The end of June is an awkward time of year. Many of us who are about to play in US Nationals are excited to compete on the largest stage of them all, but what could be the play? Greninja is just a little slow and clunky, isn’t it? And Night March is way too mainstream. What about that new deck, Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor? Nah, that’s overhyped. And who wants to play Trevenant all day?
That is a lot of questions, and there are still many more that us as players are asking. Hopefully I can provide some answers for you as I go over my personal best decks for Nationals. I have new ideas every day, and there could very well be a deck that appears the night before the tournament, but in this article I’m going to analyze the best of what I’ve been testing.
When you read over these decks, I encourage you to keep an open mind. Players have a history of making their first competitive splash at US Nationals, and usually with unique decks. Since I’ve started playing, there’s always been some sort of surprise deck that has done well at Nationals. In 2012 and 2013, John Roberts II and Edmund Kuras won the entire tournaments with decks that most people considered to be gimmicks. The names of Klinklang and Accelgor were murmured here and there, but few thought them to be viable contenders to win US Nationals.
Of course, we cannot forget the finalists of those tournaments either. Kevin Nance played a surprise Eelektross tech to get second in 2012, and Ryan Sabelhaus cleverly included Life Dew in Team Plasma for 2013’s Nationals. These were both unheard of at the time.
US Nationals 2014 saw a great finals match. Brandon Salazar took an anti-meta deck with Landorus-EX, Raichu XY, and Garbodor DRX to first place over Michael Pramawat’s Pyroar FLF deck. Once again, both of these decks were unusual, yet they were able to make the finals of arguably the most difficult tournament of the year. Of course, the memory of Enrique Avila’s Wailord-EX taking second at US Nationals 2015 is one not likely to fade soon. The less-talked-about stories of that tournament are M Manectric-EX/Empoleon DEX/Garbodor DRX piloted by yours truly to Top 4 and an intelligent call by Eduardo Gonzalez, who played Hippowdon PRC to Top 8.
Aside from a fun trip down memory lane, I assure you I do have a point! All players really do have a shot at making names for themselves. Often, the lesser-known players are the ones tearing it up with lesser-known decks. In fact, I believe that standard meta decks are rarely the play for large tournaments, if ever. Nearly all of the finalists in recent history have had some unique spin on their deck, or used a deck that was entirely unknown beforehand.
In addition to picking an unknown deck, you obviously have to pick a good unknown deck. Rogues have to work consistently and need to be able to counter a large portion of the metagame in order to be successful. With all of this in mind, let’s look at the decks I’ve been testing in preparation for US Nationals.
Pokémon – 17
2 Mew FCO
Trainers – 30
Energy – 13
You may recognize this deck from my last article, but it’s gone through some significant changes. I’ve been tweaking it since Georgia Regionals and I still like the concept. This list is basically an attempt to do everything. It embodies the saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Lightning-Lock is purely an anti-meta deck. I took Jolteon-EX, and built a deck around countering Jolteon’s weaknesses so that it beats every meta deck. Of course, it has some flaws and is not perfect, but overall it performs well and I definitely consider it to be a strong contender for Nationals.
This is NOT a Mew Toolbox deck. Mew is not the main attacker and really isn’t used all that often. I’ll cover the reasoning for Mew’s inclusion in a little bit. Jolteon-EX is the card that the deck is based around, and that is because Jolteon is the best anti-meta card right now. Jolteon alone is effective against Night March, Water Box, Metal, and Darkrai/Giratina. Everything else in the deck is included either for consistency or for situations that Jolteon alone cannot handle. Let’s get into some of the other card choices.
Glaceon is the one of the most obvious partners for Jolteon-EX. Glaceon protects itself from things like Greninja, Trevenant, and Vespiquen. These are cards that can usually get the better of Jolteon. It’s worth noting that this deck will beat Trevenant without Glaceon most of the time, but Glaceon is added insurance and is useful for other difficult matchups.
Garbodor has become more popular as a Greninja counter after surging at Origins. I applied the same logic here. Garbodor + Glaceon is a strong combo and it is what you want to use against Greninja decks. Furthermore, Garbodor + Jolteon is a winning combo against Metal decks. Although I would say you don’t need Garbodor against Metal, it certainly improves that matchup.
