The current Expanded format is one of the stranger things I’ve ever had to deal with in Pokémon TCG. It’s huge and the more sets that are added in the future only make the mechanics of playing it exponentially more complicated.
Not every member of the player base cares about the handful of Regionals held in this format. Likewise, not everyone cares about XY-AOR Standard either. The only tournaments held in the Standard environment will be League Challenges. Many people don’t have time to test for both, and League Challenges are far less important than the season-defining Regional Championships. On the other hand, this brings us back to the point that a lot of competitive players aren’t even traveling to Fall Regionals.
In this article I’m going to cover the Expanded format and the Expanded format only. From looking at other writers’ articles, Vespiquen is far and away the most hyped up Pokémon that is seeing play in the current Expanded environment. Popularity of course is only loosely correlated to tournament wins. This article isn’t about rogue decks but it is also not about Vespiquen.
I want to reiterate the point that Pokémon doesn’t have a huge skill ceiling, especially with decks like Vespiquen and Night March that are extremely popular right now. What I mean by this is that the most popular decks don’t have a ton of outplay potential on the table. Say you give two players a Night March deck and have them play 10 games. Although the better player will always win more in the long run, Night March is so straightforward that the series probably won’t be more of a blowout than 6 wins to 4 in the better player’s favor, if that.
Vespiquen is a bit harder to play. The decisions aren’t as straightforward and lesser players will make mistakes with the deck. Those mistakes just aren’t likely to be major enough to cause even a lesser player to throw a mirror match. Both decks lend themselves well to beginners. Vespiquen has a lot of room for techs and innovation and improvements made to lists off the table are more likely to effect the outcome of matches than small mistakes on the table.
TL;DR: My point is that both Night March and Vespiquen are quite scary for people like me to play with. These decks don’t require a ton of skill so it is even difficult or nearly impossible to straight-up outplay average players who happen to get their hands on really hot draws. These chances don’t lend themselves very well to good win percentages in the long run.
As decks have gradually became more straightforward I have realized it is usually a better move to pick a deck that beats the most popular one instead of playing it myself. Potentially propelling myself headfirst into a day of mirror matches is a dangerous game.
That said, not all of the deck profiles I have for you today destroy our popular foes Vespiquen and Night March. However, these decks are beatable and thinking ahead I don’t believe that they will be on top for very long. Of course in the short run you should be looking to beat the meta but I’m hoping some of the decks here will serve you better if the landscape shifts away from Battle Compressor decks.
For example, one of the most balanced and adaptable cards is M Manectic-EX. With such a helpful attack, I can’t see this card ever being unplayable. It is however notoriously bad against non-EXs like Vespiquen that can dish out 200+ damage for a single DCE. Decks like Manectric variants ebb and flow in effectiveness depending on what is being played around them.
Old Dog, New Manectrics
The first deck I have for you is, as you might have guessed, a Manectric deck. It uses Regice AOR to limit the opposing player’s options. Regice is my favorite new card to play with. Its Safeguard effect is very tough to penetrate once Regice gets 3 Energy under it. Doing so isn’t that expensive when you factor in the utility that Turbo Bolt brings to the table. Regice improves on Suicune PLB in almost every way.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 32
Energy – 13
While Suicune was a great card in its day, Suicune and Regice alike are only as good as the Pokémon that they can block the attacks of. Pokémon-EX are currently at an all-time low. With Night March and Vespiquen doing enough damage to 1-shot most EXs, we have to ask ourselves what could possibly be more powerful than that? Very few decks can contest the efficiency of the Battle Compressor decks. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure Regice is a must-run. EX decks are a reality of the format and Regice is a huge pain for those decks to handle. On the other hand, doing so locks us into playing two types of Energy: Water and Lightning. That doesn’t leave a lot of options.
Pokémon like Manectric that are strong because of their high HP have historically been terrible against decks that can 1-shot them. Manectric/Regice is very strong against any EX decks for the most part. It also feasts upon most modern lock decks such as Seismitoad and Vileplume thanks to its bulky stats. Manectric is one of the least needy Pokémon in the history of the game.
Not only can Manectric be its own main attacker, it’s also a capable babysitter for techs:
- Regice is probably the most stubborn wall in the format. Although a great card, it could go down to a single copy because of recent trends away from Pokémon-EX in the Expanded format. Pokémon like Trevenant, Accelgor, Joltik, Flareon, Vespiquen are expected to do well at the top tables. I’m just not sure what to play instead. Either way, I don’t see anything wrong with playing two icebergs.
- Articuno might seem like an odd choice but it helps against Night March as well as Fighting decks that may pop up. Articuno is also what I throw Active when I’m trying to stall. With a Fighting Resistance and Rough Seas, it takes hits from fast attackers quite well.
