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!
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
1 Pokémon Ranger
3 Trainers’ Mail
2 Pokémon Catcher
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.
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:
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.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 35
Energy – 5
This list, modeled after the deck Ross Cawthon popularized on stream at Wisconsin Regionals this Spring, helped Mike Fouchet achieve a 2nd place finish in Philadelphia. Had Jonathan Crespo not found a way to defeat an Yveltal-EX deck in Top 8, there’s a good chance Mike would have won the whole tournament. It’s a deceptively strong deck, combining both Paralysis lock and Ability lock in a format where few decks have ways to combat both at once. AZ and Lysandre are the most common counters to these types of locks but you can’t play both at the same time.
The most appealing thing about playing this deck is that many players don’t know how to play against Accelgor. I spoke to several people as I watched some of Top 32 and realized this quickly. 2013 and 2014 each had popular Accelgor decks, paired with Gothitelle and Trevenant, but if you weren’t playing back then or were lucky enough not to be paired against them, you might not know the intricacies of the matchup.
For instance, my friend Chris Derocher played Mike on Day 2, and mistakenly replaced the Virbank City Gym in play with a Dimension Valley before leaving a Mr. Mime in the Active spot. This would have allowed Mike to Deck and Cover for 50 + 10 for Poison, leaving Mr. Mime stuck Active, and then with +10 more damage after Chris’s turn, perfectly KO it, allowing Mike to take another Prize before Chris takes any. Since both players are going to be doing as much as possible to keep their EXs off the board in this matchup, falling behind in the Prize race is a huge deal. Chris fortuitously hit his Escape Rope to keep his Mr. Mime from being KO’d and actually turned the situation into his favor. However, in most scenarios, I wouldn’t take this risk.
Knowing when to evolve your Pokémon is also incredibly instrumental to beating Accelgor. For instance, Trevenant BREAK is a great attacker against Accelgor decks, only needing two turns of Silent Fear to clear the board of Shelmet. However, if you evolve prematurely, your Trevenant can be stopped from attacking for two turns, potentially giving the Accelgor player the time to find their Evolutions. In the worst scenario, the Accelgor player might be able to even find a turn to put a Muscle Band on an attacker, giving them a way to perfectly loop a Trevenant BREAK for 70 + 20 Poison + 50 + 20 Poison and get ahead on the Prize trade. If you waste your Trevenant BREAKs early and can’t find them later in the game, the Accelgor player can loop a normal Trevenant with a Virbank City Gym for 50 + 30 + 30 instead. It’s very touch-and-go and requires a good read on the situation to play correctly.
For more on this deck, check out Mike’s article from last month as well as his mini tournament report that he posted on the forums. I don’t think it’s necessarily a great play for San Jose as Yveltal will likely see heavy play (players on the West Coast seem to favor Dark) but it’s always a deck to keep in mind.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
Sam’s deck, with all credit for the list going to Azul Garcia Griego, is one of the best-crafted lists in the Expanded metagame. The list has changed a lot since Azul first played it at Virginia Regionals in February which just shows how well it can adapt to the ever-changing metagame. It has answers to Trevenant (Seismitoad + Rough Seas), Archeops (Hex Maniac and Evosoda), and Night March (Karen). Plus, the list is naturally consistent and the addition of Double Colorless Energy makes it way more low maintenance since your attackers can attack with less than 3 Energy attachments.
This is one of the few decks that I would actually consider Karen to be a good counter to Night March in. It has a Seismitoad-EX to stop them from being able to play Battle Compressor again and allow you to take a quick lead. However, you don’t even necessarily need to do that. Raikou/Eels doesn’t play a lot of EXs and can function without benching any in most games. You can force a Night March deck to attack your beefy Raikou to take Prizes, and with an effective total of 180 Hit Points, they’re very hard to take down. Target Whistle can’t be used to chain KOs on Shaymin unfortunately, as Karen will shuffle them back in. Most Night March decks will be able to recover from 1 Karen, and maybe a 2nd, but after that, you might as well throw in the towel.
This deck is very appealing to me because many of the popular decks in Expanded are favorable or at least even/winnable matchups. The list can be customized to beat some of the decks that you would otherwise struggle against, but you typically need a good read on the metagame to make changes because you’ll have to cut cards that are important for other matchups.
For instance, Pokémon Center Lady can significantly improve the matchup against Wobbuffet/Accelgor, and Tool Scrapper or Xerosic could give you a way to beat Garbodor decks. Unless you want to cut consistency (something I would not recommend going into a 14-round Regional), you’ll probably need to cut other matchup-specific techs such as Eelektross (for Jolteon-EX in Rainbow Road or Vileplume) or Karen.
As far as the metagame trends as a whole …
> Dark decks continued their dominance, as 10 of the top 32 decks featured Darkness Energy as their most prominent basic Energy. Between Turbo Darkrai/Yveltal, Yveltal/Maxie’s, and Darkrai/Giratina, expect to play against multiple Dark decks at Expanded tournaments in the future. Trevenant, Rainbow Road, and Night March were the only other decks in top 32 to be piloted by more than 2 people, further proving just how vast the pool of viable decks is in this format.
