Flashfire is one set that the community just doesn’t have figured out. When the set was first spoiled, reviews were mixed. There were a few significant cards, such as Druddigon and Lysandre, but a whole array of other cards kept the community unsure. Pyroar was an instigator of many a flame war. A whole crowd gathered behind the new and exciting Fire types as soon as the set dropped. Pyroar and the Charizard-EXs were the base of most people’s testing lists. As time went on, however, that base quickly grew to become a mountain.
Kangaskhan-EX and its Mega Evolution were a couple of cards that made a splash in Fairy-type decks not only as a way to deal with Pyroar, but as a thick attacker with and without Aromatisse support. As Mega Mom grew in popularity, people were beginning to finish their testing with Pyroar. Frankly, not a lot of success was had, and Pyroar settled well into its place at the middle of the metagame. Charizard-EX was delegated to a similar fate, sitting next to Pyroar as a strong attacker with some serious downsides.
Quickly, people began to pick up counters to Pyroar’s Intimidating Mane. The already popular Yveltal/Garbodor deck works well against the lion. Raichu XY has gained quite a bit of ground as a splashable soft counter to Pyroar, as well as trading favorably with Yveltal-EX. In the last two weeks or so, Raichu has launched straight up in popularity. Today, he flies high with established archetypes, such as Virizion/Genesect and Straight Yveltal.
Flashfire continues to surprise, however. A few weeks ago, the Pyroar hype train was grinding to a halt, people were hopping off and taking busses to elsewhere. Enter Jit Min of Singapore. Crowned national champion with a Pyroar/Charizard deck, Jit Min shot sparks through the camps of Pyroar haters and supporters alike. Myself? As an ardent opposer of the Royal Pokémon’s viability in the TCG, I gave the card a second look.
Flashfire has not yet revealed all of its secrets, and the ultimate significance of the set is still yet to be seen. However, it seems that Flashfire has brought with it more changes in the metagame than it has good cards. This article will examine those changes in the updated context of this quickly evolving metagame.
But first, I want to give you guys a look at something else I have been working on.
Players love taking a break from the current format. Outside of tournament games, some of my favorite things to do include: playing The Resistance (a great strategic role-playing game, similar to internet Mafia or Werewolf), throwing a Frisbee around outside the venue, and playing games of Pokémon with out-of-format decks.
Constructing and playing decks of old is a craze that is becoming increasingly more popular as more resources to build those decks are resurfacing in the community. Being able to relive old formats is just as fun as exploring them for the first time as a newer player.
I think we can all agree that the modified format always gets a little bit stale at some points, and players just want a dose of nostalgia.
The biggest problem for me when I decided to build some old decks is absolutely limited resources. Some of the formats overlap, and it’s very tough to find staples to build decks in closely related formats. Plus, I want to make sure I’m playing decks from years that other people are also interested in.
- 2004 is its own animal. It demands cards from the scarce e-sets. I call it “hard mode for deck builders.”
- I wanted to play a format I never had a chance to play, so I’m focusing my efforts on building decks from 2006. More people seem to to pick 2006 over 2005. And in addition, Rocket’s Admin., an N clone that was a staple in almost every deck back in the day, is becoming hugely expensive as demand for old cards grows. In fact, in my foolish dedication, I threw down 75 US dollars for a mere six copies of the uncommon. I couldn’t build from both 2005 and 2006, so I picked up the more popular 2006 format.
- 2007 is similar to 2006, but with a focus on the Holon engine and a slightly faster pace. Erik Nance wrote a fabulous bit on the format-defining deck InfernCatty a few weeks ago.
- 2008 is an easy year to get cards from, but the deck choices are quite limited, so it’s not very popular.
- 2009 and 2010 are popular, but I see many more people looking at decks for 2010. It was the best of the SP era and the cards are still super accessible.
Today I’ll give you a quick overview of my two favorite decks in the 2010 format that weren’t printed as Worlds decks. For people that are just getting into building these decks, I think 2010 is one of the cheapest, most fun, easily accessible formats to build out of.
