Hey everyone! State Championships have finally come to a close and Spring Regional Championships are right around the corner. I was fortunate enough to attend all four weekends of States and had an awesome time hanging out with friends in the community. Results wise, I was also pretty satisfied with a Top 4 and a first place finish bringing me closer to my goal of a Day 2 invitation to Worlds. I’m now both more motivated and excited to start testing for Regionals with only 3/4 Best Finishes for States/Regionals and being so close to the Top 16 of North America in Championship Points!
The best way to prepare for any upcoming tournament series is to analyze past results. After the first weekend of States the format looked pretty abysmal with Seismitoad dominating everywhere. Thankfully, this trend didn’t last for long as players started going back to Virizion/Genesect, experimenting with Manectric/Rough Seas, and splashing Groudon into Donphan. It’s very exciting to see diversity and creativity as a player, especially when the alternative is listening to players announce Quaking Punch all day!
At the same time, all this diversity means that there’s not really a consensus on which decks are the best. And while exciting, it can also be frustrating feeling that every tournament comes down to matchups. I attribute a lot of my States success to simply picking the deck with the best matchups in the room and having a consistent list. I believe it’s important to be comfortable playing a variety of decks as players try to adapt to what performed well the previous week.
In order to help everyone prepare for Regionals, I plan on giving my insight on the two decks I achieved success with at States. I’ll be discussing why I felt they were well positioned in the metagame at the time as well as highlighting a few unique card choices that set my lists apart. In addition, I’ll be taking a stab at analyzing the Rayquaza/Shaymin deck that has been receiving quite a bit of hype since Roaring Skies will be legal for the last weekend of Spring Regionals!
Bringing Back Donphan
Donphan quickly went from a deck everyone was excited to try during Fall Regionals to a deck everyone was sick of playing against a few weeks into City Championships. Eventually the deck faded in popularity due to Yveltal/Hard Charm, Seismitoad variants with healing cards, and Aromatisse variants. I was a bit disappointed since I still found the deck enjoyable to play and thought it required a bit more depth than simply using Spinning Turn like some people seem to believe.
After Donphan won a State Championship the first weekend when paired with Primal Groudon-EX, I was excited to pick the deck up again. Yveltal/Hard Charm was close to non-existent and Primal Groudon solved the problem the deck had with the healing cards in Seismitoad and Aromatisse variants. Previously, Seismitoad and Aromatisse could just heal the damage from Spinning Turn while targeting Donphan with Lysandre so that it would never get a chance to use Wreck. Primal Groudon gives the deck an attacker that can 1-shot your opponent’s Pokémon-EXs while being immune to Lysandre. This allows the deck to play around healing cards and can often win the game in three turns once charged up against Seismitoad variants.
Since Seismitoad had just dominated the first weekend of States, it only makes sense that players would adapt to the metagame and potentially play more decks to counter Seismitoad. This meant a potential increase in Virizion/Genesect, Manectric/Rough Seas, and Groudon decks. I’ve always felt confident in Donphan’s Virizion/Genesect matchup and the deck now has the option to tech Silent Lab to make the matchup even stronger. Manectric is a relatively easy matchup due to Weakness, but it can be closer if you’re opponent plays enough Water-type attackers. Still, I hadn’t seen many Manectric variants that have a solid answer to both Donphan and Groudon. Groudon variants also didn’t fair very well with Donphan because doing 200 damage a turn doesn’t mean much against a deck that can simply promote Robo Substitutes and non-Pokémon-EX.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to test during the week due to college, so my list was at least a couple cards off from being optimal. However, it was still a good enough metagame call to net me a Top 4 finish in Pennsylvania. Below is a slightly modified list that I would have played after getting some more games in with the deck during States:
Pokémon – 14
1 Groudon-EX PRC
Trainers – 35
Energy – 11
Yveltal has traditionally been one of the tougher matchups for Donphan due to Resistance and Yveltal XY sometimes taking three attacks to Knock Out. The presence of Dedenne causes your opponent to be much more cautious when considering whether or not to Lysandre up a Benched Donphan and take a knockout with Evil Ball. Even without Ultra Ball, Dedenne with a Silver Bangle and an Energy is often only a Teammates away when the Dedenne is not already on the Bench.
