What’s up, Underground! I’m elated to be coming to you here with my debut article! I’ve always enjoyed writing about Pokémon, and Adam was kind enough to give me a shot writing for the most prestigious Pokémon TCG site out there. I wrote for the site recently, covering my top 8 finish at Phoenix Regionals, but I figure I’ll briefly introduce myself here:
I’m a Master from the great flyover state of Minnesota, and I’ve been playing this great game since Black Friday of 2008, right when Stormfront released. I didn’t have much success in my earlier years of playing, but since my time in college began, I’ve had much stronger showings, even earning an invitation to compete in the 2015 World Championships. I’ve always been fond of slower set-up decks, and especially the Energy trans/Max Potion archetype (bring on Lunala!), having success with both Klinklang and Aromatisse. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling around the country to play Pokémon, and soon I’ll be making my first trip across the Atlantic to continue doing so in London.
Outside of Pokémon, I’m a recently graduated history major from the University of Minnesota, and I currently do sales for my uncle’s construction company. I’ve been fortunate enough to make enough money to live “the dream”: having a good six months free from work and any responsibility, with a chance to travel all over the country/world to play Pokémon. I enjoy playing video games, watching football and movies, going to the gym, and, most importantly, hanging out with my friends. As this is my first article, I wanted to bring a full exposé on my current favorite deck (and second all-time), and what I believe to be a great play for Fort Wayne: Greninja! Let’s jump right in!
Thoughts on the Format
For the past year, I made it no secret to anyone that would listen that I actively detested both Standard and Expanded format, almost exclusively because of Battle Compressor. I think the card was one of the worst things to ever happen to the game, and in general made for a horrible playing experience. In Standard, at least, we’re finally free! As a result, we’re seeing a few things we haven’t in a while, like decks that run multiple copies of more Supporters than just Juniper/Sycamore, or decks that aren’t weak to Psychic or Lightning. Standard format, for the most part, is pretty diverse and, in my opinion, more enjoyable, if only because there’s less solitaire involved.
While Evolutions doesn’t bring too much to the table as far as meta impact (no new archetypes and a handful of playable cards), I think that some of the timely promo releases alongside the set have gone a long way in changing up the format: Beedrill-EX and a new Greninja are both great (the former has a wider range of use than the latter, but both will be discussed in greater detail below). In addition, a new promo Magearna has released seemingly under the radar, and follows in line with Mewtwo EVO as a hard counter to a popular archetype.
Despite Evolutions not doing so itself, I think these releases can very rapidly change a format, sometimes to a pretty significant degree, which keeps things fresh. Expanded has been so rigidly defined that the only decks that seem to break through are exceptionally powerful (to match the format’s runaway power creep), whereas Standard is a bit more manageable. The selection of decks may feel more limited (pick your color of speed!), but I think that’s only natural when you cut from a format cards that have been crucial in shaping the game for almost two years. It’s refreshing to see a meta that’s a combination of non-EX Basic-, non-EX Evolution-, EX-, and Mega-based decks, something we haven’t seen since at least 2015 with the release of Spirit Links. This diversity will only expand with the release of GX cards (effectively the old ex mechanic, which has me quite excited) and whatever else comes from Sun & Moon. All and all, I think we’re on the right track to walking down off the edge of the cliff and towards a slower, healthier game overall.
Well, the reason is twofold! First, I have always been a believer in the frog prince since my Nationals run with it, and feel it is the deck best poised to take down any tournament, provided your list is tight and you’ve got a bit of luck is on your side. For me, Greninja epitomizes what I love about Pokémon: it’s a setup deck, and requires a ton of pieces to get going, but once done, is almost unbeatable. It’s a deck that actually requires the evolution of your Pokémon, which is a refreshing change from the suffocation that is a game dominated by Basics. It’s a deck that feels like it can win almost any game (now a little less so, because of Garb), and the game isn’t truly over until your opponent has taken all six of their Prizes.
