If You Ain’t First…

Second Tier Hopefuls for Regionals
dario dodriopokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
The Ricky Bobby of Pokémon.

Hello friends. Because Battle Roads are no more and League Challenges have not begun, we are stuck with an odd period in the season with no Premier Events until mid-October. Due to this rather large lull in the action, discussion topics have become repetitive.

Therefore, today I will be talking about a couple of the “second tier” decks, discussing what metagames those decks thrive in, taking a quick look at different “twists” on top-decks, and mentioning a few cards I have seen move out of lists that might deserve a second or third look.

At this point in time, I believe most would agree with most others that Plasma, Darkrai/, , and Virizion/Genesect (with or without friends) are the four best decks in the format. Although no Plasma decks made it into the Top 8 at the Klaczynski Open, many barely missed the cut. Darkrai/Garbodor won the event, but I believe there has been an overreaction to this single victory for these reasons:

  1. Many of the Plasma lists (along with other decks) I have heard about at the event only played 1 Tool Scrapper.
  2. The Klaczynski Open had 75 minute best-of-three Swiss rounds.

I highly doubt players will make the mistake of not playing multiple Tool Scrappers again. Also, the 50 minute best-of-three Swiss structure, which will be used at Regionals, will damper the deck’s potential. There will simply not be enough time for the deck to thrive.

Conversely, Plasma should get a definite boost from the reduced time limit. It is the most explosive deck in the format and should be able to deal with a condensed time limit.

Table of Contents

  1. Flareon
  2. Landorus/Lugia/Drifblim
  3. Plasma Lugia
  4. Blastoise
  5. Cards to Consider
  6. Conclusion

Flareon

I know… some of you may be getting sick of me talking about this deck, but it keeps testing very well for me against three of the top four contenders. Results like that simply can’t be ignored. Here is my updated list:

Pokémon – 22

4 Eevee PLF 90
4 Flareon PLF
2 Leafeon PLF
3 Drifloon PLB
2 Drifblim PLB
1 Drifblim DRX
2 Trubbish DRX
2 Garbodor DRX
1 Sawk PLB
1 Audino BCR

Trainers – 30

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
1 Colress

4 Random Receiver

 

4 Ultra Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Silver Bangle
2 Float Stone
2 Tool Scrapper

1 Enhanced Hammer
1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless
4 Fire

Card Explanations

No Stunfisk DRX, Terrakion BCR, Landorus-EX, or Fighting Energy

Many versions of this deck play some substantial combination of those Pokémon and Fighting Energy in place of the Fire Energy in my list. People turn to these cards as methods of dealing with Darkrai EX. I simply don’t think they do enough. Four Fighting Energy are not adequate to consistently get these attackers rolling whenever you need them.

They certainly make the Darkrai matchup better, but I do not believe they get the matchup to 50/50. Yet, by adding those cards, your other matchups become significantly worse.

Therefore, I believe the best bet with the deck is to focus on your good matchups and write off your one bad ones. I do have one Sawk, but that is for countering Absol PLF – not Darkrai.

2 Drifblim PLB, 1 Drifblim DRX

drifblim-plasma-blast-plb-35
This card is not all “hot air.”

I know many people who advocate for these counts to be flipped, but I adamantly disagree. The Plasma Blast Drifblim attacks for free (against Plasma decks). It discards Special Energy. It also retreats for free. These are perfect attributes for this deck. Attacking for free is particularly important because conserving Energy drops is vital.

1 Enhanced Hammer

I only play one Enhanced Hammer, and I believe the deck functions well enough without any Hammers. But a careful Plasma player may be able to keep the number of Special Energy in their discard to two. Having one Hammer allows you to discard that crucial third Energy. This allows you to 1HKO any EX with Drifblim DRX equipped with Silver Bangle.

2 Tool Scrapper

Seeing as how two of the three main attackers in this deck are Plasma Pokémon, Silver Mirror can really mess with you. Of course you can try to Catcher around Mirrors, but Scrapper makes them much easier to handle.

