When asked about the current format and metagame, top players had this to say.
“Metagame? More like Metagross” — Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich, 2009 US National Champion
“There’s such a variety of decks, I can’t say anything with certainty” — Seena Ghaziaskar, 2005 US National Champion
“There are so many decks that can win, playtesting and consistent builds are more important than deck choice right now.” — Jeremy Borchardt, 2001 ECSTS Winner
“The current meta is good because it’s not Luxchomp” — Ann-Marie Thompson, 2010 Worlds 3rd Place
“With few come-from-behind cards, reprints of broken Base Set-era effects, and an unbalanced first turn, the legitimacy of HGSS-on is questionable at best.” — John Kettler, founder of HeyTrainer
“This is a format where a few tins and a 15-minute tutorial can make a top tier player” — Reed Mascola, 2010 Ohio State Champion
Regionals? In November? What’s going on?
We’re back to being able to hit up multiple Regionals this season. What does this do for the game? It makes Regionals an even bigger event, establishes ratings earlier, and makes Battle Roads almost worth going. Almost.
The quotes above suggest that the current meta isn’t very much appreciated by the playerbase. There certainly are more than enough decks to choose from, but none of them are particularly appealing.
But someone has to go over all the decks and try to make comedy and Pokémon mesh together!
And thus, here it is: the 2011 Fall Regionals metagame preview. Grab your favorite beverage and snack; this is gonna be a long’un.
OK, perhaps not, but these decks have been doing fairly well in any case:
Reshiphlosion is a fairly good deck, not to mention inexpensive; both Typhlosion and Reshiram are available as tin promos, making it fairly easy to put together. Its straightforward strategy means it’s easy to pick up and play, regardless of your skill level. It’s consistent midgame and lategame, with “running out of Energy” never being an issue — Energies discarded do not have to be recovered!
So, we have a cheap deck that’s easy to play, yet strong enough to be a contender for the
trophy scholarship medal. That’s the good. But where there is good, there also has to be bad (and ugly).
The deck has major issues with Trainer lock. Or, more specifically, Trainer lock together with Reuniclus and 130+ HP attackers. The deck has a soft-cap of 120 damage (a Reshiram with 110/120 damage can exceed that amount, but rarely will any Reshiram be left with that little HP remaining). Gothitelle’s 130 HP and Suicune & Entei LEGEND’s 160 HP are the main issues, alongside a few other Pokémon.
It would be incredibly naive to expect that you could avoid those decks throughout Regionals, so the deck needs an answer to the pseudo-invincibility that Trainer lock decks threaten it with. Bellsprout/Carnivine can drag Reuniclus/Vileplume up. Mew can do the same with a Muk tech, or just break the 130-HP barrier thanks to Gothitelle’s weakness (with a Reshiram in the Lost Zone). Mew can use Pokémon from either Lost Zone, giving Reshiphlosion other options against Mew decks and Lostgar.
There are a few other gimmicks that you can try, such as Black Belt, but let’s face it: A good player with access to Reuniclus won’t be letting you use Black Belt. So short of you managing to get a prize penalty midgame (flip the table? spill a drink on your opponent’s cards?), Black Belt will mostly be clogging up your hand against Trainer lock.
“But MOTL!” you say, “so I can beat Trainer lock if I tech for it? Is there ANY reason why I WOULDN’T run this deck?” Yes. Yes there is. Why else would I pose that rhetorical question otherwise?
Reshiphlosion’s straightforward, “autopilot” strategy is ironically its downfall. The deck offers precious little options to outplay lesser-skilled opponents. And the biggest reason to not use the deck is, funnily enough, Reshiphlosion itself: The Reshiphlosion mirror involves NO skill.
The deck is consistent enough that even weaker builds can get multiple Typhlosions out, with a stream of Reshiram KOs being traded. Whoever takes the first prize wins, and whoever misses a return KO loses.
Also, Emboar variants technically autowin against Reshiphlosion, but they also technically “lose horribly to Catcher,” so don’t worry about that too much.
Speaking of the devil, here’s everyone’s favorite piggy. No, not Piloswine – the fire one.
