Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist here back with an article focused on the upcoming Portland Regionals. In my last article I discussed how I believed the new Sun & Moon set would affect the Standard format, and I’m excited to be able to change lanes a bit and discuss the BLW–SM Expanded format.
The Expanded format has become a much different beast than the Standard format due to the insane variety of decks that can appear at any given tournament. Because of this, I think that teching for a certain matchup has become somewhat impossible/impractical … unless a lot of popular decks share a common weakness. It is generally a good idea to focus on the consistency of your own deck rather than fix a single bad matchup simply because you might only see that bad matchup once in the 14 rounds before hitting Top 8.
Popular Trends from St. Louis
Before any big tournament I always like to look at the most recent tournament results of that format and try and gauge how I think the metagame will change based on those results. The Top 8 of St. Louis ended up looking like this:
- Alex Wilson … M Rayquaza-EX
- John Kettler … Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR/Lugia-EX
- Rahul Reddy … Volcanion-EX
- John Sienkiewicz … Night March/Tauros-GX
- Anthony Nimmons … Accelgor DEX/Wobbuffet PHF
- Alex Schemanske … Seismitoad-EX/Decidueye-GX/Wobbuffet PHF
- Ross Cawthon … Lurantis-GX/Vileplume AOR
- Israel Sosa … Yveltal-EX/Maxie’s
Along with acknowledging which decks did the best, it’s important to notice which decks were the most popular. The deck spread in Day 2 looked like this:
The three most popular decks were Lurantis/Vileplume, Gardevoir, and Volcanion followed by a little bit of everything which is not uncommon to see in the Expanded format. Gardevoir is the only one of the three most popular decks to fall short of a Top 8 placement. A couple of important themes I immediately noticed from the listed decks are 1) a reliance on Special Energy and 2) a reliance on Abilities for setup and/or throughout the game. Not every decklisted relies on both, but they all rely on at least one and most of them even rely on both, including the finalists’ decks! Noticing common themes like these amongst decks and especially throughout a metagame can really help in trying to capitalize on weaknesses the decks may share.
I mentioned earlier that I thought it was generally a good idea to focus on your deck’s own consistency before trying to tech for a singular bad matchup, and I wanted to expand on that a bit. Playing a card to beat one matchup is usually not a great idea in Expanded (e.g., Giratina Promo to combat Greninja), but in Expanded we are able to notice themes like the ones I mentioned earlier where a lot of decks are relying on Special Energy, Abilities, Items, etc. Cards that can be “flex techs” to counter these kinds of themes include Wobbuffet, Xerosic, Hex Maniac, and Ghetsis.
Countering a theme is often much more feasible, realistic, and optimal use of deck space than strictly focusing on countering one or two bad matchups that you may only see a couple of times throughout a tournament.
I believe Wobbuffet fills the theme-countering niche best right now, and so I am going to spend the article focusing on decks that can abuse Wobbuffet the best. I’ll focus on what I think are decks that can counter the St. Louis metagame and the underlying themes of the format. I’ll be discussing each deck’s matchups versus the finalists (Mega Ray and Decidueye/Vileplume) and the three most popular decks (Lurantis/Plume, Mega Gardevoir, Volcanion). I hope that you can begin to see the underlying pattern that a few of these decks share.
This is a deck that has always been around in Expanded but has often been left on the back burner of everyone’s testing. Accelgor’s Deck and Cover attack is one that has found success with a myriad of partners and has always been an especially powerful and unique attack. I have been somewhat enamored with the deck ever since Mike Fouchet’s 2nd place finish at Philadelphia Regionals, but have never had the guts to pull the trigger on it. My biggest regret of San Jose Regionals is not playing the deck for the event. Anthony Nimmons recently finished in the Top 8 of St. Louis with it before losing to John Sienkiewicz’s Night March. I think Wobbuffet is an incredibly powerful card right now as opening with it can shut down a huge portion of the metagame and lock your opponent out of blowing through their deck T1 like a lot of current decks are known to do in Expanded. Even if your opponent can reasonably set up under Wobbuffet, stopping the use of cards like Shaymin-EX and Jirachi-EX hinders their pace, giving you the time you need to set up. This is my current list:
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 36
Energy – 4
The list is not terribly exciting and is only 3 cards off of Mike Fouchet’s 2nd place Philadelphia list, and I would not fault anyone for flexing between the few card differences of the lists successfully piloted by Nimmons and Fouchet. The most important decision to be made with the deck is in the tech Supporters. I’ve opted for Ghetsis and the 2nd Lysandre over things like Xerosic and Hex Maniac that were found in Nimmons’ list. I like Ghetsis a lot because it can help stop repeated use of things like AZ/Olympia/other switch effects by removing cards from hand like VS Seeker, Escape Rope, and Switch.
