As all new set releases do, the release of XY has got the community started full swing with testing and theorizing about the changes that will come to the format – and we don’t even have the cards yet. It is true that this is one of the more exciting sets we have had in a while, with a new mechanic in Mega Evolutions, a brand new Fairy type, and a slew of new abilities to build decks from.
While it’s fun to start testing the new stuff out right away, I think it’s important to not forget about the decks that have already been established before this set is released. We get access to a lot of new cards that can alter the strategies of the decks that have already made an impact in the competitive scene. That’s why the aim of this article is to examine past decks going into the NXD-XY format, and what these new cards have to offer to the tried-and-true strategies.
Below is a list of the decks I will examine going into our new format:
Darkrai and Garbodor have been a cute couple ever since the very beginning of this season when it won the Klaczynski Open, and remained a threat at our Winter Regionals when it won in Virginia. Everyone knows by now why this deck is good – Ability denial with Garbodor, the reuse of powerful Items with Junk Hunt, and the eventual overrun with Darkrai.
However, many people were deterred from playing Darkrai/Garbodor in the past due to its naturally slow pace of play within the 50-minute round limit. The most important question to answer about this deck going into the new format is why does this deck play so slowly, and is it the optimal way to play it with these new cards?
Gotta Go Slow
With Sableye being a focal point of the deck, there are many turns where you toss Laser damage on something and hunt the Laser/Catcher back. Hammers (in the lists that play them) are also recycled this way. The nature of an attack like Junk Hunt is to slowly wear down the opponent with constant disruption.
A weakness Darkrai has seemed to have so far is its inability to score a 1HKO on things. By adding Garbodor into the deck, you are able to slow down other decks to your level. Forcing the opponent to play at a pace that you set is incredible, because you are prepared for the slow game while they are not.
This strategy has worked out pretty well for a few skilled players this season, but with the onset of so many potentially game-changing cards being released, will the lack of speed finally be too much for Darkrai/Garbodor to be effective? While the answer is likely that Darkrai/Garbodor will continue to be effective, the deck acquires some cool new options to play with. The next thing to ask ourselves is, “Do these new options really make Darkrai/Garbodor a better deck, or do I just want to use shiny new cards?”
The latter is the case for many testing specimens post-new-release.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at a couple of things Darkrai/Garbodor can use from XY:
Most of the time, this deck sits behind Sableye, recycling Items until the time is right to go in with Darkrai. You had to play this way in order to catch up to the opponent’s setup while Garbodor and Lasers slowed them down.
Yveltal-EX offers a speed boost that can overwhelm someone very quickly – especially if they are under Garbotoxin. Evil Ball hits ridiculous amounts of damage very quickly for a minimum of 2 Energy. This makes the potential turn 1 Evil Ball (if you go second) a very real possibility since the deck plays Float Stones and Escape Rope.
Playing Yveltal-EX changes the dynamic of this deck considerably. Rather than making gradual progress with a heavy emphasis on Sableye, more focus can be placed on speed and attacking with Yveltal-EX quickly along with the Garbodor lock. It is much too early to tell what the best approach is, but this is an option that the deck didn’t have before now.
Going with the more offensive approach to this deck comes Yveltal, which offers Energy acceleration alongside Dark Patch for a quick setup. This card has a lot of potential – I’m not sure if this is the right deck for it, but being able to accelerate even more Energy onto your field faster allows for the deck to keep pace with a lot of decks that blow up quickly.
Opting to play this card would mean playing less Sableye. Is Energy acceleration and quick damage more beneficial than reusing your Items in this deck?
When Red Card was first revealed, it had everyone going insane. An Item that forces the opponent to play with a lower hand can hurt a lot. If used on the first turn, your opponent will have to play their first turn out with a 5 card hand. Admittedly, this is not as bad as it initially sounded, but there is still a lot of room for abuse of this card.
Having the ability to shuffle your opponent’s Junk Hunted Items back into their deck and on the same turn using a Juniper is pretty nice. The most annoying aspect of this, though, is that Sableye can get it back as many times as he wants. This further adds to the disruption mechanic of Garbodor, but takes away from the aggressive nature of including the Y-birds.
There isn’t too much to be said about Professor’s Letter except that it replaces Energy Search. Energy Search was a pretty standard inclusion in Darkrai/Garbodor before, so an even better version of it should have no trouble making the cut. Additionally, Prof’s Letter for two D Energy combined with an Ultra Ball is really nice.
Roller Skates seems odd to include here, I agree. However, with the potential for this deck to move in a more aggressive direction, an Item like Roller Skates that nets 3 extra cards half of the time doesn’t seem half bad. On top of that, Sableye can get it back in a pinch.
