About Me and the 2010 Format
Some Modified formats were better than others, and some of those formats have been more fondly remembered than the rest. What makes one format better than another is a topic for a different day, but I believe there is no denying that it is the case that some formats are just better and more fun to play. The allure of what made those formats so great has led to a growing movement within the Pokémon community to “go back in time” to play and revisit these formats. One of the most revered Modified formats of all time was DP–UL, which served as the card pool for the 2010 World Championships.
My name is Evan Cole. I am 20 years old and pursuing a degree in mathematics at Loyola University Chicago. I’m a casual Pokémon player who has found himself as a part of the social side of the game, where I have forgone competitive play to dedicate myself to old formats. I have been a part of the old format movement since 2016, when I became fascinated with the 2010 Worlds format after being charmed by the design of Pokémon SP. While I did not compete during these formats, I have since spent the past four years of my life learning about these old decks and metagames, with special guidance from my mentor Cara Querin and the top players who played when these formats were the then-current Modified format. I created the Snowpoint Temple Facebook group in 2017 to have a dedicated forum for discussion of “old formats” and the decks that inhabit them, while also providing a place for those new to old formats to learn more about any specific formats or decks. Over these past four years, I have poured hours and hours of my life into studying and considering every archetype from nearly every Modified format that has ever existed. More recently, I have challenged myself to build decks that can fit well into these metagames, including modifying established archetypes or promoting and playing under-played rogue decks. With 2010 being my favorite format, my tallest and most recent challenge has been to tackle its strongest and most daunting archetype: Gardevoir.
There isn’t much debate that Gardevoir is the strongest deck in the format. Gardevoir SW as a card is one of the most oppressive Pokémon ever printed, and was viable in all three Modified formats that it lived in, with the DP–UL format hosting one of its strongest iterations ever thanks to the power of Double Colorless Energy. SixPrizes’ resident Gardevoir expert Jay Hornung has already spoken in depth on the archetype and why it is so dominant. It is necessary to understand the deck in order to be able to beat it, and Jay’s article is a priceless resource. In his article, he states that Gardevoir has favorable or even matchups against every other significant archetype in the metagame, and I agree with that analysis. For the past 10 years, it has appeared that Gardevoir is unbeatable. No archetype has proven that it has a consistently favorable matchup against Gardevoir. The archetype that we have seen come closest to this title is Steelix, but even then we saw it lose to Gardevoir in the finals of the DP–UL tournament at NAIC 2019.
I set a goal for myself to search for the missing link—to discover that archetype that not only can survive when it squares off against Gardevoir, but can also boast good matchups across the rest of the board. If a truly viable deck can be discovered that puts Gardevoir in its place, such an innovation could unlock an entirely new metagame for the format 10 years after it officially rotated out of Modified play. With the help of my testing partners, I finally discovered the path that would lead us to this new world. Little did I know that the answer was right under my nose the whole time. Amazingly, the answer is actually the archetype that has been my absolute favorite since I first learned of it years ago: Flygon/Torterra.
- About Me and the 2010 Format
- The History of Flyterra
- The Deck
- Matching Up Against the Rest of the Meta
- Flyterra’s Shortcomings
- Where To Go From Here
- Closing Remarks
The History of Flyterra
Flygon RR is a phenomenal card that had an immediate impact in the metagame upon its release. Top players Sami Sekkoum and Jay Hornung piloted Flygon to second and third place finishes respectively in the Masters Division of the 2009 World Championships, with David Cohen also taking a second place finish in the Seniors Division with Flygon. There were two dominant versions of Flygon at the time: the fast, hard-hitting combination of Flygon and Machamp SF, and the much slower Flygon Stall, which sought to mill out its opponent for the win with a combination of Palkia LV.X’s Restructure Poké-Power and Trapinch SW’s Sand Tomb attack (thanks to Memory Berry) to lock Bench-sitting support Pokémon like Claydol GE to the Active while milling the opponent with Flygon LV.X’s Wind Erosion Poké-Body. While this combination may sound convoluted, it proved to be deadly, and Flygon Stall was certainly a force to be reckoned with.
