Hello everyone! I hope your Cities season and holidays went well! This is Grant Manley here once again with an article finally dedicated to the Expanded format. In the past my articles have been focused exclusively on Standard, but with Cities recently concluded and Winter Regionals approaching in about a month, all eyes are turning toward Expanded. Maybe you have played multiple Cities with Expanded and have a solid grasp on the format already. If so, good for you! I have been set on Standard until just recently, so I’m only beginning to test and craft decks for this new format with old cards. In fact, you may notice that some of the decks that I share in this article are similar to older strategies with a few spins put on them.
In this article I am first going to examine the primary differences of the two formats that were played for Cities. You might find these helpful if your Cities were in the Standard format as mine were. You may have become so accustomed to Standard (as I have) that you find the changes in the formats to be quite dramatic. Then I am going to briefly go over the top decks of the Expanded format and pick out some strengths and weaknesses. Finally, I would like to share three of my favorite decks at the moment that I am considering as top contenders to play at Regionals.
- An Expanded Refresher
- Intel on the Forefront
- My Top Three
An Expanded Refresher
While I have not yet played a ton of Expanded games, I have had the opportunity to play quite a few games with some specific decks which I will share later on. While the same game of Pokémon is being played, I can definitely feel that Standard and Expanded are completely different formats. This section will serve as a refresher for those of you who have been playing in the Standard format and need to prepare for the Expanded format, including myself.
N is a thing.1.
The single most different thing that stands out to me the most is the reintroduction of N into the format. The “N factor” completely influences the whole format and changes the way you need to play the game. The only similar cards in the Standard format are Judge, Red Card, and Mismagius BKT. Red Card and Mismagius are fringe plays at best, and don’t need to be worried about. Judge is a near staple, but it is not the same as N. Judge is usually only played as a 1-0f as opposed to the range of copies any given deck can play of N. Additionally, Judge replenishes each player with a flat 4 cards each time, meaning you don’t have to be as concerned late in the game when you have taken a few Prizes and thinned your deck.
The existence of N changes the way the game is played from the moment you start. Since N is extremely common and is an effective source of early draw, you must play with the expectation of getting N’d. Thinning your hand of unhelpful cards must be done regularly to avoid having them forcibly shuffled in. Battle Compressor can also be used a bit more strategically in Expanded because at any given point in the game you can discard things you would not want to draw if you foresee a potential N on your opponent’s side. Throughout the game you also must prepare yourself against the possibility of dead-drawing after an N to 1 or 2 by thinning your hand and deck.
N also introduces mind games. It’s no secret that if your opponent does next to nothing on their turn that you should not N them to 6. However, the fact that N is so common and can be played at any time allows for the use of mind games and predictions. Often the decision between playing an N or a Professor Sycamore rides on what you think your opponent has in their hand. Therefore, it is more important than ever to pay attention to exactly what your opponent played on their previous turn. You also want to take note of body language and facial expressions. With some practice, it is not too difficult to guess some exact cards in your opponent’s hand based solely on how they played out their last turn if they are playing a meta deck.
Occasionally when going first (and not being able to attack) or when using a deck that has Evolved Pokémon, players will not do much on their first turn and explode with cards on their second turn. I know that when I played Toad/Bats back at Lancaster Regionals I would sometimes sit on a combination of cards such as Professor Juniper, Golbat, and DCE. If I was going first I would get out some Basics and merely pass. Then I would plan to attach DCE on my next turn, evolve to Golbat, and use Professor Juniper to get even more cards. This could lead to Ultra Ball + Shaymin, Hypnotoxic Laser, and an all-around explosive turn. This way, I would not have to worry about prematurely attaching DCE only to have it removed before it could be used, and I wouldn’t have had to waste a Golbat.
Since situations like this one are fairly common, it is important to note the possibility of an explosive turn following what may seem to be a dead-draw when considering playing N. It can be difficult to discern most of the time, but one way to tell is if your opponent used Ultra Ball for something besides Shaymin-EX and just passed. Reading body language can also work sometimes.
