Rogue, rogue, rogue. I play this game primarily because I find it to be full of fun, and part of that fun is in coming up with creative decks that throw other players off track. As a competitive player, it would seem reasonable to expect me to conform to the “normal” decks, but many players fail to realize that a rogue deck can most often be more competitive than the meta decks. These are the types of decks I’ll be analyzing today.
First, let me step back a bit and introduce myself. My name is Grant Manley, and I am a competitive player from North Carolina. I wrote my fair share of free articles for SixPrizes back when I was a Senior Division player, and I occasionally revisit them to get a laugh out of the comments. I am excited to start writing for SixPrizes again, and this time with the opportunity to join the Underground staff. It’s no secret that I tend to favor rogue decks, though I do not allow this to cloud my judgement when deciding on a deck to use. If I believe that a normal meta deck will give me the best chance of winning a tournament, I won’t hesitate to play it.
In this article I’m going to share some of the decks I’ve been playing with recently. The lists that I have are likely not perfect at this point, as there is still almost a month before City Championships start. I believe all of these decks are incredibly powerful — right now — but some might become weaker as Cities wear on if unexpected decks emerge to threaten unfavorable matchups. This is a fairly new format, and I’ve built these decks based on what I expect to see become popular. I expect to see some fast Double Colorless Energy-based decks carry over from the Expanded format to the new Standard format; namely Night March, Vespiquen, and M Rayquaza-EX. I also think we will see a bit of M Manectric-EX and Giratina-EX at the start of Cities.
On a somewhat unrelated side note, I want to point out that most of these decks rely heavily on Special Energy cards, making an opening for anti-Special Energy cards to succeed. You might notice this thought reflected in my decks. Enhanced Hammer in particular strikes me as an powerful card to have in the new format. Not only does it have the potential to cripple the aforementioned decks, but it also can be included in just about every deck. While M Manectric-EX seems immune to Special Energy hate, we may see an increase in Flash Energy usage if M Manectric players become concerned about the hyped Gallade card from XY—BREAKthrough.
I have one last thing to add before we get into the good stuff: All of these decks are for the Standard format exclusively. I realize some areas will have Expanded-only Cities, but for the majority I think these decks are relevant. As of right now, I am actually unsure of what format the Cities that I attend will be, but I am expecting Standard. As such, the Standard format is where all of my preparation has been. Hopefully this article will have value regardless of what tournaments you will attend.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
Giratina-EX paired with Reshiram is something we have already seen a bit of, so this isn’t the most creative deck. Later on, I’ll share plenty of new and unorthodox decks. For now, I do want to go over one of the more fun (in my opinion) decks to play that happens to be well positioned in the meta. While we might see Giratina/Reshiram actually become a Tier 1 contender, it is looking to be a decent anti-meta deck too. Giratina’s Chaos Wheel shuts down Special Energy attachments among other things, hurting almost every deck out there in some way or another. Its Ability, Renegade Pulse, not only sounds super cool but also stops mighty Mega monsters from attacking it.
In case you are unfamiliar, the strategy of the deck is to use Reshiram’s Turboblaze Ability to accelerate R Energies to your Benched Giratina-EX, facilitating fast and powerful Chaos Wheel attacks. Since you can only use one Turboblaze per Reshiram per turn, and only while Reshiram is Active, the deck runs copious amounts of switching cards to cycle between Reshiram and Giratina. With the deck’s fast engine and the useful Turboblaze at your disposal, achieving a first-turn Chaos Wheel is a common occurrence. Giratina’s Chaos Wheel has the most convenient Energy cost: being a Psychic, a Grass, and two Colorless. This can be filled with one Double Dragon Energy and two uses of Turboblaze. Quick and sustained Chaos Wheel attacks are most definitely powerful enough to base a deck around, and that is precisely what I’ve done here.
Now, let’s look at some of the other cards that make the deck tick and might not seem so obvious. I will be grouping some cards together for convenience when they directly relate to one another.
4 Shaymin-EX, 2 Hoopa-EX, 4 Sky Field
These cards are all game breaking, and they help make this deck crazy fast. Hoopa is the key catalyst, but you only need to use Scoundrel Ring once a game, usually on the first turn. I run two because it is extremely helpful, and you don’t want to risk running a single copy only to have it stuck in the Prizes or as your only opening Basic. Four Shaymin is useful to dig for all of the pieces needed for a fast Chaos Wheel. You can get away with running three, but I have tried it and prefer four.
