This will be our first article for Cut or Tap and I would like to introduce us to you…
Wait, hold up… our???… us?!?!…
Yes, you did read that correctly!
This is a joint collaboration between Zach Lesage and Jay Lesage for double the reading pleasure! We were asked to do a special article as brothers and we loved the idea upon hearing it! We both have been playing for over a decade, with multiple successes across the span of our Pokemon career.
Hey Cut or Tap, my name is Zach Lesage and I am a seasoned player who plays in Toronto, Canada. I have been actively playing the game since 2006. I have had multiple World Championship invites, multiple States/Provincial wins, and I am the 2013 Canadian National Champion. I pride myself on my consistency in tournaments and my ability to analyze deck lists and then tweak them depending on the metagame. I look forward to writing quality articles for the Cut or Tap community and I truly hope that these articles help you on your journey to becoming the best.
I’m Jay Lesage, a Canadian player who is proud to call Toronto, Ontario my mainstay. I love practice, practice, and more practice! Dedication to the game is a main priority of mine, and I couldn’t see it any other way. Playing on the competitive scene since 2008, I’ve experienced all three age divisions, and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you. I also quite enjoy long walks on the beach as well as playing the occasional game of Resistance.
The first part of our article will be handled by Zach, discussing his thoughts on the metagame and his top deck choice for the National Championships.
Table of Contents (Zach)
- The Decks
- Metagame Thoughts
- PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
- Greninja Explained
- Closing Thoughts
As the season approaches towards Nationals, some of you readers may feel like you are either going to win Nationals and some of you may feel like you are completely in the dark. I am writing here to help any of those who are lost and I hope to bring some extra insight into the metagame for those who are already well prepared.
Throughout my testing, I have found the following decks all to be likely played at Nationals. They will be listed in no particular order:
Water Toolbox (Seismitoad/Manaphy)
Keep in mind that “secret” decks can emerge out of nowhere for a National Championship event! Pay attention to other National Championships closely to see exactly what is played.
An interesting thing about the National Championship’s metagame is that Yveltal decks, in my opinion, are no longer Tier 1 decks. This is heavily influenced on the recent release of the Fates Collide set and the power creep of Night March. As many of you know, Mew FCO has made Night March a much stronger force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, Night March counters are also strong, in the forms of Trevenant and Seismitoad variants, which changes the other interactions that happen with all of the other decks.
Darkrai/Giratina is a relative “new-comer” to the metagame and has created somewhat of a cool answer to Trevenant and Night March decks. Rayquaza decks still function in this metagame, but are quite hindered due to Night March decks and can lose to other random lower-tiered decks. Vespiquen decks also are fairly well-rounded, but I personally view Vespiquen/Vileplume as a “coin-flip” deck and other Vespiquen variants have not been extremely popular outside of the Expanded format. Water Toolbox is also another newcomer to the metagame, thriving on its strong Trevenant match-up and usually well rounded match-ups across the board.
As you can probably tell through my thoughts above, the metagame seems healthy, and somewhat like a giant game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. There are obvious strong contenders in terms of deck choices and strong metagame calls, but what can any player actually do to step their game up?
PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE
I have listed what the presumed metagame is above and you should try to directly use this information to start on where to test decks and match-ups. I usually start testing decks by choosing 2-3 decks that I feel that I like in the current metagame and I end up choosing the deck that I feel has the best odds. For example, here is how I came up with what I believe is my top choice for Nationals, based on my experiences from this year:
I was introduced to the Greninja deck in Day 2 of swiss at Florida Regionals by my friend Grafton Roll. His deck was new, unique, quick, and powerful! I ended up narrowly beating him with Turbo Darkrai, but this always made me think of Greninja as an actual contender.
My mentality was that Night March would be played by the masses, and I needed to counter Night March while playing enough of a strategic deck so that I could “outplay” average players. This worked, and netted me 80 CP with Greninja in an otherwise free-for-all format.
I tested Greninja in Expanded with a Clefable Plasma Storm tech to beat Archeops – and it was actually fantastic. I ended up switching decks the morning of Regionals, back to Turbo Darkrai from what I considered to be a different metagame than initially thought of. It worked out well for me, getting me my World Championships invite this year but Greninja still would have been a fantastic play for the event.
