Marching On Through Hell and High Water: Five Ways to Play Night March in a Hostile Meta
Boo! Guess who? It’s Julian back, excited to be writing my second article for you guys. I hope you all had a fun and safe Halloween. And while the day itself has come and gone, I’d like to keep the spooky spirit alive a little longer by talking about a deck that is very dear to my heart. No, not Yveltal-EX. Not Trevenant. Night March! Yeah, I like Night March. I like it so much I’ve even written and recorded a song all about it. Maybe it’s ’cause Ghost Pokemon (ever since Gen 1’s Gengar evolution) have always been my favorite Pokemon type, or maybe it’s ’cause of the attack’s wicked cool name. Or maybe it’s because of all the fond memories I have of playing the deck. Anyway, I will start by acknowledging how the hostile Expanded metagame makes Night March a risky play in any tournament, and at the same time make a case why it’s not quite time yet to throw your reverse holo Joltik and Pumpkaboo in the binder. I will talk about why the inherent structure and engine of Night March makes it so that until it literally rotates out of Expanded, there’s always some (however tenuous) reason to keep marching. Finally, I will exhibit five different radical Night March lists to show you how to give yourself a ghost of a chance in this very ghostbusting meta. Without further ado…
Dark Days for Marchers Everywhere
The 2016 to 2017 season will probably be remembered as the era when Night March ruled the world. With every set, Night March became better and better. From BREAKpoint’s Puzzle of Time to Fates Collide’s Mew, it seemed like TCPi was all about the Night March fanservice. Winning tournament after tournament, frustrating players of all ages, it seemed like it would always be on top. It was a fact of life. Love it or hate it, you had to deal with it. However, during June 2016, something happened that sent a wave of silence in the hearts of marchers everywhere: a future card was revealed that made Lysandre's Trump Card seem appetizing. At least with him, your Battle Compressor get shuffled back in, allowing you to come back from it quickly (unless it’s paired with Item lock). However, with Karen, you could be only two Prize cards from winning the game–but as soon as she gets slapped down, your march can come to a jarring halt. Yes, as much of a Night March lover as I am, I will not deny that the existence of Karen in the format is a serious, serious hurdle for NM. Actually, with Karen, Night March is somewhat self-limiting: the better NM does in a given tournament (thanks to a low Karen presence) the worse it will be afterward (due to more people playing Karen as a counter).
Post-Arizona Regionals Metagame
To make matters even worse, the recent results of Phoenix Regionals are almost enough on their own to make players going to Philadelphia Regionals dismiss the idea of playing the deck: The Top 4 decks were Seismitoad-EX/ Crobat, Trevenant BREAK and Greninja BREAK: all absolute nightmares for Night March. Oh yeah–and not a single Yveltal-EX deck (a matchup Night March players are usually happy to play) in the Top 8! And here, everyone thought that Night March might, at least, go out with a bang before Karen’s dreaded legalization! Nevertheless…
Why You Shouldn’t (Necessarily) Stop Marching
General Anti-Karen Battle Tricks
Karen is a scary card for Night March, no doubt about it; however, simply knowing that someone plays Karen in their deck shouldn’t be enough to make you abandon any hope of winning a given game. Now there are three general ways to beat someone who plays Karen in their deck:
- Conserving Battle Compressor (and other discard methods). One way of doing this is by taking early knockouts with Joltik against your opponent’s Shaymin-EX (whilst having only three to four marchers in the discard) and only reaching (using up the Battle Compressors aggressively) when doing so will net you your final game-ending Prize card/s. Against decks like Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX and M Rayquaza-EX (which are both likely to use Karen due to their normally atrocious NM matchups) this strategy should work more often than not. Another obvious method (necessary for when your opponent doesn’t have any low-HP EXs in play) is saving Puzzle of Time to retrieve Battle Compressor. These are the go-to strategies for any typical Night March list. Also, it should be noted that both of these strategies get utterly nullified when the opponent pairs the use of Karen with Seismitoad-EX.
- Having an attacker that doesn’t rely on the Night March attack. One of the reasons Night March has always (far before Karen) been considered a bit of a glass cannon is that its strategy is extremely linear: keep using Night March until you win the game. At this point, it’s definitely time to consider slipping non-marching attackers into lists.