Other Potential Inclusions

1 Umbreon PLF

Umbreon has always intrigued me. Currently, Leafeon and boast 100 HP. That is often not enough. With 100 HP, Keldeo-EX needs only four Water Energy to 1HKO Leafeon and Kyurem PLF needs only two Deoxys-EX to 1HKO Flareon (with Frost Spear).

If Leafeon and Flareon had 120 HP, would need five Water Energy and Kyurem would need three Deoxys. Those are important numbers because Superior Energy Retrieval gets four Energy onto Keldeo-EX, and keeping three Deoxys on the field is much more difficult than two.

1-1 Masquerain PLF

A 1-1 Masquerain line is also intriguing. All five Tools included are very important to this deck. There have been games where I have had to attach Bangles to the wrong Pokémon because of Juniper. If I had a Masquerain in play those Bangles could have made it to the proper Pokémon and I would have won a couple more games.

Also, fun fact: Masquerain with a Bangle 1HKOs Keldeo.

Matchups

Plasma – Favorable

The key here is to get cheap KOs on Deoxys with Drifblim PLB, if possible. Otherwise try to get enough Special Energy into your opponent’s discard via Derail and Hammer so that Drifblim DRX can take an 1HKO on any of their Pokémon.

Their biggest weapon against you is Absol, and it is a real pain. This is the main reason Sawk is in the list. If you can get an Energy on Sawk, you have an instant response.

Darkrai – Very Unfavorable

flareon plasma freeze plf 12pokemon-paradijs.com
T2 Heat Tackle is a rare feat.

As Flareon does not rely upon many Abilities, it does not matter which version of Darkrai you face (straight or Garbodor). The games where I have beaten Darkrai I have been fortunate enough to get a turn two Heat Tackle, which puts immediate pressure on Darkrai decks. It 1HKOs Sableye and 2HKOs Darkrai.

Your next goal should be to try and get Vengeance rolling for the 180 damage 1HKO. To accomplish this, you want to strategically feed your opponent the correct Pokémon to Knock Out. Ideally, you want to sacrifice non-Flareon Stage 1s. This gets more Pokémon into your discard than using Basics as fodder.

If you can get to 16 Pokémon in your discard quickly, or 13 and a Bangle, you can start to take 1HKOs on Darkrai. Previous iterations of this deck could do that more easily, because they played closer to 26 Pokémon. With only 22 Pokémon, it is more difficult to get to the point where Vengeance overpowers everything in the format.

Blastoise – Very Favorable

This deck is very good against both versions of Blastoise (Black Kyurem and Mewtwo). The key is to get a well-timed Garbodor. Many people think that Garbodor must be “live” the whole game. This is false; you only need Garbotoxin active after your opponent commits to a Black Ballista.

The secret is to stop Blastoise from reloading Black Kyurem on back-to-back turns. Once you get your opponent to commit Energy to Keldeo or Blastoise, Leafeon goes to town.

Virizion/Genesect – Extremely Favorable

You have Flareon and they are very dependent on Grass types. Get four Pokémon into the discard and a Bangle attached to Flareon. Once that happens you basically win the game.

Desired Meta

This deck wants a meta with minimal Darkrai and large amounts of the other three high tier decks. It is rarely less than 50/50 against the other non-top tier contenders, except against Landorus-EX-based decks.

Landorus/Lugia/Drifblim

Because Darkrai showed up in style at the Klaczynski Open, I expect it to see significant play early in the Regionals season. I suspect Darkrai/Garbodor will not do as well (for reasons stated above) and it will fall out of favor late, but I digress.

If I am correct and Darkrai/Garbodor shows up in numbers at the first couple Regionals, Landorus-EX may be a great play. Let’s look at a list, and then we will discuss it.

