Another Regional Championship is in the books. As the first of the PRC–SM format, Anaheim set the tone for a host of events: Oceanic & Latin American Internationals and Salt Lake City & Roanoke Regionals will all use this Standard format. More Championship Points will be disbursed in this format than any other all year, and as such, it’s going to be one of immense importance.
Early returns? PRC–SM is not too much different from PRC–EVO. Outside of a bit of Professor Kukui, Lillie, Tauros-GX, and Espeon-GX usage, Sun & Moon failed to make an appreciable impact on the upper echelon of the metagame. Outside of Top 8, Solgaleo-GX and Lurantis-GX teamed up for a Top 16 finish, while Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR and a Lapras-GX concept each netted another, meaning the set wasn’t entirely shut out — but it did fail to make the widespread impact that some predicted. From my view on the ground, Anaheim featured a lot of old decks (some, albeit, with new twists) and only a mild sprinkling of entirely new archetypes.
This weekend saw the continuation of two trends. First, Vespiquen continued its run as a surprisingly elite contender in the Standard format — it has, rather quietly, been one of the most successful decks of the season. And, naturally, Dark once again proved the benefits of being Pokémon Card Laboratory’s favorite type with another Regional win. It was California; nobody should be surprised.
I feel like I’ve written this “autopsy” analysis of the past weekend’s Regionals a lot this year, so today I’m going to change it up a little bit. We’ll see what comes of that, but I hope to cover a lot of ground as we enter this important stage of the season.
Of course, today we finally got some anticipated news — the dates for the North American and World Championships. Pokémon players everywhere are going to descend on Indianapolis, IN from June 30–July 2, and Anaheim, CA from August 18–20 respectively. I’m thrilled for the return to Indy, as it features the wealth of hotel and food options that just weren’t to be had in Columbus. It’s due to be a great summer of events.
- Anaheim Regionals
- A Random Aside on Randomly Randomizing
- Standard Outlook: Melbourne and Beyond
- Expanded Horizons: St. Louis, Portland
- BLW–SM Launchpad
First off, though, I want to highlight Anaheim Regionals as an event itself in light of my article on tournament structure in December.
The Good: Anaheim was easily one of the better events of the season. In a season that has been plagued with malperformance and simply mind-boggling occurrences, it was refreshing to see a new idea (the elimination of the check-in process) somewhat succeed. There are real, potentially serious issues with a move like this one, but this weekend didn’t see any of them exposed. Moreover, round time averaged 76 minutes, which, while not being as snappy as one might eventually hope we can achieve, was the second best rate we’ve seen this season.
The Bad: If the venue had been more sufficient for the purposes of a functional tournament, it might have challenged Orlando’s crown for the best of the season. As it is, we’ll see if the Krekeler/Curry group can outdo themselves in Collinsville in just under two weeks (yes — I, too, cringed upon writing the words “under two weeks”). I hope that organizers are taking notice, and while I fear this season will probably feature another couple of tight fits (Portland’s 600-person TCG cap, for example), I’m cautiously optimistic about the future.
With that said, I want to get into a recap of my weekend in Anaheim. I’ll spare you the extended cut of the “how did we end up on this deck?” narrative, but as usual, it featured a mix of intuition and analytics. It became apparent pretty quickly after I wrote my piece after Athens in January that Sun & Moon probably didn’t have the chops to be a serious metagame shifter. Too many of the cards are just missing a key ingredient or two at the present moment (with that said, however, I believe the set will end up being a major force once we get further into the block) to beat out the likes of Vespiquen, Darkrai-EX, and Volcanion.
I projected a metagame of roughly the following proportions:
17.5% M Mewtwo-EX
15% Speed Darkrai-EX BKP
12.5% M Rayquaza-EX
12.5% Yveltal-EX/Garbodor BKP
7.5% M Gardevoir-EX
7.5% Vespiquen AOR 10
5% Water Toolbox
<5% Rainbow Road
<5% Vileplume AOR
With the benefit of hindsight, I probably overestimated Yveltal/Garbodor and M Rayquaza slightly while underestimating the continued persistence of Speed Dark and, slightly so, the presence of Vespiquen. Even so, though, I believe the big three decks to beat were Volcanion, Mewtwo, and Speed Dark, so I believe we were largely aiming in the right direction.
