Frog Loop (Part 2) Top 16 Champions League Niigata


The original article was written by Shintaro Ito. Please find the original Japanese-language article here. Note my translation is not a perfect translation and I have rearranged and reworded some parts of the original article for clarity and readability. Find also some explanatory comments inside square brackets, italicised. 

Find Part 1 of the article here.


Game Play

On Twitter, there seem to be many people who believe this deck is difficult to use. However, when compared to decks like Jirachi Zapdos, Lycanroc Zoroark and Blacephalon Naganadel, this deck has a lower skill cap.

Why is this so?

Simply put,  most of the game you will only use one attack: Haze Slash. This is the one feature which makes this deck stand out from others. When thinking about other decks, you must consider different lines of play such as, “Do I use Assault Thunder this turn [Zapdos' attack]? Or do I use Sky High Claws [Tapu Koko GX's attack], or Plasma Fists [Zeraora GX's attack]?” “In order to set up Dangerous Rogue later in the game, I need to find time to attach a Fighting Energy – should I do this now?” “I have a Beast Ring in my hand – but should I use Cynthia? Or should I just keep my current hand as is…?”

With this deck, we don’t need to consider such complicated lines of play.

Draw through your deck and use Haze Slash to take your Prize Cards.

That’s it. That’s all you need to think about. There is essentially only one pathway to victory, making it a very simple deck to play. A deck that has many different routes to win is a deck that is far more difficult to pilot.  Therefore, I think most decks in the current meta are harder to play.

It will take some time to learn how play this deck perfectly, as you must consider all potential plays when your hand gets large. I was unable to play perfectly the first time I picked up this deck, however this issue is true for all decks in the Pokémon TCG.  It takes time and practice for anyone to get used to a deck and be able to play it well. This is a fact that needs to be accepted and acknowledged.




 Early Game

Your aim is to get two Meganiums and two Swamperts down on the bench.

The key to the early game is whether or not you can set up your Meganiums. If you can get one Meganium out, in one or two turns you will be able to get more Stage 2s out and complete your board. You should also keep using Beacon and getting Pokémon out from your deck. If you can draw one Rare Candy, depending on your opponent and their deck, it may not even be necessary to use Alolan Ninetales GX.

If you place one Chikorita on the bench, there is a chance that it will be subject to a Guzma and get knocked out, so you should try to play down two Chikoritas at a time. If you have only one in hand, consider using Beacon to get a second copy and then placing both down in the next turn.

Other things you should do is check whether your Superboost Energy Prism Star, Alolan Ninetales GX and Rare Candies are in your Prizes. Cards like Greninja GX only become relevant later so they are not as important to check in the early-game.

Even though you only have 25 minutes for a round, it is important to play out the early game carefully. After your deck becomes empty, all you need to do is cycle through Power Draws, Acerolas/Guzmas/Switch and Haze Slashes, which takes very little time.

Mid-Game

Your aim is to draw through your deck.

Honestly, if you can make it through the early game, you don’t even really need to play properly to win. In saying this, I’m still going to write this section seriously.

The key things to think about during the mid-game are “cards I want to draw,” “Pokémon I want to play down,” and “Pokémon I don’t want to play down.” If you play with these in mind, you’ll have a better chance at winning. Even if you play mindlessly, you will still most likely win.  

I can’t really explain these points abstractly, so instead I have illustrated them with practical examples.

Question: “Concerning the second half of your streamed game, I want to know why you played out your turn in the order of: Power Draw, Brooklet Hill for Froakie, Acro Bike, then your second Power Draw.”

Answer: I remember this was the turn right after I got Judged. That turn was a turn in which I could have taken two different paths.

I could have left my board as is, and drawn through my deck with double Swampert, allowing my Swampert to survive a Dangerous Rogue as I had a low bench. Another line of play I could have followed was to try to get my Greninja out using either a Switch or Guzma, and then shuffle it back into my deck using Haze Slash. With my first Power Draw, I drew into Superboost Energy, Guzma and Ultra Ball, so I decided to follow the second line of play. The best route of play was to knock out the Active Zoroark by using Switch, so I played to find a Switch. I used Brooklet Hill before my second Power Draw because I wanted to thin my deck before drawing any further.

