Hello everybody and welcome to my Expanded article! It’s been a long few months since we’ve been able to take a serious look at this format, and two and a half sets have been released in the meantime, bringing powerhouse cards like Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Lt. Surge’s Strategy, and Reset Stamp. (The latter two cards will be banned, but not before Richmond and Portland Regionals.) Today I’d like to show you some decks built around what I consider to be the most powerful Pokémon in the game.
A Shock Lock Disclaimer
Most people first associate my name with my beloved Stoutland deck, so I wanted to include a bit for the people who may have clicked just for that. Shock Lock is a very poor play in current Expanded.
Part of what made the deck so consistent and powerful is that it could play no Pokémon Tool removal and simply concede to Garbodor decks. Now, any deck that plays Stealthy Hood makes themselves immune to Evoshock.
Previously, Shock Lock took an auto-loss to Trevenant PHF (sans clunky Lysandre techs) because your only means of using Evoshock infinitely is with Lillipup BLW’s Pickup, which does little good while you are under Forest’s Curse. Now, we may be able to assume Trevenant decks will fall off with the resurgence of Turbo Dark decks, but its place will be taken by MewPlume, which aims to get cheat out Vileplume AOR with Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX’s Super Growth. This matchup is even worse for you; since Irritating Pollen works wherever the Vileplume is, you cannot even tech against MewPlume if you wanted to. Additionally, MewPlume has a much stronger gameplan than Trevenant’s Item lock + hand disrupt + pray strategy, so I predict it will be more popular and have more success than Trevenant did.
Another new threat Shock Lock has to deal with is that of Archie’s/Blastoise decks now being able to get an early Cross Division-GX. Previously, Archie’s was your “closest auto-win matchup,” because while they played at most one way to escape Paralysis after you set up the lock (with 2 Stoutlands or 1 and Alolan Muk SUM to neutralize Volcanion p), a quick Towering Splash-GX for 3–4 Prizes spells certain doom for the Shock Lock player. Now, Archie’s has access to Cross Division-GX, which is easier to get off and doesn’t leave them vulnerable to Counter Catcher + Sentinel. Add in the 1–2 Stealthy Hood that Archie’s will likely play to protect from Garbotoxin and Bide Barricade, and you are facing a very unfavorable matchup.
(Heaven forbid your opponent uses Alolan Marowak-GX’s Lost Boomerang-GX on your poor Lillipups.)
The future is not particularly bright for the dog either, since Great Catcher on Tapu Lele-GX is another way for decks to break the Sentinel lock without making their deck weaker. It is important to note that you should not be worried about random Escape Rope techs when you are choosing a deck like this, but rather the natural counters that you are collateralized by. Shock Lock will likely retreat into the shadows until the meta shifts in its favor again. At this point, someone would have to get unreasonably lucky to go deep with Shock Lock.
- The Unholy Trinity
- ZoroGarb/Sky Field
- ZoroGarb/Parallel City
- Additional Thoughts on ZoroGarb’s Place in the Meta
- Closing Thoughts
The Unholy Trinity
Anybody who has talked Expanded with me is sure to have heard this opinion of mine: Zoroark-GX, Seismitoad-EX, and Garbodor DRX are the best cards in the game, and you should probably be playing a deck with at least one of them. In the four Expanded Regionals we had in the spring of last season, I liked to say that you could pick any two of the three and make a solid deck around them (ZoroGarb, ZoroToad, and ToadGarb). When I picked up this format again two weeks ago, I first set out to prove that those three decks were still viable. Luckily for me, I picked a good hill to die on!
ZoroGarb works essentially the same as before and is about as good as before. Riotous Beating may eventually be power-crept out, but Propagation + Trade will not. Likewise, Garbotoxin and Trashalanche are still powerful.
Initially, I thought ZoroToad was in trouble. Previously, the deck took advantage of Quaking Punch shutting off damage modifiers to make Seismitoad-EX with a Fighting Fury Belt difficult to 1HKO. It used Trade to find and spam Acerola, as Hypnotoxic Laser’s Poison with Virbank City Gym slowly took Prize cards. Now, 220 HP doesn’t seem so tough. Big Basic, basic Energy-based decks can outpace Seismitoad decks. Additionally, Abilities like Dark Cloak and Perfection give these decks flexibility, while Seismitoad’s main strength is limiting the opponent’s options. Greninja & Zoroark-GX, Mewtwo & Mew-GX, Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX, and Welder-based decks are all scary matchups for ZoroToad.