As long-time readers know, my group oftentimes utilizes a spreadsheet to analyze the relative playability of decks using matchup win percentages and expected metagame composition. The result was what I dubbed a “playability factor,” but it had the pitfall of not being a consistent raw metric between formats (a format with 10 decks had lower raw scores than one with 20 simply because there were less decks to play “against” being added to the playability score). In the future, I want to be able to quantify just how “good” of a play a deck is within its format vs. how good another deck was as a play in its format — in essence, measuring the parity in a format.
In an effort to start collecting that data, this weekend I started statistically standardizing my “playability factors” into something that will be comparable to future spreadsheet exercises to evaluate just “how good” a deck is in its format. The following graph was the result of this weekend’s edition:
A couple of caveats and notes:
- It’s a known problem that decks with more vanilla matchup spreads like Volcanion and Speed Dark tend to suffer in my analyses. This is because I generally don’t give (extreme) weight to the more fringe concepts that can pop up at Regionals. Part of these decks’ allure is that they capably deal with such concepts. This is where intuition is needed to evaluate what the numbers are saying and make an effective decision on their basis. I probably would’ve ranked Volcanion just below M Mewtwo and Speed Dark just above it in my hierarchy of choices. With that said, I don’t think there was a scenario at any point Friday where I felt I would consider this pair.
- It should be noted that the Vespiquen that was accounted for in the spreadsheet’s analysis was the simple Vespiquen/Zoroark variant; the addition of Zebstrika wasn’t accounted for in the metagame (it was given a metagame percentage of 0). All the community talk was of Vespiquen/Zoroark, so I felt it was the one whose matchup spreads should be given weight.
- Vileplume … the problem with Vileplume is that going first in a series boosts your win percentage by at least 5% regardless of the matchup, while its own inherent inconsistency means you could easily 0-3 drop while not playing a Supporter. It’s simply a volatile play that serves as another example of a deck that the spreadsheet doesn’t quite capably evaluate. It’s much like Wailord of years past in that regard. With that said, Vileplume was considered briefly as a play, and I’m honestly not sure that it would’ve been too terrible with how the metagame turned out.
- Yveltal/Garbodor and Vespiquen/Zoroark are tied out to the 7th digit; as far as I calculate.
In case you aren’t previously aware, or hadn’t picked it up already, we went with Vespiquen/Zoroark/Zebstrika on Saturday. I was testing a simpler list without Zebstrika for most of the day, but it wasn’t capably beating Yveltal/Garbodor, which we felt could make a comeback (and, I would argue it could’ve done so if it’d been better represented on the weekend). That prompted Alex Hill to suggest its addition, and despite my initial balking at the lack of space, we made it fit. This list tested the best of our options, so we went with it:
Pokémon – 28
Trainers – 28
Energy – 4
One of my major gripes with Standard this season is that most decks have an uncomfortable tendency to draw simply garbage opening hands and immediately lose. Part of the strength of Yveltal-EX decks in PRC–EVO was their ability to have such hands and still pull out wins on Yveltal’s sheer strength as a card. While such dead hands were certainly still a possibility with this deck, they were decidedly less present than with others. Playing this deck was one of my more enjoyable recent Pokémon experiences, as, while it required careful resource management and was prone to other pitfalls, I only truly dead drew for a loss once on the weekend.
Type coverage is the name of the game, as this deck attempts to hit the key foes for Weakness hard and fast. Zoroark and Zebstrika could catch an unprepared opponent’s Shaymin-EXs for easy KOs, or hit a savvier one’s actual attackers for two-shots. One thing we took a lot of questioning on was the lack of Mew-EX. Simply, we felt the M Mewtwo matchup was good enough as it was, and didn’t want to pollute the deck with an EX that wouldn’t measurably improve matchup outcomes — after all, Garbodor makes Mew a very frail paperweight.
