The first thing I would like to do is start off by issuing an apology to everybody. I was positive the rotation was going to be Plasma Storm-on and I was wrong. It’s always been my belief that you need to own up to your mistakes, do your best to correct them, and move on. The rotation is, in fact, going to be Boundaries Crossed-on, which had a pretty dramatic change on many of my lists. Some of them I simply had to rework and others I had to completely abandon. Over the course of this article, I plan to revisit all of the lists I’ve been working on, talk about how they have changed, and consider their viability in the BCR-on format.
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m defending my mistake, but I do want to talk about how I arrived at a PLS-on assumption:
1. It was a rotation of 4 full sets. A 4-set block rotation is pretty standard and a number we have commonly seen in the past.
2. Marketing and Landorus-EX. There is no question that Landorus is incredibly overpowered right now with all of the Fighting support we received in Furious Fist. Many decks in the new format and probably the foreseeable future will either abuse Landorus or have to counter Landorus. This creates a narrower meta revolving around a small handful of decks.
From a marketing standpoint, narrow metas are horrible because it limits the number of viable cards in each set. Lucario-EX is a great card out of Furious Fist that would have been huge in a PLS on format, but will probably see little play in a BCR on format. Many of the “great cards” in Furious Fist are commons and uncommons, and those don’t sell boxes. Landorus-EX will probably cut the number of playable cards in each set drastically for the entire year.
That being said though, very rarely has a card that’s been very successful at the start of the season had the same dominance at the end. In fact, Darkrai is just about the only example I can really think of, since Blastoise was introduced around Cities of its breakout season.
3. The Extended format. TPCi has done so much work to integrate Extended into their tournament structure, that I would think they would have wanted vastly different decks doing well in each format. With the BCR-on rotation, Landorus-EX will be a very dominant deck in both formats with very similar builds. This doesn’t force players to show skill with two different decks, nor does it force players to be creative with two separate card pools. In my mind, these were the two main reasons to have an Extended format in the first place.
4. Seismitoad-EX. Beside the set rotation, the other big mistake I feel I made is that I completely underestimated Seismitoad. Shutting down your opponent’s Items (Switch, Laser, Catcher, etc.) is obviously really good, and I think it would have been a solid card in a PLS-on format, although I don’t think it would have been played nearly as it will be in our current BCR-on format. I hopped on the bandwagon once we knew Landorus-EX was staying in the format, and my Big Basics list shifted more toward Landorus/Garbodor. Seismitoad is a huge part of my strategy against Pyroar, and I’ll discuss my list later in the article.
Table of Contents
I agree with Andrew that between the loss of Tropical Beach and the sure popularity of Seismitoad, Stage 2 decks will take a big hit. However, I’m not as convinced as he is that they are “unplayable” because of these things rather shoved into the lower ends of tier 1 and the higher ends of tier 2. Empoleon is a deck that will see less play in a BCR-on format than it would have in a PLS-on format. Being a Water type, it counters Landorus-EX well and built-in draw power puts it ahead of any other Stage 2 deck in the format.
Remember, the ideal starts of T1 Seismitoad lock and T2 Garbodor lock aren’t nearly as easy to pull off in practice as they are in theory. Seismitoad’s damage output is extremely low compared to Empoleon’s, and trying to go aggressive with Landorus-EX will result in two quick, easy Prizes for the Empoleon player. The biggest aspect of play Seismitoad changes is that Dusknoir will be exceedingly difficult to get out, but in this matchup, I think Empoleon can get by without it. Empoleon and Miltank alone can power through Seismitoad.
My Empoleon list has remained roughly unchanged since my last article, but I want to share the build as it is slightly different:
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 33
Energy – 6
I dropped 1 copy of Startling Megaphone so I could make room for 1 copy of Mr. Mime. We all know that Landorus-EX is going to see wide amounts of play, which by itself should be enough to justify the inclusion of Mr. Mime. I also expect that Kyurem PLF will see play as a counter to Landorus-EX, which justifies the Mr. Mime spot even more. With both of these threats to worry about, I’m including Mr. Mime in almost all of my lists that have the Bench space for him.
If the deck proves to match up well against the meta and only have major issues with Seismitoad, playing a 3rd copy of Prinplup would help to improve the matchup. Finding room would be tricky, and my first reaction would be just to switch a Rare Candy out for it. However, I’m not really a big fan of dropping below 4 Rare Candy in a speed Stage 2 deck.