Second, I believe the meta is shaping up favorably for it. I don’t need to tell you that Gardevoir is poised to do quite well (Brit does a great job covering it in his article), and has warped the meta around it: decks like Mewtwo/Garb and Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor may fall out of favor a little bit, while things like Volcanion and Scizor may see a bit more play. Gardevoir has hated away a faction of the Garb, which is the only thing keeping Greninja down. As tournaments have grown exponentially, there may still be a lot of Garb in the field, but in general, I think Greninja is poised to do well against a good chunk of it.
I want to start by sharing my current list, and discuss some big cards that are and aren’t in there. Then, I’ll share my take on a list closer to Sam Chen’s 11th place list, with Octillery, and finish the article with a discussion of matchups and my closing thoughts.
(Note: I’ll be using GWS as an abbreviation for Giant Water Shuriken throughout the article.)
My Current List
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 34
Energy – 9
One thing I want to note about Greninja is that it is a deck that has a solid ~50-card core across almost all successful lists, meaning that they will all look similar. This was maybe most noticeable at Worlds, where all Greninja lists packed 4 Talonflame, Ace Trainer, 4 Bursting Balloon, 3 Rough Seas, etc. Since then, lists have divulged a little, with some looking closer to pre-Talonflame lists, and other lists sticking with the bird.
The first and biggest thing you’ll notice, I’m sure, is the lack of Talonflame. At Orlando Regionals, Sam Chen was able to place the highest with a Greninja list that didn’t run Talonflame. For weeks leading up to that tournament, Mike Fouchet and I were constantly tweaking the list and discussing a lot of off-the-wall techs and strategies (and believe me, we talked about everything). The one thing we agreed upon very early was to drop Talonflame (admittedly, he convinced me, but I realized he was right pretty early on). There’s a lot of discussion on Talonflame in Greninja for Standard, and I’ll come out and say that a lot of the best lists aren’t running it, and I personally do not think it is good in the deck.
At Worlds, Talonflame was essential. Why was this? Two reasons, really:
- Talonflame was crucial against Trevenant. At Worlds, Item lock was still a dominant archetype (it took 2nd at Orlando, sure, but I’ll get into Plumebox and why it’s different later), and Talonflame took a lot of pressure off your requirement to draw well under the lock. If both decks set up, Greninja should win that matchup most of the time, and Talonflame did a lot to push you over the top.
- You needed a buffer against Night March, who could also possibly steal Prizes off Joltik. It is rare that Night March couldn’t do 130 on the first turn, but situations existed where you could stave off that dreaded first-turn KO. In addition to this, if you went second, you could grab an Ace Trainer and bait them into taking the knockout, only to punish them and hopefully slow them down. Not as useful here, but still more helpful than Jirachi was, with the fear of Special Charge and Ranger going into Worlds.
Both of those factors are arguably the only reasons why Talonflame was as good as it was at Worlds, and with both of those factors gone, Talonflame has lost a lot of its power. In today’s format, you’re looking at a lot of decks that can apply extreme pressure very quickly, and are all much bigger than Joltik or Pumpkaboo: Darkrai, Volcanion, Mewtwo, Xerneas, Gardevoir. These make up a majority of tier 1, and all of them can KO a Talonflame very quickly, like Night March, but Talonflame’s response is far weaker (and in many cases, almost entirely negligible in the grand scheme of the game). In addition, the rotation of Compressor has increased the Supporter count in people’s decks, meaning that you’re more likely to get your hand shuffled away with an N, often paired with a knockout.
Ultimately, Talonflame just doesn’t do enough anymore, and hogs up a lot of space in a list that’s getting tight. There are other cards that can offer you some good utility as well, and free up the list a bit.
The release of this new promo Greninja is almost the personification of players’ prayers, just short of consistent Tool removal like a Megaphone or something. The 20 spread is absolutely unbelievable. Primarily, the 20 spread puts a Garbodor into exact Lysandre/Moonlight Slash range, which is perfect. Every deck that utilizes Garbodor struggles immensely against Greninja without it, and now Greninja packs an incredible answer. In addition, the spread damage works great for math in general, notably on non-Mega EX Pokémon. Take Darkrai-EX, for example: Greninja would be forced to Moonlight Slash a dreaded three times just to KO it, even without a Fury Belt.
