If you’ve attended enough Pokémon events, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve seen players play out-of-format decks. Whether they are playing for nostalgia or just to explore a format they never got to experience, it’s certainly entertaining to watch! Recently Erik Nance and Jon Bristow discussed the 2007-2008 format and how dominant Gardevoir was with Psychic Lock. The metagame going into Worlds that year had never been so narrow; Empoleon and Gardevoir were the two decks to beat.
Several players enjoyed this format because it lacked the “rock-paper-scissors” aspect and all the mirror matchups required many intricacies to play correctly. However, numerous players were sick of playing with and against Gardevoir decks for an entire season. This is what inspired many of the creative decks at Worlds in 2008; Blissey variants, Glaceon LV.X, and Scizor/Toxicroak (“Intimidation”) were a few of the decks that achieved successful results at Worlds.
With that said, what I’d like to discuss is the innovative deck I managed to pilot to the top 8-of Worlds that year. Although I was only in the Seniors division at the time, I still think that it’s interesting learning about the thought processes behind “rogue” decks and I hope someone who enjoys playing past formats will be inspired to pick up this deck and try it! I plan on discussing on how I looked at the format to come up with the idea as well as a card-by-card explanation of the deck.
Attempting to Break the Format
It’s really easy to say that you want to play your own “rogue” deck at huge tournament and achieve success, but it’s very difficult to do in practice. Players try to pick out the strongest cards when every new set comes out, test them, and the cards that perform well in a tournament setting become part of the metagame. Sometimes the format has tons of variety, but in 2007-2008 the format was dominated by two decks. The best first step I’ve found in coming up with a “rogue” deck in a narrow format is to look for an overlapping weakness between the decks in the metagame and exactly why those two decks are so dominant. I’ll attempt to explain how I did this in the context of the format for Worlds at 2008.
1. Gardevoir made any decks relying on Poké-Powers next to unplayable. This is because Gardevoir could simply use Psychic Lock turn after turn to ensure that the deck relying on Poké-Powers would never be able to execute its strategy. To put this in a more modern context, it would be the equivalent of attempting to play Blastoise without Tool Scrapper against Garbodor and expecting to win. Based on this reasoning, I knew that I would need a deck that could function without Poké-Powers.
2. Empoleon had amazing comeback potential by spreading damage and abusing Scramble Energy when it was down on Prizes. Empoleon would focus on using Dual Splash and Bronzong MD to spread damage. Since it often wasn’t taking Prizes until the later stages of the game, it could utilize Scramble Energy, which provided three Energy while the deck was behind. I knew that I’d either need a way to protect my Pokémon from Bench damage or a counter to Scramble Energy to prevent Empoleon’s comeback potential.
3. Scramble Energy wasn’t the only Special Energy in the format; they were everywhere! Empoleon and Gardevoir decks played Call Energy, Scramble Energy, Double Rainbow Energy, and occasionally even teched Holon’s Castform. I knew that whatever deck I played needed to counter the abuse of Special Energy in some way. This is the same logic that players followed in a more modern context when they add in Drifblim DRX and Enhanced Hammer to their decks. In the context of the 2008 Worlds format, Crystal Beach was the best counter. It made all Special Energy that provided two or more Energy only provide one C Energy instead. This meant that I would need a deck that could function with mostly basic Energy in order to abuse Crystal Beach.
4. Pokémon-based draw was everywhere. One of the cards that changed the game in the 2007-2008 format was Claydol GE. It let both players refresh their hands every turn without playing a Supporter, making decks much more consistent. This is probably one of the largest complaints with the current format, as we only have Electrode PLF as the closest replacement. Gardevoir also got to use the effect of an addition Supporter every turn thanks to its Telepass Poké-Power. This is exactly why Gardevoir was so strong — once it started using Psychic Lock it shut off your opponent’s ability to use their Claydol and set up every turn. The most splashable counter to this at the time was Cessation Crystal, a Tool that shut off all Poké-Powers and Poké-Bodies while attached to your Active Pokémon.
After analyzing both archetypes, it’s easy to see that a deck with Cessation Crystal and Crystal Beach can have a strong place in the metagame. The next step is finding which attackers fit with this strategy best. Usually the best place to start is to go through the legal card list card by card. While this process seems very tedious, it’s the only way to ensure that you don’t miss anything. Many cards are dismissed as “gimmicky” or simply forgotten because they weren’t effective when they were released.
While glancing through the cards, I found many Pokémon that were strong against one archetype, but not the other. For example, Banette SW was very strong against Gardevoir decks because it could Knock Out their main attacker thanks to the Psychic Weakness. However, I didn’t want to devote a lot of space to Banette when it simply wasn’t very good at trading with Empoleon. As I moved further down the list of legal cards, Scizor MD caught my eye. Special Blow allowed Scizor to hit for 80 damage with just one Energy in a format where the two biggest archetypes didn’t play many Basic Energy. The Gardevoir deck that won the World Championships in the Masters division only played three basic Psychic Energy!