The unexpect rotation announcement didn’t affect my Pyroar list besides a few small changes, nor did the rotation give me enough faith to take Pyroar into any major tournament. I have it built so I can test it and test against it to get a feel for how different matchups play out on both sides of the table. Just because I don’t consider the deck a good call doesn’t mean other players will agree with me. The deck will see play, and heading into Regionals, I really don’t want to take an auto-loss to it.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 38
Energy – 12
The deck needs to search out key cards sooner rather than later. I think almost every list at Nationals ran Computer Search over Dowsing Machine, so when I found out we were keeping Boundaries Crossed this was an easy switch.
-1 Mewtwo-EX, +1 Pokémon Catcher
The 2nd Mewtwo was in the deck due to me expecting a lot of speed Lucario/Mewtwo decks and the need to counter Mega Lucario. With all of the hype around Landorus, now these expectations seem far less likely. I am considering changing this spot to one more Lysandre due to the popularity of Seismitoad.
I see eye to eye with Andrew on quite a few things in his last article, but there were a few card choices in some of his lists that I disagree with. I agree with him that a 2-2 Electrode line would be beneficial to the deck, but I think it goes against the key motive of the deck, which is to force your opponent to power through 4 Pyroar. Ideally their 6 Prizes are going to be 4 Pyroar and an EX or 3 Pyroar and 2 EXs. Playing Pokémon like Electrode on your Bench gives your opponents access to a Prize and lowers the number of Pyroar they must force their way through.
Especially with snipe damage like Plasma Kyurem and Landorus-EX being hyped, a player could close out a game without even having to bring the Electrode Active. It’s probably an idea that I should test before placing judgment, but I wanted to voice some thoughts on it.
When it became clear that Landorus-EX was going to be such a dominant force in our upcoming meta, I started down two separate paths. The first was to work on decks that took advantage of Landorus-EX and all of the Fighting support we are receiving in Furious Fist. The other path was to come up with decks that would counter various Landorus-EX builds. When you start thinking about strong Water Pokémon with a lot of support, Plasma Kyurem quickly comes to mind. Kyurem-heavy builds of Plasma are often referred to as TDK for short and aren’t anything new to the meta. They also lost very little with the rotation, but both Pyroar and Seismitoad present problems for the deck.
I always try and be honest about how confident I am in my lists. I think TDK has a lot of potential to be at the higher end of tier 1 next season because it matches up well against the meta that we are expecting. I feel my build for the deck is solid, but it’s still a deck I’m tweaking the more I test with it. I think a lot of my apprehension comes from the fact I haven’t been able to fit in a full Virbank/Laser line.
Also, the one tournament I played Plasma in last year I finished with a 4-3 record. After having a bad tournament with a deck (especially when I don’t have a good tournament run to balance the bad one out), I have a hard time being confident in the deck. This is more a personal issue with so many factors coming into play and something I as a player need to work on.
Before I go any further, I’m going to share my list:
Pokémon – 11
4 Kyurem PLF
Trainers – 36
Energy – 13
The Pokémon lineup for TDK can never get too crazy because you need to devote the most spots possible to your Items; your Bench space is also extremely tight, and lastly your Energy lineup is also too tight to devote Energy for other attackers. Kyurem being your main attacker automatically gets 4 spots and the same with Deoxys-EX so you can hit magic numbers. Playing 2 copies of Thundurus-EX usually avoids any Prizing issues, and he doesn’t attack enough to warrant any more space. Lastly, the 1 copy of Genesect-EX is a near staple in all TDK variants and gives the deck another “Lysandre” effect.
Moving on to our Supporter lineup, I of course have 4 copies of Professor Juniper and 4 copies of N. I also run 4 copies of Colress due to how quickly Plasma fills its Bench. In my testing, even early-game Colress nets more cards than something like Shauna would. It’s something I stole from Simon Narode last year and it has played well in my different Plasma builds all season. I play 2 copies of Skyla to search out my 1-copy cards like Professor’s Letter and Energy Retrieval. I’m also testing more draw options in those spots like Shauna and Bicycle. Lastly, I went with Computer Search as my ACE SPEC to add to the consistency of the deck and help put on early-game pressure.
