Worlds has once again come and gone and we have a new world champion in Diego Cassiraga. Diego has been a longtime friend of mine—we even worked a bit together on the old Gardevoir deck back in 2008! It is awesome to see such a good guy and veteran player take home the trophy. My other buddies and teammates—Sam Chen and Pablo Meza—didn’t do too badly themselves while fellow writers Xander and Jimmy rounded out a pretty remarkable Top 8. Beyond the three Japanese players, I was friends with everyone in the Top 8! This made for some great viewing—and, while I wish I was up there with them, I enjoyed watching my friends do well on the largest stage.
In what seems like is no time at all, the 2017-2018 season is upon us. Fort Wayne’s Regional Championship marks the earliest US Regional ever and the player base is scrambling to prepare for a tournament that is so different from the World Championships. Not only is Expanded a completely different beast already from Standard, but add the bans of two of the format’s most powerful cards, two new impactful sets, and the fact no one has played a meaningful tournament in the format in months, and we are in for one crazy tournament.
Before jumping into some preliminary insights into the Expanded format, I would like to recap my Gardevoir experience at Worlds and offer a list for the new Standard format.
You can check out the list Pablo and I played at Worlds this year on the official Pokémon website. I was still deciding between Gardevoir, Vespiquen, and Noivern/Garbodor the day before the event, but my friend Tyler Ninomura eventually convinced me to run with Gardevoir. Tyler spent a lot of time testing the list and it was largely his creation. During the Wednesday and Thursday before Day 1, we made the final decisions on our 59th and 60th cards after testing against various decks. Overall, we were pretty happy with our list.
Gardevoir was an interesting deck to choose for this tournament, as everyone had their own builds and none of them could be considered “better” than the others yet, since no tournaments had yet occurred in the format. Day 1 of Worlds saw players take drastically different approaches: Travis played his Sylveon version, Christopher and the Michigan crew ran Machoke to help combat Decidueye, and other players like Mark Garcia ran a teched out version with Max Potions and Giratina Promo. Tyler, Michael Chin, and myself all ran the same 60 cards on Day 1, but I was the only one fortunate enough to make it through the day. I had to play against four strong players, but luckily had some good matchups and good fortune on Day 1:
Pablo was on a somewhat different list before Friday, but after my success, he switched over to our list. Pablo’s Day 2 run was incredible, while mine was lackluster to say the least. I started the day 0-1-1, crawled back to 2-1-1, and ultimately finished at 2-4-1, scooping my last round to Grant Manley with Mega Scizor so I could watch Sam Chen’s win-and-in match. Though I am disappointed in my Day 2 finish, I take some solace knowing I am the only player to qualify for Day 1 and make it through to Day 2 every year we have had this two-day system. I am among an elite crowd of just nine North American Masters players who have played in every Day 2 these past few years.
Anyway, the consistent, straight forward version of Gardevoir ended up taking home the W and I am happy to have helped identify the type of list Gardevoir needed to be successful. We joked around in the days leading up to Worlds that Gardevoir could play things like Sudowoodo, Giratina Promo, Max Potions, Oricorio, Tapu Koko, etc. and it would beat everything…and nothing. Without the consistency necessary to set up, Gardevoir is really just a bunch of Ralts and Kirlia.
If we could run the tournament again, I think -1 Fisherman -1 Rescue Stretcher +1 Super Rod +1 Field Blower would have been the most optimal list. Acerola may have been nice, but the Float Stones were good. Diego’s lack of Teammates is the only major thing I disagree with. Teammates is an incredible card to have in a deck like this, allowing you to turn awkward hands into incredible ones. For example, in one game in the mirror against Polo I had double Gardevoir in my hand, and he took a KO on his second turn. I was able to Wonder Tag for Teammates, grabbing two Rare Candy, and the tempo swung heavily into my favor.
Also to note, Michael Chin ended up coming in Top 4 of the Anaheim Open with the same 60 cards Pablo and I used. Overall a good weekend for our deck!
Now let’s take a moment to look at Gardevoir-GX in the new Standard format. I am going to use our list as reference and look at what cards we lose to the rotation:
Overall, Gardevoir does not lose much at all! Teammates and Hex Maniac are considerably less powerful with VS Seeker rotating anyway, Lysandre is easily replaced with Guzma, and Wonder Energy saw play mostly for Espeon-EX, which may or may not remain relevant with the rotation of Forest of Giant Plants.
As such, the list I will start testing (after Fort Wayne, of course) will look quite similar to the list I used at Worlds:
Pokémon – 19
Trainers – 29
Energy – 12
I’ve upped the Supporter counts to compensate for the lack of VS Seeker, adding a Skyla in the process. Skyla was played a lot more before VS Seeker came out, so I can see it finding its way into decks more often now. There are plenty of nice item cards we might consider running with Skyla in the deck as well, Professor’s Letter being the first one that comes to mind. A second copy could be considered as well over the second Brigette. The second Brigette has been something Pablo and I talked quite a bit about, as it can be crippling if you prize your lone copy. With some more space available, I would like to mess around with the extra copy.
