I’m a Lumberjack and I’m Okay

On Trevenant’s Torontonian Reign, the Future for Trees, the Case for Counterbox, and My Play (ZoroGarb) for Greensboro

Hey everyone! I hope you’ve been well. Toronto has just concluded, and with that comes the passing of another Regionals this year. This brings the total of remaining U.S. Regionals down to six! It’s crazy how quickly this season has gone by. Sooner than we’ll know it, it’ll be NAIC that we’re preparing for with the 2018–19 season coming to a close. For those of you looking to plan your points in getting an invite, or for those on a grind other than the one for Day 1 of Worlds, read on for some Expanded knowledge, post-Toronto, in preparation for the last Expanded tournament until April: Greensboro.

What Dominated Toronto

As we know, the Toronto Top 8 was made up of these decks:

It’s not hard to see that Trevenant BREAK dominated the event, despite its lack of a 1st or 2nd place trophy at the end of the weekend. At the end of Day 1, there were two Trevenant BREAK decks at the top of standings; both included a Pyroar FLF line! This was an unexpected tech that swung over the matchup. Once the was set up, it was already game over. Going first, it would be easy to lay down the single Litleo or Ditto p then announce checkmate.

I’m impressed by this because it reassures me, and it should every other player out there, that there’s still much to discover in the game. It’ll take work, sure, but there’s always another option like an off-meta choice or surprising tech.

On another note, it seems to be a trend that Trevenant BREAK comes to the top of the ladder when a new format is introduced in Expanded. Take a look back at Roanoke Regionals in the 2017–18 season. Although Zoroark-GX was disputed to be the BDIF of the format, Trevenant BREAK snuck its way into half of Top 8. This happened once again in Toronto. It seems that most new decks (that don’t incorporate ) struggle to deal with Trevenant’s steady Item lock and spread damage. (Trevenant’s consistency has been weakened since Wally was banned, but the point still stands.) PikaRom was a weird exception to this rule (because it doesn’t struggle with Trevenant so much, unless Pyroar is involved).

Trevenant BREAK

I think that Pyroar was a strong tech because of its surprise factor, but it will no longer be relevant against PikaRom. Alex’s article on Monday debuted how easy it is to add a 2-2 Jolteon-GX line to PikaRom, which already is a strong change in setting up better math and an initial attacker. With that change, Pyroar is effectively useless in the matchup. Here’s my favorite list from last weekend, played by Will Jenkins and crew.

Pokémon – 17

4 Phantump BKP

4 Trevenant XY

3 Trevenant BREAK

2 Wobbuffet PHF

1 Ditto p

1 Marshadow SLG

1 Tapu Lele-GX

1 Espeon-EX

Trainers – 34

4 N

3 Professor Juniper

1 Ace Trainer

1 Brigette

1 Guzma

 

4 VS Seeker

4 Enhanced Hammer

4 Mysterious Treasure

2 Counter Catcher

1 Super Rod

4 Rescue Scarf

1 Computer Search

 

4 Dimension Valley

Energy – 9

4 Mystery

4 Psychic

1 Counter

Trevenant BREAK is built to do one thing: Continuously attack with Silent Fear while messing up your opponent. It’s important that a list runs all of the standard counts like 4 Rescue Scarf, 4 Dimension Valley, and 4 Enhanced Hammer. Marvin Lu-Banzon, who got Top 8, posted his list that included a 1-1 Pyroar. He only had 3 Rescue Scarf and 3 Dimension Valley—cuts I’m rather uncomfortable with in every non-Basic matchup.

Card Choices

2 Wobbuffet PHF
Wobbuffet is a modern addition to Trevenant in order to get a strong lock on T1 in a general sense, but mostly has the use of blocking Archie’s Blastoise from ever playing the game. Without Wobbuffet, the matchup comes down to if the Archie’s player hits their T1 Archie and can set up enough Energy on the board to sweep with it. Wobbuffet is the only starter that can throw a kink in their plans.

Wobbuffet’s attack is quite underrated as well. It’s a single-Prize, semi-locking attacker that can snowball out of control after a few Silent Fears have gone off. Psychic Assault does 10 damage plus an additional 10 for each damage counter on your opponent’s Active Pokémon, meaning it can 1HKO almost anything after 3 Silent Fears, and everything after 4. This gives the deck a much needed finisher, say, to clean off a heavily damaged Zoroark-GX or Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. Essentially, it gives the deck a win condition against these decks other than disruption + spread, as it allows you to convert your early lead into immediate Prizes against a sweeping attacker.

1 Computer Search
I’ve seen the debate for Computer Search and Scoop Up Cyclone go both ways, but I think I’d prefer a Scoop Up Cyclone instead. The additional consistency, especially in searching for the Rescue Scarf, Enhanced Hammer, or missing piece in a turn is important; though survivability and an AZ is strong as well. Imagine the Tapu Lele-GX that becomes a Guzma target and 2 Prizes. Scoop Up Cyclone could prevent that. Or in another case, the Trevenant BREAK that just tanked a hit.

