“Smoking the Competition” — 5 Great Plays for U.S. Nationals!

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Hello, Top Deck Nation readers! I am very excited, and humbled at the same time, to be writing my first article on the site. There is still a ton of work to be completed on the website, but I hope to have more articles and videos up in the coming weeks. With U.S. Nationals just mere days away, I realize that it can be a stressful time for making your deck choices. No need to worry, though! Here at Top Deck Nation, we are all about providing players with options. Taking into account these last few weeks of Nationals, I have compiled a list of 5 decks that I believe are viable choices for U.S. Nationals this weekend. Some of these decks include ones that you would expect, while others haven’t really had their times to shine up until now. Without further ado, let’s jump into the deck lists!


Raichu/Bats

Pokémon: 26Trainers: 26Energy: 8
4 Zubat
4 Golbat
3 Crobat
4 Pikachu
3 Raichu
3 Shaymin-ex
2 Eevee
2 Leafeon
1 Mr. Mime
4 Professor Sycamore
2 Lysandre
2 N
1 Colress
1 AZ

4 Sky Field

4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
1 Repeat Ball
1 Float Stone
1 Sacred Ash
1 Scoop Up Cyclone
4 Grass
4 Double Colorless
4-4-3 Bat Line

The Crobat line really speaks for itself, placing 2 to 3 damage counters on any of your opponent’s Pokémon. Combined with Raichu’s Circle Circuit, you can potentially KO any Pokémon in the format, including megas, with relative ease. In addition, Crobat serves as an additional attacker in the deck with its bulky 130HP and low-cost attack, Skill Drive. Many players often opt for thinner Crobat lines, but I have found that 4-4-3 allows you to easily draw into your Golbats and Crobats when necessary.

2-2 Leafeon

Perhaps one of the most interesting choices I made was the inclusion of Leafeon. Using Eevee’s Energy Evolution ability, you can evolve into Leafeon as early as turn one, providing synergy with the deck’s aggressive strategy. Its Energy Crush attack is a direct counter to a lot of popular cards in the format, such as Seismitoad-Ex, Primal Groudon-Ex, and Primal Kyogre-Ex. Lastly, Leafeon can attack for merely a grass energy in this deck, meaning that it can go through Aegislash-Ex’s Mighty Shield ability and improve the Metal match-up significantly.

1 Professor Sycamore

While most decks can benefit from maxing out Professor Sycamore, this deck is just the opposite. Given that most of the Pokémon in this deck are low-HP, having to discard resources such as Double Colorless Energy can turn the tide in your opponent’s favor. The more I have tested with this build, the more and more I disliked Professor Sycamore. Playing only 1 may seem absurd at first, but I feel that the deck is able to conserve its resources while maintaining it’s explosiveness. Between the other supporters, a maxed out VS Seeker count, and 3 Shaymin-ex, this deck rarely struggles to get set up and attacking by turn two.

1 Scoop Up Cyclone

 I strongly believe that the preferred Ace Spec in a bat-related deck should be Scoop Up Cyclone, and this deck is no exception. The ability to simply scoop up an entire Crobat line and put it down again is incredible. In addition, you can use this Ace Spec to re-use your Double Colorless Energy or even pick up a Shaymin-Ex and use it a second time. While an Ace Spec like Computer Search would certainly bolster the deck’s consistency, I believe that Scoop Up Cyclone is simply better in this deck for it’s overall versatility.

Other Thoughts

Raichu/Bats is arguably one of the strongest choices for U.S. Nationals. It’s fast, powerful, and the prize exchange allows the deck to hold it’s own against practically every Ex-based deck out there. Using the power of the Shaymin-Ex draw engine, the deck is able to get set up quite quickly, besting most decks with its sheer aggressiveness. Its only real weakness would be fighting-based decks using Landorus-Ex, as Pikachu, Eevee, and Raichu can quickly fall to a Hammerhead attack. Though Mr. Mime can help soften these blows, this deck still struggles considerably against Landorus-Ex, so this is certainly something to keep in mind. In addition, I have found that Seismitoad-Ex decks have a stark advantage here as well. Though the deck only plays 11 items, it heavily depends on cards like Ultra Ball and VS Seeker throughout the game to get set up and consistently draw cards. Item lock can be devastating, slowing the deck down to a crawl and forcing you to depend on top decking. These match-ups are something to keep in mind if you are thinking about Raichu/Bats.


