Standard Time

Archetypes and Homebrews, Split Decisions and the Magic Way
stack of books clipartpineygrove.stokes.k12.nc.us
The first two weekends are in the books.

Hello again everyone! Fall is one of the most exciting points in the Pokémon Organized Play season, as we transition from small events, in the form of localized League Challenges, to the first major events of the post-Worlds rotation, Autumn Regionals. At the time of this writing, we’ve had two weekend’s worth of the tournaments in the books, and there are two things I feel like we can take away from the results: everything is up in the air with regards to the Standard format, and no one really has a clue what is going on in Expanded.

For those who don’t know, here in North America, the two-day Regional Championships are split into two formats. Day 1 is Standard, and the lucky top 32 who get to return for the second day have the privilege of playing in the new Expanded format. Well, from all of the Regionals so far, it seems like each metagame has been pretty different for Standard. The fields have looked fairly unique, and the archetypes which seem to have been doing well at each event are pretty diverse as well.

At Philadelphia Regionals, Pyroar was pretty much a non-factor. Looking at the most recently collected data, zero Pyroar decks made it into top 32 (though a few decks are still unreported) and people I spoke to who attended the event more or less wrote Pyroar off as a non-factor in the metagame while discussing what to play in subsequent events. On the other hand, Pyroar saw much more play and success in Arizona, on the same weekend, and people from that event have viewed Pyroar in an entirely different light. Beyond just Pyroar, the other decks that seemed to be successful were fairly different as well.

Let’s break down the metagame from the two events. (I have been unable to find reliable data coming out of this weekend’s Regionals in Houston at the time of writing, so we’ll be focusing on the first week of Regionals.)

Philadelphia Regionals Top 32 Decks

10 Seismitoad
6 Yveltal
5 Fighting
3 Virizion/Genesect
3 Donphan
2 Plasma
3 Unknown

These are the simplifications of the archetypes. Seismitoads ranged from Toad/Garbodor builds, to Toad/Yveltal decks, and some decks with both. The Yveltal decks I lumped together as being any of the Dark decks which didn’t branch off into Seismitoad alongside it as the differentiating point. The Fighting decks seemed to be pretty diverse in approach as well.

Arizona Regionals Top 32 Decks

8 Yveltal
5 Seismitoad
3 Plasma
2 Pyroar
2 Virizion/Genesect
1 Heracross/Dusknoir (Thanks Andrew Murray!)
11 Unknown

The first thing to take from this is that the documentation of decks from this event was worse than from Philly, so the data ends up meaning quite a bit less with such a large portion of the successful metagame missing. Compared to Philly, you see less Seismitoad decks (although with 11 decks missing, it is technically reasonable for the deck’s numbers to spike up to be close to those represented in the Northeast) and a raise in Yveltal. While Yveltal decks were still well represented in Philly, making up 6/29 reported decks, we have 8/21 decks from Arizona sporting the Dark Pokémon as its primary attacker. The other big changes are the presence of Pyroar from Arizona and a lack of (reported) Fighting decks altogether! The deck was the third most popular archetype in Philly, and one of the big threats people spoke of going into the weekend, and it placed a total of ZERO (documented) copies into the top 32.

Now, usually when a deck has success at one area and fails to make a splash in another, it doesn’t really prove a deck is bad. If a deck is able to succeed in one area, it says more than a lack of presence from another. Either the deck simply received little play, or the metagame in one area was much more hostile than at the other. Rather than use this as a point to argue whether Fighting and Pyroar are good decks (I feel both are good, for reference), I think what we can draw from it is that we saw two different ends of the metagame spectrum. Either one region felt Pyroar or Fighting were bad decks and didn’t play them, or they felt decks which were very hostile toward those decks were better plays.

The main point here being that people don’t seem to have a uniform opinion as to what decks are the absolute best yet. While this is often the case at Regionals, some years are more easily “solved” than others. I’ve stressed before that Pokémon archetypes are pretty transparent and readily advertised to us as players. The good cards are so much better than the average card that we know what cards get to be roleplayers. As a result, there isn’t a terrible amount of sifting through ideas going into a new format before everyone kind of settles on what the possible decks can be.

This whole point is less about telling us what we can take from the results, but more about what we should NOT take from it. I’ve always stressed that it is a great idea to look at prior tournament results to isolate metagame trends to better prepare yourself for what to expect the next week. The problem here is that the major trend we’re isolating is that everything is pretty wildly in flux still. I wouldn’t read too much into trying to predict how your own regional metagame will look from this data.

Split Decisions

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One thing that has really hindered the isolation of “best decks” IS the split in formats. Day 1 is a small sample size and pretty high variance. I intentionally did not list the placements after day 1 Swiss for the archetypes because of how big a swing one draw or one late-game topdeck can make in altering a person’s rank. Usually when a deck wins a whole event, you can safely say the deck really earned it and was a cut above the rest of the field. A top 8 berth means quite a bit more than being ranked in the top 8 after the first day. As a result of everyone shifting to Expanded for the last half of the event we lose a LOT of potential important data regarding how the Standard decks would have played out toward crowning a winner. This gives us less concrete data to work with for Standard.

Now, regarding Expanded, everyone I’ve spoken to seems to be pretty much up in the air about what is good. I know a lot of people who planned to just make a few tweaks to their Standard deck (or another Standard archetype) and run with it. Now, not only is this almost assuredly NOT giving us the best decks in the Expanded format, but it also skews the field quite a bit because when players en masse play subpar lists, it’s hard to really pick out what is ACTUALLY good opposed to what is simply less bad.

Ok, let me clarify: I don’t mean to call these players or their decks BAD necessarily, just they are likely very far from optimal. Expanded is extremely unexplored and we’re at the base entry point for trying to establish a metagame. I understand that the power creep has made it so a majority of the best cards are already going to be Standard legal, but I refuse to believe just porting over current decks really gives us the optimal solution to the format.

I haven’t talked to a single player who actually seems to be very invested in Expanded. The overwhelming mentality embraced seemed to be “I don’t know what’s good, I’ll likely just play this deck and add a few old cards.” I heard a lot of “I’ll see if I make day 2 then figure it out.” I don’t know if this is a bad sign about the format, as players don’t seem to really be taking to it, or if this is because they are still more overwhelmed with figuring out Standard first.

I am all for the idea of embracing multiple formats, but I am not as sure I like the idea of forcing players to play in a multi-format event. This is particularly the case with Regionals, where they are pretty crucial to a player being able to earn enough CP to make it into Worlds. I also really don’t like the idea of top 8 not being of the primary format. I like trying to push Expanded as a live format, but I don’t like doing so at the expense of making Standard the main format you need to be good at to qualify for Worlds. Currently, Expanded is including fairly recent cards, but a few years down the line, certain cards could provide a real price and availability barrier to newer players.

