More Than a Fighting Chance

The Effect of Type-Themed Sets on the Metagame

Hey everyone! A lot has happened since my last article, namely Worlds and Regionals, and I have quite a bit to talk about. My Worlds experience was far from stellar, as I finished with a 2-3-1 drop. I decided to stick with Flygon because I enjoyed the deck quite a bit and expected the metagame to be one step ahead of what it actually was; that is to say that I expected a large amount of Pyroar to counter the masses of Virizion/Genesect, but this ended up not happening. I can’t really complain, though, I had a fantastic time overall at the event and my poor performance gave me more drive to have a strong start to the new season.

So far this season I have only been able to attend two events, a League Challenge and Ft. Wayne Regionals, but I’ll go over what I played at Regionals, how I did, and my take on the format. I’ll also give my thoughts on Phantom Forces and discuss what I’ve seen from Japan regarding the set.


As most of you know, the theme of Furious Fists was to give more support to Fighting types in the form of easy damage boosters. Cards like Strong Energy, Fighting Stadium, and Korrina have come together to put Fighting in a dominating position in our current metagame.

Most players looked to Landorus-EX and Lucario-EX when the Fighting support was revealed, but a few players chose to think outside the box and try out Donphan. Namely, we saw Dylan Bryan popularize the Donphan deck at Philadelphia Regionals a few weeks ago, which gave rise to its immense popularity at the rest of the Regionals.

This huge change in the metagame was very reminiscent of the release of Dark Explorers back in 2012; the huge support that Dark types were given in this set from the likes of Darkrai-EX, Dark Patch, and Dark Claw made Dark Explorers one of the most influential sets that we’ve seen in a long time. Not only were Dark decks themselves created and made popular, but Darkrai-EX alone was the backbone for many unique decks that popped up at the National and World Championships that year. Klinklang, Mismagius/Vileplume, and Chandelure/Accelgor/Vileplume all thrived with the support of Darkrai-EX and greatly defined the format.

While Furious Fists pales in comparison to the impact of Dark Explorers, I found it very interesting that two of the only sets that have focused on support for a single type made such an impact on the metagame. Looking ahead it will be interesting to see what the future sets in the XY series hold, as we’re beginning to see a trend with the basic Energy types getting their own unique Special Energy cards. The set description for Primal Clash was released a few days ago, stating that we will be getting all-new Spirit Link and Special Energy cards. I expect the newest Energy to be Water type to go along with the Kyogre and Groudon theme of the set.

I’ll talk more about that later in the article, but right now let’s focus on Regionals.

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So far this season I haven’t had any time to test due to school and college applications being my first priority, but in the days leading up to Regionals I took some time to analyze the results from previous weekends and made my decision to play Donphan. I had seen its early success at Philadelphia and how the few players who decided to pick it up for Texas did incredibly well so I gave it a shot.

There have been quite a few variations to Donphan, mostly with either Outragers or Raichu, but other options include Pyroar and Trevenant. I considered playing a 1-1-of one of these other Stage 1 options, but in the end figured that it was best to keep my list consistent. I didn’t have enough experience with the deck to know which was the best option and the plain Donphan/Outragers seemed good enough to do the trick. Here is the list I built roughly based off of the ones I saw from my friends, online, and from my own theories on the deck:

Pokémon – 15

4 Phanpy PLS
4 Donphan PLS
2 Sigilyph LTR
2 Kyurem LTR
1 Hawlucha FFI
1 Dedenne FFI

1 Zekrom LTR

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress

3 Korrina

3 Lysandre

2 Bicycle

 

4 Float Stone

2 Muscle Band

2 Silver Bangle

2 Ultra Ball

1 Switch
1 Computer Search

 

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 11

4 Double Colorless
4 Strong
3 F

In the event I went 7-2-0 on day 1 finishing in 8th place at the end of the day. Both of my loses were to mirror match, which was somewhat disheartening due to the fact that I had built my list expecting a good amount of other players using Donphan. Lysandre and Kyurem LTR were both used at a higher count than normal in order to improve my mirror match. I also opted against Mewtwo-EX, which I felt didn’t fit very well into the deck and for the most part I didn’t mind not having it as an option.

