This year is my second Nationals, but, even more so than the first year, it’s been one monster of an emotional rollercoaster. To make my report special, I want to take you guys along for a ride in my PikaMobile, or Pi-Car-Chu.

Let’s begin with two days before the tournament. I stay home and start to think about what kind of meta I’m going to face at Nationals. I am fairly sure that the field is full of Darkrai decks, Thundurus/Deoxys/Kyurem (hereon referred to as Plasma) and perhaps a smattering of Landorus/Cobalion to try to beat the two big decks, but knowing Singaporeans (Players like Goutham are cases in point, even if everyone except me knows he is not attending) I can expect some crazy rogues as well. With my current cardpool, I only have two real choices: Darkrai or Quad Snorlax.

The only other choice. Snorlax: “dey see me trollin dey hating”

I put together a standard Darkrai/Absol list and make a few changes for consistency and to fit in Tool Scrapper, then start testing on PTCGO. In the afternoon Gerald arrives, and after we both derp around for a bit, he mentions that he might be able to lend me his Plasma deck wholesale. This pretty much puts my #1 deck choice on the map (because everybody knows by now what I was planning to cosplay as at Nats).

We playtest fairly unfruitfully (since our lists were not particularly interesting in terms of the mirror match), till later when he has to leave and Jake, my best butt buddy, arrives (finally). The important thing here is when we both whip out Darkrai and go a couple of games, and he lays down Mr Mime. This is important if only because it put how annoying Mr Mime is to Darkrai (and cousins Kyurem and Landorus) into perspective to me for the first time.

Mr. Mime from Plasma Freeze

YOU SHALL NOT PASS! Your snipe damage, that is.

Later on at night, a retired Senior contacts me for a way to play at Nationals and I volunteer to put Quad Snorlax together for him, effectively eliminating a choice.

Fast forward to the night before the tournament.

I return from work at 11pm, having tasked myself to not only decide for sure on my deck choice but also to build the Quad Snorlax. A few phone calls later, I have my deck choice decided for me as Gerald has withdrawn his offer. In a state of panic, I take out my Darkrai list and lay it out. I go over my list. First I start to increase my consistency, then I switch over to building Quad Snorlax.

After panicking more because I realise I don’t have the cards I need, I mustered whatever vestiges of composure I had left and got back to my Darkrai. After spending oodles of time agonising over the loss of my extra sleeves, I realise that maxing out consistency is what I have been doing the entire season, only to have my deck malfunction on me during Premier Events anyway. Some people may know that I kept repeating this for months, but I finally decide to practice what I have been preaching and turn my word into action: “Tech big and run hot or go home.” I end up teching the living daylights out of my deck, sleeve up, make the final counts for Quad Snorlax, rage over missing sleeves again, pack everything I need into my bag, then finally decide to go to sleep and hope everything Ive borrowed falls into place.

The next day, I rage over the missing sleeves again, then get my act together and go out (late) to meet the Senior. We do a lot of scrambling (no Scramble Switch was used) with Jake and Bryan (the senior; some know him as Cleffa) to get to the site was done, complemented with more scrambling to get all the cards for Quad Snorlax. I subsequently prepared my costume, then finally managed to borrow the two sleeves I need to complete my ensemble. Miraculously, thanks to everybody (shout outs to Joey, Gerald, James, Jake, Elias, Shing Lam, Soon, Zam, Benjamin and that other senior whose name I can’t remember; sorry!) we got everything settled way before the swiss rounds start, so I go around terrorising everyone as Plasma Grunts are wont to do.

Game 1 against Peter Teo (Darkrai/Absol)

I open the tournament going second, but I open with a huge bang, with a hand of Random Receiver, 3 Dark Energies, Dowsing Machine, two Dark Patches and an active Darkrai. I topdeck the Ultra Ball for Keldeo, Rush In and slap down my Dark Patches, attach to Keldeo and Random Receiver into an N. The first card I draw is Energy Switch and the fifth card is Dark Claw. Though he was able to clear the damage from his Darkrai with a swiftly applied Max Potion, the psychological pressure applied by a T1 Night Spear backed by a Dark Claw was evident on his face.

He struggles to put out a Night Spear while I apply incredible pressure on his board while managing to get Mr Mime into play. This culminates in a turn where I am very much able to take both Keldeo off his board in a single turn. Knowing that he had played a Max Potion but not knowing how many healing cards he plays (especially looking at my own deck) I cash in on the Keldeos and am rewarded with an N to 2. I rip a Juniper and coast to the finish.

1-0

Game 2 against Rudy (ZekEels)

I open Sableye, Mr Mime and Absol against him, and he immediately limits his bench to 3 by laying only two Tynamo and a Bouffalant. Things choke for both of us as I Hypnotoxic Laser his active Zekrom and both of us watch the poison damage snowball while we both get set up together.

This starts accumulating to the point where Zekrom is in position to wreak havoc and does take two prizes off Sableye and Mr Mime. Already behind by two prizes and with a ton of damage on the board, I am forced to decide if I should finish charging the damaged Darkrai with an energy, or charge up the fresh one and miss the Night Spear.

Looking at the N in hand and the Dark Patches, I decide to just give up the Darkrai and N him flat later since I can easily gamble on a combination of any two of Dark Patch, Energy, and Energy Switch off my resulting 5-card N.

I Night Spear an Eel and leave Zekrom with 10 HP but that’s all I get from him before he gets to two prizes by spanking my already damaged Darkrai with Outrage. However, I have the cards to execute my little gambit as I proceed to N him and charge another Darkrai, then I rip the Catcher to hurt Bouffalant while finishing Zekrom off.

The N proves to be incredibly brutal as he struggles to get anything going, relying on his Eels to charge any attackers he lays down (which was a grand total of one Bouffalant), as I chain into a Colress and get the stuff I need to wipe his Bouffalants off the board.

From there it is seemingly downhill for him, only managing a single Bolt Strike from Zekrom on Darkrai. However, that 120 damage has put me in a precarious position where a single Electric Ball from Eelektrik would end the game in his favour. Even though he has used 3 Catchers, I don’t have the luxury of keeping Darkrai benched as my only other attacker is Absol which can’t even 2HKO an Eel when his bench is that small. I pray hard for the whiff and rain Night Spears onto the Eels.

Eelektrik from Noble Victories

This slimy dipshit nearly hands me my first loss of the day

When he only has 2 Eels and I only have 1 prize left, he suddenly drops a Zekrom EX and I feel my innards shrinking in fear as he Dynamotors. I start to quake in fear when he plays Switch and cover my eyes expecting the impending attachment to end the game… Which doesn’t happen. He doesn’t have the game! I get ready to Skyla for the Catcher but I topdeck it to win the game.

2-0

Game 3 against Zam (Darkrai/Terrakion/Ninetales)

Zam probably didn’t manage to secure any Absol for his deck. Nevertheless, he gets off to a fast start and I am forced to give up prizes and burn all my healing cards to set up my attackers. Thankfully, I have Mr Mime to protect my bench once again.

Eventually, I get Absol going, but not only does he have a small bench of just Ninetales and Keldeo, there’s no other Darkrai in sight. His board position is precarious; if I take out Darkrai and nail him hard with an N, I pretty much have the game in the bag if he doesn’t draw the Juniper and rip everything he needs to get a Retaliate Terrakion.

I hit Darkrai with Mind Jack, and he immediately retaliates with Laser and Night Spear while placing down a Sableye, plastering the Absol in the dirt. I manage to get the other Absol going and knock out the Darkrai while playing an N, pressing him down to just 3 cards.

The two prizes I take are Hypnotoxic Laser, which answers why I didn’t get to rip a single Laser for the entire game thus far. However, he gets the Laser heads to nuke me with Ninetales.

At this point my Darkrai is ready to go and upon seeing his meagre hand I immediately Night Spear the Ninetales and lay 30 on Keldeo, leaving the board with just Sableye and Ninetales.He Catchers my Keldeo and Junk Hunts Random Receiver and Dowsing Machine, which surprises me and also ruins my plans to throttle him with Night Spear.

However, I’m running out of Ns, so I decide to wait and see what he does by using Energy Switch to get energy off Darkrai to retreat Keldeo, then Catchering his Keldeo, plastering it with a Laser (and rolling tails as usual) and go Junk Hunting as well for a Dark Patch and an Energy Switch in case of Catcher shenanigans. In hindsight, I probably should have gotten the Dowsing Machine, but as it turns out later I needed to Junk Hunt one more time to seal the game anyway.

Surprisingly, he doesn’t even play the Random Receiver and just goes Dowsing for Juniper, where he whiffs the means to play down a Darkrai or anything else, but he does lay energy on Keldeo. Fighting Energy. He is definitely baiting Retaliate, so I have no choice but to N him the same turn I take down Sableye.