Dedenne also offers additional synergy with Groudon in the Yveltal matchup. One of the best ways Yveltal can deal with Primal Groudon-EX is by simply stacking Energy on a Benched Yveltal. Forcing your opponent to stack Energy on Yveltal in order to play around Groudon forces them to play right into Dedenne. If you can set up a Primal Groudon, a couple of Donphan to apply pressure with Spinning Turn, and have Dedenne at your disposal, you can force the Yveltal player into a lose-lose situation. The matchup is winnable without Dedenne, but Yveltal always seems to have a decent presence in my area so I felt it was worth the inclusion.
The original Donphan/Groudon lists that were posted were very consistent, but it was nearly impossible to cycle through the entire deck. You often just ended up with hands full of Supporters and VS Seekers. I experienced this same issue back when I played Donphan during Fall Regionals and thus added a couple copies of Bicycle to the deck. My logic was that you didn’t want to have too much Item-based draw due to Seismitoad, but not playing any left you with too many hands clogged with Supporters. The Acro Bikes simply helped the deck flow a bit better without sacrificing consistency.
The single copy of Repeat Ball can be searched out by Korrina and helps the deck get an extra Pokémon in play. Without the Repeat Ball you often spend an extra turn using Korrina over a draw Supporter to ensure you have enough Phanpy and Donphan in play early game. Playing the single Repeat Ball gives you the option to start drawing through your deck a turn faster in order to hit Energy drops and draw Lysandre on crucial turns.
I opted to play this card over the fourth copy of Robo Substitute. This was because in the matchups where your opponent didn’t play Hypnotoxic Laser, Halwucha with a Focus Sash denied a Prize in the same way that Robo Substitute did. The two main matchups that did play Hypnotoxic Laser were Seismitoad variants and Yveltal variants. Robo Substitute is often unplayable versus Seismitoad due to the Item lock regardless. Against Yveltal and any other matchups where it appears to be beneficially to sweep with Groudon, the single copy of Focus Sash can be searched out by Korrina to ensure that Primal Groudon will survive to attack twice and likely take 4 Prizes. This is often much more impactful than the additional copy of Robo Substitute in the Yveltal matchup.
The deck needs to run at least one switching effect in case you are unfortunate enough to start with Groudon-EX or can’t afford to waste an Energy attachment on a stranded Dedenne. I’d rather not run more than one switching effect since I believe the deck space is better used elsewhere. The only reason to run Switch or Escape Rope over Float Stone is to avoid staying Asleep as a result of Hypnotoxic Laser. However, these Items are unplayable against Seismitoad and are thus only relevant in the Yveltal matchup. Now that this version of Donphan doesn’t run 130 HP walls with Outrage, it is more likely that the Yveltal player Knocks Out your Hawlucha or Robo Substitute with one attack, meaning that the Sleep flip is often irrelevant.
When playing the Seismitoad matchup your only goal is to set up a Primal Groudon-EX with four Energy to take 6 Prizes. One of the few things the Seismitoad player can do is to Lysandre the Groudon before it evolves while preventing you from bringing it back to the Bench since Quaking Punch blocks Items. The way to play around this would be to Korrina for a Groudon-EX and a Float Stone the first turn. This way even if the Seismitoad player is able to Lysandre and Quaking Punch on the first turn, it won’t matter since you can simply retreat and evolve Groudon-EX the following turn.
As I explained above, Float Stone is the optimal Tool to attach to Groudon-EX in the Seismitoad matchup. And in most other matchups where Groudon is relevant, Focus Sash is the ideal Tool in order to ensure Groudon can safely take 4 Prizes. As a result, there aren’t many instances where Groudon Spirt Link is preferable. It seems like an obvious inclusion on paper, but in practice it often gets discarded and is a dead card.
