City Championship Contenders

The first stretch of the City Championships is over, and the tactics that have found success have been compelling. It's always exciting to see which strategies meet expectations and which ones surprise us. With the release of new cards in the Pokémon TCG: XY—BREAKthrough expansion, the door was opened for players to show off brand-new strategies. Let's take a look at what's been winning at City Championships up to this point.

City Championships can use either the Standard or Expanded format. We'll start off by analyzing the results in the Standard format.

  • Roberto Lozada: Night March (Standard Format)
  • Henry Ross-Clunis: Mega Manectric (Standard Format)
  • Kian Amini: Yveltal/Zoroark (Standard Format)
  • Adrian Montoya: Lucario/Crobat (Standard Format)
  • Jimmy O’Brien: Vespiquen/Flareon (Expanded Format)
  • Jimmy Zhang: Seismitoad/Giratina (Expanded Format)
  • Ricky Gao: Archie’s Blastoise (Expanded Format)
Pokémon
  • 4
    Joltik
    26/119
    xy4 26
  • 4
    Pumpkaboo
    44/119
    xy4 44
  • 4
    Lampent
    42/119
    xy4 42
  • 3
    Shaymin-EX
    77/108
    xy6 77
  • 1
    Milotic
    44/160
    xy5 44
  • 1
    Feebas
    43/160
    xy5 43
  • 1
    Jirachi
    XY67
    xyp XY67
  • 1
    Bunnelby
    121/160
    xy5 121
Energy Cards
  • 4
    Double Colorless Energy
    xy4 111
  • 2
    Psychic Energy
    xy1 136
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor Sycamore
    xy4 101
  • 2
    Lysandre
    xy7 78
  • 1
    Giovanni's Scheme
    xy8 138
  • 1
    Hex Maniac
    xy7 75
  • 1
    Judge
    xy8 143
  • 1
    Teammates
    xy5 141
  • 4
    Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear
    xy4 92
  • 4
    Trainers' Mail
    xy6 92
  • 4
    Ultra Ball
    xy6 93
  • 4
    VS Seeker
    xy4 109
  • 3
    Dimension Valley
    xy4 93
  • 2
    Muscle Band
    xy1 121
  • 1
    Float Stone
    xy8 137
  • 1
    Revive
    xy6 88
  • 1
    Super Rod
    xy8 149
  • 1
    Town Map
    xy8 150
More Info Copy Deck List
Pokémon
  • 3
    M Manectric-EX
    24/119
    xy4 24
  • 4
    Manectric-EX
    23/119
    xy4 23
  • 2
    Raikou
    55/162
    xy8 55
  • 2
    Regice
    24/98
    xy7 24
  • 2
    Shaymin-EX
    77/108
    xy6 77
  • 1
    Articuno
    17/108
    xy6 17
  • 1
    Jirachi
    XY67
    xyp XY67
  • 1
    Lugia-EX
    68/98
    xy7 68
Energy Cards
  • 6
    Lightning Energy
    xy1 135
  • 4
    Water Energy
    xy1 134
  • 2
    Double Colorless Energy
    xy4 111
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor Sycamore
    xy4 101
  • 2
    Lysandre
    xy7 78
  • 2
    Professor Birch's Observations
    xy5 134
  • 1
    Hex Maniac
    xy7 75
  • 1
    Judge
    xy8 143
  • 1
    Xerosic
    xy4 110
  • 4
    Ultra Ball
    xy6 93
  • 4
    VS Seeker
    xy4 109
  • 3
    Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear
    xy4 92
  • 3
    Manectric Spirit Link
    xy4 100
  • 3
    Rough Seas
    xy5 137
  • 2
    Assault Vest
    xy8 133
  • 2
    Switch
    xy6 91
More Info Copy Deck List
Pokémon
  • 4
    Yveltal
    78/146
    xy1 78
  • 2
    Yveltal-EX
    79/146
    xy1 79
  • 2
    Zoroark
    91/162
    xy8 91
  • 2
    Zorua
    89/162
    xy8 89
  • 2
    Regirock
    40/98
    xy7 40
  • 2
    Shaymin-EX
    77/108
    xy6 77
  • 1
    Smeargle
    123/162
    xy8 123
Energy Cards
  • 7
    Darkness Energy
    xy1 138
  • 4
    Double Colorless Energy
    xy4 111
  • 2
    Fighting Energy
    xy1 137
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor Sycamore
    xy4 101
  • 2
    Lysandre
    xy7 78
  • 1
    Hex Maniac
    xy7 75
  • 1
    Judge
    xy8 143
  • 4
    Trainers' Mail
    xy6 92
  • 4
    Ultra Ball
    xy6 93
  • 4
    VS Seeker
    xy4 109
  • 3
    Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear
    xy4 92
  • 3
    Enhanced Hammer
    xy4 94
  • 3
    Muscle Band
    xy1 121
  • 2
    Float Stone
    xy8 137
  • 1
    Super Rod
    xy8 149
More Info Copy Deck List
Pokémon
  • 2
    Lucario-EX
    54/111
    xy3 54
  • 3
    Crobat
    33/119
    xy4 33
  • 3
    Golbat