Sky Field is your Stadium of choice due to the amount of Pokémon required to be in play at a time. You usually want to have at least two Reshiram, one or two Giratina-EX, one or two Hydreigon-EX, a Hoopa, and a few Shaymin. You want Sky Field to hit the board as soon as possible to attain the ideal setup, and that is why I included a full playset. The downside to this is that Giratina locks Sky Field in for the duration of the game, alleviating the need for the extra copies to win a hypothetical Stadium war. For this reason I am considering dropping the count to three in favor of a tech Stadium like Scorched Earth or Team Aqua’s Secret Base, accepting the small hit to consistency.
Tech Talk: A 1-of Stadium would enable you to bump your own Sky Field to discard excess Shaymin-EXs after your first few turns, denying easy Prizes from your opponent. You would also be able to lock in the Stadium with Chaos Wheel, taking away one of the downsides of running only a single copy of the Stadium. Scorched Earth could add stable draw power after the initial explosiveness of Shaymin-EX, and also would allow you to use Judge a bit more freely. Team Aqua’s Secret Base could be nice to harass your opponent by permanently adding to their Pokémon’s Retreat Cost. With both of your Hydreigon-EX in play, Team Aqua’s Secret Base barely affects you at all! One minor detail is that Float Stone actually negates this Stadium’s effect on the Pokémon holding it.
Hydreigon’s Dragon Road Ability reduces the Retreat Cost of all of your Dragon-types by two when there is a Stadium in play. This is perfect considering that Reshiram’s Retreat Cost is two. Now that Reshiram can retreat for free, it is easier to cycle through them, and the deck requires one less use of Switch per turn. I run two Hydreigon-EX because it is crucial to have at least one out at all times. Dragon Road also stacks, meaning that if both Hydreigon are in play, Retreat Costs are reduced by four. This is convenient to allow Giratina-EX and Hydreigon-EX itself to retreat for free.
Hydreigon-EX also has an attack called Shred. For a Double Dragon and a Fire, it deals 80 damage and goes through all effects. This is your sole out to any Aegislash-EX that might show up. Two Shred attacks in tandem with one use of either Muscle Band or Giovanni’s Scheme is enough to KO an Aegislash-EX.
Since this is a fast deck that blazes through cards at a breakneck pace, you sometimes end up discarding things that you want later. Fear not, as Bunnelby is a functional non-EX that can recover any two cards from the discard pile and chuck them into the deck. It can also win the game instantly if your opponent happens to have one or two cards left in their deck! It can do all of this for only one R Energy! You might want to conceal it from Night March players until they are within Burrow range, and then pull out the surprise win via Bunnelby. That won’t happen too often, but it is something to keep in mind.
Remember when I was raving about how good Enhanced Hammer was and how it can go into any deck? Well, Giratina is vulnerable to any and all sorts of Energy denial tactics, especially Enhanced Hammer, as it needs to have at least one of the deck’s four Double Dragon Energies to function. Without Bunnelby, if you found yourself short of Double Dragons, you would lose. Recovering Energies is the main reason Bunnelby is in here. It may die immediately, but not before it recovers two precious Double Dragons.
One last thing you can do with Bunnelby is to use it as a surprise against decks with the Gallade from the new set. Gallade’s Premonition Ability allows the player to rearrange the top five cards of their deck. Opponents will use this to set up their next turn favorably, but you can use Bunnelby’s Burrow to mess up their plans. After a Premonition, you can be sure of hitting a useful card or two with Burrow. This trick will probably not work against the same opponent more than once though, because they can easily play around it once they find out you run Bunnelby. While you may not use it often, it is definitely an option to keep in mind. Of course, this goes for all decks running Bunnelby as well.
Going second, this deck can explode and start attacking with Chaos Wheel right away. Going first, however, you sit there lamely and end up passing the turn because you can’t attack. Judge gives you something to dig for when going first, especially when your opponent only has a single Basic Pokémon and still has six cards in hand. Judge can be crippling to hit your opponent with before they have even had a turn. Starting with five cards after the initial draw is significantly worse than starting with seven.
Judge also provides a shuffle-draw Supporter in case you don’t want to throw away certain cards with Sycamore, though don’t rely on it for drawing too much because it only gives four cards. You can use Judge to prevent decking out too. You might find it useful for this reason due to the fact that this deck goes through cards quickly and may be in danger of decking out.
