“Eye of the Spider” – Analyzing State Championships Thus Far and Looking Ahead

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How’s it going, Top Deck Nation readers? With State Championships drawing to a close this weekend, I thought it would be fitting to take a look at some of the trends from the past three weeks. Hopefully, this will not only give you a sense of what kind of decks you might see played at your local meta, but also help in your process of choosing a deck to play! Before I do this, however, credit must be given to where it’s due – thanks to Andrew Wamboldt and all of his work at The Charizard Lounge. Without him, we wouldn’t have such comprehensive data on State Championships, and I highly recommend checking out his site here. That said, let’s jump into it!


 

Trends Thus Far

RankWeek 1Week 2Week 3
1Night MarchNight MarchNight March
2YveltalGreninja BREAKTrevenant BREAK
3Seismitoad EXVespiquenSeismitoad EX
4M Manectric EX Trevenant BREAKYveltal
5Vileplume/VespiquenYveltalVileplume/Vespiquen
6Greninja BREAKVileplume/VespiquenM Manectric EX
7VespiquenM Rayquaza EXGreninja BREAK
8M Rayquaza EXSeismitoad EX Vespiquen
9 Manectric EX/CrobatDragons/BronzongDragons/Bronzong
10Trevenant BREAKManectric EX/CrobatM Mewtwo EX (Y)

Ghosts N Stuff

puzzle-of-time-bpt
This is why Night March is Tier S.

The list above shows the top ten performing decks from each week of State Championships thus far. As expected, Night March dominated, largely thanks to the various cards it gained from the recent BREAKpoint TCG expansion. Puzzle of Time is certainly MVP of the new additions. Being able to recycle any two cards is a powerful effect – think Sableye’s Junk Hunt or Junk Arm from the HeartGold/SoulSilver era – but it reaches new heights in a deck that can virtually burn through itself in a matter of a turn or two.

Contrary to popular belief, the deck’s biggest weakness is not item lock from Seismitoad EX’s Quaking Punch attack or Trevenant’s Forest Curse Ability, but instead the inability to reuse Double Colorless Energy. In the past, players could easily beat Night March by simply teching in such cards as Enhanced Hammer and Xerosic. However, suddenly these cards become dead in a matchup where the Night March player can just get their Double Colorless Energy back so easily.

It should also be noted that Fighting Fury Belt was also a welcomed addition to the deck. Previously, the deck’s primary attackers were hindered by their low Hit Points – a simple Oblivion Wing from Yveltal XY could take cheap KO’s on both Joltik and Pumpkaboo. Thanks to Fighting Fury Belt, however, this is not an issue because the additional 40 HP makes a huge difference. Assuming Yveltal has no tool attached and Reverse Valley isn’t in play, it will now take two and three Oblivion Wings to KO Pumpkaboo and Joltik, respectively. That extra turn or two is just enough time for the Night March player to Lysandre a Pokémon-EX such as Shaymin EX and ultimately win the prize exchange.

A final point about Night March is its ability to tech in practically anything. Below is the list that Michael Pramawat used to win Washington State Championships during Week Three:

Pokémon: 15Trainers: 41Energy: 4
4 Joltik
4 Pumpakboo
4 Lampent
3 Shaymin EX
3 Professor Sycamore
1 AZ
1 Hex Maniac
1 Judge
1 Lysandre
1 Teammates
1 Xerosic
2 Dimension Valley
4 Battle Compressor
4 Puzzle of Time
4 Trainers' Mail
4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
2 Acro Bike
2 Fighting Fury Belt
1 Buddy-Buddy Rescue
1 Escape Rope
1 Float Stone
1 Pokémon Catcher
1 Target Whistle
1 Town Map
4 Double Colorless Energy

I believe this exact list has won a total of three State Championships thus far. As you can see, there a number of one-offs that help make a lot matchups more manageable. For instance, Target Whistle and Escape Rope could pair nicely if your opponent has a lone Jolteon EX in play but a Shaymin EX in the Discard Pile. In addition, Pokémon Catcher should not be disregarded, as “Gust of Wind” type of effects are inherently powerful – a lucky flip could certainly win you the match.

Lastly, Hex Maniac is a card that I think should be in all Night March decks, possibly as a two-off. Abilities are running rampant right now, from Shaymin EX’s Set Up and Trevenant’s Forest Curse, to Greninja BREAK’s Giant Water Shuriken and Zoroark’s Stand In. Being able to shut these powerful Abilities is game-breaking and provides the Night March player with a massive advantage as they continue to take cheap KO’s.

All of these factors contributed to the success of Night March decks these past three weeks of State Championships. Will the same hold true for the final week?