With these two wildly different Flygon archetypes, surely the card should have continued to see success into the 2010 season, where there would be no Modified rotation, leaving the format to remain DP-on. The very next set, Supreme Victors, saw the release of Garchomp C LV.X, a powerful Pokémon SP that has just the right typing to punish Flygon thanks to the Pokémon’s Colorless Weakness. The story only got worse for Flygon with the release of HeartGold & SoulSilver, where the reintroduction of Double Colorless Energy gave Garchomp C LV.X a way to take out Flygon with merely a single Energy attachment. (Sidenote: While the release of Double Colorless Energy was the nail in the coffin for Flygon, it would mark the revival of Gardevoir into the powerhouse we know now.) With Flygon being pushed out of the meta after HeartGold & SoulSilver, it looked to be the end for the Pokémon that was once on top. However, there would be one more set before the summer—one last chance to help revive Flygon before the series of National Championships and then Worlds.
While Unleashed was generally considered to be a weak set by players at the time, one of the cards printed was Torterra UL: a 140-HP Pokémon with favorable typing and an attack that allowed it to heal itself. Some players saw potential in this tank of a Pokémon, including David Sturm of Germany, who decided to combine Torterra and Flygon, giving birth to Flyterra.
David went on to win Germany’s National Championships, earning himself an invite to the World Championships. There was a small amount of buzz online about the archetype after David’s win, but he still decided to take Flyterra into Worlds, where he would finish 5-2 in Swiss and earn himself a Top 32 berth, where he would face…Gardevoir, piloted by Gordon Coates. Coates would win the match in three games, ending David’s incredible run. If you would like to learn about David’s decklist and his Worlds run in detail, check out his tournament report here!
Using what we know about Flygon RR at its peak and how David crafted and piloted his Worlds list, let’s figure out what made Flyterra work, and how we can make it even better.
At its core, Flyterra combines the speedy Flygon with the slow, powerful Torterra to create a midrange deck that tries to answer any possible matchup. Let’s take a moment to break down every option at the deck’s disposal to identify what makes it so versatile:
- The primary attack is Flygon RR’s Power Swing, which hits hard for only two Energy attachments with a Double Colorless Energy, offering a fast option.
- Sand Wall allows for Flygon to disrupt your opponent in a pinch, while also affording you a turn of immunity and disincentivizing your opponent from playing Stadiums.
- Rainbow Float gives free retreat to any of your Pokémon, meaning your fat 4-Retreat Torterra can run away with ease. Rainbow Float allows you to heal up your damaged Active while also being a soft counter to Luxray GL LV.X’s Bright Look Poké-Power.
- Flygon LV.X’s Wind Erosion Poké-Body disrupts your opponent while also offering an alternate win-condition in the late game against other slow decks.
- Flygon LV.X’s Extreme Attack lets you Knock Out nearly every Pokémon LV.X in a single hit!
- Torterra UL’s Giga Drain is the other primary attack of the deck, allowing it to survive any attack that comes its way and tank to a slow, sure victory, particularly against decks with Colorless attackers that would otherwise prey upon Flygon’s Weakness.
- Torterra SF’s Crash Impact acts as a counter to Fighting-weak Pokémon (such as Luxray GL or Regigigas) by swinging for a base 60 damage for just one Energy attachment.
- Torterra LV.X’s Forest Murmurs Poké-Power is a powerful disruption effect, opening up the possibility of more lines for taking out your opponent’s board. Just be sure you’re behind on Prizes!
David opted for a thick 3-2-3-1 Flygon line, while keeping his Torterra line at a thinner 2-1-(1/1)-1 count. He must have anticipated a faster meta, which would necessitate prioritizing Flygon in the early game while cleaning up the late game with Torterra. David was right to make this analysis, as his Swiss matchups ended up being exclusively aggressive decks, with his Top 32 loss being to the slower archetype of Gardevoir.
