Hey everyone, I couldn’t be more excited to write again with Regionals right around the corner! In my very recent article, I spent a majority of my time discussing the most popular decks heading into Regionals. While I’m sure some players are looking to hear about a ton of rogue or tier 2 decks, it’s much more important to first have a solid grasp on the strongest decks in the format. Whether you end up playing one of them or not, it’s important to know which decks to focus the bulk of your time testing against. In addition, understanding the inner workings of these decks allows you to play against them more effectively come tournament day.
With all that said, I don’t feel there’s much more to add to the conversation about these top tier decks since I’ve last written. That means it’s time for some craziness and innovation! There’s a few ways I could go about this, one of which is making a very list-heavy article with my opinion on a ton of tier 2 decks. I decided against this approach because many of the tier 2 decks fall into the same pitfall and the explanations would become repetitive. To sum it up briefly, many of these decks rely on Pokémon-EX that were previously dominant in the Standard format. M Manectric-EX variants, Archie/Blastoise, Virizion/Genesect, Bronzong variants, and M Rayquaza-EX variants — just to name a handful — all suffer from a poor matchup against the powerful non-EX decks. Both Night March and Vespiquen can simply execute the usual two-for-1 Prize exchange against the likes of M Manectric, M Rayquaza, and Genesect.
The Night March matchup is at least more manageable for Bronzong and Archie/Blastoise thanks to Aegislash-EX and Articuno ROS 17 respectively, but Vespiquen is still no easy feat to tackle. Vespiquen variants seem to be favoring the Flareon/Blacksmith combo as a soft Giratina counter, making it a very uphill battle for any Bronzong variant relying on Aegislash-EX as its sole counter to non-EX decks. Vespiquen also gives Archie/Blastoise tons of problems outside of the obvious Grass Weakness. Articuno becomes a much riskier option with Vespiquen requiring an extra heads to Knock Out compared to the critters in the Night March deck. Vespiquen also commonly plays Hex Maniac, meaning that the Blastoise player has to have a backup attacker ready at all times or risk a huge swing turn if Deluge gets shut off.
It’s possible that these decks see a surge in viability if somebody breaks one of them by finding a tech I missed or if Vespiquen somehow shifts out of the metagame. At the moment though, it’s hard to write about these decks as they suffer from a bad matchup that I believe will be popular and my lists for them aren’t that far off from the other lists out there.
Instead, I’ll be revisiting a few previously written off decks that I believe can be revitalized for Regionals with the right take on each of them. While I’m hesitant to say all of these decks are Regionals-ready for tomorrow, they’ve been showing a lot of potential from my testing against all the top tier decks. I’d like to personally get a larger testing sample size in order to iron out the each of the lists, but my goal for this article is to discuss the concepts as well as standout card choices for each of my ideas.
My hope is by the end of the article you’ll be inspired to try one of these ideas for yourself and that at least one of them makes a splash by the time Regionals is over!
Flying Elephant: Donphan/Hawlucha
Although it’s been a while since I’ve gotten a chance to play Donphan, it’s always a deck that’s on the back of my mind. Ever since losing to Seismitoad/Crobat at back-to-back States with Donphan, I’ve dismissed the deck as too risky for the metagame. However, it may finally be time to bring everybody’s favorite elephant back in the format:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 33
Energy – 11
Out of all the decks I’ll be discussing, this deck has the least amount of innovation. However, I’m fairly confident that it will work since it’s so similar to Donphan builds I’ve achieved success with in the past. Donphan has historically been the bane of non-EX decks like Night March. While a Night March is very successful at creating favorable Prize exchanges against most EX-centric decks, its strategy doesn’t line up very well against Donphan. The Donphan player can simply deny Prizes with Robo Substitute while threatening to take a Prize every turn with Spinning Turn. Donphan can execute a similar strategy against Vespiquen, but the matchup is closer thanks to the slightly higher HP on Vespiquen and Flareon.
It would seem that Donphan struggles against Yveltal/Archeops after Yveltal such a key factor in Donphan’s demise during Cities last season, but I believe the matchup is fairly close. Back during Cities last winter, Yveltal decks were running multiple copies of Max Potion, multiple copies of Hard Charm, or even both options together! Now that Donphan is out of the metagame, these defensive tech choices have been replaced with the likes of Dark Patch and techs for the non-EX matchups. The most successful Yveltal build as of late even opted to play Faded Town over the Hypnotoxic Laser package. All these factors put Donphan on a much more even footing, similar to how the matchup was back during Fall Regionals 2014.