4th Fighting Stadium
In practice, Seismitoad-EX/Mewtwo-EX/Crobat PHF gave Donphan some trouble. Normally Groudon is all that’s needed to beat Seismitoad variants, but with Crobat in the picture your opponent can often place 70-80 damage onto Groudon without attacking it. This means that as soon as Primal Groudon-EX comes Active to take a knockout, your opponent can just Knock Out your Primal Groudon the following turn with X Ball or Grenade Hammer. As a result, Donphan needs to rely on Spinning Turn to 2-shot an opposing Seismitoad, which puts the Donphan player at the mercy of Super Scoop Up flips.
It can also be difficult to 2-shot an opposing Seismitoad under an Item lock when they counter Fighting Stadium and block you from attaching Tools. This can often cause the Donphan player to come up 20 short of a knockout. There’s not much worse than watching your opponent play Super Scoop Up on a Seismitoad with 160 damage. The 4th copy of Fighting Stadium helps ensure that you win the Stadium war against Seismitoad/Mewtwo/Crobat while providing a 4th Stadium for Groudon in the other Seismitoad matchups.
Mr. Mime is a strong option if you expect to face Landorus/Crobat. With the threat of Seismitoad after Week 1 this wasn’t the case for me, but as the metagame shifts Mr. Mime might become a relevant option for the deck again. While Mr. Mime can be played around with Silent Lab and Lysandre, it will inevitably absorb 70 damage in the Landorus/Crobat matchup that otherwise would have been placed on a charged Donphan or Groudon. This allows your attacker to potentially live for another turn, which is crucial in this close matchup.
While I feel that Virizion/Genesect is already a favorable matchup, Silent Lab tilts the matchup immensely in your favor if the Virizion/Genesect player has no counter Stadium since Red Signal is their only hope at winning the matchup. If there were a large amount of Virzion/Genesect and Seismitad/Crobat was non-existent, I would swap out the 4th copy of Fighting Stadium for a Silent Lab.
I played Donphan/Groudon both weeks two and three. My only losses Week 2 were to Jimmy McClure’s Seismitoad/Mewtwo/Crobat deck in Swiss and Top 4. With little time to test between Week 2 and Week 3 I stuck with the same deck as I felt it only had this one slightly unfavorable matchup. Unfortunately, I faced almost every Seismitoad/Mewtwo/Crobat deck in the room, only managing to win one out of three rounds against it.
I was very motivated to finish strong the fourth week of State Championships now that I had more time to test. After losing four games to the same deck over two weekends I was determined to find a solution to Donphan’s Seismitoad/Mewtwo/Crobat matchup. Unfortunately, there didn’t really seem to be an obvious answer. Donphan also struggled even worse against Exeggutor, a deck that was getting quite a bit of hype going into the final week. It just really illustrates how quickly Donphan went from a really solid play Week 2, to an alright play Week 3, to a deck that has to avoid two bad matchups that have gained some popularity the final week.
Eyeing Up Exeggutor
At this point I couldn’t get anything to beat Seismitoad/Mewtwo/Crobat more than half the time until I remembered I had never gotten around to playing a single game with or against Exeggutor due to a lack of time to test every deck extensively. Virizion/Genesect is always popular in my metagame and I had heard the matchup was terrible for Exeggutor, which deterred me from trying the deck. Still, if everyone else realized Seismitoad/Mewtwo/Crobat and Seismitoad/Manectric/Crobat were really strong, I wanted an option that let me avoid playing Seismitoad mirror all day.
After a handful of games with the deck I finally started to get a better understanding of how some players were having so much success with it and started to develop a solid list as a result. I really couldn’t have done it without all my friends who were willing to play quite a few games against it and gave me advice!
