Some many months ago, we set out on the journey that’s become the 2016-2017 season. It’s been a weird one in more ways than one, but now, part of it’s come to a close: finally, the sun has set on the last Expanded event of the year! Toronto brought us that final major Expanded event of the season, and to say the least, it was a departure from the rest of the season’s ideas of the format.
With a field dominated by Giratina, Seismitoad, and sheer chaos, it was a new reflection of the chaos we’ve come to know Expanded as. As you may’ve heard, I was fortunate enough to take 2nd in Canada with Groudon. Coming off Portland, which was dominated by the likes of Yveltal and Darkrai, it was logical to expect some changes. Quite frankly, Dark has never had the hold on the East Coast that it’s enjoyed out West, but even with that in mind, it was likely in the minds of most that it’d see some level of play in Ontario.
There was certainly a lot of Night March talk coming from influential corners of the American contingent going into the event. Expanded is notorious for the presence of myriad decks, but there was notable coalescence in the rumor mill over Night March’s potential. I wanted to consider it myself, but was hesitant given the sheer number of Item Lock options present in the format.
Since the last time I discussed Expanded, where I went over my Portland adventures with Groudon, I hadn’t found any decks to get especially excited about. After some testing Friday night to minimal effect, the rumor mill began to point toward Giratina-EX. Admittedly, this was more of the Dark/Giratina variety than the Toad/Giratina that we eventually saw take hold, but upon the revelation that Giratina was seeing any sort of hype, my plans to default to Night March took a decided downturn. I considered a version with Maxie’s for all of about 10 minutes, but decided in the end it’d be too sketchily inconsistent to overcome.
The Formula for Success: Finalizing the List
My brother, Alex, dispensed with even the minimal testing that I did and resolved early in the evening to simply play Groudon. My testing yielded nothing to unseat that idea, and once Night March was tabled by the seemingly imminent rise of Giratina, I was left to return to Groudon myself. The list, though, was a matter of intense debate between Alex and I (and, once he got on board, Sean Foisy).
Since our experience in Portland, Alex has been insistent on including a Hex Maniac to shore the Darkrai/Giratina matchup. Personally, I believed the energy denial we included was sufficient to deal with the Giratina problem, but he was adamant in disagreement. Alex cut his Bunnelby in favor of the Hex, which turned out to be rather important later in the weekend.
The final change to the list came Saturday morning, when Alex Hill incredulously noted the continued presence of Weakness Policy in the deck. In hindsight, there really was no use for the card outside of Accelgor, and we were right to drop it. In its place, a 2nd Enhanced Hammer came onboard to help counter the Giratina and Night March surges. With that said, this was the final list:
This list should look familiar from not only my prior article on Expanded, but also my post-Ontario Regionals 2016 article. In fact, this list was only 3 cards off that one, which featured Ultra Ball (since succeeded by Nest Ball), Healing Scarf (a pseudo-Trevenant counter), and Battle Compressor (deemed unnecessary, though it was certainly my 61st card). That article also has the beginnings of the Night March list that I’ve played to a plethora of CP over the last year, so to say the least, the lists developed there have put in some work for me over the year.
Tournament Tour: Recap
This list was piloted by Sean Foisy and I, while my brother played a Hex Maniac over the Bunnelby. In addition, MI Senior Quintin North piloted a close derivative of the list. My day was as follows:
Toronto // 345 Masters // Primal Groudon
R1 Decidueye-GX/Vileplume/Toolbox (2-0)
R2 Trevenant BREAK (0-2)
R3 Trevenant BREAK (2-1)
R4 Decidueye-GX/Vileplume AOR (2-0)
R5 Yveltal-EX/Darkrai-EX/Lasers (1-1)
R6 Night March (2-0)
R7 Yveltal XY/Gallade/Zoroark BKT/Druddigon FFI (2-0)
R8 Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX (1-1)
R9 Seismitoad-EX/Garbodor (2-0)
Day 1: 6-1-2, 11th Seed.
The end of Masters Day 1 saw my brother land 1st seed, Sean 4th, and myself 11th — certainly a welcome conclusion, all things considered. The metagame definitely had some stranger stuff than I expected, including a good amount of Trevenant and things like the monstrosity I hit Round 8. I shouldn’t have been shocked, as Expanded certainly is the poster child for “strange,” but it was nonetheless surprising. Among the 3 of us, the only losses taken were mine to Trevenant and Sean’s to Lurantis/Vileplume. That, too, will be a fact to remember later.
