Stage 2 Scrutinizing

Reviewing Rare Candy in Standard and Expanded with Gardevoir and Magnezone

Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist here rounding out the week (outside of Christopher’s Friday Flyers of course) after the very first North American Regional Championship! In the mere month since my last piece I have been fortunate enough to be able to compete in this event as well as the 2018 World Championships. Unfortunately for me, I finished very poorly in both of the events.

At the end of my pre-worlds article I was very hyped on Magnezone UPR as it had become a pet deck of mind that I thought had strong competitive potential. However, I ended up chickening out in the days leading up to the tournament to switch to a Gardevoir-GX/Sylveon-GX deck that my good pal and testing partner Clifton Goh had turned me onto. Incidentally, I also played Gardevoir-GX/Sylveon-GX at last year’s World Championship which got me farther into the event but still not quite good enough for Day 2. I still really like the deck, but I guess we were wrong because all of us that played it did horribly. For those interested, this is the list I played:

Pokémon – 19

4 Ralts BUS

2 Kirlia BUS

3 Gardevoir-GX

2 Gallade BKT

2 Eevee SUM

2 Sylveon-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Remoraid BKT 32

1 Octillery BKT

Trainers – 30

4 N

3 Professor Sycamore

3 Guzma

1 Brigette

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

2 Eneporter

2 Float Stone

2 Field Blower
2 Max Potion

1 Super Rod

 

2 Parallel City

Energy – 11

7 Fairy

4 Double Colorless

I won’t go into detail about the list because it’s bad, but the deck was a lot of to test and I was truly excited to play it! The biggest tinge of regret after playing is that because I also did badly there’s a part of me that wishes I would have taken that chance on Magnezone instead. A more reasonable yet smaller still part of me also regrets not just playing Zoro/Garb as it was very clearly BDIF and even I acknowledged this as truth leading up to the event.

My decision to not play Magnezone at this event likely contributed pretty heavily to my continued obsession with the deck. As a result, I ended up testing it quite heavily and played it for the Philadelphia Regional Championship. Unfortunately for me the cards were just not drawing as well as I needed with this deck either, but I am very glad I finally took a swing with the deck even if it was a miss. Here’s the list I played:

Pokémon – 16

3 Magnemite UPR 80

1 Magnemite UPR 81

1 Magneton UPR

3 Magnezone UPR

3 Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Dialga-GX

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Solgaleo p

Trainers – 32

4 Cynthia

3 Lillie

3 Guzma

1 Fisherman

1 Lady

1 Volkner

 

4 Nest Ball

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

2 Energy Retrieval

1 Choice Band

 

4 Mt. Coronet

Energy – 12

11 Metal

1 DCE

After back to back garbage performances with two wacky decks I really enjoyed playing I felt a bit disheartened. I think the biggest mistake is my unwillingness to simply accept how truly bad the rare candy mechanic is/was in a format without any real search for it. Skyla and Volkner simply don’t cut it in a format up against Trade, and they’ve been weird unwilling to print any amount of good search for quite some time now. Because of this, I think that I’ll have to retire my Rare Candy decks until something that is able to bring the consistency of the decks to a competitive threshold in the Standard format.

Exploring Expanded – Looking at the bans of Ghetsis, Hex Maniac, Wally, and Puzzle of Time

Since I last decided to test Expanded there have been some major format adjustments. In an unprecedented move, Pokémon has moved to ban four cards from the Expanded format for the 2018-2019 season. I’m a bit of a mixed opinion on these bans as I was one of the few who believed the Expanded format was fine before the bans, but I must admit I do think the bans will open up the viability of many other strategies which otherwise may not have had a shot and it significantly cuts down on the amount of degenerate things that can be done on the first turn of the game. While I’m still not certain they were necessary I do think the bans will go a long way to getting people to care more about the format as a whole, which is definitely a good thing.

The first deck that comes to mind as being obviously impacted by the bans is the dreaded Zoroark-GX/Exeggcute/Skyfield. Losing Ghetsis, Hex Maniac, and Puzzle of Time are all devastating to the previously popular build of the deck, and I can’t wait to see how the deck innovates with the changes. It seems pretty clear that the deck still has enough raw fire power to remain viable, but without obvious answers to cards like Sudowoodo GRI and seemingly unlimited resources through Puzzle of Time there will absolutely have to be some adjustments made to the way the deck operates. I’ve been theorizing a version with Dark Patch and dark attackers like Yveltal-EX and Darkrai-EX, but nothing substantial has come of it yet.

The standout card from the bans is clearly Wally, as it is a card that really only ever contributed to one deck: Trevenant BREAK. I think this ban is the clear indicator that they have been listening to player complaints about how sometimes Expanded games can simply end before one player even gets to draw a card, which I think is also a very good thing. I always quite enjoy this option being taken away from Trevenant BREAK decks because now the best versions can step away from orchestrating a cheesy fast lock and instead focus on being the proper spread deck it always should have been by utilizing cards like Brigette.

