The “Evolutions” of the Metagame

Let’s get ready to rumble!!!

For the better part of March, everyone’s mind was on State Championships, but now they’re just a blip in the rearview mirror and we’ve turned our attention to Regionals.

Unlike States, there will only be a single weekend of Regional Championships, meaning you’ll only have one chance “get it right.” If you choose the wrong deck or don’t properly prepare for the meta, you won’t get another shot. If you want to take home a big title this season, this will be your last opportunity (baring Nats/Worlds, where the competition will be much, much tougher), or if you’re positioning for a Worlds invite, either way the pressure is on.

Since we’ll be using the same format for Regionals as we did for States, there’s not really much more to tell on the “big” decks. Like I said back in my first article for UG, when I write an UG article (or a free article), I try to think of all the information that’s been discussed already and fill the gaps. I try to step in the shoes of the reader and think “What information would help me the most at X tournament?” Because honestly, Underground is all about boosting tournament performances, which I try to do in everything I write.

So, taking that into account, I’ve decided to shift the focus of my article a bit. Originally, this was just going to be a Top X plays for Regionals submission, but I didn’t get far into the drafting stage before I realized that that would mostly just be a rehashing of old ideas.

This format has been dominated by big Basics, and as such, they’ve claimed most article “screen time.” This has caused some very competitive Stage 1 and 2 decks to be ignored by the Pokémon community.
“The Play”

Zeels and CMT are by and far the strongest decks out there, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the best decks to play. With their popularity comes a hoard of techs (and even entire decks) geared toward beating them. This means decks that aren’t Tier 1 have an advantage simply because people are not prepared for them.

To enlist this advantage, you don’t necessarily need to go rogue. Simply playing a deck that can fly under the radar can be enough. I’m not suggesting you throw together some Tier 4 deck that’s strongest matchup is 45/55, but if you look at the decks on Tier 2 or 3, you’ll usually find a deck in a position to abuse some opening in the format. Back at Cities, Donphan Prime variants saw an uptick in play because EelZone was such a popular choice.

Because of the speed of the format, evolutions are constantly being written off as too slow to compete. That’s partially true; due to the speed of the top decks and the format in general, a lot of decks have become obsolete. However, there are a good number of decks that have been unjustly written off.

In this article, I’d like to give some attention to these competitive evolution-based decks. I’ll detail how each should be constructed for maximum competitiveness and why they should be on everyone’s list of potential plays for Regionals. Also included are my thoughts on “the play,” dealing with N, and more!

The History of Evolutions

Whether it’s the video games or the TV shows/movies, evolving has been a big part of Pokémon. Some Pokémon, such as Squirtle, Turtwig and Charmander, have two further Stages of evolution while others, such as Phanpy, Yanma, only evolve one time. Some Pokémon, such as Lugia, Zapdos and Mewtwo, don’t evolve at all.

This feature has carried over to the card game, where each stage of evolution is reflected in a single card. To get the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Pokémon in play, you must place them on top of their respective lower evolutions.

In theory, each stage of evolution would have its advantages and disadvantages. Basics would be fast and aim to disrupt, but hit for a lower damage output as well as a smaller base HP. Stage 1s would improve on these attributes while retaining most of the speed of Basic Pokémon. Stage 2 Pokémon would be the slowest, but far and away the most powerful; once one hits the field, not much can stop bit.

But it seems the card designers never really applied these principles to the game. This has been made especially worse with the latest wave of Pokémon-EX being exclusively Basic Pokémon. This flaw in design has caused the format to increase in speed drastically. It has also given the player who goes first a massive advantage. In a format where slow decks are the rulers of the format, going second is less of a handicap.

Making Evolutions Work

Back at Cities, the format was rather fast, but it was slower than it is now, which allowed for a very diverse and enjoyable landscape. Now we have CMT, which can get going as early as Turn 1 followed by Zeels, which is slower, but has a bigger punch. Durant and Terrakion haven’t helped matters, either.

Thus far, I think the biggest reason why Stage 1 and Stage 2 decks’ success has declined so drastically, I think it’s because most players aren’t playing them correctly. If you’re not playing a deck that’s as fast as or faster than the format norm, you’ve got to readjust your game plan in order to do well. Some decks can do this more effectively than others. When you’re retooling your deck for a faster environment, there are several different strategies you can try…

1. Come-From-Behind

This is probably the most obvious way to making a slower deck work. Implementing a come-from-behind game plan can require a little space or a lot of space, depending on what deck you’re running. It can be as little as adding in two Twins and two Pokégear 3.0 (4 slots) or may be the backbone of the deck’s consistency, including a high Twins count, N, Pokégears, Tropical Beach, etc.

Figuring out exactly what kind of counts of comeback cards, if any, are need in your deck can be difficult. To add even more pressure to the decision, running too many these kinds of cards is almost as bad as not running enough. Devoting too much space to comeback cards will just bog your deck down and make faster starts near non-existent. Some decks just need that little boost to even out some consistency bumps in the games where they didn’t get a very strong hand while decks like The Truth needs a massive engine to support such a slow game plan.

2. Prize Denial

pokemon-paradijs.comThis is a really interesting way to make a comeback. The most common type of deck that uses this strategy is a “Tank deck,” which uses Pokémon that are designed to be incredibly difficult to KO. Decks using these kinds of Pokémon generally fall behind by a few prizes early game, but once their tank is set up, will proceed to keep taking prizes while their opponent cannot take anymore.

