Hello again, Top Deck Nation readers! It is hard to believe that U.S. Nationals has already drawn to a close. I arrived home from Indianapolis yesterday evening; it was bittersweet to see such an amazing weekend have to end. On a positive note, however, this tournament definitely brought a lot of fresh and creative deck strategies to our current format. For those that missed the official Pokémon stream or couldn’t watch the matches live in Indianapolis, click HERE to check out Pokémon’s official Twitch channel; they have several matches, both TCG and VGC, including the epic finals match in the TCG master’s division that I will be discussing later in the article!
I will be going over the 3 winning decks from U.S. Nationals, doing a bit of deck analysis for each, and talking about what kind of impact this will have on the last few months of the 2014-2015 format. Thanks to Pokémon.com for publicly releasing these deck lists, and credit to these players for their masterful deck creativity and playing skills!
- 1 1st Place Masters Division: Jason Klaczynski (Seismitoad-Ex / Garbodor)
- 2 1st Place Seniors Division: Lance Bradshaw (Primal Kyogre-Ex)
- 3 1st Place Juniors Division: Evan Smith (Manectric-Ex / Seismitoad-Ex / Bats)
- 4 Honorable Mention: 2nd Place Masters Division: Enrique Avila (Wailord-Ex / Suicune)
- 5 Impact on the Format
- 6 Final Thoughts
1st Place Masters Division: Jason Klaczynski (Seismitoad-Ex / Garbodor)
|Pokémon: 10||Trainers: 43||Energy: 7|
|4 Professor Sycamore|
1 Shadow Triad
1 Team Flare Grunt
3 Virbank City Gym
4 Ultra Ball
4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Crushing Hammer
3 Float Stone
3 VS Seeker
3 Muscle Band
2 Head Ringer
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Computer Search
|4 Double Colorless
Firstly, let’s take a moment to give credit where it is truly due: Jason Klaczynski played an incredible best of 3, 75 minute match in the finals. I definitely recommend checking the stream out if you have not gotten the chance to watch the finals match between he and Enrique Avila (Wailord-Ex / Suicune). Jason’s victory was well-deserved, proving that he is truly the “poster boy” of the Pokémon Trading Card Game (if being the three-time World Champion was not enough).
Jason chose to play a deck that he has been using all season — Seismitoad-Ex / Garbodor. Because of this Pokémon’s colorless attack requirement, Seimistoad-Ex has been splashable in most competitive decks in the format. It is a nasty combo combined with Garbodor, though, as this shuts off all other abilities in the hand, field, and discard. In a format that depends heavily on such abilities as Bronzong’s “Metal Links”, Shaymin-Ex’s “Set Up”, and Crobat’s “Sneaky Placement”, among others, this is absolutely devestating on your opponent. Ironically, one might infer that the deck’s success is the result of the 2 Shaymin-Ex Jason plays, thanks to the “Set Up” ability, speeding Garbodor’s lock.
The supporter count is certainly head-turning here. Many of the counts are standard, such as maxing out Professor Sycamore and N, but there are many notable 1 off’s in the deck. AZ can scoop up your Seismitoad-Ex, effectively denying your opponent a prize while being able to keep the item lock. Team Flare Grunt and Xerosic are also useful, as they are able to discard an energy or tool on the field at any time. Combined with the 3 VS Seeker Jason plays, it is easy to see how he was able to disrupt his opponents so much.
One word comes to mind when you look at his item counts: disruption. The Virbank City Gym / Hypnotoxic Laser combination continues to be deadly, with a 25% chance of leaving your opponent asleep going into their turn. Without a card like AZ or Cassius at their disposal, your opponent’s active Pokémon is forced to not attack while under item lock and asleep. Jason also plays 4 Crushing Hammer and 1 Enhanced hammer to further disrupt energy on the board. Finally, the single copy of Shadow Triad is a clever workaround from the recent ban of Lysandre’s Trump Card. Combined with 3 VS Seeker, this gives you a potential 8 uses of Hypnotoxic Laser. While some opponents may be able to get around 3-4 lasers, trying to counter 8 while under item and ability lock is a nearly impossible feat.
