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Karl Peters

Betting on Bats

Karl talks about the varous Crobat variants in Expanded and Standard.

01/20/2016 by Karl Peters

Hey guys, it's Karl. This time around, I’ve got an article about Crobat and its fellow bats Zubat and Golbat. Ever since Phantom Forces was released, we saw variants revolving around these cards popping out and having decent finishes, but not quite top deck potential. This, however, has changed since U.S. Nationals when Bats had a very strong showing at last year’s World Championships in Boston. Two out of the Top 4 decks were Seismitoad/Crobat decks with one of them making it into the Finals. After the World Championships, it became quite silent around these decks and Expanded was being ruled by Giratina/Seismitoad and Vespiquen. In the meantime we still saw a little bit of Bats in Standard, mainly in the form of Raichu/Bats and Fighting/Bats. The major problem for the Standard metagame was that most tournaments this season were in Expanded which made it very difficult to have a fixed and constant metagame for Standard since the only tournaments in Standard were League Challenges and Regionals in Europe outside of Germany.

The actual start for this season’s Standard metagame was probably when the Arena Cup in Berlin was taking place, because this was the first tournament in XY-BKT which would mean that this is the format for almost every City Championship in Europe, as well as the European Challenge Cup in Arnheim on 21st February. If I’m not mistaken, this should be the longest period in the same format, which could either mean that we will get a very versatile metagame that's shifting almost every week, or the difference with a "boring" metagame which stays the same. In this article, I will explain some bats variants that we all know, and also some that you might not know or might have forgotten about.

Bats in Expanded

Expanded is the format where Bats currently shine very bright as the recent metagame played into them with decks like Night March, Vespiquen, Archie's Blastoise, and Sableye which all are decent-to-very good matchups for most variants that abuse Golbat and Crobat. This is why Seismitoad/Bats started showing up with some great finishes and even Landorus/Bats made some appearances in top cuts. I think as long as we don’t see decks like Virizion/Genesect making a comeback, we are going to see Seismitoad/Bats as the main representors for Bats and maybe some Raichu/Bats or Landorus/Bats variants, but I think that the last two are just going to be random appearances instead of meta-shaping decks. As long as Seismitoad in combination Lasers stay this powerful we will definitely see it as one of the top decks.

Seismitoad/Bats

As I already mentioned, this is probably the best bats variant for the Expanded metagame as it doesn’t really struggle with any matchups aside from maybe Sceptile, but as we still got decks like Yveltal with Dark Patch or Vespiquen with the Plasma Flareon, I highly doubt that we will see any Sceptile variants in Expanded for the foreseeable future. The main strength of this deck is that it combines the strength of classic Seismitoad decks, such as Seismitoad/Garbodor and the pre-Trump Card ban Seismitoad/Slurpuff as well as a higher damage output thanks to Golbat and Crobat. This combination of cards allows Seismitoad to easily get at least two hit knockouts on most Pokémon, which was the main problem with earlier Toad variants which only had Muscle Band and Hypnotoxic Laser in combination with Virbank City Gym to boost their damage. A downside of these more damage-heavy Seismitoad variants is that we lose cards like Crushing Hammer and play a lower count of Xerosic or Team Flare Grunt, just because we have less slots that we're able to use. This downside however doesn't hurt Seismitoad-EX too much which is why this is easy acceptable.

Seismitoad/Bats also has a lot of advantages that other Seismitoad variants don't have, aside from more damage. Most of these advantages however also result from playing Bats. The first thing is that your deck doesn’t just use Seismitoad-EX and maybe Mewtwo-EX as attacker since Crobat is also a decent attacker on its own. Crobat helps a lot against Psychic-Weak Pokémon like Gallade from BKT or Safeguard Pokémon like Sigilyph and Suicune. Crobat is also a very nice answer to Hawlucha which could get quite annoying for Seismitoad-EX if you didn't manage to hit the Virbank City Gym, Hypnotoxic Laser and Muscle Band combo. But since we already got bats to boost our damage, Hawlucha is already not the threat it was to Slurpuff or Garbodor variants. And if you were wondering about the new Jirachi promo, this is also very easily dealt with as we got Basic Energy, Hypnotoxic Laser and bats as both an Ability and a very nice attacker to deal with Jirachi. 

