Hello, all! It’s been a while since my last article — a World Championship and nearly a whole season, in fact! I have been busy, both in life and Pokémon — teaching high school mathematics, moving to a new place, and securing my Worlds invite for San Francisco. I am always excited to be sharing my thoughts with you all, especially after a long time has passed and there is much to reflect on.
Last year, I returned to play Pokémon competitively for the first time since 2010. I had played on and off and kept up with the metagame in between, but I would not consider myself competitive and I did not play in any World Championships in those years. As a youngster, I always prided myself in being able to play many decks. I had the mindset that in order to be truly great at the Pokémon TCG, one should be able to pick up any deck and — provided it was a good deck for that day — do well. So, when I returned last year, I continued with this idea. In my journey to a Worlds invitation I received Championship Points using the following decks: Yveltal, Virizion/Genesect, Pyroar, Seismitoad, Donphan, Night March, Trevenant, Landorus/Crobat, Exeggutor, and Mega Manectric. And I played even more decks that I did not receive CPs with! Besides Night March and Yveltal, I do not think I got CPs twice with the same deck.
Going into Worlds, I perhaps took this idea a bit too far: after making it through Day 1 with Night March, the deck that I was most comfortable with, I switched to Raichu/Crobat/Leafeon for Day 2 in preparation for all the Night March that made it through the first day. I ended up doing quite poorly because the deck was not consistent and I had not played it enough. In hindsight, I should have either stuck with Night March or switched to Seismitoad/Crobat, which I had done more testing with and also had a solid Night March matchup.
Coming into my second season back, I had to reevaluate my thought process a bit. While I still wanted to play a variety of decks — it is FUN after all; switching decks all the time keeps my brain stimulated — I also had to think of what was practical. Fall Regionals solidified this dichotomy in my mind: Frank Diaz and Israel Sosa, longtime Dark players, and Jimmy O’Brien, who had been playing Flareon most of last season, all took home big W’s. On the other hand, my good friend JP (Jonathan Paranada) won and finished second in back-to-back Regionals by switching it up: one with Blastoise and one with Tyrantrum.
While I do not normally recap my events, I would like to do so today. When I read articles, I find it helpful to know how a player has fared throughout the year and with what decks. As players, we naturally have biases toward decks we have done well with. Everything I discuss today will inevitably have subtle biases, so I think it will be useful to see where I am coming from.
Recapping Deck Choices
- Pennsylvania Regionals: Vespiquen/Raichu (1-1-3, drop)
- League Challenge (Expanded): Vespiquen/Flareon (2nd)
- City Championship (Expanded): Seismitoad/Crobat (2nd)
- City Championship (Expanded): Seismitoad/Crobat (Top 4)
- City Championship (Standard): Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade (Top 8)
- City Championship (Standard): Mega Rayquaza (Top 4)
- City Championship (Standard): Mega Mewtwo/Zoroark (2nd)
- City Championship (Standard): Gallade/Octillery (Top 8)
- Virginia Regionals: Seismitoad/Crobat (Top 16)
- Pennsylvania States: Greninja (Top 8)
- New York States: Greninja (Top 8)
- League Challenge (Expanded): Seismitoad/Crobat (1st)
As you can see, I’ve had a pretty consistent season after my debacle at PA Regionals. You’ll notice my variety of decks, but you will also notice a bit more stability: Seismitoad/Crobat quickly became my favorite Expanded deck, Mega Pokémon were my friends during Standard Cities, and I found myself immersed in Greninja leading up to States. Let me explain these three choices:
Choice 1: Seismitoad/Crobat
Expanded and Standard are very different beasts. Despite a larger card pool, there are essentially fewer viable decks and a more predictable metagame: Dark decks, Seismitoad decks, Vespiquen/Flareon, Blastoise, Mega Manectric decks, Night March, and Sableye decks were the only decks I was concerned about during Expanded this Winter. For Regionals, I wanted to take something that I had a lot of practice with and would be comfortable playing against a variety of decks. Toad/Bats fit the bill by giving me opportunities to disrupt my opponents, control the game state, and boast enough room for tech options that would differentiate my build. Here is the list I ran in Virginia:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 35
Energy – 7
The list was largely inspired by Mees’s Worlds list and Pram’s Regionals list. After the tournament, changes I would have made include -1 Golbat +1 Super Rod and -1/2 Virbank +1/2 Silent Lab. Interesting deck choices include:
1 Landorus-EX — Though I am likely far from the first person to think of this, I put Landorus in here right before the first Expanded City Championship that I played in as a way to help swing the Vespiquen matchup. Essentially, if you go for a quick Landorus on turns 1/2, the Vespiquen player has to try to 1HKO it ASAP, otherwise it will spread too much damage. If they do that, however, they have to throw many of their attackers in the discard, which leaves them more susceptible to getting locked later in the game by N/Quaking Punch. This proved effective in most games. In hindsight, more Silent Lab is likely better for the Vespiquen matchup.
