Meta Mapping

States Retrospective, Spring Regionals Outlook, and What Beats Rayquaza?
student-glasses-school-book-640pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
Me studying for finals.

Hello everyone. I hope that you all still have the willpower to play Pokémon after four grueling weeks of State Championships. I am likely as burned out from university education as some of you are from 50-minute best-of-three play every weekend. It has been a while since I have both written and picked up physical cards, but I have spent a lot of time destressing by testing decks online that I would have played at States had I been able to make it out to the events. I have passed on a couple of ideas to a Seniors Division player I know, which has helped keep me motivated to work on lists.

In this article, I plan to lay out what I would have played at States, discuss what I’m considering for the first two weekends of Spring Regionals, as well as provide some commentary on the weaknesses of the hot new deck everyone is talking about, Rayquaza/Shaymin.

What Would Have Been: A States Retrospective

yveltal m17 manga 16-9Bulbapedia
I’ll take 50-50s all day.

After Florida Regionals, there were probably 10-15 different playable decks. It was almost impossible to decide which decks were going to be popular and accurately metagame your way through a large event. Seeing my Facebook news feed after each weekend reaffirmed this view — I read countless woes about how Night March players would run into Seismitoad/Slurpluff in Top 8 or how Virizion/Genesect players would succumb to the only Flareon deck in cut. (Hey … it happens!)

This seems to have become a trend: Players are more comfortable running into a bad matchup than having 50-50s across the board. I am not so sure I would have taken this route if I had gone to an event. I would most certainly have picked a deck with matchups that were all more or less winnable — and I would have relied on testing to overcome the 50-50s. It seems that decks are starting to be consistent enough to make this a viable strategy. When both players can employ their respective strategies with regularity, skill becomes the deciding factor.

For this reason, I would have played Yveltal/Seismitoad. I cannot think of a matchup that it truly struggles with when played correctly. Below is my list, though my card choices might be considered less important than the ideas that accompany them.

Pokémon – 11

3 Yveltal-EX

3 Seismitoad-EX

2 Yveltal XY

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Darknessrai-EX

1 Dedenne FFI

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

2 Colress

2 Lysandre

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Muscle Band

3 Energy Switch

3 Switch

1 Computer Search

 

3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 12

8 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

energy-switch-aquapolis-aq-120pokemon-paradijs.com
Gotta play the old-school version.

Energy Switch is a preference of mine. I like the ability to come over the top and surprise my opponent with a hard-hitting Yveltal or protect one that just took an attack from losing Energy. I could go on for a while about the many reasons one would want 3-4 of them, but some would argue against running any. There are many ways to do Yveltal.

I think that most of Yveltal/Seismitoad’s matchups are winnable. Flareon decks don’t have enough reliable ways to keep up with Toads. Leafeon has really become a half-measure in a lot of cases. If you find that Flareon players are starting to focus on improving their Seismitoad matchup, by all means run a Mew-EX and Lysandre’s Trump Card. The Flareon player will struggle even more, having to 3-shot a Mew that can put down a Leafeon with a simple Laser-Bank-Quaking Punch coming back into your turn. I know I am generalizing, but the deck can definitely be tailored to metagame swings. As has been said in previous articles, the format is starting to favor techs instead of variable decks.

There will definitely be matchups that aren’t in your favor, but practice can turn a 40-60 into a 50-50 against a player who wrote your deck off. It’s not a foolproof strategy, but in my opinion it is the one that gives players the greatest possible chance of victory if prepared. Case in point: Raymond Cipoletti has been known to frequently use variants of Yveltal to large degrees of success.


Other decks I have lent thought to are Donphan/Groudon and Manectric/Suicune. Donphan/Groudon has been discussed at length in recent articles, but I figured that my rationale behind Manectric/Suicune is relevant because I did not see a lot of hype or attention for this deck, which has some pretty decent matchups, especially as the Battle Compressor decks become both less popular and less effective.