Now, Greninja is still required to attack three times, but the 20 spread puts Darkrai down to 160 HP, alongside softening up the other EX Pokémon and Garbodor. Every single place that the 20 damage could be placed is extremely useful for Greninja down the line. Further, a Darkrai with a Fury Belt now drops to 200 HP, into one-shot range for a Greninja, assuming it can get GWS back online. Players worried about one less BKP Greninja, or the paltry 1 Retreat Cost of the promo need not worry: Greninja used to run 3/1 split, and the XY Greninja likewise had a 1 Retreat, and the deck functioned just fine.
Beedrill-EX’s release in one of the many themed collection boxes would normally be ignored by everyone, if not for the fact that Beedrill-EX is now the most reliable form of Tool removal in the format. Garbodor is the only thing keeping Greninja from dominating the game, and now Beedrill gives you a solid out to it. That’s almost exclusively what it’s for: the potential of knocking off a Tool and your opponent whiffing the replacement for even a turn is large enough that the inclusion is worth it. At Orlando, this slot was occupied by a Manaphy in my list, but I would have put in Beedrill in a heartbeat, had the option been available.
I would go so far as to say that Beedrill-EX might be the only card that shifts Greninja from being a fringe tier 1 to being a legitimate contender. Greninja has prided itself on being a deck that lacks a single EX, and while Beedrill goes in opposition to it, the upside is so high that it’s worth it to me, which is why it’s in my current list. However, I want to mention that this is probably the only thing that’s in serious flux for me with this deck: while I have gotten solid use out of it up to this point, I’m still not 100% convinced it should be in the deck. I know this seemingly contradicts everything I’ve said up to this point and after, but it changes the dynamic of the deck more than any other card I can think of.
It should be noted that Beedrill would be unplayable in Greninja if it had more than 1 Retreat, and that is the only conceivable benchmark for Pokémon you want to try out in the deck: if they have more than 1 Retreat, stay away. Sure, you can run something like Float Stone or Olympia, but those cards are weak in the deck anyway, and you’re weakening the deck overall by compensating for techs. Cards like Hoopa STS have been something that I’ve briefly considered, but ultimately decided that it was unplayable due to the fact that I could start it, and therefore miss a turn 2 Water Duplicates.
Not much to say about Jirachi: even with the introduction of Pokémon Ranger, Jirachi’s utility is immense. The amount of targets Jirachi has is incredible: Rainbow Road, Mewtwo, Rayquaza, Plumebox, and Giratina are all tier 1, and can all pose a big problem for Greninja. Every one of these decks can answer Jirachi somehow, but the fact that Jirachi forces an alternate, less appealing response (instead of continuing to prepare for the frogs) warrants its inclusion. With two Super Rod and the aforementioned counters, it’s not good enough to have multiple, but it is good enough to have the one.
1 Eco Arm
Garbodor’s presence has forced Greninja to adopt new methods of dealing with big threats that would otherwise be an afterthought with GWS. In today’s format, Balloons are your main opportunity to deal additional damage against decks like Mewtwo or Darkrai/Giratina, both of which get Garbodor online as fast as possible. Most decks have enough latitude to comfortably play around a majority of your Balloons, provided you’re able to actually use all of them, and the amount of Balloons you can trigger often decides how close some of the matches will be. Mike Fouchet had an interesting solution to this: Eco Arm.
By creating a situation where you can use six or seven Balloons (or three or four actual, depending on an opponent’s outs), your opponent will have nowhere to hide, and the damage starts stacking up in your favor. In testing, the games against Garbodor that my team found where Greninja was using significantly more Balloons than normal were the ones that Greninja was also able to win.
This may come as a surprise to some readers, but it really should not: decks will either one-shot Greninja, or two-shot you. The damage that they’ll do is far too high to make Rough Seas a difference maker (if Darkrai does 140, it will still do 140 the next turn), which meant Seas had to go, in lieu of a more useful Stadium. This left Faded Town, which is very crucial in the deck’s most popular bad matchup, Mewtwo. Being able to stop Damage Change plays is important, but Faded Town also helps you keep up your damage output, in hopes of eventually taking down a Mewtwo and taking over a game.