2 Mew FCO
Mew is a non-EX attacker with free retreat, and those traits are quite useful. Mew was included in the deck not to copy Jolteon or Glaceon, but rather to copy Lugia-EX. Mew can use Aero Ball for a DCE, and that will 1HKO an opposing Gallade with DCE attached due to Weakness. This is your primary counter against decks that use Gallade, specifically Night March. Mew also serves as the deck’s counter to Regice should the need arise.
Lugia is included for Mew to copy. Additionally, I’ve found Lugia to be helpful in the Greninja matchup. Deep Hurricane does significant damage to Greninja, and even does enough to 1HKO a non-BREAK. This attack also discards Rough Seas, which removes Greninja’s healing option for when you chip away at them with Glaceon’s Crystal Ray.
This deck runs 9 Energies that can be accelerated with Max Elixir, and that is a respectable number. Often you will need a specific type of Energy and a DCE for Flash Ray or Crystal Ray. You will not always find the specific type you need off draws or Max Elixir. Smeargle makes the deck run that much smoother.
Durant is included for decks that force you into a stalemate situation where you can no longer take Prizes. Sometimes this situation comes up against decks that use Jolteon-EX and Rough Seas of their own. The stalemate can only be resolved by decking out, so naturally both players will build up large hands. Durant’s Chip Off can potentially discard tons of cards and crucial resources, and will usually result in your opponent decking out first.
Regice is great against only Mega Pokémon now that Jolteon takes care of regular Pokémon-EX. Otherwise it is useless. If you don’t expect to run into any Megas then you can easily remove it from the list.
Since this deck is not meant to be fast or aggressive, Shaymin is not terribly helpful. However, with low amounts of accelerants (early-game draw outs), Shaymin is used to decrease your odds of dead-drawing. It is only a consistency crutch along with Ultra Ball.
PCL makes its way back into the list after being used for Expanded and cut for Standard in my last article. I decided to run a PCL in here because one way for opponents to get around Jolteon-EX is to use a Special Condition. Water Box is the main culprit here, as it can use Chilling Sigh and Ice Beam to possibly counter Jolteon. PCL makes that a non-issue and can also provide some clutch healing against something like Trevenant.
2 Weakness Policy, 4 Rough Seas
I group these two cards together because they are completely optional. I included them in the list above (which is my personal list), but you can definitely cut them. Weakness Policy is used to help against Gallade BKT and Rough Seas is used to counter Trevenant. If you don’t see either of those cards being a threat then you can most certainly cut their respective counters. The same goes for Mew and Lugia-EX to a lesser extent, though they have other uses besides being direct counters to specific cards.
If you were to change either of these, I’d recommend adding more N, Battle Compressor, and/or Trainers’ Mail. The deck could use a boost to consistency and fluidity. Sometimes it feels so clunky with the deck essentially being a toolbox of assorted counters. Even with Glaceon-EX, you will still lose to Trevenant most of the time without Rough Seas. And even with Mew and Lugia, you will still have a tough time with Night March/Gallade without Weakness Policy.
In case you couldn’t tell by now, I love matchups. Matchups are the most important thing, aside from having a functional deck. They determine how you do in any tournament. The more favorable matchups you have, the more likely you are to win a given round. Having an auto-win against everything but Night March means nothing when you face Night March the first three rounds. This deck aims to have all-around positive matchups in exchange for a lack of synergy and a real engine. It doesn’t draw that well but when you have simple win conditions for most matchups, this is ok.
Night March — Favorable
Night March/Maxie’s — Even to Slightly Unfavorable
Night March seems to be on the decline in America since States, but I do expect it to be somewhat popular at Nationals. Night March has the best overall performances at European Nationals and is a comfort pick for many players. Against the non-Maxie’s version, the path is clear — lone Jolteon for the game. Super Rod and AZ should be used carefully to deny Night March’s countermeasures: Escape Rope, Lysandre, and Target Whistle.
Things get a little bit more hairy when Gallade is thrown into the mix. An early Gallade pressures you to scramble together countermeasures of your own. An early Weakness Policy isn’t necessarily a common reality with few ways to find it from the deck. If you do get the Weakness Policy, Startling Megaphone can always appear and ruin your day. If Gallade gets a kill, you need to have the Mew + Aero Ball response. Once you KO the Gallade, it is usually safe to assume they won’t get another one. This puts you on a timer to get another Jolteon-EX out. If you can’t find the magical combo of Jolteon-EX + Max Elixir + DCE, you better hope that Jolteon won’t get Lysandre’d.
