It’s that time of year again. The collision of a new set and format with the culminating event of the year creates an interesting dynamic within the player base. Obviously, Worlds is the biggest priority for a number of players (myself included; though I’ve been shirking it more than I care to admit), but for another segment, all eyes are on Autumn Regionals and rest of the season ahead.
I’m going to do my best to cover both topics today starting with my thoughts on the key greenhorns out of the new set. Then, I’ll forage into the complex metagame for a preview of a potential sleeper for Worlds — beginning with a review of what went wrong for me at Nationals.
Obviously, the first relevant application of Ancient Origins is Autumn Regionals. As such, I’m going to be looking through Ancient Origins in the lens of the Expanded format. For your convenience, the following is the currently known slate of Autumn Regionals:
Week 1: October 3rd/4th
Week 2: October 10th/11th
Week 3: October 17th/18th
Fort Wayne, IN
San Jose, CA
Vancouver, BC (1-Day Event)
Throughout the season, 6P will be gathering and posting event date information in this thread. Check back throughout the season for more information.
Obviously, this is going to be a wild format. 18 sets is simply a lot of cards. Expanded was not taken seriously by a majority of the North American player base during its inaugural run, and as such, it didn’t see the attention necessary to make for an interesting format. However, being the main format for an event of Regionals’ stature will alter that reality. Additionally, the difference between XY-on and BLW-on will be stark, meaning even more attention will be required to succeed in Expanded.
Fortunately, it seems the two will not be coexisting under the same roof at any one tournament this year. Throughout the year, it’s going to be a battle to make sure we’re employing things such as the right pre-evolutions, and pkmncards.com is your best bet for all things of that nature.
Ancient Origins doesn’t seem to have any “broken” cards. Nothing in the set seems inevitably competitive, but there are a wealth of options that seem to have potential. It’s overall a fairly balanced set, and I think it’s similar to a set like Noble Victories: the genesis for a variety of future concepts. With that said, I’m going to take a different approach from my April article and will be offering less analysis of specific cards/their uses and more analysis of complete deck concepts.
Vileplume AOR is easily one of the most potential-laden cards in the set. Item lock, even when applied to both players, is easily one of the most reliably strong strategies in the history of the game. In fact, Vileplume AOR is a direct descendant of a former incarnation of the Flower Pokémon — Vileplume UD — which saw significant play. However, it’s a different game this time around. Here are three unprecedented obstacles Vileplume is going to have to deal with:
- Lysandre: Three retreat is a significant flaw, and some of the lock strategies of past eras would have fallen flat had Lysandre been present in the format. Simply, dragging up the Vileplume is a problem because of the resources required to retreat it. AZ may become essential in Vileplume builds for this reason.
- Wobbuffet PHF: The hard counter. It’s going to be necessary to pack a significant number of Lysandre, especially since Shiftry NXD figures to force Wobbuffet into prominence. Vileplume’s playability may hinge on what an opponent can manage to do in the time they have Wobbuffet active.
- Hex Maniac: The harder counter. Here’s the thing: People have to play it first. It’s going to become readily apparent very quickly that “hard-teching” for specific matchups is back in force. Hex Maniac can obviously turn a game around in a turn, and that’s admittedly rather formidable. However, again, the question is whether or not it sees significant enough play to be a problem. Prepare to metagame when picking your deck.
Now, I assure you, these considerations are not a death sentence for the card. Seismitoad-EX flourished in many formats despite the heavy presence of Virizion-EX, which shows the power of Item lock. Vileplume’s Bench-sitter status allows an entire new paradigm of strategies by enabling different attacks to be used. One such example is the somewhat-hyped Exeggutor PLF/Vileplume AOR concept. The idea of Supporter Lock with Item lock? Incredible. Sustainable auto-Paralysis by things like M Ampharos-EX? Now compatible with Item lock. The possibilities are great.
A quick note: As long as you’re playing Expanded, your Oddish and Gloom should be hailing from Boundaries Crossed. The Resistance to Water and useable attack on Gloom make this an easy call.