On my turn, time is suddenly called. I’m at three prizes and he is at two. I have only two turns including the current one to pull even without triggering Retaliate and losing immediately. I make a quick check of my resource pool. I had burnt only two Laser but four Catcher, almost all my Supporters (save a single Colress, which is in hand) and I have nine cards total between my hand and my deck. I Patch to Darkrai and Junk Hunt for Dowsing and Catcher, my gut telling me I need the Catcher and praying he doesn’t make a big play next turn out of the blue. He doesn’t and simply Junk Hunts some irrelevant stuff.

On my turn, I bust my combo, Dowsing for an N to 2, then proceeding to KO Sableye. I rip my Colress off my 3 card N, and wait for him to simply pass his turn, ending the extra 3 turns. He then proceeds to give me a heart attack by playing Juniper, and as he studies his hand extremely hard I boldly tell him that if he cannot retaliate with Retaliate I can end the game next turn.

After a bit of egging from me and raging on his part he amicably ends his turn while laying down a couple of Darkrai. Though I had Ultra Ball and Energy Switch, both which would cut the number of available cards so I could draw my entire deck, the laying of the Darkrai meant I did not have to do any of that. I carefully Colress the rest of my deck and show him the Catcher and Laser I need to finish the game by KOing the Keldeo with 60 damage.

Terrakion from Noble Victories

Sorry Terrakion, no Retaliate 4 u

3-0

Game 4 against XinCloft (Plasma)

I’m 3-0 and up against arguably Singapore’s best player, XinCloft, who has also seen two games of my deck in action because we were sitting at the same table, but I barely know anything about his because I’m too busy intimidating my opponent with Plasma Grunt powers.

He starts Kyurem and gets early Frost Spears going with Deoxys against my slower start, but I manage to rip Mr Mime and Potion to negate his first Frost Spear, giving my bench a lot of solace. However, this doesn’t stop his onslaught, as he quickly gets out the Keldeo + Float Stone combo and started chaining Blizzard Burns while charging up his next Kyurem, ensuring that any EX sent forward would be easily dispatched with a Laser, which he does, which along with my trades of his Kyurem vs my Absol puts me at 5 and him at 2.

I manage to put my Darkrai together somehow then N him to 2 and seal the deal by wiping the second Kyurem off the board. He then draws very dead while I Night Spear his Deoxys repeatedly for the win.

4-0

Game 5 against Jeremy Leong (Gothitelle and Friends)

This game is a complete crapshoot as we both draw deader than disco dead.

I manage to KO a Duskull first and topdeck a Skyla which I use to fetch Juniper on the same turn, only for him to rip an N right after. The N fetches him Gothitelle and from there the game just goes downhill for me as I fail to draw my Darkrai and second Keldeo.

By Turn 5 it’s evident that I should scoop, but I play on and pretty much just cheer for him to get set up and win the match properly since Jeremy is a bro.

4-1

Game 6 against Jefferson Sim (Gothitelle and Friends)

Gothitelle from Emerging Powers

Not you again…

Facing two tough matchups in a row is pretty demoralising. Even more so when you start second. Even more so when he draws his opening hand and starts showing it to his friends and being happy that it is a godhand.

And so it is, for by his first turn he’s got every single basic he needs on the field and uses Tropical Beach.

I open Sableye and Absol and I manage to put out the two energy onto Absol with Dark Patch and an attachment. I don’t bother with Confuse Ray since his active Mew is just going to go back inside the deck.

He proceeds to evolve everything, use Deck and Cover with Mew and send Gothitelle out with Float Stone, which is pretty bad news. I play my Juniper and get Darkrai and Keldeo with the energy, so I get to Confuse Ray. The next turn he simply Beaches, so I land another Confuse Ray while attaching energy. That’s all I get as he hits with Deck and Cover the next turn, taking out Sableye.

I Mind Jack with Absol but have to accept that I’m 10 damage short of the KO with a 100 damage Mind Jack. Meanwhile I manually attach to Darkrai. Surprisingly enough at this point he just Beaches while playing DCE on his backup Goth.

I take the prize while attaching to Darkrai, and am shocked to find that it is my second Keldeo, though I keep my poker face on somewhat.

This is the turn he decides to Catcher up the other Keldeo and Deck (and Cover) it, and I instantly lay down my second Keldeo and go aggro with Mind Jack.

My Darkrai has only two energy, and he uses his Dusknoir to shift some damage around to take Absol out of the game but leaving my field damage free. I have no choice but to N for the third energy or possibly lose, and I do get it, breaking the Trainer lock.

He fails to get the Gothitelle next turn and I snowball him from there, wiping out Gothithelle and a benched Gothita together, then just Night Spearing to the finish. He scoops when I finally get the Catcher to pull up his only Shelmet on board. He tells me after the game that he had 3 Float Stone, 1 Rare Candy, 1 Gothitelle and his Super Rod prized. Lucky me.

5-1

Game 7 against Andy (Darkrai/Tornadus EX)

I start second but start fast with my T2 Night Spear and take out his active Darkrai with little resistance beyond a Laser, which was quickly cured with Potion and a hastily laid Mr Mime.

This game went on to be an uneventful one, unfortunately. I flatten his board with Night Spears until he manages to draw a Juniper and gets to search his deck with Ultra Ball… To find the rest of his Darkrai and his Keldeo prized. The game is completely unwinnable for him and I take my time to close out the Swiss with an easy win.

6-1

At least Andy is already assured of top cut at 5-2, so I don’t feel too bad about that game since it basically decides our opponents in Top Cut.

Since the tournament is held in a cosplay event I make a few rounds in character (read as terrorising the local populace), watch the last few games at the bottom tables, and wait for Top Cut to be announced. After all the hoo-ha about which 5-2s get into cut (all of them actually), I finally get to see my results. I ended Swiss at 5th place so I’m feeling pretty good… Then I look at the matchup list and my insides writhe in terror. I stayed behind to help out the PTO to shut down the location, go for a good dinner with Jake, XinCloft, Jeremy, Belp, Bee Ping, Adrian, Cleffa (who managed to scrape a 3-2 despite being completely out of the loop for the entire season; well done Bryan!) and Danny Seet, and start to agonise over my Top 16 match, soliciting detailed advice on how to play the matchup beyond “Play Keldeos down, charge attacker, ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK”.

I go home and write this article up until my 6-1 score, then sleep at 3am. I have the first anxiety attack in my entire life as I wake up at 6am, unable to sleep and having a terrible stomachache but unable to actually relieve myself. I guess that’s how it feels to make Day 2 of the biggest local Premier Event of the entire season.

I play my 3DS to try to forget about it and tire myself enough to sleep, then get up at 10am feeling much better. I stay relaxed until 12pm when I have to go. To go and meet my maker.

I arrive at 1215 and transform into Plasma Grunt only to find that the decks haven’t even arrived for deck check. The delay causes Top 16 to only start at about 1355 (as in when we flip over our Actives).

In the meantime, everybody is talking about their brackets and everybody is telling me that I have to win my Top 16. No shit guys, I want to win my Top 16 too, I need to get to Top 2 to go to Worlds.

One might ask: why do I remember the starting time so clearly? Because my Top 16 opponent is none other than…

Top 16 against Nelson Chua (Gothitelle and Fiends -_-)

The fiends that accompany Gothitelle 😦

Nelson is one of Singapore’s greatest players, having already made his way to Worlds twice and bubbling out of Worlds Top 16 at 17th in 2011. It’s an honour to play against him, and, him being armed with an amazing deck like GothLock, I have to be on my toes if I want to stand any chance at winning. This means managing every single aspect of the game perfectly, down to time.

With a 75 minute top cut, Nelson has every bit of time he needs to flatten me. The only thing I can do right now is pray my deck doesn’t flatline on me and give me what I need to win.

Game 1

I start second, and he starts with a Duskull and Gothita. He searches out another Gothita and Shelmet and passes with no Beach.

This has got to be my chance. I open Sableye and Darkrai and I immediately start to press him down by attaching Dark Claw to Sableye and the energy while managing to get the first Keldeo out via Ultra Ball and Dark Patching and take the first Prize of the game.

I only have Random Receiver at this point so I pray he doesn’t have the T2 Goth. He doesn’t, and in fact struggles to get one going for a good number of turns.

He plays down Keldeo with Float Stone, which vaguely surprises me since I have never seen it. I slowly attach to Darkrai and play Supporters to get my energy and second Keldeo but keep drawing Trainers, though I get the opportunity to Tool Scrapper his Float Stone and Enhanced Hammer a Double Colourless, as well as repeated Catchers to circumvent his Keldeo and Lasers which I immediately burn, making my Confuse Ray do 40 damage.