As we have learned more about the DP–UL metagame and which decks are the strongest, there has been a shift away from these fast, somewhat-fragile aggressive decks and toward the slow, tanky, value-oriented decks that grind the game out. This outcome is evident by the results of the 2019 NAIC tournament, where the only fast archetype to make Top 8 was Gyarados. As the metagame does move in this direction and the fast SP decks fall out of favor, it is important that the best Flyterra lists reflect this shift and prepare for more slow decks. While David just barely lost to Gardevoir with his list, we can still improve upon what he created to better suit Flyterra to this slow meta. And so, I introduce to you that improvement:
1 Azelf LA
1 Uxie LA
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 26
* 3 Turtwig UL 67
* 2 Grotle UL 31
* 2 Torterra UL 10
* 1 Torterra SF 11
* 1 Torterra LV.X DP 122
* 2 Trapinch SW 115
* 1 Vibrava RR 53
* 2 Flygon RR 5
* 1 Flygon LV.X RR 105
* 2 Baltoy GE 60
* 2 Claydol GE 15
* 1 Nidoran + RR 71
* 1 Nidorina MT 56
* 1 Nidoqueen RR 30
* 1 Azelf LA 29
* 1 Bronzong E4 RR 16
* 1 Spiritomb AR 32
* 1 Uxie LA 43
##Trainer Cards - 20
##Energy - 14
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=80948 ******
Differences from David’s Decklist
- -1 Trapinch SW
-1 Vibrava RR
-1 Flygon RR
-1 Baltoy GE
-1 Claydol GE
-1 Warp Point
-1 Call Energy
- +1 Turtwig UL
+1 Grotle UL
+1 Torterra UL
+1 Rare Candy
+1 Expert Belt
+1 Memory Berry
+1 G Energy
I’ve kept the general skeleton of David’s list mostly intact. I think his choices in 1-of Pokémon were correct, and I still find Bronzong E4 to be an essential card in this deck. This list prioritizes attacking with Torterra UL, since tanking with Giga Drain is the most effective strategy for winning games. As such, I’ve thickened the Torterra line while trimming down the Flygon line. 3 Expert Belt is crucial to the tanking strategy, both granting Torterra an extra 20 HP and healing an additional 20 with each Giga Drain attack. This list takes tanking and grinding out games to heart, and there is more that we can do to follow this strategy than merely using Torterra UL.
Looking back at that Flygon Stall archetype that was so successful at the 2009 World Championships, we can adopt that deck’s strategy and apply it to Flyterra. Torterra LV.X’s Forest Murmurs Poké-Power is actually better than Palkia LV.X’s Restructure, and all it takes is an Active Flygon LV.X and a Memory Berry to possibly mill your opponent away. I have found this strategy to be the deck’s X factor against other slow matchups, allowing you to pull out a win in situations where the game feels out of your hands. Your opponent will have to scramble to find their Warp Point, Warp Energy, or Switch, because Memory Berry can be utterly crippling if your opponent has no way to answer the Sand Tomb. In particular, any opponent that has a Spiritomb in play or a Nidoqueen on the Bench will likely lose the game on the spot without an answer.
The main strategy against Gardevoir is the main strategy of the entire deck: set up Torterra and tank. Gardevoir’s greatest strength is its potential to place a stranglehold on the game as early as turn two. In this matchup in particular, the Gardevoir player’s goal should be to attempt to lock you out of the game ASAP. If they can disrupt your setup, they can prevent you from ever reaching the critical mass necessary to tank out a victory.
Gardevoir decks like to start with Spiritomb. While the Trainer lock is disruptive, Spiritomb is ultimately a slow card, and setting up behind Darkness Grace means your opponent is unlikely to get Gardevoir online immediately (barring having the perfect hand of Gardevoir, Moonlight Stadium, Psychic, and Double Colorless). If the Gardevoir player is setting up slowly, you have the best opportunity to establish a Torterra, and possibly even get a Cosmic Power or two before the lock starts.
Once Torterra gets online, Psychic Lock proves to be too weak of an attack. You will be able to heal off potentially all damage that Gardevoir deals to you each turn, which will force the Gardevoir player to abandon Psychic Lock. Be sure to keep a Claydol on standby even while getting Psychic Locked, because the Gardevoir player will be forced to abandon Gardevoir, opening up the use of Poké-Powers to you. The most logical and common response to a Torterra is Gallade SW, Gardevoir’s partner in crime.
