Going off the Deep End: Intricacies of the New Format

By this point, you’ve probably seen countless lists online. Additionally, you also understand more about the new archetypal concepts, as well as some of the feeder rogues.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is that many people do not know all that much about the deeper elements of the BLW–DRX format, which will be your test for Fall Battle Roads and Regionals. For that reason, I’d like to share some of the most interesting card interactions, play executions, and strategies that I’ve encountered in a month and a half of play-testing.

Like previous articles, this is going to be a short, yet dense discussion, so I’ll be covering a lot of different ground. This article is best viewed as my notes on handling the game as it is now – nothing more or less.

The Draw Dilemma

Oh yeah. This card is still legal… thanks Pokémon!

As we’ve discussed earlier, your draw options are horribly lacking in diversity. Between N, Professor Juniper, Cheren, and Bianca, you can only play a maximum of 16 draw Supporters overall. Add in Xtransceiver and Random Receiver, and the maximum number of outs you have for draw in a deck is 24. It is this what we call the “draw dilemma,” and it is in my opinion the biggest problem that most players will have in grasping our new format. Learn to build lists and play within these confines, and you should do well.

In most formats, this wouldn’t be a problem. After all, decks in the days of Base Set ran maximum counts of Professor Oak and Bill constantly. Even in our last format, which had a very non-diverse mix of PONT, Sage, N, and Professor Juniper, you could mix and match your draw to the point where it could fit just right.

However, things are not quite like that nowadays. You don’t have consistency crutches like Smeargle and Cleffa to bail you out of bad spots. Even worse is the fact that all of the draw cards clash with each other. By that, I mean that you can rarely play one without hurting your chances of using the other. For example…

– When playing Cheren with a decent-sized hand, you decrease the likelihood of being able to play a decent-sized Bianca, which requires you to have less than four cards in your hand in order to be effective.

– When playing Professor Juniper with several draw cards and/or Random Receivers in your hand, you decrease your odds of recovering against a late game N: after all, you just dumped all of your draw to use draw!

Even if there is not a clash between the cards, you’ll still find issues. Cheren by itself is woefully inadequate, and in the late game, N is no longer draw so much as it is disruption.

pokemon-paradijs.comAccounting for these problems is not easy, so my number one recommendation is to run a healthy number of Random Receivers in your list. By playing Random Receiver, you not only up your odds of hitting just any Supporter; you also increase your odds of hitting the right Supporter. Let’s say for a moment that you have a hand of six cards after drawing for the turn, and it consists of three Biancas, two Evolutions you can’t play, and a Rare Candy you can’t play either.

As it stands, you could only Bianca for one card, but had one of those Bianca been a Random Receiver, you might have been able to dump the bad hand for something better, such as an early game N or Cheren. As a general warning, it’s probably not the most beneficial move to play tons of Random Receivers early game: by playing that Random Receiver on top of your Supporter for the turn, you’ve used one draw card for the price of two outs, making you weaker to late game N.

(Xtransceiver can do a better job with the diversification; however, it depends on a flip, and the last thing you want to do is hinge your consistency on luck, which is definitively inconsistent!)

You’ll find that even with Random Receivers, you still have troubles. This is natural, and the only way around it for now is to play smart. Sometimes, you really do have to discard a boat load of Supporters just to use a Professor Juniper, and at other times, you may have to avoid playing an N at all costs. At any rate, work with what you have, and make the most educated decisions (often educated guesses) that you can.

Since the loss of Call Energy, you only have two viable ways to search out your Pokémon: Trainers (Items) and a select class of Pokémon.


pokemon-paradijs.comIn almost every deck, the question should not be, “Should I run Items?” Rather, you should ask yourself, “How many search Items should I run, and which ones?” So unless you have an extraordinarily compelling reason, always run search items, and always run them in a healthy quantity (no less than three).