I think Hex Maniac is a bit redundant with the 4 Wobbuffet and can only think of some niche scenarios where I would want to use the Hex Maniac. I like the Xerosic a lot as it can remove options from your opponent, but I have a hard time justifying it over the Ghetsis or 2nd Lysandre which are the only realistic cuts for the card.
Hilariously enough, you get to use the Forest of Giant Plants that both Lurantis/Vileplume and Decidueye/Vileplume play and can pull off some insanely cool plays. If your opponent is playing cards that also help you, then that is always going to make any matchup a little bit easier.
Vs. Mega Rayquaza … 60-40
I think this matchup is relatively straightforward. Opening Wobbuffet can ruin their entire game, and Wobbuffet shuts off Keldeo-EX. Lysandre is very good for them because they can reuse all of their good Abilities once Wobbuffet is no longer an issue. Keeping Shaymin-EX off of your side of the board is key, and trying to take out their Keldeo-EX with Accelgor should be a priority. If you’re able to KO the Keldeo, then even a Lysandre around Wobbuffet will still leave them stuck Active after future Deck and Covers. All things considered, I think this matchup is easily in Accelgor’s favor with some tight play and a focus on disruption.
Vs. Decidueye/Vileplume … 70-30
This matchup is actually pretty easy for Accelgor as long as you play it correctly. It is generally smart to be careful when setting up Musharna against Vileplume variants because of Lysandre. If you do not have a Float Stone attached, then a Lysandre on Musharna can lose you the game immediately. They regain control of Irritating Pollen and Feather Arrow while locking a fat 3-retreat Pokémon Active, giving them ample time to spread damage and play the game at their pace. Otherwise they play no switch cards and no reliable way to get around Deck and Cover. With their Abilities shut off throughout most of the game, Decidueye/Vileplume is a much less terrifying deck to be paired against.
Vs. Lurantis/Vileplume … 70-30
You don’t really play that much differently against this deck compared to the Decidueye variant. They can’t really punish you by locking Musharna Active as well as Decidueye can, but they are much faster and more consistent. The deck also runs 4 copies of AZ which can be incredibly annoying to deal with, but losing the Energy from the AZ can slow them down as well. An AZ play from them will never cause too much of an issue because they’re not KOing your Wobbuffet unless they have another 3-Energy Lurantis-GX ready to go. Eventually they do run out of AZ and then they’re in a lot of trouble because the math is very good for you if you lock Virbank City Gym into play. Watch out for Virizion-EX as it can ruin your entire day. None of the successful lists were playing the card in St. Louis but if Accelgor catches hype it can cause a lot of problems for you.
Vs. M Gardevoir … 70-30
This matchup is very similar to Mega Rayquaza except they don’t play Keldeo-EX, which makes it much much easier. They might have a couple of switch cards and get attacking relatively quickly, but between Wobbuffet slowing them down and Deck and Cover forcing missed attacks, the matchup is definitely in your favor if they opt to only play a couple of switch cards.
Vs. Volcanion … 65-35
This somewhat similar to the Ray matchup because they play Keldeo/Float, but they also have no switch cards/AZ and their attacker needs resetting to chain Wobbuffet KOs. Locking them out of Steam Up makes the Baby Volcanion much less effective, forcing the EX or a 3-Energy baby with a Fury Belt to take knockouts.