2. LaserBank is also a thing!
I personally view the toxic combination of Hypnotoxic Laser and Virbank City Gym as an impediment to outcomes determined by skill, but it is nevertheless an integral part of the Expanded format. While the existence of N influences the way the game is played, the existence of LaserBank influences the way the decks are built. Let me tell you, if your deck cannot deal with Poison and Sleep under Toad’s Item lock in any way, you will not have a great time. Of course the combination of Sleep and Item lock is lethal and difficult to escape, but to succeed in Expanded you must have some sort of answer included in your deck.
Keldeo-EX, Virizion-EX, Zoroark BKT, AZ, Pokémon Center Lady, and more are all excellent answers to the oppression that is Laser. Additionally, low-HP Pokémon like the Night Marchers typically won’t fret over Special Conditions because they just die immediately anyway. Hypnotoxic Laser only inflicts lasting Sleep 25% of the time, but this will likely happen multiple times over the course of an entire Regional tournament, so have some sort of response!
3. The game is notably faster.
Besides Seismitoad-EX, the top decks of Expanded can all hit for absurdly high amounts of damage quite early in the game. Yveltal-EX, Night March, Flareon PLF/Vespiquen AOR 10, Blastoise BCR, and M Rayquaza-EX 76 are all popular decks that will punish you out the gate for a slow start. In Standard, only Night March can have an explosive first turn and many other decks take a few turns to get going. If you aren’t attacking with something relevant by your second turn in Expanded, you’d better have a remarkable reason for it.
Because all of the best beatdown decks are already top tier, you won’t have much luck with a different deck that merely hits for damage. An example of this would be if you decided to run a deck like straight Raichu XY. Raichu is a powerful and low-maintenance attacker, but at that point the deck would be nearly the same thing as Night March, only one turn slower. Of course, I am not saying Raichu is altogether bad. I’m sure you can add different cards to a Raichu deck to prevent it from being just another sub-par beatdown deck.
If you want to succeed with a something other than the top meta decks, you need some sort of niche like disruption or snipe damage. These are found in things like Seismitoad-EX, Sableye DEX, Landorus-EX, Crobat PHF, etc. You also need to be able to keep up with the fast format in practice.
That said, I do believe the top decks are solid choices, and that is something that is uncharacteristic of me to say. I appreciate the skill and variety that can go into building one of these “normal” decks.
4. The meta is less diverse.
First I must say that the meta is still diverse in Expanded, but it is less so than in Standard. According to The Charizard Lounge, a whopping 36 different decks have won a City Championship in Standard, while only 18 different decks have won Expanded Cities in Expanded. Granted, there were many more Standard Cities than Expanded ones, but the gap is still there. In Standard I would always see a wide variety of decks and could easily run into a different deck in each round. More than a dozen different decks saw a spike in popularity at some point besides the mainstays Yveltal and Night March.
In Expanded there seems to be only four shells or variants of hugely dominant decks: They are Blastoise, Darkness, Flareon/Vespiquen, and Seismitoad. You should see large amounts of those four at every single Regional. Of course Rayquaza, Manectric, Night March, Sableye, and Bronzong are around, but they just aren’t popular enough to expect for more than two or so rounds throughout a Regional’s first day.
This means that if you can get your deck to the point where it has favorable matchups against all four or even three of the forefront decks, you will be in great shape for the tournament. This is different from Standard Cities because you often didn’t know what to expect. Therefore, something that was consistent was usually the more favorable play with little regard to specific matchups.
Intel on the Forefront
As I just mentioned, there are four hugely dominant decks in Expanded right now that I fully expect to appear at Winter Regionals. In this section I will discuss what exactly these decks do and identify some strengths and weaknesses to help you familiarize yourself with these threats if you haven’t already.
This is probably the deck with the best finishes across 2015’s Fall Regionals. The only change between that format and the one we are approaching is the introduction of BREAKthrough. With BKT bringing Zoroark and Gallade as powerful options to the deck, only strengthening it, there is no reason at all to think this deck will be any less prevalent than it was last fall.
Some variants used to not play Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick due to the fact that Archeops NVI is a situational card. However, now that Gallade provides a powerful alternative Maxie target, it seems like most Dark-type decks will be packing Maxie. This means that if your deck is heavily reliant on Evolution cards, you must have a way to maneuver around Archeops’ Ancient Power. If you can KO the Archeops or prevent them from even getting it out, great! If not, you may need to resort to an Ability-locking card such as Hex Maniac or Wobbuffet PHF.