There is a reason I played the Acro Bike first. This order was affected by the fact that I had Looker and Looker Whistle remaining in my deck. If I drew Looker Whistle from Acro Bike, I could use Looker Whistle to thin my deck a little. I thought playing Acro Bike first would be more valuable.

This play was a little dodgy – even if I am asked to explain more in detail about this play, I don’t think I am confident in explaining it so I will omit my explanation. As a result of my plays, I was able to reach both of my goals – to shuffle back in the Greninja and to get a Switch to KO the active Zoroark.

(Looking back at it, I should have used Power Draw before using Acro Bike, which would have made me more likely to have access to a Switch. If I Power Draw first, I have a higher chance of drawing a Looker Whistle than if I Acro Bike first. Apologies for this mistake.)

End Game

Your aim is to take four Prize Cards, then Hydro Pump a GX Pokémon.

If you have taken four Prize Cards and your opponent has a GX Pokémon in play, you can Hydro Pump that Pokémon for the win. This is one of the easiest ways to win, so make sure you keep an eye out for this line of play. This play was conveniently shown on stream, but there is another method you can take if you have taken four prize cards. You can also target down your opponent’s Tapu Lele GX with Greninja for the win.

Amu also told me about his strategy to attach the Superboost Energy Prism Star to Swampert in the midgame and to win in this fashion. However, I can’t pull off these genius-level plays. I think if you can make these plays you will eventually win but unfortunately I wasn’t able to make them myself.

Although these plays are important, what is also important is where you place your 30 damage from Greninja’s Shuriken Flurry. This damage can be healed by your opponent using Acerola or Max Potion, so it is crucial that you place your damage carefully. Ideally, you will be able to place your damage in a way that puts your opponent’s GX Pokémon within range of a KO from Haze Slash damage.

When dealing with GX Pokémon with less than 220 HP and Pokémon like Jirachi or Zapdos with a fragile amount of HP, it is fine to just use Haze Slash to knock them out, while stacking up 30 damage on benched Pokémon with low HP. This way, you will be able to take your prize cards efficiently.

Matchups

While your opponent will likely not know your exact list, this is the way I approached the Niigata tournament: imagining my opponent knew my exact 60.

Jirachi Zapdos – Favoured

One way of winning is if your opponent can’t find a turn where they are able to KO a Slaking or Swampert.

One way of losing is if your opponent disrupts your setup by using Guzma, and then using Tapu Koko GX or Zeraora GX to get rid of your Greninja line. If you can afford it, you want to be able to get out your Slaking, but the games in which you can afford to use Slaking are the games that you can probably win without Slaking anyway.

Lycanroc Zoroark – Favoured

You are able to win if your opponent has turns where they cannot knock out Swampert or Greninja GX. Also, remember you can KO a Tapu Lele GX in one turn with a combination of Shuriken Flurry and Choice Band.

However, it is difficult to win if you have not yet set up your field and then get Judged. In the early game your opponent has turns to place down Energies so I do not think Slaking is very useful, as it can get knocked out in one shot from Claw Slash.

Blacephalon GX Naganadel – Favoured

You can easily one shot Blacephalons with Haze Slash. One way you can lose this matchup is by taking two prize cards and allowing your opponent to use lots of Beast Rings. If you can get Slaking active in the early game, this should take precedence over getting out a Swampert. It is difficult for them to attach enough energy and Guzma in one turn, so it is possible that you can steal an extra turn or two by putting Slaking active. You don’t need to use Slaking in the second half of the matchup.

Decidueye Ninetales – Even

The path to winning is to not have your board destroyed by Snowy Wind. If your opponent sets up their board nicely and is able to knock out two Chikoritas in one turn through a combination of Guzma, Feather Arrows and Snowy Wind, it will be very difficult for you to make a comeback.

Slaking is always strong in this matchup, so I try to wait for the right time to put it in play, where I can get the most use out of it. Generally, I want to play it down right after my opponent uses a Guzma.

Buzzwole Lycanroc – Favoured

You will generally win if your opponent has taken less than three prizes before you have set up. One way of losing is from Beast Energy + Jet Punch knocking out your Vulpix, or, with Diancie, knocking out your Chikoritas. And then, your Meganium is knocked out by a Knuckle Impact. It is very difficult to come back if they smash through your board with Beast Energy. Slaking can usually take care of this matchup.

