Darkness has fallen over the TCG, and its reign of terror is intensifying. My name is Travis Nunlist and I’m here to help find the light at the end of the tunnel. Welcome to the second installment of the two-part series coordinated with Aaron Tarbell. I’m really excited to be writing my first article here on SixPrizes and hope I can prove to be a valuable addition to the phenomenal writing staff here.
In this iteration I’ll be examining a few decks that I believe are capable of going even to favorable with the Dark variants that took control of our very first Standard tournament of the season in Orlando. Anyone that knows me knows that I have always had a dislike for Dark variants due to their incredible power. I’m the kind of player that would rather beat what is good/popular rather than give in to the strength these decks often feature, and since the printing of Dark Patch, that has often included Dark variants.
Whether you’re looking to embrace the darkness or combat it, I believe this article will provide some incredibly useful information on what to expect in Fort Wayne this coming weekend.
Mega Gardevoir STS
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 35
Energy – 8
This deck was very under the radar before Orlando Regionals but has since entered into an incredibly strange spot in the metagame that I’m not entirely certain I’ve ever seen happen to a deck in my time playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Even though it has no substantial finishes inside of the United States, it has already surfaced as the best and most obvious counter to the T8 decks that terrorized Orlando. I believe this information became common knowledge among competitive players rather quickly and will cause players to be prepared to face the deck despite its lack of results.
However, the deck is one of the only decks currently able to effectively counter both Yveltal/Garb and Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor which is why it has earned the top spot as a fighter of the darkness. The strategy of this deck is incredibly similar to that of the Mega Rayquaza deck, except it doesn’t suffer from a lot of the same weaknesses as Rayquaza. While it cannot 1HKO as effectively, it is much less vulnerable to Parallel City, has incredible typing, and is actually really good against Giratina-EX.
I chose these three Pokémon as tech options because of the versatility of their coming-into-play Abilities and the option to reuse them through Dragonite-EX. Gardevoir often needs to refill its Bench to continue increasing its damage output so having useful Bench-warmers is never a bad thing.
Absol is great to move damage counters back to upcoming threats in order to soften them and make them easier for Gardevoir to KO when they come Active, and helps to ensure that you never have any wasted damage from overkilling an Active threat.
Hawlucha can push a non-optimal target back to the Bench and force up something you would rather Knock Out, and Rattata can discard annoying Tools like Fighting Fury Belt, Float Stone, and other Spirit Links.
The potential reuse of these Abilities through Dragonite is a huge reason why I like them so much, and I encourage players to try out any and all coming-into-play Abilities in the deck.
When I first began testing the deck with Evolutions cards, it seemed like a 1-1 Raticate was a no-brainer addition to the deck. Rattata had some incredible uses and Raticate provided a much-needed out to Regice. However, testing showed me that Raticate was simply too niche and rarely provided a valuable return on the space commitment.
Other potential inclusions are 4th Trainers’ Mail, 2nd Lysandre, 3rd Fairy Drop, and more recovery through Buddy-Buddy Rescue/Super Rod. Outside of Fairy Drop, the others are mainly consistency additions that I felt needed to be excluded in order to prioritize other additions to the deck.
I’ve seen a few lists online that opt not to include Fairy Drop which I believe is a huge mistake and borderline criminal not to utilize such a powerful card. 2 is the bare minimum I would play here, and believe the card is insanely strong in the current metagame.
The Dark Matchups
Vs. Yveltal/Garbodor … 75-25
Speed, resistance, 1HKO potential, massive bulk, healing through Fairy Drop, and minimal reliance on Abilities all add up to trouble for Yveltal. Unless something goes horribly wrong, this matchup should be pretty easy for Gardevoir. The biggest threat you have to watch out for is Yveltal BKT because it can shut off Gardevoir Spirit Link and trap a non-optimal target like Hoopa or Dragonite Active while spreading to your Bench. As long as you don’t draw horrendously and avoid giving your opponent opportunities to capitalize with Yveltal BKT, it should be a breeze.
Vs. Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor … 70-30
This matchup is very similar to Yveltal/Garbodor for Gardevoir for a lot of the same reasons. The Dark player’s out to winning here is a bit different, but can be just as easy to handle with some correct and well-thought-out playing.
Generally they will lead with Darkrai-EX BKP because of how difficult it is for Gardevoir to Knock Out. Both attackers resist the other; however, it is a bit easier for Gardevoir to make up for the damage early on to guarantee the 2HKO than it is for Darkrai to do so.