The only real full-on tanking decks in the format use a combination of Reuniclus BLW and Vileplume UD to move damage counters and lock out Pokémon Catcher. This strategy has proven very effect because it boasts a method of absolute prize denial. Even if you fall behind 2-4 Prizes, once you get set up, you’ll be able to keep attacking with that one Pokémon until you take 6 Prizes.

Another type of Pokémon I’d like to discuss are the Mini-Tanks. Mini-tanks are Pokémon that have big HP and are tough to KO, but not impossible. A deck whose main attacker(s) are mini-tanks, such as Terrakion or 6 Corners, can be overwhelming because taking 6 Prizes against is difficult.

Mini-tanks can be created or strengthened with the use of Eviolite and/or Defender. The idea of these kinds of Pokémon is to slow down your opponent’s offensive so you can get ahead in the prize race. Mini-Tanks are common additions in just about every top deck out there because, like I said, Basics are just so power-creeped.

If you’re playing a deck that takes 5 turns to get set up, relying on mini-tanking alone won’t cut it, but if what you’re running is just a little slower than the format, mini-tanks, in conjunction with other strategies, can go a long way toward making up for prize deficiencies.

3. Alternate Win Condition

pokemon-paradijs.comThis isn’t something most decks can just add in, so I’ll just talk about it briefly. If you’ve ever heard the saying “If you aren’t winning at Chess, go play Checkers,” then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

LostGar is a rather slow deck and doesn’t have enough firepower to take on Zekroms, Terrakion, etc., but this actually isn’t a huge issue for LostGar. Instead of trying to ineffectively win on prizes against clearly superior attackers, Gengar Prime variants aim to get six Pokémon into your opponent’s Lost Zone.

Durant is another good example. Like LostGar, it doesn’t aim to collect prizes. “Devour” is designed to mill your opponent’s deck. Add in a ton of consistency cards, a bunch of disruption and some recovery cards and you’ve got yourself a working deck!

Now, if you’re looking to add in a different win condition, there are several good examples. One is how some Durant lists are running cards like Cobalion NVI or Mewtwo EX. Being able to sudden switch gears from deck destroyer to prize taking machine can catch your opponent completely off guard. If you’ve already milled out most of your opponent’s deck, an N followed by spamming “Iron Breaker” is really hard to deal with.

Probably the most widely played AWC is Tyrogue HS. With the immense popularity of Eelektrik NVI, Tyrogue is starting to see play in more and more decks. It can serve to simply taking a cheap prize, but it also offers the possibility of the donk. The more “cheap” wins you can take, the less possibility there is of your deck’s consistency croaking, facing an Energy drought, etc.

I try to get a Tyrogue into just about any deck I build that can reliably get Tyrogue active Turn 1 if I don’t start with it, but do have a Level Ball/Communication/Collector. I’m also more likely to make more accommodations for Tyrogue if my deck has a poor Zeels matchup; getting it in Tetrakion isn’t a priority.

4. Wartime Advantage

The final strategy for making comebacks is what I like to call a “wartime advantage.” Basically, what this means is having some advantage in the prize exchange. A key thing to remember when you’re implementing this strategy is you don’t need 6 KOs to win the game, you need 6 Prizes.

There are a couple different ways to go about this. The first and most difficult to run is Rayquaza & Deoxys LEGEND. Since it requires a very difficult set of Energy to charge up as well as high maintenance to keep it attacking, RDL can’t be run in most decks. However, in the ones that it can, such as Emboar BLW 20 or even Typhlosion Prime variants, RDL is a really strong way to catch up on prizes. RDL is worth 2 Prizes, but if you use it to take your last 2 Prize cards or to KO a Pokémon-EX, using it will still be beneficial to you in the prize exchange.

Baring RDL, there’s no other way to artificially manipulate the prize race, so you’ll have to settle for direct KOs and working them to your advantage. Common ways this is done is when you use a non-Pokémon-EX to score a 1HKO on a Pokémon-EX. Even if the Pokémon they bring up scores the revenge KO, you’ve still gained more from that exchange than your opponent. These kinds of trade offs almost exclusively rely on hitting Pokémon-EX for weakness. This capability can be seen in a number of different cards. Mew Prime can take 1HKOs on Mewtwo EX, Terrakion makes quick work of Zekrom-EX, etc.

A variation of this could also be having an EX that can 1HKO one of your opponent’s Pokémon-EX, but cannot be Knocked Out in return (ex. Kyurem EX killing Reshiram-EX).

As a player who was around back during the first EX era, I was really glad when EXs returned to the game. There’s a lot of different ways you can use them to your advantage and they really add another component of skill to the game, which for me makes it that much more enjoyable. I would like to see some EXs that aren’t Basics and that Abilities, though.

Making Evolutions Work – Conclusion

There are a variety of different methods you can use to maximize the speed and consistency of slower evolution-based decks. Don’t get me wrong, just because they run a Stage 1 doesn’t mean they’re a super-slow Turn 5 deck. Electrode decks, for example, are among the fastest decks in the format, so they need little in terms of come-from-behind support.

But for the decks that do need some added support, you’ll probably find a combination of these efforts works better than trying to overuse just one strategy. In my experience, the only way to actually deduce what works best for any given deck is through testing and tinkering with the list until things work the way you want them to.