They both can add 20 damage, with one being retrievable by VS Seeker and the other being an easy-to-use Item. These damage enhancers allow Giratina-EX to 2HKO Megas and 1HKO Shaymin-EX. They also turn Reshiram into an even more effective Regice counter by enabling 1HKOs on it. The potential of an additional 40 damage out of nowhere is appealing in general too. Of course, Giovanni’s Scheme is also a decent draw Supporter. It is almost another Shaymin-EX, which is nice considering how easy it is to lower your hand size with this deck.
Escape Rope is only useful very early in the game, which is why I maxed out Switch before adding an Escape Rope. I definitely like having five switching cards because of how often the deck requires alternating between Reshiram and attackers in the Active Spot, but I don’t want to go above one Escape Rope. After the opponent has had a chance to set up a little, Escape Rope loses its utility. You always prefer to hit their attacker that’s in the Active Spot rather than whatever they choose to feed Giratina via Escape Rope.
I could see this deck rapidly gain popularity as Cities start, as it can deal with just about everything and has powerful locking capabilities. The combination of speed, power, bulk, and disruption make Turbo Tina a force to be reckoned with. Don’t forget that Reshiram can be a decent attacker too, especially considering that it is a non-EX! If you are facing a matchup that can deal with Giratina-EX easily, maybe you can win by using Bright Wing over and over again and hoping that your opponent can’t take down the swarm of Reshiram! I can’t think of a specific example, but it could come in handy.
Pokémon – 21
Trainers – 31
Energy – 8
This deck is admittedly not much more than a beatdown deck like Night March and Vespiquen, but I believe it is much better than the other beatdown decks available. While I can’t speak too much about Vespiquen, I have been playing a lot with Night March and Mega Ray, and this deck runs smoother than both of them. Zoroark also relies much less on its Stadiums and has a bit more tech options. Zoroark BKT’s Mind Jack is an incredibly powerful attack. Even though it does rely on your opponent, it is difficult for your opponent to play around. 10 plus 30 more damage for each of your opponent’s Benched Pokémon quickly reaches upwards of 100 damage. Even if your opponent somehow manages to limit their Bench to three, you still deal 100 damage for only a DCE.
Zoroark BREAK is icing on the cake. Copying potentially any attack for only one Energy is fantastic, despite coming on a “Stage 2” BREAK Evolution. It is used to improve your matchups against Mega Pokémon such as M Manectric-EX and M Rayquaza-EX ROS 76. Everything else in the deck is either used to facilitate quick and consistent attacks, or help with specific matchups. For a deck with the straightforward strategy of beating opponents into submission, “Dark Ark” actually has plenty of nuances and interesting card choices.
Unown is a useful inclusion to the deck for three reasons. First and foremost, Unown is a great tool to recover from Judges and Birches to four. You won’t always draw a playable hand off four cards, but Unown can help mitigate this. If you keep a some Unown on your Bench, you should be able to draw out of dead hands mid-game more often than not. I’m not saying that the deck frequently draws random dead hands because it doesn’t, but Unown is somewhat of a safety net.
Unown is also a Basic Pokémon that can be used to fill your Bench when facing M Rayquaza-EX. Zoroark BREAK can copy Emerald Break to score 1HKOs against the green snake, but only if you have the required amount of eight Basic Pokémon to pull it off. Running Unown provides some extra Basics for this matchup.
Finally, Unown thins the deck. For each Unown you play, you are essentially running one less card in your deck. Quite frankly, Zoroark doesn’t need much to function. It doesn’t need a Stadium or absurd amounts of Pokémon in the discard like Night March. It doesn’t need disruption cards like Seismitoad-EX. All it really needs is itself and a consistent engine. Unown increases consistency, if only in that it becomes the next card instead of being something else like a second Shadow Circle. This is a confusing concept to me, so I apologize if I’m not adequately explaining it.
Also, you shouldn’t use Farewell Letter just because you can. Only use it when you are digging for something to advance your board state, or else save it for later. If you plan on using Professor Sycamore and Farewell Letter in the same turn, play Sycamore first. You don’t want to potentially draw a useful card off Unown that you can’t immediately play. Then you would have to discard it with Sycamore. You will draw the same eight cards either way, so there’s no downside to waiting. Most of what I’ve said about Unown actually applies to any deck running it. I would play four, but there isn’t anything that I would be comfortable cutting in favor of a fourth.
Yveltal is included to help with the Night March matchup. Yveltal actually gives Night March fits now that Mew-EX is out of the Standard format. Both Pumpkaboo and Joltik are 1HKO’d by Oblivion Wing, allowing this deck to trade at least evenly with Night March’s attackers.