Emboar (Magneboar) won Worlds just a few months ago. And, yet, no one seems to be playing it these days. What has changed so quickly?
The introduction of Pokémon Catcher over the flippy Pokémon Reversal is the main reason behind the declining popularity of Emboar variants. The deck is just too slow and too susceptible to Pokémon Catcher (and drag attacks). Poor Emboar just can’t laze back at the Bench, helping his friends use their expensive attacks.
Between the fastest decks getting Gust of Wind, Zekrom (the fastest of them all) gaining Tornadus, and the rise of Trainer lock, Emboar has lost a lot of power. Emboar is susceptible to have the benched Emboar/Ninetales dragged up, get stuck with useless hands due to the high Energy recovery it must run (drawing Energy Retrievals against Trainer lock decks is particularly entertaining, for your opponent anyway), and just have a really hard time setting up overall.
Yet, if Emboar variants DO set up, they are a force to be reckoned with. They can easily get a OHKO on anything, with Badboar/RDL offering 150 and Magnezone offering ? damage, and with Fisherman and Energy Retrieval, you can keep those huge attacks going. However, that ‘if’ is a big one — and you can’t risk such a slow deck in the Swiss rounds.
Ironically, Emboar has a fairly good chance in winning Sudden Death. The Tepigs have high HP, and a fast Emboar can let you get the lone prize rapidly. Probably wouldn’t happen in, say, a World Championship final though.
If it survives the Swiss rounds and manages to keep setting up in cut, it can easily win the tournament. However, it can just as easily get outsped and go 0-4 drop.
And here’s the fastest deck in the format. Zekrom is this season’s Machamp, a quick donk deck that is particularly favored by weaker players, Pokedads, and Yu-Gi-Oh! converts.
Emerging Powers improved Zekrom immensely, giving it a better Donphan counter than the asynergic Yanmega in Tornadus and
Gust of Wind Pokémon Catcher. Zekrom is now a fairly good deck, with Tornadus offering easier donks and an early-game plan with Energy conservation. Catcher obviously suits the deck’s quick hitters, practically guaranteeing a Prize every turn.
Still, the deck does have its faults. Like Reshiphlosion, the soft-cap of 120 damage (bar a miraculous Outrage) is enough for Gothitelle to get a game-winning lock on. Ross can do the same with Donphan and Zekrom/Reshiram, with Damage Swap allowing them to hit hard with Outrage. Thus, Zekrom needs gimmicks like Mew/Magby to stay in the game if they can’t win before Ross/Gothitelle set up.
Trainer lock hurts Zekrom more than it does Reshiphlosion, with its donk engine usually relying on heavy Trainer counts, leading to lots of dead draw once the lock is established.
The deck’s lack of a lategame plan hurts as well. The longer the game drags on, the less likely Zekrom is to win. The deck needs to hit fast and hit hard, because it will run out of steam sooner or later. Usually sooner.
Ross (The Truth)
In a meta full of Yanmega, Typhlosion, and Emboar, Ross Cawthon played a deck that most describe as “dropping a binder on the floor and sleeving the cards that fell out.” He even managed to throw the Worlds promo they received the day before in the deck, causing a debate about whether it’s reasonable to print a playable Worlds promo.
The concept is one that would’ve been seen as unplayable by most. Setting up two support Stage 2s with two retreat each is a tall order in such a fast format. However, it worked, and the deck is now an archetype.
With a Vileplume and Reuniclus online, Donphan, Suicune & Entei LEGEND and Zekrom/Reshiram have free reign to deal with Lightning types, Fire/Grass types, and Water/Grass types, respectively. Damage Swap allows for 140 damage Outrage, or just simply healing via Seeker. The deck applies a brutal lock to those without an answer.
That’s the good. The bad? As would be expected, setting up two Stage 2s is a fairly slow process. If a Vileplume is denied, the deck loses its Catcher barrier, and Reuniclus will shortly follow the Oddishes into the discard pile.
Swiss rounds and Sudden Death are huge problems for the deck. Ross expects to go down in prizes, thus activating Twins for a quick Vileplume. This clearly is a horrible strategy for Sudden Death, where going down a prize is otherwise known as “losing.” Thus, Ross has to go for a quick Donphan and hope to avoid Fighting Resistance and/or Water types.
