2014 World Championship/LCQ: Kingdra and Toxicroak, Oh My
After U.S. Nationals completed, I was left short of completing my World Championshp invite, missing out on making Top 16 during the National Championship to play on for a win and in to Worlds game by three match points. After falling short, I didn’t initially have plans to go to Worlds anymore, but Nationals left me dissatisfied, being so close, yet still so far away, and Washington D.C. was reasonably close, so I wanted a chance to vindicate my National Championship performance by trying to grind into the World Championship.
Immediately after Nationals, I played in two League Challenges in July. I took 2nd at both, once with Kingdra/Greninja, and the other with a Zoroark deck that Kevin Baxter gave to me, to put me at 24 points at the new season.
Speaking of one of those decks, Kingdra/Greninja would be the deck that I would play for the Last Chance Qualifier…
A Look at Kingdra/Greninja
After seeing Ryan Sabelhaus finish 2nd place at the Tennessee State Championship with this deck, it was enough for me to take notice of this deck as a serious contender. After he put his list in a Six Prizes Underground article, I immediately built the deck using his list, and played a bunch of games with it to really good results. I really liked the deck, it reminded me in ways of Darkrai EX/Chandelure NVI, my Nationals deck from a few years ago, in the way that it took advantage over the opponent by accelerating damage on the field faster than your opponent could keep up with.
The basic premise of the deck, is that you use Kingdra as your main attacker in the deck. Both of its attacks take only one Energy to use, and both are very good. Its Tri Bullet attack does 30 damage to three of your opponent’s Pokemon, whic his very strong, especially when your opponent plays mostly EX Pokemon, as six Tri Bullets wins you the game, but it’s also very good against other evolution decks, as you can take multiple knockouts in one turn on their 60 HP or so pre-evolutions.
The deck then also uses Greninja’s Water Shuriken Ability to place 30 damage on any of your opponent’s Pokemon at the cost of discarding a Water Energy. You would generally get 2 or 3 Greninja out onto the field in the game, which would equal 60 to 90 damage being placed on the field, before you even attacked with Kingdra.
Kingdra then has a second attack, Dragon Vortex, in which you shuffle all of the Water and Lightning Energy in your discard pile back into your deck, and you do 20 damage for each Energy that you shuffle back in the deck. As the deck plays 10 Water Energy, you could potentially do 180 damage with the attack, but falling short of that was fine as well, as with Tri Bullet setups, and Water Shuriken damage, doing 100-140 damage would often be enough for knockouts on the Active.
One of the issues I had with the Greninja/Miltank deck was the deck just couldn’t keep the Energy flowing enough to accomplish the win conditions often enough. With Kingdra, you had a natural engine to pump the Water back in your deck to be again used for Water Shuriken, as well as stronger and more versatile attacks, and a bulkier Pokemon who could better withstand a hit.
The issue I had with the deck is as we got into weeks into the new format, I was finding the deck too slow to keep up with the new and improved lists for top decks like Yveltal and Plasma. With that, I shelved the deck, and began going all in with my Landorus/Dusknoir deck for testing.
At U.S. Nationals, two things happened that would push me back towards the deck. First, Pyroar had a great showing at U.S. Nationals, and while it is a deck that I don’t think can do well when players are prepared for it, I still expected it to see quite a bit of play in the grinder. Secondly, I saw some small personal success in my Landorus/Dusknoir deck playing zero Skyla, while also playing Stage 2 Pokemon.
As I stated in my Nationals report, I feel as though Skyla has become underpowered in the current format, and no longer fits into most decks, especially Stage 2 decks. The top Basic decks of the format, Yveltal, Virizion, and Plasma, were all so fast that you could no longer setup fast enough through a slow, deliberate setup through Skyla. Instead, I feel as though the proper play became to try to give your deck as much draw power as possible if you wanted to keep up with your opponent’s speedy basics, especially with Stage 2’s.
We played Stage 2’s without Skyla before Boundaries Crossed, so I think we for sure could play them again without Skyla. Breaking free of the conventional wisdom in building a Stage 2 deck allowed me to take a look at Kingdra through new eyes, and make improvements to the original list to get it prepared for battle in the current format.
