The 2016–2017 season of Pokémon has been incredible. I’ve played in more tournaments than ever and have made tons of memories with great friends, new and old. However, it has also been exhausting. Traveling to a Regional every 3–4 weeks takes a toll on your body and mind. I’ve had to really dedicate myself to my testing efforts this year. There’s a lot to research and try out as the format changes between Standard and Expanded and new cards are constantly released.
Speaking of which, it seems like the new Sun & Moon cards will actually impact Expanded far more than Standard. In Anaheim, Tauros-GX and Oranguru were basically the only Sun & Moon cards that saw widespread play. At least one of them seemed to be splashed into nearly every deck from Yveltal to Vespiquen to Waterbox. Espeon-GX ended up being the most surprising new card. Several top players such as Travis Nunlist and Sam Chen included it in their Mewtwo decks as a tech for the mirror match. Espeon also gives the deck some much needed versatility with the GX attack and option to confuse a troublesome attacker. Other cards like Decidueye-GX and Lurantis-GX were hyped but failed to make much of an impact.
In Expanded, decks like Seismitoad/Decidueye and straight Lurantis seem to be catching some interest among players. These new Sun & Moon cards have a better place in the metagame for Expanded. The format is actually a bit slower than Standard and focuses more on control than high damage output. This should open the door for some interesting decks with high-HP Pokémon-GX to shine.
To help you prepare for St. Louis, I want to spend this article rehashing the major decks in Expanded and talking about the changes that Sun & Moon could bring to them. There have only been three Expanded Regionals this year, and many players (myself included) haven’t played the format since Philadelphia in November. There are a ton of decks in the format and Sun & Moon only adds more to that number. Let’s get started!
I originally planned to include a short write-up of the Expanded format and my thoughts on its development but Mike Fouchet’s summary from earlier in the week accurately represents my view. The metagame seems to be shifting away from Pokémon BREAK, even without the addition of Giratina. The only thing that I want to add is that I think Pokémon-GX could actually have a strong impact on Expanded in the next few months. Few things in the format can reliably take down multiple Pokémon with 240 HP in a game, and they will instead have to prey on non-evolved forms or Shaymin-EX to satisfy the 6-Prize requirement to win.
Until we find out how much of an impact these new Pokémon will have on the format, it’s best to consider and test against the major decks from the last few months of BLW–EVO. After St. Louis, it will be imperative to reevaluate and see if decks with low damage output like Trevenant, Seismitoad, and Raikou are still as strong as they once were.
The Likely Competition
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 36
Energy – 11
Yveltal/Maxie’s is a deck that has seen a surprising amount of innovation in the last year and a half of the Expanded format. This is not due to new cards being released, but players dipping into the vast card pool of the BLW-on format to react to metagame shifts.
Starting with the San Jose Regionals, Sableye DEX has started to see a resurgence in these Dark decks and I really dig the inclusion. It helps you set up and often guarantee a mid-game Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick. Or, it can grab 2 Dark Patch and help you power up a 2nd Darkrai-EX DEX or a big Yveltal-EX. It really adds a lot of versatility to the deck.
AZ is another recent addition that saw play in San Jose. Many of the Pokémon in this deck have 2 retreat so they’re fairly hard to move out of the Active Spot. Darkrai-EX can give you some maneuverability with Dark Cloak but sometimes you need to devote your Energy attachment elsewhere. I like AZ better than another Float Stone for two reasons: 1) it can be used to remove a Yveltal BKT from the Active Spot even when Fright Night is online, and 2) it’s searchable with Battle Compressor.
Silent Lab has been falling out of favor in Yveltal/Maxie’s but I’ve always thought it was amazing in this deck. You don’t have a lot of damage output, especially in the early game, so any options to slow your opponent down are great. Many decks in Expanded play low amounts of draw Supporters so they rely on Shaymin and Jirachi to set up. A high count of Silent Lab will steal at least a game or two over a 9+ round Regional Championship.
Tauros-GX is a new inclusion that I like for Mega Manectric and Seismitoad. Mega Manectric can only do 110 so a Mad Bull will always be able to 1HKO them after they attack into you. Many Manectric decks are teching Mewtwo to 1HKO Gallade after you use it to 1HKO their Manectric, meaning that Gallade will only usually take 2 Prizes. From here, you can use a Yveltal to KO their Mewtwo but you’ll get 1HKO’d by a Manectric for your trouble. To take your last 2 Prizes, you might be able to attack with a Darkrai or take a 2HKO with Yveltal. Instead, I like to continue the 1HKO war whenever I can but it’s pretty hard to get another Gallade out in the middle of the game. That’s where Tauros comes in. An N to 2 or 3 and a Horn Attack forces the Manectric player to either attack into your Tauros and lose, pass and continue to take 60 a turn (until they lose), or find a Lysandre to take other Prizes that you have on your Bench. If you manage your Bench space correctly, Tauros is the equivalent of a checkmate. You can even get some damage on it early in the game and use the Gallade as a finisher. It just gives you more options.
