Hey everyone! Only 9 days stand between us and the inaugural North American International Championship. I’m incredibly excited for the event and for the opportunity to compete in another large tournament. It’s been almost 2 months since my last Regional (or larger) sized event. My competitive itch needs to be scratched!
Today, I get to write about Decidueye-GX, one of my favorite cards ever printed. My natural excitement about the card and the Decidueye/Vileplume deck has made me the butt of many jokes as most players consider it to be rather oppressive and bad for the game. However, I find the setup of a Decidueye deck to be relatively skill intensive. Your Feather Arrow placements also require skill and some awareness of how the game will play out.
But enough talk, let’s look at how Decidueye/Vileplume came to be and how it works.
Tree Rings: History of the Forest’s Dominance
Decidueye/Vileplume first saw competitive play in February at Anaheim Reigonals, where John Kettler piloted it to a Top 16 finish. He then brought it to St. Louis and played nearly an identical list for an Expanded Regional, finishing in 2nd place. That same weekend, Decidueye took down a European Regional streamed by Pokémon, further thrusting it into the spotlight. Oceania Internationals followed this power weekend from Decidueye, where we saw 5 Decidueye decks in Top 8. From there, it has been one of the most dominant decks of the year.
Decidueye’s strength started to diminish in May at Virginia Regionals. Many decks were running heavy counts of Hex Maniac and/or Wobbuffet PHF to counter it. Other decks with positive Decidueye matchups like Quad Lapras started to see success as well.
Then, the deck lost all steam with the release of Guardians Rising. The direct cause of this is unclear, but is likely due to 1-of 3 reasons/perceptions (or a combination of these):
- Players gravitated toward the new decks in the set (Garbodor, Metagross, etc)
- Garbodor (public enemy #1) has a positive matchup against Decidueye
- Supporter cards are more accessible than ever due to Tapu Lele. Lysandre and draw Supporters both significantly hinder Vileplume’s effectiveness.
As the PRC–GRI format has matured, Decidueye has seen increasing success with Top 8 finishes in Madison and Mexico. Will it be able to ride this momentum to a strong finish in Indianapolis? Let’s find out where it stands.
Fighting with (Feather) Arrows: Deck Strategy
My favorite part of this deck is that there isn’t usually a linear strategy. You work with what you have and react to what your opponent can put together. You don’t need a ton of setup to win a game, especially if you can lock your opponent’s Item cards before they get to play any of them.
Your basic strategy is to get multiple Decidueye-GX on the board, as well as a Vileplume AOR to lock them out of the game. The order of this setup is a bit tricky, as Vileplume stops you from using your own Item cards. Against some decks, you can focus on getting out Decidueye-GX and find the Vileplume eventually. However, against troublesome matchups like Volcanion and Metagross, you usually want to focus on getting Vileplume down ASAP, then worry about Decidueye later.
Once you get some amount of board presence, you just focus on putting as much damage on the board as quickly as possible. You run a number of options for doing damage, either to the bench or your opponent’s active Pokémon, or both! You dictate the pace of the game and decide when you want to take prizes. Your explosive damage potential allows you to take care of threats as they emerge. Every game is different but you have the tools to deal with almost everything.
Seeds of Success: Decidueye Decklist
Pokémon – 24
1 Tapu Koko
Trainers – 29
Energy – 7
This list is just 1 card off of the one that Brad Curcio and Azul Griego ran in Mexico City. I’ve always preferred the 3rd Lysandre over a 4th G Energy, as it opens you up to other options with your Hollow Hunt-GX later in the game.
Drampa-GX and the Tapu Koko promo fill out my tech slots. Tapu Lele fills the roles of consistency and high damage in a nice one card package, letting you add those two techs for control and spread respectively. Drampa’s Big Wheel-GX lets you play more aggressively in the early game, giving you extra outs to draw without using bench spots on Tapu Lele or Shaymin.
Tapu Koko lets you play a much slower game, spreading damage on high value targets until they’re in range of an Energy Drive or Razor Leaf. In a metagame where basic Pokémon like Zorua, Eevee, Combee, and Pikachu are relatively common, it also helps you get quick KOs without having to attack with Dartrix. You can easily take out attackers before they get the chance to attack. Plus, free retreat helps you pivot to a different attacker when necessary and decreases your reliance on Float Stone early in the game.
This is probably one of the tighter lists in the game, but there are a few techs you can fit. Some of them require you to change the idea of the list up rather dramatically and I’ll indicate where this is necessary.
Espeon-EX: This is probably the best tech that you can fit in, especially now that Tapu Koko has been released. Between the 20 spread from Koko and 2-3 Feather Arrow, you can spread enough damage out on your opponent’s board to clean the whole game up in 3-4 turns. Devolving your opponent’s Pokémon is better than ever.