This matchup starts to look much brighter when your opponent doesn’t use Megaphone, and Gallade just hits straight into the Weakness Policy for 130. Use Mew to KO, and resume Jolting your way to victory. If your opponent uses Lysandre to nab the Benched Jolteon with 130 damage on it, simply keep trying to establish Jolteon. If all of the this-and-that scenarios are a little confusing, a few practice games of this matchup should illustrate most of what I’m talking about here.
Greninja — Slightly Favorable
This matchup is super complicated because of all the various ways these two decks try to one-up each other. There are layers of play that go into this matchup with various sneaky cards. Suffice to say, nearly every card in both players’ decks can play an influential role in the match in some way or another.
Broadly speaking, you goal will be to establish Glaceon as early as possible and start taking those cheap Prizes that Greninja will always give up. Garbodor is the next priority, and the objective should be to get Garb + Float Stone before the Greninja player even has a chance to use Giant Water Shuriken. After that, Greninja’s only way to deal damage to Glaceon is by using Mist Slash from Greninja XY. If they go for the Mist Slash repeatedly with Muscle Band, it will do the same amount of damage as Crystal Ray. Since Glaceon-EX and Greninja BREAK have the same amount of HP, whoever attacks first will get the KO. Good thing Pokémon Center Lady is here.
If your opponent realizes that relying on Mist Slash is not a winning strategy, they will probably force a stalemate situation until they are able to take out all of your Garbodor. The Greninja player can cycle between frogs and heal off all damage with Rough Seas until they are ready to start clearing off Garbodor. This could definitely take a while, so take the opportunity to build up Lugia-EX and use it as the situation dictates. Durant FLF is incredible in this matchup, but you won’t use it every game. Usually your opponent will end up decking out, so don’t use VS Seeker for Lysandre for a Prize every chance you get if you won’t be able to close up the game. This requires a bit of foresight.
Trevenant — Highly Favorable
If you keep the 4 Rough Seas, this matchup is a cakewalk. Jolteon-EX is alright to use in this matchup, though Glaceon is superior because of its invulnerability to Tree Slam. I wouldn’t bother going for a T1 (turn one) Trubbish unless you are confident that you will get a Garbodor with Float Stone. If you don’t get the Float Stone on Trubbish, it will become a liability. Items are nice, but you don’t need them to win this matchup. Use Crystal Ray and Rough Seas over and over, but don’t be so careless that a Wobbuffet could start attacking and ruin your board.
Water Box — Favorable
Water Box cannot damage Jolteon. Simply use Flash Ray over and over. Try to access Pokémon Center Lady as early as you can in case they start using Chilling Sigh and Ice Beam. If your opponent retreats Articuno after a Flash Ray to heal it, harass it with Lysandre. Since 1-of Supporters are helpful in this matchup, consider Battle Compressor. Also keep in mind that Jolteon can survive an attack in the event it stays Asleep once. After that, make sure to keep it protected at all costs until it fully heals with Rough Seas.
Metal — Highly Favorable
Get out Jolteon-EX and Garbodor as soon as you can. You might want to go for a Jolteon with three basic Energies so you can hit Aegislash-EX after your opponent KOs Garbodor. Jolteon and Garbodor make this matchup a nightmare for Metal. Your opponent’s only hope is to use Bronzong BREAK, and that takes six Energies to KO just one Jolteon. That is incredibly hard to set up amidst Garbodor and Lysandre disruption. Even if they do KO one Jolteon, you can easily get another.
Darkrai/Giratina and Darkrai/Garbodor — Highly Favorable
There are usually only two Jolteon counters that Dark/Tina runs. They are Hydreigon-EX and Escape Rope. It is fine to trade a Jolteon for a Hydreigon (in terms of gameplay, not trading cards), as you can simply set up another Jolteon and win. Escape Rope is a cute trick that might be good for one KO. However, it is inconsistent and only works if you have Benched Pokémon and can’t get another Jolteon powered up.
