Don’t Call It a Comeback! #2

It’s been a week since operation Don’t Call It a Comeback was set in motion, and I’m proud to say that I’ve learned quite a bit so far. Between playing, deckbuilding, and theorizing, I’ve spent more hours thinking about Pokémon this week than I care to admit, but I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s funny though, because although the playtesting and deckbuilding were helpful, none of it compared to what I learned over this past weekend watching the Klaczynski Open live on stream. I studied (almost) every game and gathered whatever information I could from the featured decks to try and give myself a starting point for my Regionals testing. In the end, I decided it’d be best to add a tournament review to this week’s article, breaking down the streamed matches round by round and finally adding a bit of an analysis of what I noticed throughout the weekend. This will hopefully entertain those of you who didn’t watch the stream, and we can still all learn a bit in the process. Of course, it wouldn’t be DCIaC if I didn’t add my own findings through playtesting, so you’ll see a bit of that in the end as well. Enjoy!

KO

First off, over 120 people participated in the main event. Swiss rounds were best 2/3, which is great, seeing as most premier events will also be 2/3 this year. The big difference, though, is that these Swiss rounds were each 75 minutes + 3 turns. This is radically different from the 50 minute rounds we’ll be seeing all year. Decks will definitely perform differently due to the 25 minute time difference, but we’ll touch on that again in a bit.

The first of 7 Swiss rounds featured Colin P. against Worlds Top 4 performer, Dustin Zimmerman. Dustin once again chose to play Darkrai/Garbodor, the deck that carried him all the way to the Semifinals just a few weeks earlier. Colin’s Blastoise list ran no Tool Scrappers, which led to a sound defeat at Dustin’s hands.

The second round once again featured Dustin, this time taking on the legendary Alex “Chuck” Brosseau. Alex might be a new name for the newer players, or he might just be recognized as “Jason’s best friend.” But to those of us who have been around a while, Alex is almost as legendary as Jason himself! He’s regarded as one of the five best players of all time by many of his peers and it brought me great joy seeing him return to the game at the K.O. Alex chose to play a regular Plasma deck for the event, playing a single Tool Scrapper in his list. I mention Tool Scrapper because Dustin played Silver Mirror in his Darkrai/Garbodor deck, which gave Alex fits throughout the match. Dustin managed to “lock in” an early Sableye Junk Hunting for an Enhanced Hammer while having a Silver Mirror attached to it. Alex eventually went on to win the match, but not before having to fight the Silver Mirror shenanigans off. Both Dustin and Alex finished the event with 5-2 records, narrowly missing the Top 8 cut.

James Coss played against Michael Pramawat in the third round in a Plasma mirror match. The key difference between these decks was James’s choice of forgoing Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gym for Silver Bangle. This gave James a lot more space to mess with his decklist, but it allowed Pram to exchange with Kyurem a lot easier, since his Laser combo still dealt an extra 30 damage to James’s Kyurem while the Bangles were ineffective against the non-EX attacker. Pram, Lasers and all, handily defeated James in 2 straight games.

One thing I really would like to mention is that up to this point, five of the six decks seen on stream featured incidental bench damage. Frost Spear and Night Spear were prevalent throughout the tournament, not to mention Genesect EX’s Megalo Cannon which also ruled the top tables towards the end of the Swiss rounds. While the bench damage isn’t exactly your main concern when facing down heavy damage to your active Pokémon, it absolutely plays a key role in the outcome of many games. I was slightly surprised to see that 0 Mr. Mime had been played between all six decks so far. Bench space is limited, as well as deck space, and you definitely don’t want to start with the card, but there are definite upsides to having a Mr. Mime on your bench against the majority of the format. This IS Don’t Call It a Comeback after all, so these are things I’m making a point of to notice. Am I convinced that Mr. Mime belongs as a key figure in the metagame? Absolutely not. But my spidey-sense is tingling here, and I want to mess around with adding Mr. Mime to a few of these decks to see if it makes enough of a difference to sway some matchups in my favor.

Maybe Mr. Mime is worth it?

Maybe Mr. Mime is worth it?

Anyway, Round 4. Another Plas…ma…mirror?? Uhh, yeah, technically, I guess. Both Michael Kendle and Henry Prior played Virizion EX/Genesect EX decks, and both players had an identical 3-0 record. The similarities ended there though, as Michael played a very fast and very focused VG list. Michael’s deck featured 8 Pokémon, 4 of each Virizion and Genesect but added the Team Plasma Badge + Colress Machine combo to help establish an early Emerald Slash. Henry’s deck, on the other hand, featured a heavy Drifblim line (using both Shadow Steal and Derail Drifblims) and a Lugia EX to power up with Emerald Slash. Even though both players played Enhanced Hammer, Henry got to take advantage of the card much more, dealing 150 damage with a single energy thanks to Drifblim’s Shadow Steal attack. This gave Henry the edge, and he pulled off the victory in what happened to be a very exciting matchup featuring two new decks.

