Hello again readers, I’m back with my final article before Dallas kicks off. I’ve been playing a lot of Expanded over the last month and I think that I have a pretty good grasp on the format. Last time I mentioned a free article on Groudon; however, after testing the deck in this format (BLW–CEC), I couldn’t justify writing about it at all. The deck just isn’t good enough anymore. TAG TEAMs were the nail in proverbial coffin for Primal Groudon.
Today, I’m going to be covering my top pick for Dallas, which is what I will almost certainly end up playing for the event. I’ll also discuss the meta itself and the impact of the recent marathons on (1) the meta and (2) the players who participated in them. Currently, I have three choices that I would feel confident going into Dallas with:
- Turbo Dark,
- Shock Lock, and
- some Fighting type deck that isn’t even built yet.
What I Learned from the Iowa Marathon
At the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, we saw “marathons” of League Cups occur across the country. Some of these were Standard-only, some were Expanded-only, and some were a mix of both formats. I chose to attend the one in Iowa because it was within driving distance and fully Expanded. I did alright, netting 125 “fake” (Stipend) CP and a whopping 10 Invite CP. During that week, I witnessed something that I haven’t seen since the end of the City Championship era with their own marathon weeks: A local meta that shifted and developed based on the results of local events in quick succession.
I can confidently say that attending the Iowa Marathon and playing five straight days of events helped me to refine my lists much better than testing with a single person ever could have. I believe that attending any of the Expanded marathons could have provided players with quite a bit of information and testing that others will not have before going into Dallas.
For instance, I had pretty much completely written off Dark as an option for me, but after the Iowa Marathon, I believe it to be the best play for Dallas. As the week wore on, Ultra Necrozma saw a severe decline in play in Iowa, and I feel like that can be attributed to the fact that it was overhyped and people either had bad lists or they just don’t think the deck is good enough.
Pre-Dallas Tier List
I’ll lay this out in a tier system for which decks I believe will see the most play. (Just to be clear, these aren’t opinions on the viability of decks; they’re opinions on how many of them will be played.)
I think that with the not-so-recent bans, Mewtwo is a lot stronger than it was in Portland, and it gained an incredibly broken card in SnivySaur. It will certainly see much more play than it did in Portland, and it is one of the decks I care about beating the most.
ZoroGarb is the tried and true deck that takes decent matchups all around, but with the loss of Lt. Surge’s Strategy, it struggles with Turbo Dark a bit more than it did in previous formats.
Turbo Dark. The deck that “anyone” can play and do decent with. The deck lost almost nothing from the bans, and it remains one of the most powerful decks in the format. It’s seen a lot of development from Richmond, where it was basically unheard of to play Weavile-GX in the deck, to now, where a 2-2 line is relatively common. I currently believe that Turbo Dark is the BDIF in Expanded, and can only be consistently stopped by decks that are built to beat it.
Ultra Necrozma was the deck that saw the most hype from Cosmic Eclipse, and there’s good reason for that. It should handily beat any other 1-Prize attacker decks. It has Garbotoxin. It has Silent Lab. Both of these things make it incredibly annoying to play against, because of the relatively high potential for getting stuck with a dead hand at any point in the match.
- Assorted Fighting decks
GardEon saw success at both Expanded Regionals so far, and it lost relatively little from the bans. Overall, I don’t believe this deck to be the greatest thing ever, but it certainly has its merits. I personally never see myself playing GardEon, but I can understand why some players would choose it.
EggLet is the best meta-call deck. Its matchups are linear and usually determined before the match even starts. It beats what it is supposed to, and loses to what it doesn’t beat. ZoroGarb is the only common matchup where it ends up being a close game.
Fighting-type decks always exist in Expanded because of how broken their support is. A Pokémon with a base damage of 30 for a single Energy attack can easily do 70–100 damage because of the amazing damage modifiers available. Fighting also just so happens to be Dark’s Weakness, which will likely be important in Dallas. The Fighting decks I expect to see are Lucario-GX, Buzzwole FLI/Garbodor, and potentially Hitmonchan.
- Archie’s Blastoise
Archie’s might not be a great deck, but it has a loyal group of players, and with the new Supporter rule likely being implemented before the following Expanded Regional (Collinsville ), this may be the last time for Archie’s to be at all viable. The turn 1 Cross Division-GX is still disgustingly powerful if you can pull it off, so Archie’s will always be able to steal games from potentially bad matchups.