After I spread 40 onto two Gothitas, I get an Ultra Ball to search my deck, only to find my second Keldeo prized. Yikes. At this point everything goes kind of fuzzy. I have a fully charged Darkrai and a half charged one, so I go for the Night Spear but I’m not sure what I hit. But there is a point where I manage to take two prizes from him. I carefully choose my foil prizes and am rewarded with a Dark Energy and my Keldeo.

Nelson expects this and activates his trap card(s): Not only does he put up a Gothitelle, he’s got the Keldeo and Float Stone and Accelgor and Mew with the Double Colourless and the N. I start to choke but I don’t miss my attachments and although I lose my first Keldeo the next turn I rip Juniper and get the Keldeo + Energy.

The 40 damage I put out early on tilts the game seriously in my favour as I have all the Goths in range for a one Night Spear KO. He scoops to save time on his last Goth.

Game 2

He chooses to go first (duh) and his deck performs flawlessly, nailing the T2 Goth easily with the Accelgor and Mew EX up while I struggle to get anything going at all.

I had gambled on a no T2 Goth by Ultra Balling 2 Dark Energies away which cost me pretty badly. I play down Virbank to prevent him from Beaching, but he gets set up really fast regardless, even getting the Dusknoir to complete the lock.

At this point I’m not sure if I should scoop to save time, but I never get the choice to as he quickly wipes all the Pokemon off my board due to my carelessly playing down Virbank early in the game. GG indeed.

Game 3

I get to go first but I don’t really have much, though I bench the double Keldeos early. On his first search his face changes noticably, so I assume he has bad prizes though I don’t know what they are.

He gets the T2 Goth but the game is slow enough that my Night Spear gets going and he simply doesn’t have anything to stop me from rolling from there out other than a couple of Deck and Covers and Dusknoir, but with double Keldeo and a charged Darkrai he simply can’t stop me and he gives up a turn or two once his Goth goes down. Perhaps he had 2 Gothitas prized or something equally nonsensical, but I will never know because he never shows me or at least I don’t remember.

My match with Nelson was by far the most nerve-wracking of the day, if not outright the hardest games I had. Having overcome my biggest hurdle towards Worlds I heave a sigh of relief and hope that my deck is willing to push with me up to the finals. Though the game from the next bracket was going on next to me I only had a slight glimpse of their decks. Whoever won, I was going to be facing Plasma. I had only faced a single one throughout the tournament, and there was no way out. Still, I felt I had the techs to win for sure.

Top 8 against Kenneth Tan (PLASMAAAAAAA)

Kenneth was and is going to be my senior in school, so I’ve been getting to know him. He’s in the bracket right next to mine, so of course I ask him if he made it to play against me. He says yes, so we promise each other to go far if we win.

I don’t know anything about his deck but he definitely knows I have 2 Keldeo since I beat Gothitelle which pretty much screams “I have 2 Keldeo”.

We sit down, set up, and play the game.

Game 1

I go first with Keldeo against Kyurem. I open Ultra Ball with an energy, get a Darkrai, Dark Patch and play N, then lay Absol and Sableye and pass.

He doesn’t have a particularly good hand either and decides to use Ghetsis, only earning a card or two for his troubles while setting up my Juniper. He does get the attachment to Kyurem which puts me in the danger zone.

I Juniper into Dowsing, 3 Energies, Absol and a Darkrai. I stupidly attach to Sableye before I realise that I have the T2 Night Spear, so I have to suck it and Junk Hunt. I Dowsing for the Juniper and Dark Patch to Darkrai, and immediately regret it as it paints a huge target on my only Darkrai especially after I fill my bench with both Absol and leave only one slot left for the Mr Mime. I take the Dark Patch as Kyurem could KO Sableye and I have another Dark in discard regardless.

The second choice is a bit harder, but I decide to take Dowsing just because it’s the most useful resource. If I get N’d, I get to reuse my Ace Spec again! How convenient. However he Junipers but doesn’t get what he needs to Blizzard Burn, so he Frost Spears me with the aid of a Laser for 50 and 30 to Darkrai.

I decide that it’s too risky to gamble on Mr Mime protecting my bench since I could get Blizzard Burned the next turn and I lay the Darkrai and play my Dark Patch before I Juniper. I hit my Potion and gleefully Potion the damage off, Enhanced his Blend, Energy Search for a Dark to attach to the fresh Darkrai and prepare to Spear. I have a Dark Claw in my hand, but I decide to save it in case of Tool Scrapper. My position is still precarious as he could simply draw a godhand and Blizzard Burn for the pain, but his field of 1 Deoxys and 2 Kyurem with no Virbank has me more or less insured against a gamechanging OHKO Blizzard Burn. In hindsight, I wonder if I should have played my Laser to force him to switch or die, but hindsight is always 20/20 and saving resources for later is always good.

He Colress Machines to Deoxys to prevent me from clearing his board of energy in a single Night Spear and attaches to the active Kyurem for Frost Spear, taking out Sableye with the snipe.

I don’t have the Catcher or the supporter, so it sucks to be me, but what I can do is Ultra Ball for Mr Mime and get my troll face on, though having to sacrifice the Laser bothers me. I attach the saved Claw to Absol. Maybe a case could be made for not bothering with Mime since he’s going to attack with Deoxys, but I guess getting Mime out is a safer play. Anyway with my Darkrai at 50 damage, a Helix Force backed by a still missing Virbank and Laser would finish it, so it was prudent to retreat to the bench. I go to a fresh Darkrai without Claw and am forced to Night Spear unoptimally. I just lay the 30 on the Deoxys, chasing the energy.

He has his bench severely limited, so I rely entirely on Darkrai to lay the smackdown. He has nothing, so he simply attaches and used Helix Force.

I play the Random Receiver from my prizes and am rewarded with a Juniper, burn my Laser, and go for it. Now, I draw the Max Potion, but am unsure if I should play it. I could be in a bad way if I play my Max Potion early and he does get the mad combination to KO my Claw Darkrai, so I decide to save it. Besides, I have the 3rd Darkrai and a Dark in hand, so it will let me burn some cards if he does take the KO. Anyway we’re both still at 5 and I haven’t used any Ns. Best case scenario he has to hit into Claw Darkrai, and I can go for the big one. He is having a supporter drought anyhow, so it’s a small gamble. I guess it’s one of those questionable plays.

I swap Darkrais and Night Spear, placing 30 on Kyurem so I can get 3 prizes the next turn with any Darkrai and Catcher. Turns out I fall for his bait hook line and sinker, as he Scramble Switches to a fresh Deoxys, Catchers the hurt Darkrai and Helix Forces.

Next time, I’m playing my Max Potion no matter what. -_- At this point I’m forced to choose between KOing the benched Kyurem or hitting the active Deoxys. I choose the Kyurem as it has a Water and he has the potential to make a real explosive play with Blizzard Burn to slug me in the guts. I Random Receiver into Colress, lay my 3rd Darkrai, and go for the 7 card Colress. I draw a ton of Supporters, a Dark Patch, two Energy, Catcher and of course my one Virbank. There’s absolutely no way I’m putting my stadium down for him to violate my ClawRai, so I Dark Patch and attach to the fresh Darkrai then Night Spear, putting 30 on the fresh attacking Deoxys. If all goes well the next turn I can play Virbank, Juniper, get the Laser and collect my last 4 prizes. I get too hasty and annouce Night Spear before I even retreat Absol, silly me.

He has no other choice but to bring the Deoxys forward for me. All he can do is Ultra Ball for Thundurus and Helix Force. This is my chance. I draw and topdeck the Max Potion. I go full YOLO and play the Max Potion, put the third Claw on my fresh Darkrai with two energy, play the Virbank, go for Juniper and pull two Energy Switch and a Dark Patch. And of course the Laser. Double Kill Booyah!

Game 2

I open lone Absol to a Deoxys. My deck is obviously taking a snooze as I draw nothing to help me out and he T1 Spiral Forces me.

T2 he Skyla’s for Scramble Switch and Blizzard Burns my poor Absol into the next century. Dagnabbit.

Kyurem from Plasma Freeze

Kill ’em all? More lik Kyu-rem all

Game 3

I get my T2 Night Spear going first while he tries to match my pace with Thunder Knuckle. He appears to choke early on, and I play down an extra Sableye to get a bigger Colress at one point, which actually isn’t so good for me as my bench is clogged with two dumb Sableguys, leaving me unable to bench Mr Mime or another attacker to charge up.

Anyway, I quickly focus down Kyurem as per normal while finding time to eliminate an Absol, and he whiffs energy for the Blizzard Burn one crucial turn. I use that turn to plaster the Thundurus and spread 30 onto Deoxys while playing an Enhanced Hammer onto Kyurem for good measure.

I then start to roll him from there on out as he doesn’t have a quick and dirty way to OHKO Darkrai, giving me the ability to charge my subsequent Darkrais slowly and press my advantage.