Gallade’s Psychic Cut attack is typically the Gardevoir player’s best chance at taking care of a Torterra. Psychic Cut has a maximum damage output of 180 without an Expert Belt, which is enough to KO a Belted Torterra LV.X! Psychic Cut is the perfect answer to Torterra, but luckily for us there are several flaws in this attack. A maxed out Psychic Cut can only be used once, as the attack requires the player to flip over their upside-down Prize cards, preventing those same Prizes to be flipped again. If you respond to a Psychic Cut with a second Torterra UL, it should spell game over for Gallade. Another counter to Psychic Cut is to let the Gardevoir player take Prizes early on. If the Gardevoir player has already taken some Prizes, they will not be able to reach high enough of a damage output to KO Torterra. This strategy also works well if they do establish an early Psychic Lock, as you can sacrifice Basics in the Active while setting up a Torterra on the Bench. So, while Psychic Cut is a potential solution under the Gardevoir player’s belt, it is only temporary and can be worked around.
I used Jay Hornung’s list as a baseline for my decklist’s matchup, as it has become one of the most popular Gardevoir lists out there. However, Jay’s list certainly isn’t the only list being used, and some lists will have more outs for this matchup than Jay’s. The biggest out missing in Jay’s list, and the one you are most likely to run into, is F Energy.
The likeliest place to find a Gardevoir deck running F Energy is alongside the inclusion of Machamp SF, such as in Michael Pramawat’s second place Worlds list. While we shouldn’t be worried about Machamp’s role in this matchup, the inclusion of F Energy enables Gallade’s other attack: Sonic Blade. By dropping your Torterra down to just 50 HP, suddenly healing off damage with Giga Drain won’t necessarily be enough to get out of the range of a Psychic Cut. If you have an Expert Belt and no Nidoqueen, you will leave yourself with 110 HP going into the Gardevoir player’s turn, where they can then Psychic Cut you for the knockout while flipping over a substantially smaller amount of Prize cards (three if they don’t have a Belt, two if they do).
With F Energy giving Gallade a more potent response to Torterra, the best answer is not to try to tank out with Giga Drain, but to instead try to Knock Out Gallade as quickly as possible. Flyterra does not have an easy way to 1HKO Gallade, especially against Pramawat’s list. The inclusion of Dusknoir caps Flygon’s base damage output to 90, leaving Nidoqueen and her Ruthless Tail attack as our only option. With Gallade’s +30 Psychic Weakness, the opponent must have a full Bench for Nidoqueen RR to reach that 100 damage mark. If Gallade has an Expert Belt, then Nidoqueen will also need an Expert Belt. Fortunately for us, Pramawat only ran two Expert Belt in his list, but a player who is experienced in this matchup will know to save a Belt for Gallade.
I have spent the majority of this section explaining how to overcome the hurdles that Gardevoir variants could present. That is because while Gardevoir typically commands that its opponent finds answers to its lock, what makes Flyterra different is that the deck places the burden on the Gardevoir player to try to find an answer to Torterra UL. The inclusion of Dusknoir in Jay’s and Michael’s decklists is what gives them a chance against Flyterra, but not all Gardevoir variants run Dusknoir. There are some Gardevoir variants that simply fold to Flyterra with little potential for winning. In particular, healing variants that emphasize Nidoqueen and Poké Healer + will not be able to out-tank Torterra, while also lacking the deck-space to dedicate to running Dusknoir. The Gardevoir/Giratina variant also does not run Dusknoir, and Giratina LV.X’s spread attack shouldn’t be enough to take out your board before you are able to Giga Drain your way to victory.
While Gardevoir is capable of having tricks up its sleeve to try to combat Flyterra, this list is well-suited to overcome Gardevoir a majority of the time, ultimately leaving you with a highly favorable matchup against the best deck in the format. Of course, Gardevoir is not the only other deck that exists in this format, so let’s briefly analyze how Flyterra performs against the rest of the metagame.
Matching Up Against the Rest of the Meta
Luxchomp is aggressive and disruptive and was once hailed as the undisputed best deck in the format. Luckily, Flyterra was built specifically to beat Luxchomp, as evident by David Sturm going undefeated against it in his Nationals and Worlds runs. Bronzong E4 shines in this matchup, preventing your opponent from chaining Cyrus’s Conspiracy every turn by resetting their hand while also walling with its bulky 90 HP. Torterra SF is a direct Luxray GL counter, allowing you to Knock it Out with a single Crash Impact just for one Double Colorless! Don’t be afraid to give up a few Prizes, because Torterra UL should be able to take you home to victory after you’ve exhausted Bronzong E4 and Torterra SF, especially if you have Forest Murmurs online. Avoid playing Flygon if you can due to its Colorless Weakness. Watch out for possible inclusions of Blaziken FB or Entei & Raikou LEGEND. Don’t forget that Luxchomp is the best archetype at teching itself out, so always be prepared to have been prepared against.
