Hello, everyone! It’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? Rest assured, Top Deck Nation is alive and better than ever! Things have been rather hectic with graduate school, but I should have plenty of time to devote to the site now. Please excuse how some of the pages look at the moment – I am in the process of doing a complete overhaul. In the next couple weeks, the site will look cleaner and more organized – not to mention it will be fully integrated with our YouTube and Twitch channels! I am certainly excited for the future of the site and hope you are as well. My goal has always been to make Top Deck Nation a “hub” where people can read premium strategy articles, view card scans, and watch quality videos – all for free, of course!
With that said, the Pokémon City Championships are now in full gear. Though tournament organizers can opt to choose between the Standard and Expanded formats, it seems the majority of tournaments have been Standard. This was disheartening to me at first, as I thought the Standard format was lacking a certain something, particularly in the realm of Supporter cards. While we have the mainstay that is Professor Sycamore, that’s pretty much about it. Professor Birch’s Observations is too reliant on a flip; Shauna is lackluster compared to older cards like Professor Oak’s New Theory; you can see where I am going.
TN and KY Cities Marathon Report
However, I recently attended a total of five City Championships in a row by way of the Tennessee and Kentucky marathons and saw an incredible amount of deck diversity in Standard. Not only this, but many players got around the lack of Supporter cards by using a number of creative methods. For example, 4 Trainers’ Mail was often a staple in many decks, as was Acro Bike. In addition, some players simply opted to play 4 Shaymin-EX to maximize consistency and exert aggressive strategies. Let’s take a look at this Lugia-EX/Bronzong list, for instance:
|Pokémon: 18||Trainers: 34||Energies: 8|
1 Hoopa EX
|4 Professor Sycamore|
1 Hex Maniac
3 Sky Field
4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Trainers' Mail
3 Muscle Band
3 Battle Compressor
2 Float Stone
2 Level Ball
1 Sacred Ash
4 Double Colorless
Jacob Hope piloted this deck at a number of City Championships in Kentucky, winning one event and placing Top 4 at another. Though the list above is a few cards off for privacy reasons, you can see just how fast and aggressive his strategy was. What’s even more interesting is Jacob’s choice of draw support. Besides Professor Sycamore, there are no other draw Supporters! Instead, he relied on the Trainers’ Mail and Shaymin-EX engines to outspeed his opponents to victory. In addition, note that he only played 8 energy. His thought process behind this choice was that each attacker only needs a couple Metal Energy at most – he could therefore cut energy for more relevant cards. Lastly, Lugia-EX’s Deep Hurricane is an underrated attack – not only can it hit the magic 170 damage with a Muscle Band, but by discarding a Stadium in play you can also remove your benched Shaymin-EX! This can be especially helpful, considering Shaymin-EX can often be a liability late game. On another note, I commend him for playing a rather original deck amidst a format that is dominated by such decks as Night March, Mega Manectric-EX, and others that hit for weakness. It certainly goes to show that anything can work in the Standard format now.
On a personal note, I decided to play Houndoom-EX Mill for both Tennessee tournaments. Besides local league testing and Pokémon Trading Card Game Online, I had not gotten to extensively test the deck against the meta. That said, I was quite comfortable playing it and wanted to test the waters (or fires, in this case) regardless. Below is my record for these events. Though I did not top any of these events, I had a blast getting to play against new decks in the format, including Entei/Charizard-EX. I also had the pleasure of meeting Team Fish Knuckle’s own Josh “Squeaky” Marking. I also want to give a shoutout to Rick Mitchell for a smoothly run and well-organized cities marathon – the free pizza at every event was generous and much appreciated! I will be attending a few more City Championships this month, so hopefully my luck will turn around!
Madison, TN – LWL (Houndoom-EX Mill) – Dropped
Franklin, TN – WWLLWL (Houndoom-EX Mill) – 15th place
Louisville, KY – LWWLWL (Seismitoad-EX/Manectric-EX/Bats) – 14th place
Lexington, KY – LWWWLW (Seismitoad-EX/Manectric-EX/Bats) – 14th place
London, KY – WWTTL (Seismitoad-EX/Manectric/-EX/Bats) – 12th place
When Houndoom-EX Mill works, it REALLY works. Many of my opponents were rather stunned as they slowly decked out. Discarding two cards doesn’t really sound like much on paper, but it takes a toll over time as your opponent burns through their resources to knock out Houndoom. However, it does seem like the deck is lacking a certain something to really make it a viable choice.