Pokémon – 12

4 Landorus-EX
2 -EX
3 Drifloon PLB
2 Drifblim DRX
1 Drifblim PLB

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress

1 Shadow Triad
2 Random Receiver

 

4 Pokémon Catcher
3 Colress Machine
3 Ultra Ball
3 Switch
2 Enhanced Hammer
2 Max Potion
1 Float Stone
1 Team Plasma Badge
1 Team Plasma Ball
1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 13

7 Fighting
4 Plasma
2 Double Colorless

This deck is very focused on beating Darkrai while maintaining some outs against other decks. It is rather weak against Blastoise, but these Tier 2 decks will almost always have at least one poor matchup.

The basic strategy should be pretty easy to ascertain. Against Darkrai decks, you go aggro Landorus. Against Virizion decks, you go Landorus spread into Lugia for 3-Prize turns. Against Plasma decks, you want to use your Hammers and Drifblims to eek out enough Prizes to win.

Card Explanations

2 Drifblim DRX, 1 Drifblim PLB

drifblim-dragons-exalted-drx-51pokemon-paradijs.com
With more Hammers, it’s more effective.

In Flareon, I strongly advocate for the reverse counts. Here, I believe more Drifblim DRX is superior. In this deck you have more room for Hammers and less use for Silver Bangle. This gives you a better opportunity to get multiple Special Energy into the discard and deal enough damage with Shadow Steal to 1HKO the Plasma Pokémon.

For this reason, it is extremely tempting to go down to one Max Potion and up to three Hammers, but I do not believe that is wise.

1 Team Plasma Badge

Since the deck is running Plasma Energy and Colress Machine to get Lugia EX operating very quickly, why not allow Landorus-EX to get a surprise Land’s Judgment off once a game? It also gives you a random out to powering up Drifblim DRX.

3 Switch, 1 Float Stone

None of the Pokémon in this deck have free Retreat Costs, which means you need ways of getting undesired Pokémon out of the Active position. I am not sure the 3-1 split is the best way to go with this deck. I have seen 4-0, 0-4, and everything in-between played in this deck.

Going with four Float Stone seems risky because I think decks will increase their usage of Tool Scrapper, but not having access to any Float Stone seems equally unappealing.

Matchups

Plasma – Slightly Unfavorable to Even

Generally, Landorus struggles with Plasma decks. Kyurem simply deals too much damage and hits for Weakness against Landorus. However, Landorus as a starter has the type advantage over Thundurus EX. So, sometimes you may be able to assert ample pressure on the board, allowing you to push through 6 Prizes quickly.

However, Plasma is the exact matchup the heavy Drifblim line is designed to counter. If you can keep Landorus off the field, because each one is basically two free Prizes for your opponent, you can go aggro Drifblim (either one) and attack your opponent’s Deoxys-EXs and Special Energies.

Finally, Lugia always gives you a fighting chance against any deck. It is possible to completely overrun opponents with Plasma Gale/Overflow.

Darkrai – Extremely Favorable

This is by far the most favorable matchup for Landorus, and Darkrai is the real reason this deck has relevance in the format. Obviously, you want to open with Landorus-EX and use Hammerhead over and over again. Dealing 60 to the active Darkrai and 30 to a benched Darkrai is extremely good. Also, because Darkrai/Garbodor seems to be the best Darkrai variant you don’t have to worry about Mr. Mime nearly as often.

Additionally, Darkrai does not have a way to 1HKO Landorus. Accordingly, Max Potion is extremely potent against Darkrai. Denying Darkrai players the ability to orchestrate three or 4-Prize turns is extremely powerful.

Blastoise – Very Unfavorable

blastoise hydro pumptumblr.com
Longtime nemesis of Landorus.

This is the matchup you write off if you are playing Landorus/Lugia/Drifblim. Both Black Kyurem EX and Keldeo-EX can easily 1HKO Landorus-EX. Furthermore, Drifblim is virtually useless in this matchup because they play no Special Energies.

Your general plan should be to spread damage with Hammerhead, and then take two KOs (for 6 Prizes) with Plasma Gale. While this can happen, it is extremely difficult to pull off.

Virizion/Genesect – Even

The key to this matchup is to conserve your Energy drops properly. Because this deck does not have Tool Scrapper (perhaps it should), G Booster can potentially take many KOs before you get the return KO. Therefore, it is extremely important to get your Hammerhead damage onto the Genesects on the board. If you can get a couple Hammerheads onto the Genesects, you can then attempt to close the game out with Lugia’s Plasma Gale/Overflow combination.