What about forgoing Water types altogether? Originally I ran Aegislash-EX in this to deal with decks that do a ton of damage with DCE. Metal decks aren’t totally off-meta decks yet, so expect vulnerable decks to be packing counters to Aegislash’s game-changing Ability quite often.
While the concept works, I’m not convinced that a deck with Aegislash would succeed in practice. Frankly, I think that Aegislash is too weak a counter for it to see a lot of play right now. Manectric is a very solid deck with a consistent and proven core of cards. Right now Hex Maniac, Silent Lab, and Ninetales PRC are all powerful cards that people are packing and not only to deal with Aegislash. Tech cards that have a lot of utility against many popular decks such as Hex Maniac are even more likely to be played than Silent Lab. I have been more impressed by the typing and utility that Regice brings to the table.
At any rate, Manectric has been played with a ton of partners since its release. I wouldn’t be surprised if Manectric will be played with every color of Energy by the time it rotates out of legality. Here’s another example of it working with Grass.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 33
Energy – 13
This is an improved version of the Manectric/Genesect deck that I ran in the Boston Open. It had breakout success on the first day of Worlds. After getting there on Day 2, I decided that since I was mainly there to have fun I would play the deck that featured my two favorite Pokémon cards from 2015. I had less fun than I hoped and my Open run ended in me dropping. Nonetheless, this deck is great, albeit just the wrong call for the Boston Open.
Manectric had a hard time against Groudon and Kyogre decks before the innovation. The introduction of Genesect to the mix improves two of the deck’s harder matches significantly. Genesect brings extra utility to the table as well. Its Red Signal Ability helps give the deck options and G Booster offers a powerful finishing blow.
I really enjoyed this deck and there are probably some some improvements that could be made to make the deck better in Expanded. Mr. Mime is basically a placeholder for any other non-EX attacker you want to play. This spot is very flexible and meta dependent.
I don’t feel like Skyarrow does enough to be viable even though it is a staple for Virizion/Genesect decks. This deck doesn’t pivot between attackers quite like V/G did. Even if there is no Hypnotoxic Laser in the meta, Virizion-EX is useful enough to be included as a single copy. One Virizion shuts down decks that attack with Accelgor and it helps accelerate attackers from behind.
I used 4 G Energy in my Open build, but I know I want more. I cut down the Plasma Energy to accommodate a more flexible Grass count of 5. This way I can attack reliably with Genesect, especially against decks that use Crushing Hammer. 2 Plasma is plenty. The deck also has VS Seeker and Lysandre to compensate for that.
The success of these decks really just depends on the popularity of damage-heavy decks like Vespiquen and Night March which Manectric is almost always forced to trade unfavorably against. If the meta shifts away from these two, I predict that it will quickly begin to favor lock decks, which Manectric is (historically speaking) an overwhelming favorite against.
I’m personally predicting that the metagame will shift away from fast decks that are powered by Battle Compressor and toward hybrid-lock decks like Yveltal/Toad (presented below). If I’m right, Manectric will probably emerge as an extremely solid play, even if it doesn’t look so hot right now.
Shake, Shake, Shake: Seismitoad Returns
Speaking of lock decks, Seismitoad is still alive and well in the Expanded format. In my last article I talked about Shiftry and its fairness but I also presented an aside on how many players think Toad is unfair because it stops players from “playing Pokémon.” Although the controversy continues to this day, lock decks are here to stay. Since the “LockDown” theme deck from Fossil, locking an opponent out of the game has always been a real way to win.
Yveltal XY provides an answer to Pokémon like Vespiquen that can get set up to a point where they can deal with Toad. So far, Expanded results have shown that this deck is enjoying a lot of success. Honestly, it’s only to be expected in a format where Darkrai and Dark Patch are legal again. Out of the three Toad decks I have had my hands on, this first one is my favorite.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 37
Energy – 11
Archeops is basically an option to help your Pokémon-EX trade better. Vespiquen is a fast deck and it isn’t unusual to see two Evolutions hit the board on Turn 2. Getting Archeops on Turn 3 or 4 is probably more likely than having it ready on Turn 1 or 2. No matter what, your opponent needs to devote attention to Archeops if they want to keep evolving their attackers. My version of the deck isn’t built around playing cards like Arco Bike to get Archeops out faster though. I don’t think I want to go that ham, even in matchups where Archeops is important. Let me explain …
A few of the Vespiquen lists that have been on SixPrizes lately are playing cards like Wobbuffet, indicating that Archeops is on the radar of Beeveelutions players. If Wobbuffet continues to see play, I’d take the Archeops out of the deck and slow the Trainer package down a bit to accommodate a deck without Maxie. In this list, I’m taking a conservative approach while still holding onto Archeops. This deck definitely needs a backup against whatever clever ways people are using to handle the Evolution lock.