The fifth and final round of Day 1 featured Ross Cawthon playing against the one and only Josh “JWittz” Wittenkeller. Both of these players were undefeated and a win in this round would put them in an excellent position to Top 8 the K.O. They both also happened to be using Blastoise, a deck that lost virtually zero cards after last month’s rotation. The only thing I really learned from this round is that the format compelled Ross to forgo his traditional “go rogue” strategy in order to Black Ballista his opponents over the weekend. This might have a lot to do with the fact that it’s too soon to really develop a rogue deck since the format’s so new, but I couldn’t have been more surprised to see Ross pilot Blastoise. Ross won the match, with JWittz drawing an unfortunate hand in the final game and not putting up much of a fight in what could have been a classic game. Josh went on to take a second loss before the Swiss rounds ended, knocking him out of Top 8 contention.

Day two began with Henry Prior again showcasing his innovative Virizion/Genesect build against the thirteen year old Lex D’Andrea, piloting Darkrai/Garbodor. Lex was one of five Senior division players who chose to play in the main event rather than the 14- division. The matchup seemed somewhat poor for Henry, as Drifblim was less than stellar against non-plasma decks. This, combined with his opponent’s ability to pull ahead in a drawn out game through Junk Hunt, earned Henry his first loss of the tournament while also keeping thirteen year old Lex undefeated. At this point, it’s impossible to ignore that Darkrai/Garbodor has to be one of, if not the, decks to beat at Regionals. It’s also the front-running Darkrai variant, in my opinion.

He's not going anywhere, folks.

He’s not going anywhere, folks.

The final Swiss round featured two 5-1 players looking to punch a ticket to the Top 8. Michael Pramawat returned to the featured stage to play against Xander Pero, another Senior division player testing his mettle against some of the best Masters in the game. Pram’s Plasma deck was a favorite against Xander’s Hydreigon variant of the Darkrai decks. Although Xander played Virizion EX to help deal with status effects, Pram’s Lasers once again proved their worth, as they facilitated knockouts on Xander’s Hydreigon line. The games were close, but Pram seemingly kept stumbling whenever he needed a small combination of cards to put his opponent away. Xander did end up pulling off the upset, not only eliminating Pram from the event but also securing his own spot in the Top 8. Xander was one of FOUR Senior division players who made the Top 8 cut, by the way. That’s four out of five that entered. Unbelievable. Xander did this with a deck few people saw coming. If I’m being honest, though, I don’t see Hydreigon being a deck that’s well positioned in the format, as its Blastoise matchup is awful and it seems to be an underdog against Plasma as well.

In total, there were three Darkrai/Garbodor decks that made Top 8, along with two Blastoise decks, one Hydreigon, one straight Jason Klaczynski-esque Darkrai deck, and finally, the lone Virizion/Genesect deck. This Top 8 list is interesting for several reasons, but, the most interesting reason of all, in my opinion, is because it featured a whopping zero Plasma decks (Virizion/Genesect is not considered a “Plasma” deck, as the name’s reserved for Thundurus/Deoxys/Kyurem builds.) A major reason for this is the time limits, as 75 minutes clearly favors decks that want to play three full games out and have a distinct disadvantage in Sudden Death situations. I fully expect Plasma to do much better at Regionals, as 50 minutes will rarely be enough to finish three complete games, and several matches will be decided by early aggression in game three. As a matter of fact, I believe Darkrai/Garbodor will see much less success in the Premier event format, for this same reason. The deck just takes a long time to earn its victories sometimes, especially in games where it needs to Junk Hunt lock an opponent out of the game.

In our Top 8 featured match we saw Joe Baka (Darkrai/Garbodor) defeat Alex Croxton’s Blastoise deck, even though Alex was very well equipped for this matchup. Alex played two Tool Scrappers and a Dowsing Machine, which gave him several opportunities to Deluge through Joe’s in-play Garbodor. It felt like the Tool Scrappers and Dowsing Machine really gave Blastoise a lot of hope, and if I’d build a Blastoise deck right now, it’d absolutely feature these three cards in its shell. Joe would eventually go on to play against Ross Cawthon, who defeated Xander Pero in a lopsided matchup. Hydreigon just doesn’t fix Darkrai’s inherent issue against Blastoise decks, and that’s Black Kyurem’s Black Ballista. Ross Cawthon would eventually defeat Joe Baka in an off-stream match to earn a spot in the finals.