You may be wondering why I’ve been rambling on about Greninja decks since February, but it is a deck that has stuck in my head since I originally heard of it. I took a deck that has gained strong match-ups over time, used my previous testing knowledge with the deck, and stuck with it towards the Nationals metagame to fast-track my testing. It has been a default deck in my bag for nearly half a year now and that won’t be changing anytime soon. The deck is versatile, boasts strong match-ups, and is generally a fun deck to play. It has evolved since February and will continue to adapt to the metagame with any newer cards that it gains. Without any more explanation, here is my skeleton list below:
|Pokémon -16||Trainers -26||Energy -8|
|2||Greninja BREAK||3||Wally||4||VS Seeker||8||Water|
|3||Greninja BKP||3||Professor Sycamore||4||Trainer’s Mail|
|1||Greninja XY||3||N||4||Dive Ball|
|4||Frogadier BKP39||1||Fisherman||3||Level Ball|
|4||Froakie BKP38||1||Sacred Ash|
This allows us to add in 10 more cards to get the decklist to a proper 60 card list. The above decklist is the base that I have been using since States and it has rarely changed from that point. This skeleton is made to set up well against trainer-lock decks while being defensive versus fast-hitting decks such as Night March.
Note: If any Pokemon techs you play have more than 1 Retreat Cost, I advise playing a copy of Manaphy EX BKP or AZ as a way to get it out of the active position if necessary .
Possible Tech Cards
This is a card that I feel has been severely underplayed in a format where Pokemon Tools are exceptionally strong. How is it good? This card is easily a trap for average players who consistently misplay against me in tournaments and online. They will play Spirit Links against me and pass turns (due to them being shut-off), they will think that their Muscle Band allows for a Knock-Out, or they think they will be surviving an attack by attaching a Fighting Fury Belt to one of their Pokemon only to be deceived again by Banette. This card is also notoriously good against Bursting Balloon because it keeps your Pokemon alive much longer than your opponent anticipated.
Octillery has gained strength since the re-release of N in the format due to its Ability, Abyssal Hand, which allows yourself to stay almost N proof late-game. Octillery can also help reach Energy cards in the deck early-to-mid game when you don’t have full control over Fisherman (due to yourself still setting up).
This is a card that can give you free retreat for a whole game, much like its Expanded sister card, Darkrai EX from Dark Explorers. As much as Manaphy sounds super strong in its “almost” free-retreat glory, don’t forget to look at its attack which can heal 30 damage from all of your Benched Pokemon while still doing 60 damage! This card pairs exceptionally well with Banette and Rough Seas to put Trevenant through an infinite loop of healing glory (and boosting your match-up incredibly).
This card can be a god-send in matches where you have a Fisherman in your Prize Cards or you can switch up your typical game plan against a random Wailord deck that you “never” expected to face and deck them out. This card allows you the versatility of getting back important cards in tough situation or perhaps decking out an opponent that didn’t value their resources properly against you.
This card allows you to shut-off arguably the best Basic Pokemon in the format, Shaymin EX. If the picture isn’t vivid enough, picture this:
You go 1st, play a Silent Lab and pass. Your opponent is now forced to have a Stadium in their hand if they want to start their rapid acceleration of their deck and that isn’t always possible. Perhaps they had a dead hand and Shaymin EX was their one way out; just like that, they just lost that game in a best-of-3 format.
This card also can help versus a rogue Wobbuffet PHF that would otherwise shut your deck down completely, or it can help versus random Basic Pokemon with Abilities like Unown AOR or Mew FCO.
This card is almost always used in Greninja as a Trevenant counter because it can turn an otherwise unfavorable match-up into quite a strong match-up. If you decide to play Rough Seas as a hard counter to Trevenant decks, I would advise playing 3-4 copies due to the surge of Trevenant lists playing 4 Dimension Valley and 1 Delinquent.
Extra Copies of Consistency Cards
Sometimes a Greninja list needs that 3rd Greninja Break or a 4th copy of N. This is a perfect scenario to either tech out a deck with a bunch of cool cards or play a very basic, but very consistent linear version of Greninja.
My Current List
|Pokémon -20||Trainers -32||Energy -8|
|3||Greninja BREAK||4||Wally||4||VS Seeker||8||Water|
|3||Greninja BKP||3||Professor Sycamore||4||Trainer’s Mail|
|1||Greninja XY||3||N||4||Dive Ball|
|4||Frogadier BKP39||1||Fisherman||3||Level Ball|
|4||Froakie BKP38||1||Ace Trainer||1||Sacred Ash|
|1||Bannette ROS31||1||AZ||1||Rare Candy|
|1||Bunnelby PRC||2||Silent Lab|
My list’s core has a consistent nature with a few techs up its sleeve. This list is NOT meant to beat Trevenant, but to capitalize on beating Night March and most of the rest of the metagame. If you do expect to play versus many Trevenent decks at your National Championships, consider playing Manaphy EX and multiple copies of Rough Seas in your deck to prevent an otherwise bad match-up. I am personally fine going into a large tournament and facing a strict auto-loss if I can win versus multiple other “big” decks fairly easily.