Here is the list that I came up with for the deck and then used in the Last Chance Qualifier.
Pokemon – 19
3 Horsea PLF
Trainers – 31
3 Professor Juniper
3 Ultra Ball
3 Tropical Beach
Energy – 10
There aren’t really any tricks that I pulled with the deck, I just looked for the inefficiencies in the source list that I had been working with, and elminated them, and just focused on making the list as consistent as possible.
As discussed above, I felt that Skyla didn’t do enough for the deck, only searching out one Item card for you. I replaced Skyla with more draw, as I felt that was your optimal turn one, and also put a third copy of Tropical Beach to increase my chances of drawing into the card turn one.
I don’t think Skyla for Tropical Beach on turn one is an optimal play for this deck, as your strategy is more dependent on swarming Stage 2’s onto the field than other Stage 2 decks are. I’d much rather work on getting as many Pokemon on my bench as possible, and then using Tropical Beach, rather than fetching Beach with a bench of 1-2 Pokemon.
The issue for the additional draw was what to put in. The original deck played a 1-1 Electrode PLF line, which I began to dislike as I played games with the deck. Often one piece of the line would be prized, and against Garbodor, it quickly becomes deadweight. Drawing into it for my setup was also unlikely, and I’d rather use my balls for getting more Greninja or Kingdra setup, than setting up a third evolution line.
We do have a card that provides what Electrode does that requires no setup, and that is Bicycle. This card is fairly good in all stages of the game. You play enough burn cards that you will often be able to use it early game with most hands you receive, so it gives you additional draw early game when you’re fishing for that Tropical Beach or more Basics to put on your bench. It’s good once you get setup, as you can burn your hand down with Water Shuriken for some really big Bicycle draws, and in the late game, your deck is usually just draw cards and Energy, so it will rarely whiff on finding you a stronger Supporter to use.
Through my subtractions, I gained space for so many important things. The third Tropical Beach, giving me better probability of getting it on turn one, as well as providing me with a 3rd counter Stadium, which is big, as Yveltal EX can have difficulty scoring OHKO’s on Kingdra when Virbank City Gym isn’t in play. It also allowed me to fit in a second Startling Megaphone, which gives you three tool discard options against Garbodor, more than enough to win you the game.
Miltank was my 60th card choice, and not one I was over ecstatic about. It was under hot debate for getting cut for another card, and I probably would have made the swap had I had access to the other card on hand, this will be discussed more below.
Last Chance Qualifer Report
This would be one of the toughest tournaments to accomplish a positive result in. You would need to win 7 straight rounds of Pokemon matches to advance to make it into the Top 4 of the tournament and then advance into the World Championship. With that in mind, I knew I would want to play something different for the tournament. I think decks like Yveltal, Plasma, etc. can all make it through a tournament like this, they’re all good decks, but what would make the difference between me making it through with the deck, compared to another player? Probably just matchups and luck. I wanted something different that tried to remove itself from the matchup game as much as possible, and I feel Kingdra gave me that deck.
I couldn’t eliminate all bad matchups from being present, but I think the number of matchups falling in the 50/50 to positive range compared to the number of bad matchups for Kingdra was excellent. The only thing I absolutely didn’t want to play against was Trevenant/Accelgor, as it really has no way of beating that deck other than them dead drawing. I also didn’t want to play against Flygon. The deck can certainly beat Flygon about 1/3 of the time, but that’s still a really bad matchup. The other thing I was weary against was Speed Lugia decks, jsut because they could end the game in three turns.
The 50/50 stuff I didn’t want to play against were anything else with Dusknoir, as that can lead to ugly situations where my pre-evolutions would get knocked out immediately after hitting the bench.
Anything that was heavily reliant on EX’s: Virizion/Genesect, Plasma, Yveltal, Landorus/Mewtwo, Aromatisse, were decks I wanted to play against. Additionally, Stage 1/2 decks without Dusknoir also were very favorable, Emboar, Blastoise, and Pyroar fall into this category. The prize and damage math simply works in Kingdra’s favor for winning these matchups.