The good thing is that Night March only runs four DCE, meaning that it can only stream four attacks. Yveltal attacks for a basic Darkness, and Zoroark attacks for a DCE. Combine your two Yveltal and four Zoroark, and you can stream six attacks. This should be advantageous enough to win the matchup. Without Yveltal, the matchup would be unfavorable. Both decks run on the four copies of DCE, but Zoroark would need to chain Stage 1s as opposed to Night March’s Basics.
Yveltal is a decent secondary attacker in general as well. It is a beefy Basic with 130 HP and is a non-EX. Oblivion Wing is a cheap attack that can be used anytime, but it doesn’t outright slaughter anything like it does Night March. It can be used with Battle Compressor, Ultra Ball, and/or Professor Sycamore to accelerate Energies from the discard.
Darkness Blade isn’t a terrible attack either. Since it requires half of the deck’s Darkness count in addition to another Energy, it will not see as much use as Oblivion Wing. Darkness Blade is helpful against M Manectric-EX, especially when Shadow Circle is in play. You can use Zoroark BREAK to copy Turbo Bolt, charging Yveltal. Follow this with a Darkness Blade and you have 210 damage, a perfect KO on M Manectric-EX. Say a fresh M Manectric-EX then comes up and swings for 110 with Shadow Circle in play. Just retreat Yveltal, have another Zoroark BREAK accelerate the Energies you retreated with, and take another 210-damage combo. Rinse and repeat as needed. This won’t always work as nicely in reality, but it is a neat possibility that is quite relevant in the matchup.
1-1 Ninetales PRC
Ninetales is useful in this format where most decks run a particular Stadium card. It is included chiefly to improve the M Manectric matchup, which can be rough otherwise. Ninetales was meant to lock out opposing Rough Seas, but then I included Shadow Circle to further improve the matchup. Locking in Shadow Circle helps because it turns Yveltal into a functional attacker that will not be KO’d instantly due to its Lightning Weakness. Ninetales is also effective against random Fighting decks as it can protect Zoroark from having a Weakness too.
Manectric’s Rough Seas is particularly effective against Zoroark because it messes with the BREAK’s math. Two uses of Foul Play to copy Turbo Bolt or a use of Foul Play + Darkness Blade is enough to 2HKO M Manectric-EX, while accepting a 2HKO in return. When Rough Seas is thrown into the mix, it turns the combo into a 3HKO. On top of that, the Manectric player can rotate between M Manectric-EXs easily, attacking with different ones and healing lots of damage over time. Ninetales prevents this, and it is useful against other decks as well. It makes the Night March matchup even more favorable by blocking Dimension Valley.
The last major reason for including Ninetales is to block Parallel City. Usually decks like to play lots of Basic Pokémon down while they’re setting up. This is a good thing for Zoroark, because the more Basics they have, the more damage it deals. However, players can use Parallel City to limit their own Bench to three. This allows opponents to discard excess baggage like Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX, all while capping Zoroark’s damage output at 100. Once again, Ninetales prevents this predicament. You can make some neat and unexpected plays with Ninetales and Wally too, but that’s only a bonus and honestly won’t happen often.
Is it weird that I am grouping these two completely different cards together? Maybe, but they both happen to be excellent on the first turn. This deck can’t do much on its first turn, as you have to wait to evolve into Zoroark. Even if you use Wally, Mind Jack won’t be doing substantial damage at the start of the game. Enter Judge and Hex Maniac. Both of these cards can do some damage to hinder opponents when they’re trying to set up.
Judge is great if you go first, and if your opponent has six or more cards in hand. Hex Maniac is useful in any other situation. Hex Maniac is more devastating to some decks than others, but it seems that most decks in this format like to use Shaymin-EX early in the game, which makes Hex an effective card choice. With VS Seeker, Shaymin-EX, and Trainers’ Mail, you can bust out these disruption cards at almost any time as you see fit.
Stage 2s are bad. Zoroark BREAK is one of the few exceptions. It evolves from a Stage 1, making it a Stage 2 in essence (though it is classified as a BREAK Evolution). Wally helps ease the Stage 2 curse by accelerating the Evolution process. It allows Zoroark to go straight to its BREAK form without waiting until your third turn. This is especially relevant against Megas when the BREAK’s Foul Play attack is stronger than Mind Jack. Additionally, this deck runs three Evolution cards, so there are all sorts of clever plays made possible by Wally.