    32/119
    xy4 32
  • 4
    Zubat
    31/119
    xy4 31
  • 3
    Hawlucha
    63/111
    xy3 63
  • 1
    Shaymin-EX
    77/108
    xy6 77
  • 1
    Jirachi
    XY67
    xyp XY67
  • 1
    Miltank
    83/106
    xy2 83
Energy Cards
  • 4
    Fighting Energy
    xy1 137
  • 4
    Strong Energy
    xy3 104
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor Sycamore
    xy4 101
  • 3
    Judge
    xy8 143
  • 3
    Korrina
    xy3 95
  • 1
    AZ
    xy4 91
  • 1
    Lysandre
    xy7 78
  • 1
    Hex Maniac
    xy7 75
  • 4
    VS Seeker
    xy4 109
  • 3
    Super Scoop Up
    xy3 100
  • 3
    Ultra Ball
    xy6 93
  • 2
    Fighting Stadium
    xy3 90
  • 2
    Focus Sash
    xy3 91
  • 2
    Level Ball
    xy7 76
  • 2
    Muscle Band
    xy1 121
  • 1
    Professor's Letter
    xy8 146
  • 1
    Silent Lab
    xy5 140
  • 1
    Super Rod
    xy8 149
More Info Copy Deck List
Pokémon
  • 4
    Vespiquen
    10/98
    xy7 10
  • 4
    Combee
    9/98
    xy7 9
  • 4
    Flareon
    12/116
    bw9 12
  • 1
    Jolteon
    26/98
    xy7 26
  • 2
    Eevee
    80/111
    xy3 80
  • 2
    Eevee
    90/116
    bw9 90
  • 4
    Unown
    30/98
    xy7 30
  • 4
    Shaymin-EX
    77/108
    xy6 77
  • 1
    Entei
    14/98
    xy7 14
  • 1
    Exeggcute
    4/116
    bw9 4
  • 1
    Jirachi-EX
    60/101
    bw10 60
Energy Cards
  • 4
    Double Colorless Energy
    xy1 130
  • 3
    Fire Energy
    xy1 133
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor Juniper
    bw10 84
  • 2
    Lysandre
    xy7 78
  • 1
    AZ
    xy4 91
  • 1
    Blacksmith
    xy2 88
  • 1
    N
    bw5 96
  • 1
    Teammates
    xy5 141
  • 4
    Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear
    xy4 92
  • 4
    Ultra Ball
    xy2 99
  • 4
    VS Seeker
    xy4 109
  • 1
    Silver Bangle
    bw10 88
  • 1
    Tool Scrapper
    bw6 116
  • 1
    Computer Search
    bw7 137
More Info Copy Deck List
Pokémon
  • 3
    Seismitoad-EX
    20/111
    xy3 20
  • 2
    Giratina-EX
    57/98
    xy7 57
  • 2
    Shaymin-EX
    77/108
    xy6 77
  • 1
    Jirachi-EX
    60/101
    bw10 60
  • 1
    Hoopa-EX
    36/98
    xy7 36
  • 1
    Keldeo-EX
    45/113
    bw11 45
Energy Cards
  • 4
    Double Colorless Energy
    xy4 111
  • 3
    Double Dragon Energy
    xy6 97
Trainer Cards
  • 4
    Professor Juniper
    bw10 84
  • 2
    Lysandre
    xy7 78
  • 2
    N
    bw5 96
  • 1
    AZ
    xy4 91
  • 1
    Colress
    bw8 118
  • 1
    Ghetsis
    bw9 101
  • 1
    Hex Maniac
    xy7 75
  • 1
    Skyla
    xy8 148
  • 1
    Team Flare Grunt
    xy1 129
  • 1
    Xerosic
    xy4 110
  • 4
    Ultra Ball
    xy6 93
  • 3
    Hypnotoxic Laser
    bw8 123
  • 3
    Muscle Band
    xy1 121
  • 3
    Super Scoop Up
    xy3 100
  • 3
    VS Seeker
    xy4 109
  • 2
    Crushing Hammer
    xy0 34
  • 2
    Enhanced Hammer
    xy4 94
  • 2
    Float Stone
    xy8 137
  • 2
    Head Ringer Team Flare Hyper Gear
    xy4 97
  • 2
    Virbank City Gym
    bw8 126
  • 1
    Silent Lab
    xy5 140
  • 1
    Computer Search
    bw7 137
More Info Copy Deck List
Pokémon
  • 2
    Blastoise
    16/101
    bw10 16
  • 3
    Keldeo-EX
    45/113
    bw11 45
  • 3
    Unown
    30/98
    xy7 30
  • 2
    Articuno
    17/108
    xy6 17
  • 2
    Shaymin-EX
    77/108
    xy6 77
  • 2
    Jirachi-EX
    60/101
    bw10 60
  • 2
    Exeggcute
    4/116
    bw9 4
  • 1
    Black Kyurem-EX
    95/135
    bw8 95
Energy Cards
  • 9
    Water Energy
    xy1 134
  • 2
    Lightning Energy
    xy1 135
Trainer Cards
  • 2
    Archie's Ace in the Hole
    xy5 124
  • 2
    Professor Juniper
    bw10 84
  • 1
    Fisherman
    xy8 136
  • 1
    Lysandre
    xy2 90
  • 1
    N
    bw5 96
  • 4
    Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear
    xy4 92
  • 4
    Superior Energy Retrieval
    bw9 103
  • 4
    Trainers' Mail
    xy6 92
  • 4
    Ultra Ball
    xy2 99
  • 4
    VS Seeker
    xy4 109
  • 2
    Muscle Band
    xy1 121
  • 1
    Float Stone
    bw9 99
  • 1
    Tropical Beach
    bwp BW28
  • 1
    Computer Search
    bw7 137
More Info Copy Deck List