The list looks super janky at first, but hopefully when I walked through the matchups it made a lot more sense. This deck can definitely win Nationals with its spread of favorable matchups, easy win conditions, and extreme surprise factor. I’m not sure if I can bring myself to cut Rough Seas or Weakness Policy and sack the Trevenant or Gallade matchups. Those are certainly routes worth exploring though, especially if you find yourself wanting a boost in consistency after testing it a bit.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 41
4 Red Card
Energy – 4
Man was I excited to share this, but I guess I have a lot of explaining to do. First off, the title. It’s cute right? The point of the deck is to take complete control of the game, so basically to not let your opponent do anything at all. This is accomplished with lobsters and bunnies, hence the name Animal Control. I also used that title with an old deck in an article a while back that had a similar goal and used Xatu and Bunnelby. Alright, I’ve had my fun. You are probably wondering how the heck this can win Nationals, so I’ll move on before I lose you.
The game plan for this deck is linear, which is shown by all the 4-ofs. You actually want to go second with this deck, even against Trevenant. If you go first it’s not the end of the world, but it’s much better to go second against everything. First off, you want to get the Red Card + Delinquent combo T1. If you expend a bunch of resources for it (as you should) and whiff, you will probably lose. Follow that up with multiple Trick Shovels so that your opponent topdecks a relatively useless card. Finally, attach DCE to Corphish and use Knock Off. Knock Off discards your opponent’s remaining card, but you can only use it when going second.
Transition into Diggersby and spam Pickup to give your opponent useless cards with Trick Shovel for the entire game. Gimmicky? Oh yeah. Effective? Surprisingly so. If you go first, don’t try and draw too much. You can’t really do much of anything without the full combo including Corphish. If you go first you could try to cheese your opponent into a dead hand with Red Card and/or Hex Maniac, but you mostly just want to set up the combo for next turn. After your opponent realizes what you’re doing, they may gain an edge. However your opponent really can’t do a whole lot about it, especially when they wasted 40 minutes of Game 1 thinking that they would draw out of the lock. Your opponent eventually decks out.
4 Corphish, 2 Crawdaunt
Attack with Corphish to attain a complete lock, then retreat or Rope and forget about Corphish for the rest of the game. I run four because starting with it is amazing. It just so happens that one of the best disruptive Pokémon evolves from Corphish. During the single turn your opponent gets to play the game, they can attach an Energy! Crawdaunt gets rid of it.
3 Bunnelby, 2 Diggersby
I’ve always wanted to find a way to make Diggersby viable, and I finally got there. Bunnelby is good for closing games and for using Rototiller in a pinch. You always want to get one down T1 because you will want to use Diggersby from T2 onwards. Pickup is the same thing as Sableye DEX’s Junk Hunt. Get Puzzle of Time back every turn. If all of your Puzzles are in hand, get Trick Shovels. If all of those are in your hand, use Puzzles for a Shauna and an Energy or something, and then get the Puzzles back. Use Dig for the lols if Night March is bullying you.
4-of Draw Cards
It is quite an intricate combo that you need to get going on T1, so all of the draw cards facilitate that. You hit the combo almost all of the time — I’d say more than 80 percent. I’ve played this deck dozens if not hundreds of times, but mostly solitaire. This wouldn’t be consistent at all without the Items (and Shaymin-EX) that let me keep digging through the deck.
If you go first, Hex is useful if you happen to draw it. Otherwise, Hex Maniac is mainly used against Item lock. Of course, if you go second to a T1 Trevenant or a T1 Vileplume, odds are slim that you will find it. Nevertheless, it does give you a fighting chance against these decks, especially if you go first and if you can access it. In fact, you can chain Hex with Diggersby. If you use Hex, the Puzzle for them, then Pickup the Puzzles, you can start to take control of the game from there.
Since you draw so many cards to set up the lock combo, you will deck out first. However, Shauna replenishes your deck with cards once you have a large hand built up. After all, once the lock is in place, you don’t need to play many more cards. Puzzle of Time allows infinite uses of Shauna in tandem with Diggersby. Since this deck doesn’t take Prizes, you have to run 2 Shauna to avoid a sole copy being prized.
I run four of these to increase my odds of finding them at the right time on T1. You can sometimes give your opponent an Ultra Ball with Trick Shovel while controlling topdecks, however you must use Delinquent properly so they won’t have enough cards in hand to use Ultra Ball for Shaymin.
Sometimes you can give your opponent VS Seekers early game if there aren’t any Supporters yet discarded. If you do this then you’ve got to discard it with Delinquent ASAP because you will start discarding Supporters soon. Delinquent is used to initiate the lock but it also offers hand control later in the game if you need it.