The other half of the bracket featured Henry Prior defeating the second Croxton brother playing in this Top 8, Jonathan Croxton. Henry proved that his Darkrai/Garbodor matchup was at least close, avenging his earlier loss against the deck. Finally, the undefeated Lex D’Andrea took on Connor LaVelle, in a battle of Darkrais. Conner chose to play a streamlined version of the Darkrai deck, very similar to what Jason Klaczynski played at the World Championships. Unfortunately for him, Lex defeated him and advanced to play against Henry in the semifinals of the event. Lex did not let Henry avenge his defeat earlier in the day, once again beating him and securing his spot in the final match, which would be an untimed best-of-five marathon.

The prizes for the KO.

The prizes for the KO.

Lex held the matchup advantage against Ross’s Blastoise deck, but Ross undoubtedly had the experience edge. However, Lex took a quick 2-0 lead and looked primed to become the champion, which I’m sure took nearly everyone by surprise. Ross came back in epic fashion, though, and evened the match at 2-all. Ross showed incredible sportsmanship with the final game on the line by allowing his younger opponent to take back an important mistake, but was eventually defeated in what was no doubt a difficult matchup. Lex went undefeated with his Darkrai/Garbodor deck and became the first Klaczynski Open champion.

Several things caught my eye throughout the tournament. I always figured Mr. Mime was underplayed, but seeing so many Frost Spear, Night Spear, and even Megalo Cannon attacks made all weekend solidified my opinion that Mime is a card I need to playtest. It might turn out that its relative ineffectiveness against Darkrai/Garbodor, thanks to Garbotoxin, just rules it out as a premier tech for this metagame, but I still want to give it a shot. It’s definitely important to note that Darkrai in particular, often relies on the 30 damage dealt with Night Spear to secure knockouts on opposing EXes.

Many games went to time, even with the 75 minute format. This does not bode well for our 50 minute best 2/3 format this coming season. I had all but ruled out slower decks for Premier events and the K.O. was the nail in the coffin in my opinion. I liked Pram’s Plasma shell as it ran 4 Hypnotoxic Laser, 2 Virbank City Gym and 1 Silver Bangle. He underrated Silver Bangle before the start of the tournament and only played one, but I like that he still played Lasers in his deck, as they proved to be very effective in the format still. Maybe 3 Laser, 2 Virbank, 2 Bangle is a better number? Or find something else to cut for the second Bangle? Either way, I still like Plasma, especially because of the time limit issue, so I’ll probably mess with a Plasma list starting with a similar Trainer line and go from there.

Finally, Henry Prior’s deck really took me by surprise mainly because it’s so effective against Plasma variants! Drifblim’s been peeking out since the World Championships where Dylan Bryan ran an interesting take on Flareon, using the big balloon Pokémon to help with its poor Plasma matchup. Using Virizion EX to power up a Lugia EX is also very clever. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the deck and was happy someone found a good home for the two Grass EXes. Unfortunately, Prior’s only two losses all weekend came at the hands of Lex D’Andrea and his Darkrai/Garbodor deck, which was clearly the deck of the tournament. It seems that the Darkrai/Sableye combo is still quite strong, but on its own isn’t enough to stand up against big bullies like Blastoise and Black Kyurem EX, which is where Garbodor comes in.

This makes for a very convenient segue into my own playtesting for the week. I started by playing the Darkrai/Victini EX build I showed off last week and the deck did quite well against opponents on PTCGO. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much testing in against the deck I was afraid would be my worst matchup, Blastoise. On top of that, I also didn’t get to test the deck against Worlds caliber testing partners, so its sky high PTCGO win percentage comes with a bit of an asterisk. I will say that it’s matchup against both regular Plasma and VG (Virizion/Genesect) seems to be phenomenal as the deck clearly gains an edge against Plasma through Junk Hunting for Enhanced Hammers and the like. The deck should also theoretically have a favorable Darkrai/Garbodor matchup, as the 4 Switch and 2 Tool Scrapper essentially counter my opponent’s Garbotoxin ability (playing such a heavy Switch count reduces my reliance on Darkrai’s Dark Cloak ability) and the heavy Switch count is also particularly effective against their flurry of Lasers. Overall, I’m happy with Darkrai/Victini’s results, but I can’t possibly advocate playing the deck over Darkrai/Garbodor if Blastoise is a concern, which in all likelihood, it will be. I’m concerned that Darkrai/Garbodor will be too slow for the 50 minute format, but at the same time, it seems like the best deck around right now. I’m not really sure what to do about this yet.