Dark Patch and Hypnotoxic Laser set the deck on a whole new level from what it was in Standard. This is actually saying something as the deck was incredibly popular in Standard even without those two cards. Dark Patch greatly increases speed and Evil Ball’s power while Hypnotoxic Laser applies even more pressure and extra damage. If you don’t see many Dark Patches in your opponent’s discard pile, prepare yourself for anything on the following turn. Some crazy stuff can happen due to the speedy nature of the deck and the fact that it can burn through cards quickly with Trainers’ Mail, Battle Compressor, and Shaymin-EX. A Night Spear or Evil Ball from nowhere is a frightening yet common occurrence.
I would be remiss if I discussed this deck without mentioning its literal Weakness. Lightning-type Pokémon of all sorts can provide an edge against Yveltal. M Manectric-EX in particular gives the deck problems, and only Gallade BKT + Enhanced Hammer (or an overly loaded Yveltal-EX) can take down one with Flash Energy attached. Dedenne FFI, Jolteon AOR, Raichu XY, and Joltik PHF are all other decent Lightning-types that can help against Yveltal.
This archetype is strangely bothered by Parallel City. Reducing Yveltal’s Bench space to 3 can often stop Maxie plays altogether if the Yveltal player fails to find the Virbank City Gym response or does not run Stadiums. It is difficult to use Maxie when you can only have 2 Benched Pokémon at the time, as you need the 3rd spot for the Gallade or Archeops. Another benefit is preventing them from using multiple Shaymin-EX to have explosive Dark Patch turns. If they do that, they won’t have many spaces left over. You can also use Parallel City with the blue side toward yourself later on if you feel the need to reduce the power of Zoroark’s Mind Jack, though of course you cannot flip Parallel City with another Parallel City. Overall though, Dark is a resilient and versatile archetype with few weaknesses.
This deck seems to be the favorite by far coming out of Expanded Cities with the most wins and total placements. There isn’t much to dislike about the deck. It is fast and has almost no damage ceiling. It is also one of the most flexible of the top decks because there are many quirks and interesting techs you can play in it. There wasn’t much to come out of BREAKthrough that benefits Flareon, so lists will likely remain similar to how they were at Fall Regionals. Parallel City can be played in this deck though, so keep that in mind.
One thing that sticks out to me about this deck is that everything has low HP amounts. The Basic forms of the main attackers are Eevee and Combee. Combee has only 40 HP and Eevee can have either 50 or 60. Banette ROS 31 is also seen in the deck occasionally, and that comes with the 60-HP Shuppet. This is not an inherent problem, but it is something that can be exploited. Snipe attackers and Bats are fantastic options against this deck. You will surely get a few cheap knockouts throughout the game.
Flareon and Vespiquen have difficulty hitting for 170+ damage early in the game, and likely won’t achieve it by their second turn. Get some mileage out of your Pokémon-EX early on while you can, as they will only be 1HKO bait later! Mega Pokémon are especially difficult for the Stage 1s to 1HKO, though it is not impossible and they can at least 2HKO as non-EXs. Assault Vest could be an interesting and sneaky tech idea, but I don’t see it making a difference all that much.
Seismitoad comes in two primary forms in the Expanded format: Toad/Bats and Toad/Tina. They are roughly even in terms of popularity. I do recognize them as independent decks with plenty of differences, but they are both based around Seismitoad-EX so I feel that I can adequately put them together. The name of the game for Toad is Quaking Punch, and the strategy can be loosely defined as “Quaking Punch until you win.” Toad/Bats focuses more on damage and sniping, while Toad/Tina has an emphasis on disruption.
At its core, Quaking Punch is a piddly 30-damage attack. Seismitoad will not be achieving any 1HKOs, and can only get 2HKOs with Muscle Band and/or Hypnotoxic Laser, depending on what it is facing. If you have a reliable way to avoid Poison like Keldeo-EX (with Float Stone, Darkrai-EX, Dodrio BKT, etc.) or other methods I mentioned earlier, you are well on your way already. Healing cards are also effective options against the Toad, and even one healing card can go a long way in adding longevity against the barrage of weak Quaking Punches.