There really isn’t anything I’d change in the list in hindsight. Perhaps a Parallel City over one of the Forests would be useful, but I’m not really convinced it’d have enough of an impact to matter — or be worth the loss of Forest’s ability to bounce an opponent’s own Parallel City.
Playing 28 Pokémon in a deck is something that’s inherently a bit nerve wracking. At one point, I drew a hand of 7 Pokémon to start my game. Fortunately, 4 of them were named Unown or Klefki, and the Ultra Ball I dug out made the hand actually borderline great, but it was looking hairy for a moment or two.
Similarly, the deck is prone to unfortunate topdecks or Acro Bikes outright destroying games. The list is made to mitigate such occurrences, but … well, let’s look at my match results from Saturday:
Anaheim Regionals // Day 1 // 520 Masters
R1 Volcanion-EX (2-0)
R2 Speed Darkrai-EX BKP (0-2)
R3 M Gardevoir-EX STS (1-2)
R4 M Gardevoir-EX STS (2-0)
R5 Volcanion-EX (2-0)
R6 Lurantis-GX/Tauros-GX/Vileplume AOR (2-0)
R7 Rainbow Road (2-0)
R8 Vespiquen AOR 10/Zoroark BKT (1-2)
R9 Speed Darkrai-EX BKP (1-2)
Speed Darkrai was easily the worst matchup the deck had among the major meta contenders (well, M Mewtwo + Karen aside), so I wasn’t surprised to drop Round 2. The M Gardevoir matchup was not something I really expected to play against, and while I think it’s supremely close, this round featured my lone true dead draw of the day as Game 2 simply saw nothing happen. Game 3 came down to him finding his last available Spirit Link after a game full of Klefki removal, and unfortunately, I had to Sycamore my last available Vespiquen to get a knockout for Prizes 3+4. This perfectly demonstrates the sometimes frail nature of the deck, though, and isn’t something I’m too upset about — a close matchup where a few things didn’t go quite right is a reasonable loss to take.
Afterwards, I cruised until Round 8. Don’t ask me how I managed to win (let alone 2-0) Round 6; I’m not especially sure myself except for the fact that Vileplume has a tendency to make its own board state rather fragile.
In Round 8, Jeffrey Cheng’s mirror was going according to plan until the start of Game 3. I won Game 1 after winning the coin flip and not needing to bench a Shaymin (and quickly picking up that Vespiquen were way more valuable than Zoroark in the matchup, and that going second, running your opponent out of Vespiquen by keeping your Bench Zoroark-proof, is the best bet). Game 2 came down relatively close to the wire, after I missed a Forest for a turn 1 knockout and a DCE for the turn 2 as well.
When I set up for Game 3, I was greeted with a lone Eevee, both of my Special Charge, a Sycamore, and an Acro Bike as my only way out. In most matchups, this would be a difficulty to overcome, but not strictly debilitating. But, in a matchup where you generally need to take 6 Prizes with 6 Pokémon, it was the equivalent of a death sentence. I passed in hopes of his hand being either completely dead (and Basic-free) or poor enough to force an N, but unfortunately, he simply benched a Zorua and passed.
At that point, I felt I had no choice but to commit to the Sycamore. It turned out that he was simply holding a Shaymin for 1 in his hand the next turn, but he was able to complete his setup in short order. I held a Prize lead for most of the game, and the match came down to him hitting his last Double Colorless Energy off a dual N to 1 to prevent my imminent victory. Statistically, from our examination of his deck afterwards, I think he had around 60% odds of pulling it off, so I can’t be too upset — especially given the Top 4 run Jeffrey then achieved.
Round 9 was close, but I came up just short. It was a thoroughly disappointing conclusion — if I was going to go 5-4, I would’ve rather just ended the pain at 1-4 — on top of a season presently littered with them. I can point to exactly one turn in each of four separate events where a different outcome would’ve altered the course of my tournament, but that’s the nature of a game with variance. While it’s disappointing, we still have over half of the season’s point-earning opportunities left, and the key at this point is to simply get a handle on the next event on the docket.
