Hello SixPrizes readers! I’m glad to be writing again. My work schedule does not allow me too many opportunities to write, but I am always excited to bring you guys new content when I can. One positive of this schedule is that I am never starved for content! Since my last article in October, a lot has happened in my own season and the game in general. Today I want to take you through some notes on my successful season thus far and look at the impact of some of the Sun & Moon cards, with the meat of the article preparing us for Expanded Regionals in St. Louis. Let’s get to it!
- My Season So Far
- Sun & Moon Impact Cards
- The State of Expanded
- Top 10 Viable Decks (in Expanded)
- Notable Omissions
- New Contenders
My Season So Far
Last you heard from me, I had done well at some League Challenges in the fall before failing to perform at Orlando Regionals. In that article, I highlighted some of my top plays for the Expanded Philadelphia Regionals, where I was fortunate enough to take second place with an Accelgor/Wobbuffet list only two cards off the one I presented. Since then, I have not attended any other Regional Championships, as my schedule has not allowed it. I have, however, performed well at some League Cups. I took Vespiquen/Zebstrika to a Top 8 where I was eliminated in a close set to Scizor. I played Seismitoad/Crobat in an Expanded League Cup, losing in a nail-biter series to Frank Diaz with Yveltal. Finally, I finished the Winter League Cup season with a win with Gyarados/Shaymin-EX/Lucky Helmet.
After all this, I am sitting at 297 points, good for the top 25 in North America before Anaheim results come in. I’m hoping to attend St. Louis, Roanoke, Toronto, and Madison Regionals this spring, so I will be looking to keep myself on track for an invite, and potentially even the top 16!
Sun & Moon Impact Cards
Now that Sun & Moon has been out for a few weeks, I have been able to get in a bunch of games with the cards in both formats. Though there are certainly differences in which cards will be more useful in one format versus the other, many cards are objectively strong or weak regardless of the metagame in which they are played in. Sun & Moon brought us a lot of new and interesting cards that seep with potential — but potential does not always translate to impact and winning games. I’d like to offer my thoughts on some of the most hyped and controversial cards from the set.
- Deciduyeye-GX — Probably the most hyped card from the set has all but flopped in the Golden State. And I am not surprised. Though John Kettler, one of the game’s greats, was able to take his Decidueye/Vileplume deck through a tough field, the absence of any other Decidueye is quite telling. The card is slow. Real slow. Even with Forest of Giant Plants, it is difficult to get multiple Decidueye early enough for Feather Arrow to make a large impact throughout the game. In Standard, its partners are limited and quite weak. Volcanion and Flareon in Eeveelution decks get easy KOs on Decidueye, while decks like Yveltal and Mega Mewtwo pack Garbodor to render your Ability useless. In Expanded, the hyped deck revolving around Decidueye is Seismitoad/Decidueye. We will talk about that more later, but spoilers: I do not think it is better than Seismitoad/Crobat.
- Tauros-GX — The second most hyped GX Pokémon from Sun & Moon, Tauros can fit in a variety of decks. Mad Bull is an extremely strong attack and all but guarantees at least one OHKO throughout a game. I have been trying Tauros in a lot of decks, including, but not limited to: Yveltal/Garbodor, Vileplume Toolbox, and even a Quad Tauros deck! While the card is perhaps not quite as strong as some speculated, I do think Tauros is finding its place in the format and will continue to be a card you will need to account for as you build your decks.
- Umbreon-GX — The final hyped GX Pokémon. Umbreon did not have much of a showing in Anaheim either, and I think for good reason. The card is very balanced, while the rest of the metagame is anything but that. Yveltal-EX is broken. Mega Mewtwo is broken. Darkrai-EX is broken. Etc. When these cards rotate, Umbreon will become one of the best attackers in the game. Until then, I think it will see only fringe play.
- Oranguru — Players have disagreed a lot on this card thus far: some say it is the best card in the set while others claim it is terrible. I am somewhere in the middle, but am leaning towards it not being all that great. I think its best use is actually in the Expanded format in decks that carry the Maxie/Archie package. Based on some anecdotal feedback from Anaheim, it sounds like Oranguru was fairly well represented and performed well, so I could be wrong on this. Perhaps the most important quality of Oranguru is it makes your opponent play differently. No longer can an opponent hope to Delinquent you to 0 or N you to 1 and pray you don’t draw out of it. Oranguru represents at least three fresh cards, which in the late game is often enough to “get” you there.
- Professor Kukui — While I initially considered this a 1-of in almost every deck, like others did, I have increasingly felt underwhelmed by the new professor. Drawing 2 cards is fine and +20 damage is fine, but most of the time I play this dude, I want something more impactful. There are times where the effect is the only thing that will fit into my strategy, and some decks benefit from it more than others: Umbreon-GX, for example, is able to use one Kukui over the course of two turns to turn 180 damage into 200 (or 210/220 with a Reverse Valley in play). This is the type of deck where Kukui is the greatest: one where you do not need it on a very specific turn for a OHKO but can instead utilize it latitudinally to shore up 2HKOs. It is too unreliable to need it for OHKOs all the time.
