Hello readers! Welcome back to another run of articles, this time Expanded, as we all prepare for the first Expanded tournament of the year: Portland. I’m excited to have a change of pace from Standard, but as always, it’s annoying to adjust from one format to the other. All preparation from one doesn’t carry over to the other because of old archetypes, cards and combos. Strong cards that aren’t Standard legal can completely make or break a deck depending on the popularity of the archetype they support. For example, Fire decks are much better in Expanded with Blacksmith and Max Elixir. On the opposite side, some Standard decks cannot survive in Expanded because of the Sableye/Trevenant/Wailord/ArchieStoise effect. These four decks can absolutely demolish at least one deck in Standard because of their fundamental strategy.
The deck to be found is one that is strong on its own. There are too many decks in the unexplored format for a tier list to be established and utilized. In an undiscovered meta, people will choose their favorite deck they’re comfortable with. Just check Heyfonte: The “Top 5 Expanded decks” poll is absolutely wild and includes almost every deck we’ve seen over the past 1-2 years. Simply put, expect to play 6-7 different decks. There’s no targeted BDIF, no unfair strategy without weaknesses—no way to metagame effectively.
As with the other writers, I’ll be running through some of the decks I’d like to talk about. Some commentary is positive, but I’ll also be running through the pitfalls of some of the decks I’ve chosen. Reviving decks from old Expanded formats is an interesting prospect in terms of preparation, but can fail when the differences across time are too great. The bans hit some decks harder than others, but mostly removed all “unfair” cards. In my eyes, Expanded was characterized as different than Standard by the presence of Hex Maniac and Ghetsis. Those were the most influential cards in Expanded, and I’m unsure of my feelings at their departure. On one hand, they kept some decks in check: ArchieStoise, Sableye/Garbodor; though on the other, they let Zoroark-GX run rampant.
Pokémon – 13
Trainers – 34
Energy – 13
1 Beast ♢
Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Octillery is the deck that I won Roanoke with back in May. The format then was defined by the Zoroark-GX overlord, Trevenant’s continued presence as a soft-counter to Night March and Zoroark-GX, and the fall of Drampa-GX/Garbodor. Buzzwole-GX/Lyacnroc-GX nestled its way into the top by surprisingly handling itself against Trevenant while dodging Night March entirely. Most of the Night March lost out on Day 1 or struggled at the bottom tables of Day 2.
Buzzroc is an inherently strong deck, but is bad against Expanded decks. It’s relatively strong against everything for the same reasons as it is in Standard. The bans didn’t affect the deck at all, but affected the decks it’ll play against. The meta shift because of the bans doesn’t seem favorable, because any decks previously inhibited are now available to play. Sableye, ArchieStoise, Trevenant, Night March, and Malamar are bad matchups that can’t be overcome by this deck. Zygarde-EX helps, Oranguru UPR kind of helps—but Night March, ArchieStoise, and Malamar are lost causes. Fundamentally, those decks crush Buzzroc.
I don’t see a reason to play a Buzzwole-GX deck, with or without Lycanroc-GX. It folds to too many decks. There are better ways to beat Zoroark-GX and other garbage that people play: just play ArchieStoise. The similarity between Buzzwole-GX and ArchieStoise is that both aim to take Prizes quicker than the opponent. If you want to play a high-roll deck, play ArchieStoise instead.
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 35
Energy – 7
M Gardevoir-EX STS hasn’t seen the light of day in a while. In Expanded, its strength is being able to use set up/Bench Ability Pokémon multiple times by discarding them with Despair Ray. Hawlucha STS, Absol ROS, and Shaymin-EX are the main choices. This deck chooses to run Dimension Valley and Max Potion, utilizing the draw power of Shaymin-EX to do so. Marshadow and Magearna function as amazing Bench-sitters/discards.
Against most decks, this functions as well as a Zoroark-GX deck. It has a stronger matchup against the Zoroark-GX counters because it can’t be devolved by Espeon-EX in a Trevenant BREAK deck, hit for weakness by Buzzwole-GX, or stopped by Special Energy hate. However, this deck is much weaker against decks other than these. It has relatively the same engine as Zoroark-GX, except it doesn’t have access to Trade, Bloodthirsty Eyes, or easy Evolution without a Spirit Link.
