Hey all! There are only 3 months left in the 2016–2017 season; can you believe it? It feels like it just started, but we’re closing in on the home stretch. Players everywhere are scrambling to attain the last of the 500 points needed for their Worlds invitation. Even though we’re 70% through the season, about 40% of the season’s Championship Points are still to be earned. The months ahead are crucial!
Today, I want to go over the deck that I think is the undisputed best deck in format: Decidueye/Vileplume. I haven’t seen a deck this good in years, nor a deck that I’ve had this much fun and success with. Not only did it lead me to Top 8 in Oceania, but I’ve also won 2 League Cups with it in the 3 weeks since.
Since my last article, my thoughts on the deck’s oppressiveness have lessened slightly. I don’t think it’s necessarily unbeatable, but I do think it has a stranglehold over the format. To have a reasonable chance to beat it, you have to specifically tech your deck against it. I’ve seen Wobbuffet PHF in almost every competitive deck: Darkrai, Yveltal, Mewtwo, Rayquaza; even the Lapras-GX deck that has seen hype recently. I do still think a ban of Forest of Giant Plants would be good for the format overall, but it’s less necessary than I initially thought after Australia. I’ll reevaluate my position after Salt Lake City and São Paulo.
Anyway, I’ve gotten a lot of questions in the last few weeks about my decklist, how to play certain matchups, and seeking general tips. All of this information should help you as you prepare for upcoming tournaments, even if you’re not planning to play the deck itself. It’s important to learn how a deck operates so you’re not caught off guard when you play against it, and it’ll improve your usefulness in testing games.
Let’s get started.
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 29
Energy – 7
Not much has changed in this list since Oceania. I dropped the Unown AOR for a Lysandre, as I’ll explain later in the tech section. Otherwise, I feel that every card is necessary for the deck’s set up.
The cards I most often see omitted are Tauros-GX and the 3rd Shaymin. Having 3 Shaymin is important to make sure you have access to at least 2 of them in any given game. They’re that crucial to your set-up. Playing a 3rd also increases your odds of drawing into them naturally instead of having to waste a valuable Ultra Ball to grab one when it could instead get an Evolution. Tauros makes more sense as a cut, but I still find it worth a guaranteed 2 Prizes against decks like Yveltal, Darkrai, and even Volcanion.
I also see some people dropping the 4th Trainers’ Mail, which I think is a big mistake. You really need to guarantee the Forest by Turn 2; Turn 1 makes it even better. The more you can dig, the better.
Every other card is essential to setting up, and their inclusions should be clear.
If you want to see some other players’ slightly different takes on the deck, check out the 4 that made top 8 in Oceania.
Adding Some Color: Alternative Owls
Some players have run this deck with a different attacking core, using Jolteon-EX and Rainbow Energy as a way to counter Volcanion and other basic-heavy decks. Even with the standard list, Volcanion is a winnable matchup, while Yveltal and Darkrai are incredibly favorable matchups. As such, I haven’t put a ton of thought into this version of the deck, but here’s how I’d play it:
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 28
Energy – 8
One thing I want to try out in this list is a copy of Regice AOR. Especially since I’ve cut Beedrill-EX from this list, Regice could provide a chance to beat M Mewtwo. I’m reluctant to say it would actually work since most Mewtwo lists are running an Espeon-GX or Tauros-GX. However, they may be unable to find those outs under Item lock, and you might be able dispatch them with your other Pokémon before they become a threat.
This version of the deck gives you a more guaranteed win condition against several favorable or even matchups, but removes your way to win against decks with Garbodor. It also has one less option to slow the game down and set up, since there are only 2 Lysandre. The Jolteon version probably makes sense in some metagames where you can predict heavy Darkrai and Volcanion, but I don’t like it overall.
Mixing Things Up: Tech Options
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of room in a Decidueye/Vileplume list for tech cards. The core of the deck is basically 57 cards, and the remaining 3 slots usually have to be filled from 2 options. The deck is incredibly fragile — and fairly inconsistent — as it is, so you can’t really cut consistency cards. However, these are some cards to try out if you want to mix things up a bit.