Malamar variants – Favoured

One way of winning is by using Shuriken Flurry to target down one Malamar and knocking out a separate Malamar. With 5 Prize Cards left, ensure you can knock out a GX and the damaged Malamar together in one of your following turns, allowing you to skip Beast Ring.
One way of losing is if your opponent uses Max Potion to undo the damage you have done to their field.

In this matchup, Slaking is also strong, so I want to have it active as much as possible.

Tournament Report

Round 1 – Blacephalon Naganadal – W

My board was formed with no problems and I was able to win by knocking out two Blacephalons and one Tapu Lele. This match went ideally.

Round 2 – Lycanroc Zoroark – W

This match was streamed, so please watch that. [The link can be found here.]

Round 3 – Lycanroc Zoroark Naganadel – W

My opponent was making plays like Cynthia pass, and was dead drawing so I was able to set up my field perfectly and win.

Round 4 – Zoroark Decidueye - W

In their second turn, my opponent was able to get double Rare Candy Decidueye, and Riotous Beating my Vulpix for the knock out. Though my opponent got a three Prize Card lead, in response to their Guzma, I set up a Slaking and continually used Acerola on it to eventually win.

Round 5 – Counter Passimian - W

The only way to lose this matchup is if your opponent can get enough Flying Flips on board and then Magical Swap. I prioritised knocking out Tapu Kokos while stacking up Shuriken Flurry Damage on one Power Huddle Passsimian.

Round 6 – Ninetales Gardevoir Swampert – W

I started with no Supporters and after two Beacons I used Alolan Ninetales to get me Looker Whistle. My opponent was unable to get the energy to be able to use Snowy Wind and missed the attack. By using my Alolan Ninetales as a wall, I was able to complete my board. In the end game, a problem occurred where I had a Ninetales with 70 damage on it, which got Guzma’d and hit by Infinite Force. I thought it was knocked out so I left it in the Discard Pile. However, , the Infinite Force damage was only 120 and was 10 damage short of causing a knock out. As I had already moved the damage counters and placed my Ninetales in the Discard Pile, I was unable to prove the situation. I was able to explain the situation somehow, which left me with only four minutes in the game. I was able to win in two turns. I was expecting my Ninetales to be knocked out and made plans around that. Make sure to take care when thinking ahead.

Round 7 – Metagross – L

I thought I would not be able to lose this match if I had Slaking. I promoted it after a Guzma and was met with a Superboost Energy and a Kukui to knock it out. The deck did not even run Solgaleo GX, so I would have been fine to loop Greninjas as normal. 

I was thinking too hard about this match.

Round 8 – Jirachi Zapdos – W

Although my benched Pokémon were knocked out by three consecutive Guzmas, I was able to create a turn where I could not be knocked out. From here, I was able to create a board where I could never be knocked out and therefore,  I won.

Round 9 – Frog Loop – W

To write about this match is a very difficult task so I will not attempt to do it. It seemed like I was going to lose many times. Amu did not run Pal Pad so I should be favoured in the matchup, but Amu is a player of higher skill than me, so this was a very difficult match.

Round 10 – Jirachi Zapdos Jolteon – W

Using Escape Ropes and Guzmas, my opponent was able to take down my bench. With Electropower and Tapu Koko GX, my opponent was even able to knock out Meganium. If my opponent hit a Guzma with their last Wishing Star, they would have won, but I got very lucky and managed to pull off the win.

Round 11 – Ultra Necrozma – L (Top 16)

In my first turn I was unable to draw into Chikorita and had a poor setup. My opponent, on the other hand, was able to develop their board turn after turn, eventually setting up a very strong board. In their final turn, they used Wonder Tag for Guzma to knock out my Slaking. I believe that players who can make it to the 11th round and play well are truly great players.
Although there was a different line of play I could have pursued, I did not see it during the match. Even if I had followed through with that line of play, I am not sure if it would have changed the outcome of the match.

Thank you to everyone who has read this far. I will continue to play and love the Pokémon TCG, and I wish the best to all of you.

Credit to: https://pokemoncardmemo.com/deck/article2018-760/ for the original Japanese-language article. 


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