Hey there, SixPrizes readers! State Championships are upon us once again, and I’m more than excited to be writing what may be the last article you read until what awaits everyone come this weekend!
Last year’s States are where I made my first big tournament breakthrough, coming in 1st place at the Arizona State Championship. It’s hard to believe that time of year is now approaching once again, since it seems like it happened just yesterday. This year is especially screwy because of the inconsistencies that we had in our Winter Regional Championships. Our first two weeks went by normally, but then Florida had to go and throw a curveball on the last week, forcing everyone to play in the Boundaries Crossed-Primal Clash format.
Florida was full of surprises, and I’m sure the one on everyone’s mind recently has been Orion’s Archie’s Flareon deck. The deck is insane! I was lucky enough to hear the concept for the deck while it was being tested, but after testing it for a bit, I quickly dismissed the idea as not being consistent enough. Good thing I didn’t go to Florida Regionals because I would have been proven extremely wrong.
Mike Canaves and Orion Craig were able to make some amazing changes to the deck, turning an inconsistent concept into a much more playable one. I was of course incredibly happy to see that Primal Groudon was able to make a presence, since I predicted the card was solid and a force to be reckoned with. Kevin Baxter and friends took to the concept even further by adding Focus Sash, heightening the power and annoyance of Groudon by just that much more.
After testing a variety of the different decks that we were able to see come out of Florida, I can say that I think we have a pretty good grasp on this new format with Primal Clash. Nothing changed too dramatically, and many decks are still able to thrive like they did with Phantom Forces (except maybe for you, Virizion/Genesect). However, just because the format seems to be in a stable position right now, it doesn’t mean that some new contender can’t come to the plate and mix things up in the same way that Flareon has already.
So with that being said, I want to go ahead and do a full breakdown of Flareon as a deck, comparing its current place in the metagame to some examples from the past, as well as make some predictions about its presence come State Championships in the next couple of weeks. Let’s get started!
Skepticism Surrounding Flareon
Ever since Florida Regionals, just from looking around the Virbank Facebook group as well as things I’ve seen and heard from other players, people seem to be pretty widely divided on Flareon. There are those that see it as a true contender in the metagame (creating two subgroups: those that will play it and those that will counter it), and then there are others that see it as a gimmick that won’t be able to replicate its success in Florida.
I picked up Flareon and began testing it as soon as I heard it had won in Florida because I really wanted to see if Orion’s list could make this deck work. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was able to get an Empoleon Turn 1 with Archie’s Ace in the Hole fairly consistently and that it executed its strategy extremely fast, aiming to burn through the deck in the first couple of turns.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that a rogue deck has showed up at a major tournament taking a lot of people off guard. We’ve seen it many times in the past, but these rogues have not always become a major part of the format, so I want to take some time to analyze these past events to try and predict Flareon’s presence come State Championships.
The Paradigms of Dragonite and Donphan
The two past examples that I would like to draw upon for analysis ironically both involve fellow SixPrizes Underground writer, Dylan Bryan.
Dragonite and Donphan have similarities in that they were both rogue decks used at a major Regional Championship to climb high up in the standings. But what we want to ask is, “What were their impact after the tournament was over?” Let’s go into it in a bit more detail.
At last year’s 2014 Virginia Winter Regionals, Dylan Bryan piloted a very intricate rogue deck to a Top 4 finish that left everyone in awe. This was the first week of Winter Regionals, and with Yveltal-EX not having been released yet, Darkrai decks were the cream of the crop. Virizion/Genesect was also a top contender considering that Energy Switch was just reprinted in the Legendary Treasures expansion.
Doing a fantastic job of reading the weaknesses of the format, Dylan piloted his Dragonite deck. To be exact, the deck was Dragonite PLF/Reuniclus BLW/Garbodor LTR/Virizion-EX/Mewtwo-EX. Even looking back at it now, I find myself wondering how he was able to pull of this absurd combination of cards! From what I remember, it utilized Dragonite’s Deafen attack to completely shut off the opponent’s Item cards and deal 60 damage (sound familiar?). Of course, unlike our new Basic frog friend in the recent format, Dragonite was a Stage 2 Pokémon that needed 3 C Energy to pull of its Item lock.
