How to Beat SP Decks (and Still Have a Chance Against The Rest of the Field)

SP decks are to the MD-on Modified format what Blaziken decks, Gardevoir decks, LBS decks amongst others were to their respective format: the most popular, used and countered deck. This always leads to frustration amongst the community, as decks dominate and people try to find ways to beat these decks while still having a chance against the rest of the field and complain about imbalances and inflated prices of cards.

Having played almost every SP variant very thoroughly during these past few seasons and also other types of decks, I feel even though right now SP decks are arguably stronger than ever despite the loss of Unown G with the format change, there are also a lot of very strong cards available to give you a fighting chance against these type of decks.

First off we need to consider what makes SP decks so strong when compared to other types of decks, and how to correctly adapt your own 60-card selection to best counteract these weaknesses.

garchomp-c-supreme-victors-sv-60pokemon-paradijs.comWhat I believe the strongest points of SP decks are the following:

  • Early game aggression
  • Disruption
  • High HP Pokémon since the beginning of the match
  • Wide array of specific Trainers available
  • Good balance of disruption and heavy damage attacks
  • Good typing and efficient energy costs

Early game aggression:
These decks have a lot of early attacking options that deal significant amounts of damage to the weaker Basic Pokémon in other types of decks that rely on evolving to surviving the early phase of a match. Luxray GL’s and Garchomp C’s first listed attacks are both CC for 30 damage. When you consider these decks run 4 DCE and also 4 TGI Energy Gain, right off the bat they can threaten a KO with the aid of Crobat G to the 50 or 60 HP Basic Pokémon such as Gastly, Oddish or Machop, not to mention the odd Unown Q starts.

How to counter early aggression? Well this is the hardest thing to achieve, because if you are set on using a deck that relies on Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokémon, we are literally ‘stuck’ with whatever Basics that are available to us. What we can do is add other supporting Pokémon and Trainers that will help us set up and get through the early stage of the game more quickly.

The most important card to accomplish this is Spiritomb AR. Not only does it resist Garchomp C’s, but it’s Poké-Body limits the TGI’s available for SP decks, and is pretty much a guarantee to stay alive at least 2 turns. Add to that a very good free set up oriented attack and you have one of the most reliable Pokémon out there to aid you in setting up in the early game.

Another recently released card that allows you, not to counter early game aggression but to be able to recover or even take advantage of it, is the Supporter ‘Twins’. The early game aggression leads to them taking early prizes, but managing what Pokémon they KO and then taking advantage of such a Supporter can be a very good strategy to come back and hit them hard.

power-spray-platinum-pl-117TGI Power Spray is a very unique card as it is the only one you can play during an opponent’s turn. This card alone provides a lot of disruption for SP decks, and most importantly allows the early game aggression to be followed up by denying extra draw through Uxie LA or Smeargle UD.

How to counter disruption? The reasons listed previously are why Spiritomb AR helps you in the early game, but Spiritomb’s use doesn’t end there. Once the game has gone on longer, you can combine Spiritomb with Unown Q or pay it’s Retreat Cost, to promote it Active after a KO and prevent your opponent from preventing your Poké-Powers through TGI Power Spray. This becomes key when you also rely on cards such as Uxie LA or Smeargle UD to provide you with extra draw and support or your other Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokémon you decide to use or base your strategy on.

Granted bench space management does become an issue with so many supporting Pokémon, so it is essential to have a good and healthy Supporter and Trainer balance which allow you to fully set up without relying 100% on these 3 Pokémon.

Another way to ‘disrupt’ their disruption is having a lot of available Poké-Powers at your disposal. Having several Uxie and Smeargle and Poké-Powers on your Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokémon becomes key as TGI is only limited to 4 and they wont necessarily have it at the exact time they need it, so having many readily available and useful Poké-Powers becomes key in making your opponent use up their TGI Power Sprays.

High HP Pokémon since the beginning of the match:
At this point most if not everyone is familiar with cards such as Luxray GL or Garchomp C which 80 HP which is higher than the norm for other Basic Pokémon the evolve into more powerful Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon. This makes it hard to score a KO based on weakness or even if both players are drawing dead, SP decks can stall a little bit longer with this increased HP.

spiritomb-arceus-ar-32pokemon-paradijs.comHow to counter high HP Pokémon since the beginning of the match: There is of course no way to reduce their HP reliably early on, but you can however maximize your chances of increasing your own Pokémon’s HP through the use of cards like Rare Candy and Broke Time-Space, which bypass the normal evolution rules. SP decks don’t like fighting against tough Pokémon to KO, but rather they feed on the ability to get early key KOs on Pokémon that could become threats later on in the match.