You may also have the opportunity to use both Drifblims to great effect. If your opponent is using Lugia, it is highly possible they will have three Plasma Pokémon on the field. Lugia also means your opponent may be running at least six Special Energy, four Plasma Energy and two Double Colorless Energy. This opens the door for Shadow Steal to 1HKO any of their EXs.

Desired Meta

Based upon the matchups it is evident this decks needs many Darkrai decks and few Blastoise decks to succeed. Mild numbers of Virizion/Geneset and Plasma decks will not be extreme hindrances to this deck. Also, it is important that Empoleon is not played in large numbers.

Footnote on Landorus

The above version of this deck is aimed to play against the metagame at large. The deck can easily be split and played as a Lugia/Landorus deck or a Landorus/Drifblim deck. This streamlines the deck and makes it a bit more consistent.

Ultimately, Lugia gives the deck a fighting chance against Virizion/Genesect and Blastoise. Drifblim gives you a better Plasma matchup. So, if you can ascertain that one of those three decks will not be played in your area, you can make the proper adjustments.

Plasma Lugia

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Thanks Jay!

This deck had been floating around St. Louis for a while, but it had never made any great breakthroughs. However, Jay Hornung’s interest in the deck caused me to pick it up and test it again. I was pleasantly surprised with my results.

Overall, the deck really has very few bad matchups. The only decks that absolutely wreck the deck are the Item locking decks that play a heavy Silver Mirror line (, Zebstrika, Togekiss), but Lugia can beat those decks sometimes just by out-speeding them.

To me, this really needs to be an “all or nothing” type deck and built accordingly. I am not a fan of hedging my bets with alternate attackers. The deck succeeds when it dominates an opponent’s field early and often. Here is where my list is:

Pokémon – 9

4 Thundurus-EX PLF
3 Deoxys-EX
2 Lugia-EX

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress
3 Skyla

 

4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Colress Machine
4 Ultra Ball
3 Tool Scrapper
3 Switch
2 Float Stone
1 Team Plasma Ball
1 Max Potion
1 Computer Search

Energy – 14

4 Plasma
4 Lightning
3 Prism
3 Double Colorless

2 Lugia EX

I know many people will look at this and wonder why only two Lugia EX are included. Well, you really want to open with Thundurus EX. There are two ways to accomplish that goal. First you play more Thundurus, or second, you play fewer “other” Pokémon. Since Thundurus is maxed out, the only option is to play fewer other Pokémon.

Additionally, with six Pokémon search cards, assuming you only Prize one Lugia, you have seven outs to Lugia in your first turn. I was very wary going down to two Lugia, but it has not been a problem in testing.

1 Shadow Triad

shadow-triad-plasma-freeze-plf-102pokemon-paradijs.com
Plus it looks cool.

Because you are heavily relying on Plasma Gale, you need multiple methods of retrieving Plasma Energy. Obviously, you can use Raiden Knuckle to get Plasma Energy back, but Shadow Triad allows you to get a Plasma Energy back during your turn and keep hammering away with Plasma Gale.

3 Tool Scrapper

Overkill? Possibly, but I do not think so. Garbodor made a nice showing at the Klaczynski Open, and I am sure it will be widely played during Regionals. This deck relies on Overflow to end the game on turn three or four. That means you need access to Tool Scrapper early and often.

Also, Silver Mirror will be widely played and all the Pokémon in this deck are Plasma Pokémon. Tool Scrapper is crucial to this deck.

3 Switch, 2 Float Stone

Float Stone is a great card by itself; it is certainly worthy of inclusion in almost any deck. Switch is also great. I really don’t know how else to describe this, but five “switching” cards just feels right. If I do not open Thundurus EX, I almost always seem to have a Float Stone or Switch in hand.