- Night March or Vespiquen
- Doll Stall
- Other Control
Night March and Vespiquen are similar enough decks to where I don’t think grouping them together is too big of a crime. I think that the unfortunate truth for these two decks is that they lose to Ultra Necrozma, and are thus outranked and will see much less play.
Durant is something that has been around for almost a decade now. The card is incredibly good in the right format, and with Item lock and Control decks at an all-time low, it is possible that Durant can make a comeback in Dallas. I fully expect multiple people to try and make it work.
Doll Stall. Why? Like, actually why? All of the current lists take a hard loss to Turbo Dark, and also lose to multiple decks that can easily play Oranguru UPR as a Mill counter. I wouldn’t be caught dead playing this deck, and I think the fact that it showed up weeks before Dallas indicates that very few or no top players are actually considering anything close to what we have seen so far. Also, there’s a better Tropical Beach deck. It’s called Shock Lock.
Other Control variants will always exist. For instance, I’m sure that ZoroToad is somewhat viable and will see some play, but the average player likely isn’t going to play it. Sableye is also a thing, as is Shock Lock, but both decks are either mediocre (Sableye) or limited to Tropical Beach owners.
Turbo Dark (My Top Play for Dallas)
1 Mew FCO
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 15
* 2 Darkrai-GX BUS 88
* 1 Greninja & Zoroark-GX UNB 222
* 1 Mega Sableye & Tyranitar-GX UNM 245
* 1 Guzzlord CEC 136
* 2 Sneasel UPR 73
* 1 Weavile-GX UNM 132
* 2 Shaymin-EX ROS 106
* 1 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 1 Darkrai-EX LTR 88
* 1 Oranguru SUM 113
* 1 Sudowoodo GRI 66
* 1 Mew FCO 29
##Trainer Cards - 33
* 2 Professor Sycamore STS 114
* 1 N FCO 105
* 3 Battle Compressor Team Flare Gear PHF 92
* 2 Hypnotoxic Laser PLS 123
* 1 Colress PLS 135
* 1 Escape Rope BUS 163
* 4 Ultra Ball SUM 161
* 4 Max Elixir BKP 102
* 4 VS Seeker ROS 110
* 1 Guzma BUS 143
* 3 Sky Field ROS 89
* 4 Dark Patch DEX 93
* 1 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 1 Dowsing Machine PLS 128
##Energy - 12
* 12 Darkness Energy Energy 7
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=78908 ******
I’ve played a lot of games with Dark in the last month or so, and this is the list that I have ended up on for now. There are a few techs that I’ll mention that could see inclusion in my final list depending on which matchups I want to beat more.
This is by far the most greedy card count in this list. I rationalized it by saying that I have multiple other attackers that will allow me to take Prize cards and hopefully draw the ZoroNinja if I do Prize it. Logically, you should only need to Dark Pulse one time in a match, so that isn’t an issue unless the ZoroNinja is KO’d before you can even attack.
This card is hilariously broken. You can Gust up a Shaymin-EX and take 3 Prize cards. You can also take 2 Prize cards at once against decks like Ultra Necrozma and Night March. On top of that, Mew can copy it, so you might even be able to use Red Banquet multiple times in a game. Oh, and it’s a 1-Prizer.
This card is my 2nd ZoroNinja and 2nd Guzzlord in one card. The amount of games that I have been able to steal with Greedy Crush is ridiculous, and the GX attack is an amazing alternate win condition against Control and Stall decks. This is also your out against Shock Lock.
I really want a 2-2 line, but space is incredibly tight. I have opted to play a 2nd Sneasel though, because in matchups like EggLet, I don’t want my opponent to KO my one Sneasel and just win the game unless I can pull off Dark Union-GX. I’m currently playing Sneasel UPR because it has 70 HP. At the Iowa Marathon I played Sneasel CES and never used Beat Up, which means that I was playing an inferior card for three days. Whoops.
This card is great against so many decks right now. In the mirror match, if you limit them to 4 Benched Pokémon turn 1, they will almost certainly not be able to have an amazing board state. Against Mewtwo Box, one less Giratina LOT (Distortion Door) hit can be the difference between winning and losing at times. And obviously, there’s the Zoroark-GX matchups where their entire game plan hinges on having a massive Bench.