Below is my list for Manectric/Suicune. It is straightforward with the sole intention of setting up and winning its favorable matches and 50-50 ones. This has been my signature strategy (and that of many others) for some time now.

Pokémon – 11

3 Manectric-EX

3 M Manectric-EX

3 Suicune PLB

1 Seismitoad-EX

1 Virizion-EX

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

3 N

2 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

3 Battle Compressor

3 Manectric Spirit Link

3 Switch

3 Energy Switch

2 Max Potion

1 Computer Search

 

3 Rough Seas

Energy – 13

6 Lightning

5 Water

2 Grass

It is a Compressor deck that plays a different game than most of the other ones. Instead of abusing Battle Compressor to create monotonous 1HKOs, it gives you a palette of attackers to charge with Mega Manectric. Suicune, however, takes the role of primary attacker as it covers pretty much anything that Manectric might not. The Rough Seas synergy is there, too. Flareon can prove to be a problem, but 3-4 Suicune typically overrun most other decks.

There are plenty of things you can tech in to make the deck more effective. I chose to make the match against Seismitoad without Garbodor even more favorable by running Virizion-EX and 2 Grass Energy. Virizion could easily have been any other big Basic Pokémon and two of its corresponding Energy — but I like the blanket versatility of Virizion-EX.

May Flowers: Spring Regionals Outlook

ash misty binoculars 3-2pokemonscreenshots.tumblr.com
“I see May flowers … and pilgrims!”

The start of the States season was characterized by a sort of Seismitoad vs. 1HKO deck scenario. This has since changed. The Toads started to slowly win the war, and decks that competed with Toad resurfaced, even if they struggled with Flareon or Night March. Dylan Bryan is an example of someone who was ahead of the curve, playing Donphan/Groudon for some time, taking advantage of most decks’ inability to deal with Robo Substitutes or a fully-loaded Primal Groudon-EX.

The format shifted away from Donphan’s favor shortly thereafter, producing a weird mixture of decks. The big one to note, however, is Exeggutor. Eggs got extremely popular toward the end of State Championships in part because of its status as a lock deck not revolving Quaking Punch — but also because of the ease with which the deck sets up. One Battle Compressor later and you have two new Pokémon in play (Exeggcute PLF) and a Supporter of choice waiting to be retrieved with VS Seeker. Crushing Hammer, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Muscle Band do the rest. It doesn’t hurt that the Blockade monster is a non-EX.

Exeggutor is just a modicum of the change that we will see, given all the time players have to both plan and lose certainty in the format. With all that said, let’s try to figure out which decks will be contenders come mid May, and which will be less of a threat.

Seismitoad

Following this deck is always important because it is so polarizing. It fails to compete in some formats, but at the same time it renders some decks completely unplayable when it is popular. Therefore, having an idea of how heavily its presence will be felt can make or break your tournament experience.

Here’s a hint: Be prepared to beat it. Even if you’re not wading into a sea of Toad/Puff decks, it is among the most easily splashable cards in the game, so if you can’t handle a couple of them early game, change your deck.

Virizion/Genesect

virizion turn 2 emerald slashgiantbomb.com
This deck is … terminated.

This is still among my favorite decks, as I love the Plasma Pokémon with a passion, but I don’t think it is a smart play for the bigger events. Players who played Virizion/Genesect and saw success did so because they were able to exploit the small amount of time between each State Championship. When players get reactive and switch away from the decks they see as dangerous, they immediately open the field up to deck like V/G which has auto-wins against the very decks being switched to. For example, if you won a local State Championship with Flareon, you might be afraid to play it the following week because the opposition will likely be packing Toad or another rough matchup. Understanding this trend can help give you a sense of which decks people will be playing.