All of these things make Seismitoad/Bats a very good choice for expanded and as long as you don't happen to play against a turn-one Archeops, you should be able to win most matchups.

Landorus/Bats

Landorus/Bats is probably the oldest variant of Bats decks since people already played it when they were released just because it was a very nice combination to use Hammerhead from Landorus-EX and also drop some more damage with your Bats to get some easy turns with multiple Prizes. When Seismitoad and Yveltal decks became popular, this deck became more of a fun deck instead of a meta deck because it had a lot of problems to deal with the metagame that didn't revolve around Night March and Virizion/Genesect. The toughest time for Landorus/Bats was after Primal Clash was released because this was the time when Seismitoad/Slurpuff started going crazy which was obviously not good for any Water-Weak decks, or decks that had to use quite a lot of Trainers to get going. Some people still stayed loyal to this deck and it never really disappeared, and even mate the Top 8 at German Nationals where it got kicked out by the eventual winner. Even today we still see some Landorus/Bats decks at Expanded tournaments which shows that it will probably never completely disappear from tournament play, but we will have to see if it's able to get back to a spot in the top five of Expanded decks.

The biggest strength of Landorus Bats is that it has a very good matchup against almost everything that uses little Basics as the combination of Landorus and Golbat already allows you to snipe 50 damage on turn two which is already enough to knock out Combee, Joltik, Zubat, the 50 HP Eevee from Furious Fists and some more. The damage on the active Pokémon is obviously even higher thanks to Strong Energy, Muscle Band and even Fighting Stadium against-EX Pokémon. The biggest weakness of this deck is that it struggles a lot to get knockouts on Pokémon-EX once you've dropped most of your Bats. If you’re able to drop three Crobat, get the Strong Energy, Muscle Band, and Fighting Stadium, you can deal 180, which is enough to Knock Out any Pokémon-EX that doesn’t have Fighting Resistance or more than 180 HP, but if we take a look at decks like Tyrantrum that only needs to get his Energy, or Yveltal which is able to use cards like Hypnotoxic Laser to boost its damage we can clearly see that this is not the best way to get some big knockouts.

The main strategy with this deck is to damage potential threats to it gets a lot easier to knock them out. You should also not greed for these big combo knockouts with multiple bats and Strong Energy as well as the aforementioned Item cards. In this deck, it's very important to not waste too many resources, so rather go for a little bit of sniping around instead of Junipering away an eight card hand just to maybe get your combo. This deck can also get very easy knock out on Shaymin-EX which is always nice. But beware the fact that your opponent can AZ it or just attack with Sky Return, so if you want to damage it, just hit it once with Hammerhead before Lysandre’ing it up and knocking it out with Hawlucha; you don't want to waste any Bat drops, so use them carefully. After these positive aspects about the deck, we also have to talk about the negative ones. The biggest downside for Landorus/bats is the current metagame. It has a very easy time against decks like Night March and Vespiquen but it also has a very hard matchup against Seismitoad/bats or Archie's Blastoise, so hard that I'd even call it an autoloss. If you feel like winning against Night March and Vespiquen is enough to get into the top cut you can try it out, but you will probably get kicked out very soon by Seismitoad or Blastoise.