Similarly to ZoroToad, ToadGarb aims to degenerate the game into a slugfest (where you have Hypnotoxic Laser and Energy removal). We’d expect this kind of deck to struggle with newer, bigger Pokémon-GX, but with every successive set, other decks get more fancy with their Items and Abilities. ToadGarb ends up exploiting Item-heavy Turbo decks and decks that cannot function without Abilities, like Zoroark’s Trade. Protecting Garbotoxin from Field Blowers with Quaking Punch is a devastating combo.
Let’s get to some lists:
1 Ditto p
My Sky Field/ZoroGarb list aims for consistency and aggression, while having a few tricks up its sleeve. This should be a good baseline for a Sky Field list that you can tech to your liking, either by removing my techs or some consistency cards.
Cobalion-GX/Whismur CES 116, 3rd Float Stone, 6th Energy card1
Cobalion-GX or Whismur is my answer to Archie’s getting off an early Cross Division-GX, or just a generally good attack to complete your first turn when you go second.
I’m not sure yet which of the two is better overall. While a Bawl will cripple your opponent’s turn regardless of the matchup and cannot be cleared with Pokémon Ranger, it doesn’t prevent them from attacking, meaning they can still Cross Division-GX if they had an explosive turn 1, or at least will take a Prize on your Whismur. If you happen to Bawl with your Psychic Energy, Whismur’s 2 Retreat Cost can leave you in an awkward spot.
If your opponent gets around Iron Rule-GX with Pokémon Ranger, you at least forced them to have it and use it instead of a draw Supporter. Additionally, Iron Rule-GX is useful beyond the first turn, and in more than half your games. You can use it to break Quaking Punch lock and play all of your VS Seekers! Don’t worry about the fact that it uses your GX attack; that does not matter.
Going for a turn 1 attack calls for an additional switching out and another Energy card. The 3rd Float Stone could easily be a Switch or Escape Rope, as you rarely want to attach Float Stone to your Garbodor DRX with this deck. As for Psychic vs. Rainbow, Psychic cannot be removed by cards like Enhanced Hammer or Faba and can be recovered with Super Rod, while Rainbow can activate Cobalion’s Metal Symbol and be recovered by Special Charge.
I rarely use Trashalanche, simply because I’d rather evolve my Trubbish into Garbodor DRX in most matchups. However, sometimes the huge damage from a 1-Prize attacker is just what you need to clinch a close game. Considering your opponent won’t know your Garbodor line for most of the match, the single Garbodor GRI can trick your opponent. Either they sense that you don’t play any and play into the 1, or play too much around something you aren’t likely to have.
You can play whatever Trubbish you’d like, but I like the 1 Retreat and option of Garbage Collection (also, he’s the only cute Trubbish).
Turning off your own Trade with this deck not only feels terrible, but leaves you rather vulnerable to an opposing Reset Stamp and N, which is why we only want to ever activate Garbotoxin with a Klefki. (Wonder Lock is unlikely to give you value for the Mega Evolution damage immunity, we are primarily using it because it discards from your Garbodor DRX at the start of your turn, giving a pseudo-Hex Maniac.)
This split of Klefki and Field Blower might make it the best version of the deck in a vacuum, but it definitely leaves you vulnerable to opposing Garbodor DRX and Sudowoodo. Having only 1 Field Blower (and Dowsing Machine) means Garbotoxin from your opponent will stick more often than not, so you have to choose between targeting down the Garbodor and their attackers. (Definitely not a situation you want to be in when you aren’t playing healing!) Sudowoodo also makes it hard for you, since it’s difficult to keep the Bench space for a Garbodor DRX and a Klefki, meaning you’re more likely to need to attach a hard Tool to get Garbotoxin online, thereby requiring you to find your 1-of Field Blower the next turn if you need to use Trade. And, of course, your opponent can play N, using your Garbotoxin against you.
Only 1 Field Blower is definitely greedy—run it at your own risk—but it would pain me greatly to remove a Klefki, which may be one of the most powerful cards in the deck.
