The last time I wrote, it was shortly after Philadelphia Regionals, my only event so far this season. I came unprepared and overconfident, partially thanks to being away at college, which resulted in a poor performance. Fortunately, the next time I got to play extensively, the format changed a great deal and I now have had the chance to both wrap my head around the advanced metagame and begin to create decks that hold their own.
The thing these decks will all have in common, however, is VS Seeker. I firmly believe that in the current climate, this card is broken.
In a Supporter-driven format, the ability to take advantage of a chosen Supporter each turn could be compared to a superpower. Being able to easily N both early and late game, for example, could prevent you from losing valuable resources each turn without compromising your ability to play comeback if need be. Cutting back on Colress and having better access to it is also a pretty welcome addition.
In addition to updating decks by adding VS Seeker, I also plan to analyze what my favorite decks are for the Cities season going forward, including ones that have already done well.
Table of Contents
- The Logic of the VS Seeker Engine and When NOT to Use It
- Why I Run Jirachi in Almost Everything
- The Top Decks – Now Featuring VS Seeker!
- Honorable Mentions
The Logic of the VS Seeker Engine and When NOT to Use It
The concept of the VS Seeker engine in a deck essentially requires a player to cut back on cards such as Professor Juniper, N, and Colress in order to make space for VS Seeker. By leaving high counts of the Supporters you want to open with and lower counts of the ones you’ll want later, you create a system in which you ideally use cards like Professor Juniper or N early game and have reliable access to things like Colress or Lysandre later on, without giving up too much potential to be using N or Juniper when needed. Additionally, you get to run 1-of copies of cards like Team Flare Grunt or anything other “bad Supporter” you might like. Erik Nance has a nice section in his latest article that speaks of this phenomenon.
Let’s take a look at a standard sample Trainer line. For this case I will be using Virizion/Genesect:
With VS Seeker, you could have something like the following:
Pretty simple, right? It cost you one extra space. What you get in return, however, is the option to choose between any of the Supporters that you have already played throughout the game. Combined with Jirachi-EX, this can become even more lethal. Along the way, you can also use your Ultra Balls to discard Shadow Triad, Colress, or any other Supporter to take advantage of later on. There is much more you can do, using cards you never thought would be good because you’d never have them when you need them. While making Lysandre more effective in other decks, you can also capitalize on lesser-played cards like Team Flare Grunt, Cassius, Xerosic, and more. Being able to be more liberal with your discarding of Supporters as well as using exactly the one you need to later in the match can take your game to the next level.
When is VS Seeker a weaker play?
VS Seeker is an Item. That naturally makes it a liability against Seismitoad-EX. However, there are scenarios in which this would not matter. Take Virizion/Genesect, for example. You are likely going to be able to win if you opponent puts down a Toad. All you’d need are a couple of Virizion-EX and 2-3 Grass Energy. The rest of the game is often simple. Not having a Supporter would likely be irrelevant.
On the flip side, however, you might be playing a deck that simply can’t compete with Seismitoad. Some builds of Pyroar and the Quad Reshiram deck that has been pretty successful would likely struggle against Toad. If you are playing a deck like this, you are not losing out on much by making your auto-loss worse. As such, you should definitely be playing VS Seeker in these decks, especially since you’d stand to gain from a smoother interaction with Blacksmith.
When you DO NOT want to use VS Seeker in high counts is when you believe you have a matchup in the 50-50 area with Seismitoad AND you think it will see play. Naturally, you would not want to be throwing away a matchup that you can win if you will play it more than once at an event. I think a deck that would face this issue is Donphan. The same goes for Plasma. Overall, however, this case should be a minority as many popular decks take advantage of Toad’s many weaknesses.
Why I Run Jirachi in Almost Everything
Especially as I transition several decks to this diverse engine, which slightly reduces the odds of opening a Supporter, I find it fair to say that Jirachi-EX belongs in a lot of these decks. I would need a pretty good reason to cut it at this point. One of those reasons is not having enough Basic Pokémon in the deck to avoid starting with it, but in some cases even that is irrelevant (see Garbodor/Toad).