However, players now are capable of getting decks to beat their bad matchups, meaning that we could see a resurgence of any deck. Some, however, are more likely than others to return to prominence. I do not think the green guys are a safe play at all. Good luck going nine rounds without facing Flareon, Landorus/Crobat, or Night March. It might be safer to assume you won’t be facing this deck. People make irrational choices, and there’s no guarantee that you will not face Virizion/Genesect, but the odds are leaning against it.

Landorus/Crobat

This deck was huge before Florida Regionals, and it was still large during that time and for a little while after. However, the growth of the Empoleon/Archie tech and Seismitoad made waters pretty stormy for Landorus. Players tried to tech in heavy amounts of Hawlucha FFI and Lucario-EX, but some Toad builds completely get through those techs and Hawlucha does nothing to Empoleon. As such, this deck took a hit.

Quite frankly, I think that some of this drop-off was result of a lack of creativity. If Toad and the Compressor decks packing Empoleon are your chief problems, things can be much better for you. Here is a proposed list that addresses these problems. Your Donphan matchup might still be a struggle, though.

Pokémon – 10

3 Landorus-EX

4 Hawlucha FFI

1 Lucario-EX

1 Groudon-EX PRC

1 Primal Groudon-EX

Trainers – 39

4 Korrina

3 Professor Juniper

3 N

2 Lysandre

1 Colress

 

4 VS Seeker

2 Ultra Ball

3 Focus Sash

2 Muscle Band

3 Switch

1 Escape Rope

1 Battle Compressor

1 Hypnotoxic Laser

1 Startling Megaphone

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Max Potion

1 Target Whistle

1 Scoop Up Cyclone

 

3 Fighting Stadium

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 11

7 Fighting

4 Strong

As you have seen before, Groudon-EX has a tendency to beat Seismitoad-centric decks with ease. As such, it is a natural fit in this new build. To deal with Empoleon, it makes the most sense to take away some of the 1HKO factor that Empoleon tries to utilize and play Focus Sash. To further abuse weaknesses of Flareon and Night March, I believe that Landorus decks should be running Target Whistle.

But how will you fit everything? My proposed solution to this is leaving Crobat out of the picture, as you can see above. Fighting decks have always packed a huge punch from the earliest point they can attack. Crobat’s main utility was to complement this while also assisting with Fighting decks by serving as an attacker. I am willing to make this trade and take my chances.

Donphan/Groudon

As I mentioned before, this deck has been discussed at length. However, my outlook on this deck is that it has too poor a matchup against both Virizion/Genesect and Seismitoad/Crobat which should both be present in the different types of metagames we can expect at Regionals. Yveltal isn’t the smoothest matchup, either. I would hesitate to recommend this deck.

Flareon & Night March

I think that Flareon still has potential. With the right focus, it can be a metagame play. It can’t, however, beat everything. One might need to cut Empoleon to focus on Leafeon to beat Seismitoad, for example. You might still be capable of beating Landorus builds without Empoleon, but Donphan will then become a problem.

What I want you to note here is that Donphan could be seen as an inferior play. If Donphan loses to Yveltal, Toad/Crobat, and Virizion/Genesect, and you are beating all three of those decks in addition to many others, you might come out ahead. It certainly doesn’t hurt that you keep the edge against Eggs decks as well.

Night March, on the other hand, struggles against most Toad decks, which by itself is a deal-breaker for me. Some of its other matches are shaky as well. Any time you see a Night March deck win, I would argue that Flareon could have won all of those games and more.

Exeggutor

Again, it’s a powerful lock deck. It sets up consistently, has many matchups that revolve around hitting just a couple of Hammer flips, and is blessed with type advantage against Seismitoad-EX decks. It ignores Poison, has nearly unlimited Catcher effects, and is generally fun to play. With Flareon looming, I would hesitate to recommend Exeggutor, but it could still prove to be a great play.


There are countless other decks to consider, but these are the power players, and they should weigh the most heavily in decisions shaping your Spring Regionals deck.