Guzma is a card I want to use every game, and is crucial to winning against certain Control decks. Playing the 2nd copy protects from Prizes and Girafarig LOT’s Get Lost, and allows me to Battle Compressor one while having the other available for Wonder Tag.
In a deck without disruptive Supporters like Plumeria, Faba, or Hiker, the most powerful use of Lt. Surge’s Strategy is using a Guzma followed by an N. A singleton Reset Stamp does the same job, and doesn’t disrupt our own hand. It’s also generally good on turns where you need to dig with Colress and disrupt your opponent.
Brigette for 3 Zoruas may just be the best turn 1 play in the game. I run just the 1 because you can dig for Zoruas with Shaymin-EX if you happen to prize the Brigette, but that can be resource intensive, so a 2nd Brigette is certainly a respectable option.
All of these are techs for consistency. The extra Battle Compressor is there so you find it early; your 1st Compressor every game goes for your Exeggcutes and a Supporter/Pokémon to get with VS Seeker/Rescue Stretcher, and the 2nd goes for the 3rd Compressor and tech Pokémon like an unused Cobalion-GX/Whismur CES 116. (Don’t burn too many, though, as spare Basic Pokémon fuel Riotous Beating.) With the heavy Compressor engine, an additional VS Seeker becomes a strong asset. The single Trainers’ Mail probably looks out of place, but I promise this card justifies itself. It improves your early turns by digging for Battle Compressor, VS Seeker, or search cards, and helps you dig late game for a Sky Field, Field Blower, Rescue Stretcher, or Dowsing Machine.
Garbodor GRI and More EnergyThicker
Garbodor GRI loses value in a Sky Field ZoroGarb deck, simply because Zoroark-GX is a potent attacker throughout most of the game. Nonetheless, Trashalanche is an incredible attack and can take down the toughest of Pokémon under the right conditions. If you choose to go down this route, make sure to have a Super Rod or Special Charge for your Psychics or Rainbows, respectively.
Choice Band is a card that was previously a mainstay in Sky Field ZoroGarb decks, but I’ve excluded it here. Why? With TAG TEAMs around, it’s unlikely to make the difference between another turn of attacking. At the end of the turn, either Sudowoodo’s Roadblock is active or it isn’t, meaning you are doing 100 or 180 damage. See, even if you had Choice Band on for both turns of Riotous Beating under Roadblock, you’d need a Mewtwo opponent to take a Rainbow Energy ping for the Choice Band bonus to matter.
Choice Band is not without its merits. If you think back on these 100 and 180 numbers, an extra 30 is the difference between 1-shotting Shaymin-EX under Roadblock, or getting a clean 210 hit on a Zoroark-GX. Are these likely enough to warrant a 1-of Choice Band? Perhaps.
Oranguru SUM, 1 Mew UNB, 1 Oricorio GRI, 1 Wobbuffet PHF1
Instruct Oranguru was in the list for a while, simply to make it harder for degenerate Control decks to hand lock you. The combination of Oranguru SUM and Zoroark-GX is particularly effective against ZoroControl, who can only can only shut off one of them between Silent Lab and Power Plant. In a pinch, you can grab Oranguru off Brigette to draw a card or two.
Mew is a card I was very hesitant to cut. Sniping effects aren’t nearly as prevalent in Expanded as they are in Standard, but without Mew, Towering Splash-GX or Tag Bolt-GX can mop the floor with you.
Compared to Mr. Mime (PLB has the best typing), Mew takes 1 fewer Distortion Door from a Mewtwo/Mega Gardevoir-EX deck, and soaks 1 fewer Cross Division-GX ping. In return, you gain Psypower. This is a pretty inconsequential difference, but is the kind of decision you need to pay attention to truly play an optimal 60.
Oricorio is a fine inclusion if you are worried about Night March or Rahul Reddy. If you do go for Oricorio, Mr. Mime becomes better than Mew.
If you decide against using Cobalion-GX/Whismur CES 116, it is prudent to play 1 Wobbuffet PHF to slow down your opponent. Simply grab it off your turn 1 Brigette and retreat into it to buy yourself some time.
Remember that it’s favorable to play tech, Basic Pokémon like these to fuel huge Riotous Beatings.
1 Ditto p
This ZoroGarb Parallel deck is very dissimilar from others you will see, so bear with me.