At one point he manages to N me to 3 while blowing away my first Darkrai with a damaged Kyurem’s Blizzard Burn, with a Kyurem with 110 damage out back equipped with a Plasma Energy and a Deoxys with an energy and 30 damage as well.

I draw Absol, Dark Patch and Catcher. Whoopdedoo. I proceed to topdeck N and set out charging Absol and go for N. I draw Keldeo, Mr Mime and Ultra Ball, and thinking that I don’t really need Mime at this point of the match, I discard the lot of them and search my deck. I’ve got a Darkrai, two Darks, Skyla, N, two Lasers, and an Energy Switch. I’ve got approximately 2 outs to Catcher and an N to try again, but there’s also one Catcher and one Juniper in my 3 prizes. Having attached to a fresh Absol, all I need to do is to KO his active Kyurem and put 30 on his Deoxys and draw the Catcher I need to win. Even if I don’t immediately draw it he’s still forced to have the Scramble or be able to make some huge acceleration play with 2 Plasma Energies used up to attack me. I have this.

On his turn he promotes Keldeo, attaches Lightning to Deoxys, drops his second Keldeo, then Scramble Switches to Keldeo which has me scratching my head. He then Junipers into a Colress Machine and Colress Machines for a Plasma for Deoxys. Welp. He uses the second Keldeo to Rush In and ends his turn, hoping I don’t pull the Catcher.

As luck would have it, my prize was Juniper, but I end up topdecking the Catcher anyway. Shucks, deck.

Pokémon Catcher from Dark Explorers

What Catcher looks like whenever you topdeck it

Kenneth is a really cool guy and isn’t really all that miffed that he got flattened due to bad luck and tells me to go all the way. I tell him that I will definitely make it to Top 2 and go all in, then after that get a bit too psyched and start yelling for my next opponent.

Over at the next bracket XinCloft has decided to forfeit the match in Jeremy’s favour so there is going to be only one game played at Top 4.

There can only be one, and at this point I’m sure I am going into Top 2.

Top 4 against Alvin (PLASMAAAAAAAA)

I must admit that I got overconfident just because I had never seen him before. The fact that he even is able to make Top 4 beating out Belp, another great player, doesn’t really register in my head.

This quite nearly costs me this particular match, but as it turns out it seems that either he is equally overconfident or feeling equally nervous or just plain bad.

Game 1

He opens Thundurus and starts to swarm his field with Deoxys and Keldeo. I open Sableye, Darkrai and Keldeo and search for Absol while trying to augment my board position.

The next turn he Plasma Balls, and I think in my head that if he takes the Kyurem I would be in trouble. After a long search he chooses Thundurus and I really have to laugh silently in my head as I fully intend to punish him heavily for having a full 170HP EX board. I slowroll him by playing defensively, playing Lasers, Catchers, Enhanced Hammer, repeatedly Junk Hunting. I make a lot of dubious plays like playing down an Absol and not attacking with it though since I whiffed the Dark Claw. I guess I should have just attacked to further rack up the damage on his side of the board, but I Junk Hunted instead. Proof of how stoned I was that match.

He tries to charge up Thunderous Noise which I presume is to take out Sableye so I Enhanced Hammer his DCE and keep spreading. I even forget to Laser one turn before I Juniper, which really costs me. Still, he also makes a lot of questionable plays and gets stuck but he does surprise me with a big KO on Darkrai with Thunderous Noise that I don’t see coming. Eventually I get my Dark Claw Night Spear armed and ready and begin my assault.

At this point he has only 2 prizes but I have to go deep into the deck and reach for Laser or the last Energy for my Night Spear (I think :x) leaving me with only 1 card in deck. Great Scott I actually have everything I already need to win the game! I strike down Thundurus, taking 2 prizes while setting up the second Thundurus for the KO. Now, if he doesn’t N me and doesn’t pull some insane shenanigans to flatten my Darkrai, I win.

He Junipers to try to find a way to beat me. I decided to go all in and tell him (I sure hope it didn’t sound that much like a boast) that I am going to win the next turn if he doesn’t have what it takes to take the last two prizes (which I don’t see a way to at all).

He does something inconsequential (I think he Thunderous Noised and removed an energy) and I draw the last card in my deck which is Energy. Everybody thinks I need the energy, and I humour them by not flaunting the Energy Switch in my hand and do the semi-humble thing to attach, Catcher, Laser and Night Spear Keldeo with 30 on the hurt Thundurus for game.

I love taking four prizes.

Game 2

He starts first and goes with Thundurus and Deoxys on bench, then quickly puts out another Deoxys and a Kyurem. The details of the game are hazy, but I remember taking a Kyurem, an Absol, and Thundurus for 4 prizes while laying 60 on Keldeo and getting backed into a corner with a Darkrai with 30 damage on bench and another with 90 damage (which I promptly Max Potion once I get the chance). And I also remember getting an early Mr Mime and him trying to Frost Spear me and me arrogantly telling him that I have Bench Shield like a prick. I mean, I didn’t even get to do that the entire tournament up till now, cut me some slack.

Anyway Darkrai is at 30 damage because I was careless and didn’t Potion the damage off Darkrai for some reason, instead healing damage off Keldeo, so I can’t afford to leave Darkrai active. I pull it back and send Mr Mime forward, playing the Laser on Thundurus which has already taken 140 damage and just collect my prizes.

However Kyurem already has two energy and he instantly Junipers and he energises his Blizzard Burn with three Deoxys on bench. The prize count is like 4-5 to my two, but if he takes down Darkrai I lose all momentum as the only other energy on board is on Keldeo, if I remember correctly (the only other alternative is that I don’t even have a single other energy on board, which means I am in for a bad time).

He stares at his hand for awhile then declares Blizzard Burn on Mr Mime. I am pretty much overjoyed, thinking that he somehow managed to whiff the possible 3 Catcher in his deck as I prepare to Juniper for the Catcher I need to pull up Keldeo and the subsequent Claw/Laser to win, but end up topdecking the Catcher so I can play the Laser already in hand to win the game.

As soon as I win I immediately grasp his deck and start to search through it and find only two more Catcher inside. I assume that it is prized, but when Kenneth starts to rage at him for not playing the Catcher to burst Darkrai down, I realise I just got obscenely lucky with my opponent’s misplays. Apparently the shock of seeing his Lugia prized in Game 1 was too much for him and he couldn’t play properly anymore. I myself start to think that this is ridiculous given that the only other possible opponent I could have met here is Belphygus who is packing Blastoise, the one deck in Top Cut which truly annihiliates me, and he was beat out by Alvin. Still, I’m into Top 2, so I don’t complain too much. I’ve accomplished my aim for the tournament and am going to go to Worlds!

Lugia-EX from Plasma Storm

Alvin’s mental image: Hi I’m prized nannynannypoopoo you cannot use me

Still, the game must go on, for we must decide the true winner of the tournament.

Top 2 against Jeremy Leong (Gothitelle and Friends) Redux

Jeremy is understandably nervous as he really needs the travel award to go to Worlds. I’m in slightly better shape, but 2000 bucks is a shit ton of money to simply give away. But we’re here at Nationals to play the game, not worry about who gets two thousand bucks. Anyway it’d be an insult to everyone I’ve beat to come this far (especially to Kenneth) to simply give up. We reassure each other that it’s just a game and we’ll still stay friends and all that stuff and we sit down and setup.

Having already faced Jeremy in Swiss and having him coach me on how to beat this matchup, it’s basically simplified to this: I need to run hot enough to get double Keldeo and an attacker, preferably Darkrai, hitting him before he can instate the full lock. There is no other way to win.

Game 1

I go first and bust out of the gate with Ultra Ball for Darkrai, Dark Patch, and Juniper, then draw another Darkrai which I immediately bench and attach Energy to the same Darkrai. I need to get my Night Spear going ASAP to put immense pressure on his board but I don’t have the T1 Night Spear (my wishful thinking). Still, Absol is stuck up in front, so I have to hope for Energy and Energy Switch but more importantly I need more Supporters to fish Keldeo out of my deck. I Juniper again, and Jeremy counts my Supporters for me. To my chagrin, I’ve used 5 out of my 10 Supporters. I’m going to have to use my Supporters more conservatively soon or risk running out before I can draw my deck. I even burn my Dowsing for Energy Search, then attach the energy, Energy Switch and Catcher a benched Gothita to begin the slaughter.

He immediately Skylas for Rare Candy into Gothitelle though, but the upside is he has only 1 Gothitelle and no Gothitas on bench. Mew and Shelmet are there, but Goth doesn’t have its Float Stone. He catchers up Absol and passes though.

I have the option of N or Juniper, but I’m forced to play N to conserve my small amount of Supporters at this point, helping him out but I whiff the energy and have to pass.

