Lost March, A Tournament Report & Rationalising Deck Choices

It’s been quite some time since the Pokémon TCG World Championships. There, Henry Brand became the first Australian Master’s Division World Champion, proving that even with as small a player base as Australia’s, it’s entirely possible for us to produce world class players. I think it’s a really important story to share for new and old players – we can do it, we have done it. I think the opportunities which have been afforded to our top players to travel and consistently compete amongst the best players in various regions has helped significantly, and spring board along with all the other tenets of playing at a high level have really come together.

The Mewtwo & Mew-GX Tag Team “Perfection” archetype was piloted by Henry to victory.
© 2019 Pokémon. TM, ® Nintendo.

It’s been quite some time since I counted myself amongst the most dedicated players, but I feel having been at both ends of the spectrum I can still form an opinion on various notions relating to the TCG and particularly, form thoughts around good decks and bad decks and motivations for taking either to compete in a tournament. Note that I use the word “motivations” as this is what often pilots decisions around deck and individual card choice. Although I’m only providing common sense notions, allow me to explain.

If you want to win, it stands to reason that you would want to play whatever is commonly accepted as the best deck in format. If you have knowledge of a local metagame, you can perhaps run an anti-meta strategy or include unusual card counts to tilt certain matchups. Running the best deck (or seemingly best for a given metagame) is not enough though as the competitive enthusiasts of the Pokémon TCG understand that any top player can win on any given day with 60 cards of the best deck if they’re well practiced, not too unlucky and make all the correct decisions. There are many decisions in a single best-of-three. I am not just talking about which card to select from a deck search effect like Pokémon Communication, I’m also talking about the minutia of when to and not to play cards at all, or knowing when to scoop a game because a player foresees losing in several turns.

Explaining this sets the stage for how certain cards come to be accepted (and loathed) as the best. Good players know a good card when they see one and they test and practice for hours to prove it. They test good cards and they test bad cards against proven deck lists trying to figure out if cards are good or not. They weed out the sub-optimal choices and reach a conclusion which more often than not will stand up in a tournament setting, even if they don’t win every game. The best cards form the best archetypes and the best archetypes are piloted by the best players to victory. The best decks are discovered by the power of the competitive crowd and moulded through discussion and advice amongst peers.

It is rare and exciting when a player breaks away from the usual mold and finishes big with an unusual set of cards and strategy. There is a lot of planning and secret testing which holds up these stories and is never the part excited players remember as they go rummaging through their bulk for seemingly useless cards. These players run their cards through the gauntlet, testing against the very best decks to ensure that their strategy is sound and not accounted for in the card choices of others. They hope to exploit inexperience and the unknown come game day to make up the shortfall in power their deck might have (and there will be a short fall – there’s a reason why nobody else is playing the deck they are).

Despite this conclusion, I showed up to a League Cup this past weekend with “Lost March” Jumpluff, fully intending to do the best that I can. The deck doesn’t appear on any tier list for the current format, nor does it have any quality about it which purports to exploit the expected metagame. It simply relies on its own qualities (huge damage, low energy and only gives up single prizes) to win.

© 2019 Pokémon. TM, ® Nintendo.

A long time ago, former American player and friend of mine Adam Capriola once said that in the latter stages of him playing, his goal wasn’t necessarily to win. He was happy if he could play a round which ended in a close finish with both players really reaching into the depths of their decks and their brains to win at the end. It’s a thought that has really stuck with me – the idea that goals or motivations within a tournament setting don’t need to be attached to championship points, nor do they need to be vague statements like ‘having fun’.

I’ve won tournaments before and I’ve qualified for Worlds previously. My goals are very different these days and are often for my own amusement. When I enter a tournament with a fringe deck (which seems to be all I do now), I’m not doing so in order to pursue some noble cause to prove top players have got it all wrong or because I particularly despise players favouring strategies perceived as ‘unfun’ or ‘uncool’. I get satisfaction from coming up with a new idea (or recycling a discarded one) and challenging the current landscape of the game. At the very least, I spend the day playing a deck I find personal satisfaction in playing. It’s the absurdity of it that I get a kick out of – that I should have the gall to show up with an easily dismissed archetype and subvert the notion and expectation that players don’t need to account for them.

I don’t pretend not to care when I don’t do well, but I’ve played long enough to expect blowouts and am hopefully wise enough to accept that will happen with a “bad deck”.