On the surface, I love the inclusion of a 2nd Lugia. It’s an incredibly consistent damage dealer, and Deep Hurricane has closed out many games in the first few turns. However, with only 4 DCE available, you can’t usually charge a second Deep Hurricane in a game. Aero Ball is decent, but more easily punishable than Tauros is through things like Yveltal’s Y Cyclone or two hits from M Mewtwo’s Psychic Infinity. If I have to stack so much Energy on something to do that much damage, Decidueye’s 240 HP is a wiser investment.
Meowth is a nice tech that lets you kill Trubbish instantly so Garbodor never hits the field. However, it’s hard to readily search out the Meowth and get it Active. Even if you do, it takes the place of one of your Evolution lines on the board.
It is decent at stalling (in conjunction with Lysandre), but I think Trevenant-EX is a more guaranteed version of that idea, if you want to have option. The problem with having a “stalling” card at all is that it basically has to take the place of Beedrill or a Tauros/Lugia, which creates a damage problem. Beedrill is more essential to the deck, and can offer pseudo-stall by removing a Float Stone from a heavy retreat Pokémon.
Jirachi is the one card I most want to fit into the deck. At my last League Cup, I saw tons of good players piloting Mega Rayquaza. It’s a winnable matchup either way, but with Jirachi, you are often able to set up a gamestate where you can drain their DCE, through Hollow Hunt-GX grabbing Lysandre. If you’re denying their Energy and stopping them from taking prizes with Jirachi, you can deal enough damage to clear their board. It’s hard for them to get everything they need to kill a Decidueye at all at that point. If I really wanted to include the Jirachi, I think it would go over a Level Ball or Trainers’ Mail, at the cost of a diminished set up.
Trevenant was mentioned above briefly, just because I like it as a better option than Meowth. It gives you the option to Lysandre something up like a Vileplume or Hoopa and stall it for a few turns, even if a Float Stone is attached. With Decidueye, you’re dealing a considerable amount to their Bench, or buying time to set another Owl up if you don’t already have 2-3 up total. Honestly, I don’t really find this strategy necessary to win, and prefer Beedrill as explained above. I also would expect to have trouble dealing early damage if I cut the Tauros or Lugia for Trevenant.
I wanted to discuss the Unown in this section only to cover all of the potential tech options, not because I would advocate for playing it. The reasoning behind it is basically to never have to waste a Level Ball or Ultra Ball, and you get to dig an extra card deeper on an N or Sycamore. I wrote about this a bit in my last article.
Initially I included it in my list for Melbourne, but that was before I had ever piloted the concept — so I didn’t realize which cards were essential to the deck. After I noticed how often you need to Hollow Hunt for at least one Lysandre, I decided another needed to be added and Unown was the simply the best cut. If you really want the consistency boost, maybe drop the Beedrill and take the worse matchups that come with that choice.
3rd Float Stone
Some players have asked me about including only 2 Float Stone. With AZ no longer in the Standard format, and without Manaphy for free retreat, it’s hard to get Vileplume out of the Active Spot if it gets dragged up. It also can result in a trapped Tauros, and punishes you for evolving an Active Dartrix before retreating into a better attacker. However, none of those things are too detrimental to the deck. Tauros can still attack for a DCE, so it’s not a sitting duck. Players are also usually to afraid to attack into a Tauros as Mad Bull-GX, and even Rage, can deal significant damage.
Evolving your Active Dartrix to Decidueye leaves a monstrous wall sporting 240 HP. At best, you usually will attach an Energy card to the Rowlet or Dartrix before evolving it, just because you had one in hand and wanted to attach it before using Set Up. Now, you’re threatening 90 damage on whatever your opponent is attacking you with, making them think twice about what they leave Active. At worst, this gives you time to set up an attacker.
If your Vileplume gets Knocked Out, you get a turn of Items (which have probably built up in your hand), and you can easily replace the Vileplume with Revitalizer. Often, a turn of Items after my Vileplume is KO’d can let me grab another evolution line and the Vileplume again, while also allowing me to burn Item cards before a late game N. It often helps me more than it hurts. Plus, it’s too hard for most opponents to consistently find Lysandre when Item locked, so I don’t think the 3rd Float Stone is worth the space.