First of all, like my Sky Field list, this list rejects conventional Tool-attaching in favor of Klefki. However, since we don’t have the ability to make space for our Klefki via Sky Field, we need to play more Klefki. Your goal is to use Wonder Lock, then immediately bench another Klefki for the next turn. Else, you either Bench lock yourself out of Garbotoxin, or you deal only 100 damage with Riotous Beating. Double Garbodor DRX, triple Klefki should give you an idea of how much I love abusing one-sided Garbotoxin.
Secondly, since I’m planning to never shut off my own Trade, I’ve gone for an Exeggcute/Ultra Ball/Battle Compressor engine. If you decide to play a more traditional list with 2 Field Blower and more hard Tools, your search engine could look like a variety of very different things, but as is, Ultra Ball is the best by miles and miles.
Thirdly, without Sky Field, our Riotous Beating damage is pretty limited, so we need a thick Garbodor GRI line and many Psychic Energy to use him. Since I found myself using 1 Rescue Stretcher every game to shuffle in multiple Klefki, I switched one to a Super Rod to also have the option to recover the Psychic Energy.
Let’s look at the less suspect card choices.
As discussed earlier, Wobbuffet is here purely to slow down your opponent as you set up. Of course, “setting up” with this deck means give yourself one whole turn to evolve your Zoruas, but you get the point. Grab Wobb with your Brigette and retreat into him; at worst, he chump-blocks your opponent’s attack, but at best, he can totally brick your opponent.
This is one of the last cards I added, as I felt the deck could use some healing after the removal of Bodybuilding Dumbbells. I’m not quite sold on it yet, but you can’t really go wrong with healing in Zoroark.
Potential Inclusions (aka Notable Exclusions)
Opposite of Sky Field ZoroGarb, which needs many Basic Pokémon to fill its Bench, Parallel ZoroGarb has to preserve its Bench space. To this end, these fellows were removed. This deck really doesn’t need to dig for cards, so Shaymin-EX has not been missed. Sudowoodo is still a strong tech option, but is somewhat redundant since you have many Parallel City. As Sudowoodo is to Zoroark, Oranguru and Mew are to the respective decks they are trying to counter, but use caution when putting them in this version.
VS Seeker, 2nd Field Blower4th
These cards definitely aren’t necessary, but are reasonable utility options. An extra Field Blower would help against opposing Garbodors, and opens up plays where you Parallel you to clear your own Bench of Tapu Leles or damaged Zoroarks. With 3 Klefki and being less reliant on Riotous Beating, enemy Sudowoodo GRI is less of a reason to play Field Blower compared to Sky Field ZoroGarb.
Additional Thoughts on ZoroGarb’s Place in the Meta
ZoroGarb is a solid pick for any Expanded event. It’s about as well-rounded as an Expanded deck can get. Having attackers that use both basic and Special Energies, combined with Garbotoxin and Trade, makes ZoroGarb one of the most resilient deck in the format. You will very rarely find yourself across from a deck you can’t beat, and that is a huge asset in a format with at least 20 viable decks.
Between the Sky Field and Parallel City builds, I believe both are equally strong right now. Sky Field gives you some disgusting flexibility, while Parallel City greatly limits your opponent. If you can’t pick between them play the one you’re more comfortable with or enjoy playing more.
The most significant change is the complete removal of Ultra Ball in favor of Cherish Ball. If you look down the Pokémon lineup, every Pokémon can be searched with either Cherish Ball or Nest Ball. ZoroToad, a deck that grinds out 20-turn games, greatly appreciates this shift to a less wasteful search engine. Without Sky Field, you hardly had the Bench space for Shaymin-EX, which is usually one of the best reasons to run Ultra Ball in the first place. In addition, since this is a very resource-dense deck, you couldn’t afford the space to run heavy Battle Compressor and Exeggcute to eliminate Ultra Ball’s cost.
Speaking of which, the deck includes 2 Battle Compressor specifically to find your Exeggcute. I found myself constantly taking painful Trades if I don’t find my Exeggcute early enough. By thinning useless cards out of your deck, Battle Compressor also improves your Trades throughout the game. Of course, as we all know, Battle Compressor can also mill a Supporter card for you to immediately play with VS Seeker.