Difficult matchups like Espeon/Garb or even the mirror could be shored up with this simple tech. I plan on heavily testing it out soon, and would cut Drampa-GX for it.
Alolan Vulpix: You might be wondering, why did Alex list Vulpix alone and not in conjunction with Ninetales? I actually think Vulpix could be run alone; Beacon is just that good. The best way to run it alone would probably be with Brigette and a higher count of Float Stone and/or Energy cards to get it into the Active Spot. For that reason, you might not have space to fit in the Ninetales. However, if you want to fit one into a normal list, you’ll probably have to cut the Drampa or Tapu Koko slot for it.
Alolan Ninetales-GX: However, if you do have space for Ninetales, I think it’s a strong option. It’s actually a huge tank with 210 HP and Ice Path-GX makes it a pretty big threat that your opponent won’t want to attack. I typically would only play 1 Ninetales even if I have 2 Vulpix, and only get it out if it’s convenient. Vulpix’s Beacon into a Decidueye and a Ninetales can be a very attractive option once you have Vileplume down and is probably the best way to actually get it out.
Tauros-GX and Lugia-EX: Ah, the old guard. These used to be the defacto attackers for the deck. However, trading a Tapu Lele for a Lugia or Tauros makes the deck just a bit more inconsistent. I didn’t realize how much of a difference it makes until I tried 2 Lele for the first time. And you really can’t afford to be inconsistent now that other decks have more ways to deal with an early Vileplume. You have to sacrifice higher damage potential for consistency, but that’s largely okay in this current metagame.
Brigette: This might seem a little counter intuitive with this deck but I think it is an interesting option for the format. It would require you to play a much different list but a slower approach could lead to you having more consistent setups. Here’s how I would approach this list with a Brigette:
Pokémon – 23
1 Alolan Vulpix
Trainers – 28
Energy – 9
This list is untested, but the concept is worth trying out. You have much less options, but you can much more easily fill up your board with Rowlet and Oddish off of a T1 Tapu Lele -> Brigette. You also can grab your Alolan Vulpix and you have an extra Float Stone as well as 2 extra Grass to retreat into it and use Beacon ASAP. Unfortunately, there’s no longer space for other tech cards, which is why I haven’t put time into this list. Also, I question the deck’s ability to set up a quick Vileplume without Trainers’ Mail, but that’s the tradeoff you have to make for a consistent board state.
Rescue Stretcher: If you find yourself wanting to grab techs like Tapu Koko or Drampa-GX a 2nd time, it could be worth swapping one of the Revitalizer for a Rescue Stretcher. I typically prefer Revitalizer as it helps to recover after Vileplume goes down. You also can’t use Rescue Stretcher when your own Vileplume is up, which is likely when you’d want to grab a tech attacker anyway.
4th Grass: If you play this deck enough, you’ll realize just how little 7 energy can be. Having one more Energy card can be the difference between getting the final attack off with a Decidueye or a Drampa to win the game or losing. Also, having more Grass gives you more outs to use Hollow Hunt-GX. In this way, a G Energy can turn into any 3 cards! Cuts for it would include the 3rd Lysandre, 4th Trainers’ Mail, or maybe a tech Pokémon slot.
Rainbow: This used to be a completely different way to play the deck, utilizing Jolteon and Regice as your attackers. Now, the metagame has largely shifted toward Evolution Pokémon instead of Basic Pokémon and GXs instead of EXs.
Now, Rainbow is a low risk way to power up your Drampa-GX’s Berserk. The 10 damage impacts very little when you have 240 HP, but the extra 70 damage you deal could let you 1HKO a major threat. I think you’d have to play 3-4 of them to make it worthwhile though, so it would be completely in place of your G Energy.
A DeciduEYE on the Meta: Prospects for NAIC
Before the release of Guardians Rising, I would have said that almost every matchup was 50/50 or better. However, the change to the format and to how we construct decks have made many other decks more able to deal with Vileplume. The addition of Altar of the Moone also removes your ability to stall against Darkrai and other random Dark decks, which was your win condition a lot of the time.