The other deck I played throughout the week was a (very bad) Flareon build. I again built this deck on my own without a shell to work with, so I wasn’t even sure what kind of an Eevee line I wanted to have in the deck. I eventually went with this as the Pokémon line:

Pokémon (21)
4 Eevee
4 Flareon (Vengeance)
2 Leafeon (Energy Crush)
3 Yamask
3 Cofagrigus (Six Feet Under)
1 Voltorb
1 Electrode (Magnetic Draw)
3 Ditto

I should probably explain my Trainer choice before I talk about the Pokémon, though.

I wanted to find a way to shore up Flareon’s early game weakness when I first started building the deck. Finding ways to get Pokémon in the discard pile was really difficult for players, so much so, that the only Flareon deck that Top 32’d Worlds didn’t even bother playing Cofagrigus and just decided to exchange resources with his opponents and eventually get a high number of Pokémon in the discard pile the natural way. Since I’m just playtesting and the only thing I have on the line is my time spent doing so, I wanted to try an “all in” version of the deck, which led to a Bicycle based Trainer line.

Trainers (30)
4 N
4 Professor Juniper
1 Colress
4 Bicycle
4 Ultra Ball
3 Superior Energy Retrieval
2 Pokémon Catcher
1 Level Ball
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Super Rod
1 Random Receiver
1 Computer Search
2 Silver Bangle

This left room for 9 energy, which seemed like the right amount anyway.

Energy (9)
5 Fire Energy
4 Double Colorless Energy

I liked the idea behind Superior Energy Retrieval. It accomplishes one very important thing for the deck – it provides speed. It’s not difficult to get a single energy into your discard pile early on in the game. This is done by either retreating a basic Pokémon or discarding the fire energy to Ultra Ball, Computer Search, or Professor Juniper. Sometimes, if you really need the fire energy in the discard pile to be able to use your SER, you can attach a fire to a Cofagrigus and knock it out – obviously this is a last resort as it’s a complete waste of an energy attachment, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Once the energy is in the discard pile though, you can have some pretty awesome turns where your hand of 6+ cards can be reduced to 1 in a heartbeat, which makes Bicycle a much better card than it would be otherwise. The single Tool Scrapper was there as a way to put up a fight against Silver Mirror. If Switch looks tacked on, it’s because it is, I just didn’t like the idea of playing 0 Switch effects but space was limited. Really, I just wanted to draw the card at random times in games and find out when it’s most useful, to try and get a better idea of what the deck can get away with not running.

The 1/1 Electrode line was very underwhelming, although Cofagrigus certainly wasn’t, and evolving one through an early Ditto always felt so good. It was almost like a guaranteed KO for the turn with Vengeance. Overall though, I wasn’t a big fan of Flareon. It seemed to have a somewhat weak matchup against Darkrai EX and Plasma, since I’d always have to hit for sky high amounts of damage without the aid of Weakness to help me out. In the future, if I do go back to testing Flareon, I’ll probably add a Drifblim line and maybe a couple of Landorus EX. (What can I say? When someone’s right, they’re right.) to help out with those matchups. Fire energy isn’t exactly necessary, so replacing the energies with Fighting isn’t a sacrifice I mind making. Adding all of these Pokémon would force me to re-work the Trainer line, since I’d no longer be able to get away with running just 22 Pokémon.

I like Superior Energy Retrieval quite a bit, and it worked out just fine, but I’m not married to playing 3 copies of it. If I remade the deck and added more Pokémon, I’d likely have to shave the Bicycles and a couple of other trainers to make room. That’d leave room for about 3 extra Trainer cards after it’s all said and done, which would just be used towards increasing the consistency of the deck, since it lost its Bicycles.

This coming week I just plan on playing decks inspired by the Klaczynski Open while hopefully getting some good practice in against high level opponents. Writing the article was fun, but I’m definitely looking forward to making a video again soon. Like I said last week, I’m going to be messing with DCIaC’s formula depending on what I want to talk about on any given week. Let me know whether you guys like the direction the series is heading or not in the comments below! See you all next week!

  • Twan

    3 laser 2 virbankd and 2 bangle is the way to go. plasma needs both in the deck. atm im strugglin to find room for the second virbank. maybe pram ran one scrapper (which isn’t enough)??