Hello everyone, Kenny Wisdom here for the first time in almost exactly a year! What a year it has been. These past few months in particular have been some of the strangest of my lifetime, as I’m sure you can all relate. In the interest of staying positive and spending some time thinking about something non-quarantine related, this article will primarily not be about COVID-19. With that being said, there has been one major upside of this situation for me personally: It’s reignited my spark for competitive Pokémon.
If you know me, you know that my relationship with competing has been much different than that of the average player for more than half a decade now. Some time ago I made the decision to primarily focus on commentating and other content-producing aspects of the game, and clearly it was the right choice for me. Since then I’ve mostly stayed out of the tournament scene, choosing to play my local events here and there, but mostly committing myself to playing online and reading articles to stay up to date with the game.
When it was announced Worlds would take place in London in 2020, I made the decision to recommit myself, at least for the first half of the season, to playtesting extensively, competing in tournaments, and trying to get an invite. For the first few months I enjoyed a return to the grind, but a combination of a new, time-consuming job and some light anxiety issues caused me to decide to take a break for a few months in late 2019.
Before I could fully decide whether to extend that break or not, TPCi made the decision for me by canceling the rest of the organized play season, which, while heartbreaking, was absolutely the right call. One unforeseen benefit of this cancelation, and ultimately the thing that gave me the fire to start playing again, was online tournaments! The Limitless Online Series is definitely the most well-known series of all (and I will be competing in Q3 and Q4!), but there are a ton of smaller tournament circuits going on all the time, mostly organized on Discord servers and advertised on Twitter.
While my interest in particular formats has waxed and waned, I’ve never stopped loving the thrill of competition. With online tournaments allowing me to compete from the comfort of my own home (where jetlag and panic attacks are increasingly unlikely!) it was a no-brainer for me to find a team to test with and throw my hat back in the ring of serious competition. It remains a mystery to even me what I’ll decide to do when traditional, real-life tournaments are an option again, but for now I’m really enjoying the benefits of online play, even if the rest of the world leads a lot to be desired.
3 Net Ball
2 Tag Call
12 Grass Energy
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 17
##Trainer Cards - 28
* 3 Net Ball LOT 234
* 2 Big Charm RCL 206
* 1 Energy Recycle System CES 128
* 2 Boss’s Orders RCL 200
* 2 Mallow & Lana CEC 231
* 4 Switch SUM 160
* 2 Tag Call CEC 270
* 3 Quick Ball SSH 216
* 1 Life Forest p LOT 180
* 4 Professor’s Research SSH 209
* 2 Marnie SSH 208
* 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 215
* 1 Guzma & Hala CEC 229
##Energy - 15
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=81080 ******
There are a few different ways that you can play with Rillaboom VMAX, Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX, or a combination of both, but after testing pretty extensively since Rebel Clash’s release, this is where I’ve landed. Credit for the list and a lot of the theory behind the archetype goes to Luke Morsa.
The primary gameplan of this deck is to use RowEgg-GX’s Super Growth to get an early Rillaboom SSH 14 into play. What you do next largely depends on the matchup and how the first few turns have played out, but thankfully you’ve got a few different options. Against most of the best decks in the current UPR–RCL metagame, the play pattern from there will usually involve buying time either building up another Rillaboom SSH 14 or using Calming Hurricane, before eventually taking a big KO and/or decimating your opponent’s Energy development with Tropical Hour-GX. Once your TAG TEAM GX is Knocked Out, you can move in and take the final knockout or two with a Rillaboom VMAX.
Depending on the specific situation, you may end up completing these steps in slightly a different order or ending the game in a slightly different way, but generally you want to get as much as you can out of your RowEgg in the early turns, and often that will put your opponent behind enough that it doesn’t really matter how you choose to close out the game.
As I said, there are a few different ways you can take this deck, so allow me to break down what I think are the most important card choices.
