Hello SixPrizes readers! I am pleased to bring you my first article here at 6P. My name is Connor Finton. I am a professional player for Team ARG based in Atlanta, Georgia. My accomplishments include 1st place at the 2016 Kansas City Regional Championships, 2nd place at the 2018 Anaheim Regional Championships, and a Top 4 finish at the 2017 Latin America International Championships.
The North American circuit has been full of Expanded events the past few months, and the upcoming Hartford Regional Championships, May 3–5, is following in that trend. The format for this tournament is especially interesting because of how the meta has shifted from one Regionals to the next. With Hartford being the fourth Expanded Regionals in the BLW–TEU format, the meta has started to centralize on just a few decks, namely Archie’s Blastoise, ZoroGarb, and PikaRom. With that said, there are always surprises, as we saw this past weekend in Daytona Beach.
In this article I will be bringing you guys a short recap of what we saw happen in Daytona, as well as my top decks going into Hartford. To finish off, I’ll give you my top pick for the Europe International Championships this weekend.
Daytona Beach Recap
For the most part, the metagame in Daytona was as expected. There were a ton of Archie’s Blastoise, PikaRom, and ZoroGarb decks in the field. This centralization of the metagame tends to happen when we have had so many major tournaments in the same format. Day 2 of Daytona is where things got interesting. We saw that many of the decks that did well in the field were not in the Big Three. Instead, many old favorites came out to make a big showing:
- Rahul Reddy’s 10th place Vespiquen/Flareon deck showed that even with the changes in the game over the past few months, the deck can still see success.
- Jonathan Croxton shocked the scene again with another Shock Lock Top 8, a feat that matches his finish in Greensboro.
- Looking at the Top 8, you can see that more than half of the decks that made it to this prestigious mark were either Control or Lock decks. Ryan Pena brought back the old-school Control deck of the Expanded format, Sableye/Garbodor, while Guillermo Estupinan brought back the more recently popular ZoroControl.
The biggest surprise of the tournament, however, was the reuniting of the first place trophy with its old friend Seismitoad, as Caleb Gedemer walked away with the Championship—his third of the season—using his Seismitoad/Zoroark deck.
My Top Picks for Hartford
Coming off of Daytona Beach, I think the meta in Hartford will stay relatively similar to what was seen in Daytona. The main difference I predict going into Hartford will be a slight change in deck-building to take care of the poor matchups many decks have against Control and Lock decks. With that said, the first deck I’d like to talk about today is the very deck I played at Daytona to 22nd place, Archie’s Blastoise.
Pokémon – 14
2 Blastoise PLB
1 Onix LOT
Trainers – 36
Energy – 10
This list is comparable to many of this lists that have done well at the past few Expanded Regional Championships. However, I do believe this deck is still one of the strongest decks in the format and this list has some interesting cards that make the deck even more powerful than before.
2 Order Pad
One of the first thing many people have pointed out when looking at this list is not necessarily the inclusions, but the exclusions. While most Archie’s Stoise lists are playing a full playset of Order Pad, I opt to play only two. This does cut into the consistency of the deck a little bit, but this allowed me to add a couple of tech cards—listed below—which won me more games than the loss of consistency took away.
1 Palkia-GX UPR
The first interesting tech card in the deck is the Palkia-GX UPR. While Palkia’s Spatial Control is nothing to write home about, Hydro Pressure is excellent in a deck like Archie’s Stoise where you can attach as many W Energy cards as you like per turn. The real draw of this card, however, is its Zero Vanish-GX attack, which does a respectable 150 damage while also shuffling all Energy cards attached to your opponent’s Pokémon back into their deck. This move is helpful in a multitude of matchups:
- In the mirror match you can Guzma your opponent’s Blastoise and Knock it Out while also clearing all of the Energies you opponent has set on the board.
