Antics in Anaheim

Last Looks at Lost Thunder ft. Zeraora Garbodor, Cradily Crew, & Ditto Discoveries

Hello everyone! Travis Nunlist here with our final piece of the week before the Anaheim Regional Championship. This weekend is shaping up to be an interesting one with the upcoming event being the first Expanded tournament with the Lost Thunder set. Lost Thunder is the biggest set the Pokémon TCG has ever seen. So far we have seen it completely reshape the Standard format as we know it, with the most recent Regional Championship being won by a deck featuring 3 different Stage 2 lines! Naturally a set like this is going to have a bigger impact on a format with a smaller card pool, but I have a hunch that the Expanded format is just waiting to be blown open with all of the new options available to us.

Our most recent Expanded event saw the rise of the Control deck in Expanded alongside some old names in Trevenant BREAK and Archie’s finding their way to the top tables. The release of Faba, difficulty to play, and general meta hostility has scared a number of players away from the Zoroark deck, but it seems like the other two have retained a level of popularity that will certainly carry over into Anaheim. I’m fairly certain that Zoroark will retain enough popularity to be a T3 deck, but my guess is we will see a variety of partners among different players. and are probably next in line popularity wise, with everything else being a toss up based on individual preference.

I have not competed in an event since the very first Regional Championship of the season back in mid-September, so seriously testing for this event required a bit of dusting off to really dig deep and explore the possibilities. Fortunately for me Expanded is my favorite format and Lost Thunder has left us with plenty to explore, so I have had no shortage of rabbit holes in dive into trying out different ideas. Xander stole my usual thunder by writing about last week, but I admittedly decided against the deck for Anaheim rather early due to the Trevenant BREAK matchup, so it’s for the best. Honestly, Trevenant BREAK has caused me to scrap more deck ideas this round of testing than anytime before due to how prevalent I think it will be in the meta at Anaheim. Thankfully Lost Thunder left me with plenty of other things to explore, and I think I may have found a couple of competitors.

Allies in Anaheim

Editor’s Note: PTCGO versions of these lists are coming shortly, but we wanted to get the article to you ASAP and are resolving a few issues.

When I first began thinking of deck ideas I had the following decks in mind as the likely most popular candidates in Anaheim:

  1. Archie’s Blastoise
  2. Trevenant
  3. Zoroark Variants
  4. Buzzwole
  5. Blacephalon

Everything beyond these 5 I imagined would have no more than a handful of representations in the room and wouldn’t be particularly well positioned without being wildly innovative. Assuming this is true then whatever deck we settle on for Anaheim should have favorable matchups against the first two and be able to beat at least two of the next three.

Zeraora/Garbodor

Pokémon (16)

3 Trubbish PLS 65

1 Trubbish NVI

3 Garbodor GRI

1 Garbodor BKP

2 Zeraora-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Ditto p

1 Ninetales PRC

1 Tapu Koko-GX

1 Xurkitree-GX

Trainer (34)

3 Professor Sycamore

2 N

1 Brigette

1 Colress

1 Guzma

1 Teammates

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

1 Battle Compressor

1 Electropower

1 Field Blower

1 Super Rod

3 Choice Band

3 Float Stone

1 Counter Gain

1 Muscle Band

1 Dowsing Machine

 

2 Rough Seas

1 Parallel City

1 Thunder Mountain p

Energy (10)

6 Lightning

4 Psychic

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 16

* 3 Trubbish PLS 65
* 1 Trubbish NVI 48
* 3 Garbodor GRI 51
* 1 Garbodor BKP 57
* 2 Zeraora-GX LOT 86
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 155
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 1 Ninetales PRC 21
* 1 Tapu Koko-GX GRI 135
* 1 Xurkitree-GX UPR 142

##Trainer Cards - 34

* 3 Professor Sycamore STS 114
* 2 N NVI 101
* 1 Brigette BKT 161
* 1 Colress PLS 135
* 1 Guzma BUS 143
* 1 Teammates PRC 160
* 4 VS Seeker ROS 110
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 3 Choice Band BUS 162
* 3 Float Stone PLF 99
* 1 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92
* 1 Counter Gain LOT 230
* 1 Dowsing Machine PLS 128
* 1 Electropower LOT 172
* 1 Field Blower GRI 163
* 1 Muscle Band XY 121
* 1 Super Rod DRV 20
* 2 Rough Seas PRC 137
* 1 Parallel City BKT 145
* 1 Thunder Mountain p LOT 191

##Energy - 10

* 6 Lightning Energy CL 91
* 4 Psychic Energy HS 119

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72021 ******

When I first started testing variants, I very quickly realized that Drampa-GX and Espeon-GX had quite the issue with the ever pesky Trevenant BREAK deck. The big appeal here is how incredibly powerful the Garbodor line is against the Blastoise deck, so if you could figure out how to get a Garbodor deck to beat Trevenant BREAK then maybe you were onto something. This line of thinking initially lead me to a deck I had played years ago: Mega Manectric/Garbodor.

