A format that often goes unrecognized is the 2010-11 format encompassing Majestic Dawn to Call of Legends. When referring to decks of past formats, what is almost always discussed is the format that was legal during Nationals and Worlds that year. Because of this there are certain decks each season which are popular during Cities that fall to the wayside once the winter and spring sets are released, but this is widely accepted and understood. 2011 presents a unique situation, different from any other format because as you may remember, sets Majestic Dawn through Arceus were rotated right before Nationals. This was due to the fact that cards like Sableye SF and Uxie LA were too strong with the new first turn rules introduced by the recently released Black & White base set.
In the end, this left a number of unique decks rendered useless overnight – decks that were built carefully and had presented some of what are considered by many the most challenging matchups the Pokémon TCG has had to offer. So what decks were absent from the 2010 and 2011 Worlds formats (at least their most matured variations)? Here is a small list:
And last but not least, my favorite deck of the time and the topic of this article:
At first glance, you may notice that some of these decks and core concepts WERE in fact played during the World Championships in 2010. Although true, we all know that the introduction of Vileplume/Smeargle in Undaunted and Junk Arm/Twins in Triumphant (among other cards) changed each of these decks in some way. Gyarados actually changed drastically from 2010 to 2011; I would even bargain that any given list between the years could be 20-25 cards apart.
So why Gyarados? What are my credentials with the deck? To be honest, not much outside of a Cities win, some Cities finals, and 2nd place at Kentucky States. Yet despite these average performances, to this day I still consider this particular deck and list one of my pride and joys. I catered it especially to my needs, and I feel like it’s the best it could have been.
On paper, the entire strategy can be boiled down very easily. Place three Magikarp into the discard pile, use the fourth to evolve into Gyarados, and use Tail Revenge for zero Energy doing 90 damage to your opponent’s Active Pokémon. Golly!
Everything else in the deck was intended to set up the Tail Revenge as soon as possible, and (in a perfect world) make sure that the attack was used six times in a row to take 6 Prizes. In fact, this is one of the very few decks in Pokémon history that only wanted to use one damaging attack all game. There are quite literally no other good attackers in the entire deck, let alone the Energy to use them. Gyarados also sat at a hefty 130 HP, which for the time was surprisingly formidable. So being able to do so much damage for literally no Energy was what placed this deck among the top contending decks of this particular format.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 33
Energy – 6
4-3 Gyarados SF
Obviously you play four Magikarp, and obviously you play the Spray Splash one from Stormfront. You never really wanted to use the attack, but sometimes you had to. Even just trying to draw cards is better than doing 10 damage.
There are only three Gyarados in the deck because first off, only one should ever be in play (you want three Magikarp in the discard pile, remember?). Although the reason you don’t play just one or two comes of the concerns of prizing one, the first getting Knocked Out, and not being able to readily execute a clever play that involves getting TWO Gyarados out and maxing at only 60 damage. More on that later.
Ah yes, the card that was a large reason for the mid-season rotation because it is simply that good. Overconfident let you go first if Sableye was your Active Pokémon at the beginning of the game. At the time, you couldn’t play Trainers of any type on the first turn going first. Sableye however allowed you to (for no Energy, mind you) search your deck and bypass this ruling at the cost of ending your turn. This was perfect in beginning the process of setting up the complex deck that was Gyarados.
This was an alternate starting Pokémon for the deck, for the same reason of bypassing the “no Supporter on turn one” rule. If you were lucky enough to use Portrait and use your opponent’s Pokémon Collector, you were in very good shape. And unlike Sableye, since your turn did not end, you could bench the Pokémon you searched in this way. Just be careful you don’t walk into your opponent’s lone Judge and shuffle your hand away.
2 Uxie LA
If you did not play Uxie in your deck between the time of its release and the time of its rotation, you did not play a real Pokémon deck. So I played two.
1 Azelf LA
Unlike most decks that liked the extra cute benefit of pulling a Pokémon out of your Prize cards and then memorizing what they all were, Gyarados NEEDED THIS. If you had a Magikarp Prized (god forbid two), Azelf was a pro player immediately. Your deck does not function well at all without three Magikarp in the discard pile.
