On the Hollow Hunt

Falling Short with Lurantis in St. Louis, An Assessment of Decidueye as BDIF, and Following Up with New Concepts in Standard

I had hoped to begin this month’s article with a sweeping discourse of my performance at St. Louis Regionals. I had spent a great amount of time in testing and in practice since my last article and shifted my thoughts through various new decks and archetypes. The Tauros-GX decks that I spent the beginning of my time on ended up falling a little short of greatness. There was simply something missing that I could not add to the deck without ruining the basic concept or simply creating something that was noticeably inferior to an already existing deck.

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There’s power in the flower.

From there, my attention shifted to Lurantis/Genesect crafted by Mikey Fouchet. He talked about it in some detail in his last metagame write-up and I was initially enamored with the concept. Though I did not discuss it initially with Mikey, my Sheep teammate Dean Nezam had played some practice sets against the deck and thought it had some potential so I began to test it almost exclusively. Unfortunately, I found that the combination of cards, like my Tauros decks, were just lacking a certain “oomph” and it too was relegated as an interesting gimmick rather than anything substantial. The strength of Lurantis could not be denied and instead of giving up entirely on this new card, I simply shifted the focus of the deck away from Genesect and G Booster and began to try out all sorts of unconventional pairings.

Lurantis reminds me quite a bit of Mega Manectric decks in that both cards provide consistent and reliable Energy acceleration without a heavy commitment to one type of Energy. This allows our build to focus on pairing Lurantis with something to combat its natural weakness to Fire types. From here, I started trying out cards like Glaceon-EX, Seismitoad-EX, and various other W Energy attackers but again this too was lacking. As time progressed, I began to believe that Grass (mostly other Lurantis decks) would be a popular choice for St. Louis so I wanted to try and counter them as well and even went as far as testing out a build featuring both EX and non-EX Volcanion.

The final iteration of the deck abandoned trying to use typing to counter a metagame and merely wanted to be as consistent as possible and use various DCE attackers to try and out-damage other decks instead of abusing Weakness. I knew that there would be some matchups this concept would not be able to overcome but through a lot of testing, I believed that it had a good shot at performing well. Here is the final list that I ended up playing for Regionals:

Pokémon – 14

3 Fomantis SUM

3 Lurantis-GX

2 Gallade BKT

1 Mewtwo-EX LTR

1 Lugia-EX AOR

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Jirachi-EX

1 Virizion-EX

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 35

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick

2 N

1 AZ

1 Hex Maniac

1 Lysandre

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

3 Battle Compressor

3 Trainers’ Mail

1 Super Rod

1 Tool Scrapper

2 Float Stone

2 Muscle Band

1 Computer Search

 

3 Forest of Giant Plants

Energy – 11

7 G

4 Double Colorless

I knew that Fire decks (Flareon presumably) would be impossible to overcome and fringe concepts like Mega Rayquaza would also be incredibly difficult but everything else tested favorable to even. Yveltal/Maxie’s more or less depended on who went first as I could evolve quickly through my Stadium card and potentially negate any damage that Archeops might be able to cause. Seismitoad decks were naturally very favorable and Night March was surprisingly winnable with the right openings. What I did not calculate was the amount of Volcanion that would show up at the event (it had essentially zero presence in Expanded up until this point) and the lack of Grass-weak Pokémon.

Match Summary

Ultimately, I failed to perform but I do think this deck is worth considering for the right metagame. I’ll detail a brief report of my tournament below but there was never a game where I drew poorly or felt the deck was inferior. It was an experience reminiscent of when I played Mega Scizor in Fort Wayne where I needed matchups to fall a certain way and they simply did not. Here’s how the tournament went:

R1 Volcanion (Ryan Sabelhaus) (LL)
R2 Greninja (WW)
R3 Lycanroc-GX/Eevees (WW)
R4 Mega Gardevoir STS (WW)
R5 Volcanion (LL)
R6 Yveltal/Maxie’s (Igor Costa) (LWL) — This series actually went to a tie but I conceded as I was in a losing position in Game 3 and a tie would knock us both from the potential to Day 2 while a win theoretically kept one player alive.

Final: 3-3, Drop

Another unsatisfactory performance at Regionals putting me super far behind in the points race. I think if anything that I really ought to focus on playing decks with less risk associated with them. I still feel somewhat comfortable with earning my invite this year but I will definitely need to make every single performance count from here on out!

What a Hoot!

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Absolutely right now the hottest (hootest?) topic is the success of Decidueye/Vileplume in Standard and I would like to briefly cash out my thoughts and opinions on the subject before looking at some decks in Standard.

The deck itself began with modest origins; being piloted to a Top 16 finish by legendary player John Kettler at the Anaheim Regionals. Many players looked to this event as the harbinger of things to come in the new Sun & Moon format and with Kettler being the only one to find success with Decidueye, it was quickly overlooked. It would not be until the following Regional Championship in St. Louis where Kettler would find even greater success in Expanded with the concept netting him a 2nd place finish. From there, I believe that every player planning to attend the Melbourne International Championship had his or her eyes focused on the deck and as we know now, it had an incredible showing at this tournament.

