Code Breaker

Thoughts and Methods for Cracking the Format
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Hey everyone! It’s good to be back writing this month. I’m very excited for this upcoming weekend where I will be competing for the first time since early January. As I’ve stated before, Regionals are very difficult and personally I have a pretty mediocre track record at them. In the past three years, I have made Top 8 at every single State Championship I have attended while I have only two Top 8s at Regionals. I have high hopes for Collinsville, but at the very least dodging another 0-3 drop should be a realistic goal.

This past weekend, we got to see our very first Regionals with BREAKthrough being legal and I think the results were almost exactly what everyone expected. Many writers here at SixPrizes have hyped Yveltal/Archeops as being the best or most popular deck for Regionals this Winter and low and behold, it just so happened to take 1st place in Virginia. Personally, I have been relatively skeptical of the power of this deck in the current card pool but clearly my thoughts and assumptions are incorrect. I am not too sure how the results will affect this coming weekend but briefly, let’s look at the results from Doswell:

  • 1st Place – Daniel Altavilla – Yveltal/Archeops
  • 2nd Place – Kevin Baxter – Flareon/Vespiquen/Gallade
  • 3rd Place – Michael Pramawat – Seismitoad/Crobat
  • 4th Place – Anthony Nimmons – Mega Rayquaza
  • 5th Place – Bryan Aing – Archie’s Blastoise
  • 6th Place – Rahul Reddy – Flareon/Vespiquen
  • 7th Place – Eric Rodriguez – Raikou/Eelektrik
  • 8th Place – Azul Griego – Raikou/Eelektrik

As you can see, these results are really just a roundup of Expanded’s usual suspects. With the exception of the Eelektrik deck, there is nothing that we have not seen before and certainly nothing to be surprised about. Kevin Baxter’s deck has the interesting inclusion of Gallade which is an uncommon choice for the Flareon/Vespiquen deck but it clearly has a lot of use if you are able to Maxie it early on. I am rather intrigued by the Raikou deck but have little to offer on the deck without a list to analyze. Clearly, it served both of these players well but I need to know more about their lists to understand how the deck goes about certain matchups.

A Format to Be Cracked

Our objective? Reverse-engineer the meta.

My main purpose for this article, however, is to try and walk everyone through my thought process for the Regionals this weekend. I am convinced now more than ever that it is the time for a rogue deck to arise and conquer the field. I cannot remember a time where the format felt as “defined” as it is currently. There are a very finite number of decks and almost no one seems interested to diverging from this established order.

I’m sure that a large amount of this is due in part to the menial impact that Ancient Origins and BREAKthrough have provided to the metagame. Almost no Pokémon from either set have made any noticeable impact outside of Hoopa-EX and the rest are merely Trainer cards that add more options to certain decks but do not in anyway give structure to the game. Battle Compressor, for instance, is one of the most important cards that is currently legal and it is easy to see why the game has been forced to cater to this card and all decks exist as a way to utilize it or prevent it from being used. It is clear to me now that such a card should never be printed, and in interest of balancing and diversifying the game, I cannot wait to see it leave via rotation or ban.

My fellow writers here share close to identical thoughts on what decks they expect to be popular at each and every event in Expanded. The consensus is obvious and one that is all too familiar for SixPrizes readers at this point and Virginia Regionals did little to shake up our preexisting conceptions. Our card pool is so vast that there has to be option within it that can compete with the primary meta decks.

Based on this given criteria, I believe that we can go through a step-by-step investigation and attempt to craft something that is capable of standing up to the majority of the field. I will be as direct and clear with all of my thoughts though as always this does not mean that I am correct in my views and assumptions. I would love to hear everyone’s thought and feelings toward everything that I will present below. Even if my deck is unable to be as impactful as it needs to be, I hope my investigation will encourage the creativity of others and perhaps you will be able to break the format in a way I was unable to do. Let us begin.

