The first week of Winter Regionals has come to an end and Florida Regionals is on the horizon. Normally the format would be well defined heading into the last week of Regionals and players would simply have to account for what decks won this past weekend. However, Florida Regionals will be more exciting this season as Primal Clash becomes legal just in time for the tournament! This has writers analyzing and players buzzing about which cards in the new set have potential. The first major event following the release of a new set is always full of at least a few surprises with players trying to break the format.
Jay Hornung already did a great job at laying the groundwork for a wide variety of potential archetypes coming out of Primal Clash. Instead, I’m going to discuss which pre-existing archetypes I believe are the strongest heading in the new format based on a combination of this weekend’s results and the new additions from Primal Clash. While it’s very exciting as a player to gloss over the new scans and brainstorm countless deck ideas, it’s hard to determine how viable these ideas actually are until you have a solid grasp on which decks to expect as well as an updated list to test against.
This past weekend in Virginia I had anticipated Yveltal, Fairies, and Virizion/Genesect to show up in large numbers. I expected Seismitoad to see a slight decline in play as players were afraid of Virizion/Genesect’s success at the European Challenge Cup (ECC) and a handful of Landorus/Crobat since the deck seemed to gain a small following towards the end of Cities. I thought Flareon would be a strong choice, but unfortunately I ended up dropping at 5-3 after facing Landorus/Crobat five times and not a single Fairies or Virizion/Genesect.
Landorus/Crobat and Night March ended up seeing more play than expected and players seemed much more prepared for Virizion/Genesect after it won the ECC. While neither of these decks were a bad play by any means, they seemed to be getting written off as risky or inconsistent prior to Winter Regionals. I believe these decks will become a bigger part of the format after their success this weekend, so I’ll start off with an updated list for each and explain why they were each so successful. Following that I’ll discuss a few other archetypes as well as some concluding thoughts on a few hyped cards in Primal Clash.
- Night March
- Hyped Cards of Primal Clash
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 31
Energy – 9
The Shift to Landorus/Crobat
From my experience, Landorus/Crobat struggled the most with the defensive Yveltal/Hard Charm variants and Seismitoad variants that played healing cards such as Super Scoop Up. In every other matchup the deck was very strong once it managed to get a couple of Zubat and a Fighting attacker into play. Yveltal/Hard Charm is hard for Landorus/Crobat to trade with efficiently due to a combination of Hard Charm, Fighting Resistance, and other healing cards making it difficult to even two-shot an opposing Yveltal-EX. However, the deck only came into the spotlight towards the beginning of Cities due to Donphan’s early success. Once Donphan began to see a decline in play due to all the hate against it, Yveltal/Hard Charm lost one of its best matchups and players slowly moved on to other decks better suited for their metagame.
The ECC also did Landorus/Crobat a huge favor because Virizion/Genesect was so dominant. I think everybody had the mindset that Virizion/Genesect was the deck to beat heading into Winter Regionals, thus scaring a few players that may have considered a Seismitoad variant. While Hawlucha and Lucario-EX trade fairly well against Seismitoad-EX, a couple of favorable Super Scoop Up flips often put any of the Fighting decks hoping to two-shot Seismitoad-EX too far behind.
Landorus/Crobat gave any Manectric variants a hard time due to the Fighting Weakness. Aromatisse variants without Hard Charm had trouble keeping Aromatisse and Spritzee alive and then couldn’t afford to Max Potion their attackers as a result. Virizion/Genesect could occasionally steal games by being more consistent, but if the Landorus/Crobat player set up they could easily two-shot opposing EXs early game and then one-shot a Genesect-EX late game with the help of Bench damage from Hammerhead and Crobat damage. The deck also had a very playable matchup with non-Hard Charm Yveltal variants thanks to a tech Dedenne as well as with the non-EX decks like Night March and Flareon.
In hindsight it made a ton of sense to play the deck, so maybe it wasn’t so surprising everybody had the same idea.
Outside of the Seismitoad and Yveltal/Hard Charm matchups, I found that any deck could make its Landorus/Crobat matchup much more playable by adding just a single copy of Mr. Mime. Preventing Bench damage from Hammerhead even a few times during a match will often set your opponent back a turn or two, thus giving you another couple turns to win while protecting your Pokémon on the Bench. The Landorus/Crobat player can knock out Mr. Mime with two Golbat and a Crobat, but then Mr. Mime is absorbing 70 damage that your attacker would have taken. This allows you to keep Energy in play so that you have the resources to keep trading with your opponent’s Fighting Pokémon.
