Yveltal-EX nimbly conserves Energy, recycling it to the back of the field for wherever it may be useful next. Not only does this allow the deck to continue pumping out attacks late into the game, it makes Yveltal-EX a more difficult target for M Mewtwo-EX to take down with Psychic Infinity. My list is largely inspired by the list that Azul used to win the Orlando Regional Championship. The only differences between our lists are that I have dropped his pair of Enhanced Hammer for a fourth Max Elixir and an Umbreon-EX.
I like the core of Azul’s list because it’s simple. It doesn’t get tricky with with techs or gimmicks, it just combines the inherent strengths of Yveltal-EX, Garbodor, and Parallel City. The Umbreon-EX is here because I anticipate that Mega Pokemon-EX decks will be popular at Fort Wayne. Umbreon-EX gives you an accessible win condition versus some top threats like M Rayquaza-EX and the recently hyped M Gardevoir-EX. I opted to run a fourth Max Elixir to increase the speed and responsiveness of the original list. Missing Max Elixir can be bad, and with only nine Basic Energy, it happens more than I’d like. A fourth Elixir helps mitigate this weakness, giving us more opportunity to accelerate Energy in spite of Prizes and whiffed Elixir throughout the course of the game.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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