With the rise in popularity in players wanting to explore older formats, I decided to write an article about my favorite deck in the history of this game: LBS. As someone who has played this game since its American release in 1998 and seen success at tournaments since 2001 (I took 2nd at the East Coast Super Trainer Showdown), I feel like it was the use of this deck that really led to me coming into my own as a player. Despite winning the 2002 Professor Championships and taking 2nd place at Worlds 2004, the difference between me as a player at the end of 2005 and me at the end of 2006 was massive. The overall increase in skill of players throughout the game forced players such as myself, who could get by on just being marginally better than other players while using good lists, to actually step up and develop into stronger players.
As a result, I find myself always having a strong love for the 2006 format in general, and this was the deck I found myself using for a vast majority of the season.
While the deck’s premise of using Blastoise ex to dump Water Energy into play alongside using Holon’s Castform, Holon’s Magneton, and Holon’s Electrode to convert it into other types of Energy seems fairly obvious in retrospect, the deck took a little bit of time to catch on. Between the stranglehold of other archetypes which carried over from the 2005 season, and Blastoise being off players’ radar due to it being viewed as a poor card previously, LBS didn’t really start to pop up at tournaments until midway through City Championships. I can’t say with certainty that no other players had been working on the deck, but the deck began being tested in two separate camps at roughly the same time by Eric Craig from Florida and Ross Cawthon in Washington. I didn’t jump on the bandwagon until States.
LBS as a deck is pretty simple. You use Blastoise ex’s Poké-Power Energy Rain to power up a variety of attackers who use two or less non-Water Energy in their attack costs with the Holon Pokémon. In this particular deck, the two primary attackers are Lugia ex and Steelix ex. Lugia ex’s Elemental Blast smacked for a whopping 200 damage, taking out even the toughest ex in the format in one shot. Steelix ex was meant for board control, with Mudslide. Mudslide’s 100 damage to even a Benched Pokémon let you pick off Prizes and up-and-coming Pokémon alike.
This was a format that was defined by the Stage 2 Pokémon Pidgeot RG. Pidgeot’s Poké-Power Quick Search let you grab any card from your deck once per turn. This allowed decks to pull off intricate and powerful plays, but many decks became very reliant on the card as an engine for their decks. Mudslide let you pick of an opposing Pidgeot in one shot, often just locking out games as the opponent struggled to set up without it.
The aforementioned Pidgeot is also a crucial part of this deck. As you can see from just a rough summary of what the deck is trying to do, Quick Search is one of the main reasons it is able to reliably set all of these pieces together.
The other two “engines” found in this deck were pretty common place in most decks in this format. The first is the Holon Engine. Holon Transceiver was a Trainer card which let you search for any of the Holon Supporters from your deck. These Supporters all had various effects at the cost of discarding a card to use them. Holon Mentor was the most important of those. It let you grab 3 Basic Pokémon with 100 HP or less upon use. This let you grab Pidgey, Squirtle, and Onix with one card. Once you get set up, it let you get attackers and Holon’s Castform as well.
Holon Transceiver gains strength from the fact that in the early turns, it got you Pokémon; but as the game progressed, it gave you access to cards like Holon Adventurer (draw 3 cards) or Holon Scientist (draw cards until you have the same number as your opponent).
The final engine revolves around a pair of different Jirachi cards. The Metal-type Jirachi from Deoxys has Wishing Star, which lets you put it Asleep while it is Active at the benefit of selecting a card from the top five of your deck and putting it into your hand. The Psychic Jirachi from Hidden Legends has Make a Wish, which lets you evolve one of your Benched Pokémon at the cost of a damage counter. Between the two of these, both obtainable by Holon Mentor, you could easily progress the deck’s setup.
Pokémon – 26
Trainers – 26
Energy – 8
The 2-1-2 Stage 2 lines were pretty standard. Decks were slower then and even low HP Basics were hard to Knock Out quickly. There were very few Gust of Wind-style effects, and attacks which hit the Bench were expensive. Occasionally you’d have Prize issues, but otherwise you don’t need more than this. You’d usually want to go for Pidgeot first, as it leads rather quickly into Blastoise.