Being able to turn Ultra Balls, which can seem like utter garbage at certain points in the game, into gold is pretty neat and I don’t think I’d want to be playing a deck that doesn’t spend the maximum amount of time inside the deck as possible. Grabbing the 1-ofs that come with the VS Seeker approach doesn’t hurt either, though you will likely be throwing them away mid game if they are late-game cards and you happen to have an Ultra Ball handy.
Players would often argue that Jirachi is impossible to justify because it can mean two free Prizes for your opponent. However, I’d argue that this game hardly boils down to a Prize race anymore. It’s a field war. You could be giving your opponent a way to close the game out in the wrong setting, but that’s when you use your judgement when deciding whether or not to bench it. Otherwise, I completely welcome almost any scenario in which my opponent chooses to spend a turn relieving my attacker of any damage in order to free up some Bench space for me, especially since playing it would likely have gotten me on my feet at that point.
With the high rate at which players can use Lysandre, Red Signal, or Flare Command to bring something Active, I feel confident that a turn should almost always be spend dealing with the threats, not the Bench-sitters. Regardless, the most common use for Jirachi-EX is to get a player out of a sticky situation, typically meaning N, at the end of the game. For most decks, this means a game-ending Professor Juniper or Lysandre.
With that said, it is time to break down what I believe are some of the decks with the most potential in different metagames are. You will see this new engine in all of them.
For more on Jirachi and the math behind its effectiveness, check out this article.
The Top Decks – Now Featuring VS Seeker!
Ideal Metagame: Low Fire (Quad Reshiram, Pyroar)
Like many others, I am in love with this deck. It has survived what many thought to be its death in the form of format change time and time again. I believe that it has done it again, despite the natural obstacle that is Head Ringer. Head Ringer’s impact on the format was definitely overrated.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 35
1 Supporter of Choice
1 G Booster
Energy – 14
The deck appears to have answers to almost everything. Fire is an obvious problem, but it has a pretty limited scope of use right now. Most of the list is pretty straightforward; the beauty of the deck comes from its simplicity. What is interesting about the deck is that it is easy to play on a competent level, but there is a lot of room for improved results if a higher quality of play is displayed. Playing Virizion/Genesect perfectly can drastically improve results with it.
The thing that one might want to change about the deck is its focus. This list is built solely to get a turn two Emerald Slash onto a Genesect-EX, no questions asked. I even run a Ditto BCR to act as a guard against Head Ringer and to be the “5th Virizion.” Other builds try to focus more on the late-game aspect of the deck, using cards like Enhanced Hammer and Drifblim BW64 to get a bigger return on space at the end of the game, even if it puts a little bit of the deck in the occasional clunk. It could be argued that the late-Game 150-200 damage and odd Prize makes this worth it when Shadow Steal becomes deadly.
To reach the aforementioned build, simply cut Dedenne, Ditto, a Shadow Triad, and a Grass Energy for a 1-1 Drifblim line and 2 Enhanced Hammers. From there, make the choice Supporter a Xerosic. Changes should build off of that. This is an especially good idea if you plan to face a lot of Donphan, which you will in many areas.
Ideal Metagame: Low Seismitoad, Low Yveltal
Donphan is a powerhouse deck that erupted during Autumn Regionals and has only gotten stronger with the newest set. Given its ability to wreak havoc on the second turn of the game while requiring opponents to constantly find ways around the wall placed before them, Donphan is a deck no player should forget when crafting his or her list.
Your ideal first turn typically involves Korrina with this deck, and the list reflects that.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
The list above is the one currently being tested by my group. So far I found that I disagree with Erik Nance about the quality of Wobbuffet in the deck. I am actually going back and forth between a third copy. I think that Wobbuffet gives Donphan the Garbodor-like edge that completely stops a whole variety of decks in their tracks if they rely at all upon Abilities. This specifically applies to the Virizion/Genesect matchup. If V/G can consistently bring up a Donphan and 1HKO it, you are going to have a bad time. By being the sacrifice, Wobbuffet allows you to keep valuable Energy on the field.
Early game, you can attempt to make your opponent feed an Emerald Slash to Reshiram to make the matchup even more favorable. To take advantage of other Weaknesses, you also have the other two Outrage dragons to bait a free KO. Be sure to switch these around according to your speculations about your local metagame.
