Hello again, SixPrizes! It feels like forever since I’ve gotten to speak to you all about Pokémon and the changes that have been coming with this new exciting season. The last time we spoke, the World Championships were just about to occur and we discussed the big changes that were announced for this current 2016–2017 season. In that time, Mega Audino-EX was able to pull out a fantastic win at the biggest event of the year (Worlds) and Drew Kennett took home the first Regional Championship of the season in Phoenix. With those events in the rearview mirror, we look onward to the first big tournament of this season that will focus on the Standard format in Orlando. This Regional is looking to have humongous attendance, with many players from around the country traveling down to the Sunshine State for a chance at taking home the grand prize of $5,000.
For this article today, I’ll be exclusively going over the Standard format to prepare everyone for the upcoming Regional Championship in Orlando. As predicted, the new Standard format seems very healthy and requires a good amount of thought during deck-building. This is primarily due to the fact that games aren’t decided within the opening turns anymore, as was common during last format with Night March and Vileplume lock decks. Players are now forced to build decks without Battle Compressor to thin out all of the unwanted cards, which means more Supporters must be played to assure they don’t run out of steam. To put it bluntly, players actually have to build decks with the thought of surviving an entire game, instead of just trying to survive through the opening few turns.
In terms of recent formats, this current Standard format would certainly be the most difficult for the deck-building process. This could explain why many newer players (and even some veteran players as well) are struggling through their testing and haven’t found any real decks that they have fallen in love with. Some have even resorted to just using “theorymon” as their way of predicting matchups and replacing the process of testing out decks.
Well everyone, that’s not what we do here at SixPrizes! I’ve put in the hours of extensive testing and have found three deck choices that seem like fantastic plays for the upcoming Orlando Regional Championships, along with three options that are on the cusp of greatness but that I don’t feel too confident in quite yet. Before we get to those deck choices, I’ve decided to use this article as a way of venting to the Pokémon community through the struggles that I’ve encountered during testing. As many of you may know, testing for a Regional Championship can be very stressful. Decks that sound great may not work as well as you had hoped, while decks that just don’t make any sense at all could find ways of surprising you.
For this article, I’m going to go over “The Hateful Eight” revelations that I have made during my testing that should help everyone in their preparations for Regionals. I may not have had to outlast a blizzard in the wintry Wyoming landscape with a group of infamous bounty hunters to gather these revelations, but hopefully Quentin Tarantino won’t mind the use of wordplay.
That’s enough of an introduction for me. Let’s jump into this article!
“The Hateful Eight” Testing Revelations
I’m not quite sure what made me focus a huge section of my article on these opinions that I have formed through testing, but it probably had something to do with the new job that I have gotten within the past month. Through growing up and finally getting a 9-to-5 job, I’ve realized that not everyone can practice Pokémon as much as I do. There’s always something that could be in the way, whether it be a lack of cards, a lack of players to test with, or even just not having the spare time. People are struggling to figure out this format with such limitations on their testing! I figured that since I’ve already gone through the process of testing out almost every deck possible and gathering information on many popular archetypes in the Standard format, maybe we could all benefit from sitting down and reviewing the struggles and benefits that can come with each deck (along with the deck-building processes). Hopefully after seeing what I’ve learned through my own experiences, players can grow from the insight and figure out what direction they would like to go for Orlando.
1. Stop Using “Theorymon” to Prepare
Determining matchups in the Pokémon Trading Card Game usually requires a heavy amount of playtesting to fully understand which side will come out on top. This is not to say that some matchups aren’t cut-and-dry to figure out, but usually some games need to be played to see how the decks fare against each other. A big problem that I’ve been noticing recently has been that a lot of players are just using basic predictions to determine which decks beat one another, instead of actually testing the matchups to figure this out. This process being used is called “theorymon.” Occasionally, using theorymon can actually come in handy and save time if the predictions made are correct.
With this current Standard format, I can confidently say that using theorymon will only be detrimental to the testing process and will lead to false information. When players are inaccurately discussing matchups with their friends and fellow players, they are misleading everyone on the strengths/weaknesses of their deck choices. We need to test matchups before blabbering about how great a deck fares against everything that it could possibly play against.
A great example of this would be with a popular deck choice that just won the recent Expanded format Regionals in Phoenix, which is Greninja BREAK. For the current Standard format, I’ve heard multiple different players talk about how easily Greninja BREAK can destroy opposing Volcanion/Volcanion-EX decks just based on Weakness being a huge factor. This is completely false.
