See the Forest for the Trees – Making Virizion Flourish in the New Format

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The grandeur of the upcoming format.

This month many writers have done a good job showcasing the upcoming format. The main decks have been hit and discussed in depth and people are discovering some decks aren’t as good as they seem and others have untapped potential.

Before I go any further, I should apologize for not having this article up on the 27th (hashtag-Freshman problems). I’m a brand new college student and my school’s internet isn’t so easy to access. At first I thought it was just down for maintenance but as it turns out I can’t get on at all. Oh boy. But I digress!

This format is going to stay with us for a long time. Japan’s Battle Boost is the next set scheduled to hit the the world outside of Japan and the only card of significance in it might be Energy Switch (and that isn’t even confirmed). Gothitelle is coming back too, but I think it will be largely irrelevant with Virizion EX being such a big player in the metagame. Battle Boost is basically Call of Legends with much, much cooler art. In fact, the art is the only reason I MUST have those new Garchomps.

But to the competitive player it really is just another big reprint set.

This means the current format will be the only format for quite some time.

My view of the format can be summed up in a few sentences. Literally everything viable last format still has potential or is just basically unchanged. Silver Bangle has replaced Hypnotoxic Laser in Plasma decks as a main source of damage. The new decks, Genesect/Virizion and Tool Drop (Trubbish/Sigilyph) are overhyped decks people just want to be good (people crave new things to build in stale formats).

All of those decks are covered in other articles by other writers.

Where John Kettler gave you a macro look at the NXD-on format I will be giving you a microscopic analysis at Virizion EX, a card having an array of impacts of the decks people are playing so far.

The reason Virizion EX is such a big deal is due to the nature of the card. It’s very good. There isn’t a better way to put it.

Since it showed its face as a Japanese card in North America Virizion has been Genesect’s understudy. For a long time the two cards, Genesect EX and Virizion EX, were coupled with G Booster to create the Virizion/Genesect deck we know today. It won a large Japanese event, and if you’ve been reading my work for quite some time you know how I feel about decks that win in Japan.

genesect-ex-plasma-blast-plb-97-full-art
Overhyped, as usual.

Overhyped. Always. Even with the advent of the Plasma cards, their inherent synergy never became as dominant as people predicted.

Virizion/Genesect is a very narrow deck, as many people are now seeing. At first, Virizion EX’s uses were almost as narrow as the titular deck it was included in. It was hyped in Hydreigon decks as a way to control Hypnotoxic Laser damage and I can confidently say it does so very effectively. That will be one of the decks I cover today that does, like every other list below, include at least 1 Virizion EX.

After Hydreigon finished well in a Japanese tournament Virizion EX appeared in other decks as a method to control Hypnotoxic Laser. This is the main reason you want to play Virizion EX if you don’t intend to use it as an Energy accelerator.

The reason I feel like I can devote an article to this card is its inherent versatility. Cards that can be both the focus of a deck and provide support as a tech are rare and historically very good. They also tend to be very highly played due to their myriad of uses. Flygon from Holon Phantoms is one of the few cards I remember having so many uses (an Energy accelerator for Delta Pokémon, a main attacker in Flygon decks, and a counter to Flaridos with Holon Energy GL).

Virizion is a very unique card. It can be whichever you want it to be; either a Hypnotoxic Laser counter or an Energy accelerator – or even both in Grass decks. For this simple reason it is my favorite card in Plasma Blast and maybe even my favorite card since Kingdra Prime.

It clearly has all the traits of a legendary card, but on its own is not clearly broken in its niche, like Deoxys EX is. For quite awhile I have believed this game to be on the downhill, the power level of Game Freak’s monsters spiraling out of control. Yet, in a surprising show of restraint right before Pokémon X and Y, Plasma Blast is proving to be a set almost dead set on balancing the game. In the age of modern Pokémon, printing direct counters to problem cards was almost unheard of – at least until Silver Bangle, Silver Mirror, and Virizon EX.