Why Bother?

pokemon-paradijs.comAfter hearing about all the work it will likely take to make a slower deck successful, you might be thinking “Why bother when I can just play CMT?” Like I said earlier, the biggest advantage that will stem from playing a less common deck is the surprise factor.

For example, if you were to run 6 Corners at Regionals, you’d have an advantage that stems from two things. Probably your biggest advantage is that you’re not being teched against. At Cities, 6 Corners was a big deck, but now running into it at a tournament is uncommon, so there’s virtually no chance your opponent will be running techs in their list to directly counter your deck.

To illustrate just how much of an advantage this is, I’ll liken it to the LuxChomp mirror match. If two LC players with the exact same list and skill level both got strong starts, but one player isn’t running Ambipom G, Dragonite FB or Toxicroak G (if you weren’t around back then, these Pokémon were staples for the mirror), the player who is running these Pokémon definitely has a big edge over the player who is not.

The other major benefit to playing an uncommon deck is the in-game surprise factor and how it plays a part in the game. For starters, neither Zeels, CMT, nor Tetrakion were around back when 6 Corners was a hot commodity, so the odds your opponent has played even a few games against you with their current deck is low. An experienced player will be able to deduce what they need to do in the matchup based on previous experience against your deck, even if it wasn’t with their current list. However, this estimation, no matter how skilled the player, can’t compete with having actually played the matchup.

One other minor advantage you’ll have is your opponent can have a harder time figuring out what you’re playing in the first 1-2 turns of the game. As such, this can lead to their making mistakes. For example, if you flip over a Zekrom, I’d bet 9/10 opponents’ first guess on what you’re playing will be Zeels and not 6 Corners, ZPST, or anything else.

Not all evolution decks are worth it, however. Some are simply past their prime and just aren’t competitive anymore. However, whether it be Stage 1s or 2s, there are a lot of evolutions that are still very competitive and just need to be given a chance. If you choose the right deck, combine that with the surprise factor I just finished discussing and the result will be a real contender.

Typhlosion Prime

pokemon-paradijs.comI’ve always been a big fan of Typhlosion. Since its strong performance at the Canadian Nationals last year, its popularity just exploded and kept getting bigger and bigger, dominating Worlds as well as Battle Roads and Fall Regionals early this season.

At Cities it finally began to cool off and now it sees minimal play, although it has achieved several notable feats, including taking home two events and four Top 2 showings overall. I think the States statistics are interesting because, out of the 9 TyRam builds that made it into the Top 8, almost half made it to the top table, which is roughly the same amount that Zeels and CMT did and actually significantly better than Durant, with less than a third of Top 8’ers reaching the final two.

These results suggest that Typhlosion is still a very competitive choice as the strongest lists have fared well in the top cut. This has also been reflected pretty heavily in my testing, for which I place blame on several factors.


For starters, Reshiphlosion has strong matchups against the meta, which is further emphasized by its surprise factor. Durant has always been a favorable matchup, so its popularity only helps TyRam. Its Zeels game is roughly even, but it actually has a pretty solid skill component to the matchup, so a strong player will be able to push this matchup to the limit.

This deck has a number of very effective methods for dealing with Terrakion variants. Typhlosion works well here because it will run your opponent dry of Energy, despite Exp. Share. You’ll be scoring the 2HKO, so they’ll still need 3 Energy on Terrakion if they want to attack more than every other turn.

To take Terrakion outside of 2HKO range, they’ll need to use two Defenders. Using only one or none at all still leaves Terrakion vulnerable to a PlusPower KO. Stretching things out to a 3HKO doesn’t help their situation that much, though, because you can still Discard an Energy off of Terrakion that turn, meaning they’ll loose three before the Terrakion is KO’d.

pokemon-paradijs.comReshiram is no deadweight here, either. It’s not difficult to get a Blue Flare charged up with a combination of manual attachments and Afterburner, which can 1HKO a “naked” Terrakion with a PP. Otherwise, you use Outrage for a cheap CC, which will be hitting for pretty big damage because Terrakion can’t score the 1HKO without a Black Belt.

Terrakion’s biggest hurdle here is they simply don’t have many outs. In most cases, no matter how bad the matchup, you at least have some sort of chance or way to wiggle out a win, but Terrakion is a really basic and single game plan deck, which doesn’t leave much in terms of options. You even have the possibility of a Turn 2 Typhlosion up and running, which will seal your victory.

CMT has the possibility of early game disruption, but once you can get anything going, you can usually just overpower your opponent. Reshiram and Mewtwo EX will generally exchange 2HKOs, an exchange that’s clearly in your favor. Tornadus can’t do much more, being an easy 1HKO target for “Blue Flare” while lacking the ability to 1HKO Reshiram in return.