Rillaboom SSH 14 is the engine that makes this deck work, but determining how many you want in your deck can be a little strange. In my experience, you will sometimes have two out at the same time (if your opponent isn’t putting up too much pressure and if you believe you can wait on building up a Rillaboom VMAX), and you will never have three. However, you absolutely always need one in order for the deck to function, so I’ve settled on a count that tries to focus on consistency while not taking up the full 12 slots. The fact that you need the Thwackey and Rillabooms in your deck at the same time means that I would never play anything less than a 3-3-3, even if we only usually have a single copy out at a time.
As I began writing this article, I put “Rillaboom VMAX” as filler in the title section, which may make what I’m about to say sound strange, but…this deck is really only playing Rillaboom VMAX because it has to.
Don’t get me wrong, scoring mid- to late-game 1HKOs with Rillaboom VMAX is not too difficult and feels great, and you generally do want something to start dealing some bigger damage and cleaning things up quickly after a Tropical Hour-GX. With that being said, 280 damage does sometimes fall short of of a knockout on some of the higher-HP Pokémon in the format, and only having 3-Prize attackers in your deck isn’t exactly ideal.
After my first few dozen games with the deck, I realized how much this deck relied on Rowlet & Alolan Exeggutor-GX, and began to question whether we should be playing Rillaboom VMAX at all. After talking it over with Luke and others, and doing a deep dive on pkmncards.com, I unfortunately came up a little bit short on other attackers. Having so much HP and being able to be evolved through Super Growth in a pinch are real benefits, but I can’t help but feel there could be something better out there. I do want to eventually experiment with Pheromosa & Buzzwole-GX, but it would probably be in addition to, not a replacement for, Rillaboom VMAX.
The first thing I did when putting this deck together was build both a Tag Call version and a more traditional version that relied more heavily on cards like Marnie and Acro Bike. After going back and forth testing both for a while, I found myself winning more with the Tag Call version, and at this point haven’t touched the other version in days. Here’s a short list of the major things the Tag Call Engine does for you:
- Tag Call itself is extremely flexible as it can find both of the TAG TEAM Supporters and our preferred early- to mid-game attacker (i.e., RowEgg-GX).
- The “full” version of Guzma & Hala has the benefit of not only finding Big Charm, but also Capture Energy, which can be huge in the early turns of the game. Because Tropical Hour-GX only requires you to have 3 extra Energy (as opposed to specifically Grass Energy), it’s essentially free to attach the Capture Energy and find a Grookey to turn into another Rillaboom SSH 14. If Fire types are as big a part of the metagame as they appear to be now, the ability to find Weakness Guard Energy also cannot be understated. Even without paying the extra costs, Life Forest p can outright win games on its own, and having a virtual 2nd copy of a Prism Star card is never a bad thing.
- With all of our Pokémon having a pretty high Retreat Cost and giving up a lot of Prizes, the first half of Mallow & Lana is probably better in our deck than any other in the format. Discarding cards to unlock the full version is very very worth it in the mid game and often can feel like making your opponent skip a turn. The first stage of most games revolves around trying to do everything you can to not get your RowEgg-GX Knocked Out, and Mallow & Lana goes a long way in doing that. It’s not uncommon to win games by just sticking an early Life Forest p, using a few Mallow & Lana, and riding your TAG TEAM GX to victory.
I could see the format developing in such a way that the healing route isn’t viable anymore, and there’s a need to be more aggressive and diversify attackers. If this happens I wouldn’t be opposed to switching to a different engine, but for now I think Tag Call provides too much benefit to be ignored. I’m still tinkering with the exact numbers, but I think this is pretty close to optimal.
I tend to say this about a lot of decks that accelerate Energy, but: I would play more Grass Energy if I could. Probably not more than two, but I do consistently find myself wanting more Energy. Not enough that I’ve added Energy recursion cards or just bitten the bullet and played more Grass, but it’s definitely an option as the format changes.
I’m unsure of the role of Weakness Guard Energy in this deck. We’ll cover specific matchups a little bit later, but if you’ve been following the Standard format, you know that Fire-type decks are currently pretty popular. Weakness Guard Energy is obviously very important against these decks, but feels so much worse than another Capture or Grass in the rest. At the end of the day they are worth it, especially given they’re searchable, but they often feel very awkward.