Lugia ex and Steelix ex both get included as 1-ofs. In a deck full of Pokémon Retriever, it is better to run a variety of attackers opposed to thicker counts. These numbers seem really thin, but they work.
Latias * is able to 1-shot any ex card and is instrumental in mirror match. Mew ex ends up being an additional copy of your other attackers if you don’t want to expose them directly to a counter attack. Mew is also a really good counter to a lot of approaches used to try and disrupt the deck. It can power itself up under disruption to hit for big numbers. Having type advantage over other Mews and other key Psychic-Weak attackers is also very important.
Celebi ex is great because it counts as an additional copy of any card in the deck, and can be reset by Giant Stump and used again with Pokémon Retriever, letting you skimp on a lot of numbers. Its attack is also HUGE! Against decks like Mewtric, where they run almost all ex cards, it ends up being very powerful. I attack with this, as well as use Mew ex to copy it rather frequently and it really helps you play an early “fair” game against disruptive decks while you take your time setting up a big end game.
1-1 Porygon2 DS
I mentioned earlier how this deck is very reliant on Pidgeot. Decks will try to either turn off Pidgeot by denying it Poké-Powers, or just kill it. Against decks which can easily kill Pidgeot or prevent it from coming out, we have a Stage 1 backup in Porygon2. This card was not played by most players but is a card I would NEVER not play in here. A popular play against LBS is to kill Pidgeot and hit a Rocket’s Admin. and hope the deck falters at the end of the game. Porygon2 is a weaker Claydol GE, but a great insurance policy.
Both Jirachi are great in this deck. The DX one is better as it leads to more explosive starts and can be used in conjunction with Switch or Swoop! Teleporter to attack after its use, but you need more copies of the HL one to beat decks gunning to beat you. Girafarig LM turns off Jirachi DX, as does Medicham ex. You can’t Rare Candy against Disconnect from Manectric ex. Jirachi HL solves all of these problems and just unconditionally forces out your Stage 2 Pokémon. Its attack also ends up being a good setup hit and is great against Mew ex. You end up using it more than you’d think you would.
Holon’s Castform and Magneton are enablers for your colored Energy costs. Holon’s Magnemite is included as a card to search for with your Supporters if you need an Energy to retreat early. Holon’s Castform is technically “better” than the Stage 1 counterpart because it can be grabbed by Holon Mentor, but with us running some copies of Professor Elm’s Training Method (PETM), one copy of the Evolution makes PETM a live card for getting Energy, so there is a minimal split.
8 Water Energy
We run only 8 Water Energy because one or two plus your easy to grab Holon Pokémon lets you attack. Power Tree also gets copies back, so you can get away with a very thin count of them. I ran SEVEN at Worlds. Players ran way too many of them in the standard stock list, but you can get away with far less than what normal deck theory would suggest.
The Holon engine line we’re going with is the necessary 4 Transceiver, 2 Mentor, and 1 Scientist. Mentor is what the deck usually grabs. A lot of people run Holon Adventurer in here, but I didn’t like the card much. In a format with so many better alternatives, I always felt awful just drawing 3 and praying. The deck runs thin on so many of its numbers that you can’t just rely on a small mass of cards to hit stuff due to a lack of redundancy.
I kept Scientist because it had such a huge upside of occasionally drawing you piles of cards. It was better against Admin, which is when you often needed it. If you had so many cards in your hand that it was ineffective, you were usually doing ok anyway. It usually matched Adventurer anyway. I don’t fault someone for taking the conservative approach of running both, but I liked running so many 1-ofs in this deck that I never had space for it.
