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

 

Cup Considerations

So in 2 weeks time we are hosting our first ever League Cup in Southampton Pokémon League. In a departure from our regularly scheduled madness, it is going to be in Standard format.

The last Standard event (barring pre-release on the 27th, where I was judging anyway) I attended was Reading League Cup. As you can see here, didn’t go too well!

There’s only 5 decks I’m considering unless something amazing comes out of the woodwork

1) Gardevoir-GX

 

Aka ‘Brokenvoir’ – Gardevoir with Max Potions. For some reason this has fallen out of favour despite no actual prevalence of metal in the format. However it does suffer from a lack of consistency, and an inability to hit for big numbers (Zoroark’s or Golisopod’s 210, even Buzzwole’s 190) without investing a lot of energy.

On the plus side it can have Gallade which greatly helps against the aforementioned Zoroarks and generally works by having a more efficient Energy:Damage ratio (1 energy for 30 damage is good, 1 energy for 30 damage + 30 for each of your opponents energy is much better). Additionally Gardevoir is resistant to Dark making Zoroark need a 3 hit KO without a Choice Band. There’s a lot of psychic tech too though which hurts Gallade

I find that the deck can stall out if you loose an overinvested Gardevoir and then fail to recover due to the lack of energy. It is not a deck I would like to play against, and due to the lack of meta prevalence, I’ve not really played against it a lot except at Bournemouth’s League Challenge.

2) Buzzwole-GXBuzzwole-GX

I want to like Superfly. 30+30 to the bench for Fighting Energy is pretty strong, but the Fighting EnergyFighting EnergyFighting Energy requirement for anything else hinders reliable escalation.  I don’t know if it needs mixing with Po Town, Tapu Koko Promo and Espeon-EX to run in a separate kind of spread deck, rather than the current partnership with Midnight Lycanroc-GX. Online and further afield some strong players do highly rate this deck but I’m not those players and I cannot necessarily replicate their success with this deck in a different meta.

Accordingly, I am going to test it out in the next few weeks and I really, really want it to work – I’m just not sure what to couple it with – Lycanroc is a liability to Golisopod and the deck rarely hits for max damage even when Bloodthirsty Eyes pulls in a victim to get those OHKOs. Garbotoxin might help shut down opponents, and Espeon-EX starts making it into a spread deck. Zoroark might make it a more efficient version of Pawpatrol (Fly-snapper?) although the energy types don’t really synergise.

3) Tapu Bulu-GXtapu bulu

My Po Town amigo Michael Feeney put me onto this deck well before Christmas and I have been trading for the parts to give myself the option. This has been around since the last rotation thanks to Vikavolt and is consistently able to hit for 120 base +60 (Discard Energy) +30 (Choice Band) +20 (Prof. Kukui) knocking out any format-relevant threat.

 

Having been beaten by it at Reading in round 4 and having faced against it early in the meta (Cat plays this deck) I know how vicious it can be. However it does suffer from bricking like any comb0-based deck, affectionately termed ‘Bulu hands’. The key with Michael’s variant is to improve consistency by having multiple outs via Skyla et al.

However I’m still not sure that anything is more consistent than TordPod (Zoroark / Golisopod with loads of trade and setup cards)

4) TordPodGolisopod GX

This deck rarely hits for more than 120 , but is extremely consistent and requires only 1 attachment to do 120 damage. 4 Brigette, 4 Puzzle of Time and lots of Trade abilities makes the deck highly efficient. A couple of hammers can hinder Paw-patrol or Buzzroc variants. The low energy investment allows for the option of Max Potions and techs like Mewtwo – as used by Joe Bernard (Omnipoke) to win both Cardiff and Reading League Cups.

 

Xurkitree GX5) Anti-Meta Troll Deck

With the exception of Bulu and Volcanion, every standard deck runs DCE, fighting decks have strong energy. Some run only DCE. To this end Xurkitree and Stardust Jirachi can cause severe problems. Couple with the fact that every deck except Greninja uses either EX or GX Pokémon too, baby Hoopa can indefinitely wall. Combine with hammers, team flare grunts, and other trolling cards, there’s probably a very Yoshi style deck that could do well if piloted by a capable player.