The matchup is actually extremely close, with Volcanion decks taking a huge lead through multiple knockouts in the first couple of turns, while Greninja BREAK attempts to swing the game back through locking out Abilities and limiting their opponent’s hand down to a small number of cards (in an attempt to make Volcanion players miss a Pokémon Ranger that would re-enable their Abilities). Saying that Greninja BREAK would easily beat Volcanion is extremely misleading — this is a 55-45 matchup that can go either way.
2. Pokémon Tool Cards are Good … REALLY Good
For anyone that has been testing with the current Standard format, I highly doubt that I need to explain just how good Pokémon Tool cards are right now. Without any forms of discarding Tools in the format, these utilities will stick on Pokémon for the entirety of a game and can be of huge benefit. The struggles that I have seen in relation to using Tool cards can be summed up easily … WE NEED TO USE MORE! Float Stone and Fighting Fury Belt are the obvious top contenders for this position, with both Tool cards giving obvious benefits to any deck that they are found in. While testing with friends, I would notice that they still played heavy amounts of Switch/Escape Rope in their decks instead of adding in higher counts of Float Stones. They are essentially the same thing, except a Float Stone will not just have a one-time use and can stay attached for the entire game to provide free-retreating options in your deck.
Aside from simple utilities like easier retreating and gaining higher amounts of HP, other Pokémon Tool cards are being underutilized that could be very strong in this format. Bursting Balloon is extremely powerful right now with being able to add extra damage to opposing Pokémon-EX and making knockouts much easier to reach. The only real answer to work around a Bursting Balloon is for an opponent to Lysandre up something else, which almost assuredly won’t happen for all four Bursting Balloon. Through testing, I’ve learned that it’s very annoying to play against a deck with this Tool, as they almost always pay dividends in the end.
Exp. Share is another fantastic Tool in the current format. This is usually played in decks that revolve around Energy conservation, which can be seen in some forms of the popular archetype called Rainbow Road. Through saving Energy with any Pokémon that is Knocked Out, fueling up secondary attackers becomes easy to accomplish and helps game management to become much easier.
3. Mega Rayquaza-EX Has Lost Some Steam
Perhaps the most popular deck that was predicted when the rotation was announced, Mega Rayquaza-EX has lost a lot of momentum within the past couple of weeks. This drop in popularity is almost assuredly thanks to the upswing in a certain Stadium card in many builds. Parallel City is used in almost every deck nowadays, which can be a hard counter to any opposing Mega Rayquaza-EX deck. Forcing a Rayquaza player to discard down to three Pokémon on their Bench makes replenishing that damage much more difficult for the next turn. They not only need to find access to three to five more Pokémon, but also need another Sky Field in order to accomplish that goal. With all those Pokémon going to the discard pile, this deck will struggle to reach intended numbers and will miss out on big knockouts. With a counter to Rayquaza being in the form of such a usable Stadium card, don’t expect this deck to perform very well at Orlando.
4. A Little Trouble on Rainbow Road?
While looking over recent articles that were written on SixPrizes, I was actually surprised to see Grant consider the “best deck in format” to be Rainbow Road. I had been testing with the deck for a good amount of time, but barely had it in my top 5 decks for Orlando. I’ll admit: Grant did play a very different list than the version I was testing. I was focused on using the dual-type Evolutions of Galvantula STS, Bisharp STS, and Exp. Share, which apparently may not be the best road to take. (Puns!) Grant used a combination of Max Elixir and all Basic Pokémon to make a less clunky version of Rainbow Road, which actually may be more effective and faster.
The struggle that I found with Rainbow Road was once again countering an opponent using Parallel City to diminish my Bench down to just three Pokémon. I felt like this deck couldn’t flourish in a format that was filled with Parallel City, which is a heavy contrast to many players that think Rainbow Road is easily one of the four best decks for this format (along with Volcanion, Dark variants, and Mewtwo/Garbodor). After testing with Grant’s version of this deck, I’ve found that Parallel City isn’t as tough to deal with since Evolutions don’t need to be discarded and worked up again. Overall, Rainbow Road is certainly a strong deck for Orlando Regionals, but players must always be wary of their Bench being limited to just three Pokémon.
5. The “Quen” Bee is Struggling to Survive
Being good friends with Rahul Reddy and also being a member of The Chaos Gym YouTube channel, I constantly get to hear about Vespiquen variants that are coming about. For anyone that doesn’t know Rahul, he is an avid lover of Vespiquen and has played it for almost an entire year now at major tournaments. With this current Standard format, Vespiquen has lost the precious speed that comes with using Battle Compressor to thin out unwanted Pokémon. Without this necessary speed, I’ve learned that the deck can still function and set up well within the first couple of turns, but it will never reach the levels of Vespiquen decks of the recent past.
