The Dallas Stars — How the Format Got Flipped on Its Head

Happy New Year, PokeBeach! I hope you all have enjoyed your holiday as much as I did. For me, I’ve had the last month off to get some much needed rest before my final semester in grad school. Whew, it’s almost over! I’m on the grind this year with a bunch going on musically. Next week, I’m heading down to Miami to play a concert with the New World Symphony. We will be performing Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique which is grotesque and beautiful and gripping and a plethora of other adjectives. Basically I’m getting paid to go to South Beach. Pretty sweet. On top of that I have professional auditions going on in February in Michigan as well as a recital to prepare for at the end of the semester. There is always the Pokemon grind and I can’t wait to get back into tournaments with the upcoming League Cups, however, going home and spending time with family reminds me of what’s important in this life. The Christmas season has been a time of joy, hope, sadness and a host of other emotions as I think back on what happened in 2016.

Speaking of 2016, PokeBeach writers had a pretty incredible year so far! Shoutout to Dalen Dockery for his recent success at Dallas Regionals with M Gardevoir-EX (racing out to a dominant 11-0 start), as well as the all PokeBeach final in Fort Wayne where Andrew Mahone and Jimmy Pendarvis squared off in an Yveltal mirror match. Most of our other writers have placed in the money at recent Regionals which is great to see as well. For the past three U.S. Regionals PokeBeach has held the first seed after swiss. Congratulations to the entire PokeBeach crew! If you’re currently a subscriber, you are definitely in good hands. PokeBeach is taking over the competitive scene right now and you definitely don’t want to be left out.

2016 was certainly the year of the underdog. Donald Trump won the presidential election despite having zero political experience (still scratching my head at that one). The Cubs won the World Series after a 108 year drought. Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar. The Cavaliers erased a 3-1 deficit by the Golden State Warriors to bring Cleveland its first major professional sports championship in over 50 years. M Audino-EX came out of nowhere to win the Pokemon World Championships in San Fransisco. It truly has been a year for underdogs and Dallas Regionals did not buck that trend.

Before Dallas Regionals, I was getting prepped to write about Yveltal-EX‘s commanding presence in the format and how it would dominate Standard Regionals for months to come. In my opinion (before the results of Dallas Regionals), there were few decks that could compete with Yveltal’s versatility, early and late game pressure, and disruption. Counter decks such as my best friend Alex Hill’s Vespiquen / Zebstrika / Garbodor deck emerged which handled Yveltal-EX based decks but struggled against the arguable second best deck in the format, Volcanion. I could not imagine Yveltal losing it’s grip on the format and I certainly would never have predicted what happened this past weekend.

Yveltal-EX, the deck that many would have called the best deck in format before Dallas, the big bad bird who took down Fort Wayne Regionals and London Internationals was virtually non existent in Dallas. A handful of players, including PokeBeach’s resident Yveltal expert Jimmy Pendarvis made day two with the deck, however, none of the players piloting Yveltal advanced to the Top 8. Instead of being full of Yveltal decks like many “experts” would have predicted, Top 8 was full of Mega decks, specifically M Gardevoir-EX.

In this article, we’ll go over the lists from the top performers as well as analyze the metagame and how we got to this point. I’ll also take a look forward at what to play in upcoming League Challenges and League Cups. Most, if not all of my League Cups in Ohio are in the Standard format, so I’ll give you a peek at the few decks that are on my short list for testing.

Mega Gardevoir

Four of the Top 8 decks were M Gardevoir-EX decks. The entire Top 4 consisted entirely of Mega Pokemon decks – three Mega Gardevoir and one M Mewtwo-EX. It’s pretty wild that decks that had previously seen little success at the Regional level achieved such great placements. Truly the ultimate underdog story! Here is Xander Pero’s winning list.

Pokemon (16)

3x M Gardevoir-EX (STS #79)3x Gardevoir-EX (STS #78)4x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)2x Hoopa-EX (AOR #36)2x Dragonite-EX (EVO #72)1x Hawlucha (STS #97)1x Rattata (EVO #66)

Trainers (37)

3x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)2x N (FAC #105)2x Lysandre (AOR #78)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)1x Brock's Grit (EVO #74)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Ultra Ball (FAC #113)4x Gardevoir Spirit Link (PRC #130)3x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)3x Mega Turbo (RSK #86)3x Fairy Drop (FAC #99)2x Escape Rope (PRC #127)1x Switch (RSK #91)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)3x Sky Field (RSK #89)

Energy (7)

7x Fairy Energy (EVO #99)