Ironically, this disruption deck is weak to disruption. Toad can dish Item lock but it certainly cannot take it. You should be able to get ample mileage out of your own tech Toad. Item lock prevents Seismitoad from playing Hypnotoxic Laser and Muscle Band, which are the primary sources of damage. It also prevents Seismitoad from disrupting you with Hammers. In addition, Seismitoad relies on Double Colorless Energy, so Aegislash-EX and Jirachi XY67 can counter the toxic amphibian. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that 1 or 2 copies of Jirachi will give you an auto-win though, especially against Toad/Bats.
This quartet of meta decks is rounded out by yet another archetype that seems to never disappear. Blastoise has been around for a long while now and it is still taking tournament wins. In fact, this deck is so potent and I like it so much that I will be sharing a list and deck analysis on it later. Blastoise has the most potential for big first turns out of all of these decks, and that alone makes it something to be feared. Keldeo has nearly no damage limit, so nothing is truly safe from Secret Sword.
Of course, the glaring weakness of Blastoise is Ability lock. The deck completely relies on its Abilities. Garbodor DRX, Wobbuffet PHF, and Hex Maniac can completely shut the deck down. If you can put together a string of Hexes for more than one turn, the Blastoise player will quickly find themselves in bad shape. Another form of disruption that cripples Blastoise is Item lock. Given that the typical Blastoise list runs more than 30 Items, Seismitoad-EX, Vileplume AOR, Ghetsis, or even Trevenant XY can potentially shut the deck down as well. Of course, the Blastoise player will usually get one turn to use Items. They can occasionally load a Keldeo with Energies during that turn, so Item lock is not a foolproof option unless you can also deal with a Keldeo-EX or two.
Finally, the deck attacks almost exclusively with Keldeo-EX and sometimes Articuno. This means that you can usually manage a favorable Prize trade if you attack with hard-hitting non-EXs. Unfortunately, Night March doesn’t work too well, especially if the Blastoise player runs more than one Articuno. If you cannot disrupt Blastoise or at least trade with it, you will get steamrolled.
My Top Three
I have played with these decks as much as I could so as to bring you valid content and proven lists, but it is important to note that I have been focused on Standard as of very recently. As such, these lists are not quite as refined as decks in my other articles have been and I will not be including detailed matchups sections. I do think these decks are in their best iteration at this time, but feel free to merely use them as a starting point if you wish.
TDK: Back from the Dead
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
This is my attempt to revive this seemingly ancient archetype. Frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t seen much play in Expanded given how powerful the deck can be. It can handle an array of matchups quite well. The one thing I dislike about this deck is how little space it has. I am running 3 Sky Field and cannot even fit 1 copy of Colress! How pathetic. Perhaps the 3rd Sky Field can be cut for 1 Colress, but I am going off on a tangent now.
Anyway, on to the strategy. Thundurus-EX is your preferred early-game attacker, though Kyurem can work too. Thundurus-EX hits for only 1 Energy and can charge up other Pokémon by accelerating Energies from the discard. Raiden Knuckle’s base damage is only 30, but this number quickly rises when you add a Muscle Band and a few Deoxys. Kyurem is the powerhouse when you need to simply dish out devastating blows, though it can snipe too.
The combination of Sky Field, Hoopa-EX, and Shaymin-EX is a marvelous addition to this old-fashioned deck. It allows for outstanding first turns that the deck lacked before. If you start with Hoopa and Ultra Ball, you are going to have a fun time. Everything besides Kyurem is a Pokémon-EX, so Hoopa is a splendid option for setting up your board. Sky Field alleviates the otherwise inevitable struggle for Bench space between attackers, Deoxys-EX, Shaymin-EX, and techs. Now let’s get into the individual card explanations.
As mentioned above, Thundurus is your early attacker of choice. The damage from Raiden Knuckle can apply some serious pressure, so it is important to get as many Deoxys on your Bench as you can. In fact, with Laser, Muscle Band, and 4 Deoxys, it is possible to hit for 100 damage with just one Raiden Knuckle attack!