For Real Tho

The question that now needs to be addressed is whether or not this deck is the real deal. Did it strike gold by simply being in the right place at the right time and were its results merely a case of being the most played deck and not the best deck? This is a difficult question to answer and I’m sure players differ in some degree in their answer but I believe the popular answer is that Decidueye/Vileplume is the undisputed best deck in the format.

However, I controversially disagree! I do tend to be quite the naysayer from time to time in Pokémon and I would like to believe that this is not intentional. I do not disagree for the sake of disagreement but it probably goes without saying that I have a different way of thinking about things and whether I am correct or not remains to be seen. My argument, however, is as follows:

1. I think that the deck has some inherent inconsistencies that Vileplume builds essentially cannot avoid. Planning your entire strategy around never being able to play Item cards disallows you from including many in your deck and yet you still need to play a healthy amount of search and draw cards in order to find the coveted first-turn Vileplume. This often leads to clunky hands later on in the game and can sometimes leave your openings to be less than desired. I think this lack of consistency would be agreed upon by most players. The Vileplume/Big Basics deck created by Alex Hill and his cohorts never really saw results after its initial performance in Orlando and if anything, I think that this would back up my argument here.

2. Secondly, Decidueye/Vileplume did not win the tournament as it fell victim to the few Volcanion-EX decks that were able to sneak their way into the Top 8. I think that the mere existence of such an auto-loss ought to discredit the deck from being BDIF. To rephrase this, an auto-loss that is a tier 1 deck is what throws its BDIF candidacy away. If this auto-loss were to something like Mega Altaria (insert various non-meta deck here) it would be a separate case but trying to dodge Volcanion-EX at tournaments proves incredibly difficult (see my last two Regionals reports!). There will always be the opportunity for the deck to shine given the right metagame but in general, if you have to be so hesitant to play it, I think it is clear that there might be a better deck.

3. I hinted to this initially as well, but my final piece of argumentation is simply that it saw the results that it did because there were just so many people playing it. I do not know the exact numbers but I believe that amongst the top 32 decks, somewhere around 30% were Decidueye/Vileplume. Assuming this information is mostly correct, its success becomes a mere matter of statistical probability rather than sheer strength of the deck. I believe Yveltal/Garbodor experienced a similar degree of success last winter at the London International Championships, and its success was mostly only a condition met by the deck’s popularity. After this tournament, we saw the metagame greatly and permanently shift toward countering the Yveltal menace and it failed to earn a Top 8 placing for some time after that despite being considered “BDIF.” I anticipate Decidueye/Vileplume to experience a similar shift in the metagame.

Counter Ploys

One of the easiest (and softest) counters to this Grass menace is simply including a copy or two of Wobbuffet into your deck. It may sound unorthodox but I would encourage you to try it if you have not already. Some players tried this in Melbourne so it is hardly an invention of my own but I have favored it in many of my lists that are already playing Float Stone or plenty of other switching options. Being able to buy yourself a turn or two of Items can sometimes be all your deck needs in order to seize tempo back. The Vileplume player is forced to commit so much of their deck space and resources to getting Item lock on the board as fast as possible and so whenever you are able to find ways to navigate around this, you can easily put yourself back into games that previously looked unwinnable. Everything from Mega Mewtwo to Turbo Darkrai, I have found success making a small change just to fit one or two of this Pokémon into my deck and with the exception of Volcanion, I think it is enough to threaten the legitimacy of Decidueye decks for the time being.

Final Word

Ultimately, I believe that Decidueye/Vileplume is still easily a powerful deck. My argumentation is merely to attempt to point out why I do not believe it to be the best deck. Certainly, it is more powerful in Expanded as the combination of Battle Compressor and Revitalizer makes it all the more consistent.

As always though, I am not certain of my opinion and would happily be proven wrong so if you believe I have missed a certain counterpoint or equivocated my logic somewhere in the section, I would be happy to read your thoughts on this topic!

Following Up with New Concepts in Standard

Though Decideueye is hogging most of the spotlight right now, I think there are many decks that are being overlooked right now in Standard! In truth, we’ve really only seen two major tournaments in the Sun & Moon Standard format and thus I think it would be quite foolish of us to start talking like the metagame was totally solved. On the contrary, I think we are quite far away from seeing it resolved well and so now is the most ideal time to try and experiment for League Cups.

Doodads and Strafe

The first deck I want to talk about in this section is a deck centering around Umbreon-GX. This card had a reasonable amount of hype surrounding it before the set actually dropped and since Sun & Moon’s release, it seems to have died down immediately. I think the deck has a lot going for it right now but I want to go ahead and get into the list before I start explaining how the deck works:

Pokémon – 16

4 Eevee SUM

3 Umbreon-GX

1 Flareon AOR

1 Jolteon AOR

1 Vaporeon AOR

4 Wobbuffet GEN

1 Yveltal STS

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Lysandre

2 N

1 Olympia

1 Team Flare Grunt

 

4 Crushing Hammer

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

3 Trainers’ Mail

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Escape Rope

1 Super Rod

4 Float Stone

 

2 Reverse Valley

Energy – 10

6 D

4 Double Colorless

I think the only other build of Umbreon-GX I’ve seen includes Zoroark BKT as a supplementary attacker that can also take advantage of the different typings granted by the Eeveelutions but I do not think that deck has found any success for a reason. The strategy of this deck is to go all-in on the Energy denial route and be as disruptive as possible throughout the game. If you are able to create a board state where your opponent cannot attack and cannot find the means to attack, then Umbreon ought to be able to easily overrun any opponent with its second attack.

