Pokemon Decks of Old: A look Into 2009's Porygon-Z

Kirk Dube
August 03, 2021
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Hello friends! My name is Kirk Dube and I am here to discuss with you my foray into the older formats of the Pokémon Trading Card Game and how I found a passion for breathing new life into long forgotten decks. However, before I jump into the heart of this article, I wanted to give a brief 10,000-foot view of myself as it pertains to the Pokémon TCG. The 2017-2018 season was my first full competitive season chasing a Worlds invite; Worlds being the highest-level tournament requiring qualification by attaining a set minimum of Championship Points throughout the season spanning from August to June the following year. I was able to attain this goal approximately three-fourths of the way through the season. You may be able to more readily identify me as the founder and host of the Super Rod-Cast and most recently as the energetic commentator with flashy jackets.

Since March 2020 when events began to be cancelled, and eventually the entire season, Pokémon TCG players have been scrounging to find fresh, fun ways to play the game they love. This led to the explosion of people participating in game variants that were unfamiliar to them such as building and drafting from cubes and discovering (or re-discovering) some of Pokémon’s previous competitive World’s formats. I fall into the category of the latter. Having only started to have an interest with the Pokémon TCG in 2015 myself, I found the older cards, strategies, and interactions fascinating. As I dug deeper, I found that the ‘old format’ community was quite lively, and the influx of players wanting to get involved made it quite the hot spot to get a Pokémon TCG fix. On top of all that, independently run tournaments of different year’s formats made for solid competition. This was something I had to be a part of. Thus, I slowly began putting together decks from older Worlds formats, reaching all the way back to 2005. My initial goal was to have a deck for most old format years so that I always had a deck on hand to jump into whatever online webcam event may launch. The great thing about these tournaments is that you are allowed to use proxies and cards from the World Champion decks which makes these events very accessible. I personally have a mix of World Champion deck cards and regular versions of the cards all mish-mashed together. Using ptcgarchive.com I was able to select decks for each year based on cards I thought were interesting, my favorite Pokémon, or a specific player that performed well at Worlds that year. At the end of June I had gotten to building a deck for the 2009 Worlds format, and I was immediately intrigued by the massive number of lists that ptcgarchive had catalogued. Scouring through the decks, near the very bottom of the page was a Porygon-Z list. Per ptcgarchive, this archetype popped up at US Nationals that year, and performed moderately well in day one of Swiss. I happen to really like the Porygon line and the deck seemed competitive enough, so I went with it. 

I then took to twitter tweeting out that I chose a deck for 2009 and I was excited to get to play it in an event. My inbox found a message from Drew Allen, founder of the “Snowpoint Cast”, a YouTube channel that focuses on old format decks, gameplay, and interviews. He reached out to say he was open to questions if I needed help with old format stuff as well as mentioning that there was a 2009 webcam tournament coming up in the Snowpoint Discord group. Drew then asked me what I would play if I signed up

Me: The only deck I have… Porygon

Drew: !!! What list are you playing? My roommate and I high key broke a list for that deck like 2 weeks ago. 

Me: Just the list posted to ptcgarchive. Feel free to share with me any 2009 spice. I don’t know what I’m doing.

Drew: Let me lay it out for you…

From that moment on I began working with Drew and tangentially his friend Trevore Reed on this deck on and off over the next four months and have gotten to what we believe is the best iteration of the strategy. So without further adieu, I will first discuss what the deck’s strategy is, where the list started, and finally the path and process to bring us where we ended up. 

So what does this Porygon-Z deck actually do? The main objective is to get a Porygon-Z (DP35 Promo) on board with two energy to use the Overload attack. Overload has 40 base damage and adds 20 damage for each Technical Machine attached to it. Unlike a lot of the other stage 2 decks of that time, the entire Porygon line has attacks or Poke-powers that aid in its setup. Porygon (GE) has the calculate attack which allows you to rearrange the top 3 cards of your deck (not great, but certainly something I’ve announced far more than once). Porygon2 (GE) has the Poke-Power “download” which allows you to discard a supporter card from your hand and use its effect. In a format where supporters are incredibly important for the set up of your board, it can allow you to out pace your opponent and gain board position by being more firmly established. Porygon-Z as mentioned above has the “Install” Poke-Power allowing you to spread Technical Machines (TMs) around the board on different Pokémon and “Install” them to your Porygon-Z when ready to take a big knock out. It wouldn’t be a deck from 2009 without a Lv. X and this deck is no exception. Porygon-Z Lv. X (MD) has two amazing Poke-Powers. First is Mode Crash, which when played down on your active Porygon-Z you may discard ALL of your opponents special energy in play. At the time almost every deck played Call Energy, and in some decks Upper Energy, SP Energy, and Rainbow Energy made an appearance, so Mode Crash could be a very game swinging Poke-Power. The second Poke-Power is Decode, an incredibly powerful Poke-Power that allows you to search your deck for any two cards and put them on top of your deck in any order. Decode in concert with other card drawing Poke-Powers in the deck allows you access to these cards immediately! 