A few months ago, each 6P article featured a bit of writing about the writer’s shuffling habits. This is a topic always debated with strangely-passionate feelings, and after my experiences this weekend I wanted to call attention to two things:
Pile shuffling is still not a form of sufficient randomization, and in fact, Magic the Gathering has gone as far as to forbid more than a single pile shuffle at the table for the purpose of counting cards. It’s not an outright ban, but it is an acknowledgement from a key peer of Pokémon’s that pile shuffling isn’t all it appears. I’ve gradually begun to eliminate it from my routine — it’s made a bit difficult by the fact that Pokémon players are conditioned to regard it as the gold standard and look with suspicion on its non-performance, but it’s simply a waste of time.
Speaking of wasting time, declumping seems to have made a bizarre and deplorable comeback. Consider: the rules of the Pokémon TCG dictate that in order for a deck to be sufficiently randomized, no cards may become visible to their owner at any point in the shuffling process — if a player gains knowledge about the location of any card in his or her deck, the deck is no longer randomized, and randomization must begin again to destroy any preconceived order to the deck. It is flatly illegal to present an insufficiently randomized deck to your opponent at the beginning of a game.
Declumping only achieves one of two things: cheating or wasting time. If it is done with an intention to better one’s opening hand and without sufficient randomization to destroy its effects (which defeats the stated purpose of bettering a hand), it is do with intent to thwart randomization and is subsequently and indisputably an act of cheating. If it is done, but then the deck is sufficiently randomized, then its entire purpose was defeated by the randomization process — so, as a declumping player, you just wasted precious time in the match doing something that had no effect. This time wasting is, arguably, against the rules in its own right, but it’s against the intent of playing the game in any event.
Of these two outcomes, one is the highest offense in any competitive game, and the other is against the progression of a smooth tournament structure. I would love to see TPCi take action against this activity itself, with a ban on looking at one’s cards during the setup process (or something similar), but in the meantime, this is something that should become culturally unacceptable in this game. By declumping, you are telling your opponent that you either intend to gain illegitimate advantage or have zero respect for the time constraints that matches are played under. Don’t do it.
With that aside, back to the cards themselves. As we look forward to Melbourne and beyond, I believe Vespiquen is well positioned to be a force in the format. It’s not easily countered, and even if it were, Vespiquen is the deck most well positioned to counter its own counters. Going forward, I’ll probably consider another tech for Speed Dark like Tauros-GX or Rattata EVO, but still wouldn’t have made the change for this event given what I predicted of the metagame. It speaks to the strength of the deck that all of my match wins were by a 2-0 margin (and only one defeat by an 0-2), and it’s something I look forward to exploring further in the future.
As I talked about at length in my last article, we’re at a point in the game where information is readily and plentifully available. With that in mind, I’d wager that metagame shifts will continue to be plentiful and significant. My early reads?
- Zygarde-EX/Carbink FCO (see: Wesley Hollenberg’s Fort Wayne list, but add more Power Memory and potentially a Tauros/Ninja Boy concept) is an intriguing concept headed into future Standard events due to its strengths against Speed Dark (and derivatives thereof) and other potential counters like M Rayquaza-EX.
- M Gardevoir-EX STS (see: Xander Pero’s last article) seems primed to potentially make a comeback. With the right list, I can see it faring well against present foes like M Mewtwo, Speed Dark, and even Vespiquen.
- I believe Yveltal’s moment was Saturday, and it was underrepresented. It was definitely my #2 pick by a large margin, and I was unsurprised to see the likes of Igor Costa and Azul Griego see success with the omnipresent bird. With that said, I don’t like it at all moving forward — maybe things will turn back around by the time we get to Roanoke. I would’ve played Michael Pramawat’s London list with one less Yveltal BKT and only 1 Enhanced Hammer, and added 1 Tauros-GX and a Ninja Boy, if you want a testing reference.
Of course, Standard is not the next relevant format for many players, myself included, so I’m now going to take an initial look at the Sun & Moon Expanded format.