That said, keep in mind a couple general principles:

1. The more setup is involved with your list, the more search Items you’ll need. For a deck like Gothitelle without its own built-in engine (like Garchomp/Altaria), I would recommend at least five to six Items. For a more standard list, or something with its engine, go with three or four. About the only time you want to go down on search is when you run a very simple concept, such as Quad decks.

2. Run Level Ball when you have <100 HP guys; run Pokémon Communication when you have a high Pokémon count; otherwise, run Ultra Ball as a default, or when you can either afford the discards.

Select Pokémon

In past formats, players could splash consistency lines of Pokémon cards capable of searching out other Pokémon cards. This would either take the form of basic fetchers, à la Dunsparce Sandstorm or Pachirisu Great Encounters, or otherwise consist of Bench-sitters with solid Poké-Powers (Pidgeot FireRed & LeafGreen).

Nowadays, however, the format is so fast that you cannot safely play one of these cards unless at least one of these conditions are met:


1. It can be incorporated into your strategy, or add to the diversity of your deck’s tactics.

The reason why Froslass Arceus (for those who remember) was so unplayable was because it was impossible to incorporate into a deck meaningfully: Water Weakness could never be exploited, and the Power’s effect was good, but not enough to justify the two spaces – especially when everyone ran Power Spray to shut it off!

Currently, though, Roserade DRX 15 could be justifiable, seeing as how there is no Ability lock beyond Garbodor, and it could stand to be an emergency Grass attacker if you have the right Energy.

2. It already fits into the flow of your deck.

Unless you had no choice in the matter, who in his right mind would run the Gabite without the Dragon Call Ability?!

If you guys have been reading my articles for a while, you should know that I strongly discourage having set formulas for deck building; that is, I encourage you to always look at deeper and more interesting levels of archetypal construction (hence the name “Going off the Deep End”). Still, if you’re not sure how to incorporate the two, I highly recommend you start with 4 item-search and whatever amount of Pokémon search your deck requires.

So in the event of Garchomp/Altaria, four Pokémon Communication (or, more popularly, Level Ball) would make sense, seeing as how you have three if not four Gabite to crutch your consistency. While in many decks this is sub-optimal, it does work, and is therefore a good starting point for a new season.

Combatting Garbodor’s Garbotoxin

BulbapediaIt’s been quite a few formats since we had viable methods to shut off not just one, but all types of Poké-Bodies and Poké-Powers (or rather, Abilities as they’re now called). Garbodor is that new viable method, and it’s going to be in several variants this season. Right now we already have it being paired with Mewtwo EX, Terrakion NVI/Terrakion-EX, Groudon EX, Registeel-EX, or a combo thereof, wreaking havoc on your typical setup decks.

Fortunately for you, though, Garbotoxin is a highly conditional disruption Ability: you have to get the Trubbish in play, keep it safe for a turn, evolve it, and – at an appropriate point – keep and leave the necessary Tool attached. Each of these aspects is something that you as a non-Garbodor player can exploit, so do it!

Killing Trubbishes

By running a high Catcher count, as well as the right attackers, slaughtering a legion of Trubbishes should be easy. As you can guess, Mewtwo EX is one of the best attackers for this purpose, and can take them out quickly. Even if you can’t eliminate the Garbotoxin threat outright at this point, your attacking of Trubbishes should still throw an opponent off enough so that you can finish the Garbodors out later.

What if you can’t counter the Garbodors fast enough through this method? Well, you have a few options, including those to be discussed later; however, by running the right attackers, you can last a game even without any Abiliites at all. Naturally powerful cards like Mewtwo and Darkrai can stand on their own for a respectable amount of time against an Ability-locking deck – at least long enough to let you hold out while waiting for…


Tool Scrapper

The one obvious solution to Garbodor is Tool Scrapper, as it discards Tools. The real question regarding this card is the amount necessary for a standard deck. To this, I’d say it depends on your reliance on Abilities. For instance, in a deck where Abilities only feature as a less essential element, like Darkrai EX’s Dark Cloak, you could skirt by with only one or even no Catchers. Quite often, just using Pokémon Catcher to fetch the Garbodor will suffice if your need for Abilities is less essential.

