Trading Card Game Tournament Preview

The 2015 Pokémon TCG US National Championships in Indianapolis are right around the corner! Hundreds of players across the country are planning their trips and preparing their decks for the big event. Trainers in all age divisions will be competing for $11,000 in scholarship prizes, a chance to qualify for the World Championships, and the title of National Champion. When the three-day event kicks off at the Indiana Convention Center on July 3, everyone will be eager to showcase their skills in this intense competition.

Whether you're joining the fun of National Championships weekend in person or tuning in to watch the live video of matches on Pokemon.com, read on to get an idea of what to watch for.

Click the links to check out example decks!

Established Contenders

During the final weekend of the Spring Regional Championships, we got a taste of what decks will be popular and what new strategies are possible using the recent XY—Roaring Skies expansion. Now that players have had time to experiment with these new cards, we're sure to see more advanced and streamlined decks. Here are some of the decks that we expect to be popular this year.

Throughout the 2015 season, Seismitoad-EX (XY—Furious Fists, 20/111) has been the most feared card in Play! Pokémon tournaments. Even though Quaking Punch does a meager 30 damage, preventing the opponent from using Item cards is devastating enough to win games on its own. With disruptive Trainer cards like Crushing Hammer (XY—Kalos Starter Set, 34/39), Hypnotoxic Laser (Black & White—Plasma Storm, 123/135), and Super Scoop Up (XY—Furious Fists, 100/111), decks focused around Seismitoad-EX can shut down the opponent's game plan completely. As we saw at the Wisconsin Regional Championships, the addition of Shaymin-EX (XY—Roaring Skies, 77/108) to draw lots of extra cards makes the Seismitoad-EX deck more powerful than ever.

Another deck we expect to see plenty of features Trevenant (XY, 55/146), which, like Seismitoad-EX, aims to stop the opponent from using Item cards with its Forest's Curse Ability. A common strategy is to attack with Shaymin-EX's Sky Return or Gengar­-EX's (XY—Phantom Forces, 34/119) Dark Corridor, and then make Trevenant the Active Pokémon to activate Forest's Curse. Plus, its Tree Slam attack can deal a respectable amount of damage on its own. Wally (XY—Roaring Skies, 94/108) allows Trevenant to come into play as soon as the first turn, meaning your opponent might not have a chance to play any Item cards for the entire game.

One of the biggest surprises at the Spring Regional Championships was the resurgence of Raichu (XY, 43/146). With a Sky Field (XY—Roaring Skies, 89/108) Stadium card in play, Circle Circuit can deal up to 160 damage. Add a Muscle Band (XY, 121/146), and Raichu can do 180 damage in one attack—enough to Knock Out most Pokémon-EX. Many players pair Raichu with Ninetales (XY—Primal Clash, 21/160) to make sure Sky Field can't be replaced by another Stadium card; that way, their Circle Circuit attacks always do the maximum amount of damage.

Primal Groudon-EX (XY—Primal Clash, 86/160) is a powerhouse that is erupting with potential. Thanks to its Ω Barrier Ancient Trait, most Trainer cards can't affect it, making it an effective counter play to the Seismitoad-EX deck. Once the Gaia Volcano attack is all charged up, it can deal massive amounts of damage, especially with the use of Strong Energy (XY—Furious Fists, 104/111). The main downside of Primal Groudon-EX is how long it takes to power up its attack, but Mega Turbo (XY—Roaring Skies, 86/108) can accelerate the process. With a Focus Sash (XY—Furious Fists, 91/111) attached, Primal Groudon-EX will be tough to take down after it starts attacking.

Aromatisse (XY, 93/146) has been the centerpiece of many successful strategies, including Michikazu Tsuda's third-place Crazy Punch deck from the 2014 World Championships. Using Aromatisse's Fairy Transfer Ability, it's easy to power up the right Pokémon for any situation. With the help of Rainbow Energy (XY, 131/146), you can use many different types of Pokémon to exploit your opponent's Pokémon's Weakness. You never know what to expect when facing this kind of unpredictable strategy.

Life after Lysandre's Trump Card

Now that Lysandre's Trump Card (XY—Phantom Forces, 99/119 and 118/119) is banned from Play! Pokémon sanctioned tournaments, some strategies gain new life. The biggest benefactor is Night March, a deck we've discussed a couple of times already. Without the worry of Lysandre's Trump Card, Joltik (XY—Phantom Forces, 26/119), Lampent (XY—Phantom Forces, 42/119), and Pumpkaboo (XY—Phantom Forces, 44/119) are safe in the discard pile to fuel the Night March attack. With its biggest hurdle out of the way, this deck is poised to march straight to the top.

Decks focusing on Flareon (Black & White—Plasma Freeze, 12/116) also have an opportunity to make some noise. Because Vengeance depends on having a lot of Pokémon in the discard pile, Lysandre's Trump Card was one of this deck's biggest enemies. The Night March deck has a very similar strategy, but this deck is more versatile because it can use many different kinds of Pokémon. For example, Leafeon (Black & White—Plasma Freeze, 11/116) and Empoleon (Black & White—Plasma Freeze, 117/116) are common partners for Flareon.

Although they didn't see much early success at the Spring Regional Championships, both versions of Mega Rayquaza-EX (XY—Roaring Skies, 61/108 and 76/108) are threats that players need to keep in mind. While the Colorless-type Mega Rayquaza-EX relies on its blazing speed to overwhelm the opponent, its Dragon-type counterpart uses sheer power to Knock Out any opposing Pokémon with Dragon Ascent. Both types of Mega Rayquaza-EX struggle against Crushing Hammer and Enhanced Hammer (XY—Phantom Forces, 94/119), but without Lysandre's Trump Card to recycle them, those Item cards become less of a threat.

Wobbuffet (XY—Phantom Forces, 36/119) is a sleeper card that could break out at the US National Championships. With so many decks relying on Shaymin-EX and Jirachi-EX (Black & White—Plasma Blast, 60/101) to draw cards, the Bide Barricade Ability can shut down a lot of strategies by itself. Crobat (XY—Phantom Forces, 33/119), with its Surprise Bite Ability, is a perfect partner to bolster Wobbuffet's Psychic Assault attack. Alternatively, Gengar-EX can use a hit-and-run tactic with the Dark Corridor attack, switching with Wobbuffet to keep Bide Barricade active. Some decks even use Wobbuffet as a wall to hide behind while charging up bigger Pokémon, since it has lots of HP. No matter how you look at it, the Patient Pokémon has plenty of potential.

With so many talented Trainers at the US National Championships, it's sure to be an exciting event. Who will be crowned National Champion? Which strategy will prove to be the best? We'll find out on July 5!

Remember that the US National Championships is an open event, available to anyone who has earned the minimum number of Play! Points to participate. Entry is free for Pokémon TCG Junior and Senior Division players, and there's a $30 fee for Masters Division players. Spectators are always welcome, so come watch and cheer for your favorite players!

And if you can't make it to Indianapolis for the competition, don't miss live streaming of matches throughout the weekend on Pokemon.com.

Good luck, Trainers!

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