Eventually I decided that I would test the deck against Virizion/Genesect to see just how uphill the matchup was. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the matchup was at least even when the Exeggutor deck included Head Ringer. At this point Exeggutor seemed to go 50/50 or better against nearly everything and it seemed too good not to play. Brit already did a great job discussing the deck in his article, so I’ll just highlight the differences in my list:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 40
Energy – 7
The overall goal I had when playing the deck was to take away all my opponent’s Energy in play while preventing them from drawing more under the Supporter lock. Once it got down to the point where my opponent couldn’t attack and couldn’t play Supporter cards, Exeggutor would slowly whittle them down. I could simply cycle through my deck with the help of Empoleon and play Lysandre’s Trump Card again and again while my opponent couldn’t do anything. It’s very frustrating to play against and it feels like you’re playing solitaire once your opponent is quickly reduced to draw-passing.
The two potential hurdles the deck had were (A) decks that could accelerate Energy and (b) Seismitoad blocking a lot of Exeggutor’s disruptive options. Virizion/Genesect and Manectric variants were the two decks that I expected to accelerate Energy, and I found the matchup almost entirely depended on the first few turns. Exeggutor needed to prevent an early Emerald Slash or Turbo Bolt with Crushing Hammer flips, which is a scary position to be in on either side. However, Exeggutor could tilt the matchup a bit by adding in a couple copies of Head Ringer. This made it easier to prevent Virzion or Manectric from ever even attacking!
Originally I thought the Seismitoad matchup hinged on getting an early Muscle Band so that Exeggutor could trade with Seismitoad. However, I found that I won very easily when I was simply able to Team Flare Grunt away a Double Colorless Energy and use Blockade. It was very difficult for my opponent to draw more than one or two Double Colorless Energy cards under a Supporter lock. And in every other matchup I didn’t really prioritize the extra 20 damage from Muscle Band early game. All the deck really needed to do was lock the opponent out of Energy.
As a result, I found Xerosic to improve the Seismitoad matchup more than the third copy of Muscle Band since it was an extra out to removing a Double Colorless Energy from Seismitoad under the Item lock. It also was a guaranteed way to remove Special Energy off of a Benched Pokémon and a soft counter to Garbodor.
I’m also a very big proponent of running Town Map in this deck. Although prizing doesn’t seem like a big issue with Exeggutor, the deck does need to cycle through itself a few times with Lysandre’s Trump Card in order to win. This means that without Town Map, you can occasionally have games slip away once or twice during a big event due to prizing Lysandre’s Trump Card and not being fortunate enough to draw it off your first couple of Prizes. I can’t think of a card to add in its place that prevents you from losing one or two games on its own, without even considering the added benefit of taking Prizes in the ideal order.
The last component of the deck that differs greatly between Exeggutor lists is the Energy line. For quite a while, I was testing 3 Plasma Energy, 3 G Energy, and 1 W Energy. 3 G Energy felt like the right number in order to interact with Virizion-EX to prevent the effects of Hypnotoxic Laser. However, I never needed to attack with Empoleon in order to win a game. Attack Command merely won me the game a turn sooner on a few occasions. There always seemed to be games where I was digging for a Plasma Energy in order to make a Red Signal/Team Flare Grunt play, so I ended up swapping out the W Energy for the Plasma Energy.
I wasn’t having much trouble retreating non-Grass Pokémon, so I opted to take the Herbal Energy for the extra utility it could provide in preserving a Muscle Banded Exeggutor. The only reason to play all basic G Energy is if you’re paranoid that your Jirachi or Mr. Mime will get stranded with zero Energy in the Active Spot, causing the deck to miss the T2 Blockade.
I’m very interested to see how Exeggutor performs at Spring Regionals. The deck doesn’t have any terrible matchups at the moment and it’s not an easy deck to tech for. One intuitive way to make any archetype stronger against Exeggutor is to play more Item-based draw. However, this puts that player at a disadvantage when facing any Seismitoad variants. Since Seismitoad is currently more popular than Exeggutor, it’s not an easy call to make. If everybody is still underprepared for Exeggutor come Spring Regionals, I expect a ton of people to be making it to Day 2 with the deck.
