For anyone who is a fan of the Pokémon TCG this is the most exciting part of the year! The World Championships are encroaching upon us and we have a new set lurking just around the corner. Some PTOs have also recently announced that Regional Championships will be run exclusively in the Expanded format. This is certainly a big change from the past season.
In this article I am going to cover my thoughts on the new Expanded Regionals format since Autumn Regionals will be the next major tournament series following the World Championships. This announcement was a lot to take in and process, so I’m excited to put my thoughts on paper alongside Kenny Wisdom, who did a great job discussing it yesterday.
Following that I’m going to cover my thoughts on the most prestigious event of the year, the World Championships. I’ve done a fair bit of testing and am ready to share my current frontrunners for the event, as well as decks that I have all but written off.
Thoughts on Expanded Regionals
Before I give my thoughts on Expanded Regionals, I want to embed one thought into your head:
There will likely never be a major tournament in the Standard format of XY–Ancient Origins.
Recently, I have heard people talk a lot about the new cards and how they will effect Standard, what Standard will be like, etc. But we won’t actually be playing that format until Cities most likely and by then we may have a whole new set to work with! Even on the Pokémon website itself they mention the rotation and how it will effect Standard but from what we can deduce the only immediate tournaments that will be played in the format are League Challenges!
At first I was opposed to having Expanded play a bigger role in our game, but after putting some thought into it I don’t think it will be that bad. The reason why I wasn’t a fan of Expanded throughout all of last season was because the format was too similar to Standard and the way it was implemented forced me to beat my head against the wall trying to figure out what to play between days at Regionals instead of going out and having fun or getting some much needed rest.
Fortunately, my boy Brit Pybas came through with some words of wisdom and got me to see the light:
Expanded was problematic this year because the card pool wasn't big enough to make a noticeable impact. It is more dynamic with more cards.
— bp (@bpybas) July 15, 2015
Expanded is like a fine wine; it will only get better as it matures. We are likely to see Expanded return for more Regionals if Adam’s circuit predictions hold any truth:
Fall Reg: BLW-XY7
Wint Reg: BLW-XY8
Spr Reg: BLW-XY9
Worlds: BLW-XY10#speculation ?
— SixPrizes (@SixPrizes) July 23, 2015
If this holds true I think the later Regionals will be even more interesting than the upcoming ones since there will be more sets involved, and it will only improve from there.
As for predicting the metagame for Autumn Regionals and what decks will be good or bad, that is so hard to say right now. Pokémon isn’t exactly transparent with their plans and with all these rumors about a ban list potentially coming into play it makes me wonder if Pokémon will actually implement one for Expanded as we get closer to Regionals. If this happens that will throw everything out of whack and make any predictions completely invalid. Coming from a background of having played Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering extensively I can say even the slightest errata to a card, one ban, or anything like that completely throws a wrench in the metagame. For this reason I fear going in depth on anything metagame related, so we will just have to wait and see what Pokémon decides to do.
As of right now I can point out the obvious in case you have been off of Virbank for a while (which probably not a bad thing). Grass is going to be good, especially in Expanded. In theory you can get a Turn 1 Vileplume while attacking with Accelgor DEX’s Deck and Cover attack. That is a Turn 1 Item lock with Paralysis and Poison. That just sounds insane to me. Whether it’s consistent or not we will have to wait and find out, but with Level Ball being available it won’t be out of the realm of possibility.
If Accelgor is as good as it sounds and there are no bans, the Expanded format is going to revolve around Accelgor and Vileplume. Every single deck will have to be built with beating this in mind. I expect a surge or cards like Aegislash-EX, Pokémon Center Lady, Wobbuffet PHF, etc. For some reason a format revolving around a core of Item lock and Paralysis doesn’t sound all too exciting to me, but hopefully it won’t be as abysmal as I am predicting. I hope to see a wide array of decks in the format that are all contenders for being Tier 1 with new crazy techs and decks that we would never expect find success.
If this format continues as more sets get added innovation is going to become increasingly relevant since we will have more and more options as time goes on. This is exciting! The game will become even more skill based and favor the more skilled player and deck builder. Even if it isn’t a great format at first it will only get better. If cards are truly broken I have faith that TPCi will ban them. They have already shown that they are not ignorant to the meta and recognize when cards are too strong with the banning of Lysandre’s Trump Card.