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 32
Energy – 4
Those who have been around for a while might be reminded of Chandelure NVI/Accelgor DEX/Vileplume UD. Unfortunately, I believe that’s too much setup for our modern format, so we’re left with an approach like this. The list is as crazy as it looks and is more meant to showcase the possibilities in this early stage of the format than to be viable for Regionals. Clearly, it’s a rough concept, but here are the reasons for different cards’ inclusions:
I’m sure there are some of you out there wondering why these structures aren’t somewhat inverted — after all, isn’t Vileplume the most essential part of the story here? Indeed, Vileplume is important, but once you set up your one copy, you should either be in reasonable shape for the remainder of the game or be in such a bad spot that victory is unattainable even with a heavier Vileplume line. You’ll be needing to consistently hit Accelgor line under Item lock, so we opt for a heavy line.
This was my initial feeling on walls to include. Frankly, you can afford to promote a Shelmet or Accelgor in a number of circumstances, thus a heavier number is unnecessary. Special Energy is such a huge part of the game that the inclusion of Froslass seemed a solid way to add disruption to any opposing attempts to come back from Item and Paralysis locks. Sigilyph and Wailord are both resilient options that have different utilities. Wailord is notably useful as an option when you set up poorly.
If benched inappropriately, Wobbuffet can be your opponent’s out to getting back in the game. It’s intended to be used against Archeops NVI to allow evolution until you can Lysandre the Archeops and Deck and Cover KO it. Obviously, having it on your Bench means it’s a simple Lysandre from disabling your own Vileplume, so it needs to be AZ’d ASAP. It’s usable lategame to enable the clutch Sacred Ash or Level Ball, but is not a typical Deck and Cover target.
It bears mentioning that ugly Juniper discards are a part of life with this deck. The ultimate priority needs to be thinning your deck to make late-game Deck and Covers as easily accessible as possible. Early-game N will be another part of your reality; it doubles well as late-game disruption as well. Colress, as seen in contemporary BCR–ROS, is the firepower draw card of choice — you just don’t want it early, so we’ve cut to two copies here.
The two oddball inclusions are likely to raise eyebrows. A trio of AZ, in particular, will seem crazy. I could easily be convinced to drop to two, but its utility in removing Wobbuffet, non-Float Stone’d Wailords, and Lysandre’d Vileplumes is unparalleled. Definitely try a few games before you completely disregard the notion.
Trevor is another odd inclusion, and I may be compelled to increase this to a count of two. Under Item lock, you still need to dig out Accelgor. Trevor allows you to have the DCE and easily grab a Mew-EX to continue the lock, without losing your DCE via shuffle draw. I do realize this is unlikely to be widely accepted at the moment, but with the format in its infancy, I believe Trevor is a card to keep an eye on. The help it provides in setting up under your own Vileplume lock is unmatched elsewhere.
Another set of counts that you may feel should be flipped. Thinning the deck is paramount, and there’s no better way to thin the deck than by discarding cards. You’ll end up making a number of discard decisions that feel ugly — it plays similarly to Gothitelle/Acclegor in this regard — but in the end a thinner deck means better Accelgor odds.
Forest of Giant Plants is the reason this deck isn’t “too slow.” It opens a paradigm even beyond the obvious. Suddenly, the deck isn’t nearly as vulnerable to N as it first appeared — Shelmets can evolve immediately, meaning less cards in deck and greater odds of DCE off the N. T1 Vileplume is a horror that few thought we’d ever experience again, and yet here it is reincarnate. It’s simply a card with utility throughout the game’s progression.
Meanwhile, Sky Field. For those who read my Roaring Skies preview, you’ll know that I was enamored with the multitude of angles Sky Field added to the game. In this deck, it offers both a crutch to deal with Bench space jams and an option to rid your field of things like Wobbuffet, Wailord, and Shaymin. Playing Stadiums in back-to-back turns in this way can shift the course of the game.
Other Options for Vileplume/Accelgor
- Stoutland BCR: Clearly, the “perfect” lock is nothing to scoff at. This is definitely something I think is worth considering. Keep in mind that Winona is capable of searching Stoutland line. It may be inferior to Level and Ultra Ball at the end of the day, but I’d keep it in consideration.