Primal Clash gives Landorus/Crobat a minor boost in consistency with card. All the deck needs is a couple of Fighting attackers, an Energy, and a few Zubat to begin threatening extra damage from Golbat in order to get going and to begin applying early pressure. This card will never replace Ultra Ball because you still need to draw into the initial Zubat, Golbat, and either Landorus-EX or Hawlucha, but at the same time it saves you from having to discard important resources. The fact that Repeat Ball is an Item lets you search for the single copy with Korrina so that you can find a second Zubat without discarding any cards.
I’ve seen a few Landorus/Crobat decks that either run a different ACE SPEC or cut Super Scoop Up for other Trainers. I believe that the scoop up effects are essential to Landorus/Crobat’s success. Landorus-EX is a one-Energy attacker, meaning the deck can afford to reattach Energy if it means removing all damage the opponent did to a Landorus-EX the previous turn. Super Scoop Up also interacted well with Crobat as the deck could immediately play down Golbat and Crobat again if there was at least one Zubat and at least one other Golbat in play. This turned every Super Scoop Up heads into not only a potential healing card, but also potentially 50 extra damage.
Since the deck benefits so much from a Scoop Up effect and doesn’t require much setup outside of drawing the right Basic Pokémon, it’s easy to see why Landorus/Crobat would be willing to sacrifice a slight boost in consistency by choosing Scoop Up Cyclone over Computer Search. Being able to Korrina for what is essentially a guaranteed Super Scoop Up heads is certainly worth the ACE SPEC slot. Denying opponents Prizes and reusing Crobat have gotten me far more wins in testing the deck than Computer Searching for an extra Zubat early game has.
A single copy of Lysandre seems out of place because you still need to draw into this powerful Supporter in order to be able to reuse it with VS Seeker. However, Lysandre is not as necessary in Landorus/Crobat because the deck can do a surprising amount of damage to a damaged Pokémon-EX on the Bench thanks to Hammerhead and Crobat.
For example, an opposing 170 HP EX that is sitting with 90 damage on the Bench is merely a Golbat, Crobat, and Hammerhead way from being knocked out. No other deck in the format can apply that kind of pressure to the Bench without high Lysandre counts or living on the edge with Pokémon Catcher. This frees up deck space for another Trainer and allows you to play draw Supporters more often with the deck in game.
I chose not to run any copies of AZ, even though the scoop up effect is so powerful in the deck and AZ can be recycled with VS Seeker. I’ve seen players make Landorus/Crobat work without Super Scoop Up by using 1-2 AZ and a couple of Trainers alongside Scoop Up Cyclone.
On paper, this avoids the flips associated with Super Scoop Up, yet it still allows you to pick up your Pokémon just as often with the help of VS Seeker. However, I’ve found that in practice that it’s hard to find a turn where you are slightly behind, have drawn AZ, and can afford to play AZ instead of a draw Supporter. I’ve found that it’s much more reliable to play draw Supporters in order to draw into extra damage via Golbat and Crobat while hopefully having one or two favorable Super Scoop Up flips along the way.
If I had more deck space it’s certainly a card that I wouldn’t mind fitting in, it just seems like a card that I only have the opportunity to play when I’m already ahead and have evolved into almost all of my Golbat and Crobat.
If Mr. Mime becomes a prominent tech against Landorus/Crobat, then Primal Clash gave the deck a potential answer. By running 1-2 copies of Silent Lab alongside 2 Fighting Stadium, Landorus/Crobat is able to Hammerhead to the Benched Mr. Mime in order to knock it out quickly with the help of Golbat. This not only can help eliminate Mr. Mime a turn sooner, but it also allows you to use Crobat to place 30 damage on something more threatening.
I think this solution’s usefulness really depends on how many counter Stadiums the decks playing Mr. Mime happen to play. It seems like a more proactive answer than wasting 2 Golbat and a Crobat early game to deal 70 damage to a Mr. Mime.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 34
Energy – 8
How Night March Went from Really Cute to Really Legitimate
At the beginning of Cities Night March was sort of written off as a gimmicky deck that was fun to play and cheap to build for newer players. The truth was that the deck had some very good matchups. Virizion/Genesect and Yveltal couldn’t deal with being one-shot by Joltik or Mew-EX every turn. Night March struggled with Seismitoad-based decks, due to Battle Compressor being shut off, as well as Donphan, due to inefficient Prize trades against Robo Substitute.
