Hey all! I’m back from Philadelphia Regionals and excited to discuss the results from an incredibly interesting tournament with you all. The Expanded format is a fascinating topic with an ever-growing list of viable decks. You never know what decks will be piloted and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a read on metagame trends.
That said, today I’ll briefly talk through my thought process on choosing to play Night March for this weekend and a short tournament report. From there, I’ll be discussing some of the top decks from the event and predicting how the metagame will change in the coming month before the next Expanded tournament in San Jose.
For a seemingly stale format, there’s a lot to talk about so let’s get started!
Philadelphia Regionals Report
After a growing feeling of discontent with the decks in Expanded during my testing, my friends back in Michigan told me they were finding Night March to still have a strong place in the metagame. While it seemed like Karen would finally eradicate everyone’s least favorite deck, very few decks had any real reason to play Karen. Even if they included a copy, Night March could play around it by conserving Battle Compressor and Puzzle of Time in the early game to restore their damage output. Realistically, Karen would have to be paired with Seismitoad-EX and/or used multiple times per game to have any impact. And during this time, they wouldn’t be able to also disrupt your hand, allowing you to build up to a Pokémon Ranger + Puzzle of Time play to potentially turn the game back into your favor. If you couldn’t immediately pull that off, chaining Shaymin with Sky Return forces them to find hand disruption (potentially more than once) or use another attack to deal lasting damage, giving you another option to mount a comeback. (See Dustin Zimmerman’s recent article for more on these Karen scenarios.)
Thus, I put Night March back into my consideration for Philadelphia but I still wasn’t sure that it would be the best call for the metagame. However, many other players were writing it off, leading to a lot of talk about decks that traditionally lost to Night March. I heard rumblings of Manectric/Garbodor, Rayquaza, Rainbow Road, and Raikou/Eels in the weeks leading up to the tournament. And while I also was aware that other players were favoring decks like Trevenant and Seismitoad/Crobat, I thought that the decks that lost to Night March would be more prevalent than the decks that beat it.
The tipping point for me deciding to play Night March was its sheer consistency when compared to most of the other decks in the format and also the ability to quickly and decisively win games, even in the +3 turns at the end of a match. With a record of 6-1-2 not being a lock for cut, 6-2-1 not making top 32 at either Orlando or Phoenix, and 5-3-1 rarely yielding any CP at all, I thought it prudent to choose a deck that would have a good chance to go either 7-2 or 6-3. I would rarely beat my bad matchups, but because I rarely lost to my good matchups and few matchups were 50/50, I didn’t have to worry about ties very much as long as I kept up my pace of play. By effectively eliminating ties from my possible outcomes, I put myself in the best position to guarantee top cut or points depending on how the last few rounds shook out.
The list we decided to play was fairly similar to the one that my testing partner Christopher Schemanske played in Phoenix, and nearly identical to the one that we played in Spring Regionals last season.
We tested out a version with a Milotic PRC line to recover Puzzle of Time or Battle Compressor to combat Karen, as well as one with a thick Maxie’s line with Archeops, Gallade, and Marowak to help in some tricky matchups like Greninja, Dark, and Giratina. However, we found Mr. Mime and Pokémon Ranger to be more consistent techs for some of those matchups, and felt we could beat the others with smart play and reasonable hands. Here’s the list we settled on:
Pokémon – 17
1 Mew FCO
Trainers – 39
Energy – 4
From our Spring Regionals list, we dropped Ghetsis for a Special Charge and a Lysandre for Pokémon Ranger. Ghetsis was not as impactful as we would have wanted. It helped us win against other Night March decks, Archie’s Blastoise, and Dark decks. We didn’t expect to play many mirror matches, Archie’s has fallen off considerably in the metagame, and Mr. Mime was enough for us to feel comfortable beating Dark.
Instead, Special Charge easily earned the spot as it allowed our Puzzle of Time to be used to grab Battle Compressor and replenish our damage output when need be. It also helps to recover from bad starts and lets us take more risks with discarding Double Colorless. Pokémon Ranger was a card I insisted on keeping in the deck at several times. I didn’t want to lose to Giratina or a lone Jolteon-EX, and it gave us a good chance to beat Seismitoad. Everyone who played this list noted that it definitely pulled its weight.
The last choice we made with the list was whether we would play 2 Pokémon Catcher or 2 Lysandre, with just 1 of the other card. Playing 2 Lysandre would have been the safe call, as it gives you a reliable gust option even when you prize one. However, we thought that 2 Pokémon Catcher was the correct play. Pokémon Catcher can give you a way to win games that are otherwise unwinnable, especially when you have to play a different Supporter to dig for an Energy/Pokémon/Float Stone/Battle Compressor to attack. Catcher won me several games and I’m definitely glad that we played 2.
