I Smell a Rat

The State of Expanded, Shock Lock in Collinsville, and What Almost Was (ADP/Alolan Raticate)

Hello everybody and welcome to my post-Collinsville 🇺🇸 article! I’m going to briefly review the state of Expanded, discuss my two top picks going into Charlotte 🇺🇸, and the future of those decks. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s get to it!

Elephants in the Room: The State of Expanded

Needless to say, Expanded is not in a good place right now. I’ll try not to spend too much time complaining (my opinions won’t change what Pokémon will do about it), but there are some things I’d like to bring up.

  1. First, I don’t know why Trevenant & Dusknoir-GX was ever printed. This card is inherently degenerate—you will never put TrevNoir in your deck as an attacker intending to play a fair, back-and-forth game. (This applies to Standard, as well, though it isn’t oppressive in that format.) If Pokémon bans Milotic FLF, TrevNoir will inevitably rear its ugly head again in the future. Along the same vein, Gengar & Mimikyu-GX will continue to be a problem as long as it is allowed to exist. Any combo deck, especially degenerate ones that intend to limit interaction between players, can use Horror House-GX for an extra turn. MimiGar has gotten significantly more corrupt now that the first player cannot play a Supporter on the first turn. If I were Pokémon, I would ban both of these cards. Nothing of value will be lost.
  2. Second, Stall decks also litter the format. I can’t point to a specific card that makes these deck unfair (perhaps Lillie’s Poké Doll), but it’s obviously unhealthy for over half of the format’s decks to have their win condition be deck-out or not letting your opponent play via hand lock. The popularity of this deck exacerbates the Tropical Beach problem; more on that card later. Here’s some food for thought: one thing that used to keep Stall in check was hand disruption in fast, attacking decks…which leads me to consider: was it right to ban Let Loose? I’m not necessarily saying Marshadow SLG should be unbanned—the card would later become bannable due to Scoop Up Net—but we can partially blame this ban for the advent of Stall as a Tier 1 deck.

I sincerely hope something changes before Charlotte.

Collinsville for Croxton

artsy-theo.tumblr.com

Since I had already spent considerable time theorymoning the Expanded format, but was without many days left to test, I decided to go with a comfort pick for Collinsville. This is what I preached in my Rillaboom article, and though I didn’t do quite as well as I had hoped (5-1-3), I do not regret my deck decision. I also knew that most people with access to Tropical Beaches were playing Stall variants, theoretically meaning I would go less countered. As it turns out, I ran into a Garbodor deck, two Stall decks with a hard Switch, and a Turbo Dark with SableTar.

Shock Lock

Pokémon (18)

4 Lillipup BLW 80

2 Herdier SUM

3 Stoutland BCR

3 Pikachu XY

2 Raichu BUS

1 Alolan Grimer UNM

1 Alolan Muk SUM

1 Wobbuffet LOT

1 Zacian V

Trainer (38)

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Cynthia

1 Gladion

1 Tate & Liza

 

4 Nest Ball

4 Rare Candy

3 Trainers’ Mail

3 Ultra Ball

2 Devolution Spray

2 Quick Ball

2 Rescue Stretcher

1 Devolution Spray Z

1 Evolution Incense

1 Field Blower

1 Special Charge

1 VS Seeker

 

1 Scoop Up Cyclone

 

4 Tropical Beach

Energy (4)

4 Memory

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 18

* 4 Lillipup BLW 80
* 2 Herdier SUM 104
* 3 Stoutland BCR 122
* 3 Pikachu XY 42
* 2 Raichu BUS 41
* 1 Alolan Grimer UNM 127
* 1 Alolan Muk SUM 58
* 1 Wobbuffet LOT 93
* 1 Zacian V SSH 138

##Trainer Cards - 38

* 4 Professor Sycamore BKP 107
* 2 Cynthia UPR 119
* 1 Tate & Liza CES 148
* 1 Gladion CIN 95
* 4 Rare Candy SUM 129
* 4 Nest Ball SUM 123
* 3 Ultra Ball SUM 135
* 3 Trainers’ Mail ROS 92
* 2 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 2 Devolution Spray EVO 76
* 1 Devolution Spray Z UNB 166
* 1 Evolution Incense SSH 163
* 1 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Special Charge STS 105
* 1 VS Seeker PHF 109
* 1 Scoop Up Cyclone PLB 95
* 4 Tropical Beach PR-BLW 28

##Energy - 4

* 4 Memory Energy LOT 194

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=79853 ******

This list is has some pretty uncharted territory for Shock Lock, so I’ll break down some of the choices I made. If you don’t understand any of the unmentioned choices, feel free to contact me about it.