- Ninetales PRC/Silent Lab: If Virizion-EX becomes a mainstay tech, this is going to become a mainstay counteraction, along with the next suggestion. Consider this the “lite” counter, whereas the next concept is a decisive dedication to the Virizion problem.
- Flareon AOR/Vileplume BCR: Should Virizion/Genesect become oppressively problematic, this could easily warp the matchup. 1HKOing their entire board with Deck and Cover isn’t much to laugh at. This is also a combo that could be used with Jolteon or Vaporeon should those Weaknesses become relevant issues.
The list may be unrefined, but I do believe the concept has the potential to go places. Keep Vileplume/Accelgor in mind as you’re considering your choices for Autumn Regionals.
The goal here is an unbreakable lock. Consequentially, the caveats are many in number (for better or worse). There are multiple directions to take this, so there’ll be a few lists here. Let’s start with a skeleton of the concept:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 21
Energy – 0
21 Spots Free
You don’t necessarily have to play Energy. At the end of the day, you can win by locking something useless in the Active Spot and negotiating the opponent’s field via something like Dusknoir BCR rather than using attacks.
From the get-go, it’s clear that Virizion-EX/Genesect-EX decks are not going to be a good matchup. If they see significant Expanded play, concepts of this variety are 100% shackled to the binder, but if not, the door is open.
Two is a reasonable number to begin with of most of our Pokémon counts to insure against poor Prize cards. Oddish and Gloom are far too important to the setup to be lowered, however. Wobbuffet is our Archeops insurance — just make sure to get it off the board ASAP after setting up. Absol ROS is Dusknoir BCR’s little cousin, and is mostly intended to be used to take clutch knockouts in variants that don’t play Dusknoir. It’s the one exception to the true definition of a “skeleton” list; Dusknoir variants may be alright in omitting it.
Lysandre is essential, and a count of 3 will likely be the correct play in many cases. AZ is quickly primed to be an auto-inclusion in many decks (with concepts like this having no small part in establishing that standard), and this isn’t an exception. I’ll be filling that count out in many of the full lists for this reason.
4 Professor Juniper may seem odd in a deck that has so many delicate pieces, but if Vileplume of the past taught us anything, it’s that thinning your deck is your best friend. Too bad Sage’s Training is no longer with us …
Upfront, I’m going to mention a potentially interesting tech concept: Venusaur DEX may amount to a bit more than its prior fate of binder material. With the ability to be out as soon as T1, many Vileplume decks would appreciate the auto-search. The caveat is space — both of the deck and Bench varieties.
With those basics out of the way, let’s examine some specific variants:
V1: Sinister Hand
Pokémon – 27
Trainers – 33
Energy – 0
If you set up, you win. It’s that simple. Quite honestly, this deck probably aims to play the long game — as long as you aren’t going to deck, attempting to take a 1-0 match victory is probably the best bet (which opens up situations where playing Virbank isn’t the automatic that it appears).
It’s easy to identify the quickest thing to change here: Adding more defensive walls, perhaps even Pyroar FLF, may well be worthwhile. The idea with more walls would be to cut down on the necessity of drawing into disruption Supporters such as Team Flare Grunt on a somewhat consistent basis.
In general, the list ought to make sense, but a few inclusions are worth elaborating on:
3’s the Magic Number
Most of the Pokémon line are included as 3-ofs to enable fast setup, even if Item lock happens to be the first portion of your field to fall into place. Ariados is an exception due to the utility of Forest of Giant Plants, while Dusclops and Dusknoir don’t need to fall into place until later in the game.
So, it’s pretty clear to see that a major, major flaw for this concept would be the opponent opening a Grass type and benching nothing. This is why we’re playing 2 copies of Hypnotoxic Laser. Obviously, it’s not the most consistent thing on the planet, but keep in mind that we’re playing the long game and that falling behind is acceptable — perhaps even preferable because of N.
7 Stadiums!? Yes, 7. The idea here is to allow you to manipulate early-game Poison math until Dusknoir arrives on scene. Secondarily, it’s necessary to insure against poor Professor Juniper discards; Virbank is too much an essential part of the later-game strategy to not be played heavily.