This deck will still be a threat, and may be scarier than ever. Most of the top decks right now and in the foreseeable future rely on abilities, so Garbodor is something that should always be on the competitive player’s mind. It’s exciting to see how this deck will evolve in the coming months!
My personal favorite so far this season (as many people from the Georgia Marathon could attest). I love the consistency provided from Virizion’s attack and the 1HKO ability that G Booster offers. So many things in this deck work in perfect harmony to score an easy 200 damage on your opponent’s threats.
Virizion/Genesect doesn’t gain a lot of new toys from XY. Quality over quantity, though, and there are a couple of cards that may completely change the way this deck works. While the general strategy stays the same, the deck becomes even more efficient.
Virizion is not the only card that appreciates Muscle Band (actually, almost any deck loves Muscle Band), but it is one of the ones that gets the most out of it. By boosting Emerald Slash up from 50 damage to 70 changes the math in so many ways.
Virizion can now Slash for a 1HKO on Sableye and Trubbish, as well as setting 170 HP EXs up for a perfect 100-damage Megalo Cannon on the following turn. The amount of pressure put on the opponent with that extra 20 damage is immense. Taking an EX knockout while retaining all your Energy is also incredibly strong.
A Muscle Banded Bouffalant along with Virbank and Laser 1HKOs other 170 HP EXs as well. Mewtwo EX with a Band attached can revenge X Ball another Mewtwo with only two Energy attached. The possibilities really open up when you add Muscle Band into the mix.
Roller Skates is an option for Virizion/Genesect as well, because high Skyla counts let you search out a specific Item (G Booster) while also pulling out a decent draw for the turn from an Item. I usually shy away from coin flips and I honestly think Bicycle is the better card here, but I could be wrong.
Cassius is a really cool fit for this deck. While situational, it acts as a Max Potion, Switch, and Super Rod all in one. Rather than using Max Potion and discarding energy from something, it can be nice to Cassius a damaged Genesect back into the deck and Emerald Slash those energy onto another healthy Genesect on the Bench. Virizion is a deck that can afford this turn of not using a draw Supporter because it accelerates its setup while also doing the damage from Emerald Slash (which will be 70 from Muscle Band if we’re really cookin’).
Venusaur-EX and its Mega Evolution
It may be tempting to use these two in a deck with Grass type-acceleration, but there is not really much reason to include them rather than M Venusaur’s 230 HP. A Muscle Banded Mega Venusaur can 1HKO a 170 HP EX if Virbank is in play, but so can Genesect with a G Booster. Aside from being able to withstand a Black Ballista or G Boost itself, Venusaur seems to clunk up this deck and take away from the strength it already has in its consistency.
Virizion/Genesect loses no power moving into the XY format. It retains its weakness to Emboar, but otherwise is an extremely consistent and powerful deck. Muscle Band gives Virizion an awesome boost and produces some favorable numbers for the other attackers in the deck to clean things up.
Plasma absolutely becomes the scariest deck going into the next format – all because of Muscle Band on Lugia. Filling the Bench with Deoxys-EX and attaching a Muscle Band to Lugia gives Plasma Gale horrifying potential that was not possible before now. It is easier than ever to Plasma Gale two EXs for the game because Thundurus’ Raiden Knuckle damage is not even needed. Genesect is still around to Red Signal threats because you can possibly (and realistically) win a game by only using two of your Plasma Energy. Colress Machine, Double Colorless Energy, Overflow, and Muscle Band form a deadly combination.
While Muscle Band is the #1 addition to Plasma from this set, there are a couple of other cool perks it gains access to:
Rainbow Energy can be a nice addition to an already versatile deck. Likely replacing Blend Energy in the lists that use them, Rainbow Energy adds a lot of flexibility to Plasma by making it easier to attack with Deoxys and Genesect. It may now be more effective to play around with less-used Plasma attackers like Heatran as well, and overall allows the list to accommodate more metagame changes by switching in certain Pokémon with less impact on the rest of the deck.
Just food for thought here. Skarmory easily fits into the Energy scheme that Plasma would already use, discards tools like Silver Mirror and Float Stone, and hits Fairies for Weakness. If Frozen City is in play and a Fairy-type has 20 damage (or even 10 from a Rainbow Energy) on it, Skarmory scores a nice one-hit for 3 Energy. It probably won’t see much play, but the niche is there for him if the right opportunity presents itself.
Aside from the new cards that Plasma can use, there are specific metagame changes to consider when looking at how powerful Plasma becomes.
