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Michael Slutsky on The Season’s Road, Expanded Golisopod/Eeveeloutions, and Waterbox Reborn

What’s up, everyone! It is with a heavy heart that I come to you, one last time, for my final article here at SixPrizes! With the new season already upon us this weekend in Ft. Wayne, this article couldn’t come at a better time: August 31st is the Thursday before the tournament, and also my birthday! You couldn’t have scripted a better end to this dynasty. Given that this is my last article, I thought it’d be fun to go over two lesser known decks that I’ve been enjoying tremendously, and that have been surprisingly resilient. Let’s get started!

Back On The Road: The Season Begins Again

pokemon-paradijs.comIn my last piece, I discussed how it was likely far too soon for the season to start again—a mere two weeks after Worlds—and how that could cause some serious competitive fatigue. I didn’t really see a problem with starting the Regionals circuit in October, given that there are plenty of weekends throughout the year to host Regionals. Yet here we are, with a major tournament before the school year even starts (at least in Minnesota—and who really cares about anywhere else)! This has put a lot of pressure on players as they frantically switch gears from a 1-of format in Worlds to the beginning of a year-long evolving format in Expanded.

We’ve had two sets release in the time since the last Expanded tournament, meaning this is truly the Wild West once more. Figuring out exactly where to start testing has been quite the challenge, but for me, the search began in the Standard format. As Worlds ended for more and more players throughout the weekend, I found myself chatting with an ever-growing number of minds curious about Expanded.

Sure, the regular flair was there: Night Marsh, Turbo Dark, Trevenant and Volcanion all received tremendous boosts from the last two sets and from the ban list. I also noticed many were eager to dive into the unknown: Greninja, Gardevoir, Manectric, Metagross, Garbodor, ArchieStoise, and Eels were just a handful of the decks people wanted to test, each carving out a share of their perceived meta. Though big changes have occurred in Expanded, as much of the Old Guard as is able is resting at the top, the new, slower age of the Pokémon TCG is closing in fast. Garbodor is as potent as ever (if not moreso, with Compressor and ACE SPECs in format), and the Supporter pool for Lele to target is wider.

At Worlds, we saw quite a few cool decks enter the fray, but perhaps the most interesting (and my personal favorite) was the Golisopod/Garbodor deck that managed to reach the finals. I think a lot of players recognized that Golisopod had some innate strength against the field, but couldn’t exactly figure out the optimal build for it. Once again, Japan showed up in a commanding fashion, with the same team that birthed Mega Audino taking up 25% of this year’s cut, each playing the same deck. I was infatuated with the idea, and immediately set out to play some games with it to see how it flowed. I felt the deck had a lot of answers to many of the decks in Standard, and I wondered if it could have the same fortune in Expanded.

Truthfully, I think a lot of players are looking at the Standard format as Expanded’s North Star, because we simply don’t have any other information to go off of. Many players have been discussing Garbodor variants, Gardevoir, Volcanion, and Turbo Dark, all of which have spots of varying dominance in Standard. If Golisopod was able to hang around in that field, then surely it would receive the same theoretical Expanded power boost that its companions did? With each deck came new problems for Golisopod, but also some new answers.

Armor Shell: Golisopod/Eevees

Pokémon – 17

4 Wimpod BUS

3 Golisopod-GX

3 Eevee ???

2 Leafeon PLF

1 Vaporeon AOR

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Koko SM30

1 Oricorio GRI 56

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Acerola

2 Brigette

2 Guzma

2 N


4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

1 Field Blower

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Super Rod

4 Float Stone

3 Choice Band


2 Tropical Beach

Energy – 10

6 G

4 Double Colorless

For starters, nothing about this list should come as particularly surprising, but let’s go over a couple of card choices:

Eeveelutions: Originally, I started with a much larger Eeveelutions line, including the other type changers and more Leafeon. Through testing games, I felt that they were having less of an impact than I’d like and were mucking up my ability to chain Golisopod attacks. At the current line, the Eeveelutions exist to help deal with Turbo Dark (I’ll touch more on this matchup specifically later), and possibly give you an out to Volcanion. In truth, Vaporeon really doesn’t do much and I’ll probably end up cutting it, perhaps for a different changer, another Eeveelution (say, a Flareon PLF), or something else altogether.

