Welcome back, everyone! In something of a rarity, I’m here with the last word before a major event—for whatever reason, this seems to just not happen very often. Nonetheless, hopefully I can help impart some final suggestions before we head into the final Expanded tournament of the year.
In fact, this final Expanded tournament is only the latest in a disconcerting trend: over the past few months, Expanded attendance has taken a nosedive compared to what we’d expect it to be based on counterpart Standard events and ’16/17 attendances. Costa Mesa, Salt Lake City, and (probably) Roanoke are the only events to have seen attendance drops from last season, and all 3 are Expanded this season. There are other possible explanations to contribute as well, but I have no doubt that the format is a factor here too. Expanded is definitely a very different beast from Standard, and while I hesitate to call it strictly worse, it can definitely seem that way sometimes.
Most unfortunately, while I hesitate to call it worse, many players do not, and as such we see attendance suffering. This, in my mind, is quite unfair to the TOs responsible for putting events on, and it’s a shame that the format has become a risk to their financial outcome. Whether TPCi thinks the format is working or not, when it becomes demonstrably a minus for tournament players’ considerations in choosing whether to attend an event, I would argue it is implicitly not working.
For months, there’s been a cloud of “Zoroark reigns over everything!!” and while we’ve demonstrated it isn’t entirely true with Drampa and Gardevoir/Gallade, perception is everything in consumer choice. We’re seeing that in the choice of players to avoid Roanoke. It doesn’t matter whether the format is working; it matters whether the average player thinks it is working. We have evidence that they don’t. I hope TPCi is considering what’s going on here, as I feel bad for those behind Roanoke at the moment. They don’t deserve a format’s indictment on their tournament.
On a different, but similarly crazy, note, for many players in the thick of the Top 16 NA chase, this will be the 4th format they will play in as many weekends. I will leave that without further comment.
Today, I’m pretty simply going to run through 3 decks that I could see myself playing Saturday and one that I won’t touch, but that others will and that you may wish to. None of them are all that exciting, I regret to report, but I think all have potential to do very well this weekend.
If you’re insistent upon “exciting” as a criteria for deck choice this weekend, I’d point you toward Travis’ SLC Gardevoir (of which I would change very little). I would, however, dissuade Durant: Buzzwole will inevitably be a big part of the weekend, and try as you might, I think Diancie ♢-equipped Buzzwole is probably bad news for an Ant Army.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 33
Energy – 13
1 Beast ♢
It’s not all that exciting of a list, but the power is still here, and that is what makes Buzzwole playable in both formats right now. I would say this would enter the weekend as a BDIF-presumptive if it weren’t set to be hard-countered. Nonetheless, as we’ve seen in Standard the last few weekends, Buzzwole can be hard-countered and still thrive, so I think it’s probably a playable archetype nonetheless.
I’ll talk a bit more about the Buzzwole/Zoroark matchup a when we get to Buzzwole itself, but it’s no coincidence that the other two decks I’m going to get into today both boast Buzzwole matchups that look favorable. It’s going to be an important thing to beat, and many players will take that into account.
What makes it a good play then? For one thing, beating it is not as easily said as done, and many of the counters will rely on shaky consistency or other impediments. I expect many players will aim to go in with 50/50s and hope to get lucky, but the reality is that most of the “I teched to get it to 50/50” crowd ends up actually being worse than 50/50 in practice because those techs aren’t a part of core strategy, and therefore aren’t as easily executed as they might be on paper.
Wide Lens is a critically important card in the Zoroark matchup, and I’m almost wondering if a 2nd copy would be wise. The problem is that Mr. Mime is going to make its way into good Zoroark lists, as Isaiah laid out yesterday, so we’d probably be over-teching for a niche that’s going to be countered out of existence anyway. Therefore, it would probably be better to take any space applicable to that slot and add a Korrina, to better access Wide Lens in spots where it works. As crazy as running 3 different Tools as one-ofs sounds, I think it’s the right call when each applies only to a specific niche.
