Guiding Greninja and Fickle Fire

Rebranding Greninja and Fire Decks in BKT-On

Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist back with my first article since attending the 2017 Pokémon World Championship. I am incredibly proud of how well the 6P squad did at the event, and am always hyped to see my friends and teammates perform well at major events. Shoutout to Xander, Pablo, and Jimmy for snagging 3/8 of the top spots.

I was eliminated during Day 1 of the competition, losing my win and in to a Decidueye-GX deck, dropping me to 3-3 and marking the 5th deck with Espeon-EX I played against in the tournament. Overall I was very happy I played Gardevoir-GX, but unfortunately I teched a bit heavy for the mirror and ended up not playing against a single one!

After a huge event like Worlds I usually like to disconnect from Pokémon for a bit to reflect on the season and get excited for the upcoming one. My first event of the season will most likely be a League Cup this weekend, and my first Regional is going to be Vancouver in October. With the 400 point cap seeming very easily attainable, I doubt I’ll be doing a ton of traveling this year outside of events in places that I want to visit.

I’m really bummed I missed out on Ft. Wayne Regionals this year because it’s the first time I’ve missed the event since I started playing Pokémon, but living in California has made the event much more difficult to access. I also really enjoy the Expanded format and genuinely have a lot of fun every time I play it. The deck diversity is incredible and the consistency of every deck is always that much better with cards like Battle Compressor, Computer Search, Colress, and Tropical Beach. Playing with older cards is also just plain nostalgic and genuinely fun.

Moving forward the overall meta from Worlds doesn’t seem to be too heavily affected by rotation. The two big decks we lose are M Rayquaza and Vespiquen, but they had become fringe plays anyway. Most of the cards we lost were being simply being phased out by newer and better stuff anyway (i.e. Guzma/Lysandre). It seems like no one is really too worried about the loss of anything other than VS Seeker, and Garbodor decks in general have probably lost a lot of steam with the rotation of cards like VS Seeker and Trainers’ Mail.

With Gardevoir-GX coming fresh off a World Championship win in its debut format it seems like a very obvious powerhouse going into Standard 2017-2018. Gardevoir-GX will be a measuring stick by which any deck trying to make an impact will have to consider. Today I’ve chosen two decks that, for very different reasons, have to undergo drastic changes in the way they’re built in order to adjust for the Standard format.

Guiding Greninja

Pokémon – 20

4 Froakie BKP

4 Frogadier BKP

4 Greninja BKP

3 Greninja BREAK

1 Staryu BKP

1 Starmie EVO

1 Alolan Vulpix GRI

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Tapu Fini-GX

Trainers – 31

4 N

4 Professor Sycamore

4 Skyla


4 Ultra Ball

2 Choice Band

2 Field Blower

2 Rare Candy

2 Super Rod

2 Timer Ball

1 Enhanced Hammer

1 Max Potion

1 Rescue Stretcher


2 Brooklet Hill

Energy – 9

6 W

3 Splash

Greninja’s biggest personal loss is absolutely Dive Ball. The card was always an immediate 4-of and helped sustain the “non-ex” model of the deck by giving you an insane search card. Without Dive Ball, you have to fall back on regular ole Ultra Ball like every other deck in the format. Now that you have Ultra Ball, you can reasonably help your consistency with Tapu-Lele GX—giving Greninja a much needed boost in that department. You break the classic “non-ex” rule that Greninja has always strictly followed, but the loss of Dive Ball forces Greninja to venture into new territory.

The deck is still as well positioned as always, and really just takes someone not scared of “Greninja Hands” to find success.

List Discussion

Building decks while considering the loss of VS Seeker is something newer players may have a difficult time adjusting to, but for those of us that played before the card we remember much thicker supporter lines and 1-of supporters as a rarity.

Before VS Seeker was printed, Skyla was a very common inclusion in decks. Full counts of N and Sycamore were very common, while supporters like Bianca, Skyla, and Cheren were there to help fill the gaps. When VS Seeker came along everyone realized they didn’t need to play any draw supporters outside of the most powerful ones because of what VS Seeker brought to the table. Now that it’s gone we’ll most likely see a return to this kind of deck building with Skyla and/or Lillie alongside full counts of the ever-faithful N and Professor Sycamore.


Starmie, Alolan Vulpix, Tapu Fini-GX, Tapu Lele-GX

Starmie is a nice addition to ensure you have access to W Energy every turn, and it fits the deck very well. Staryu has free retreat, which makes it a fine starter, and once you get your Greninja and Grenina BREAK out the only other thing you ever want is water energy. The other inclusions are all experimental and an attempt to help maximize consistency or give the deck options. Vulpix is a common inclusion in Stage 2 decks, so why wouldn’t we play it in a Stage 3 deck?

After a Water Duplicates, evolving all your Frogadier into Greninja and then going off into a Beacon seems incredibly good. Tapu Lele-GX is a phenomenal card in every other deck, so, with Ultra Ball, it seems mandatory now. Tapu Fini-GX gives the deck a great GX attack and potential nuke against any deck that has built up an attacker you can’t handle.