2 Brigette: Using Brigette on the first turn is absolutely crucial to the deck, and very rarely are you in a position where you naturally start with or draw a comfortable amount of basics to not need it. I have lost games because I prized the Brigette and couldn’t get the basics I needed down, and this is purely insurance against prizing. Wimpod having free retreat on the first turn means you can Brigette into a fellow Wimpod, a Koko promo, and an Eevee, retreat into Koko, and set yourself up to start attacking immediately.

4 Float Stone: Guzma necessitates a switch to the bench for Golisopod, and having the max count of Float Stone turns everything into a Koko promo. This is just insurance to survive Field Blowers and give you the best chance to draw it. Plus, it can turn any of your Pokémon into a wall to buy time at any point in the game in the event that the engine stalls.

2 Tropical Beach: The Forest ban seems like it’d hurt this deck, but I don’t actually think the card is that useful with Golisopod. It’s only a Stage One, meaning if you have at least two Wimpod down, you can repeatedly cycle Golisopod. Tropical Beach provides a great consistency boost to start the game off, and can be useful at the end of the game, when you can put up one of your countless walls to draw into the last few resources you’ll need to close out the game. Beach is in here mostly because I wanted more consistency cards and a few more outs to opposing stadiums like Lab or Sky Field. It’s not necessary, but I’ve gotten a lot of value out of it, especially in conjunction with a turn one Brigette.

There are a number of reasons why I think Golisopod is viable in Expanded:

1) The deck is simple, elegant, and consistent. A Brigette on turn one sets you up for the entire game, and the nature of the deck means that you’re able to regularly pick off smaller threats, or 2-shot big ones. 210 isn’t the most HP you could have, especially in Expanded, but for many decks, that’s still not an easy number to hit immediately, so you can take advantage with Acerola plays. One of the biggest reasons people find success at these massive tournaments is because their deck does the same thing, every game, almost always without fail.

Perhaps Expanded’s litmus test?

2) It doesn’t fold to Trevenant. This is one of the biggest draws to the deck. With Forest gone, Trev is the de-facto lock deck, and playing a deck that outright loses to it can be a dangerous proposition. While it isn’t lopsided for Golisopod, the natural counts of Guzma and Acerola should be more than enough to help you comfortably find your way home through the trees. Golisopod having 210HP means that Trev needs to hit it with four spreads for a Necrozma to kill it, giving us ample time to skate around that play – when one Golisopod is entering that range, a simple Acerola can negate turns of damage.

3) Its Turbo Dark matchup ranges the entire spectrum. Your matchup against the Dark Knight is entirely dictated by the Turbo Dark list. If they run no status condition effects (i.e. they don’t want to take advantage of Darkrai-GX), then I think you win that fairly comfortably, as in order to trade with Golisopod, they put themselves in range for Leafeon to punish them. If they run just Malamar-EX as the way to deal the conditions, then I think it’s slightly in your favor: sure, they get a guaranteed KO on a Golisopod with the GX attack, but after that, in order to 1HKO, they need a lot of energy in play, so Leafeon can punish. In both of these cases, if they aren’t 1HKOing you, you have Acerola to negate their turns, and continue to comfortably 2-shot them.

If they run Lasers and Virbank, I think it’s a much worse matchup for you: not only can they 1HKO a Golisopod with the GX attack, but they also possess the ability to 1-shot a Lele without too much energy in play (using Dark Cleave/Band/Laser) – this makes your Prize trade in that MU much worse, and therefore the MU itself much worse.

I’ve tested a few other partners for Golisopod, including Maxie’s Gallade, Garbodor, Weavile, and Lasers. Ultimately, the Eeveelutions provided the most utility against a wider array of matchups. The deck still has some very obvious struggles, and is by no means the play, but I’ve found the deck to be quite resilient, scrappy, and downright fun to play.

A River of Options: Waterbox Revised

The other deck I want to discuss today is a deck I’ve played often on my stream, and one I find to be an absolute blast: Waterbox! This deck isn’t new by any means, yet has never really found footing in Expanded, despite the increased card pool (Brit Pybas has mused on this deck numerous times, even!). The release of Aqua Patch and the banning of Forest have really opened the door for Waterbox, though, and I think it’s a deck that’s an incredibly strong contender. Here’s my list:

Pokémon – 12

3 Lapras-GX
1 Seismitoad-EX
2 Shaymin-EX ROS
2 Manaphy-EX
2 Articuno ROS 17
1 Tapu Lele-GX
1 Tapu Fini-GX

Trainers – 36

3 Professor Sycamore
2 Colress
1 N
1 Guzma
1 Professor Kukui


4 Ultra Ball
4 VS Seeker
4 Max Elixir
4 Aqua Patch
3 Choice Band
2 Trainers’ Mail
1 Super Rod
1 Field Blower
1 Dowsing Machine