The Magic Way

1996 world champion magic artworkmagiccards.info

This kind of brings up a really annoying problem. At the end of the day, all that matters is Worlds. The entire season is about qualifying for the World Championships. This is a point I’ve meant to make for awhile and I think it is a fairly big handicap the game is facing at the moment. I’ve gone a number of paragraphs without referencing Magic: The Gathering as a comparison, but here we go.

Magic has a season which consists of four Pro Tours and a huge number of Grand Prix tournaments. On top of this, they have a World Championship for 16 of the game’s BEST players. They go out of their way to emphasize the importance of these events not just in prestige, but in terms of prize support. Taking “Worlds” out of their equation (they put their focus on the Pro Tour being as big a deal as Worlds), they more or less hold four Worlds every year.

Getting into their Hall of Fame is the ultimate goal for a Magic player. You get automatic qualification for every Pro Tour event for the rest of your life (and a snazzy ring!). The numbers they look at for inductions? Pro Tour top 8s and Grand Prix top 8s. They hold Grand Prixs of every different format. If you don’t play a certain format, then don’t attend the event. They have three different constructed tournaments, plus Limited. Most players do not actively play all of four of these.

The problem Pokémon faces when introducing new formats is that you have to more or less attend and succeed in EVERY event over the course of a season to be able to make it into Worlds, the ONE real goal of the season. When you put all your eggs in one basket, event-wise, you risk the threat of alienating unsuccessful players. The sense of defeat (and wasted time and effort) that comes with falling just short of qualifying after a season you spent devoted to traveling and spending a lot of money on the game is pretty brutal.

While some players can shrug that off, I know it has really hurt the enjoyment of the game for others. I’m not arguing this in terms of player entitlement. Players can’t be required to expect to win, but when you have players devoting a whole year toward chasing a goal and they come up short, it sure is going to be deterring them from doing it again the next year. I mean, if you want to argue the prestige of States and Regionals over the course of a year as being substantial, that is fine; I can’t convince you otherwise, but I assure you that most players do not view them as being much beyond a stepping stone toward Worlds.

There isn’t a good quick fix for this problem, as it would more or less require a complete overhaul of the current organized play structure and would require a much bigger budget to raise the winnings for more events over the course of the year. When you take some of the emphasis off not being able to skip an event, it becomes an easier task of integrating different formats into the game. You have those dedicated players who will play any and every format you throw at them and attend every event regardless, but the goal should be to take those casual and casual-competitive players and really hook them and keep their interest high too, and I feel like a near mandatory secondary format is going to be off-putting in this capacity.

I am actually curious how you guys all feel about this, and would love to discuss it a bit more in depth in the forums if you’d like!

Regional Developments

raichu fist pumppokemontime.tumblr.com

Anyway, with that bit of a rant aside, I want to touch on some of the things I took from both Regionals results and my own personal testing. There are some major developments I wanted to touch on.

1. The reports of Yveltal-EX’s death were greatly exaggerated.

Yveltal was overlooked with the departure of Sableye DEX and Dark Patch. Sableye was already seeing less and less play in Dark decks as they became more aggressive, but Dark Patch was the cards primary source of Energy acceleration. With Yveltal being roughly on par with the other best decks at the tail end of last season, the initial consensus was that without Dark Patch, it had to be a tier below the other big players.

Well, that turned out to be very untrue, as the card has a real (re)breakout weekend. Y Cyclone is such a strong attack and it helps mitigate the lack of Energy acceleration lost with Dark Patch. Resistance to Fighting is huge with the popularity (barring Arizona, I guess!) of Landorus-EX and Lucario-EX. The card is also capable of being a pretty strong attacker against Seismitoad-EX, another primary pillar of the metagame. The card is also good against Virizion/Genesect decks, and Mewtwo (who has seen a big resurgence as an easily-splashed counter to the Fighting decks and Seismitoad).

To help offset the loss of Dark Patch, when Yveltal kind of dropped off the radar a bit, we saw all of the popular anti-Yveltal cards drop off as well. Plasma decks running Lasers to be able to score OHKOs with a one-Energy Thundurus have more or less disappeared (Lasers are weaker now with Toad’s popularity and Virizion’s presence). Decks had stopped playing Raichu as a direct counter to Yveltal as well. Which brings me to the next point…

2. Raichu XY and Dedenne FFI are good Yveltal counters.

Dedenne is easier to splash, but has two major problems attached to it. First, it is countered by smart use of Y Cyclone. In general it requires the opponent to invest a lot of Energy onto Yveltal-EX to make it worthwhile. I feel like Yveltal decks can walk around it a bit too easily for my taste. It is worth noting that it is a bit better against Lugia-EX, as it gets a KO on it with a Muscle Band post-Plasma Gale.

Raichu is a more unconditional counter, but it requires you to run DCE and fit a Stage 1 line into your deck. (Yes, Virizion/Genesect can pull it off without DCE.) The advantage is that it can kill a low-Energy Yveltal or Lugia preemptively, and is much harder to play around. On top of that, it actually deals enough damage to be a useful attacker against other decks.

Both of these cards had dropped out of discussion following Worlds, with a decrease in Yveltal hype, but now are again great plays. A number of the decks at Regionals already incorporated them into their lists (I left out this bit when clumping decks into archetypes during the above breakdown for simplicity’s sake, knowing I’d touch on it here anyway).

3. Seismitoad-EX fits in almost everything.

This guy was clearly one of the most-hyped cards out of Furious Fists, although initially it received less hype than the Fighting cards as players struggled to find the right composition to really take advantage of the card. Seismitoad is played in so many decks now, either as a 3-4-of in a deck aiming to take full advantage of maintaining a game-long Item lock, or as a splash in their deck that already runs DCE.

Not only is the card inherently very good, but with a Muscle Band it two-shots Landorus-EX, which is a powerful card. Decks that wouldn’t even normally have a high demand for an Item lock attack can still run this as a solid counter to Landorus-EX’s popularity. Seismitoad, alongside Yveltal, are really the big “cards to beat” for me at the moment, as evidenced by their popularity at Regionals.

4. Mewtwo-EX strikes back.

Mewtwo kind of fell off in popularity last format, but now has seen a huge spike in play as a powerful neutral attacker against all of the major role-players in the format. Mewtwo picks on Lucario-EX, but more importantly, is a “solid” attacker who fights evenly with Yveltal-EX, Seismitoad-EX, Landorus-EX, and Virizion/Genesect at the same time. It isn’t really a counter to them, but it’s a solid weapon against ALL of those without really giving up type advantage on any of those fronts. It’s such a powerful card for any deck with DCE because it is so solid in every matchup.

This of course, turns to other decks running Mewtwo to counter Mewtwo, which leads to Mewtwo wars again, meaning that the Mewtwo count in decks, which may only want one, gets upped in order to be able to reasonably partake in these exchanges.