For those of you looking for the TLDR of my opinion on the bans, my good pal Kirk ‘Doobsnax’ Dube could not have summed it up better with a short tweet that said: “Before the bans: Expanded > Standard. After the bans: Expanded > Standard.”

Diving into Decks & Reviving Rare Candy

I am somewhat certain that the bans will not initially stir a major change with what will be considered ‘Good’ in Expanded, but rather we will simply see a lot of the more popular concepts adapt to the changes with the new decks emerging somewhere on the fringe and pushing themselves forward as they become more refined and therefore more successful. I would not be surprised at all to see Zoroark-GX/Skyfield variants, Drampa-GX/, and take the first handful of events by storm simply due to their inherent power and adaptability.

Salt Lake City Regionals was the last Expanded event that I played in. I believed the best deck in the format at that time to be Gardevoir-GX/Gallade due to its own inherent raw power and suburb strength against the best two decks in the format at the time: Zoroark-GX variants and Drampa-GX/Garbodor. I was able to score my best finish of the season despite some mishaps at that event falling in T4 to Sableye/Garbodor. Luckily for our Gardevoir deck it was left completely unaffected by the bans and the only thing even remotely worrisome from the newest sets is Buzzwole-GX with Beast Ring.

Before I get too far, I know I spent a decent portion of the beginning of this article complaining about my refusal to accept the inconsistencies of the Rare Candy mechanic, but I genuinely believe those inconsistencies are exponentially less problematic in the Expanded format. Gaining cards like VS Seeker, Teammates, Colress, Tropical Beach, Computer Search, and Korrina just to name a few are all HUGE for helping push Rare Candy into the realm of viability. I put Teammates in bold because I simply cannot stress enough just how phenomenal this card is and how much I enjoy playing it in expanded. Even having a supporter like Korrina that might as well read ‘Gallade’ on it in an Expanded Gardevoir deck gives the deck an unmatched level of versatility and power. Here is the list I’ve been testing with so far:

Gardevoir-GX/Gallade

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Pokémon – 16

4 Ralts PLS

2 Kirlia NXD

3 Gardevoir-GX

2 Gallade BKT

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Oricorio GRI 56

1 Sudowoodo GRI

Trainers – 34

2 Brigette

2 Korrina
2 N

1 Colress

1 Guzma

1 Professor Juniper

1 Teammates

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

2 Field Blower

2 Mysterious Treasure

1 Choice Band

1 Computer Search

1 Float Stone

1 Max Potion

1 Rescue Stretcher

 

3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 10

6 Fairy

4 Double Colorless

You’ll notice a handful of changes here to the list I played in Salt Lake City, most noticeably is that I remembered to write down Tropical Beach. I cut the Nest Ball and 3rd Brigette for Mysterious Treasure in order to help the early game consistency. Nest Ball was always very useful for swooping something like Gallade/Nest Ball into off of Korrina with a Rare Candy in hand to get Premonition / Instruct going with one supporter, but for now I’m sticking with the double MT to help us find what we need in the early game.

I also cut the Focus Sash for an additional Fairy Energy and the Giratina Promo for the Oricorio because it as such a versatile card. Oricorio is good against decks like and because they operate based on Pokémon in the discard pile, but it can also be very solid in the early to mid game against Buzzwole decks and anything else with a Psychic weakness. The Oriocrio and Sudowoodo slots are our most flexible positions right now and will probably adjust based on the expected meta game.

Additional Options

Mewtwo-EX, Mewtwo EVO, Giratina Promo – These are probably the best two flex Pokémon Options right now in the Sudowoodo / Oricorio slots. Mewtwo-EX is a much more direct hard counter to the Buzzwole-GX decks by giving you something that can pop a fully loaded Buzzwole-GX for a single attachment. Mewtwo EVO can do something similar, but has a much more restricted damage output and is only worth a single prize. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but right now I think I prefer Mewtwo-EX because of its ability to really go aggressive instead of waiting to respond to a threat. Giratina Promo is a pretty easy explanation; pop that bad boy in if you expect Greninja or Trevenant, pop em out if you don’t. One additional bonus: All 3 of these options are retrievable via Mysterious Treasure.

2nd Guzma, 2nd Max Potion, 7th Fairy Energy – If you’re the type to decide ‘Hey, you know what. I don’t need tech Pokémon’ then any of these three options are for you. I think of the presented options I would lean toward the 2nd Guzma and 7th Fairy energy. There are only a handful of matchups in specific scenarios where I really feel like I need the extra Max Potion, but against the right decks (like Mirror) the additional Max Potion can really win you the game outright.