I’m extremely thankful that they chose to do some balancing, especially since we are going to be stuck with this combination of sets for double the usual time (assuming Battle Boost doesn’t bring anything important to the table).

Alright, time to move on to the meat of the article.

First, I’ll hit the obvious. Virizion/Genesect – the updated version.

Virizion/Genesect

486px-Paul_Cézanne_076Wikipedia
See the forest for the trees – turn 1 Virizion should not be your objective.

Virizion and Genesect alone no longer cut it. The Colress Machine package for Energy acceleration turns you into a glass cannon. You will consistently attack quickly but you will burn out of steam equally fast.

In testing I’ve learned that trying to attack only with things that need to be powered up by Virizion’s Emerald Slash just isn’t a legitimate strategy to win you a drawn out game. I like Henry’s approach to building Virizion/Genesect. The Drifblim allows you to take down Plasma with relative ease.

The Derail Drifblim from Plasma Blast can OHKO a Deoxys while holding a Silver Bangle, probably for free too thanks to its Ability. The other DRX Drifblim is a perfect compliment to the Derail attack of the PLB Drifblim, potentially doing 200 or more for one Energy after there are a few Special Energy in the opponent’s discard. The best part is, this forces them to play around Drifblim’s attack. Putting your opponent in the difficult spot of Junipering discarding 2 Specials or potentially losing the game outright is always strong.

However I’m not a huge fan of spending 8 spots on Drifblim and its lower evolution. Drifblim has limited use against non-Plasma decks and decks that don’t play 12+ Special Energy. With so many spaces devoted to Drifblim you will be playing with lots of dead weight against every deck those cards are ineffective against. Along with being dead weight they are also taking up space that would make our deck more effective against the format as a whole. Against a non-Plasma deck or even mirror you would effectively be trying to win with a barebones Virizion/Genesect list which people seem to agree is not that great. While the synergy is strong in the basic list the power just isn’t there.

Not to say Drifblim isn’t good; it’s especially good at what it does. However I think a 3-3 line is plenty. Even a 2-2 does work against Plasma. So long as they don’t play Heatran EX (seriously, 3 Energy and 3 Deoxys EX just runs through any basic Genesect deck) we should be able to finish them with our Grass EXs.

In my last article I recommended Plasma Badge and Colress Machine to accelerate the deck, but to play the full package we had to strip the deck down to the basics. While fast, this version of the deck lacks the power and suffers in the consistency department mid to late game. Yet, as anyone who plays the deck without the Plasma package knows, the deck has a horrible turn one, especially going second. We really can’t do anything on our first turn other than attach an Energy.

This is AWFUL. Going second against Plasma can mean a death sentence if they get to attack twice before you can Emerald Slash. Getting turn 3 Virizion EX pretty much makes every matchup unfavorable. Getting any amount of bad luck early with this deck can taint your entire game.

My solution is Tropical Beach. It doesn’t accelerate our Energy but it gives us something to do turn 1 in builds of the deck where there is a 0% chance of you attacking instead. Unfortunately this solution is far from perfect. It doesn’t get you much closer to being where we want to be turn 2, nor does it help if we can’t get a Virizion EX with an Energy on it during the first turn.

My best list is below. It uses both Bouffalant and Drifblim to attack along with 2 Genesect EX. 4 Virizion EX is needed as the deck is still focused around Emerald Slash’s acceleration. However this version is much less dependent on Genesect as an attacker giving you some breathing room if you don’t get that oh-so-desirable turn 2 Emerald Slash on a Genesect.

Pokémon – 15

4 Virizion-EX

2 Genesect-EX

3 Bouffalant DRX

3 Drifloon PLB

2 Drifblim PLB

1 Drifblim DRX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Skyla

2 Colress

1 Bianca

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Switch

3 Ultra Ball

3 Silver Bangle

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search

 

2 Virbank City Gym

1 Tropical Beach

Energy – 13

10 Grass

3 Double Colorless

There is no G Booster. Reason being the card simply isn’t that good in here. While doing 200 damage is amazing, this deck doesn’t have the resources to draw upon allowing it to use the G Booster attack consistently, especially with only 2 Genesects.

