Before we get to our main topic, I’d like to correct something from my last article: I was able to play in a few more Battle Roads (eventually winning one with Klinklang, a deck I wrote about a few months back) and get my total CP up to 341, which is fortunate for me as I hadn’t realized that the points awarded for Top 12 at Nationals are higher than those for the Top 16.
Thankfully it ended up not mattering for me after that last BR win, but it would’ve been severely disappointing had I lost in Top 16 and not realized I was actually 13th or something. That’s why you should always pay close attention to detail, kids.
Also, while we’re on the topic, the addition of the Last Chance for CP tournament on Sunday of Nationals is something I’d really like to commend Pokémon for. It’s obvious that not only do they want a bigger World Championship, but that they realize how much heartbreak can be associated with the current CP system (even though the current system is by far the best we’ve ever had).
This tournament should serve as a way for talented players who have had rough seasons or those who are oh so close (like me!) to seal the deal, with any luck. I’m also hoping that this means there will be Championship Points associated with the traditional LCQ at Worlds, but something like that probably would’ve been announced already.
If you plan on attending U.S. Nationals and have fewer than 200 CP going into the Last Chance tournament, please do not play. There are no prizes associated with the tournament and having anything fewer than 400 CP doesn’t count for anything, so literally all that you are doing is “grinching” someone else from possibly attaining a Worlds invite.
I know that this topic has been talked about to death so I won’t waste space going into it deeply here, but if you agree or disagree with me let me know in the forums (note that I may take a while to get back to you as I leave for Nationals the day this article is published and am road tripping back with David Cohen and won’t be home until the following Thursday).
Moving onto our main topic, we’re going to talk about the different Eelektrik variants that have been performing well (and outright winning) foreign Nationals as of late. I played the classic Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck to a top 4 finish at Oregon States before eventually falling to the overall winner Tyler Ninomura and his Garbodor/Landorus deck that won something like three different State Championships that weekend.
Obviously, the format has shifted a lot (I didn’t even play Victini-EX in mine, although I did include that in a later list), but I think that my experience with the deck lends some credibility to the opinions and information that I have. Plus, the deck has been around so long that I’m sure all of you have played with it or against it at some point during the last few years of tournament play.
As I typically do with these types of articles I’m going to go through and do a rundown of specific card interactions as well as provide matchup advice. This article is also going to focus heavily on different lists for the variants that have been winning across the globe, as they’re all different enough to have somewhat differing strategies and metagame advantages.
As I said before, Eelektrik has been around for so long that I’m sure all of you are somewhat familiar with most of the cards in it; however, there are so many different ways to run Eels right now that I feel like it’s necessary to go over all of the necessary components and why they’re good for the deck (this will be especially necessary as we get to one of the lists that I feel hasn’t been talked about nearly enough).
The core of what makes this deck work, Eelektrik is an almost criminally underrated card. I know it’s weird to say that a card that has won Nationals and multiple Regionals and States over the course of two years is underrated, but sometimes I feel like Pokémon players don’t look objectively enough at cards to understand just how powerful some of them are. Eelektrik has withstood the test of time again and again. If you look back through history you’ll see…
- The release of Mewtwo EX which spelled doom for Eels because Mewtwo could 1HKO Tynamos with X Ball and it would spawn decks such as CMT which were simply too fast for Eels to keep up with.
- The release of Darkrai EX which spelled doom for Eels because Darkrai decks could Catcher up an Eelektrik and 1HKO it with Night Spear while setting up another KO on benched Tynamos or Eelektriks.
- The release of Landorus-EX which spelled doom for Eels because Landorus could 1HKO a Tynamo and could set up KOs on Eelektriks or outright 1HKO them with Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank shenanigans.
- The release of Kyurem PLF which spelled doom for Eels because Kyurem was so fast and efficient at KOing Tynamos that the Eels decks would never be able to set up.
Obviously, while all of these did impact Eels’ playability in certain metagames and required adjustments to be made to the lists, none of them killed Eels outright as the hype train would make you believe, and with my best friend Mike Newman winning both a State and a Regional Championship with Eels, you could say that the deck has flourished lately if anything.
Tynamo used to be an interesting debate as the free retreat one was the clear play at first, before Darkrai EX was printed, and then people moved onto a split of Spark/Thunderwave in order to be better positioned versus Vileplume decks, but for this season it’s been pretty clear that the Thunderwave boy is where you want to be. Paralysis outright wins games and is very hard to argue against.