Landorus also has the added benefit of making your Manectric matchup much better, as you can power it up for Land’s Judgement and take 4 Prizes with it. Landorus also provided some unexpected help in the Raikou/Eels matchup, which is largely unwinnable for Seismitoad decks, unless you can lock them out of the game early on.
1 Lugia-EX — Shout-out to Kevin Kobayashi for this one. Mewtwo-EX and Dedenne were both popular additions to Toad/Bats, but I think Lugia is just better than both of them. With Landorus, your Lightning matchup was stronger so you cared less about the Lightning Weakness. Lugia is amazing in the Dark matchup. I had one game at Regionals where my opponent got T1 Archeops but Lugia took 6 Prizes. Deep Hurricane is very strong, taking my last 2 Prizes in more than five games. More on Lugia later.
1 Judge — Every time I played Judge at Regionals, my opponent was shocked. Initially put in to strengthen the Sableye matchup, Judge + Quaking Punch is a strong combination and can be used early on for a soft lock, unlike N. I think it was strictly better than the 3rd N. I am not as sure now, as the extra N is better vs. other Item lock decks like Trevenant and Vileplume.
The metagame has evolved making Toad/Bats a more dubious play. In the Expanded section below I will look at how it might be able to adapt for the current state of the game.
Choice 2: Mega Pokémon
The Cities format ending up revolving around two main decks: Yveltal/Zoroark/Gallade and Night March. However, many other decks popped up along the way: Entei, Mega Manectric, Manectric/Crobat, Sceptile, Raichu/Crobat, Seismitoad/Giratina, Vespiquen, and more.
Mega Pokémon decks like Rayquaza and Mewtwo tend to thrive in a format where they can take 1HKOs and not be 1HKO’d back. Barring an obvious weakness to Night March, the format shaped up to be filled with decks that could not hit 200+ damage at once. In my area in particular, Night March waned in popularity during the middle of City Championships, paving the way for Mega decks to find success.
By recognizing that Night March was being hated out by other decks like Entei and Manectric/Crobat, I was able to stay one step ahead of the metagame. But this also shows another component of proper metagaming: picking decks which your opponents have not played much against. At Cities this effect is even more pronounced, as players have less practice with their individual decks and will be switching decks often. By playing a lesser known deck you gain a significant advantage in every matchup.
Though I believe I made smart deck choices, I do not think my lists were revolutionary or very interesting for either Rayquaza or Mewtwo and are largely outdated by now, so I will omit those here.
Choice 3: Greninja
Greninja provided an interesting opportunity when BREAKpoint came out: everyone had an inkling that Greninja would be good, but no one was really sure how the best way to build the deck would be. This became even more evident as articles leading up to State Championships tended to ignore the deck, as no one was sure in their list. As a deck builder, this is the dream: a concept you are already confident can be strong and a community that does not have a stock decklist to test again. I was able to work with some friends, namely Zach Bivens, on creating a Greninja list that was the basis for many of the Greninjas that did well during State Championships, including Bob Zhang’s 2nd place in NY and Azul’s win in NH.
We went through many, many iterations of the deck before arriving at what we played at States. I will share my Week 2 list, as it is better than my Week 1:
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 32
Energy – 8
One of the things I enjoyed so much about Greninja is the option for a few cards to really swing matchups. I omitted Rough Seas from both my Week 1 and 2 lists, as we found it was only very good against Trevenant and Vespiquen/Vileplume, while being mediocre to useless in every other matchup. If I had played in Week 3 or 4, I would have certainly made cuts to include Rough Seas.
I think not playing Octillery was very risky. A 1-1 line is fine, but I enjoyed having the 2-2. I frequently would Wally into Octillery on the first turn of the game. Coupled with the heavy Ball count, it kept the deck consistent.