He draws and plays Colress, meaning that his hand isn’t all that good, though it’s only for five. He Dowsings Level Ball for another Gothita, meaning that if I don’t get my next Night Spear soon I’m going to have a bad time. I don’t draw the Energy, and he Junipers. The pain is about to begin. He plays Float Stone and DCE and Accelgor and Beach then uses Beach instead of attacking. He probably wants the Catcher to start hitting my energy bank Darkrai. I finally get the Energy and am forced to attach it to Absol to retreat and I Night Spear putting Goth at 120.

I fear that I may be too late however. He’s got the second DCE and he Ultra Balls away Goth and a N to grab Shelmet, which means he’s ready for some sick resistance-free Deck and Cover. He Junipers Catcher and DCE for more cards and goes for the Deck and Cover.

Subsequently on my turn I N him again and make the energy drop but I don’t have the ability to attack so I pass, which is clearly a misplay since I could have Beached.

He Skylas for Level Ball, gets Gothorita and starts to slowroll me with another Deck and Cover. I draw and Beach, since I got nothing. My Darkrai tanks and I draw the Keldeo. If I had Beached the turn that I passed I would have drawn it the turn my Darkrai died. Me and my misplays.

Anyway I have the Keldeo but no attackers so I have to send my Darkrai up to try to reduce the amount of damage. He Level Balls for Accelgor but clearly doesn’t have the DCE and passes. I draw energy and am forced to go for Mind Jack to clear the Gothitelle off the board. Once again I am one turn too late and he gets the Gothorita on the bench evolved. I’m beginning to wonder if I should scoop. However it appears he doesn’t have the DCE and he hesitates for a long while, evolves Duskull to Dusknoir, pulls up my Keldeo counting his odds before he plays an N, putting us both at 4.

At this time Elias (whom some of you know as RoarKiller) sits down beside me and I proceed to draw energy and Juniper while he whiffs the DCE. The match suddenly swings entirely in my favour as I attach to my active Keldeo and Juniper into, wonder of wonders, my second Keldeo. With both Keldeos out, it’s time for me to begin my assault in earnest, as I immediately press him with Mind Jack. I can easily attack one more time and take Gothitelle out of the equation altogether and he does have the ability to shut down Absol with two Deck and Covers, but in the long run I have the advantage if I don’t miss my attachments to Darkrai, and at this point he simply scoops to save time.

Elias starts complaining about his insane luck aura and starts to move away but I implore him to come back. Stay right where you are Elias, I need to draw big to win.

The first game took about 20 minutes to complete, which means he has all the time in the world to deck me. Still, I guess if I can stall for about 40 odd minutes I can take the first prize in Game 3 and win on time.

Game 2

Jeremy mulligans a good few times and I get an extra three cards or so. I start Keldeo and Darkrai which is pretty good stuff in this matchup. He goes first and discards two Supporters, one of them an N and I’m left thinking what he is thinking. He searches his deck and his face starts to look pretty bummed. He searches Gothita and plays Float Stone then Ns. He gets the beach off N and Beaches. I go for the Ultra Ball and search my deck carefully, grabbing the second Keldeo. I also lay a Sableye in case I need to put up something to buy time. I play Laser, attach Energy and Claw to Darkrai and Beach. Things are looking pretty up for me but as GothLock has a reputation for winning games from as far behind as 6-1 I can’t get too complacent.

The Laser is important to put Gothitelle at a nice 120 after evolution, and anyway if he does have a T2 Goth I won’t be able to get rid of it. He plays down Duskull, Level Balls for Gothorita and evolves out of the poison while playing down Duskull then plays Colress for five, which gets him a Mew and another Level Ball for Gothita. Looks like he isn’t ready to attack as he doesn’t have Shelmet on board.

I wonder what is prized and I hope to exploit his weak board significantly as he beaches to go into my turn. I immediately Dark Patch to Darkrai, and spend a little time considering my hand. I have Juniper, N and Skyla, and I keep thinking if I should Skyla. Nevertheless I dump some Trainers and Ultra Ball, and then I have a brainfart and pick an Energy Search thinking that I’m in Skyla. So I take Darkrai instead, and try to take a deep breath and focus. The game is heavily in my favour, I just have to figure out what I need to do to start Night Spearing this turn and flattening him. I decide to play N and conserve my Supporters again. I pull the Enhanced hammer on his Gothita, removing its DCE, then attach to Keldeo. I’ve got the next energy in hand and I don’t want to let Jeremy set up too much further, so I play down my Virbank to cut off his Beach. Anyway there’s no Shelmet in sight so I don’t have to worry too much about getting owned by poison like in my game against Nelson.

I pass and I am rewarded with a Tool Scrapper to the face. He actually Candies into Dusknoir at this point which puzzles me, since if he evolved into Gothitelle he could slow me down significantly. This is immediately solved when he Catchers the other Keldeo and Junipers. He gets the Rare Candy into Gothitelle anyway but with no way to retreat or attack, so he plays his second Beach over my Virbank and Beaches. I’m happy but sad at the same time. This turn I am really ready to roll with Night Spear, so I attach and N, hoping to disrupt him as well as get more stuff out of my deck, then go for the Spear. Now, I place the 30 on the Gothorita, putting it at a nice 40. If he tries to evolve the Gothorita and put it in front, Night Spear will obliterate it. He’s got a spare Gothita but he’s already used two Candies, so the chances aren’t so high that he might evolve the Gothita.

He Level Balls for Shelmet now, and I know the real match is about to begin. He Beaches. I have one more turn to do this. I draw and attached then Night Spear again. Now I face a dilemma on where to place my snipe, and I choose Gothita. Later after the match Jeremy tells me that this is a misplay as I should apply the pressure on Gothorita forcing him to evolve it instead. After thinking about it I agree that it was probably better to snipe the Gothorita, if only because it would force him to waste his second Gothitelle on an already heavily damaged Gothorita making the odds of him getting the Candy and Gothitelle for the Gothita much lower. At any rate he’s not going to be dumb enough to send a Gothitelle with 40 out to be Night Speared when he can always evolve the one with 30 on it forcing me to take the 2HKO again.

Anyway he evolves both Gothorita and Gothita into Gothitelle and gets the Deck and Cover with Mew and I have a very short turn where I draw, attach, declare Rush In, retreat, and Night Spear. This time around I lay 30 on Munna which I am also told is a misplay later, but honestly speaking there isn’t much mileage to be derived from laying 30 on a Gothitelle that is already in Night Spear KO range nor an Accelgor that can go back in the deck nor a Dusknoir that’s weak to Dark anyway, so I guess my choice was OK. He plays N and has got very little cards left in deck, but he plays down a Mew with DCE, interestingly. He ultimately chooses to Deck and Cover with Mew, putting 80 damage on my field total. I draw, whiff energy, and just go for Night Spear.

Jeremy is on his last Goth on field which I have carefully placed 40 damage, and he takes a long time to think, but at this point there is no way out for him and he shakes my hand and flips his prizes over to reveal that he has two Shelmets, a Gothita and a Catcher prized. He had burned his last Catcher early on the Juniper and had burned the Dowsing to search out another Gothita early on, meaning he no longer had the Catchers to try to spread damage on the field. At any rate he isn’t able to use Accelgor to hit Keldeo for 110 as his Shelmets are prized, meaning that he can’t readily chain Accelgors and with both my Keldeos on field early, he doesn’t have the luxury of simply spamming Deck and Cover until he kills an EX and takes prizes. It seems that the game was decided a dozen turns ago when I laid my second Keldeo on the field.

I’ve lucksacked my way into becoming the National Champion, so I can’t say I feel particularly proud of myself. I’m still happy about winning though, I mean in any case it’s like I’ve won the lottery big time.

I feel bad for Jeremy whose loss was simply because his deck shat out on him in Game 2 and also because I drew god off the 4-card N in Game 1 but as everyone reassures me that a win is a win. I put it down to the lucksacking format we have now.

Still, I collect my prizes and call my mum about the good news, have a good dinner with everyone, and go home and sleep since I basically clocked about 7 hours of sleep between both days of Nationals.

Analysis

Now that we’re done with my emotional rollercoaster, let’s talk about what I think about every deck that I feel is in the metagame right now.

Plasma or Thundurus/Deoxys/Kyurem

Plasma is the deck to beat. It’s fast, consistent, and has the staying power to go late game because its main attacker, Kyurem, is only worth one prize while perfectly capable of oneshotting EXs one after the other with the help of Hypnotoxic Laser and 3 Deoxys on bench.

It packs recovery and energy acceleration in Thundurus, and yet another energy acceleration source in Colress Machine. It’s everything Landorus/Mewtwo/Tornadus/Garbodor/Friends wanted to be and more.