Typhlosion also has some uses here as well, namely draining Energy. Just be careful about a Mewtwo EX 1HKO (3 Energy on Typhlosion + 3 Energy on Mewtwo EX + 20 in Afterburner damage = 1HKO)

This is my TyRam list:

Pokémon – 15

4 Cyndaquil HS
1 Quilava HS
4 Typhlosion Prime
4 Reshiram NXD
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Tyrogue HS/Cleffa CL

Trainers – 33

4 Pokémon Collector
4 Sage’s Training
2 N
2 Twins
1 Professor Juniper
1 Professor Oak’s New Theory


4 Pokémon Communication
4 Rare Candy

3 Junk Arm
3 PlusPower
3 Pokémon Catcher
1 Super Rod
1 Switch

Energy – 12

11 R
1 Rescue

I talked earlier about how important it is to not overly cram excess come-from-behind cards into your deck as it can really hurt its speed and consistency. Back at BRs and Regionals, TyRam was one of the faster decks in the format and was very consistent. Those attributes haven’t changed, but the format has sped up, so when it comes to speed, TyRam is just so-so.

pokemon-paradijs.comWhat this means is you don’t need a huge line up of cards to come back from 3-4 Prize deficits; just enough to help you make a small comeback in those games where you get a slower start. For that purpose, I’ve included two copies of Twins in the list. Sometimes this deck will just get a killer start, but others you just can’t get that key Rare Candy from your deck and end up falling a bit behind. Twins helps make sure that, as soon as your opponent grabs that first prize, you get spring-boarded back into the game.

I do run 2 N, which initially weren’t included as “comeback” cards. TyRam is a very self-sufficient deck that can live off the field for quite a while, which makes it a prime candidate to run N.

Up until a few days ago, I had been running Tyrogue, but a series of whiffing on the donk either because I can’t retreat Reshiram/Mewtwo or because I lost the opening coin flip caused me to look at other options, which is how I came upon Cleffa. At this point, Cleffa has been putting up better numbers in terms of how strong it has been, but Tyrogue’s ability to steal cheap KOs mid-game on Tynamo or other Baby Pokémon has kept me from completely ruling it out.

I’m sure you can understand why I’ve added a copy of Mewtwo EX into the mix. Running no DCE and with Afterburner placing damage to accelerate Energy, I certainly don’t expect to be winning the Mewtwo EX war. Mainly, its job is to punish the opposing player if they try to stack Energy on a Mewtwo EX or for some other niche matchups, like against The Truth.

By and large the list is pretty standard, but one other thing I’d like to explain are the Supporter counts, namely the two N, 1 PONT, and 1 Juniper. This isn’t the standard line I’ll admit, but it’s not completely crazy either. All give you a large hand early game with each sort of specializing; N becomes a strong offensive tool as the game goes on, PONT stays consistent and reliable and Juniper works to thin out my deck. You could switch out the PONT for another N or Juniper or vice-versa, but ultimately this is what has worked the best for me.

Side Note: Surviving N

pokemon-paradijs.comAlex Fields’ article did a great job illustrating N’s strengths and the best ways to maximize its strength in a game. Right now, I’d like to take a second, flip things around, and talk about how to survive N and the best strategies to minimize its potentially disastrous effects.

A commonly discussed tactic to countering N, as well as other forms of hand disruption and just playing in general, is thinning your deck. Basically what this means is playing a card or cards that lowers the overall number of cards in your deck, whether you need to play them or not. Here’s a great example:

Let’s say you’ve got a hand that contains a Professor Juniper and Level Ball. Normally, you would just play Juniper and let Level Ball go to the discard pile. However, if you want to thin your deck, you’d play Level Ball first to fish out some useless Pokémon in your deck, then play Juniper. You’ve just reduced your deck size by one card, which will make your draws, PONTs, etc. slightly more likely to get you what you need.

Doing this just once won’t have a huge impact, but if you use this strategy just five times, you’ll see a nice improvement in the odds of you getting which cards you need, especially when you use mass draw cards like Sage’s Training, PONT, etc. Now, in relating this to N, the idea is to get rid of as much garbage in your deck as possible so that when you’re reduced to a 1-2 card hand, you have a better chance of being “thrown” into a Supporter or whatever else you need.

How to Filter: Doing it Right

Like just about everything in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way to filter your deck and doing so improperly can be really, really bad. For starters, I’d recommend keeping the filtering in the early game to a minimum

This brings me to my next point. You should be predicting your next few turns out and have a rough idea of how the rest of the game will play out. Knowing every detail of the next 8 turns isn’t necessary, but having a loose roadmap of how you can win the game is certainly beneficial. Also take into account any banana peels your opponent might throw into your game plan; don’t base your entire game on your current hand only to be hit by a Judge.

Create a roadmap in your mind.

Having a sketch of how the game is likely to go down should be an important tool when you’re deciding when, if and by how much you want to thin your deck. If you’re thinking it’s going to be a very long and drawn out game, you’ve got to be very careful you don’t reduce your deck to the point of milling yourself out.

You don’t want to be drawing into garbage cards, so you want your deck just filtered enough so that you can get the resources you need when you need them. Again, be sure to take any potential roadblocks your opponent may set up into account; don’t leave yourself with one card left in your deck only to have your Eelektrik dragged active.

Be smart, think ahead and expect the unexpected and you’ll have a lot more bounce-back when it comes to N, Judge, Weavile or any other hand disruptor out there.

Electrode Prime

Electrode isn’t a slow Pokémon by any means. Contrary to the theme of this article, Electrode variants actually make for some of the fastest decks in the format, above Zeels but not quite as fast as CMT.

Part of the reason this card makes for such fast decks is they take such little resources to get going. Unlike Eelektrik, who first needs the L Energy in your discard pile, and then can only attach them to your bench Pokémon, Electrode will actually search the top cards of your deck for Energy, meaning you could start attacking Turn 2 for as little as a three card investment (Your attacker of choice, Voltorb and Electrode).

You can even ensure a more reliable Turn 2 start by using 1-2 manual attachments on your attacker, easing the burden on Energymite and making luck far less of a factor.