I also think I take a slightly unpopular stance on Robo Substitute in that I think two should be the maximum amount played barring a metagame in which players only run things that get around all other walls. Otherwise, I don’t like to have a constantly shrinking play area, especially if it hinders my game against Seismitoad-EX. Additionally, opponents can respond to a Robo Sub by simply leaving up a meat shield and letting you discard the Substitute yourself, wasting both your Substitute as well as a Lysandre, if you are even able to use it. If you really want to take the “Fossil” route, play a bigger Switch/Escape Rope count to compensate for the possibility.
Overall, this is one deck you can get comfortable with and make small changes to each week in order to stay ahead of your local metagame. Possibilities range from what walls you use to what Items and Supporters you choose to include. As you saw in his article, Erik Nance chose to play a copy of Enhanced Hammer. I know others who enjoy playing cards like Head Ringer and Startling Megaphone instead. The possibilities are endless.
Ideal Metagame: Heavy Seismitoad, Heavy Donphan
This deck is never going to leave. It handled all of the new cards fairly well. Yveltal and its EX counterpart suffer very little from Head Ringer, as it is likely that you are capable of having more than two Energy to use Evil Ball. Seismitoad can be dropped at a moment’s notice and swapped into, locking Head Ringer away completely. Aside from that, there wasn’t much in the way of threats to Yveltal’s success, only the benefits of VS Seeker. Just watch out for Manectric-EX. I don’t see it being heavily played, but if you run into it, you have Toad for a reason.
Below is a list for the deck, adjusted for its matchups that are less than stellar.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 35
Energy – 12
As you can see, the deck finally has most of its bases covered. It is important to be discarding the right things early on in the game with Professor Juniper and Ultra Ball if you plan to open your offense with Yveltal XY. As such, I left Juniper maxed out and cut an extra Colress to make space for more VS Seeker. Additionally, the Toad half of the deck is supported by the presence of Team Flare Grunt and the potential five uses you are capable of getting from it.
Right now, I believe this deck suffers from a 50-50 matchup with Virizion/Genesect that can get worse if they pack a Dedenne (making it 60-40). The growth in Manectric-EX variants may also make this deck tough to play, as the Toad half of the deck is impaired by the usage of Head Ringer. This does not guarantee that you will do poorly against them, however. As I mentioned before, opening with a Darkrai and getting an early Toad without having any Yveltal-EX in play could keep you afloat.
Other things that could be added to the deck include Enhanced Hammer and Head Ringer. Enhanced Hammer helps deal with a lot of threats by disrupting Energy supply, but Head Ringer seems to synergize a little better, increasing the cost of attacks to both prevent response and make it easier to take knockouts with Evil Ball. Cutting the Energy Switches to make room for these makes the most sense.
While I have never been the biggest fan of this deck, it is clearly a good one. It has all the versatility it needs while still remaining fast enough to go toe to toe with any other deck.
An Aside on Mega Manectric in Yveltal
Since its release, I have seen several articles and gameplays that include the use of M Manectric-EX as a sidearm to an Yveltal-EX deck. I didn’t get it before, and I don’t get it now. It is pretty safe to say that I do not advocate for this kind of build. If you like to play Yveltal decks, I simply do not think that Mega Manectric should be there. Even without a direct answer to Pyroar, you are capable of beating it with Seismitoad, so it is hard to even make the argument that the Evolution factor justifies its use. Adding and changing up to 8 cards (2-2 Manny, 2 Spirit Link, 2 Lightning), more than 10% of the list, can devastate your deck.
What I am getting at here is that using it will make your deck clunky beyond belief for little gain. Sure if the mirror match is all you’d expect to be playing I could see it, but if that were the case, there would be better options laid before you.
I am overall pretty underwhelmed by the Mega Evolutions that get around the rule with Spirit Link; I only hope that they print more cards that get their own Spirit Links but are slightly more playable. I firmly believe all of the good genes went to Manectric-EX and not its Mega. While 210 HP and a cheap and seemingly amazing attack seem good from time to time, the popularity of Donphan would never allow this card to become truly worthwhile.
This is most certainly not the only Toad variant, however. Below are two more, but there are plenty more ways to play the deck.
