With two articles in a very short time span I find myself in an interesting position. My first article is scheduled for today, August 29th, and my second article for a week later, September 5th. My original plan for this article was to breakdown and discuss what I consider to be the top decks in the format and then next week do an article heavily devoted to discussing Plasma.
With all of the testing I’ve done I’ve found Plasma to be the best deck in the format. With the Klaczynski Open this weekend I’ve decided to reverse the order of these two articles and today give a very detailed view of Plasma.
I plan on breaking the deck down, discussing the two different variations of the deck I’ve built, discuss some matchups, and lastly talk about some ways to counter Plasma as well. With the Klaczynski Open being the first major tournament of the new season I feel Plasma is by far the best and safest choice for the event.
If you haven’t heard about the Klaczynski Open yet, details for the event can be found here. This will be the largest non-sanctioned tournament the game has seen in quite some time. Basically the event plays best-of-three Swiss and 75 minute rounds with a cut to the Top 8. The winner will receive 6 booster boxes, which is over $500 in cards!
The main reason I’m advertising the event is because this is the first major tournament of the new format. With the exception of 75 minute rounds versus 50 minute rounds, it will also be played using the exact same rules as Regionals. I feel anybody who is able to attend will be able to get a strong grasp on this format and will be at a huge advantage heading into League Challenges and Fall Regionals.
The New Rules and What They Mean for You
Heading into the 2013-2014 season Organized Play is undergoing some major changes. Most of these changes I’ve been advocating for some time and I’m extremely happy to see them implemented.
Here is a quick rundown of the most important changes…
1. Entry fees to Premier Events and better prizes (for Masters only). We don’t know how much entry fees will be yet, though.
2. Best-of-three 50 minute +3 turns Swiss rounds (at States and above). This is a change from the best-of-one 30 minute +3 turns Swiss rounds we’ve had the past couple seasons.
3. Tie matches have been reintroduced (at States and above). We currently have very little information as to how ties will work, but for now it is important to playtest with a timer and ties in mind so that you can recognize which decks perform best in match play.
4. Cutting to Top 8 (at States and above). I honestly would have liked to see a Top 16 for Regionals and a Top 32 for Nationals, but with any new system there is going to be a learning curve. I could see changes made to this system mid-year if need be. While I’m not a fan of the smaller top cuts the best-of-three Swiss rounds allows me to live with this change.
5. Battle Roads have been replaced with League Challenges. These are small tournaments to be held at the end of League cycles at the discretion of the League Leader and the cooperation of a Tournament Organizer on staff. It is believed that only active League Members will be able to participate in these tournaments.
Most of these changes, while major, don’t require a great deal of discussion. However, I did want to take a moment and discuss how playing in a best-of-three 50 minute Swiss rounds will change the game.
It’s just not feasible to play 3 games of Pokémon in 50 minutes. Realistically what you’re looking at is 1 full game and possibly 1 full second game with time most likely being call near the end of the second or early into the third game.
Editor’s Note: The tournament rules have not yet been updated to reflect how ties will work, but Jay and I have been messaging back and forth and we think these are the scenarios where a tie is possible (during 50 minute best-of-three +3 turns Swiss rounds):
- Game 1 is tied in Prize cards after +3 turns.
- Player A wins Game 1. Player B is ahead Game 2 and has taken more than 50% of their Prize cards after +3 turns. Player A wins the match otherwise.
- Game 3 is tied in Prize cards after +3 turns.
Again, we are not certain, but we think this is how it will work based on tournament protocol from the past few years. Hopefully TCPi will clarify in the near future.
The bottom line is this low time limit basically constrains any competitive player to only playing fast decks. It is extremely hard for a slower setup deck to win 2 full games in 50 minutes, and near impossible with best-of-three.
I personally would not even consider a deck in this format unless I felt it was capable of putting early pressure on the opponent and getting quick knock outs.
I’ve always emphasized testing with time limits and with these new rules I want to stress it all over again. The best players will be able to play at a good consistent pace, recognize opportunities to tie or steal games, and lastly be able to play well within the time limits. Testing with these conditions will ease the stress of time management in competitive events.
Plasma is the Best Deck in the Format
Not only does the deck have all of the best support in the game right now, it is probably the fastest deck in the format as well. The deck basically has all of the right answers for the format and new rules changes.