At this point, the deck seems very similar to the Scizor/Toxicroak deck that won 2008 Worlds in Juniors. However, the concept behind my deck was that I felt Scizor was a strong enough attacker on its own since it could trade so efficiently for one Energy. The biggest weakness of the deck was when your opponent set up an attacker with three basic Energy. When coming up with a decklist, I wanted ways to keep my opponent’s basic Energy off the board with cards like Energy Removal 2 so that my opponent would be forced to choose between attaching Special Energy cards and not attacking.
I knew I wanted to play a deck focused on Scizor MD, Cessation Crystal, and Crystal Beach. All the other cards in the deck were mainly for consistency purposes or addressing the issue of an attacker with three basic Energy cards. Below is a list that is very close to what I ran at Worlds in 2008 since I don’t have a perfect memory:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
4-4 Scizor MD
Scizor was the main attacker of the deck that preyed on decks that relied on Special Energy. Opponents simply had to attach Special Energy in order to attack because they ran so few basic Energy cards! However, Scizor is also deceptively stronger thanks to its Psychic Resistance and Special M Energy. Scizor essentially makes Gardevoir useless with one or two Special M Energy attached. Psychic Lock hits for 20 or 30 damage against a deck that doesn’t rely on Pokémon Powers at the cost of three Energy.
This forced your opponent to attack with Gallade’s Psychic Cut attack. Gallade was very difficult to set up with a lack of Poké-Powers and Crystal Beach to hinder the use of Double Rainbow Energy, but it was able to Knock Out Scizor in one attack at the cost of flipping over Prize cards. Scyther’s Fighting Resistance made it so Gallade has to flip over at least 2 Prize cards to Knock Out a Scizor or a Scyther. If you have a Scizor with two Special M Energy, your opponent had to flip over a third Prize card. This meant that your opponent would not be able to Knock Out all of your Scizor in one shot with Psychic Cut.
Scizor also had a playable second attack. When you only rely on a one-Energy attack, there is time to attach extra Energy in order to use X-Scissor. With at least two Special M Energy attached, this Scizor can be difficult to take down with one attack, allowing it to trade with an attacker that has basic Energy if you can get one heads after two attacks. Between Energy Removal 2 flips and X-Scissor flips, the deck can usually deal with one attacker that has all basic Energy. However, Empoleon decks were sometimes able to set up a second Empoleon with basic Energy, which meant the deck needed another solution.
2-2 Electrode SW
Electrode was the solution to Empoleon. This card is a prime example of something that doesn’t seem remotely playable when it’s released, but finds a niche use. Electrode was a decent secondary attacker to ensure the deck didn’t run out of Pokémon, but its main use was keeping basic Energy off the board so that Scissor could trade efficiently. By Knocking itself Out, it could also take out an Empoleon with three basic Energy attached thanks to the Lightning Weakness. Electrode could also finish off a Gardevoir damaged by Special Blow or a 130 HP Pokémon that was hit by a 90 damage X-Scissor without Knocking itself Out.
Energy Shift seems useless since you want to have Cessation Crystal in play, but it’s actually a nice bonus. Cessation Crystal turns off Poké-Powers when it’s attached to your Active Pokémon. This means that if you are planning on Knocking Out your own Electrode you can take advantage of Energy Shift and then promote a Pokémon with Cessation Crystal to continue to stop your opponent from setting up with Pokémon-based draw.
This card seems a little out of place, but one of the best ways for Gardevoir decks to come back was using Dusknoir’s Hard Feelings attack. After you take 4 Prizes with this deck, Dusknoir can Knock Out Scizor with one attack and ignore Special M Energy. However, its Darkness Weakness, high Retreat Cost, and the fact that it has only one attack make it vulnerable to Sableye’s Disable attack. Disable does 40 damage after Weakness, setting the Dusknoir to be Knocked Out by Scizor, Electrode, or simply two more Disable attacks.
Disable can also be very useful in delaying the game if you need more time to set up an additional Scizor or Electrode. For example, using Disable on Gallade’s Psychic Cut attack can often buy you at least one turn. It also lets you Knock Out 130 HP Pokémon with Special Blow and only 40 damage from Ion Blast so that you don’t run out of Scizor at the end of the game.
Sableye’s Poké-Power is also a huge bonus. Although you can’t use it when you have a Scizor with Cessation Crystal sitting Active, you can promote an Electrode without Cessation Crystal everytime Scizor is Knocked Out. This allows you to use Excavate and then free retreat afterward. Excavate helps ensure that you don’t get stuck with a bad hand for very long if you’re trying to topdeck a Supporter after losing a Team Galactic’s Wager.
