Going into UPR–RCL for Limitless Qualifier 3, I had one major question on my mind: “How does Mill make it?” My only priority was finding a way for Mill to deal with the new metagame, namely Dragapult VMAX. Dragapult was a major obstacle to overcome. The intense pressure it could apply to Mill’s boardstate was seemingly game-ending and I had a difficult time trying to figure out how to prevail over it. Dragapult took Prizes too quickly and I rarely got close to reaching my win condition. All I knew was that I had to branch out and I had to be creative, because the lists I was running at the time weren’t going to cut it.
My initial thought was to try Mareep Mill, a variant of Mill that relied on Mareep LOT 75 to put your opponent’s Pokémon to sleep and then utilized Slumbering Forest to maintain the sleep condition. This mechanic allowed for the Mill player to buy themselves time to mill their opponent more gradually by slowing down the opponent’s ability to take Prizes. In theory, this bought time. Cinccino Mill wasn’t cutting it because Dragapult didn’t allow it enough time to reach a win condition and I rationalized that, because Mareep’s role was to slow down the Prize trade, it might be able to buy enough time against Dragapult to reach a deck-out. Boy, was I wrong…
What I didn’t realize was that Mareep Mill’s engine in Magcargo CES was even more vulnerable to Dragapult. Magcargo allowed the Mill pilot to retrieve specific cards at will. However, it doesn’t build a powerful hand in the way Cinccino SSH does and that leaves it at a disadvantage in regard to recovery. When Dragapult Knocks Out a Cinccino, Cinccino Mill usually has more Cinccinos and a strong hand in order to recover from the knockout. The knockout slows down Cinccino Mill, but it doesn’t cripple it. Contrary to Cinccino, when a Magcargo gets Knocked Out the Mill pilot is severely crippled and loses their primary method of getting the cards they need. Zacian V still draws cards, but those cards cannot be used until the next turn. Not having immediate access to cards leaves the Mill player vulnerable and can allow for the Dragapult player to take an even more convincing lead. In addition to this, Mareep only has 50 HP, which means that it’s an easy Prize for Dragapult and therefore a liability in regard to the Prize trade. Considering the fact that Dragapult could both cripple the draw engine and the sleep support in one attack, I deemed it an near-unwinnable matchup.
Moving forward, I recognized that the only path to success was with Cinccino. I tested a plethora of ideas, most of which ended up fruitless. However, one of them produced interesting results. I tried to fit a thin sleep lock package into Cinccino Mill. Looking back, the only reason I tried this was because I kept getting frustrated with Crushing Hammers whiffing and my reasoning was that both Mareep and Hammer stalled the opponent’s ability to attack, but Crushing Hammer had a 50% success rate at doing so while Mareep and Slumbering Forest would produce a 75% success rate. While testing it, I realized that Mareep in Cinccino solidified a lot of Cinccino’s good matchups, but took away from some of Cinccino’s consistency and made the Dragapult matchup even more risky. In time, I dropped Mareep from Cinccino. I took my break from Crushing Hammer just long enough to appreciate it again. Eventually, I realized the blatantly obvious answer in Sky Pillar and I ended up taking Cinccino Mill with Sky Pillar to a Day 2 finish in Limitless Qualifier 3. However, my testing with Mareep taught me something that stuck with me: Mareep is insanely good when it doesn’t have to deal with Dragapult. That’s why, going into Darkness Ablaze and the POG Championship, Mareep has incredible potential.
Mill in DAA
When I decided to start toying with Mill in Darkness Ablaze (DAA), I recognized that, despite my love for Cinccino, I’d have to look toward Mareep Mill. Dragapult’s place in the meta is severely compromised with the introduction of Eternatus VMAX, which looks to be a strong contender that completely steamrolls Dragapult. As a result of that, Mareep has its chance to shine. Looking at Mareep, I had two viable options: (1) Traditional Mareep Mill and (2) a newcomer to the metagame, Mareep/Dragonite Mill.
The debut of Mareep/Dragonite Mill came via the unofficial Japan Nationals 2020 tournament, where the pilot took the deck to a Top 8 finish out of over 200 participants. The deck used almost exclusively pre-DAA cards with the only exception being Bird Keeper, which could easily be substituted. The deck saw minor success in the UPR–RCL format, with a few placements in some of the more popular online tournaments such as the Sunday Open. However, it didn’t see much more than that. Like its more traditional counterpart, this sleep deck struggled to beat Dragapult consistently and the deck seemed to stay fringe. However, with the inevitable decrease in play Dragapult will see going into DAA, I think this deck becomes significantly better and I think it’s a solid choice for the POG Championship.