Muscle Band is somewhat of a luxury, and it makes Zoroark’s numbers a little easier. Now Zoroark can deal the magic 180 with Mind Jack if your opponent has five Benched Pokémon. It allows you to KO Shaymin-EX if your opponent has three Benched Pokémon. Muscle Band lets Zoroark BREAK contend with M Manectric-EX if Ninetales is nowhere to be found, because with Muscle Band, Rough Seas doesn’t make the math so, well, rough. Muscle Band makes Yveltal slightly more threatening while accelerating Energy, boosting Oblivion Wing from a 30 damage attack to a 50 damage attack.
There’s not much to say about Battle Compressor. You toss Supporters so that you have one of each to use via VS Seeker at your leisure. You toss D Energies when you want to use Oblivion Wing. You toss cards that are useless in a particular matchup, such as Ninetales and Sky Field against M Rayquaza-EX and Raichu, or Shadow Circle against decks with no Fighting- or Lightning-type Pokémon. Battle Compressor makes the deck faster and more consistent by clearing out unnecessary cards. This deck doesn’t rely on cards in the discard though, so that’s why I don’t see the need for more than two.
Sacred Ash can be used to have access to more than four Zoroark in a game, but it is actually included because you often want to use all four Zoroark in a game. When playing Evolution decks, especially when running four Ultra Ball and four Sycamore, pieces of the Evolution line get discarded. Sacred Ash allows you to be a little reckless when discarding Pokémon, as you can always get them back later. Super Rod can also be a consideration, but Yveltal can recover D Energies already. Sacred Ash can also retrieve a full BREAK line in addition to a 1-1 Zoroark line, which is stronger than Super Rod’s effect of only retrieving three total Pokémon and basic Energy.
These are my Stadium cards. This deck doesn’t need heavy counts of them because Ninetales makes them stay in play. Shadow Circle is obviously used to help against decks like M Manectric-EX and Mienshao, which some of the Pokémon in this deck have Weakness to. Sky Field gives your opponent the option to bench more Pokémon, which bolsters Zoroark’s power. The extra Bench space for yourself isn’t too shabby either. Sky Field is helpful against M Rayquaza-EX if they catch on and don’t play their own Sky Field. Rayquaza doesn’t need Sky Field to 1HKO your BREAKs, but your BREAKs need Sky Field to 1HKO Mega Rayquaza.
Dark Ark is a linear deck with a few neat tricks. It isn’t terribly difficult to play, but it is still great. Attack repeatedly and beat your opponents into submission with brute strength! Lysandre is important in this deck because you may not be able to 1HKO your opponents Active Pokémon all of the time. If you want to pick up a cheap Shaymin-EX KO with Lysandre, don’t hesitate to do it! Mind Jack can usually 1HKO Shaymin-EX, and that wins you a third of the game right there.
Pokémon – 18
3 Xatu ROS
2 Doduo XY
Trainers – 35
4 Red Card
Energy – 7
This deck, affectionately dubbed “Animal Control,” takes disruption to a whole new level. I don’t want to merely disrupt my opponent’s game; I want to control it. This deck aims to use various hand and deck manipulation to control what the opponent has in hand and what he/she will draw each turn. Eventually, you will win by your opponent decking out.
Xatu is a sneaky card with two important attacks which synergize well with each other. Its first attack is called Future Sight, and costs a mere C Energy. It has you look at the top five cards of either player’s deck and rearrange them as you like. To an extent, you can control what either player draws on their next turn. The second attack costs a Psychic and a Colorless, and is called Stressful Eye. It is sure to stress out your opponent because it allows you to look at their hand and discard any Trainer card there! It also deals 30 damage. This attack is especially disruptive when combined with Ace Trainer. After your opponent has taken a Prize, use Ace Trainer to bring their hand down to three and follow it up with a Stressful Eye. It’s unlikely they will have more than one draw card in their hand, so this is the best way to begin your lock. You can use Red Card for this as well.
Bunnelby is the other key player in the deck. After giving your opponent a dead hand, you want to start using Future Sight with Xatu to control what your opponent draws. Ideally, you will hand them a card that isn’t useful, and follow up with two Burrows on Supporters or other important cards. Your opponent draws for their next turn, and surprise! Another useless card! You can use Burrow to starve your opponent of a particular resource like Energies or their main attackers, but I usually use it to leave them with a dead hand for the entirety of the game. I love this deck and it works well, though you can’t expect to make any friends while using it. Let’s get into all of the other interesting cards.
