As the City Championship tournament cycle begins to wind down, players around the country and world are beginning to ask themselves what deck is the play for various Regional Championships.
Although the new Regionals format (spreading Regionals out for three weeks rather than just the same weekend) will surely impact deck selection each week as we saw with the rise of the Brandon Smiley’s “Big Tex” deck during Fall Regionals, some decks are sure to see heavy play each week. I think most of us can agree Emboar, Empoleon, Blastoise, Virizion/Genesect variants, Darkrai variants, and some form of Plasma will be the main decks in play leading into Regionals this winter.
Today, I want to spend some time dissecting a deck that’s been getting a lot of online hype in recent weeks. Commonly known as the Yeti (or Snorbax in some areas), the Lugia/Snorlax variant of Plasma has picked up quite a bit of steam among several online forums.
The deck is reminiscent of some early Plasma lists that focused on Thundurus with Colorless attackers. These lists were quickly tossed aside after testing, as the common Thundurus/Kyurem/Deoxys variants were much superior. The Colorless variants struggled from high Retreat Costs (leading to dependence on Float Stone to an even greater extent than standard lists), high attack costs, and the lack of a truly strong non-EX attacker at the time (as Snorlax was simply too awkward to consistently play).
So, what’s changed?
Effects of the Rule Changes
I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear the answer to that question: rule changes. Post November 8th, many openly questioned what Plasma would look like in the new format without the ability to attack first turn. The Lugia/Snorlax deck has become an answer to that question. Before I break down how it fits the new format, first let’s recap some take-aways that I’ve found to be generally true since the new rule changes.
1. Non-EX based decks are more viable.
As shown by decks such as Empoleon and even most Ho-Oh EX variants, trading one for two in a format without reliable gust abilities is simply really strong. If you can build a deck based on non-EX attackers with any semblance of consistency, you can usually have a decent chance.
The catch to that statement is that most non-EX decks are pretty inconsistent. Empoleon’s Diving Draw helps to solve this, and I believe that’s one of the reasons the deck has been so successful thus far.
2. Switch card counts have fallen.
Additionally, unlike the previous format, where almost all decks used the Switch card to get a switching effect, the new rule changes have brought Escape Rope to the forefront. Several decks take advantage of Escape Rope’s combination of Switch and a soft gust effect to help mitigate the loss of Pokémon Catcher.
3.gust effects are less common and thus more powerful.
Gust has always been an incredibly strong effect. Now that Pokémon Catcher itself has been errata’d into a flip, most players have rightly dropped it from lists. However, several hard gust effects still exist in the format. Realistically, the gust effect is almost universally seen with Genesect EX’s Red Signal Ability, but Bright Look Ninetales is also a potential option.
Regardless of how you gust, if you manage to use a gust effect, it’s become substantially more valuable, as players dedicate less of their deck to countering gust effects, allowing you to maximize your ability to take advantage of using them.
4. Bench-sitting techs are viable.
Since gust effects are less common, many people have been testing out cards that would never see play before. Dusknoir has migrated into Darkrai decks. Mr. Mime is almost a universal stable. Palkia can Strafe to a Safeguarder and not fear Pokémon Catcher. Electrode gained power. Anything that can be helpful and just take up a Bench slot has become at least worthy of testing in your deck.
5. Safeguard is a really strong Ability.
Not being able to Catcher around the Safeguard Ability means that Suicune and Sigilyph have become incredibly powerful walls. While most decks included a non-EX attacker before the rule changes, this choice becomes more valuable in the current format as Safeguard can easily wall an unprepared deck not able to access gust effects.
Skeleton Yeti List
Of course, this list of conclusions is certainly not all inclusive, and arguably points 2-4 are all different sides of the same die, but now that we’ve thought about the format changes, let’s check out a basic skeleton of the Lugia/Snorlax deck. Afterward I will discuss some of the choices in the skeleton, how the skeleton addresses the movement in the format, and possibly tech options to use to fill the list. It includes 50 cards.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 28
Energy – 14
Now let’s consider our list above about changes in the format, and then point to cards that address the changes we’ve seen in the format in a way that helps this deck succeed.
Why It Succeeds
Since this deck is largely Pokémon-EX, most non-EX decks figure to trade well against this deck. However, Lugia EX prevents this unequal trading with the unique ability Overflow, allowing an extra Prize to be taken on each KO.
Lugia EX’s attack Plasma Gale hits for 120 damage – after adding two Deoxys-EX with the Power Connect Ability, Lugia hits for 140 damage – the most common maximum HP for non-EX cards seen in the meta today (Blastoise and Empoleon primarily). An additional Deoxys-EX added to the skeleton would allow Lugia EX to 1HKO cards such Hydreigon or Emboar.
Lugia EX is often enough to swing entire matchups (most notably Empoleon) from unfavorable to favorable simply by creating an equitable Prize trade.
From a support perspective, Genesect EX’s Red Signal Ability allows the deck to use a gust effect to drag up less than ideal Pokémon or damaged EXs for Lugia to KO in order to maximize Prize trading. Snorlax’s Block Ability allows you to lock a Red Signaled Pokémon Active. Since Switch counts are down, Block has become more effective. Additionally, Snorlax is a potent non-EX attacker – but we’ll get to that. Genesect EX allows no Bench-warming Pokémon to be completely safe. Even the psychological edge of a potential Red Signal can cause plays your opponent may not want to make.
