Hello and welcome! My name is Jonathan Croxton and today I’d like to bring you some information on Quagsire/Naganadel. If you didn’t know, I piloted QuagNag to a Top 16 finish at the DC Open. I’ll start with the story of making the deck, then go over that list, and finally show my current list for the deck and explain why things have changed.
The Making of QuagNag
Going into Worlds, I expected the meta to be mostly these five decks:
- PikaRom, now with Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX
- Green’s ReshiZard
- Malamar variants
- Mewtwo & Mew-GX decks
When looking at this list, I noticed that three of the decks—PikaRom, Blowns, and Mewtwo—did not have a good answer to attacking Keldeo-GX. Benching a Keldeo does not immediately win the game against PikaRom, as they have a few 1-Prize attackers, but as long as you could power up several consecutive Keldeos, they would be in trouble. (Mind you, this is before 1-of Power Plant was mainstream in PikaRom). Using the Quagsire/Naganadel combo allows you to power up Keldeos quickly and back to back, theoretically winning you the PikaRom matchup, and simply attacking with Quagsire should make Green’s ReshiZard a breeze. With this in mind, I went about making QuagNag, assuming I would be taking a loss to Malamar.
The basic idea is that I could run over most decks with Pure Heart or being Water type, and hope to dodge the Malamar. Though I strongly disrespected Malamar going into the event, I recognized that it would still be played in large numbers, and therefore did not want to play QuagNag to Day 1. If I could get through Day 1-of Worlds, the Day 2 meta would be much more favorable for QuagNag, and I could switch and perform. The predictions were spot on, but unfortunately I ended 5-3 in Day 1, and was stuck playing in the DC Open with all the Malamars that lost in Day 1. I modified the list to this and sent it.
DC Open List
As explained above, Keldeo-GX is the star of this deck and I’m very confident it would have carried me to a strong Day 2 performance. I played 3 copies for two reasons:
- First, it is your best starter and you want to find it early. Sitting behind a Keldeo while you set up is the reason you can get away with playing the infamously clunky QuagNag deck.
- Second, against Pika, you sometimes needed to make them go through a 3rd Keldeo.
In a format devoid of strong search, it is necessary to run max copies of your Evolution lines so that you can find them faster and more frequently. Additionally, certain matchups and scenarios require you to set up 3–4 of one of these over the game (think 3 Naganadel so you can build toward Towering Splash-GX or Quagsire’s attack against Green’s). Having additional Pokémon in your deck also fuels Pokémon Communication.
Since I knew I was going into a field of Malamar, I couldn’t be greedy and hope to dodge them (and sure enough, I played against 3). The idea is fairly simple: Custom Catcher and KO your opponent’s Mew, and then win with Towering Splash-GX. During the event, I felt like I should not have won the majority of my games against Malamar. It seemed like this strategy probably shouldn’t work, since they can hold their Mew until the turn I am forced to Towering Splash-GX. Alternatively, they could KO or GG End-GX my Naganadels that are suspiciously building as I pass for a couple of turns. For whatever reason, it worked out, and I went 2-0-1 against Malamar in the event. Had I had more time in Round 1, I would have won instead of tying.
To fit these, I cut Wobbuffet LOT and 4 Acro Bike. Wobbuffet is the card that pushed the Pika matchup into the favorable territory, by preventing them from attacking with Tapu Koko p into your Keldeo. After removing it, I’m fairly confident the the Pika matchup is unfavorable for QuagNag, even without Power Plant. On top of being necessary for the Magikarp & Wailord to work, having access to a double Custom Catcher play makes many difficult games winnable, especially allowing you to target down opposing non-GX attackers. Removing Acro Bikes might seem like a big deal, but I found that I almost always played my hand low in the early turns, so Custom Catcher did more or less the same thing. This fact was the final reason I pulled the trigger on the Wailord/Catchers combo at 2:30 AM before the event.
Without Acro Bikes, and considering that I would win most games where I get on my feet, having many more draw Supporter outs beyond Lillie and Cynthia seemed like a good idea. I started with 1 Dedenne-GX just to make my Pokémon Communications live, then added an Erika’s, then another, and the Pokégears one at a time. Even with all these, I played with a low, dead hand some games.
In the QuagNag lists I’ve seen since the DC Open, it seems that people don’t know what to make of the Pokégears in this list. To learn about Pokégear, let’s look at Green’s decks. Green’s decks typically play 4 Green’s Exploration, 4 Welder/Coach Trainer, and 4 Pokégear. Pokégear is good in these decks because there are only a few Supporters that are worth it for them to put in their deck. First, they max out those Supporters, then they put in the Pokégears to maximize their chances of finding those Supporters.