2-2 Dodrio BKT
The strategy for this deck requires quite a bit of moving between Xatu and Bunnelby because you want to alternate between attacking with Burrow and Future Sight to make the lock effective. While I could run Float Stone to give the attackers free Retreat, I think Dodrio does this better. Dodrio only needs to be set up once, and then you are set for the whole game. Relying on four Float Stones for a deck that retreats so often can get messy.
These cards serve to give the grindy lock deck an element of speed. It is important to start locking your opponent as soon as possible to avoid giving up Prizes early in the game. That way, you can afford to give up a few Prizes a bit later in the game in order to keep the lock going. Most of the time, you want to be attacking with Stressful Eye on turn two, and the array of search and draw cards can make that happen. Shaymin-EX is basically the deck’s entire draw engine besides Professor Sycamore, and it is just as effective in this deck as it is in normal decks.
Your opponent will be able to play down some Energy cards before you start controlling their draws, which is why these cards are necessary. Team Flare Grunt and Enhanced Hammer are effective Energy-removal cards that pave the way for Xatu and Bunnelby to attack unopposed. They also add nicely to the control and disruption nature of the deck.
Ace Trainer is essentially always a draw Supporter, because this deck doesn’t take Prizes often and will fall behind in Prizes fairly early because of the low-HP Pokémon. Not only is Ace Trainer a decent draw Supporter, but it is also a phenomenal disruption card. After your opponent takes just 1 Prize card, you can bring their hand down to three! It is unlikely that they will draw many cards that will help them recover from this, especially after a Stressful Eye and maybe Trick Shovel. Ace Trainer is an essential piece of the control game.
If I wanted Shauna to draw cards for me, I would run Birch instead because Birch is better for drawing. Shauna is actually included to replenish the deck with cards to avoid decking out before the opponent. Ace Trainer is unsuitable because by the time I want to replenish the deck, my opponent’s hand will be what I want it to be, and I don’t want to reset that. Ace Trainer also draws an extra card, which defeats the purpose.
While Bunnelby’s Rototiller can also fill the deck, it requires the use of my attack to recover two cards. Since I have to draw a card at the beginning of my turn, Bunnelby only offers a net gain of one card. This, compounded with the fact that I need to use disruptive attacks instead of Rototiller, justifies the inclusion of Shauna. Shauna is necessary because I can sometimes be in danger of decking out with the Shaymin- and Sycamore-based draw engine. It is also one more out at the start of the game to avoid dead-drawing, even though Professor Sycamore is the more desirable first-turn Supporter.
4 Red Card
Red Card is a one-way Judge, and I’ve already talked about Judge with the two previous decks. Red Card is great to use when going first, and running four allows a first-turn Red Card to happen a lot. It has synergy with Xatu for the same reasons Ace Trainer does. Red Card is a slightly weaker version of Ace Trainer to use when Ace Trainer is unavailable, or when you want to use another Supporter for the turn. I like having the full count of four to consistently get it on the first turn, the oppressive effect is well worth it.
Trick Shovel complements the already excellent pairing of Xatu and Ace Trainer to create a true wombo combo. After using Ace Trainer to drop an opponent’s hand to three, you can use Trick Shovel to check what they are about to topdeck and discard it if it’s something important like Professor Sycamore. Then you use Stressful Eye and hopefully your opponent starts to dead-draw. Even if it doesn’t work, you can do it more than once. This leads to an eventual lock that wins games.
Don’t forget that you can use Trick Shovel on yourself too! I sometimes use it to check what I’m about to draw with Set Up or Sycamore. One time I had a dead hand with VS Seeker and Trick Shovel. I proceeded to use Trick Shovel on myself and found exactly what I wanted! A Sycamore! I discarded it, Seeker’d it, and proceeded to set up normally. That is an exceedingly rare and interesting example in my opinion, but the other reasons to use Trick Shovel on yourself are relevant enough to be used.
You want to have a pleasant or at least neutral demeanor while using this deck because it can be annoying or downright frustrating to play against. If you just ate, you probably want to wash your hands before matches because you handle your opponent’s deck frequently with Xatu and Trick Shovel. I know I wouldn’t be too happy if someone got crumbs or other food residue on my cards or sleeves.
As for the actual deck itself, I know it looks like a gimmick, and it might be. It makes up for that by being a legit and effective gimmick. It does work, and it does win games. There are two minor concerns that I have with the deck overall, but they can be worked around.
