Hello everyone, Kenny Wisdom here again. By now I’m sure you’re all caught up on the results of this past weekend’s Regional Championships in Toronto, which was an exciting event! Not only was it the first major Expanded event since the release of Team Up, but it was also the first time played Expanded at that level with the new ban list. Toronto was destined to determine a lot about the quality of the format, and, thankfully, Expanded looks to be as in good of shape as it’s ever been.
Before we jump into metagame considerations for Greensboro this weekend, let’s take a moment to talk about the major stories from Toronto.
Players had been clamoring for a Lusamine ban for quite some time, and about a month ago TPCi listened, giving it and Delinquent the boot from the format. While it’s probably not a good use of anyone’s time to envision how the results of Toronto would’ve looked had those two cards been legal, I think we can all agree we likely wouldn’t have seen such a diverse metagame under the old ban list. Even more importantly, the community has expressed almost unanimous positivity regarding the state of Expanded, following Toronto, which I never would’ve predicted three months ago. When was the last time anyone came home from a major Expanded event satisfied with the quality of their games and excited to play more the following week? It’s still early, of course, but for now I’m choosing to enjoy the newfound positivity surrounding the format.
Expanded is not shaken up by every new set release. Each set usually brings only small improvements to existing decks, slight shifts to the metagame, things like that. What we don’t often see is recently released cards penetrating the format to the degree that entirely new archetypes are formed, which is what happened after the release of Team Up. In the build-up to Toronto, PikaRom—a brand new concept—was the most hyped deck. But in the end, only one of the 43 players who played PikaRom made it to the second day of competition. Is the TAG TEAM all fluff, or was Toronto an anomaly?
Personally, I think PikaRom is more than good enough to compete in the format. It’s clear that the deck needs to adjust, but I’d bet that PikaRom’s performance last weekend was less indicative of its overall strength in the format than many may think.
I haven’t done any deep thinking about the deck this week, but thankfully my colleague Alex Schemanske has! Check out his most recent article for some innovation of the Electric monster.
Jimmy has been an excellent player for a long time and one of the best in the world the past few years. He is one of the dedicated grinders in the game, constantly chasing the Top 16 NA slots. He has strong Worlds and IC finishes, and has made himself into a household name. This season in particular has been simply unreal for him, as he’s won four Regionals. For those keeping track at home, that’s half of the Regionals in North America this season, and $20,000 in prize money. This season has elevated Jimmy from “obviously excellent” to “maybe one of the best ever,” and as a fan of the game, its history, and its future, I’m excited to see how the latter half of this season plays out for him.
Analyzing what happened in Toronto is all well and good, but as I mentioned earlier, there’s another Expanded Regionals in two short days! I’m sure everyone preparing for Greensboro this weekend has taken a long look at the metagame breakdown of Toronto and is using that as an indicator for what to play this weekend. In situations such as this one, where you’ve got very recent and relevant information to draw from, there are generally two schools of thought:
Observe which deck won the tournament and/or had the highest win percentage, and:
- play that deck, accepting that it has a target on its back and will be expected by the majority of the playerbase, or
- counter that deck, accepting that if the metagame shifts you might be in a tough spot.
I’m not sure that either of these approaches is going to work in this situation, though. Not only is Expanded a format with a ton of viable decks, but we’re playing in what is largely unexplored territory, as everyone will certainly be doing what they can to innovate based on the results of Toronto.
With that being said, we can absolutely still use the information we have at hand to make informed decisions. It may not be as simple as “beating them” or “joining them,” but we’re far from being completely in the dark here.
In this next section I’m going to cover a few of the decks that performed well in Toronto that I think will be suitable for Greensboro. I can’t go over everything, so I’ve chosen to cover the decks that I believe in strongly or have experience with.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 34
Energy – 9
This deck was the talk of Toronto, boasting an absurd 62.5% conversion rate with ten of the 16 players playing it making Day 2. Of those ten players competing on Sunday, four of them made the Top 8. What we can take from this data is that Trevenant was a very good choice for the event and very underplayed.
The list above comes from 3rd place finisher Will Jenkins, and is what I’d describe as a standard list, maximizing consistency and disruption and foregoing anything too cute or narrow. All of the Top 8 lists are at least a card or two from being identical, but one substantial change comes from 8th place finisher Marvin Lu-Banzon who chose to play a 1-1 line of Pyroar, seemingly to help deal with the TAG TEAM decks focused solely on Basics.
With decks like Trevenant, I’ve always been a believer in trying to execute your gameplan as fast and consistently as possible. It’s more important to ensure that you can do the things you want to do (i.e., get an early Trevenant, disrupt) as often as possible than limit yourself to shore up weaknesses. When Trevenant is truly a good choice, the opposing decks and cards that you’re worried about won’t be present. If you find yourself having to jam in a bunch of inconsistent cards because of a hostile metagame, it’s probably time to switch decks entirely.
