Greninja has had somewhat a mixed history throughout its relevance in the competitive scene. It saw some initial success, but it was not until the World Championships and the addition of Talonflame that we saw it begin to flourish. With a second place finish at Worlds and an immediate Regionals win in the Expanded format, Greninja seemed like it was at the top of the format.
As time has progressed, however, the card has ceased to exist from both the Standard and Expanded. I would attribute this mostly to its weakness to Grass and the release of good Grass GXs in Sun & Moon as well as the sheer popularity of Garbodor in Standard and Archeops in Expanded. With the release of Rising Guardians, however, I am somewhat optimistic that the Frogs may once again rise (float?) to the top.
Rising from the Ashes: Greninja
Let us begin by exploring the list I have been working on:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 33
Energy – 9
There is very little to discuss about the Pokémon count in this list. For the most part, this has been the norm since Steam Siege, and I think that is for good reason. There has been some debate over whether or not Talonflame is needed in the list, but I have argued for its inclusion since the Fall despite the trend somewhat reflecting otherwise. By no means is Talonflame “needed,” but Greninja, as many of are acutely aware, has some natural inconsistency, and I think Taloneflame is simply the best solution to that.
Additionally, it is particularly useful against Decidueye/Vileplume and can help set up while under Item lock should be you fortunate enough to start it. There is probably some merit in a fourth copy of Greninja BREAK but for now, I believe that three is the correct choice.
Of course, the biggest boon to Greninja is Field Blower. Finally, there is an to answer Garbodor that is much more reliable than hoping to Knock it Out before Garbotoxin does too much. Field Blower provides additional utility in making it easier to take KOs on the bigger Pokémon, and ensures you’ll almost always (especially with Choice Band) be able to take a 2HKO.
Outside of this, the rest of the list is mostly your standard froggy fair. Consistency is a must for a setup deck such as Greninja, and as such, I’ve tried to keep the Supporter count in, opting to ignore more situational options like Ace Trainer, Pokémon Ranger or Hex Maniac. I have been quite enamored with Skyla in Standard since playing it in my Lapras deck, and think that it deserves a spot in here as it is rarely bad and lets you find crucial Items at any given point.
The only “unusual” selection for this list is the two copies of Team Flare Grunt and the idea behind this card is to somewhat deal with Decidueye. I believe that you are highly favored against Decidueye if you are somehow able to keeping them off their Grass or Rainbow Energy, and the option to use Talonflame to search both of them at once proves quite threatening, particularly if your opponent does not foresee such a line of play.
Finally, I like the split between Rescue Stretcher and Super Rod simply because it gives you more options at any given point in a game. More often than not, either card will do the exact same thing, but having the option to return Energy to your deck or nab a frog back to your hand ought to justify the split between the two cards. The only thing that I am really “wanted” in the list is maybe a copy or two of Weakness Policy. I am skeptical whether it makes a difference against Decidueye decks, but Alex Krekler (perhaps the only player to play Greninja for the whole year) has seen some success this format with Greninja, and I believe his list has always featured two copies of the card.
Naturally, there is very little to discuss about the Energy line. The only question is simply deciding the Splash Energy count. For the time being, I am somewhat leery about Special Energy hate in the current format, and have opted to stray away from more than the single copy of Splash. Cards like Drampa-GX seem to have a lot of hype at the moment, and I am reasonably confident that Lapras-GX and Sylveon-GX decks will be popular choices in the future. Perhaps this is yet another instance of be being overly committed to conservative play, but it is any easy change to make should I become more optimistic in the future.
Thinking About the Matchups
Greninja has always matched up well against EX-heavy decks that are unable to find knockouts fast within the game. If an such a deck found popularity in a metagame, I believe that Greninja was almost exclusively favored. This lumps together any Dark deck that did not play Garbodor, Volcanion, M Rayquaza and so forth. The biggest enemy was always M Mewtwo/Garbodor, and while I imagine that is still incredibly difficult, I think that Field Blower makes it much closer. Additionally, decks like Yveltal/Garbodor seem incredibly more manageable.
Outside of Decideueye, I think that Greninja is favored against almost every popular deck from the past format. The next question we must answer is “how will Greninja fare against the newer and hyped decks from Guardians Rising?” As far as I can tell, I think the answer to that question is “quite well.” Assuming that two copies of Field Blower is enough to win or make even matchups against Garbodor, I really do believe that Greninja will be a top tier threat. The new Garbodor is certainly very powerful as an attacker, but I think that it will trade somewhat poorly with Greninja’s offense. The only threat I truly forsee is the existence of a Sylveon-GX deck, as its GX attack seems very devastating against Greninja, as it’s forced to so slowly manually evolve. If Sylveon succeeds in returning two Greninja BREAK to your hand, I would think that you would struggle to restabilize.
