What’s up, everyone! Back again with my penultimate article for the site, and an exciting one at that! Worlds is the final obstacle to climb, and it’ll be exciting to see who survives to the top of the mountain! The team at 6P is full of talent, and I think every writer here has the skill and fire needed to take it home. For some reason, though, Worlds almost seems a little less of the main focus as it should be—many top competitors, even those locked in for Day 2 of Worlds, are already thinking about Ft. Wayne, the Expanded format, and next season! The entire goal of a season in Pokémon is to get to Worlds and win it, and yet minds are straying from the challenge at hand and looking ahead. The focus on today’s article is Expanded, as that’s the format I’ve been playing and streaming casually. Got some cool nuggets to share, so let’s get started!
Expanding Your Horizons
As I mentioned above, I think it’s mildly comical that many are already setting their sights on Ft. Wayne. From an untrained eye, it would almost look like we’re dogs chasing cars: all eyes are focused on actually getting to Worlds, and now that Worlds is here…it’s time to focus on next year! This is mostly a joke, of course, as I know the most important priority for players at this time is to do well at Worlds, but the tournament date of Ft. Wayne—two weeks after Worlds concludes—is still incredibly sudden. TPCi seems to be shifting the season into a perpetual grind, which, at some point, gets to be too much.
While we’re not there just yet, it seems like an inevitability, and I wonder about competitive fatigue on the playerbase at large, especially as Day 2 shifts into a literal Pay-2-Win scheme. Regardless, we’re here to talk about the actual content of Ft. Wayne, which is Expanded!
The last major Expanded tournament was Toronto, back at the start of May. As I discussed in my last article, the most obvious change to Expanded is the updates to the ban list. This change removed two of the more degenerate cards in the format, Archeops NVI and Forest of Giant Plants. While I won’t get into it here (you can check my thoughts on it in my last article), something equally significant has happened to Expanded: the introduction of Garbodor, Tapu Lele, Field Blower, Guzma, Choice Band, and any other number of powerful cards.
In my opinion, the combination of these cards (more specifically Garbodor and Lele) were going to bring significant changes to the format regardless of any potential bans, but the combination of both is a welcome breath of fresh air to a format that was beyond stale. Garbodor already does well against Forest-based decks, and likely does quite well against Compressor decks (Garb decks in Expanded could do something as simple as double-Hex to get around Archeops, flipping the matchup to one that’s extremely positive for Garb).
Thanks to the introduction of these factors, Expanded is going to look…weird. On one hand, it takes a track similar to Standard, in that decks slow down with supporters seeing higher counts, and we see a lot of Standard decks, energized by the Expanded card pool, in the mix. On the other, what seems like an infinite card pool, shaded by the umbrella that Garb, Lele, and the bans brought, should flourish into a rather diverse meta, especially as more and more degenerate combos finally get the ax. So what does this mean, for Expanded, and where does one possibly start with such an immense and quite frankly daunting challenge?
For me, it was definitely more of the former that I mentioned above. Almost every deck I’ve been playing exists in Standard, but they operate quite differently. For example: when I started crafting my Gardevoir-GX list in Expanded, I started by including four copies of Tropical Beach, a card that doesn’t exist in Standard (though, if the rumors of a Worlds promo are true, who knows?!).
This card (and the fact that it’s in max count) alone totally change the dynamic of the deck, making it much more consistent, yet much slower. While I have since scaled back just a bit on Beach, it has still had a huge impact in how the deck plays in the early game, and how it’s been built. The threats Gardevoir deals with in Expanded are also much different, and Beach turns it from a racing deck to one that’s quite calculated: you might not start attacking until turn four or five, but when you do, you’re fully set up and ready to roll.
Whereas Gardevoir is a deck that can take advantage of significantly more consistency options, other decks look to Expanded’s vast pool for ways to potentially alter their strategies and win conditions. A classic example of this can be seen in Garbodor decks. In Standard, Garbodor is paired with either Drampa or Espeon, both of which make use of Double Colorless energy. In Expanded, perhaps one of the best DCE-attackers exists: Seismitoad-EX! Now, decks like Drampa/Garb can take advantage of Toad’s Item locking capabilities to persue alternate win conditions.
Alternatively, conventional Toad-based decks that utilize ample disruption and Laserbank can get a late game finisher with Trashalanche (however, I think this specific archetype, Toad/Garb, actually has anti-synergy and isn’t that strong, but that’s TBD and this was to illustrate a point).
It’s tough to gauge exactly where the distinction between theory and practice for Expanded is right now. While a lot of high level players have given thought to Expanded, a far lower number are actually playing games with it. As such, much of the debate in various circles is from a theoretical standpoint at this time.