You may remember that San Jose was the last time we’ve seen Expanded in a major event, and while Carbink/Zygarde was the big story of California, but Yveltal took home the crown in the end. In fact, Yveltal took the lion’s share of the day in San Jose, with Greninja being the next most prevalent deck.
This time around, I’d be surprised to see Greninja maintain that success. Promo Giratina figures to make its way into a lot of lists — in Expanded, Greninja, Trevenant, and Carbink are all relevant BREAKs worth trying to counter. Moreover, the new style of Maxie’s Yveltal, with Sableye DEX to set up the near-guaranteed Archeops, figures to make life even harder for Greninja. Overall, it’s a conglomeration of factors that figure to be bad news for the frogs. Plus, it’s Greninja — as I talked about last month, that’s enough of an issue itself.
Elsewhere in the Expanded world, all the hype is with Seismitoad-EX. To be honest, I’m actually not sure why Seismitoad/Crobat PHF is making a resurgence — it’s not even “new” — but many circles are citing it as a superior deck to Toad/Decidueye-GX and its hype is definitely significant. Either way, there’s a lot of conversation about Seismitoad, so it’s something to keep in mind for sure. Item Lock on the whole will likely continue to be a significant part of Expanded, considering Trevenant and Seismitoad both take up residence there.
Other decks like Blastoise, Sableye/Garbodor, etc. will continue to have a presence in the format. The more Expanded seems to change, the more it revolves around the same core of decks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “classic” make a run in St. Louis, but the key is to not get overwhelmed trying to beat everything. I think the ideal Expanded play will have a good spread of matchups, but also be an inherently strong deck with innate qualities that make it a solid bet against many of the more fringe decks in the Expanded format. What is that deck? That’s the million-dollar (or, as it may be, five-thousand dollar) question. Today, I’d like to hit a few concepts that I’ll be testing in my preliminary explorations of Sun & Moon.
At this point, we’re all pretty familiar with even the nuances of the Expanded metagame. Any day now, I’ll get started on my spreadsheet for the format, and the first thing I’ll do is refer back to Philadelphia’s for the list of decks to include. It’s an ever-growing list, but at the same time, it seems things don’t change all that much within archetypes themselves. I believe Sun & Moon might be the start of some change in that regard, but nonetheless, established concepts still have pretty solid lists out there. Where I don’t differ with common “knowledge,” like on Maxie’s Yveltal, I won’t spend our time regurgitating the same list +/- a card. Instead, I’ll likely cite a Pokémon.com or past 6P article and mention quick changes I’d consider.
The first of the two concepts I’m most considering for St. Louis at this point contains perhaps the biggest presence in the format: Yveltal-EX. I don’t have a particularly hot take on the typical Yveltal/Maxie list, and currently am testing Mark Garcia’s winning San Jose list with an Oranguru SUM (presently, over the 4th Trainers’ Mail, but I’m considering a lot of different concepts). Oranguru is strong with Premonition, allowing you to dig for cards as you need and opening up a new suite of options. It’s a deck that has solid options to hit for solid damage with solid consistency — not too much more you can ask for in a combination of those factors.
Yveltal, though, is a card with a long history of play in a variety of capacities. Today, I’d like to look at a potential combination that intrigues me for its overall versatility. While I fear it may lack the edge many Expanded concepts seem to in space efficiency or simple overwhelming force, it’s something I believe may have potential:
Pokémon – 12
Trainers – 35
3 Trainers’ Mail
Energy – 13
With Seismitoad seemingly seeing historic levels of hype, this is a concept that I think has legitimate intrigue. While it’s not likely to be able to do much against some Expanded threats like Rainbow Road and Night March that focus on pure OHKOs, Grass has been a historically great typing to have in the format — Seismitoad-EX, Primal Groudon, and Greninja all have trouble with the typing. The option to play other tricky things like Virizion-EX makes the idea all the more interesting to me.