Trevenant is a deck that I’ve definitely had quite the evolving relationship with. I first played it last winter for Florida Regionals when Trevenant BREAK and the Ascension Phantump were first released, and actually gave the list to Aaron Tarbell who ended up winning the entire event with it! I loved the deck back then because it was shiny, new, and something that was pretty under-the-radar going into the event. However, since then, Trevenant has become a real force causing entire Expanded events to be centered around its popularity/relevance. In St. Louis we saw Trevenant decline in popularity for a variety of reasons, but after looking at the Top 8 it leads me to believe that Trevenant is ripe for another deep run at a large event. This is my current list:
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 36
Energy – 8
An important thing to note about this list is that I’ve favored Bursting Balloons and a pair of alternate attackers over cards like Crushing Hammer and Red Card. I believe that the Bursting Balloon version is a strictly better deck that overall has more synergy and more naturally flows together as opposed to the heavy disruption version that just kind of relies on flipping heads and hoping your opponent draws poorly long enough to spread a ton of damage on their field with Silent Fear. The disruption version is often considered to be much better against Dark variants, but I think that the Bursting Balloon version is no worse than 40-60 or 45-55 versus any Dark variant and makes all of your other matchups a lot better. If you prefer the disruption version, then I’m certain that Jonathan Crespo’s list that won Philadelphia Regionals is a very fine place to start.
This list is essentially the same one I’ve been playing since Seattle Regionals last year, as there have been no new cards to help Trevenant out released in a while. The tech Supporters I’ve chosen here are fairly important as well. I’m playing AZ over the 4th Professor Juniper because of the abundance of other Item lock decks and because it’s a card I’ve grown to love.
I’m also playing Xerosic over Delinquent because I believe that hating on Special Energy and Tools is much more important than targeting hands/Stadiums. Sky Field and Forest of Giant Plants decks generally get max value out of their Stadium during their turns anyway, so it doesn’t help a ton against most stuff.
Vs. Mega Rayquaza … 60-40
I think this matchup is relatively coin-flip dependent. Basically whoever can go first and do their ridiculous thing first is most likely to pull off the victory. However, I think the Energy removal and general Item lock power of Trevenant puts it at an advantage in this matchup. If they’re playing the Giratina Promo and are able to get it out, you can be in for some trouble, but you can work around it with careful play. Your Energy removal is a very powerful tool in this matchup so you can avoid BREAK evolving and focus on Tree Slam if it keeps Item lock going. Going in with Wobbuffet at the correct time can be game changing as it can take a knockout while still preventing your opponent from popping off through use of Shaymin-EX.
Vs. Decidueye/Vileplume … 65-35
Trevenant has historically been favored against Vileplume variants and this matchup is no different. The long and slow game that Item lock decks take is very powerful, but no deck does it better than the Forest Curse/Silent Fear combination. Silent Fear is insanely powerful for a long game, the deck has access to Wobbuffet to regain Items whenever needed, and the Energy removal can cause Decidueye some tough times. Trevenant is also much less reliant on Items itself because of Phantump’s Ascension attack.
Vs. Lurantis/Vileplume … 40-60
This matchup is actually very difficult as long as the Lurantis player doesn’t play poorly. Solar Blade does 120 and heals 30 from their Active, essentially erasing the Silent Fear you just dropped. You can still spread to KO things on their Bench, and if they play down too many other Pokémon to allow for you to take easy Bench knockouts then it can be much more winnable. Locking Vileplume Active can be game changing if the opportunity comes up. If Vileplume is up on their end then you cannot use Bursting Balloon, which severely hinders your output, and Energy denial is very weak because of Flower Supply. Wobbuffet and Mewtwo are key for the Trevenant player here if Vileplume hits the field, but ultimately the best strategy for Trevenant is to go first and hope to Wally-lock them out of the game long enough to spread a lot.
Vs. Mega Gardevoir … 50-50
Gardevoir can get very tricky because they can abuse your Dimension Valley and do 110 a turn after a Gardevoir gets attacking, but they also can’t reliably clear their Bench for a clean 160 on a BREAK without leaving the Active M Gardevoir vulnerable to 1HKO from Wobbuffet or Mewtwo-EX thanks to Bursting Balloon. If they’re able to Hex/Lysandre a lot and abuse Max Potion then things can get bad, but like with a lot of Trevenant’s matchups, you just kinda gotta let Item lock do its thing and slow your opponent down.