Jason Klacynski is truly an incredible player and public figure in the Pokémon Trading Card Game. I had the privilege to meet him this weekend he was not playing, getting him to sign my sealed 2013 World Championship Darkrai deck. Even outside of his matches, he is courteous and more than willing to meet and greet his fans. While many players may feel that Seismitoad-Ex is a boring card that hurts the format, it is evident that Jason Klaczynski was able to take full advantage of this archetype to become your 2015 U.S. Nationals Champion. Congratulations again, Jason!
1st Place Seniors Division: Lance Bradshaw (Primal Kyogre-Ex)
|Pokémon: 13||Trainers: 35||Energy: 12
3 Primal Kyogre-Ex
|4 Professor Sycamore|
3 Rough Seas
1 Shrine of Memories
4 VS Seeker
3 Ultra Ball
3 Float Stone
3 Kyogre Spirit Link
2 Professor's Letter
2 Dive Ball
1 Energy Retrieval
1 Computer Search
As VirGen (Virizion-Ex / Genesect-Ex) decks made a surprise comeback at various State tournaments just a few months back, many players, myself included, began dismissing grass-weak decks like Primal Groudon-Ex and Primal Kyogre-Ex. However, senior Lance Bradshaw was able to take his deck to victory at the National level. This was truly a great metagame call, as VirGen saw a sharp decline due to the recent rise of Crobat and Metal variants.
When I originally read Primal Kyogre-Ex’s “Tidal Storm” attack, I had to do a double take because I could not believe how good it was. Doing a solid 150 damage, it also lets you conserve energy by moving 2 to a benched Pokémon, in addition to doing 30 damage to each of your opponent’s benched Pokémon-Ex. Wait, what? All of these effects from one attack? It’s apparent why Lance was able to take 1st place using this Pokémon.
However, with Pokémon such as Leafeon and Raichu in the format, Primal Kyogre-Ex alone cannot win too many matches. This is why deck also plays a variety of other attackers, including plasma Kyurem and “Safeguard” Suicune. Interestingly, Primal Kyogre-Ex’s attack cannot power up Suicune, as “Safeguard” prevents effects from even your own Pokémon-Ex, instead having to discard it. However, it can be useful in a pinch when you need to discard energy for such reasons as reducing Leafeon’s damage output from “Energy Crush”. The addition of Articuno in this deck is also interesting, on a final note. Because of its “Delta Plus” ttrait, it can take an additional prize when it knocks out your opponent’s Pokémon. This can be a huge surprise to your opponent if they are playing low-HP Pokémon such as Joltik and Pumpkaboo.
I love the supporter count in this deck, as it is very consistent and standard. The 2 Keldeo-Ex / Float Stone combination is used frequently in many decks and allows you use to swap between Primal Kyogre-Ex’s, allowing you to fully take advantage of the Rough Seas stadium to heal 30 every turn. Something to note is that Lance plays 1 Shrine of Memories. In the event that you are running short of energy or need to knock something smaller out, this stadium lets you use Kyogre-Ex’s “Water Pulse” or “Giant Whirpool” attacks, doing 30 and 140 damage, respectively.
1st Place Juniors Division: Evan Smith (Manectric-Ex / Seismitoad-Ex / Bats)
|Pokémon: 16||Trainers: 35||Energy: 9|
|4 Professor Sycamore|
1 Pokémon Fan Club
1 Dimension Valley
4 Super Scoop Up
3 Head Ringer
3 Muscle Band
3 VS Seeker
2 Ultra Ball
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Repeat Ball
1 Professor's Letter
1 Startling Megaphone
1 Scoop Up Cyclone
3 Double Colorless
Combining the versatility of Manectric-Ex, disruption of Seismitoad-Ex, and additional damage of Crobat, it’s easy to see why Evan was able to take 1st in the Juniors division. This archetype is far from new, but it has not really seen much play up until now. The single Absol in the deck is notable due to its “Cursed Eyes” ability, which allows you to move 3 damage counters around on your opponent’s board. This is an incredible ability, as 30 damage can be the difference from knocking something out in one attack or two. It can also be used in conjunction with Crobat to finish something off on the bench to win a match.