With less deck-thinning and worse possibilities of drawing badly from Supporter cards or Shaymin-EX, I honestly believe that almost any Vespiquen deck just doesn’t have what it takes to survive an entire 9 rounds of Regionals. A Regional-winning deck will need to set up and perform the same through 18 possible games on the first day (assuming each best-of-three is finished) and in my opinion, this can’t be a deck revolving around the “quen” bee.
6. Greninja Capitalizes on Using an Ancient Strategy
As mentioned earlier in this article, Greninja is a deck that focuses on going down early in the games and relies on a resurgent comeback. This deck is utilizing a popular strategy that was used in past formats, which can be mainly attributed to the formats with Gardevoir/Gallade in 2008, in which a player purposefully begins a game by losing to activate specific cards. In the past format, Gardevoir/Gallade players would give up the Prize lead early to help activate their Scramble Energy to fuel their big attackers that needed a good amount of Energy cards. In this current Standard format with Greninja BREAK, players usually allow one of their smaller Pokémon to be Knocked Out so that they can use Ace Trainer to lower an opponent down to just three cards in their hand. Without many cards to utilize each turn and the ever-possible chance of an opponent drawing dead with no Supporter cards, each Ace Trainer can effectively end the game through buying enough time from opponents missing knockouts and allowing more Greninja to hit the board.
I can’t help but be a little smitten with this deck from the feelings of older formats. The plan of intentionally going down early on Prize cards to begin a strong comeback has worked very well in the past, especially since Jason Klaczynski was able to win the World Championships in 2008 with that exact strategy in his Gardevoir/Gallade deck. If it can win a World Championship, it could very well do the same for a Regional Championship!
7. “Fright Night” is the Way to Go
While testing out many different Dark variants, I found that one striking fact remained true with each different deck. “Fright Night” Yveltal was extremely powerful in helping to slow down opponents and was instrumental in winning most of the games. This Yveltal is a great starter that disables opposing Float Stones, Spirit Links, and Fighting Fury Belts. With most of these Tool cards being necessary for creating a fast start with plenty of damage output, opponents are usually forced to play much slower and allow for both players to set up. When both players are forced to set up a board before attacking, Dark decks usually have a pretty good advantage when it comes to damage output (thanks to Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX hitting for big damage with enough Energy). Yveltal is also a great attacker in its own right, with an attack that can set up knockouts on opposing Shaymin-EX while also damaging whatever is in the Active Spot as well.
Through testing out all variants of Dark decks, mainly separating between playing Giratina or just focusing on all Dark attackers, I can personally say that my favorite version relies on using Fright Night Yveltal with Yveltal-EX as the secondary attacker. Since this variant doesn’t utilize Double Dragon Energy to fuel up Darkrai-EX’s attack, Darkrai isn’t as necessary or needed in this version of the deck. With versions that play the Giratina-EX and DDEs, more Darkrai-EX would probably be necessary. Overall, Dark-based decks with Garbodor have performed very well in past formats and this doesn’t look to change with the current Standard format.
8. Fear the Volcano
In my opinion, Volcanion/Volcanion-EX is probably the best deck in the current Standard format and can out-speed any opposing players, regardless of what deck they are playing. Volcanion is exceedingly fast and consistent, with the ability to take first-turn knockouts while also fueling up Benched attackers to finish the game in a couple of turns. Reminiscent of Night March in recent formats, Volcanion is also very easy to pick up and play effectively, which makes it a very strong contender to do well at Orlando Regionals. When you think about it, Volcanion takes Prizes very quickly, relies heavily on deck-thinning and discarding cards, and also has one difficult matchup to deal with in the current metagame (just like Night March did). Night March decks struggled very badly against opposing Item-locking decks, such as Trevenant, Seismitoad-EX, and Vileplume. The same thing applies to Volcanion, except that they fear Ability-locking decks instead of Item-locking decks. These come in the form of Garbodor-based strategies and possibly opposing Greninja that use Shadow Stitching.
With a similar build to old Night March decks that dominated past formats, only time will tell if Volcanion can perform well at some of these Regional Championships. Regardless, make sure to be prepared to see opposing players with this deck in Orlando, as it will be a popular choice for newer players or undecided veterans of the game. Consistency wins these bigger tournaments, and Volcanion is based completely off of being consistent.
Three Decks That Could Dominate Orlando
Going into the first big Standard format of the year, these are the three decks that have been testing the best for myself. This isn’t to say that these decks will be the most popular choices seen at Orlando, but they are my favorite choices for if the tournament were happening today!