The only reason why you would not play this is if you don’t have the cards or you have access to something better. Plasma has 50/50 or better matchups across the board due to its pure speed save for Blastoise and Gothitelle lock which are slightly worse at I would say 45/55 or 40/60. Gothitelle can be teched for, but Blastoise basically demands that you run hot and flatten it before it powers straight through you. Definitely the deck of choice for most of us but alas my cardpool is incredibly tiny.

Black Kyurem Blastoise or BKB (DOTA references >w<)

I remember way back at Cities, Jake was telling me that the Japanese actually know that the BDIF is Blastoise, but the problem is very few of them have the Beaches to actually play it, and the reason that Thundurus/Deoxys keeps winning tournaments is due to their sheer availability compared to outside Japan.

Both Thundurus and Deoxys cost about 1200 yen apiece in Japan, meaning that you would only have to shell out about about 180 SGD to get all the Pokemon you need for Plasma including Kyurems.

By contrast, Japanese Beaches cost about 200-300 SGD apiece due to TPC botching the availability and making it much rarer than it should be. The problem is the most optimal version of Blastoise demands 3 Beaches, so not many people even outside of Japan have the ability to play this deck.

Blastoise is a monster whose only weakness is its own inconsistency and getting N’d to obsolescence, and thrives on setting up and using Black Ballista to eviscerate 3 EXs for game.

It’s got 50/50 or better across the board, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. If you have access to three Beaches, this is definitely the deck to play. Unfortunately, I don’t have a single Beach, let alone three.

Gothitelle/Accelgor/Dusknoir/Mew or GothLock

The comeback deck to end all comeback decks, GothLock can easily come back even if it’s down 5 prizes once it sets up. Like Blastoise, it races against itself, but it tests the skill of the player in knowing their deck inside out as well as how to achieve their setup. Decks have to set aside 2 or more slots to even have a chance at beating this monstrosity.

However, GothLock, more than any other deck, suffers from its own inconsistency: its main mechanism is so unbelievably big and clunky that having just one or two pieces prized can lead to inevitable defeat as my games against it have shown. Not even Beach can patch its consistency in that sense as it does for Blastoise.

This is a strictly play-only-if-you-have-Beach deck, but the main reason you would want to choose this is against an unprepared metagame and also if you enjoy intricate setups and mathematics as opposed to “Catcher EX Black Ballista, repeat 2 more times”. Even against a prepared meta (which Singapore obviously is) the deck can crank out 50/50 or better if it doesn’t fold on itself. The Blastoise matchup is a complete crapshoot that is entirely reliant on who gets the Stage 2 first, so it is actually Blastoise’s greatest enemy.

Cobalion/Landorus and friends

I talk about this as I expected it to show up at Nationals but none of them made Top Cut.

It plays with a huge amount of Max Potions (3 upwards) and is about even against Darkrai and Plasma with ordinary lists on both ends, but completely folds to Blastoise and most builds are so Trainer-reliant for swapping attackers that GothLock can just Deck and Cover all day until they lose. Even with Garbodor or two Keldeos to support, the reliance on tools (generally Float Stone) pretty much kills once GothLock gets their Scrapper.

This is a deck that requires a very specific metagame to win, and as such it’s not recommended. I’ve tried different variations but haven’t gotten any to do particularly well even against Plasma, let alone GothLock, the Beach-deck I know will be in season, which is why I did not consider this deck for Nationals.

Klingklang

Klingklang is actually a highly underrated choice. It doesn’t neccessarily need Beach as unlike its Stage 2 cousins a PlasmaKlang on any turn in the game can seriously throw a big wrench into the plans of any deck, if not create an autoloss condition outright.

It’s got Cobalion EX to annoy Plasma endlessly with repeated Righteous Edges, and best of all it slaps Kyurem for weakness. Against Darkrai a tight control over your bench can severely neuter Absol and PlasmaKlang prevents the deck’s main attacker from mauling you. Against Blastoise a PlasmaKlang can completely halt Blastoise’s assault and force them to scramble for a way to eliminate PlasmaKlang while you rain damage on their board. This isn’t even accounting for the mad techs you can fit in by taking a risk and including Special Energy, and Durant DRX can come in under Plasma Steel’s protection and repeatedly recycle a single card for you.

The only problem is that it doesn’t have a real way to fend off GothLock beyond playing enough Blends for Keldeo and hoping you draw them, but this severely limits the tech options available to you as space is very tight for all the Stage 2s.

Still, it is very much a strong contender in a Gothitelle-free metagame. It did not do well in Japan because the first-to-get-#-wins-enters-Top-Cut format there heavily favours Plasma and Blastoise who win their matches very quickly, but in our world of Swiss rounds, Klingklang is a very solid deck. Props to Joey for finding a great new way to play it.

The reason why I didn’t choose Klingklang was a distinct lack of Shift Gear-Klang and also a lack of actually playing the deck. Sorry, Klingklang! I won’t simply pass you up next time.

ZekEels

An old dead deck, ZekEels is making the rounds on the internet simply because of its ability to force the six prize game with Zekrom BLW. Bolt Strike backed by a Laser allows Zekrom to mash Plasma Kyurem, and Kyurem doesn’t have the required energy acceleration engine to match Zekrom and Dynamotor. Against the other decks, it exchanges Zekroms and Bouffalants against the EX Pokemon fairly evenly. It’s even got the power to OHKO EX Pokemon from a clutch Zekrom EX backed by a Hypnotoxic Laser, and the fears of Tynamos being destroyed left and right by snipe are mitigated with Mr Mime around.

While a deck to look out for, I do not feel that the deck is strong against Blastoise, whom can simply power up a four-energy Keldeo and go all day every day, as well as Darkrai, the greatest enemy of all Eels. GothLock also gives the deck a hard time if it doesn’t play two Keldeo down onto an already clogged bench, and even then requiring two Dynamotors to retreat makes the double Keldeo laughably easy to thwart since each Eel only has 90 HP. Having a Keldeo doing 50 damage isn’t very appealing either. These four iffy matchups deter me from playing the deck despite the even to good matchup against Plasma.

Rayquaza/Eels

RayEels is in a more precarious position than ever before, stuck between getting flattened by Landorus or flattened by Kyurem/Thundurus. In a format where even Emolga is (easily) donkable, RayEels doesn’t seem like it would do well. To top things off, both Kyurem and Absol even have the ability to plow through Rayquazas all game. While RayEels is unstoppable once it sets up, the sheer damage output of the opposition is just too much for it to ever achieve an optimal board setup. The version that won Australia Nationals ran Tropical Beach which I believe was the key to its success, due to it shutting off Virbank while providing marginal benefit to the faster decks as opposed to Skyarrow which turned Thundurus and Sableye into highly mobile benchsitters as well as cutting Deoxys’ and Keldeo’s retreat costs by one which is highly appreciated. However having to play Beach in RayEels turns it into a nigh-inaccessible Beach deck.

I only mention this deck because it won Australia Nationals, which was also flooded with Blastoise compared to most other areas. Blastoise is pretty much this deck’s best matchup in the format now simply because RayEels needs time to set up and also exchanges very favourably versus Black Kyurem EX while Blastoise’s attackers have a hard time returning the KO.

Darkrai/Absol/Sableye or Duck Rice 😛

Look at that delectable plate of duck rice yumyum

TPC weren’t kidding when they said they were going to give a lot of support to Dark-types with the Dark Explorers set. Dark Claw and Dark Patch have given Darkrai the versatility and power it needs to survive every single format it exists in and still come up on top. This format, Darkrai gets some new toys to play with, and the format even shifts considerably in Darkrai’s favour with the advent of even more 170HP EXs and a new friend to help burst them down in the form of Absol. Couple this with the decline of Landorus due to the terror that is Plasma Kyurem and Darkrai is looking stronger than ever before.

However, the same problems still bog Darkrai: Trainer Lock makes Darkrai choke hard due to its heavily Trainer-based engine, Blastoise is still Black Ballista-ing hard (and even more efficiently than ever before), Landorus EX is replaced by the far more threatening Kyurem and there’s even a Plasma Landorus to OHKO Darkrai even faster. Darkrai literally cannot afford to get stalled for long or it loses against all its matchups. It’s like a poor man’s Blastoise, and you pay for what you get. In exchange for the raw power to blow through EXs left and right, you get the unique ability to recycle Trainers and the unique ability to set up huge 4-prize KOs, letting you maximise your Ns while forcing your opponents to keep taking prizes so you can N them flat later on. You also get the ability to play slightly more techs as the core functions of the deck are achieved with significantly less cards than the other big decks in the format, and that lets you tech for widely different metagames. It’s a powerful deck that needs skill to play as well as the luck to get going, but when it does it boasts a strong 50/50 against Plasma, and with the right techs it can manage a 50/50 against the rest of the field as well. Alas, the Blastoise matchup is unsalvageable unless you run hotter than the sun and outspeed it.