At first, I wondered why Evan chose not to play the standard Virbank CIty Gym / Hypnotoxic Laser combination, but I quickly realized that his deck disrupted in a different way. The 3 Head Ringers are great in making your opponent have to initially pass while you hit off cheap attacks like Manectric-Ex’s “Assault Laser” for up to 140 with Muscle Band. A “Sneaky Bite” from Crobat can finish your opponent off in this manner. He also plays 2 Enhanced Hammer to remove energy, a powerful strategy in a format that relies heavily on such cards as Strong, Rainbow, and Double Colorless Energy.
Lastly, the 1 Dimension Valley is genius in my opinion. Perhaps you find yourself running short from sniping something off the bench or playing against that is weak to Psychic-types, like Mewtwo-Ex. Dimension Valley effectively allows you to attack for free with your Crobat, hitting for up to 50 damage with a Muscle Band (100 against Psychic-weak Pokémon). Even though it can only do 30 to the bench, this could be just enough to finish off that Shaymin-Ex or Night Marcher like Joltik.
In conclusion, Evan’s list is highly unconventional because of the strange counts, but it is clear that he had a concise strategy in mind as he built this to compete at the National level.
Honorable Mention: 2nd Place Masters Division: Enrique Avila (Wailord-Ex / Suicune)
|Pokémon: 7||Trainers: 53||Energy: 0|
|4 Pokémon Fan Club|
4 Team Flare Grunt
4 Rough Seas
2 Silent Lab
4 VS Seeker
4 Max Potion
4 Hard Charm
3 Enhanced Hammer
1 Sacred Ash
1 Trick Shovel
1 Startling Megaphone
1 Dowsing Machine
Many of you are probably reading this article just to check this deck out, and I do not blame you! Perhaps the strangest deck seen at U.S. Nationals was Wailord-Ex. At first glance, this almost looks like a joke deck, seeing as how it plays no energy and does not attack the entire game. However, after seeing this deck in action in the finals of U.S. Nationals, I can assure you that it is indeed a competitive archetype that will change how we play decks for the remainder of this format. As Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich mentioned as he commentated the final match, this deck is purely defensive one, unlike any other competitive deck used in the format. While most players play aggressively to take all 6 prizes before their opponent, what if you could win purely by running your opponent out of cards and denying them prizes? That is what Wailord-Ex tries to do, and that is what makes the deck shine.
With a massive 250HP, Wailord-Ex takes the title of the bulkiest Pokémon-Ex we have ever seen, even besting such Pokémon as Primal Groudon-Ex and Primal Kyogre-Ex. Combined with defensive cards like Hard Charm, AZ, Cassius, and Max Potion, your opponent will be fighting to knock a single Wailord-Ex out, let alone three of them. In addition, Enrique plays several energy-removing cards like Enhanced Hammer, Team Flare Grunt, and Xerosic. This was crucial in the final match against Jason Klaczynsnki, who played a meager 7 energy. In game one, Jason actually ran out of ways to attack because Enrique had discarded them constantly.
So, what if your opponent manages to attack you? For example, what if you are item locked and cannot max potion? That is where Rough Seas comes in. This card allows you to heal 30 damage from all of your water Pokémon in play, effectively rendering cards like Crobat useless. Combined with all of these cards, Wailord-Ex becomes a behemoth of a tank, taking several turns to finish one off. Eventually, your opponent will run out of resources and have to concede the game to you.
But what if your opponent plays around these defensive cards and waits until they have everything in hand to start attacking? Well, that is what Hugh is for. A Supporter that has not seen a bit of play since its arrival in Boundaries Crossed, Hugh forces both players to draw or discard until each only has 5 cards in their hand. This can be absolutely devestating when your opponent has a large hand. For example, perhaps they just used Colress for a whopping 12 cards thanks to Sky Field being in play. You play Hugh, forcing them to discard 7 cards! In this situation, you have effectively milled them over a tenth of their resources. This example may seem extreme, but you would be surprised how frequent Hugh is played in this deck.