I think that either is a worthwhile choice, but I’d prefer to play Scoop Up Cyclone for utility reasons.

The Future for Trees

I’m hesitant to play Trevenant BREAK in Greensboro because it will have a target on its back. People will likely adjust their deck choice, or simply add a Giratina XY184 (should it swing the matchup in their favor). I’m also very scared of Zoroark-GX and inconsistency when playing Trevenant BREAK. Zoroark-GX is its worst matchup, though manageable for Item lock reasons, but still unfavored nonetheless. I think Zoroark-GX/Garbodor will make a resurgence after Noah Bujak’s strong performance and the realization that there isn’t much to be worried about in the new meta. It’s a game of cat and mouse when figuring out which deck to play, and I think Zoroark-GX/Garbodor will climb back to the top for at least one weekend.

Counterbox

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One novel deck to come out of Toronto was Counterbox. I don’t think it was on anyone’s radar to be a strong deck, as most of the experimentation with this archetype died down weeks after Counter Energy’s release. Nobody could get the deck to work, so I’m surprised it could see success in Expanded when there are stronger combos out there, and notably Trevenant BREAK.

Pokémon – 16

3 Mew FCO

2 Sudowoodo BKP

1 Cobalion STS

1 Shaymin SLG
1 White Kyurem LOT

1 Victini LOT

1 Giratina LOT

1 Articuno ROS 17

1 Oricorio GRI 56

1 Sableye DEX

1 Oranguru UPR

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Mr. Mime PLF

Trainers – 34

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Teammates

1 Guzma

1 N

1 Pokémon Ranger

 

4 Order Pad

3 VS Seeker

2 Counter Catcher

2 Nest Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Battle Compressor

1 Field Blower

1 Special Charge

1 Switch

1 Town Map

2 Choice Band

1 Counter Gain

1 Computer Search

 

2 Dimension Valley

1 Silent Lab

Energy – 10

4 Counter

4 Prism

2 Rainbow

I must preface by saying I’m not an expert on Counterbox, half-jokingly speaking. (Very few people are!) Simon Trattier-Lacasse’s list is super interesting and has an initial strategy to it. Victini LOT is one of the strongest cards to be introduced for this archetype because it’s a powerful counter attacker, though also strong independently. Gustavo Wada used it in his LAIC deck, which surprised me and popped off with 130 damage out of nowhere.

Basically, I imagine the strategy is to put your important Basics into play when ready. If your opponent takes a KO, punish them with whatever counter attacker is the strongest. If they choose not to attack, then Giratina, Articuno, Victini, or White Kyurem can do good damage because of Mew and Dimension Valley. At its core, this is a single-Prize attacking deck that has the bag of Counter Energy options for strong typing and specific matchups.

Card Choices

1 Sableye DEX
Sableye intrigues me because there aren’t any spammable Item cards. The most important ones that come to mind are Special Charge and Counter Gain, but those can be recycled with Oranguru UPR. Frankly, I don’t know what I’d add in place of Sableye, but that’s likely the first card I’d cut from the list.

2 Sudowoodo BKP
I think it’s important to identify why there are 2 copies of Sudowoodo when there are only singletons (besides Mew) elsewhere present in the Pokémon line. Sudowoodo is objectively the strongest attacker, and is usually the only attacker in which the typing matters heavily (other than Shaymin). Its Fighting typing hits two important archetypes: Zoroark-GX and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. Watch and Learn is also an inherently strong attack, since matching what the opponent does is usually a fine enough strategy.

Sudowoodo is weak against weak attacks that only do enough to KO these Basics, but that’s where this is a plethora of other attackers in the deck as well. As I said earlier, Victini and White Kyurem can do loads of work on their own. And because this deck doesn’t include GX Pokémon, it wins with 2HKOs and well-timed 1HKOs.

Matchups

I can imagine a Counterbox expert saying “this deck’s matchups are only as good as your skill level,” which seems fairly accurate. It’ll be difficult to manage your overall gameplan, especially against harder matchups that don’t have an easy Weakness to one of the Pokémon in the deck.

Trevenant: Probably Auto-Loss
There is nothing in this deck that can beat Trevenant.

PikaRom: Favored
This matchup is favored for Counterbox depending on the amount of non-PikaRom attackers the opponent plays. It’s undeniable that Sudowoodo and company can out-trade a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX, but Zapdos TEU and Jolteon-GX are harder cards to combat. Zapdos can sometimes survive two hits, and Jolteon-GX can establish good chip damage and double-KOs with its first attack.

Jolteon-EX is a nonfactor in deciding this matchup because this Counterbox list plays Pokémon Ranger. In practice, I’m not sure how useful Pokémon Ranger is across the board, but it certainly prevents PikaRom from gaining an autowin with a quick Jolteon-EX.