In terms of match-ups, Greninja is meant to focus on using its Ability Giant Water Shuriken on Pokemon with either High HP (focusing on a potential OHKO) or OHKOing low HP Pokemon like Pumpkaboo PHF without attacking. If you face a deck that runs quite a few Special Energy, use your promo Jirachi to stall a few turns while building up your Benched Pokemon. Overall, Greninja plays relatively the same in all match-ups; you play conservatively while planning the 6 Prize Cards you will draw that game. You try and prevent your opponent from getting too far ahead in the game with semi-disruptive cards in the form of Jirachi and Silent Lab while you continuously set up.
The Canadian National Championships is right around the corner (June 25th) and will certainly impact the decks played at the US National Championships played the week after. I personally need a Top 4 finish to finalize a Day 2 invite to the 2016 World Championships in San Francisco, California, so I am hoping that I can get that far in the tournament. Feel free to say “hi” at events or message me about advice about Nationals or even just talking about Pokemon in general. I appreciate the opportunity to write for this website and hopefully you enjoyed my portion of our article. I have a bunch more content that I would love to share with the Cut or Tap community.
The second part of our article will be handled by Jay, discussing his thoughts on a player’s confidence and his top deck choice for the National Championships.
Table of Contents (Jay)
ii) SKELETON LIST
iii) WATER TOOLBOX
v) QUAKING PUNCH OR GRENADE HAMMER?
vi) ORDER OF OPERATIONS
viii) CLOSING THOUGHTS
The clock is ticking with each coming weekend – you glance at your watch, and its 2:00 in the morning. You have Nationals the following day, and you have absolutely no clue what to play. Your friend keeps listing off terrible ideas, and all you want to do is sleep, but your drive to win the tournament the next day is greater. Where do you go for advice? CutorTap.com, of course! Courtesy of Phinnegan Lynch launching this website, this article will be my first publicized piece of writing, and I couldn’t be more excited to bring some insight to the table.
I’ve had a strong year, winning a complete set of four City Championships, as well as making Top 8 at Ontario Provincials. Coming off of a Top 8 at Ontario Regionals, I find myself at 454 Championship Points, approximately 200 Championship Points away from a Day 2 Invitation at the exclusive World Championships in San Francisco. Of course, this means I’m trying harder than ever to find the perfect deck for Canadian Nationals, seeing as I’ll have to finish swiss with a 6-1-1 record or better to have a shot at making top cut.
As I’ve been playing throughout the years, I’ve seen players whiff their World Championship invites by a few Championship Points. I’ve seen several players come 9th place. I’ve also seen players lose their last round and still make top cut. Throughout the course of a season, many players will face a cornucopia of pitfalls as well as their fair share of victories; these both factor in greatly when considering a player’s confidence. While it may seem subtle during a match, confidence alters a player’s decisions, especially while pondering between the safe play, or the bold play. I hope to restore players’ confidence with my articles; please entrust that any list or information I provide has countless hours to back it up.
When looking for specific attributes in a deck, some players tend to be drawn towards the more flexible decks; the more linear the deck, the fewer options it has. Newer players will opt to play simpler decks, just because they have fewer options, and in turn they well misplay less. As fruitful as some decks can be, (barring Vespiquen) I feel as if Water Toolbox is the most versatile deck the Standard format has to offer. Being able to cope with various pressures from opposing decks by alternating between Seismitoad EX’s infamous Quaking Punch, as well as its under-utilized Grenade Hammer attack, the deck can control the game’s tempo as early as its first turn. Combined with support Pokemon such as Manaphy EX, Articuno, and Aegislash EX, this deck is well seasoned with countless victories. Here’s a sample skeleton to start us off from scratch:
|Pokémon -8||Trainers -26||Energy -11|
|3||Seismitoad EX||3||Professor Sycamore||4||Max Elixir||11||Water|
|2||Shaymin EX||3||N||4||Ultra Ball|
|1||Hoopa EX||2||Lysandre||4||VS Seeker|
|2||Manaphy EX||1||Xerosic||3||Energy Switch|
This skeleton displays the bare necessities of this deck, showcasing just how much space Water Toolbox truly has. With 15 spots to toy around with, there’s still something to be desired. This list has a solid game plan against Night March, Trevenant, and even Yveltal, but with a few additions to the deck list, we can add a few more archetypes to our positive roster. Check out the full list below:
|Pokémon -12||Trainers -36||Energy -12|
|3||Seismitoad EX||3||Professor Syacmore||4||Max Elixir||12||Water|
|3||Shaymin EX||2||Lysandre||4||Ultra Ball|
|2||Manaphy EX||2||N||4||VS Seeker|
|1||Hoopa EX||1||Xerosic||4||Energy Switch|
|1||Articuno ROS||4||Trainer’s Mail|
|1||Aegislash EX||3||Fighting Fury Belt|
|1||Regice AOR||1||Super Rod|
This list is sheerly based upon consistency, as you can notice with my heavy four-counts of most item cards. I’ve always been a fan of being able to manipulate a consistent deck, and this list is able to execute just that. Although this deck has had a lot of spotlight lately, my first initial thoughts upon hearing about this deck was “how does Seismitoad survive in this metagame at all?!” I took on a novice impression of the deck, and wrote it off among many other people. When I finally had the chance to look deeper, I realized how fast, hard-hitting, and yet defensive it really is.
