At the time of writing, Liverpool Regionals is on the horizon. It’s a bit of a strange tournament: it’s in the pre-Burning Shadows format that we all know and love, but the Championship Points count for the new season. Because of that, it’s a great way to get ahead in the Championship Point race.
During the 2016-2017 season, players with early successes could take advantage of a “snowball effect” where a quick lead in Championship Points could get you a travel stipend handed out after the first quarter of the season. While I expect we’ll have other opportunities (such as Internationals) to get CP before the first cut off point, it’s nonetheless always a good idea to try and get ahead of the curve. This is my personal reason for going to Liverpool this weekend, besides a weekend of fun with people I know and people I don’t know yet.
In this article I’m going to cover some things I expect to see in Liverpool based on the NAIC. Since NAIC was won and mostly dominated by Garbodor, this includes not-often discussed tricks on how to beat the most common Garbodor decks, tips for the Garbodor mirror, and my own different and surprising take on the Espeon variant!
Perhaps you might be under the impression that the format is close to “finished” or “solved” now that we have a new set coming up soon, but the great thing about Pokémon metagames is that they can always keep evolving even if the cardpool stays the same. There’s always little trends to pick up on and new lists that end up publicized that subtly change what decks and techs are good.
I think one of the best examples of this was the use of Fighting Fury Belt in Ryan Sabelhaus’s Volcanion deck which can be found here. Since the release of Field Blower and Choice Band, Fighting Fury Belt has basically been phased out of the game. Choice Band’s extra 20 damage on the most common Pokémon is a lot more helpful than a 40 HP boost that could be taken away from you at any time.
In Pokémon, whenever a temporary (removable) card provides an active, offensive effect it tends to be stronger and more reliable than a passive, defensive effect. If a card needs to “survive” your opponent’s turn in order to do something for you, it’s more luck reliant. In the case of Fighting Fury Belt, the 40 extra HP is not reliable since it could be removed with a Field Blower. Even if you do end up cushioning an extra hit thanks to it, your opponent could remove it later and get a mid-turn KO.
But some players decided that this risk was worth taking: that Field Blower would see enough of a decline in play to where Fury Belt was a viable option. Certainly a gutsy decision, especially since 5 other players in top cut did play 2 Field Blower. I think the most common archetype (Garbodor) is going to retain 2 Field Blower for sure, since it’s useful almost every matchup. You don’t want your opponent to be able to play your tools down unpunished, and they will have to eventually. Especially in the Garbodor mirror, a Field Blower on 2 tools can be a really big swing in the game.
Speaking of the Garbodor mirror, that’s another feature I think we’ll see a lot of in Liverpool. Tord Reklev won the NAIC with his ultra-consistent Drampa/Garbodor list with 4 of every good card, including Tapu Lele GX, showing that even when everyone knows it’s coming Garbodor can still take games. Everyone knows by now to be conservative with your items, but there’s just so many games where eventually you have to say “screw it, I have to Sycamore” and hope to come out on top.
Here’s a couple of cool tricks I’ve found when playtesting with and against Drampa/Garbodor that people might not be aware of:
1) In the opening turns, Drampa decks are looking to establish a couple of Trubbish, start attaching Energy to Drampa and get the necessary bench damage to power up Berserk. A lot of lists have ditched Team Magma’s Secret Base and are instead playing Rainbow Energy, meaning they need to attach that Rainbow to something that isn’t Drampa if they want to self-inflict that damage.
For that reason you shouldn’t do the work for them by nudging one of their other Pokémon with an attack: you’re saving them an energy attachment! I’ve passed when I had the option of using, say, Psybeam onto an empty starting Tapu Lele because the damage was more likely going to help my opponent than me. Instead, if I was going to attack something, it would either be for a KO, or on a Drampa.
2) If you’re playing a deck that’s reliant on abilities such as Greninja, Decidueye or Vikavolt, you’ll want to make it as hard as possible for Garbodor decks to keep up a Garbotoxin lock. Usually you’ll be playing 2 Field Blower, but a lot of Garbodor decks play 4 Float Stone to counteract that. So whenever you can, try to force them to put a Float Stone on something that isn’t a Trubbish or Garbotoxin Garbodor.
You can do this by playing a Lysandre, or by having your Decidueye put your opponent’s non-attacking active Pokémon close to KO, but not quite finishing it off so that they still have to retreat if they want to attack that turn. Bonus points for dragging up a Drampa with no energy, forcing them to commit a Float Stone to it and also making it so they can’t put a Choice Band there.
3) If you can’t avoid Drampa-GX going on a rampage on you next turn, the best you can do is get some early damage onto it instead of KOing an (irrelevant) non-EX like Trubbish. Even just doing 50 damage to it is pretty decent, since that means that once it has 3 Energy attached, a Tapu Lele with a Choice Band deals 130 to it with Energy Drive. Often enough your opponent will get 10 damage on there themselves with a Rainbow Energy.
4) Avoid attaching Special Energy early on unless it’s your only option or you need to for a KO. A Drampa with one Energy can still Righteous Edge to remove it, costing you precious Splash or Double Colorless Energies.
Drampa is not the only Garbodor variant you should be worried about, however. While the Espeon version did not make Top 8 at the NAIC, it was quite a presence in the tournament overall and probably the most common deck in Day 2 and the top 16. Since we haven’t really taken a close look at it yet, here’s Espeon/Garbodor the way most people will play it and expect to see it.
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