Vs. Volcanion … 65-35
If they don’t nail the early Keldeo/Float Stone then the reset on Volcanion-EX’s attack is a huge pain to deal with under lock. Energy denial can actually be annoying for Volcanion if the timing is correct, but it’s largely ineffective because of Power Heater. The mobility of Keldeo/Float Stone is honestly huge in this and the Mega Rayquaza matchup, and is another reason why I’m including the copy of Xerosic in the deck for Portland Regionals.
This deck is one I’ve always enjoyed as a fringe pick, but largely I think it is a worse “Compressor deck” than Night March that happens to be good against a lot of things that Night March tends to struggle with. A similar comparison would be Mega Gardevoir to Mega Rayquaza in the Standard format, where Gardevoir is ultimately a worse “Sky Field” deck but better against the things that Rayquaza loses to.
I like Vespiquen right now because it already plays Wobbuffet/Float Stone to deal with Archeops, so it has a natural out to Vileplume. Vespiquen has also always had incredible typing against the metagame through the diversity of Vespiquen and Flareon as attackers with Vaporeon and Jolteon being able to change your type as needed. Fire, Grass, Water, and Lightning are all very relevant types in the current Expanded metagame so Vespiquen may be due for a deep run.
Pokémon – 28
Trainers – 28
1 Life Dew
Energy – 4
I got the initial inspiration for this list from Andrew Wamboldt, and have since been testing out a variety of techs in the deck. The deck isn’t that much different because Vespiquen doesn’t have a lot of room to really play with. I’ve come to agree the DCE/Special Charge engine is superior to the Fire/Blacksmith engine for Energy recovery because there isn’t a whole lot of Giratina-EX or Aegislash running around.
I’ve enjoyed the Jolteon because of how good it is in every single matchup, but the Vaporeon is strictly for Volcanion. I think Volcanion will continue to be a pretty popular deck for a lot of different reasons, so I definitely think it’s worth having Vaporeon around for that matchup.
The Hex Maniac is another out to all the Vileplume and Volcanion decks running around, and can give you access to some much needed Item cards when you cannot get Wobbuffet Active. Being able to utilize your opponent’s Forest of Giant Plants is always nice too.
Vs. Mega Rayquaza … 60-40
Jolteon is absolutely huge in this matchup. Your opponent can play Hex Maniac to shut off Jolteon, but you can also play Lysandre to KO a Shaymin. The trade is just too good and too easy for you with Jolteon and a focus on non-EX attackers, but Mega Rayquaza can sometimes just Hex you to death if you’re struggling to set up. You should be careful not to overextend your Battle Compressors in case a Karen hits, but if that happens then playing the long game with Life Dew becomes even more viable.
Vs. Decidueye/Vileplume … 55-45
This matchup is close because of how good Decidueye is against all of your small attackers, but between the Hex Maniac, Flareon’s typing, and being able to abuse their Forest of Giant Plants, it is favored for Vespiquen. If you can ever nail a Float Stone on one or even both of your Wobbuffet it becomes very tough for the Decidueye player to deal with that kind of control over Abilities. Double Lysandre is huge here because of how easily a Flareon can take out a Decidueye on the Bench, and as an added bonus Jolteon gives you Weakness on Lugia-EX as well.
Vs. Lurantis/Vileplume … 65-35
Incredibly similar to the Decidueye/Vileplume matchup except for not having to deal with Decidueye pings or Lugia which are essentially the reasons the matchup is close. As long as you can evolve into your Flareons and attack for a respectable amount of damage you should win more often than not, but as always T1 Vileplume going second can always ruin your day.
Vs. Mega Gardevoir … 30-70
This matchup is similar to the Rayquaza matchup except all the reasons it’s easy are non-existent. Gardevoir has great typing, insane healing, and Karen. If you don’t 1HKO then they’ll likely be able to reset their attacker and have the ability to periodically Karen and ruin your reach for damage output. You can always play the long resource game with your attackers and Life Dew, but ultimately the matchup is still difficult.