Pokémon – 25
Trainers – 22
Energy – 13
This deck is similar to the overwhelmingly popular Gardevoir lock deck of 2008, but rebooted with the versatility of Double Colorless Energy. Psychic Lock worked well next to Judge, and it shut off popular powers like Set Up and Cosmic Power. It also had a favorable matchup against the Nationals-winning Sablelock deck. Gardevoir could abuse the opponent’s played Cyrus’s Initiative, Judge, and Cyrus’s Conspiracy to its advantage, easily tearing down the fragile SP deck’s setup.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 29
Energy – 12
This is Con’s winning Sablelock list, and the list I would have used at Worlds if I had been invited to play that year, though I preferred Murkrow SV to SW. It tries to lock the opponent out of the game by playing extra Supporters with Sableye. Supporters couldn’t normally be played while playing first that year, and Sableye gave you an edge. This deck was ultimately unpopular, just because it was difficult to play. Although challenging, it’s extremely rewarding to win with. The key to playing it correctly is using the disruptive Supporters to leave the opponent at a disadvantage on key turns, rather than lock him or her out of the game completely.
Enough of that, let’s get back to the stuff you’re looking for.
Never before have I seen a format change so much during the offseason. 2014 is the first time there hasn’t been a significant series of US tournaments (strong indicators for the National Championships of all nations) between Spring Regionals and Nats. It’s a well-known fact that players copy players that are winning, but it surprises me how much change we have seen when there have been relatively few tournaments to win.
Not a whole lot of cards in Flashfire are that format defining. If I had to make a list of cards from Flashfire that are directly going to affect gameplay, the list would consist of only Druddigon and Pyroar. Pyroar is obviously its own deck, and Druddigon is a whole different beast. The card makes it a lot more dangerous to play Blastoise and Rayboar as we know them, and so far, I haven’t had much success with porting these decks into a format where Druddigon exists.
All Druddigon has done is killed off two of the less common, but more powerful decks in the format. However, this has done little to actually change the landscape of the metagame. There really weren’t any decks rendered completely unplayable by either of the Energy Rain decks that have become viable since the introduction of the Dragon-type Dragon slayer.
Pyroar is singlehandedly molding the post-Flashfire metagame. But like with Druddigon, it is more the threat of Pyroar being played that forces players to change their approaches to deck building. Interestingly, Pyroar isn’t that popular at all. You can choose to play a deck that deals with Pyroar or one that doesn’t. If you play one that doesn’t, you will probably have an advantage against decks that chose play cards to beat Pyroar. If you do chose to include options to beat Pyroar, you’ll likely demolish it, but you might struggle against things like Virizion/Genesect.
I’ve noticed a trend. The format is revolving around Pyroar’s perceived popularity, even though Pyroar doesn’t even occupy a huge share of the metagame. I’ll get more in-depth with this idea later on in the article.
In the last few weeks, there has been a rapid shift away from Straight Yveltal, and to a lesser extent, even away from the omnipresent Dark Pokémon + Garbodor combo. Recently, the focus has been RAICHU, RAICHU, and more RAICHU. In fact, we will just stick Raichu in anything. Players have been splashing it in everything from Virizion/Genesect, to Yveltal, and even in their own Pyroar decks. Raichu fulfills many needs in a player’s deck for a single DCE. It gives you a way out against Pyroar, a way to one-shot an Yveltal, and a strong non-EX attacker.
However, I don’t think the shift to Raichu over other attackers is solely a result of the card being good. Raichu was seen peppered into many decks that made top cut in countless National Championships. I think that the overwhelming presence of Raichu was impossible to ignore, and people saw the card’s potential. This is the time where people are least attached to their decks too; the set is new, cards’ potentials are being realized, and people are switching it up. In general, people are just extremely apt to change right now.
With Pyroar seeing huge amounts of hate, they see no need to keep their hard counter, while other players are getting results with a softer counter to Pyroar that also does work in other matchups. At the moment, Raichu thoroughly outclasses Garbodor in Yveltal. Not playing Raichu leaves one at a terrible disadvantage when playing against another Yveltal deck that does include Raichu.
In short, not playing Raichu in Yveltal leaves you at a disadvantage against other Yveltal decks running Raichu. As a result, Yveltal/Raichu is the best version to run right now, because Yveltal variants are the most popular deck by numbers alone. With Energy Rain decks being at an all-time low, Garbodor isn’t really necessary at the moment.
Here’s my list for Yveltal/Raichu.