Rounding out the Supporters we have Professor Elm’s Training Method, Celio’s Network, Rocket’s Admin., and Steven’s Advice. The first two help you get your Pokémon in play. Celio’s Network seems like the better card at first glance, until you analyze it further. You had 6 “Mentors” in the deck. So you wanted to run cards that focus more on getting your Evolutions out. Celio couldn’t get you Steelix ex or Blastoise ex, both HUGE cards to get. Against disruptive decks, such as Mewtric which could also turn off your Pidgeot with Battle Frontier, you need to just focus on getting Blastoise out, and PETM is necessary there.
Steven’s Advice was bad early game, and became strong only after you are set up, at which point you should have Porygon and/or Pidgeot. This format was so different than it is now. A lot of the draw power in decks was Pokémon based, and the game was less reliant on Supporters for its draw power. I ran one as a Quick Search target though.
Rocket’s Admin. was a bit better, as it was very good in the opening turns. You also wanted it end game, as it works so well with Porygon2 and Quick Search. The deck also can kill Pidgeot with Steelix and Admin them late game to try and lock games out. You’d think that with this that you’d want more than 2 copies, but with Quick Search, it was easy enough to have access to them when you wanted, and the deck was tight on space.
We run only 3 Rare Candy despite having two Stage 2 Pokémon we want in play quickly. Due to the reliance on Jirachi HL, we often power out the first Stage 2 the “hard way” and the extra Rare Candy end up getting clogged up in our hands. I’d love a fourth copy too, but there are a lot of cards this deck wants, so it gets by on just three.
We run a pair of Switch because so many cards in this deck have huge Retreat Costs. At a point, you can retreat using Energy Rain occasionally, but you need a few of these cards to bring Blastoise or Steelix to the Bench. Mewlock aims to bring up Blastoise with Roselia LM or Pow! Hand Extension to strand it, and if you get stuck with Status, you can’t even Rain into enough Energy to retreat.
The Stadiums are a split between Power Tree, which count as effectively 1+ Water Energy from mid game onward (while countering Battle Frontier and Desert Ruins) and Giant Stump, which can be used to free up your Bench, and to get rid of damaged Pokémon that could wind up a liability before they get KO’d.
Giant Stump is very good in this deck despite seeming like it should be counter productive. It was cute with Steelix ex and Pow! Hand Extension because it forced players to keep their Pokémon first, then you could pick apart whatever they left themselves weakest with. For those who have not played older formats, long-term complex plays like this were completely realistic lines to have happen in games. Rock Lock and Raieggs both spread a lot of damage and this helps in both of those matchups.
I like 3 copies in here, because we do thin our lines under the pretense these help us get cards back, but our “3rd” copy is Celebi ex. Retriever gets us back attackers and our Holon Pokémon. These are really important toward keeping the deck flowing.
Swoop! Teleporter and Pow! Hand Extension are the fancy plays. Swoop! helps us get Pokémon into play without having to expose the Basics on the Bench. It also lets us evolve out of Jirachi’s Wishing Star Sleep. It’s a good solution to opening with a Holon’s Pokémon as well. This card was really good for helping the deck set up, and if we ran more Jirachi DX, we’d likely run more of these. The “stripped down” bare, basic form of this deck would run more of both, but the list we have here evolved around how the other decks in the format evolved to beat this deck.
Pow! Hand Extension was a great card against decks which could be overly aggressive and put you on the back foot. This just gave you out of left field plays that players would be hard pressed to play around. It was just a great 1-of, and one that gave the deck a wider series of plays.
An Additional 1-1 Steelix Line
The deck originally used a 2-2 Steelix line. As the metagame evolved, I found that Steelix became weaker and weaker. I really only wanted one per game. As you’ve noticed with my general approach to the deck, I’m willing to take the lines at the risk of having occasional Prize issues since Retriever and Celebi make it easy to re-use the thinner counts. The key is to learn what is Prized early. You rarely need a specific card in any one matchup, and you can craft a game plan around the cards you know you have. This is a deck that often plays around the board state more than others because it is so versatile.
An Additional Jirachi DX
Either by adding a 4th copy of this card or swapping the Jirachi count, adding a 2nd copy of this card is just good. It is, in a vacuum, the better of the two Jirachi, but it is worse against the decks better equipped to beat this archetype.
