Ft. Wayne Regional Report: Let Me Tell You About My Big Bang Horn
This past weekend I attended the Fort Wayne Pokemon Regional Championship, an enormous event that featured 404 players in the Masters division, which made it the largest Regional tournament in Pokemon history for the division (at least since I started playing). The game certainly is picking up in popularity, and I think a cluster of strong Pokemon communities in St. Louis, Chicago, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and other surrounding areas in the Midwest have contributed to the strong Regional numbers these areas show.
I played a pretty unique Mega Heracross deck, there was probably only one other like it in the tournament, and had an alright tournament performance with it. While my results weren’t quite as well as what I would have liked, there are some clear reasons I can pinpoint for why I didn’t perform better, which is better than some tournaments last year where I would finish at something like 4-0-3, or 4-1-3, and my losses just appeared to be a result of not drawing the right cards at the right time while my opponents did.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written about Pokemon, which should be changing soon, but in short, the game had left me a bit energy drained, and some of the new cards that came out also contributed to making me apathetic about the game.
Playing continuously since basically last October through August is sure to be a drain, so it was a good time to step away from the game for a bit, and not be as invested in it quite as much. I still played in some League Challenges when we had it, but other than that didn’t play very much. Additionally, I didn’t really like how Seismitoad EX was released without a good general counter to it, basically making Stage 2 decks unplayable, as those were some of my favorite decks to use.
The Mega Heracross Deck
How did I end up settling on a Mega Heracross deck? Well I’ll walk through my meta development throughout Regional tournaments that led to me playing the deck.
During the pre-Regional period, I had come to the conclusion that Seismitoad EX/Yveltal EX was the best deck in the format. I had won a League Challenge with it fairly easily, and had even evolved it to the point of having Raichu in it as well, a concept some friends made various Day 2’s with (and a point they had gotten the deck completely independently of me fwiw.)
While I thought the deck was great, I didn’t quite feel like spending a lot of money to travel to one of the early Regional, and the “secret” of Yveltal would already be out by then, and it would start to see some countering to it. I tested a Flareon/Raichu/Leafeon deck with some Big Basic techs (Mewtwo EX and Seismitoad EX mainly), which tested fairly well, and seemed to have 50/50 matchups or better against anything, but it seemed to be too close for comfort in the Yveltal matchup for me to go through and play it, and I wasn’t quite sure how it would fare against Donphan.
The weekend before Regional I talked about some decks with Kevin Baxter, and we got to talking about Mega Heracross. I had a list from earlier, and Kevin had his own list, and we talked about what we had going in them, and started to combine the two. He played the deck to a first place at a League Challenge that weekend, which was enough to sell me on the deck. We both played the deck, although slightly different lists (mainly in the fringe Supporter counts).
This is a concept I had been working with for awhile, in the form of Mega Kangaskhan EX. I played a Mega Kangaskhan deck for a Championship Point Challenge at Nationals, and then for a League Challenge this year as well. It really helped the deck building process to see that Japanese player’s list that he got third at Worlds with, he really paved the way for how to properly play Megas with Aromatisse.
I wasn’t really feeling Mega Kangaskhan because I always seemed to flip tails on Wham Bam Punch, leaving me short of knockouts, which would ultimately lose me games. With so much Mr Mime in the format, using Xerneas EX’s Break Through or Landorus EX’s Hammerhead wasn’t very effective in finishing off those EX’s with 120-150 damage. However, there was another Mega in format, Mega Heracross EX which could do a clean 180 damage when it had no damage counters on it.
The basic strategy of the deck was just to get Mega Heracross EX out, and then swing for 180 damage with Big Bang Horn for the rest of the game, healing off damage from it with Max Potion while protecting most of the Energy with Aromatisse’s Fairy Transfer Ability.
This area was probably what ended up keeping me from making Day 2, the deck lists we ended up playing were sub par, and that became apparent as the tournament played on, as well as after the tournament’s first day had finished. This was really just a result of lack of testing, I think if we had actually tested the deck more, we would have had proper lists, and with a proper list I think we would have easily made Day 2 with the deck. I believe this was a case of great deck idea, but poor execution.