Cursegar likes to spend the early game setting up behind Spiritomb, which should allow you time to build up your own board. Cursegar is a likely candidate to be running Dusknoir DP, so be careful about filling out your Bench. Likewise, think twice about setting up a Claydol thanks to Gengar SF’s Shadow Room attack. This list does not run Unown G GE, meaning there is nothing saving Claydol from being sniped out. Just focus on tanking with Torterra and you should be able to pull yourself across the finish line. Gengar SF’s Fainting Spell Poké-Power is the great equalizer that can turn any matchup in its favor, so try to avoid getting punished by softening Gengar up with Torterra before retreating into a different Pokémon, such as Uxie, to KO it. Gengar LV.X’s Level Down Poké-Power can be annoying as well, but Leveling Up their Gengar can leave them susceptible to your Flygon LV.X’s Extreme Attack.
ProTip: This matchup lends itself well to winning with Memory Berry due to most lists running Spritiomb and Nidoqueen, so don’t be afraid to pull out a win that way.
Matchup: Slightly Favorable
Regigigas is a control deck that seeks to tank with Regigigas LV.X’s high HP and Sacrifice Poké-Power while disrupting the opponent with Regigigas DP40’s Drag Off attack. Regigigas’s typing is favorable against Flygon, and being a Basic Pokémon with 170 HP after an Expert Belt is difficult to take care of, especially if your opponent keeps healing themself with Sacrifice. This is another matchup where you should think twice about setting up Claydol due to the power of Drag Off. In the event that your opponent does Drag Off an unfavorable Pokémon into the Active, try to take advantage of Flygon’s Rainbow Float to give it free retreat. Also, don’t forget about Flygon LV.X’s Extreme Attack. Regigigas LV.X has a base HP of 150, meaning it will always be in 1HKO range of Extreme Attack. If they attach an Expert Belt to go up to 170 HP, attach your own to deal 170 damage to them.
Torterra SF’s typing can also help you out here, able to deal 160 damage with a Belted Crash Impact, which will 1HKO an un-Belted Regigigas LV.X. Sometimes it only takes Knocking Out one Regigigas to win the game, so consider setting up a Grotle with three Energy to then surprise your opponent with a Land Shake able to 1HKO Regigigas. Be aware that some Regigigas lists run Abomasnow SF, whose Water typing is favorable against Torterra SF.
Matchup: Slightly Unfavorable
Steelix is another underrated Tier 1 deck whose goal is to tank its way to a victory. Most Steelix lists run ample amounts of healing cards, which can lead to long games and make it difficult to score KOs. Gaia Crush’s damage output is nothing to scoff at, making this matchup one of the rare instances where the late game actually favors the opponent rather than Flyterra. Special M Energy reducing our damage output also reduces the amount we heal from Torterra, so the name of the game in this matchup is to swing early and hard with Flygon. Fill your Bench up and Power Swing to pack that damage on. While it can buy you a turn or two, using Torterra as your main attacker is generally a losing battle. However, thanks to Steelix being slow and tanky, this is yet another matchup that we can win in the late game with Memory Berry if your opponent isn’t careful and exhausts their resources too quickly.
Sablelock relies on donking with Sableye, with a fallback plan of being an effective Garchomp C-based SP deck that generally attempts to disrupt you more with cards such as Cyrus’s Initiative and Chatot G. The presence of Garchomp C can create problems for Flygon, so this is another matchup where you should prioritize disrupting with Bronzong E4 and attacking with Torterra. Sablelock lists are likely to run Blaziken FB, so it’s best to come into the matchup expecting to run into Blaziken. This is a matchup where Sablelock can take cheap Prizes early, but be sure to stick to the Giga Drain strategy, you should be able to outlast them.
Gyarados is one of the most explosive decks in the meta, able to do 110 damage without attaching a single Energy. There isn’t much you can do about preventing Magikarp from hitting the discard pile, but there are two things in this matchup that work in Flyterra’s favor:
- Gyarados needs Broken Time-Space to function, allowing you to dispose of the Stadium with Sand Wall while preparing to KO a Gyarados the next turn. Without Broken Time-Space, the Gyarados player cannot have another Gyarados in play unless they benched a Magikarp in their previous turn, which will hurt their damage output.