Despite having a strong theoretical matchup against Night March, I think it is foolish for anyone to think this is favorable vs. a good Night March player. Indeed, it is probably about even. You can easily outplay average Night March players, but correct resource management and timely Hex Maniacs can be too much for Greninja to handle, even with the Jirachis.
Speaking of Jirachi, I have seen a bunch of recent lists with 3 copies and I think this is certainly too many. On the flip side, I cannot imagine running this deck with less than 1 copy. The Rare Candy version of this deck is also strong, though I think with the rise of Item lock this Wally version has become superior.
Looking ahead to Fates Collide, N will likely help Greninja more than any other deck in the Standard format. With N, Greninja can more comfortably play without Octillery which could be a good direction for the deck in general. After fitting Rough Seas into the deck, the Item lock matchups suddenly seem much better than before. The Night March matchup can only get better with N as well, though a single copy of Ace Trainer might still be appropriate, as it has a more dramatic effect on the first few turns of the game.
Going into Nationals and Worlds (assuming Standard), Greninja will be a strong deck to consider. It can beat most of the other top decks, but we will see how Fates Collides shakes up the Standard metagame.
The State of Expanded
“I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town.”
With Week 1-of Spring Regionals almost upon us, many people have once again shifted their focus from Standard to Expanded. Russell laid the groundwork in his article, detailing what many consider the biggest threats going into this set of tournaments: Dark, Trevenant, and Groudon. I will skip giving lists again, but discuss some of the interactions between these decks and look at some other options you might want to consider.
First, here are my predictions for the metagame breakdown for Week 1 (and if not much changes, then it should hold for Week 2 and perhaps even Week 3 as well).
- 27.5% Dark
- 20% Trevenant
- 7.5% Groudon
- 7.5% Night March
- 10% Seismitoad decks
- 7.5% Lightning decks (Eels/Mega Manectric)
- 5% Vileplume decks (mostly with Vespiquen)
- 5% Other Mega decks (Rayquaza/Mewtwo mostly)
- 2.5% Sableye/Garbodor
- 2.5% Vespiquen/Flareon
- 5% Other
My numbers might look funny but I am a math teacher after all!
Though I am putting Dark at an insanely high percentage, I do think it will be that popular. The Florida Day 2 was about a half Dark, so I think it is reasonable to assume that it will remain the most popular deck, by far. It also is the only deck that truly has an advantage over the next biggest deck. Trevenant will see an increase in play after doing so well in Florida and Oregon and now that people have access to better lists. It can beat anything if it goes first and is thus quite lethal. Despite Groudon rounding out the top three decks in the format, I do not think it will come close to the popularity of the other two, in part because it is more difficult to play as well that it requires 3 or 4 Tropical Beach.
Night March will see more play than before in Expanded, as Fighting Fury Belt and Puzzle of Time do give it the same boost it has gotten in Standard. Additionally, Night March is the prime deck for players that just want to adapt their successful Standard lists to Expanded. Seismitoad will never die and I think it will still make up a sizable portion of the metagame, though it is weaker than perhaps ever before. Eels/Raikou did not make as much of an impact during Weeks 2 or 3 as it did during the first week of Winter Regionals so I think it will continue to be only marginally played. Rough Seas decks do have one of the biggest advantages over Trevenant decks, though, so I would not count them out.
The rest of the notable decks have all been pushed to tier 3 and I would consider not very strong plays, as they have weak matchups vs. at least two of the top three decks. Vileplume has a tough time with Dark and Groudon, Mega Rayquaza has a tough time with Trevenant and Groudon, Sableye is weak against all three, and Vespiquen/Flareon has too much to deal with now that Fighting Fury Belt is played in Dark and Trevenant is bigger.
The Big Three
I want to discuss some of my thoughts on these decks and how to go about beating them. For lists, please reference the linked resources in each section. Each of these decks is uniquely difficult to counter — that is part of what makes them the top decks in the first place!
My current list runs the Maxie engine and is very similar to Russell’s and Grant’s. I have opted to play a split of 3 Silent Lab/1 Reverse Valley, as I agree with Grant that the disruption makes the deck that much stronger, but I think you need to be able to Knock Out Silent Lab in key situations in which it is hurting you.