5. Crushing Hammer and Team Flare Grunt should be on the map.

I’ll lump these cards together due to similar roles. These cards are both just very powerful at the moment. (I doubt I need to sell anyone on Energy removal being good.) Grunt is great at discarding DCEs off Seismitoad-EX and ideally breaking Quaking Punch locks. Both are great to slow down VG and ideally set them back an Emerald Slash. I’ve complained before about how I HATE how bad VG is if it fails to turn 2 an Emerald Slash, and this kind of forces the issue. Grunt requires the use of a Supporter and only hits the Active (this has been a bigger than expected issue for me when testing the card), but doesn’t need a flip AND more importantly can be used under Item lock.

With Lysandre ALSO being a Supporter, in order to use it you need a deck which is low maintenance in terms of set up to be able to keep using non-draw Supporters, so it really only fits into Basic decks. I like it in Fighting, particularly.

Hammers are easier to play and less conditional, but as touched on, can’t be played under Toad and require a flip. Still, both of these cards are really good in the current format and are worth trying to fit into decks. Just pay attention in testing how many games would be decided by cutting off one of your opponent’s Energy attachments, and you’ll see how powerful these cards are right now.

6. Pyroar could be a good gamble on day 1.

Pyroar is such a wildcard in the format. Some decks are just not able to beat it. I LOVE getting free wins, ESPECIALLY in Regionals where you can switch decks on day 2. Look at it this way: assume you want to go 7-2 to reach day 2. Three free wins off Pyroar is TOTALLY reasonable, so you just need to maneuver into going 4-2 in your other matches? That’s some pretty solid upside to this card.

The deck runs a core of Fire Energy and DCE, so you can run a really reliable “Big Basics” attacker core alongside of it so you aren’t strictly a gimmick deck. Seismitoad-EX, Mewtwo-EX, and Charizard-EX FLF 12 give the card some pretty nice backup. A lot of decks are still running Garbodor, almost exclusively to counter Pyroar, but as other matchups become more important, you’re going to see less Garbodor in lists because it’s a dead card against those decks and a waste of space allocation.

7. Safeguard is strong.

This Ability is very good in the format at the moment, since most of the big decks rely primarily on EX attackers. Decks may run a few counters to them, but there are a lot of decks that are just really soft to them. Even against decks which DO run answers, most of them are not easy for them to get off quickly, so these cards at least slow the game down to a crawl to start with. Playing around them forces decks to play more at your tempo, and this can be abused if you build with that in mind.

The challenge is finding the right deck which wants to use these cards (Suicune PLB and Sigilyph LTR), and I think that’s a major unexplored fraction of this format.

8. Stay away from Startling Megaphone.

I HATE this card at the moment. I mean, I’ve always taken the stance that unless you specially MUST have it to beat a matchup (like Blastoise vs. Garbodor) then I would rather not even run it at all. This is even more true right now, as a lot of the decks running Garbodor actually run it alongside Seismitoad-EX, locking you off the card entirely. I was hesitant to want to run it before, but now it only impacts about half the Garbodor matchups, so I’d REALLY not want to be caught with this card unless I had a major justification to do so.

9. Hypnotoxic Laser is losing effectiveness.

While we are on the topic of cards which have lost strength, Laser is certainly one of them. Seismitoad turns them off entirely, and having 6 “blank” cards in a major matchup is a huge problem. Also, with Seismitoad being so big (which ironically DOES run Lasers) it should bump up the amount of Virizion-EX played to counter it, so Laser gets even weaker.


Anyway, let’s get onto my current lists for most of the major archetypes (I do not have a Donphan list I personally like) and then a slew of my own little pet decks I’ve been toying around with.

Archetypes

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Seismitoad/Yveltal/Garbodor

Pokémon – 13

4 Seismitoad-EX
2 Yveltal-EX

2 Trubbish LTR
2 Garbodor LTR

2 Mewtwo-EX

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress
2 Skyla

2 Lysandre

1 Team Flare Grunt

 

4 Muscle Band
3 Ultra Ball

2 Crushing Hammer

2 Float Stone

1 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Computer Search

 

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

7 Darkness
4 Double Colorless

Alright, I want to first address the major issue right out of the gate regarding my choice for “Seismitoad” deck. The two big variables are whether you want to run Garbodor or not, and over what type you want to support the ‘Toad with.

Not running Garbodor has a few major implications. First off, it is your answer to Pyroar (and to a lesser extent, Safeguard Pokémon such as Suicune or Sigilyph). With Lasers, you have “possible” outs, and you could run Toxicroak-EX against Pyroar (it still doesn’t solve your Safeguard problem), but Garbodor is just such a safe catch-all for both of these.

A strong secondary impact the card makes is that it lets you have a bit of additional strength against Virizion/Genesect. You can actually steal some games off of sticking a Laser, as that matchup can be pretty brutal on decks that want to focus on Seismitoad. I’m still not a fan of the matchup, even with the diversity of attackers included, but it sure does help. Garbodor REALLY messes up Plasma as well, as without Deoxys, they are doing such pitiful damage. There is a reason Plasma decks run Megaphone, and it’s because the deck is gimped so badly by Garbodor that it more or less has to. Seismitoad makes that not an option, though.

garbodor-plasma-freeze-plf-119-ptcgo-1
Players may start cutting Garb.

Now, Garbodor comes with some downsides as well. It eats up six spaces in the deck (the actual line, plus two Float Stones). There are also a lot of decks the card is dead against. As Toad decks get more popular, you have to expect mirror, and I could see players cutting Garbodor to add cards which strengthen that mirror match. I’d wait for a more defined metagame before I’d really worry about that, as I prefer having a bit more of a catch-all solution in Garbodor than focusing in on a deck in a still very fluid metagame. The card is clunky as well, but I think the fact it just shuts down so many fringe decks is so strong. I’ll take every free win I can get.

The next challenge is how to decide on your attackers. I’ve seen lists using Fighting Pokémon, lists opting for Fire types to beat Grass, and decks going for a focus on JUST Seismitoad and a dedicated lock. The most popular pairing seems to be Yveltal-EX, which I’m on board with. If you want to run a fairly stable core of supporting attackers, I like using the ones which are inherently the most powerful.

Now, to play a bit of devils advocate here, as Yveltal has seen so much success, we should see an increase in cards like Raichu and Dedenne, so perhaps Yveltal is just too deep in the crosshairs to be the safest route. Until I see real evidence that the metagame is just too hostile for a Lightning-Weak Pokémon, I’m content just playing the most powerful attackers.

The Energy really dictates what Pokémon you can play, and as a result I’m running the “freebies” in Mewtwo-EX, as well as a Darkrai-EX for utility, and as a fringe backup attacker. Some decks actually have a pretty difficult time dealing with the card if you manage to power it up. It is hurt quite a lot by the loss of Dark Patch, much more so than Yveltal-EX. Now, time for the obligatory Scramble Switch push! This deck could use the card fairly effectively to transition out of Toad lock into a tanked Yveltal, or even Darkrai. Still, I really like running Computer Search in any deck that wants a turn one DCE every game.

I want to touch on two things in this deck which are pretty much universal with all of my other lists as well. First off, I run Jirachi-EX. I like the safety net to avoid dead draws, and I love being able to grab Lysandre with it. I don’t care that I am running Garbodor alongside it, I often need it before Garbodor comes out. Plus, a lot of matchups I don’t even go for it. To top it off, in matchups where it is great, it often gets killed or Megaphone’d and you get a window to Jirachi anyway.