The first is that games take a long time to complete. It is similar to how the Sableye/Garbodor deck works in Expanded. You will probably finish a single game in 30 minutes if you play at a lively pace, but best-of-three single elimination is a different story. Since the single elimination rules heavily favor decks that actually take Prizes as opposed to decks that don’t, you must play at a lightning-fast pace to finish your match on time. If you can’t get used to playing at such a speed, I would not recommend this deck for events with a top cut. It is possible and it takes some getting used to. Choosing not to shuffle (or even cut) your opponent’s deck is a small thing to help with finishing games fast.
The second annoying issue is Unown AOR. Players can use Farewell Letter at any time during the game after they have benched Unown. The option for opponents to draw a card whenever they choose messes up your control of the deck. This does open up some mind games though. If they use Unown at the wrong time, the lock may stay in place and they squandered the advantage. Even if they use Unown at the right time and escape from the lock, you can hopefully reestablish the lock quickly and not suffer too much in the meantime. Unown is rarely a game-changer, but is certainly a nuisance that will cause problems every once in a while.
Pokémon – 8
Trainers – 45
3 Head Ringer
Energy – 7
You might be wondering what on earth is going on, but the real question is which is more annoying? This or Xatu? This deck is all about Energy denial. The main goal is to totally deplete your opponent’s Energy supply and win because your opponent simply can’t win. This deck can win by taking Prizes or by decking your opponent out, whichever is more convenient for the situation.
The Fighting-types are used for their compatibility with Focus Sash, which buys time and facilitates more Energy removal. Let’s say that your opponent is playing something like Vespiquen. They can take a KO for every Energy they play down (or for each use of Blacksmith with Flareon AOR). This means that they can take a KO amidst Energy disruption six times to win the game. Focus Sash stops this by effectively doubling the amount of Energy attachments needed by the opponent. By turning 1HKOs into 2HKOs and removing Energies every single turn, you can more efficiently stop the flow of Energies and starve your opponent of resources.
Here is where I am going to go over the all of the cards that are not obvious staples or don’t obviously contribute to the goal of removing Energies. The Hammers and Flare Grunts should be self-explanatory because they directly contribute to the deck’s goal and don’t have any obscure uses.
Side Note: My approach to analyzing these decks so far has been cut and dry. I realize that. I believe this method is the most clear and concise way to explain the deck and the cards within. Part of making a great deck is critically analyzing why each card is needed. This helps to ensure the most optimal use of each and every card of your allotted 60. If this approach becomes boring and routine from a reader’s standpoint, please let me know! I will do what I can to vary the explanation of decks to make it more interesting if that is what you will glean the most from.
One of the problems with decks that attempt to deny Energy comes in the form of Energy acceleration, particularly from the discard. The most relevant card that does this is M Manectric-EX. It is possible to deny them Energies with all of the Trainers in this deck, but most likely they will only slow down Manectric. Usually the Mega will begin to use Turbo Bolt, which tosses Energies into play too quickly for disruption alone to keep up. Hawlucha can remedy the Manectric problem, and is compatible with the Focus Sash strategy too.
Hawlucha usually deals 120-160 damage to a Manectric while Silent Lab is in play. When used with Focus Sash, this results in a favorable trade of 2HKOs. With all of the disruption cards slowing down Manectric, Hawlucha can do some serious damage before Manectric decks can even manage a response. In other matchups, Hawlucha is a wall with Focus Sash and swings for a respectable 60-80 damage for only one Energy.
Landorus is simply an alternate attacker. Hawlucha needs something to complement it because it can only attack Pokémon-EX! Landorus fits the bill as a low-maintenance, Fighting-type, non-Pokémon-EX. It also can hit for a respectable 80 damage against Lightning-type Pokémon such as M Manectric-EX, while surviving the retaliatory Turbo Bolt without the need for Focus Sash. In fact, if you wanted to, you could even power up Sky Lariat to mow down a couple of the spiky-haired canines!
Usually though, Landorus doesn’t do very much damage at all. This is not actually a problem because this deck doesn’t need to do much damage. Once your opponent is out of Energies, you can just as well win by doing 10 damage at a time as you can using Sky Lariat for 150.
Note: The attackers aren’t meant to contest your opponent’s Pokémon; they merely clean up your Prizes once the opposition’s power supply is completely drained.