I think Turbo Dark is stronger against Trevenant and about the same vs. Groudon, but weaker in the mirror and against most of the other decks that might see play. Gallade is a superstar that can outright win the mirror match if one person has it and the other does not. It conveniently 1HKOs Darkrai-EX, Turbo Dark’s main attacker. Archeops plays a big role in disrupting Evolution decks that Turbo Dark may beat in a short game but is more likely to fall short against in a longer game. Overall, I am more of a fan of the Maxie variant right now, though I would expect to see both at Regionals.
Dark is for sure the hardest deck to counter and tech for, as it has so many variations and tricks up its sleeve. Gallade is a very strong card against both versions, but Turbo Dark in particular. Lightning cards — namely Manectric and Raikou — remain threatening for any variant playing multiple Yveltal (Baby and EX). If your deck is weak to Gallade, Mewtwo-EX is available in Expanded to revenge KO it.
I have not played much Trevenant, but I will offer a few thoughts: I think Head Ringers are a must. It is a disruption deck and setting your opponents back a turn of attacking with their EXs could be the thing that wins you the game. Similarly, I think you should run an Energy removal card. Xerosic is great, but I would consider a Team Flare Grunt as well. The goal is obviously to get T1 Trevenant, but there are many decks that can get one attacker rolling and fight their way back into the game. Head Ringer and Team Flare Grunt make this much less likely.
The trouble with countering Trevenant is that no matter what you tech in, you might not be able to find it if Trev goes first and gets the turn 1 lock. Even decks specifically designed to beat the Trees can drop games to it by getting locked out of the game on the first turn.
Beyond Dark Pokémon, Rough Seas deck have an inherent advantage over Trevenant’s low damage output. By totally nullifying Silent Fear and reducing Tree Slam to a mere 30 damage, Rough Seas can prolong the game, giving you enough time to find enough stuff to start Knocking Out Trevenants. If your deck already utilizes Water or Lightning Pokémon as attackers but does not already run a few copies of Rough Seas, you might consider opening a few spots and trying them out.
Another simple fix that any deck can make is to simply run more Supporters. By increasing your N count from 2 to 3 or your Lysandre count from 1 to 2, you will find yourself in the game against Trevenant more often. These are cards we want in our decks anyway and will be good in many matchups. Dropping to 3 copies of VS Seeker is probably okay if you are packing more Supporters than an average build.
Once again, I will default to Russell’s article for a Groudon list: it takes the best of both worlds from Sebastian Crema’s and the Florida Groudon lists. I would consider dropping the 2nd Robo Substitute for another card, perhaps an Escape Rope or another healing card.
Groudon also provides some challenges in countering it, as the Primal can just sit on the Bench until it is ready to come up and Knock Out whatever threat you will be preparing for it. This gives us pretty much three ways to dealing with Groudon:
> 1. Regice AOR. I would put Safeguard Pokémon up here as well, but every Groudon deck will play Hex Maniac or Silent Lab, both of which they can get back with either VS Seeker in Hex’s case (which should be the more popular play) or with Puzzle of Time. So Regice.
Regice counters provided a couple of things: first, you need to get it up relatively early — or at least before a Primal Groudon is ready to go. Ideally, you can power it up with basic Energy, because Groudon lists run a lot of Special Energy removal. And finally, you need to watch out for Escape Rope + Lysandre. You can either set up 2 Regice or attempt to AZ/Scoop Up everything else off that board once Regice is ready to go. Even with 2 Regice, you will probably need to scoop your other guys up, but 2 Regice buys you a turn once the Primal Groudon is Active and wanting to attack.
> 2. Bench damage. If you can hit the Bench, you can soften up Groudon before it is ready to come Active and start hitting everything you have for 200+ damage. Bat lines are not shut off by Wobbuffet, so they are more effective than Greninja. Pokémon that attack the Bench could also be looked into, depending on your deck.
> 3. Dragging Groudon to the Active Spot with an attack is also a possibility. Cards like Sharpedo-EX could be teched into Dark decks for a gust effect, simultaneously softening up and bringing an unprepared Primal Groudon into the fray. Groudon can play a Float Stone to minimize the effects of such an attack, so this does not seem like the best option, but perhaps one of the easiest to fit depending on your deck.