Northern Exposure: Thoughts for Toronto
Shifting our focus to an event that is much closer at hand, Toronto Regionals will be taking place this weekend. This will be the last major tournament this season with the Expanded format, and with that in mind, I doubt we will see any new decks or archetypes emerge. In general, my experience with Expanded is incredibly minimal, so I am somewhat hesitant to be super prescriptive. The format tends to play out in one of two ways: play Dark or counter Dark. Very rarely has a Regionals top 8 reflected differently than one of these two scenarios, and thus the main focus of our preparation for Toronto should be focused on deciding which of the two scenarios will be the focus of the metagame.
St. Louis Regionals was somewhat unusual in this regard, and featured perhaps the only Top 8 to deviate from this trend, but Portland Regionals saw a return of Yveltal/Maxie’s success with yet another victory for the Prince of Darkness himself, Israel Sosa. Based on the last Expanded Regionals, I think logic would point us toward “counter dark” as the correct scenario to anticipate, which leaves our choices limited. Perhaps the biggest reason that Yveltal/Maxie is so powerful is that it is virtually impossible to hard-counter. It has so many attackers, tricks and options available to it that there is almost always some line of play to follow to pull out a victory — even against an unfavorable matchup.
Volcanion, Seismitoad/Crobat and M Rayquaza are both “softer” counters to Yveltal, but I think that they struggle too much with other decks to be worth considering. I know it may be simple and boring to dedicate any time to Night March, but I think if your primary focus is to defeat Yveltal a majority of the time, then Night March is your best bet.
Here is a list I would consider (though it is largely inspired by Tyler Ninomura’s most recent Top 8 finishing with the deck):
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 38
Energy – 4
I will limit my discussion of this deck, as I think that every single one of us is incredibly familiar with how Night March works at this point in time. I have always loathed the deck conceptually, as I believe it has been one of the most unhealthy decks in recent memory, but it would be foolish not to consider it as an option simply because I dislike it. The most recent addition to the deck is Tauros-GX, which acts somewhat as a means to deal with Seismitoad-EX while you attempt to find your copy of Pokémon Ranger.
What I really liked about Tyler’s initial list is that he found the space for Hex Maniac, which strangely found its way out of many lists earlier in the year. Trevenant and Vileplume are both incredibly annoying for Night March to deal with, and I have always been somewhat confused when I players opt to not include it in their lists. In fact, I think there is certainly reason to consider a second copy of the card depending on the metagame, and it would be easy to fit it into this list by cutting either a Tauros-GX or Trainers’ Mail.
If the metagame is predicted to be Yveltal, Darkrai, Volcanion and Mega decks, then I think that Night March would have an incredibly easy time picking up a handful of Championship Points. It is always a “safe” choice, as most of its matchups are incredibly polarizing. You either win or lose based on the outcome of the first turn or two, and while they does not necessarily lend itself to dynamic or enjoyable games, it is hard to overlook when many players such as myself are scrounging to find those last Championship Points in order to compete in Anaheim this August.
My second choice for Toronto would be Primal Groudon-EX. For the most part, it has always been a ‘fringe’ options in Expanded as the requirement for Tropical Beach makes it difficult for many to put together, but should you have access to that card, I would highly recommend considering this list for Toronto.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 39
Energy – 10
Like the previous list, this iteration of Primal Groudon is largely inspired by Travis Nunlist’s performance at Portland Regionals. However, unlike the Night March deck, I did have some role in the creation of this deck. Groudon has had my attention since Phoenix Regionals this season, and though I have not had the chance to use it in a tournament since 2014, it has always been one of my favorite decks. To succeed with Groudon, one is required to play very carefully and methodically, and although you tend to be incredibly slow in building up any sort of offense, you are often able to take 6 Prizes in three turns and mount huge comebacks in almost every matchup. The deck reminds me a lot of Dialga G from many years ago, which will always hold a very important place in my heart, as it was the very first deck I saw substantial success with and used it almost exclusively to earn my very first Worlds Invite in the 2010-2011 season.
I would not label Groudon as a counter to Yveltal, but I do believe it has the means to win that matchup a majority of the time. In a metagame with little Trevenant and Night March, I think that Groudon has a great chance to advance in the Top 8, but must again emphasize that you most play almost perfectly in every match in order to win. That may be a tall order for many of us (myself included), but I think that your victories are all the more rewarding when you have to fight hard for them.
What’re your thoughts? Do you think that Greninja has the opportunity to thrive in the new format or will it be unable to overcome the dominance of Decidueye? I suppose that only time will tell, but please feel free to comment or thoughts or critique any of my lists if you have the chance, and I will do my best to address such concerns post-haste.
Looking forward toward future events, I am going to do my absolute utmost to attend everything I possibly can. The grind is truly going to begin for me in the final quarter of the season, but I remain optimistic that I will find a way to eek out these last 250 Championship Points. I hope to see many of you at upcoming Regional Championships or League Cups, and please feel free to say hello should you encounter me at any point this summer.
Until next time!