2 Dragonite TEU
2 Oranguru UPR
2 Zacian V
1 Aipom SM244
1 Mew UNB
1 Mimikyu CEC 245
1 Oranguru SSH
4 Bellelba & Brycen-Man
4 Lt. Surge’s Strategy
2 Bird Keeper
2 Cynthia & Caitlin
2 Misty’s Favor
1 Lance p
4 Lillie’s Poké Doll
4 Pal Pad
4 Quick Ball
2 Reset Stamp
1 Ordinary Rod
1 U-Turn Board
4 Capture Energy
4 Speed Lightning Energy
1 Fire Energy
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 14
##Trainer Cards - 37
* 2 Cynthia & Caitlin CEC 228
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 179
* 2 Bird Keeper DAA 159
* 1 Lusamine UPR 153
* 1 U-Turn Board UNM 211
* 4 Lt. Surge's Strategy HIF 60
* 2 Misty's Favor UNM 202
* 1 Faba LOT 208
* 4 Lillie's Poké Doll CEC 267
* 2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
* 4 Pal Pad SSH 172
* 1 Lance p DRM 61
* 4 Bellelba & Brycen-Man CEC 186
* 4 Slumbering Forest UNM 207
* 1 Ordinary Rod SSH 215
##Energy - 9
* 4 Capture Energy RCL 171
* 1 Fire Energy HS 116
* 4 Speed Lightning Energy RCL 173
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=82229 ******
One of the reasons I adore this deck is its simplicity. As much as I love drawing through my deck with Cinccino, there’s a pretty extensive period in which you are just trying to set up and draw through your deck, find pieces, deny Prizes, and advance your boardstate. This deck does just a few simple things: Find Mareep, play Slumbering Forest, put your opponent’s Active Pokémon to sleep, draw cards, and repeat. At some point, your opponent takes a knockout and you play Lance Prism Star. From there you continue to put your opponent’s Active to sleep until they can’t cope anymore. Obviously the deck isn’t that simple, you still have to make correct plays and have decent gamesense. However, it does prove to be a more relaxing and fun build and it is a great choice for someone trying to get into alternate win conditions.
How the Deck Works
Due to its lack of popularity, I want to briefly help people who are trying to get into alternate win-condition decks to get a head start when figuring out the deck. The deck revolves around locking your opponent’s Pokémon to sleep consistently and then using Dragonite TEU, which you set up with Lance Prism Star, to retrieve Supporters reliably. Eventually, your opponent runs out of options to get out of sleep without waking up naturally and you can quickly take the game. Dragonite allows the player to reliably utilize Lt. Surge’s Strategy to draw through their deck and/or mill the opponent.
Explanation Behind the List
The deck runs some seemingly-unorthodox card counts in comparison to a traditional Mill list. After playing the archetype more, you begin to understand the justification behind the structure of the list. However, I’m going to alleviate some of the difficulty by elaborating on parts of the list that I feel might be more confusing to the untrained eye.
1 Aipom SM244
Although I usually opt for Persian TEU to fill this niche, Aipom allows you to punish your opponent for having a large hand. Persian is unfortunately unrealistic, as the deck is designed in a way that doesn’t cater to Evolutions. I find Aipom to be most useful in the mid-game where you aren’t using Reset Stamp yet. This allows you to have an opportunity to aggressively target your opponent’s resources. Despite its inherent randomness, being able to punish your opponent for holding onto a large, powerful hand can greatly accelerate your win-con. Your opponent has a limited number of answers to getting an Asleep Pokémon out of the Active Spot. Having the ability to remove one of those answers before they are utilized can be vital. Aipom also reduces the number of cards that the Mill pilot will need to mill after a Reset Stamp.
1 Oranguru SSH
Oranguru allows you to put a Dragonite from your hand back into your deck in order to use Lance Prism Star to put it onto the field. Oranguru also has some niche additional uses, such as digging an extra card deeper, fixing the first card your own Bellelba & Brycen Man (BBM) would mill, and even drawing an extra key card late-game after using Resource Management. However, its main purpose is to reliably fix Lance turns.
