For those who missed it, the Klaczynski Open took place over Labor Day weekend. When it comes down to it, this event was downright epic and historic. For the first time, the Pokémon TCG had a major independent tournament. Lots of changes were implemented, such as best-of-three 75 minute Swiss rounds, 90 minute top cut rounds, and an untimed best-of-five Finals. Furthermore, it was the first tournament held with the brand new Next Destinies through Plasma Blast Modified format, giving us an idea of what to expect at Fall Regionals. Junior and Senior division players were allowed to play in the main event with the Masters, and they proved they can hang with the best. Not only did four of the five Seniors who entered make Top 8 (Lex D’Andrea, Jonathan Croxton, Alex Croxton, Xander Pero), but Lex managed to sweep the entire event and go undefeated with his Darkrai/Garbodor deck. Who could have seen that coming? Awesome. Overall, the KO was a huge step forward for Pokémon.
All of that aside, what can we take from this tournament from a competitive standpoint? Lots of interesting decks were successful, but most of them were nothing more than decks that carried over from the previous format. Let’s analyze what decks thrived, what surprises arose, and what didn’t have much success.
Without question, Darkrai/Garbodor was the deck that took the Klaczynski Open by storm. After Takuya Yoneda and Dustin Zimmerman both did well at the World Championships with this deck, it got a lot more popular. When you factor in the loss of Energy Switch, it’s easy to see why the normally speedy Darkrai has to partner up with Garbodor now to slow other decks down to its pace. But the interesting thing about this deck is that there are so many different ways to build it. Do you focus on Sableye’s Junk Hunt and attempt to win the game through repeated Item usage to lock your opponent out of the game, or do you try to be aggressive with Darkrai EX? Both strategies benefit from Garbodor, and both have had great success.
Of course, the star of the tournament was Lex D’Andrea, and he piloted this deck to an undefeated 10-0 weekend. Lex’s version of the deck was kind of a middle ground between the Sableye “lock” version and the aggressive Darkrai we’ve seen for the past two seasons. While he did run 4 Sableye and 3 Enhanced Hammer for the Plasma matchup, the rest of the deck was pretty standard Darkrai stuff. If he needed extra oomph, Dark Claw was there to hit harder with Night Spear. Basically he could choose the strategy that best suited the matchup. Also he ran Dowsing Machine, which proved to be clutch as he grabbed Virbank City Gym and Supporters from the discard pile time and time again.
Jonathan Croxton, another successful Senior player, ran his version pretty similarly. The main difference is that Jonathan ran no Enhanced Hammer, favoring more consistency cards instead. As such, he ran Computer Search as his Ace Spec card. On the other hand, Joe Baka ran his version more focused on Sableye’s Junk Hunt, running only 2 Darkrai EX in his deck. Unlike the others, he ran no Dark Claw, and he used Life Dew as his Ace Spec. No matter what build was used, it’s clear that Darkrai/Garbodor itself was a potent combination.
Why is this deck so effective? Well, what current metagame deck beats it? Plasma struggles against repeated Enhanced Hammer. Blastoise struggles with Garbodor. Virizion/Genesect isn’t so strong when your opponent can play Hypnotoxic Laser (thanks to Garbodor), and it’s a little vulnerable to Enhanced Hammer as well. When you think about it this way, it makes sense that Darkrai/Garbodor dominated the Klaczynski Open.
Moving forward, where will the deck stand in the metagame for Regionals? Lots of decks were running two Tool Scrapper already, but maybe we’ll see even more now that the deck had success. If there’s anything that gives Garbodor a headache, it’s multiple copies of Tool Scrapper. Also, will the deck survive in the upcoming season’s 50 minute time limit? Keep in mind that the Swiss rounds were best-of-three with a 75 minute time limit. Only time will tell. For now, this is the deck to beat.
When the rotation was announced, people realized that Blastoise lost… nothing. Seriously, you could take any list for this deck from the World Championships and continue to play it this season. Since its release in Boundaries Crossed, Blastoise has been the centerpiece for top tier decks. At first Keldeo EX was its main partner, and then it was joined by Black Kyurem EX in Plasma Storm. Perhaps people thought Virizion/Genesect would put the big turtle on the shelf, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. As long as it’s around, it seems like Blastoise will be a top tier deck. For the Klaczynski Open, any version of Tropical Beach was legal (including Ross Cawthon’s World Championship Promo), which meant more people were able to play the deck.