Against Seismitoad, I’ve found Tauros to be invaluable as one of the few attackers that work for 1 Energy attachment. If they’re constantly discarding the Energy cards off of your attacker, you’ll never be able to take out a Seismitoad. Instead, Tauros can tank a few hits and use Mad Bull for a 1HKO with a single DCE drop when you’re ready to attack. The combination of Horn Attack and Rage can even take out a 2nd Seismitoad if your opponent can’t take care of your Tauros in time. Be sure to test out Tauros in your Yveltal deck.
Bottom Line: Yveltal has been and will continue to be the most played deck in any Expanded tournament this year. It’s never a bad play as it has answers to basically every deck in the format. Be sure to prepare for it and expect to play against it 2–3 times in St. Louis.
Pokémon – 18
2 Alolan Grimer
2 Alolan Muk
Trainers – 34
Energy – 8
Trevenant is a deck that has seemingly fallen out of favor in the public eye and it’s easy to see why. It won Philadelphia Regionals after being one of the most played decks there. However, it was just as heavily played in San Jose (most players I spoke to played 1-3 during Day 1 Swiss) but it failed to make Top 8. In fact, I would guess that it was around 20% of the metagame on Day 1 based on what attendees told me but it only accounted for 3-of 32 decks (~10%) on Day 2.
Why did it do so poorly? After winning in Philadelphia, Trevenant had a target on its back. Players expected to play against it so they A) crafted lists with more Supporter cards to help them draw well under Item lock and B) chose not to play decks that lost to Trevenant such as Rainbow Road and Accelgor. Pair that with the fact that the West Coast is known to love their Darkrai and Yveltal and it was rather obvious that Trevenant would likely underperform in San Jose.
2-2 Alolan Muk
However, the new Alolan Muk could breathe some new life into Trevenant as we look toward St. Louis Regionals. Few decks have ever been able to lock both Item cards and Abilities (from Basic Pokémon). Not only is this a very oppressive lock, but it also nullifies the impact that Giratina XY184 would have against Trevenant BREAK. The addition of Muk has two other major impacts:
- It lets a Trevenant deck stall against a Yveltal deck because Darkrai’s Dark Cloak won’t be active.
- It also prevents your opponent from using Shaymin’s Set Up, something that I found to be instrumental in beating Trevenant.
In the games where I was able to beat Trevenant with Night March, I often found myself biding my time until I could Lysandre a Benched Shaymin or Jirachi, burn some Items, use Set Up to refill my hand, and then grab the Lysandre again with a VS Seeker. Without being able to refill your hand with Set Up, that Lysandre is far less valuable and it’s much harder to win against Trevenant.
There are a lot of changes that I want to test out with this list. Enhanced Hammer or Xerosic could be played in place of one or both of the Team Flare Grunt. I wish I had space for Crushing Hammer but the Muk line takes up the space I would normally have to fit them in. I just hate using my Supporter for the turn on Energy denial since I have an extra Evolution line to set up now.
Speaking of which, an extra Wally could help to initialize the lock, especially as you might want to use it more often than before when you go 2nd. With an Ascension from Phantump into Trevenant and a Wally into Alolan Muk on your first turn (when you go 2nd), you can leave your opponent completely locked out of the game.
I could also see dropping to 1 Jirachi-EX as your own Muk will prevent you from using the 2nd copy later in the game. Personally, I like having 2 to alleviate any prizing concerns.
Bottom Line: Although Trevenant is less popular than before, the ease of a T1 Item lock is very appealing. I no longer think that it would influence my deck choice to the point where I wouldn’t play a deck just because it loses to Trevenant, but it will still see a large amount of play. Expect to play 1–2 during your first 9 Swiss rounds.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 34
Energy – 10
Raikou/Eelektrik is a deck that has very quietly seen a ton of success in Expanded since its inception in February 2016 at Virginia Regionals. Different versions of the list have made Top 8 at 4 different Regionals but players rarely discuss it as a top deck. It has a ton of good matchups; basically everything that doesn’t 1HKO it is 50/50 at worst. And there’s a ton of space to tech for iffy matchups as well.