 

The Dark Masters

As the table data shows, Yveltal-based decks also continue to be strong performers. Bearing similarities to Mewtwo EX, Yveltal EX’s success is derived from its powerful Evil Ball attack – it can also conserve energy using Y Cyclone. However, it seems that many players have opted to focus less on Yveltal EX, and more on the “baby” Yveltal and Zoroark. Perhaps this is due to the fact that these attackers aid in the prize trade, particularly against decks like Night March. Besides being a great utility Pokémon with its Stand In Ability, Zoroark is also a solid attacker, capable of taking out most Pokémon EX In a single blow for a mere Double Colorless Energy. Like Night March decks,

Yveltal-based decks also gain some noteworthy additions. Many players struggled to find a

That extra 10 damage matters.
That extra 10 damage matters.

suitable Stadium in the deck at previous events such as City Championships. Parallel City was often the Stadium of choice, thanks to its ability to get rid of liabilities like Shaymin EX off your bench. It could also aid in matchups like Entei and Seismitoad EX because of its alternate effect of reducing damage. With both these decks seeing less play, though, Yveltal players sought a more viable choice. Reverse Valley bridges that gap by providing Dark-type decks with what is essentially a Pluspower effect.

The 10 extra damage it provides may not seem like much, but it can be useful in a number of situations. For example, baby Yveltal + Fighting Fury Belt + Reverse Valley can take out a Pumpakboo with a Fighting Fury Belt in a single attack. It can also help Zoroark hit the magic 170 damage despite no longer playing Muscle Band.

Lastly, I think part of the success of Yveltal decks can be attributed to the lack of Lightning-type decks being played. Though Week One results show M Manectric EX decks performing quite well, it then dropped off as other decks emerged. I think this is because M Manectric EX does not bring anything new to the table, so to speak. Night March decks get around Rough Seas by taking clean KO’s as early as turn one – I have seen this firsthand. At Tenneseee State Championships, I chose to play Manectric EX / bats because I thought the Night March matchup was solid. However, what I failed to realize was that the deck is quickly outsped and loses from quick KO’s – I went 1-2-1 and subsequently dropped.

M Manectric EX decks also lose hard to Gallade, which is played in the majority of Yveltal decks. With these things in mind, it’s no wonder why the deck didn’t perform well, even with the addition of the ever-so-hyped Jolteon EX, a card that will hopefully see a price drop in the coming months as the Generations set is more readily available to players through Mythical Collection and Elite Trainer Boxes.


 

Bugs BEE Gone

Another strong performer these past three weeks has been Vespiquen/Vileplume. The list below was piloted by Team Fish Knuckle’s own Josh “Squeaky” Marking:

Pokémon: 28Trainers: 28Energy: 4
4 Combee
4 Vespiquen
4 Oddish
4 Gloom
3 Vileplume
4 Unown
4 Shaymin EX
1 Bunnelby
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Forest of Giant Plants
4 Acro Bike
4 Battle Compressor
4 Trainers' Mail
4 Ultra Ball
2 Float Stone
2 Level Ball
4 Double Colorless Energy

As far as deck lists go, Vespiquen/Vileplume is perhaps the most straightforward out there.
For those not familiar with it, the strategy is simple – get Vileplume out as early as possible to item lock your opponent while also discarding Pokémon quickly to fuel Vespiquen’s Bee Revenge attack. Normally this would be a tough feat to accomplish given so many Evolution cards, but this easily done because of Forest of Giant Plants.

Vespiquen-AOR
Seeing is BEE-lieving.

I have seen a few variations of this deck, including some that favor techs like Lysandre and AZ over maxing out Professor Sycamore. This greatly helps against cards like Aegislash EX – a hard counter that can result in deck-outs or a slow prize game – and Jirachi, whose Stardust attack and quickly rid Vespiquen of Double Colorless Energy and render the deck’s strategy useless. AZ can also scoop up Vileplume if it becomes locked to the active spot, giving you an extra turn of using item cards to further fuel Bee Revenge.

Unlike decks like M Manectric EX, Vespiquen/Vileplume variants have had consistently strong performances all three weeks according to the table data. This is no surprise given that item lock is incredibly strong, not to mention that Vespiquen is a non-EX attacker. The deck has few weaknesses, especially if you manage to pull off the turn one Vileplume, which is incredibly common. Even hard counters like Entei don’t fare so well because they can no longer use Assault Vest or Fighting Fury Belt.

Expect Vespiquen/Vilplume to be popular in the final week of State Championships. Between its quick and powerful item lock and great prize exchange, the deck is a force to be reckoned with once set up and will likely see much success this weekend.