Fighting/Bats

Pokémon: 18Trainers: 31Energy: 11
3 Hawlucha
2 Shaymin-Ex
2 Landorus-Ex
1 Lucario-Ex
4 Zubat
3 Golbat
3 Crobat
4 Professor Sycamore
3 Korrina
2 N
2 Colress
2 Lysandre
1 AZ

3 Fighting Stadium

3 Muscle Band
3 Super Scoop Up
3 VS Seeker
2 Ultra Ball
1 Sacred Ash
1 Professor's Letter
1 Scoop Up Cyclone
7 Fighting
4 Strong
3 Hawlucha

Hawlucha is a fantastic Pokémon in this deck for a number of reasons. Firstly, it serves as a non-ex that can help with the prize exchange. It is also a low-cost attacker, capable of hitting up to 100 damage for a single Strong Energy and Muscle Band. Lastly, Hawlucha’s free retreat allows you to bring it up if something gets knocked out. It is especially strong in the Seismitoad matchup, as it can heavily damage a toad while enduring multiple Quaking Punch attacks.

2 Landorus-Ex / 1 Lucario-Ex

It’s apparent that Landorus-Ex is an incredible attacker. With a Strong Energy, Muscle Band, and FIghting Stadium in play, it can hit for a whopping 90 damage for a single energy. However, some match-ups, particularly Yveltal-Ex and colorless M Rayquaza-Ex, favor using Lucario-Ex, as this attacker can go through resistance with Missile Jab. Lucario-Ex is also a good addition because it arguably has a better weakness, allowing it to take several hits from Pokémon such as Seismitoad-Ex.

3 Super Scoop Up / 1 Scoop Up Cyclone

You might be wondering why I’ve opted to not play any Switch cards in this deck. Super Scoop Up is much preferred in this instance because it can 1) Heal off all damage from any of your Pokémon, 2) Allow you to scoop bats up and place them down multiple times, effectively abusing the Surprise Bite ability, and 3) Serve as a switch card while conserving your energy. Between this and Scoop Up Cyclone, there are 4 outs to accomplishing to these things.

Other Thoughts

Fighting/Bats is a deck that has a lot going for it: low-cost attackers, efficient damage output, potential prize denial, and it has answers to many things in the format, namely Raichu and Aegislash-Ex. Using the draw power of Shaymin-Ex, the deck can get set up relatively quickly. It can struggle a bit against decks like Seismitoad-Ex due to the water weakness of Landorus-Ex and item lock. It also has a disadvantage against Yveltal-based decks due to resistance. Despite these things, Fighting/Bats is still a top contender for U.S. Nationals and should not be underestimated.


Big Basics

Pokémon: 15Trainers: 34Energy: 11
2 Mewtwo-Ex
2 Landorus-Ex
2 Shaymin-Ex
1 Lucario-Ex
2 Pikachu
2 Raichu
2 Trubbish
2 Garbodor
4 Professor Sycamore
3 N
2 Lysandre
2 Colress

3 Virbank City Gym

4 Hypnotoxic Laser
4 Ultra Ball
3 VS Seeker
3 Muscle Band
2 Switch
2 Float Stone
1 Sacred Ash
1 Dowsing Machine
7 Fighting
4 Double Colorless
2-2 Garbodor Line

Shaymin-Ex and Garbodor in the same deck? Absolutely! “Garbotoxin” can shut off every ability in the game; this screams synergy in a deck full of attackers that don’t rely on abilities. While it may seem counterproductive to play Shaymin-Ex in here, the fact is that Garbodor isn’t going to get itself out. Being able to draw until you have 6 without having to play your supporter is huge; getting set up as early as possible is key to ability lock decks such as this one.

2-2 Raichu Line

Raichu is a great non-ex attacker that can hit for a single Double Colorless Energy. Circle can potentially hit for up to 120 with a Muscle Band, taking out Yveltal-Ex and colorless M Rayquaza-Ex in a single blow. In addition, free retreat is an added bonus; Raichu can be promoted after something gets knocked out. Because of Sacred Ash, you can effectively reuse your Raichu line again, which can be great against decks that rely on non-ex hitters and help your prize exchange.

Dowsing Machine 

Computer Search is often regarded as the standard Ace Spec in decks like this for consistency purposes, so why did I opt for Dowsing Machine? In a word — resource management. This deck can quickly run through itself thanks to the Shaymin-Ex draw engine and cards that discard such as Ultra Ball and Professor Sycamore. For these reason, it isn’t uncommon to quickly have multiple resources in your discard early on, including Sacred Ash and Hypnotoxic Laser. Dowsing Machinge effectively gives you an additional count of any trainer card in the deck. It can act as a fourth VS Seeker, a fifth Hypnotoxic Laser, the list goes on. I believe this deck already shines with consistency thanks to Shaymin-Ex, so Dowsing Machine makes more sense in my opinion.