Want to know a secret? When you’re playing against SP, don’t act eager to use Time Walk when you really need to. Groan a little and go “Eh… I guuuuesss I’ll bench Azelf.” You don’t want to be Power Sprayed. Want to know another trick? If you have no Magikarp Prized at all, bench your Azelf hastily and say “Oh no. OH NO! CAN I TIME WALK PLEASE?” and then gaze desperately into their eyes. They will Power Spray every time. HAHA LOSER I WILL SET UP FOR SEVEN NOW IT WAS A TRICK.
1 Crobat G
This boy was a pro at getting Tail Revenge’s 90 to be a little bit better. Flash Bite twice, now you can 1HKO a Garchomp C LV.X or Luxray GL LV.X. Fainting Spell got you down? Tail Revenge and then next turn Flash Bite twice!
Back in this era, certain Pokémon had items attached that activated certain unique abilities. If there were four Magikarp in the discard pile (if you’re keeping up that’s one too many), Combee could place one on your Bench even if you were locked out of playing Trainers or using Poké-Powers.
Again, this card was too good not to play at least one. Some decks of the time focused on playing several to repeatedly lock opponents out of Poké-Powers, but the one in this deck was meant for clutch moments that prevented pivotal plays your opponent had up their sleeve for next turn. You never know.
You couldn’t have a Gyarados deck without something that put Magikarp into the discard pile. Regice was searchable with Pokémon Collector, and could as early as turn one get two-thirds of your strategy rolling. There was also the added benefit of moving your opponents potentially un-1HKOable Pokémon to the Bench, forcing them to bring up a likely low-HP Pokémon that Gyarados could then Knock Out. Most Pokémon on Benches at this time had less than 90 HP, for what it’s worth.
Due to the low Energy count in the deck, this was an easy way to get your Sableye or Smeargle out of the Active Spot so you could begin attacking with Gyarados.
I guarantee you are just as confused as this Unown is, and I love that. I’ll give you time to go look up what the card does now. Got it? It’s perfect isn’t it? Why everyone didn’t play this card in their Gyarados list I’ll have no idea. Unown ? had the unique capability to place Magikarp into the discard pile if you were under a Trainer AND/OR Power lock AND THEN draw some cards from it for NO ENERGY. Spiritomb, Vileplume, Mesprit, and Power Spray were everywhere. This card was a saint.
And even once you’ve exhausted this card’s true necessity, he practically draws a card for you every turn thanks to his own Poké-Power. If you noticed, the deck plays five different types of Pokémon. You will draw a card every turn, most turns. (Hint: the answer is always Combee.)
This card gets the good cards in your deck. I play four so Sableye can dig them out.
An interesting card released in Triumphant, this Supporter allowed you to execute many interesting plays. The obvious ones were picking Uxie, Mesprit, or Azelf to use their Poké-Powers again, but you could also pick up a Regice and attempt to use his Power again if it was Power Sprayed the first time you attempted to. You could even Warp a damaged Gyarados to the Bench, Seeker it up, and replay it immediately thanks to Broken Time-Space. Just be careful, your opponent can pick something up too. Careful not to let them heal one of their Pokémon or reuse their own Mesprit.
A major Supporter in SP decks, Cyrus didn’t really see any play in other decks and for good reason. So why did I play one? For one reason: if I knew that my opponent was going to get an early lead and KO my Sableye on the following turn, I could impersonate for Cyrus, and with him grab a Twins and a Poké Turn. This put them in an awkward position, because they knew if they took the early lead I would be able to immediately respond with Twins, searching out two cards of my choice and sometimes swinging the momentum of the game from there.
Eh, you pretty much had to. You needed some kind of Supporter that could search out Gyarados. Pokémon Collector can get everything else.
As mentioned earlier I could grab it with an Impersonated Cyrus, but it was still good all game if you were running a little behind.
Most every deck at the time that played Evolutions played three to four copies of this Stadium. Gyarados needed it especially because you never wanted a Magikarp to be sitting on your Bench for a turn before evolving.
4 Junk Arm
I don’t need to tell any of you why these are here. This card changed all of the formats that it was present in, and gave Gyarados an entirely new outlook that was absent in 2010. You could discard two Magikarp AND get a Trainer back into your hand. Those are two great things that you always want to do. I wish I could play eight.