This was much more relevant back in the Autumn Battle Road/Autumn Regional days of this season where we were playing Fliptini in our Rayquaza/Eelektrik decks to stall with Tynamos and Raikous, but overall it’s still the correct choice and will likely remain that way for the rest of Eels’ lifespan in modified.
The printing of Rayquaza EX was a big part of the reason that Eelektrik decks were able to survive the onslaught that was TPCi seemingly trying to hate Eels out of the format by printing all of those cards I listed above. Not only is Rayquaza an incredibly powerful card, but it’s also in Eels’ colors, is weak to very few things, and works well with Skyarrow Bridge! Who would’ve known.
Rayquaza is powerful for the same reason that Black Kyurem EX is powerful in Blastoise: it gives you inevitability. Both of the decks are set up decks and can lose to just never getting their evolutions into play, but both of them also have an incredibly powerful “high end,” where they can just attack three times and end the game outright.
I hesitate to use the terms high risk/high reward here as that makes it seem like these decks are loose and inconsistent plays, but these decks are definitely the most raw powerful, if not the most elegant, and wouldn’t have nearly the wins they do without their respective Dragon-type EXs.
Although it’s overpowered, I feel like Keldeo-EX is in the same class as Darkrai EX for me (if you don’t care about card/game design you can skip this paragraph) where it’s not an inherently powerful card (and is in fact just the opposite) providing a lot of utility for very little cost.
The cards around it (Blastoise, Black Kyurem EX, Sableye, and Dark Patch respectively) have made them overpowered or at least very good, but the cards themselves are very interesting design space, as proven by Darkrai EX’s inclusion in the Accelgor/Vileplume decks last year as a way to enable retreating, and Keldeo-EX’s inclusion in contemporary Eel decks as a way to “reset” your Rayquaza EXs.
Keldeo-EX wouldn’t be half of what it is in this deck if it weren’t for Float Stone, however, so I’ll go ahead and group these two together here. The combination is obvious and being able to streamline attacks from a loaded Rayquaza EX as well as nullify your opponent’s attempts at Catcher-stalling your Eelektriks is absurdly powerful and one of the things that keeps these decks in the limelight.
Victini-EX was included in most of the winning Eels lists from State Championships this season (including my good friend Amelia Bottemiller’s WA State top 4 list and Mike Newman’s State and Regional winning lists) and for good reason: it forces your opponent to have to fight you on two grounds and ultimately make decisions that they’d prefer not to make.
You do this by using Victini’s Turbo Energize attack on turn 1 to search for some combination of Lightning and Fire Energy to attach to a benched Rayquaza EX, essentially doing what your Eels would have done in the later turns. This strategy sacrifices the ability to Call for Family on turn one, but gives a few benefits of its own as well.
In the past decks could focus on taking out your Eelektriks and that would be it. If you had no Eels you couldn’t power up your attackers, couldn’t take Prizes, and ultimately couldn’t win the game. Victini-EX puts a lot of pressure on your opponent to not only deal with your Eels but also deal with your actual threats. If they spend all of their time and resources KOing your Eels they’re going to have nothing left for your Rayquaza EX and vice versa. Victini puts them (especially when Landorus-EX was more popular) in a very specific, very awkward situation, from which it draws all of its power.
This guy was used to counteract the Klinklang decks that were running around during States and Regionals of this year, and although I’m not sure how entirely relevant he is anymore (Klinklang is still very good but very underplayed). It’s still something to keep in mind, as 2 Energy for 100 is almost never bad and, as long as you play correctly, will outright win you any Klinklang matchups you do happen to face.
Zekrom is what spawned the deck being playable in the first place and is still a very powerful card today. We’re now getting away from the Rayquaza-based versions a little bit, but with the right combination of cards and metagames, all of these cards could be applied to the same deck (for instance, I ran a Zekrom BLW in my Top 4 States list from this year). Zekrom is a very powerful card and is, most importantly, a non-EX attacker, making trading blows with Darkrais or other big Basic EXs all the more satisfying.
I feel like there are too many variants of Eelektrik to list all of the Pokémon and how they work here, so I’ll cut this section short and move into deck lists. I’ll go over all of the unique and interesting choices in each specific deck list as it comes up, but I’ll trust that the deck has been around long enough for you to have understood why cards like Switch and Ultra Ball are good.