I believe there’s pretty strong consensus that Yveltal-EX is one of the best cards ever printed, and it’s no exception here. I like the combination of heavy-damage threats this deck can offer (Evil Ball, Lurantis’ GX attack) while also having the option for healing, Energy acceleration, and snipe. Darkrai’s Dark Cloak ties it all together very nicely.
This list is currently tailored to angle for 2HKOs and preserve attackers (hence the 3 Max Potion). It could go further in that direction with cards like Pokémon Center Lady, or take a shift toward heftier OHKO attacks (I’d look toward Dark Patch, Professor Kukui, and similar options in making that a reality). Speaking of Dark Patch, it may be something worth including in this concept even with the healing emphasis — I’m very early on in the cycle of considering this idea. Gold Potion could be an interesting ACE SPEC choice if the Pokémon Center Lady/other healing route is pursued.
I mentioned the versatility of the deck above. As always, an overwhelming suite of options can be just that — overwhelming. That can work in your advantage in terms of out navigating an opponent, or it can be detrimental to your cause when you fail to execute any of those options effectively. It’s possible the deck may need a narrower focus; it’s also possible the deck may belong more in the Standard format (as I was constructing the list, I did find myself wondering why I didn’t think of this as an option to test pre-Anaheim — Battle Compressor is the biggest reason, of course).
Perhaps one of the weirdest inclusions in my current list is Wally. It wasn’t in my initial concept, but after some testing, it became apparent that a heavy Forest line wasn’t really useful to the deck, but it wanted some out to an earlier Lurantis-GX. The 1 Forest and 1 Wally compromise not only decently fulfills this niche (especially with the Battle Compressor engine in the deck), but also provides a needed out to Archeops DEX. It’s a seemingly strange idea that’s worked out fairly well so far, and I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen.
I’m excited about the potential here, and especially so once Guardians Rising brings us Choice Band (+30 damage to damage to EX and GX Pokémon) and Lurantis GUR (+20 damage for your Fire/Grass Pokémon). Lurantis is a powerful card for sure, and I believe Expanded’s Muscle Band presence gives it real potential in the format — it’s simply a matter of pinning that potential down.
Real quick, this is an even more rough build of Yveltal that’s been hearing some discussion that I intend to test:
Pokémon – 10
Trainers – 39
2 Trainers’ Mail
Energy – 11
Maybe you’ve heard … Hypnotoxic Laser is a pretty good card. I’m expecting a comeback in play, unfortunately, for this fiend in St. Louis. It’s especially good when coupled with Tauros-GX’s easy damage output … and as we just discussed, Yveltal is pretty good with anything.
I highlight this deck as more than a consideration for play — it’s also a consideration in my list process. For example, if things like Hypnotoxic Laser and Accelgor DEX seem to be present in an event, it’d be prudent to have techs like Keldeo-EX in one’s list. Like I mentioned last month, this community moves in hive-mind more than ever at this point in time, so keep an eye out for the various podcasts and YouTube media available for consumption — it could provide a clue as to whether this concept will see the light of day or simply be community talk. I’ve only had the chance to play a few games, and I’m not necessarily overwhelmed with what I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean everyone will feel the same.
It’s important to remember that St. Louis might have the most diverse geographic representation of any Pokémon tournament other than Nationals in history. Orlando set a high bar for Denise and Vince Krekeler’s idea of tournament success, and now, St. Louis’ central geography makes it a prime candidate for anyone and everyone to get a piece of what made Orlando so great. This both means that A) over-worrying over fringe concepts is bad and B) fringe concepts will be everywhere. It’s a classic catch-22, and the players that succeed in St. Louis will be the ones that come out on the right side of it.
Best known for taking down Dallas, M Gardevoir may have some untapped potential in the Expanded format. Its dual typing can’t really be explored in Standard as well as it can in Expanded, where options like Dimension Valley make for a new spin on the Standard deck we’re all accustomed too. Jirachi-EX makes for an interesting option as well — with Dragonite-EX, Buddy-Buddy Rescue, and the like, you can essentially pick your Supporter of choice for the turn.