As for a list – mine was mostly borrowed from an article on a pay-wall website and so as a courtesy, will not be sharing it card for card. I will break down the archetype briefly to give you an idea of what it is and how it works:

Lost March revolves around Jumpluff LOT which does increasing amounts of damage for each Pokémon in the Lost Zone. As it is your main attacker and features very low HP, you will need a maximum count of the evolution line. In the list I played, Jumpluff is backed up by a variety of Pokémon including:

  • Trumbeak LOT (for the ability)
  • Emolga TEU (searches for itself to fuel the Lost Zone)
  • Spiritomb UNB (as an alternate attacker)
  • Pidgeotto TEU
  • Dedenne-GX
  • Ditto Prism Star
  • Cryogonal UNM (early game disruption)

I chose not to include Natu LOT as I found I was never powering it up.

The supporter line is a simple mix of Professor Elm, Cynthia and Bill’s Analysis.

The items in the deck help you search for your Pokémon (As with Pokémon Communication and Net Ball) and also feature the all-important ‘Lost Blender’ item card which lets you send two cards from your hand to the Lost Zone to draw 1 card. An important inclusion is four Custom Catcher to allow you to knock out key targets.

On the day I played Grass energy, however ‘Unit Energy (Grass/Fire/Water)’ would have been optimal to account for Cryogonal.

The absolutely necessary cards (A skeleton if you will) is as follows:

Pokémon:

  • 4 Hoppip LOT 12
  • 4 Skiploom LOT
  • 4 Jumpluff LOT
  • 4 Trumbeak LOT
  • 4 Emolga TEU

Trainer Cards:

  • 9-11 Supporters
  • 4 Pokémon Communication
  • 3-4 Net Ball
  • 4 Lost Blender

Energy Cards:

  • 7-8 Energy Cards

This leaves you with between 9-13 cards to fit as you so choose. You will want to bear in mind how many Pokémon you need to have available to send to the Lost Zone to eventually be able to knock out Tag Team Pokémon in one hit (14 is the magic number for Reshiram & Charizard-GX Tag Team for example).

If you’re really desperate for a list, one shared in this video might be a good starting point for your own. Here’s another example.

Tournament Report – Gold Coast Good Games League Cup

Here’s how I went on the day:

Round 1: Draw vs Garchomp & Giratina-GX Tag Team / Malamar

This was a really unfortunate matchup to open the day. Malamar decks have access to Spell Tag and Giratina LOT, both of which spread damage counters which quickly add up to decimate the low HP board Jumpluff offers. Add the seemingly endless recursion of Giratina which handily takes KOs and offers only one prize itself, you have a very uphill battle.

My opponent opened with Garchomp & Giratina-GX Tag Team both games which has access to ‘Linear Attack’ – dealing 40 damage anywhere on my board or in my case, knocking out Hoppip repeatedly. It meant that I had to time my benching and evolutions careful to avoid losing access to half of my Jumpluff before I can even think about using Lost March. In both games, my opponent used ‘GG End GX’ to discard my Jumpluff from play. This proved to be effective in the first game, but fortunately for me, I was able to withstand it adequately in the second. Spiritomb UNB helps a lot as it can one-hit KO a Giratina LOT in one turn via self inflicted damage, Rainbow Energy damage and Giratina’s Dark weakness.

In game 2 I finished with a One-hit KO on the tag team and we were left without enough time to complete the third game.

Round 2: Draw vs ‘Ability ReshiZard’ Reshiram & Charizard-GX Tag Team
Game 1 was lost right at the end due to bad prizing. I really needed to take my last Jumpluff out of the prizes after a knockout on Reshiram & Charizard Tag Team GX, but did not find it.

© 2019 Pokémon. TM, ® Nintendo.

Game 2 I was able to win as my opponent had a very poor start which left him in top deck mode. I was able to take an early Custom Catcher, knockout one benched Pokémon and then knocked out a Dedenne-GX he was forced to put active to protect his benched Pokémon (a risky, but required move where he hoped that I could not knock it out).

Round 3: Draw vs Pikachu & Zekrom-GX Tag Team
Another draw! In game 1 I opened with a quirky tech: Crygonal from Unified Minds which is able to shut off my opponent’s ability to play items. I otherwise had a poor start, not being able to bench a Hoppip on my first turn. My Cryogonal was able to stymie his set up at least and bought time for me to crawl out of the poor start. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough as my opponent would eventually use Pikachu & Zekrom-GX Tag Team’s GX attack to knock out two Jumpluff at once. The ability to do this is devastating and I would eventually be left with no way to attack with ‘Lost March’.

