With the rotation of HeartGold & SoulSilver and a current lull in tournaments for all but the worlds top players, the past month has been the perfect time to start playing decks for our future format. And with the game slowing down significantly, now is the perfect time to look through the binder and see if any previously overlooked cards have gained any playability.
The first card to jump out at me was Archeops, from the Noble Victories expansion. Archeops is a Stage 1 Pokémon with a Grass Weakness, 130 HP, a meta-friendly attack (honestly, read it), and an Ability called Ancient Power. Ancient Power reads: “Each play can’t play any Pokémon from his or her hand to evolve his or her Pokémon.” That sounds like a pretty awesome Ability. Sadly, Archeops evolves from Archen, which is not a basic Pokémon…
The only way to get Archen into play is with the stadium card Twist Mountain (Once during each player’s turn, that player may flip a coin. If heads, the player puts a Restored Pokémon from his or her hand onto his or her Bench.) or the item card Plume Fossil (Look at the bottom 7 cards of your deck. You may reveal an Archen you find there and put it onto your Bench. Shuffle the other cards back into your deck.).
Neither option is terribly appealing if I’m honest. So to see if we can actually get an Archeops reliably into play, we’ll max out all of outs with a whopping 16 slots.
Pokémon – 8
4 Archen NVI
Trainers – 8
4 Plume Fossil
Energy – 0
With a total of 16 slots taken up for the chance at a single Archeops, we’re not left with a lot of room for an actual deck. A competitive deck should have great attackers, Energy acceleration, and be able to stack up to the perceived metagame of the future. So with that, I went with a Darkrai and Terrakion:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
The premise of the deck is simple. Stop their evolutions and hammer away with Darkrai EX and Terrakion. Darkrai EX solves quite a few problems, allowing both Archeops and Terrakion free retreat. Sadly, with the inclusion of a whopping 16 cards to execute our strategy, we don’t have a lot of room for luxury cards like Energy Switch, Eviolite, Dark Claw, Super Scoop Up, or Tool Scrapper. We still have room for a full suite of Supporters and our Energy acceleration, so all is not lost.
So, does it work? Yes and no. We are at the mercy of coin flips and what the bottom 7 cards of our deck contain. I’ve literally had a turn 2 Archeops going first, as well completely whiff an Archen the entire game (7 tails flips later). Usually an Archeops drop will happen somewhere in-between, around turns 3-4. Depending on your opponent’s set-up, this may be more than adequate to seal the game, or 2 turns two late against a hot running Eel.
You have a few things working for you in this matchup in that Terrakion hits much of the Hydreigon deck for Weakness, including Darkrai EX, Deino, and Zweilous. Additionally, it’s not a quick deck, often settling for a turn 3 Hydreigon. All of these fit perfectly into our strategy. If you go first, and have a bit of luck with your Archens, you should win this one.
Unlike Hydreigon, this deck relies on just Stage 1’s and not Stage 2’s, making our job of locking evolutions that much more difficult. If they don’t play Eviolite, you should be in good shape, but an Eviolited Mewtwo EX is still tough to overcome for a deck without a direct counter.
A few other things work in the Eels favor as well. Thundurus EPO can take down Archen without a flinch, Raikou EX can do 30 and Paralyze an Archeops, setting it up for a Volt Bolt KO. If they have Eviolite, your Terrakion won’t be able to respond. Another problem card is Max Potion, which really messes with our damage cap of 90.
This is my last well-tested matchup and the one that is most in our favor. Empoleon really isn’t a fast deck, despite its built in draw engine. Even if they get out 1 Empoleon you should be in good shape as Piplup and Prinplup have nearly useless attacks. Even Terrakion can be played around, by not activating their Exp. Shares, or even their Retaliates for that matter. The 60 HP Piplup also falls quickly to Night Spear snipe damage.
One interesting thing to note however, is that if they play Virizion, they can actually do some legitimate damage. Archeops is weak to Grass after all. If they can find their Prism Energies, it’s not impossible to whiff a Catcher (letting Leaf Wallop do it’s thing) and be left with a compromising board position.
The Rest of the Field
I can see decks that don’t bother with evolutions giving this deck a hard time. Nearly a third of your deck becomes useless and you don’t run any healing cards. I could see Entei EX, Ho-Oh EX (don’t underestimate this deck…), and Terrakion EX mowing straight through our deck.
So should you bother?
It really depends on where the meta settles after Battle Roads. If players move towards Stage 2 decks with intricate strategies and combos, then Archeops is definitely worth your testing hours. If the meta moves back towards Big Basics, then leave it in your binder. I wish I had some deeper analysis, but the reliability just isn’t here for it to become a serious choice for big tournaments.
Favorite Moment with Archeops
In one spectacular game against Mew EX/Zebstrika NXD, I got Archeops out before my opponent was able to get out their Zebstrika or Eelektrik, leaving poor Mew with absolutely nothing to copy and no Energy acceleration for the big attacks. Epic stuff.
While Archeops ended up being little more than a fun league curiosity, there is another Restored Pokémon that also has some potential: Aerodactyl. His Ability, Ancient Scream, reads: “Your Pokémon’s attacks do 10 more damage to the Active Pokémon (before applying Weakness and Resistance).”
This actually has some synergy with both Terrakion and Darkrai and helps them both hit some numbers that are relevant in the upcoming meta. Quite a few Pokémon have 130 HP that will turn Darkrai’s attack into 100+30 allowing some creative catcher double KO plays. Additionally, it helps Terrakion cut through Eviolited EXs like Raikou, Regigigas, and Darkrai himself.