Obviously, there are problems here. First off, AZ and Hex Maniac are both hard counters, and that’s clearly not a good thing. It’s going to come down to resilience when faced with those cards; the deck must be built to outlast the opponent’s counter resources.
As I mentioned earlier, “hard-teching” is now likely back to stay, and AZ serves as an additional example. Need to beat lock decks? Play AZ. These flaws may well relegate the Energy-less version to a gutsy meta call, but we’re going to take a look at a variant that is more well built to withstand its counters.
V2: Submission Hold
Pokémon – 26
Trainers – 29
Energy – 5
The idea here is to pull off the Dragalge/Ariados lock while preventing your opponent from being able to attack with the locked Pokémon. Despite the problems it seemingly solves, Hypnotoxic Laser has been omitted from this variant in favor of simply using Gliscor to slowly knockout the offending Grass type while it’s unable to attack due to Gliscor’s effect.
Absol is back to help make KOs more well timed. It’s always best to use Poison to take a KO coming into your turn, but the next-best thing is Lysandre’ing another threat up and moving damage done to it back to the damaged prior Active Pokémon. AZ allows you to reuse the strategy.
5 Fighting may seem light, but you also only have 3 Gliscor. So far, I’ve been able to set it up with just the five relatively well, but it may be necessary to add more. Strong Energy is omitted because I wanted the option to retreat Oddish, Ariados, etc.
The deck isn’t necessarily a silver bullet, but if the meta shakes out correctly, it stands a serious chance of making a mark. Without a doubt, Ancient Origins provides us with a number of new lock strategies, and they’re always a treat to deal with.
Alas, our lock decks face many challengers of all shapes and sizes. In specific, a certain tree-esque Pokémon is poised to make life difficult for an entirely different reason …
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 42
Energy – 0
I’d now like my trophy for “Most Decklists in an Article with 0 Energy.”
Ok, ok it didn’t sound that funny in my head either. Jokes aside, this is a serious contender — if not a serious problem for the game. My list is a tad different from those that have been circulating elsewhere in that I choose to utilize a Supporter line of sorts.
I believe that omitting Lysandre is a poor choice: Why allow the loss to Wobbuffet when you could tech one card to get around it? While your opponent will certainly wise up by Game 2/3, they still are forced to start the lone Wobbuffet for it to matter. Since you should’ve already taken Game 1 on their ignorance of your possessing Lysandre, getting a Wobbuffet-free start out of them in either Game 2 or 3 is a real possibility. The 1 Colress is to help your chances in the event you end up in a deck-out standoff with Baltoy or a lone Wobbuffet.
Otherwise, the list should be rather self-explanatory. Instead of focusing more on it, I’m going to address the issue of Shiftry as a whole. For starters, it is currently safe to assume there will not be a ban enacted prior to Week 1-of Regionals. Dave Schwimmer, head of Organized Play, went on record via Carlos Pero as saying were are no planned bans at the time of the Expanded Regionals “announcement.” Notably, Shiftry won a tournament of significant stature in Japan and lived to tell about it, which indicates the Japanese don’t see a problem with it.
The obvious answers (and my explanations for their failure) are as follows:
Wobbuffet PHF: I expect Lysandre to pick up in Shiftry, if only because of the “Why not?” factor. There’s little reason not to play the 1-of as insurance unless you intend to play Random Receiver. I’ll take 1 spot to beat one of my counters.
Silent Lab may also become a decent tech option to deal with Wobbuffet — in fact, it may be a superior option to the Lysandre I’ve pitched. It’s going to be dependent on the consistency of drawing into the Silent Lab early on in the game vs. the reliability of the VS Seeker engine I’ve chosen to employ in this list. I believe both are valid approaches to dealing with the issue of Wobbuffet.
Hex Maniac: I’m not really sure why this is being championed as an “answer” to the problem. Sure, it delays the Giant Fan onslaught, but I believe it’s premature to believe that a comeback would be impossible. Given the relatively low odds of a T1 Hex Maniac, coupled with the inability to play another Supporter on that turn to set up, it seems that Hex Maniac may not be the champion it’s being suggested to be.