As alluded to earlier, Mewtwo & Mew-GX is here simply to have extra HP over Seismitoad. It provides a different type to use Quaking Punch with, and has a different Weakness. And, being a TAG TEAM, it can force your opponent to go down to 1 Prize card, playing into your N.
To be honest, I initially added Lucario & Melmetal-GX to beat up Gardevoir & Sylveon-GX decks on PTCGO. My idea was that I could Full Metal Wall-GX, and then between Fighting Fury Belt, Field Blower, and Acerola, I would simply out trade them with Steel Fist. Well, turns out Full Metal Wall-GX justifies the card slot by itself. It’s essentially an Articuno-GX that doesn’t require you to play Water Energy. This greatly mitigates one age-old counter to Toad, which is shoving a lot of Energy on a big, hard-hitting Pokémon that would take many Quaking Punch to take down. Before Lucario & Melmetal-GX, your only hope against this is a lucky Hypnotoxic Laser. Now you can N, discard all of their Energy, and take over with Quaking Punch.
Don’t forget that you can copy Full Metal Wall-GX with Perfection.
We typically think of Karen is a disruptive card for decks like Night March and Vespiquen. Resetting their damage multiple and shutting off cards like Battle Compressor, Ultra Ball, and VS Seeker cripples their deck and turns the matchup into an auto-win. Now, while those decks aren’t especially popular, the card Mewtwo & Mew-GX is sure to be. Any time an opponent’s only attacker on the board is a Mewtwo, a simple Karen + Quaking Punch can neuter their only threat and give you time to take control.
Karen has its uses against other decks, too. You can use it to clog your opponent’s deck with worthless Pokémon before making an N play. Karen shuffles cards into your empty deck so you don’t have to Colress or N in a large hand, or recovers Pokémon you may need to reuse. Because there are many turns where you simply draw, Trade, Quaking Punch, you can afford to play exclusively slow Pokémon recovery like Karen. Know that Karen being your only Pokémon recovery requires you to plan a couple of turns ahead, which theoretically can leave you vulnerable to unexpected plays.
Like ZoroGarb, I think these cards compete with each other for the same spot. While this deck has a variety of disruptive Supporters, I still believe the only time you need to double Supporter is when one of the Supporters is an N, meaning you’d usually rather be playing Reset Stamp. Stamp is definitely the 61st card in this deck.
You would choose to include Marshadow-GX for the same reason as Mewtwo & Mew-GX, using Quaking Punch with a different type Pokémon. For now, I think the extra HP on Seismitoad-EX and the valuable card slot outweigh the double damage (which is only +30–40, and only for as long as the Marshadow lives) against Turbo Dark and Pikachu & Zekrom-GX decks.
I expect the meta to slightly shift away from Special Energies during the first Regionals of the format, as we can expect people to be hyped on decks like Welder or Turbo Dark. For that reason, I’ve only included 1 Enhanced Hammer. If your opponent is playing Special Energies, it’s good when you draw it; otherwise, it gets painlessly Battle Compressor’d away.
Koga’s Trap is another utility card that I originally wanted but removed for space. More on this card in a moment.
This list is about as simple as it gets for ToadGarb. Use Quaking Punch quickly, apply Garbotoxin, and pick apart your opponent’s board with your Trainer cards.
Ultra Ball Engine
It may be tempting to use Mysterious Treasure over Ultra Ball, as it theoretically can grab your whole deck via Hoopa-EX, but after you use you Hoopa, Mysterious Treasure is significantly worse than Ultra Ball. It also makes you deck cease to function if you prize or start Hoopa-EX.
Nest Ball also seems like a reasonable option in this deck, but in a deck without Trade, it’s important that all of your search cards can be a way out of a dead hand.
Ultra Ball for Shaymin-EX is just so good for Toad, which needs to find its Double Colorless and Trubbishes early. Having Shaymin-EX on your Bench is hardly a liability when your opponent wants to target your Garbodors, and cannot recover Guzma with their VS Seeker.
Similarly, Jirachi-EX is taking the place of Tapu Lele-GX in this build. Having an extra 80 HP on a Bench-sitter is not relevant, while being searchable with Hoopa-EX is. On turn 1, if you don’t have a Supporter, Scoundrel Ring for a Seismitoad, a Shaymin, and a Jirachi, and play Shaymin first. That way, you are guaranteed an out to a Supporter after the Set Up, but don’t have to commit the Bench space yet.
