Chad Harris is a well-respected, experienced player who has won a Regional Championship. He has competed in the World Championships multiple times.
Fall Regionals are coming up this Saturday, so let’s take a look at the expected metagame.
Zekrom/Tornadus/Pachirisu/Shaymin – As expected, this deck took Fall Battle Roads by storm. ZTPS is fairly easy to play and easy to build. The deck also has one incredible quality that none of the other current decks in the format have: its unique ability to win on the first turn no matter what the opponent starts with. ZTPS can take advantage of anything that opens one Basic if it has the right hand. It can also take advantage of an opponent’s slow start with the format’s defining card, Pokémon Catcher. You will not always be smelling roses while playing ZTPS, though.
Unless you are running hotter than the sun and winning on turn one or two all tournament, you are bound to run into someone who actually gets a strong start. While many decks that include Yanmega Prime still can fall victim to ZTPS in a drawn-out game, others, such as Typhlosion/Reshiram, can give it trouble when set up. Finally, Trainer-lock decks like Ross (Vileplume/Reuniclus/Donphan/Suicune & Entei Legend) and Gothitelle/Reuniclus can cap ZTPS’ damage at 120 when fully set up. A possible counter to Ross is Bellsprout, which can Inviting Trap Vileplume to set up a Bolt Strike knockout. Bellsprout may also work against Gothitelle/Reuniclus, but would still not allow for a one-hit knockout of Gothitelle. Running a couple Mew Prime and one Relicanth would likely get the job done against Gothitelle/Reuniclus. Simply using Relicanth’s attack to Lost Zone a Tornadus early in the game would allow you to use Mew Prime to copy Hurricane, thus OHKOing Gothitelle. As always with teching, your consistency will be hurt.
Typhlosion/Reshiram – Like ZTPS, this is another very easy deck to play and build. Typhlosion/Reshiram just flows so well that it requires little thinking when set up. All you do is basically Blue Flare everything in your path to victory. The deck’s consistency is perhaps its biggest perk. It seems as if Typhlosion and Reshiram were made for one another. Also, Professor Juniper and Ninetales are easily abused to the fullest in this deck. Some lists actually run no Ninetales and instead run additional Supporters. I have never agreed with that build, though. I feel one of the biggest reasons Typhlosion/Reshiram is such a threat is its ability to run maximum Juniper and a Ninetales line. No other deck flows as well and recovers off Judge or other disruption than this deck does. Additionally, running Ninetales increases your Basic Pokémon count, which is a factor against decks like ZTPS. Another positive for running Ninetales is it increases your odds of actually having a Pokémon to put back to allow use of Pokémon Communication. I feel sometimes, these positives are overlooked when deciding to play Ninetales. Perhaps one of the reasons Typhlosion/Reshiram won the second most Battle Roads is its favorable matchup with ZTPS. If the game actually goes past the first turn, Typhlosion/Reshiram has a huge advantage because of its ability to constantly attack and run off the board. The deck also has an advantage over many Stage 1 builds for many of the same reasons it does against ZTPS. If you are playing the game correctly, it should get to a point where you have nothing on your field that is something that can be OHKO’d. This allows you to not give up a prize every turn while you are getting one every turn with Reshiram’s Blue Flare.
Against a deck like Yanmega/Magnezone, the key is to keep them off Magnezone Primes and, most importantly, Energy. If Yanmega/Magnezone can’t get prizes with Magnezone Prime, they have no chance of winning against you. Many people automatically assume that Typhlosion loses to Trainer-lock decks; this is generally true if it is not running any sort of tech. The most effective tech in Typhlosion for Trainer-lock decks is Bellsprout. The use of Rescue Energy is also critical to repeatedly use Inviting Trap and also to keep Typhlosions in play (getting back Quilava with Rescue Energy is huge). Using Afterburner to KO your own babies is also an effective strategy in some cases. While that may seem idiotic, it actually keeps your opponent off Twins while you gain board control. I believe Emboar decks are actually Typhlosion/Reshirams worst match-ups. The only way to beat these decks is to cut off their draw and/or Emboars. What I mean is, use Pokémon Catcher and Blue Flare to KO all their Ninetales and/or Emboar. If they ever get a Reshiram chain going and a Rayquaza & Deoxys Legend for the last two prizes, you have no chance of winning the match. In conclusion, Typhlosion/Reshiram may be an easy deck to play, but there are some advanced strategies as mentioned above that must be used in difficult games.