Vileplume AOR: If you get it up before they manage much of a setup, it’s probably a pretty solid situation for you as a Vileplume player. However, it still can be Giant Fan’d off the board if the Shiftry player gets a bit lucky. I’m not saying my above list beats Vileplume, but I could see players sacrificing speed at the cost of more Supporter draw to help the Vileplume situation.
Baltoy AOR: This one does it for sure. Period. The Shiftry player will eventually run out of resources to Giant Fan other attackers off the board. But … who wants to play Baltoy? This is another example of the “hard-teching” I mentioned earlier.
… oh, and the X-factor? You have to go first for most of these to matter. This is no small issue, and I personally hope for (but do not expect) the ban hammer to come down. We’ll have to see, but if I were not attending Worlds (and dedicating my attention from this point-on exclusively to that format), I’d be working under the assumption that I have to be able to answer Shiftry — or have the best Shiftry list in the room.
That’s going to wrap up our Ancient Origins discussion today. More than anything else, I hope to have given you both some general principles to be applied to your deck creation and some deck concepts to keep in mind as you prepare for October Regionals. It’s so early and my attention so divided that it’s unlikely that any of the preceding lists will be anything but laughable by October, but hopefully they act as a launching pad.
The other topic on deck for today is the World Championships. Every year it seems something crazy happens with the metagame at Worlds, and with two separate events this year, you can “rest” assured that metagaming will reach a fever pitch by about 11 PM on both Thursday and Friday. But before I present an under-the-radar play for Worlds, we’re going to look back to Nationals because of the lessons it gives about the metagame.
Brief Reflections and Lessons from Nationals
While my Nationals run was nothing worth writing home about — unfortunately, pairings will do that — my decklist of choice was good for both 2nd and 8th in Seniors and a T32 Masters placing for my friend Alex Hill. I remain steadfast in my belief that Bronzong PHF/M Rayquaza-EX was the best choice for the event, and the success of the aforementioned and players like the Sauk brothers backs me up.
The list my group played is readily available on Pokémon.com due to the success of the two Seniors, but for reference, I’ll provide it below:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 33
Energy – 9
The only change I’d consider is adding a 1-1 Altaria ROS 74 line to deal with Manectric-EX variants. Originally, such an inclusion was featured in our list, but it was a last-second cut to fit in more of consistency cards like Acro Bike. Other than that, I believe what we had here was pretty much spot-on. The 3rd M Rayquaza-EX may be a luxury, and the 6th M Energy was probably the 61st card, but overall, I’d probably play this exact list if I were to play Metal Rayquaza for Worlds.
Here’s how my day went:
R1: Klinklang PLS/Aegislash-EX (0-1)
R2: Bronzong PHF/M Rayquaza-EX (2-1)
R3: Landorus-EX/Crobat PHF (2-1)
R4: Trevenant XY/Gengar-EX (2-1)
R5: Raichu XY/Ninetales PRC (1-2)
R6: Landorus-EX/Crobat PHF (1-2)
R7: Raichu XY/??? (1-2)
Final Record: 3-4 (Drop)
I started off my day with what was arguably tied with Wailord for the most ingenious play of the day. While my opponent was neither Dylan Bryan nor one of Johnny Rabus’ friends, Klinklang PLS is not an easy match for a deck featuring one non-EX attacker. Notably, I almost won both games (and G2 for the tie was mine if I had ~5 more seconds) between Heatran + Bronzor, but at the end of the day, he had the strong upper hand.
While my R1 opponent and I had both played to 3-3 records by Round 6, Dylan Bryan’s success goes to show that a good rogue has the potential to succeed even at the largest event of the year.
Otherwise, my day was rather uneventful. I never lost 0-2, which I believe is a testament to the deck’s consistency (or Raichu’s inconsistency — your choice of narrative). I apologize to my R7 opponent for not taking better notes, but by that time half of my back was numb and I simply wanted to sleep. In the end, the list went places, and I’ll take that as a result.
What can be learned? It’s like we’re in MLB’s American League: Parity is at an all-time high. Simply, there are such a plethora of viable decks that accurately predicting the metagame to the requisite accuracy to make a “meta call” is nearly impossible. Thus, a deck like Metal/M Rayquaza was a solid play.
