"One Weekend, Seventeen Games, and Fourteen Wins"- A Triple League Challenge Report

As the title says, I went 14-2-1 at three League Challenges this past weekend. On Saturday my local friends and I drove the two hour drive in three different cars to Greenfield, Indiana for a double League Challenge. Then, on Sunday, I made another two hour drive up to Chicago to pick up my grandparents, and I made a League Challenge out of it.

On Saturday morning, my friend Brandon Flowers picked up my friend Jake and I from our dorm (I
just started college!). We drove through Taco Bell to get energized with some breakfast burritos, and we got on the road. The sun was awful and gave me a headache, but luckily Brandon had good taste in music and he let me play Pokemon Shuffle on his phone (Actually, that last part wasn't so lucky because now I downloaded it myself, the game is addicting, and I play it every thirty minutes).

Brandon, Jake and I were all going to play Night March, although Jake is new to the game and did not have Shaymins yet. Two hours later, we arrived at the venue and met up with the rest of the Champaign/Urbana crew. The entry fee was five dollars per event, which wasn't so bad, and when we arrived attendance seemed somewhat low-ish. Unfortunately, as the end of registration grew nearer, the venue got more and more crowded, and it was announced that we would be playing six rounds. This wouldn't have been so bad for a League Challenge, except for the fact that we would be playing two of them back-to-back, which meant that we would be spending a lot of time in Indiana. The organizers were also not expecting such high attendance, but luckily everything was run smoothly with minimal bumps.

Round 1 vs Gumby Arce with Metal/Ray

He started with Rayquaza EX, and his Altaria was in his prizes, so I took two prizes on my first turn. On my second turn, I used Lysandre to drag up a Keldeo EX and knock it out, and on my third turn, I dragged up a third EX and took my sixth prize card.


Round 2 vs Philip Harshfield with Metal

We both had poor starts. I couldn't go off, and neither could my opponent. I manually loaded up a Joltik with two Lightning Energy and used Lysandre to drag up my opponent's Aegislash EX. He had one basic metal energy attached to it and a Bronzong in play, but he had no energy in the discard pile and no cards in his hand. He retreated the Aegislash for free with Float Stone and hit my Joltik for 10 damage with his Cobalion EX, and I Lysandred the Aegislash to knock it out. He hit my Joltik for another 10 and then I knocked out the Cobalion. I don't remember how I took my last two prizes, but I remember that the Joltik sat out there for the rest of the game.


Round 3 vs Joni Heredia with Speed Lugia

She started with Deoxys, attached a Double Colorless Energy to it, and then drew through half of her deck to set up. She benched multiple Shaymin, Deoxys, and Thundurus EX, and then she passed with Deoxys active. I knocked out the Deoxys with Pumpkaboo. She knocked out the Pumpkaboo with Lugia EX to take two prizes, but then I knocked out the Lugia with Joltik. She knocked it out with Thundurus EX, but I was able to get nine Night Marchers in the discard pile to get the knockout for my fifth and sixth prizes.


Round 4 vs Aaron Tarbell with Trevenant/Gengar

I went first, starting with Joltik, and I got five Night Marchers in the discard pile. I got a couple of Unowns and Pumpkaboo down. He drew, attached a Double Colorless to his lone Gengar EX, and used Night Attack on the Joltik. I promoted Pumpkaboo and had just enough Night Marchers in deck to discard all of them to win the game.


Round 5 vs Nick W. with Donphan

In this round, I got downpaired against a Senior who was 3-0-1. Unfortunately, Donphan is not a great matchup for Night March. Having played this matchup a lot, my strategy is to use Pumpkaboo as an attacker and use Lysandre a lot to knock out Donphans. I knocked out three Donphans in this way, but he smartly attached a Focus Sash to the fourth Donphan, meaning that I had to Lysandre it out twice. This put me too far behind on prizes, and he was able to Lysandre a Shaymin and knock it out with Hawlucha to win the game.


Round 6 vs Josh Fine with Night March

I got to play the mirror match! I'm pretty comfortable with it, and the Unowns give me enough draw power to get Lysandre when I need it. I used a cool trick and attached Muscle Band to Unown with Dimension Valley in play to knock out a Joltik with Hidden Power. He also had to attack with Mew EX at some point, so eventually it was easy to clean up my last few prizes with Lysandre.