Here’s how I view the matchup spread right now:
Very Favorable – Gyarados, Waterbox, Vespiquen, Gallade/Octillery
Slightly Favorable – Zoroark/Drampa, Vikavolt/Tapu Bulu, Raichu/Lycanroc, Greninja
Even – Darkrai
Slightly Unfavorable – Lurantis, M Rayquaza, M Gardevoir, Volcanion, Drampa/Garbodor
Very Unfavorable – Metagross, Espeon/Garbodor
The very favorable matchups are fairly straightforward. Gyarados can’t really compete against something that snipes benched Magikarp. Not even Machoke can help enough, since 1 turn of Lysandre + Feather Arrow + Razor Leaf takes it out easily. Waterbox’s Grass Weakness and low damage output spell doom before the game even starts. Vespiquen has just far too low HP and can’t build damage while Vileplume is in play. Gallade relies too much on Items, and doesn’t trade well enough when you can do 150 in a turn with Feather Arrow x3 and a Razor Leaf.
The slightly favorable matchups are all basically better versions of very favorable matchups. Zoroark and Raichu are similarly low in HP like Vespiquen, but they come paired with Drampa and Lycanroc respectively that can pack a punch and stay alive for a little longer. Vikavolt is very similar to Gallade, but Tapu Bulu’s attacks deal enough damage and let it stay alive long enough to threaten a Decidueye. That is, if you get it set up. Greninja is similar to Waterbox with Grass Weakness that lets it get swept fast. However, a Talonflame start can let Greninja build enough of a board state to quickly deal with threats. They are pretty susceptible to Vileplume though.
Altar of the Moone has turned Darkrai from a very favorable matchup to a nearly even matchup. Most sets against Turbo Darkrai would feature at least 2 of the following 3 game types: a dead-draw from Decidueye, a game where Decidueye sweeps, and a close game. The dead-draw game happens just as often, and Decidueye can still sweep with a T1 Vileplume, but in the close game, you can no longer strand a Hoopa active and snipe around it. Darkrai can also retreat to the Bench when it’s in range of a KO while keeping the energy in play to fuel Dark Pulse. Plus, it’s much harder to run Tauros now which was the best card to use in the matchup. It’s not a matchup I’d be uspet to play against, but it’s far harder than before.
Rayquaza and Gardevoir both go from Slightly Favorable/Even to Unfavorable with the addition of Tapu Lele. It’s just easier to get Hex Maniac out at the opportune moments. Volcanion used to be roughly Even, but they’re playing more energy and also have Tapu Lele to find Supporters, circumventing Vileplume. Drampa/Garbodor doesn’t seem that bad at first but Righteous Edge is a huge pain. They can use it with Tapu Lele -> Lysandre to chase your DCE, then sweep with a few Garbodor late in the game. It’s winnable but not great at all. Lurantis is the matchup I haven’t tested, but their high HP and healing on both Lurantis-GX and Tapu Bulu-GX should give them the edge.
Lastly, Espeon and Metagross are all but unbeatable. Confusion hurts this deck way more than you’d expect (2 Float Stone vs 1-2 Field Blower — ouch), Divide-GX destroys slow starts, and Flareon AOR is the icing on the cake. Metagross can usually play a slow game until they build up with either Beacon or Algorithm-GX combined with Hex Maniac for a huge setup in one turn. As long as they get the Vulpix early (which is the point of Tapu Lele -> Brigette), you have to N them constantly. If you miss a beat, they set up. If you don’t, you won’t have enough N for the Algorithm-GX later. Lose-lose. When they do set up, 150 a turn on 2-3 Pokémon with 250 HP is just too hard to deal with.
One thing to note, most of these matchups are assuming decent to good starts from Decidueye. They can all be slightly more favorable with amazing starts such as 2-3 Decidueye and a Vileplume on T2. However, your games can also be over before they start, even with the newly added consistency in Tapu Lele.
Alternate List – No Vileplume
There is one more way to play this deck that has been popular recently. Players have cut Vileplume to fit in other options and also utilize Item cards for disruption purposes.
Here’s another way to run this idea:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 33
Energy – 8
By sacrificing Vileplume, you can have more of a focus on setting up Decidueye quickly. Brigette and Tapu Lele lay the foundation for this very well. Since you set up Decidueye faster, you can more quickly pivot into disrupting with Drampa’s Righteous Edge, Delinquent, Hex Maniac, and Team Flare Grunt. You’re still pairing this with Feather Arrow, and hopefully making it significantly harder to deal with your board state.
This isn’t a concept I’ve worked on a ton, but I’m interested to see just how viable it is.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Decidueye is in a great place in the meta right now. It’s just not as consistent as the other decks so the seemingly strong matchup spread ends up betraying players who take the risk on it. Plus, some of the unfavorable decks are rather popular right now. I don’t think I’ll be pulling the trigger on it at Internationals.
If you have any questions about specific matchups or changes to these decklists, I’d love to hear them. Drop a comment in the forums, send me a Facebook message, or tweet at me! Social media links can be found below.
Speaking of Internationals, good luck to everyone who’s competing! I hope to see you there.
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