Sableye/Garb Won A Regional!

Kaleb Sommers managed to win in the SM5 Expanded format with Sableye/Garbodor.Junk Hunt Sableye

The list is :

Pokemon – 13
4 Sableye DEX 62
3 Trubbish NVI 48
2 Garbodor DRX 54
1 Garbodor GRI 51
2 Shaymin-EX ROS 77
1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60

Trainer – 41
4 Professor Sycamore BKP 107
1 N FCO 105
1 Ghetsis PLF 101
1 Delinquent BKP 98
1 Guzma BUS 115
1 Team Flare Grunt GEN 73
1 Team Skull Grunt SUM 133
1 Gladion CIN 95
4 Trainer’s Mail ROS 92
4 Ultra Ball SUM 135
3 VS Seeker PHF 109
3 Puzzle of Time BKP 109
2 Trick Shovel FLF 98
2 Enhanced Hammer GRI 124
2 Crushing Hammer SUM 115
1 Super Rod BKT 149
1 Battle Compressor PHF 92
1 Counter Catcher CIN 91
1 Field Blower GRI 125
1 Red Card GEN 71
3 Float Stone BKT 137
1 Life Dew PLF 107
1 Parallel City BKT 145

Energy – 6
3 Blend Energy GRPD DRX 117
3 Darkness Energy 7

At least I know what my ‘pimped out’ Sableye deck is going to look like, there’s nothing we haven’t seen before but this list certainly looks more flexible with multiple outs when it comes to things like bad prizing. Although I have yet to watch the streams I will be very interested to take this to a local League Challenge and see how well I can do with it!

Local League Life

Local League & Life

So real life has been quite busy lately and after the 3-tournament bender I’ve not really been at my local league for a few weeks- although that changed last Saturday. Although the day was glorious, it was nice and air conditioned in Nerd World and I hadn’t played cards in a little while so I was itching!

Helping The Next Generation

Golisopod GXI ended up helping one of the seniors with his deck construction for the League Cup next week (I can’t attend due to Birthday reasons). The conversation sort of came down to ‘Don’t play Zoropod/Goligarb if you have 1 Lele and 1 Brigette – play a deck that requires 1 Lele – like Buzzwole!’

In this instance, the limiting factor for him is access to specific cards – namely Tapu Lele-GX & more than 1 Brigette. However this same person has a SR Lele and Ultra Ball – and isn’t a serious or organised collector. In my mind it would be better to trade your £50-70 SR Lele for 2 playable regular ones because you’ll get more mileage out of them. Obviously his choices are his own, and I’ve not been 14 for a long time so I forget the logic. I did explain this to him, and he might take it on board, although I guess if you’re reading this you too know the curse of ‘shiny cardboard syndrome’!

I ain’t no cheap ass!

Anyway, he was invested in Goli/Garb but without the fundamental components. I see this a lot at our local league – someone will spend £50 on say 3 Gardevoir-GX but not on a Lele (or 2) because their deck is ‘A Gardevoir Deck’ and not ‘A Lele Deck’. The same people overlook the vital components- playsets of staples such as Ultra Ball, N, Cynthia, Guzma, Sycamore, 2-3 of  Brigette, Skyla  and Acerola, but have awesome Pokémon.

Awesome Pokémon – in decks that fail to work because they haven’t seen the need to invest in staples that can be used in literally *every* deck that they could build. I just don’t get it. I have explained it at length to kids and several adults at league and they still don’t get it. It could be the sunken cost fallacy – they’ve bought their playset of Buzzwole but don’t want to spend more to make it work ‘because it’s crap’ (but then buy 3-4 Zoroarks to shift to that deck). I’m not a social scientist so human behaviour baffles my mind!

Then there’s the financing issue which I get being an unemployed hobo myself (turns out teaching and panic attacks aren’t a good mix!) but there’s a thing called trading. I’m not sure that its emphasised enough (it *is* in the title of the game!!)  -suffice to say if you open packs eventually you pull something that someone else wants. Although what seems to happen is that the ‘Gollum tendencies’ come out and we get attached to the full art or secret rare or whatever – even though we literally have no use for it. Again this is fine, people have free will to attach whatever values to whatever pieces of cardboard with pictures of cartoon animals that they want. We all do it. But don’t do it and complain that you can’t ‘afford’ Leles when you buy an ETB or 10 packs a week because that’s just dumb.

Anyway, this senior, his local league competition is stiff, and two in particular don’t have the same limitations in terms of access to cards (or $!) that he does. The real world strikes again.  His rivals can build most meta-relevant decks, and relish in crafting their decks to beat this guy since his skill level is probably on a par with them, it’s just that his deck isn’t. So they tend to choose decks based on what he’s playing to the point that at league when he asked for some advice about a deck he’d been brewing they literally come over to have a nose (or a scout?). They see his Golisopod-GX, and then say ‘Lol Ho-Oh Kiawe next week’ to try and rattle him. They know he can’t respond with ‘Lol Greninja to you, now bugger off!’ because he doesn’t have Greninja, and if he did they could just bring Bulu anyway. They have Rock Paper and Scissors, he only has Rocks. At the end of the day they’re kids being kids it happens, but when someone doesn’t want to share a decklist they need to respect that boundary. They didn’t and that slightly ticks me off.

Buzzwole-GX

So we’re practicing and I explain why the deck needs 4 Ultra Ball (yes Heavy ball gets some bits but….!), 2-3 Lele and 2 Brigettes to be able to set up and get out of sticky situations via Ultra Ball – Lele – Sycamore (or whatever). We swapped over and he seemed to have a good handle on running Buzzwole. So long sotry short he’s running my fully loaded Buzzwole deck. I don’t like people being obnoxious or unsportsmanlike and felt this guy needed a chance so this time I hope Superfly catches them by surprise and puts another notch in the trophy belt.

Forbidden Light Playtesting

I then managed to squeeze in some games against VoluntaryReboot with her neo-BuzzRoc against Malamar/Ultra Necrozma/Dusk-Wings (neo-Eels?). It was good fun and I can see why Psychic is going to be a thing, but also how Buzzwole has gotten even better – despite not actually managing to get a Beast Ring to work in our 3 games.

While Forbidden Light isn’t legal until after the next event, it’s still nice to get playtesting early and give ideas a solid test.

This will probably be the last entry for another little while as the next two weekends are busy – but I’m not gone anywhere, blog posts will return!

Bournemouth League Cup 14th April

Bournemouth League Cup

Choices
It’s Ya Boi!

Firstly I really meant to change my decklist after 3 League Cups because I’m not after a mat or points or anything now. My thought was pointed towards ‘TordPod’ because it has a good balance of matchups (no Bulu autoloss and there’s not much fire at the moment) but while I love Golisopod, I struggled to achieve the results comparable to Buzzwole in early testing. So for League Cup 4 I stuck with the Superfly. Again you can snag a copy of the list I used here.

My primary reason for change is that Bulu is a very bad matchup for Buzzwole and there’s been at least a 10% Bulu turnout at each event. Primarily I’ve been wondering about running a different deck with better odds against it. It accelerates faster and more reliably than Elixirs, and can heal. Additionally almost everyone is teching in Mew-EX or Mewtwo to kill off Buzzwole.

Fellow Team Oddish-er VoluntaryReboot, was running a Gardevoir variant which I think was a good choice although I know she didn’t get a lot of practice (and Gardevoir has a lot of moving parts which can go wrong…)

This tournament was taking place in Bag of Holding, my Friendly ‘local’ (30 miles away) Gaming Store. I know the owners and manager really well from wargaming (and previous Pokémon events of course!) They run a good show, in a well lit and comfortable environment.

Round 1 – Lucario/Zoroark (Dan)

Lucario GX SM5
Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind!

Dan is local to Bournemouth and was playing a Lucario-GX/Zoroark build. Dan is quite talkative and friendly and although I like a bit of banter we needed to keep focused on the game. Lucario/Zoroark is a good match up for me since the benefit of Lucario (OHKO Zoroark) is irrelevant.

We had to call a judge when my opponent tried to use Brooklet Hill  to get a look through his bench despite a full bench but otherwise I was able to get a 2-0 victory and we’d started playing a 3rd friendly game.

1-0-0 (3)

Round 2 – Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt (Demetrius)

tapu bulu
Raging Bull…

In contrast to Dan from round 1, Demetrius was more reserved and had travelled some distance to the cup, hunting CPs. He was playing Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt (without Rare Candies but with balls). Also running Brigette and Skyla, so accordingly was able to get setup fairly rapidly.

As mentioned earlier, Bulu is a tough matchup, my only chance of success is to play perfectly, hope they brick slightly and kill the Vikavolts. And despite all of that a fully powered bulu can easily OHKO me, or heal while I struggle to recover.

So needless to say I got killed in round 1, I had managed to set up an exchange but my opponent was too far ahead in prizes. I had terrible outcomes in round 2 – at this point in the tournament I had hit zero elixirs. My deck also bricked and I needed to use Lycanroc who gets OHKOed while returning 2 prizes.

As mentioned unless they miss a beat or their deck does ‘Bulu things’ it is all but impossible for Buzzwole to pull ahead. There’s also no one or even two card specific tech that makes it a better matchup – unlike say Mew-EX which almost everyone techs against Buzzwole.

1-1-0 (3)

Round 3 – D.Mane Necrozma/Silvally (Ryan)

Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX Ultra Prism
All the energies plz!