In QuagNag, we want to limit ourselves to the best draw Supporters in the game. Lillie and Cynthia are first maxed, and we find this isn’t enough, so we add Erika’s Hospitality. Once it becomes suboptimal to add more Supporters, we switch to Pokégears. I strongly believe my 10 Supporter lineup is optimal. If you have a Lillie and a Pokégear, you can dig for a Supporter for the next turn, and if you miss the Pokégear, you draw 1 more card off the Lillie, making it more likely that you draw a Supporter anyway. Pokégear makes it more likely that you find the turn 1 Lillie. It helps you find a Cynthia if your only Supporter is a weak Erika, or Erika if you only have a weak Lillie.
One could possibly make the argument that 9 Supporters is optimal, cutting an Erika, but that makes it more likely that your Pokégears will whiff. If you miss with Pokégear and it’s your only out of a bad hand, you are hosed. Thinking again about Green’s decks, sometimes they straight-up lose because their Pokégear misses. Why would you make this more likely to happen to you when you have the option to play more Supporters? I’d also note that as a format progress, and as decks become more optimized, they tend to make the most of their Bench space more and more. This means that Erika’s Hospitality is better now than ever.
Escape Board vs. 1 U-Turn Board1
I chose to play 1 Board card as a pivot. QuagNag usually wants its Bench totally filled with the lines of your namesake Pokémon, so when a Keldeo falls, I wanted a way to retreat into a new one while preserving Energy.
Knowing that QuagNag was an unestablished deck, I figured that my opponents would not place much value on targeting my single Escape Board. This was correct, and I only had the Escape Board removed once during the tournament. Theoretically, if your opponent knows you only play 1 Board in your deck, you lose your pivot when they Knock Out an Escape Board. However, I didn’t think the bounce of U-Turn Board is particularly meaningful. Most games you will place the board on a Naganadel and it will never leave play. If it does, you will, at the very most, retreat off 2 Energies over the game after that.
I decided that retreating through Sleep was more relevant than saving an Energy or two every 10 games. Darkrai p’s Abyssal Sleep is scary for Keldeos, though the Dark Box matchup is going to be very favorable regardless. The main reason to play Escape Board is Inkay FLI’s Hypnosis. Since I wasn’t accepting the loss to Malamar with this list, any percentage points vs. Malamar was something to take. I did end up escaping Hypnosis once during the DC Open, but it was not relevant because my opponent had an unplayable hand.
What Has Changed?
Since Worlds, we’ve seen the following decks added to the meta:
Looking at these decks, it is clear that the Keldeo-GX + Aqua Patch (with extra steps) strategy will no long be viable. GardEon only has Pokémon-GX, but they play 3–4 Power Plant, shutting off Pure Heart. Ability ReshiZard plays at least 3 non-GX attackers capable of trading up into Keldeo. Additionally, PikaRom now plays Power Plant, requiring us to play Fighting-type attackers to have a chance.
QuagNag hilariously stomps Pidgeotto, though.
- -1 Poipole LOT
+1 Poipole FLI
- -1 Magikarp & Wailord-GX
-4 Custom Catcher
+1 Espeon & Deoxys-GX
+1 Onix LOT
+1 Celesteela CES
+1 Mew UNB
- -1 Dedenne-GX
-1 Pokégear 3.0
+3 Acro Bike
- -1 Escape Board
+1 U-Turn Board
- -1 Water Energy
+2 Rainbow Energy
With the recent Malamar decks playing 2 copies of Mew UNB, and with players now being better acquainted with playing against QuagNag, it is simply too unlikely to pull off a Towering Splash-GX. We are now folding to Malamar to make our other matchups better.
Acro Bike, 1 Pokégear 3.0, 0 Dedenne-GX, 1 U-Turn Board3
All of these are responses to giving up on the Malamar matchup. 3 Acro Bike replace Custom Catcher and reduce the need for Pokégear. Dedenne, while still good, is much more of a liability now that we are a more normal Prize-trade deck. Taking Prizes more normally slightly reduces the need for consistency cards, since we will naturally be drawing more by taking Prize cards. Escape Board will not be the difference between winning and losing against Malamar, so we now use U-Turn Board.
Espeon & Deoxys-GX, 2 Rainbow Energy, 10 Water Energy1
Without Gust, it is crucial to have some sort of sniping effect to close out a game. You usually can build up additional Energies somewhere along the line, thanks to Keldeo making your opponents’ turns awkward. As we have seen in the past few weeks, a boosted Cross Division-GX is the strongest way to close out a game in this format.