4 Lt. Surge’s Strategy
Traditionally, Mill lists have run a maximum of 2 Surge. Mareep Mill has even cut down to a single Surge at some points. However, Surge is a major asset to the Dragonite engine. Having access to 2 Dragonites, which would allow you to choose 2 Supporters per turn, allows for frequent and consistent Surge turns. All the Mill pilot needs to pull off a Surge turn is have access to one of the three desired Supporters. Surge also increases the pilot’s ability to pull Lance off effectively. Surge enables the player to use Misty’s Favor to find and use Lance immediately. Lt. Surge’s Strategy allows for flexible and reactive gameplay for the Mill pilot.
4 Pal Pad
Pal Pad’s strength is magnified when paired with the Dragonite engine. Pal Pads can effectively act as a double VS Seeker when given access to double Dragonite. This allows the Mill player to find specific Supporters precisely when they are needed, which allows for a very reactive playstyle.
Side Note: A deck with an inherently reactive playstyle is typically easier to pilot, as a proactive playstyle often requires more premonition and gamesense. Reactive decks allows players to deal with most problems as they surface, rather than predicting them and preparing for them beforehand.
2 Reset Stamp
Reset Stamp is a card that I don’t typically see included in Mareep Mill archetypes and I cannot understand why it isn’t. Reset Stamp allows you to reduce your opponent’s chance to answer sleep lock as much as possible late game. Although it does put cards back into your opponent’s deck, being able to basically force your opponent to naturally wake up to be able to attack their next turn is super powerful and one successful milling turn should make up for the cards added into the deck. Once you’ve amassed enough resources to do so, you can comfortably sit behind a Lillie’s Poké Doll, have your opponent’s Active Pokémon Asleep, give them almost no hand, and start Milling behind the Doll. This puts your opponent in a position where they need to topdeck into both Boss’s Orders and an answer to sleep while you are Milling away. The chances of that happening are slim, and you can always Reset Stamp them again if they amass a hand that might have one of those pieces.
4 Capture Energy, 4 Speed L Energy
The Capture Energies are essentially 4 extra Quick Balls that double as Energy options. Because this deck only needs to find Basic Pokémon, the Capture Energies allow the list eight guaranteed outs to finding Zacian V and ten guaranteed outs to finding Mareep (Including the Pokémon themselves). This makes the deck incredibly consistent, especially because the deck doesn’t need much to execute its strategy.
The Speed L Energies double as a way to draw two free cards and an option to retreat Mareep. These provide consistency and allow the deck to draw more aggressively on key turns. In addition, Speed L Energy can act as a pseudo-Make Do in the late game. If the player needs to retrieve non-Supporter resources after a Resource Management, they can make a Speed L Energy to be their topdeck and then attach it to Mareep in order to draw into the other two resources. It’s often not needed, but it’s a good tool to have at your disposal.
In any Mill deck, Girafarig is a very niche card to include. However, in certain matchups it can sway the matchup heavily. It is notoriously good in the mirror match and it helps tremendously against Mewtwo & Mew-GX variants. With the fall of Dragapult, Malamar/Mew3 could pose a serious threat. Although you won’t be favored regardless, Girafarig gives you a slightly large opportunity to beat it. If you expect decks that struggle to cope with permanently losing resources, it might be worth the slot.
3rd Dragonite TEU
Although it might prove to be a dead card in many circumstances, the 3rd Dragonite greatly reduces the chance that prizing will prevent an optimal Lance.
3rd Misty’s Favor
Misty acts as an out to Lance Prism Star, which you want to retrieve as soon as possible. The deck appreciates a thicker count and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to run 3–4 of them. However, I cut the 3rd and 4th Misty’s in order to include luxury cards such as the Lusamine and the U-Turn Board.
The initial Top 8 Japanese list ran Mewtwo & Mew-GX and Magcargo-GX instead of the Mimikyu I opt for. As I have in every Mill list I’ve run, I’ve opted for the more space-efficient and less Prize-vulnerable option in Mimikyu CEC 245. The initial choice of Mew3/Cargo relied on not prizing either Mew3, Magcargo, or the single Fire Energy. Mewtwo & Mew-GX is also a terrible start, while Mimikyu hitting the board early isn’t very punishable.