Without the luxury of Trade, you are forced to dedicate some slots to consistency, including dedicating your ACE SPEC to something that can grab Double Colorless or Hoopa-EX. I strongly believe Trainers’ Mail is the best card to fill up these consistency slots.
Unlike ZoroToad, ToadGarb has access to neither Propagation nor Trade, making Plumeria discards very costly, both in terms of resources in your deck and cards in your hand. Instead, we shove several Crushing Hammer in our deck and hope a few hit over the course of the game. Crushing Hammer, though unreliable, is a staple. You will not find cards that are overall better for their place.
Koga’s Trap is a welcome addition to Seismitoad-EX decks as a new-age Shadow Triad. No longer are you required to have a Hypnotoxic Laser in the discard, and the surefire Confusion affliction is as good or better than Hypnotoxic Laser’s chance at Sleep.
ZoroToad is a rather passive deck, sitting back and manipulating the game such that their Toads can never be 1HKO’d. In contrast, ToadGarb prefers to aggressively grind out enemy resources and board state. Instead of using Acerola every time you have a damaged Toad and a VS Seeker, instead force your opponent into lose-lose situations like what Koga’s Trap does. Either they retreat off their Energy, or risk a Confusion flip. In most cases, you’ll be in a good spot even if they flip heads, because they will have accumulated lots of Poison damage, and taking Prize cards puts them at risk of N + Garbotoxin + Quaking Punch.
By the way, another big reason reason Koga’s Trap makes the cut here and not in ZoroToad is that Garbotoxin turns off Abilities like Dark Cloak, Thunderclap Zone, and Rush In.
Since most of your damage output comes from this card, we are maxing it out. Games are significantly easier for you when you win the Stadium war, both for the Poison damage and to prevent your opponent from getting use out of their Stadiums.
We plan on getting Garbotoxin online early and keeping it on for the whole game, so you won’t be getting much value out of Roadblock, not to mention that you have many Virbank City Gym to counter enemy Sky Fields. Additionally, you frequently force a 7-Prize game by never benching more 1-Prize Pokémon after your opponent has targeted a Garbodor. However, Sudowoodo is considered a staple of the format for a reason, and including him is not a bad idea.
Karen or 1 Rescue Stretcher1
This list has no way of recovering Pokémon, so you if you prize any of your Garbodor line and 1 gets KO’d, you will not have access to Garbotoxin for the rest of the game. Karen gives the disruptive element that I described earlier, but without Trade to find the Pokémon you shuffled in, it’s quite weak as your own Pokémon recovery tool.
Do I need to spell it out again?
It was an absolute blast playing this format again and writing about these decks. Expanded tests your skill and knowledge of the game more than Standard ever can, because you never know exactly what you are sitting across from, and their deck could have so many different cards. I’ll be competing at Richmond Regionals, feel free to come say hi if you see me there. I’ll leave you all with some miscellaneous thoughts on the format:
- Archie’s is the opposite of the robust, resilient ZoroGarb. Depending on your luck and how your deck is built, will lose 10–20% of your games to hands that just don’t work. Factoring in enemy Quaking Punch and/or Garbotoxin, I cannot see this deck taking the meta by storm. I’ll let you in on a little secret, too: the payoff of Archie’s isn’t especially good.
- Taking 1HKOs is surprisingly uncommon in this format. I see this as an opportunity for Reshiram & Charizard-GX.
- Pokémon Ranger is a very good card right now.
- ZoroControl and SableGarb are probably tier 1 decks. However, because there are so many viable decks in Expanded, even a clear BDIF rarely will get more than 10% of the meta share. You can probably afford to take a loss to these decks.
- MewPlume is far and away the best Mewtwo & Mew-GX deck. You can find a good starting point list a little down my Twitter page, @croxtonveryepic. I still don’t think Jolteon-EX or Glaceon-GX are worth their space.
Mewplume list I developed with @Busted_Catron, though we still disagree on some cards. It needs some refinement but is definitely one of the best ways to take Mewtwo. If you think we missed a GX/EX, we didn't pic.twitter.com/wNyLlcdmun
See you in the Commonwealth!
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