I went with a full 4 copies of Team Plasma Ball and played 0 copies of Ultra Ball. I never seem to hit Ultra Ball when I actually need to discard. Early game I want to focus on aggro Kyurem, and mid/late game I always have Energy in the discard pile. This is a personal preference decision and you can split the 4 spots up however you like.
The other personal preference decision I went with is playing 4 Switch and 0 Escape Rope. In my mind, there are relatively few situations where Escape Rope is better and it’s not worth the risk of hitting it when you want a regular Switch.
The other thing I’ve been considering is Cassius, and before you laugh, hear me out. A Lysandre/Toad play against Deoxys-EX (with 2 Retreat Cost) is detrimental to the deck. Many times the opponent is going to assume that you have no way out of it because you can’t play Switch. Cassius would get the Deoxys-EX out of the Active Spot and you can thank your opponent for resetting your Kyurem. It can also be used to get a damaged Pokémon off the board. Perhaps not my best idea, but I do want to look at ways to help the deck get an edge against Seismitoad.
I play 2 copies of Lysandre to help with the Garbodor matchup, so I don’t have to rely on Genesect-EX as much. There really never is a bad time to have a Lysandre in your hand. Lastly, I have 1 Professor’s Letter to help search out our basic Energy and 1 Energy Retrieval to get it back. Energy Retrieval isn’t a standard choice for Plasma, but I really like the card because it helps soften the blow from losing Blend Energy and Prism Energy. Ideally I would love another copy of W Energy or L Energy that we just don’t have room for. I’m also a big fan of getting a manual Energy attachment every turn in Plasma.
The Energy lineup was a little trickier for me after the loss of Blend Energy and Prism Energy. Running 4 copies of Rainbow Energy was a must, as was keeping the 4 copies of Plasma Energy. The last 5 spots had to be filled in with basic Energy, and with the emphasis on Kyurem, I wanted to tip them that way. I ended up going with 3 W Energy and 2 L Energy.
Over the last month or so, I’ve been really trying to find different ways to play Dragonite. I discussed my Milotic/Pyroar/Dragonite deck in my last two articles, but I just can’t get it to work. The deck couldn’t beat the Seismitoad/Garbodor lock, and it failed to beat straight Pyroar (a 4-4 line with support will always beat a 3-3 line without).
I was talking to Michael Slutsky one day and he brought up how Virizion/Genesect gets better with all of the Seismitoad hype, which ironically enough helps get people off the Pyroar bandwagon as well. We didn’t really talk about lists, but it got me thinking that maybe Virizion was in fact the best partner for Dragonite. I started off with a standard Virizion/Genesect list with a tech Dragonite and then finally settled on a Virizion/Dragonite deck that plays Genesect.
Here is the list I’m working with right now:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 34
Energy – 15
I’m basically going to take the loss to Pyroar in exchange for much stronger matchups across the board. Early on I decided that I only wanted to devote 5 spots to Genesect and Dragonite. In most of my experience with the deck, the 3rd Genesect became redundant and unneeded. Dragonite, on the other hand, was the backbone of the deck and I devoted a lot of space to support him. If I only played 2 copies and I Prized 1, or if 1 copy got Knocked Out early, then my support would be useless.
Jirachi-EX is already a pretty standard choice in Dragonite, but Super Scoop Up and Cassius just make it that much better and that much less risky. The only real tech I play in the deck is a Mr. Mime, but with the play I expect Landorus to see, I’d consider it less of a tech and more of staple in most decks now.
In my Supporter lineup, I’m sticking with my 2 copies of Lysandre. The card has a lot of synergy with Jirachi-EX, and with as much Garbodor as I’m expecting, I can’t rely solely on Red Signal. The other interesting thing about the Supporter lineup is my 3 different 1-of’s. They are situational enough I didn’t want to run a second copy, and once again Jirachi-EX makes the lone copies work.
My Item lineup is split between supporting Dragonite and supporting Genesect. I run 4 copies of Super Scoop Up to reuse Dragonite. Super Scoop Up can also be used as a pseudo Switch or to pick up a damaged Pokémon after Dragonite has grabbed all of the Energy off of it. Even though it’s dependent on a coin flip, I’d be very happy hitting 2 heads a game with it. The 4 Super Scoop Up and Dragonite let me skim by with a lone copy of Switch. Also, my 2 copies of Lysandre and the ability to utilize Genesect as an attacker allow me to get by with a lone copy of Startling Megaphone. Garbodor hurts the deck, but I feel like I have a lot of options to play around it.
