A Trio of Trouble

Pablo’s Look Expanded Gardevoir, Lucario, and Rayquaza for Dallas Regionals

Hello 6P and happy holidays! I sincerely hope you had a wonderful time this past couple of days with your friends and family like I did! We’re in a bit of a low point in the season right now with over 3 weeks to go until the next North American Regional in Dallas. Historically this has been quite a big tournament in terms of turnout, and with the tournament right at the airport once again, I expect this to be the biggest tournament of the season yet.

However, ever since Jimmy Pendarvis won yet another Regional (crazy how good this guy is at the moment), the internet has been buzzing and endlessly debating whether we need new bans to balance the Expanded format. I wanted to touch on this a little bit before moving on to other things. Many people have been clamoring for bans over cards such as Double Colorless Energy, Zoroark-GX, Red Card, Delinquent, Sky Field, amongst others. However, the arguments I’ve read for or against any of those cards have been a bit weak. Given the last cards banned were either extremely disruptive (Hex Maniac and Ghetsis) or allowed for extremely broken strategies (Wally and Puzzle of Time), it doesn’t seem like Pokémon wants to move on banning actual Pokémon cards unless absolutely necessary, but rather options that don’t allow your opponent to play at all even before a game starts. We saw this happen with the Shiftry, Archeops and Forest of Giant Plants ban, and will likely follow with a ban on Maxie’s, not Kabutops, from the upcoming set. Heck, since they haven’t moved on Seismitoad-EX or Trevenant at all, it clearly shows they don’t mind if there are extremely powerful lock decks at any given point, but they just don’t want them to be the only options available because they are too strong and completely overshadow everything else.

First off, I think banning Double Colorless Energy would be too extreme of a solution. If DCE were to be banned, we would be in a format completely dominated by decks that bypass the energy rule such as Blastoise or Malamar. While this wouldn’t be a bad thing at all, banning a card to drastically make this change is not Pokémons intentions I think. A lot of cards are designed around DCE, and I don’t see this happening at all.

Next, I also think banning Zoroark-GX would be a terrible decision too. Yes, it is much more powerful in Expanded than in Standard. It is also a card that Pokémon clearly wants available for players to build strategies around and boost inconsistent strategies that wouldn’t be possible without it. One thing to note is how in Japan, they also have Expanded and Rayquaza-GX completely dominated their last event, and Hex Maniac nor Puzzle of Time are banned over there. Why is Zoroark-GX not dominating there? Well, I’ll get it into that in a bit.

So which cards would I personally ban? The number one culprit, I believe, is Sky Field. Yes, a non-Sky Field Zoroark deck just won the last Expanded Regional, but over half of Day 2 had this card in their deck. With it, Zoroark can achieve everything it could possibly want: consistency, disruption AND threat removal, all with a single Pokémon. If Sky Field wasn’t an option, Expanded Zoroark decks would diversify like they do in Standard in search for a good partner depending on the metagame, such as Lycanroc-GX, Golisopod-GX or Weavile.

Banning Sky Field won’t solve the issues of oppressive decks like Seismitoad-EX/Zoroark-GX from dominating the metagame, but it will allow for more diversity to flow into the metagame.

Number two culprit is Lusamine. This card should never have been allowed to loop itself, plain and simple. Lusamine stall based decks are incredibly strong because of this card, as they can focus on other things like Item locking while Lusamine simply loops an unlimited number of resource denial cards versus an opponent’s limited resources.

Want Expanded to feel like a different format? Ban these 2 cards. Want Expanded to be less Zoroark-based? Ban Sky Field or ban Zoroark itself. As for me, I’m a bigger proponent of a different solution: change Swiss rounds from best of 3, 50 minute rounds to best of 1, 25 minute rounds.

This change would completely change builds and approaches to tournaments and would immediately make ‘stalling or oppressive tactics’ completely null and void as, while they are effective, would never be able to finish a game under those time constraints.

Is there a perfect solution though? The answer is no. It’s impossible to have everyone happy, and any change will upset some people and encourage others. In the end it’s all about adaptation and eventually people will complain of Zoroark-GX or Seismitoad-EX or whatever the next dominant force is in the metagame. As things stand right now, Dallas is sure to be an interesting tournament in terms of how hard people go out of their way to hard counter the ZoroToad or simply Zoroark in general.

Between now and then I actually don’t have too many tournaments to attend, as I have League Cups scheduled on the same weekends as Regionals this quarter. This means I’ve been taking them very seriously and just recently won a League Challenge with Gardevoir-GX! I definitely enjoyed playing Gardevoir again after a year of not playing with it, as it has yet to fail me in netting me some very needed Championship Points.