The main issue Donphan has in the current metagame is Seismitoad/Giratina. Donphan struggles with the current builds on Seismitoad because it’s at the mercy of the Seismitoad player’s Super Scoop Up flips. Even if Donphan is able to brave the Item lock and replace the Energy discarded by Crushing Hammer, it’s really an uphill battle when all your damage can potentially be removed multiple times per game. However, I believe the matchup is solved with the right tech choices.
1-1 Primal Groudon-EX
Back during States last season, I had a ton of success against non-Crobat Seismitoad builds with this tech after seeing Andrew Wamboldt post the idea on The Charizard Lounge. Without Crobat, Seismitoad simply has no answer to this card, which is easier to set up than the 1-1 line would suggest thanks to the Korrina engine. Even with a huge Prize deficit, Groudon can swing for 200+ damage per turn, spelling certain disaster for Seismitoad-EX as Quaking Punch caps out at 50 damage with Hypnotoxic Laser being useless thanks to Groudon’s Ancient Trait.
Our loyal soldier Wobbuffet is here to aid Donphan’s cause in finding annoying Pokémon to hide behind. In addition to shutting off Shaymin-EX’s Set Up and any other Abilities your opponent’s deck may need to in order to function, it functions as an essential counter to Archeops. With Archeops receiving quite a bit of hype heading into Regionals, I wouldn’t blame anybody for making space for a third copy of Wobbuffet and a third copy of Float Stone. So far I’ve been fine in my testing either drawing into it or finding Ultra Ball with Korrina and then searching for Wobbuffet.
I think the key is just to generally make sure that you prioritize sacrificing Hawlucha in order to keep Wobbuffet safe on the Bench when facing an Archeops deck while still needing to evolve a couple of Phanpy into Donphan. Your opponent isn’t going to prioritize targeting the Wobbuffet with Lysandre when there’s a Donphan attacking them and another Wobbuffet still in the deck, so don’t make it easy for them by leaving Wobbuffet Active unnecessarily.
While the Yveltal matchup is certainly very manageable, I think this tech helps push the matchup over the edge. Dedenne’s main goal is to 1-shot an opposing Yveltal-EX with the help of Silver Bangle in order to keep up a favorable Prize exchange. This usually occurs if you’re able to Lysandre a Benched Yveltal-EX charged with Oblivion Wing or if the Yveltal opponent uses Lysandre to target a Benched Donphan with Evil Ball.
Now that some of the Yveltal lists are opting out of Hypnotoxic Laser completely, the Yveltal player will need three Energy in addition to a Muscle Band in order to Knock Out a two-Energy Donphan with Evil Ball. This math works out perfectly for the Dedenne as three Energy is the magic number to Knock Out an opposing Yveltal-EX with the help of Silver Bangle. If the Yveltal player opts not to target Donphan with Lysandre, then Donphan threatens to use Wreck in order to take 2 Prizes regardless, thus forcing the Yveltal player into a lose-lose situation.
As a bonus, Entrainment makes Dedenne a decent starter in every other matchup. It serves also serves as an expendable non-EX to sacrifice after Spinning Turn.
Focus Sash is the last standout card in the list. Focus Sash is easily searchable via Korrina and helps protect Donphan from Lysandre. In the non-EX matchups specifically, your opponent will likely target the Donphan that has two Strong Energy attached with Lysandre. When Donphan has a Focus Sash attached, it means that your opponent will have to waste two copies of Lysandre over the course of two turns to Knock Out a single Donphan. This gives you plenty of time to build up a backup Donphan as well as get ahead an extra turn in the Prize exchange.
As a bonus, it also allows Groudon to become potentially relevant against Yveltal-EX. Against a version that opts for the Hypnotoxic Laser package over Faded Town, it’s sometimes tricky Knocking Out an opposing Yveltal-EX with Dedenne as they have to commit less Energy with Evil Ball. However, the lack of Faded Town means that Groudon with Focus Sash can potentially sweep for three to 4 Prizes while being safe from Lysandre, unlike a Donphan threatening to use Wreck.
Meek Mill: Wear-Down Durant
In my last article, I touched upon the Energy denial concept that could be incorporated to make a deck like Durant work in the current metagame. The next goal is to find the most efficient way to play Durant. I’ve seen players opt to aggressively discard as many cards as possible with Trick Shovel and Ninjask, while other players opt for a more traditional build focusing on Energy disruption and getting an undesirable Pokémon stuck Active.
