The first month of the new season is behind us, and for me personally it has been a very successful return to in-person tournaments, winning the Liverpool Regional Championship! In this article I will include a short tournament report, try to answer some common questions about the deck I used, and take a look forward with some thoughts about EUIC.
The Deck Choice
When testing for Liverpool, I initially focused on the top 3 decks in the format: Mew, Arceus and Malamar. For the longest time, I was favoring Malamar, as it seemed favored against the other two, and it felt like players were underrating the deck a bit.
However, as our group started to test more seriously, we ended up concluding that Mew actually beats Malamar more often than not. If they lead with a Mew VMAX and avoid the turn two KO, which is very realistic with the Malamar player not having access to Inteleon yet, they can use three 1-prizers and a 2-prizer to always win the prize race. Playing Escape Rope and possibly Boss’s Orders in Malamar does give it some counterplay, but I hate having more than the absolute minimum of non-Rapid Strike cards in a Malamar list, with how easy those can lose you games.
Additionally, while Malamar is really good against most Arceus variants, Arceus Inteleon ended up being the by far most popular, and it happens to be the one that gives Malamar the most trouble. It is not a horrible matchup, but Quick Shooting in combination with Aqua Bullet threatening benched Inkay does make it complicated. With both of the most important matchups being potentially troublesome, it no longer felt worth it to play Malamar, so I decided to focus on other decks.
To no surprise, both Mew and Arceus held up very well in testing, and were in consideration for the tournament until the end. However, another deck that appeared in our testing was Rapid Strike Urshifu. It is ridiculously strong in the metagame besides the obvious flaw of being horrible against Mew, so we wanted to find a way to make it work. The initial thought was of course to combine it with Arceus, but even with heavy Dark packages the deck could barely compete with Mew. Then, one night, Tord built an Urshifu list with Moltres that tried to beat Mew with various Yoga Loop + Rapid Flow plays, and the initial testing turned out to be quite promising.
The thought was that since Mew rarely ever plays any hand disruption cards, even rather complicated combos that require a lot of different cards were not actually that difficult to achieve. I’ll explain some lines of play further below, but after a few days of testing and refining the list with the whole group, we were happy with the Mew matchup and felt like it was as good as it gets for an Urshifu deck. However, to make it work, the core of the deck took a bit of a hit, and we were not sure how well it would fare against the rest of the metagame.
Pedro, who has a lot of history playing Urshifu, believed in the deck and put a lot of time into it on the online ladder the week leading up to Liverpool. He reassured us that it did in fact hold up fine against all kinds of decks, even with the smaller Urshifu focus, and advocated for the deck when we tried to make our final decision on Friday. Tord was quite set on Mew for weeks already, feeling very comfortable even against what many players consider Mew counter decks. The rest of us were not as confident with Mew, and slowly leaned towards the Urshifu deck. We had our doubts about the deck’s consistency, but the matchups were very appealing.
In the end, Pedro, Fabien, Nico and I somehow all talked each other into submitting what we considered to be one of the weirdest decklists we ever brought to a tournament.
At first the deck might look like some random pile of cards, but it’s held together by the power of the Inteleon line in combination with Scoop Up Net. Sobble is used in almost every single game to set up the bench with its Keep Calling attack, and Drizzile + Inteleon are then used to find all our situational cards at the right moment throughout the game.
In most matchups, the deck plays like a regular Urshifu deck, although a weaker one than for example the Melony version. Still, the Fighting typing and the G-Max Rapid Flow attack are so effective against most decks, especially Arceus variants, that it’s good enough. Bird Keeper and Cheryl are two of the key cards when playing the traditional Urshifu game.
Against Mew decks, the focus shifts a lot, and the deck plays more like a Hoopa / Moltres deck, with a Medicham / Urshifu package to counter the counter plays that Mew can do. There are multiple different ways the matchups can be played that depend on what the Mew player does, but one very common occurrence is hitting Meloetta for 70 damage when Oricorio is in play. In that case we would try to Boss KO a 2-prize Pokémon with Moltres, while setting up for a big Yoga Loop play on the Meloetta at the end of the game. The free Yoga Loop turn allows us to bench Urshifu without being vulnerable to Boss, and then Raihan into Rapid Flow to knock out Oricorio and a 2-prizer for the final 3 prizes.
In the Mew matchup, there are many key cards besides the already mentioned Hoopa, Moltres, Medicham and Raihan. Cynthia’s Ambition, Zinnia’s Resolve and Sonia are used to build a big hand to make our combos realistic, Klara is part of more Moltres heavy gameplans, while Passimian and Telescopic Sight can be necessary to finish the game with Rapid Flow. Since prizing either of them can be very detrimental, the list also has a Peonia for a chance of retrieving missing cards from the prizes. Snorlax helps in finding the time to use Peonia, as it can replace one of the draw supporters.
The Malamar matchup is very specific as well, but with a much less variable game plan. The one thing we try to achieve is knocking out all Malamar / Inkay at once with Yoga Loop into Rapid Flow. If there’s an Inkay in play that can be achieved with two Quick Shooting (by using Net to pick up the Inteleon) into Yoga Loop, otherwise we can use Hoopa to set up 90 damage on a Malamar. Once we cleared all their attackers, and they get a turn to re-bench them, the combo can simply be repeated with another Scoop Up Net. Tower of Waters is great here, as it allows to freely switch between Medicham and Urshifu, and they don’t usually play a counter stadium for it. The matchup becomes more difficult if they play a Manaphy, but since it’s not a Rapid Strike card, it’s bad in Malamar, so that wasn’t a big concern going into the tournament.
