Now that Philadelphia Regionals is behind us, players are prepping to playtest for the Ft.Wayne, IN Regionals. Since the newly released set, Evolutions, will be legal for this event, we should see a number of decks change position on our current tier list. Luckily, we have an event hosted by Alter Reality Gaming (ARG) coming up shortly in Charlotte, NC, which will be the same Standard Format as the upcoming Regionals, as a final way to gauge the metagame. I will be attending this event and piloting one of my lists below (with a few updates) that I'll want hammered out before I travel to Ft. Wayne Regionals. For now, I wanted to dive into how I go about approaching a new metagame and how my train of thought from the previous Standard events this year will help me draw my conclusions for ARG Charlotte.

I'm then going to discuss the impact Orlando Regionals, SPIEL Special, and the Liverpool Regionals will have on our Standard format. While these events may not have had Evolutions legal, they'll surely affect how players will begin their testing and ultimately decide their deck choices for Ft. Wayne. Following this discussion, I'm going to be analyze my personal playtesting lists for Ft. Wayne as I think quite a few number of decks that might be able to shine given a bit of help from Evolutions. Some of these lists will be untested but I'm going to thoroughly discuss my card choices and how I feel they should, in theory, swing matchups.

Table of Contents

I) My approach to Metagaming
II) Orlando Regionals
III) SPIEL Special
IV) Liverpool
V) Testing Circle
1. M Gardevoir-EX
2. M Rayquaza-EX
3. Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX
4. M Scizor-EX
5. Volcanion

My approach to metagaming

A big part of finding success in the Pokémon TCG is analyzing the meta and finding the deck that will give you the best route to success at a major tournament. If you've played in a couple of events before you may have heard the phrase "This deck was the play!" or "I read this meta perfectly." Players who have said this before probably have a good understanding on how to metagame in Pokémon. Playing the deck that counters or beats a majority of the decks you believe show up at a tournament will put you in a better position of winning. I'm going to use my experience at Orlando Regionals to help show examples of my thinking. These are a few things I calculate into my thinking to read a metagame:

1) Results of a past event

This is the most important factor that should affect your meta call. Whether or not you believe a particular tournament winning deck deserves its success, many players are just going to copy and pilot it. Most of the time, the players who just completely copy a list card for card are being lazy and aren’t preparing properly for the event. They may have thought to themselves "I'll just copy the best deck and get there!" but I feel like its not the best way to go about entering big tournaments. I assume a large portion of the field probably just blindly netdecks (copies a list card-for-card from an online source) the latest winning list as they may not believe in their own deck building skill or like to use the winning list as a template to for success. Do I think less of them for this? No not at all, it's a logical and efficient process for them to succeed with, and if they’re a skillful enough player, this will be sufficient to get them over the hump. Some of the best players in the game aren't good deck builders, they're just incredibly strong in piloting a list to a quality performance. While these players may not be as experienced at deckbuilding as others, their deck is still powerful and should not be taken lightly. With this logic, I wanted to have a positive match up against M Mewtwo-EX/Garbodor going into Florida Regionals, hence why I choose to play Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX. M Mewtwo-EX/Garbodor performed well at the ARG event just before Orlando and could easily be replicated by the field as it is one of the more obvious top tier decks in the metagame.

Of course, this same logic applies to the people who are riding this train of thought with me. How do I beat the deck that many players will consider playing to counter the 1st deck? This one takes a bit more thought but I like to start by evaluating all the bad matchups of the best deck in the format (my anticipated most played deck). M Mewtwo-EX/Garbodor is such a strong deck, that its only unfavorable matchups, in my eyes, were Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX, M Gardevoir-EX and M Scizor-EX. Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX was relatively under the radar moving towards Orlando regionals but M Gardevoir-EX and M Scizor-EX were all over testing groups. While the latter 2 decks could stand up to M Mewtwo-EX they took hard losses to the other decks in the format. M Gardevoir-EX struggled against M Scizor-EX, Volcanion, and Gyarados while M Scizor-EX took a hard loss to Volcanion and had a tough matchup against Greninja. Seeing both Volcanion and Gyarados perform well at the latest League Challenges (posted on the Facebook group, Virbank City) and the ARG event, I knew I didn't want to take bad matchups to them. Thus, everything pointed towards me playing Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX. I'm quite happy I did as I was a round 13 win away from intentionally drawing my final round into top 8.