Only one Shaymin after the threes and fours seen in the other decks? This deck really has no need for speed, so the Shaymin serves as only a consistency crutch. I did not want to rely solely on the six draw Supporters and Trainers’ Mail, so I had to include a copy of Shaymin-EX. Much like how Jirachi-EX worked, Shaymin turns all four Ultra Balls into draw cards. This significantly increases the number of draw outs, especially on the first turn, and also increases overall consistency. I only run one Shaymin-EX because it is undesirable to have in play. Only use it if you absolutely need to draw cards. The point of the deck is to wall with Focus Sash and obnoxious non-EXs. Shaymin is a major 2-Prize liability on the Bench.
Xerosic is used mostly for its ability to remove Tools rather than Energies. I already have 12 other cards that can remove Energies, and Xerosic can still help with that, but that isn’t why it’s included. Xerosic can remove annoying Tools that disrupt your strategy such as Float Stone and Spirit Link cards. Spirit Links are a favorite target of Xerosic’s so that you then can cripple the Pokémon-EX with Head Ringer.
Trainers’ Mail is an all-around solid card that improves consistency. I can somewhat reliably get a useful 4-of Trainer card from the deck. Trainers’ Mail provides more outs to just about everything, which is fantastic. It compliments the deck well, what with the 41 retrievable Trainers and most of them being run in counts of four.
3 Head Ringer
Head Ringer plays nicely alongside the Energy denial strategy by forcing your opponent to use more Energies just to attack. Since you are ideally removing Energies turn after turn, Head Ringer reduces the opportunities for the opponent to muster up an attack from a Pokémon-EX. Head Ringer severely hinders Megas in particular. It increases the Energy costs, sure, but it also denies them a Spirit Link which forces a turn-ending Evolution.
Head Ringer is especially useful against Seismitoad-EX as well. It becomes significantly more difficult for the Toad player to constantly use the annoying Quaking Punch when it costs three C Energies instead of two. Using Head Ringer against Shaymin-EX gets a special mention, because your opponent could theoretically chain Sky Return to conserve their Energies while attacking. If they left your Silent Lab in play to turn off Hawlucha’s Ability, the only way to beat Shaymin chains would be to power up Sky Lariat with at least two Strong Energies or Flying Press with all four Strong Energies. Head Ringer relieves this problem by preventing easy uses of Sky Return.
Silent Lab shuts off everyone’s Shaymin-EX, which is the Lab’s most important and obvious use. Because Silent Lab turns off your own Shaymin-EX, be careful of playing it down when you think you might use Set Up. It also turns off Hawlucha’s Ability that prevents it from hitting for Weakness. This lets Hawlucha deal obscene amounts of damage to Fighting-weak Pokémon-EX for only a single Energy. You run four to win the Stadium war. When going all out with disruption, may as well take the opportunity to disrupt Stadiums and Abilities with one card.
There is a quirky and obscure benefit to cancelling an opponent’s ability to use Shaymin-EX. When your opponent cannot use Shaymin-EX to draw cards, they become increasingly reliant on Supporters like Professor Sycamore to draw. When they need to draw cards and need Supporters to do so, they also use VS Seeker to get Supporters to draw cards. This means that there are less VS Seekers remaining for cards like Xerosic, Lysandre, and AZ, which get around Focus Sash and your own Lysandre stalls.
This deck might just be the best one out of the four that I’ve mentioned. It can deal with just about anything! It also doesn’t have any easily identifiable bad matchups besides perhaps some Crobat variants and maybe Mienshao. This is another deck that you should try to play a bit faster than normal, but this isn’t demanded as much from this deck as it is Animal Control in a single elimination setting because this deck can take Prizes. While it seems like a gimmick, it runs much like the Seismitoad-EX/Crawdaunt deck that saw brief popularity last season. Energy removal is an effective strategy that can prove successful.
These are all of the unique decks that I have been playing with so far, and they are working quite well. If a tournament was tomorrow, I would definitely play one of these decks. Some other interesting ideas that I want to pursue are Gliscor PHF/Vileplume AOR/Absol ROS and Gallade BKT/Wobbuffet PHF/Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick. I haven’t yet gotten around to trying them out yet, but they seem fun and they might have some potential.
I enjoyed writing my first Underground article for SixPrizes, and I hope you enjoyed reading it! If you did, please go ahead and click the Like button. If not, no worries! Please comment and let me know what I could have done to make it more interesting! I am always looking for ways to make my articles more appealing. As the reader, you very well may think of something I can add that I never even considered.
For the upcoming City Championships, these decks are the ones that I’ll be refining and practicing with the most. I believe that they are the best decks right now, and they come with the surprise factor that I love in rogues. If you plan on attending Cities, I recommend at least giving these decks a try. In any case, good luck, and thanks for reading!
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