A Look Ahead: Rayquaza/Shaymin
One topic that hasn’t been discussed in nearly enough depth is how Roaring Skies will impact the last weekend of Regionals. While I haven’t tested the Roaring Skies format nearly as extensively as BCR–PRC, I’d like to get the ball rolling by giving my take on the hyped Rayquaza/Shaymin archetype. I think it’s far too early to tell if it will be the best deck in the format like some players boldly claim. However, the deck is certainly absurdly powerful when you take into account just how quickly it can dish out 240 damage and will certainly be something players have to build their decks around come Spring Regionals. Below is my first attempt at what the archetype would look like:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 37
Energy – 7
This list could probably use improvement since it’s not really built for any specific metagame in mind. I simply think the engine is a very good starting point for anybody looking to experiment with Rayquaza/Shaymin. The basic strategy of the deck is to simply use Shaymin-EX and Sky Field to simultaneously fill your Bench for Rayquaza while cycling through your deck to set up as quickly as possible. There is a lower Supporter count and more Item-based draw in an attempt to dump your hand and draw more cards with each Shaymin. Then you simply dish out 240 damage per turn with Rayquaza. I’ll briefly explain some of my counts and card choices below:
I’m sure there are other splashable attackers you could run alongside a different type of basic Energy, but until the metagame becomes more defined Virizion-EX seems like the safest route. It protects the deck from losing a turn due to poor Hypnotoxic Laser flips and fills up a Bench spot to aid in Rayquaza’s damage output. As long as Hypnotoxic Laser remains popular in the Roaring Skies metagame, Virizion-EX is never going to be a bad choice.
1-1 Altaria ROS 74
I see Altaria in nearly every build of Rayquaza/Shaymin, but it’s often thicker than a 1-1 line. A 1-1 line is enough to counter any tech Lightning attackers while being easily searchable with Winona. Any dedicated Lightning deck will likely run Raichu XY or Manectric-EX alongside Garbodor LTR to counter Altaria, so it seems best not to waste deck space on extra copies of Altaria that will likely be dead in several matchups.
These cards are probably the two that stand out the most from everything else. Most Rayquaza/Shaymin builds simply concede to a single Suicune PLB or Sigilyph LTR, which seems very exploitable. Revenge with a Muscle Band can take care of either of these threats. It also acts as a 7th Prize card in other matchups, meaning your opponent still has to Knock Out 3 Pokémon-EX along with Bouffalant to win the game. Revenge with a Muscle Band hits for 110 damage, which is perfect for Knocking Out the Shaymin-EX that will inevitably be on your opponent’s Bench. A 90 damage Revenge is also perfect for dealing with Ninetales PRC and Raichu XY, two potentially troublesome cards, while keeping Rayquaza safe on the Bench.
I think 2 or 3 copies of Exeggcute will be a staple in any build of Rayquaza/Shaymin. This is because it will be quite common for your opponent to counter your Sky Field in certain matchups, causing you to discard three Pokémon in the process. Normally you would run out of Basic Pokémon to refill your Bench, but with Exeggcute you can simply use Propagation after they’re discarded and place them back on your Bench. It of course also makes your discards with Ultra Ball easier early game.
Super Scoop Up isn’t a card that I see in a lot of Rayquaza/Shaymin builds, but I think it provides quite a bit of utility. It’s an Item that’s easy to play early game to maximize the cards drawn with Shaymin-EX. It acts as a switching effect if you have a Pokémon other than Rayquaza Active. It can potentially heal a damaged Rayquaza in a matchup where your opponent can’t 1-shot it. And perhaps most importantly, it allows you to cycle through your deck even faster by reusing a Shaymin that will inevitably be on your bench.
Players opted to use Roller Skates in speedier builds of Seismitoad and Super Scoop Up is simply a better version of Roller Skates in these fast Trainer engines that run multiple copies of Shaymin-EX. This is because it will draw you more cards on average while providing additional utility.
Battle Compressor is another card that seems out of place since Rayquaza/Shaymin isn’t thought of a deck that thrives off of the discard pile. However, Battle Compressor essentially searches for both copies of Exeggcute immediately, thins your deck from any dead-draws, and allows you to discard a basic Energy for Mega Turbo. It also allows you to get away with running a few tech 1-of Supporters as you can Battle Compressor them away and retrieve them with VS Seeker.