I love this list. Just look at the consistency; four Gardevoir Spirit Link, two Dragonite-EX, and three Fairy Drop. Two Fairy Drop had been the standard for a long time in the Gardevoir lists I had seen, but Xander opted for three. He certainly had the Yveltal matchup in mind with that card count. Fairy Drop can shift the Dark matchup from 50 / 50 to favorable. I had tested Yveltal against Gardevoir before the Fort Wayne Regional Championship and found Yveltal winning much of the time, however, the Gardevoir lists I was playing back then ran zero or two Fairy Drop. The healing from Fairy Drop can be an absolute back breaker for many decks that rely on 2HKOs like Volcanion and Yveltal. Being able to play two Fairy Drop in the same turn to put your M Gardevoir-EX out of 2HKO range to force a 3HKO is why I completely agree with three Fariy Drop and wouldn’t lower that count to two or less. Fairy Drop is generally best when played two at a time so three of the card seems like the optimal play.

This list has a very streamlined feel to it. While I bragged about its consistency in the above paragraph, I do want to highlight that he doesn’t take that consistency too far. There are only three Sky Field where most lists I’ve seen play four. There are only three Gardevoir-EX where other lists might play four. He didn’t overdo it with consistency cards like Professor Sycamore or Trainers' Mail which he kept at three apiece. Great deck list, Xander. Congrats on the win!

Metagame Analysis

The metagame has undergone significant changes since we first began the season. Think back to the start of the season when M Mewtwo-EX / Garbodor was the most hyped deck. Many players thought the deck would dominate the Standard format, which it did for a short time. It could shut down Greninja decks with Garbodor and Damage Change Mewtwo-EX while being an Energy efficient attacker that could easily punish overextending Yveltal-EX players that stacked too much Energy on an Yveltal-EX. Then people began testing lists with two Fright Night Yveltal which helped slow down Mega Mewtwo enough to create a favorable matchup. The snipe attack on Yveltal weakened Mewtwo to the point where they would enter OHKO range by an Yveltal-EX negating the inherent strength of Mewtwo-EX’s Damage Change. Couple that with the Fright Night Ability which can slow Mega Mewtwo down by a turn or more and suddenly Yveltal decks rose to the top as the BDIF.

How does this explain Gardevoir’s rise though? I’m sure you are feeling as blindsided by the showing by Mega Gardevoir as I am. Mega Gardevoir was extremely hyped coming into the season, though it never really saw heavy play. Early on in the year, Mega Gardevoir seemed to have plenty of relevant strengths – ability to OHKO Pokemon-EX for two Energy, dual typing which made the M Mewtwo-EX matchup a breeze, and Resistance to Darkness which all but ensured that Yveltal-EX or Darkrai-EX were not going to one shot you without a monumental investment of resources. So why did Mega Gardevoir come out of hiding to dominate Dallas Regionals?

Theory #1 – Not Enough Good Players Played Yveltal

Yveltal had a massive target on its back after its impressive showing at London Internationals. Much of the field was looking to counter Yveltal, or simply had gotten tired of playing the deck after it was essentially crowned Tier 1 at Ft. Wayne Regionals. Players had played the deck enough to know that they didn’t want to take it to a major tournament. Perhaps it was too basic for the player base. Notable players like Sam Chen, Kevin Baxter, and Josh “Squeaky” Marking opted to go rogue with their Xerneas BREAK / Lugia-EX / Garbodor / Snorlax GX deck.

Theory #2 – Players Opted for Mega Mewtwo Which Allowed Gardevoir to Rise to the Top

Nine of the Top 32 decks were M Mewtwo-EX decks. That’s 28%! That is a shockingly high amount of one archetype. Players opted for Mewtwo as a counter to the top decks: Yveltal, Volcanion, and Greninja. Mega Gardevoir players were able to work around bad matchups to find their way to the top of the standings where Mega Mewtwo was running rampant. With Gardevoir’s favorable Mewtwo matchup it is no surprise that we saw a high number of Gardevoir succeed.

So then we have to question why people turned to Mega Mewtwo. Mega Mewtwo, if played with Garbodor, has a favorable matchup against Volcanion and Greninja as well as a slightly favorable matchup against Yveltal-EX. If we assume that those three decks were thought thought to be the top decks entering Dallas Regionals, a “Big Three” as it were, all of a sudden Mega Mewtwo becomes a viable option. Players such as Mike Canaves were playing Mega Mewtwo with Fairy Energy and Fairy Drop for healing to ensure positive matchups against Dark decks. Seeing the success of Yveltal, Greninja, and Volcanion through the entirety of Standard up until Dallas, players were looking for a deck that could reliably beat all three. Interestingly, Gardevoir players preyed upon players assumptions by succeeding with a deck that countered the counter deck.