Eventually Yveltal/Hard Charm sent Donphan on the decline and Fairies started to become a legitimate deck. As a result, Night March started sneaking its way into a few more Cities Top 8s since it now only had to worry about its Seismitoad matchup and its own consistency. Many players began solving the Seismitoad issue by adding in a thick Leafeon PLF line. While this made the Seismitoad matchup closer, the deck felt significantly less consistent devoting around six spots to Eevee and its Evolutions. In my mind Flareon did the same thing as Night March and had similar matchups. Night March was a bit better versus Yveltal due to Joltik taking advantage of the Lightning Weakness, but Leafeon fit much more seamlessly into the Flareon deck without hurting consistency.
However, Andrew Wamboldt discovered that by adding 2 Hard Charm and 1 Manectric-EX, the deck could beat Seismitoad variants about half the time. This was a very creative solution to Night March’s Seismitoad problem and unsurprisingly it led him to a solid Day 1 performance. Manectric-EX gives Mew-EX another attack to copy after being Trump Carded. Being able to Overrun for zero Energy with Mew-EX can set your opponent’s Pokémon up for knockouts without committing a Double Colorless Energy to Mew-EX turn 1.
Against Seismitoad-EX he would simply use Mew-EX to copy his opponent’s Quaking Punch. If Mew-EX was able to get a Hard Charm attached and Quaking Punch before an opposing Seismitoad-EX could find a Muscle Band, the opponent would be forced to either use Quaking Punch 10 times just to deal with Mew-EX or switch to a tech attacker. However, the latter allows the Night March deck to play Items and begin doing tons of damage with its Night March attack.
Hard Charm is also useful for keeping Mew-EX alive for more than one turn and allowing Pumpkaboo to survive for a turn in Fighting matchups in tandem with its Fighting Resistance. Finding three cards that impact multiple matchups is much better than being forced to waste six slots on Leafeon just to do the same thing.
At first glance Teammates seems very similar to Twins, but the two cards actually play very differently. Night March is an aggressive deck that would never be behind on Prizes often enough to justify running Twins, so it’s obvious that Teammates serves a different role. Teammates is stronger in decks with non-EX Pokémon simply because these decks force your opponent to knock out more Pokémon. For example, if your opponent has to knock out three Pokémon-EX to win the game, you have merely two opportunities to play Teammates. But if your opponent is forced to knock out six non-EX Pokémon, then you have five opportunities to play Teammates.
Night March happens to be very reliant on drawing Double Colorless Energy or getting Mew with a Lightning Energy and Dimension Valley in play in order to replace its attacker every turn. Being able to use Teammates for the missing cards is much more reliable than potentially missing a crucial Energy off of a Professor Sycamore.
At the same time, Teammates isn’t really the Supporter you want to be playing four of as you don’t want to open with it and it will get stuck in your hand fairly often. A single copy seems to work best in Night March because it can simply be discarded via Battle Compressor and then reused via VS Seeker. This seems to be the best way to utilize Teammates in the current format and the same concept can certainly apply to anyone who wants to try and make Flareon work post-Primal Clash.
I’m really happy about the addition of Acro Bike as it’s Item-based draw without having to rely on flips from Roller Skates. The discards can potentially help Night March and it won’t get stuck in your opening hand like Bicycle often does without an Ultra Ball to lower your hand size. I don’t think Night March wants to swap out draw Supporters to max out on Acro Bike because then the deck becomes weaker to Seismitoad. Two copies seems like a good balance between speeding the deck up while still playing enough draw Supporters to function under a Quaking Punch lock.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 32
Energy – 13
Manectric/Suicune Post-Primal Clash
Manectric/Suicune was a deck that had some success towards the end of Cities but wasn’t talked about much at all. Manectric-EX gives the deck a strong Yveltal-EX matchup and the deck can trade well against Virizion/Genesect decks with the help of Spiritomb. The deck can also target down Aromatisse and Spritzee in the Fairies matchup while having the option to Black Ballista with a Muscle Band. However, the deck performs poorly against Donphan and doesn’t really have any very strong matchups outside of Yveltal variants.
With Primal Clash and the surge in Landorus/Crobat decks this past weekend I believe this deck gains quite a bit of viability. It fares surprisingly well against Landorus/Crobat as it doesn’t have a solid answer to Suicune — simply don’t bench more than two Pokémon-EX and two Suicune while trying to Lysandre your opponent’s Zubat and Golbat. Your opponent will be forced to attack with Crobat in order to knock out Suicune while Max Potion and Rough Seas help alleviate most of the damage they’ll do by evolving into Golbat and Crobat.