The math can even work out perfectly, under ideal circumstances: if you can keep Faded Town down through a full turn cycle, you’ll two-shot the Mewtwo. 80 (Moonlight) + 20 (Faded) + 20 (Faded) + 80 (Moonlight) + 20 (Faded) = 220. This is fairly basic arithmetic, but Greninja is a deck that’s as good as it is because it has the ability to hit perfect numbers against so many different decks. Whereas Rough Seas used to be standard in the deck, I think Faded Town now takes over that role, and I think four copies of it should likewise be standard.
I hate Wally in this deck, I think Wally in this deck is bad, and I think Wally in Greninja, in general, sucks. I can’t tell you how many times a friend will message me (who I haven’t discussed Greninja with before), show me their list, and have a Wally sitting in there, hiding amongst the Supporters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll immediately point out to cut the Wally, to which they’ll respond that Wally is good because of X, Y, or Z situation. Every single justification that they give comes back to this: when you play Wally, you are inherently hoping that you will go second. You don’t ever hope to go second. I get that Wally is another search card, and that it can be helpful against Plumebox, and yadda yadda, but the primary reason that you are running Wally is that you hope you will go second, so you can get turn 1 Water Duplicates.
That is simply bad theory, bad logic, and most importantly, bad deck-building. Sure, in certain matchups at specific times, opting to go second may be strategically better, but the general advantage of going first far outweighs the possibility of going second and playing cards that can trigger then. With Battle Compressor gone, the only way to search it out would be Trainers’ Mail (which I don’t think is that good in the deck anyway), which would mean you’d need to run more copies of a card that’s really only useful on the first turn, which in turn takes away space in a tight list from other, better cards. It’s just … it’s not good. There’s a reason all of the winning lists don’t run it. Fun fact: Cody’s list at one point had two Wally in it, and even had a Wally in it on the eve of Worlds, but I managed to finally talk him down off the ledge. If nothing else, I consider this my biggest contribution to the finalist list.
The rest of this list should be pretty self-explanatory: 8/1 Energy split is alright, because you only need Splash’s effect to trigger once over the course of the game, and it doesn’t really matter when that happens; Ace Trainer, while no longer searchable with Talonflame, is still a very powerful effect, and is useful up until your opponent takes their 4th Prize (and sometimes it’s even a better choice than N); Ultra Ball is so you can search for Beedrill, as well as discard Talonflame, if needed; double Lysandre to ensure you can hit them against Garb.
I will see some people opting to run just Beedrill-EX, or just the 3/1 Greninja split. I believe this is wrong, and I think that for Greninja to have success going forward, you will need all of the counters I’ve listed. The reason for this is that the counters aren’t equal in terms of power, and the way games go, different situations present themselves for how Greninja can deal with Garb. Sometimes, you’ll only be able to get one or two Greninja out at a comfortable pace, and dedicating one of those to a weak 20 spread is an inferior play; getting out two BKP Greninja and hiding behind a Beedrill scrapping play is the better choice. Getting three Greninja, however, means you can dedicate one of them to the promo (and still get out double BREAKs the next turn). Some games, you won’t really be able to use either the promo or Beedrill, and you’ll need to just go right for the throat with your arsenal of Balloons and Faded Towns.
By running all of these choices, you give yourself the most chances to effectively deal with Garb, and open yourself up to the most possible opportunities in any given match.
A More Standard Fare
The one thing that I see a lot of Greninja lists run that I don’t is a 1-1 Octillery line. I’ll discuss further down my thoughts on Octillery, but I do see why people run it: Greninja requires a lot of pieces constantly, and Octillery can help smooth over the gaps between your Supporter plays. As such, I want to share my take on a more “conventional” approach to the deck.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 32
Energy – 9
The 3/1 Greninja split, and the inclusion of Beedrill-EX. As I discussed before, these cards are huge difference-makers for Greninja and I think should be included in every list. Here, the removal of a Tool on Garbodor is even more advantageous, because it gives you access to Abyssal Hand once more, boosting your consistency as you use the late-game N assault to try and slow your opponent down. The full complement of Faded Town and Bursting Balloon is likewise relatively standard.