Ideal Metagame: No Virizion/Genesect
This build focuses on combining lock with lock – you’ve seen it before, and now it’s back with Head Ringers and VS Seekers. Using VS Seeker to add to the deck’s usage of Team Flare Grunt or Lysandre, Seismitoad gets even stronger.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 41
Energy – 9
The deck, in practice, has run pretty smoothly. If the lock is achieved turn one or two, every EX that gets benched after that point faces an inevitable problem in Head Ringer, given that they can no longer play the Tools they’d use to stop you. If you think that no one in your area really wants to play Virizion/Genesect, you might be in for a treat should you choose to play this deck.
If you wanted to change the list, the first cards I’d approach are the Head Ringers. The point with these cards is to have some sort of lasting Energy disruption to complement the use of Item and Ability lock. Instead, you could play Crushing or Enhanced Hammer. Personally, however, I have found that the complication that Head Ringer brings is more powerful than Crushing Hammer, especially since I’m averse to flipping.
You might also not be comfortable with Jirachi being 1/8-of your Basic Pokémon. I personally think that it is worth it, as Jirachi can and will get you where you need to be in terms of Supporters. Typically your opponent will struggle to bring it up anyway, as you are usually the one in the driver’s seat with this deck. The more consistent your list is, the less chance an opponent has at being able to hit back at all. Dropping a Head Ringer faster, discarding an Energy when needed, and most importantly dragging up the things your opponent doesn’t want active are all made easier by Jirachi-EX.
Starting with it is never fun, but that’s a chance you may need to be willing to take. If you like the card but want more fluff to put in the starting position and avoid a Jirachi start more frequently, I recommend Ditto BCR.
Ideal Metagame: Any (has lots of 50-50 matchups), Heavy Yveltal
This is a deck that I have not heard doing well so far, but a good portion of my testing has gone into it. I have seen some pretty compelling results. The basic idea is that Manectric deals with anything that Toad might not. The focus here is not on the Mega Evolution, but rather the original – Assault Laser is vastly underrated. Being able to reach 170 damage for two Energy is powerful.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 39
Energy – 11
By abusing an array of cheap attacks, Manectric/Toad can take control of the game a couple of ways. Manectric-EX can lay the land for its Assault Lasers on turn one using Overrun. While 20 might seem small for Bench damage, it becomes relevant in that it eliminates the need for Virbank City Gym to reach the magic 170 mark. Seismitoad serves simply to eliminate some of the variables associated with the metagame. Druddigon is to deal with whatever Safeguard might be thrown at you. If you have to face multiple, simply taking one out with Druddigon and then using Laser/Item lock to put the remaining ones down seems to be the best bet.
Currently, the toughest matchups for the deck appear to be V/G and Donphan, both a shaky 50-50. However, the increased Lysandre and VS Seeker count has appeared to address that at the moment for Donphan. The Team Flare Grunt is an effort to deal with Virizion/Genesect if they manage to get a Tool on the Virizion-EX they plan to Emerald Slash with. If you manage to prevent V/G from getting a turn two Emerald Slash, you can typically win the game with ease.
Now that I have covered what I believe are the best decks, I will go over some honorable mentions. These are decks that don’t quite have what it takes to stay afloat in large, diversified metagames due to popular bad matchups, but can still take a City Championship with ease given the right environment.
Ideal Metagame: Low Toad, Low Pyroar, Low Plasma
Ever since Battle Compressor came out, I have been obsessed with Reshiram. It seems I am not the only one. The combo at work here is Battle Compressor and VS Seeker working together to create a Blue Flare out of nothing by discarding 2 Fire Energy and a Blacksmith which you can grab back with VS Seeker. Playing nothing but 4 Reshiram in your deck, you can take advantage of one of the best abusers of Blacksmith and have surprisingly favorable matchups.
My personal build ran 4 Seismitoad-EX to try and compensate for the less than stellar Seismitoad matchup as well as add a dimension to the deck, but the combo is the important part. Below is a rough list of what a Reshiram deck might look like.
Pokémon – 4
Trainers – 43
Energy – 13
The deck, at a glance, looks silly. At a closer look, however, it has several very competitive elements to it. One that stands out is its perfect abuse of VS Seeker. With large amounts of space for Battle Compressor, an interesting dimension to the deck is created. A consistently small Bench makes Colress pretty unhelpful for your opponent. Finally, your arsenal is 100% Fire-type, giving you a huge edge vs. Virizion/Genesect and Bronzong/Metal decks.