And once again Spiritomb AR gets a mention, as it’s free attack allows you to evolve one of your benched Basic Pokémon which aids in accomplishing setting up your higher HP Pokémon so that SP decks can’t get any easy KOs.

Wide array of specific Trainers available:
All the TGI’s are incredibly useful for SP decks and most if not all of them are used in a quantity of 4 since they can afford the space and have huge synergy between them. Add to that the newly released card: Junk Aard which allows to retrieve any Trainer card from the discard pile and it is no longer safe to assume your opponent has run out of Power Sprays, Poké Turns or Energy Gains.

How to counter the wide array of specific Trainers available: Well unless you inadvertedly take them out of your opponent’s deck (which is cheating and you should never do) there really is no way to directly counter them. However you can plan ahead and try to predict your opponent’s usage of these cards to try and reduce their effect to the minimum.

Smeargle UD has become a key player for this role, as you can combine it with Unown Q and its Poké-Power will aid you in gathering information about your opponent’s hand and which of these he does have readily available and what he might be planning to do, but also it could ‘burn’ through a Power Spray which would negate this information and the nice Supporter bonus but I believe is a good enough exchange, as it will give you more room to use other Poké-Powers such as Set-Up or the ones on your Stage 1 or Stage 2 Pokémon of choice.

smeargle-undaunted-ud-8And also once again, as mentioned in the disruption section, Spiritomb AR reduces the use of TGI Power Spray if you can promote it to the Active Spot before you use them, but also will prevent the SP user from using the other TGI’s during his or her turn.

Good balance of disruption and heavy damage attacks:
SP decks are not only strong but very versatile in the sense that they can deal a nice amount of damage for relatively cheap costs, such as Dragon Rush from Garchomp C LV.X or Poison Revenge from Toxicroak G NDP, and also disrupt in the form of attacks, for example Blaziken FB’s Luring Flame or Roserade GL’s Poison Bind. The latter types of attacks are also hugely benefitted from the lack of Unown G in the format.

How to counter good balance of disruption and heavy damage attacks: Well there isn’t really much you can do in this area as what kind of attacks are used against you depend solely on your opponent’s deck choice. You can however try and reduce the impact of such attacks through other means such as supporting Pokémon or Trainers.

As I have been mentioning throughout the article, the early game is key for SP decks, so the longer a game drags on, the ‘weaker’ it gets, so any and all forms of healing damage off and preventing 1HKOs or 2HKOs and turning them to 2HKOs and 3HKOs respectively is a great way to reduce the effect of these powerful attacks. This happens because even though the attacks are very cost effective, they are only cost effective in the short term, but as the game progresses, SP decks will of course find it harder to keep finding AND discarding energy for Dragon Rush, or the damage from Luxray GL LV.X’s Flash Impact will start stacking up.

One card that can play a huge role for this is Nidoqueen RR, which heals 10 damage in between turns and helps you soften the blows early on and mess up with the math for their attacks damage + Crobat G’s Flash Bite + TGI Poké Turns. There are also other options such as Poké-Healer+, Life Herb or even Potion, but none of them are as reliable as Nidoqueen RR, and this card (should you decide to include it) should help against almost or every deck you face.

nidoqueen-rising-rivals-rr-30pokemon-paradijs.comThe way to counter the disruptive attacks is of course through the use of Switching cards, be it Warp Point, Warp Energy or the less popular Switch. This negates any Special Conditions on your Active Pokémon, allows you to mess up with their plan in the case of Warp Point and these are always good utility cards for any matchup as situations will always arise where this cards can turn games around.

Good typing and efficient energy costs:
There are very few types SP decks do not run now a days, with the main types being Lightning, Colorless, Metal, Psychic and Fighting. Granted this makes for a huge mess of energy balance in the deck, and more so now that Roseanne’s Research is out, but still, Cyrus’s Conspiracy helps to fetch the right energy at the right time, and most attacks only require one ‘colored’ energy which is what makes them cost efficient. Not to mention Bronzong G allows for energy manipulation.