Thundurus-EX is an excellent attacker against Yveltal decks. It is not too difficult to achieve a 1HKO with Raiden Knuckle against Yveltal XY or Yveltal-EX, especially if they played down a Virbank City Gym for you. One other bonus of Raiden Knuckle is that it easily KOs Shaymin-EX for 1 Energy. Neat! Of course, don’t let me forget that Thundurus can also recover any Energy card and accelerate it to any Benched Plasma Pokémon.
Kyurem doubles as a heavy hitter and a sniper. Frost Spear is helpful against Night March, Flareon/Vespiquen, and other such decks. In fact, Flareon is actually weak to Kyurem, so Frost Spear will almost always 1HKO that. Kyurem is your go-to attacker against low-HP Pokémon.
Blizzard Burn makes Kyurem quite the Energy-hungry monster, but it can be charged by Raiden Knuckle and Colress Machine. Blizzard Burn starts with a modest 120 damage, but that number quickly climbs and before you know it Blizzard Burn is landing 1HKOs on Pokémon-EX. Kyurem is also one of the bulkiest non-EXs with 130 HP. I hesitate to call Kyurem the main attacker because that depends on the matchup, but you will find yourself using it often.
Deoxys is first and foremost a support Pokémon. You want to fill your Bench with as many of them as you can to deal sufficient damage and hit magic numbers for KOs. However, Deoxys is an incredible attacker as well! Helix Force deals 30 damage, and if there is a Plasma Energy attached, it does 30 plus 30 more for each Energy on your opponent’s Active.
This can catch players by surprise with a Prism and Colress Machine out of nowhere. Yveltal-EX and Keldeo-EX with often overload with Energies so that they can KO things, which leaves them open for a sneaky Helix Force KO. Unfortunately, Deoxys does not boost itself with Power Connect, so be careful not to mess up your math!
The reasoning for this inclusion is, in the words of my friend Blaine: “Lysandre for a Plasma Energy is so good.” It’s true — easier access to a gust effect is a helpful boost to the deck which already packs Plasma Energy. Genesect can function as a bulky attacker that can deal heavy damage, though it lacks the 1HKO power of Kyurem. Genesect is best used as an attacker in the Toad/Bats matchup. The combination of Red Signal and Megalo Cannon can mow down Toad after Toad and even Shaymin-EX for a potentially one-sided game. This won’t work as well against Toad/Tina because of all the Energy removal cards that will prey on Megalo Cannon’s cost of 3 Energies.
Given the popularity of Hypnotoxic Laser in Expanded, it would be silly to exclude Virizion from this deck that runs multicolored Energies. Virizion is a huge help against Yveltal and Toad due to blocking Hypnotoxic Laser. This limits Toad’s damage to make it nearly irrelevant. It forces Yveltal-EX to attach more Energies to take KOs with Evil Ball rather than Laser. This in turn makes it easier for Helix Force to KO and more difficult for Yveltal to recover from losing extra Energies. It also gives you an out to Accelgor DEX decks on the off chance you face one of those.
I only play 1 Lysandre because I have Red Signal for the same effect. Shadow Triad acts as a pseudo Lysandre by recovering Plasma Energies to be used for Red Signal if needed. Shadow Triad is my recovery card of choice because most of the cards in the deck can be recovered between it and Raiden Knuckle. It can retrieve most of the Pokémon, Plasma Energy, Colress Machine, and Hypnotoxic Laser. Not to mention, it can be reused with VS Seeker.
I do not play more copies of these simply because I don’t find them necessary. They are great cards, but there is not much space in this deck. Feel free to experiment with more if you find room, but the deck works fine with these counts.
These cards both enhance damage output. Raiden Knuckle’s base 30 and Blizzard Burn’s 120 are not quite stellar on their own, but these cards, like Deoxys, make the attacks relevant. 4 Muscle Band is not overkill because you want Muscle Band on everything. 20 damage is valuable and allows you to reach magic numbers. Nearly every time I attack with this deck I want to have a Muscle Band on my Active.
