After the first turn rule change and the errata to Pokémon Catcher, the Pokémon TCG was changed completely. For the first time in a while, we saw decks featuring evolutions popping up and winning tournaments. Games started to slow down with the instant gust effect of Catcher being reduced to a coin flip, and, for many, the game became more enjoyable than ever. But when everything changes, that leaves us with a question. What decks are good now?
According to City Championship results, there was a healthy variety of decks having success. Old favorites like Darkrai/Sableye, Tool Drop, and Plasma (Thundurus/Deoxys/Kyurem) were still going strong. Then we saw decks with new life, such as Empoleon, Rayquaza/Emboar, and even Gothitelle/Accelgor. Overall, though, four decks seemed to be the most successful during this portion of the season – Virizion/Genesect, Thundurus/Lugia/Snorlax, Blastoise, and Darkrai/Garbodor.
At Regionals we could expect much of the same, right? After all, these four decks established that they were the ones to contend with. Well, not exactly. Players are smart. If they know Virizion/Genesect is going to make up a large portion of the field of decks, they’re going to play decks aimed to beat it. Maybe they take a look at the top four decks and try to find one that’s good against all of them. If that’s not possible, maybe try to find a deck that’s good against three of them and hope you don’t face the other one. We call this metagaming.
At every big tournament (and sometimes even small tournaments), metagaming is everywhere. Think about last year’s World Championships. Gothitelle/Accelgor had just dominated US Nationals, and it was poised to be a top contender at Worlds, too. But then what happened? Not a single one made the Top 32! How could this happen? Well, everyone knew how strong it was, and two or even three copies of Keldeo EX got thrown into nearly every deck. There was so much hate for Gothitelle/Accelgor that it couldn’t succeed.
Apparently the same thing happened at the first Regional Championship in Doswell, VA. After nine long rounds of 50 minutes, best-of-three Swiss, here was the Top 32 standings to determine who would advance to the second day of the event out of over 250 Masters.
Here are the decks that each of the players used.
1) Dylan Bryan (Dragonite/Reuniclus/Garbodor/Virizion EX)
2) Kevin Nance (Rayquaza/Emboar)
3) Sam VerNooy (Virizion/Genesect/Leafeon)
4) Ross Cawthon (Blastoise)
5) Michael Zele (Thundurus/Lugia/Snorlax)
6) Michael Pramawat (Darkrai/Garbodor)
7) Andy Kay (Virizion/Genesect)
8) Sam Chen (Virizion/Genesect)
9) Angel Miranda (Thundurus/Lugia/Snorlax)
10) Michael Diaz (Thundurus/Lugia/Snorlax)
11) Toby Natale (Virizion/Genesect)
12) Ashon Haswell (Rayquaza/Emboar)
13) Chris Murray (Virizion/Genesect)
14) Jamal Moultrie (Victini EX and friends)
15) Erik Nance (Tool Drop)
16) Gage Tice (Darkrai/Dusknoir)
17) Philip Matthews (Rayquaza/Emboar)
18) Mustafa Tobah (Virizion/Genesect/Roserade)
19) Santiago Rodriguez (Rayquaza/Emboar)
20) Ray Cipoletti (Rayquaza/Emboar)
21) Jon Bristow (Virizion/Genesect)
22) Ean Teague (Blastoise)
23) Brian Kondor (Virizion/Genesect)
24) Justin Bokhari (Darkrai/Garbodor)
25) Joel Honts (Rayquaza/Emboar)
26) Scott DeGraw (Virizion/Genesect)
27) Candace Hyatt (Darkrai/Garbodor)
28) Christian Ortiz (Gothitelle/Gardevoir/Mewtwo)
29) Henry Prior (Virizion/Genesect)
30) Rahul Reddy (Blastoise)
31) Victor Rodriguez (Blastoise)
32) Jimmy Pendarvis (Virizion/Genesect)
Totals: 11 Virizion/Genesect, 6 Rayquaza/Emboar, 4 Blastoise, 4 Darkrai/Garbodor, 3 Lugia, 1 Dragonite, 1 Gothitelle/Gardevoir, 1 Victini, 1 Darkrai/Dusknoir, 1 Tool Drop
Looks like our top four decks from Cities remained the same. But wait, there’s one jammed in there that doesn’t look like it belongs. Rayquaza/Emboar? Where did that come from? Ah, this is the beauty of metagaming. Because Virizion/Genesect was an overwhelmingly popular deck, lots of players noticed and decided to counter it. Since basically the entire deck is weak to fire, RayBoar can throw in a few Reshiram (Blue Flare) to decimate Virizion/Genesect. On top of that, the deck has solid matchups against Blastoise and Lugia decks. Looks like a lot of people predicted what would be played and chose a deck accordingly!