Ryan is local to Bournemouth but also visits our League in Southampton a fair amount. I remember having a close game in an expanded League Challenge (best of one though) a few months ago so wasn’t going to get complacent.

As you can see to the right Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX can hit for 250 for 3 energy with Sun’s Eclipse GX or 220 for 4 (but loose 3 energy) with Meteor Tempest. So acceleration really helps this deck and keeps it flowing.

Silvally also helps to counter some meta encounters with memory tools, and supports the rest of the deck by allowing your basics to retreat for free and its attack also accelerates energy. So on paper a good deck. However I’ve tested it and I’m still not convinced. Couple this with the Sudowodo ‘Watch and Learn‘ attack meaning I can copy Meteor Tempest for 2 energy on Sudowodo for a return KO.

Anyway, I managed to work around the energy build up and was able to take down the Silvally due to weakness – even if it’s Psychic type due to ‘Psychic Memory’ tool, its weakness to Fighting doesn’t change. So with slow building metal and Fighting weak normal I was able to pull ahead 2 games to win the round.

2-1-0 (6)

Round 4 – D.Mane Necrozma/Magnezone (Luke 1)

Magnezone
Power = Current x Voltage?

At this stage to get in to top cut I knew I’d need another win at least and my opponent was in a similar position. I played Luke running Magnezone/Necrozma. This opponent, is termed ‘Luke 1’ because I faced 2 consecutively, and since I’m rubbish with names, let alone surnames, they are playfully termed ‘Luke 1’ and ‘Luke 2’ (sorry Lukes!!)

The Magnezone deck is similar to Bulu in that it uses a stage 2 to accelerate energies onto a big attacker, in this case Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX. Luke was also running Mt. Coronet which lets a player recover 2 discarded energys from discard to the hand – and presumably attach straight away with the Magnetic Circuit ability.

Unfortunately the deck requires even more moving parts than Vika/Bulu and so can brick even more easily. My ability to play my own Stadium over Coronet helped slow down the power up. The Sudowodo Watch and Learn attack also put in work copying that nasty 220 attack for only 2 energy. It also has a ‘soft counter’ to Buzzwole since a benched Magnezone can’t take bench damage from a Jet Punch which made my job harder but not impossible.

Brick
The Brick giveth, and the Brick taketh away…

In fairness to Luke his deck bricked hard in game 1, not even getting a single Rare Candy & Magnezone up and running. Additionally my Elixirs actually hitting didn’t help his situation and I was able to take game 1. We had loads of time and shuffled up for game 2. I was getting a bit wobbly (yay Diabetes!) and had to nibble some food but I don’t think I misplayed in any major way while this was going on.

My opponent was getting a little stressed, I guessed from the total bricking of the deck in the first round, so I assured him to take his time rather than misplay as we had enough time. He played well and got a Magnezone online. via Rare Candy. I think I managed to disrupt it a turn earlier with an N but I hit zero elixirs (yay back to normal!) and rapidly got demolished since Luke 1 managed to keep me from jumping ahead until his deck fell into place.

We started game 3, but it rapidly went to time, there wasn’t really any way for either of us to take six prizes. if I did something *crazy* and it worked I possibly could have taken 3 and accordingly I would guess that if literally everything went right for Luke he might have been able to take 2 KOs, probably for 4 prizes. But there was no way either of us were going to manage to get 6 prizes in time. So we shook after some well fought games with a tie.

2-1-1 (7)

Round 5 – Zoroark-GX/Garbodor (Luke 2)

Garbodor GRI
Got Trash?

So it turns out that Luke travelled from Southampton too, studying but had come with a different player he knows from back home in London. I hope we see him at other events.

His deck was Zoroark-GX with both types of Garbodor, trashalanche and garbotoxin. Combined with bursting balloons and lot of tech cards I knew this wouldn’t be easy. Having both type advantage and weakness really makes the game interesting!

Fortunately in game 1 the 2nd trashalanche Garbodor was prized so I managed to kill off the relevant one and then pick off Zoroarks to win.

Game 2 was a lot different. I had to Prof. Sycamore a hand of tools away to avoid getting donked which meant that I was now in deep for Trashalanche which was obviously bad, but on the positive side meant that more tools couldn’t really make things any worse! Getting trades online and flying through his deck Luke managed to get down to 1 prize before I was in a position to even take any.

Being hit for weakness by a 1 prize attacker for 1 energy spells bad news for any deck, but that coupled with the draw engine of Zoroark and my brick start meant that game 2 was a write off. I probably should have conceded and tried for a game 3 win but it was long in the day and we started and almost immediately were in time. Luke made a long play to possibly try and go for an Acid Spray + Choice Band to get a KO but it didn’t work out and so similar to the previous round we shook on well fought and deserved tie.

3-0-2 (8)

Overall positioning: 7/18

Bless the pulls! Except when I’m grumpy! *flails*

Like an idiot I thought ‘yay top 8’ but of course it was a Top 4 cut due to only being 18 Masters! Voluntary Reboot came 6th and got 3 boosters, I got 2 and neither of us pulled anything useful. I did buy 2 in the store for Cat but when I got home she pulled a UPR Magerna and Fairy Tapu Lele. Lord Helix wasn’t really with us!

. We hung around to play some casual games and do some trades. I managed to offload my promo-Buzzwoles and got a few more things for collection and potential meta-decks. Additionally I got some nice tips on how to work Golisopod from Ben Short so that will probably be my play for the next time I’m attending an event. I’ve met Ben a few times and he seems lovely, but have yet to play him at an event.

Despite the poor pulls, and middle of the road tournament results, the event was quite fun overall. It was great to see the BoH team and play some stimulating and challenging games in a familiar environment

I don’t know if that makes sense. I can only liken it to when I was a kid, if I wanted to just relax I’d play Sonic 3 & Knuckles – I could do it backwards (and still can!), whereas if I wanted a challenge, no matter how many times I played it, Comix Zone was always something I had to focus on. Pokémon can be like that, games can be easy or hard, and the environment can be oppressive or friendly; there’s a lot of variables which can influence your enjoyment. Some people just want fun games casually to relax and shoot the breeze others want to really exercise that muscle between their ears and make it stronger!Today was a happy mix of the two which is just what I needed after the previous weekend’s 3 Cup bender!

Bexhill League Cup – 8th April 2018

Bexhill League Cup

So after doing a little well at Eastbourne League Cup yesterday we were bitten by the bug. We were given a recommendation that another League Cup was on the next day at Bexhill – and that it was near Eastbourne (so I’m told – I have the geographical awareness of a Wobuffet) With the addition of Ya Boy Tony we set out for Bexhill like the mad fools that we are!

So Famous Collectables is eclectic in the best possible way. Literally packed to the rafters with everything TCG related (boosters, boxes, sleeves of every type) to collectables (e.g. Star Trek merc, Dr Who, Digimon, Plushies, a *bit* of Pokémon!!) If you’re ever in the area do check them out – the store is a community hub and is a welcoming place. Although Friday & Saturday were well run by great clubs, these weren’t in stores and this atmosphere was certainly different, but in a great way, and a nice environment (if a little cosy!) for a League Cup.

The judging staff were on point – friendly and approachable, time was open (tablets on a shelf which is low cost and a great idea), and the staff were particularly welcoming. I was particularly impressed at how the store owner/organiser came and said hello to anyone who wasn’t local before the tournament. It’s just those little things that make you feel welcome and part of a community and everyone was great! So if you’re reading guys thank you very much. I’m looking forward to the next time I can get to your events.

This is also part of the Three Cups in Three Days series where we hit 3 different League Cups over consecutive Friday, Saturday & Sunday in April like the mad fools that we are!

Round 1 – Zoro/Roc (Nitish – again!)

ZoroarkGXMy opponent from yesterdays final! I won’t lie I was nervous. Thankfully I didn’t brick my Oricorio (or rather the Brooklet Hills!) and was able to pull ahead, largely thanks to typing advantage. However I did manage to win 2 straight games, which was nice as it proved to myself that it wasn’t just a fluke or anything. As I mentioned before Nitish is highly communicative and I enjoy playing against him, I expected him (correctly!) to do well, but I think he got knocked out in Top Cut.

1-0-0 (3)

 

Round 2 – Zoro/Roc (Sam)

I’d seen Sam at a few events around Portsmouth and recognised him. He was playing Zoroark/Lycanrock which on paper is a good match up but doesn’t mean that it’s by any means easy. My opponent is a skilled player and I had to us all of my Guzmas, Max Elixir + Multi-Switch and Bloodthirsty Eyes shenanigans to get the wins. I think game 2 went to time but I was up one game and ahead on prizing so I managed to win another round and was 2 for 2.

2-0-0 (6)

Round 3 – Zoro/Weavile

Weavile Evil AdmonFor some reason (tough competition?, odd match ups?) not many others had gone 2-0-0. Zoroark I can deal with but the Weavile shenanigans was a bit of an unknown quantity. Made worse was the arrival of Mew-EX early on, copying Evil Admonition and the deck was running regular Zoroark BREAK for it’s 1 Dark Foul Play attack.

However, type advantage really helped in this game since everything except the Mew and any Leles were weak to my Lycanrocs and Buzzwoles. Of course my spicy Oricorio tech came in (and I hate to use this word) ‘Clutch’ and OHKO the Mew which is always a nice surprise to be able to spring out on an unsuspecting victim. Of course it crumbles to anything vaguely dark looking but did it’s job.