Identifying the Top Tier Decks

First, it is crucial for us to take a look at what decks we must aim to beat. At this point, I will assume that everyone has the general knowledge about what all of these decks do, so I will not waste any time trying to explain their game plans, but here are the decks I believe that we must have at least a 50% or higher chance of beating (in no particular order):

  • Yveltal/Archeops
  • Flareon/Vespiquen
  • Blastoise
  • Seismitoad/Giratina
  • Night March/Archeops
  • Mega Manectric

These are the most popular decks and the results from Virginia continue to solidify this further. Decks like Seismitoad/Crobat or Yveltal sans Archeops are factored into this as well but for all intents and purposes, I am comfortably lumping them into their brother archetype. In both instances, each deck performs almost a similar purpose but the deck I have listed is probably the more popular variant. Building around Archeops is a much more difficult task, but I think a necessary one in order to have the most well-rounded deck. Crobat, contrastingly, does not seem possible to be built around in a similar fashion and so it is just a burden that we must bare whereas Giratina is a card that has a plethora of answers for. The new Eelektrik seems like it would fit into this grouping but frankly I do not know enough about it to feel comfortable ranking it. Once I am able to view the list, I will be able to assess it accurately and so I will try to make a comment about it later this week.

Next, we must identify the decks that exist but will not have nearly as much as a presence as the first group of decks. These decks are the ones that I would be comfortable in taking a loss to — that is, in small amount. I have no problem losing to one or maybe two of these fringe decks but certainly if I lost to a majority, I would force myself to reevaluate my hypothetical deck. In building a rogue, it is important to continue with this kind of mindset.

Again, there is no order outside of the general grouping to this list:

  • Sableye/Garbodor
  • Donphan
  • Mega Rayquaza
  • Primal Groudon

There is clearly a correlation between many of the criteria and the way I have grouped the decks. For instance, decks that feature both “fast and efficient” attackers and non-EXs are almost entirely in tier 1 while the tier 2 decks are largely slower. Seismitoad decks offer an interesting contrast to this, but they are still efficient and disruptive while not running the risk of being too slow.

Time constraints are a huge factor to doing well at large tournaments like Regionals and so by playing a slower or more defensive deck, you put yourself at an immediate disadvantage. Of course, you can easily compensate for this and I am not saying that you should never play a slow deck, but still: it would be foolish for you to pretend that these concerns do not exist when choosing your deck.

Trademarks of the Top Tier

Next, we must identify what about the target decks make them so powerful and prominent within the format. To do this, I wish to propose specific criteria that serve in fully explaining each deck (to some extent) listed above. Many decks will fall into multiple categories, which should be sufficient evidence for what distinguishes one group of decks from the other.

Fast and Effective Attackers

Yveltal/Archeops, Flareon/Vespiquen, Blastoise, Seismitoad/Giratina, Night March/Archeops, Mega Manectric, Mega Rayquaza

Utilize attackers that have the capacity to Knock Out almost everything with only 1-2 Energy. They need very little in order fulfill their goals and are generally able to take Prizes no later than the second turn.

A Focus on Non-EXs

Flareon/Vespiquen, Night March/Archeops, Sableye/Garbodor, Donphan

These decks have a distinct advantage over EX-focused decks as their attackers simply offer 1 Prize. It is difficult to win a Prize exchange against them if you too do not feature at least some non-EX attackers.

A Focus on EXs

Yveltal/Archeops, Blastoise, Seismitoad/Giratina, Mega Manectric, Mega Rayquaza, Primal Groudon

Not inherently a downside, but clearly running contrary to the previous category. These decks are less fragile than their counterparts as most of their Pokémon have 100s of more HP though strategies will differentiate based on other criteria.


Yveltal/Archeops, Flareon/Vespiquen, Blastoise, Night March/Archeops, Mega Rayquaza

Bolster attackers that can Knock Out any Defending Pokémon. As such, Lysandre becomes a more powerful card for these decks as they are able to utilize the card to pick off their ideal target.