Stage 1s – This is a big category of decks that include Donphan Prime, Zoroark, Cincinno, Yanmega Prime and Weavile as the primary Pokémon. Usually these decks include 2-3 of the Pokémon listed above in their list. Sometimes they also include Kingdra Prime or Mew Prime, in addition to other tech-ish Pokémon like Muk and Bouffalant. Let’s break them down:
Donphan/Zoroark/Yanmega – Undoubtedly, this deck is the least consistent of the Stage 1 builds. While it has some versatility with three different Stage 1 Pokémon, it gets many unpredictable starts and requires such cards as Switch to get out of many sticky situations. Donphan Prime looks so good on the surface of things in this format; it OHKO’s Zekrom, Zoroark, Cincinno, Weavile, and several other things with a single PlusPower, and it also has huge HP and a quick attack. However, its problems are it requires Fighting Energy, has a huge retreat cost and damages its own field. I feel Donphan takes away too much from a Stage 1 deck and that there are better options.
Yanmega/Zoroark/Mew – This deck has a ton of good starters and a legitimate counter to Trainer-lock in Mew Seeing Off Muk. It isn’t without problems, though. Like most decks, if this deck does not get off early it cannot win. Your strategy is to take prizes every turn, mostly with Pokémon Catcher.
Cinccino/Kingdra – Basically all this deck aims to do is attack with Cinccino all game with multiple Kingdras out to Sea Spray, allowing for a KO every turn with Cinccino. I believe it actually has a decent to strong match-up against most decks except ZTPS. ZTPS easily OHKOs everything this deck plays.
Weavile – The idea with Weavile is to disrupt your opponent while you’re taking prizes with Yanmega, Donphan or Cincinno. The problem with this is that Weavile doesn’t ever do anything else. It also kind of makes you run Judge, which these decks don’t even always prefer. Overall, I think it just hurts your own consistency more than it actually disrupts the opponent. I guess the things it does work against, though, are decks without Ninetales or Magnezone and not a suitable enough Supporter draw.
Yanmega/Magnezone – This deck is no secret, and the way to beat it is very well known; executing it is sometimes the hard part. Most matches against Yanmega/Magnezone rely on when Magnezone Prime comes into play. Because the deck primarily runs Copycat and Judge for its draw in addition to Magnezone Prime, it relies on an early Magnezone Prime. If your deck can disrupt them early enough with Pokémon Catchers, this deck will not even get going some games. If there is an early Magnezone on the board, it usually follows up with more Magnezones if not dealt with immediately. When set up with multiple Energy and Magnezones on the board, Yanmega/Magnezone is very difficult, if not impossible to defeat. Its weakness is early in the game, where its reliance on Magnezone must be taken advantage of. The deck has strong match-ups against Trainer-lock based decks because of Magnezone’s unlimited damage output, while it can have harder or losing match-ups against faster decks such as ZPTS or Stage 1 variants. Some lists popped up at the European Prague Cup with Zoroark in them. The idea must be that Zoroark helps against Reshiram and Zekrom. While this is an interesting idea, I have to doubt the consistency of these lists. Yanmega/Magnezone is already so reliant on an early Magnezone; I have to wonder what they actually cut to fit Zoroark.
