Hey everyone, it’s been a while but I’m finally back this month and I’m going to take a look at the Expanded format in this article. Unless you’re prepared to play in this format come Regionals time, you shouldn’t expect to make a deep tournament run; your deck choice for day two is just as important as your choice for day one. Specifically, I’ll take a look at the results of the Expanded format Arena Cup that happened in Berlin over the weekend and I’ll explain why I think some of the successful decks—Plasma, Pyroar, and Virizion—were great picks for the tournament. For information on Big Basics and Yveltal/Garbodor in Expanded, please take a look at my friend Ray Cipoletti’s Underground article.
At the end of the article, I’ll dive into some other topics not so closely related to format or card analysis. I’ll discuss what I think of the new Expanded format and how I’ve handled competitive Pokémon as a full-time college student. Anyway, enjoy!
Table of Contents
- Decks of the Expanded Format Berlin Arena Cup
- My Take on Expanded
- Playing While in College
Decks of the Expanded Format Berlin Arena Cup
Plasma’s been a deck for a number of years and now that it’s finally been rotated, the Expanded format allows it to stick around. Two players at the Arena Cup piloted their Plasma lists in the top 8 cut in Berlin this weekend. Here are the lists, referenced from events.amigo-spiele.de:
David K.’s Top 8 List
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 31
Energy – 15
Konrad K.’s Top 4 List
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 36
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 14
These lists aren’t very different from one another so I’ll tackle Expanded Plasma as a whole in this article rather than discuss each list alone. The first card I’ll talk about—and by far the most surprising—is David’s Glaceon.
The first list belongs to David K. The standout card in David’s list is Glaceon. Glaceon has been a counter to Pyroar for Plasma for a while, but it’s never really been a popular choice among Plasma players. Many Plasma players choose alternatives or choose simply to lost flat out to Pyroar. David, however, went the opposite route. There isn’t much to say about Glaceon as a card—it just does 60 damage for a Rainbow and DCE—but do I think it’s worthwhile in a Plasma deck? Honestly, no. I think David may have been justified had he thought Pyroar was going to make a bigger splash than it really did.
Unfortunately for David, only one player in the top 8 played Pyroar, making his 4-slot commitment mostly unhelpful in top cut. Luckily, Glaceon’s Ability does makes it somewhat justifiable even if you manage to avoid Pyroar. There’s something to be said for giving each Plasma Pokémon a lighter Retreat Cost though certainly not enough to justify playing the card without expecting plenty of Pyroar to show up.
I’m a big fan of Absol and I think it easily earns a spot in most Plasma lists. It can hit very high numbers for only two Energy and one of them can be Plasma Energy. Absol keeps opponents honest. Players can no longer fill their Bench when Absol comes down, nor can they when they know Absol’s in the deck—it simply deals too much damage. Ignoring Mind Jack’s 1HKO potential can be the downfall of many Plasma opponents. Absol is a card Konrad chose to include in his list that David chose not to incorporate.
I’d also like to indicate how much I really like the addition of Absol in the context of Konrad’s deck specifically. One of the first things I noticed when I looked at Konrad’s list was that he played so few Pokémon. He keeps his line to only the essentials: Deoxys, Thundurus, Lugia, and a non-EX attacker—Absol. The beauty of Absol in this list is that it’s the only non-EX attacker. Now, if an opponent ever KOs Absol they’ve made effectively zero progress toward winning the game because they’ll still have to KO 3 Pokémon-EX regardless of the Absol Prize. In fact, they even set themselves back by KOing the Absol because of N. Now they’re drawing one fewer card on every N for the remainder of the game for no upside other than removing the Absol from the board.
I imagine Konrad may have had a few options for that spot in his deck; maybe it was the Absol or maybe it was a Kyurem or Glaceon like David had, or maybe it was just another Trainer. At any rate, I think Absol was a very important card for Konrad to include in his list as the 7th Prize.