Plus, this isn’t really a Genesect deck anyway (though I do think this version is the best way anyone has discovered to use Genesect EX, the card on its own is just an inferior Darkrai) so I think you can go without G Booster. If you really do miss it, consider upping the Skyla count to let you search the Booster out and compensate for the lost ACE SPEC.

bouffalant-dragons-exalted-drx-110Pokémon Paradijs
The afro is still in style.

In my past articles I’ve said I believe Bouffalant DRX is the best non-EX ever printed. Without a doubt I still hold true to that today. He was good before but Silver Bangle just makes him a lot better. 120 is a great damage number in a format where an extra 60 damage is not hard to come by (if Gold Breaker did 110 it would be much worse) and 150 with the boost from Silver Bangle is a huge improvement on an attack that already had everything going for it.

Because Bangle’s 30 can be stacked on top of Hypnotoxic Lasers for an instant 60 more to an EX, the combo is too good for us to pass up, thus we play the whole suit of Laserbank; 4 Laser and 2 Virbank.

Now you may think this clashes with Tropical Beach. It does to a point, but Beach is only a single card tech. We grab it with Skyla, often on turn 1, just so we can do something other than rest our cheeks on our hands and declare our intent to pass. It adds value to Skyla and gives you a better turn 1 play. There is nothing to dislike about having more control over the Stadium either – if you get tired of having Beach in play just lay down Virbank.

I don’t think there is a perfect Genesect/Virizion build that will be supremely dominant like some people seem to think. The deck’s greatest flaw is definitely the choice you have to make when building it. You can’t go for explosiveness and late game potential at the same time.

To be explosive, you have to play the Team Plasma package. That being Plasma Badges, Plasma Energies and Colress Machines. It’s not any better than it was last month though. Relying on Genesect EX and G Booster to pull the deck’s weight just isn’t that great. That version of the deck is narrow at best and slow at worst.

The reason I say that is even though that version of the deck is designed to be fast, not every deck always sets up. Getting some bad luck really compounds when you play 8 cards that get worse as the game goes on. The reason you would play the Team Plasma cards is to get the fast Emerald Slash. Get a slow Emerald Slash and you may as well not have played those cards at all.

I think this version of the deck is superior in every way other than its early game potential. Virizion EX isn’t something you rely on. Because you play DCE you can attack within a fair amount of time without needing to Emerald Slash at all.

Bouffalant is the power card here. Against the average EX deck I do most of my attacking with his Gold Breaker. There is nothing bad about this guy and no reason not to play him in a deck that compliments him so well with both damage numbers and Energy acceleration.

Drifblim rounds the deck out by letting you beat on Plasma. The balloon Pokémon is the closest thing we’ve seen to a hard counter against Plasma since the Gothitelle lists that dominated US Nationals.

Virizion/Genesect won’t live up the the Pokémon community’s impossibly high standards, but I do believe it will be a good deck for a long time.

Hydreigon

hydreigon battle boost
Sweet new artwork from Battle Boost.

Next is another deck I covered last month – Hydreigon, with some updates. I don’t feel like I really need to do that much explaining this time around; I did that last month.

I realize now that we really don’t need to attack more than twice with Hydreigon. It’s almost like a main attacker now. Attacking most EXs with a Silver Bangled Dragon Blast is a simple OHKO. If we can manage to do that twice we’re two-thirds of the way to winning the game, and that’s the biggest draw of the deck. We just need to attack a 3rd EX or find a way to take 2 more Prizes with Darkrai EX (or other techs we play).