This is another switch I’ve considered making, just because of how incredibly necessary it is to use Hollow Hunt-GX in almost every game. It can set up another attacker, give you back Energy you discarded, or grab more Lysandre to stall with. It actually gives you both the option to react to your opponent’s offense or create the offense yourself if they aren’t pressuring you.
I could see dropping the 3rd Lysandre for the 4th Grass. If I did so, I would only be able to Hollow Hunt-GX after discarding at least 1 Lysandre, just because I think you need access to 2-3 in most games. I prefer to keep my options open with all 3 cards of a Hollow Hunt-GX, especially early in the game, which is why I’m reluctant to make the switch.
Navigating the Terrain: Matchup Keys
I usually find Yveltal to be a fairly favorable matchup. They don’t get to do much against a T1 Item lock, especially if you go first. You can either out-damage a Yveltal if they find their Energy or punish them for benching Pokémon without attaching an Energy card. Even one turn where a Yveltal player can’t attack can give you the time to place enough damage on their board to lead to a win. It’s also just tough to find the Energy or attackers to 3HKO multiple Decidueye.
If you struggle to establish Item lock quickly, they usually put a Garbodor on the board, which you can Lysandre and Double Scrapper. This gives you a few turns to damage them with Feather Arrow. At that point, I usually like to Lysandre up an attacker to get the damage war back in my favor quickly, before they find an Olympia or Hex Maniac + Escape Rope/Float Stone. It’s also simply difficult for Yveltal to manually retreat anything while keeping enough Energy cards to do considerable damage in the late game.
Overall, my game plan in this matchup revolves around setting up locks with Double Scrapper and/or Lysandre. An early Hollow Hunt-GX is incredibly helpful to this strategy, so put yourself in a good position to do that as you make your plans for the early turns.
Darkrai is an incredibly favorable matchup in my experience. In fact, I’ve never lost a set to the deck, even when they run 1-2 Wobbuffet. It can feel like a tough matchup, as many of the games are very close, but you usually can neuter their damage output before it becomes too much to deal with. Tauros is king in this matchup, giving you a way to clear Energy off their board. You can Horn Attack and Feather Arrow for a few turns to clear 1 Darkrai, while using Lysandre on the one that’s charging on the Bench to KO with Mad Bull-GX. From here, Decidueye’s Razor Leaf quickly ends the game. Lugia can also fill in for Tauros in that strategy, but requires a 2nd DCE to deal enough damage in the necessary time.
However, this can all be avoided with a Turn 1 Vileplume. They’ll struggle to ever keep an attacker alive or do more than 80 damage a turn. The combination of the way to eliminate their strong starts and the potential to finish a game before it starts makes this matchup very easy.
This can actually be a tough matchup, and is one where your odds benefit immensely from a T1 Vileplume. Forcing them to spend a turn Mega Evolving usually lets you KO their Mewtwo before it KOs you. They usually struggle from there. However, if they set up well enough and get Ability lock online with Hex Maniac and Garbodor, they can out-damage you and punish your need to attach 2 Energy cards to Decidueye.
In this matchup, I typically want to go for a “stall” by using Lysandre on an unevolved Mewtwo-EX, a Trubbish/Garbodor, or a Hoopa. If they have a Tool attached already, you typically want to use Double Scrapper. From there, Feather Arrow gives me enough damage to plan out the rest of my prizes over the next few turns, and I can Lysandre an attacker to initiate the Prize trade when it becomes advantageous and/or necessary. You can also damage whatever you dragged Active to take 1-2 Prizes on it later in the game with a Feather Arrow or two. Otherwise, if you can’t properly execute that plan with the cards you draw into, you have to hope to out-damage their attackers with both of Lugia’s attacks or Decidueye’s Razor Leaf.
The mirror is rather difficult to prepare a game plan for. A lot of the time, one player will just set up Vileplume and the other player basically won’t set up. Otherwise, you just place Feather Arrow damage on whatever is the biggest threat. It’s usually rather obvious as to what this is based on what your opponent puts Energy on. It just comes down to who gets the most Decidueye out the quickest.