The inclusion of the Sushi Master is the biggest change. For starters, Octillery simply increases the overall consistency of the deck. Refreshing your hand at any point in the game for a deck like Greninja that constantly requires juice is great, and it has obvious synergy with N; most of the time, you hold off on gunning down chump Prizes like opposing Shaymin so that you’re less affected by late-game N, but Octillery is a great way to bail yourself out of that, complementing a more aggressive approach for the deck.
You’ll notice Octillery is there without a way to easily get it out of the Active spot, and this is intentional. When Mike Fouchet first talked to me about Octillery, I too voiced this concern, and his response was incisive: if they Lysandre up Octillery to stall, then they aren’t attacking your Greninja. Greninja may be trapped back there and you’re forced to attach/pass, but the longer that they keep Octillery up in the Active spot, the longer they delay the inevitable. The only situations where it would be punishing to you is if, in the time they’re stalling, they manage to set up a Garbodor or something; this would imply that they had a much weaker board position, which would mean you probably got to that point without Octillery anyway.
Personally, I’ve always thought Octillery to be mediocre in Greninja. In matchups that Greninja struggles in, Garb and mirror, Octillery is mostly useless. In matchups where Octillery can be used, such as Volcanion and Rainbow Road, you should already win those if you set up anyway. Sure, the argument can be made that Octillery will help you set up more often/faster, giving you a higher chance of winning those matches, but I find myself setting up consistently enough that it’s unnecessary.
The rest of the list is really minor changes: no Eco Arm, because it is admittedly more of a gimmick and this list focuses on consistency; Teammates, because the deck is built more towards straight consistency and Teammates provides great search utility (I actually ran this at Orlando myself, and it is the 61st card in my current list); a 7/2 split on Energy focuses more on getting repeated use of Splash, hopefully early in the game with a Frogadier; lone Lysandre because your chances of drawing into it are higher with Octillery.
Ultimately, I find that my list sets up consistently enough for me anyway that the inclusion of Octillery feels unnecessary. I think that for a deck like Greninja to go deep into a tournament, it must be unconventional in some way. Assuming that both decks draw optimally, I think Greninja just needs that little something to push it over the top against Mewtwo, and I don’t think Octillery is the right choice. I don’t fault people for running it, but it’s just never done much for me.
Greninja is fortunate in that a lot of its matchup spread is pretty polarizing. In general, you will either win or lose a match commandingly, and certain matchups can flip from good to bad (or vice versa) very quickly. Sure, you can have close games, but the snowball effect of Greninja is so potent that you won’t have as many full sets, like you could with other decks.
Because many Greninja lists are largely similar, as I mentioned earlier, so too should their matchup spreads. As there are no small tech cards that can comfortably be included in Greninja to significantly swing any matchup, the techs to choose from all generally average out to be equal to each other in how they affect the spread. These are in no way definitive numbers by any means, but what I’ve found in my testing.
Mewtwo/Garb: 40-60, maybe 45-55
This matchup is the title fight for Greninja, and 45-55 is about as close as I’ve been able to get it. This is the match I’ve put the most amount of time into, and the deck that warps a Greninja list more than any. Simply put, there are times when you will simply lose this game. If Mewtwo is running hot, there is very little you can do to stop a 210-HP Pokémon that can heal itself, build to a one-shot very easily, and hide behind an Ability lock; that’s Pokémon, and that’s how it goes sometimes. If you’re lucky, Mewtwo won’t set up, or, more importantly, not set up Garb. If this happens, this matchup becomes wildly favorable for you, as you can easily one-shot the Mewtwo. Other times, and more regularly, you’ll steal the games.
