Players Cup IV Metagaming; ADPZ and Welder/Hammers
In my articles I typically try to go beyond simply providing lists and running through matchups, and offer some additional insight into my deck building and testing processes so that readers gain a deeper understanding of the decks they’re reading about. This article will talk about some of the approaches I’ve taken to picking the correct tech cards and metagame calls for the ongoing Players Cup 4 on PTCGO. If you’re currently grinding through your keys but are perhaps struggling or want to pick up a new list or two, hopefully this article has something for you.
ADPZ: Correct Techs and my Personal List Preferences
ADPZ was the deck I used to earn the majority of my rep for my Players Cup 2 qualification and around half my rep for my Players Cup 3 qualification, so it’s a deck I have a lot of experience with. You might think you have a pretty good understanding of ADPZ, and that’s probably true--the deck is very linear and is probably the most overpowered deck relative to its skill level I’ve seen in my five years playing. However, there are a lot of microdecisions that go into the deckbuilding process in order to build a truly optimal ADPZ list. Just one or two suboptimal counts of key cards can derail a tournament run.
I was able to win the Epoch Tuesday tournament on Limitless on May 5th with a slightly unusual take on ADPZ with two Reset Stamp. The list I used is below; I’ll follow it up with a discussion of the card choices here that might differ from other ADPZ lists you’ve seen, why I played them for Epoch, and how you should build ADPZ for Players Cup 4.
3 Zacian V
Top players have been divided for a while on whether ADPZ should play three or four Zacian. I’ve always preferred playing three. In most games you will use just two Zacian, so a third copy simply serves as insurance against Prize cards. The argument to run the fourth copy is that using Intrepid Sword on turn one is extremely strong and you want to get a Zacian into play as often as possible to achieve this. However, with all of the draw and search options available in the deck I rarely have trouble achieving this, and for the same reason, even if I don’t use Intrepid Sword on turn one I am usually able to assemble all the pieces I need for turn two Altered Creation GX anyway. When I tested with four Zacian, the extra copy would always be a dead card in the late game and could clog up my hands off of Reset Stamp; also, in the mirror match, it was an additional Mawile-GX target. I wouldn’t necessarily fault you for playing a fourth Zacian, but I have always felt three is plenty and I would rather use the slot for a tech.
2/2 Split of Dedenne-GX/Crobat V
Another card count choice I have advocated for for a long time, but again one you will find plenty of disagreement with. Testing with Danny Altavilla, we agreed that you want the option to use both Dedenne and Crobat in the same turn twice during a game. I have seen many lists, including from players I respect, run 3 Dedenne and 1 Crobat--if you Prize Crobat with those lists, or have to use your one copy early or for minimal effect, you lose so much draw power. I would not play ADPZ without the second Crobat, since the entire premise of the deck is that you need extremely strong draw power to find combos. Recently I have even seen 2 Dedenne/1 Crobat in Limitless tournaments, which I think represents a total misunderstanding of what ADPZ is trying to do, and would not be surprised if those players are frequently punished by that card choice.
I consider Marnie a tech in ADPZ; it is not a crucial card but it is one I enjoy having. You’ll notice I included it even in this list where I also played two Reset Stamp. The advantages of Marnie in this list are that it is searchable via Eldegoss V (and thus via Quick Ball) once it is discarded, and that it can shuffle your own hand, not just your opponent’s--this is useful if you simply cannot afford to discard what’s in your hand but still want to dig for another card. This bailed me out in a round of the Epoch tournament where I was able to avoid discarding three Metal Saucer and still find a Switch to achieve the turn two Altered Creation GX. Of course, Marnie is also good disruption against your opponent if you can play it early or when they have a large hand. Marnie plus Mawile-GX can be powerful against Eternatus VMAX since you have a decent chance of hitting a Crobat V with Captivating Wink.
I have been a huge fan of Skyla in ADPZ since I Top 8’d a Hegster tournament with it, even playing it for the NA Regional phase of Players Cup 3. For the skeptics, think of it like this: Skyla is just a Supporter version of Computer Search in this deck. It finds every Trainer, but also finds every Pokemon (via Quick Ball) and Energy (via Energy Spinner). Since you have so much draw power from Dedenne-GX and Crobat V, you can often afford to use your Supporter for a turn on this effect, since sometimes you will be just one card away from a particular combo. (Also Skyla is kind of a “fifth Boss’s Orders,” since it can grab Great Catcher.)
4 Energy Switch
I note this only to say that you should never play less than four Energy Switch in ADPZ, but especially not in this meta where Crushing Hammer is rampant in all kinds of decks. Energy Switch is a great counter to Hammers, plus having the fourth copy gives you extra consistency in achieving the turn one Altered Creation GX should you be forced to go second.
2 Reset Stamp
Here we are: the most interesting tech choice in this particular list. Reset Stamp is what most people would consider a “comeback” card, designed to help slightly less overwhelming decks win longer games by buying them time to establish a better board. This sounds antithetical to ADPZ, which aims to win games in sometimes as few as three turns. After some discussion with Danny and my teammate Le Bui, we decided to try Stamp in ADPZ as a way to come back from unfavorable situations in the mirror match and against Eternatus VMAX. In both scenarios, even if you have no attackers or Energy on the board, if you can force your opponent to whiff Boss’s Orders for one turn you are often able to establish a comeback. This came in handy to defeat the ADPZ mirror in my Epoch tournament finals, but I also used Stamp for some less obvious plays. Against an EggRow/Rillaboom deck, I used Stamp after they played Cynthia & Caitlin for Boss’s Orders, denying them a very strong gust play on their next turn. Against a Welder deck, I used Stamp after they used Beak Catch, forcing them to use another turn to set up. Two Stamp is not something I would always play in ADPZ, but it is definitely a fun way to build the deck and is not at all bad. Le has been playing just one Stamp in his ADPZ lists recently, for the potential of making that occasional wild comeback.