One interesting thing to note is Donphan’s self-damaging capabilities. If an opponent refuses to start attacking against Trainer lock, choosing to set themselves up and deny you Twins, Donphan can let you give them a Prize. Poor Cleffa never sees it coming.
A playable psychic-type Stage 2? Hold the presses!
Gothitelle is called the new Gardevoir, but I disagree. Gardevoir
was WAY hotter had a better engine, with built-in consistency, Gallade, a Lv.X, and Claydol and Uxie as well. Gothitelle has Tropical Beach and Twins.. and, uh, Reuniclus.
Other than needing Tropical Beach, which costs roughly as much as two fully built Reshiphlosion decks, the deck also needs a little help from the opponent to activate Twins, unlike Ross’ ability to use Donphan to activate it themselves.
The deck itself is fairly solid, with no damage cap, Trainer lock, and a 120- damage barrier from your opponent. Unlike Ross, which can sometimes be overwhelmed by all the damage on the board, Gothitelle can use Max Potion to deal with the damage. Unlike Ross, however, going for a massive Outrage breaks your lock.
Also unlike Ross is the way the lock works. Gothitelle must put itself on the front lines, which means exposing herself to the likes of Mew, who can hit Gothitelle right where it hurts.
Because you’re forced to keep Gothitelle active at all times, you can’t attack with anyone else, unless you’re facing another Trainer lock.
The deck has fairly good matchups against non-teched Zekrom, Reshiphlosion, and Stage 1s. However, Magnezone/Mew are highly problematic, and fancier options like Magby/Bellsprout give Gothitelle a headache as well.
Gothitelle has fancy techs herself. Jirachi/Shaymin can be a fairly good surprise, or just offer recovery against an aggressive Typhlosion going for Flare Destroy.
The deck has a fairly simple strategy; however, it’s cost-prohibitive, is prone to slow starts, and has a hard-counter in the form of a purple cat. Your mileage may vary.
Mewlock takes Ross, ditches the Reuniclus and the big guns, and replaces them with a kitchen sink of quick attackers and tricks. With Vileplume denying Trainers, Mew wreaks havoc with Sludge Drag (via Muk in the Lost Zone) on heavier opposition, using Aipom to lock them in place to stop them from paying the retreat cost. Mew can also go head-to-head with a Jumpluff in the Lost Zone, and use Yanmega as a partner.
Mew’s versatility allows for a wide variety of techs, from Muk to Zoroark. The deck is fairly consistent, especially with the addition of a Sunflora line, which can grab any member of the Vileplume or Yanmega line. Not bad!
The deck does have its downsides, mainly in the shape of a big lightning Digimon. Zekrom can one shot everything in the deck, and Tornadus isn’t that far off either. ZPTS is in the autoloss range, requiring severe teching to have any chance against it.
Despite the Sludge Drag option on Typhlosion, Reshiphlosion is a close matchup as well. Reshirams can score multiple KOs through Outrage, and a smart Reshiphlosion player will play his Energies right to avoid being stuck with a Typhlosion up front.
You have fairly good matchup against the two other Trainer lock decks in the format, with your Gothitelle matchup being in the autowin territory, and your Ross matchup being fairly easy as well. Just gotta do something about those ever-popular Digimon decks.
With there being so many variants that (ab)use Yanmega, I might as well throw them all under here.
Yanmega/Magnezone is the best of the Yanmega builds. It offers speed, disruption, built-in draw, and has no damage cap.
Those things all sound great. So why shouldn’t you play this?
Although the deck has fairly good matchups against Trainer lock decks, it tends to have a hard time against the Digimon decks (Reshiphlosion and Zekrom). Zekrom in particular is in the autoloss territory, with Yanmegas unable to deal with Zekrom’s brutality. It’s the Pokémon equivalent of a big can of bug spray.
The deck does suffer some issues from inconsistency. “But MOTL!” I hear you cry in the future, when this article is already published. “You have MAGNEZONE! You’re drawing cards at the speed of light!” “Surrender now, or prepare to fight!” adds your redhead girlfriend.