Potential Inclusions: Jirachi XY67, Octillery

Jirachi XY67 was popular in Greninja when Night March was the biggest deck around, and has since seen only fringe play. Most decks in the format utilize special energy to some degree, and can be game changing against a deck like Golisopod/Garbodor that utilizes a high count of Special Energy. Octillery has seen some play in place of Starmie because of Guzma. Without VS Seeker we cannot reliably threaten access to Guzma to prevent a stall play, so now Starmie seems objectively better without multiple copies.


Skyla vs Lillie

Skyla fits better in Greninja because it’s a bit slower of a deck and has never really looked for explosive starts. Finding something like Rare Candy or Field Blower at the right time can be game changing. I do think Lillie is a good card in the right decks and will most likely see success, but I don’t think Greninja is the home for it.

Timer Ball, Enhanced Hammer, Max Potion

Timer Ball is really all this deck has to supplement the search for your evolution pieces. We lost Repeat Ball AND Level Ball in addition to Dive Ball, so we make due with what we’ve got. Enhanced Hammer and Max Potion have always been popular 1-ofs in Greninja because they could provide game changing swing plays with something like Teammates. Now that we have 4 Skyla they seem just as good as ever, and the deck definitely has the space to fit them.

Potential Inclusions: Guzma
I’m not included?!?

Guzma is one of the best supporters in the game, but it just doesn’t fit Greninja. Greninja has never really wanted a gust effect because of how powerful Giant Water Shuriken is and it doesn’t need a switch card because the highest Retreat Cost in the deck is 1. It’s still a good card and powerful when timed correctly, but the loss of VS Seeker makes it just that much worse.


10th Energy

The inclusion of more energy is always welcome, and the deck has enough wiggle room to justify it. If any of the extra Pokémon end up being bad then they could easily end up as this spot. I would probably play another Splash Energy if I added a 10th because of how good Starmie is at recovering basic energy and to help maximize outs to recovering your Greninja line.

Aside on Gardevoir-GX Matchup

Greninja really seems to have a lot of tools going for it in this matchup. It is a non-EX/GX so it can trade favorably with the 2-Prize Gardevoir-GX, and with Shadow Stitching it can prevent Secret Spring from letting Infinite Force get out of hand. The early game will essentially be a race to your Stage 2 to see who can make use of their abilities or shut off the other’s first. Luckily for Greninja they need 5 energy to 1HKO a Break for only a single prize, and if a Gardevoir-GX does end up in too threatening of a position, you can always fall back on Tapu Storm-GX to shuffle it away.

The matchup gets a bit more interesting if they play the Giratina Promo. Without Silent Lab in the format, you lose all access to Giant Water Shuriken for the entire game, and without Guzma we have no way of even bringing it into the active to try and Knock it Out. This gives them ample time to build up a 5 energy Gardevoir-GX, and even go for a second one if you’re able to pull off a Tapu Storm-GX. The matchup is favored for you, but can go wrong very quickly if Greninja does the sort of Greninja things we’re all too familiar with.

Fickle Fire: Ho-Oh/Volcanion

Pokémon – 15

3 Ho-Oh-GX

2 Volcanion-EX

1 Turtonator-GX

1 Volcanion STS

2 Salandit GRI

2 Salazzle-GX

3 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru SUM

Trainers – 31

4 Guzma

4 Professor Sycamore

3 Kiawe

3 N


4 Choice Band

4 Max Elixir

4 Ultra Ball

2 Super Rod

2 Switch

1 Float Stone

Energy – 14

14 R

This is my attempt at adapting Tokuya Yoneda’s 9th place Ho-oh-GX/Salazzle-GX deck for new Standard. The idea is to load a up a Ho-oh on Turn 1 and start taking prizes immediately. If you can get the first 4 between the T1 Kiawe attacker and Turtonator-GX loading something up with Nitro Tank, then Salazzle is your cleanup, allowing you to hit 200 for a mere RR. I think Takuya’s adaptation of Fire was incredibly creative, and he very clearly did the best job at figuring out fire for the Worlds Format. It’s not really fair to refer to these decks as “Volcanion” anymore, but Fire has continually found ways to adapt and succeed despite the odds because of its raw speed and power.

List Discussion

The list really isn’t all that far off of Takuya’s list. From his original list I cut 4 cards that rotated and one that was meant to hard-counter something that just rotated. As a result I tried to streamline the deck as much as possible to ensure a consistent and explosive opening every game. The deck has one simple game plan: take prizes as fast as possible, then cleanup with Salazzle-GX.



It’s not quite Shaymin.

Losing Shaymin-EX takes away the option to draw a lot of cards in one turn, but Oranguru keeps N from totally devastating you after taking your quick early prizes. It’s not quite the same but having consistent access to a couple extra cards can be game changing.

