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.

Crimson Invasion Pre-release & Judging

Crimson Invasion Pre-release

Our local Pokémon League held its first official Pre-release for Crimson Invasion on Saturday (21/10/17) at our local geeky home of Nerdworld.

This post is going to give an overview of interesting cards, ones to watch for in future, a piece on my first time judging and the event itself. Finally I’ll sum up on the my feelings about the state of our community. (Rant warning!)

If you are unfamiliar with Pre-Releases: each player gets 4 boosters, access to whatever basic energy they need and a sealed selection of basic trainers and core evolution lines. There’s also a random set promo included which can be used. (Raichu, Salazzle (psychic type) and & Registeel for Crimson Invasion) Each player needs to create a 40 card deck and rounds are best of 1, 20 mins with 4 prizes. It is intended to be a casual, fun event.

Interesting Cards

Guzzlord-GX – a fair amount of hype around this although no-one actually pulled it until after the event. The theory being that 39 energy + a guzzlord means that you’re KO-ing almost everything except Garyados-GX by turn 3 at the latest. It is vulnerable to Gastrodon and Buzzwole-GX though!

Buzzwole-GX – a little bit of hype, but not as much as Guzzlord-GX. For 1 Fighting energy you’re hitting 30+30 on the bench which is great value for energy. A modest retreat cost of 2 in fighting is nice as is the bulky 190HP for a basic.

Interesting to note about the Ultra Beast-GXs in general is that they have weakness whereas the Tapu-GXs do not. Additionally all of the Ultra Beasts have a unique ‘Ultra Beasts’ label under their HP which might mean future cards will interact with them. I’m thinking something like a Beast Ball to search them out or a future Silvally-GX with an ability that works against Ultra Beasts.

Cards To Look Out For In Future

Assuming that GX remains a thing, Olivia is going to replace Brigette in standard once she rotates (in about a year!)

Milotics bounce ability is a bit like a budget Sylveons Plea-GX ability and might find space in some spread decks and, although it doesn’t effect the active, might be a weird niche tech in some decks.

JudgingJudge

The Judging itself seemed to go fine. Rules interactions were mostly limited to Miltank and Gengar (they are simultaneous!) and consistency was maintained. A couple of clarifications about burning, confusion attack declaration and a wrong way around paralysis were my height. Someone forgot prizes and got (another) heavy handed warning which seemed excessive for a casual level 0 event.

I was excited for the event although I wasn’t the organiser and so felt a bit undermined when I called for round starts and then the TO quietly did too. after me. Basically I can project, the TO can’t and despite trying to help on several occasions I don’t know if it is appreciated.

For the next event I’m sticking to playing and (consequently?) I am told that I probably won’t be required at future events.

Summary

This has ended up being a mini rant about our existing community but it seemed encapsulated in the day.

The day itself went great for the players/trainers which is what you want when helping to run an event. However I was more or less told that I wasn’t running it, just judging, which is understandable despite the effort time and organisation put into it. Despite numerous olive branches being extended to other staff I didn’t feel that any were received or acted upon which is unfortunate.

Consequently I want to see how events without external support pan out, the November GvC has external judges and organisers so will hopefully go smoothly. (I might flip out if table numbers are in biro again). Unfortunately I’m not in a position health wise at the moment to be able to run an alternative, competitive league night regularly which is a little frustrating.

Additionally, at the moment our competitive playerbase doesn’t bother to show up to regular Saturday league except for tournaments and we are going to lose them. Accordingly the existing community is quite small, mostly uncompetitive and largely unorganised. I think that when you have to travel an hour to the next city over through Friday rush hour traffic to get a decent standard of games in, something is a bit wrong.

As it stands, people do frequent our neighbouring Pokémon league in lieu of their local because it’s more organised, with a higher calibre of player. Our local league has not made any steps to supporting more competitive players or nurturing their growth which begs the question of why bother?

Don’t get me wrong I like casual days, just not every time. I can bring my Tier 1 deck and smash people, not learn anything or play my derptastic Sligoo deck and at least have an enjoyable game. But we don’t have the option of competitive practice outside of big events.

A final point of contention was trading. When asking for a trade and being interrupted several times stating that they wanted to trade it off of the person – but not actually having anything that the trader wants- is rude and annoying. You can’t call ‘dibs’ on other peoples cards if you have nothing to trade. I wouldn’t mind but the same person harvested several choice cards from the tins of freebies that I provided. A bit of self awareness might have not gone awry. Only that we were having a fun day and I was being professional, I *might* have snapped.

*breathes out*

 

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!