Due to the deck’s reliance on Pidgeot for draw power, you don’t want to deal with Lunatone LM and Solrock LM and their pesky Poké-Bodies slowing you down. Space Center is a great answer to these cards.
These cards turn off the Poké-Bodies of Evolution cards. This is an important counter against decks using Houndoom UF, which prevents your use of Trainers, and against Mew Lock, which aim to use a swarm of “Baby-volved” Wobbuffet LM to buff your Pokémon’s Retreat Cost. Both of those cards prove troublesome for this deck, to the point where I ran this pair at the Gym Challenge I won to qualify with the deck and again at the World Championships.
Ok, I don’t actually propose running this anymore, but I did want to address it. I ran this at Nationals and managed a top 8 finish. This was an Eric Craig innovation, and it actually was instrumental in my ability to beat Michael Pramawat’s Mew Lock deck in top 32. That deck couldn’t afford to function with a small Bench, and you can just devastate them if they slip up at all.
As we all saw later on, Dusknoir DP, who had a similar Power, wound up being a huge format warping presence. Crawdaunt wasn’t quite as good, but it helped against some of the decks you had problems with.
Upping The Numbers
Most of the cards in this deck are at their thinnest. I addressed the Jirachi situation a bit more directly, but we only have 60 cards, and plenty of the numbers can be padded. I’d love a 3rd Retriever (Celebi offsets it) and a 4th Rare Candy. Additional Supporters are always welcome.
Swoop! Teleporter and Pow! Hand Extension are both incredible cards, and would be welcome additions as a two of. Swoop is a card that some decks ran plenty of, including some LBS lists. A second Pow is a bit unorthodox in this deck, but I had run it at a few tournaments and it really let you play a focused “from behind” game. There are some decks you do not want to give access to Scramble Energy (and their own Pows) and when you are forced to play a slower approach, Pow was instrumental in how your changed game plan developed.
I could go extra in-depth for these matchups, but the format had a ton of different viable archetypes, and I could even be forgetting some of them honestly. The fact that we had so many decks that all took different approaches really led to why we had such a difficult time fitting everything we wanted. I’m not even including decks such as Shedinja DX, Politoed ex, Kingdra ex DF, Typhlosion UF/Weezing DX and other fringe players.
This matchup seemed close at first, and Rock Lock initially had a slight advantage over the deck due to how reliant on Stage 2s and ex’s it was. Desert Ruins was a problem, and they had type advantage over Steelix with Tyranitar RR 20. This matchup required a whole ton of finesse and you really needed to practice it to learn the ins and outs. Giant Stump and Celebi ex were CRUCIAL in this match and making it favorable. Pow! Hand Extension was very useful here as well.
I wound up losing in the top 8-of Nationals to Tom Dolezal using his Rock Lock, but he and I had a ton of testing prior to the event, and I was running around 70% in the matchup. This is another match where Jirachi HL was fantastic in, whereas a reliance on Rare Candy would be catastrophic.
This was the supposed “bad matchup” for the deck that drove a lot of people away from the archetype, but in reality it was not bad at all. I beat Jason Klaczynski in the finals of Mississippi Valley Regionals in the matchup, and had a winning record in pre-Worlds playtesting as well. The deck preys on a reliance on Pidgeot and Trainer cards to function, which is one of the reasons why cards like Mew ex, Jirachi HL, and Celebi ex swayed the matchup heavily.
A cute play is to copy Jirachi DX’s attack with our Mew ex to 1-shot their Mew ex. The game plan is to use these easy to power Basics to combat them early game while you slowly get Blastoise up and can win the late game.
This was another really grindy matchup, and one where Lugia ex did a lot of work. You had to play around Scramble Energy, which led to a lot of abstract play, as Double Rainbow Energy made it hard for them to use Nidoqueen to 1-shot Steelix, who you wanted to use in conjunction with Pow to take them off of Pidgeots. As the game devolved, you could set up a series of turns using Lugia ex to take out Nidoqueens. Giant Stump was HUGE in this matchup as well, as it limited their Bench and prevented them from hitting critical mass.