Anyhow, here is the deck list I played for the tournament.
Pokemon – 15
2 Heracross EX
Trainers – 33
4 Professor Juniper
4 Ultra Ball
3 Fairy Garden
Energy – 12
4 Rainbow Energy
The core strategy of the deck was to use Mega Heracross EX. It’s Big Bang Horn attack does 180 damage, minus each damage counter on it, so if it has no damage on it, it does 180 damage, good to knock out everything that isn’t a Mega Evolution, which is obviously very good. It’s pre-evolution, Heracross EX isn’t that great of an attacker, but it has two attacks that are very good for knocking out Seismitoad EX, which was good against Seismitoad EX/Yveltal EX decks, but not great against much else.
Yveltal EX was a general utility attacker in the deck. Evil Ball generally did enough to 2HKO EX’s for just two Energy, and late game, after building up Energy, you could OHKO with Yveltal EX, which was useful if you missed a Max Potion to use Mega Heracross EX, or if it happened to get knocked out. Y-Cyclone was also useful for knocking stuff out, while sending a Rainbow Energy back to the bench to protect your most important Energy from being lost. Most importantly, Yveltal EX served as a soft counter to your opponent’s own Yveltal EX, which they may try to build up to be big enough to OHKO Mega Heracross EX.
Cobalion EX serves two purposes in the deck: Energy Removal and Shred attacker. It’s Righteous Edge attack does 30 damage and removes a Special Energy card off the Active Pokemon. This was put in with Seismitoad EX primarily, but was also useful against Fighting for removing Strong Energy, or against Yveltal EX when paired with N to strand a useless Yveltal EX active (if they played Garbodor and/or no Darkrai EX) if they couldn’t draw another Energy or Switching card.
It’s Steel Bullet attack does 100 damage, and can go through any effects. I used it to knock out Safeguard Pokemon, which I expected to be popular.
Latias EX was put in for the Pyroar matchup. As Pyroar has an Ability, it can’t attack it for damage, and Latias also has a Shred attack, so it can knock out a Pyroar for you. It wouldn’t be enough to swing a Pyroar matchup if they played Charizard EX and Blacksmith, but we expected any Pyroar decks we saw to be the Seismitoad/Mewtwo version, which we believed we could beat with smart play and Latias EX. In the end, the card was useless, as I didn’t see Pyroar all day, except as a wall with Donphan. It was an eleventh hour addition that I wish I didn’t make.
Virizion EX was primarily in the deck to shutoff Poison and Sleep effects from Hypnotoxic Laser. It also served as a great Seismitoad EX counter on turn 2, 2HKO’ing it while taking very little damage in return because of its resistance to Water.
Suicune was in there to help with the Fighting matchup, as well as act as an early game wall. It was really good against most Fighting decks, as Lucario EX and Landorus EX can’t effect it, Hawlucha deals zero damage to it because it’s not an EX, and it OHKO’s mini Landorus while not being KO’d in return by its one Energy attack.
Xerneas was in the deck for Geomancy, which accelerates two Fairy Energy on your field. Having extra Fairy Energy on your field lets you prepare backup attackers in case your main attacker goes down. This was especially good with Yveltal EX, who could do big damage with just one Rainbow attached, allowing the rest to be Fairy.
If I could change one thing with the Pokemon line in the deck, it would be that I wouldn’t have cut my Dedenne FFI for the Latias EX. Dedenne gives you a OHKO on a big Yveltal EX, and can be used to grab Pokemon from your deck Early game with Entrainment, which lets you search your deck for two Basic Pokemon and put them on your bench. I ended up playing Yveltal EX four times, so it would have come in handy.
I won’t cover my Trainer choices extensively, as they’re fairly obvious conclusions for an Aromatisse deck, but in short: Supporters to draw and search for cards, Lysandre to bring up Pokemon, Ultra Ball to search for Pokemon, Max Potion to heal damage, Startling Megaphone to remove Tools, most importantly on Garbodor, Sacred Ash to recover Pokemon, Dowsing Machine to recover any Trainer and primarily give a 5th Max Potion or 3rd Megaphone, and Fairy Garden to give the deck a free Retreat cost.