- Lillie — Lillie is a super interesting Supporter card. While it is simply a beefed up Biana — a card I hated — its extra effect gives it more merit than a lot of players may realize. In Standard, you can make a case for a Supporter line looking like 3 Sycamore, 3 N, 3 Lillie in order to maximize a turn 1 Lillie while also keeping enough Supporters for the rest of the game. Lillie is also great to draw off an N to a low number, especially when you also draw other valuable resources that you would not want to Sycamore away. In Expanded, we increase access to Lillie with Jirachi-EX and Battle Compressor, potentially making the card even more viable (or at least as a 1-of). Though I am not completely sold on the card yet, I do think it’s worth exploring.
The State of Expanded
Let’s jump into the meat of this article. With no Expanded Regionals happening since San Jose in December, St. Louis is sure to be a wide-open event. Before we run down the viable decks you’ll see in St. Louis, let’s analyze some of the data we have from San Jose and Expanded League Cups (data credited to The Charizard Lounge):
- Yveltal and Darkrai-EX decks continue to be some of the most popular and successful decks in the format with the addition of Dark Patch and the Maxie engine.
- Seismitoad, paired almost exclusively with Crobat now, is still a force to be reckoned with.
- Trevenant is still one of the top five most successful decks, but has been falling out of favor. The release of Giratina XY184 only accelerated this decline.
- Greninja is facing the same fate as Trevenant, perhaps even more so.
- Carbink BREAK/Zygarde-EX was a huge hit in San Jose, but is the largest victim of collateral damage I have witnessed in my time playing the Pokémon TCG, as Giratina promo absolutely annihilates it.
I would like to walk through what I consider the top 10 viable decks in the format and discuss what each one gains or loses from the release of Sun & Moon, both in terms of actual cards as well as from how the metagame will shift. I will stop on some and provide deck lists and more insight and look at some new Expanded contenders at the end.
Top 10 Viable Decks (in Expanded)
Before I jump in, I do want to preface many of my comments with two underlying assumptions. You may disagree with these, but understand that much of my narrative is based on these beliefs about the metagame, and therefore if you do not share them, you will almost certainly come to different conclusions:
- I believe Yveltal/Maxie will be the most popular deck, by a significant margin (think 20% of the field).
- I believe Seismitoad decks will be the second most popular deck choice and will be played with Decidueye-GX, Crobat, and otherwise.
As said above, Yveltal continues to be the dominant deck in Expanded. With Dark Patch and the Maxie package, the deck is incredibly versatile and adaptable in different matchups. I think Sun & Moon makes Yveltal even stronger than it already was. For the first time in a few sets, Yveltal actually gains a useful card to include: Oranguru. The whole way the Yveltal/Maxie deck plays just begs to abuse a card like this. You are constantly putting your hand down to low numbers to establish a Maxie and you have Gallade’s Premonition to reorder the top cards of your deck. You also prevent the dreaded N to 1 or Delinquent to 0 by playing this card.
It will require some small changes to the list to maximize these effects, but it will be worth it. The big change is that we almost certainly should drop Silent Lab. San Jose winner Mark Garcia did not even play this card, so it seems like a fine drop. Reverse Valley is a very strong Stadium as well to run alongside the standard two copies of Parallel City. Here is my current list:
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
The Supporters could be a bit different. We could go -1 N -1 Colress and play two of a number of other 1-of Supporters, such as Ghetsis, Professor Kukui, Pokémon Center Lady, or Olympia. I like the consistency of those two cards, but will be messing around with Professor Kukui in particular. I like the double Maxie, double Gallade lists that saw a lot of success in San Jose. Coupled with three Battle Compressor and max Trainers’ Mail, this list consistently gets an early Maxie off. Sableye is another potential drop, but has shown itself useful in ensuring getting Archeops up. It is also insurance against the potential rise of Sableye/Garbodor decks.
Now, Yveltal gets stronger for another important reason besides just Oranguru. The Pokémon in Sun & Moon can be quite powerful, even in the broken Expanded format. Cards like Lurantis-GX and Umbreon-GX might find a good home in some decks, as they are bulky Pokémon that can take hits and deal with a lot of the threats in the Expanded metagame. Decidueye-GX is being incredibly hyped with Seismitoad-EX. However, Archeops laughs at these Evolutions. Archeops becomes so much stronger when the strongest Pokémon are Evolution cards. With people wanting to try new things and use their new cards, Archeops will quite literally give you free wins.