Night March Marches On

When Mew-EX, with its 120 HP, was dropped during the Standard format rotation, many people thought Night March decks would be weakened too much to remain effective. One big issue is that unlike Mew-EX, Joltik and Pumpkaboo have low HP, so they usually get Knocked Out in one attack. Also, both of them rely heavily on Double Colorless Energy to power up their attacks, but players can use only 4 of those in a deck—and once they're gone, the Night March deck should run out of steam and lose.

The reality is that the Night March deck has proven far more resilient. By using cards such as Battle Compressor and Muscle Band, it's not unreasonable for Joltik or Pumpkaboo to do enough damage to take down a Pokémon-EX in one attack as soon as the first or second turn of the game. That kind of speed and power can't be ignored, and it has resulted in a lot of wins at City Championships so far.

To deal with running out of Double Colorless Energy, players have devised some clever strategies. Roberto Lozada's winning deck list, shown above, uses two different methods: Bunnelby can shuffle a Double Colorless Energy from the discard pile into your deck with its Rototiller attack, and it can do that twice per turn thanks to its Ω Barrage Ancient Trait. Milotic's Sparkling Ripples Ability is another option, allowing you to put a Double Colorless Energy from your discard pile into your hand. Yet another option we've seen is to use Bronzong for its Metal Links Ability, pulling Metal Energy out of the discard pile to power up Joltik or Pumpkaboo every turn.

Check out Robert Lozada's Night March above.

The Night March deck has persisted because players have continued to come up with creative solutions to its inherent weaknesses. No matter what route you choose, it's clear the Night March attack is extremely powerful, and using it every turn is usually a winning strategy.

Mega Manectric Stays Steady

In our City Championships preview article, we noted that Mega Manectric-EX was expected to be a major contender in the Standard format, and so far that prediction has held up. Mega Manectric-EX doesn't do anything flashy: it has average HP for a Mega Evolution Pokémon, and while its Turbo Bolt attack does a reasonable chunk of damage, it's usually not enough to take down Pokémon-EX in one attack. But once this deck starts attacking and applying pressure to the opponent, it just doesn't stop. Turbo Bolt requires just 2 Energy and allows you to charge up a second Mega Manectric-EX or a different Pokémon on your Bench, and a lot of decks just can't deal with quick, constant attacks from a big 210 HP Pokémon. It's also important to note that Turbo Bolt can take down the always-popular Shaymin-EX in one attack, so it's easy to collect two Prize cards at a time by using Lysandre to pull Shaymin-EX into the Active spot for a Knock Out.