Similar to all the benefits Seeker offered, Super Scoop Up allowed for a wide variety of plays. Multiple Pokémon in the deck have coming-into-play Poké-Powers, and healing a damaged Gyarados is again very nice. Plus, Junk Arm could get these back.
Even though the only Pokémon in the deck that this card effects is Crobat G, Flash Bite is good enough to warrant three copies of Poké Turn. It turns out you need to be killing a lot of Pokémon with 110 HP.
A card that sort of flies under the radar but should never go unrecognized is Warp Point, now known as Escape Rope. Remember the benefits of Regice? Exactly. With Junk Arm grabbing enough of these boys, you can 1HKO 70 HP pixies with Tail Revenge all day. Just make sure something on your Bench has Unown Q attached, or you’ll be forced to try and Super Scoop it out of the Active Spot. (Hint: don’t risk it.)
Blah blah your Pokémon are good and you need them to help you take Prizes so play this Trainer that can get them for you. This is a card I could easily see myself going down to one copy of. Pokémon Collector is just so good already, although that plus Communication can net you a nice Gyarados.
Why did no one else play this? Do you think I am joking? This one card single-handedly took my Luxchomp matchup from a depressing blowout to a favorable masterpiece. When I sat down across a Luxchomp player, I smiled. I liked the matchup that much. Not only was there no card played in the format to remove this Tool, but it could only be removed once attacking the Pokémon it was attached to (you’ve been outclassed, Weakness Guard). So Luxchomp players had to either waste their time doing just 60 damage to Gyarados which I would probably heal, or Dragon Rush something on the Bench. Although if they did the latter the Bubble Coat remained attached! The best part? I just grab this card with Junk Arm over and over.
I dare any of you to play me in a best-of-three, my Gyarados list versus your favorite Luxchomp list. See you soon.
Mmm, I almost want two. Should I be playing two? Expert Belt makes your Gyarados a beefy monster, thrashing all of the good LV.X Pokémon with 110 HP that stood in his way. A decisive turn of attaching an Expert Belt can make or break a game, but you have to approach it with a light touch. One of my favorite things to do against Luxchomp was to Psychic Bind, attach the Belt, and use Tail Revenge (for hopefully a 1HKO). On their next turn, there is no possible way for Luxchomp to return the 1HKO on the Gyarados. Since after all, Trash Bolt + Lucario GL = 140 and they are not able to Flash Bite.
What’s that, you play your OWN Expert Belt? Well then actually, that’s pretty good. Shut up, no one did that.
Pokémon for free, reuse it with Junk Arm, etc.
The Gyarados archetypes of 2010 relied on this card, it practically made the deck what it was. After all, when your Gyarados died you needed to get the fourth Magikarp back so you can play it back down. Simple. Why is there only one here then? First off, it’s still a great card for many reasons. Secondly, see below.
Triumphant simply made Gyarados the powerful deck that it was, and the very reason I am talking about it right now. Rescue Energy was made for this deck, made for Tail Revenge. They KO your Gyarados and swoop it’s right back into your hand. Evolve with Broken Time-Space, retreat, maybe attach another Rescue Energy, Tail Revenge! Rinse, repeat.
Although not as good as Rescue Energy, Warp Energy was a welcomed addition to the deck. You could attach it to your Active Sableye/Smeargle to “retreat” then later actually use it to retreat. You could save a Regice that was rudely brought Active by your opponent’s Bright Look as a stall tactic, or you could send a Gyarados to the Bench to be healed by Seeker.
1-1 Luxray GL LV.X
In fact, a lot of players I know seem to have favored this card in their Gyarados lists, and I can see why. The appeal to bring up any weak Pokémon with Bright Look and Tail Revenge for an easy Prize seems like a no-brainer. However, I felt like the deck didn’t really need this added assistance. It was clunky, took up Bench space, and used precious Poké Turn that you could be using for Crobat G. It’s definitely not bad, but I sought after other methods of taking Prizes. Warp Point, Regice, and multiple Flash Bites seemed to work fine for me.