The second game was both easier and harder. My opponent knew my deck, but I knew (roughly) my opponents deck. I targeted the Sneasels early with Jet Punch so that Mew-Ex wouldn’t have anything to copy and avoided playing uncessessary cards with abilities to keep the Evil Admonition at a minimum. It only needed 3 or 4 abilities – say a Lele, Regirock, Lycanroc and Octillery on bench (not an unreasonable mid game state) to be hit for 200 with literally one energy. That isn’t something you can permit if it can be avoided, so while I like Rogue-GX it didn’t make an appearance this game. Thankfully the meta-call of Fighting was good and paid dividends here.

3-0-0 (9)

Round 4 – Greninja (Charlie)

Shadow StitchingBeing the only person on 3-0-0 at the time I was in a position to ID to top cut but none of my opponents were so we girded ourselves for a game of frogs. An issue with playing against frogs is that it can just shut down your deck and slowly slowly kill you while you are left dead-drawing. That’s it’s usual plan anyway.

Game 1 started well for me but I made the mistake of not knowing that I was against frogs due to an Espeon-EX start on my opponent’s side. Although I accelerated quickly and ran ahead to 2 prizes (story of my life!) he got the frogs setup and once my main Buzzwole went down it was a case of polishing me off with Water Shurikens and a well placed Moonlight Slash.  So we shuffled up for game 2.

Greninja games take some amount of time and results in a lot of drawn matches so my opponent was playing really really fast. However I feel that it’s important to consider your moves carefully, especially when a misplay can cost you a game but we got underway on game 2.

Early 130 damage on a Lele became relevant in the last turn of play as again I accelerated while this time the frogs were a tiny bit slower off the mark. Another annoyance about frogs is their ability to recycle the whole set of Greninja (Froakie, Frogadier, Greninja & BREAK) via Splash Energy. If something has Splash Energy and is KOed it goes back to its owners’ hand although the splash energy is lost. This allows the frog player to keep cycling through frogs. Combine that with a zero retreat cost and high bulk (130+ HP) on Greninja and you have a surprisingly robust deck.

OricorioAgain out game came down to the wire and I could see that my opponent was getting frustrated- he needed a ‘win an in’ so this match was important. All through the game he had been making sure not to discard too many Pokémon, partially due to splash energy. Things didn’t work out however as he may have forgotten or just misplayed by discarding an excess Greninja for 2 energy to Water Shuriken with Starmies ‘Space Beacon‘ ability. Although I was 1 turn away from defeat I ended up using my Oricorio to put four damage counters onto the early-game damaged Lele for victory. We started round 3 in final time (0+3 turns).

Round 3 consisted of mostly of draw-pass and since there was no way to donk or claim multiple prizes I just focused on not being donked myself. So we ended in a tie. This meant that depending on my opponent I might this time be able to ID into top cut (and take a break!)

3-0-1 (10)

Round 5 – ??? (Jake)

Jake had won his previous ‘win & in’ so was happy to ID. We embraced after such a tough game and had a break. He seemed nice so was hoping to see him in the final.  Meanwhile I previous opponent was Frogginating VoluntaryReboot =(

3-0-1 (11)

I took a break and hit the lower end of the tables to chill out and get away from the intensity. The atmosphere was great but I needed some quieter space to check blood sugars, take insulin and get some food! (I have  T1 Diabetes, I don’t just shoot up for the funzies!)

At the end of round 5 Sarah had unfortunately lost to Frogs for a Win & In (although if they IDed they might have gotten in) and Tony had also managed to get into top cut with Lucario/Zoroark which was great.

Overall positioning: 1st/2nd seed- Top Cut!

Top 8

So this was the 2nd time in as many days that I’d hit top cut. Mercifully frogs were paired against each other which meant at least one would be out.

I ended up matched with Jason playing Gardevoir with potions (aka Brokenvoir) It’s a deck I’ve played and I know not to underestimate by any stretch despite it’s fall from favour. Jason was a bit nervous so I was happy to just give him time so that he didn’t misplay or anything. I’d rather play my opponents best game than win because they made an unwilling mistake due to external pressures – actual misplays are fair game of course!

I was able to knobble his bench thanks to Jet Punch, Strong Energy and Dwayne the ‘Regirock’ Johnson combo. He did get a Garde online but only after having to ditch a couple of potions. That extra 10 HP on Buzzwole also means that 6 energy isn’t enough – and I’m only providing one of that so when the Gardevoir does go down, it takes half of the decks energy with it. Game 1 I managed to get ahead by targeting the softer elements as much as I could and then GXing for KO when a Gardevoir finally came up. The resources required to setup a Gardevoir are massive compared to getting a Rogue GX (4 cards, 1 evolution step) or even a Buzzwole GX (also 4 cards) – Gardevoir is also 4 cards to setup (Ralts-Stage1-Garde+Energy) but 2 evolution steps -unless you rare candy but that makes the odds more complex. By focusing down on early disruption I pulled ahead.

In game 2 my opponents deck did the Gardevoir thing and bricked. It bricked HARD. From playing this with all of the various moving parts inside Gardevoir not getting that out can leave you floundering with a big hand and very little to show for it. I was able to pull out the win before it recovered to get to top 4! At this point I was happy but really tired. Still Top 4 was a good achievement so far!

Top 4

Remoraid Ion Pool CupThis time I was against Jake who I’d IDed with in round 5. He seemed lovely and was playing the mirror. He played smarter and better than I and was running Mew-EX instead of Oricorio. My Elixirs decided it was home time and my Oricorio kept getting shunted to the bench to die to the follow through from Jet Punch (no resistance on the bench!) Most of my games involved trying to dodge his OHKO Mew-EX

At one point I was getting a bit hypoglycemic and cracked out the Oreos. So now Oricoreo is a thing. Sorry people! All of these factors contributed to me getting properly smashed and loosing 2 games. However throughout the games we were having such fun. My opponent at one point played promoted Remoriad to use Ion Pool to discard it preventing me from using Oricorios attack. It was a brilliant, and hilarious move in a great series of games.

I know he went on to scoop in the final to his opponent for the mat as he wasn’t after the Stuttgart invite/bye which is fair enough.

Conclusion

So I made top cut again and came 3rd overall which isn’t a bad set of results. After the weekend I’m sitting on just over 150CP which is much more than my target of 100CP! Looking at my win/loss ratio on Pokemon.com I’m about 25th in the country which is pretty cool too although I’m sure that will change after Expanded Regionals in Germany next weekend.

It seems that it took Friday to get back in the swing of things, I did great on Saturday and not at all badly on Sunday.

Next week there’s a League Cup in Bournemouth held by my ‘local’ Gaming Store ‘Bag of Holding‘ – if you’re into board games or wargames (or TCGs obviously!) and are nearby do check them out. I will write up that and I know that before I go I will consider taking a different deck. Stay tuned to find out what I brought and how I did!

As quick aside : BoH are also planning to run some VCG in the near future too if that’s more your thing.  The team there are brilliant and I’ve been going there a while so it will be nice to see them, some familiar faces and some new faces next week!

Thanks to Nitish for alerting us to the cup, and of course the Judges Kasha, Grant & Chris as well as James from Famous Collectables for a well organised, welcoming and fun environment. They were all amazing.

Finally thanks to Voluntary Reboot, the crazy Pokémaniac that she is, whose’ dedication to the game is inspiring and encouraging, who’s only getting better and is hungry for those CPs!

Eastbourne League Cup – 7th April 2018

Eastbourne League Cup

So the reason I was going to this was largely due to bumping into the TO/Judge Stephen at Reading and again at our first Southampton League Cup and we were asked/encouraged to come along. So we did, crashing overnight at a travel lodge after Portsmouth to get there in a timely fashion for the next morning. This event was 30 minute rounds, best of 1. After the previous days poor performance I went for a *little* more draw support instead of the Rescue Stretcher and  lone Field Blower. Again you can snag a copy of the list here.

Upon arrival we met with a familiar face from the previous day (Ya boi Toby!) and were welcomed in by the Head Judge/Organiser. It’s those little touches which made us feel welcome. Afterall we were never there before so to be welcomed and directed to the right place  rather than to awkwardly bumble into a Parent & Toddler meeting was really great!

Again before I go into the breakdown of the day’s matches I just want to reiterate my thanks and appreciation to the Judges, not just Stephen but also Nigel and Lee who were wholly supportive and encouraging throughout the whole event. I will touch more on this later but suffice to say the event was wholly organised, held in a nice location with clear and articulate communication and importantly enough space for us all to be comfortable.

This is also part of the Three Cups in Three Days series where we hit 3 different League Cups over consecutive Friday, Saturday & Sunday in April like the mad fools that we are!

Round 1 – Mirror (Sarah)

Buzzwole-GX
We still love you Superfly!

So you know how it is, you travel 2-3 hours and and overnight stay just to end up paired against your testing partner with a 59/60 card mirror! It almost goes without saying, but Sarah is an amazingly strong player. Anyone following her trainer career can see the rapid rise in skill and ability over the past year culminating with her taking first place at Southampton cup.

Fortunately I won the flip and went first which is a major advantage in the mirror. This was compounded further by Sarahs’ bad fortune – missing an elixir on top of being unable to find an energy despite digging with a Sycamore and Octillery really sucked. I could see the psychic pain once she missed the energy drop, and it hurt. Even if she wasn’t my friend or my opponent I would still have felt bad. That critical failing of her deck enabled me to jump ahead. Despite this pivotal moment I would never would have said that the game was easy, just that my opponent got dramatically unfortunate and I was able to capitalise on that for the win.