Perhaps St. Louis is just a weird region, but Hypnotoxic Laser has seen more play than I certainly expected. It is still being played in both straight Darkrai and Plasma. This is why I have included more Switch than Float Stone, but if HTL is not played in your area, more Float Stone might be preferable.

4 Plasma Energy, 4 Lightning Energy, 3 Double Colorless Energy, 3 Prism Energy

The biggest surprise about this Energy lineup is the four Lighting Energy. Since the only attackers are Thundurus EX, Lugia EX, and Deoxys-EX, there is no need for WLFM Blend Energy. Also, because you should only be attacking with Deoxys-EX in desperate situations, Prism Energy takes a back seat.

Running Lightning Energy to power Raiden Knuckle also makes you less susceptible to Enhanced Hammer. While your opponent may be able to target down your Special Energy, it will be extremely unlikely that you ever get completely ran out of Energy. With Lighting Energy on Thundurus EX, you should be able to work your way back into the game with Raiden Knuckle rebuilding your board state.

Also, with Deoxys on the field, Raiden Knuckle might be able to take a KO or two while you are getting Energy back.

1 Max Potion

Max Potion is a card that everyone knows exists, but hardly plans for. You can drop Max Potion and completely ruin your opponent’s day. It is very good, and a great surprise to most people.

Matchups

Although our lists are actually quite dissimilar, I agree with most of Jay’s matchup alignments for this deck. His advice in approaching the matchups is also very solid. So, instead of boring you with rehashing them, you should go check out his article and give it a “Like” if you haven’t already.

For summary purposes…

Darkrai/Garbodor – Even to Slightly Favorable

lugia ex plasma stormpokechampion.tumblr.com
Scrapper is Lugia’s friend.

I have found Darkrai/Garbodor to be more favorable than straight Darkrai. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but hear me out. Trubbish and Garbodor can be 1HKO’d by Plasma Gale without any prior damage. With three Tool Scrapper, it is relatively easy to clear Tools off Garbodor when you decide to knockout Trubbish/Garbodor.

Meanwhile, your opponent does not have any attackers that easily 1HKO Lugia EX. This means you can often take three knockouts, worth 2 Prizes each, quicker than your opponent can take three knockouts.

Straight Darkrai – Slightly Unfavorable to Even

Regular Darkrai also seems favorable, but it is much closer. Straight Darkrai decks lack the easy targets, save Sableye, for Lugia to pick off. That means you have to set up multiple Darkrai for KOs with Plasma Gale. That is a much more daunting task.

Blastoise – Relatively Even

They tend to win if they hit the T2 Blastoise, otherwise you may overrun them.

Virizion/Genesect – Favorable

You can Scrapper G Booster more than they can get it back. You also tend to have a more explosive early game.

Desired Meta

Because this is less of a counter deck, and more of a less popular version of Plasma, there is not a “desired” meta per se. Obviously, you would rather play against decks that you have more favorable matchups against, but none of the matchups are so great that you really, really want to play against them.

The real power in this deck is the best-of-three 50 minute time limit. This deck can be extremely explosive and get out to early leads. I have had 10 minute, 6 Prize games a significant portion of my time testing this.

Blastoise

Pokémon – 13

4 Squirtle BCR
3 Blastoise BCR
3 Keldeo-EX
2 Mewtwo-EX
1 Exeggcute PLF

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper
4 Skyla
3 N

 

4 Pokémon Catcher
4 Superior Energy Retrieval
4 Rare Candy
3 Ultra Ball
1 Heavy Ball
2 Tool Scrapper
1 Computer Search

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 14

13 Water

1 Double Colorless

Card Explanations

garbodor shocked animegayvangelion.tumblr.com
This list is semi-anti-Garbodor.

Where is Black Kyurem? Well, the one thing this version of the deck deals with better than that version of the deck is Garbodor’s Garbotoxin. This version relies upon getting large Keldeo-EXs and Mewtwo EXs and going to town with lots of board pressure. This only requires one turn of Deluge. Conversely, Black Kyurem EX needs Deluge active nearly every turn to keep attacks coming.