After your first turn, you will be using Trick Shovel over and over and over. It is extremely important to know just what you can afford to let your opponent have in order to maximize your odds of continuing the lock. Once your lock is established, the odds of it being broken are next to none. However, if you are too liberal with Trick Shovel discards, your opponent might just draw out of the lock.
This is not a mill deck; this is a control deck. There are lots of cards that you leave on top of the deck, though what you can afford to leave depends on the matchup and the situation. Always discard Professor Sycamore unless it is late enough in the game that using it would result in your opponent decking out. Always discard N and other draw cards. Discard Energies unless your opponent can’t make good use of them in the situation they’re in. Leaving Pokémon on top of the deck is fairly safe, unless it’s something like Unown AOR or Shaymin-EX. Discard Trainers’ Mails.
You can leave Energies if your opponent can’t do much with them. This a rather vague instruction, but it really depends on the situation. Keep in mind that you can remove Energies with Crawdaunt. Sky Field + Delinquent (to discard extra Benched Pokémon) + Puzzle of Time allows for infinite uses of Crawdaunt. You can usually leave Stadiums, Battle Compressor, and other miscellaneous Items. You can also leave utility Supporters like Hex Maniac and Lysandre. Whether or not you can afford to leave cards like Super Rod and Sacred Ash depends on the situation.
You won’t always start Corphish, though you always need it to be Active on T1. Rope is better than Float Stone because it can force Wobbuffet PHF to the Bench and is not blocked by Fright Night. Rope also acts as a pseudo-Lysandre and pushes dangerous Energies (along with the Active Pokémon) to the Bench. It gets around things like Chilling Sigh and Bubble too.
I don’t run four because it is less timing-specific than Red Card and Delinquent. You can draw it at almost any point during your first turn and be fine. There is also the chance that your opponent will play a Stadium T1 to fuel Delinquent so you don’t always need it.
Sky Field is the Stadium of choice because no other Stadiums do much for the deck. Sky Field allows you to freely play four Shaymin (which you usually do within the first two turns) and not have to worry about excess Bunnelby or Corphish clogging the Bench. Other options are Chaos Tower and Team Aqua’s Secret Base, though Sky Field is superior.
Every matchup is very similar for Animal Control. You aim to get the lock T1 and win the game from there. The strategy is as linear as it gets and can work against everything.
Night March — Favorable
Night March/Marowak FCO — Unfavorable
Lock them and win. Easy. They might take a Prize T2 if they go first and attach a DCE to the Active T1. You can Rope that to the Bench, but if they have Mew or Float Stone already down they will take a Prize. No biggie. Discard the Prize with Delinquent and discard the Energy with Crawdaunt.
You’ve got to hope that they don’t Hex you T1. If they do, you have to wait a turn to establish the lock. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it is certainly annoying. If you’re Hexed, don’t go for the T1 lock as you likely will not get there without Shaymin-EX. Marowak makes this matchup tough, as its Ability blocks Corphish’s Knock Off. Luckily, Marowak doesn’t seem to exist at the moment so you shouldn’t worry about it. The T1 Maxie’s isn’t even all that consistent in Night March decks. Gallade’s Premonition seems like it would be relevant, but it actually isn’t.
Greninja — Highly Favorable
This matchup is pretty much an auto-win. You have an extra turn of no pressure if you need it. Additionally, there are so many dead cards that you can leave on top of the deck with Trick Shovel. Greninja is one of the easiest decks to lock, and it has no way to disrupt you T1.
Trevenant — Unfavorable
You have to go second against Trevenant. A T1 Wally is much less likely than a T1 Ascension. If they get the Wally, it’s lights out. If not, you should be in the clear. If there’s a Wobbuffet Active, try to Rope it to the Bench. Same goes for a Phantump with an Energy on it. When their Active Pokémon is a Shaymin or an Energy-less Phantump, go for the normal lock.
If their Active is a Phantump with an Energy, try and draw into Hex Maniac to use next turn after Phantump evolves. Then keep up the lock while spamming Hex and occasionally Crawdaunt. This won’t be as clean of a lock as normal, but you should be able to win.
Water Box — Favorable
Lock them and win. In order for Water Box to win, they have to hit three Elixirs T1. They need to power up a Toad on the Bench with three Energies and have an Energy on the Active to free retreat with Manaphy. If they don’t get all of those Energies on the board T1, you can exploit the holes with either Crawdaunt or Escape Rope. This is an easy matchup.