                                     

The other core component of the deck is the Technical Machines (TMs). Not only do they increase the damage of Overload, they serve as a great way to build your board position or impact your opponent’s. Since both Technical Machine TS-1 and Technical Machine TS-2 when placed on a Pokémon give them access to a free energy cost attack, it allows non-Porygon Pokémon to have value when in the active position. The stronger of the two, TM TS-1 enables the “Evoluter” attack which allows you to search your deck for a card that evolves from one of your Pokémon and put it on that Pokémon. This has great synergy with getting the next stage of Porygon in play, as well as a few other Pokémon we will discuss later in the article. TS-2 brings with it “Devoluter”, an attack that devolves your opponent’s Pokémon. This is used far less than TS-1, but not worth noting its impact in corner case scenarios. 

The other deck components will be discussed as we take a look at the deck tuning process. If we take a look at the list currently posted on ptcgarchive.com you will notice there is non-crucial “fat” that was the target of Drew and Trevore’s initial tuning of this list. On the proverbial chopping block were Unown Q (MD), Dialga G (PL), Dialga G Lv. X (PL), the 3rd copy of Baltoy (GE) and Claydol (GE), and the metal energy that was for Dialga’s attacks. The initial list sent to me by Drew is shown here:

The first major changes are in the form of the line of Nidoqueen (RR) with the Maternal Comfort Poke-Body and the four copies of Warp Point. Warp Point may remind newer players of the card Escape Rope with the crucial difference that it can be played even if you or your opponent don’t have a pokemon on their bench. To the credit of Trevore Reed who identified and made the suggestions to Drew before I entered the equation, these changes immediately elevated the strength of this archetype. Warp Point allows you to attack around what your opponent would prefer you attack into giving you access to their bench. A critical component of the Warp Point inclusion is not as evident upon first glance. Its true power allows in the conservation of TMs. Your opponent will typically put a Pokemon into the fray that has either already served its purpose (ie Azelf (LA) and Uxie (LA)) or a Pokemon that will least impact their strategy. The Pokemon that check one of the boxes mentioned almost always have low HP, for example and Azelf and Uxie both have 70, thus less TMs are required on a Porygon-Z to take a knockout. One of the largest hurdles this deck has is damage output once TMs are in the discard, Warp Point eases that burden, as well as providing the very strong effect on the card. 

The other major change I mentioned is Nidoqueen (RR). Nidoqueen and her Maternal Comfort Poke-Body allows you to take 1 damage counter off of all your Pokemon between turns. This is an incredibly strong effect that really messes up your opponents math when trying to take knockouts on your Porygon-Z. In a format where an opponent can use Crobat G’s (PL) Flash Bite Poke-Power to put a damage counter anywhere on your side of board when it is played down on the bench, being able to throw a wrench in that plan is important. It is also especially good at keeping your Porygon-Z fresh, as you are often switching between 2 or 3 attackers by way of Warp Point. Nidoqueen also is a very reasonable psychic type attacker that hits most fighting types for weakness. Having a counter puncher to the typing your Porygon are weak to is very practical and with the aid of Upper Energy, Ruthless Tail is not difficult to power up.

With the spicy version of the deck in hand that I began referring to as PoryWarp, I entered the 2009 webcam tournament and was promptly sent home packing in 3 straight matches. The information I gleaned from these matches was invaluable as I was able to get a stronger handle of not only what the deck can do, but where it has some very large holes in its armor. I lost to two copies of Flygon, which is weak to normal type attackers, and in theory a favorable matchup for Porygon-Z; the other loss coming at the hands of a Mother Gengar deck. Without going into too much detail about the decks I faced, the Mother Gengar deck is a spread strategy using the Shadow Room attack that dealt boosted damage against Pokemon with Poke-Powers and limited your opponent from taking prizes due to its Fainting Spell Poke-Power which made you rely on a coin flip to take prizes. The Flygon decks were where the real innovation sparked from. On paper, the normal type weak Flygon should have been a breeze for Porygon-Z especially with the innovation of four Warp Point now in the deck. However, 4 copies of a card and needing to take six one-prize knockouts doesn't add up. Combine that with Flygon Lv. X’s Wind Erosion Poke-Body putting the top card of your deck into your discard in between turns sometimes hitting a Warp Point, and I found myself in for a rude awakening. 

I thought about my matches a lot and worked hard to discern between what was a play mistake or lack of format knowledge, and what were actual weaknesses in the deck. Having parsed that aside I came to the following conclusions:

  • Although Marley’s Request is primarily used for recovering Technical Machines in the discard, having similar effects on cards with different names need to be explored. Especially since it can get back supporters and stadiums as well. Marley’s Request reads: Search your discard pile for 2 different Trainer, Supporter, or Stadium cards, show them to your opponent, and your opponent chooses 1 of them. Put that card into your hand, and discard the other card. (If all Trainer, Supporter, and Stadium cards in your discard pile have the same name, choose 1 of them. Show that card to your opponent and put it into your hand.) 
  • A deck that has a Poke-Power as strong as Download needs to have powerful supporters to use in concert with each other. Bebe’s Search and Roseanne’s Research both have diminishing returns in the mid to late game.
  • Is Broken Time Space needed?