This was my deck of choice simply because it was the cheapest alternative. Darkrais are very close to being a dime a dozen, and Absols cap at about 10 apiece even if you’re being ripped off. It also has the tools to beat everything but Blastoise reliably, and Blastoise is almost dead in the current Singapore metagame, since everyone with Beaches appears to be planning to play GothLock. Everyone except Belp.

My List

I’m sure most of you want to find out about my list. Chances are I will not be playing the exact list again, so let me just lay it down for analysis.

This is my final list:

Pokemon

3 Darkrai

2 Sableye

2 Keldeo

2 Absol

1 Mr Mime

10 Pokemon

Supporters

4 Juniper

4 N

1 Colress

1 Skyla

2 Random Receiver

12 Supporter outs

Trainers

4 Dark Patch

4 Pokemon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Energy Switch

3 Ultra Ball

3 Dark Claw

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Dowsing Machine

1 Max Potion

1 Potion

1 Energy Search

27 Trainers

Stadiums

1 Virbank City Gym

Energy

10 Darkness Energy

And this was what I started with the night before the tournament:

Pokemon

3 Darkrai

2 Sableye

1 Keldeo

2 Absol

8 Pokemon

Supporters

4 Juniper

4 N

1 Colress

1 Bianca

2 Random Receiver

12 Supporter outs

Trainers

4 Dark Patch

4 Pokemon Catcher

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Energy Switch

3 Ultra Ball

3 Dark Claw

2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Dowsing Machine

2 Potion

1 Energy Search>

26 Trainers

Stadiums

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy

10 Darkness Energy

Free Spaces – 1

Before I begin I would just like to give a shout out to my good friend Soong Teck, who is now in Australia taking names and kicking ass in the scene, for his guidance ever since I migrated from the Pokemon VGC that has had a very huge influence on how I see lists. It’s gotten to the point where I can predict what counts of stuff he wants to put into his deck. Of course, copying another player’s list can only go so far, and I hope my analysis can help you decide what you want for your own Darkrai.

Most of the Pokemon are fairly standard, such as 3 Darkrai and 2 Absol. Some might opt to play more Absol to shore up the matchups like Plasma, Blastoise and perhaps Klingklang, while some might play less as they find it very situational. I can safely say 2 is the optimal number as you definitely need more than one in the matchups that require it like Plasma and Blastoise, but you don’t want to see it at all where it is bad such as GothLock or Landorus and friends.

Sableye is fixed at 2 because you don’t need to be Junk Hunting beyond the first few turns and the very last few. There were quite a lot of games that I simply didn’t use Sableye other than as a meatshield to force a 7-prize game. You have to be careful with your Sableye as playing Absol creates a situation where they only KO a Sableye and an Absol and get to coast to the finish by KOing 2 Darkrai instead of being forced to go for 7 prizes.

As I mentioned very early on in my report, getting annoyed by Mr Mime in the evening caused me to heavily consider slotting it in, and I did, expecting a field of Plasma, Darkrai and Landorus generally. The prevention of the 30 snipe seriously limits the damage output of these guys and will put me ahead in mirrors which I expect to meet the most (and I turn out to be right).

I am forced to put in the second Keldeo knowing that most of the Beach-possessing players are quite fixated on Gothitelle and I refuse to take the autoloss to GothLock since I actually need to Top 2 and I definitely will be seeing at least a GothLock in cut.

The supporter lines are very standard, heavy draw as that’s exactly what Darkrai needs. Last season the premier draw Supporters were Juniper and Professor Oak’s New Theory, which was a shuffle draw for 6, which is what N does early game. 4 of each coupled with 2 Random Receiver ensures you get strong early game draw and keep it until the game progresses late and you still have the option of trying to shut down your opponent with N or YOLO diving for resources with Juniper.

Colress is an incredible mid-game supporter, where benches easily fill up on both sides allowing you to draw for 10, but what we need the most is early draw, and as such we play only 1 Colress. The same goes for Skyla, you only really need her when you need to fish for the missing part of a puzzle, so ideally you don’t want to hit her off a Random Receiver.

2 Random Receiver is a nice balance between clogging up the deck and not having one to Junk Hunt in an emergency.

4 each of Dark Patch, Laser and Catcher are bog standard for every Darkrai deck unless they intend to play incredibly tightly, but with Catcher and Laser being such clutch cards you don’t want the risk of not having them when you need them due to being prized or being belligerent at the bottom of the deck.

3 Energy Switch is practically a requirement for today’s Darkrai decks as the mobility lets you retreat your Keldeo without wasting an attachment and also enabling a T2 Night Spear with the Darkrai trapped on the bench. It is also incredible in conjunction with Max Potion as you do a smaller scale version of Dark Trance/Shift Gear to heal a Pokemon while preserving a few energy on board.

Ultra Ball I have cut to 3 in order to fit more techs; unlike Catcher and Laser you don’t need that many, playing 4 just means you want to start with them in your opening hand as much as possible, and you do have the space to fit it in from the skeleton.

3 Dark Claw is a requirement today as many people are playing Tool Scrapper to ruin your perfect Night Spear/Mind Jack math, but also because it makes it easy for you to get a Dark Claw out early and maximise your mileage especially on Night Spears. You’re missing out if you don’t play at least 3 Tools in Darkrai, even if you don’t make them all Dark Claw. The third Claw is always welcome though.

At this point I reach the techs section.

2 Enhanced Hammer is a good balance between beating Plasma and not having too many shitty dead cards in your other matchups, but I feel that I just need 1 clutch Enhanced Hammer that I can Junk Hunt for. In hindsight, I don’t even really need Enhanced to beat Plasma, it just slows them down slightly to make their damage trajectory that much more predictable. In exchange I fit in a Tool Scrapper, one of the most gamechanging techs in the game. Knocking off Float Stones, Eviolites and opposing Dark Claws will make matchups like Garbodor, Landorus, Plasma and of course the mirror much smoother.

Early on in deckbuilding I remove a Virbank as I feel that since almost all the non-Stage 2 decks play Laser, I can count on my opponents to play down Virbank for me, and you don’t want it against GothLock anyway. The only matchup where you have to play it down repeatedly against is Blastoise, which isn’t going to be all that common in my opinion, and a Beachless Blastoise will definitely fold under its own weight.

I originally played two Potions at Soong Teck’s suggestion way back at Cities to beat out Landorus as well as being annoying in the mirror to cut snipe damage and reduce the damage on my Darkrai neccessitating the Laser for KO. However Max Potion is pretty important for those times when your opponent can easily 2HKO as well as for complete prize denial, so I find myself having to include it. In exchange I give up a Potion. I pretty much hope against hope they come in handy, and they very much do. Having 1 of both is really good, though I wonder how much mileage 2 Potions would have given me. Still, having a way to clear my energyless Darkrai of all the damage is very reassuring.

10 Darkness Energy is pretty standard, some swear by 11, and techier lists that have to split energy go down to 8 or 9, but 10 is a fairly safe number at any rate and lets me fit in another one-of.

Final Thoughts

I’ve read a lot of reports before and I’ve always felt pretty tilted when the writer basically hits all his good matchups all the way up and draws well to win, but it really feels good to be on the other side.

I didn’t spend all my time reading reports to rage though, and I noticed an interesting trend across reports, especially those that ran standard metagame decks. Often, the winning lists aren’t the one that have maximum consistency but the ones that have somehow managed to fit in the tools they need to deal with every matchup. This culminates in my new winning formula of “Tech big and run hot or go home”. Maximum consistency will only get you so far, but when it comes down to the crunch, the techs will put you ahead. With so many differing lists out on the net and so many people telling you what to fit, you basically have to try it out and see what you actually like. Some decklists have very particular engines that tailor to the user themselves, so be wary when you copy others.

While the state of the game now is extremely luck-based, I feel that the luck factor is severely compounded because the internet can supply anyone with lists and the knowledge they need to play decently, so often the only separating factor is luck. However, I do not think player skill counts for nothing, and in that regard I have a long way to go especially in terms of deckbuilding. I don’t find a problem with making plays, but as my Top 2 match has shown there’s always something that can be improved and finetuning my thought processes for new situations, and of course like in my Top 4 match, I need to develop the mental stamina to hunker down and play for even more extended periods of time. I hope to hone my skills and show the world what Singapore is made of at Worlds. Till then, peace out.

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Image  —  Posted: July 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

2012-2013 Season Wrap up

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Article

As I come to the end of my season, the introspective really comes hard and heavy. Here are a few learning points from the year.

Tunnel Vision
As the build up towards Nationals continued, I did quite a bit of research. The results were stark. TDK variants that went heavy counts of Kyurem with preferably a tech Absol were the best around. Furthermore, the crux of the game was using Blizzard Burn to KO EXes and occasionally Spiral Force for the mirror. Thus the last time I edited my list, I went all in, maxing out counts of Kyurem and running high counts of Switch.