You’re going to go down a few Prizes guaranteed, because they’ll start attacking you from the second turn onward. I usually find myself going down three Prizes before I’m ready to get going. The maxed out Balloon and Faded counts are invaluable here, as they help you try and put some semblance of damage on the board before you’re set up. From there, it’s basically just an N bombardment until one of them sticks and you can take down a Mewtwo, hopefully going uncontested from there. If you can spread damage and knock out the Garb, you should be in a good position. If you can use Beedrill to chip off a Float Stone from Garb and get that to stick, you should be in a good position.
The most important part of this matchup, and really what it ultimately comes down to, is the Stadium war. Every Mewtwo list also runs different counts of their Stadiums: I’ve seen 2/2 Shrine/Parallel, 3/2, 4/1. The amount of Shrine that they run, and if you’re able to keep them off the field, directly correlates to your chances of winning this match.
If, for example, they’ve got two Shrine discarded and are using Parallel to replace your Faded, assume that they’re sitting on another Shrine, unless you can 100% determine that they don’t run the third. You’ve got to play the matchup under the impression that they’re always hiding another Shrine.
Here’s a situation you may encounter that illustrates why Stadiums can be so important in swinging this match back and forth:
You’ve got a fresh Greninja BREAK Active to their Mega Mewtwo. Your Faded is down, and you just did 80 with Moonlight Slash, so they’re at 100 damage. In their discard is two Shrine, but you think they’re running a 3/2 Shrine/Parallel split. You’re debating between Stitching and Moonlight. In this situation, I would use Shadow Stitching. You’re more likely to lose this Greninja BREAK because they’ll only need five Energy on their Mewtwo now, but you prevent a Damage Change, keeping the damage on the Mewtwo, which is the most important part.
If you have a Bursting Balloon to attach, then Stitching becomes even better. By doing this, you bring the damage just shy of a KO from Damage Change. If they want to get a KO with it, this forces them to have a Lysandre and the Stadium, and if it’s their third, hopefully you’ll be able to replace it and come out on top of the Stadium war in the match.
If they don’t have a Lysandre, then the Damage Change option is effectively a wasted turn. Sure, they’ll heal, but they won’t take a KO, which gives you another turn to try and deal with Garb, N, or find some other way to take control of the match.
If they don’t have the Stadium, then the damage simply sticks; if you managed to attach a Balloon as well, then they’ll need a Lysandre or suffer a retaliatory KO themselves.
The matchup is all about trying to find situations where you can stack the numbers into knockouts, and Greninja has so many ways to do it that that’s why I believe you’re never out of it until they’ve drawn final blood. I will stress that, again, sometimes you will try and do everything in your power and still lose. Mewtwo/Garb is the deck to beat for a reason. I find myself winning sets that I do against it by sneaking out one or two games. Learning to scoop early if Game 1 is quickly getting away from you is crucial, because you’re going to need that time for the latter two games.
Volcanion: 55-45, maybe 60-40
This matchup has been repeated over and over throughout the history of the game: rush deck versus set-up deck. On paper, this matchup seems quite lopsided: they’re a red deck, you’re a blue deck. In practice, it is actually much closer. Volcanion is very fast, and they’ll be taking knockouts as early as the first turn. Ironically, Volcanion is also the deck best equipped to handle Shadow Stitching, because a lot of lists run Ranger, sometimes in higher counts.
Basically, if you can set up and stabilize against the early assault, you should win this game comfortably. If Volcanion is able to overwhelm you, then they’ll win.
If you can hold Volcanion to three Prizes before you’re rolling, you should win. Getting into the late game before you set up can be dangerous, because I’ve found that Volcanion usually has just enough left in the tank to take the last couple of chump Prizes it needs. I also find myself using Moonlight Slash far more than Stitching: because they generally run Ranger, chances are they’re going to break that lock and retaliate with a knockout, and if you can take out the big guys while keeping up a constant stream of N, they’ll run out of steam (pun intended) and you should take that game.