A Counter Deck: Mega Manectric/Regice
With all that said, I would like to offer a potential counter to the top three decks. Manectric has always been a good meta play but it suffers from the lack of consistency and stability some other decks have. Once it gets going, it is difficult to beat, but despite the simplistic nature of Turbo Bolt, the deck has always felt clunky because of the need for a Spirit Link to evolve. While this list does not offer much to remedy that, the other issue plaguing Manectric has been getting multiple Energy in play if you have none to begin your turn with. Max Elixir helps in this department. With 11 basic Energy, you are likely to hit it often enough where it will make a difference in keeping tempo and recovering from weak starts.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
This is far from refined, but I think the idea should be straightforward:
- Mega Manectric is strong against Dark and Trevenant. Having type coverage on Yveltal forces the Dark player to attack with Darkrai. With 210 HP and Rough Seas, it becomes very difficult for Darkrai to hit these numbers. If they are running Maxie’s, Gallade can be an obvious problem. Mewtwo is included to help against that. Max Elixir will help you keep the trades up and allow you to Turbo Bolt earlier and more often.
- Regice counters Groudon. If you can set up 1 or 2 Regice and AZ the rest of your Pokémon off the field, then you should win. Groudon lists may include Escape Rope to help derail your strategy, so you need to make sure to play around that.
- Jolteon is included for the Night March matchup, which otherwise seems weak. It is also a free retreater and can put other decks in awkward situations.
- Raikou earns a spot as your go-to non-EX attacker. Making the opponent go through 2 or 3 Mega Manectric and a Raikou is the goal in many matchups.
- If you are playing during Week 3, you might consider fitting a Glaceon-EX here as well.
In addition to seemingly positive matchups against the Big Three, Manectric enjoys a positive Seismitoad matchup, regardless of variant. Sableye, Night March, and Vileplume decks pose the biggest threat, but all of these decks seem like they will be less played. My main concern about Manectric is its consistency: can it last a whole Regional Championship? Perhaps, perhaps not.
On to my favorite deck in Expanded that needs a bit of a makeover. Let’s take a look at an updated list.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 37
Energy – 7
Total: 61 cards
To immediately get to 60 cards, Tool Scrapper, Muscle Band, and Glaceon-EX would be my first cuts, but I really want to test the Tool Scrapper and the Glaceon before dropping them outright. If you are playing in Week 1/2, then I think the above list sans Glaceon is quite strong.
Let’s look at some of the interesting components and updates:
Though not a new addition, I think it is worth some time to discuss Lugia-EX some more because I think it got even better with BREAKpoint. Fighting Fury Belt makes Lugia a much bulkier threat and it can easily take 4 Prizes against an unsuspecting opponent. Aero Ball followed up by a Deep Hurricane can and will end games against Dark decks. Before, they could realistically get a revenge KO with Yveltal-EX even when Lugia only had a DCE on it. Now they need a Tool Scrapper in addition to the 130 points of damage necessary to Evil Ball for the KO.
Lugia provides raw strength in a deck that looks to control the game, lock opponents out of resources, and slowly whittle down the opponent. Many decks become susceptible to the power of Lugia after being weakened by Quaking Punch and Bat damage. The opposite can also be true: starting Lugia can put enormous pressure against some decks, particularly one like Trevenant. Decks may have to burn through resources they might have kept otherwise to deal with the threat of Lugia, which in turn makes Quaking Punch can sting more as the game progresses.
Glaceon-EX, while still needing to be tested, provides a lot of utility in theory. The main reason to include Glaceon is Trevenant. While Silent Fear will get around Crystal Ray, it will take them six turns to score a knockout. If you find a Rough Seas, that can turn into seven, eight, or more turns. If you can get a Fighting Fury Belt down on Glaceon, you are 2HKOing even the BREAK, which would almost certainly give you the win.
Glaceon also provides random coverage across the board. It should help your Vespiquen/Flareon matchup, which is close but slightly favorable already. Vespiquen/Vileplume is interesting because they can Shaymin loop and it may be difficult to access your Bat line under Item lock. Again with Rough Seas, this should at least bide you some time. Glaceon might find some random uses against Groudon, Manectric, and Rayquaza. Second Bite also has some synergy with the Bat line, particularly against Megas as well.
One issue with this inclusion is that you may never have the opportunity to find Glaceon against decks where it will have the most impact: Item lock decks.