During the last round, the 5-0 got paired against the Senior who beat me during the fifth round. Unfortunately, Donphan was no match for Gengar/Trevenant, but I do appreciate that Nick didn't just intentionally draw the match, because he was in a position where he could have done so. There were three 5-1s and one 6-0, and my resistance was high enough to put me in second place! My roommate Damien Hardy took third, and the top four looked like this:

1. Craig Schrader with Gengar EX/Trevenant
2. Charles Larenas-Leach with Night March/Unown
3. Damien Hardy with Seismitoad EX/Manectric EX/Garbodor
4. Ben Osborn with Landorus/Crobat

Two cars full of our Champaign-Urbana people left at this point because it was pretty late, but Brandon, Nick, Andrew and I decided to stay behind for the second tournament.

We had no time in between the two tournaments because they were back-to-back and we were short on extra time. We tried to fix Nick's Yveltal/Archeops deck, but pairings were announced before he could make any changes, so he ended up playing the same list. Luckily, the second tournament only had five rounds as opposed to six.

Round 1 vs Gumby Arce with Metal/Ray

Does this seem familiar at all? Yes, I did end up getting paired against the same opponent for the first round of both tournaments. This game also went similarly to the previous one in that I won after attacking EXes three times. Rayquaza EX and Shaymin EX were weak to Lightning, and Hoopa EX was weak to Psychic, so it was pretty easy to find a Pokemon EX within range of a Night March.


Round 2 vs Lenny Presock with Donphan/Eeveelutions

It was worrying to see my opponent flip over a Phanpy, but I had a much better time streaming Lysandre in this game, as my opponent only played one Focus Sash. My opponent got a Jolteon into play, but he never could bring up a Shaymin EX to knock out, so it was never really relevant. I managed to knock out all of his Donphans, but I ran out of Lysandre, so I had to knock out three Robo Substitutes before I could take my last couple of prizes.


Round 3 vs Evan Cole with Durant

He mulliganed several times, so I knew that he was playing Durant. I started with Unown, and took all the mulligans (six?). I used Switch of Float Stone to switch into Pumpkaboo, and then I used Farewell Letter, making Pumpkaboo the only Pokemon on my board. I've been playing Bunnelby with Crawdaunt for several months, so I feel like I know how to play against these types of decks.

1. Only have one Pokemon out. Your opponent can stall using Lysandre to drag out other Pokemon to waste your time. This strategy will only be viable until Durant decks update and start running a Mewtwo EX and a Double Colorless energy like they used to.

2. Don't be afraid to Juniper if you need to. If you are one energy attachment short of attacking, statistically the Durant deck has you under a lock. You get to draw one card per turn, and your opponent is milling up to four cards per turn, so if you have the energy you need in the top five cards of your deck, there is a 4/5th chance that the energy will be discarded. This is a soft lock of sorts, and sometimes it's to your advantage to draw cards if it means that you don't miss the attack for the turn. This is why I took the mulligan cards, and why I occasionally use Professor Juniper against Durant decks; I can't afford to miss the energy drop if it means I can't knock out Durant.

I used these strategies against Evan, and I was also very lucky that he drew poorly. I ran him out of Pokemon before I took six prizes. I know that I said that I thought that Durant was not viable in the Expanded format, but since then Eco Arm was printed, letting Durant reuse Life Dew without having to attack with Bunnelby or Sableye. I don't think that the perfect list for Durant has been created yet, but someone will create a more optimal list and have success with it.


For some reason, during this round, the judges didn't post pairings or use match slips because they were low on paper. Because of this, I couldn't see that they recorded my round two match incorrectly. I played against a 1-1, and my round two opponent played against a 2-0. After round three, I got the result corrected, by resistance was still hurt.

Round 4 vs Josh Fine with Night March

This name might look familiar too, because this was my sixth round opponent from last time! Unown really came in clutch for me this game, because I took three knockouts on three EXes in three turns to win the game. It was a lot closer because I had to attack with Mew EX to get off my second Lysandre, but I still managed to bring home a win.


Round 5 vs Brandon Flowers with Tool Drop

Brandon and I were both 4-0 and we were the only people with undefeated records. This was the last round, I was exhausted, and I knew that my resistance was messed up because of the mis-pair. Because of this, Brandon and I decided to intentionally draw. We played a fun game and I got absolutely slaughtered.

Don't sleep on this card.