Going into Greensboro, I think you want to be on a list close to the one above. I would maybe play around with the Counter Catcher numbers and see if there are any techs that the format may be overlooking, but I think the non-Pyroar lists that popped up last weekend are very strong and are focusing on the right things. While Pyroar was perhaps an effective tool for Toronto, it’s clear that the deck doesn’t need it. That is doubly true considering how badly the PikaRom deck flopped. Lastly, anyone deciding to play a deck that can be exploited by Pyroar will come prepared now that the tree-shaped cat is out of the bag, as it were.
Which leads me to my next point: Is Trevenant still good in a world where everyone realizes Trevenant is a viable deck? In my opinion: Yes. I will admit to being a little biased as I’ve worked on Trevenant for several Expanded tournaments and have almost always thought the card was underplayed. Even still, Item lock is an inherently powerful mechanic that has proven to be effective in the face of adversity time and time again. Additionally, the speed and disruption the Trevenant deck packs ensures that its pilot is likely to have some free wins throughout the event, in the form of opponents with Item-heavy hands that can’t play a real game versus a T2 Trevenant.
Still, the deck is not unbeatable. Sometimes the deck is too fragile and sometimes the Item lock is going to be irrelevant. The metagame could take a hard right turn in favor of Darkness-type decks that can KO Trevenants without access to all of their resources. There isn’t a deck in this format that is a sure thing, but in my mind Trevenant is as good as any.
Pokémon – 24
Trainers – 30
Energy – 6
Zoroark is an evergreen presence in Expanded at this point, and it would be unwise to not at least consider it as an option for Greensboro and beyond. Zoroark/Garbodor is likely the most consistent version of Zoroark, and it was the most popular Zoroark variant on both days of competition in Toronto, sporting a ~14% Day 1 to Day 2 conversion rate. The list above comes courtesy of Noah Bujak, who finished 2nd place.
In my mind, Zoroark is the type of deck that you play when you haven’t found anything metagame breaking and instead want to rely on consistency and experience. This isn’t to say anything negative about the archetype, as clearly it has paid off for plenty of players in high-stakes situations. Zoroark is never a bad card to play with, especially considering the wide range of partners it can be paired with.
Leading into Toronto, I would’ve assumed that most Zoroark decks would be trying to run a Fighting-type partner, such as Lycanroc-GX, to help with what can be a tricky matchup in PikaRom. Many of the Zoroark experts had other plans though, and it appears that Garbodor is the way to go. With PikaRom’s popularity likely declining and decks like Archie’s Blastoise potentially on the rise, Garbotoxin seems like a good place to be.
If I were preparing for Greensboro this weekend, I would likely take this list (or another fairly stock list of your choosing) and make sure you have an understanding of the mirror and Archie’s Blastoise matchups, changing out techs where appropriate. If you’re still a believer in PikaRom and assume that improved lists will be present at Greensboro, I would shy away from this sort of archetype as I believe the matchup is already slightly unfavorable and most of the potential changes PikaRom players are trying will make your life harder.
Zoroark is going to be part of the metagame for as long as it’s legal and you can never be all that wrong by playing it. I’m not sure if Greensboro is the place it’s going to shine, but a handful of players equipped with Zoroark-GX get rewarded at every tournament, so why not you?
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 38
Energy – 4
Lastly, I would be remiss not to talk about the deck that took down the entire event and has constantly been at the top of the tier list in Expanded: Night March. Night March was once the seemingly unbeatable, overpowered, and overplayed menace of the format. Nowadays it’s settled into a role as “just another deck,” with four of the its 21 players advancing to Day 2 and one of them (Jimmy, whose 1st place list is above) winning the whole darn thing.
Night March has a lot going for it. It’s been around for quite a while, so the average player probably has some experience with it. If not, there are more than enough articles and videos to at least give a basic understanding of the deck. The gameplan is clear and the deck is explosive. Much like Trevenant, there are some draws that your opponents won’t be able to beat.
The biggest downside to Night March is that it’s very soft to Trevenant, and I’m not sure there’s a whole lot to be done about it. Observant readers know that Jimmy played and beat two Trevenant decks on his way to the title, but that is far from representative of how the matchup usually goes. Trevenant has Item lock, Special Energy removal, spread damage, and favorable Prize exchanges. It’s not an autoloss, but it takes a good mix of luck and skill to defeat.
Speaking of which, Night March is a somewhat difficult deck to play. While there are turns where you don’t have to think very much, there are critical decisions in most games. Resource management, not overextending, and having a plan to rebuild a Night Marcher turn after turn are the most common ways a Night March pilot is tested. If you believe you can play the deck effectively, it’s as good of a choice as any.
These are my top three decks for the tournament, but this is far from an exhaustive list of what the format has to offer. I would guess that the most represented decks in Greensboro are going to be:
- Night March,
- Trevenant, and
- Archie’s Blastoise.
There are probably 5–10 other decks that will see play and a handful of variations of the aforementioned archetypes in the field. Your path to success is likely going to be choosing one of the top decks, making sure it doesn’t outright lose to another one or two of the other top decks, and being able to play it at a high level. Metagaming is important, but trying to take into account the entirety of such a potentially diverse field is a crapshoot.
I hope these breakdowns helped you to whittle down your deck selection and gave you a solid understanding of the format. Good luck this weekend! I’ll be watching.
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