I already went over a lot of the benefits of Capture Energy in this deck, so let me use this time to say a little more about this card generally. Capture Energy is one of the best cards to come out of Rebel Clash and I think we’ll see that statement a lot more as the format changes and especially once rotation hits. The effect is extremely powerful, and this deck showcases it more than almost any other.
With the format as young as it is, I’m not sure it’s very valuable to speak in minutiae about how to play against each deck. It’s almost a guarantee that new strategies will emerge after Limitless Qualifier #3, and even if there are no newcomers, that event will absolutely help to define the format going forward.
Additionally, this deck largely wants to play out the same versus most matchups (refer back to the general strategy section), so painstakingly finding new ways to describe the same thing doesn’t sound very beneficial for any of us. That being said, here are some guidelines and my overall thoughts on what I consider to be the Tier 1 decks in Standard.
One of the biggest reasons to play Rillaboom VMAX is the positive ADPZ matchup. Rebel Clash injected a ton of powerful cards into the format, but unless everything is turned upside down after Limitless Qualifier #3, ADPZ is an archetype that is here to stay.
Here, you’re going to rely more heavily than ever on Tropical Hour. If you can Tropical Hour on your third turn, assuming the opponent didn’t have a godlike start, you should have a pretty easy path to victory. Just be mindful that Altered Creation is broken, and that they play a lot of Energy Switch.
This matchup is in your favor, but you have to remember a few key things:
- Build up 2 Rillaboom SSH 14 if you can. They’re going to be targeted with Max Phantom and you want to get off as many Voltage Beats as you can.
- Despite the low Energy requirements of Dragapult VMAX, Tropical Hour is very good against them. Calming Hurricane into Tropical Hour is more than a KO on the VMAX, and forcing the opponent to manually attach over two turns can spell an easy victory for you.
- Their damage output is low, so if you think a few turns ahead and are disciplined with your healing cards (not discarding them early, being mindful to play Life Forest p only when you need it), and try to factor in Giant Bomb, you should be able to initiate a Prize trade that is favorable for you.
I’m gonna give it to you straight, this matchup is not good. Between Weakness, the abysmal Prize trade, and the ability for Blacephalon to take huge KOs out of nowhere, this is by far the matchup I’ve struggled with the most.
There are still some things you can do to give yourself the best odds of winning, though:
- Be aware that they generally play around 12 Fire Energy, and usually have some number of Energy Retrieval in addition to Fire Crystal for recursion. While it’s virtually impossible to ever truly know what they can do on their turn, keeping track of what they have left and what they’re likely to do is really important. This becomes easier to do in online tournaments, which are often open decklist.
- Another thing to be very mindful of is that they’ll most likely be playing Cramorant V, which is a disincentive to play a Dedenne onto the board, and means that your Bench is never safe.
- Lastly, you’ll want to lean on Weakness Guard Energy as much as possible. Finding a copy with Guzma & Hala, attaching to your Active as early as possible, and then making sure you save the last attachment for a Pokémon you’re sure you’re going to be attacking with are all very important.
I love this deck and think that an engine consisting of Rillaboom SSH 14 and RowEgg-GX is an inherently powerful strategy that I’ve had a lot of fun exploring. The recent rise of Baby Blacephalon gives me pause, but outside of that I think you are favorable versus a lot of decks and have game versus almost everything. I haven’t locked in what exactly I’ll be playing at Limitless Qualifier #3, but if deck submission were due right now I’d choose this deck and feel confident in doing so. I encourage you to test it out, get a feel for it, and know how to play either with or against it going into this weekend. I’ll see you all there bright and early (Limitless is not kind to those of us on the West Coast of the United States), most likely with Eggs in hand.
Thank you all for reading, and as always please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or want to know anything else. I love talking about this deck and don’t have a whole lot better to do right now, anyway.
P.S. I’ll make a more “official” announcement on this soon, but starting late May or early June I’ll be streaming PTCGO on Twitch three or four days a week. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, I would really appreciate a follow at twitch.tv/kwisdumb. “See” you soon!