However, for Abilitiy-driven decks (e.g., my Accelgor list), I’m beginning to accept that two or even three Tool Scrapper is an absolute essential. In lists in between these two extremes, such as Zeel (not a lot of Ability reliance, but still enough to require action), then a solid two count would be optimal.

Keeping Garbodor out of Play

This last point is perhaps the most obscure one, but there are ways you can keep Garbodor from hitting the board at all. If you are an Ability user and have been doing a good job keeping Garbotoxin in check, then, in the late game, you can “soft counter” any possible Garbo evolutions via N. The hard counter, however, is Item lock via Gothitelle and Zebstrika.

Our format is driven by Pokémon Communications and Ultra Balls, so if these are unavailable to your opponent, his or her odds of drawing into a way to access Garbo decrease by as much as 80% (assuming 4 Comm, 4 Ultra Ball, and 2 Garbo).

Garbodor is an effective card, but as Fall Regionals arrives and players become savvier, it will fade away somewhat. Be that as it may, make sure you don’t get caught off guard!

Conserving and Using Your Beat Cards

Au revoir!

So you don’t have Junk Arm anymore? Well too bad, ‘cause I don’t either!

Actually, I’m glad to see this card go: it let players be sloppy with their execution of moves, duplicate broken effects an inordinate number of times, and generally starve the game of good, clean skill. The problem, though, is getting off of that drug: how do we play like we once did?

Do not automatically cram more copies of broken cards into your deck just because Junk Arm is gone. Remember that everyone else’s space is just as limited as yours, so it’s not so much about playing a bunch of cards that could take away from consistency as it is about knowing when to use your “beat” cards to maintain momentum. Ultimately, this will come down to how effectively you can play those resources.

Conserving Beats

– Don’t Juniper away your good stuff unless you have a better reason. Last format, there was an ongoing debate when to use a Juniper or a PONT in your hand, and many players settled on PONT in most instances due to the conservation of resources. This format, that same principle applies, but without the option to play something as good as PONT, you may be forced into tough decisions.

At times, you WILL want to discard all four of your Pokémon Catchers; at other times, you might do something as unorthodox as pass for a turn or two. It all comes down to matchups, your deck, and your ability to handle a severely limited resource pool, so take a deep breath every time this happens, and work out a decision to the best of your ability.

pokemon-paradijs.com– On that same note, don’t ever spend resources unless the payoff (or probability of payoff) justifies it. All players can drop Catchers until they’re blue in the face; however, what makes you a strong player is your ability to figure out the benefit of a Catcher drop. The same applies to every other beat card, which can in fact be wasted to a greater extent.

Part of the reason why I’ve won so much on PlayTCG with my Accelgor list, yet struggled against more competent “name” players was because the latter category was far more likely to hold onto their Switches until just the right moment.

Using Beats

– Never be afraid to use beat cards when they stand to give you a real benefit. If you know that playing Pokémon Catcher will destabilize your opponent’s setup to the point of assuring you a win, DO IT!!! At times, you may even want to take a slight gamble, such as discarding a good hand via Professor Juniper in order to hit the single PlusPower you need to win the game with an X Ball against a 50 HP Pokémon.

However, like I said earlier, always be conscious of payoffs, and always, always, always have at least an approximation of the probabilities at work. You don’t have to be capable of calculating a permutation down to the T in your head, but you do need to know “Doing X is unlikely,” or “I’m almost guaranteed to draw Y!”

– Be aware that beats are finite in most decks, and as such need to be timed well. In many games, I’ve held resources early game so that I could draw into them later. In this format, with many players (including yourself) running four N, it will be more important than ever to give yourself good odds of drawing a late game Catcher, or of getting Super Scoop Ups to heal damaged EX attackers.

