Night March is the best deck in the format. With the conclusion of Week 1 of State Championships this is a very conclusive statement, and not something that is debatable. During the first weekend of the tournament series Night March accounted for 38 of the Top 8 spots (out of 112 total spots), winning seven of the tournaments, finishing second at seven, finishing in the Top 4 seven times, and finishing in the Top 8 seventeen times.
This means that Night March won half of the State Championships and took 2nd at half of all State Championships played during the first weekend of the series. Night March was in the finals of 12/14 tournaments and there was a Night March mirror in the finals of two State Championships.
In this article I will look at why Night March was so dominant in Week 1, go over which decks did the best job at countering it, and then I will cover how Night March can beat the counter decks some of the time.
How Dominant Was Night March?
The deck has certainly gotten better since City Championships. During City Championships, the deck finished in second in its share of Championship Points from Top 4 finishes with 14.36%, narrowly being beat out by Yveltal/Zoroark BKT/Gallade BKT with 14.53%. During that tournament series it was a very good deck, and was also trending towards being the top deck, but it had a much smaller sliver of the meta game.
Flash forward to State Championships and Night March has been absolutely dominant through the first weekend. During Week 1 of State Championships, Night March accounted for 35.98% of Championship Points awarded from Top 8 finishes. The next closest deck, Yveltal, wasn’t even close, finishing with 13.34%. In raw numbers, in one weekend Night March amassed players 1,680 more Championship Points from Top 8 finishes than the second best deck, Yveltal. The margin between Night March and the second best deck is in fact larger than the total Championship Points that deck earned, which is 990. Night March finished with more Championship points than the next three decks (Yveltal, Seismitoad EX/Hammers, and M Manectric EX) combined.
In total, Night March gave players 2,670 Championship Points from Top 8 finishes in the first weekend of State Championships.
Why Is Night March So Good Now?
The key reason that Night March is so good at the moment is because it is the most consistent deck in the format. The deck almost always has the exact card it wants in hand every turn of the game, which isn’t exactly all that outlandish of a statement when you consider that most games for Night March will last only a few turns.
The card that broke Night March is the new Puzzle of Time card printed in the XY: BREAKpoint expansion. If you play two Puzzle of Time cards at the same time, it lets you get back any two cards from your discard pile. This card can be a bit hard to get two copies of in hand consistently enough for most decks to make use of it, but decks playing an engine built around 4 copies of Battle Compressor and VS Seeker are the decks that are most consistently able to use the card for the recovery effect.
The way Night March decks consistently use this card is through the use of Teammates, which is a Supporter card that lets them search out any two cards from their deck. These decks have easy access to Teammates because they can discard it with Battle Compressor and then search it out with one of their VS Seeker. Additionally, many Night March decks still opted to play Milotic PRC and Sparkling Ripples could be used to search out a Puzzle of Time piece when one was already in hand.
Most notably the card is used as an Energy recovery card. One successful Puzzle of Time for two cards from the discard pile can give Night March all of the Energy they need to attack with 6 Night Marchers in a game, although they can often win a game using fewer than six Night March attackers.
Additional uses for the card were to get back Night Marchers, use Startling Megaphone multiple times against decks with Bursting Balloon and Fighting Fury Belt, as well as to get re-use of Supporter cards when they didn’t have VS Seeker in hand.
While Milotic PRC filled a similar role in Night March decks during City Championships, it is mostly outclassed by Puzzle of Time. Puzzle of Time comes without the order of operations problem that can become an issue with Milotic PRC. With Milotic, you need the Feebas first, and then the Milotic, and you have to wait a turn. All copies of Puzzle of Time are created equal, so any time you have two in hand you’re ready to go. It trades in being able to be countered with Ability Lock by being countered by Item Lock. However, Item Lock was only a feature of 8.31% of Standard decks during City Championships, so it wasn’t a big feature of the format before BREAKpoint was released. At the State Championship I attended, Item Lock decks were few and far between, but the ones that did see play almost all made it into the Top 8.
The card is also live even if you find it at an inopportune hand, while a Milotic could end up being a dead card in your hand on the first turn of the game. This is because Puzzle of Time has an alternate effect where if you only play 1 copy, then you can look at the top 3 cards of your deck and re-arrange them if you want. This can be used to setup yourself to hit the correct cards off of a Setup or Acro Bike or to tell you whether you should play something like a Battle Compressor or Ultra Ball to re-arrange you deck before playing a Trainers’ Mail if you don’t see a card you want in the top 3 cards. This helps add to the consistency of the deck.
