Another weekend down. While I may not have played this Standard format in a Regional event, I do get the distinct impression that many players aren’t necessarily huge fans of where we’re at. It was pretty cool to see some of Dragon Majesty make an impact this weekend—I saw more than one Kingdra-GX walking around somewhere in the day, and Quagsire saw some play, but otherwise it was essentially the same format we left off on in Philadelphia.
I’m pretty solidly unsurprised that Malamar walked away in the end, as the suite of attackers it was working with is on a level of the rest of the format just can’t quite match. Chimecho CIN—which, I will totally admit, I did not immediately recognize when I walked by one during Round 1—was a clever inclusion to work within the mirror-based metagame, and while I haven’t watched the finals match, my understanding is that Chimecho was a big part of Daniel Altavilla overcoming the as-of-then undefeated Gustavo Wada.
As we look forward, the next big thing on the horizon is Portland’s Regional Championship. Kicking off the Expanded slate for this year, it’s going to be interesting to see how the attendance factors of “Pacific Northwest” and “Expanded” combine together in a time where Expanded might be the preference of more players than in any other time in the format’s history. I know I’m super excited to play it myself, and while this first article on the subject has been in the works a far longer time than I initially planned, I’m glad to be here. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be mixing Standard in with the Expanded to keep current on League Cups and for any international events that happen to pop up, but otherwise the primary focus is going to be on the Expanded format.
And, what an Expanded format it is: the bans this summer have as-of-yet only taken effect in League Cups, giving us a pretty minimal view of their effects. Puzzle of Time, Ghetsis, Wally, and Hex Maniac leave holes in the format ranging from niche to gaping—needless to say, Puzzle is probably the key change on that list. The interesting twist is that almost all of the decks in format are losing Puzzle—Buzzwole, Trevenant, and some other exceptions notwithstanding.
But, the fact that (almost) everything loses Puzzle is not to be mistaken for saying that Puzzle’s loss hurts everything equally. Decks like Zoroark, having played copious one-ofs that were mostly effective in only certain situations, are going to hurt more disproportionately than things like Night March, which cared more that Puzzle could return resources like DCE and Joltik—things that can be obtained through other means. On the other hand, Zoroark is probably going to have a much harder time finding its Red Card out of the discard again.
It’s a new format in some ways and the same old stuff in some others. Let’s get into it.
Here at SixPrizes, we try to avoid articles that are merely deck list after deck list. In general, they don’t help you understand the format or a specific deck in a better way, which tends to be a key to success at these large events. The twist right now is that we have a format that hasn’t been touched to any degree at a high level in months—and, it’s two sets and 4 bans removed. As such, I think the most important thing we can help you with right now is preparing for “the field” Expanded is going to offer. It’s going to be a huge metagame in my mind, and I’m already terrified of trying to break it down by archetype for the RK9 analysis. Your best strategy going into Portland is to log a lot of games with the deck you’re planning to play and have broad plans to counter specific genres of strategy.
With that in mind, as a writing team, we’re going to do what we can to be a bit more list-heavy heading into this first Expanded event. With any luck, we’ll be able to reference these base lists for most of the upcoming season—Expanded tends to work that way, at least.
When I say genres of strategy, I’m referring to any of the following:
“You’re going to have to do that 6 times”: Single Prize attackers. These decks are going to aim to do you in by hitting for silly amounts of damage with attackers that trade favorably. We’re talking things like Night March, Vespiquen, and the Standard-style Buzzwole FLI variants. Beating these will require that your deck has a way to trade favorably with them: this is going to involve not getting KO’d or taking multiple Prizes at once. Theoretically, look toward Oricorio, Focus Sash, spread, and things of that nature.
“You can’t play that:” Trevenant BREAK is not going to go anywhere (regrettably). Seismitoad-EX is on my radar as a possible option to deal with some elements of the metagame. Maybe we can Lance ♢ some Dragonite PLF in play. Who knows, Chaos Wheel (Mismagius or Giratina-EX AOR both) could be on the table. These, admittedly, are two different issues, but the principle here is pretty similar: Pokémon Ranger might be something to keep in mind for Portland (Giratina Promo, too). Glaceon-GX is probably a soft form of this effect too, but it’s one I’d shy away from going into Portland.