1-0-0 (3)

Round 2 – Turtonator-GX/Ho-Oh-GX (Will)

Ho Oh Gx Burning Shadows
Give me fuel, give me fire….

I recognised this opponent but wasn’t sure from where – fortunately he remembered me from Reading where I then recalled that he played Bulu. However this time Will was packing something a bit more … fiery!

I went first getting some energy on the board and he opened with Turtonator, playing a Lele for a Kiawe and started stoking the flames. With a choice band my Buzzwole was toast next turn.  I had a 2nd Buzzwole on bench that had an Elixir attachment, I opted to Guzma in the Lele and strike for 30 and following 30 more damage through onto the Turtonator. With luck Lele would be stuck and I’d be able to soften his benched Turtonator.

However a hard attach for the turn meant Lele withdrew and Turtonator + a Choice Band managed to Brightflame for 190 for KO. However being on 160 HP meant that I could attack with my backup Buzzwole for a return KO. I thought I was safe because by then there were 3 Kiawes in the discard. Lele was promoted and a Brigette meant 2 Ho-Ohs and a Dawn Wings Necrozma appeared (for the Invasion ability+ Float Stone combo to remove the no-attack clause from Ho-Oh-GX). I then managed to Knuckle-impact the lele for KO (thanks to the early damage).

However Will was running four Kiawes and souped up one of his Ho-Ohs. The main problem for my maths was that Ho-Oh and Necrozma all resist fighting. I could hit 190 but with resistance that wasn’t enough. Fortunately I managed to get out Regirock-EX for that extra 10 damage which meant that I could hit for 200 on Dawn Wings which with resistance meant a OHKO precisely worked and I was able to pull off a win against an otherwise unfavourable matchup.

2-0-0 (6)

Round 3 – Lucario-GX/Zoroark-GX (Darren?)

Lucario GX SM5
Step 1: Evolve | Step 2: Aura Strike | Step 3: ??? |Step 4: PROFIT!

Apologies to my opponent if I’ve gotten the name wrong – I’d never played this opponent before to the best of my knowledge but I thought I’d seen that he was rocking Lucario-GX/Zoroark. On paper this is a good matchup for me – I could target the Zoruas and try to target the Riolus to put Lucario into OHKO range.

When he did evolve and hit for 120 (or 150 with choice or  even 170 with strong) it still wasn’t enough to OHKO a Buzzwole while I could also use my Oricorio to inflict a bit of extra damage while yielding only one prize. It also didn’t help that he didn’t draw too well despite the Zoroark Trade ability. I was able to finish out the match relatively quickly.

 

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Round 4 – Sylveon??/Zoroark-GX (Kyle)

Glaceon Ultra Prism
Ice to meet you!

I would have liked an ID but my opponent needed a win so we shuffled up and got going. I wasn’t sure what he was running and I saw Eevees and Zouras. I feared that this was some horrible Sylveon mill / wall deck.

With this in mind I explicitly went for the Eevees to nip the Sylveons in the bud because I didn’t want Magical Ribbons getting all the denial pieces into place.

There was a slight problem with this conclusion though, namely that the deck was actually Glaceon lock (not Sylveon mill) which I realised after an Aqua Patch got traded away. Although the only relevant Pokémon that would be locked was Regirock-EX (because I’d already played Lele & Octillery isn’t an EX/GX, not having early Glaceons did help. However by the time I’d cottoned on to not getting milled out I should have been OHKOing Zoroarks instead. As a result we went to time and neither of us could take our final few prizes so it resulted in a draw! This also managed to shake up the standings unexpectedly.

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Round 5 – Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX (Nitish)

Versatile Mew EX
Nitish is like Mew – Versatile!

If you’re into Pokémon TCG seriously in the UK you may well have heard of Nitish. From what I gather he’s played Pokémon in pretty much every continent in the world. He had gone 4-0-0 so was happy to offer an ID which I of course accepted meaning that I had time to get some food and use the bathroom before round 5. We didn’t play a friendly as we knew that we’d be in the top cut and frankly a break from the action was welcome. This was the 2nd time I’d gotten to top cut, last time I came 2nd (loosing out to Sarah) – would I do better this time?

3-0-2 (11)

Overall positioning: 2/19 – Top cut!

Top Cut – Preliminary

Top 4 consisted of Myself, Nitish, Kyle & Patrick (playing Bulu I think). As 2nd seed I was paired against 3rd seed Kyle. Unlike the Swiss rounds, these would be best of 3 games, with 1 hour for time. While my deck was slightly tweaked towards best of 1 (less recovery items, more immediate draw support) I prefer best of 3 since it means you’re usually not screwed by a bad setup (Unless I’m playing Craig…! )

At this point action stopped for deck checks. Up until now I’d been using Pro Matte Eclipse sleeves since they are opaque and have a nice shuffle feel. Unfortunately they are i) expensive (£8 for 80), ii) pick up a lot of dirt on the front & iii) get marked easily on the back. I did actually end up using my spares after a game  because I was concerned at a couple of them having scratches and wear. However the judge informed me that I’d need to replace all of my sleeves as they were too battered. (I also shuffle hard). So I got some world regional sleeves from the stall there – a bargain at £4 – and resleeved. After the event I thanked the judge (Nigel) for letting me know about the sleeve conditions. I think he thought I was being sarcastic or something until I clarified that I was sincerely thankful that this was pointed out to me and that I was given the opportunity to resleeve rather than let me go into a game and take penalties. I don’t actually believe any judge would deliberately let a player do that, but I felt supported by this and quickly got to resleeving.

As I mentioned at the beginning and worth repeating; I felt that the judges at this event were knowledgeable, proactive and most importantly supportive of the players. In my top-cut games I was quite nervous (I  suffer with anxiety too) so was panicking about my timing of decisions. Buzzwole needs a lot of maths – and when you’re under pressure, and your train of thought is interrupted then it can be difficult to re-calculate what you’re doing quickly. Again the experienced judges were on point and and assured us that the games’ pace was fine (neither of us asked, but they could tell how we were feeling!). So from that perspective the experience was stellar.

Top 4 – Glaceon-GX/Zoroark-GX (Kyle)

Glaceon Ultra PrismThis was my round 4 rematch, only this time I knew that the deck was Glaceon so I focused on taking out the Zoroarks. By removing the draw support and getting 2 prizers I was able to come ahead. Even when Glaceon came online, I managed to Rogue-GX it for KO. I felt that now that I knew the matchup and accordingly had learned from my previous games against Kyle so I was able to play a better game and come out on top 2-0, putting me in the finals!

Top 2 – Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX (Nitish)

I won’t like I was really nervous. Nitish is a worlds-class player and experienced at the game. My main strength for this match was that I had type advantage and my Oricorio tech.

Nitish managed to get Mew-EX online and OHKO my Buzzwoles, despite getting Oricorio and a Choice Band up, I couldn’t find a Stadium. That said the threat of Oricorio  prevented Parallel City from being played. I missed my only Elixir and the game wasn’t going to well. However despite getting down to my last 2 prizes (which were 2 Brooklet Hills!) Nitish pulled ahead and I was down 1 game.

Game 2 went a lot better – although my Oricorio was prized it was the first one I drew so I was able to take out the Mew-EX when it emerged without sustaining too much damage. Lycanroc’s GX was the main threat since it could OHKO for just 2 energy so while early Zoroua KOs were tempting putting Lycanrocs into OHKO range was a better strategy.  I did get a warning after accidentally Octillery-ing and drawing an extra card  in one round but I caught it before any damage was done and it was easily corrected. It was a floatstone and my opponent joked that I should be allowed to keep it (would have been useless in the situation!) My targeting of Rockruffs paid off overall as the game went a lot more in my favour than the first and I was able to get the win to pull level.

Game 3 – it was down to the wire this time!  Without the bad prizing of game 1, and with the outcome of game 2 giving me a confidence boost we shuffled up for the final showdown. Before I give away the outcome I just want to state how communicative and open of an opponent Nitish is. He was always clear when playing supporters, using abilities, searching, shuffling and so on. We got on well and despite the ‘stakes’ we were having a lot of fun.

So game 3, I had my spicy Oricorio tech available, and nothing critical was prized. I opened up by taking out a Zorua and putting 30 on a Rockruff. We exchanged pieces carefully. The game came down really close and we had hit time. I had 3 prizes to take to Nitish’s 2. I had the game in my hand (Lele for guzma) and was somewhat relieved when Nitish didn’t use N but rather Sycamored for cards and didn’t find an answer. As luck had it I topdecked the Guzma I was going to fetch out anyway. I could have used Knuckle-Impact but needed to use my overloaded Buzzwole to Jetpunch a Zoroark  for KO but more importantly to get the ‘follow through’ 30 damage onto the damaged Rockruff from the first turn. Which had mean that I’d WON!

2-1

League Cup MatConclusion

Thank you if you’ve read all of this. It was an epic day for all involved, my first League Cup win and some great games with equally great opponents.

Aside from the actual games and event itself, the opportunity to mix with other players from outside our usual League was wonderful. As a consequence it was suggested that we try to make another league cup ‘nearby’ (2.5 hours away!). Sarah, having not made Top Cut this time and been bitten by the bug was keen, as was a familiar Portsmouth local, Tony. As well as this I was on a bit of a winners high so we made some calls and sorted places for the next day -which is why we made 3 cups in 3 days! Saner people might have stopped to think, we did not and just went with it!