- Gyarados also fills its Bench with small Pokémon that you can Forest Murmurs into the Active in order to stall and heal. Consider attacking with Flygon and Nidoqueen for big damage, and retreat into Torterra when you need to heal up.
Jumpluff is another explosive deck that swings for big damage as fast as it can, but it is also quite fragile. This is a matchup where Spiritomb shines, so just avoid getting donked and set up behind Spiritomb. You should be able to win the game by tanking with Giga Drain. Nidoqueen is also an effective attacker in this matchup, as it can 1HKO Jumpluff with Ruthless Tail. Since Mass Attack relies on your Bench as well, try to keep it as low as you can so you can suppress their damage output. Doing so will prevent Flygon from being an effective attacker, but you shouldn’t need Flygon in this matchup except when using Sand Wall to discard their Broken Time-Space.
While Dialgachomp is not an unwinnable matchup, it is certainly Flyterra’s more difficult matchup. On their own, Dialga G and Garchomp C are certainly beatable, but the combination of the two spells trouble for Flyterra. Dialga G LV.X is a tank that prevents Giga Drain from dealing or healing much damage, and one good Remove Lost on your Torterra can be absolutely devastating. Flygon is the best answer to Dialga G, especially thanks to Extreme Attack, but Garchomp C is a great Flygon counter by attacking for Weakness. With this duo, Flyterra must navigate the matchup very carefully. Forest Murmurs is your friend in this matchup, but a savvy Dialgachomp player will try to save their Power Sprays just for Forest Murmurs. Try to play for the long game and get the Dialgachomp player to exhaust their Double Colorless Energy, and then out-tank the late game. Fortunately for you, Dialgachomp’s damage output caps out at 80, meaning your big Stage 2 Pokémon can try to survive into the end-game. Just get ready for a Remove Lost, and try to Extreme Attack Dialga G LV.X before it gets enough Special M Energy that it won’t be 1-shot.
While Flyterra is a solid Tier 1 deck, it certainly isn’t unbeatable. The deck’s biggest strength is being able to go toe-to-toe with the rest of the top decks in the meta. Flyterra is able to accomplish this because most of its weaknesses simply aren’t present in those decks, but that certainly could change. Here are Flyterra’s shortcomings, and how to take advantage of them to beat the deck.
Being a tanky deck whose engine runs through Flygon and Nidoqueen, having a full Bench is key to Flyterra operating at full capacity. If you have Flygon, Nidoqueen, Claydol, and two Torterra in play, you are likely next to unstoppable. This is where Dusknoir DP comes in. With its Dark Palm Poké-Power, Dusknoir is able to shuffle away those big Pokémon on your Bench. Because Flyterra relies on Stage 2 Pokémon and does not run Broken Time-Space, it is difficult to simply get one of its key Pokémon back into play immediately after being shuffled into the deck. Not only is Dark Palm’s disruption annoying—it can cause your entire game plan to fall apart. From the perspective of the opponent, shuffling away a fully-loaded Torterra LV.X can buy enough time to beat you before you can get that Torterra back online.
The best thing you can do to avoid being hit by a Dusknoir’s Dark Palm is to simply never let your Bench get larger than three. Dark Palm can only be activated if the opponent has four or more Benched Pokémon in play, meaning you can completely avoid the issue if you prepare for it. The downside, of course, is that it is incredibly difficult to operate at full capacity with just a three-Pokémon Bench. By having to limit your Bench size from the get-go, just the presence of Dusknoir has done enough to put you on the back foot in matchups that would highly favor you otherwise. However, I can say from experience that it is way better to keep your Bench to three from the get-go than to unwittingly walk into a Dark Palm that throws your fully-loaded Torterra back into your deck because you didn’t prepare for a Dusknoir.