This deck crumbles under the weight of ArchieStoise. There is no way for this deck to OHKO their GX Pokémon. It’s an autoloss. Likewise, it has some inconsistencies if it cannot get Spirit Links into play. I don’t think it can handle today’s format, which is likely the reason it hasn’t been played to any success. in the last year. This deck loses Hex Maniac, which honestly was the reason it could function well against most decks. The crucial part of the cycle combo that’s gone is the Hex Maniac part, as Max Potion doesn’t take up the Supporter per turn. It now doesn’t have a disruption Supporter to weaken the opponent.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 32
Energy – 12
Dragon Malamar seems very strong in Expanded because it mixes the elements of a Malamar deck with one that can deny Special Energy. Frank Percic played a variant of this list in Roanoke, where he finished somewhere in Day 2. The deck had options against a lot of others, but didn’t really destroy anything. Some Night March/Zoroark-GX lists ran Pokémon Ranger and could get around Chaos Wheel. Those that didn’t lost.
It focuses heavily on GX attackers, but also has a non-EX/GX attacker to trade favorably against Buzzwole-GX. I’d expect to play against at least one on Saturday just because other people are continuing to play it. Likewise, I’d maybe run into one or more Buzzwole FLI decks that it would be useful against as well. Overall, the deck is pretty balanced. It isn’t incredibly strong, but isn’t weak either. It doesn’t fold to Hex Maniac, but may be too slow to set up against Zoroark-GX and Night March anyways. Garbodor variants seem difficult as well because of Garbotoxin and a consistent way to OHKO or remove Energy. Black Ray GX is hard to deal with, but so is Righteous Edge. Moreover, they might even run Seismitoad-EX to slow down the set up even further.
This deck is probably one of my fallbacks if none of the other ones prove fruitful. Like Buzzroc, Malamar is an inherently strong deck but has more tools at its disposal. I’d likely play this over Buzzroc every time unless I expect plenty of Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX. That deck can hold its own with Pokémon Ranger against Chaos Wheel.
Pokémon – 16
1 Leafeon PLS
Trainers – 33
Energy – 11
Glaceon-GX/Barbaracle FCO is the deck that Alex, Travis, Christopher and I played to Costa Mesa last year. Of us 4, Alex finished T4, Christopher T32, Travis with points, and I with nothing. Then, the deck was incredibly dependent on the number of Zoroark-GX decks it matched up against. It was designed to hard counter Zoroark-GX because of Ability Lock and Special Energy denial in the form of Barbaracle and Enhanced Hammer.
In today’s format, its matchup against Zoroark-GX is just as strong. But I also think that the deck can succeed as a pseudo-attrition deck like it did in Costa Mesa. Back then, I chose not to play Ghetsis, while the other three of us chose to do so. I instead played Oranguru UPR, which I believe is a must-have in today’s format. It’s incredibly at fueling a war of attrition, recycling Items, and giving the deck a chance against mill decks.
The main pitfall of this deck is getting OHKO’d. It can trade well in a 2HKO war because of Energy denial and Rough Seas, but it cannot deal with getting OHKO’d repeatedly. ArchieStoise is the main problem. Leafeon does some work against it, but is hard to repeatedly cycle back to the forefront. Archie decks also have attackers that aren’t weak to Grass, so it’s only a temporary fix.
I haven’t found anything that worth adding since Costa Mesa because the deck’s strategy is already linear. It aims to set up Glaceon-GX, attach some Energy, then attack and deny Energy. I think the biggest potential inclusion could be a different ACE SPEC, like Life Dew. That could potentially make Oranguru loops more of a possibility, not as an infinite loop, but as a way to run the opponent out of resources enough to switch back to attacking. Some decks run 1-2 copies of Field Blower, and Xerosic is practically nowhere to be seen.
