Hello again, Cut or Tap readers! I’m back with a follow-up to my last article that detailed my list for Houndoom/Raticate Mill. Since there was a fair amount of interest with both my article and at last weekend’s Regionals itself, I offered to write this complementary CoT article as a special, off-schedule piece. Enjoy!
Southern California Regionals are now in the books, with many congrats going to Kenny Britton for taking the whole thing with Dark/Tina. Meanwhile, if I may toot my own horn, Cut or Tap’s senior staff had a pretty darn reasonable showing this past weekend. “Phearless Leader Phinn” ran Vespiquen and was 3rd seed after Day 1, ending a hair’s breadth away from Top 8 at 11th Place. Andrew Zavala (site manager) missed Top 32 only by a lost “Win-and-In” while using Solgaleo/Lurantis. I myself barely whiffed Top 32 by failing to win either of Rounds 8 or 9, tying both instead.
Ironically, I almost played Mega Rayquaza for the main event, as two of my friends were doing. The problem was that my rigorous 11th-hour testing revealed my play-skill weaknesses with the deck, and I didn’t feel particularly confident carrying it into a big event. With that, on top of not sleeping well the night before, I decided there was no choice beside my fallback of Houndoom. With that, I truly understand the oft-repeated advice of sticking to a deck that you’re comfortable playing, whenever you’re in doubt.
Here’s the list I ran for Anaheim:
|Pokémon – 11||Trainers – 42||Energy – 7|
|4||Houndoom EX||4||Professor Sycamore||4||VS Seeker||7||Fire|
|2||Rattata EVO||3||N||4||Crushing Hammer|
|2||Raticate EVO||3||Team Flare Grunt||4||Max Potion|
|2||Shaymin EX ROS||3||Lysandre||3||Ultra Ball|
|1||Bunnelby PRC||2||Team Rocket’s Handiwork||3||Trainers’ Mail|
|1||Delinquent||2||Fighting Fury Belt|
|1||Team Skull Grunt||2||Enhanced Hammer|
Those who read my previous article will notice a few changes:
-1 Ultra Ball, +1 Houndoom
I decided to prioritize starting with Houndoom as often as possible, since he’s my best starter and because it would minimize Shaymin starts. I figured I had enough draw support already to find the Pokemon I’d need. (Phinn supported this suggestion when I ran it by him, reminding me of his articles’ repeated point that not all decks HAVE to play four Ultras or Seekers.)
2 Parallel City
Rayquaza was supposed to be big, and Rainbow Road seemed to be on peoples’ radar as well, so making cuts for Parallel and trying to cripple their damage output seemed like a no-brainer.
Team Skull Grunt
I was unsure about including Skull, since it wasn’t doing much work in TCGO testing. On the other hand, I momentarily resented all humankind when I got Skulled while testing Altavilla’s Raichu/Passimian build, so I figured it’d be worth a shot. Plus, it just feels like it should go in a mill deck, amirite?
4 Max Potion, 3 Trainers’ Mail
In hindsight, I really wish I had reversed these counts. Houndoom values energy denial above pretty much all else, and the fourth Mail could likely have helped find a needed Hammer, Flare Grunt, or other key Supporter. Max Potion should be more of a contingency play, rather than having the deck rely on it (like Wailord does).
I’ll start with the “TL;DR” (or maybe TL;WR – “Won’t Read”?) and list off my day’s matchups and results:
- Round 1 vs. Lurantis/Eeveelutions – Tie, 0-0-1
- Round 2 vs. Gyarados – Tie, 0-0-2
- Round 3 vs. Mega Rayquaza/Jolteon – Win, 1-0-2
- Round 4 vs. Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor – Win, 2-0-2
- Round 5 vs. Volcanion – Win, 3-0-2
- Round 6 vs. Espeon GX/Mega Alakazam – Win, 4-0-2
- Round 7 vs. Mega Rayquaza/Magearna – Win, 5-0-2
- Round 8 vs. Mega Rayquaza/Giratina EX – Tie, 5-0-3
- Round 9 vs. Gyarados – Tie, 5-0-4
Round 1 vs. Lurantis/Eeveelutions
Tough matchup, right out of the gate. Lurantis gave easy energy replenishment from the discard, allowing for fairly consistent 120-damage hits. He also played double-Vaporeon among his Eeveelutions (clearly wanting that Volcanion matchup), although Vaporeon never hit the field until Game 3.
Game 1 was pathetically short, with my lone Shaymin getting KO’ed on my opponent’s third turn. Hoping this wasn’t a prelude of my whole day, we set up for Game 2 where I broke with tradition and elected to go first. Good thing I did – Skull Grunt made its first slam-dunk of the day with a double-Grass energy discard before he even had a turn, severely slowing down his set-up with the hand that he had. I also took advantage of his benching a Pinsir SM with a two-energy retreat cost; he ran double-Olympia but I narrowly edged out his Olympia plays with my Lysandre plays.