Acknowledgements

There’s some obvious ‘thank you’s but they are still necessary:

Firstly to the judging staff and organisers who were all amazing and reassuring. It sounds daft but even me not knowing the etiquette of a formal deck check wasn’t made into a problem – I’d laid it out on my mat on a table, but they wanted it as a deck in order delivered to the judge table. I explained that this was my 2nd time in top and of course they didn’t give me a hard time.

Team Mates Cup
I get by with a little help from my friends!

Secondly to all my opponents all of whom were friendly and sporting. I met some really lovely people who I’m looking forward to meeting at other events and occasions. A special thank you here to Nitish not just for being a great finalist, but who let us know about the Bexhill cup the next day and that there were spaces!

Finally many thanks for fellow team-member Sarah for deck-brewing, playtesting, driving and waiting it out while I was in top cut. I know playing her in the first round didn’t really help her situation but the support of teammates is invaluable.

Portsmouth League Cup – 6th April 2018

Portsmouth League Cup

It almost of goes without saying but all of Jamie’s events are timely, professionally run, welcoming and extremely well organised. This cup was no exception. Quite frankly it is the standard that I compare anything else I attend with. If our league was even half as good as Jamie’s events we would be right to be proud. Of course one man isn’t an army, and he was supported by the always cheerful Devon and at least 3 other knowledgeable judges, all of whom are experienced players as well.

This is also part of the Three Cups in Three Days series where we hit 3 different League Cups over consecutive Friday, Saturday & Sunday in April like the mad fools that we are!

Round 1 – Mirror

judge
Rule 0: If in doubt, call a judge.

A difficult first round of the cup overall, wherein my opponent attempted to dictate my own plays to me, tell me I had nothing left to play and what attack I would use. Suffice to say I was aware of this players attitude and reputation prior to the event and was having none of it – so I called a judge. The entire charade was made worse by the fact that he literally took a phone call during a game 2 while there was about 3 minutes left on the clock. Not even a vaguely understandable ‘sorry Bob – can’t talk I’m busy right now‘ type affair or even a totally understandable ‘my wife is due to go into labour‘ – but an actual, full blown conversation. Apparently it was an ‘important business call’. Frankly I don’t care if it was the Pope – the rest of us cleared out schedules to be here for a League Cup, and my time and money is as good as anyone else’s.

We ended up drawing at 1 game each.

0-0-1 (1)

Round 2 – Zoro/Roc

ZoroarkGX
I wish I had a witty caption

I was a bit put off after the previous round (I was on a lot of meds that day for severe pain so I don’t know if that made me more or less bothered by it) – but figured it was all good from here. Unfortunately I don’t recall the name – should, by some miracle of the internet, my round 2 opponent is reading this I can only apologise and offer the aforementioned strong meds combined with 3 day old memory as an excuse. I just about remember the match-up type!

Zoroark/Lycanrock (‘Paw Patrol’) is more or less favourable for me and I was able to tackle the Zoroarks while counter-Lycanrocking his Lycanrocs before he could GX me. Hitting a surprisingly average amount of Max Elixirs also helped. We managed to get 2 games in for a 2-nil round win to me, so the cup dream was alive – for now!

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Round 3 – KikaBulu (George)

tapu bulu
Bulu is a veggie, but will eat you alive!

I’d met George a couple of times at previous cups where he’s local to Reading and his partner Jay and I exchange a bit of Poké-banter on Twitter. Though I’d never actually played against him nor seen him play, and so was a bit surprised to find ‘Bulu with Balls’ (aka ‘KickaBulu’). Bulu has a reputation to easily fall apart since there’s a few moving parts all of which need to synergise fairly smoothly and each have their own ways of being disrupted.

However to his absolute credit George played perfectly, got set up really quickly and went to town on my underdeveloped board. My situation wasn’t helped by me misplaying early in game 1 – I was trying to be more aggressive to kill off the Grubbins and not being slightly more conservative in terms of planning future turns. I basically should have Ultra Balled for Lele for backup draw support, not for more killing power so I bricked. Total noobie error quite frankly and it cost me. The inevitability of Bulu meant that I struggled to catch up and got soundly, and fairly, annihilated!

All in all a wonderful opponent playing an underrated deck who deservedly made it into the top cut as 2nd seed. He then overcame Marcus’ Fire to make top 4 where he had to play against his partner Jay (I hate having to play against Cat in any sort of tournament so I felt their pain!) Overcoming that he made it into cup final – more on that later!

1-1-1 (4)

Round 4 – Mirror (Craig)

BuzzwoleGX
Sorry Craig, no full art for you!

The rule of travelling to events is that you’re going to play a local person you play every week. Maybe. I possibly made that up – it’s 4:22AM and I’m not sure what weight of the colour of the sky is again.

Craig and I tend to, completely without intention, design or malice, play the same deck archetype and then face each other with them – usually at local Challenges. I was counting on my spicy counter-mirror and counter-counter tech of Oricorio. But at what point do you stop trying counter rock with with your scissors, decide to counter paper instead and then end up around at rock again?

Game 1 went really well for me, I’ve been playing the deck for a fair length of time, while Craig has only recently made the switch to the Buzzwole brigade. I managed to accelerate up, GX for KO, Knuckle Impact for KO and play a fast and smooth game. All the things the deck does when running at 100% and the stars align. Hail Superfly! However Craig’s own mutant death flies weren’t so fortunate… but that was about to radically change!

Game 2 – Feeling a bit chipper after the game 1 win I started to wonder what puppies I’d kicked in a previous life as I mulliganed. FIVE TIMES.

Oricorio
Bustin’ moves on the dance floor!

I’m running 15 pokemon, of which 11 are basic so the odds are 62% of getting at least 1 basic [P(60,7,11,1) with a hypergeometric progression]. Nope. Now try that 5 times.  Then I did get a basic. My lone Oricorio. She’s kind of good…-ish? Against Buzzwole. Right…?

Well yes, as I elucidated before it’s a good tech but is conditional –  if I’m set up, have a stadium, Choice Band and so on or, at least in this situation, a draw supporter to let me dig for said pieces. But not as a lead attacker with no backup. I literally had to draw pass and watch as my poor dancing bird got its’ feathers plucked by an over ‘roided mutant death fly! So 1-1 – mercifully it was over quickly, giving us loads of time for round 3!

Game 3 – Whatever fickle demon hellspider spins her web to catch Buzzwoles in the wild was clearly having it in for me at this point. I mullagined again, and again, and again.  So only thrice to start with…. Oricorio. Again. I dare not even attempt calculate the odds incase the resolution of the equation destroys space-time itself!

Despite my hyperbole, it was after all a fellow local and an all around decent bloke, so if my deck was to brick embarrassingly at least it was to someone who can remind me of it every week…right? (Just kidding he’s really a cool guy! 🙂 ) However with that loss unless something really strange happened I was out of top cut.

In a slight consolation (for want of a better word – it’s not that I actually see someone who beat me fairly loosing as a form of consolation) he did face off against Espeon/Garbodor in round 5 which would more than likely have ended badly for me anyway so it was just not to be it seems.

Round 5 – Duskmane/Talonflame (Shakil)

Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX Ultra Prism
Hear Me Roar!

So Shakil is another local, like Craig a strong player, just hasn’t hit as many premier events yet so it was great to see the locals representing and holding their own against pretty strong competition.

The deck was Duskmane Necrozma with Talonflame and whatever about my 5 mulligans, it was nothing compared to the lack of any sort of consistency that Shakil achieved. Not through lack of trying or deck build, in one game he whiffed energy in a 13-15 energy deck despite digging down and I basically out-accelerated him managing to take KOs. Sudowodo put in legwork by copying the 230 attack of doom (+ strong energy) for knock out on the Duskmane and basically the deck bricked hard for him. I did feel, he is a mate, a local, and was risking an off meta deck, but it just didn’t work out game 1, at one point literally drawing into 3 Talonflames (useless if you don’t start with it).

Game 2 – He managed to start with a Talonflame which made it a bit more interesting. Being a cheeky git I copied it’s attack with Sudowodo – the novelty of searching out 2 cards meant that my deck got to ‘cheat’ more energy and control than it otherwise should have so it was fun but over quickly. In fairness we kept playing friendlies and he did win the next one so I think with a few tweaks the deck might be able to do a bit better.

2-2-1 (7)

Overall positioning: 14/28 – dead centre!

The Good & The Bad Sandwich

Good: I re-learned how to play the game at a competitive level and had fun doing it….

Bad: ….with the sore exception of round 1.

In future I’d probably just refuse to play that opponent again without a table judge present because it probably isn’t worth the stress. Though I’m not sure if that is the right solution or approach.

My assessment was further confirmed by a 4th person, completely divorced from the situation, who has played them in a different setting on a different day, and independently confirmed my (and the 2nd and 3rd party’s) assessment. According to opponent #1 I’m not a very good player (still worth denigrating to my peers 0.O) but ya know on narcotics and still got a draw? I’m in no way a supporter of violence or anything of the sort but karma is a bitch and eventually people will realise true natures.

Good: So this seemed to be a bit of a ranty witch-hunt (without the hunt!) so for some good news: VoluntaryReboot made top cut and went into the final against George’s KikaBulu. Unfortunately she didn’t manage to get the win against what is ultimately an unfavourable matchup for the deck. However I’m sure the 40-ish CP and 12 packs helped mitigate that little sting a bit!