Other than that, the list remains largely unchanged. Acerola becomes weaker without VS Seeker available, so I would only include it if I were to play at least two copies. The second Remoraid and Alolan Vulpix are a nod to Diego’s list and the Super Rod/Stretcher split is something I would like to try some more. I still believe Float Stones are strong in here, giving you mobility, especially with the three Guzma in the deck.
Another interesting route to think about includes four Tapu Lele-GX and multiple copies of Acerola, using Tapu Lele as an attacker in the early game while you set up your Gardevoir army. A Sylveon list could also be well positioned going into the new format.
I think Gardevoir will be the front runner once people start testing the new Standard format. I have some League Cups in a few weeks and would be surprised if I play anything else. Before that, however, we have a large Expanded event on the horizon…
Let me preface everything I am about to write with this: the World Championships was less than seven days ago, I prepared solely for that in the weeks prior (playing somewhere between 250 – 300 games), and I have only just begun to think and test the Expanded format. With such drastic changes to the format in the bans and new sets since the last tournament, coupled with the insanely large card pool and lack of time to test, I could be wrong about everything I write here. Luckily, most of the other top players are in the same boat as myself, so everyone will be coming in blind to some extent. As such, take all information you read leading up to Fort Wayne with a grain of salt: no one really knows what to expect next weekend.
With that said, I do have thoughts on the format coming up. Trevenant seems extremely strong from my limited testing, but not unbeatable. Likewise, Darkrai has become the go-to Dark deck and will surely find a large following, though I am skeptical it is as strong as some people might think. Night March gains Marshadow-GX, but still has a lot of the same weaknesses the deck has always had. Most of my thinking about the format has revolved around these three decks and trying to combat them.
I have spent most of time theorymoning Water decks: they can play Rough Seas for Trevenant, Seismitoad for Night March, and with some careful deck building, should be able to go toe-to-toe with Darkrai using a variety of strategies. While I have been testing things like Greninja and Waterbox with Lapras-GX, Seismitoad has always been a personal favorite of mine. Seismitoad came out right when I got back into competitive play, in the fall of 2014.
I remember playing it in a bunch of decks, such as Seismitoad/Landorus/Garbodor and Yveltal/Seismitoad/Lasers. I even got Top 8 at Philadelphia Regionals with the latter! Quaking Punch is such a powerful attack and it never ceases to amaze me how much it can hinder your opponent’s plans. While Trevenant and Vileplume have offered the same effect, the ability to Lysandre or Hex Maniac against those cards (which many decks pack anyway) has always felt somewhat weaker to me. Indeed, Quaking Punch is only directly countered by Pokémon Ranger, which is otherwise a bad card.
While Trevenant has always been scary for the water frog, I am interested in exploring some of the new tools Seismitoad has picked up in the last few sets. Let’s start off with the tried and true: Seismitoad/Crobat, more commonly referred to as Toad/Bats.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 38
Energy – 7
Toad/Bats has been my go to Expanded deck for the better part of two years now. Much like every other deck in existence, it objectively gets stronger with some new cards—Tapu Lele-GX replaces both Jirachi-EX and Lugia-EX/Mewtwo-EX, cards we played anyway. In theory, Acerola truly makes the deck nutty, allowing you to cycle Seismitoads while conserving DCEs—something AZ could not do.
The metagame may say otherwise, however. Trevenant’s strength against Seismitoad is well documented, and my list does not include anything to help deal with it. Giratina XY184 and Rough Seas are fine options to include if you are feeling the pressure to correct your Tree matchup, but I caution that neither of these cards will actually turn the matchup positive. Your best bet is to go first, hit them with a turn one Ghetsis, and pray they cannot draw out of it. The energy removal on the Trevenant side is one of the big reasons this matchup is so difficult.
Beyond the Trevenant matchup, this deck will find some resistance against other decks packing Rough Seas. It can be difficult to rack up enough damage over the course of a game to win games against things like Raikou/Eels, but sometimes the pure disruption of this deck can “get you there.” Additionally, if it shows up in Expanded, Drampa has a field day with Seismitoad, removing its DCEs without much effort.
Other than the above, Toad/Bats has some pretty strong matchups. Though Tauros makes the matchup closer, you are still a heavy favorite over Night March and other Battle Compressor decks. With Silent Lab, even Vespiquen is favored for you. Turbo Darkrai is a close matchup, but in general you are slightly favored with your disruption and their heavy reliance on Item cards. Yveltal has always been a good matchup for Toad/Bats as well.