This is definitely the deck that I’ll be testing the most out of the gate because its power has been proven and I’m confident I can play it well. Since we’ve adapted one of my failed Standard Rare Candy decks for the Expanded format to showcase the options it gains, we may as well try and do the same with another:

Magnezone

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Pokémon – 16

4 Magnemite UPR 81

1 Magneton UPR

3 Magnezone UPR

1 Magnezone PLS 46

2 Dusk Mane Necrozma-GX

1 Aegislash-EX

1 Dialga-GX

1 Solgaleo p

2 Tapu Lele-GX

Trainers – 34

2 Brigette

2 N

1 Colress

1 Guzma

1 Professor Juniper

1 Skyla

1 Teammates

 

4 Rare Candy

4 Superior Energy Retrieval

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

2 Field Blower

1 Battle Compressor

1 Computer Search

1 Heavy Ball

 

4 Mt Coronet

Energy – 10

10 Metal

This list is not nearly as fleshed out as the Gardevoir deck, but you can absolutely believe that it is next on the list of decks to perfect in Expanded. I believe I have some core ideas here that are very solid and worth exploring for the metal rain dance idea, but there are a few counts I’m not entirely sold on just yet. The first major addition is Aegislash-EX. With the banning of Hex Maniac these kinds of wall abilities are going to come back in a huge way. Now that you can no longer simply VS Seeker for a supporter and take a 1HKO decks that normally did not care about Aegislash actually have to figure out an alternate route around it or simply take the L. Even stopping aggression for just a turn can be all you need to secure a W, and the wall + damage can work very very well in conjunction with Dialga GX’s Timeless GX by poking something worth 2 prizes then cleaning it up with Timeless GX.

The other card I’m super interested in exploring alongside the Metal Magnezone is the Dual Brains Magnezone. This card has seen some mild success since its been legal, but I’ve always thought this incredibly powerful effect was underrated for how good it is. The plays you can imagine with being able to use 2 supporters every turn, especially when combined with Timeless GX, are enough for me to have some amount of faith out of the gate. If it proves powerful enough we may even be able to squeak in some extra supporter effects to be able to maximize the power of Dual Brains.

Additional Options

1-2 Exeggcute PLF, 2nd-3rd Battle Compressor – I think these cards would all kind of roll in together because they would more or less help to shape how the enginge flows throughout the game. Exeggcute feels way too good not to play with 9 hand discarding effects in your deck between Ultra Ball, Superior Energy Retrieval, and Computer Search, and if we’re going to play Exeggcute we’ll definitely want to play more Battle Compressor. Compressor is amazing in this deck anyway because it can give you supporter targets for VS Seeker and help put metal energy into the discard for SER and Mt. Coronet.

Cobalion-EX, Magearna-EX, Rescue Stretcher – I’m sure that decks will be playing some amount of basic energy and/or Alolan Muk, so our ability to wall them out of the game seems non existent. However, if we can somehow clear Muk out before it becomes relevant or even if we only get a turn of walling with Aegislash then our Mighy Shield has done its job. Cobalion-EX can give us an out to disrupting their Energy in situations where they can evade Mighty Shield and Rescue Stretcher could grab any of our tech attackers so we can reuse it as needed. Magearna-EX is phenomenal against Trevenant BREAK decks and anything else that relies on effects of attacks like Accelgor DEX, and should be kept in mind if any of those effects become relevant.

Single Prize Attacker Heavy – This is a variant I was beginning to explore in Standard but had not had enough practice with it before Philly to pull the trigger. There are quite a few semi decent single prize metal attackers that could be used in Magnezone to trade very efficiently instead of using the big 2 Prize GX Pokémon to try and blast through everything. Scrolling through PkmnCards‘ advanced filter is showing me Celesteela CES, Registeel CES, Dusk Mane Necrozma, Heatran ULP, Cobalion STS, Heatran PHF, and Cobalion NVI as viable options for solid single prize attackers. Sometimes something as simple as having a bunch of little guys smack for 100-130 every single turn of the game is all you need.

Conclusion

Man, I bet y’all didn’t think you’d be stuck reading an entire piece about Gardevoir and Magnezone in the Standard and Expanded formats eh? In all seriousness, I hope my deck discussion here was able to shed some light on the inconsistencies of Standard vs Expanded and why we’re able to see mechanics like Rare Candy work in a much faster and much more disruptive Expanded format vs a seemingly slower Standard format. The biggest problem we’re seeing with Stage 2 decks in Standard is not that the cards are not good enough, but rather that their main form of evolution support (Rare Candy) is currently unsearchable and instead relies solely on raw drawing the two card combo unless you play a copious amount of Volkner, which unfortunately is not a very good card on its own. Slowing the format down doesn’t give these decks the time they need to setup because the consistency they need to thrive is still nonexistent.

I hope you all enjoyed another piece of mine. My next big event will be Portland Regionals as my plans to make Memphis have fallen through due to some unforeseen life developments that require attention. As always, if you see me around please come up and say hello. Chatting with readers is my favorite thing to do and I always appreciate the support, until next time!


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