Time got called just a few turns into Game 3, putting us at a tie for our first match. T, 0-0-1
Round 2 vs. Gyarados
This is a matchup that I’ve actually beaten twice before (and against this very player, no less!), but it’s still frightening when a single damage placement on their Magikarp gives them the fuel to OHKO a (Belt-less) Houndoom. However, like the Vespiquen matchup (also surprisingly even), you just need patience enough to outlast their DCE’s and Special Charges. Lysandre-ing a damaged Magikarp helps with this – Gyarados has limited mobility, especially with Teammates useless, so the opponent is forced to either dig for Float Stones or evolve into Gyarados and lose that much damage output.
Just like before, Game 1 ended quickly since my opponent only had to take two KO’s before donking me out of the game.
Game 2 was far more compelling. My shining moment from this match came after my first Houndoom was KO’ed in Game 2. The KO came pretty late since Town Map revealed that two of his DCE were prized. On taking the KO, he took both energy into his hand. Sadly for him, I had a VS Seeker raring to go, and grabbed my Skull Grunt to summarily dump both of them. Oh, and my Raticate discarded the one he used to take the KO. He did have one DCE left in hand, but also had a very small margin of error for using it, even with access to Special Charge. Game 2 went to the dogs (in a good way).
Time was again called in Game 3. Given how close he was to decking out, my opponent promptly played N to keep the game at a deadlock. T, 0-0-2
Round 3 vs. Mega Rayquaza/Jolteon
Shout-out to my opponent, Allen Fan, a friend who was on total Pokemon hiatus for two years before jumping back in for a Regionals – good to see him again!
The first game was intense, with his Float Stones hitting the field early and hindering my Lysandre stalls for most of the game. What helps me is that it’s fairly easy to hit back after he commits to a 210-damage Emerald Break, because I’ll often manage to pull off some combo of energy disruption, Parallel City placement, or Lysandre-stalling. Allan got down to one or two Prizes by the end, but I was okay with it since I had reasonable control over the board state.
Game 2 was even more unfortunate for him, in that I milled away some key draw-support cards and DCE’s early while locking in an active Hoopa, and ended up going turn-after-turn of “Draw, Melting Horn.” This mill went fast, giving my first win of the day. W, 1-0-2
Round 4 vs. Mega Mewtwo/Garbodor
Not much to say on this one. My opponent actually did most of the heavy lifting for me, with repeated Sycamores and easy energy-discard targets. I think his heart may not have been in this matchup after it caught him off guard, and he more or less tossed it. W, 2-0-2
Round 5 vs. Volcanion
This matchup is downright terrifying, because I must keep Volcanion EX from swinging at me, at pretty much any cost. Unlike with Gyarados, who might hit ‘Doom for 180 but still miss the KO, Volcanion EX will flatten whatever I have put active.
In Game 1, I capitalized on an early benched Hoopa, and was able to Lysandre/Rattata-stall it for quite a few turns, since single Fire energy cards attached to it were smoothly displaced. One of my dogs was KO’ed, but thanks to me having milled out his switching cards, dropping that EX’s energy kept it from attacking again, letting me take the game
Honestly, I don’t even remember how I won Game 2, especially since this time, the opponent was smarter about what he benched. (Starting to think I should tech in a PokePuff…) What swung this game was gusting up one of the two Volcanion EX’s he benched, and hitting it hard with energy denial. I got lucky again and trashed most of his mobility cards before he could finally manage scoring a Volcanic Heat. By that time, though, his deck was pretty much out of gas, and against the odds, I had 2-0’ed a Volcanion deck. W, 3-0-2
Round 6 vs. Espeon GX/Mega Alakazam
It was pretty cool to see a rogue concept making it this high (also 3-0-2) into the tournament. From what I could tell, its goal was to spread damage using Mega Alakazam and Espeon’s “Divide” GX attack, while then sweeping the field with its Psychic attack (60 plus 30 for each of the Defender’s energy).
Playing out this match was interesting because I could feel that my opponent was trying to adapt to my deck’s style. He held the Mega in hand until it would make a crucial difference, and tried to rely on Espeon’s single-energy attack, Psybeam (30 damage plus auto-Confusion), and get me to damage myself before sweeping my attacker. I sometimes passed on attacking even with energy attached (especially with an active Bunnelby), because the risk of giving him his desired damage math didn’t seem worth it.
My big advantage was probably that he used damage acceleration, but not energy acceleration, so he was vulnerable to disruption from that angle. This was highlighted (highlit?) when I used Skull Grunt to trash double-DCE… not once, but twice in the match.