The deck has a very potent and simple strategy: abuse Max Elixir to swamp your field with energy, and then use your various attackers to win the game. It’s really cool how many energy cards this deck can attach in the setup phases of the game! It’s extremely common to have a Turn 1 Quaking Punch, seeing as how the deck plays four Trainer’s Mail and four Max Elixir. By playing 12 Water energies, your odds of whiffing Max Elixir become slimmer as the game progresses.
Water Toolbox may seem like a very easy deck to pilot upon first glance, but actually takes quite a bit of skill to operate. The deck controls your opponent with Seismitoad’s Quaking Punch, but there will be times where you’ll need to take a KO with Grenade Hammer, thus allowing your opponent to play their precious item cards. The key here is knowing when to use which attack, as these decisions heavily influence the board state. I’ve fallen victim to being greedy with Grenade Hammer KO’s several times, and about as often as I’ve lost the game due to using Quaking Punch for too long. Sometimes doing 30 damage is just too slow of a roll to win a game, regardless of locking your opponent or not. Let’s look into some of the card choices I’ve opted to include into this list.
Regice is a very nice splashable card in here, and covers quite a few bases. For one, it puts any Mega Pokemon at a complete standstill, especially that pesky Mega Sceptile EX. Mega Rayquaza, and Mega Manectric decks also cause this deck some issues, so having an answer to both of those threats truly makes this card amicable. I wouldn’t play any more or any fewer copies of Regice.
1 Aegislash EX
A metal Pokemon in a water type deck? Aegislash covers a very glaring weakness that this deck fears: Vespiquen Vileplume. Since the grass archetype exclusively plays Double Colorless energy, we can take advantage of that by playing our steel brethren. His ability, Mighty Shield, prevents any damage done to Aegislash by Pokemon with special energy cards attached. If we’re able to get out Aegislash EX at any point in the match, we’ll win sheerly based off of our opponent’s diminishing deck size. In the process of getting out a Vileplume, they have to play a lot of cards, including Acro Bikes, Battle Compressors, and Ultra Balls to name a few. The Vespiquen player will most likely have only a few cards left by the end of their turn, and we’ll simply win by deck out with our amazing shield Pokemon.
Against low HP Pokemon like Joltik, Pumpkaboo, and Froakie (to name a few), Articuno is our attacker of choice. Being able to draw an extra few Prize Cards puts some matches over the top, and can sometimes clutch an otherwise unwinnable game! Tri-Edge isn’t as reliable as I would like it to be, but with an effect like Articuno’s, I’ll settle for flipping coins.
Other interesting cards that could fit into this list include Aurorus EX, Glaceon EX, Team Flare Grunt, and AZ. The reason Aurorus EX is included in some lists is to counteract Greninja BREAK’s high 170 HP; with a Fighting Fury Belt, Aurorus can OHKO this Ninja Pokemon! I figured Articuno will be able to draw four Prize Cards before my opponent gets a single Greninja out, so Aurorus was deemed unnecessary. Glaceon EX is a fantastic card as well, but i felt like Regice countered the most matchups. Glaceon EX could replace the Aegislash to counter Vespiquen Vileplume, but I feel as if Aegislash does a better job. Team Flare Grunt is valuable, but I felt as if it never came out of the deck at the right times during my testing. AZ is a fantastic card, but I just didn’t have any room to fit it!