My record was good enough for yet another second place, with the tournament win going to Brandon. The top four was as follows:

1. Brandon Flowers with Tool Drop
2. Charles Larenas-Leach with Night March
3. Kevin Baxter with Blastoise
4. Aaron Tarbell with M Manectric/Regice

We drove to a pizza place and bought some deep dish pizza, and then I drove Brandon's car with everyone in it back to Champaign and I crashed immediately.

At 8 AM the next morning, I woke up, showered and ate breakfast. Damien helped me decide to cut Revive for Enhanced Hammer. Andrew Weiss picked me up at nine, we drove to my house where my uncle's car was, and we were off! The drive to Top Cut Comics in Chicago was another two hours to add to the weekend tally.

Round 1 vs Jimmy Ballard with Zoroark/Espeon/Hawlucha

As registration was ending, I heard Jimmy on the phone saying that he built a deck out of the store's commons box. For those of you who don't know, Jimmy got 2nd at Worlds in 2006, and now he runs his own chain of stores in Chicago and Rockford called Top Cut Comics. In this case though, he had three Professor Junipers in his prizes, and he only saw one energy card throughout the whole game. He used my Dimension Valley to attack with Espeon for free to do minimal damage and draw cards, but I was able to knock out several Pokemon before he conceded.


Round 2 vs Caleb Gedemer with Blastoise

Caleb told me that he drove three hours from Wisconsin to be there in Chicago. Caleb was one of the top players in North America for a short time during Spring of this year, so he is definitely a force to be reckoned with. He went first and got Archie's on the first turn. I went second and could not keep up. He knocked me out with Articuno, and then Wailord, and there was nothing I could do as he played the matchup perfectly. There was a point where I cwanted to use Lysandre to knock out his Blastoise, but before I could execute that play he used Archie's to get a second Blastoise into play. This was my first match in which I lost to a Master all weekend. Good game Caleb!


Round 3 vs Vespiquen

My opponent was a girl whose boyfriend had built her deck. The deck ran Shaymin EX, but it ran Professor Birch's Observations instead of N. This let me plan my plays farther in advance, and came in clutch for me because I started pretty slowly. I used Enhanced Hammer for the only time that day when I whiffed the attack on Vespiquen because I had two Double Colorless Energy prized. When I took my third and fourth prizes off of a Shaymin EX, I drew both of the Double Colorless, and that was enough for me to take the game.


Round 4 vs Durant

These games went similarly to my previous Durant match. I started Unown and used Switch to put a Pumpkaboo active before using Farewell Letter to get the Unown off of my field. He streamed Life Dew a few times, but he completely whiffed his Enhanced Hammers and he wasn't discarding Energy when he used Devour. Against Evan in Indiana, I felt like there was a lot of wasted time counting cards left in deck, so I solved that problem by keeping a count with dice that indicated how many cards were left. This saved time and made that information easily available to both my opponent and me, so I recommend it.


Round 5 vs Nick Walls with Blastoise

My opponent started with Mewtwo EX, and proceeded to Juniper away a hand of Water, Water, Water, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Superior Energy Retrieval. I knocked out the Mewtwo with Pumpkaboo on the following turn, and he whiffed the Archie's yet again while discarding Wailord EX with Battle Compressor. I dragged up a Keldeo EX with Lysandre to knock it out. On his third turn, he did get Archie's, but by then it was too easy to take a knockout on a benched Shaymin; he couldn't use Archie's and N on the same turn.


2013 called and they want Blastoise back.
Round 6 vs Tyler Lamb with Blastoise

I got up-paired vs the 5-0. In hindsight, I should have intentionally drew because my resistance was bad and I knew that it was an unfavorable matchup. I went to the pairings and counted five or six 5-1s, but I couldn't really process that information.

I don't remember who went first, but I remember that I won in three turns. The game was very close, and if he had one more attack he would have won. I was in a position where I had an Active Mew EX and a bench consisting of a couple of Unowns and Joltik. He had a powered up Articuno active and a powered up Keldeo EX on the bench. I had two prizes left, and he had three or four. He chose to VS Seeker into Lysandre and knock out the Joltik, meaning I needed the Lysandre and a Night Marcher whose attack I could copy with the Mew EX that he left alive. I used all four Farewell Letters before drawing into the Ultra Ball for Joltik; I already had VS Seeker in hand. I still had a Trainers' Mail in my hand though, so I could have dug a little deeper if I had to.