While some non-EXs can 1HKO these two Pokémon, most notably Kyurem PLF, they require a considerable amount of variable to align. For example, Kyurem needs: 1) Kyurem, 2) three Energy, 3) Bangle, and 4) 2 Deoxys. While this certainly occurs, it is not a given.

The deck may also need more attackers. Some possible inclusions are Kyurem PLF, Kyurem-EX NXD, Kyurem-EX PLB, or more Keldeo. The first three attackers are worth considering because they are not weak to Grass. You may also want to try three Mewtwo.

Finally, it is certainly worth the effort to test Scoop Up Cyclone and Jirachi-EX. Scoop Up Cyclone may change a game in the blink of an eye. Even better, if Deluge is active, you can drop the Pokémon right back down and all of the Energy that was attached to it.

Matchups

Plasma – Slightly Less than Even

This matchup is all about getting around the opposing Kyurems. If you can target down large EXs with Mewtwo EX and Keldeo-EX, the matchup is around 50/50. Overall, once you take into account the speed factor, this matchup is closer to 45/55.

Additionally, if you wish to be successful in this matchup, you might want to brush up on your Mewtwo EX trades. However, Plasma gets to utilize Deoxys-EX instead of Mewtwo. One advantage here is that Deoxys needs both Prism and Plasma Energy. Because those resources are limited, the opportunity may arise to build a large Mewtwo that can sweep the game.

Darkrai – Even

I believe both DarkGarb and straight Darkrai to be at least even. I believe this version of Blastoise has the advantage over a straight Darkrai build because they cannot 1HKO anything in the deck. This gives you time to get one huge Keldeo or Mewtwo and deal considerable amounts of damage before the Darkrai player can neutralize the threat.

Against Darkrai/Garbodor, the matchup is slightly less favorable. However, if you can get an early Deluge or a well-timed Deluge for a lot of Energy, that single Pokémon may gain you at least 4 Prizes. The key is to save your Tool Scrappers for the proper moments.

Virizion/Genesect – Largely Unfavorable

This is by far the deck’s worst matchup. The Black Kyurem EX version is not entirely weak to Grass, which helps. This version relies upon a Grass-weak attacker. That is a pure recipe for disaster.

Try to utilize Mewtwo more than Keldeo. If you are expecting lots of Virizion/Genesect, a third Mewtwo is a great decision.

Cards to Consider

Every format, certain cards are overlooked, but perhaps they deserve deeper looks. So far, I have yet to see many lists running the following cards. However, all of them can be game breaking.

Mr. Mime PLF

mr mime ash's momp0kegifs.tumblr.com
Mr. Mime is so helpful!

Kyurem PLF, Darkrai EX, and Genesect EX all possess spread attacks and will be widely played. Additionally, Landorus-EX may be played in response to Darkrai.

In the last week, I have won at least five games with my straight Darkrai list because I played Mr. Mime and my opponents (2 with Kyurem, 2 with Darkrai, and 1 with Genesect) did not. Blocking your opponent’s ability to set up multiple knockouts on the same turn can be gamebreaking.

Alternatively, your opponent may use resources to knockout Mr. Mime, leaving other threats on the board.

Silver Mirror

I have been slightly surprised that people have already moved away from this card, or perhaps it is just the people I am playing against. This card is very good as a one or 2-of in Darkrai or Kyurem heavy decks. Both Sableye and Kyurem greatly benefit from the immunity against Plasma Pokémon.

Masquerain PLF

With so many relevant Tools, this card may be a great tech in any deck that can manage a 1-1 line. Saving your Tools for the proper moments can be a difficult task because of Professor Juniper. With Masquerain you can simply attach those Tools to any Pokémon and rearrange them later.

Conclusion

Now that we know what the Championship Point structure and Worlds requirements are we can move ahead into the new season. With the bar set so high (I could do an entire article as to why this is a bad move by TPCi), every Point is crucial. That means we need a better understanding of the format and all of the decks – not just the top-decks. I hope this article helped to do just that and deepened your understanding of the format.

Until next time,

A. Hahn


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