A part of me would like to make this deck but I don’t feel that I have the time needed to learn (or contempt for my fellow players) to play this deck well!

Conclusion

Unless something really goes crazy I’m probably going to look at TordPod or Bulu. Grass is a good matchup in terms of type advantage, although each has weakness (Pod to volcanion, Vikavolt and Zoroark to fighting). I need a deck that can carry most of the weight since I cannot rely on statistical outcome of things like elixirs or even finding energy.

Meta Monday – Liverpool Regional and Prediction for Worlds

It’s Meta Monday again! This week we’ll look at the results from Liverpool Regionals 30/31st July. We’ll also talk about the decks that Poké-Post thinks we’re likely to see at Worlds this year.

Before Liverpool the field was relatively open with seven different decks taking the top eight spots at North American Internationals. Liverpool saw the collection of top eight decks narrow. Drampa-GX/Garbodor took three spaces, Ninetales-GX took another three. Decidueye-GX/Vileplume took one spot and Decidueye-GX/Ninetales-GX took the other.

Ninetales-GX  Ninetales-GX

Ninetales-GX is a deck that has really gained traction recently. When Guardians Rising released initially it was not a deck that populated the top tables in big events. However, Ninetales has two things really going for it. Alolan Vulpix has a brilliant first attack – for no energy Vulpix can find two Pokémon from the deck and put them into your hand. This is consistency in a card and consistency is one of the things that Ninetales excels at.

The other is recovery. Ninetales’ main attack does 160 damage for the cost of discarding two Water Energy from Ninetales. But Aqua Patch, also printed in Guardians Rising, can put those Water Energy straight back on. 160 will KO a Garbodor in one shot. With a Choice Band it will also KO Tapu Bulu-GX, Drampa-GX, Necrozma-GX, Ho-Oh-GX, Volcanion-EX and Tapu Lele-GX.

Ninetales is also versatile. It’s first attack pairs well with Decidueye-GX, doing 50 damage to any Pokémon. Ninetales protects Decidueye so that it can snipe from the Bench.

All in all, we can expect Ninetales to continue its strong performance and place at Worlds.

Drampa-GX/Garbodor

Garbodor has been a strong contender since its release in Guardians Rising. Since then, Garbodor has won Seattle Regionals, North American Internationals and Liverpool 2017/18 season Regionals. A formidable deck, Drampa-GX can deal 150 damage (180 with Choice Band) Turn 2. Meanwhile, Garbodor does damage based on the number of items its opponent has played, making it a potent closer.

Overall, Garbodor is both consistent and hard hitting. A one count of BREAKPoint Garbodor shuts off Abilities, countering decks like Metagross-GX, Tapu Bulu-GX and Decidueye-GX. Other disruption cards included in Garbodor – such as Delinquent and Team Flare Grunt – slow the opponent. Navigating this disruption can force the opponent to play more item cards. Drampa-GX can also discard opponent’s Special Energy with its first attack; and if necessary its GX attack can get you a hand of 10 new cards.

Garbodor is the obvious winner of Worlds this year. But there are other decks emerging from Burning Shadows that may be able to provide an answer to Garbodor. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Gardevoir-GX Gardevoir-GX

There has been a lot of talk about the potential of the new Gardevoir-GX from Burning Shadows. Gardevoir managed to win the Japanese Nationals (Japan’s releases are different to ours so they had the card before us). It can largely avoid playing items. The main attack is a reprint of Mega Mewtwo-EX’s Psychic Infinity attack, doing 30x the amount of Energy attached to both Active Pokémon. But Gardevoir does not have Mewtwo’s tricky Weakeness to Psychic, avoiding the auto-loss to Garbodor. Whilst Gardevoir is a Stage 2 Pokémon, this elevates its Hit Point level to 230, taking it out of 1HKO range for most attackers.

Fairy is also a really strong type right now. Gardevoir players can think about teching in Fairy Garden for free retreat. They also have access to Diancie from Burning Shadows, who can evolve your other Pokémon as an attack, or alternatively attack to heal 30 damage from each of your Fairy Pokémon. Players might consider Comfey from Guardians Rising to protect them from Special Conditions (a big part of Burning Shadows). Or there is Ribombee from Burning Shadows, who can take Fairy Energy from deck to hand ready for Gardevoir to attach with its own Ability.