Fairly early into the tournament, it became clear that my games went a lot smoother when I started Pokemon Fan Club, the Supporter that lets you search your deck for two Basic Pokemon, than games in which I didn’t. Then as Day 1 concluded, Kyle Sucevich of the Top Cut posted his Aromatisse/Mega Kangaskhan EX deck list, which he used to a 7-0-2 record. In it, he played 4 Pokemon Fan Club.
If I were to rebuild this deck, I would take out the 2 Skyla for 2 more Pokemon Fan Club to increase the count of that to three. The card is very good in this type of deck, and I think that would have become obvious if I had played more games with the deck before the tournament.
The 4 Rainbow Energy are the most important Energy in the deck, as they are movable Energy that can be used to power up Mega Heracross EX’s Grass costs, as well as the non-Fairy costs of your tech attackers.
Fairy Energy was also played to give the deck more movable Energy, and also Energy that could be accelerated via Geomancy.
The two Herbal Energy was the deck building touch we made that I liked the most. The general idea behind this inclusion, is that your opponent will try to prevent your Mega Heracross EX from being able to swing for 180 by sniping it while it was on the bench with an attack like Megalo Cannon or Hammerhead. If your opponent tried this, I could play an Herbal Energy to Mega Heracross, heal off that damage, and then swing for 180, while saving a Max Potion for later in the game.
I also played a single Grass Energy to allow myself to accelerate an Energy when I used Emerald Slash. This is a neat little play, but in the games I ended up using Virizion EX to attack, the Grass ended up being either prized or discarded Early, so it became a non-factor. It probably should have just been a third Herbal Energy to make that component of the deck more consistent.
As the tournament had 404 players, we would play 9 rounds, cut to Top 32, play 5 more Swiss rounds, and then cut to a Top 8. As only two 18 point players made Top 32 at St. Louis Regionals last year with 357 players, I expected 19 points to be the bubble, which ended up being right.
Round 1 – Fighting with Team Flare Grunt and Crushing Hammer
If you could make a worse deck for me to play with this deck, this is probably it. My deck is highly reliant on Rainbow Energy to execute its strategy, so anything that can remove Energy is going to be good against my deck.
In the first game I prized 2 Rainbow Energy, which I didn’t think would be a big deal headed into the match, but once the Hammrs and Flare Grunts started getting played it became a major issue. Once my opponent removed both Rainbow from my field, I had no chance to win, as I didn’t play a strong Fairy only attacker. If I had played Xerneas EX, I probably could have beaten this easily, but in the scope of the larger tournament, I think not playing Xerneas EX and focusing on making the core strategy, and covering the core weak points that I would be more likely to play against was more important than teching for a concept I didn’t expect to play.
In the second game, I didn’t prize any Rainbow Energy, and just took the game slowly, as my opponent worked away at removing all my Energy. After withstanding all of my opponent’s Crushing Hammers and Flare Grunts, I was left with an Energyless field. I immediately grabbed Xerneas, and used Geomancy to get two more Fairy Energy on the field. From there, I got my last Rainbow Energy, and was able to sweep the game with Suicune, using Lysandre to pre-emptively knock out Landorus when possible, leaving my opponent with a field of Hawlucha, Landorus EX, and Lucario EX, three Pokemon that could deal zero damage to a Suicune.
Time was called as we were setting up for Game 3.
Round 2 – Seismitoad EX/Yveltal EX/Garbodor DRX
I don’t remember too much about this series. I know that I prized Virizion EX in both games, which certainly hurt, but I should still be able to deal with the deck without Virizion EX, but the general clunkiness of the deck got in the way from doing that. The first game wasn’t very competitive.
I don’t remember much of game 2, but I believe time was called. I think I may have had a chance to pull it off if we had some more turns, but I don’t quite remember all of this game.
Round 3 – Yveltal EX/Seismitoad EX
This wasn’t a very eventful series. My deck played clunky in both of the games, but my opponent wasn’t playing Garbodor, which makes it for a heavily tilted matchup in my deck’s favor. My opponent’s deck ran very consistently, so he put some good pressure on me, but after I got Mega Heracross EX there was nothing my opponent could do to stop a series of Big Bang Horns from ending the game quickly.