Speaking of teching, I’ve devoted most of the available space in this list to facilitate a Maxie’s engine similar to the one that Michael Slutsky used to make Top 8 in Phoenix. This includes a Maxie’s, the Gallade and an extra Battle Compressor to make it easier to put the pieces together. For the most part, the only decks that can beat Raikou consistently are the ones that can 1HKO it. One such deck that is seeing some hype right now is Turbo Dark. Gallade gives you a good way to 1HKO them back since Raikou is all but ineligible to do so. It also can KO Shaymin and ups the general consistency of your deck through Premonition.
The only other attackers that I have in this deck are Seismitoad and Mewtwo. Mewtwo is basically just a hard counter to other Mewtwo and Gallade that could otherwise run through your board, especially in conjunction with Hex Maniac. Seismitoad is there to stall for a turn or two, especially in the early game. You need a bit more setup than other decks in the format so buying a few turns where your opponent can’t easily Lysandre up your Tynamo is invaluable. It also can stop Trevenant decks from setting up since they’re surprisingly susceptible to Item lock themselves.
I spoke more about this deck in my November article so I’ll direct you there if you’re interested in more analysis.
Bottom Line: Raikou/Eelektrik is a strong deck that can catch people off guard. It has few bad matchups and strong results to back it up. I don’t expect to play more than 1 in my tournament run in St. Louis, if I even see it at all. However, if you’re looking for a more unconventional deck choice, Raikou is worth your consideration.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 41
Energy – 8
Carbink is a really interesting deck that popped up in San Jose. The list was created by Russell LaParre and Jeremy Jallen, who both piloted it to Top 32 finishes as well as a Top 4 finish from Sam Chen. Focus Sash and Max Potion make Landorus and Zygarde incredibly difficult to Knock Out, and many decks just don’t have good answers to Carbink’s Safeguard. Sam tells me that the Yveltal matchup is incredibly strong as he was able to deck out most players in the matchup, especially those who had never played against Carbink before. Other top decks like Seismitoad, Turbo Darkrai, and Raikou fall prey to the combination of Safeguard and the Fighting typing, making Carbink a very strong play in the right metagame.
For the list I’ve been testing for St. Louis, I chose to swap out the Magnetic Storm for Silent Lab as the Stadium of choice. Since you’re planning to evolve your Carbink to Carbink BREAK, you get to keep Safeguard even though Carbink is a Basic. However, Silent Lab will shut off any Giratina XY184 that are being used to stop your Carbink’s Safeguard. I’ve also found Silent Lab to be incredibly strong to shut your opponent out of the game, similarly to as I discussed above in my Yveltal analysis. My list only plays a single Shaymin and I rarely find myself in a situation where I need to play it, so Silent Lab always hurts my opponent more than it hurts me.
Otherwise, I’ve mostly left this list untouched from the one that did well in San Jose. It has a ton of options but doesn’t sacrifice consistency for the cute techs. The deck is incredibly low maintenance and the Korrina engine works incredibly well. It’s one of the few decks that utilizes Puzzle of Time well, allowing it to run a very low Energy count and basically any tech card. For that reason, it’s a very hard deck to play. I love decks like this that have tons of options but it’s often overwhelming and can often lead to ties in Best of 3 play.
Bottom Line: This is not a deck I’d expect to see a lot of in St. Louis. However, if the metagame is favorable, I could see it ending up being heavily played at the top tables. This is a deck that does especially well when the opponent is unprepared to play against it so be sure to test against it just in case you run into one.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 35
Energy – 7
Seismitoad/Crobat is a deck I have favored in Expanded for a long time. Recently, it seems that the deck might be shifting back from Silent Lab to the original Virbank City Gym as the Stadium of choice. Although I don’t think Trevenant is the force in Expanded that it once was, the addition of Giratina XY184 still makes a lot of sense in the deck. Expanded is such a wide open format that I like having the out to beat Trevenant, as well as any Greninja or Carbink decks that I might find.
Other than the Stadium swap, few things have impacted the construction of Seismitoad/Crobat in the last few months. A typical list for the deck includes a suite of tech Supporters, a potential Enhanced Hammer or two, and maybe even other disruption options. I’ve seen this deck anywhere on the spectrum from heavily teched out to straightforward, mostly based on personal preference.
In fact, there actually isn’t an agreed upon “best list” or even 55-card skeleton for Toad/Crobat in the community. There are a lot of card counts and tech slots that see constant debate. For instance, I’ve seen anywhere from 2 to 4 basic Energy played. Personally I like 3 right now, just to guarantee that you have 2 at any time to use Grenade Hammer.