While I’m not positive my approach is the best quite yet, it’s a little different than the other builds I’ve seen and has showed potential in my testing outside of prizing key cards:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 40
Energy – 8
The main difference between my Durant list and many others is the decision to run Slurpuff over something like Ninjask. From my experience, Ninjask usually results in an extra 4 or so discards per game. If the matchup boils down to a race between Devour and how fast your opponent can draw Prizes, there’s certainly a case for Ninjask in order to edge out a narrow victory. However, my mindset when building the deck was to focus on both consistency and the Life Dew/Eco Arm combo.
Once your deck gets small enough by the end of the game, it’s fairly easy to redraw the Life Dew with Slurpuff immediately after shuffling it back in with Eco Arm. If the extra draw from Slurpuff allows you to recycle Life Dew just one extra time on average per game, it allows you to pull off one extra Devour. This alone puts Slurpuff on par with Ninjask. In addition, Slurpuff provides a consistency boost throughout the game, allowing you to play more disruptive Supporters without having to necessarily to play Professor Sycamore to first draw into them.
I also don’t view every game as a race to Devour the opponent’s deck as quickly as possible. Of course some games inevitably boil down to this race, but when you approach games from the mindset of running your opponent out of resources, Slurpuff gains more value as it allows you to draw into more disruption cards.
For example, the Seismitoad matchup is often won by discarding all of the Seismitoad player’s Double Colorless Energy and then winning via Devour. This is where the 2 Xerosic, 2 Team Flare Grunt, and tech Cobalion-EX come into play. The high counts of Supporter-based Energy removal, as well as Cobalion-EX, provide plenty of outs to remove Double Colorless Energy from Seismitoad-EX. Slurpuff provides extra draw power to help find these techs under the Item lock, while Ninjask is simply a luxury to end the game faster in resource battles. Once the Seismitoad player is out of Double Cololress Energy they can no longer Quaking Punch and Devouring the rest of their deck is merely a formality.
Seismitoad isn’t the only matchup that can boil down to a resource battle either. For example, a Vespiquen/Flareon deck in theory has plenty of ways to keep Energy in play thanks to Blacksmith and VS Seeker. However, after seeing which cards end up getting discarded by Devour, you can often turn the race to mill your opponent into a resource battle if a majority of their Double Colorles Energy and VS Seekers have been discarded. In these resource battles, Bunnelby becomes a key component to the strategy. While not aggressively decking your opponent out like Durant does, Bunnelby is able to shuffle Life Dew and Eco Arm back into the deck so that you can draw into them with the help of Slurpuff.
Dragging out the game is beneficial when your opponent is low on Energy. It forces them to commit an Energy from their hand just to KO the Pokémon with Life Dew attached, which in turn gives you the opportunity to discard this Energy. If your opponent doesn’t attach an Energy to Knock Out the Pokémon with Life Dew, you simply threaten to mill them.
Explaining it from a slightly different angle, without Life Dew in the deck, your opponent would win if they had enough Energy in their hand to take their remaining Prizes. For example a Vespiquen player with 3 Double Cololress Energy and 3 Prizes left would have the game locked up barring N. Life Dew allows you to prolong the game and abuse your disruptive Item cards by forcing your opponent to commit more Energy than they might have remaining to win the game.
The only other portion of the deck to discuss is the Trainer engine unique to Durant. Besides consistency and Energy disruption, Durant can fall into two main pitfalls:
- Not being able to recover Durants as they get Knocked Out
- Not being able to find Life Dew quickly
In order to ensure the army of Durants is likely to be marching four strong, I included 2 Rescue Scarf, 2 Revive, and 1 Super Rod. The large amount of recovery cards may seem excessive, but it’s important to have as many Durant in play as possible to maximize the effectiveness of each Devour. These cards can of course also be used to recover Bunnelby if the matchup becomes a battle of attrition and resources.
In order to find Life Dew reliably, I included Jirachi-EX and Teammates. Without this duo, Life Dew can be buried toward the bottom of the deck, making it impossible to pull off the Life Dew/Eco Arm combo.
My logic for choosing Teammates over Skyla as my Supporter to search out Life Dew was that you only need Life Dew/Eco Arm when your attackers are getting Knocked Out. If your opponent isn’t Knocking anything Out, then your Active Pokémon is likely happily milling your opponent with a Life Dew attached. When this Pokémon inevitably does get Knocked Out, Teammates helps to recover the Life Dew in addition to getting any card other of your choice.