The other card that helped make Night March stronger was Fighting Fury Belt. This allowed Joltik and Pumpkaboo to survive little dink attacks like Sky Return, Skill Dive, and Oblivion Wing that would previously OHKO them. This is important because these little dink attacks would previously KO them, while now the Night Marcher would survive the attack and your opponent would need to do something additional like play a Startling Megaphone or activate a Fright Night Yveltal to take a knockout on the Pokemon damaged with these attacks. This is important because a lot of decks have a difficult time powering up attacks that do 70 or 100 damage (depending on if it’s a Joltik or Pumpkaboo in question) to take a knockout when they’re suffering OHKO’s turn after turn.
What Beats Night March?
In the Top 8 portion of the 14 State Championships played in the first weekend there were 98 total matches played. Of those 98 matches, Night March was involved in 62 of those matches. Night March was involved in 63.3% of the matches played during the Top 8 portion of State Championships.
Taking out the 9 mirror matches played, in the 53 other matches played, Night March had a 32-21 record for a 60.4 win percentage. This means overall, Night March success was equivalent to being somewhere between that of the Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks this season, the 6th and 7th best teams in the NBA this year.
Here is a breakdown of all of Night March’s record against various decks:
|M Manectric EX||5||0||100.00%|
|M Mewtwo EX (Y)||1||0||100.00%|
|Seismitoad EX (Other)||1||0||100.00%|
|M Latios EX/Crobat||1||0||100.00%|
|M Rayquaza EX||1||0||100.00%|
|Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX||2||5||28.57%|
If you count it all up, Night March had 13 positive matchup records, 5 negative, 1 neutral, and 1 mirror match.
The decks that could be considered counters to Night March headed in were turn 1 Item Lock decks (Vileplume AOR and Trevenant XY), Seismitoad EX/Hammer decks (Seismitoad EX/Garbodor, Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX, and straight Seismitoad EX), Giratina EX decks (Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX and Tyrantrum EX/Bronzong PHF) and decks with Greninja BREAK because of their extreme damage acceleration Abilities.
In its matchups against decks that are meant to be counters against it, Night March went 8-16, or a 33.3% win percentage. That means even against a hostile deck, Night March prevailed 1/3 of the time, which really isn’t that bad for your bad matchups and shows that Night March might not have any true auto losses.
Against the decks not meant to counter it, Night March went a wicked 23-5 for a total win percentage of 82.1%, putting them somewhere between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers (but much closer to the Spurs), which are the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the NBA this season. If Night March’s win percentage was that of an NBA team, it would be sixth best of all time, or eighth best if you include this year’s Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. Night March might not be Stephen Curry good, but it’s pretty dang good. It’s important to make note that the Warriors don’t show up and play against teams specifically designed to beat them ever.
How Night March Counters It’s Bad Matchups
While Night March certainly took a negative record against most of it’s bad matchups, it still beat most of them a fair amount of the time. Here is how Night March is able to take wins against its bad matchups.
Seismitoad EX (Without Giratina EX) – The way that Night March beats Seismitoad EX decks is by surviving enough Energy disruption cards to use Night March enough times to win the game. Without access to Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym, Seismitoad EX decks won’t be able to OHKO a Pumpkaboo. This means a Pumpkaboo can trade 2-1 with a Seismitoad EX that has Fighting Fury Belt attached, or 4-1 against Seismitoad EX’s without those attached. A Pumpkaboo with Fighting Fury Belt attached will be a 3HKO for a Seismitoad EX with Fighting Fury Belt attached if they are unable to remove the Tool. A big deciding factor in this matchup is coin flips. If Seismitoad EX flips moderately well on Crushing Hammer, it will run the Night March deck out of Energy before it can take enough KO’s for the win. Additionally, if Seismitoad EX flips well enough on Super Scoop Up, it also can deny Night March from taking prizes if Night March is not scoring OHKO’s because of Fighting Fury Belt or not having enough Night March Pokemon in the discard pile.
Additionally, if Night March goes first it can use Hex Maniac to deny the Seismitoad EX from being able to find its resources on the first turn of the game. While Night March went 0-2 against these decks, that is probably more variance than anything as the Giratina EX provides an additional requirement the Night March deck must overcome to win and it went 2-5 against those decks.
The way the Night March player can beat Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX decks, in specific the Giratina EX part of the deck is by using a Pokemon Catcher or Lysandre to knockout the Giratina EX the player is trying to setup on their bench. For this reason, it might be best for these Toad players, especially when going second, to setup a Seismitoad EX first, and then setup the Giratina EX behind that.
Tyrantrum EX decks can be a bit harder to stop because they have the Energy Acceleration of Bronzong PHF to quickly power up a Giratina EX in one turn. The way this can be beat is by using Hex Maniac to deny them Metal Links (although they can still attach two Double Dragon Energy, just as the Seismitoad EX/Giratina EX deck does) or by getting enough Double Colorless Energy in play to have another attacker ready for after you’re unable to attach Double Colorless Energy. If the Night March player doe not use Hex Maniac in the turn they knockout the Giratina EX, then the Bronzong player can power up a Giratina EX in one turn to replace the one that was just knocked out.