So, let’s give this format a chance. If it doesn’t work out Pokémon will recognize it and do something about it. If it does work out that is great! We are finally starting to move in the direction of games that are superior to ours in terms of player quantity and prizes such as MTG and Hearthstone where they play tournaments in varying formats. Pokémon is a business, and businesses need to evolve in order to thrive in a changing world. Our game is evolving in every way, so let’s encourage the progression instead of oppose it. Maybe one day we will have the player base and prize pools of more successful games and become the best TCG out there.
I hear people say all the time that they don’t want Pokémon to be like other games, but we need to grow in order to thrive. It isn’t like our community will turn over on its head just because we have a new format, or because tournaments are being streamed and the game is getting more publicity. It will still be the same game — just bigger and hopefully better.
Frontrunners for Worlds
As the World Championships get closer and closer I have narrowed down my potential deck choices to a small list. You will most likely see me playing some iteration of one of the following decks at Worlds.
As I said earlier, I played a variant of Manectric only a couple of cards off from Mike Fouchet’s Nationals list (+1 Vulpix, +1 Ninetales, -1 Rough Seas, -1 Max Potion, +1 Juniper, -1 Colress, +1 Escape Rope, -1 Switch).
I considered our deck to be somewhat inconsistent compared to the other versions of Manectric that were floating around. This build fared better against the majority of the metagame in comparison to other versions of Manectric since it was so versatile … if it set up. In my past I have been known for playing safer versions of decks, or decks that I feel comfortable with, and I wanted to venture out of my comfort zone for once.
Unfortunately, this gamble did not pay off since I went 5-2-2 at Nationals — just one win away from making Day 2. The games I lost were out of my control and mainly had to do with struggling to set up. I think this deck loses to itself more than anything. Sam Chen was able to get 19th place with the same exact list as me, so I guess it wasn’t the worst choice.
I consider Manectric to be one of the best plays going into Worlds. Manectric has good matchups against Seismitoad, Metal, and Wailord — just to name a few decks. A lot of Manectric’s bad matchups didn’t have much representation at Nationals, like Fighting-based decks. Most other matchups are pretty 50/50 or better depending on which version of Manectric you end up choosing to play.
Considering Klinklang is becoming more and more popular, I’m thinking Manectric/Garbodor is going to be the route to go for Worlds. If Worlds were tomorrow this is the deck I would play:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 37
Energy – 10
This is much more my style. It is more consistent than the version I played at Nationals and it has Garbodor to help with various matchups and — most importantly — not take an auto-loss to Klinklang. The list is a standard Manectric/Garbodor list resembling Grant Manley’s semifinalist list. However, there is one card choice in particular I want to discuss.
I playtested numerous Mega Manectric-based decks prior to Nationals and I can’t imagine playing the deck without 4 copies of Rough Seas unless I am playing Ninetales. Being able to consistently hit Rough Seas and heal off damage, increasing the longevity of Manectric, is one of the things that makes this deck so powerful! Also, being able to hit a counter Stadium nearly every turn against decks that revolve around Raichu and Dimension Valley are crucial. There is space in the deck so I can’t see a reason why you wouldn’t want to include 4-of this card when you don’t play Ninetales.
If the Klinklang hype somehow dies before Worlds, which I doubt will happen, I would consider playing a straight Manectric deck similar to the one I faced at Nationals ran by Dean Nezam — but with Ninetales:
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 36
Energy – 9
Both the Manectric/Garbodor deck and this deck have awful matchups against anything with Fighting Pokémon. Luckily, I don’t think Fighting will be popular at Worlds — at least in the form of Landorus/Bats since it is poorly positioned right now — but Groudon may be an issue. In order to make it to Day 2 at Worlds you need to go X-2. If my only terrible matchup is Fighting I feel safe taking the chance that I won’t run into Fighting decks more than twice.