Metal — Favorable
Metal is another deck that can’t do much of anything against Animal Control. I would be listing these decks as auto-wins but there’s always the chance that this deck bricks and draws poorly, or that the lock is broken through a string of bad luck. Yes, Bronzong can recover Energies to the Bench, but that is irrelevant because their Active Pokémon is the one that is stuck.
You might want to include a Startling Megaphone in case your opponent gets a Float Stone and two Genesect down T1. Drive Change shenanigans can get around Escape Rope, and you don’t want them having access to Float Stone for the entire game. If they do get that setup T1 and you don’t run Megaphone, it’s fine. You just have to deny Bronzong with Trick Shovel.
Darkrai/Giratina and Darkrai/Garbodor — Favorable
Startling Megaphone would help in this matchup too. There is a very specific setup that Dark can achieve on T1 that would cause problems. If they have only two Basics, with one of them having Float Stone and the other one being a Darkrai-EX loaded with three D Energies (two by Max Elixir), you could easily lose the game. Megaphone takes away Float Stone and allows you to strand the other Pokémon Active. Crawdaunt takes care of a Darkrai with only two Energies and Delinquent discards the Prize that they probably took with Dark Pulse on T2.
I realize that this deck is way out there, but it is a blast to play and works incredibly well. I seriously recommend this deck for Nats and I do believe it can win. Last year I posted a Wailord-EX deck in a pre-Nationals article that was similar to the one that took second place. I imagine this deck will get a similar reaction as that one did, and that is one of criticism and skepticism. Who knows, maybe once again I am leaking someone else’s secret deck that will perform well at Nationals.
The Bats and the Bees
Pokémon – 29
Trainers – 23
Energy – 8
Remember when I said that Jolteon-EX is the best anti-meta card? I included Jolteon in this anti-meta deck as well, but this time the deck is based around Vespiquen hitting for heavy damage. The strategy is simple. Discard as many Pokémon as you need to, and swarm Vespiquen. Use Bee Revenge until you win. As easy as that sounds, the deck is actually fairly complex. Making the right plays with every card is difficult, and even the smallest decisions can make the largest difference.
An example of this would be my last game of my States run. In Top 4 against Mega Ray, I was in a funny situation but I had the opportunity to use Bee Revenge for … 210. Heartbreaking, as 220 would’ve won me the match. Think about how many small decisions I could’ve made during the course of the game that could’ve resulted in an extra 10 damage later on! I don’t think I did anything completely wrong that game, but it got me thinking nonetheless.
The deck is clunky, sure. The clunkiness usually doesn’t matter though. You often end up discarding just about everything at some point anyway, be it off Professor Sycamore, Battle Compressor, or Ultra Ball. You get awful hands sometimes but the deck works great overall and has a positive matchup spread.
4-4 Vespiquen, 1 Super Rod
Vespiquen is what you attack with most of the time. You want to have access to as many of them as possible during the game. In fact, Super Rod is almost always used to recover a 1-1 Vespiquen line. The name of the game is Bee Revenge, and these card counts make streaming Vespiquen a consistent reality.
Before immediately trashing all Bat pieces as fodder for Bee Revenge, think about just when and where you could possibly use all of those Bite Abilities. Also remember that a 1-1-1 Bat line is +30 damage for one use of Bee Revenge, but a Bat line in play supplies 50 total damage with Sneaky Bite and Surprise Bite. In most matchups though, the Bats do belong in the discard.
Bats are in the deck to win the Night March matchup. Night March cannot deal with all of these bats in addition to Vespi’s raw KO power. Bats also help against Jirachi XY67, which is relevant in particular against Greninja. Any combination of three Bites (or two Surprise Bites) can KO Jirachi after Stardust, and that also frees up Vespiquen to KO something else. Double Golbat facilitates cute Sky Return KO plays against Greninja early game too. That follows up into a double Surprise Bite on Jirachi whenever you need it.
Jolteon wins Metal and Dark. Those are matchups that otherwise could be problematic. Jolteon offers an easy answer to those two decks and that is about it. I would not even use Jolteon-EX against Night March because Vespiquen + Crobat is a more efficient path to victory.