Obviously, Red Signal is a counter to walling with Safeguard, but Snorlax provides a non-EX attacker that will virtually always 1HKO a Safeguard Pokémon (you need 3 Team Plasma Pokémon in play to KO Sigilyph, and four to KO Suicune) without being return KO’d by any Safeguard Pokémon as both Sigilyph and Suicune merely 2HKO a fully powered Snorlax.
Additionally, Snorlax trades incredibly well with Pokémon-EX, as it is capable of maxing out at 200-210 damage (dependent on how many Deoxys-EX are in play) . If it isn’t return KO’d by your opponent, it’s often going to roll right on through for all your Prizes.
For all this talk about how it counters noticeable changes in the format, I haven’t really addressed what exactly the point of this deck is. What is the base strategy?
Simply put, the strategy of the Yeti is to force the opponent into inequitable Prize trading due to your superior set up of attackers.
In practice, this means that Snorlax and Lugia EX are among the best Prize traders in the game, and setting up multiple Snorlax/Lugia EX in concert almost always ensures you have a perfect response to anything your opponent could do and choreograph the Prize trades and KOs turns in advance.
When played, the deck should prioritize setting up multiple attackers. I won’t spend the time breaking down specific matchups in this article, but with some proper testing, you can soon pick up which attackers are stronger in which matchups. However, the base strategy rarely will change – power up as many attackers as quickly as you can, and then control how the Prizes are traded by planning ahead.
In order to set up multiple attackers, you can use your additional Energy attaching options with Colress Machine and Thundurus EX’s Raiden Knuckle to outspeed your opponent in setup. Generally, you almost always want to simply abandon a Thundurus EX active to begin the game – simply Raiden Knuckle until it dies. Sometimes the game develops in such a way that the Thundurus EX will survive, but don’t retreat just to make sure it does. Giving up 2 Prizes is often vital to ensuring you don’t give up 6.
By this point, you probably have two attackers set up, and you can proceed to promote the appropriate one and trade in a controlled way. You need to plan your turns in advance – you should know what you will be KOing your following turn when you promote the first time.
A quick note for astute readers: You may have noticed that in the introduction, I discussed how one of the previous weaknesses of a Colorless Plasma variant was its reliance on Float Stone, and yet my list contains 0 Float Stone. That might seem confusing, so let’s justify that decision.
When making a decision about whether to play a higher count of Float Stone or Switch, one is basically making a tradeoff decision. Switch is universally a better effect (can get through status, doesn’t use your retreat for the turn), however it can only be used once, while Float Stone can be used infinitely.
As Plasma lists developed, they recognized that one of the primary issues with the deck was its ability to get Catcher-stalled (which was especially true of variants playing a 4 retreat Snorlax). Since every deck was playing 4 Catcher in previous formats, having a “forever” switch for each Float Stone was incredibly valuable, since none of your Pokémon (except Kyurem) would ever want to attach a different Tool anyway.
However, now that Pokémon Catcher has been errata’d, Float Stone is immensely less valuable – you’d rather just play with 3 Switch (including Scramble Switch) to make sure you can get through any potential Laser hazards.
Completing the List
Finally, let’s examine some of additional choices you could make with the skeleton listed above.
Option 1: Thicken Pokémon and Item lines.
The pros of this option are obvious. Typically, consistency is key to a deck’s success, and playing thicker lines will make this deck more consistent for the tradeoff of being less versatile. Most lists tend to make this choice in my experience. It ensures a strong setup, which is vital to success. Just adding more copies of everything in the skeleton will almost always be a good choice.
Option 2: Insert techs.
This option speaks to metagaming. Expect a lot of mirror matches? Maybe 2 Enhanced Hammers could help. Expecting to play Darkrai a lot? Maybe a Hypnotoxic Laser/Virbank City Gymline should be in your deck to get some additional damage on the board and give you an option to 1HKO Sableye with Thundurus EX. Virizion-EX/Genesect EX is the deck to beat? It better watch out for your newly inserted Spiritomb to stop Genesect’s 1HKO potential with G Booster.
This is a solid option that only you can decide the value of, as it will be dependent on your own expectations going into the tournament.
Option 3: Some combination of options 1 and 2.
Maybe you want to thicken some of your Pokémon and Item lines, but you need to fit that Spiritomb LTR in anyway. Why not just do both? After some quick testing, you can probably see which Items are most important to your setup, so you can keep those counts higher and take out some cards you find to be fluff for small techs. For smaller tournaments with more defined metagames, this is probably the strongest option for the deck. It will allow it to be both proactive and reactive to the surrounding forces.
Most times when I play the list, I tend to choose option 1. I’m big on consistency, and that’s the best way to make sure I’m going to get my Raiden Knuckle’s flowing. However, after examining your own metagame and conducting your own testing, you might disagree. That’s ok! The best part about Pokémon and other TCGs is that there might not be a right answer – if you put in enough time and get comfortable enough with your list, you will have a fighting chance.
I hope this has helped you to understand the power of the Yeti, and I wish you luck in your upcoming tournaments!