Hey everybody! I’m starting to write this article as I wait for my return flight to board, and I’m pretty sad that Worlds is already over. Even with all of the logistical problems, Worlds 2016 was incredibly fun. I had a great time reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.
The main event itself was filled with surprises, from Jesper Eriksen’s Yanmega/Vespiquen that won Seniors to the Mega Audino Deck that Shintaro Ito used to blow out Cody Walinski’s Talonflame/Greninja in the Masters Finals. The development of the Masters Division metagame was incredibly interesting for this year’s World Championship. After seeing a lot of success on the first day, Greninja replaced Trevenant as the go-to Night March counter. Waterbox was the other unexpectedly popular play as many players discounted it due to the inclusion of Vespiquen in some Night March decks as well as Pokémon Ranger’s release with Steam Siege.
The XY-STS format was singlehandedly defined by Night March, just as the two formats before it were as well. However, none of the top 4 players in Masters piloted a Night March deck on either day of competition. For this article, I’m going to take a look at the four decks that they instead used to counter Night March and briefly discuss how they might be playable during the next competitive season. In addition, I’ll be including a (not so) short report from my own World Championships experience. I chose to play a very similar Greninja list to Cody Walinski’s and my experience with crafting and playing the deck will be insightful as well. Let’s dive right in.
Before San Fran: Generally Lost
This year was one of the worst years for me as far as my testing regimen leading up to the World Championships. Between my move, starting a new job, and buying a car, I was incredibly busy for the months of July and August. When I did find time to test, Ninja Boy was not working on PTCGO so I wasn’t able to try out some of the crazy ideas I had like my Vileplume Toolbox. I also couldn’t properly test Waterbox, as I believed that Ninja Boy was going to revolutionize the deck by giving you late-game options to introduce a surprise attacker once your Energy Switch and Max Elixir were mostly used up. As such, I instead theory-crafted some ideas with Christopher with the full intention of spending at least 10 hours testing with my old group from Michigan once I got to Worlds.
During this time, we came up with two new and interesting decks/lists that could counter the Night March and Trevenant we expected to see a lot of. The first was a variant of the Zoroark deck we were hearing a lot of hype for. Our list included 2 copies of Red Card, as well as 2 copies of Delinquent to hope to disrupt the opponent and give us a chance to come back in otherwise unwinnable games. With the help of Captivating Poké Puff (which you already played to pump up Zoroark’s damage output), you could even leave your opponent with a 0-card hand.
Speaking of Poké Puff, I quickly realized in my limited testing that the card impacts the format immensely. It completely changes the Night March matchup for many decks. Before Poké Puff, you would want to Sky Return against a Joltik (without a Fury Belt) in almost every situation. Now, you need to use Parallel City to get rid of your Shaymin or they remain almost as vulnerable as if they were still on the board. I knew I wanted to play a deck that either abused Poké Puff or was relatively immune to it.
The second deck that we were thinking of definitely fell into the latter of those two camps, that being Greninja/Talonflame. This idea was far from revolutionary, but few people seemed to be talking about it. Greninja was known to be an inconsistent deck so the addition of Talonflame was very appealing. With only 3 Froakie, you could expect to start Talonflame around 66% of the time, giving you a huge boost in your consistency. Talonflame also gave you the chance to optionally mulligan when you had one in your starting hand but would have to Sycamore away 2 Frogadier to stay in the game or any number of other bad hands.
Greninja was the top deck that I wanted to test as of Wednesday before Worlds. As long as it set up, it should be able to beat Night March in most games. With the addition of Talonflame, you could find your Rough Seas (and all of your Greninja pieces) even under Item lock so anyone playing Trevenant to counter Night March should be easy to beat in theory. And Zoroark/other Dark decks that saw play to counter the expected Trevenant were as close to an autowin as it gets due to their relatively low damage output and low HP. All we had to do was confirm these thoughts and perfect a list.
On Wednesday night after sightseeing during the day, Christopher and I played our first serious games of the weekend. I knew how the Night March vs Greninja matchup went from our pre-Origins testing but wanted to see how Talonflame would impact the Trevenant matchup before seriously considering Greninja. The new Greninja list won 2-0 but I didn’t feel confident in the deck’s ability to draw well under Item lock nor did I think it could set up consistently. I was so disillusioned with the deck that I actually took it apart Thursday morning after I woke up at 6 AM due to my Eastern Time Zone sleep schedule.