2) Gauging the strength of new cards/strategies released

One of the hardest issues I see players face is properly anticipating a metagame when a new set is released. Whether the set is underwhelming or incredibly strong, most players have a fear of a "secret deck" being introduced that they're unaware of. Maybe they missed the strength of a common card or maybe an old archetype got a boost that can complement a past one, like M Audino-EX got a boost from Magearna-EX, which ended up winning Worlds. How do you overcome this fear or properly find the "secret deck" yourself? Through playtesting and gathering other players' testing data. I personally grind out a heavy number of testing hours and create mock scenarios in my head of different ways new cards/strategies can compete with the established meta. Most of the time I'm asking myself "Is there a common card that I overlooked?" and "Did a deck that was garbage before pick up steam with a new card? If so, is it strong enough to compete with the meta now?" This helps me pinpoint the strength a particular "rogue" idea may offer that others overlook. It's brought me success over the past few years and I think it’s the easiest way to improve yourself as a deck builder and player. So what do you do when you don't have enough time on your hands to playtest every idea? Watch and read content online or simply ask the top players in the game.

I try to use the Virbank City Facebook group as a resource for gauging the player base's opinion on a particular deck or card. If the particular deck I'm looking for isn't mentioned in any informative posts, I turn to articles and YouTube videos to collect more data. This is why I believe providing quality articles, YouTube content, and tournament streams are so vital towards growing the overall strength of the community. As a player, I want to find the best, honest, and entertaining content as quick as I can because wasting time with a rogue idea can lead to many unfortunate tournament performances. This is a key reason you'll find improving or top players pay for premium content. They want to find the best information possible with the least time spent. With this logic, Dylan and I wanted to start up with our Elite PC articles in hopes to not only keep ourselves motivated to playtest but provide a solid foundation of knowledge other players might not have due to time or skill constraints.

Once I've gathered my data and opinions on a particular deck, I decide whether or not it is worthy of a place in the metagame. If it's worthy, I calculate its good and bad match ups against the past results of tournaments and build up my call from there.

3) Skill ceiling/floor for the decks in the metagame

Our player base is full of different types of personalities and skill levels. Some players don't believe they can pilot a particular skill intensive deck to success without a heavy amount of testing and others think they can. This plays a huge role in them determining which deck they want to pilot for a major tournament. Just to continue my use of examples from Orlando Regionals, let's talk about M Mewtwo-EX. Mewtwo is fairly straight forward deck to pilot. Use Psychic Infinity to take big knockouts on the opponent while using Shrine of Memories + Damage Swap to cause issues for any opponents looking to 2HKO you. M Mewtwo-EX also has an inherent strength through Psychic Infinity to snowball wins against decks that can't immediately take an OHKO against it. I would say it has a relatively low skill floor (minimum knowledge required to pilot a deck) and skill ceiling (height of knowledge required to play the deck its single most optimal level). It’s a great deck for players to pick up if they're just starting the game or had little time to playtest. This makes it a top pick for players to pilot for a big event like Orlando Regionals. With this in mind, I expected to see this deck several times throughout the tournament and wanted to prepare accordingly. If you're playtesting a deck you deem to be relatively strong and easy to pilot then you should expect other players to think the same and choose to pilot it off of the fact that they can see success with it for little cost.

This same logic can be used for players to fear piloting a deck that has a high skill ceiling and skill floor, let's use Sabeleye/Garbodor in Expanded for example. Sabeleye/Garbodor may seem like a straightforward mill/control deck, but after playtesting and watching a few VODs of its matches, the deck takes a high amount of knowledge to pilot successfully. You get presented with so many choices and routes to progress your hand while keeping control. Some players might misplay or feel overwhelmed with playing the deck to the point where they'll dismiss it from their possible deck pool entirely. This doesn't occur all too often in Pokémon but this fact certainly helps me decide which decks I want to want take a bad match up come tournament weekend. I like to think that the harder the deck is to pilot, the less likely it is I'll see it in tournament.

4) The player base's fan favorite decks

A wonderful characteristic that I noticed shines more in Pokémon TCG than other card game is the love players have for their favorite Pokémon, Archetype, or Deck. Does this influence their decision making come tournament time? It most certainly does. Fan favorite Pokémon or types like Greninja, Ho-Oh, and the Darkness type will almost always be played in a format where the deck shows any amount of strength to be Tier 1 or Tier 2. Some players just love their deck so much that they'll pilot it in a tournament knowing that it may not be the best deck or even the top 5 decks to play. While this may not be a heavy amount of the player base, I certainly factor it into my decision making come tournament time. I've had numerous conversations with top players that played out in some sort of variation of:

"Do you think Yveltal is strong right now?"
"Not necessarily... but people will still play it, because Dark."
"Yeah, you're right. I guess we should account for that then."

Understanding which decks the community loves from past tournament experiences, Virbank City, or even sitting around and trading can help you get information on how a particular meta might sculpt itself.

Using these 4 factors to determine a meta should certainly increase your success as a player and has shown me a ton of success in the past. I used to be one of the stubborn players who loved a particular deck (Flygon/Accelgor/Dusknoir) so much that I would pilot it whenever it was legal for play. Since I've broken that habit and started playing more appropriate meta decks, I've seen a higher success rate in my performances and greatly increased my overall knowledge of the game.

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