The old “hit & run” strategy.

The utility of Strafe is also quite interesting and serves as a supplementary strategy and allows you to promote Wobbuffet every turn to further deny your opponent access to various Abilities. I do acknowledge that the combination of Eevee SUM and Wobbuffet is quite annoying but it is still worth playing both cards despite their apparent lack of synergy. The same thing can be said for the one copy of Shaymin-EX but like the Eevee, it is simply too good not to include for scenarios where you need to find certain cards and Wobbuffet is not active.

In general, I have found that this deck has many positive matchups. Volcanion and Mega Mewtwo are both incredibly difficult though it is possible to win both of them. Volcanion can be slowed down greatly by opening Wobbuffet and getting Vaporeon into play but given that Volcanion is naturally resilient to Energy denial leaves a lot to be desired. Mewtwo could be solved easily by including a few P Energy and maybe even Espeon-GX but right now I am unsure of how to fit this in the deck.

Every other matchup tends to go quite well and I think this is the far superior version to the Espeon-GX/Wobbuffet deck that has emerged as an attempted counter of Decidueye. I think that Umbreon’s GX attack is incredibly underrated and can win games in its own right and offers for some pretty interesting comeback by N’ing your opponent low and then deleting all of their Energy from the board.

I faced a similar deck to this at Regionals that was using the promo Lycanroc-GX instead of Umbreon and it seemed very good to me so I was quite interested in exploring the concept with a more ideal combination of cards.

Straightaway Steam Up

The other deck that I am greatly favoring in Standard right now is Volcanion-EX. It has been at the top of my list for sometime in Standard now but I have lacked the opportunities to give it a thorough examination. Despite its inherent weakness to decks with Garbodor, Volcanion is incredibly well positioned in the current metagame and I think has all the tools it needs to navigate even a theoretically unfavorable matchup. Here is my current list:

Pokémon – 10

4 Volcanion-EX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Hoopa-EX AOR

3 Volcanion STS

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Lysandre

2 N

1 Fisherman

1 Olympia

 

4 Max Elixir

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

3 Trainers’ Mail

2 Energy Retrieval

2 Escape Rope

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Switch

3 Float Stone

2 Fighting Fury Belt

 

2 Sky Field

1 Parallel City

Energy – 11

11 R

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of new things going on with this list so I will keep the discussion mostly to a minimum. I do not enjoy the Catcher variant of the deck as I have never believed the risk to be worth the reward but especially now that Vileplume is a tier 1 threat in the metagame, I think we want to keep our Item count mostly to a minimum.

Outside of that, I think this list is simply as consistent as can be and that’s really all that Volcanion needs to function well. I have toyed around with all sorts of techs in this deck ranging from the Tauros-GX/Ninja Boy package, Entei, and even Salamence-EX, and I have found them all largely ineffective or unnecessary. Each and every game, I strive to have the most explosive openings possible and whenever I am able to get a T2 EX knockout with Volcanic Heat, I almost never lose. What Volcanion lacks in positive matchups, it makes up for with pure aggression and opening strong enough can just thwart speed and so sometimes your bad matchups. I acknowledge that things like Mega Mewtwo ought to be incredibly unfavored but in my testing with this list, I am sitting at a 4-0 record against my biggest foe!

Closing Thoughts

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As I’m sure most of our readers are aware, SixPrizes will currently be undergoing a slight change in management but I wanted to ensure everyone that we will be in good hands with Alex and Christopher. I think that since its advent many years ago, SixPrizes has been without a doubt the best place to come for premium content but as time has progressed, more and more competitor sites have been popping up and I think that as an organization we may have done too little to try and set ourselves apart from the rest of the pack. However, I believe that our focus will be shifted in the right direction in coming months and I promise that I will do my utmost to keep SixPrizes as relevant as ever. Until then, I want to thank Adam for all the work he has put into building this community!

In other news, I have teamed up with several of my friends within the game to launch our own podcast for Pokémon known as the Hovercast. We record and upload one episode a week to discuss the current metagame, decklists, and expectations for upcoming tournaments. We also try and stream on a consistent basis and in time, we hope to be a prominent force within the Pokémon community and it would be an honor to keep our ties as close to SixPrizes as possible!

I hope you have enjoyed today’s article as it has been a pleasure to write. I am not sure what Regional Championship I will be attending next as my schedule has becoming incredibly busy trying to juggle various responsibilities but I am sincerely hoping to earn my invite again this year. I will be competing in two League Cups this coming weekend and with a little luck, I’ll be closing in on the 300-point mark. Hopefully I will be able to see many of you in the coming weeks.

Until next time!


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