Other Thoughts

Big Basics / Garbodor has fallen off the radar this season, possibly in part to its lack of speed and clunky nature. However, when you really think about it, this deck actually an answer to pretty much every thing in the format! It can turn off popular abilities like Bronzong’s “Metal Links”, Aromatisse’s “Fairy Transfer”, Shaymin-Ex’s “Set Up”, and many others. In addition, it can take down Raichu decks with relative ease thanks to Landorus-Ex and Lucario-Ex. Lastly, the inclusion of Raichu means that Yveltal-Ex and M Rayquaza-Ex decks will have a hard time keeping up in the prize exchange while being knocked out from weakness. Could this 2014 U.S. Nationals-winning archetype make a return? It certainly has a case for it!


Metal

Pokémon: 17Trainers: 32Energy: 11
4 Bronzor
3 Bronzong
2 Aegislash-Ex
2 Mewtwo-Ex
2 Shaymin-Ex
1 Dialga-Ex
1 Keldeo-Ex
1 Heatran
1 Kecleon
4 Professor Sycamore
3 N
2 Colress
2 Lysandre

2 Sky Field

4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
3 Muscle Band
2 Battle Compressor
2 Float Stone
2 Switch
1 Sacred Ash
1 Computer Search
7 Metal
4 Double Colorless
2 Mewtwo-Ex

Mewtwo is an incredible colorless attacker. With a Muscle Band, it can take out Raichu with ease. It is also a soft counter to Seismitoad-Ex, capable of knocking it out in two attacks with Muscle Band or 3 energy. While we may not be playing in the 2011-12 season where the Mewtwo wars were prevalent, I believe that Mewtwo-Ex will see play in many decks at U.S. Nationals because of its versatility and serving as a Raichu counter. For these reasons, having your own Mewtwo is a great play.

1 Keldeo-Ex / 2 Float Stone / 2 Switch

Many players opt for a count such as 2 Keldeo-Ex / 3 Float Stone. This is a strong way to play Keldeo-Ex in Metal, but I believe that only 1 is necessary. Because Switch is also being played, we can cut down our Keldeo-Ex count down to 1. It is hard to tell if Silent Lab will rise in popularity at U.S. Nationals, but being prepared for this in advance can make your matches significantly easier. This is essentially why I split the counts and added 2 Switch — it gets out of Silent Lab and allows you to continue to take advantage of Bronzong’s “Metal Links” ability. It can also be a clutch card if your Keldeo is brought up and put to sleep.

1 Kecleon

Kecleon?! Yes, Kecleon! Playtesting with my friends, I have seen the power of this little chameleon. Its ability is a bit irrelevant (though good against things like Mewtwo or Dragon-type Pokémon that are weak to their own type), but the attack is incredible underrated. “Immitack” lets you copy the defending Pokémon’s attack and use it, assuming you meet the energy requirement. At first glance, one might brush this card aside in favor of more powerful attackers in this deck. However, consider the fact that it can copy attacks like Raichu’s “Circle Circuit”, M Rayquaza-Ex’s “Emerald Break”, and even Seismitoad-Ex’s “Quaking Punch”. Suddenly, it can turn the tide in these specific match-ups and really do work. You can also use Sacred Ash to effectively have a second Kecleon if need be.

2 Sky Field

Normally, I would opt for a few Steel Shelter in Metal builds, but Sky Field makes more sense here. While Shaymin-Ex can certainly help in setting you up early game, the fact is that it takes up bench space. By playing Sky Field, we have access to three more bench spots, which can be used for more Bronzong, another attacker, etc. The great thing is that your opponent’s counter-stadium  can actually be in you favor, as replacing Sky Field allows you to discard your Shaymin-Ex, ridding your bench of the 110HP liability. Many decks already play Sky Field; in the event that your opponent plays it first, you can simply discard it or use Battle Compressor to thin your deck of it. For these reasons, I think Sky Field is the stadium of choice here.

Other Thoughts

At first glance, Metal screams one word: clunky. However, it can be incredibly powerful once set up. Shaymin-Ex can help achieve this, allowing your first few turns to be explosive and getting out Bronzor easily. The deck also has a myriad of diverse attackers: Aegislash for the Seismitoad-Ex and Raichu match-ups; Dialga-Ex to disrupt other Pokémon-Ex such as Primal Groudon-Ex, and even Kecleon to copy your opponent’s attacks. It also has the unique advantage of being able to accelerate up to 3 energy per turn before your normal attachment, something that the majority of standard format decks lack and paying homage to the days of Eelektrik. We have already seen the power of metal with its 1st place finish at Canada Nationals. Will the deck follow suit in the United States?