The second constant is my choice of Supporters. I’ll usually run 4 Juniper and 4 N in every list, and then a mixing of Skyla and Colress. I’m a big fan of Skyla, and I often build the Item counts I run around the card. I like variety, and Skyla enables this type of building. Colress is your best late-game draw card, and I hate having less than 3 of them. Every deck fills its Bench. It is very rare for it not to net you 8+ cards every time once you hit the true mid game. I want a card that steps in as actual draw power as your Ns shift roles from recovery to disruption. This sort of differentiation becomes even more easily supported now that we have Jirachi to help us out early game if we are stuck with just a “dead’ Colress.

I’m not a huge fan of Bicycle, but in some lists with space I’ll run a copy to “enable” Skyla as a sort of raw draw or recovery card off late game Ns. I see a lot of people running 2+ copies in lists that don’t fully embrace a gimmick engine with them and I couldn’t disagree more on the logic behind it. One of the hardest parts of building a Pokémon deck is maximizing your deck space, and I hate padding my numbers with super-low impact cards. If I have 13-15 spots for “draw” cards, I want each of those to be high-impact “full” draw cards. You could make an argument of Skyla being a low-impact draw card, but its role is slightly different in that it actively enables a whole different approach to deck building if you run a few copies of it. It is high impact in a different sense of the word.

The card also gains strength due to ACE SPECs. As a huge fan of Scramble Switch, you almost always want to run it alongside Skyla. I also just do not like any of the alternative Supporters. I also dislike the gimmick Roller Skate/Bicycle engine in MOST decks (a deck like Speed Lugia runs it for a reason, and I am perfectly fine embracing it there). Even when the engine “works,” you’re firing through all of these draw cards. You run roughly the same amount of “draw” cards in decks as a Supporter-heavy build, only during setup and mid game, you are firing off a critical mass of them. SO many games are decided by late-game Ns, and you gut your deck of so many of your draw cards so your late game N recovery is really restricted with this type of engine.

A lot of people (appropriately) complain about the high-variance end game of Pokémon, but most people don’t go out of their way to build with it in mind. It is one of the reasons I am so adamant about a high Colress count in my decks and a Jirachi-EX. Just keep track of how many games come down to the final turn or two being decided by N. It’s likely higher than you’d initially imagine even.

I want to touch on a few variations on this list too. First off, you can run a Charizard-EX. Yes. Without Fire Energy. Its first attack does 50 damage for CCC, which hits 140 with a Band on a Grass-Weak Pokémon. Which hits 170 against VG decks if you have Garbodor and can Laser it. To be fair, you often can have damage placed off of prior Lasers or Quaking Punches, so you can often take four quick Prizes with it. If you wanted to run a build without Garbodor, you can also pair Charizard with Spiritomb LTR for the matchup, assuring it’s not eating a G Booster. Charizard is usually best saved for late game, where you can stick it alongside an N to best assure you don’t take 200 damage.

Another thing I wanted to touch on were the Crushing Hammers and Team Flare Grunt. These help against VG, and are much more universal than a silver bullet like Charizard. They augment your disruption, and are really potent. Grunt is worse, for sure, in most cases here, as I’d often want to hit Benched Energy drops because an Active Pokémon is often already pretty well threatened. Grunt lets you have strength in the mirror match though, disrupting other Toads. If you can force them to keep repowering Toad (or even whiff the DCE!) then it lets you build your Benched attackers better than them for the point in the game where you transition to enforcing the exchanges opposed to disrupting. I actually support a 2/1 split of Hammers and Grunt, as you can Jirachi for the key Grunt.


Next up, I want to approach another Seismitoad build, but also my choice for how I’d build a Pyroar deck. This deck has picked up a bit of steam going into Regionals, and I think it is fundamentally a very strong play. The diversity in attackers made it so that any of the “cute” Pyroar counters I tried to give me a chance to beat the card just come up short. It pretty much requires the deck have a real counter, in a solid Evolution line, or Garbodor.

Pyroar/Seismitoad

Pokémon – 12

3 Litleo FLF 18
3 Pyroar FLF
2 Seismitoad-EX
2 Mewtwo-EX
1 Charizard-EX FLF 12
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress

3 Lysandre

3 Blacksmith

 

4 Fiery Torch

4 Ultra Ball
3 Muscle Band

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 15

11 Fire

4 Double Colorless

This is much less of a dedicated gimmick Pyroar deck than the one Michael Pramawat took 2nd at US Nationals with last year. Now that Pyroar is kind of out of the bag, you have to accept that decks aim to beat it to some degree. Going full gimmick with the deck is a bit dangerous. I like having a solid “Big Basics” presence in the deck still.

A 3-3 line of Pyroar allows you to lock out decks playing only a soft counter to the card. If a deck is beating 3-3 Pyroar, it is likely beating 4-4 Pyroar as well. I’d rather not devote redundant space to the line.

I don’t run any Skyla in this deck. This is because I don’t really run too many silver-bullet Items and because the deck gets to run 4 Fiery Torch. I don’t care much for Bicycle, but I do like Torch quite a bit. I’m happy to make that switch here. The deck can be extremely grindy at times, so Dowsing Machine is my ACE SPEC of choice here. You’ll often want to use as many copies of a lot of these cards as possible.

The biggest problem I have with the deck is that you’re soft to Seismitoad/Garbodor. You have Mewtwo and Toad as attackers against their Toads, but I feel like they are just better suited to play that game once they make your Pyroars more or less useless. You can’t really pull off a full Item lock game, so once you break away from that, you eat Lasers, and it gets rough.

The deck destroys VG, is very, very good against the Fighting decks (even if they run Garbodor), and beats Plasma as well. It can beat Toad decks that do not run Garbodor as well.

One card you could consider running is Sacred Ash. The deck runs somewhat thin attacker lines, and the games go long, so there is some pretty good value to it. I generally dislike running these types of cards, as I think if you plan in advance well enough you usually don’t need it as a safety net. (This isn’t to say that SOME games you just actually need it. I just feel like most disasters can be avoided if better planned out, and that the games where you DO just need it, you often are unable to get ahold of it. In the other games, it is just a dead card. I can understand the conservative approach of running it, but I’m a bit riskier on that front.)