At the moment, it’s one of the stronger decks. However, if Virizion/Genesect continues to grow in popularity, I predict a shift away from Raichu, back to Garbodor. Either that, or the Yveltal players will cut their Pyroar counters altogether.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
Raichu is a strong addition, for reasons already explained. This is a pretty typical list, but Jirachi may seem different. It has pros and cons, the most notable con being the giant target it has on its back for Lysandre. If that worries you, try Electrode. But I feel like playing one or the other buffers your somewhat weak Supporter package, and gives value to Level Ball.
I call the Supporter line weak, only relative to other decks. This is less of a problem than it may seem, just because the deck does not demand new cards every turn in the way a deck like Blastoise does. Yveltal does not have to cycle its cards to dig for resources many cases, and the deck is often fine with just drawing a card, playing a Trainer, attaching an Energy, and attacking. Part of the key to playing this deck well is knowing when not to play a Supporter, even if you have one.
The meta is terribly complex and constantly evolving from week to week. Much of the above reasoning will probably be obsolete as soon as something like VirGen becomes popular again. Here is what I have built right now. Below is one of my favorite decks, and my current favorite way to play Yveltal. Assuming Pyroar doesn’t see an explosive jump in play after its victories at notable National Championships in Singapore and the Czech Republic, this should be a good play for people, like me, who are looking for a Worlds invite, and are willing to make high-risk plays to make top 8. It deals with most decks in the format quite well, and every matchup is winnable.
Consistency is king.
He always has been, and he always will be, and this is the biggest reason to recommend the following deck over the Raichu version. That being said, I believe there is some merit to the Random Receiver/Sableye DEX/Pokémon Catcher builds of the past. They are fast, proven, and explosive. I feel like Lysandre is the card that makes me want to move away from the build with Catcher though. Being able to have the old effect of Catcher back is incredibly appealing. That being said, Gust of Wind is stuck to a Supporter, but it’s still powerful because we can work around the downside.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 36
Energy – 13
And enter Electrode. This is a more radical departure, but it works well with a deck that often plays to a small hand. This version of Yveltal is built to be a powerful midrange deck, unlike the fast Yveltal builds that would rely on mid- or late-game Junk Hunts to manage resources.
The Supporter line might seem strange, but it’s something I’m seeing more and more in the post-Flashfire metagame. Now, you might find it odd that I’m listing a deck without Raichu, right after I called it the best way to run the deck right now. I predict that a deck that isn’t hurt by the influx of Raichu, such as Rayboar or Virizion/Genesect, will become popular. When that happens, this version will be a lot more relevant, not to mention consistent. I expect this species of Supporter lineup will become the new standard, though I’m not yet 100% sure that it is better than the long-reigning Random Receiver version.
This build of the deck is designed to conserve resources and make big plays to end the game before you would ever get to a point a point where you need to Junk Hunt to stay alive. It would also be easy to fit a 1-1 Garbodor line in here to help deal with Pyroar.
I mentioned Virizion/Genesect, the deck that everyone thought would die to the flash of fire. Well, not so fast. Those who forecasted the death of Grass decks were pretty far from the reality. As it turns out, the Fire decks actually put VG in a pretty good position. It just so happens that VG is pretty strong against most of Pyroar’s counters.
As Underground writers have already pointed out…
- Deck A (Pyroar) is countered by techs in deck B (Yveltal, Emboar, Empoleon… many other decks fall into this group).
- Deck A (Pyroar) beats the deck Group C (VG, Plasma, any deck that chooses to only play Basics).
- Deck group C has an advantage against deck group B in general because these decks play cards to deal with deck A, rather than C.
When Flashfire first came out, the hype around deck A was immense, so deck group C was nowhere to be found.
When deck group B is popular, deck A becomes less popular because, quite obviously, nobody wants to take a loss against the most popular type of deck in the format. With deck A suffocating under deck B, deck group C can take the advantage when deck A is at its weakest. This is what I believe is happening right now, or what is about to happen in the next few weeks.
The question is, where will we be in the cycle come US Nationals? This, my friends, is the five-thousand-dollar question. Will deck A be the play to deal with deck group C? Or will deck C stay dominant as players begin to lose trust in Pyroar, if they do at all?
Either way, this is my choice for the strongest deck in category C, Virizion/Genesect.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 35
Energy – 15
For whatever reason, reviews have been mixed on this deck. Some players, like Jay, have come out in support of the deck as one of the stronger choices for Nationals, while my teammate Jon Bristow claimed that the outlook for VG is “pretty bad.” I’m inclined to agree with Jay here. Most people have been running it with Raichu, but I’m trying to depart from that.