Fighting Fury Belt adds a lot to a deck that already runs AZ and a max count of Super Scoop Up. 220 HP is a lot to reach under Item lock, so your Seismitoads might survive an extra turn than they did before. The opponent has to waste their Supporter to get rid of the extra health while Item locked as well, which can lead to some very awkward situations for opponents. It may be correct to run 3 Belt and 0 Muscle Band, but I think that the extra damage from Muscle Band can still be relevant at times. More testing will tell.
Stadiums are non-trivial inclusions in Toad/Bats. Less than a year ago, 2 Virbank City Gym was the accepted play. Kristy Britton made a splash at Nationals last year with a solo Silent Lab in addition to the pair of Poison Stadiums. I spoke to Mike Pramawat at Virginia Regionals and he discussed how he played increasing counts of Silent Lab through Fall Regionals: 1 the first week, 2 the second week, and 3 the third week. Though I played 2 Virbank in Virginia, I now think they are largely unnecessary and inferior to Silent Lab.
However, the metagame shift may require us to revisit our Stadium choice yet again. While Silent Lab is the best Stadium to play against every deck if you go first, Rough Seas is better as the game progresses. I have already mentioned some of its benefits, but it is primarily useful against Trevenant and Vileplume decks. By utilizing Rough Seas, you give yourself extra time to set up against these other Item lock decks. While I am still testing this choice, I do think it is well worth exploring.
You will notice the lack of Puzzle of Time in this list. While it seems a natural inclusion in Seismitoad decks, I do not feel overly compelled to fit it. This deck functions just fine with 4 DCE and 3 basic Energy. In order to fit Puzzle, we would need to cut other counts, such as Super Scoop, Hypnotoxic Laser, Stadiums, and probably Energy itself. We also do not play enough 1-of cards like Enhanced Hammer to warrant wanting to get them back. So not only would we need to fit 4 Puzzle, but we would need to fit 1 or 2 other tech cards to really see the benefit of the card. While I may experiment with Puzzle in the coming weeks, right now I am not sold on it in here at all.
Dark — Favorable
I actually think this matchup is quite good and possibly the best it has ever been for Seismitoad. For one, Dark decks run more Items than they ever have before because they run the Maxie engine. At Virginia Regionals, my toughest Dark matchups were the straight Dark decks like the Frank Diaz build. Archeops can be a pain if they get it going first, but otherwise the Maxie build struggles to keep up under Quaking Punch. Usually the matchup has Toad/Bats scoring 2 or 4 Prizes using Quaking Punch, Lasers, and Bat damage and then cleaning up with Lugia-EX. As mentioned before, Lugia is very strong in this matchup. As Dark tends to shift away from Yveltal-EX as its go-to attacker in most situations, Dedenne becomes less useful. Lugia keeps a big Yveltal-EX in check in the same way that Dedenne does. In general, the Dark deck will attempt to make you take 7 Prizes by throwing Baby Yveltals up at you, but Bat damage and Lysandre is usually enough to avoid having to do such a thing. I would put this matchup at 60-40 for Toad.
Trevenant — Unfavorable
In contrast, the Trevenant matchup is weak for this deck. While Seismitoad enjoys Item locking the opponent, it does not enjoy being Item locked back. I have already touched on why I think Glaceon and Rough Seas make the matchup closer, but even with these the matchup is still less than favorable. We are looking at about 35-65 matchup. My hope is that Trevenant will be hated on during the first two weeks and die down in popularity by Week 3.
Groudon — Even
This is a strange game, as Groudon generally has a positive Toad matchup. But Groudon also does not enjoy being hit on the Bench, which Bats do effectively. Quaking Punch can slow the Groudon player down during the early game as well. Water Energy and Lugia add more tricks to the Toad/Bats arsenal, as Seismitoad can get a Grenade Hammer off once Groudon comes up or Lugia can be dropped and deal 120 damage out of nowhere with Aero Ball. If the Groudon has been weakened enough by Bats, that could just end the game. Lugia with Fighting Fury Belt also makes Groudon need 2 Strong Energy to get the 1HKO. I would put this as a solid 50-50.
Toad/Bats has good and bad matchups across the rest of the field. Vespiquen/Flareon, Night March, and Sableye are all favorable while Vespiquen/Vileplume and Rough Seas decks are not. One thing I love about this deck, though, is that Quaking Punch gives you an out in every matchup. Much like Trevenant, a timely Item lock can end games by itself.