Since there are a ton of different ways to play Electrode and since its matchups and success heavily depend on which style you play, I’ll first show you the list, then we can talk about strategy and matchups.

Pokémon – 14

3 Voltorb TM

3 Electrode Prime
3 Kyurem NVI
3 Terrakion NVI
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 31

4 Pokémon Collector
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 Sage’s Training

2 N


3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Defender
3 Exp. Share
3 Junk Arm
3 Level Ball
1 Pokémon Communication
1 Pokégear 3.0
1 Super Rod
1 Switch

Energy – 15

4 Prism
4 Rainbow
4 W
2 F
1 Rescue

pokemon-paradijs.comThe main objective of this deck is to be up and running as soon as possible. In most games this means a strong Turn 2 start with set ups taking longer than Turn 3 non-existent. Even though Electrode Prime gives up a prize, this deck’s speed is high enough that little in terms of come-from-behind cards and strategies are needed. Twins may seem like a natural

Of all the attackers that I auditioned, which included Cobalion, Kyurem, Reshiram-EX, Regigigas-EX, Terrakion, and Zekrom-EX, the combination of Kyurem and Terrakion proved strongest against the meta. Terrakion is incredibly strong against the abundance of Lightning decks in the format, but is just okay against the rest of the format.

That’s also how I came across Kyurem. Not only does it further solidify my Zeels game, but also serves to soften up targets for Terrakion in matchups where a Fighting beat stick alone isn’t enough. I’ll get more into specific details about matchups in a bit

One card that worked really well, even better than I thought it would, was Exp. Share. One of CoKE’s biggest problems was end-game stamina. If you got a light Energymite and your opponent scored an early 1HKO, it wasn’t uncommon that you were forced to use Energy Press/Outrage or worse yet, pass attacking entirely, because you ran out of in-play Energy.

My inclusion of Shaymin shouldn’t be too much of a shock; it offers a lot of flexibility by letting you switch gears and lead with another attacker better suited for the situation. If your active Pokémon was just KO’d and its Energy was given to two different Pokémon on your bench via Exp. Share, you can use Shaymin to reorganize your scattered Energy to one, ready to attack Pokémon.

Matchups – “The Big 2”

pokemon-paradijs.comKaTE/TaKE has a strong array of matchups overall, making it one of my top choices for Regionals. To start, the thick Terrakion count swings the Zeels and EelZone matchups into our favor. You can use Kyurem to lock them out of Tynamo and/or kill any Eelektrik they do get set up. Combine that Defender locking them out of 1HKOs and Tornadus rendered ineffective by Kyurem and we definitely approach auto-win territory.

Your chances against CMT are about 50/50, with each deck having its advantages and disadvantages. Kyurem is strong here, able to stack damage on your opponent’s big Pokémon and bring them into range for Terrakion. It also punishes your opponent for putting down Celebi, which will help starve them of Energy. It also helps that Kyurem can’t be 1HKO’d easily, especially if you use Defender, meaning you can get a lot of mileage out of Outrage.

Probably the biggest threat they can throw your way would be an Eviolite’d Mewtwo EX stacked with 3-4 Energy on it. This would make it a 3HKO for Terrakion, near impossible for Kyurem to kill as well as being capable of 1HKOing either of those two Pokémon once fully charged. This is the kind of situation where you’ll want to drop a Mewtwo EX + Shaymin UL, which will let you score 2 Prizes and destroy a lot of resources on your opponent’s part.

Thankfully, due to Glaciate killing off Celebi and making your opponent wary of placing anymore down, you don’t have to worry much about facing more than one loaded Mewtwo EX with an Eviolite, especially since most lists rarely run more than 1-2 copies of Eviolite.

Matchups – Continued

Against Durant, your best bet will be getting a Terrakion fully charged and hitting for 90, which will be enough to 1HKO most Durant. Watch out for the Mewtwo EX drop, which more and more builds are running. You’ll almost certainly want to keep a Voltorb on the bench in case they manage a 4-Energy KO on Terrakion. When you know the Mewtwo KO is coming, playing a Defender each turn for a few turns can be an effective delaying tactic.

Kyurem is pretty strong here as well. A lot of people say otherwise because of Special Metals and Eviolite, which reduce its damage output. However, there are a few things to consider. First of all, the popularity of Eviolite and even Special Metals, for Lost Remover in the mirror, are declining. In our current card pool, there are very few commonly played Pokémon that can hit for 70 damage, but not 80-90.

Also, they’re going to have a harder time getting these cards as well because Twins won’t be activated early, so they’ll be relying on luck-based PONT/Juniper to get Eviolites/Special Metals.

There are a lot of different variations of Tetrakion. Some are running Landorus while others include Tornadus and Mewtwo EX. But as far as we’re concerned, all these matchups play pretty much the same for us and we use a near-identical game plan for each.

To stay in the game, an Energymite and an attacking Kyurem/Terrakion by Turn 3 at the latest is very important. If you start getting hit by then without responding, you’re going to fall behind fast, especially once Electrode gives up an additional prize.

Speaking of, since this is a near-mirror exchange, Energymite’s downside is pretty significant here. What this means is we need some sort of strategy in order to get ahead on prizes. It’s likely your opponent will try and get multiple Terrakion with Exp. Share on their bench asap, which means you might be able to catch them off guard with Kyurem. A double Glaciate to put the Terrakion down to 70 HP followed by a stream of Terrakion is almost always enough to seal the game.