I didn’t have anything spicy in the list, and I actually removed the Solgaleo-GX tech as I didn’t expect any mirrors or even much Alolan Ninetales-GX to see play and simply added in an extra copy of Timer Ball and a Field Blower to combat Shrine decks better. In general I do believe Gardevoir hasn’t been receiving as much hype at Cups and in online buzz so I don’t think the Solgaleo-GX is a necessary tech other than a meta call:

Pokémon (19)

3 Ralts BUS

1 Kirlia LOT

3 Gardevoir-GX

2 Alolan Vulpix GRI

2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT

2 Mudkip CES 32

1 Marshtomp CES

2 Swampert CES

2 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Ditto p

Trainer (29)

4 Cynthia

4 Professor Elm’s Lecture

3 Guzma


4 Rare Candy

4 Ultra Ball

2 Max Potion

2 Timer Ball

1 Energy Loto

1 Field Blower


2 Choice Band


2 Brooklet Hill

Energy (12)

7 Y

4 Double Colorless

1 Super Boost p


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 19

* 3 Ralts BUS 91
* 1 Kirlia LOT 140
* 3 Gardevoir-GX BUS 140
* 2 Alolan Vulpix GRI 21
* 2 Alolan Ninetales-GX LOT 205
* 2 Mudkip CES 32
* 1 Marshtomp CES 34
* 2 Swampert CES 35
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 137
* 1 Ditto p LOT 154

##Trainer Cards - 29

* 4 Professor Elm’s Lecture LOT 213
* 4 Cynthia UPR 148
* 3 Guzma BUS 143
* 2 Timer Ball SUM 134
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 4 Rare Candy GRI 165
* 2 Choice Band BUS 162
* 2 Max Potion GRI 164
* 1 Energy Loto GRI 122
* 1 Field Blower GRI 163
* 2 Brooklet Hill GRI 120

##Energy - 12

* 4 Double Colorless Energy GRI 166
* 7 Y Energy BUS 169
* 1 Super Boost Energy p UPR 136

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72074 ******

My main focus at the moment is Expanded, and while I don’t expect the format to change much, if at all, from now until Dallas, I do think there are some interesting approaches to be explored to possibly counter the perceived best deck in the format: Zoroark-GX/Seismitoad-EX.

In order to try and counter such a deck, we need to examine its strengths and how to counter them. First off, it can remove Special Energy and basic energy consistently and in an unlimited manner with Faba, Plumeria and Enhanced Hammer, so something that can accelerate energy through Abilities or is very energy efficient, aka attacks for a single DCE or Basic Energy.

Next is Item lock which means we need a heavier focus on Supporter cards rather than Item cards in order to set up. Despite how good VS Seeker is, running 4 of them in some decks no longer makes sense in my opinion.

Finally we have the ‘trapping’ of Pokémon through Guzma or Counter Catcher, so we need high counts of our own Guzma or Acerola in order to counteract this.

When taking all of this into account, 3 different decks come to mind in order to try and counteract such a deck and it is no surprise that 2-of those 3 did really well at the latest Regional. First up is Lucario-GX, which I believe was the best hidden gem of the tournament as the guaranteed 1HKO on Zoroark-GX’s when evolving that turn is great and it has the potential punish to a Seismitoad-EX for attacking and building up damage on it. The second option is Rayquaza-GX, which has basic energy acceleration and 1HKO potential, while having the option of Zeraora-GX to prevent things from getting trapped in the Active Spot thanks to its Ability.

The final deck that I thought would have the potential to do well at Anaheim against such a deck but that ended up falling short was Archie’s Blastoise. It has the same necessary ‘traits’ to deal with the deck in 1HKO potential and Basic Energy acceleration, but the heavy reliance on Items makes it incredibly weak to ZoroToad’s myriad of disruption options.

Below is my take on the Lucario-GX deck by Israel Sosa, with some tweaks to hopefully improve upon its success and have a potentially better ZoroToad matchup:

Pokémon (16)

4 Riolu UPR

3 Lucario-GX

2 Buzzwole-GX

1 Buzzwole FLI

1 Diancie p

1 Sudowoodo GRI

1 Zygarde-EX

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Remoraid BKT 32

1 Octillery BKT

Trainer (33)

3 Guzma

3 Korrina

3 N

2 Acerola

2 Colress

2 Professor Juniper


4 Ultra Ball

2 VS Seeker

1 Field Blower

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Super Rod


3 Focus Sash

2 Float Stone

1 Muscle Band


1 Scoop Up Cyclone


2 Brooklet Hill

Energy (11)

7 F

4 Strong


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 16

* 4 Riolu UPR 66
* 3 Lucario-GX FLI 122
* 2 Buzzwole-GX CIN 104
* 1 Buzzwole FLI 77
* 1 Diancie p FLI 74
* 1 Sudowoodo GRI 66
* 1 Zygarde-EX PR-XY XY151
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 137
* 1 Remoraid BKT 32
* 1 Octillery BKT 33

##Trainer Cards - 33

* 3 Guzma BUS 143
* 3 N NVI 101
* 3 Korrina FFI 111
* 2 Acerola BUS 142
* 2 Colress PLS 135
* 2 Professor Juniper PLF 116
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 3 Focus Sash FFI 91
* 2 Float Stone BKT 137
* 2 VS Seeker ROS 110
* 1 Super Rod BKT 149
* 1 Professor’s Letter BKT 14
* 1 Muscle Band XY 121
* 1 Scoop Up Cyclone PLB 9
* 1 Field Blower GRI 163
* 2 Brooklet Hill GRI 120