Pokémon – 16
Trainers – 35
Energy – 9
Welcome, finally, to the main deck that beats ArchieStoise! Trashalanche and Garbotoxin are incredible tools against the Item-throwing that occurs in order to get Blastoise into play. Likewise, they need to find Field Blower in order to deal with Garbotoxin. Ghetsis is the one card I wish was still in Expanded because I think it’s a fair card that promotes counterplay, but to each their own. Delinquent is a fine disruption Supporter of choice because it can limit how the opponent plays. With 4 cards in hand, they’d have to discard any Energy/Items they’d have used before their Supporter. Perhaps they’d even have to toss a Field Blower!
There haven’t been many changes since the Costa Mesa/SLC list that did well. I decided to cut a Parallel City in place of another search card so that it can set up easier. Mysterious Treasure is incredibly efficient; 2 Ultra Ball should hold up fine when grabbing Drampa-GX or Sudowoodo. The list is already proven, so there’s no need to change it.
Unfortunately, I think Drampa-GX/Garbodor is stronger than Necrozma-GX/Garbodor because it can better deal with Zoroark-GX. Zoroark-GX is still a presence in Expanded, leading me to want multiple Parallel City and Drampa-GX in order to deal with it. The deck still plays Oricorio + 2 shuffle cards so that Night March and Vespiquen are fine matchups. Trevenant BREAK is very difficult because the deck relies on a VS Seeker engine and has little way to retaliate. I see no way to alleviate this.
Pokémon – 23
Trainers – 30
Energy – 7
This deck is an interesting one that I haven’t seen talk about since Costa Mesa. I forget who my opponent was, but he was playing a version of this that seemed really strong. I lost that match because he put a Silent Lab into play T1 and I never evolved into Glaceon-GX. Vileplume is strong after the bans because it cannot be shut off by Hex Maniac anymore. Decks cannot have a swing turn with Hex Maniac + Items that they’ve been holding. Likewise, this deck didn’t play Sky Field before, and doesn’t now. That space is devoted to Silent Lab and other consistency cards in order to get Vileplume into play frequently. This means that the loss of Hex Maniac doesn’t hurt the deck either; it didn’t play it in the first place.
I think that this deck can succeed against the rest of the format because its attuned to function well under Vileplume. The decks that can deal against Item Lock only see it in the form of Trevenant BREAK. Zoroark-GX is an entirely different attacker that has different matchups. Against ArchieStoise, I think this deck can succeed if it pulls off the Vileplume before they pull off the Archie’s Ace in The Hole. It may be worthwhile to play a Wobbuffet to shut off their Abilities until you can transition into Vileplume.
That’s all for now. Expanded is shaping up to me an incredibly diverse meta, especially because it’s wholly undiscovered. Most players, including myself, are at a loss for what the best deck is. I expect to do plenty of Friday night testing against a slew of these decks in a hotel room somewhere. It’s unlikely the perfect deck will be cracked to beat the meta, but one deck must win the tournament. If I were to predict, it’ll be ArchieStoise or Garbodor. I think both of those decks hold their own against a majority of the meta, and are likely one of the two that I’m going to play. Aside from those two, my next choice is likely Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Vileplume if it succeeds in the rest of testing.
Once we get over the hump of Expanded, we’ll be back in the slew of Standard events. Brazil and Roanoke come in the end of November, surprisingly with the inclusion of Lost Thunder! I’m very excited to look at what the set has to offer and how it’ll shape up the metagame. I’ll be at both of those, hopefully with the end result of another win at Roanoke. Portland will be much harder to win because of a crazy meta, but anything is possible.
For any of you going to Standard League Cups, I’d look to Malamar lists that won in Memphis. I’d likely play a Zoroark-GX/Lycanroc-GX/Weakness Policy deck to Cups in order to smooth over that matchup as well as the Buzzwole-GX/Lycanroc-GX matchup. If I remember correctly, none of the Malamar lists played Field Blower. Zoroark-GX is much safer with a Weakness Policy on it because Marshadow/Necrozma-GX need 4 Energy to OHKO. The Lycanroc-GX is great for picking off Malamar on the Bench and denying set up. However, Chimecho is incredibly annoying. There’s no way around it.
I’ll see you all in Portland and beyond.
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