Those are the only two specific cards I want to touch on because I feel like they’ve got specific purposes in their respective decks and were chosen very intentionally by these players to improve their chances. I also feel like these cards have very subtle impacts on their decks so I thought I should explain my feelings on each one. Next I’ll talk about why I think Plasma in general is a strong play for Regionals in an Expanded setting. If you look at the other top-finishing decks, you’ll see that there’s a pretty solid spread. There were three Yveltal/Garbodor, a Virizion/Genesect, two Plasma, a Pyroar, and a Fighting Basics deck. There’s a lot going on in this format and Ray started to take it apart already, but he didn’t touch on Plasma so I will.
The reason Plasma is so strong in this format is because it takes no horrible matchups. Save Pyroar (assuming no Glaceon), Plasma has a fighting chance against any deck in the game. It even has favorable matchups against most. What more could you ask for?
While not every Plasma deck will include Kyurem, it certainly seems worthwhile to me. With all the Landorus around these days Kyurem can single-handedly sway the Fighting matchup in the favor of Plasma. The other decks should be taken care of by Lugia. The Thundurus/Lugia combo in and of itself is a strong one. It usually has enough oomph to make any matchup tough an opponent, regardless of their deck.
For example, Yveltal/Garbodor should see play in Expanded because it was such a powerful deck last season. It has answers to almost everything and even gets Dark Patch back when you add the extra sets on for Expanded. The deck is just plain good. At Nationals last year, we saw Plasma perform very well and Yveltal/Garbodor underperform, however. There were many reasons for that, but one of the important reasons that the huge number of Yveltal/Garbodor players fell by the wayside while the Plasma players rose to the top tables was because Plasma was strong against the field, the same way Yveltal was.
Now, in Expanded, Plasma still faces many of the same matchups except Landorus decks are far more common, which only makes the deck better. I think both of these players made great metagame calls choosing Plasma as their Expanded decks and I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen one of them take home the title and the trophy.
The next deck I’ll talk about is Pyroar. Only one player, Fatih A., played Pyroar in the top 8, but I wouldn’t discredit the deck in the least.
Fatih A.’s 1st Place List
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 36
Energy – 12
The first but least substantial reason Pyroar is a good pick for Expanded is the power of Plasma. I just wrote about Plasma and why I think it’s a huge powerhouse in this format so I’ll leave it at that. The fact that Plasma should be so popular in Expanded really does help Pyroar’s case, though. I also think this version of Pyroar is a particularly interesting one.
Fatih, the eventual winner of the tournament, piloted his Pyroar deck with Mewtwos, as per the usual, but also Seismitoads rather than Charizards. By cutting Charizard, Fatih loses a big damage option but he gains one of the game’s best attackers in its place. I think that Seismitoad was a great adjustment from the typical Charizard version. Until you’ve actually played with Seismitoad, it might be difficult to imagine just how good the card really is.
Quaking Punch can put opponents in a position where they find it difficult to have impactful turns. Without Items they’ll find it difficult to move an Active Pokémon with a hefty Retreat Cost to the Bench and they’ll also struggle to score 1HKOs on such a bulky EX. Seismitoad’s ambiguous Energy cost and high-impact attack will keep it viable for as long as it’s legal and it’ll surely be splashed into decks, like it was here, for the length of its term in rotation. Seismitoad’s only weakness is that it can’t put out a huge attack like Charizard could.
Honestly, though, does the deck really need a four-Energy 150-damage attack? I don’t think so. Anything that Charizard could accomplish for all those resources, Pyroar could do over two turns. The advantage to using Pyroars over Charizards is that you get to keep Pyroar’s Ability functioning while you attack, which might make it difficult on an opponent to string attacks—it’s more likely to drain the resources they’d use to Knock Out future Pyroars. It seems that the tradeoff between Charizard and Seismitoad paid dividends in the end. If there was a choice better than Plasma for this top cut it was certainly Pyroar.