If you’re very concerned about your draw power in a deck like this, Uxie LV.X can make a fine addition. Although just like Luxray, it does seem a little clunky to both get out and then send to the Bench so you can Tail Revenge in the same turn. I believe the Unown ? took the spot of this card in my deck, and I just like him better. (Note: if you play Luxray GL LV.X and Uxie LV.X, you can Bright Look your opponent’s Vileplume and 1HKO it with Zen Blade, pretty neat maybe).
I’m just going to start by saying that this is an absolute joke. The concept seems super cute in theory, but is actually terrible. You can See Off a Gyarados to the Lost Zone, and then have your Mew use Tail Revenge with FOUR Magikarp in the discard pile. That’s 30 more damage, wow!
A couple things: first, you immediately lose a Gyarados in your deck. Gone. Even when playing three, cycling through multiples of them can be pretty tough. I don’t want to just throw one in the Lost Zone. Second, you want to use Tail Revenge with your MEW? Good luck keeping up with that. It’s going to get Knocked Out immediately; the entire point of Gyarados is that he can take a hit too. Lastly, have fun finding room anywhere for Psychic Energy. Mew Prime sucks in here.
Haha, it’s your choice, friend. Sorry you couldn’t see it my way.
Luxchomp – 60/40
Like I have stated before, Bubble Coat takes you places. It’s almost not even fair. What normally ends up happening is that I’ll Impersonate a Cyrus for Twins, they KO the Sableye, and a begin from there. A battle of my powers and their Power Sprays typically ends in a Prize exchange that they begin ahead on, but crucial Bubble Coats and Expert Belts swing the exchange into my favor, allowing me to eventually Warp Point and/or Regi Move weaker Pokémon on their Bench for my last few Prizes. It is also important that I am able to Flash Bite twice onto their Active Pokémon once or twice. The toughest thing for me to deal with would be an opposing Luxray GL LV.X with its own Expert Belt attached (and oh I just bet you have two Power Spray in your hand also you sneaky guy).
Vilegar – 40/60
Despite the genius addition of Unown ? allowing you to discard Magikarp without the use of Junk Arm, this matchup is ugly. The entirety of your deck is rendered near useless thanks to early Spiritomb and later Vileplume, so you have to rely on KOing enough of the small guys then using two Flash Bite thanks to Seeker in order to 1HKO Gengar, which they can then kill you right back maybe. If I’m lucky, I can do the whole “Tail Revenge for 90, next turn Psychic Restore for 20 or Flash Bite twice” and prevent the Fainting Spell flip, but it’s not always that easy. Honestly if they flip enough tails it’s not that bad.
Another interesting strategy you can implement in this matchup is to evolve two Gyarados at the same time, and just Tail Revenge for 60. You’re committing to the 2HKO this way, but at least if one of your Gyarados dies you have another one to attack with without relying on Combee (as Rescue Energy does not operate after Fainting Spell and Pokémon Rescue cannot be played).
Dialgachomp – 50/50
Haha, I didn’t even play this matchup that much. Although the few times I have weren’t too bad. Dialga G LV.X is very very good at removing the 90 damage you did on the previous turn. But if you can muster through early Deafens and the occasional Psychic Bind, they can’t handle you slamming for 90-110 each turn. This is all of course assuming they don’t play Skuntank G and Snowpoint Temple. That plus an Expert Belted Deafen is bad news I am afraid.
Regigigas – 50/50
Seriously, just try and Mesprit before they do. If not, commit to the fact that you probably won’t be using Poké-Powers all game. The beefiness of Gyarados comes into play here by surviving opposing attacks, a worthy opponent of Regigigas LV.X. Take advantage of the Prizes they give you with Sacrifice, and hopefully you should Warp Point into some other easy Prizes.
Despite my average performances with the deck, and the arguable matchups (I bet all of you disagree with me), I love Gyarados. It’s an almost forgotten relic of a Worlds format that never was, yet it is some of the most fun I have ever had playing a deck of Pokémon cards. I’ve never stood up for a list more than I do this one, I’ll defend it to the grave.
Honestly, if any of you have an MD-CL deck and you think you can best this exact Gyarados list, I would be happy to play you (assuming Jacob Willinger is around with my copy of the deck and I’m not very busy).
That’s all for now, thanks for reading!
– Dustin Zimmerman