Archeops will definitely help our EXs trade more favorably with Evolution decks but clearly they have a beat on us. To help deal with these problems I choose to play Absol. It serves the role of a non-EX attacker that can deal enough damage at a low enough Energy cost to efficiently handle low-HP Stage 1 Pokémon.
If the metagame does end up in a place that doesn’t favor Archeops, I think the following list is a better option. Not only is it tried-and-true, it also has a number of tools to help it out against the recent power creep of strong non-Pokémon-EX. Non-EX decks are particularly reliant on utility Abilities like Shaymin’s Set Up and Unown’s Farewell Letter. This list uses the extra space granted by a deck that is free from Archeops and Maxie to play Garbodor. It is intended to limit the reliability of Vespiquen and Night March in the late game by taking away their draw options and sustainability.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 37
Energy – 11
With a decent amount of non-EX attackers as well as a potent Item lock, this deck should be able to scale well into the late game against the more fragile decks that have been populating the meta recently. Worst case is that Quaking Punch never has a chance to help and you are forced to make a straight-up one-for-one trade (Absol for a Vespiquen for example). This deck is designed to survive those early trades and eventually run them dry. We play a lot of N to maximize our late game advantage and 4 Dark Patch to keep fueling the fire.
Hex Maniac is a great way to shut down Vileplume. Being able to attach a Tool to Garbodor is all you need. If you are able to VS Seeker Hex Maniac back to your hand in the same turn the game is probably sealed. Hex Maniac is a necessity but other than that, this list doesn’t use a lot of new cards and strategies.
Some lists choose to play Faded Town but I think the Hypnotoxic Laser package is just better. Mega Evolution decks can either be stopped or slowed down by a fast Archeops and Laser is a much more useful card in more situations than Faded Town.
Seismitoad decks in Expanded are beginning to break away from the traditional conventions of all-or-nothing lockdown strategies. The Expanded format seems far too diverse for a deck with a single plan of attack to succeed. I’ve noticed that many of the best Expanded decks are equipped to easily shift gears in a pinch.
I’m not convinced either Yveltal or Seismitoad would be all that great alone. It is not even that the two complement each other; in fact, they don’t. There isn’t really a lot of synergy here at all; just raw stats and a powerful Item lock. We’ve seen time and time again that synergy isn’t even important for players of blatantly strong Pokémon like Toad and Yveltal. Any awkwardness between the two is made up for by how innately powerful each card is. The return of Darkrai helps the two mesh together even better.
Finally, we arrive at the most interesting lock deck. Giratina-EX and Seismitoad-EX form a dangerous but fragile team.
Pokémon – 9
Trainers – 44
2 Head Ringer
Energy – 7
This is essentially a Seismitoad deck that uses some of its space on an attacker that handles Toad’s weaknesses while still fitting the “lock” theme. I don’t want to overstate Giratina’s role in this deck. In order for any kind of lock to be effective you really have to lock one thing and lock it right. Certain decks are totally shut down by Giratina, but not most.
Giratina is a tech that only belongs in a certain metagame. If Giratina isn’t doing anything, either of the first two Toad decks is probably a much better choice. Don’t get me wrong — Chaos Wheel is a great attack but keep in mind that breaking the Quaking Punch lock for any reason makes Quaking Punch much worse for the rest of the game.
After playing a few games with this deck, I actually found Quaking Punch a little underwhelming in a format with strong Grass attackers and high-HP Mega Evolutions. Giratina-EX’s lockdown effect wasn’t as strong as I anticipated. It is highly situational.
Switch: Accelgor and DonphanBait &
I’m personally predicting that the metagame will shift away from fast decks that are powered by Battle Compressor and trend toward slower decks that use Seismitoad. If I’m right, Manectric is a great call for Regionals. If I’m wrong though and the Battle Compressor decks end up staying Tier 1 for Regionals, Donphan could end up being a risky play that could pay off in a big way: No deck trades with low-HP Night Marchers and Bees like Donphan.
Pokémon – 16
1 Primal Groudon-EX
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
Next to Bees and Night March, the metagame’s second most powerful contender is probably (unfortunately) Yveltal/Toad. Both Pokémon punish Donphan decks in a big way. This can be mitigated by the inclusion of Primal Groudon-EX, one of the best walls in the game. It doubles as an attacker in the Toad matchup as well. The deck also benefits from access to the better Groudon-EX from Dark Explorers.
While Groudon and Wobbuffet are potent walls on their own, Robo Substitute is what makes this deck shine against non-EX decks. The list itself is nothing new. It can probably be improved and teched out for the nuances of the Expanded meta. This is a good starting point if the meta starts to go in a direction away from Yveltal and Toad.