 

Fear Street

One deck’s rising popularity makes it stand out in the table data – Trevenant BREAK. GoingTrevenant-BREAK from 10th to 4th to 2nd in the respective weeks, it would seem that this deck is finally starting to see the attention it deserves. Like Vespiquen/Vileplume, Trevenant BREAK decks often times hit the turn one Forest’s Curse Ability – either through Wally or Phanthump’s Ascension attack – preventing your opponent from playing item cards while Trevanant is active.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the BREAK’s attack, Silent Fear, spreads 30 damage across all your opponent’s Pokémon. This is especially effective against decks like Greninja BREAK and Vespiquen/Vileplume that rely on setting up low-HP attackers; it can also be devastating against Night March.

But it’s not just the ability to prevent items from being played that makes the deck viable. Bursting-BallooonPlayers often include Wobbuffet as a secondary attacker, as well as Bursting Balloon to apply extra damage and psychological pressure to the opponent. Take the Yveltal matchup, for example. Let’s say a Trevenant BREAK with a Bursting Balloon uses Silent Fear to put 30 damage on the opposing Yveltal. If your opponent responds with an Evil Ball for KO, they are now at 90 damage, which is in perfect range of a Psychic Assault KO.

But if they choose not to attack to let Bursting Balloon get discarded, then Trevenant BREAK gets yet another turn to spread damage – and possibly attach another Bursting Balloon. Suddenly the Yveltal matchup doesn’t seem that bad, and many players have begun teching accordingly with such cards as Dedenne and Weakness Policy.

Not many decks have an answer to Trevenant BREAK. Hex Maniac sounds good in theory, but the chances of drawing it at exactly the right time are slim, and after one use it is in the discard – item lock prevents the use of VS Seeker to recover your Supporter cards. Decks that rely on Mega Pokémon are also at a disadvantage, as they can no longer play Spirit Links. They have to evolve and end their turn, giving you an additional turn to attack.

While Trevenant BREAK decks are inherently powerful once set up, I think the key problem with the deck is consistency. In my playtesting, I have frequently encountered poor starts and the inability to get properly set up. And because the deck relies on Dimension Valley, it is especially devastating if you have to discard these early. While Wally is a great way to secure the item lock, the fact remains that you are using your Supporter for a single card – not the most efficient effect compared to, say, Professor Sycamore. While I have found some success in using Level Ball to fill my bench with Phanthump, it still seems like something is missing to make the deck whole. Perhaps the fault is my own though, as the data suggests that the deck has consistently performed well so far at State Championships.


 

My Top Three Picks

I would like to go over my top three picks for Week Four of State Championships. These are not necessarily the decks that will see the most play, but instead choices that I think are well-rounded and have the most potential to perform well based partially on table data and my own testing.

Night March

Was there any doubt about my top pick? The deck has consistently been the top performer over the past three weeks. Let me known though – Night March isn’t as easy to play as it might appear. There are subtle choices that are meticulously decided throughout a match, and tech cards can make all the difference – this holds especially true in the mirror. If I were to play Night March this weekend, this is the list I would use:

Pokémon: 15Trainers: 41Energy: 4
4 Joltik
4 Pumpkaboo
4 Lampent
3 Shaymin EX
2 Professor Sycamore
2 Hex Maniac
1 Lysandre
1 Teammates
1 Xerosic

3 Dimension Valley

4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Trainers' Mail
4 Battle Compressor
4 Puzzle of Time
2 Acro Bike
2 Fighting Fury Belt
2 Float Stone
2 Pokémon Catcher
1 Target Whistle
1 Buddy-Buddy Rescue
1 Town Map
4 Double Colorless Energy

As you can see, the bulk of the deck looks like the one shown above, but with some more

Are you feeling lucky?
Are you feeling lucky?

relevant additions. Firstly, I have bumped the Hex Maniac count to 2. Given the emerging popularity of Trevenant BREAK and strong performance from Vespiquen/Vileplume, I think you need a greater chance of shutting of Abilities in these matchups. It’s also useful if you manage to prize one Hex Maniac, which could result in losses against a number of decks, such as Greninja BREAK.

Another addition is a second Pokémon Catcher. It is incredibly easy to get a few Night Marchers into the discard your first turn or two. The problem lies in damage output – if you are short of getting the KO, it is essentially a waste of an attack and Double Colorless Energy. However, a simple heads flip could turn the tables by bringing up a Shaymin EX and taking two quick prizes. There is the luck factor, but I think this suits a deck like Night March well given its “high risk, high reward” strategy.


 

Greninja

Like Trevenant BREAK, this is a deck that relies on essentially what is a Stage 3 and can be difficult to set up in time. Despite this, I think Greninja is a solid sleeper play. During Week One, Greninja BREAK able to take two State Championships. By Week Two, it was the second best deck according to table data. Part of its success is the frequent snipe damage from both Water Shuriken and Giant Water Shuriken Abilities.Greninja-BKP

These can swing a number of matchups, namely Night March. It also has a decent Yveltal matchup; the math tends to work out nicely. Two Giant Water Shurikens + Moonlight Slash or Mist Slash is enough to KO Yveltal EX.