My first round opponent went 1-5, so my resistance was poor. In addition, I lost my second round, which didn't do me any favors, so I went straight down to fourth place at the bottom of the 5-1s. The fact that I won against Tyler though meant that there were no 6-0s and four 5-1s. The standings were as follows:

1. Caleb Gedemer with Blastoise
2. Tyler Lamb with Blastoise
3. Cody Kressman with M Manectric/Pyroar
4. Charles Larenas-Leach with Night March

Andrew came back from 0-3 to 3-3, and the prizes were pretty great. Everyone got two packs for every game that they won, so I came away with ten packs of Roaring Skies for my 5-1 record! Andrew and I drove to Portillo's and had dinner with my uncle, aunt, cousin, and grandparents, and then Andrew and I drove back to Champaign with my grandparents in tow.

Overall I had a good weekend, pulling in 34 Championship Points. I went to as many League Challenges this weekend as I did all of last season, and I didn't have this many Championship Points last season until January, so I feel like I'm ahead of the bar that I set for myself last year. Here is the list I used this weekend:

Pokemon: 21

4 Pumpkaboo
4 Joltik
4 Lampent
2 Mew EX
3 Shaymin EX
4 Unown

Trainers: 32

4 Ultra Ball
4 Battle Compressor
4 Trainers' Mail
1 Revive
1 Computer Search
1 Switch
1 Float Stone
2 Muscle Band
4 VS Seeker
2 Professor Juniper
2 N
2 Lysandre
4 Dimension Valley

Energy: 7

4 Double Colorless Energy
3 Lightning Energy

After Saturday, I took out Revive for Enhanced Hammer. I still feel like that card is a free slot. I based this list heavily off of Merlin Quittek's Top Four list from Worlds with a lot of the counts of Trainers. This is a good example of where I was totally locked into card counts that I had never questioned before, such as four Professor Juniper. Once I dropped down to three and then two, I never even noticed the difference. I was very surprised on Saturday night when I was laying my deck out and saw that I only had two Juniper. The deck ran fine without the other two!

I also bumped my N count up to two, and now I can always N when I feel like I need to and it is lovely. Being forced to play Professor Birch's Observations in the Standard format makes me realize how much I have always taken N for granted. If I was going to add another Supporter to the deck, I would be tempted to add a third Lysandre, just because Lysandre is really important in winning several matchups.

The key part of this deck is the Unown. You could say that I cut the Acro Bikes for the Unowns, but I had already cut the Acro Bikes so I didn't think about it that way. Running a deck with Unown is kind of like running a deck with 56 cards, but it isn't that simple. I can bench an Unown and choose not to draw immediately. Just because you have the ability/Ability to draw a card doesn't mean you should! Benching Unown acts as insurance. Let's say you play a Juniper because you're digging for something, and you miss it. That's when you can use the Unowns! Unown also gives you a great way to draw out of N, because there is a huge difference between drawing two cards than drawing four or five cards.

One thing to note is that I do run two switching cards now, just because I tend to start with Unown a lot. Switch is nice to get out of status conditions and such, and Float Stone is a wonderful luxury because even after you use it as a switching card, it also has utility in giving you more flexibility as to when you choose your attacker.

There are so many decks that are viable in Expanded that I don't think it matters what the best deck is; all that matters is what is popular. If you can accurately predict the metagame, then you can succeed in Expanded.

That's all for today! I think that just because Unown doesn't add to Night March's damage output like it does to Vespiquen doesn't mean that it isn't an incredibly useful card. Lysandre was my MVP this weekend, and I can't use a draw Supporter and Lysandre in the same turn. I would like to thank both Shaymin EX and Unown for making this possible.

Thanks for reading!



  1. Charles...it was great meeting you on Sunday....even though you beat my dark deck in round 4....I thought I had you :)
    Scott and Lucy (city champ jr)

    1. Hi Scott,

      It was nice meeting you too! Our game was great and really close! Congratulations to Lucy for the win, and if she is looking for a Night March list without Shaymin, I recommend taking a look here (http://crspokemonadventures.blogspot.com/2015/05/danmark-man-dark-how-i-won-league.html), although I would recommend removing the Lysandre's Trump Card!

      I hope to be back in the STL area in a couple of weeks for another pair of Cities, so I may see you then!



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