Dragon M Rayquaza-Ex

Pokémon: 14Trainers: 34Energy: 13
4 Reshiram
3 Rayquaza-Ex
3 M Rayquaza-Ex
3 Shaymin-Ex
1 Hydreigon-Ex
4 Professor Sycamore
3 N
2 Colress
2 Lysandre

2 Sky Field

4 VS Seeker
4 Ultra Ball
4 Switch
4 Mega Turbo
3 Rayquaza Spirit Link
1 Computer Search
8 Fire
4 Double Dragon
1 Lightning
4 Reshiram

This is your preferred starter and is maxed out for this reason alone. Combined with Switch and Hydreigon-Ex’s “Dragon Road”, you can potentially power up M Rayquaza-Ex in as little as one turn if your turn is explosive enough. In addition, Reshiram can accelerate itself to quickly knock out Shaymin-Ex, as its attack hits for the magic 110 damage. This card is essentially why the deck works, so playing less than 4 is not justifiable in my opinion.

3 Shaymin-Ex / 2 Sky Field

The trouble this deck had initially was its slow setup. Hitting for 300 damage with M Rayquaza-Ex’s “Dragon Ascent” sounds incredible, in theory, but that 5 energy cost and having to mega evolve (hopefully with a Rayquaza Spirit Link) drags the card down. Thankfully, we can use the Shaymin-Ex and Sky Field combination to speed the deck up a lot. Once again, your opponent’s counter stadiums are welcome here, as it allows you to freely discard Shaymin-Ex and get rid of its 110HP liability. In a worst case scenario, you could use its “Sky Return” attack so that you can use “Set Up” the following turn if your early game is not ideal

4 Switch

Much like the “CMT” archetype from the 2011-2012 season, this deck requires a lot of switching in order to abuse Reshiram’s “Turbo Blaze” ability; Switch is maxed out for this reason. It is also useful in the event that your opponent tries to stall by bringing up Hydreigon-Ex, whose hefty retreat cost means that it will still need an energy to retreat even with its “Dragon Road” ability. It can also help remove residual damage and status conditions from Hypnotoxic Laser.

8 Fire / 1 Lightning Energy

Playing a total of 13 energy, the deck should never be short of using Reshiram’s “Turbo Blaze” ability. Having 8 fire means we can discard them early on without regretting it later in the game. Doing this allows you to quickly power up M Rayquaza-Ex via Mega Turbo. The single Lightning Energy is good in the event that you play against something like Aegislash-Ex, whose “Mighty Shield” ability prevents it being attacked by anything with a special energy attached to it. This allow us to attack with both Reshiram and M Rayquaza-Ex.

Other Thoughts

M Rayquaza-Ex seems to have a lot going for it at first glance. Its special trait, “Delta Wild”, effectively gives it a quad-resistance to some of the most popular types in the card game. It also boasts a hefty 230HP and can one shot anything in the game with its powerful “Dragon Ascent” attack. In addition, it has the same type of energy acceleration that made the “CMT” archetype rise in popularity in 2012 to become one of the best decks in the format, not to mention Mega Turbo. So why has this deck not seen play? Perhaps its due to its inability to set up quickly, something that is crucial in this fast 2014-2015 standard format. However, I believe that the Shaymin-Ex / Sky Field combo can remedy this and make the deck rise to the top. Once it is set up, decks like Seismitoad-Ex literally “quake” in fear because of the “Delta Wild” trait and insane damage output. This deck is probably one of the biggest underdogs in the format, and I would personally love to see it do well at U.S. Nationals.


Conclusion

I hope you have found these lists useful in your deck-building journey. These five were chosen above others because they excelled in three categories: speed, power; and overall match-ups. Any one of these would be a great choice for U.S. Nationals, and I believe that we will see some of them in day 2 and on. Feel free to comment below or email if you have any questions or want to share your insight on these decks and their respective strategies. Thank you for taking the time to read my first article, and I wish you the best of luck this weekend at U.S. Nationals. See you there!

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Residing in Lexington, Kentucky, Zach Carmichael is a 24 year old who has been a Pokemon enthusiast since the early days of the original Base Set. A competitive player since 2012, he has won multiple City Championships and made Top Cut at various Battle Roads, Cities, and State Championships. Outside of Pokemon, Zach is a graduate student at the University of Kentucky where he studies music theory. This is probably why he enjoys deck analysis and theorymon'ing as much as actually playing the card game.

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