Surprisingly, it also has a favorable Seismitoad EX matchup. This deck has also performed consistently, and I think it will continue to see play going into Week Four. While Quaking Punch might slow you down at first, all it takes is a Greninja drop or two and it’s over. It would take three to four turns to KO Greninja, and that’s assuming they have a Muscle Band on Seismitoad-EX. Meanwhile, you are either 1) hitting 80 with Moonlight Slash, or 2) preventing Shaymin EX’s Set Up with Shadow Stitching. If you manage to get Octillery out the match becomes especially one-sided, as you can draw a few cards each turn and hit opposing Pokémon with Giant Water Shuriken. This is the list I would play this weekend:

Pokémon: 19Trainers: 33Energy: 8
4 Froakie
4 Frogadier
3 Greninja
1 Greninja
3 Greninja BREAK
1 Dedenne
1 Jirachi
1 Remoraid
1 Octillery
3 Professor Sycamore
2 Wally
2 Fisherman
1 Professor Birch's Observations
1 Judge
1 Ace Trainer
1 Lysandre

2 Silent Lab

4 Dive Ball
4 Trainers' Mail
4 VS Seeker
2 Level Ball
2 Battle Compressor
2 Rare Candy
1 Sacred Ash
1 Startling Megaphone
8 Water

Consistency should the number one goal with Greninja BREAK decks – if you cannot hit

An effective Vespiquen counter.
An effective Vespiquen counter.

Wally by turn two, you are at a huge disadvantage right off the bat. Level Ball allows me to search Froakie and Frogadier to help accomplish this, while conserving my Dive Balls for Greninja the following turns.

In addition, Level Ball lets me search out both Dedenne and Jirachi, which are key to the Yveltal and Vespiquen/Vileplume matchups, respectively. Initially, I was opposed to playing Rare Candy because it can become a dead card quickly or get discarded. However, there will be times where you either find yourself unable to get Frogadier out or need a speedier solution to opposing attackers.

 

In addition, you can Rare Candy into Greninja and then immediately Wally into the BREAK, going from Froakie to Greninja BREAK in one turn! Your opponent will likely be thrown off by this, and Greninja BREAK’s bulky 170 HP is enough to withstand a couple attacks to let you build up more attackers in the meantime.


 

Yveltal

This deck needs no introduction, as it is the consistency king in the current format. It is zoroark-breakthroughalso a versatile deck, as it has a number of attackers and can quickly adapt to any matchup. It can hold its own against Night March through the use of baby Yveltal and Zoroark. It also has a favorable Trevenant matchup due to weakness.

Lastly, it can quickly overwhelm Greninja BREAK decks through brute power and speed using Max Elixir, as well as Zoroark being able to Mind Jack even the BREAK for a 170 damage clean KO. In my opinion this is perhaps the safest choice for Week four, and this is the list I would play:

Pokémon: 13Trainers: 36Energy: 11
3 Yveltal
2 Yveltal EX
2 Zorua
2 Zoroark
2 Shaymin EX
2 Gallade
3 Professor Sycamore
2 Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick
2 Lysandre
1 AZ
1 Hex Maniac
1 Judge
1 Xerosic

2 Reverse Valley

4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Trainers' Mail
4 Battle Compressor
3 FIghting Fury Belt
2 Float Stone
1 Startling Megaphone
1 Super Rod
7 Dark
4 Double Colorless

This list has a lot of answers to Yveltal’s common threats. Gallade can take out M Manectric EX quickly and also provide consistency through its Premonition Ability. A high count of baby Yveltal lets you have a solid prize exchange with Night March and can soften opposing Pokémon as you set up Yveltal EX. And because the deck plays 4 Battle Compressor and Trainers’ Mail, you can play a number of one-off Supporters, such as Giovanni’s Scheme and AZ. It should also be noted that this deck doesn’t really have any unwinnable matchups. Vespiquen/Vileplume can be tough if they manage to get the turn one item lock, but otherwise Zoroark and Yveltal EX should be able to do work.


 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article was successful in providing a bit of insight into many decks you will encounter this weekend at your local State Championships. As always, use the lists provided as guidelines and tweak to your liking – be creative! The great thing about the Pokémon TCG is that there is no correct way to build and play a deck, so I encourage you to experiment to find a build that suits your playstyle. Most importantly, have fun! State Championships can seem daunting at first because of the highly competitive environment, but focusing on having fun as your top priority will help your nerves and likely perform better than if you are tensed up and caught up in winning.

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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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