Recently, with Nationals coming up in three weeks, here has been a lot of talk of “rogue” – what is it, what decks are rogue, and more importantly, which rogue decks are actually dangerous. This article is going to cover some full deck strategies; my next article before Nationals is going to cover some serious silver bullets to our current metagame.
A lot of players just don’t have the cash, or the availability, to snap up one of the big decks right now; Donphans, Magnezones, and Emboars are especially valuable right now, and a lot of players are wondering what to play. A lot of other players just like to be original and go rogue.
With what looks like a very narrow metagame based entirely around Magnezone/Emboar, there really aren’t a lot of heavily tested archetypes. In my opinion, anything that isn’t a well-known and developed metagame deck is rogue.
Last season, you could go rogue with something like BlazeRay, Absol/Lucario, or Charizard; even Jumpluff was rogue by the end of the season. Really, at the moment, rogue means a deck not based on the following:
- Emboar (with or without Magnezone Prime)
- Donphan (really with anything)
- Lost World
These are decks the Pokémon community has put considerable effort into working on, and a lot of players are preparing them for nats. The rest of the field is, to some degree at least, rogue, as they are decks that are receiving little mainstream development, so your testing list against that deck is likely not optimal.
Their main strategy may be different from other decks in the format, and you may be caught without an answer to their threats, either due to your board position, or due to not having one in your deck at all.
A good example from my personal experiences was at this year’s Regionals. I had recently moved to the area, and hadn’t really put much effort into decks this season, so I decided to play a disruptive build of Charizard AR, running Regice LA, Blaziken FB, and a heavy Typhlosion Prime line.
The rest of the metagame was SP (mostly Dialgachomp) and Machamp – there was almost no Vilegar around, which was unexpected, and my lack of Spiritomb hurt me enough to end 4-3. One matchup in particular, however, worked very well as a surprise to my opponent: LostGar, which was one of the more popular decks there.
LostGar in an SP heavy, Machamp heavy metagame is a potentially very good choice, as these decks have a lot of tech pokemon that can be flushed into their hands with Spiritomb TM or Judge, then Hurled into Darkness. Gengar Prime’s 130 HP also means unless you’re running Absol G or Weavile G, very little in the format can knock it out in one hit.
His game absolutely fell apart when Charizard hit the board – having a big, angry, Expert Belted attacker hitting for 130 a turn was not in his game plan, and his deck had absolutely no answer to it. He dug for a Gengar SF tech to fainting spell my Charizard (and hit the heads!) but I came up with another attacker and just pressured too hard. Game over.
This is the point of playing rogue: dropping something on the board your opponent cannot handle, and does not tech heavily enough for. Like my article on toolbox decks, building rogue decks first requires heavy analysis of the metagame. Here are some observations:
- Most main attackers in this format have a 2 or 3 Retreat Cost, barring the “speedy Stage 1” deck I call Rush.
- The average energy card cost for main attackers in this format is 2. Non-basic energy is very popular.
- Energy counts in this format are very low, but energy recovery is popular, due to Energy Retrieval and Junk Arm.
- Trainer counts are extremely high, with Dual Ball often seeing play over Pokémon Collector so more hand refreshers/Sage’s Training can be played.
- Evolution is common, and Rare Candy is heavily played.
- The “magic numbers” for damage are 130 (Reshiram, Zekrom, Blastoise, Gengar Prime), 140 (Donphan Prime with Body, Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND, Magnezone Prime), and 150 (Emboar).
- Weaknesses are all x2.
- Donphan and Zoroark are common techs.
- Players often end games with fewer than 10 cards left in their decks.
Based on your observations, you may think of some rogue ideas – these usually come in the form of either a disruption strategy, or an attack strategy.
Attack: Smashing Face with Magic Numbers
pokebeach.comOffensive rogue decks are generally the rarer type – it’s usually easier to break a top tier strategy through disruption and trickery than raw force. Otherwise, the deck would have likely been discovered, and considered a top tier metagame deck itself, right?
One thing that needs to be kept in mind for attacking decks is the format’s “magic numbers” – how much damage does an attack need to deal to KO important metagame Pokémon in one hit? The answer in the current metagame is clearly 140.
Everything from Magnezone Prime, to Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND, to Donphan Prime and the legendary dragons can be Knocked Out with 140 damage. More is situational, and less will miss important 1HKOs, but 140 in a single attack is important to have available.
Often an offensive rogue carries some disruption elements with it, or uses an attack strategy that in an open metagame might be considered unstable, inconsistent, or weak against something that isn’t commonly played. The best example I can think of here is Leafeon, and it happens to fall in as a very easy and inexpensive deck to build, too:
Skeleton: Leafeon the Destroyer
|Pokémon – 21||Trainers – 11||Energy – 12|
Open Slots – 16
The point of this deck is to have the lowest cost 150 damage swing in the game, while being backed up with disruptive status, and a lot of room to tech out. Your T/S/S line is also up to preference: you can use Collector or Dual Ball, Copycat, Juniper, Sage’s Training, or Elm’s.