Opinions on Decks and Deck Weaknesses

To close out this very dense, yet pithy article, let’s look at all of the main archetypes. Since simply grasping list structure is not going to help you shore up your game in time for Battle Roads, I won’t be churning out any exact skeletons. Specifically, I’ll give advice on how to build each list based off of the above discussions, as well as how to address each deck’s weaknesses.

Totaling up the sum of everything, I’ll then give a final recommendation on “the play” (spoiler alert: it will not be an absolute “you must play this deck” point).


Recommended testing source: Something like this

pokemon-paradijs.comSpoiler alert, but Eels is my top choice for Battle Roads (and maybe be my top choice for Regionals depending on metagame). For that reason, I’ll save the praising of the deck for that section, and go straight into pointing out the modern build’s weaknesses…

1. Getting your build right.

Although diversity is a positive for Eelektrik variants, no one build has successfully mastered every angle of the metagame while beating mirror at the same time. More often than not, lists will have a tiny flaw in them that can be exploited to the maximum – usually a lack of some critical card. Does the opponent run low switching? If so, you can Catcher.

This is a very broad rule, but I think it applies to Eels particularly well because its vulnerabilities are particularly obvious, especially in match play. For instance, a Garchomp can nab several fast kills without a Rayquaza EX or Zekrom-EX to keep it in check. Similarly, you might find that closing out a game against Hydreigon without the right number of Pokémon Catchers and Raikou-EX can be exceedingly difficult.

My advice for Zeels players who want to shore up this issue is keep hidden the fact that you don’t run X, Y, or Z counter card, as your opponent will play far more conservatively due to this approach. If this is not possible, such as in a best 2-of-three match, just win the game as quickly as possible, applying pressure so that your opponent cannot steamroll you.

As for those of you who want to exploit this weakness, play actively and keep thinking. In blind games against unknown lists, you should constantly ask yourself: “Based on what my opponent has played, what is he or she actually capable of playing later in the game?”


2. Tynamos.

Donks may be less frequent in general, but they are still relevant, and will lead to easy wins worldwide. Furthermore, since the rise in 4-4/4-3 builds, lone Tynamo starts have become more common. If you are the Zeel player, your solution is (and always has been) one of two paths: either run more Basics, or reject the idea of four Tynamo.

Even though I’m an advocate of four due to other reasons (powering up energy hog attackers, assuring that I can bench two on the first turn if need be, etc), either your metagame or select opponents in your area for Battle Roads may rely on fast, aggressive decks.

For that reason, it could be necessary to drop the count. Of course, if you feel like adding more basics is the right choice, then feel free – just make sure that they’re all useful Basics, and not just filler.

If you’re up against Eels and want to milk this weakness for all that it’s worth, run Tynamo killers full-stop. Mewtwo EX is the classic in this regard, but Stunfisk DRX has picked up some major steam, as well: for just a single Fighting, it 1HKOs active Tynamos while setting big Basics – or other Tynamos – up for knockouts later on in the game.

Garchomp/Altaria (a.k.a., “Fluffychomp” or “My Little Landshark: Friendship is Magic”)

Recommended testing source: Yuta Komatsuda’s Invite-Winning List

BulbapediaThe way that Garchomp plays out is extraordinarily linear: unless you get a fast turn two Garchomp, you’ll almost always be spending the second turn Dragon Calling, followed up by a hard-hitting third turn. This is why Garchomp is a much more monstrous deck than it appears to be on paper: because it has one of the best mid games in the entire format.

Whereas most fast decks prolong their same old strategy at this point, and other setup-oriented builds are still struggling to get what they need (e.g., sufficient energy for Hydreigon or Gothitelles for Accelgor), Garchomp’s Mach Cut is dishing out the most efficient damage you can.