I played against most of the popular decks of the format and found the matchups to be quite positive overall. Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX seemed to be the closest matchup, while Yveltal-EX/Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor LTR tended to be my easiest games of the day.

Despite doing well in the event, I don’t like this Donphan variant very much as a deck. The way the games played out and the general feel of the deck weren’t enjoyable. This isn’t a reflection on the deck based on how good it is or its place in the metagame, but I usually felt that my moves were very reactionary and it was tough to take a meaningful lead. This playstyle reminded me a lot of the 6 Corners deck from the City Championships 2011-2012 format, playing a lot of different answers to other decks and relying on Outrage to take out large threats.

For the Expanded Format on day 2 I settled on Donphan/Accelgor. I had seen Dylan’s success with this variant on day 2 in Philadelphia and didn’t feel confident enough to change my deck entirely for a format I had no experience in. This also gave me another chance to play Accelgor DEX, which is my favorite card of all time, in a fourth consecutive tournament season. Here is the list I played for the second day:

Pokémon – 19

4 Phanpy PLS
3 Donphan PLS

4 Shelmet PLB

3 Accelgor DEX
2 Sigilyph LTR
1 Hawlucha FFI
1 Druddigon FLF

1 Reshiram LTR

Trainers – 31

4 Professor Juniper
4 N
3 Colress

2 Korrina

2 Lysandre

2 Bicycle

 

3 Float Stone

2 Muscle Band

2 Silver Bangle

2 Ultra Ball

1 Level Ball

1 Switch
1 Computer Search

 

2 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 10

4 Double Colorless
4 Strong
2 F

As you can see this list is very closely based off of Dylan Bryan’s, so I can’t take any credit at all. I made a couple of changes in order to counter what I thought the metagame would shift toward and based on what people played day 1. I saw that there was a good amount of Virizion/Genesect on day 1 and it had one of the strongest results from the rest of the Regionals, so I expected there to be a lot of it. For this reason, I also assumed that people would play Pyroar and Team Plasma, which I considered to be good matchups for the deck.

Most of the field was either Team Plasma, Yveltal/Seismitoad/Garbodor, or Donphan, which made my choice subpar. In retrospect, I think that sticking with the variation that I used on day 1 or adding Zekrom LTR and Dedenne FFI would have been the best scenarios to do well on day 2.

I finished day 2 with a 2-3-0 record, putting me at 9-5-0 and 16th place in the final standings. I was incredibly lucky to have the highest opponents’ win percentage of everyone on day 2, which made me the only player with 27 points to make it into the top 16 for extra prizes and Points.

Almost unanimously, the response from the player base toward the Donphan variants has been very negative. Most of the players I talked to during the event had something bad to say about Donphan; from its strength as a deck to the amount of players using it, I think most people would agree that Donphan ended up being one of the best decks in Standard and surely had the largest effect on the metagame.

Expand Your Testing

Going forward into the season I would recommend everyone playtest for Expanded as much as possible. Even if you don’t expect to make it into day 2, you should always be prepared for the best possible outcome. More so than in Standard, those who prepared the most for Expanded seemed to come out on top in the end, while those who picked up a deck last minute weren’t so fortunate. The night before day 2 Nicholena Moon and I saw Alex Hill tweet a picture showing a plethora of deck options he had for Expanded and were worried that we didn’t have as much practice as other players. Alex ended up making top 4 at the event (congratulations to him!), which goes to show what preparedness can achieve.

One gripe I have with Expanded, though, is the fact that Pokémon has yet to make it an optional format on PTCGO. I do quite a bit of testing on the platform because it’s easy to hop into queue and grind out a few games if you some free time without having to organize a match like on PlayTCG. A lot of my friends also use it exclusively, so having it as an option is crucial. While playing against people you know you can make an unlimited deck and only play with Black & White-on cards, but this does nothing to help players who want to use random matchmaking to practice. In the future I hope that they implement Expanded into PTCGO, but for the time being this seems very counterintuitive to expanding their new format.