The problem with that idea is your heavy Judge count and reliance on Magnezone. It’s hard to set up (even more so against an early Trainer lock), and easy to lock up, leaving you stuck. It needs techs to deal with the Digimons, making it even more inconsistent.
The deck also has a variant that uses Kingdra and Jirachi, but predictably, that does not improve your Zekrom matchup at all. It does help a little against Reshiphlosion, but not by much. Overall, I’d go with the vanilla build with techs over the more convoluted Kingdra version, especially as the Kingdra version usually ends up having to cut Pachirisu to make space for Jirachi.
Stage 1s (or MegaZorD, as
idiots some call it) is the other semi-popular Yanmega build. It has largely fallen out of favor, due to its dreadful Gothitelle and Ross matchups. I honestly don’t have anything else to say on this deck, other than “don’t play it.”
Yanmega/Weavile is yet another variant. It ditches the last shred of a midgame plan for trolling people with Judge and Weavile drops.
It’s actually a fairly dangerous deck that is ridiculously fast, but seeing as it has an autoloss to anything that actually sets up, I can’t in good conscience pretend this is a deck that could win Regionals.
Cinccino is 2011’s Jumpluff, which in return was 2010’s Wigglytuff.
Being Colorless, Cinccino can be played with pretty much anything. Mew/Cinccino/Yanmega is the best of the lot, with Mew offering various avenues of disruption and type coverage, Yanmega offering speed, and Cinccino hitting heavy. It has a lot of good matchups. However, it also has horrendous ones. The deck is incredibly weak against Zekrom and Reshiphlosion and doesn’t have a very good Yanmega/Magnezone matchup either.
Cinccino/Kingdra is another fairly strong build. With type coverage against Donphan and free PlusPowers every turn, Kingdra is the perfect partner for Cinccino. Unfortunately, the addition of Kingdra simply amplifies the deck’s weakness to Zekrom. The Gothitelle matchup, if they set up, requires you to get 3 Kingdras out for the OHKO, which is a tall order under Trainer lock.
Cinccino hasn’t seen much play so far, but it is certainly a strong contender for Regionals.
Gengar Prime tries to win via Lost World. Fairly straightforward strategy, but it’s difficult to get going.
Usually, the build involves Vileplume to take advantage of Gengar’s high HP. Mr. Mime is a good starter that can stall and hopefully get a few Pokémon in the Lost Zone. Mew can also feature here, adding some speed to the deck.
Like Gothitelle, the deck can also utilize a Jirachi/Shaymin gimmick for Energy acceleration.
The deck suffers from time limits. It’ll be hard to survive the Swiss rounds if you don’t play as fast as possible, or miss too many Hurls.
And Sudden Death? You don’t have a ghost of a chance.
Last AND least is Tyranitar.
I’m being harsh; the deck is actually not as bad as you’d expect. Spread damage builds up rapidly, and Tyranitar’s 160 HP is almost always out of reach of an OHKO. Psychic resistance is always great to have, and Fighting weakness isn’t that bad — all you have to watch out for is Donphan.
The deck uses Max Potions to keep Tyranitar alive as long as possible and get as many Darkness Howls as possible with every Tyranitar.
It does suffer from the self-damage it inflicts, as you can end up giving too many prizes away to your opponent.
Kingdra is a good partner for Tyranitar, offering type coverage and extra damage counters.
It has a good matchup against Trainer lock decks, but because it tends to build up Outrage for the Digimons, it can get hit very hard while it’s trying to keep spreading. Reshiphlosion in particular can become a very hard matchup.
It’s certainly a fun deck to play, and if you’re going to Regionals to have fun, there are worse decks to play than Tyranitar.
So there they are. Any deck I have not mentioned above was not worth mentioning.
What should you play for Regionals? It honestly depends on your metagame. It’s a fairly Rock/Paper/Scissors format, and you don’t want to be playing something that has a bad matchup to a deck that is very popular in your region. You should definitely get in as many games as possible and be comfortable with your deck before Regionals.
Or just do what I do and put something together at 3 AM on Saturday morning.