Not only did I assume I would almost always get a T1 Kyurem(mainly because I could while in play test), I believed that I could freely rotate Kyurem like my opponents didn’t have Catcher.(Something that never happened even during playtesting) When it came to Nationals, I made plays that were dubious and YOLO in nature. I had trouble believing I didn’t start Kyurem, that I was missing energy attachments, that even more preposterously – my Kyurem were getting knocked out! The nerve of my opponents to run well and play better than me!

This anecdote is to show one thing. It is easy for humans to become dogmatic and lose sight of the greater picture. I became insanely focused on having my cake and eating it too: a deck that could consistently blizzard burn and spiral force. Of course if that really happened everyday, I must have stacked like a street magician. Preoccupation with the panacea is a trap that humans fall into: Perpetual motion, cold fusion, MLMs.

Introversion
The community has only increased in size over the course of these two years. Friends have been known and lost. Inadvertently, I have felt a growing sense of alienation. This led to an unwillingness to play at leagues, to share ideas and to play with others.
Yet, I know I was wrong in my feelings. The community is still tight knit as ever, even if new players form their new enclaves. I only have to look at my own gym or those with a good foundation of the veteran players. Even the word veteran is misleading, as some of the gym leaders are quite new in their own right.
On the flip side, this season I’ve had the opportunity to know a lot more international players. Partly due to my blog but largely due to my participation in online play testing on Playtcg. Thank you Jeremy, you were the one who inspired me to take that first step when I first saw you thriving in the online environment. Big shoutout to Michael Martindale for organizing the PPTCG series!

Hype
This season provided a wealth of international exchanges, especially due to the previously unmined data that were Japanese tournament results. For the first time in recent history, people could be privy to what was going to be the new metagame. The prevalence of sites like 6P and The Deck Out provided a bandwagon for people to hop onto. Arguably this has been going on for the previous season too, but we can only really begin to see how hype can sweep the playing community into a frenzy.
Going into the next season, the mastering of hype – when to believe it and when not to, will be important.

It was a tumultuous month leading to Nationals. I had been experimenting with various Plasma and Darkrai builds.

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10 questions with Jit Min

Posted: June 20, 2013 in Interview
Tags:

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A Singaporean player who requires no introduction Lim Jit Min or Jit is a veteran among veterans. He has consistently went to World’s since 2005 and is considered one of the best in Singapore. He takes a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

 

You can be considered a veteran of the game. How did you get into the game?

I started in primary school when my friends bought their cards and I just got hooked ever since.

 

What do your friends and relatives think of your passion for the game?

I think they find it childish at times, but also pretty awesome that someone can be so passionate for something.

 

Other than the Pokemon TCG what are you busy with in your everyday life?

Pokemon is really just a small part of my life. I do a lot of other things like school, work, dance and obviously partying!

 

You are probably most famous around the world as a master of rogue decks. What drives you as a deckbuilder to create such decks; what is your philosophy?

 

I just enjoy being different. I find no meaning in winning with an archetype thus I always try to find new ways to come up with a good deck. Even though I love rogues, I wouldn’t play it unless its good. Theres a difference between rogue and trash.

 

You have your own Pokemon website, Party of Six with fellow Singaporean players. How did you come up with the inspiration to create it and what are your ambitions for the Party of Six?

 

It was during World’s 2012 and we saw how the Top Cut was giving back to the community and we decided we wanted to do so too and from there we brainstormed. We are in the midst of a project that will take your minds away. Just wait and see. I hope to change the way people see pokemon into a cool platform and lifestyle that you can meet friends from around the world and challenge yourself strategically.

 

To scoop or not to scoop, what is your opinion of the prevelance of scooping to friends for CP and such?

 

I am definitely for it. I think that there is a lot more to just the so called spirit of the game. There is also team bonding and helping your friends to get there.

 

As a multiple Worlds participant you are certainly the most experienced and qualified Singaporean to dish out advice. So do you have anything to say to those who are on their way or have already earned their invite to Vancouver this year?

 

I think that the invites this year standards are really low and easy to get.

I hope players do not easily get complacent if they do get the invite and put in a lot more effort to polish themselves and do Singapore proud 🙂 Also to fully enjoy the experience, going to worlds is also more than just competing. Its about meeting people and making awesome friends from around the world!

 

Are there any players whom you think have contributed to your growth as a player?

 

I would like to thank Clifton for always testing using the archetypes against my rogues so I can keep refining them. Matthew Khoo from Canada who is one of my closest testing buddies always inspiring me. Also the community of friends who makes the game enjoyable. Too many to name!

 

What are your thoughts on the current format? Any favourite formats/decks that you would like to share with our readers?

 

I think the current format decks are really easy to play and good. So it will be difficult to find an edge over mirrors and a deck that can match the archetypes pace.

 

 

Juniper, Skyla, Bianca or Elesa?
I think they are all the same. All cards can be good depending on how you use them.
Ed: Looks like Jit has no eyes for the ladies of Pokemon.

After a long wait, the official PTCG blog in Japan has finally revealed one of the winning lists for Battle Carnivals. Those going to Worlds might very well want to see how one of their fellow competitors from Japan builds his decks!

B-League’s Kakinoki Junichi

 

3 Genesect EX
4 Virizon EX
4 Drifloon (Megalo-Cannon)
2 Drifblim (DE)
2 Drifblim (Megalo-Cannon)
1 Mr.Mime (PLF)

Pokemon: 16

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Skyla
2 Colress
1 Shadow Triad
3 Ultra Ball
3 Pokemon Catcher
2 Energy Switch
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Colress Machine
1 G-Booster
1 Tropical Beach
2 Skyarrow Bridge

Trainers: 31

10 Grass
3 Plasma

Energy: 13

Genesect/Virizon

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Article
Tags: ,

If you are a reader of my blog, yes all five of you raise your hands, you will know Flip or Die does not usually release decklists unless they are on public domain already. But today is a special occasion, like when you drink too much and regret it in the morning.

So here I am, with a deck list I’m going to post so that people can juxtapose it with an existing one. I’m not out for blood because the flaws in the deck are so obvious even an amateur deckbuilder like me can spot them.

Now I know the intentions for the “bad” list is for the better players to keep their cards closer to their chest, in a manner of speaking. Furthermore it is not said anywhere that it is a “good” or even “decent” list. The exact word used is “concept”. Still, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So I too, took a look around online and remixed a list from the ones I saw. It has 4 Lasers and Virbank to closely resemble the core concept of the Carnival winning list.

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From: http://pcgn.pokemon-card.com/blog/2013/05/000325.html

B-League (Master-Seniors)

1st place: Genesect EX/Virizon EX/Drifblim BCR/Drifblim Megalo-Cannon /Mr. Mime

2nd place: Blastoise/Keldeo EX/Black Kyurem EX/Victini

3rd place: Darkrai/Absol ps/Sableye

4th place: Gothitelle/Accelgor/Musharna/Dusknoir

A-League (Juniors)

1st place: Trubbish/Sigilyph/Sawk/Masquerain

 

2nd place: Team Plasma with Cobalion and Keldeo EX

3rd place: Team Plasma

4th place: Team Plasma with Absol Ps and Keldeo EX

Spoilers for the new cards in the first place decks are as follows, credits to Pokebeach.com

Sawk – Fighting – HP90
Basic Pokemon

[C] Square Kick: 10+ damage. If the Defending Pokemon is a Team Plasma Pokemon, this attack does 40 more damage.
[F][C][C] Low Kick: 60 damage.

Weakness: Psychic (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 1

Drifblim – Psychic – HP100
Stage 1 – Evolves from Drifloon

Ability: Floaty Balloon
Each of this Pokemon’s attacks require one less [C] Energy for each Team Plasma Pokemon your opponent has in play.

[C][C][C] Derail: 70 damage. Discard 1 Energy card attached to the Defending Pokemon.

Weakness: Darkness (x2)
Resistance: none
Retreat: 0

Sigilyph – Psychic – HP90
Basic Pokemon

Ability: Item Box
This Pokemon can have up to 4 Pokemon Tools attached to it. (If this Ability is negated, discard Pokemon Tools until there’s one left.)

[P][C][C] Cutting Wind: 70 damage.

Weakness: Lightning (x2)
Resistance: Fighting (-20)
Retreat: 1

Masquerain – Grass – HP80
Stage 1 (Team Plasma) – Evolves from Surskit

Ability: Reversing Tool
Any number of times during your turn (before your attack), you may return a Pokemon Tool card attached to one of your Pokemon to your hand.
[C][C][C] Bug Bite: 60 damage.

Weakness: Fire (x2)
Resistance: none

 

Retreat: 1