After testing a lot of Plasma mirror I really like how there is some level of skill (though nowhere near as much as the SP mirror) and what I enjoy the most is that there can be a huge amount of variation between lists.
You might know that your opponent is playing Plasma, but you really won’t know what all of their card counts are or all of their techs. This adds another layer of skill in best-of-three as recognizing your opponent’s techs and being prepared for them from one game to the next is going to be huge. So far Plasma has been my favorite mirror match to play since, well, probably the SP era.
The last time I did an article heavily devoted to Plasma I got a lot of feedback (both positive and negative), but it also generated some of the best discussion on any article I’ve ever written. I spent a lot of time testing Plasma this weekend and found it to be my favorite deck of the new season. My friend and I tested 2 very different versions of the deck; one straight Plasma with Bangle and the 2nd being a heavy Lugia EX focus Plasma deck. I plan on breaking down both decks and describing the pros and cons of each.
When designing my Plasma lists for this new format I got a lot of inspiration from Plasma lists that did well at Worlds. I’d like to give a lot of credit to Simon Narode, Johnny Rabus, and Jeremy Jallen. Many of my card choices and tech ideas came from a combination of their lists and my own assumptions about the meta. Which leads me into my next section…
My Predictions About the New Meta
In the following section I’m going to be making a lot of blanket statements about the meta and what I feel is going to happen. With each new set release (and especially with a rotation) there are going to be dramatic shifts in the meta. Accurately predicting a new meta and what will do well in it has led me to a lot of success… but I’ve also crashed and burned with some bad predictions as well.
In the next few weeks these card choices might prove to be excellent meta reads or bad mistakes depending on how things shape up. To give a better idea behind some of card choices and thought processes I’d like to discuss some of my predictions and why I feel the meta will shift this way.
1. Hypnotoxic Laser will see a dramatic drop in play.
I expect to see a huge drop in the card’s playability for two reasons. The first being the hype behind Virizion EX, and with its ability to be somewhat splashable in several different decks, devoting six spots (4 Laser, 2 Virbank) in your deck to a possibly dead card won’t be viable.
The second is most decks will simply turn to Silver Bangle. In decks with a heavy non-EX focus the card is just all around better. You can drop it at any point in the game, it doesn’t go away at the end of the turn, and it isn’t a 2-card combo.
Especially with the new best-of-three tournament structure, a format Plasma excels in, I expect Plasma to be the best deck in the format. In turn, a card that essentially reads “The best deck in the format isn’t allowed to attack this Pokémon” is probably going to see a solid amount of play.
As for Silver Bangle, it’s like Hypnotoxic Laser on steroids for decks that aren’t focused around Pokémon-EX. Laser was widespread because of its ability to make big plays by setting up 1HKO’s and I just don’t see how a better version of the combo wouldn’t see dramatic play as well.
Which once again leads me into my next point…
3. Tool Scrapper will once again be a staple in all decks.
We have 3 major Pokémon Tools in the game right now: Float Stone, Silver Bangle, and Silver Mirror. I expect nearly all decks in the format to play at least one of these 3 cards and most will probably play at least two.
I started off my testing really underestimating the impact of Tool Scrapper. I only ran 1 copy in my Plasma list to deal with the “random” Silver Mirror. However, I quickly realized just how mainstream the card was going to be. I instantly upped my count to 2 Tool Scrappers and would not consider playing less in Plasma.
The main reason I advocate 2 Tool Scrapper is due to Silver Mirror. However, I also find the card is extremely useful in discarding Float Stones, especially from Keldeo EX, and denying my opponent free retreat. I won several games just because I was able to Catcher a Keldeo EX, Tool Scrapper their Float Stone, and then N them into a small hand where they missed the Switch/Float Stone.
In many situations players are forced to drop Silver Bangle before they discard it with Juniper or have to shuffle it back into their deck with N or Colress. In some cases Tool Scrapper allows me to deal with the Silver Bangle before they even get a chance to use it against me.
In the past season Tool Scrapper was normally a 1-1 tradeoff, but this year I expect 2-1 tradeoffs to be very common. We simply have too many good Tools to not play them and in many situations it’s simply not feasible to play them down one at a time to “bait” a Tool Scrapper, especially knowing that your opponent probably plays 2 copies.