In many games, I don’t even get Vileplume out myself. This typically happens when they go first or I just didn’t have the hand to get one on my first turn. In this case, there’s one play I like to make if possible. It relies on having a few Decidueye out and maybe even a Lysandre to use. The idea is to set up a KO on my opponent’s Vileplume on their turn. Then, I can grab the cards to grab another Decidueye with a Hollow Hunt-GX and KO the Vileplume the next turn. During the rest of my turn, I set up another Decidueye and my own Vileplume, giving me an advantage (or at least evening up our Feather Arrow damage output), and usually guarantee an attack or two with Razor Leaf. If you can also N at this point, you usually swing the momentum far in your favor. I see openings for this play in many games, which is why I typically try to set up multiple Decidueye before getting Vileplume out.
Many players view this as incredibly unfavorable but it’s far from unwinnable. Item lock severely disrupts their set up, often to the point where they can’t even attack. Even if they can, you still get the chance to Lysandre a Volcanion-EX they’re charging and finish it off with Feather Arrow or Tauros/Lugia before it takes many prizes. They can struggle with 2HKOs from your bulky Colorless Pokémon.
Overall, they normally don’t get a ton of Energy on the board quickly enough, especially as you Lysandre around their baby Volcanions. If you chase the Energy they do put down, even an attacking Decidueye can stay alive long enough to severely damage their board. Trapping something Active for 2-3 turns can be all you need to put the perfect amount of damage done.
The key to beating Volcanion is to be the aggressor. You have to make the first move and keep them on the back foot. The matchup gets pretty bad when they have time to spread their Energy all around their board. At this point, a Volcanion player can decimate your field in 3-4 turns, even when playing conservatively. It’s hard to make a comeback against Volcanion, so make sure to put on early pressure.
Rayquaza is difficult to beat when they set up on their first turn, as they take prizes too fast and you can’t even wall them with Decidueye like you can against Yveltal. You need a lot of time to KO a single M Rayquaza, so as long as they keep it attacking, the less time you have to spare. If they have the Energy or Hex Maniac+switching card to retreat a Hoopa or other Pokémon with high retreat, they can put you in a hole you can’t recover from.
In this matchup, I actually prioritize Vileplume more than most other matchups. With a single Tauros or Lugia, as well as just 1 Decidueye, I have the HP and damage output to last a few turns and complete my setup. This is only doable if I stop them from getting out Sky Field and at least 6 basics, so I need to stop their Ultra Ball and Trainers’ Mail ASAP. There are a lot of comebacks in this matchup, often facilitated by a Hollow Hunt-GX for a Lysandre and an N, then playing those cards in succession. Rayquaza decks can be stuck with a lot of dead cards, or need 2-3 card combos to continue attacks. After an N to 2, it becomes almost impossible for a Rayquaza deck to hit exactly the cards they need and you can quickly regain control of the game.
I haven’t mentioned Wobbuffet as a factor in any of the above matchups, mostly because your game plan against it is the same no matter what deck it’s played in. You could see it in almost anything. I’ve seen it firsthand in Darkrai, Yveltal, Mewtwo, and even Lapras decks. The general purpose of it is to slow your setup in the early game and provide your opponent use of Item cards (especially VS Seeker) in the late game.
However, if your opponent uses it early, their setup is often slowed just as much as yours. In this case, you can still win the game pretty easily. You have time to set up 3 Decidueye and a Vileplume, slowly dispatch the Wobbuffet, and overwhelm their board with your 240 HP attackers.
If your opponent uses Wobbuffet late in the game to grab Lysandre or Hex Maniac, they’re also usually giving you access to Items as well. Unless they are able to promote it after a knockout and retreat it immediately, you can use this time to set up one or two more Decidueye. This usually benefits you as you gain a considerable amount of damage output to close the game out with. Having your Abilities shut off for a turn and giving your opponent a turn to use VS Seeker is a small price to pay for 40 more damage a turn with Feather Arrow.