Pokémon – 12
3 Primal Groudon-EX
Trainers – 37
Energy – 11
Groudon has been one of the decks I’ve invested the most time into testing because I believe it has solid matchups for what I expect to face Day 1, which include mainly Seismitoad and Manectric decks. To some people, Groudon is thought of as one-dimensional, slow, and boring to play. I don’t disagree that the deck is one-dimensional, but sometimes I enjoy playing a slower deck that disrupts the opponent by sticking Wobbuffet in the Active while setting up.
This is the World Championships coming up I don’t take into account whether a deck is fun to play or not; I just want to win. If I end up deciding that Groudon has the best matchups for the metagame that I predict, you will be sure to see me playing Groudon. To me, Wailord is the most boring deck to ever exist, but I will play it if I think it is the best. (Spoiler Alert: I do not think it’s the best.)
Any deck that revolves around strong non-EX attackers such as Raichu, Flareon, Leafeon, and sometimes Night Marchers can be difficult for Groudon to deal with. Klinklang is practically an auto-loss. That is scary to me. I don’t think these decks will be too popular but if they gain traction and I expect to play against at least three of these bad matchups during Day 1 then I won’t be playing Groudon. Until this is the case though, Groudon is still on the table as one of my top picks.
Before we move on, some of you may be wondering why I don’t include any copies of Robo Substitute in my list. The reason why I choose not to include Robo Sub is because I like the versatility I get from playing Hawlucha. Hawlucha with Focus Sash can be a strong attacker in various matchups as well as provide a clutch free retreater. I don’t mind falling down 2-3 Prizes early game by letting my Wobbuffets or Hawluchas get Knocked Out either. Generally, I will want a Wobbuffet Active over a Robo Substitute anyway.
I tend to play my matchups with this deck slightly aggressively and I rely more on Scramble Switch to maintain tempo and conserve Energy. That is also why I choose to play Groudon Spirit Link. The way I play the deck often forces me into situations where I will need to Mega Evolve and I can’t afford to waste my turn doing so.
If you are not a fan of playing the deck in this style you can cut both Hawlucha, the Groudon Spirit Link, and a Stadium to include 4 copies of Robo Substitute. If you do this I would also cut Scramble Switch for Computer Search. Scramble Switch becomes far less effective when you cut Groudon Spirit Link.
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 43
2 Head Ringer
Energy – 7
This deck has been on the hot seat ever since Jason Klaczynski won Nationals. Even with everyone ready to face the deck — and tech for it — I still think it is one of the strongest plays heading into the World Championships.
I can’t see people playing multiple copies of Xerosic or Grass decks coming back into favor. Virizion/Genesect don’t seem strong enough. I say that now, but that deck has proved us wrong time and time again. So maybe we will see the rise of V/G yet again, but I highly doubt it since there are now multiple decks in the format that can 1-shot a Virizion-EX.
I think Jason’s list is nearly perfect unless you want to tech for the metagame. There is no magical revelation that has occurred in the past month to make me think there is a list of Seismitoad/Garbodor that is radically different from Jason’s that would actually be better than his list. The only things I would change from his list to tech for the metagame at Worlds would be to potentially add another Xerosic or Team Flare Grunt for the mirror match and to cut an N for a VS Seeker.
Pokémon – 18
4 Zubat PLS 53
Trainers – 34
2 Head Ringer
Energy – 8
I was ecstatic when I saw that Kristy Britton was doing well with this deck. This list is a couple of cards different from the list she piloted to Top 8 at Nationals. The deck is reminiscent of what Manectric/Toad/Bats was like around States. I piloted M/T/B to a Top 8 finish at a State Championship and it was the most fun I have ever had playing in a tournament. Now that I know this deck is legitimately a strong play, I warmly welcome it to my list of top decks for Worlds.
The reasoning and strategy behind playing Manectric-EX in this deck is that it provides a heavy hitter that you can go into whenever you want to break Item lock. With Bats, Manectric-EX can hit perfect math on nearly all Pokémon-EX with a Muscle Band, a Tool on the opponent’s Active, and a Crobat drop. That may sound like a lot but it happens more often than you would think, especially when you are playing Head Ringer to force a Tool on your opponent’s Pokémon.