- It is also incredibly strong against Rayquaza-GX decks. This is a matchup that can be very shaky with their multiple Grass-type attackers. However, after shuffling all of their Energy cards back into their deck, the Rayquaza-GX deck doesn’t have much ground to stand on.
Side note: Palkia-GX UPR is chosen over Palkia-GX FLI because it lacks Weakness to Grass. (Most other attackers in the deck are already weak to Grass. Fairy types are much less common.)
1 Escape Rope
Another card not often seen in Archie’s Stoise that is included in this list is the Escape Rope. Many decks in the Expanded format are running Wobbuffet PHF, which shuts down all non-Psychic Abilities while it is in the Active Spot, and therefore Blastoise. The Escape Rope helps to push Wobbuffet back to the Bench to allow the Archie’s player to use their Abilities once again. Escape Rope is also helpful against the many decks that try to stall Archie’s by sticking Blastoise Active. Blastoise, with its 4 Retreat Cost, is not very mobile and can often get stuck. Cards like Tate & Liza and Guzma can get Blastoise back to the Bench; however, those cards are Supporters and to get Blastoise out of the Active you will have to burn a whole turn. With Escape Rope, the deck has a non-Supporter option to switch.
The PikaRom vs Archie’s Stoise matchup is one of the most fast and explosive matchups the Pokémon Trading Card Game has ever seen. Both decks are playing TAG TEAM Pokémon-GX and can take multiple Prize cards per turn. These two decks share a similar amount of consistency and the matches often come down to which player is able to have the fastest start to the game. The Onix helps to make the matchup a little better; however, PikaRom can play Flash Energy to get rid of its Weakness to Fighting. Another important attacker in this matchup is Eevee & Snorlax-GX as it can take a 1HKO on a 240-HP PikaRom, if it has a Choice Band attached.
This matchup may look bad at first glance, as Archie’s Stoise is a deck heavily reliant on Abilities and Item cards. However, Archie’s sheer speed and strength is enough to make this matchup very close. Archie’s has many great attackers in this matchup. Onix can 1-shot both of the main attackers in ZoroGarb, and Eevee & Snorlax-GX also can easily handle a Zoroark while often tanking a hit with its 270 HP. Magikarp & Wailord-GX can clear an early Bench of low-HP Pokémon with Towering Splash-GX, or it can take a 1-shot on a Zoroark-GX with a Choice Banded Super Splash. The biggest weakness for Archie’s Stoise in this matchup is Garbodor’s Garbotoxin paired with a N to one or two cards. Archie’s often cannot come back from the Ability lock unless it is able to draw well off of the few cards they draw off N.
Mirror: Slightly Favored
The mirror match, much like PikaRom, often comes down to who is able to get the fastest start to the game. However, as mentioned above, the Palkia-GX can turn some games that start a little slower into wins by using Zero Vanish-GX. That one card helps to move the matchup from even to favored.
While ZoroToad may not have been the most popular deck this past weekend, it was the deck that won the tournament. ZoroToad is unfortunately a bad matchup for Archie’s, as the Item lock caused by the Seismitoad-EX takes away many of the best options Archie’s has at its disposal. Archie’s best hope is to have an incredibly fast start and overwhelm the slower ZoroToad deck. Otherwise, when ZoroToad is fully set up, it becomes impossible to 1-shot a Fury Belted Seismitoad, and with the draw power of Zoroark-GX, the deck is able to hit the cards they need to continuously heal Seismitoad.
While Archie’s is a super fast and aggressive deck, the next deck I’d like to talk about is pretty much its polar opposite. I believe Shock Lock is incredibly overlooked, and it is shocking to me that only a single player played the deck at Daytona. The deck has great matchups vs nearly all the field and has taken the same player—Jonathan Croxton—to back-to-back Top 8 cuts at Expanded Regionals.
Pokémon – 21
1 Goodra PHF
Trainers – 35
1 Lance p
1 Pal Pad
Energy – 4
The list above is pretty indicative of the classic Shock Lock deck. The biggest outliers are the Alolan Muk and Goodra.