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
As mentioned before, this is the best deck in the format from my viewpoint. Pure speed and consistency allow this deck to function at a rate higher than almost every deck that opposes it. With the accessibility of multiple Volcanion-EX through Hoopa-EX, knockouts are achievable on the first turn of the game. With Volcanion using its first attack with an added damage boost, opposing Pokémon are being Knocked Out WHILE our own Benched Pokémon are being powered up in the process. This list is extremely consistent with 4 Professor Sycamore, 2 N, 3 Trainers’ Mail, 3 Acro Bike, and 4 Ultra Ball to grab the Hoopa-EX (which leads to Shaymin-EX and multiple Volcanion-EXs). That is a very large amount of consistency cards for a deck, which helps to make sure that this Volcanion build will perform the intended function of getting a knockout on each and every turn that it is capable of doing so.
This version of Volcanion is focused around countering Garbodor-based decks, which seem to be the main concern for this deck. The three Lysandre are there to help this deck grab an early knockout on a Trubbish, which could effectively halt any chance of an opponent shutting down Abilities. Some Garbodor-based decks are actually just running a very thin line with only one Trubbish, while others that run more may miss out on benching two Trubbish during the first turn.
In either situation, the heavy amounts of Lysandre have been fantastic at picking off opposing Trubbish. For other matchups that revolve around Evolutions, the Lysandres should work the same way as an effective method to picking off threats before they evolve. With most of the usefulness in this deck being Abilities from Benched Volcanion-EXs, there are plenty of opportunities to use non-drawing-related Supporter cards (since this deck doesn’t really need to dig for resources as much as other builds).
The “tech” cards that are played in this deck include a Parallel City, which functions to get rid of excess Pokémon-EX on our own Bench, or possibly limit the Bench size of an opposing Rainbow Road or M Rayquaza-EX player. The Pokémon Ranger serves many purposes, among which are to disable the effect of Volcanion-EX’s own attack to allow “Volcanic Heat” to be used two turns in a row, to shut off the detrimental Ability-locking of a Greninja that has used “Shadow Stitching,” or to possibly shut down an opposing Regice AOR/Jolteon-EX that has prevented our attackers from doing damage. Hex Maniac is an all-around great card that serves many purposes, but specifically can also help slow down an opponent for a turn or two.
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 35
Energy – 13
This Yveltal-EX/Garbodor deck is mainly focused around the central attacker of “Fright Night” Yveltal, which has proven his worth in every game of testing that I’ve done. Through all of the advantages mentioned above that are relating to this Yveltal, it’s not hard to see why there are three of them being played in this deck. Usually, only two are necessary to completely slow down an opponent and begin picking away easy Prize cards from Shaymin-EXs that get benched, but a third is played to help the chances of starting with Yveltal (and help if any of them are prized). As Russell LaParre mentioned in his article, some of these Dark decks just thrive off of Yveltal BKT, which control the incredibly Float Stone- and Spirit Link-heavy format that we are found in.
With such a small Garbodor line, there can be times where this deck is actually just a fully-functioning Dark deck with no Ability-locking. This was sort of the plan when building the deck, which was to create a strong base with attackers that can hit for big damage, but also to include a Garbodor that can help swing some unfavorable matchups (such as Volcanion-EX, Greninja BREAK, and more). An Umbreon-EX is also played to help with opponents that are using Mega Pokémon-EXs, as the game can be inevitably ended with one attack for 4 Prize cards. Creating a situation for this to occur on a damaged Mega Pokémon-EX is actually very easy through the use of many Yveltal BKT to hit for Bench damage on Pokémon-EX.
In this list, I’ve brought the number of Fighting Fury Belt up to three, as they are extremely useful in attackers surviving multiple turns against an opponent. When attackers are able to hit for multiple attacks in a game, the Prize exchange usually ends up favoring Dark-based decks that can hit for big damage. One Reverse Valley is played to help add extra damage along with the Fighting Fury Belts, which can also help Umbreon-EX to reach those values that he needs to end the game. The final two tech cards being used are a Delinquent, which is very good at punishing an opposing player that plays too much of his hand down, and a Pokémon Center Lady, to once again allow attackers to survive for longer than they should (with an added bonus of healing conditions that could be seen from any opposing Serperior FCO).
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
Since Greninja BREAK was just able to win the Phoenix Regional Championships that happened for the Expanded format, it only makes sense that it would be a hot topic on the minds of Pokémon players. Without losing many cards during the rotation, Greninja is able to capitalize on the aforementioned strategy of going down early on Prize cards and swinging the game back through limiting an opponent’s hand to less cards. This list prides itself on consistency, with max amount of Supporter cards from Professor Sycamore and N, along with the 4 VS Seeker to utilize in the late game.