If you need me to be more nuanced please let me know in the forums, as I’m a sucker for being long-winded and detailed about things.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 30
Energy – 13
The 2 Keldeo EX isn’t 100% standard from what I’ve seen, but is a concession to both how powerful Accelgor/Gothitelle strategies are right now and how reliant we are on streaming Rayquazas in the midgame. I know that a lot of players play more Float Stones than I do, which ultimately may be correct, but I’ve had very little problem in getting a Keldeo set up to Rush In and out when I need to.
Shaymin over another Call For Family-esque card like Emolga DRX is a concession to the power of Thundurus EX which, due to weakness, can 1HKO an Emolga without the need for Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank plays or Deoxys-EX. The only negatives to Shaymin are that you can’t attack with it (something that very rarely matters anyway), that it has a one retreat cost and that it doesn’t resist Landorus-EX. Even still, I’m convinced that Shaymin is the correct play.
Mr. Mime is a great inclusion in pretty much every deck in this format, as it protects your bench from Night Spear, Frost Spear, and Hammerhead at relatively low cost. It does take up a single bench space which is worth a lot in our deck, but it’s very much worth it.
Victini’s inclusion is mostly because I’m paranoid and don’t want to get shut out of the game by a Klinklang. I also believe strongly that it’s a solid attacker, especially in a list that plays Mr. Mime, ensuring that it won’t just sit there uselessly for the majority of the game. If you feel like playing the Klinklang lottery I certainly wouldn’t be offended by anyone cutting Victini for another Supporter or even another Energy.
Dowsing Machine over Computer Search is probably just personal preference at this point. I prefer to be able to play loose with my 2- or 3-of cards with the insurance that I have the Dowsing Machine to get them back, but there’s also a strong case for the early-game consistency that Computer Search provides. At the end of the day I’m not sure that it matters too much, but my recommendation would be to play the Dowsing Machine unless you find a very good reason not to (a reason will be presented in another list in this article, so they do exist!).
I feel that Skyarrow Bridge is still necessary here in the case that you need to retreat early (aka before you can find a Keldeo + Float Stone) or are left with 0 Float Stones on the board after a devastating Tool Scrapper play. It also gives you something to counter Tropical Beach or Virbank City Gym with, which can be very important.
The Energy count is mostly preference, but it’s what has been working for me. I think 13 is pretty standard and, although I think a lot of players I respect prefer an 8/5 split, I don’t think I’ve ever found myself needing that many Fire, especially now that you’re not wasting them on Rayquaza DRVs or using them to retreat in awkward situations.
I’m going to do something a little bit different this time around, and instead of providing my own list and explaining reasoning for the card counts, I’m going to go ahead and post Anna Schipper’s winning Netherlands National Championship list and base my observations from there.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
(Huge thanks to Anna for posting the list on her Facebook page!)
To be completely honest, I’m not a huge fan of this list. It may just be my relative inexperience with the deck, but there are a lot of questionable choices that I’ll go ahead and outline now.
Firstly, I can’t find a very good reason behind only 3 copies of Eelektrik. Not only does this deck struggle to consistently set up multiple Eels and get their entire engine going in the first place, but with only 3 copies it seems like prizing one early would be a death sentence. A lot of the other things that I’ll talk about in the next few paragraphs are preference or can be rationalized, but this is something that I don’t think I’d budge on under any circumstances.
Additionally, I’m not sure how I feel about having no Call for Family effects combined with a relatively low Ball count. I suppose that the 2 Skyla makes up for this in some way, but I can’t help but feel like even with multiple attackers that attack for different Energy costs you would still miss setting up 2+ Eels on turn 2 more often than not.
Lastly, 7 Lightning seems awfully low, even with the ability to attack with Double Colorless. I won’t harp on this too much as it’s entirely possible that this is just my inexperience with the deck showing, but my gut says that I’d want at least one more.
I’m not going to spend this entire time being negative, though! It takes a lot of skill and a lot of luck to win a National Championship in any region, and obviously Anna was doing some things right. For instance, the Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbanks are very good plays and, outside of the aforementioned Eelektrik issue, I think her Pokémon line-up is very solid and very close to what I would play if given the opportunity.
For reference, here is my list for Zekrom/Eelektrik, although keep in mind that it hasn’t undergone heavy testing.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
My list isn’t too different from Anna’s, it just adds some consistency cards in Shaymin and extra copies of Balls and Energy, and makes a few slight preference changes. It does give me a springboard to talk about something that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while though, so I’ll go ahead and take that opportunity while I can.