Gallade also evolves from Ralts and Kirlia, meaning that Gardevoir players can choose to include a one- of two-of Gallade. In particular, Gallade from BREAKThrough allows you to look at the top five cards of your deck and rearrange them to suit you.

As long as they have access to Abilities then, Gardevoir players can avoid playing some items in favour of Pokémon with useful Abilities, to limit Garbodor’s damage output. The Abilities also give Gardevoir players consistency. The Resistance to Dark Pokémon also means that Darkrai-EX/GX and Yveltal players have to work harder to take Gardevoir down.

Even if Gardevoir players choose to build a more straight forward list without making use of supporters Pokémon, in theory they should be able to outspeed Garbodor decks. The addition of Guzma means they cn pull in Garbodor during the early game for the KO. The fact that Double Colourless Energy counts as two Energy for Gardevoir means you can in theory add 90 damage a turn to your count. There needs to be four Energy in total attached to both Active Pokémon for Gardevoir to get the one-shot on Garbodor. Drampa-GX cannot return the 1HKO, but with three Energy attached for Berserk, Gardevoir only needs three on itself to KO the Drampa.

Decidueye-GX/Ninetales-GX will prove more difficult for Gardevoir decks that choose to make use of support Pokémon, as their lower HP will make them easy targets for Bench sniping. Decidueye also has high HP at 240, making it a difficult KO for anyone. But if players use Gardevoir’s Ability to attach an Energy from the hand for free, the accerelation should mean that Gardevoir can KO the Decidueye in two to three turns.

Given the success Mega Mewtwo-EX has prior to the release of Guardians Rising, we know that Gardevoir will do well. The question is how well will it do at Worlds? We’ll all be waiting to see.

Darkrai-GX and Darkrai-EX

Last week I said that I didn’t understand Darkrai-GX. This week I can see why it is an inclusion in Darkrai-EX decks, and it may be the boost that Darkrai-EX needs to start placing at events again. Darkrai does 20x the Dark Energy attached to all the Pokémon on Darkrai’s side of the board. This used to be a really powerful deck and one which was my favourite for quite a while. Recently its success has dwindled as Sun and Moon Base Set saw Pokémon with higher HP and stronger attacks being printed.

Darkrai-GX is extremely useful to Darkrai decks. You can discard Darkrai-GX while Ultra Balling for something, playing Sycamore etc. You can then use its Ability from the discard pile to place it on your Bench and attach an Energy to it from the discard. It hasn’t got a brilliant main attack itself, but it is basically a free Energy for Darkrai-EX. Its GX attack is powerful as it can Knock Out the opposing Pokémon if they are currently affected by a Special Condition. However, it is an individual choice whether Darkrai players choose to tech in Special Conditions to use this attack or not.

I’m not sure that Darkrai-GX will be enough to see Turbo Dark place at Worlds this year, but it is still one to keep an eye on.

Taking a Bet – Necrozma-GX and Why I Think it’s the One to Watch at Worlds Necrozma-GX

Looking at the way the meta has been recently, especially the results in Liverpool, I think there’s a storm brewing with one Pokémon (or rather two) at the heart of it. With Ninetales-GX and Gardevoir-GX on the rise, I believe that we’re going to watch Necrozma-GX/Metagross-GX come out of left field and sweep to victory.

Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks this. There has been talk in the community of Necrozma and its chances. Necrozma/Metagross has several things going for it:

  • Necrozma’s Ability makes it immune to damage from Normal types. Drampa-GX and Tauros-EX won’t be able to do a thing about it.
  • Metagross can find both Psychic and Metal Energy from the discard pile and attach them to the Active Pokémon, meaning Necrozma can be recharged each turn but also meaning that Metagross can be set up in a turn if it is needed.
  • Both Gardevoir and Ninetales will be Weak to Metagross, turning attacks into 1HKOs.
  • Tapu Lele-GX and Garbodor are Weak to Necrozma (Necrozma is Weak to Garbodor but Tapu Lele’s attack specifies that it doesn’t hit for Weakness).
  • Metagross can also 1HKO Garbodor.
  • Before Necrozma, Metagross players had to worry about being Weak to Volcanion-EX, but Necrozma is not Weak to it and can 1HKO it.