My Picks

The two decks I would be most likely to play are:

  1. Some build of Toad itself (most likely the Yveltal version)
  2. Flareon with a heavy anti-Toad focus

Here’s what I’m talking about when I say Flareon with an anti-Toad focus:

Pokémon – 23

4 Eevee FFI

4 Flareon PLF

4 Leafeon PLF

2 Audino BCR

2 Ditto BCR

2 Exeggcute PLF

2 Jirachi-EX

1 Virizion-EX

1 Deoxys-EX

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 29

4 Professor Juniper

1 N

1 Lysandre

1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Battle Compressor

4 Acro Bike

3 Silver Bangle

2 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

Energy – 8

4 Grass

4 Double Colorless

Don’t bench the Deoxys unless you can’t find a Silver Bangle or two before you anticipate the Item lock. Your other matches are pretty straightforward: set up and Knock everything Out. Deoxys also makes it convenient to 1HKO Groudon with a Bangled Leafeon.

Give Me a Break: What Beats Rayquaza?

mega rayquaza facefloratxt.tumblr.com
Mega Rayquaza is quite intimidating.

We’ve had our first Prereleases for Roaring Skies and it is completely inevitable that we will soon be dealing with the scourge that is M Rayquaza-EX/Shaymin-EX/Sky Field. It is not uncommon to see a Turn 1 240 from the deck. A tech Altaria ROS 74 eliminates Rayquaza’s Weakness. Exeggcute helps the deck get around the counter Stadium problem. The big question is as follows:

Will our last Regionals as well as National Championships be a sea of Rayquaza decks competing to string together knockouts?

I think there are ways to avoid that case. The deck is undeniably powerful, so any deck you chose should have a built-in hard counter to the deck or one of its key aspects. There are a few things I see wrong with current Rayquaza lists that seem to be merely an intrinsic part of the deck. In other words, it is unlikely that players will able to deviate too far from builds with these weaknesses and still have a truly competitive list. Some of the weak points I have noticed are as follows:

  • The deck runs around seven Energy cards, and four of them are Double Colorless Energy — a Special Energy card.
  • Exeggcute is used in excess both to set up and to fill the Bench. It has 30 HP.
  • Shaymin is used to set up. It also suffers from low HP.
  • Without an Altaria in play, Rayquaza is Weak to Lightning.
  • The deck is EX centric; even if it techs for Safeguard, it will be inevitably slower if faced with a Suicune or Sigilyph.
focus-sash-furious-fists-frf-91-ptcgo-1
Hit me with your best shot.

These are all weaknesses that can allow the right decks to keep up and even have favorable matchups against Rayquaza. For example, a Landorus-EX can Knock Out an Exeggcute with Hammerhead every single turn. If your opponent leaves them in their discard, you can pick them off again with Target Whistle. To deal with the Emerald Break 1HKO, you can run Focus Sash. This makes Hawlucha a threat to Rayquaza as well.

In this manner, many decks gain viability. Anything that can deal with Benched Shaymin EXs without getting destroyed by Emerald Break gains a lot of viability. This isn’t easy to pull off, ironically. Hawlucha is great example, but are there others? Manectric-EX can get this done, with or without Weakness if you run Head Ringer, but the knockout does not save it from a response 1HKO via Emerald Break.

Exploring the Energy run by Rayquaza, you will notice that four of the Energies are vulnerable to Enhanced Hammer. By itself, this is not reliable. However, things like Aegislash-EX can prevent damage from anything with DCE altogether. If Dylan Bryan’s list prized a basic Energy in the face of an Aegislash, things would get messy extremely quickly.

However, I have a hard time believing that any strategy revolving around an EX has a huge chance against Rayquaza-EX. I’d focus more on the non-EX side or the Landorus-EX/Focus Sash example. Another neat trick is using a Muscle Banded Bouffalant LTR to KO Shaymins after each knockout for a favorable trade. Flareon is a deck that can not only keep up but take advantage of Shaymins in play each turn until Flareon can 1HKO a Rayquaza.