Possible Inclusions: Turtonator-GX, Salazzle GRI

A second Turtonator-GX would be helpful against Gardevoir-GX because it discards energy after an attack, giving Infinite Force less fuel to work with. However, I think that’s really the only matchup you would ever really choose to go in with Turtonator-GX over Ho-oh-GX, because the discarding energy effect is much more difficult to nullify than the attack restriction of Phoenix Burn. Salazzle GRI can offer a decent damage boost to help your attackers reach a key knockout on something big, but Phoenix Burn already does 180 and you have Steam Up/Choice Band to work with.


4 Guzma, 3 N

Guzma and 3 N seemed like a natural addition with losing VS Seeker, but I didn’t really want to add any other supporters to the mix. Your goal is to T1 Kiawe and then start taking prizes ASAP, so you won’t ever use Lillie on T1 and Skyla is way too slow for the deck. A 4th N seemed excessive because you won’t actually be using the supporter that often due to how aggressive the deck is, but may be needed just to ensure a healthy draw supporter count.

4 Max Elixir, 2 Super Rod

I went with 4 Max Elixir because I didn’t really know what else I even wanted in the deck. Max Elixir can help setup a backup attacker very quickly after your initial Kiawe to ensure you keep up pressure if your first Ho-oh-GX is Knocked Out quickly. The 2 Super Rod is not something I’m entirely sold on yet but willing to try because Yoneda played it. I assume the idea is that you burn through so many R Energy so quickly with Kiawe, Steam Up, etc that shuffling 3 Fire back in is pretty easy and helps keep your deck consistently stacked with energy, but 16 Energy also sounds very dope.

Possible Inclusions: Fighting Fury Belt, Scorched Earth

Fighting Fury Belt is another card you can consider if you’re really looking to help your matchup against Gardevoir-GX. Giving your attackers the extra HP is huge against Infinite Force, and can be the difference between getting Knocked Out and living to get another attack off. The damage difference is occasionally relevant, depending on what you’re attacking into, but seeing as how Ho-Oh-GX does 180 and you have access to Steam Up, it is at least possible to cover the difference regardless.

Scorched Earth gives the deck just a little bit more draw when you have extra fire energy in your hand, and can really help ensure you have explosive openings. With the loss of Shaymin-EX the more draw you can access the better.



Fire is a deck that I am consistently impressed with seeing how many energy people are able to cram in. I think to date the most I’ve ever seen is 16, but I definitely thought “wow this is the most basic energy I’ll ever see in a deck” when I saw 13, 14, and 15 so who knows what could happen. We know Pokémon Theme Decks suggest 20/20/20, so at this point nothing would surprise me.

Aside on Gardevoir-GX Matchup

This deck is in a tricky place in the meta because I’m pretty certain it beats/is fine against every single deck in the game except Gardevoir-GX. The most recent bane of the Fire decks has been how easily Gardevoir-GX is able to handle all of the Fire attackers except for Turtonator-GX. You can always cheese them with a very fast Ho-Oh-GX and just try and rely on your opponent’s Stage 2 troubles catching up with them. All things considered, though, the matchup is pretty poor.

However, the second place deck at the World Championship was Golisopod-GX which is weak to Fire. Garbodor decks in general are good matchups because you setup 1 attacker up efficiently and quickly. I don’t think any deck except for Gardevoir-GX can really handle a T1 4 energy Ho-oh-GX. Even a quick Tapu Lele-GX hit into it can cause a lot of damage, but that’s essentially guaranteeing your opponent will get 2 Prizes off of the Tapu Lele-GX.

Global Address: On State of the Game

I know I’ve mentioned this a couple of times in previous articles but I just wanted to reiterate that I think the Pokémon Trading Card Game is headed in a really positive direction, and I’m very pleased with a lot of the card design decisions that have been made lately. Garbodor GRI helped keep speedy big basic decks in check and allowed for a lot of creativity to flourish, and singlehandedly warped the way players built decks. Despite this, Garbodor continue to remain a dominant force throughout the rest of the 2017 season. Now that VS Seeker is gone Garbodor GRI has lost one of its favorite targets, thus lowering the effectiveness of the card overall. It definitely doesn’t help that people will absolutely replace those cards with Supporters like Skyla and Lillie which do very little as far as discarding items goes.

I’m a bit worried that Gardevoir-GX will assume a very dominant BDIF position, but I don’t think it’s a deck that will be oppressively good. If people start going into tournaments aiming to beat Gardevoir-GX they will figure out how to do so. I generally think having a BDIF in a format is a good thing, and am excited to see how players adapt at upcoming events.

Post-rotation exploration is always fun, and I’m beyond excited to see what other players come up with at the turn of the new season. Trying to figure out how to rebuild decks coupled with multiple “Wait, that rotated too?” realizations really forces players to dig deep for new playable cards. I’m getting very excited to play in my first event of the 2017-2018 Pokémon TCG season and I hope I can start off hot with a solid placing at my first League Cup. Until next time!

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