Snail’s Pace: The Ultimate Accelgor Lock
With all the Giratina hype since the Arena Cup, it’s easy to write Accelgor off as a deck completely. However, I believe Accelgor can utilize Energy disruption, as I mentioned in my last article, in order to fend off Giratina. Of course making space for these techs means dropping something like Ninetales/Silent Lab, making the deck vulnerable to Virizion/Genesect if that deck ever makes a comeback. It’s simply impossible to beat everything with such a large card pool available, which makes it essential to adapt to the metagame that’s forming.
Below is my attempt to counter the current top tier decks with Accelgor:
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 33
Energy – 4
This Accelgor variant is a flashback form the Trevenant/Accelgor/Dusknoir decks that saw play a couple of years ago. The idea is that no matter how many Prize cards the deck gives up, it can make the comeback by creating an infinite lock by repeatedly using Deck and Cover. Trevenant prevents the opponent from playing Switch or Escape Rope while Dusknoir repeatedly moves damage counters off your opponent’s Active Pokémon to keep it trapped.
Many players decided to try Trevenant/Accelgor without Dusknoir and found some success in Expanded this past season. This deck could keep Pokémon-EX trapped Active and create a favorable Prize exchange by taking 2 Prizes in exchange for a Trevenant when a new attacker is promoted after a knockout. However, I believe the Dusknoir version is now necessary to keep up with some of the current top tier decks. When facing Yveltal/Archeops, it’s very easy to fall too far behind to make a comeback without the threat of the infinite lock. Archeops slows Accelgor down significantly as the deck plays three different Evolution lines. It’s also very difficult to exchange Prizes with Vespiquen as the deck utilizes both non-EX attackers as well as a couple copies of Audino BCR to break the status lock. With the help of Dusknoir, the infinite lock is inevitable once your opponent runs out of Audino. Espeon DEX is also easy to counter with either Mew-EX and Lysandre or just moving damage to it with Dusknoir.
One of the new and important additions to this Trevenant/Accelgor/Dusknoir variant is the two copies of Wobbuffet. The most obvious use for Wobbuffet is to evolve under the Archeops lock until you’re able to Knock Out the Archeops with either Lysandre and Deck and Cover or move enough damage to it with Dusknoir. Mew-EX helps with the strategy of looping Deck and Cover without having to evolve into multiple Accelgor under the Archeops lock. While this takes quite a bit of time to achieve and will result in giving your opponent quite the Prize lead, remember it doesn’t matter! Once this Accelgor deck is set up and the pieces are in play, there is almost nothing your opponent can do and the six-to-one comeback is almost expected.
One of the less obvious uses for Wobbuffet is using it as a part of the infinite lock instead of Trevenant. Trevenant is a critical part to the strategy because it cuts off your opponent from playing Switch, Escape Rope, or even Super Scoop Up to break the status lock. However, certain decks actually run zero copies of these switching cards. For example, the successful Yveltal/Archeops deck from the Arena Cup instead relies on Keldeo-EX with Float Stone as well as Darkrai-EX to retreat. This means that Wobbuffet actually stops your opponent from breaking the status lock barring Lysandre, while Trevenant actually doesn’t really help with your win condition of creating an infinite lock.
It’s much more effective to promote Wobbuffet after Deck and Cover against Keldeo/Float Stone decks while you either build up enough damage to knock Keldeo-EX out by moving damage to it with Dusknoir or target it with Lysandre followed by Deck and Cover.
The other standout inclusions are the copies of Xerosic and Enhanced Hammer to target Giratina. When facing Seismitoad/Giratina, the Quaking Punch lock is easy to break with Trevenant and Accelgor. With Items, it’s relatively easy to set up the pieces to get the infinite lock in place. Unfortunately, Giratina’s Chaos Wheel prevents any Accelgor deck from attacking for the rest of the game if Double Colorless Energy is all the deck runs in terms of Energy.
In this matchup, you need a way to cut off Giratina completely in order to achieve your win condition. The silver lining is that while your opponent is attacking with Chaos Wheel, you’re free to use Items. Xerosic, Enhanced Hammer, Dowsing Machine, and VS Seeker thus give you six options to remove the three or four copies of Double Dragon Energy in Seismitoad/Giratina. In addition, you can also win by playing a barrage of Energy removal cards in a single turn. If you’re able to remove all of the Energy off of a Giratina at once, your opponent will be unable to Chaos Wheel the following turn, allowing you to likely start your infinite lock after being granted multiple turns with Items to set up all of your Evolutions.
