“No Shaym-in Defeat:” a Look at Consistency in Deck Building

Hey reader, Phinn again. San Jose Regionals has just passed, and yet again, I learned a very valuable lesson.

Initially, I was depressed after the event because of my poor performance. However, after a conversation with Mark Garcia, I realized that there is nothing to be sad about.

I sent Mark a huge message on Facebook asking him different questions about the game, and how he is able to be so consistent. At first glance, I couldn’t understand what Mark was saying. I asked him specific questions and he responded with paragraphs that I couldn’t make out. This is a section from Mark’s response:

“I wouldn’t fault my losses in tourneys for misplaying because I believe in my skill set. Now I do put fault in things like being paired to an unfavorable matchups and bad draws.
But what I like about this game is that you can control variance at its minimum.
With me, I really have to have a clear understanding of what matchups I can afford to take an L to and what decks I expect to see a lot of. So I give a lot of credit to the cards that are in my deck.”

This response threw my brain for a spin. I realized that the reason why I did not do well was because of a lack of consistency. This is the list I used:

Pokémon – 12 Trainers – 37 Energy – 11
2 Yveltal EX 3 Professor Sycamore 4 VS Seeker 7 Darkness
3 Yveltal BKT 2 N 4 Ultra Ball 4 Double Colorless
2 Gallade BKT 2 Lysandre 4 Battle Compressor
1 Shaymin EX ROS 2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick 4 Dark Patch
1 Archeops NVI 1 AZ 3 Trainers’ Mail
1 Darkrai EX DEX 2 Float Stone
1 Jirachi EX 2 Muscle Band
1 Sableye DEX 1 Computer Search
2 Silent Lab
1 Parallel City

Now you might be looking at this list and think that it is very consistent. And until Saturday, I felt that it was as well. The reason why I decided that it was not actually consistent is because of the question that I asked myself:

“How is it possible that I played optimally, with a consistent list, and ended with four losses?”

Beforehand, I thought that maybe it was just a bad run. Maybe I really did just get “unlucky”.

No! This is a very apathetic view of the situation! In reality, a couple changes to my list could have saved me from taking all four of my losses. It wasn’t as if one change would have helped a little in one matchup.

In this scenario, changing just a couple cards in my list would potentially take me from 4-4 to 8-0.

The one common reason for my losses was simply dead drawing. The one thing that all of my losses had in common was that at least one of my games involved me dead-drawing at some point. Not only that, but over half of the problems that I had ran into were because of prizing Shaymin.

The answer to fixing my run became obvious to me: my list needed another Shaymin.

One of the interesting parts of Mark’s list from last year, and this year, is the fact that both of them played two Shaymin instead of the standard one copy. I asked him about this last year when he won Utah Regionals, but I suppose it didn’t sink in the first time.

It is no coincidence that Mark was one of the only Yveltal lists that played two Shaymin, and he won both of the Regionals that he played in. Mark realizes that there is a level of consistency needed that many others (including myself) do not see as being needed.

This is not a secret! The best players will tell you the same thing every time. I remember from 2013 that Jason Klaczynski would say “consistency is king”. How could I forget the first lesson there is to learn. The most important thing in Pokemon is to keep your deck consistent.

Looking back at my older lists that I had success with, they point to the same conclusion. To win tournaments, you must have another level of consistency beyond what is considered “normal.” This is proven over and over after most tournaments.

Here are some recent examples:

Jonathan Crespo’s Trevenant list

Pokémon – 15 Trainers – 37 Energy – 8
3 Trevenant BREAK 4 Professor Juniper 4 Crushing Hammer 8 Psychic
4 Phantump BKP 2 Wally 4 Red Card
4 Trevenant XY 1 Lysandre 4 Ultra Ball
2 Shaymin EX ROS 1 N 4 VS Seeker
2 Jirachi EX 1 Team Flare Grunt 2 Level Ball
1 Xerosic 2 Rescue Scarf
1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Super Rod
1 Computer Search
3 Dimension Valley
1 Silent Lab

Two Jirachi EX and two Shaymin EX are not commonly seen in this deck, or at least they weren’t until Jonathan decided to play that count. The boosted consistency is what pushed him over the edge, allowing him to win Philly Regionals.

I do not have a copy of Mark’s list that he just used to win, but I promise you: it is consistent.

When you move to a higher level event like Worlds, you see the same.

