Hello, 6P! Today, I’d like to give a solid article and deck list analysis for what is shaping up to be one of my favorite decks this season: Empoleon. Now, as a bit of background, I’ve always found myself drawn to decks that ignore the conventional metagame, while still focusing upon nabbing six prizes. For example, I loved playing Yanmega Prime/Magnezone Prime in the MD-on format, and I did extremely well with it in the MD-BLW format we got for Battle Roads.
Empoleon reminds me a lot of that deck. It ignores the conventional “Basic beatsticks” mantra that has invaded our format, and instead aims to trade multiple hits per knockout with the metagame. (Zekeels is a bit of an exception, but more on that later.)
Now, before I continue, I’d like to address the elephant (no, not Donphan) in the room. A lot of people don’t think Empoleon is worth running. A lot of people think the deck is hyped and is at best “League deck” material. I respectfully disagree with those people. If you’re going to bash the deck in the comments, I would prefer you provide logic with your arguments, not mindless bashing. That gets us, as players, absolutely nowhere.
Getting back on track, this deck can be run multiple ways in our current format. The three main options are Empoleon/Terrakion NVI, Empoleon/Donphan Prime, and Empoleon/Aerodactyl DEX. My article will focus upon Empoleon/Terrakion, as I feel it is the best of the three. Recent results from European Nationals have only supported this feeling of mine.
First of all, let’s take a look at the main attacker of the deck. Empoleon DEX is a Stage 2 Pokémon with 140 HP. A Stage 2 in our Basic-defined format must bring a lot to the table to be worthy of consideration. Luckily, Empoleon delivers. Empoleon comes with an attack that has been seen in the game before; a single-Energy attack that hits for 10 damage times the number of Pokémon in play on both player’s fields, bench and active included, to max out at 120 damage.
While that may not sound very significant, given that most EX Pokémon have 170 or 180 HP before cards like Eviolite, it means anything in the format is a 2HKO for Empoleon. Of course, if your opponent limits their own bench, it can be a 3HKO on EX Pokémon, but that’s actually not horrible so long as they’re forced to 2HKO you back.
Empoleon has some major flaws that need to be addressed and compensated for, however. Being weak to Lightning is a scary prospect when one of the top-tier decks in the format is essentially 100% Lightning-type attackers that can hit hard and fast. Being a Stage Two means you cannot swing for damage until the second turn, at earliest. Both of these need to be addressed by the rest of the deck. That said, let’s move on to our secondary attacker.
Terrakion is a card that most everyone playing in today’s format knows by heart. First springing up as a tech, and then as the first “quad X” deck piloted to a States win, this guy hits hard and sweeps Lightning and Dark-types under the rug for a very low energy investment. His job in this deck is to provide an answer for people abusing Lightning type attackers.
If your opponent hits Empoleon for an OHKO, the Exp. Share you should have on this guy activates, and you’re a single Fighting Energy away from hitting for 180 damage after Weakness. He’s a Basic Pokémon, so searching him out isn’t too hard, and he can be plopped down when you see him to power up Empoleon’s attack, too.
The rest of the deck kind of fits together from there. So here’s a starting list, with some slots intentionally left unfilled for taste.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 35
3 Junk Arm
Energy – 9
This leaves us four spots to play with. Generally, this will be two more Basic Pokémon (to enable us to power up our Bench and have useful stuff to do turn one) and two Energy or draw Supporters, to round out our consistency.
Basic Pokémon Options
Virizion is useful in the first turn to draw extra cards, as hitting the turn two Rare Candy into Empoleon is key to winning games with this deck. If you play Prism Energy, it can also hit for decent damage in the early game, and, in the mirror, can survive a 120 hit from Empoleon (thanks to resistance) and hit opposing Terrakion for Weakness. It also does decently as a way to put some serious damage onto a Quad Terrakion board.
Cleffa is a very dangerous play in a metagame full of Pokémon that can snipe for 30 damage, such as Darkrai EX, and Pokémon that hit 30 easily, such as Mewtwo EX. However, Cleffa can be run in this deck as an opener to shuffle through more of your deck. Of note, one idea that is still in early testing is to run Cleffa with two or three Twins and leave it as bait.
However, by far, the most popular inclusion in this deck is Smeargle. Smeargle has so much power in a format where people leave their Skyarrow Bridge in play, it’s almost sickening. Used in both the early game to set up and in the late game to recover from Knock Outs and useful in finding that one Fighting Energy you need for Terrakion to save the day, Smeargle is a strong option that is not to be ignored.
Lastly is a bit of an oddball, Kyurem. Kyurem is one of the “Unova Digimon” with 130 HP, a standard Outrage attack, and an attack that hits everything on your opponent’s board for 30 at the steep cost of WWC. However, with Exp. Share, that’s not too hard to meet. In the middle game, a surprise Glaciate can kill off retreated Pokémon, as well as set up several OHKO situations that would have been a 2HKO. It’s not as consistent as the other Pokémon listed here, but it’s definitely something worth testing.
We have a few ways we can add some more “oomph” to this list. The most obvious is the addition of a fourth Junk Arm, for maximum Trainer re-use. Another idea is running two copies of Pokégear 3.0.; Random Receiver could be an option too, but Pokégear is better when you run Collector. To pair with this, we can also go ahead and add in a third copy of N. On the other hand, we can run more Energy instead; more Fighting, more Water, or a few Rainbow Energy can go a long way.
Since this deck often loses the first prize, two copies of Twins can be an effective way to “cheat” and boost consistency when setting up.
This deck is also probably the second major force in a metagame that can actually utilize Black Belt in an extremely effective manner (Durant came first). An extra 40 damage from nowhere turns your 120 2HKO into 160 damage, enough to take out those pesky Pokémon such as Zekrom, Kyurem, and Terrakion, even if they’re packing Eviolite. Of course, in most cases, using a space or two for Plus Power is more ideal.
Dealing with Tricky Situations
Empoleon/Terrakion has a mortal enemy. Namely, Tornadus EX. Tornadus is a serious thorn in the side of an active Terrakion’s game plan. To combat this, we can either run a fourth Switch, add in Ruins of Alph, or, if you’re the type that likes more options, there’s a way to overhaul your deck to deal with that issue. It’s still in limited amounts of testing, but I’ve found using three Rainbow in place of two Waters and a Fighting to be interesting. You then run Shaymin UL and Zerom BLW.
Suddenly, any one of your “dead draw” Collectors can search out a free two-prize gain. So long as you have two Energy on the board, one of which is multi-type (Prism or Rainbow) you can pull off a surprise Bolt Strike. (This assumes you have a Rainbow Energy or Prism Energy in hand as well, which given your draw power, isn’t too impossible to do.)
Wrapping it All Up
So, in the end, Empoleon is one of the few Stage 2 decks playable in the format we’ve been given (with Meganium Prime and Klinklang BLW joining Typhlosion Prime, Vileplume UD, and Magnezone Prime). By no means is this deck list provided the perfect list, but I feel that it’s a great place to start. This deck is actually set to be playable assuming a BLW-on rotation as well, gaining Mew EX and a bunch of other new toys.
In fact, if for some crazy reason you missed it, we have a report by somebody who played it in Japan, with the BLW-on format.
With that, I feel all that can be said about the deck on a basic level has been covered. I look forward to seeing you in the comments section. ~Cabd