4. Colress will see a huge increase in play and in counts.
People have always called Colress a situational card when in reality Colress is more of a meta dependent card. Colress really shines in a format where players fill their bench fast because either their deck requires them to (Plasma) or because they play their own copies of Colress (which I expect most decks in the format to do so).
With all of the testing I’ve done with this new format (especially Plasma mirror) I found Colress normally netting 5 cards after turn 2 and 7-10 cards after turn 3 or 4. I understand there is some early game risk associated with the card, but the ability to net 7-10 cards for 90% of the game simply makes it too good not to play in high counts.
In testing I’ve also learned that there is some strategy in playing around Colress as well. In certain situations (especially early game) I would sometimes hold Basics out of fear of my opponent getting off to a much quicker start due to a large Colress. The downside is if my opponent plays N I’m shuffling those Pokémon I would have liked on my bench back into my deck.
There is some strategy in trying to make that call “Does my opponent have an N or Colress?” There is also a level of risk/reward analysis you have to do in these situations as well. Is denying my opponent 1 or 2 more cards off a Colress worth the risk of having my Pokémon shuffled back in (and making my own Colress weaker)? It’s a pretty bad feeling to see your in hand Pokémon shuffled away only to draw a Colress as your only Supporter off of the N.
The whole thing is very situational and the correct play will vary, but it is something that you want to think about when you are playing.
5. Metas will differ greatly based on your area.
Accurately predicting your own meta and countering it will be huge. Decks are also very techable right now players counts on cards like Tool Scrapper, Silver Mirror, Enhanced Hammer, Max Potion, etc. will probably vary from tournament to tournament depending on the meta they are expecting. I expect most players to have 3-5 “floating” spots in their decks from tournament to tournament.
After testing very speed-based decks like Plasma I just don’t see how an inconsistent turn 3 deck is better. I also don’t see how it’s any better than other big Turn 2/Turn 3 decks like Blastoise. I think if Emerald Slash took 1 less Energy, or if Virizion EX was Plasma, or if Genesect EX had the G Booster attack printed on it instead of taking up your ACE SPEC spot the deck might be viable. These things may all seem very minor, but it’s honestly just very little things that hold it back.
7. Jirachi EX is good.
If only Jirachi wasn’t an EX then it would be a near staple in every deck. I still find it a nice play in slower “set up and win” decks like Blastoise.
Choosing Your ACE SPEC
Plasma has 3 viable ACE SPECs and all 3 have their pros and cons. I really don’t think that there will be a right or wrong choice and I expect to see differences even among the top players.
This is still my favorite ACE SPEC for just about every deck. The card is simply never dead. I always find myself crying a little bit on the inside as I have to discard a Dowsing Machine or Scramble Switch for a Professor Juniper without ever really getting to use the card.
Also the card has the flexibility to search out an Energy or a Pokémon if needed, which actually comes into play more than you might think. Computer Search is just the overall best and most well-rounded ACE SPEC the deck can play – regardless of the version of Plasma you’re playing.
For me personally, Dowsing Machine is very matchup dependant. Matchups where I find myself wanting another copy of tech cards like Tool Scrapper, Max Potion, or Enhanced Hammer are the only times I ever would want Dowsing Machine over Computer Search.
This really is a matter of personal preference and I know a lot of veteran players that swear by Dowsing Machine, but it’s just not for me.
Originally I ran Scramble Switch in my Plasma list because it could set up big plays. I also liked the option of being able to Scramble Switch into a Keldeo EX and get around Silver Mirror. However, I found this play much harder to pull off in real games than it sounded in theory. In testing, for every time I was able to make a really cool play with Scramble Switch I had 2 or 3 other times where I desperately needed the card to be a Computer Search.
I still like the idea of the card, but in reality many of the scenarios with Scramble Switch are easier to set up on paper than they are in real games.
I never liked Life Dew in the deck as it always felt very gimmicky and inconsistent. If you ever missed a turn attacking because of having a less consistent ACE SPEC, then you just lost the 1 free turn (Prize card) you were given. Now with Tool Scrapper being playing in every deck the card isn’t even remotely playable.
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