Thursday: A Plan Comes Together
I got to play a few games with the Zoroark list on Thursday before the rest of my testing group woke up and was similarly upset with its ability to set up consistently so I started looking for a new deck. Darkrai/Giratina was a deck that I really enjoyed after playing it several times at League Challenges in the XY-FCO format so we created a new list for it. The main point of building the deck at all was to see if it could beat Night March with the inclusion of Ranger. Surprisingly, it could, as Chaos Wheel still forced the Night March player to find DCE, Joltik and/or Mew, and Pokémon Ranger in the same turn. When combined with Parallel City and N, comeback wins were very possible and there was also the threat of Latios donks. Unfortunately, the Trevenant version with heavy Team Flare Grunt and Crushing Hammer was very hard to beat, and we didn’t include Garbodor so Greninja was basically unbeatable. We tabled the idea after about a few hours.
We were out of ideas so I went back to testing Greninja as a last-ditch effort. As you might expect, it beat the three decks I wanted to, but the setup was still fairly inconsistent. I had no better deck to play, and figured that best-of-three match play would mitigate the bad hands I was sure to draw. I knew I would have to quickly scoop games where my setup was bad, and my in-game play would have to be nearly perfect and very quick to win my matches within 50 minutes.
. . .
We actually ended up making almost no changes to the initial list that Christopher sent to me a week and a half before the event. The quickest one was to drop the Energy Retrieval for a 2nd copy of Fisherman which put the Item lock matchups significantly into our favor.
Late Thursday night, we also dropped the Lysandre for a Pokémon Ranger, in fear of the Greninja mirror. If neither player runs a copy, the game is almost certainly going to tie due to both players using Shadow Stitching turn after turn, healing with Rough Seas, and retreating to an undamaged Greninja. It’s a perfect loop when done correctly. If both players run a copy, whoever gets the first Water Duplicates off almost always wins. Another key in that scenario is to find consecutive turns where you can use Fisherman and then Pokémon Ranger. As long as you get a few turns of that off to clear their board, you often just use Moonlight Slash for the rest of the game and your lead is usually insurmountable. And of course, if only one player runs a copy, they will almost always win the matchup in games where they successfully set up.
Here’s the list we settled on:
Pokémon – 18
3 Froakie BKP
4 Frogadier BKP
3 Greninja BKP
1 Greninja XY
3 Greninja BREAK
4 Talonflame STS
Trainers – 34
4 Professor Sycamore
1 Pokémon Ranger
4 VS Seeker
4 Dive Ball
3 Trainers’ Mail
3 Bursting Balloon
1 Rare Candy
1 Professor’s Letter
1 Sacred Ash
1 Startling Megaphone
4 Rough Seas
Energy – 8
The list is a bit out of the ordinary but bear with me. I’ll discuss the rest of the important concepts later when I talk about Cody’s 2nd place list. For now, the cards that probably stand out to you (and the ones that aren’t in Cody’s deck) are the Skyla, Wally, and Rare Candy, as well as the absence of any Super Rod, Battle Compressor, or Level/Ultra Ball.
Skyla, Wally, and Rare Candy are all cards that allow us to make full use of Talonflame. Skyla is a very interesting card to grab off of an Aero Blitz as it lets you play reactively to both your opponent’s turn and your own topdeck. This is eerily similar to how the Eject Button and Volt Switch mechanics helped Wolfe Glick win the VGC World Championship this year. You could use Talonflame to grab a Dive Ball to get Frogadier but it doesn’t limit you to that option in case you topdeck one instead. Similarly, you could grab Professor’s Letter, but your odds to topdeck either that/Water or a Frogadier/Dive Ball are so high. Grabbing Skyla means you can conserve your resources instead and only use the cards you actually need. It also lets you grab a Rare Candy (if your opponent doesn’t knock out your 2nd Froakie) or the correct Supporter for the coming turn, depending on how much pressure they’re exerting. Skyla gives you so much more flexibility with your early turns.