M Manectric-EX was well known for its resiliency against lock type strategies because of how good Turbo Bolt was at keeping energy in play. The added bonus of Rough Seas which could clear off an entire turn of spread on an already 210 HP behemoth made this very appealing at first. However, I was quickly reminded just how bad the Mega mechanic is while simultaneously realizing that we have a whole new slew of Lightning type Pokémon we can utilize. This combination of attackers tends to be a little slow in the early game, but once you have a couple of turns to get energy into play or pull off a Full Voltage GX, then you can really get moving.

Zeraora-GX’s mobility and energy accelerating GX attack reminds me of Mega Manectric without the hassle of dealing with Spirit Links. Plasma Fists hits for a clean 160 for LLC, which can be boosted up to 220 with Choice Band and Electropower. Tapu Koko-GX will almost certainly score a 1HKO against Blastoise while being a solid attacker with no weakness against Fighting variants, and Xurkitree-GX can be a massive pain to deal with against any deck with minimal basic energy. One cute combo that can be pulled off with all 3 attackers because their attack costs are LLC is the combination of Thunder Mountain and Counter Gain which has the potential to reduce the attack cost of any of these attacks all the way down to L!

We’re at 3/1 GRI Garbodor for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the GRI Garbodor is in high demand against Blastoise as chaining that guy is key to winning the game. Garbotoxin is great for shutting off Blastoise, but it seems like all of the variants are prepared for Garbotoxin leaving us needing a backup plan. All of our Lightning attackers have abilities that we don’t mind having on in the right situations as well, making Garbotoxin even more cuttable.

Speaking of abilities, the last interesting thing about the list I wanted to touch on was the Ninetales PRC. This Ninetales reads: “Each player can’t play any Stadium cards from his or her hand.” This card has never been particularly exciting, but Lost Thunder came with two tools that make it an infinitely more potent card in the right situations: Ditto p and Prism Stadiums. The Ditto explanation is obvious as it allows for cute Stage 1 techs like this to fit into decks. The Prism Stadium interaction is especially cool because they can only be removed from play by other Stadiums or by an attack/ability from a Pokémon. This means if Ninetales comes into play when a Prism Stadium is down then the only way most decks can ever remove the Stadium is by first dealing with Ninetales’ Barrier Shrine ability! As long as Ditto survives past the first turn, then locking any of the Stadiums in play for a good chunk of the game becomes a very real option that can give us a massive advantage in the right matchups.

Additional Options

Raikou-EX, Raikou SLG, Zekrom SLG – These are the only other Lightning type attackers I would consider trying to play in this deck. Raikou-EX is an old card many readers may not have seen before, but the appeal here is for LLC we can discard all of our L energy and do 100 damage anywhere on our opponent’s board. The snipe is quite powerful, and Thunder Mountain can set it up where you only have to discard 1 L energy to get the snipe! Raikou SLG gives us another way to accelerate energy by doing a little poke damage and bringing a lighting energy from the discard to a benched Pokémon. Zekrom SLG is a power hitting non-GX doing 130 for LLC, but with Garbodor GRI in the deck already this is definitely the least appealing option.

Eelektrik NVI – If the Barrier Ninetales doesn’t do it for you then this is probably the next best Ditto tech option for this deck as it allows you to get some extra Lightning energy in play every turn. Eelektrik could pair nicely with some of the discarding attackers like Raikou-EX and Zekrom SLG, but that may ultimately prove to be a different deck entirely.

More Electropower – These cards are honestly pretty underrated right now and I have been liking them in Expanded a decent amount. Letting Zeroaora-GX reach 220 is crucial in the Zoroark matchup, and that alone is making me consider playing more. I’m not sure I would ever go up to the full 4 as they are situational in a deck with dual typing, but a healthy 2-3 can really open up damage options when combined with powerful effects like Teammates.

Max Elixir, Beast Ring, Professor’s Letter – All of these cards touch our energy in very different ways, but ultimately can be useful for helping get the correct ones into play at the most optimal times. Max Elixir seems like it should be in the deck, but the lower count of energy and different types makes them much harder to hit overall and even more difficult to hit the correct one. I’m skeptical that Beast Ring can be useful without more Ultra Beasts, but Professor’s Letter is most useful if you’re looking for a one slot out to getting either or both energy types. Battle Compressor has been effective at fueling Full Voltage-GX, but ensuring energy is kept up beyond that can be the tricky part.