You needed to get good at learning when to turn the corner and take a Prize lead, because if you just took a few Prizes early, you’d be lit up by Scrambles and get crushed a lot of times. The other card you needed to worry about was Pidgeot HP, which turned off your Poké-Powers. You needed to use Steelix or Pow to deal with that, or Latias/Latios if you ran them. You kind of get an idea for why the list became somewhat convoluted near the end of the season because you had to run counters for all of the cards that people added to beat you.
This matchup was actually really skill intensive, and came down to trying to take out Blastoise and/or Pidgeot. You could see the realistic Prize exchange line of just KOing what they had, but if you were on the wrong end of it, you needed to find a way to break serve. This usually involved taking out Pidgeot and spiking an Admin (this is one of the matchups Porygon2 was huge in!) or Pow’ing up Blastoise and Elemental Blasting it into the Stone Age.
Another powerful play is to Pow up Blastoise and then Mudslide Pidgeot, stranding Blastoise for the KO next turn to Lugia if they can’t get out of it. Pairing this with Admin made it hard for them to reach the Bench. (You’ll see where Porygon2 makes this play much harder.)
I used LBS from States through Worlds, and only lost one mirror match out of over 20, and that was the very first weekend before I ran Latias * where I just couldn’t win the matchup when I don’t run it. I felt like this matchup is extremely skill based and by knowing the deck inside and out you could give yourself a whole lot of play.
This matchup is just miserable. They could lock your Blastoise Active easily and just disrupt your field and lock your Powers down. You had to KO so many non-ex Pokémon, and they had so many tries to just stick you with the lock. Switch cards were huge in this matchup. You really couldn’t win this matchup if you didn’t run additional cards such as Crawdaunt or Lati@s to help offset things. You could also do a pretty good job of winning on time in Swiss though.
I mentioned before I was able to beat Pramawat at Nationals in the matchup, by winning Game 1 due to Crawdaunt and not having time for 2 to finish. I actually lost to the founder of SixPrizes.com, Adam Capriola in a HEARTBREAKING Gym Challenge final USING Mew Lock vs. his LBS, where he needed to hit a Water Energy on his last turn to decide the game and got it in a very close game. This is the deck’s worst matchup, and really one of the very few I don’t feel was 50-50 or better.
This matchup was really, really close if both players knew how to play it out. A good LBS player would destroy an average Ludicargo player, and a good Ludicargo player would destroy an average LBS player. I felt like it narrowly favored LBS, though. This is one of the most fun matchups to play out if you want to enjoy the spirit of the ’06 format though. Every game was extremely skill intensive and came down to the wire, playing around Scrambles and managing Bench sizes.
I beat Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich in the finals of the PRESTIGIOUS Ghaziaskar Invitational in this matchup in I believe three very close games. Magcargo actually played a huge role in this matchup as a check to your Steelix ex who was very strong against them if you managed to get one out clean. Pow was another big card here as you were really focused on playing from behind until the end game to cut them off Scramble. (Some games you actually could go aggro early and overwhelm them, but that required a real understanding of the matchup as it could easily turn into a trap.)
This is the deck Jimmy Ballard took 2nd at Worlds with. This deck was really hard to play around due to options, and if you stumbled or made the wrong call, your game plan fell apart. That said, the matchup was really favorable if you knew what they were trying to do. When I first started testing the deck (Jimmy and I did a lot of collaboration on deck theory this year) it was narrowly favored against LBS, but by the end of the week, by learning what to play around and not letting them pick off your vulnerable pieces of setup, the matchup spun around to being closer to 65-35 in favor of LBS.
Most players simply did not know how to play against Eevees, and that’s a huge edge in an era where there was less universal information access due to the internet.