How to counter good typing and efficient energy costs: This is another aspect which you cannot control unless you directly modify your opponent’s card choices which is impossible, so your best bet is to try and base your deck on Pokémon that are not weak to the most common Pokémon SP types used. Aside from this, denying TGI Energy Gain for as long as possible with Spiritomb AR is also a good way to try and reduce the impact of these great typing and energy costs available to SP decks.

Everything mentioned before are things to consider when building your deck, and we can look back and see what other non-SP decks are competitive and viable and see what aspects they try and implement. Based on the current format, I’d venture to saying VileGar, Machamp and Gyarados are the best contenders in this new format, without taking into account any newly HGSS Triumphant released cards since we have obviously not seen the impact they have in tournaments since none have taken place with the set now being released.

vileplume-undaunted-ud-24Not only does it deny Trainers with Spiritomb early on, but it also continues the lock once Vileplume sees play. Add to that a good heavy hitter (Gengar) that takes advantage of this lock, is not weak to the most common Pokémon SP types and resists Garchomp C, and you’ve got yourself a Tier 1 contender. Most lists also use Warp Energy and I have even seen some incorporate a 1-1-1 Nidoqueen line, making their SP matchup even stronger.

Doesn’t really matter what it gets paired with. As long as you have a healthy line of Machamp, it is always a threat for SP decks as it provides a good, cost efficient way to respond to the early KOs of SP decks by doing just that. Also the high HP and the weakness to Psychic are advantageous to some extent, as the Psychic Pokémon usually run in SP decks is Uxie LV.X and even it can’t 1HKO Machamp without the aid of a Flash Bite from Cobat G and Lucario GL. Toxicroac G PL is not very popular at the moment as a response in SP decks as it requires Stadium cards and Skuntank G in the decklist as well.

This deck is a bit more tricky to decipher as to why it fares quite well against SP decks, but I believe the main reasons to be that the deck is already built around getting behind early game while you find and discard the 4 Magikarps, and with the new cards like Twins and Junk Arm it should accomplish this even easier.

It can also score easy 1HKOs on the big basic Pokémon, and not requiring any energy to perform it’s best attack also helps to recover from the possible 1HKOs dealt by Luxray GL LV.X. This deck shines because it has an easier time bringing out another Gyarados into play to keep the 1HKO onslaught, than the SP decks have to bring out and power up another Luxray GL to 1HKO Gyarados.

We will probably see a few other decks from Triumphant become popular during the upcoming City Championships series about to start, but to do so; they must keep in mind all these aspects and another very important one not explicitly mentioned yet.

Energy efficiency is what breaks or makes a deck in this format, and the decks I mentioned above all have this in common.

machamp-stormfront-sf-20pokemon-paradijs.comThey all require only a single energy to fulfill the energy requirement of their main attack, and this allows you to keep the focus on the deck on getting those evolutions up ASAP, rather than worrying about having Pokémon in play that help you power their main attacks faster. This is also the reason why a lot of other decks perish, as they are not energy efficient and by the time they are set up they are too far behind.

This are all the things I myself consider important when trying to build a deck that can have a fighting chance against SP decks and also against the rest of the field, because focusing on getting your evolutions out ASAP makes your deck more consistent, and by doing so you improve every matchup, not just the SP matchup. Also you have to choose Pokémon that have very efficient cost to damage ratios, and making sure you find the right balance of energies to do so.

The key to beating SP decks is dragging the game long enough to the point where they have wasted a lot of resources and have not managed enough KOs, making it impossible for you to come back. Cards like Nidoqueen and Spiritomb help you accomplish this, and cards like Machamp helps you put the pressure back on to your opponent as almost every turn they don’t KO Machamp, you get a guaranteed prize.

The final card I want to mention in this article is Call Energy. I find the combination of Spiritomb + Call Energy to be very good to have a stable early game but unfortunately, Call Energy can only be used on decks relying on a few turns to set up, rather than going all out attack and putting pressure just like SP decks do like Machamp where it’s very rare to see Call Energy used with it.

I hope this article is what people where expecting, as I based my theme entirely on what people posted on the forums on the thread for requested articles.

Thank you for reading!

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