The rest of my MI friend group split between a M Rayquaza list primarily of Sean’s devising and Alex’s Decidueye/Vileplume. I’m honestly unclear on the circumstances that led to Alex concluding that deck would be a good idea, as the first I heard of it was a 2:30am plea for Oddish/Gloom BCR. Unfortunately, he fell short of Top 32, but Chris Derocher made it with the same list as Alex.
There wasn’t anything else especially remarkable about Day 1 in my mind, other than perhaps the sheer diversity of the Top 32 decks. Day 2 featured the following slate of fun:
Toronto Day 2: 20 Day 1 Match Points
R10 M Rayquaza-EX (1-0)
R11 Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX (2-0)
R12 Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX (2-1)
Final: 9-1-4, 2nd seed.
I knew going in that 11 match points would be a necessity if I wanted to attain complete safety. Even then, I probably would’ve considered playing Round 13 under most circumstances, but as it was, I got paired to my brother. Since the ID put us both in a position to Top 8 with another tie in Round 14, it wasn’t much of a debate. I was fortunate to get paired to a willing opponent in the last round, and was off to Top 8. Unfortunately tiebreakers didn’t go quite as I liked, as Alex and I were on a collision course for Top 4:
T8 Seismitoad-EX/Giratina-EX (2-1)
T4 Groudon (2-0)
T2 Lurantis/Vileplume (1-2)
In order to have that match, we still had to get there. Fortunately, it worked out. I lost a Game 1 in Top 8 that I probably should’ve won by simply being more conservative by dedicating my last Energy to a Bunnelby play. Instead, I tried to N-proof myself and found myself N’d out of the game anyway. Fortunately, I pulled the last two out, though they were truly excellent games. Top 4, of course, featured the mirror match that I’d been dreading all weekend. My Bunnelby made the game simply too difficult for him to win, though, and in the end I pulled the series out.
Finals was where things got particularly interesting. As mentioned earlier, Azul had the experience of playing against Sean Foisy on Day 1. On the other hand, I was completely flying on intuition — and, to tell the truth, that intuition was telling me I was going to be in for a rough run. Game 1 did nothing to alleviate that preconception, as my anemic start was easily overpowered. Game 2 was a much more compelling run, and I was able to take it in the end.
Game 3 was looking dire until some convenient Tromp+Giant Claw math led to me finding a pair of Wobbuffets — and then the game was on! It was a remarkably close conclusion, and one that surprised me a lot given my initial expectations. Given those expectations, I’m not exactly devastated at the loss, but it’s discouraging knowing the extra turn it took to find the Energy was all it took to allow Azul to setup Vileplume’s Solarbeam and cinch the game.
In finality, the Groudon list managed 2nd, 3rd, and 10th in Masters, while also taking 2nd in Seniors. In essence, the list itself earned over a Worlds invitation worth of CP this weekend! Can’t really ask for much more than we got out of it. Congrats to Azul on the win as well.
The Land Beyond: Reflections and Impressions
The big story of the event was definitely the resurgence of Seismitoad, and in close companionship, Giratina-EX. After being absent for the last several Regionals, the pair made a storming comeback. I’d say this is at least partially due to the Night March hype many players heard — which led to a lot of “in-the-know” players selecting Seismitoad to answer that hype. As this is the final major Expanded event of the season, it’s hard to make any solid projections as to the format’s future. Guardians Rising will be legal whenever it has its next Regional, and really, it’s not inconceivable that August’s set could hit the scene before the next major Expanded event as well.
With so much uncertainty, it’s truly hard to get a read on the future, and I wonder if we could see a significant shakeup the next time players turn toward Expanded. Of course, there’s a chance of a summer Regional utilizing the format, so I may yet be overstating this meta’s imminent demise. Whatever the case, Expanded does have a funny way of coming full circle in the end, so I don’t doubt we’ll still be having similar conversations a year from now.
With that in the books, all eyes are focused on Seattle and the launch of Guardians Rising. We’re kicking off our coverage of the set in depth this week, with articles from Michael Slutsky, Alex Hill, and yours truly. While I’m personally much more muted than my counterparts in my feelings on the set, it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how things shake out.