Speaking of Ross, he stepped away from his rogue concoctions to use Blastoise at the KO. Surprisingly enough, the deck featured no crazy techs or anything out of the ordinary whatsoever. In fact, the only surprise in his list was the “0 Zebstrika” he wrote down in hopes that Jason Klaczynski would see it. After starting 6-0 in the Swiss rounds, he would lose to Lex’s Darkrai/Garbodor in the final round, which was a bit of foreshadowing perhaps. In the Top 8 he breezed through Xander Pero’s Hydreigon, which proves to be a lopsided matchup still. Then he narrowly passed by Joe Baka’s Darkrai/Garbodor in the Top 4 in a match that took the full 90 minutes. Even with just one Tool Scrapper, Ross was able to squeeze out a win against a Garbodor deck! Eventually he ended up losing to Lex in the Finals in an epic five game series.
Going forward, where does Blastoise stand? If Garbodor decks remain popular, that’s a big problem. Even if a Blastoise deck runs multiple Tool Scrapper, it can struggle with Garbotoxin still. Alex Croxton actually did run two and a Dowsing Machine in his Top 8 list, and he still lost 0-2 to Baka. If you can find a way to negate Garbodor, though, Blastoise is still a top deck. When it sets up, nothing beats it. After all, what can stand up to a constant 200 damage from Black Kyurem EX?
When the translations for Virizion EX and Genesect EX were released, everyone saw the synergy between these cards immediately. As always, the hype began. However, early testing showed that Genesect wasn’t really that powerful. Virizion’s Emerald Slash wasn’t great because it cost two Energy, and Megalo Cannon just wasn’t too strong of an attack. Sure, G Booster helps a lot, but it’s really expensive to use. Quickly the hype went away, and people started to turn on the deck. Some people were saying it was so bad that it belongs on Bad Deck Monday!
However, the one benefit of Virizion/Genesect is that it isn’t a combo that requires a lot of cards. So, you have a lot of free space to work with when making the deck. Essentially we saw two different approaches to the deck at the KO. On one hand, we had a player like Michael Kendle running nothing but 4 Virizion EX and 4 Genesect EX to outspeed the opponent. With Team Plasma Badge, he had the potential to Colress Machine onto Virizion EX on the first turn and use Emerald Slash to power up Genesect EX. In the remaining space, cards like Enhanced Hammer could be added in to beat Plasma decks. Often times simplicity is successful in Pokémon, but this strategy couldn’t carry Kendle into the Top 8.
Then there was Henry Prior, who took a different approach to the deck. Instead of focusing on the “speed” version, he added in other Pokémon to help out. In particular, he focused on a 4-4 Drifblim line to punish Plasma decks since they rely almost exclusively on Special Energy. In addition, he ran two Enhanced Hammer, meaning he was able to devote 1/6 of his deck just to beating Plasma! A Lugia EX rounded out his Pokémon as well, which could be powered up quickly with Colress Machine and Emerald Slash. Like Ross, Henry’s only losses of the tournament were to Lex’s Darkrai/Garbodor. If that continues to be a bad matchup, that is a major problem for the success of this deck.
Since Virizion/Genesect is a brand new deck, it’s going to take a while before people find out the optimal way to build it. If Plasma dwindles in popularity, maybe some of those tech cards can be focused more towards beating other matchups. It was a surprise to see the deck make Top 4 at the first major tournament with Plasma Blast, and it certainly has the potential to be top tier depending on the metagame. Surely people will be testing this more to find the best possible list.
Darkrai/Hydreigon was an instant archetype when it came out at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. The synergy between the two cards couldn’t be more obvious. With Dark Trance, you can move all your Darkness Energy around, and Darkrai EX would give your Pokémon free retreat with Dark Cloak. On top of that, you get to take advantage of Sableye, Max Potion, and other great options. What more could you want? As the season progressed, though, more and more things started to cause Hydreigon to die out. Two things in particular ruin the deck: one-hit KOs and shutting off its Abilities. Between Blastoise and Garbodor decks, playing this deck was a huge risk.
Well, one person decided to take a chance on Hydreigon, and it paid off. Xander Pero, the 2011 Junior US National Champion, piloted it all the way to a Top 8 finish. Along the way, he knocked off world class players like Michael Pramawat. How? Why? What in the world did this deck gain to make it good again? Honestly it didn’t gain much. But the one new toy it got was Virizion EX. Since you play Blend Energy to power up Hydreigon’s Dragonblast, it also works with Verdant Wind to prevent status conditions. Now any deck using Hypnotoxic Laser would be at a disadvantage. Plus, Xander showed that the deck had a solid matchup against Plasma decks. When Hydreigon sets up, it is very potent.