I can’t emphasize enough how easy Raichu is to fit in this deck. Definitely go for it in the right metagame. This deck is extremely flexible, and Raichu comes in and out of my deck on a regular basis. There have been a lot of Raichu/VG decks on SixPrizes lately, so I figured I’d offer something different than a Raichu variant. In this case, “different” means “as good as, if not better.”
VG tends to have a lot of middling matchups, bordering 50-50 overall. Pyroar is quite unfavorable, but VG makes up for it with strong matchups against Blastoise, Straight Yveltal, and many decks with Raichu. The rest tend to hold that 50-50 line.
Playing your own Raichu doesn’t help much against anything other than Yveltal/Garbodor, and the other Yveltal matchups are already slightly favorable, in my opinion. For this reason, I prefer to use those spaces for more consistency in Pokémon form – either Roserade DRX 15 or Electrode PLF. My preference is the latter, simply because it offers more impact the longer the game goes on.
I excluded Super Rod. Without Raichu, I hate the card. I’d rather just have a 4th Genesect, or in this case, an 11th Grass Energy.
However, the deck’s greatest advantage can’t be seen so readily on paper. Its consistency in game pushes it over the top. With this list, 7 out of 9 Pokémon are good starters, and with Skyarrow Bridge, it is easy to switch into a Virizion-EX, quickly fetched with one of four Ultra Ball. With a single copy of Colress Machine, a lone Genesect can quickly score 100 damage on turn two with a combination of Grass Energy and the Machine, with Skyla being interchangeable with any of those.
VG has unmatched versatility in best-of-three matches, early-game strength, and consistency, making it my current choice for US Nationals.
However, this is all dependent on the stability of the metagame. As Jit Min has already shown us with his strong type A Pyroar build, it is possible to take that deck and beat the supposed “counters” found in type B decks. If Pyroar decks can consistently beat through Raichu and Garbodor techs, Grass might face too many overwhelming numbers to be considered a good play for US Nationals.
I’ve talked a lot about Pyroar, but I’ve yet to give a list for it. The Charizard version has been relatively standardized. I’d endorse Jon’s most recent Pyroar list, though I’m not a fan of the Mega Charizard. Our group tested that version together, and there wouldn’t be much purpose in me posting it again.
I have another version of Pyroar that uses Yveltal as a less obtrusive way to counter things like Delphox. Sometimes I find that Charizard is actually overkill. In many cases, I can use Evil Ball to get the same resulting KO that I would get from Combustion Blast for fewer Energy. Because of this, I can omit Blacksmith from the list, and with only 5 Fire Energy, there isn’t much use in playing Fiery Torch.
Pokémon – 12/11
Trainers – 35/36
Energy – 13
This deck plays similarly to the typical Pyroar decks. Pyroar does the majority of the attacking, and Yveltal cleans up things that Pyroar cannot deal with on its own.
One of the last decks I have to share today sits right outside the triangle of deck types A, B, and C that I spoke about earlier. That deck is Flygon/Accelgor. I think this might actually outclass Empoleon as the best Evolution deck in the format. Flygon has always been lurking in the shadows of the format, but it never really had a chance to become a mainstream deck. I think that this is partially because players aren’t used to playing such passive decks. I see much more Flygon on PTCGO than I do in real life, likely because people don’t take the deck very seriously in the real world. It has always been delegated to the second tier.
The deck recently placed second in the National Championship of Singapore, and for once, Flygon has a moment to bask in the spotlight.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 35
Energy – 4
It’s pretty interesting. In action, it feels like something out of this format. It is best played passively. You chill out and let your opponent attack into your Flygon, which you ideally heal, though it doesn’t matter a whole lot if it gets knocked out. You should have a second one ready to go. One of the coolest tricks this deck has to offer is being able to Beach at the end of almost every turn. Setup is incredibly easy. Though it might look clunky on paper, a Beach gives the deck a ton of gas, and the 4 copies I play gives you a ton of control over the active Stadium.
Accelgor is best used after an N, or to set an EX up for a knockout. While it might not need to be said, thinking ahead is much more important when playing this deck. Sending Flygon up after you miscalculated damage might cause a Pokémon to be knocked out at a moment that isn’t exactly ideal. You always have to be thinking two damage counters ahead here.