“My strategy is just more broken than yours”: Archie’s Blastoise is the best example I have, and it’s something that’s become a topic of discussion with the Hex bans. I’m going to put Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Aloan Muk SUM under here too, though that might be a bit unfair of me as it’s in a different category of the meta than Archie. These decks try to leverage their extraordinary Abilities to prevent the others from executing their strategy, execute their own strategy at a pace that others can’t match, or a combination thereof. Zoroark’s dominance last season was fueled by a combination of these two. Fire—whatever pile of Volcanion, Turtonator, and friends happen to show up—is probably here too. Sudwoodo GRI, among others, are the type of strategy-specific counters you’re going to be looking for to beat this. The Ghetsis ban is a victory for these decks.
“I don’t really care what you do, but I’m going to punish you for it in the end:” The Drampa/Garbodor segment of our program. It’s the de facto deck-to-beat in many players’ minds, simply because Trashalanche is such an effective element of Expanded game and because it lacks the weaknesses (Special Energy, low HP, etc.) that many other decks suffer. As an added bonus, Righteous Edge is really good against most of the game’s preeminent Expanded threats. The archetype can fit so many options that it’s going to be a powerhouse. Oranguru UPR is going to be important here, as it allows you to manage their damage output in a lot of ways, but Berserk can put you on a clock pretty quickly.
“I also don’t care what you do, but the idea here is that you’re going to run out of cards before I do:” We’re going to unite mill and stall, and wherever you personally think the distinction lies, here. For better or worse, this is my early pick for the most likely archetype to prevail in Portland—simply because there are so many options and so many Puzzle-less decks to take advantage of. Let’s put it this way: I hope to be wrong. Wailord, Sylveon, Sableye, and even Durant all could be in spots to succeed. Dark day. Let’s be clear: Sableye does not care one iota about the Puzzle ban. It’s the principle example of a deck that benefits far more from other decks’ loss of Puzzle than its own. Oranguru UPR is the staple in this fight.
And the scores of others. I couldn’t hope to endeavor to talk about all of the archetypes we might see this month in Portland, but this is a sampling. I didn’t even get to Shock Lock, which probably belongs in its own category of troublemaking entirely. Hopefully this gives you a sense of where I think we’re at in the format.
For the reminder of the piece, I want to offer the testing suite I’m starting with. Some of these lists are probably obnoxiously problematic. This week’s Friday Flyer, and the following’s, is going to mention any updates I make in testing between now and then.
Pokémon – 17
1 Oriocorio GRI 56
Trainers – 34
Energy – 9
This list is largely inspired by what we saw succeed last season, but includes some changes to better deal with what the upcoming metagame seems likely to offer. Oranguru UPR is a card I want in most decks right now, and this is a notable place for it for sure. This is one of the few archetypes that lost nothing from the bans, while its contemporaries definitely did.
The techs included here include Oricorio, Sudowoodo, and Mewtwo EVO. The idea here is to deal with some of the obvious competitors in the format in effective manners. The biggest thing missing, in my mind, is a way to deal with Buzzwole FLI easily. Unfortunately, even Expanded denies us that potential. With the loss of Hex Manaic, Zoroark is going to struggle more with Sudowoodo. A common theme will be dealing with the return of Alolan Muk to that deck, and in this one, I currently don’t have an option. A good one, though, could be Garbodor PLS 67—as an added bonus, it can OHKO Buzzwole-GX, and with the right situation, maybe it turns into that desired Buzzwole FLI counter.
I’ll emphasize that this is an important deck to beat in the upcoming format. You want to test against this.