By far the most tempting concept for me with this deck is the incorporation of a thin hand-lock package. Dragonite’s ability to use choice Supporters at will screams viability for Control. The list already runs Reset Stamp, so the only things that would need to be added is a method of removing cards from the opponent’s hand, such as Jessie & James or Mars, and a way to control the opponent’s topdeck, such as Chip-Chip Ice Axe or Gothita DAA. The only issue with this strategy is that sleep lock isn’t completely reliable and an inopportune awakening could cost the Mill pilot the game. It might be more realistic to just use Reset Stamp and hope they don’t get lucky or build a Dragonite Control variant, where you can focus more on establishing a more complete lock.
With most of my articles, I find it necessary to provide a brief summary of how to play different matchups and what to be cautious of. I think having a game plan greatly increases your chance of success and can accelerate the learning process for those who are new to this type of archetype. Luckily for this deck, it boasts an impressively favorable matchup spread.
Whenever I pitch this archetype, or many similar archetypes, for the POG format, I’m usually asked how the deck can cope with Vikavolt. For some decks, it’s necessary to run a Channeler in order to be able to break the lock. However, I’ve come to notice that Vikavolt struggles against Mill, especially Mareep.
Item lock is annoying in many ways. However, Vikavolt’s damage output, or lack thereof, is a huge benefit to the Mill player. Without modifiers, Vikavolt Knocks Out an Oranguru in three attacks. That’s incredibly slow when dealing with a deck that can aggressively mill. Of course, Vikavolt has damage modifiers in Electropower, but those are finite and can be disposed of through milling. Inevitably, Vikavolt will be in a position where it will be taking a single Prize every three attacks. The Mill player can continuously loop Surge, BBM, BBM and quickly take the game. However, that’s without considering sleep. With sleep lock, in addition to eventually running out of Electropowers, Vikavolt has a finite number of switching options. Eventually, the Vikavolt player will be milled 6 cards per turn, while taking a knockout every three times it wakes up naturally and only locking Items when they wake up naturally. With this gamestate, Mill will win.
Side Note: Always be proactive when considering gusting. The Vikavolt player will likely hold a Boss’s Order in an attempt to gust-trap a Zacian V on the Bench and deck you out. However, this is easily circumventable by making sure you always have access to a Bird Keeper.
Centiskorch is quickly shaping up to be a major competitor in the DAA metagame. However, I feel as if the matchup can vary depending on the list. I’ve seen Centiskorch lists run a mere 4 Switch, which would be favorable for Mareep. However I’ve also seen lists with varying counts of Escape Board and some lists, especially those built around healing Centiskorch, running Mallow & Lana. Realistically, it’s going to be less favorable as answers to sleep increase. However, you can always mill and/or counter their answers.
Side Note: Mill has always had issues with Fire decks that have reliable gusting options. Although Centiskorch doesn’t play Ninetales TEU, it can still take 2 Prizes fairly efficiently by gusting Zacian V. Don’t continue to bench Zacians if you know they still have gusting options left at their disposal.
Unfortunately, ADPZ is not a favorable matchup. The reality of the matchup is that they take Prizes quickly and efficiently and you don’t play Crushing Hammer to slow down their setup. It’s not an unwinnable matchup, especially with the decline of Escape Board in ADPZ as of late. However, they need four attacks to win the game: Altered Creation and three knockouts. ADPZ typically runs 4 Switch, so, just from that, they have enough answers on paper to win the game. Additionally, traditional ADPZ usually runs a single Escape Board. Most ADPZ lists will likely have those five answers, while likely only needing access to four. Moreover, you have to consider that they will likely wake up organically at some points.
Dragonite Mill’s strategy to beat ADPZ relies on getting some fortunate mills, hiding behind Lillie’s Poké Doll at the right times, disrupting their hand, and hoping your opponent doesn’t wake up at an inopportune time. The only variables that the Mill player can control within that strategy is the hand disruption and hiding behind Dolls. Hand disruption is relatively easy, as you play Reset Stamp. However, the most crucial point to the game plan is to understand when you should be hiding behind Dolls and when to be recovering resources. With a Doll in the Active Spot and your opponent’s Active Pokémon Asleep, the opponent needs both a Boss’s Orders and an answer to sleep to take Prizes. The key is to force the opponent to have both of those resources on turns where it’s easier for them to attack, and to use Resource Management whenever they find it most difficult to attack.