Raichu/Bats

Raichu is one of the best non-EX attackers that we currently have since it's very easily able to hit for at least 160 damage with Sky Field and eight Benched Pokémon. This damage can be boosted to 180/190 with Silver Bangle or Muscle Band to knock out any regular-EX. Thanks to Golbat and Crobat this damage can be boosted even further to even get the knock out on any Mega. Sky Field and bats are a very good combination since you want to get as many Zubat into play as fast as possible and without Sky Field you would only have two spots (one active and one Benched one) for your other techs like Shaymin or your main attackers. The synergy for this deck is pretty obvious but there are obvious reasons why the deck doesn't see as much play as it could probably do. The first thing is Raichu's reliability on Double Colorless Energy which can be solved by using cards like Bronzong or Milotic to either attach Metal Energies, or get your Double Colorless Energies back from your discard. All of these cards get the deck pretty clunky which is one reason why decks like Vespiquen and Night March are better alternatives as they don't require as much Pokémon, or in Vespiquen's case, are just able to discard a lot of them to increase their damage output. The next problem for Raichu/Bats is keeping a consistent damage output after your stadium got kicked. You obviously use cards like Sacred Ashe to get your Pokémon back and also have easy discard targets like Shaymin-EX, but getting the damage going again still requires you to draw into your Pokémon again.

This Stadium issue gets even worse with the introduction of Faded Town. Losing five of eight Benched Pokémon is so huge that it's very hard for Raichu to be able to hit hard the next turn. In the worst case you will lose five of your Benched Pokémon thanks to the removal of Sky Field and replacing it with Faded Town and afterward get your active Raichu knocked out which will leave you with only two Pokémon in play which is obviously pretty hard for a deck that tries to keep a Bench with eight Pokémon. All of these problems get combined in the form of Giratina-EX which is able to destroy your whole strategy with just one attack. It almost seems like the TPCi designed Giratina-EX just to counter Raichu. It prevent it from using Double Colorless Energy to even attack, doesn't allow the placement of Sky Field and even denies the possibility to play Muscle Band or Silver Bangle to boost the damage at all. On top of that Chaos Wheel deals enough damage to knock out Raichu in one hit which is just the icing on the cake. Last but not least we have the Promo Jirachi which is a Nightmare for any deck that focuses around using special Energy. If Raichu wants to see play players will have to find variants that can get a new Benched very quickly and don't just focus mainly on Double Colorless Energy.

Latios/Bats

Latios/Bats tries to get a lot of early damage to get some quick Prizes and finishing off the game by sniping some Shaymin-EX. Latios is actually a very strong card in the current format because it's able to hit for 60 damage on the first turn which is enough to Knock Out cards like Zubat, Combee, Joltik, Pumpkaboo and many more little Basics that a lot of decks currently use. Thanks to the side effect of attacking on the first turn, it's very common that you will get a quick Prize against decks like Vespiquen and Night March since the only Basic Pokémon with more than 60 HP are either Shaymin-EX or cards like Mr. Mime and Audino which are bad starters for these decks, which is why it's usually not that important what their starters are since you either benefit from an early Prize lead, or a bad start for your opponent which is going to prevent them from attacking as soon as he's like to. Usually you don't want to take big-EX knock out since the main strategy for your deck is to get a lot of easy Prizes and win the game by sneaking easy knockouts.

If, however, your opponent has a very big threat to your Latios or M Latios-EX you will have to waste some resources to get rid of it, unless your Prize lead is big enough to easily play around it. Possible threats are cards like a gig Yveltal-EX or cards like Primal Groudon which are able to knock you out in one hit. If you have spare bats that you don't need for a knockout that turn you can also use them to damage potential threats which makes it a lot easier to deal with them once they're attacking. Usually you just want to do this with Golbat or Crobat if you have a spare AZ that you can use the same turn, because Benching down a Golbat just to deal 30 damage on a random target will end the evolution line and prevent it from being used the next turn unless you're able to pick it up with said AZ or a Super Scoop Up. Overall I feel like this deck is a very good choice in a Vespiquen Heavy meta but it doesn't have a very good showing in heavy Seismitoad-EX metagames.

Bats in Standard

I already said that Expanded is currently a very good format for bats since the current metagame plays so well into their cards. Standard however is also a very bats focused metagame mainly because there are not as much decks as in Expanded which results into a metagame with fewer decks. The current metagame is mainly Night March, Manectric/Bats and Entei followed by some of the known decks like Vespiquen or new variants such as M Mewtwo. Standard might sound like a pretty boring format with just a few decks, but that is mainly because it just really started a short time ago which is why a lot of players still have to figure out what's doing well. The first weeks after BREAKthrough mainly had Night March and Vespiquen variants which is why we currently see so many decks that use either bats or try to abuse Assault vest to counter Night March. We will have to see how the format develops, but for now I will show you some established bats variants, and also upcoming ones.

