2014 Nationals Deck – Phan-tastic Villain

weasel3As we mentioned in our last post, Gym Leaders Joel and Georgia paired up to play identical decks in the masters division and junior division at this year’s National Championships.  We entered the event pressure-free, as Georgia had already earned her invitation to the World Championships and Joel, well, he’s pretty much pressure-free all the time, barring any Taco Bell being consumed before the event.  So, given those circumstances, why play any of the “must-plays” when you can go rogue and just have fun?  That’s what we did.  However, don’t let the rogue/fun label fool you, as the decks we delivered were very powerful hitters, which took down several top-tier decks over the weekend.  The deck is probably best described as “finicky”, meaning it can present you with some strange choices to make in the course of a match and is prone to misplays.  Once you learn the tricks and realize that it has many “outs” from bad starts or bad hands, it is a very fast deck to play and one of the most fun plays in our arsenal. Before we go into the deck, here’s a little history on what we came up with.

To say that we came up with the concept would be completely misleading.  Our interest in the deck began in the Virginia Regionals back in January 2014.  We’ve mentioned it a few times in past posts, but here is a little more detail.  In the final round of swiss at the Regional, Gym Leader Joel squared off with Bobby Phanphormma, a North Carolina player that Joel has played several times over the years.  With identical point totals in the tournament, we both knew that the winner of this match would advance to the top 32, the loser would miss the cut and a tie would knock us both out, opening the door for a player behind us.  Joel was playing Emboar/Rayquaza and when the match got underway, Bobby revealed that he was playing Weavile/Exeggcute.  Admittedly, Joel almost laughed it off on the spot, having playing against versions of the deck and having tried various builds of the deck in the past, eventually concluding that the deck was not competitive.  Then the thought followed that Bobby was on the verge of top cutting with the deck, so this was going to be interesting.

Unfortunately for Bobby, Joel got a very quick start in game 1 and was able to take a lead and maintain it for the eventual win.  However, as Bobby played the deck, Joel noticed that once it got going, it seemed like he played 10 Weavile in the deck, as they he seemed to have 1 ready each turn.  As game 2 progressed, Joel began mentally noting the rhythm of cards being played, as multiple “Level Ball” were followed by “Ultra Ball”, followed by a supporter card every turn, often milling the deck down to a handful of cards, then using “Super Rod” to keep the deck alive.  Long story short, he played an even game with Joel that went into the 3+ turns.  On the final turn, Bobby was in position to take the 2nd game, force a tie and end both players’ weekend.  Bobby passed, on the premiss that under the old single-game format, Joel would have advanced, having won the 1st game (a gesture of true sportsmanship that was not forgotten, as Joel repaid Bobby under identical circumstances at this year’s Nationals).

weasel1After the match, Joel, who was fascinated by the deck, went straight to his notebook, making notes about what he saw in the deck.  In the weeks that followed, Joel began building his own version.  How close he got to Bobby’s list is uncertain, but he hit on enough key points to make it work.  Once he had it figured out, Joel began to fine tune the deck to his style.  We know that Bobby continued to alter his deck over the season, having much success with it in the Carolinas, as he amassed 246 points over the season, claiming North Carolina #2 ranking in Masters players, by championship points.  Joel only played it once, easily sweeping a League Challenge with it.  From the moment he saw the deck, Joel had it in mind for Nationals.  Unfortunately for both Bobby and Joel, someone “created” a Weavile list w/Lopunny (a list that was a card or 2 off of Bobby’s latest version of the deck) and made top 8 in one of the European Nationals.  This, of course, prompted several of the decklist sites to publish lists of Weavile/Lopunny about a week before the US Nationals.  If not for that, Bobby, Joel and Georgia might have been the only Weavile decks in the entire field.  The last-minute postings prompted many players to play it, but more damaging to their decks, made many top players aware of the deck and how to play against it.

As a tribute to Bobby Phanphormma, here is the list that Georgia and Joel played, the “Phan-tastic Villain.”

  • 3 – Sableye (DEX 62)
  • 4 – Sneasel (PLF 65)
  • 4 – Weavile (PLF 66)
  • 4 – Exeggcute (PLB 4 or 102)
  • 3 – Jirachi EX (PLB 60)
  • 1 – Darkrai EX (DEX 107)
  • 1 – Archen (PLB 53)
  • 1 – Mr. Mime (PLF 47)
  • 4 – Level Ball
  • 4 – Ultra Ball
  • 4 – Dark Patch
  • 2 – Startling Megaphone
  • 2 – Super Rod
  • 1 – Professor’s Letter
  • 1 – Town Map
  • 1 – Random Receiver
  • 1 – Dowsing Machine ACESPEC
  • 4 – Professor Juniper
  • 2 – Colress
  • 2 – N
  • 1 – Lysandre
  • 1 – Cassius
  • 9 – Darkness Energy

Our first attempts at Weavile decks revolved around a heavier line of Darkrai EX, a line of Electrode  (to draw), and often tried to mix in other attackers, like Flareon.  Regardless of what we tried, the deck was always inconsistent, which was why we wrote it off.  The answer that Bobby found was in the form of what was considered, especially at the time of the Virginia Regionals, a horrible EX, namely, Jirachi EX.  At Virginia, Joel is pretty sure he recalls seeing 4 Jirachi in play at one point, which seemed crazy…. until he tried it.  With the large pool of “ball” cards in the deck, Jirachi was easy to get out whenever a supporter was needed.  The strength of this EX’s ability is being able to choose the supporter that you need on that turn.  Jirachi was the answer to inconsistency.  Joel trimmed his count to 3 in testing, as “Super Rod” turned the count of 3 into as many as you needed.