If we look at the other decks that might appear in Expanded—which are pretty much just Yveltal/Garbodor, Fighting Basics, Eels, Plasma, Pyroar, Seismitoad, and Virizion—we also see that Pyroar has an advantage against almost all of them. The only deterrent Fatih might have faced when he made his decision to play Pyroar should have been Garbodor. Alone, Yveltal, Landorus, Rayquaza, Lugia, Seismitoad, and Virizion can’t even damage Pyroar. Unfortunately for Pyroar, three of those six decks use Garbodor to circumvent Pyroar’s ability and breach the lock. While Garbodor is a useful counter to Pyroar, it’s hardly comprehensive. If you’ve ever tried to beat a Pyroar deck relying on just Garbodor and Basic attackers, you’ve probably realized that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Just look at Fatih’s list. He played four Pokémon Catcher and two Lysandre to deal with all the Benched Garbodors he knew he’d see. Because most decks only play two Garbodor, once they’re both gone the game ends.
Now, it even makes more sense that Fatih chose Seismitoad as his tech attacker in place of Charizard. If he ever ran into a Trubbish, he could use Seismitoad to keep the game slow and keep the Garbodor/Tool off the table for long enough to give himself time to find a Catcher or a Lysandre to Knock Trubbish Out. I think that the problem of Garbodor being in the format is definitely minimized best by Seismitoad as compared to other potential Garbodor counters—Fatih made a great call here and definitely earned his victory.
The last deck I’ll cover in this article is Virizion/Genesect. This deck is obviously one of the biggest factors in the game right now in Expanded and Standard. It just took three of the top four places at Worlds and it really didn’t lose anything important to the rotation. As long as Virizion, Genesect, G Booster, and G Energy are legal, this deck will exist. Not only that, but it’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Michal P.’s Top 4 List
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 36
Energy – 13
I like Michal’s choice to keep the Drifblim line in the deck, even in a different format. It seems that Drifblim’s Shadow Steal was still one of the better attacks in the game come Worlds last year, though many players failed to realize it; the same holds true for Expanded. Although Michal also played Mr. Mime, he could elect to put only one or the other onto the board to allow himself to create the same “7 Prize” game Plasma players can with the Absol or Kyurem tech. Additionally, Mr. Mime gives him some good insurance against all the new Landorus decks. So, if he chooses, he can put down Mr. Mime instead of Drifblim and hopefully prevent 60-120 damage to his Bench from Hammerheads. It really puts the Landorus player in a bad position; without Poison or Bench damage, it’ll leave the opponent wondering why he or she is playing Landorus in the first place.
Also, that’s not to say that either Mr. Mime or Drifblim can come into play but not both because that’s simply not true. While it does potentially lead to meaningful Prize drawing off the mime and the balloon, it might be worth it because both of the Pokémon provide such big advantages—sometimes ya just gotta do it!
So why is this deck so good in Expanded? Well, the simple answer is because G Booster still knocks anything relevant out. As long as Genesect can pump out three attacks with that huge cannon strapped to it, in most cases, it wins the game.
Another perk of Virizion/Genesect right now is its resistance to Seismitoad. Its opposition to Seismitoad is twofold in fact. Because Virizion prevents Poison and resists ‘Toad, it keeps the frog’s damage so low it’s not even worthwhile attacking with it. Against decks that rely on Seismitoad’s lock to win games, Virizion should have a very easy time winning. Regardless of the Seismitoad advantage and the G Booster advantage, Virizion/Genesect can use Genesect’s Ability to manipulate any deck.
Really, many of the advantages I point out about Genesect are universal. It’s really good to have protection from Special Conditions, attach extra Energies, deal 200 damage per turn, and be able to attack opposing Benched Pokémon via Red Signal—the deck is just, plain, good. One last thing I’ll add is that Enhanced Hammer and Drifblim become way better with all the Strong Energy floating around the Big Basics/Garbodor decks these days; it can be devastating not only to discard their Energies but also to put down massive damage with a non-EX for having done so.