3-3 Trevenant, 3 Float Stone
In order to fit all these cards for the Giratina matchup, I unfortunately had to cut down to a 3-3 Trevenant line and 3 copies of Float Stone. While many players may see these cards as crucial to play in max counts, I simply consider the fourth copies to provide a slight consistency boost in the Dusknoir variation of Trevenant/Accelgor. I approach the deck from the mindset that I need to utilize Tropical Beach until all the pieces are in place and then start using Deck and Cover. I can sacrifice several Pokémon without a Float Stone attached until I’m set up and then begin the infinite lock. The only time I’ll really Deck and Cover mid game is if it’s to slow down the rate at which my opponent is taking Prizes, to help prevent my opponent from targeting a key Pokémon down with Lysandre, or to target a Pokémon that threatens the infinite lock such as Keldeo-EX.
The same concept applies with Trevenant. Some players seem to tunnel in on setting up a new Trevenant every turn. While Item lock is certainly powerful, it has very little impact once your opponent already has an attacker built up. It’s often better to save at least one Trevenant on the Bench while sacrificing a useless Pokémon so that you have a Trevenant ready once Dusknoir is in play.
The only time I’ll really break this rule is if I’m trying to prevent my opponent from playing Lysandre to target Dusclops on the Bench. This strategy is quite different from that of a Trevenant/Accelgor deck without Dusknoir. Those builds aim to Deck and Cover with Trevenant Active every single turn starting from the second or third turn of the game. With the Dusknoir addition to the deck, the focus is on setting up your win condition before you get to the point of using Deck and Cover every turn.
As you can see in all the explanations above, Dowsing Machine is more of a necessity over Computer Search than a preference. While Computer Search certainly provides the most in terms of consistency, this deck has too much that can go wrong in terms of bad discards of crucial Trainers to not run Dowsing Machine. Dowsing Machine makes only 3 Float Stone much less risky, it gives you the luxury of discarding the only Sacred Ash if you open with it alongside Professor Sycamore, it helps you remove Special Energy from Giratina, and so on and so forth.
Computer Search fits the theme of a traditional Trevenant/Accelgor deck much better. That version is based around setting up quickly and drawing Double Colorless Energy every turn. With Dusknoir and the end goal being an infinite lock, it becomes much more important to have a way to get back crucial Trainers that would otherwise be unrecoverable.
1 Town Map
Once the deck is set up, it can sometimes miss a Deck and Cover at one point or another due to poor Prizes or an unfortunate Professor Sycamore. One way to alleviate this is to run Town Map and not take any unnecessary Prizes with the help of Dusknoir. Not only does Town Map provide a way to find crucial tech Trainers, but the ability to choose which Prize to take makes it almost impossible to ever miss a Deck and Cover.
By leaving all the damage counters in play with Dusknoir, if you find yourself short a Double Cololress Energy or draw Supporter, you can simply Knock Out an inconsequential Pokémon with Dusknoir to take the missing piece you need to continue the infinite lock.
However, be careful to only take advantage of this luxury when absolutely necessary. The more Prize cards you take, the more vulnerable you become to a late-game N from your opponent in their last-ditch effort to break your Deck and Cover lock.
Tech Option: 1 Tool Scrapper
The only other tech I’d consider making room for in the current metagame is 1 Tool Scrapper. While Yveltal/Garbodor seems to sit the shadows of the other Yveltal variants, it will probably still inevitable see some amount of play at Regionals. If it ends up being more than I initially expect, then Tool Scrapper is an easy counter. You simply wait to play Tool Scrapper until you have both Trevenant and Dusknoir in play. Once you remove the Tool from Garbodor, Trevenant prevents the Yveltal player from reattaching the another.
Dowsing Machine also provides a potential second copy of Tool Scrapper in the matchup in case it either gets discarded or your opponent attempts to attach a second Tool with the help of Lysandre to bypass Trevenant.
I hope this article helps anybody looking for something to play a little bit outside the box for Regionals. While the lists might be a few cards off from perfection, there’s still solid reasoning behind the card choices and concepts for each deck. Everyone always seems to ask for my opinion on tier 2 or rogue decks, so while it’s impossible to cover everything in detail I hope this inspires you to try out at least one of these ideas!
As far as upcoming Regionals are concerned, I unfortunately won’t be able to take the time away from school to travel and play this weekend. However, I have plans to attend both Lancaster, PA and Fort Wayne, IN Regionals and I couldn’t be more excited to spend the next two weekends with friends. If you happened to see me at either of these events, feel free to say hello; I always enjoy saying hi to new people and making new friends!
As usual feel free to ask any questions and good luck at Regionals. If you enjoyed my article, don’t forget to give it a +1!
…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.