Manectric/Bats

Manectric/Bats is by far the most commonly used bats version in standard and for a good reason. The deck fits perfectly into the current metagame and is able to deal with almost any matchups.

This deck's popularity mainly rose because Night March and Vespiquen variants started dominating the Standard metagame, and with the release of Assault Vest, the deck became even stronger. There are multiple variants for Manectric/Bats reaching from straight version to versions with Seismitoad-EX and Double Colorless Energy and the Arena Cup winning version with Wobbuffet. The deck mainly focuses on spreading damage with Bats and Overrun early and getting big knockouts with Assault Laser. It's also very nice that Manectric is easily able to get knockouts on Shaymin-EX why is why you usually don't want to Bench them against Manectric/Bats unless you really need to to get your setup going. The biggest problem for any Manectric deck is to get big knockouts on cards like Megas. If you manage to get a Head Ringer onto one of those Megas, or your opponent saves you some work by attaching a tool themselves you can get a Knockout with Assault Laser and either some bats or Muscle Band. This is the advantage of bats. Other Manectric variants usually capped at about 120 damage which was not enough to knock out any-EX aside from lightning weak cards like Yveltal-EX and Lugia-EX. Bats already helped Seismitoad to ignore the fact that its attacks don't deal too much damage by spreading damage with Golbat and Crobat. If you don't play in an area where everyone runs fighting decks I would definitely suggest you to try out different versions of Manectric/Bats and find the one that suits you best.

Wobbuffet/Bats

Most players will probably know this deck as some kind of a low budget fun deck for people that just started the game, but it's actually quite decent. The decks strategy is to use Golbat and Crobat to damage the Active Pokémon so that Wobbuffet's attack deal a lot of extra damage to get the knockout. To use this attack you usually just need a Psychic Energy thanks to Dimension Valley which also allows your Bats to attack for zero Energy. The deck also has a nice engine of disruption for your opponent thanks to Wobbuffet’s Ability which prevents any Pokémon, except Psychic Pokémon, from using their Abilities which is very nice since a lot of deck rely on Shaymin-EX's Ability Set Up because there are not a whole lot of good draw Supporters. You also have Energy removal cards such as Crushing Hammer, Enhanced Hammer, Xerosic and Team Flare Grunt in combination with Head Ringer which creates a lot of tough spots for your opponent if they're not able to draw into more Energy.

The biggest Problem for this deck are decks that are able to pick up their damaged targets because the deck really struggles to keep a consistent damage output, especially when you already dropped all your Bats and have to rely on AZ and Super Scoop Up. Very annoying examples for these decks are Sceptile and other decks that use Bats, because they usually run Super Scoop Up themselves to pick up their own Bats. It's also very hard to get early knock outs since you can't evolve your Zubat on the first turn. In most cases your opponent is going to focus your Bats which will leave you with very few options to actually deal damage which is why I would not play this deck in a metagame that doesn't use a lot of Vespiquen and Night March, because these decks are usually autowins since you block their Shaymin and also knock them out very quickly.

Lucario/Bats

Lucario/Bats is one of the first decks that were used when Standard was played at the beginning of the season. It has a very nice damage output thanks to cards like Strong Energy, Fighting Stadium and Muscle Band which already help boosting Hawlucha's and Lucario's attacks damage. On top of that you get Bats to get even more damage which usually get you easy one hit knock outs on your opponent's-EX's. This deck also uses Miltank because it's able to hit for 80 damage for just one Energy and the deck has the necessary space to add one or two copies of it. Other than that the deck is pretty straight forward and almost only focuses on dealing a lot of damage as fast as possible. I feel like this deck is inferior in comparison to Manectric/Bats even though it hits Manectric for Weakness. The main problem for this deck is Assault Vest, because this even helps decks like Manectric to prevent most of the damage that the deck is able to deal. If you don't use Strong Energy is these case you miss out on 20 damage anyways so Assault Vest is already doing work. Another very big Problem for the deck is the current popularity of Entei. Entei has a very good matchup against Lucario/Bats because it's able to easily two hit knock out your Lucario and is immune to damage from Hawlucha because it's just a regular Basic.