Unlike most Mega matchups for this deck, Giratina is actually pretty useless. The Fairy Weakness allows Gardevoir to easily use Hex Maniac to achieve a 1HKO on Giratina and remove 4 Energy from the Darkrai player’s field. Because of this, it is actually a better play for the player to use Giratina as a safe haven for Double Dragon Energy to increase Darkrai’s damage output and only attack with Giratina when the attack + Hex Maniac combination has a much lower chance of being pulled off.
Pokémon – 25
Trainers – 25
Energy – 10
This list is only 2 cards off of the list Alex Hill posted in his most recent SixPrizes article. My discussion on this deck will be less about the list and more about the deck and its place in the metagame. I currently believe this deck is very underrated in the Standard format, and absolutely has the potential to blow through any opponent and/or tournament not prepared to face it. Few decks in Standard are prepared to face off against the combined walling capabilities of Glaceon-EX, Jolteon-EX, and Regice. Combine this with Vileplume being the only form of Item lock and you have a deck that can really punish players not expecting to see it.
The loss of Trevenant and Seismitoad-EX in Standard has A) caused many players to prepare less for this effect and B) increased the amount of Items played. Item lock is one of the most powerful effects in the game, and can singlehandedly win games on its own. The setup nature of Vileplume and its attackers causes some inherent inconsistencies to the deck, but if these inconsistencies can be worked through you can set up an impenetrable board state capable of beating anything.
I believe both of these cards have an incredible amount of potential in Vileplume and can help cover some major weaknesses the deck had pre-Evolutions. Beedrill gives the deck a reliable out to Garbodor should they get a Tool down before you’re able to establish Item lock. With Vileplume in play, a single use of Double Scrapper can instantly swing a match heavily back into your favor and significantly decrease the outs for Garbodor decks to handle your attackers.
Mewtwo-EX provides a unique recovery option for the deck via Energy Absorption, gives Vileplume a way to get multiple Energy into play much quicker than before, and can give the deck some incredible options with Ninja Boy.
I dropped these two cards from Alex’s list because I felt they were the most cuttable for Beedrill and Mewtwo. The Glaceon can find its way back in if the metagame is expected to have more Evolved attackers, but the Level Ball loss is something I felt was necessary in order to squeeze all of the attacking options I wanted into the deck.
The Dark Matchups
Vs. Yveltal/Garbodor … 60-40
Despite losing in the finals to this very deck in Orlando, I believe the matchup was favorable for Vileplume and this continues to remain true. A single attack from Jolteon-EX can shut the entire deck down if the stream of Flash Rays or the effect of the attack cannot be interrupted. Garbodor used to be a huge threat, and while it continues to be an issue, the addition of Beedrill gives Vileplume a much-needed answer to the trash pile. Yveltal BKT can prove troublesome as well because of its ability to hit Benched Pokémon-EX and steal some Prizes off of your vulnerable Shaymin-EX.
If you’re able to achieve the board state of an attacking Jolteon with Irritating Pollen active, it becomes very hard to lose.
Vs. Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor … 70-30
This matchup is a bit easier than Yveltal/Garbodor because you also have the option of using Regice to shut their entire field down as well. Without the sniping option of Yveltal BKT they often struggle with grabbing the last couple of Prizes once you begin attacking. The biggest threat in this matchup is actually Giratina-EX. If your opponent can get one attacking quickly, they prevent you from attaching 8/10 of your Energy which is obviously quite troublesome. The promo Jirachi can prove invaluable in these rare situations, and like most matchups, if you’re able to get Irritating Pollen + your preferred attacker going simultaneously, you should be in a very favorable position to win.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 38
Energy – 8
Eric Gansman and I came up with this concept a while back because we were both in love with Raticate and really wanted it to work in something. Since then, we have been testing and grinding the deck trying all kinds of different things to get to what we believe is the optimal list.
I wanted to save this deck for last because I believe it is the most powerful option of my “counter-Dark” decks and is definitely the one I have invested the most time and energy into testing and perfecting. M Scizor’s attack “Iron Crusher” does 120 damage and then can discard a Special Energy from the opponent’s Active OR whatever Stadium is in play. While this may not be as flashy or powerful as an attack like Emerald Break or Despair Ray, it can be incredibly effective when paired with the correct cards. The combination of Iron Crusher, Team Flare Grunt, and Enhanced Hammer ensures that just about any Special Energy that comes into play will almost immediately find its way into the discard pile.