Oricorio Tech for Buzzwole

Oricorio Tech for Buzzwole-GX

In this post I’m going to cover the counter-tech that the latest iterations of Buzzwole/Lycanroc seems to be running and it is a good thing.

Counter Buzzwole Tech

Versatile Mew EXSo the latest tournament results are showing some interesting outcomes. Buzzwole is doing well – presumably beating down a lot of Zoroark-GX. However Zoroark has been fielding Mew-EX or (less-so recently) generations Mewtwo in order to hard counter Buzzwole. Mew-EX can use Riotous Beating hitting for weakness (240) for 1 DCE attachment, or alternatively it can also use First Impression from Golisopod-GX for 1 Grass, again hitting for 240 assuming it switched in.

Generations Mewtwo has more HP than Mew-EX but it’s attack is more dependant on them overloading their Buzzwole with energy. A Buzzwole with the full 3 energy will still only take 160 from Mewtwo (20+(20*3)) so you need a Choice Band or another damage buff (Kukui?) to ensure a knockout. A major benefit of Mewtwo is that it’s hard for Buzzwole to OHKO and that it only yields one prize, turning it into a 7 prize game.

The Answer

OricorioSo what is the solution to all of this Psychic Bugspray?  The unlikeliest of candidates seems to be Oricorio (Supernatural Dance).

Firstly it’s Psychic type so strong against Buzzwole, but cruically not weak to other Psychic types (by virtue of being a ghost type) – though ironically a Zoroark will destroy it easily.

While Supernatural Dance is used to counter Night March decks, for anti-Mew/two duty, Revelation Dance and a Choice Band are what we need. Since Buzzwole runs Brooklet Hill and other decks are sporting Parallel City, the stadium requirement is usually moot. 1 Energy is an irrelevance in a 13 energy deck so the only real ask is the Choice Band. I run 4 choice bands and 3 Float Stones although the winning deck run 3 Choice Bands and 4 Float Stones.

As well as anti-Mew/two duty, Oricorio is great against the mirror – in that it also counters Buzzwole – it has type advantage, low attack requirements, enough hitpoints that it can’t easily be OHKOed and vitally – it resists Fighting. Where a ‘baby’ Mew (50HP) gets OHKO by a Buzzwole with a single strong energy, Oricorio only takes 30 damage, dealing 60+ in return. As well as this it only yields one prize enabling you to play a 7 prize game.

Conclusion

I certainly prefer the Oricorio option to mimic Sudowodo – better energy requirements and Oricorio pulls double duty against the mirror march. It’s going to be an include for my Superfly deck going forward. My only dilemma now is – Multi-Switch or Energy Switch?-I’d love to hear your thoughts for each (or neither!)

 

Remember The Name

This is ten percent luck
Twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure
Fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name

Fort Minor / Remember the Name

I’m not a rap expert but that seems pretty on key for Pokemon TCG! Perhaps you don’t agree but let’s have a little analytical look.

10% Luck

You can’t effect this. You can at best average it – if you loose a coin flip 6 times out of 10 then it sucks, but it’s not your fault.

Unfortunately being programmed for survival we tend to remember bad experiences where we haven’t had a deciding input (bad luck) but only remember good decisions we’ve made (self-reinforcing fallacy)

I know mathematically that if I have 60 cards and I have 4 of a particular Pokémon and I draw 7 cards at the start I have about a 34% chance of drawing it. Sometimes I won’t draw that Pokémon for 3 games. Despite 3 hands of 7 being 34%  each, I’m not guaranteed to draw that card after 3 games because chance isn’t that simple. For Pokémon and similar CCGs it’s a hypergeometric pattern that we’re not good at intuitively recognising.

Similarly we’re more likely to remember the 4 times in a row that we failed the coin flip (how can you fail a 50/50 luck based outcome?) rather than the 4 times in a row that we won it.

In short there’s very little you can do about luck, which is why it is luck. Ideally you want to mitigate it, not rely on it, but be thankful when you ‘get lucky’.

20% Skill

Ever heard ‘The more I practice the luckier I get’ ?

This applies to any skill based game or task. Even if you aren’t playing against better opponents all the time, your game will improve as you become more familiar with your deck. The more experience you have, the ‘luckier’ you will become. Of course you’re not getting luckier, you’re getting better, by virtue of your own skill. You recognise what your deck can and cannot do, what outcomes are favourable and what scenarios you want to force in order to succeed. The trick is to maximize your ‘luck’ before pulling the trigger. Even just removing one or two dead cards before you play draw support can nudge the outcome in your favour.

15% Will

This could be easily replaced by stamina (although I don’t think it would rhyme as well!) Playing 5 or 6 rounds of best of three Swiss before a top cut is tough. It takes a lot of physical and mental fortitude. Your brain can only use sugar as energy. To that end I’d recommend making sure that you have some source of nourishment and that you keep hydrated throughout an event.

Many events don’t have time for breaks so you need to grab bathroom breaks and food breaks while you can. If you manage to ID in the last or 2nd to last round it is often a good time to go and take a break.

5% Pleasure

You gotta love the game! If you don’t love Pokémon it’s going to be very difficult to persevere when the going gets tough.

50% Pain

I’m not suggesting playing Pokémon cards is painful. Your hands might ache after a day of shuffling and cutting decks. Rather this is to say that like all art (for playing cards is not a science!) it involves some suffering.

For example 3 rounds of a Swiss tournament at up to 3 games each can be quite taxing mentally and physically. Did you have time for lunch? Bathroom breaks?

Despite these factors that we suffer out of love for the game, there are times when it can be tough. First and foremost Pokémon should be a hobby – that is to say, it should be fun.

However, at the end of some days it will not have been fun. You lost game one due to the opponent getting a lucky Acid Spray coin flip, Game 2 was against a horrible player who kept stalling and calling the judge over, you can’t remember game 3 and by game 4 you were quite convinced that the guy from game 2 had stolen your energy cards!

For the purposes of this article 50% Pain is the ability to stick, to push past the hopefully seldom rubbish occasions and try to remember the positive stuff.

100% The Name

If you’re a horrible person people will remember you for the wrong reasons, but that memory will hopefully fade quickly. Yet almost anyone who follows PTCG knows who Sam Chen is. He hasn’t actually won worlds this year, he’s just a good, gracious opponent and a skilled player!

We are fortunate in the UK that there is a general sense of honour and fair play. This, after all,  is country where in professional cricket, players own up to fouls before the umpire has time to make the call! Niche communities such as ours must be self-policing and thankfully we are lucky* to have players who are great players and great sportspeople.

*Truly in the sense that we cannot individually effect the behaviour of other people. As a community we can

 

Standard Vs Expanded

Originally this was supposed to be a write up of 2 different Expanded League Challenges (Southampton & Bournemouth) however due to family commitments I wasn’t able to make either of them. So instead I’m going to give a quick run down of Standard vs Expanded and which might be best for your community.

A disclaimer: I’m not that worried what format is played per se, I’ve got 2 copies of most relevant ACE Spec. cards  and can field most meta-relevant decks in each format. So it’s not a case of ‘waagh no cards’!

 

ACESPEC Computer SearchStandard & Expanded

Since 2014 the Expanded format has been from Black & White onwards which covers a fair range of cards including the infamous ACE Spec. cards. Any given newly released set might only have a couple of cards relevant to Expanded, cards which are sometimes ‘unusable’ in Standard format can find life in an expanded deck.

Standard, by contrast to Expanded, rotates about 4 sets every year – I would imagine by August 2018 that we’ll jump to Sun & Moon (SM1) onwards. Additionally each new set tends to shake up the metagame significantly, although not all sets are created equally. Guardians Rising’s Tapu Lele-GX significantly shook up things as did Gardevoir. Buzzwole from Crimson Invasion is possibly the only relevant Pokémon in the set!

Our League

Our local league is Expanded format. The reasoning given is that it allows for more variety of deck and a wider range of cards to be played. Supposedly this makes it easier for new players to play. However most of the people who turn up don’t have meta-relevant decks anyway and those that do tend to be geared towards Standard format. Those who do bring really old cards are still told that they can’t play them. Additionally newer players will not have bought any non-Standard cards so now in order to compete they need to search for things like VS Seekers, Battle Compressors, Blacksmith, Dark Patch or whatever makes their deck work. Most do not have these.

The store that hosts the league also sells Standard format cards, with the exception of Zoroark-GX boxes, nothing is massively relevant to the expanded format. While the current top Expanded decks have many similarities to Standard meta decks (namely the Pokémon) the supporters and trainers are usually quite niche and not available in store.

Accordingly, I don’t think that expanded is actually more accessible for newer players. Most new players only have more recent cards and then they have to start looking to get ACE Specs, VS Seeker, Blacksmith, Dark Patch or whatever is needed to make a viable deck. Most of our players do not have these except the competitive people who only turn up to events.
Additionally the shop that hosts us doesn’t have cards for Expanded, only standard so it hits their sales since if I was a Expanded only player there’s very little I need so am less likely to buy cards. Essentially we’re selling them Standard cards but supporting an Expanded format.

As well as this, the expanded metagame doesn’t change as much as standard (which may or may not be a good thing depending on a person’s view) whereas standard is shaken up by each new set. So while I like Expanded since it allows for more crazy decks, it also is less accessible at a competitive level for newbies.