I’d also like to see a separation between Standard and Expanded tournaments. This would allow players to either focus on one that they prefer and attend events for just their format, but at the same time reward those who are proficient in both formats giving them more tournaments to attend and a better chance at an invite. Tournaments like Nationals and Worlds keeping the two format approach would be reasonable to make sure the winners are among the best in both formats. Having to prepare so much for Regionals, which you can attend up to 9-of in the US, is just too much Pokémon!

Ding-Dong!

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What would one of my articles be without some info from Japan and a look ahead at the next format? Phantom Forces prereleases started this weekend, which means that it’s only about a month before the set becomes legal for tournament play. I’m going to talk about a few decks that seem to be popular in Japan as well as a couple of my own ideas that I haven’t heard any discussion about. Same as last year, Japan will be playing BLW-on this season unless they make an announcement in the future saying otherwise, which means that results from Japan will be better translated into Expanded format testing.

Going along with the theme of the article, this set seems to have support for an underplayed type once again. Despite the theme of the set being Psychic type, I consider the support given to Metal types to have the most potential. Most notably we have Bronzong PHF, which has Eelektrik NVI’s Dynamotor ability for Metal Energies. Eelektrik was a fantastic card in a variety of variants from the time it was released until it rotated and sees play in Expanded as well; even if Bronzong isn’t as good as Eelektrik was it will still being a top tier deck in my opinion.

The first major tournaments in Japan with Phanton Forces stated this weekend, so we don’t have any results to go off of, but from what I’ve seen online and heard from friend the most popular way to play Bronzong has been with Mewtwo-EX and Cobalion-EX as the focus and other strong attackers thrown into the mix. Here is a sample list I came up with for BCR-on:

Pokémon – 14

4 Bronzor PHF

4 Bronzong PHF

2 Mewtwo-EX NXD

2 Cobalion-EX

1 Dialga-EX PHF

1 Cobalion LTR

Trainers – 33

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Colress

2 Lysandre

1 VS Seeker

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Float Stone

3 Muscle Band

2 Startling Megaphone

2 Switch

2 Battle Compressor

1 Max Potion

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Computer Search

Energy – 13

9 M

4 Double Colorless

This is mostly a standard decklist; all the EXs are great attackers and Cobalion LTR is your almost mandatory non-EX attacker. A major downfall that the Standard version of the deck has is the loss of Level Ball and Heavy Ball, which are important setup cards in this kind of deck. Having to rely on Ultra Ball for all your searches seems somewhat inconsistent and could be a deciding factor in whether or not Bronzong sees play.

Two cards from the new set that I love in here are VS Seeker and Battle Compressor. VS Seeker was a much-needed boost in consistency for every deck in the format. It’s also great alongside Lysandre, allowing you to pick between another draw Supporter or another Lysandre as needed instead of having to lock into one or the other on your decklist.

Battle Compressor is a very unique mechanic and works well in quite a few decks. The list of cards that benefit off of cards in the discard pile is large: from Thundurus-EX and Yveltal XY that we already have to Bronzong and M Manectric-EX in the new set. Thinning your deck can also be very beneficial in the late game when you have specific cards you need to draw and others that you can’t use at all. It will be interesting to see what kind of ideas people will come up with using Battle Compressor!

Halloweenies

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Another deck that has been getting a lot of attention is an entirely new concept from Phantom Forces. Often referred to as “Night March” and “Halloweenies,” the deck focuses around the new Night March attack’s mechanic that does additional damage for each Pokémon with the Night March attack in your discard pile. The three Pokémon with this attack are Pumpkaboo, Lampent, and Joltik. It’s a unique deck and I’m interested to see how it does; most of the time these kind of gimmick decks don’t perform as well as people assume they will, but for some reason I think that this deck might just defy the odds. Here’s a list to start off with:

Pokémon – 18

4 Joltik PHF

4 Lampent PHF

4 Pumpkaboo PHF

3 Mew-EX

1 Mr. Mime PLF

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Seismitoad-EX

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Juniper

2 N

1 Shauna

2 Lysandre

4 VS Seeker

4 Bicycle

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 Battle Compressor

3 Muscle Band

2 Startling Megaphone

1 Computer Search

 

3 Dimension Valley

Energy – 8

4 Double Colorless

2 Mystery

2 Rainbow

Our focus is to get as many Night March Pokémon in the discard pile as quickly as possible in order to negate the downsides of using Mew-EX as a main attacker. The engine based around Bicycle as well as running 4 Battle Compressor help with this a great deal. Seismitoad-EX can also be a great help in the early game to set up or against Donphan and its new addition from the set that I will go over soon.