One benefit of the Mega Manectric-EX deck is its use of non-EX Pokémon as sidekicks. Pokémon-EX are great, but they do give up two Prize cards when Knocked Out, so it's nice when a regular Pokémon can be used as a powerful attacker. In the deck that Henry Ross-Clunis used to win a City Championship (see list above), Raikou, Regice, and Articuno are all good examples. Each of these Pokémon needs three Energy to use its biggest attack, but they can be powered up quickly with Mega Manectric-EX's Turbo Bolt. Raikou is a durable Pokémon that can do big damage with Thunder Lance, and Regice's Resistance Blizzard attack is a great counter to opposing Pokémon-EX. Articuno's Δ Plus Ancient Trait can swing a game in your favor by taking an extra Prize card, but its Tri Edge attack can be a little risky, so it's mainly used against Pokémon with low HP (particularly the Night March Pokémon).

Check out Henry Ross-Clunis' Mega Manectric-EX deck.

The success and popularity of this deck may start to dwindle over the coming weeks. We've already seen players start to use more Fighting-type Pokémon in an attempt to counter it—don't be surprised if that trend continues. Perhaps Flash Energy could be used to remove that Weakness, or some Grass-type or Psychic-type Pokémon could be added for an advantage against those Fighting-type Pokémon.

Dynamic Darkness Types

Yveltal-EX has been a dominant force in the Pokémon TCG for a long time, but its Weakness to Lightning types like Mega Manectric-EX made it tough to use in this season's Standard format. Just like Night March, though, the powerful Pokémon and strategies always seem to find a way to keep being successful. Yveltal-EX's Evil Ball attack is one of the strongest we've ever seen in the Pokémon TCG, and Y Cyclone can do damage while powering up a different Pokémon. These attacks are still awesome—the biggest difference now is that Yveltal-EX relies more on its partners than it did in the past.

Although the regular Yveltal is less intimidating than its EX counterpart, it's very potent against a lot of popular Pokémon. The Oblivion Wing attack is great against Night March decks because of their attackers' low HP. Joltik has 30 HP, and Pumpkaboo has 60 HP and a Weakness to Darkness-type Pokémon, so Oblivion Wing can take down either one of them for just one Darkness Energy. The attack also powers up a Pokémon on the Bench to make sure you have another attacker ready to go. Yveltal's 130 HP can be enough for some decks to have trouble dealing with it, and its Resistance to Fighting-type Pokémon can come in handy.

Yveltal really struggles against Mega Manectric-EX, so players have been adapting their decks to include more Fighting-type Pokémon to counter the threat. In Kian Amini's championship list, shown above, the Pokémon of choice is Regirock. Its Unyielding Rock attack may not seem great at first, but it hits Pokémon-EX pretty hard. Since Mega Manectric-EX is a Pokémon-EX with a Weakness to Fighting-type Pokémon, Unyielding Rock will do a massive 240 damage to it, enough for a one-hit Knock Out! Another popular option is Gallade. Using a fun combo with Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick, you can surprise your opponent by putting Gallade into play immediately. If you have a Double Colorless Energy to use Sensitive Blade on the same turn, Gallade is doing 130 damage (or 260 damage to Mega Manectric-EX). With a great lineup of Pokémon and the ability to cover its Weaknesses, this strategy is expected to be successful throughout the City Championships.

Check out Kian Amini's Yveltal deck above.

A nice addition from XY—BREAKthrough is Zoroark. In the Expanded format, players use Keldeo-EX's Rush In Ability combined with Darkrai-EX's Dark Cloak Ability to switch Pokémon with ease. Zoroark can fill that void in the Standard format with its Stand In Ability, but it's slightly more difficult to pull off because it's a Stage 1 Pokémon, and it requires a Float Stone to remove its Retreat Cost. The biggest upside to using Zoroark is its powerful Mind Jack attack, which does more damage for each Pokémon on your opponent's Bench. If your opponent has 5 Benched Pokémon, it's doing 160 damage for just two Colorless Energy. A Muscle Band bumps it to 180—enough to take down most Pokémon-EX in one attack. Some players even include Zoroark BREAK to catch opponents off guard with its Foul Play attack.

Crafty Crobat

Crobat and Golbat aren't powerhouses on their own, but they're versatile Pokémon seen in many successful decks. Their Surprise Bite and Sneaky Bite Abilities both put damage counters on an opponent's Pokémon when they come into play, which can help in a lot of scenarios. Perhaps the best part about these Abilities is that they do damage without having to use your attack for the turn. If one of your Pokémon doesn't do quite enough damage to Knock Out an opposing Pokémon, Golbat and Crobat can swoop in with some extra damage to finish the job. These Abilities are also great for targeting Pokémon that have low HP—for example, a single Surprise Bite from Crobat can take down a Joltik. This can lead to taking multiple Prize cards in one turn, which gets you closer to victory.