Here’s where I’m at in exploring this concept:
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 37
3 Trainers’ Mail
Energy – 6
This is certainly a strange take compared to what we sometimes see in Standard builds of the deck, but I believe it has the potential to be strong despite the intuitive problems presented by a damage cap of 150. First and foremost, it has both the flexibility to utilize Exeggcute in furthering its strategy and making its hand more navigable. Furthermore, the durability of 210 HP can’t be understated — and being able to heal Gardevoir, and simply reattach a single Energy to attack again the next turn? Potentially brilliant.
I’m not sure if I’m quite capably utilizing the potential engine for Jirachi-EX here like it could be done, but I think this is the avenue to start down. It could be worth considering other, crazier ideas like Team Skull Grunt and Delinquent, but I’m going to work on solidifying the concept more before trying to delve into the wilderness with fringe disruption content. I like Kukui in here, though, as sometimes you just need to hit 170 — it’s my favorite purpose for the Jirachi engine as featured. A 3rd Dragonite, extra Buddy-Buddy Rescue, and other recovery could be worth considering as well.
Promo Giratina is particularly important in here after the advent of Carbink BREAK. That it helps deal with Greninja and Trevenant as well is only gravy. I elect for Karen over Brock’s Grit as a potential way to aid matchups with decks like Night March, Vespiquen/Flareon, and Vileplume Toolbox (or, Vileplume/Vespiquen). Vileplume decks tend to have an issue with late-game clunk as it is, but adding back copious amounts of Pokémon followed by an N can be a great way to destabilize their deck.
Matchup-wise, I like what this deck can offer against the usual Dark favorites. It may be worthing adding a Klefki FFI to further shore up the matchup, but I’m not wholly convinced it’ll be necessary. Trevenant BREAK, if it persists in large numbers in the first place, should be doable due to the high number of Supporter and Supporter-search cards in the deck. It helps that the deck automatically clears its own Bench. Things that can easily OHKO a M Gardevoir are not friendly, so things like Mega Rayquaza might not be especially comfortable matchups.
It’s an inherently intriguing concept — high HP, robust healing, steady damage, decent-to-above-average typing. Like Lurantis before it, it might not have the firepower to duke it out in Expanded, but if that ends up not being the case, this is something I’ll very seriously be considering for St. Louis next weekend.
As a parting thought (literally — Adam is most of the way through editing this, and I’m butting in to add it), I want to share the Seismitoad/Decidueye list I’m working with in testing. I’m not completely sold on where the deck stands relative to Toad/Bats or the rest of the format, but I do know Toad/Decidueye is something you want to have tested against heading into your next Expanded event.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 38
3 Pokémon Communication
Energy – 4
This list is as linear as it gets, with a simple goal of setting up as many Decidueye and Seismitoad as possible. It’s the type of list I like to start my testing with; fancier techs and nuanced niches can be filled in once the initial strategy is sorted out and confirmed to be worth pursuing. Offhand, this list could use Energy denial, but its bigger problem is Archeops making 20% of the deck useless. There’s no easy answer to that dilemma, but things like Wobbuffet PHF may be worth testing at some point as answers.
In the debate of Decidueye vs Crobat, I’m impressed by the raw damage output possible here. It’s much like what Laser/Virbank used to enable Seismitoad to do, but now it can be done every turn.
You’ll notice the lack of Grass Energy. That’s currently because I don’t believe it’s worth including solely for the sake of being able to use Hollow Hunt, and I find turns where Razor Leaf is in use to be somewhat discouraging. It may be worth adding back, though; this is part of the bare-bones nature of the list I mentioned above.
I’m not yet sure where the deck stands in the hierarchy of options for St. Louis, but I’m impressed by the damage output it provides. I mostly wanted to make sure that it got covered here in some capacity and provide a list to start off your testing with, but it’s possible that it could become a good play in its own right.
In case you haven’t heard, my brother Alex chose to play Seismitoad/Decidueye for St. Louis and secured a Top 8 finish. I don’t have another article prior to Portland, so I wanted to shed a little insight on the list and thought process that went into it. I’m not kidding when I say that I interrupted Adam’s original editing of this piece to add the above list — while I initially regarded the deck as bad on theoretical grounds, I built it on a whim the day this piece originally out and was impressed enough to make sure my first list made it into the article.