Round 4 – Donphan/Trevenant/Sigilyph
We made an estimation that Donphan was a pretty good matchup for the deck. Cobalion EX could hit through Safe Guard, and with 3 Lysandre, I would be able to pull up Donphan and knock it out, which would allow me to play preventive in denying them the opportunity to OHKO with Wreck.
I wasn’t sure how Trevenant would change the matchup, but knew that Yveltal EX could KO Trevenant for two Energy with Evil Ball, and I had Lysandre still to break the lock (as well as bring up Donphan to KO at the same time), so I wasn’t too worried.
I just stuck to the strategy I had crafted for playing Donphan decks, and it worked well and these games were heavily tilted in my favor.
Round 5 – Virizion EX/Genesect EX
This was an unfortunate match for me. I just got unlucky, not sure what more there is to say than that. In the first game in the series, I don’t draw a Supporter, so I lose. In the second game, I get Heracross evolved on turn 2, and then on turn 3 Ultra Ball to use Big Bang Horn on his Virizion EX, but all my Aromatisse are prized.
I ended up in a tough spot where I couldn’t attach a second Rainbow Energy, otherwise I couldn’t OHKO. I whiffed a usable Energy, and got Megalo Cannon sniped. If I could get an Herbal Energy either of the next two turns, I could Big Bang Horn for a OHKO, and hopefully get an Aromatisse off the prizes. I whiff it, even after a Juniper for 7 (it of course would be the card I draw for my next turn). From there, I just tried to win with Suicune, but G-Booster wasn’t prized, so that didn’t work.
Not much to say on this match, other than bad luck happened. Two low probability events happened in back to back games, making it impossible for me to win.
Round 6 – Plasma Kyurem
One of the things that attracted us to this deck was that it basically had an auto win against anything that had these three things going for it: 1. No Item Lock 2. No Ability Lock and 3. No OHKO Ability on Mega Heracross EX. TDK qualifies on all three of these categories, and as a result it was as easy to beat in practice, as it was in theory. Once I Mega Evolved into Mega Heracross EX, as long as I didn’t whiff Max Potions, there was nothing my opponent could do to stop me from winning.
Round 7 – Donphan/Pyroar/Sigilyph
I was a little scared when I saw a Litleo get flipped, as I thought I may have been playing a dedicated Pyroar deck, which could have been difficult to beat. However, it quickly became apparent that he was playing a Donphan variant, and Pyroar was just a wall in the deck. He did play maybe 1 Rainbow Energy, but it would take two manual attachments to get Pyroar setup, so that aspect would be easy to play around if it ever started to happen.
In game 1, I just stuck to the same Donphan strategy as I used against the earlier one. It worked just fine in Game 1, as I used Mega Heracross EX to knock out his Pyroar, and Cobalion EX to knock out his Sigilyph, while bringing up Donphan’s with Lysandre for KO’s.
Game 2 didn’t go so smoothly. The deck got clunky again, and there was a point where I stalled out with no Supporter for a few turns. I was very slow to get setup, and in the process of getting setup, I had to ditch a lot of Lysandre and Max Potions in the process. After getting setup, I was able to knockout his main Donphan, and all I had to do was Lysandre up his other Donphan at some point to win the game.
I was out my Dowsing Machine, so I only had one out to Lysandre, which was the actual Lysandre. I wasn’t sure if it was prized, but I began to suspect it was after having difficulty drawing it. The game was down to one prize for my opponent, and two prizes for me, and time gets called. On the second to last turn of time, I know the Lysandre is most likely prized as I have 2 cards left in deck, so all I can do is play preventively and try to deny him the win, so I N him to 1, put up Yveltal EX (Mega Heracross EX was damaged), and hope my opponent can’t get the Wreck off for the win.
My opponent played Elctrode though, so he could Magnetic Draw his hand up to 4, which he did, which gained him a Colress. He used Colress for 5, and got the Float Stone he needed to retreat and the last Energy he needed to use Wreck.