As seen in Adrian Montoya's winning list, Lucario-EX is a great partner for the Crobat line. This deck is all about aggression, with Strong Energy, Muscle Band, and Fighting Stadium to boost the damage of its attackers, and Crobat fits that theme. The goal is to take your Prize cards as quickly as possible and win the game before your opponent has a chance to execute their strategy—this deck will struggle mightily if you give your opponent time to set up. Lucario-EX has three strong attacks, and it can pressure the opponent as soon as the first or second turn of the game. It also hits Mega Manectric-EX's Weakness, making it a popular choice.

Check out Adrian Montoya's Lucario/Crobat deck above.

Hawlucha also helps by doing large amounts of damage to Pokémon-EX. It's especially useful for taking out Shaymin-EX, which has only 110 HP. Hawlucha's Flying Press attack does 60 damage for one Energy, and its Shining Spirit Ability ignores Shaymin-EX's Resistance to Fighting-type Pokémon. And when you use some combination of Strong Energy, Muscle Band, Fighting Stadium, Golbat, and Crobat, Hawlucha will be getting you two Prize cards in no time.

Another common partner for the Crobat line is Raichu. Its Circle Circuit attack requires a lot of Benched Pokémon to do additional damage, and it's often short of being able to Knock Out Pokémon with a lot of HP, so the extra damage from Surprise Bite helps improve its potential. Manectric-EX also benefits from the Crobat line, since its Overrun attack can spread damage to take down multiple Pokémon at once. The Assault Laser attack also falls a bit short against opposing Pokémon-EX, so the extra damage from Crobat and Golbat can help take them out. Crobat also covers both of these Pokémon's Weakness to Fighting-type Pokémon—and it's particularly useful to fend off Lucario-EX, since Crobat has a strong type advantage (Lucario-EX has Weakness to Crobat's type, and Crobat has Resistance to Lucario's type). With a Muscle Band attached, Crobat can use Skill Dive against an Active Lucario-EX for 100 damage.

There are plenty of other decks having success in the Standard format right now, but these are the big ones. Let's take a quick look at some decks that are doing well in the Expanded format.

Vespiquen Buzzing

Vespiquen hasn't been too successful in the Standard format, but it really thrives in the Expanded format alongside Flareon. This deck remains mostly unchanged from when we saw it during the Autumn Regional Championships. In fact, Jimmy O'Brien's winning deck list above is nearly identical to the one he used to win the Lancaster Regional Championships. The main goal of the deck is the same: use Battle Compressor to discard a lot of Pokémon, and then use Vespiquen's Bee Revenge or Flareon's Vengeance to hit for large amounts of damage. At this point, it's a tried and true strategy that will continue to be a top contender in the Expanded format.

Check out Jimmy O'Brien's Vespiquen deck above.

Seismitoad Still Rumbling

Seismitoad-EX seems to be struggling a bit in the Standard format, but it's as strong as ever in Expanded. The Quaking Punch attack has been frustrating players for over a year now, and its results at City Championships show that it's still working. Seismitoad-EX is more potent in the Expanded format because it can be used alongside Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym to bolster the small damage output of Quaking Punch. So far, its main partner continues to be Giratina-EX, but Crobat and Yveltal-EX are sometimes seen as well. Always be prepared to face Seismitoad-EX and its disruptive Quaking Punch, regardless of the tournament format.

Check out Jimmy Zhang's Seismitoad/Giratina deck above.

Blasting Off Again

After hitting a rough patch at the end of the Autumn Regional Championships, the Blastoise deck that won the Masters Division at the 2015 World Championships has rebounded at the start of City Championships. The strategy is still as powerful as ever: use Blastoise's Deluge Ability to power up Keldeo-EX for big Secret Sword attacks. Like the other two Expanded decks, this one hasn't changed much. However, Ricky Gao's winning list does include one copy of Fisherman, a card from XY—BREAKthrough that provides an extra way to recover basic Energy from the discard pile. Think of it as an insurance policy so you always have enough Energy to power up those big attacks. Expect to see a few Blastoise decks at any Expanded tournament you attend.

Check out Ricky Gao's Blastoise deck above.

As the Winter Regional Championships approach, we'll keep a closer eye on what decks are having success in the Expanded format. After City Championships are over, players should have a clearer idea of what decks to expect as the season progresses. Make sure to check back at Pokemon.com/strategy for the latest updates on Pokémon TCG strategy and tournament results! Good luck to those attending the rest of City Championships!

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