Running these low HP EXs can be very risky, so I would consider testing Life Dew in the deck. I’ve also been thinking about running a single Max Revive to go along with Battle Compressor and Bicycle to get Jirachi-EX if you need it, but it’s most likely a bad idea. Rainbow Energy is another very niche inclusion to give you more options on attacks to copy of your opponent. With so many low Energy attacks, there are situations where using one of your opponent’s attacks is better than using Night March.

There’s also another variation of the deck that focuses on using the new Gourgeist PHF along with Celebi-EX. Gourgeist with a Grass Energy attached has 200 HP and can use Night March due to Celebi-EX, but I found this take on the deck to be too inconsistent. It’s also a lot harder to get a new Gourgeist, so when playing against Yveltal-EX, which can easily Knock Out Gourgeist from Weakness, it’s difficult to attack every turn.

Cannon Fodder

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While that might have been the last new deck I covered, we can’t forget the focus of the article! Donphan gets even more support in the new set, making it even better than before. The most influential card for Donphan that we’re getting in Phantom Forces is Robo Substitute. This combo is as good as it is intuitive, Spinning Turn switching into Robo Substitute gives your opponent very few options . Knocking Out Robo Substitute nets them no Prizes and allows the Donphan player to get another free attack off, and using Lysandre to attack something else doesn’t get rid of the first Robo Substitute, allowing Donphan to Spinning Turn into it again and put the opponent in the same position as before.

On top of all this, Lysandre’s Trump Card will give the Donphan player an opportunity to get all their Robo Substitutes back later in the game and continue the cycle over again. Together, these two cards should be enough to position Donphan at the forefront of the format. This combo is, of course, not without its flaws. As I mentioned before, Seismitoad-EX is a good counter to Robo Substitute, which could pose problems for Donphan.

Here’s what I expect the new Donphan lists to look like:

Pokémon – 13

4 Phanpy PLS
4 Donphan PLS
2 Sigilyph LTR
1 Hawlucha FFI
1 Dedenne FFI

1 Zekrom LTR

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper
3 N
3 Colress

3 Korrina

2 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

2 Bicycle

1 VS Seeker

 

4 Robo Substitute

3 Float Stone

2 Muscle Band

2 Silver Bangle

2 Ultra Ball

1 Switch
1 Computer Search

 

3 Fighting Stadium

Energy – 10

3 Double Colorless
4 Strong
3 F


The final thing I’d like to talk about in the new set is Target Whistle. I’ve seen very little interest or talk about this card, but it seems to me to be incredible. I’ve been trying to come up with the best way to use it and haven’t been able to make any concrete decks, but Dusknoir has been the one card I’ve been thinking about the most. In Standard a spread variation, possibly a resurgence of Flygon, is probably the best option for Target Whistle. In Expanded, Empoleon seems like a perfect fit. Pooka made top 8 in Ft. Wayne with Empoleon/Dusknoir, so I’d like to see how Target Whistle improves the deck from where it is now.

Conclusion

With only the first round of Regionals out of the way we still have quite a long season ahead of ourselves. I hope everyone who was able to attend a Regionals had a great experience, and good luck to you all going into City Championships. These last few sets have been really good for the format in my opinion and, while some might argue otherwise, it’s a great time to be playing Pokémon! Some of you might remember that in my last article I was trying to plan a trip to Japan to attend the Battle Festivals at the end of November; sadly my plans fell through, but I’m working on rescheduling my trip for May or June to bring you guys live coverage of some Japanese events.

As always I hope you enjoyed the article and I’m always open for feedback about my content, my writing, or anything else you might want to talk about, so be sure to get in contact with me if you have any questions about the article! I also keep my Japanese info fairly up to date, so if you ever see me at an event and are wondering what you can expect in my next article, feel free to ask!

Henry


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