Reuniclus was used to keep Dragonite alive since things like Darkrai and Virizion/Genesect were unable to Knock it Out in one shot, thanks to Virizion-EX’s Verdant Wind Ability. Garbodor and Mewtwo were used against the almighty Blastoise BCR/Keldeo-EX/Black Kyurem-EX PLS deck that could dish out severe amounts of damage with either Secret Sword or Black Ballista, as well as the Plasma deck known as “The Yeti” that centered around taking quick Prizes with Lugia-EX and Snorlax PLS. It really was an excellent deck choice to counter the main archetypes of the format.
Although, after Dylan’s Top 4 with the deck, how did it impact the format? Surely, it seems like a deck that could shut off Items and effectively deal with the top tier decks of the format should have immediately become a major part of the metagame. However, that was not the case. Dragonite and Friends saw a total of zero Top 8s in the week following the Virginia Regionals, and it wasn’t until the third weekend, in Florida, where the deck would see its last hurrah.
Piloted by Ryan Sabelhaus, Dragonite was able to take down the entire tournament, earning Ryan first place. Ryan’s deck was completely different from the version that Dylan used, as he included Victini-EX and stuck with Garbodor instead of Virizion-EX and Reuniclus. Clearly, the deck choice worked out for him.
Shortly after Ryan’s win, the new XY set was released, and with it came the harbinger of destruction, Yveltal-EX. Yveltal was a different kind of beast that Dragonite just could not effectively deal with, and so it was phased out of the States metagame, except for one Top 8 finish that it was able to take in Arizona.
Obviously, Dragonite was a deck that had proven itself by obtaining both a Top 4 finish and a 1st place victory at two of the Winter Regionals, so why didn’t more people pick it up and play it? It saw no Top 8s Week 2, and only Ryan was able to do well with it in Week 3. This is what I want to analyze today, and use these results to compare to Flareon in today’s format.
I’ve broken down the potential reasons for why more people ultimately decided not to play Dragonite:
- The deck was difficult to play.
- The list was hard to make and not readily available to the majority of players.
- The deck was risky (and when I say risky, I mean it in terms of consistency and how well the deck will perform in terms of luck).
A little bit more recently, we were able to see another rogue take the format by storm, again made popular by Dylan Bryan. Now it’s a deck that nearly every player has heard of and acknowledges as a solid deck, and that’s Donphan.
Dylan, along with a few other players, took this deck to the 2014-2015 Fall Regionals in Philadelphia, where many of them were able to place in the Top 32. Once again, this was a deck that good matchups across the board, except for a little bit of a shakier Yveltal matchup.
So after such a good performance at a Regionals, what was the impact of Donphan on the format? Well, as you all probably know, it completely changed the metagame. People started taking this deck to great success at the Regionals in the weeks to come, and it even spurred a complete overhaul of the Yveltal deck, influencing more and more players to add Hard Charm and things like Max Potion and Super Scoop Up to deal with Donphan.
The impact was astounding. Donphan went from a measly 3/32 placings in Philadelphia and 0/32 in Arizona on the first week, to 6/32 placings in Houston, a whopping 13/32 placing in Indiana, 5/8 placing in California, and 3/8 placing in Vancouver (source). So what was the difference between the Donphan deck and the Dragonite deck? They were both proven decks that could match up even against the top tier decks of the format, so why was one played so heavily while the other was left pretty much untouched?
Here, I’ll break down the reasons why I think Donphan rose to see such success:
- The deck was pretty straightforward and not very difficult to play.
- The list was readily available to tons of players thanks to Dylan’s Underground article, revealing the entire list and how to play each matchup.
- The deck had a fairly low risk factor.
So the question that I’ve set up to ask here is, “Is Flareon a Dragonite or a Donphan?”
Taking the data from the different situations for Dragonite and Donphan in the past, as well as what we learned in the recent Florida Winter Regionals, let’s look a bit more into what this means for Flareon as a deck entering State Championships.
Going into States, Flareon is obviously a proven deck that can contend with the major decks of the format, as we were able to see at the Florida stream, thanks to the team at ProCircuitScrub.