Matchups vs the ‘Big 5’

  1. Archie’s Blastoise – Favorable
  2. Trevenant – Favorable
  3. Zoroark Variants – Unfavorable -> Favorable – Pairing Dependent
  4. Buzzwole – Unfavorable
  5. Blacephalon – Even

Ultimately the deck performs against Archie’s and Trevenant like we want, but the other matchups are very hit and miss. Zoroark decks can be anywhere from an autowin to an autoloss depending on what it’s with, and we definitely get savaged by any Fighting deck with even the slightest amount of attention to item usage.

Cradily Crew

Pokémon (25)

3 Eevee SUM

2 Leafeon-GX

2 Oddish BCR

2 Gloom BCR

2 Vileplume AOR

3 Treecko CES 8

3 Grovyle LOT

1 Sceptile CES

2 Sceptile-GX

1 Cradily PLB

1 Ditto p

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Swampert CES

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainer (24)

4 Lillie

3 N

2 Guzma

2 Lusamine

1 Gardenia

 

4 Ultra Ball

3 Level Ball

2 Float Stone

1 Computer Search

 

1 Life Forest p

1 Silent Lab

Energy (11)

7 Grass

3 Double Colorless

1 Super Boost p

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 25

* 3 Eevee SUM 101
* 2 Leafeon-GX UPR 157
* 2 Oddish BCR 1
* 2 Gloom BCR 2
* 2 Vileplume AOR 3
* 3 Treecko CES 8
* 3 Grovyle LOT 21
* 1 Sceptile CES 10
* 2 Sceptile-GX LOT 216
* 1 Cradily PLB 4
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 155
* 1 Swampert CES 35
* 1 Shaymin-EX ROS 106

##Trainer Cards - 24

* 4 Lillie UPR 125
* 3 N NVI 101
* 2 Guzma BUS 143
* 2 Lusamine CIN 96
* 1 Gardenia UPR 124
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 3 Level Ball AOR 76
* 2 Float Stone BKT 137
* 1 Computer Search BCR 137
* 1 Life Forest p LOT 180
* 1 Silent Lab PRC 140

##Energy - 11

* 7 Grass Energy HS 115
* 3 Double Colorless Energy HS 103
* 1 Super Boost Energy p UPR 136

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72021 ******

The above is a mess of a deck that I’ve been working on for a while now that has been through a significant amount of changes. It started off as sort of a meme concept when I saw somebody post on one of the Facebook groups about Cradily being a Stage 1 – meaning that it can be placed on Ditto p. Cradily’s incredible Lifesplosion attack is something I absolutely tried to make work years back when Plasma Blast was first released, but ultimately the fossil mechanic was horrendous and a giant barrier to its viability. However, now that we have a way to get it into play without jumping through the hoops that are the fossil mechanics of old we can actually take it seriously.

The basic idea is this: On our first turn, we play a bunch of Ultra Balls and Level Balls and Lillie to try and get a big hand and a lot of basics out. Turn 2 1 Grovyle chain evolves all of the Treecko into play, with the last Grovyle grabbing Cradily to put on Ditto, and you yank out Vileplume and/or Swampert via Lifesplosion. If we go second, we can use Leafeon-GX’s Grand Bloom GX to immediately evolve every basic we have in play to guarantee a handful of Stage 2s out as early as T2! I don’t think we ever want more than one Lifesplosion target in deck without their basics also in deck. So far, Swampert has proven to be my favorite, but the options are incredible.

Vileplume definitely got some amount of benefit from the Hex ban, but it’s also something that hasn’t been viable until this point (in my humble opinion) because it didn’t have a proper way to setup. Playing Rare Candy alongside a strategy of locking an entire game is a bit awkward because you’re essentially playing 3-4 of a card so you can find one somewhat quickly and then create 3 dead cards in your deck. Forest of Giant Plants was nice because it allowed you to get away without Rare Candy, and I believe Grovyle LOT operates in a similar manner. Getting one out means every single Treecko can/will evolve and I can usually have multiple Stage 2s out by T3 on average but often as early as T2.

Of course I keep talking about how good Grovyle is, but this concept wouldn’t be viable if the Grovyle didn’t have a couple of incredible evolutions on their own. Sceptile-GX is low maintenance, beefy, and disruptive while Sceptile LOT has a solid attack and an incredible Ability that can autowin you some of the less popular concepts.

Last but certainly not least is Leafeon-GX. This card seems a bit underwhelming at first, but it fills a couple of incredibly important roles. First and foremost: getting a lone Leafeon-GX into the active against Trev is essentially an autowin, as Leafeon is incredibly difficult for Trevenant to KO with Breath of Leaves healing 50 every single turn. The second job of Leafeon is to be a great way of getting ahead in Evolutions if we go second or simply fall behind due to a bit of early game stumbling.

