Multiple Paths to Victory at Nationals
05 July, 2013 in Play! Pokémon
With so many great decks in play at the 2013 National Championships, it's too early to tell which strategy will emerge victorious.
As Pokémon TCG players wrap up their first day here at the National Championships, it gives us a good opportunity to look at the top decks. The diversity of decks being played this year is unprecedented, with more viable decks in the mix than any time in memory. Take a look at which decks are finding the most success.
There are three decks that seem to be getting the most play in Indy. The first is the Team Plasma deck, which has many variations, but typically includes at least Thundurus-EX and Deoxys-EX. Additionally, a Kyurem (sometimes both regular and Pokémon-EX), Lugia-EX, and a number of other Team Plasma Pokémon could be added depending on the competition the player expects to face. Great Trainer cards such as Team Plasma Ball, Team Plasma Grunt, and Colress Machine have made these decks incredibly quick and powerful.
Another big deck is the duo of Keldeo-EX and Blastoise, and it's easy to see why. The power of Keldeo-EX is determined by how much Energy is attached to it, and Blastoise is a fire hose for getting Water Energy onto Keldeo-EX. It's not surprising to see Black Kyurem-EX in this deck, as well, another Pokémon whose Black Ballista does a ridiculous 200 damage and benefits from the heavy amounts of Water Energy already in the deck.
Fewer people are playing Darkrai-EX than last year, where it was the dominant deck throughout the season, including Nationals and Worlds. But it's still around, and it's still proving itself to be a powerful deck. Players we've interviewed say that the inability to one-hit knock out big Basic Pokémon with Darkrai-EX is a reason we've been seeing it less, but its freestyle play and easy versatility has kept a lot of players in the win column this year.
Dark Horse Challengers
Several decks have gotten the attention of the players, particularly for their ability to sneak wins against the top-tier decks. One of these is based on Garbodor, whose Garbotoxin Ability can nullify all the Abilities of other Pokémon in play. Obviously this can be very disruptive, especially against Blastoise decks that rely on the Deluge Ability to power up Keldeo-EX (and Keldeo-EX can't use its Rush In Ability, either). Garbodor is typically matched up with strong Pokémon that don't have Abilities to lose, such as Cobalion-EX, Landorus-EX, or even Mewtwo-EX.
Klinklang decks have also been popular in high-level tournaments, where a lot of Pokémon-EX are expected to be played. Klinklang's Plasma Steel Ability can prevent damage to Pokémon on your team from Pokémon-EX, provided each Pokémon has a Steel Energy attached to it. And this deck usually includes Klinklang with Shift Gear, the Ability that allows free movement of Metal Energy amongst teammates.
With plenty of Metal Energy already in play, potent Metal Pokémon have found a home in Klinklang decks, particularly Cobalion-EX. Cobalion-EX is a popular choice not just for its ability to hit for a reliable 100 damage, but also because it can knock off Special Energy, of which Team Plasma Energy is a good target. The non Pokémon-EX Cobalion is often found in this deck as well—its Energy Press attack is good for knocking out Pokémon that use a lot of Energy, such as Keldeo-EX.
When Dragon-type Pokémon hit Pokémon TCG, a lot of people anticipated that they'd become the dominate force in the game. It didn't quite turn out that way, with players moving toward Team Plasma and Pokémon-EX decks. But that might be why they're finding new success at Nationals—they've been a surprise to many opponents. Garchomp has been the primary attacker in this deck, with cheap attack costs and the ability to knock off Special Energy to slow down Team Plasma decks. Altaria is a necessity to boost Dragon-type attacks, and Gabite's Dragon Call Ability keeps Dragon-type Pokémon marching into battle.
Last year, the Accelgor "Deck and Cover" deck was the deck that blindsided a lot of people at Nationals. Players are more prepared for it this year, but it's still getting some love in 2013, especially with the addition of Mew-EX to the deck. With Mew-EX and its Versatile Ability doing the work of Deck and Cover, the player no longer has to worry about evolving Shelmet for a turn before putting the attacker into the active position.
Another improvement to this deck is Gothitelle, which prevents the opponent from playing, and Trainer cards that could break Deck and Cover's Paralysis. To aid in getting a new Mew-EX to the front, players are choosing to use the Float Stone item card on Gothitelle to give it free retreat. This deck takes a little while to set up, but once it gets going, it's hard to beat—and a joy to watch.
Perhaps the most intriguing deck here in Indianapolis is the "Quad Snorlax" deck, which is as simple as it sounds. This deck has only four Team Plasma Snorlax and zero Energy. The rest of the deck is packed with a toolbox full of Trainer cards. The idea of this deck is to trap an opponent's Pokémon with Snorlax's Block Ability, then slowly drain the opponent's HP away with Hypnotoxic Laser (of which this deck always carry four, as well as four Virbank City Gym Stadium cards).
Very few prize cards get drawn for either team, meaning these games typically use up the entire allotted time for a round. In that case, your best hope is that you've taken more prize cards than your opponent when time is called. Players have testified that this deck fantastically frustrating to play against, but you can't argue with the results.
Stay tuned for more strategy updates, including video game coverage, throughout the weekend here on Pokemon.com.