Because none of your attackers need more than one energy, you can keep counts low, but not so low that you miss energy drops to Roserade when you need KOs. Super Scoop Up is mostly to reuse Rainbow Energy when needed, though it can come in handy for prize denial early on against Donphan, which is why it is in the core. Seeker is definitely an alternate option.
Its main downside isn’t actually the low HP of Leafeon; this is a format full of 1HKOs anyway, and even if it had as much as most offensive Stage 1s, it would be an easy prize.
Its real downside is the number of cards needed to hit the combo; two Stage 1s, a Rainbow Energy, and one of any energy, can deal 100 on turn 2; Houndoom Prime or a Magby start is needed to make 150 that early in the game.
Leafeon has a very strong midgame, however, if not disrupted, and will run roughshod over any deck in the format. Like Donphan, it uses single energy Stage 1 attackers, but unlike Donphan, Leafeon is not limited by the amount of damage it can deal; plus, confusion is very disruptive in a format with high Retreat Costs. Confusion can also be used to override the sleep on baby Pokémon, meaning if your opponent still has a sleeping Cleffa on turn 2, they may be off to a bad start.
Speeding Bees – Volbeat and Illumise
|Pokémon – 8
4 Volbeat TM
|Trainers – 36||Energy – 8
Open Slots – 8
Another fast, offensive rogue deck that has gone completely unconsidered so far is Volbeat/Illumise. Powered by a similar trainer engine as Zekrom Donk, it has the advantage of not needing to get 3 energy into play and onto a single attacker; all it needs is an Illumise active, four Volbeat on the bench, and a single Grass Energy to flip four coins, dealing 30 damage for each heads.
This deck largely ignores the magic number theory: it tries to do damage faster and more consistently, rather than in large single hits. While this may not be impressive at a glance, as a basic attacker for 1 energy, it can provide a lot of early pressure, and hopefully win the game before it starts.
Limiting the opponent’s offensive options with Vileplume later is an excellent follow-up, and can often let you snatch more cheap prizes from the jaws of defeat. The other option is to add a secondary attacker, such as Yanmega Prime, Jumpluff, or Cinccino.
Speed Spread – Blast from the Past
|Pokémon – 23||Trainers – 21||Energy – 11
4 Double Colourless
Open Slots – 5
Suggestions for the open slots include 1-1 extra Mandibuzz, Super Scoop Up to reuse Weavile, and PlusPower for picking up key KOs when you lack special darks or need to hit something huge like Rayquaza&Deoxys LEGEND or Magnezone Prime, or for Mandibuzz’ “Punishment” attack, which deals a base 100 damage to a Stage 2.
The main strategy is to get a Tyranitar using “Darkness Howl” as fast as possible; spread as much damage around before it’s Knocked Out, then send up Mandibuzz to take some cheap prizes from the bench.
Weaviles are multipurpose in this deck; after a lot of spread, their ability to do 30 damage to absolutely anything can help pick up cheap prizes. They are also there to stop your opponent from setting up quickly: if a deck such as Donchamp sets up as fast as this deck, there may be real trouble.
Weavile’s “Claw Snag” Poké-Power lets you choose a card from their hand and discard it when Weavile evolves from Sneasel, letting you remove key Pokémon, cut their supporter line to slow them down, or put them in an energy drought.
Cleffa is questionable in a deck with Tyranitar, but the increase in overall speed is worth it. Being able to almost guarantee a stage 2 attacker on the second turn with this engine outweighs almost every drawback to it, including likely giving your opponent a turn 3 or 4 Prize. Obviously, dropping multiple Cleffas is a poor choice.
Defense – Denial and More Denial
pokebeach.comDefensive rogue decks are typically more common: they figure out what the most common gimmicks in the format are, and use cards to shut them down. A good example from the last format was a deck a friend at league came up with, running Umbreon and Mesprit.
With most decks running heavy on Powers and Bodies, locking Powers while preventing damage to your active Pokémon is a great way to win the SP matchup, and it comes out incredibly fast. I forget what was used for additional attackers, but the deck was quite dangerous.
In today’s metagame, everything is very hard and fast; any defensive tech that doesn’t hit the board by turn 2 is likely already circumvented before it’s there. With the attacking power in the format, tank decks like Steelix, Aggron, or slower builds of Tyranitar are simply not viable.
There are also few defensive techs that stop the simple “big dumb bruiser” strategy of decks like Tyranitar, Reshiram, and Donchamp. Defensive decks must run very fast engines for that reason; expect four copies of Professor Juniper AND Sage’s Training.