I immediately messaged Drew my findings and the tuning began. The first point I made had a very simple solution that I was able to present while raising the concern. Although my point was broad, the purpose was very linear; why can’t I buy back what I need and more specifically, Flygon becomes cartoonishly easy with the addition of one copy of Switch. Being able to Marley’s Request for a Warp Point and a Switch and always capable of working around your opponent's active Flygon Lv. X and the Wind Erosion/Memory Berry/Sand Tomb combo was too powerful for them to overcome. 

The second conclusion I drew was much harder to satisfy. My lack of understanding that supporters in 2009 were just not as strong as they are today is what led me to believe that there was far more area to explore than actually existed. This is why in 2009 there was such a premium placed on draw Pokemon such as Claydol and Uxie and in turn Pokemon searching supporters like Bebe’s Search and Roseanne’s Research. Down but certainly not out, I was able to make a very strong case for Cynthia’s Feelings, a supporter that shuffles your hand into your deck and draws four. However, if you had a Pokemon knocked out during your opponents last turn, draw four more resulting in a total of eight. Initially I was very adamant that two copies was correct, and I still think I could make an argument that there is merit to two copies. After a very long back and forth with Drew and sample hand testing by both of us, he was able to convince me that one copy was just right. Having the opportunity to Download a Cynthia’s Feelings for eight cards and then use another supporter for the turn led to some very lopsided board states. Adding this supporter also leaned into my first conclusion of making Marley’s Request stronger. 

The next conclusion is a primary example of shaking up established norms. Fortunately for me I had no grasp on how rooted into 2009 Broken Time Space was. It is an insanely strong stadium that allows for evolutions on a basic that just came into play as well as multiple stage evolutions on that Pokemon. For example, with a Broken Time Space in play, I could place a porygon on my bench from hand, then immediately evolve it to Porygon2, and then evolve to Porygon-Z all in the same turn! To me, with no preconceived notions about the card, it seemed like a very powerful effect that did not shine in this deck. The reason being is that It didn’t ever actually expedite the setup of my stage 2 Pokemon. For Nidoqueen it seemed like I was manually evolving it, not placing a premium on searching out its evolutionary line because I was setting up my Porygon or a Claydol, sometimes an Azelf or an Uxie. As for Porygon, I always wanted at least one or two Porygon2 on the bench so I could really take advantage of Download over multiple turns, therefore making Broken Time Space far less potent. Another factor is that Technical Machine TS-1’s Evoluter helps evolve pokemon as well. The deck, in a backwards manner, almost wanted to evolve more slowly than all other decks in the format. Additional advantages to cutting Broken Time space included not having a stadium to enable Flygon’s Sand Wall attack, and being able to use opponent’s Broken Time Space without having copies of a card in the deck that could no longer be played and therefore “dead”. Fortunately for me Drew and Trevore had been thinking this as well and it made for a quick change from Broken Time Space to Rare Candy which offered similar upside without the issues mentioned.

Over the next few conversations, a few more tweaks were made until we reached a place that we were comfortable with. So how does this deck fare in the 2009 Worlds format metagame? That is a great question. We know it is a horrible underdog to Palkia Lock, and can have issues with fast and explosive decks like Beedrill. It is heavily favored against Flygon variants as well as Luxray/Infernape that was used by Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich to win the U.S. Nationals that year. Mother Gengar can be difficult, however hitting with Nidoqueen and using TS-2 to “de-evolve” your opponent’s Gengar to circumvent Fainting Spell gives you a real chance in that matchup. All that being said, what was at best a tier 3 pretender in the year 2009 is now a legitimate contender in old format 2009 tournaments. It has tools to give you play in all matchups and the lack of knowledge your opponent might have on how your strategy works is always a nice safety net to have on your side. 

Here is PoryWarp as it is presented on the Snowpoint Cast YouTube channel:

Of course, more testing and more games can and will lead to further developments of the deck so make sure to follow @Drewgong__Allen for the latest iteration. If you are interested in old formats I highly recommend the Snowpoint Cast on Youtube as well as the Snowpoint Temple group on Facebook. ptcgarchive.com and @PtcgArchive on Twitter always have an abundance of information and is a great place to start when looking up specific decks from the year you are looking interested in. I want to give some shoutouts that have helped me not only work on this deck, but in my quest to learn about old formats as a whole: Drew Allen, Trevore Reed, Scott Creech, Jonathan Paranada, and Jeffrey Surran. As always a big shoutout to my wife Hannah and little baby Olive, and of course to the UNDNTD gang. Thank you so much for reading, and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @doobsnax with any questions, concerns, comments, criticisms, or just to say hi. Peace, love, and hugs; stay safe out there.