Losing Super Rod to the rotation hurts the deck as much as anything. In many of the games I won with the deck last year, I finished with just enough Energy after using Super Rod to send them back in. On average, 2 or even all 3-of my choices from Super Rod were Energy. Super Rod also combined very well with Virizion-EX setting up an Emerald Slash play.
I knew I had to play something to get Energy back, and my only 2 options were Energy Retrieval or Superior Energy Retrieval. This is a decision I actually put a lot of thought into before deciding to go with the basic Energy Retrieval. My thought was Energy Retrieval was an instant play for an effect while SER, on the other hand, I had to worry about discarding. I knew the plays I was envisioning in my head of using SER and attaching a Lightning before shuffling 3 G Energy back into the deck for later with N or Shauna would be hard to pull off.
Lastly, for my ACE SPEC I opted to play G Booster because it’s simply too good not to play in the deck. I briefly considered Scoop Up Cyclone, but quickly dismissed it in favor of G Booster. The G Booster I saw as aggressive and able to score big knockouts as well as let me push through Safeguard. Scoop Up Cyclone was more defensive and combo based, not to mention I was already devoting 5 cards to something similar.
For the Energy lineup, I went with what I was willing to accept as the bare minimum of each type. I played 9 G Energy last year and never had problems. The 3 L Energy ensure I’ll be able to find them early, but won’t clog the deck when I need a G Energy. The 3 Plasma Energy along with 2 Lysandre gives the deck 5 options to target down the Bench. I would say 13-15 Energy is pretty standard for Virizion, and while I’m on the higher end, it makes it less likely the deck will miss a manual attachment.
I tried for probably a week to get a list to work that played 4 Laser and 2 Virbank. The math works out really well with Dragonite to hit for 170 (120 + 20 + 30) with a Muscle Band. Michael and I talked about a lot of different options, but the would-be cuts were too much for me. We had 3 Virizion, 2 Plasma Energy, 3 Ultra Ball, a Super Scoop Up, and I think even Mr. Mime on the cutting board. Even after all the cuts we hated to make, we still had only 4-5 spots. The thing I have been considering is to try and fit in 1 or 2 Laser and just play off of the opponent’s Virbank.
The deck did take a hit moving from a PLS-on format to a BCR-on format. The good news is I expect to see less Pyroar in the BCR-on format, but other issues did arise. My biggest worries for the deck are the Seismitoad/Garbodor lock and the Seismitoad/Lysandre lock. Hitting 170 damage isn’t hard for Speed Plasma, but hitting 180 damage gets a bit trickier since it requires you to not Prize any of your Deoxys. So Landorus-EX is more of a worry for me than Lucario-EX was, but Landorus-EX is easier to tech for than Seismitoad is.
Here is my list with a few small changes:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 37
Energy – 13
Both Kyurem and Absol serve the same basic function of not giving the deck an auto-loss to Safeguard as well as helping the deck play a 7-Prize game. Kyurem type matches better against Landorus-EX and isn’t as reliant on your opponent’s Bench size.
This switch has nothing to do with the rotation and is more about making the deck flow more smoothly by adding another Pokémon search card. Maintenance isn’t testing as well as I was hoping, so the last copy might get rotated out as well. I want to test with Maintenance more before making a final determination on it.
This was the other change I made because in testing I was never in a situation where Escape Rope mattered. If you add up all the situations where Switch is better and all of the situations where Escape Rope is better, you find that Switch is better a much higher percentage of the time. I would consider running a tech Escape Rope, but with no Skyla to search it out, having it in one of the rare situations where I would want it is unlikely.
2nd L Energy
I feel only 5 playable Energy for Thundurus-EX is low, and I’d feel much better with a 6th option.
Finally, we reach what I feel is the strongest deck heading into the BCR-on format. I’ve worked very hard trying to come up with a deck that destroys this build without much success. A lot of decks can have good games against it, but I would consider none to be huge favorites. Nearly every deck I’ve come up with has trouble with either Seismitoad-EX or Landorus-EX. They might match up well against one or the other, but not both.