In a deck like this, where Lasers are important to your strategy but not necessarily completely vital and/or you don’t need to be poisoning your opponent super early, I think that 1 copy of Virbank City Gym is completely fine. In the weeks leading up to Nationals I was testing a lot of rogue decks (almost all of which have failed me, unfortunately) and every time I would struggle with finding room until I realized that I didn’t actually need to include 2 copies of Virbank.
After cutting down to 1 it freed up essential slots for me and although the decks themselves didn’t actually pan out, the idea stuck.
The rationale is that so many other decks are playing Virbank that it likely won’t matter if you play your copy or not. Additionally, because you’re not necessarily relying on Virbank in the early game, you have less of a worry about your Virbank getting countered by an opponent’s Tropical Beach or Skyarrow Bridge (it also helps that the decks that are running those cards are painfully obvious from turn one and you should be able to adjust your gameplan accordingly).
At the end of the day I think I prefer the Rayquaza version of this deck more than the Zekrom version, but a lot of that is probably my own bias from playing Rayquaza so much. Overall, both versions of the deck have their own advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll get into at length when we move into the matchups section.
Tropical Beach Eels
This is the deck that won Australian Nationals this year, although our story starts a little before that…
Kennan Mell is a player from my area who is an incredibly dominant force when he tries. Last year he won Winter Regionals undefeated with The Truth, and was a top 64 (I believe) at Nationals away from qualifying for Kona that same year. He is constantly one of the biggest threats at any tournament when he decides to show up.
Unfortunately, between school and other hobbies he doesn’t show up to all that much anymore, and when he does it usually involves texting our good friend Lane Tower asking about decks, tanking for a few hours, and sending another text asking for a deck. This time, luckily for us, the deck he asked for was Tropical Beach Eels.
The rationale behind this, and the Eels deck in general as I see it, is broken down like this: the biggest decision you need to make when building Eelektrik is what you want to spend your first few turns doing. You have the choice of Calling for Family with Shaymin or Emolga, using Victini-EX to power up your EXs and diversify your threats, or activate a Tropical Beach to sculpt an unbeatable hand.
Kennan took this deck to the Battle Road directly proceeding to one that I won with Klinklang and managed to pull out a win. It was only a week after that we learned that the deck also won Australian Nationals, once again reinforcing the idea that Kennan is a wizard. Unfortunately, I don’t have the Australian list, but Kennan graciously sent me his personal list, which is as follows:
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 33
Energy – 13
I really, really like this list. Kennan is known for practicing ultimate consistency in his lists (he recently went X-1, only losing to my Klinklang with a Darkrai deck that featured 4 Absol) and it definitely shows here. I don’t really have a list of my own because I’ve just been testing with this one, so instead I’ll just go through and explain the positives and negatives of the list. I really do think this list is as close to perfect as possible.
Without a Call for Family effect to fetch Tynamos on turn 1, you’re going to need the 4/4 split of Balls to make sure that you have a few on the Bench early so that you actually have something to draw into with Tropical Beach. I’d go so far as to say that if there were any more efficient searching cards in the format we’d likely shove them in here. Playing 3 Tynamos on turn 1 into a Beach for a bunch into 2-3 Eels on turn 2 is unbeatable in most situations.
The one issue that I have is the Random Receivers. The rationale behind them is that every other Supporter in the format is just worse than the suite we have here, but I’m still not entirely sure if Skyla just isn’t better. Typically having low numbers of Skyla isn’t exactly where you want to be, but with such a reliance on Level and Ultra Balls early I’m not sure that it wouldn’t be fine for us.
As it is though, Random Receiver is fine and the deck has tested quite positive for me, but if you’re considering this deck for Nationals or Worlds I’d definitely take some time to tool around with Skyla.
The Computer Search is there as an out to a turn 1 Beach, which I think is one of the situations where I feel it’s strictly better to play the Computer Search. Victini was mostly due to the fact that Klinklang had won both BRs in our area the day before. As I said before, if you’re not afraid of Klinklang or don’t think there will be too much of it you can safely cut it.
With Nationals happening literally two days after this article drops, I’m going to go over a bunch of different decks, both so that you’re prepared no matter what the Nationals metagame turns out to be, but also to prepare you for Worlds if you’re not playing Nationals for whatever reason. The layout of these are in no specific order, and if I missed anything please let me know in the forums.