TrevenantAdd to this decks like Seismitoad or Trevenant which lock down items and it can lead to a less than fun experience for players. These decks can seriously lock down your opponent while you slowly chip away at their Pokémon (and will to live!). All in all not a fun experience for newbies. Additionally a lot of expanded decks are so well developed in the meta that there are distinctive counter-tech/hate options available that can totally destroy a deck.

Case in point one week before a League Challenge last year I rocked up with Night March and obliterated every opponent I played, only to bring Volcanion for the actual event because I knew everyone would then hard-tech hate against Night March.  Also it wasn’t fun for my opponents to play against Night March because it outclassed most of the decks quite dramatically.

Conclusion

XY Collection Hex Maniac
Full Art Hex Maniac

Hopefully that’s given some food for thought, sorry that it’s not the cutting edge analysis that you’re used to here! While I like expanded, it’s hard to break into for a lot of people and the format is a lot more brutal when you have things like Siesmitoad, Trevenant and so on. Additionally the Expanded metagame as of today is extremely similar to Standard (Zoroark, Zoropod and BuzzRoc) which defeats the argument of a more diverse meta!

Don’t get me wrong, a bit of expanded is good to shake things up – it’s faster, has a more high stakes and intense style of game with more kooky techs and plays available. However for newbies the better balanced, more accessible and affordable Standard format is the option I’d be pushing to grow a community.

Viable Pokémon EX/GX In Standard Format SM5+

Hello again! Today’s article has revisited the older Viable Pokémon EX / GX  (SM4+) in the Standard format. Expanded has several gems that shine but they are usually quite niche within their own deck types. These will be noted as they arise, but this focuses mostly on the Standard format.

Of particular note is the full coverage of Shining Legends, the SM5/6 Ultra Beasts and the new Necrozma variants. In terms of Pokémon we only have Ultra Sun/Moon UBs such as Blacephalon, Stakataka and Ultra Necrozma left to get cards & we know Ultra Necrozma will be in SM6.

This post idea was partially inspired by a reddit post on r/pkmntcg where some newbies seemed to think that all GX/EX were good.

As always feedback, comments and criticism are welcome and encouraged.

Viable Pokémon EX:

As per the heading, viable Pokémon EX that are from before the Sun & Moon sets.

Regirock-EX FCO – Used on the bench to add +10 damage. However Fighting isn’t featuring heavily at the moment and even then there’s usually better ways to get more damage that doesn’t rely on an ability in a Garbotoxin meta. It will be replaced by Diancie from SM6 in May.

Volcanion-EX STS – Volcanion is a whole archetype by itself. Heavily used for the ‘Steam Up’ ability in Volcanion/Turtonator but also in Ho-Oh/Salazzle for the added damage.

Darkrai-EX BKP – Rarely used in standard at the moment but still a key component of a Darkrai based deck.

Espeon-EX BKP – Used as a 1 of tech in certain decks (Espeon-GX/Garb or Drampa-GX/Garb) for the devolving attack. Often seen in decks with Po Town since re-evolving means another round of damage counters.

Pokémon-GX that ‘never’ see competitive play:

Never is a strong word but at the moment it seems correct! This may change in the future of course, but for the moment these aren’t seen as competitivly viable Pokémon.

Alolan Golem – Electric just hasn’t got the love. While pairing it with electric Magnezone might help improve things, running 2 sets of stage 2 Pokémon is probably asking for trouble. Another casual/meme level deck.

NihilegoGXNihilego – Although the ability is interesting, a fragile 180HP and the PPP requirement means that unless something radically shifts, this isn’t going to see a lot of play outside casual or meme decks.

Gyarados – The energy investment is just too high. I do have to wonder if after rotation high energy cost will be the norm, making a lot of previously ‘unplayable’ Pokémon marginally viable.

GuzzlordGXGuzzlord – Despite having a lot of HP the high energy requirement and weakness to Fighting bump this down to unplayable outside of fun or joke decks. I’ve seen people combine it with Dragonair and other energy acceleration options but once it’s KOed all of that energy goes. Fun, but not competitive by a long stretch!

Kommo-o is possibly the only truly ‘non-viable’ card on the list due to lack of Double Dragon Energy but the rest are not very competitive or are relatively lack lustre in the current state of the game. Arguably ‘counter energy’ from Crimson Invasion works as DDE although it’s a bit more conditional than the traditional DDE. The Prism Quad Energy might also work but is still a corner case.

Incineroar GXCharizard, Machamp, Lunala, Incineroar, Tsareena, Primarina, Snorlax & Beware – just don’t really bring enough awesomeness to the table to justify their inclusion compared to other GX’s out there.

Toxapex – people want it to work but it is rather clunky and the 3 Psychic attack cost is prohibitive.

Umbreon – a tricksy card with some interesting effects on its attacks. However sadly it loses out on raw power compared to other ‘mons and also on utility compared to Sylveon or Espeon. The low damage output for the energy investment leaves Umbreon a relatively uncompetitive choice outside of a dedicated energy denial deck.

Noivern GXNoivern – I want to like this card since it is Seismitoad 2.0 but lack of DDE and odd colour requirements (Psychic and Dark) means that for the moment it’s relegated to the sidelines. I did end up facing a Noivern/Zoroark deck at a League Challenge which was interesting. Weakness to Fairy does hurt if Gardevoir is knocking around. If we get DDE in SM6 then we might see this in a hammers/wall type lock deck.

Off-meta/Rogue Pokémon-GX:

These are semi- viable Pokémon-GX that are not terrible, but not particularly strong either, or only feature as an option in some main decks, or feature as a counter to certain other decks.

Dawn Wings Necrozma-GXDawn Wings Necrozma – Much hyped along with Dusk Mane Necrozma however like poor Nihilego the PPP requirement in a format without Psychic acceleration leaves much to be desired. The mediocre 180HP as well as being OHKO by Zoroark-GX with 1 attachment means that in the current Zoroark heavy Standard format this otherwise funky Pokémon isn’t really viable at a competitive level.

Glaceon – Much hyped yet, if the recent regionals are to judge by, overhyped. The ability to stop opponents’ GX/EX abilities if active is good but conditional. Paired with a weakness to Metal and a mediocre attack the deck struggles to close out the game once an opponent has adapted to the ability lock.

Pheromosa GX

Pheromosa– Like several of the Ultra Beasts this was first released in a boxed set before being given a full art release in SM5. Similar to Buzzwole, Celesteela and Xurkitree it’s GX ability involves prize manipulation.

As a card it struggles to find a niche since Golisopod is a better Grass type. The first attack is only relevant 50% of the time and the low hitpoints combined with weakness to fire doesn’t really make it a card that brings anything new to the game. The only use I can see is as a 1-of for Beauty GX as a catch-up tech in grass decks.

Alolan Exeggutor – A funny card that I have seen people combine with the Shining Legends Venusaur to exploit the double energy ability.  Like Goodra it can target specific Pokémon but also like goodra it’s a Dragon type -weak to Fairy and overall a lacklustre card. There is a baby version which enables all of your Eggxecutes to evolve which helps the deck to function. It certainly has fun/meme potential but is in no way competitively viable.

mew2

Mewtwo – A poormans Gardevoir (30x energy on your Mewtwo) but does have type advantage over Buzzwole. However that niche can be fulfilled by Mew, Mew-EX or Generations Mewtwo.

Wishiwashi – A high HP Pokémon, similar to Wailord in that it is used to stall/wall in decks that aim to deck out your opponent.

Marshadow – Although low HP for a basic GX (150HP) it can use any attacks from basics in the discard changing them into the fighting type. With little relevant weakness to fighting (Drampa?) it doesn’t see much play in Standard. In Expanded has a place where it can be a more viable.

LaprasLapras GXCan be the centre of a deck based on water toolbox, stall/wall or other variants. Drawing 3 is nice, and Ice Beam GX has paralysis which is usually hard to access. However only 190HP and weakness to grass make it a liability in a Golisopod heavy environment.

Raichu – People are trying to make it work and it is a Stage 1 compared to Gardevoir-GX being a stage 2. The Ultra Prism electric Magnezone could help attach lots of energy but I’ve yet to see this in practice. Also in those kind of decks

Gumshoos – counters Gardevoir-GX and was included in some finalists decks recently for that very reason.

Alolan Muk – Needs a deck built around its conditions and a way to capitalise on them. Could pair well with Raticate BREAK.

Darkrai – Part of the low tier Standard Darkrai deck, also works in expanded since it comes back with energy.

Solgaleo – not in the ‘never’ pile because it counters Gardevoir and has a decent ability and GX attack. Still quite niche, paired with Metagross or SM5 Magnetic Circuit Magnezone.

Vikivolt – can be included in Vikivolt/Bulu as a backup attacker.

Supporting Pokémon-GX:

Thoroughly Viable Pokémon that are included in some deck types as a 1 or 2 count as tech, support or counter.

Dialga & Palkia – While no Top Cut deck has featured either Dialga or Palkia yet, their unique GX abilities and mono-energy requirements on a Dragon type make these both interesting Pokémon.

Dialga has a draw attack which isn’t bad if you’re starting off, but the shred of 80 damage for 2 attachments [MCC] isn’t terrible, it’s just that there’s usually better options. Of course the insane GX that gives you an *extra turn* (and deals 150 damage!) is unique in the game and certainly offers a lot of strategic options. The high cost is a downside but the havoc that you could cause by having 2 turns in a row cannot be understated. Hopefully we’ll see Double Dragon Energy in the next set, making this attack only need 3 attachments. (DCE, DDE, M)

Palkia isn’t as awesome sounding as it’s temporal counterpart, this spacial Pokémon offers a lot in the way of energy manipulation. One attack lets you move as much energy onto it as you want while it’s main attack does more damage for each [W] energy.