Lastly, the inclusion of 3 Suicune allows you to play the seven-prize game effectively. Using Suicune’s “Safeguard” to prevent damage from Pokémon-Ex, you are forcing your opponent to bring up a non-ex attacker to take it out. By doing this, they have to waste energy to retreat or use cards like Switch. Even if they take Suicune out, they still have to deal with a trio of Wailord-Ex, collectively coming in at 750HP before Hard Charm, Max Potion, etc. It is evident why Enrique was able to make it to the finals of a tournament as prominent as U.S. Nationals with this strategy!
Impact on the Format
There are lot of things that we can learn from looking at the results of this past U.S. Nationals. Arguably, the biggest thing to note is that Wailord-Ex is a viable deck now. With Lysandre’s Trump Card now being banned from play, many decks will now need a hard answer to the 250HP Pokémon-Ex. One of the most common strategies to counter Wailord-Ex is Bunnelby from Primal Clash. This Pokémon’s trait, “Alpha Barrage”, allows it to attack twice, effectively using its “Rototiller” attack to shuffle 2 cards of your choice back into the deck. This is highly effective against the Wailord-Ex archetype, as you can put special energies such as Double Colorless Energy back into the deck after your opponent has used a Team Flare Grunt or Xerosic to discard them. In addition, it can be used to get back stadiums to (eventually) win out the stadium war against your opponent, as most Wailord-Ex decks utilize 4 Rough Seas at the minimum.
With Wailord-Ex being a thing now, the next thing that will happen is an increase in grass-based decks such as VirGen. Virizion-Ex is an incredible card in the Wailord-Ex match-up, as you can continue to accelerate energy faster than your opponent can discard them. Eventually, you win the “energy war” and have multiple Genesect-Ex that can take out Wailord-Ex out in a single attack thanks to Muscle Band and a Deoxys-Ex (notably, with two Deoxys-Ex you are hitting for 280 damage after weakness, enough to go through Hard Charm). Perhaps we will see a repeat of the 2014 World Championships with VirGen taking the title once again.
Lastly, it is possible that some rogue decks will begin to shine in the spotlight once again. Exeggutor has been dismissed as competitive with the release of Shaymin-Ex, whose “Set Up” ability effectively negates supporter lock in a pinch, in addition to more draw-based item cards like Trainer’s Mail and Acro Bike. However, supporter lock is sounding better and better considering that a typical Wailord-Ex variant can play 30+ supporter cards. Another Pokémon that may see play in coming months if Gourgeist from XY. Its second attack, “Spirit Scream”, allows you to place damage counters on both active Pokémon until they have 10HP Left. While you are doing 90 damage to yourself, your are doing a whopping 240 to Wailord-Ex, going through Hard Charm because it is using damage counters. Combined with Hypnotoxic lasers, this deck can win out in a matter of a few turns. Being a non-ex attacker, Gourgeist could also be prove to be competitive against a number of other decks in the current format.
The most important thing that shined at U.S. Nationals is that this is truly one “whale” of a format (I had to to do it). In his winning interview with Josh “J-Wittz” Wittenkeller, 2015 U.S. National Champion Jason Klaczynski said that this is one of the “healthiest” formats, if not the healthiest, that we have had in years. I could not agree more. With Top 8 of the Masters Division comprising of 8 different deck types, it is apparent that anything can work in this format if you have a solid list, skill as a player, and a little bit of luck along the way.
I had a blast at U.S. Nationals and am looking forward to the XY-on (likely) rotation that will begin in a few months. With several “veteran” cards like Keldeo-Ex, Mewtwo-Ex, and Darkrai-Ex finally leaving, perhaps we will see the format grow to unseen heights. While the ban of Lysandre’s Trump card was an abrupt decision, it has certain created a truly diverse game and will allow many decks to finally see play soon.
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