My Take on Expanded
I figure that while I’m already writing an article about Expanded I’ll give my feeling on the format as a whole. At first, when I heard about the Expanded format I was really excited to dive into it but my enthusiasm faded quickly. I realized that it would be more of a hassle than it was worth. While the idea of playing multiple decks in the same tournament seems fun, unfortunately, it also seems moderately impractical. Maybe it’s because I have a brother who plays, but we had a hard enough time finding the time to test all the decks in Standard let alone all the decks in another format too. We also didn’t need to worry about finding the cards to build two decks each! What happens if the two of us make top 8? We’re expected to have four fully constructed decks potentially containing cards that have been out of print some for years? It hardly seems rational.
Nonetheless, I’m sure the Expanded format brings joy back to a lot of the players who kept their old collections in tact and who have the time to devote to thoroughly testing each deck in two formats. I just see the Expanded format as a barrier that some players might not be willing to overcome to continue playing the game at its highest capacity.
I think a good solution to the Expanded conundrum would be to have a separate tournament series for it, like the Arena Cup. If players could choose to play an entirely Expanded or an entirely Standard tournament, they’d be more likely to prepare for the appropriate format and therefore have a better time. For example, if it was announced before every City Championships whether the event would be Standard or Expanded, players would have more time to test either format and not have to worry about testing two at a time because they’d likely have time between Cities to adjust. The example works even better if all tournaments of a certain type were held in the same format (e.g. all Regionals being Expanded and all Cities being Standard). I just think there are easier, less exhausting ways to implement what could be a very skill-intensive and fun format.
So do I think I’ll test both formats as thoroughly as I used to test Standard? Unfortunately, I probably won’t. This leads me, however, to the second thing I want to cover at the end of my article this month: playing Pokémon in college and transitioning out.
Playing While in College
I’ve enjoyed the game since 2003 from when I played in my first City Championships to when I played in my first World Championships with my Salamence DR 10 deck. Now, while I still enjoy playing and seeing all the people who make the game so great, college has become such a large constraint I don’t see myself playing as frequently or even competitively at all. The reason I even write about this at all is as a warning. While I should have realized that schoolwork and the absence of transportation would make it next to impossible to attend tournaments, it still came as a surprise to me. I also add this bit to the article as a reminder that it’s not a terrible feeling, at least for me it wasn’t.
For example, since I started my college career at Lehigh University in August, I’ve been so labored with different activities that I’ve hardly even had time to consider playing Pokémon. That’s not to say I don’t love the game, though, it’s just that schoolwork and the barriers to actually playing Pokémon make it less worthwhile to put so much effort into it. So, you’ll still see my at Philadelphia Regionals this weekend and I’ll still have the same drive to win the tournament and earn my Worlds invite, but what you won’t see is the creativity I used to have the luxury of producing. You won’t see a Tool Drop deck and you won’t see a Hooligans Jim & Cas in my deck like I’ve done in the past. You’ll likely see a cookie-cutter list from either the internet or from my brother Frank over which I have no control. While it detracts a little from the experience, I’m still as excited as ever to play in the event and see everyone again.
So if I could offer advice to the players undertaking a new school year or a new work experience, especially those who’ve played at a particularly high level, it would be that there are ways to enjoy the game other than on the podium.
My way of dealing with the shortage of Pokémon in my life will likely come in the form of playing competitive decks so as to give myself the best chance at winning, but also likely not testing these decks due to time constraints. It’s just the way it has to be. The one really great upside to this kind of competition, the upside I’m looking forward to most, is that the pressure has completely dissipated. I no longer expect to win because I’ve put so little time into the game but that also certainly won’t prevent me from trying my hardest to.
And for anyone else in my position, the way you deal with being away might be different. You might decide that you only want to play fun decks. If that’s your inclination, if you think that’ll be the most enjoyable way to participate, do it. And if you’re determined to stay entirely active in the game and keep producing results and new ideas, just make sure you keep in mind, Expanded matters.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for this month, everyone. I hope you all enjoyed the article and that it helps you decide what you might do for the Regionals to come—they’re important ones. And even if don’t make it to the Expanded portion of the event this time, I hope that the article has prepared you for when you do. Thanks for reading; I really hope you liked it!
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