As such, the list I’ll be sharing that I’ve been playing should come with the caveat that I’ve been getting high quantity testing in with the lists, but not necessarily high quality. I think that the lists all have potential to be top tier contenders, I just don’t think the lists are optimized fully because we don’t know what the expected meta is actually going to turn out to be. Anyway, let’s take a peak at some of the cool decks I’ve been messing around with!
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 29
Energy – 11
Up first is Espeon/Garb, a deck personally favored by many of our writers and one that saw lots of success as a strong contender after the release of Guardians Rising. While Espeon/Garbodor seems like it’d be a poor choice in Expanded, given the existence of Trevenant and Pumpkaboo, I actually think the deck has a lot of things going for it. Espeon’s Psybeam puts in work against disruption decks, like Toad and Trev.
Being able to immediately counter them without the use of items with an Eevee start is tremendous, and is a high point of the deck, just as it was in Standard. Expanded also has a far greater reliance on items, specifically Battle Compressor, so Garbodor likewise packs quite a punch. You’ll notice a few changes that exist thanks to Expanded’s larger pool, so let’s take a look:
– Leafeon PLF: This card is finally the answer to Turbo Dark that Espeon/Garb has been waiting on! Leafeon does 20× the energy on their entire field, meaning it’s a hard counter to Turbo Dark. By ramping up to KO your Espeon, you can return KO with a non-EX, trading efficiently, and Choice Band can get you there even faster. If you’re seriously worried about Turbo Dark, I’d highly consider bumping up your Leafeon (or Stretcher) counts to make sure you have easy and repeated access to it.
– The Garbodor line: For starters, there’s a split on Trubbish, which is relevant. While early, I think a split like this on Trubbish may be close to the most optimal. The NVI Trubbish has Garbage Collection, an incredible useful attack at fishing back a crucial resource in the late game, taking a card out of your discard and putting it on your deck. The downside to this Trubbish is that he only has 60HP, otherwise I’d run all four copies of NVI. The other Trubbish is the Tool Drop one, from PLS.
The reason for this Trubbish is the turns where you’ll bench a Trubbish and attach to it, giving you the option to threaten a Tool Drop play the next turn. This Trubbish gives you the opportunity to take advantage of your opponent playing down ample tools, if they make that mistake (or if you can’t find your Blower), and with your own Choice Band, can ramp up moderately quickly. We don’t play too many tools of our own, but having this as an option can come in handy, especially as a counter to opponent’s running Dimension Valley. This is true for every other evolution deck in Standard that you’re trying in Expanded; take a look at all the basics for your evolutions, you may be surprised at what you’ll find.
For Garbodor, I’ve opted to run a max count of Trashalanche, and no Garbotoxin, substituting it instead with Double Hex. While I’m not 100% sold on this and it very well could change, my theory in it goes like this: Expanded is, generally speaking, about taking repeated knockouts every turn. Your deck will be stressed to set up the next attacker every single turn, especially as the N count gets lower and lower. Over the course of a match, there isn’t going to be much time to set up a Garbotoxin, and doing so takes away your ability to set up another attacking Trashalanche, which can cost you in the end.
Don’t get me wrong, shutting down abilities is good all the time, especially when it doesn’t cost your supporter for turn. That said, I’m wondering if it’s better to just force an army of non-EX traders, with the occasional ability lock thrown in. This is something that’ll take more testing, and more discussion with other players, to determine what the best course to take is.
The rest of the list should seem fairly self-explanatory. Oricorio is a card that I threw in as an automatic inclusion, but it may not be that strong, as Pumpkaboo only needs five Marchers in the discard to take out an Espeon. Vaporeon grants you a way to do battle with Volcanion, which is a deck that could pose a more serious threat, now that they have a reliable way to attack with Turtonator every turn (with Blacksmith). Ghetsis is a card I’ve not used much, but the power it has in Expanded can’t be overlooked, so it’s an automatic inclusion in a deck like this that loves to disrupt. Expanded offers some other cool options that aren’t in this list, though.
Flareon PLF, Xerosic, Colress, Muscle Band and Tropical Beach are just a few cards worth considering if you’re looking to spice up your list, and each can be useful options Espeon doesn’t have access to in Standard. I don’t know how strong this deck will be once the community actually sets their sights on Expanded, but I’ve been winning a lot of my games thanks to the power of Psybeam and Trashalanche, so I think it’s something worth at least looking into.
Gardevoir is another cool deck I’ve been messing around with, and one that I think has some insane potential in the Expanded metagame. Let’s take a look at my current list:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 30
Energy – 12
For starters, it doesn’t look terribly different than some Standard lists, and it operates the same. Upon further inspection, though, there are a couple things worth pointing out:
– 2 Gallade: This is the first and most obvious change. In Standard, Gallade is run mostly because it’s a good card, and has the benefit of handling Darkrai, a deck that Gardevoir can handle on its own in Standard. Expanded’s version of Turbo Dark is an entirely different beast, though, and having access to more than one Gallade means you have a more consistent and deadly gameplan against the archetype. Provided you’re drawing reasonably well and can set up a few Gallade, you should be more than capable of winning that matchup. Set up two Gallade and you should almost definitely win, and setting up three all but locks it up.