A deadly combination that was played by Mitch Silva during the 2010 season and subsequently rediscovered while testing the Flyterra vs. Gardevoir matchup, the addition of Honchkrow SV in a deck with Dusknoir can be brutal if you do not prepare for it. Even if you prepare for a Dusknoir by keeping your Bench to three, a well-timed Honchkrow can ruin your whole day thanks to its Darkness Restore Poké-Power, which will bring a Basic Pokémon onto your Bench from your discard pile. Since Darkness Restore puts that fourth Pokémon onto your Bench, your opponent is now free to use Dark Palm on your strongest Benched Pokémon (such as a Torterra with enough Energy attached to it!). Typically the Pokémon put onto your Bench with Darkness Restore will be a setup Pokémon such as Spiritomb or Bronzong E4, meaning you’ll be left with a worthless Bench-sitter after being Dark Palmed back down to a three-Pokémon Bench. Honchkrow works especially well in Gardevoir, as the combination of Moonlight Stadium and Gardevoir LV.X’s Teleportation Poké-Power ensures that the Gardevoir player can consistently get Honchkrow in and out of the Active slot.
While the Dusknoir + Honchkrow combination is at its deadliest against an unwitting opponent, it still is not unbeatable. Though restrictive and annoying to play against, the best way to circumvent Darkness Restore is to only let your good Basic Pokémon get discarded. If the only Basic Pokémon in your discard pile are Trapinch, Turtwig, and Nidoran +, your opponent is disincentivized to put one of those Pokémon back onto your Bench, since you will be able to just evolve it into the Pokémon you want on your Bench. This strategy technically isn’t perfect, but if your opponent is dedicating a Dusknoir and Honchkrow on their board, they are also indirectly setting themself behind by taking up those Bench spots, effectively leaving them with just three slots on their Bench as well.
In a similar vein, another effective counter to Honchkrow is to simply not have Basic Pokémon in your discard pile. This feat is easier said than done, but have no fear if you do end up with Basics in the discard pile, because there are ways to get them out! In my list, the one copy of Night Maintenance can do the job of getting Basics out of your discard before Honchkrow comes online. If you find yourself running into Honchkrow and want to tech your list to better combat it, consider running more Pokémon recovery cards, including Night Maintenance, Time-Space Distortion, and Pokémon Rescue.
Since my decklist has opted to make Torterra the focus and primary attacker, it is only natural that Fire types would have an advantage over Torterra. And with Torterra being released in the HeartGold & SoulSilver block, it has ×2 Weakness rather than +30 Weakness, making Fire types seem even more deadly. Luckily for Torterra, however, there are very few viable Fire type Pokémon at all in this format, and even fewer that can be teched into decks. In fact, given what we currently know about the DP–UL format, there are only two viable Fire Pokémon that can be teched into decklists.
Blaziken FB LV.X is a fast, hard-hitting, Energy-efficient attacker that can be splashed in any SP deck. It probably should have been in more SP decks than it was, because not many people actually ran Blaziken FB back in the day. I think we’ll see more SP decks running Blaziken FB if they want to keep up with today’s meta. Blaziken can 1HKO a Torterra UL even with an Expert Belt.
While normally run for its Thunder Fall attack, Entei & Raikou LEGEND’s typing and efficient attacks give it a nice edge against Torterra. Thunder Fall probably won’t do much damage against Flyterra, especially if you prepare for it, but Detonation Spin can 1HKO a Torterra UL, even with an Expert Belt!
While Torterra UL has ×2 Weakness, Torterra LV.X actually has +30 Weakness, which is crazy! Leveling up your Torterra UL will save you from being 1HKO’d by both Blaziken FB and Entei & Raikou LEGEND, and can almost nullify the effectiveness that these Fire types offer (especially after you heal with Giga Drain!). Speaking of +X Weakness, if you somehow find yourself up against Fire types often, one small fix could be to replace your Turtwig UL and Grotle UL with Turtwig DP and Grotle DP to subvert that ×2 Weakness altogether, leaving just your Torterra UL vulnerable.
No matter which way you look at it, the fact of the matter is that Flyterra is a deck built around two Stage 2 Pokémon, with a third Stage 2 Pokémon as a helper. With so many different Stage 2 lines, it can be difficult to consistently establish a board. Due to the slow nature of the deck, Flyterra generally has enough time to set up even without a great start. After all, sometimes all you need is just one Torterra UL set up to win the game. However, these concerns arise in certain situations where an opponent can prey on this volatility in consistency to pick up quick wins. In particular, the best chance for both Gardevoir and Luxchomp to beat you is in the early game by preventing you from ever getting properly set up.