Hypnotoxic Laser allows you to 1HKO Vespiquen with either Raiden Knuckle or Frost Spear. Normally, you would need all 4 Deoxys in play along with Muscle Band to do that, and Laser alleviates that pressure in case that 4th Deoxys is unavailable. Laser provides spectacular math against Yveltal-EX. Raiden Knuckle can 1HKO Yveltal-EX with 3 Deoxys, a Muscle, and a Laser again in the event your 4th Deoxys cannot be found. If Yveltal has Virbank in play, you only need 2 Deoxys, a Muscle, and a Laser to 1HKO. Laser also annoys Toad, and probably allows for all kinds of other cool math I haven’t even thought of.
The deck is chock-full of Pokémon with high Retreat Costs, though you really only need Switch if you start with something undesirable or if your opponent attempts to Lysandre-stall you. You might also use Switch after Blizzard Burn to reset its negative effect. Float Stone is incredibly handy despite the fact that Muscle Band is usually the more useful Tool. This deck actually has no Pokémon with free Retreat, so Float Stone gives you something to promote after a knockout. With the abundance of options to attack with, you might just need the option of free Retreat to avoid prematurely promoting something and later regretting it based on how your turn goes.
Who ever complained about too much Energy acceleration? Colress Machine allows for Frost Spears and Helix Forces from nowhere and can help power those attacks in one turn. If you play this deck just a few times, I guarantee you will appreciate the power of Colress Machine. I would love to run more, but at that point it becomes more of a luxury. Two is the bare minimum, but the deck doesn’t usually require any more. If there aren’t any Plasma Energies left in your deck, Colress Machine becomes a dead card. That is an unfortunate occurrence.
1 L Energy
The solo L Energy is to give me an out against Giratina’s troublesome Chaos Wheel. Chaos Wheel would completely decimate this deck otherwise. With just 1 Lightning, I can use Raiden Knuckle to accelerate Special Energies even through Chaos Wheel. Unfortunately, running only one is not the most consistent option, but Chaos Wheel doesn’t come online too quickly most of the time. Hopefully you can find the Lightning or the Computer Search on time. Giratina is played enough to run at least 1 Lightning instead of a 4th Rainbow. You could possibly try running 2 Lightning and 2 Rainbow, but that’s a bit of a risk.
The deck is fun and effective. It consistently gets fast and powerful starts that will punish any subpar starts by opponents. The deck is packed with options that will keep your opponent guessing, and it has something for almost any situation and matchup. One problem is that the deck sometimes falters later in the game, though of course sometimes it doesn’t. If the opponent can keep up under your early game pressure and get set up without falling behind too much, you may struggle later on. Thankfully you do have Helix Force to prevent things like Yveltal and Keldeo from going too crazy with Energies and rolling you.
Blastoise, King of the Meta
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 32
Energy – 10
Now I realize there is not much overly special about this list, but I am spending some time on Blastoise because I believe it to be outright better than the other meta decks. I also have refined this list quite a bit and I think it is objectively the optimal Blastoise list. This may be an audacious claim, but I enjoy this deck tremendously and it works like a dream.
I’m sure you are familiar with the deck’s strategy of getting a quick Archie and powering Secret Swords to 1HKO most threats. As such I will not go over the standard stuff in the card counts. One thing I like about Blastoise is that its two main counters are unreliable 1-of Supporters. Hex Maniac can often be played around, and T1 Ghetsis will not always cripple you because the deck runs 23 Items which compose of just over one-third of the deck. 7 Pokémon, 3 Supporters, and various Item topdecks can let you recover from an early Ghetsis.
Some people favor just 1 Articuno, but with Flareon/Vespiquen being as huge as it is, 2 Articuno is becoming the more popular play. Articuno provides an edge against Night March and Flareon thanks to its Delta Plus trait. Articuno can take 2 Prizes off Night Marchers and Flareon while only needed 1 heads out of 3 flips. Articuno can KO Vespiquen with 2 heads, and it can even take 3 Prizes off Shaymin-EX with 2 heads and a Muscle Band. Articuno is necessary for these matchups, and it can even be recovered with Archie’s Ace in the Hole!
Victini helps with Tri Edge flips and minimizes the amount of luck needed. With Victini in play, Articuno has a 75% chance to 1HKO Vespiquen. This is the key to winning the matchup. One niche of this deck is that if you attack a Shaymin-EX with a Banded Tri Edge while Victini is in play, you have a 75% chance of winning half of the game right there, as Delta Plus allows you to take 3 Prizes from the knockout.