So just like Dragonite and Donphan before it, Flareon was a rogue deck in Florida that is now trying to become a part of the current metagame, but what kind of presence will it have in terms of popularity and success? Let’s compare the situations:
- The deck is relatively hard to play. (I say relatively because an expert player can pick it up and play it perfectly the first time, but a newer player may miss some of the little things that need to be taken into account while playing the deck. One little mistake can have a big impact when playing a deck like Flareon.)
- The list is readily available to most every player thanks to Orion’s article on 60cards, as well as multiple posts on the Virbank City Facebook page.
- The deck is risky, but not nearly as risky as Dragonite was as a Stage 2 deck.
With all of this being said, I think we can make the predictions that Flareon will absolutely be played at States due to the readily available, high-quality list that Orion has provided us with, similar to the situation with Donphan and Dylan’s Underground article. However, does this mean that it will be a force to look out for? Maybe.
If we look at the other two aspects of Flareon, I noted that the deck is both difficult to play, as well as has an above average susceptibility to variance in terms of hand playability. Basically, it’s just not as consistent as something like Donphan that had Korrina as a supporting engine.
Ultimately, Dragonite was a deck that saw a minuscule amount of play (in part because of the unavailability of the list) but yielded high success by expert players, and Donphan was a deck that saw wide amounts of play as well as high success by many players. So with this in mind, I believe Flareon to be leaning more like being Donphan than Dragonite, but not to the same extent.
With these two things in mind, I do predict that Flareon will be abundant come States this weekend, but I do not see it taking a bunch of the Top 8 spots. I think that Flareon did so well because of the players that piloted it in Florida (similar to Flygon’s success at last year’s National Championships). Many new players may pick up Flareon and decide to play it, leading to its increase in play, but if they cannot pilot it with the skill of a top-tier player, then it will flop. So if you plan on taking Flareon into this weekend’s State Championships, make sure to play it with the utmost confidence in your skill, and you should be able to do well.
Common Mistakes Made Playing Flareon
As I talked about a lot throughout this article already, Flareon is not necessarily the easiest deck to play, since it has a lot of moving parts that are required to make it tick. There are lots of things to keep track of, and with a deck that has so many different options, it’s hard to pick the right one for a certain scenario a lot of the time.
As I’ve been testing both with this deck and against it, I have seen a lot of mistakes happen, which is definitely natural when first picking up the deck. I truly believe that making mistakes is the best way to become a better player, since it allows for the largest amount of learning. Now, some of you guys will probably be familiar with a couple of these misplays, and some of you might also learn from them, so here are the most common mistakes that I have seen people make (myself included) while playing Flareon:
1. Not taking full advantage of Battle Compressor.
This one may seem obvious, but always, always use your Battle Compressors instead of discarding them. A Battle Compressor can turn into an Exeggcute which then turns into an additional card in your hand, thanks to Propagation.
Here’s an example of a seemingly inadequate hand that can be made into a great one by thinking a bit outside the box. Say that you had a hand of Computer Search, Ultra Ball, Leafeon, and a Slurpuff. At first glance, it might seem that a first turn Archie’s can’t come from anything in this hand, and your instinct might be to play the Computer Search, grab a Juniper, and play it. This is where practice with the deck can come in handy, so that you know the cards in your deck inside and out.
The correct play to take full advantage of this hand is to Computer Search away the Slurpuff and Leafeon, grab a Battle Compressor with it to discard 2 Exeggcute and an Empoleon, which then leads to you being able to Propagate the Exeggcute, play the Ultra Ball for a Jirachi, and get a first turn Archie’s!
For some of you that might seem obvious, but I certainly know that for myself, it took some practice before I was able to recognize the different combinations of cards that could be played to get the Turn 1 Archie’s more consistently. Being able to do this greatly increases the consistency of the deck and is one of the reasons why this deck is regarded as somewhat difficult to play.
2. Underestimating Archie’s Ace in the Hole.
The main point I want to stress about this mistake is that Archie’s is just as good as, if not better than, playing a Professor Juniper. Archie’s text may say that it is only drawing 5 cards, but don’t forget that you will also get an Empoleon onto the board and more often than not, will also have an Exeggcute in the discard pile! This paired with Diving Draw leads to the same amount of cards that Professor Juniper would net you, but with Archie’s, you now have an Empoleon on the board. This may also seem like it is common sense, but I have seen people make this mistake way more times than I would like to profess.