My ideal list for this runs Seismitoad-EX, but it is more of a splash card in a Reshiram deck to deal with some of its weaker matchups than an actual focus of the deck. I do enjoy reducing the chances of a mulligan, however. It would be a shame to lose a game by going second and letting your opponent start with a 10-card hand. This happened to me a lot when I played Pyroar at US Nationals, but fortunately most of the decks I played weren’t equipped to handle the lion so it didn’t matter if they had 7 cards or 17 cards, given that they weren’t able to hit back.
The way this deck is built should also give some ideas to any of the readers who like to play Pyroar. Pyroar is always going to be a meta call, but having a good build is becoming increasingly more important as we see more and more Pyroar decks lose to Virizion/Genesect by way of not getting a full Bench fast enough.
Otherwise, the deck is pretty easy to play and holds its own against Donphan and V/G, two of the most commonly played decks. While its best matchups are the most popular decks, I would have to contend that Quad Reshiram is largely fragile in its use. Seismitoad is too splashable and the only time it does not completely ruin Reshiram’s day is when it isn’t coupled with Lasers and Virbank City Gym. It would take a pretty predictable metagame for many to want to play this deck in the average event.
I don’t like the deck, but I have to respect its ability to storm an event that doesn’t have enough variety. I will also add that it is a ton of fun to play. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Reshiram/Typhlosion decks that took a large presence at the 2011 World Championships.
Ideal Metagame: No Pyroar, No Seismitoad
TDK is always around, but its current usability is up for debate. With a slightly negative match against Virizion/Genesect and an auto-loss to Pyroar, the deck might have numbered days. Fortunately, it has relative immunity to Head Ringer since Kyurem is not an EX. This, as well as a presumably stellar Donphan matchup, might be reason enough to give the deck another shot.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
As you can see, I am still hopeful enough against Seismitoad to warrant not running a full set of VS Seeker. This is largely because the addition of Head Ringer makes the idea of beating Seismitoad certain games a little less insane. Head Ringer has other applications as well to sweeten the deal.
Kyurem is still one of the most powerful cards in the game. It just appears to be given more and more unfortunate counters in the format with each new set. The worst part is that most of these cards are soft counters, meaning that no one is going to stop playing them just because Kyurem died out a little. First it was Mr. Mime PLF, then we got Seismitoad-EX, and now the increase in Donphan has prompted Virizion/Genesect players to run Deoxys-EX and Enhanced Hammer, which also happens to create perfect math against Kyurem and attack its Energy supply. Pyroar certainly has not helped either.
I must say that I thoroughly regret not playing TDK at the World Championships last year. I liked my list, played it well, but was too afraid of Pyroar and Enhanced Hammer to dive in with it. This was quite a lesson for me because the risk I took instead proved to be even greater and it cost me several games.
Another great build of Plasma that has constantly proven itself is Lugia-EX. Who doesn’t like to win with two hits? Speed Lugia has seen a lot of play in the Expanded format on day two of most Regional Championships, but not enough play in the current format. While Manectric-EX and its Mega counterpart along with Head Ringer threaten to hinder its playability, Plasma has always been flexible enough to keep up. It almost seems as if TPCi is trying to kick Plasma when it is already clearly down. Only time will tell if that will actually happen. My best guess right now is that the excitement of playing Lugia will cease to be worth the inevitable overage of bad matchups the deck now has.
I know that I am not the first to say this, but I am becoming more and more optimistic about the direction of the game with each new set. The variety handed to us with the release of Phantom Forces is exciting. It has been a long time since one could play any deck and see the same results regardless of choice (within reason of course, but its true – people can come with any of several different decks and still be considered prepared for the event).
If you are rusty, I suggest you practice because misplays are going to start becoming a larger and larger factor of the game. Putting a Head Ringer down too late or too soon or not discarding the right things with Ultra Ball for VS Seeker could make the difference between winning and losing. With the opportunity to be flexible comes the responsibility of managing all the new options.
As always, I’m always fairly open to feedback. If you have a comment, question, or just want to talk format with me, you know how to reach me.
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