The New Stuff

The Death of Brigette, Galarian Rapidash Paranoia, and Tapu Lele-GX

The biggest hurdle faced by Shock Lock players in Collinsville was the first turn rule change. Being unable to Brigette on the first turn invalidates the best part of the Tapu Lele-GX/Brigette engine, which is setting up many evolving Basics so they can evolve ASAP. Removing all Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX from Shock Lock has been a goal of mine since the release of Great Catcher, but this alone was not enough to push me out of using Tapu Lele; the final inspiration came from the Snorlax VMAX deck.

My initial response to SnorMAX was dismissive—how could a deck that needed to find a Special Energy every turn and gets harmed by Sudowoodo GRI be good? Well, after talking through it with Grant Manley and seeing Andrew Mahone’s list on Friday, I came to believe that SnorMAX is a bonkers deck, probably the best attacking deck in the format. Due to my high opinion of the deck’s power level (which I still hold), I incorrectly thought the SnorMAX deck was going to be popular, and thus the 0-1 Galarian Rapidash SSH line that had become standard in that deck struck fear into my heart.

My answer to Galarian Rapidash is Wobbuffet LOT, whose Shady Tail Ability prevents opposing Ditto ps from evolving into Galarian Rapidash. I could bench Wobbuffet on turn 1, then later protect it from Guzma using Stoutland’s Sentinel. In order for the Wobbuffet strategy to work, I couldn’t let my opponent ever break Sentinel lock with Great Catcher.

Therefore, I had a deck where the main merits of including Tapu Lele were diminishing, while I wanted to minimize reliance on Pokémon-GX. As soon as testing revealed that Shock Lock could survive without any Great Catcher targets at all, the Tapu Leles were promptly removed.

Item Search Engine, 4 Rare Candy, 3 Trainers’ Mail

Following the removal of Brigette, I cut out the Trainers’ Mail and did my best to find a combination of search cards that would get me through the game. You’d think that this would be easy to do—we are absolutely spoiled for choice between Nest Ball, Quick Ball, Ultra Ball, Level Ball, and Evolution Incense—but I really struggled settling on a lineup. I had to balance a variety of things:

  • Minimizing the chance of being donked with Basic Pokémon Search
  • That Level Ball gets Herdier, but not Zacian V or Wobbuffet
  • Playing enough outs to your Evolution Pokémon for the mid-game
  • Discarding some cards from hand with Ultra Ball and Quick Ball to improve Tropical Beach, but not so much that it stresses hand size or resources
  • Being able to find Rare Candy + Stoutland on turn 2 or 3 without Teammates
  • That the cards that do not discard, Nest Ball and Evolution Incense, are inflexible

The last two problems especially plagued me, and I wanted make sure I had plenty of cards that could fill in the pieces that my hand was missing. I experimented with many versions of this engine to address these, but ultimately discarded everything that I’d actually tested by shoving in 3 Trainers’ Mail and 3 Ultra Ball. Sometimes, grinding hands proves fruitless and you just have to go with your gut. This time, my gut served me well; the Ultra Balls were fantastic additions to the 4 Nest Ball core, and the Trainers’ Mails smoothed out the deck at all points in the game.

4 Tropical Beach, 1 Zacian V, 1 Alolan Grimer UNM

Unfortunately, the first turn rule makes ending turn 1 with Tropical Beach even more important. Between the rule change and the release of Zacian V, my poor Budget Shock Lock deck gets a double-whammy from SSH—there is simply no justification to using Beacon when a 1-of Zacian V does the same job, from the Bench, and also works on the first turn. You should not play this deck with fewer than 3 Tropical Beaches.

On the bright side, Tropical Beach and Zacian V complement each other quite well. If you only played Tropical Beach, you can get countered by Chaotic Swell; if you only play Zacian V, you can get countered by Silent Lab and Alolan Muk SUM.

One card that I feel goes unappreciated in this format is Alolan Grimer UNM. In one game in Collinsville, my opponent blocked my Tropical Beach with Chaotic Swell and I prized my Zacian, so I used Nest Ball for Alolan Grimer and Collected my way back into the game.

No AZ/Pal Pad, 1 Devolution Spray Z, and Shuffle-Draw Supporters

I, begrudgingly, finally removed the AZ/Pal Pad combo from Shock Lock. Space is of the essence when fitting in all the search cards, and I decided that going positive on resources ultimately wouldn’t win me enough games to justify the spots for it. While I was uncomfortable without the entire tournament, it would not have made the difference in any games unless I had also included tech Supporters like Lysandre, Faba, or Team Rocket’s Handiwork. The tech Supporters really do make Shock Lock much better in this meta, but again, space demands cuts.