This deck creates some real issues for popular decks that rely on big Benches, such as Blastoise and Empoleon. It’s basically impossible to play Jirachi-EX into a Flygon. Decks that try to limit their Bench size will feel a backlash on the power of their own Colress, and pressure on their options to switch out of Accelgor’s Paralysis.
Flygon has some problems with Yveltal/Garbodor and VG. The best way to deal with Garbodor is to use the Lysandre on Garbodor and Paralyze it. Most Garbodor decks play only one or no switching cards. This play is most effective while their Virbank is in play. If the Paralysis sticks, you’re in great shape to win the game.
VG is an extremely difficult matchup because the Grass Pokémon resist the Special Conditions of Accelgor, while also playing well with a small Bench.
This deck is quite easy to play quickly, and most of the damage the deck does is predictable enough to be calculated during your opponent’s turn. Flygon doesn’t play a ton of Trainers a turn either. It’s deceptively efficient under a 50-minute clock. It should be noted that losing games spiral out of control very quickly. If you lose too many Trapinch early and something happens to the Super Rod, you may just want to scoop to save time. You often need three or more Flygon to win the game, depending on the matchup. If something like Rayboar sets up an early Delphox that can’t be dealt with before it stomps some of your Trapinch, you shouldn’t waste time letting your opponent steamroll you. It happens; move on to game two.
There’s one more Stage 2 deck that I like, though I’m still not sure how competitive it is. Jon showed you all our Empoleon/Miltank list on Tuesday, so I’ll instead post my Greninja/Miltank deck. It’s deceptively challenging to play. Shuriken placement is tricky, as you often have to start setting up a KO several turns in advance.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 33
Energy – 12
The deck doesn’t run Dusknoir because my logic is that if you’re placing damage counters, you shouldn’t need a second chance to place them again. Ideally, you will be able to place the damage correctly the first time. Without Dusknoir, the deck’s build is significantly faster than the Empoleon version.
Turn 2 Powerful Friends can deal up to 100 damage, or 130 with a Shuriken. Already, that’s enough to OHKO most non-EX Pokémon in the format. Once you have two ‘Ninjas in play, you should be able to take complete control of the board. If you can score one KO without having to use multiple Water Shurikens, that damage can be put on the Bench to set up future KOs. One turn of hitting the Bench with Shuriken damage can put you way ahead if they only have one attacker waiting to fight.
If this deck played perfectly every game, I think it would probably be the best deck in format. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case. While Greninja has no trouble setting up, it often struggles to actually get the Energy to use Water Shuriken while also attaching for turn. I don’t like Superior Energy Retrieval in this deck just because it often can’t afford to discard two other cards for the effect.
Normal Energy Retrieval is the more conservative option. Being able to play them at any point for no downside is a huge plus. In the most common cases, you won’t have the three to four Greninja in play to fully utilize the power of Superior Energy Retrieval anyway. The deck runs one Superior to be grabbed with Skyla when absolutely necessary, the card is still too good not to play, just not as a four-of.
Well, that’s about it for this article. It’s a tad short, but I think there’s a lot of content here for you guys.
Flashfire hasn’t done much in reality. There are a few high-impact cards, including Pyroar and Druddigon, but other than those, Flashfire has not changed much. Some decks have gained new tools, but the core of the metagame has remained the same. Most of the “new” decks, such as Greninja and Flygon, have just resurfaced thanks to some options. These builds occupy the same niche they did pre-Flashfire, in that sense, little has changed there either.
I stand by what I said at the beginning of the article: the format is defined by the perceived popularity of Pyroar. As we can see, the amount of people who adapt to a jump in Pyroar play can completely alter the landscape of the metagame. When more people throw hate at Pyroar, its numbers will fall, allowing decks that are weak to Pyroar but strong against its counters to take over the metagame. The ratio of these different types of decks is constantly changing.
Never before have I seen such a volatile metagame. The key to doing well at any Nationals is being able to predict what groups of decks are going to be the largest on the day of the tournament. While most years I stand by having a tried-and-true list ready for the event a week or more in advance, that just won’t work in this tournament environment.
Be ready to change decks at a moment’s notice and be ready to think on your feet. Get to the tournament with two or three different options, and be comfortable and competent at playing all of them equally. Try to get to a point where you don’t have a preference. That way you will be able to make an unbiased deck decision based on the metagame.
When you are equally competent with more than one deck, other factors will not overshadow your decision-making.
… and that will conclude this unlocked Underground article.
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