1 Town Map
This build of Rayquaza/Shaymin plays quite a few 1-of Pokémon, 1-of Supporters, and can even run into trouble by Prizing two copies of Mega Turbo or two copies of Double Colorless Energy. Town Map is also a card that can be played immediately to maximize your draws with Shaymin-EX. It provides great insurance against bad Prizes as well as allows you to pick your Prizes in the optimal order so that you can replace your Knocked Out Rayquaza-EX with ease.
3 G Energy
My Energy count is much lower than what I’ve seen in the average Rayquaza/Shaymin build, but I really don’t see any reason to run more than 8 Energy total. You ideally want to attach a Double Colorless Energy from your hand to Rayquaza, discard a basic Energy, and retrieve that basic Energy with Mega Turbo. Running too many Energy will clog your hand when you attempt to cycle through your deck quickly with Shaymin.
Lightning attackers paired with Garbodor LTR. Perhaps the most obvious counter to Rayquaza is taking advantage of its Weakness by running Garbodor as a counter to Altaria. Raichu XY would able to easily take 2 Prizes while only giving up one in return, making it very difficult for Rayquaza/Shaymin to keep up in the Prize exchange. Bouffalant helps with this to an extent, but there isn’t much the Rayquaza player can do if the Raichu/Garbodor player draws well enough.
Ninetales PRC paired with another Stadium. This isn’t as hard of a counter as Raichu/Garbodor, but it’s certainly annoying to deal with. Your opponent using Ninetales to keep Sky Field out of play severely limits Rayquaza’s damage output. There are a few ways to deal with this as the Rayquaza player. You can target the opposing Ninetales with Lysandre. You can run your own copy of Ninetales in an effort to lock Sky Field into play first. Or you can simply try discarding Shaymin-EX off your field to avoid giving up an easy 2 Prizes and 2-shot your opponent’s Pokémon-EX while they 2-shot your Rayquaza. With Super Scoop Up, you may actually be able to pull ahead in the Prize trade at some point.
Non-EX decks that can target Shaymin-EX. Rayquaza/Shaymin can’t achieve a quick 240 damage without benching multiple copies of Shaymin to quickly cycle through the deck. If your opponent has a deck with non-EX attackers and enough gust effects, they can take advantage of Shaymin-EX’s 110 HP and attempt to take 2 Prizes while only giving up one in return. The best way to play around this would be to bench as few Shaymin as possible when setting up and to attempt to pick them up with Super Scoop Up as the game goes on.
Heavy counts of Silent Lab. Silent Lab shuts off the entire Shaymin engine the deck is based around. The Rayquaza deck runs four copies of Sky Field, but if you ever get stuck with Shaymin and no counter Stadium the Rayquaza deck can quickly fall apart or fail to set up altogether. If decks with heavy counts of Silent Lab gain popularity, a tech Ninetales is probably a good option to keep Sky Field in play.
Focus Sash and Robo Substitute. These two cards reduce the impact of Rayquaza’s monstrous damage output of 240 per turn. They deny the Rayquaza player a Prize card while giving the opponent a free turn to either attack Rayquaza or pick off Shaymin on the Bench for an easy 2 Prizes. If these decks become popular, the Rayquaza player could play more gust effects or ways to remove the Focus Sash. As built, the Rayquaza player can use Shaymin-EX’s attack to break the Focus Sash or Knock Out a Robo Substitute in order to remove Shaymin from the Bench and deny your opponent an easy 2 Prizes.
I hoped my insight on Donphan/Groudon and Exeggutor gives everybody a better understanding of each archetype and my thought process when choosing a deck helps everyone make a deck choice for Spring Regionals! I’ve also gotten quite a few requests for my take on Rayquaza/Shaymin, so I hope my analysis provides a solid starting point for anybody more interested in testing out Roaring Skies! I’m planning on attending Regionals in Massachusetts and Georgia so I’m personally very excited to test and see how both formats evolve. Feel free to say hi if you see me at an upcoming Regionals as well as message me any questions!
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!
Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.