Now in saying this, I am not claiming most of the matchups against the Big Basic decks were slam dunks, some hovered closer to 50/50 than others, but in general, I think Kingdra should prevail over these decks, and in best of 3, “in general” should be good enough of a qualifer.
In the first round of the grinder, I played against a Japanese player playing Empoleon/Miltank/Dusknoir. This isn’t a matchup I wanted to see, but knew it was winnable. The trick is to put up something with low HP when you’re not ready to attack full blown yet, to make sure residual damage doesn’t end up on the field for Dusknoir to use to maximize their damage efficiency. Ideally, you’d just clear their bench of Duskull, but that rarely happens.
In the first game, my opponent got a quicker setup than me, but I was able to clear him of his first Dusknoir and then follow that up by denying him further Dusknoir. The game was amazingly close, and I believe we both got down to one prize cards, but once Dusknoir was gone, my opponent was 2HKO’ing Kingdra, while I was OHKO’ing their actives whenever I used Dragon Vortex. I believe I won the first game by using my Water Shuriken’s to knockout something on the bench, and then used Dragon Vortex to knockout the Active for the win.
In the second game, I outsped my oponent in setup and was able to deny him Dusknoir through Tri Bullet and Water Shuriken on his Duskull, and was easily able to win the game.
In the second match of the grinder, I was paired against an Aromatisse deck, which is a very favorable matchup. Unfortunately in the first game, I got a slow setup, and was on thhe verge of being benched after not opening with a Supporter. On what wouldh have otherwise been my penultimate turn of the game, I drew a Bicycle and got an N which allowed me to slow down my opponent while also getting setup.
I questioned throughout the game whether I was too far behind to win, but after a turn involving 2 Bicycle for 4’s and a giant Colress, Stage 2’s floodded my field and the game quickly was overturned in my favor. The second game of the series my opponent drew poorly and was just forced to Beach every turn to just get any semblance of a setup.
This is already a favorable matchup when the opponent doesn’t dead draw, so I was able to easily win the second game with little resistance. I’m not sure I even gave up a prize in the second game, and had a field of 2 Kingdra, 3 Greninja, and a Sigilyph out fairly early on, which made it impossible for my opponent to gain any traction in the game.
The next round I would play against a Yveltal/Garbodor deck, and enough things went wrong in the first game to ultimately eliminate me from the grinder. The first game lasted around 37-38 minutes, which meant there would just be 20 minutes left to complete a game 2, which mean the winner of Game 1 most likely would go on and win the series.
There isn’t one thing that went wrong that cost me the game, but a bunch of small things that would add together to give me the loss. I whiffed some Water Energy off of my Supporters after using Megaphone early game, which would have allowed mt oclear my opponent’s field of any Garbodor lines.
On two separate occasions, my Kingdra stayed asleep off of a Laser flip, which cost me a turn of attacking. These missed turns were big, as they were Tri Bullets, which could have led to additional damage for later KO’s, or would have made for Dragon Vortex attacks for immediate KO’s on the Active.
With all that said, I am able to work the game down to one prize. My opponent’s field doesn’t look great, and it’s questionable whether he can even knockout my Kingdra, and if Kingdra survives one more turn, I can just Tri Bullet a Garbodor for the win. My opponent does pull the cards necessary to setup an Evil Ball for the knockout, and I am out of Megaphone for the game, so knocking out the Garbodor with 90 damage was no impossible.
During this time, I am looking at my hand, and I have Miltank, which won’t give me the win, and Miltank is in my hand, having been uselss for me all day. The card I would have played instead of Miltank? That would be Greninja EX.
The thought behind playing Greninja EX in the deck is that it gives you additional snipe options, helping you clear your opponent’s field of Garbodor more easily, while also giving you a Pokemon with near max HP for a Basic. The deck doesn’t really have a beefy HP guy without him.
Having this extra HP is big late game, as sometimes you just need to buy one more turn to get another set of Water Shuriken off, or to evolve into a Kingdra to seal the game. At 170 HP, Greninja EX will be able to absorb this blow for you against most decks.
I don’t have anyone to blame but myself for losing this game. I knew Greninja EX belonged in this deck, but I wasn’t proactive enough in obtaining one to play in the grinder. Miltank has its merits, but Greninja EX is a better fit for rounding out this deck and should have been included.