Rainbow Energies are chosen over Psychic, despite being unsearchable by Viridian Forest, because they can be moved with Wash Out. You will usually drop a Rainbow Energy on a Quagsire or Wooper, and it will stay there until you need it. Don’t worry, the damage counter is almost always irrelevant. In addition to providing the Psychic for Cross Division-GX, Rainbow Energy allows us to use Celesteela and provides +20 damage for Hydro Pump.
After switching 2 Waters over to Rainbows, I found it difficult to get Water Energy in the discard, and it there were often hands where I couldn’t afford to discard anything for Viridian Forest. Subsequently, I re-added the 10th Water Energy. Rainbow is crucial enough in this deck that I could see myself adding a 3rd and just accepting the pain of only 9 Waters.
Celesteela CES, 1 Onix LOT, 1 Mew UNB, 0 Volcanion p1
Celesteela is the 1-card swing for the GardEon matchup. At some point in the game, Celesteela will swoop down and Moon Raker for Weakness, taking 3 Prizes with her. You then only need a smidge of damage to stick on a GardEon, and you can Cross Division-GX for your last 3 Prize cards. Rainbow Energies are of the utmost importance in this matchup.
Onix is my preferred counter to Pika, over the Fighting-type Quagsire, Quagsire UNB. The main merit of Quagsire UNB is that it’s much more likely to attack on the 2nd turn, right after your opponent has used Full Blitz. It’s more likely both because you don’t need to find a pivot Energy (just promote Wooper, whereas Onix you’d have to find and risk benching), and because Surf only takes 3 Energy. For me, this is not a compelling reason to run Quagsire UNB. If you attack with Onix at some point in the game, you will probably win, even if it’s on Zeraora-GX or 20 damage shy of Knocking Out Raichu & Alolan Raichu-GX. Remember, you can “Prize fix” with Cross Division-GX later in the game. Also, it is still fairly difficult to get off a Surf on the second turn. You need at least 3 Energies, which means at least 1 Naganadel and 2 Quagsires, one of which is your 1-of Quagsire UNB. To top it off, playing Quagsire UNB means you are capped at 3 Wash Out Quagsires, which is no small drawback. Risk of starting Onix is not a reason to avoid the card; in fact, being a big 1-Prize idiot makes him your best starter behind Keldeo-GX. If your opponent Knocks it Out, they sink resources into not disrupting your board (unless you happened to start it against a Pika); if they leave it alive, you get to use an attacker that isn’t risking a Quagsire.
Mew is card that should simply be in most decks at this point, between Tag Bolt-GX, Ear Kinesis, and Venom Shot (from a Naganadel-GX or a Mewtwo & Mew-GX). QuagNag is unfortunately one of the few decks that can’t utilize Psypower very well.
Volcanion p is a card I see in many QuagNag lists, and it puzzles me. Sauna Blast is underwhelming in a format where most 1-Prize attackers are 110–130 HP. In theory, Sauna Blast helps set up Cross Division-GX, but Mew’s Bench Barrier will put a stop to that more often than not. Jet Geyser is cute, but far too situational to justify the card slot.
Wooper UNB, 3 Poipole LOT, 1 Poipole FLIThe Pre-Evolutions: 4
Now with Rainbow Energy in our deck, we ought to revisit our lineup of Poipole. Once again, I believe you should play mostly Eye Opener because it can find your Espeon & Deoxys-GX. You don’t want to just play 1 Eye Opener for “that one game” you prize Espeon & Deoxys; you want to make sure that the Poipole you happened to start or draw off Lillie has Eye Opener. Due to you always finishing a game with Espeon & Deoxys-GX, Poipole UNM is definitely suboptimal. Unlike Eye Opener, knockout Reviver is an attack that you have to set up for, so it makes sense to run just 1-of it. Perhaps when your opponent is on 1 Prize, you knockout Reviver and set up Energies to Cross Division-GX the next turn. It’s optimistic, but seems more likely to come up than a situation where having 1 non-Eye Opener hurts you.
Unfortunately, which Wooper you play is not entirely irrelevant, thanks to Cross Division-GX. Wooper UNB hits for the most damage, doubling against Fighting-weak Pokémon. I suggest playing Wooper UNB to maximize your chances at a tournament, but I would not fault you for playing the Wooper you think is cutest.
I hope you all enjoyed my article on this fan-favorite deck. I’m not sure I can say I recommend this deck at the moment (you are still playing QuagNag after all!), but I am very sure that this is the correct way to build it. If you’d like to hear more from me, go follow me on Twitter @croxtonveryepic. Until next time…