This is especially useful for your Raticate because one of its attacks, Shadowy Bite, does 60× the amount of Special Energy in your opponent’s discard. Fortunately, in addition to targeting Special Energy, you can also nail your opponent’s basic Energy with Team Flare Grunt or Raticate’s other attack, Crunch, which is essentially also a Team Flare Grunt. The combination of Team Flare Grunt and Iron Crusher or Crunch can be especially devastating when timed correctly because of how much Energy it can remove from play so quickly.
M Scizor/Raticate can have some especially grindy games because it will basically always be limited to 2HKOs at best until you get some Special Energy into your opponent’s discard to let Raticate swing for the fences. This deck is especially weak against Volcanion and Greninja — those are obviously horrendous matchups for this deck — but I believe that as long as you can avoid playing against either of those decks too many times then this can be primed for a deep run at Fort Wayne as I believe every other matchup is even to favorable.
The Magearna promo is a card I have been liking more and more as I’ve been testing it and I am especially happy to learn that it will in fact be legal this weekend for Fort Wayne Regionals after some controversy surrounding its official release date. It’s really only good in two matchups — Rainbow Road and Vileplume — but in both of those matchups it can be game-changing.
Rainbow Road can occasionally get off to an incredibly quick start and begin to overwhelm M Scizor with consecutive 1HKOs. Having the ability to respond to a Xerneas BKT with a 1-attachment attacking non-EX is huge because it will immediately take the pressure off of your EXs, and as long as you can avoid benching another non-EX your opponent will still have to KO 3 Pokémon-EX.
Vileplume’s best attacking option against you is Regice, and sometimes Raticate cannot quite cut it as your non-EX option. Raticate is hard to set up under lock, its output is inconsistent and unreliable, and at only 60 HP the lil guy is especially squishy. Magearna, on the other hand, can easily 1HKO Regice and they usually cannot even respond-KO the Magearna very easily. Vileplume will pretty much always have at least 3 different types on their Bench just because of the nature of the toolbox-style deck.
Magearna can also provide some niche uses against any deck that plays multiple types of Pokémon, and ultimately having a Basic non-EX that attacks for one attachment is incredibly useful.
Five Stadiums may seem excessive in any deck, especially one that can control the Stadium war through its attack, but the high counts are essential to the strategy of controlling the Stadium war throughout the entire game. Silent Lab is meant to be used early on in order to slow your opponent down by stopping Abilities from Pokémon like Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX, and Parallel City is a powerful Stadium with multiple uses in the mid–late game. Against Sky Field decks you can discard multiple Sky Fields early on via Iron Crusher or just by replacing them, forcing your opponent to find new ones every turn to keep up their damage output. This allows you to drop a Parallel City once they’ve drained some resources, giving it a much higher chance of sticking and being very devastating to your opponent.
The 2nd Parallel City has proved especially effective in the matchup against Mega Rayquaza, which used to be difficult due to their ability to sit on resources until they’re able to use everything at once to pull a 1HKO out of nowhere. It is also just a good Stadium to have consistent access to because of its ability to remove vulnerable Benched targets like your Shaymin-EX and Hoopa-EX.
The final tech option I’ve chosen to discuss is the inclusion of the 1 Shield Energy. The card has proven to be especially effective in a variety of situations. It can change a lot of the math in a ton of matchups, and it has often forced my opponent into using another attack to take down a M Scizor-EX. It can force Darkrai/Yveltal-EX to need another Energy for a KO, it can cancel out a Fighting Fury Belt on a Giratina-EX making it take a 3HKO vs a 2HKO on a Mega, and it can prevent Gyarados from using Meowstic to move a damage counter and then swing for 210 KO on a Mega just to name a few instances. The -10 can also add up through multiple attacks becoming -20, -30, etc.
The 1-of Shield has never been in the way and I believe it is a very good balance in the Energy count. I think lowering the basic Metal count below 7 would begin to interfere with Mega Turbo and your non-Metal Pokémon a bit too much for my liking, so if you were looking to add more Shield Energy then the cuts should come from elsewhere.
Crushing Hammer is a card that I really wanted in the deck when we first began to test it. The synergy seemed so obvious to me: Iron Crusher discards Special Energy and Team Flare Grunt/Crushing Hammer can discard basic Energy. However, in testing I found that Crushing Hammer was rarely game-changing. I didn’t like relying on such a flippy card or committing so much space to it. The only decks I found myself really liking Crushing Hammer against were Mega Rayquaza and decks including Giratina-EX. However, Enhanced Hammer often proved to be equally as effective against these decks and didn’t have the flippiness involved.
