It’s hard to believe, but players are less than three weeks away from playing in the 2016 U.S. National Championship. With Nationals quickly approaching it’s time to take a look at the meta game for the upcoming tournament.
I base my Top 10 list of decks for the tournament based on observations of the Japanese meta game, the results of foreign national championships, and my own testing results. For each deck I will describe how I think it fits into the National Championship meta game as well as include a hot tech for each deck.
1. Greninja BREAK
Move aside Night March, there is a new top deck in town. There are a few factors that have gone into Greninja’s emergence as a top deck. One factor is the deck has been around for awhile now allowing players time to figure out how to best build and tech the deck, as well as figure out better ways to play the deck. Additionally, Fates Collide brought us N, allowing the come from behind Greninja deck to play a more natural and consistent Supporter engine.
An emerging presence in the deck that popped up during State Championships, but which has now become a staple in the deck is the Jirachi XY67 promo card. Its Stardust attack allows the deck to slowdown all of the Special Energy reliant decks in the format, giving it time to setup.
Once it’s setup, it is one of the most powerful decks in the format. It can reach 150 damage of Ability based damage per a turn (2 Giant Water Shuriken, and a regular Water Shuriken), while also being able to swing for 80 more damage while conserving its Energy, or denying the opponent use of Abilities and doing 40 damage with its Shadow Stitching attack.
At 170 HP, Greninja BREAK can be tough to knock out, and Rough Seas in conjunction with free retreat can give Greninja BREAK’s even more staying power on the field. When they do go down, they only give up one prize card, making for a very frustrating prize exchange. Rough Seas is also very important in allowing Greninja decks to survive the pressure from Trevenant BREAK decks’ Silent Fear attacks.
With favorable and survivable matchups against all of the other top decks headed into the format, Greninja BREAK is poised for a great showing at U.S. Nationals.
The lowest Buy it Now’s on Ebay for Greninja BREAK are currently floating around $25 a piece for the card, so that should be a strong indication that people have high hopes for Greninja headed into the largest tournament of the year.
Hot Tech: Bronzong FCO
One of the most frustrating things about playing Greninja BREAK decks can be the mirror match, which can easily turn into a war of attrition as players constantly heal off any damage with Rough Seas while rotating between a trio of Greninja BREAK. Giant Water Shuriken is a non-factor in the mirror match, because players won’t stray from using Shadow Stitching, as they don’t want to concede a turn of Abilities to their opponent as that can completely swing a game around.
One way to take control of the Greninja mirror match is by using Giant Water Shuriken while your opponent cannot. One way to do this is by using Bronzong, whose Metal Fortress Ability says, “Prevent all effects of your opponent’s attacks, including damage, done to your Benched Pokemon.” This means that Greninja’s Shadow Stitching would not affect any of your Benched Pokemon’s Abilities as long as Bronzong is also on your bench.
What you can do is retreat into a benched Greninja BREAK that was protected by Bronzong and then use Giant Water Shuriken to stack on the damage in the mirror match and win the game by prizes.
If you do play Bronzong, it would probably be a good idea to play AZ as well, as getting your Bronzong stuck in the active position could easily lose you the game.
Edit: Greninja’s Shadow Stiching vs. Bronzong’s Metal Fortress is still awaiting a final ruling from R&D in Japan. Potentially it could be ruled that the Pokemon would lose its Ability if it becomes active, which would ruin this strategy. If this is the case, then copy the hot tech for Night March, as it fulfills a similar role for the mirror match as Bronzong does.
2. Night March
While I think it’s been bumped from the top spot, it hasn’t been bumped down very far, Night March is still a very serious threat headed into U.S. Nationals. Anytime a deck can effectively put every other deck on a 7 turns or less clock, unless they do something to extend that clock, then that deck will be one of the top forces in the meta game.
While Night March hasn’t been overly successful in European tournaments, it was the most dominant deck of the Japanese Mega Battles, making up 30% of the meta in the older division and 40% of the meta in the younger age division.