The deck also completely negates the damage of any Lucario with Strong Energy thanks to the option to even attach two Assault vests. Even if you don't attack Assault Vest Entei can easily life through multiple turn by using its first attack to prevent 30 incoming damage which is quite a lot against a Lucario without Strong Energy, and with no damage boost through Fighting Stadium. Lucario/Bats also has good matchups. These matchups are mainly the standard matchups that Bats decks are always good against such as Night March and Vespiquen. The deck also is able to easily deal with Magnezone decks, but these are not that popular which is why I think that playing this deck is up the player’s preferences. The biggest advantage comparted to Manectric is that your maximum damage output which is why I'd choose this deck if you want to hit for high amount of damage instead of sneaky snipes and sometimes a big knockout. The deck itself is pretty consistent thanks to Korrina which overshadows the fact that we got very few good Supporters and also is able to abuse the strength of any other Fighting supporting cards such as Fighting Stadium, Strong Energy and Focus Sash.

Yveltal/Bats

This deck is one of the few tries to make Yveltal viable in Standard. This deck mainly focuses around using the little Yveltal's attack Oblivion wing to power up your big Yveltal-EX while they're sitting on your Bench. Yveltal is already a very good attacker because of its 130 HP and a very nice attack that is able to deal for 50 damage while also having a nice side effect in attaching Energy. But these 50 damage per turn won't be enough in your early turn and instead of Hypnotoxic Laser, which is the main source for extra damage in Expanded, we have Golbat and Crobat to get a little bit more damage going each turn instead of just waiting for our big Yveltal-EX to be powered up. A lot of version also include Regirock from Ancient Origins as a second attacker that helps a lot against decks like Manectric/Bats which is very famous in Standard, as I already explained in the section about it. Another nice aspect that goes in hand with using Regirock is that we're able to use Smeargle from BREAKthrough as a nice tech to get Regirock going with a Double Colorless Energy and one Darkness Energy from Oblivion Wing that we're able to swap out for a Fighting Energy from our discard pile.

The biggest problem for the deck is its Bench space which is why I'm currently using this deck with Sky Field since we always want to get as much Bats as possible, one Yveltal on our Bench while the second is attacking and last but not least an Yveltal-EX. These are already six Bench space when we're having four Zubat on our Bench which is the ideal spot to be in. Add one or two Shaymin-EX and Regirock as well as Smeargle for the Manectric matchup. This quickly adds up to eight Benched Pokémon which is why Sky Field is so important. This Sky Field reliability is also a very big problem since a lot of decks started running Parallel City thanks to the very Bats heavy metagame. Yveltal/Bats however is not as vulnerable to Parallel City as for example Raichu/Bats since we don't need additional Benched Pokémon to boost our damage, but it's still annoying anyways. I think that this deck has a very high potential to be one of the top decks especially because it's able to tech so many cards against bad matchups, and like any Yveltal deck, it doesn't even have that many bad ones.

