Hey everyone! I’m back with another article, but this time it’s going to be quite different than the last one. Today I hope to showcase one of my strengths: adjusting to a new set before it is tournament legal. While this skill is not the easiest, it becomes much easier when you go back and analyze previous sets. First, I’m going to explain to you the best way to do this.
The Pokémon Precedent (or: How to Quickly Identify New Cards with Potential)
I believe that in the Pokémon TCG, history repeats itself over and over again. While theoretically possible, it is very rare for a deck to win a major event and never be heard from again. This is because not all cards are created equal — certain cards were intended to be very good on purpose. A perfect (and perhaps my favorite) example of this is Yveltal-EX. Not only can it do dangerous amounts of damage with Evil Ball, but it can keep Energy on the board with Y Cyclone for future Evil Ball attacks. Add in a solid 170 HP on a Basic with a Fighting Resistance, and you have a good card. This is before even discussing cards like Max Elixir, Fighting Fury Belt, and Dark Patch (in Expanded). While not as broken as Yveltal-EX, Mewtwo-EX’s X Ball used to punish opponents for overcommitting Energy to Pokémon in the same fashion. Like Yveltal, Mewtwo was recognized as broken immediately, dominating 2012 State Championships everywhere.
Not all great cards are painfully obvious, however. Yveltal BKT, affectionately referred to by its Ability Fright Night, was not perceived as a phenomenal card on release by many, myself included. I ended up playing a single copy of this Yveltal at a City Championship in 2015 as a counter to Mega Evolution decks. Yveltal completely overperformed for me the entire day, netting me a Top 8 finish in which I lost to Michael Pramawat in the mirror match. In the games we played, it became clear to me how Yveltal could dominate the mirror. Fright Night alone was enough to rule the early game, as undesirable starters such as Shaymin-EX could no longer be moved to the Bench via Float Stone. Pitch-Black Spear made it so that Yveltal-EX drops onto the Bench were no longer safe, and created a possible 240 damage over 2 turns for 3 Energy. Before Fright Night, Darkrai-EX was the only Pokémon capable of doing the same amount of damage. The difference here is that Darkrai’s Night Spear did 120 damage a turn unconditionally — the 30 Bench damage would hit both EX and non-Pokémon-EX the same.
This is where the concept of precedent in Pokémon starts to sink in. Many powerful effects that exist now have existed in the past before. Greninja’s Shadow Stitching seems like a new concept, but it is essentially a modern variation of the legendary Gardevoir’s Psychic Lock. Eight years after Gardevoir won the World Championship, Greninja took second place — in a format not nearly as forgiving! As long as Abilities are good, turning them off will also be good.
Once you make a connection like this, store it in the back of your mind. The key is to use connections you have made in the past to help you create new decks. You can always put in the hours of testing after developing a new deck to perfect it — the hardest part is figuring out what is truly good.
Anomaly and Meta
Precedent will not always exist. Mega Gardevoir-EX’s Despair Ray not only hits large numbers frequently, but cleans up the “mess” that was required to get there. When there isn’t a precedent for a card, you must create a list and test repeatedly. Try to figure out what makes the card good, and then go from there. With Mega Gardevoir, having a large Bench is needed to hit large numbers of damage. Because of this, it’s no surprise that Sky Field and multiple Hoopa-EX are commonplace in Gardevoir lists.
Even if you are having trouble finding a card that saw success with a similar effect, remember that you have to build your deck to beat the metagame. After determining what cards in a new set threaten the best decks of last format, you can arrive at the best decks of the new format. It’s also important to note that just like Yveltal-EX, some cards will be good on their own, regardless of their interaction with older cards. You might not know what the final list for your new deck will look like, but at the minimum you will know what you have to beat. The most important thing is to play games. Figuring out the best deck to play is hard, but playing a few games per day (even online!) isn’t.
Early Picks for Anaheim
We are just over two weeks away from the first Regional with Sun & Moon legal! I’m really excited for this one, and today I’d like to share a few of my early choices for the event. As I mentioned previously, some cards are obviously good. The decks I have been testing so far really try to capitalize on the weaknesses of the metagame. It’s important to consider what each deck is weak to, and change decks if the rumored field is unfavorable for you. With that being said, here are some post Sun & Moon decks I’m considering for Anaheim! First up, one of my personal favorites — Volcanion!