- Winning early. If you win the game before your opponent even has a chance to play Karen, then…well, yeah. You’ve won. Three of the lists I feature will exemplify this method.
Inherent Speed, Power, and Adaptability
Night March will be forever remembered as one of the most consistent Pokemon decks of all time. Not even M Ray and its quad Shaymin and double Hoopa-EX could ever quite challenge NM’s speed, power, and insane accessibility. Indeed, in addition to the enormous pressure its streamlined setup and massive damage output put on an opponent, its sleek and incredibly fungible engine provides the pilot with unparalleled strategic control over finding answers to the opponent’s counter strategies. With NM, if there’s a card you need for the situation at hand, you’ll get it. You’ll find a way. One-of techs, while in many decks, are a hit-and-miss proposition (due to not being able to access them right when you need them); in Night March, they almost always put the work in. Case in point: one Enhanced Hammer and one Xerosic was all Nick Robinson needed to dominate a normally atrocious matchup (Seismitoad-EX / Giratina-EX). Or, as many marchers soon came to realize: A single Hex Maniac in the deck is the difference between almost certain defeat and likely victory (if you go first and play intelligently) against Vespiquen / Vileplume. Indeed, the historical examples are several. So what I’d like to show now, is that even in a meta with Karen–and Greninja, Trevenant, and Toad / Bats as popular Tier 1 decks–you can still give yourself a chance, given proper techs and a little luck.
Spooky Laboratory Experiments
In order to stand a chance, Night March has to be bold. It has to be brave. It has to be weird. It can’t get away with coasting along on the momentum of its old glory. So get ready…here we go:
Idea #1: Silence of the Lab
Here’s a build that I would term “mildly ambitious”. Fact is, Ghetsis when paired with Silent Lab (specifically when used turn one when you go first) is something that Seismitoad-EX/Crobat and Yveltal-EX players have used to such devastatingly good effect that Ghetsis is the first card many players (including me) would cite as deserving a ban. If you’ve been playing Yveltal or Toad/Bats at all this last season in Expanded, you’ll know that even decks that anti-meta you can be made short work of with a simple turn one Ultra Ball > Jirachi-EX > Ghetsis > Lab combo. Now in Night March’s case, everything is a potential counter. Any deck can play Karen. So adding Ghetsis/Lab is a nifty (though hit-and-miss) attempt at giving you a chance to beat them before they even have a chance to get going (you’ll see this theme exemplified in the last two lists). As an added bonus, I like the unpredictable element of having Silent Lab in the deck. It’s a card I’ve never seen played in Night March, but when you think about it, it’s not half-bad. It doesn’t specifically help you like Dimension Valley does, but it doesn’t hurt you either (you usually play your Shaymin early) while it definitely has potential to hurt (or just confuse!) your opponent.
Idea #2: Fright March
Here’s a deck that combines my two most favorite decks into one spooktacular smorgasbord! It also kinda makes sense. If we want to have attackers that don’t rely on Night March and are also cheap and powerful, why not borrow from Dark? Yeah, Yveltal and Yveltal-EX can definitely help you reach the finish line after a Karen play. And thanks to Ninja Boy, getting the particular attacker you want out at the right time is a lot easier now. Sure, without Dark Patch, you probably won’t get away with winning a whole game without any marching. However, when combined with the raw speed of the Night March engine, I’d say you have a lot of bases covered. And don’t forget about that Mew-EX in the list! While she obviously serves to counteract the lack of Puzzle of Time in the deck (allowing you to use Night March with only one Energy) she also has access to whatever attacks your opponent might have on the board, thanks to Prism Energy. Of course, the big price to pay for all of this is much less space for techs (such as Startling Megaphone and Enhanced Hammer). However, the unpredictability and extra muscle of this list is enough to make me prefer it (at this time) over a typical NM list. Also, Fright Night Yveltal’s Ability is itself a tech that can serve the same function as a Megaphone when it comes to, say, dealing with Fighting Fury Belt. Nifty stuff!