An Increase in Enhanced Hammer Usage
Plasma will rely heavily on Double Colorless and Plasma Energy to Plasma Gale its way to victory. The simplest hard counter for this is to include Enhanced Hammers in your list. Even one well-timed hammer on a turn where another Lugia is Knocked Out can spell doom for the Plasma player. However, with the cool new Items and Tools we get in this set, it may be hard to fit this into a list.
Due to Items like Muscle Band becoming popular and how much it boosts Lugia’s effectiveness, expect Tool Scrapper to be in many decks as at least a 2-of. Silver Mirror may also see more play, but its effectiveness is debatable when you consider that most people will bump their Scrapper count to accommodate for new Tools anyway.
As of right now, Plasma scares me the most. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, either – Plasma only got better with this set and I would not be surprised to see it take home lots of States wins.
Blastoise and Emboar
The “Rain Dance” decks have had a lot of success as of late, taking multiple Top 8 finishes at almost every Winter Regional. XY presents these decks with even more power in the form of better draw power and Energy acceleration.
Energy Search x2, as has been previously stated, is hard not to include in these lists now. An Item that searches for 2 Energy at once is incredible for decks that make it rain.
In a format without Catcher in every deck, I have often found that after you set up your first Blastoise or Emboar, many decks can’t touch it. This leaves extra Rare Candy sitting in the deck with no purpose except for discard fodder.
Delphox is the perfect remedy for these extra Candies. Its Ability, Magical Fire, lets you draw cards until you have 6 in your hand. It is no surprise why this ability is so good: Emboar and Blastoise have the ability to drop Energy out of the hand many times during your turn, so having Delphox there to let you draw 4 more cards from a 2 card hand is very strong.
The problem with it is that it is a Stage 2, and is much harder to get out than Electrode. Are the extra two cards you net from Magical Fire better than getting a consistent Electrode to Magnetic Draw up to 4?
As a side note, I have heard many people say that Delphox is a replacement for Tropical Beach. Please don’t fall into this type of thinking. It should be apparent that the two cards serve grossly contrasting purposes, and one is not a replacement for the other.
The alternative to the Stage 2 Pokémon draw in Delphox is Electrode, and Electrode evolves from this dude. With a lower HP than the commonly used Plasma Freeze version, it is almost as if it is daring something to take it out, most notably Virizion’s Emerald Slash.
But while the ability looks nice, and 50 damage coming back into your turn can be a useful boost, the decks that play Electrode are already the ones that go for 1HKOs all game anyway. It is likely that the 50 damage would get lost in a Black Ballista later on. With that being said, it is probably better to just go with the 60 HP Voltorb over this one (at least in this type of deck).
Blastoise and Emboar are definitely still at the top of the list. Emboar gains more from this set than Blastoise, though, with Rayquaza having no damage cap (to take out the occasional Mega-EX), and fire being a great offensive type right now. Emboar also attacks with Delphox more effectively for those who choose to use it in their lists. I expect the popularity of these decks to keep Garbodor a threat going into States.
Or should I say, Trevenant/Accelgor? Trevenant does everything Gothitelle did, but faster. This makes Item/Paralysis lock even scarier than it was in Gothitelle’s hay day by streaming Item lockers even more quickly and consistently than before. The ability to stream Trevenants also alleviates its Weakness to Dark, which many theorized would make the deck hard to play. While Yveltal and Darkrai will be popular players in the upcoming tournaments, it is important to remember that a deck that locks the opponent up in this fashion can almost always mount a comeback if it gets set up.
So without such a reliance on Rare Candy for the Item lock to get set up, the amount of free space granted to this deck is a godsend. 4 Rare Candy and 1-2 Gothoritas now become techs or consistency cards and gives a once tight list some much needed breathing room. Some of these spaces can be devoted to overcoming the Virizion/Genesect matchup, which is a near auto-loss for the Trevenant player because the lock never gets set. Genesect can also Red Signal around the Trevenant and get access to its Items again.
Also, Red Card while placing the opponent under Item lock can be incredible, especially against a deck that relies heavily on Items. Red Card resets a Junk Hunt and limits your opponent’s options even more. For other Trevenant variants, Phantump can use Astonish after a Red Card to reduce the opponent’s hand size to 3 going into their turn.
Trevenant is too good to ignore. Even with things like Virizion and Slurpuff around, Trevenant can stop their setup before they can do anything to prevent the lock. This is one of the decks that wins when it sets up. We saw how powerful Gothitelle was at last year’s Nationals, and I expect the Trevenant version to be even more potent.
XY adds a ton of changes to our game. As this article explained, the impact some of these cards will have on the already popular decks is astounding – and that didn’t even include the brand new decks to come from this set. One thing is for sure – the next couple of months is going to be very interesting. Let’s hope that the game continues in this direction!
Stay based and positive,
Tyler “THE Moonbeam” Morris