This version of Greninja BREAK is very special in that it doesn’t play any Talonflame STS to help with setting up in the early game. During the Worlds format, Talonflame was a great card to use in this deck as it helped against Item-locking opponents and assured a strong setup. Without many Item-locking decks, Talonflame isn’t very necessary to use in this build since Frogadier is the preferred attacker on the first/second turn of the game anyway. It only makes sense to cut those cards and add in other options to help with difficult matchups. Those additions would come in the form of Bursting Balloon and Faded Town, which can be very strong against M Mewtwo/Garbodor and other decks that focus on using Mega Pokémon-EX. With the added damage from Faded Town and Bursting Balloon, knockouts become much easier to get even without any Abilities from the Greninja BREAK.
The notable tech cards that are played in this build would include two Splash Energy, which help in keeping the deck functioning during later portions of the game by returning Greninjas back to the hand after they are Knocked Out. Keeping a constant stream of evolving into Greninjas and Greninja BREAKs is what keeps this deck as a strong option for Regional Championships, since these Evolutions are tougher to Knock Out and have very strong Abilities when the BREAK form is reached. The single Wally is in the deck to serve as a luxury if you ever find yourself going second with a Froakie Active and can hit the Water Duplicates on the first turn of the game. The last tech card, which is probably the most important card in the deck, would be the Ace Trainer, which will set the pace of constantly disrupting an opponent by reducing their hand size as soon as they take the first knockout.
Decks That Just Missed the Top Three
These three decks are great options to be played for Orlando Regionals and could be champion calibre with the right list, but I just haven’t found the perfect 60 cards to confidently recommend to the readers of SixPrizes just yet. For anyone that is thinking about any of these three decks, just know that I also agree with you in their strengths for the current Standard format. They have good matchups and can perform great, but I can’t confidently endorse a 60-card list quite yet.
This deck is great in theory and would perform very well now that Manaphy-EX can be included to provide free-retreating to the Primal Kyogre-EXs. This deck can struggle against any opposing players that are using 170-HP attackers, such as Yveltal BKT with Fighting Fury Belt (assuming a Garbodor is in play), Xerneas BKT with a Fighting Fury Belt, and Greninja BREAK. It is for this reason that I would recommend playing at least one or two Giovanni’s Scheme into this deck to ensure easy knockouts on any Pokémon that is just out of reach for the damage of Primal Kyogre-EX.
This deck was the predicted “best deck in the format” for a very long time and deserves to have that title. It is extremely powerful with the ability to hit for huge damage from Psychic Infinity, while also accelerating Energy through the use of Mega Turbo. The real strength of this deck comes whenever big damage is done to a M Mewtwo-EX, but a knockout is not achieved. That damage can then be moved off and switched to an opposing Pokémon through the use of a Shrine of Memories and “Damage Swap” from a Basic Mewtwo-EX. What makes this so powerful is that any damage of 110 or more can be swapped onto an opposing Shaymin-EX, which effectively removes all damage from the M Mewtwo and takes 2 Prize cards! Be sure to check out Russell’s article for some solid M Mewtwo decks that performed well at ARG Oklahoma City.
As mentioned before, I never really thought of this deck to be very good until seeing Grant’s article and his different build. With Max Elixir, Rainbow Road becomes much faster and can hit for big damage on the opening turns of the game. The only problem seems to be consistency issues and the susceptibility to an opponent using a Parallel City to reduce the Bench down to only three Pokémon. Even with these problems, Rainbow Road can hit for big damage and is certainly one of the most fun decks to play in the current Standard format.
Thanks again to everybody that made it through my article and gained some insight from my thoughts and struggles during testing! This format has definitely been very fun to play and make decks for, with my only downside being no answer to removing Pokémon Tool cards. This is certainly more fun than formats of recent past that had games effectively ending on the first turn of the game, though! For anyone that is aiming for the 500 CP needed for the World Championships this year, I wish you good luck and hopefully we can make it there together. The competition will be tough, but make sure to have fun along the way and make some new friends during your trips.
As I also mentioned in my previous article, if there are any recommendations or comments on my writing style from subscribers, please feel free to comment or message me with any positive/negative remarks. If you really enjoyed some of my thoughts and opinions that I found during my testing, be sure to let me know you liked that section! If you weren’t feeling some of the content, it’s always good to know for future articles. Thanks for reading and I’ll see anyone that’s going to Orlando!
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