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 37
Energy – 12
I broke down Volcanion in great detail in my last article, which you can read here. I am a huge fan of Volcanion right now, as Lurantis-GX and Decidueye-GX are both gaining some hype at the moment. While Decidueye will likely not be a deck on its own in the Standard format, Volcanion will still make Vespiquen/Decidueye decks respect the Fire Weakness and force them to change their strategy. Some Lurantis-GX decks contain Garbodor, but once you are set up the Garbodor should not pose a threat, as you can Knock Out all of their Lurantis in one hit. Also, Greninja decks will likely fall from favor due to the aforementioned Grass decks, which is another major advantage Volcanion now has.
The biggest problem right now with Volcanion is that it cannot keep up with Mega decks such as Rayquaza and Gardevoir.
In this list I have brought back Entei, a great non-EX tech originally made known by Ahmed Ali, who made Top 8 at Fort Wayne Regionals with it in his deck. Our goal with Entei is to hit for 180 when Rayquaza has a full Bench. We then have a few ways to pick up the remaining 40 damage, including the only card included here from Sun & Moon — Professor Kukui!
Professor Kukui is a much better version of the card it replaced in my list, Giovanni’s Scheme. Kukui can not only grab you 2 cards when you need them, but will always do 20 extra damage also! There is no longer a decision to be made like there is with Giovanni. I think Kukui is a natural fit in Volcanion, as it keeps our deck moving through cards while also adding a key 20 damage when needed.
We sacrifice a little bit of consistency in the Stadium department by replacing Scorched Earth with Faded Town. I believe Faded Town is necessary at the moment, as Mega Gardevoir and Mega Rayquaza should remain popular since they are not currently threatened by anything new coming out.
The goal is to get a Faded Town down without being replaced by a counter Stadium. To do this, the first copy of Faded Town will usually have to come down after the first copy of Sky Field. Our opponent will then play a Sky Field down to replace Faded Town, and that’s where N comes in. After playing down Faded Town #2, we must rely on N to set our opponent to a low amount of cards. If we are successful, Faded Town will not only stick around for the end of our opponent’s turn, but for the end of our turn as well. This means that Faded Town on its own will produce 60 damage on all Mega Evolutions. There’s not much like one card doing 60 damage by itself — this allows us to pick up much easier knockouts via Entei or Baby Volcanion’s Steam Artillery.
While not a complete consistency cut, the last major difference between my old list and the new one is the decision to run only 2 Trainers’ Mail. This allows for a 2nd N, which we need for our Mega matchups. Outside of our tech Supporters, we do not have any single copies of Item cards. We will draw cards such as Energy Retrieval and Switch naturally, and having 2 Trainers’ Mail will help us find what we need in a pinch. I think that many times a 3rd or 4th Mail can be unnecessary, as you usually have what you need later on.
The most important thing to remember when building decks is to always use what you need, and no more. Manage your resources effectively, and put yourself in good spots that give you more outs to win (i.e., if you don’t need to use VS Seeker, don’t use it).
While a personal favorite of mine, Volcanion could be a risky play due to heavy amounts of Garbodor in the new metagame. I recommend testing this list and making changes based on what you anticipate. The best way to beat Garbodor is to add consistency cards, and possibly a 2nd copy of Lysandre. Space is at a premium though, so it might come at the cost of Entei. The cleanest way to add more consistency is to revert the change of Faded Town back to Scorched Earth, but I believe this can be detrimental in the Mega matchups. Figure out what you like, and stick with it.
Lurantis-GX is arguably the most powerful Pokémon-GX that was released in Sun & Moon. The reason Lurantis is receiving significant amounts of hype is because it is able to accelerate G Energy from your discard pile as early as Turn 1, thanks to Forest of Giant Plants. I like Lurantis for three reasons:
- Grass Typing
This allows us to use Forest of Giant Plants for a T1 Lurantis-GX when we are going second. This is crucial because Energy acceleration is often the name of the game in the current Standard format. This list aims to get ahead on Energy early so that we can attack with our massive Lurantis.