Kyurem and Terrakion are really great attackers to have in a deck. They’re really different, but work together really well and make for strong matchups against the entirety of the expected format. Put that together with the sheer speed and power of Electrode along with the sustainability of Exp. Share and you’ve got yourself a recipe for success.

Vileplume + Reuniclus

cartoonstock.comSince its emergence at the 2011 World Championships all throughout Battle Roads and Regionals, The Truth remained one of the strongest decks in the format. Arguably the slowest deck in the format, it employs many “slow deck” tactics to the extreme.

The Truth pulls out all the stops when it comes to come-from-behind Trainers and Supporters, including a maxed out Twins count, Tropical Beaches and 4 N. As is the strategy of Ross variants, Reuniclus and Vileplume work together to form a skin-tight lock. Reuniclus ensures that if your opponent cannot score a 1HKO on your active Pokémon, they won’t be able to Knock it Out period.

Vileplume’s Poké-Body locks out several key cards including Pokémon Catcher, to protect your bench, Rocky Helmet/PlusPower, to help prevent 1HKOs and consistency crutches like Pokémon Communication and Junk Arm.

The list:

Pokémon – 21

3 Solosis BLW
2 Duosion NVI
2 Reuniclus BLW
3 Oddish UD
3 Vileplume UD

2 Pichu HS

2 Terrakion NVI
2 Kyurem-EX NXD
1 Mewtwo-EX NXD
1 Shaymin-EX NXD

Trainers – 27

4 N
4 Pokémon Collector
4 Sage’s Training
4 Twins
1 Professor Elm’s Training Method
1 Seeker


4 Rare Candy

3 Pokémon Communication


2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 12

4 Double Colorless
4 Prism
4 Rainbow

As you can see, this build devotes a lot of space toward the Turn 2 Vileplume. In my experience, I’ve found that the early Vileplume often means the difference between a win and a loss. Delaying the lock beyond your second or third turn generally means giving up even more prizes, putting you at such a deficit in prizes that you can’t come back from.

It used to be that you could fall behind by 4-5 Prizes, but then if you could get the lock established, you could come back. However, with Mewtwo EX’s popularity and it being able to hit for a potentially unlimited amount of damage, you can’t really afford to fall behind by more than 3 Prizes before getting the lock established.

With the adjusted Vileplume line and maxed out Rare Candy and Twins, I’ve been able to get a turn 2 lock far more consistently than with any other list I’ve played.

Except for Terrakion, every potential starter in this deck has a Retreat Cost of CC or less, with most needing only a single Energy to Retreat. Taking this into account, I would love to get a Tyrogue in the list.

Out of the 14 Basic Pokémon in this deck, 12 can be Retreated for a single Energy, so any time in which a Tynamo donk is possible, I would be able to achieve it fairly consistently. Right now, the only thing stopping me is space. This build has very little space for luxury cards, no matter how strong.

At any given in-game situation, I have four different attackers to choose from; two Kyurem EX, Mewtwo EX, Shaymin EX and two Terrakion.


pokemon-paradijs.comTetrakion variants are pretty favorable for Ross.dec Once you get the lock set up, you can keep swinging with just about any Pokémon until you collect your prizes whether it’s Kyurem EX, Terrakion or Shaymin EX. Mewtwo EX is cause for caution, but it’s at its weakest in Tetrakion.

Terrakion and Kyurem EX is my go-to attacker for the CMT matchup. Since this deck places minimal focus on Mewtwo EX, discarding DCEs on their Tornadus’ and/or Mewtwo EX with “Frozen Wings”. In order for Mewtwo EX to 1HKO Kyurem EX, it will need 5-6 Energy.

While it’s difficult for your opponent to meet this demand more than once, it isn’t impossible, which is why I favor leading with a couple Terrakion first. You’ll be able to 2HKO either of its attackers as well as any teched in Regigigas. Mewtwo EX can get the 1HKO with four Energies, but if they won’t be able to 1HKO 1-2 Terrakion AND 1-2 Kyurem EX.

To counter Durant, a surprisingly effective weapon is Trainer lock. Putting resources toward getting Vileplume up and running seems questionable, but it’s actually a very effective way to shut them down. Once you lock them out of Junk Arm, Crushing Hammer, Revive, Lost Remover, Level Ball, etc., you’ll have a pretty huge advantage. Every Knock Out you take will be that much more impactful because they’ll have less ways to get the 4th Durant back in play.

Regardless of whether you can get Vileplume in play or not, your next strategy should be getting a Pokémon charged up that can regularly take KOs on Durant, such as Terrakion or Regigigas-EX, if you choose to run it.

Against Zeels, the strategy is pretty obvious; use Terrakion to take 1HKOs turn after turn. 130 HP puts it outside the range of Zekrom, Thundrus and Tornadus. Zekrom-EX can break the 130 HP Barrier, but you should get the revenge KO with another Terrakion. Few builds run more than a single copy, so all you usually need is one good KO to lock them out of the option.

pokemon-paradijs.comMewtwo EX can cause real problems for Reuniclus builds, so you may be wondering why I only run one copy. To put it simply, a Mewtwo EX war will rarely end in our favor. In the early game, you will more than likely fall behind a few prizes. Once the lock is established, you can use X attacker to nab a couple prizes. During this time, your opponent will be using their Eels and DCEs to load Energies onto their Mewtwo EX.