Rough Seas is a stronger, better Stadium for the deck in the Seismitoad matchup. Manectric/Suicune was forced to play a fairly useless Stadium in the form of Magnetic Storm just to counter Shadow Circle in the Yveltal matchup. Healing 30 damage from a couple of Pokémon with Rough Seas just one turn can be pretty significant when your opponent’s Quaking Punch is only doing 50 damage per turn. If Rough Seas doesn’t get countered by a Virbank City Gym immediately and you have two damaged Manectric-EXs, the Stadium can end up healing 120 damage which is pretty unbelievable.
The only other card that stands out is Lysandre’s Trump Card. The deck needs a way to come back if Night March gets off to a very fast start. A well-timed Lysandre’s Trump Card followed up by a Turbo Bolt from Mega Manectric-EX makes it very difficult for your opponent to respond with 210 damage the following turn. Retreating the damaged Mega Manectric-EX followed by a second Trump Card or an N during your next turn can often allow you to steal a game that was lost. With Donphan still on the decline, Landorus/Crobat rising in popularity, and Rough Seas improving the Seismitoad matchup I feel that this kind of Manectric variant is worth testing in the Primal Clash format!
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 31
Energy – 12
What makes this Gardevoir list different?
Gardevoir has been hyped and discussed in nearly every article that has analyzed the cards from Primal Clash. Gardevoir fits naturally into an already proven archetype and brings a potentially unlimited damage output, thus making it worth testing at the very least. However, the more I played the deck the more that I realized Gardevoir/Aromatisse plays differently than the other Fairy decks. A 1-1 Mega Gardevoir line doesn’t have a huge impact on the game because you often can’t get 6-7 Energy in play unless you’re already very far ahead and would win the game anyway. For the deck to be successful I believe the deck needs to be able to set up two Mega Gardevoir-EXs and an Aromatisse while using Xerneas’ Geomancy to accelerate Fairy Energy into play.
I don’t feel that the deck can afford to even play Rainbow Energy because then Enhanced Hammer severely limits your damage output. I believe the deck’s win condition should simply be setting up Mega Gardevoir-EX with a ton of Fairy Energy in play. This means that you ideally want to be using Geomancy every turn until you’re ready to attack with Gardevoir. As a result, you’d rather not waste a turn Mega Evolving as you lose out on a turn of Geomancy. I haven’t found a tech Florges-EX or a tech Xerneas-EX to be extremely beneficial. Either the opponent cannot deal with the Gardevoir strategy or a single tech attacker is not enough to turn the game around on its own.
I chose to run 3 Xerneas XY and 3-3 Mega Gardevoir-EX along with 3 Gardevoir Spirit Link. If you play only 2 copies of Xerneas and prize one of them, you can no longer use Geomancy if your initial Xerneas gets knocked out. Playing only 2 copies of Mega Gardevoir-EX and 2 Gardevoir Spirit Link was fine for consistently setting up 1 Mega Gardevoir-EX, but it was very difficult to set up the second without ending my turn and missing out on Geomancy. This may be fine if you can keep your one Mega Gardevoir-EX alive with Aromatisse and Max Potion, but I didn’t want my entire strategy to fall apart if somebody was able to knock out the first Mega Gardevoir-EX.
The deck obviously struggles with anything that can output 210 damage per turn. Spiritomb helps regulate G Booster plus Deoxys-EX, allowing one Mega Gardevoir to ideally take four Prizes. Lysandre’s Trump Card followed by Brilliant Arrow makes it difficult for Night March to achieve 210 damage the following turn. You can potentially steal the game away the same way Mega Manectric with Lysandre’s Trump Card can. Metal is a difficult matchup as their entire deck doesn’t have much of a problem dealing with Gardevoir. Any other attacker that threatens 210 damage needs to be taken care of via Lysandre and Brilliant Arrow before it deals 210 damage to Mega Gardevoir-EX.
Garbodor seems to have declined in popularity so I opted not to include a counter in my initial list. If you expect to play against Garbodor decks then it would be a good idea to run either 1 Xerosic or 1 Startling Megaphone. I think I’d prefer to run 1 Xerosic as it can be played against Seismitoad/Garbodor, it can be recovered via VS Seeker, and it can target Special Energy in non-Garbodor matchups. The only downside is that it uses your Supporter for the turn, but Aromatisse is a deck that doesn’t need to play as many Supporters to keep going once you get your initial setup.