A common scenario will be using Oranguru immediately after a Reset Stamp. This forces them to have an answer to switch their Active Pokémon while giving them the least resources to do so. It’s also important to dispose of the Escape Board early, as you don’t want them to be able to reliably pivot into Jirachi whenever they use a Switch. The reliable pivot allows them to continue to use ADP as their attacker, and you want to force them into attacking with a less efficient attacker, such as Zacian. Additionally, you don’t want them to be able to dig for another Switch with Stellar Wish. Unfortunately, despite your efforts, it will often come down to whether you hit their final answers to sleep with your milling before they Intrepid Sword into them.
Eternatus VMAX is an interesting matchup as well. Similar to Centiskorch, no one knows what an optimal list looks like and, depending on what each list runs, the favorability of the matchup can vary. Luckily, I haven’t seen many Eternatus lists running a lot of answers to sleep. However, unlike many of your other matchups, that isn’t all that matters. Eternatus has three major concerns for sleep lock, which, interestingly enough, are all possible tech Pokémon:
- The first is Absol TEU. Absol makes retreating/pivoting really awkward for the deck. It’s not game-ending, but it is mildly infuriating.
- Secondly, Eternatus can run Spiritomb UNB. Spiritomb can provide an efficient attacker, but can also Knock itself Out, which would break the sleep lock. However, this is likely not a huge issue, as the self-KO strategy takes time and can’t be done repetitively.
- The last tech Pokémon for Eternatus is easily the most intimidating: Alolan Muk TEU. Alolan Muk’s Adventurous Appetite Ability allows the user to look at their opponent’s top 6 cards and discard any Item cards found there. With this, if the Mill player is not careful, the opponent can deck you out. It’s niche and it’s a pretty space-intensive and unreliable tech for a likely-uncommon matchup, but it does force the Mill player to consider another level of counter-play. Luckily, Alolan Muk is a Stage 1, and you will know to play around it as soon as an Alolan Grimer hits the field.
As much as I hate to say it, Dragapult is likely not completely dead and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that a few diehard fans of the deck decide to bring it. Dragapult will definitely see a major decline in play, as it has terrible matchups against other relevant VMAX decks. However, it still has its favorable matchups here and there and it’s probably not the worst play in the world.
If you are unlucky enough to hit one of the few Dragapult players, the biggest advice I could give is to be careful with benching additional Mareep. Mareep is always a free Prize for Dragapult, so just be careful what you bench. It’s not unwinnable, but it’s not anywhere near favorable. Just be smart with the Prizes you are giving up and hope they aren’t able to attack too often. You can’t do too much more past that.
Side Note: Be careful regarding your Zacian V when your opponent has few Prizes left and could have access to gust. In addition, make sure to always have access to a spare Slumbering Forest, as some Pika lists run Wondrous Labyrinth p and you wouldn’t want them to catch you off guard. Missing a necessary Resource Management could lose the game and a good Pika player will try to capitalize on that opportunity with Wondrous Labyrinth p.
Except for the occasional donk, Baby Blacephalon will always be an extremely favorable matchup. They can’t handle Mill without sleep lock, so they aren’t going to handle it with sleep lock. Play around Cramorant V by putting Mew into play, put them to sleep, and start milling. It’s not much harder than that.
Combo Zacian is essentially an easier ADPZ matchup. It’s not absurdly favorable, but Combo Zacian needs far more resources in order to take extra Prizes and it’s not very realistic for them to be able to pull off more than one Jirachi p combo when you are constantly discarding their resources. They also don’t have ADP as an attacker, so they will often have to pivot their Active Pokémon after most attacks.
Side Note: Make sure to remove any Zacian V from the field once your opponent hits 3 Prizes remaining if they still have access to a Boss’s Orders.
Going into POG, I think Mareep/Dragonite is well poised in the meta. It does have a shaky matchup with a huge tier 1 contender (i.e., ADPZ), but beyond that it has a fairly positive matchup spread across the expected meta. As a result, I think you can overlook the one unfortunate matchup. Just win the rest.
If you’ve read this far, I’m flattered. I’m glad that you found this deck intriguing. I can easily say that Mareep/Dragonite has been the most fun I’ve had in a while and, if you’re looking for a fun tournament run, I’d heavily recommend it. In addition, if you are looking for a deck to start with when approaching alt-win con decks, this is a great choice. A consistent, simplistic deck that takes a favorable matchup spread? What more could you ask for? Again, I’ve had a blast testing and writing about the deck, now I just have to figure out which deck I’m going to take to the POG Championships. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you guys next time… on the other side of the BBM ban…
…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.