The major problem with Hydreigon moving forward is simple – Blastoise. Unlike Darkrai/Garbodor, it doesn’t have the option to shut off Blastoise’s Deluge. What does that mean? Well, both sides are about equally slow to set up. The difference is that Black Kyurem EX can do 200 damage every turn to KO Darkrai EX in one hit. In the Top 8, Xander got demolished by Ross’s Blastoise in a quick series. As long as Blastoise remains popular, Hydreigon will have a tough time succeeding. Garbodor can be dealt with through Tool Scrapper + Sableye’s Junk Hunt, but there isn’t anything you can do to beat Blastoise.
With the announcement of the rotation to NXD-PLB, most people were quick to crown Plasma as the best deck in the format. After all, it didn’t really lose anything, and it gained some strength with Silver Bangle. With straight Darkrai decks seemingly gone, Plasma’s biggest road block appeared to be out of the way. Thundurus EX, Deoxys EX, and Kyurem just have great synergy, and they’re all consistent Basic Pokémon. The deck has speed, versatility, and raw power. So why didn’t a single one make the Top 8 at the Klaczynski Open?
To start, let’s make it clear that Plasma decks were played by a lot of people. Overall, it was the most popular deck in the field. But for some reason, none of the players using it managed to get a better record than 5-2. In one sense, it would be considered a failure because it didn’t Top 8 at all. But from another perspective, nearly every 5-2 player was using it! Clearly it’s a strong deck still, but there were a few factors that prevented it from making noise.
First of all, half of the decks in the Top 8 were running Enhanced Hammer. Right off the bat, you can see there is a clear bullseye on Plasma’s head. In order to win the event, every player knew they had to beat it, and they tailored their lists accordingly. On top of that, cards like Drifblim were being played specifically to counter Plasma as well. Not only does the Shadow Steal one do a number on it, but the new Derail one from Plasma Blast is an incredibly efficient attacker against Plasma as well. When you combine Enhanced Hammer, Drifblim, and even Silver Mirror, it’s no wonder the deck didn’t survive. With so many anti-Plasma weapons available now, it’s easy to counter.
At the KO, Plasma was a victim of the metagame. Will it continue to be that way? If so, how can Plasma decks adapt? Perhaps we’ll have to see different decklists used from here on out. The biggest weakness that can be exploited is the reliance on Special Energy. If Plasma wants to succeed in this harsh environment, it may have to start using more Basic Energy. Back to the drawing board. Clearly this is still a top tier deck, but how successful can it be if everyone is gunning for it? It’ll be an interesting thing to pay attention to when Regionals come around.
None of the “low tier” decks had any success at the KO. Why? Well, it could be for a number of reasons. Since there wasn’t a whole lot of time to test for the new format, maybe people weren’t comfortable using these decks. If they were, they may not have had optimal lists. Plus, these decks are not top tier for a reason; they are worse than the other decks. Often times the success of these kinds of decks is dependent on gimmicks or “stealing” games by catching opponents off guard. With the best-of-three Swiss format, there is less opportunity to fool someone. Sure, you may surprise someone in one game, but they won’t fall for a trick twice. Also let’s not forget it cost about $40 to enter the tournament. If you’re dishing out money to play, you’re less likely to take a big risk with an unproven deck.
Does that mean these decks won’t have any success at Regionals? No, of course not! If the metagame is correct, a rogue deck can strike at any time. If you like using unusual decks, don’t let this result deter you. Right now the format is undefined, and there are plenty of ideas out there that have yet to be developed. Don’t be surprised if decks outside of the norm happen to succeed. But one thing is for sure. With a smaller cut and best-of-three for Swiss, it is much more difficult for a rogue deck to “get lucky” at big events.
Ultimately, what should we take from this? Here’s what I think the Klaczynski Open taught us.
- Darkrai/Garbodor is a deck that everyone needs to account for.
- Blastoise isn’t going anywhere.
- Virizion/Genesect is a real deck.
- Plasma didn’t do well, but it’s still very strong.
- Best-of-three Swiss impacts people’s deck choices.
- Best-of-five for the Finals is awesome. Untimed isn’t.
- Seniors can be good, too.
Hopefully the Klaczynski Open was the start of an awesome tradition for the Pokémon TCG. Thanks to everyone who tuned into the stream. Surely the event impacted the landscape for Fall Regionals, and it will be interesting to see where things go from here! Thanks for reading.