I think that’s all that’s to be said about the “excitement” here, so I’m going to move on to the specter of Expanded itself in Zoroark/Exeggcute.
Pokémon – 20
Trainers – 36
1 Red Card
Energy – 4
This is the list both my brother and I played to Top 4/2nd respectively at one of the two League Cups in the United States last weekend—notably, at the other, Alex Hill played his way out of Top 8 with a similar list. At the Ohio Cup, I ran through Swiss without taking a loss, while Alex dropped his Round 1 to a dead Ghetsis and lost to me in Top 4. In finals, a combination of silly Ghetsis shenanigans (I straight-up won Game 2 with Ghetsis; he returned the favor in Game 3) and some “I’ve never played this in my life”-level terrible math on my part in Game 1 led to a Night March loss. Not sure I’d have won either way, but I didn’t do myself any favors.
I’ve only played Zoroark-GX twice in tournaments now—two League Cup 2nds—and this was the first time with the Eggs variant. I can honestly say I’m quite impressed, and will strongly consider this deck for Roanoke. You can fit techs for a lot of different situations while keeping a core of consistency that enables the deck to beat some of the more random Expanded features—having taken losses to Archie’s Blastoise twice this year, that’s the kind of thing I like to see.
A pair of cards I last played together—and never expected to play again—has made its way into the list, in the form of Mewtwo-EX and PlusPower. Paired together in the 2012 days, with PlusPower a key component in winning “Mewtwo wars” of the old days, they make a triumphant return now to help Zoroark deal with Buzzwole’s surge. PlusPower can allow Zoroark to reach 190 without the use of Choice Band—dealing with Buzzwole—and 200 with a double use equipped by Puzzle. This is in addition to a host of other mathematical maladies that PlusPower can help us out of. (The only thing that remains is to uncover my Base Set copy in case I end up choosing this list!)
The list can be teched any number of ways, and one that’s on the cusp of mine right now is Oricorio GRI 56. Isaiah highlighted its utility yesterday, so I’ll back off of that discussion as a depth matter, but I’d reiterate that Night March could be well-poised. Therefore, Oricorio could be a convenient thing to have around. I’m not convinced doing 120 to Buzzwole with the second attack—to me, the scariest thing about Oricorio is making sure I announce the correct “Dance” attack—is going to aid Zoroark all that often, but in other decks, it’s critically important.
I don’t have Zoroark BKT here right now, but it’s something I’m probably going to arrange. Zoroark BLW, though, I definitely would not cut. The problem with constructing a list for this deck is that changing 1 card is hard to do without affecting the utility of another, and therefore it’s more about teching suites of cards than single swaps. Therefore, I’m not yet decided on what I’m going to cut for the BKT, but I do want to emphasize I intend to do so: I’m not sure how else to reliably not-lose mirror matches due to my non-inclusion.
Something I have that many lists do not is the 2nd copy of Float Stone. It’s an inclusion I like a lot, and I’ve partially gravitated away from Zoroark decks this season because I found myself frequently whiffing the proverbial “get-out-of-active” out during testing, leading to frustrating games where I just didn’t achieve anything. However, in the case of Zoro/Eggs, it may be a matter of realizing that this deck can practically will one-ofs into play on command and cutting the Float Stone for something else.
One of the larger concerns I have—but don’t yet have an answer for—is Buzzwole FLI. In theory, I’m imagining scenarios where you can Ghetsis Buzzwole before they go into a Beast Ring turn, minimizing their chances of pulling off a double Beast Ring, and then utilize Mewtwo to eliminate their threat—GX or baby. The problem, though, is that Beast Ring won’t deactivate in this scenario, which leaves another potentially-ugly turn to deal with.