Of course, when playing this deck, don’t play the odds and overuse Tri Edge. You can rely on it when you only need 1 heads of 6 for a KO thanks to Victini, but if you do not absolutely need to go for the 75% chance of a KO, hold back. The odds are in your favor, but that attempt will still fail 1 time in 4. You can use Victini for Regice’s Ice Beam if you need Paralysis in a pinch, and that also comes with a 75% success rate.
When I first heard of Unown being played in Blastoise, I was skeptical to say the least. However, I decided to try it out for this format in order to make the deck less susceptible to Ghetsis. Turns out that Unown has more uses than that. Acro Bike is an Item that must be used before you use Archie, but Unown can be played before you Archie and used after.
This is important because you can play your hand down just as well as you could with Acro Bike, but Unown can be used to recover from only drawing the 5 cards from Archie. Acro must be used as soon as it’s played, but Unown can be played and then used whenever it’s needed. Also, Unown with Muscle Band can KO Joltik, Feebas, and other Unown if Shaymin or other non-EXs are not around for whatever reason.
Regice is used only for the purpose of improving your M Rayquaza matchup. Since Ray lists typically don’t run any counters to Regice, it turns the matchup from a near auto-loss to a near auto-win. If they run Escape Rope and KO Regice with a Rope + Lysandre play, you can get it back with Archie and try again. Regice is also helpful against Seismitoad decks if you aren’t rolling them with Keldeo.
A perfectly-timed Hex in the mirror match after KOing a loaded Keldeo wins you the game, and that’s all there is to it.
If you think Fisherman is merely a luxury in addition to the 4 Superior Energy Retrievals, you are wrong. Fisherman has proven itself time and time again in testing. This deck doesn’t need to constantly use any other specific Supporter later in the game, so having a Supporter version of SER is incredibly helpful. It allows you to recover more easily from losing a Keldeo with 6+ Energies piled on it.
Blastoise’s combination of speed and power is on par with Night March, and unlike Night March, it’s attackers can actually take a hit. When Blastoise runs hot it is extremely hard to stop. On top of that, it is a lot of fun to play and doesn’t have common reliable counters. The problem is that Blastoise is already a standard deck and players will be as prepared as they can to go against Blastoise at Regionals.
Big Basics/Garbodor (aka Goodstuffs)
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 34
Energy – 12
I am not sure where to start on this one. There is no real strategy, but the deck still works amazingly. It is a bit on the anti-meta side. This deck is a conglomeration of “goodstuffs” cards, vaguely similar to Brandon Salazar’s winning Big Basics/Garb deck from Nationals 2014. Garbodor is useful against everything, and the deck can play as Toad/Garb in matchups where that mode is favorable. There is also Lugia for heavy damage, Landorus for early power and sniping, and Hawlucha to trade with EXs.
It also has healing Supporters to hold up your bulky EXs and negate opposing Toad damage. Focus Sash and Rock Guard are phenomenal 1-ofs and help against non-EXs. Not to mention, LaserBank is just great. Its matchups can seem bad on paper but mostly they are deceptively favorable as shown from preliminary testing.
Landorus is like my comfort card; I keep going back to it and it has brought me many successes in various rogue decks. Landorus is overall a solid card. It applies immense pressure at the start of the game and it is durable. It can start using Hammerhead right off the bat and will usually stick around for at least 2 or 3 turns. Don’t forget about Land’s Judgement either if the opportunity to use it presents itself. Landorus provides special utility in the Manectric, Vespiquen, and Night March matchups. Avoid playing it down against Toad and Blastoise!
Hawlucha was added into the first list for Big Basics/Garbodor simply because I was already running Fightings and Strongs for Landorus, and there was no real reason to exclude Hawlucha. Hawlucha packs a punch and is a real threat with Focus Sash or Muscle Band attached. It is useful against all EXs, and especially against Toad. Toad needs to expend at least some resources to 1HKO Hawlucha, and if Toad whiffs the 1HKO it will suffer. Hawlucha is also something expendable to leave active if you go first.