In the second game, on an early game search, I have Rare Candy in hand and go to grab a Kingdra to get things going. Only problem is I can’t find a Kingdra, so I search my deck again…and still don’t find one. Upon this deck search, I immediately scoop the game as my Kingdra decided to party together in the prizes.
My opponent was already setup enough that I had no means of winning this game without at least one Kingdra, so unless my opponent just decided to not attack the rest of the game any efforts would be futile.
In the end, I was very happy with how the deck performed for me. I think I hit all the right counts on my cards to maximize setup speed and consistency. I just messed up on not getting Greninja EX in the deck in place of Miltank, a mistake I will try not to repeat in the future when putting together my decks.
The Other Deck – Yveltal EX/Bouffalant DRX/Toxicroak EX
I did bring one other deck along with me to the World Championship to play in the side events, and that was my Yveltal EX deck, which I also though was very strong. The basic idea of the list is the same as the one that Jeremiah Williams used to get 2nd place at U.S. Nationals. I think this is by far the strongest Yveltal variant that we had available in the format.
I know our lists are probably like 5 cards off, I put in a Toxicroak EX to improve the Pyroar matchup, and changed the Ace Spec to Scramble Switch, as I felt the deck was consistent enough as is, and Scramble Switch allowed you to setup some game breaking and devastating plays.
I heard a lot of people ask if the Toxicroak EX actually worked in the deck for beating Pyroar, and the answer is a resounding yes. I am going to just guess that most people never actually tested Toxicroak EX in the deck if they thought it didn’t get you the win against Pyroar.
It doesn’t do it by itself, but it’s the finishing touch that the deck needs to give it the win against Pyroar. The basics of the Pyroar matchup is that you start with 4 Hypnotoxic Laser. You want to use these Lasers to put damage on Pyroar’s through Poison. Your opponent only has 4 Switch in their deck, so 4 Lasers is enough to bait out all of their Switch, make them waste Energy retreating, or knock out the Pyroar if they choose not to retreat. From there, you have two Sabeleye’s, which give you Laser’s 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Your opponent will generally only be able to get out 3 Pyroar in a game because they often have to discard one at some point in the game because of Pyroar’s discard heavy engine, or otherwise, sometimes one may be in a deep prize card.
Whenever I Laser, I try to wall with one of my Bouffalant,a s Pyroar maxes out at 90 damage against Bouffalant, buying you a turn without something getting KO’d.
Besides your Lasers, you have Escape Rope and Pokemon Catcher to try to score knockouts on non-Pyroar Pokemon. If your opponent goes Charizard EX, you simply Evil Ball it for 3 Energy and a Muscle Band for the knockout. If your opponent goes Mewtwo EX, you can knock it out with Yveltal EX or Bouffalant.
Once all of the above resources are exhausted is when you turn to Toxicroak EX to finish off the game on a depleted field which will just have one Pyroar threat still remaining. Toxicroak is simply the finishing touch on the deck.
Here is my list for the deck:
Pokemon – 10
3 Yveltal EX
4 Professor Juniper
3 Ultra Ball
2 Virbank City Gym
Energy – 11
The deck worked like a charm for me, allowing me to go 9-0 over the course of the three side events I played with the deck, netting me three Champion’s Festival, and loads of other prizes.
I really enjoyed playing this deck, and thought it gave me the options to allow for some really skill intensive games. The biggest thing I wanted to do with this deck is to allow it to attack turn one if you go second, and be able to attack for solid damage on turn 2 regardless, and I think the deck consistently did that for me.
With 2 Energy Switch, and the Scramble Switch I really loved the options I had available to switch up game plans on the fly. I think this really keeps the opponents off balance and creates opportunity to win games that otherwise wouldn’t be there.
It was nice to have some success with Dark Patch and Sableye one last time before they rotate. R.I.P. amazingly strong, consistent dark decks. (Dark isn’t going anywhere, but these Dark Patch variants are amazing).
Overall, the World Championships were a lot of fun, and I look forward to going back next year, hopefully as a competitor next time.