Another piece of advice regarding this problem is don’t always discard your Archie’s on some of your first Battle Compressors. Sure, there are exceptions for when you can use the VS Seeker that might be in your hand, but a majority amount of the time, you should just stick to discarding Pokémon with your Battle Compressor. There is only one Archie’s in the list, and while discarding it may allow you to VS Seeker for it, it makes Jirachi-EX unable to search it out for you, effectively neutralizing your Ultra Balls as outs to Archie’s.
3. Not paying attention to how your hand is going to play out.
I think this was one of the hardest things to get used to while starting off with this deck. Each hand is unique and will play out a different way, and in some cases, if you play a single card out of order, the whole combo won’t work anymore.
The most notable example I can provide for this is knowing when and how many times to use Propagation with Exeggcute. There are times where Propagating both Exeggcute twice isn’t necessarily the best option, and Propagating only once will suffice. Pick out what cards you want to discard ahead of time that way you can plan out how to play the rest of the cards in your hand and figure out how many times you may need to use Propagation. This will ultimately help with making your hands be as efficient as possible, as well as save from some potential misplays where you have an extra card in hand that you’re unable to discard, and therefore cannot get the Archie’s off.
4. Overlooking Jirachi-EX.
Oh, Jirachi-EX, the root of many long and needless arguments about the worth of consistency over giving up “two free Prize cards.” Such a hot card for debate, and in Florida, Orion played two of them!
I’m sure there are many of you with your own different opinions on the worth of Jirachi-EX, but let me tell you that it is needed in this kind of a deck. For a deck that plays a total of 7 Supporter cards, Jirachi is seriously needed to get things rolling. Flareon plays 4 VS Seeker, and while VS Seeker is a great card, it is virtually useless without any Supporter cards in the discard in the first place! Jirachi helps set the ball in motion by getting that first intial Supporter card that can be played, thus activating all of the VS Seekers in the deck.
I added this little guy to the mistakes section because I do think that there are a lot mistakes that people make associated with Jirachi-EX that tend to lead to the controversy surrounding it.
Here’s a quote from one of Jay Hornung’s Underground articles that I think perfectly sums up how to minimize mistakes with Jirachi-EX:
“People seem to have this really negative view of Jirachi where it’s nothing more than 2 free Prizes for your opponent. The only thing that ever really worries me is opening with it. If you don’t open with it then the only times you should play it down are when you A) are getting a Prize that turn (most likely 2 from an EX) — for example, Jirachi, to Shadow Triad, to G Booster, or B) you desperately need a Supporter and will probably be in a losing game state without it (in which case the risk of losing 2 Prizes on Jirachi-EX is negligible).”
Of course, in Flareon, there are many more situations where Jirachi can be useful, and if they are targeting a Jirachi-EX, they are not attacking your Flareons, which is still good for you. Overall, when to play Jirachi-EX is something to be aware of, so I wanted to add it briefly to this section.
Brief Interview with Orion Craig
I held a quick interview with Orion Craig over Facebook to give a little bit more insight into some of the common mistakes that might be made and what to think about to play Flareon to the best of your ability.
Andrew: Thanks so much for talking to me, Orion! Congrats on your recent win and with such a unique deck! I just have a few questions today to really give the readers a better understanding of what to watch out for when playing the deck. So first off, what were some of the biggest mistakes you made while playing the deck?
Orion: No worries, I’m happy to do it! Oh man, that’s a tough one. All of the mistakes seem so minor that it’s hard to think of big ones. Definitely, never forget about Audino. Not only does healing 10 damage at the right time win games, but Hip Bump can play an important role against Seismitoad. Always do the math when you’re hurt and see if healing 10 would make it any harder for you to be Knocked Out.
As you should do with any deck, never forget to check your prizes. You should know what Supporters and how many VS seeker are prized, how many Pokémon are in your deck, specific counts of Eevee and Flareon, and how many DCE are prized after your first search.
This sounds like a lot, but it can make the difference between winning and losing so many games.
Andrew: I like the Audino advice a lot, since I think a lot of people get carried away with their Battle Compressors and use Audino as some of the first things to go. How do you usually approach throwing away things with your Compressors and what do you ditch first?