There is also no Stage 1 to deal with, freeing up 4 slots and giving us more toys to play with. For this list, we’ll go ahead and go with an “All-In” strategy maximizing both Twist Mountain and Old Amber Aerodactyl:
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 38
Energy – 13
I actually like the Pokémon line (3 Darkrai and 2 Terrakion), draw engine, and Energy lines, so I left them all alone. With our 4 open spots (with no longer needing Stage 1’s) I went with a 4th Catcher (obvious choice) and 3 Eviolites. The 3 Eviolites should help our Darkrai’s live longer, as Archeop’s Ancient Power is no longer keeping us safe from evolved attackers.
In theory Aerodactyl lets us have the benefits of Dark Claw/Special Dark Energy (extra damage) while still having an Eviolite on our Darkrai. One Aerodactyl will also allow Terrakion’s Retaliate to KO any eviolited fighting-weak EX without the need for a plus-power.
While testing, I got unusually lucky with Old Amber Aerodactyls and rarely had problems getting a few of these guys on the board. Unfortunately, they make great catcher targets, forcing you to waste Energy attachments to retreat. You’re best off making sure you get your Energy attachments on your attackers and then getting fancy with your Aerodactyl drops (which will be easier with a thinner deck).
In general, this deck works much faster than Archeops. You can be more agressive with your Junipers as you are not forced to hang onto your Stage 1 Archeops. And unlike Archeops, you can focus your early efforts on getting Energy into play, rather than getting your restored pokes into play.
I didn’t get to test this particular build against as wide of a variety of decks compared to Archeops, but the deck has some positive things going for it making the 12 spots worth it. For one, you change the way prizes are exchanged as Darkrai is eliminating 20 damage every time it’s attacked, making your opponent over extend themselves for a 2 hit KO.
Darkrai swinging for 110-30 hits a few magic numbers. It OHKO’s Thundurus, Shaymin EX, and Virizion NVI, as well as random 100 HP stuff like Zoroark NXD and Stunfisk DRX. It’s also perfect against 140hp stage 2’s like Empoleon, Garchomp, and Klinklang, again setting up double KOs. Not to mention the 130hp monsters (Zekrom and Terrakion).
Favorite Moment with Aerodactyl
In one epic moment, I was a coinflip from hitting 120 total damage on a Hydreigon with 30 damage on it from a previous Night Spear for an epic KO. In general you can really swing a lot of matches you’re way as Aerodactyl can negate an opposing eviolite.
This is the first obvious tech, a fourth Darkrai. A few games I did have 2 Darkrais prized, but this should be statistically rare.
I really like this card, and opening with one really helps making Ultra Ball decisions easy (discard 2 Trainers and then get them back) or ease the pain of a tough Professor Juniper. However, I would really want to play with 3 to help assure I start with one and that would drastically alter the way the above lists function.
Energy manipulation is good. Klinklang won US Nationals and Shaymin UL won Worlds. I honestly feel this card is severely underplayed, it’s been testing well (turn 2 Land Crush anyone?).
As I noted in the Aerodactyl section above, 110 damage can seal the deal for many matchups. Ultimately, the choice between Dark Claw, Eviolite, and Tool Scrapper will come down to your local metagame.
With the loss of Junk Arm, it can be rather tough getting Dark Energy into the discard pile. An extra Dark Energy gives you better odds at having Energy in hand when you Juniper/Ultra Ball. Alternatively, an extra Fighting Energy could make it easier to use Terrakion, or even increase the odds of a Land Crush.
While both Aerodactyl and Archeops have amazing Abilities, they are hampered with a clumsy restored Pokémon mechanic that requires a lot of effort to get them moving. I don’t think Archeops will ever see competitive play unless a something is printed that allows for a more reliable way to get them on the bench (perhaps a Call For Family styled attack). Aerodactyl has a lot more potential since it doesn’t require any evolutions.
But wait, what about that other Restored Pokémon?
I wasn’t planning on looking at Carracosta, but I was told I couldn’t look at Archeops and Aerodactyl without mentioning him, so… our final restored Pokémon is Carracosta (well, technically it’s Tirtouga) and unlike the previously mentioned Pokémon, he doesn’t perform a secondary role. He is meant to attack.
Carracosta is a Stage 1 Water-type Pokémon with a massive 140 HP, a good Weakness, and a decent Ability. Solid Rock reads: “If any damage is done to this Pokémon by attacks, flip a coin. If heads, reduce that damage by 50 (after applying Weakness and Resistance).” With a single heads flip on Solid Rock, any deck with a damage cap of 90 will be 3-shotting you (90+40=130).
Carracosta’s attack it what lets him down however. For 2 Colorless Energy and 2 Water Energy, Carracosta does an underwhelming 80 damage, but you do get to automatically discard an Energy attached to the Defending Pokémon. While this section is pure theorymon, this is how I would start my testing:
Pokémon – 12
4 Tornadus EPO
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
As I’ve said, I’ve thoroughly tested the other fossils, but I don’t think I would ever give Carracosta a real look. But the above list is the only way I can see it working. You are guaranteed a Tornadus start, and if you hit a Double Colorless on the first 2 turns you should be able to start Hurricane-ing Energy to your benched Tirtougas/Carracostas and applying early pressure on your opponent.
The Exp. Share seems necessary, as Carracosta has an incredibly hefty 4-Energy attack cost. Something I hadn’t realized (did anyone else?) is that both of the turtles are compatible with Heavy Ball, which does add a bit of consistency to the Trainer engine. I went with 4 Random Receiver to help hit early hand refreshes with N as you are relying on a lot of things to go your way in order to even get off the ground, let alone running.
I really wish Carracosta did 90 damage rather than 80, but I guess it one-shots a Ho-Oh EX. Perhaps he is best played with some sort of energy denial strategy incorporating Hammers but I really don’t see that working either. In the end, Carracosta will likely remain binder fodder until he is ultimately rotated out of the format.