– 2 Diancie BUS: Some people have been flirting with Diancie as a 1-of in Standard, but I think it’s definitely worth running in Expanded. Trevenant can be a huge problem for the deck, and will very likely beat you by just chumping your Ralts, and Diancie is a guaranteed way to set up under the lock. A lone Gardevoir definitely has the potential to sweep an entire Trev deck (or put enough pressure on them that you have the opportunity to set up a second Gardy), and Diancie helps us get there. 90HP gives us the chance of pulling off a guaranteed two evolution triggers, which, when combined with natural draws, should definitely set up two Gardy. This is your preferred starter, and going second with this card is quite strong.
pokemon-paradijs.com– Ditto BCR: This is my spice, at least right now. One of the problems I noticed with Gardy is that you can only have four Ralts. This is obvious to anyone who understands the basic rules of the game, but people who’ve been playing for a while can tell you that there are certain decks, especially those that utilize different versions of the same evolution, that feel like their basic count for the evolution line gets really stressed. Losing a single Ralts early can really come and bite you later, and this problem is exacerbated by prizing any Ralts.
Ditto was my sort-of answer to this conundrum: by setting Ditto down, it has the ability to become a Ralts later (and even a Gardevoir in a single turn), but it doesn’t directly put Ralts in harms way. I don’t know if this gimmick is actually something that’s strong enough to see play in a tournament-ready list, but it has actually been surprisingly useful in a few games, and pulling off the Ditto > Ralts > Candy > Gardevoir-GX > Ability > Attach DCE > Attach Choice Band > KO combo is definitely something I’ve found to be extremely enjoyable, even if it’s only happened once or twice.
– Tropical Beach: As I mentioned above, Tropical Beach is the biggest change the deck gets from a consistency standpoint. Gardevoir is a deck the kind of deck that loves an effect like Tropical Beach, even though it has access to a few good starter options. While I run two Diancie, and wouldn’t mind attacking with it on the first turn if my set up was strong enough, Beach is still the best starting move you can have in a huge evolution deck like Gardy. You’re going to go first some of the time as well, and Beach is tremendous there, almost immediately forcing an N out of your opponent (when Sycamore is always the stronger T1 play).
When a starter Pokémon gets KO’d on the first turn, you’re forced to improvise; when Beach gets replaced, you can just… play another. The only downside to Beach is its prohibitively expensive nature, which means that a list like this is unplayable for a large segment of the playerbase. If the rumors are true and this year’s promo is in fact Beach, then that definitely changes things, but if not, this may not be the deck for everyone, as I think Beach is a must in Gardevoir.
This list is definitely far from final, though. One of the biggest changes is the lack of Octillery, and it’s a card I’m not sure I actually want to cut. Access to VS Seeker is even more crucial in Expanded, as the threats are far more powerful/urgent, and not being able to draw into it can mean the difference between victory/defeat, so Octillery definitely still has merit. Truth be told, when starting with this list, I went off the deep end and have been slowly reigning it back in, and in the event I got closer to playing this deck for a tournament, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Octillery back in the deck; the synergy with Gallade is too good and it’s all-around a very strong card in this kind of deck, even as a compliment to Beach.
Ultimately, these are just two of the decks that I’ve been messing around with in Standard, and are two decks that are well known to the Standard format. Turbo Dark, Volcanion, Vespiquen, Vikavolt and even Waterbox are all decks that have seen success in our recent Standard format, and I think all of them are viable to some degree (some more than others, but an argument could be made anywhere!).
There are a ton of decks to explore outside of those, and that’s where the ban really shines. Neither of these lists are anywhere close to optimal, and neither of these ideas may hold merit when push comes to shove, but they’ve been an absolute blast to play in Expanded, and what’s more, so, too, has building them. Taking Standard decks and opening them up to thousands of additional cards can really reveal some juicy options to play around with, and that’s part of the fun in Pokémon. Expanded is quite daunting, now that it’s opening up, and I’m becoming quite fond of the format as my explorations continue.
Before I wrap up, I just wanted to wish all the fellow writers, and all competitors, the best of luck in Anaheim next week! This is the tournament to make a name for yourself or solidify a legacy, and I’m very excited to see who will rise to the top. While I personally hope Greninja will win the entire event, I live in the real world, and am excited to see all the cool decks this new format has to offer. Worlds last year brought some cool surprises and I’m sure this year’s will do the same. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys next time!
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 90 days, we open each Underground (UG) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thanks for making this article possible!
Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.