Orion: In a perfect scenario, I ditch things to the point where a Bangled Flareon takes the 1HKO on whatever their main attacker is plus one more Pokémon. This way, when the Active Flareon gets Knocked Out, a Bangle is no longer needed to get the one shot. For instance, if I’m up against Seismitoad, I want 16 Pokémon in there. With Silver Bangle I hit for 190, and when Flareon gets Knocked Out, a backup will still be hitting for 180. As far as ditching Pokémon goes, typically Audino is the last non-essential card I throw away. I’ll even toss out a 4th Flareon before Audino most of the time, since 3 Flareon will do the trick, especially with Lysandre’s Trump Card.
Andrew: Well, great! That was a ton of useful information that someone might not necessarily think about when playing Flareon. Well, thanks so much for your time, and good luck at States!
Orion had a ton of useful insight, which didn’t leave me surprised at all, since he took down a whole Regional tournament with this deck! Thanks so much again for talking with me, Orion!
My Personal Flareon Decklist for States
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 29
Energy – 7
I wanted to finish up this article by talking briefly about my own Flareon list that I have been testing, based off of Orion’s original list.
There aren’t many changes, so I’ll go over those and then get to the one that I think makes the most difference.
2 Eevee PLF 90, 2 Eevee FFI
This change probably isn’t too significant, but personally, I like to have an extra copy of the Energy Evolution Eevee in order to pull off the Turn 1 Leafeon more often. There have been many times going second up against Seismitoad, where I was unable to get the Turn 1 Leafeon because I had a Eevee PLF in the Active Spot. I think a 2/2 split helps the odds of me getting that off a bit more, and so I wanted to make the switch.
1-1 Ninetales PRC, 2 Training Center
I know this seems like a sort of weird inclusion in the deck, but man can I vouch for this card in here. I originally looked at Orion’s list and liked everything about it, except for the Slurpuff line. I knew it was mainly just to have more Pokémon to discard for Vengeance, but surely there had to be a better Pokémon to have than just a 1-1 line of something that lets you draw a card. Sure, I saw the use for it before Primal Clash when Empoleon never even touched Flareon, but now with Diving Draw, Tasting just kind of pales in comparison.
I included Ninetales PRC because I thought it could go well in conjunction with Training Center (which I also bumped up to a 2 count). While Ninetales did go well with locking a Training Center into play and giving all of my Flareon a permanent extra +30 HP, I found out that it also did so much more than that. With Stadiums being such a big part of the metagame right now, locking out your opponent’s Stadiums is a huge deal.
This means that not only does your opponent have to deal with your extra bulky Stage 1s, but it also means that they are completely stopped from playing things like Virbank City Gym (to KO Flareons easier), Fairy Garden (an essential component to any Fairy deck), Silent Lab (to shut down your Eevee, Audino, Mr. Mime, Ditto, and Jirachi), and Dimension Valley (the lifeblood of any Night March or Tool Drop deck). It turned into such an asset that I would never consider playing Slurpuff over a line of Ninetales any day.
The only thing to really watch out for is that you have to make sure that you have a Training Center in play before you evolve it, but even that isn’t terribly hard to do when you have Ditto to help you out, along with 4 Ultra Ball.
Ultimately, Ninetales was a worthwhile inclusion that I would implore you to give a shot.
Well, there you have it! Flareon is this brand new and incredibly creative deck to hit the format, and I’m really happy that I was able to write about it this week because I really do want to see it do just as well as Donphan did at Fall Regionals. Rogue decks are some of the best parts of the Pokémon TCG, and when one comes along to really mix up the format, it definitely creates a much more diverse and fun metagame.
Like I said before, I think the availability of Flareon lists is great enough that you should definitely watch out for it at States, and if you’re playing it, make sure to take these tips and run with them, so you don’t wind up on the losing side of a bad mistake.
As always, thanks so much to Adam for letting me write, and good luck to everyone at State Championships this weekend! I’ll be going to California this weekend, so if you see, please come by and say “Hi!”
– Andrew Zavala
P.S. If you enjoyed reading this article, please go ahead and give it a “+1!” It helps me out a lot and a ton of research and time went into this article, so I would appreciate it a lot. Thank you!
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