Theory #3 – Gardevoir Decks Won the Matches They Would Have Lost in Earlier Regionals

I consider the Yveltal versus M Gardevoir-EX matchup a very even if not ever so slightly favored matchup for Yveltal. I’ve won my fair share of games with Yveltal over Gardevoir, but I’ve lost plenty too. The matchup can swing either way. While I don’t know the individual matchups of every Gardevoir player round by round, matchup variance may have favored Gardevoir throughout this tournament where it favored Yveltal in Orlando and Ft. Wayne.

Theory #4 – Yveltal Players Played Suboptimal Lists for the Tournament

I discussed this in an earlier paragraph, but I’d like to flesh this idea even more. In the group chats I had with people leading up to the Dallas tournament, the general consensus was that Fright Night Yveltal was too big of a liability in the Greninja matchup. Many of my friends had opted to drop down to a single Fright Night Yveltal or even get rid of the card altogether. The problem with doing this is you weaken the matchup against any Mega deck. However, Mega based decks had an absolutely abysmal run up to that point with zero Top 4 finishes in Fort Wayne or Orlando. Thus, Yveltal players thought it would be wiser to drop cards that would be liabilities in the Greninja matchup (a deck that was actually played) in favor of cards that would help mirror or the Greninja matchup, namely Team Flare Grunt, Escape Rope, and / or more Yveltal-EX.

It’s impossible to pinpoint one of these theories as the definitive and exact reason Gardevoir dominated the weekend, but articulating the potential causes for the Mega Gardevoir explosion in Dallas can inform future deck decisions. What will happen to Yveltal players now that Mega Gardevoir lists are out that have positive matchups against their deck? Will we see a rise in play by M Scizor-EX? Eric Gansman and Travis Nunlist are licking their chops at the opportunity to roll up to a tournament with Scizor / Raticate. Will the Mega Gardevoir train keep rolling to more top finishes in upcoming League Cups and Regional Championships? I’ll discuss my thoughts on upcoming Standard format tournaments later on in the article.

Mega Mewtwo

M Mewtwo-EX also saw success at Dallas Regionals, even taking down a M Gardevoir-EX deck in Top 4 en route to a Runner Up finish. Igor Costa was the pilot of the Mega Mewtwo – it should be no surprise that it was he who had such a strong finish with the deck as Igor already had a Top 8 Regional finish with the deck. His deck featured nothing out of the ordinary, a testament to the sheer strength of Mega Mewtwo.

Pokemon (13)

3x M Mewtwo-EX (BKT #64)4x Mewtwo-EX (PRXY #XY107)1x Garbodor (BKP #57)2x Trubbish (BKP #56)2x Shaymin-EX (RSK #77)1x Hoopa-EX (AOR #36)

Trainers (36)

4x Professor Sycamore (BKP #107)3x N (FAC #105)2x Lysandre (AOR #78)1x Hex Maniac (AOR #75)4x VS Seeker (PHF #109)4x Ultra Ball (FAC #113)4x Mewtwo Spirit Link (BKT #144)4x Mega Turbo (RSK #86)3x Trainers' Mail (RSK #92)3x Float Stone (PLF #99)1x Super Rod (BKT #149)2x Shrine of Memories (PRC #139)1x Parallel City (BKT #145)

Energy (11)

7x Psychic Energy (EVO #95)4x Double Colorless Energy (EVO #90)

Igor masterfully guided this deck to the Top 2 where he just couldn’t overcome the strength of Xander’s Mega Gardevoir. Igor’s list is very straightforward, but I do want to highlight his Pokemon counts. Igor opted for four Mewtwo-EX to maximize the chances of starting with it which I completely agree with. He also cut from two Garbodor to only one probably figuring he didn’t need to get Garbodor out in every matchup.

Additionally, Igor opted for a full count of Mega Turbo which is a card I don’t think I’ve ever seen maxed out in a Mewtwo deck with most players choosing to run two or three. By running four, Igor was shoring up his late game by being able to bring a Mega Mewtwo to three or four Energy easily. It is an interesting card as it is absolutely dead during the first turn or two, and also becomes dead if there are no Energy in the discard, however Items that can accelerate Energy are incredibly strong and Igor highlighted that point with the max count in his list. One of the best players in the game proves that you don’t need flashy decks or surprising techs to make a deep run in a large tournament.

This concludes the public portion of this article.

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