Yveltal/Archeops, Seismitoad/Giratina, Night March/Archeops, Sableye/Garbodor

Decks in this category feature many cards that aim to slow down and cripple the opponent’s strategy. Disruption runs contrary to many of the other categories and may prioritize general annoyance rather than taking any Prizes.


Seismitoad/Giratina, Night March/Archeops, Mega Manectric, Sableye/Garbodor, Donphan, Primal Groudon

While not disruptive, the defensive decks are much more resilient and attempt to participate in slower games. Whether this means evolving multiple Pokémon or taking 3-4 Energy to use your main attacker or simply not doing high amounts of damage early, the defensive deck utilizes hit-and-run or Ability lock in order to achieve its goals rather than brute force.

The decks that I believe to be the most competitive are the ones that find themselves in the most categories. As such, the aim of our new deck should be to be able to confidently beat these decks. The rest will still be considerations in our investigation but to a lesser extent. If a deck did not make it into any of the above categories, then I simply do not think it is worth considering in any fashion. However, if you disagree with this or any of my other choices, I urge you to please comment on what you think I should have included.

I think based on the information presented here that the ideal deck we are searching for is one with fast, efficient, and non-EX attackers that can also find its way into the defensive category. Is that something we can achieve?

Dissecting Non-EX (Flareon/Vespiquen & Night March) Interactions

The main objective is to create something that has the capacity to beat every popular deck. For many, this is a ridiculous task but I just know that there is something to be created within our card pool.

If we are in agreement about developing a non-EX deck to accomplish this end, the next thing we ought to figure out is what kind of strategy our deck needs to have. Not only is it required to be an efficient and realistic strategy, but also one that makes it worth playing over something like Flareon/Vespiquen or Night March.

The strength of those two decks is simple and effectively the same. Battle Compressor allows both to quickly discard targets to boost damage and to thin the deck to ensure smoother draws. I do not think that there is a way for us to capture this strategy in a way that makes it different enough from the pre-established decks. We could attempt to retool either of them which would make them “unique,” but ultimately I think that the tried and true builds are popular because they work.

So where do we go from here? I think there are still a handful of routes available to us but instead of exploring each of them individually, it would be more efficient for us to examine the way that the non-EX decks interact from each other. If we can pinpoint a crack in their strategies and exploit it, then I believe that our deck will have a firm foundation to stand upon:

>> Who wins the Night March vs. Flareon/Vespiquen matchup?

Ignoring the possibility for Archeops, I believe that Flareon is usually the favored deck in this matchup. Night March is faster and can immediately take Prizes and so Flareon can fall behind early on if they go second. However, it can make up for this by taking free Prizes using Shaymin-EX’s Sky Return on Joltiks which removes the liability from their board and can equalize the Prize exchange. Night March lacks such an option in most circumstances and thus finds themselves in a hard place if they bench too many Shaymin early on and lack the means to remove the EX from their board.

Mew-EX is another card that can become a huge liability for the Night March player but I believe this card is finding its way out of most lists.

>> How does each win their respective mirror matches?

The mirror match for either deck is always an incredible display of aggression from the very beginning. Using Shaymin-EX to Knock Out Joltik continues to be one of the most crucial plays and in general, I think we can surmise the game is merely a test in managing your Pokémon-EX. Whether this means keeping them off the board, using cards and attacks to remove from your board and so on, doing this effectively is the difference between a win and a loss.

As such, cards like Target Whistle and Pokémon Catcher are huge. If you can incorporate a surprise strategy to further extrapolating the “Knock Out every EX” strategy, then you will always be at an advantage. I played Target Whistle in my Vespiquen deck in both Standard and Expanded and it was an MVP almost every time. It made even discarding Shaymin-EX a potential liability.

A Strategy Materializes …

It is clear to me that our deck wants to be able to abuse Target Whistle or Pokémon Catcher as a way to always be at an advantage against other non-EX decks. Of course, this strategy also does have a considerable amount of viability against any deck that features Shaymin-EX and not just our non-EX targets. Luckily for us, basically every deck plays Shaymin-EX — or Jirachi-EX, which is an equal liability.