I would be surprised if I end up playing something else besides Toad/Bats in Massachusetts (Week 3). I have a lot of experience with the deck and Regionals requires you to focus with one deck for an extended period of time. If you were riding the Toad/Bats train before, I would not count it out just yet, but it will require some reworking in order for it to remain competitive.
With spring always comes spring cleaning and for Pokémon players, that means clearing some space in your binder for new cards. I would like to offer a fairly exhaustive list of all the cards I consider potentially viable:
- Alakazam-EX/M Alakazam-EX
- Carbink/Carbink BREAK
- Bronzong/Bronzong BREAK
- Lugia/Lugia BREAK
- Audino-EX/M Audino-EX
- Chaos Tower
- Devolution Spray (reprint)
- Energy Pouch
- Fairy Drop
- Mega Catcher
- Random Receiver (reprint)
- Lass’s Special
- N (reprint)
- Team Rocket’s Handiwork
Cards I Really Like
- Servine is perhaps my favorite card from the set and it probably isn’t even very good. With Devolution Spray reprinted, Super Scoop Up, AZ, and Forest of Giant Plants, we could be looking at a new-age Paralysis lock deck. While Vileplume was my first inclination, I doubt that makes sense, as you need to play Items in order to abuse Servine’s Ability. Instead, Seismitoad-EX seems like a good partner: limiting their Items while keeping them Paralyzed and letting yourself play Items, similar to Trevenant/Accelgor. Ariados seems like a good fit to add damage. Note that I am mainly talking about the Standard format.
- Barbaracle is also a potential standout for the Standard (and maybe even Expanded!) format. The combination of Ninetales + Barbaracle + Stadium provides the same type of lock against DCE decks that Giratina does — perhaps easier, perhaps more difficult to achieve. I like that it is less susceptible to Energy removal and could provide a hard counter to Night March. Hex Maniac is a huge problem and will probably make the card unplayable, but with N back in the format, decks like Night March would need to find Hex and DCE off a small N. Barbaracle could also find its way into Seismitoad decks for added disruption.
- As if Fighting Fury Belt and Puzzle of Time didn’t boost Night March enough, the game designers decided to reprint a Versatile Mew. As a non-EX. Sigh. Mew’s restrictive Ability (only being able to copy YOUR Basics) hurts its viability in many other decks — but not Night March! With Dimension Valley, Mew can copy Joltik’s Night March for a single basic Energy, just like Mew-EX does in Expanded. If things like Giratina-EX, Jirachi, and Barbaracle continue to be the counters to Night March, expect these decks to start playing 1-3 basic Energy to add more options to their already huge toolbox. I think Mew will likely replace Mew-EX even in Expanded Night March, and could potentially make it a more viable deck than it has been recently. Mew could also be used in other decks and I will discuss a Mew toolbox deck below.
- Alakazam-EX and M Alakazam-EX look to be promising. Essentially a Golbat and a Crobat Ability in one fell swoop, coupled with synergetic attacks on both the Basic and the Mega, Alakazam could very well be its own deck. The biggest weakness will be its literal Weakness: Psychic is a popular type and things like Pumpkaboo, Trevenant, and Mega Mewtwo all hit it hard and potentially for a 1HKO. If Alakazam can partner with something to beat these decks (an obvious deck to try is Alakazam/Crobat), then it could be quite formidable in the Standard format.
- Zygarde-EX provides Fighting a fantastic new tool. First, 190 HP is a good number to have, requiring decks like Night March to have the extra Marcher or a Fighting Fury Belt in order to 1HKO. Second, Grass Weakness is lovely. Not quite as good as Water, but certainly much better to have than Psychic. Its attacks are all just okay, but simply having access to three (and four attacks with Power Memory) makes Zygarde one of the most versatile Pokémon ever printed. Zygarde could revitalize the Fighting/Crobat archetype that has been in and out of the game for the past few years or it could take a more linear approach, pairing with cards like Max Elixir and Landorus FFI to quickly power up multiple Zygarde. It could also provide a good Fighting option in a deck like Aromatisse or other decks that enjoy having big Basic Pokémon with multiple colors.
- I may be alone in this, but I am a big fan of M Audino-EX. It has a straightforward attack but is very strong and is reminiscent of Darkrai-EX’s Night Spear. 110/50 could lead to some good numbers and 220 HP is nothing to scoff out for bulkiness. For only 3 C Energy, Magical Symphony is easy to power up with the likes of DCE and Mega Turbo. Fighting Weakness is rough, so that might be the factor that ends up holding this deck back.