Wally is a huge card when you only can get 1 Froakie down on your turn, as it gives you an option to still use Water Duplicates on T2 if your opponent uses Lysandre to knock your Froakie out. It is also a great option to find Evolution cards late in the game when your Dive Ball have all been used. Rare Candy is useful in the opposite scenario of Wally, that being when you get down 2 Froakie on T1 but don’t lose either. You can use Rare Candy to get a Greninja out but leave the last Frogadier on your Bench in anticipation of a late-game Sacred Ash to get a 5th Greninja out with ease. I often find myself grabbing Rare Candy with a mid-game Aero Blitz if my Talonflame lasts that long and it really can help turn games around.
Super Rod was one card we should have considered, especially since you end up having to shuffle in 1-2 Talonflame when you use Sacred Ash in most situations. However, those situations were usually really early in the game, and if you had to waste your Sacred Ash early, it was usually not that impactful anyways. Battle Compressor was another card we tested with the intention to discard unnecessary Talonflame or to grab useful Supporters, but we found that Trainers’ Mail provided more consistency for the deck overall. More Pokémon search cards would have been helpful at times, but we didn’t have anything we wanted to cut and Talonflame often mitigated that necessity.
As we usually do, our entire crew of six Michigan natives played the same list for Day 1. I remember being surprisingly calm on Friday morning, even though I was putting a ton of pressure on myself during the weeks leading up to the event. I grinded through Day 1 last year and made top 32 in the main event, so I really wanted to at least repeat that performance this year. Even though I knew I was playing an inconsistent deck, it had the raw power and the matchups to beat almost anything so I was feeling confident.
Here’s how the day played out:
Worlds 2016 // Day 1 // 476 Masters
R1: Genesect-EX/Bronzong/Max Elixir (2-0)
R2: Mew/Lugia-EX/Jolteon-EX/Glaceon-EX (2-0)
R3: Zoroark/Yveltal-EX (2-0)
R4: Water Toolbox (2-1)
R5: Zoroark/Yveltal-EX (2-0)
R6: Sam Hough w/ Vileplume/Glaceon-EX/Jolteon-EX/Yveltal-EX (2-1)
Final: 6-0 (12-2)
Never have I ever had such a hot streak in my Pokémon career. The only thing that compares was my 8-0 Swiss run at Ohio States 2013 but those were single games and certainly didn’t feel as good as this did. I kept track of my starting Pokémon and the ending results of my games for this day. I started with a Talonflame 11 of 14 games, losing only once when I opened with my preferred starter. My average number of Frogadier prized was also around 0.75 per game. I did not keep track of this specifically, but there were so many games where I had 0 prized and so few where 2+ were prized that I would ballpark the estimate around there.
My games were mostly straightforward. Metal in the first round was exactly the confidence boost I needed to start the day, as the matchup is favorable provided I can make it through the first 2-3 turns. As long as they don’t get a T1 attack with Max Elixir, I feel great about my chances to win. My opponent actually missed the T1 attachment in both games, and even with AZ and Hex Maniac, I easily won. My Round 2 opponent had an interesting deck but with low damage output and no real way to slow me down, I quickly took this set as well. Round 3 was where I played my first Japanese opponent ever, and although his Dark deck was well equipped to beat Night March with 3 Enhanced Hammer and 2 Startling Megaphone, I had no problems here either.
Round 4 was the first round where I had a real chance to lose. I tested the Waterbox matchup a bit with Christopher, but after winning three games without dropping a single one, I quickly moved on in my testing. My opponent chose to include Aurorus-EX, a very difficult card to deal with as a Greninja player. With a Fighting Fury Belt, they are able to OHKO any Pokémon in your deck, and the ability to shut off Bubble can be incredibly important as well. Shadow Stitching is very useful to lock Aurorus in the Active spot after it attacks, since it can’t attack in consecutive turns. Even if they use Ninja Boy to switch to a new Pokémon, they still can’t attack. If they choose to retreat, they often won’t have enough Energy on the board to attack immediately and also use Aurorus a second time later in the game, often giving you the win.
He powered up an Aurorus in the first game but missed the Fighting Fury Belt after attaching two early in the game so I was able to quickly dispatch it. My opponent was forced to stall with Chilling Sigh on Articuno, but I flipped enough heads to keep my damage output up and win. I quickly scooped Game 2 after prizing a Frogadier or two and his Grenade Hammer became too powerful for me to keep up with. My opponent prized his Aurorus in Game 3, a very lucky break for me. Because of this, I ended up being able to stall for a turn with Bubble, giving me the lead I needed. This game went as well as I could have hoped for, and I moved on to 4-0.