Andrew Estrada’s Virizion Genesect

Pokémon – N Trainers – N Energy – 13
4 Virizion EX 4 Professor Sycamore 4 Ultra Ball 9 Grass
4 Genesect EX PLB 4 Skyla 3 Muscle Band 4 Plasma
1 Mr. Mime 4 N 3 Energy Switch
1 Jirachi EX 2 Shadow Triad 2 Enhanced Hammer
1 Colress 2 Tool Scrapper
1 Colress Machine
1 Professor’s Letter
1 Super Rod
1 Town Map
1 G Booster
3 Skyarrow Bridge

In 2014, Andrew Estrada won with probably the most consistent list at the event. Virizion/Genesect was known to be a deck that can easily fit techs because the engine needs few cards to run on. However, Andrew decided to stick with just one tech: the Mr.Mime.

This list has an unheard of level of consistency. If I were to look at this list before Worlds 2014, I probably wouldn’t like it. I probably would have said that it devotes too much to consistency, and not enough to beating less favorable matchups.

But, fast forward to 2015 and you see the same thing…

Jacob Van Wagner’s Archie’s Blastoise

Pokémon – 14 Trainers – 35 Energy – 11
2 Blastoise PLB 2 Archie’s Ace in the Hole 4 Acro Bike 11 Water
3 Keldeo EX 2 Professor Juniper 4 Battle Compressor
2 Jirachi EX 1 Lysandre 4 Superior Energy Retrieval
2 Shaymin EX ROS 1 N 4 Trainers’ Mail
2 Exeggcute PLF 4 Ultra Ball
1 Articuno ROS17 4 VS Seeker
1 Mewtwo EX NXD 1 Float Stone
1 Wailord EX 1 Muscle Band
1 Computer Search
2 Rough Seas

Two Jirachi, two Shaymin, four Acro Bikes, four VS Seeker, Computer Search, four Trainers Mail, four Battle Compressor… the whole deck is about consistency! Even though the strategy of the deck is somewhat inconsistent, the engine was pushed to a consistency so high, that it didn’t matter.

People were criticizing Jacob after the event, claiming that he ran hot throughout the event. Now that I take a second look at the list, I don’t think he was as lucky as I did last year. Popular lists following the event did not play as much consistency and I think that is why the deck stopped being able to get the consistent Turn 1 Blastoise.

Big surprise – 2016 gave us the same lesson!

Pokémon – 13 Trainers – 37 Energy – 10
3 M Audino EX 4 Professor Sycamore 4 VS Seeker 6 Metal
4 Audino EX 2 N 4 Ultra Ball 4 Double Colorless
2 Shaymin EX ROS 2 AZ 4 Trainers’ Mail
1 Hoopa EX 2 Lysandre 4 Audino Spirit Link
1 Magearna EX 1 Hex Maniac 2 Float Stone
1 Cobalion STS 1 Xerosic 1 Mega Turbo
1 Absol ROS 1 Pokemon Center Lady 1 Escape Rope
1 Super Rod
1 Startling Megaphone
2 Parallel City

Again, we have a deck with a very consistent draw engine. While many Mega decks play three Spirit Link, and only three of the regular Basic EX, Shintaro Ito plays the extra copies of each to ensure he can pull of his strategy game after game.

So really, dead-drawing and consistency issues are no excuse for a bad performance. You should not blame your deck for your bad placement; blame yourself. When you read what Mark said again in this context, it makes a lot more sense.

“Now I do put fault in things like being paired to an unfavorable matchups and bad draws.”

This is very ironic to me, because many players will explain to you that the only reason they lost was because of bad luck. But they did not, and I did not! The real reason for our poor draws is because of our deck build.

Very commonly, I hear that a person just lost because it was a bad matchup or auto loss. But rarely they take blame for that. Maybe you made a bad meta call! If you take three losses in an event to bad matchups, you were almost certainly playing the wrong deck.

When I have used decks with this boost in consistency, I have seen great results. My Top 16 Toad Bats list from last year had this extreme level of consistency that most people disagreed with. I was told over and over that Skyla was a bad idea, and that 5 Water energy was silly. However, these extra copies are the reason why I won many of my matches. I was the only Toad Bats player to make it to Day 2, let alone Top 16, and I credit most of that to the list I played.

“I give a lot of credit to the cards that are in my deck.”

Strong play can only get you so far. The consistency is the most important aspect of a deck. By now I think you understand my point: keeping a deck consistent is the most important thing, by far. With that in mind, I’m going to transition to my Yveltal list and some other information about the event.
In my last piece, I explained how set I was on playing Eels. I said multiple times that I thought it was the best choice and that it was a perfect meta call. At 8 PM on Friday night, my opinion changed. I realized that getting Eels out inconsistently and dead-drawing were both far too frequent. I decided to fall back on the deck that I am most comfortable with. You already saw my list above – so now, here is the list I wish I played.

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