There are three primary variants of Night March that you should know about. The first is straight Night March, which is by far the most popular variant of the deck and which may begin to include Mew FCO in low numbers. The second is Night March/Vespiquen, which makes a trade off in consistency in exchange for an alternate attacker in Vespiquen which can be used as a Jolteon EX counter and something that can hit Pokemon for Grass weakness. This is far less popular than the straight variant. The third version, which is much more recent, is a variant that includes Gallade BKT and Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick, using Gallade as its counter to Jolteon EX. This is mostly an offshoot of straight Night March with a Jolteon EX counter built into the deck.
There actually is a newer, fourth variant of the deck that popped up in Japan, and that is Night March/Garbodor BPT. It’s basically a straight Night March variant that uses Garbodor BPT to shutdown Abilities, most importantly Greninja BREAK’s Giant Water Shuriken which can be deadly against the deck.
Night March doesn’t have the best matchup spread headed into Nationals, but that’s primarily a result of the entire State Championship meta game being aimed to take down the deck. With the emergence of power decks within those counters (Greninja BREAK, Trevenant BREAK, and Vileplume/Vespiquen), the meta may have to shift to focusing on beating those other decks which could re-open paths for Night March to become dominant again.
Hot Tech – Bent Spoon
One of the most popular strategies for buying time against Night March decks is to use Jirachi’s Stardust attack to discard a Double Colorless Energy, while preventing all effects of attacks including damage during their next turn. You can actually counter their counter in Night March by playing Bent Spoon. Bent Spoon prevents all effects of attacks except damage done to the Pokemon that this tool is attached to. That means Stardust would do 10 damage still, but not discard the Energy and not prevent all effects of attacks done to Jirachi on your next turn.
A more aggressive tech would be Bursting Balloon, but that only lasts for one turn, and your opponent would choose not to attack into it anyhow, leading to it having roughly the same effect as Bent Spoon against better players who won’t give up a prize for the Energy discard. This means Bent Spoon should be the better tech as it can last multiple turns if your opponent doesn’t play a Tool Removal card to respond to it.
3. Trevenant BREAK
Trevenant BREAK decks came on strong at the end of State Championships, becoming the 2nd most successful deck during the last weekend of State Championships. While it made sense on the surface that Trevenant could rise as a top deck to counter Night March, when we abroke down Night March’s matchups during the Top 8’s of State Championships, Night March actually came out the victor 53% of the time.
While Trevenant BREAK is certainly a solid deck against Night March, the majority of its power comes because of its ability to create an enormous advantage when going first in the game, while also being able to spread its damage out to put nearly everything your opponent benches within knockout range before they bring it out from the spread damage of Silent Fear.
One reasons I think Trevenant BREAK decks have been as successful as they have been is because it’s one of the least skill intensive decks in the format. The strategy of the deck is very straight forward and there aren’t that many available plays in a given turn for the deck, which means there is less opportunity for a player to misplay with the deck. This creates a little bit higher of a floor for the results of lesser skilled players playing the deck.
However, don’t confuse not being skill intensive with not being good. Trevenant is one of the best decks in the format because it creates what is probably the most unfair game state in the game, which is Item locking an opponent before they have a turn, while still maintaining its own ability to play Item cards.
Additionally, Trevenant might be the best deck at creating what I like to call, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations. The primary force in creating these situations is Bursting Balloon, which can create situations where an opponent is screwed over no matter what line of play they take, as they can attack into it and put their Pokemon closer to being knocked out, or not attack into it, extending the amount of attacks they need to win the game.
Hot Tech: M Alakazam EX
M Alakazam EX is able to help Trevenant decks in two ways. The first is by adding extra damage on the field, allowing Trevenant to speed up a knockout on a couple of Pokemon. You are not likely to play more than a 1-1 line, so this will be a one time use Ability.
Where M Alakazam EX can really shine in the deck is as a late game sweeper, finishing off everything that has taken a couple Silent Fear attacks.
Most Trevenant lists are already tight for space, and getting out a 1-1 Mega Evolution, with presumably 1 Spirit Link isn’t going to be the most consistent thing in the world, so it might be better off to go with a more consistent list for the deck.
This deck is in many ways a combination of the two decks above it. It aims to create an unfair game state with turn 1 Item lock, similar to Trevenant BREAK decks, while also putting opponent’s on a short clock as it can take OHKO after OHKO starting from its first turn of the game.