Lugia v. Mewtwo
Another oft-argued choice is which tech attacker to play. Lugia-EX AOR and Mewtwo-EX NXD do basically the same thing, but are often interchangeable based on which typing, Weakness, or Resistance you want to take advantage of. Right now, I like the Fighting Resistance of Lugia and don’t like the Psychic Weakness of Mewtwo (due to the inclusion of Mew FCO in Turbo Dark lists). Dedenne could also see play but I feel that the Yveltal matchup is strong enough without it.
4-4-2 Crobat Line
Players also often disagree on the size of the Crobat line, and whether or not to include a Super Rod or not. Recently, I’ve been favoring just 2 Crobat because they are dead cards early in the game. I like the 4th Golbat but could see cutting it for space, which is what happened to the Super Rod I’ve played before. If you chose to include a Super Rod, a Seismitoad-EX could be cut but I like the increased chance to start it/Zubat.
FFB v. MB
The last debate is which Tool to play: Fighting Fury Belt or Muscle Band? I’ve seen lists play a split but I find this to be relatively useless as you can’t search them out when you need one. Instead, I like Fighting Fury Belt as the extra HP comes in handy against Sky Return loop from Shaymin-EX or in Seismitoad mirrors.
Even More Options
Even though I’ve mentioned tons of different options with this deck, there are many more cards that you could include. Team Skull Grunt could be useful to keep your opponent locked out of the game, especially in conjunction with Red Card, something I’ve seen success with in Toad decks. Enhanced Hammer is a strong option over Xerosic or Team Flare Grunt, giving you ways to deny your opponent’s Energy from sticking on the board without using up your Supporter for the turn. Different ACE SPEC cards like Scoop Up Cyclone, Rock Guard, or even Dowsing Machine could be used. Be sure to try out any unorthodox cards that interest you if you have time.
Bottom Line: Seismitoad will be heavily played in St. Louis. Both the Crobat version and the Decidueye version are getting a lot of hype in the community and seem poised to do well in a metagame with lots of Yveltal and Night March. There’s a good chance that you’ll play against at least 2 Toad variants in your first 9 Swiss rounds. I’ll be heavily testing out both this Crobat list and a Decidueye variant similar to the one in Christopher Schemanske’s article in these last few days of tournament preparation. Be sure to have a game plan against Seismitoad before turning in your decklist.
Pokémon – 18
1 Mew FCO
Trainers – 38
Energy – 4
Coming as no surprise to anyone who has followed my recent activity at Expanded events, Night March remains one of my top choices for St. Louis. Most players seem pretty annoyed with Night March but I view it as a very healthy deck in Expanded right now. It doesn’t lock you out of playing the game like Trevenant, Vileplume, or Archeops do. Karen is a hard counter which can be splashed in basically any deck that has trouble with Night March. I don’t think it’s an end-all card for the deck, but it forces players to conserve resources and be smarter with their Puzzle of Time usage. Between the easy techable soft-counter in Karen and the high HP of Pokémon-GX, Night March seems more balanced than ever.
I won’t go into the specifics of the entire list as very little has changed from the last two times I piloted the deck but there are two interesting additions that I want to discuss:
Tauros-GX really feels like the missing piece of the puzzle in Night March. It gives you a good way to fight out of a Seismitoad lock as I discussed above in the Yveltal discussion. However, in Night March, it also gives you a strong attacker if your opponent fully commits to a Karen strategy. I’ve found that a Tauros with a Fighting Fury Belt not only takes at least 2 Prizes in many games, but also forces your opponent to use their Supporter for turn on something other than Karen. They feel so pressured by the Tauros that you have a turn or two to build up Night Marchers and get at least one more KO from Night March where you otherwise couldn’t. You could instead use Float Stone on the Tauros to save the damage on it for a more opportune moment, potentially even causing your opponent to use Lysandre to finish it and save you from Karen for a turn.
The other addition to this deck is Giratina XY184 which I’m less sure about as a permanent fixture in Night March. It’s mainly included as a Trevenant counter and it does a pretty good job of it. Benching a Giratina forces a Trevenant player to either play an Alolan Muk or Silent Lab or play sub optimally. This includes either evolving to the BREAK to keep the attacking pressure up with Silent Fear or not evolving to keep the Item lock active which forces them to always devote 2 Energy cards to a Trevenant, or 3 if there isn’t a Dimension Valley in play. This actually often gives Night March the time it needs to build up a board state that can deal with Trevenant, and you can keep up that pressure as you need less to keep up the string of KOs than they do. Giratina also helps to deal with any Greninja that might see play, but I’m far less concerned about that.