Rainbow Road: 45-55, maybe 40-60
This is similar to Volcanion, trading the Weakness factor for good math. Without Weakness, you’ll actually have to knock out their Pokémon. They’re quite fast, so it’s another situation of having to set up before you’re overwhelmed. However, the math here is phenomenal: Bursting Balloon triggers, putting them 60 away from being KO’d, or a simple GWS; using double Moonlight Slash while you pick off Xerneas on the Bench with GWS; double GWS to take out an attacker, followed with an N + Faded + Shadow Stitch play. Jirachi is also quite useful in slowing them down, and while they might start running Special Charge for whatever reason, the fact that they’ll need to hit the next DCE and a Lysandre is sometimes enough to buy you a turn. Jirachi also does 20 to a Xerneas, which turns into another instance of perfect math (20 + 80 + 60 = 160). Stabilize, and you should win. Fail to do so, and you’ll be begging for Lakitu to help you out next game.
Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor: 35-65, maybe 40-60
This one’s probably your worst matchup, barring something fake like Sceptile. Mewtwo is different because you have access to Faded Town, but here, it’s useless. In addition, their main attacker uses only basic Energy, so Jirachi is only useful if you make the dedicated play of dragging up a Giratina to chip off an Energy. I think the combination of Beedrill-EX and the promo Greninja gives more tools to work with in this matchup. If Garbodor is removed from the equation, then this matchup becomes quite favorable, maybe even reversed, because you can cut through Darkrai and Giratina like butter. I think the promo Greninja is a little better than Beedrill here, given the fact that that 20 spread is great for setting up Garbodor and dropping Darkrai and Giratina at or just under 200 HP, which later becomes perfect math for your double GWS/Moonlight combo turns.
You’ve gotta focus on neutralizing the Garb before it’s too late, because Darkrai is going to start building real fast, and you’re going to need GWS to match their power. Get rid of Garb by at least mid game, and you should be able to pitch a good late-game comeback; fail to take out the trash and you’ll head to the dumpster.
Yveltal variants: 60-40
I separated this matchup from Darkrai/Giratina because there are identifiably different Yveltal decks, such as Fright Night/Mew or, more noticeably, the Yveltal/Garbodor list that Azul used to take down Orlando Regionals. In general, these matchups range from favorable to great. Something like straight Fright Night/Mew, without Garb, is a cakewalk for Greninja; their damage output against you is abysmal and you can sweep through them with ease. Even Yveltal/Garbodor is much more winnable than Darkrai/Giratina (though probably closer to 50-50 overall), simply because Yveltal needs quite a bit of concentrated Energy to take down a Greninja, and Jirachi can go a long way here in slowing them down. Ultimately, if you set up in matches against these decks, you should be able to pull them out.
Gardevoir (Despair Ray): 50-50
Other people may disagree with me on this matchup, but in my testing, I’m finding it to be almost exactly like Night March was. They’re fast and they need to constantly spam Hex. The fewer turns that they Hex, the more likely you are to win. Math works out very well here with the combination of GWS, Moonlight, Balloons, and Faded Town. They’re very dependent on Sky Field to hit bigger numbers, so if you can win the Stadium war, you should be in good shape. That’s really all it is. Just set up at a comfortable pace, and you should be able to handle them fairly easily. What’s different between them and something like Rainbow Road or Volcanion is that they’re much bigger, so you will have to two-shot them. This matchup is by no means unwinnable, though, and is actually pretty even.
There’s no way to attribute a value to this match; it comes down entirely to the lists. Does your opponent have Talonflame? Octillery? Ranger? Hex? How many Splash? Rough Seas or Max Potion? How many Bursting Balloon? I could go on and on, but it’s not really worth it. Because there is so much variance in the last ~10 or so cards in people’s lists, it is difficult to gauge how any given mirror will go, which is why it’s a pure 50-50.
The strategy you’ll take is generally simple across all mirrors: set up like normal, and don’t play down a Stadium, unless it’s to replace theirs. They may run Delinquent, and you never want to give them a chance to use it unless they go for it themselves. Repeatedly use Shadow Stitching, unless there are situations where a KO to break the lock with Moonlight Slash would only give them a chance to only have one BREAK, or something. Try and be as conservative with your resources as possible, because a lot of Greninja mirrors have ended in deck-outs. It’s also very boring, so make sure to stay focused on the game!