A Rock of Fire – Typhlosion/Reshiram/Magmortar
|Pokémon – 22||Trainers – 24||Energy – 14|
Reshiram/Typhlosion has been an idea since Black and White was even announced in Japan, and everyone found the inherent stability of the deck, as well as room for teching it out, was incredible. The deck was not without issues, though: it needed a double PlusPower to KO Rayquaza&Deoxys Legend, or Magnezone Prime, and really had no hope of taking out anything bigger in one hit.
The deck had incredible longevity, though, and 6 Prizes of 130+ HP Pokémon was usually what your opponent was looking at to get the win. Enter Elekid, who can snipe that crucial 20 HP off of Pokémon that will become a problem later. Note that all it takes is a PlusPower to KO a waking Cleffa, too.
You’ll notice the absence of Cleffa; this is because with a fast T/S/S engine and Ninetales HS, you don’t need it, and Elekid is the better starter for your choice of attackers. The engine could be made faster to guarantee the turn 2 Typhlosion drop, but decking yourself is a serious concern, and keeping a steady stream of heavy Pokémon is a bigger concern, for the important reason below.
Magmortar is something else that seems out of place in this deck, but upon observing many matches in this format, most of them ended with only a few cards left in the winning player’s deck, especially against decks with high HP Pokémon.
Emboar/Magnezone has to dig through most of its deck to get energy, as does Donphan/Machamp, and between Typhlosion and Lost Remover giving you extra energy tempo (aim for the Lightning against Magnezone), they will likely continue to rain Junipers and Sage’s Trainings onto the board until they have only a few cards left, expecting to take their last prizes in 3-4 turns and end the game. This is where Top Burner comes in, in two ways.
pokebeach.comFirst, your opponent may see an early Magmar or Magmortar on the bench, and expect a full-on attempt to mill them to death. This may make them hold even an early Juniper in their hand, and possibly delay their setup by one or more turns. You, on the other hand, are undaunted, and can start setting up Reshirams and Typhlosions, swinging for the fences.
Second, you can hold your Magmars and Magmortars, letting your opponent play against a typical Reshiram/Typhlosion deck (usually a weak archetype/predicted rogue). This usually means burning through the deck fast in the above fashion, and with the bulk of Reshiram and Typhlosion, often having five or so cards left, with 3 Prizes to take. Once you see the situation unfolding, play your Magmar and start loading up fire energy with Typhlosion, and from your hand. Evolve next turn, and go for the Top Burner to snatch the game out of their hands.
Twins is a card that likely has a place in this deck, but with the emphasis on early setup, and the need for PlusPowers and Junk Arms to keep an offence going means Twins got the axe. In a pure Magmortar milling deck, Twins may well be the play.
The Last Thing You Want to See on Turn 2 – Vileplume/Muk
|Pokémon – 17||Trainers – 21||Energy – 10
Open Slots – 12
Vileplume/Muk may not truly be rogue anymore – in the last week, it’s started to get some talk on forums, and players are seeing the obvious synergy here. Still, it’s still flying under the radar, really for reasons unknown.
Being able to lock down Trainers on turn 2 from the bench, Vileplume is a dangerous Pokémon to say the least. Muk, on the other hand, requires a single energy to drag up a benched Pokémon and inflict both the Poison and Confusion conditions on it.
With the high Retreat Costs in the format, and your opponent’s setup disrupted by trainer lock, you can likely take a few cheap prizes. The open slots should be filled with more ways to take cheap prizes; an efficient attacker like Donphan Prime, a sniper like Yanmega Prime or Mandibuzz, or something that can do huge damage, like Zekrom.
Stage 2 Pokémon like Magnezone Prime should likely be avoided due to how difficult they are to set up with Trainers locked, especially with the engine this deck runs simply to guarantee the turn 2 Vileplume.
Muk is not the only option for attacking under Trainer lock. Yanmega Prime’s 0 energy attacks are a definite option, giving you 70 damage swings as well as sniping power. Weavile UD also offers sniping power, and disruption early on (often before a Vileplume drop) to prevent your opponent from using supporters and Pokémon to set up.
pokebeach.comTaken to a greater extreme, Sharpedo TM can flat-out win the game in one turn if it flips double heads – and you’ll likely have more time to flip coins while your opponent is disrupted by your trainer lock.
Creativity certainly pays off in this deck – it can also be combined with the Speeding Bees idea above, to go all out offensive from the first turn, locking trainers so more dangerous Pokémon don’t hit the board. If you can take a prize a turn from turn 1, and lock Trainers turn 2, a loss will be a very rare event.
Don’t dismiss these decks; I and my team have given all of them a good run of testing (20+ games for most, Muk/Vileplume will be getting more next week), and have found them to be dangerous. Speed Spread is in my opinion the best of the group and could be a good way to go rogue and win the whole thing.
With the right tuning, any of these, or other rogue decks has a good shot at top cut, especially ones that focus on disrupting early on. Trainer lock looks questionable, but some advice I have on filling the leftover slots is this: “load your gun with silver bullets” – but I’ll talk more on the silver bullets for the big metagame decks in my article next week, just before Canadian Nationals.