As it was, the deck had exactly 1 out to getting out of Active when retreat was prevented in some way (i.e., Guzma). Something as little as Hypnosis could feasibly buy opponents a turn against Dark. I’m currently playing Escape Rope for two big reasons:
- It beats Shock Lock when paired with SableTar.
- Having a switching card under Ability lock is very good.
Another great card that was brought into the format with Cosmic Eclipse. A Gust effect with no odd conditions that need to be met. An Item that discards cards and Gusts. This card was literally made for Dark.
I think that this list is pretty much near-perfect—if the meta that you expect does not include the random Fighting-type counters that I fully expect to see. However, I currently have accepted rough matchups to decks like Lucario-GX.
I think this tech would be enough to fix the Lucario matchup. The theory here is that you discard your SableTar and use Perfection to copy Greedy Crush to take the extra Prize on a GX, without risking the Energy that would otherwise be in danger when attached to the actual SableTar.
I played with this over the Escape Rope in Iowa, but I got sick of losing to Shock Lock and made the change. I think that Shock Lock has a very real shot of doing well in Dallas, so I’ve decided to keep the change. However, I will say that having the extra search card felt good.
The Matchup Spread
Mewtwo Box: 60%
In my experience at least, this matchup is fine. There are multiple ways that you can go about this matchup. First, you can go for an early Dead End-GX and just go from there to take your last Prizes with Dark Pulse. However, some Mewtwo lists are playing ways to avoid Special Conditions, which causes issues. Against these lists, it is going to be best to KO two random Pokémon with Guzzlord and SableTar. Despair Ray is somewhat of an issue with that strategy, but that attack is inferior to almost every other attack that your opponent can use. In this scenario, it is best to use Mew FCO to copy Dark Pulse to take Prizes and then use ZoroNinja to take the last 3 Prizes on a 2nd Mewtwo.
This matchup is incredibly favored if you play it well. SableTar seriously shines in this matchup because you only need to KO 2 Zoroark-GX. Your whole goal in this matchup should be to get Weavile-GX in play, get 5 Energy on SableTar, and KO two GXes. You need to do this without burning too many Items to prevent Trashalanche from creating any issues for you. One thing you also need to worry about is that some ZoroGarb lists are playing Counter Gain and LoPuff to deal with Turbo Dark. In this situation, you need to avoid benching too many Pokémon-GX. On the bright side, if they put LoPuff down, you only need to KO 1 Pokémon with a Prize card boost effect, because you can Dead End-GX the LoPuff.
Ultra Necrozma: 55%
This matchup is only fine because of Guzzlord. Basically, you need to do whatever you can to not give up 6 Prize cards before you can take yours. This can happen a few ways. One cute play that can swing the Prize trade into your favor is to attack with a TAG TEAM, tank a hit, and then Field Blower a Sky Field to discard the heavily-damaged TAG TEAM. There’s really not much else to say here. N is good, Guzzlord is good, and they’re likely to miss an attack at some point in the match if you N-spam them.
This matchup comes down to how fast you get going. If your opponent hits turn 1 Wonder Energy, then it gets a lot closer. If they do not, then an early Dead End-GX is an easy 3 Prize cards. Your opponent will likely miss a heal at some point in the late game if you spam N and Dark Cleave. Once they finally take a hit you can take a KO to win the game. Dark Pulse or Dead End-GX will almost always net you 3 Prizes between them.
Doll Stall: 80%
This matchup is relatively free. You can take out 2 Dolls at once with Night Spear, you can take 2 Prizes at once with Guzzlord, and you can move Energy around at will with Weavile-GX.
Well, that’s all from me today. I’m almost for sure playing Turbo Dark, Shock Lock, or a Fighting deck in Dallas.
I’ll be back with another article the week after Dallas with what I hope is a positive result. As always, good luck in whatever events you’re playing, and maybe you’ll see me around?
Until the next one.
…and that will conclude this Unlocked Underground article.
After 45 days, we unlock each Underground (UG/★) article for public viewing. New articles are reserved for Underground members.
Underground Members: Thank you for making this article possible!
Other Readers: Check out the FAQ if you are interested in joining Underground and gaining full access to our latest content.