Overall, we should beat Arceus and Malamar most of the time, and have a workable Mew matchup. That sounds great, and it is, but there’s one big catch: The deck’s consistency. It works much better than it looks like, but compared to the top 3 decks it can’t keep up in that regard. If we get to use Keep Calling on turn one and find a Drizzile on the second turn, everything is perfect, but in all other cases games are a struggle. Against many decks (that aren’t Mew) it’s possible to win with a weaker opening, but sometimes the deck will just lose to itself, and that’s something that has to be accepted.
I’ll give some more thoughts on the deck going forward further below, but let’s first look at how the tournament went for me!
These were my matchups throughout the tournament:
R1 Win vs Mew
R2 Win vs Lucario Moltres
R3 Tie vs Melony Urshifu
R4 Tie vs Gengar
R5 Tie vs Arceus Inteleon
R6 Win vs Melony Urshifu
R7 Win vs Arceus Urshifu
R8 Tie vs Ice Rider Calyrex
R9 Win vs Jolteon
R10 Win vs Arceus Inteleon
R11 Win vs Arceus Birds
R12 Win vs Hariyama
R13 Win vs Mew
Top 8 Win vs Malamar
Top 4 Win vs Arceus Inteleon
Finals Win vs Malamar
Day 1 was quite a rollercoaster for me. I ended up playing against the Melony version of Urshifu twice, which I considered to be close to the worst possible matchup, but my opponent’s got a bit unlucky in our games and I was able to get away with a win and a tie from these matches. However, I also ended up with ties against what I considered good matchups, in Gengar, Arceus and Ice Rider. I’ve been asked a lot on why I had so many ties, and I think it was a combination of pace of play being a bit slower than usual at the first tournament back, myself not being experienced enough with the deck, and the deck itself just not being fast at finishing games. Losing a game to a good matchup is very possible due to the deck’s shaky set up sometimes, so this was a big problem for me and the others playing the deck. Despite all the ties, I found myself in a win-and-in situation at the end of the day, and hit one of the best possible matchups, Jolteon!
Pedro, Fabien and Nico made it to the win-and-in as well, but unfortunately all of them lost their match, so I was the only one left representing the list on day 2.
Contrary to the day 1 run, the second day went pretty much perfectly for me. I started with three wins against good matchups in the first rounds, and then faced Tord’s Mew deck that we tested against so much. Even with him knowing all the tricks, I had what were probably my best draws of the whole tournament against him, and didn’t prize any important cards, so had all the answers and got the win that allowed me to intentionally draw into top cut during the last round!
I didn’t expect to make it that far after how day 1 went, but here I was in top cut of the first Regional back, and with quite a favorable bracket! The top 4 match against Arceus was very close and I almost lost after some very poor early draws in the first two games, but in the end Urshifu pulled through, especially after my opponent prized his Dunsparce in the third game.
The two matches against Malamar went more like planned. The first game in the finals was actually very close as I messed up my combo and would have lost if he didn’t prize the Boss’s Orders that he played, but the other games I mostly felt in control and was able to execute the game plan. Also, in game 1 of top 8, I managed to donk Joe’s lone Inkay with Hoopa, which I found quite amusing.
I was incredibly excited about winning this Regionals! Back when the “modern era” of the game started, my goal was to win a Regionals, and the first one back then was in Liverpool. I made it to the top 4 that time, which up until now, was the best Regionals placing of my career. To make it back to top 4 in the same place, and taking down the whole tournament this time, makes this win extra special to me!
The Deck Going Forward
After the tournament, many players were wondering whether deck was just a one-hit wonder that was carried by the surprise effect, or a serious meta contender you need to be worried about for EUIC. Like always, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
I’m convinced that the deck is good, but it does have its flaws, and those will be an even bigger concern going forward. First of all, as already mentioned, it is not the most consistent. In Liverpool that was still ok, because with players being unprepared you were more likely to win despite weaker openings. Now, with players being aware of all the deck’s tricks and card counts, bad draws will be less forgiving. Even back in Liverpool, the deck wasn’t invincible, as seen by all our day 1 performances.
There’s also the danger of seeing more Urshifu counter cards in other decks, now that it has established itself as somewhat of a relevant threat, with multiple different versions making day 2 and top cut appearances. Manaphy is annoying to deal with, and might be seen in some Arceus or Malamar decks. Some Mew players have recently started playing Marnie or Crystal Cave again, which are really difficult to beat for our deck. Avery gaining some popularity also isn’t ideal.
I’m very happy with how things went, and wouldn’t rule out bringing the deck to another tournament in the future, but I’m a bit skeptical about its chances at EUIC, and don’t currently expect to be playing it there.
Speaking of EUIC, it’s sad that it has such a low capacity this year, but it’s nevertheless great to have tournaments back, and I’m sure these registration problems will only be temporary. Internationals are always a special experience, and I’m very excited for the tournament!
Arceus decks have recently been shaking up Mew’s position as the undisputed best deck, so it will be interesting to see whether that trend continues, or if Mew will fight back and start dominating again. I’m still a bit skeptical about Malamar’s position in the metagame, but great players like Brennan, Joe and Stéphane have shown that it can compete at the highest level, and with it being the possibly cheapest top tier deck the game has ever seen, it’s also a very appealing option for anyone on a budget.
We haven’t seen much from Gengar or Suicune since SLC, but they are still decks one should keep in mind and be prepared to face, along with a bunch of other viable decks.
Overall, I like the current format and think there’s still a lot to explore and optimize, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens at EUIC!
I hope you enjoyed this tournament recap, until next time!