There are definitely some Supporter additions and count changes that could be made to the deck depending on how you want to deal with certain threats. A Pokémon Ranger would be useful vs Giratina-EX because it allows you to play down Silent Lab, shut off Renegade Pulse, and let M Scizor hit Giratina.
Pokémon Center Lady is a card I tested and really enjoyed a lot. I found being able to heal the Active could often really throw your opponent’s math off, and could easily allow a M Scizor to live a good while longer than it should. However, the inclusion of Olympia in the deck makes Pokémon Center Lady a bit redundant. While PCL may be a more powerful healing effect, Olympia has proven to be a much more versatile card overall earning it the spot.
I’ve also tested higher counts of N, Team Flare Grunt, and Hex Maniac. Having more reliable access to all of these Supporters when you need them was incredibly useful, but I eventually ended up valuing other additions to the deck over these cards. If I were to pick one to run a second of, it would most likely be the Team Flare Grunt. I just love the disruptive capabilities Team Flare Grunt can bring to the deck when combined with your attackers. Leaving an opponent’s Pokémon stranded and Energy-less can give you a lot of control over the pace of the game.
Pre-Evolutions, Mega Scizor’s most common partner was Garbodor. However, I firmly believe that Raticate is a much more powerful partner for the metal bug. The synergy between the two is simply undeniable, and I think that Raticate is equally or more effective in every single relevant matchup.
The high Silent Lab count is also pretty effective against the majority of decks, especially when you’re able to nail it T1 and lock it in for most of the game. The two most relevant Abilities that you can’t shut off with Silent Lab are Irritating Pollen and Giant Water Shuriken, but fortunately we also have a copy of Hex Maniac to cover those Abilities and the times when Silent Lab is not in play.
The Dark Matchups
Vs. Yveltal/Garbodor … 70-30
This matchup is actually pretty easy for M Scizor because of the disruptive capabilities of the deck. Yveltal BKT is usually a huge threat to Mega Pokémon because of its sniping capabilities and the fact that they shut off Spirit Links, but its reliance on Double Colorless Energy gives it a very exploitable weakness. You can also easily shut off Fright Night on your turn with Silent Lab or Hex Maniac, and not having to miss a turn to evolve is huge.
M Scizor can also exchange relatively well with Yveltal-EX because they won’t be able to stack Double Colorless Energy, and this is a matchup where Team Flare Grunt can put in a lot of work. In my testing, Raticate almost always ends up swinging pretty hard because Yveltal cannot avoid using or at the very least discarding its Double Colorless Energy. As long as you don’t draw horrendously Scizor should be able to pull off the win more often than not.
Vs. Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor … 50-50
This matchup is actually pretty intense for Scizor, and almost always results in some very solid games. Giratina is the biggest threat to you in this matchup, and if you can handle Giratina you will win. Your biggest priorities here are trying to keep Silent Lab in play and to target down their Double Dragon Energy whenever possible. Utilizing Raticate’s Crunch combined with Team Flare Grunt is a very solid play to look out for if Giratina starts attacking without Silent Lab in play.
Hex Maniac is in the deck almost exclusively for Giratina-EX. Silent Lab is actually easier to stick than you might think because of how much control you have over the Stadium war. They generally only run a pair of Parallel City as their own Stadiums giving you almost complete control over the Stadium in play. Things can get especially tricky if they run Delinquent, but as long as you can target down the Double Dragon Energy effectively then you can neutralize Giratina’s effectiveness relatively well.
This is actually one of my favorite matchups with M Scizor and I find it rather enjoyable, interactive, and really close.
Final Thoughts on Derailing Dark
If I had to decide on a deck for Fort Wayne it would probably be M Scizor/Raticate. I’m incredibly comfortable with it and find the deck very enjoyable to play. While it’s arguably as effective as the other two decks against Yveltal/Garb, it definitely has the worst Darkrai/Giratina/Garbodor of the three. Despite this, I think it will have very solid matchups against the rest of the field, and from my testing it has actually been positive against the other two counter-Dark decks I’ve discussed.
M Gardevoir is a close second, but unfortunately I’m afraid the deck will be one of the more popular decks at Fort Wayne and I’m not a huge fan of dealing with mirror matches. As long as I don’t run into too much Volcanion or Greninja then I could see myself doing pretty well with this spicy Scizor brew.