Max Potion isn’t needed as a 3-of. Because Dragon Blast shortens the game so much we don’t have to focus on building the deck to have a long game plan. Max Potion still has incredible synergy with the deck, I’m just saying it isn’t needed as much as it once was now that more of your attacks are going to be delivered by Hydreigon.

If they want to progress towards winning the game they need to be knocking out our EXs faster than we can knock out theirs. To do this, they have to be attacking EXs. All you have to do is race them to 6 Prizes. Two Max Potion is just enough to heal off one or two turns worth of damage, buying you enough time to win the game in 3 to 5 big attacks.

Entei is probably the single best counter to Genesect/Virizion decks we can play. We can play Entei in one turn, shifting all our Energy to it, Catcher the most threatening Genesect EX and Grand Flame it to pieces – along with almost any other Pokémon someone can play in a standard Genesect/Virizion deck. Even my Bouffalant version wouldn’t be able to stand up to Hydreigon as it has no way to OHKO – Max Potion makes the damage futile.

One of Hydreigon’s biggest assets is its great matchup against one of the perceived best decks in format. Most of its other matchups are close to even as well. Generally even matchups are a good thing when the deck in question has few bad matchups like this one does.

However Hydreigon’s worst trait lies in its subpar consistency. This is one of those 65 card decks. In order to fit some of the things this deck needs to function on a competitive level – at least 3 Catcher, Max Potion, Entei, and Virizion for example – we have to sacrifice some consistency.

Tropical Beach I feel is necessary in a deck that really relies on its Skylas for consistency. This combo is generally included to increase consistency, but here we play it just to get by. Generally we want to Skyla for Computer Search and proceed to reuse it. I just don’t feel safe with this. If we only have Skyla as our sole opening Supporter all we can really do is hope Computer isn’t prized, use Computer and try to get Sableye out.

Computer is a great card but it can’t set you up if you’re just using it to get another Supporter. The only way Computer is effective turn 1 is if you can follow it up with either another Supporter or a Junk Hunt. Sometimes you will have neither. Here, Beach is the better option, even if Computer isn’t prized.

So, without further adieu, here’s the updated list.

Pokémon – 14

4 Deino PLF 75

3 Hydreigon DRX 97

3 Darkrai-EX

2 Sableye DEX

1 Virizion-EX

1 Entei-EX

 

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Skyla

1 Random Receiver

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

3 Max Potion

3 Pokémon Catcher

2 Silver Bangle

1 Computer Search

 

1 Tropical Beach

Energy – 11

7 Darkness

4 Blend GRPD

And immediately below is another Hydreigon I’ve tried to make work. It’s reminiscent of a Hydreigon build played late in the Cities season of last year that was a nearly perfect call in a metagame so overrun with Landorus and all his friends. Instead of utilizing Darkrai as the main attacker (aside from Hydreigon) it uses a multitude of techs and Prism Energy is a key component.

Pokémon – 14/15

4 Deino PLF 75

3 Hydreigon DRX 97

2 Darkrai-EX

2 Sableye DEX

1 Virizion-EX

1 Entei-EX

1 Suicune PLB

0-1 Other Tech

Trainers – 33/34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Skyla

1-2 Random Receiver

 

4 Rare Candy

3 Dark Patch

3 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

3 Pokémon Catcher

2 Max Potion

2 Silver Bangle

1 Computer Search

 

1 Tropical Beach

Energy – 12

5 Darkness

4 Prism

3 Blend GRPD

suicune plasma blast plb 20
Even better with Virizion.

While I still think Hydreigon blasting off Silver Bangle boosted Dragon Blasts to take at least 4 Prizes is the way to play the deck, doing so is a bit harder when playing slightly fewer basic Darkness Energies.

You may ask, why play Prism at all? Are there attackers that synergise with this deck better than Darkrai does already?

Originally the deck was built as a counter to Landourus EX when that was big. It ran a full suit of Prism, enough to attach 2 to a Keldeo EX and Secret Sword a Landorus for 180.