Fighting

Pokémon – 11

3 Landorus-EX
2 Lucario-EX
1 M Lucario-EX
3 Hawlucha FFI
1 Landorus FFI
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper
4 N

2 Colress
2 Korrina

2 Lysandre

2 Pokémon Center Lady

2 Team Flare Grunt

 

4 Muscle Band

2 Focus Sash

2 Bicycle
2 Crushing Hammer
2 Max Potion

1 Ultra Ball
1 Switch
1 Escape Rope

1 Scramble Switch

 

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 12

8 Fighting

4 Strong

Fighting/Garbodor

Pokémon – 14

3 Landorus-EX
2 Lucario-EX
2 Trubbish LTR
2 Garbodor LTR
3 Hawlucha FFI
1 Landorus FFI
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N

2 Colress
3 Korrina

2 Lysandre

1 Pokémon Center Lady
1 Team Flare Grunt

 

3 Muscle Band

2 Float Stone

2 Ultra Ball
2 Crushing Hammer

1 Bicycle

1 Max Potion

1 Focus Sash
1 Switch

1 Scramble Switch

 

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 12

8 Fighting

4 Strong

I’m lumping these two lists together. I really like the top list, only it is super soft to Pyroar and Safeguard. The Fighting decks are fairly straight forward “haymaker” decks, but I wanted to touch on some of the counts I opted for.

Landorus-EX is your main attacker. It is the best card in the deck. Hammerhead is silly in how efficient it is, and Land’s Judgment is a backbreaking sweeper. Lucario is, in my opinion, vastly inferior to Landorus as a whole. The biggest selling point, and main reason I include it? It’s Weak to Psychic, not Water, which is important against Seismitoad. You need the variety. It’s also an additional good opener.

m-lucario-ex-furious-fists-frf-55-ptcgo-1
The Lucario line has its merits.

I opt to run one Mega Lucario because it is a “soft” answer to Pyroar. On one hand, you can certainly sweep some Pyroars with it, but the problem is it pretty much eats a Mewtwo to the jaw immediately after the first kill. This can be answered by a preemptive Lysandre on Mewtwo if it gets Benched, or if it is not, by N’ing them to hope to keep it off them. (Trust me, by the time Mega Lucario gets battle ready, they’ll have taken plenty of Prizes.) You can also N them alongside Hammers to hope they miss DCE.

The other play is to attach Focus Sash to it, and soak up the Mewtwo hit and just return the KO. This of course is ruined with a Laser or Megaphone, so it’s pretty unreliable. If you wanted to get extra fancy, you do run enough healing cards to soak up hits to possibly power up TWO Mega Lucario, and if they only run 1 Mewtwo-EX, the second one is VERY likely to win you the match.

Mega Lucario’s other big role is as a sweeper in EX-centric matchups. The card can be really important in mirror match! With the lists high count of healing, you can just stall out the game, and Scramble Switch into Mega Lucario, and sweep two EXs in two turns before Mega Lucario goes down. It changes the matchup from being really focused on a war of attrition into you just positioning yourself into getting out a clean Mega Lucario-EX and winning off of it. If one player has this and the other doesn’t, it’s a huge edge.

This is one of the reasons I like Landorus FFI. It lets you dump a bunch of Energy into play, and this works really well for making Mega Lucario and Land’s Judgment into real plays, especially with Scramble Switch. I don’t think I’d run it if I didn’t run Scramble Switch in here, but I don’t ever see myself opting against doing so. Landorus isn’t a mandatory inclusion, but I am a huge fan of the more abstract lines it enables.

Hawlucha is just an incredible card. As a non-EX attacker, it lets you force a 7-Prize game. Forcing EX decks to KO 3 Hawlucha/Landorus and 2 EXs is a great way to cheat an extra Prize. Hawlucha hits for 60-120 damage for one Energy, and is a great weapon against Seismitoad (they need a Laser to get the KO on it) and is strong in mirror. It is one of my favorite cards to Focus Sash up against Laser-less decks as well. Being a free retreater matters in the deck too. I wasn’t nearly sold on the card when initially considering including a copy of it, and once I got to play with them, the count just kept getting upped.

Going to the Trainers, I really like playing Lasers and Virbank in this deck. I was running a 2-2 split of Virbank and Fighting Stadium. Unfortunately, Toad is a very difficult matchup. I hate having 6 dead cards against Toad and VG, as much as I loved the Lasers in every other matchup. Instead, I reallocated those slots into cards which transformed the deck from being overly aggressive into being a bit more grindy.

Instead of Lasers, I went with Energy removal cards and an extra amount of healing cards. Grunt is great against Toad, and even can stifle mirror match pretty well. You fight very well for low Energy, and if you keep other decks at similar counts, your efficiency is just going to be better. Especially when you pair it with healing to further mitigate their weakened damage output. These cards give you such an edge against VG, and the matchup has gone from close to being fairly lopsided. By running 4 Energy removal cards, you can actually put a concentrated attack on their attachments and just run away with games.

Pokémon Center Lady is extremely good against Seismitoad. It lets you negate a Quaking Punch and get rid of Laser damage. If you get to play both in a game, you actually fare pretty well in the matchup. It really does seem to come down to how well you weather their Lasers, and if you can deplete their count early they just can’t really keep up the needed damage output. PCL is also great in mirror, and grindier games where OHKOs are difficult. It also is key toward making the beefy Mega Lucario-EX stay clean of damage to try and sweep.

Max Potion is great when you have access to Items, and can wipe away a tremendous amount of damage. It really abuses the 1 Energy attachment attacks all of the Pokémon have. It’s also really brutal against decks that can’t really deal with Focus Sash. Dodging a OHKO and then wiping all the damage off is just buying free turns. So you can already force them to take 7 Prizes, and with the Energy removal stealing turns from them, and the healing and Sash denying KOs, you actually wind up forcing them to do so much extra work to get their 6 Prizes. You don’t have QUITE the speed and pressure you do with Lasers, but you play an oddly defensive game while still putting out a ton of pressure. This approach is also good against decks that the Laser plan is just cold to.

The second list includes Garbodor as an answer to Safeguard, Pyroar, and Plasma decks. The card is extremely clunky even when devoted to, and just aggravating to have to run. You cut the Mega Lucario since you can’t really protect it as well with less PCL and ER cards. You basically trim on the healing and ER to fit Garbodor and Float Stones. You also have to up the Korrina and Ultra Ball counts to get it out. You lose strength against Seismitoad decks, and in the mirror match, where Garbodor does nothing. Garbodor is traditionally used to strength a VG matchup by enabling Lasers, but you can’t fit them. I do not particularly care for this approach, but if you expect a lot of Pyroar, it at least lets you beat it.

I wasn’t happy with the idea of using Garbodor in the first place, so I didn’t log a huge amount of games with the deck. There is a good chance you have to choose between the Energy removal cards and the healing ones, but I currently have them split up for variety and to see which ones perform better. If you feel the need to play Garbodor, feel free to experiment on how all those spaces get used.

Speed Lugia

Pokémon – 9

4 Deoxys-EX

2 Thundurus-EX PLF
3 Lugia-EX PLS

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Juniper
2 N
3 Colress
2 Lysandre
1 Shadow Triad

 

4 Roller Skates
3 Bicycle

4 Colress Machine

2 Ultra Ball
2 Team Plasma Ball

3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Muscle Band

2 Startling Megaphone
2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Dowsing Machine

Energy – 12

4 Double Colorless
4 Rainbow
4 Plasma

roller-skates-xy-125-ptcgo-1
It’s all about speed.