Of course, Necrozma/Metagross is as weak to Garbotoxin as any Ability deck. However, both Field Blower and Guzma mean that Garbotoxin is a fading threat. Necrozma is the Basic Pokémon partner that Metagross has been needing.

As a meta call, Necrozma/Metagross should do well at Worlds. It’s difficult to say whether it will defeat Garbodor consistently, but only time and testing will tell. I think that it is the deck to watch for and – especially if Gardevoir turns out in force – should be a formidable pairing.

Here’s a sample list for anyone interested in playing Necrozma:

3 Necrozma-GX (BUS)
3 Beldum (GRI)
2 Metang (GRI)
3 Metagross-GX (GRI)
3 Tapu Lele-GX (GRI)
1 Magearna-EX (STS)

4 Professor Sycamore
4 N.
3 Guzma
1 Brigette
1 Skyla
1 Acerola
1 Brock’s Grit
4 Ultra Ball
3 Rare Candy
3 Field Blower
3 VS Seeker
3 Choice Band
2 Level Ball
1 Professor’s Letter

6 Psychic Energy
5 Metal Energy

You might also want to think about Rescue Stretchers and/or Max Potions in this list, although it includes both Brock’s Grit and Acerola. The question is whether you can get set up in time to stay ahead in the match. If you can, it should be a good match. If not, then take a leaf out of Decidueye’s book and think about Trainer’s Mail, Oranguru or Shaymin-EX. But this is my call for Worlds and even though I’ll probably be horribly wrong, I’m sticking with it. Let us know what you think!

Meta Monday – What’s Happened in the 2017 Season

Worlds 2017 Logo

Today we’re going to talk about how this year in Pokémon has unfolded. We’ve experienced the release of three sets so far this year, with one more to come. With Worlds just around the corner people wondering what deck they should play. There’s a lot of talk about the meta in Pokémon but which actually decks are actually “meta” at the moment?

So, let’s talk about Standard. Things have been evolving (see what we did there?) constantly over the season with each new set bringing change.

The Meta Before Sun/Moon

  • Yveltal/Garbodor (five top 8 places in Europe Internationals and 8% of top 8 decks in total US Regionals before SM)
  • Darkrai Builds (between a Turbo Dark list and Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX or Darkrai-EX/Garbodor, Darkrai dominated 15% of US Regionals top 8s despite not featuring in Europe Internationalss top 8)
  • Mega Mewtwo-EX/Garbodor (no top 8 in Europe Internationals but 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
  • Volcanion/Volcanion-EX (two top 8 places in Europe Internationalss and 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
  • GreninjaBREAK (one spot in Europe Internationalss top 8 and 8% of top 8s in US Regionals before SM)
  • Mega Gardevoir-EX (honestly this came out of nowhere in Dallas Regionals and got a win and 3 other spots in the top 8 there, but hasn’t featured much since)
  • Vespiquen/Zebstrika (three top 8 slots in Athens GA Regionals)
  • Mega Rayquaza-EX (three top 8 slots in Athens GA Regionals as well)

So a fairly even spread between a number of decks here. Dark is always a strong contender and there were no shortage of Darkrai and Yveltal decks. Dark decks placed at the four US Regionals held between the start of the season and the entry of Sun/Moon. Despite the prevalence of Garbotoxin Garbodor, Volcanion and Greninja saw play with their powerful abilities. Meanwhile in the shadows Vespiquen was once more on the rise.

A Change in the Winds

After Sun/Moon released we saw some changes start to creep in to the meta. Some good trainers came out of the set such as Professor Kukui – who combines both options from the earlier Giovanni’s Scheme – and Nest Ball to find Basics regardless of HP. We also saw reprints of various staples. Sun/Moon brings a lot of good utility Pokémon such as Vikavolt who takes your energy attachment for the turn up to three and Oranguru who acts as draw support to let you draw up to three cards once per turn.