So what if our game plan was to just Knock Out Shaymin-EX over and over again and cycle between Target Whistle and only use non-EXs in order to give us the time to pull off three turns of attacking? And what if our deck did not feature any EXs at all?

This is clearly preposterous sounding but I think it has some clear logic behind it. If what I have established above is accurate, then the matchup between non-EX decks is always about clearing EXs and stealing knockouts against them. Many decks run cards like Target Whistle that prevent even the most immaculate play from removing the strategy of KOing Shaymin from the equation. Thus if we choose not to play Shaymin-EX ourselves, we never have to worry about such a threat or ever losing a game via Lysandre plays around all of our non-EXs. Every single deck will have to take six knockouts against us but our game plan only requires us to attack three times.

Is this a realistic goal?

The Blueprint

Pokémon – 12

4 Pikachu XY

4 Raichu XY

2 Yveltal XY

2 Sableye DEX

Trainers – 29

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

3 Acro Bike

2 Battle Compressor

2 Target Whistle

1 Super Rod

1 Computer Search/Dowsing Machine

Energy – 8

4 D

4 Double Colorless

Open Slots: 11

AKA “Shaymin Whistle”

I believe that this is the direction that the deck needs to begin. Sableye is the most logical card to fully get our strategy to work. Junk Hunt means we can get Target Whistle from the discard at any point in the game and thus the timing of the card is much more to our advantage. Ordinarily, we would perhaps find ourself in a poor position should we be forced to discard one of our combo cards early on but Sableye effectively lets us find the Target Whistle and Lysandre whenever we need.

It took me a while to settle in on the most ideal attacker for this concept and initially, the idea began with using Zoroark to have Dark synergy with Sableye and gain access to cards like Dark Patch. However, the math for Mind Jack never seemed good enough especially if your opponent could play around it and Brutal Bash required too many Pokémon.

I had thought about adding Jolteon AOR but it just seemed like too much space, and my friend Kolton pointed out that I had overlooked Raichu. Raichu is clearly the most effective attacker for our strategy and we do not need too many Pokémon on board if our primary goal is simply to Knock Out Shaymin-EX. Baby Yveltal does not serve too much of a purpose other than to provide a Benched Pokémon for Circle Circuit but it does give us some resilience to Energy removal and perhaps Giratina-EX’s Chaos Wheel.

The rest of the deck is simply focused on consistency. Without Shaymin, our deck will be noticeably slower but I think we can compensate for that. First, I have included a large amount of Item-based draw in Trainers’ Mail and Acro Bike, and Sableye is able to take those at any time in addition to Junk Hunt also being able to find us a Supporter should we choose to take VS Seeker or our ACE SPEC with it.

Addressing Weaknesses

Our final step is to figure out what weaknesses the concept still has and figure out how to address them as best as possible. Thankfully, I think that there is a lot we can do with those open slots but naturally, I don’t think this will be able to beat everything and that’s okay. If we can get the list to be favored against a majority of the field then it would be a guaranteed top cut.

Seismitoad-EX: This card has been such a pest for almost everything since its release last fall and unfortunately there is not an exception here. The core of our deck and our unique strategy are pretty reliant on Item cards and so a fast Quaking Punch seems like it would spell disaster for us.

Donphan: This deck plays no EXs and we have no real way for Raichu to ever Knock them Out, especially if Focus Sash is involved.

Archeops: Currently, our list has no way to evolve around Archeops, which would prevent us from ever attacking! Clearly, we must address this.

Mega Manectric: This deck is the one that seems like it could have the easiest time getting away with never benching or playing Shaymin-EX. If there is no EX for us to pick off, then our deck has no strategy.

Savvy Shaymin Management: If your opponent focuses on keeping their Bench filled with Pokémon that are not Shaymin-EX, then you cannot utilize your strategy. The other way to play around the deck would be to never bench or discard it but I am unsure how realistic this would be. However, the deck will have the surprise factor to it for most of Swiss so many games might becomes free wins simply because your opponent will be unfamiliar with what you are playing.