- Solar Blade
At first glance, Solar Blade might seem underwhelming. For GGC, 120 damage is not the most impressive. The best part about Solar Blade is that we are able to heal 30 from our Lurantis after dealing damage. This can create quite the tank when combined with Garbodor and Olympia, as our goal is to shut off annoying Abilities and stay alive.
Lurantis is gifted with an incredible GX attack, Chloroscythe. After some early Energy acceleration, we can deal some serious damage with only a few G Energy attached. Professor Kukui helps us hit key numbers such as 170 and 220, meaning that no more than 4 G Energy will likely be required. When combined with a late-game Garbotoxin/Parallel City, Lurantis is able to create turns that are nearly impossible for the opponent to answer.
This is my current list for Lurantis:
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 36
Energy – 10
As you can see, the list does not include anything too crazy. I’m going to tell you why I picked the techs that I did, as well as offer you some alternative techs. As it stands, I think this list is a very strong contender for Anaheim Regionals. Let’s get to it!
One of my favorite tech attackers in the format. Aero Ball allows us to put on some serious pressure for only 2 C Energy. Some of you may remember the Virizion/Mewtwo deck that was very popular during Fall Regionals in 2013. While Lurantis requires a bit more commitment than Virizion, we still play 1 Lugia as a nice option alongside Energy acceleration. We also have a hefty Stadium count in this list, should your Lugia ever get 4 Energy on it. In a metagame filled with Dark decks, I would consider a 2nd copy.
This is a combo that was brought to my attention by Russell LaParre. The idea here is to combat any Volcanion-EX decks that we may run into. Once found through draw, one of our two Weakness Policy will go down on an attacking Lurantis-GX. With Garbotoxin active, Volcanic Heat will cap out at 140 damage if Volcanion has a Fighting Fury Belt attached. In the event of Fury Belt, we will want to use Olympia to run away to a Lugia-EX, or perhaps another Lurantis-GX that will be used to accelerate Energy. It is not imperative that we get our second Weakness Policy down on this new Lurantis-GX, although it will usually seal the game.
Volcanion has trouble keeping attackers powered up after one or two go down, so we just need to create enough time to get rid of a Volcanion-EX. In the late game, we will utilize Parallel City and N along with Garbotoxin to restrict the Volcanion’s options.
Starting to see a theme? Not only is Professor Kukui in many lists here on Underground, but it belongs in almost every one. The reason Kukui becomes an auto-include is due to the combination of both Giovanni’s Scheme effects, like I mentioned before.
One of my favorite cards from the new set, Nest Ball allows us to safely get Trubbish/Fomantis down Turn 1. I truly believe that Nest Ball is what allows for such a consistent Garbodor deck with a Stage 1 attacker. Nest Ball can also pick up Lugia-EX, or Shaymin-EX (should you ever want to forego Set Up, as Nest Ball places directly on the Bench). I really hope you try Nest Ball, and I hope it impresses you like it has for me.
At first glance, 5 Stadiums is quite a heavy count. The heavy Stadium count is inspired by a similar heavy Stadium count seen in Waterbox during the World Championships. My friend Michael Diaz qualified for Day 2 at Worlds playing a whopping 4 Rough Seas and 2 Parallel City, along with a Delinquent. Playing a heavy Stadium count ensures that you have the Stadium that is essential to your strategy, along with 2 Parallel City (because the card is beyond broken!). Parallel City allows us to limit Mega Rayquaza down to 3 Bench, which when combined with Garbodor can be enough to win the game on its own. Parallel City will reduce our damage by 20 on the Red Side, so we must be careful when placing it down. I think that with 3 additional Stadiums that are not Parallel/a tech Delinquent, the Bench reduction can be discontinued if necessary. Reducing Mega Rayquaza from 8 Bench to 3 is just too important at the moment.
Forest of Giant Plants is at 3 right now, as it is not nearly as good going first. You can also find Forest relatively easy through Shaymin and Trainers’ Mail. Another important thing to consider when determining a Stadium count on a great card like Forest is to look at the other metagame decks. Vespiquen/Decidueye (as featured in Michael Slutsky’s article) usually packs 4 Forest, so in that particular matchup we can use their Forest to evolve our Pokémon when convenient. It is important to note that if the option presents itself, try to be the one playing down the Stadium that you and your opponent both share in common first. This makes it so that your opponent has several dead cards in their deck.