The trick to dealing with Wobbuffet is planning ahead. You will want to clear it from the board ASAP, as you don’t want to give your opponent unfettered access to VS Seeker or Trainers’ Mail. If I see my opponent Bench one, I’ll put at least 20 damage on it with Feather Arrow. This way, I can immediately finish it off with a single Razor Leaf before it can become a nuisance. If I think I have an opportunity to KO it before it comes Active, I’ll aggressively target it over 2-3 turns with 40-60 damage a turn. This works best if you’ve stalled something with 2+ retreat in the Active Spot. You could even target it with a Lysandre, use Items for the remainder of your turn, and then KO it before your opponent ever uses the Ability for their own gain.
If I don’t have a Decidueye to attack with, I know I need to put 60-80 damage on it so a Tauros, Lugia, or even a Shaymin can finish it off when it comes Active. It’s all about working with what you have and not being caught off guard when Wobbuffet hits the Active Spot.
Playing through the Puzzle: General Tips
Decidueye/Vileplume plays like a puzzle, but the pieces change every game. Maybe you get similar pieces to what you’ve gotten in past games, but they come in a different order. You can have a solid game plan for each matchup, but you still have to adapt on the fly to what you draw and what your opponent is able to set up.
As far as tips that span multiple matchups, there are a few things I keep in mind:
- Try to set up at least a Decidueye and a Dartrix before setting up a Vileplume. It’s significantly harder to set up evolutions under your own Item lock. Even if you get the early Vileplume, you won’t get far without consistent damage output from Feather Arrow.
- Plan on using Hollow Hunt-GX early and in most games. I’d estimate that 2/3 of my games feature a Hollow Hunt-GX, and most of those are within the first 3 turns. It’s the best way to control the game with Lysandre, guaranteed Energy attachments, and extra attackers.
- You should almost always Hollow Hunt-GX for at least 1 Lysandre. In this deck, Lysandre is invaluable as a way to control the pace of the game. I even find myself using a Lysandre on a Hoopa or similar target, giving me time to Hollow Hunt-GX without my opponent threatening an attack on the next turn. You can then grab that Lysandre right back to use in a few turns to damage a threatening attacker before it gets out of hand.
- Don’t be afraid to use Mad Bull-GX, even though it’ll mean you can’t use Hollow Hunt-GX during that game. Many games go like this: I have a Tauros Active and I use Horn Attack + 2 Feather Arrow to bring a Darkrai or Yveltal to 100 damage. My opponent assumes I will have to KO their Active Pokémon next turn, so they deal 80-100 damage to my Tauros while charging an attacker on the board that they plan to sweep with once the Tauros goes down. I Lysandre that Benched attacker and KO it with Mad Bull-GX, while placing 40 more damage on their first attacker.At this point, I’ve essentially won the game since I can finish their first attacker with 2 Feather Arrow on the following turn, and 1-2 turns of Razor Leaf will end the game. This only works if you have 1-2 Lysandre available and enough Energy to attack without using Hollow Hunt-GX, so you’ll have to assess your remaining resources before committing to this play.
- You’re almost never out of the game. Don’t overestimate how difficult it is for your opponent to draw a game winning card under Item lock. If you can buy even 1 or 2 turns in a game where you’re far behind, you can find a way to mount a comeback. Decidueye’s 240 HP makes it all but impossible to 1HKO, so you can cycle through them with Float Stone or manually retreating with DCE to buy time. Anything without an immediate way to retreat can be stalled Active, even a Shaymin. Finding the single Energy card, Olympia, or Hex Maniac + Switching card to get out of the Active Spot can be impossible for some decks, especially after a late game N.
Decidueye is my favorite deck in the game right now, and for good reason. Few matchups are strictly unfavorable, it has ways to win against most decks that try to heavily tech against it, and it can close out any game before it starts. I’m curious to see what happens if the anti-Decidueye decks come out in force in Salt Lake City like I expect them to.
If you have any questions about how to play the deck, how to deal with scenarios that don’t have a clearly defined “correct” play, or want my thoughts on a decklist, feel free to leave a comment in the forums.
Before I go, I want to mention the new feedback form at the bottom of this post. This will appear on all future Underground articles as a way to tell the SixPrizes staff what you thought about an article. You won’t have to worry about this information being in a public forum this way, in case you have more critical feedback or just don’t want others seeing what you say. Otherwise, public feedback or other comments directed toward the writer can be posted on the forums post for each article.
Good luck preparing for Salt Lake City!
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