The first week of the 2015 Autumn Regional Championships is in the books. Incredible strategies and skills were on display, and some incredible players took the first step on the road to the 2016 Pokémon TCG World Championships. Congratulations to the top players in the week's events!
Here are the Top 8 finalists in each division. Click on a name to see that player's deck.
With the unpredictable nature of the Expanded format, nobody knew exactly what to expect. Players had an idea of what strategies to watch for, but there haven't been many big tournaments to establish the top contenders since the release of the XY—Ancient Origins expansion. Now that the first few Regional Championships have happened, let's analyze the results.
Archie's Blastoise Strikes Again
In the Masters Division, two decks emerged as the front-runners. The first was the same combination that Jacob Van Wagner used to win the 2015 World Championships: Blastoise and Keldeo-EX Between Phoenix and Houston Regionals, six players who finished in the Top 8 used this deck, and it took second place at both events.
Although this deck didn't gain much from the latest expansion, it remains a powerful force. Archie's Ace in the Hole allows Blastoise to enter the field on the first turn, and then its Deluge Ability can charge up Keldeo-EX's Secret Sword attack right away. Articuno is powerful against Pokémon with low HP, and its Δ Plus Ancient Trait lets you take an extra Prize card. If this deck executes its strategy, it's nearly impossible to beat. However, the next deck showed it was capable of standing toe-to-toe with this Water-type powerhouse.
The Return of Yveltal-EX
Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX have been a powerful combination for years, and they were revitalized in the Expanded format with the return of Dark Patch. Yveltal-EX's Evil Ball attack gets a nice boost from the extra Energy that Dark Patch provides, and it's the perfect response to a Keldeo-EX that has a bunch of Energy attached for its Secret Sword attack. Throw in a Muscle Band and Hypnotoxic Laser along with Virbank City Gym, and Yveltal-EX can rack up enough damage to Knock Out just about any Pokémon.
A few clever additions to this Darkness-type deck made it stand out. Archeops was a common choice to shut down any decks that want to use Evolutions, and Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick can get Archeops into play on the first turn of the game. In addition, Hex Maniac was used as a game-changer against any decks that relied on Abilities, and it was particularly useful for stopping Blastoise's Deluge. Another interesting inclusion was Ghetsis, which punished decks like Night March that need a lot of Item cards to pull off a first-turn combo. Israel Sosa used all of these weapons to win the Regional Championships in Phoenix—his fourth Regionals win in just three years.
Seismitoad-EX: Less Popular, Still Powerful
Decks focused on Seismitoad-EX only took one spot in the Top 8, but it was a first-place finish at the Houston Regional Championships. Michael Pramawat (2010 Worlds runner-up and 2014 US Nationals runner-up) used a deck very similar to the one Mees Brenninkmeijer took to his second-place finish at this year's World Championships. With the power of Seismitoad-EX's Quaking Punch and Crobat's Surprise Bite, it's possible to take down just about any deck.
En route to the fourth Regional Championships win of his career, Michael had a star-studded showdown in the Finals with three-time World Champion and 2015 US National Champion Jason Klaczynski. It was a matchup similar to the final round at Worlds: Seismitoad-EX vs. Keldeo-EX. But this time there was a different ending, as a sneaky Dedenne and its Energy Short attack proved to be useful against a Keldeo-EX with a bunch of Energy on it. Perhaps more players will start using Dedenne in response to the popularity of both Keldeo-EX and Yveltal-EX, since it turns all that attached Energy into extra damage.
A New Item Lock
The big surprise of the weekend was the emergence of decks featuring Vileplume. As Seismitoad-EX has shown us, locking down Item cards is a powerful strategy, and Vileplume's Irritating Pollen Ability does that as long as it's in play. Not only that, but Forest of Giant Plants lets you evolve into Vileplume faster, meaning Item cards could be locked down as early as the first turn of the game. While Vileplume keeps things locked down on the Bench, players of this deck generally rely on Miltank as the main attacker for its Powerful Friends attack. Then, there are a couple of options depending on what the opponent is doing: Aegislash-EX can make things difficult for decks that rely on Special Energy, and Regice can slow down Pokémon-EX. Vileplume decks are still new and unrefined, so we may see improved versions of them in the coming weeks.
In the Senior Division, the landscape was a little different. Blastoise was represented fairly well, winning in Houston. But Yveltal-EX decks barely made an impact. Seismitoad-EX with Giratina-EX accounted for 25% of the Top 8 decks in the Senior Division, including a first-place finish in Phoenix. Otherwise, the field was an even representation of several decks, such as Mega Rayquaza-EX, Night March with Archeops, and a pesky deck featuring Sableye and Bunnelby that aims to run the opponent out of Energy by recycling Crushing Hammer over and over again.
The Junior Division was the most unpredictable, with 14 different decks placing in the Top 8 across both Regionals. One big difference is that six Top 8 finishers used Mega Evolution Pokémon, with Mega Rayquaza-EX winning in Houston. Perhaps this can be attributed to a smaller number of players running Archeops, which makes it safe to use Evolutions. Seismitoad-EX continued to be a dominant force with its victory in Phoenix, which means it's a card players have to prepare for in every age division.
Now that players are a bit familiar with the Expanded format, it will be interesting to see how they adapt in the next two weeks of the Autumn Regional Championships. Will we see Blastoise, Yveltal-EX, and Seismitoad-EX continue to dominate, or will new contenders appear? Be sure to follow Pokemon.com/Strategy for all the information you need on the Pokémon TCG Autumn Regional Championships!