The response to this removal is playing other cards that can replenish your deck, so you don’t deck yourself out first. Devolution Spray Z is a card I’ve been keeping my eye on for a hot minute, about since I was brewing Budget Shock Lock in late December. Basically, when you are down to zero cards in deck, you can Z-Spray your Raichu, and you will redraw it every turn. Devolution Spray Z is also the only way to never deck out in Shock Lock mirror. Z-Spray also has notable synergy with Herdier SUM, together infinitely preventing yourself for decking out without requiring any Pickups.

Devolution Spray Z has one glaring weakness—you will usually be stuck with just 1 card in your deck, which leaves you vulnerable to opposing Trick Shovel, or a fringe Mountain Munch from Guzzlord CEC. To ease this, I made sure to include multiple one-sided shuffle-draw Supporter cards. Of note, I played 1 Tate & Liza for an emergency switching out, to supplement my Scoop Up Cyclone. Without Tapu Lele-GX to find Tate & Liza when I’d need it, this was possibly worse than a 3rd Cynthia or a Colress. Your opponent theoretically isn’t accomplishing anything while you are stuck behind and Alolan Grimer, but still, digging for your one way to switch is no fun.

1 Scoop Up Cyclone, 1 VS Seeker, 2 Devolution Spray

Scoop Up Cyclone feels like such a fantastic card in this deck, and it’s the way to go if you aren’t running AZ. Otherwise, Computer Search should be your default choice.

I’ve always kept the trusty 1-of VS Seeker in Shock Lock, as it can serve as either a consistency card or a Pickup target while locking, since it could recycle AZ. Without AZ/Pal Pad, VS Seeker serves a different secondary purpose, being the only way to recover a discarded Gladion.

I like to make sure I’m always running enough Pickup targets for the lock combo. Without Teammates or Computer Search, and with VS Seeker unable to stand in, I added the 2nd Devolution Spray.

No Gusting

Another victim of the axe for search cards.

2 Rescue Stretcher

One of the strongest “search” cards of the deck. You want to find it early, and you’ll typically want to use this card 2–3 times a game anyway.

The Place of Shock Lock

If you are going to take one thing away from this article, know that Brigette decks are suffering. Previous front-and-center Evolution decks like Shock Lock and ZoroGarb lose some of their techability and are pushed to the fringes. The exception is RowEgg—being a turn slower to evolve hardly affects a deck that wants evolve via to Super Growth anyway.

As for the future of Shock Lock, the deck needs either a favorable meta shift or further innovation to adapt. Being forced to remove either (A) infinite resources (i.e., AZ/Pal Pad), (B) tech Supporter cards, or (C) gusting effects doesn’t ruin the deck, but with all of them gone, Shock Lock loses its robust nature. I’ll likely revisit this deck briefly in my next article.

What Almost Was: ADP/Alolan Raticate

Decklist

Pokémon (15)

3 Alolan Rattata SUM

2 Alolan Raticate-GX

2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX

2 Dedenne-GX

2 Tapu Lele-GX

2 Ultra Necrozma CEC

1 Oranguru SUM

1 Shaymin-EX ROS

Trainer (39)

4 Guzma

4 Professor Sycamore

2 Guzma & Hala

 

4 Quick Ball

3 Cherish Ball

3 Tag Call

2 Captivating Poké Puff

2 Field Blower

2 Great Catcher

2 Target Whistle

1 Rescue Stretcher

 

3 Muscle Band

2 Float Stone

 

1 Computer Search

 

2 Silent Lab

2 Sky Field

Energy (6)

4 Double Dragon

1 M

1 P

 

Copy List

****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******

##Pokémon - 15

* 3 Alolan Rattata SUM 76
* 2 Alolan Raticate-GX CES 85
* 2 Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX CEC 156
* 2 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
* 2 Tapu Lele-GX GRI 60
* 2 Ultra Necrozma CEC 164
* 1 Oranguru SUM 113
* 1 Shaymin-EX ROS 77

##Trainer Cards - 39

* 4 Professor Sycamore BKP 107
* 4 Guzma BUS 115
* 2 Guzma & Hala CEC 193
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 3 Cherish Ball UNM 191
* 3 Tag Call CEC 206
* 2 Great Catcher CEC 192
* 2 Target Whistle Team Flare Gear PHF 106
* 2 Captivating Poké Puff STS 99
* 2 Field Blower GRI 125
* 1 Rescue Stretcher GRI 130
* 2 Float Stone BKT 137
* 3 Muscle Band XY 121
* 1 Computer Search BCR 137
* 2 Silent Lab PRC 140
* 2 Sky Field ROS 89

##Energy - 6

* 4 Double Dragon Energy ROS 97
* 1 Metal Energy Energy 8
* 1 Psychic Energy Energy 5

Total Cards - 60

****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=79853 ******

No, this deck is not just a joke. (I forgive you if you think otherwise.) The idea is simple:

  1. Use Altered Creation-GX.
  2. Your opponent does not use Pokémon Ranger.
  3. You hunt low-HP Pokémon with your efficient attackers and close the game out in 2–3 more turns.