Game 2 went much better for me as I powered ahead while his set up left much to be desired. Despite this he was able to claw back, again making up for the bad start with the Tag Bolt GX move. I had a Dedenne-GX on board and I knew my opponent likely had access to Custom Catcher for game if I didn’t do something. I used ‘Cynthia’ to shuffle and draw six cards. I needed to draw Skiploom, an energy and to not draw Jumpluff (so that I could use Skiploom’s ability to search for and go straight to Jumpluff) but I did unfortunately draw all three.

© 2019 Pokémon. TM, ® Nintendo.

I needed to stall for one extra turn. I could afford to lose 1 prize but not 2. I played down Cryogonal, attached the Rainbow energy and used Cryogonal’s attack, removing my opponent’s ability to use Custom Catcher. This consequently bought me the one extra turn I needed to evolve through to Jumpluff normally and attack for game. I was really satisfied with this game, even if it ended in a draw (we could not complete game 3). Thinking about how this game went, I think again about what Adam said and I am happy to have played a game which seemed to venture into uncharted late game territory.

Round 4: Loss vs Reshiram & Charizard-GX Tag Team

ReshiZard really fits my old theory of how Occam’s Razor applies to Pokémon. This version of ReshiZard is clean and efficient. Two Pokémon cards in Volcanion and Reshiram & Charizard-GX Tag Team and a very full list of cards designed to accelerate energy. It’s a beautiful marriage of power and simplicity. It evokes memories of decks like Yveltal-EX / Max Elixir and Darkrai-EX with Dark Patch.

Fortunately for me, no deck is exempt from bricking, and my opponent sadly lost with a single Volcanion in play on my second turn. My good fortunes would soon go south. In game 2, I was not able to win before he could knock out a Dedenne-GX for game and game 3 came down to time.

I was turn zero and not in a position to win without using Dedenne-GX. I also did not want to draw for the fourth time as that would put me out of contention for top cut. The problem for me playing Dedenne-GX in that moment was two-fold. I’d tried not to play it down all game, but in doing so had managed to construct a hand full of Pokémon with no way to either shuffle them back or reach a Lost Blender. I was forced to discard them, which made reaching the OHKO range for Lost March close to impossible. The following turn, the Dedenne-GX was knocked out on queue and I had no way to win the turn following.

Round 5: Win vs Muk & Alolan Muk-GX Tag Team / Malamar

With my record sitting at zero wins, I was matched up against a younger player from a lower division who was playing a Muk / Alolan Muk-GX Tag Team. It is a sensible pairing, however as a younger and inexperienced player he didn’t quite make all of the most optimal decisions and the deck simply didn’t set up all that quickly or consistently. Jumpluff quite easily set up and went to town in two short games.

Closing Thoughts

At the moment Jumpluff is definitely a ‘Bad Deck’ but I think a better player than me could have turned some draws into wins. I am adimittedly out of practice and have not seriously tested any particular format for years – along with lacking specialised knowledge unique to the particulars of certain matchups. You also get rusty when it comes to playing quickly, knowing when to scoop and all of the other minutia.

One of the reasons I played Jumpluff at this tournament was because I did not want to put any time into constructing and practicing a more competitive deck. I own most cards for Pikachu & Zekrom-GX Tag Team and could have picked up a few cards to construct Quagsire / Naganadel, Malamar variants or even Pidgeotto Control. Jumpluff was the deck I was playing up until rotation and so I wanted to play it as I was most comfortable with it and did not need to obtain many cards for it.

If I wanted to do well and didn’t have a competitive deck, it would have made sense to simply not attend if I could surmise I wouldn’t be able hang tough with the best. It sounds cliché (and I’ve wanted to try and avoid cliché as much as I could with an article with this tone) but it was just as important to me to just attend and participate in a tournament for a game I’ve long been a part of. I was able to catch up with a number of people and we all went to dinner afterwards in Southport (which has really improved in the last 10 years).

People have a lot of reasons and motivations for doing the things they do and playing the decks they choose and I think they should all be applauded for different reasons.

I hope you enjoyed the article and hope you found it to be thought provoking, even if you disagree. Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section.

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