This is going to be a section where I’ll discuss a couple of rogue decks I’ve tested a bit that I believe are incredibly viable options for Fort Wayne. I would not be surprised at all to see either of these decks pop up and do well, so I’m hoping by discussing them you won’t be caught too off guard if your opponent decides to utilize these under-the-radar strategies.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 35
Energy – 8
This deck is focused on using M Beedrill’s Hazard Sting as often as possible. Hazard Sting paralyzes AND poisons your opponent for GG with the poison placing 4 damage counters between turns instead of 1 at the cost of having to discard all Energy attached to M Beedrill.
You might be thinking, “How am I supposed to use that attack every turn?!” Fortunately enough for us, the deck also utilizes Yanmega which can attack for free! This is especially important because it allows you to dedicate every single attachment to your Beedrills so you can use Hazard Sting as often as possible.
The general strategy is to use Hazard Sting and then switch off to Yanmega to finish off the stranded opponent. Both of your attackers have free retreat which is essential to your strategy due to how often you’ll be switching between them.
The regular Beedrill also has the ever-useful Double Scrapper attack, giving you constant access to removing annoying Tools from your opponent’s side of the field when needed.
A major issue for the deck right now is the spike in popularity of Olympia. While most decks usually do not run a ton of switching cards, Olympia is a single-slot investment that is a reusable pain for Beedrill. You can pretty reasonably deal with your opponent being able to switch out of the paralysis a few times per game, but the heal and switch of Olympia can be quite troublesome when combined with switching cards in a deck.
If your opponent only runs switch effects and no Olympia, or Olympia with only things like Float Stone (I’m looking at you, Garbodor decks), then Beedrill has a good chance at keeping the lock going, but when Olympia is combined with switching cards is when things can get a bit dicey.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 38
Energy – 9
This is an especially weird deck when you first look at it; however, the strategy is actually incredibly competitive. The deck is mainly focused around Pidgeot-EX’s first attack “Mirror Move” which costs C and only works if Pidgeot-EX took damage during your opponent’s last turn, and if it did, then the attack does the exact same amount of damage back at your opponent.
The idea is to attach a Fighting Fury Belt giving Pidgeot 220 HP and making it insanely difficult to Knock Out in one hit. So every turn you try to use Max Potion to completely heal your Pidgeot and then return the damage you just took right back.
This deck is actually incredibly powerful versus anything that cannot reliably or consistently 1HKO it. Once your opponent catches on to your strategy they may try to play around Mirror Move by passing until they have a more opportune time to strike. This is where utilizing Lugia-EX, Pidgeot’s second attack, or even Magearna-EX comes into play in order to put pressure on your opponent when they think they can pass without consequence.
Ninja Boy is especially effective here as well because it allows you to switch between attackers pretty seamlessly. A common play is to start attacking with Lugia-EX when your opponent backs off Pidgeot a bit. Once Lugia starts swinging your opponent will most likely swing back because they no longer fear Mirror Move. This is when you can drop the Ninja Boy/Mirror Move play to really catch your opponent off guard, and if you can combine that with a Max Potion it can really set your opponent back.
So if Pidgeot is really powerful against things that cannot 1HKO, what does it do against things that can reliably 1HKO it? Mega Rayquaza is a pretty bad matchup for the deck, but triple Parallel City combined with Garbodor can really make it difficult for Ray to constantly reach the 240 mark to 1HKO a Pidgeot with a Fighting Fury Belt.
The second-hardest matchup is probably Darkrai/Giratina because of the way their damage output works. It’s relatively easy for them to pass until they have enough Energy in play to start 1HKOing consistently and it’s pretty difficult for you to disrupt them.
Yveltal-EX and M Mewtwo-EX are actually easier to deal with than one might think because of Lugia-EX and Mewtwo. Because they have to stack their Energy on one attacker, Lugia and Mewtwo can respond pretty well to these threats once they get rolling, and it proves fairly tough for them to charge up multiple of these attackers per game.
Volcanion and Greninja are disrupted heavily by Garbodor, so as long as you can keep Garbodor online throughout the game you should be able to beat those as well.
Vileplume is basically an auto-loss as you have no effective way to deal with Jolteon.
I hope this article has provided a lot of incredibly valuable information to your preparation for Fort Wayne this weekend. Initially a lot of people believed that the Evolutions set block wouldn’t change the Standard metagame very much, but I think Fort Wayne will be a lot more interesting than many people are expecting!
I’m really excited for the tournament this weekend and if you see me feel free to come up and say hi! Thanks for reading my first article here on SixPrizes and I look forward to producing more content. Good luck everyone!
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