There were two ways to beat Dragtrode. You either started well enough to win a Prize exchange (which was rare) or you focused on cutting their Energy off. They whiff on crucial KOs if you hunt their Special D Energy, so you just need to stay out of Sneasel range. If you can keep forcing them to expose Rocket’s Sneasel ex without getting ex KOs for it, you win. This matchup was pretty good, and Pidgeot wound up being a pretty good attacker. You’d think it would just die to Dark Electrode, and it does, but at the cost of those key Special Darks.
The matchup actually became really difficult if they ran Lunatone LM and Solrock LM, like Alex Brosseau did in his top 4 run at Worlds. That build was not really played leading into the event, but it’s the only non-Mew Lock matchup I felt was really rough for the deck. It’s one of the matches you want Space Center for. Sneasel bringing up Blastoise while you can’t Quick Search for Switch becomes a big problem. You could stay ahead of them safely with Quick Search, but without it, you really struggle to keep up with their very smooth setup.
My only loss in the Swiss of Worlds ’06 was to Sebastian Crema’s Electrode ex/Spinning Tail Tyranitar deck. He ran it with Lunatone and Solrock. I had Prized both Blastoise, slowing me down, but I eventually got them when he blew up his Electrode. I made a rough call early on, choosing not to go for Pidgeot early because of his Lunatone/Solrock, but I had Space Center in hand, and he did not have any Stadiums in his deck. I ASSUMED he ran Ruins, and it would be a waste to chase Pidgeot. Oops.
Anyway, the matchup if they do not run Lunatone/Solrock is really favorable, and much closer if they do. I felt pretty good about it because they have to float you a few Prizes to get going. In closer games, you have to position it so that their KOs put them ahead on Prizes, and you can make a solid end game comeback. It’s tough because it required you to weather a pretty rough mid-game storm without giving up TOO much ground to come back. Sometimes you just got such a good start you just won though, too.
You’ll notice the trend that the “fair” decks all involve playing around Scramble Energy, and that is the case with this deck too.
This deck took US Nationals by storm, and after it, I did a ton of testing with ’06 National Champion Martin Moreno leading up to Worlds. Giant Stump and your Psychic type attackers did a lot of work toward winning this match. You wanted to sandbag your cards with Poké-Powers until you can start to close out the game so that damage didn’t add up too quickly. Jirachi HL was pretty nice here to lead with. Force them to make the first big move while keeping your Evolutions at their Stage 1. Giant Stump (and a 2nd one using Celebi ex!) was what the matchup usually came down to, but if you learned to conservatively handle your Bench I felt this matchup was really easy.
This deck wasn’t really too popular, but the Jirachi and Mew ex really gave it fits. You also just eventually hit a point where you could overextend and close the matchup out. We had a few players in the Great Lakes region running this deck, and I ran into it in Swiss at Nationals, and never dropped a game to it. (I did manage to turn 1 Elemental Blast Justin William’s Koffing once though.)
This is a deck that didn’t really show up until Worlds. I had tested it prior to Nationals, but we never really good a proper configuration for it to make it successful. It wasn’t looking promising enough to keep at it either. The deck did quite well at Worlds, with a few Japanese players showing up with it (I beat one in round 6-of Swiss and 2005 World Champion Jeremy Maron beat one in T8) and I believe the Nance brothers both used it at the event as well.
Giant Stump was problematic for them, and you could use Pow and Steelix ex to pressure whichever line they had less of. They needed to have multiple Dragonites pumping out Energy, and also enough Metagross to attack with. If they hit a really strong draw you can’t really also keep up with their nut draw if they just flood the field with Energy and you don’t find a stumble to exploit, but I felt like it was favorable, and more so with a 2nd Stump.
This is my first attempt at revisiting an older format to try and give some insight to newer players into the decks being played at the time. I never loved a deck nearly as much as I have this deck, so I had to start with it. It was a nice chance for me to walk down memory lane.
If anyone has more specific questions about the list, or the matchups that I didn’t cover in more detail, please message me, it doesn’t take much to get me rambling about ’06. I’ll likely be doing more articles like this, so if people have certain decks they’d like me to cover, suggest them in the forums!