I opted for double Lusamine in the deck to be able to loop cards like N and Guzma repeatedly, but have recently added in Silent Lab as an extra layer of lock in the deck. The card is especially strong against Archie’s Blastoise, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them playing something like Faba to Lost Zone that ASAP.

Additional Options

Instead of ONLY listing others cards that we could play in the deck, I will also list some changes that I plan to test soon:

-3 Lillie -1 N -1 Shaymin-EX; +3 Professor Juniper +1 Brigette +1 Tapu Lele-GXThe Lillie engine is absolutely incredible for the early game, but unfortunately once the lock is going, your hands can get a lot more clunky, making Lillie a bit useless. Professor Juniper is much more powerful and consistent draw, and the increased Lele count alongside adding Brigette gives plenty of early and mid game options.

-2-1 Leafeon -3 DCE; +1-1-1 Sceptile LOT + 3 Grass – I think I got a bit excited with trying to focus the deck around Leafeon so much. The card is good early game and the Ability is nice, but the attack and retreat cost are downright awful, which means you will almost never try to setup a second one. Grand Bloom is also much less useful when you go first, as finding a Grovyle on T2 will evolve the majority of your stuff anyway. Double Colorless Energy is not great in this deck. However, the option is still nice, and it is incredible for the Trevenant matchup.

-1 Level Ball; +1 Faba – I think we need some kind of Tool Removal to ensure an early Trubbish with a Float Stone doesn’t come back to haunt us, and being able to Loop Faba with Lusamine is very nice. Losing the Level Ball is never fun but, as mentioned, one Grovyle gets the whole operation moving.

-Gardenia; +Acerola/AZ – While I’m not sold on which one is better just yet, I do think that having a mobility supporter vs a straight heal supporter like Gardenia / PCL is much better overall.

Shuckle-GX, Virizion-GX, Virizion-EX, Heracross LOT, Shaymin SHL, Virizion AOR – It’s rather unfortunate that Grass types have so many Pokémon that are almost good but often just fall short. This is a list of Grass type basics in Expanded who fit that role. All of the non-EXs take two energy to use their good attacks, which is a lot to invest into something that will likely get Knocked Out immediately. Virizion-GX feels like a worse Leafeon-GX, and Shuckle feels a little out of place overall in the deck. I think the core we have going now is a step in the right direction, but it’s good to be aware.

Decidueye-GX, Serperior BW 6, Shiftry STS, Shiftry-GX, Meganium LOT – All of these cards have been tried in here at one point or another whether it be as purely Cradily targets or thin evolution lines, and, honestly, so far Swampert is still the winner as long as Leafeon sticks around as an answer to Trevenant. Serperior BW and Shiftry STS are both incredibly useful cards against Trevenant, while Decidueye-GX and Shiftry-GX are both big beefy Pokémon with their own unique effects. Meganium’s problem in this deck right now is that there isn’t enough value to include it with only 2 Stage 2s. On top of that is the fact that it can still be devolved by Espeon-EX in Trevenant BREAK decks (unless cheesed out by Cradily), which is incredibly frustrating.

, Girafarig, Team Flare Grunt, 3rd Lusamine, 2nd Silent Lab, Team Rocket’s Handiwork – These are the things we would find room for if we wanted to commit the deck 100% to the mill/lock strategy. I do think this concept could function as a lock strategy like this, but ultimately the consistency provided by Grovyle is why this deck is good and taking prizes seems much better.

Matchups vs the ‘Big 5’

  1. Archie’s Blastoise – Favorable
  2. Trevenant – Favorable
  3. Zoroark Variants – Even -> Favorable – Pairing Dependent
  4. Buzzwole – Favorable
  5. Blacephalon – Unfavorable – > Favorable (Depends on Sceptile LOT outs)

This deck’s matchups against the top two are favorable just like our last deck’s, but Sceptile LOT really helps round out the Ultra Beast matchups by putting a simple ‘Evolve and attach energy’ clause on walling out their decks. Zoroark variants are generally favorable as you can Mach Cut away all of their DCE easily enough, but it can get tricky depending on what they pair Zoroark with.

Ditto Discoveries

I took the liberty of scrolling through the PKMNcards archives for a lot of the better options for Stage 1 techs in Expanded via Ditto p and thought I’d list them here for y’all so you’re aware of everything that ~could~ come your way at an Expanded event soon:

Conclusion

Of the two decks we went over today the Cradily deck is definitely my favorite and is almost certainly going to be what I end up playing in Anaheim. It is very fun, very unique, under the radar, and I honestly think it is very strong right now. All of those aspects check critical boxes in my book and have me all but set on this choice. I’ll be spending the rest of the week grinding away on PTCGO to flesh the list out so apologies in advance if you get paired against my monstrosity of a deck. As always, please feel free to say hello to me if you see me roaming around Anaheim or anywhere else. I love meeting y’all more than you know. Until next time!


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