Of course, this strength reveals two obvious weaknesses…

1. The early game.

Mewtwos, Rayquazas, and more are all out en masse – and they’re targeting you. What’s worse is that, given how Garchomp only “needs” eight Basics, donks become far more probable the lower a count you run. Hence, I would advise that you keep your card count up within reason, through cards like Emolga or tech Rayquaza. In case you are playing against the deck yourself, I advise you to take out whichever line is feasible – most likely the Gibles.

By Catchering them up early game, you’ll “only” have to deal with one or two triple Altaria-powered Garchomps, as opposed to four or five powered by one or two. Every turn your opponent isn’t attacking is a net “reduction” in damage dealt to you, so Catcher early and often when running a speed deck.


2. The late game.

Fast decks will by this point have access to all of their Super Scoop Ups and Max Potions to keep up momentum, whereas the clunkier decks will have their monster combos out on the board. Your answer here is to, as we discussed earlier, conserve your most vital “beats” (e.g., Catcher) until the moment is right.

However, for you players going up against Garchomp, I would continue targeting the Garchomps unless there is no other feasible way to grab prizes.


Recommended testing source: Japanese National Champion’s list; Colin’s article

Whereas endless Max Potions were kept in check by Item lock last format, Energy manipulation decks can now run free, healing all of their damaged attackers. This is why Hydreigon has arguably the best late game of any deck in the format, and why you should take it seriously. But just like the other builds discussed above, Hydreigon has some serious issues.

1. It has too much going on all at once.

kinneas64.deviantart.comThe concept’s premise is moving Energy, healing, “and” having all of the right attackers at precisely the time that you need them. These are a lot of demands on a deck with only 60 cards, so it is essential that you as a Hydreigon player recognize this, and plan accordingly. Work around tough situations, and don’t be afraid of rocking half-complete setups. They will happen, but if your good decisions in the moment preserve your chances of that scary late game healing combo, then all will have been worth it.

2. Drawing into Max Potions.

In a format where almost no competitive player runs less than three Pokémon Catcher, you’ll have to count on the opponent bringing up a previously-damaged Darkrai at the worst moment for you. This is why you need Max Potion, as well as in a respectable count; otherwise, late game N drops can ruin you.



Recommended testing source: Michael Weldon’s “The Trashman” article on HeyTrainer (plus several supplemental variations)

So here’s the scoop with this very real, yet very diverse variant: take Garbodors; pair them with strong metagame attackers; win. Simple, right?

For many players, it will be. Seeing as how many people don’t run the appropriate Garbodor counters, and given that just as many more people will run all of the decks countered by the likes of Mewtwo EX and Terrakion, these lists win their favorable matchups with ease.

However, my one and only main fear about Garbodor decks happens to be a major one: the moment when people play the right counters in the rigtht quantities. Essentially, this means that Garbodor’s weakness is an unfavorable metagame, in which Tool Scrapper is rampant and all of the counters discussed earlier are prevalent. At that point, the decision to focus Garbodor rather than focus strictly on the attackers becomes questionable.

To encourage the occurrence of this deck’s collapse, keep the hate cards coming; however, if you want to preserve the sanctity of your dirty little dumpster, run as many tools and recovery cards as you can. That way, a single Tool Scrapper won’t ruin your day.

What is “The Play ®”?

“The Play”

All of the above concepts are good, but right now, Eelektrik variants are monstrously strong. They lost very little due to rotation, are hurt least by the lack of draw diversity, and can splash in any attackers that best suit your metagame. Right now, my own build is monstrously teched: I run Mew-EX, Terrakion NVI, Rayquaza Secret Rare, Raikou-EX, and Shaymin EX all in the same 60 card list (tied together by running Revives instead of Super Rods so that I can reuse them when I’m ready).

It may not be the best deck in the whole format, but it is without a doubt the best way to give yourself a chance in every match, as well as introduce yourself to the new format.


This was a lot of reading all at once, so I’m happy that you’ve been able to stay with me until the end. Still, several of these issues may need extra attention, so if you have any questions, I wholeheartedly encourage you to post them on the forums.

…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.

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