Emboar/Ninetales and Magneboar – Emboar deck’s strengths and weaknesses are easily defined. Early on in games, Emboar decks are very vulnerable to getting too far behind because of Pokémon Catcher. Emboar/Ninetales and Magneboar require elaborate set ups, unlike their counterpart Typhlosion/Reshiram. Having to run extra cards such as Energy Retrieval and Fisherman really hurts the consistency of the deck. You will sometimes draw unplayable hands containing multiples of the above mentioned cards and be unable to set up. Fortunately, if Emboar variants do set up, they are almost unbeatable if they are not too behind. Once the deck has set up an Emboar, gets a way to draw multiple cards each turn and is able to recover Energy, it starts taking prizes every turn. Rayquaza & Deoxys Legend then takes the inevitable last two prizes of the game. If you are going to play Emboar for Regionals, count on likely going X-2 or worse in swiss and having to grind out several games. If you make top cut, you have a legitimately good chance of winning because the matches are best-of-three.
Ross – Invented by two-time World Championships runner-up Ross Cawthon, Vileplume/Reuniclus/Donphan/Suicune & Entei Legend is the format’s most interesting deck. The strategy is basically to get out Vileplume as soon as possible to shut off Pokémon Catcher from disrupting your elaborate set up. The deck’s high HP Pokémon eventually cannot be ever OHKO’d because of Reuniclus. Ross has strong match-ups against anything that can’t OHKO Donphan or Suicune & Entei Legend. Fortunately, this includes a good portion of the current metagame. In addition to things that can OHKO its Pokémon, like Magnezone Prime, Ross also has trouble with things that can disrupt the bench-sitting Vileplume and Reuniclus. The two best examples of this are Muk and Bellsprout. Muk is often paired with Mew Prime to See Off and subsequently Sludge Drag. Bellsprout must be ran in a deck that can follow up its Inviting Trap with a OHKO on Vileplume or Reuniclus. The reason to run one of these is to either KO Vileplume, allowing you the use of Pokémon Catcher to disrupt their board, or to KO Reuniclus disallowing them the use of damage manipulation.
Gothitelle/Reuniclus – Another version of lock, Gothitelle/Reuniclus has some similarities to Ross. They both are aiming to shut off the opponent’s Pokémon Catcher so they can manipulate damage. Unlike Vileplume, though, Gothitelle must be active. Because it has to be active, Gothitelle can’t really run any other attackers; this causes some problems that can’t be ignored. For example, Typhlosion’s Flare Destroy will cut off all your Energy if you aren’t careful. In order to combat Typhlosion/Reshiram, you must build a Gothitelle on the bench while having another active. The reason for this is that they will either Flare Destroy all your Energy off the active Gothitelle or Pokémon Catcher the benched Gothitelle if you don’t have another active to shut it off. Against a deck like Emboar, the key is to Pokémon Catcher their Emboar and KO it before they are able to get a lot of Energy in play, which would result in the alternate Emboar OHKOing all your Gothitelle. Magnezone variants are a similar type of match. Basically, you want to get Gothitelle out before they have a Magnezone and/or KO all Magnezone threats. You can’t allow Magnezone variants to just get a bunch of Energy in play and OHKO Gothitelles turn after turn. Mew Prime is also a disaster. There is almost no real answer for it. Just hope and pray you get multiple attacking Gothitelles out and they don’t ever see a Rescue Energy. Against Ross, it is a race to KO Gloom before they have Vileplume out. If they can’t keep a Gloom in play before Gothitelle is out, you Pokémon Catcher it and then are allowed to use Trainers freely. If the game results in them getting a Vileplume out before your Gothitelle, the match becomes complicated and reliant on damage manipulation from both sides.
There are some other less popular decks that you may see that I am not going to go into that include: Jason (Yanmega/Mew/Vileplume/Sunflora/Muk), Tyranitar Prime/Serperior, and LostGar. My honest opinion of the current metagame or format is the same as our own Pooka’s. I don’t like it; it revolves around Pokémon Catcher, all the decks have lame weaknesses, and I have no preference to any of them. My advice for Regionals is no matter what deck you choose to play, go first, don’t have a bad start and make sure you draw or stop lots of Pokémon Catchers.