Round 5 was very sad for my opponent, as he dead-drew in a matchup that was incredibly lopsided already. My last round of the day ended up being against Sam Hough, a player I had never met before but I was impressed by him and his deck after seeing him take down Dylan Bryan on stream. However, the addition of Talonflame made even Vespiquen/Vileplume an even to favorable matchup in our testing, and this Vileplume Toolbox deck had far less damage potential than that one. I also assumed it would be less consistent and have an even harder time recovering from bad discards off of Professor Sycamore.
My initial thoughts were mostly proven correct, as Sam had trouble consistently getting out Vileplume on turn 1 and also whiffed several key Energy attachments in the series. In the first game, he actually didn’t find the DCE he needed to attack for several turns, instead wasting his basic Water Energy on a Yveltal-EX to OHKO a Froakie. I ended up losing the first game after an N left me without any Energy cards and my Talonflame was already knocked out. Game 2 was much better. My Talonflame survived the early game and found me the Pokémon Ranger I needed to deal with his Glaceon-EX later in the game. At this point, I don’t believe Sam knew I played a copy and I was slightly upset I had to reveal this, but I was otherwise unable to deal enough damage to it before it swept my board.
The third game was very nerve-wracking as I missed the Talonflame start in what was possibly my only chance to move on to the second day of competition. To make matters worse, I was staring down a Jolteon with an Energy attached, knowing that a DCE would knock out my Active Froakie on the next turn. Luckily, Sam did not get the Vileplume out T1 so I got a chance to search out another Basic Pokémon and stay alive. I had to use N to find a Trainers’ Mail which got the Dive Ball I needed, but my other 2 Froakie were prized! Luck was not on my side thus far in the most important game of the tournament for me.
The rest of my hand, however, was nearly perfect, and I knew I had one shot to stay in the game. I used Bubble and hit the all-important heads to stay alive, especially as Sam showed me the DCE he could have otherwise used to win the game. From here, the game was relatively smooth sailing as I had the T2 Water Duplicates and one of the best setups I’ve ever had without using Talonflame. I did have to drop Rough Seas at an inopportune moment because his single copy of Parallel City stopped me from OHKO’ing a Jolteon with Greninja BKP. This almost let him come back with a Glaceon-EX later in the game, but the two-turn combo of Fisherman and Pokémon Ranger sealed up my Day 2 spot.
. . .
I was incredibly elated at this point, one of only four players to advance with a 6-0 record. I quickly celebrated with my friends, all of whom had actually been eliminated barring Sean Foisy (who was on the cusp of elimination at 4-2). However, I knew that the real test was yet to come, and Christopher and I left the main event area to test the deck some more. We wanted to see how Battle Compressor would help the deck after Enrique Avila was talking it up to me, as well as putting the Lysandre back in the deck and trying a copy or two of Level Ball to mitigate the bad starts that Christopher had on the day.
We often joke that Worlds and Nationals are “business trips” as we take the game incredibly seriously, and this only proves that “joke” to be true. I’m very lucky and grateful to have surrounded myself with a group of friends who are just as fierce of competitors as myself. We have a lot of fun, but we win as a team and lose as a team, and we all hate losing.
In the end, none of those prospective changes actually mattered at all as I only won two games of the 12 or so that I tested after moving on to Day 2. I only played against Water Toolbox and Night March, the matchups that I considered to be around 50/50 for Greninja. I saw a lot of each deck on Day 1 and knew they would be picked up by good players for the second day.
Sean Foisy ended up eliminating the previous World Champion, Jacob Van Wagner, to move on to Day 2 himself, so I at least had another teammate moving on with me. He was reluctant to make any changes to our Day 1 list and I trust his judgment more than almost anyone when it comes to tweaking a list. All of the changes I was considering meant we would have to cut Trainers’ Mail and he thought the consistency it added was too valuable. In hindsight, I agree, so I’m glad we didn’t change anything.
This article — “The Sound and the Froggy” – Alex’s Worlds 2016 Tournament Report, Meta Trends, and Top 4 Round-Up — was originally published on SixPrizes.
This post first appeared on Sixprizes.com - Pokemon Cards Explained By The Mas, please read the originial post: here