This matchup is actually fairly easy for Greninja. Provided you don’t brick under Item lock, you should win this one most of the time. For starters, Plumebox’s damage output is extremely low. Most Plumebox lists run, at max, two Glaceon, and it takes them a loooong time to knock out a BREAK. Vileplume is not safe on the Bench, either because you have Lysandre, or because you can just GWS snipe it until it’s knocked out. Promo Greninja is also useful here, against Vileplume, because now you can just snipe it twice with GWS and then spread. Seeing as you’re guaranteed to get at least two spreads off, you will also be able to set up the next Vileplume for a double snipe, should they get another out. Shaymin and Manaphy are also great chump Prizes here.
Lower Tier/Rogues: Mostly Favorable
While the decks I’ve listed above make up a majority of the meta, there are some random decks that you may encounter at tournaments: things like Scizor (not bad by itself, just a tough meta right now), Rayquaza (a strictly inferior Rainbow Road, in my opinion), Gyarados, Typhlosion, etc. For the most part, they are all favorable, with the exception of some mono-green decks or something you can’t really account for. All of them have weaknesses that Greninja is able to easily exploit. Remember promo Greninja! Against at least Scizor and Gyarados, it will be quite useful. Otherwise, most of these can be beat by just setting up and playing your game, using similar strategies as you would for something like Gardevoir or Volcanion.
You’re probably looking across the spread and wondering why I’d play Greninja when it doesn’t have any particular blow-out matchups (even against something like a mono-Fire deck), and struggles with some of the top decks. The reason is simple: I think Greninja can win every single matchup or game you’re in, provided you’ve set up optimally. A lot of these difficult matchups are only so because of Garb, but some timely promos have gone a long way in making Garb easier to take down. Once you take out the trash, almost every matchup suddenly becomes extremely favorable. Most decks will only set up a single Garb anyway (either discarding the other pieces or not maintaining a bench to set up two simultaneously), and if they drop a second Trubbish down after you KO it, a simple double GWS or Lysandre play keeps you in control of the match.
Today’s Standard format is one dominated by speed, but this has been the case for many formats past as well, where set-up decks still found their place to shine. In each instance, the risk/reward tradeoff of playing a slower set-up deck was enough that players still opted to play them, often to great success. Greninja is no different here.
When picking it up, you must be cognizant of the fact that the very nature of the deck forces you to play from behind in every match. To some, this is unappealing and gives the semblance of a lack of control, but I personally feel it’s more akin to a sleeping giant of sorts, and by turn 4 or so, the beast usually awakens. When it is set up, and barring something like Garb to impede it, Greninja is easily in the top 5 most powerful decks the game has ever seen. I would even go so far as to say that Greninja is naturally far more powerful than Night March was (and many people know where I stand on Night March). The fact that you can do an entire attack’s worth of damage without attacking coupled with an insanely powerful one-sided Ability lock (an attack matched only by Gardevoir SW’s Psychic Lock) means that matches against Greninja can quickly snowball in your favor.
As I mentioned briefly in my thoughts on Greninja following its surprise win at Phoenix, I want to reiterate that I think the lack of a universal Tool removal is a blessing in disguise. If something like Megaphone existed in today’s Standard format, I think Greninja would absolutely run wild as the overwhelmingly best deck. I love playing Greninja and wouldn’t mind if a deck I loved was likewise the BDIF, but it would make for a very stale playing environment, and an unhealthy game. That Greninja is still viable despite the fact that there is no consistent out to a widely-played hard counter is a testament to this, and the potential that Greninja holds.
Well, hope you’ve enjoyed my musings on Greninja! I know it’s easy to dismiss it as a bad deck in this format with counter to Garb, but the deck truly does have a lot going for it. For me, the deck is one of those that has come through for me in some tight spots, and maybe it can for one of you. Feel free to sound off on any questions, concerns, or thoughts you have, and I’ll see you all at Fort Wayne!
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