Idea #3: Long-Term Lock
Here’s an anti-Greninja build. Actually, the aim of this deck is to achieve a long-term win guarantee against this normally dreadful match-up. Allow me to explain. Night March is a fast (the fastest) deck. So getting Archeops out by turn one is easy, and by turn two it’s unlikely that you won’t be able to get him out. Now as soon as Archeops is out, those Froakie won’t be evolving unless they play Rare Candy, Evosoda, and/or Wally. In fact, it’s quite likely that Greninja players will indeed be playing these cards. So Archeops isn’t enough to seal the game against them. So here’s where you tech against their techs: Yep, I’m talking about the Toad. Think about it: If you have Archeops in play plus you use Quaking Punch, they’re incapable of doing anything except Bubble or Water Duplicates. Actually, Bubble is a legitimate threat. If you miss a Quaking Punch, they can use their Items and possibly get some Greninja up and splashing. And NM doesn’t do too well in high water. Spiders aren’t the best swimmers and Pumpkins simply rot in the water. That’s why we play Keldeo-EX and double Float Stone. Now what, you might ask, if they play Rough Seas and consistently heal damage to stall in the hopes that they can keep this up long enough for you to deck out? -points finger to the three Dimension Valley and Delinquent– Yeah, we have no intention of losing the Stadium war to them. Also, remember that under Item lock, it’s extra hard to find the cards you need for the situation (even Talonflame‘s searching capability can simply be upset by N).
Idea #4: Ladadada….WAIT, WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?
…you’re about to start game three in Regionals. You’ve made it here 2-0 thanks to being paired against an unsuspecting Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX deck and an unfortunate Greninja player whose deck bricked on him both games (how unusual). You win the opening coin flip and feel ready to take on whatever comes your way. However, as soon as the hipster (with tatoos all over his arms and neck) in front of you flips over Seismitoad-EX, you feel your heart sink a little. And when you flip over your Joltik, you notice his body language change. At first it was a bit tense and on guard. Now it’s relaxed and amused. You can tell what’s going on through his head: “Haha, this should be easy. Who plays Night March these days? This dude seriously needs to get with it. Well, I’ll take it”. And so, when you play Ultra Ball to search out Shaymin-EX, he leans back in his chair as though watching the futile antics of someone who doesn’t know that they don’t stand a chance. Yeah, you can tell by the extra limpness of his arm on the table that he plays Karen in the deck. Not there primarily to obliterate NM (“cause who in their right mind would play that!?”) but simply as a replacement for Super Rod. You can tell that at the moment, he doesn’t regret the replacement one bit. And when you play Red Card, forcing him to trade his hand of seven for a hand of four, you can tell that his new hand has an Ultra Ball at least. Even when you play Captivating Poké Puff, forcing him to bench a Zubat, the motion of his movement says, “Why’s this dude tryna help me?” However, the mood all changes when you slap down Delinquent, discarding your Dimension Valley and forcing him to discard his entire hand. He sits up and painfully places his Professor Juniper, Ultra Ball and Karen (you knew it!) in the discard pile. Now, it’s only the hope of a lucky top-deck that prevents him from losing his composure completely. But when you follow up with a Trick Shovel, allowing him to keep the Super Scoop Up on top of his deck, you no longer need to guess his thoughts: “[censored]”, he mutters out loud. You pass, allowing him to draw the Super Scoop Up after which he immediately passes back to you. But before you KO his Toad, you play double Puzzle of Time, retrieving the Trick Shovel and then using it. His next card is an Ultra Ball. You almost tell him to discard it, before stopping yourself (close one there, buddy!). After you KO his Toad, he scoops knowing that you will simply donk his Zubat for game next turn…
Yeah, so this deck is crazy. I won’t go over the details of explaining how it works (my little second-person perspective short story should have done that) but I will mention some important vices and virtues of the deck.
- Virtue: You don’t necessarily need to go first for the combo to work (though it can help a lot against decks that set their boards up quickly). Obviously, turn one Item lock decks are the exception, but if they fail to achieve the lock by turn one, they themselves can get locked out of any functional cards! Actually, the significant cards in the combo (Red Card, Captivating Pokepuff, Delinquent, and Trick Shovel) can wreak havoc at any point in a game (thanks to always being somewhat accessible via Puzzle of Time).
- Vice: There isn’t always a basic Pokémon in a four card hand! Yeah, so if Captivating Pokepuff doesn’t take away anything from their four card (due to Red card) hand, a Delinquent will allow them to keep one card! And that one card can easily be Shaymin or Professor Sycamore. Oh no!