Consider: Giratina XY184
Pokémon – 20
2 Zorua DEX
Trainers – 36
Energy – 4
A big theme of Night March’s last run with viability was playing an “annoyance” Supporter on Turn 1. Since both of our good annoyance Supporters are gone, that’s a lot more complicated now. Delinquent is going to seem a lot crazy, and it might be, but with Puzzle gone, a lot of decks will be tighter on resources than they used to be. That leaves an opening where Delinquent could shine, and I’ve included a 4th Stadium in Night March for the first time in a long time in that vein.
Replacing Puzzle will be a pair of Special Charge and Rescue Stretcher. With the full suite of Trainers’ Mail, we should have sufficient means to get cards when we need them, and these dual copies provide some flexibility in terms of resource management. Speaking of Resource Management, Oranguru UPR probably couldn’t hurt here either.
I’m a lot skeptical of its playability going into Portland. I don’t like the chances of dealing with Oricorio, Trevenant, and the fact that other decks have caught up to its tricks. It’s just another way to take six Prizes at this point. What a world.
Alarming, glaring, gigantic problem that this (and other) decks have right now: if an opponent put down a Xurkitree-GX or other Special Energy immunity, there are no moves to be made. It’s over. Disaster. Hex Manaic’s removal from the format opens this up. You’re playing with fire.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 33
Energy – 13
1 Beast ♢
For my money, this isn’t a deck to play in Portland. You have problems with Trevenant (well, probably), you have problems with Special Energy hate, and you probably have some degree of problems with Drampa/Garbodor. Playing a GX-heavy attacking suite in this format just seems like a bad idea.
But, because it’s so similar to what NAIC’s Standard featured, and because it won the last Expanded event, people are going to play it. Therefore, you should test against it and be familiar with how to beat it. This list is pretty close to Xander’s Roanoke-winning edition, and I don’t think much here merits change. I just wouldn’t play it.
Consider: a different deck.
Pokémon – 14
Trainers – 36
Energy – 10
As much as I loathe Trevenant, it’s naive not to consider it one of the preeminent threats going into the next format. Without Hex Maniac, the options to get out of Item lock are minimized to gust effects alone. With repeated Ns, you probably can keep your opponent off-balance enough to keep them from any windfall turns, making this a pretty realistic threat to take a swing at Portland. Item lock’s ability to deal with pesky things like Sableye is a huge boon, too.
A list consideration would be removing all of the Mystery Energy in favor of their basic counterparts. With Righteous Edge and other Special Energy hate set to be pretty realistic presences in the format, it might not be worth the retreat mobility in a deck that doesn’t have many active Pokémon. The problem there, though, is fitting a few other switching outs in the list—and that’s not especially comfortable.
The Promised Land is finally arrived, though, in the form of Tapu Lele SM45. This could be the element that pushes Trevenant to truly oppressive, as board manipulation has now never been easier. This is where things truly get scary for the Pokémon universe.
I’ve removed Espeon-EX for this massive threat, but it could be worth playing both, as Espeon’s value is probably more aligned with beating Zoroark than Lele’s general purpose.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 39
1 Red Card
1 Life Dew
Energy – 6
Replacing Puzzle in this is a bit more work, and there were points in this list where I wondered how it was going to get to 60. In the end, I’m not sure this is entirely ideal—a package of search including Mysterious Treasure and/or Nest Ball might be a useful alternative. Stadiums are a bit weird, too, now that Puzzle can’t get them—I’ve included Lusamine with an eye toward this problem.
Like a few of the other decks on this list, Giratina XY184 might be a consideration for the Trevenant menace, but it probably takes a loss anyway. I’m not sure any of the theoretical ways to shore that matchup up are actually worthwhile. As it is, I think we should focus on beating other things, and with Puzzle out of the picture, that’s a lot easier than it used to be: Energy is at a premium.
Robo Substitute: as someone somewhat notable for playing Groudon until it was unhealthy to do so, a good approach to the Night March matchup can be force-feeding Robo Substitutes, using Enhanced Hammer, and thereby forcing your opponent to waste an energy for nothing. There are a few flaws with this strategy, obviously, and Sky Return is the biggest one. Team Skull Grunt would be an effective accompanying inclusion in that vein, negating that strategy. Hugh, to prevent a game where you both just draw/pass around the Robo, could also be on the table. Of course, the biggest flaw here is their ability to Guzma around the Robo Sub, but this requires wasting resources anyway.