The deck was the 5th most successful deck during State Championships and recently won the pre-Fates Collide National Championship in the United Kingdom.
A major limiting factor for this deck can be a high skill floor. This deck is essentially a test on a player’s ability to properly sequence playing their cards and ability to get the most out of a finite pool of resources. I’ve never seen a deck before this one where the majority of players playing it consistently misplay themselves into losing game states on the first turn of the game.
This deck is a major threat headed into Nationals because it has a major advantage when going first in most matchups, while also being able to win plenty of games when going second when played properly. I also think a major advantage this deck has going for it is that it is the deck that you are probably the least likely to tie with, which can be a very strong deck characteristic at big tournaments.
Hot Techs: 2nd Bunnelby and Hex Maniac
Playing a second Bunnelby in this deck is very strong, as it allows you opportunities to extend games and create winning game plays even after your first Bunnelby is knocked out or discarded.
At State Championships we saw the evolution of the deck to include tech Supporter cards such as AZ and Lysandre, and it might be time to add a 3rd tech Supporter into the mix, Hex Maniac. Players have started to play Aegislash EX as a tech card in decks like Water Tool Box and Bronzong decks have made a comeback, so the probability of hitting an Aegislash EX at Nationals is much greater than it was at State Championships.
Toxicroark EX provides another option for knocking out an Aegislash EX, but Hex Maniac provides a much more sudden knockout and can be retrieved with Bunnelby for repeated use against multiple Aegislash EX decks.
5. M Rayquaza EX
This was a deck that players didn’t want to be caught dead playing at State Championships because of the horrible matchup against Night March, but with Night March most likely seeing a decrease in play at the National Championship and the meta game starting to become more diverse, I think M Rayquaza EX is well suited for a good showing.
If you take a look at the other decks in this Top 10, I think it’s easy to imagine a Hex Ray variant being very strong against the majority of the other decks on this Top 10 list, and when a deck has so many favorable matchups, it will generally be able to do well, even if it takes an auto loss to one of the top decks.
Remember, the National Championship is 15 rounds of Swiss, followed by Top 8. If you go 12-3 with this deck, losing 3 times against Night March, that 36 points will get you into Top 8, and if you don’t hit Night March in Top 8, you can become National Champion, even with an auto loss against one of the best decks in the format.
If I were to play M Rayquaza EX for Nationals, I wouldn’t bother playing any Night March counters and would instead focus on making it as strong as it can be against every other deck in the format.
Hot Tech: No Jolteon EX
Sometimes the best tech is not to tech, and I think this is one of those cases. I don’t think Jolteon EX realistically gets you the win against Night March decks, so as said above, I would focus that list space elsewhere to build the deck to be as strong as possible against everything else.
This was one of my favorite decks during State Championships, and I still think the deck has a decent matchup spread, but the biggest reason that I’m down on the deck headed into the National Championship is because I think the deck has a horrible Greninja BREAK matchup, which I consider the best deck in the format headed into Nationals.
I think if built and played properly, Yveltal/Zoroark has favorable matchups against 3/4 top decks, but those matchups are still far from auto win territory, and having such a bad Greninja BREAK matchup is enough to erase all the good having favorable matchups against the other 3 top 4 decks.
The variant that I think is best of the deck is the Quad Zoroark variants of the deck that popped up during the end of State Championships that also played a copy or two of Zoroark BREAK.
Gallade BKT is a strong option to consider in the deck as well as a Jolteon EX counter and a solid force against Greninja decks (Giovanni’s Scheme plus Muscle Band allows it to hit for 170 against Greninja BREAK). However, what I found during State Championships was that as the Zoroark count went up, the less consistent the Gallade part of the deck became as you were adding more cards which couldn’t instantly be played down, making it more difficult to play Maxie’s.
Hot Tech: Target Whistle(s)
A great addition to the deck that came from Kevin Baxter during State Championships was the addition of two Target Whistle to the deck. This allowed you to repeatedly take knockouts on an opponent’s Shaymin EX in many games, but also had the secondary utility of boosting Zoroark’s Mind Jack damage output, which does more damage for each Pokemon on your opponent’s bench.