We quickly concluded that Razor Leaf is too good to not have access to, so we added Grass Energy. When Wobbuffet PHF made its way into the list as an Archeops counter (and, weirdly enough, a backup attacker), the switch to Blend GRPD became reality. Sean Foisy called to my attention the strength of Scoop Up Cyclone, and we ran from there:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 34
3 Pokémon Communication
Energy – 7
Much of the previous justification for the list holds true. It tested incredibly well for us. Well — for him, anyway. I felt Yveltal was a decided weak spot prior to adding Dedenne, but perhaps at one point the fact that we resorted to testing only games where Yveltal was artificially favored (we went so far as to stack Yveltal’s opening hand to test the Decidueye list’s ability to combat a Turn 1 Archeops) should’ve said something to me. I insisted on Dedenne’s inclusion in the working list as we were making final preparations Friday, and clearly that paid off pretty well for Alex against Israel Sosa in their streamed match. I’m told it was broadly useful.
Pokémon Communication’s use can’t be understated. One of my final debates was between Revitalizer and Super Rod, but with only 3 Decidueye, being able to pull part of the line out of the discard pile for immediate use is quite useful.
So, why didn’t you play it, Christopher? As I implied above, it certainly ran better for Alex than I. I seemed to invite 20% Super Scoop Up odds, among other maladies whenever I went near the deck. When Sean Foisy and I played games Friday night after my brother was solidified in his choice, neither of us were comfortable with the amount of weird hands the deck seemed to generate as a matter of routine. I chose to pivot to Night March, and, well … we all know which Schemanske made Top 8 this weekend.
I think the deck is weakly positioned as we move on, and perhaps even in St. Louis it demonstrates some of the fortitude necessary to succeed in large events. My brother was posed the “What good matchups do you have left?” question in his post-stream interview, and while his “None, really” answer was a bit of a deadpan, it wasn’t especially untrue either. Lurantis-GX is a huge problem, and like I speculated above (just…differently), it seems to have major Expanded potential. It could be a good choice for a League Cup where you have a grasp on the meta, but it’s not on my Portland shortlist right now.
In other weekend news, congrats to fellow Michigander John Sienkiewicz for his Top 4 run with Night March. He played the same Night March list that Alex Hill, Sean, and I all used to inferior results. As for the list’s contents, it’s the same Night March list I’ve played variations of for most of the last year — specifically, it was the same 60 that we employed in Philadelphia.
(And now, back into your regularly-scheduled time stream:)
As I mentioned before, I don’t want to get into regurgitating decklists for things we all know how to build at this point, but I do want to highlight some potential situations to keep in mind as we move into the final (yes, it is that close) stages of preparation. Alex Hill will be back next Tuesday with a look at a full spread of Expanded decks for your consideration. In the meantime, a few parting thoughts:
- Night March will still be on my radar as a play. Call it a fault if you will, but there’s still no parallel to the combination of speed and raw damage output. Maxie’s lists have gotten better, though, making my life somewhat more difficult.
- Seismitoad will probably not be as big as its hype, but it’ll still be huge. Be prepared to spend multiple rounds under Item Lock between it and the residual Trevenant.
- I would advise everyone to leave their Frogs at home. Aside from being inherently bad, as I’ve previously discussed, Sun & Moon’s legacy of weird Grass-type options is probably still fresh enough with novelty to be a consideration.
- Decidueye/Accelgor(/Shiinotic?) is my last remaining fringe idea to build. No idea if it will even fit in 60 cards, but if you’re looking for one last thing to try, it might be something to consider. If you’re interested, you can find me via PM on the forums and I can keep you posted on where I’m at with this.
Other than that, as always — and perhaps more than ever — I’d love to hear from you if you have any feedback on today’s article, questions about anything in it, or an inquiry relating to an upcoming event. I hope this got your head turning a bit in regards to the wealth of options available in Expanded. All the best in St. Louis and beyond.
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