Also in the mix were a few rogue decks. Christian Ortiz’s Gothitelle/Gardevoir deck was a gusty play, but it seems like it paid off. With a Silver Mirror on Gothitelle, you can get some free wins against decks relying on Team Plasma Pokémon! Once enough Psychic Energy get onto it, Madkinesis does a ton of damage. Yes, Gothitelle does have an attack! Dylan Bryan’s Dragonite deck has gotten a lot of buzz, but that’s one we’ll look into a little later. Apparently a deck revolving around Victini EX also made the second day, but we don’t have much information on that. At any rate, this was developing into an interesting tournament!
After an exhausting first day, players had to come back early in the morning for the second day of this marathon of a tournament. Five more rounds would determine the Top 8, and then single elimination rounds would determine a winner. No matter what your seed is going into the second day, you have a chance to make Top 8 still. Anything could happen! When everything was settled, here were the final standings from Swiss.
1) Michael Pramawat (Darkrai EX/Garbodor)
2) Santiago Rodriguez (Rayquaza EX/Emboar)
3) Dylan Bryan (Dragonite/Reuniclus/Garbodor/Virizion EX/Mewtwo EX)
4) Ross Cawthon (Blastoise/Keldeo EX/Black Kyurem EX)
5) Angel Miranda (Thundurus EX/Deoxys EX/Lugia EX/Snorlax)
6) Ray Cipoletti (Rayquaza EX/Emboar)
7) Jimmy Pendarvis (Virizion EX/Genesect EX)
8) Kevin Nance (Rayquaza EX/Emboar)
Totals: 3 Rayquaza/Emboar, 1 Blastoise, 1 Lugia, 1 Virizion/Genesect, 1 Dragonite, 1 Darkrai/Garbodor
Lots of interesting things are happening here.
- Three RayBoar decks made the Top 8! For a deck that had moderate success at Cities, this was pretty surprising.
- The Top Cut’s Michael Pramawat entered as the first seed with Darkrai/Garbodor, and he had lots of good matchups to go up against.
- Jimmy Pendarvis started the day at the bottom of the pile at #32, and he went 4-1 to claw his way into the Top 8!
- Kevin Nance was sick for most of the day and actually conceded to several of his opponents so he could take a nap. Poor guy.
- Ross Cawthon technically went undefeated… at 8-0-6.
- Dylan Bryan vs. Ray Cipoletti would be a rematch of the Finals of last year’s Winter Regionals!
- Dragonite made Top 8. Dragonite.
Forget everything else. There’s just one question on everyone’s mind. What is in that Dragonite deck, and how is it doing well? How did Dylan Bryan come up with something crazy again? From what we can tell, the deck includes Dragonite, Reuniclus, Garbodor, and Virizion EX. Obviously you want to use Dragonite’s Deafen attack to shut down Item cards. In matchups where your opponent can’t KO Dragonite in one hit, you get Reuniclus into play and use Damage Swap to keep it alive. Other techs like Cresselia EX help to remove damage off the field, and you Deafen to victory. Against decks like Plasma or Genesect, get Garbodor into play to shut off Genesect’s Red Signal and place a Silver Mirror on Dragonite. You should be able to Deafen until you win. Garbodor also helps shut down Blastoise and Emboar decks. Overall, it seems like the deck has a very sound strategy, and it was planned to deal with all of the top archetypes. Surely we will see more of it now!