I could see a version of Lurantis that utilizes a Turn 1 Lillie to draw up to 8 cards being effective. The reason I choose not to include Lillie in Lurantis is because of how much worse the effect becomes after Turn 1. I believe that there are enough consistency cards to go around at the moment, and we will get our fair share of Turn 1 Energy acceleration without Lillie. If this is a concern of yours, playing 2 copies of Lillie could prove helpful.
This would be for additional heal. I like Olympia currently because of the movement option, but in a format heavy with Yveltal-EX decks it is possible that healing 60 will prove to be significantly better. I haven’t played over 100 games with Lurantis yet, so it is still somewhat difficult to tell which one is better. Pick the one you are comfortable with, and try testing it.
AKA: Vespiquen techs. I couldn’t find the room in the current list, but these are important to keep in mind if Vespiquen becomes very popular. Super Rod can come out for Karen, or you could cut the 2nd copy of Garbodor for Jirachi. Of course, you might find other potential cuts through your testing, but these are what I would recommend initially.
I think Mega Rayquaza is the deck to beat entering the PRC–SM format. Not only is it incredibly quick, but 220 HP allows it to survive many attacks with ease. It also has a very easy time Knocking Out the new Pokémon-GX — something that many old Pokémon-EX cannot do.
The most important thing to consider when playing Mega Rayquaza is that many players will reduce your Bench to 3 with Parallel City. One of the most important things to remember when playing a Sky Field deck is that you do not need 8 Benched very often. Once you truly understand this, keeping a Bench of 6 or 7 will be commonplace, as many times you only need to do 180 or 210 respectively. When combined with a timely Professor Kukui, Emerald Break will hit 230 damage with only 7 Benched Pokémon. This makes it so that we still hit all of our numbers while only losing 4 Pokémon on an enemy Parallel City, as opposed to 5. Through strong draw support and Pokémon recovery, we can easily get back where we need to be.
Here’s my current list for Mega Rayquaza, based on Ahmed Ali’s Top 8 list from last month’s Regional Championship in Athens, Georgia:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 35
Energy – 9
The best part about Mega Rayquaza is that it is extremely consistent. You will usually run through most of your deck in the first few turns, providing a sufficient defense for N and Parallel City. The goal is to make it so that the last cards in your deck are all incredibly live. Cards like Shaymin-EX and Dragonite-EX not only provide 30 extra damage when on the Bench, but also allow you to add more damage. Shaymin will usually help you draw into cards needed to fuel an attack (Mega Turbo), while Dragonite will directly add 60 more damage via the Pull Up Ability.
Mega Rayquaza is an aggressive deck of the best variety. It has a unbelievable 220 HP, and it hits hard as well as fast. Many of my tech inclusions focus on maintaining a rapid pace throughout the game. Here’s what I have in the list right now, and here are a few other options you can mess around with:
In my opinion, Magearna-EX along with M Energy is the best way to play Mega Rayquaza. Magearna prevents all effects done to your Pokémon with M Energy attached, including the newly released Umbreon-GX’s Dark Call. Soul Blaster can occasionally provide damage in a pinch, and hits Fairy-types for Weakness (such as any M Gardevoir decks still running around). I no longer use the Magearna with Prismatic Wave, as I don’t feel like it does enough in the current format.
One of our best defenses against Vespiquen decks that start off too hot. Stardust provides us valuable time when needed, as well as takes up a Bench spot. It also only gives up 1 Prize, which means we can make our opponent take 7 Prize cards worth of material after it gets Knocked Out, as we will not be playing down another non-Pokémon-EX.
Beedrill is a spicy tech that I really enjoy in Mega Rayquaza right now. It is a very great card for defending against Garbodor, can pick up knockouts on Pokémon that have Fury Belt attached later on, and most importantly can sit on the Bench without too many consequences. It won’t be incredibly often where Double Scrapper is completely deadly, but when it works it will win you the game.