If Virizion/Genesect surges in popularity again and you are struggling against it, I believe Silent Lab is an excellent tech for the matchup. A single Silent Lab prevents your opponent from using Red Signal to target Gardevoir or Aromatisse early game. Later in the game you can simply counter your own Silent Lab with Fairy Garden so that Spiritomb blocks G Booster again. I feel like the matchup is playable with only a tech Spiritomb, but if you expect to play against as many Virizion/Genesect as the ECC ended up having then it might be worth the slot.
If you’re struggling with the Landorus/Crobat matchup and also expect to face it come Florida Regionals, then Mr. Mime is definitely worth the inclusion. It protects your Spritzee from Hammerhead plus Golbat early game and helps reduce your opponent’s ability to weaken Mega Gardevoir-EX on the Bench. This allows you to conserve Max Potions in the matchup since you won’t need to heal off the Bench damage from Hammerhead.
At first glance this card seems alright. It allows Metal decks to one-shot opposing Pokémon-EX outside of the 170 HP range that Dialga-EX couldn’t deal with. However, M Aggron-EX takes up much more deck space since it’s an Evolution and needs the support of its Spirit Link and Victini LTR to re-flip for Megaton Slam. I think that although the deck sets up and works on paper, the 25% chance to flip tails catches up to you and you end up missing a big knockout on an opposing Pokémon-EX more often than you’d like. It also doesn’t trade particularly well with Night March and gets destroyed by Flareon. The only reason I would even consider playing Metal is if Gardevoir’s popularity was out of control.
On paper a deck with Medicham and Celebi-EX also looked really strong and in testing it worked very well against an EX-based deck like Virizion/Genesect. However, I don’t feel that the deck is very competitive in the current metagame because it trades poorly with non-EX attackers, namely Pumpkaboo in Night March and Crobat. It also struggles to one-shot Yveltal-EX without committing a second Energy due to Resistance. If non-EX decks fall out of popularity I could see this deck having a place in the future, but I feel like it has too many bad matchups for now.
Primal Kyogre-EX seems like a card that might have potential in the future, but in the current format I can’t really see it working. It takes an auto-loss to Virizion/Genesect without devoting a significant amount of space to Fire Pokémon and struggles to one-shot opposing Pokémon-EX without the Bench damage. Unfortunately, Mr. Mime will increase in popularity due to Landorus/Crobat’s success. The deck also has to worry about Jamming Net and Hard Charm messing up the math. It also has an even more difficult time one-shotting opposing Mega Evolved Pokémon.
You can run Fire Pokémon to beat Virizion/Genesect, Silent Lab for Mr. Mime, Startling Megaphone for Hard Charm, and Tool Retriever for Jamming Net in theory, but it’s hard to find space to tech for what feels like every matchup. It also struggles with Leafeon in Flareon decks and doesn’t trade efficiently with Night March. Maybe somebody will find a way to break the card in the future because it has a few good matchups and some things going for it, but I just haven’t found a way to overcome all the issues it has in the Primal Clash format.
At first glance this card seemed terrible because it takes four Energy to attack and Fighting has no Energy acceleration. However, the Ancient Trait gives Primal Groudon-EX some potential. It can’t be targeted by Lysandre, Hammers, or Lasers making it relatively safe to power up on the Bench. It can then easily do 200 damage twice, taking four Prizes against EX decks. The question is what to do while you’re manually charging a Groudon-EX on the Bench and how to protect yourself from Red Signal. Overall, I think the card has a lot of untapped potential and I’m excited to see if somebody breaks this card in time for Florida Regionals!
It feels inevitable that Ninetales will find a place in the metagame at some point. With all the new, playable Stadiums being released I foresee a deck either wanting to lock its Stadium into play or Ninetales being played as a counter to a popular archetype that relies on a Stadium. I think Stadium wars will get quite interesting if Ninetales starts to enter the mix. You can even tech Ninetales BW66 for a Lysandre effect since you’d already be playing Vulpix.
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it out to Florida Regionals myself, but I always find it refreshing and enjoyable to experiment with the latest set! I had an amazing time saying hello to everyone this past weekend at Virginia Regionals and can only imagine how much fun Florida will be with so many players making plans to travel. I hope this article helps lay the framework for everyone’s testing so that they can start experimenting some of the crazier ideas with cards from Primal Clash. Feel free to message or comment with any questions and please leave a “Like” if you enjoyed the article!
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