Unfortunately, Kevin Nance was too sick to play, and he conceded his Top 8 match to Michael Pramawat to get some rest and recover. We hope Kevin is doing better! In the other matches, Santiago Rodriguez took down the comeback kid Jimmy Pendarvis, Dylan Bryan got revenge on Ray Cipoletti for last year’s Regionals, and Ross Cawthon trumped Angel Miranda on the streamed match. Now we were left with four different decks and two very intriguing matchups.
In the match between Dylan (Dragonite) and Santiago (RayBoar), nobody was really sure how it would turn out. After all, Rayquaza EX and regular Rayquaza can KO Dragonite in one hit! But with Garbodor shutting down Emboar, would there be enough time to power them up? Another option is to use Reshiram to Outrage since Deafen would take three hits to KO the 130 HP Pokémon. It seems like Reshiram would trade one-for-one with Dragonite, and trading a Basic for a Stage 2 is pretty good. But anything can happen when Items are locked. The end result of this series was an extremely close 2-1 victory for Santiago, and the Florida player would advance to the Finals! Looks like it wasn’t Dragonite’s time to shine.
In the other match, it was a star-studded affair between two world class players. Michael Pramawat and Ross Cawthon are both Worlds finalists (twice for Ross), perennial Worlds competitors, and multiple time Regional winners. No matter what happened, this was sure to be an epic showdown of two of the game’s legendary players. And boy, was it ever. After a complete lockdown in the first game from Garbodor, Ross managed to take the second game with time expiring. You know what that means? Sudden death game three! Both players put only one prize out, and the first one to take a KO wins. You can watch the entire match here:
Pram wins the coin flip and goes first, starting with Trubbish against Squirtle. He gets an absolute perfect start – Hypnotoxic Laser, Virbank City Gym, Float Stone onto Trubbish, and a Random Receiver. He flips over his cards, and the Supporter is… N! Both players have to shuffle in and draw one card. Off the one card, Pram draws a Bicycle, which turns into four more cards, and he ends up with an Energy on a Darkrai. What a turn! If Ross can’t find a Stadium or a way to move Squirtle to the bench off his N to 1, he’ll lose from the Poison damage. He draws and plays two nearly perfect cards – Keldeo EX to Rush In and Tropical Beach to get a fresh hand of seven. Now the pressure is back on Pram!
We see another Random Receiver, but Pram gets a Juniper this time. He gets a Dark Patch and an Energy, which means Darkrai is ready to attack. But to win, he needs to flip Heads on Pokémon Catcher to bring Squirtle active! Here comes the flip… Heads! With a quick Night Spear, Michael Pramawat advances to the Finals in a breathtaking sudden death match.
In the Finals, Michael’s Darkrai/Garbodor had a distinct advantage over Santiago’s Rayquaza/Emboar. Since Santiago played only one Tool Scrapper, it was going to be a nightmare for him to deal with Garbotoxin. As exciting as the Top 4 match was, the Finals was rather uneventful. Even though he did as much as he could, Santiago had no options without the use of Emboar’s Inferno Fandango. In two quick games, Michael Pramawat became the Virginia Regional Champion! Congratulations, Pram!
With the first week of Regionals in the books, how will the next two play out? Will we see decks try to counter Darkrai/Garbodor since it won? Will we see more Dragonite decks pop up after Dylan Bryan’s success? What about RayBoar, Virizion/Genesect, and all of the other decks? We’ll have to wait and see. The great thing about Pokémon is that you never know what’s going to happen. Next week should be exciting, though. Good luck to those playing in Regionals in St. Charles, Salem, and Long Beach!