Day 1 / My Day
Philadelphia Regionals // 646 Masters
R1 Yveltal-EX (with Karen) (2-1)
R2 Greninja (2-0)
R3 Seismitoad-EX/Crobat (0-2)
R4 Rainbow Road (2-1)
R5 Vileplume Toolbox (2-1)
R6 Primal Groudon (0-2)
R7 Yanmega/Landorus-EX/Seismitoad-EX (0-2)
R8 Rainbow Road (with Karen) (2-0)
R9 Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX (2-1)
Final: 6-3-0 // 65th place
My matchups were fairly straightforward. Rounds 1 & 2: Yveltal and Greninja were matchups I felt fine about and slightly in my favor as long as I conserved my resources well enough. Round 3: The match against Seismitoad-EX/Crobat was very winnable. I was able to get an early KO with Night March, and build up to a big Pokémon Ranger + Puzzle of Time play later in the game. However, I ended up falling just short of the necessary amount of attackers or Energy in each game to lose. Christopher would beat this same opponent in Round 8.
Rounds 4 & 8: Rainbow Road is another straightforward matchup where both opponents tried to use Jolteon to wall me out. However, between Escape Rope, Lysandre/Pokémon Catcher, and Pokémon Ranger, I had some fairly easy wins. Round 5: I got incredibly lucky to win against the Vileplume Toolbox deck, as I had to juggle between Hex Maniac and Pokémon Ranger to attack his Aegislash-EX and Jolteon-EX respectively. Here, the consistency of Night March outshone the natural inconsistency Vileplume. Round 6: Primal Groudon is close to a 50/50 matchup, but I ran out of attackers or Energy in both games here to lose.
Round 7: Jose Marrero’s Landorus/Seismitoad/Yanmega concoction ended up taking me out of the running for Day 2. I drew into my Pokémon Ranger a turn or two too late both games, and I would have had the win one turn later. It was slightly harder than a normal game against Seismitoad-EX decks because Yanmega and Landorus-EX both gave him easy ways to OHKO Shaymin-EX on my Bench.
Round 9: I finished the day off with a win against Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX, a matchup I felt very comfortable with beating. A good T1 setup would earn me 2 Prizes, and I would be able to find Pokémon Ranger from there to set up a strong end-game. If he was Item locking me to stop my setup, I would be able to Sky Return loop indefinitely. If he was using Giratina-EX’s Chaos Wheel to stop me from attacking, it would be easier to dig through my deck for Pokémon Ranger and the other cards I’d need to knock it out. I won this series rather easily, even after running out of resources and losing the second game.
. . .
I ended up in 65th place, barely missing out on 8 more CP and some booster packs. I did come away with 16 CP, thankful to get any points as they will hopefully add up to earn an invite as I outlined in my last article. I don’t regret my deck choice at all; I was just a few pivotal plays away from making top 32.
Christopher and Chris Derocher made top 32 with the same list and could have made a far deeper run with some better luck on Day 2. Their top 32 runs included games against Trevenant that played Karen (to add insult to injury), prizing Pokémon Ranger both games against Seismitoad/Crobat, and prizing Mr. Mime in pivotal games against Yveltal variants. These things happen. You just have to get back up, shrug it off, and move on to the next game or the next tournament.
Even though many players were surprised by the high amount of Night March at Philadelphia, it was far from the biggest story at the event. It only took 3 of the top 32 spots, with a myriad of other decks making up the top 8. Let’s take a look at a few:
1st Place: Jonathan Crespo’s Trevenant
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 37
4 Red Card
Energy – 8
Jonathan Crespo’s take on Trevenant is incredibly interesting, straying pretty far from the typical build. Instead of focusing on stability and damage output, this list features full counts of Red Card and Crushing Hammer to disrupt the opponent. Other notable inclusions include Rescue Scarf to keep up a steady stream of Trevenant without relying on Super Rod, as well as a Silent Lab to prevent Abilities like Darkrai’s Dark Cloak, allowing you to trap a Pokémon in the Active spot.
This list has a notable focus on getting a T1 Trevenant out. While most lists play Wobbuffet and Mewtwo-EX as alternate attackers, as well as Mystery Energy and Float Stone to remove them from the Active spot, this one plays none of those cards and only basic Psychic Energy. This allows you an easier path to get a Phantump or Trevenant into the Active spot. Additionally, the 2nd copy of Jirachi-EX guards against poor Prizes and helps to guarantee the T1 Wally.
Personally, I wouldn’t choose to pilot this version of the deck if I was going to play Trevenant. While I do think that the deck needs heavy disruption to keep up in the speedy Expanded format, this list doesn’t have the tools to deal with everything I expect to see. With no copies of Wobbuffet, Vileplume goes from incredibly favorable to bad. You also have far fewer options to deal with a T1 Archeops. This could lose you games against Dark, Rainbow Road, and Night March that are otherwise winnable or favorable.
Without Mewtwo, you are more susceptible to decks that can charge up big attackers like Yveltal. In a typical game, you want to neutralize a threat like this with all of your Energy denial, but I like to have a backup plan when things go wrong. Mewtwo is also your answer to a Shaymin-EX loop when your opponent has too many Prizes for N to disrupt them effectively. Red Card could help against this strategy, but it relies on luck and takes the game slightly out of your control.
Even though I don’t like this version at face value, some of the inclusions such as Rescue Scarf and the 2nd Jirachi-EX may make their way into other Trevenant decks as the format progresses. If anything, this is a good reminder to not become complacent and assume you know what is in your opponent’s deck. There are a lot of tech options in Expanded and even the most well-established lists could be reimagined.
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