Today Landorus is a non-issue and the job Rush In did as a way to remove conditions is now done by Virizion. The Prisms played a huge role in the old deck and aren’t as needed now. In fact they actually hurt your ability to stream Dragon Blasts.

It’s not all cons though. One big pro is the ability to charge up Entei much easier and faster, giving you a very strong Genesect/Virizion matchup. Entei EX isn’t just for Genesect either – it can take 2 Prizes in any game someone lays down a Virizion. And at least for the first events (again, people love new cards) Virizion EX is going to be played in large quantities, regardless of how good it is in the metagame overall.

Suicune is a fantastic general tech. It works even better with Virizion! Very few non-EX Pokémon can do 100 to Suicune without the aid of Hypnotoxic Laser. Very few EX decks have the capacity to knock this guy out except for Plasma. If you have an extra Silver Bangle this is a good Pokémon to put it on. Silver Bangle allows Aurora Beam to bring down most EXs one turn sooner thus keeping the pressure on.

If you do opt for Suicune I’d make your other tech one that does work against Plasma.

As far as the techs you can play to utilize Prism – well, you can use almost anything that’s a Basic. Not many decks are monotype right now; if there were it would mean all the Pokémon would probably be weak to the same type. Genesect/Virizion is the only deck with an obvious weakness, that being Fire (already covered by Entei). For that reason, playing a deck with a multitude of techs in this format probably is just overcomplicating things. The basic list above is probably best, but teching is a very strong alternative if you know your metagame well enough.

What ELSE to Play with Virizion…

slaking-dragons-exalted-drx-103Pokémon Paradijs
One of the many great Colorless Pokémon out there…

If you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan of Virizion EX but I don’t think you always need to play it as a Grass type deck. I actually see much more potential in Colorless attackers, but only time will tell if they are better than what most people have going now – Virizion with, who could have guessed it, Genesect.

There really isn’t a way to mix Virizion’s Grass Energy with another basic Energy type, so the best way to go about adding Pokémon is considering all the great Colorless Pokémon out there now.

Yeah, that was sarcasm. Honestly, even the Colorless type is pretty limited. I already talked about how good Bouffalant is, but to stop there would mean forgetting Lugia EX, another card that works so well with Virizion EX’s Verdant Wind.

My testing group known as Complaint Box (or THE Complaint Box) tested straight Lugia EX quite extensively for Worlds. As strong as it was it could be beat by RayEels, Klinklang, and any deck with Enhanced Hammer. It was sort of a glass cannon, with many very good matchups and a couple subpar matchups. Virizion EX takes away from the explosiveness of the deck which is what made it so strong. Even so, the consistent setup provided by a turn 2 Virizion is just too good to deny.

Pokémon – 11

4 Virizion-EX

3 Lugia-EX

3 Deoxys-EX

0-1 Bouffalant DRX

0-1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Skyla

1 Colress

 

4 Colress Machine

4 Switch

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Ultra Ball

2 Tool Scrapper

2 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 15

8 Grass

4 Plasma

3 Double Colorless

Virizion helps keep Lugia alive. The longer a Lugia lives the more dangerous it becomes. One of the biggest problems with the deck pre-Virizion EX was the ability for other decks to OHKO the Lugia EX with Hypnotoxic Laser before you can follow up with another. To think doing 180 damage in one attack was almost unheard of a few years ago…

This downfall was backbreaking and somewhat out of your control. Virizon does a great job of keeping Lugia out of OHKO range by protecting it from Hypnotoxic Laser. This is especially bad when playing against Plasma because with Poison Thundurus EX can quickly set up a 2HKO with Raiden Knuckle, not to mention Laser is used even more often to set up 180 Blizzard Burns with Kyurem.

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Two Plasma Gales can win you the game.