RayEels: The big issue that you have here is Kyurem. Kyurem can donk your Tynamos and put damage on your benched ones early, and takes a three Energy Dragon Burst to KO for a single Prize. So even if you’re able to withstand the early onslaught, you’re still going to need to either have plentiful Catchers or tons of Rayquazas to be able to finish them off.
ZekEels: I haven’t tested this matchup as much but in theory you should be positive. You both have non-EXs but you have a way to close the game out with Zekrom-EX or Bouffalant on Thundurus/Kyurems. Obviously the problems I outlined above still exist, but this version of the deck gives you diversified threats against them.
BeachEels: This matchup is obviously very similar to the RayEels matchup but I think you’re slightly better favored based on speed. Obviously going first and getting 3 Eels on turn 2 is where you want to be, but even in more realistic scenarios I’ve found the Beach version to be a little faster than traditional RayEels, so you should be in a good position. Of course, the opening coin flip and speed of your opening hand determines a lot.
RayEels: This matchup typically comes down to whether or not the Eels deck can weather the storm. Darkrai will usually get a better start (especially if they run multiple copies of Absol) and will be able to take a few Prizes early, but your Rayquazas represent a certain amount of inevitability if you can withstand the first handful of turns. Mr. Mime is obviously very crucial here as well.
ZekEels: You’re slightly worse than RayEels here because, while you do have more options against them, you don’t really have the same endgame power as RayEels and therefore it’s much easier to get behind early, catch up midgame, and then fall behind in the late game because you’ve failed to adequately dismantle their threats.
The number of Sableye they play here also matters a lot as they’ll gladly trade 1 Sableye/1 Prize for a game winning Catcher or Laser.
BeachEels: This is functionally a little bit worse than the traditional RayEels deck, as if you don’t go off very early Darkrai will have counter stadiums for your Beaches and can choke your set up. Otherwise it’s almost exactly the same.
RayEels: You’re at an advantage because you’re faster and you can KO Squirtles for a single energy Dragon Burst. Additionally, you can 1HKO any Black Kyurem much easier than they can do the same back to you, and if they want to try and prevent that from happening they either have to try and take out your Eels (which leaves you free to manually power up your Rayquazas) or not play Black Kyurem at all, which makes their deck a whole lot worse.
I think it will mostly come down to who can set up first, but all things being equal you have a natural advantage.
ZekEels: This matchup is probably pretty even, maybe a little advantageous to you if you get a good start. The basic idea here is to not let them sit behind a Kyurem or a Keldeo while they set up via attacking with a quick Bouffalant. While it’s true that they do have the natural inevitably of a Pokémon that attacks for an unreasonable 200 damage, the majority of those attacks are only going to net them a single prize, which puts you ahead in the end. If they get majorly ahead of you, however, you’re very unlikely to pull out the win.
BeachEels: Slightly better for you than regular RayEels because you’re likely to have access to Tropical Beach regardless of whether you go first or second. They’re a lot more reliant on Beach than you are so unless they have a god hand they can’t reasonably avoid playing Beach, which puts you in a very good position.
With all versions of this deck I think the matchup is pretty much the same, if they get set up before you can make a few key knockouts you will lose. The Keldeos definitely help here, as do the 3 or 4 copies of Float Stone, but at the end of the day they have multiple Keldeos and Tool Scrapper so it becomes very difficult for you. I’m not even sure there are all that many matchup tips I can give, as it basically boils down to whoever can execute their plan fastest.
RayEels: If you run Victini then you should have a very positive matchup as long as you can find it early (aka it’s not prized) you only drop it when you’re ready to attack with it, and can recur it at least once with a Super Rod should it be 1HKO’d. If you don’t play Victini you’re going to struggle unless you get an absurd start.
ZekEels: This is a very favorable matchup based off of the fact that you simply have so many non-EX attackers. Getting your Special Energy blown up is never fun, but between the sheer number of non-EX attackers you have you should be able to overwhelm them very quickly.
BeachEels: Exactly like the Blastoise matchup in that the Beach will likely be available to you, and exactly like the RayEels matchup in that you need to be playing Victini to reasonably expect to win.
I hope I did a good job of explaining the ins and outs of this deck and, more than anything, explaining how different its variants really are and how those key differences can help you, depending on the matchup and the metagame.
As you read this, I’ll be on a plane to Indianapolis for Nationals, and hopefully I’ll see you there! If you see me feel free to say hi, I love attention.
As always, if you enjoyed reading this please give it a like, share it, and tell everyone you know. Thanks!
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