1-1 Alolan Muk SUM
Alolan Muk shuts down the Abilities of Basic Pokémon. This means that your opponent can’t beat you simply by playing a card like Keldeo-EX or Dawn Wings Necrozma-GX to get out of the Paralysis lock. It also blocks cards like Tapu Koko-GX and Articuno-GX that are used in decks like PikaRom and ZoroControl. The most important use of Alolan Muk, however, has to be that it shuts down Wobbuffet, allowing Raichu’s and Stoutland’s Abilities to still work.
1-1 Goodra PHF
Goodra is also an important tech card as it blocks both players from attaching Tool cards. This gives Shock Lock an out against Garbodor decks that are usually terrible matchups.
Many of Shock Lock’s matchups are highly favored because many decks do not include cards that can break the infinite lock that Shock Lock produces. PikaRom is one of those decks that cannot do much in the matchup.
Without the inclusion of Goodra this matchup is completely unwinnable. However, if Shock Lock can ever establish a Goodra and remove the Tool attached to Garbodor, it can take the game.
Archie’s can play a few techs to help swing the matchup their way. Cards like Keldeo-EX and Volcanion p can help in the matchup, but are shut off by the Alolan Muk. This matchup can at times be tricky for Shock Lock, but in most cases Shock Lock should be able to establish the infinite lock.
This is definitely a winnable matchup for Shock Lock if they are able to ever establish the lock. However, the Item lock caused by Seismitoad-EX makes that perfect setup incredibly hard to pull off. Pair that with Shock Lock’s already slow nature, and that makes the matchup very difficult for the Shock Lock player.
Hartford is set to be a great conclusion to the BLW–TEU format. As the last Expanded tournament of the season we’ll have to wait and see if anyone has any extra tricks up their sleeve. I expect a few players to pull out something crazy as they give this format one last hurrah. I hope to see you all at the upcoming Hartford Regionals and EUIC!
Bonus List for EUIC!
The Europe International Championships is just a few days away. Even though this article was about Expanded for the most part, I’d like to leave you with my number one pick going into EUIC: ZapBeasts.
Pokémon – 17
Trainers – 34
Energy – 9
1 Beast p
This list has changed some things up from the standard ZapBeasts lists.
0 Shrine of Punishment
There are no Shrine of Punishment in the list. These were cut to make room for other cards that have been deemed more important for success in today’s metagame.
2-2 Zebstrika LOT
My personal favorite inclusion in the deck is the 2-2 line of Zebstrika LOT. Zebstrika is great source of draw for the deck and in combination with Jirachi TEU allows the deck to have an amazing level of consistency. Zebstrika also helps against the two most common counters people run for Zapdos decks, those being Absol TEU and Alolan Muk SUM. Absol makes the Retreat Cost of Basic Pokémon increase by one. Zebstrika, being an Evolution card, can still retreat for free with just an Escape Board attached. It also allows the deck to draw under the Alolan Muk lock. This allows the deck to continue to stream Zapdos’s powerful Thunderous Assault attack.
The most interesting card in the list may be the Kartana-GX. Zapdos decks are high-speed decks with relatively low damage output. They prey on taking Prizes on small, weak Pokémon that can be picked off from the opponent’s Bench. Zapdos can get a few bigger knockouts throughout the game, but the deck often struggles to take its final Prize. That is where Kartana-GX comes into play. Kartana’s Blade-GX attack allows you to simply take a Prize. Blade-GX is also incredible in the Zapdos mirror as players often try to use their Tapu Koko-GX or another bulky attacker when the game gets down to 1 Prize apiece.
ZapBeasts is a great deck for this upcoming weekend, and is sure to have some high finishes. It is in my opinion the best and most versatile of the Zapdos variants. If EUIC was tomorrow, I would without a doubt be playing this exact 60-card list, and am very likely to be playing it going into one of the most important tournaments of the year.
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