I said I played Shock Lock for comfort, but truthfully, I probably would have played ADP/Big Rat to Collinsville had I been able to gather enough Alolan Rattata SUM. Credit goes to Rudy Wade for the initial list, if you had not guessed. Since the strategy is pretty straightforward, I’ll only quickly gloss over the list.

Key Concepts

No VS Seeker, Aggressive Supporter Counts

Since we are ending the game ASAP, there is no need for to recover Supporter cards. Also, the toolbox aspect of VS Seeker has little value with such a linear Supporter line.

3 Tag Call, 2 Field Blower

My personal additions to the deck. Tag Call reads “Altered Creation-GX” because it gets you ADP and Guzma & Hala, and Guzma & Hala gets you Float Stone (to put ADP Active) and Double Dragon Energy (to attack). 3 might be excessive, but I wanted many outs so that the turn 1 GX attack happens every single game.

Field Blower is simply to make sure you can use your own Abilities by removing Tools from Garbodors and bumping Silent Lab. It also removes pesky Chaotic Swells.

2 Silent Lab, 2 Sky Field

Silent Lab disables Ultra Necrozma CEC’s Ability and allows us to attack with it. Due to our high reliance on other Abilities, Silent Lab should typically only be played when closing out the game, or before you go low enough on Prizes for N to be a threat.

Sky Field allows us to overextend on our board, and also opens up the opponent’s Bench so that you can use Target Whistle or Captivating Poké Puff.

3 Muscle Band

The best damage modifier for this deck, making Ultra Necrozma CEC hit for 220 against Zacian V. It’s also surprisingly good on Alolan Rattata SUM, allowing you to Gnaw Oddish and Trubbish for 2 Prizes.

1 Metal Energy, 1 Psychic Energy

It’s always good to play some basic Energy. In this deck, you get some extra milage out of playing them with Ultimate Ray, attaching both to an Ultra Necrozma CEC or Tapu Lele-GX.

Other Thoughts on ADP/Big Rat

It is easy to disregard a deck that gets so punished by Pokémon Ranger, but Ranger has such limited utility that few people ever bring it to major events. Due to fear of Ranger, I think this archetype—Turbo ADP with some efficient attackers and Shaymin-EX hunting cards—is mostly unexplored and deserves much more testing than it has received. Note that, based on the results from Collinsville, there is little reason to believe Ranger will now gain popularity; only 4 out of 70 Day Two players from Collinsville played ADP.

I definitely want to test this archetype further, but like I said, it’s very unexplored. Since there are so many ways it could go, I’m not convinced that Alolan Raticate-GX and Ultra Necrozma CEC are the best partners. One idea I had was replacing the rats with Silvally-GX CEC. Even with the Field Blowers, this deck is pretty vulnerable to Ability lock, mainly to Silent Lab or Alolan Muk SUM combined with hand disruption. Disk Reload can fix this with a pretty thin line. When used to attack, it has a higher damage cap than Alolan Raticate-GX, being able to reach Tapu Lele-GX and Dedenne-GX with the aid of Altered Creation-GX and Muscle Band. (Zoroark-GX does a similar thing, but you need more Zoroark-GX in play to have as much meaningful draw power.) The downside of switching out Alolan Raticate-GX, of course, is his simplicity. Having a zero-Energy attack is a very strong asset, and the free Retreat on Alolan Rattata is valuable as well.

An additional strength of Alolan Raticate-GX is as a counter to Stall decks, since they are unable to prevent Chuck Aways via Energy removal. If I removed the rats, I’d definitely want Seismitoad-EX, Noivern-GX, or Cryogonal UNM to retain this good matchup. Even with rats, it seems incredibly strong to boost any of these attackers with Altered Creation-GX.

On a final note, some techs this deck could include are Cobalion-GX and Stealthy Hood. Cobalion-GX prevents Dead End-GX, any you should win the Turbo Dark matchup every time if they are unable to respond to Altered Creation-GX with a 1HKO. Stealthy Hood prevents Alolan Muk SUM and Garbodor DRX from turning off your Oranguru SUM’s Instruct, making you less vulnerable to hand disruption. If you put both in, your chance against Shock Lock also significantly increases.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading yet another Shock Lock Expanded article! This format always excites me when I pick it up, but a week and a half of testing and playing it in the current state is quite enough for me, so I’m looking forward to switching to Standard for Mississauga 🇨🇦. You can expect a Standard article from me next week! As usual, you can direct questions to the replies under this article or my Twitter @croxtonveryepic. Until next time, take care <3

-Jonathan


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