These were the standard Supporters at the time when it came to searching for Pokémon in order to set up. I chose to play four copies because I wanted to open with them since nothing is better on the first turn than filling my Bench of with Scyther and having a guaranteed way to evolve to Scizor quickly. With such a low Pokémon count, it’s important to have a way to search out the few attackers the deck has. Roseanne’s Research stays useful later in the game since it still searches for basic Energy when you have all your attackers in play.
These cards provide the deck with consistency and make both Cessation Crystal and Crystal Beach searchable. The reason why I chose to run many more Castaway than Scott is because as your attackers are Knocked Out, you need to search for a new Cessation Crystal every time. You don’t need to search for more Stadiums until your opponent plays a counter Stadium or a Windstorm. With four copies of Crystal Beach, you will always win the Stadium war. Castaway also provides more of an immediate benefit since it allows you to search for an Energy for the turn.
Steven’s Advice, Copycat, Team Galactic’s Wager, and TV Reporter were the main draw Supporters at the time. Since my deck didn’t want to discard anything, I opted not to play TV Reporter. I felt Steven’s Advice and Copycat were simply two of the strongest draw Supporters at the time so wanted to run higher counts of those.
Running Team Galactic’s Wager is risky, but it can swing a game in your favor simply by winning a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Putting your opponent at three cards and turning off Poké-Powers with Cessation Crystal can be devastating. Sableye’s Excavate can also help you draw out of a bad Team Galactic’s Wager if you’re on the losing end. I felt having one copy was worthwhile because it was searchable thanks to Castaway and Scott in case you really needed a way to disrupt your opponent.
I’m not sure if I chose to run this card or PokéNav, but they both serve a similar purpose. I felt that I had enough Supporter-based search and draw cards, so I wanted a couple cards to speed up the deck a little bit. When I had more Supporters in their place, such a second copy of Scott or another Steven’s Advice, I felt that I always had more Supporters than I could play in the course of an average game. While these certainly weren’t high impact cards, they helped improve the speed and consistency of the deck slightly, which can make all the difference in a long tournament.
I’ve discussed these cards countless times since they’re essential in countering the two big archetypes. I decided to play four copies of each because I want to open with them and I want to have enough copies of both in case my opponent plays counter Stadiums or Windstorm. The fact that they are searchable through Castaway and Scott allows the deck to consistently deny its opponent access to Poké-Powers while limiting the usefulness of their Special Energy cards.
This card has the same text as Crushing Hammer, so even newer players know how frustrating it can be when their opponent keeps removing their Energy after a barrage of heads. Energy Removal 2 was essential to the deck’s strategy because you could remove the few basic Energy cards your opponent had in their deck, forcing them to attach Special Energy cards in order to attack. This allowed the deck to execute its strategy by making efficient trades with Scizor.
Since the deck runs so few Pokémon, it’s nice to have a recovery card. I decided against Night Maintenance because I felt it wasn’t always easy to search out the Pokémon I had shuffled back into my deck. Even flipping one heads on Time-Space Distortion is incredibly helpful. If you prize one of your attackers, such as Scizor, Time-Space Distortion can get you a fourth copy of Scizor. If your opponent Knocks Out a Scyther with a turn 2 Gallade using Psychic Cut, Time-Space Distortion can get you an extra Scyther so that you can still set up four Scizor during the game.
Obviously getting multiple heads is even better because you can get out a fifth Scizor over the course of the game with very minimal effort. Although there is the small risk of flipping three tails, I feel that the rewards of this card outweigh the risks.
4 Special M Energy, 5 Basic Metal Energy, 4 Lightning Energy
The Energy line isn’t too exciting for this deck. I couldn’t run many of the other Special Energy cards because I was trying to abuse Crystal Beach. 13 Energy felt like the right number after testing, but I considered dropping to 12 for another consistency card. The only other Special Energy card I considered was Multi Energy, but it didn’t work very well with Special M Energy. Special M Energy was too important to remove because it was so important when it came to denying your opponent Prizes or at least making them flip an addition Prize when Gallade used Psychic Cut. All the basic Energy cards were searchable with Castaway and Roseanne’s Research, ensuring that I wouldn’t have trouble missing Energy attachments very often.
This was one of my favorite decks to ever play despite its simplicity. It brought me success in my first competitive season as a player and allowed me to avoid playing mirror matches the entire event. I played against Gardevoir in all but two rounds before I lost in top 8, just to put in perspective how dominant the deck really was.
I hope everyone enjoyed seeing my thought process in coming up with a creative deck in a seemingly stale format. I also encourage anyone who enjoys playing older formats to pick this deck up and give it a try. As always, feel free to comment or message me any questions! Thanks for reading!