Finishing Touches

With all of those weaknesses in mind, here is my current build of the deck:

Pokémon – 16

4 Pikachu XY

4 Raichu XY

2 Jirachi XY67

2 Yveltal XY

2 Sableye DEX

2 Gallade BKT

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

2 N

2 Lysandre

2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick


4 VS Seeker

4 Ultra Ball

4 Trainers’ Mail

3 Acro Bike

3 Battle Compressor

2 Target Whistle

1 Evosoda

1 Super Rod

1 Dowsing Machine


1 Sky Field

Energy – 9

5 D

4 Double Colorless

Open Slot: 1

2 Jirachi XY67

Jirachi is the best solution that exists for Seismitoad (and Giratina). As a 1-of, I do not believe that this card is particularly effective but I think that multiple copies of it (and the potential for more with Super Rod) can maybe swing the matchup.

Unfortunately, I do not think there is a way for this concept to ever beat Donphan. And that’s okay! It’s fine to take a few losses, and while Donphan and something like Landorus/Crobat are going to beat this every time, those decks ought to remain on the unpopular side and are not well positioned against many of the more popular decks.

1 Evosoda

Pikachu’s got a sweet tooth.

I think Evosoda is our best option against Archeops. There is an argument to be made for using Hex Maniac instead but the timing on Evosoda seems better with Sableye and Dowsing Machine. Hex Maniac would also deter our opponents from wanting to play Shaymin down and I’m not sure if it’s too useful against any other deck. There is not a rush for us to need to evolve against Archeops and so I think using multiple Evosodas early on with Sableye should still let us continue with our game plan.

2 Gallade BKT, 2 Maxie’s

Gallade is a great addition to the deck because it is another incredibly powerful non-EX that can threaten to Knock Out Shaymin-EXs. It has type advantage against Manectric and can solve that problem matchup potentially. Flash Energy of course presents an issue but I am currently under the impression that this card is not a popular inclusion in the deck but I could be mistaken. Junk Hunt also makes it pretty easy to set up Maxie plays in advance and you’ll be happy to find that there is not much problem getting multiple Gallade out over the course of a game.

1 Sky Field

Sky Field is our absolute trump card against those who attempt to be clever and play around our deck. Sky Field lets us get Shaymin onto the Bench and should add yet another surprise factor to the deck. I finalized Dowsing Machine as our ideal ACE SPEC so that we can reuse Sky Field along with many other niche Trainer cards.

The Open Slot

You’ll see that there is still one open slot for the deck and that is not an accident! I simply cannot decide what card it should be. I am certain that it is just another copy of another card that is already in the list. For me, it is a 3rd Sableye or Jirachi, a 2nd Evosoda or Sky Field, or maybe something simple like just another Battle Compressor. I will leave it up to you!


professor oak finger idea
Code cracked? Maybe. Keep working at the idea!

There you have it! This is the deck that I have been trying to work on for a few weeks now. I think that it is so close to being able to shake up the format in a meaningful way and I would absolutely love to be able to pull the trigger on it for my Regional Championship this weekend.

If you have any questions about the deck or certain matchups, please leave a comment and as always, I will address them as soon as I can! I had considered doing a small write-up about every matchup but frankly, the strategy should be the same against almost everything. Naturally, not every game can go ideally and so you’ll have to persist through some difficult circumstances, but I think that the utility of Junk Hunt will give you the option to navigate many different scenarios.

If this deck is ultimately just not good enough, I hope that my attempted investigation will spur some creative force on your behalf. I sound like a broken record but I am convinced that there is a deck that can shake up Expanded as we know it. Whether it arises or not is simply up to us and we should attempt to be creative and inventive in our deck building pursuits.

I am very excited to compete this weekend and I hope to see many familiar faces in Collinsville. I hope you enjoyed the article today and best of luck in the rest of Regionals this winter!

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