- Virtue: Captivating Pokepuff allows you to see your opponent’s hand. Thus, you can choose the best form of disruption based on this knowledge. If you see that your opponent’s hand is dead except for a Shaymin-EX, the best disruption to follow up with will probably be Hex Maniac. On the other hand, if your opponent’s hand is all Items, Ghetsis is the way to go. And remember that this disruptive potential lasts all the way to the late game. So your opponent’s holding on to a VS Seeker that they probably intend to grab Karen with? No thanks! Ghetsis for the gold.
- Vice: The spots used to create the obliterate-your-opponent’s-hand-down-to-zero combo take away a lot of space from tech cards. But the expression on that hipster’s face when it works…? Totally worth it!
Overall, it’s that inherent speed and accessibility that made me choose NM as the best candidate for this combo as opposed to other feasible choices such as M Rayquaza-EX and Sableye.
Idea #5: Dragon Minions
…you’re playing a red-headed girl whose wearing a red and black checkered shirt. The name on the matchup sheet said her name was Charlotte. But despite her soft looks and gentle handshake, you know not to underestimate her. It’s already round seven and you’ve lost only one match. That means she’s done well, too. You win the coin flip (I know, how convenient) and shudder when you see her turn over a Jolteon-EX in the Active and an Oddish on the Bench. No matter. You’ve prepared for this. You start Battle Compressing your Lampent and Pumpkaboo away. When you Sycamore, you can tell that she’s sure she’s got this. Not even turn one Hex Maniac. This should be a breeze. You attach a Double Colorless Energy to your Active Pumpkaboo and pass to her (your eyes fixed on the Ninja Boy and Double Dragon Energy you drew into). For a while, as she’s searching out the Vileplume line, you’re keeping your fingers crossed in the hope she won’t N. When she plays Sycamore you restrain a smile. Ending her turn with a fully operational Vileplume and a Jolteon with a Prism Energy attached to it, she passes to you. You waste no time in using Ninja Boy to replace your Pumpkaboo with Giratina-EX. Nor in attaching the Double Dragon Energy to it. After you announce Chaos Wheel, her expression is one of concern. The quickness in which she scoops makes you admire the speed of her mind in understanding that she will never ever get an attack in (most VileBox decks run four Rainbow Energy, Double Colorless Energy and two Prism Energy. And of course no Ranger, due to the Vileplume engine). On to game two. She goes first, sets up a Vileplume and a Jolteon, and you scoop pretty quickly. On to game three. She starts lone Oddish. What do you do? Duh! Latios-EX donk FTW! GGs. Phew.
Yeah, so here’s a list that effectively combines both strategies (having a non-Night March attacker for late game as well as winning the game early) simply by adding two different Dragon Pokemon to the deck. Seriously folks, I feel that Latios-EX is rather underrated in Expanded. Take that Arizona Regionals Top 4, for instance. All three decks are vulnerable to a turn one Latios donk. Think about that… As for Giratina, I especially like how it can OHKO (with a Muscle Band attached) a Shaymin to close out the game after a Karen play. Also, as I hope the second short-story illustrated, its locking potential isn’t something to be overlooked.
Well, that’s that. While I’m not necessarily suggesting you go to Philadelphia Regionals with one of these lists (though if you did and did well with it, you’d sure be a hero in my books!), I hope I have, at the very least, made the case that any inherently good deck, no matter how dire the meta, can, with the proper amount of creativity and passion behind it, stand a chance. Play what you love, and make it the very best–the best there ever was… In this regard, I’d like to playfully remind you all of the famous quote by Karen herself: “Strong Pokémon. Weak Pokémon. That is only the selfish perception of people. Truly skilled Trainers should try to win with the Pokémon they love best.” Indeed, this quote is thematic with regards to the card’s anti-Night March effect for everyone who doesn’t particularly care for Joltik, Pumpkaboo and Lampent (using it strictly for its effectiveness at winning games–which is obviously completely fine, too! I do that when I play Toad/Bats hehe…). However, if you adore Pumpkaboo and Lampent the way I do (or are just fond of the deck itself), I encourage you to try some of these lists out for yourself.
So what do you guys think of Night March in the current format? Have you ever built a NM list similar to any of these? Have you also been testing post-Karen NM ideas? How have they worked out for you? Tell me in the comments! Anyways, thanks to everyone who stopped by to read my second PokeBeach article. Until next time,