Other Tech Considerations for Players Cup 4
Three techs I can think of off the top of my head for Players Cup 4 would be a second Mawile-GX, second Chaotic Swell, and one or two copies of Big Charm. The second Mawile-GX helps if Eternatus VMAX becomes popular (and I have been seeing more Eternatus VMAX in Limitless tournaments over the past week or two), and has the added benefit of greatly improving the Decidueye matchup. A second Chaotic Swell is strong if Welder decks rocket to the top of the meta, especially when you can pair an early Marnie with Swell. Finally, Big Charm helps with Eternatus VMAX (saving ADPZ from an OHKO) and LucMetal (saving Zacian V from an OHKO). You can also tech for LucMetal with Tool Scrapper, but I prefer Big Charm because while it is a bit harder to use, it has much more relevant uses in other matchups.
Ever since Crushing Hammer found its way into ADPZ, PikaRom, Eternatus VMAX, and even some other decks, I’ve joked with my friends and testing partners that it would only be a matter of time before Blacephalon started playing Hammers. Danny Altavilla even encountered a Mad Party list with Hammers in a Players Cup 4 qualifier. Finally, after one too many losses to Hammer-heads hot streaks from opponents, my teammate Le Bui decided to get in on the meme: he submitted a Blacephalon (aka Welder Toolbox or TempoZard) list with four Crushing Hammer for the May 3rd Glimwood Challenge... and made Top 8, losing there to Azul Garcia Griego. Azul was quick to make fun of Le for cutting key consistency cards just to add Hammers, and while I agreed with Azul, the Hammers actually have more value than you might expect in the archetype.
Because of the high-variance “clown fiesta” nature of Players Cup qualifiers, it’s not crazy to assert that Le’s concoction (which he’s nicknamed “Hammerant,” for Hammers + Cramorant V) might not be an awful play for qualifiers. There is a slight consistency loss, but Welder archetypes have always been “run hot decks” anyways, and even one Hammer heads in certain matchups can swing games and earn you more tournament rep.
Here’s the list Le used:
Against the current metagame there are five major uses for Hammers in Blowns:
- Remove Water Energy from ADP. This can often prevent an Ultimate Ray immediately after an Altered Creation GX, which can buy you a turn to gain the upper hand in the Prize race. In a closed-decklist key event, your opponent likely won’t know you have Hammers and may even attach a Water Energy on turn one, in which case a Hammer heads can delay Altered Creation GX and set them back even further.
- Prevent turn two Dread End from Eternatus VMAX, or prevent Eternatus VMAX from attacking at other points in the game. Eternatus VMAX has actually long been a somewhat unfavorable matchup for Blowns, so Energy denial can help.
- Against the new Psychic Mew3 (“Jit2”) decks, Hammers can help prevent you from getting bricked out of the game by Night Watch in combination with Marnie.
- Hammer can remove Coating Energy from attackers in the LucMetal matchup, enabling you to take much easier KOs. That matchup is fine anyway, but it is loseable if you play sloppily, draw poorly, or LucMetal runs very hot; Hammers give you the peace of mind to regain the advantage of Weakness.
- Against Rapid Strike Urshifu VMAX, Le tells me that Hammers have served as insurance against G-Max Rapid Flow in games where he Prized Mew or was unable to find it. Setting an Urshifu behind on attachments means they will have to keep looping Gale Thrust rather than using G-Max Rapid Flow to take multiple-KO turns.
I am not positive that Hammerant is strictly better than the non-Hammer version of the deck, but it’s undeniable that Crushing Hammer is very strong in this format and honestly the deck does not lose as much consistency as you might expect. During the 50-key grind of Players Cup events, it is sometimes nice to have the comfort of improving already-favorable matchups and clutching even matchups by hitting a few coin flips.
Players Cup 4 prep and conclusions
Players Cup keys are always a grind, and because they are best-of-one, closed-decklist, and this format especially is defined so much by variance, you can’t expect to win them all. I tell people to settle for an average rate of two rep per key--this puts you on pace for a 100-rep finish. The bar for qualifying for Players Cup 3 in NA was 92 (after DQs), but because this one features cash prizing, I anticipate a greater “tryhard” presence and I think the bar will be considerably higher.
I recommend my ADPZ list above, with any of the techs I mentioned added as needed for your particular preferences and metagame predictions, for grinding keys. If you want something a bit more out there, Le’s Hammerant list has a solid matchup spread and the appeal of occasionally destroying people with Hammers. I also feel that Eternatus VMAX could be strong right now, and would encourage anyone playing that to run multiple Power Plant to spam with Marnie/Reset Stamp, as well as a Phoebe to deal with the high amounts of LucMetal I’ve been seeing.
Questions? Comments? I’m always happy to talk Pokemon and you can find me on Twitter @twhitesell42, as well as my team @UNDNTD. If you’re interested in coaching I offer that here. I hope this article was helpful and I wish you luck on your Players Cup 4 grind or other tournaments!
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