The 3 Deoxys are just to set up OHKOs and 2HKOs with Lugia and Emerald Slash. With one Deoxys and 50 damage, a Plasma Gale can take 3 Prizes off an EX with ease. Three Deoxys are in there just so Lugia can get some OHKOs on Stage 2 Pokémon like Hydreigon and Empoleon without having to awkwardly Emerald Slash before hand.

Strangely, the deck is even tighter than the original. The Basic Energies really push up the card count. Having to use a high count of Grass along with the Plasma Energy package and DCE is a bit awkward but rewarding when they come up in the right order. Sometimes you will want to draw a Grass and get a Plasma, sometimes you will need a Plasma and draw a DCE.

The Energy count is without a doubt the worst part about this deck. Fifteen Energy is A LOT of Energy but a necessary evil here. Normally 8 Grass wouldn’t be enough (up to half the Energy can be used with one Emerald Slash) but 2 Super Rod helps keep this from being a major problem.

The biggest improvement the deck got out of Plasma Blast is Virizion EX. So long are the days of dealing with Thundurus’ obsession with the discard pile. Virizion takes one more turn of attaching but yields more in the long run. Being able to drain your deck of 2 Energies and put the on either a Lugia or another Virizion gives you many more options than if you were using Thundurus EX as an accelerator.

In the outdated Worlds version Thundurus EX was a supplement. We played a single copy to both put some damage on the board and get us out of situations where we had only a few Energy in play or none at all.

I feel like some people wouldn’t be comfortable with how we would have started the game. To start, we would just keep a Lugia active and power it up. Once that was done we would drop some PlusPowers and Deoxys EX. Step 3 is to Plasma Gale and hope you have enough damage buffs to OHKO whatever happens to be active.

Keeping your attacker active while charging it up just… I don’t know…. doesn’t feel right! There isn’t a more analytical way to put it. It doesn’t feel safe and it’s just awkward, especially when you’re so easily put to sleep or poisoned.

Virizion EX takes care of both problems. It keeps the damaging cumulative conditions off and it gives you a starter to take the hits dealt to your Pokémon in the first 2 or 3 turns of the game and put on some turn 2 pressure. It’s also less reliant on what is in your hand to be effective.

The original Complaint Box Lugia was very reliant on the luck of the draw to set up; the deck was built to set up of course, 17 draw cards was more than enough but still, bad luck will find its way to you eventually, no matter what you do.

I don’t know about you all, but I hate throwing my fate to the wind, no matter how good my chances are. Virizion EX only needs 2 Energy to do something meaningful while Lugia needs 4 by turn 3 at the latest. Even though turn 2 Lugia will be a rarer occurrence with this new build the 50 damage in play from Emerald Slash and the increase in deck consistency overall makes playing Virizion EX and its Grass Energies extremely worthwhile.

This deck is pretty competitive. Even though straight Lugia was considered a fringe deck last format, I believe, if given more time the general population would have seen the deck’s potential. Virizion EX only improves upon the concept.

Wrap Up

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Wish me luck at college!

Well SixPrizes, that’s it from me for this month. My future is still up in the air. While I’ll probably be back to write, I just don’t know when. My school is community involvement CITY (and I love it). Needless to say with other activities and the learning itself I’m going to be busy. I’m going to try to play Pokémon as much as I possibly can and stay involved through my newest love, PTCGO.

If you didn’t think this article was up to par I’m sincerely sorry. I procrastinated on it and I got burned when the tables turned out of my favor. However I am a huge fan of Virizion EX (for the third time, people love new cards!). It’s going to be a big player for quite some time now due to Battle Boost meaning about as much as Call of Legends or Power Keepers (although I love Steven’s Advice as much as the next guy).

I’d advise buying Virizion EXs if they ever fly under 18 dollars each. Chances are they’ll float around 20 for a while and that’s still not a bad deal! The card is great in decks of all sorts and if you’re anything like me you will want to play the card eventually. I don’t see the price going down anytime soon. The card is just good in so many ways.

Anyway, that’s it for me. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

~Dylan Lefavour


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