7. Genesect EX/Bronzong
This is one of the most hyped decks to come out of this past weekend after Simone Zuchelli took 2nd place at the Italian National Championship, which Pokemon streamed this past weekend. Here is the list that he played this past weekend, which his brother shared with the community.
Pokemon – 16
3 Genesect EX
Trainers – 33
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
2 Sky Field
Energy – 11
I suspected Genesect EX/Bronzong would be a solid deck when I wrote my Fates Collide set review, giving the reasoning that it looks like a lot of thought went into designing Genesect EX, Bronzong FCO, and Bronzong BREAK, and when Pokemon puts that much thought into designing cards, it generally means they have tested them to a point to ensure that they’re quality, and that looks to be the case.
I think the strength of this deck, similar to most Metal decks is being able to have a chance in almost every game no matter the matchup. Genesect EX doesn’t have a damage cap, allowing it to knockout anything in the game if you put enough Energy on it, but also is able to hold onto its Energy if you don’t need to do that much damage for the knockout.
I also love Bronzong BREAK in the context of the current meta game. Almost every deck plays down Shaymin EX every game, and Bronzong BREAK gives you an opportunity to knock out a Shaymin EX with a non-EX, while being able to play a Supporter other than Lysandre in the turn you do it. That seems very strong to me.
Bronzong FCO also helps the deck out, preventing it from being swept away from Silent Fear damage, and allowing you to use Metal Links against Greninja BREAK decks.
It’s still a bit early to have a true feel on how this deck will fully integrate itself into the meta game, but I think it will most likely be a solid Tier 2 option for Nationals.
Hot Techs: None
One of the strengths that Metal has gained from switching to a straight Metal variant with Genesect EX is becoming more consistent, so why would you try to ruin a good thing?
8. Water Tool Box
The deck is a new age Seismitoad EX deck, using Max Elixir to power up not only its Seismitoad EX’s, but also its alternate attackers – Regice AOR, Glaceon EX, and Articuno ROS, all of which can be strong attackers against various meta threats.
The deck doesn’t excite me too much, but it is still a solid counter to Night March, and can outlast Trevenant decks with Rough Seas healing Trevenant’s damage every turn. It’s not the type of deck that I would personally play for a tournament like Nationals, but Quaking Punch paired with Energy Removal has repeatedly found success across formats, so I would expect a few of these to make their way into Day 2.
Hot Tech: Aegislash EX
This is a solid counter to Vileplume/Vespiquen decks. With Hoopa EX, you have an additional out to search it out under Item Lock, and with Manaphy EX’s Ability, you can easily retreat into it to slow down Vileplume/Vespiquen decks, as well as potentially win the game simply by promoting it Active if they don’t know how to play around it.
9. Wailord EX
At this point, we are moving outside of the primary meta game and into some lower tier decks that could make a splash because of a set of good matchups against top decks. No deck made a bigger splash at last year’s National Championships than Wailord EX, and it might be back again, this time as more of a known entity.
Wailord EX decks can essentially be seen as Wailord EX/Aegislash EX decks now, as Aegislash EX is an important option for them to have against Vespiquen variants. Additionally, Wailord EX decks have begun to include cards such as Lugia EX to knockout a Bunnelby or other threat.
Most of Enrique’s 2nd place Wailord EX deck was actually reprinted into Standard format over the course of the past year, with the most noticeable exception being Hugh, which was the card that was played to punish your opponent from building up a large hand. Wailord players have moved to including Durant FLF, which has the Chip Off attack to replace Hugh. Chip Off costs [C] and discards cards from your opponent’s hand at random until they have 4 cards left in hand.
While Durant requires you to use an Energy to use it, its effect is actually much stronger than Hugh’s. Hugh let your opponent choose which cards were discarded, which allowed them to save their most precious resources and also use the Hugh to their advantage. Durant on the other hand does it at random, allowing the Wailord player to discard some of their opponent’s most treasured resources if they get lucky enough.
Of the decks above it, I think Wailord actually has the potential to beat most of them. The two large exceptions are Greninja BREAK, which can conserve its Energy with Moonlight Slash while putting up supplemental damage with their Abilities, and potentially Bronzong, which can make use of Drive Change to move between Genesect EX’s swinging for lots of damage.