The variety doesn’t even stop at archetypes. Both of the Landorus/Crobat lists I played against featured entirely different counts of key cards like Super Scoop Up and Focus Sash; it was essentially a different deck in both rounds.
Overall, the message from Nationals was clear: Eight different decks comprised Masters Top 8 for the first time in recent memory. Variety reigns supreme.
The Fauna: An Under-the-Radar Play for Worlds
What does all that babbling about Nationals mean? At an event like Worlds, where everything from Aromatisse Box to Meganium Prime have seen some level of hype, the best play may be the deck that can perform the most consistently against the widest spread of matchups. It’s very high risk/high reward to pick a deck with a polar matchup spread, and with the Day 1 bar being 5-2, I think it’s safe to expect a solid portion of the player base to opt for “safe” plays.
Recently, Seismitoad/Garbodor has possessed the role of the “safe” deck, and off of Jason K’s victory, it seems safe to conclude that a sizable portion of the players at Worlds will be strongly considering Seismitoad. However, I offer another answer …
Pokémon – 11
1 Jynx FFI
Trainers – 35
Energy – 14
Obviously, this isn’t the first time Virizion-EX has slept its way into early August. Last year it was one of the more surprising decks in recent memory and its dominance was absolute. This year, it again looks like a potentially compelling play. It’s similar to the “safe” philosophy that Toad/Garbodor has going for it: many playable matchups; few auto-losses. Virizion does posses a few sketchier matchups in Night March, Metal/M Rayquaza, and Raichu variants, but the strength against Seismitoad makes it worth considering.
It’s cut from the same cloth as its predecessors, but let’s examine a few of the finer points of the list’s rationale:
Jirachi-EX vs. Shaymin-EX
With Shadow Triad, Pokémon Center Lady, and Lysandre all being clutch low-count Supporters, Jirachi is what I want in my consistency slot. Additionally, Virizion/Genesect plays from the hand a bit more than most decks, meaning the opportunities for large Shaymin-EX yields will be few and far between.
M Manectric-EX hits for 110. Hawlucha FFI and Landorus-EX will set you back in the area of 90-100. What does our healing suite have in relation? Attempting to make these 2HKOs into 3-shots. Often, a single missed KO in the cycle on your opponent’s part is enough to change the outcome of the game. Jynx is mostly used for taking the extra 10 off of a Pokémon Center Lady’d Turbo Bolt so that a Manectric-EX’s Assault Laser can’t finish the job in the subsequent turn. It’s also useful against Seismitoad.
Deoxys-EX is intended to remedy the 210 HP problem, and Hypnotoxic Laser is intended to push for G Booster KOs on the likes of M Rayquaza-EX 77. Shadow Triad can recycle it and Skyla can search it, so the combo is relatively solid.
The intent of this tech is to hard counter Sky Field decks and keep them from reaching 180 to 1HKO our Pokémon. At present, I believe Sky Field variants to not be worth the tech space. I’d prefer to focus on the consistency against other matchups. They’re hard cuts, but may well be worth the pain if it becomes clear that Metal/M Rayquaza is going to see play.
The goal of the list is to beat M Manectric-EX and Seismitoad-EX. Above that, it’s also a nice bonus to have near auto-wins against the likes of Primal Kyogre and Wailord. Primal Groudon can be tougher, but it still should generally favor the Virizion/Genesect player. That leaves the aforementioned Sky Field variants and Night March. If you expect lots of Night March, it’s simply necessary to find a different deck. Sky Field is answerable, but I’d also lean toward another deck if I start to gauge it to be a significant threat. At present, I believe M Manectric-EX and Seismitoad-EX will do a decent job of keeping the Sky Field variants at home.
No matter what situation you’re in as a player, I hope to have aided you in some way. Whether your preparing for the formats to come or stuck with BCR-on for a little longer, it’s my aim that you take something away today. If you feel otherwise, I implore you to get in touch with me on the forums and pass along that feedback.
It’s always an exciting time of the year in the Pokémon world. A record number of players will be participating in the World Championships, and the Boston Open has no doubt raised the intensity another notch. We’re headed into a new season, and with a new season always comes changes. Only time will tell how those changes work out. See you at Worlds!
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