Ultimately, I find this shortcoming to heavily depend upon your decklist. My list presented in this article is an attempt at a deck that can handle nearly any archetype in the format, but having such a list that tries to answer everything results in a list that can be preyed upon by specific decks in a similar way to how my list is able to prey upon Jay Hornung’s “perfect” Gardevoir list. I believe the best answer to this shortcoming is to identify your local metagame and change the list accordingly, just as David Sturm did when he built his list to specifically combat fast, aggressive decks. I don’t think my list will end up as the be-all-end-all list for the rest of time, so let’s consider some ways that you may try to change this decklist.
Where To Go From Here
As I am writing this article, Flyterra is generally seen as a Tier 2 deck with high potential. Hopefully I have convinced you with what I have presented in this article that it deserves to be considered Tier 1. As such, it’s entirely possible that, in the future, Flyterra is seen as a powerful meta deck that players prepare against, teching out their lists with some of the cards described earlier (or cards I didn’t even think of!) to better combat Flyterra. In particular, they may tech their lists against the specific list that I have presented in this article. So, in this section, I will attempt to predict the future by offering potential suggestions to changing up your Flyterra list in case you do find yourself being teched against.
Even MORE Stall!
It may end up being the case that the format continues its trend of favoring slow, grindy decks. In situations like this, it is usually the greedier deck that will win these matchups. So, let’s increase our counts of the cards that help us out in these slow matchups. Increasing the amount of Spiritomb, Memory Berry, and F Energy allows for a more consistent way to win the game by more comfortably setting up in the early game and more consistently getting our Sand Tomb lock to mill the opponent’s deck away in the late game. If you decide to run more Spiritomb in your list, then also consider slotting in a basic D Energy for Flygon’s Rainbow Float.
Stop Messing With My Board
Dusknoir DP is already an annoying card that can disrupt its opponents, and it is the single most effective card against Flyterra. Pairing it with Honchkrow can be a death sentence for Flyterra if the opponent’s plan comes to fruition. There doesn’t seem to be much that can be done to prevent this combination from happening, but there is, in fact, a card that we can include that could help combat Dusknoir and Honchkrow. Alakazam MT’s Power Cancel Poké-Power allows you to outright deny Dark Palm from being used. And, since this deck already runs Rare Candy and P Energy, it won’t be crippling to add Alakazam as well. However, discarding two cards from your hand can be brutal, especially against Gardevoir where you could be locked out of using Cosmic Power to refresh your hand. I should emphasize that this is an inclusion I have only considered conceptually; I do not have experience playing it in Flyterra. I would only recommend giving Alakazam a try in a meta full of Dusknoir, as Dusknoir is the most effective single card against Flyterra.
I began this endeavor of defeating Gardevoir (and the 2010 format as a whole) as an exercise in innovation and deckbuilding. When I first began learning about old formats, I was handed decklists which I then built and played without modifying at all. Being handed a decklist is a good start, but it should only be a start. The first time I ever changed an old format decklist was when I modified Jay Hornung’s Gyarados list from his iconic “Bright Looks and Psychic Locks” article, and since then I’ve continued to change the lists in my personal collection. While I believe it is important that we maintain these decklists as examples of how to successfully build any given archetype, I also believe that there is yet-unexplored territory in old formats.
With the growing popularity of hosting tournaments for these old formats, the metagame is just as fresh as ever, which should provide more drive in players to improve their decks. With as much collective thought-power that has been put into discussing these formats long after they have rotated, new opinions and innovations have arisen that ultimately change the way we look at these formats now compared to when we did a decade ago.
While I wrote this article to present my work in tweaking and testing this list, my ultimate hope is that I have inspired you to consider changing and innovating your decklists. Despite the amount of love and devotion I have poured into Flygon/Torterra since I first learned of the deck several years ago, I hope that we continue to innovate the format to the point where we learn how to dethrone it, because that would mean that there is still so much more we can discover about the incredible DP–UL format.
I want to give special thanks to Stefan Tabaco and Jay Hornung for testing against every Gardevoir list under the sun with me, and for also letting me bounce ideas off of them. Thank you to Cara Querin for being the person to ignite this fire inside of me, and for being my biggest influence for the past four years. Thank you Jay, Stefan, Cara, and Scott Creech for helping review and edit this article to get it ready for publishing. Finally, thank you to David Sturm for inventing this amazing deck in the first place. It is my favorite deck of all time.