This match required a bit more patience and a longer-term game than others up to this point (probably my only Rototiller of the day was used here to grab my Super Rod), but I stuck it out and won two full games. W, 4-0-2
Round 7 vs. Mega Ray/Magearna
I was paired with a fellow Sacramento-based player, Wyatt Ralston. Wyatt and his friends have seen quite a bit of success this season, so I knew I was prepping for a fight.
Game 1 was pretty close and featured a fairly even “trade” – not the usual prize trade, obviously, but a trade of Wyatt taking prizes and me disrupting his setup. Four Mega Turbo and a single Special Charge particularly made my game tougher. He got down to one prize left, but I locked in Parallel City for good, when all of his Sky Fields were discarded. Since Wyatt couldn’t set up his energy and Lysandre up a last prize at the same time, I ended up with the game.
Game 2 followed a similar map, but time was called in the middle. We basically “draw-passed” those turns out, since Game 2 had no way to finish. W, 5-0-2
Round 8 vs. Mega Ray/Giratina EX
Beating my second Ray matchup of the day gave me some confidence going into this one, though I definitely didn’t see the Giratina partner coming. My opponent mentioned that it was for the Vespiquen matchup, which made sense, and while Giratina’s attack and ability weren’t relevant for our match, it did mean he played four basic energy and four Mega Turbo to give him more outs to resisting my disruption.
Ahmed hit what he needed (including a well-timed Karen – ugh!) to give me my first game loss against Rayquaza that day. Game 2 was insane, because on my second turn, I hit a double-heads on Rocket’s Handiwork to mill four cards… which included THREE Double Colorless. Holy cow. Not much to do from there, although Ahmed did have a good go at it anyway.
Time was called during Game 3, when I was maybe six cards away from the mill. Ahmed still had too many prizes left to have a feasible chance at winning, so he played a Karen on Turn 0, effectively sealing the tie. T, 5-0-3
Round 9 vs. Gyarados
My tie in the previous round meant that I needed this win to make Day 2. And wouldn’t you know – my opponent flips a Magikarp at the start of the match, to my severe disappointment.
I wasn’t out of the running yet, though. Obviously I couldn’t rely on another spectacular Skull Grunt play, but this time I went all-out to find as many single-prize attackers as I could – I forced the Gyarados player to commit the same resources to finding the energy, but for a lower payout (barring Lysandres).
Parallel City, I had found, is also a great help; if the damage-reduction side faces Gyarados, that player must have two damaged Magikarp to OHKO a Houndoom, or they can only hit the ‘Doom for 140 and leave themselves open to an energy-discard. Pair that with my aforementioned “gusting” of a damaged Magikarp, and I had my best strategy for stalling the game.
Each of us won one quite-lengthy game, and we were barely into the second turn of Game 3 when time was called. And that was that. T, 5-0-4
In the end, I finished at an incredibly bittersweet 34th place. It was disappointing to whiff Day 2 without having lost any matches. But all things considered, I was satisfied with my playing that day, given that I’d beaten one water matchup and tied three others. All I needed was either one more good matchup, or for those early ties to have come later (i.e. better resistance), and I could have made it.
The story doesn’t quite end there, though. One person in the Top 32 dropped in the middle of it – the word was that he had lost his shot at even Top 16, and monetarily it was more worth it to catch his planned flight than book a new one. So since he dropped and lost his ranking, I got bumped to 33rd Place officially – the actual bubble spot – and Sam Chen, previously 33rd, scored eight absolutely-free CP’s.
Houndoom may have been a “default” pick just due to having few other options personally, but I like to think I’ve displayed the deck’s real potential overall. Now that Greninja is basically out of the format (thanks, Giratina!), Houndoom has virtually no true auto-losses; there are still shaky matchups in Volcanion and Vespiquen, but this deck can find a way to turn a game on its head when it has to. I even ran into someone who said he’d consider Houndoom for Melbourne Intercontinentals!
Before I depart, I’ll just make a quick note that Olympia has become my 61st card, and I would certainly run it if I didn’t insist on playing Stadiums. There were a few times during the day when I would have loved to switch a Houndoom into a Raticate and guarantee a “Crunch” energy discard. I manually retreated a couple times to do just that, although losing the two energy hurt a bit. I cut it when adapting my list from the 10th Place list from London, but now I can see its practicality. Unfortunately, my style of Houndoom has produced a very tight list, so I really don’t know what to cut at this point.
It was great meeting a few new people at Anaheim, and spending time with those I already know. Looking forward to seeing what I can do at Portland and Salt Lake City. Until then, good luck to everyone at whatever events you attend, and thank you for reading!