The late-game Parallel City/Garbodor/N combo is deadly, and we must take proper precautions so that we can get out of it when it happens. It is ideal to use Lysandre on the opponent’s Garbodor before Double Scrapper. This will likely give us a free turn with Garbodor trapped in the Active, as well as our Abilities back.
I prefer Beedrill to Rattata from Evolutions simply because it does not require an Ability to use.
The ultimate Vespiquen tech. Karen will help us regain some lost steam late game, as well as make sure that Vespiquen decks will never get close to 220 damage. 5 M Energy with 4 Mega Turbo will be enough for our needs, so we are able to drop the Super Rod for Karen. If Vespiquen/Zebstrika remains popular, I would play Super Rod instead of Karen, as Karen does not help your case against Zebstrika.
In a format with very low amounts of Ability lock, Rattata provides us with cheap Tool removal. I think that Silent Lab and Garbodor will run rampant however, which is why I have chosen not to include it.
My favorite GX from the entire set, Tauros-GX can create serious problems for your opponent. Even if used early to simply do 60 damage for a Double Colorless, Tauros must be 1-shot or else its Mad Bull GX attack can become very lethal very quickly. I haven’t found many situations where I like Tauros in Rayquaza right now, but it is something to consider.
It’s possible to switch out Jirachi for another Pokémon of your choice and add in a single copy of Enhanced Hammer. This allows Rayquaza to keep attacking, while setting the opponent back at the same time. I prefer Jirachi at the moment because it provides 30 extra damage on Emerald Break, and is irrelevant when Knocked Out.
The draw engine along with our Items gives us enough flexibility to adapt to any situation. One of the most appealing reasons to play Rayquaza is that there really are no new cards that threaten our game plan to the same extent as old cards like Parallel City and Garbodor. I highly recommend Mega Rayquaza for Anaheim Regionals, as it provides extreme consistency along with options for various decks that you might get paired against.
What Else to Watch For
Regardless of what deck you are planning on playing at Anaheim, you should have a strategy for several decks that are sure to be played. I believe all three of the decks I have listed will see some degree of play, but there are a few more decks I have not listed for they have been covered to death in recent articles. These decks include:
- Turbo Darkrai
- M Gardevoir-EX
- Umbreon-GX w/ Dark
- Tauros-GX (in anything)
The most notable of this list is definitely Vespiquen/Zebstrika, as the powerful combination took three out of the top eight spots in Athens. It’s possible the best Vespiquen players decide that Zebstrika is still the best way to play the deck, as Rayquaza and Yveltal both are weak to it. Add in a Tauros-GX, and Vespiquen/Zebstrika might still be deadly. I believe that Decidueye gives you more options however, as well as helping taking down higher-HP Pokémon.
The two decks that I think should still be monitored despite being currently outclassed by other decks are Greninja and M Gardevoir-EX. Greninja, while having a painful Grass Weakness, could deal with Vespiquen decks in the form of Jirachi/Enhanced Hammer. Lurantis is surely quite the mountain to climb, and as a result I don’t expect too much Greninja. M Gardevoir is inferior to Mega Rayquaza in my eyes, but provides a nice Fairy typing for Dark matchups. In a metagame filled with Dark decks containing Garbodor, M Gardevoir could find success.
Essentially ACE SPECs
The last piece of advice I will leave you with today is simple: try to put a Pokémon-GX in your deck! Even if it is as simple as a Tauros inclusion, GX attacks are some of the most powerful effects we have ever seen. It isn’t hard to fit in a GX attack once during a game, and the benefits are almost endless. Of course, you are not forced to play a Pokémon-GX! You might test out certain Pokémon-GX that you don’t like, and that’s okay! It is very important that you play many practice games, and adapt your list based on your findings.
Thanks everyone for making it to the end of this article! While Sun & Moon is a set containing many cards that have yet to reach their potential, you can get ahead of the curve by putting in the work. It’s that simple — play games, and you will get closer to a better decklist. Make sure to write down what happens in your games, and go over this data at a later date!
If you’re going to be at Anaheim Regionals, make sure to come say hi! I will be in attendance, and I am very excited for the beginning of the Sun & Moon block!
Until next time,
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