Sableye is the other key player that helps the deck thrive.  When playing this deck, you have to be very aggressive in your play style.  Your #1 objective over the 1st 2 turns is to seek out as many (if not all 4) Exeggcute as possible and get them into the discard pile.  If you have all 4 in on your 2nd turn, most games aresableye yours to run away with.  With this strategy, though, you are often forced to throw away what seem like vital pieces of the deck.  However, with Sableye’s “Junk Hunt” combined with the ACESPEC “Dowsing Machine”, you can get anything you want back.  The added bonus of getting multiple “Eggs” in the discard pile early is that they can be used over and over to make the cards like “Dowsing Machine” and “Ultra Ball” have no discard cost.

To say that the strategy from here is simple would be misleading, as you have to be very calculating from the opening turns and beyond.  If you can use your resources to keep a Weavile active with another 1 waiting on the bench, you can close out games very quickly.  With your 4 Exeggcute in play (in either your hand or discard), you need just 2 other pokemon in your hand to make Weavile‘s attack, “Vilify”, hit that magic # of 180 damage.  Again, you can’t be conservative with this.  It does not matter which pokemon you can get your hands on, whether it is a Darkrai EX, a Jirachi EX, another Weavile/Sneasel, Mr. Mime or Archen, throwing it away for the 1-hit on any EX in the game is worth it.  If you need it back, use “Super Rod” to get it back.  If you toss an Archen,  you simply use his ability on your next turn to return him to the bottom of your deck for later use.

The handicaps that accompany this deck should be fairly obvious.  Starting with an Exeggcute as your lone Basic…. horrible.  If you survive the 1st turn, its easy to get other pokemon out quickly and work around the start.  It unfortunately exeggmeans either waiting for the “Egg” to get KO’d or burning a supporter for your turn and using “Cassius” to return it to the deck.  Both Gym Leaders recovered from “Egg” starts to win games at Nationals.  The 2nd egg-related handicap usually comes the 1st time you get to search your deck.  Whatever you are searching for, you have to take that opportunity to count your eggs.  If all 4 are there, then you are golden.  If 1 is prized, you can work around that as well, but you need to play that “Town Map” so that you can get your “Egg” out of the prize cards asap.  If you learn that 2 are prized, the above process is vital.

Against EX based decks, like Virizion/Genesect, Darkrai/Yveltal, Plasma Lugia, Keldeo/Black Kyurem, etc, Weavile is amazing.  You are basically playing to attack 3 times (much like w/Rayquaza decks), 1-hitting 3 EX’s for the game. When you can achieve the 1-hit on your 2nd turn, especially if you went 1st, that often seals games, as they spend the next few turns trying to recover, usually watching you run away with the game.  You can show off on your last KO, if you play your cards right, often topping 300 damage with your final “Vilify” (just make sure that ends the game, as you can only afford to do that once).  Weavile is fragile at only 90 HP, so contests against non-EX decks become interesting, depending on how quick they recover after you get a KO.  Of course, Garbodor decks put a big hurtin’ on this deck, as it thrives on using abilities.  With 2 “Megaphone” cards and “Dowsing Machine”, you can give these decks a battle, but you have to play mistake-free and will probably need a little luck to beat a skilled player.  The other deck that makes a greasy spot out of Weavile is the damage spreader, Flygon/Dusknoir/Accelgor.  A deck full of 90 HP pokemon goes down rather quickly to Flygon, as Joel found out the hard way in round 1 of Nationals.

The “Phan-tastic Villain” definitely rates towards the top of Joel’s favorite decks of all time.  In a format without the ability locking Garbodor, this deck could quickly take a spot at the top of any tournament.  As it stands, it is still very competitive, capable of beating any deck in the format.  The other real value in the deck is, well, the value.  The most expensive card at the moment in this list is weasel2the ACESPEC.  With it included, you could easily build this deck for no more than $50.  If you want to see the true face of despair (if you are cruel like that), watch a Virizion/Genesect player react as you dismantle their $200-$300 deck with your low-budget army of ravenous weasels, throwing eggs everywhere as they go.

If Dark Explorers is lost in the upcoming rotation, then this deck will take a pretty huge hit.  The potential losses of Sableye and “Dark Patch” are crippling to this list’s functionality.  We are working on new variants of the deck.  Whether or not it will have any life into the next season depends somewhat on the rotation, but probably more on what new cards come in the next few sets.  We are not bidding it farewell permanently, but this dastardly weasel is going to the shelf for the time being.  As much as we’d like to send Georgia to World’s with the deck, it is a little risky for a junior.  We know that she made some pretty severe misplays with it at Nationals, especially later in the day when mental fatigue becomes a factor for everyone.

If you play the online TCG, throw this list together if you have the cards and give it a whirl.  Make it with your spare cards and take it to league.  It may take a few times through to get the hang of it, but we think you’ll enjoy it.  Again, props to Bobby for his innovation and for turning us onto the mechanic.  What the odds were that we would match up at Nationals at such a crucial moment in the tournament, both playing our version of Weavile/Exeggcute and then re-live our dilemma from Regionals, is a question for the ages.  Some things are bound to come full circle, for whatever reason, and presented with the same choice 100 times, Joel would choose the same all 100 times.  The enjoyment he took from building and playing this deck outweighs any win or loss.  It is, after all, just a game.  Until next time, see you at the Gym!

 

 

 

 

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