I’m contemplating crazy things like an Escape Rope, Counter Catcher, or other means of changing their active Pokémon to help deal with this. In theory, if you only go down 1 Prize early, which Mr. Mime aids tremendously, you’re unconcerned about baby Buzzwole as long as you’re able to take GXs off the board 3 turns in a row, and all of the aforementioned can aid in that goal. I’ll probably play this if I find myself beating Buzzwole consistently, but if not, I’ll definitely be looking elsewhere.
Pokémon – 18
1 Mew FCO
Trainers – 37
Energy – 4
Night March has recently fallen off in popularity, but as those that’ve been around for awhile know, that’s just when it seems to finally peak its head back above the clouds. In the current metagame, it’s faced with the prospect of feasting on Buzzwole all day, which is certainly exciting for our resident bugs. I think Mr. Mime would be a key inclusion to cinch up the matchup, which is why it’s here, but I still think you would win the majority of games without it.
As I mentioned earlier, I lost to Night March in finals of my Cup with Zoroark. As I also mentioned earlier, that Cup comprises my only games with Zoro/Eggs to speak of, so this is a matchup I’m going to be testing tonight and tomorrow as I go into Roanoke. I think it should be winnable for Zoroark, given proper use of Red Card/Hex and other tricks, but adding Oricorio would push it even further in that direction, I think. A potential concern to be sure, but on the other hand, Zoroark does seem to be in recession in many players’ minds.
In this list, there is no Zoroark-GX. Zoroark became popular in Night March after the dominating run a few players put up in San Jose with the same 60 card list, but I think it’s run its course at this point. Zoroark hate extends to this deck too, and in all honesty, I think including the 2 Prize liability would hurt many of this deck’s matchups. Thereby, no Zoroark in the list.
Otherwise, for those that have seen Night March, you know that Night March lists are 55 of the same cards with some twists in the last few. For those that haven’t, feel free to reach out if any of the inclusions strike you as odd.
Giratina Promo might be a worthwhile consideration this weekend, though, if only because of…
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 37
Energy – 9
Another blast-from-Expanded-past, it seeks to take advantage of a metagame of Buzzwole and Buzzwole counters. Unfortunately, it is not yet cured of its insatiable need for inconsistency, so I’m not in a spot where I think I can say I’ll play it. Nevertheless, I bring it up because it has potential to be a strong play for the type of person for whom failure isn’t a problem.
Where can things go wrong? Aside from the inconsistency issues, despite all efforts, we’ve yet to reliably find a list that can consistently deal with good Zoroark players. Once they learn to stagger Zorua, avoiding an Espeon-EX scheme, unless they are very unfortunate in terms of Energy, they probably will pull the game off.
Other than that, though, the deck has potential. Night March’s seeming resurgence would definitely be beaten back with a heavy enough Trev presence, the Gardevoir/Gallade of SLC would presume to struggle in the face of Silent Fear, and Buzzwole may not even have a turn to play Beast Ring! Of course, like all BREAKs, the problem here is that certain decks can turn that equation on its head with Giratina XY184. That, sadly, is simply the reality of the land, and part of what makes this a lottery pick.
In sum, you should be aware that this is a deck on some players’ minds, and if you’re feeling risky, it could be a good pick yourself.
That brings us to the end of our Roanoke coverage! Hopefully you gained something from our review of 6 of Expanded’s biggest foes, and for my money, the winner of the tournament almost certainly will arise from that list of 6.
From here-out, it’s Standard BKT-FLI—and I can’t tell you how excited I am to bid farewell to splitting up format coverage. Especially since a few of us are in the midst of that crazy 4-formats-in-4-weekends bit I mentioned earlier, it’s been a struggle to make sure we had timely coverage in place for every format as it came around. In hindsight, I think I’d have liked to have Wednesday’s articles on Monday, and this article on Tuesday, and we’ll look into more proactive scheduling next season when we get into spots like this again.
We will be distributing a sort of end-of-season survey about your experience on 6P in the next few weeks. Keep an eye on your email! In the meantime, if you have any comments or concerns, always feel free to bring them to Alex or I at an event or your favorite digital medium.
As always, all the best,
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