Vs. Volcanion … 60-40
Vaporeon and Flareon are the saviors the deck needed to beat Volcanion. Not having to 100% rely on Fire-weak Vespiquen against Volcanion is a huge difference in the matchup from Standard. Vaporeon clearly helps a lot as well because of the typing, but you can even drop Hex Maniac to mess with their output and force up an EX if they want to KO when you don’t need or don’t have Vaporeon. Baby Volcanion is your biggest threat in this matchup and being able to deal with it in any easier way is very helpful.
Our own Michael Slutsky already went into detail about why he believes this to be a great play for the weekend, and I largely agree, but as a writer I truly did not feel like I could honestly post this article without including a brief mention of the deck and the subtle differences in our lists because I am 95% certain I’m going to be playing the deck this weekend at Portland Regionals.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 39
Energy – 10
This is definitely the deck I’ve put the most time into while prepping for Portland Regionals. Assault Vest over Hard Charm is something I’m very sold on. The only matchup where you really miss Hard Charm is Volcanion, and Assault Vest is better versus everything else in the format. The Enhanced Hammer helps capitalize on Special Energy hate as often decks that play DCE have a hard time avoiding using them. If Yveltal BKT is able to get around Mr. Mime, they only do 20 damage if they’re using a DCE, which they usually are because putting 3 Darks on a BKT is generally not that strong.
I think double Pokémon Center Lady and double Lysandre are key to Groudon at the moment. They give you consistent access to insanely powerful effects that you want to use every single game. I could see cutting the 2nd Pokémon Center Lady for an Olympia or a Hex Maniac, but that’s really it as far as Supporters go. I don’t think cards like Xerosic, Team Flare Grunt, and Karen are currently worth it based on the metagame we saw at St. Louis.
Computer Search is my ACE SPEC of choice because Groudon has always felt a bit inconsistent to me so I like being able to grab any card off of Korina, and T1 Korrina into Computer Search for Tropical Beach is a play I’ve become quite familiar with.
Update: April 5, 2017
In the end, this was the deck (and list) I took to Portland Regionals. The most useless card on the weekend was Weakness Policy. I only played against one matchup where it was needed, and I lost anyway due to some egregious errors on my end. I think that is definitely the most flexible spot moving forward, and could realistically become a lot of different cards depending on the meta moving forward. My Portland tournament looked like this:
Portland Day 1
Day 1 Final Record: 6-2-1
My only regret the entire tournament was not knowing that Israel Sosa played 3 Yveltal-EX. After seeing two Darkrai-EX throughout our games, I assumed his list was similar to the one he played at Collinsville Regionals that featured only two Yveltal-EX. Because of this assumption, I made a critical error in Game 2 opting to knockout the second Yveltal-EX with Lysandre instead of using Pokémon Center Lady to heal my Primal Groudon. Had I done that, I almost certainly would have won the game provided an N did not ruin my day.
Overall I was very happy with my deck choice and how the weekend turned out, and am very excited to return to Standard and focus on the upcoming Salt Lake City Regional Championship.
Overall Expanded is always so incredibly tough to prepare for because of the amount of viable decks. If you define subtle differences among builds like choosing to include Giratina-EX in a Turbo Dark deck as an entirely different deck then there are most likely at least 25+ options for viable decks that could be sitting across the table from you. The most important thing to be aware of in Expanded is knowing your deck. Knowing how to pilot your deck, why it is your deck, and why each and every card is in your deck is a huge component of succeeding in such a diverse metagame.
Before I go, I want to plug my own mini project known as Hovercast that I’ve started with a few friends of mine, including our own Brit Pybas. We’re focusing on putting out weekly discussion videos concerning the game of Pokémon in both the Standard and Expanded format. We have loads of deck discussion, chatter about metagame developments, and analysis of past and future tournaments. We also stream at least twice a week if you’re into that sort of thing. Feel free to check us out here:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HovercastTCG/
- Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/hovercasttcg
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Hovercast_TCG
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCozFIJPn3V6TH0i01RWAj8w
I hope this discussion has not only been incredibly productive but also immensely helpful for those attending Portland Regionals or for those just trying to follow metagame trends. If you see me at the tournament as always feel free to come up and say hello! I love to meet readers and just recently learned I can upload a picture of myself to my SixPrizes profile so y’all can have a picture to go by. Until next time!
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