Rock Guard is probably the card that jumps out the most whenever somebody looks at the list. I can tell you from first-hand tournament experience that Rock Guard is the real deal. It singlehandedly won me so many matchups once I stuck it on a Seismitoad. And one of the matchups that it helps win the most is the mirror match. With Toad/Garb winning Nationals you can bet I would love to have a Rock Guard on my Seismitoad rather than a Computer Search in my deck. Unfortunately, if you get Item locked before you are able to find your Rock Guard it is going to be useless, but it is the one ACE SPEC you want to have in the mirror.
Plays That Have Seen Better Days
The flops are a couple of decks that have been hyped up the past two months that I believe will do poorly at Worlds. I am certainly going to avoid playing these two decks and I strongly recommend reconsidering your options if you are choosing to play one of them at Worlds.
I truly think that this deck gets significantly worse once people know how to play against it. I can only imagine the amount of free wins the players piloting Wailord must have gotten due to their opponents not knowing what was about to unfold.
If a player plays Professor Juniper Turn 1, the game is all but over against Wailord. Come Worlds players should be savvy enough to take an alternate strategy.
I’m not saying the deck can’t win because people will know how to play against it … but I am stating there will be no more free wins and every matchup Wailord plays is going to be harder now, which in turn means it will likely lose more often.
The key to playing against Wailord with decks that have Energy acceleration — such as Bronzong and Manectric — is to set up your accelerators and streamline attackers. Once the Wailord player starts to burn resources to heal their Pokémon they will eventually be put in a position where they end up decking out faster than you do.
Another important strategy is to keep your hand size similar to that of the Wailord player in order to play around Hugh.
I tested the Manectric deck I played at Nationals against Wailord and Manectric was winning against it using this strategy because Wailord would deck out first. Most of the matchup is fairly boring since you draw/pass to set up. It is generally best to be as patient as you possible and let yourself naturally draw into what you need instead of playing Supporters like Professor Juniper to reach for resources.
However, Wailord will still win games against decks that lack Energy acceleration. If Wailord faces a deck with few and finite Energy, it will be able to deck them out first.
I would say Seismitoad-EX decks are a great example of this, but the only match we saw on stream Jason ended up winning. Normally, that matchup is heavily in Wailord’s favor since Seismitoad’s damage output is so low and Wailord can run them out of Energy.
If people actually decide to tech Bunnelby PRC 121 into their decks that will be the ultimate downfall of Wailord. Unless Wailord techs in Landorus-EX or Lucario-EX and Fighting Energy, a single copy of Bunnelby is enough to sink it. And by the looks of things, people are actually playing Bunnelby since it fits nicely in decks like Groudon.
Right now I’m on the train of thought that people will not play Wailord, so I’m not planning on teching Bunnelby, but if I start seeing Wailord catching wind close to Worlds I have no issue throwing Bunnelby into decks that struggle against Wailord such as Raichu, Seismitoad, and Flareon.
I was shocked to see just how poorly this deck did at US Nationals in comparison to all the hype it was getting. As the metagame started to unfold I could see why it didn’t do as well as people may have thought it would: Seismitoad-EX was still good even after the Lysandre’s Trump Card ban! Any variant of Seismitoad will give Landy/Bats trouble, and the results of US Nationals validates that even more so. Aegislash-EX also gives the deck trouble and it was abundant throughout the top tables too.
The only thing going in Landy/Bats’ favor is the modest success Manectric has seen recently, but I don’t think that is enough of a reason to justify playing the deck. Unless decks like Raichu, Night March, and Flareon see a huge boost in popularity, I am not going near this deck for Worlds.
In fact, as of now Landy/Bats isn’t even on the table as an option for me. I believe it will flop again at Worlds just as it did at Nationals. The metagame is not right for it at this time. If for some reason that changes before Worlds I will bite my tongue, but I don’t see that happening.
Thank you for reading my article! If you liked it be sure to give it a +1, and I would love to receive feedback or suggestions for my next article too. I will be at Worlds in Boston so feel free to say hi if you see me! Boston is actually my hometown so traveling to Worlds this year won’t be as exciting as it normally is for me, but I still can’t wait to see all of my friends from around the globe. At the least I may be able to point people in the direction of good food or be a decent tour guide.
Again, thank you for reading and have a good one!
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