4 Rough Seas

Energy – 12

12 W

This deck has one speed: go. I think this deck is good because of its matchups against the Big Four:

  • Against Trevenant, if this card called “Rough Seas” is in play, your matchup is extremely favorable. Lapras 1HKOs Trevenant even under lock, and you can comfortably play a very slow game, opting to repeatedly use Collect as you set up on the back. The moment they bring up a Necrozma, you can immediately punish it (or do so in a big combo turn, if they bench it or a Lele or something). Without Seas, it gets a little tougher, but Lapras is still fairly big and can punch back. Running the max copies and having consistent draw that avoids discarding Seas gives you a very good chance at winning the stadium war, and therefore the matchup.
  • Volcanion is red. You are blue.
  • Turbo Dark and Waterbox are actually the same exact deck. The difference between the two, and why I think the matchup is favored for you, is that your threshold to 1HKO a Darkrai is far lower than their threshold to 1HKO you. For you, you’ll need four energy (one Active to retreat and three on Lapras), and a Choice Band. For them, they’ll need a minimum of seven, possibly more to account for their alternative damage boosting effects they may run (Lasers, Bands, Valleys, etc).Sure, they can score a clean KO with a GX attack, but you can just drop the next Lapras and repeat. The deck is also not that susceptible to a Hex+KO, like Archie is, as you can promote a Manaphy or Shaymin, single attach, use your trainers, and get right back in it. You’re just as fast (if not technically faster, given you reach the 1HKO threshold way sooner), and retaliate immediately.
  • Night March is the only tricky one. If they’re attacking with Marshadow, you have Field Blower and Lapras. If they’re attacking with just Marchers, then you have Articuno. In spite of this, I honestly don’t actually know the back and forth on it—I’m basing my knowledge of it off of how the Archie v Night March matchup went.

Outside of these, though, the deck can struggle majorly. Garbodor will surely be a force in Expanded, and can very easily punish this deck if you don’t play it right. Sure, you have the ability to play it slow and just attach energies, but some variants like Espeon/Garb can prey on you whether or not you play it fast or slow. Drampa/Garb is a little different, and I think is a little better, but still a rocky one. I don’t think you can beat M Rayquaza at all, and I think big Evolution Pokémon-GX, like Gardevoir, Metagross, Solgaleo and Golisopod could all be unfavorable matchups (though a Lapras+Articuno combo on two GXs could be enough to get you there). The capacity to which any of these decks sees play is something we won’t know until Saturday, but they are very legitimate concerns.

Onward and Outward: Final Words

The end of the road.

In these two decks, I’ve found an interesting dichotomy: Golisopod does better handling the unknown, while Waterbox has its sight set on the Big Four. This speaks to how a lot of people are looking at Expanded. Is it better to focus on what you know are the top decks, and play with the cards you’re dealt against the things you didn’t prepare for, or is it better to prepare for the unknowable, with a deck that doesn’t rely on your opponent’s deck in order to function well?

If it’s any consolation, whatever lens you choose to view this tournament through is almost assuredly the wrong one. Expanded has always been a crapshoot, but now more than ever: Ft. Wayne has 750+ Masters registered, making it the largest Regionals (and largest single flight) of all time. Over the course of nine rounds, you will not play against anything you expected, and also all of the same you’d tested against. It is impossible to metagame. Pick a deck that’s consistent, that you enjoy, and get ready to roll the dice.

Before I go, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Adam, Alex, and Christopher. One of my biggest aspirations since starting the game was to be granted the ability to write for SixPrizes, as an Underground writer. When Adam reached out to me last November to write, I was totally blown away—my dream was finally coming true!

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of writing throughout the entire season, sharing my thoughts as we navigated through one of the most important seasons in the game’s history. It’s been especially exciting to chronicle the first explorations into the GX era, both its inception and with the release of Tapu Lele. It’s been fun using Underground as a soapbox to complain about aspects of the game I disliked, if only for the sake of complaining. Most of all, it’s been fun creating and strengthening friendships with my fellow writers, getting to know you, the readers, and most of all, talking about Pokémon. Fortunately or not, this definitely isn’t the last you’ll hear of me, though it does conclude my time at SixPrizes.

As always, let me know what you think, what you’re thinking for Ft. Wayne, and the best of luck to all of us this weekend!

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