Mr. Mime BKT/GEN/PLF/whatever: My gut read is that Psychic is probably the worse typing right now, but maybe I’m missing something. This would be good for Buzzwole-GX and whatever Shrine-inspired concepts might find their way to Portland.
I’m going to be even more abbreviated with these, but I’ll add some thoughts on Friday.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 37
Energy – 10
1 Beast ♢
Silent Lab is the answer I have for Xurkitree-GX and its ilk at the moment. It might be entirely unnecessary; it might be a total waste. Not sure, and it will depend on where the format goes from here.
The strength here is being able to shove multiple non-GXs at your opponent, forcing them to expend a lot of resources to do nearly anything. Zygarde-GX is the accepted non-conformer for this theme because Cell Storm can help deal with Trevenant. Overall, though, I think it’s a versatile thematic strategy, and I mostly want to point out that Buzzwole FLI’s brokenness is probably going to carry over into Expanded.
You want crazy? Hello, nice to see you.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 31
1 Lance ♢
Energy – 14
I have no idea if this will work. None at all. But, in theory, annihilating everything in sight is a good idea. I don’t think the list is much to comment on—we’re just taking our attackers and trying to beat up things as quickly and efficiently as possible.
We can attack with Guzzlord-GX, too!
Consider: Uh, not that far yet.
Pokémon – 21
4 Lillipup BLW 80
2 Herdier SUM
1 Goodra PHF
Trainers – 35
1 Lance ♢
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 4
Paralyze their Active—and rinse/repeat. The new twist we have here is Lance ♢, which allows easily retrieval of Goodra PHF. This is highly convenient for removing the Garbodor menace from the equation. As an added bonus, we now can play any number of Dragon types to take full advantage of Lance. I’ve gone with Salamence DRV here, forcing opponents to discard down to 4 and limiting options in the draw-pass game.
Nevertheless, there are a number of flaws, with consistency not being the least of them. Another is Keldeo-EX, which could certainly be in line to make a resurgence in the format. Escape Rope could be featured in a number of lists, too, which would make this quite difficult.
I think you probably can get away without teching for this, as it will always be played in pretty low numbers, but I think it’s a pretty interesting option for Portland.
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 39
Energy – 10
I think this is probably not a good idea, but it’s an idea on the table. The list probably has to try harder to be either a resource management drain on an opponent or a chain-many-attackers thing—right now, it’s awkwardly straddling. I’m not sure what that’ll look like, but 240 HP and Omega Barrier are good things in every format.
Especially if Mill is big, this is a concept that I find pretty intriguing. A lot of people have asked me about it, which is why it’s here, but there’s a lot of testing to go before I’d consider playing it. I can’t understate how much Puzzle did, and as is, it was a pretty ugly reality for the deck.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
I think Articuno has to be a focus in order to deal with the current format and its number of non-EX attackers, but it’s undoubtedly a shaky place to focus a deck: coin flips are ugly.
The problem, Hex Manaic’s ban or not, with this deck: a lot more decks are capable of matching it beat-for-beat than ever used to be able to. A Garbodor GRI could plausibly eat anything in this deck as of Turn 2. It’s messy. Nevertheless, you can do a lot with speed, so it’s something to test at the minimum.
Rough Seas/Regice CES could be a cute combo for the Trevenant matchup, but that’s already a matchup looking pretty good now that we’re guaranteed a turn of Item use. Palkia-GX might be cute. Aurorus-EX—an actual Pokémon—could troll any Shock Lock. Options abound.
That’s it for today—I’ll be back Friday with some supplementary thoughts, and the rest of the writing team has you in good hands over the next few weeks. Hopefully your season is off to a good start—if not, there’s still certainly plenty of time to work that through.
All the best,
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