I really like my current build for the deck, so take a look:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 37
Energy – 11
This is my current list, but I’m still playing around with a lot of the numbers and looking at different techs, namely to bring mirror above 50-50. I think there is a lot of synergy between Seismitoad and Garbodor, and looking at the list you can tell I put a lot of emphasis on Seismitoad. I really aim to get him Active and attacking turn 1, and some games all 6-of my opponent’s Prizes might come from Seismitoad. Shutting your opponent out of Items is really good, and it also stops them from playing Startling Megaphone so they can’t get out of Garbodor either.
I went with 3 Landorus-EX as well, so in matchups where I can’t use Seismitoad (Virizion/Genesect), my opponent’s 6 Prizes will come from 3 Landorus-EX. I really like having attackers that combo well with each other but also allow you to go one way or the other. In Darkrai/Mewtwo both played very well together, but you could have games just using 3 Mewtwo or just using 3 Darkrai depending on what you were matched up against.
With 3 Landorus-EX and 3 Seismitoad-EX, the deck has 6 good openers along with 3 Float Stone and 2 Switch to get bad openers out of the Active Spot. I had a second Mewtwo-EX in the deck, but I think 7 spots is the most I want to devote to EXs since my opponent wins after KOing only 3 of them. Rarely will you go aggressive with Mewtwo, and it’s more of a safety net against a large Delphox, Yveltal, or opposing Mewtwo. With Laser and Landorus being overpowered, the deck can handle most situations without a 2nd copy.
Even though I play only 3 basic F Energy, I also like to run a single copy of Landorus FFI much for the same reasons Yveltal plays a single copy of Yveltal XY. You can search the F Energy out early and in the mid and late game, you’ll often have at least 1 in your discard pile. It also serves as the 7th Prize for the deck if your opponent has to deal with it.
The Supporter lineup I’m still working on and looking at different ways I could go with it. Namely I’m trying to figure out Korrina vs. Skyla counts, especially when my early goal is to promote Seismitoad. I do like the 2 copies of Bicycle because it adds a little bit of speed to the deck and helps dig for early Seismitoad.
I’m opting to run Computer Search as my ACE SPEC for consistency, synergy with my early Seismitoad strategy, and its ability to search out DCE and Strong Energy. Some of my other choices in the Item lineup reflect my ACE SPEC choice, like running 2 copies of Switch. I wanted 2 copies of Switch anyway just because I feel Hypnotoxic Laser is going to be played pretty widespread.
Something that might stand out in my Item lineup is that I play 1 copy of Professor’s Letter, even though I only play 3 basic Energy. Even with so few basic Energy the Letter still serves its purpose and lets you turn Skyla/Korrina into Energy. If in the late game it becomes a dead card you can simply burn it.
I really don’t think my Energy lineup is too shocking for this deck. Maxing out on both DCE and Strong Energy was pretty obvious, and 11 Energy seems to be the standard for a build like this. I do want to point out though that Strong Energy can only be attached to Fighting Pokémon. This means the 4 DCE and 3 F Energy are the only Energy you have that can be attached to Mewtwo-EX or Seismitoad-EX. This shouldn’t be a problem, but it is something to be aware of and watch for. I expect early in the season players will drop Strong Energy on Pokémon that they can’t be attached to.
I find it kind of funny that when the format was announced everybody was worried about how broken Landorus-EX is, but the more and more it develops people are starting to realize that Seismitoad might be the bigger threat. I guess I actually prefer it this way because Landorus-EX is basically just slap an Energy down and attack, while Seismitoad on the other hand takes a little bit more thinking to play and play around. Mirror matches for Seismitoad decks are surprising more though intensive than people assume. Every card played matters and Benching a Basic you shouldn’t can cost you dearly.
The rotation isn’t the one I thought it was to be and it’s not the one I wanted, but the new format is really fun to play. Thankfully the game is also heading in positive directions and we seem to have more Ability-based decks and more thought-provoking matchups. With each set released I’m more and more optimistic about the future of this game.
Lastly, I want to take a moment and wish everybody good luck that is grinding or playing at Worlds this weekend. I thought a lot about what I would play and I’d probably go with Flygon. I enjoy lock-type decks and it seems very fun and challenging to play with pretty positive matchups across the board. After a good showing at Nationals and the Ramey Open, people might be teching for it more though. My second choice would probably be TDK because I expect Pyroar to die down heavily at Worlds and it matches up well against the rest of the format. I’m excited to see how my predictions will end up.
– Jay Hornung
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