Overall, Toad/Bats is a solid deck going into a relatively unknown metagame. Item lock is always strong and this version of Seismitoad has been proven as one of the best over the past few seasons. If you are looking for something a bit more novel, let’s take a look at something else I have been working and has started to see some play at League Cups around the country: Seismitoad/Seviper.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 41
Energy – 8
You’ll notice plenty of similarities between the two lists, especially in the Trainers section. Seismitoad decks often have a core of disruption Trainers that compliment them, and this is no different. By replacing the entire Bat line with Seviper, we actually save quite a bit of space. Seviper allows our poison damage to ramp up quite quickly and we are no longer “capped” in the same way we are with the Bat line. Poison Barb + Seviper + Virbank City gives us really an infinite amount of damage from poison throughout the game, which will be prolonged with the multiple Acerola and VS Seeker in the deck.
Unlike the Toad/Bats list, this deck does have an out to Trevenant: Rough Seas. The original list had four copies of the card – which may still be correct! – but seemed a bit overkill to me. Six stadiums is already a lot, even with Delinquent in the deck.
Float Stones are played in this list to help the T1/T2 Quaking Punch. In the Bats list, we have Super Scoop Up and the nifty Free Flight Zubat, but Seviper has two retreat cost. Four Float Stone could even be considered, but with max copies of Seismitoad EX, it is probably unnecessary.
The last thing I would like to highlight in this list is one of the potentially most devastating combos to come out of Burning Shadows: Exeggcute + Plumeria. While most decks will have trouble justifying the inclusion of both of these cards, this Seismitoad list has the luxury of space to include it. Plumeria’s cost of discarding two cards is quite steep, but just a single copy of Exeggcute makes it so much more manageable throughout the course of a game. Without Silent Lab in this Toad deck as well, it makes even more sense. I have included just one Exeggcute, as starting it is quite bad, and you can often find cards to discard throughout the game (whichever stadium you don’t want, extra Float Stones, etc.). The ability to discard Energy from any of your opponent’s Pokémon for a very small cost via Exeggcute should not be undervalued, especially in a deck that seeks to lock your opponent out of playing Item cards.
I will be messing around with this deck quite a bit this week to see if it has what it takes to be a real contender in the Expanded format.
Though these are the two Toad decks I will be spending time on leading up to Fort Wayne, there are some other ideas worth exploring when I have some more time:
- Marshadow-GX. We saw Takuya Yoneda finish in the Top 8 of Japan’s National Championship with a Marshadow Toolbox deck that included Seismitoad. While his list is quite different from what I imagine doing well over here, the idea is inherently interesting: Quaking Punch from Marshadow can be boosted via Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium while also packing Focus Sash which cannot be removed except from Xerosic. In practice this has felt a bit weaker than I initially thought – mostly due to the combination requiring a number of cards – my gut tells me there is some list that can abuse this combo. Marshadow is interesting even as a 1-of or 2-of in an existing Seismitoad deck. It can provide a different type attacker, potentially useful against Turbo Darkrai and any Lightning deck (Raikou/Eels, for example) that would typically give Seismitoad trouble.
- Aqua Patch. A Seismitoad-focused Waterbox deck was a thing towards the end of last season, utilizing Max Elixir and Manaphy-EX to attack with and cycle Seismitoads. The deck used Grenade Hammer just as much as Quaking Punch. Aqua Patch gives this type of deck a new dimension, allowing it to function more consistently throughout the course of a game. Perhaps we will see some variant like this pop up this weekend as well.
- Seismitoad/Garbodor was one of the top decks two years ago and has seen some fringe play since then. Largely considered inferior to Toad/Bats in recent years, Garbodor in Expanded feels much weaker than its Standard counterpart. However, as Garbodor GUR has appeared, this variant might resurface as a dominant force. Garbodor GUR can punish players under Quaking Punch who are forced to Sycamore away a bunch of item cards and give the Toad/Garb player a way to close out games. This was one of the deck’s biggest weaknesses: a super oppressive lock that simply lacked damage output and could often tumble from light, consistent pressure.
I would be lying if I said I was super excited about playing a long Expanded tournament next weekend. The format itself is interesting as we have very little data and do not know what to expect, but the format itself does not seem super healthy, despite recent bans. Quick Item lock in Trevenant and Seismitoad do not offer for very interactive games, while speed decks like Darkrai, Rayquaza, and Night March are equally un-interactive in their own way. Despite this, I will be traveling a long ways to play in this tournament, as it is the only Regional I can attend before the start of my school year—a gift from TPCi for sure.
I will be writing a single article a month for the foreseeable future, and my next article will be a bit before Hartford Regionals, which will likely be the only other fall Regional Championship I will be attending. My goal this year will be to qualify for Day 1 again, so I do not feel the need to travel extensively for Regionals. Between League Cups and 3-5 Regionals, I feel confident I will be able to reach the 400 points necessary for my invite.
Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to contact me on the forums or via Twitter.
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