Vespiquen/Yveltal/Bats

This was one of the surprising decks that came up at the Arena Cup in Berlin, but its idea is actually not that surprising of an idea. It combines the strength of Vespiquen and Night March counter such as Yveltal and Crobat, combined with the very nice attacker Vespiquen to deal with these big Pokémon-EX. This deck also works perfectly since it's no problem to play a lot of different Pokémon in Vespiquen decks, it's exactly what you want. You can either drop your Bats onto the Bench to increase your damage, or just discard them to get more damage with Vespiquen's Bee Revenge attack. Unlike most other Bats decks, this deck also has no problem against Parallel City, because it actually helps you to discard your Bats lines usually consisting of three Pokémon which are mostly useless after Benching them once, because you don't run Super Scoop Up in this deck. The only card which helps reusing Bats is AZ, but this alone is not enough to recycle multiple lines of Bats. You can actually think about running Parallel City yourself to discard some Shaymin or these said Bats lines which could often get you the extra damage you need to get a big-EX knockout. In most cases you'll be able to knock them out with Bee Revenge because you're actually able to drop some Golbat and Crobat and use Bee Revenge afterwards which should be enough to knock out most Pokémon-EX unless you keep whiffing your Battle Compressors and can't get Pokémon into your discard pile this way. The deck has a very good matchup against most Night march and Vespiquen variants as well as decks like Groudon (which isn't actually played that much anymore) or Mienshao, thanks to these Bats getting rid of the annoying aspect of Focus Sash. The most annoying matchup for this deck is Manectric/Bats, because you're only playing small Basics which are easily killed by Manectric-EX's Overrun combined with Golbat and Crobat, or Yveltal which is weak to Manectric, which is why this deck has actually huge problems to deal with Manectric/Bats. If a lot of player use Night March and regular Vespiquen I would definitely suggest playing this deck, but if it's a heavy Manectric/Bats focused metagame, I would overthink the idea of using it.

Gengar/Bats

Gengar/Bats was probably one of the first decks that came into people's minds when the first scans of BREAKthrough were released. Gengar's second attack states that the Active Pokémon is Knocked Out if it already has three damage counters on it. That being said it's pretty easy to draw a connection between Gengar and Crobat since Crobat already drops three damage counters itself. Combining this with Dimension Valley means that you're able to Knock Out any Pokémon for just one Psychic Energy and a Crobat drop or even two Golbat drops, which enables this deck to already do this on the second turn by using Rare Candy, a card that we haven't seen that much lately, and some easy Golbat drops. I'm actually quite disappointed that nobody actually tried to use this deck, but I can also understand that it doesn't seem very appealing to use a deck which has a Stage 2 as a main attacker in a metagame that's being dominated by big Basic Pokémon-EX or decks like Night March which are able to also knock out Pokémon-EX very quickly with fewer resources.

But I think the main problem is the heavy Bats-focused metagame. This deck doesn't use any Pokémon-EX aside from Shaymin-EX which is why every other Basic in our deck is a vulnerable little Basic which can easily be Knocked Out by some Golbat or Crobat drops. To keep this vulnerability as small as possible I added a Gengar-EX, which can be very nice to drop the necessary 3 damage counters on a Pokémon by using its attack for zero Energy, thanks to Sky Field. I also added two copies of Miltank which is very nice in combination with Crobat or even Gengar, because we usually have a Stage 2 in play. Like any Bats deck this deck is vulnerable to Parallel City which isn't a surprise since this is always a risk if you want to play any deck that focuses around playing down many Basics on your Bench. Other than that I think this deck should definitely be given a try since it's a very cool idea and if the deck gets going it should be decent in most matchups.

We can definitely see that Bats are going to stick around, especially in Standard because they're a very powerful alternative to damage boosting cards like Hypnotoxic Laser, which obviously is only legal for Expanded tournaments. I also think that a lot of players are going to try teching against Bats with either a higher count of Hex Maniac or Parallel City which both work very nice to counter any deck that focuses on Abilities or decks that want to have a high amount of Benched Pokémon. We could also see spread deck becoming more popular since these decks want to abuse the reliability on big Benches to draw a lot of Prizes on just one or two turns. A possible spread deck that can come out of this is M Gallade-EX maybe even paired with Bats, but since I didn't really think about it in detail, I didn't want to give you halfhearted information in this article which is why I didn't actually list it up. I hope you enjoyed the article and I was able to show you why Bats are so popular and will probably stay like this until they rotate or until we get decks that focus around blocking Abilities. This could already happen very soon thanks to the reprint of Garbodor, but we will have to see how this turns out. All we can do for now is wait and watch how Bats are dominating the metagame.

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