So a turn 3 of time loss in a game 2 would give me a tie that would ultimately prevent me from making Day 2. Any additional minute of gameplay earlier would have given me the win for the match, which is somewhat frustrating, but my opponent played well and won the game legitimately, so there was nothing to be upset about in the end.
Rounds 8 and 9 – Yveltal EX/Seismitoad EX/Raichu and Yveltal EX/Seismitoad EX/Garbodor
These rounds were both 2-0 wins for me. In the first match, my opponent didn’t play Garbodor, which made it so the matchup was very heavily tilted in my favor. In the next round, my opponent hit some spots where he dead drew, which didn’t let him put forth much aggression, which gave me plenty of time to knock out his Garbodor and establish a strong board position for the win.
I was really hoping to get some points, and a bounty of packs from this finish, but in the end, the size of the tournament would prevent that even! I ended up bubbling the Top 64 at 67th place, but in the 4 packs I got for Top 128, I did pull a FA Dragonite EX, so it wasn’t that bad I guess?
While I didn’t do as well as I like, I wasn’t too disappointed by the weekend either. A win in place of a tie would have given me 19 points and a shot at Top 32, and a win in place of a loss would have put me at 20 points and guaranteed a spot in Top 32. So basically, I was 2/3 of a win away from making Day 2…which isn’t that far off.
The 67th place finish seems really poor when I looked at it first, but I didn’t feel like I actually did terrible. I knew I didn’t do great, but I felt like things went kind of okay. When I looked at it from a quantitative perspective, I realized the performance actually wasn’t that bad. Not what I wanted, but not that bad.
67th/404 meant I did better than 337 other people that attended the event, and it actually put me in the 83.4th percentile of players that attended the tournament, which is definitely more towards the top than the bottom, or even the middle. Scaling the tournament down some, for example a 150 person tournament would have placed me at 25th place and in the Top 32. In a 227 person tournament (the minimum required for 9 rounds), I would have theoretically placed 38th, just barely on the outside of the Top 32 cut off for Day 2.
This is one of those scary things about working with big numbers, sometimes they look much more intimidating than they actually are. Just because of the giant scope of attendance at the event, it appeared on the surface that I did really bad, but when in reality my performance wasn’t actually as bad as I initially thought.
I think sometimes we’re too hard on ourselves, and judge ourselves too harshly, especially in situations of big attendance, where by their very nature, the tournaments will be very hard to cut in.
Overall, I was happy with the deck choice I made. I’m confident that Mega Heracross was a good concept and had what it takes to make Day 2. It just wasn’t tested enough, and the list not fleshed out well enough to get it to the optimal point it needed to be at to accomplish that. Additionally, it took me until midway through the tournament to realize that going all in on setting up Mega Heracross EX to start the game was the optimal strategy. Early in the tournament, I had been going for Aromatisse as a priority (for example using Ultra Ball for Spritzee early game before going for Heracross EX), which was no the optimal play.
I don’t really regret not testing more, as I needed the break from heavy testing to allow myself to get re-energized for the big stretch of the season (City Championship through State CHampionships), which I think are the two most important sets of tournaments towards qualifying for Worlds.
If I were to make Day 2, I would have played Rayquaza EX/Eelektrik NVI. I think I would have done well with it. I played it in the Expanded League Challenge, which had a lot of players (I’ve seen the number 90 people thrown out there, but I’m not sure on actual attendance, but I know based on the number of rounds it was somewhere in between 65 and 128 people). I finished 6-1 for 2nd place. I’ll write about that experience soon. Got the Gengar Playmat, the Gengar Deck Box, and 9 packs (with FA Lucario EX and another Mega Heracross EX!) for the finish, so that was a good way to end the weekend.
Was also happy to see some friends do well. Dema Boatman making Day 2 in his first Regional Championship in Masters Division. JW Kriewall making another great run in Fort Wayne, making it into the Top 8. He won the tournament last year, and I was hoping he could pull off the two-peat, but it wasn’t to be.
This was a fun tournament for sure. I had a lot of fun playing a weird deck, and saying Big Bang Horn a bunch.
LONG LIVE BIG BANG HORN!