Hot Tech: M Sceptile EX
I haven’t tested this concept myself, but I have seen Wailord players begin to include M Sceptile EX as a potential counter to Greninja BREAK decks. It has the Theta Stop Ability, which prevents Abilities from affecting it, which means Greninja BREAK needs three attacks to knock it out, and that damage can be healed off a few times with Max Potion. This can buy Wailord decks enough time to discard cards with Team Rocket’s Trickery or Trick Shovel. I’m not sure if it actually works, but I’ve seen it being included into Wailord decks as a potential Greninja BREAK counter.
10. Grass Jank – Serperior/Ariados
Three of my Top 9 decks headed into the National Championship are weak to Grass, and with Grass weakness being so prevalent I think there is plenty of opportunity a new Grass deck to have some success at Nationals. I think most players would be quick to jump on M Sceptile EX as that answer, but I think Serperior/Ariados is actually a better deck of the two.
Here is the list that I have tested for Serperior/Ariados:
Pokemon – 18
4 Snivy FCO
Trainers – 34
4 Professor Sycamore
4 Ultra Ball
4 Forest of Giant Plants
Energy – 8
I think this is a bit of a sleeper deck headed into the National Championship. It completely rails all of the Water decks in the format, and the deck usually trades pretty well with most random decks in the format.
With a 4-4-4 Serperior line and 4 Revitalizer, it’s very easy to stream a Serperior every turn of the game, although the turn 1 isn’t always guaranteed, but you’re usually able to keep a stream going from turn 2 on.
Players might write off the Night March matchup as being poor without testing it out, but I’ve found it to be quite solid. You trade essentailly 1 for 1 with Night March, and you’re not overly reliant on Shaymin EX to keep things going (although we do run 1 just because it can create games out of Ultra Ball only starts, and be used to push the game action later). Conversely, most Night March decks are heavily reliant on Shaymin EX. All it takes in most matches is one Lysandre on a Shaymin EX to jump ahead in the prize trade for the rest of the game. Slashing Strike with Muscle Band and Poison from Ariados knocks out a Shaymin EX.
The nice thing about this deck is that games against aggressive decks OHKO decks, such as Genesect EX/Bronzong and M Rayquaza EX can be turned upside down by a heads on Servine’s Ability, especially when paired with N. Setting up a Coil boosted Slashing Strike KO combined with some Slashing Strike KO’s on Shaymin EX’s can often be all you need to overcome some of the more difficult matchups.
The two big deck working against this deck are the two turn 1 Item lock decks, Trevenant and Vespiquen/Vileplume. I haven’t been able to figure out a good answer to those two decks for this deck.
Hot Tech: None
Playing this deck is hot enough in its own right to add more fuel to the fire with a hot tech.
Straight Vespiquen variants
I don’t think there is a good reason to run a straight Vespiquen variant, Night March is essentially the same deck, but better. A Pumpkaboo with Fighting Fury Belt even has more HP than a Vespiquen. I still think Vespiquen is a solid attacker for the Nationals format, and would recommend only teching it in as an alternate attacker in Night March decks, rather than trying to build a deck around Vespiquen.
This was the other hyped deck from this weekend’s Italian National Championship. The deck did see some minor success in Japan, but that was only in the lower age division. It seems like the type of deck that will get a player close to success, but ultimately come up short.
Giratina EX just isn’t that strong of an answer against the current meta game. It’s great against Night March, but not many of the other decks that are seeing played. The Darkrai EX portion of the deck seems under powered as the deck doesn’t really get enough Energy on the field fast enough to deal with the other OHKO decks.
Even the freaking Seismitoad EX deck doesn’t usually play Double Colorless Energy in this format.
I think this is a deck to keep in mind for next season’s Expanded format though, as Darkrai EX can get to those damage numbers that you want from it when you add Dark Patch into the deck.
This is what my big board looks like headed into the National Championship as far as the top decks are ranked. While the U.S. National Championship traditionally has a few surprise decks make a deep run into the tournament, often times winning or finishing 2nd, I think this year a known entity will take the tournament. If I had to make a prediction right now, I would say Night March faces off against Greninja in the finals.
However, I would love to be proven wrong and see a surprise deck take the tournament once again.