I want to preface this list by saying I stole it from my friend and testing partner Kristen Gregory from the UK. I haven’t played too much Plasma myself, but trust me when I say I’ve played a near nauseating amount of games AGAINST her using the list.

I touched on before how I liked the gimmicky Roller Skate/Bicycle engine in this deck. You really want a fast Lugia, and playing the fair Supporter way is just not going to get you there. When this deck draws well, it is really, really difficult to beat. I was actually fairly impressed by how easily it could get a second Lugia out too.

One of the things I wish this deck could afford was additional strength for Thundurus-EX. I really wish a turn one Raiden Knuckle was more reliable, but the Energy count just doesn’t allow for it. I don’t really want to play too many more than 12 Energy (it clunks your Bicycles pretty badly, and I want to be able to thin my hand and deck easily with this deck) and that only gives you 4 Rainbow as Lightning sources. I’ve seen lists with a 13th Energy, being a Lightning, and I don’t dislike that.

Unfortunately, the deck is already fairly cramped on space. I feel like you end up devoting more spots to narrowly increase the odds of a game plan that has a very narrow window to matter, and I just don’t know if that’s worth it. You need to realize this deck is quite gimmicky with a VERY linear plan and kind of have to embrace that. If you did want to improve Thundurus usage, you probably want to transition some of the Team Plasma Balls to Ultra Balls to help ensure extra Energy attachments off the attack on the first turn.

One of the problems we experienced in testing was against the Fighting deck, actually. It was really difficult to hit the 180 mark early on, and Hammerhead was getting enough damage onto Lugia that sometimes it dropped too quickly. We tested Mr. Mime, which was doing a really good job prolonging the game, but it made hitting 180 even MORE difficult.

The next thing we looked at, and a card I’d still like to explore more, is Iris. If you lead with Thundurus-EX and give up two Prizes, you get 20 extra damage with Iris and still the chance to use two Lugias. You also get to use Raiden Knuckle to put enough Energy into play to use back-to-back Lugias, ideally. The problem here is, you kind of want Mr. Mime with this, and it’s difficult to fit THREE situational cards. With the fact it actually calls for you to play a “fast” yet somewhat reactive approach to Lugia, it makes me think maybe embracing the slower game plan and cutting some of the gimmicky draw engine could make for a viable alternative Lugia approach.

The problem here is that we don’t really have a solution for Pyroar, or Safeguard, or Garbodor under Toad lock. The super linear nature of the deck doesn’t offer a lot of ways by which to try and counter these cards either. I think Speed Lugia is a very good deck in the right metagame, but a lot of decks are very hostile to it so I would be careful. It has the most powerful proactive game plan in the format, and thats super appealing to me. I have another Lugia approach (or two!) later in this article once we touch on some of my own homebrews.

Virizion/Genesect

Pokémon – 15

4 Virizion-EX
3 Genesect-EX
3 Pikachu XY
3 Raichu XY

1 Mr. Mime PLF
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper
4 N

2 Colress
4 Skyla
1 Shadow Triad

1 Lysandre

 

4 Muscle Band

3 Ultra Ball

3 Energy Switch

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope
1 Colress Machine
1 Professor’s Letter

1 G Booster

Energy – 13

9 Grass

4 Plasma

raichu-xy-43-ptcgo-1
Has the most utility of all your tech options.

Ok, so with VG, you pretty much get to run a “support line” of Pokémon. I’ve seen Drifblim BW64, Abomasnow PLB, Raichu XY, Beartic FFI, and others. I personally really like Raichu at the moment. It gives you extra strength against Yveltal and Lugia, and also can OHKO a Pyroar with a Muscle Band. The free Retreat Cost is nice with your switching cards too. It gives the deck its non-EX attacker as well. 120 damage can follow up for a good KO after an Emerald Slash as well.

I feel like Raichu is your best card to be universally useful. Beartic is great vs. Landorus, Drifblim can pick on Special Energy card abusing decks, and Abomasnow is a good Pyroar and Fire counter, but they are super narrow in application. Raichu “hard counters” a bit less, but is the most proactive of the cards.

Mr. Mime is important against the Fighting matchup, as Hammerheading early can be a huge problem, especially if they manage to Energy removal your Emerald Slash back a turn. It also helps fill the Bench for Colress and Raichu.

I am not super happy with only 9 Grass Energy since we lost Super Rod, but I don’t want to cut anything else for a 10th.

The Trainers are pretty straightforward. You need a higher Switch/Energy Switch count to be able to ensure the early Slash. With Raichu you have a further demand on Muscle Band.

Jirachi-EX lets you trim down to one Shadow Triad, in my opinion. By running Jirachi, I also chose to run 1 Lysandre, even though its otherwise redundant with Red Signal. There will be plenty of spots you can’t afford the attachment and still need a gust though, so I like the one copy.

Also logging in at one spot is Colress Machine. With Raichu in the deck, every attachment matters that much more, so if you can bypass a “hard” attachment to Genesect with a Colress Machine, that’s another Grass elsewhere. I’ve toyed with running a lone copy of Team Plasma Badge and maybe a 2nd Colress Machine, but by doing so I’d have to trim the Raichus, and as your Pyroar answer, I really want 3-3 as a line because sadly Pyroar can beat two if that’s your only answer.

The Badge play (and Colress Machine in general) is also a bit of a reaction to all the Grunts and Hammers which plague this deck. Being able to just FORCE Emerald Slash out from a dry Virizion is very appealing right now. Also, I see a lot of spots where you Slash onto Genesect, and Virizion goes down and Genesect eats a Hammer and it can’t attack. Being able to Machine onto it and attach gets it back into the game. I think that is very strong.

Anyway, that covers my take on some of the more established decks in the format. Now, I have some kind of crazy ideas I wanted to include as well.

Homebrews

deoxys skybeast-mo-d.tumblr.com

Virizon/Genesect/Deoxys

First and foremost, I’ll include (again) this Virizion/Genesect/Deoxys list I have been messing with for about a year now since last format. The problem with it is that it can’t beat Pyroar or Safeguard, and it has a lot of issues with Hammers and Grunt (but I think that’s actually just universal with VG). The deck was just smashing everything I ran it against besides those cards.

I’m going to Ft. Wayne Regionals this weekend, and would love to just jam this deck because I think it is so fun and different. As someone who is no longer interested in the devotion needed to chase an invite, I may as well embrace my pet decks and try them out when I can.

Pokémon – 13

4 Deoxys-EX
4 Virizion-EX
3 Genesect-EX
1 Lugia-EX PLS
1 Spiritomb LTR

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N

3 Colress
2 Skyla

1 Lysandre

 

3 Ultra Ball
1 Team Plasma Ball

3 Muscle Band

2 Colress Machine

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Energy Switch
1 Professor’s Letter

1 Scramble Switch

 

3 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 13

8 Grass

4 Plasma
1 Psychic

As a VG deck, you beat Seismitoad decks. You hit this critical mass off Deoxys and such that you eventually just start one-shotting Fighting EXs without G Booster, and can Scramble Switch into Lugia to sweep kills after Megalo Cannon spreads 20s. Deoxys-EX (and Psychic Energy!) lets you pick on Mewtwo-EX and Lucario-EX. In mirror, you are able to OHKO their EXs without G Booster, and locks them off of G Booster themselves, turning the matchup into a bloodbath. With Deoxys being so strong, I’ve had games where just using Colress Machine for a turn 2 Megalo Cannon backed by Deoxys has been really strong.