Again the GX attack on this beast is crazy – 150 damage and they shuffle all of their energy attached to the Pokémon into their deck. While recycling energy isn’t great it can clog up an opponents deck and severely disrupt their tempo. I suspect that after rotation when attacks will cost a bit more that these huge attacks won’t seem that expensive and will actually be somewhat viable.

Leafeon – I’ve categorised this as slightly better than Glaceon because it’s GX attack will allow for a lot more consistent Grass shenanigans. However it’s not a card to build a deck around but rather a support type Pokémon. The ability to heal 50 is interesting but requires Leafeon to be active which is a bit of an ask.

Xurkitree – Everyone’s favourite Christmas tree Pokémon! Immune to almost anything with special energy attached this is a strange creature! The attack is poorly costed and of limited damaged although the discard 1 card effect fits with some specific ‘mill’ deck archetypes. The Lighting-GX *adds* a card to from your opponent’s hand to their prizes. Could be useful to get rid of a Prism Star card or just to slow them down.

Vulnerable to fighting makes it a niche choice outside of dedicated denial/wall/mill decks, however I do know that some Tapu Bulu/Vikavolt decks are running a 1-of in order to buy themselves more time to get set up. Steel resistance is a nice perk too. In a format where every deck except Volcanion and VikaBulu run special energy I feel that we will see a bit more of this popping up in the future.

Celesteela GX FACelesteela – Bulky, resists popular fighting and weak to unpopular lightening (and more importantly not weak to fire!) this is a useful 1-of or 2-of addition to any Metal deck. The energy requirements are quite high although the GX ability gives you a free Town-Map type ability combined with good damage. I don’t think any serious metal deck should be without at least one of these Ultra Beasts.

Kartana – The Slice Off ability is a free Enhanced Hammer, the attack allowing you to shuffle it back in means you can do it again and recycle the effect. The GX is simply ‘get a prize’ which, as someone who often manages to get 4-5 prizes and then struggle to take the remainder, really appeals to me. Similar to Celesteela it’s not a main attacker to build your deck around but is certainly a useful inclusion in any serious metal deck.

Tapu FiniTapu Fini GX – a vicious GX attack and colourless main attack make this a useful tech in decks that run rainbow energy such as GoliGarb or Drampa/Garb.

Espeon – combine with Garb for a Psychic shenanigans deck. Turn 1 Eevee to Espeon and hit with the Confuse Ray is a solid play.

Tapu Koko – fits into Vikivolt/Bulu or some people replace the Bulu all together. Can jump in late game, steal all the energy and hit you when you least expect it. Like most of the Tapu-GXs it has no weakness.

Necrozma Necrozma GX Burning Shadows– Included for Black Ray GX – if you think its worth 3 energy. Cat sticks this in Golisopod to put pretty much everything in One Hit KO range. Also good in expanded thanks to Dimension Valley reducing the cost of it’s attacks.

Decidueye – fallen out of favour but still viable, especially in baby Alolan Ninetales decks. 99% of the time its for Feather Arrow.

Lurantis – used to be combined with Golisopod, though still out of favour at the moment. It pairs well with Shining Legends Venusaur thanks to the Jungle Totem ability. Certainly not one to overlook.

Tauros – features more in Expanded I think, but some decks include it for its versatility of 3 different attacks for a DCE. Gets stronger as it gets injured which is nice too!

Ninetales – another 210 hp stage 1 with decent attacks. The support that water has is really good with aqua patch so it can power up quickly. The Ice Path GX damage swap can also help keep you going. Usually includes a baby Alolan Ninetales to help against EX/GX decks. Needs to watch out for metal.

Sylveon – although a decktype by itself (Quad Sylveon Box), it used to feature heavily in Gardevoir decks. The Energy Eeveelution ability and Magical Ribbon ability for 1 Fairy energy makes this a great Turn 1 play (especially if you go 2nd!)

Metagross – It hard-counters Gardevoir although it’s not guaranteed since Gardevoir is more consistent. It can be clunky and brick up if things go wrong. The max 180 damage cap is also quite painful although this is easier to swallow with 250hp and Max Potions. Includes lots of switcheroos to get rid of the ‘can’t attack next turn’ penalty. Less of an archetype since practice and experience has shown it to be unable to match the Tier 1 decks.

Drampa – Has seen a fall in popularity and likely to remain there due to the prevalence of Lycanroc-GX and Buzzwole-GX.  A good early game GX attack to net you 10 cards is helpful and it has a variety of partners in the game. Drampa can also be splashed as a tech in quite a few decks and can be quite threatening as a result.

Archetype Defining Pokémon-GX:

These aren’t just Viable Pokémon, these GX’s are so good that they have a whole deck archetype centred around them!

Zoroark – Entire essays could be written about this Pokémon alone. Stage 1, 210 HP, resists Psychic and weak to Fighting. The GX is interesting but hardly anyone uses it. The Riotous Beating deals 20x damage for each of your Pokémon in play – without Sky Field that’s 120 for a DCE/1 attachment which doesn’t have a condition like Golisopod’s First Impression.

What kicks this card up a gear is it’s ability –Trade. Trade lets you discard a card to draw 2. You can do this for each instance of Trade you have in play. The massive draw potential enables strategies that would previously be considered inconsistent. Almost every top deck runs Zoroark with the exception of those explicitly built to counter it (Buzzwole & Lycanroc variants). It’s been combined with Gardevoir, Golisopod, Lycanroc and many others.

Even with no ability or with the ability but a worse attack, this Pokémon would have been playable. The combination of a solid attack and brilliant ability makes it probably the best card in the format at the moment in terms of it’s versatility.

Tapu Bulu – (Vikivolt/Bulu) Extremely consistent damage and setup with some built in resilience in the form of a healing GX attack. Probably the lower end of the top tier but one you have to be able to beat. Still suffers from ‘bulu hands’ and if it bricks for a turn a good opponent won’t let you recover.

Gardevoir – Still strong and  versatile in terms of the ability and the option to include the Zoroark-slaying Gallade. Has optional techs to improve consistency (Sylveon, Octillery) and hits for ‘bigger-numbers-that-you’ almost all of the time. However it is still beatable, being a stage 2 deck it can struggle to set up.

It looses to Buzzwole who can KO it’s bench before it can set up but is surprisingly alright against metal decks due to their reliance on a lot of energy. The main issue is that the deck can run out of steam. If the opponent is running Max Potion or Acerola the deck can flatline about 3/4 of the way into the round and struggle to recover momentum.

Before SM5 Tord Reklev used Zoroark and Gardevoir to great effect.

Golisopod Golisopod GX– relatively tough stage 1 that has several attack options. Most of the time it’s hitting for 120 for 1 Grass which is excellent value for energy. One option requires the deck built around supporting it but still has room for things like Garbodor and even promo Tapu Koko for free retreating shenanigans.

The other option is to run it as a secondary attacker – for example combined with Zoroark which did quite well in some of the first SM5+ Regionals (Malmó & Collinsville). OHKOing Lycanroc for G is extremely strong.

Lycanroc – The only card since last time to jump from ‘maybe as random tech’ to ‘archetype defining’! Bloodthirsty Eyes is a free Lysandre effect while the GX attack can punish an unaware opponent. This card has become hugely popular as a partner to Zoroark-GX as it also counters enemy Zoroarks. Weakness to grass lets Golisopod-GX OHKO it although you just have to avoid playing it in that case. Also seen partnered with Buzzwole. The other consideration is what Rockruff to use – the promo Rockruff can attack for 1 energy and so is worth considering.

Turtonator /Ho-Oh/Salazzle Ho Oh Gx Burning Shadows– A variety of the fire archetypes, usually includes some Volcanion-EX to help with the damage output. Turtonator vs Ho-Oh is more of a meta call, there’s almost no electric in the format (yet) but Ho-Oh does need 4 energy to properly attack compared to Turtonators 3, AND Ho-Oh can’t use the big attack next turn. Salazzle an option for late game KOs when you get down to your last couple of prizes and need to pull ahead.

The 99%:

3 Lele Expanded

It’s worth mentioning in an article about Viable Pokémon GX the most viable Pokémon in the format – Tapu Lele-GX

Almost all competitive decks have 2-4 (usually 3) copies of Tapu Lele-GX because it’s that good. Literally its only flaw is its’ 170HP. It has no weakness and an excellent retreat cost of 1.

The Power Drive attack only requires 1 DCE and in a format where a lot of energy is required it can really punish an opponent. Especially against things like Gardevoir GX or Fire decks. I have ‘donked’ several opponents who have played a 60hp Pokémon (eg Alolan Vulpix) attached an energy. My turn I attach a DCE and then hit for 60 for KO. Not a common occurrence, but still occasional enough that even starting with it isn’t the end of the world.

The Wonder Tag ability alone enables several strategies involving things like Kiawe for fire types or Bridgette for decks that require a rapid set up. As long as you have access to a Tapu Lele-GX (or the means to get one via an Ultra Ball for example) then you can get established quickly.

The only real downside is the financial cost, however this is beginning to drop as it’s hitting saturation point. Since it can be used in almost all of your decks it’s worth investing in a couple if you play  at all competitively.