- Bronzong and Bronzong BREAK give Metal a push in the right direction. I would not be surprised to see a Metal deck do well at Nationals with the inclusion of these cards. Genesect-EX also provides utility in that archetype, though probably not as much as the Bronzong pair.
- I would like to give a shout-out to the Carbink cards, but I have no idea how one would play them just yet.
If you’re just itching to use some Fates Collide cards for Expanded, I have a little something for you. Note that I have not tested this at all — so while it could be amazing, it could also be awful. In any case, it is certainly something that will get your brain thinking of the possibilities.
Pokémon – 18
4 Mew FCO
Trainers – 37
1 Town Map
Energy – 11
Total: 66 cards
Now, this is 66 cards, but it represents a lot of what I think could be good in a deck like this. My immediate cuts would likely be:
- -1 Fighting Fury Belt
- -1 Rough Seas
- -1 Double Colorless Energy
- -1 Mew-EX
- -1 VS Seeker
- -1 Tech Pokémon
The idea here is obviously to use Mew as a catch-all attacker that can copy many of your Basic Pokémon in the correct scenarios. Seismitoad may not be warranted as a 2-of, but I think you will want to Quaking Punch in the early game while you slowly react to what your opponent can and wants to do.
We have a full suite of the “lock” cards in Jolteon-EX, Glaceon-EX, and Regice. Each allows us to lock different types of decks out of the game and Mew can copy these. The danger of Mew copying these attacks is that the actual Pokémon is susceptible to a Lysandre knockout. With Puzzle of Time and Super Rod/Buddy-Buddy Rescue, you should be able to recover said Pokémon back fairly easily. Mew also provides some coverage against Gallade, which laughs at a deck trying to lock them out with Jolteon or Glaceon, as it affected by neither. Mew can 1HKO Gallade back even using these attacks provided it has a Fighting Fury Belt attached to it.
Other additions include Jirachi for obvious reasons — Stardust for free with Dimension Valley is incredible — Sableye and Yveltal. Sableye will let you beat, well, Sableye decks and serve to get back Puzzle of Time/other tech cards for certain matchups. Yveltal gives you some coverage against Trevenant decks as well as provide some Energy acceleration. In combination with Smeargle, the Dark can turn into either Water or Lightning, depending on what you need at the time.
Overall, this seems not quite competitive just yet, but it has potential. It can also be adapted quite easily for Standard. I am excited to explore the concept in both formats over the next few months.
Musings on Meta-Meta Issues
— I think it has been wonderful to have many tournaments dedicated to both the Standard and Expanded formats this year. I think it has increased the skill needed to consistently do well by a large margin, as players continually have to adapt back and forth. Standard and Expanded are quite different games, although we may see similar decks doing well in each. The return of N will make the difference slightly less, but while cards such as Dark Patch, Hypnotoxic Laser, and Archeops only exist in one format, there will continue to be significant differences in the metagame.
However, I do slightly worry that the split is stifling creativity in each. Let’s face it — Pokémon is not Magic. Nobody plays this game exclusively, where some top Magic players can make a living just playing their game. This gives them lots and lots of time to test the various formats and come up with new ideas all the time. Pokémon players do not really have that luxury. We have to balance time and school/work/family/life, so attempting to “break” two formats back and forth is a taxing endeavor.
— While both formats have been criticized recently, the Standard format in particular has come under much fire. I think the inclusion of N back into the format will do a lot for the game, as it provides more Supporter draw, which will help mitigate the effects of early Trevenants and Vileplumes, while simultaneously providing disruption against aggressive decks like Night March. The inclusion could be so dramatic that Greninja may even come out as the top deck now. We will have to see, but I am sure N will restore some balance to the force.
— That being said, I am not a fan of the news about a potential huge set of reprints that may be coming to the rest of the world soon. More than anything, I want the game to continually evolve and change. It is more fun that way! And it is one of the main reasons I enjoy playing Pokémon so much more than a game like chess. By introducing new cards and rotating old ones, new strategies emerge, different strategies take their turns on top, and we get to see and think about different card interactions. By reprinting such a massive amount of cards, the game loses one of its most enticing qualities. Here’s to hoping that set will stay in Japan.
Thanks everyone for reading! If you have comments or questions about anything, please post in the forums and I will be sure to respond.
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