With two International Championships and three US Regionals, here’s how the meta reacted to the release of SM:

The Meta After SM1 Release:

  • Decidueye-GX/Vileplume scored a whopping 50% of places in the two Internationals combined, and 17% of top 8s at the Regionals between the release of SM1 and that of SM2.
  • Turbo Dark ramped up its damage count to take 13% of places at the Internationals and 25% of Regionals, scoring at least one top 8 place in every event. Add in the Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX build and its total Regional top 8 count comes to 33%
  • Despite not scoring a single top 8 place at either International, Mega Mewtwo-EX took 21% of top 8 places in US Regionals.
  • Volcanion/Volcanion-EX scored 19% of top 8s in the two International Championships, and 8% of the Regionals top 8 places.
  • Vespiquen resurfaced as Vespiquen/Zoroark and took 8% of the Regionals top 8s, but none of the Internationals places.

As you can see, Turbo Dark and DeciduPlume really started to dominate the format. Despite the threat of Garbotoxin Ability lock, many of the above decks rely on Abilities. Perhaps people were so sure that Garbodor would turn up at the events that nobody actually bothered to run it.

A Champion Deck Rises?

Finally we come to the most recent and therefore most relevant part of the season, with the release of Guardians Rising and the chaos that ensued. The Guardians Rising expansion blew everything before it out of the water. The set featured the best consistency aid we’ve possibly ever seen in Tapu Lele-GX. What’s more, we gained brilliant attackers in the form of Trashalanche Garbodor, Drampa-GX, Turtonator-GX, Alolan Ninetales-GX and Metagross-GX. And the new trainer and Pokémon support is fantastic. We gained Aqua Patch, Brooklet Hill, Choice Band, Rescue Stretcher, the much needed Field Blower and Sylveon-GX, Machoke, Sudwoodo, Mimkyu, Sensu Oricorio (the Vespiquen Counter), and the list goes on.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how many useful cards are on that list. Trashalanche Garbodor changed the way we build decks overnight, with more of a focus on Supporters and a stream lined Item list. Turtonator gave a massive boost to Volcanion decks with it’s ability to Nitro-GX turn one. Drampa gives you a viable turn two 150 damage, and Field Blower took the wind out of Garbotoxin’s sails. Of course, as the season has gone on people have started running fewer Field Blowers, leading to a small resurgence of Garbotoxin especially in Transhalanche decks.

The Meta After the Release of SM2

  • Drampa-GX/Trashalanche Garbodor took the top spot in North American Internationals and 1 other place in the top 8 there, as well as 25% of top 8 positions in the 2 Regionals that have happened so far. With fantastic early and late game attackers, this is surely the deck to beat going into Liverpool Regionals and then Worlds.
  • Vespiquen/Zoroark has taken 19% of top 8 places in Regionals since the release of SM2, and although Vespiquen didn’t place in Internationals, ZoroarkBREAK did score a top 8 finish, showing that both of these attackers are to be feared. Vespiquen has been helped by the release of Tapu Lele-GX, Rescue Stretcher and Choice Band, and often makes use of the Ancient Origins Eeveelutions to hit for weakness on many of the other top decks. The big thing Vespiquen has to fear is Sensu Oricorio, which twists Vespiquen’s own strategy against it with its Supernatural Dance.

Looking to the Future

According to results, the rest of the field is wide open. There were seven different decks in the top 8 of the North American Internationals. There were 10 different decks spread across the two top 8 results of the US Regionals. Most decks in the meta seem to be running Drampa-GX. Zoroark features in three different builds – ZoroarkBREAK in the NA Internationals, Vespiquen/Zoroark in both Seattle and Madison, Zoroark/Drampa in Madison. The combination of Mind Jack and Stand In is certainly a powerful one. Most interesting of all is the notable lack of any form of Turbo Dark from the latest results. Perhaps with tool removal in Field Blower to blow off Fighting Fury Belts, Zoroark taking advantage of the large Bench Darkrai-EX often needs to set up quickly, Garbodor liking its high item count, and the Drampa Berserk, Turbo Dark has been out-turboed.

So, what to expect from the next set (Burning Shadows) and from Worlds? Well, for that we’ll have to wait and see!