##Energy - 11

* 4 Strong Energy FCO 115
* 7 F Energy GRI 169

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72074 ******

I’ve removed a VS Seeker, the Faba disruption and the Landorus-EX’s in favor of an extra Guzma, an extra Riolu and 2 Buzzwole-GX’s. I definitely think having a Psychic Weakness is much better right now in Expanded than a Water one due to Blastoise and Seismitoad decks. Also, the Faba honestly doesn’t make much sense to me purely because you will rarely have enough ‘free turns’ to disrupt their Seismitoad and make them whiff an energy. Not only that but against other Zoroark decks, type advantage should be enough to carry you through the match, and against Garbodor decks, it’s too slow to be used to reactivate your Abilities so I don’t see how it would ever be useful.

The extra Guzma and Riolu should greatly help in bypassing the Seismitoad-EX and just taking a raw KO on Zoroark itself, while preventing from something getting trapped in the Active Spot. A 4th Guzma might even be desirable here for the same reason, as you can simply win this game by taking 3 KOs on Zoroarks rather than dealing with Seismitoad itself.

Next up we have Rayquaza-GX, once again working from the most recent successful list from Anaheim, but with a few changes to hopefully strengthen its previous matchup against it:

Pokémon (15)

4 Rayquaza-GX

2 Ho-Oh-EX DRX

2 Marshadow SLG

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

1 Mew FCO

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Sudowoodo GRI

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Zeraora-GX

Trainer (31)

4 Guzma

1 Colress

1 N

1 Professor Sycamore


4 Max Elixir

4 Ultra Ball

3 Mysterious Treasure

3 VS Seeker

2 Battle Compressor

2 Rescue Stretcher

2 Trainers’ Mail


1 Dowsing Machine


3 Sky Field

Energy (14)

7 G

7 L


Copy List

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

##Pokémon - 15

* 4 Rayquaza-GX CES 109
* 2 Ho-Oh-EX DRX 22
* 2 Marshadow SLG 45
* 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 106
* 1 Mew FCO 29
* 1 Oranguru SUM 113
* 1 Sudowoodo GRI 66
* 1 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 1 Zeraora-GX LOT 221

##Trainer Cards - 31

* 4 Guzma BUS 143
* 1 Professor Sycamore STS 114
* 1 Colress PLS 118
* 1 N FCO 105
* 4 Max Elixir BKP 102
* 4 Ultra Ball SLG 68
* 3 VS Seeker ROS 110
* 3 Mysterious Treasure FLI 145
* 2 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92
* 2 Trainers’ Mail AOR 100
* 2 Rescue Stretcher BUS 165
* 1 Dowsing Machine PLS 128
* 3 Sky Field ROS 89

##Energy - 14

* 7 G Energy GEN 75
* 7 L Energy GEN 78

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=72074 ******

I watched this deck play against ZoroToad a couple of times throughout Day 2, and most of the time it felt like it was always 1 Guzma or L Energy away from taking over the game.

I think it makes sense to play the 4 raw Guzma in this to make sure that you’ll be in prime position to simply hunt down whatever it is that might be threatening you, but more importantly, you will never be stuck or trapped with an undesirable Pokémon in the Active Spot. That is usually how ZoroToad closes out games, by getting those free turns where you just draw pass and they are able to then Lusamine loop the disruption cards they might need.

Having 4 also compensates a bit for the eventual discards that Stormy Winds will do to your resources, meaning you will hopefully still have enough to apply pressure onto them and take KOs. With Zeraora-GX giving free retreat to different Pokémon, it should be easier to catch a KO on Seismitoad-EX. This will hopefully cause them to miss out a turn or 2-of Quaking Punch, allowing you to either rebuild or thin the deck to only leave the necessary cards to close out the game.

These are the decks that I will be focusing on mainly in order to see if they can beat ZoroToad consistently enough with these changes. In the meantime, I will also be putting in a lt more time to perfect my play with some of the disruptive decks, including ZoroToad and the Delinquent Zoroark deck along with Shock Lock. I might just end up ‘biting the bullet’ and playing such a deck at Dallas as I’ve almost always avoided playing such decks and it might be the right time to go with the good old ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. Playing out of your comfort zone is definitely a good idea sometimes, but only if you’ve practiced and dedicated enough time to those decks to where you will be playing them perfectly and with very few, if any, misplays at all.

And so with this I will conclude my last article for 2018. I hope you enjoyed reading it and that you are enjoying your time during the Holidays, as we look forward to kick things back into gear in 2019 at Dallas and beyond! My tournament schedule has changed a bit due to Special Events announcements and me whiffing the stipend for Australia, so instead I will be going to Collinsville and perhaps attending a few extra Regionals to make sure I stay in contention for a Day 2 invite.  As always, feel free to direct any questions or comments here or on any of my Tablemon social media outlets. Happy New Year!

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