Like Deoxys, Lugia can be used to keep Energy-hungry Pokémon in check. With Muscle Band and Laserbank, Lugia can score some surprise KOs with Aero Ball if your opponent is not careful with their Energies. This has synergy with the low-Energy costs of Landorus and Seismitoad, because it forces an opposing Yveltal-EX or Mewtwo-EX to have many Energies to take a 1HKO. Lugia can deal plenty damage even against foes without Energies if you feel like investing in Deep Hurricane. With Muscle Band, Laser, and a Stadium in play, Deep Hurricane hits the magic 180 damage mark.
Toad, Garb, and Laser is THE wombo combo to put an effective lock in place. This deck can go Toad/Garb mode and actually pull it off. Toad is a great attacker and has proven itself time and time again. While not the focus of the whole deck, you still use Toad often. Seismitoad is especially useful against Dark, Blastoise, Night March and other Seismitoad decks. Since it doesn’t deal much damage, you do not want to use Quaking Punch when your opponent can easily KO the Toad right back. That would not be getting any mileage out of it and you would just lose 2 Prizes.
Garbodor is what makes this pile of Big Basics actually stand a chance in competitive play. Every deck runs Shaymin, so establishing a T2 Garb will at least be an annoyance for the rest of the game. It also provides a huge advantage against any deck with Keldeo-EX because they cannot use Rush In to escape from Hypnotoxic Laser. Garbodor is a deciding factor in the Toad/Bats matchup, as it can allow you to win the Toad war by blocking Sneaky and Surprise Bites. Of course, you must get an early Float Stone on Trubbish for this to work or you will suffer against opposing Quaking Punches.
“Cassius is the best thing that ever happened to this deck.” — the sage Blaine Hill. These healing options are phenomenal cards that can keep keep your bulky EXs alive. I am not running Max Potion because Max Potion requires Energy discards. That can pose a problem because I cannot accelerate Energies. Additionally, these cards help tremendously against Seismitoad-EX by repeatedly erasing Quaking Punch damage from your own Toads.
For whatever reason, I don’t feel that 2 Lysandre is a necessity. I would not be comfortable cutting any of the other cards for a 2nd Lysandre barring possibly the Colress. I also have Landorus-EX as an alternative option to attack my opponent’s Bench.
Have you ever played against a Hawlucha with a Focus Sash? Let me tell you, it is downright savage. Getting that extra Flying Press off can really help against EXs which already struggle against Hawlucha. Focus Sash can also be used with Landorus-EX, and that can turn the matchup against Vespiquen and Night March. Overall, Focus Sash is useful but a bit situational. It also gets in the way of other Tools so I only included one.
Do not be tempted to run Computer Search! I am convinced that Rock Guard is the optimal ACE SPEC for this deck. If you can get Rock Guard on a Toad against other Toad decks, you have likely just won yourself the game unless they have a Xerosic at the ready.
Rock Guard also nearly wins the Vespiquen and Night March matchups if you can draw into it somewhat early. Rock Guard 1HKOs Night Marchers if they dare to attack into it, and it KOs Vespiquen that was hit with prior Hammerhead snipe. If your opponent attacks into Rock Guard with a clean Vespiquen or Flareon, it puts those attackers within easy range of a Hammerhead or Sky Return KO. It is helpful in nearly every other matchup as well, especially because Tool Scrapper and Startling Megaphone are rare techs in the Expanded format.
Big Basics/Garbodor is surprisingly competent in this format and can stand up to each of the top meta decks. I plan on testing this deck more extensively and so far it’s looking fantastic with no obvious bad matchups. It is quite easy to play and rarely clunks up. There aren’t too many moving parts needed to make it work which provides excellent consistency for getting you through potentially 17 best-of-three rounds. Get an Energy, a big EX, maybe a Laser, and plug ‘n chug away. You don’t necessarily need a Supporter right away in order to apply pressure.
Thanks for reading! I hope this article has helped you prepare for the upcoming Expanded format. I am excited to attend the Regional tournament in Virginia, and maybe I’ll see you there! The three decks I’ve shared are promising prospects for this format so I definitely encourage you to try them out. If you are fond of the old favorites like TDK and Big Basics, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, if you have any questions about any of the decks, don’t hesitate to ask! I would love to hear any of your thoughts about the decks or the article in general. Good luck!
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