I’d love a 4th Band and 4th Laser, and cuts can be made for them, but it’s such a tough call. I think Lysandre, the 4th Ball, or a Colress Machine could all be cut. I’d also like to fit a Jirachi-EX, but I’m less excited about it in here because, like Plasma, you want to fill a whole Bench worth of Deoxys, so I don’t like having it around. It does make me want a 14th Supporter though.

Seismitoad/Dusknoir/Lugia

Pokémon – 15

4 Seismitoad-EX

3 Duskull FLF
1 Dusclops FLF
2 Dusknoir BCR

2 Lugia-EX PLS
1 Genesect-EX
1 Virizion-EX
1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress
3 Skyla

1 Pokémon Fan Club

1 Lysandre

 

4 Ultra Ball
3 Rare Candy
3 Escape Rope
3 Muscle Band
2 Colress Machine

1 Scramble Switch

Energy – 13

5 Grass
4 Plasma

4 Double Colorless

lugia lookingpokemontime.tumblr.com
Take six Prizes in two turns.

Ok, this is another deck I’ve been testing with Kristen, as we may or may not have a bit of a Lugia obsession going on. Initially in testing, we had found Seismitoad was underwhelming in that it did too little sustained damage over the course of a game. So this led my mind to try and think of other Seismitoad applications.

Clearly the card had performed great as an addition to other DCE “Big Basic” decks, but I wondered if it had a more useful application as a way to just SLOW the game down. If I could just prevent my opponent from being as proactive as their deck wanted, what could I then trump it with? This also kind of stemmed from the questions brought on by Speed Lugia testing, as this is really embracing the “two-turn win” approach of sweeping with Lugia, without necessarily aiming to do it on turn two.

Dusknoir had been another infatuation after my little Mega Venusaur kick last season. So the idea here is, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, is to lead with Seismitoad, Quaking Punching everything cutting off the opponent’s development while littering their field with damage. While you gimp them, you get Dusknoir out, and power up Lugia-EX. With all the Toad damage in play, and Dusknoir, you can easily get your two Lugia KOs on EXs and win in two turns.

The problem I wound up having in testing was against Toad mirrors, where it made it super difficult to get out Dusknoir. (Once you do get set up, you’re actually quite favored! And in some cases you don’t even need to get Dusknoir out; just hitting with Toad twice and going into Lugia is strong.) I was running 1 Darkrai-EX and Dark Energy as my basic Energy and then I realized this deck could happily support a thin Virizion/Genesect line! Turning off Special Conditions was appealing in and of itself, and Genesect could be very useful for Red Signal while Quaking Punching. By running Jirachi-EX and a Pokémon Fan Club, even past mirror Item lock, I could search my deck for both VG pieces, and force Genesect out. The deck can actually support a thin VG presence (minus G Booster) for Toad mirrors, while not making it too narrow and gimmicky because both cards individually offer real utility to the deck anyway.

The cute thing here is also running 3 Escape Rope. You don’t want to accidently put all the damage on one Pokémon, or god forbid actually KO one early on in the game while ‘Toading, so forcing the damage to spread early is super important.

One thing I’ve considered is 1 Dusknoir FLF, as a way to “heal” Lugia and make sure it gets its needed KOs. I could see Hammerhead damage adding up on it getting it KO’d on promotion and thats a big deal.

Also, unlike most Toad decks, I can see this beating VG, especially if we run a Spiritomb. A few Quaking Punches make it so Lugia beats them in two turns. This deck list is certainly not optimal yet, because I really do try and test and understand the known quantities in the format before delving too deep into weird decks which may or may not end up working. I think the idea is super solid, and something I want to pursue a lot more of. I guess it is a bit of a bad time for it though, as Toad is kind of on everyone’s hit list, and Yveltal had a breakout performance and shares a Weakness with Lugia.

Raichu/Landorus

Pokémon – 16

3 Pikachu XY
3 Raichu XY

3 Landorus-EX
2 Hawlucha FFI
2 Mewtwo-EX
1 Landorus FFI
1 Seismitoad-EX

1 Jirachi-EX

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress
2 Skyla

2 Lysandre

 

4 Muscle Band

3 Ultra Ball

2 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Scramble Switch

 

3 Hypnotoxic Laser

2 Virbank City Gym
2 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 11

4 Double Colorless
4 Strong
3 Fighting

Ok, this is pretty much the updated version of the deck that won US Nationals last year. I loved it last format, and I love it now. I touched on before how I felt Lucario-EX was actually just bad, and that Hawlucha and Landorus kind of carried the archetype. Well, this runs with that idea, and instead of bothering with a full-on gimmicky Fighting build, runs Strong Energy and DCE. This gives you Mewtwo and Seismitoad, but more importantly Raichu, countering the Fighting Resistant Lugia-EX and Yveltal-EX. It also can nuke a Pyroar, solving that problem without needing to run Garbodor or praying that Mega Lucario doesn’t get X Balled into next week.

Last season, the deck ran Garbodor. Well, that got the axe because it was pretty narrow in application. The deck fares well against VG anyway, and counters Plasma’s typing perfectly too. Plus, that card eats a lot of space. Raichu can beat Pyroar too.

The deck runs Lasers despite it being bad vs. VG and Toad, but it runs Fighting Stadiums ALONGSIDE Virbank to be able to use them in those matchups. Hawlucha is again important there. The extra 20s add up quickly.

I just LOVE how this deck gets some of the best attackers in the format all in one deck! You get Mewtwo, Toad, AND Landorus-EX, while also having a great trump card in Raichu who again seems well positioned to be a major roleplayer in the format.

Two lists similar to this, without Lasers, placed into the top 32 of Philly Regionals, and I feel like adding Lasers back into it really improves it. I feel like I would have a hard time playing this deck without realizing the potential of how well Raichu with Lasers sweeps after Hammerhead spreads. I just feel like Raichu does so much of a better job being a very proactive attacker than people want to try to let him be. Also, Pyroar can actually still do ok against a 3-3 Raichu line (not always of course) and I see spots where you may need to use Laser to get around a final Pyroar.

Fruitcake

Pokémon – 19

3 Spritzee XY
3 Aromatisse XY
4 Xerneas XY
2 Xerneas-EX
1 Kangaskhan-EX
1 M Kangaskhan-EX
2 Mewtwo-EX
1 Seismitoad-EX
1 Jirachi-EX
1 Spiritomb LTR

Trainers – 29

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress
2 Skyla

2 Lysandre

 

3 Ultra Ball

3 Max Potion
2 Startling Megaphone
1 Muscle Band
1 Professor’s Letter

1 Dowsing Machine

 

3 Fairy Garden

Energy – 12

9 Fairy

3 Double Colorless

xerneas-xy-96-ptcgo-1
Energy for everyone!