The List: More Hound, Less Bunny
Many players opt to run Bunnelby alongside Houndoom-EX – I personally don’t like this because there isn’t an apparent benefit. Yes, it is a one-prize attacker, but Bunnelby has a mere 60HP compared to Houndoom-EX’s 170HP, making it a target for cheap KO’s throughout the course of the match. While it can use Rototiller to recycle resources back into the deck, I don’t think this attack really justifies playing Bunnelby when 1) you can learn to efficiently manage your resources (for the most part), and 2) Houndoom-EX is bulkier and more cumbersome to knock out. This is the list I ran at the Tennessee Championships and a few card explanations:
|Pokémon: 9||Trainers: 43||Energies: 8|
1 Team Flare Grunt
1 Hex Maniac
1 Pokémon Center Lady
3 Scorched Earth
2 Parallel City
4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Crushing Hammer
4 Super Scoop Up
4 Hard Charm
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Float Stone
2 Battle Compressor
1 Super Rod
1 Startling Megaphone
Generally speaking, Tierno is a pretty bad Supporter and I would not recommend it in any other deck besides this one. However, in Houndoom-EX Mill it’s actually good! Just a few years ago, I can remember seeing players use multiple Cheren in Empoleon-based decks with good results; this is essentially the same principle at work. In a deck that mills, I generally want to hold on to all of my resources just in case I need to use them.
This primarily includes hammers and disruptive Supporters like Team Flare Grunt, but also staple cards like VS Seeker and Ultra Ball in the event that I need them. Tierno allows me to consistently draw through the deck without having to discard these resources. I found playing four to help throughout both tournaments.
I think Slurpuff is an incredibly underrated form of draw support, particularly in the Standard format. I went with a 2-2 line so that I could draw even more cards alongside Tierno. I found it to be especially useful when my opponent would use Judge to thin my massive hand to a meager four cards. The ability to draw an extra two cards (or more) with Slurpuff a turn and find that crucial Crushing Hammer or Super Scoop Up you need Is more than enough justification its inclusion in this deck.
3 Scorched Earth, 2 Parallel City
Having five Stadiums was fantastic – I easily won the Stadium wars in most matches. Early game, you want to lay down Scorched Earth to draw more cards and get set up with Slurpuff and multiple Houndoom-EX. However, Parallel City was useful after the initial setup. Since I don’t do damage, there’s not really a downside to playing the Stadium. I dropped my opponents down to three benched Pokémon a number of times – it was especially good against Raichu decks I encountered. It’s worth noting that I also put myself to three benched Pokémon several times to discard Shaymin-EX so I would be less susceptible to cheap KO’s.
4 Hard Charm
This is really the bread and butter of the deck. Reducing damage by 20 does not sound like much, but in a format where most attackers can’t achieve a KO in a single turn, Hard Charm is a brilliant defensive card. For example, let’s say Mega Manectric-EX uses Turbo Bolt on my Houndoom-EX that has a Hard Charm on it. The attack would only do 90 damage after being reduced. What’s more is that I can use a card like Pokémon Center Lady to heal to a mere 50 damage, meaning that it would take my opponent two additional turns to KO me while I continue to mill them down. I played four simply because my ideal setup turn one is simply a Houndoom-EX with both a Hard Charm and Fire Energy on it.
The Impact of BREAKpoint
Overall, I was pleased with my deck choice. I hit a few bad matchups along the away, namely bat variants and some more aggressive Houndoom-EX decks, but I can’t complain for the most part. The future of the deck is bright, as the upcoming BREAKpoint set will bring a number of useful cards that will enhance its strategy.
This is arguably the one card that the deck has needed from the start. Since Melting Horn only costs a single energy, it is easy to power up after using Max Potion on Houndoom-EX. As I mentioned earlier, most decks don’t have a way to take out Houndoom-EX in a single blow, so being able to fully heal each turn is crucial to winning with this deck.
Fighting Spirit Belt
So what about attackers like Tyrantrum-EX that CAN deal massive amounts of damage for instant KO’s? That’s where Fighting Spirit Belt comes in! I’m not concerned with the extra damage so much as the HP boost. With this tool attached, Houndoom-EX suddenly has an astonishing 210HP, well within the realm of Mega Evolved Pokémon.
Even Tyrantrum-EX’s mighty Dragon Impact for 190 damage can’t KO Houndoom-EX while this is attached! It’s also effective against other decks like Night March. Your opponent would need to either have a whopping 11 Pokémon in the discard or 10 Pokémon and a Muscle Band attached – these are rather unlikely considering it would leave them without any additional attackers.
I think this card will have a huge impact on the game. Its ability is comparable to a free Crushing Hammer each turn, but possibly better. Instead of discarding the energy, it is moved from the Active Pokémon to a benched one of your choice. Imagine moving all of your opponent’s Double Colorless Energy to something like a Hoopa-EX or Bronzong on the bench! I could also imagine some interesting shenanigans with Special Energy, such as moving a Double Dragon Energy from a Giratina-EX to a non-Dragon type Pokémon on the bench – essentially discarding every turn.
I’m not sure if this ability is powerful enough to get the card banned in the future as it is a flip, but just the thought of having multiple Slowking on the bench and getting free hammer flips every turn is a scary one, especially in a deck that is already denying your opponent of other resources.
Houndoom-EX is an interesting card that will only get more powerful as BREAKpoint arrives in February. In a format with attackers that cannot achieve OHKO’s, I think Houndoom-EX Mill certainly has potential to be a competitive strategy. However, keep in mind that the upcoming set also brings a plethora of water support to the format – whether or not that will affect the viability of this deck remains to be seen.
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