Zoroark-GX/Garbodor: Even–Slightly Favored
I’d be more comfortable playing this matchup from the Zoroark-GX/Garbodor perspective than the Counterbox perspective even though I think Counterbox is favored. It’s easy for the ZoroGarb player to set up Zoroark-GX + Garbodor GRI, choose the right attacker, and N the opponent. That doesn’t take effort. Basically, the matchup comes down to probability of drawing the right cards to secure a counter-KO when needed. I think that probability is somewhere between 45% and 60%.

Night March: Slightly Favored
This matchup is slightly favored because a good Night March player won’t overdump their discard pile for Oricorio to have with. Without Oricorio, this matchup is a war of knockouts and streaming attackers continuously. Night March does this better, but Oricorio and the capability to KO a stray Shaymin-EX gives Counterbox a small upper hand.

My Play: Zoroark-GX/Garbodor

I said earlier that I think Zoroark-GX/Garbodor will rise again, and I’m here to prove it. This has always been my comfort pick in Expanded, though I haven’t messed around with it after Team Up’s release. However, there’s very little/nothing to change about the list; it’s already defined.

Pokémon – 24

4 Zorua DEX

4 Zoroark-GX

1 Trubbish GRI

1 Trubbish NVI

2 Garbodor BKP

1 Garbodor GRI

1 Ditto p

2 Tapu Lele-GX

2 Shaymin-EX ROS

2 Exeggcute PLF

1 Oricorio GRI 56

1 Sudowoodo GRI

1 Klefki STS

1 Wobbuffet PHF

 

Trainers – 30

2 Colress

1 Brigette

1 Guzma

1 N

1 Professor Juniper

 

4 Ultra Ball

4 VS Seeker

2 Battle Compressor

1 Field Blower

1 Pokémon Communication

1 Red Card

1 Rescue Stretcher

1 Special Charge

1 Super Rod

2 Choice Band

2 Float Stone

1 Dowsing Machine

 

3 Sky Field

Energy – 6

4 Double Colorless

2 Psychic

This list is similar to what I’ve been playing last format, except with the addition of Oricorio and Wobbuffet in place of and Mr. Mime. There isn’t much to say about this deck, as it hasn’t changed much. Though, I do want to contrast this list with what Noah found success with, as his list switches up most of the counts I’d consider important.

To convert from my list to Noah’s:

Noah opted for a more teched out version of the list, while mine focuses on consistency and commitment to the core strategy. VS Seeker and Battle Compressor boost consistency by raising the T1 Brigette percentage, as the deck requires it to function. Rescue Stretcher is there to alleviate bad discards and potentially save Dowsing Machine for something else like a Red Card.

I see the merit in Hypnotoxic Laser because it fixes damage, but I don’t see the point of it without Professor Kukui as well. Hypnotoxic Laser creates a barrier of 190/220, but that doesn’t reach much past the already established barrier of 180/210. I played Professor Kukui in my Florida list to hit 170 under Sudowoodo and 230 total, and it ended up being stronger than I expected. If I were to play Hypnotoxic Laser, I’d cut the Teammates for Professor Kukui so that I’d have enough damage modification to deal with anything.

New Meta Matchups

The deck’s matchups against pre-TAG TEAM decks remain the same, so I won’t rehash those in full.

Archie’s Blastoise
From my Dallas list, the Archie’s Blastoise matchup improves because Wobbuffet was found to be a better tech against the deck than Mr. Mime.

Night March & Vespiquen
Against Night March and Vespiquen, we now have Oricorio, so those should become relatively even if not favored.

PikaRom
I’m using Alex’s list from earlier this week as my reference. This matchup boils down to (1) how quickly the opponent sets up and (2) how many Items it takes them. Your job as Zoroark-GX/Garbodor is to race them to 6 Prizes, taking anything you can along the way. In most cases, it won’t be worth it to 2HKO a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX because they may have AZ. It’ll be better to go after any stray GX Pokémon on the Bench like Zeraora-GX or Tapu Lele-GX.

You’ll be more favored against the Jolteon-GX lists because those lists are less likely to run a high count of Zapdos. Jolteon-GX is more useless than Zapdos since Zoroark-GX can easily 1HKO it with a Choice Band; Zapdos poses some problem on Turn 1 because it can take an easy KO.

If you think PikaRom will be incessantly popular like it was last weekend, it may be worth investing in a Hypnotoxic Laser/PlusPower + Professor Kukui. The combination of these two allows you to reach 240 with a Choice Banded Riotous Beating, 1HKOing a Pikachu & Zekrom-GX. This would also be a good fix if you’re unsure about the matchup and would rather not take your chances.

Conclusion

It’s that time of year where we begin to shut the door on a format for a short while until it resurges a month or two later; Greensboro is the last Expanded Regional until Daytona Beach in mid-April. However, that does not mean that all has been discovered! We saw Pyroar resurge for the first time in years in a Top 8 deck. Hypnotoxic Laser was in the finals. And lastly, Night March, an all but forgotten deck, has risen once again.

I hope you enjoyed today’s article, and I’ll see you all in Greensboro. I’m excited to get playing once again after my (not so) short hiatus, though it will be nice to get back into the swing of things. As always, feel free to come and say hi!

Xander


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