Depending on what the Stadium meta ends up looking like, you might look to put in a fourth Fighting Stadium. I’m not sure how good Silver Bangle and Fighting Stadium will continue to be in Expanded just because EXs aren’t quite as prevalent there as they are in Standard.
Another deck that also trades with non-Pokémon-EX well is Accelgor. I’m not as willing to go all in with the lock plan as other people though. Sure, Trevenant is a no-brainer but I’m not sure its the correct match for Accelgor. If the hard lock gets countered or shut down you have no plan. Cycling Accelgors can give a lot of decks trouble without even using Item lock at all.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
With so many options for utility Trainers in decks, it’s hard to find room for cards like Switch in any deck, especially in a meta where Item lock is a big deal. So far, the Expanded decks I’ve seen are trending toward using Keldeo-EX and Float Stone to handle the jobs Switch and Escape Rope used to do. This deck runs Virbank to exploit this since Deck and Cover plus Poison drops Keldeo in one shot.
Many decks run only run a maximum of two other ways to escape Accelgor’s death grip. Even without totally locking somebody down, Accelgor can win games by taking free Prizes on Pokémon like Keldeo and setting up damage to get knockouts with Yveltal. If they miss an answer to Paralysis even once the tempo advantage can be enough to put you ahead, if not just winning you the game.
We use Robo Sub to get an advantage against decks like Night March and Vespiquen in the same way Donphan does. Sub is so great against those decks because even if they Lysandre to take 2 Prizes on Yveltal-EX, Robo lives on, ready to troll another day. Eventually they will be forced to take a bad Prizes trade thanks to your Substitute.
This deck plays like a hybrid between Yveltal/Toad and Accelgor/Trevenant, minus the Item lock elements. The lockdown meta is definitely different from what we have been seeing in Standard in the recent years. Expanded is a totally different creature that should be approached by thinking outside the box. Most Pokémon players don’t have experience playing in two different formats simultaneously. Ideas that work in Expanded don’t always work in Standard and vice-versa.
With Level Ball and Shaymin, the deck actually has the consistency to get Accelgor into play on demand. On the other hand, the deck’s tools don’t overlap much. Level Ball and Dark Patch aren’t at high counts because I like playing cards that are good in every situation. Because you really have to fight through this problem and play these cards regardless, this deck can play out on the clunky side.
There have only been a couple of events played in the Expanded format. None of those in the US have been big. Europe’s results seem to be trending toward Vespiquen/Eeveelutions being the most played and perhaps the strongest deck. I can’t say for sure because results are often in other languages or hard to find. This makes sense to me because not only is Vespiquen a fast and fun deck, it is also cheap, albeit a bit complicated to build. I don’t think anybody has gotten the deck to a point as refined as it will be two months down the road yet.
This Regionals season is likely going to begin without a solidified meta. There is no far-and-away best deck to beat. There is no format warping combo in Expanded (thanks Shiftry, stay banned!) in the same way that Rayquaza was in the initial post-Roaring Skies metagame for example.
Whether or not Vespiquen is the best deck, it is clearly trending up. What happens from here is impossible to predict, but I think that Vespiquen will get knocked down a notch by decks designed to beat it. That will eventually make decks like Manectric much better choices in the future than they currently are.
I feel like it is a bit of a stretch to call Manny a safe play for Week 1 though. Even if the meta does end up favoring decks like Accelgor, Yveltal and Toad, players are often slow to adapt. Many players don’t like or aren’t capable of making last-minute switches to new decks, even if those decks are in really favorable positions to win. For someone who likes thinking ahead, these players make life difficult.
There will always be players in a tournament who care more about being comfortable on a deck choice than they do about how their deck sits in the metagame. This means that even if you play a deck that beats the best deck, you still have to contend with the people who aren’t thinking ahead in the same way. Those players are less likely to predictably fall in with a shifting metagame.
Yveltal decks are a much safer choice for Week 1. They use some of the most powerful and adaptable cards in the format while also having answers to most of the format. Yveltal is what you should play if you have no read on the local meta. The deck has good matchups all around. I’m willing to bet that Yveltal/Toad variants will be the most successful deck for Week 1-of Regionals.
I hope today’s article could offer some insight. I don’t like just throwing out variants of lists everyone has built. Understand that I’m not a creative person in Pokémon. I’ve never been one to create decks from the ground up. Almost every deck here, you’ll notice, is a variant of a popular deck from the past adapted for a new metagame. I’m sure brand new concepts will slowly emerge as people toy with the Expanded card pool. I would never advertise myself as an inventor, but I hope my readers were able to get some insight out of my innovations.
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