Once they bring it active to score a 1HKO, they’ll want to take a few prizes with it. By responding with an instant revenge KO, quite often you will create a lull lasting a few turns in which they won’t have another Mewtwo EX charged up. It is during this time that I’ll usually grab my last prizes and win the game.

Side Note: Zapdos NXD

I’m not a huge fan of Zapdos. I’d much rather be putting the space toward a copy of Thundurus EPO and a higher Pokémon Catcher count. There’s a fair amount of players who do like Zapdos, so you need to know how to play against it. At first, I likened it to Chandelure and thought it would make Zeels decks running it an auto-loss. But after initial testing, I began to learn how to play around it and not before long it was a lot less scary than it looked on paper.

First things first, Zapdos has the ability to snipe for 50 damage each turn, so there’s a few key things to keep in mind. First of all, even after the lock is up, you can’t just put down a lone Solosis; it still needs to be done in pairs. This will prevent you from being locked out of Reuniclus.

If they don’t whip out Zapdos until you’ve already got the full set up going, your first priority should be getting Reuniclus and Vileplume out of KO range. Once they do bring Zapdos active, your effective tactic will be to bring up Kyurem EX to 1HKO Zapdos. I’ve yet to come across a Zeels build running more than one copy of Zapdos, so once you KO the initial bird, you won’t have to worry about further threats to your bench.


pokemon-paradijs.comThe final deck I’d like to present is DonMega. For the most part, this variation on Stage 1’s isn’t a top tier deck, but is rising in popularity. Probably the biggest catalyst for this deck returning to competitive status is Lightning Pokémon being so popular, which has created a format in which Donphan Prime can shine.

The other main component in this deck is Yanmega Prime. Donphan is basically just a mini-tank beat stick that keeps charging at the active Pokémon. Donphan is a strong card, which is why it works, but in order to truly make it competitive, I’ve always felt another angle is needed. In that void swung in Yanmega. Unlike Donphan, Yanmega is a very strategic tool that requires a good amount of skill and planning to reap maximum benefits from it. Together, they offer good coverage of the meta in a fast and consistent package.

A problem I ran into pretty early on was Tornadus EPO and to a lesser extent, Yanmega. Either of these Pokémon can cause a real headache for Donphan variants that aren’t prepared for them, with Yanmega being the lesser of two evils due to its incompatibility with Eviolite.

Yanmega was originally my most effective way to handle a Tornadus, but once they kept churning out Tornadus with Eviolite, it was only a matter of time before I whiffed on a hand-match and my opponent pulled ahead in the exchange.

I tried running as many as three copies of Ruins of Alph, but I never really got the point where I was really comfortable with the matchup, which wasn’t acceptable because CMT is Tier 1. So, I decided to take a page out of D&D’s playbook and run two Zekrom BW. It didn’t take long for me to regret not doing this sooner. Not only was the CMT matchup drastically swung in my favor, but having the capability to hit for as much as 140 damage for just a DCE

Here is my final list for Donphan/Yanmega:

Pokémon – 15

4 Phanpy HS

3 Donphan Prime
3 Yanma TM
3 Yanmega Prime
2 Zekrom NXD

Trainers – 31

4 Pokémon Collector
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
2 Copycat
2 Judge
2 N


4 Pokémon Communication

3 Junk Arm
3 Max Potion

3 Pokémon Catcher
2 PlusPower
1 Super Rod
1 Switch


1 Ruins of Alph

Energy – 14

10 F
4 Double Colorless

One of the most powerful cards this deck has at its disposal is Max Potion. With Donphan being able to attack for as little as one Energy and Yanmega needing none at all, being able to fully heal a Pokémon in exchange for loosing a single Energy drop is really strong. Multiple Donphan are hard enough to take down, so being able to rejuvenate an injured Donphan helps drag close matchups into our favor.

I’m pretty happy with the Supporter lines; I feel like it offers enough in terms of fostering comebacks via disruption while still being able to match hand sizes consistently. It was also important that in games where I don’t want to use Yanmega that I have enough Supporters that can net larger hands to fish out the Energy/Catchers/Donphan parts I need.


I’d like to start off by talking about DonMega’s Zeels matchup, which is pretty strongly in your favor. Donphan Prime is obviously the guy that carries this matchup, being all-but-impossible to 1HKO being able to chop through Zekrom and Thundrus like chopped liver.

Mewtwo EX isn’t a particularly effective counter because, if you’re only equipped with the lone Energy, they’ll need 6 energy to score the KO. Taking into account the fact they don’t necessarily need to 1HKO because you cannot 1HKO them, you still have the advantage in this matchup by a pretty good margin.

Unfortunately, the Durant and Terrakion matchups aren’t as favorable. Our most effective tactic against Durant was the usual get-three-Energy-on-Donphan strategy, but with no Energy acceleration to be found, a few lucky Crushing Hammer flips can spell trouble. Combined with Durants ability to steal games against a slow start with a few good discards and we’re not as strong against Durant as I’d like to be.

Terrakion could be worse; I can usually go head to head with it in terms of KOs and the prize race, but it’s more likely I’ll “whiff” on a constant stream of attackers than my opponent will. Not only are they exclusively Basic Pokémon, but they have Exp. Share and can dish out 90 damage for as little as two Energy. All my attackers on the other hand are Stage 1’s and Yanmega requires a constant mirroring of hands. Max Potion is strong, but doesn’t really put me ahead because they run Defender, which essentially does the same thing; prevent KOs.