AZ is handy for a number of situations, and it functions as the deck’s only switching option. It is good for reusing a Bat line or a Shaymin. It’s also great against Trevenant for healing and it removes Head Ringer from Shaymin.
You need Hex against Greninja and Trevenant to shut down their destructive Abilities. It is also useful against Metal, and it can stall random things if you use it T1.
While Vespi/Bats has a basic strategy, it is still very much an anti-meta deck. I built the list so that I would have the best chance at beating everything, but like all decks it is not completely perfect, especially against Trevenant.
Night March — Favorable
Even though Night March runs Hex Maniac, it still cannot stand up to a swarm of Bats. As long as you are smart with damage placements, this matchup is easy. Vespiquen hits for a solid KO every turn in addition to Bat KOs. Crobat is actually an incredible attacker. It can use Skill Dive for free if Night March plays down Dimension Valley. 30 damage might not be much in some matchups, but it is significant against Night March. Cards to discard with Battle Compressor are Unown, Jolteon-EX, Shaymin-EX (but save one or two), and maybe some Supporters.
Greninja — Slightly Favorable
As long as Greninja doesn’t run too hot and get clutch Muscle Band 1HKO plays with Moonlight Slash all the time, you should be fine. Vespi takes KO after KO and it easily takes out everything in the deck. Hex Maniac is important to time correctly to prevent Greninja from taking total control. Basic Energies and Bats combat Jirachi.
Save as many Shaymin as possible and use them carefully, for they are crucial later in the game for drawing into clutch Lysandre and Hex Maniac plays. Discard Jolteon, Unown, and some Bats. Remember that you usually want a 2-2-2 line of Bats to use during the game. Whether or not you Compress away things like Lysandre and Hex Maniac depends on how many VS Seekers you have remaining.
Trevenant — Even
I’ve found that the Trevenant matchup can go either way. During States I ran Yveltal BKT instead of Jolteon-EX, so this matchup was a lot easier. While the Jolteon version is weaker against Trevenant, it is the better overall choice for this meta. The dream is to use Vespiquen for early KOs and never to slow down from there. Bats are helpful because they can easily take out a Phantump every now and then. They are difficult for Trevenant to take down and they can attack for free.
Possibly the best attacker in this matchup is actually Shaymin-EX. Trevenant has a hard time dealing with Shaymin loop. Sky Return heals Shaymin and conserves DCE, all while dealing damage. It is important to conserve Energies whenever possible because you don’t run a whole lot of them and the Trevenant player can use Hammers to discard the few that you leave in play. All of the Supporters are hugely effective in this matchup as well, especially AZ.
Water Box — Favorable
This is a walk in the park. Kill things with Vespiquen and ignore all of your other Pokémon besides Shaymin. Use Lysandre on Pokémon-EX when you have to so that you don’t fall behind in the Prize trade against Articuno. For the most part you can run through their whole deck with Vespiquen. If they run Glaceon-EX you better hope it doesn’t get powered up or else you will have to use Lysandre for all of your Prize cards. Luckily, Glaceon doesn’t deal quite enough damage to 1HKO Vespiquen, so your only real worry is a lone Glaceon.
Metal — Favorable
Use Jolteon-EX, Lysandre, and Hex Maniac appropriately and you win this matchup without much trouble. Bronzong BREAK with 6 Energies can KO a Jolteon-EX, but they can have fun powering that up amidst your disruptive Supporters. You can sometimes take KOs with Vespiquen, but Fighting Fury Belt makes that difficult.
Darkrai/Giratina and Darkrai/Garbodor — Favorable
These are more matchups that Jolteon-EX straight up wins against. You can take everything I said for Lightning-Lock vs. Dark and apply it here. If your opponent runs Hydreigon-EX, you can 1HKO it with Vespiquen.
Vespiquen/Bats has an incredible matchup spread. It does well against just about everything. Even against random decks, Vespiquen is a solid attacker. I think this deck is a safe and powerful choice for US Nationals, and it can most definitely win the tournament.
These are the three decks that I have tested the most for US Nationals and they are all fantastic choices for the tournament. I am confident that they are all capable of doing well even in the highest level of competition.
Thanks for reading guys! I hope this article was interesting, and that it gave you some food for thought. I recommend trying these decks out, you will be pleasantly surprised at their anti-meta capabilities. If you are going to US Nationals, good luck! I am super excited for this tournament, and if you see me there, say hi!
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