Turn 1 Item Lock
Night March is in a fairly decent position against the turn 1 Item Lock decks if it goes first, as it plays counters to both variants (Vileplume/Trevenant) and it can setup using those counters on later turns if it goes first.
The counters are Hex Maniac, which shuts off Vileplume’s and Trevenant’s Abilities, as well as Lysandre in the case of Trevenant if there is something like a Phantump on the bench that you can bring up.
Beyond the counters, going first is important because it gives the Night March player a turn to play their Battle Compressor to power up their Night March attack and thin the deck of potential dead draw cards.
Once they break the Item Lock with one of their counters, they can use VS Seeker and Puzzle of Time to not only recover resources, but also to recover their counters to use on a different turn.
Vileplume is better positioned to deny Night March the win than Trevenant because Vileplume can only be countered with Hex Maniac, which means that Night March players can’t play Shaymin EX for additional draw after breaking the lock, while they can against Trevenant if they use a Lysandre to break the lock. That means that against Vileplume, Night March is less likely to have additional turns of breaking the lock than it is against Trevenant.
Beyond that, having both Hex Maniac and Lysandre as counter cards means that Night March has more total counter cards to use against Trevenant than it does against Vileplume.
If Night March does get to go first though, it can win simply by out trading the Vileplume/Vespiquen deck for knockouts if they can string enough Double Colorless attachments to run the Vileplume/Vespiquen deck out of Energy. It’s aided in doing this by being able to break the lock with Hex Maniac and then using a Puzzle of Time to recover its Double Colorless Energy.
If Night March goes first, it opens up a real possibility of them being able to use Lysandre on Vileplume and knocking it out to break the Item lock for the rest of the game. It’s debatable how strong of a play this even is, because in doing so you’re leaving a Vespiquen alive, giving the Vileplume player more attackers to go through the game with, and Night March can end up losing the prize trade as a result of making this move if it isn’t done at the right point in the game.
Trevenant does have Burst Balloon, which will mostly mean that Night March is giving up a prize when they attack into a Trevenant, but Night March can get around this by playing Lysandre to bring up something that doesn’t have Burst Balloon on it. If it’s bringing up a Phantump, Shaymin EX, or Wobbuffet PHF it is also breaking the lock allowing it to play Item cards again. Even if it uses Hex Maniac, Night March can still counter a Burst Balloon by following that up with a Startling Megaphone or using Puzzle of Time to get back the Startling Megaphone.
Additionally, Trevenant decks can lose games to a Shaymin EX loop, while Vileplume/Vespiquen decks will not and will be taking prizes every turn, putting Night March decks on a much tighter turn clock for it to win the game.
I’m actually surprised that Greninja BREAK did as well as it did against Night March this weekend. I had tested Greninja extensively before State Championships and decided on not playing it because I believed that a good Night March player would beat the deck most of the time.
The reason Night March can do well against Greninja decks is because Greninja decks by nature are going to be playing the game in a prize deficit against Night March decks as they won’t begin attacking until their second or third turns depending on who goes first in the game.
If Greninja goes first, it almost always starts the game down 2-0 on prizes with Night March taking a prize on a Froakie on turn 1, and then the Frogadier that they use to Water Duplicate on the second turn of the game. If Greninja goes second and successfully uses Wally to evolve into Frogadier on the first turn of the game, this deficit can be cut down to 1-0 on prizes.
From here, all Night March needs to do is string Hex Maniac for a few turns to deny Greninja decks from using enough Water Shuriken and Giant Water Shuriken to catch up in the prize trade.
Without a doubt, Night March in Week 1 of State Championships has been the most dominant deck that we’ve seen since we have begun tracking results with this site. It made up roughly 1/3 of all Top 8 finishes, and accounted for ~36% of all Championship Points awarded from Top 8 finishes.
Of the decks that won the 14 State Championship tournaments this weekend, 4 were hard counters to Night March (Seismitoad EX/Hammers and Vileplume/Vespiquen), and 1 was a softer counter to Night March (Greninja BREAK). Even when paired against a deck meant to beat it, Night March won 1/3 of the time.
I expect that we will be seeing a lot more Night March hate in the coming weeks with it doing so well during the first weekend. I am not sure if added hate will actually make players stop playing Night March though as it is still beating the hate decks at a decent clip. Additionally, it will be really interesting to see what other decks will continue to see heavy play moving forward outside of Night March and its haters.
Featured Image Credit: By Poly-Love Draws on DeviantArt. Image was made using Pokemon Art Academy and is some incredible artwork using the game.