I’m a firm believer in the fact that consistency wins every time. If you look at the Trainer portion of this deck list, I sport a common four-set of almost every bread-and-butter item card. Max Elixir, Energy Switch, and Trainer’s Mail are truly what make the deck tick with flowing energy. Without them, you’d be restricted to a single energy attachment per turn, and no surprise factors! Your opening turns will most likely involve the use of Hoopa EX, which we have many ways to access. We play a staple four Ultra Balls that allows us to also conveniently access our Shaymin EX. Ultra Ball is a god-send amongst item cards, being able to grant us free retreat with Manaphy EX, which is such a huge asset to this deck.
QUAKING PUNCH OR GRENADE HAMMER?
Dating back to it’s release date, Quaking Punch is an attack that has caused several memes, hissy fits, and occasional tears. There’s only one reason for such an international upset: it’s that good. Being able to lock your opponent from playing specific cards has always been good, and is a mechanic this game has used since the beginning. Being around for so long, Seismitoad definitely put another notch in the “lock-deck” belt.
I barely ever miss a Turn 1 Quaking Punch with this deck, unless I get really unlucky with Max Elixir. I tend to open with this attack more often then not, and follow up with it for a few turns to test the waters (no pun intended, but feel free to laugh). A lot of the time, I’ll find myself winning games just because my opponent’s deck is too Item-reliant, and they just dead-draw until I bench them out of their only Pokemon. The way deck-design has evolved doesn’t allow much room for slow-paced cards, so speedy Items are the cards of choice for most trainers. Our main attacker just happens to punish that.
Grenade Hammer is Quaking Punch’s less outgoing, and less attractive sister-attack; however, there’s a lot of appeal going for it. With a Fighting Fury Belt attached, Seismitoad is able to use Quaking Punch for 40, followed up by a Grenade Hammer for 140, which is able to 2HKO 180 HP EX’s. Even better, they can’t attach Fighting Fury Belt underneath Item-lock, so your opponent can’t change your math. The repercussions from Grenade Hammer place 30 damage on two of your benched Pokemon, but that shouldn’t pose too much of an issue with our four copies of Rough Seas.
When deciding whether or not to stop using Quaking Punch, the pilot must look at their board position, and perceive what “potential” board state their opponent could achieve with Items. For example, against Night March I almost exclusively use Quaking Punch – not just because they have low HP, but rather because if I stop using it, they’ll go wild with Battle Compressor among many other setup cards. You’ll know if you’re being too greedy with Quaking Punch by looking at your Prize Card count in comparison to your opponent’s. If they’re drawing Prize Cards at a faster pace than you, and you’re behind, you most likely need to start playing on the aggressive side, and begin using Grenade Hammer.
ORDER OF OPERATIONS
This deck’s micro-decisions can influence a game greatly. An example of this would be a common one: you have a Trainer’s Mail in hand, and you have a Max Elixir as well. Which one do you play first? The answer depends on the goal you need to achieve that turn.
Max Elixir first: by playing the Max Elixir first, you make the extra energy attachment a second priority. You realize that you need a specific Item card (or a Supporter) that turn, and want to thin the deck of an energy card to heighten your odds with Trainer’s Mail.
Trainer’s Mail first: by playing the Trainer’s Mail first, you acknowledge that you’re behind in energy attachments and need to maximize your odds of hitting an energy on Max Elixir. You do so by thinning the deck of a Trainer card.
Ultra Ball’ing away useless cards before playing N or Professor Sycamore can also make a huge difference. When playing N, first you not only discard Ultra Ball, but also 2 useless cards that game (typically tech Pokemon) that otherwise clutter the deck. When playing Sycamore, I like to use Ultra Ball, discard two cards that were going to be pitched with Sycamore anyways, grab another useless tech Pokemon in that matchup, and discard it with my supporter for the turn. Keeping the deck thin is a main priority in this deck.
Water Toolbox is a versatile deck that doesn’t have very many auto-wins. It tends to have mostly 50-50 matches almost across the board, excluding against Trevenant, which it has a favourable matchup versus. I built my list with the mindset to beat the most common decks I’ll see, but if you want to secure better match-ups across the board, then feel free to take out some consistency cards to throw in some interesting tech choices.
Less than two weeks are left before my country’s Nationals, and I’m an avid procrastinator. However, I love playing Pokemon to procrastinate, so I feel like my Achille’s Heel became my strong suit! I love to test all the time, so if you’re ever down for a game just message me. Thanks for reading my article today, if you have any further questions, feel free to either hit me up at a tournament or Facebook me. I’ll see you all at Nationals! #PlayPokemon