One of the things I wanted to test was Aromatisse. I hated the loss of Prism Energy and how negatively that impacted the toolbox ability of the deck (especially in a format full of Energy removal), so I decided to try out a Xerneas-based build, as I felt that both of them have been criminally under-tested. Well, I built this deck pretty much as is on my first attempt and it kept performing extremely well!

I did not run the Megaphones or 1 Muscle Band initially and had a 2-2 Kangaskhan line. Megaphone was needed for G Booster and Garbodor, while Muscle Band was important in math in general, but mainly to let Kangaskhan to OHKO a Pyroar without a flip. I don’t feel like you need more than that lone copy.

After discussing the deck with Pooka a bit, he pointed out something that should have been obvious about Mega Kangaskhan. The card is bad in general. I mean, I guess it isn’t BAD, but it is not what I really want to be doing in MOST matchups. With Xerneas, you want every attack step, and you can be surprisingly fast. Only thing is, Kanga is SUPER crucial in certain matchups, and pretty much your Pyroar answer. In those matchups, though, you win once you get the one out. Pyroar pretty much can’t ever beat that one Kangaskhan with Max Potions. With Swiss being matchplay now, you can afford ONE game where a piece is Prized. Prize a Kangaroo? Scoop, next game. Unless it happens twice in a match, you pretty much just win. So no need to go for a 2-2 line. This helps free up space to fit the Megaphones and Muscle Band.

This deck can spew so many Fairy Energy into play that Mewtwo-EX is really easy to tank for X Ball. I was surprised by how easy it was to get OHKOs with it and sweep mid to late game. Xerneas-EX is just a good attacker, with a Weakness that isn’t exploitable (until next set!). Having both Xerneas be Resistant to Dark gives you a lot of game against Yveltal. Kangaskhan beats Pyroar. Fighting REALLY struggles against a tanked Mewtwo and honestly just struggles to do enough damage past your Max Potions. Seismitoad’s damage output is not that great, especially since Fairy Garden actually lets you comfortably retreat out of Lasers. If they ever have to break the lock, your Max Potions take over there as well.

Even under Garbodor lock, Xerneas spews so much Energy into play you can compete very well. The deck has proven to be really streamlined and consistant so far, and is another consideration for me to use at Regionals in Indiana.

Fruitiercake

Pokémon – 20

3 Spritzee XY
3 Aromatisse XY
3 Xerneas XY
1 Xerneas-EX
1 Kangaskhan-EX
1 M Kangaskhan-EX
2 Mewtwo-EX

1 Yveltal-EX
1 Seismitoad-EX

2 Suicune PLB

1 Virizion-EX
1 Spiritomb LTR

Trainers – 28

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress
2 Skyla

2 Lysandre

 

3 Ultra Ball

3 Max Potion
2 Startling Megaphone
1 Muscle Band

1 Dowsing Machine

 

3 Fairy Garden

Energy – 12

6 Fairy
4 Rainbow

2 Double Colorless

Ok, so I decided to then push the envelope and kind of cut some of the simplicity to really go deep with options. By running Rainbow Energy, we get Virizion to stop Lasers (good luck Seismitoad’s damage output), Yveltal as another powerful attacker (Mewtwo is really easy to power up to huge damage output, Yveltal is the same), and almost most importantly, two Suicunes for Safeguard. So many decks are just really soft to this card.

This is the best deck I’ve found to run Suicunes in, and that seems like a huge selling point for me to defocus the previous version of the deck a bit. You still run enough Fairy Energy for Xerneas to jumpstart the deck, but you are less reliant on applying pressure since you have more late game options.

I’m still unsure if Seismitoad is needed in this deck, but it seems like an easy and safe splash. Plus, with 2 Rainbow Energy, it can actually use its second attack, and target your Benched Suicunes to deal no damage! (Not practical, but EXTREMELY cool.)

Dark Badge

Pokémon – 12

4 Deoxys-EX

2 Thundurus-EX PLF

1 Lugia-EX PLS

2 Yveltal-EX

1 Darkrai-EX
1 Seismitoad-EX

1 Mewtwo-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
4 Colress
2 Skyla

2 Lysandre

 

3 Ultra Ball
1 Team Plasma Ball

3 Colress Machine
3 Team Plasma Badge
3 Muscle Band

2 Startling Megaphone
1 Switch
1 Escape Rope

1 Scramble Switch

Energy – 14

4 Plasma

4 Double Colorless

4 Rainbow
1 Lightning
1 Darkness

This was one of my initial approaches to trying to “fix” the Dark Patch problem. Badge plus Colress Machine was really strong to accelerate your Yveltal-EXs. It also let you splash Mewtwo and Seismitoad into a Plasma shell. You still get the strength of Thundurus-EX and Lugia-EX, but a more proactive “normal” attacker in Yveltal. The deck has played extremely well, actually, but again faces the issue of having no counter to Pyroar or Safeguard. You do technically have the splash to “fix” this, but I have no idea what I’d want to run. None of the options seem remotely appealing at first glance, and I’m not so sure “taking the loss” is a great approach either.

I think this may be a better alternative to the other “Yveltal” builds that people have been trying as it is a bit more explosive, and also gives you the option to embrace some of the stronger features of a Plasma deck. I still don’t like the Energy count a ton, as I’m sure you can’t look at “1 Darkness, 1 Lightning” as a 13th and 14th Energy and be HAPPY, but you do want to be able to abuse both types.


Anyway, those are the kind of crazier decks I’ve been messing around with. By all means, I encourage players to go out and give them a try. I’m not going to pretend most of them are perfected lists; there is a lot to test in this format still, and it’s hard to cover every nook and cranny so soon.

Conclusion

ash misty tracey matteopokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com

I’ll close the article out by touching on the fact I regretfully have to say I don’t have too much to say about Expanded decks. I haven’t been able to really test any of them, for a few reasons. First, it is a bit of a time issue. I only have so much time to test, and my focus is on Standard. Second, there are no stock lists to test against readily available. Third, no one seems terribly interested in testing it. I did dabble around to see if anyone wanted to try and play some games, and outside of being able to play some Rayeels against Kristen, I haven’t found many biters.

I will say I was really impressed by how Rayeels played, but fear that it can’t handle Seismitoad at all, which is a major problem. I may play it anyway if I day 2 in Fort Wayne. Who knows. I do have a tendency to play what I know if I’m unsure what to play otherwise, and Eels have been one of my favorite decks for quite awhile now.

So I guess I’ll actually close this article out with a bit of a prompt for the forums. Have you noticed the same sort of apathy toward Expanded testing? I kind of hope I am in the minority with this finding, but I’ve yet to see much suggesting otherwise. I’d love to see it get explored a bit more.


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