That said about Archeops, I would also like to present you with the “other” way to play Yveltal. This is talked about much less in articles, because it is not popular. However, one of the top players in the game, Frank Diaz, swears by it. He explained to me and some other players recently that he does not understand why you would dedicate so many spots to something like the Maxie engine when you can just play better cards that let you hit harder and faster. I won’t pass judgement either way, but results on either side of the spectrum speak for themselves, and I think as readers you should decide. Frank beat me in the Top 8 of a League Cup with something very close to this:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 38
Energy – 11
As Frank says, this list is designed to do one thing: “punch.” It has increased mobility with the second Darkrai-EX, Keldeo-EX, and Escape Rope, and additional damage output with the Laser + Bank package and a copy of Muscle Band. Four Yveltal-EX is reminiscent of some of the recent Standard Yveltal/Garbodor lists and this list plays max copies for a similar reason: you want a bunch of Yveltal-EX out as early as possible.
Another large consideration in both lists is Tauros-GX. While I think Tauros is a strong card in Standard, I am slightly less convinced in Expanded. Gallade deals with it very easily. With that as the only real Fighting threat, maybe Tauros does deserve a spot. It can take and dish out significant damage to Seismitoad-EX using Quaking Punch for a single Double Colorless, which is certainly a strong argument for it. From the first list, I would consider dropping Sableye or the 2nd Yveltal BKT for Tauros. From the second list, either the 2nd Darkrai, 4th Yveltal-EX, or 2nd Yveltal BKT.
Seismitoad-EX has been one of the most impactful cards since its release. It has been splashed into other decks (Yveltal, Metal), it has been built around Quaking Punch and disruption (Seismitoad/Slurpuff, Seismitoad/Crobat, Seismitoad/Giratina), and it has been built around Grenade Hammer (Waterbox). With the release of Sun & Moon, we see another chance for Seismitoad to adapt and reclaim its place as the top
dog frog in the format.
Though Japanese Seismitoad/Decidueye lists have been popping up on the internet for the past few months, myself and other dedicated Seismitoad/Crobat players have remained skeptical. Japan’s format is XY-on; very different from our BLW-on. They don’t even have access to Zubat PLS, so of course Decidueye is better! Let’s look at the pros and cons of each variant:
- Zubat PLS gives you more ways to Quaking Punch on the first turn, as it has free retreat
- The whole line has free retreat
- Swoop Across and Skill Dive are strong attacks in conjunction with the deck’s strategy, only require one Colorless Energy, and can abuse an opponent’s Dimension Valley
- Can play Water Energy for Grenade Hammer
- Can play Silent Lab or Virbank City Gym
- Super Scoop Up and AZ have more synergy
- Abilities can only be used once
- Perhaps weaker in mirror
- Once set up, Ability can be used every turn for however long Decidueye survives
- Gives you a GX attack to use, which recovers resources
- Playing Grass Energy lets you swing for a potential OHKO in the mirror match
- Bulky Stage 2 that can take hits
- Clunkier in general — requires more spaces to set up (Forest of Giant Plants, Revitalizer, more Balls)
- No free retreat makes it more difficult to attack turn 1, requires Float Stone in the list
Perhaps I am a bit biased, but to me it seems the pros of the Bat line far outweigh the pros of the Decidueye line. Despite this, I have presented you all with many Seismitoad/Crobat lists and my current one is not far off those. Alex will give you a peek at an up-to-date Crobat list, so let me present you with a potential Decidueye list.
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 33
Energy – 8
This build seeks to be extremely aggressive, maxing out on Seismitoad and playing three Float Stone to maximize your chances of getting Seismitoad in the Active on the first turn. Hypnotoxic Laser is still played as it is absolutely bonkers when paired with Quaking Punch: a heads/tails on Laser will often win games by itself. This list wants the extra damage from Laser by itself; as with Decidueye, you just want to pile on the damage as fast as possible. Going along with this theme, we split the Fighting Fury Belt/Muscle Band count in half to help our damage output. Lugia is still played to act as a deterrent to things like a big Yveltal or Mewtwo from running through our deck. It is also a good partner itself with Decidueye, as we have seen in the Standard format.
This list does not include the Battle Compressor/Revitalizer package that has been presented in the Japanese lists. While I think it is quite an effective engine for Vileplume decks, I am less convinced of its utility in a deck like this. This deck should set up fine without the need for such an aggressive engine and can instead buy itself time by using Quaking Punch. A 4th Forest, some Trainers’ Mail, and some more Pokémon search would all be nice additions to speed up the evolution process as well.
Ultimately, though, this deck suffers from not having enough space. Part of the reason the Bat line is so strong is that it requires very little beyond the 9–10 spaces devoted to the Pokémon. Zubat allows us to forego Float Stone and we get to play a disruptive Stadium in Silent Lab or an aggressive one in Virbank City. Decidueye takes 18 spots. Yes, 18! 12 from the Pokémon, 3 from Float Stone, and 3 from Forest. That is a lot of space dedicated to something that is not your main attacker. The lack of versatility in this deck as compared to Toad/Bats is evident as soon as you start playing it.
Perhaps the consistent damage will be enough, but in our versatile Expanded format, more options is usually better.
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