My main reason to not keep the Giratina in the deck is that it occupies the space that I would usually use to include Mr. Mime BKT. Mr. Mime does a great job shoring up the Turbo Dark and Yveltal matchups, turning them from roughly even to favorable for Night March. The 90/30 snipe of Darkrai-EX’s Night Spear is incredibly problematic for this deck to deal with and can sweep your board before you realize what is happening. I think Yveltal and Turbo Dark are very beatable without Mr. Mime, but I have appreciated the security that it provides for such a small amount of space in the deck when I played it in the past. I’ll be testing the Night March vs Dark matchups with and without Mr. Mime a lot in the next few days to see whether or not I can really afford to keep it out of my list.
Bottom Line: Night March is getting some hype in the community as a strong play for St. Louis. It’s an incredibly consistent deck that has answers for most other decks in the format. I’d expect to play 1–2 during my tournament run and will either be piloting it myself or I’ll have a game plan to beat it handily.
Other Decks to Watch For
Reference List: TJ Traquair, Top 8 Phoenix
Sableye is a strong deck that has seen play in every Expanded Regional since Fort Wayne in 2015. The complete control it offers is very appealing to some players, especially those who transition over from games like Magic: The Gathering. Personally, I dislike the deck as it’s incredibly fragile in the early game and has trouble with the 50-minute time restriction. It also often has problems with Seismitoad-EX and Trevenant (especially now that Alolan Muk can shut off Latias-EX’s Ability). I won’t be considering it for St. Louis but I wouldn’t be surprised to play against one.
Turbo Dark and Darkrai/Giratina
Both of these variants do basically the same thing so I’ve lumped them in together. They can build up a ton of Energy in a short amount of time and they hit super hard, dealing with high-HP Pokémon better than most other decks in the format. With the introduction of Pokémon-GX, these decks are getting a good amount of hype. Personally, I would rather play the straight Dark version as most Night March variants will play Pokémon Ranger or Marowak FCO to deal with Giratina and it has more room to fit Mew FCO (and maybe Dimension Valley as well) to deal with Gallade BKT in Yveltal decks. I’d expect to play at least one of these in St. Louis.
Reference List: Brandon Cantu, Top 8 Kansas
Blastoise is a deck that hasn’t been played a lot in recent Expanded tournaments but it’s worth bringing up again after Josh Fernando piloted it to a 7-0-2 record on Day 1 of San Jose. Unfortunately, he ended up going 1-3-1 on Day 2 and failed to make Top 8. I’m not sure exactly how his Day 2 went but I think it’s telling that 4 of the Top 8 decks in San Jose played a copy of Ghetsis, a fairly hard counter to a deck that relies on getting off an Archie’s Ace in the Hole. In an unprepared metagame, Blastoise has a lot of answers to the top decks. However, it’s a bit too risky for my liking. I wouldn’t expect to play against any in St. Louis but it could be an interesting meta call if you think Grass decks will underperform.
Reference List: Brandon Cantu, “It’s Always Sunflora-y”
Mega Manectric is a pretty mediocre deck. It’s been around since 2014 but has very few strong tournament results in that time. It suffers a lot from a relatively low damage cap and struggles with type coverage in a format as diverse as Expanded. However, even with these problems, it sees play in every tournament that it’s legal for. I think some players are just drawn to a deck with both acceleration and light “control” with Garbodor’s Garbotoxin. It can give unprepared Yveltal players some trouble, and Seismitoad often struggles to deal damage to Mega Manectric when they play Rough Seas. The problem comes with the rest of the format, as I don’t think Manectric really has many other good matchups. Manectric is a deck that you should keep in mind to prepare against but I personally don’t recommend it as a deck to play.
Reference List: TJ Traquair, Top 2 Alberta
A Wailord deck actually made Top 32 in San Jose but it hasn’t seen other great results in Expanded this season. One might think that Wailord could see some decent results now that Vespiquen/Flareon has mostly fallen out of favor, seeing as it can’t deal with Karen as well as Night March can. However, the addition of Sableye into many Yveltal lists should keep Wailord in check. Constant recycling of Dark Patch and clean play should make that a nearly impossible matchup for Wailord to win, and the deck still suffers from time issues. Anyone playing Wailord in St. Louis is going to feel like a fish out of water.
That’s it for today! I hope you’re as excited for the rest of the season as I am. There’s still a lot of Pokémon left to be played and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of development in both formats in the coming months.
I’ll be at St. Louis this weekend and venturing to Melbourne for the 2nd International event the weekend after that. Please feel free to say hello if you see me at either event or leave a comment on the forums if you have any questions while preparing for your upcoming events.
See you soon!
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