The CMT matchup is a bit more interesting, but definitely still in our favor. Between Zekrom and the teched in Ruins of Alph, Tornadus doesn’t make for a very effective wall anymore. You can also use either Linear Attack or Pokémon Catcher to work around a built up Tornadus until you get a Zekrom ready to go as well.

Another strategy that has worked well in testing is consistently picking off their Celebi Prime. By reducing their options to get a Mewtwo EX/Tornadus charged up, you slowly back your opponent into a corner to the point that they whiff on a key Energy drop, which when capitalized on can be enough for you to steal the game.

pokemon-paradijs.comDonMega’s good matchups are pretty impressive, having a favorable game against CMT and a near auto-win against Zeels. Neither its Durant or Terrakion matchup is particularly bad, but in each my opponent has some slight edge that puts them ahead. This is definitely an anti-metagame deck. If your area is very diverse, DonMega may not be the best selection, but in areas with a meta that’s narrowly focused on CMT and Zeels, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better suited deck.

Playing a Dark Horse – Summary

Just like when you’re selecting any other deck for a tournament, your success will hinge on your ability to choose a deck that can thrive in the meta. Perhaps even more than the “Big” decks, playing a surprise deck demands an even keener ability to deduce the expected meta accurately and then effectively select and build competitive deck for said meta.

This is a really, really difficult thing to do, but when it all goes right, that’s when you’ll achieve some of your best tournament showings yet.

Preparing for the Meta – States vs Regionals

The undisputed top decks in the format are Zeels and CMT. Not just in the amount of Top 8 showings, but more importantly in the number of wins, these decks are leaps and bounds ahead of all the other decks in the format. Following a distance behind are Durant and Terrakion variants, both of which put up solid numbers and managed to take home multiple events. But like I said, these numbers are far lower than that of the Big Two.

I think this format is really unique. At Cities, the meta was incredibly diversified. There was just a huge number of decks that were taking home events. That still holds true to an extent, but the gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 is much larger than we’ve seen in a long time.

Just like Fall Regionals, for Spring Regionals we’re going to be playing with a “used” format that’s already been defined in a previous tournament series. If you look back at the results of Fall BRs and Regionals, you’ll notice their metas are extremely similar. The State/Province/Territorial format is carrying over to Regionals, so I think we can expect history to repeat itself.

pokemon-paradijs.comHowever, I would like to make one thing clear. Just because the card pool is the same doesn’t mean that nothing changes. I hypothesize that while Zeels and CMT are all but certain to maintain their commanding lead on the format, I’m expected a few other decks (Terrakion in particular) to keep picking up steam and chip away at their domination slightly.

Is CMT Still “The Play”?

In my last article, which was wedged between the first and second week of Stats, I said that CMT is likely to be the strongest play for Week 2, which ended up being a pretty good call. Its Zeels matchup is slightly in your opponent’s advantage, but I felt that CMT’s speed and its ability to steal games outright offset this. Terrakion steadily got more popular, which made Zeels a riskier play, but CMT has a strong Terrakion matchup.

Even though the meta is unlikely to go through any drastic metamorphosis, it is continuously evolving. Our goal is to stay one step ahead. A big (and common) mistake that players will make during a tournament series is to prepare for last week’s meta. They’ll check out the results for the previous week, think “okay, A and B are the biggest decks, but I’ll probably run into some C and D.”

But it’s important that you aren’t thinking like that. Most businesses nowadays use charts, models, etc., to calculate the approximate profits they will make in the next week/month. They don’t just assume their profit margin will stay the same month after month. If you own an ice cream shop in Wisconsin, odds are your profits will be higher in July than in December. My point is, looking ahead, use the facts to predict how the meta is likely to change and then prepare for that environment.


pokemon-paradijs.comI haven’t decided for sure if I’m going to Regionals (doing so means I probably won’t be able to attend Nationals), so I’ll have to decide in the next few days which tournament I want to attend the most. Until I choose otherwise, I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’ll be playing at Regionals, so I’ve been preparing just as hard as ever.

As for what I’ll be playing, I’ve been weighing a couple different options. If I end up “playing it straight,” Terrakion is all but certain to be my deck of choice. However, I haven’t ruled out playing a surprise anti-metagame deck either (KaTE is actually my #1 choice if I go this route). I’m going to keep an eye on the meta right up until the last minute and see if the former-anti-meta-turned-state-champion-now-legitimate-contender is best suited for the meta or if playing something unexpected and different will be a better move.

In Closing

In this article, I’ve stepped away from what is the norm for an article. Instead of giving another take on one or more tier 1 decks, I focused on the evolution-based decks of the format. These are clearly underdogs in the format, but I strongly urge you not to underestimate these decks. They’re legitimate contenders for Regionals.

Apart from Nationals, Regionals will be the last big US tournament of the season. If you didn’t perform as well as you were hoping at States, treat Regionals as a shot at redemption. Learn from your mistakes at States and practice long and hard to nail down the details of your deck and its matchups. This way, whether you take first place or whiff on the top cut, you know you gave it your all; you have a reason to hold your head up high.

Best of luck at Regionals everyone! Any questions or comments can be directed in the comments section or emailed to me at:

Signing off,
Dakota Streck

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