Rayquaza also isn’t the only deck that abuses Mega Turbo or Shaymin-EX. You could probably make an almost equally fast Groudon-EX or Kyogre-EX deck. The perk with Kyogre is that you get to run Suicune as well. Groudon can hide behind Robo Substitutes while you get a couple of Groudon ready (and I do mean a couple).

Here is a sample list. The cool thing about Groudon is that you can afford to run so many Items because Groudon tends to destroy Toad decks anyway.

Pokémon – 10

3 Groudon-EX PRC

3 Primal Groudon-EX

2 Landorus FFI

2 Hawlucha FFI

Trainers – 39

4 Korrina

3 Professor Juniper

2 Lysandre

1 N

1 Colress

 

4 VS Seeker

2 Ultra Ball

2 Battle Compressor

2 Robo Substitute

3 Mega Turbo

3 Switch

3 Groudon Spirit Link

3 Focus Sash

1 Tool Retriever

1 Scramble Switch

 

3 Fighting Stadium

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 11

7 Fighting

4 Strong

Taking advantage of Korrina to use Battle Compressor, Groudon can be fully set up as soon as Turn 2. It will reach the point that having a Stadium in play will be a concern because everything else got into play so quickly. This is why 3 Fighting Stadium and a Silent Lab are included. The Tool Retriever allows you to transition to a Focus Sash on your Groudon if possible, so that nothing can get away with an easy KO, regardless of Weakness (unless Groudon is damaged in advance — this is what makes the Toad/Crobat matchup so difficult).

Won’t Croak: Keeping Toad Competitive

bouffalant deviantart 16-9purplepokemon.tumblr.com
Toad will not go the way of the buffalo … but it will play them!

Many articles referencing Roaring Skies might make it sound like Seismitoad will completely disappear altogether, but this couldn’t be further from the case. The deck will simply have to make some adjustments — just like every other deck.

Assuming that Rayquaza-EX is the only true threat to come from Roaring Skies, then Toad simply needs to tech things that will take Rayquaza decks down. My proposed solution is a couple of Bouffalant and a heavier Lysandre count. Look at the Yveltal/Toad list below and see how a couple of changes can make this deck a very tricky matchup for Rayquaza players.

Pokémon – 13

3 Yveltal-EX

3 Seismitoad-EX

2 Yveltal XY

2 Bouffalant LTR

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Darknessrai-EX

1 Dedenne FFI

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

3 N

3 Lysandre

2 Colress

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Hypnotoxic Laser

3 Ultra Ball

3 Muscle Band

3 Energy Switch

3 Switch

1 Computer Search

 

3 Virbank City Gym

Energy – 11

7 Darkness

4 Double Colorless

With all of the same tools as before still handy, you are now able to couple a Bouffalant (or Druddigon FLF), Muscle Band, and Lysandre to collect 2 free Prizes on Shaymin-EX after each knockout. Y Cyclone can do the same in a pinch.

240 damage might seem like a huge amount, but when it is overkill, it is much less intimidating. Flareon and Night March decks might still have the edge against Rayquaza at the end of the day.

If you want to keep up with decks taking advantage of Sky Field even more effectively, I recommend using at least one copy of Colress in every deck. If you can’t pull off the combo you need with a 16-card hand, you are either unlucky or your deck needs more copies of the right cards.

Conclusion

Most decks will stay competitive when Roaring Skies is legal. New decks will take over for a little while, but they are nothing that won’t have their own problems to be exploited by the prepared player.

It will certainly be fun to play the new cards, but be sure to keep the old ones in mind too. A personal favorite card of mine is Absol ROS because it reminds me of Absol ex. I will definitely be testing decks that take advantage of it. I’m also very excited to Colress for 16.

As always, feel free to respond or reach out to me with any questions or comments. I love to discuss decks and ideas.


…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.


Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply

You are logged out. Register. Log in. Legacy discussion: 12