> Moving forward, I’d expect to see Accelgor and Raikou/Eels pick up in play a bit. They are now proven contenders after surviving such a long tournament and each taking home a chunk of change. We now know that obvious counters to these decks aren’t being played, namely Virizion/Genesect for Accelgor and Greninja for Raikou/Eels, so the decks are potentially primed to perform well.
> I was very surprised by the success of Giratina decks (2 finished in the top 10) and turbo versions of Dark decks. I thought Giratina was all but dead after the release of Pokémon Ranger. Any deck that relies on Special Energy or Tools should be packing a copy of Pokémon Ranger just in case, and other decks like Trevenant don’t even always run Special Energy anymore, further weakening Chaos Wheel’s impact. However, it seems that some players didn’t account for Giratina’s presence and fell victim to the lock.
Turbo Dark is a deck that I have recently found simply inferior to Yveltal/Maxie’s (which I don’t like anyways). Yveltal is a deck with tons of 50/50 matchups across the board, but this makes it susceptible to ties and going 5-4 in my findings. Turbo Dark does not significantly improve on any of the matchups that Yveltal/Maxie’s has a hard time against, and the loss of Gallade in the deck means that you typically lose to other Dark variants. Dark decks are one of the only archetypes I expect to play more than 1–2 times in an average tournament run so I want every advantage I can get in that case. I don’t see the reason why you would run a Turbo Dark deck over a Yveltal/Maxie’s deck, but be prepared to face them both in your tournament runs.
> Other decks that were present in the Philadelphia metagame but did not perform incredibly well include Manectric/Garbodor, Rayquaza, and Virizion/Genesect. The presence of these decks seems to stem from the perceived downfall of Night March. Even though Night March wasn’t incredibly popular, I’m unsurprised that these decks didn’t make top cut in high numbers. They all take losses to many other decks in the format and seem to be more of “pet decks” than truly strong plays in the format. One things to remember about Expanded is that players often choose a deck not because they think it is the best play, but because they enjoy playing it. Expect this to hold true for the rest of the format’s lifetime.
Unfortunately, I will not be playing in San Jose, the next big Expanded event. If I were, it would be a very easy deck choice for me as I would confidently walk in and turn in the exact same Night March list that I played this weekend. Night March did not generate enough buzz this weekend for me to be afraid of Karen + Seismitoad-EX popping up in every deck. Plus, Trevenant winning should mean that decks like Yveltal and Manectric will pick up more steam, putting more strong matchups in the field and hopefully beating Trevenant away from the top tables. I would normally expect a larger amount of Dark decks in San Jose with or without Trevenant winning in Philadelphia — the players on the West Coast seem to naturally favor Yveltal and Darkrai.
I do realize that Night March is a bit of a risky play now. You could easily get unlucky and hit subpar matchups or Karen techs round after round. That said, here’s another deck that may fly under the radar for San Jose:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 33
Energy – 9
Greninja surprisingly saw 0 Top 32 placements in Philadelphia after all 3 that made Top 32 in Phoenix made Top 8, ultimately even winning the event. After looking at the top cut in Philadelphia, I’m especially surprised that the deck didn’t make more of a splash, as many of the Day 2 decks were good matchups. Seismitoad/Crobat can be tricky and Accelgor is a very bad matchup, but nearly everything else is favorable or beatable. However, with Accelgor looking like a bad play due to the high numbers of Yveltal on the West Coast, as well as a potential uptick in the amount of Raikou/Eelektrik decks, Greninja could find itself in a room with very few bad matchups.
This list draws heavily from Caleb Gedemer’s Top 8 list from Phoenix Regionals with a few inclusions from the list I played at Worlds. 3 copies of Evosoda as well as a Hex Maniac may seem a bit heavy, but I expect Archeops to be played in large numbers in Yveltal decks in San Jose. It’s just such an easy inclusion and I want to have plenty of ways around it. I also prefer to keep Bursting Balloon in the deck to either up your damage output substantially or force your opponent to overextend to remove them. It would also be worthwhile to test out Muscle Band like Travis Nunlist used in Phoenix to see if it helps your math in any ways.
Other inclusions for the deck include Pokémon Ranger (in case you expect to play any mirror matches), Tool-removal cards, a 4th Rough Seas (for Trevenant), Ace Trainer, and other search cards like Level Ball. Just like most other decks in the Expanded format, you don’t have room to account for every matchup you might face. As we get closer to the main event in San Jose, pay close attention to social media sites and YouTube channels that discuss Pokémon for hints of what decks may be popular.
After an incredibly long tournament in Philadelphia, it seems that the state of Expanded has been truly shaken up. Although Night March is not as dead as most people thought, it has definitely weakened and seems to have allowed for a more diverse pool of decks to thrive. In a format that has never seen a rotation and seemed to be very stagnant for most of this past year, this is very refreshing to see.
Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions on decks, the metagame, or anything at all about the game. If you have any suggestions for future articles, I’d love to hear them too!
I’ll be at Fort Wayne in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to a Regional that is always very well run. I hope to see you all there!
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